Mt Tukuhnikivatz Day Hike

14 Jun 2005 - by Kari Burchett

Route Information and Trip Reports were hard to come by in preparing to hike in the La Sals southeast of Moab, so hopefully this information will be helpful. The La Sals are a beautiful range rising from the desert floor near Moab and offer a great relief from the summer heat below. My husband and I attempted to summit Mt Tuk on 6/14/05, but were forced to turn back about 200 yards from the summit due to snow conditions and our lack of climbing experience and gear.

Directions to Trailhead: We approached La Sal Pass, the trailhead for Mt Tuk and Mt Peale from the east because the road conditions are said to be much better from this direction. From Moab, drive south on Hwy 191 to La Sal Junction. Turn left and drive east on Hwy 46 through La Sal. Just under 4 miles after passing through La Sal, turn left on Canopy Gap Road. After 2 miles, turn left on Co Road 123/La Sal Pass Road. The trailhead is about 7.5 miles up this road on the right hand side. There is a creek that must be forded on this road that supposedly should not be a problem, but due to high runoff from snowmelt, it was running rather swift and deep on this trip. In the morning, around 5:30am, the water was up to the running boards on our Ford Escape. Coming down around 12:30, the water was significantly higher, but we made it through. The creek is not wide, probably about 15 feet across on our trip. We also were forced to park about 1 mile short of La Sal Pass due to snow drifts across the road. We hiked this last mile to the trailhead.

From the trailhead at La Sal Pass, we walked north through a snowfield before turning slightly northwest through trees. The snow was about 3 feet deep, and snowshoes were extremely beneficial through this area. Otherwise, we would have been postholing and sinking with each step. After emerging from the trees, our path opened into a meadow where the snow had melted. There was a cattle trough here, but the cattle had not been moved onto the mountain yet this year. After reaching the meadow, snowshoes were no longer needed until the final summit ascent. Walking steeply uphill around some snow and postholing through some snow, we reached the secondary ridge by continuing to head northwest. The secondary ridge was free of snow but was a fairly steep hike in a northerly direction to the saddle between Mt Tuk and Mt Peale. After ascending this secondary ridge, Mt Tuk's summit is to the west. It was quite intimidating looking up the ridge as snow was heavily drifted up Tuk's north colouir onto the ridge and nearly completely covered the south face of Tuk as well. The angle of Tuk's east ridge is 30 degrees. The snow was tightly packed and very slick. Even with snowshoes and poles, we decided to turn back not long after beginning the final summit approach. With each step snow was sliding down the south face of the mountain and we were sliding as well. We would likely have summited had we been equipped with ice axes and crampons.

It was a beautiful mountain to climb but too steep given the snow conditions on this day. The trail description above is the only description we had found prior to hiking Tuk. Once we made it safely down to the base of the final ridge, we heard voices on top of Tuk. Other climbers had successfully climbed up the snow-free southwest ridge. I imagine they drove La Sal Pass road as far as possible from the west and then made their way up that ridge. Obviously a much better choice on this day.

The trail described above really isn't much of a trail, although a jeep road is visible on parts of the mountain. The route is obvious though. Just get up the secondary ridge and turn west up the final ridge. Overall, this hike lasted about 5 hours. From the trailhead at La Sal Pass, the distance to the summit is roughly 4.8 miles with 2,362 feet of elevation gain. We chose to hike Tuk because it allows a great view of Moab. Mt Peale appeared to have been a better choice on this day as the trail was clearly visible and snow free from Tuk and did not appear as steep either. I would imagine when Tuk is snow-free it poses no problem for the average hiker.

Good luck and hopefully this post helps provide a little more info on the lesser written about La Sal Mountains.

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