EIGHT-DAY PEAKBAGGING TRIP IN NEVADA, IDAHO, & UTAH
Our camping spot before climbing Diamond Peak
Joel with Diamond Peak in the background
Justine and Henry hiking up the old road en route to Diamond Peak
Cow-tipping this is not; Justine poses with a dead cow along the trail.
Joel on the summit of Diamond Peak
Justine on the way down
Ruby Dome from about 1000 feet below
Henry posing at the "official" trailhead
Justine and Henry climb through a beautiful aspen grove.
Reflections in Griswold Lake
Henry and Justine on the summit of Ruby Dome
Joel models his colorful LVMC shirt.
Looking back along the rocky ridge at Henry on the summit
Harlan with Borah Peak in the background
Justine and Joel ascend Chicken Out Ridge, a narrow class 3 ridge.
Heading towards Chicken Out Ridge and the snowfield
Descending from Chicken Out Ridge onto the short, but daunting snowfield
The magnificent Borah Peak
Trailhead photo for Kings Peak and Gilbert Peak - Justine, Joel, Harlan, Mike, and Ali
Mike posing with a llama
We carefully cross Henry's Fork Creek.
Packing in with Kings Peak just visible in the center
Taking a break at Gunsight Pass on our way to Kings Peak
We approach the summit of Kings.
We are the Kings (and Queen) of Utah!
Looking up at the route to Gilbert Peak from Dollar Lake, several hundred yards from our camp
Joel and Justine labor up the steep slope from Dollar Lake.
We hunker down behind the windbreak on the summit of Gilbert Peak.
On our epic journey, here are the peaks we conquered:
Diamond Peak (10,614') - the highpoint of Eureka County in NV, a dramatic isolated peak just north of Eureka, NV
Alpha Peak (9200') - a bonus peak on the Diamond Peak trip along the ridgeline
Ruby Dome (11,387') - a peak on the LVMC "Classic 50" list & the highpoint of Elko County, a beautiful, challenging peak in the scenic Ruby Mountains
Borah Peak (12,663') - the highpoint of Idaho, a picturesque mountain involving some fun, exposed class 3 climbing
Kings Peak (13,512') - the highpoint of Utah, involving a long, scenic approach
Gilbert Peak (13,442') - the highpoint of Summit County in Utah, would have a pleasant, short climb (in nice weather) from our camp at Dollar Lake
Oh, and along the way, we drove almost 2000 miles! We had six rugged mountaineers on our trip: Joel Brewster, Justine Ritsko, Henry Jingle, Harlan Stockman, Ali Haghi, and Mike Shackleford, although several joined us for various parts of the week. It was an excellent, successful, and rewarding tour of the West. Thanks to all for their participation and enthusiasm!
by Justine Ritsko
This eight-day day-hiking and backpacking trip was amazing. This was my second trip with the LVMC and well, it was quite grand. Simply said: 3 states, 6 peaks, 8 days, 60 miles, 21,000’ in elevation gain and I’m still alive. All the ascents offered beautiful views and challenging terrain but Ruby Dome and Borah Peak were by far my favorite.
Ruby Dome was a long hike. It took us past a beautiful lake with a mountain lion's paw prints around its rim which was a little unnerving. The mountain was riddled with giant boulders creating complete mayhem for the ascent and descent.
Borah Peak was very exciting with its ever-changing landscape. It is not for the faint of heart but an exhilarating peak for those looking for a challenge. I would definitely do this hike again.
It was a long, tiring, and sticky trip, but I had a wonderful time and look forward to more trips like this in the future. I did discover that the bugs were less attracted to the men. Once I stopped maintaining my hygiene, I was granted a reprieve. Next time I will leave the soap at home.
Strolling along the trail to Borah, just past the most difficult section
There were good footsteps in the snow, but it demanded concentration, as there were big drops on both sides.
by Mike Shackleford
On August 6, I flew to Salt Lake City to join up with Joel and Justine en route to conquer Kings Peak and Gilbert Peak. After some Chinese food for dinner, we drove about three hours to the trailhead at Henry's Fork campground. While this journey started and ended in Utah, it necessitated driving through Wyoming, which was a state I was missing from my quest to visit all 50. 47 down, 3 to go. Joel and I made a wager whether or not a sign would indicate the state border crossing on the dirt road leading to the campground. Said sign was not definitively seen on the way in, but it was dark. Joel had the "no" but graciously allowed me another chance to look for it on the way back.
The first order of business was finding Harlan and Ali, who drove up separately from Vegas. It was totally dark and there were cars everywhere. Despite that, we luckily found them without difficulty. Ali's license plate reads ALIG8R, which is not only clever, but makes it easier to spot his vehicle. Joel and Justine were exhausted from a long day climbing Mt. Borah, and driving a very long distance, so we hastily set up our tents and called it a day.
The following morning, we set off for our next camping spot by Dollar Lake. It was an easy day, traveling about seven and a half miles with about a 1400' elevation gain. The trail starts out amongst tall pine trees and follows alongside Henry's Fork River. After about five miles, we came to the spot of a washed-out bridge, where he had to cross the river. Somebody before us had tied three narrow logs together, which we braved crossing. Actually, I was probably the only one who was nervous about it. The rest of the group walked across it barely slowing down from their usual pace, as if it were a six-foot wide sidewalk.
After the river crossing, the trail passed through some long, grassy drainages. Meanwhile, the mountains got larger, and the trees got smaller. This was the most scenic part of the hike, in my opinion. However, the cost of hiking through a drainage is that parts of it were so muddy my foot nearly came out of my boot as I tried to extract it from the mud. During the trek to Dollar Lake, we past at least 100 hikers coming the other way. Almost all looked like men in their early twenties, many bearing fishing poles. I was afraid the Dollar Lake area was going to be overcrowded with so much traffic on the trail.
After a pleasant and easy journey, we found Dollar Lake -- which is not visible from the trail -- and set up camp. We chose a nice spot in the woods near the lake. Despite all the foot traffic we crossed on the trail, the Dollar Lake area was surprisingly sparsely populated. There were only a few other groups near the lake, and a few others further out. This was on a Saturday, so you would think more people would be traveling to the lake than from it. It was rather bizarre.
The rest of the day we took it easy as we tried to evade the numerous mosquitoes. It would have been nice to make a campfire, as some perfectly chopped wood was left right by a fire pit. Unfortunately, we were within 1000' feet of the lake, according to Joel, and a sign indicated campfires were prohibited within this radius of the lake, a rule our neighbors did not obey. Fortunately, Joel had the wisdom to bring a bottle of wine, which some of us, including me, enjoyed a great deal. After a few cups of wine, Ali didn't hold much back about his "buy high -- sell higher" investing strategy. Meanwhile, Joel and I did what we often do when boredom sets in -- betting on anything we could think of. The most fun wager was on whether or not Justine could name more than 7.5 nuts. She got six in no time, but it took quite a while to come up with two more. After about a half an hour, she got her eighth nut, a cashew, and the over won (yeah for me!).
With an early start planned the next day, we went to sleep quite early. I still wasn't tired, so I spent some time with a book I had fortunately tucked in my pack. Normally I'm uptight about pack weight and don't allow such luxuries as a book, but am glad I made the exception.
Saturday we got started early in an attempt to beat the usual afternoon storms Joel warned us about. We started out continuing southbound until the end of the drainage. During this time, I had a backpack malfunction. My left strap came loose from the old backpack I've been using for 25 years. Fortunately, the very well-prepared Harlan had an extra shoelace that I used to remedy the problem of a lost rivet. Then we went up and over Gunsight Pass. After this point, there was a lovely valley directly separating us and Kings Peak. Did we walk across this nice level valley? No...somebody had to put up a bunch of cairns in the rocks along the dge of another peak on our right. We were fooled by these false cairns and spent about an hour scrambling over rocks unnecessarily.
Eventually we approached the base of Kings Peak, which was much more of the same. Kings Peak itself is basically an enormous rock pile. The climbing is not especially challenging or dangerous, but it is tiring and redundant. At this point, there was no trail, so one could scramble up a million different ways. I think it took us a little longer than planned, but we eventually made it in fine shape. We took the ubiquitous summit photos but were deprived of the joy of signing a register because nobody could find one. If the reader of this is thinking of following our footsteps, please consider supplying one. Here are some facts about Kings Peak I got from peakbagger.com:
Highest Point in Utah.
Highest Point in the Uinta Range, which is noted as the only west to east mountain range in the country.
Elevation: 13,512 feet
Latitude/Longitude: 40° 47' N; 110° 22' W
Distance from trailhead: 12 miles
Elevation gain from trailhead: 4088 feet
During the trip back, our party got separated climbing down the rock pile, but we regrouped at the bottom and walked back across the grassy valley this time. As we went back over Gunsight Pass, the afternoon storms set in and we walked in the midst of a mild hailstorm for a while. I should also add that several marmots and pikas were spotted among the rocks that day.
We made it back to camp in the mid-afternoon and had quite a bit of time to kill the rest of the day. Harlan occupied moments of boredom with singing, usually the Tomorrow song from 'Annie,' or random quotations. At one point, my nap was broken by a quote from Rene Descartes.
For meals this trip I harkened back to my college days, where I dined on Top Ramen and Macaroni & Cheese almost every night for three years. I never grew tired of them back then. However, my tastes must have become more discriminating (my mother would say pickier) over the years, because it seemed they didn't taste early as good as they used to. I envied everybody else who brought Mountain House meals. In all fairness, I used to add an egg to Top Ramen, and margarine to Macaroni & Cheese, which does make them taste better.
On Sunday, we again got an early start to conquer Gilbert Peak, which was just above our camp and only slightly lower in elevation than Kings Peak. After walking around Dollar Lake, it was a steep climb upward. Then we trekked along the top of a grassy plateau dotted with scattered rocks. The weather was gray and windy. Harlan said that part of the hike was very reminiscent of his recent trip to Scotland. From my memories of Braveheart, I had to agree it did seem like we were in the Scottish highlands.
As we went across this little piece of Scotland, the wind got heavier and heavier. Eventually, we had to start scrambling up rocks again, much like the day before. Fortunately, the rocky parts alternated with grassy, more level parts. The higher we rose, the windier it got. When I finally reached the top, Harlan was already there, putting more layers onto a windbreak, which I was very happy to see. I'm not a good one at estimating wind speeds, but it felt like it did when I went skydiving two years ago. The consensus of the rest of the group was that the gusts were up to 50-60 mph. After we all reached summit, everyone but Harlan hunkered down in the windbreak to get a temporary relief from the wind. Harlan seemed not to be bothered at all, as he added more rocks to the wind shelter. During this time, the normally cheerful Justine proclaimed, with great emphasis, "This peak sucks!" It was so unlike her. In the few days I got to know her, seldom was heard a discouraging word from her.
Before I forget, here are some quick facts about Gilbert Peak.
Elevation: 13,442 feet.
Third Highest Peak in Utah.
Highest Point in Summit County, Utah.
Latitude/Longitude: 32.84000°N / 113.91°W.
Distance from Dollar Lake: About 3 miles.
After taking some quick summit photos in the fierce wind,
we headed back down.
When we returned to camp, we had the option to spend the rest of the day there and hike out the next day, but that would have left us with a lot of time to kill and mosquitoes to fight, so we packed up and headed back down the trail. As we traveled, again we crossed at least 100 people hiking towards Dollar Lake. Again, where all these people go is a mystery to me. This could make for the plot of an episode of the Twilight Zone.
The hike out was pleasant and uneventful. Along the drive back to civilization, we passed a small vertical post saying "Wyoming," which was the first bet made, but the last to be resolved, fortunately my way! It was then a long drive back to Vegas. I was in the mood for pizza and beer, but since we all smelled really bad, we disgraced a Subway franchise in Heber City instead. Joel ate two foot-long sandwiches and a bag of chips, and he made three trips to the soda fountain. I didn't ask, but I think he was still hungry afterward.
On a sentimental note, after this trip I decided to retire not only my damaged backpack but my broken down tent as well. I hadn't used it in a few years. I had forgotten it had holes, the poles were bent, and the zipper on the entrance was completely dysfunctional. If mosquitoes had any brains, they could have come right in and feasted on me. Much to the chagrin of Oscar Goodman, I think I'll give the tent to the next homeless person I come across. However, after seeing the ratty shape it is in, I think even a homeless person wouldn't want it.
Overall it was a fun and enjoyable trip. Not the biggest
mountaineering challenge I have faced, but one doesn't have to push the
boundaries on every single trip. Hopefully this rambling trip report contained
some useful information to those considering doing it. My thanks to Joel
for organizing and leading the trip.
Ali graphs stock prices in the dirt for our edification. Notice the empty wine bottle by the rock!
We negotiate the boulders on the summit plateau of Gilbert and try to keep from from being blown over by the wind.
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