A Rookie's Tale

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Trip Report
Utah, United States, North America
Date Climbed/Hiked:
Nov 18, 2006
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A Rookie's Tale
Created On: Dec 9, 2006
Last Edited On: Dec 9, 2006

The Beginning..

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 looksHeavier 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.

On the trail..Red Pine Lake Trail at sunset 11/17/06

The Next Morning

Good 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!)

Up the ridgeNate, our fearless leader, breaking trail 11/18/06
Going upTaking a break from battling with sugary snow 11/18/06
Rope TravelRope 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.

The Pfiefferhorn at sunsetSunset on the Pfiefferhorn 11/18/06
View of TimpanogosDistant view of Timpanogos 11/18/06
It s cold!So very, very cold 11/18/06

The End..

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


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Viewing: 1-20 of 21

Dean - Dec 9, 2006 4:02 pm - Voted 10/10


on your first trip report, a fun read. Could you label your pics though, use the pic to tell a little bit about the story and put a date on it. Thank you for sharing your experience and congrat's on your effort, this stuff can become very addicting and no doubt you will return to finish off the Pfeifferhorn. I love those mountains around Salt Lake, a great area to hike, ski and climb in.


Bassoon - Dec 9, 2006 7:52 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Congrat's

Thanks for the advice, Dean. I went back and labeled the pics- hope that makes story more interesting. I agree that the mountains here are stupendous.


Dean - Dec 9, 2006 9:01 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: Congrat's

That does indeed help. I've camped at the lake but we didn't have the time to climb the Pfeiferhorn. I love skiing up in the Alta/Snowbird area and I had a chance to climb AF Twin this summer.
The Pfeiferhorn is still on my list along with Lone Peak.


rematore - Dec 9, 2006 5:28 pm - Hasn't voted


I'm new to this too. Would you mind telling me what gear you brought on your trip? I was thinking of doing some winter hiking.

Bob Sihler

Bob Sihler - Dec 9, 2006 7:26 pm - Voted 10/10

Wecome to SP

And thanks for sharing. We all had our starts, and even if yours wasn't the most comfortable, it seems you're no worse for wear and ready for more. See you on Everest!


Bassoon - Dec 9, 2006 7:53 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Wecome to SP

I know a large part of it was that I'm not physically ready yet- but I will be!


Yeti - Dec 12, 2006 12:52 pm - Hasn't voted

Rookie gets her stripes

A tip for easier travel: Pack light. ;) The forums are a resource, so poke around and see where you can save weight. I doubt I could have gone that far with 50 lbs.
Congrats and welcome to the madness.

aemter - Dec 12, 2006 3:08 pm - Voted 10/10

Nice work!

A good read. Being from North Dakota, I had to chuckle at the comment about the "cold" 27 degrees in the tent! Your thick Texas blood will thin out eventually! :)


Haliku - Dec 12, 2006 3:48 pm - Voted 8/10

Welcome to the club...

Congrats on surviving your outing and enjoying it. Let the gear accumulation begin!


steste - Dec 12, 2006 8:15 pm - Voted 10/10

One question......

.... in your profile page I've seen you are a musician. So, why you hadn't a guitar in you back pack ? ;-)
Congratulations for your trip and for the report. I like it.
But, above all, for your carring performance. Only sherpas can do better.


Bassoon - Dec 13, 2006 9:08 am - Hasn't voted

Re: One question......

Probably because I'm a bassoonist. Aside from the cold, there are one too many jokes involving bassoons (aka faggots) and fire to make me comfortable bringing my bassoon on a camping trip! Thanks for the wonderful comment.


steste - Dec 13, 2006 5:59 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: One question......

I see, I see. Let your bassoon warm at home and thank God you're not a double-bass player mountaineer ;-)


Blair - Dec 12, 2006 11:07 pm - Voted 10/10

Great Job Heather!

I enjoyed reading this! Looking forward to more stuff by you!

versed88 - Dec 13, 2006 2:04 am - Voted 8/10

You Go!!!

As a southerner who loves to climb...I feel your pain! There really aren't any mountains or any elevation to speak of in the South. But, just give it some time. It'll get easier. ;)


plark42 - Dec 13, 2006 5:19 pm - Hasn't voted


You've learned the first lesson of mountaineering - it is CONSTANT sufferring for a few futile moments of beauty. Start running- get yourself in the BEST physical and cardio shape you can! that is the key! It makes the romp less painful (although still painful).. and you can go faster and farther and still have energy to make camp. Go every weekend!


RookJohnson - Dec 13, 2006 6:43 pm - Voted 9/10


lol 27 degrees aint cold!

hehe jk, inspiring story=)

Travis Atwood

Travis Atwood - Dec 13, 2006 9:05 pm - Hasn't voted

Nice job

Nice report Bassoon and welcome to Utah! The Pheifferhorn is one of my personal favorites.


Saintgrizzly - Dec 14, 2006 5:21 am - Voted 10/10


...and thanks for the report! A good read--the honesty and enthusiasm is refreshing! As someone already said, "Welcome to the madness!"


Blars - Dec 14, 2006 9:22 pm - Hasn't voted


Nice report, made me smile and think about my first time (not like I am a seasoned veteran by any means yet : ) ), up Long's peak was the most miserable day of my life....and when I got back I could not wait to do it again. No matter how miserable it is that sunrise up high makes it all worth it. Good luck in your future climbs.


dillweed - Dec 17, 2006 8:30 am - Hasn't voted


What is the group you went with? I am in the same boat you were - I want to break into mountaineering, but don't know a lot of people to go with. If you would rather PM me your response - no problem.

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