Twin Peaks' TauntingThere was never a question whether or not I would climb Broads Fork Twin Peaks—it was simply a matter of “when”. Ever since moving to Sandy it had been at the top of my list, even above Lone Peak (which most people consider slightly harder, although both are among the most sought-after summits in the Wasatch). Its majestic slopes and towering presence on the Salt Lake City skyline seemed to taunt me whenever I drove home on I-15 or glanced out the apartment window, and upon seeing Twin Peaks I always asked myself “Why haven’t I climbed that one yet?” Somehow, I would wind up saving some of the best Wasatch peaks (or most difficult, at least) for last.
Fast-forward to a year later. I was now living in Centerville, but my desire to climb Twin Peaks remained the same. It was only early July, but the unusually hot weather had already melted almost all of the snow on the higher Wasatch peaks. Although it would be easier without snow (or so I thought) and I had summited other nearby peaks by myself without any problems, this was one I definitely didn’t want to try alone. My friend Kendrick (who hiked Mount Olympus and Pfeifferhorn with me and was in much better shape at the time) and I were both free on Saturday, so we decided on an early morning start.
The day before our hike, I checked the forecast. Thanks to some much-needed wind, the lingering smoke from a fire started 10 days earlier (likely the result of some irresponsible kids lighting fireworks for the 4th of July) in Sandy had finally cleared out, but the predicted high for Saturday had now jumped into the 100’s. As a precaution I decided that I would take a couple extra 20-oz bottles of Gatorade as a supplement to my 2-liter Camelbak, which I had never used up on any of my previous hikes. My excitement far outweighed my fear of the heat though, since I was finally climbing the mountain I had wanted to do for a year.
Better Late Than Never
I left Centerville at 5:30 in the morning and got to the Broads Fork trailhead a few minutes before 6. On the way I drank another Gatorade to make sure I was hydrated for what was likely going to be a very hot day. I waited for Kendrick for about half an hour but he hadn’t arrived yet. He’d already done Sundial Peak from the Mill B trailhead at the opposite end of the parking lot and knew where the meeting spot was, so I figured he must have overslept. I tried calling him but didn’t have any reception, so I decided to drive a short way down the canyon and try again. Halfway down it was 6:30 and I still wasn’t getting reception, so I decided to go back and start the hike myself. Since I was here I figured I might as well do some hiking, and maybe Kendrick would catch up to me later on.
The scrambling up on Cottonwood Ridge had some tough spots and I didn’t want to risk a fall on one of the steeper sections with no one else around, so I decided I’d just hike up to the Broads Fork meadows. Halfway up I heard a shout from behind, and was pleasantly surprised to see Kendrick jogging up to me. He got to the trailhead about 10 minutes after I started up, and after seeing my car at the bottom he decided he'd just meet me on the way up. Now that he was here I felt much more confident in getting all the way to the top.
The trail leading up to the lower meadow from the southwest corner of the "S-curve" parking lot (6200 ft.) was steep but not difficult. The sun still hadn’t made it over the ridge leading up to Dromedary Peak, so most of the way up we had shade which made it much cooler. At about 7500 feet we encountered several Aspen trees along the trail. One of the things I love about the Wasatch is how you can get from a busy city to aspen and pine trees to high alpine peaks within the space of just a few miles. At about 8:00 we made it to the lower meadow, and stopped to admire the view of the peaks in the distance. I'd seen a few pictures of the meadow, but it was even better being there in person. This would make a great spot to bring the family camping, I thought to myself.
From the meadow (8200 ft.) we could see Sunrise Peak (11,275 ft.) straight ahead, and the route for the Robinson variation off to the right. Since this was our first time up here we were going to take the standard route through the lower and upper meadows to make sure we didn’t get lost at all. We made our way along a large pond (we tried to spot some of the beavers who had made the little dam, but our only wildlife sighting was a skittish deer who didn’t want his picture taken), and followed the still-visible trail up higher into Broads Fork. About halfway between the lower and upper meadow, the trail disappeared and the sun came out in full force.
Up to this point I hadn’t used much water, so I started drinking more as the temperature continued to creep upwards. After bushwhacking for about half an hour to get to the upper meadow, we arrived at a snowfield by the upper meadow at around 9:30. From here it was a straight shot to the southwest towards the saddle between Sunrise Peak and East Twin Peak, so we started up the long scree slope. Although I had heard that this section was much easier to do with snow present it didn’t look that bad from the bottom, but as I started moving up it proved to be much more difficult than I originally thought it would be. Kendrick was handling the terrain alright, but it seemed like my boots couldn’t get a grip on any of the loose rocks. There were several places where I felt like a Loony Tunes character, moving my legs in an effort to go forward but remaining in the same spot without accomplishing anything. For every two steps forward, it seems I was sliding at least one step back. As I continued to slide around on the rocks I kicked up several clouds of dust, which didn't leave a very good taste in my mouth. I could tell that my boots were beginning to give me blisters as well, despite the fact that I had taped up the more blister-prone areas of my feet with duct tape.
The fact that everyone else who was hiking in front of us had turned around at some point along the scree slope didn’t seem very encouraging. If Kendrick wasn’t with me I definitely would have turned around at this point, but the saddle didn’t seem too much farther so I decided to continue on. He patiently waited for me and once I caught up to him I plopped down on a nearby rock to drink some more water. The views in every direction (Alpine Ridge to the south, Cottonwood Ridge to the east, and Twin Peaks to the west) were phenomenal. I had originally intended to do both the east and west twins, and then evaluate the conditions before attempting Sunrise and Dromedary, but at this point I’d be happy to just make it to the top of the east twin. Without realizing it I drank almost all of my two liters of water during the seemingly never-ending (at almost 2 hours it took much longer than I had originally planned) slog up to the saddle, so from here on out I would have to conserve what little I had left.
We waited for a bit and let the wind coming over the ridge cool down my sweat-stained back before continuing on. The ridge leading to the top was much steeper here, but the solid rock was a welcome change from the miserably loose talus we'd gone up earlier. Shortly after leaving the saddle we came to the crux of our climb. Kendrick did his best Spiderman imitation by going straight up a narrow crack in the smooth 70 degree wall (about 5.4) in front of us, while I continued across the narrow ledge to look for something a bit easier. About a hundred feet later I came across a larger crack that had more little ledges, so I proceeded to climb it. At the top of the crack there were a couple large loose-looking boulders so I carefully took my time and found some handholds to help me get around them. From here it only took us 10 more minutes to get to the top.
Turning Up the Heat
We started going back down at exactly 12 o’clock, and this is when it really started to get hot. We decided that the best thing to do was get down as quickly as possible so that we didn’t get heat stroke, which seemed more and more possible as time went on. Luckily it was easier getting back down to the saddle and through the scree field than it was going up (scree skiing is much easier going down), but it was now in the 90’s and I had just one little bottle of Gatorade left. After the little snowfield we came across the start of the stream that runs all the way to the bottom of Broads Fork. We were both tempted to drink straight from the little spring, but since we didn’t have any iodine tablets or filters we didn’t want to risk it. Dipping our heads in the cold water helped us cool down a bit, but after just a few minutes of walking, the relentless heat from the sun had already evaporated the water and my hair was dry again.
I could see the knoll at the bottom of the lower meadow for quite some time, but it didn’t seem to be getting any closer on the way down. When we made it to the lower meadow I gave in to my thirst and guzzled my last bottle of Gatorade after sharing a little bit with Kendrick. I remember there being a lot more trees on the way up, so hopefully that meant more shade on the way down.
Unfortunately the trail didn’t go through many shaded parts and it didn’t help that there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. As we trudged along, each step made my feet feel more and more uncomfortable. I could feel that I already had blisters on the soles of my feet from all of the sliding around on loose scree, so adjusting the way I walked was now hurting my toes. I didn’t want to take my boots off though, because it probably wouldn’t have been much fun putting them back on. I had already used these boots several times with varying degrees of success in terms of how much damage they did to my feet, but I was finally accepting the fact that they were a bit too small and my feet would never break them in properly. I would definitely need new boots (I’m thinking from REI, so that I can return them if I encounter this same problem) for Lone Peak.
Closer towards the bottom I began to feel a bit dizzy and light-headed, but I pushed on and tried to conjure up images of the Double-Gulp of Gatorade from the 7-Eleven at the mouth of the canyon that would soon be in my hands. We finally made it back to the parking lot, and Kendrick (who never appeared tired on any of our previous hikes) was exhausted as well. I had to be careful not to drink my double-gulp too fast on the car ride back to Centerville, since I was still feeling a bit woozy and nauseous from heat exhaustion.
In more favorable conditions this climb would have been easier, but I’m glad we did it nonetheless. The Broads Fork meadows were really beautiful, and the scrambling up at the top was quite fun. Twin Peaks is definitely a must-do for any Wasatch peak-bagger, with the best overall views of any peak in the range (in my opinion), but it isn’t for the faint-hearted. It only took us 9 hours, but I don’t think I’ve ever been more exhausted after a hike. Yet again, the weather was a major factor during one of my most difficult climbs. If I decide to go up again, I’ll definitely remember to pick a cooler day (the recorded temperature in Salt Lake City was 104 degrees that day => as a side note, July '07 was the hottest month on record in Utah's history) when there’s still snow covering the big scree field and I have a pair of boots that fit properly. I ended up with several purple/black toenails and large blisters, but they’re healing nicely and I’m already looking forward to my next big climb.
Twin Peaks StatsDISTANCE: 10 miles roundtrip
BROADS FORK TRAILHEAD: 6,200 feet
SUMMIT ELEVATION: 11,330 feet
ELEVATION GAIN: 5,200 feet
DIFFICULTY: Class 3+
TIME: 9 hours