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Lone Peak Winter Mountaineering
By Michael Hannan
| WMC Annual Winter Lone Peak Climb
February 13th, 2016
Participants: Lubos Pavel, Joe Bullough, Mike Gibby, Ben Wood, Jeff Munger, Jeff Nielsen, Christopher Hart. Organizer: Michael Hannan
Eight men standing at the so-called Frog Rocks on the Cherry Canyon Logging trail took a break as dawn began to slowly flood the southeastern skies. Pastel pinks and rosy apricot colors tinted the cirrus clouds, cameras pointed, spirits lifted. One hour and fifteen minutes of the trek to Lone Peak had been crunched and clomped behind us, our microspikes having pockmarked the hardened snow with purpose and determination.
January snows had buried the normal trail to the "north" ridge, so we followed a boot pack to the ridge immediately above the Frog Rocks and followed it to the entrance to the Mahogany Forest (sounds like something from a Disney fairy tale). At the forest end it was time for a gear change: micropspikes off, snowshoes on. Joe led us up sugar hill, past the 3rd rock outcropping, past the trail split at 8,450' and up to the Draper Ridge trail and Enniss Pass and Enniss Peak. Atop Enniss Peak (9,320') it was group photo time in a bothersome wind we had picked up shortly after leaving the Frogs.
Other than the pesky wind the weather was cooperative. Following a nice snowshoe/boot pack combination we marched away from Cowboy Camp, entered the cirque, hugged the northern slopes and made an uneventful arrival at the cache point between the top of the Big Willow Canyon and the western arm of the summit ridge, five hours fourteen minutes after saying goodbye to the pavilion at the Orson Smith TH.
Twenty-eight minutes of trading snowshoes for crampons, eating snacks, answering Nature's call and determining what to take to the summit and what to leave behind went by quickly. With Joe and Lubos striding gingerly up, the group made its way first up the west arm and then with less-than-military precision toward the blocky summit ahead, the crux still hidden from view.
There is nothing like the sound of crampon spikes on granite or the clanging of an ice ax against cold bare rock. The crux, tracked from a group one week earlier and by Michael and Sam Grant on Thursday, presented its usual assortment of challenges including the crawl-on-your-belly slithering under the Big Bad Rock. Nerves may have been on edge during a couple of the tight-wire like traverses along narrow ribbons of snow, the borders between the Lone Peak cirque to the west and upper Bells Canyon to the east. It was a bleached dividing line between two similar unhealthy fates for the careless or reckless. Each member of the summit party focused like a laser on the task at hand and thirty-one minutes after striking out from the cache point our hardy group of six was posing on the smallish snowy summit block for the obligatory victory photo. A light breeze stroked the summit and fanned the flames of excitement evident in the broad smiles of the group.
Fifteen minutes of subdued revelry was enough; Joe led down the crux, a short return requiring as much focus and concentration as the ascent had. Twenty-two minutes to the cache point, high fives again, wardrobe change and gear retrieval. The long march down. Snow quality was sufficient for rapid movement; postholing was not a danger. Over Enniss on the return and snowshoes to the Frog Rocks.
Back at the TH Jeff generously provided a delicious fruit tray and bottled water, a reward for our efforts. Our time to the summit, including breaks, was 6+13 and our time down, including breaks, was 3+40. Round trip time totaled just over ten hours. Weather had forced two postponements of the hike, but we all decided that it had been worth the wait.