Deseret Peak Trip Report
Mills Fork Loop, 06/23/06
After forest fires forced the closing of Humphreys Peak, Ian and I needed to find another mountain to climb between Spring and Summer terms at BYU. After evaluating snow conditions, trip reports, schedules and other information, we decided to shoot for Deseret Peak, one of the little known and hiked mountains in Utah. I had hiked it almost two years previously, but that had been a dry winter, so we didn't know what the snow conditions would be like this time. We choose Deseret Peak, though, because of it's rather open approach, which would mean the winter snows would melt quicker than peaks in the Wasatch.
Having done the peak once before, I had a bit of an idea of what to expect. Ian and I got up early and drove to the trailhead without incident. This time, I even did a bit of research with Google Earth to determine which road to take south from Grantsville. (For future reference, it is West Street on the west side of town, which eventually turns into Old Mormon Trail Road.) We enjoyed the scenic drive to the trailhead, and made preparations to hit the trail. The morning was cool, but we expected things to warm up as soon as we got going.
From the trailhead, we followed the trail as it made its way through an aspen grove near the stream. The air was cool, and the sun hadn't yet come out. (As an aside, I've always thought that these desert mountain rangers were intriguing. The air is typically quite warm in the valley, but in the cool of the canyon, the mountains offer great summer-time relief.) About ¾ mile in, the trail crosses the stream, and then splits; we took the left fork, which offers a more direct route to the summit. The junction is signed, but the sign can be easy to miss.
Due to the ruggedness of the east face, the standard hiking trail to Deseret Peak cuts south into the next drainage which has a much lower saddle at its head. We followed the trail as it meandered through pine groves and eventually out into the open meadow of the Mills Fork drainage. The sun had risen, and we were starting to break a sweat as the grade increased slightly. Eventually, we encountered a couple of areas where an avalanche or two from the previous winter had covered the trail, but it wasn't anything a bit of route finding couldn't undo. We also caught up to the party ahead of us, they were moving a little slower than we were, but were still making good time toward the saddle.
Eventually, we topped out at the saddle, where the trail meets a couple more trails coming from the east and south. The route to the summit goes west from this point, across the broad, sweeping face of a smaller point, and skirting a couple of other false summits. The first south was quite steep, and still had a large amount of snow on it, although we could see where someone had cut across it. About &frac43; of the way across the face, I lost my footing in the soft snow and started to slide down the mountain. The slope wasn't steep, and I managed to dig my hands in, but the experience had me wishing I had brought my axe along. It took a little bit of work, but I manged to get back on track and out of the snow.
From this point, it was an easy quarter mile to the summit. Like last time, the views were amazing. Unlike last time, we didn't have to worry about an impending storm system, so we stayed on the summit, ate lunch and chatted with the other group as they came up. As I had done two years before, we decided to take the loop route back down, so we set out going north from the summit following the trail along the main ridge of the range. Eventually, this trail drops down Pockets Fork to the east and loops back around to hit the main trail near the original stream.
We did not have a difficult time following this route, except for a few north facing slopes where the snow had not yet melted and the trail was hidden. Once we got back the stream, we paused a minute to refill our water and enjoy the nice afternoon. The stroll back to the car was equally enjoyable, and we noticed a much larger number of people there than when we set out early in the morning. The drive through the Utah desert back to Provo was great as well. All-in-all, it was a good fun experience, and a mountain to come back to.