Ascent of Kings Peak on 2012-08-29

Climber: Peter Stone

Others in Party:Twm Stone -- Trip Report or GPS Track
Date:Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:4x4 Vehicle
Peak:Kings Peak
    Elevation:13528 ft / 4123 m

Ascent Trip Report

My joint favourite State high point so far (with Katahdin and they both involved moose). Depending on fitness, acclimatisation and weather Kings Peak is either a tough day hike or an easy multi-day backpack. We took the multi-day approach from the Henry's Fork Trailhead; 28-32 miles round-trip depending on exact route.

Getting to the Henry's Fork Trailhead is described in variable detail on the internet but to clarify: get to Mountain View in the Bridger Valley, south-west Wyoming. Here you can top-up with the cheapest fuel in the area and stock up in the excellent Benedict's Market with its wide array of supermarket supplies looked down upon by dead animals mounted around the walls. Take Route 410 south towards Robertson but turn off left/south after 6 miles onto County Road 283 (signposted "Wasatch National Forest"). Follow the road signposted "Stateline Dam", then take Forest Road 017 towards Henry's Fork. Then Forest Road 077 and finally 077B to the Henry's Fork Campground and Trailhead. It's pretty straightforward on a well maintained dirt road and about 22 miles from the tarmac of Route 410.

Only 2 family members decided to make the trip - the others returned to the friendly Gateway Inn, Lyman for the night with an arrangement to return to the trailhead the following day.

So Twm and I hiked in late on Tuesday afternoon just as a thunderstorm broke, and not having planned to do any overnight backpacking on our US vacation we only had small day sacks and thus had to carry our heavy "car-camping" tent loose in our arms. We hiked for 3.5 hours to the furthest place suitable for a tent, some flat ground just short of Gunsight Pass, set up camp and prepared some supper.

The following day we were walking by 06:30, at the top of Gunsight Pass by 07:00, then countoured around to Anderson Pass on the smaller but well marked/cairned path. Many guide books tell you to descend into the valley and then reascend on an easy path, but the above route is really very easy to follow with minimal clambering over rocks. The ascent from Anderson Pass up the north ridge to the summit is easy, non-exposed scrambling. We would have made the summit by 09:30, but had wasted an hour looking for a mislaid camera left in the boulder field during a water stop (amazingly we found it on our return leg); so it was 10:30 before we were on top of Utah.

I had previously read that the summit displayed a plaque but we could find no plaque, summit log, benchmark or any other defining feature; just some minor graffiti scratched on the rocks and a comedy glasses/nose/moustache set underneath a boulder. The views and location however are stupendous!

We then continued the easy scramble to South Kings Peak, which was probably a mistake given the acute onset of fatigue and altitude symptoms. However, the views from South Kings are subtly different and at least that summit had a benchmark, cairn & post.

We returned the same way as we had ascended as the more direct descent to the basin from Anderson Pass down the steep scree slope looked too dangerous and environmentally damaging. The stronger member of the group walked out to the trailhead to rejoin the rest of the family and the more tired one spent an extra night at camp (and was rewarded with a host of wildlife viewing, especially moose, early the next morning). Total trip distance about 28 miles. The whole Henry's Fork Wilderness Area is a truly beautiful alpine environment to be in.

Postscript: I have since learned that the original summit plaque went missing prior to 2000 and that the Forestry Service removed a replacement plaque prior to 2006, and continues to remove summit registers, as they don't fit in with the wilderness ethos; however, as other bloggers point out, in that case why do they allow domestic sheep and cows to enter and graze the wilderness area (or indeed have signposts or footbridges in the lower sections of the trail)?!
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3932 ft / 1198 m
    Trailhead:Henry's Fork Trailhead  9596 ft / 2924 m
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Tent Camp
    Nights Spent:2 nights away from roads
    Weather:Thunderstorm, Cool, Breezy, Clear

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