Boundary Peak is the highest peak in Nevada at 13,147 feet. So you know I had to attempt to scale it at some point. If was not a question of if, but when. When came in October 2022 to celebrate my friend Sandra's birthday. Our friend Paul came along for the hike as well.
Logistics of Getting to Boundary Peak
Boundary Peak isn't exactly easy to get to. It is remote. It is on the California border, outside of a small town called Dyer, Nevada. The closest place you would really want to stay is Tonopah, Nevada, about a 90 minute drive from Boundary Peak and a 3.5 hour drive from Las Vegas.
So that is where we decided to stay the night before. We chose the Belvada Hotel and had dinner at the Tonopah Brewing Company, which I highly recommend because they have great brews and great BBQ. The plan was to wake up early the next morning and drive to Boundary Peak. From the research I did, it would not be a particularly long hike, only about 8 miles roundtrip. We figured we could knock that out in about 4-6 hours and be back on the road to Las Vegas in time to get there for dinner. Turns out we were wrong about that in many ways.
We met in the lobby at 6am sharp. The drive out to Boundary Peak was beautiful, as we were blessed with an amazing sunrise. But outside of Dyer, the roads turned to dirt, the driving got slower, and we lost cell phone service. My research had shown me that there were two different ways to scale Boundary Peak, one less steep than the other. I had plugged the less steep path into my phone and the GPS continued to guide me even after I lost cell service.
The problem was that my GPS guided me to somewhere that was clearly not a trailhead and, without cell service, I had no real way to figure out where we were. As we continued to drive down a narrow and bumpy dirt road, which was making us all a bit carsick, Paul suggested that maybe we were actually on the trail. We collectively decided to pull the car off the road into some brush and start hiking from there. We weren't entirely clear where we were, but we didn't want to be in the car any longer.
The Beginning of the Hike
We just started walking up the dirt road, looking for any indication we were on the right path.
The road sloped uphill, but the walking wasn't too difficult and the scenery was great.
After about two miles of walking, we reached a parking area and a trail head. So, in retrospect, we probably should have stayed on the road rather than parked. Instead, we added 4 miles to our hike, making it 12 miles rather than 8 miles. The good news, however, was that those 4 extra miles really just consisted of walking on a dirt road that wasn't too challenging.
There was a metal box at the trailhead that contained a sign in sheet for the hike. What immediately struck me was how few people had signed in. Not a single person had signed in the day before. It did not seem that we would have much company on this adventure, which was nice in some ways but made me nervous in other ways. There is some comfort in attempting a well traveled trail rather than one less traveled.
At the beginning of the trail head, we were also greeted with a skeleton of some unknown animal. I was hoping this wasn't some kind of bad omen for us.
The beginning of the hike was really nice, on a narrow dirt trail that was pretty much flat. The scenery was incredible!
I started to get a bit nervous that we weren't yet gaining much elevation because I knew we had a lot of climbing to do over the course of the next 4 miles and we hadn't yet done much of it. That meant things were going to get really steep really fast.
Mount Doom Segment of the Hike
And then we hit the steep uphill portion of the hike. The trail was difficult to find. And there was a lot of loose shale. It felt like every step forward ended with sliding half a step back. Thankfully, I brought hiking poles to ease the sliding. We were very exposed, but just kept pushing forward, hoping we would reach the peak in the distance at some point. But it was pretty miserable, to be honest. It seemed we had not chosen the less steep version of the hike.
As we approached the peak we could see from the base of Mount Doom, I had a sneaking suspicion that it was a false summit because I knew we hadn't yet climbed high enough to be at the peak. But, in any case, we were going to stop and rest for a bit before reassessing the situation. Paul had fallen behind, so Sandra and I arrived before him. We snapped some photos and took in the fantastic views.
We had climbed quite a bit already, as you can see from the photo below.
We soon learned that the peak was still much higher up, as you can see in the photo below. But we couldn't find the trail that led to the peak. We saw a small speck at the top of one of those peaks and we knew it either had to be a person or an animal. As the speck continued to move and get bigger, it became apparent it was a runner heading in our direction.
Once the runner reached us, we asked him where he had come from and he said "Boundary Peak" and then pointed to the highest peak we could see. We asked him where the trail was and he said there really wasn't much of a trail, you just had to climb the rocks. That sounded ominous, but Sandra and I gave it a go. We probably made it another quarter mile before it became very technical, more in the category of bouldering than hiking. It was also getting quite cold and windy. I gave Sandra the beanie that I had packed.
Sandra said that she didn't feel safe climbing up the giant rocks and wanted to turn back. Truth be told, I didn't feel too safe either, but I also really wanted to make it to the peak. I told her I was going to go on for another 15 minutes or so and I would turn around if it got too dicey. She decided to turn around, head back, and meet up with Paul at the false summit.
Going it alone probably (okay, definitely) wasn't a good idea, but I knew this was almost certainly the only chance I would have to make it to the top of Boundary Peak. It seemed very unlikely I would come all this way again. But the bouldering never got better. It only got worse. At some point, the hike turned into flat out rock climbing, which is not my strength.
I fell a couple of times on the way up, but thankfully didn't get seriously injured or fall off the side of the mountain. In retrospect, I am very thankful for that because I don't know what I would have done had I seriously injured myself.
I was determined to make it to the peak. I had come too far at this point to turn back, but I was also very nervous about how I would get back down the mountain.
And finally, I made it to the top!
And just as I did, my phone rang. It was Sandra. She was extremely worried about me because it had been over an hour since we parted ways. She lost sight of me and could not reach me by phone because I didn't have any cell service along the way. She and Paul had been waiting for me at the false summit. I told her I had made it to the top and that she and Paul should head back down. I told her I would run the last few miles and catch up with them.
At the top, I found an ammo box full of stuff. I didn't spend time exploring everything in the box because it was cold and windy and I wanted to start going back down, but I did find a handmade sign.
Holding the sign in my mouth was the only way I could get a photo with it due to how windy it was up there.
The views from the top were fantastic in all directions!
A 360 degree video from the top.
And a video with some commentary. I noted that going down was going to be dicey!
I'm not gonna lie, the descent was, in fact, dicey. Bouldering off the mountain was trickier and more dangerous than bouldering up the mountain. I took a few falls along the way but, again, no serious injuries, just some cuts and bruises. Thankful for that.
Once I reached the false summit, I could see Sandra and Paul in the distance. I had a lot of ground to make up. Going down Mount Doom was probably worse than going up. I basically skied down the scree. Small rocks filled my shoes. I used my hiking poles as if they were ski poles, until one got caught in the rocks and I did something I had never done before: snapped a hiking pole:
The snapping of the hiking pole resulted in a pretty hard fall. As I laid there, I looked up at the sky and seriously doubted my life choices. But I assessed my injuries (not serious), got up, and pressed on.
It was nice to be on a flat trail again and I tried to run as much as I could. But I didn't catch up with Sandra and Paul until the beginning of the trailhead. When I emerged to find the two of them sitting there, Sandra ran up to me and gave me a big hug. She had been trying to call me, but I had no cell service. She was convinced something had happened to me and was trying to decide what to do. Paul wasn't too worried. In any case, I had the car key, so had something happened to me, I'm not sure what anybody would have done. Good thing we didn't have to find out.
The Drive Back to Las Vegas
We walked the two miles back to the car. We were tired, beat down, and starving. The hike had taken us way longer than we thought it would. And we still had to drive the 4.5 hours back to Las Vegas, a very desolate drive. It wasn't fun. We stopped at basically the only place along the way - a Denny's in a small casino in Beatty, Nevada. They didn't serve any alcohol. You can see how thrilled we all were at that point as we waited for our food:
But that was the best Denny's food I ever ate!
It had been nearly 5,000 feet of climbing when all was said and done - equivalent to climbing out of the Grand Canyon!
Miles 5-8 were not fun. Not at all. Not in the least bit.
I'm glad I did it. I will never do it again. Going it alone was a bad idea that could have gone horribly wrong. But, in this case at least, the risk was worth the reward. I scaled the highest peak in Nevada. Nothing better than adventures with friends, no matter how ill prepared!
Steve Yeager is an ultra runner who rarely turns down a challenge. When he is not out putting miles on his shoes, he practices law and serves as the Speaker in the Nevada State Legislature. Steve lives in Las Vegas, Nevada with his very understanding and patient wife, Bita.