Destination: Mount Timpanogos, Utah
Date: July 2013
Sunscreen (spray down before you go, even if its overcast!)
Water filters or drops or whatever you need to purify the mountain spring water
Good hiking shoes with lots of cushion for sharp rocks
Camera for capturing the memories
Walking stick if necessary (I would have enjoyed having one)
Plenty of snacks (its longer than you think!)
When we decided to try and summit Mount Timpanogos it was brought up in casual conversation. We had arrived in Provo, Utah just a few days prior as part of a family reunion at Aspen Grove Family Camp up in Sundance Canyon. Climbing Timpanogos was an option on our itinerary handed out for the week. With the casualness of deciding what to eat for lunch we decided “why not summit Timp?” Little did I know what I was getting myself into.
The sample schedule of the hike said it would take 5-7 hours to summit, with another 3-5 hours for decent. Our group was made up of many athletes in different stages of activity but still all ready to take on the mountain. We did what most people do and shaved off the extra hours and figured it would take us 8 hours to get up and down from that mighty mountain.
We all gathered at 6:30am for a light breakfast. We grabbed two water bottles each for our climb, a sack lunch, and a few snacks and set off on our journey. At first the climb was easy peezy lemon squeezy. We kept kicking ourselves for not bringing some of our younger children. Of course Trent and I had brought Colton and Bailey but with the beautiful views, the easy assent, and the waterfalls we knew our younger kids would have loved the hike.
Bailey set our pace in the front and since she didn’t pack any tennis shoes on our trip she only had her sandal/water shoes, “Chacos”, to climb in. With the paved path we didn’t think this would be a problem. This shows how naive we really were on our climb. We kept stopping at every water fall we saw to take pictures. We would linger for a few minutes for extra breaks as we began the harder climb of traversing back and forth through some of the rock slides that covered the path. We began to get slower and slower and soon realized how quickly we could run out of water.
Trent and I ran out of water first. We were the only ones with our own children on the climb so once Colton and Bailey guzzled down their share ours was the next obvious choice. We continued to climb. We loved the excellent cell service the entire climb and didn’t think twice posting pictures to our social media sights not realizing that we may need to conserve the battery life of our phones in case we had an emergency or even just to locate one another. We were innocent to the harshness of the mountain. We were children living in the Garden of Eden.
Soon we made it to our first snow crossing. From down in the valley we weren’t sure if the big white smear was even snow since we were climbing in the month of July. We thought maybe it was a different limestone that looked white but once we came upon it we knew we had come across the real stuff. Snow in the summer for Texans is like Christmas in July! We threw a few snowballs, took a few pictures, and stopped yet again for another break. My sister-in-laws “G” and “M” were ready to keep going but the rest of us were slowing them down. I’m not sure how they put up with us.
To make a long story shorter we kept climbing. Soon we finally made it to Hidden Lake, we knew we were getting close to Emerald Lake so we kept climbing. When other climbers would pass us on their way down we were naive enough to think they had already summited and so we must be getting close. We learned later that many of these climbers had simply decided it was too far and had turned around on the trail to head back to camp. Not until we arrived at Emerald Lake, four hours into our climb, did we have a talk with some descenders that informed us we still had about two hours to go. We were on track for a six hour climb! Longer than we had anticipated. We stopped at Emerald Lake for our picnic lunch and it was 11:15am. Little did we know the worst was yet to come!
Soon after we reached a snow refuge that we imagined was a snow cone shack in which we could buy some refreshment and maybe a t-shirt. Of course the closer we got we realized our mirage was simply a refuge that was inhabited not by an icee machine but squirrels and other creatures. Our climb continued.
Not long after that we arrived to the snow fields. This is one long area about two football fields in length that is all snow. The snow drift has been there all winter and it drops off a ledge about two hundred feet to a natural bowl in the mountains. The view is amazing the walk is treacherous. Under the snow is jagged rock and so every step has to be made meticulously. Plus the threat of sliding off the drift into the abyss below is quite frightening. Especially for Bailey, who we now learned is terribly afraid of heights and was wearing sandals trudging through the snow.
By now our thirst had overcome us and though we had done a few internet searches on our phones on the consequences of drinking mountain spring water we decided to find the cleanest place where the snow was melting and fill our water bottles. We were ready to risk getting giardia.
Soon after the snow fields we had to make a 500 ft straight up climb to the ridge back of Timp. This is where we met our friends the mountain goats. Something about these wild creatures was inspiring as we watched them teeter on the clifts of this mountain and climb the face that we would never dream of attempting without appropriate repelling gear. Being the summer the new born spring goats were with their mothers and it was amazing to see their agiltiy on the mountain as well.
We called the next part of the climb “The Gates of Moridor” from the Lord of the Rings series. If you’ve seen the movies you can imagine the jagged rocks we had to climb to get to the top. This was the hardest part of the climb for all of us, but especially Bailey. With the jagged slippery rock and the drop off below one faulty step and it could be the last. Getting Bailey to not look down and have “faith in every footstep” took lots of words of encouragement. Where it would have taken most people an hour to climb it took her more than an hour and a half. She was lucky to have her dad right behind her encouraging her every move.
Before we knew it we were there! We had summited Mount Timpagnogos. After six hours and fifteen minutes we were at the top looking over the mountain at Utah Lake on one side and the communities below with the Heber Reservoir on the other. It was a beautiful site. We took a few pictures. Settled to have a little snack on the top of the mountain and let Bailey cry out her tears of joy for having made it. We knew this was the hardest physical activity we had ever accomplished and we had done it together. However at that moment we looked back and realized how grateful we were we hadn’t brought any of our little kids.
Once we left the summit, my sister in laws “G”, “M”, and brother in law “R” along with Colton took off to get down as fast as they could. Trent and I had to stand on each side of Bailey and guide her down the “gate of moridor” down the sheer face with the mountain goats and carefully guide her through the snow fields back to the Emerald Lake side of the mountain. From here on she was fine, relieved, and empowered that she had done it. Six hours later we tromped back into camp. We had tried something hard and accomplished it.
Since then we have been feeling the aches and pains of the climb. Thankfully we haven’t felt any side effects of drinking the water so lucky for us we may have conquered Mount Timpanogos in more ways than one!
Safe and Happy Hikes and Travels!!