Lone Peak Trip Report
Bruce & Hyrum Bushwhack, 08/06/05
Lone Peak is another one of the Wasatch 11ers, and reputed to be on the more difficult end of the scale. The elevation gain on any of the routes is generally 5-6000 feet, and approach can be long and difficult. This, combined with sometimes unpredictable weather, makes climbing Lone Peak a challenge, but one well worth it, as those that summit are treated with spectacular views of both Utah and Salt Lake Valleys, as well as at least a dozen different peaks.
A week before I got married, Heather was busy studying for finals, and I needed some time to escape for a few hours, so I decided that Lone Peak would be an excellent destination. As usual, I managed to convince Bruce that it would be a good hike, and he agreed. After reading extensively about different routes on the Internet, we decided to take the Bear Canyon route because it has less exposure and is better maintained than other routes.
Because the trailhead is up in Draper, an hour away from our Provo home, we got an early start by leaving the house around 6am and being at the trailhead by 7. From the trailhead, we started hiking up the mountain, but we were soon confused by the plethora of trails crisscrossing each other along the bench above Draper. This was made even worse by the fact that I had left the map and other information in the car. Eventually, we just fell in behind another group that appeared to be going up the hill. In fact, they were doing trail maintenance, but we were able to follow them for quite a ways.
Instead of the Bear Canyon trail, we ended up on the Trail of the Eagle, which is quite steep and fairly exposed in places. The sun had come out, and what had been a cool pre-dawn was rapidly getting warmer. We gained altitude quite rapidly, and eventually made it to a ridge, on which we followed the trail until it seems to peter out. From there, it was a simple bushwhack through scrub oak to an adjoining ridge, where we found what we had originally been looking for: the Bear Canyon trail.
Only a few steps after we found it, the Bear Canyon trail made a sharp right, and we found ourselves in the middle of a pine forest. The cool of the trees was a welcome respite from the warm sun, and we enjoy walking through them. The terrain changed slightly, and we began to see large bounders. We had gained quite a bit of elevation at this point, and the trail was mostly level. It meandered through the trees before reaching a brilliant alpine cirque painted with several varieties of wildflowers. From there, it was only a short walk until we reached the Outlaw Cabin.
Upon arriving at the cabin, we decided to take a little break. We had been hiking for 3½ hours, and had made it up to 9,200 feet, just a couple thousand feet below the summit. From there, the Bear Canyon trail heads south to meet up with the Draper Ridge route and then to the summit. The trail leaving the cabin was easy to find, but as when we crested the ridge, it vanished. We saw a trail meandering along farther down in the drainage, but thought it nuts to descend and lose the elevation we had just gained. It turns out that we should have as that trail was the one that led to the Draper Ridge. Instead, we opted for the "easy" option of bushwhacking and route finding.
Our decided path led us in a direction generally west toward the peak. We followed the ridge we were on, and then cut across in front of an abutment that stood between us and the summit. We navigated cliff bands, and finally reached a ridge where we had a clear view of Lone Peak. The only thing that stood between us and it was the large cirque beneath the summit and the several hundred feet of sheer walls leading to it. Although we were close, it would still be a while, as we picked our way through the large boulders which littered the cirque. Bruce and I also stopped to pump water from the runoff of one of the several small snowfields that were still lingering into August.
After some time, and a little bit of class 3 work, we were on the north ridge, ready to make the last 700 feet accent to the summit. We learned that we were not alone, as we saw others, coming from a variety of routes to out point, as well as a few people up above. The views were beginning to open up, we they were pretty spectacular in all directions. We also saw that clouds were beginning to gather to the east, and they were moving in our direction. The remaining scramble was mostly class 3, and Bruce and I wanted to work quickly to be up and down before any weather hit. In July 2002, two people were killed by lightning on Lone Peak, and we didn't want to share their fate.
From the summit, we could see down into several cirques beneath our position. We could also see mountains up and down both Salt Lake and Utah valleys. Because of my extensive hiking around Utah Valley, most of the peaks to the south were familiar, but it was cool to see the mountains to the north around the Salt Lake Valley. They were unfamiliar and rugged; I didn't even know the names of most of them. We shared a few moments on the peak with a few other hikers, and then noticed that the weather was still approaching, which increased our desire to get down.
Bruce and I began descending as the first drops of rain began to fall. Luckily, it didn't get too heavy, and we were able to down climb the class 3 without any difficulty. Our route to this point had been fairly circuitous, so we decided to take a different, and hopefully straighter route back to the Outlaw Cabin. We kept going east and descended into the drainage, staying to our left to make sure that we ended up in the right drainage for the basin. We didn't have any trail to follow, but instead followed dry stream beds and boulder lines.
We were making good progress until I looked at my GPS and noticed that we weren't on the same track we had coming up. In fact, we weren't even close, and had put ourselves in the next drainage east of the Outlaw Cabin. To make matters worse, if we didn't cut over soon, the trail we were shooting for would turn west, and make our finding it next to impossible. We decided to climb over into the next drainage, even though it meant climbing up through a notch in some cliffs, down to next drainage and then up to the trail. It took a bit of work, but we finally found the trail, just before it turned west.
The day was already far spent, but now that we were on the trail, the going was quick. We were able to find the junction with the Trail of the Eagle, and soon we were back in familiar territory. The sun was getting lower in the sky, and we both wanted to be home, which helped motivate us to go quicker. The only difficulty is that steep trails are often harder to descend than they are to ascend. As we got farther down in the valley, the late afternoon sun grew warmer and warmer, and the trail seemed to never end. Finally, after more than 13 hours on the trail, we made it back to the car. By the time we returned to Provo, the sunset was painting the sky with subdued hues and the first stars were coming out. It had been a long day.
In the end, the Lone Peak trip seems like a comedy of errors. Everything from leaving maps and important information in the car, to almost running short of water, to taking the wrong trail up the mountain, to bushwhacking up and down the peak. It was definitely a good reminder of which things really matter when hiking, and which things one can go without. It was hard learned, but it will be good experience to have in future hikes.