White Mountain Peak, Mount Dubois, Boundary Peak, Montgomery Peak
By: Derham Guiliani
"I started the hike the morn of Sat Aug 6 at the road cable just below the Barcroft Research Station. After a visit with station personnel I went on to the summit of White Mtn. Just afterwards came the half-mile that proved to be the most difficult part of the hike where I spent over an hour working across talus and rock. At one point the pack and gear had to be lowered down a steep rock surface. Once the first rounded ridge was reached, going was easy. The nite was spent at a grassy meadow area just south of Headley Peaks.
Next day I passed between the two points of Headley Pks and dropped sown to Chiatovich Flats, the lowest point of the hike at 11,000 feet. It consists of a rise of land running N-S between two streams, fed by springs, which then run at right angles to flow down opposite sides of the ridge. This would have been a beautiful place had there not been so many head of cattle! The springs and streams and all surrounding grounds were thoroughly polluted with manure. Water was plentiful but I wasn't thirsty enough to drink it. Many varieties of wildflowers had been grazed-off or trampled into the dirt.
From here and up Birch Creek toward Mt Hogue were many small butterflies- blue, red, white, yellow, orange, and brown ones. This upset ecology due to the cattle was not finally left behind until well into Pellisior Flats. About a mile short of Mt DuBois there appeared a clean, swift flowing spring at around 13,000 ft elev, and I lightened the pack by caching food here for my return trip. Then, passing over Mt DuBois, I arrived after sunset at a peak upon which is erected a very high rook cairn. Here I slept in a surprisingly warm night, the stars brighter and more numerous than I'd ever seen before, with meteorites at high incidence. I could hear the faint clicking sounds made by bats, the highest I'd ever encountered such creatures.
In the morning I left my pack and most equipment and loaded with camera, insect net, raisins, and oranges, I took the Jumpoff to a narrow rounded ridge 1300 ft below, and began the steady climb up to the top of Montgomery, during which time I was continually trying to decide which might be the best way around the craggy rock outcrops to avoid dead-ends. It looked bad from the Jumpoff but proved to be fairly easy. Following Desert Bighorn trails usually, were the best routes. A final, ridge took me down to Boundary Pk, the northern end of the White Range. This peak being into Nevada. I half expected to be greeted by a one-armed bandit, but met up with only a metal Sierra Club register. These registers are good reading and contain philosophy, poetry, humor, tragedy, biological, and weather reports. Some enterprising mountaineer author might do well to gather this kind of material and put it in book form.
While I sat on this peak, a huge bird of prey sailed slowly overhead, and appeared to be an eagle. Many swallows - were about, seemingly able to soar much faster in this thinner atmosphere, and produced a sharp whistling sound as their wings cut the air. Butterflies were here too; small orange Skippers, several Whites, and one big Monarch drifted slowly up one side of the mtn and down the other. Having left - home without my insect net, I had improvised one from a fishnet. Only after I got back to Montgomery, did I realize I had left it lying on Boundary's summit!
Descending the narrow ridge and finally getting back to the top of the Jumpoff, I reached the rock cairn nearing sunset and gathered together all of my gear. Oft-times I experience a sort of exhilaration at high elevations and will tend to over-exert, arid I was doing so on this day. Two hours after twilight faded, I was still wandering about. The moon was not yet up but the starlight was bright enough to keep from stumbling.
This was another warm night with no wind and plenty of meteorites. Just as the moon began to rise, a cold wind started up, and I found myself hearing running water at the same spring I'd found before. Only now did I suddenly feel exhausted along with the beginnings of chills. There was no fuel anywhere for a fire and I had visions of not being able to get warm in the sleeping bag. Though I eat cold food on hikes I always carry a small fuel can for just this kind of occasion and a quantity of hot powdered milk and water was all that I needed. The next day I spent more time viewing Pellisier Flats. Between DuBois and Headley I came across several, rook piles containing mining claim forms dated several years ago. In the middle of one wide plain was an old paint can and two orange stakes, perhaps a mining claim.
Instead of returning back down the gentle slope of Birch Creek Canyon, I cut east and went along the ridge that drops down to Chiatovich Flats, but found that the cattle had covered this ground in more ways than one!
White Mtn Peak appeared to be so close this day that it seemed a high mtn not shown on the topo sheet. Passing over the top of East Headley at sunset, from which were rising tiny moths in swarms, I camped on a rock ledge overlooking a deep canyon on the western slopes.
The next morning was clearer than any previous day. The weather throughout the hike had been clear and warm, with breezes from the west, and the entire ridges surrounded by fairly heavy haze prevailed. Going to the top of a rocky hill, I came onto a colony of Pika. For an hour I sat motionless as they gathered food and chased one another within ten feet of me.
Returning to the difficult area, I decided to try the east side by climb down to the slope of the canyon and coming back up the dirt and gravel talus. With the pack this proved safer, but more tiring. Again on White Mtn summit, because of the low haze, the vast wall of the Sierra stood out clearly. The final night was spent up here.
Going down the dirt road from the summit I could see a wide variety of animal footprints including what I thought to be a cougar and a coyote. Wildlife appeared p1entiful but not easy to see. I'd seen two Bighorn, three separate pairs of deer, and a dozen vultures fiesting on cattle carcasses. Sagebrush chipmunks were numerous around my car, Mantled squirrels were everyplace, and now and then I saw marmots. The commonest creature was a small bird which could be encouraged to sing. Though the spring season occurs up here at this time, an exceptionally dry year had made me miss it by several weeks, save at watering places and some protected slopes. At one spot I counted 18 different kinds of tiny flowering plants.
There were many birds I could not identify, and insects of many orders numerous. I had no shortage of water as melted snowpacks occurred in protected spots between White Mtn and the Jumpoff.
At the Research Station I found them loading the remains of their helicopter into a truck. A crash had injured 3 persons.
One interesting aspect was that during the whole 5-dayer and 6O-miler I had not seen a single other person. In this is developed a feeling of one-ness with the area and it was with reluctance I came on down to civilization again. The most perilous part of the journey was the drive home to Marin County dodging drivers with death-wishes. This required several hours of intense concentration to keep myself alive."
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