After firmly hanging up my skis and putting away my ski boots following final turns on July 4th, the shoes came out. With them came three main goals for the non-ski months.
One. Strengthen my obvious weak areas. I wrote about this in an article earlier in the year. It seems nonsensical to me to continue strengthening one’s strongest areas while the weak areas fall further behind. Much time was spent raising my areas of weakest competency into something hopefully better than simply ‘moderately weak’ skills. As Autumn breezes flit through the trees, my smile is wide knowing that there’s been substantial progress in that endeavor. Room for improvement, always, but much skill attained.
Two. Stand atop the twenty highest summits in the Wasatch. With a short season in shoes compared to what I aim for in ski boots – skiing pretty early until quite late season, coupled with Point One above, I didn’t want to bite off more than I could chew. Peak bagging 20 local summits in relatively close proximity to my home seemed reasonable. As it turned out, I landed more than 60 summits either en route to or independently of (and including) the tallest 20, in shoes, after hanging up the ski gear. In three months.
Three. Increase volume. Nearly everyone I’ve described this point to has asked something akin to whether I’ve simply turned up my iPod loud enough to drone out overhead airplanes and helicopters. But really, I’ve kinda stopped listening to tunes in the mountains of late. Instead, increasing volume refers to increasing the amount of time that one spends on adventures or training. The more one gets out, the more skills develop and capacities increase. To a point anyway; overdo it and the reverse outcome is likely. In achieving Point Two, Point Three was kinda automatically addressed..
Which brings me back to the 20 tallest peaks in the Wasatch. Frequent mountain partner, Caroline Gleich suggested we continue on the project theme after we experienced a stunning amount of success on challenging Spring and early Summer 2013 ski descents. Ever game, I joined in and we knocked off the vast majority of the summits together.
Below is a list of the peaks and their elevation. Perhaps somewhat arbitrarily, we followed a Summitpost idea that a peak must offer 300 feet or more of prominence to be counted among the 20 highest. You can learn all about the idea behind mountain prominence at the link. In cases where a pair or more of summits are in close proximity, the higher one gets the honor of recognition. The following link will take you to a Summitpost chart listing the 36 Wasatch 11,000’ers, regardless of prominence. Alone or en route to one of the 20, my tally shows I landed 30 of the 36 11,000’ers. Guess I slacked off in not getting them all, but that wasn’t really the goal…
1 Mount Nebo 11,928’
2 Mount Timpanogos 11,750’
3 South Timpanogos 11,722’
4 American Fork Twin Peak West 11,489’
5 North Timpanogos 11,441’
6 Bomber Peak 11,347’
7 Broads Fork Twin Peak East 11,330’
8 Pfeifferhorn 11,326’
9 White Baldy 11,321’
10 Sunrise Peak 11,275’
11 Lone Peak 11,253’
12 North Peak (~1/2 mile north of Nebo) 11,174’
13 Red Baldy 11,171’
14 South Thunder Mountain 11,154’
15 North Thunder Mountain 11,150’
16 Mount Monte Cristo 11,132’
17 Dromedary Peak 11,132’
18 Box Elder Peak 11,101’
19 Provo Peak 11,068’
20 Mount Baldy 11,068’
Fortunately a lot of these peaks were linked together via ridgelines, so the resultant stories need not require 20 separate articles! Each of these peaks has been written about in some fashion or other in previous posts here on tetonsandwasatch. Check the links for more color and depth to the stories, including plenty of pictures:
Mount Nebo and North Peak (#’s 1, 12)
The Timpanogos Traverse (#’s 2, 3, 5, 6)
American Fork Twin Peaks to South Thunder (#’s 4, 8, 9, 13, 14)
LCC Ridge Traverse (#’s 7, 10, 16, 17)
Hematoma Quad (#’s 11, 15)
Box Elder in 103° (#18)
Provo Peak (#19)
It’s not obvious to anyone who doesn’t know the terrain or these routes well, so I’ll point out that there’s some overlap of peaks between some of these traverses. That just means several peaks were stood upon two or three times…
So there you have it. An ode to lighter, faster, farther travel. Multiple peaks in a day.. In eight relatively straightforward outings, some long, some much shorter, it’s possible to tag the 20 highest peaks in the Wasatch. By rearranging some of the peaks/routes, it could easily (that’s relative ) be done in 6 outings.
Some notes of interest:
Part of traveling light through the mountains in the heat of summer involves dropping water weight where possible. Towards that end, I’ll credit my partner’s Steripen with purifying gallons of water for both of us throughout the summer. Neither of us has landed giardia.. For a weight penalty of a mere two ounces, I’d say there’s no real penalty at all, just freedom!
I’ve never used so much sunscreen as during this summer. Between sharing it, borrowing it, and applying it several times per (long) day, I’ve gotten through 3 full sized bottles of the stuff. Normally, a smaller bottle lasts me several years. All that, and I still got burnt plenty as I forgot to apply, sweat removed some block, or I missed a spot unknowingly. I’ve got no brand preference, but I definitely prefer 50 SPF or greater, in a waterproof formula.
Food: It’s easy to get tired of gels when you’re replacing meals with them (guilty), but that doesn’t stop me from packing them. Had some with me on every outing, and I think Slash did as well. They’re great for providing fast energy when one begins to flag a bit. But there was also plenty of real food along. By mixing it up between solid food and gels, energy levels remained reasonable and I didn’t get too tired of liquid sugar.
This is the first year I’ve used what I would call an extremely first-rate shoe in the mountains: the Dynafit Feline Ghost shoes. They’re ridiculously perfect for this sort of project in that they grip rock well, are very stable, fit my feet perfectly so blisters weren’t an issue, and have a sole that rocks don’t poke through. They are essentially a race shoe (think light, don’t think ‘extremely durable’) however, so if you’re doing five day a week scrambling missions in them, don’t expect them to last forever.
There might appear to be a near total disregard for wearing summer ‘performance’ clothing throughout these stories. Caroline did a huge day while wearing a dress; I did the majority of these outings while wearing one or the other pairs (I have quite a few) of cut-off, pinstriped suit pants, paired with a fedora. Despite this, we both love the companies that choose to sponsor us, as well as their products. Plenty of technical items were brought along, and used.
But a larger point here is that one does not require the perfect, latest, most amazing fabrics or gear to get these sorts of projects done in summer. Rather, a really, really large percentage of what’s needed is willpower and determination. Also, a reasonable amount of fitness helps. Fortunately, it doesn’t take a pricy gym membership or a pledge at Jenny Craig to get fit and healthy, or to stay that way. It takes movement; lots and lots of movement to burn calories consumed and keep a body in tip-top health. Check that link for a super sweet, one minute inspirational video about keeping moving..
Working out in the mountains is a WHOLE lot more fun than any gym. Give it a try yourself, you might be pleased at what you find. Just remember to start small – overdoing it in the early stages can drive one’s enthusiasm through the floor..
After all that, the partners! It’s no problem at all to travel in the mountains solo. But quality partners can make the endeavor(s) much better by all that they bring to the outing. That could be simply adding laughter, encouragement, or aid to the mix. Or sharing food, water, sunblock, or smart ideas, when you’ve run out of any of these! Partners allow one to commiserate on what’s happening in real time. They also provide much better vantage points for cool photos.
My heaping thanks to all the partners who stood on one or more summits with me during this project: Caroline Gleich, Brooke Gaynes, Neil Dillon, and Jason Borro. Each brought something special. Starting in reverse order:
JBo brought a four wheel drive vehicle with good ground clearance to get us over a road that was complete rutted, mud and snow slop. My car wouldn’t have made it, that’s for sure. He also got Slash and I out of a jam during the Timp Traverse, by providing directions over a phone call as we sat confused and exhausted on a road, uncertain of which way to take it. Thanks for helping me round out the 20, JBo!
Neil pointed out that I’d mistaken a bump for the North Summit (Nebo region). I wouldn’t have completed the project in good style had he not made his observation at a good time and place as he did. Thanks for catching that one, Neil! (You’d think the person with the project would know where they were supposed to go…)
Brooke shared two spare liter bottles of fluids on what turned out to be an incredibly hot day on a ridgeline with zero opportunities for water retrieval. I’m convinced this kept Slash and I from experiencing significant pain and worse dehydration than we ended up with on a long day. Much as I enjoy those things, I’m grateful for her generosity. Thanks so much, Brooke!
Slash, also known as Caroline, listens with a smile to my good ideas, which, as we joke, quickly morph into bad ideas, which eventually become funny stories. Then she nods her head and asks when we should meet to carpool. Fortunately, doing the highest 20 Wasatch peaks project was her idea, so I didn’t ever have to explain why an overall good idea had morphed into a bad idea.
Unfailingly, we’ve managed to get large, complicated, and/or challenging things done since our first outing. We made our way through this project blood, sweat, tears, stinging nettles, thorns, thistles, bushwhacks, dehydration, hunger, loose and falling rocks, killer goats, darkness, and poisonous snakes be damned. Could you ask for more in a mountain partner? Well, yeah. She also (usually) laughs with me in the face of bleakest despair, which came up more often than you might think.. This was an excellent project, and I’ve got enough scars to last me well into the winter. And memories to last even longer!