Escaped the afternoon thunderstorms.
Bad weather has been hard to avoid this summer. Had to turn around at the saddle of Spread Eagle from lightning in July. Had to come home a day early due to pouring rain during a camping trip at Bald mountain in June. The weather reports for this week set aside to do King's Peak were not very comforting. 30-40% chance of afternoon thunderstorms all week, witch really means 100% chance of thunderstorms in the Uintas. Figured we would give it our all and hope for the best.
Me, my wife, and son left Sandy at about 5am Thursday, arrived at the Henry's Fork trail head at about 8am. We opted to take the Henry's Fork Lake loop this time so we would be able to have campfires and escape the crowds. About a mile and a half past Elk Horn Crossing we took a break for lunch, just then thunder started to rumble in the distance and a few drops of rain started to fall. Figured now would be a good time to break out the rain shells and pack covers. Good thing we did, not 5 minutes after starting back down the trail the rain fall increased considerably. Then lightning started to become visible, and the thunder much louder. Nothing like hiking across those huge open 10,000ft.+ meadows with a huge fly pole (lightning rod) hooked to your pack. Then as if the lightning and rain weren't enough, the rain turned to hail!
We pressed on and found an awesome camp spot just off the trail at Island Lake. The weather finally let up at about 2pm. We ate a hot dinner and went to bed at around 7pm , I knew the only way we had a chance at Kings the next morning was if we got a super early start. I wanted nothing to do with this weather on the summit.
Woke up at 2am, unzipped the tent. What a nice surprise, stars everywhere, moon shining brightly, clear skies! Woke up my wife and son, said "the skies are clear". Lowered the bear bag. Then brewed up some coffee & tea and threw down some blueberry cliff bars. Hit the trail at about 3am. After wasting about a half hour trying to find the trail at 3am we finally really hit the trail at about 3:30am. It really was an outstanding experience hiking through the star filled basin at 4 in the morning! We made it to Gunsight Pass about 6ish, at the pass we saw a few sets of headlamps making their way up the trail below. The thought of being the first ones to summit that morning seemed exciting.
We scrambled up the Gunsight Shortcut, then to Anderson pass. Reached the summit at around 9ish. Beautiful Views everywhere. After taking several summit pictures we were greeted by the next party to arrive at the summit. Then another, then another, and another....It was interesting to meet such a cool, diverse bunch of hikers. 2 different people up there had done Mt. McKinley a month prior. Some others were up there for a day hike (crazy). We decided not to waste any more time and get moving, we knew the bad weather was sure to come very soon after being pounded the day before by hail.
We opted for the Anderson Chute (aka toilet bowl)for our return. Not only is it a shortcut if your camped on the west side of the basin, it makes a nice loop with different scenery. That's what I convinced my wife anyway, she was nearly in tears half way down this steep loose rock monster. A little further down and someone above yelled "Rock"! We turned and looked uphill in time to see about a 100 lb. rock tumbling straight at us. Luckily we had plenty time (5 or 10 seconds) to move to one side. Luckily the rock stopped about 20 feet above us. But that rock had kicked loose several smaller rocks that passed by us heading further down the toilet bowl. I then yelled "Rock"! to the people below as they turned and watched the smaller rocks tumble by. We eventually made it to the bottom and enjoyed our bagel pb&j's.
About 5 minutes after finishing our sandwiches the first few rain drops started to fall for the day. We, along with the other people in the area slowly started sporting rain shells and ponchos. Luckily it just sprinkled on and off for the rest of the hike back to our camp at Island Lake. We decided to kick our boots off and take a couple hour siesta before dinner. Not more than 5 minutes after shedding boots and zipping tents it started to pour rain. We all felt for the large amount of people we knew were still on the ridge and summit. We all kept commenting on how glad we were that we left so early in the morning and avoided the storm on the peak (as we lay on our sleeping bags listening to the thunder and rain pound our tents). It finally let up around dinner time. We enjoyed a campfire and some hot dehydrated meals.
Woke up the next morning, packed up camp, and headed back to the truck at the trail head. This is a super scenic and adventurous hike, highly recommend. I'm also super proud of my wife for accomplishing this feet. This was her first time climbing this Utah high-point. Myself, wife, and son have all completed more technical day hike summits but something about this multi-day adventure just separates it from all the others we've done. We plan to re visit this wonderful area for many years to come.