“Late in August the lure of the mountains becomes irresistible. Seared by the everlasting sunfire, I want to see running water again, embrace a pine tree, cut my initials in the bark of an aspen, get bit by a mosquito, see a mountain bluebird, find a big blue columbine, get lost in the firs, hike above timberline, sunbathe on snow and eat some ice, climb the rocks and stand in the wind at the top of the world on the peak of Tukuhnikivatz.” ~Ed Abbey in Desert Solitaire
I agree with Ed on all that except it was late July and carving initials into a tree is totally uncool and well the snow, so long gone that it is hard to imagine there was ever any snow left in late August.
Mt. Tukuhnikivatz (12,482 feet), is Ute for “where the sun lingers” or “where the sun last sets” or something like that. Shooting out of the twisted red rock canyons of the Colorado, the La Sal Mountains reach heights of nearly 13,000 feet and are the second highest mountain range in Utah. I’ve marveled countless times at these often snow-covered, crazy prominent peaks that serve as the dramatic backdrop for every Moab adventure I’ve ever done, but never once thought about climbing one, until now.
Upon returning from our honeymooning adventure to Dolomiti, Slovenia, and Croatia and saddened by all the peaks I will never climb in those lands, I remembered a little list I made last fall. It was a list I made of every recognized peak over 10,000 feet I could find in Utah. I called this list the Mun-Roos inspired by the Munro bagging in Scotland and my little pups Roo.
Rumor has it that Utah may have more 10,000+ feet peaks than any other states besides Alaska and I want to stand on top of all of them. I zeroed the clock in June and Mt. Tukuhnikivatz was Mun-Roo number 6. I’ve identified 305 recognized peaks over 10,000 feet in Utah, but this number includes some sub-peaks and leaves out some solid peaks that just don’t have names. So pretty much I’m going to define the peaks as I go…
By the end of July, the heat in Salt Lake had completely sapped all my energies and the only hope for recovery was to escape to somewhere cooler. The plan was to head south to Colorado’s San Juan mountains, but I didn’t have the energy to make the drive in one push after working all day so I decided to spend a night in the La Sals and climb Mt. Tuk before continuing on to Colorado.
My car’s outdoor temperature meter was reading 106 degrees upon arrival in Moab and I was like, what was I thinking?!? I drove for what seemed like forever uphill to get to the Mt. Tuk trailhead and then my temp meter read 70 degrees and then I was like oh yeah!
I made camp just below the trailhead, tucked away in the aspens with a great view of Mt. Tukuhnikivatz and neighboring Mt. Peale. Just after I made my bed in the back of my car, COWS everywhere snorting and stampeding through our camp. I had no idea what Roo would do and I was seriously afraid he would get trampled so I threw him in the back of my car and he fought back tearing a six-inch hole in my sleeping pad. Noooooooo I cried as all the air escaped in one big poof! The airpad patch kit was no match for this kind of gaping tear; no combination of duct tape, patches, and athletic tape could salvage it so I begrudgingly slept with no pad cursing the cows every time I rolled over.
I slept in my running clothes and when my alarm went off at 4:40am Roo leapt out of the car and twirled in about a zillion circles while I put on my shoes. No coffee, no breakfast, and one seriously aching back, we headed directly to the trailhead waking up every cow in the neighborhood. The cows let out an alarm that was more elephant than bovine and we wasted an entire half hour losing the trail after playing trail chicken with a particularly angry looking bull.
Super crabby and downright miserable, I trudged up the mountain fuming about the cows. Seriously, they don’t belong here and they are downright ruining everything! They are totally responsible for my sleeping pad popping and I missed the sunrise because an ugly snorting one chased me off the trail and there are zero wildflowers in what should be prime wildflower season because they are eating everything.
As for the actual peak, I couldn’t see shit because there was smoke in every direction including the big cloud of reefer smoke that greeted me on the summit thanks to the three Moab locals who summitted a minute before me. I should have just stayed home.
But back at camp, I had one of those moments where everything is all you ever hoped for and more. Roo’s passed out in the tall shady grass, the cow’s are giving us a tiny break, I’m sipping coffee re-reading Desert Solitaire and then it starts to rain. This is the first rain I’ve felt on my skin in over a month and it is absolutely glorious. I then watch some horse riders gallop through the field under Mt. Tuk and it is so beautiful I almost cry.
Then one of the cowgirls rides into camp and asks if I had seen any cows. HAVE I SEEN ANY COWS? Is this a joke? Just minutes ago one was rubbing his head on my rearview mirror and the young ones were playing a game to see who could get closer to my coffee cup. “Nope, haven’t seen any cows,” I say.