I was able to knock off my first Wasatch 11’er today with the Wasatch Mountain Club! Conditions were absolutely perfect and I enjoyed the group.South Thunder Mountain 11,154′ 5000′ gain 11 miles RT 5 hours up, 3.5 down
I met up with the group of 3 other hikers at 4:45 to carpool to the trailhead – we hit the trail from Alpine at 5:30am in order to ensure that snow conditions were ideal. It was great hiking the warmer lower section of the trail before the sun came out. We ascended through two open meadows called the “hamongogs” and gained a couple thousand feet of elevation before opening up into alpine terrain.
The view back at Utah Lake and the cities below was spectacular in the morning:
Soon we found ourselves cresting a ridge to the south before cutting across flatter terrain off-trail, away from Lake Hardy to avoid losing elevation. A landmark for exiting the bowl is this “beak” of a rock on the ridge, beyond which lies a great view of the south Wasatch including Timpanogos.
Here we hit perfect, consolidated snow interspersed by rocks. We continued the gentle climb through alpine terrain between Upper Bell’s Peak and Chipman Peak, and our objective finally came in to view.
The early start paid off – instead of slushy snow, we encountered hard, supportable crust perfect for kicking steps. We hiked into the snowy bowl below the south face of the peak, ascended to the saddle point on the east ridge, and scrambled up the face to the summit. We stayed just south of the ridge as we climbed over the largely stable boulders.
There was amazingly little wind on the summit – a perfect day. The view from the top was outstanding, since South Thunder sits right in the middle of a large expanse of high peaks, bordered by the low valley to the West and the rest of the Wasatch to the south.
The descent was fairly straightforward – downclimbing the boulder field, then snowshoeing the softened snow slope all the way back down to dry rock.
We cruised down the mountain to the first Hamongog, but took a wrong turn on the road walk down to the trailhead which cost us half an hour. We were back at the car before 3pm.
It was a great trip, with a fun crew and excellent conditions.