I returned to this trail head, just South East of Downtown Salt Lake because my last attempt up Grandeur Peak was met by a windy, thick snowstorm that left me drenched in just 15 minutes. My first try was a week earlier, and I didn’t feel comfortable hiking alone in a blizzard when I couldn’t see.
The trail through the snow on the sunny day of my second attempt started out looking well-trafficked. Most trails at the base of the Wasatch start out with an overwhelming number of footprints. But, as I made my way up the Northern-most west ridge route, the higher I went, the less tracks there were to follow.
The trail stayed on the South face of the West ridge and eventually cut North to the crest of the ridge. I followed it East and upward until it turned South to meet the other West ridge. Here the footprints stopped and I ascended the steep North face through knee-deep, untouched, feathery powder until I reached the other ridge.
Here I met a few more tracks in the snow. Some were people. It looked like there was one dog, and a few deer that also claimed this trail.
This ridge was a bit more drastic than the previous one, and eventually steepened sharply as I followed along its Eastward spine. I passed through small trees and sharp rock protrusions, and the snow got deeper and more wind carved.
The avalanche forecast was moderate around wind slabs, and as I gained elevation, a few began to present themselves. I was now following a solo set of footprints that looked fresh. They walked next to the remnants of a snowshoe path that must have been a few days old because the wind had carved away the sharp lines of its impressions and left only a smooth dent in the once pristine powder.
Here is where the magic began to sink in for me. I looked around. The summit was not far. The slopes down both sides of the ridge were completely flawless. I immediately realized why people backcountry ski. I immediately felt addicted to a sport that I have only pin-pricked the surface of. I suddenly remembered why I go into the cold and strain myself for hours and even days at a time.
I am in love with nature! Everything about it gives me goosebumps. The sunset, the crescent moon, the constellations, the colors in the stone, the way rocks and mountains form in linear patterns, the absolute silence of a snow covered peak. I thought of all of these things, and as the ridge turned slightly toward the South, I walked the last 10 minutes to the top.
I avoided the wind slabs that hung over the Northeast side of the ridge, and took a deep breath. Setting my bag down I looked around. I looked down on the city where I live. I looked all directions into the Wasatch. I remembered a quote I read earlier this month: “It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”
I immediately thought of another quote from the founder and owner of Patagonia. He says, “climbing mountains is useless. You become a conquistador of the useless. You get to the top of a mountain, and nothing is there.”
I sat there thinking about these things, and I realized that there is something there. You can’t describe it, or grab onto it. You experience and feel it… And I crave that intangible object at the top.
With my head clear and my spirits high, I began walking back down the way I came. I was in my head the whole way down, subconsciously putting one foot in front of the other, and before I knew I was back to my car. After a few weeks of failed climbing attempts, it felt really nice to sit back in my car a know that I did not fail this time.