Four summit fever; an epic adventure in Utah.
I hike on a regular basis. I am addicted to it. The air, the trees, the rocks, that feeling of accomplishment and witnessing the wonderful creations of the world all combine to continually bring me back to the mountains.
It’s almost spiritual.
In hiking I find myself and in the mountains I experience true joy.
Looking back on my first trip to High Uintas in North Eastern Utah in 2014, it was here that my deep passion was ignited.
It was the first injection of the drug I became an addiction for; outdoor adventure.
|Long lake, Uintas.|
During that summer and fall, I clocked up over 300 miles of hiking that boasted thousands of vertical metres and met some amazing people in the process!
Mark and Ambrose were two really strong and lightning-fast hikers that were rad and super positive but most importantly, they had a burning passion for the mountains that rivaled my own.
We hadn't known each other long before we planned the most epic of all hiking trips throughout the Wasatch Range, Utah.
It was a classic cool fall morning in Alpine Utah, even fresher considering it was 6am and the sun hadn't quite yet peered over the horizon. Leaves half way through their colour shift, ensured the morning hike through the valley was going to be beautiful.
|Utah Valley on the ascent.|
Lake Hardy, an alpine lake just shy of 10,000 feet (3040m) was our first milestone and sat 4500 feet (1370m) of vertical from the trailhead. During the climb, the skies brightened as the morning sun rose around 8700 feet (2651m). Here is a shot from a granite boulder as the morning sun lifts over the Wasatch Mountain Range.
Amidst the Lake Hardy basin area, the terrain flattened out to provide some much needed relief after the heart thumping vertical.
At around 9:20 am in the morning, and the stoke keeps us moving as we approached the first gem of the hike. Lake Hardy was a truly spectacular sight!
Eager to move on to the much larger tasks at hand, we decided not to spend much time here. Massive quartz monzonite boulder fields lay ahead of us before reaching the summit of South Thunder. So, we continue.
|Mark assessing the best route up the towering quartz monzonite boulders|
|Don't look down!|
We overcome the first set of obstacles, now comes some new views and the vertical/semi-vertical boulder field we used to ascend South Thunder.
At around 10,600 ft (3,230m), the final push was in our sights and about 500 feet would take us to the first peak. We all separated and ascended at our own rates. Foot work is the key in situations like these as these boulders are unsteady and known to move, we also didn't want anyone feeling rushed.
It's tough, the early start and huge vertical is trying to slow me down but summit fever keeps me going; rewarded by staggering views all around!
|The bearded man reigns, Lone Peak in the distance.|
Big Horn was our next target which required us to descend down to around 10,400 ft (3,169m) to hike along the ridge.
|Mark feeling like king of the world on a spire.|
|Big Horn towers over the valley.|
Every hiker and climber knows that it is not easy losing elevation only to re gain it soon after. Despite the mental and physical challenging, we were en route to ascend Bighorn (10,877ft/3315m).
It’s about mid day now, energy levels running low despite that ever empowering feeling of standing a top a mountain. This time, Big Horn peak after climbing it's rocky face for about two hours. We all knew that the most trying section of the whole hike was next, the descent. Euphoria quickly evades as as reality comes back in as we begin to lose elevation rapidly on the way to South Lone Peak at 11,244ft (3,427m).
|We spot a mountain goat from the Summit of Big Horn.|
Descending the Bighorn ridge, geography quickly changes as the granite becomes more broken and the drop offs become far more daunting and cliff-like.
In search of stable footholds the group works together to negotiate the steep granite faces.
At times having to bypass the impassable ridge-line, and climb on the backside, blanketed in an icy, slippery snow cover. With safety in mind, we spent the better part of an hour descending the peak.
|Super high above the Utah Valley below.|
|Another cliff out as Mark spots for Ambrose.|
|Teamwork is the key to success on any outdoor adventure.|
|Big Horn in all it's glory and the knife edge of the exposed ridge line we came down.|
Inner strength was summoned as the sun edged closer to the western horizon and the brutal climb of the notorious Lone Peak Massif awaited us.
|The view back at Big Horn from our new ascent.|
|The long slope of South Lone Peak.|
Grit, determination, encouragement and a sweat soaked 30 minutes sees us standing atop it's towering peak.
|South Lone Peak summit view.|
Collectively, we decide we are gonna hit up the true summit as well. This was the cherry on top, peak number four in our incredibly challenging and rewarding adventure.
Lone peak is rarely summited via the route we took.
We drop our packs off at South Lone and traversed the connecting knife edge. We are traversing giant boulders covered in icy snow, with an 800 foot drop to our left (lone peak headwall, famous for its world-class technical climbing opportunities); this is NOT the place to make an error!
We cleared our minds, and continued.
|A lone hiker atop the Lone Peak monolith.|
|Over the boulders once again.|
|South Lone and it's mighty head wall.|
|The summit view into the Salt Lake Valley from Lone Peak.|
Summit reached at 5:03 pm - that's a solid 11 hours of hiking! I couldn’t have been happier, the views were astonishing and it was an all round perfect fall day in Utah.
The summit of lone peak @ 11,253ft (3,340m) is like none other in the Wasatch, as you walk out onto the summit, you are surrounded by 800+ foot vertical walls, and the slab of granite you stand upon is about 7 feet at its widest.
|Admiring our achievements and the incredible vista.|
|This is why you don't want to screw up!|
When it was all done, we got back to our cars at around 9pm. 15 hours of strenuous hiking, 4 major peaks, and 16 miles covered; yeah, you could say we were pretty tired!
I was sore for a few days straight!
This hike was unforgettable. It was an experience in which I learned, and grew.
I would like to encourage readers to get out and explore! Go see what you can find around the city in which you live! Sure, it isn’t for everyone, but you can always find out! The great outdoors are calling; will you be there to answer?
- Tanner Maxwell
Tanner has been bagging peaks since 2014 and loves hiking, camping, backpacking and sharing his journey through a deep passion for nature and incredible landscape photography.