Sunday, October 17, 2010

Birthday Week Continues--Timp View...

i've been wanting to get up Mount Timpanogos for a while now; probably for as long as since the the first time i hiked and ran  up and down it about 12 years ago with my buddy Karl.  it's a beautiful route to one of Utah's highest peaks, at 11,749 ft.  Timpanogos is named after a perhaps fabricated fable of a Native American Princess, lying in repose after learning of the death of her lover.  the mountain itself does resemble a sleeping Indian, with a little imagination.

last weekend i went running with my friend Sue in the foothills above Salt Lake City and we talked for quite a while about how i was going back and forth on whether or not to run the Pony Express 100 out in the west desert the next week or not.  we finally came to the conclusion that:  1) if a seed of doubt exists about whether to do a race or not, it's best not to do the race and 2) i have been feeling better with every run that i've gone on since being injured, so i'd like to continue on that positive trend, and not muck anything up by attempting another 100 right now.

so we made the plan to go up and down Timp on Friday, the day of the Pony Express 100.  we started out early, probably because i was recalling the crowds that are present during the summer and especially on weekends up on the Timpanooke trail.  but it was a Friday morning in mid-October, so there were actually fewer than a dozen cars in the parking lot and only a couple of people prepping to go up the trail.

we took a couple of obligatory trailhead photos, and i dallied inside the car against the warmth of the seats while Sue got her running shoes on (it was about 40 degrees at the trailhead at 8am).  we started up the trail and promptly passed a couple of groups of people.  wow, the weather was perfect and the light was just starting to hit the high peaks.  the hills were golden as the grasses and aspen leaves were adorned in their autumn colors.  the air was crisp and magical.  we got to the upper basin and saw several tents nestled into a cozy depression and thought to ourselves, what a perfect place to camp.

as we got up higher on the mountain, the sun started to warm us, and we made our way up to the saddle.  as we popped over the saddle, the city below that had been blocked from our view by the ascent, clearly came into view and it felt as though you could reach out and touch it; although it was a good 5,000 feet below us.  i thought to myself, if this hillside were covered in snow, what an amazing descent on skis it would be (until you reached the choke at the bottom... )  we happened upon a group of young adults who were huddled and cold on the windy pass, taking a break.  they were unsure if they would attain the summit today, and we gave them some words of encouragement that they needed to stay positive and push on to the top, because only a lucky few have been granted this opportunity to enjoy the beauty of this mountain.  (indeed, they heeded our sage advise and were headed up to the summit as we were on our way down... )

just a few more minutes of climbing up through the rocky section and we would soon be at the peak.  Sue and i chatted the entire way, and picked our way through the rocks up, and up even running for a while at 11,000 feet.  we got to the small shelter on the top, and the summit was surprisingly warm, probably about 60 degrees.  the route across the rocky spine to the snowfield descent (more like an ice patch at this time of year) suddenly did not look very appealing to me.  i had been trying to talk Sue into going the alternate route out the spine and down the snowfield, and as i gazed upon the route that might be taken, my legs got shaky and an adrenaline rush sent electrical charges through them; an affliction that i like to call "jimmy-legs".

we stood on the summit for a few minutes taking in all of the peaks and ranges around us: we were at 11,749 feet above sea level.  we commented on the fact that we were the first ones to ascend the peak that day.  then we took some pictures and a short video and resolved to go down same the way we had come up.

part-way down from the saddle, we decided to take a small diversion in the route.  there was an alternate trail that went through a scree field under the cliffs and through the upper basin.  it looked quite inviting so we decided to take it.  once we got on it, we realized that it was quite steep and after encountering another group of hikers who were coming up the trail, we both slid and landed on our butts:  me first and Sue 30 seconds later (i blame the momentary loss of concentration as i acknowledged the other hikers coming up the trail... ) i landed pretty hard on one cheek, and realized that i had put a hole in my tights.  later when i got home, i realized that i had not only put a hole in my clothing, but also gouged a good amount of skin and bruised myself pretty remarkably.

after cruising down the majority of the trail at a comfortable jog, we came across an older couple, Ralph and Annie, who had both lost their spouses several years ago, but found each other.  never having been hikers, they found this love for hiking after meeting each other.  they were unsure if they would make the summit that day, but we all agreed that hiking in the beautiful mountains in the company of a good friend was the highest reward a person could ever hope to have, and far beat out sitting in the valley and eating donuts at home.

Sue and i got back to the car, and started to head home, only stopping to get Pringles and drinks at the mega-Smith's grocery store in American Fork.  what a day, what a day...  Princess Timpanogos shared her magic with us for a day and we felt so fortunate that she had chosen to do so.

if you would like to retrace our route, click here and after the page loads, click on the "play" icon in the upper left corner of the screen.

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