Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Boundary Peak Proves Challenging

After a 9 hour drive from Monterey to Lee Vining, WNR approached the base camp goal for the highest point in Nevada, Boundary Peak. Note: For full slide show of images from this adventure click here.

View HP #6 Boundary Peak in a larger map

The drive from Lee Vining out on highway 6 is very scenic, especially near sunset time. The White Mountains were lit up beautifully, and the road begins in a forest of lodgepole pine, surprising to see in what W thought to be a completely desert area. Volcanic cinder cones with plentiful obsidian are distributed along the first few miles and then the road breaks out into the desert. In the distance WNR could see what they thought was Boundary Peak, and it looked immense and slightly intimidating. The White Mountains just to the south actually looked white in the desert sunset. The road undulated further with stomach fluttering dips and beautiful vistas.

WNR crossed into Nevada, driving 6 miles further to a dirt road turnoff. Guided by the GPS, WNR headed towards Queen's Mine, an abandoned mine that provided a flat spot for camping. Another six miles of dusty driving brought them to the remote spot, completely devoid of people.

The sun was just setting and the last rays of the sun were eerily aligned with the abandoned mine shaft.

Despite being in a desert, Renny immediately found some firewood and got a fire going. As the sun set, millions of moths emerged for some reason, perhaps to enjoy the cooler temperature. WNR had decided to enjoy the evening sans tent and lay their sleeping bags out on groundpads. Half a gazillion stars appeared and the night appeared to be going very peacefully, until several hours later when R got up to announce that some type of rodent had bitten his finger. The moon came out around midnight, appearing so bright that W thought R was shining a flashlight in his face. R had gotten in the car to avoid further rodent attacks, but W and N braved the night and woke early to face the challenge of Boundary Peak.

N had made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the hike and began hiking out a little earlier to beat the morning sun. Meanwhile W fretted about the amount of water (2.5 liters per person), as he knew no water was available anywhere along the approximately 6 mile route to the top. The first mile of the trail stuck to the dirt road, appearing possibly passable via automobile, but W didn't want to worry about getting stuck so onward they trudged towards the trailhead, which was near another abandoned mine. Beautiful white flowers of some sort covered the ground near the trailhead. The trail climbed up a hill and in the distance WNR could see what W first took to be another hiker, but soon realized it was a horse.

In fact it was a wild horse standing guard over his herd of horses including a foal, grazing in a grove of trees, perhaps bristlecone pine. At this point the hike had been moderately strenuous and W noted with alarm that there was still 2700 feet of elevation gain left. He decided not to tell N and R, but to simply forge ahead, encouraging R and N to move along. R became quite busy dislodging rocks, but he and N eventually caught up to the last possible shady position for lunch.

W pointed up the imposing mountain, and the group forged ahead. Soon they were at the "saddle", a position just before an imposing 45 degree upslope consisting of loose scree and boulders.

R and N seemed to find a trail, while W got slightly off trail and almost had to quit from exhaustion, such was the degree of difficulty for him. However, slow and steady finally conquered the 1500 foot ridge, and they surveyed the 1000 feet remaining, which consisted of a long ridge traverse. At this point a couple of other highpointers came up from another trail and some pleasantries were exchanged. This proved to be much easier due to the more secure footing, but was at a higher altitude. N flew upwards and was first to the summit, with R closely following, and W finally appearing for a triumphant highpoint photo.

R, who had made the hike with blisters, pronounced it his most difficult hike ever, and W felt it was definitely in his top three. The view was well worth it.

The downclimb was also quite arduous, though not so hard as the ascent.

R took an alternate path that allowed him to "surf" dangerously on large amounts of sliding scree. He expressed regret when he accidentally deleted a few videos he took of this activity. He also enjoyed watching rocks accumulate kinetic energy as they tumbled several thousand feet down into a valley. At the bottom of the scree, the group rested for a few moments before continuing the remaining 3 miles.

Finally after an accumulated 12 hours, the family again reached the campsite, having made the longest 10.5 mile hike of their lives.
W drove the family back to Benton Hot Springs, where they enjoyed a hot tub under the stars, though Renny was disgusted when W decided not to wear a swimsuit.

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