Mt. Olympus (Solo)

Mt. Olympus
5/12/13
9026′
4200′ gain
Class 3
2:07′ to summit, 4:00′ RT
 

Having only climbed 2,200′ of a planned 3,700′ yesterday in the aborted attempt on Pfeifferhorn, my legs had enough left for another hike this weekend: Mt. Olympus. The hike is 4,200′ of elevation gain with a short Class 3 scramble at the top. It forms the Western terminus of Wildcat Ridge and looks directly out over all of the Salt Lake Valley. It is the most prominent peak visible from Salt Lake City.

Mt. Olympus’s imposing north face as seen from Grandeur Peak

I set off, solo, from the Mt. Olympus trailhead at 6:45 in order to beat the rush and avoid the afternoon heat (forecasts called for unseasonably warm weather this weekend). The first part of the hike was unremarkable; some good views but the switchbacks kept the vertical rise fairly gradual. The trail is fairly rocky, which provides good tread for steeper sections.

Early morning view of Cottonwood Ridge
Shadow cast over the valley

The trail above Blister Hill was covered with mud and running water – I elected to use trekking poles here to make my ascent more efficient. I reached the saddle about 1:45′ after leaving  the trailhead. There was some rapidly melting snow at the saddle but it will be gone in a week or two.

“Blister Hill” – about a million switchbacks

I got a bit off route in the middle of the scramble, which was problematic due to moisture from melting snow above making the rock very slick. I had to be very deliberate to get myself out of a particularly steep section, but I made it to the top  and had the summit to myself! I enjoyed my typical mountain breakfast of a bagel with nutella and peanut butter. There was some snow on the summit but plenty of dry rock to sit on.

The Class 3 scramble from the bottom
Summit panorama

On the descent, I made sure to look for a less steep route to descent the slick quartzite. I also made sure to dry my boots whenever possible in the dust to get better grip. It was much easier on the way down.

Summit shot
Little Cottonwood Ridge
Alpine Ridge (including Pfeifferhorn)
View of downtown SLC
Requisite self timer shot
Twin Peaks (on my list for later this summer)

I ran into dozens of people with zero water on the way down and was glad to have started so early because it was getting HOT. I basically ran down the rest of the mountain because I was tired of being in the heat and I wanted to break 4:00′ trip (barely made it). And then drove 15 minutes to my house. I love Utah.

Lower trail. Would not want to do this at mid day in the summer.
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Pfeifferhorn (fail)

On Saturday, I joined members of the Wasatch Mountain Club for a snow climb of the Pfeifferhorn, an 11,326′ peak in the Alpine ridge south of Little Cottonwood Canyon.

We approached through Red Pine, starting at around 8:30. Snow covered the trail almost all the way to the parking lot. That would have been fine, except that it was a particularly hot day. The snow became very sloppy, making for slow going, and it took us almost 4 hours just to get to Red Pine Lake. All of us post holed up to our knees repeatedly.

Lower Red Pine Lake

Once there, we had lunch and noticed all the recent wet slide activity on the steeper ridges. This did not bode well for finishing the climb, since we would be traveling on avalanche-prone steep slopes.

Wet slide activity on Pfeiff north ridge

We tried walking around Red Pine Lake to see if the snow would get firmer up high. Almost right away, we noticed that there were at least three distinct soft layers with crusts in between.  Acknowledging that we had started too late in the day to proceed safely, we turned back. This turned out to be a good decision – another group descending from the peak set off a small wet avalanche later in the day. On the trail back to White Pine, we felt a “whoomph” of the snow settling – not a good sign! I was happy that we turned around.

Wet slides close to the trail (!). Looked scarily recent

The rest of the hike was scenic and easy. From the Red Pine trail there were great views of the canyon and the valley below.

The route to Pfeifferhorn from Red Pine
LCC from the Red Pine trail

Grandeur Peak

My first full day in town, I made a quick run up Grandeur Peak, which is located less than 15 minutes from downtown SLC. It’s the first peak on the Mill Creek Ridge. I took the West Slopes route. It is steep, gaining more than 3,200 feet in less than 3 miles.

Low on the ridge

The lower part of the trail is extremely steep and fairly loose for a heavily-used trail. It basically directly ascends the main West ridge with very few switchbacks. Higher on the mountain, the terrain becomes rockier which actually helped with footing.

High on the mountain

Some snow was present high on the mountain. It was a bit windy at the top but nothing too unusual for an exposed ridge. The sun made it very comfortable.

First summit of the year!

The view of the city and the lake was quite amazing for a peak so accessible. It took me 1:30′ ascending and another 40′ to descend.

View of the Salt Lake valley from the summit

Life Elevated

My name is Ben and I’m a master’s student at the University of Michigan. This summer, I’ve temporarily relocated to Salt Lake City, Utah for an internship opportunity. I’ll be here until mid-August, and this blog is an attempt to capture and share my summer experiences.

Summit of Grandeur Peak

I used to really enjoy sharing my outdoor photos and stories on local outdoor communities (nwhikers being particularly excellent last summer), but there isn’t one central forum for hiking and climbing trip reports in Utah. Many of the entries on this site will consist of photos and narratives from outdoor adventures in the local Wasatch range and beyond.