Timpanogos, Emerald Lake, and Hidden Lakes Cirques.

It’s been a good spring so far. Last year, I spent my spring training for a triathlon, and I broke my toe after a biking accident. I still got out, but it seriously limited my abilities. It’s nice to be back at full speed for this year. As customary the past couple years, I try and get into the Timpanogos basin as early as I can stomach it. I hiked up to the first and second falls a couple of weeks ago, and the snow still looked pretty serious, despite the very warm temperatures. I waited (patiently?) for a couple more weeks before it was time to check it out.

I always prefer to camp up there, catch a sunset and sunrise, then come down, instead of the traditional day trip. Yields much nicer to some photographs. I also picked up a straggler named Alex to carry my stove and pump my water. He wanted to do some photography as well, so I figured the more the merrier.

We met at Aspen Grove around 5:15, with plans to camp in Hidden Lakes Cirque that night. We set a reasonable pace to start, but unfortunately we both got sidetracked a couple of times to take some pictures. I didn’t really care, so long as we were at camp by sundown.

The snow starts right as the trail comes back into Primrose Cirque, about a mile or so above the first and second falls. The first few fields were a fifty or so yards across, and easily negotiated. After that, the trail is pretty much under snow pack the rest of the way. I have been on the trail a handful of times, so I wasn’t too worried about the routefinding. Alex, on the other hand, had never been on high altitude snow fields before, and didn’t like the looks of the remaining climb.

The sun was setting, and the clouds were starting to get some nice color. I was now in a hurry, trying to get to the saddle in time for the sunset. Alex had fallen behind, not really confident he was cut out for the task at hand. I crested the saddle just as the clouds went into full color display, and secretly hoped Alex would make it up with out much more prodding. I photographed for the next 15 minutes, and then went back to check on him. He was only a hundred vertical feet from the summit, but not looking too pleased with it all.


The view from Hidden Lakes, looking west. I wish I had more time to compose some images, but the light was fleeting, and this is all I came up with. One of the best sunsets I’ve seen in awhile.

Well, we set up camp by headlamp, and melted some snow for drinking water and hot dinner. The temperature dropped quickly, and I imagine it would soon be below freezing. Alex had enough, and retreated to bed, while I played around with some moonlight, only to be quickly overtaken by the cold winds.

The next day began to dawn around 5:15, and there was not a cloud in the sky. I peeked out the tent door, and felt less than motivated. I’m not really a fan of cloudless sunrises, especially when it is 30 degrees outside. I tugged my down bag up over my head and tried to ignore the coming sunrise. After 15 minutes of mental battle, I decided a sunrise is a sunrise, and it was time to get up.


The view from the tent, as sunrise approaches.

My original plan was to be on top of Robert’s Horn as the sun crested, but I gave up that idea when Alex decided he wouldn’t be accompanying me. Flying solo, I opted for a little later start. I’ve summited Timpanogos a few times, but never the Horn, but I knew the Horn would have a killer view for sunrise, as the low angle light would flood the basins with a nice warm glow. Sure enough, the basin lit up nicely. But my late start relegated me to a snowfield when the first beams of light finally crested the horizon.

Sunrise on the way to Robert’s Horn. Too bad I mucked up this scene with my footprints, otherwise it’d have made a nice image.

The climb from the shelter to the Horn is pretty straightforward, and fairly easy. The snow was almost completely gone from the ridge, and there is only 600 vertical feet left to pick up. I was pushed along nicely by some strong gusts of wind, and made the top within the hour. Snow conditions were fantastic, still about knee deep, but consolidated and smooth. Much better than rough boulder hopping. As I had imagined, the views are fantastic in all directions, but particularly into Timp Basin on the north, and Primrose and Hidden Lakes cirques to the south. I photographed for a while, and said hello to my fellow climbing mate for the day; a nice mountain goat. He said hello, and quickly made his way out of view, so I did the same.

The view from the top of Robert’s Horn. Deer Creek is to the far left, in the distance, followed by East Peak, “Razorback Ridge,” the South Summit and the Shoulder, the true summit of Timpanogos, North Peak, and the Alpine Ridge of Little Cottonwood off to the far right. (click image for high resolution image.)

I met back with Alex at camp, packed up our stuff, and was home by noon. Not a bad start to the weekend.

Atop Robert’s Horn. Timpanogos in the background.