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When dynamite could have detonated on Lone Peak

Crashes into Utah’s Lone Peak and other documented hikers who have made it to the top

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Lone Peak rises above the clouds as the setting sun illuminates the mountain on the south end of the Salt Lake Valley on Tuesday, April 16, 2019.

Steve Griffin, Deseret News

Could a portion of Lone Peak have been destroyed, or altered, by a dynamite blast in 1937?

“Will dynamite crash hilltop(?)” was the headline of an Associated Press story in the Ogden Standard-Examiner of Aug. 19, 1937.

The story stated, “Lone Peak, lofty outcropping of the Wasatch range upon which a great airliner crashed last winter, is to be blasted at its tip into a tomb for the tragedy that claimed seven lives.” (See story on newspapers.com, subscription required.)

On Dec. 15, 1936, a Western Air Express Boeing 247 crashed just below Hardy Ridge on Lone Peak. Most of the aircraft was hurled over the ridge and dropped over a thousand feet into the basin below.

Lone Peak is an 11,253-foot above sea level summit in the Wasatch Mountains, located east of Draper. (However, strictly speaking, Hardy Ridge is located hundreds of yards south of Lone Peak, above Hardy Lake.)


Lone Peak rises above the clouds as the setting sun illuminates the mountain on the south end of the Salt Lake Valley on Tuesday, April 16, 2019.

Steve Griffin, Deseret News

The AP story stated that Western Air Express had secured permission from the U.S. Forest Service to dynamite the mountain top. This was in order to “bury the crash area which now attracts sight-seers and which, because of frequent rock slides, is considered a menace.”

The story stated that the seven bodies, luggage, mail and plane parts were all recovered after six months of searching, followed by two months of digging and removal work.

It does not appear that Lone Peak itself was ever dynamited. No reports of such a blast could be found. It is also unlikely (or at least unclear) dynamite was ever used on Hardy Ridge, either, to help obscure the crash site.

(The Lone Peak area includes a lot of unstable looking rock and so an explosion likely could have altered its appearance significantly.)

In any event, according to www.lostflights.com, Amelia Earhart herself participated in the search for the plane early on, but it wasn’t located until July 1937 (the month Earhart disappeared).

(There have been four deaths on Lone Peak in the past several decades. Two were from lightning and two were from falls off cliffs.)


Lone Peak mountain surrounded by clouds on Nov. 23, 2004.

Stuart Johnson

Notwithstanding the Lone Peak area’s disastrous plane crash, it has always been a popular hiking destination.

• “Teachers climb peak” was a Sept. 6, 1915, headline in the Salt Lake Telegram newspaper. The story said 15 principals and teachers from the Jordan School District climbed the peak on Labor Day weekend. They faced a heavy wind and snowstorm halfway up the mountain.

• The American Fork Citizen newspaper of Sept. 8, 1923, stated that six men climbed Lone Peak, also on Labor Day weekend. They camped overnight and had a large fire that could be seen from all over the area.

• “Wasatch Mountain Club hikers ascend Lone Peak” was an Aug. 4, 1925, headline in the Salt Lake Telegram. A party of 14 took three days to complete the hike.

• “Hikers climb peak to set new record” was a Telegram headline on Oct. 3, 1938. Wasatch Mountain Club members Odell Pedersen, W.C. Kamp, Orson Spencer and Keith Anderson all climbed the peak in three hours and 58 minutes, one of the speediest times ever.

• Three members of the Wasatch Mountain Club scaled Lone Peak from the east side, which includes a 700-foot-high wall of granite. They did it in July of 1958, according to The Midvale Journal Sentinel newspaper.


A seagull flies in front on a snowcapped mountain peak along the Lone Peak ridge line that is surrounded by clouds on Nov. 10, 2004.

Stuart Johnson, Deseret News

• This probably wouldn’t be safe in today’s drought conditions, but in the late 1930s, Weber State College students would hike to nearby Malan’s Peak and Malan’s Basin each September and start a block “W” fire. (Malan’s Peak is east of 32nd Street in Ogden.)

More than 90 students made the first-ever such hike in 1937, according to the Sept. 20 Standard-Examiner of that year.

In 1938, approximately 150 students made the hike. They left the college campus at 6:30 p.m., drove to Taylor Canyon and reached the basin about 9 p.m. and returned about 1 a.m.

“A flaming W on the mountain was lit at seven-thirty,” the Standard-Examiner of Sept. 10, 1938, reported.

This annual hike eventually stopped but was restarted in 1988, though the fire segment ceased.

Lynn Arave worked as a newspaper reporter for more than 40 years. He is a retired Deseret News reporter/editor, where he worked from 1979-2011. His email is lra503777@gmail.com. His Mystery of Utah History blog is at mysteryofutahhistory.blogspot.com.