Tom Triplett, Mark Woolley, Ryan Cragun
Now this was an adventure. First, we used the information and directions on www.americasroof.com to find the route to the trailhead and the route for the hike. Based on the information we found on the site we were under the understanding that the route into the trailhead was a road in Lonetree, WY. We were coming from Salt Lake City, UT and headed into WY on I-80. We took the exit heading into Fort Bridger and then followed I-414. When we hit Lonetree, we saw no sign telling us where to go or marking the trailhead, so we just kept right on driving. Strangely, Tom’s father is from McKinnon, which is just a bit further down the road. When we had scoured all of I-414 from Mountain View to McKinnon, and had not found a sign marking the path into the trailhead, we gave in and decided to stop by Tom’s Uncle’s house to see if he knew where the road was into the trailhead. We were hiking King’s Peak in Late June. Well, according to Uncle Steve, Tom’s Uncle, we were going to be hiking through a blizzard (and he thought he was joking). He was friendly and quite humorous, but was still unsure of how to get to the trailhead. He and his family ride four wheelers up toward the peak nearly every summer, but they leave from his farm. He could see King’s Peak from his house. After a bout of joking, he left us no closer to finding the entrance into the trailhead. We had left Salt Lake around noon and were leaving Uncle Steve’s house around 8:30 and still had no idea where to find the trailhead. We headed back toward Mountain View and started asking around, but had no luck. We even stopped by a bar asking for directions, but no one had a clue how to access the trailhead to King’s Peak; though some people were convinced that King’s Peak wasn’t really accessible from the Wyoming side. We must have tried 10 different roads that ended in the middle of fields. No luck. We finally decided to just drive back to Lonetree and scour every inch of the place until we found the entrance road. Come to find out, there is actually a road in Lonetree, one road. That is the road. Don’t miss it. Drive to Lonetree, stop there and do not go any further. Find the road and follow it in. There is another way into the trailhead that is a better kept road, but we only found it on the way out. It comes out near Robertson. I have no idea how to tell you to find this one, but there must be a guide somewhere. As for Lonetree, it really is one of those places that you could miss if you blink, well, more like half a blink. Whatever you do, stop there. And take that road.
Anyway, once you find the road, it takes almost an hour from I-414 to get to the trailhead. We made it there around 12:30 am on the morning that we were supposed to be heading out. We had hoped to set up our tent and spend the night in that, but it was far too late to set up camp, so we laid down the seats in the Honda CRV we were in and slept in there. It was uncomfortable and far too tight for 3 men, but we made do. Just after we pulled in, there were two hikers that set out on the trail at around 1:30 am with head-lights.
I didn’t really sleep, so I was up bright and early around 6:30 or so. We got our stuff together and headed out around 7:30. We met the hikers that had left that morning at around 10:30. They had already reached the peak and were almost back out. They had seen the sunrise from the top of King’s Peak. Boy were they on the move. The hike was nice, it was level and quite picturesque until we reached where we hoped to camp. We reached our camp site at around noon. We quickly set up our tent and dropped our big packs off. We were a little tired, but we could see the peak in the distance and felt that we could make the rest of the hike that day, then head out the next day.
We continued on and aimed for Gunsight Pass. We had been told that this way was a bit longer than Anderson Pass, but it was less treacherous and not as steep. As we climbed the Pass, it began to rain for the first time (note the foreshadowing). The climb to the pass wasn’t that bad but the weather continued to worsen. It was at this altitude that we began to see snow. The cooler temperatures mixed with the rain and occasional hail really started to make the climb miserable. We had a couple of options at this point. We could climb the face of a rock fall/cliff just to the right of the pass and bypass the longer route that drops you back down into another valley and around an outcropping before taking you up to the base of the peak. We’re young and adventurous and crazy, so we opted for the rock scramble and cliff. First we crossed a patch of snow and then headed up the cliff. It actually cut quite a bit of time off the hike because we didn’t drop in elevation, but it added to our weariness because it was quite difficult.
It was at this point that the wind really started to pick up. Once we reached the base of the peak, we started to notice that lightning was striking the surrounding peaks and the sky was really getting dark. If we had not been so hurried to make it to the top, it would have been smarter to head back to our camp and try the next day, but we pressed on. The climb up the peak is pure rock scramble, though about 1/2 of it was covered with snow when we climbed it. It took about an hour to climb that last stretch. Tom made it to the top first. He seemed to be the most well-prepared as well. He had thought that it might get a little cold so he had brought along some pajama bottoms. They probably didn’t do a whole lot, but he wasn’t complaining at all. He also had on a heavier coat which definitely must have helped. I had only brought a non-waterproof windbreaker that was helping, but not much. Mark, on the other hand, hadn’t brought anything. In my emergency gear, I had a poncho that I lent him. It kept him dry, but didn’t do much for warmth. When we finally made it to the peak, we were exhausted. I think I had expended all of my energy on the climb up and didn’t know how I was going to make it back to camp. Mark had vomited at one point and was really not feeling well. Tom was the only one that was hanging in there.
We reached the peak at around 5:00 pm but only stayed for about 15 minutes before we headed back down. By that time, I was so exhausted I only snapped one shot of me on the peak and filmed a quick panorama (which I may put up here someday). As we were heading down, Tom kept talking about sliding down the snow. He has become quite a snowboarder, but there was no way he was going to find a rock that would carry him down the snow. He tried several times and eventually gave up on that. But then he came up with the idea that saved our bacon (vegi-bacon for me). He pulled his coat under his bum and leaned back. Off he went, dropping 200 to 300 feet of elevation at a time. He slid down a snow patch first before Mark and I would try it, but when he stopped at the bottom without injury, we were convinced. We slid two snow patches down to the base of the peak and cut our descent time into 15 minutes. Then, instead of heading back to gunsight pass, we moved to Anderson Pass because it is much closer to the peak and drops right down into the valley where we were camping. To our luck, there were two patches of snow still in the pass. However, the descent was nearly vertical. We were a little hesitant about this, but our other option would have been to work our way back down through gunsight pass, which would have taken another 2 or 3 hours. Twenty minutes later we were standing at the bottom of Anderson Pass pulling our boots off and emptying the snow. Our 5 hour ascent had turned into a 35 to 45 minute descent. We just had to cross the valley back to our camp and we were home free. We crossed the valley to our camp in about 30 minutes and crashed.
Stupidly, neither Mark nor I had brought extra shoes because we had not planned on tromping through snow the entire day. So, Tom turned into our servant as we tried to dry out our shoes. We prepared a quick and not very good supper and went to bed. To add insult to injury, Mark snores loudly and the wind rushed all night. Again, I could not sleep. I woke early the next morning (rather got up rather than sit there and listen to Mark snore) and roused the others. We broke camp by around 7:30 and were back to the car by around 10:30 or 11:00.
From now on, we are going to plan better. This expedition very easily could have turned into a major fiasco. We were lucky and didn’t have any serious problems, though a rock did fall on my shin while climbing the peak and left a pretty nasty cut. Aside from the ill-preparation, we had a very good time. Especially once we had descended from the peak. We will forever remember sliding down the snow patches. It was probably very stupid because we could have had more problems, but we lived and were not the worse for wear. This is also why we are starting out with some peaks that are not going to kill us off from the beginning. As we progress to higher peaks, hopefully we will learn our lessons and not make such stupid mistakes. And if we forget how stupid we were, hopefully this site will remind us.
Here’s a map from Evanston, WY to Henry’s Fork Campground, the trailhead:
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