Highest in Utah
Highest in Utah
August 29, 2006
Kings Peak 13,528’
Gilbert Peak 13,442’
We headed out on a 4-day backpacking trip to the High Uintas to bag Kings Peak and Gilbert peak the highpoints of Duchene and summit counties.
We left the trailhead at Henry’s fork at 7:00 am and hiked the 7.2 miles to Dollar Lake. The trail in is fairly easy, gaining just over 1000'.
After the fish stopped biting, we went back to camp. We ate dinner and went to bed at 7:30 so we could get an early start on Kings. (We were also tired from the pack in.)
From gunsight, there are two different ways you can take; the trail goes down into painter’s basin, around the base and wrapping back around to Anderson pass then along the ridge to the peak.
We were told to take the short cut. It would save two hours hiking. The problem was where is this shortcut?
A trail led to the right side of the pass. We went to see where it went and noticed piles of rocks. They must have marked the trail! The path cut along steep and rocky ground, but it saved quite a bit of time, and elevation as well.
We followed these to Anderson pass from here; we just followed the ridge, scrambling over rocks as big as a car, arriving at the summit at 10:45. Kings is literally nothing more than a huge pile of rocks. Nothing like I expected. When we went to signal, there were trees all around. This peak is well above the tree line and barren, except for all the rocks.
On top there were two caches placed the same weekend, and the owner of the one that didn’t get published contacted me and asked if I could move it.
I found the published one then went to retrieve the other. I figured I would place it at gunsight pass, so I loaded it in my pack and started taking pics from the top of Utah. As expected, the view is amazing, an unobstructed view in all directions. Looking down the way we came, what a high it fives you knowing you have pushed yourself to climb a mountain just because its there. The reward, endorphins, the view, and memories.
Thunderclouds were starting to roll in, so we headed down. Instead of going along the ridge the way we came, we headed straight down the faced. It was quite a scramble, picking our way through the teetering rocks, but it shaved even more time off.
At the bottom, we kicked back and glassed the ridgeline there were seven people headed up. It was early afternoon, and the clouds were starting to get dark. Looking at the foot of the mountain, we say the guy we passed earlier in the morning. He had quite a way to go, and it was already early afternoon.
We got on our way and headed to gunsight pass. I placed the cache at 11,900’ just up the side of the pass. Here we tried to determine the best way to get to Gilbert peak. From what we could tell, we would need to drop down in the basin, and go up the south face. We may just have to pass on bagging Gilbert and just fish the rest of the time.
We added more rocks to the pile on top of the pass and headed home for dinner. We got back to came at 2:30 and took it easy, eating some freeze dried ice cream sandwiches. It was surprisingly satisfying- even though it wasn’t cold.
Later that afternoon, we went over to visit the guys in the next camp. They were here to finish the last of the county highpoints for Utah. They were from Oregon and Washing ton and told us some stories of hitting some highpoints prominent peaks. They were going to Gilbert in the morning and it wasn’t as bad as we had thought. It was 3 12/ miles and you just follow the ridge behind the lake. With it being that close, we just couldn’t pass, so we decided to head up ourselves first thing in the morning.
Getting to bed early again so we could beat the thunderstorms, I lay in bed tired, but ecstatic. It had been nearly 10 years since I had been on a big backpacking trip, and even then, I was scoutmaster, and had more pressing issues going on than doing what I wanted. I figure that by the time my son is old enough to go with me on these outings, I will have finished the Utah Highpoints. Guess I will have to do them again.
We headed for Gilbert at 6:30 and after we rounded the lake, we started climbing the steep ascent to the ridge. We would stop and rest while glassing the valley floor below for wildlife and Dean and Dennis. Once we circled the valley, we glassed back on the ridge and saw them about an hour behind us. The next leg of the ascent took us amid a rocky incline, not too steep, but the rocks make it fairly difficult. You can see a couple shelves that we have to navigate around and we set our sights there.
Clambering up the rocky shelves there is the peak! Getting a rush of energy, I quicken the pace. Hardy is back with Wendi, and I forge on. I can see the summit. Getting closer, I see it is a false summit, then there was another. How many could there be? Getting aggravated I trudged on even quicker and then the top shows itself.
I head up a steeper part of the face with rocks shifting and sliding with nearly every step. I yell down at the other two not to go this way and pick my way up to the top.
When I am nearly there, able to see the cairn at the top, I wait for hardy and wendi.
We get to the top and take in the view. You can see Kings Peak 3 miles away and the valley below with several lakes. Hardy and I glass some moose on the floor below as Wendi reads the summit registers of people who have logged their summit trip.
About an hour later Dean and Dennis show up and we took their pics finishing up the last of the Utah County High Points.
How great that must be. I can’t wait to say I have finished. We headed down with a glance over m should looking at Gunsight Peak. I twill have to wait until next time.
Nearly down, we split up. I had some business to do in the bushes way off the trail, so I arrived at camp shortly after hardy and Wendi. When I arrived back at camp and unzipped my tent, I heard a big crash thru the brush. I grabbed my camera, and skirted the trees. There was a co and a huge bull. It was close enough I got some great pics, but the bugger wouldn’t give me a profile shot.
After lunch, we kicked back and I thought the other two were napping, so I took off to see more of the basin. I headed to the trail and went and sat on a rock where I could see the view. Looking thru my bionos, a stream meandered along the floor. I could see where beavers had dammed the stream and in the pond was their lodge, Feeling from a past life kicked in and I started down to take some pics and explore for a bit. I make my way thru the waist high brush and a bull mosses stood up just a few yards away. Not being much in the mood for a confrontation, I headed back and would return later. On my way back Hardy showed up. We had waypoints for a cabin and a few waterfalls on the other side of the valley and decided to go and check them out. I t was less than a mile away, so why not?
We had to navigate out way past the swampy ground, ponds, and steams, and also the moose, and he kept a sharp eye on us. When we got closer, he left the valley to us and went up the hillside.
Then it started to sleet. I hadn’t planned on going on this side adventure, so I didn’t bring a jacket. It let up after about 15 minutes, and then the sun came out to warm me up and dry me out.
We got to a small hill on in the valley, and watched a few deer for a while before heading to the cabin.
Getting closer, I could smell some smoke from a campfire. When I went around the trees, I could see the cabin. It was the sheepherder’s camp hat passed us on the way in. We were discouraged because we had hopes of it being an old homestead or something we could explore.On the way back, we glassed for more wildlife and looked at the waterfalls.
WE got back to camp and fixed dinner and kicked back. It is nice not being on a schedule, doing what ever fancies oneself. Too bad it will end all too soon.
After a while, I turned in. This would be the last night here, and I did not want to leave. It was so quiet and peaceful. The people were gone it was as if we had the place to ourselves.
Sleeping in until 8 I started packing up not wanting to leave. After doing a final check that we had grabbed all our stuff, and the trash was gathered up we put on our packs and headed out. On our way back, we passed 30 more people. We were glad that we went midweek and avoided all the crowds.
It took us four hours to reach the trailhead. Taking a shower and sleeping in my own bed did kind of sound good, not to mention the thought of real food (not to say freeze dried was bad) but I was looking forward to a burgher or something. We stopped in Evanston, and a burger just wouldn’t sound complete. I just had to end the trip with a brew.