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Northern La Sal Traverse, UT
mini location map2021-09-23
25 by photographer avatarLJW
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Northern La Sal Traverse, UT 
Northern La Sal Traverse, UT
Hiking17.69 Miles 6,540 AEG
Hiking17.69 Miles   9 Hrs   59 Mns   2.09 mph
6,540 ft AEG   1 Hour   30 Mns Break
1st trip
Route Scout Route Recorded  on Route Scout Popup | MapDEX
Last year I reached the summits of five of the ten highest peaks in the La Sal Mountains over the course of a mountaineering route called the Middle La Sal Traverse. I didn't end up spending much time in the northern La Sal Mountains, so I drew up a loop for the other five peaks, plus three of the lakes round that way, and made plans to come back this fall. The plan was to climb up to the crest of the northern La Sals and ride it from Waas to Tomasaki before circling back below Haystack Mountain. I started at Warner Lake with Miner's Basin Trail around 8:30am and headed clockwise.

After fifteen minutes of Miner's Basin Trail, I came within twenty yards of a small black bear cub drinking water from the flowing creek in Schuman Gulch. Miner's Basin trail starts in a mix of dense spruce and fir and ascends via lazy switchbacks below beautiful aspen groves. Climbed the trail to the saddle and decided against a summit of Gold Knob. Did it last year, it's a nice fall hike and low summit with good views toward the Middle La Sals.

Left the trail and made my way up the ridgeline which starts in an open forest of spruce. It is a mix of meadows, open and closed forests as it winds its way up to Pilot Mountain. Eventually the route leaves the trees, grass, and moss behind and it's straight up Pilot's talus slopes. The rocky ridge was remarkably stable and not too bad of a thousand foot climb to the summit.

The ridgeline from Pilot Mountain to Green Mountain is easy and awesome. High in the mountains walking the stable rock on old double tracks twelve thousand feet up with panoramic views within the range and of the distant canyonlands. Pilot and Green are the eighth and ninth highest La Sal mountains respectively. Green's summit is only as good as the ridgeline, so I dropped down to the saddle quick and made my way up Waas.

Waas, the fourth highest peak in the range, was one of the steepest climbs of the day, but there's a use trail that shakes up the mountain. Waas summit was probably my favorite part of the day. From the top looking south, the crest of the northern La Sals spreads out in front of the high middle range. All of the highest peaks are on full display with the exception of Mount Laurel. Could have stayed forever, but with a long day planned contented myself with a half hour. It's never enough.

Manns Peak trail is in good shape and contours the mountain through the talus on its way to the fifth highest summit. Good views of fall color south of Pilot in Mill Creek's Dry Fork. It is the busiest summit in the northern range, and I saw a man on top who descended before I got there. Views of the middle La Sals from the summit are as good as it gets. For me the best part was the Tomasaki ridgeline. Clouds were building over that summit, and my second favorite part of the day overall was traversing that ridgeline as well as my time on the summit proper.

The ridgeline is grassy and rocky and very fun. Saw the second person of the day on the ridgeline near the base of Tomasaki, but we only got close enough to wave. Clouds were building as I started the climb. The best route stays on the ridgeline, but no matter which way up, it is the steepest and loosest climb of the day. It is the seventh highest peak in the range. Stayed for a long while enjoying the weather and the views south to the best of the fall color so far in the range in the area around Geyser Creek.

Getting down Tomasaki was the hardest part of the day. The scree is so loose everything I stepped on or put my hands on tumbled down. It was utterly torturous. Seventeen hundred feet down contorting to find any half way decent footing or somewhere to put my hands. First part of the day that seemed dangerous, as loosening the wrong rock is easy and could be disastrous. Eventually though the mountaineering was over and I reached the hiking portion of the loop.

To fully traverse the northern La Sals, I had to see the meadows as well as Clarks, Oowah, and Warner Lakes. Used a combination of Geyser to Burro Trail, Moonlight Meadows Trail, Clark Lake Trail, Oowah Lake Trail, and the Trans Mountain Trail to swing back south of Haystack. Fall color was good on the trip to Geyser Pass. After that the Trails enter the Pack Creek burn area. The damage to the alpine meadows south of Haystack Mountain is astonishing. There were some yellow Aspens, but for the most part from Geyser Pass until after Oowah Lake there is little color and plenty of scorched earth. Trails have been rehabbed and are clear and in good shape, but the ground they travel through, even with the light flow of water through Mill Creek, is hard to enjoy. An unattended campfire burned up from the lowlands into the high mountains and took with it much of the beauty of Gold Basin and the Haystack Mountain area. Ended up back at Warner Lake after ten hours with just enough time to drive a little down the road and set up camp.
foliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observationfoliage observation
Autumn Foliage Observation Light
Moderate in the Eastern mountains, hadn't really started west or by the lakes
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Isolated
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