I first climbed Lone Peak in 2000, via the Jacob's Ladder route. Well, sort of - with the numerous difficulties locating and following the first parts of the trail, I felt more like I'd pioneered a new route on that hike. From what I could remember the Jacob's Ladder route was quite steep, so for my return to Lone Peak I decided to give the Draper Ridge trail a try. Not that I'd read or heard anything favorable about Draper Ridge, but I figured if I was going to suffer I might as well do so with a little variety.
When I think back to my relative lack of preparedness in 2000 it seems like a miracle that I was even successful on that hike, and it was probably sheer determination more than anything that got me to the summit on that day. But despite being much better prepared this time around, the outcome was still in doubt for much of the hike due to questionable weather conditions. Afternoon thunderstorms were in the forecast, so as on several other hikes this year an early start seemed essential. My watch read 4:11 a.m. as we started up the steep dirt road at the beginning of the trail.
The air was incredibly clear and it seemed like we could see every light in the city below. We made our way up the numerous switchbacks in the road, thankful for the cool morning air but already thinking about how hot and dry this stretch could be on the descent later in the day. After a mile or so the Draper Ridge trail left road, becoming a small and sometimes overgrown path through the scrub oak. The morning was still very black and we followed the trail by the light of headlamps and flashlights, and amazingly we only strayed off the trail for one short section of nasty bushwacking.
When the sky finally began to lighten the sky appeared mostly clear to the west, but there was a large dark cloud directly to the east in the direction we were headed, and Timpanogos to the south was shrouded in clouds as well. Leaving the scrub oak behind the trail passed through a pretty section of small aspens, then began a long tedious climb up a sagebrush covered slope. Near the top of the slope a cairn marked the junction where the Jacob's Ladder trail merged from the south, and soon after the Lone Peak summit came into view for the first time on this trail.
The dark cloud cover still hovered above the summit, giving it an eerie and ominous appearance, and causing our spirits to sink a bit. We agreed that if the conditions did not improve we would probably not make a summit attempt, but for the time being decided there was no reason not to continue on towards the cirque.
After the steep slopes up Draper Ridge the next mile or so was fairly flat and pleasant hiking, passing through a meadow and several stands of pine trees. Moving onto more rocky terrain we followed the numerous cairns as they led us towards the cirque. By this time the cloud cover had lightened considerably, and although the sky was still overcast it did not appear overly threatening, so we decided to make a go for the summit.
We headed up the steep slopes on the western side of the cirque, eventually reaching the rocky ridge leading to the summit, with views of the Salt Lake valley and Bells Canyon now appearing. I hurried up the last few hundred feet to the summit, where I took a few photos and enjoyed the view until Shelley arrived. We had planned on a leisurly summit stay and an early lunch, but we were becoming increasingly nervous about the clouds which now seemed to be descending down on us. A small brass plaque on the summit, a memorial to the couple who was killed on that very spot by a lightning strike last summer, added to our anxiety, so we decided to save our lunch for a while and started the long hike down.
We were the first to summit on this day but certainly not the last, as we passed several groups of hikers as we descended into the cirque. As it turned out the weather eventually began to clear and the day turned out to be quite nice, although as we anticipated it began to feel pretty toasty as we descended the hot and dry trail down Draper Ridge. The last few switchbacks down to the Corner Canyon road seemed to take forever on tired legs, and arriving back at our vehicle I was more than ready for the hike to be over.