For my birthday, Billy gave me "tickets" for Kings Peak hike sometime in September or Oct 2014. So for Billy's birthday/our anniversary, we hiked it!
Kings Peak is the highest point in Utah at 13,529 ft or something like that. So not has high as Pikes Peak, but it's a much longer hike so we were backpacking it! (actually, it's not that much longer up and down. We couldn't get a definite number, but it's either 23 or 28 or 30 miles round trip, and Pikes Peak is 26. But Kings I think is harder to summit, so that's why we backpacked.)
Anyway, it was joyous!
On the drive up we discovered we just barely missed the leaves. Too bad.
We had to drive through Wyoming to get there! And our first glimpse of the mountains showed us there was snow on top and I got even more anxious. haha. We were not prepared for snow.
At the trailhead
Before picture haha
The first several miles was this cool lodgepole pine forest. A lot of them have died because of a beetle something or other that Billy knows about, but it was so cool!
This was our first glimpse of Kings, it's the pointy triangle in between the other snowy mountains far, far away.
Dead trees. Sad but kind of pretty.
I told Billy that he had to hold on so of course he didn't.
Hiking towards Kings. The second half of the first day was all through this huge basin. It was really marshy--there's TONS of water up there and tons of sweet lakes! It was really cool and really pretty. And coldish!
Kings is the one growing out of my head.
In some places they had these cool boardwalks just balanced precariously on random rocks here and there. It reminded us of Yellowstone. We were the only people up there. We saw one person our whole first day and he was a mountain man so he doesn't really count. It was so awesome feeling like we were the only people in the world in the middle of nowhere.
We made it to this point around 3 in the afternoon (Kings is hiding behind the mountain on the left). The rest of the hike was basically the final ascent and we figured it would take us at least 4 hours to get up and then 3 to get down, so we didn't want to change the plan and try and summit that night, but then we also had tons of hours to do nothing but set up camp and explore around. It was so weird. We felt like we were in an alternate universe--no humans or anything really and just tons of time to just sit around in the wilderness.
We explored some cool rocks. It was so so cold. We couldn't carry a ton of gear since we were trying to go as light as possible, so it was windy and cold. But so cool. We could see the whole basin we had just hiked through and it was crazy.
Eventually we fired up some soup in our handy backpacking stove and hid in the tent from the wind.
It was a weird night for sure. We went to bed at 6! haha accidentally. So then we woke up again at 8, talked until 10 then finally fell asleep for real for the night.
It was just a few days after the full moon so it was a BEAUTIFUL night. and not too cold. It was just amazing to see the whole basin of a huge mountain in the middle of nowhere completely lit up with moonlight. It was so pretty, i wish such things could be photographed.
When we woke up in the morning, the last thing we wanted to do was get out of the tent. It was cold! And we knew we weren't going anywhere warm by heading towards a blustery, snowy summit before the sun even came up! But we finally braved it and got out of the tent and started moving. It wasn't so bad and the sun eventually did come out.
This is Gunsight Pass. Kind of the "now you are going to go up the summit" mark.
After Gunsight we dipped down into another beautiful basin. Even more lakes and so many more mountains. I kept saying, "Where are we!?" Because we were just literally in the middle of a mountain range. Still hadn't seen any other people. We were the only ones out there.
These are other peaks to the ....west? of Kings? Southwest probably. Mountain Man told us there's a bunch of peaks in this wilderness that are higher than 12,500. Crazy. Tons of mountains higher than Timp.
The pictures just don't do it justice. No one could ever capture this place.
Summit was so scary! There's no path and there was enough snow for me to just be cold and scared. And it is just a precipice, so you just scramble up all of these snowy boulders and hope you're going the right way. THis picture doesn't really show it very well, but the summit is kind of right in the middle of this crest.
Billy did so good fearlessly (but very cautiously) leading us to the summit. It was crazy! We felt so hard core! The only people in the world and climbing up a snowy mountain. They say there's no danger of avalanches or rock slides (I mean, I guess anything could happen) but just the whole mountain isn't a mountain, it's just a huge pile of rocks. So. Crazy. Scary but still safe.
This picture is looking the other way, so the summit is behind us.
Balancing across the top of the world. I started hiking with two pairs of socks on, and when my feet warmed up my hands were still freezing so I wore one pair of socks as gloves.
Then finally we made it!
Mountains, mountains, everywhere! We were the highest people in Utah!
We made it from our campsite to the top in 4 hours, about what we planned. But we're glad we didn't have the downhill to do in the dark, like we would've the night before.
Traditional outfits. Go figure. In our future, we won't be able to tell what picture is which summit because we are always wearing the same clothes haha.
This doesn't show how scary the ridge was that we were hiking on. But it was pretty scary. To me anyway. Billy was fine.
We made it all the way down the main summit before we actually ran into some people. It was 3 accounting boys from BYU. They had started from further down the mountain earlier that morning. The night before they had been stalked by a cougar for a mile becuase they had a dog with them!! Scary!!! They left the dog behind with their other friend. Good friends, eh? Don't worry, we saw them on our way down and dog and friend were doing fine.
They were pretty funny and cool--one of them was further behind the other two so we had been talking about routes up the summit for a little before their third came up and they asked him about how his hurt muscle was or something and he's all, "Dude, if you're peakin, I'm peakin." haha but me and Billy heard, "If you're peeking, i'm peekin" and were like....what are you guys peeking at?
haha anyway. Humans on the mountain. It was weird.
They did point us in a better direction down, which was faster than the way we took up. For any random people who, like me, googled everything they could about Kings Peak and ended up reading random people's blogs who had done it, I will tell you that at Gunsight, look immediately right for the path up the rocky slope instead of dropping down into Painter's! There's tons of carins that will help you make it around the bend. We added like 2 extra miles by going down Painter's when we could've cut straight across to Anderson Pass. Worth it, cus it was pretty, but a great time saver if that's your goal.
It was just as rocky on the way back in the new route, but less snowy.
Then we just had to do from our campsite down. You can see the little orange spot where we had our tent set up. Pretty good spot. It was so pretty.
And yeah. Somehow this is the last picture we took of our adventure haha. Way up the mountain. But the way down was long and hard and tiring and we were just trudgin haha. The last 2 miles or so felt like an eternity of endless hiking with a huge pack on, but we did make it.
Such a good celebration hike! We sure did have fun and the next day we were limping around like we just ran a marathon or something. I'd do it again in a heartbeat--maybe in the summer so everything would be green instead of yellow and white, but it was cool to be the only people up there most the time.
For the random people looking for tips:
- We packed (and therefore carried) twice as much food as we needed to
- After our camelbaks ran out, we used a lifestraw for water. There's water everywhere you can purify
- Apparently there's cougars! Leave your dogs at home!
- We did it in 2 days (most people do 3) and had plenty of time to spare. If you're looking to hike at Dollar Lake or right before Gunsight Pass, you don't really have to start hiking until like noon. If you wanna summit the first day, you need to leave pretty early in the morning
- The drive from Provo was about 3.5 hrs
- Bring those delicious individually wrapped fruit pie things! So filling and so good and so cheap!
- For the split at Elkhorn Crossing, pretty sure either way would look exactly the same, so just decide if you want to go more miles or not. The lakes are hidden or pretty much come out of nowhere. We didn't even seen Dollar on our way up!
- Don't take The Chute. That's just foolish.
- You may be tempted to go straight up the summit--believe me, it's worth it to go all the around to the north (?) ridge and climb from Anderson's Pass.
- From Gunsight, it was a 6.5 hour round trip up and down the summit
-Realize you'll be disappointed with your pictures! Nothing can capture that place!