Ascent of Mount Elliott on 2013-09-25

Climber: Edward Earl

Date:Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:4x4 Vehicle
Peak:Mount Elliott
    Elevation:7142 ft / 2176 m

Ascent Trip Report

Have you ever driven along US-6 SE of Price and gazed at the towering line of cliffs in the distance to the east? Those are the Book Cliffs. Mt Elliott is their HP. It is the prominent knob that crowns the cliffs, situated roughly 40 miles from Price and 20 miles from Green River on I-70. It is visible from US-6 for many miles in both directions. To climb the cliffs on its W face would require much technical skill. Fortunately there is another way from the opposite side that's climbable by mere mortals. It's still no cake walk, though. The terrain behind the façade of the Book Cliffs is a complex maze of canyons, cliffs, and mesas. The climb is an all-day hike with a challenging ford of the Price River and a class 3 scramble on the summit pyramid.

On US-6, at virtual mile post 278.1 which is 37 miles from Price, about 200 yards N of the remains of the ghost town of Woodside (nothing more than a long-ago-closed gas station on the W side of the road), I turned E on an unsigned dirt road. It is smooth and well-graded, except for a few occasional spots where recent flooding has washed it out and high clearance or even 4WD may be needed. 1.0 mile from the highway I crossed a cattle guard. About 3 miles from the highway, the road entered a canyon along the Price River. After a total of 5.2 miles from the highway is a turnaround loop. The road continues beyond this point as a jeep track, but few vehicles, even with 4WD, could get much farther on it. I parked here and began my hike. This point is somewhat farther along than the point where the topo map shows that the road becomes a jeep track; the actual location of this point is (39.247N, 110.264W).

(Last year I made an exploratory drive on this same road with no intention of climbing the peak; I was only investigating the approach. At that time there were no washouts, and the entire 5.2 miles could be driven by any street legal vehicle. The actual condition of the road varies depending on recent rains and recent grading.)

After about 50 minutes' hiking time, I arrived at the point where the road fords the Price River. I was aware of the ford, and I brought flip-flops for that so that I would not get my hiking boots wet. Although I purposely timed my climb of Mt Elliott for late September when the river is likely to be at its lowest, I still found the ford to be a challenge. The water was utterly opaque due to its copious load of silt. The bank was very muddy, and my second step sank more than a foot down. Within seconds my >1 foot deep posthole footprint filled up with mud from the rapidly flowing water, and I was literally buried almost up to my knee. Extricating myself was a challenge: I had to dig myself out with one hand with which I grabbed onto the buried flip-flop; otherwise the flip-flop would have come off when I stepped out and would have been left behind permanently buried in the mud. For the majority of the distance across the river, however, the bottom was rocky. Walking across that in flip-flops was slow and arduous because I could not see the bottom at all, due to the utterly opaque water. After a struggle with this, I finally reached the other side. Total time for the crossing, including the change of footwear on each side, was 15 minutes.

It was probably wise to time the trip to late September - despite the challenge, the water was still less than knee-deep. Several acquaintances did this at other times of year and reported that it was thigh-deep.

The road on the other side of the river climbed around a buttress and soon gained the more gentle top of a plateau above. My first view of the summit of Mt Elliott, still 4 miles away, came as the road crested the rim of another plateau layer at 5800'. The topo map shows that the road ends just below 6000', but in truth it continues much farther up the plateau. At about 6850', the road drops off the SE side of the plateau, about 2000' NE of point 7059. The road then makes a gradual descending traverse, losing about 250' elevation, before finally turning directly down a ridge away from Elliott itself. At this point I left the road and scrambled class 2 cross-country to the saddle immediately N of the summit of Elliott. From there I traversed out onto the E face of Elliott's summit pyramid, surmounting each layer of sandstone with an occasional class 3 pullup. I climbed the very top layer of sandstone via a 15-20 foot chimney near the left side of the summit block.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3462 ft / 1055 m
    Extra Gain:460 ft / 140 m
    Round-Trip Distance:20 mi / 32.2 km
    Route:Beckwith Plateau
    Trailhead:Price River  4600 ft / 1402 m
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Open Country, Stream Ford, Scramble
Ascent Statistics
    Time:4 Hours 40 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:4 Hours 10 Minutes

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