I’ve been climbing mountains in northern Utah since moving here in 2001. Early on I had my sights set on Mt Timpanogos and quickly dispatched it with friend Steve Bohman. Since that time I have climbed the mountain via either the Timpooneke or Aspen Grove trails more than 15 times. Every ascent represents something special to me and holds its own place in my heart. I had heard then, so many years ago, about a west facing ridge that provided direct access to the summit ridge from the south. Its name foreboding, Everest Ridge represented a goal I thought at the limits of my own abilities. But as time passed and my skills honed, in both technical ability and endurance, I felt ready to make an ascent on the route.
Everest Ridge was so named because a party from Utah in 1992 used this ridge as a training grounds in preparation for their attempt on Mt Everest. The ridge, in Winter, has a similar angle and obstacles preceding the summit to that of Mt Everest, allowing for mountaineers to learn and hone skills critical for success on bigger mountains.
The time for readiness was several years ago and yet no opportunity presented itself. The thought of doing it was suggested on several occasions; however something else always took priority. Until March 17, 2015 when Scott and I firmly settled on tackling this behemoth of a ridge – 6700 of vertical ascent in just 4.5 miles via a technically challenging ridge covered in loose scree, cliff bands, and spring snowpack. Prepared with hiking crampons, mountaineering axe, and few provisions, we set off at 4am to jokes and banter. The weather would be perfect and we expected the same of snow conditions up high.
The first nearly 3 miles from Dry Canyon climb 2800 vertical feet on perfect Wasatch trails to Big Baldy saddle. We only encountered snow just before the saddle and it was hard enough from the night before that we only broke through a couple of times. Once at the saddle we broke from the main trail and headed east through the trees. The snow was not quit as settled and we forced ourselves through intermittent post-holing before making the west aspect of the ridge and a very steep incline through waist deep brush. We knew some bushwhacking would be involved and we weren’t disappointed. The next half mile of ridge climbed nearly 1000 ft as we made our way through brush and over cliff bands. In most cases the cliff bands were avoidable, but Scott and I were out for an adventure and opted to climb through them.
The brush faded to shale and the ridge became more exposed. The normally loose, rocky slope was held firm by the spring thaw and we moved quickly to the technical ridge at 10,200 ft. Here the rounded ridge significantly narrowed and forced us to scramble over a technical traverse. We had been fortunate to completely avoid snow to this point, something we did not expect. But as the technical ridge gave way back to a rounded face we were presented with an unavoidable snow crossing until we came to the base of The Step, a technical cliffband that could either be climbed over or around. We found the snow to be hard enough to not break through, but soft enough to kick steps and avoid putting on our crampons.
At 11,000 ft The Step presents a formidable foe. Depending on conditions most climbers decide whether to make a direct ascent of the 4th class cliff or traverse the open faced slope to the south. Both present their own risks – the cliff full of loose rock and technical scrambling, the face with 2000 vertical ft of bullet hard snow that would not offer a happy ending if one were to fall and unable to self-arrest. We chose the direct cliffband, not because we were scared of the snow traverse, but simply because it looked fun.
I took an absolute direct line requiring about 15 ft of 5th class climbing up an exposed arête. From above I was able to film Scott taking the same line. We then scrambled through loose, but easy terrain to another short vertical face with large holds before meeting up with a hikers trail that would eventually meet up with the main trail to the summit.
Once on the summit ridge we found it easier to stay on the direct ridge instead of the trail as it was covered in snow and harder to travel on. The ridge only presented snow a few times, one spot in particular quite exposed and unnerving. After several careful steps through this section we made it to the last open section and made it to the summit in a casual 4 hours and 10 minutes from the car. It was cold and windy on top and we didn’t stay long, just long enough to snap a few photos and shoot some video.
The return trip along the ridge was equally as challenging but we dispatched it without incident. While we had some concerns earlier about retracing our route down The Step, we found that we had no problems. Instead of downclimbing the 5th class arête, we opted for the normal 4th class ascent/descent and found it to be simple. Conditions had been perfect all day; little snow and firm ground. When snow crossings presented themselves the snow had softened just enough to allow us to slide on our shoes. Before making it to the saddle however, while Scott was glissading, I chose to slide on my feet, lost my footing and went down. I started sliding out of control, then my foot caught and flipped me into a somersault, then another one before sliding again. With luck I was able to grab a random branch from a bush and stop myself before sliding another 100 feet into the bushes below. Other than a few scraps I had no injuries and laughed off the event.
Once back at the saddle we stripped down to as little as possible as it had gotten quite warm and we ran the remaining 3 miles out to the car, finishing in a total round trip time 6 hours and 35 minutes. This would go down as one of my favorite days spent on Timp. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner in Scott as we spent the day laughing and enjoying the beautiful landscape the mountain had to offer. With this initial goal out of the way I plan to return again in hopes of moving even faster. It is a beautiful route with potential for a ton of fun.