| Utah "Ultra" Marathon - Part 2 of 2
This is still supposed to be a vacation, and while I had climbed a bunch already, and a lot more to come, Saturday night was time to sleep in a real bed, have a shower, and check out the sights of downtown. I found some free parking near the State Capitol and walked around checking out art, gardens, architecture and monuments throughout the city.
The gardens of Temple Square are quite nice, lots of flowers, and sculptures. Its well manicured with monumental architecture towering above.
The sunset alpenglow on the Capitol sent me back up the hill to check out the building, and some of the sculptures and memorials around including service veteran memorials and a memorial honoring public servants such as firefighters and police officers.
Utah State Capitol
Below the Capitol was City Creek park which also had its share of monuments and memorials, a nice reflecting pond, and a nice park that follows the creek back into downtown where I found a nice sushi restaurant for dinner before heading back to the hotel.
War Memorial Park
September 12, 2010
Today was my rest day, or at least it was supposed to be (we'll get to that later), so I slept in and then enjoyed continental breakfast at the hotel, and checked out. Then I was off to see the sights. Being a skier, and having been to Park City for a ski trip 9 years ago, I wanted to check out the Olympic Park and the ski areas. In an indirect way, that trip led to me moving to Colorado. It was the first big mountain western ski trip I had taken. My earlier ski career was all east coast based, and then being in Chicago with nothing of note, the west seemed a good place to get back into it and up my game. We went to Park City and Alta, the following year Breckenridge and Vail, 2 more times in the next two years, a summer trip to Rocky Mountain... well you get the idea. Too many trips, needed to move.
Anyway, the Utah Olympic Park hosted the ski jump, bobsled, luge and skeleton events at the 2002 games, and they offer a nice tour of the facility to help with their fund raising. They also have a really nice ski museum and Olympic museum with memorabilia from the games including clothing and equipment from the athletes and the torch. The tour was nice, and the ski jump was very intimidating.
Its also home to a world class training facility for the above sports as well as for aerials and moguls where people can use trampolines and jumps into a large pool to train all summer. Today was no exception, I actually got a nice video of one of the jumps, but for this report you'll have to settle for a still shot:
By now it was nearing lunch so I headed to Park City, and walked around the village and had a nice lunch at one of the delis. I think I actually may have ate there 9 years ago, for some reason it really felt familiar.
I also went up to drive around Deer Valley, being an architect in Beaver Creek, I had to check out the competition! Wait, I am supposed to be on vacation!
I kept driving and ended up at Empire Pass where I realized I was awfully close to a couple of ranked 9ers above the resort. I hiked out to climb Park BM (9363'), Bald Mtn (9346') and unranked Flagstaff Mtn (9180'). The hike was about 5 miles round trip but only about 1500' of vertical. Bald Mtn is actually the summit of Deer Valley and has nice views of Jordanelle Reservoir and Heber City.
Jordanelle Reservoir from Deer Valley
Back at the car the road keeps going (eventually to Brighton, its closed in winter though) and a large parking area at Guardsman Pass. What's a few more peaks on an off-day? PT 10026 is right about the road, about 1/2 mile and 320' vertical which is right above the Jupiter Lift at Park City and has great views of Jupiter Bowl to get you in the mood for the upcoming ski season, looks different (and less intimidating) than it did 9 years ago.
Jupiter Bowl - whose ready for ski season?
Back at the trailhead a trail goes the other way up PT 10420 and on to Clayton Peak above Brighton Ski Area. Clayton Peak at 10721' happens to be the highest ranked peak in Wasatch County, but its not the highpoint which is a "liner" on the other side of the county.
Back in Park City I had all-you-can-eat BBQ and some ice cream to complete the so-called "off day" before heading off to find some dispersed camping for the night.
September 13, 2010
Mount Baldy (11,068')
Hidden Peak (10,992')
American Fork Twin Peaks (11,489') - High Point Salt Lake County
12.6 miles RT, 5310' gain
Originally I had planned on hitting the fourth Salt Lake City area "Ultra", Flat Top Mtn, but I made the mistake (good decision?) of purchasing the Wasatch Eleveners book when I was in the local REI and had been studying it in my hotel and decided to go for some of those instead. "I can always come back for Flat Top another time with even more Wasatch Eleveners" I told myself...
I settled on the American Fork Twin Peaks (local nomenclature to distinguish from the Broads Fork Twin Peaks in the same area) as the high point of Salt Lake County is the western of the two summits. It also would give me a change to tack on two "walk up" peaks over Alta ski area which I had also skied on that fateful trip.
The trailhead is easily reached by following the Little Cottonwood Canyon road to Snowbird's #2 entry and the public parking for the Snowbird Resort Center. I figured a summer trail map would be beneficial to my hike and stopped at the resort center to find one, but could not find a pocket version. Instead I took a picture of the mural sized one next to the tram station. Gotta love digital cameras!
Straying slightly from the guide book, I ascended the Blackjack Trail to a service road that connects with the Peruvian Gulch Trail (also a service road). Early on the views of Mount Superior opened up across the valley.
I continued to follow the road past the top of the Peruvian Chair and to the connecting ridge between Baldy and Hidden Peak. Along the way I got great summer views of the excellent steep terrain of the famed Cirque below the tramway, it got me itching for ski season even more!
From the ridge crest a good climbers trail can be followed along the crest all the way to the summit of Baldy, a round summit with good views of the Wasatch and the ski areas below.
Ascent of Baldy
The trail continues on towards the Alta side over the top of some of their premier double black diamond terrain - the Baldy Chutes. When I was skiing there these were closed and apparently aren't open too much of the season due to avalanche danger in the narrow steep couloirs. Dry they look a mess, but couloirs usually only look appetizing with snow!
Good views of Little Cottonwood Canyon and Sandy from here as well.
Little Cottonwood Canyon and Sandy
Just above the saddle a steep downclimb on loose dirt and rock (class 2+) deposits you above the Mineral Basin Chair at Snowbird and on to Alta. The resorts share a boundary and this is the point where you can ski between them in winter. I followed the access road along the ridge toward's Alta's chairlift and left the road in favor of a good climbers trail to the summit of Sugarloaf.
The trail starts steep and gravelly but then mellows off in talus towards the top. Good views of Devils Castle and Albion Basin with Cecret Lake below. And of course good views back to Baldy.
Baldy from Sugarloaf
I returned back towards Baldy, seeing my first people since the resort center, a solo hiker going up Sugarloaf, and two ladies contemplating a summit after hiking up the service roads. I told them to go for it and headed my back over Baldy where I met up with "Mooner" from Summitpost. We continued over Hidden Peak (top of the tram) and on towards the Twins together. He would fit right in with some of the peakbaggers on this site as he recently day tripped Gannett in 25 hours! That is a 44 mile hike
Twin Peaks from Baldy
We started up the knife ridge of Twin Peaks, its a rough saw-like ridge with mini towers but not much exposure. The holds were plentiful and I thought it class 3 even though the guidebook calls it 4.
Twin Peaks Knife Ridge
Mostly we just stayed on the crest the whole way. There were a few trees growing out of the ridge at this point though, and a couple of the moves were a little awkward, maybe one or two of those individual moves could be considered class 4. The knife section ends and the ridge steepens and turns black. This part had some great broken class 3 scrambling before transitioning into talus the remainder of the way up to the east (lower) summit.
Upper Part of Ridge to Summit
Looking Back Down Ridge
A short traverse on the ridge (class 2) leads to the highest point in Salt Lake County.
From here my companion continued on to Red Baldy and White Baldy, but I decided that after 5 straight days and already my 3rd summit, I would retreat to the village (Have to save something for next trip). I went over "Red Top", a western false summit, and down the ridge which was mainly blocky class 2 with some brief sections of class 3. From the ridge there were good views of the other 11ers in the area like the Pfeifferhorn (another one for next time!)
I left the ridge as it transitioned to trees and I could easily drop to the Gad Valley service road. I followed that to the Dick Bass Highway back to base of the tram. Headed into town for a late lunch at Chick-Fil-A, which somehow I had never been to before, but it was definitely worth it. I bummed around Sandy a bit before heading for Mount Nebo, and my last night in my mobile "Camp Nissan".
September 14, 2010
North Peak (11,174)
Mount Nebo (11,928') - Utah County High Point
Twin Knolls (9272')
9.8 miles RT, 4255' gain plus another 2/3 mile and 320' for Twin Knolls
The culmination of my week long Utah trip was an ascent of Mount Nebo, the highest point in Utah County, the highest peak in the Wasatch Mountains, and one more Ultra-Prominence Peak. Statistically this was the easiest of the "major summits" on my trip, the least amount of elevation gain and the least amount of mileage, also the highest trailhead. It also is a bit farther south from the Salt Lake area and made sense to be done either first, or in this case, last, from a logistical standpoint. It was definitely one of the highlights in a highlight reel of a trip.
I went a different way than most to get to the trailhead, so I will provide some information first. I went via Santaquin Canyon which has some dispersed camping options in it. Exit I-15 at Santaquin, go east of the expressway and south on a road paralleling it (can't remember the name, its the first road). Where it "T"s, turn left and follow this road into Santaquin Canyon (its called Canyon Road). The road turns to gravel just past a picnic area there are several good camping options in this stretch. The road later meets up with the paved Nebo Loop Road, which most people use to reach the trailhead from Nephi or Payson. Turn right and follow to the signed parking area for the Monument Trail (aka Nebo Basin Trail). You can drive another 1/3 mile on the Mona Pole Road but I parked in the paved lot. Good early views of Nebo await to inspire you for the hike to come.
Good Morning, Nebo
Hike (or drive) 1/3 mile on the Mona Pole Road, after crossing a fence and cattle guard, you will find the start of the trail. It parallels the fence for a while as it rolls over a few knolls. The trail then turns left and heads towards the northeast ridge of North Peak. You do not want this first ridge, you want the second one and the trail will take you to it.
Follow the trail into the woods, along an avy chute, and across a meadow basin. The dusty trail then starts up a steep ascent of the northwest ridge ultimately reaching the ridge crest. The trail then leaves the crest at 10,750' before it takes off for Wolf Pass and Mount Nebo.
Ridges of North Peak
Here I left the trail and followed a climbers trail along the ridge crest to the summit of North Peak. It is almost 800' lower than Nebo and Nebo is quite impressive from this view.
Mount Nebo from North Peak
So is the valley 7000' below you to the west! This is a worthy add on peak as it is a ranked 11er, many people overlook it, however. From the summit I descended about 550' to the 10,620' Wolf Pass and rejoined the trail. The trail is steep and dusty here as well, mostly noticeable on the way down. The trail passes over a false summit and then the fun terrain starts.
North Ridge of Nebo
The trail bypasses the ridge crest, but staying on it involves some fun easy scrambling on the way to the final ascent of Nebo's north ridge.
North Ridge of Nebo continues
Again the trail skirts the crest, but the crest here offers some fun scrambling, a nice section of which offers some reasonably solid class 3 near the top of the ridge. There was one funky section of rock that was almost like being in the San Juans.
Am in the Wasatch or San Juans?
The ridge then levels off towards the true summit.
Final Gentle Ridge to Summit
It goes without saying that the views are impressive, the peak is very close to I-15 in mileage, but over 7000' higher. It was pretty cool watching the tiny semis rumble by. The views are long and I could see Deseret from earlier in the trip off in the distance along with the forgotten son, Flat Top.
Deseret, Flat Top and Utah Lake
I retraced the ridge to Wolf Pass then followed the trail back which regains about 150' of elevation before dropping back towards the cattle fence, where more ups and downs deposited me at the Mona Pole Road and the 5 minute hike back to the paved parking area.
Earlier on the drive in I passed by the Twin Knolls, a ranked 9er. The road passes about 1/3 of a mile from the summit right through the saddle. It was only another 320' of climbing and had some nice views back to Nebo itself. With so many other peaks climbed already, what was a 20 minute jaunt up one more? It was worth it for the view.
Mount Nebo from Twin Knolls
Conclusion and Drive Home
I drove back down, had lunch in Nephi, and drove the long drive back home. I still had one more day of vacation, I guess I could have stuck around and climbed more peaks, but it also made sense to have a day at home to unpack, do laundry and head to the grocery store before having to go to work on Thursday. So instead of camping one more night, I just kept driving, getting home around 10.30. Not bad, climb Nebo in the morning and get to sleep in my own bed.
So concluded a very productive week in Utah, as you can see I am not a sit on the beach type of guy when it comes to my vacation. Some may say, "Don't you have enough peaks in Colorado to climb?", well sure, but then it wouldn't be a vacation would it?
The change of scenery is what makes it a vacation, getting to climb in new places, try new food, see new towns and cities. Where else could I climb alpine 11ers, have a burger with pastrami on it, watch Olympic skiers train into a swimming pool? I may have climbed a lot of peaks, but there was a lot more to it, and it was a lot of fun exploring a new area. For people climbing 14ers they always talk about how it takes them to new parts of the state and to see places they wouldn't otherwise go. I guess after finishing the 14ers, that is what drew me to the Ultra Prominence peaks, the chance to explore new places again, to see parts of the country that I wouldn't other wise go to. There are 50 more of these peaks to go, and I am just getting started.
Mount Nebo from just off I-15 near Mona on the way back home
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):