If you’re like me and are always looking to fill your weekend with some kind of adventure, you probably know what it’s like to sit down with your computer the night before and look up every possible hike around. And yet, still have no clue where to go.
It’s the ‘I want to make sure I make the best of my weekend but nothing looks fulfilling’ syndrome. I’ve been here way too many times.
So instead of grabbing my computer and beginning the cycle, I decided to do things differently. Being in Park City where there’s an unbelievable amount of options in such a short radius, I decided to just drive it out. By that I mean hop in my car, pick a direction and drive until something sparked my interest.
I took my chances and headed toward Big Cottonwood Canyon.
Starting late in the day, I was aiming for a short hike that still had some bang for its buck. And by that I mean an epic view! When I saw the prominence of Kessler Peak emerge in the distance from the road, I was intrigued. So I pulled over and did a Google search. With a quick scan over the page I read it was only 2.25 miles to the summit, just what I was looking for!
Later that night when I went back to look over the hike details, I read that the total elevation gain was 2,929ft, and 2,725ft of that was gained in the last 1.75 miles. Whoowe... that’s what I call some bang for your buck.
To my surprise though, once I started up the steeps and my core temperature raised, the difficulty of the hike didn't seem too strenuous. With nice continuous grades to the switchbacks and some occasional flat sections, it made the really steep parts seem fairly short. At the pace I was going, I would have been to the summit in less than 2 1/2 hours. That was until I hit the mud and snow.
During the fall in Wasatch Range, it’s not uncommon that the high peaks get a light layer of snow throughout the night. As I started my hike well into the afternoon the snow along the trees and front face of the peak had already melted… giving me a false reading, which lead me to leave my YakTrax behind. Ohh, what a mistake!
I don't think there's been a time where I struggled so much to go such a short distance. You know the saying, “two steps forward, one step back”… well that was me, literally. The combination of loose gravel and thin layer of melting snow turned the trail into a slip'n slide.
With every step I strived to take, I would slide back. Even being on all fours, the tread of my boots would continue to slip out. I wish I had taken a photo of the situation but during the moment, it was the last thing I was thinking about.
If I knew how far I was still from the summit, I might have considered turning around. It was definitely better that I didn't know haha.
Once I made it high enough and traversed around the face back into the shade, it became cool enough for the snow to stop melting, allowing my boots better traction. The steepness of the trail also mellowed making the last stretch to the summit a whole lot easier.
After much determination and hard work, I was able to make it to the summit and bask in my reward: a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding mountain range and an awesome sunset!
Even with the challenging conditions and stops for photos, the whole trek only took me little over 5 hours. A half-day well spent!