Sometimes a hike up a mountain becomes two… and you don’t even realize it. Such was the case with my annual trek to a lofty Wasatch summit to give my offering of booze and beer to Ullr, the Norse god of snow, in the hope that he will be pleased and shower us with his powder bounty for the upcoming ski season. In order to do this, it is imperative to bring quality hooch, because cheap liquor will displease Ullr, and he will make his wrath known, as Brewddha discovered a few season ago as described here. So, I packed some whiskey in a Montana Fly Company flask (let’s hope Ullr likes to fish) and a bottle of “Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale from Lagunitas Brewing Company (even Ullr needs a little sumpin’ sumpin’ from time to time.) I also figured I’d climb Storm Mountain, seeing as how the peak’s very name is begging for low pressure systems to come rolling across the west desert and slam into the Wasatch.
Storm Mountain is a 9,524 foot mountain that towers above lower Big Cottonwood Canyon. Unending quartzite clifs rise up from the roadside, where rock climbers can be found dangling from metamorphic rock. Indeed, this summit is impressive from Highway 190, but its south end, the one that allows a summit bid, looks more like a hump on a ridgeline. This feature (or featurelessness) would be my undoing.
I started the hike at the mouth of Ferguson Canyon in the foothills above Cottonwood Heights, a suburb of Salt Lake City. The canyon rises parallel to Big Cottonwood Canyon and is the easiest route to the top of Storm Mountain. But easiest route does not mean easy. The ascent from the valley floor to the top requires 5,000 feet of elevation gain, and most of the trail is steep. Within Ferguson canyon, slate-grey crags hover above vegetation-choked trails that meander around a small stream. It’s mostly a nice hike in a shady grotto until the trail goes straight up with rocky purpose.
Eventually, the trail switchbacks up the south side of the drainage and forks. Left goes to a nice overlook of the Salt Lake Valley and Big Cottonwood Canyon, while right continues up the canyon. I took the right path and followed the trail as it continued up into thick groves of scrub oak that drape over the trail with scratching branches.
Finally, the trail enters a mountainous meadow filled with aspen trees and pine beneath cliffs and jagged peaks. Here the hike becomes almost pleasant, so I took photos of the fall colors while aiming for the most prominent peak – one I thought must be Storm Mountain.
Soon after the meadow, the trail disappeared, replaced with a web of faint game trails that suckers hikers into dead ends and the base of cliffs. Rather than trying to decipher the thinking of deer and goats and where their highways may lead, I continued climbing toward that peak. The terrain steepened again. Bushwhacking became the norm, and loose scree welcomed me every chance it got.
Head down, I soldiered on and finally found myself atop a summit. Thrilled, I took my pack off, unzipped the main compartment to grab my beer, turned around, and realized that I wasn’t standing on Storm Mountain at all. Storm Mountain was below me! I had just climbed a much higher peak to the southeast, a peak that has no name but is shown on maps simply as “10,350.”
Damn. Since I was on a commanding peak even larger than my original destination, I considered for a moment to give my offering to Ullr right there. But the peak doesn’t have a name! Surely Ullr would prefer his offering on a crag named “Storm Mountain,” a peak with a moniker that honors the very thing that Ullr does – create snowstorms. So I dutifully put my beer back in its cooler, and downclimbed to the saddle.
My detour took about two hours out of my day, but as I stood beneath the true summit I meant to climb, I decided it was worth the sidetrack. Unnamed 10,350 provided an awesome view of the Twin Peaks, which I scoped out for a future SummitBrew. With renewed energy, I scrambled up the east ridge, enjoyed the fall-you-die exposure above Stairs Gulch, and made it to the top of Storm Mountain with plenty of daylight left to spare.
The summit of Storm Mountain is a small area covered in uneven rocks and sparse brush. A gigantic cairn is the main feature as hundreds of rocks are stacked up like a biblical altar meant for slaughtering lambs or first-born sons. Luckily Ullr prefers tasty libations over spilled blood, so I removed my trout-covered flask and poured fine whiskey procured at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market onto the rocks. After taking a swig myself, out came a bottle of Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’. At this point, I said a little prayer to our god of snow asking for plentiful powder, cold air, and a stable snowpack. As per tradition, I poured Ullr his share upon the mountain, and drank the rest for myself in his honor.
Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale
Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ is from Lagunitas Brewing Company out of Petaluma, California. I’ve long been a fan of their beers ever since my wife and I shared bottles of their Pale Ale on a ferry in San Francisco Bay after riding bikes over the Golden Gate Bridge. But my favorite beer they make is one that we can actually get here in Utah, and that’s Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’.
This beer is unique. There’s nothing quite like it in beerdom. The best way to describe it is like a light IPA that still packs an alcohol and hoppy punch. It’s closest to an IPA style, but doesn’t quite have the malt backbone one would expect. Turns out Lagunitas brews it with 50% wheat malt and all the “C” hops. Think a blend of Cascade, Citra, Columbus, Centennial, etc. The result is a hoppy, flavorful and refreshing beer that I buy every time I see it on the shelf.
Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ is a tasty beer that in the glass pours a light, see-through yellow color. It starts off with a healthy head that emits a smell of grassy hops, but as it’s swallowed down, there isn’t much lacing left on the glass. On the tongue, the hops have a piney, grassy and citrus taste that packs a punch but isn’t hard to drink at all. In fact, it’s super drinkable, almost dangerously so. There are also hints of wheat.
Overall, this brew has a very nice balance that’s a little sweet, but mostly bitter from that amazing hop profile. Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ is absolutely one of my favorite beers in the world. Better yet, it’s no longer just a seasonal anymore but is now an “un-seasonal” to be enjoyed year round. You know I will, and hopefully Ullr will like it as much as I do.
For more from Lagunitas, visit them at www.lagunitas.com