A FIRST UTAH PEAKS ROAD TRIP: Cougar Peak (10,559'), Matterhorn Peak (10,839'), Kings Peak (13,528'), Mt. Timpanogos (11,750'), and Mt. Nebo (11,877') June 30 to July 8, 1979
Game for some summer peak adventure, I signed up for this Sierra Club activity to climb the Nevada Matterhorn, and to do some exploring about the Jarbidge Mountains of Northeastern Nevada. I was going to continue on, after the official trip, so drove alone.
We met in Elko, NV, and car caravanned out to the long dirt road to Jarbidge, NV, one of the remotest ghost towns, although with people still living there and buildings occupied. I had a map, but the leader had his own directions. We soon came to a fork, and spent about an hour for the leader to figure out which way to go. All we would do today was a short ramble and to motor to the tiny settlement of Jarbidge.
We began to descend into the canyon in which this town is situated, and I gained my first view of the peaks we were to climb. I had an idea to traverse the entire ridge, but wasn't that sure on getting back to my car.
The next morning, we explored Jarbidge on foot, and I shot many photos. Then, it was to the trailhead, by Snowslide Gulch. There was about ten of us, to do an overnight backpack to our base camp, Emerald Lake. We packed up the trail, passing a smaller pond, and me shooting lots of pictures. Far from the Sierra, I was excited at this exploration op.
We hiked over a pass with snow, and dropped down into the Emerald Lake area. Nice sights already. Making camp, we enjoyed seeing the early season ice floe on the lake.
The leader called for an early start the next day. I carried my full pack up with the group, planning to exit the activity as I bagged the main peak. We climbed up Cougar Peak first, a bump on the ridge. Since this peak was not on our list, I didn't count it.
It was a short way further to Matterhorn
Peak, somewhat misnamed, but the highest peak in Northeast Nevada,
and the highpoint of the Jarbidge Wilderness. I shot pictures
of the vista, quite the wild country. Someone shot off a firework
to celebrate the coming holiday. The leader formally disavowed
any responsibility for me after my official sign-off, and I left
the group atop the peak summit. I headed straight westward down
the hill, with a scree run of sorts. Navigation was easy.
After losing a few thousand feet in elevation, I intersected the trail, and walked the short distance back to my car. Motoring out past the town, I drove along the road north in the Jarbidge River canyon, and the road became better as I went along. I came to Murphy's Hot Springs, and washed up with many other patrons bathing in the tepid water. Then, it was out on paved road to Idaho and U.S. 93, with a last look back at the peaks that I had left. I heard that the group packed out in the early a.m., the next morning, and had no incident hiking out. They would have seen my car was gone, so knew that I had made it out safely.
I drove north through Twin Falls, ID, and enjoyed a nice sunset on the Interstate. Not getting enough gas, I found most everything was closed as I passed through Ogden, UT, in the night. I ran out of gas about 15 miles before Evanston, WY, and had a time getting someone to get me some. A hard lesson learned!
Arriving, though, at the Henry's Fork trailhead by noon, then, my road navigation was good. I saw two moose on my dirt road drive in.
Backpacking with my light pack up the Henry's Fork Trail, I made good time toward my destination. My ice ax spooked some horses coming out, but no one was hurt. Wading a ford, I knew I was closer to my campsite.
A trail sign indicated Dollar Lake. I set up my tent, with mosquitoes abounding. Enjoying being there, I had a slight rain, and hoped for good weather the next day. I thought of the mountain men that roamed this part of the West, 130 years previous. My modern exploration hardly had any comparison in ease.
I woke up and ate some breakfast, probably oatmeal. Taking off for the climb, I had two ways to go. One was by a trail, longer, but gradual. The other was a direct route, up a rock couloir. It was some 2 or 3 miles difference each way. I chose the direct route, for a slight challenge. Taking my time clambering up the rocky gully, I soon topped out and came upon the trail. The sun was out, with some clouds forming.
Now a class 2 scramble to the top, I shortly summitted and took plenty of photos. Fantastic weather and sights! I had seen no one aside from the pack train the day before. A plaque marked Utah's highest point, and I celebrated my ascent. It was July 4th, too.
Headed down, I took some photos of the trail sign, and took the same rocky couloir back to camp. I made haste to pack out, with the ford to cross once again. Back to the car, I slowly motored out back to paved highway, and had a last look back at the Uinta mountain range.
Visiting the historic site of Fort Bridger, Wyoming, I took plenty of photos, and then hit Evanston for the fireworks. Was I enjoying my vacation!
I camped somewhere, and the next day took Highway 150 across the western end of the Uintas. There was an historic site and a scenic vista point for pictures. Then, I approached the Wasatch Mountains. Gaining this first sight of what I thought was the Mt. Timpanogos massif, I stopped at a ranger station to ask a few questions. No permit was needed back then. I had time to drive the Alpine Scenic Loop, with gorgeous aspen trees lining the narrow, paved road. Then motoring to Timpanogos Cave National Monument, I had to make a reservation to see the cave. This entails a good hike up a trail to the cave entrance, and group size is limited. I was able to take the tour, and shot flash photos of the sights within.
The next day found me hiking up the trail to the top of Mt. Timpanogos. This is a good, 5,000' gain climb, with a falls and sights to see along the way. Not difficult for me at all, I was in good condition. Crossing a steep snowfield was the only danger, safe for me with my ice ax. The trail continues up to the top, where a decrepit lookout structure greets summiteers.
The sights were mainly of the cities below, and to the east, more undeveloped country. I lounged about the top, with plenty of time. There had been only a few hikers seen along the way, with no one to share the summit with. I had heard that once, trail runs were conducted to the top of this peak, getting 5,000 runners to do that. They stopped that due to the loss of the wilderness experience, then, that race day.
The same sights were seen on my descent, which must have gone quickly. I motored back down to the Utah Valley where I got this picture of the peak. Seeing Provo, UT, I visited Utah Lake, a reservoir with plenty of swimming. It was hot or warm, being a summer afternoon, then I camped near the Mt. Nebo trailhead for an early start.
The next day, I was climbing up the Mt. Nebo trail early in the morning. A
small animal scurried up the trail ahead of me. The trail climbs
steeply and quickly, with 5,000' gain in 3.5 hours, for me. Coming
to an apparent highpoint, with a sign marking the peak, I thought
that I was on the highest peak of the Wasatch Range. There was
another, nearby, higher-looking peak to be seen, but I dismissed
it as an optical illusion. I shot a few views,
but it paled due to the urban view the day before. Some hikers
shun the Wasatch, with its adjacent civilization below. It's still
a good mountain, for me.
As I hiked down, four local hikers coming up let me know that the true highpoint was the north peak, class 3, by them. I was ready to turn back and do it, but then thought to leave it for another day. They showed me some of the millions of fossils that lay about in the rocks up here. Lower on the trail, I saw these white Columbine wildflowers.
I figured that someday, I'd take some climbers up this peak, but no one has ever taken me up on that. Now, I am less adapted to class 3 solo, so I haven't hiked this again. A grudge peak, then. Depending on how you see it, there are higher peaks in this Utah front range (of sorts) to the south. No one gets excited about the highest peak in the Wasatch, however that may be determined.
Back to my car, I slowly motored out on the short, bad road, and then headed for home. I had been out for a week. Stopping to see Salt Lake City, I took a few photos. Without any air conditioning, I stopped for a brief photo at the Great Salt Lake. People were enjoying the water. Further, the salt flats and more made for dramatic light.
I imagine that I car camped another night, and made the long drive home on July 8th. Great to have had another safe peaks adventure, with a success on Kings Peak, the highest in Utah State. Other local peak hikers had sought to climb this State highpoint, but only one that I know appears to have done it. I had been open for a 2X as a 20+ mile day climb, but had no takers, locally. Most people would have never heard of this peak, even being a state highpoint.
These long past days, I declined motels as out of my budget and interests. I did more backpacking, then, so sleeping on a padded seat in my car was a luxury. I sure spent on food, though, with a good meal being a great pleasure of traveling. I used an ice chest at times, and left my photos to be the record (then without digital technology). Just wouldn't expect to forget about doing this, as older people warn.
The local peak section wasn't too keen on driving longer distances. Though some of them do foreign expeditions, Western wilderness isn't a big interest of theirs, as for me. I was to do so much more exploring and traveling solo, as now the local enviro group hikers avoid peak climbing, and I, as customarily done, do ask for some gas money.
One of these days, maybe some of the other peak climbers will retire from work, and have plenty of time and energy left to do this. Me knowing the way, I'd beeline my groups to the tops. And seeing the peaks again, after all those years, would be good for me, too!
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