We were not the only mountain goats!
Our 9/11 hike started as a low key event. We hadn't made a real plan, but met early at Susan's, our normal rally point, where those who studied their hiking books tossed out a couple of ideas. We decided to head up Cardiff Fork, an area none of us had hiked before. This hike starts at the same trailhead for Donut Falls, an extremely popular short hike in Big Cottonwood Canyon. Anyone who hikes at all has probably been to Donut Falls, but I've not really heard of anyone hiking up past the falls, perhaps because there are no lakes or "easy" summits up that drainage? Or perhaps because it was a more "industrial" area of the canyon. While we enjoy the wilderness of our canyons, we tend to forget our rich mining history, and that during the late 1800's the canyons were not pristine recreation areas, but heavily mined and deforested.
We headed back along the Donut Falls trails, and then the adventure began... our choice of trails and mining roads, with no clear indication of which was the trail to Cardiff Pass. We chose the trail rather than the road, and found an obstacle course of fallen trees to climb over, a few interesting creek crossings, and eventually found ourselves on a road anyway. As we approached the old Cardiff mine there were plenty of forks in the road and plenty of "No trespassing" signs. We kept chosing the high road and ignored the signs. The roads disappeared into a trail which continued past tailings piles and open mine shafts. We eventually found ourselves in a large cirque surrounded by rocky ridges, and we located, by virtue of the telephone pole on top, the one that must be Cardiff Pass.
The trail pretty much petered out at that point and we started picking our way up the steep hill. Rebecca kept saying "There have to be mountain goats up here somewhere". The goats are rare, and not easily seen so it would be quite the coup to spy some. Suddenly Ron, her husband, stops and points. Up ahead on the rocks there is movement, closer attention reveals a whole herd of mountain goats, meandering up toward the ridge. We carefully head up in that direction so that we can get a closer look. There are at least 7, bucks, does and kids. It is amazing to see how easily they climb the rocks.
We find ourselves close to the base of the near verticle rock face, and need to traverse quite aways across to the point we can ascend to the ridge. It is really steep, steeper than you can really tell in the pictures, and the slope is full of lose rock and scree. We pick our way carefully across, practically on all fours at times, as staying low with our hands on the rocks felt much more stabil, and none of wanted to slip and fall. The final ascent up on to the ridge was even steeper, with a fallen tree to cross over to add to the fun. At one point a big rock was dislodged and went tumbling, barely missing Ron. A fun little challenge for sure, but we made it, on all fours, up to the top where we had an incredible view of Alta Ski Resort in Little Cottonwood Canyon, as well as the view back down Cardiff Fork to Big Cottonwood Canyon.
From the ridge we found an actual trail down in the other direction, a good thing, as none of us wanted to go back down the very steep way we came up. That trail eventually petered out and we ended up making our way down a steep vegetated slope. Not as steep as on our way up, but still challenging as the dense vegetation hid all the loose rocks, so you had to gingerly step and make sure your were on solid footing and that the rocks weren't going to roll before transfering your weight. As things flattened out we eventually made our way back to trail we came up, and from there we followed the the old mining road down.
At one point there was a nice meadow on the left. I looked up and said "There really ought to be a moose up there" as I thought it really looked like moose habitat. Not a minute later Susan spied a big bull moose up the hill in the trees.
What a great hike! 6.5 miles round trip, 2400 foot elevation gain, an adventurous scramble throught steep, rocky terrain. And mountain goats!!! Lots of mountain goats. And a bull moose!!! We really could not have asked for more exciting day.
The narrow trail is up the hill on left side of this open mine shaft. Would not want to slip off the trail here!
Still a bit of snow!
Picking our way across the cirque
On Cardiff Ridge
The view back down to Big Cottonwood Canyon
Yeah, we came up that!
Rebecca took this shot... it almost shows the steepness of our climb... you can see why we didn't want to fall as we climbed to ridge near the fir trees!
I have to have at least one wild flower shot...right? Parry Primrose,a lovely alpine flower from just below the rocks.