Sunday, March 09, 2008

Mount Olympus and Everest Ridge

On President's Day I did a solo hike of Mount Olympus (up by Salt Lake). The trail was really well packed, and the weather was great. Here are a few pictures from the picture gallery:

Last Saturday my friend Ben and I made an attempt on the Everest Ridge route up Mount Timpanogos. Everest Ridge gets its name from an early 1990's team that used it to train for Everest. It starts from the saddle between Big Baldy and Timp and continues on a ridge up the west face of Timp. The first 3000 feet are spaced out over 3 miles; the second, very steep 3000 feet cover only 1.5 miles.

I picked up Ben around midnight on Friday night, and we left the trailhead at 12:45 a.m. We started super early so that we could travel when the snow was the coldest—and thus the hardest. The goal was to be on the summit around sunrise. The route we were on can be prone to avalanches under bad conditions, so we wanted to travel when the danger was the lowest. We also wanted to have hard snow for our crampons to bite into on the steep slopes. I was a little worried about the snow conditions because it's been so warm here for the past few days. The weather forecast said that the temperature was going to barely drop below freezing.

We brought snowshoes, but when we got to the trailhead the snow seemed pretty hard, so I decided to leave them in the car. That turned out to be a bad move later.

We made it to the saddle in about three hours. We took a little break, and then we got down to business: climbing the steep ridge. We put on our crampons as the snow got steeper and harder. Our first obstacle was a cliff band. On the right was a steep avalanche chute; on the left were unclimbable cliffs. We chose to make our way up on a steep band of snow that cut through the middle.

The route soon became even steeper and more rugged. We came to another cliff that we could pass only on a thin tounge of snow. As we approached it, I could feel each time I plunged the shaft of my ice ax into the snow that the snow as becoming less solid. At the base of the cliff I dug a mini snowpit and did a shear test. The results were concerning. There was a four-inch sun crust on top of several inches of sugar snow—the makings of a a classic slab avalanche. Rather than risk it, we decided to turn around.

It was only around 4 a.m. at this point, so we had lots of time left. We decided to descend a little way onto more stable snow and then do some self-arrest practice. After sliding down the steep slopes a few times, we talked about hiking to the summit of Big Baldy or waiting around for the sunrise. We were both tired, so we just decided to head back down. Ben had hauled his snowboard up, so he made a lot better time than I did. :)

When the trees got too dense for riding, Ben took off his board and we used it as a sled. He would sit on the front, and I would kneel on the back, and we would rocket down the trail. It was a lot of fun, and it saved me from post-holeing in the softening snow. The trail formed kind of a ditch, so it felt a little like we were bobsledding. Woo hoo!

After the trail became too twisty and narrow, we started hiking again. A little was down, I realized that I didn't have my camera anymore. (I probably lost it in one of our many bobsled crashes.) Ben was back on his snowboard at this point in a great natural halfpipe. I called out to him and told him I'd hike back alone to find it. After about half an hour of pretty intense hiking, I found my camera lying in the middle of the trail. Fifteen minutes later I was back to Ben, and we finished the hike out.

Here are a few pictures from the picture gallery:


jacob said...

Bruce you would like it here. There are so many things to hike. Of course, I'm not quite up to the capabilities that you are, but I'm working at it. My goal is to be able to hike a 14er by the end of the summer.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you turned back. Way to be smart Bruce. And it might be easier to lose your camera down a wall than leave it on a mountain... just for future knowledge.