King's Peak, UT, day 3
Trip Start Mar 02, 2011
192Trip End Oct 14, 2011
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I woke up to clear blue skies. It looked like the weather was cooperating. With the sun shining on the ridge of cliffs to the west I was able to see the large blocks of snow that had fallen from a cornice just below the ridge, which was the landmark indicating where I was supposed to climb the cliffs to get to the ridge. It was fairly close to where I had camped. Things were looking encouraging.
I bushwhacked through the snow, talus and willows to get to the base of the cliff and started up. The climb up was mostly on dirt with scattered vegetation. It was also mostly dry as long as I stayed away from the snowfields. I followed the dirt as far as I could and then had to climb the last couple hundred yards over a snowfield. The angle of the snowfield and the soft snow made it pretty manageable.
When I reached the top of the snowfield I climbed up the remaining little bit of talus to reach the summit, where I found the cairn I was told I would find. I also found that there wasn't a ridge but instead there was a wide plateau. It was mostly snow-free but rocky in spots.
I headed south. I could see a peak that seemed to be higher than the others and decided that must be King's Peak. As I continued south the peak disappeared from view. I eventually reached a point where the plateau extended off in several directions. I picked what seemed like a likely direction and headed up. It was a broad, rising piece of land covered in patches of snow, talus and grass. I continued up trying to avoid the snow. After climbing up to somewhere around 12,400 - 12,500 feet I went over to the right-hand side to get my bearings.
From the edge it didn't appear I would be able to get to the mountains in front of me. The continued slope of the hill blocked my view of everything to my left. To my right was the path I had followed to my current location. The view behind me was also blocked by the finger of land I had walked up. I thought that King's Peak was one of the peaks in front of me and it didn't appear that I would be able to reach them. I decided I had made a wrong turn and headed back down.
In hindsight, I now know I was looking out at Red Castle and Wilson Peak, among others. King's Peak, as well as the string of peaks I would have had to traverse to reach it, was still out of view over the crest of the hill. I had been heading in the right direction. I just had another four miles or so to go to reach King's Peak.
After getting to the point where I thought I had gone wrong I headed out another of the fingers of plateau. I soon reached the edge of a cliff. At that point, I realized I must have been heading in the right direction when I turned around but it was getting too late and I was getting too tired to give it another try. I headed back north.
I was upset with myself on my walk back to my campsite. I arrived back around 3:00pm. I packed up and headed north up the valley. I bushwhacked north on the western side of the valley. I hoped to pick up the trail I had used to get most of the way here but I never found it. The only waypoint I had in my GPS was way back at Sawmill Lake. I eventually realized I was getting close to it so I set that as my destination and found the trail. I took the trail to the next campground and settled in for the night at an altitude of around 10,800 feet.
This was a very frustrating way to spend my birthday.