At 9,274’, Black Crook Peak is the highpoint of the Sheeprock Mountains, a range in Utah’s West Desert. We’d made a failed attempt at hiking Black Crook Peak back in the Spring, and since then I’ve been itching to get back out there.
Our first attempt at hiking Black Crook Peak in the spring
Our first attempt was a prime example of how not to route find. I’d read that the south ridge of Black Crook Peak tends to melt out pretty quickly, and thought it would be a good spring summit hike. Most peaks at this elevation were snowy enough to require snowshoes, which we just didn’t feel like dealing with.
We headed out with little beta and a perhaps slightly inflated view of my new Subaru’s capabilities as an off-road vehicle. After rolling through the small town of Vernon, we found the turnoff onto Benmore road, and then took a right to follow the road up into the mountains. The road got rough enough to make me nervous, but we made it almost to the top. A large, steep patch of snow over the road shut us down, and we backed down until we found a spot to park on the side of the road.
We walked back up the few remaining switchbacks to where the road ended. We could see a ridge high above us that was dry, but the slopes leading up to it were snowy and scrubby, with no visible trails. We slid our way a couple hundred feet up toward the ridge before giving up. We either didn’t know where we were going or the route wasn’t quite as melted out as I’d read.
Second (successful!) summit attempt
When I saw that the Wasatch Mountain Club had a climb of Black Crook Peak scheduled for Nov 13, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to get back there. I signed up, and Dan let me drag him along on another I dragged Dan along on another “hare-brained adventure,” as he described it.
After almost two years of isolating because of the pandemic, and only hiking with each other or a handful of close friends, Dan and I were both a little nervous about meeting up with a group. But we were relieved that it was a small group of 6, including us, and that they were all vaccinated. We met the group in Vernon, and followed them out to the end of Benmore road, where we left my car at a large dirt turn-out and piled into the truck with the rest of the hikers.
We parked the truck just near where Dan and I had seen the first snow patch and backed down the road on our first attempt. Here, there was a faint trail winding up a short distance through the scrub oak, and then opening up on the way up to the ridge. A much, much easier path up to the ridge than the one we’d attempted a few months ago, and completely free of snow.
From there, we followed the ridge, which turned out to be a much more interesting and fun scramble than I’d expected. We generally stayed as high as we could on the ridge, which led to some interesting moves and a touch of exposure that bordered on Class IV in a few places.
Finally at the summit!
The way back down felt longer, as we reversed all of the scrambles we’d done on the way up, but it was still fairly quick back to the truck. All-in-all, hiking Black Crook Peak made for a beautiful and challenging day, with a fantastic group and great weather.