TRIP REPORT: Mount Timpanogos, Aspen Grove Route (11,752′)

I climbed this mountain for the first time back in 2009. It was at one of the lowest points in my eating disorder, I was freezing and miserable. I also had apparently blocked out parts of this trial from my memory and I now remember why. I am not saying this as a deterrent, this is still a beautiful climb, it was just much more tedious than I remembered. Timpanogos from the Aspen Grove TH is a 16 mile, 5300′ gain climb. The other and more popular route is the Timpanoke route. While it has less gain, the trail is a bit longer, however AG has been ranked as more difficult due to some of the earlier terrain as well. I personally think the Aspen Grove area is prettier with all the waterfalls and less crowded so it is my preferred route to the summit.

We started at 4:15 on a beautiful mid-September morning. Stars were out, meteor shower was in peak and it was incredibly calm. Moving pretty quickly through the first mile to the first waterfall (which we could not see but could hear in the darkness) the trail began up the switchbacks and across primrose cirque all in the dark of night. it wasn’t until we reached the higher falls (which was bone dry this time of year) that we began to get twilight. Working our way up the tight switchbacks waiting for the sunrise, the winds picked up but we were making excellent time. We stopped for a quick break at the top of the couloir as the sun rose. We had been going for nearly 3 straight hours.

We continued up the last bit of the couloir to the opening of the meadow where we had our first goat encounter and witnessed the suns rays light up the summit ridge in front of us. Strolling along, we made it to Emerald Lake and the shelter where we met our second pack of goats!

From here things slowed down a bit. Crossing the scree field was not difficult but it was time consuming. Keeping track or cairns, and just walking along the uneven path, ALL of our ankles could feel it by the end. That field was definitely bigger than I remember. onward up the steep pitch to the saddle, we were all feeling the burn, but it wasnt until we topped out on the ridge that the wind was at its peak (as per usual for Timpanogos).

We made our way up the last .9mi to the summit. The trail is exposed the entire way but ridge starts out with well defined trail. the crux of the climb is the chimney. a class 2/3 mix of loose and solid rock scramble up switchbacks sheltered in the rock formation. From here you pop out and its only a few more switchbacks to the final stretch of ridge and the summit is in sight.

On the summit we celebrated a client’s birthday and the overall accomplishment of a major climb for everyone involved! The wind was fierce, and it was cold and crowded so we headed down pretty quickly. Our descent was smooth until we returned to the scree field where ankles were sore and unhappy, slowing us way down and we took our time on the remainder of the descent enjoying the beautiful fall colors we didn’t get to see in the dark on the way up.

Car to car with our group was about 12 1/2 hours. My least favorite part was the crowds… it was like BYU Disneyland up there… If you can, pick a weekday to go. Overall a great day!

TRIP REPORT: Mount Nebo (11,929′)

Mount Nebo is the highest peak in the Wasatch Range in Utah. It’s located about 2 hours south of Salt Lake City near the town of Payson. It is a beautiful but challenging climb.

The trail starts out pretty mild and has a great view of North peak as you ascend. The trail is full of wildflowers and down trees. Navigating around the trees is fairly easy. The first mile and a half is the easiest part.

Once you arrive to the open meadow and cirque, the trail steepens as you head to the ridge.

As you top out on the ridge of North Peak, the trail leads around to the backside and flattens out as you work your way to the other side to the saddle.

Once you arrive at the saddle, the false peak stands in front of you. You can see the roue and the top of the false summit. Its pretty steep but straight forward.

Now for the tricky part. The summit ridge. This ridge is made of very sharp limestone and slippery shale. Gloves are highly recommended! There are no cairns or markers to mark a single solid trail. You can see what appears to be a path to the summit but it is actually pretty difficult to navigate as multiple paths exist but some dead end. I found the most direct route was to stay as close to the ridge line as possible. If you get too far below the ridge, the amount of shale increases and this rock is incredibly slippery.

The visible “path” ends approximately 100 feet below the summit. This part is rates as a class 3 scramble and it can be a little unnerving as you are trying to grab rock and hope that it’s solid and not loose shale. This was the point I actually turned around as I was climbing solo. I wasn’t sure where the recommended scramble path was since there are no markers or cairns and it was my first time on this mountain and did not feel comfortable being alone on the slippery rocks trying to figure it out.

This ridge was the MOST time consuming part of the climb. I made it to the top of the false summit. The ridge is only a half mile and it took me an hour and a half to navigate. Coming down, the shale is VERY slippery so keep that in mind. Stepping on solid rock is always better if you can. Poles aren’t super helpful on this ridge but they are on the way down the steep false summit.

Overall expect to spend 6-9 hours on this mountain depending on how fast you are. Like I mentioned, the ridge is the most time consuming part. Give yourself a turn around time. Many people just go up to the false summit to start. Start early, as there is NO shade from the base of the false summit onward.

Overall a gorgeous mountain! Definitely one to check off the list. I will be back to finish that last 100 feet! 😉