Beep, beep beep. My alarm blares as I reluctantly open my eyes, momentarily confused where I am. I roll over turn off the noise. The bright screen of my phone lights up my face, 4:00 AM. It’s early, but time to get out of bed if we want to be hiking in the cool weather of the morning. We grab our loaded backpacks, packed and repacked the night before trying to get them as light as possible with just the absolute essentials. We hop in the car and hit the road for the start of our mission.
Our team consists of four. Chris Coulter, Ryan Lehner, Connor Winton, and myself, all snowboarders who found climbing as a way to stay active in the summer, and instantly became addicted to the sport.
4:45 AM. We bounce up a dirt road and finally pull into a small lot. Knowing the sun will be rising soon we waste no time extending hiking poles and tightening shoes before we hit the trail. 6 miles and roughly 4750 vertical feet are ahead of us before we can get to where camp will be set up. Headlamps aren’t necessary as dawn is just starting to break as we hike. We slowly trudged on, one step at a time not trying to get too exhausted or dehydrated for the day ahead. Our route starts off mellow, quickly turns and goes what seems like straight up for 2000 vertical feet. Upon reaching a ridge the trail flattens slightly and continues on through a meadow before transitioning to a traverse over a granite slab. We reach the snowline and are almost there, the tall granite walls looming in front of us the entire way. We follow the cairns, picking our way among giant boulders that finally felt the pull of gravity and crashed down from the peak.
We scramble up a talus field and get on a moraine above a meadow. 9:15 AM. We reach our destination, the packs come off and we all slump down in the shade amongst boulders. A moment of relaxation and relief that we won’t have to be putting our heavy loads on our backs again and keep hiking. A stove gets pulled out and it isn’t long before a pot of water is boiling, ready to be poured for coffee. The day is far from over but it is a relief to have the hiking portion out of the way. Now its time for what we hiked for, the climbing.
Lone Peak wilderness is a 30,000+ acre wilderness area located with the central Wasatch Mountain range. At its center is Lone Peak, an 11,251 ft mountain with a cirque made up of four to five hundred feet of almost vertical granite walls. These walls surround a pristine alpine meadow, the perfect place for a couple days of adventure and high alpine climbing.
We pump fresh water from snowmelt runoff, then rest and rehydrate for a few hours before Chris, Ryan, and I started to rack up. As four people can make an awkward climbing party Connor was going to hike around and meet us at the summit. 12:15 PM. We left our packs and our camping gear by a stand of trees and start off towards the base of the climb with just what we need for an afternoon on the wall. Nearly immediately we need to cross a snowfield, Chris kicks in steps for the rest of us to follow as we traverse. We get to the rock and scramble up to the first belay ledge. Chris ties in, puts on his shoes, as Ryan gets him on belay, and then he starts up the wall, the first of four pitches of awkward chimneys and fluted cracks that lead right to the summit of Lone Peak. Chris and Ryan swap leads as we climb higher up the wall. A hot afternoon sun beats down on us as we wrestled our way up the textured granite cracks. Luckily after the third pitch of awkward bear hugging moves Chris found a belay ledge in a small cave. The shade was enough to cool us down and Ryan started off on the last pitch to the summit. A final chimney led into a little slot in the rock and the next thing you know we were at the top. When standing on the summit block the view is magnificent. As one of the tallest peaks in the Wasatch nothing blocks your view, and you can see what seems like forever. The entire Salt Lake/Utah Valleys are in clear sight, and on the horizon to the east the High Uintas in Eastern Utah.
6:45 PM. We relaxed on the summit, in awe at the view, as we watched a mountain goat scramble around on the rocks below us. A few snacks were shared, and then we began the scramble to a hike around the summit ridge to descend back to our camp. Minutes after returning to camp the stove was cranked and water was beginning to boil, all of us hungry after a long day of hiking and climbing. As we ate the granite walls glowed with the last rays of sun and then faded to darkness. Not long after we each pulled out air mattress and sleeping bags, found the flattest spots we could, and laid down for a night under the stars.
The plan for the following morning allowed us to sleep in, but it wasn’t long before the crisp mountain air was drawing me to get up and out of my sleeping bag, still in awe with the massive granite walls surrounding our camp. We had a slow morning making coffee and breakfast, feeling the exhaustion from the day before, but rested and ready for more. Today Connor was going to climb with Chris and Ryan. 11:00PM They racked up and headed off for the Lowe Route, a classic route, regarded as one of the best in the Wasatch, that they had looked at before, but had never been able to climb. After pumping some fresh water for the afternoon, I hiked back around to the summit, for the amazing views, and to watch/shoot photos of them climbing. They worked the way up the wall, finally topping out with a hug of celebration on the summit. They began their descent, at the same time as me, with the plan to meet back at camp.
Dinner was made, and hot coffee poured, and we packed up our bags to begin the hike back to the car in the cool evening air. We picked our way across the granite slab, constantly looking back over my shoulder to obtain another glimpse of the walls. Evening turned to night and we continued to pick our way down by headlamp. 12:15 AM. We made it back to the car, tired and sore, but absolutely filled with excitement about every aspect of the adventure.