Peak(s):  Twin Peaks East - 11032
Cathedral Mesa - 7183
Mt. Tukuhnikivatz - 12482
Date Posted:  11/12/2009
Date Climbed:   10/24/2009
Author:  Matt
 Arriba in the Abajos, Taste of the La Sals   

2009's been an atypical year for me"no peaks higher than some Centennials, no trip reports filed here, and less than 1/2 my summits located in CO. However, the recent TRs from southern Utah by Kiefer/Mike, Furthermore, and others spurred me to share my last trip to the Beehive state. Life in the Four Corners provides easy access to the Moab area; it's less than two hours away from my workplace. Once summer heat subsides and snow starts falling on higher peaks in Colorado, Utah looks awfully good to me.
So... I'd been injured for six weeks and was jonesing for a summit and some scenery. Having only the weekend, I decided to visit the Abajo Mountains, which tower over the Needles District, take a detour to search for the Canyonlands NP highpoint on Cathedral Mesa, and take a stroll up Mt. Tukuhnikivatz (Tuk) across the valley in the La Sals.

When heading northwest from the rez, the Abajos loom ahead, rising well above the desert to 11,000ft plus.

(photo from wikipedia)

While they have a distinct character once you get into the range itself, their rounded summits usually take a backseat to the higher and more sharply defined La Sals. In general, I like exploring mountains, regardless of summit elevations, especially those that see little hiker traffic"like the Abajos.

I'd set my sights on two 11ers that have >1000ft of prominence: West Mountain and Twin Peaks East. Both are short strolls, hardly qualifying as hikes, but the views and chance to spend time in a range that resembles nothing I've seen in Colorado seem worthwhile. Since it was hunting season, I borrowed a bright orange vest (think roadside prison crew) from my neighbor and hit the road. The year's first significant snowfall days before had left most north-facing slopes covered in various depths of snow. The road that accesses West Mountain was closed, so I headed to Twin Peaks East. After parking my truck, I was at the summit 1100ft of vertical and less than an hour later.

Along the way, I looked across at the La Sals.

Looking over unranked Twin Peaks West at the Henry Mountains

A look back at Twin Peaks East

After returning to Monticello for some grub, I picked up a hitchhiking hippie kid (way out of place in a predominantly LDS town) loaded down with groceries, dropped him off at his campsite, then took the scenic route over to UT 211, the road into the Needles District.
View of Canyonlands from the Abajo Loop scenic byway

One last note on the Abajos... If you use google to check the road access, the map truly is not the territory. At the time I post this, google maps (and its proxy on LoJ) omit the road used to get up there. The Delorme and Benchmark maps, however, can show you the way.

Getting to Cathedral Mesa requires a long drive on the unpaved Beef Basin road, which is passable by most cars. I'd been hoping to find a last vestige of fall color down low in the desert. I was not disappointed.




The highpoint itself lies on the edge of Cathedral Mesa, which barely overlaps the boundary of the park, and is pretty nondescript. It's a bugger to find, though, as wandering through trees and brush on a mostly flat surface gets old after a while.

On the way out, I stopped to look at Newspaper Rock, a panel of petroglyphs dating back at least 2,000 years, with "updates" from Utes, Navajos (who call it Tse Hane, "the rock that tells a story"), and plain old white folks who scrawled their names into the panel.


That night featured whiteout conditions up high in the La Sals, forcing me to surrender in my attempt to access La Sal Pass via the 4wd road that leaves Moab. At about 9000ft, snow was sticking on the road, and zero visibility makes narrow, rocky roads more than I want to risk. I camped lower down and took the La Sal Pass road the next morning.
The hike for Tuk or nearby 12ers Mts. Peale & Mellenthin, begins here

Towering Tuk stands to your left

I donned the prisoner garb once again and headed out. An old road leads through the forest to a grassy slope, and can be picked up just next to the downed tree partially seen in this shot:

As you reach the grassy slope, Mt. Peale dominates the view to your right

Here (~10,600ft), leave the road and go NW and upward to the ridgeline at about 11,150ft.

Once you reach the crest, start chugging up to meet the summit ridge at about 11,900ft. Tuk comes in to view along the way:

Once on the ridge, the route is obvious, if it wasn't already. Despite abundant sunshine, the temperature was in the 20s and the wind was chilling. Having thought of Kiefer and his "sock mittens" on this peak, I was glad to have my ski gloves. The class 2+ talus was more stable than expected, thanks to the snow, which kept rocks from sliding and provided surprising traction.
View from the summit, 8,000ft above Moab:

La Sal 12ers to the north

The cold was getting to me, pizza at the Dolores River Brewery was calling my name, and I was back to my car in no time...

Looking upward from the saddle

Mt. Peale across the way

This is hardly a chronicle of some big adventure, but it was a great way to spend the weekend, get back in the mountains, and enjoy some things in southern Utah that usually don't find their way onto most vacation itineraries.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

Comments or Questions
Nice Report ...
11/12/2009 21:28
Photos #6 through #9 are really special. I appreciate the tip on the Dolores River Brewery. Thanks for posting. Happy trails!

enjoyed the TR!
11/12/2009 21:37
good to see you posting here again. One of these days, I‘ll finally make it to the La Sal‘s, hopefully with good spring corn Your pics of the peaks there remind me a lot of the Latirs in the NM Sangres. Let‘s hit some powder soon at Wolf Creek!

Injury Timeout
11/14/2009 04:06
Nice outing after getting over what ailed you, Matt. Good to see you up and about again. Keep smiling.

looks like
11/14/2009 05:57
a beautiful place to go to get back rolling after an injury! I really like photo # 20. Nice composition, color and contrast. very nice report.

del_sur‘s Big Adventure
11/15/2009 13:40
Great trip! Thanks for showing us some ”new stuff” to do. The national park highpoints are - by default - in some interesting, beautiful places. And if this - wandering around Utah, picking off various peaks and highpoints - doesn‘t qualify as an ”adventure,” I don‘t know what does!

good stuff Matt
11/20/2009 01:40
nice circumnavigation of the La Sals, looks like a cool range. Drive into Canyonlands is quite an event, never gets old, neither does a view of it from 12,000 ft.

Nice, Matt
11/30/2009 04:08
Nice trip out, Matt! Good call on the vest too. A hunter let me borrow one of his a few weeks back up in the Flattops.
The Abajo Mtns need to be checked out. Pictures look awesome.

You said, Large Marge!

Thanks, all
01/19/2011 03:38
Presto, when you make it down here for Hesperus, the DRB will make your day.
Scott, Wolfie got 20” of snow last night. Too bad I‘m working today... I hope you made it up. Let‘s make some turns before your priorities shift next month.
Gene, thanks for the kind words.
Centrifuge, thanks for the positive spin.
Susan, I forgot to mention... Large Marge sent me!!!

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