On Friday I spoke at the She Runs Retreat in Midway, then with Matt, Scott, and Josh we drove up toward the trailhead. We stopped in Mountain View to eat dinner and pick up a few things at a convenience store. I told Matt if he bought me a cowboy hat I'd wear it to the top of King's. I didn't think he was serious, but out he came with the hat and I had no choice but to honor my promise. We got to the campsite at about 7pm and quickly found several other people who would be running in the morning.
Start times are open so people can leave whenever they like. Most people chose to start at 6am. Scott and Josh were attempting the Triple Crown (Utah's three tallest peaks) so they started at 5am. Me and Matt and a three others decided a comfortable start at 7am would be the best way to go. Even with a staggered start we knew we would see everyone along the trail, at some point. Matt and I started with Steve Jones, but after a couple of miles he dropped back to make some adjustments and it was just the two of us. We took a very casual pace up to Elkorn Crossing where we stashed our jackets so we didn't have to carry them to the top.
About a half mile past Elkhorn you rise up into the meadows of the Henrys Fork basin. This beautiful, open landscape gives you an amazing look at the peaks surrounding the basin, including King's. We made really good time through this section up to Dollar Lake. From Dollar Lake up to Gunsight Pass is a steady climb. We were now pushing towards 11,000 ft. Matt was still moving really well. I have been dealing with Cuboid Syndrome in my right foot, and although it has been feeling much better it really chose to flair up this day, making my run very painful. I was happy to move at casual pace with Matt, just enjoying being up there.
At Gunsight Pass runners can choose one of a few options. The most common path to take these days is to skirt right up towards the scree slope. There is now a well defined trail up through the cliffs and onto the plateau. Once above the cliffs what seems like the most obvious route is to continue up and over the shoulder of West Gunsight, however, experience has taught me that the actual best route is to stay low, moving left around the shoulder and staying mostly on alpine tundra. We watched a lot of people go up and over the shoulder, losing a bunch of time in the process. As Matt and I came around the shoulder one of the people we saw coming down off the wrong route was Collin. He seemed to be moving pretty well, but as I caught up to him just prior to Anderson Pass he mentioned the altitude was really getting to him. I waited for Matt at Anderson Pass, then we started up the summit ridge, my favorite section. Within 5 minutes or so we passed Collin, then ran into a few other guys who we hung out with the night before. Just before getting to the summit we came across Josh and Scott who had already summitted King's, then gone over and bagged South King's, and had come back across King's to work their way down the ridge to avoid the precarious boulder hopping down the face. They were looking really good and were excited about the likelihood of tagging the final peak of the Triple Crown, Gilbert. I made one last push to the summit, running the last 100 yards or so. Matt got up there two minutes later with Collin a minute or so later. We spent about 10 minutes on the top hanging out with other hikers before heading down.
Going back down the ridge is my favorite part of the whole trip. I can fly down that stuff. We came across a few other people heading up and back down and just before we got down to Anderson Pass Matt and I caught up Scott and Josh. It was fun to run the rest of the way down to Gunsight Pass with them, talking about their journey to this point. They were definitely poised to finish the Triple Crown in style. About half a mile below Gunsight Pass we watched the cut over to the chute they would need to climb up to tag Gilbert. Matt and I continued on down towards Dollar Lake, feeling great.
Matt and I thought we would have 2 - 3 hours before Scott and Josh finished their Triple Crown. As it turned out it took them considerably longer up on top of Gilbert due to high winds. They ended up finishing 4.5 hours after us, just as we were starting to get really worried. We quickly packed them up and headed home, stopping in Evanston to eat, then dropping Josh at Kimball Junction before finishing the drive home.
We had a good turnout this year and everyone was safe and had fun. There were a few first-timers, a few who did more than just King's, and one who decided to Storm the Castle instead of top-out on King's (steve). What an awesome weekend.