Monday, August 16, 2010

Kings Peak, Utah - Backpacking

I finally made it to the highest point in Utah - Kings Peak at 13,528 feet. Located in the High Uinta mountain range of northeastern Utah, this peak has always been rather elusive due to it's isolation, the very short season between snowmelt and snowfall, and the constant risk of lightning during the month or two of possible access. Robert put together a great group of hikers and we lucked out with absolutely perfect mountain weather for the entire weekend. Most people will do this hike as a two night, three day trip. We decided to go for an overnighter due to limited time.

Our group at the trail head

We left Salt Lake early Saturday morning and got to the trail head about 9am. I've never seen such a full parking area at a trail head before - obviously a very popular hike! We started out on the trail with our goal for the day being the area just below Anderson Pass, 10 miles from the trail head. The traditional route to Kings Peak follows the trail up and over Gunsight Pass, into Painter Basin, and then over to the peak. Climbing the very steep and rocky chute to Anderson Pass cuts out a few miles, and that was our plan due to the short nature of our trip.

Backpacking toward Anderson Pass

Hmm another alpine backpacking trip ... missing the desert...

Kings Peak in the distance with Anderson Pass just in front of it

Kings Peak and Anderson Pass - our shortcut to the peak

We found a good place to camp for the night just below Anderson Pass and quickly set up our tents before the sun set. Thankfully there was no lightning - our campsite was in the middle of an open basin. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset, had a great dinner complete with wine and mostly freeze-dried backpacker meals, and chatted well into the evening. It's amazing how cold it can get at night in the Uinta Moutains - even in the middle of August!

Setting up camp

My new tent

Keith and Ryan relax by our little fire

Dinner time

Sunset at our campsite

I was very nervous about the route up Anderson Pass - it seemed very steep and a little scary. Fortunately it wasn't quite as bad as it looked and everyone made it to the top of the pass in one piece. It was decided by several people, including myself, that we would not be going down the same way. We figured the traditional route wouldn't be much longer and it would certainly be less scary.

Looking back while climbing Anderson Pass

The view from the top of Anderson Pass - we camped in the basin below

I'm thrilled to be off Anderson Pass chute

Melissa, Keith, and Robert make their way up Anderson Pass chute

It was still quite a hike from the top of Anderson Pass to the summit of Kings Peak. After a few false summits and lots boulder hopping, we finally made it to the top of Utah. The views were unbelievable!

Robert on the way to the summit

Keith way above tree-line

Almost to the peak!

At the summit of Kings Peak

Keith at the summit of Kings Peak

We made a little mistake on our return trip using the traditional route. Somehow we missed the turnoff and continued well into Painter Basin before heading back toward Gunsight Pass. We ended up logging over 20 miles the second day and while the trip was absolutely amazing, we were all very happy to see the end of the trail as the sun set on Sunday night.

Robert playing in last season's snow

Very tired - still several miles to go