From Elbow Fork/The Gate
Matthew Van Horn and I wanted to get out into the mountains and the weather was looking prime for Saturday, so we made plans to get out. After numerous storms had pounded the Wasatch front, the forecast for our hike looked really great and we debated about what peak to climb, but eventually settled on Mount Aire, because I had plans in the afternoon and this would allow a little later start.
We met at the Dans grocery store at 9:00 a.m. and decided to leave Matt's car in the "park and ride" area and after loading our gear we were off. There was plenty of snow in the high country and the gate up Millcreek canyon would most certainly closed, which would require a little bit longer approach, but we were both okay with that. When we arrived at the gate, there were very few parking spaces available and we snatched up one of the few that remained. After a few minutes of "gearing" up we were off. The road was completely covered with snow, but it was very firm, so we did not have to don the snowshoes just yet. We made sure to stay off the ski tracks and did our best to avoid the numerous dogs and skiers out enjoying the morning.
We set a fairly decent pace and before we knew it we had arrived at the trailhead, where the snow was deep and with the recent storm we knew that we would probably be breaking trail most of the way up. There was a faint ski track, but it had mostly been covered by new snow. After a few minutes on the trail, Matt decided to put on his snowshoes, while I stubbornly thought I could get along without them for a while longer, so I went on ahead and after only about 10 minutes, I was getting bogged down in the snow and I decided to swallow my pride and put on the shoes. Matt went on ahead and some members of the Utah Korean Mountaineering club passed me and said their hellos.
After I had on my snowshoes, the going was much easier and I really picked up my pace and after a few minutes of fast hiking, I eventually caught up with Matt and the Koreans, although they were still about fifty yards ahead. The Koreans stopped for a break and Matt really put it into another gear, as he bolted ahead and set a really good pace. I passed the Koreans and we again said our hellos and said we would see each other on the summit.
For the next half an hour or so, I got into a nice rhythm and I just pushed to try and catch Matt, but I never did see him. There were a few places where the snow was really deep and it did take some extra effort to get over and around steep mounds of snow, but overall it was not that bad at all, although snowshoes were a must. I finally reached the saddle and Matt was nowhere to be found. I could see his tracks, as he had been breaking the trail, but he had already made his way up the steeper slopes that guarded the summit, so I took a short break at the saddle and after having a quick snack and some liquid refreshment, I headed up the slope, following the trail that Matt had most graciously been breaking.
From here there were several switch backs in the snow and as I got higher the slopes became a little more steep, but it wasn't all that bad. There were a few places that required a little care, but nothing to worry too much about. Just before you get to the final summit ridge, there is a small section with a steep chute below. It is not all that bad, but I was somewhat concerned about the stability of the snow and after one last semi-steep spot I was on the summit ridge where it was a short hike to the top. The snow was deep and the views were fantastic and Matt appeared on the ridge. He had already been on top and was exploring the ridge and it was not as cold as I had expected and the summit panorama was unbelievable.
We both had a snack and took some pictures, while taking in the tremendous views and after about 20 minutes we decided it was time to get moving, but as we were putting on our packs, the first of the Korean climbers was making his way to the summit and just below the other two members of his party were on their way. Matt offered to take their picture for them, so he stayed on top and I decided to start my descent.
I really picked up my pace and I did not take a break until I was back to the saddle. I did take care on some of the steeper spots, but for the most part I was able to make really good time and once at the saddle, I took a break to take a few pictures and wait for Matt. after about 10 minutes he arrived and explained that the Koreans had offered him some food and he had spent a few minutes talking with them on the summit. We were both feeling really good at this point, so we just got a good pace and did not stop again until we were back at the trailhead. There were still several people on the trail and we briskly hiked back to our car, making it just after 2:00 p.m. We both really enjoyed the day and thought that this was a peak we would visit in the winter again for sure. It is not too difficult and has some great views without any real avalanche danger. Another stellar day in the Wasatch.