UT – La Sal Mountains, Tuk and South Mountains J&J Style (06/22)

Sometimes a little detour is needed, even if it means paying budget-breaking gas prices. So after spending a few weeks in Colorado, it was time to return west.

I had a nice view of the La Sal range on my way to Moab. I first explored the northern end in 2017 with Joan hiking Manns and Pilot Peak (blog link) followed by Haystack Peak (blog link).

Well look who I found? That’s right it’s another J&J adventure with my friend Joan. On our first day, we hiked from the La Sal Pass Trailhead to the snow line at 12,000 feet on Mount Tukuhnikivatz, aka Tuk.

As we hiked up Tuk, we had views of South Mountain, which we planned to circumnavigate the following day.

When we reached about 11,000 feet, we found our first Sky Pilot blooms.

The maintained trail may end at 1.5 miles but after that there was ridge walking, possibly my favorite type of hiking. However, first, we had more trail to cover after this false summit.

This is what I call a WOW per mile hike. Look at those views!

We could see down into Castle Valley.

We were thrilled to celebrate at 12,000 feet, although Joan has successfully bagged that peak when there’s a bit less snow.

It almost seemed like we should be singing Sound of Music.

This view from Medicine Lake shows the ridge and snow line on Tuk where we’d just hiked.

South Mountain Circumnavigation

Joan assumed correctly we might find some snow; counterclockwise would give us an out and back option. The loop route includes OHV roads combined with hiking trails.

At 10,000 feet, the aspen weren’t leafed out yet but we had early morning views of South Mountain.

And views down into the valleys.

When we reached this avalanche chute, we thought it might be turn around time.

It was icy, but with rock ledges, Joan led the way with the bum scoot method.

Thankfully the second chute had soft snow and I easily made flat kick steps.

We found an aspen corridor with arborglyphs, some dating back to 1924 often done by Basque sheepherders. The cursive writing is my favorite.

We found GREEN!

And then we found a LOT of snow! It was so much fun trying to avoid postholing.

We took a break at this awesome viewpoint where we could admire Mount Tukuhnikivatz to the left and Mount Peale to the right.

It was a perfect place to relax and celebrate our snow travel victories.

Double Tuk

On our last day, we couldn’t resist the pull to test ourselves on Tuk one more time, at least to the end of the maintained trail, as marked by this cairn.

We reminisced about our walk around South Mountain.

Said hello to our Sky Pilot friends.

It was another most excellent J&J adventure.

We found an amazing display of iris on our way down the mountain.

And then it was time to head east once again saying goodbye to Joan for now.

There’s something about that first kiss.

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