Beginning Labor Day in the Dark
My friend and hiking partner Justin picked me up and we drove to the Broad's Fork trailhead in Big Cottonwood Canyon. A few cars were already there, and while we were gearing up, another vehicle pulled in and parked. Within less than a minute, two male figures, obscured by the pre-dawn darkness, greeted us and walked past, disappearing on the upward-bound trail. At 5:15 we were on our way too, walking briskly up the narrow path through the trees. Not far from the trail's beginning, I saw attached to some trees a light-beam unit and it's corresponding reflector. I have seen two others like this near the beginning of other local trails in the past few weeks. I can only guess they are for gathering trail-use data or are put there by hunters to alert them of movement on the trail. Either way, I get the feeling I am being watched in the dark.
Soon we came upon our fellow hikers who passed us in the parking lot, two older gentlemen. We passed them and predicted we would see them further up the trail as we headed to the same destinantion: Twin Peaks above Broads Fork. Justin and I had been up this trail once before the past year, when we hiked the standard route to the saddle south of the Twins, and up to the top. That time we were able to stay on top only for a few minutes as we found ourselves in the middle of an increasingly windy snowstorm, which also necessitated a hasty descent without getting over to the West Twin. Today was going to be our redemption, a chance to do it right.
We arrived at the meadow in an hour and fifteen minutes, quick for our standards. The sun was coming up and we rested for a few minutes as we looked to the West toward our intended route: The Robinson Coloir & Variation. Soon we were on our way up and up, rising with the sun to greater elevations. A mountain goat appeared above and ahead of us, like a white apparition, standing casually on the boulders. It moved along ahead of us, staying in view for some time but never allowing us to come near. Aside from that pleasant distraction, the hike up the steep slope over coffin-sized and shaped boulders was my time to warm up for the rest of the day.
From here it was up, over and around jumbles of jagged and broken rocks which formed the ridge leading up to the East Twin. To the East were sloped slabs which during the winter months release avalanches into the drainage below. Even without snow, a slip or fall could bring serious consequences: Just last June a teenage boy, just graduated from High School, fell to his death near here as he tried to get to his friend who had fallen.
At last, I reached the peak a short time before Justin. A check of my time confirmed that I beat my last time up by an hour and a half. Feeling good. Soon Justin appeared and we headed over to the West Twin, a first for both of us. From there, after a Hobbity 'second breakfast', we began the descent to the saddle between Sunrise and Twin Peaks. This was familiar territory. When we came to the crux section, we both decided to try it, since we avoided this way on our previous trip up. I followed Justin as he deftly swung around and worked his way over and down a narrow, stepped and tilted ledge. Within minutes he was through the crux and disappeared around a corner. At this point I was alone and wondering if I could really go the same way. I must admit, I began to panic a bit, and made a conscious effort to calm down. Would I slip and break my leg? Hit my head? "Justin," I crackled over the radio. "Can you come back and spot me?" A few minutes later he appeared and was helping me find some confidence. I learned later that he had gone quite a way down from where I was and had to come back up to lend me a hand. As we made our way down to the ridge/saddle, we met up with the two gentlemen we had surpassed on the trail up to the Broad's Fork meadow. One of my thoughts was that like them,I would like to be coming up here when I am in my fifties. We told them of our intended route and one of them quipped, "I'll hear about you in the news tonight." After a fare well, they headed up to the Twin Peaks.
Driving into the SunriseFrom the ridge-saddle between Twin Peaks and the peaks east along the traverse, Justin and I made our way up to the base of the buttress which forms the west side of the unnamed peak before Sunrise. We consulted a photo of the buttress which showed the best way up. Justin started first and I stood aside to avoid any loose rockfall he might send down. Soon it was my turn and I was anxious to get up. At this point, I had to convince myself that "This will be just like climbing a ladder." Up I went, steeply, on probably the most verticle I have ever been on a mountain scramble.
Once we got onto safer rock, up we climbed to the top of the small, unnamed peak where we could see Sunrise, getting closer to the mounatain I have wanted to climb for some time. From the West, Sunrise Peak has a rounded wedge shape and an arcing ridgeline, reminding me of the tip of a gigantic thumb. It looks easier to climb than it really is and the time we spent on traversing these next few peaks set us behind a little from our planned schedule. On the way over to Sunrise, we met a few more fellows coming west from Dromedary. That had started at Lake Blanche. The older gentleman remarked that he had last climbed this peak 30 years ago. We said our greetings and continued on. I made a note of the dangerous terrain directly below and north of the peak. In July, a man who was hiking with his brother had slipped on a lingering patch of snow, apparently somewhere between Sunrise peak and its neighbor to the west. The man was unable to stop himself before he ran into the rocks and boulders below. Another accidental death in the Wasatch mountains. There are also several cliffs below the peak which should discourage anyone without the skill and equipment from trying to get down to the basin from here.