Firepit Knoll
On 3 January 2020, Zosia Zgolak and I headed to the Kolob Terrace region of Utah's Zion National Park with plans to climb Firepit Knoll, Spendlove Knoll and perhaps some other nearby minor high points.  I first visited this less-popular part of the park in the fall of 2018 to scramble up some peaks in the area, and although I knew that the access road would likely be closed in winter, I estimated that we could at least drive far enough to visit the aforementioned lowly volcanic knolls.  After spending the previous night camping near the town of Virgin, we drove to Hop Valley Trailhead which is located along Kolob Terrace Road 21 kilometres north of the junction with Highway 9.  The road was dry until the last kilometre or so before the trailhead where it suddenly became very icy.  Because the trailhead parking area had a lot of snow and was not plowed, we had to park on the shoulder of the road.  Spendlove Knoll is right across the road from the trailhead, but we opted to begin the day with an ascent of Firepit Knoll.

Zosia and I started by walking east along Kolob Terrace Road for about 500 metres to a pullout before taking off on a snow-covered trail heading northward.  Had we walked a little further on the pavement, we would have discovered an unpaved road that also heads north and climbs past the west side of Firepit Knoll.  Unfortunately, we quickly lost our trail in increasing snow and had to thrash through a bit of desert scrub before stumbling onto the unpaved road.  Walking through ankle-deep snow, we trudged up the road looking for a good place to begin climbing up the west slope, but with thick bush and deep snow everywhere, nothing looked particularly inviting.  We eventually came upon a gate with "No Trespassing" signs which was a bit odd since we were completely within the boundaries of Zion National Park.  There used to be some private land in this area which was ultimately sold to the park, but I suspect someone probably forgot to remove the signs.

Regardless, the road was not gaining more elevation, and the prospects of finding a bush-free and snow-free ascent line was becoming increasingly unlikely.  Thus, Zosia and I decided to bite the bullet and climb up the slope above the gate.  This entailed some bushwhacking and a lot of miserable post-holing through knee-deep snow.  Zosia was heroic in breaking trail the whole way up, but even with footprints to follow, I floundered badly in the sugary snow.  Ironically, the bushwhacking was actually helpful since I was able to grab or step onto branches to help propel myself up the slope.  Still, our progress was frustratingly slow, and it took us over an hour to ascend the 120 metres of elevation gain from the road to the summit ridge.

With a lot of blood, sweat and tears, Zosia and I eventually (and literally) plowed our way to the summit which sits on the north side of a caldera atop Firepit Knoll.  We took a short break here to snap some photographs and catch our breaths before retracing our footsteps in the snow.  Descending the bushy slope was far easier, and we were back at the road near the gate in just a little over 20 minutes after leaving the summit.  We subsequently hiked back out along the road all the way to Kolob Terrace Road before turning right on the pavement and returning to our car.  With our boots already soaked, we had no stomach for enduring more post-holing on Spendlove Knoll or exploring the area further.  Instead, we simply changed into dry clothes and hit the highway.

Looks easy enough from here...

Zosia is about to leave the road here to try and follow a trail through the bushes toward Firepit Knoll.


Snowshoes would not have been out of place here! After stumbling onto a snow-covered road, Zosia follows it along the west side of Firepit Knoll.

Unfortunately, it is not a scramble!

Red Butte is a striking peak to the northwest.


We should have pulled the plug and gone elsewhere! Leaving the road, Zosia begins a long and miserable post-holing ascent.
Definitely Type 3 "fun"! As if the post-holing was not bad enough, Zosia also has to bushwhack at the same time.
What a fargin' cork-sucking mountain! Despite the miserable ascent, Zosia and Sonny still manage a smile on the summit of Firepit Knoll (2207 metres).
It's a volcano! There is a caldera atop Firepit Knoll.
The snow must be even deeper on the plateau! Behind Zosia are some of the red cliffs of Upper Kolob Plateau.
North and South Guardian Angels are very high on my to-do list... The view to the southeast includes Pine Valley Peak (far left), North Guardian Angel (left), South Guardian Angel (right of centre) and The West Temple (right).
Best view of the day. The Pine Valley Mountains stretch across the northwest horizon behind Red Butte.
At least it's easier going down than going up! Zosia seems to be enjoying the bushwhacking descent.
Yep, we're giving up on climbing Spendlove Knoll today! Zosia descends the road with Spendlove Knoll visible right of centre in the distance.
Let's never do that again! Zosia is relieved to be back on asphalt again after an epic climb of Firepit Knoll.
What should have been a 90-minute cakewalk turned into a 3.5-hour epic! Total Distance:  4.7 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  3 hours 39 minutes
Net Elevation Gain:  266 metres

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