Boundary Peak


By: Penelope May


I did not expect to find Talus at base camp.. after doggedly extracting the plastic cork with a Swiss Army knife (always so handy for essentials) from one of the vineyard's hearty Merlots, I was more than pleasantly rewarded. Marcia kindly accompanied the dinner libations with an excellent chicken risotto and green beans nicoise, chased with a tasty fresh salad.

At 9,000' our camp was at the end of the dirt road in Trail Canyon, a good 1.25 hours ride in from the intersection of Highways 264 and 3A, about 7 miles south of Highway 10. The weather was cool, crisp and beautifully autumnal, the sky clear and the willows and aspens all shades of October gold. On the drive in we had been excited by the rare sight of wild horses galloping past us. As we lounged in our chairs, enjoying the sunset, the temperature began to drop alarmingly quickly; we therefore wolfed down dinner and promptly slipped into our sleeping bags, contemplating next morning's alpine start....quite late really, at 5:30 a.m. Here we finally were, at the base of Boundary Peak ... Kathleen Edwards, Marcia Holzman and Penelope May, three women (whose male companions had "begged off' with a variety of suspect reasons) ready for the climb and happily dozing beneath the brilliant stars.

Before dawn broke, Kathleen's alarm beeped and our spirits groaned as we extracted ourselves from our warm, snuggly, sleepy daze .... to find all our water frozen; yes, it had been a bit chilly that night. A quick and functional breakfast of oatmeal and French Roast propelled us forward. Throwing on our daypacks, we strode resolutely and efficiently toward the Canyon, only to stride right back again to retrieve extra flashlights, camera film and batteries. Finally, we started out at 7:00 a.m. with the dawn still glowing.

We followed the use trail as it wound up the Trail Canyon until we noticed it veering over to the southern side of the box canyon. Since we had our eye on the obvious saddle at 10,800' directly west of us, we left the trail and went cross-country toward it. En route, we crossed a large sandy wash, and staying to the left of the canyon to avoid a nasty steep drop in the middle, we eventually arrived at the saddle. Here we were greeted with a fantastic view of the Sierras on one side, Minarets et al. silhouetted on the skyline, and most of Nevada rolling away on the other ... we drank (water) and languidly considered the state rid, as one does when faced with a steep climb.

Finally we acknowledged the pressing business ahead of us and started up the use trail which ascends the ridge heading south; this was where the work started. The ridge was crumbly and very steep and went on till the base of Peak 12,120', where a most amazing sight came into view: Boundary Peak, smattered with snow, craggy and pinnacled and very dramatic and beautiful. We took many photos of this inspiring sight, moved by the sense of its solitary grandeur. Then, we pressed on again, up another crumbly steep ridge, finding ourselves briefly in the gully (not a good idea) and carefully rose back to the ridgeline to avoid the possibility of rock falling (with us in it!).

Eventually we reached the talus (ah, but with no Merlot in sight) and engineered our way to the summit over some quite large boulders. As we arrived at that muchappreciated little circle of rocks at 13,140', which barely accommodated the three of us, I was particularly relieved: I had secretly carried up a bottle of champagne and three glasses for just this moment. Mindful of the extra weight on the ascent, I had bitten my tongue several times when Marcia complained of the burden of the (whole-wheat) bagel she had packed. However, my extra 8 lbs. was now gleefully discarded as we poured the bubbly and enthused over this precious moment!

Obviously, the next job was to climb "nearby" Montgomery. We looked over at the steep knife edge ridgeline peppered with boulders and felt total (champagne-induced) confidence ... only one hour each way according to our DPS information (hah!). Well, it was 1:30 p.m., so off we went ... down 250 feet and up another 550 feet. With a spring in our step and bubbly on the brain, we alternately galloped over rocks and woozily contemplated the sheer drop-offs on either side. I wondered if that champagne had been so wise after all. Even if you're sober, it's best to stay on top of the rock piles to avoid the dangerously slippery soft steep scree. After about an hour and a half, we proudly reached Montgomery Peak at 13,44 ]'...what a relief, the Emblem Peak in the bag ... and stopped to rest and celebrate. Now, by the way, we were in California! All too soon, of course, with the clock ticking, we had to repeat the journey in reverse ... another 250 feet of rocky gain which brought us quickly back to Nevada.

By the time we climbed Boundary Peak for the second time, it was 4:30 p.m. and we were beginning to slightly lose interest in this climb. Fortunately, Marcia had not drunk her second glass of champagne earlier and we were all able to gain a little extra fortitude by toasting the peaks again.

At 5:00 p.m., with no time to lose, we set off down the mountain. In order to reach the saddle by sunset at 6:00 p. m. (our safety goal), we had to hurry down those rocky slopes ... in fact we "skied" down the scree as fast as we could. The speed was occasionally reduced as we gazed at the most unusual and inspiring sunset: a turquoise sky forming a dramatic backdrop for a crimson sun crowned with glowing white lenticular clouds. Too bad we had squandered all our film documenting our champagne peak experience!

At the saddle we rested and cleaned the scree out of our boots as dark fell. Then, with the help of the more or less full moon and our headlamps, we cross-countried downwards, keeping the canyon on our left, crossed the wash which we had left earlier and thereby came across the intersecting use trail which ultimately led back to camp. On the way, we tunneled under willows on the path, avoiding icy patches, enjoying the eeriness of the terrain lit up by our own wandering headlamps and accompanied by only the occasional wild animal moan.

Arriving at camp at 8:30 p.m. we immediately made a fire and started the dinner cooking: chicken with porcini mushrooms ... always a safe bet ... washed down with a good Chardormay (appropriately from Canyon Vineyard, who happily still use real corks). Thus we found ourselves lounging in our chairs again, happy and replete with food and wine, warmed by the crackling fire, quietly recalling the beauty of the 13 hour day which had passed ... and not so quietly hugging ourselves ... two peaks and three check marks ... DPS x 2 and Highpointers x 1. Yes, it certainly deserved the shot of Grand Marnier which surfaced as we laughingly wound down the celebrations of our day in the wilderness.

Next morning, Kathleen cooked up a marvelous breakfast of walnut and fruit pancakes with, of course, French Roast. I was actually presented with the coffee in "bed".... served under the collapsed tent we had used for extra warmth. What wonderful friends I have! In no huffy, we rekindled the fire, relaxed over the endlessly fascinating maps, speculated on the next peaks to be bagged, struck camp and stopped periodically on the drive out to enjoy the reverie of color formed by the aspens in the canyon. Later in the day we stopped at the nearby Ancient Bristlecone Forest to commune with Nature's oldest living beings before heading home. Ahhh, Boundary and Montgomery, you were a champagne adventure indeed!

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