When I had been on a job search in the spring (2014) and was having difficulty securing a teaching job in northwest Washington (I eventually did, though), I had targeted the Salt Lake area as a place I might want to live. Thinking it might be a good idea to visit the Salt Lake area before moving down, I made some climbing partner posts on MountainProject.com about potential June trips in the Salt Lake area. Charlie Stoker emailed me and invited me along on a 4-day climbing trip he and some friends were planning to Lone Peak Cirque. I'd never heard of Lone Peak, but according to summitpost.org, Lone Peak is the monarch of the Wasatch Mountains. This rugged 11,000+ foot summit is clearly visible from North Salt Lake to Provo. It rises abruptly above the valley floor and affords one the luxury of sitting in a glacial, alpine cirque just miles from the city. The cirque is ringed with near vertical granite walls and offers climbing ranging from Class 3 to 5.10 YDS. Lone Peak is considered by many to be the "hardest" 11,000 foot peak in the Wasatch due to the mileage and elevation gain required to sit atop it's summit. Needless to say, I was intrigued! Sure, I told Charlie, I'll join, thanks!
a. The iPhone-predicted storm looked like it might hold off until afternoon, so Sean and I decided to climb The Open Book route on the summit wall of Lone Peak, while Charlie and Ken went off to climb Center Thumb on the South Summit Wall. In this photo Sean is racking up for the climb. We found that a full rack with doubles of 0.5, 0.75, 1, 2 cams was good for all the routes we climbed on this trip.
b. To get to the base of The Open Book we had to cross a snowfield (not present in later season). The snow was quite firm. This might have been the crux of the route!
c. Diorite blobs mark the start of the first pitch of The Open Book.
d. Sean leading the first pitch of The Open Book, 5.7ish climbing.
e. I led the second pitch (5.7 "awkward chimney" which was actually kind of fun and had reasonably good gear placements) and forgot to take a photo. Here is a photo of Sean leading the third pitch (5.7 "bearhug").
f. Looking down at the route from the top of the third pitch. Enjoyable and mostly solid climbing. The fourth pitch continues up this big corner, but is a bit loose and gritty and for me was the leading crux of the route (I'm a bit squeamish about loose rock).
g. Sean on the summit of Lone Peak, with the Salt Lake valley far below in the distance.
h. It took less than an hour to descend back to camp (over the south summit and down Collin's Highway and two rappels). Charlie and Ken had already gotten back from their climb of Center Thumb (which they claimed was great, so Sean and I decided we should climb it before the trip was over). In this photo Charlie is relaxing on a boulder.
i. Since we had climbed early to beat the storm, we were back in camp by noonish. I got stir crazy and went exploring the boulder fields to see how many stashes of gear I could find. This stash had a grill!
j. Another stash of buckets.
k. A stash of water. This is a good idea since once the early season snow melts there is no water in the Cirque.
l. Snowmelt. Since it was June, we were able to collect our water from snowmelt during the day.
m. Collecting and filtering water. I didn't filter or treat most of my water. I'll know in a couple of weeks if that was a poor decision....
n. The Cirque Shovel. (Don't worry, we put it back under the boulder where we found it.)
o. Fortunately, rodents and other food-seeking animals don't seem to be a problem in the Cirque, but we hung our food anyway.
p. Some pretty flowers in the Cirque. I've not seen this variety in the North Cascades so I'm not sure what they are.
q. The storm arrived in mid-afternoon. It hailed pretty hard for awhile. We were glad to be in our tents rather than on a route!
r. We came prepared for the storm with a set of Snoopy playing cards and comfortably-sized tents.
a. We awoke to clouds and drizzle as the storm hung on to the Cirque.
b. Even so, we were optimistic and got all geared up....go away rain and fog....
c. I brought some logic puzzles, and as we waited for the weather to improve, Ken got addicted to nonograms.
d. Finally, the rain stopped and we decided to go climb a route. Charlie and I headed to Out of the Question on Question Mark Wall while Ken and Sean headed to the Lowe Route (also on Question Mark Wall) that Charlie and I had enjoyed the first day.
e. Charlie at the base of Pete's Staircase, a 5.4 ramble that gets you to the base of Question Mark Wall.
f. For some reason the rope decided to be twisty for this route. Perhaps it was the moisture in the air.
g. Out of the Question has bolted anchors at the top of the first and second pitches. These are nice since the route is pretty spicy and steep.
h. Old pins near the start of Pitch 2. These probably used to be the standard belay anchor before the newer bolts were put in.
i. Looking up Pitch 2, a steep wander with a reachy 10b crux.
j. An old piton just above the crux. The fact that the piton flexes doesn't give much confidence.
k. A bolt just a couple of moves after the flexing piton. Whew!
l. Looking up the third pitch of Out of the Question. This pitch climbs through a vertical sea of patina through the "?"-mark on the wall. There's an old bolt near the top (if you can find it!), but all other gear involves slinging the patina horns. It's a memorable pitch.
m. I took a photo of all of our gear placements on the third pitch. Charlie was quite good at finding the best placement options on the wall. Protection #1: A bomber hex placement behind a patina horn.
n. Protection #2: A slung patina horn.
o. Protection #3: A wrung in the rock. If you find it of course!
p. Protection #4: A #3 cam. It might hold....
q. Protection #5: Another slung patina horn.
r. Protection #6: Yet another slung patina knob.
s. Protection #7: An old bolt near the top.
t. Charlie on the top of Question Mark Wall after leading all the pitches of Out of the Question. Impressive climbing, Charlie!
u. A view of Mount Timpanogos, the second highest mountain in Utah's Wasatch Range.
v. Climbers over on The Open Book on Lone Peak (which Sean and I had climbed the previous day).
w. A view of the lingering early-seasoon snowfields at the base of Lone Peak. The snow was pretty firm in the morning shade which made getting to the base of some of the routes tricky. But on the plus side, it meant we had a nice water supply at camp.
a. Before we all hiked out, Sean and I decided to take advantage of the (finally!) good weather and climb Center Thumb on Tom's Thumb on the South Summit Wall, a route that Charlie and Ken had enjoyed a couple of days earlier. Since the team wanted to get back to Salt Lake at a reasonable hour that evening, we started early in the morning chill. This photo is taken looking up Tom's Thumb from the base. The route follows the crack systems up the center of the Thumb. I thought the climbing on this route was great, and this was probably my favorite climb of the trip.
b. This photo shows Sean ascending the snowfield at the base of the route. The snow was quite firm but not extensive enough to justify bringing crampons and axe up the route, so I cut steps up the snow with rocks.
c. Sean and I swung leads on the route. Here is Sean starting off the first pitch of Center Thumb, fun and steep 5.7 crack climbing.
d. Sean at the top of the second pitch, more fun and steep 5.7 crack climbing with a 5.8 section.
e. I got to lead the money pitch, which ends with an awesome, exposed 5.9 crack that moves up the overhanging left face of the Thumb to the top of the formation. The crack takes one each of No. 0.75, 1, 2, 3 cams.
f. Sean climbing the 5.9 crack. Cold hands! Hard to believe it's probably 100 degrees in the Salt Lake valley not to far away.
g. Sean leading off the final pitch to the top, which starts with a traverse to the left. Note the bolt in the photo, which is nice for the belay at the top of the crux 5.9 crack.
h. The rock quality on the final pitch is not nearly as stellar as the previous 4 pitches up the Thumb. Sean went up and right from where he is in the photo and encountered a lot of loose blocks and kitty litter. A better route probably goes up the flakes and blocks to the left of Sean in the photo.
i. Looking down at Lone Peak Cirque from the top of the South Summit Wall.
j. Hiking out via the Corner Canyon approach. The Jacob's Ladder section is often a steep runnel of dirt.
k. One last view of Lone Peak, as seen from I-15 as we drove near Salt Lake City.
l. When I got back to my car (which had been parked at Charlie's house), I discovered that my happily-rocking solar-powered flower on my dash had died. I guess the abrupt climate change from Washington rain to Utah sun was too much to handle!