"Bolton Didn't Go This Way!" (or, How I Climbed Birch Mountain)

1 Aug 1999 - by Debbie Benham

From Birch Lake, we hiked into the cirque just west of Birch Mountain to find towering spires, permanent hard snow attached to the mountain side, and 45 degree gullies with partially filled snow, all directly in front of us. Given our time frame, lack of equipment, energy levels, as well as considering others' opinions and thoughts, with a tinge of disappointment, we bid arrivederci to B. Brown. So, with mountaineering aplomb and savoirfaire, we headed for Birch Mountain at 13, 665'. Attaining the ridgeline then onto Birch's summit, looking back, we could see the wide plateau just NE of Bolton, and his eastern edge jostled with spires and pinnacles. A lovely day with views, once again, magnificent: Split Mountain, Disappointment Peak, Middle Palisade, Mt Sill, Polemonium, Winchell, and, Mt Humphries.

Personal Highlights of the Trip:

On the use trail toward Birch Lake, we saw glorious wildflowers emerging from underground springs and tributaries in this eastern high dessert; wild rose, Indian Paintbrush, columbine, shooting star, Ranger's Buttons, Sierra Angelica, and sky pilot, higher up, near the lake. On the southeast side of Birch Lake, Paul and Will discovered remnants of a possible airplane crash(?) as they found a tire and shards of metal. Birch Mountain was a high point for the Brit on our trip, Jeremy. Congratulations! with more to come, I'm hoping. Elmer discovered a gross mountaineering error in Robert Ludlum's thriller, 'The Aquitaine Progression', p. 570. Some of us spotted it:) The only wildlife on our trip was a wild mouse at campsite! Paul wrangled with the critter inside his bivy bag(!) for a bit, and, once food was out, so was wild mouse.

Kudos: to Paul who assisted with routefinding; to Will who stopped every time I wanted a water break; to Jeremy who delighted us with his Euro perspective; and to Elmer who said, "This isn't a trail!"

By-the-Bye: Birch Mountain was named by Chester Versteeg in 1936. The original Paiute name was Mountain of Stone (paotkung).

Trip Participants: Debbie Benham, Will Hirst, Elmer Martin, Paul Penno, and Jeremy Westerman.


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