The most beautiful route on one of the most beautiful mountains around.
Ah… Everest Ridge… This route on Utah’s most famous mountain has tempted me for years. It’s looms over Utah Valley and I’ve seen it pretty much every day for several years. My dad climbed it back in the 60s. People usually climb it in two days, with day one being a 2.8 mile hike to Baldy Saddle (2,890’ elevation gain), spend the night at the saddle, then take off early the next day for the summit (3,409’ elevation gain). I hate camping when I don’t have to, so I decided the best thing for me to do was to knock the bugger off in a day.
Oh, and it’s called Everest Ridge because a team of Utahns in the early 90’s trained on the ridge as part of a training plan for Everest.
I had wanted to climb Timp on a Monday, and I went to bed early on Sunday night. I couldn’t fall asleep, though, because some annoying and ridiculously loud freshman girls came over to visit one of my roommates. Ugh. College. So I put it off to the next day. I still only got a few hours of sleep on Monday night, but it was more than I would have gotten on Sunday.
I woke up at 2 a.m., got my stuff ready, and was out the door by 2:30. The drive to the trailhead was uneventful and took about 25 minutes, and I was hiking by 3. The hike up to Baldy Saddle goes through Dry Canyon. I’d hiked up Dry Canyon before, and something about the trail I was on this time didn’t seem right. It was wider and trended more to the left than it should have. I ended up going for about 15 minutes and half a mile before turning back. By the time I got back on the right trail, I’d gone a mile and wasted half an hour. So, for anyone reading this: don’t take the wide trail at the north end of the parking lot! Take the narrower trail at the far right (south) side of the parking lot. The right trail starts off relatively steep and there are some large railroad ties making steps.
The first mile and a half or so of the trail was pretty pleasant. There wasn’t any snow and it wasn’t too steep. There was a lot of snow on that last mile and the going was slower. I made it to Baldy Saddle at 5:15 (~1:45 after starting). I had left the trail and cut straight up to the saddle, making the distance from the trailhead to saddle 2.75 miles instead of the 2.84 if you stay on the trail the whole way.
The weekend before, a large group of people had climbed Everest Ridge, and they had carved out several tent platforms in the snow. I sat in one of them for a few minutes and rested while I put my crampons on and took my ice axe out. Up until that point, I had felt pretty good. But then the wind started to blow harder, prompting me to put on a long sleeve shirt and shell jacket.
From Baldy Saddle, I followed the footprints southeast through a grove of trees. Everest Ridge at this point is split into two ridges, and I went up the wide gully between the two spurs to gain the ridge proper. I felt like I was going really, really slowly. That’s one bad thing about carrying a GPS… I call tell how fast or slow I’m going. But I could definitely feel the lack of sleep from the past couple nights. In fact, at any given spot on the climb, I’m confident that I could have just sat down and fallen asleep.
It got bright enough sometime between 6 and 6:30 for me to take my headlamp off. It was beautiful being able to see the sunrise from up there. I followed the ridge upward for what seemed like miles until I reached the crux of the route: a cliff band at something like 11,200 feet. It’s possible to climb directly through the cliffs, but most people traverse around them to the right, and that’s what I did. The slopes before and after this part are the steepest of the route, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The exposure was a lot of fun to.
I eventually made it to the summit ridge, but still had to traverse about .4 miles to the summit proper. This took a lot longer than I thought it would. I’m not sure exactly how long it took, but maybe 30-45 minutes? I finally made it to the summit at 9 on the dot, meaning that it took 5 ½ hours from the parking lot.
Climbing mountains is a funny thing. I spent all that time and effort climbing this freaking mountain and only spent about 15 minutes on top. I ate a snickers, some peanut brittle, and a Clif Bar. Immediately after, my stomach starting feeling a bit unsettled. Not a good sign when you have a whole mountain below you. I hoped for the best, took some pictures, and started down at 9:15.
The descent down the ridge sucked. The sun had softened the snow considerably, and I postholed up to my knee or waist with almost every step. It seemed to take an eternity to get back down to the saddle, but it really took about two and a half hours. It was horrible. I glissaded when I could, but it was just slow going down that stupid thing. The postholing destroyed my knees, too. I made it back down to the saddle at about 11:45, so it took roughly 2 ½ hours to get down.
From the saddle, I ran down the trail as fast as I could. A lot of the snow on the upper portion of the trail was melting fast. As a result, the trough-like trail had turned into a small stream, soaking my feet even more. Getting off of the snow and onto the dirt was a mixed blessing: I could move faster, but it also jarred my knees more. I made it back down to my car at 1 o’clock, for a total round trip time of about 9 ½ hours. I’m ok with that time. This was my first big hike/climb of the season, so I’m not in perfect shape. Also, the horrible snow conditions and gastrointestinal problems (which I was constantly dealing with the whole way down) definitely added some time.
I’m writing this the day after my climb. I got 13 hours of sleep last night and needed every minute of it. My legs, butt, and knees are sore, but I’m feeling pretty good. The whole experience at the time was, to be honest, pretty terrible. I was hurting the whole way down. But now that I’m sitting in my comfortable chair typing this up, I realize what a great adventure it was. I swore yesterday that I would never do it again, but I’m already having second thoughts. I’ll probably do a different route next winter. I’m thinking of doing the one that comes down directly from the summit. It’s narrow and has a couple more rock steps. Should be fun!
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