Category Archives: Utah

Timpanogos traverse (N to S via Grunge Couloir)

Timp from South Timp

Timp from South Timp

Mount Timpanogos, east of Provo, is supposedly the most popular high Wasatch peak, probably because it is unique in having not one, but two trails to its summit. Three other, less popular 11,000′ summits lie along Timpanogos’ long north-south ridge. Since the ridge is all class 2, it makes sense to tag them all at once. When the road to the Timpanookee trailhead is open, the natural way to do this is to climb North Timpanogos somehow, head south along the ridge, then return via the Timpanogos pseudo-glacier and trail. This was my last bit of business before hopefully seeing the last of the Salt Lake City area for a good long while.

This being the Wasatch, sleeping at trailheads is Officially Frowned Upon With Guns, so I slept a ways away and set my alarm extra-early. Then I lay there for about half an hour convincing myself that, since I couldn’t get back to sleep, I might as well climb something. There was only one other car in the parking lot besides mine at 5:30, though the campground was full. Indeed, though it was a holiday weekend with good weather, I had the mountain to myself except for some casual hikers walking up to a waterfall a couple miles up the trail. Even when I returned after noon, the parking lot was mostly empty. Strange.

In any case, after scratching my head at the map, I made my way to the top of the campground, then followed an old, gated road to where it ended at a water valve. The Grunge Couloir looked partly melted out from this angle, and the direct route to Woolly Hole looked like a mess with water flowing down it, so I bushwhacked north to the ridge, linking game trails where I could — not nearly as bad as it looked. The ridge was cruiser, with either a game/use trail or open forest.

I followed the ridge to near where it intersects North Timpanogos’ north slope. It appears you can scramble up some rocks to reach the slope, but from here I could see that the Grunge Couloir was still all snow. Crampons on — time to get some.

Even before I reached the couloir, I noticed a steady stream of pebbles and small rocks whirring down the slope, so I took out my headphones and started paying attention. This seems to be standard for the Grunge but, at least on the apron and in the lower couloir, it is easy to avoid the rockfall by staying to one side or the other of the obvious runnel. As I paused to rest, I admired the towering pile of rubble that is North Timpanogos.

The couloir splits farther up, with the main Grunge going through a narrow funnel to the left. Since almost all of the rocks were coming from that direction, I chose instead to follow the right branch, climbing a short ice/névé step. With just my dull mountaineering axe, I had to experiment a bit to find places it would both penetrate and stay put. Above the step I followed a narrow strip of snow and ice, using axe, hands, and crampons in whatever way worked best. This is why I enjoy mountaineering more than pure running or climbing: it’s just you and whatever gear you have versus the mountain, weighing risks, then applying whatever techniques you know or can improvise, fully engaging body and mind.

Near the top, I trended left toward where I thought the cornice looked easiest to manage. Working my feet up as high as I could, I stabbed the shaft of my axe deep into the top, then did a full-on “beached whale” onto the ridge. Whatever works.

The ridge was mostly bare, so I stashed my crampons for the day, then finished the short hike to North Timpanogos. Most of the ridge is a disgusting pile of loose rock, but fortunately there is a sort-of trail almost the whole way, becoming well-defined near Timpanogos itself. Heading south toward the main summit, I tagged several high-points in between, one of which was presumably Bomber, pausing to admire a couple of ancient survey markers.

Reaching Timpanogos, I found a perch down the southwest side of the ridge in the lee of the summit shack (replete with the expected graffiti), and probably would have taken a nap had I been able to do so without rolling off the cliff. Continuing south, I followed the well-defined trail to the saddle, then quickly suffered up the loose rock to South Timpanogos.

Once back at the saddle, a nice boot-ski and glissade dropped me to the pseudo-glacier’s bowl. All the tracks I saw led to the south trailhead, but I had scoped out the return from the ridge, so I took off north, heading west around some cliffs and down into the next bowl. Where the snow had softened, I found myself postholing knee- and sometimes hip-deep — blech. While I should have stayed right, I wandered left a couple of times, since I suspected (correctly) that the trail was over there. Had I simply stayed in the chute to the right, I would have had a mostly-painless descent. I picked up the trail at the base of the chute, meeting my first hiker of the day a couple miles from the trailhead.


Superior, Monte Cristo

Superior's impressive south ridge

Superior’s impressive south ridge

I had originally planned to take advantage of good weather to do something bigger, but did not have the energy for another early start and long slog. Superior and Monte Cristo, essentially one peak and a sub-summit at the east end of Cottonwood Ridge and a quick jaunt from near Alta, seemed more my speed. A rarity in this pile-of-rubble section of the range, Superior’s south ridge is clean, sharp, and direct, with huge positive edges everywhere. Don’t let the 5.3 rating turn you off — it’s a good, fun, easy solo.

I got a lazy start, disturbing a herd of deer as I pushed through some brush to reach the broad start of the ridge. Higher up, I passed several mysterious tubes and some kind of platform. Presumably they had something to do with the nearby ski resort infestation. Resort owners are the miners of our day, building roads and structures all over our publicly-owned mountains to extract as much profit as they can. When global warming renders the industry unprofitable, they will leave their junk to rust and collapse, just as miners did in Colorado and elsewhere. Of course I enjoy finding old mining junk, so this may not be a bad thing for next century’s humans. Past the tubes, I played hide-and-seek with a mangy mountain goat and its kid. They eventually escaped downhill, with the less-adept kid comically entangled in a branch.

The class 2-3 slope narrowed to a mixture of knife-edges and blocks, providing plenty of fun 3rd class scrambling. The few sections of remaining snow were easily crossed in running shoes. I thought I might have missed the 5.3 crux, but a thoroughly-stuck cam near the top made it easy to find. It is really a single maybe-5th-class move, pulling on a big edge with some friction for your feet until you get one into the crack. It would probably be easier to spot someone from below than to carry a rope and gear for that one move.

Above, I scrambled some easier terrain, then put on crampons for a short section of hard snow to the summit, where the mailbox was just beginning to protrude. Superior is a sub-summit of Monte Cristo, separated by a short east-west ridge. I quickly traversed the ridge, anxious to get off the snow before the postholing became too bad. While the section I traversed was easy, Cottonwood Ridge looks intimidating west of Monte Cristo.

Returning to Superior, I was already postholing more than I had on the way out. I originally planned to follow the ridge to the pass to the east, but the ridge started to suck, so I headed down toward the snowfields southeast of Superior. The terrain under the snow is mostly awful — sharp, un-skiable scree — but I found some more solid ribs in places, and the glissade was worth the pain, depositing me 100 yards from my car.

Later that day…

Route from town

West slabs from town

Having many daylight hours to kill, I ran some errands, then decided to check out the West Slabs (5.5, supposedly) on Olympus. I easily found the trailhead, but blew right past the gully, continuing on a trail to… somewhere. Backtracking, I ran into a fellow soloist at the ravine, and followed him to the base of the route, glad to have an ice axe rather than improvising with a stick or rock.

Though he was fast on the approach, my companion slowed somewhat on the climb. I soon lost sight of him, cruising a random line up the generally feature-ful slab. The climb reminded me a bit of the flatirons, though it is much longer, and the climbing felt much more secure than the standard route First Flatiron (5.6).

Following an obvious gully, I went too far south on the descent, eventually correcting my error by re-climbing a couple hundred feet and traversing north. As I rejoined the correct route, I saw my earlier companion in another, steeper gully just to the right of the main west slab. After a bit of boot-skiing, I rejoined the approach.

Pfeifferhorn, South and North Thunder

Panorama of traverse from Pfeifferhorn

Panorama of traverse from Pfeifferhorn

Finally, a legitimate day. These three peaks lie on the “interesting” end of the ridge south of Little Cottonwood Canyon, joined by a long, meandering, undulating ridge, which is class 2-3 between Pfeifferhorn and South Thunder, and class 3-4 from there on. This part of the range, with its solid white granite, reminds me of the Sierra Nevada, and may even harbor decent alpine climbs.

My original plan was to start at the White Pine trailhead and, after a long approach, climb the “Needle” couloir on North Thunder and make my way back toward the trailhead via the other peaks. This would have made sense: climb the steep snow couloir first, while the snow is hardest. After getting a look at the upper Hogum Creek drainage, however, I ended up doing things backwards and downclimbing a mixture of slush, dirt, mud, and loose rock in the Needle. Whatever works.

I got a good early start, fully loaded with gear. Having stubbornly refused to carry snowshoes on previous outings, I gave in and took them this time, re-learning a lesson I have learned before: the best way to ensure you won’t need snowshoes is to bring them.

The trail/route to Hogum Creek crosses a couple of drainages, then cuts through a gap in Pfeifferhorn’s north ridge. From the gap, I saw that I would have to drop far down the drainage and reascend the snow apron on the other side to reach the Needle. If I went the other way, however, I could drop down Hogum Creek (the normal Needle approach) and hike the road back to my car. Choosing this option, I backtracked a bit, then climbed Pfeifferhorn via a snow slope to its east ridge. Even this early in the morning, small rocks occasionally fell from the face above.

I was disheartened to see just how much the ridge twisted and dipped from here on, but wimping out would have continued a bad precedent. The first part of the ridge looked obnoxious, so I crossed the basin to the south directly to its low-point, where I took off my crampons for the day. From here to where it turns north, the ridge was mostly bare class 2-3 rock, an enjoyable change. A long slog across boulders and low-angle snow brought me to South Thunder, where I found the standard Utah mailbox, this time containing a dry register with one other entry this year.

Things looked more complicated from here on, with a few steep-looking pinnacles in the way. The route I followed generally stayed on southeast, snow-free side. Getting past the first pinnacle was the crux, with a tricky (in boots) hand-traverse that made me take off my gloves followed by a short tunnel where the ice axe and snowshoes on my back caused problems. There were a few slightly tricky sections after this, but all were easier. I found a cord and rap ring at one, which I uncharacteristically left. The booty gods soon rewarded me, with a stiff, static, thin (7-8mm?) rope, tied to a tree on one end and cut on the other. I assume it is one of those light ropes used only for rappels, made stiff so it has more friction going through a normal-width ATC. While rapping on a single strand of the stuff would make me nervous, it may come in handy.

Though it looked like I could pick my way down the east face pretty much anywhere with the lingering snow, I decided to head north and find the Needle. The first several hundred feet were completely melted out, exposing a mixture of rock, dirt, and rubble. While it wasn’t hard climbing, it was obnoxious, with the mud making everything looser. Below that, the couloir was mostly filled with deep slush. I bypassed a small rock step to one side, making excellent use of my “turf axe.”

All that remained was descending Hogum Creek. I used my snowshoes for a little while, partly to make my life easier traversing snow-covered deadfall, but mostly so they wouldn’t be entirely useless. Then I got past the snow, and things got ugly. While probably not as bad as George Creek, Hogum Creek is a hideous bushwhack. Staying well above the creek, I avoided the willows and found intermittent game trails. Unfortunately, I also ended up way too high as the creek dropped away over cascades. Standing and pulling on various plants, I eventually reached the canyon bottom, only to find more painful bushwhacking.

Fed up, I headed straight for the road, soon finding a bit of a use trail in a clearing, which led to a convenient log crossing. This trail disappeared after that, but I soon found the main trail, which led east all the way to Tanner Campground, a mile or so from my car. I evidently looked lost and exhausted, because the campground host (-trainer) offered to drive me the rest of the way, an unexpected kindness given my previous experience trying to hitch a ride.

Sunrise, Dromedary

Dromedary from Sunrise, with Superior in the distance

Dromedary from Sunrise, with Superior in the distance

Another day, another chunk of what should be a single-day traverse completed. Waking up early in another Walmart parking lot (there is no camping in national forests around here, not even if you’re willing to pay), I put in a bit of headlamp time to hopefully take advantage of snow conditions. Tanner’s Gulch is a south-facing avalanche chute between the two peaks, and evidently a popular snow climb, judging by the well-defined use trail to the base of the chute.

I put away the headlamp while rock-hopping up the flatter lower part, then donned crampons upon reaching some pleasantly hard snow. Remembering SummitPost’s recommendation to take a rightward branch to avoid a small cliff band, I took the first obvious fork, whose right-hand branch had more snow. The snow quality deteriorated as I climbed, until I finally reached a near-dead-end. A quick scramble up the ridge to the west made it clear that I had taken the wrong right.

Back down, then back up, the snow softening all the while. The right right is obvious — the “cliffs” (a bit of easy 4th class on one side) are visible from the fork. The broad snowfield above the fork had partly melted out, so I got to experience a bit of the underlying talus before continuing on snow, much softer than that below.

I met three men coming down, who had started at some ungodly hour to make it down before work. They said the snow on the ridge was solid, and that they had not been climbing very quickly. I believed the former, but not the latter — they knew what they were doing, with crampons on running shoes. I followed their boot-pack to the ridge, where I found the snow less-than-solid, and Sunrise peak farther away than I thought. Then again, maybe I’m just out of shape and not used to Wasatch snow. Wind blasted the summit, sending the bits of crust kicked up by my crampons spinning into the void, but the temperature was pleasant in sheltered spots.

I ditched the crampons on the way back, and rarely missed them. Compared to Sunrise, Dromedary was a breeze — dodge a cliff to the north, switch back to the south, and get on the mostly-snow-free ridge. After gaining all that elevation I was tempted to traverse over to the last two peaks — Superior and Monte Cristo — but it looked like a long slog in softening snow, so I returned via the chute.

Knowing that it connects when it is in, I blindly took the eastern branch from near Dromedary’s summit, and was nearly screwed by a gap with a waterfall. Fortunately, a 10-foot squeeze chimney to one side dropped me back to the snow (where I had speared my ice axe after it interfered with my chimneying, leaving myself no choice). The steeper snow higher up was all shin- to knee-deep and soft, with too much “texture” to glissade comfortably. Lower down, it hardened nicely, and I enjoyed some nice boot-skiing.

Since I had hours of daylight left, I thought I might be able to drive up and tag Superior and Monte Cristo by another route. After a nap, I felt my various wet gear, thought about snowshoeing up a pile of slush and climbing a low-5th-class ridge in boots with snowshoes on my back, and changed my mind. Another day. Or night, really: despite hours and hours of daylight, I’m best off with absurd alpine starts for short days. I should learn to take siestas.

Broads Fork Twin Peak

Summit from top of chute

Summit from top of chute

Broads Fork Twin Peak is yet another Wasatch 11k’ peak named “Twin.” The efficient peak-bagger tags it along with three (or five) of its neighbors along the ridge between Little and Big Cottonwood Canyons, coming from the north (Big Cottonwood). I had originally planned to take this approach, but it didn’t quite work out. However, in the summer or with a good overnight freeze, this looks like it could be a fun traverse.

Having experienced slush-wallowing lower down on the approach before, I hoped an earlier start at a later date would let me reach the ridge before things got bad and that, once there, the wind would have created decent conditions. So: crampons, not snowshoes. With a decently early start, I reached the beaver ponds at the end of the trail at a reasonable hour. A large avalanche had cleaned much of the old snow out of one chute to the ridge, so I was able to continue on dirt and rock most of the way to the ridge. (The Wasatch are uplifted at a sharp angle, creating slabs on one side of some ridges, which in turn create avalanches.)

The snow I encountered near the ridge was soft enough that my crampons were pointless (har!). Too soft, in fact, so I meandered upward between patches of harder snow and exposed rock. I had hoped to find a mixture of bare rock and hard wind-crust on the ridge, but even above 10,000′ it had been too warm: the wind crust broke unpredictably, and the uncrusted snow was calf- to occasionally hip-deep slush. It was rough going along the long north-south ridge, with its underlying mix of boulders, short cliffs, and trees.

After a brief stop at the summit, I allowed myself to hope that perhaps conditions would be different on the remaining east-west ridge. Alas, it was not to be. While the next two peaks, Sunrise and Dromedary, are only a short distance away, I had had my fill of misery for the day. After I sketched my way down some loose, steep rock to skip a bit more of the ridge, I reached the avalanche debris and snow in the valley. The return to the trail was not so bad, with a few glissades to reach the flat canyon bottom, and somewhat more solid snow once there. I generally don’t mind a downhill slog; with slightly colder overnight temperatures, I think the 3- or 5-peak traverse would have been fine.

Lone Peak

Summit (l) and western cliffs

Summit (l) and western cliffs

As the name suggests, Lone Peak keeps somewhat to itself. While I might have been able to link it with South Thunder, it would have been a long day, and my body needed to recover. Instead, I climbed it by itself via the standard Jacob’s Ladder trail (“what to do in Draper on a weekend”), which climbs a little over a vertical mile from valley to summit. Despite the forecast, I once again enjoyed fine weather; hopefully this luck will hold for the three days I need for the rest of the Wasatch 11k peaks.

Though this was not clear from the descriptions I found online, the city of Draper has installed nice trail signs (stocked with maps), outhouses, and even some picnic tables at the various foothill trailheads along the dirt road. The gate partway up the road also appears to remain open at this time of year.

After some lame switchbacks, the trail heads up the hillside in an admirably direct fashion. The first part of the trail stays on south- and west-facing slopes, so I encountered almost no snow until the summit of Enniss Peak around 9,200′. From that point to the summit, the route was entirely snow-covered. After putting bags and crampons on my feet, I followed a few old tracks into a vaguely Sierra-like area of granite slabs and towers, with Lone Peak’s impressively vertical west face obvious to the northeast.

Knowing that the northern summit is the highest, the easiest route is obvious — simply follow the curving northwest ridge. Fortunately, the snow was still mostly hard on the way up, so I made my way to the final summit ridge easily, if not quickly. The final section of the ridge reminded me of an easier version of Gardiner, with some rock steps to negotiate and a few snow knife-edges.

From the summit, I admired the cliffy north-facing wall of the southern subpeak, and the rest of the Wasatch from Nebo in the south, to the peaks along the Great Salt Lake in the north. The ridge to South Thunder looked extremely time-consuming, making me glad I had decided not to try a link-up. I suffered some postholing on the way back, but found a bit of boot-skiing to make up for it. Even with their snowshoes, the two guys I met on their way up the trail were probably in for some suffering. Hopefully it will cool down up high Tonight; otherwise I’m in for a world of hurt tomorrow.

Bullion Divide (Sugarloaf to White Baldy)

View back from White Baldy

View back from White Baldy

Not trusting the camping in Little Cottonwood Canyon, I spent a restless night in a Walmart parking lot, then drove up early to knock out the easier 11,000′ peaks in this area. The first two, Sugarloaf and (Just Plain) Baldy, were kind of pathetic, being surrounded by ski areas. (The peak-naming in this area is pretty bad, with no fewer than three Baldies and two Twins all within sight of each other.) After starting at almost 9,000′, I walked up some ski runs, then briefly left them to tag Sugarloaf. Returning to the ski runs, I followed a skiers’ boot-pack to the summit of Baldy, where there was a convenient ski patrol toboggan.

“Hidden Peak,” with a lift to the top, was too pathetic to bother with, so I bypassed it on the way to American Fork Twin. By now the lifts were running, ferrying the racing team and a few spring skiers to Hidden’s summit. I followed another boot-pack along the ridge, climbing through a few trees, then up the slope to the lower Twin Peak, the destination for most skiers. A short walk brought me to the summit, from which I could see the rest of the route. Red and White Baldies looked intimidatingly far away.

The snow was soft enough to stow my crampons, but still well-behaved enough that I rarely postholed. After a stroll down to the saddle, Red Baldy actually got interesting, with some fun easy 3rd class scrambling up the final summit ridge. Looking across to White Baldy, I was happy to see that it promised more of the same. On the way between the (second and third) Baldies, I met a backcountry skier out for a couple of laps to the saddle, one south toward the lake I used to access Box Elder, and the other back to the trailhead on the north side. Though it was t-shirt weather, there was still plenty of good snow in both directions.

The ridge up to White Baldy was a bit more involved, forcing me to backtrack in a place or two, and 4th-class my way straight up a headwall near the top. The snow was starting to become annoyingly soft, forcing me to hunt for rocky bypasses. The summit had the Utah-standard mailbox with a frozen mass of paper inside.

After a comfortably warm and windless break, I headed off down the north ridge, where I had earlier seen some chutes leading into the basin to the northeast. The ridge had a few tricky sections, and the chute was full of deep, heavy slush in which I briefly became stuck. Fortunately, most of the snow lower down in the basin was better consolidated. I followed skier and, eventually hiker tracks back to the trailhead. One nice couple gave me a short ride, but I ended up walking most of the road back to the car. This may be a ski area, but most people didn’t seem to want to pick up a grungy climber in their nice, shiny cars.

Provo, Box Elder

(These were actually two separate days, but neither was all that interesting, and I was having camera problems. Provo and Box Elder are the 11,000′ peaks on either side of the Timpanogos group. Both are straightforward climbs by their standard routes.)

The normal west ridge route for Provo is a short hike when the road is open, but the spring closure adds 5 miles of road-hiking each way. The crust on the ridge was good for crampons, though I made my life more difficult by taking the northwest ridge on the way up, and by bringing my running-shoe crampons and no ice axe (to save weight). The gear proved barely adequate, and I had to invent a new and strange way to glissade on the way down.

The road to Granite Flat Campground was inexplicably gated down by the lake, adding a bit of dry, paved road to the hike up Box Elder. It was t-shirt weather on the snow most of the way to the summit, and I had to pick my route carefully to avoid painful postholing. The summit has excellent views of both Timpanogos to the south, and several other 11ers to the north. To descend, I glissaded the top part of the east face then, after some exploratory dithering, found a narrow couloir through the cliff band below. After more boot-skiing and glissading down the ravine below, I brute-forced my way through woods and willows back to the trail.

Dirtbag Note

While sleeping in the parking lot next to the gate on UT-92, I got the full brights-and-spotlight treatment from two Suburbans’ worth of cops — not rangers, but Joseph Smith’s Finest. I evidently looked enough like an empty sleeping bag that they didn’t pester me further, but it was still unsettling, as a degenerate such as Yours Truly would probably be little better than a Lamanite in these upstanding Nephites’ eyes (at least I have fair skin). I’ll probably look for alternate lodging when I go back for Timpanogos.

Nebo, North

Nebo from North

Nebo from North

Nebo and North are at the southern end of Utah’s Wasatch range, with Nebo being the range high-point. In the summer, two trails lead to Nebo’s summit from the scenic road to its east. However, since this road is still blocked by snow, I had to look at other options. ‘Tis the season for snow climbs, so the northwest couloir out of Pole Creek was the natural choice, efficiently reaching the summit with a bit under 5,000’ of climbing (depending on where you park). The road is rocky and steep, requiring 4 wheel drive, but not difficult by Colorado standards; a snowbank currently blocks progress perhaps a mile or less from where one leaves the road for the couloir.

Conditioning helps, but conditions change everything. After being shut down in part by soft snow the previous day, I dispatched these two peaks in about 5.5 hours thanks to a cold front that firmed everything up overnight. It may have been a bit too cold — my fingers, toes, and eyeballs were uncomfortable at times — but it was worth it.

After testing a snowbank next to my car, I decided to leave the snowshoes behind, and started up the road a bit before 7:00. I left the road at the obvious avalanche path, following some old snowboard and ski tracks which turned west through the woods, picking up some relatively open terrain in a ravine. After awhile climbing through trees, I reached the broad bowl below Nebo, from which the northwest and Champagne couloirs are obvious. The recent warm weather had caused some decent-sized wet slides, but everything was staying firmly in place today.

It was cold enough in the open that I was climbing in my shell with the hood up, occasionally turning around to thaw my left eyeball. After a long climb across the basin, I reached the base of the couloir, where I soon picked up a perfect boot-pack. Where it was interrupted by the recent slides, the snow in the couloir was almost perfect for crampons; when I punched through, it was easy to find a more solid line nearby.

I got a brief taste of sun exiting the couloir, then made my way around some bare talus on my way to the nearby summit. There was a surprisingly well-preserved register in a sturdy canister, though no one had signed it in a couple of weeks. The increased sun and wind more-or-less canceled each other out, so I huddled in my down jacket on the summit for a few minutes while putting away my crampons, then took off down the trail toward North. The east side of the ridge was mostly scoured bare and dry, and where it wasn’t, it was easy to kick steps in the snow.

I spent hour or so of straightforward walking reaching North, watching the clouds and snow showers to the north. I found a ledge on the east (lee) side of the ridge, and shoveled down my summit fish as a few snow flakes started to fall. The avalanche path just south of the summit dropped me, with a mixture of plunge-steps and boot-skiing, to the road a couple hundred yards above where I had left it in the morning. Two Wasatch 11,000′ peaks done, and back to the car for a late lunch.

North and South Tent

Tent peaks at their most tent-ish

Tent peaks at their most tent-ish

After the previous suffer-fest, I was both chastened enough to carry snowshoes and interested in something a bit more straightforward. North and South Tent mountains are the high-points of a high plateau in the Manti-La Sal Forest, east of the Sevier valley. From the proper angle, they vaguely resemble a sagging A-frame tent.

As usual of late, the peaks are practically drive-ups in the summer, with easy access from the 10,000′ Skyline Drive, but snow stopped me around 7800′. I snowshoed up the road, following a snowmobile track, until I reached a meadow with a partly-visible stream, then took off cross-country to reach Skyline. I had expected the peaks to be obvious from the plateau, but they were not, so I headed generally south over rolling terrain, headed for what I thought was the highest point.

I ended up on the ridge northwest of North Tent, which was soft snow on one side and near-vertical dirt on the other. I meandered near the long ridge to South Tent, looking for areas where the crust was strong enough to support me. Even with snowshoes, it was impossible to completely avoid punching through sometimes. I quickly learned to avoid crossing any even vaguely wet dirt, since the area features some of the slimiest, stickiest mud anywhere.

After enjoying the season’s first summit fish, I took a more direct line back, crossing a couple of low ridges before dropping into the meadow with the road. Once again, I had the place to myself.