Ascent to Kings Peak-Gunsight Pass on 2013-05-23

Climber: Patrick Bergeron

Others in Party:Josef Nuernberger
Date:Thursday, May 23, 2013
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
Point Reached:Kings Peak - Gunsight Pass
    Elevation:12212 ft / 3722 m
    Remaining Elevation:1316 ft / 401 m (100% left to go)

Ascent Trip Report

Absolute shit show of a snow slog. I experienced first-hand why people don't usually make trips up to the Uintas in May/June. Ah well, it was still a great, almost epic learning experience for me. I experienced lots of firsts as relates to winter travel.

We left the Henrys Fork Trailhead at 745pm on Tue night. The trail was more of a snowy sloshy stream than an actual trail. We went as far as we could, postholing past Alligator Lake and setting up a quick camp around XXmi from the trailhead.

Wednesday morning we donned snowshoes in hopes it'd minimize the hassle of post-holing. They didn't. In terms of visibility and personal comfort, the 48F clear sunny skies made for fantastic weather. However, from the perspective of 30" of unconsolidated fresh snow, the weather made for miserable conditions. Even with snowshoes we post-holed every step. Hole depth ranged from our knees to our belly button.

Josef and I are in pretty good shape, but with our packs and the crappy snow conditions, it still took us 9 hours to travel just XX short miles to where we pitched the tent at 11k ft. The post-holding was literally every step for all XX miles. We were happy to get even three steps without sinking to our knees. Such deep, slushy conditions were definitely a first for me.

I saw bear tracks, coyote tracks, and deer tracks down by the river around 10k ft. The most recent snowfall had been the 3 days before we hit the trail, so the tracks were fresh. It struck me as a little eerie that I found a curved, smoothe spot in on the ground where the bear had been laying. And I smelled its urine. But I didn't see the actual bear anywhere. I'm thankful it didn't come looking for us.

Thursday was our planned summit day. 60mph+ winds on Gunsight Pass and beyond were enough to discourage me from proceeding. My partner Josef chose to push through it and ended up making both Kings and W Gunsight summits--all with soaked, half-frozen boots from having fallen into the river the day before. Mad respect for that guy. The wind was just too much for me. I went back down the pass and took the north ridge towards West Gunsight (see my other TR).

All day and evening Thursday, the wind continued to howl. Then suddenly, around 1am, it completely stopped, and we got a good hard freeze to help bind the snow together. We took advantage of the improved snow conditions and left camp by 6am Friday, carrying our snowshoes instead of wearing them.

Long story short, I got back to the car by 1030am. The temporarily (the snow/ice got shitty again around 830am, but by then we were past the large fields) good snow conditions reduced our 12hr snowshoe base camp ascent to a 4.5hr boots-only descent.

I'd love to come back in dry conditions and do it as a long day trip or a lightweight overnighter. The lack of snow I think would almost trivialize it. Hopefully I'll find a reason to fly out to Utah again some day.
Summary Total Data
    Nights Spent:3 nights away from roads
Ascent Part of Trip: Uintas 2013.05

Complete Trip Sequence:
1(Attempt) Kings Peak2013-05-23 
2(Attempt) Dome Peak2013-05-23 

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