The Life and Times of Boulder Basin
A Mountain and Its Mines
By Ray Brooks
In August 1969, I found myself on steep and crumbling cliffs high above Boulder Creek, leading other novice climbers and childhood friends into unknown territory with an old hemp rope, borrowed from a friend’s family garage, tied around my waist. A few weeks earlier, I’d had a brief lesson near McCall on rope management, belaying, and rappelling. Somehow, we all survived that adventure.
It is only 5.6 miles up Boulder Creek drainage to the 1800s mining camp of Boulder City from Highway 75 north of Ketchum. I grew up in Ketchum and first visited this beautiful high-altitude area on a family 4WD drive trip in the early 1960s. After venturing there again with my friends in the summer of 1969, I took an overnight ski trip to Boulder Creek during the winter of that year. We got off to a late start and did not make it all the way into Boulder City, which was probably good, because the steep canyon sides of the upper creek frequently avalanche. We had packed winter camping gear, but found a dry loft in an old miner’s cabin and didn’t have to sleep in the snow.
I made my first ascent of the 10,891-foot Boulder Peak, which looms over the area, in June 1970. My high school pals Chris Hecht and Gordon Williams were willing accomplices. The borrowed hemp rope had been replaced with a more modern nylon climbing rope I had bought, and we carried ice axes for the firm June snow. We used the rope for climbing and descending an eighty-foot-high pinnacle near the base of Boulder Peak, but otherwise didn’t need it for the rest of the excursion.
I enjoyed the 2,600-vertical-foot ascent and descent so much that I repeated the route a year later with another climbing friend, Harry Bowron. I was twenty-one at the time and climbing was very important to me.