This is one of the only mountains I’ve attempted and not summited.
I want to climb all 22 11,000-foot peaks (“11ers”) in the Wasatch Range (the mountain range that parallels Salt Lake City and Provo) in winter. I’ve done most of the southern Wasatch 11ers in winter already, but I haven’t done the ones closer to Salt Lake.
Yesterday I attempted Lone Peak, one of the more massive mountains in the range. It’s famous among climbers for the beautiful granite cliffs in the cirque below the summit, but I’ve never climbed there.
It’s not technically winter yet (the official first day of winter is December 21), so a successful ascent wouldn’t have counted toward my goal. But I needed to see where the route was on the mountain. Most importantly, I needed to see how to get off the mountain, because the plan is to do traverse a long ridge of several 11ers, finishing with Lone Peak.
I’ve never been on the mountain in any season, so I wasn’t familiar with the various trails and routes. I just looked at a topo map of the mountain and picked out what seemed to be the safest winter route and then looked online to see if any established trails went up that way.
That’s how I decided on the Cherry Canyon Logging Trail, which then meets up with the Jacobs Ladder/Draper Ridge trail. The route essentially follows the west ridge of the mountain.
I woke up at 4 and was hiking by 5:10. The trailhead is at 4,800 feet, and there are lots of switchbacks on the bottom half of the trail. At around 8,500 feet the switchbacks ended and I continued up the ridge toward the cliff-lined cirque. That’s also when the snow got significantly deeper, and at around 9,100 feet. The going in the deep snow was really slow. To make matters worse, I hadn’t brought quite enough food with me. Usually I bring way too much food and don’t eat most of it. This time I brought too little and ate all of it (it totaled 1,205 calories, and that’s on top of what I had for breakfast). I guess I’d forgotten all the calories this type of climbing requires.
I made it to 10,300 feet and that’s where I turned around, a little less than a thousand vertical feet below the top, after a climb of 5,500 vertical feet. I turned around because I knew it would take me a long time to climb that last bit to the top, but mainly because I wanted to be back down to my car by dark. I was afraid I’d lose the trail in the dark.
Going down sucked, as it always does, but I ended up making it to my car about 15 minutes before it got dark. Perfect.
The weather overall was great. It was cold (the low in town was 18 degrees that night) and probably either in the single digits or teens when I got to the cirque, but it wasn’t too bad. As long as you keep moving it’s not bad.
Here are my times for the climb (the times are the hours and minutes spent hiking, not the actual time of day; I started hiking at 5:10 in the morning and got back to my car at 4:25 in the afternoon):
- 0:00 – Started hiking from ~4,800’
- 3:40 – Met up with Jacobs Ladder Trail at 8,918’
- 5:00 – Got first really good view of the summit/cirque
- 6:35 – Turned around in the cirque at 10,300’
- 11:15 – Made it back to my car
Only about 15-20 minutes of that was rest/eat time.
Even though I didn’t make it to the top, it was a success. I now know where the trail goes and how to get down off the mountain. I’m ready for my next attempt in January or February.
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