Ryan and I had planned to climb Everest Ridge of Mount Timpanogos for over a year now. We attempted it last year as an overnighter by going up the Battle Creek Trail and getting lost in the snow a little ways below the Baldy Saddle in waist deep soft snow. Totally needed snowshoes to get up through the trees and up to the trail to the saddle.
This year we were prepared with snowshoes, and while Ryan had wanted to start at 4 AM, I had estimated we could do it with a 5 AM start. That turned into a 5:25 AM start by the time we were done. I had gotten lost on the way to the Dry Canyon Trailhead on the Northeast corner of Orem and got in a bit late.
As we started up by headlamp in the dark from about the 5500′ elevation start we ran into packed snow at about 6500′ and started punching through deep snow about 7500′ and put on our snowshoes. We made our way up to the first cliff band at about 8500′ on very steep snow and cached our snowshoes and extra trekking poles along an obvious cliff shelf.
We put on our crampons and started up the face of the hump, which turned out to be crusty melted-out snow over scrub brush and we had to fight for every foot of gain. When we finally got to the top of the hump, along the ridge crest, sweaty and thirsty, the going got a bit easier for a while. Until we came to a traverse under a cliff band that had us wading in wet waist-deep snow teetering over a 60 degree slope as big wet snowballs rolled off as mini slab avalanches.
We finally regained the ridge, and between postholing in wet snow and scrambling over boulders with some good exposure, I managed to get a good cramp in my right leg near the top where I’d tweaked it skating a few weeks ago. I also tweaked my left ankle then, and it hurt quite a bit on right traverses (ankle rolling inward). It was really slow going, and we’d lost a few hours between the postholing and traversing, and managed to get to 11,200′ – just 500′ to go – the worst 500′ btw – by about 1:30 – approximately 3 hours behind our anticipated 11:30 summit pace.
Ryan felt a bit sketched looking out at the next series of traverses, as was I. It was about 70 degree snow, already rolling off snowballs, and we watched a party descending fall and slide several feet in one spot. I did some quick calculations and figured we were at the turnaround point for a sunset parking lot arrival, so we decided to bail.
We fairly quickly got down to the crest of the ridge overlooking a 60 degree slope with one loaded crack across it, and decided to slide down over the faint edge where it looked more stable and glissade to the bottom. The descending party caught up, called us nuts, and mentioned the bands of cliffs below the proposed glissade path. I said “what’s the worst that could happen?”. Since I got a little faint-hearted peering down the slope when I sat down, Ryan took the lead, dropped to his butt, and down he went, a few hundred feet until he had to walk a short section. I came down next and the snow was just perfect for sliding under control. I think our ride inspired the crew behind us and they followed in our butt grooves, overtook us, and continued on down.
We continued for over 1500′ of glissading, and at about the 8500′ level we angled off to the cliff bands where the snowshoes were cached. The next couple hours were pure misery as Ryan worked his way up through very deep wet slushy snow to the snowshoes, and I ended up just going down to the ridgeline leading off to the Dry Canyon Trail to wait. I called Ryan to verify and he said he’d bring mine down. In the meantime, with the wet snow my boots had filled with water, so I took off my boots, socks and liners, and wrung out my socks and replaced them without the liners, since they were wool and would provide some warmth I hoped.
Ryan finally made it down with the snowshoes and I put them on, but forgot to unlock the left platform riser (for ascending steep slopes) and had to stop to pop it down, since it kept kicking me forward to a near-fall. We got to the Dry Canyon Trail and found a large field of wind-blown crust over melted out granules. Our steps kicked up granules over the surface and they slid down the ice sounding like a rain-stick. Along the trail through the darkening trees we discussed ideas for greater success next year. Is that a sign of denial? or just that we’re climbers?
Ryan stopped to change his wet socks and I wrung mine out once again (the foam liner was filled with water and kept pumping into my socks). I called Angie for a “rescue” of dry warm socks and shoes and clothes since my feet were really numb and swollen from the ice water in my boots. We kept our snowshoes on until the trail devolved into mud with a snowbank along the shady side just under 7000′ and then I was eager to just get home, so we booked it down the trail arriving just before sunset became darkness.
My right quad was throbbing from the effort, and I immediately kicked off my muddy boots to let my feet dry. We said our goodbyes, and Ryan drove home while I chugged hot EmergenC while changing in Angie’s car. I slept in until 11 the next day (Daylight Savings). I got the pictures up to Picasa a day or two later for your enjoyment.