9 miles round trip
2:40 up, 2:10 down
6:10 car to car
I had a failed attempt on Pfeifferhorn in May so I was excited to revisit it. Pfeifferhorn looms large over the Alpine ridge, and it has been visible from every one of the Wasatch 11er’s I’ve climbed so far. It’s the highest point on the lower half of the ridge, rising about 400′ from the either saddle.
I headed out from the parking lot on my own but there were lots of people all along the trail. I pushed hard on the hike to Red Pine Lake, reaching the lake in just over an hour after starting out at 6:30. I really wanted to beat the heat. The morning light was beautiful reflected in Lower Red Pine Lake.
The route finding to reach the ridge was pretty straight forward and I made good time. No snow was a problem on this hike – there were a couple of patches but nothing notable. Soon enough I had gained the ridge and an alpine meadow was beginning to bloom. The southern Wasatch peaks were very prominently visible.
After a few minutes traversing the grassy bench, I reached a “knife edge” ridge that required some scrambling but nothing too difficult.
Once past the scramble, it was 15 minutes and another 400 feet to go to the summit which was uneventful and snow-free.
The summit area is very cool! It’s exposed to the north and west but rounded to the south and east with some rocks to stand on for photo ops. I signed the summit register and took in the views. Pfeifferhorn is one of the best summit views in the Wasatch due to its central location and prominence above its neighbors.
After enjoying the summit for around 40 minutes, I headed back down with some other hikers. The scramble was a breeze and I was back at upper Red Pine Lake in no time. It looked like a great place to lounge – I was in no hurry to return to 105 degree temps in the valley – so I found some shade and took a nap.
After chilling for a while I headed all the way down to the car. From the top of Pfeifferhorn, at a very leisurely pace, it took me 2:10 to get down, not including a couple very long breaks.
Next up on the list of Wasatch 11’ers is Provo Peak, which I hiked on Saturday with Simon and Tyler (who also did Deseret Peak with me weeks ago).
Provo Peak is part of the southern Wasatch range, hidden behind Y Mountain and the BYU campus. It is overshadowed by the taller and more visible Mt. Timpanogos and Mt. Nebo, so it is not visited nearly as often. The West Ridge route is the most common and shortest approach so that is what we chose. The last 3 miles of the approach road require a 4×4, which we did not have access to, so we parked the car at the Rock Canyon Campground and opted to ride mountain bikes up the extra 1300 feet vertical to the trailhead, which added some fun to the hike.
It was supposed to be extremely hot in the valley so we got an early start on the drive and hit the trail around 7am. The beginning of the route is an ATV trail, which we rode partway, then stashed the bikes and started straight up the ridge on a use trail.
The trail cuts through brushy slopes and aspen. The wildflowers are fully in bloom and there is quite a variety of species. Soon the brush ends and there is no shade. We started to get very warm without all the evaporative cooling from the plants as we hit a steep section of talus.
We topped out in less than two hours and enjoyed the summit views – which were unique compared to some of the more alpine peaks. Provo Peak lies among lush valleys and not many people see them.
Descent was uneventful but hot. The MTB ride down the trail was a blast but beat the heck out of our hands – it is very rocky and fast.
This Saturday, I wanted to hike something where lots of people would be around, since my usual hiking buddy had other plans and I would be flying solo. I settled for heading up LCC to Alta, where I figured lots of hikers would be taking advantage of the perfect weather. I ended up summitting 5 named peaks over 10,000′, including one more off the Wasatch 11’ers list.
Mt. Superior / Monte Cristo Peak
Mt. Superior – 11,040′
Monte Cristo Peak – 11,132′
Vertical gain: 2700′
3:58 car-to-car including about an hour of summit lounging
Monte Cristo Peak rises tall above Snowbird ski resort, and its sub-peak Mt. Superior (without enough prominence to count in the 11’ers list) is impressive looking from Alta. Some people climb the south ridge of Mt. Superior as a technical climb, which looks like a blast. Today I tackled the normal hiking route.
I started from the trailhead just past “Our Lady of the Snows” church and headed up to Cardiff Pass, which I had visited about a month earlier. I reached the pass in about 45 minutes and continued west along the use trail.
There were great views along the entire ridge run, in particular, to the North looking into Big Cottonwood Canyon. This is a big area for backcountry skiing because of the steep but not cliffy terrain.
After a while, the trail got steeper. There were a couple Class 3 spots but the moves were secure and the exposure to the south can be largely avoided if you stay on route.
Some rock on the ridge can be a bit loose but in general it is pretty good if you pay attention.
After just an hour and a half, I was on top of Mt. Superior! I took a couple shots, then took off down the ridge since I planned on eating breakfast on top of Monte Cristo, the real high point.
Getting to Monte Cristo took 10 minutes or so. It’s a walk. Breakfast time!
I chilled on the summit for quite a while and wanted to check whether my emergency phone would actually work, so I called up my dad and said hello. The views from the top were among the best I’ve seen since I have been in Utah, which is saying something. I think hands-down this is the coolest view of the lake (over the top of Mt. Olympus and the Wildcat Ridge). The sun was rising, it was a bit chilly, and I was loving all of it.
Eventually I finished my food and turned back. The scramble down was easier since the trail was easier to find.
I am not sure why, but skiers were all over the place today. More power to them.
On the way back to Cardiff Pass, I took a right turn instead of a left and ended up a few hundred yards southwest of the pass on steep but manageable scree slopes. If you hate loose rock and sidehilling (I hate both of those things) make sure you do not repeat this.
By this time it was only about 10:15. What to do now? I looked at my map, and noticed how close I was to Mt. Wolverine… and being a Michigan alum, the opportunity was too much to ignore. I used the Twin Lakes Pass route, which starts at the same trailhead as Cardiff Pass but heads east instead of northwest, along a nicely graded Jeep trail. I cruised the 3 miles to the pass in about an hour, stopping to chat with a fellow hiker, Greg? who suggested that I make a loop out of it by traversing over the top of Mt. Wolverine and descending the Albion Pass road into the Alta ski area. That sounded good to me!
The route to the top of Mt. Wolverine is an obvious use trail through the boulder field above Twin Lakes Pass – you can’t miss it.
At the top of the ridge is a small false-summit, called “Patsy Marley Peak” by the skiers, which provides a great view of the rest of the Wolverine ridge.
There is an impressive cirque (bowl) beneath Mt. Wolverine which avalanches repeatedly each winter.
Admittedly, I wouldn’t have gone out of my way to climb this one except for the Michigan connection, but the cool part about the summit view is that you are looking straight down Little Cottonwood towards Salt Lake City. There is also a nice set of rocks on the summit that make a nice wind shelter. I laid in the sun for about half an hour eating a sandwich and warming up before continuing along the ridge.
Next on the agenda was Mt. Tuscarora, which is a minor bump on the ridge south to Catherine Pass. Unremarkable except for a nice view of Sunset Peak, the final objective for the day.
I reached the pass about 15 minutes after leaving the top of Mt. Wolverine, and immediately climbed up the other side the 300′ required to reach the top of Sunset Peak. This is one of the most accessible peaks in the Wasatch, with a maintained trail and not much elevation gain from the Albion Basin summer road.
Sunset Peak was packed full of hikers but had some good views. Prepare for some big panoramas.
Another cool thing about Sunset Peak is that it sits on the divide of Alta Ski Resort in Little Cottonwood, and Brighton in Big Cottonwood, and you can get to it from either side or do the traverse.
I descended quickly from Sunset Peak back to Catherine Pass, then headed back to the car via Albion Basin, an alpine meadow above Alta Ski Resort. I’m glad I made a loop of the trip because this is definitely a more scenic route than the way I ascended.
The other nice thing about Albion Basin is that once the summer road opens (July 4 or so) you can drive a normal car up very high and avoid a lot of the elevation gain. I saw lots of families on this section of the hike.
I was trying to beat 4 hours for the loop, so I booked it down the ski hill, avoiding the long road walk in favor of some moderate ski runs which made a fine trail. There is sort of a gorge you need to avoid by heading right and picking up the snowcat track near the maintenance lot at the bottom. Walked about 1/4 mile along the pavement back to my car, and the day was done. 5 named peaks over 10,000′, and a great hike through some beautiful scenery.
After our traverse of the La Sal range on Saturday, we had all afternoon to kill so we headed over to Arches National Park for a taste of one of Utah’s most unique places. Not much to say about the park, the photos can speak for themselves.
Canyoneering – Morning Glory Arch
On Sunday morning, Simon and I met up with Red River Adventures for a half-day canyoneering, half-day rafting trip to get a taste of Moab. I’d highly recommend working with Red River, we had a great time. Most of my pics are from the canyon trip. The rafting was fun but since the water level was high, many of the rapids were fairly tame. It was great to escape the heat by jumping into the river though.
Off-trail Distance: ~7 miles
Vertical gain: 4000′
6:30′ car to car
12,000′ peaks summited: 4
Mt. Peale – 12,721′
Mt. Tukuhnikivatz – 12,482′
North Tuk – 12,048′
Since Simon and I had planned to hit Moab this weekend, I figured we could spend one day high in the La Sal mountains. Inspired by a SummitPost log, we planned an epic day traverse of the Middle La Sal range including all the highest peaks in the area.
The plan was this: camp in Gold Basin on Friday night, get up early, and hike up the north ridge of Tuk. Then, traverse along a sort of circular ridge to hit Mt. Peale, the highest in the range, and catch Mt. Mellenthin on the way back to the car. We expected that the ridge run would probably take 6-8 hours.
The drive to Moab was uneventful until Green River, when we saw a whole bunch of smoke in front of the La Sals! This was not in the plan! We were pretty bummed until we got to Moab and found out the true location of the fire. By now, the wind had shifted to the West so the smoke was heading south around the alpine area we were headed to. We decided to give it a shot anyway.
We camped in the last site along the road to Gold Basin, and it was very lovely except for a few mosquitoes that went away with spray. The stars late at night when the moon set were amazing.
The next day, we got up and hit the trail by just before 6am. The starting boulderfield was loose and kind of a pain but not dangerous.
After gaining almost 2000′ in less than two miles, we hit the ridge and cruised up to North Tuk. Up here the open alpine terrain is inspiring. It’s easy movement, easy navigation, and great views 100% of the time.
We summited Mt. Tukuhnikivatz about 2:30′ after starting from the trailhead. It was windy but not unpleasantly cold on top, and we stopped for a quick bite before hustling down the east ridge to the Razor Fang.
Tuk is the westernmost peak in the La Sals and has unobstructed views of the desert to the west.
The ridge down to the eastern saddle should have been easy but I got complacent, slipped on a steep section of talus, and sliced my hand up a little. It will be a cool scar in a couple of weeks.
The crux of the route is a 2 or 3 hundred foot section of rotten rock scrambling called the “Razor Fang.” I brought a helmet for this section since it had the reputation for raining down rock chunks on people.
It was very loose, but the exposure was not as bad as I was expecting. There is one borderline class 3/4 move exposed to the south with terrible holds, but with careful selection a few solid rock chunks may be found. Just be careful not to drop some on your partner. Don’t go too far to the north, it looked very jagged and exposed and the route goes at Class 3 by selecting a middle line. The section made me nervous (I like solid rock thank you) but Simon really enjoyed it. Just don’t bring an 8 year old or a dog or something.
After the Razor Fang, we had around 900′ vertical to regain to get to the highest summit on our list, Mt. Peale. Mt. Peale is an “ultraprominence” peak, meaning it rises several thousand feet above the desert below. Its North Face looks impressive from the ridge and we were excited to get on top.
The wind started to pick up as we wound our way along the open ridge. Soon, we were getting pelted with graupel. This is usually an indicator of storm activity so we knew we needed to hustle to get off of Peale.
Finally, we stood on top of Mt. Peale, about 4:30 after leaving the trailhead. We snapped a few photos, threw on our puffy jackets, and got ready to hustle back to the car before the storms roll in.
Looking south, we could see the evidence of the forest fire, leaving a thick haze of smoke which obscured the view in that direction.
I broke my altitude record for the second time that day, and it will stand at 12,721 for the foreseeable future (potentially hitting a Colorado 14’er on the way home in August).
The cloud continued to look questionable and more were building to the West, so we decided to cut the day short and agree to bypass Mt. Mellenthin on the way back down. We had already hit our two highest priority objectives so Mell would have been a pointless slog. We were also feeling the altitude, having slept at 10k’ and spend the whole day above 12k’.
The ridge back to Mell was routine but we enjoyed the sights and downhill trend.
We skipped climbing Mt. Laurel and contoured around to its NW ridge. Here we stopped for a rest since the sights were grand – the colors changed and signs of life started to appear.
We were happy to get below treeline by about 11:50, 6 hours after starting from the trail head. After half an hour of bushwhacking down the correct gully, we came out 100 yards from the car in this nice meadow where we camped.
We were excited to have spent the whole morning off trail but it was a grueling pace and we were happy to be off our feet in the car for the drive back. We were in Moab by about 1pm and ready to hit Arches National Park. Another post to come soon!