4th Annual Ullr Hike
I planned on being "there", but in life we can only be "here".
My fourth annual plea for a bountiful winter in the Wasatch began from relatively foreign territory for me, American Fork Canyon, which provides access to Little Cottonwood's southern ridge. The goal was to reach a summit, probably White Baldy, via a trail on a southern exposure since Ullr had already started his work a week prior and I hoped to avoid any remaining snow in the northern facing nooks and crannies. Temperatures were expected to be close to freezing, so I also wanted to have as much sun as possible. Once I reached the top, I would ask for Ullr's generosity and offer him beer and scotch in return for a snowfall like the much appreciated 2010-2011 season.
As expected on a fall weekday, there was little activity at Silver Lake Flat Reservoir, the location of the trailhead. There were other vehicles present, mostly fishermen and hunters, but I had the trail into the Lone Peak Wilderness all to myself. Still, after watching a hunter pull out of the parking area on his ATV wearing a fluorescent vest, I decided wearing my bright yellow jacket might be a better choice than earth-tones.
environmental policy like that of my governor is an attack on my religion. But that is a topic for another blog. What is really at the core here is the idea of "wild", which the poet Gary Snyder defined as a "process when human agency is not involved". He continues to describe a territory that "requires different skills, is less visited, less obvious, challenges us and reminds us that we don't know what will happen." For someone like myself who has an obsessive compulsive personality, visiting a place of surrender like the wild areas of the Wasatch is pretty essential.
Upon reaching Silver Lake at 8,940', I still basked in the autumn sun, but now I was climbing out of the protection of the canyon and started to feel the brisk winds that I worried about in the forecast. Sitting down down for a moment to check my map and rest before beginning the more rugged part of the journey, I looked up at the chaotic heights above me. Very little in the way of a passage to the top could be seen. I was pretty certain White Baldy lie beyond my view even though I was more of less right under it, but geography dictated circling around it and approaching it from the east on the ridgeline. The trail more or less ended at the lake and beyond this point I would be following faint trails or scrambling.
My brief rest over, I began the arduous climb through brush and boulders towards the next basin. Had I gone a few feet to my right, I may have found the faint game trail that led to the even more picturesque Silver Glance Lake, but instead I struggled until the gradient eased. It may have been somewhere in this area where I missed a more direct route to White Baldy. Trail reports I read described finding a narrow passage while traversing west of White Baldy's south ridge. I never really saw that and once I got to Silver Glance Lake at nearly 10,000', I figured the best route was an obvious scramble to a saddle between White and Red Baldy, then follow the ridgeline to the peak.
|Silver Glance Lake viewed from the hike to the ridge.|
I started east on the relatively easy route along the ridge. Soon the white and grey granite abruptly changed to a dark iron oxide red and I was planting my feet strategically amongst the sharp, sometimes perfectly smooth rocks strewn about on the route. A somewhat precarious climb around a small gendarme of sheer rock topped with angular spikes made for a few cautious moments, but soon I reached Red Baldy... or so I thought. As I feared, the peak I saw when I first reached the ridge was really a slightly lower summit. The true Red Baldy was still 200 yards across a tricky downclimb and over a razor-like ridge. Worried about disappointing Ullr, I spent a few moments weighing my options before attempting to reach the true "named" summit. Then, only a few feet down I decided that traversing the ridge wouldn't be wise unless I ditched the pack, and ditching the pack meant ditching the beer and scotch... decision made. Around 2pm, I climbed back up to Point 11,158' (which was only 14' lower than the true Red Baldy), put on my down jacket, drank some hot tea and prepared to implore Ullr for a great ski season.
|Where's Snowbird? Red Top Mt. on the left, A.F. Twin Peaks in the back and Red Baldy in the foreground.|
|To Ullr and the 2012-2013 ski season.|
For more photos from this hike, visit my flickr set.