The unknown peakIn this area of Utah, Kings Peak rightfully gets almost all of the attention. Kings Peak is the highest peak in the whole state and as such is a huge draw for Utah natives as well as those from all over the country who are seeking after the state highpoints. Poor Gilbert isn't even noticed by the vast majority and yet, it is only 86 feet lower than Kings. Kings is 13,528 feet high and Gilbert is 13,442.
So why do I care? What does Gilbert matter to me? Why even mention anything about this slightly shorter and less dramatic looking peak? Well, it matters to those of us who are county highpointers and are seeking all of the peaks that are the highest spot of land in any geographic county. Gilbert Peak is not only the third highest peak in the state of Utah, it is the county highpoint of Summit County. County highpointing was started by those who had completed their state highpoints and were looking for a continuing challenge. The concept of county highpointing was conceived and it has been growing in followers ever since.
The fact that Utah has two guidebooks dedicated to the county summits or highpoints didn't hurt either. In fact, there are many who most likely will only do the Utah county highpoints and never bother with the counties of neighboring states. The book "High in Utah" is the most popular of the two books and many may pick up the book because they think it has something to do with drugs or alcohol. Once they pick the book up, they can become addicted to something that is just as addicting as drugs or alcohol.
My last county highpoint - Gilbert PeakMy first county highpoint in Utah was inadvertently Brianhead, county highpoint of Iron county. My family was holding a family reunion in the Brianhead area so on a sightseeing trip to nearby Cedar Breaks National Monument, the drive up Brianhead Peak was included. The first intentional county highpoint was Delano Peak, the county highpoint of both Piute and Beaver counties. From that point on, every time I got to Utah I was chasing after the county highpoints until after climbing Kings Peak on the 21st of August, I needed only Gilbert to complete the state. In all there are 29 Utah county highpoints, and the chasing of them takes one all over the state. What a great way to see the whole state of Utah, county highpointing it.
Dennis Poulin was in the same boat, he also needed Gilbert and Kings so together we joined forces to do not only Kings, but also Salt Lake City county highpoint, AF Twin, located just above the Snobird ski area. He and I separately had knocked off a few of the Utah ones we needed prior to meeting up for AF Twin and afterward headed for Wyoming. Prior to heading for Henry's Fork, the trailhead for Kings and Gilbert, we drove a couple hundred miles out of our way and did the highpoint of Sweetwater county, our first one in Wyoming.
After doing Sweetwater, we headed for Henry's Fork and backpacked the same evening into Dollar Lake, arriving there in the dark to set up our camp.
The next morning, we were up at dawn to head up to do Kings Peak, a goal that took most of our day. Upon returning to camp, our neighbors, three of them came over and chatted a bit and inquired if were heading out the next day. When we told them our plans about climbing Gilbert and why, they wanted to join the fun and climb it as well.
Gilbert, the summit day
The next morning, our neighbors, Kirt, Hardy and Wendy were up early and stopped by to let us know they were on their way up Gilbert. It took us about a half hour and we too, were soon heading for the east side of Dollar Lake to find our way up the ridgeline that neatly connected Gilbert Peak in such a way that very little elevation was ever lost in the ascent. Once past the lake, the way to the ridge gets quite steep but never unenjoyable. Before long, after avoiding the brush patches above the treeline, we were on the ridge and on open terrain. After attaining the top of the ridge, we could see Gilbert for the first time, although we had looked at it from Kings Peak the day before but the perspective was completely different. Gilbert Peak looked like a big rock pile.
Onward we went, trying to pick a line that would eventually lead us to the slope that would make access to the top easiest. We kept following patches of vegetation up as that minimized the amount of talus and boulder hopping but about 400 feet from the summit, we resorted to just picking our way up the boulder field above us. Nothing technical, just mainly class 2 with occasional class 3 bits. Before long the angle lessened and we could see the area where the summit would be off in the distance. I could see three heads in that direction and I knew it was our neighbors waiting for our arrival. Indeed, that was the case. As we approached the rock shelter that housed the register, the three of them were there to congratulate and welcome us to the top of our last Utah county. Sah-weet. Dennis and I moved over to what appeared to be the highest spot and shook hands as we touched the highest spot together. A co-completion of the state of Utah, nice. The other three once again congratulated us and after taking our pics, they headed down. Thanks to you three for making our experience special. Dennis and I retreated to the rock shelter to read and sign the register and eat our snacks. Afterwards, we took pics of the Benchmark and a witness benchmark. The views from the third highest peak in Utah were tremendous. We could see the usual Uinta cloud build up occuring so we knew we had to get off this high rock pile. Interestingly enough, about fifteen minutes after we left the summit, we met two guys from Salt Lake City, Terry Sandler and Dan White. Terry was going to also complete all of Utah on Gilbert Peak. Quite the day for Gilbert Peak and Utah completions. Three on the same day, that might be some sort of record.
The descent down was really enjoyable to me, not just because I had completed the state, but because I was able to do it with a good friend and because I loved to be in the mountains. We now were going to descend to Dollar Lake and our camp and get it packed up so we could hike out the eight miles to our vehicles. We also expected to meet some friends who were coming to climb Kings Peak and who we were originally going to climb with.
On the way to our campsite, Dennis spotted a huge moose sitting close to someone's tent. The moose looked us over and otherwise ignored us as we went past. We had to a chance to say our goodbyes to our newly found friends,
Kirt, Hardy and Wendy, who planned to head the next day after Hardy had a chance to do some fishing. Another day in this area would have been nice but we had other fish to fry of our own, more peaks.
We packed up and headed down, spooking a big moose just before we got to the trailhead (or did he spook us). Two more moose were nearby and that made a total of twelve moose that we saw during this trip. Of course, we had to hike right through a herd of sheep on our way down but sheep aren't comparable to the nobility you feel from a mighty moose. At the trailhead, one of our friends had arrived and by morning the whole group was assembled. They were able to go on and climb Kings Peak but the weather forced them to forgo doing Gilbert so Dennis and I were relieved (in retrospect) that we had been able to get into the area a couple days earlier than we originally had planned. The weather in the Uintas can be very fickle and Dennis and I went on to do some Wyoming and Idaho county highpoints before we finally headed for our homes in Oregon and Washington.