Perfect Wasatch day!
My friend Jackson and I wanted to bag a Wasatch peak in spring, as the snow conditions were perfect for a good mountaineering adventure and Red Baldy seemed like the perfect choice. We met at the White Pine trailhead and Jackson was trying to catch a few ZZZZZZZZ’s in his car when I pulled up. The air was cold and I debated whether or not to put on my jacket, because I knew that within ten or fifteen minutes, I would be plenty warm while hiking, so eventually I decided to keep the extra layers in the pack. We got our gear ready and within a few minutes we were hiking up the trail.
There were patches of snow everywhere, but for the most part it was clear of snow until we reached the Red Pine fork. We decided to take a small break to adjust our gear and I showed Jackson where we would be heading on the map. We were both really excited for this climb. There was still plenty of snow in the hills and after only a few minutes of hiking after the trail fork, we were on snow for the remainder of the day.
The hike up the drainage was pretty uneventful. We stopped a few times to snap some pictures and I was eyeing Tanners Gulch, as the conditions still looked fairly doable for this late in the season. We reached the upper portion of the mountain and took a small break to put on our gear, make some adjustments and figure out exactly what route we wanted to take. I saw several good options and we decided to head for a Couloir on the Northwest face. We reached the base of the couloir and while contemplating our ascent, a fairly good sized rock came shooting down the chute at a high rate of speed. This made us re-think the planned ascent and while discussing our options further, an even bigger rock came tumbling down at an even greater rate of speed than the first one. This rock however whizzed by about 20 feet away and it was clearly big enough to ensure a lift off the mountain in a Life Flight helicopter, so we both decided to head to the West flank of the mountain, as the sun was just starting to shine on the chute and we knew that the possibility for more rocks was good.
After a few minutes, we traversed to the West flank and discovered that it was still completely in the shade, so we knew the conditions would be good and we began ascending a nice line on the hard firm snow. I got into a nice rhythm on the steep slope and the sound of my crampons biting into the snow and my heart beating in my chest were definitely a realization that I was where I loved to be. I took a few rest breaks to take in the views and they were absolutely amazing!
White Pine lake was still frozen over, the Pfeifferhorn and the valley below came into view and I had to snap a few pictures of the incredible scene that was laid out before me. We had so far not seen a soul the entire day and I could not help but think about all of the poor folks still asleep in their beds in the valley below, while I was being mesmerized by the best the Wasatch has to offer.
We crossed over an old avalanche and the broken trees were a stark reminder to us who was still in charge here. Mother natures sheer power has always amazed me and this also was a time to reflect on how small we really are in this universe of ours. After a good push we finally gained the ridge and Utah County came into view and our route up to the summit was obvious from here. There was still a considerable amount if snow on the mountain and there were several cornices to be concerned about, but the route was very straightforward with only a few areas that needed a good deal of caution. The crux of the whole route was a small climb over some boulders directly on the spine of the ridge to avoid a cornice on the left side of the ridge. The right side was a complete drop off, so the only way around was up and over the main spine. It was a very easy climb, but with wet boots, I made sure of every hand hold and took my time negotiating the rocks, as a fall here would certainly make for a bad day and would likely make it your last.
Just after we both made it over the crux, we saw someone descending from the summit about to make a glissade. We both stopped and watched as fellow SP’er Marauders made an epic glissade down the South side of the mountain. We yelled at each other and said our hellos and goodbyes. He was the only person we saw on the mountain the whole day, until we were about a mile from the trailhead. From there it was a quick hike to the summit. From the top the views were just outstanding; about as good as it gets in the Wasatch. We were amazed at the HUGE cornice guarding the top of a large chute running up the back (South) side of White Baldy. The couloir looked prime, but also very sketchy with that bad boy at the top. We spied some new routes and took some pictures and then settled in for a little lunch with the best view in the entire state of Utah; that we were sure of.
We decided that we better get back down, so we made our way back down the ridge, taking special care to miss the cornices. The descent was much quicker and before we knew it we were spying some good glissade routes on the North West side of the mountain. We found one that we liked and we carefully made out way across a steep slope to avoid some rocks. This was actually the most dodgy portion of the whole day. The slope was steep and a fall here would take you directly into some boulders with a steep cliff below. We traversed to the middle of the slope and had a perfect path. Jackson went first and he had a great slide and I followed his path and picked up even more speed, as his track was nice and smooth. We headed over to the lake and snapped a few pictures and then we had another really good glissade descending the East side of the lake.
We found our earlier tracks and the snow was really getting soft at this point. We did our best not to post-hole and at times the hiking was down right tedious, as we had to take care not to sink up to our crotches. Once we got off of the snow, it was a quick hike to the trailhead and we finally saw a few hikers heading up. It was an epic day of solitude in the spectacular Wasatch Mountains.
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