Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Lone Peak Cirque: A Perfect 10

I was lucky enough to spend the past two days backpacking and rock climbing up high in the Wasatch Mountains at Lone Peak Cirque. The place is spectacular! And getting there will kick your butt. There's no way around it, you pay the price to reach Lone Peak, but once you're there, it's worth it.
My friend Kelley Paasch (above on the approach hiking through the first Hammongog) and I climbed two different routes on the gray alpine granite walls that rise around the cirque. First, we climbed the Lowe Route (5.8) on the Question Mark Wall and then the next day tackled the Middle Route (5.9) on Tom's Thumb, a 500 foot tower that climbs up the very heart of the Lone Peak's South Summit. The climbing was stellar and the views from on top of the walls were almost equally impressive. Can't say I've climbed better routes...anywhere.

The camping was awesome as well. This is one camp spot that earns a perfect 10 for scenery in my eyes. A soft green meadow surrounded by stark, soaring walls rimmed with lingering snowfields. Little yellow wildflowers added a touch of color to the lush meadow floor and pikas squeaked from beneath the car-sized boulders.

This is one of those spots I'd rather not write-up for fear that too many people knowing about it might wreck its solitary, isolated character. But as Kelley and I decided after our second climb, the place is just too hard to get to ever get really crowded. There are three different trails to reach Lone Peak Cirque and they're all brutal. We took the route up from Alpine, which is a climber's trail if I've ever seen one. Straight up for about 5,000 vertical feet. Lone Peak Cirque's elevation is 10,412 feet and the parking area in the town of Alpine is about 4,951 feet. So be ready to get a workout.

There's lots more info about the cirque in Stuart and Bret Ruckman's Rock Climbing the Wasatch Range. You can also find details about Lone Peak, climbing routes, approach info, etc online at Mountain Project.

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