Monday, July 22, 2013

Ás montanhas poderosas

Utah Valley is surrounded by seven major peaks: Mount Nebo, Mount Timpanogos, Lone Peak, Provo Peak, Cascade Mountain, Santaquin Peak and Spanish Fork Peak. I have a goal of climbing all seven. Up until last week I had only climbed one of those mountains--Timpanogos. Then last week me and my friend Scott (who hereafter shall ne known as S) ventured up Lone Peak. It's elevation is 11,253 ft. Quite a difference from the Appalachian Trail. (This last stint I didn't ever go above 5,500 ft.) Lone Peak has several different ascent options. Jacob's Ladder and the Draper Ridge Trail being the most popular. Since we're too cool for popular, we took the trail less traveled: the Sawmill Trail. Sawmill doesn't exactly go up to the peak. Rather it goes up to the top of Big Willow Canyon, where you then have to pop over the cirque to the ridge of the mountain.
We started about 06:45. So early, but it was nice to get the lower elevation stuff out of the way before the heat of the day set in. As we got into middle and upper Big Willow, we started getting wet. Since it's not a very well-used trail, it was pretty over-grown with scrub oak and other vegetation, which was also full of dew. I wasn't expecting to get my socks wet on this hike, but wet they did get--almost soaking.

We stopped several times to rest/refuel with snacks and water on the way up. We finally made it up to the top of the canyon. It was bursting with wild flowers, and I'm kicking myself for not taking more pictures of them.
At the top of the canyon there's a beautiful alpine cirque. We scrambled up scree and boulders and finally made it to the ridgeline of Lone Peak. I believe our time that we made it up to the top was around 14:00. A long morning of climbing...But it was totally worth the view. From the top you could see into Utah Valley, Heber Valley, Salt Lake Valley and beyond. I wish I had brought a map to identify all the peaks with me to the top. (Another goal of mine is to know all the peaks of my beautiful Wasatch Range.)

Neither of us really wanted to return the way we came. We knew that we could descend into Bells Canyon, and with a little persuasion from me we decided to wing it and head down that way.
Note for the future: Always bring a good map with you if you plan on winging it...
We looked around for the best place to descend and thought we spotted a good slot to make our descent. It was a lot of down climbing. I was a little anxious to get down off the mountain. I was tired and knew it was going to take a while. (And perhaps I wanted to make it to the free Belle and Sebastian concert down at Twilight...) The point is, I got a little bit ahead of S. We were making rocks fall, so S decided to wait a little bit for me to get ahead of him more so he wouldn't make the rocks fall on me.
Note for the future: never get separated from the person you are hiking with; go down together, therefore, making yourself available to help the other as you down climb; you also eliminate the risk of making rocks fall on the one below.
It got to a point in the process of our down climbing that it was getting too steep to down climb anymore. I was getting extremely nervous at this time. I knew we had been dumb for choosing the path we did, dumb for separating, etc... I was worried that we were going to have to climb back up to the top and find another way down. Then a miracle happened. I saw mountain goat turds, and I thought to myself, "If a goat can climb all the way up here, there is surely a way that I can get down." Sure enough, after some traversing, I found a path that would lead me to some not-so-steep ground. The problem was that it was separated by a small glacier that hadn't yet melted. My only option was to slide down the glacier.
I'm sure you're wondering what happened to S. Well, I knew that at least he was alive because I yelled several times and finally got a response from above. (Stupid Kayte. Not cool for getting separated. Not cool.)
I sat down on the snow and inched myself slowly out to the middle of the glacier. I wanted to get out as far as I could before I started sliding to get away from some sketchy looking rocks that were sticking out. Before I could get too far I slipped.
Note for the future: Never slide down a steep glacier with only rocks to break your fall.
I slid fast. I panicked only somewhat and really dug my heels and clawed my hands into the snow to try to slow myself down. As I looked down below at all the rocks, I never really feared death, but I was terrified that I was going to get severely injured, and that was all I could think about on the way down. I was extremely fortunate and bounced twice on the rocks before I stopped completely. I got up immediately and didn't seem to have any major injuries that I could tell. I tried to take a couple of steps, but then the shock of what just happened settled in.
I'm not sure why it scared me so much, but sliding down that 50 or so feet of snow/ice was one of the scariest moments of my life. The only moment I can think of that scared me just as much, if not a little bit more, was when I fell 15+ feet off a lead climb a couple years ago. Being, in that moment, all alone made it a lot worse. I shed some (or a lot of) tears. I was sitting there for about 20 min before S finally showed up up above me. He slid down the snow as well (although I think his experience wasn't quite as emotional as mine was...). We were together again.
We made our way down into the canyon. It was all boulders. We probably hiked through about 3/4 mi of boulders before we went into some pine/spruce forests to search for the Upper Bells Reservoir Trail. We were very relieved to finally be back on a trail when we did find it. I think both of us had had enough of bush-wacking and winging it.

It was beautiful coming off Bells. The trail follows the stream all the way to the Bells waterfall, so there was plenty of water. S was a bit tired/sore/spent, so we agreed that I would hike ahead to the bottom and call my brother to pick me up and take me back to the car to bring it back in time to pick up S.
I got off the mountain about 20:30. Long day of hiking.
I have no clue what the mileage was. This guy made a very similar loop hiking/skiing, and he clocked it at 14.9 miles. I'm convinced that after reading through his route, we did slightly more--probably more in the area of 15-15.4 miles.
I'm positive that I would never recommend that route to anyone unless they went into Bells another way, but I don't regret it for a moment. All I wanted to do was climb a mountain, and I got what I wanted. I was proud of myself because the elevation didn't bother me much. (Except at the very, very top when I got slightly lightheaded, but I believe that had more to do with blood sugar levels than with elevation.) My energy levels were pretty high throughout the day, I even ran the last 2 miles from the Bells waterfall down to the parking lot because I was so eager to be done. I ended up hiking about 13 hours, which is a very long time for me. Even on the AT I never hiked longer than 10 hours every day.
S and I celebrated our getting down in one piece by a trip to the Sev for cold beverages/slurpies.
Two peaks down, five more to go...

No comments: