Wednesday, September 12, 2012

timp via aspen grove

We had a big day on Sunday - long, hot, tiring and glorious - hiking up Mount Timpanogos via the Aspen Grove Trail.  It was an early start, leaving the house at 6 a.m. to get on the trail at 7 a.m., and the sun was coming up behind us as we started up the switchbacks taking us into Primrose Cirque.  We'd done Timp before but took the Timpanooeke Trail; this trail would bring us up alongside Emerald Lake.

Taking a mid-morning trail-mix break

When we looked up at the cirque, we couldn't imagine there being a trail going up there.  But there was: dirt and rocks, lots of switchbacks but not too steep, several waterfalls and springs lower down.  Apparently in regular snow years there's water and waterfalls all the way up but not this time.  We got up and over the lip and strolled along the basin around Emerald Lake, Timp's cliffs rising above us into the sky.  We planned to circle the basin under the cliffs and across the boulder field, picking up the trail up the saddle that we'd done last time.

View of the summit from Emerald Lake

We had hoped to see some goats this time.  Some goats?  There were goats galore up there!  We met some hunters with a small herd of pack goats who were out doing some pre-season scouting.  Their pack goats waited patiently while we talked with them, leaning into us to get their ears scratched.  Pack goats are easier to handle and have less impact than horses or llamas.  They'll carry 30-40 pounds of gear depending on the goat.
Hikin' goats

We also saw oodles of mountain goats, which was just thrilling.  At first we'd hear them before we saw them: as they climbed around on the cliffs, hundreds of feet overhead, they'd knock off cascades of rocks, alerting us to their presence.  Those goats are absolutely bonkers. There can't be anything up there for them to eat (except maybe lichen?) and they're scaling near-vertical walls and walking around on the narrowest of ledges.

Mountain goats = not afraid of heights

Not all the goats were perched up on the cliffs, though.  We watched a big male saunter across a small snowfield under the cliffs and then turned around to find a group of four staring at us from just yards away.  There was a baby, its mother and two medium-sized goats.  They watched us closely as we kept moving, not wanting to spook them but not wanting to leave.  With all the wildlife so close, we spent a lot of time on that boulder field (plus the walking was slow going).

Looking back towards Emerald Lake from the boulder field

After we got up to the saddle, it was just 0.9 miles to the summit: rocky and vertiginous, with steep scrambling in spots.  This is where we saw most of the other hikers.  Timp is a very popular hike and there were around twenty people at the summit, despite it being a Sunday and even though we'd hardly seen anybody on the way up.  Since there isn't all that much room up on the summit, we only stayed for a few minutes before descending to the saddle to eat our lunch.

It was so cool to get so close to these guys

We went out the way we came, pausing again in the meadows by Emerald Lake to watch as dozens and dozens of mountain goats came over the ridge into the meadow for an afternoon snack - there were easily thirty in sight.  We'd never seen so many nor been so close to them.  Descending through the switchbacks was a slog: long and hot on the south-facing slopes, with a lot of knee-tenderizing step-downs.  When we made it back to the parking lot (and our cooler of beer), it was 3 p.m. and we were ready for the hike to be done.  But what a hike!  We really like Timpanogos, that enormous rock rising up over Utah valley: the scenery is stunning and getting to see all the wildlife was a real treat.

Hike stats:  14.68 miles RT; 6 hrs. 53 min. hiking time, 1 hr. 21 min. stoppage time for goat-viewing and lunch, etc.; 2.1 m.p.h. average speed; 4,860 ft. elevation gain; 11,749 ft. summit; 4 mule deer, 1 raccoon, 1 pika, 2-3 marmots, 5-6 domestic goats, countless mountain goats.

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