Wasatch Two-for: Ben Lomond and Willard Peaks

Perry

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A few weeks back I managed to get to the top of Ben Lomond with full credit. (Explanation to follow) Ben Lomond is one of the peaks on my 2017 peak bucket list. I also managed a double bag by hitting Willard Peak, the highest point in Weber County. Hitting both peaks provided spectacular views. If that wasn't enough, on the way up I managed to see seven moose in fairly close proximity. I managed to get some pretty good smart phone video of them.

Here is the video of this trip. If video is not your cup of tea, read on...


This would be my third attempt at Ben Lomond. The first was back in mid June when my brother and I headed up the same trail but were turned back just short of the saddle due to too much snow on the north-facing slopes. We had not taken spikes or ice axes with us. The southern face of the mountain, visible from the Ogden area, was completely snow free and so we hadn't anticipated the northern slopes would have had so much snow remaining.

My second attempt was a solo at the end of September just after an early fall snow storm. The weather forecast called for unsettled weather in the morning but looked like it would be nice during the day. It was very nice all the way up until, at about a quarter of a mile from the summit some very strange clouds moved in resulting in zero visibility. I pressed on to the summit where there was no view. I had achieved my goal but it didn't seem like full credit should be given without a view from the top. This third attempt would be the charm.

I started this adventure at the Cutler Fork trailhead in North Fork Park in Eden, Utah. There are three routes to Ben Lomond in this area. The Culter Trail, second, the Ben Lomond trail which also starts further south in North Fork Park. The third option is the North Skyline trail which begins at the North Ogden Divide. The Cutler Trail is the shortest but steeper than the other two.

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The weather was perfect with clear skies and 27 degrees when I left the trail head at 7:30 am. The trail head is actually about 600 ft up a dirt road from the parking area. The trail sign says "Ben Lomond Trail" but that is not exactly correct. This is the Cutler Trail which does take you to the Ben Lomond trail so that is a little misleading.

The trail heads west up an old jeep road which follows a small stream for about half a mile then turns north providing the first view of the area below. Just after this turn I flushed two bucks that were bedded down just below the trail. They were gone in a flash and I didn't get them on camera. A bit further up the trail is where things started to get pretty exciting where I flushed a young moose beside the trail. The sun wasn't up yet and my stills I got with my iPhone were not all that great so let's move on to the second moose just yards up from this first encounter....

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As I continued up I encountered yet another bull moose...
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The conditions for some good pictures were poor. I was using an iPhone in low light with the sun coming up behind the animals. I tried my best to get some good shots but alas they were not good. I continued up the trail another ten or twenty yards and spied another bull on the trail ahead of me. I hope you can see his rack...

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All this was very exciting but now this bull was right on the trail where I was headed. I slowly continued up through the tall growth making a bunch of noise trying to get him to move on. I was just a few yards away when he finally moved away. As I crested the area where he had been I saw another bull and a cow down below me. After watching them for about a minute the one that had been on the trail ahead of me moved down to join the other two...

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I watched them move out of view and continued on the trail as it turned right. And, yet again, I see a cow on the trail ahead of me...

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I moved on up the trail toward her only to see *another* young bull just to my right...
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This one was close enough I could see the whites of his eyes. My heart was beating pretty hard in my chest at this point and it wasn't because I was exerting myself. I paused to try to ascertain his intentions. He seemed mildly curious and went back to browsing as if I wasn't even there. I had a small conversation with him as I moved along past him, heading toward the cow that was still on the trail ahead of me. When I got close she moved off toward the bull and they ended up joining up before slowly heading off out of sight...

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I actually got to hear this bull vocalize to the cow. I have never heard a moose before. It was all very exciting.

Time to move on up the trail to where Ben Lomond finally came into view...
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Just ahead the Culter Trail forks. The left fork takes you east and south to join up with the Ben Lomond Trail just below the saddle. I had taken that route on my second trip and decided to continue up the Cutler Trail to Cutler Spring where i hoped to find water so I could tank up before continuing up to the saddle.

Cutler Spring...
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This spring seems to be a very reliable source of water year round.

Leaving the spring I headed south toward the saddle. There trail from here to the saddle does not appear on any of the maps but is definitely well defined. It is a steep climb pretty must straight up. It passes by a large rock chute that I imagine sees a lot of snow slides during the winter. From here I got an excellent view of my second goal for the day, Willard Peak..
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Soon I arrived at the saddle overlooking Ogden...
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Looking to the north we can see the Logan area...
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The trail to the summit of Ben Lomond is a series of both long and short switchbacks. I finally arrived at the summit and I had a view! Full credit awarded!

On the summit with Willard Peak in view...
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Looking south, southwest. Antelope Island in the forefront with the Oquirrh Mountains left, and Stansbury Mountains behind...
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Looking west with the Promontory Mountains across Willard Bay and the Great Salt Lake. If you look closely you can also see Pilot Peak which is just over the Nevada border...
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Looking along the ridge line toward Willard Peak...
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I spent a few minutes on top relishing in the view then headed down off the peak to pick up the trail. The travel down and across the ridge provided amazing views everywhere.

A view of Willard Peak with the trail crossing below on my way there...
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Upon reaching the northern end of the trail at the ridge I started my ascent of Willard Peak. There is very little in the way of a trail leading up to the summit. Much route finding and bolder hopping on the way up while avoiding the steep drop off on the Cutler Basin side of the mountain. I really enjoyed the trip up.

Eureka!
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Looking south along the spine of the northern Wasatch. Prominently: Ben Lomond, Lewis Peak, Mt Ogden and Thurston Peak.
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Another stunning view over Willard Bay and the Promontory Mountains...
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I ate lunch on the summit and soaked up some sun. I decided to head down the west face rather than back to the north. I joined back up with the trail and enjoyed more scenery...

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Climbing back up the back side of Ben Lomond I got a great view of the Ogden Valley and Pineview Reservoir. Off in the distance are the snow-capped peaks of the Unitas with the moon overlooking...
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If there had not been enough excitement for one day, on my way down I saw another cow moose...
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My GPS trail miles showed 16.9 when I arrived back at the truck.

This is a really great trail. Stunning views, challenging climbs and, if lucky, the wildlife is not bad either. I've been told by others that there are fair number of mountain goats on the mountain but I have yet to get to see them.

Although Ben Lomond was on my peak bucket list for this year I think this has to be one to be enjoyed at least once a year.
 
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Hey everyone, if you haven't seen this video, it's definitely a keeper. I mean, the moose alone blew me away. "Excuse me, can I walk by?" I would've been back down the trail at the sight of the first one. I suspect they recognized a kind spirit when they saw you, because to be able to walk that close to that many moose is way cool. We'll have to start calling you the Moose Whisperer. The scenery is exceptional, too. The music works well, very enjoyable, thanks for sharing it!
 
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Perry

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Hey everyone, if you haven't seen this video, it's definitely a keeper. I mean, the moose alone blew me away. "Excuse me, can I walk by?" I would've been back down the trail at the sight of the first one. I suspect they recognized a kind spirit when they saw you, because to be able to walk that close to that many moose is way cool. We'll have to start calling you the Moose Whisperer. The scenery is exceptional, too. The music works well, very enjoyable, thanks for sharing it!
Honestly I had no idea what to think. I’ve read and heard many stories of moose behaving badly so I was definitely on high alert. I have no knowledge of reading moose body language, if there is even such a thing. I just felt they were extremely calm and just curious at my presence. If I had to venture a guess I would say the guys were more interested in the gals, being that time of year, along with being in all that shrubbery that obviously was tasty to all of them.

I’m definitely chalking this encounter up to a one-in-a-lifetime thing. It was amazing to say the least!


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 
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Moose will raise their ruff like a dog when they're feeling aggressive, at least so I've read. Yes, that was truly a very unique experience. Way cool.
 
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Well Done, Cuber!

That's a big day. I've done nearly the same on skis several times in the winter. It is a great skiing area. As someone that has been charged several times and having moose in the backyard I will type up some tips for you in a little while if you want.

Did you get that new camera yet? Why not take it on your hike?
 

Perry

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Well Done, Cuber!

That's a big day. I've done nearly the same on skis several times in the winter. It is a great skiing area. As someone that has been charged several times and having moose in the backyard I will type up some tips for you in a little while if you want.

Did you get that new camera yet? Why not take it on your hike?
I'd love some tips! Camera is at the UPS depot in Ogden, supposed to be delivered tomorrow! Feeling like Christmas already :)
 
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Well, if you're like me, now that you have a new camera, you'll never see another moose again. Unless you go to a Moose Lodge, anyway. :)
 
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I'd love some tips! Camera is at the UPS depot in Ogden, supposed to be delivered tomorrow! Feeling like Christmas already :)
Will do. Should I PM you the moose experiences or comment here or another post, do you figure?
Which camera did you opt for? Looking forward to the pics!
 

Perry

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Will do. Should I PM you the moose experiences or comment here or another post, do you figure?
Which camera did you opt for? Looking forward to the pics!
I think another post would be appropriate. Agree?

I went with the Sony RX-10 mIV.
 

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