Sunday, January 18, 2009

At long last

There's no doubt geography affects our interests and how we behave. At times to the point of obsession. John Krakauer risked his life to climb the Devils Thumb in Alaska. He'd only seen pictures of the rocky spire, and yet it drove him to a singular obsession that could only be satiated by climbing it.

Much of my life has been spent in the shadow of Lone Peak. I made a couple of attempts to climb it over the years, including a solo attempt wherein I spent the night in a meadow just below the cirque one June, buffeted by winds to the point that I burned out all my matches trying to get my stove to light, eating what I could of my freeze-dried dinner cold, then spending the rest of the night hoping the walls of my tent did not collapse. The next morning I made it up to the ridge approaching the summit, only to turn back just short of my goal because the rock was still covered in snow and ice.

Now that we're back in Utah, I live on a ridge that is part of the Lone Peak massif and have this view of the cirque from my front porch.

When the rest of the valley is trapped in inversion, it's nice to be up a little higher.

The inversion has set in because we're in the midst of a warm, dry spell. Since there's no fresh snow to be had in the canyons, and the risk of a slide is pretty much nill, dug suggested we make a run at the summit of Lone Peak.

Saturday at 4:55 a.m., dug; Kim; Kim's dad, John (Senior); Rick and Rob, the wonder twins; and I all met in Alpine to begin the 6,000+ foot climb. The group quickly fractured, with Rick, Rob, and me out front and dug, Kim, and Senior behind. The wonder twins had both promised their wives to be back early afternoon, so empowered as they are with unusual climbing speed, our group fractured again, leaving me alone to enjoy the morning Alpenglow on the Southeast aspect of the peak.

We made our way up a large glacial valley whose vertical relief is larger than most ski areas. If you look close at the photo about half way up and three fourths of the way to the right edge, you'll see Rick and Rob.

At the ridge atop the glacial valley, I stopped to rest for a moment and snapped a photo of Mt. Timpanogos, with Mt. Nebo off in the background.

Then I turned to look at the neighborhood from about 10,500 feet.

Looking East across the glacial valley at Bighorn Peak.

From the summit looking at the Southwest spires of the cirque, the opposite side of which was bathed in Alpenglow above. You can just make out the neighborhood in the distance. Crazy thing is that I could see for hundreds of miles, yet the people in the valley below couldn't even see the summit.

Box Elder and Mt. Timpanogos from the summit.

Looking East along Lightning Ridge at Chipman Peak and Pfeifferhorn (which is supposedly the mountain featured in the Paramount Pictures logo).

Looking North from the summit towards Salt Lake Twin Peaks and Superior.

Not much in the way of skiing photos worth showing, other than this one of Senior and Kim skiing down the glacial valley. As much as I wished the snow would have been corn, it was more like bulletproof with intermittent patches of shattered glass with rotten snow beneath. As we got lower and it got warmer, there were a few stretches where we could link turns, but it was mostly survival skiing all the way down. That being said, any skiing is better than not skiing, so it was still fun.

It was nice to finally summit Lone Peak, and in January no less.


  1. I'm glad you pushed on and made it the summit. The views are well worth it. Sorry we had to break up like we did. I had a deadline and I was determined to make it back by then. You were climbing strong.

  2. dude, you are too hard on the poor mountain. that skiing was awesome. i've had better, but i've had much much worse.

    this was on the much better side from worse.

    nice one. good to be out there with you.

  3. Dug, I'm sure that much of my skiing experience was colored by the fact that my legs were utterly and completely blown after six hours of climbing. I suspect I might have enjoyed the down a bit more were I feeling stronger.

  4. Nice post Mark. I had jelly legs at the end of that day. Pfeiferhorn next?