Monday, September 25, 2006

Boundary Peak, NV

Highpoint #5
13,143 feet ASL

The night before my hike of Boundary Peak didn't start out as I had planned. My original plan was to come down off Mt. Whitney, drive over to Boundary Peak, spend the night camping, then wake up in the morning and hike. But altitude sickness coming down off Mt. Whitney put me in no mood to drive or camp for the night. Instead, I decided to spend the night at a motel with the four others who had summited Mt. Whitney with me that day. The was the right move, because the next morning I felt quite refreshed. I grabbed breakfast with my fellow summiters, which took longer than expected (2 hours). I was beginning to wonder whether I could even make it to Boundary Peak in time to complete the hike.

At 10:15, I left the motel and headed out for Boundary Peak, Nevada stopping to pick up an alarm clock and plenty of energy goo and electrolyte powder. At 11:45am, I arrived at Janie’s Ranch, the entrance to the gravel road, which takes you to the Queen Canyon Trail route. The road up to the 4 wheel drive road wasn't that bad, just very dusty. (However, if wet, it might be a different story.) By 12:10pm, I had my daypack on and started up the 4 wheel drive road to the official trail of Boundary Peak. However, when I arrived to the stated trailhead, all of the hike information had been stripped, leaving only an empty board and some posts.

My thought was that I would only complete part of the trip before having to turn around. I was completely ready to do so if the weather got to cold, or I felt tired, or sick, or if time got too late. As I went though, I realized I was making pretty good time, I felt physically great, and the weather could not have been better. The first three miles of the trip were fairly easy, with a long stretch of practically level ground. By 2:15, I had made it to Trail Canyon Saddle and the start of the real climb, which consists of scree, rocks, and more scree. I started up. I kept going and going, little bits at a time. It was hard, but definitely not impossible. I found that small steps on the scree worked well. Another technique that worked was to use the larger rocks as steps.

Eventually, I knew there was no turning back, I could make it to the top of Boundary. The only other difficult part of the trail is trying to stay on it, especially near the top. The trail often splits into two. There are many cairns to guide you and even some painted rocks indicating the way, but even so I lost the trail several times. Eventually, you can get back on the trail by moving towards the ridgeline, but it can be tricky in parts. At 4:15pm I made it to the apex and it was beautiful. I would even say that I enjoyed this peak more than Whitney because 1) I felt better and 2) there was no one else on top. Judging by the summit register and the fact I had seen no one on the trail, I was the only one to summit today. I found a NGS survey marker at the top of this peak. The only disappointing moment was that I could not find the geocache at the top of Boundary. However, it may not exist anymore. I stayed for about 15 minutes and started down.

The descent is what I would call scree skiing. I was so thankful that I had gaiters, otherwise the descent would have been miserable. I made it down to Trail Canyon Saddle and picked up the pace. However, I began to get worried. I had remembered reading that this was rattlesnake country and I had seen numerous holes in this section coming up. However, I couldn't be sure they were snake holes. I thought they may have even been small rodent holes. I soon learned this was not the case. Soon after passing the saddle, I thought I saw a scaly head in one of the holes, but I couldn’t be absolutely sure. I pressed on with a little more caution. Nearing the last mile of the hike, I became certain that these were definitely snake holes. As I passed a hole, there staring at me was the distinct rattlesnake head. I quickly snapped a picture and finished the rest of the hike with full caution and worry. What if I got bit? Could I make it to the car, would I be able to drive? I did not know. Thankfully, I did make it back to the car with 0 venomous-filled puncture wounds. I arrived just before 7:10pm, as the sun was setting. A 10-mile hike with over 4000 feet of elevation gain in under 7 hours. Not bad, especially for someone who is used to breathing air at 100 ft ASL.

Waiting at the car were two hikers that were going to hike Boundary the next day. I had a good conversation with them. They liked to bag 14K peaks. It got cold quickly, but I was soon in the car with the heat cranked. On the way down, I nearly hit three jack rabbits. You have to watch out for those critters.
I didn’t know exactly how I would make it back to the Reno airport. I could tell I was pretty worn out. I did find a small diner and ate dinner around 8:00pm. I stayed until 9:00pm trying to sleep at the table. As I headed onto Route 120, I realized this would be a good place to catch some cat naps. The road was basically deserted. I passed no more than 5 cars on over 40 miles of road. There were also several fun dips in the road you could hit going 60mph. I made it to Reno Airport by 3:00am and was safely on the flight by 6:05am. Trip successful.

GPS Data
  • You can download the Google Earth Track file (.kml) of my ascent hike here.
  • You can download the GPS Trackpoint file (.gpx) of the gravel road drive and the ascent/descent here.
  • You can download a waypoint file (.gpx) of the Queen Canyon Mine Route here.
(Note: To download the file, left click on the link and follow the instructions. Right clicking and pressing save as didn't work for me.)

My Route

Boundary Peak via Queen Canyon Mine Trailhead at EveryTrail

Elevation Profile

Topo Map

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Mt. Whitney, CA

Highpoint #4
14,494 feet ASL

Friday, September 22 was a travel day from Orlando passing through Phoenix and finishing in Reno. My friend, Chris Winkler, who got me on the trip accompanied me. When we arrived in Reno we were given an upgrade on our car rental. We set off from the airport cruising in our aptly named PT Cruiser. The trip was pretty straight forward, Highway 395 South for 5 hours to Lone Pine, CA, the portal for Mt. Whitney. On the way there, we stopped for two Nevada geocaches right off of the road. We finally arrived in Lone Pine a few hours after dark had set in. We met most of the 11 member team at the Dow Villa motel. After a short meeting, it was time for some rest. I slept great.

On Saturday, we were up and eating around 7:00am. I had some good pancakes and a lot of water at one of the local diners. We were on the trail by 9:30. The beginning section of the hike was pleasant, but Whitney looks unreachable. So small, yet so high. We took a rest at Lone Pine Lake at 11:30, where I almost ended my trip by slipping and tweaking my knee. Thankfully, I was okay to continue. By 4:30pm, we had completed the first 6.3 miles of the trip to Outpost Camp, 12,000 ft ASL.

The hike to this point was manageable. The last hour was the hardest and I knew that my pace had slowed. The biggest factor for me was the elevation and lack of conditioning. While, I was out of shape, I certainly wasn't in shape, either. I had a mild headache and could tell the oxygen was thin. I set up my tent and started to prepare my MRE, however, I was only able to get the meal to a cool temperature. Nevertheless, I was hungry and the food tasted good. I also got some hot chocolate before jumping into my mummy bag. Anxiousness, no pillow, and less than my normal oxygen allowed me little sleep that night.

On Sunday, I was up at 4:00am and ready to go. Unfortunately, I was the only one in my group ready. So, it was back to bed. At 6:15ish, I was back up and as I emerged from my tent was greeted by a glorious sight. The first rays of morning creeped onto the monolithic Mt. Whitney face, God was painting his canvas with hues of pink and orange. After taking in the view, it was time to give the ole wag bag a use. It wasn't as bad as I thought, but I prefer my home toilet.

Only 5 of us were going to attempt the summit. Chris decided to go down with the two girls, who were giving him a ride back to the airport. Also, three others in our group did not have a good night and decided to head down for some more air. I was going to go up with Ryan, Jim, Yi, and Yao. Ryan and I headed out at 8:00 in front of the other three. The dreaded 99 switchbacks really were not that bad. Slow and steady, one by one, we knocked them. I propose the following song (sung to that famous classic 99 bottles of beer on the wall) for this section of the trail, "99 switchbacks on Mt. Whitney Trail, 99 switchbacks to go, take some steps, make a turn, 98 switchbacks on Mt. Whitney trail." We arrived at Trail Crest at 9:30. Ryan and I rested with about 15 others at this point. Eating was wretched. The clif bar I put down tasted like cardboard. Drinking wasn't that much better. After 15 minutes or so, we were up and ready to start hiking again as we saw the other three in our group arrive at Trail Crest.

I expected Trail Crest to Mt. Whitney to be easier, but the trail seemed longer and I was more tired than I had imagined. I certainly got slower as Ryan and I got closer to the summit. I felt woozy, but thankfully did not have a headache. About 1/3 of a mile from the top, Ryan pushed on ahead. I kept going at a slower pace, but at 11:45, after many breaks, I made it to the summit of the 48 contiguous United States. To say that I was glad to be there would be an understatement. The top was crowded, but there was no wind and it actually felt warm. I took off my daypack and felt a little more energized. I walked around and looked for a geocache, but could not find it. I was able to grab a few photos of myself at the top, some NGS survey markers and the surrounding landscape. I also signed the summit register. A little while after I had arrived, the other three in our party joined us.

I left the summit around 12:15pm still feeling okay. However, by the time I made it down to trail camp, I was hit with a tremendous headache. I really felt horrible and did all I could to pack up. It was certainly not a packing job to brag about. Eventually, Ryan and I got back on the trail. Another hiker was gracious enough to give me some electrolytes and some goo gel, which by the way is very important if you do this hike. As I continued down I began to feel much better. As it started to get dark, the other members of our group caught up. Our group decided to pick up the pace realizing that if we went a little faster we could get to McDonald’s and their yummy Big Macs before it closed. The darkness did catch up with us before we got to the bottom, so we flipped on our LED headlamps. I was starting to wonder if I would ever pick up a cell phone reception and then my voicemail ring chimed in. I gave Krisha a call and experienced the joy of talking to her. At the bottom, I got my Big Mac combo and settled into a more pleasant night at the Dow Villa Motel.

Extra Trip Items
  • If you would like to view some of my other Mt. Whitney pictures, you can do so here.
  • You can read the hiking account from another member in our group here.
GPS Data
  • You can download the Google Earth Track file (.kml) of my ascent hike here.
  • You can download the GPS Trackpoint file (.gpx) of my ascent hike here.
  • You can download a waypoint file (.gpx) of the Whitney Trail here.
(Note: To download the files, left click on the link and follow the instructions. Right clicking and pressing save as didn't work for me.)
  • A larger set of waypoints for the Mt. Whitney Trail can be found at the following location: Travel by GPS.

My Route

Mt. Whitney Trail at EveryTrail

Elevation Profile

Topo Map

Mt. Whitney GPS Data (GaiaGPS)