PrologueMy friend "The Goat" and I headed for Ibapah on July 9, 2011. It is about a four-hour drive from Salt Lake City, so it took some convincing to get me to go. I am a new hiker and things like "prominence" don't excite me yet. We got a Friday off and headed out.
Finding the TrailheadThe best info for finding the trailhead is in Dean's post. We drove straght there using his directions. The only discrepancy of note that we found is that the first turn after Wendover was at the 26 mile point on our odometer, not 28. Everything else checked out pretty closely. Another poster noted that there is an intersection 4 miles after Gold Hill that can fool you. This is correct--wait for the 5-mile mark as Dean's directions say. I printed these directions out which proved useful on our way back to Wendover. Many dirt roads look the same, especially when you're tired.
We made one stop at the Pony Express Station to read the plaque and ponder the nerve of the people riding the horses and manning the stations. Quite a different time. We patted the FJ on the hood and headed back down the road in Year 2011 comfort, spoiled.
We were delighted at the pristine condition of most of the dirt roads. On our trip to Ibapah the roads were smoother than many asphalt roads in Utah. However, the condition of some sections changed immediately after the afternoon showers. Use caution after the storms--the bottoms of some hills had water and mud that fishtailed the FJ and grabbed our immediate attention!
Up the CanyonThe final approach up the Granite Creek Road is as described in many posts. Four-wheel drive is advised for sure. This year is the wettest in many years and makes four-wheel drive that much more important. We crossed the first creek crossing with ease. It was probably more like 10 inches deep as opposed to the five described by others in other years. No problem. Eyeball it and go. The road got somewhat worse after that and we were glad to not be in a passenger car. After passing some nice campsites we approached a muddy area at maybe 1/3 mile past the first stream crossing.
It didn't look terrible so we stayed right and started through it. The FJ dropped into a rut and the front left tire fell into what I can only describe as quicksand. Or quickmud, that is. We were very stuck. Long story short...we tried for three hours or so using a jack, wood blocks and a come-a-long to get unstuck without success. The FJ was high-centered and mired in muck. There was nothing around to anchor the come-a-long to, even with 12 feet of chain.
So we hauled gear back to one of the aforementioned nice campsites and made camp.
The Morning After. Um...how far is town?After a beautiful night camping (very warm) and little sleep (too much wondering and worrying), we re-assessed the situation. We decided that more work was futile--we needed power to get unstuck. So we loaded up food and water in our packs and prepared to hike as far as Callao, which we decided must be as far as 18 miles.
Incidentally, the first ranch from this spot is maybe 5 miles on the roads, without tresspassing across land. Then there are maybe a couple more ranches before the turn to Callao. We also passed cars and people once in a while on the initial drive in from Wendover. Yes the trailhead is remote, but it is not quite as dramatic as you might think from reading all materials. There is life out there...
Anyway, 1/8th of a mile past the stream on our way out we noticed a large camp with several trucks. One very nice gentleman (Thanks, Mr. E!) pulled us out of the bog with a winch. Godsend. So we extended our trip a day and headed up the mountain the next morning.
The HikeAfter breaking camp we got started up the road at 7:30, later than we wanted. Afternoon thundershowers were "possible" and we hoped to make the summit early. The trail is as described in many posts. It is clear jeep tracks, then what looked like ATV tracks that at points were basically just grass mashed down. We hit snow patches at maybe 9000+ feet and briefly lost the trail at points. I don't think you can't go too wrong up that high--just head UP the ravine. There are cairns through the trees that help as well. There was running water all along the way basically until the meadow at 10,000. The trail crossed water 4-5 times. At least two of those times there was really no option not to get feet wet. This is definately a water-logged year. I assume you can normally cross and keep your feet dry--not in July 2011. The Goat kept his tevas on for the first couple miles and carried his boots. This proved nice for him. I actually ended up taking off my boots for one stream crossing and doing it barefoot. Not advised, and the water must have been 38 degrees or less and hurt. I was determined to have dry feet, though, but I digress...
We opted for lots of gear, water and food on this hike. We weren't sure what the snow would be like so we even had ice axes. So the going was a little slower with probably 18-20 pound packs. We were also using this hike as training. Next time I will gear down and (especially) rely on treated stream water. This is a big enough hike that weight is a factor.
At 10,000 feet the trail basically ends at the large saddle/meadow and you can see the objective. We opted to aim for just left of the sub-peak as suggested by many posters. Nice country, no difficulties. There was some snow between the meadow and the ridge as you can see in this picture taken on the ridge just up from the meadow.
From this spot we headed for the subpeak. A few minutes later we were approaching the subpeak. Here you have options.
Before the hike I read and read and mulled the options for hiking this section. We opted to skirt around the sub-peak to the left side, given the snow on the right and our desire to not lose altitude after gaining the sub-peak. This was fun scrambling but I have no idea if it was faster or slower or less or more difficult than other routes because we returned the same way. Our advice should you choose this route is to stay higher on the sub peak rather than lower, which looked like less hospitable scrambling. Also note that we dislodged a boulder or two on our way. Heads UP.
After the Sub PeakOnce around the sub peak we were on the last ridge before the summit push. There was some snow here but we were able to work around most of it. We did walk on snow for a bit right on top of the ridge but it was stable. Did not use the axes or microspikes we brought. Getting across the ridge while missing the snow required more easy scrambling and switching from one side of the ridge to the other. Again, higher on the ridge seemed better.
By the time we crossed this final ridge the clouds were broiling a bit and we decided to make it quick, or as quick as possible at 11,500 ft or whatever the ridge is. A group ahead of us said there was a good trail to the summit but we basically went as straight up as we could muster, trying to make time. There were snow patches but again we were able to make our way around most of the snow with little trouble.
Here is a picture from near the summit looking down toward the meadow. The ridge between the subpeak and the summit is hidden in this picture. (Click on the picture at the bottom of this report titled "Ibapah Summit looking SW" for great detail, including the ridge.)
We hit the summit finally after 5+ hours. I think we could have come closer to four hours with lighter packs and less time messing around with the stream crossings. These times are also starting from down nearer the first stream crossing on the Granite Creek Road.
The clouds were somewhat threatening so we limited our time on top and headed down. We took the same route down. Once we got off the summit and to the ridge before the subpeak I saw lightening strike out in the west valley. Needless to say we picked up the pace. By the time we reached the 10,000 ft meadow we could hear thunder, but not right on top of us. The rest of the way down was uneventful and we made it in about 3 1/2 hours from the top.
SummaryThis is a very wet year. If you are headed up there in July 2011 watch out for the bog that got us. Get out and poke and prod. While trying to get the FJ out we sunk (I should say the Goat sunk) up to our (his) knees. This stuff is nasty. Hopefully it will heat up and dry soon. There is snow left to melt, but it should be tapering off. After that bog there were a couple more minor bogs where a vehicle could high center. After that the road was pretty good all the way up.
As noted elsewhere, you could miss the second stream crossing while driving. If you do, the road ends almost immediately anyway. Here you can turn around and just about the time you get turned around and headed back down, the dropoff to the left is the second stream crossing. (Heading down it's on the left, heading up it's on the right.) If hiking, make sure you cross the second stream crossing to reach the true trailhead or you will be doing extra work. The crossing is easy to overlook because there is foiliage obscuring the continuation of the road on the other side.
Come early and scout out the camping. In my opinion the camping lower is nicer enough to warrant the extra time hiking. We camped in the trees right next to the water. Very nice indeed.
Start the hike early. This is a long hike unless you are one of those gazelle-like trail runners who needs no gear. Afternoon thundershowers and the companion lightening are possible any day. The earlier you hit the summit the less likely you are to be chased down by Thor. Also, for the stronger hikers, start early for a shot at adding Haystack to the hike.
Don't rely on cell service. We lost cell service maybe 10-15 miles south of Wendover on the highway. We picked it up again just below the subpeak on the hike. Here we were able to fire off a couple texts on our way up. On the way down we had no service here. We had no service anywhere on the dirt roads.
Bring extra food and water and fix-a-flat and jacks and whatever else you have and fill your gastank in Wendover for sure. This place is remote. And remember, as the guy who dragged us out of the quicksand said, "we have to stick together up here". Pay it forward and have fun.