Summit County Highpoint Trip Report

Gilbert Peak (13,442 feet)

Date: September 24, 2007
Author: Dale Millsap

I solo day-hiked Gilbert Peak. My round-trip time was 11.5 hours. The conditions up high were extreme. We had experienced some very wintry weather in the high country in the previous few days.

I left my house in Salt Lake around 4:15 AM. I drove through Fort Bridger, Mountain View, and Robertson, arriving at the trailhead just before 7:00 AM. The roads coming in were quite snowy, even back on I-80. There was about 4 inches of accumulated snow at the trailhead.

I traveled very light, with snacks, water, and just the emergency survival stuff I would need if I had to hunker down. I had the trail all to myself, so I enjoyed a lot of wildlife sightings - 3 moose, about 20 elk, and a dozen deer. The elk were rutting, so the males were bugling and challenging each other. I made very good time all the way to Elkhorn Crossing and then followed the North Highline Trail up to the ridgeline that runs straight south to Gilbert. At this point, the snow was averaging 8 inches deep. It was just after 9:00 AM.

On the ridgeline, I had to shift into my personal granny gear. Above tree line, the first few snows of the season can be treacherous because you still punch through the gaps between rocks - it is difficult to judge your footing. The average accumulation was around 12 inches but in places the snow had drifted to 2 feet deep. The snow was still coming down and the wind was pretty stiff out of the northwest. I didn't realize until the next morning that my face was pretty wind-burned. The grade is pretty easy-going - there are a few short grunts - but this experience made me think of the stories I hear about Froze-to-Death Plateau on Granite Peak.

I did not arrive at the summit until 1:30 PM - it took somewhere around 4 hours (!!) to slog a little less than 3 miles along the difficult ridgeline. The shelter was drifted completely full of snow. I just stopped long enough to call my wife and let her know that I had arrived at the top and what time to expect me home (I had left her a detailed map, GPS coordinates, and instructions on what to do if I didn't show up).

The trek down the ridgeline wasn't much easier that the trek up - the same issues still faced me. Still, it was a bit faster - I was off the ridge by 4:30 PM.

By the time I reached Elkhorn Crossing, the snow was pretty well melted on the main Henry's Fork trail.

I arrived at my car just before 6:30 PM. The snow had melted off the roads and I was treated to beautiful views of the fall colors as I headed north toward Robertson. I arrived home just after 9:00 PM.