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

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The Lowdown on Boundary Slam

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

邊界滿貫=鎢錳鐵山+鮑爾曼脊+阿諾德峯+馬蹄山
周圍地區=茶壺巨蛋+海格山+石山+阿姆斯壯山東南峯+皮克峯+黃晶山

Access: Cathedral Driveway Trailhead 
Round Trip: TBD
Elevation Range: 4280′-8137′
Gear: none
GPS Track: available


Logistics Overview

September 1-4, 2017

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 both had worked out well. First, I assembled my breakfast and lunch and only ate “Mountain House” for dinner. Second, knowing we’d spend most of our time on the Boundary Trail, I wore hiking boots instead of backpacking boots. As a result, I had zero foot issues on this trip.

The Boundary Trail had an average elevation between 6800′ and 7200′ from Tungsten Mine to Horseshoe Basin. Being mostly above 7000′ meant the elevation gain was no more than 1000′ from the trail. By the end of this trip, we inhaled more wildfire smoke than all the previous years combined.

Day 1

Approach to Tungsten Mine

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

Unforeseeable future
Unforeseeable future

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Hazy Evening Approach

Pup and I started hiking from Cathedral Driveway Trailhead (#510A). The same trail we used to access Cathedral Slam peaks in September of 2014. We started at 5:30 PM with just over two hours until sunset. The quick spreading smoke permeated the western sky was captivating. Depending on the amount of light through the thick smoke, the ghostly sun sometimes looked like a full moon.

A sign by the Fire Creek Trail junction denoted closure of west of Cathedral Pass due to wildfires. After a short exchange with two hikers and their three dogs exiting from Remmel Lake, we hopped on Trail #534. All of our climbing objectives were east of the pass, so I wasn’t concerned. After hiking another hour after sunset, we found a good campsite next to the trail by Cinch Creek.

Day 2

Wolframite Mountain + Bauerman Ridge + Teapot Dome

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

Last good view of Apex
Last good view of Apex

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Bluebird Morning Start

Next morning, we started hiking early to enjoy the bluebird weather. Tungsten mine was just how I remembered it: deserted and eerily quiet. I filled my summit pack with necessities and hung the rest of the gear behind the main house. Then pup and I hiked west on the Boundary Trail to Wolframite Mountain.

The trail took a sharp turn heading south at the head of Tungsten Creek at 7000′. So from there, we scrambled east toward Wolframite’s west ridge. Right then the wildfire smoke from out west crept in, and it was only mid-morning! The smoke quickly engulfed Cathedral Pass; most peaks were no longer visible. Similarly, it caught up to us a few hundred feet below the summit.

Amphitheater and Cathedral
Amphitheater and Cathedral

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Invasion of the Wildfire Smoke

Summit views consisted of ghostly outlines of mountains. Meanwhile, the sun was trying hard to let in more light. We traversed the summit ridge to hit all the seemingly equally high points. Rather than reversing our route on the way down, we took a shortcut by heading southwest. We bypassed cliffs on south slopes and rejoined the trail halfway between the mine and the trail bend.

After a quick break at the mine, we continued east on the Boundary Trail. Our next objective was Bauerman Ridge. This season must’ve been an incredibly dry! As a result, we couldn’t find a single drop of water between Tungsten Mine and Bauerman Ridge.

Eastbound
Eastbound

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Strolling Through the Boundary Trail

All of the marked intermittent streams had dried up. As a result, water pools typically would be filled in were left with the bottom cracked and exposed. Feeling dehydrated while getting our hopes up looking for water gully after gully, we left the trail and scrambled northeast.

We arrived on the smoke-free Bauerman Ridge. But it didn’t take long before smoke once again caught up to us. We dropped 50′ or so on the north side to check out the serene Scheelite Lake. It was tempting to walk over to the northwest high point and get a different perspective. But later I changed my mind.

The breakthrough
The breakthrough

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Another Hazy Evening

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

Two and a half hours until sunset and we were still without water. We moseyed along Bauerman Ridge toward Teapot Lake (unofficial) to spend our second night. As luck would have it, we stumbled upon a few snow blocks in a deep chasm. Despite the layer of ash on top, we very much needed the snow to hold us over until the lake.

These will do for now
These will do for now

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End of Day Two

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

Yikes! Right away I noticed some insect-like creatures swimming ever so carefreely in the water. They all quickly moved away as soon as I slowly scraped off the ash for water. Other than what I had put in the bottle, I didn’t drink any more water out of the lake.

Water at last
Water at last

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Sunset Climb on Teapot Dome

After dropping off gear by the lake, we scrambled up to Teapot Dome to catch the last glimpse of daylight. Bauerman Ridge, where we had just come from, was still visible. But everything beyond the ridge was nothing but a blob of smoke. Being the tallest structure southeast of here, no mistaking the enormous silhouette for anything except Windy Peak.

We left the summit at sunset and quickly got back to camp before dark and made dinner. The 12-hour day went by in the blink of an eye after tagging three high points. The smoke cleared up deep into the night as we slept underneath a sky full of stars.

No signs of North Star
No signs of North Star

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Day 3

Haig 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

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Back on Boundary Trail

The sun was already shining after 7 AM as we welcomed another bluebird morning. But the good weather would all go away in the matter of a few hours. We scrambled south along the huge buttress extending from Teapot Dome to get back onto the Boundary Trail.

I was so sure that we’d find water on the trail. But the decision to not pack more lake water turned out to be a big mistake. En route, we passed several more dry stream beds and a good camp with a few nearby dry water pools. Perhaps getting more water from Teapot Lake wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

Good morning Windy
Good morning Windy

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Another Bluebird-Turned-Hazy Morning

A while later, we unexpectedly encountered a stream bed trickling with water just south of Haig Mountain. We took a break here and packed enough water to tie us over to the next water source. At 7200′ southeast of the summit, we left the trail and hiked under a mile to the summit.

Clear morning skies quickly turned hazy once again before 10 AM. And more smoke from the west had crept in and soon surrounded us. Not much to see past Bauerman Ridge; high points to the east were beginning to become hard to discern.

Bauerman Ridge
Bauerman Ridge

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En Route to Horseshoe Basin

Back on the trail, we hiked farther east toward our next objective: Rock Mountain. Along the way, a big pond sitting next to a lovely group camp was all dried up of course! Not sure if I’d camp here in this droughty weather. Our mouths were beginning to run dry again. I kept my mouth closed in hopes to keep the moisture from evaporating, har har.

Fortunately a short while later we found water at an intermittent stream south of Mount Regard. We left the trail north of Rock Mountain and scrambled south for 600′ on the steep north slopes. A giant boulder marked the high point of the mountain. We had excellent views of today’s last two objectives: Armstrong Mountain and Arnold Peak.

Horseshow Basin panoramic view
Horseshoe Basin panoramic view

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A Human, a Horse, and a Dog

Back on the trail, we ran into a horseman with his dog and three pack horses traveling eastbound. They came in from Iron Gate Trailhead and went all the way to Remmel Lake area and back. The horseman has been coming in every year since he was a child, and was very knowledgeable about the area. Our pups played a while before they set off into the basin and disappeared into the haze.

To my dismay, the Loudon Lake I was 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. I stashed my pack south of Snehumption Gap at 7200′, and then we scrambled up Armstrong Mountain’s south ridge.

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

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Dramatic Evening Clouds

The top of the southeast peak was flat, with the east end being the highest point. The summit was just a couple of hundred yards from the sheer east face. It took only a few minutes to walk over to Monument 104 to check out the fascinating international crop line. Standing on the humanmade border was the highlight of this trip.

Smoke stopped short of Rock Mountain in the 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 the other side of the border looked terrific. I could only imagine how much more beautiful it would be under in a layer of snow.

Just won't budge
Just won’t budge

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Last Summit of the Day

Arnold Peak to the southeast looked enormous. To get there, we first scrambled down to Snehumption Gap at 7500′ and then ascended 500′ up the west slopes. A humanmade rock fort marked the highest point on this broad summit. By now it was getting windier, with the wind 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

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En Route to Camp

Lush all around! I’ve finally come to an area backpackers have been raving about the whole time I was missing out. From the top of Arnold Peak, we traveled southwestward back down to the meadow. We then hiked to Horseshoe Pass at 7000′ after getting back on the trail.

Since we had another half hour before dark, I decided to just keep moving. I wanted to find a camp spot near tomorrow’s objective: Horseshoe Mountain. Eventually, we found a decent site on Sunny Pass and settled in for the night.

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

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The cumulus smoke that hovered above all evening had suddenly dropped lower and stretched itself across the basin. The blanket of smoke blocked our view of the sky as the darkness fell.

Day 4

Horseshoe Mountain + Pick Peak + Topaz Mountain

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

Smoky morning sunshine
Smoky morning sunshine

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The Final Glorious Morning

We woke up to a hazy basin on the last day. The weather forecast called for sunny, but smoke has been hovering, so we didn’t see much of the sun. The constant BBQ smell in the air no longer fazed us. We began hiking northeastward shortly past 7 AM toward Horseshoe Mountain’s summit. The true summit wasn’t visible from the 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

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Smoky Views on Horseshoe Mountain

Horseshoe Mountain also came with a broad summit like the rest in the vicinity. Of all the mountains we had visited in the last few days, this was the only one with a register. None other than Faye Pullen had placed it. Smoke had trapped itself inside Horseshoe Basin; a thick haze blanketed Armstrong Mountain and Arnold Peak.

Neither one of us felt like moving after we got to the top. So pup took his beauty nap while I sat by the cairn and read through register entries from years past.

Final stop, Topaz Mountain
Final stop, Topaz Mountain

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Working Our Way South

Back at Sunny Pass, we repacked and hiked down to north saddle of Pick Peak at 7200′. From the saddle, the summit was merely 400′ elevation gain away. North face of Windy Peak looked much more intimidating from this summit. Everywhere we turned was too smoky to get any good views.

After getting back to the saddle, we scrambled west and reached Windy Trail (#342). Then we hiked southbound through the humid and arid Big Horn Creek Basin. There wasn’t a single drop of water since we left Sunny Pass. The scarce water in the basin was stagnant and muddy, so we didn’t drink any of it.

Southbound
Southbound

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Parched Throats in Need of H2O

Luckily, we came upon two tiny streams halfway up to the Windy Peak-Topaz Mountain saddle. This was our last water source until later on in the Windy Creek Basin. We turned right at the 7500′ junction onto Trail Basin Creek Trail (#360) and hiked toTopaz Mountain: our final destination.

We attained the ridge and then hiked up to the northeast face from the northeast saddle. The face comprised primarily of giant boulders and slabs. At first glance, the terrain looked technical. But with a bit of route finding, we found a sandy path and followed it to the top.

Ridge walk
Ridge walk

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Our Final Summit

Because the two high points looked equal in height, we traversed the summit ridge southwestbound and back. Windy Peak across Basin Creek Basin was the only visible structure. Everything to the north was perpetually under a thick haze.

I tried identifying peaks we were on the past few days. But then I became distracted by the amount of smoke in the way of my name-that-peak game.

Still hazy
Still hazy

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Outro via the Old Stomping Ground

We hiked back down to Windy Trail after lunch and a photo session. Then we followed the trail and got around the gentle western slopes of Windy Peak. We took a right at the 7,800′ junction and descended into Windy Creek Basin.

The trail crossed the creek a few times, but it mainly stayed to the east. 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

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Forest service had placed a blockade at trailhead had a blockade after we went in. They also put up a new sign with additional trails added to the closure list.

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

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