It was the middle of August and the time had finally come for me to embark with my good friend Dane on a backpacking trip I had been planning for months. Dane had been doing a lot of peak bagging over the summer and we decided that ticking off Ostler Peak needed to happen.
I’ve spent year after year hiking around the Uinta Mountains Wilderness, but Amethyst Basin is a section of the Uintas that I had never been to before. Everything I had been told was that it was a magical place that was an absolute must! So finally the day arrived and Dane and I set off on a Friday afternoon to spend two nights at Ostler Lake.
The Christmas Meadows trailhead was packed full of cars as we arrived. There was a large scout group that was waiting by a couple trucks as leaders prepared a large pile of GORP for the group. They had rifles and all sorts of unnecessary things on their packs. A sight you’d almost expect to see from a group of scouts in the Uintas. We casually greeted them as we walked past to sign in to the trail register. By 5pm we were off and making good time down the trail. Within a short amount of time we covered just over 2 miles and ran into a group of guys that were resting on the trail. We made small talk for about 20 minutes after one of the guys asked me how I was carrying such a light load. I told him that I was focusing heavily on ultralight backpacking and it led to some fun discussion about saving weight on gear and not carrying too much stuff. One of the guys mentioned he was carrying 60 pounds. My load came in at 19 pounds. Not sure what he had in there, but 60 pounds is a lot! We shook hands and continued down the trail.
Once you reach the junction for Amethyst Basin, you take the left fork and immediately the trail begins to gain elevation. Over the next mile you gain several hundred feet, and for the lack of food in my stomach at this point, my energy level was dying off. Dane surprised me with his tenacity and hiking ability. It had been years since he and I had hiked together. He definitely kept me moving.
By the time we had got to the large meadow before Amethyst Lake, the sun had already fallen behind the ridge to the west. Dane looked out over the meadow and saw a large group of people standing at the edge of the creek. Two moose had moved into the meadow to feed for a bit and to put on a show, even though they surely weren’t there to entertain. We watched the moose for a few minutes, but knew that we needed to make our way up the hill to Ostler Lake.
The Push To The Peak
Dane and I woke up Saturday morning with the purpose of summiting Ostler Peak. Turns out it was a perfect weather day to get high on mountain. Ostler Peak sits at 12,718′ and gives amazing views of the Uinta Mountain Range.
Our approach to the peak was to gain a “small ridge” to the north and then follow the ridge up to a large scree slope. The approach to the ridge wasn’t too bad, it was steep, but nothing compared to the steepness of the scree slope to approach the saddle of the peak.
Once on the saddle of the peak, there are a few false summits that deceive you into thinking that you are closer than you really are. Turns out after you crest the slope and reach the saddle you’ve got another 1/4 mile of hiking to do before the summit. Thankfully the hiking at this point was fairly simple. Within a few minutes Dane and I were on the summit of Ostler Peak and enjoyed almost a full hour of just hanging out and eating food as we were the only people on the summit. We snapped a few photos, and then started making our way down.
Coming down off the peak took all we had to get down. With how steep the route was it took a toll on our knees. We took my dog Cooper with us as well, and the poor guy had ripped open some pads causing him to start limping and he could barely walk. Overall, Ostler was an incredible peak to hike and one I would do again. The views were amazing, the company even better.
Backpacking is an incredible thing that allows you to forget about the complexity of everything happening in our lives, and gives us clarity and freedom. That is what I love about being in the backcountry.