Ibapah: It's about time!
Standing on the summit of Ibapah Peak has been a goal of mine for a long time. I first discovered this west desert giant while reading a guide book nearly 15 years ago, and I have been drooling over it ever since. The problem with Ibapah is it is easy to put on the back burner for many reasons: It’s not all that easy to get to, very few people want to do it, and a 4X4 is recommended to access the trailhead. I finally decided that I was tired of this one being on the to-do-list, so I set a goal to climb it in the summer of 2009. My friend Greg and I had also been talking about getting out and climbing something for a few months, and when I asked him what kind of peak he wanted to climb, Ibapah was exactly what he was looking for, so after I gave him the 411 he was in.
Greg was not in the best shape and had not been exercising much, which on the surface may cause some concern, but he has as much determination as anyone I know, and I knew that he would push himself as hard as he needed to in order to reach the top. I have watched him perform in similar arenas many times and compete at a very high level. The only thing I was worried about is that we would have to take it very slow, but I was okay with that.
I met Greg at his house a little after 4:00 am and we quickly loaded up his Honda Pilot with our supplies. We would be camping near the trailhead, and we wanted to be prepared for anything, so we did take just about everything we thought we might need. The drive to Wendover was fun and the conversation was good. The time went very quickly and we both decided that we wanted to load up on carbs before the hike and this was our last chance, so we stopped and pounded a few Egg McMuffins, and filled up the car with gas.
I had printed off the directions to the trailhead from 3 different sources, and we found the directions provided by Moogie737
in his trip Report were the most accurate. About 28 miles south of Wendover we started heading east toward Callao and Ibapah, and after we turned off of the main highway (93) we did not see another soul for the rest of the day. If you want remote this is the place for you. We didn’t pass a single car all the way to the trailhead, so be prepared. We got a flat tire on the way back, and I don’t think triple A is going to find you out there.
The views of the Deep Creeks were quite good, and they wet our appetite for what was to come later in the day. After we passed the Falkenberg Ranch the road seemed to get a little rougher, although it wouldn’t get too bad for a few more miles. After the first stream crossing the road gets very narrow and there is a lot of brush that will scratch your vehicle, but there are plenty of places to pull out and park if you don’t want to go all the way to the trailhead. Greg said “What is the fun of having a 4X4 if you aren’t willing to get it a little dirty”, and with that we kept going, through the second stream crossing and all the way to the end. There were a few dodgy places, but nothing serious, and we did find a nice campsite that we would come back to after the hike. We arrived at the trailhead just after 9:00 am and after a few minutes getting our gear ready we were off.
The trail is very steep, gaining a little more than five thousand feet in just over 6 miles to the top, and there are not a lot of switchbacks. The first few miles were beautiful as we traveled up the canyon. There are literally hundreds of granite boulders everywhere. I brought my bouldering pad and rock shoes and we were hoping that we would get to spend some time exploring the area the next day. With the remote nature of this place it is definitely a climber’s paradise. It was clear that most of the boulders had never been touched.
After a few miles the trail really starts to get steep and this is where Greg really had to slow down. He was doing great, but he did have to stop and take a lot of breaks, although I was just fine with that because the scenery was fantastic. There were small meadows with granite boulders and rock outcroppings, amazing sheer buttresses, and stunning views of Ibapah along the way. During one of our small breaks Greg decided to eat his first GU packet, and it provided both of us some entertainment, as he nearly threw up and gagged. He conjured up a few choice words to describe the texture and taste, and it gave me a great dose of pleasure.
Eventually the trail crosses a small stream and there were a few small waterfalls just off the trail where you could get water, although I am sure it is dry later in the season. We did stop and take a break, dipping our heads and washing our faces in the cool water. It felt great. We finally reached a rather large meadow that was beautiful and it looked like a great place to camp if you wanted to haul all of your gear up there. After you pass the meadow, the trail heads out of the trees and starts to go right into a much larger meadow, which is also a large saddle. The trail peters out here, and Ibapah is obvious to the right, although there isn’t a clear route from here. We just headed across the meadow and aimed for the sub peak, just below Ibapah.
After we crossed the meadow we were back into the trees and we took a dead aim just left of the sub peak. After about 20 minutes of busting our humps we decided to take a break and have some lunch. We had been going for 5 hours and both of us needed some energy, so we found some granite boulders to rest on. There were several more virgin boulders just waiting to be climbed here as well. So far Greg was doing an amazing job for someone that wasn’t in shape. Yeah, we were going slow, but he didn’t complain at all and he still looked strong. We probably took our longest break of the day, eating salmon, crackers, candy bars and granola. We thought we could hear some elk rubbing their antlers on a tree, but we never saw any, although we did see plenty of poop.
After our break it was only about 10 minutes and we reached the base of the sub peak and we were now on the ridge. We were skirting the left side (west) of the sub peak and there wasn’t much of a trail here, although there were plenty of cairns and the route was obvious. We did do a little boulder hopping, and eventually we reached the saddle between the sub peak and Ibapah. At this point Greg wasn’t doing so well, and his heart was racing. We had to keep stopping about every 30 yards for him to catch his breath and get his heart rate down, so we decided to take another break to see if he could get it down. After about 10 minutes we started up again, and immediately his heart was racing again and he was out of breath. He was done. I know if was very hard for him to throw in the towel, but we both knew it was the best thing to do. The final push was going to be pretty steep, and the air wasn’t getting any thicker up there. As long as he was resting he was fine, so he told me to go ahead and reach the summit and that he would stay right there.
It was really getting late now, and was taking a lot longer than I thought it would, so I really pushed hard and fast up to the top, reaching it in about 15 minutes. I was completely out of breath when I finally got to the Apex and the views were unbelievable. There were a few different high points, so I explored them, and finally stopped in the rock shelter to get out of the wind. After snapping a few photos, and taking a small video, I quickly bailed to go back and get Greg.
While I was heading back to the saddle Greg called my name, and I noticed that he had hiked over to the base of the peak to wait for me. I quickly descended back to the saddle and I could see that Greg was doing much better. It was now 4:00 and I couldn’t believe how long it was taking us. We decided to go down on the other side of the sub peak and there was a faint trail that we followed most of the way. When we were on the other side our route was obvious back to the meadow, and we made good time negotiating the deadfall and boulders. It was the fastest we had gone all day. We took a small break in the trees just before the meadow, and we both ate and drank to replenish our energy.
The hike back down was much faster than the long slog up, but my knee started to bother me on the steep sections. I had run a half marathon the week before and my knee had been a little sore all week, and the downhill was just punishing me. We also found a deer leg that had been ripped off right on the trail just below the meadow, and it was a little spooky because I had heard another hiker talk about seeing a cougar in this very spot. The leg wasn’t there earlier in the day, and it was fresh. I did take some comfort in the fact that the cougar probably wasn’t hungry anymore, but maybe he was watching us mess with his evening snack. Either way, it makes you think.
The last few miles were really hard because of my knee, but once the tail flattened out some it wasn’t as bad. When we reached the trailhead we drove back down to the prime spot that we had staked out earlier in the day, and the cold Gatorade from the cooler was fantastic, but that was just the beginning. After we set up our camp and made a fire, cooked potatoes, carrots, chicken and filet mignon and it was amazing. It had been a great trip so far, and we weren’t even disappointed that it rained during the night and morning, thus thwarting any hopes to get out on the rock.