Thursday, September 15, 2005

Cascade Summit—Finally!

Hyrum and I have had something of a vendetta against Cascade Mountain for a while. He tried it in early June and didn't summit. I tried it with him the next week and we didn't summit. We were going to attempt it in August but couldn't find the trail, so we didn't summit. We tried it again on Labor Day—and this time we summitted!

Cascade is one of the less-known mountains in Utah's Wasatch range. It sits just south of Mt. Timpanogos across Provo Canyon. The trek to the 10,908-ft. summit is a long one, but it provides great views of Utah Valley, the Wasatch range, and Heber Valley. Our round-trip stats were:
  • Between 14 and 16 miles
  • About 4000 ft. of elevation gain
  • 12.5 hours
We hiked from the Rock Canyon trailhead in the valley in June, since we weren't sure if we could make it up Squaw Peak Road to Rock Canyon Campground, which is the usual starting point. This time, however, we knew the road was passable (having driven up it on our "couldn't find the trail" attempt), so we started from the campground, knocking off three miles and a couple thousand feet in the process.

The hike can be broken into three general sections: walking up the valley to the base of the mountain, hiking up the side of the mountain to the ridge, and traversing the ridge west and then north to the summit.

We hit the trail at 7:30 a.m. and enjoyed a beautiful dawn over Utah Valley. We followed our previous route to the base of the mountain, but the scenery was a little different this time: the avalanche that we walked over before had melted to reveal a green mountain valley.

We decided to follow the trail this time instead of walking straight up the terraced mountain, which turned out to be an excellent decision. The trail was fairly well maintained and easy to follow until we reached the ridge, at which point things became decidedly less clear. I was glad to have Hyrum with me, since he seems to have a certain knack for finding invisible trails.

The traverse was slow going because of the poor (or non-existent) trail quality. In fact, I'm still not sure if there even is a trail on the ridge. We'd find little pieces of what might be a trail for a few hundred feet, then lose it and route find for a while. The route finding pointedly reminded me how tired my feet were the first time we tried Cascade. Walking for miles on a 30 degree slope doesn't do great things for my feet.

On the bright side, though, the snow we saw in June had melted to make the north side of the ridge passable. We crossed back and forth for a while until we came to some sheer cliffs. At the cliffs we knocked a rock loose and could hear it tumbling down for well over 30 seconds. Deciding that we didn't want to share the same fate, we crossed back to the south side and followed it the rest of the way.

The ridge heads west and then curves to the north. We broke for lunch a little while after we rounded the corner. After a nice break (and some good grub) we headed toward the summit, enjoying some great panoramas of Utah Valley. It was again slow going, but at least we were getting closer.

At 2:00 we reached summitted! Months after our initial attempt and 6.5 hours after we began that morning, we achieved our goal. We spent a full hour up there resting, enjoying the views, taking pictures, and procrastinating the long trip down.

At 3:00 we hit the trail again. We bushwhacked most of the way down; in the process I amassed a vast collection of burs, needles, thorns, pebbles, and dirt in my boots. I think I emptied them four or five times. My socks still haven't recovered.

We enjoyed some beautiful sunset silhouettes and saw three deer during our descent, arriving back at car by 8:00. The trip was well worth it, but I think that after doing Whitney, Lone Peak, and Cascade in succession, my next trip is going to be a nice, easy one!

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