Friday, September 7, 2012

sunset peak

On Monday (Labor Day), we and approximately half the population of the Salt Lake Valley went hiking up in Little Cottonwood Canyon.  I exaggerate a bit, of course, but the parking lots at the Bells Canyon trail head, the White Pine trail head and the Albion lot at Alta were as full as we've ever seen them.  Despite being annoyed at the crowds, we were pleased to see so many people out and enjoying the mountains - sure beats going to the mall. Although not the sunniest day ever (it was clear skies down in the valley but a big, stubborn cloud lurked over Catherine's Pass all morning, and then multiplied later in the afternoon), folks were clearly taking advantage of getting themselves and their kids out.

Catherine's moose

We had decided to do my Catherine's loop since H hadn't done it yet this summer, adding on the short jaunt out to Sunset Peak since neither of us had done that.  The well-traveled trail from the parking lot up to the Albion campground was being well-traveled, and we walked quickly, passing everyone ahead of us.  When we turned off to the Catherine's Pass trail, the crowds thinned a bit and we didn't come across too many other people until we reached the damp alpine meadow in the middle of Catherine's Area, where two bull moose were lounging, seemingly unperturbed by the human paparazzi.  We too took a bunch of pictures, thrilled at seeing a pair of large mammals two days in a row.  The moose could not have cared less.

Lakes Catherine, Martha and Mary 

It got busy again at the top of the pass, and also at the top of Sunset Peak.  The trail to Sunset Peak from the pass is about half a mile or so, gaining about 450 feet of elevation.  the trail is rocky, sandy and narrow, with a couple of tricky-ish bits where you don't want to miss your footing.  The peak itself is pretty small and pointed, but large enough for several different hiking groups to mill about, eating lunch, taking photos and generally gawking at the scenery.  Although you're only 200 feet higher than the top of the Supreme chairlift, the fact that you're on a pointy peak means that the 360-degree views are spectacular, clouds notwithstanding.  Sunset Peak is also home to fat and brazen chipmunks who clearly take advantage of their cuteness to coerce snacks from the hikers.

Timpanogos from Sunset Peak

We figured that the herds of people would dissipate once we headed across the Supreme Bowl and we figured right: we didn't see a soul on the walk down the access road through Alta until we got back to Albion Campground.  We dodged families heading up to Cecret Lake as we descended, paused for a few minutes to get our photo captured on Alta's Sunnyside web-cam, then sipped some PBRs in the parking lot, watching the clouds and the crowds move through.

Ready for ski season!

Hike stats: 7.60 miles RT; average speed: 2.7 m.p.h.; 2:48 hrs. walking, 3:42 hrs. total; 2,098 ft. elevation gain.

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