Huckleberries, Goats, & [Mostly] Solid Rock - Southeast Ridge

Huckleberries, Goats, & [Mostly] Solid Rock - Southeast Ridge

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Sep 13, 2019
Activities Activities: Hiking, Scrambling

I’ve wanted to go up Reids Peak ever since seeing it near the top of Scott Patterson’s list of unknown classics in the Uintas (he’s done more hiking in the range than many will ever get around to doing in their entire lifetime).  With the Wasatch getting ever more crowded as people continue flocking to Utah, I’ve gained a greater appreciation for the Uintas and the solitude they offer.  Reids Peak is often overlooked because of the close proximity to its higher and more easily accessible neighbor Bald Mountain, but along with Hayden Peak it offers one of the best quality scrambles up an impressive peak from the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway.  Last fall we hiked the Lofty Lake Loop as a family, and Reids’ unique pyramid shape seen while descending from the last lake in a counter-clockwise direction made me especially keen to try it.  Hiking Reids Peak is often done in combination with Bald Mountain, so this would give us the chance to take in some unique scenery the entire time in one relatively short half-day loop hike.

Reids Peak from Reids Meadow... gave us nice views of Reids Peak
Reids Meadow family picAn earlier family hike of the Lofty Lake Loop ...

Meadow west of Bald MountainShortly after leaving the trail, we went across some meadows ...
Easy rock hill traverse... and easy rock slopes... and easy rock slopes

Lately, the tricky part of any hike had been finding the time to actually get away to do it.  This past year was no exception, with several work deadlines coming up one after the other, and shortly behind that was the honey-do list for projects around the house.  We’d been able to do some fun family hikes during the summer (i.e. Primrose Point behind Timpanogos, South Willow Lake in the Stansburys, Harrison Lake in the Selkirks, & later on Circle-All Peak in Big Cottonwood Canyon, as well as a father/son hike of Mount Nebo with Matthew), but it had been a couple of years since I’d gotten in a good scramble.  It had also been over five years since I’d hiked with my friend Kendrick, so we were overdue to try a fun one nearby.

Huckleberry snackHuckleberry snack

Fall and winter were looking to make an early arrival in 2019, so as soon as the first fall snow had melted off of the south face of Bald Mountain, we decided it would be a good idea to get the hike in before the next storm came through.  Fortunately, the Bald Mountain Pass webcam was able to give us a good indication of the amount of snow lingering around 11,000 feet in the Uintas, and on the afternoon before the day set aside for our hike, it looked like the sun had melted away most of everything from the previous storm.

Looking up at Reids Peak from the basin to the southComing up on our first open view of Reids Peak ...
Talus hop up to Reids/Bald saddle.. and the talus slope that would lead us up to the Reids/Bald saddle

We left Kendrick’s place around 7:30 in the morning and arrived at the Bald Mountain Trailhead around 9.  Despite Bald Mountain being one of the more popular hikes around, the trailhead parking lot only had a couple other cars in it.  At first I didn’t know where to get onto the Notch Pass Trail (map seemed to indicate that it left the parking lot going west instead of north like the Bald Mountain Trail), but upon walking the first few meters of the Bald Mountain Trail we quickly found the junction where we could take a left for a gradual descent around the south slopes of Bald Mountain.

Ascent to Reids/Bald saddleHiking up to the saddle

Bald Mountain west spiresSome spires we saw up above us ...
Bald Mountain west slopes... on the west slopes of Bald Mountain

The trail we were on supposedly leads all the way to the Notch (which we’d both been to on separate family hikes to Ibantik Lake via the Wall Lake Trailhead), but we would only be walking along this trail for about a mile before cutting off to the right to follow the path of least resistance to the saddle between Reids Peak and Bald Mountain.  Shortly after leaving the trail, Kendrick identified several patches of huckleberries, which offered a nice little snack.  Besides having to crest a couple rocky hills on the way towards the slope below the saddle, this off-trail route was quite easy, mostly crossing open meadows and the occasional grove of trees.

Pano from Reids/Bald saddlePanoramic view from the saddle between Reids Peak and Bald Mountain ...
Brandon below Reids Peak... at the base of the southeast ridge route

Once we got to the base of the large talus slope leading up to the saddle is when our route became much steeper.  With the apparent option to either go left or right, we chose to go right, and took care to not knock any rocks on each other as we ascended the steep talus slope.  We encountered a few loose boulders on the way up, but for the most part it was easygoing, despite the fact that neither of us had done any steep summit hikes in a while.  Partway up the slope, we ran into a thick nest of trees, which took some minor bushwhacking to get around.  Soon enough we made it to the saddle, where we were greeted with a nice view of Hayden Peak and its other neighboring peaks on the ridgeline to the east.

Southeast ridge ascentStarting up the steep southeast ridge ...
Southeast Ridge lookout... with several nice views along the way

Southeast Ridge wallAround the left (south) side of the ridge ...
Lake views... was a view that included several lakes below

While we’d encountered a few small patches of snow in some shaded spots on the way up, we were happy to discover that the southeast ridge route of Reids Peak was completely snow free, despite the recent storm.  Itching for some good quality scrambling, we decided to stay right on top of the ridge as much as possible for the initial ascent.  The rock quality was great, and the scrambling was quite fun.
Fun scrambling
Up & down
Steep scrambling
Almost to the top

Brandon on southeast ridgeMaking our way up ...
Kendrick on southeast ridge... to a rock formation that looked like a diving board

A few times, we ended up having to drop back down a couple dozen feet or so as we made our way up the ridge, which slowed our upward progress, but it was great fun.  While we could have kept the difficulty at easy 3rd class scrambling by veering to the left/south side of the ridge if we’d chosen to, the alternative 4th class scrambling terrain directly on the ridge itself proved to be much more interesting.

More scramblingFun scrambling ...
Steep scrambling... up the steep ridge

GoatsOn the way up we ran into a couple of goats ...
Goat close-up... who kept looking back to see why we were following them

Eventually we reached a flat area about halfway up the ridge that was occupied by two mountain goats, who appeared to be annoyed that we were following them up the mountain.  We gave them a two-minute head start to create some distance between us and them, and then proceeded to ascend the remainder of the ridge.  It quickly became apparent however, that this last part of the ridge was much steeper and more technical than the previous parts we’d encountered, prompting us to stay to the left for an easier ascent up some talus slopes.

Views eastLooking back at some nice views ...
2nd part of southeast ridge... about halfway up the southeast ridge (the 2nd part of the ridge pictured here is more difficult)

Partway up this slope, I stopped on a large boulder to attempt taking a picture of one of those two goats which was now just above us, when the boulder completely gave way beneath my feet.  Luckily, the slope wasn’t that steep (~45 degrees) and I was able to catch myself on some rocks immediately to the side of it, but I did get a few scrapes on both arms in the process, and the boulder in question shot off down the south slopes of Reids Peak without stopping until it reached the bottom over a thousand feet below.  I guess it just goes to show that no matter how careful you’re being, loose rock is always a risk, especially on steep routes like this one, and you just have to do your best to mitigate the risk as much as possible.

Reids Peak south slopesGoing up the 45 degree southern slope ended up being easier than scrambling the final part of the southeast ridge. One of our goat buddies is up on the right.

For the remainder of the climb to the top of Reids Peak, we usually opted for taking the slightly easier talus slope on the south side of the peak, instead of the steeper cliffs directly on the southeast ridge.  We’d already gotten a good dose of scrambling up until this point, so we didn’t feel that guilty about taking the path of least resistance from here on out.

Southeast Ridge cliffsThe northeast aspect of Reids Peak ...
Reids Peak cliffs... became even steeper near the top

Timpanogos from Reids PeakSummit views of Mount Timpanogos to the west ...
Hayden from Reids summit... and Hayden Peak to the east
Shortly after my loose rock encounter we made it to the summit, where we were greeted with nice views of lakes in several directions.  From our vantage point we could see that the north slope of Bald Mountain was still holding snow, but it looked like we’d be able to traverse the ridge right along the edge of it on our way to the top of that peak.

Summit picBrandon & Kendrick summit pic

After a nice long snack break on top of Reids Peak we started heading back down the southeast ridge, mostly following the same path we’d come up, with the occasional deviation when an easier alternative presented itself.

Snow on Bald Mountain north slopesReids Peak summit view of Bald Mountain ...
Bald Mountain from Reids Peak... and the basin we went through to get to the saddle between the two peaks

Going back down the southeast ridge, we were able to spot a couple places where the best path wasn’t necessarily the same route we’d taken up.  In one case the rock was steeper but more solid and overall safer, and in another case the detour involved avoiding an undulating section of ridge by staying to the right (south) side of the ridge to avoid having to go back up and down so often.

Reids Peak from Bald MountainLooking back at Reids Peak on our way up to Bald Mountain

We quickly made it back to the saddle and then started going back up, which my legs didn’t seem that happy about.  I’m not sure if it was because of my lack of conditioning, a salt/electrolyte deficiency, or the simple fact that I’m getting older, but I encountered some cramps in both thigh muscles as we got closer to the summit of Bald Mountain, which was a bit unexpected since I’d only ever had them in the past on my most difficult hikes, which this most definitely did not begin to compare to.  Perhaps it would serve as a good wake-up call that I need to do a better job of maintaining my conditioning between hikes.

Reids Peak pyramidReids Peak resembling a pyramid
Reids Peak from Bald Mountain summitReids Peak from Bald Mountain summit, with lingering snow in foreground

Bald Mountain descentBald Mountain descent

Regardless, it felt nice to get to the top of Bald Mountain, and from here back to the car it would be a simple brisk walk down a well-maintained trail.  Granted, we did encounter quite a few noob hikers on the way down, most of whom seemed resistant to let us pass despite our faster pace.  While the off-trail scrambling terrain earlier in the hike was much more time consuming, the easy Bald Mountain trail enabled us to return to the car just 40 minutes after leaving the summit.

Mirror Lake below Bald MountainMore views of Mirror Lake and the High Uintas ...
Bald Mountain summit... from the summit of Bald Mountain

Oddly enough, this hike had taken me the exact same amount of time that both my Mount Watson loop hike and Hayden Peak hike had taken (4.5 hours) in previous years.  The Mirror Lake Scenic Byway most definitely does not disappoint when it comes to offering nice half-day hikes and scrambles.  I’d highly recommend the southeast ridge of Reids Peak to experienced scramblers, as it’s a great route that’s easily accessible and yet simultaneously devoid of crowds, and it provides plenty of options for you to make it as easy (class 3) or as difficult (low class 5) as you choose to make it.

Reids Peak / Bald Mountain Loop Stats

DISTANCE: 5 miles one way






TIME: 4.5 hours  
Reids Peak & Bald Mountain over Wall LakeView of Reids Peak and Bald Mountain from a separate hike of the Wall Lake Loop ...
Bald Mountain & Reids Peak from Lofty Lake LoopBald Mountain & Reids Peak from Lofty Lake Loop


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