Mt. Timpanogos West Ridge
While kids were dreaming of what the Easter bunny was going to bring them, I was hitting the trail. As I do not have any family here I opted to spend my time in the mountains during Easter. I was able to get another guy to go on a rather large adventure. Ever since I moved here three years ago, I have eyed the West Ridge of Mt. Timpanogos. The entire ridge has been coined ‘Everest Ridge’ from the 80’s when some Utah locals used the route to help prepare them for their Everest trip.
In order to prepare for the trip I had to finally break down and purchase some gear I have long needed, an ice ax and crampons. Those would prove to be crucial while trying to climb the steep, icy face. Since I have tendencies to forget gear, I wanted to lay my gear out and pack it the night before. This was smart as it would be a long day on Sunday.
My alarm went off at 3 AM. Of course I was having an awesome dream and I was just about to cross the finish line of my first Ironman. Well I guess I won’t get to know how that feels until it happens. After a quick shower and brewing some coffee, Joey met me at my house. We had to drive down to Pleasant Grove to where the trail head is. Generally for Timpanogos, one can drive the back side of the mountain and gain an addition 3,000 vertical feet to help with the climb. This route however starts at the bottom.
Under headlamp and a ¾ moon, the peak was glistening with snow. It was a long way up of 6,600 vertical feet from where we started. The route started on a dirt trail. Since it hasn’t snowed a lot this year, it would be a little while before we got to snow. Whenever going to a new route I always remember why I hate navigating in the dark. We came to a split in the trail and got lucky.
The walk was pretty easy and our spirits were high. This always helps when having to climb so much vertical to get to the summit. Once we finally got to enough snow to walk on, we changed our shoes and I threw my skins on and started climbing. Joey opted for crampons now which I later regreted.
The first obstacle we got to while on the snow was a 20-25’ waterfall with avy debris all around it. This wasn’t too bad to navigate as it involved climbing up a steep icy hill. Using crampons made it much easier than kicking in steps. As this was my first time using crampons, I felt like a total beginner in everything. I was starting to get frustrated as I didn’t trust the bite into the ice. After several times of having to stop and regain my composure on the steep face, I finally got to the top of this small face. I knew as fall there wouldn’t be deadly, but it sure would sure as I would have slid right into ice hard avalanche debris.
Once we got to the top, we tried to adjust my crampons as mine popped off twice. I know learned it was from a lack a tightening them. I thought they were tight originally, but they obviously were not. Having my equipment on securely was rather nice and we were able to make pretty good timing up the icy snowfield. Being able to look at the summit though and realize you are still 3,000 vertical feet away is rather sad.
There were two separate cruxes that had to be navigated. The bottom one gave way to the upper bowl of the west face. Looking up the roughly 2,000 vertical feet was pretty daunting because it seemed the summit never became closer. I ended up doing the counting steps thing. I would walk 50 steps before I would let myself look up. At this point I was hurting. Having not shed my jacket on mellower terrain, I was paying the price dearly. The sun was finally on us and boy was it hot.
I could not find a place I felt comfortable to take my pack off and remove my jacket. Eventually though I had to. My crampon started to rip the sole of my boot off. This in turn caused my crampon to fall off. I had to anchor myself down via my ice ax while I removed my pack. This was a slow process, but I finally got the pack off as well as my jacket. I then removed my crampon that was falling off. There was an old boot pack as I kind of used that.
Towards the top though was scree rock and snow mixed. It would go from no snow to 2’ of snow within inches of each spot. This made booting very slow. When we finally reached the ridge though, all of the struggles were totally worth it. We then headed over to the summit shack to take in the views and let the snow soften up before riding down.
Here are some photos from the top.
The ride down was incredible. It was some nice soft corn that I completely forgot how much fun corn is. There were a few slide paths that had to be navigated around. Even the majority of that was fairly soft. It was my first time riding down with an ax in my hand and I didn’t poke myself with it. Win!
After riding around 4K vertical feet or so we had to take our boards and boots off and switch to shoes again. The riding put us in an avalanche gulley that we appropriately named, ‘The Trail of Goat Tears’. There were several dead goats in there that were swept away by avalanches. Better them than me.
I am so glad to bag this line. Every time I head south in I-15 I look at it. She is such a gnarly face and now when I go back to get my August and September turns, I can remember riding the face from the summit. After such a long day, 11 hours car to car I am beat. I know I will be sore, but it will be a good kind of sore.
Here is the view of the line we rode from the valley. This is pretty close from where we parked. Long walk….