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Utah's Deseret Peak lands on many highpoint lists. It is the highpoint of Tooele County, the 4th most prominent peak in the state with more than 5,800ft of prominence and happens to land on the Great Basin Peaks list, among others. There are several trails that go to the popular summit and it is often done as a loop starting at the Loop Campground TH, an 8.3mi, 4,000-foot effort. Peak 10,685ft is a P1K that is often done in conjunction as a bonus, adding another mile and 1,000ft of gain. I decided to add another bonus peak, another mile further north of Peak 10,685ft and then see if I couldn't find a way off its East Ridge to make an even bigger loop. This worked out quite nicely, though the East Ridge made for a very convoluted descent, not for the faint of heart.
I spent the night camped at the TH, noting a bunch of signs that describe the whole area as a USFS "Fee Area". Seems that is for camping and picnicking, though I don't know if sleeping in your car at the TH counts for either. I slept in some, getting up with the sun that came filtering through the trees to disturb my slumber. I woke, dressed, rearranged the jeep and breakfasted before starting out around 6:45a. Much of the initial hour is through forest with only a few views to the surrounding peaks. I followed the route in a clockwise fashion, ascending up through the Mill Fork with its chest-high jungle meadows which eventually grow thinner as one gains altitude. I reached a trail junction at the saddle SE of Deseret Peak shortly after 8a, with views now quite impressive in multiple directions. I followed the trail west that leads to the summit, about a half hour from the saddle with open views now that the trail is above treeline. A large ammo box holds a very busy register. It was less than a year old, but would be filled before the end of summer. The most recent ascent was just the previous day and I suspect there are more days with summit visitors than without, except perhaps in winter.
After a short break, I continued north on the trail, taking about 45min to reach the saddle where it then drops east into Pockets Fork. Here, I left the trail to continued north on the crest, climbing to Peak 10,685ft in about half an hour. There are various use trails that help make this 1,000-foot climb up scree slopes easier. It would take another 40min to continue north another 1.3mi to Peak 10,521ft (North Medina, on PB). A fire on the west side of the range scorched much of the forested slopes, though the summit areas around Deseret and Peak 10,685ft were spared. The fire reached up to the ridgeline where it connects the two unnamed peaks, leaving some downfall and pretty much no shade. It was 10:30a before I reached the third and last summit, and it was here that the adventure got most interesting. I didn't want to have to return back south several miles of ridgeline to pick up the trail dropping into Pocket Fork. Other options are limited, however. The entire east side of the crest is a mass of vertical cliffs. There are some promising chutes that look like they might offer a way down, but these end abruptly in dry waterfalls with no way out. The East Ridge of Peak 10,521ft is pretty steep, but not exactly cliffs, at least from what I could see while I was making my way to the summit. The upper half is a steep set of chutes with kitty littered ledges that work OK if one takes one's time. The options soon dwindle about halfway down where the chutes funnel into a pair of dry waterfalls. It was here that I traversed north out of the chute and explored the north side of the East Ridge, where trees can be found to help lower oneself down through some steep sections. I eventually traversed east across the slope to return to the East Ridge, below the difficulties. I spent the better part of an hour in descending the ridge, happy to find that it worked.
An old trail cuts across the lower part of the East Ridge as it travels between the North and South Forks of Willow Creek. I used this to drop into the Mining Fork where South Willow Lake is found. This drainage is also used for grazing, as exemplified by a very non-afraid specimen I found just off the trail. There is a 4-way trail junction in the middle of the drainage and I followed the fork that continues south to Pockets Fork where I picked up the trail that would take me back to the start. It was 12:45p before I returned to the trailhead and already it was in the high 70s at 7,400ft. I had some eight hours of driving planned to get me into the middle of Colorado before I was through, so no more hiking today. Lots of soda to rehydrate and road snacks to keep me awake...
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Deseret Peak
This page last updated: Thu Aug 22 17:39:35 2019
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