Peak(s):  Mount Tukuhnikivatz - 12482
Mount Peale - 12726
Mount Mellenthin - 12645
Date Posted:  08/15/2017
Modified:  08/16/2017
Date Climbed:   07/03/2017
Author:  Tony1
 Central La Sal Trio  


Peale Group


Mount Tukuhnikivatz (12,482 ft)
Mount Peale (12,726 ft)
Mount Mellenthin (12,645 ft)


Saturday, 1 July 2017
Route: FR 4723 > Ascend west to ridge > Ascend Tukuhnikivatz > Traverse to Peale > Traverse to Mellenthin > Descend from same ridge to FR 4723
Distance: ~9.0 miles R/T
Gain: ~4800 feet


Fourth of July Weekend was approaching, and I needed somewhere to go. I decided on a somewhat spontaneous trip out to the La Sals in southeastern Utah near Moab. The La Sals consist of three groups of peaks split by high alpine passes covered in pine and aspen forests. The northern and central groups contain a handful of 12ers. The central La Sals has three 12er peaks which are connected by a trio of high, generally smooth, undulating ridge lines. Tukuhnikivatz, also known as "Tuk," and Peale are a relatively popular (several people per day on a weekend) pair of peaks to hike, while Mellenthin sees less traffic. The typical route for Tuk and Peale approaches from La Sal Pass on the southern flanks of the group, but my idea took me to the other side: Dark Canyon.

I drove up the Geyser Pass road and turned southeast on FR 0129. If I remember correctly, there were signs for Highway 46 and the town of La Sal at the pass junction. FR 0129 winds its way across the lower eastern slopes of Mellenthin before reaching a hairpin turn, where there is a spur FR 4723. This road goes about a half mile into the basin between Peale and Mellenthin. I turned onto FR 4723 and parked about halfway up (or "down" since it actually loses just a bit of elevation), just before a rugged, muddy section. I assumed I was the only person in the gulch, so I was more hesitant to drive over it than I normally would have been. Up until that point, all the roads back in this area were what I like to call "Subaru roads:" the types of dirt roads you see in pretty much any Subaru commercial.

Having left Summit County that morning, I was hiking up the remainder of the road at 1:10 PM on a warm, bluebird day. I reached the end of the road and noticed a white 4Runner parked at the little loop. I wasn't alone back here after all.

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Walking the brief road up the valley.


I turned to my right (west) and followed a social trail up through meadows and strands of pine, looking at the ridge in the distance and trying to figure out a good way to gain it. My topo map showed that a more gentle grade with which to gain the ridge was farther south toward the "tri-point" between the three peaks. I looked in that direction and came to the conclusion that an ascent from that part of the basin would be miserable due to the scree I could see. The easiest way to gain the ridge would have been to go up toward the saddle between Mellenthin and a 12,250' bump, much farther north. However, since Tuk was the farthest peak from where I started, I wanted to summit it first and Mellenthin (the closest) last. With how I will describe the terrain along this route, consulting a topo map of the area will assist in your following along.

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I've arrived in the upper drainage. Shown is the ridge between Peale and Mellenthin.


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Mount Peale from below.


I ultimately decided to just keep heading west and gain the ridge wherever I happened to do so. Looking up, it seemed relatively easily doable. I cut across a shallow gully/avalanche path and started to make my way up a steepening grass ramp. As it turned out, the grass wasn't as dense as it looked from below, and the dirt was somewhat slippery. Whatever, just go slow. I reached a rock band and had some fun making a couple "scrambly" moves to get above it before the terrain went back to a slippery dirt-grass mix.

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I need to get up there somehow.


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The steep, grassy slope with some short rock bands above.


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Approaching the rock bands.


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Across some scree, then up.


A little higher, it started to turn into complete scree, and crossing one spot in particular was pure hell. Maybe that's an exaggeration, especially because in terms of vertical feet, this wasn't a lot of ground to cover. But, it still took a surprisingly long time. It sure felt like it never ended.

The scree gave way to grass once again, and I took the final steps up to the ridge, reaching it at a point just to the north of the top of the southerly of two bumps along the ridge from the tri-point to Mellenthin. The view opened up, and I could see Tuk to the left (south).

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Looking out over Moab, way below.


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Tuk on the right.


I made my way up the short talus heap and began a bit of an up-and-down traverse over to the tri-point. I reached the tri-point and veered southwest toward Tuk, ascending a small grassy bump and then descending its steeper opposite side.

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Tuk up ahead from the tri-point.


The terrain got progressively rockier, and I started picking my way through the rocky outcroppings on the ridge. I'd read that some scrambling is found on one part of the ridge, although there was more than I expected. I made several moves (no more than class 3) before downclimbing one section in particular which looked like it could collapse at the slightest touch. However, it was completely solid. Somewhat difficult class 3 at maximum.

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It did not look this bad in real life.


After that part, the scrambling ceased, and I continued my traverse of the ridge just to the left (south) of its crest across a bit of scree and talus before returning to grass.

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Approaching the upper slopes of Tuk.


I traversed level for a few minutes before angling upward toward the crest of the ridge once again. Before long, I'd reached the base of the upper portion of Tuk. I began upward as the terrain steepened and the grass gave way to talus. I stayed to the left of the ridge snowfield, picking my way up through the talus on a faint use trail. A few near-trips on loose chunks of rock later, I was on the summit ridge, almost instantly followed by the summit of Mount Tukuhnikivatz.

A pair of ladies reached the summit shortly after I did, so we traded pictures before I took a good break. The view down toward Moab was amazing. The 12ers in the La Sals rise 8000 feet above the valley. However, they don't look so big because they are also more removed horizontally from their valley than, say, the Tetons are from theirs. Looking west from the summit of Tuk will remind anyone how tall these peaks are.


The view from Tukuhnikivatz, demonstrating the 8000-foot rise of the La Sals from the valley containing Moab to the west.

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The next objective.


After my break on the summit, I started back down the talus, then re-traced my steps across the grass to the rocky portion of the ridge. I picked my way though the Jenga tower, up and across a couple of shallow gullies, then straight up the ridge crest until the steep grass hiking resumed to the little bump just west of the tri-point. I reached the tri-point and turned right, now hiking southeast toward Peale. The summit was off to the left, across the bowl formed by its west ridge.

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Backtracking along the grassy part of the ridge.


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Some goat company.


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Approaching the rugged section.


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Going up!


The grassy terrain gave way to dirt and scree on mellow slopes. A use trail began to show itself, so I followed it as it dipped below the ridge crest and then ascended back toward it. The trail took me around a small rock outcropping, and then just below the ridge on an ascending traverse, hiding the summit of Peale from view. I made my way up the trail with a constant grade until it deposited me just below the false summit, after which I picked my way up through a bit of talus back to the ridge crest. Once back on the ridge proper, the summit of Peale was straight ahead. I started upward, and after just a few minutes, I was standing on top of Mount Peale.

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Looking back at Tuk.


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The next objective.



Wide view to the east from Peale.


Wide view to the west and north from Peale.

By this time, I was estimating how long it would take to either climb Mellenthin and then descend back to the car, or just descend back to the car after traversing the ridge north of the tri-point. I knew the exact spot from which I'd want to descend, and that spot sits right below the summit of Mellenthin. I thought, why not just do it and not worry about the time? I set myself a goal for when I wanted to reach that point and started down the west ridge of Peale.

I re-traced my steps back to the tri-point and turned right to hike north along the ridge. I followed my previous path in the opposite direction until I came to the rocky bump I'd previously climbed over. I had the best idea: to traverse around it on the west. "What's a little talus and scree?" I thought. Well, it turns out that it would have been easier to go up and over. The detour was tedious and saved no effort.

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Dammit.


Once on the north side of the bump, I was at the point where I reached the ridge a few hours prior. I kept walking north to the second, larger bump which sits between the tri-point and Mellenthin. Learning my lesson from the previous one, I opted to go up and over. There was actually a faint use trail through the scree-covered slopes, making for a more stable ascent. I descended the opposite side and reached my final saddle. A 650-foot walk up Mellenthin's south ridge would bring me to my final summit.

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The second bump (left) and Mellenthin (right).


I started up and set a comfortable pace; before I knew it, I had reached the grassy summit area of the peak. A few goats were standing around, awaiting my arrival. I strolled over to the actual summit and took in the views. I signed a fresh summit register; only two names appeared before mine with the current date. I didn't see anyone around the peak while I was on it. It must have been the occupants of that 4Runner at the end of the road.


Looking back at Mount Peale (left) and Mount Tukuhnikivatz (right) from the summit of Mount Mellenthin.


The northern La Sals seen from the summit of Mellenthin. Tomorrow...

The sun was getting lower in the sky, but I was still out in a t-shirt. This range is a little warmer up high, and I like it. I started down the way I came, back to the saddle. I located a use trail heading southeast from the saddle and used it until it petered out just above a snow-filled mellow gully through the meadows. The snow filled the low-angle gully for a couple hundred vertical feet, so I walked down it instead of on the uneven dirt and plants. It felt like walking down a red carpet.

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Looking back at Mellenthin.


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Heading back down into the valley from the saddle.


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The snow ramp which provided a leisurely walk down.


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Almost back to the road.


As the snow ended, I continued my descent through the meadows on the grass, spotting a deer a couple hundred feet away. A little lower and through a few tree strands, I spotted another use trail which brought me to the road almost right where I'd left off earlier in the afternoon. I took a few minutes to walk out along the road back to my car, completing the day.

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Tuk seen on the way back to Moab, bathed in evening light.


Time stats for the day are below, for your reference. Keep in mind that I was trying to keep a somewhat quick pace while moving.
Trailhead: 13:10
Ridge: 14:20
Summit Tukuhnikivatz: 15:20
Leave Tukuhnikivatz: 15:50
Summit Peale: 17:00
Leave Peale: 17:05
Saddle below Mellenthin: 18:05
Summit Mellenthin: 18:25
Leave Mellenthin: 18:50
Trailhead: 19:40

The three central La Sal 12ers provide some fun cross-country travel, incredible scenery, and all 3 are attainable in a traversing day hike due to the superb forest road access from multiple angles. Thanks for reading, and if you now have a new item on the list, enjoy your trip!

~Tony



Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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 Comments or Questions
boudreaux

Beautiful Place
08/16/2017 10:41
The LaSals are awesome, enough said!


Exiled Michigander

Shhhhh!
08/16/2017 14:23
Keep telling people Utah sucks! Do you want Utah to become the next Colorado and fill to the brim with Texans and Californians?


Rainier_Wolfcastle

Hoax!
08/16/2017 14:38
Tony, you're not fooling me, there's nothing but desert, canyons, and national parks in Utah! Nice try! Seriously, where were you...San Luis Area?


kaiman

Nice report!
08/16/2017 17:38
I've done that same triple header from Geyser Pass, La Sal Pass, and Dark Canyon (the name of the trail head you started at BTW) and there is no easy way to do it without some backtracking, you just have roll the dice and hope that the weather holds. Also, the "second bump" on the Peale/Mellenthin ridge is called Laurel Peak, an un-ranked 12er.

@ Exiled Michigander - Too late! We already have our fair share of Texans and Californians in Moab (not to mention all the folks from Colorado), but that's okay because we're working on building a wall and going to make everyone else pay for it!


Tony1

Dark Canyon
08/17/2017 10:20
@kaiman - Thanks! I updated the location in the report so that it doesn't throw anyone off. Great information; I didn't know that bump was named. The weather was awesome...I love afternoon summits.

@Exiled Michigander - I think the joke is on us! We're already quite the invaters for Utah.



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