Mt Emmons, Uintas, Utah

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 40.71178°N / 110.30368°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Jun 18, 2008
Activities Activities: Hiking
Seasons Season: Spring

Mount Emmons, South Mount Emmons, and Owl

I had been thinking about climbing Mount Emmons (13440), the fourth highest peak in Utah for some time. It appealed to me because it had a southern approach making it more accesible this time of year. Two other hikes I had recently done in the area, one to the Paul Benchmark ridge, and one to North and South Timothy Peaks, had both had great views of Mount Emmons and its surrounding ridge.
Emmons, S Emmons, and OwlEmmons, S Emmons, and Owl, above Timothy Lakes Basin, May-31-2008

Mount Emmons didn't see much action. Exactly one person had signed the climbers log, two if you look at the Kings-Emmons Ridge page. As a comparison, the fourth highest peak in Colorado, Blanca Peak, had 101 entries in the climbers log as of 6-23-08.

Topo of tripTopo of trip

I thought I'd have to wait until spring runoff died down because the way I had intended to go, a 20 mile RT about half on trail half off starting at Swifts Creek Trailhead (8100'), involved a major stream crossing that I didn't want to deal with. However, the idea of an 18 mile RT all off trail except for the first quarter mile popped into my head while working on the Timothy Peaks TR. Going this long a distance off trail seemed somewhat daunting, not to mention the 7000 feet total elevation gain. The route leaves the trail just before it crosses Swift Creek, a short distance from the campground and does a very steep bushwhack (almost 2000' in 1.25 miles) passing the north end of Water Lily Lake and continues until the lip is reached at 10100 feet where the grade eases considerably. It contours across the slope, gradually gaining Emmons' south ridge which is followed over three summits, 11841, Owl (12826), and South Emmons (13170) and finally ascends Emmons (13440).

I tried to find someone to go with on June 12, but got no takers except for one person who was willing to go if we either started at 3AM or 8PM the night before. I said "no thanks". I wasn't really into stumbling through the brush in the dark. Also, the temperatures on that particular night were to be in the teens and a few inches of new snow had fallen. Putting everything together, it didn't sound too pleasant. I opted instead for a local hike up Pheifferhorn with my friends Michael aka Moogie737 and Lana.

The next week I talked my husband and 11 year old son into combining my hike to Mount Emmons with a family camping trip. We set out for the Swift Creek Trailhead and campground Tuesday afternoon June 17, stopping at several locations along the way to do some geocaching. My husband's comment was "nice campground but hellacious drive". It seems I forgot to mention the dirt road part. I didn't think it was so bad, but he had never driven 20 miles on dirt/packed snow in the winter to Henrys Fork.

After turning north from Duchesne we had some good views of the peaks ahead, but unfortunately I couldn't tell one from another. The one thing I could tell was that some of them still had a fair amount of snow. I had decided I was sick of carrying the extra weight of snowshoes and hadn't brought them, reasoning that if the snow got too bad and I was sinking in too much I'd just turn around and save Emmons for another day, still traveling far enough to get a decent hike in. From previous trips I thought I could make it to at least 11000' without encountering significant snow and by that time I'd be on a south ridge that received lots of sun so hopefully I'd be ok. But now I was starting to have doubts.

We arrived at the campground and while I was in the bathroom and unable to protest, my not very safety-conscious (pc term for idiot) husband let our son drive our standard transmission car over to our camp site. Our son remarked at how the car had made lots of strange noises and my husband remarked how he had to take the car out of gear and use the emergency brake to keep the car from going into the outhouse.

The next morning while they lounged in bed until 8, had a leisurely breakfast, and left for an easy hike along the Yellowstone Creek trail at 10, I woke up at 4:30, gulped down some food and was on my way by 5:20AM.

Water Lily LakeWater Lily Lake
Nice section of bushwhackNice section of bushwhack

After I turned off of the trail, I was able to stay on a series of little paths for some time until it seemed like they were diverging from my route too much. I suspect that they end up eventually on the south side of Water Lily Lake which would have been fine but I had planned to hit the north side of the lake and was afraid I'd be hosed if they didn't actually go to the lake. The terrain was very steep but didn't have much underbrush. The trees were fist sized thin and about 2 feet apart, barely enough room to squeeze through. I hit the lake and continued upward steeply until about 10100'. Now the terrain was much easier to navigate. It was gently sloped with big trees spaced widely apart. There was occasionally an annoying area with significant deadfall, but for the most part the going was easy. It was particulary nice skirting to the north of bump 10861, nice green meadows with lots of little streams running through them. There were periods of patchy snow, but nothing of any great consequence.

Looking south at 11644, lots and lots of rocksLooking south at 11644, a small patch of tundra, but mostly rocks

I hit tree line at 11000 feet and from then on it was mostly rocks, lots and lots and lots of rocks with an occasional brief patch of tundra. Sometimes they were easy to walk on and sometimes each step required thought but overall it wasn't so bad it's just that there were so many of them, as far as one could see.

Owl (12826)Owl
South Emmons and EmmonsSouth Emmons and Emmons

I got to the top of 11841, an unexciting rounded mound of rocks, at 9:20, 3 hours after I had started. Owl (12826) lie ahead, another unexciting rounded mound of rocks. I've noticed that far away peaks in this area seem dramatic but when viewed up close do not. I lost about 300' of elevation and then began the long gradual ascent to Owl, 1300' in 1.3 miles, one rock step after another.

I made it to Owl before 11 and could finally see views of South Emmons and Emmons. They both had snow on their eastern sides, but the rest was only occasional patches. Some of the patches I walked through, but mostly I tried to avoid them if convenient. Sometimes they would support my weight, but sometimes they were completely soft and I'd sink in to my knees. All in all, less than 3% of this hike was on snow, amazing that one can get up to 13440 in the Uintas and have almost no snow, when the Wasatch is still mired in snow at 11000' and even at 9000' in north facing areas.

From the saddle between Owl and South Emmons I had a good view to the east into Krebs Basin and the dramatic ridge lining its south side.
Krebs BasinKrebs Basin

To the west lay Timothy Lakes Basin. It was amazing to see how much snow had melted in the past 18 days. Here's what it looked like today.
Timothy Lakes BasinTimothy Lakes Basin

When I started the day there hadn't been a cloud in the sky, and the wind was completely still. Gradually throughout the morning, the clouds had been building and I wanted to get to Emmons and back down as quickly as possible. Way to the north the sky was still clear, but it was raining behind me to the south. I arrived at South Emmons at 11:45 and on Emmons by 12:30. I hadn't really thought about what would be in view but was wowed when I realized I was looking at Gunsight pass.
View NW from EmmonsView NW of Emmons

I took some quick pictures, noted that the benchmark was in bad shape, and began my descent. Unfortunately, it wasn't just a descent, I had to go up and over South Emmons, Owl, and 11841 to get back, another 850 vertical feet.

Timothy Peaks and Wilson PeakTimothy Peaks and Wilson
Gunsight PassGunsight Pass from Mount Emmons
It took me almost as much time to get down as it took to get up. Up took 7 hours 10 min and down took 6 hours 45 minutes. On the way down, not being as concerned about the weather I took longer breaks, on the way up I had taken almost none. I was quite a bit slower on the uphills on the way down, having to pause a lot. The killer was when my GPSr screen got covered in a gigantic wad of gooey pine tar and became virtually unusable. I gave up trying after awhile and made it back as best as I could. In the steep section I was planning to retrace my route exactly since it had gone pretty well on the way up but that was impossible now and I found myself in a small ravine with flowing water with deadfall across it which I followed back to the start.

I was back at camp at 7:15 pm, almost 14 hours after I had started. I had hiked 18 miles RT, almost all off-trail, and climbed almost 7000'. Each segment of the trip had been easy, but there had been a lot of segments and I was tired. It was so nice to be greeted by my husband and son and have a burger cooked for me and have someone else worry about the fire and cleaning up. We drove home the next morning and were greeted by two aloof cats who pretended that they didn't know us.


Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-13 of 13
Scott Wesemann

Scott Wesemann - Jun 24, 2008 12:55 am - Voted 10/10

Great report

I've been wanting to hit Emmons for quite some time.


ZeeJay - Jun 24, 2008 4:27 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Great report

Thanks, it's nice to know other people are interested in these peaks.


lcarreau - Jun 24, 2008 9:23 am - Voted 10/10

ZJ ...

Nice TR! I've heard several other Sp-members remark how
the Uintas had less snow than the Wasatch. My theory is
that the Wasatch catches snow from the "lake effect,"
while the Uintas are more isolated and "east-west
trending," thus they do not catch the storms coming in
from the west as well. Awesome pictures you have here!


ZeeJay - Jun 24, 2008 4:28 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: ZJ ...



seanpeckham - Jun 27, 2008 4:08 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: ZJ ...

I think there's a rain-shadow effect as well, since the Uintas are leeward of the Wasatch. Also, if I recall, the eastern Uintas get less snow than the western part of the range, also due to rain shadowing at least in part, I think.


seanpeckham - Jun 27, 2008 4:05 pm - Voted 10/10

Great photos and information

And congrats on a successful trip, that's quite a long hike. I've been toying with the idea of a 4-day trip to Emmons and part of the Kings-Emmons ridge (was originally thinking of doing the entire ridge but backed off after looking more into how involved it would be). It was great to see photos of the area, since I've never been there, and this is the best beta I've seen in weeks on the current Uinta snow coverage.


ZeeJay - Jun 27, 2008 5:26 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Great photos and information

Thanks, I want to do the Kings-Emmons ridge sometime too, but I probably won't get to it this year.


Moogie737 - Jun 29, 2008 6:22 pm - Hasn't voted

Really fine TR, as usual!

ZeeJay, what a gal! And way to write it up in such an informative and interesting style. Ever considered journalism as a second avocation? Keep up the good work.


ZeeJay - Jun 29, 2008 11:54 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Really fine TR, as usual!

Thanks Michael.

Rob Thompson

Rob Thompson - Jun 30, 2008 12:25 pm - Voted 10/10

Well Done

Really appreciate the map along with the great photos and narrative - Thanks!


ZeeJay - Jun 30, 2008 2:19 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Well Done

Thanks, I appreciate your positive comments.

peakbagger1971 - Jul 20, 2008 1:06 pm - Hasn't voted

I'm going

I plan on sumitting Emmons on the 25th. I might just bag a couple other 13ers while I'm there. I'm going via the chain Lake side though. Thanks for the report


ZeeJay - Jul 20, 2008 8:58 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: I'm going

Good luck! I hope it goes well for you.

Viewing: 1-13 of 13



Parents refers to a larger category under which an object falls. For example, theAconcagua mountain page has the 'Aconcagua Group' and the 'Seven Summits' asparents and is a parent itself to many routes, photos, and Trip Reports.

Mount EmmonsTrip Reports