The mountain was taunting us. The 10,620-foot-high Flat Top Peak, seemed so close but we had just enough daylight to get back to our car. Summitting the Oquirrh Mountain's highest peak would have to wait for another day.
The approach for Flat Top is via historic Ophir Canyon on the west side of the range.
I was hoping for firm snow conditions, but within 100 yards it was obvious we were going to have to strap on the snowshoes. Even with the snowshoes we were post-holing a good 18 inches.
The deep powder was a serious energy-suck and it wore on us quickly.
The first 2 miles or so up South Fork wasn't too bad, but it got pretty ugly from there.
Above: Matt nears "Mercur Pass"
Mercur Pass - from here, you can see down into Cedar Valley, the Lakeside Mountains, and the southern Wasatch in the horizon.
From the pass, things got steep.
And then steeper. The hillside was too steep and the snow too loose to climb straight up the mountain, We had to "switchback" back and forth a million times to make any progress.
Higher up, we could see over the top of Porphery Hill and into Rush Valley and the Onaqui Mountains in the distance.
Above: looking down into South Fork of Ophir Canyon.
Above: coaxing Eros along with some treats in the snow.
Above: this sub-peak at 9650 feet was as far as we would get that day. The peak with all of the pine trees is Lewiston (10,411'). Flat Top is just out of view to the left.
Above: looking south into the central Oquirrhs. The high peak on the left is Sharp Mountain (10,006'); The high peak just over Matt's right shoulder is Lowe Peak at 10,589 feet.
Ophir Canyon is well-known for its trophy elk and deer. We found their beds and their crap everywhere, but the only wildlife we saw was this Clark's Nutcracker which kept a close eye on us as we debated whether to go on.
Above: we decided to try a shortcut and follow this ridge (photo center) back down to the truck. It looks like an easy path from here.
Racing down the steep hillside was a true test of our balance. We all took more than one spill.
Our route down looked nice and smooth from the top, but there were plenty of cliffs and thick brush to complicate things.
Above: taking a break at the remains of an old sheep-herder's cabin.
Back at the truck, Eros lets us know how he really feels about the day's hike.
Final numbers: 7 miles round-trip with 3000 feet vertical. Not huge numbers but with the deep snow this was definitely a tough hike, not only on our bodies but on our gear too -- Matt broke his pole, Eros lost a pole basket, and I ripped a gaiter.
The mountain won this time, but its victory will be short.
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