The alarm went off at five o’clock in the morning and I groggily crawled out of bed to begin the day. Today was going to be big. After the fog cleared from my brain, I started to get excited about what was to come.
An hour later, my friend Emily showed up at my door and we began the half hour drive to the trailhead to Lone Peak. I live in Salt Lake City; a sprawling, urban metropolis of close to 200,000 people, but in just a short drive there is amazing mountains, trails and climbs that beckon to be explored.
We left the car at 6:30 and began the grueling hike up to the base of Lone Peak Cirque. I had hiked up here earlier in the summer with my friend Caroline George but had brought gear to spend the night at the base. That was in early June, when there was still a lot of snow on the ground and we ended up post-holing for the last 1000 feet or so to the base of the wall. We spent a glorious two days up at the cirque and climbed the classic Vertical Overhang and Lowe Route. They were so good, I new I needed to go back and check out some more routes.
I’ve never particularly liked carrying a heavy backpack so I suggested that we do the climb in one long day. Emily was game and so we put our heads down, rocked out to Taylor Swift and marched up the steep trail, leisurely making our way through the open meadows and boulder fields.
Several hours later, we were racking up at the base of our climb, Center Thumb, a 400-foot, 5.9+ climb that links cracks systems and face features up to the top of the South summit. Now some may think its crazy, to hike 4000-plus feet for 400 feet of actual rock climbing. And it is. But I was ramping up my training in anticipation of some big upcoming trips and I was trying to get creative, while also staying local. And the climbing really is that good at the cirque and it is totally worth it.
The first pitch began by climbing through some 5.7 face moves. We actually found this pitch to be the most challenging pitch given its tricky gear and committing moves. The remaining pitches went quickly and were quite enjoyable with superb granite cracks and large chicken heads for handholds and footholds. Temperatures were rather cool and the wind was brisk, giving it a real alpine feel despite only being a short drive from my house. On pitch four, I lead up through the crux 5.9 hand crack, enjoying the exposure and steep, yet secure movement. Another pitch led us to the summit at about 11,000 feet and we took in the views of the small, but impressive Wasatch Range, The Great Salt Lake, and the sprawling city below us.
We looked at our watch and realized we needed to rally if we were going to make it back in time for tacos at Lone Star. After a couple rappels and down climbing, we were back on the trail. With aching feet, we arrived back at the car and booked it back in time for some much deserved tacos and chips.
Tired and satisfied after a long-days work with a good friend, I happily crawled into bed as soon as I got home. The alarm was again set for an early morning but this time it was to go to work. Life is busy when you work full time and attempt to climb full time, but those moments in the mountains with my best friends always make it worth it!