Elevation - 12,482 feet
Route - Southeast Ridge
Total Trip Time - 6 hours
Round-Trip Distance - 5 miles
Elevation Gain - 2,350 feet
Maps Used - Trails Illustrated #703 - Manti La Sal
At 12,482 feet, Mount Tukuhnikivatz (Tuk for short) is the third highest mountain in the La Sal Range after Mount Peale (12,721 feet) and Mellenthin (12,645 feet). The word "Tukuhnikivatz" is a combination of Native American words meaning "where the sun sets last". When looking at Tuk from the northwest in Moab, it appears as a steep triangular peak that seems to rise higher then the rest of the mountains in the range.
As the wind had been so bad on Mount Peale the day before, I was a bit concerned that our climb of Tuk would also be plagued by heavy gusts, especially after the wind continued to blow through our camp during most of the night. However, as we left camp at around 7 AM, it was evident that the wind was beginning to die down and by 9 AM things were fairly calm with only an occasional breeze.
Climbing Tuk's Southeast Ridge
Just like the previous day, we began our climb by hiking up the large lower meadows towards the pine trees on the north side of La Sal Pass. This time we stayed further left/west as we entered the woods and followed a game/climbers trail through the forest, descending slightly to reach the upper meadows.
Morning light on Mount Tukuhnikivatz
Headed towards the southeast slopes on Mount Tuk
From here we traversed across open ground, past a cattle watering trough, to the northwest to reach the base of the slopes below Tuk's southeast ridge.
Climbing steep scree covered grass slopes to reach Tuk's southeast ridge
Along the way we picked up fairly distinct climbers trail, which unfortunately soon disappeared into the scree covered grass as we began to switchback steeply and then zigzag uphill struggling to find the easiest way to ascend the southeast slopes.
Looking back down the southeast slopes below the ridge to Tuk
The upper portion of the southeast slopes
After almost an hour of climbing up the slopes we came to the crest of the ridge at around 11,150 feet. Here we could see the summit of Mount Tukuhnikivatz come into view.
Reaching the southeast ridge on Mount Tuk
Once on the ridge we found another faded climbers trail to follow as we climbed steeply to the top of ridge and reached treeline at around 11,500 feet.
Canyonlands comes into view
Climbing Tuk's southeast ridge towards treeline
Reaching treeline with the summit of Mount Tuk visable to the northwest
Traversing Northwest to the Summit Pyramid
Here the angle of the slope eased and we continued to head northwest toward the summit, dropping to a saddle and then climbing across a tundra slope to reach a flat area below Mount Tuk's summit pyramid at approximately 11,900 feet.
The ridge traverse between Mount Tuk and Peale
Another shot of the Tuk/Peale ridge, the Class 3 "Razor Fang" can be seen right center with Mount Mellenthin and Laurel Peak in the backgrou
Mount Mellenthin to the northeast
Traversing across Mount Tuk's southeast ridge to reach the summit pyramid
Castle Valley as seen from Tuk's southeast ridge
The La Sal Range to the north
Tuk's summit pyramid
12,048 foot Little Tuk, Mount Tuk's northern sub-peak
Climbing Tuk's Summit Ridge
Here the grass slopes gave way to loose pancake stacked talus as the slope quickly began to increase in steepness. After 150 feet of climbing, we hit a short jagged band of broken rock that required a few Class 2+ scramble moves to get through.
Above this the angle of the slope decreased slightly, but the climbing over loose talus continued to be challenging. Several small trails that were cairned in places, and switchbacked through the stacked rocks, aided our ascent. Finally after a couple hundred more feet of climbing, we reached the top of the slope. We could see the actual summit a hundred feet to the northwest, and after a couple more minutes we topped out. Looking at my watch it was a bit after 10 AM.
Climbing Mount Tukuhnikivatz's Class 2+ summit ridge
Another perspective. Looking back down Tuk's summit ridge
Moab and Arches from Tuk's summit ridge
Mount Peale from Mount Tukuhnikivatz's summit (12,482 feet)
The summit was totally calm and the views were spectacular. We marveled at the desert landscape below use as we munched on some food and took a few photos.
Canyonlands and the Abajo Mountains to the southwest
South Mountain from the summit of Mount Tuk
After about 45 minutes we slowly began our descent, taking our time, and being careful not slip or start a rock slide down the ridge below Tuk's summit. Once at the bottom of the summit pyramid, we did a quick traverse across the grassy slopes to reach the southeast ridge and continued down past treeline.
Descending Mount Tukuhnikivatz's loose summit ridge
When we reached the top of the slopes below the southeast ridge (where we met the ridge on our ascent), we decided that it might be easier to continue down along the crest of the ridge rather then descending down the slopes.
This turned out to be a good idea and after following faint trails across the rocky grass slopes through the pines and aspens, we arrived at the edge of the upper meadow where we followed a good trail through the woods. Soon the trail turned into an old two-track that we hiked until we reached the lower meadows where we angled to the southwest and made our way back to La Sal Pass. Here we packed up our camp and drove back down into the desert and civilization.
Laurel Peak (12,271 feet) left and Mount Peale right from Tuk's southeast ridge
Most of our lower descent route down Tuk's southeast ridge (the La Sal Pass road can be seen in the meadow center left)
Although 300 feet lower then it's neighbor (Mount Peale), Tukuhnikivatz's southeast ridge makes an interesting climb. The ascent of the summit block will challenge all comers and the views of the desert from Tuk's summit are unparalleled elsewhere. I highly recommend this climb to everyone.