Ibapah of The Deep Creek Mountains (12,101')
August 15 & 16, 1997
by Rob Jones
Route summary: Drive to Callao, Utah via the Pony Express Trail or via Wendover, then south on Hwy. 93, to Gold Hill, and finally, south of Callao and up Granite Creek as far as possible. You may camp just beyond the first stream crossing of Granite Creek. Hike up Granite Creek to the ridge (pass) and along the ridge to Ibapah Peak at 12,101'.
Day 1: Skinner Box Breakfast: I saw the announcement for the Ibapah trip in the Wasatch Mountain Club Rambler. I arranged to ride with Jim Frankenfield and Friday night we found ourselves broasting across the wide salt flats in his teetering, archaic ‘71 VW bus. Approaching Wendover, the salt/alkali dust on the brush looked like a blizzard in January. Soon, we were searching for the Red Garter Saloon to escape the all-enveloping heat and try one of the $1.99 anytime breakfasts we saw advertised on a billboard. The breakfast was surprisingly good, despite the smoke-laced cacophony of lights and buzzers in this giant Skinner Box (behavior modification gone awry).
Back on the road, we continued into this after-work Friday night, South toward Ely and other alien landing sites on Hwy. 93, turning off into the raven-black night toward Gold Hill. There's almost no light intrusion out here, and the stars rule. It would be 70 miles from Wendover to the trailhead (TH) along Granite Creek of the Deep Creek Mountains, most of it on dirt. Slowly, we bumped up the foothills and into Gold Hill, then back onto the flats toward the one yard-light town of Callao. After a wrong turn and some dusty wandering, we cruised past the old CCC Camp and up Granite Creek to the stream crossing. It was 1:00 a.m. We slept near a brushy juniper, which provided some shade from the bright full moon. This moonlight illuminated the polished granite outcrops of the slopes, and they appeared wet or covered with snow.
Day 2: Ibapah! Jon, the trip organizer, arrived as we were finishing the breakfast strawberries. The rest of the group, 8 of us in all, were not quite ready to hike. One woman had amazingly neglected to get gas on her drive through Wendover and into the big desert, and her car was nearly out of gas. We delayed dealing with this, for now it's Ibapah time.
There were good campsites directly across the stream crossing. We joined the group and waited for the others to get organized. Then, we drove two 4WDs across the next stream crossing and up the canyon another 1 or 2 miles before we started hiking at 11:00 a.m. A glorious alpine start.
Starting at about 6500', we wandered up what remained of the jeep trail through aspens and mountain mahogany dotting the sagebrush slope, then into fir and limber pines as we hiked along Granite Creek to an alpine meadow and the pass at about 11,000'. From here, one angles up and around the rock knoll pseudo Ibapah Peak at 11,700', then on an obvious route/trail to the summit at 12,101'. As we labored uphill through the pines we wondered, "Were these limber or bristlecone pines?" Come and see for yourself.
It was a gasper to the summit, and I was forced to employ the Nepali shuffle, step, gasp, wheeze, step, gasp, wheeze.... We all made it to the summit, and relished the views. Yahoo! We could see distant mountains and salt plains to the east, cordillera to the west, and nearby to the north what may be the summit of Haystack Mountain (supposedly easier to reach by going part-way up, via the basin to the North, 4WD required). It was cool on top after all that sweating and shuffling, so we started down soon after a look around. (5+ hours up and 2 and ½ hours down, over 5 miles, and 5600 vertical feet, one-way.)
Back at camp, Frankenfield and I waited while the others got organized. It was approaching dark as we drove down the colluvium ramp to the desert floor. Luckily, the rancher with the yard light in Callao had gas, averting gas siphoning or car towing or shuttling. The others sped off toward Wendover, and Jim and I trundled back for breakfast #2 about 11:30 p.m., then a somnambulistic arrival home around 2:30 a.m.
Trip members were: John Kokinis( trip organizer), Jim Frankenfield, Beth Drees, Jane Koerner, Willow Baum, Bob Grant, and me, Rob Jones.
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