Trip Report: Backpack and scramble Mt Emmons in Uintas

Backpack and scramble Mt Emmons in Uintas
By L Beth Blattenberger
HIKE 08/15/2019 MOD+

Six of us - Sue Raymond, Mary Whittington, Jean Rengstorf, Deirdre Flynn, Mohamed Abdallah and I (Beth Blattenberger) – headed east on Route 40 midday on Thursday August 15 to Roosevelt and then north to the Uinta River trailhead. We arrived late afternoon and hiked 3.7 miles along the rushing river, passing beaver dams. At a trail junction and bridge, we were delighted to find a good camp on the other side of the river. We were equally delighted with the weather – sunny but not too hot, and breezy enough to keep the bugs away. And we were happy the site was not already taken. Although there were reports that this is a popular trailhead and the places we were going are heavy-use areas, we saw extremely few other people on our entire trip.
On Friday our trail left the river and climbed up multiple switchbacks to the Chain Lakes. When we arrived at Lower Chain Lake, we got our first view of Mount Emmons. Although it had a gentle ridge profile, we knew our challenge for our planned ascent the next day would be to get from the valley below up onto the ridge, because there is no trail to the summit. Meanwhile, our destination was the Fourth Chain Lake at an elevation of nearly 11,000 feet. There we found places for our 4 tents amid spruce trees that provided some shelter from the strong wind gusts blowing across the lake, and had plenty of time to enjoy the afternoon.
On Saturday there was some wind, rain and lightning in the very early hours of the morning. But the wind blew the rain clouds to the south, the sun came out, and we started for Mt Emmons at 7:15 am, following a route recommended online. We followed the trail part way up to Roberts Pass, then left the trail to enter a sort of hidden valley. We hiked through a beautiful meadow along the base of Emmons’ rocky east ridge, looking for a reasonable place to get up onto the ridge. Eventually we decided on the best spot and scrambled over medium-sized rocks to gain the 400 or so vertical feet up to the ridge. The ridge itself was broad and much less steep but still rocky, with loose rocks that required a lot of attention to where we were stepping, so we were glad of short stretches where we could walk on snow. The summit is a large area where it is difficult to tell what spot is highest, but there is a rock cairn and summit register in an ammo can. We reached the summit around 11 am and spent time relaxing and enjoying the view, which we had to ourselves, although other parties had signed the register in the preceding days.
The next challenge was to get down. We chose to go down to the north, on the opposite side of the ridge from our camp, by a route that is longer but not as steep. There was still plenty of loose rock, which we all had our fill of by the end of the day. When we reached the valley below Carrot Lake, we headed cross country through open forest and past several lakes looking for a trail that would lead us back to Roberts Pass, but when we got to the place where our GPS devices showed the trail should be, it was not there. So we followed the mapped trail route until eventually we met up with the trail. We finished the day by climbing up again to the scenic pass and then dropping down to our camp, which we reached around 6:15 pm. It was a 10.5-mile and 11-hour day, mostly off trail and on some difficult terrain, but it included multiple breaks to stop looking at our feet and enjoy the beautiful and varied scenery.
Sunday it was all downhill for the 11-mile hike back to the cars with a lunch break at the bridge where we spent the first night. We agreed it had been a successful trip.

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