Ascent of Mount Peale on 2013-11-09

Climber: J.J. Fernandez

Date:Saturday, November 9, 2013
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Peale
    Elevation:12721 ft / 3877 m

Ascent Trip Report

Mount Peale 12,721 ft, San Juan County Highpoint.

Summited at Sunset. Descended in the dark!
Mount Peale hike to 12,721 ft. Second of eight in Utah of the "57 Ultra Peaks" with 5000+ ft. prominence in the Lower 48 states. It's also the Highpoint for San Juan County Utah. 2013-11-09.

Woke in the morning with no plans. On a whim, just got in the truck and drove the 4 hours to Moab. Then continued on up arriving La Sal Pass 2 pm. Sunset was just after 5 pm, so had 3 hours to go up and back. Thought.. yeah, I could make it.
Saw the couloir was filled with snow and aimed for the bottom of the chute. But first had to hike up a long snow covered meadow and find my way through a couple stands of pine trees. The snow in the couloir was consolidated (solid) enough that I could travel on top, but without spikes, had to kick my toes in to make steps. Made quick work of the couloir (it was like an express elevator!) and gained the ridge. The wind was howling up there so bundled up, then it was just an easy ridge run along an already established cornice to the Highpoint atop Mount Peale. However, the sun was just setting as I summited. Got some fantastic sunset photos!
Soon realized had to beat feet. Got back to the top of the couloir with its snow thankfully illuminated by the twilight and had fun boot skiing/hopping down. But at the bottom of the chute, it was now pitch dark! Turned on my headlamp with the white light at first, but lost depth perception/vision of anything past the beam.. so flipped to the red light and could see at least a little further, shadows of trees, etc. so I could pick my way through the now black forest! Eventually emerged on the long meadow blanketed with snow, thought I was home free, and headed to a point at the bottom of the meadow where I thought I parked.
But no truck to be seen! I figured I must've come out of the black forest, above, at the wrong spot. (I was just using a whiskey-compass and a map back-then. I think I over-corrected for the double-fall-line and having to work around dead-fall) Then, for what seemed like an eternity, frantically traversed the lower tree-line back and forth hoping to catch a glimpse of my vehicle. But to no avail! Also, my old car gps was frozen and not helpful without a road close by (yes, I bought a real hiking gps as soon as I got home). By this time, I was out of water and food and with the sun gone, the layers I brought weren't quite enough for the now frigid evening above 10,000 ft.
I had to stop, think, breathe. I remembered I crossed an indentation of a road half-way down the snowy meadow, and also remembered I crossed that same road on the way up. So, I found my foot-prints in the snow and back tracked up to that road. Now I had to decide which way to follow the unused road. I chose to go East which was slightly downhill was my best guess. I switched to my white light and started scanning the lower tree-line, when all the sudden my beam just barely lit up the reflective paint of my front license plate! Thank goodness! It was still couple hundred yards down the meadow, so I hopped over the berm of the old road and bounded through the snow to my truck, fired it up, cranked the heater, imbibed some water, and devoured the dinner I saved in my cooler!
Whew! I was this.. close to digging a snow-cave and holing up for the night. Lessons learned: Start earlier. Have a good gps with full batteries. Mark a waypoint where you parked your vehicle so you can set it as a destination. Pack more layers, water, food, even if you don't think you'll need 'em. If you do think you might return after dark, attach a portable masted "stern-light" (white light for small boats) onto your roof rack and leave it on. Keep your wits.
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Open Country, Bushwhack, Snow on Ground
    Weather:Cold, Breezy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Route:La Sal Pass to Couloir
Descent Statistics

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