Kings Peak Attempt – June 28, 2004

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    highpointersclub
    Participant

    Kings Peak Attempt – June 27th, 28th, & 29th 2004

    [Ed: Imported from Americas Roof ‘Summit Trip Reports’ forum]
    [By: Jerry Bresnahan on November 9 2004 at 7:46 PM]

    I was with Alan and Nathan Ritter, or at least in the general vicinity, for their attempt at Kings Peak on June 27th, 28th and 29th. Now that I am finally getting caught up on my own trip reports of highpoints that I have actually completed, I thought I would add my 2 or 3 cents worth to Alan’s excellent report. I love the photos, especially the one of the 3 moose that were very near our campsite. Several deer came even closer while Alan was down by the lake filling his water bladder. They were just about in our campsite and were so friendly that I think Nathan and I could have fed them by hand if we would have tried.

    I stayed the previous week getting acclimated to altitude at a timeshare condo at the Golden Eagle Resort in Estes Park, Colorado, and spent most of my free time hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. That was the first of a six-week trip, driving to and from the Highpointers Club Konvention in Washington. I checked out of the resort on Saturday, June 26th. I drove west to Utah and spent Saturday night at the Motel 6 in Vernal, Utah. On Sunday morning I left Vernal and drove north on US 191 to SR 44 where I turned left and headed west and then north to Manila, UT. At Manila I turned left and headed west on Utah SR 43, which becomes Wyoming SR 414. I continued on SR 414 to Lonetree, WY, which is 25 to 30 miles from Manila. Lonetree is a one-horse town and is very easy to miss. I know because I drove about 5 miles past it before checking my map and backtracking. I was looking for Forest Road 077. Don Holmes, in his guidebook “Highpoints of the United States”, describes Forest Road 077 as an alternate way of getting to Henrys Fork Campground if you are coming from the south, as I was. Turning southwest on Forest Road 077 saved me from having to drive another 28 miles to Mountain View, WY and then having to come back south SR 410. However I’m not sure if it actually saved me much time, especially since I initially missed the turn and had to do an about face. Forest Road 077 is a gravel road and is very rough in places. I probably averaged about 10 MPH and it took well over an hour to drive the approximately 15 miles to the Henrys Fork Campground. I’m glad I left my motel earlier than I thought necessary. The drive from Vernal to Lonetree also took longer than I expected but was very scenic and enjoyable.

    I encountered some sleet and snow the last couple miles before finally reaching the Henrys Fork Campground. I think it was a little before noon when I arrived. A forest service employee motioned at me so I stopped and talked with him for about 5 minutes. He told me that there were thunderstorms in the area and it was probably going to rain off and on for the rest of the day. The weather channel at my motel showed that there was a good chance of rain for the next few days as well. I also learned from him that there was not much snow left on the mountain so carrying crampons and ice axe would not be necessary. He also told me that there have not been any problems with bears in the area and it was too early for mosquitoes. As it turned out the only problem we had with our food was from very aggressive birds, chipmunks and ground squirrels, and I did not notice any mosquitoes during our three days in the High Uintas Wilderness area. Although I had not yet met Alan and Nathan Ritter, there was only one other car in the parking lot so I did not have any trouble locating them. We got acquainted and arranged our backpacks and gear as it continued to rain off and on. If I would have been there alone I think I would have stayed at the Motel 6 for a couple more days and waited until the weather outlook looked better, but I was not on such a tight schedule as Alan and Nathan were. As we were talking a couple county deputies drove into the parking area and we talked with them for a while. Although they said they didn’t have much of a problem with vandalism they suggested that we move our cars to a spot in the center of the lot that was more visible. I was a little concerned because I had too much stuff in my car to put everything I owned in the trunk, out of view. I had noticed some broken glass on the ground that appeared as if someone had broke into a car by breaking a window. I managed to put anything valuable into my trunk, but I still didn’t want to have to deal with the hassle of a broken window so far from home with another month left on my trip. At about 2:00PM we agreed to start our hike to Dollar Lake, set up camp, and see what would happen tomorrow. I covered my old military rucksack with a poncho and put on a set of military rain pants. I carried the rain jacket with me most of the hike since it didn’t rain much and when it did it was a light rain. I also had a military sleeping bag that just barely fit into my rucksack, leaving very little room for my food and extra clothing, which I somehow managed to squeeze in. This was to be my first overnight backpacking trip in a very long time and it was to be a learning experience. I immediately learned that the raingear I had was not appropriate for hiking. It was too uncomfortable and I sweated so much that I wound up being wetter from the sweat than I would have been from the rain. The next thing I learned after about a mile into the hike was that my military rucksack and sleeping bag were way too heavy and bulky to be carrying on the 7 1/2 mile hike to Dollar Lake. I think I was carrying at least 70 lbs compared to the 40 to 50 lbs that Alan and Nathan were carrying. Although I was in pretty good shape from working out and jogging, and from the hiking I did (without a heavy pack) the prior week in Colorado, I soon realized that Alan and Nathan were keeping a much faster pace than I was. I did not want to hold them up so I told them to go ahead and I’d try to meet them at the campground. Alan gave me one of their portable radios so we were able to check in with each other every half hour. Alan offered to wait for me at the rickety log footbridge over Henrys Fork Stream to make sure I got across okay. I appreciated his consideration but I told them to go ahead to the campground and I would call them when I got to the bridge and let them know when I got across safely. Since we got a late start we would soon be getting short on daylight and I didn’t want to hold them up and prevent them from making camp before dark. I continued struggling along, having to stop and rest every half hour or so. I had to wait until I got to a big rock or log to rest so I could sit on the log or rock and take off my rucksack. It felt so heavy, and I was so exhausted, that I didn’t think I could lift it, and get it back on, if I set it on the ground. I don’t remember being this exhausted, and in so much pain, from physical exertion, since the last time I carried this rucksack on long hikes and overnight bivouacs back in my military days. I was very tempted to turn back but by this time it was just as far back to the trailhead as it was to Dollar Lake, and being a stubborn former Marine I don’t like to quit or admit defeat. Another option was to set up camp by myself, but I wanted to try to make it to Dollar Lake and stay close to Alan and Nathan, in case we were able to make a summit attempt the following day. I noticed a tent set up on the left side of the trail, near the stream, about a half hour before I got to the log bridge. That would be a good place to camp if you wanted to make a longer trip out of it. You could camp there the first night, Dollar Lake the second night, and at Gunsight Pass the third night, if you wanted to hike shorter distances each day and take your time reaching the summit. This was a beautiful area and I enjoyed camping there very much. It was very peaceful and relaxing. I crossed the log bridge about a half hour after Alan and Nathan did. It was a bit scary because the logs were somewhat unstable. I was so tired, and my legs so unsteady, I was afraid that I might lose my balance and not be able to get my pack off in time before falling into the fast moving water. After I crossed the stream I felt a little better in anticipation of soon reaching the campground at Dollar Lake. However Alan soon checked in over the radio and told me about the nasty, muddy conditions they had encountered and how long and difficult the journey had become.

    It was almost dark when I finally arrived at the Dollar Lake campground. Alan and Nathan had already set up their tents. I was wet from sweat and from falling onto my knees several times in the almost knee deep mud I had just wallowed through, and was beginning to feel chilled now that I had stopped moving and the temperatures were dropping. I immediately began setting up my new tent, which I was not too familiar with, but soon became very happy with, and changed into dry clothes. I ate a sandwich, said goodnight to Alan and Nathan, and crawled into my sleeping bag.

    I heard Alan and Nathan moving about the next morning getting ready for their summit attempt of Kings Peak. I told them I didn’t feel up to it today and would wait and try it alone on Tuesday morning, weather permitting. I was still very tired and needed more sleep and my boots were still soaked. I decided not get Gore Tex, when I bought these boots earlier in the year, since I thought that most of the hiking I did would not require Gore Tex. That turned out to be a mistake. I slept late and spent the day drying my clothes and boots, having to move them frequently in order to keep them in the sun, and reading “Touching the Void”, which I had brought along in case I had some down time such as this. After reading that book I soon realized that the pain and exhaustion I had gone through the previous day, and would go through again the next day, was nothing compared to what the author had gone through.

    Alan and Nathan brought the clouds with them when they returned to camp and we had periods of light rain off and on for the remainder of the day and evening. We spent our time discussing their attempt at Kings Peak that day and our plans for tomorrow. We decided that we would go to sleep early that night, get up early the next morning, and make a final summit attempt. I filled my canteens and water bottles, arranged my rucksack with what I would need for the mornings climb and crawled into my sleeping bag before darkness fell. It was a little windy during the night and I thought I heard rain falling on my tent. Since I assumed it was raining I did not get up when I heard Alan and Nathan stirring about early the next morning. Alan asked me if I was going to join them. I asked if they were going to go in the rain. I was surprised when he told me that it was not raining and the skies were clear with many stars visible. I guess I was hearing the noise from the branches of the trees and thought it was rain. I quickly got up, had a quick bite to eat and started hiking toward Gunsight Pass by headlamp. I started out ahead of Alan and Nathan, who were not quite ready yet, because my pace was slower than theirs and I knew they would soon overtake me. Alan and Nathan caught up with me at dawn, before I had made it even halfway to Gunsight Pass. Alan noticed clouds already forming off in the distance. We watched the clouds closely for a while and decided to turn around and head back to camp. That turned out to be a good decision because it continued to get cloudier as we hiked back to the trailhead and it started to rain steady and heavy at times during the last couple miles of my hike. I got soaked. Alan and Nathan managed to get back to their car before it started raining. At camp we packed up our gear and headed back toward the trailhead. Again I left before Alan and Nathan but waited for them after I crossed the log bridge. I wanted to watch them cross the bridge to see if they did anything different than I did. Our methods were pretty much the same. Crossing the bridge, and walking through the muddy area, seemed to be easier this time, probably because it was earlier in the hike, with very little uphill hiking, so I was not so exhausted at this point. After Alan and Nathan safely crossed the bridge we talked for a while and said our goodbyes. Although it was mostly downhill or level hiking back to the trailhead I still had a tough time with my heavy load and arrived back at my car an hour and a half behind Alan and Nathan, which was long after they left the area. I decided not to join them on Borah Peak as I had originally planned, because I felt that I probably wouldn’t be able to keep up with them on Borah either, and I didn’t want to slow them down and be a burden, knowing that Alan would feel obligated to watch out for me. I also felt that I was not ready for Borah due to my lack of mountaineering experience. I had heard that there was still considerable snow on Borah and at that time I had zero experience with my new crampons and ice axe. I felt it would be wiser to wait until after I completed my training class at Mt. Rainier after the Konvention. I also had several other places that I wanted to visit in Northern California that I wouldn’t have time for if I went to Borah Peak. I’m glad that I didn’t join Alan and Nathan on their Borah Peak attempt since the weather prevented them form reaching the summit there too. This was a trip of failed attempts for all of us. My first attempt to climb Mt. Rainier after the Konvention was also unsuccessful.

    After I changed into dry clothes and loaded my car, which I was happy to find safe with everything in tact, I drove to the Motel 6 in Evanston, Wyoming where I spent a long, restful night. The following day I drove west through Nevada winding up in Susanville, CA a couple days later, where I met an old high school friend who lives in California. As I passed through Reno I noticed a billboard for a Sierra Trading Post outlet store. I decided to stop and see if they had any Gore Tex boots on sale. I checked out the bargain bin and found a nice pair of Merrill Gore Tex boots in my size. I also found a pair of Vasque boots that I liked. I bought them both for about 70% off, along with a few other items that I found on sale.

    During the next few weeks, before the Konvention in Washington, I stayed at a timeshare condo in Klamath Falls, Oregon and another one in Glacier, Washington, which is near Mt. Baker. I visited Lassen Volcano National Park, Redwood Forest National Park, Crater Lake National Park, Mt. St. Helens National Park, Olympic National Park, Northern Cascades National Park, and of course Mt. Rainier National Park. Overall my trip went well although I have decided that six weeks is just too long to be away from home and all the things that need to be done here. I also visited many super places and met some great people. I hiked and climbed my way to the top of several mountains in Colorado, Northern California, Oregon and Washington. I especially enjoyed hiking in the Cascades. The mountains in the Cascades are not as high as the mountains in Colorado, for the most part, but I think the Cascades are one of the most beautiful places I have been. I also hiked and successfully climbed a few mountains in most of the parks, including Lassen Peak.

    After the Konvention, which I enjoyed very much, I spent three days participating in the Mt. Rainier class and climb with RMI. Although I did not make it all the way to the summit, for reasons I describe in my Mt. Rainier trip report, I did learn a great deal and enjoyed the experience immensely. On my drive home I stopped at the highpoints of North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa, successfully reaching the summit of all three. Shortly after I arrived home I ordered a new backpack, sleeping bag, parka, and a few other pieces of gear, all similar to the gear I rented from RMI, and much lighter and more compact than my old military stuff. I had a great time on this trip, I’m hooked on mountaineering, as long it’s not too technical, and I look forward to my next trip to Kings and Borah Peaks, Mt. Rainier and anyplace else I can put my new gear to good use.

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