Lone Peak

In the beginning, before Ben moved to Arizona, the High Adventure Coalition planned an activity nearly every full moon.  These activities ranged from a simple canyon campfire to a bonfire and campout on the ice of Deer Creek Reservoir.  When Ben drove up to Utah on the HAC's second anniversary in September, he, Shaun and Shaleah decided to do something better than average - climb Lone Peak (11,253').  The adventure turned out a lot better - and worse - than anticipated.

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Shaleah and Ben wake up at base camp in the second Hamomgog

We left Friday night, hiked a few miles, and camped in the Second Hamongog (meadow) above Alpine, Utah. When the rain began falling around 5:00 a.m., we all piled onto one tarp and pulled the other over us for shelter. The rain stopped around 10:00, and we got a late start to the Lone Peak Cirque. After a long, steep hike and lunch on a grassy patch inside the cirque, we headed for the wall.

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Shaun and Shaleah in front of Lone Peak

The peak had been shrouded in clouds off and on all day long. The clouds had grown darker, the wind stronger, and Shaun began having doubts about the wisdom of climbing Open Book that day, a 5-pitch 5.7 leading to the summit.  Ben wanted to climb it anyway, Shaleah was all up for it, and when the weather improved momentarily, Shaun capitulated. Besides, no short routes in the cirque looked nearly as fun.  We'll call this questionable judgment number one.

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Shaun Belays Ben up the first pitch

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Shaleah boulder-hops through the cirque

We scrambled a couple hundred feet to the begining of the first pitch and Ben took the first lead. The friction on solid granite was fair but the placements not initially bombproof and Ben moved carefully.  Shaun followed and trailed a static line that Shaleah half climbed, half ascended once fixed at the belay ledge (if you could call that bulge a ledge). Most of the afternoon had now passed.

Shaun took the second lead up a wonderful pitch of perfectly vertical 5.7. Cracks were plentiful and easy to protect and the pitch went quickly. But since the climbing rope was longer than the static line, Ben was forced to stop a bit short when following to fix Shaleah's line. The sun was dropping ever-closer to the horizon and the guys thought it wise for Shaun to go ahead and lead another pitch while waiting for Sha.

The entire route was stunning, following a perfect dihedral with slightly flared cracks on the face to the right.  To the left, the arÍte was a perfectly straight vertical line with very few weaknesses (cracks or features to climb on). (See more photos from our second trip up this route)

The third pitch was also great. Stepping out onto the "bear hug" (double jam - parrallel cracks) from under a roof was a bit scary, but there was no choice but to continue - the sun had dropped down to four fingers from the horizon (15 minutes per finger) and we still had two pitches left to climb. By running it out (15-40' without protection sometimes), Shaun was able to finish both pitches using only the gear he was carrying.

At the base of the fourth pitch, Shaun set up a belay with his last three cams flared or shallow cracks, just before a brief slab leading into a tall chute that drops from the summit block.  Though less than perfectly comfortable with the pro and less than perfectly comfortable sitting where the mountain all fell away nearly straight down for almost a thousand feet to the cirque floor, he still managed to fall asleep briefly three times while waiting for Ben and Shaleah to arrive. 

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Shaun approaches the final belay ledge

By the time they arrived, darkness had fallen. We finished our water there (not bringing more: questionable judgment number two). The full moon had just risen and begun to shine on the next pitch. Ben took our only headlamp (beyond questionable now, this was poor judgment, our inexperience or overconfidence showing plainly now) and climbed to a comfortable ledge only 25' shy of the summit block. To save time, he also trailed the static line, and Sha and Shaun went up together.   The holds and placements were solid, and someone had apparently taken a fall on a #10 stopper, because Shaun worked at it for perhaps five minutes before Ben told him that it was fixed and not ours.
The stopper is probably still there, near one of the most fun moves on the entire route, below a five-foot overhang near the final belay ledge. Underclings and lie-backs get you over it, and it's well protected by a piton. Shaleah went first, Shaun climbed past the now-crowded ledge, over some rotten but easy ledges, up a slot, through a small tunnel, and onto the summit block. It was 2:30 a.m.

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Shaun and Ben on the Summit Block at 2:30 a.m. with the full moon in the background

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Sort of out of the wind: summit camp @ 11,200'

Once we had all gained the summit, we started searching for the way down. The summit is surrounded by enormous boulders and cliffs, and even in the moonlight, we couldn't find a way down that we felt comfortable with. Instead, Shaun found a small space out of the wind, mostly, where we camped and waited for morning (Good Judgment Number One). We had only shorts, t-shirts, and shells for clothing (Poor Judgment Number Four), so we used the rope bag tarp and two American flags found on the summit for blankets (it's a grand old flag!). The ropes kept us off the cold granite below us, and we should have packed some between Ben and the rock wall he slept against.  We shivered most of the night away at 11,200', but numb toes warmed up once out of our tight climbing shoes and we survived.

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Sha Hikes toward Lone Peak South Summit with Timpanogos North Summit in the background

In the morning, we downclimbed a few steep thousand feet into Bells Canyon (which drains into the Salt Lake Valley just south of Little Cottonwood - Poor Judgment Number 5 - there are far easier routes down), glisaded down a glacier (PJ#6 - no axes to arrest in case we slid too fast, but we must have guaged it okay because we didn't), drank from its runoff, then crossed half a mile of moraine, boulder hopping to the shoulder that led back south. Rain and wind picked up again here, making it feel like winter and occasionally persuading us to take shelter below the larger boulders to wait out the worst parts of the storm. We climbed a ridge and crossed it one drainage west of Lake Hardy (we were hoping to find the lake, knowing it would be right around there).


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Shaleah  scrambles down to Bell Canyon, with the cirque visible at top right

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Shaun makes his way through pines over a cliff with Bells Canyon in background

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Ben glisades into Bells Canyon


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Shaleah kicks up some snow on her way down

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Lake Hardy

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Ben smiles for the camera

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A pile of clothes

Once we realized we had come down too far west for Lake Hardy, we discussed whether to hike over to it on our way back. Shaleah, though an extremely tough girl, was tired from our long ordeal and voted for skipping the extra hiking. Ben and Shaun capitulated and started down, eventually finding the faint trail heading west.

After a few hundred yards, however, Ben asked to borrow the camera "to take a pictures of a little stream over there."   Shaun handed it to him and didn't see Ben for several hours afterward. Shaun & Sha headed back to camp, completely losing the faint trail along the way, doing plenty of thick bushwhacking, but finding our way almost straight back to camp anyway. The day had finally grown warm and we unrolled our tarps and bags and slept for several hours until Ben showed up.  We then hiked the few miles to the car and got home at 11:00 p.m.

"Were you ever worried up there?" Shaun later asked Shaleah, who had only been climbing six times (questionable judgment number 7?).  "I knew you could get us out of anything," she replied (questionable but flattering judgment #8).

When the pictures were developed, these three were among them. A lake, a smile, a pile of clothes. It doesn't take a Sherlock Holmes to figure out what really happened.

The moral to this adventure? Live it up, but live a little smarter than we used to be.

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