August 24, 2021
Miles hiked: 15.5
Passes: Anderson, Tungsten
Summit: Kings Peak @ 13,528 ft
Vertical: +4,628 ft
Campsite elevation: 11,434 ft
I wake at 5:47 needing to pee, normally I would not have looked at my watch but something compells me to do so. I know it’s almost daybreak because of the way the fading moonlight is no longer shimmering in the forest. I slept much better last night with how I set up my bed. I layered clothing, along with my Z rest sit pad, rain gear and backpack underneath me, so when the Neo Air pad deflated I would still have some cushion and insulation. It worked!
I get back into bed and my mind starts to calculate and think about the terrain that lay ahead. I want to sleep more, but I also know it will serve me well to get an early start. Today is going to be a big day. I have to climb three passes: Anderson, Tungsten and Porcupine. They are all close enough together that there really isn’t any other way for me with my mileage itinerary, to do it.
Today is also the optional summit of King’s Peak, the highest summit in Utah. But we shall see what the conditions are like and how I feel when I get there. It’s not at the top of my list, but I may feel inspired later on, who knows!
It is nice and quiet here in my camp, I saw a large Elk when I arrived last night but heard no hooved animals overnight. In the distance I can hear water flowing, it sounds like quite a large river. I can see the morning light glowing on the high ridges through the forest canopy. I barely see the steep walls from here butI know where I am headed they will preside over the land.
I sip my coffee, feeling quite content here in my sleeping bag, this little bit of down time in the mornings in nice, as who knows if or when I will get any other down time again today?
I quickly descend from my camp into the valley named Painter Basin. The trail is now smoothe sailing across a giant meadow with towering walls on either side of me. In front of me are the snow dusted peaks I will climb through this morning. I walk with a spring in my step, I am stoked the air is clear again today, it is chilly but that high altitude sun sure makes up for it.
The morning is absolutely beautiful and as I approach closer to Anderson Pass, I begin to notice where the trail goes and which of the towering mountains in front of me is Kings. I meet two dudes hiking the Highline Trail at a creek crossing. This is a really interesting convergence of two different rivers/streams where one is glacial melt with a milky brown color and the other is quite clear. Right where they come together is where the trail crosses, and I think this is really cool!
I stop to pee, filter water and have a snack. The dudes are there too and I try to chat with them but one of them doesn’t say much. The other one then asks me “are you Mary Poppins?” and I am totally taken aback. I guess he read my blog about the helicopter rescue prior to his own getting on trail, and then he camped with my other buddies last night, so I suppose word travels fast in the hiker world out here!
I get my legs moving again and warm up as I start the climb to the pass. It seems to come in stages like so many climbs do. I begin to notice several hikers ahead of me, and I can tell several of them don’t have large backpacks on, so I wonder which nearby trailhead they came from?
I catch up with a group of four women and we strike up a conversation. One of them has so many questions for me and I enjoy keeping pace with them as we walk and talk. They are out to summit Kings, and had hiked in 8 miles from the Henry’s Fork TH, set up a base camp and then from there it would be 6 miles to summit Kings, and then back to camp, making it a 12 mile day for them. Good day!
At the pass I begin to get excited for the opportunity to climb the peak. The conditions are absolutely perfect and there are a lot of people climbing, so I feel much safer being with others. I decide to give it a try, and tell myself that if at any point it is above my ability or safety, I will simply turn back, no big deal.
I take all the heavy stuff out of my pack and stash it under a pile of rocks, then load up my pack with water, snacks, layers of clothes and my camera. Time to climb!
It’s technically a 1,000 ft elevation gain over about 3/4 of a mile, and most of it is class 2 with some areas that are definitely class 3. To put it this way, you want to have your hands free not your trekking poles. I take my time and pick my way over the boulders, I scramble around trying not to step on the snow, although there were places you had no choice. I could see places where people had post-holed like 2 feet deep, into a crevice, and this is someting I aim not to do!
Within about an hour, I reach the Summit! There was only one little part that took slightly more agility and concentration than the rest, just before the Summit, and the main reason was that it had some ice over it, and it was exposed but tons of good hand holds everywhere.
At the Summit there is a group of Ultra Runners, and they are so friendly! One offers to snap some summit photos for me! I am pretty sure they are big shots in the Ultra world, as one of them I definitely recognized from videos. But I kept it low key and didn’t ask and we were all stoked together up there.
It takes me about an hour to make my way back down and I really enjoy taking in the views from this vantage point. Once I’m back at Anderson Pass, I promptly plop myself in the dirt and begin gorging on lunch. No skipping lunch today! I had my little feast and enjoy watching several other hikers coming and going.
A woman popps up to the pass, and there is something about her that looks familiar. I quickly pass it off as just the “hiker-trash” look, like when people say “hey, have you seen this dude, he has a beard and a back pack and is all covered in dirt” Like, which one? Truly though, the title hiker trash is a compliment. She looks strong and capeable and as she walks up, her tan legs and sun-bleached hair glow in that “I’ve spent a lot of time in the mountains” kind of way. She smiles at me and I return the vibe.
She asks me if I summitted Kings and then she stashes her gear too and is soon ready to get climbing herself. As she passes by, she looks over to me and says “hey, so you look familar to me” and I say “I know, I was thinking the same about you.”
Then she asks “is your name Mary Poppins?” and once again I am taken aback, what’s going on today? But, then she says “I’ve read a lot of your blog, you are such a great writer and I really enjoyed reading them, especially the Sierra High Route and the Arizona Trail.”
I am just floored at this point and offer a humble “thank you” as I really don’t know how many people still read blogs these days with all the YouTube videos out. I ask her her name and she says “Dirty Avocado.”
“Oh my gosh, I totally know your name too” I exclaim enthusiastically.
I mean, from social media, of course, but I have followed her journeys as well. So there you have it, another great connection made at 12,500 ft on a random pass on a remote trail in Utah.
We continue our conversation and I explain that I am doing a Yo-Yo, so hopefully our paths will cross again. She sets off for the summit and I set off down the pass feeling super energized by all the great folks I’ve met today along with the buzz of summitting the tallest peak in Utah. This day is turning out alright.
The trail down from Anderson Pass is a dream too. It is lovely single track and I just fly down, landing myself in another gorgeous valley with the gargantuan wall of the Kings and South Kings Massif sweeping down thousands of feet to meet the valley floor. From the bottom it is actually just as impressive as being on top. I stop to take a few photos to try and capture the scale, but you know how it is, the photos never do it justice.
I reach a lovely creek that needs fording, so I take my shoes off to do so. This is the new normal. Not long after that I pass the two dudes from earlier, they have been in camp for three hours, and still haven’t decided if they want to hike more. It’s say 5:30 ish and I share that I’m continuing over Tungsten Pass and toward Porcupine Pass. They wish me well and I walk on.
It’s two more miles from there to Tungsten, I keep turning around to admire the impressive views of where I just came from. Tungsten is a small pass, with an easy climb. From that saddle I view the lake dotted valley that leads up to the next pass, Porcupine. I am thinking I will stop at North Star Lake and try to find a place to camp there, but quickly observe that the trees in the area are quite spartan. This does not deter me however because it is now the golden hour, and I just have to keep on keepin’ on.
I fall into a blissful meditative state as I walk in the direction of the dropping sun, the grasses are the color of rich butter and bend in the breeze. The air temperature is absolutely perfect and my body feels great. These are the moments that seal themselves into your memory banks, into the part of you that is forever. This is my why.
I cross another creek and am determined to make it at least to North Star Lake area, about two miles before the pass. I accept that I’m not going to make the pass tonight, as I would then be hiking down it in the dark, missing the views, and I really don’t feel like night hiking tonight.
The wind is picking up now and the air temperature quickly drops as the sun dips below the ridgeline. I am well above treeline, and begin to wonder what kind of a campsite I am going to find, especially in this increasing wind. Still, I have this unexplainable sense of trust that the perfect spot is up ahead, so I continue.
I spy a small cluster of stunted pine trees up ahead about 400 yards. From here I can’t tell much, but I set my sights on them and I imagine there will be a protected spot in their midst. Now, it’s getting to be after 7:00pm and I know if there is no camping here, I will to have to turn back, which of course I don’t want to do.
Guess what? When I arrive at the tree cluster, there is the most perfect little area which is flat and protected, enough for 3-4 tents, and there is one very small spot, very protected by the trees, like a tree cave, that I know is the spot for my little tent! Hooray! I am giddy with excitement for how this worked out, and I work hard at getting the best possible pitch here with a lot of acrobatic type menauvers. It was some work to get that perfect pitch, I tell ya!
Now, I am sitting inside my tent, so totally content to be mesmerized by the blue glow of my stove as I boil water for tea. It’s flame is the only light I see, and the whisper of the fuel is the only sound I hear. The light flickers, sending me into a trance. I reflect on all that transpired today, I feel really happy for how it all turned out. I didn’t make the third pass, but summiting King’s was a great trade off.
Tomorrow is my turn around day, as I have three days worth of food left, and I am noticing that my batteries on all my devices are also running low. I am not going to reach my ultimate goal of Lambert meadow, where I got caught in that storm a week ago, but I’m okay with that, I’m having such a good time, and that’s only a six mile section I will have missed.
I’d like to rise early tomorrow, go tag Porcupine Pass and take in the views. Then return to my camp, pack up and start heading back the way I came. Haha, to think I have to climb Anderson again only tomorrow! I guess it’s time to get some sleep then, so good night 🙂