Monday, September 14, 2015

baldy loop

As I mentioned in my last post, H's work schedule has been rather invasive lately, including a recent stint back in Maine.  When he got back to Utah, he did get back on his road bike but when this past weekend rolled around and I started tossing out words like "hiking" and "MTBing," he equivocated a bit, concerned about his legs and lungs after so much time at sea level.  I was not to be dissuaded, however, and with a mention of Snowbird's Oktoberfest thrown in managed to get him on board for a Alta/Snowbird loop hike for Saturday morning.  Because the only way to get re-acclimated to altitude is to get back to altitude.

Scrambling up to Baldy

We drove up to the Bird where, due to Oktoberfest and the Hidden Peak Challenge (a 6k with 3,000 vertical feet of climbing, a/k/a suffer-fest), things were already hopping.  Snowbird is charging $5 for parking during Oktoberfest but if you get there before 10 a.m., you can park for free.  We got there before 10 a.m.  We also had planned the loop so that we would do all the climbing first, finishing at Hidden Peak and then riding the tram down.  This meant that we had to walk on the roads from the Bird to Alta.  It was actually kind of fun because at walking pace we could look at all the ski houses perched on the hills above the bypass road; the only times we've driven the bypass is when the weather is about as bad as it can be and that is certainly no time to be gawking around at houses.

When we got to Alta, we continued climbing, following the dirt access road up from Collins/Wildcat base, under the angle station and continuing up the intermediate trails, across the Ballroom to the top of Collins.  It is definitely fall now: the meadows are pale brown and crispy and the trees are beginning to turn, mostly maples right now.  We paused for a quick snack at the top of the Collins lift and then continued walking up the EBT, which seems so flat when you're poling along it on skis but which actually has some pitch to it.

Baldy summit

At the saddle between Alta and Snowbird, we got off the dirt road and started scrambling up to Baldy.  The first bit is steep and loose - the loose footing not being an issue when you're bootpacking up in the winter (or so I imagine) - but once we got past that, it was a steady climb on narrow singletrack up the ridge, through dried wildflower meadows, to the summit.  It's an excellent bit of trail.  There are 360 degree views and you see just how far up you've come.

From there, it was a quick descent down a ridge on the Snowbird side to the Peruvian Gulch trail (dirt access road), then some more climbing up the dirt road to the tram station at the top of Hidden Peak.  We didn't linger up there - we've been up there plenty, plus there were lots of people milling about - instead catching the first tram back down.  For future reference:  taking a tram ride down 3,000 feet is much easier on the knees than hiking down.

Getting ready to board the tram

We went back to the truck, changed clothes and perched on the tailgate to people-watch and drink our post-hike beers.  People were just pouring in for Oktoberfest.  One guy laughed at our bringing our own parking lot beers to Oktoberfest but, frankly, the fest's prices are pretty steep.  We could have brought our mugs from years past (which would have saved us $10) but even then, to fill said mug is $7.50.  Instead, we drank our PBRs and then went back up to Oktoberfest, wandering through the vendors, listening to polka music and getting some food: bratwurst for H and potato pancakes for me.  We were fading fast, however, with the hike and the sun and the heavy food, so we didn't linger too long despite the festive atmosphere.  Plus, we needed to get back home and rest up because I was making H go MTBing with me - at altitude - the next day.  No rest for the weary!

That straight shot?  That's the tram ride down

Hike stats:  3,200 feet of climbing; 7.95 miles; moving average speed of 3.0 m.p.h. (but that includes the speedy tram ride down, so that's cheating a bit).

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