Flat Top Mountain was the first of 6 Ultra-Prominent Peaks that my friend and I are going to climb this summer. It was the lowest in elevation, and seemed like a good place to start our adventure. I haven't formally climbed a mountain in over 2 years. In that time, I've gotten married, moved to a new city, and have become severely out of shape. I now weigh close to 300 pounds. You can imagine how that might effect my hiking abilities! However, I have been preparing for these hikes by doing some small trails in Spanish Fork Canyon, and doing my first trail running. I have been doing small (1-2 mile) hikes 3-4 times a week, and was starting to lose a little weight, and feeling pretty good about myself. I had made an attempt at Spanish Fork Peak earlier in May, but couldn't summit because there was too much snow on the trail. Well, I was pumped to kick off our summer with Flat Top. I had read SP member Dean's reports, and was very excited. My friend, SP member csfoster, and I left for the small town of Ophir, UT at around 5:30 am Saturday morning. We made a stop in Lehi to get our "Victory Dance", a 4 pack of Apple Beer. (it's our celebration when we summit) We headed towards Ophir and the crazy experiences began...
As we turned on the road to Ophir, we noticed 4 very large trucks with trailers parked at the turnoff. As we discussed what they might've held, we noticed 5-6 ranch hands driving a herd of at least 1,000 cattle. We spent the next 30 minutes dodging massive bulls, unpredictable calves, and protective cows. To their credit, the ranch hands did their best to help us move through the crowds. After we made it through, we came upon the small town we had read so much about. Ophir was interesting, to say the least.
We stayed under the 20mph speed limit, and observed "quiet time", as we were there before 7:00am. We decided we would come back after hiking and stop at some of the attractions in town. The turnoff after the town to get to the 8,000 ft. saddle was a bit difficult to find. We had read that it was permanently blocked and we would have to hike from the main road, making the trip over 12 miles. We found the road, and it was not blocked. We were pleasantly surprised, and headed up. Trust Dean's report about this road. It does go to hell in a hurry. Most 4 wheel drive trucks could make it, but there are a few spots that are a bit tough. I'd say the main concern is having high clearance and good tires. There were some big, loose rocks that will do damage to old tires. Make sure to follow the directions in the other route and trip reports. It won't seem like your going the correct way in some spots, but follow them closely. The last thing you want to do is trespass in this area. We made it to the saddle intersection and were ready to get started.
As I said before, I am not familiar with the Oquirrh Mountain range. I did not know exactly which mountain was our goal. But I will say, that this area is a hidden treasure!
The views were spectacular. This range make a "bowl" shape with the town of Ophir dropped right in the middle. It was gorgeous. I'd have to agree with Dean's trip report in which he said this mountain was the Rodney Dangerfield of Utah. It doesn't get any respect. I'll admit I didn't know anything about this mountain, and I didn't give it the respect it deserves. My friend and I have another tradition when we climb a mountain, which is to bet on how much time it'll take us to reach the summit from the trail head. We both wrote down our estimates, and headed out. Now, my wager on the time was fairly short. I thought we'd cruise right up this thing and be done and back home by early afternoon. I really underestimated this mountain. We headed up the trail at around 8:30 am. The first part of the trail was fairly steep with multiple switchbacks. We soon had climbed 1,000 feet and had lost sight of our vehicle. I was feeling pretty good, the weather was great, and I was really enjoying this wonderful hike. We headed around the south side of the small peak west of Lewiston, as per the route description, and enjoyed even more beautiful views of the Utah Valley. We soon dropped down into a thick area of brush and trees, which we were expecting. The brush was very thick here and some areas were hard to get through. We came out of the trees and kept following what we thought was the trail, as it was pretty hard to tell what was the trail at that point. We kept hiking along, thinking that this "trail" wasn't much of one, until we realized were were on the south side of Lewiston peak itself. We knew we lost the trail somewhere. We decided the best course of action would be to just head up. We had to blaze our own trail through thick sagebrush, and perilous rocky areas until we finally met back up with what we figured was the trail. We lost maybe a good hour or so on this dumb mistake of ours, and I was getting frustrated. We had also made another significant gain in elevation, and I could really feel it now. Like I said before, it'd been a few years since my last mountain. We decided to head up the ridge of Lewiston rather than try and cut across the northwest side, as there was a lot of snow. This ridge was a pretty fun section, as there was some scrambling involved and a couple places with precarious drop offs on the south side. After a couple false summits, and what seemed like hours, we finally made it to the summit of Lewiston Peak. At this point, we were over 10,000 ft high, and I felt terrible. Looking back on it, I now think I was suffering symptoms of mild Altitude Sickness. I was very lightheaded, I couldn't take more than a few steps without getting completely winded, and I had lost my appetite, even though I hadn't eaten in several hours, and should've been starving.(I'm a big guy!) So, at this point, I was ready to quit. My body was screaming at me to stop and turn around. My friend was very supportive and told me that whatever I wanted to do was fine with him. After laying on the summit for a few minutes and forcing down some food, I was feeling a little better. I decided to continue on. We took a couple pics, signed the register and headed down the north ridge towards Flat Top.
Looking back on it, it was probably not the best idea to keep going, but I felt like I would've let down not only my friend, but myself. We'd been planning these hikes for at least 6 months, and I couldn't let myself give up. To most hikers, this hike would probably seem quite simple and would pose no problems whatsoever. To me however, it was very difficult.
Anyways, we headed down the ridge toward Flat Top. As we went down, we encountered our first major snow fields. Like I said earlier, I weigh close to 300 pounds, and that much weight on 3-5 feet of snow can make life pretty tough. There were many, many spots in which I sank up to my hips in the snow. Luckily, I have an awesome friend, who also weighs much less than me, and he was very patient an helpful.
We finally made it out of the snow, but had dropped a few hundred feet in elevation. In hiking, what goes down, must go back up, so I was again present with another fun gain in elevation. I took my time, making sure not to push myself too hard, but I was very winded, and somewhat light headed for the entire final ascent to the summit. At this point, I was sure something was wrong, because I had never felt this way when hiking. After another slow, and steady climb, we saw a stick poking out of some rocks and thought we had reached the summit. We didn't see the mailbox with the register, and were confused. We noticed that there was a point farther to the northwest that seemed higher, so we headed that direction. Just keep adding to my frustration and fatigue! Well, we finally made it to the top and saw the mailbox. We were there! Finally. I wasn't feeling well, and almost collapsed. I was feeling well enough to break out the Apple Beers and take some pics and celebrate making it to the top. I couldn't finish my drink, because of how crappy I felt, so I left a little puddle of soda up there. One strange thing happened while we were up there.... we heard a small humming noise, that we couldn't locate. We were looking all around, and notice a small glider floating not more than 30 feet above us. We thought this was strange enough until we noticed what seemed to be military markings on it! It was too small to hold any human, so we figured it had to be an unmanned military glider. It was a pretty strange sight while on the top of a mountain. This was pretty much the extent of all the "wildlife" we saw on this hike. Well, at this point it seemed the weather was deteriorating fast. There were thunder and lightning storms all around us, and rain was moving in fast. We decided to get headed back fast, even though I felt like I could hardly move at all. We made down to the ridge to go back up Lewiston Peak, but I knew I couldn't make it back the way we came. We'd have to cut across the northwest side of Lewiston through the deep snow. In hindsight, this was a dangerous choice. This side of the mountain was pretty steep, and there were a lot of downed trees, making empty pockets in the snow. I only sunk if a few times, however, and luckily we made it across in decent time. We were now on the southwest ridge of Lewiston, were we had ascended earlier, and started heading back down. This ridge was a little more complicated going down than coming up, in my opinion. We were able to follow the trail all the way back down without any major complications. When we made it back to the thick, brushy, area, we could see how we lost the trail. The actual trail made a sharp turn north and up the mountain immediately after coming out of the trees, but there was also what looked like a trail continuing around the south side of Lewiston, which is the trail we took. It was interesting to see how my body reacted to the elevation. As soon as we made it back below around 9,000 ft, I returned to feeling normal again. I felt hungry and full of energy after eating some of my trail mix and jerky. It was an odd sensation for me, as the altitude has never affected me this badly on any hike. We kept on the trail and steadily made it back to the vehicle. We made it back down in a fraction of the time it took us to get up. It took me almost 7 hours to reach the summit of this mountain, something I'm not particularly proud of, but only 2 to make it back down. I was glad to be back.
In retrospect, I think this hike told me a lot about myself. I realized I am physically nowhere near where I want to be, and have been in the past. This was one of the most physically challenging things I have done. Keep in mind, I have done much more challenging hikes in my life, and much, much longer hikes, but at the time I weighed over 100 pounds less than I do now, and I was more acclimated to higher altitudes. While at the hardest sections of this hike, I was telling myself I would not be able to do any other hikes this year, and I would not be able to accomplish my goal of the doing 6 of Utah's 8 Ultra-Prominent Peaks. I felt like giving up on several occasions, and for the first time in my life, I almost didn't enjoy myself while hiking. Once we made it down I realized that my thinking that way was crazy. Of course I have a lot of work to do, but I will achieve my goal of doing these mountains. I really did enjoy myself on this hike. Mostly because I know that I did reach my goal, and we got to summit an extra peak while at it. It was a rewarding trip overall, and I feel great about doing it. Now it's just up to me to get myself physically back where I need to be to accomplish our other mountains. I'll keep reporting my progress and let everyone know how my summer goes. I would highly recommend this hike to anyone looking for a fun day hike, that is very isolated, without the crowds of some of the other major mountains in northern Utah.