Setting the stageI figured that if I could just make it to Anderson Pass, I'd be able to get the rest of this effort done. Afterall, Kings Peak was the reason I was here and might be the high point of my whole summer for 2006. I had been working on the western state highpoints and was only two peaks away from finishing off the Utah county highpoints as well and so I really needed to gut this out and get it done. However, I was beginning to feel like a climber on Everest whose oxygen had just run out, each step up towards the pass was getting tougher and tougher. I could look up and see Dennis sitting there and even from where I was on the trail, I could tell he was wondering what my problem was. After all, the peak was less than a mile away and not even a thousand feet higher but it might as well have been on the moon the way I was feeling. Perhaps it was the week catching up with me or maybe my lungs just couldn't get the oxygen they needed after the bout with pneumonia earlier in the year but here I was, struggling to put one foot in front of the other and the pass was still a long ways away. Rats....
I was bonking and my mental side wasn't winning with its fight to make the physical side of me work hard enough to go much further. Leaden legs and frustration were beginning to plague me as I wasn't really one to quit so close to a goal but here I was, just wanting to sit down and come back another day when I would be in better form. Finally I pulled into the pass at the speed of a turtle and told Dennis to go on, I was done for the day. Rats....
Have you ever got to within sight of your goal and just totally run out of gas and couldn't go any further? Well, I was whipped and so after a short break I started back down....but first, here is the rest of the story.
The previous weekI had been in Idaho, Utah and Wyoming a week already, having a great time with my son earlier in the week and Dennis more recently. I had left Kennewick on August 14th and had picked off an Idaho prominence peak by mid afternoon when I visited the lookout atop Harrison Peak. The next day, August 15th, I visited the Idaho county highpoint of Franklin county and later the same day the county highpoint of Weber county Utah, Willard Peak. I finished the day by staying at my son's place in Sandy Utah and then he and I drove down and did the county highpoints of Iron and Kane county on August 16th before heading to a campground where we spent the night prior to doing Utah's Washington county highpoint, Signal mountain on the 17th. Signal was a tough hike, not technical, but tough with a 4400 foot elevation gain overall in a 11 mile round tripper.
After Signal Peak, it was on to sight see Bryce canyon on the 18th and then after being tourons for most of the day, we drove north to pick off Mount Dutton , another Utah prominence peak which took us into an area where the forest had burned badly the year before and the forest service was still clearing downed trees and trying to repair destroyed bridges as we drove in from the south but that is another story and might be worth a trip report of its own some day. So it was back towards the Salt Lake area where we pulled in very late at night (near midnight) and I spent another night on my sleeping pad on the floor in my son's spare room.
The next morning I had a chance to have breakfast with Bob Bolton and his wife Rhonda who were headed south to do some stuff in Utah and Arizona. What a fun meeting that was because the timing was such that we were in the same area at the same time as they were going one direction and I another. While having breakfast with the Bolton's, my phone rang and it was Dennis who had just done Willard Peak of Weber county the day before and who was now going to accompany me for the rest of the week as we planned to finish up the county highpoints of Utah together as well as Kings Peak. Dennis was at the parking lot near the mouth of Big and Little Cottonwood canyons which was only about twelve miles from where we were having breakfast so I left Bob and Rhonda to their journey and drove up to meet Dennis. Dennis and I went drove up to Snowbird and had a successful summit of the highpoint of Salt Lake county, AF Twins before we headed for Wyoming and found a place to sleep in our trucks off of I-80 where we spent the night of the 19th, listening to the semis roar by all night on nearby I-80.
What a great life, nothing beats the freedom of the open road in the western USA.
Up to Dollar Lake
Morning found us driving over 200 miles to pick up the county highpoint of Sweetwater county, Pine Mountain, located in the true middle of nowhere but that is another story all in itself. After our successful foray to Sweetwater county, we headed back to Rock Springs where we had a not so delicious hamburger at the local Sonic fast food place there. Then it was onto to Henry's Fork and we spent the late afternoon of August 20th, backpacking into Dollar Lake, 8 miles from Henry's fork, arriving at the lake in the dark and setting up camp for the next two days. On the way in, we had to dodge two moose who were not overly anxious to share the trail with us.
We chose Dollar Lake as our camp area because it would allow us to not only pick up Kings Peak but also nearby Gilbert peak, the peak that Dennis and I would finish the state of Utah's county highpoints on. Both Dennis and I squeezed into my REI quarterdome and despite the minimal space, we slept surprisingly well. Dollar Lake sits at an elevation of over ten thousand feet so the next morning I knew it would be a full day for me as the week was beginning to catch up with me since every day for a week I had been on the move. I figured though that a week at Utah's elevations would help my acclimatization and for the most part I'm sure that happened. The problem of me being out a week is that I'd had a bunch of nights where I didn't get the greatest sleep and my nutritional intake was probably less than ideal. Perhaps that affected
me but then who hasn't experienced the same stuff without it stopping them from accomplishing their goals.
Kirt Davis's nice shot of the moose near our camp
The next morning Dennis and I were up and going at 7 a.m. and made our way up the trail towards Gunsight Pass, which at 11,888 feet is 1100 feet higher than where we camped. On the way to the pass, we found ourselves passing between two full antlered moose, one on each side of the trail. Yikes. I didn't even see them until it was too late but then I hike with my head down, looking at the trail and for money that has fallen out of the pockets of previous hikers. As the trail zigzagged up towards Gunsight Pass, I noted another hiker ahead of Dennis and I on the trail. That hiker would later play a big part in my day but I'll save that tidbit for later.
Dennis was ahead of me, arriving at the pass about five minutes earlier and had been studying the map and route description so when I caught up with him, he already had the way ahead figured out. We could see the other hiker ahead of us descending into Painter Basin but that wasn't the way we were going to go. We took the climber's shortcut which left Gunsight Pass and cut off a couple miles of hiking plus the gain and loss of well over hundreds of feet, IMHO, the only way to go. We found it an easy way to go and should I have it to do over again, I'd go the same way.
Working my way up the shortcut wasn't a problem and I was feeling pretty good. However, then when we finally got back onto the trail about HERE, I
started to feel lousy and I could feel my energy ebbing. I always hike slowly uphill (ask anyone who hikes with me) but then I had a lower gear that I normally never need. Afterall, just a year before I had dayhiked Mt. Whitney and felt good all day long which entails a hike of over 22 miles and 6000 feet of elevation gain and I had no problems with keeping a good pace all day, but here, I was starting to get leaden legs. Dennis moved out ahead of me and soon was a good ten minutes ahead of me.
All I could think of was that the elevation was affecting me, that perhaps the pneumonia I had, had messed up my lungs somehow and I wasn't getting the oxygen I needed. Yet, the elevation hadn't bothered me earlier in the year on Humphries Peak in Arizona, so I most likely was suffering from poor nutrition and maybe even dehydration. I wouldn't even consider that perhaps it was my age catching up with me, or that perhaps this was just an off day. Whatever it was, I had leaden legs and my will to reach my goal was fading.
When I finally reached Anderson Pass where Dennis was waiting, I told him to go on, that I was done and had nothing left to push on with. He tried to talk sense to me and did his best to encourage me but I really didnt' want to keep him from making the common goal we both had (pretty noble huh?) and the weather was famous in this mountain range for quickly going south. With Dennis's speed, he could easily summit and get back down. Finally Dennis knew he couldn't get me to keep going so he headed up, looking back once in a while to see if I had changed my mind.
Totally beaten, I sat down on a rock and began to eat some of the food I had carried in my daypack. I also began to drink some water, something I had neglected to do even though I know better. At least fortified with the food and water, I headed down the zigzaggy trail to its base where I once again stopped myself and pulled out the feed bag and more water. Then I noticed this guy coming up the trail, the guy I had seen earlier who had descended down to Painter Basin. Just before he got to me, two guys and a dog went hustling by, moving at that hyper speed that youth can allow you to move at. They asked me if I had summitted and I said no and that I was going down.
The guy coming up the trail was about ten years younger than me, but it looked like he was a bit beaten himself. But he was determined to summit the mountain. When he reached my resting spot, we had a chance to chat a bit before he moved on and it turned out he was a retired optometrist named Vern who was after the USA state highpoints and was determined to get to the top of Kings Peak. His determination was infectious and as we talked, I felt my energy levels beginning to return and began to reconsider my decision. He moved on up the trail and then I felt my common sense returning and a bit of competitiveness. Vern wasn't going to beat me to the top, no way nor was I going to go down without getting this peak done. I grabbed my pack and headed back up towards Anderson Pass, 300 feet above me. I caught him and the two young guys at the Pass and they looked surprised to see me since I had been heading down when we had met. I was no longer that beaten old guy they had encountered but a new younger person full of determination to do what I had come to do and that was to stand atop Kings Peak, Utah's highest spot. Let the games begin....
Fortunately, I had caught my second wind, most likely due to the food and drink I had forced upon myself. I always have to remember to eat something on a hike but in this case it turned out to be providential that I did. Then Vern asked if I would stay with him as he was feeling a bit of trepidation about the route up and I agreed to do so. About two hundred feet above Anderson Pass, Dennis suddenly appeared on his way down and he was surprised when he saw that I was headed up. Dennis had already been successful but he decided that he needed more punishment and elected to join me on my summit effort which was a great gesture on his part (the mark of a real friend) and his knowledge of the way up was helpful, very helpful. The route up from Anderson Pass to the summit is mainly through jumbled blocks of talus and although it is obvious as to the way you need to head, picking the easiest way was easier thanks to Dennis's knowledge of the route. There is nothing technical at this time of year but the biggest concern is how quick a storm can appear and lightning is something we all should have a healthy respect for. Clouds were beginning to form so the faster we got to the summit the better. As we made our way upward, it wasn't long before Vern started lagging behind. He definitely was slower than I was and I kept stopping to see how he was doing. After awhile he just waved me on to keep going and as it turned out, he ended up being about 15 minutes behind when I got to the summit. Just below the summit, the two guys and the dog were just starting back down, the dog looking very fresh considering some of the rock hopping that he would have been forced to do on the way up. Maybe he was just happy to be going down. Dennis and I highfived on the highest spot in Utah and I was particularly relieved to have been able to get this one after my poor performance earlier. Now only Gilbert Peak remained, the third highest peak in Utah for both Dennis and I to complete Utah together.
We had no sooner finished taking some pics when a dad and his three teenage daughters made their appearance. They were from the Salt Lake area and for the girls, this was their first major high mountain effort. Pretty good considering they had come up the infamous chute (aka toilet bowl) and didn't follow the regular route up (such as it is). Also, Vern made his appearance