Located on the south eastern edge of the Hurricane Valley is a Butte which has a shape and size that stands out on that beautiful sky line. Mollies Nipple is one of those landscape features that the eye is simply going to notice. As such was my case some three years ago when I first started to frequent the south western corner of this amazing geographical area located in State of Utah, USA.
Of course my interest in the area was and continues to be toward a person more than the geography here but for me once I discovered that hiking Mollies Nipple is not only possible but is frequently done it has been on my, “to do list.”
So on Saturday last as the good Lord granted me yet another day to get it right and I woke with that special person who had brought me to this area in the first place along with my trusty furry side kick Kevin, the question was once again poised; “What should we do today?” At this question the answer popped into my head and I blurted out. “Let’s make a run on Mollies Nipple!” So with that the days adventure was set into motion.
Now any hike requires a degree of planning and preparation. Over the last couple years I had spent some time researching and scouting the area. Locals had told me previously of an access road that made the hike to the summit an easy one. I had spent time searching for this road but was unable to locate it and soon put the thoughts of the easy access out of my mind. I did find the hiking trail to the summit and had driven to the trail head a couple times where I looked up longingly at the summit to the Butte tracing the route visually.
Mollies Nipple trail begins on the valley floor at the edge of a new subdivision where an access gate is located. From there it quickly passes through a wash and then immediately begins a steep upward climb. Statistics indicate the trail is 1.7 miles out and back and has a “difficult” rating with an elevation gain of 1,353 feet above the valley floor. Doing some math I discovered that the hike was a bit of a scramble up covering on average 80 vertical feet every tenth of a mile. I could see that this average was mostly contained in the lower third that is steep and the terrain being that of loose gravel and rock. The trail spider webs into several routes all leading upward. They all converge on a spine that continues upward to the Butte’s summit.
As we planned our day my beautiful little companion had a number of other items on her list and was contemplating a timeline for this hike. I quickly recognized the seemingly short time allowed to complete this, “to do” listed item for me. I think I remember her saying something like; “Well we could knock that out in this many minutes and then we could…” Now my little companion is nearly always willing to try my adventures even when she doesn’t have a clear idea what I’m asking of her. On this occasion I simply stated; “Oh, let’s just play it by ear and see how long it takes us.”
With the plan set we packed hydration and snacks into my pack, donned our hiking shoes, climbed into the power Dodge and off we went onto an adventure filled day. As I drove to the trail head located at the foothill, the summit of Mollies Nipple loomed over us and Kathy asked a couple of questions as she began to grasp my adventure plan. The two I remember were; “We are going up there?” And, “How do you know where to start?” I replied; “Well I have driven out here before, I thought that you were with me?” With a pause I continued to state facts about the trail I had discovered. After talking briefly about the lower thirds challenge and its eventual transition to a easier slope I ended with; “maybe we should get you a better pair of hiking boots so you have better traction and ankle support?” To this there was a distant but thoughtful reply while she continued to look up and up. “No, I’ll be fine.”
With that we hopped out of the power Dodge and seeing two other cars parked near the trailhead I mentioned; “Well, it looks like we are going to have company up there.” I figured a misery loves company statement might be the encouragement she needed. Little did I know how accurate this statement would later prove to be.
So with a spring in our step, fresh legs under us, the thrill of engaging a challenge clearly felt and with Kevin running back and forth excited to be out with us and not on leash, we began our ascent. As we continued up and up, I began to think of some great mountaineers in human history. The likes of George Mallory, Andrew ”Sandy” Irvine, Sir Edmund Hillary, and Tenzing Norgay were on my oxygen deprived mind. Of course this was no Mount Everest but to a middle age, out of shape couple, gaining feet in elevation with every step, oxygen deprivation is the same.
Years ago, when responding to questions about why someone would want to climb Everest? Mallory and then later Hillary replied; “because it’s there!” This statement continued to ring in my mind and I began to look forward to my own statement about Mollie. You have to celebrate your little victories; they are the marrow of life.
Up, up, and up we went; resting every few paces. Over, through and around scrambling opportunities until at last we reached the spine above the lower third. I smiled when by little companion began to send text messages on our rest breaks canceling her additional plans made for that day putting them off until another time. Yes, playing it by ear for this outing was becoming a necessity.
However, once on the spine the steepness of grade reduced and scrambling gave way to upright walking on a gentle slope with a well-defined trail. Our eyes fixed on the crown jewel itself the summit of the Butte which jutted perkily into the blue sky above. Yes, yes, this Butte had been appropriately named. As legend tells the Butte was named by a Mormon Pioneer named John Kitchen in commemoration of his lovely wife Mollie. Since there are reportedly at least 6 different geological features in the State with reference to Mollie, I think she must have been some little gal who never strayed far from her husband’s thoughts.
Continuing on with heaving breath at every step I was reminded of my healing airway. Having recently recovered from a severe nasal and chest infection. Oh I tell you now, there is nothing like exertion and clean air to clear air passages and remove congestion from the alveoli of the lungs. Yes, it was a blow and go experience for me and I was so thankful that I had remembered to bring along my handkerchief.
As we pressed on and I continued to think of Hillary and Norgay and the elation they must have felt as they accomplished the enviable success in being the first to summit Everest and survived to tell the tale. I was feeling my own sort of elation and excitement at summiting Mollie when I saw movement there on the summit. I stopped mid-stride and looked closely at that amazing shape ahead. Yes, there was movement for certain. I saw standing on the summit, a person with another scrambling up behind. I said out loud; “Well look there, we are to have company today after all.” Kathy also stopped and looked at our destination. We watched for a time as the figures began their descent and were closing the distance clearly on the same trail; we would soon meet.
As the couple approached I saw they too had a furry companion and its looks was very similar to Kevin. Soon we were talking together and comparing notes on our experience of the lower third as our furry friends played together no less energetic from the start. At this time we felt we had less than ten minutes to our eventual summit success. While conversing with this wonderful couple, I continued to keep my eye on the goal by occasionally glancing up to the summit. To my amazement I saw additional movement there. I said; “look there is someone else up there too.” Thinking immediately about the third car at the trail head I determined they must be from that last car.
It was at this time that reality came crushing down upon me. The couple said, yeah there are a lot of people up there. Confused I must have looked because they continued; “Yeah, there is a road on the other side and a parking lot there. You can just drive up from the other side.” I must have let out a gasp of air like that of a fully inflated balloon being pricked with a sharp pin. With a sympathetic tone of voice the couple said; “yeah, it was a bit disappointing to us too.” Disappointing? I thought to myself. No, “crushing” was a better description of what I felt. Imagine the blow to Hillary and Norgay had someone landed in a helicopter at their Everest summit camp and hopped out eating a McDonalds Big Mac. “Road” I thought, where in the hell is the road? I had driven all over out there while scouting and couldn’t find it at all.
I soon recovered and after a few more words and joking with this fine couple we pressed on to the summit. Upon our arrival I saw out in the distance just what had been described. A dirt road with multiple vehicles parked in a turn around and a number of people walking to and from the vehicles. After visiting with some of the folks at the top I determined where I might have missed the road on previous scouting trips. The folks there were young people from a local community out on what seemed to be an awesome group date. I enjoyed helping them with several group photographs to document their day group date and then we went our separate ways.
The tremendous trio of Kathy, Kevin and I made our way to the highest point of the summit where we sat, snuggled, and drank hardy amounts of fluids while snacking on granola bars, cheese and crackers. While overlooking a spectacular view of the Hurricane Valley, we cracked off-color jokes and made creative statements about dining at our current location. We laughed at ourselves and at my scouting error. We looked back toward our own approach and eventual descent and felt a tremendous sense of victory. We had in fact summited Mollies Nipple and we had done so the right way; the hard way.
In fact I’m intending to produce tee shirts for the three of us to boast of the accomplishment. I envision a silk screen image of the Butte and conversation starting statements for the tee shirts. Maybe something like; “We did Mollies Nipple the hard way” for example. That should do it, oh the conversations and bragging opportunities we’ll have.
At having seen the area from an elevated spot, we returned to the area the next day and located the elusive road I had missed previously while scouting. I had in fact been right on the very road I was looking for but because of vegetation and angle I had missed the road continuing on past the place I had turned around.
Upon locating it we drove out to the turn around on our OHV and gazed up at the summit which was only a couple hundred yards away. I’ll tell you the experience was just not the same as the day previous, there could be no comparison made.
Although the hike is a butt kicker in every sense, I’m thankful that I had missed the road while scouting and we had experienced Mollies Nipple as we did; the hard way. It seems that the more the struggle the greater the reward. I am proud to have been a member of the tremendous trio expedition that scrambled up Mollies Nipple and we did it the hard way. What is more? We’ll have the tee shirts to prove it.