Like Cultureshock is obsessed with The Hulk I am enthralled with Lone Peak (11,253ft). Seemingly endless lines begged to be climbed, and a few gems have escaped the grip of local hardmen who've passed on them for one reason or another. A close friend and international hardman once said to me, "one of the most romantic things a climber can do is to fall in love with a mountain range".
I'm head over heals...
So in order to fullfill my commitment to this deep relationship I decided to continue a goal of mine for the summer. I wish to complete the entire Big Cottonwood to Little Cottonwood ridgeline (aka the WURL) in sections. It's easily attainable, but requires persistence.
I can't quite remember it, but I seem to recall a quote by Rolando Garibotti "I simply love to be moving through the mountains". That always resonated with me as the freedom of expression is never more pure than doing something because I feel it deep in my heart.
This day was one of those days.
I was joined by one of my best friends for the initial hike up, and our climb in the cirque. Hayden had never been to Lone Peak, but as a professional skier he is always up for adventure and testing his limits. With some friends already up in the zone he would stay for a few days as I continued onward. Companionship in the mountains has an immeasurable influence on moral as I would soon find out.
I'd been up to the cirque 3 times already this season, and Hayden has year round mountain legs so the hike wasn't a big deal. If anything we went slower than normal to pace me for the rest of my day. This proved to be crucial, and honestly it never crossed my mind to truly pace in the mountains. I normally just red line till I drink beer at the car. It was not to be a 'normal' day for me.
We chose a route neither of us had climber before named "The Great Escape". Fun name, and a super fun route. It doesn't hold up to the super classic status of other routes in the cirque, but who can hate on 90 ft of #3 camalots at 5.9 or a 70m pitch of 5.7 fingers and hands?!
After the climb we descended into the cirque floor to stash gear, have lunch, and chill out for a little bit. The going was about to get tough for me so I had to absorb as many positive vibes as possible before I set sail.
After chilling and wishing my buddies luck on their first Lone Peak adventure I cast off for my own. I re-climbed our descent route 'Pete's Staircase' with a burrito, 4 liters of water, a chocolate bar, and my climbing helmet. First on my list was Bighorn Peak 10,877ft. Bighorn is an understated summit in the Wasatch, and probably the gnarliest blade of granite I've seen in my home range. Probably closer to a table saw blade sticking out than an actual mountain.
Well the stress and fatigue of the day started to kick in right around the same time I was approaching the top. Bonking, and alone I started to have doubts about my success. There was an easy out via the Upper Bells Canyon reservoir trail, but I didn't come here to bail. After a 2nd lunch and at least 2 liters of water I was ready to rock.
I saw this mummified Squirrel or Pika, not really sure what s/he was, but all I knew was that I didn't want to become a victim of their demise.
I use a black dromedary water bag in the backcountry as it melts water fast in direct sunlight, this was crucial to my day.
Hyperhydrating not only helped my physical condition, but also my mental resolve. All thoughts of failure and bailing went out the window, and my legs returned. Soon I was running the ridgeline to gain time lost during my 2nd lunch, and to prep myself for the immense talus field still ahead.
Maybe talus field isn't the right word...During my hike I felt adrift in an ocean of talus. So perhaps talus pirate or captain talus is more appropriate.
Another short dinner break, and the remaining burrito later had me finishing up the ocean section in time for the last bit of vertical gain left before the leisurely cruise to the exiting trail head. Of course on this last hill I stepped on a stone welded into soft earth only to have it give way leaving me to fall directly into a stinging nettle bush. Picking out 50 some slivers gets to be tiresome on the slow mind so I let some of them be. It's 6 days later, and I still have about 10 left in my right hand. It's super hard to pick out slivers with your non-dominant hand.
At this point I'm pretty much done I have about a mile of cross country terrain left before I hit high use trail, and can run the remaining 3-4 miles. It's funny how once you know the objective is almost complete you somehow dip into a secret energy reserve.
My final photo, and as stated in the caption I was sooooo happy to see those flowers. I think I had regressed to a basic state of mind due to exhaustion where even the most basic thing made me happy. At a junction where I met the main hiking trail I leaped onto the bridge crossing the creek like I was some shitty super hero fighting crime.
I don't own a gps so I'm not 100% on my mileage or vertical, but I estimate my total vertical gain to be a little over 7,000ft the majority of which was gained in the first 6 miles. Somewhere between 13-15 miles of walking. Around 5-6 of those miles were cross country, and 3ish were just talus.
Overall I started at 6:30am and ended at 9:12PM. I didn't really rush other than that section post bonk, and at the end where I was to excited to walk down the last bit of trail.
Sometimes you just have to lose yourself in the mountains.