Mt. Timp via Everest Ridge Route
(Video at the bottom of this post)
All winter I have been dreaming about climbing Mt. Timp via Everest Ridge Route (as proof check out this post on 12/3/14 when I outlined my plan). Well, if you haven’t heard the west coast, including Utah, didn’t ever really have a winter. Sure we had some snow, but the West facing Everest Ridge Route never really shaped up. There was, for a short time (two weeks) adequate snow coverage, but other commitments kept me off the mountain and I assumed we would get more snow, but snow never came.
So as the snowless weeks passed I watched the route turn from minimal snow coverage to no snow coverage. It was depressing watching winter melt before February even came, and the warmth of February felt more like spring sun of May.
Finally I decided I had had enough, I wanted to climb Mt. Timp via the Everest Ridge Route. A couple weeks ago I realized I would have President’s Day off from work so I figured it was as good a time as any. I called up my buddy Josh and asked if he wanted to join in, he of course said yes and also brought along his buddy, Charles. The plan was to shoot up and back as quickly as possible wearing mostly running attire to pack light and make time on the scree.
We met at the parking lot at 5am, Monday morning ready to take on Mt. Timp via Everest Ridge Route. Charles was wearing shorts and Vibram Five Fingers, apparently Josh has simply said we would be running Timp and he dressed based on that information. Charles is a downright trouper and was ready to go nonetheless. So we departed and made good time up Dry Canyon.
Pretty soon we had reached the saddle between Big Baldy and the Everest Ridge of Timp. Here the climbing steepened drastically. Upwards we went through small patches of snow until the sun started lighting the sky with warm hues of red and orange. We were now about even with Big Baldy, around 8,000 ft leaving us another 3,000 vertical feet or so to the summit. The climbing was non-technical and easy despite the extreme steepness, scree and occasional snow fields. However, things changed once we hit “The Step.”
I had read about The Step, a rich band just below the summit ridge of class 4 scrambling. The rock is very very fragile and exposed. The original plan for our “winter” climb was to traverse the step. However, because we had decided on running shoes we had not brought along crampons and ice axes to make the traverse which was still covered in snow. This was the first mistake.
We had underestimated The Step entirely. It is not technical climbing, but it is definitely a class 4 scramble. Through in the crumbling rock and it gets a bit hairy. Here our ascent time was cut immensely. Progress nearly halted as we slowly picked our way up the rock band watching rocks knocked free roll down the steep snowy face to the right of the ridge unhindered for thousands of feet. This was the first part of the climb that felt intimidating and scary.
Just as we reached the top of the step we noticed some clouds beginning to come in, but they looked unthreatening. We continued the last hundred vertical feet or so to the summit ridge and began nonchalantly making our way across the summit ridge. The summit hut was in and out of sight between the gathering clouds, just about 100 vertical feet higher than our current position on the summit ridge. We were excited at the prospect of reaching the summit proper, but were already worried about the descent through The Step.
The goal was within reach, but the ridge turned super sketch as we proceeded across the knife edge summit ridge on snow and crumbling rock. By this time the snow and clouds had gathered and we could no longer see the summit proper. We stopped to talk it through. We could continue on into the unknown and try and make our way down the Aspen Grove trail and hitchhike down the canyon back home, or turn around and go back the way we came. We sat in the cold, wind and snow talking through the options. The snow was not helping and seeing any distance had become an issue, we had limited traction on the snowy and razor thin ridge in our running shoes, and Charles’ toes had long ago lost feeling; things we were all worried about. We said a quick prayer then decided to forgo the last slight climb to the summit proper.
I turned and headed down the way we came, slowly picking our way back down The Step. About an hour later we had made it down the step and exhaustion finally hit us. Our nerves from being on constant alert had finally calmed and we were left tired and somewhat loopy as we continued down the Everest Ridge towards our vehicles.
We made it back safe and sound and happy to be at the trailhead once again. This was a climb none of us were eager to repeat anytime soon.
In the coming days it was very apparent Charles had developed frostbite on his toes and feet. He went to the doctor and was treated for his frozen toes, but he assures me that there shouldn’t be any permanent damage, outside of numbness for a number of months to years. That kid is a trooper!