CLIMB ALL THE MOUNTAINS
The Sweetwater Summit Slam is a challenge to climb ASPEN MOUNTAIN, WILKINS PEAK, AND WHITE MOUNTAIN.
It will take you on an exciting adventure while you learn new things about your own backyard.
Aspen is a long mountain located approximately 12 miles south of Rock Springs, Wyoming. The mountain gets its name from patches of Quaking Aspen trees located on the north and southern faces of the mountain. Various older topographical maps name the mountain "Quaking Aspen Mountain".
Along with other mountains, Wilkins Peak is part of the Green River Formation, and the Rock Springs Uplift and is home to some of the largest oil shale and trona beds in the region. Wilkins Peak also has its own distinct segment of the Green River Formation, which is known as the Wilkins Peak Formation
White Mountain is the longest of the mountains and stretches for over 30 miles. Hundreds of carved figures also dot the sandstone cliffs at the White Mountain Petroglyph site and range from 200 to 1000 years old. Pilot Butte, located on top of White Mountain, is accessible from roads on the mountain.
Aspen mountain was attractive to prehistoric hunter-gatherers due to the lithic landscape present across the area. A lithic landscape is a large area where good quality stones are present on the surface that could potentially be made into tools (i.e. projectile points/arrow heads, knives, scrapers, and drills). The prehistoric people would collect these stones as they passed through the area and test them by breaking pieces off. The best quality stones would be taken with them or further broken down in order to make their transportation easier. Very few prehistoric camp sites have been discovered on Aspen Mountain, to date. However, historic to modern sheepherders have left behind the evidence of several camp sites in the form of refuse scatters with cans, bottles, and bailing wire.
This mountain is known for the white sandstone cliffs along its base. Prehistoric hunter-gatherers were drawn here to camp and hunt in the basin, as well as to leave behind hundreds of carved figures, known as petroglyphs in these sandstone cliffs. The White Mountain Petroglyphs have been dated between 200 and 1000 years before present. Several prehistoric camp sites have also been discovered along the top of the mountain, which is no great surprise given the great vistas of the basin in which the city of Rock Springs and its surrounding communities are situated. It does not take a very great stretch of the imagination to envision herds of pronghorn, mule deer, and elk grazing through the valley during any given season.
No archaeological sites have been recorded on the slopes of Wilkins Peak. It is, however, a source for a type of tool stone named after the mountain itself, Wilkins Peak Chert. This chert was collected as people passed through the area and was used to make a variety of tools for hunting small and large game, as well as processing these animals.
All three mountains are associated with the Green River Formation dating to the Eocene Epoch (56-33.9 million years ago) within the Green River Basin. This geologic formation records the sedimentation in a group of intermountain lakes in three basins along the present-day Green River in Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah. The sediments have been deposited in very fine layers, a dark layer during the growing season and a light-hue inorganic layer in the dry season.
The lithology of the lake sediments is varied and includes sandstones, mudstones, siltstones, oil shales, coal beds, saline evaporite beds, and a variety of lacustrine limestones and dolomites. Volcanic ash layers within the various sediments from the then active Absaroka Volcanic field to the north in the vicinity of Yellowstone and the San Juan volcanic field to the southeast provide dateable horizons within the sediments.
The trona (hydrated sodium bicarbonate carbonate) beds of Sweetwater County, Wyoming are noted for a variety of rare evaporite minerals. The Green River Formation, is the type locality for eight rare minerals: bradleyite, ewaldite, loughlinite, mckelveyite-(Y), norsethite, paralabuntsovite-Mg, shortite and wegscheiderite.
The sagebrush steppe community that flourish on these mountains may look monotonous or barren from the road, but they are actually comprised of an extremely diverse mixture of shrubs, grasses, and herbaceous flowering plants, each highly adapted to the harsh, dry climates where they grow. The most common shrub in these ecosystems is of course sagebrush, which is known for its aromatic, slivery-green leaves. There are over 20 species of sagebrush shrubs and herbs that grow in Wyoming.
Stunning wildflowers are on display in sagebrush communities from late spring and through mid-summer. Badlands mules-ears bring bright vibrant yellows while the Indian paintbrush displays a glowing orangish red. Bitterroot, a botanical gem of sagebrush plant communities has small and delicate white or pink flowers. The root is edible if cooked and although it is bitter like its name states, it can cure toothaches and a sore throat.
It’s not a terrible idea to have a walking stick or trekking poles. They can help stabilize you when walking in loose rocks and can be a Godsend to your knees when coming back down.
(Yes, we call them Arm Legs around here. That's what they are: legs for your arms!
This shouldn’t need to be told but it can’t be said enough, drink plenty of water! It’s the desert and it gets hot so act accordingly. If you are bringing your dog, make sure you have extra water and take precautions regarding the heat.
Wear sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, you know the drill. It's the desert, in the summertime and sunburns are no joke.
Wear good footwear. The final ascents on these mountains are steep, rough, and loose. All the things needed for a rolled ankle (or two!).
Better With Friends
Hike with a friend. Safety in numbers is a real thing. Need a hiking buddy? Post in our Facebook group! There are always people looking for new friends to go on adventures with. If you’re going at it alone, post in the group when you are going so if you don’t return home, help can be on the way.
DO NOT DRINK WHISKEY WHILE HIKING!
Please be responsible and wait until you get home to enjoy a sip (or two, maybe three!) We love our whiskey and enjoy every sip, but there's a time and a place for everything.