WMC and SP Lone Peak Winter Ascent 2008

WMC and SP Lone Peak Winter Ascent 2008

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 40.52670°N / 111.7553°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Jan 26, 2008
Activities Activities: Mountaineering
Seasons Season: Winter

Introduction: One Big Peak

View of the Cirque
West Face of the peak is always a sight to behold, but it is still better in the snow

Lone Peak is a serious mountain by Wasatch Range standards, even though it is far from being the highest in the neighborhood. The trailheads are all at low elevation, and in winter in particular, one needs to gain approximately 7,000 ft in elevation to summit. The final couple hundred ft are especially challenging due to spectacular exposure, steep firn, cornices, and verglass ice patches.

Although the chutes of the East face may be quite alluring for extreme skiers, it's a very long slog to the top. So ascents of Lone Peak by skiers are rare. In fact the classic Wasatch Touring tomes advise against ascending beyond the North Shoulder of the peak.

For the 4th year in a row, Grizz Randall (aka mtn runr on SP) organized increasingly more popular late-January Wasatch Mountain Club snowshoe ascents on Lone Peak. Over time we kind of got used to the cries of "But this can't be done!". This trip was his 98th so you can all agree that this great mountain is Grizz's home turf. I just hope he doesn't retire after topping 100! So, here goes the story:

Two groups - or one?

Salt Lake Valley at dawn
The sky is lighting up and the city lights begin to dim. Northern Oquirrhs and Antelope Island in the background.

Blowing at Windy Crest
First sunshine, and headwind with blowing snow
Pre-dawn view of the Oquirrhs
Pre-dawn glow on the Oquirrh Mountains across the valley

The Official Wasatch Mountain Club LPWA'08 was scheduled for Sunday January 27th this year, and the trip has become booked rather quickly (that's Utah's very first Designated Wildreness area, and a group size limit of 11 applies). So marauders organized an additional SP group, to start before dawn on Saturday the 26th. But the monster storm forecasted for Sunday made the WMC group change plans at the last moment. So when Grizz's crew of 7 took off from Orson Smith TH at 6 am, we could still see the headlamps of the SP group a short distance upslope.
Climbing into the light
Into the rays of morning Sun

Into the sunshine and blowing snow!
Windy Crest is ... well ... windy
Ennis Saddle
Finally at Ennis Saddle, the Wasatch peaks come into view, and the sheltered valley of Cowboy Camp beckons ahead

We caught up with the guys above Bonneville Shoreline Junction, where Cherry-Willows trail crosses a deep gully. There, with the altitude barely over 5,200 ft, it was time to put on snowshoes already. Lots of white stuff this year! A few minutes later, Lubos caught up with us too, and the combined force broke trail into the entrance to Mahogany Tunnel. The group gradually started to spread out over Cherry Bowl and Windy Crest (which lived 100% to its name now), and did not reconnect again until the snack break in the relative calm of the Cowboy Camp Flat.
First glance into the cirque
First glance into Lone Peak Cirque

Breaking trail out of Cowboy Camp Flat
Leaving Cowboy Camp Flats
Our trail
Our track. Looking back at the Cowboy Camp gully, and the distant Traverse Mtn and the Oquirrs

Reunited, that is, but without Joe Bullough and CragHag, who decided to turn around. It was real pleasure to have Joe, a LPWA veteran, join the crew, but I guess after last winter's near-death avalanche accident, he still needs more time to rebuild himself to shape. And billyray66, who started a bit later because of a night shift at work, hasn't caught up with us.

So for all practical purposes, it was one combined group now.

The Cirque

Rugged rocks Rock outcroppings of Little Willow Divide
Box Elder Peak Box Elder Peak
WMC and Summitpost members climbing steadily toward the Big Willow Overlook Steadily gaining altitude underneath Willows Divide
Rime trees underneath Willows Divide
Rime-covered trees along the High Traverse route
Summit Cliffs of Lone Peak
Summit ahead - view from the North Shoulder

Minutes after taking off from a nice break in the quiet sunshine, we were over the right-bank morrain of Lone Peak cirque, and the spectacular cliff faces opened up in their full glory.

Trail breaking was heavy, and the WMC crew really appreciated added help from Apachedino. But the route was perfect, a nearly straight, steady traverse beneath the rock spires of Little Willow Divide.

Minutes after noon, we finally passed the last cliffs and the wide North Fork Little Willow Saddle, and stopped for another quick break and layers-up at the last quiet spot at the treshold of the North Shoulder. It was all into the wind of the summit ridge now!

North Fk Little Willow Saddle
Last section of Winter High Traverse passes by N Fk Little Willow Saddle

The Summit

Ascent to the knife-edge
Ascending to the beginning of the knife edge
Corniced ridge
Summit ridge ahead

A few switchbacks in the deep snow in the protection of last little trees, and then our route crossed to the Southern, wind-blasted side of the summit ridge. Another couple hundred yards brought us to the beginning of the always-cool knife-edge section, and now the snowshoes were definitely off. Although the crampons were clearly optional this year - the snow remained fairly soft, and there were LOTS of it.

So much of it, in fact, that the usual weaving around the gendarmes didn't seem to be an option.
Grizz on an iffy gendarm bypass attempt
On the right? On the left? Or straight over it?

LPWA crew on the knife edge
New for 2008: the Leap of Faith

Topping the snowpacked little chimney
A completely snow-packed chimney steps away from the top
The Grizz completes his 98th
Grizz hollers from the top - Yes!

Going over the top of the meanest gendarm meant that we had to make a leap of faith into the 40-degrees snow, dropping precipitously to the lip of huge cliffs on the right, and overhanging by an enormous cornice on the left. The landing was comfortably soft, but I am sure nobody was excited about the perspective of climbing back up this smooth exposed rock on descent!

(For comparison, that's how this same section looked last year - note that the Big Bad Rock was a slightly overhanging 10-footer then, and the pre-summit chimney wasn't filled to the rim with snow either)

Finally, minutes after 2pm, Grizz is the first to summit, for his 98th ascent of Lone Peak! A bit slower than in the recent years, but this trailbreaking was something...
The summit up close
Descent along the knife edge


First leg of descent from Lone Peak

Last one off the summit turns off the lights
It s blowing hard on Ennis Peak
Back into the blowing snow...

Soon after Grizz cleared the way for the rest of us, the limited space on the flat summit boulders began to fill with bodies. Although the sky was clear and the wind was thankfully well-behaved, the group did not stay long at the summit. After a quick round of photos, it was time to begin the descent. Each member of the group carefully placed each step along the narrow walkway and made their way back over the two large boulders that proved to be the crux of the climb. At one point the knife-edge became a two-way path as Matt, still making his way toward the summit, passed those coming down and back over to safer ground.
Descending along Little Willow Divide
The trip back along the cirque slopes was an enjoyable walk through rich snow and hearty trees.
Matt floating over a glowing ridge

A few minutes later he and Bruce made their way back over the knife edge, Bruce giving a much needed hand to Matt over the boulder step while Grizz and others watched from a higher standpoint. Meanwhile, far below on the cirque trail, unseen eyes were watching the action from a distance. Summitpost member billyray66 had begun the trail in Draper 2 hours behind he WMC group and had arrived under the peak in time to take pictures from his point of view (see the photo below). The trek down from the shoulder of Lone Peak was quick and the remainder of the afternoon was spent retracing our steps South and West toward home in the gorgeous sunshine and sparkling snow. The downhill walk gave speed to the fore-part of our group, and some arrived back at their cars only 3 and a half hours after leaving the summit. But all of us had to pass through the gauntlet of high winds beginning at the West end of Cowboy camp and down the wide, hard Draper Ridge to Cherry Bowl.
Wind art
Sastrougi up close
Homeward through high wind
Late afternoon sun provides warmth to counter the harsh wind blowing on Ennis and the Draper Ridge.

Sometimes the winds would go away but then when a corner was turned a gust roared up at the trekkers as if it waiting in ambush. The scene of angular, sharp-edged wind deposits and textured snow patterns on the lower half of the trail was in sharp contast to the rounded soft piles of deep winter cover in the cirque. The wind and noise made for a dreamy experience but it also felt like an assault.
Cherry-Willows Trail, with a 1000 ft left to drop
Alpenglow on the Wasatch front mountains signals the successful end to a great day of mountaineering.

As the sun dipped lower in the sky and settled behind the Oquirrh mountains, the welcoming lights of the suburbs got closer as each member of the summit team walked, stomped and slid down the trail through scrub oak trees and occasional thin snow cover.
Grizz s 98th Ascent
Grizz the mtn runr

Not long after sundown, all 9 summiters were down off the mountain and safe. The last of our group reached the trailhead at about 6:40 PM, re-inforcing the counter-cry of "This can be done!" How popular will this climb be next year?

Summit Crew

Lone Peak summit, looking East
User Profile Image

WMC list

mtn runr

Lone Peak
At the treshold of the Cirque, by Ammon Hatch
View SW from Lone Peak summit
Summit View, by Matthew Van Horn

SP list

Matthew Van Horn
Bruce Christensen

External Links

Bruce's photo collection @ Picasaweb

Comments by other trip participants

Topo map of our route
By Bruce Christensen

Ammon Hatch:

"As for my personal experience: It was a great trip. Starting off I had the pleasure to meet several people on the trail that I had only corresponded with over Summitpost. It was a great pleasure to meet mtn rnr, MOCKBA and Joe Bullough, all of whom I have earned my respect through SP.

This was the largest and strongest group I had ever been a part of. There was constant progress being made up the mountain and it felt great to be among such strong hikers. The break in the Cowboy Camp was a nice time to get to know each other a little more and I was enjoying all of the company I was in.

Shortly before reaching the cirque I hit a wall and didn’t recover from it for the remainder of the day. It was one of those unforeseen circumstances that came out of nowhere with some (rather embarrassing) consequences to my body. I was in no condition to keep going up after that. Oh the disappointment! Still, more important to me was the fact that I was able to get down safely, and on my own power. I look forward to making another attempt, and I hope to get out with these great people again."

Summit ridge
The team on the summit skyline

Matthew Van Horn:

"A few years ago I wouldn't have dreamed I could take myself to the top of Lone Peak in the winter. All that has changed. I was at a slight disadvantage for this trip, however. I had only a few hours sleep the night before and my body seemed to be running on a low battery up until I got to the last 800 feet of the climb. In that constant internal dialogue I kept asking myself 'how far can I go?' My mantra was a notion from lyricist and percussionist Neil Peart: 'No one gets to their heaven without a fight!' Some highlights for me were seeing Joe and Shelly Bullough in the light of my headlamp early in the morning. It was exactly one year ago to the day that Joe and I climbed the Pfeifferhorn, my first real winter climb. Other highlights were reaching the summit, of course, but also watching everbody else up there doing what so few people around here do. And that cirque--I could have stopped there and had a good day."

GPS track of the trip

Topo map of our routeBy Bruce Christensen

More to be added?

Summit ridgeThe team on the summit skyline

Most of the work is done... except maybe adding to the portrait gallery of the summiters, and possibly more personal comments of the participants.


Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-20 of 26
Dmitry Pruss

Dmitry Pruss - Feb 4, 2008 1:00 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Awesome

Thanks! It looks awesome from the city streets from anywhere in the South end of the valley... but on the trail, you don't get to see the peak in all its glory until you gain almost 5,000 ft :)

Matthew Van Horn

Matthew Van Horn - Feb 4, 2008 11:28 am - Hasn't voted

MOCKBA's work

The trip report for the LPWA turned out to be an exciting account of a terrific day in the mountains. Although I wrote a portion of the report, The credit for the work, including the layout, concept, picture selection and narrative should go to MOCKBA, who is very good at these kinds of things. Can't wait for next year!

Dmitry Pruss

Dmitry Pruss - Feb 4, 2008 3:09 pm - Hasn't voted

You mean, the front page

lists only you as an author? That's a more or less harmless SP bug with co-owned pages. This TR isn't visible on my profile page either. Ain't such a big deal.


maverick - Feb 4, 2008 6:14 pm - Voted 10/10


There looks to be some nice, exposed climbing on that fin. What elevation is the summit at?

Dmitry Pruss

Dmitry Pruss - Feb 4, 2008 7:14 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Sweet

Thanks, it kind of feels even more exposed if you remember that there are several hundred ft tall cliffs further down :)

Compared to Colorado Rockies, Lone Peak isn't that tall at 11,250 ft el, but the trailhead is at 4 thousands and a change!


apachedino - Feb 4, 2008 7:50 pm - Voted 10/10

Front Page!

Looks great you guys, thanks for the awesome day again. I hope we can climb some more peaks this winter. If anyone is interested in The Everest Ridge of Timp contact me I would love to give that a go under good conditions.

Dmitry Pruss

Dmitry Pruss - Feb 5, 2008 12:26 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Front Page!

Shh don't tell anyone ... but I'm pretty much sure that the previous two LPWA's made the front page too :) It is such a beauty of a mountain peak!


AJones - Feb 4, 2008 8:00 pm - Hasn't voted

Good report

and excellent photos - what a beautiful blue bell day!

Dmitry Pruss

Dmitry Pruss - Feb 5, 2008 9:22 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Good report

Thanks! With the blowing snow and strong winds, I wouldn't exactly call it a bluebell. But plenty of sunshine!

Rob Thompson

Rob Thompson - Feb 5, 2008 12:34 am - Voted 10/10


For those of us stuck in the valley a report from “the cirque” is always a welcome treat. Especially nice to read a Lone Peak report that doesn’t chronicle a fiasco. Congratulations on a safe, well planned and successful climb - obviously an amazing team!

Dmitry Pruss

Dmitry Pruss - Feb 5, 2008 12:05 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Inspiring!

Thanks for your nice comment! I checked all the Lone Peak TRs at this side BTW, and none of them are a "fiasco" IMVHO. Some blunders, some tough luck, but always a good adventure!

Rob Thompson

Rob Thompson - Feb 5, 2008 5:44 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: Inspiring!

Well said - Viva adventure!


LonePeakFreak - Feb 5, 2008 10:15 pm - Voted 10/10

Great page!

Nice page fellas. Looks like an awesome trip on my favorite mountain! I saw your plans take place in the forum and I wished I had jumped in. I'll have to try to get more involved with you in the future.

Dmitry Pruss

Dmitry Pruss - Feb 11, 2008 5:05 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Great page!

Thanks! With an avatar name like yours, you gotta get up there 100 times and more, like Grizz :) !


helmut - Feb 6, 2008 6:05 pm - Hasn't voted


Great pictures, awesome work. What does that west face go at? That thing looks like the eiger.

Dmitry Pruss

Dmitry Pruss - Feb 11, 2008 3:02 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: West face?

The most classic line is Open Book, 5.7, 5 pitches, a classic winter FA from the 70s


younkin - Feb 6, 2008 9:12 pm - Hasn't voted

The trip looked great!!

I haven't been to the top of Lone Peak in the winter but years ago I climbed the Open Book Route and it was good Granite and a fun Route. I too have been looking at the Everest Ridge, I am older now and a little slower but I plan to get up it again. I start up Dry Creek, in the 80's I did it in one day with a friend, now though it will take longer. Jim in Springville

Dmitry Pruss

Dmitry Pruss - Feb 12, 2008 1:32 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: The trip looked great!!

Thanks! Aren't these great mountains next door a perfect incentive to get back in shape? Best of luck!


fossana - Feb 7, 2008 6:53 pm - Voted 10/10


Great TR & photos. Love that ridge. Thanks for posting.

Dmitry Pruss

Dmitry Pruss - Feb 12, 2008 1:37 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: nice

Thanks! Yup, the final stretch is always exhilirating. Once I got there with a young indestructible 10 months old pup, and once the sense of exposure sank into her cute furry head, she refused to go back. Like, one time was enough, now you carry me out of here :)

Viewing: 1-20 of 26