After 12 miles, 5,000 vertical feet, dozens of waterfalls, alpine lakes, and mountain goats nearly tame enough to pet, Tara and I can now way we have officially bagged the 2nd highest peak in the Wasatch Range.
Mt. Timpanogos towers above the sprawling metropolis that is Utah Valley. Thanks to the fault line and millions of years of mineral deposits from the waters of prehistoric Lake Bonneville, this behemoth of a mountain juts violently out of the valley floor, at about 4,000 ft. above sea level, to its summit, just shy of 11,500.
Each morning on my way to work, Timp stares down upon me, laughing and beckoning. No longer. For I conquered that beast.
Despite the numbers, summitting Mt. Timp is hardly a brag-worthy achievement. An easy-to-follow trail leads the full 6 miles to the summit. Only for brief sections is the trail ever exposed to cliffs, and rarer still are true scrambling zones that require the use of hands as well as feet. Additionally, Timp is likely the most climbed peak in Utah. When we reached the summit around 3 PM on a Saturday afternoon in September, there were no less than 30 climbers already enjoying the view.
Regardless of whether or not Timp qualifies as a true “mountain climb”, it is for certain an incredible hike. The first mile and a half gifts hikers with 2 beautiful waterfalls and a myriad of quiet little ones trickling down cool moss-covered rocks flanking the trail allowing for lush pockets of ferns and other greenery—a pleasant treat in an otherwise dry landscape.
By the time we reached the higher of the two falls, Tara and I were sufficiently acclimated and warmed up for the climb before us. We paused just long enough to eat Cliff/Luna Bars before hitting the trail once more. We made impeccable time in the 3 miles to follow, which rise 3,000 ft up countless switchbacks before finally rolling into Primrose Cirque from which point it is a more gradual stroll another mile up into the cirque to “glacier”-fed Emerald Lake, whose quiet waters lie in the shadow of a shear 1200 ft. cliff atop which the summit sits.
During our climb into the cirque, we were fortunate enough to come across a baby mountain goat grazing just off the trail. Approaching from below, I was able to get within 10 ft. of this young one, snapping photos of it as it peered down at me curiously, with its snow-white coat glistening in the early afternoon sun.
I was delighted to get up into the cirque as these glacier-cut “bowls” have always fascinated me. We reached the lake at 12:30, just in time for lunch. Finding some rocks perfect for sitting on right at the edge of the crystal clear water, we started in on our sandwiches, before chilly gusts of wind chased us to a more protected location.
After lunch, legs, lungs, and spirits rejuvenated, we embarked on the final couple miles to the summit. We crossed a boulder field under aforementioned cliffs before beginning a strenuous ascent of about 600 ft. vert. to the saddle. Cresting the saddle gave us our first views of the city far below. Slightly to the south, Utah lake glistened in the sun. To the north, in the distance, the Great Salt Lake could be seen. We paused to take in the view only for a moment, however, as the summit was now perfectly in sight a mere half mile away and only 600 ft. higher. “An easy stroll along the ridge,” I joked to Tara.
Although it was a bit more than a “stroll”, the final ascent was not bad at all. In fact the only bad things about it was the strong, cold, afternoon wind we were now completely exposed to and the large amount of foot traffic on their way back down with which we were constantly having to play the “Who can find a place out of the way first” game. When we did reach the summit of Mt. Timpanogos, I had saved enough breath for a cheer, which I immediately let loose over Emerald Lake far below, and the valley beyond it.
And so we rested, taking it all in, eating trail mix, and taking pictures. A small shack sits atop the mountain, colorfully graffitied with the names and dates of hikers come before. Inside the shack is a registry. I was inclined to sign our names, but I found the book already completely full, all from names within the past 3 days. I settled for some whitespace in the margin.
Gazing down at the lake, we noticed a heard of mountain goats had emerged to graze in the meadow nearby. On first sight, the white dots far below made me think that a group of nuns must be out hiking, and had spread out in the field for prayer time.
After enjoying the views for 20 minutes or so, we reluctantly started the long trek back down. Another 4 hours, and we were back at the car, eager for dinner.