Kings Peak, Utah: An ARS "Top of the World" Adventure
Dr. Bob Armstrong, N7XJ
Special to The ARS Sojourner
myself with two days of freedom over the Labor Day weekend and inspired
by the ARS "Top of the World" challenge, I invited one of my favorite
hiking companions, Mary, to join me in a dash to Kings peak, Utah's highest
Mary is my 15-year-old daughter. She has been my companion on numerous outdoor adventures since she was six years old. She is as tough as she is enthusiastic.
Kings peak, 13,528 feet, reigns among a cluster of 13,000-foot peaks in the Uintah mountains of northeastern Utah. It is situated in a hiker's paradise of vast alpine tundra dotted by numerous trout streams and lakes.
I "camp out" at a rural hospital each Thursday night to see emergencies, grabbing snatches of sleep when I can. As soon as I finished night call Friday morning August 30, 2001, I set out.
Mary and I joined Jerry Hansen, a serious and experienced outsdoorsman in Taylorsville Utah. Jerry climbs mountains all over the world, and is in continuous training for high altitude adventures. Jerry is equipped with the latest outdoors gear, and wears a 70 pound pack loaded for every eventuality whenever he goes out, even on short day hikes. He even carried a snow shovel!
We drove North with Jerry through Fort Bridger, Wyoming and then looped back into Utah, arriving at the Henry's Fork trail head (9400 feet) at about 3 p.m. The trail follows a river through a beautiful spruce forest. A light rain kept us cool (and damp!) as we hiked. We arrived at the timberline before dusk, pumped water from a stream and set up camp at 10,800 feet. We were well prepared with good quality rain gear and tents, and stayed warm and comfortable through the night.
A September snowstorm could have spoiled our plans, but the morning brought clear skies. We set out for the summit just as sun was warming the peak. The trail took us through Gunsight pass at 11,888 feet to the base of Kings Peak.
We climbed the east side of the peak, which is a 1,000 foot pile of boulders with no trail. The west side drops nearly vertically over two thousand feet, affording a breathtaking panorama of many miles of tundra, lakes and forests. We boulder-hopped our way to the summit, joining an awe-smitten group of hikers at the top.
I quickly set up a twenty meter dipole and called CQ on 14060 KHz using my trusty SST20. A collapsible 18 foot fiberglass fishing pole served as walking stick on the way and antenna mast at the summit. KC0M, Larry, answered my CQ and we enjoyed a brief QSO.
Storm clouds began to gather, and onlookers worried about my "lightning rod," so I quickly dismantled the antenna and prepared for the descent. We were pelted by a few hail stones as we jumped from rock to rock on our way down the peak. Weather atop high mountains seldom allows comfortable operating conditions!
The trip down was enjoyable but exhausting. The tent was dry and ready to pack when we reached base camp, but the storm followed us from the summit and rain began to fall as we departed. In places, the trail was a hog wallow! We clomped back to the car just as the sun was setting, having backpacked 32 miles and climbed over 4,000 feet in 29 hours.
The trip was a great addition to my life. The outdoors was beautiful and refreshing, and ham radio added interest and zest to the experience. Best of all was the conversation and companionship I shared with my remarkable daughter. It doesn't get better than that!