This last weekend Exo and I attempted to climb up Francis Peak. The weather’s been fantastic in Utah recently and I feel like an end is in sight for winter, but also Utah is a dumb jerk and in all likelihood a new ice age will blow in right around spring time and send everyone seeking shelter for another couple of weeks.
Francis Peak towers above the Wasatch front in the northern section of the valley. I’d been up there as a kid to check out the radar domes with my dad who had access to do stuff like that. All I remember is that it was windy as fuuuuuuuuck and the people who worked there got to live there for a while on top of the mountain, doing radar things.
Both Exo and I have been wanting to do this hike, but it’s a bit more technically spooky than other mountains we’ve done being that avalanche risks are considerably higher since the trail has to go through prime avalanche territory to get to the ridge that leads to the peak. I still wasn’t totally comfortable with it when we set out, but if we didn’t make it all the way up the rest of the hike wouldn’t have been a total loss, though I have a really hard time seeing it that way sometimes. I never ditch out on a day hike, so far I’ve done it twice this winter and it’s really getting under my fucking skin despite valid reasoning.
I’m a bit light on pictures. When we got there the trail was in pretty bad shape. The runoff from snow melt had totally destroyed the trail in some places forcing us to carefully walk along muddy hillsides. It’s rated as a pretty rough hike, but sometimes you don’t know if that means it’s scary, just hard, or what someone else perceives as hard. This trail was sketchy in places, and pretty difficult in others.
Looking at the peak in the distance. It’s a pretty healthy climb.
But the initial hike was totes coolio! I was really happy to see some of the snow gone, I’m over it. At some points I was even able to smell that wonderful smell of old trees rotting under all the melted wet snow, with a healthy amount of dirt. I had to stop and just breathe it in every chance I got. I miss earthy smells so much.
The higher up we went, less evidence of people persisted. We started losing the trail a while after this and I had a hell of a lot of fun just relying on visual queues of where the trail was, or really just the best way to go would be. Also it’s a canyon so it’s not like there was much danger of getting lost in the first place. Eventually we pulled out the map and opted to follow a spine up to the ridge because: A. It’s hard to get lost on something like that, even under tree cover. B. The more we went, the deeper the snow got, and the slushier too. Avalanches became a real concern the higher up we went. Not so much in the treeline where the vegetation could kind of hold it in place, but a bit further up.
At some point Exo said he was done. We’d been trudging through really wet snow, both of our feet were soaked, but I was just starting to catch my second wind and was pretty reluctant to turn back, especially since we were a little over half way up. I kinda sat there quietly for a minute not wanting to turn around, but I looked up and saw cornices along the top ridge, and checked my map a second time and didn’t really like the looks of it given the current conditions. Exo has virtually no gear to deal with stuff like this sans his poles, I had the gear but had doubts that my ice axe would perform well in this slushy snow, and lastly I’m not too versed in how to get up and over a cornice. My impression is you just don’t do it, so I guess it was a good call in the end. But still, turning around always sucks.
I think Francis Peak is going to have to wait until the snow melts. RIP potential good view. But if the weather holds up this weekend and I can find something that isn’t on snow, I’m totally wanting to do an overnight trip somewhere.