Boundary Peak: Highest Peak in Nevada!
Trailhead Elevation: 9,659
Summit Elevation: 13,140
Elevation Gain: 3,481
Moving Time: 3:55 (Strava placed me 8th on the leaderboard with a time of 1:28 up and that is without trying)
Date: August 18, 2020
Sean and I were on our way to climb Mt. Whitney and after discussing various other 14ers to summit in the area, we elected to scale Boundary Peak despite it “only” being 13,140. Why you ask- because it is the highest peak in Nevada. Dah.
There are two ways to drive to the Boundary Peak trailhead: 1) Queen Canyon Road or 2) Trail Canyon Road. I was not aware of the Trail Canyon Road until after our summit but from the “parking” lot at the trailhead - we noticed another dirt road coming up from the east.
I have compartmentalized the hike into five sections: 1) the drive, 2) the ramp, 3) the flats, 4) the turn and 5) the bowl.
Usually the drive to a trailhead is not worthy of discussion but the approach to the Boundary trailhead just might be the hardest and definitely the scariest part of this adventure. We took the Queen Canyon dirt road off of highway 6. Most other reports I read said that a 4 wheel drive is not required but optimal and I would agree with that with the exception of the last mile. Since the Queen Mine is closed, this road doesn’t get a lot of traffic so it is rather overgrown. We had to driver very slow at some points as the brush was scratching my new truck (only one week old). The road to the mine is a little over 6 miles and we didn’t have to use the 4 wheel drive to reach the mine but it was nice to have the clearance. When we reached the old mine, we got out and looked inside the dilapidated structure which they had filled in with dirt after the first 5 feet (wise move).
If you don’t have a 4 wheel drive vehicle, I highly recommend parking here and walking the next mile because it is very sketchy. The road ascends quickly and the drop off is severe. So much that we discussed what would happen if the car slipped off the road and Sean said he would open the door and jump as you are probably not surviving the car crash. There is a sharp left turn on the way up and I had to back up twice to get the car around this tight turn. Plus the road is formed on loose rocks. And if you think the way up is scary- the way down is even more frightening given how steep and loose it is.
I call this section this Ramp because it is relatively short, steep and takes you to a flat section. The trailhead is not officially marked but you do see trailhead register.
The trailhead is at about 9,700 feet and it sits just below Kennedy Peak. The trail is very easy to follow and well maintained given how few people hike this trail. The Ramp last about 1 mile and you gain approximately 1,100 so be prepared for some deep breathing right from the start.
There is nothing more that I detest than having to descend on the accent of a summit hike. I find it utterly futile but I digress. The Flats last about 1.5 miles and it is actually slightly downhill so just remember that on the way out as you will have to gain some elevation on the exit. From the Flats, you get a good view of the Bowl and the Turn and you realize you have your work cut out for you. The Flats end at a saddle and now the real climbing begins.
I call this section the Turn because at the top of this scree field is a turn which as a nice resting place. From the Flats to the Turn is only .7 miles but don’t let that fool you as you gain ~1250 feet. As you walk across the Flats and look at this section- it would appear that you will have to scramble up this large talus field but to my surprise- the trail was well crafted thus requiring no scrambling. As you are going up this face, your natural tendency will be to take you to the higher point on the left but aim for the lower point on the right (north). I thought this section would take me about an hour but it only took 35 minutes so it goes quick.
When you get to the resting place at the Turn and look up at the summit- you will realize why I call this final section the Bowl. You can imagine this face filled in with snow and it would offer one amazing ski run down the gut of the bowl. But given how steep it is, I presume the avalanche risk is always high. The Bowl is about .9 miles and gains ~1,100 feet. The first part of the Bowl is a modest stroll on the north side of the ridge and then the trail comes to an end as it turns into a scramblefest across large boulders. The good news is that these large rocks are very stable. I made the mistake of climbing further than I should have along the north side of the ridge and scrambling up the large boulders. Even though that is the more direct route, I suggest heading left (south) sooner than later and getting to the ridge line as quickly as possible. The ridge will require less scrambling and the trail is more defined. This section took about 45 minutes and don’t be intimidated- is not technical or exposed.
Once you reach the summit, the larger twin peak to the west, Montgomery Peak (13,442), is tantalizing close but it is in California. The summit also offers great views of the Sierras and of White Mountain Peak (14,252) to the south. Sean and I discussed scrambling over to Montgomery Peak but since we were going to climb Mt. Whitney the following day we elected to play it safe and be satisfied with summiting the highest peak in Nevada! But the truly special thing about doing this hike is that it is the first major summit that I have ever done without seeing another single person on the trail the entire day! Talk about solitude.