Cake
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    • Last weekend, three friends and I scrambled to the top of Utah's tallest peak. That peak, Kings Peak, is located deep in the remote Uinta range, in the northeastern corner of Utah. The hike was a 28-mile out-and-back route with 4,000ft vertical gain. It was a fairly moderate trail that allowed us to move fast. We camped two nights on the trail. The weather was extremely cold, dipping to 0F a night.

      The trip was exciting for me because I got to backpack in a new mountain range. The ecology, animals, and terrain were all new for me.

      The Uinta Range, a sub-range of the Rocky Mountains, is an unusual formation for many reasons. It's the highest range in the contiguous US that runs west-east. And the Uintas feature that iconic, smooth red-rock Utah is known for, unlike the granite peaks that dot most of North America's tallest mountains. It's formed from the uplift of sedimentary rock. It's what you'd get if you lifted the Grand Canyon to 13,000 ft, then glaciated it.

    • Everywhere I've ever backpacked has been in protected wilderness or National Parks. But not this trip. Utah is known for poor land conservation, especially recently with the mass shrinkage of Bears Ears and Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monuments. On this trip we didn't need wilderness permits, and it felt like hunters were furiously killing the wildlife.

      We ran into tons of hunters, but no wildlife 🤔 Here's a hunter we ran into. He was using two alpacas to carry out supplies and elk meat. Apparently, alpacas handle better than horses on rugged terrain, so that's why they're out there. Oh, and they're much cheaper than horses.

      I've never backpacked in a place with active hunters. I didn't expect differently on this trip. In the first hour of hiking, we quickly realized we were the odd ones out. It was concerning we were not wearing hunters orange -- the color hunters use to keep from shooting each other.

      At least Cesar had an orange sweatshirt.

    • Utah was already in the fall to winter transition. A stark contrast to where I live in California. All the deciduous trees at my home are still bright green. In the Uintas, the trees are losing their leaves already.

    • We backpacked 7 miles and set up camp for two nights. On the second day, we hiked 14 miles to the top of Kings Peak then back to camp. The last day, we finished with a 7 mile downhill hike to the trailhead.

      On summit day, we had light packs because all our camping gear was left at camp. Good thing, because 13,500' is a tall peak to climb with a full load of gear.

      This was rugged terrain. We were on the Uintas most traveled "trail." Here Cesar and Otto are route finding at 12,000 ft on summit day.

      There wasn't much trail above the treeline. Sedimentary boulders the size of cars littered the landscape. See if you can spot Otto in this photo.

      Occasionally, we'd have to traverse a snowdrift.

    • The last 1,000ft to the summit was extremely rugged. Often we were on our hands and feet climbing giant, loose boulders. Kinda like that time @Chris and I summited Mt. Langley.

      The Uinta views were spectacular. It was so clear we could see the Grand Teton and the Wind River Range.

      Here is Otto on the summit. He's a mountaineering machine, and I couldn't keep up with him.

      Unfortunately, I was poorly acclimatized because I was the only one who lives at sea level. But still, I was stoked.

    • In summary, our trip was remote, rugged, and fun. I had such a great time with friends and enjoyed experiencing a new place. But I'll probably not go back. There are so many other places I need to get to in my life, and it's just not a beautiful as places like the Sierra Nevada or the Canadian Rockies -- places I want to return.

    • Another great trip report Kevin....awesome....brought back great memories...when I was ski-bumming in Park City, the friends I had met orchestrated a summer-annual trip similar to yours. Setup a base camp and then do the summit bid. This was a year or so after summiting Mount Rainier, Shasta and the Grand Teton....so, as you aptly photographed and detailed....the slug to the summit sorta felt like a moon walk/hike.

      I don't remember the hunter aspect maybe because it was summer but I would also find the very disconcerting on a couple of different levels.

      Thanks for sharing the great pics!

    • Thanks @vegasphotog!

      Yeah, later, I learned October is the peak of deer hunting season in most of the western states. That's why we saw so many hunters. The hunting season isn't open in the summer. I'll keep that in mind next time and stick to designated wilderness during the hunting season.

    • Great report and photos. Looks a little more stark than what I remember from a weekend in the Uintas 5 years ago. But, that was July and not as high up. I did a hike through an area called Naturalist Basin. That had its share of exposed rock, but also lots of lakes and wildflowers. And, no hunters..

      I don't know anything about hunting. But, just curious, what is the point of wearing camouflage when you also need to wear a safety orange vest?

    • Ha, that’s funny about the camo & orange vest combo. Never thought of that, dunno why.

      Two of my fav mountains are Thousand Lakes and Boulder in Southern Utah. They’re remote and green and beautiful and Boulder has a lot of lakes (they got the names mixed up). The only thing is they’re flat on top, no barren peaks. No crowds tho.

    • Ha, that’s funny about the camo & orange vest combo. Never thought of that, dunno why.

      It's the law. In Utah, you're required to wear 400 square inches of hunters orange on your head, chest and neck. So, that means you must camo everywhere else to give every edge you can get 😉I don't think there is a practical point, @Vin.