ProloguePay little heed to this TR; it is merely a loose collections and recordings of some various stuff in Utah grouped together based vaguely on geographic and/or chronological themes.
Spring on Boulter Peak - April 21st, 2012On Olympus SP Member Kadee had mentioned that Boulter and Black Crook were among the few Utah Prominence peaks she had yet to hike. The former worked on a warm April Saturday, as it was a quick road walk and close enough to the city where I could catch some of the Bruins’ playoff game afterwards. We followed Dean’s excellent directions on SP and were able to find our way to the mountain fairly easily. The road deteriorated as it approached Mill Canyon but we continued on for at least a mile or so further before parking.
It was a quick walk down the road to start the hike; after the 4wd track turned south the terrain became a little steeper, and higher up towards the ridge there were some lagging drifts of snow in the shadow of the trees that made for some painful postholing. Once on the ridge parallel and north of Boulter it was all easy going though; the views opened up to a gentle high timbered terrain, with open slopes and ridges leading to Hanafin and other subpeaks. Dry Lake was anything but, and behind it Boulter loomed benignly. We traversed around the lake and made it to the open summit, where we were enlightened to 360 degree views of this section of the Utah West Desert.
The Wasatch Front and Timp were plainly visible and snow covered in the distance, while we were treated to unique views of the Oquirrhs and Stansbury. South we saw Champlin and beyond that, Fool Creek, still covered in snow. The latter immediately excited my interest once more; I had seen it before driving past Delta in 2008, and for me, a peak once seen jumps several notches in my radar screen. Seen twice…well, you get the picture.
Boulter and Black Crook had always intrigued me as I climbed some of the peaks nearby; they almost seem to run east-west, thusly encircling the basin south of the Oquirrhs. While the peak itself hardly stands out from its neighbors (and indeed, East Tintic to its south may be a more striking summit, if lower than Boulter, in the range), the views from its summit are anything but plain. (And you really get a unique view of the Oquirrhs immediately to the north).
Fool's Reward - May 5th, 2012A day after Boulter I hopped and scrambled up the talus with Greg (SP Member gjagiels) to the top of Mahogany Peak and some of its subsummits. The week afterwards was a break from peakbagging, as I joined 6 buddies who flew down from Boston to the one and only Vegas. I whetted my appetite for some of the peaks along I-15 on the drive to and from the greatest city in the world, but for the remainder of those four extended weekend days my focus was on having the time of my life in a non-outdoors related manner (unless you count outdoor pools and roofdeck clubs).
As I drove towards Fool Creek Peak the Saturday afterwards I tried to contemplated things. I had given up a life that I loved to move to Utah where frankly, besides a good job, all I really had was the mountains. Were these mountains really worth it? As I ascended through the mellow woods lining the trail and gazed at the creeks flowing from the upper slopes of the peak, smelling really for the first time the scent of Spring, I realized they were, and that I couldn’t give this up.
The hike itself was mostly dry and pretty easy, with a good trail ascending to the saddle between Fool Creek and its western neighbor Buck, and for the most part all the way up to the summit. The last few hundred feet up the featureless summit plateau dragged, but once on top the views were dramatic indeed, especially with the steep and treacherous cliffs giving away immediately on its eastern aspect.
The Southern ridges and summits of the Canyon Range were equally scenic, and I enjoyed its views all the way back to the trailhead. This had been a good hike to get me back into things, and a good warm up for the following day.
Grand Day on Grandview - May 6th, 2012Grandview Peak has been on my radar screen for awhile since moving to Salt Lake. It is a striking peak when viewed from the southern aspects of the city, and I stared at it every day from the windows of my office building. Its elusiveness added to its allure, and I resolved to solve this puzzle standing sentinel above my daily comings and goings.
With my legs adequately warmed up from Fool Creek I started up from Big Mountain Pass and made quick progress in the cool morning air. The trail was a little mucky in the wooded saddle in the first few miles but broadened as it joined the ATV roads coming up from East Canyon. Just as from the valley, Grandview beckoned ahead, still 8 miles distant and yet tantalizingly close. I reached the shadow of the Swallow Rocks, a 400’ prominence summit, and decided to traverse below it for now and decide whether or not to tag the extra summit on my way back.
The trail disappeared near the saddle between Swallow and Lookout Peak. I spent some time trying to find it, starting to ascend slightly towards Lookout before deciding to straight shot it through the brush and snow to the low saddle northwest of Swallow Rocks. From this broad basin I still had trouble finding the trail, so I cross country’d it up the steep slope until eventually regaining the trail before it gained the first bump in the ridge.
Grandview was closer now, but still many ups and downs along the ridge lay between me and even the opportunity to descend to its lower connecting saddle. Snow was starting to be more commonplace, but overall the going wasn’t bad along the ridgetop traverse. The views of Grandview started to scare me though, as from this angle the snow slope ascending to its summit looked particularly steep, and I wondered if I had made a mistake leaving my ice axe in the car. Finally, upon reaching a posted sign I began my downclimb to the Grandview saddle and followed a mellow snowfield to a rocky spine just below the summit. This made for some fun scrambling and a good jumpoff for the last few hundred feet. The climb up the snow was not mellow, but not too steep either, and upon gaining the ridge I rejoiced at getting this peak off my back while knowing that I still had 9 long miles to go.
I debated the back and forth on whether or not to tag Swallow Rocks, a P-400’er, on the way back. I didn’t make up my mind until after I reached the saddle separating it, Lookout, and the ridges leading back to Grandview. I decided to take it easy and forego the summit, only to inexplicably find myself trudging along the red dirt along its ridge and through dusty sagebrush paths inevitably to its summit.
It was atop this summit that I wondered about my own psychosis and pondered what makes us peakbaggers punish ourselves so, when we (I) could easily be spending all this time and effort in, let’s say, sipping drinks poolside in Vegas. I was distracted in my thoughts by the unique view and angle I had on Grandview though, and eventually descended determined to add Big Mountain to my day’s tally as well. This would have worked, except I had never properly ascertained which bump along the ridge was Big Mountain. Accordingly I waltzed obliviously past the actual Big Mountain before ascending the little false summit bump within a mile of the trailhead. (I discovered my mistake later). It had been a long day, almost 8 and a half hours, and psychology grueling, but I was happy to get this one in the bag.
Deseret Among Willows - June 2nd, 2012The next weekend, my last before an extended visit back home, was spent checking out some desert peaks in Nevada. I enjoyed immensely my almost eleven days back in Massachusetts, spending time with friends and family and reacquainting myself with a state and city that I loved; as the end of the Memorial Day weekend approached I found myself quite reluctant to return to the sparse, dry streets of SLC. But having accepted my fate, I vowed to take advantage of my location as much as possible by getting as many great and memorable peaks over the summer. I would start with Deseret Peak, the mighty ultraprominent peak of the Stansbury Range and monarch of the northern Utah West Desert. Matt had contacted me when I was still in Boston about it, so we set out my first Saturday back up the South Willow Creek Trail.
Eventually the trail ran out along the headwall lining the south side of the drainage, so we ascended the snow to the 10,000 ft saddle. Matt was postholing along his route, but I lucked out with a pretty decent line all the way to within a few hundred feet of the saddle, where we rediscovered the trail.
With views of Vickory to the south, which we had ascended the previous February, we made our way up the gentle trail to the summit of Deseret.
We figured we were done with the snow as we descended north, but pretty soon we lost the trail again as it disappeared on the northern slopes of the mountain. We sidehilled our way through snow and brush before a traversing a small but steep couloir, then eventually refound the trail as it ascended about a hundred feet up towards the saddle by South Willow.
Deseret loomed more and more impressive as we increased our distance from it, and we made our way up a climber’s trail and some annoying talus to the top of South Willow.
Our next target, however, I was more iffy on. In ideal conditions I would want North Willow, but this being my first hike in 3 weeks, I wanted to avoid a major elevation gain day (including N&S Willow the total gain is probably btw 5,300-5,700’) in order to save my legs for Sunday’s peaks…at that time tentatively planned for Provo and East Peak. I dithered and thought about waiting for Matt while he got the peak, but eventually was talked into traversing along.
The descent down was annoying and a little loose; at the ensuing saddle we bumped into a hiker with whom we had chatted at the trailhead earlier, and had been speculating on whether he was a member of SP or the other peaklisting sites (peakbagger, loj, etc). I figured the odds of the latter increased if he was determined to tag N & S Willow, and sure enough, it was SP member Phenom (also known as Cory). We chatted again about mountains for awhile before parting ways.
Matt and I ascended easily to the top of North Willow, then made our way back over South Willow, but not completely, as we sidehilled the tippy top, before descending to the saddle back into Pockett’s Fold (or Dry Fold, who knows). Here we met up again with Cory, and this mini SP group of three made a brisk pace back down to the trailhead.
Above Ogden - June 3rd, 2012Plans changed, and instead of Provo I drove north for Mt. Ogden from the Snowbasin Ski Area maintenance road. I started a little later, and it was already pretty muggy when I started up the road.
The east aspect of Ogden is an odd mixture of man and nature; small creeks trickled along manufactured rockbeds while the sheer faces of Ogden and its neighbors rose above ski lifts, maintenance buildings, and the road I followed to the saddle.
A small but steep snowdrift impeded progress slightly near the top, and the trail up the last few hundred feet were quite loose, but eventually I crested above the summit helipad for some great views amid the summit towers.
Celebrating Lewis - July 4th, 2012I spent the next month mostly out of state, doing peaks in Nevada and the Northern Rockies (neither of which alas fits geographically with the fairly loose theme of this TR). On a trip to Montana, Kadee mentioned that Dean had gotten access for an ascent of Lewis Peak, an Eastern Wasatch 2K prominence peak located on private land, for the 4th of July. I jumped at the rare opportunity, and early Wednesday morning we were met at the trailhead by Brett and John, two earnest Utah Prominence chasers. Between these participants were an impressive total of Utah prominence peaks: Dean with over 90, Kadee with over 70, Brett with over 50, and John with over 20 (as for myself, I think that my modest count still shows below 20). The hike itself was pretty basic, long but steady up a dirt road as it wound around the northeastern slopes and sub-ridges of Lewis.
We then used beta Dean had got from Eric Willhite to shortcut on some game trails through the brush to eventually make it to the flat topped summit, where we were greeted by the oft viewed radio towers amid hordes of black flies and ladybugs. It was hazy and hot, so the views were wide but limited, but it was cool to see this unique eastern aspect of the Wasatch, and a good day to muse with fellow inmates of the prominence peakbagger mental ward, and in doing so perhaps find solace in the fact that we are not alone in our odd obsessions.