UVU Outdoor Adventure Center climbs 'Peak A Week'

Kings Peak 


OREM, Utah — Dozens of Utah Valley University students took engaged learning to new heights this summer, summiting Utah’s highest mountain.  The Peak a Week series is part of the offerings found at UVU’s Outdoor Adventure Center. In the past year, the OAC has helped more than 10,000 individuals enjoy the outdoors through planned trips, rentals, and other activities. 

“The Peak a Week series started about three years ago as a way to help students, faculty, and staff stay active during the summer,” said McCall Biddle, an OAC trip leader and junior studying exercise science. “We’ve been going on hikes every week this summer in preparation of hiking Kings Peak.”

Kings Peak is the tallest mountain in Utah, with a 13,527-foot peak. On August 10, the adventurous group from UVU put their training to the test in the high Uinta mountains. The excursion was a 26-mile, two-day, one-night roundtrip hike.

The first leg of the hike to Dollar Lake began after a three-hour car trip.  The trail was dusty, well used, and easy going. Everyone stayed together matching stride for stride for the first eight miles, periodically sharing the trail with wildlife, including a cow moose and her calf.

The first day ended with pitched tents and sore feet, which were soaked in the lake while conversation continued among the Wolverines.

“As one of the trip leaders, we work on making sure everyone feels comfortable throughout the whole trip,” Biddle said. “We have been trained on group dynamics, and understand the vital role it plays on trips like this one. Our goal is to make everyone feel included, safe, and comfortable so that they can enjoy their time outdoors.”

Dehydrated dinners, couscous, and Spanish rice were cooked on camp stoves, and conversation continued into evening. Some participants headed to their sleeping bags early, while others lingered. “It was either the excitement of summiting the highest peak the next day, or the sugars from dinner kicked in, but a few individuals couldn’t find it in themselves to go to bed,” said Frank Young, a member of the University Relations staff.  

Creating a sense of belonging within the UVU community is part of the mission of OAC.

“I was writing in my journal and getting ready for bed, I heard a few people talking,” said Abby Martinez, a junior studying nursing from Seattle, Washington. “Throughout the day I felt very comfortable talking with everyone. The group dynamics were very welcoming, open, and inclusive, which helped me feel comfortable around everyone. I didn’t feel like I needed a formal invitation to join the conversation that night.” 

The hike began before daylight, with everyone setting their own pace.  The trail disappeared among boulders as they made the final push to the peak.

“It was so beautiful at the top,” said Martinez. “Before the trip, I had talked with a friend about hiking Kings Peak, but our plans changed and I thought that I wasn’t going to go this summer. The view was so pretty.”

 “The views were amazing,” said Matt Jensen, a sophomore studying aviation sciences from Sandy, Utah. “The summit is my favorite part about backpacking. This was the most intense trip I’ve been on. We hiked for such a long time the day before, but the views at the top were totally worth it.”  

The final day consisted of 18 miles, blisters, and sore muscles, but at the top of Utah’s tallest mountain, now written on the registry of Kings Peak, are the names of Utah Valley University students and staff who made the climb.

Biddle said there is a sense of accomplishment in an adventure like this one. “The outdoors is just exciting, invigorating, and always new. There is a lot of personal growth to be had in the outdoors.”

“I was looking for peace and looking to accomplish something big to build my confidence before the semester started,” Martinez said. “Nature has a way of reconnecting, refocusing, and staying grounded in life.”

Anyone interested in joining the Outdoor Adventure Center on the next trips is welcome to join, no matter their background or outdoor experience. The OAC is focused on inclusion as they breakdown stereotypes and redefine what an outdoor enthusiast looks like. The OAC serves UVU students, faculty, staff, and the community.