Trip Report: Full Moon Timpanogos Traverse
By Ben White
Once again, a full moon with a good forecast lined up for a great adventure. The previous full moon jaunt in June left us grinning as we skied until our eyelids closed of their own volition. This September, Kyle and I decided to bark at the moon on a classic Wasatch mountain. A couple of weekends in planning, but none with the right forecast, we set our sights on traversing across the ridge of Mt. Timpanogos. I had been to the north summit in the winter to ski Cold Fusion with Steve in April, and Kyle, Riley, Justin and I had been skiing on the glacier above Emerald Lake in June. The whole ridge beckoned to us, and we set out. This would be Kyle’s biggest hike, here are his thoughts on how he felt before heading out:
“My biggest thought was if I was going to bonk out or not. While I thought the distance wasn’t too big of a concern it was doing that distance overnight that I was most concerned about”
At 7:00pm, Kyle and I double knotted our shoes and set out from the Timpooneke campground parking lot on the north side of the mountain. Following the same route that Steve and I had taken in April to go skiing, we reached the base of the Cold Fusion couloir and began our ascent. There is no trail in any direction to the North Summit, so it was a steep bushwhack in the dark. Before we rounded the corner to enter the couloir, we saw the harvest moon. It had just risen, as orange as the pumpkins that would soon be turned into pie. Three thousand vertical feet of ascent in less than a mile began with parting branches of aspen trees out of our way, followed by scrambling up loose scree that slid away under every step. As we got onto the ridge between the false summit and the North Summit, the magnificence of the night set in. The lights of Provo to our right and the near emptiness of the Wasatch to our left all under the soft light of the moon were amazing. A low in the 40’s that night was good reason to put on our KÜHL men’s jackets, so we did and had a snack. At this point, I turned off my headlamp.
The ridge rambled up and down and sometimes flat. Kyle and I both felt the energy of the mountain and the moon and cruised along. Walking quickly and sometimes running with the wind buffeting our faces from the west, it felt both effortless and very adventurous. The well traveled trail to the true summit follows the ridge for a short while and felt like a wheelchair ramp once we met up with it. We reached the hut at the summit at 2:00 AM and decided to sit out of the wind and have a snack. A nap was in order, and something bearing a small resemblance to sleep happened for the next hour. Wind whipped through the cracks in the small shelter and the coldest part of the night was upon us, and movement was a warm and welcome thought.
We followed the ridge down to the saddle where the glacier tops out and scrambled up the last uphill portion of the hike to the south summit. We went back down to the top of the glacier and remarked at how much snow had melted, as well as how excited we were for ski season.
Two and a half months prior, the glacier was mostly snow with avoidable rocks peppered in. Walking down the frozen mass proved to be mostly rocks with avoidable (and very slippery) ice. A smattering of headlamps was visible, and we found a plethora of tents set up all over the mountain near the trail. Many groups of people had come up to camp under the moon, and a large amount of them were hiking the trail to the ridge to watch the sunrise. This was about 5:00 AM, and Kyle and I decided that a nice grassy looking area was a prime spot to lay down in and nap. An hour later, we woke up cold, with the very first light from the sun turning the horizon orange.
Kyle noted that the sunlight would be far harsher on our eyes than the soft light the full moon had cast over us for the past eleven hours, punctuated only by headlamp when necessary. We had been on the mountain for a while and were tired, but there was no rush at all to get to the end of the trail. Following it down the mountain, zig-zagging through the numerous switch backs as the sun crested over the horizon and bathed Aspen Grove in light, we talked about how wild it was to be on such an exposed ridge for such a nice amount of time. The stoke was high and Kyle felt the same way.
“I was super psyched at the end of the trip. I still felt pretty good, and the time we finished in was a lot faster than I thought it would happen. But mostly I was happy that the first car we saw was so nice and picked us up right away. Subaru owners, specifically Outback owners, are almost always awesome”
We only had one car between the two of us, and that was seven miles away, uphill, by road. Our plan was to hitch-hike back, and as luck would have it, we found a ride with some friendly people as soon as our shoes hit the pavement as Kyle mentioned. They asked what we had done, and we told them. Another great adventure came to an end as we put on fresh shirts and flip-flops and headed home.