First 10,000er of the year for Team UINTA!After heavy snowfalls of late January and early December, we knew that trailbreaking in Western Uintas may be a real chore. And yet I was starting to feel anxious about my perennial "Kings Peak Training 10K dogma" which says that training for the traditional late-March ski ascent to Utah's highpoint does not even start until you top 10,000 ft elevation.
There are simply not enough routes beyond the 10K line here which may be done when trail breaking gets tough. We entertained a possibility of skinning up Norway Ridge, but eventually decided that Castle (10,250) is a better target. To say the truth I've just been at the base of Norway Ridge the previous weekend, and I wasn't looking forward to a repeat so soon. I also knew that Castle hasn't been crossed off Judy's long peak-bagging wishlist yet.
We lucked onto yesterday's skintrack for the first couple miles of Upper Setting Road, but then the promised trailbreaking started in its earnest. Left the road at the culvert of Coop Creek tributary at 40° 38.49'N, 111° 8.36'W and started bearing a bit left as soon as the cliffs of Hill 9,374 parted, towards the little lake on the saddle and thence along SW ridge of the peak. It was a new route for us but it turned out to be as straightforward as it looked on the map. We hoped that the wind compacted the snow on the ridgeline but most of the time we just weren't so lucky. Still it was fun going with ever-shifting clouds and opening and closing views.
We reached the top in 5 hrs and didn't stay long on this breezy perch. The glide back was really fun, and we even avoided most of the road by shorcutting its biggest switchback all the way from 8,500 ft to 7,700 ft level. So the Kings Peak training has officially started :) !