Saturday, July 23, 2016

Mt. Raymond hike: the fourth time's the charm

As I began thinking about the hikes I wanted to do this summer, first and foremost I added Mt. Raymond to the list. Mt. Raymond has been my nemesis. Not because it's a particularly hard peak to bag--it isn't. But because for whatever reason, I had been up there three times previously only to be thwarted in my attempts to reach the top. The first time I went, was way too early and there was still a huge amount of snow along the ridge. I stopped about a quarter mile from the top. The second time I went with my son Ben and we got up near the top, to where you have to do a bit of scrambling, and his tread-less shoes stopped him from proceeding. I didn't want to go on without him, so I turned around at that point too. The third time I went with my brother Mike. He stopped at the saddle between Mt. Raymond and Gobblers Knob and told me he was happy to wait. That time, there was snow up the ridge, but I had a couple of guys up ahead of me breaking the trail, so I followed them. Within about 400 feet of the top, they stopped and gave up. They were much younger than me and I wasn't about to try and prove my manhood by breaking the trail the rest of the way myself. I turned around too.
This time, I made sure I was going late enough in the season that snow wouldn't be a problem. Let me begin at the trailhead.
There are several ways to get to Mt. Raymond. For those who don't know, Mt Raymond is located in the Wasatch Mountains, basically behind Mt. Olympus, which nearly everyone who lives along the Wasatch Front is familiar with. Anyway, it can be reached from either Millcreek Canyon, or Big Cottonwood, and I suppose from Park City if you wanted to walk that far. Many of the trails in the Wasatch are interconnected.The routes most people choose are either Bowman Fork from the Millcreek side, or Butler Fork from the Big Cottonwood side. Though I have been up to Gobblers Knob from Bowman Fork, all of my recent attempts at Mt. Raymond have been from the Butler Fork trail. This one was no exception.
The Butler Fork trail begins rather innocuously about 8 miles up Big Cottonwood Canyon. After about 100 yards, there is a stream crossing and right after that, the trail gets amazingly steep. Large portions of this trail are in the 30 to 45 degree angle range, and a lot of that is early on. In fact, since I already knew this, I nearly changed my hiking plans because I have been having trouble with my legs feeling like lead lately.
The early going on the steepest section (steepest until the final ascent up Raymond's ridge) was rough, but I just took it slow and kept going, resting for a few seconds when necessary, then soldiering on. After about a half hour, I came to a fork in the trail. The right fork leads to Dog Lake, and the left fork goes to Mill A Basin. That's the way to go to get to Mt. Raymond. Soon after the fork, the trail goes up through a kind of meadowy area, with scattered clumps of quakies. The undergrowth is very lush and there are some biting flies in this area. There were wildflowers in abundance here and I especially noted the Queen Anne's Lace and made a mental note to get a picture of it on the way back.
Queen Anne's Lace was in abundance on the lower portions of the trail.
Wildflowers were everywhere and this is my one "accidental" good picture of them close up.
After the meadow area, the trail switchbacks a few times to get to the top of the ridge. As I neared the top of the ridge, I heard some "huffing" behind me. Thinking that it might be a black bear, I increased my pace trying to keep up above and ahead of whatever it was making the noise. A few seconds later, I looked back to see a runner huffing up the trail. We talked for a few seconds, then he went on ahead of me. Just as he was about twenty feet in front of me he said, "there's a bear!"
He kept moving toward whatever he saw. "Don't get too close," I warned him.
"There's a bear down in here, a black bear," he said. I caught a glimpse of something then and it wasn't a bear. "Oh, it's a moose," he said.
He said he'd never seen any moose along this trail I told him that I had. Then he continued on. I was left to reflect as to why he would continue moving closer, especially when he thought it was a bear. Maybe it's because he felt unafraid with me nearby in my Captain America shirt and Indiana Jones hat. I have no other answer.
As the trail joins the ridge, there is a faint un-marked trail to the left that goes to Circle All Peak, which offers a rather nice view of Big Cottonwood Canyon. A great destination for a shorter hike. I had never taken this trail, but I promised myself if I had time I'd do it on the way down. The trail isn't as steep at this point and follows the ridge for a short distance before working its way around a mountain, then up through some quakies to the saddle between Mt. Raymond and Gobblers Knob. This time I made it to the saddle in about two hours. Oddly, the runner was the only person who passed me on my way up. It's usually a fairly popular trail and I was surprised at the low number of people I saw hiking it.
Mount Raymond as seen on the way up.
This little fella landed on me and I took it's picture.
My next step was to follow the ridge to the top. This was the same ridge that had stopped me before when it had snow on it. There wasn't any snow this time. It was go time. My legs had held out this far, and I knew I wasn't going to let them stop me from reaching my goal this particular day. It took me about an hour or so, but I made it to the top. Along the way I passed a couple that were perhaps in their sixties, coming down with two dogs. I asked them if the dogs had made it all the way to the top. "Yes," the man said."They are surprisingly sure-footed". I was petting the one nearest to me, a border collie. They told me to be safe and I told them to do likewise and they headed down.
The south side of Big Cottonwood Canyon is very prominent from the ridge. Here, you are looking toward Sun Dial Peak and the Lake Blanche area.
Some scenic dead trees along the route to the top.
Some of the best flowers were right up on the final ridge.
A few minutes later I was really surprised that the dogs had made it. There was a bit of scrambling and I remembered my younger days when I had taken my dog up Mt. Olympus and had to turn back after reaching the last stretch because the dog couldn't do it. This scrambling wasn't quite as difficult as the Oly scrambling, but it was enough that I was impressed with the dogs.
About 15-20 minutes later, I was up on top, soon joined by another older man. He sat down as I did and he said, "nice of the clouds to protect us a bit from the sun."
Cannister used for writing logs, such as "Wasatch Rebel was here - 7-22-2016" There was no pen in the thing so I didn't write that.
I agreed, stating that as long as I wasn't seeing any lightning, I was good with it too. I asked him if he'd ever been up there before. He told me he had, and I told him that I had been thwarted in my previous attempts.
I ate my lunch and eventually the guy left and I was up there myself. I took several pics with my wife's camera. It's a Nikon Coolpix S6200, and I'm not familiar with it at all. I found myself unable to take any clear close-ups of flowers, except once, by accident. I had left my trusty Canon behind because I didn't want to pack the weight. It's always a trade-off. I know how to use the Canon though, so the quality of my pics would have been a bit easier for me to control. I had figured that since I had been up this trail numerous times, I had already taken most of the pics I would take this time. Of course, it always looks different, so that was just a way to reason myself out of carrying the heavy thing.

Just to prove I was up there.
I looked across the canyon and saw Cardiff Fork, a destination to add to
my bucket list.
Spectacular views of the Wasatch above the timberline
After taking the pics, I headed down, and just before I got to the part where I'd need to do a lot of scrambling, I sat for a while and contemplated my situation.

Wildflowers lined the edge of the ridge, just before I went down the face
The saddle between Raymond and Gobblers Knob
Down below, off the face of the mountain, was a trail that headed over to the Mill B trailhead. If i went down the face instead of the ridge, I might be able to save some time, cut that trail and take it back to the Butler Fork trail. I decided that's what I would do. I found out very soon that it wasn't going to be easy, and a little while longer I found out it wasn't much of a shortcut. The going was steep with loose rock everywhere, and I had to carefully place each footstep to avoid slipping in a cascade of rock. It took me longer than it would've to go down the ridge, though I think I saved a bit in distance doing it that way. At any rate, it was an adventure and once I was five minutes into it, there was no way I was going back up to the trail. I eventually made it to the Mill B trail I had seen from above, certain that I had found no shortcut, but just as certain that I had explored where few had gone before me. There's always a trade-off.
This is where I came down.
And from further away you can see how steep it is, but not how loose
the rocks are beneath the vegetation.

The meadow at the base of Mount Raymond is stunning.
Once on the trail I headed down. It was pretty uneventful until I got to the ridge just above where the guy had seen the "bear". The moose had moved up on top and another one was with it and I spooked them as I walked down the ridge. I tried to be careful as a female moose with a baby can be very protective. I wanted to make sure that wasn't the situation. It appeared that there were two adult females together. Still, I was wary as they were ahead of me, near the trail. I talked softly to them and took some pics, before gradually easing my way past.
This moose had a wound of some kind on its hind quarters.

Another picture of the same moose. Its companion was a little more
camera shy.
Just past the two moose was the spur trail to Circle All Peak. I took it as I had promised myself. It is very short and took me about five minutes to get to the peak where I could peer into the canyon.
I finished the hike about 45 minutes later, tired, but exhilarated. The beauty of the Wasatch never fails to amaze me. And, I had accomplished my main hiking goal of the summer--finally summiting Mount Raymond.


Mever said...

Nice trip report. I've done Gobblers Knob from there but need to do Raymond still.

Shane Roe said...

Thanks! Both are beautiful hikes.