Tucked Away in the Tushar Range....An Introduction
The Tushar Mountain Range of Utah is the third highest range of Utah. Third only to the Uinta and La Sal Mountains, this place receives little winter mountaineering pressure as well as respect from Utah’s avid climbing community. Each year my twin and I try to make the pilgrimage down to Central Utah to backcountry ski the peaks of this beautiful snow capped range.
The Tushars from when we summited Mt Holly this trip
This year we had plans for April 12th to the 19th. However NOAA claimed that a major winter storm was on it’s way down there too at the same time. Just how major of a storm? In a time span of 72 hours the Tushars was to recieve upwards of 50 inches of snow! Knowing that the 22 mile road is only plowed in the day time, and that our small car slides out in rain, we decided not to become the next story in the television series “I shouldn’t be alive.”
So the week of April 19th to the 25th is when this trip report takes place, full of hardship, gear whoas, adventures, skiing, fishing and peak bagging. It was a truely epic week.
DAY 1 (Troubles at the Start)"Plans of mice and men often go a stray". Perhaps that famous literary quote should be changed to, "plans of mice and mountaineers often go a stray".
Based in Salt Lake City Utah, some 250 miles away from the Tushars, we got ready for the prilgramige on the morning of April 19th. After packing, re packing, and re re packing the car we were past ready, set and egar for the go! We wanted to combine some fishing with this trip so we set out for the local tackle shop. We got the information, lures ect...that we needed and just before the freeway we stopped at a 7-11 to fill up the car with gas. This is where we would run into the first snag of the trip.
The car would not start back up. Once started, it died again, and again. We called the auto mechanic, he claimed it was a evaporation tank that was clogged, "go for it boys" he told us. So go for it we went.
A couple hours later we knew we were close to the Tushars when we saw Mount Baldy from I-15....the badass of the mountain range. Excited we headed straight up Beaver Canyon to the Little Reservoir Campground. While setting up camp, we saw a HUGE brown trout cruising in the water...so it quickly became screw camp...lets get some fish!
My Tiger Trout My Twins Tiger Trout
Only hooked a few fish, mostly Tiger Trout. They were pretty, but small. However they would make a fine meal for the first night. As we set up the tent we ran into a new problem....we only brought 2 out of the 4 tent poles!
While thrashing in the car for the other poles...Troy broke my fly rod! While going to take a picture of the damage, I noticed my IS lens was chipped!
Then while paying the campsite the car started to bellow with smoke! We noticed the power steering fluid was low so we went to Beaver to get some more. Once at the NAPA store we found out it was closed. We tried to talk the owner into letting us buy some fluid but he said, "nope we are closed, I can not open the tiller for you guys." Just then a beaver local walked in and said, "you closed bud"? To which the owner replied, "hey come over here". Nice we were refused service because of our hair!
Back at camp we lit a fire and ate some of the days catch, talking about how today was only day one, and we were already getting our asses handed to us. As we put on our winter gear I said, "well it only gets colder from here". So we climbed into our sleeping bags, started up the heater, and got tucked away in the Tushars.
DAY 2 (City Creek Peak)
We drove down to town to get the car looked at. The mechanics could not have been more friendly. They checked the car and said, "here is our phone number in case your car brakes down on your trip". If you need a ride to the trailhead while your car is here we will help you out". WOW how friendly! They said the car would be good to go.
Some Tushar Deer we saw on the way to Beaver UT
So go we went. 22 miles up the winding highway 153 we were at the Puffer Lake Trailhead. It was already noon so we aimed our sights at City Creek Peak. So across the banks of Puffer we went. About 1 mile in we saw our turn off for the peak, Cullen Creek. It stated out flat and open, but soon turned into a nightmare jungle jym of trees, downed trees, stumps, open creek beds and tree wells. Up, down, side to side. Up, down, side to side. That was the motion of the climbing.
Troy setting up with City Creek Peak in the background Troy skinning with City Creek Peak in the background
Later rather than soon, we were out of Cullen Creek and at a view point of the peak. Now the ultimate question was debated. Just which way do you want to climb this mountain? So we took turns taking the lead and breaking trail. Headed up the northwest, which was steeper, but at least we were not putting a skin track on what we were going to ski.
Troy skinning up City Creek Peak City Creek Peak
Eventually we made the summit ridge, took of the skis, and walked the grass as well as shale that so few climbers have before. At the summit we took a seat, busted out the water, food and camera. We absorbed the views of the surrounding Tushar Range, beautiful lakes, and desolate Utah desert towns.
Troy takin in the Tushars at the summit of City Creek Peak
We skied down the very wet snow, applying skin wax every once and a while. The gully was steep on the sides, and every now and then a downed tree added to the challenge..but at last we were at Cullen Creek. Into the creek we went and what was up, down, side to side on the approach turned into side to side, down and up for the ski down. Eventually we ended up back at our car at Puffer Lake.
Troy skiing City Creek Peak
That night at camp we celebrated our summit victory and enjoyed a campground that only hoasted us for another night.
DAY 3 (Mount Holly)
Woke up with the rising sun on the third day. We set off in the car as well as the next trailhead for the days adventure....Mount Holly. Started at the trailhead around 9am, and the ice on the road was proof enough of a re freeze. As we skinned our way up the Three Creeks Drainage we knew that this route would be quicker than in years past. Before we knew it we were at the old cabin where it becomes obvious that you are now in reach of Mount Holly
The view from our campsite at Little Reservoir Troy passing the cabin on the way to Mt Holly
As we gained elevation we noticed some other tourers tracks...perhaps the Tushars are gaining popularity afterall? At the foot of the mountain, skin and ski slopes in sight we took a break. Ate some food, and drowned ourselves with water. While skinning up at the foot of the steeps, we started to feel shallow, melt water caused, collaspes. Not worried about it we carried on. Then it happened. While skinning together in the flats we heard a huge WHOOOOOOMPH!!!!!!!!!!! It went on for a couple of seconds, reaching across the meadow and onto other slopes.
Troy skinning Mt Holly near where we heard a HUGE WHOOMPH
So we opted for taking a different more safe route up...and it worked well. When we reached the ridge I took the lead, thinking I would be the first to summit. To my dismay it was only a false summit, it would be another 20 minutes till we got to the true summit.
Troy skinning Mt Holly
Once there the views were AMAZING. Mount Delano, Brigham Peak, Edna Peak, Singal Mountain, Mount Baldy, they were all snow white and beautiful! Nothing like standing near 12,000 feet with the air temp near 55F. With not a cloud in sight we took our sweet time at the top of this summit.
The Tushar Range from Mt Holly Troy taking in the view from Mt Holly
After an hour or so it was time to ski down. With the 50+ inch snowstorm from the week prior it was possible to ski right off the summit, down to the car! We must have made over 400 turns back to Highway 153. Simply EPIC to say the least!
Troy skiing Mt Holly Troy skiing Mt Holly
Back at the car with Mount Holly in the background
We drove back to town and bought a pizza at a place that has been good in years past. Unforchunately it was not as great as remembered...but we were hungery enough to devower the whole 18 inch pizza. Personally I felt like I was gonna explode. With an hour or two of daylight left we went fishing at the Merchant Valley Dam and I caught 7, my twin got 3. A major hight light was watchig the beavers tailslap the water at eachother. Of course the fun ended with they did the same to our fishing gear, thus spooking the fish off.
A Beaver in Beaver Canyon near Beaver Utah
A Rainbow Trout I released
That night we were once again the only ones camping at Little Reservoir. Around 8pm something was walking near our camp. As darkness set in it was obvious it was not going to leave. At 9pm we got a fire lit, and could hear branches breaking. At 10pm we heard what sounded like claws on pavement. It slowly walked around our camp. By 11pm it was now breaking branches near our tent. We discussed our options. At mid night my twin said, "to hell with it, let's stay here". That is when whatever animal it was started to walk in the water near our campsite! We packed up our tent and went to the KOA in Beaver! Hot shower, lack of animals, and warmer temps....it was a good idea.
DAY 4 (Minersville Reservoir)
Needing a break from all the climbing we went to Minersville Reservoir. This place is a "Blue Ribbon" fishery, meaning it is rated one of the top America. Got there to find Rainbow Trout cruising the shore as if it were a fish tank! Troy broke out his fly rod and I stuck to Rapalas.
Soon an old man gave Troy a "hand tied" fly and BAM he started to slay the fish. After getting 10 or so we got out of the strong spring sun and ate some lunch.
Troy bringing a fish in on the fly rod A FAT Rainbow Trout next to the fly rod
Near dark we went below the dam and on the third cast I nailed a couple of nice, fat, healthy Rainbow Trout. Then I got a Smallmouth Bass! My twin nailed his personal best trout on a fly rod to date....a 19.5 inch Rainbow Trout. As we were catching Rainbow Trout, a rainbow appeared, what were the odds? Back to camp we went, eager to get other day out in the mountains.
Troy catching a Rainbow Trout with a Rainbow in the background A 19.5 inch Rainbow Trout that my twin got on the fly A 17.5 inch Rainbow Trout My Catch from below the Dam
DAY 5 (Lake Peak)
We woke up at 6am to beat the weekday road closures. Got up to the construction area by 7am to find they had already started! Waited a half hour on the pilot car. While waiting we watched a construction cat knock down boulders the size of cars and houses down the mountain.
The start at the Puffer Lake Trailhead with Lake Peak in the background Lake Peak from City Creek Peak
Soon we were at our trailhead and starting to get ready. The forecast was calling for a 30% chance of thunderstorms. We headed across Puffer Lake and up the snow patches to the main drainage. The lack of snow on several of the runs had us nervous, but luckily there was a consitant patch all the way up. At the top we soaked in the view of the surrounding Tushars as well as peaks we had climbed so far on the trip.
The weather was already starting to make a turn once at the summit Troy at the summit of Lake Peak
We skied down the gully to the sound of racing water, even a few waterfalls. The snow was good, not too sticky, but the fear of going through and bashing a rock was always present. Our goal was to get turns all the way down without hitting patches of dry ground. It was difficult but possible.
Troy skiing Lake Peak Troy skiing Lake Peak Troy skiing what is left of the snow on Lake Peak
As we skated across the large flat of Puffer Lake we saw a thunderstorm heading for us. We raced it to the car and won. While waiting for the road to open up we started up the grill and ate some well deserved sausage and hot dogs. At camp the real feast began...eating those finned friends we encountered the day before!
Trying to beat a thunderstorm Troy and Puffer Lake
Nothing beats fresh fish after a hard days climb
DAY 6 (Lower Beaver River)
We needed a break from the hiking so we went to Minersville Reservoir. Troy only got 1 Rainbow Trout and I almost got bit by a snake while walking the shore. Ironically just seconds before stepping on it I thought to myself, "perhaps I should be looking out for snakes". What were the odds? So with a lack of action we went to the Lower Beaver River.
A large Great Basin Golfer Snake at Minersville Troy holding a 18.5 inch Rainbow Trout
Wow was this an AMAZING river. We walked it for mile after mile, getting egar Brown Trout to bite nearly every cast! To my suprise I even caught a Tiger Trout. We came up on a area that was a special DWR private property access. We filled out the forums and went for it. Wow is all I had to say. We found great patches of river, casting next to horses, on a beautiful farmers property. The survey at the end asked us to rate our expirence on a 1 to 5 scale...I wrote in a 6!
What a beautiful river! A Brown Trout from the Lower Beaver River A rare catch out of this river...a Tiger Trout
Below the dam of Minersville Reservoir we went, searching for some big fish to eat for dinner. With a couple of casts I got a 17.5 and 19.5 inch Rainbow Trouts. They would made a fine dinner! We headed back to camp, eager to get at least one more summit before the end of the trip. Sure enough our tent took off at the KOA into a barbed wire fence and ripped to shreads. At least the host of the KOA saved the sleeping bags, therma rests, and pillows.
A nice 19.5 inch Rainbow Trout I caught
DAY 7 (Last Day)
We woke to cloudy skies. Not what you want to see when NOAA is calling for thunderstorms, and you want to bag a 12,000 foot mountain. We tried for it anyway. After waiting out the pilot car we saw the most dark, ominous clouds of the whole trip, hovering over Mount Holly. Damit! So we bailed back to Beaver.
Dark Clouds ruined our plans
At the gas station we found out that we did not have enough money to make it back to Salt Lake City. Despertate I suggested that we look for coins in the car, in our packs and pockets. My twin said, "what do you really think we will find $20.00 in there". I should have said nope, I think we will find $25.00 dollars. We collected the coins and hit the only bank in Beaver. There was no coin star so we had them count it out. They did not want to unitl we told them it was the only way we could make it home. With a full tank + 25.00 we decided to drive I-70 to Fish Lake. We got impressive views of Mount Baldy's north face as well as Mount Belknap.
Mount Baldy's North Face from I-70 The Tushar Range from Richfeild Utah
At fish Lake the fishing was AMAZING! It was cold, windy, and mostly covered with ice. However when ice out conditions begin, that is when fishing is the best. My twin said to me, "we just drove 70 miles off track for this, it better be good". And with the first cast came the first fish! We slayed them! In just a few hours I got 40 fish and Troy got 50! That's 90 fish total! It was the perfect way to end the trip.
A FAT Splake Trout that Troy caught at Fish Lake Me holding a 17 inch Rainbow Trout at Fish Lake
We got 3 mountains, over 1,000 turns, and over 159 fish! What a vacation!