Thursday, October 18, 2012


Last weekend (and also this coming weekend, so get on it) Snowbird was holding their Customer Appreciation Days where not only are the "Summer Activities" still open (alpine slide, ropes course, etc.) but if you bring a hygiene or non-perishable food item for their food drive to benefit the Utah Food Bank, you'll get a free ticket for a tram ride.  (You can also obtain a tram ticket for a $3 donation which goes to Wasatch Adaptive Sports.)  The tram tickets are usually $16.00 each, so we thought a couple of cans of soup for a ride up 2,900 vertical feet was a very good deal.

There's a little snow in them thar hills

The forecast was for clear and chilly, with wind blowing 5-10 m.p.h.  We layered up (I wore one of the more terrible outfits I've come up with in recent history - note to self to buy running tights that won't bag in the knee like my mid-weight long-johns do) and so of course it wasn't nearly as cool as predicted.  The tram drops its passengers at the top of Hidden Peak (approx. 10,980 ft.) and most people mill around, looking at the fabulous views, and then get back on for the ride down.  We were going to do that too, but first we had two more peaks to bag.

Very fabulous outfit, on Hidden Peak

Our first goal was Mount Baldy which is the dividing line between Snowbird and Alta.  The Mt. Baldy Trail is a 1.5 mile walk along an unmaintained ridge trail; you have to walk down from Hidden Peak a ways, and then back up to the Baldy summit (11,068 ft.).  H is always talking about how he wants to ski the Baldy Chutes from the summit down into the Ballroom at Alta - which is tough to time because there's either too much snow to open the chutes, or not enough snow to open the chutes - well, after standing at the top of the mountain and looking down into said Chutes, I'm pretty sure there's no way I'm ever going to ski them.  I realize that they'll be more manageable packed full of snow but still, holy hell, STEEP and NARROW with lots of ROCKS on either side.  H just stood there, peeking over the edge, and laughing nervously.

I wish you could really see how steep this is

We walked down the eastern ridge of Mount Baldy, which is where the Alta skiers boot-pack up if they're coming from the Sugarloaf side.  The trail was short but steep, rocky and loose in several spots; it's probably much better to hike with ten feet of snow on top of it.  We crossed the saddle to the Sugarloaf chairlift, then followed a faint trail up the western side of Sugarloaf Peak itself (11,051 ft.).  There was still some snow here, covering the steep, rocky switchbacks.  The views from the top were wonderful, looking across at the spiny Devil's Castle, down at Cecret Lake, out in the distance to the snow-covered Uintas.  The sun peeked from behind the fast-moving clouds long enough for us to even take a good self-portrait.

Smiles atop Sugarloaf Peak

Now all we had to do was get back up to Hidden Peak.  We descended from Sugarloaf to the saddle, then continued walking down, down, down along a dirt Snowbird access road before it finally started switchbacking up.  We forgot to take the GPS with us, unfortunately, so I can't tell you exactly how many elevation feet we went up and down over the course of our 2.5 hour hike, but it seemed like rather a lot.  By the time we got back up to the tram station, we felt we'd earned our tram ride back down to Snowbird Base.  And that was our little excursion: three* 11,000+ peaks in one afternoon.

* Rounding up Hidden Peak just a bit is allowed.

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