On July 16th, Peter, Erik, and I had a “window” where nobody was racing, working or had family obligations. We were off to the Uintas! Our plan was to follow Craig’s route.
From Gunsight we climbed up the cutoff trail towards Anderson Pass. We filled up with water from an impromptu spring in the middle of a snow field and worked our way across the meadow beneath Kings Peak (13,528), our next climb and the second peak of the Triple Crown. There were several small snowfields on the climb. We were hopeful that climbing up the snow would be faster than climbing over the rocks. Wrong! The snow was soft and was melting from beneath causing us to drop through to our knees and sometimes hips. We laughed at Peter as he literally had to roll and crawl serpentine style off the snow as each step he was dropping to his upper thighs. We reached the top at 5:40, exactly on pace with Craig.
We followed what we understood Craig’s route to be, glissading downward from the saddle between Kings and South Kings Peaks. The snow quality was better than we anticipated and we had a nice run/slide off the saddle. We then worked our way towards a saddle in the ridge dropping to the east of Kings Peak. As we crested the saddle there was silence among us. We were in a spot with no great options. A tricky traverse along a cliff band that would maintain enough elevation to reach the meadow below Anderson Pass. Or, an extremely STEEP glissade down into Painter Basin. We opted for the glissade. After many pucker moments, frozen hands, and snow compacted into a variety of orifices we made it to the bottom.
From this vantage we could see Craig’s route. He had traversed to the north and had come down a nice (as a matter of perspective at this point) snowfield underneath Kings that allowed him to cross the meadow below Andersons Pass to Gunsight Pass. We realized we made a big mistake and began to work our way towards the trail in Painter Basin that would ultimately take us back to Gunsight Pass. After several more small snow fields and navigating through marsh and brush we found a trail that took us to the climb back to Gunsight Pass. We were discouraged and beating ourselves up for our navigational mistake.
We reached Gunsight Pass in 7:46. Eighteen minutes behind Craig’s pace. We quickly did the math and realized that if we were able to keep up a moderately brisk pace over the last 10 miles we would be able to finish under Craig’s time of 9:41. After a creaky half-mile or so to get the legs used to running again, we all got into the zone. It felt good to be able to run. In fact, it was fun to be able to run. We crossed the stream at Elkhorn without event and continued to make good time back to the trailhead. We reached Henrys Fork Trailhead in 9:21, 20 minutes under the previous FKT.
We took off our shoes, soaked in the stream and shared our respect for Craig. This was a tough route! That he studied and knew the terrain well enough to develop this route was impressive. That he had completed it alone was ballsy. His solo effort is a remarkable achievement (follow this link to read his full report).
As we drove back to Salt Lake we recounted the day; laughing about our navigational errors, our fine dining at Don Pedro, and the absurd route, but oohed and aahed over the stunning vistas and scenery we had experienced. Yes, it was a grand adventure!