To Red Pine Lake
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While gazing up into the peaks towering over the Salt Lake Valley, it may sometimes seem a formidable task just getting close enough to bag some of them. The Pfeifferhorn is one of these peaks. When looking from the right angle, it is possible to see this prestigious peak (resembling a sharks tooth) from downtown Salt Lake City; however, only the very top is visible. All I knew is that I wanted to stand on the top of it, regardless of the journey that it would take to get there,
I wanted to team up with someone sharing my vision, and asked my neighbor Jamison if he would like to go. He had already climbed many of the peaks in the Wasatch Range, but coincidently had yet to do the Pfeifferhorn. We made some plans, and set off on the evening of July 3rd to begin our trek.
Temperatures were holding in the mid 90s as we made our way to the entrance of Little Cottonwood Canyon, and we were glad to see the mercury drop about 10 degrees as we reached the White Pine trail parking lot. We made some last minute adjustments to our packs, and started heading up the trail.
From the parking lot the trail dips down and sharply to the left, crosses over a large stream, and then starts heading West parallel to the road. You will cross through an open area where trees have been mangled and knocked down by recent avalanches, and as we crossed it, we looked forward to getting back to the wooded area and into some cover from the sun.
The grade is not steep, but you can see quick gains in elevation as the road up the canyon gets further and further below you. At one point there is an opening in the trees along the right-hand side of the trail, and there is a spectacular view looking right down the middle of Little Cotton Wood Canyon and into the Salt Lake Valley.
After a mile, you will reach another stream, and the trail that you are on turns left and starts heading up the White Pine Canyon. There is also a small dirt path off the left-hand side of the trail before the stream that looks insignificant, but it is the correct trail to head up towards Red Pine Lake and eventually the Pfeifferhorn. (I know numerous people that assume that this is not the trail, and have ended up going into White Pine Canyon by accident.)
We enjoyed a brief rest at the stream, then continued up the trail towards the lake.
We followed the trail around the East side of the lake to where a stream drains into it. We didn’t like the prospect of camping where we couldn’t hear if anything was coming close to our tent, so we relocated to the Northern side of the lake and found a suitable campsite.
While we cooked dinner we enjoyed the changing scenery as the setting sun lit up White Baldy to the Southeast.
To the TopWe got up around 6AM – and went through the tiring but necessary ritual of pumping water. We were mostly just ecstatic that we had survived the night unmolested from bear attacks. (This hike took place about the same time that a sleeping camper was ripped from his tent and sadly killed by a bear in a campsite not too far away.) We both pounded some banana bread, and began our journey around the lake and onto the trail. I noticed some deer tracks along the path parallel to the lake that had not been there the previous evening, and it made me contemplate the amount of animal activity that takes place up there during the night.
After passing the lake, the trail starts gaining elevation and weaving through a small pine forest. Make sure to follow the majority of footprints as there are many different routes to get to the saddle, all with varying degrees of difficulty. We had to stop a few times and regain the main trail which was timely, but worth it. The primary trail follows pine trees up a steep ridge, and if you find yourself out in the open then you have taken one of the lesser-traveled routes.
The trail eventually breaks out into the open as you begin the steep climb to the saddle, and at this point you will be able to see the dominant dirt path that works its way upwards to the top. As we negotiated the rocky slope, we could hear the high-pitched chirping coming from in and around the rocks. We were definitely in Marmot country. We could see them scampering through the boulders on the hunt for something to eat, and enjoyed the company considering we had not seen any fellow hikers up to this point.
This part of the trip is probably the most tiring as it does not flatten out until reaching the saddle. It is fairly steep and consistent, and laden with rocks and small boulders. Follow the path to the top, and while resting turn around and enjoy the view of the lake and smaller ponds at the base of white baldy. After reaching the saddle you will catch your first glimpse of the Pfeifferhorn, along with an unobstructed view down into Utah County.
We stopped to take pictures, drink some water, and plan our assault to the top. Some of the flattest and easiest trail on the whole trip can be found from the top of the saddle over to the boulder ridge. It is mostly dirt, with no rocks, and just meanders along the top of the ridge to the boulder field. Enjoy it while you can, because the class 3 section is coming up quickly.
The ridge looks intimidating from the trail, but once you get started it will not seem as bad.
After crossing the ridge it is simply a matter of endurance to get to the top. The last 300 feet to the top looks to steep to climb from a distance, but once you are there it is not bad at all. We worked our way up the trail and soon found ourselves at the top.
To the Bottom
We packed up our gear at camp, strapped on our packs, and began the descent down to the road. It was a gorgeous day, and we passed a number of people heading up to the lake for a 4th of July picnic. It was ironic that we were heading down the trail to meet up with our families to do the same.