Ascent of Notch Peak on 2006-10-14

Climber: Anthony Wilkinson

Date:Saturday, October 14, 2006
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Notch Peak
    Elevation:9654 ft / 2942 m

Ascent Trip Report

Notch Peak is perhaps the truest "wilderness experience" I've ever, well, experienced. We hiked the deserted drainage (no trail except a few cairns) through intermittent snow, at the end of the potential hiking season, in a little-known range miles up a dirt road off the "loneliest highway in America" (US 6/50 between Delta, UT and Ely, NV). Not a living soul was encountered off the highway, and it would be no stretch to say we were likely the last people to set foot in the canyon until at least the following spring.

We found the road to the trailhead washed out nearly 2 miles below the trailhead parking area. A four wheel drive vehicle, or more importantly one with significant clearance, would have made it fine. We had neither so we made it on foot.

The route follows the main drainage all the way to just below the peak, and is easy going even with the 3200+ foot elevation gain (2900' if you start at the trailhead).

Autumn snow made the ledges section a little sketchy without proper gear, so we worked our way around the rounded ridge to the right and returned to the "trail" above the ledges. Without snow the ledges would have been safe to scramble without concern.

Part of the canyon narrows considerably, resembling slot canyons in other parts of Utah and the southwest. We spotted bobcat tracks in the snow all over the ledges and ground in the narrow canyon. They appeared to be following rabbit or hare tracks amongst the trees and brush.

The northern cliff face of Notch Peak is 2200 vertical feet (as in, if you step off the top there will be no bouncing before you hit the bottom). Terraces and more cliffs (one is 900 vertical feet) continue down to the canyon floor. The summit is roughly 5000 feet total above the adjacent Tule Valley floor to the west. Take care, the limestone face is crumbly and cannot be trusted. Big drop offs typically don't bother me, just give a little or a big thrill. The north face of Notch Peak scared me. The wind, crumbly rock, and utter desolation of the place still gives me a chill and slight shudder.

The view from the summit is striking. On a clear day you can see for 80+ miles in nearly every direction, and excepting a tiny strip of lonely asphalt, one is hard-pressed to find evidence of human civilization.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3254 ft / 991 m
    Round-Trip Distance:10.5 mi / 16.9 km
    Route:Sawtooth Canyon/South Fork
    Trailhead:Miller Cove, hill  6400 ft / 1950 m
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Scramble

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