La Sal Traverse

Tuesday, June 17th

So, another couple of days off from work. Its funny to think of all the tag lines that go out about living authentic, or making the great days better, or live the life you’ve imagined…you get the idea.

Sometimes they can be kinda cheesy. Yet, often they still ring true.

A co worker/ friend and I had been talking about traversing the La Sals in a day for a few months. Looking to have a big day out of the office. I feel like there’s a few themes in  my posts lately.

The goal was to start in the North and head South through the range and summit all of the peaks above 12,000′. There’s 12 of them. Our planning consisted of talking about it at work every once in a while and putting a date on when we would do it. Last weekend we actually looked at a calendar and realized that instead of having a couple more days to think a out it and plan, we needed to head up there the next night. So that day we finally looked at a map. Roughly. I was trying to avoid actually looking at a map to figure out miles and elevation gain and loss. We both knew the La Sals pretty well just from working in them a fair amount with Outward Bound.

On the night of the 16th we drove out to Bear Creek on the North side of La Sal peak. That would be our first peak. The road there was pretty spectacular. Driving away from Moab we headed out HWY 128 up the Colorado River and then to Castle valley. Driving past Castleton tower and gaining elevation into the La Sals. Within an hour we had passed some of the most classic desert scenes, landscapes, rivers, towers, and mountains in the American West. That alone is good enough for most people who fly in from around the world and rent an rv for the week.

We found our road that would take us eventually to Bear Creek. On the way we would scare up about 15 Elk that were in the meadows encompassed by the Aspen trees. Already it was worth just getting an hour from town. We found our way up the 4wd road and parked the truck where we would start the next morning.

Night came fast and we crawled into our bags as the cool mountain air surrounded us. The stars and the moon lit up the valley and the horizon line that we would be making our way up the next morning. I remember dreaming that night. Vivid dreams of hiking in the mountains. Random. With people that were on my mind quite often. Loved ones that I hoped to be spending time with in the further. The dreams that make you wake up and wonder if they were real only to see stars and the moon above. Maybe it was just the energy in the air for the following day.

4 am came. We stuffed our bags and grabbed our day bags that would have our essentials for the day. A couple of layers, sunscreen, water, lots of bars, jolly ranchers, and chocolate covered espresso beans. The essentials.

We made our way up the horizon line pretty quickly. Navigating by headlamps was pretty easy. As long as we were going up, we were headed in the right direction.Quickly , we warmed up and delayered as we gained altitude.

Then we hit the talus. These loose , sliding, stacked, asymmetric, sharp, pieces of fractured mountain, would be our pathway for the next 17-18 hours.  The little ankle biters that would roll underneath you. That was our path.

We made great time as we traversed the Northern range of the mountains. Walking and scrambling up on top of 7 peaks by 10 am. La Sal peak,Castle, Manns, Waas, Tomasaki and 2 other 12,000′ peaks.

A front was moving in and all day there were sustained winds of 20-30 miles per hour, with gusts of 40-50.  This was an element that we hasn’t really thought of. I mean all day. Having to fight to walk down hill?

Coming down from Tomasaki we ran into one of the Outward Bound patrols that was in the area. They were stoked to see us and likewise to see them. It seemed to bring some new energy to us. At least a little. From there we would travel down from Burro pass, up geyser pass, and make our way to the base of Mt Mellenthin. This was one of the few times that Steve and I could actually hold a conversation. The wind was calm, the Sun was warm, We could actually hear each other, and ourselves. If anyone knows Steve, you know what a great individual he is and how he empowers others to do great things. We walked along the trail, and up the road, discussing life, relationships and the challenges, some plans in the future. All while the 2,000′ stair master 5000 was looming above us. By this time we had already been going for about 8 hours. A lunch break was in order.

We stopped and ate and took a 15 minute siesta in the Sun and watched the clouds soar over us as they crested over mellenthin.

We made our way up the ridge line of Mellenthin gaining another 2,000′ of elevation. The wind was still blowing as we made the traverse across and  ridge to the top of the summit. From there we  can easily see the rest of our route. Laurel, then Peale, Talking, and then finally Tuk.

By far the most talus I’ve ever done in one day. The rest of the day was spent traveling up and down talus, leaning into the wind. Celebrating briefly the feeling of being on top of the La Sals before heading down and then back up. Finally we found our way up Tukuhnikavitz. Supposedly this was an indian word for ” where the Sun sets last”. Well, nice work on naming it. We got up there a few minutes before the Sun set. What we had accomplished was really perfect timing. If we had been there any earlier or later we would have missed an amazing gift.  As we gained the top of the peak, the wind stopped and we were able to have some time to reflect on the day, take some photos, and kinda smile.

Traversing the La Sals is not some sort of record or something that National Geographic will probably write about anytime soon. But it was something that people talked about doing for a long time. And we wondered if we could do it . And we did. And that felt good. It was a great day that got better, it was living authentic, and it was a day that we imagined. So, there’s that. Thanks for reading.

Enjoy the photos. and even a link to a quick edit of some footage at

lasal traverse-14

lasal traverse-11

The gift from up top of Tuk. lasal traverse-10Making our way from Peale to Tuk. Last peak of the day.
lasal traverse-6 More or less our route for the day. All of them.lasal traverse-4 in the morning. Sunrise. Didn’t suck.10376722_10102312717886734_4828585822175697186_n

photo by Steve Creech, when we were still smiling.


One Comment

  1. Reply
    vic June 28, 2014

    Beautiful, great photos and great spirit.

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