Kessler Peak

Elevation: 10,403
Location: Wasatch Range, Utah

Kessler Peak is a fairly rugged, abrubt peak in Big Cottonwood Canyon. It is the end of a ridge that branches north from the main Cottonwood ridge. From the Donut Falls, Mill D area in Big Cottonwood the peak towers above the road.

I've climbed Kessler twice. Both routes that I've done start at Cardiff Fork (Donut Falls) in Big Cottonwood. The first route I did in 1994 is the "north" route. In 1997 with John we climbed the peak from the "Carbonate Pass" route. I hauled the video camera up this route also. Another route exists further up the canyon called "Montreal Hill" route. This is more scrambling.

View up Cardiff Fork, early on the 'north' trail up Kessler Hike up the Cardiff Fork trail, which is not the Donut Falls trail. They start together, but the Cardiff Fork one is to the right, and on an old mining road. For the north route, you'll hike up this mining road close to a mile and have to be on the lookout for the track leading off to the right through the weeds. It is difficult to find, and a landmark is a lone tree on the left. Good luck. Once you get on the trail you'll ascend steeply to the ridge through trees. You'll get a good view back up higher into Cardiff Fork from here.

Once on the ridge the trail cuts across to the west, and begins climbing even steeper terrain all the way to the peak thru dense forest. Some parts may be the steepest "trail" you've ever seen, but at least it's a trail. In one spot you'll pass the remnants of an old cabin. You'll finally arrive on the summit ridge and have just a short hop across rocks to the true summit.

For the Carbonate Pass route, we hiked much further up the Cardiff Fork road/trail. Look for the first mine dump on the right. Again, this trail isn't easily located either. Around the mine dump a trail heads south, then back north and ascends steeply to the summit ridge. Once on the ridge, just below the peak a sharp cliff is bypassed by trail on on the left, from where the peak is easily attained.

View south from Kessler summit towards Snowbird and Mt. Superior area The summit offers a number of excellent views. Because of the ridge's bending north, you'll be looking straight down Big Cottonwood Canyon. You'll see the rugged Twin Peaks/Sunrise/Dromedary area and have a good view back south to Mount Superior further up the canyon and Cardiff Pass will be clearly visible. Beyond you'll see the peaks of the Alta and Snowbird ski areas. Across the canyon is the rugged "Reed and Benson" ridge.

Both times I took the "north" trail down. As steep as it seems climbing up, it seems even steeper going down, especially on the higher parts of the peak. But it makes for a rapid descent, and with so much forest around, you'll have a lot of shade. Distances and elevation gains for the routes are as follows: North route (2.25 miles each way, gain of 2,950 feet), Carbonate Pass route (3 miles each way, same gain of 2,950 feet). It is a short and very worthwhile climb. I'd classify it as somewhere a little beyond a half-day hike because of the steepness.