Boundary Peak, Montgomery Peak, Glass Mountain Ridge
By: Gary Craig
If I ever "quit my day job", as the saying goes, I believe I have a bright future as a weather forecaster. When Sue and I submitted the schedule write-up for this outing way back in early March, I was somehow able to predict that the October 18th weekend would bring fantastic hiking weather: partly cloudy to mostly clear skies and nice cool temperatures. Mid-October hiking at over 13,000 feet is iffy, but the weather gods granted us these great conditions to get the autumn desert hiking season underway.
For a time it looked like this .outing was going to be too popular for its own good, when the participant count was in the high teens. There were a number of last-minute cancellations; eventually ten hikers signed in at about 6:30am on Saturday morning. In addition to myself (leader and scribe) and Sue Holloway (assistant leader), we had Cliff Jones, Jan St. Amand, Virgil Popescu, Ron Eckelmann, Sam Dunn, Lee Johnson, Mark Adrian, and Shelley Rogers in the group. We met at the junction of the Queen Mine road and US 6, 2.5 miles E of the Nevada state line, and just across the highway from the entrance to the abandoned "Janie's Ranch" brothel. We followed the Peaks Guide driving instructions for route "C" to Queen Mine, where we consolidated into four 4x4's for the last mile or so to the 9700' saddle near Kennedy Point where the hike starts. This last bit of road is fairly rocky and has one very tight turn but wasn't too bad overall.
We started hiking about 7:30am. The Peaks Guide description should be amended to indicate that at the left end of the "horizontal cuts", there is a BLM Wilderness sign, and the start of the trail at this sign is very distinct and easy to follow. The walking is fairly easy along the ridge all the way to Trail Canyon Saddle, where the route joins the traditional one coming up from Trail Canyon. We had a nice rest here in preparation for the steep climb waiting for us on the north ridge of Boundary. We noted two other climbers, not from our group, several hundred yards ahead of us going up the hill, whom we surmised had come up from Trail Canyon as there were no vehicles other than our own at our trailhead.
The first 1,000 feet or so of ascent from the saddle is steep and sandy, and a maze of trails crisscrosses its way up the mountainside. After another rest at the "kink" in the route (shown on the map at about 12,000'), we traversed beneath a subsidiary peaklet and resumed our ascent, although less steeply than before. It was in this area where Lee turned back for Trail Canyon Saddle; he was moving slowly and not feeling well, and would await our return there. The rest of the group continued climbing and we reached the summit of Boundary Peak before noon, just after the aforementioned other two climbers. The summit register box is packed with signin books; being the high point of Nevada, it is a popular climb. There was a stiff breeze at the summit, and we decided to hold off on lunch until we reached Montgomery's summit. Still, we tarried a moment for a few photos and to drink in the view, stretching from Patterson to Telescope to Arc Dome.
Of course, the view to the southwest was blocked by our next objective. The apex of Montgomery is the more massive and obvious-looking point on the right (when viewed from Boundary), not the less-distinct bumps on the left. We descended the ridge to the saddle between the two peaks with little difficulty, passing the many outcrops and gendarmes on either the left or right, as seemed best for each. None posed more than a moment's hesitation. When we reached the saddle we searched for the California-Nevada boundary markers for a bit but failed to find anything. After a brief rest here, we followed - a use trail that leads toward Montgomery from the saddle, fading in and out as it ascends to the left of the ridge. We were on a route that does not follow the ridge itself; instead, it climbs more gradually while moving left, and reaches a set of chutes that descend directly from the summit. One then climbs any of these chutes upward to the summit rocks. There is occasional loose scree and sand, but the route remains medium class two at the most. Several members of the group were feeling the effects of the thin air at this point, but everyone made the summit in good order.
The view from Montgomery's peak is stunning, encompassing all of what could be seen from Boundary, plus the eastern escarpment of the Sierra Nevada from the Palisades to northern Yosemite. We signed in, refueled on lunch, took some photos, and gazed down to the floor of the Owens Valley, nearly two vertical miles beneath us.
After an all-too-brief 30 minutes on top, we left the summit at about 1:30 for the return over the top of Boundary, down to Trail Canyon Saddle, and back to the cars. This went uneventfully, except for a few minor slips (leader included!) on the loose gravelly terrain, and we rejoined Lee (who was feeling much better now) at the saddle. We then made our way along the gently rolling trail back to the cars, arriving there just before 5pm (9.5 hours round trip). A couple of deer graced us with a sighting along the way, but unfortunately we did not see any bighorn sheep all day.
We had a short break at the cars to get cleaned up and refreshed a bit and then negotiated the bad section of road back to Queen Mine to retrieve the other vehicles. At this point we said good-bye to Sam, Lee, and Ron, who all had other plans for the rest of the weekend. We all caravanned back to US 6, and the remaining seven members of our group headed back to Benton and then west on CA 120 toward the Glass Mountain trailhead, our objective for Sunday. As the afternoon was wearing thin on this short autumn day, we decided not to drive all the way in to the trailhead; we found a nice campsite just off of the highway, about two miles before the Sawmill Road turnoff. This allowed us to get camp set up, and Happy Hour underway, before darkness fell completely. The turnoff for this campsite is at UTM 11 358732E 4191 822N (NAD27); it is on a small rise and has flat areas, trees, and a couple of fire pits. Concerns about the proximity to 120 were unfounded, as traffic along this road, especially at night, is almost non-existent. We had a nice potluck dinner with fine contributions from everyone.., thanks! We enjoyed a campfire that night using Cliffs ingenious, and eco-savvy, washer-tub fire pan.
Our departure time of 7:30am was preceded by a warm night and a lovely sunrise. Cliff decided to bow out at this point, still a bit sore from the previous day's workout, I guess. So, the remaining six members of the group (myself, Sue, Virgil, Jan, Mark, and Shelley) followed the Peaks Guide directions to the Glass Mountain trailhead, passing through sage, pine, and (golden!) aspen terrain en route along the Sawmill Meadow road. We stopped about 0.1 miles short of the trailhead due to a couple of large rocks and branches in the road.
Our group started up the short but steep climb to the high point of Glass Mountain Ridge at about 8:30am. After the quick walk to the true end of the road, a distinct use trail can be found just to the right of the bottom of the gully that the road was following. This use trail adheres to the Peaks Guide directions and is easy to follow all the way to the 10,860' saddle 1/4 mile E of the summit. From this point any route will do, and the use trail itself fades in and out all the way to the top. Again, upon reaching the top (at about lOam) we reveled in the fantastic view of the northern Sierra, especially the Mammoth and RitterfBanner areas. We all remarked how the Sierra's eastern slopes looked so dry and barren at this time of year.
After some snacks, photos, and relaxing, we proceeded quickly north along the broad sandy ridge to the Glass Mountain benchmark, which is the named point on the USGS map but 17' lower than the true high point recognized by the DPS. This "peak" is quite gentle and is the site of a radio repeater installation. As one might imagine, its views are similar to those on the higher point we had just visited, and that is a good thing! Eventually though, at about 11:15, we began our return to the cars. We used a direct route, intending to intersect our original route (on the use trail) between 9900' and 10,000'. This worked well as we moved very quickly down steep sandy slopes, encountering only the occasional rocky section to slow us down. We rejoined the trail at just about the intended point, and ultimately it took only about 45 minutes to drop the 1900' vertical from the 11 ,000'+ summit back to the cars. My ears are still popping! We were back to the cars just before noon.
The always welcome, but always melancholy, Sunday post-hike festivities began, featuring various leftovers from the previous night's dinner, some liquid refreshments, some "power lounging", and the gathering of a few (?) samples of obsidian littering the area by the ton. It is always nice to finish a fine hike and relax a bit, but sad to say good-bye to friends and start a long journey home to "real life".., or maybe that weather forecaster job. My sincere thanks go out to everyone who participated in this outing; you're the reason it was a success.
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