A couple weeks ago, Ben Lewis, Jason Berry, Peter Lindgren and I set off on what proved to be a most excellent adventure. Dropped of by my dad at the Leidy Peak trailhead at the eastern end of the High Uintas, we hoped to travel west for 80ish miles of the Uinta Highline Trail in one push, arriving sometime the following morning at the Hayden Pass trailhead on the Mirror Lake Highway.
We felt we were well prepared with plenty of food, abundant water supplies along the way(Steri Pens to purify said water), emergency supplies to bivy in case the forecasted storms pinned us down. we carried maps, compasses, SPOT tracker, a Garmin GPS, and a satellite phone to lead the way and get us out of trouble if needed.
What we weren't prepared with was actual knowledge of the route as the only experience any of us had was some limited traveling of the 9 miles from Rocky Sea Pass to the Finish. We all knew that the trail was very faint in the first 15 miles to Chepeta Lake, with accounts of runners/hikers getting off trail within the first few hundred yards. This wasn't going to happen to us with our wide array of route finding gadgetry!! Right......
A lazy 7:45 am start and we were on our way. As soon as we stepped out of the car, the clouds descended, a light rain started, and our feet were wet for the next 28 hours. Leidy Peak was obscured and we began making our way from cairn to cairn confident in our route finding abilities. An encounter with an elk herd, dense fog and an hour later something didn't feel quite right and we pulled out the maps for a closer look than the cursory glances we had thus far taken. We found that we were indeed on trail 025 (the Highline Trail), but instead of heading west, we were going east. An hour into our adventure and we had just circumnavigated Leidy Peak and were within .5 miles of our starting point!! Well... Luckily all other route finding errors (of which there were a few) weren't as bad as that one and we managed to generally stay on course the rest of the way.
Rather than a long narrative of the rest of the trip, I'll let this excellent video compiled by Ben Lewis tell the story. The only other tidbits I'll add are that we all under-estimated this route. It was HARD!! After 8 of the toughest finishing miles I can remember, we finished in 27:52 to break the FKT held by Chad Bracklesberg by 22 minutes. And after an earlier attempt foiled by severe lightning and thunderstorms, Stephen Jones lowered our new FKT by 11 minutes, finishing the Highline Trail in 27:41. Congrats Stephen, and more so on doing it solo!!