Kings Peak (Utah) – Eric and I headed to Utah to take our second crack at the state high point. We’d been thwarted in our attempt a couple of years ago when our flight was cancelled and we spent a night in Washington DC. That turned into a scouting trip so we were now familiar with the first 10.5 miles of the trail. This time we would not be denied!
Our flight out went smoothly and we arrived ahead of schedule in Salt Lake City. After a 90 minute drive to Evanston Wyoming we headed out for a “shake out run”. Eric and I both think that is a dumb term for a run and we cracked each other up about what exactly was being shaken. Anyway, we got in a nice run in Bear River State park and at the same time got a little taste of altitude at over 6,000’.
We hit the road at 4:30am on Friday and were ready to run at the Henry’s Fork Trailhead by 6:30 am which was slightly before sunrise. Skies were clear and we were met with temperatures in the upper 30’s at the 9,340’ altitude. We’d spend a long day at a pretty high altitude for a couple of guys living close to sea-level. We each carried emergency gear along with gloves, hat, jackets, etc. I carried a bit more food than Eric and he carried a bit more water than me (I had a little over 1 liter). We had no particular time goal; we just wanted to make sure we got up and down the mountain safely.
The first 10.5 miles from Henry’s fork to Gunsight pass (11,888) featured some pretty easy running with an average of only 200’ of climb per mile. The first 5.5 miles to the river crossing was in open woods and the next 5 would be in open land with great views. We took turns each leading for 2 miles and the miles just clicked off. We reached the river crossing in 1:12 and Gunsight pass in 2:20. That was where the real action would take place.
We didn’t take any real breaks in the first few hours, just a few seconds to “water the trees”. At Gunsight we stopped for 5 minutes as I was having a blister problem. I applied some lube and added a second sock and hoped for the best. There are a few choices on which way to go from Gunsight and we decided to take the more direct route angling around the side of the mountain. It turned out to be very slow going with a lot of boulder hopping on big loose rocks. I’m pretty unsure on my feet so this was VERY slow going for us. We bumped into a couple who weren’t sure where to go (the cairns we had been following had petered out by now), they watched for where we went which was basically a straight line to Anderson pass.
We reached Anderson Pass (12,600’) in 3:34 or 1:14 to cover on 1.7 miles! We took a quick break for me to tighten up my shoes. The blister was pretty bad by now but there was nothing much to do about it. The final ¾ of a mile would feature nearly 1,000’ of climb on more boulders. There was no real path to follow as one of the hikers we met at Anderson said “just go up”. We met a couple of other guys and worked together finding the better locations to wind our way up to the top and stay away from the incredible drop to our right. It took us 47 minutes to scramble up that .75 miles and we were at the highest point in Utah (13,528’) 4:21 after we’d set out from Henry’s Fork.
After a very quick 7 minutes on the top, taking pictures and grabbing a quick gel we were on our way back down to Anderson. It was just as tough coming down and took nearly an hour to get there. Eric and I bid the hikers good luck as they were heading down the scree slope, we chose to take the much longer route back. We also chose to not go the way we’d come up the mountain instead we’d add on an extra mile but get to stay on trail. The trail surface wasn’t the greatest but it was much better than the boulder fields.
We made it back to Gunsight at 6:50 into our day. The 400’ climb back up to the pass may have been the hardest run during the day with both of us working hard despite running a 22 minute mile! I had a bit of a headache from the altitude but was drinking water consistently and in addition to the 3 gels I also ate a protein bar and had some peanuts. For the most part I felt okay just a bit tired and my blistered foot was killing me. For the last 10.5 miles we again alternated every 2 miles and steadily clicked off 14 minute miles. It was a long 2.5 hours of running but we got a lot of encouragement from hikers who were heading in, which was pretty cool.
When we left Gunsight we had a brief sun-shower and also a little bit of hail. There were some big clouds coming in fast and by the time we had 4 miles to go there was a light rain falling. The last 2 miles featured thunder/lightning and a much steadier rain. We were both glad to not be up on the summit at this point (there were people headed for the top pretty late in the day). We finally reached the car 9:23 after we’d left and were both happy to be done this peak. This was state high point number 43 for me and number 34 for Eric.