Saturday, October 29, 2011

Peaks: East Provo Peak

Date: October 28, 2011
Location: East Provo Peak, Utah County, UT
Personnel: Brent, Eli, and me

View of East Provo Peak from Provo Peak. This is as close at Brent and Eli ever got.

East Provo Peak is directly .5 miles East of Provo Peak and is often overlooked. It is a fun scramble from Provo Peak to East Provo Peak, while the hike up to Provo Peak from Squaw Peak road is a straight forward hike, yet very steep. I cruised up Provo Peak in exactly one hour and waited on my buddies to catch up and when they finally did, they decided to stop at Provo Peak and forgo the scramble over to East Provo Peak.
Self-Portrait from East Provo Peak

So I pressed on alone, while they watched from above. I made it down and up the following ridge to East Provo Peak in 30 minutes and was back to Provo Peak in one hour. I occasionally heard rocks cascading down Provo Peak and intermingled screaming (it was Brent and Eli using their time wisely on Provo Peak). We then all hurried down and back to Provo for game 7 of the World Series! Go Cardinals.

View of the East side of Provo Peak from East Provo Peak. You can barely see Brent and Eli on the horizon.

Car to Car: 4 hours.
Total hiking time: 3 hours
Total Mileage: 3.6 miles
Total Elevation Gained: 2,800 ft.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

National Parks: The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is the most visited park in the United States, with over 4 million visitors each year. Two weekends ago, I was one of those 4 million. Apparently only 1% ever venture into the canyon itself...

My friend, George, Marine and Lawyer, is stationed in Yuma, AR so we decided to meet at the Grand Canyon. To save gas and time we decided to meet at the bottom of the canyon instead of either or us driving all the way around to either rim. (The North and South Rim are only 10 miles apart as a bird flies, but 200 miles by car!)

So Luke and I made it down to the North Rim in 6 hours from Provo, UT on a thursday afternoon and arrived after hours at the park. (Hint: if you don't want to pay $20-25 bucks to get into a national park, arrive after 10 pm) Meanwhile, George was arriving at the South Rim with a friend of his.

Friday morning we all took off to meet at the river by 11 am. Luke and I started hiking at 6:30 am with our long johns, beanies and headlamps to make the 14 mile trek to the river and 14 mile trek back to the rim in one day. We took the North Kaibab Trail which winds its way down a tributary canyon all the way to the Colorado River. We jogged in places and walked quickly in others, passing the casual hikers, but we were passed by a couple of trail runners doing the rim to rim trek. We made it to the river by 10 am (14 miles in 3.5 hours). Now we just had to find George and hike back up to the North Rim together.

Unfortunately, not everything went as planned. After 3 hours of confusion, we found eachother, George developed some heinous blisters due to a bad pair of tennis shoes, and the day was ending quickly. 4 miles up the North Kaibab Trail to the North Rim, Geore couldn't walk any longer. He had to turn back to the South Rim. After "repairing" his shoes and getting some food, George and his friend hobbled off back to the car on the South Rim.

I felt really bad for George. Blisters are not fun, especially when they cover your entire foot. George survived the night and made it back his car. Luke and I cruised back up to the North Rim in a couple of hours. Luke and I completed our 28 mile day hike in 10 hours.

Things to know about Grand Canyon National Park:
-Best time of year to visit: October
-North Rim is less visited and still offers great views of the canyon.
-Enter the park after 10 pm and you enter for free!
-If you want to camp legally in the park, get a reservation.
-If you are hungry after hiking 28 miles, eat at the North Rim lodge (excellent breakfast buffet)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Climbing: Ice Prep

So ice climbing allows climbers to climb all year around. By using crampons and ice tools, one can scale waterfalls and any frozen water ice. Check out this sweet video to see what ice climbing is all about.

Fortunately, some of the best ice climbing in the country is right here in Utah, right up Provo Canyon. Bridal Veil Falls freezes over every winter and offers secure, vertical water ice.

So in preparation for the coming winter, Michael, Eli and I headed up the canyon to practice our ice climbing technique on some rock faces.

Peaks: Mt. Rainier

Date Climbed: October 1, 2011
Location: Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
Start: Paradise (5,500 ft)
Max Elevation: 11,800 ft. (somewhere on Ingraham Glacier)
End: Paradise
Difficulty: strenuous, glacier travel
Personnel: Kirk, Brent, Eli, Von and Luke

Mt. Rainier is the mecca for mountaineers in the lower 48 states. I first laid eyes on Mt. Rainier a year and a half ago while on a west coast road trip. The mountain stands over 14,000 feet above sea level. Just for some persepctive...Mt. Timpanogos in Utah stands at 11,700 something feet and the valley floor is somewhere over 4,000 ft. So less than 7,700 ft difference (a bit more than half the difference of the peak of Rainier and Seattle). If it is clear in the Seattle area, it catches everyone's eyes....and on that day, it definitely caught mine.

The second time I saw it was in June 2011 when I was flying home from Alaska. I actually got a window seat on purpose so I could see the cascades on the way home. I watched the in-flight map anxiously and soon enough there below me sat a giant mountain poking its face out of the clouds. I stared at it intently for about 3 minutes and convinced myself to climb it that summer.

Somehow in late September, some friends and I planned to go to Mt. Rainier for a late season last minute climb. We drove 14 hours and stayed in Seattle at a friends house and started our climb on Friday evening up to Camp Muir. The climb to Muir Camp is a 4,000 ft. hike up steep trail and up the steep Muir Snowfield to "basecamp." There was not a single person in the huts at Camp Muir. RMI, the local climbing guide service, already stopped for the season and probably for good reason. We were climbing in 60 mph winds and cold weather.

The following morning we packed our day packs, roped up and headed out onto the Cowlitz Glacier. We crossed the glacier in near whiteout conditions fairly quickly. We climbed up the adjacent rocky ridge to Cathedral Pass and onto the Ingraham Glacier. The whiteout at this point made route-finding very difficult. Somehow we could not find Ingraham flats despite hours of trying. Frankly, it was an embarrassing attempt to climb Mt. Rainier. We spent the better part of the day criss-crossing Ingraham Glacier and even Emmonns Glacier trying to find a way up onto Disappointment Clever to no avail. At sunset, we had to turn around.

The following morning we made our way down from Camp Muir and to our car. Despite our failed summit attempt, it was good glacier travel experience and now I get to go back again.

For pictures, click on the link:

For more information on the route we attempted, check it out here:

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Peaks: North and South Thunder

North and South Thunder are seldomly visited unless you are a peak bagger. They are often overlooked by the more impressive Pheifferhorn to the east and the popular hike to Lone Peak to the west.

Luke and I took the most challenging, yet most direct route from Little Cottonwood Canyon via Coalpit Gulch starting at approximately 6,000 ft. at 8 am. This route offers everything scramblers and peak baggers could hope for. Near the bottom of the gulch, we passed a series of waterfalls by scrambling on the narrow canyon walls. The first 2 waterfalls were fun and slightly challenging, but the 3rd waterfall was downright sketchy. The rocks on either side of the waterfall were slick, steep and exposed but we made it. Our original plan was to descend via another route, Bells Canyon. After that stunt, we stuck to our original plan.

The gulch opens up slowly and becomes more brush-invested. Eventually it opens up into a steep boulder field. We stuck to the main drainage up the boulder field into a cirque at the base of North Thunder at 9,500 ft. At this point, the partially snow covered boulders became hazardous and frankly, a hassle. We stepped through quite often in gaps in between boulders. We made our way up to the saddle and began ascending the northeast ridge to the southwest up to North Peak. The knife-edge ridge offered mixed snow and rock travel, which kept things interesting. We reached the peak around 2 pm and we weren't lolly-gagging!

We followed the ridge south and west over to a ridge triple-junction and eventually up to South Thunder. The ridge line was fairly straightforward except for one impassable section of knife-edge vertical rocks which we bypassed by scrambling below.

From South Thunder we headed quickly down into Bell's Canyon and to a trail. We didn't want to be route finding in the snow and in the dark. The snow was prevalent until past the upper reservoir in Bell's Canyon. We made it down Bell's Canyon in about 2 hours and hitchhiked back to my car parked near the water treatment facility near Coalpit Gulch.

Peaks: North Peak

North Peak is only climbed by those too lazy to go all the way to Nebo or if you are a peak-bagger. I mostly am a peak-bagger so I went in mid-october with a fellow nature-lover. We started hiking around 5 pm and quickly made our way up the trail and eventually into the snow left over from the storm a couple weeks ago. When we reached the ridge we headed up to the south and left the Mt. Nebo Trail. We made it to the top (2.8 miles) in a little over an hour....champs....just in time for sunset.

We husseled down with our headlamps. 2.5 hour trip. One more peak down.