I have wanted to climb Lone Peak for many years. Back in 2004 I tried to go up and climb Triple Overhangs with my friend Austin, but unfortunately, it rained on us on the hike up, Austin hadn't brought up a rain jacket, so he was soaked, then after he spent a sleepless, near hypothermic night in the cirque, he was in no condition to climb in the morning, so we just hiked back down.
Since Austin died back in 2005 I haven't really had a partner that I felt was capable of doing the Lone Peak with me. Luckily that changed when I moved back to UT in December. I have a friend that I work with named Charlie who has also been wanting to do Lone Peak for a while. He is a very competent trad climber so we decided to give it a go. We decided that we'd try to do a route variation called Vertical Overhangs which starts out on the shared first pitch of Vertical Smiles and Triple Overhangs, then follows the first two independent pitches of Vertical smiles and finishes up with the last two pitches of Triple Overhangs and ends right on the summit block of Lone Peak. This route lets you do the 5.10a crux pitches of both Vertical Smiles and Triple Overhangs.
The Goal as seen from camp, Vertical Overhangs goes right up the center of the pointy summit wall
I decided to work a half day on Thursday the 28th of June so that we could then hike up to the Lone Peak Cirque that afternoon, sleep overnight there, and do the climb in the morning. We thought that we might be able to do another climb up there as well that afternoon, then spend another night in the cirque and hike down on Saturday. Unfortunately, it may not have been the best idea to work a half day since this has been one of the hottest summers in Utah's history. Charlie came and picked me up at about 11:00 AM and we drove to my parents house so that we could leave his car there so that it wouldn't be broken into. My dad then drove us up to the top of the Draper ridge so that we could start our hike there.
Charlie on the steep Jacob's Ladder portion of the hike
Me hiking through the first meadow, Utah county in the background.
We ended up hitting the trail at about 12:30 so it was already getting hot. We were hiking the Jacobs ladder trail which basically just switchbacks it's way up the side of the mountain with hardly any shade, and to top it all off, there's no water along the way, so you have to haul all of your water up with you. Needless to say, it was a miserable hike. Both of us had packs weighing in at around fifty pounds with all of the climbing gear, camping gear, and of course 8 lbs of water each. We took our time hiking and ended up arriving in the cirque at around 6:30. We cooked our mountain house dinners, then we each hiked around the cirque until we found places where we could get cell reception so that we could call the wives. Amy wouldn't answer her phone, so I just found a nice place to relax where there was service and hung out there until about 8:30 trying to get a hold of her, but eventually decided that it was time for bed so that I wouldn't bee too tired the next day.
Lone Peak Cirque Panorama
The next morning we woke up bright and early so that we could tackle our goal of Vertical Overhangs. We made our breakfasts, packed up the gear and started the final 500 vertical feet to reach the base of our route. The hiking to the base of the climb wasn't bad except for one 100 ft long section of steep snow that we had to cross. Of course we hadn't brought crampons or axes, so we each found some sharp rocks to use as axes and made our way carefully across the snow. Once across the snow, another 50 feet of 4th class scrambling deposited us at the base of the route.
Starting the approach to the climb
The exciting snow field crossing
Charlie wanted to take the triple overhangs pitch, so that meant he would be leading the first and third pitches, and I'd be taking the second and fourth. We each drank some water, ate some granola bars, roped in and Charlie started up the route. The actual climbing was kind of funny, first of all, it seemed like it was taking a long time and like not much progress was being made, but then as charlie got near the top of the pitch, I realized that we were almost to the end of the 70 meter rope. It's crazy how being at the base of a wall that tall distorts your perspective, I had no idea that he had climbed that far. Well Charlie put in an anchor and belayed me up after him. The climbing itself was kind of funny too in that none of the moves felt hard at all, but it just felt very taxing overall. I guess I'm not used to the high altitude.
Charlie leading the first pitch
Me following the first pitch
At the belay ledge
Charlie hanging out on the wall
I arrived at the belay station, racked up, and headed up on my crux pitch. The initial portion of the vertical smiles pitch was pretty straightforward and easy. It just followed a nice wide crack with up until it reached the stemming corner. Again the shear size of the wall was just amazing. from the ground it appeared that the stemming corner portion would be fairly short, but once I got there I saw that it was much longer than I had expected. This portion of the pitch was a bit spicy, the wall was extremely blank and smooth, and the crack had tapered down to just a seam so there wasn't a lot of good pro. I carefully made my way up the corner placing as much pro as I could get in anywhere since none of it looked like it was any good, and eventually made it to the top of the corner after one hang. The moves weren't that difficult, but the overall fatigue I was feeling coupled with the mental games of pro that didn't look like it would hold much took their toll on me and I had to hang. After pulling the roof at the exit of the stemming corner, the climbing eases up considerably and I made good time to the belay ledge and brought charlie up.
Leading the Vertical Smiles pitch
Charlie Seconding the pitch
Charlie set off on the triple overhangs pitch, and once again I have to say that the size of the overhangs were just huge compared to what I expected. Charlie had to take a couple of times through them, but he made it and continued on to the top of the pitch then belayed me up. I have to say that the overhangs were very cool. They are these three just huge roofs with very interesting moves to get through them. I was able to get them cleanly on TR, then continued up the beautiful hand crack to the belay ledge.
Charlie leading through the Triple Overhangs
Following the beautiful 5.9 handcrack after the Triple Overhangs
The final pitch was really just a scramble to the summit. I only placed any pro because I wasn't sure if it would get any harder at any point, but after a few steps I arrived on the summit block of Lone Peak. Arriving at the top felt just amazing. This has been one of my goals for so long that it was pretty surreal to make it there. I belayed Charlie up and we took our summit shots and just enjoyed the beautiful view from the top. We then tried calling our wives to let them know that we had made it safely, but this time Amy did answer her phone, and it was Charlie who couldn't get a hold of his wife.
The Summit Marker
At this point we had to decide if we wanted to descend all the way to the cirque, or if we felt like we could jump on the Lowe Route since it starts from part way down the descent into the cirque. Both Charlie and I felt like we were too exhausted to do another route, so we decided to just head all the way down to the cirque. We also decided that since we weren't going to do another route there was no reason to spend another night in the cirque, so we could just hike all the way back down the mountain that afternoon since we were a little bit worried about thunderstorms since we didn't have a tent.
On the way back down to the cirque we took a slight detour to hit up the south summit of Lone Peak as well and get some photos there, then we hiked back down to the cirque, packed up and hiked out. The hike down the mountain was just as bad as the hike up. Not that it was as much physical exertion, but with everything that we had done in the last 24 hours, I was just completely drained. Eventually we made it back to the trailhead and headed home. Luckily for us, as we were hiking down, some thunderclouds did end up accumulating around the cirque, so we were very glad that we had made the decision to come down a day early.
On the South Summit, the true summit is in the background
Charlie on the South Summit
Well, there's one more thing checked off my never ending list of things that I need to do in my lifetime, although I don't think it'll be the last time I do Lone Peak now that I've done it once.