Last weekend I did something pretty out of my league, and it was awesome! Except that I can admit that it took me full circle to come back to that conclusion. I will explain later. I joined a club this year called Utah Climbing Club per my coworker's suggestion to help me achieve some awesome things and see some new amazing places. This was my first event I've been able to attend, Everest Ridge in Utah on Mt. Timpanogos.
Let me tell you a little bit about the Mountain before I dive into the experience. From my research, apparently Everest Ridge got it's name from a group of mountaineers from Utah who were training for Everest. The route to the top of Everest Ridge from Dry Creek Trailhead is only 4.22 miles, but the elevation gain is where it is significant. The elevation gain on this route is about 6,185'. Mt. Timpanogos is 11,750'.
This was my first mountaineering trip ever, and my first time to ever gain that much elevation in less than 24 hours. I think the most gain I've done prior to this trip was my hike to the top of Mt. Baldy here in California which is more like 3,000 ft. Needless to say, I was in for quite a new experience.
The club and Jake, my coworker, helped me get the right gear together and set myself up for the best chance possible at tackling this mountain. Did you catch that this was in Utah? Ok, well that is about 10 hours away from where I live in California. The trip starts there. When the clock hit 5:30 at work Thursday, I headed out to Utah with Jake to meet up with the climbing group. We drove 5 hours on Thursday then camped on the side of the road at a truck stop. That was also a first for me, but hey, I'm all for saving some money. Bright and early we finished the rest of the drive on Friday morning.
When we finally rolled into Provo, Utah we grabbed some food at El Salvador Restaurant, which was really good. Fried plantains, beans, and this cheese like quesadilla thing.
Then we headed to the Mountain shop to pick up a few more items I needed for my trip, like my mountaineers axe! If nothing else makes you feel cool, go buy a mountaineers axe, its freakin sweet. Even better, use the axe on a freakin sweet mountain. Most of the group was going to start the climb at 10pm on Friday night, but Jake thought it would be better to hike to Mt. Baldy Saddle in the early evening, camp, and grab some z's before heading up the rest of the mountain when the rest of the group got there.
We started with putting together our gear in the early evening on Friday. There is SO MUCH GEAR involved in mountaineering. There is so much to pack and remember, and you need so much to stay warm. Thankfully, I had Jake to help me figure it all out.
Then the trek began, from here on this paved parking area. I honestly don't know if I had any expectations for this trip, except that I wanted to make it as far as possible, and I kept remembering Jen, who is one of the leaders of the Utah Climbing Club, advice "You can always make another step."
Ok, so here I am looking super nerdy, decked out in really lame base layers and a beanie. I kind of remind myself of a bank robber gone mountaineer. Whatever, I just wanted to get this thing started. This was the start of the Dry Canyon Trailhead.
Hikes always start out pretty exciting. I've got a goal in mind and the fresh air is invigorating. The rocks are cool, and anything seems possible at the beginning...
Then I see glimmers of hope, signs pointing me in the right direction and I think, "Sweet, I'm almost there"...
However, this hike to Baldy Saddle started to feel like it was taking forever.
and even longer...
And goodness, I haven't even started up the mountain yet. Tried to get a picture of the sunset here, but there were a lot of trees in the way at this point.
I think by this point I started getting really tired, and I completely stopped taking pictures. It seemed like it took forever to reach Baldy Saddle, and I'm sure I complained a ton to Jake. I was like, hmmm do you think this is Baldy Saddle? And he was really good, and just kept saying, ya I think it's close, until finally we just camped out in a flat area because I was insanely tired already. At this point, I was really discouraged about the rest of the hike. Maybe it was all the elevation gain from driving from sea level that got to me, but I'm really glad we got to take a bit of a break to wait till the rest of the club caught up with us. We set up a tent, and waited to hear the rest of the crew.
We probably only got 3 hours of sleep, but the funny thing is I couldn't tell you if I actually slept or not that night. It was the weirdest feeling, because when the rest of the Utah climbing club showed up by the tent, I was just feeling like, hmm I think I slept, but I am not sure. Regardless, I felt better about attempting the rest of the climb. We headed up to the proper Baldy Saddle (which wasn't that much further away) and met with the whole group. It was dark at this point, and you could see Provo in the distance.
Here are some of the Utah Climbing Club, except I really didn't meet any of them, and it's hard to recognize anyone because everyone was bundled up. So I probably won't actually get to know anybody until the next event when peoples faces are a little more visible. Anyways, I went as "that girl from California", or the "California group". When everyone was grouped up, we went to a small hill and practiced "self arresting"... essentially, if shit hits the fan, this is how you save yourself from falling endlessly down the mountain. I practiced a few times, but if it were to happen in real life, i wasn't 100% sure I'd nail it quite as well.... I just decided I wouldn't be that person to fall.
Then the climb began... in the dark... up the mountain. I don't remember a whole lot about it honestly. I just tried to keep a decent slow pace, keep breathing, keep putting one foot in front of the other and focus on not falling.
I really must have been focusing because I took like zero photos. It's hard to be concerned about a blog post when you're getting your butt kicked by a mountain. There were some sketchy bits involving some bouldering in crampons... and that isn't quite the easiest thing in the world. Also, every now and then there was all this loose rock which I didn't like dealing with because I didn't feel like anything was stable. My feet and crampons felt like they would just slip right off.
Finally, the sun rose.
This is when I finally got to see everything, and it was freaking gorgeous. This is why I wanted to get into mountaineering... so I could go to places like this and see things like this. There's no experience like it.
Also, Provo is amazing. I am super jealous of all the club members that live here because I would die to live somewhere like this. Surrounded by all these amazing mountains. So much to do!
Ah, there I am... all bundled up, forcing that "I'm having a good time" smile.
We got to this ridge at one point which had a lot more of those crampon bouldering moments I mentioned earlier. Maybe this gets easier with time, but it was always so sketch balls every time I tried to climb over a big rock in my crampons. When I'd make it, I would just think "Oh, thank goodness I didn't fall".
Onward and upwards... theme of the day. I'm not sure what angle I was taking this at.
Captured this photo of Jake who looks really deep in thought.
Finally, we reached what is considered the "crux" of the route, maybe about 300 feet from the endpoint.
There were several ways to approach the crux. One was just to go straight up through some rocks, steep snow, and overall funny business. Two was to do a traverse to the right up to the top and then traverse over left to the ridge.
I was amazed I had even made it to where I did, but Jake convinced me to keep trying for the summit, because it was so close, but i was seriously exhausted. After a bit of talk, I decided to attempt the right traverse with Jake and a couple other club members.
The traverse didn't really scare me that much, it was more that in the middle of the traverse this "feeling" hit me. I just had this feeling that I needed to descend or else I wouldn't make it all the way back down. I'm not sure how to explain the feeling, but I knew I was being sloppy with my technique and this was no place to lose form. So, I told Jake I hit my limit, and headed down while he continued on up.
There was no freaking way I was going back down that ridge from earlier, so I was super pumped that I got to glissade down the portion to the side of the ridge. Glissade, I learned, is essentially just a fancy word for sliding down snow on your butt. Of course, you can't always glissade, conditions need to be right and all. I'm no pro mountaineer so I'm not even going to attempt at telling you what those conditions are. All I know is that I got to slide down a mountain and it was awesome! The snow was crappy in some places though, so the descent was mixed with downhill walking and some glissading.
After a long descent down the mountain, finally arrived back to the area where the tent was set up. So I packed up my sleeping bag and pad, and continued down toward where we parked. I couldn't stop and wait for Jake there because I was literally at my limit of energy and knew if I stopped I wouldn't be able to get myself going again.
The hike back down to dry canyon trailhead seemed even longer than it had going up it earlier. I kept looking for dirt in the trail because I knew that would mean I was getting closer, but it seemed like hours of hiking through snow before I even started to see glimpses of dirt.
Anyways, I won't bore you with how extremely exhausted I was, but finally I made it back to where I started.
And was so extremely excited to see this paved pathway!
I reached the car, took my pack off, and sat in the car waiting for Jake.
It was a really fantastic weekend overall. However, my feelings about the trip would have been different depending on when you asked me. It went something like this:
1) Pre-hike: Stoked! Ready to get started!2) Mid way to Baldy Saddle: Exhausted, tired of hiking, not enthused. 3) 3 hours of sleep later: Feeling better, slightly more invigorated 4) Starting up the mountain: Why do I think this is fun? 5) Sunlight: I freaking love mountains! 6) Ridge Crampon Bouldering: Why am I here, this is dumb, I am going to kill myself. 7) At the crux: Hell ya! I'm a freaking bad ass! 8) Attempting traverse to top: I want off this mountain 9) Glissading: Mountaineering is freakin sweet! 10) Rest of Descent to Parking lot: I hate mountaineering 11) Resting in car: I love mountaineering
Anyways, got to do a lot of new things and see a beautiful place. I got to experience my first pee in the snow (remember I am from Texas, I don't know snow that well). I got to feel pretty cool using a mountaineers axe. I called my balaclava a baklava and Jake didn't make fun of me at first. It was all awesome, and I'm looking forward to the next mountaineers event on Mt. Whitney. I'm not sure I'm convinced yet that mountaineering will be my thing, but I at least think I will enjoy it every now and then. I'm not sure I can imagine doing it for multiple days in a row, but maybe that desire will come with time? Ha. Needless to say, walking has been difficult these past few days since the event.