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Utah Valley from Cascade. Hands down, this peak has the best views of the Valley, unobstructed in nearly every angle.

This peak is a beast. If you are looking for a wild, raw, rarely visited mountain in the Wasatch, this may be your adventure of choice. I originally had it scheduled as the last peak on my 8 Peaks checklist, but for some reason it worked it’s way into the lineup for this weekend (don’t ask me why). I was originally saving it for last, simply because I didn’t look forward to it. There is very little beta, the approach is long and grueling, elevation is gained and lost in ridiculous amount, and a trail barely exists. I figured it to be the most difficult of the 8. After today, I’m pretty sure it is. Oh yeah, and it’s not even an elevener. Fetch.

Cascade used to be a fun little romp, back in the days of the Bridal Veil Falls Tram, but when the tram went down, so did the North Gully approach, which was the easiest and most enjoyable route up. Other routes include technical snow climbs on the west face couloir, a huge approach from the Big Springs trailhead in South Fork, or another monster bushwack from Bunnel’s Fork, also in South Fork Provo Canyon. All the options are nasty and long. No way in hades I want to spend more than 8 hours on a peak in the dead of summer. So I pulled out my handy topo software and started toying with some alternative routes. I finally decided on starting at the Dry Fork TH near Rock Canyon Campground. From the maps, I could see a few decent looking gullies that might lend themselves to easy climbing, and figured I could skip the drainages if they didn’t go anywhere, and just follow the trail up. The plan was set.

I slept through my alarm. Or maybe I didn’t set it correctly. Either way, I should’ve been on the trail by 4:30. Instead, I was on it by 8:30. Of course, the summer heat is off the charts, and I’m eyeing up a 2500 foot vertical bushwack. The first gully I came to looked horribly overgrown, so I stuck to the trail. About .8 miles up the trail, another gully looked promising. Small bushes, nice big boulders, and in the shade. I climbed fairly quickly and easily, and gained the top CCC terrace in maybe an hour or so. Following the terrace to it’s end left me just short of the ridge saddle, where the real fun begins.

Cascade has basically four distinct summits. Unfortunately, the true summit is the second from the north. From the saddle, I was a couple miles and few summits away. Strangely enough, the summit register is on the South Summit, which is only a few feet shy of the true summit. On the real summit, there is nothing. Wonder why?

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Beautiful scenery on ascent to the ridge.

 

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Looking back down the gully I climbed. Not a particularly bad approach, but it takes a decent amount of energy.
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The fly, who insisted on hanging out on my leg.
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From the saddle, the beginning of the endless ridge walk. South Summit is the second point from the left. The real summit is farthest to the right. It’s a long ways…

Once I gained the first saddle, I expected to find a trail. Instead, I found 5 trails. All of which lead somewhere, but really nowhere. Turns out, there really is no trail, just a ton of social trails that skirt the various obstacles on the ridge. Most of the ridge is 2nd class, maybe some 3rd if you are really saucy. But it still is a pain in the arse to navigate, because every 50 yards, there are trees blocking the way. But these trees aren’t just small little things, they are a real nuisance. There are a couple options. A) go around the tree. Tedious and time consuming, and difficult because of the loose scree. B) climb through the tree. Tiring, but faster.

I finally gave up on following the social paths. The ridge is the best option, at all costs. I don’t care how many trees you have to get cut up by, just stay on the ridge. You might gain and lose elevation at incredible rates, but trust me on this one. Social trails suck.

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I was tired, so I took some pictures. The tree was kinda ominous looking.
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Some nice wispy clouds over Provo Peak. Nice wispy clouds also provide some much needed cloud cover.
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While on the south summit, I was treated to a dizzying aerobatic show from hundreds of butterflies. I just laid on my back and watched the flurry. Very cool stuff.
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The summit ridge is choked with junipers, and makes for some tedious climbing. I went over this one, but apparently the billy goats gruff went under, and lost some hair in the process.

The South Summit is really cool, and not super demanding, and only a little shorter than the true summit. Honestly, there is little to nothing to be gained from traversing to the true summit, unless you are a glutton for punishment or insist on ticking off the “real” summit. The views are similar, but you are adding 2-3 hours of ridge walking to the round trip. In cooler weather, I imagine this would be an enjoyable walk, as the views are incredible, and there is a lot of wildlife, but in the scorching heat… Not my cuppa tea. I convinced myself to do it thinking I probably won’t come up here again, so….

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Uh, I fell on some loose rock. Apparently when I tried to break my fall, I cut myself. Did I mention this mountain is physical?

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Finally, the REAL summit. I think I am wincing in pain…

Normally, summiting a peak is a relief. But looking pack at the ridge of insanity, I knew it wasn’t over yet. I had already busted up my hand pretty good with a fall earlier, so I had zero motivation to hike the 2 miles back to the first saddle. Luckily, a huge herd of mountain goats came into view about 1/2 mile down the ridge, so I was able to psych myself up for at least ten or 15 minutes. From the first saddle, I eyed up the first gully I had wanted to ascend earlier in the day, and thought it looked promising. Out of water and patience, I headed down. It was a nasty loose slope with lots of unstable ground, and I was glad I didn’t climb up that crap. The last few hundred yards are heavily overgrown, and I yearned for a machete. But alas, I made it, and the burliest of the Utah County 8 was done.

I have to give Cascade some credit though, it has the BEST views in Utah Valley, hands down. The peak is also rarely visited, so solitude is pretty much a guarantee. The scenery is top notch, and I saw a variety of big game, including a few deer, a couple elk, and at least a dozen mountain goats. For those reasons, I give it high marks, but be prepared for a physically and mentally challenging summit.

Maps & Links

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Mick’s Mountain
= Hyrum’s Hiking = Summitpost.org