King's Peak, Utah


The highest summit in Utah, King's Peak sits at the end of a long, verdant glacial valley.

Note: click images to see a larger version in a new window

King's Peak, Utah has been on John's lengthy to-do list since a plan to climb it with Big Tom about four years ago fell through. Since Julie has honed herself through a steady diet of hiking and altitude this year, they decided to do the adventure as a couple.

After sending Jasmine off to Grandma's, we did the six-hour drive, stopping overnight in Evanston, Wyoming. The next morning, we drove to an overflowing (uggh!) parking lot.

King's Peak is at the end of a long, gradual valley. It's a long walk just to get to this view of the mountain. Fortunately, there was a steady stream of people coming down the trail.

During our hike in, 60 or 70 people, maybe even more, passed us on their way out. It seems the local scout groups like to do this outing mid-week to avoid the crowds (!). By the time we got into the upper valley, it was actually fairly quiet.

Once across the creek at five miles, and into the meadows, Julie was ecstatic at spotting her first moose. It was a big fella, with an impressive rack. Unfortunately, a picture of him here would require zooming in until the picture looks like a collection of about six little black pixels. Instead, here's Julie in action, binoculars in hand. What form!

We had started hiking at 10am, and were above Dollar Lake by 2. Julie's training had paid off.

We found a beautiful campsite with a view of the entire valley. There was a small stream nearby, an important consideration since we had hiked above the "normal" campsite, Dollar Lake. We napped, ate, and read. For most of the afternoon, there was a pleasant breeze which kept the skeeters away. And then we hid in the tent during the typical afternoon thunderstorm.

We left camp at 5:15 the next morning, knowing it was going to be a very long day. Julie wanted to know why we were getting up in the dark.

The wind was blowing, so we were soon in full gear including headlamps, parkas, hats, and gloves.

By the time we got to Gunsight Pass, dawn was upon us for a view of Painter Basin. Instead of dropping 700' into the basin and walking 2 extra miles around a ridge, we opted for the shortcut up and through some cliff bands.

Despite some internet reports to the contrary, the shortcut was actually pretty easy and saved loads of time. And it was fun.

The boulder field here, climbing out of Gunsight Pass, is just a mild precursor of the terrain to come.

Hooray, sunshine! It quickly warmed up and soon we were each down to a single layer of clothing.

The shortcut involved a traverse around an unnamed peak. As we worked our way over the bouldered shoulder to the peak, we got our first good view of the route up King's. The low spot on the right is Anderson Pass, about 12,500'. There is a rough hiking trail over this pass.

As the picture shows, it's about a half mile of boulder hopping to the pass, mostly flat. From the pass, its an 800' ridge walk to the summit.

At times the climb up the ridge appears pretty fierce with cliffy gendarmes and some big drops off the west side, but this route is essentially just a walk. Just enough challenge to make it, well, challenging.

Here Julie approaches the summit. While she IS walking, you wouldn't exactly call it a trail. And some of those big stones are "klinkers", named for the noise they make when your body weight is placed on them and they tip.

We had the climb, as well as the summit, all to ourselves. Behind us, to the north, is our backpack route. I'm not sure what Julie is doing in this picture; she's either about to kiss me, or just going for that hollow-cheek look while voguing for the camera.

The weather was perfect. There was only a slight breeze; what looks like wind is really just bad hat-hair.

Even with this beautiful morning, we made haste. We had almost 12 miles yet to go, and despite the calm, cloudless morning we expected thunderstorms that afternoon.

As this picture shows, as we headed back to the car the weather was deteriorating. This was with two more hours of walking still to go, and we were heading towards the lightning.

We got rained on briefly during our walk, but it was after getting to the car that we experienced the really strong thunderstorms. As we headed back to the freeway, the Uintah range was obscured by a massive black cloud, much more desperate than this sunny picture shows.

Watching the wipers struggle to clear the deluge from the windshield, we congratulated ourselves on the early start.

Mr. Natural Home | 2003 | Back to top of page | Questions :: e-mail to splattski