Tag: Utah

Ice Climbing First Tracks

I got a message from my climbing buddy Ryan, from http://www.climbingreport.com suggesting we go ice climbing up Provo Canyon to our favorite spot, Stairway to Heaven. He said it was early season and thin, but that a few days more of freezing should solidify it enough to get in some decent climbing.

Sadly the next few days were on the warm and rainy side. On Friday night he messaged suggesting we shoot for Pricecicle (Dirtcicle) which at a higher elevation was in better condition overall. I had some family events to attend to over the day, and didn’t have time for the 3 hours round trip drive, so that was out of the question. We settled on going out before dawn prepared to run a mixed line if needed, just to get in some climbing before my family event deadline.

At the base of Stairway to Heaven, in the dark, with Mount Timpanogos behind and the highway below.
At the base of Stairway to Heaven, in the dark, with Mount Timpanogos behind and the highway below.

We met at the Nunn’s Park lot at just a few minutes before 6 AM, and hiked in the dark the 3/4 mile to the fork in the trail heading up the gully to the base of Stairway. I had misplaced my good headlamp, so borrowed one the kids’ and it was really dark heading up the steep gravel in the dark. Remind me to dig out my good headlamp and keep it attached to my helmet at all times.

Thin ice indeed. Darktime view of the route at Stairway to Heaven
Thin ice indeed. Darktime view of the route at Stairway to Heaven

The route was really thin looking, but doable. There were thin slicks of ice over rock with some tiny pillars like melted candle wax hanging over rock depressions. It would be interesting. I had brought some slings and lockers for setting the toprope. Ryan went up with his rope and my pro and was gone for quite a bit longer than expected. I assumed he was having trouble crossing icy patches on the sloping shelf at the top of pitch one traversing the 50 or so yard to the chains for this route. I assumed he stopped to put on his crampons. He had his TNF Ice Project backpack [HERE] and I love the top crampon pocket. Envious.

Ryan rappelling over the falls at Stairway to Heaven
Ryan rappelling over the falls at Stairway to Heaven

I heard some rocks tumbling down to the right of the route and ducked out of the way just as he rapped over the edge. The rope was slightly to the right side of the route, but that’s where the best ice was, so it would do the job. I was really frozen standing there, so took first crack at the route to warm up. It was 23 with a real-feel of 17, but there was a really cold humid damp wind that made it feel more like 5F. Dang it was cold. I went up in my OR VERT gloves [HERE in a newer version] instead of my thinner climbing gloves. I also kept my puffy jacket on. Did I say it was cold?

It's not often I get to climb this dressed up.
It’s not often I get to climb this dressed up.

My hands froze really good, but the ice was decent. More decent than I expected. I got in some good sticks, a few good hooks, saw some sparks fly from the ends of my tools and popped out some really brittle toe points. One spot in particular felt off balance, backwards leaning slightly clearing a small bulge over some candlesticks. It had bad hollow sounding feet. But I was on toprope, so it’s all good.

Ryan climbing up the right side of the one doable route at Stairway to Heaven
Ryan climbing up the right side of the one doable route at Stairway to Heaven

I went up again on the right side as soon as Ryan was thawed out enough to belay. I went up much faster and my hands were warmer, having gotten that blood rush post-screaming-barfies. If you’ve been there you know what I mean. Ryan again booked it up the right side. We were both really stoked and while the ice wasn’t that great, the climbing was.

Ryan climbs another line slightly left of our first line
Ryan climbs another line slightly left of our first line

I took off again, as far left as the thin flow of ice would allow. It was much worse ice, with small blobs of ice to stick and thin smears to scratch. I did one of those “6 inches at a time” toekick ascents, breaking off the candle I was climbing with each kick. It was tough. Ryan followed that same line and afterward said it was really good fun.

Ryan working his way up the left side at Stairway to Heaven
Ryan working his way up the left side at Stairway to Heaven

I decided on the next lap to push it even further. I tried only hooking and placing. No swings. About halfway up I felt like my right tool was bomber, my right foot bomber. My left foot was nothing and my left tool was sketchy. I tried standing up on my almost nonexistent left toe point, and popped off. Solid pop. One split second moving up, the next split second hanging ten feet lower. In that split second I realized my left tool was following me so I ducked my head low and slammed my forearm over behind my neck. Sure enough it hit my helmet and dragged along my forearm for a split second. I wondered if it had hung up there or not. I heard the clatter a few seconds later, and turned to watch it bounce into the gully about 100′ below.

Dripping ice freezing instantly on our boots, tools, gloves, clothes. Water in our bottles freezing.
Dripping ice freezing instantly on our boots, tools, gloves, clothes. Water in our bottles freezing.

Ryan lowered me and thought maybe he could lower me into the gully and I could get a boost from the rope on the way back up. I looked at my watch and it was go time anyway. We could get it on the way past down to the car. Ryan said he’d rap down after cleaning. After his last lap I started putting my gear away and helped clear the rope for his descent. We hiked down the gully to the tool, and I hung it on my backpack waist belt. I don’t recommend that on a steep gravel descent, by the way. You don’t want pointy things interrupting your tumble down the scree.

That little tiny white stripe of ice to the left of center is where we were climbing at Stairway to Heaven
That little tiny white stripe of ice to the left of center is where we were climbing at Stairway to Heaven

At the bottom I paused for a photo and gosh did it look bare. Really bare. Had I done the approach at daylight I might have turned around. So glad we had this first day of climbing Stairway to Heaven for the 2015-2016 winter ice climbing season. Hope we get plenty more really good memorable days climbing this year.

Mount Olympus with Todd

On July 12 I went out for a short hike with Todd Gilles. Remember we went together for Orizaba, and then to Elbrus Race 2013 [BUY BOOK HERE]

We went up Mount Olympus, a Salt Lake City classic that I’ve done quite a few times over my life. I’ve used Strava for some of my hikes and trail runs over the past handful of years now, and for this one I would use it for tracking, but not really work too hard for a PR or anything. I set a 10K PR in Frisco Colorado in early June. I climbed Mount Rainier via the Emmons route in late June [PHOTOS HERE]. I did a slew of PR’s on Quandary just the week before, July 4 [PHOTOS HERE]. All in all I was pretty wasted and not fully recovered. We were going to just have fun.

Todd was staying with us on a trip as a figure skating coach to train my wife and others here in Utah. We took off around 5:30 and got to the trailhead off Wasatch Blvd and hit the trail around 6:30. It was still twilight and cool. We took it really slow up to near the creek crossing, then booked it up the rough section and up to the saddle. There we slowed down again for the scramble to the summit. In spite of our casual pace down low I got a handful of 2nd and 3rd best times to the saddle. Imagine if I booked it some down low too? I guess that’s next.

Todd Gilles and I did a Salt Lake City classic today. Mount Olympus. After this brief pause at the saddle we climbed the 600′ class 3 scramble to the summit. I should have more pics and videos in the next few days.

Posted by Seven Summits Quest on Sunday, July 12, 2015

We hung around up top for only a few minutes then returned to the saddle for our trail lunch. I had two bottles with me. The Ultimate Direction 20oz in my front pocket, and a Platypus 1 liter in the back pocket. I used the larger one to fill the smaller one, and chugged the rest. It was going to get hot soon. Then we took off downhill carefully and slowly. Todd was beat from skating and I was beat from setting a downhill PR on Quandary, knocking off nearly 30 minutes from my previous best. Downhill beats me up pretty bad so I normally don’t run that fast downhill anyway.

We discussed and shared tunes and stories and plans. Our big plan at the moment is a possible return to Rainier for me to get in a second summit this year with Todd. We’ll see how that goes. We have a few hurdles to leap for that one. If you want to stay in the loop and possibly give us a hand, or at least cheer us on, please subscribe to our newsletter [CLICK HERE].

Ice Climbing Stairway to Heaven – Cold

I am going to be ice climbing at the Ouray Ice Fest 2013 next week, so I’m trying to get my groove back on by ice climbing as much as I can in between work and family activities. I climbed solo on Thursday Because of the weird wet dripping ice coating the rope I experienced gear failure in my self-belay system so bailed after only one lap.

hiking to the ice climbing routes on Stairway to Heaven
On the Provo Canyon Trail toward Stairway to Heaven

I had decided to climb every other day if I can until I leave Thursday. Today (Saturday January 5) I was going to go up to climb solo again. My usual ice climbing partner Ryan had other plans that day. My wife suddenly decided she wanted to go again. It’s been a while since I’ve been out with her, because of her figure skating competition training and injuries. It was great to hear she was going to go ice climbing with me.

ascending to the ice climbing routes near Provo Utah
The ascent gully to Stairway to Heaven

We had a new babysitter to tend the kids, so we were free to both go ice climbing for about 6 hours. We took off for the Nunn’s Park parking area, put on our boots, harnesses, and packs, and walked to the gate on the trail. It’s a wide access road for Provo City Utilities, but unmaintained so it’s snow covered. We put our crampons on, and I handed her one of my trekking poles to ease the stress on her knees and back. I set a very mild pace up the steep access gully. There were plenty of other groups ice climbing today, but there is plenty of terrain. We’ll be fine.

preparing for ice climbing
What next? Ice Climbing in Provo Canyon

Ice Climbing in Provo Canyon

I raced up the ramp to the shelf and set up a toprope anchor on the same chains I used on Thursday. This time I used a sling to extend the rope away from the chains and hopefully divert some of the water runoff. I also brought a super-duper-dry rope (in climbing terms a dry rope is one that’s treated to repel or shed water – if you do a lot of ice climbing you’ll need one). I found the black ink mark for the center of the rope, clipped it into the lockers, passed it into my belay device, and tossed the rope down. A lot of rope. Oh. That was the “Twenty Feet Left” mark. I grabbed the end of the rope where it lay by my feet and tied in to my harness and undid one side from my belay device. Instead of rappelling I’ll just lower myself [note this is a technical rope application and unless someone has shown you how to do it and approved your technique you should never try this at home folks].

ice climbing on a crowded wall
My wife ice climbing amid the crowd at Provo Canyon

I let my wife try her hand at ice climbing first, since she’s been off the ice for a couple of years. It’s fun watching and belaying her. A great family togetherness thing. During the summer I take the kids out rock climbing, and now one is about old enough to try ice climbing, but I’d like to wait for it to warm up a little bit first. A funny note. While belaying, I heard the yell “HELMET” and looked to see a white helmet plummeting from a few shelves up and land on the ice uphill and skittering between the belayers toward me. We all made a grab for it, hopefully with full attention on our climbers. I managed to kick it into my rope pile. It was a white construction helmet. We talked about it off and on for the next couple hours. No one claimed it. You wouldn’t want to be ice climbing in it. For sure.

Ice Climbing Photos

We each did some laps. It was a ton of fun. I got to experiment with different footwork and tool placements and sticks. Ice climbing is really a mental game sometimes. It’s good to know a lot of different pieces to the puzzle. I climbed out the top on my last lap and tossed the rope down. It stayed pretty dry overall. The slings I used for the anchor were stiff and coated. I had to chip ice off the lockers to get then to unscrew. I had to dig out my back-up ice screw. But the rope stayed dry.

done ice climbing for the day
Packing up the ropes and gear

While climbing our water bottles had frozen shut at the lid and required work to open. They were full of slush. Some of the people ice climbing near us also had issues with their bottles too. It is cold! We packed up, said our goodbyes, and hiked down the steep gully. There’s a pretty good trail right now for access to the ice climbing. A few weeks ago it was still dirt and rocks and a bit tougher going. We hiked down the road to the Nunn’s Park parking area. A car was stuck in deep snow and revving the engine to get out. Be careful parking here. While the different pull-off areas and wide spots are flat enough they don’t always plow them out well. Also there are signs in front of the gates for no parking and the city trucks do use the road now and then.

hiking out after a day ice climbing
Hiking out after a day ice climbing

We took off our crampons and walked out onto the pavement. It’s always a weird feeling to make that transition. We walked down the road to the car, unlocked it, and set our gear into it. I drank a protein shake. I’m in “training to suffer” mode at the moment. Very limited food and drink on these adventures. On the way past I noticed the car was gone so they obviously made it out. I would have stopped to push otherwise. It was a great day ice climbing. I’m looking forward to more.

ice climbing couple
Happy after a great day ice climbing

Mount Olympus Speed Run

I have a few days off work so I needed to get some more outdoor training in for Elbrus. You might notice that I haven’t posted any outdoor training in a while because I had to cover for someone on vacation at work, and had a few business meetings I needed to be around for.

This morning I had just enough time to squeeze in a run up Olympus, one of the most familiar peaks on the East side of Salt Lake. Today I was going to commit to the Flexline Hydration tube system for my running. I’d already used it on the treadmill, stairmaster, and Jacob’s Ladder. Today would be the first trip outside. I connected it to a 1.8 liter Platypus bladder with one Camelback Electrolyte tab in it.

I got to the trailhead at about 5:45 AM, switched on the GPS and took off. I moved pretty quickly up in the dark with my little tiny headlamp, with the glowing city lights behind me.

Olympus Summit Cone
Top of Olympus. East Saddle to right, right red line is Class 4/5 route to top

I arrived at the saddle towards Raymond in 1:32, had a Hammer Gel, texted Angie, and took off up the Class 3 scramble to the top. I managed to make a wrong turn and ended up at the East Saddle so rather than retrace my steps I just went up toward the summit from there. It was mostly Class 4 with a few small cruxy sections of 5.3 climbing. Maybe about 80′ total. I managed to kick a rock loose and it fell, bounced for a few seconds. Seemed like 1000′ straight down toward the Northeast.

I topped out in 1:58. I got a shot with the mailbox summit register (though it’s just barely visible behind my right hip). I hung out for four minutes, drinking my auxiliary Camelback Podium bottle with Accelerade Hydro for the sugar/protein energy to get me down. I managed to slip between the staggered blocks at the top and bruised my shin. I scrambled down further to the West than what I ascended, but still ended up with about one hundred feet of Class 4. I saw the right way as I passed it on the way, but not sure if I’ll remember it later.

When I got to the saddle I began to really take off, as there’s not much time saving until then, since the scrambling is tough going. I started passing people about halfway down, and most were respectful of my running. I did manage to pass a couple guys who pulled over to the side. One yelled to the other “I told you people run on this mountain”. Far out.


I got to the car, texted Angie and then took off for home after turning off all my electronics. The Flexline Hose system worked fine. I especially appreciated it for the scramble, where I was able to drink at will. In most of the pics it looks pretty well down on my left side. It’s actually a few inches out from my chest while down to the left. This is out of my line of vision, and all I have to do is duck my head and I can feel for it with my lips and tongue to center it and bite the valve. I’m eager to try it in the cold now.

My stats are on my Google Blog if you want to see technical details.


Note: in video I’m running at 11:15 pace according to my Polar, and it’s a compilation of a few clips, I’m not drinking every 10 seconds.

Stuffing a Backpack – Solo Overnight on Snow

I was going on an overnight on Mount Timpanogos and had originally planned on following snow to the top (read the story at the link on this blog). I think hiking and camping solo is an excellent way to work out kinks in your gear and camping skills.

You can learn a lot about how to pack your bag on an expedition by packing your pack a lot, and watching others with some experience do it. Here’s how I packed for my Timp overnight. I laid out all the things I thought I’d need. I’m going light and want to cover a lot of ground quickly. I checked the weather, and estimated I’d be camping at about 9,000′ where the forecast was for an overnight low of about 20 degrees F.

My Gear List:

I opted for a 30 degree ultralight down bag by Stoic. It has a half-zipper for weight saving, and it works okay for me. I also have an ultralight Montbell thin inflatable half-size pad. I’ll be using my backpack under my legs for insulation. I’ve also wrapped my lower legs in my puffy if it got colder, like on Liberty Ridge on Rainier, where I took a 15 degree bag and this same pad.

I have a Thermarest Sitpad (small inflatable seat) which I use for my knees and butt while cooking or building my tent, and for under my head as a pillow at night. Because I plan on hiking in Spring snow, I might get a bit wetter than the backpack will protect from, I am taking a silicone-nylon stuff sack for my sleeping bag, which is down and while it has a Pertex shell, it shouldn’t get wet if I can help it.

I have a Montbell hooded puffy jacket (really like it), a Patagonia fleece, and Mountain Hardwear Super Hero zip hoodie that I wear as a medium baselayer. My tent is a one person single wall three season Sierra Designs Baku. They don’t make it anymore, but it’s a decent tent for the weight and easy to set up. It will stand without staking, but it’s almost always better to, if you can. I have a couple different pair of gloves (to allow for wetness and coldness), headlamp, ice tools, GoalZero Guide10 and Luna, freeze dried food, a disposable microwave container with a couple packs of oatmeal and hot chocolate, my Jetboil, cameras, and Kitty (long story).


Packing the Backpack:

First of all, start with an empty backpack. Since my sleeping pad folds up so small, I put it into the hydration sleeve, against my back, which also protects it from puncturing somewhat. Then stick the tent poles and stakes in the bottom corners near your back. In general, try to keep the more dense items near your back, working up to the heavier items up top. I kept them in their little silicone nylon stuff bags, since they’re almost weightless, and keep sharp items from poking things they shouldn’t.

Stick the silicone nylon stuff sack in, open, and feed the sleeping bag into it. I had folded the sleeping bag into itself like like those collapsible kitchen measuring cups, just to make it feed in faster. Some people prefer pushing it in hand over hand until it’s all in the sack. Then I folded the sack down and pressed till it was wadded up in the bottom.

Next put the Jetboil in sideways against the back panel, and wad the tent in filling any empty spaces till level. Put the freezedried meal in pointing into an empty space, and wedge it in. The idea is to fill any empty space up. Put your water bottles in now, in the center, facing up. Some people prefer them on the outside edges, but I think if you have to do any vertical work at all, it can swing and put you off balance. Since I did have to ascend about 20′ of Class 4 cliff, I was happy not to have my pack flailing about.

I put my windbreaker in along the side, filling up around the water bottles, then my container of oatmeal in facing the outside. I wiggled it all round to fill up space and make it ride more stable. I anticipated needing my base and fleece layers before my puffy, so I put my puffy jacket in next wadding it up around the water bottles and pushing it down to fill space. Then the fleece and base layers. Before I push everything in tight, I put my ice axe and ice tool on the outside of the pack in the sleeves provided.

Snacks, Electronics and Crampons:

Finally, I put my snacks in a gallon ziplock bag and put that on top, and cinched the strap closed. I put my gloves, hats and electronics (including the SteriPEN Adventurer Opti Handheld UV Water Purifier) in the top pocket, and closed it. All done and ready to go. In my pants pockets I kept a hammer gel packet, a shot block packet, and my camera. In the waist belt pocket I put my cellphone and music player. I wasn’t sure if I’d have reception (I did when I stood in one spot near the tent), so I keep it off while hiking to save battery from hunting for a tower, and turn it on when I want to check.

I had a GoalZero battery pack for charging my electronics, which in this case was my Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS Receiver With Heart Rate Monitor. I like to use it to see how long and how fast and how far I’ve been hiking, as well as my altitude, since I had goals for each of those. The battery is good for about 10 hours, and if I had gone for the summit on day two, I would have needed to have it full that morning, so I did set it to charge overnight.

Anyway, just my take on packing for a solo overnight when you will climb and camp on snow. The only thing missing from this is the clothes I wore, and my crampons, which I stuck on top under the top flap just before loading into the car. Pays not to have pointy things on top too long imho.

Overnight on Timpooneke Trail – Mount Timpanogos

I had done a quick reconnaissance of the Timpooneke Trail, the Northern hiking trail that leads to the 11,749′ summit of Mount Timpanogos, prominent above Orem, Utah in the Wasatch Mountain Range. I wanted to go back and summit in spite of the deep snow covering the trail. Last time I was wearing running shoes (Salomon Men’s Spikecross 3 CS Trail Running Shoe) and even with my Grivel Air Tech Light Crampons it was tough going. I had worn these crampons on Mount Rainier in Washington State, and Elbrus in Russia, but with the Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra 2 GTX Trail Running Shoe which provided a LOT MORE SUPPORT! My ankles were rolling all over with the Spikecross/Crampon combo.

Goal Zero Guide 10 Adventure Kit
Pre-Charging my Goal Zero Guide 10

I went up after the kids got home from school with my trusty old Scarpa Charmoz and my Black Diamond Contact crampons, a combination I’ve used on a lot of other climbs (Cristo Couloir and Timpanogos Everest Ridge). I made pretty fast time up to the Timpooneke Trailhead (actually about the same as with the Spikecross – they’re rather annoying and slippery/noisy on pavement – though they were awesome when I did Quandary in them. While the snow was pretty soft, it wasn’t too hard going up to the area of Scout Falls, where I got a little lost, so I just headed up straight through the trees and had to climb a little Class 4 (hands and feet for progress, fall could be disastrous, no real skill needed for finding hand and foot holds) cliff. No crampons needed so far.

I managed to work my way up through the snow, sometimes sinking in past my knees in the warmer/thinner areas, but if I was careful I could find a good solid line. There were footsteps here and there, and I followed them a little bit. The trail was fairly buried, and at a few spots I just climbed straight up the steep snow, and walked along narrow ledges above cliffs and water rivulets over the edges. Fun times, actually. It was really slow going, and I was pretty soaked, including my socks. I’d gotten soaked in similar terrain on Everest Ridge (wet deep snow) and had thought it was snow going down into my boots, but this time I figured it to be the old seams and stitches leaking through the GoreTex.

I got up to the flats at about 8800′ and could hear the water running down a nearby cliff, so decided to stay there for the night. I stomped out a platform and set the tent out with the stakes buried in T-Slots and stomped in. I was using my old Sierra Designs Baku tent (discontinued single-wall single person tent), a Montbell ultra-light short inflatable pad, my backpack under my feet, and my Stoic 30 degree ultra-light down sleeping bag.

After I set up camp I quickly boiled my remaining water for some freeze dried beef stew, then took off for the waterfall to replace all my water (all one liter of it – going light and fast for this one). I had to go about 30′ up a narrow ravine and slip between the rocks and ice for the water spray running down the rocks. Better than boiling snow, for sure. I used my Steripen to treat it, and stowed all my gear safely in case of wind. I set up my Goal Zero Guide 10 battery pack to recharge my Garmin 305 watch, since it had a pretty limited 10 hour maximum use, and I would need every bit if I were to summit tomorrow.

It was a miserable wet night, as I’d been basically crawling through waist-deep wet snow in places, and I didn’t have any dry clothes. My feet especially were pretty wet. I ended up sticking my feet in my fleece jacket sleeves, and laying my wet socks and liners around my torso to dry some, with my boot insoles under my legs. It got down to about 10 degrees F, much colder than my sleeping bag was meant for.

In the morning I surveyed the route ahead through several large recent avalanche paths, and a few older runouts, and calculated the time required to ascend to the saddle, and decided with the wet socks and boots not to do it. I packed up and had a fruit rollup for breakfast and descended pretty much the way I came. On the way I ran into Dennis, who apparently had come up a couple times and whose tracks I was following. He had snowshoes for the deeper parts, which made a nice stable platform for me to descend.

He had mentioned falling at the edge of a large dropoff, and sure enough when I got there I recognized the slide marks and as I stepped past I found myself suddenly upside down whipping over the edge. I reached out and grabbed a scrub oak branch hanging over the lip, and pulled myself hand over hand up it, and managed to mantle the little shelf and stand carefully. Wowsers. It was only about an 80′ slide on 60 degree snow, but still, the rocks and trees at the bottom would really hurt.

I got back to the Trailhead, then to the car, and home in plenty of time to pack and prepare for my overnight with my 11 year old son.

If I were to do anything different, it would be to take double boots, or maybe my single ice climbing boots rather than these three season Scarpa Charmoz. I would also take the extra weight of a second one liter bottle and a 15 degree F sleeping bag. Overall rather fun. I highly recommend anyone attempting the Seven Summits go out and camp alone in the snow miles from a trailhead at altitude – awesome training and preparation.