Monday, November 7, 2016

Guest Post: Hiking the Oquirrh Ridge Ascension Line (O.R.A.L.)

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Today's blog post is from our guest, High Elevation Mountaineering. Nick Carnahan and Alex Lawhun recently completed an 18 mile day hike along the Oquirrh Ridgeline - a rarely hiked and unknown route to many. What they encountered was more than they bargained for. Here is their story.

Hiking the Oquirrh Ridge Ascension Line (O.R.A.L.), Hiking in the Oquirrh Mountains, Peak bagging in Utah, Utah

Hiking The O.R.A.L. - 
Oquirrh Ridge Ascension Line
Butterfield Canyon Trailhead to the Ophir Canyon Trailhead

"What a long day we have ahead of us," was the only thought that crossed both of our minds. Tuesday October 18th, 2016 was the day Nick and I decided to make this epic hike happen. I got a text from him while I'm at work around noon saying, "Alex, I want to do Flat Top Mountain after work, think that will happen?" I kind of chuckled when I read it because I know how long of a hike and day that would be. I told him no, but if he wanted to do it over the weekend I would go with him and show him the way.

He then mentioned to me that me made up a route that went all along the ridgeline of the Oquirrh's. 17 miles over 12 hours. I thought to myself, "Well I need to bag more peaks than my ex-girlfriend, so I'm in!" So we decided, since it was my birthday on Friday the 21st, that we would hike it Sunday the 23rd. That week dragged on longer than any other week I've had. With anticipation of my birthday, and what was coming Sunday, I barely got any sleep. My birthday came along and all I could think about was Sunday. 

Saturday rolled along and Nick and I decided to drive to the TH and drop my car off at our ending point, which would be just east of the town of Ophir, Utah. Ophir is a small mining town set in a canyon deep in southern end of the Oquirrhs. Somehow, the town is still alive even though they only have around 30-40 people living there.

The night before the hike, we parked my car at the TH and were surrounded by hunters immediately. They didn't ask us any questions but looked as us with questioning glares. They did not want any hikers intruding on their hunt since this weekend was the first weekend of the hunting season. We then proceeded to drive Nick's car to the starting point of our hike and figure out how long it would take us to get to the TH at the top of Butterfield Canyon on the following morning. Sunday morning came and I woke up to Nick's text daying that he was on his way - it was only 4am. We left my house and got to the TH around 5am. Keep in mind that the winter gate for Butterfield Canyon is only open from July 1 - October 31st. Summer and Fall will be the best time to hike this route.

Hiking the Oquirrh Ridge Ascension Line (O.R.A.L.), Hiking in the Oquirrh Mountains, Peak bagging in Utah, Utah
5:15 AM. Starting off, it was about 40F degrees with little to no wind. Nick and I were both wearing three layers of clothing, starting off with tights underneath our pants.

5:30 AM. We were already hiking uphill. Pitch black with no wind in the middle of a forest with no trail to follow and we were both already sweating and panting. We shed a few layers and continued on towards our first destination for the day - Butterfield Peaks.

5:45 AM. We summited Butterfield Peaks. 35F degrees with a wind chill of about 25F degrees. We moved on from there towards our next destination which would be our 2nd and 3rd peaks of the day. We starting moving along the ridge and started to descent in to a little valley where I saw a light moving along the ridgeline. I mentioned it to Nick and we both thought that this was going to be our first encounter with the Ault Family, who claims they own most of the Oquirrh Range we were hiking through.

Hiking the Oquirrh Ridge Ascension Line (O.R.A.L.), Hiking in the Oquirrh Mountains, Peak bagging in Utah, Utah
7:00 AM. We started walking along a barbed wire and came across the hunters early in the morning. They had shot a deer and asked us to help, but we just looked at them with a "are you serious" look. They weren't apart of the Ault Family, but they had some funny things to say about them. We asked them if they really owned all the land and they said, "Hell no, those f#ckers just think they own the land because they own a small part down there," as he pointed towards the valley which we were standing atop of.

Hiking the Oquirrh Ridge Ascension Line (O.R.A.L.), Hiking in the Oquirrh Mountains, Peak bagging in Utah, Utah
7:45 AM. This made us both feel better so we continued onward up the ridge. We were going straight uphill for 3/4 of a mile where we decided to take a break in a small cave we came across. There was a small bush in the cave but with some clever movements and extremely awkward sitting positions we both fit into the cave comfortable. We stayed there about 20 minutes and FaceTimed our friends. Looking towards Lowe Peak and Flat Top way behind it...

8:15 AM. At this point, we were about 1/4 mile from our 2nd peak so we decided to move onward. We saw more hunters on the side of a hill and were wondering what they were doing. They were perched about 100 feet below the ridge, looking down into the valley below. We thought this was strange because the wind was moving down into the valley so the deer would have smelled them if there were any below them. We moved forward from the peak towards our next destination, Kelsey Peak.

Hiking the Oquirrh Ridge Ascension Line (O.R.A.L.), Hiking in the Oquirrh Mountains, Peak bagging in Utah, Utah
8:45 AM. On the summit of Kelsey Peak. On our way down from the ridge, we were facing our first shock of hiking in 80 MPH winds. This wasn't fun...we made our way up to Kelsey Peak and stood next to the huge cairn that marks the peak. We saw a name etched in the rocks from the early 1900s. 

9:15 AM. We then moved on towards our first major peak of the day - Lowe Peak. This is the very pointy peak you can see from all of the SLC valley, about the middle of the Oquirrh Range.

9:30-11:00 AM. We were moving at a really good pace throughout this time. We hiked through some boulder fields and hid from the wind for about 5 minutes before we continued on towards Lowe Peak. We summited a few peaks on the way towards Lowe but they were all unnamed summits, so we moved right past them. We got to the bottom of Lowe Peak and looked up and both wanted to just give up.

Hiking the Oquirrh Ridge Ascension Line (O.R.A.L.), Hiking in the Oquirrh Mountains, Peak bagging in Utah, Utah
11:00 AM. We arrived at the bottom of Lowe Peak. Lowe Peak is actually the second highest peak int he Oquirrh's, coming in just below Flat Top Mountain at 10,551 ft. This was the 2nd hardest part of the day because we had to climb about 2,000 ft in just over 1.5 miles. I wanted to cry at this point!

11:35 AM. Summit of Lowe Peak. I arrived at Lowe Peak just a few minutes prior to Nick, and we signed the register and then hid behind what seemed to be a lookout point. It was a small shed that had some old food and old coffee grounds inside. Nick and I decided to stay here and hide from the wind and eat as much food as we could. We stayed here until about noon before we decided to carry on towards Flat Top Mountain and our end goal. 

Hiking the Oquirrh Ridge Ascension Line (O.R.A.L.), Hiking in the Oquirrh Mountains, Peak bagging in Utah, Utah
12:00 PM. We started descending Lowe Peak and were once again hit by 80 MPH winds. We had about 3 or 4 miles to get to the bottom of Flat Top, we figured 4PM was a good goal. The descent down Lowe was not an easy one. No good hiking trail to speak of, and a lot of loose rock and loose dirty made for some hard hiking. We fully descended the peak around 1PM. This descent was definitely not easy.

Hiking the Oquirrh Ridge Ascension Line (O.R.A.L.), Hiking in the Oquirrh Mountains, Peak bagging in Utah, Utah
1:00 PM. We were at the bottom of Lowe Peak and had to keep moving. We were both so tired at this point because we had been hiking for around 7 hours at this point. We were at about 6,500 ft of elevation gain and still had to go up the steepest part of the hike right before Flat Top Mountain. I actually stopped and sat down and took a video saying, "I want to give up and just sleep here for the day."

2:15 PM. We ran into even more hunters that were on horses sitting at a pas between Hell's Basin and the canyon of the east side of Lowe Peak. We also asked them about the Ault Family and the trespassing issues and they frankly said," Who gives a f#ck, it's still America!"

Hiking the Oquirrh Ridge Ascension Line (O.R.A.L.), Hiking in the Oquirrh Mountains, Peak bagging in Utah, Utah
2:45 PM. We had just arrived right beneath the climb to Flat Top Mountain. Looking at the peak above us, we figured we had about 1,200 ft of climbing in just over 1/2 mile to get to the summit. Both of us were dead at this point but with the end in sight, we kept moving forward. We both looked back towards our beginning goal and could barely make out the peak we first sat on so many hours ago. 

Hiking the Oquirrh Ridge Ascension Line (O.R.A.L.), Hiking in the Oquirrh Mountains, Peak bagging in Utah, Utah
3:00 PM. Our climb up to Flat Top Mountain was heavily forested and forced us to climb over a cliff band. We stopped about 1/3 of the way up and hung out in a knocked down cabin where we escaped the wind for a few more minutes. I led the way up, following a "trail" and ended up going 1/4 mile out of my way before I made my way back towards the ridgeline. Nick was far enough below me that I yelled to him and told him to continue on towards my voice. We were both going to slow but with purpose towards our goal.

3:45 PM. Arriving on the summit of Flat Top Mountain, I yelled a triumphant "YES!"
Hiking the Oquirrh Ridge Ascension Line (O.R.A.L.), Hiking in the Oquirrh Mountains, Peak bagging in Utah, Utah
4:00 PM. Nick arrived at Flat Top, came to where I was sitting and said to me, "I almost sat down. I told myself if I am not within 100 ft of the summit I'm sitting. But thankfully, I saw the summit 50 ft away." We made it to the highest point in the Oquirrh's at 10, 620ft! At this point we had climbed over 7,600 ft of elevation in just under 14 miles and 11 hours. We both did not feel like moving ever again.

4:15 PM. We gave ourselves 15 minutes at the peak before we decided to move on towards the last peak and the end of the O.R.A.L. route - Lewiston Peak.

Hiking the Oquirrh Ridge Ascension Line (O.R.A.L.), Hiking in the Oquirrh Mountains, Peak bagging in Utah, Utah
4:40 PM. We made it to the saddle between Flat Top and Lewiston Peak and both were on the verge of saying no to this peak and just going down, but we summoned up the energy and made it to our goal peak.

5:00 PM. On the summit of Lewiston Peak! We sat at the summit, signed the register and left all within 5 minutes. We had our sights on the finish line and started to head down the mountain. 
Hiking the Oquirrh Ridge Ascension Line (O.R.A.L.), Hiking in the Oquirrh Mountains, Peak bagging in Utah, Utah
5:30 PM. We came upon a 60 ft incline. We stared at the incline and both, about 20 feet into the climb, looked at eachother and thought, "This sucks!"


5:45 PM. We stopped beneath a cliff band and took some ibuprofen and replenished our bodies with sweets and everything we had left.

6:15 PM. We made it to the top of the final descent and joked, "It would be sweet if we could get a ride with someone down the road to cut off the last 2 miles."

6:45 PM. We make it to the saddle and Nick hears some hunters coming up the road and sprints towards the top of the trail and runs into people he acutally knew through his mother's boyfriend. They give us a ride and we make it to the car around 7PM.

7:00 PM. Car. Done. We both wanted to throw away our hiking boots and never see this hike again...

Hiking the Oquirrh Ridge Ascension Line (O.R.A.L.), Hiking in the Oquirrh Mountains, Peak bagging in Utah, Utah
Escaping the wind.
In recap:

This was the hardest hike Nick and I have ever done. We hiked a grand total of 17 miles, with 7,936 ft elevation gain, and 8,848 ft of loss. The entire hike took around 13 hours in total with stops, not counting towards our time. Our average speed of hiking was 2.2 MPH.

The best part of the hike was summiting all of the peaks very few people have summited or even touched. The worst part of the hike was dealing with the mountains that didn't have good trails throughout.

Hiking the Oquirrh Ridge Ascension Line (O.R.A.L.), Hiking in the Oquirrh Mountains, Peak bagging in Utah, Utah

 Be sure to follow High Elevation Mountaineering on Facebook to view all of their upcoming adventures. 

If you are interested in becoming a peak bagger, be sure to check out the group Wasatch Peak Baggers on Facebook and on Instagram!

Alex Lawhun is a single 24 year old peak bagger. This is his first year peak bagging and has fallen in love with it. He recently graduated from Dixie State with a Bachelor's in Mass Communications. When he is not hiking, he is either with his dog Brutus, rollerblading, or playing soccer. You can follow him on Instagram @alex_lawhun.



Nick Carnahan is a 23 year old single farther to a beautiful daughter named Brooklyn. This is his fourth year peak bagging, and has over 60 peaks this 2016 season alone. When Nick isn't hiking, he is either with his daughter or his puppy, Moros. You can follow him on Instagram @HighElevationMountaineering.


Have more questions about this route? Post below!
Hiking the Oquirrh Ridge Ascension Line (O.R.A.L.), Hiking in the Oquirrh Mountains, Peak bagging in Utah, Utah
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4 comments:

  1. Cool Post! What a hike.. that is some serioussss elevation! Thanks for sharing such a fun guest post!

    Katie @ Katie Wanders
    www.KatieWanders.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Awesome post. I want to try this. Can you email a .kml or . Gpx of your track? Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can message High Elevation Mountaineering directly on their Facebook page to get the GPX right here: https://www.facebook.com/HighElevationMountaineering/?fref=ts

      Alicia

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