November 25th, 2017
Track details http://rblr.co/Ypjh
Trail Info https://www.hikingproject.com/trail/7006728
I’ve been meaning to get back up on Timpanogos all year. Between work demands and trepidation of the painful recoveries that my forays up this mountain required last year I never could quite get to it until after Thanksgiving.
With a few weeks of sunny weather and not much in the way of precipitation this month it seemed like a really good chance to take a shot and see how far up I could get. I knew ice would be an issue but earlier in the year I picked up some Hillsound Trail Crampons (https://www.hillsound.com/collections/traction-devices/products/trail-crampon) and knew that they’d help with the conditions I was sure to encounter up on the Timpooneke Trail.
I benched much of my usual hiking lineup in favor of a light and fast approach than would fit into my Deuter Speedlite 20l pack.
* Hillsound Trail Crampons
* REI power lock carbon poles
* SnowPeak gigapower stove and windscreen
* MSR flexible windscreen
* Optimus (H)EAT pouch
* 3x 500 ml water bottles
* 1 bag of cheesy bacon mashers (sans bacon… I ran out) http://www.trailcooking.com/fbc/cheesy-bacon-mashers/
* Toiletries & First Aid
This all was accommodated easily but without a lot of extra volume for additional clothing layers. Lately I’ve noticed that I’m overdressing and strip off insulating layers early on and usually never need to put them back on. With a larger pack like my GG Gorilla this is a non issue but didn’t want the hassle of cramming an unused layer into this pack. This made for a chilly start on this hike but served me well all day long.
I was out the door shortly after 0500 and made it to the Pine Hollow trailhead just a bit after 0600. Since the Alpine Loop road is closed for the year this is the closest trailhead and adds 1.8 miles of road hiking to and from the Timpooneke Trailhead. Upon arrival there was absolutely no light besides the stars and I began to worry that I didn’t have a headlamp. Another car arrived just after me but it was otherwise deserted. By the time I scarfed a probar, got my kit together, and changed into my hiking boots I could see a faint glow of dawn on the horizon and knew I could manage the stretch to Timpooneke Trailhead without a flashlight and started up the road at 0626.
As I started up, I thought I saw a section of the road ahead illuminated but it went away and I didn’t see any more activity. Figured the other car at the trailhead probably unloaded a bike and rode up ahead with a lamp on. For me, visibility wasn’t an issue for hiking the road and the light was steadily increasing. It was an uneventful 30 minute jaunt to Timpooneke Trailhead and I arrived at 0705. After a few minutes to deploy hiking poles and use the facilities at the trailhead I started up the Timpooneke Trail.
The trail was in great shape and I made good progress on dry/frozen trails. There was plenty of light at this point but no direct sun was getting into the steep canyon yet and it was utterly still all around.
The first hazards appeared at about 7800 feet and a mile up the trail. Between this point and the long traverse across the talus field on the North of the canyon there were a number of icy stretches, mostly under 20 feet long but some of which were really treacherous. Conditions were simply too mixed at this point to put the crampons on, but the poles got me through.
Only a short way up the Northern talus slope the trail became snow covered, which was a relief at this point because I was able to put on crampons and got relief from the slippery conditions. Between this point and Timpanogos Basin there were only a handful of short dry patches. Some of the ice covered areas were bordered by steep drops that could easily have resulted in a fatal fall. Under dry conditions these can be intimidating but when ice covered it’s a whole new game. Fortunately, I never felt even a bit unstable and breezed right past them; acknowledging the risk and taking appropriate care without worry.
The rest of the ascent was uneventful aside from some incredibly cold wind gusts that kicked up while making the traverse just below the lip of the basin. This was likely a result of the sun heating the air in the basin above causing aggressive circulation of the air. That’s my theory anyway!
After arriving in the basin at 1000 I tooled around and took a few photos before seeking out a dry spot to settle in for coffee and a bite to eat. By 1145 I was headed back down the trail. I spotted a few deer on the way down. They eyed me closely as I passed but seemed to be aware that humans would basically be sticking to the trail and didn’t startle.
As I headed down the final stretches it dawned on me that I felt really good and was experiencing what I can only describe as total elation. There was none of the foot pain that I usually experience as I near the 10 mile mark and I was not even close to that “little wooden boy” exhaustion and stiffness that i had experienced on this trail in the past. The foot comfort I attribute to skipping the liner socks and reducing the volume inside my boots. The lack of exhaustion to conditioning, pure and simple. Hiking 10-15 miles in a day is pretty standard for me now and I guess I’m collecting the dividends now!
As I reflect on this my first thought is “Geez I wish I wasn’t figuring this out in November” but then I realize that this bodes very well for snowshoe season. Perhaps this year I’ll be able to put more miles on the shoes and keep on hikin right through the winter. I suppose that’ll become apparent pretty quickly as December is just around the corner.