Not all who suffer do so unwillingly. In fact, last weekend I spent 14 hours with about 20 or so people who chose to spend their Saturday's doing that exact thing. Suffering. The Utah Climbing Club. The group of people I look forward to seeing once a month to suffer with somewhere on a mountain in pursuit of summits. Summits that don't necessarily mean much to anyone except for ourselves, and they only mean so much to us because of the hard work and sweat we put into achieving them.
If you've never been to Utah, you've probably never heard of Ben Lomond. At 9,712', he's not the biggest mountain we've ever set out to climb, but don't let his low elevation fool you... there's plenty of suffering to be found on this mountain. I may be wrong, but my GPS seems to lead me to think that the route we did was about 5.5 miles round trip with about 4,200' of elevation gain. Which is quite a bit of elevation gain for the amount of milage. Let's Begin. 4:00 AM Saturday March 21, 2015.
Oh, that's right. You were sleeping. Hello sleepy world. I'm jealous of your zZz's.
There wasn't much snow on Ben Lomond due to the drought we are having here in the west, but for practice sake, we got an Alpine start anyways. It's funny starting up a mountain so early in the morning. You can't see anything ahead of you so you just head upwards. Let me show you a picture of the mountain and the general "route" we did (which we made up, its not a trail or anything).
We started out going up a dirt road that turned into a talus field (a bunch of blocks of rocks), which you can sort of see in the picture below.
Then we hit a never ending forest of short pokey trees, as thick as can be, poking holes in my clothing with every step, and snagging onto my backpack with every turn. I snagged a picture of the trees on our way back down in the daylight so you can understand our pain a little better.
Still, we love this shit. Why else would we wake up at 4:30 AM?
We climbed through patches of talus and trees until we hit a rocky ridge line. Queue the sun rise.
I always love the sunrise. :) So beautiful, when you can finally see everything. Although the trees and talus were often annoying, prior to the rocky ridge line, nothing had been overly extreme. So far it had just been a steep hike. I was beginning to think Darren had gone soft on us, gave us an easy first mountain to ease us into the season or something. But things got a little more spicy on the ridge.
It was interesting because I've never really done something as rocky as this in my big ole mountaineering boots.
For the most part, it was class 3 scrambling or hiking, but there were some sketchier bits, class 4, with a bit more exposure. The scariest part about it was the fact that you weren't 100% sure if you should trust some of the rock you were holding onto. It was all loose, and you had to be very mindful of that. Not to mention, slab climbing in mountaineering shoes is a whole new thing for me.
I'm not going to lie, there were a few times I called out to Michael and was like, are you sure, this is the right way? I hold onto this thing? WTF?
Compared to Ranier though, this was cake. Will anything ever be as scary as Ranier??? I'm sure one of these days....
It took a while to get through the ridge line.
Till finally we could see our end goal, the summit.
This is not a summit picture though, this is more like a, We see the summit picture. Still more hiking to go...
And although not technical, the last bit of this uphill was hard for me. I was running low on fuel it felt like. It also felt like these hills were never ending.
There was a bit of snow at towards the summit, but nothing too extreme. No need for crampons or ice axes.
A final rock scramble at the top lead us to the summit.
Hello Ogden. Your mountain's are beautiful.
We didn't linger on the summit too long. What goes up, must come down. Our journey and suffering was only half way over. That's the bitch about mountains.
There was a cute little talus field shaped like a heart in the distance.
Tried to make Michael take a self of us with the talus field behind us, but we failed at it. This was our best attempt.
The downhill on Ben was painful. All of our devils coming up the mountain were worse coming down. The talus field's were less than friendly and the trees were tired of being paraded through. My knees decided they were done for the day and my feet felt like 2 giant blisters. Alas, we survived. It was the most amazing feeling in the world to get to the car and sit in the back drinking a bottle of cold chocolate milk we had saved in the cooler watching the rest of the club members finish their journey. Ahh, the sweet bliss of suffering. Wearing flip flops never felt so much like a luxury.
Ben taught me a few things. He taught me that, I still have a long ways to go in my training. Although, I was better than last year, I still felt slow. I was hoping I'd realize my training at this event and just be naturally faster, but I didn't notice that. Ben taught me that I still have a lot more work to do.
Thanks Ben. Thanks for kicking my butt.