2017/9/1-4 – Boundary Slam + Environs / 邊界滿貫+周圍地區

Bauerman Ridge high point ahead
Bauerman Ridge high point ahead

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Boundary Slam = Wolframite Mountain + Bauerman Ridge + Arnold Peak + Horseshoe Mountain

Environs = Teapot Dome + Haig Mountain + Rock Mountain 7641 + Armstrong Mountain SE Peak + Pick Peak + Topaz Mountain

Logistics Overview
OverviewDay 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4

Day 1 – Friday, September 1
Approach to Tungsten Mine
Night 1 – Trail #534 by Cinch Creek

Day 2 – Saturday, September 2
Wolframite Mountain + Bauerman Ridge + Teapot Dome
Night 2 – Teapot Lake

Day 3 – Sunday, September 3
Haig Mountain + Rock Mountain 7641 + Armstrong Mountain SE Peak + Arnold Peak
Night 3 – Sunny Pass

Day 4 – Monday, September 4
Horseshoe Mountain + Pick Peak + Topaz Mountain
Exit

Two things I did differently on this trip had worked out quite well. First, I assembled my own breakfasts and lunches and only had Mountain House for dinners. Second, since we’d spend majority of the time on trails, I wore hiking boots instead of backpacking boots, which I’d been wearing on longer treks. Zero foot issues during the entire trip.

The Boundary Trail had an average elevation between 6,800′ and 7,200′ from Tungsten Mine to Horseshoe Basin. Being above 7,000′ most of the time meant that any high points we climbed had no more than 1,000′ elevation gain upon leaving the trail.

In the end, we had seen more than plenty of wildfire smoke than the scarce water sources we were able to find.

Day 1Approach to Tungsten Mine
Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4

Unforeseeable future
Unforeseeable future

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Pup and I started hiking from Cathedral Driveway Trailhead (#510A), same trail we used to access the Cathedral Slam in September of 2014. We started at 5:30 PM with a little over two hours until sunset. Down on Chewuch River Trail #510 I was mesmerized by how quickly the wildfire smoke had permeated the western sky. Depending on the amount of light getting through the thick canopy of smoke, at times the reddish, ghostly sun look very much like the moon.

A sign by the Fire Creek Trail junction noted closures of Trail #510 and area west of Cathedral Pass due to smoke from out west. After a short exchange with two hikers with three dogs heading out from Remmel Lake, pup and I hopped on Trail #534 and continued northward. All of our climbing objectives were out east so I wasn’t too concerned. After hiking another hour after sunset, we found good camping next to the trail by Cinch Creek and crashed for the night.

Day 2Wolframite Mountain + Bauerman Ridge + Teapot Dome
Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4

Last good view of Apex
Last good view of Apex

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Next morning we started hiking early to Tungsten Mine under bluebird weather. The mine was just how I remembered it, deserted and eerily quiet. After filling summit pack with necessities and hanging rest of the gear on a beam behind the main house, pup and I hiked west on the Boundary Trail for Wolframite Mountain.

Where trail took a sharp bend southward at the head of Tungsten Creek at 7,000′, we scrambled east toward Wolframite’s west ridge. Right then the wildfire smoke from out west slowly crept in, and it was only mid morning! Eventually smoke caught up to us a few hundred feet before reaching of the summit. By now Cathedral Pass and been completely engulfed and most peaks were no longer visible.

Amphitheater and Cathedral
Amphitheater and Cathedral

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Summit views were primarily composed of ghostly outlines of mountains as the sun tried hard to let in more rays. We traversed the summit ridge to hit all the seemingly equally high points. On the way back to the mine, we took a shortcut heading southwest, bypassing cliffs on the south face, and rejoining the trail halfway between the mine and the sharp trail bend.

After a short lunch break, we left the mine and continued east on the Boundary Trail toward our next objective, Bauerman Ridge. This must have been an incredibly arid season! On the trail between Tungsten Mine and Bauerman southwest slopes, not a single drop of water was to be found.

Eastbound
Eastbound

Photos from this trip can be found here.

All of the map-marked intermittent streams were dry, and all of the water pools presumably would normally be filled with water were now left with their bottoms exposed and cracked. Thirsty yet tired of getting hopes up in search of water gully after gully, we left the trail and scrambled northeast uphill aiming for the high point.

Bauerman Ridge was clear of smoke when we arrived, but that didn’t last long before smoke once again caught up to us. We dropped 50′ or so on the north side in order to see the serene Scheelite Lake. The high point northwest of here looked taller, I was tempted to traverse over and get another perspective of this ridge but changed my mind.

The breakthrough
The breakthrough

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Most high points were merely eerie outlines of their normally would-be grandiose selves. The blood-tinted sun behind the façade of low crawling smoke conjured up an unusual sense of aesthetics. Or perhaps it was my own nausea from the lack of fresh oxygen.

Two and a half hours until sunset and still without water, we moseyed along Bauerman Ridge toward Teapot Lake (unofficial) where we spent our second night. As luck would have it, we found a few stumbled upon a few snow chunks in a deep chasm. A bit ashy but were very much-needed to hold us over until we got to the lake.

These will do for now
These will do for now

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Teapot Lake hadn’t received any precipitation in recent months and it had since become stagnant and topped with a thin, filmy layer of ash brought in by the smoke. But beggars couldn’t be choosers, as this was our only water source until god knew when and where we’d see it again.

Some insect-like creatures were swimming carefreely in the water, yikes! They’d quickly swim away as I carefully scraped off the ash to fill up my water bottle. The 32-oz. liquid was the only water I used for dinner and drinking out of that lake.

Water at last
Water at last

Photos from this trip can be found here.

After dropping off gear by the lake, we scrambled up Teapot Dome to catch the last glimpse of daylight. Bauerman Ridge, where we had come from, was still visible. But everything beyond the ridge was a blob of smoke. No mistaking the silhouette of Windy Peak for something else, as it’s the tallest structure southeast of here.

We left the summit at sunset time and got back to camp before dark and made dinner. The 12-hour day went by in the blink of an eye after three summits. Smoke cleared up deep into the night as we slept underneath a canopy of stars.

No signs of North Star
No signs of North Star

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Day 3Haig Mountain + Rock Mountain 7641 + Armstrong Mountain SE Peak + Arnold Peak
Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4

Another bluebird morning
Another bluebird morning

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Another bluebird morning with the sun fully shining after 7 AM. But all that good weather would go away in the next few hours. To get back onto the Boundary Trail, we scrambled southward from Teapot Lake along the ginormous buttress extending down from top of Teapot Dome.

So certain that I’d find water on the trail, I decided not to pack any from the lake before we left and that turned out to be a huge mistake. Along the trail we passed several more dry stream beds, plus a good camp with a few dry water pools nearby. Perhaps getting more water from Teapot Lake wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

Good morning Windy
Good morning Windy

Photos from this trip can be found here.

A while later we ecstatically came upon a stream bed south of our next destination Haig Mountain trickling with water. We took a break here and packed enough water to tie us over to the next water source. A short hike to southeast of the summit at 7,200′, we then left the trail and hiked under a mile on easy terrain to the top of the mountain.

Clear morning skies quickly became hazy again before 10 AM, and we soon were surrounded by more smoke creeping in from the west. Not much to see past Bauerman Ridge west of here, peaks to the east slowly became hard to discern.

Bauerman Ridge
Bauerman Ridge

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Back on the trail, we hiked farther east toward our next objective–Rock Mountain. A really nice group camp along the way with a huge pond…all dried up of course! Not sure of I’d camp here in this droughty weather. Our mouths were beginning to run dry again, I kept my mouth closed hoped to keep the moisture from being evaporated, har har…

Fortunately a short while later we found water at an intermittent stream south of Mount Regard. We left the trail north side of Rock Mountain and scrambled up steep north slopes for 600′ to the high point marked by a giant boulder. The summit provided good views to our next two objectives–Armstrong Mountain and Arnold Peak.

Horseshow Basin panoramic view
Horseshoe Basin panoramic view

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Back down on the trail we ran into a horseman with his dog and three pack horses traveling eastbound. They had come in from Iron Gate Trailhead and gone all the way to Remmel Lake area before turning around. The horseman mentioned that he had been coming in every year since he was a kid, quite knowledgeable about the area. Our pups played awhile before they set off into the basin and disappeared into the haze.

To my dismay, the Loudon Lake I had been excited to see was completely dry as well, boo hoo! Just past the lake we left the trail and scrambled uphill into the vast and seemingly endless lush meadow. South of Snehumption Gap at 7,200′, I hanged my pack and we proceeded to scramble up Armstrong Mountain’s south ridge to the top.

International crop line, US on right
International crop line, US on right

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Summit of the east peak was relatively flat, with highest point to the east, a couple hundred yards from the sheer east face. Being just minutes away from the border, we walked over to check out Monument 104 and the fascinating international crop line. This was the highlight of the trip.

Smoke stopped short of Rock Mountain in late afternoon. Cumulously it rose higher into the sky and created a daunting, head-like formation. The song Top of the World by The Carpenters suddenly came into mind. Everywhere east of here was still sunny. Snowy Protected Area on other side of the border looked amazing, could imagine how much more beautiful the area would’ve been draped in a layer of snow.

Just won't budge
Just won’t budge

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Arnold Peak to the southeast looked ginormous. To get there, we first scrambled down to Snehumption Gap at 7,500′ and then ascended 500′ up the west slopes. Highest point on the broad summit was marked by a manmade rock fort. It had gotten windier by now, the wind was blowing in all directions.

We stayed long enough to get photos of the beautiful evening colors before heading back down. Grr…and I just realized I had left my nifty fifty camera lens back on Armstrong Mountain. Oh well, finders keepers!

Evening colors in basin
Evening colors in basin

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Lush all around, an area backpackers had been raving about all this time I had been missing out. From top of Arnold Peak we traveled southwestward back down to the meadow. Then we got back on the trail and hiked over to Horseshoe Pass at 7,000′.

Since we had another half hour before it’d get dark, I decided to keep moving and find a place to camp near tomorrow’s objective–Horseshoe Mountain. Eventually we found a decent camp spot at Sunny Pass and settled in for the night.

Leaving Horseshoe Basin at day's end
Leaving Horseshoe Basin at day’s end

Photos from this trip can be found here.

As darkness fell, the cumulus smoke that had been hovering above all afternoon and evening, suddenly miraculously dropped lower and stretched across the entire basin. The smoke obstructed our view of the night sky.

Day 4Horseshoe Mountain + Pick Peak + Topaz Mountain
Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4

Smoky morning sunshine
Smoky morning sunshine

Photos from this trip can be found here.

On our last day we woke up to a hazy basin. Forecast had called for sunny weather, but smoke had been hovering so we didn’t see much of the sun. By now I’ve gotten used to the constant BBQ-like smell in the air. Shortly past 7 AM we began hiking northeastward toward Horseshoe’s summit. True summit wasn’t visible from lower elevation.

Some deer were noticeably spying on us from the ridge as we moved across the meadow. They were the only large wildlife we saw on this trip other than chipmunks and grouses.

Summit register on Horseshoe Mountain
Summit register on Horseshoe Mountain

Photos from this trip can be found here.

This was another a broad summit like the others in the vicinity. Of all the summits we had been on in the last few days, this was the first one with a register, placed by none other than Faye Pullen. Smoke seemed to have trapped itself in Horseshoe Basin, Armstrong and Arnold on the north side were covered in thick haze.

Neither of us felt like scoping out the top, so pup took his beauty nap while I sat quietly by the summit cairn and read through some interesting register entries from years past.

Final stop, Topaz Mountain
Final stop, Topaz Mountain

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Back at Sunny Pass, we repacked and hiked down to north saddle of Pick Peak at 7,200′. From the saddle the summit was merely 400′ elevation gain away. North face of Windy Peak looked much more intimidating from this summit. Still hazy everywhere to get really good views.

Down at the saddle we scrambled westward down to Trail #342 (Windy Trail) and hiked southbound through the humid and arid Big Horn Creek Basin. We hadn’t seen a single drop of water since leaving Sunny Pass. The scarce water in the basin was stagnant and muddy so we couldn’t drink any of it.

Southbound
Southbound

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Fortunately, we came upon a couple of tiny streams halfway to the Windy-Topaz saddle, our last water source until Windy Creek Basin. At the 7,500′ trail junction, we made a right onto Trail #360 (Basin Creek Trail) and hiked toward Topaz Mountain, our next and final destination.

From the northeast saddle, we stayed on the ridge crest and hiked up to the northeast face composed primarily of giant boulders and slabs. At first glance the terrain looked technical, but with a bit of route finding we discovered a sandy path winding its way through to the top.

Ridge walk
Ridge walk

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Two high points on the summit ridge looked equally in height, so we ran the ridge from the northeast end to the southeast and back. Windy Peak across Basin Creek Basin was the only thing clearly visible. Everything to the north was still under a thick haze.

I tried identifying peaks we had been on the past few days but got too distracted by the amount of smoke in the way of my own name-that-peak game.

Still hazy
Still hazy

Photos from this trip can be found here.

After our lunch and photo break, we got back down to Windy Trail and followed the trail around the gentle west slopes of Windy Peak. We took a right at the 7,800′ junction and descended into Windy Creek Basin.

Trail crossed the creek a few times, but it mainly stayed east of the creek. Lots of down trees in the last 400′ descent before we reconnected with Trail #510. Another half a mile uphill hike later and we were finally back at the car.

Thank you for another safe outing
Thank you for another safe outing

Photos from this trip can be found here.

A blockade had been placed by the trailhead after we went in, and a new sign had been posted with more trails added to the closure list.

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4

Access: Cathedral Driveway Trailhead
Gear: none

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