Category Archives: Wasatch 11ers

The Beatout (Pfeifferhorn to Bell’s Canyon)

The Beatout
14 miles
5700+’ gain
12 hours car-to-car
Class 3

The Beatout is a Wasatch Mountain Club classic ridge traverse – known for being one of the longest, toughest hikes typically done in the Wasatch.

I started in Red Pine with a WMC group at around 7:20 AM on Saturday. We made decent time to the lake (~1 hr) and then proceeded up the headwall to Pfeifferhorn ridge.

Red Pine Lake

At this point, I took a slightly higher line than the use trail and bagged Little Pfeifferhorn. Good views from here with little effort.

Pfeifferhorn’s NE face from Little Pfeifferhorn

Soon we reached the (in)famous Knife Edge approaching Pfeifferhorn’s East Ridge.

The Knife Edge
Scrambling the knife edge (really not that bad)

We topped out and started down the opposite ridge to continue the Beatout towards the unnamed peak west of Pfeifferhorn (UPWOP Peak).

Summit shot on Pfeifferhorn
Heading down Pfeifferhorn
Pfeifferhorn’s imposing West Face

The views of Pfeifferhorn are outstanding from this part of the ridge – a unique side of the mountain not visible from anyplace else. Next we reached the summit of Upwop and continued down the other side to Chipman Peak.

Chipman Peak

This part of the trip was the most challenging scramble of the day – some boulders are stacked up precariously so be on the lookout, but in general the rock is excellent in quality and the scrambling is fun. The exposure can largely be avoided.

Lightning Ridge

From here Lightning Ridge forms the remainder of the route to South Thunder mountain. It looks worse than it is, but it sure is impressive.

Looking back towards Upwop
Scrambling toward Chipman
Scrambling toward Chipman
Higher up on Chipman

The next landmark is the saddle between Chipman and Lightning ridge. We dropped packs and made the quick run to bag Chipman.

South side of Lightning Ridge from the Chipman saddle
Pano from the summit of Chipman. Box Elder and Timpanogos behind. (Click to expand)
Looking back at Pfeifferhorn and Upwop from the summit of Chipman

We picked up our packs and continued along the crest of Lightning ridge, generally staying on the south side to avoid the worst of the exposure. This was my favorite part of the hike. The views are outstanding, the rock solid, and the scrambling a blast.

Hole in the ridge crest (click to expand)
Messing around on Lightning Ridge
A little bit of exposure in places….

We continued along the ridge, dropping a bit further down to the south to avoid some cliff bands around the South Thunder saddle. The scrambling continued its excellent quality.

Lightning Ridge
Lightning Ridge is spectacular
Cool obelisk

Before reaching South Thunder, we were surprised to see a bunch of mountain goats with the purest white coat I’ve ever seen.

Adult goat
Goat family
How do I get down?
Jumping down
South Thunder mountain

We walked the remaining few hundred feet up to the summit of South Thunder. It was cool to revisit this peak as my last Wasatch hike – it was also my first!

South Thunder take 2
South Thunder pano (click to expand)
East Face of Lone Peak
Descending South Thunder

At this point, we began the descent and I was starting to get tired. It was a couple thousand feet of granite slabs to the grassy field above the reservoir, then a bit of a bushwhack down to the reservoir itself.

View of the reservoir from up high
Hanging valley above the reservoir
Upper Bell’s reservoir

After reaching the reservoir I thought I was home free. Ohhhh no. There are still 4-5 miles and thousands of feet of elevation left to lose all the way down to the car. Never has the valley looked so close yet been so far away…

Upper Bell’s Falls

Maybe 1/3 of the way down the trail we side-hiked to the upper falls which were nice. I was pretty beat though so I was ready to head all the way down. The trail is steep and rocky – wouldn’t be a problem but after 11 hours of hiking it was pretty brutal.

We arrived back at the car at around 7:00 – just under 12 hours car-to-car. Not a fast pace, but we got down before dark which is all I was looking for.

Lone Peak

Lone Peak
12.5 miles RT
5650′ gain
Class 3
3:40 up

Simon and I climbed Lone Peak today via the Jacob’s Ladder route from Draper, UT. It was a cloudy and unsettled morning as we set out, raining for the first few minutes of the hike and then on-and-off during the day. We weren’t sure we would summit but we gave it a shot.

I’ll be honest, the Jacobs Ladder trail is not a “fun” hike. The trail is pretty darn ugly. The first part climbs slowly out of the trailhead with scrub oak and dry dirt surrounding.

Low on the Jacob’s Ladder trail
My standard for “good views” is spoiled by Utah. This is pretty nice.

After that, it only got worse. The trail climbs basically straight up in loose dirt and scrub with few views to speak of, gaining thousands of feet over a couple of miles. Eventually we broke out onto Draper Ridge, strolled through a pine forest, and things got nicer.

Breaking out onto Draper Ridge
Lone Peak Cirque in view
Cool sunbeams
Good campsite in the forest

There was another boulder field and a bunch more elevation gain, and eventually we entered Lone Pine Cirque. The route here is completely off trail, marked by cairns.

Entering Lone Pine Cirque

The granite cliffs are spectacular – like something out of the Canadian Rockies. Amazing crack and chimney climbing can be found here.

Lone Peak Cirque (click to expand)

We crossed the granite bowl following the cairns and gained the ridge via a well-trod gully.

Gaining the ridge
View of the cirque from the low spot on the ridge

The ridge is not too steep or knife-edge until right next to the summit, so it was pretty much a boulder hop following the cairns and some use trails until the short section of real scrambling.

Boulder hopping on prime Alpine Ridge granite
Summit in all its glory with raindrop on the lens

The scrambling was definitely not as hard as advertised. Some sites were saying that it was a Class 4 scramble; that’s a joke. It was straightforward except for one awkward boulder. The exposure is not as bad in my mind as the knife edge on Pfeifferhorn or the east ridge of American Fork Twins.

Nearing the summit

The summit, on the other hand, is spectacularly exposed on three sides. More on this later.

Simon on the summit
Oh yes

The clouds meant disappointing views but I was able to see parts of the Wasatch in literally a new light. Also, the lack of sun meant it wasn’t 100 degrees which was a plus.

South panorama (click to expand)
Awesome view of SLC
Utah Lake
Excellent climbing routes
Alpine Ridge (click to expand)
Draper and West Jordan
Exposure into Bell’s Canyon

Back to the exposure issue. At this time I asked my buddy to take a photo of me on a particularly exposed ledge. I casually handed over the camera but you could say that we fumbled the snap. The camera goes tumbling over the edge, bouncing at least two times and shooting out of sight. I was positive that it had fallen down 600 feet to the bottom of the cliff face. Simon pointed out that it was sitting on a ledge about 10 feet below the summit. I climbed down to retrieve it, made an awkward chimney move to get back up, and the screen was dead. But I noticed signs of life – the lens seemed to be focusing and the shutter still made noise. I took a few photos on the way down and it managed to get good exposure and focus! The thing is a tank.

Post mortem

Simon and I had an uneventful trip down, getting back to the car less than 7 hours after leaving. It was a great hike, in a scenic spot, but the difficulty didn’t live up to all the hype in my opinion. I would love to do a winter summit attempt at some point.

Mt. Timpanogos

Mt. Timpanogos via Timpooneke Trail
14.2 miles RT
4650′ gain
3:15 up
Class 2

Mt. Timpanogos is the king of the southern Wasatch range, rising high over Lehi and Provo, UT. The area is a wilderness, yet the summit lies within clear sight of probably a million people and an interstate highway.

My college friend Nick and I headed up the Timpooneke trail early on a Saturday morning. The parking lot was recently expanded so even on our July weekend there was plenty of space.

Low on the trail

We saw a nice mule deer about a mile in, then continued to climb through the lower canyons and benches through the next few miles. The views of the Wasatch Alpine Ridge to the south were amazing. There is a lot of water low on the trail this time of year.

Scout Falls
False summit over one of the lower benches
South down the lower canyon

Soon we caught sight of the true summit as we neared the Timpanogos Basin, about 4.5 miles in.

First sight of the true summit
Timpanogos basin. Wow. (Click to expand)

Views in the basin were stunning. Wildflowers stole the show from the rugged alpine scenery. A flat walk across the basin gets you to the ridge hike but we were in no hurry.

That’s nice
Bomber Peak and the hike to the ridge from the basin
Timpanogos’s NE face

After the meadow hike, switchbacks bring the trail to the ridge on rocky terrain.

Looking back down into the basin
Nearing the end of the switchbacks

At this point, the trail reaches a saddle and the town below is visible. There is still a mile and several hundred vertical feet to go.

Timp’s West side (click to expand)
Final bit of the trail

After hiking some gnarly looking steep switchbacks we summited after 3:15 hiking

Summit shot with the Alpine ridge in the background
East summit pano (click to expand)
Alpine ridge from the summit (click to expand)
Emerald Lake
South towards Nebo on a hazy day

The summit was not too crowded considering it was a prime summer weekend! We stayed and ate for a bit then headed down, where we found more people. I guess we were just fast?

Upper slopes from the summit
Basin from upper switchbacks
Basin panorama (click to expand)

I cannot get over how outstanding the wildflowers were in the basin. Go now.

Lower basin trail
The Sound of Music was shot here in Utah. Or so I like to think
Sad to leave

Not a lot of shots from the lower trail. It seems a lot longer on the way down than on the way up for some reason. My La Sportiva Thunder hiking boots also completely exploded on the way down which was a sad day. I am planning on replacing them with two pairs of footwear: a pair of trail running shoes for summer and mountaineering boots for winter/spring snow hikes. Hopefully that will work better and will be a more survivable solution than my do-it-all heavy boots.This is probably the best hike in the area for people who are not looking to do anything technical or scary. Highly recommended, especially when the wildflowers are in bloom.

Mt. Nebo

Mt. Nebo
9.5 miles round trip
3,870′ gain
2:20 up

Mt. Nebo is the highest point in the Wasatch Mountains and generally marks the southern extent of the range. Located between Payson and Nephi UT, the trailhead for Mt. Nebo’s north ridge is almost 2 hours away from downtown SLC by car. Luckily, the scenic drive around Mt. Nebo is worthy as a destination in itself, so I didn’t mind.

I hit the trail around 8:20 AM and hiked through an open meadow with cattle fence bordering to the left. The flat bench is splendid, with flowers everywhere among the sage and a great view of Mt. Nebo to the northwest.

Trail through the sage
Mt. Nebo from the Nebo Bench Trail

The vegetation on this trail was unlike most other places in Utah that I’ve hiked. It felt more lush; I’m sure this area must get more snow and rain than most other areas in Utah although it lies on the border of the west desert.

Lush hills and valleys in Nebo’s shadow
Mt. Nebo vista

The true summit soon drops out of view but a great vista of the North Peak is visible soon after. The trail then climbs up a grassy gully until reaching the north ridge of Nebo. To the immediate south is North Peak. I took a quick break here to fix my boots and a hummingbird snuck up behind me – the buzz of its wings startled me before I turned around and saw it fly away to some flower. Very cool.

The trail contours around to the East. I chose to hike North Peak since it was only a couple hundred feet of extra gain, but it’s way more efficient to tag it heading south than returning from Nebo.

On the east side of the first saddle
North Peak and Nebo Ridge

North Peak, at 11,100′, counts on the Eleveners List for some because it has a prominent gap to the saddle with Nebo, but I count it as a subsidiary of Nebo. It’s not the most exciting peak, but there are good views of Nebo itself so it’s worth the easy trip. I descended down the gentle scree slope back to Wolf Pass to begin the main ascent.

Wolf Pass

South of the pass, the climber’s trail is obvious as it winds through the vegetation on the hillside. Top-notch wildflowers can be found here along with a million bees. Soon a false summit is reached before beginning the final “knife edge” traverse to the true summit.

Nebo summit block

Here, the “trail” becomes indistinct. You cannot go wrong by sticking exactly to the top of the ridge.

The terrain falls steeply away to the East and West – here is Hellhole Basin

The scrambling at this point is mostly easy class 2 with an occasional sketchy class 3 step on loose rock. Please be cautious!

Final summit scramble on the scree

After a bit more scrambling I was on top of the highest point in the Wasatch Mountains with amazing views in every direction on this particularly clear day. It only took me 2:20 time including breaks to summit which was a great pace for me.

West and South panorama
Eastern view across the hills
Loafer Peak, Santaquin Peak, and Timp behind
Summit shot to the North
West Desert view all the way to Nevada
The central Wasatch: Alpine ridge, Timpanogos, Provo Peak from left to right
Looking down the north ridge
North Panorama

On the way down I caught sight of some mountain goats!

Goats on the hillside
Mountain goats
Looking back at the north ridge

On the way down I took my time to enjoy the wildflowers in bloom

And all too soon I was back at the car. Mt. Nebo brought back great memories of being at Philmont in northern New Mexico – the alpine meadow at the saddle with flowers, sage, and blue skies reminded me of Mt. Baldy. I would be happy to revisit this one in the fall for a different set of colors.

Bullion Divide

Bullion Divide
5 hours total
8.5 miles

The Bullion Divide is the high-altitude ridge run from Alta Ski Resort to White Pine Canyon. My coworker Tyler and I elected to take on an abbreviated version on Saturday due to expected showers and storms in the early afternoon. The route summits 6 named peaks over 11,000′: (in order) Sugar Loaf Peak, Mount Baldy, Hidden Peak, American Fork Twin Peaks (E and W), and Red Top. Three of those are prominent enough to make my Wasatch Eleveners list.

Alta to Sugar Loaf Peak

Sugar Loaf Peak
1.42 miles

Sugar Loaf Peak is a breeze. We were on top in way less than an hour after leaving the Secret Lake trailhead. It winds around the west side of the lake up to the ridgeline, then a couple hundred feet more to the top.

Secret Lake and Sugar Loaf Peak
Summit of Sugar Loaf Peak. Bullion Divide is the ridge going from the right edge to center along the bald high peaks

Sugar Loaf Peak to Mt. Baldy

Mt. Baldy
0.95 miles

The next segment of the trail follows a use trail down the shallow slope of Sugar Loaf, and up the moderate shoulder of Mt. Baldy. This was a quick segment with a scenic meadow at the saddle with a good view of Twin Peaks

American Fork Twins from Baldy Saddle

Mt. Baldy to Hidden Peak

Hidden Peak*
1 mile

This is the easiest and least-scenic section of the trail, since you see the ugly Snowbird Aerial Tram station on top of Hidden Peak. Hidden Peak would have a  nice view but there is a huge concrete structure and a bunch of cat tracks everywhere. We ran into a bunch of hikers walking downhill from the tram stop. We passed through without stopping to bother to take a picture. Clouds were starting to roll in at this point so we were moving efficiently.

Clouds starting to roll in on the twins

Hidden Peak to American Fork Twin Peaks

American Fork Twin Peaks
1.1 miles
Exposed Class 3 scramble

Now we are talking! After Hidden Peak, we scrambled along the knife-edge ridge to the base of the East ridge of American Fork Twin Peaks East. To our left was a long drop off into Mary Ellen Gulch, and Peruvian Gulch was to the right. This is not a place you want to slip and fall but the rock was solid and the scrambling straightforward. Not recommended in the rain, the rock would be slippery.

Looking back at Sugar Loaf, Baldy, and Hidden Peak

The ridge gains almost 900′ passing through quartzite, then this black band, and finally light-colored scree and talus. Finally, after half an hour or so, we reached the East Twin’s summit ridge.

From the summit of East Twin

It was quiet, peaceful, and beautiful up here, in contrast to experience I had on some of the more exposed summits like White Baldy or Pfeifferhorn which were windy and cold. We looked around for a bit before hiking over to West Twin for the summit shots.

East Twin from the summit of West
Cottonwood Ridge to the North
Pfeifferhorn and Lone Peak to the West
Great view of Box Elder Peak
AF Twins summit shot with Timpanogos in the background

I believe AF Twins is the only mountain from which you can see every other Wasatch Elevener (Provo Peak may be the exception but I think that was what I was looking at). We took in the sights for a bit longer and moved on to Red Top.

Red Top barely counts since it is not very prominent at all from West Twin; however, it blocks the view into White Pine Canyon so we headed over to take some more photos.

Looking back at both American Fork Twins
Summit of Red Top
Great panorama to the South and West
Snowbird and the descent ridge


3.8 miles

We headed down soon after to avoid the afternoon thunderstorms, starting down Red Top’s North Ridge on the standard Gad Valley route. The way down was tedious boulder hopping but the views were good.

AF West Twin – impressive geology
Great wildflowers!
Epic Pfeifferhorn shot

We reached the top of Gad 2 lift thinking we’d be walking downhill on grass on the Bassackwards ski run. Bad call. It was a giant boulderfield all the way down past the Little Cloud chair.

Giant boulder fields
Waterfall in Snowbird boundary

By about 1pm we were back at the Snowbird parking lot ready to make the car shuttle again. It’s a great way to get a bunch of high peaks all at once, but the highlight of the trip was definitely the scramble up American Fork Twins. Snowbird’s expansion plans call for building another stupid tram all the way to the top, so hike it while you can.