Griffith Top, Barney Top, Mail Box, Mans Peak, Mount Tomasaki, Peal Peak, Tukuhnikivatz Peak, Abajo Peak, Mount Linnacus
By: Bill Henderson
Mountains of Utah, August 11 to 26. Leaving Los Angeles August 11, Irene Charnock, Marie and Eleanor Smith, and Margie and I made a two week's trip to some interesting out of state mountains. Between Bryce Canyon and Escalanto, Utah, we crossed the Escalanto Mountains which were very green, and densely wooded with spruce and aspen. At the road summit, well over 9000', we found two logging roads, branching from the main road. One went to Griffith Top and the other to Barney Top, both peaks over 10,000', We started to drive to Barney Top, but after driving several miles, we ran into a logging operation, and many trees cut that morning blocked the road. If we had time, we would have hiked the rest of the way. These mountains certainly offer beautiful hiking country. Giant red and white cliffs stick out of the dense forests here and there. I certainly want to return to these mountains some day.
Between Boulder, Utah, and Fruita, we crossed the Aquarious Plateau. This is a wild beautiful mountain area with separate forests of aspen and blue spruce, with grassy meadows separating them. Also those mountains offered lakes, gushing streams, and a grand view of the Henry Mountains to the east. Navajo Mtn. could also be seen.
Three full days were spent in the La Sal Mtns east of Moab, Utah. (Maps which show the many good access roads into the La Sal and Abajo Mtns, were obtained from the forest ranger in Moab) Ten miles south of Moab we turned left on a good mountain road, and in 18 miles were in Geyser Pass at 10,500' where we set up camp in a flower-strewn meadow fringed with spruce and aspen. The following morning we followed the broad ridge north over a small peak east of Haystack Mtn. known as Mail Box (cairn, but no register) From here we droppod several hundred foot into a saddle to the north, then ascended Mans Peak (Approx. 12,700', 3 hours climbing time from camp). The terrain was very steep grass and moss covered slopes with many variety of small flowers. Near the top of each peak, steep talus formed bare cones of each summit. From Mans peak the ridge was followed east to Mt. Tomasaki (1 hr.) We were detained for half an hour about 500 ft. below the summit waiting for a lightning storm to leave the summit. The sun was shining everywhere also. Tomasaki is about the same elevation as Mans Peak, but had the superior view - a view well worth the 1,000 mile trip to it. From its summit, the broad plateau-like saddle of Geyser Pass was a delightful combination of lakes, literally hundreds of grassy moadowe, dark green spruce forests and light green aspen groves. It is quite different from our Sierras, much more like the White Mtns. of New Hampshire, though on a grandeur scale.
The next day we went to La Sal pass only 7 or 8 miles south of Geyser Pass, then we drove 40 miles to get there by dropping down the east side of the range. La Sal pass can be reached much easier from Moab by anothor route, but we wanted to see the Mtn.
The following day we climbed Peal (13,089') highest in the range, and Tukuhnikivatz (approx. 12,800'). From camp in the saddle of La Sal Pass we went north along the bron ridge. Where a large canyon develops between Peal and Tukuhnikivatz, head for the east branch of this canyon, which is a small narrow canyon. Its head will still be west of the peak. If one uses canyons further to the left they will get into a severe pinnacled ridge, which we crossed later in going from Peal to Tukuhnikivatz. At the head of this right canyon, follow ridge to summit. On top we found the only register on the 8 peaks we climbed in Utah. There were few names, and mostly those of people in the vicinity. The only Californian's name back to 1925, was Stan Midgely, the only other person up the peak this year. (3 hours climb to summit). Two and a half hours were needed to follow the ridge to Tukuhnikivatz. Most of this time was spent crossing three jagged pinnacles with exposure. They can be by-passed on the south but with loss of several hundred feet, and much scree. Tukuhinikivatz, which means in Indian "where the sun shines longest", I felt had the best view in the range, with Tomasaki second. This concluded our La Sal Climbs. One point of interest on Peal - 50 ft. below the summit, we found a dead hawk which looked like it had cracked up a day or so before. On a little grassy area here at 13,000 ft., just 50 ft. from the hawk, we found a 3 ft. black and yellow striped snake. Did the hawk bring the snake up there?
Our next objective was the Abajo Mtns., twelve miles west of Monticello, Utah. We reached the pass at 10,500 ft. on an excellent mountain road. Camp was established among the pines. The next day a faint trail was used along the ridge going south. We used it nearly all the way to South Peak (11,120', 3 hours). From here we headed back north, this time using the high ridge toward Abajo Peak, the highest peak of the range. Along this crest we observed many deep mine pits, and old fallen-in cabins, remembrances of the gold rush of the last century. Abajo Peak (11,357') gives a fine view of these beautiful mountains and is well worth a visit.
Though the maps don't show it, this road west of Monticello which we used, continues through the mountains and connects with the road into Blanding. The next morning we continued on the road toward Blanding until we reached a small saddle about a mile south of Indian Creek Ranger station (B.M. 969]. ft. on Elk Ridge Quadrangle). From here the trail leads west to Mt. Linnacus (10,955') which gave the finest view from the Abajo. It looks down onto deep canyons and colored cliffs from the base of the mountain to the horizon. Mt. Linnaeus would make a splendid one-day side trip for anyone in the Blanding Area. Also the mountain road between Blanding and Monticello is just as good as the main gravel highway, but much more picturesque.
That afternoon after the Mt. Linnaeus climb we visited the cliff dwelling several miles south, shown on the Elk Ridge Quadrangle. A good road (approximately where the trail is shown on the map) saves a lot of tine. The dwellings are completely unpublicized, and nearly impossible to get a look into their deep interior, high on the cliff. The masonry work seemed well preserved. If a storm hadn't been closing in we might have roped down from above to look into the dwellings, which still contained their supplies of fire wood.
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