Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and I spent the day with family eating and relaxing at my Aunt Sharon's house. In an effort to counteract yesterday's massive calorie intake, I made a massive calorie expenditure today by hiking to the top of Spanish Fork Peak. I've posted my pictures from the trip.
I chose Spanish Fork Peak because it was the last of the seven major peaks around Utah Valley that I hadn't summitted. Last week I ran into Ben, who has been in a couple of my recreation managment classes, on campus, and we talked about hiking together. He invited Rich, who was in our canyoneering class, and I invited my brother David. The four of us left Provo a little after 4:30 a.m. (!) and set off toward the trailhead.
I had called the Uinta National Forest earlier in the week to see if the Maple Canyon road was still open, and the ranger I talked to said that the road was closed pretty close to the mouth of the canyon, so I had planned on an extra two mile hike from the car to the trailhead. However, when we arrived we were pleasantly surprised to discover that the gate was open, and we could drive to within a quarter mile of the trailhead. Although I was glad that we had a shorter hike than expected, I was a little irked that I had gotten up earlier than it turned out I needed to.
We hit the trail at 5:25 a.m. After a short walk up a gravel road, we crossed the stream that flows down Maple Canyon (on rocks; we didn't get wet) and started up the main trail, which was very well maintained--a nice contrast to the bushwhacking it seems like I usually do. We were on dirt for the first couple miles, but after that there was patchy hard snow for a lot of the way. It was pretty cold (probably 10-15°F), and it had been a little while since it had snowed, so the snow was really hard, making for good walking. The snow on the trail itself had been packed into very slick ice, so we stuck to the untracked snow to the sides.
We passed Maple Canyon Lake (which was more of a pond, really) a little before dawn and continued up into the basin below the summit. Ben suggested climbing up a couloir (a steep chute filled with snow, pronounced "koo-lar") instead of taking the switchbacks up the ridge. That looked pretty fun, so we started up. I noticed that David was lagging behind, though, so I told Ben and Rich to keep going and I waited for him.
The coldest time of the day is right at or a little after dawn, which is when we started up the couloir. David's hands had gotten painfully cold, so we decided to go back down to the trail since the sun, which was rising above the ridge to the east, had just reached the trail. We stopped, warmed up his hands a little, and had something to eat before continuing.
Once we were on the ridge above the basin, the hike to the summit was pretty easy. We arrived just after 9 a.m. and spent about five minutes taking pictures and enjoying the view. We could see Provo Peak and Mount Timpanogos to the north, and Santaquin Peak and Mount Nebo to the west.
The hike down was spiced up by a couple of things: we glissaded (slid) down a chute from the summit ridge to the basin below, and we played around on the frozen lake for a little while. The lake had several inches of ice on it, so we slid around and played for a few minutes. I was curious how thick the ice was, so I grabbed one of our ice axes and started chopping. After I had chopped away three or four inches, water started bubbling out of the hole I had cut. Rich kept chopping (soaking the front of his pants in the process), and we eventually made the hole big enough to stick the ax shaft in. The "lake" had about four inches of ice, and the water was only about a foot deep where we were.
From the lake we kept a pretty good pace the rest of the way to the car, and we arrived back at noon, ten miles, 4600 feet of elevation gain, and a little over six and a half hours after we began.
As an aside, this was the first time that I had worn the new (to me, anyway) Asolo Summit GTX mountaineering boots that I got at the Black Diamond Gear Swap last month. I was pretty happy with their performance. My feet stayed pretty warm the whole time (wearing a pair of wool ski socks and over a pair of SmartWool hiking socks), and the boots were pretty comfortable. I stood in the stream for a minute on our way back and they didn't leak. My only complaint is that the sole is narrower than I'm used to, so it was a little harder to get a firm footing sometimes. However, that's par for the course for mountaineering boots.