TRIP REPORT: King’s Peak, Utah’s High point (13,528′)

Report from 7/25/16

For 5 years,  I have attempted to take a trip to the high Uintas to climb Utah’s highest point, and for 5 years, that plan failed for various reasons…. until now!

King’s Peak is a long multi-day trip with long trails and class 2 scrambling at the peak. But what planned on being a 3-day trip ended up being a very long 2-day trip. My climbing partner and I decided we would rather go home and have a day off to rest rather than attempting to go straight back to work. Needless to say, I slept in until noon and my legs are so sore that I fell over trying to stand up out of bed.

We began our adventure Saturday by driving the 3 hours from Salt Lake to the Henry’s Fork Trail Head. (Believe it or not but you have to go through Wyoming to get there.) We started hiking with our heavy packs and managed to burn through 5 1/2 miles of trail in around 2 hours. It was hot, and there were mosquitoes everywhere, and naturally we forgot to pack bug spray. We slowed down after crossing the main foot bridge that spans the Henry Fork River as the trail steepened and we were getting tired.

Henry’s Fork Basin

After another 3 hours we made it to about 11,500 feet and set up camp. After making a quick pasta meal, we attempted to fall asleep knowing we had a long early day ahead of us.

Sunrise on Henry’s Fork Peak and Mt. Powell
Our tent site

After waking up at around 5:15 am, we watched the sunrise, ate breakfast, and began getting ready for our day. We climbed to 12,000 feet to Gunsight Pass where we left the main route to follow a well known shortcut route that would shave 4 miles off our total distance. As much as everyone praises this shortcut, I beg to differ. it was well cairned for the first 1/3 of a mile but after the trail flattened out into a field, the cairns were incredibly far apart and hard to keep track of. However, even getting a little off track wasn’t bad because it was very easy to see where to go since the main trail went up the far side of the field. (but, I found snow! ..I love snow)

The scrambling and boulder hopping on the ridge was nothing new to me, however there was A LOT of it. A full mile and 1,000 feet of elevation gain was full of rocks, rocks and more rocks. Knowing my own personal pace, I assumed that last mile would take about an hour…. because of the scrambling and boulder hopping, it took nearly 2 hours instead to reach the summit. Finally, we arrived to 13,528 feet, and what a relief.

Summit View

The way back down was exhausting. Stepping ever so carefully from rock to rock, controlling every move (which is why my legs are so sore) and trying not to worsen my blisters that had formed the day before. By the time we got back to camp we were already exhausted; my ankles bruised from trying to manipulate the rocks in high-top hiking boots. We talked about staying the second night anyway but the nearest water source was a mile down the hill and we were out of water. We decided to just take it slow, stop to refill water bottles at the stream down the trail, and even wear flip flops on our way down. it was 9 miles back to the car… and yes, I did it in flip flops. My ankles were so bruised and my blisters had popped despite my best efforts, so it was actually more comfortable to hike down without boots on. it was slow going and we were completely exhausted by the time we got back to the car since we spent 15 hours of our day on foot.

King’s Peak is center-back

I am glad I finally got to cross this one off my list, but it was definitely the hardest climb, physically, that I have ever done. Will I do it again? probably not, but who knows. I have bigger and better mountains planned and this was a good test of my physicality to see what I specifically need to train better in the future (and its apparently my calves).

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