Fiftymile Mountain Escalante Utah High ish Point - Turktacular 2017

  • Updated: November 24, 2017
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

November 24th, 2017
14.3 miles, 2,700'

When we went looking for peaks to do out around Hole In The Rock the options were somewhat limited.  Pretty much all I had out here was Navajo Mountain and Mollies Nipple and other than that a big giant blank spot on my Peakbagger Master Peak Map.

We settled on Fiftymile Mountain because it's a significant landmark in the area and according to the limited beta we'd found we expected it to be relatively short with the crux just being the road up to the bench and the route through the cliff bands.  We had high hopes of getting back down in time to run over and do Spooky or one of the other shorter slot canyons.

It ended up being a little more involved after we didn't like the route we took up through the cliffs and went around the long way to hook up with a stock trail.  On the plus side it did make it a far more satisfying length hike even if the summit was dissapointing.

We spent the night off Hole In The Rock Road near Left Hand Collet.  To climb Fiftymile we'd have to first drive up to the Fiftymile Bench area and that involved driving further south then we'd be for the rest of the trip.



The further south you go along Hole In The Rock the rougher it gets.  Most of what we did could have still been done in a high clearance vehicle but expect to have to be really careful in a number of places.


Since I'm a sucker for interpretive signs (particularly ones with bathrooms attached during remote desert trips) we stopped by Dance Hall Rock and ran out to the little natural amphitheater.


Past that we turned up Sooner Slide which is a decently shape high clearance road leading up to the bench.  There's actually another way to get up there further north via Willow Tank Slide but we didn't have any beta and didn't want to risk the road being washed out.  Based on what I saw I'd probably go that way if we did this again.


The road wasn't too adventurous though one or two spots would have been a bit of a challenge in the Kristen's Subaru Forester.  The jeep handled everything with ease.


Once up on the bench we had the cliff bands we had to find a way through.  We'd found a single write up that gave a few coordinates but it wasn't a lot to go on.


The first coordinate led us to park by a slightly run down corral.  The large rock and miscellaneous pieces everywhere had me expecting to find the remains of a shelter or cabin but I never found anything.

There were some nice campsites along the road though I couldn't imagine many people use them unless they're up there with cattle.  We debated staying at one with a nice view off the side of the bench but there was a strong cold wind slamming the area and it would have meant a long drive the next morning to get set up for Smokey Mountain Road.


We looked at the cliffs while getting ready and saw something that looked like it would probably work.  Probably.  And it did.  Kind of.


Most of the short approach was the usual loose desert crap terrain but it quickly got quite vertical and brushy.  That I'm used to and Kristen was a decent sport about it.


As it turned out what I thought would be the crux wasn't climbable.  (Not pictured since we were hanging on to plants and rocks with both hands)  We did manage to make something work but it was kind of a sketchy 4th class friction thing over a 100 ft or so drop.  Once we were up it neither of us were overly happy at the idea of going back down and we kicked ourselves for not bringing webbing that we could have used as a handline.

There may well have been better options but when we did the crux the nearest alternative was to descent about 100 ft and head off to the south where it looked like there might be something.  And we already knew we had limited daylight and a long drive at the end of the day.


Above that we a few bits of third class but nothing as sketchy as what we'd done below.  And once up top it was...boring.


There are a number of named knolls up there but it's obvious that the primary use was for cattle grazing.


The highpoint was slightly less than impressive.


As near as we could tell this small pile of rocks was the exact highpoint.  And to answer your obvious question why yes, that is a roughly $1000 cell phone which Kristen has placed face down on the unforgiving Utah ground.  Because redhead.

So now we had a choice.  We could backtrack and downclimb the sketchy 4th class slabby bit after carefully picking our way down the vertical vegetation slopes *or* we could add a few more miles and take what appeared to be a stock trail leading back down to the bench.


We took the trail.  It was long and about in the condition you'd expect for a remote stock trail but it did make for a much better route through the cliffs.



We even found this for extra desert murder-y vibes...



The trail got us back down to the road.  -ish.  From the map it looks like the jeep road we had driven up to the bench on went down Willow Tank Slide and I remember seeing a signed junction below on Hole In The Rock.  We had descended back down to the bench on the Middle Pack Trail and while it did turn into a road near where we turned southeast it had some rather severe washouts not far past that and I don't know that I could have made it this far in the jeep.

Needless to say we had a long slightly less than exciting walk back along the road.  We made it back to the corral a little after 7 and had a long bumpy ride down the mountain and backup Hole In The Rock.

We returned to our previous camp and didn't make it back until after 11 (partially because I insisted on exploring a promising side road which ended in a bunch of occupied campsites and open fields with cow pies)

Dinner was a slightly...sedate affair and rum drinks were enjoyed from inside a sleeping bag.  Also sleep is for the weak.


This wasn't much of a peak and I can't see recommending anyone else come up here.  If you do I'd recommend driving as close to the stock trail as you can and just pound it out quickly because it's really not worth spending any extra time on.

But tomorrow we had Red Breaks to look forward to!

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