The summit is over there
We can do this
All week long, Mike and I had been looking anxiously at the weather. Thunderstorms had been the norm all along the Wasatch front and it appeared that Thursday, might be the best chance we had to get out and bag Box Elder Peak, the highest peak in the Wellsville Mountain range. The weather report
promised to be good but when I looked out the window at 5 a.m., all I could see were clouds. Bummer.
Mike had agreed to meet him in a location near Bountiful Utah and when I arrived at 6:20 a.m., he was in his car waiting. I could tell that he was not sure we were going to go for the peak thanks to the way the weather looked but my thinking was that we could at least go to the trailhead on the other side of Mantua Utah and call it from there. He agreed and he left his vehicle at his workplace which was nearby and piled into my vehicle for the 60 mile drive to the trailhead.
As we got north of Ogden, all we could see were clouds, low ones at that. Well, having hiked a lot in Oregon and Washington, I was used to this kind
of weather. Many are the times when I made a summit but had no view due to fog or rain. Today might be one of those "northwest" kind of days. As long as there was no thunder and lightning, we could do this. That's what we said as we pulled up to the trailhead and grabbed our day packs to head out. 9 roundtrip miles and close to 4000 feet of elevation gain lay ahead of us but we felt that we could give it a go and see how far we could get.
Our feet were soaked in the first ten minutes thanks to wet brush and terrain that we had to deal with. Soon our pants were soaked but at least
we weren't cold. In actuality, the coolness of the day made it easier for us to gain upward progress and within a couple hours we were well over the 8000 foot mark when we heard it for the first time: Thunder. Mike and I looked at each other and tried to figure out where the thunder was coming from. From the south of us by a couple miles. We discussed our options and they were three fold:
Go back down
Hunker and wait
We chose to hunker and wait and despite the hail and rain that pelted us, that is exactly what we did for awhile until we could determine that the thunder wasn't getting any closer and we could then proceed onward and upward. The cold wind was hard on ungloved fingers but I thought I was hiking in Utah in June, not Alaska, so I didn't put the gloves in the pack (I almost always carry gloves normally) and so my hands were getting pretty darn cold from the wind chill factor. When the thunderboomers died down, we were ready to move on. We were at 8600 feet and only 0.7 miles from the summit so up through the wet brush that lined the trail we made our way. During our "hunkering down", I had taken the opportunity to wring out my socks and even Mike was amused by the amount of water I squeezed out. When I put the socks back on, I no longer had that "squishing" feeling, well, at least for awhile.
As we gained elevation and closed on the summit of Box Elder Peak, we had nothing in the way of views. We were seeing everything through a fog and the landscape was not to be seen. Bristlecone pine trees moved in and out of our viewscreen, almost ghostlike as we continued up. On one of the few openings, we were able to see that the summit was not all that far now and after checking out a cairn on a false summit back off the trail, we headed across a snow field and found our selves at the summit of Box Elder Peak. A rather large cairn served notice that we had arrived and that was confirmed by the benchmark we found nearby. Sadly, a "baggie" register bag was broken and the contents soaked and basically "lost". We held out hope that the "baggie" wasn't the main register but our rapidly freezing fingers made any attempt to find another and more robust register a short lived effort. We high fived each other, sanpped a few foggy pics and after just a few minutes in the artic cold (think wind chill factor), we turned around and headed down, hoping for warmer climes and a view or two.
We were treated to a couple brief views of the Cache Valley below and realized that those who reach the summit of Box Elder Peak on a clear day
are given royal views in all directions. We settled for what we got and yet, both of us were very happy to have achieved our summit, even though views were not to be part of the reward.
We passed three young hikers who were the only other people we saw all day and they were at the 6700' mark. Not a minute after we told them about the thunder and potential of lightning that we had faced, the thunder started booming again but they felt that it wasn't going to stick around and continued up as we continued down.
An actual view on the way down
Someday I might go back to see what I missed. Thanks to Mike (MikerHiker) for being a willing companion on this one. We actually had a great time.
I think my teeth stopped chattering about the time we got to Ogden.