TRIP REPORT: White Mountain to Boundary Peak

This was an ultralight overnight traverse from White Mountain and Boundary Peak in the White Mountains on the California/Nevada border.  It covers 30 miles. There’s 7 miles of trail on either end and 16 miles of cross country travel between each peak.  It was one of my favorite hikes of the season.  The traverse across this range was easier and more beautiful than I had anticipated.

Cowboy camping on White Mountain

Our bivvy spot for the night

I did the traverse in early June in a low snow year.  There were very few patches of snow.  The creek at our mid-point was running and provided our water resupply.

Difficulty: 3rd Class (briefly)

Distance: 30 miles

White Mountain: 14,252 feet

Boundary Peak: 13,147 feet (Most of this traverse ranges from 12k to 14k feet)

Trailhead: Either the trailhead for White Mountain near Barcroft station, or the trailhead for Boundary Peak out of Queen Mountain road.


White Mountain

Viewing White Mountain from partway down the trail.


APPROACH: Either White Mountain or Boundary Peak

First, decide which direction you want to hike and then coordinate the car shuttle.  I think I would prefer to start in the north and do it from Boundary Peak to White Mountain.  This way, I get the hardest part of the route done first, when my energy is high.  Some would argue that white mountain is harder and that the navigation is easier south to north. Choose your poison.



Day 1: White Mountain

From the summit of White Mountain, continue down talus to the north.  Eventually the ridge becomes 3rd class.  This section of scrambling and exposure doesn’t last long.  Enjoy it.  Most of the route will be 1st class walking.  At times, we dropped slightly west or east on the ridge.  There were a few larger patches of snow that we choose to cross but may have been avoidable.   


Once out of the 3rd class section, you are essentially descending the broad north flank of White Mountain.  Your aim is to reach the lowest notch of the route, which is is where the headwaters of Birch Springs originate.  You could make camp here but it would mean that your mileage on day two is more than on day one.  We opted to follow one fork of the creek up to it’s terminus.  

White Mountains

The low point of your journey, and access to water.


This made the first day mileage about 15 miles and we still had access to water. For more information on how I stay hydrated while I hike, check out this article!

Water Source in the Whites


Day 2: Boundary Peak

At this point, you are slowly re-gaining the altitude you lost in the notch.  The ups and downs for the first 7 miles are moderate and the views over California and Nevada are great.  It’s only when you get the location marked ‘the Jumpoff’ that the terrain begins to get more rocky.  This is also when Montgomery Peak comes into view and you realize you have a steep scree and talus descent to a notch before you can gain Montgomery’s Summit.  

Long moderate terrain

I mused that it must have been called the Jumpoff because that’s how you feel when you realize how much work you still have left to finish the traverse! Our morale was the lowest at this point, queue How to Stay Motivated.  While the hiking wasn’t hard, we were trying to keep a 3-mile per hour pace, while at altitude and off-trail.  

White mountain to Boundary Peak

Some patches of snow on the route

If there was a good way down the talus to the notch, we didn’t find it.  The climb up to Montgomery’s slope felt slow.  Thankfully the trekking from Montgomery to Boundary Peak is a short jaunt with very little elevation loss between the two peaks.  Finally, it’s trail all the way back to the car.  Knowing there was sparkling water in the car had us running some of the trail down!  

Boundary Peak

Final push to Boundary Peak from Montgomery


This was also another 15 miles and took us about 9 hours.

Boundary Peak summit

Charity and I at the summit of Boundary Peak



Overnight stuff – as light as your comfort level allows.  We did bring bivy sacks for extra warmth, and in case of rain – even though it wasn’t in the forecast. 

Ultralight luxuries

Ultralight isn’t without luxuries – thanks Charity for thinking to bring bubbles!


Most of this traverse wasn’t technical, so I think comfortable hiking shoes for mileage might be more ideal than approach shoes.  

White mountain to boundary peak

I think this is magical traverse and made for a great overnight trip.  I also like big traverses and don’t often do as many low technical traverses where I can cover so much ground so quickly.  It was a nice change in pace.  Take a peek at the stunning views in this video:


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