Swasey Peak P2K GBP
Pine Peak
Sawtooth Mountain P300
Notch Peak P2K GBP

Aug 3, 2021
Pine Peak
Sawtooth Mountain
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profiles: 1 2


Swasey Peak and Notch Peak are summits of the House Range in West Central Utah, both with more than 3,000ft of prominence. Both appear in the Great Basin Peaks list which I've been working on slowly over the past decade. I was on my way back to California from Colorado and decided to pay them a visit, one way to break up the long drive. While Swasey is the higher and more prominent summit, it is easily outmatched by the rugged terrain and vistas of Notch Peak. I had spent much of the previous day driving across half of Colorado and most of Utah to get to the TH for Swasey Peak late in the evening. It's a pretty decent series of roads that most cars can manage, but it's quite long. At over 8,000ft of elevation, the TH was cool enough to sleep comfortably in August.

Swasey peak

I was up early and starting on my way by 5:45a. At the western edge of the Mountain Time Zone, there was plenty of light to see by, even at this time. I followed what has become the standard route from the northwest, first described by Ryan Davis on PB in 2019. The route begins on the remains of an old road now in the Wilderness Study Area, then on what is becoming a decent use trail through brush well over head level. The trail goes northeast on an ascending traverse to the left, aiming for Swasey's NW Ridge. It's easy to lose the trail in places and it peters out at the end, but for the most part it does its job to prevent any serious bushwhacking (such as found on the South Ridge route from earlier reports). Once on the ridge, the brush relents as the route becomes more forested and rocky. The going is steep until one gets over a false summit, then another 5-10 easy minutes to the highpoint. I spent a bit more than an hour to reach the summit, finding the register in a mailbox tucked into a cairn. The summit sees many visitors according to the register placed by MacLeod/Lilley in 1992. Views, though far-reaching, were muted by smoke from fires burning in California and Oregon. On the descent, I decided to take a shortcut once back over the false summit, by dropping more directly to the west down a series of steep gullies. I didn't really expect to save any time, it was more out of curiosity to see how bad the bushwhacking might be. It wasn't bad, but the route was quite steep in places and not nearly as safe as the NW Ridge route. I eventually intersected the use trail just before reaching the 8,200-foot level, following it back for the last 1/3mi. In all, I spent under two hours on the roundtrip effort.

Notch Peak

It would take me more than an hour to drive between the two trailheads. The roads ascending towards Notch Peak from the northeast are quite a bit rougher, especially towards the end - 4WD helps greatly with the steeper sections. I managed to drive up to the crest of the range to the base of Pine Peak's NW Ridge. The road continues in a much rougher form that I chose not to attempt. Instead, I parked off the road and walked the last section of road going up to Pine Peak, my first stop on the way to Notch. Though it has little prominence, Pine Peak has open views looking off the north side to Baldy, and Swasey just visible through the haze in the distance. Where the road ends, a very good use trail follows the dramatic ridgeline for 2mi to the summit of Notch Peak. Much of the trail follows along the east side of the ridge, away from the near-vertical cliffs that fall away to the west. Sawtooth Mtn, my next stop, is about 2/3mi further south along the ridge. I followed the trail for 10-15min, then left it for the class 2-3 scramble up to Sawtooth's summit, a short detour that takes only a few minutes. Here, the dramatic relief of the crest's west side is first evident. After returning to the trail, I followed it south for more than an hour, a very pleasant exercise with stunning views. The trail goes around several other intermediate points as it makes its way to a saddle east of Notch Peak before continuing on to the summit. Notch's North Face drops more 1,000ft in vertical relief, but the east side where the trail follows is a class 1-2 affair. I found a good-sized cairn at the summit along with a benchmark, but no register that I could find. The views of course are outstanding, and I thought this one of the best Utah summits I had visited (admittedly, there haven't been all that many). It would take me another 70min to return to the Jeep by noon, finishing up the workout for the day. On the drive back out, I took the spur road to Baldy's summit, an easy drive-up a few miles north of Pine Peak. Nothing special about this one, just some gratuitous stat padding. I would have more than five hours of driving this afternoon to get me to my destination in Nevada the next day. Only trouble was, I wasn't exactly sure where I was going. I was heading west on US6, so I stopped in Ely to get some WiFi (McDonalds was closed for some unspecified reason, but Dennys downtown worked nicely) to choose a destination. After some deliberation, I settled on Kawich Peak, another GBP summit found on the south side of US6, about 40mi west of Tonapah. It was nearly dark when I left the highway for the longish drive on dirt roads to reach the TH, so that had it's own challenges, but I eventually got to a campsite just above 7,200ft that would have to do - it was a bit warm, but better than the 85F temps down by the highway...


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For more information see these SummitPost pages: Swasey Peak - Notch Peak

This page last updated: Tue Oct 5 07:06:20 2021
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