Sunday, April 17, 2011

Peaks: Provo Peak

Date: April/16/2011
Location: Provo Peak. Utah County, Utah
Elevation: 11,068 ft.
Trailhead elevation: 5,175 ft.
Personnel: Kirk and Luke

Provo Peak sits directly behind Y mountain yet ironically cannot be seen from Provo. It can however be seen from the rest of Utah Valley, parts of Salt Lake, and Heber Valley. The mountain has a pyramid shape and it is the highest mountain between Timpanogas and Nebo. In the summer, the mountain is accessed from the Squaw Peak road which runs from Provo Canyon through the mountains to Hobble Creek Canyon. In the winter however, access to Provo Peak is limited to Rock Canyon Trailhead just east of the LDS Provo Temple.

We set out at 4 am with crampons, snow shoes and ice axes packed on our backs at 5,175 ft. After only 2 hours of sleep, the hike up initially seemed unbearable. Near the split off of Squaw Peak, a mile up the trail, the path became covered in soft snow. We put on our snow shoes and followed the footprints of other hikers and backcountry skiers until we arrived at Rock Canyon Campground at 5:30 a.m. Just past the campground, the trails disappeared. We turned south and headed up to the west ridge of Provo Peak, which now came into view in the pre-dawn light. The snow was soft and we often sank several inches despite our snowshoes. We reached the ominous ridge at 7:45 am, just under 4 hours from the trailhead.

We followed the ridge straight up the 45+ degree slope. There was an overhanging cornice on almost the entire north side of the ridge line. At this point, our pace decreased significantly and we strapped on our crampons. We scaled the 1.5 mile ridge to the peak in 3 hours. The views were fantastic and the wind was blowing. We quickly snacked on our celebratory pringles, snapped some pictures, and headed down.

We glissaded down much of the ridge and followed our own tracks all the way back to the Rock Canyon Campground. We arrived at the trailhead at 3 pm- an 11 hour trip in total, 7 up, 4 down. Elevation gain of 5,893 ft. Great trip if you are up for an endurance challenge and sun-damaged eyes.

Lesson learned: Bring sunglasses.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

King's Peak via Henry's Fork

Location: King's Peak, Uinta Wilderness, Utah
Date: 9/11/2010
Elevation: 13,528 ft

King's Peak, located in the High Uintas, is the highest mountain in Utah. The Uintas are an isolated range in northern Utah that strike E-W and were heavily glaciated in the past ice age. King's Peak is in the heart of the range at the end of Henry's Fork canyon, a wide valley that winds its way north from King's Peak to the edge of the range.

The trip in total is an estimated 32 miles. Most hikers summit and hike out in 3 full days of hiking. We did it in less than a day and a half. We arrived at the trailhead on a Friday night around sunset. We hiked 4 miles in and set up camp in the bitter temperatures. It was a cold night!

The next day we hiked close to 30 miles. We hiked through Henry’s Fork Meadows where we had our first view of King's Peak in the distance. After a long gradual incline through the green meadows, we climbed up to Gunsight Pass, scrambled to Anderson Pass, and climbed the summit ridge to King’s Peak Summit. The weather was perfect, not a cloud in the sky. The views were fantastic and my can of pringles never tasted better. Unfortunately we still had 16 miles to hike back to our car and a 4 hour drive back to Salt Lake. We tried a shortcut from Anderson Pass.

The short cut down from Anderson pass was an unwise decision. It turned out to take longer due to the slow going down the steep slope composed of loose blocks on quartzite. It was a long day before we reached our car by nightfall, but we made it.

Mt. Hood via South Side Old Chute Variation

Location: Mt. Hood, Cascades, Oregon
Date: August 26, 2010
Elevation: 11,249 ft.

Mt. Hood is an isolated stratovolcano about 50 miles east of Portland and is state high point of Oregon. The mountain is very popular due to it's proximity to Portland and the general ease of the standard route. Luke and I are novice climbers, looking to gain more experience on bigger mountains. Mt. Hood seemed like a great place to test our fitness and practice our skills using crampons and ice axes.

After eating a delicious salmon dinner at a friend's house in Portland, we camped in the forest beneath the Timberline Lodge. We started our climb at 6:30 am. The climb can be split into 2 parts: 1) the approach and 2) the climb.

The approach:
The approach follows a well-marked trail over glacial morains, volcanic scree and patches of lingering snow. We ended up hiking up part of the ski resort in route towards Crater Rock, a prominent and isolated block of rock in the cirque of Mt. Hood. The Coleman glacier originates in the cirque and makes its' way down the southeastern slopes of Mt. Hood.

The climb via Old Chute:
We skirted the edge of the Coleman glacier and walked around Crater Rock. At this point, the pearly gates route continues straight up the face through narrow bands of rocks. The South Side Old Chute variation route is a safer variation in late season and traverses to the northwest and climbs the snow chute to the summit ridge.
We climbed the old chute with a French dirtbag climber. Temperatures dropped and winds escalated, but we moved forward up the steep cute. As we climbed, the process of kicking steps and plunging our ice axe became second nature. The French dude struck the fear of God in us, when he realized neither of us had gloves on. "You don't have gloves, you're going to die up here!" he shouted over the noisy winds. We continued onward, despite his dramatic exploit. Near the top, a giant rock was dislodged in the heat of the sun and tumbled down the chute. Somehow it miraculously missed me and spared my life. We reached the summit ridge and eventually the summit. It was a great feeling to climb a big mountain and use our technical skills. However, I realized that we had a lot to learn.

We downclimbed the chute and glissaded much of the way back to the trailhead. We reached the car 6 hours later. A quick, yet challenging climb.
Looking to the northwest from the flanks of Mt. Hood
Luke climbing the old chute
Me on the summit of Mt. Hood
Mt. Hood enveloped in afternoon clouds following our climb

Peaks: The Middle Teton

Location: Middle Teton, Teton National Forest, Wyoming
Date: Aug/12/2010
Elevation: 12,804 ft

The Middle Teton is a great non-technical climb with a huge elevation gain, great views, and some fun glissades. The Middle Teton is directly south of the Grand and from the summit, the Grand is breath-taking. If you don't have a desire to climb the Grand, you will after you see the view from the Middle Teton.

We began the hike at the Garnet Canyon trailhead at 5 am. We made our way up with our headlamps to the hanging valley and the beginning of Garnet Canyon. The sun began to rise and the Middle Teton came into view up the canyon. The Middle Teton has a huge black igneous dike running straight up its face. We hiked up to the meadow and took the south fork up, up, up to the pass. We crossed a couple steep snow fields where an ice axe is recommended. We then took the southwest couloir up to the peak. The peak offers views of of many of the teton peaks, jackson hole, the wind river range to the east, and the snake river plain to the west. I popped a can of pringles, snapped some pictures and we headed down. We were back to the trailhead around 4 pm. I looked back up to the Grand Teton, determined to climb it next summer.

Peaks: Mt. Nebo

Location: Mt. Nebo, Utah County, UT
Date: July/2010
Elevation: 11,928 ft.

Mt. Nebo is the tallest mountain in the Wastach range and in Utah County. The mountain has two major peaks, the northern peak being the highest. The traditional route begins near the Mount Nebo Scenic Byway and heads west towards the ridge and then follows the ridge straight up to the peak. It is a steep, yet enjoyable 8-mile round trip. Yet as is usual, we didn't take the easier, traditional route.

We took a smaller trail and traversed the entire eastern side of the mountain from north to south. Then we hit the trail to the south peak and climbed up to the summit ridge. We followed the summit ridge up to the south peak (11,877 ft.) and scrambled along the knife-edge ridge to the north peak (11,928 ft.) We snacked on some pringles as is our custom on peaks and headed down the traditional route towards the car. 12.1 miles in total. 2 11,000 ft. peaks down.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Peaks: Lone Peak

Location: Lone Peak, Salt Lake County, UT
Date: July/23/2010
Elevation: 11,253 ft

Lone Peak is the furthest west peak on the southern ridge of Little Cottonwood Canyon. The mountain and the surrounding area is all made of granite. The area was intruded by this granitic igneous body approximately 26 million years ago (Ma). The peak itself is a shear wall of granite 300 ft high. The cirque below the peak is often a camping spot for climbers.

There are two main routes up Lone Peak: 1) via Draper ridge (easier, faster) 2) via Bells Canyon. This entry is unique to most other Lone Peak trip reports because we took the longer and more rewarding Bells Canyon route.

Bells Canyon begins just south of Little Cottonwood canyon and winds its way east and eventually south around to the east side of the peak. Bells Canyon has steep walls on either side as it winds up through the thick forest alongside a prominent stream. The hike required a lot of energy but it was well worth our efforts. The peak offered views of Red and White Baldy, Pfeifferhorn, Box Elder Peak, Timpanogas, Mt. Olympus and others to the north.

We attempted a short cut off the east face down a steep couloir on our way down. We eventually made it off the face onto a steep ice field and into Bells Canyon. It still took us several hours to hike out. Long route=long day. My friend threw up. Stay hydrated.

Peaks: The Pfeifferhorn

Location: Pfeifferhorn, Salt Lake County, UT
Date: July/12-13/2010
Elevation: 11,326 ft.

Pfeifferhorn is part of the south ridge of Little Cottonwood canyon. We took the White Pine Trailhead up to the Red Pine Lakes. The hike is the prettiest I have experienced in the Wasatch. We did not see a single hiker the entire day and the vistas were spectacular. We camped at the upper Red Pine Lake before our early departure for the peak in the morning. After the lakes the trail disappears and the hiking becomes a scramble. It took us an hour and half to scramble to the ridge and traverse the ridge to the peak. From the peak it took another 3 to get back down to the trailhead. The strenuous hike is over 9 miles roundtrip, 3731 ft elevation gain, and should take 5-6 hours total. A must do.

Peaks: Mt. Timpanogos

Location: Mt. Timpanogas, Utah County, Utah
Date: Aug/8/2009
Elevation: 11,729 ft.

Timpanogas is the most popular peak to summit on the Wasatch Front and for good reason. I have done it 4 times and plan on doing a winter traverse this coming Saturday. The traditional trail quickly rises from Aspen Grove at 6,910 ft to 10,380 feet where you reach emerald lake, which sits above the tree line and below the remains of an alpine glacier. From there you traverse a boulder field, scramble up to the pass, and follow the ridge south to the peak. It's a 14-mile round trip and usually requires 7 to 8 hours to complete the trip.

I climbed it in August 2009 on the coldest day of the summer. By the time I reached the pass and started climbing the ridge close to noon, visibility was close to 15 feet, wind speeds were up to 40 mph and temperatures dropped to near freezing. I learned my lesson; weather above 10,000 no matter what season is unpredictable. I made it up and down fine, but not without a few shivers.

During the summer months, the trail can get quite crowded. I recommend hiking in late summer/early fall to avoid the crowds. This also improves your chances of seeing mountain goats, elk and other wildlife.

Longs Peak via Keyhole

Location: Long's Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Date: July 2001
Elevation: 14,259 ft.

Longs Peak was the greatest adventure I had ever experienced by the age of 15. I had backpacked over 200 miles in the southern Appalachians by that age, but this was a much different experience. Hiking in the Rockies provides endless vistas and much more wildlife than the appalachians. Soaring glaciated peaks, huge boulder fields, swift, relentless snow melt streams, ice fields, crystal clear, cold alpine lakes, cirques, elk, bear, and deer around every corner initiated my fascination with American west wilderness areas.

Our group of eight 15, 16 and 17-year-olds and 2 adult leaders made a 50-mile loop through the National Park and finished our trip by climbing Longs Peak. My group took the keyhole route and we all successfully summited on a perfect summer day. This was the most thrilling experience of my life and helped initiate my love for alpine adventures.