Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Nevada's High Point - "Boundary Peak"

Nevada's High Point is Boundary Peak at 13,147 feet (4,007 m) and located in the Boundary Wilderness Area about 5 hours west of Las Vegas. Boundary Peak actually shares a mountain range with Montgomery Peak which just happens to be in California. This was our 44th high point and the last one of our 2010 summer trip (sadly!). The trailhead for Boundary Peak is well away from the main road. While it was relatively easy to find the Trail Canyon road access, it was not properly paved and our rental car took a beating along the rocky road. The further in we went, we started to think we were lost as the trailhead didn't seem anywhere in sight. The road became sand-like dirt and big rocks on the road meant I had to keep getting out to remove rocks from the path which was annoying. Use your gut (and stay left) as you drive on the road and you'll get to the trailhead (in particular just stay left when you come to an obvious t-junction which looks like a mining area). It's pretty far in from the main road though. It was nearly dark around 8pm when we arrived to the end of the road which was the trailhead. There was another car there and a few people camping out when we arrived. We quickly set up tent in the grassy area right at the trailhead, got ready for the next mornings' hike and got ready to sleep in our tent. The next morning, Friday 3oth July, we woke up early and got ready for the hike while the other campers slept nearby. We were on the trail by 7am, hiking through the trees before coming out into a small valley. We kept coming across cows in the fields which was a little different! In front of us, we could see a high peak which looked golden as the sun rose and the light hit the mountain. It was quite serene and beautiful to be hiking in the wilderness on what was turning out to be a nice warm sunny day. We stopped for breakfast at the bottom of the ridge before starting the more serious ascent. I was already tired! Boundary Peak is notorious for serious scree (aka very loose rocks). I didn't think it was any worse than Borah Peak, but Mark thought while Borah Peak had steeper scree, the distance up Boundary Peak was just longer which made it more tedious. It was pretty bad as it meant lots of sliding back as we hiked forward. A long series of switchbacks up the gully finally got us to the ridge where we were greeted with some hop scotching across the rocky ridge - some areas I thought just as challenging as chickenout ridge, but then again there were many trails across this section and I think I just made it difficult for myself by picking the most complicated one! Finally we made out way to the high point just after 11am. The high point was marked with a USGS marker which was great, along with a metal box where we wrote our names and celebrated our 44th high point! The sky was a beautiful blue which made the climb well worth it, and we were able to look across to California and Montgomery Peak. We contemplated heading across to summit it before deciding we were ready to head to Vegas for some R&R to round out our trip. After a few photos, we started our descent which includes a lot of slipping and sliding again on the scree. 3 hours later and at 3.30pm we were back at the trailhead. We packed up out tent and drove to Las Vegas for some well deserved rest and some casino buffets! 3 more highpoints conquered in two weeks! 44 down, 6 to go!

Idaho's High Point - "Borah Peak"

Making our way from Jackson Hole, Wyoming where we chilled out for a few days (and contemplated climbing Gannett Peak - Wyoming's highest before being deterred by reports that lightning strikes on the nearby Grand Tetons injured 17 climbers!), we drove out west on our way to potato country, Idaho. We arrived in the late afternoon in the town of Arco, where its' claim to fame is being the location of the world's first nuclear power plant. It was a tiny town only a few blocks long and wide with nothing much around it. We stayed at the D-K motel on the main road, which was relatively cheap and very clean. We prepared ourselves for an early departure for the mountain and crashed for the night. At 5am the next morning, Sunday 25th July 2010, we drove out towards Borah Peak (or Mt Borah), which is Idaho's high point at 12,662 feet. Driving in the dark past the town of Mackay, and turning off onto a dirt road we made our way towards the trail head car park. There were a few campers at the trailhead as we prepared for our hike. We were on the trail just before 6am. The hike started easily enough through the scrubs and trees before quickly got much steeper. We stopped for breakfast just before 7am as we watched the sunrise (and a much older but obviously fitter couple hiked by!). From there started a much steeper incline on difficult scree/dirt terrain which required small well placed steps to avoid continually sliding backwards as we stepped forward. It was not fun and I couldn't remember a recent time when I had climbed such steep terrain! Eventually we made it past treeline only to be faced with a high mountain ahead of us (and no it wasn't Borah Peak). We continued to slowly hike across the mountain towards the rocky infamous Chickenout ridge. The Chicken out ridge, with its steep knife edged rocky ridge is famous for looking so dangerous and scary because of the cliff drops on both side of the ridge, that hikers "chicken out" and turn around. At the base of the ridge, Mark and I prepped ourselves by having a snack, put on our helmets and tackled it. It was challenging and required some concentration as to where to maneuver and step, but we made it across Chickenout ridge without too much issue. I actually found it quite fun compared to the teadious climb up the steep scree earlier that morning. Then we came across the more challenging snow bridge crossing which has clear drops on both side. We contemplated using ropes, but decided we would be okay just balancing ourselves with our hiking poles and slowly making our way across. The traverse wasn't too difficult and actually having the snow there made it easy to follow in others' footsteps. After Chickenout ridge and the snow bridge crossing, we figured we were on the easy trail now to the top. Little did we know that around the corner (literally), though the peak was in sight, we were faced with an extremely steep and loose scree field ahead of us. It was very slow going trying not to take one step forward only to slide two steps back! Talk about tiring and strenuous! We didn't remember reading about this part in other books or blogs! We eventually made it to the top just after 12 noon to be greeted by some beautiful blue sky and an awesome view along with a few flags signaling the high point! We wrote in the book in the metal box and took some photos with the flag which was pretty cool. We also meet a fellow highpointer who was hiking by himself and shared some stories. After a rest and soaking in the sights, we decided to make our way down. The hike down was just as tiring and a lot more pressure on the knees due to the steepness and the scree. There was a lot of sliding around as we navigated the scree. Having conquered the snow bridge and chickenout ridge on the way in, hiking out was a little bit easier though we were tired, and our legs felt like they were on auto-pilot as they matched our bodies out toward the trailhead. The decent took 4.5 hours and we arrived back at the trailhead and car at 5pm. Making the summit of Borah Peak was very satisfying for us as it was one of our more difficult ascents, and we had been a little apprehensive about chickenout ridge and the snow bridge crossing. We left tired and happy and were looking forward to getting some hot food at the small takeout place next to the D-K motel. The food is pretty good and recommended, but the biggest novelty was the fact that our car was almost as long as the tiny takeout building! We would drive to their one order window - give our order, then drive around the building to the food window - where the same girl would give us our food! Check it out if you are in Arco!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Utah's High Point - "King's Peak"

We're back on the high point trial again and after flying into Salt Lake City, Utah, we started another road trip! After spending two days chilling out in Park City, we made our way out East to the High Unitas Wilderness. King's Peak, at 13, 528 feet, is Utah's highest point and was to be our 42nd high point and the the first of the many more 'difficult' ones on the West coast side. We arrived via the Henrys Fork approach which leads you from Interstate 80 to Mountainview and via smaller roads to Henry's Fork Campground which is the trailhead for what would be a 28.8mile, 3 day hike. It was Monday 19th July, 2010 and at 10.30am the carpark at the trialhead was surprisingly full. As we checked our backpacks and filled the platypus-paks with water, we watched a carloads of boy scouts piled out getting ready for their own hikes. We signed the visitors register and were on the trial at 11am. For the next 6 miles, we hiked though the trees which mostly followed a river. The elevation was pretty steady with the pain coming more from the heavy backpacks we were carrying and the very annoying mosquitoes and bugs which were a constant presence in droves. Why couldn't we pack lighter we continually asked ourselves! After a sketchy river crossing on two logs, we finally made it to the open fields on our way to Dollar Lake which was to be our camping location for the trip. It took us 5 and a half hours before we arrived (after initially hiking past the lake and missing it entirely and having to double back unfortunately). We scouted a good tent site settling on an opening higher up overlooking the lake as the area around the lake was quite marshy and wet. The mosquitoes there were horrible - at any one time there could be like 15 mosquitoes hovering over your skin. Only the 4 layers of insect repellent was saving us from being eaten alive. We only wondered whether having this much insect repellent and sunscreen on our skin was causing us chemical poisoning on the inside! We scoffed down Spaghetti sitting by the lake before scrambling into the tent (more so to avoid the mosquitoes) and headed to sleep at 9pm to ready ourselves for an early start in the morning for the climb to the peak. With a 5am start, we left our tents with lighter day packs heading up to Gunsight Pass. The clouds were very threatening and a few droplets of rain here and there often had us stopping to scramble to put on our rain gear only to find it wouldn't actually rain. When we got to the top of Gunsight Pass we had the choice of either going down into the valley to do the longer valley route up to the Peak which would add a few more miles to our day, or to take the much steeper climb up the immediate mountain scrambling over rock. Rather than loose altitude we decided to head up and spent the next hour or so hiking over rocks which took lots of concentration to ensure one didn't loose balance. Even though we had spent effort to climb over the ridge, we were only welcomed with seeing that we had to traverse across the mountain to the base of the next mountain which would be where we would accent up to King's peak. It was an hour of balancing over rocks which took a lot of concentration. On King's Peak, the mountain was made of rocks - big ones, small ones, boulders, scree and everything in-between. This was no hike or stroll up the mountain - it was a constant scramble up and over sharp rocks all the way to the top and took a lot of concentration which can be tiring on its own. After a few false summits, we made it to the top! While we were on top we were lucky enough to have some sun shine though and it gave us a great view of the various lakes in the area down below, and the mountain ranges all around. There wasn't much at the top though - no statue, monument or box to mark the high point, so after a few pictures and mouthfuls of trail mix and energy bar, we headed down and scramble back over the rocks. It was good timing as dark clouds were starting to roll in! On the way back, we decided to take the longer route through the valley rather than climb back over the ridge the way we came though. We figured it would be a flatter easier hike rather than scrambling over rock for hours. What was already a longer route became even longer when we decided to take a shortcut and we got lost. We spent another hour hiking across the valley floor trying to find our way back on the trail as the GPS we had kept telling us we were on the trail but we couldn't see it! All the while we could see Gunsight Pass at the top which was our target place. We finally made our way back through Gunsight Pass and back down towards Dollar lake but we were completely exhausted. It was 5pm by the time we arrived back at our camp. Rather than pack up and hike out (which would have taken another 4-5 hours), we decided to crash and camp out another night. Stuffing some lasagna in our tummies, we crashed early. The next morning as were were packing up the camp, we were rewarded by two young moose who made their way to the lake for a drink. It was a pretty cool sight to see them walk across the lake though it did make me think about the water we had used to drink (purified as best we could) from the lake as well! Just after 9am we made our way back on the trail. 4 hours later, after passing many more boy scouts making their way up on the trail, we arrived back at the car. We were happy to get away from the mosquito infested woods and made our way to find a hotel and a hot shower to wash away the 3 days of sunscreen and bug spray!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Hawaii's High Point - "Mount Kea"

Hawaii's high point is Mount Kea at 13,796 ft. The 6th highest high point in the US, Mount Kea is actually a (currently not active) volcano and is located on Hawaii's Big Island known as Hawaii. Mark and I made our way to Hawaii's Big Island on a trip en-route to Australia, arriving on the 13th June 2009 and staying 5 days in Keauhou Bay's Sheraton (which was great). Given our main reason for coming all the way to Hawaii was to reach the high point, we made sure the very next day we headed up the mountain. Around 3pm on Sunday 14th June 2009, we took the strange drive up from the Kona coast where we were staying. Firstly sunny and hot in the 80's, as we headed inland the weather became cloudy and at one point started to rain! So many climates on the same island! Then as we drove up in elevation and headed above the clouds, the weather was nice again with blue skies and white clouds. It was pretty awesome being above the clouds as we headed up the very bumpy Saddle Road to the top. You actually park near the four large observatories located at the top, and from there you have to climb over the small fence and follow the path down and back up to the high point, which is in fact another summit to the left of the top where the observatories were. While less than a mile to hike, having come up from sea level and hadn't had much time to aclimitize, that short hike felt long especially the way back up. The summit itself was marked with a large pile of rocks and the USGS marker. It was just about sunset when we got to the summit, and it was pretty cold (hence our warm jackets!!). A few photos and we quickly made our way back to the observatories to enjoy the last bits of hawaiian sunset! Aloha!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Ice Climbing at Ouray, Colorado

Hanging out in Silverton, Colorado for the Christmas and New Years break, we hit Ouray Ice Park in Ouray, Colorado for some ice climbing. Whilst Mark has done it many times before, it was my first time on the ice, allowing me to test out my new ice climbing gear! I'm in the blue jacket, and Mark was in the red jacket. It was awesome fun, and I surprised myself that I made it up so far!
29th Dec, 2008

Saturday, July 12, 2008


We've reached 40 US High Points!!! 10 to go....the big ones in the West...

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Colorado's High Point - "Mount Elbert"

Colorado's high point is Mount Elbert at 14,433 feet. It is the third highest of the 50 state highpoints in the US, after Alaska's Mt McKinley and California's Mt Whitney. For you Aussies as point of reference, Mt Elbert is twice as high as Mt Kosciuszko (Australia's highest mountain point). This was to be our last high point on this road trip and the highest mountain either of us had climbed so far!

Mount Elbert is located in the San Isabel National Forest between Leadville, CO and Aspen, CO. We stayed in the town of Leadville, which is the highest incorporated city in the US for one night to help acclimatize to the higher elevations before spending the next night at Elbert Creek campground near the Mt Elbert trailhead. Whilst crazy dusty, we got a cool campsite next to the creek (which was high and rushing from the melting snow higher in the mountains).

On Saturday 28th June, we woke up at 2.30am and go ready for our climb. The trailhead starts at 10,100 feet, and over 4.5 miles it climbs 4,550 feet. This was not only the highest elevation we would climb too, but it would so be the steepest in elevation that we would have to cover. We left our campsite at 3.30am and headed to the trailhead not far away. The trail comes to a junction after about 15 minutes. The sign there points that the "North Mount Elbert Trail" turns to the right and you will feel yourself heading down in elevation. This is the wrong trail as this takes you back to the road so we learnt. We had to backtrack back up to the junction and head slightly to the left and you will feel yourself hiking up. You are now on the right trail! We hiked in the dark with our headlamps, which later I learnt when I was coming back down, was great for not allowing you to see the steepness of the trail you were on! We stopped for breakfast (a protein bar!) at 5am and watched the sun rise through the trees which was beautiful. At 6am, we arrived at treeline and could see ahead of us a long stretch across the mountain and a steep mountain ahead of us. It was the start of a beautiful day with blue sky and light winds. After an hour of switchbacks and hiking across the dusty trail we arrived at the bottom of the steep mountain (our first false summit). We were going slow and were feeling the altitude and I had to keep practicing my deep breathing to keep going. Half way up the mountain, we could see the first of the other hikers in the distance. When we reached the top of that mountain, we were faced with another steep mountain in front of us. The steepness made it tough going, but the desire no to be past by the other hikers spurred us on. At the top, we would still see more ahead of us, so we sat down and took a rest, thinking we still had a lot more to go. It wasn't long before 4 hikers past us! Locals who do this all the time we keep saying (and later learned was true so we didn't feel so bad!).

When we got started again, we were surprised that we weren't as far from the summit as we thought! Man, we could have kept going and not let the others past us if we had known! We reached the top at about 8.45am! It was a beautiful sight with the many snow capped mountains around us which spread across the horizon. It was a great feeling to have achieved this highpoint! The summit was marked with a post and a register. We happily snapped away with the camera and stopped for a chat with a few of the others who were locals and had done many of the other 14ers (there are 54 14,000 feet mountains in Colorado of which Mt Elbert is the highest). At 9am we headed back down the mountain and we arrived back at the trailhead just after 12 noon very tired. We spent the rest of the day napping and relaxing at our campsite. Our highpointing adventure for this trip was over. We would spend the next two days in Boulder and Denver relaxing before flying home.