BackgroundThe Wasatch Mountain Club's 3rd annual winter ascent of Lone Peak took place on Saturday, January 20, 2007. This is a report of the climb, along with a collection of photos submitted by the various participants. I'm still gathering some stats and other information, so forgive me for any mistakes; I'll correct information as I receive it.
Compared with last year's modest turnout of 4 participants, this 2007 edition of the trip generated considerable interest, with 14 individuals starting the hike, 8 of which managed to reach the summit.
As in the two previous outings, the trip leader this year was Grizz Randall (a.k.a. "mtn runr" on Summitpost), who chalked up his 94th successful summit of this peak.
The ClimbAt Grizz's request, nearly everyone showed up early at the trailhead, ensuring we'd be ready to go promptly at the 6:00am start time. The first couple of miles took place in the dark, then as the skies slowly began to lighten we took a short break to allow everyone to catch up, followed by another stop a short time later to put on snowshoes.
After passing through the Mahogany Tunnel we made a steep climb up deep snow, after which we were happily greeted by the first sunlight of the day. The relatively large group became more spread out as everyone fell into their respective paces, and the first wind of the day made it's unwelcome appearance as we climbed the snow scoured slopes below the cirque viewpoint.
The front pack of 5 climbers arrived at the cirque viewpoint at just under the 4-hour mark, and after a brief stop for photos, continued across the flat expanse near the "Cowboy Camp" area. Approaching the cirque we elected to take a high line on the far left, following a several day old vague snowshoe track.
Skies were clear and the baking heat of the sun was in full force, but this was not to last. The first signs of change were a few wispy clouds rolling over the north wall of the cirque. Stopping for a short lunch break the clouds continued to build, and the summit was soon completely obscured. The sun disappeared a short time later, quickly chilling us and cutting our lunch break even shorter.
We continued towards the far west shoulder of the summit ridge in rapidly deteriorating conditions, and a few light snowflakes began to appear. At the base of the summit ridge the slope appeared to be largely wind scoured, so we ditched snowshoes and switched over to crampons for the final phase of the climb.
The final scramble to the summit was uneventful, other than the very limited visibility and light blowing snow. Our group of 5 reached the summit just before 1:00pm, a shade under the 7-hour mark. We hung out on the summit for a few minutes, but the wind, snow, and lack of view encouraged a short stay.
Several other climbers were just arriving at the summit as the first group began the descent, and we passed a couple of other members of our group as we descended the summit ridge. Switching back to snowshoes we began to retrace our route through the cirque. The snow seemed to ease up for a period, but was back in full force by the time we reached the flat stretch of Cowboy Camp.
Below the cirque viewpoint the winds picked up, and stinging blowing snow added an element of discomfort. As we continued descending we encountered several other members of our group who had failed to summit.
After stopping to remove snowshoes Dmitry and I completed the final couple of miles at a brisk walk/jog, arriving back at the trailhead just after 4:30pm, a 10h-35m roundtrip. We left a note on Grizz's vehicle to let him know we'd descended safely, then headed for home.
Unknown to us at the time, several of our group still on the mountain were in for a minor-epic on the descent. Wind, snow, and poor visibility created a major routefinding challenge, and the final climber did not return to the trailhead until 9:30pm.
Grizz Describes the DescentA few climbers returned to the trailhead uneventfully before dark. But poor visibility due to the snowstorm and darkness resulted in a mini-epic descent for several others. The following was provided to me by Grizz via e-mail:
"As I was coming down from the summit Walt was going up. I asked him about Kim and Lana and he told me they bailed because of weather but that he thought Mark was still coming up. I told him that I would wait for him down below out of the wind. When we got to what I call the North Cirque, Lee and I waited for Walt. Finally Mark Overdevest came down saying that he stopped short of the summit but that Walt Summitted and was coming down. I sent Lee on ahead and I waited for Walt. And waited. And waited. I started back up to look for him but finally saw him coming. He was still in crampons and had his ice ax out and was moving very slowly. I determined that I should stay with him at least to Cowboy Camp but then I could leave because he was unlikely to get lost. But by the time we got to Cowboy Camp it was a blizzard. At Ennis Pass the visibiltiy was so poor that I knew it would be irresponsible to leave Walt so we headed out towards Horse Saddle. I finally had to admit that I didn't know where we were. We decided to just head downhill -- I suspected that we were South of the route but I wasn't really sure. We got into a horrendous bushwhack and Walt just seemed to go slower and slower the worse it got. Just before dark I decided that I really couldn't help him much and that he could certainly follow my track (the storm had eased a little) and I should just get out as fast as possible. I put on my headlamp and continued. Soon I heard voices! I knew I couldn't be close to Corner Canyon Road yet so the voices were confusing. I started yelling and soon hooked up with Mark and Mike who had got lost independently of each other but then somehow stumbled into each other and were bushwhacking downhill just like me. They moved faster than Walt but still not fast enough so I left them and continued down. I hit the Corner Cyn Rd at 7:25 about 2 miles + above the TH. I got to the parking lot at 8:10. Mark and Mike came out at 8:35. I drove to Starbucks for coffee and then drove back to wait for Walt. At 9:15 or so a car pulled up and it was Christine Pilgram who had been in contact with Walt by cell phone. She had been home, showered, eaten, and came back for Walt. Finally at 9:30 he ambled into the parking lot. I can tell you this: I will be packing my GPS much more often in the future. All in all, 8 out of the 14 who started made it to the summit. Everyone who has talked to me reported having a good experience, even those who did not summit."
ParticipantsThis is the list of the 14 participants who officially started the climb. If I've got anything wrong here, please let me know!
Anything to Add?If you participated in this climb and have any additional information, corrections, or other interesting stories to add, please let me know! Also feel free to attach any good photos you may have.