This report certainly won't be the most intriguing mountaineering epic you've ever read, but I'm sure it'll amuse those of you who've been up in the mountains for awhile!
After being an armchair mountaineer for several years, I decided in May to leave my decidedly non-mountainous Texas home and move to Utah. I was determined to get into mountaineering, somehow. Finally, my school organized a trip to summit the Pfiefferhorn in Little Cottonwood Canyon (Salt Lake City), and I was on my way!
A lot of prep went into the trip- I found out mountaineering requires tons of equipment, especially winter mountaineering. I spent at least 3 days shopping for base layers (who needs long johns in Texas?!?!) and begging or renting the rest of my equipment. My pack, containing not only my stuff but also a huge pot, a tent, some fuel, and a snow shovel, ending up weighing over 50 lbs. Did I mention that I'd never backpacked before?
Heavier than it looks..11/17/06
On the Trail..
Needless to say, going uphill 4 miles took a lot more time and energy than I would normally expend. We were on the trail long after the sunset and I was one of the last people to make camp. The hike in took every last bit of energy from me (I firmly blame lack of acclimatization) and the last steps were an exercise in mental strength. It was all I could do to change clothes and try to get warm the rest of the night, which I hated because I didn't feel like I was doing my part. But, man, was I wasted.
Red Pine Lake Trail at sunset 11/17/06
The Next Morning
Taking a break from struggling with my double plastic boots 11/18/06
The next morning, I felt much better. We took our sweet time getting ready and got on the trail (rather, started breaking trail) around noon. We had planned to go to Upper Red Pine Lake and learn mountaineering skills that afternoon, go to bed early, wake up around 1:30am and start our summit push at 3am Sunday morning. We made such good time Saturday, though, we decided to go ahead and try for the summit (besides, we couldn't bear the thought of going back up the same trail again on Sunday.)
Up the Ridge..
Everything was fine 'till we started working our way up the ridge above Upper Red Pine Lake. There, the snow was like sugar. We spent much time slipping and sliding, using our ice axes to help us up the slope. The top bit was dicey enough that we roped up and had our leader belay from above. Rope travel is difficult in itself, with people jerking you if you move too slow or fast. We also had to climb over several protruding rocks. This took a lot of energy and was really difficult for me, considering I'm used to wall climbing and tight rock shoes (and no pack!)
Nate, our fearless leader, breaking trail 11/18/06 Taking a break from battling with sugary snow 11/18/06 Rope travel over the rocks 11/18/06
After much panting and one case of the "screamies" (hands warming up) that left me in tears, we got atop the ridge. It was nearly sunset and at least another 2 hours to the summit. I knew I didn't have the energy to go for it, so four of us decided to enjoy the sunset and then return to camp. The summit party ended up returning shortly, deciding the snow would make the ascent too difficult. We slid, fell, snowshoed, and downclimbed our way down in the dark, finally making it back to camp. This time I was more alive, so I pitched in with cooking (tortilla soup-yum!). It took forever to fall asleep that night- it didn't help that our tent (with 3 bodies in it) was 27 degrees at one point.
Sunset on the Pfiefferhorn 11/18/06 Distant view of Timpanogos 11/18/06 So very, very cold 11/18/06
The next morning we longed for a place without snow, so we packed up quick and snowshoed/flew down the trail, taking 2 hours down what had taken over 5 hours to get up. My boots, which had been great all weekend, decided to give my feet hell the last half mile and I limped away from the trip with physical reminders of the trip. :-)
At the time, the trip was absolute hell 90% of the time. It was exhausting, painful, boring, and cold. But that all faded away, and I'm left with memories of being somewhere no one else has been (at least, this season), doing something most can't imagine, in a stunning setting. Next up, Everest. :-)
If you want to see some more pics, try going here: http://new.photos.yahoo.com/album?c=bassoon_ha&aid=576460762344680892&pid=&wtok=mh4_eEnr0p_vcuGPt7asng--&ts=1164176942&.src=ph