George Hansen Peak?
George Hansen Peak as seen from Ibapah
Several years earlier, when I was on the summit of Ibapah Peak, I happened to notice a mountain range in the distance to the east. This range was called the Fish Springs Range and it had as its highest summit, George H. Hansen Peak.
I paid very little attention to it at that time as I really had no ambition to ever climb in that range, let alone go after its highest point.
An interest in Utah prominence peaks
changed all that and now I had been studying this peak for information and a possible route. The man with a key was our own SP member, gjagiels
(Greg). He put up a page for this peak and a route as well and was one of only two people I knew of that had stood on its summit. My opportunity to gather more information happened when I climbed Stevens (BM) Peak on May 11th with Greg. I knew Greg had put up the SP page for George Hansen Peak and since I was scheduled to do it with three guys from Arizona later on in the week so it was a good opportunity .
George Hansen Peak is no walk in the park
I asked Greg about George Hansen and he warned me that George Hansen peak was a toughie. We were sitting on the summit of Stevens Benchmark, a prominence peak located off highway 50 between Scipio and Salina Utah when he issued the warning. We had just come up a tough cross country route to get to the top of Stevens BM and I had mentioned that I had thought Stevens was a lot tougher then Notch Peak was, a peak I had done the day before. Greg smiled and issued his well intentioned warning. "Be aware, that George Hansen is a lot tougher than this one, a lot tougher". I was to end up agreeing with his assessment.
Marker "sign" for the jeep road
Late thursday evening of the 15th, I left the house at a bit after 7 p.m. I had a long drive ahead of me and so I gassed up, making sure I had a full tank as I wouldn't see any gas stations again until I reached Wendover, clear across the state. I drove from Lehi Utah out 120 miles miles, a good chunk of it on the dirt/gravel Pony Express road that goes deep into what I call the Utah Outback. After hitting the dirt east of Vernon, I saw one vehicle the rest of the way. It can be a lonely stretch during the week. I was to join up with three guys from Arizona who were spending the week chasing Utah prominence peaks. They were Andy Martin, Mark Nichols and Richard Joseph, all who were from Tucson or fairly nearby. I knew they would already be there as they had tackled Notch Peak earlier in the day.
After taking a wrong turn that cost me ten miles in the darkened landscape, I finally hit the road I needed just after I passed into the Fish Springs Wildlife Refuge. I turned south on the Sand Pass road and thanks to GPS technology, I knew where the obscure jeep track I would be looking for was located. Right on cue the GPS sounded off as I hit the jeep trail junction but built up on the side of the road was this strange macabre looking skeleton. I didn't know at the time that the Arizona group had put that up as a marker and even had a note attached to it but I couldn't see the note in the dark. Looking for other vehicles I could see none but then, way up in the distance, I could see a light shining my way. I turned onto the jeep road and that light was a clue for me to follow. About a half mile from the Sand Pass road, I passed Andy Martins Honda as the road kept getting worse as I proceeded so I carefully had to work my way up it, catching a glimpse of the light in the distance from time to time. At the 1.8 mile mark, suddenly two other vehicles were in my headlights and I knew I found where they were camping.
Andy already had his tent set up (why not, it was 9:30 at night) and shouted his welcome from the confines of his tent. I got to meet Mark Nichols and Richard Joseph for the first time and both welcomed me to their "camp". Camp was where they could pull their vehicles off the side of the jeep track and since they slept in their vehicles, they were both ready to call it a day. I found a spot to park my truck and promptly said good night to the others who had already had a long day and were turning in. Thanks to Mark for being the guy with the flashlight, it turned out to be a big help, otherwise I probably would have just parked down at the junction figuring they would show up in the morning, not realizing that they were already camped higher up the road.
A tough hike
In the morning, we were up as well as the local mosquito population (in the desert?) at daybreak. From where we had parked, the jeep track continued up into the canyon about another half mile or so and it became progressively worse. I was able to leave my truck where it was and rode up with Richard in his 2002 Tacoma. Mark had a 1993 4 Runner and those two vehicles were able to squeeze their way up to the end of the road. My truck wouldn't have fit past some of the narrow spots so I'd suggest that perhaps others might just want to walk the last section of that road. The road ends in a meadow and it was here that we parked.
Where we parked
Andy had studied Greg's route information right down to the tee and so he ended up knowing the route really well and knew we had to take the drainage to the right. Up the first drainage we went, following game trails or just making our own. There is no regular trail, no cairns, no nothing, just common sense in picking your way up the thing. When we reached the end of the drainage at a saddle, we were aware that we'd have to go left (west) as there was a big drop into a canyon that stopped us from going any further in the direction we had been heading.
Up the first drainage
We took a break while Andy studied the map and then when the break was over, we went left and ascended a bit before we traversed across the the head of the canyon and found the entrance to the second drainage that Greg mentioned in his route report. At first the drainage was pretty reasonable but after a short while it started gaining altitude in earnest.
Steeper and steeper
We skirted a couple of waterfall pitches by bypassing them although Andy just went right up them. Up and up we seemed to go, all the time being pestered by some mosquitos that didn't know that they were in the desert. It was heating up as well and most of us were down to T shirts and gulping our water. I remembered reading about a class 4 15 foot section and about the 7000 foot level, we found it. It had plenty of holds and wasn't difficult but the biggest problem was that there was a ton of loose rock above it and as a person moved up above this little obstacle, lots of rocks would be sent down in a barrage to those who waited below. After Richard and I both were hit by rocks, we quickly learned to take whatever shelter we could and the system of one person at a time moving up that stuff was set up. Above the little class 4 section was about 200 or more feet of class three scrambling where not only did you have a lot of loose rock, you had bushes that you'd grab to help give you some help but these bushes would exact a price in scratched arms and hands (if ungloved). Nasty.
Finally, we were able to move above this section and gain some terrain that allowed you to zig zag up it without the need to clamber up on all fours.
a bit of class 4
One little down section, led into some snow and up more loose rock but finally we found ourselves at the base of the chute which would lead us to the summit ridge. Andy moved quickly up it and Mark, Richard and myself followed. I would stop to take pictures and get further behind so that by the time I reached the top of the chute, the other three were already at the summit.
I made my way across a short traverse where I had to drop down about 25 feet from the ridge and then start up to the last little bit to the summit where the other three were busy reading the register and starting to eat some snacks. The first order of business was to grab some snacks and some drink for myself as unbelievable as it seemed, it had taken us six hours to get up here. Six hours to do three miles and three thousand plus feet of elevation gain? Truly unbelievable but then if you factor routefinding, allowing for people above you to move and the waiting involved to avoid rockfall, it wasn't all that crazy. I think two people would make much faster time and a solo hiker would even be faster but I wouldn't want to do this one solo. If you broke an ankle or leg, you'd be in a bad situation. You are a long way from help. I sure wouldn't recommend it.
Summit is right there
Six hours or three hours, the main things is we were up here and able to enjoy the moment. The register was not over crowded, just a few entries for many years and the person who put the register up stated that this one was a "tough s.o.b."
The register entry
We all agreed. Just beyond where the summit benchmark and the register was placed, the mountain dropped off in a dramatic cliff on its east side. Pics were taken, snacks were eaten, views were enjoyed, and then it was all too soon that we had to start back down. While we made better time going down, we still had to proceed one at a time through many sections where we could knock rocks down on to those who were below. We left the summit at 2 and reached our vehicles at 6. Four hours just to get off the thing. Routefinding is a big key on this mountain and I appreciated Greg's (gjagiels)information even more in retrospect. We wondered if there might be an easier way from the west but one would have to do some scouting and invest some time in finding a way up from the west side.
Overall it took us ten hours of climbing to do the round trip of less than 7 miles. Considering that the elevation gain was less than 3600 feet, ten hours was not an impressive time but this isn't an easy peak as pointed out above due to route finding and the times only one of us could move (rocks). I'm sure some might scoff a bit when they see the figure of six hours up and they themselves might just fly up this peak but I can only report what it was like for us. Again, this one was a learning experience and I'd most likely planned a bit better had I to do it over again. How? Well, more water for one thing, long sleeve shirt for another as my arms tooks a beating from the brush that I often used for "vegetable" belays in many spots where the footing was on loose junk. When we got off the mountain, we were later in the day than we had planned so instead of driving all the way up to the Silver Island Range above Wendover to put ourselves in position for Graham Peak the next day, we settled for camping at the CCC campground near Callao.
A good choice since we were all a little happily tired from our day. I guess what I'm saying is that this is a great hike/climb, it has its positives and surprisingly enough, I'd be willing
to do it again someday as it was a good experience and I felt a sense of accomplishment.
Hiking with the trio from Arizona was a big positive as all were very experienced and used to desert peaks and the conditions you encounter. All three are great guys and I'd enthusiastically jump at the chance to hike with them again sometime. We camped in the Silver Mountain range the next evening and hiked up Graham Peak on the 18th. Much easier than George Hansen but once again, we were indebted to gjagiels for his Graham Peak SP page and to Andy Martin who unerringly found the way up. We just followed.