June and July have been full of summer adventure for me! I’ve been able to complete several hikes, some short and some quite challenging. I have loved each hike for different reasons and each has fulfilled me in some way. The training ground for an upcoming Rim-to-Rim hike of the Grand Canyon has been awesome! My latest (& longest) adventure was Mt. Timpanogos. It was amazing! The peak sits at 11,750 feet with a nearly 5,000 foot elevation change in the climb.
Mt Timpanogos- Aspen Grove Trail
Utah & Wasatch Counties, UT
July 17-18, 2015
(approx 15 miles, Rating: Difficult)
Enjoy the pictures!
Mt. Timpanogos was a bucket list item for me. It was a challenging hike and I’m so glad I went! I can’t wait to do it again! I had asked my oldest brother to be my guide up the mountain. Our group of adventurers included family and friends with all different levels of hiking experience.
We started the hike about 8:30 PM. This portion of the hike wasn’t overly challenging. We took occasional stops to catch our breath, have water and dig out a poncho and headlamps as night descended and occasional raindrops scattered around. Our destination point would be the Hidden Lake’s area. It is a short side detour from the main trail, but beautiful! We did experience a couple of inadvertent detours on the way up that once led to a quite interestingly steep slope – but all was well. We also lost a couple of flashlights and experienced the sick feeling of watching them tumble ever so slowly down the mountainside! But my son – who I’ve decided might be part mountain goat – quickly retrieved the lights for us!
With the detours, the flashlights, and stops it took us till about 1 AM to reach our campsite. After setup and eating, the sleeping portion of the night commenced. I have to say I really didn’t sleep much, so I’ll call it the resting portion of the night! I was plenty warm while hiking, but during the set-up-camp process I started to get chilled. It took a very long time to feel warm again. Now I know for next time!
The Morning & Tarantulas!
I awoke to the sounds of an animal growling in our camp! Someone was up and chased a marmot away. My brother also broke the news that I’d been among the tarantulas all night! He came back to our camping spot after helping to set up his son’s gear a little way away from us. When his flashlight lit up the area near me (sleeping on the ground) he said he saw several tarantulas head for the tree roots of a nearby pine! He decided to wait till morning to inform me of my nearby neighbors, which was wise considering how little sleep I was already getting! Note to self: do not sleep on the ground – in the open air. Tents or hammocks are now required!
The morning sunrise was gorgeous! From camp I could see Aspen Grove and the Heber Valley and I could see the summit where we were headed. (See the pictures!) We took our time in the morning and I unloaded the heaviest items from my pack and stashed them in the trees. I wanted my pack to be as light as possible for the day. The steep parts were coming!
I’ve shared a bit of the hike in the slideshow, so I won’t repeat it here, but this experience was so awesome for me! The challenging rock fields with shifting rocks. Viewing the Heber Valley on one side and viewing Utah County on the other – literally turning your head from side to side and being able to see both views of the mountain was incredible to me! The grandeur of the mountain- wow! It was breath taking!
The climb to the top did at one point feel like it was never going to end. I wasn’t doing well with the input of “you’re almost there, keep going”. I think I needed to hear – “it’s about another 5 miles…”! But I was grateful for the experienced hikers that were with me and their enjoyment of showing me all the cool lookout places.
The summit and the shack were an experience all to themselves for me. I had very cold hands and face, and I’m sure was dealing with the lower oxygen level of the high elevation. I was a little dizzy, and light headed and at one point felt like I might black out but didn’t. The wind and the temperature added to my mild disorientation. I knew I needed to rest, but didn’t want to sit in the cold. I initially couldn’t figure out how to get down the summit and it was my nephew who helped me see how to climb down to the sunny side of the mountain and feel grounded again. We rested in the sun for over an hour. I loved the view, the warmth, the visiting that took place and the sense of accomplishment I felt at reaching the top.
The next big challenge was getting down. 98 percent of the people doing the hike that day just turned around and went down the way they came up. We chose different. We decided to go down by way of the glacier (snow field – ask sometime for the explanation!). It all looked nice and easy until we got right above the snow. Then we realized how steep we’d have to climb down to reach the snow. (We were planning on doing some bum sliding!) We were forced to turn and face the mountain and climb down ladder style, one hand hold and foot hold at a time on slipping sliding rocks that occasionally gave way and rolled all the way down the mountainside. Again I was grateful for more experienced hikers – that spent quite a bit of time with me in securing my safety in this rough spot.
Then we slid! We used our hands & feet to guide our slide (COLD!) and made our way down the glacier. Awesome fun! I got soaked! And I wished that the glacier had more snow to extend the ride. The pictures don’t do it justice – but just know that the rocks in that area were big, and the snow was slushy, and it took over an hour to get down that little ravine.
Once we made it back to Emerald Lake the hiking was easy again. We went back to camp, reloaded our packs and headed down. From Hidden Lake down to the trail head it took us 1.5 hours which was awesome considering it took over 4 to hike that part up! The last mile or two was done in the rain. It started slowly, but by the time we reached the trail head my son and I were running for the car! It was really coming down! Along with thunder & lightning, it was a true Utah summer storm and I was grateful I was almost done with the hike when it came in.
When we reached the car and sat in the soft seats it was amazing to assess how I was feeling. I’d been on the mountain almost a full 24 hours. My body felt awesome, yet extremely tired at the same time! I was hungry for something warm, yet almost too tired to eat. What an absolutely amazing day!
We decided that we’d get cleaned up and go out to eat. I owed my son for staying with me the whole time, and for his insistence at carrying many of the extras in my pack on the way down to lighten my load (first aid kit, water purifier, my extra jacket). It was almost 10 pm when we found food, but so worth going as I felt my strength return and then was ready for sleep.
Reflecting on things that went well:
- I was grateful I had trained for the hike. By day two post hike, Monday evening, I only had mild soreness in my hand (I hit a rock during the glacier slide that caused some mild bruising) and my feet (no blisters or hot spots, just sore from all the rock fields).I felt strong and had good energy throughout the day enabling me to get right back to work with massage and Body Code clients first thing Monday morning.
- I packed well. My gear was light weight and my pack fit me perfectly.
- We went at the perfect time of year. The wildflowers were in bloom, it wasn’t overly cold (I survived and it didn’t snow on me – so that qualifies as not overly cold!), and even though it was a weekend and there were a lot of people on the trail, it wasn’t too crowded.
Reflecting on things I will change:
- I took a slower pace because I was unfamiliar with what to expect. Now that I know the trail, I’ll choose a different pace next time.
- Night hiking was new to me. There were actually a couple places on the trail that when coming down in the daylight and seeing them fully, caused a little apprehension. I was grateful I hiked in the dark! Next time, I would like to get an earlier start to allow more time for sleep.
- Packing: I used every item of clothing I packed and I ate almost every bit of food I packed. Next time I’d include a small heater for water, and at least one hot meal.
Things I would change/add to my gear:
- Gloves. I had frozen fingers at the summit and I could have used them for the more rugged “going down the ladder” trail hugging to the glacier (snow field) and slide down.
- Hand Warmer packets to help my fingers and toes at night. Once my hands and feet get cold, the rest of me gets cold and it’s really hard to warm back up. Hand warmers would have been worth the weight to carry them!
- I want to try the hammock idea! My brother’s friend, that helped us set up camp and make it to our campsite, custom makes hammocks and tarps for the ultra light weight hiking enthusiast. He had an amazing set-up that should be patented and I want to try it someday.