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! 😉

TRIP REPORT: Cardiff Peak, UT (10,277′) – Snow Climb

Report from 4/5/17

Spring is FINALLY here, and I am on Spring Break!

I couldn’t wait to get out and do some climbing. I had been hiking pretty regularly at lower elevations since things had warmed up, but I had been dying to hike and climb in the snow. bad weather nearly every weekend made it difficult with student teaching, so after a nice cold front came through and stiffened up all the snow, I figured I had to get out on the hill while I had the chance!

My first choice for my first big training climb of the season was Mount Superior at 11,132′ but as you will read, that did not go according to plan, which happens. Superior is known in Utah for having the most avalanche activity so winter ascents can only really be attempted in prime conditions.

Superior overlooks both Alta and Snowbird Ski Resorts from the other side of Little Cottonwood Canyon. I have climbed it during summer months, the East ridge from Cardiff pass is rated a class 2. Starting from Alta, it is about a 5 1/2 mile hike round trip with an elevation gain of around 2500ft.

My original plan was to get up at 6:30, and start hiking by 7:30 in the morning. …I did not sleep well last night so by the time my alarms went off, I did not want to get up…. I woke up at around 8, checked the temperature up the canyon to find temperatures were still below freezing, so I left and started hiking just before 9am. Right off the bat, the snow was icy and firm. I kept up what I like to call “dry speed” which is the speed in which I can hike on dry dirt trail, so I compare my speed to my past summer climbs.

As I got to Cardiff pass and started up the ridge, the snow was INCREDIBLY soft. I would step and sink into thigh deep powder and my climbing speed basically came to a crawl. It took me 45 minutes to climb 250 vertical feet…. it was frustrating. Every step forward was a step backward. As I came up near the summit of Cardiff Peak, I took one look at Superior and sighed. I had a mile left…. a very long mile. Looking along the ridge, it seemed to be the same powdery deep frustrating snow I had just been trudging through and I would take me an eternity. The temperature was rising quickly, I was running out of time as well before I needed to be home, so I turned off the ridge trail to climb the final 20 feet to the summit of Cardiff instead. Superior or bust? Definitely a bust… but not a complete loss.

I still got a great “first climb of the season” workout, and great pictures of the amazing views from Cardiff.

Plenty more training climbs to come this Spring. ‘Til next time!

TRIP REPORT: King’s Peak, Utah’s High point (13,528′)

Report from 7/25/16

For 5 years,  I have attempted to take a trip to the high Uintas to climb Utah’s highest point, and for 5 years, that plan failed for various reasons…. until now!

King’s Peak is a long multi-day trip with long trails and class 2 scrambling at the peak. But what planned on being a 3-day trip ended up being a very long 2-day trip. My climbing partner and I decided we would rather go home and have a day off to rest rather than attempting to go straight back to work. Needless to say, I slept in until noon and my legs are so sore that I fell over trying to stand up out of bed.

We began our adventure Saturday by driving the 3 hours from Salt Lake to the Henry’s Fork Trail Head. (Believe it or not but you have to go through Wyoming to get there.) We started hiking with our heavy packs and managed to burn through 5 1/2 miles of trail in around 2 hours. It was hot, and there were mosquitoes everywhere, and naturally we forgot to pack bug spray. We slowed down after crossing the main foot bridge that spans the Henry Fork River as the trail steepened and we were getting tired.

Henry’s Fork Basin

After another 3 hours we made it to about 11,500 feet and set up camp. After making a quick pasta meal, we attempted to fall asleep knowing we had a long early day ahead of us.

Sunrise on Henry’s Fork Peak and Mt. Powell
Our tent site

After waking up at around 5:15 am, we watched the sunrise, ate breakfast, and began getting ready for our day. We climbed to 12,000 feet to Gunsight Pass where we left the main route to follow a well known shortcut route that would shave 4 miles off our total distance. As much as everyone praises this shortcut, I beg to differ. it was well cairned for the first 1/3 of a mile but after the trail flattened out into a field, the cairns were incredibly far apart and hard to keep track of. However, even getting a little off track wasn’t bad because it was very easy to see where to go since the main trail went up the far side of the field. (but, I found snow! ..I love snow)

The scrambling and boulder hopping on the ridge was nothing new to me, however there was A LOT of it. A full mile and 1,000 feet of elevation gain was full of rocks, rocks and more rocks. Knowing my own personal pace, I assumed that last mile would take about an hour…. because of the scrambling and boulder hopping, it took nearly 2 hours instead to reach the summit. Finally, we arrived to 13,528 feet, and what a relief.

Summit View

The way back down was exhausting. Stepping ever so carefully from rock to rock, controlling every move (which is why my legs are so sore) and trying not to worsen my blisters that had formed the day before. By the time we got back to camp we were already exhausted; my ankles bruised from trying to manipulate the rocks in high-top hiking boots. We talked about staying the second night anyway but the nearest water source was a mile down the hill and we were out of water. We decided to just take it slow, stop to refill water bottles at the stream down the trail, and even wear flip flops on our way down. it was 9 miles back to the car… and yes, I did it in flip flops. My ankles were so bruised and my blisters had popped despite my best efforts, so it was actually more comfortable to hike down without boots on. it was slow going and we were completely exhausted by the time we got back to the car since we spent 15 hours of our day on foot.

King’s Peak is center-back

I am glad I finally got to cross this one off my list, but it was definitely the hardest climb, physically, that I have ever done. Will I do it again? probably not, but who knows. I have bigger and better mountains planned and this was a good test of my physicality to see what I specifically need to train better in the future (and its apparently my calves).