Back in June I swapped out the flat desert expanse of Las Vegas for the jagged mountains of Salt Lake City, and this move has taken my hiking to a whole new level.
The mountains here are big, steep, and often times exposed – terrain that is much more challenging than I’m used to. But rather than be intimidated, I decided to use my summer to bag some peaks, build more confidence, and improve my lung capacity while I’m at it.
One peak I’d had my eye on is Mt. Timpanogos, the second tallest peak in the Wasatch Range at 11,752 feet. A ton of Salt Lake locals had told me that this was one of their favorite hikes in the region, and since the locals normally know best, this one was at the top of my list.
Late July is prime time in Salt Lake’s high mountain country. The snow has melted and the wildflowers are in full-bloom – a perfect reason to head for the hills. So on the last weekend of the month, my friend Calah and I made a plan to backpack up to Timpanogos Basin, camp, and then hit the summit for sunrise.
In total, we would be hiking about 15 miles round trip and gaining just under 4,500 feet in elevation…no easy feat with our loaded packs. However, Calah and I have been hiking regularly together, so we were feeling confident, and our excitement for those summit views were all we needed to get ourselves up the trail.
We set off from the parking lot on the Timpooneke Trail around noon on that Saturday and arrived at Emerald Lake around 4:30. We found a nice secluded site to set up camp and still had plenty of time to explore our surroundings. First we hit the lake and felt lucky to encounter a family of mountain goats with two cute little babies. Turns out they are super common up there, as we saw dozens the next day.
Then back at camp, we chilled out to some music, whipped up some homemade veggie curry, and sipped on our flask of locally distilled High West Rye. We decided to call it a night early so we’d be well-rested for our 4:30am wake up call, but not before playing a few ultra-competitive rounds of a dice game called Farkel.
At 4:30, the alarm buzzed…we rolled out of our sleeping bags, grabbed our daypacks, and set off in the dark with our headlamps. The first section of trail leading to the saddle was not well defined, taking us through a big boulder field. Then it got steeper, leading us up to the saddle. With the sun approaching the horizon, we waited there until the sun emerged. And a glorious sunrise it was.
Then we made the final 700 foot ascent to the summit, and as the air got thinner the views just got better. Once on the summit, we hung out for an hour or so, taking lots of pictures, and basking in that heavenly mountain light.
The way back down to camp and the car was harder than the way up. It was hot, we were exhausted, and our knees were getting shaky. Our spirits started to sink, and at that point, there was only one thing to do. Bust out the tunes.
With my FUGOO multi-mount, I hooked my speaker to the outside of my pack and put on some 70s disco jams. Not wanting to disrupt anyone else’s wilderness experience we were careful to mute the music when we encountered anyone – a small price to pay to be able to groove our way down the hill. All of a sudden we went from being two slow and semi-grumpy gals to completely crushing it. Ah, the power of music.
A couple hours later, we finally made it back to the car feeling so stoked about our accomplishments. Until now, I’ve never been much of a peak bagger. But I’m finding myself falling hard for these mountains and the fantastic feeling I get when I’m standing on top of them. So now I just have to decide…which one’s next?
Kristen Bor is the author of the outdoor travel blog Bearfoot Theory where she shares her adventures around the west and works to inspire people to spend more time outdoors. Visit her site and follow along on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/bearfoottheory), Instagram (https://instagram.com/bearfoottheory/), and Twitter (https://twitter.com/Bearfoottheory).