Shale Bench

Page Type
Utah, United States, North America
Route Type:
Time Required:
A long day
Rock Difficulty:
Class 3

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Shale Bench
Created On: Aug 3, 2008
Last Edited On: Aug 3, 2008


A technically less challenging alternative to the classic East Ridge route, the Shale Bench also starts up the ridge from Priord Pass, but after gaining just 200 ft vertical it then contours around the base of the cliffs, eventually connecting with the easier South Slopes route.
Shale Bench RouteShale Bench, view from the East

Getting There

Priord Pass and Priord PeakThe pass and the peak, seen from the meadows above Norice Lake
A glimpse of Lamotte from Norice Lake trailLamotte is the first peak greeting hikers on the trail to Norice Lake

One can get to Priord Pass either by a 10 mile ascent from East Fork Bear River TH (just up valley from East Fork Scout Camp, which can be reached by taking North Slope Road from SR 150, then turning South in two miles from the pavement) or from the Rock Creek side, typically by following Highline Trail - Lightning Lake Spur for 13 miles from the Highline TH on SR 150. Upper Rock Creek Basin may also be reached from Rock Creek Reservoir downriver, or from Hades TH on the other side of Grandaddy Mountains.
First steps along Old Priord Pass TrailFirst steps along the Old Priord Pass Trail
Old Priord Pass TrailThe cairned section of the old trail above Priord Lake

Since the Northerly approach to Priord Pass is the quickest, it deserves a few more lines of details. After following the trail along the East bank of East Fork Bear River for 4 miles, you come to a marked junction. The trail to Allsop Lake splits to the left, and the trail to Norice and Priord lakes continues straight, fording Right Hand Fork 3 times. On the meadows past Norice Lake the trail is hard to follow; just remember that Priord Lake is nested in a hanging valley to the West, and so keep angling slightly right above the valley bottom.
Columbine at Old Priord Pass TrailColumbine at the Old Priord Pass Trail
Old Priord Pass TrailOn the Old Priord Pass Trail

The old trail, marked by numerous cairns, re-emerges again at the timberline SSE from Priord Lake. After a few short switchbacks, it cuts a long upward traverse to the right, becoming less and less distinct. Anyway the saddle of the ridge is now close!

Route Description

From Priord Pass take East Ridge towards the base of the summit cliffs. Contour to the South-West just below the quartzite cliffs, and above several islands of stunted krummholtz conifers. This layer of the mountain is made out of eroded shale; sometimes it gave way so much that the quartzite layer above has been left overhanging.
Shale Bench RouteShale Bench route - view from the South

Keep circling clockwise around the peak and in a few minutes the cliffs above come to an end. Take a note of the landmarks because it may not be so easy to locate this spot on descent. The best landmark here is a very long ribbon of krummholtz below you.
Max leading the wayAscent from the West end of the bench
Last climbing move to the summit!A class 4 moment at the top

Angle to the left at first, until you pass the next band of cliffs. Then it is straight up to the top. The final few yards may be a class 4 move or two, but there is no exposure to speak of.
Descent to the Shale BenchReturn to the Shale Bench
The summit viewThe summit

Enjoy the view, and ponder if you missed the fun of the "straight" ridge route by taking this curious detour below.