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.
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.