The Wonderful Stansbury Mountains
Since moving to Utah in the summer of 2011 I have had the opportunity to visit many incredible places in the state. One of my new favorites is the Stansbury Range located West of Tooele. My friend Victor (SP member Castlereagh) and I have been ticking peaks off in this range since February when we snowshoed up Vickory Mountain in the southern end of the range. On June 2, 2012 we finished up the highest of the Stansburys by doing a traverse of Deseret Peak and North and South Willow Peaks. This is a report of that trip.
View from Mill Fork
Victor and I left Salt Lake City a little after 6 am and arrived at the trailhead just before 7:30. As we were getting ready another hiker was getting prepared and we realized we had the same agenda: Deseret Peak then a traverse to South and North Willow Peaks. Later we would meet up on the trail again and we found out that he was SP member Phenom(formerly Wasatchvoyage). We were headed up the trail at 7:35 in the cool refreshing air. The trail to Deseret Peak is mostly forested and is quite smooth so we made good time and had plenty of great discussions about the mountains. As we approached the headwall at the back of the canyon the trail disappeared under snow. From here to the ridge the going was a bit tougher.
Upper Mill Fork
It was not only steeper but the snow was mushy in places making it a mixed effort of post-holing and slogging up the hill. Eventually we came out on top and found the trail again.
Soon we were on the summit with no difficulty. It took about 2.5 hours for us to make the summit of Deseret.
Down the East Face
Since Deseret has more than 5,000 ft. of prominence it is also an ultra-prominence peak. It was the fourth one I've climbed.
South and North Willow Peaks
After resting for a while on the summit of Deseret it was time to start the traverse to South Willow. We first had to drop nearly 1400 feet to the 9600 ft. saddle between the two peaks. It would have been pretty straightforward but for the lingering snow on the steep north slope of the peak.
Once again the trail disappeared into the snow and forced us to route find through the steep terrain. Here again the snow was poorly consolidated and we had to post hole nearly the entire way. This was the most difficult segment of the trip but never got too technical in any way. Once we reached the saddle the trail reappeared and it was smooth sailing up to the beginning of the south ridge of South Willow. Here we left the trail and began the ascent up the rocky slopes of the peak. Here the western side was very smooth and gradual but the eastern side was and abrupt cliff that dropped hundred of feet. Hiking the ridge was quite exhilarating and the views were spectacular, especially looking back at Deseret Peak. We reached the summit about 2 hours after leaving Deseret. it would have been quicker but the snow delayed us quite a bit.
Snowy North Slope On the Summit
North Willow Willow Lake
We ate lunch on the summit of South Willow and decided that we had enough time to hit North Willow as well. We decended steeply down the rocky and muddy north slope of the peak until we reached the saddle where we ran into Phenom again. We stopped and chatted for about 45 minutes before continuing on our way. North Willow's south ridge was pretty mellow and we were at the top about 15 minutes after our chat in the saddle. I was on a tight schedule and needed to be back to Salt Lake by 6 PM so we didn't linger on the summit and began the descent to the trailhead immediately. It was about 3 PM when we reached the summit.
North Willow Summit View
From the Summit of North Willow we descended back to the North/South willow saddle and began the ascent back up South Willow's muddy North slope. We didn't hit the summit again but traversed across it's mellow but rocky West face. We then descended down to the saddle and the top of the Pocket's fork Trail. Here we met Phenom again and he joined with us for the hike back to the trailhead.
South Willow Cliffs
The hike down the trail was pleasant, scenic, and full of good conversation about the mountains. We passed numerous hikers heading both ways on the trail. It only took us about an hour and a half to reach the trailhead. I touched my car at exactly 4:30 PM.
Deseret's East Face
The Stansbury's are an incredibly beautiful and compact range. The trail system is fantastic as are the views. Although there wree quite a few people later in the day, the area was still MUCH less crowded and more peaceful than anywhere in the Wasatch.
RT Miles: 10.2
Time: 9 hours
Elevation Gain: 5,677'
Total Peaks: 3
County HPs: 1
Ultra-Prominence Peaks: 1