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Everest Ridge, Mt. Timpanogos

February 22, 2010

12:30 AM. Jeremy and I would be leaving to climb Everest Ridge on Mt. Timpanogos in an hour, and I couldn’t sleep because I was being overcome with anxiety.  Avalanche.org was listing the area at CONSIDERABLE avalanche danger and my sometimes-suppressed acrophobia was presenting fully.  I started making excuses and alternate plans in my head.

I woke Jeremy and told him about the avalanche danger.  He said let’s go.  I said okay.  Sometimes you should stand up for your own beliefs and let people know how you feel.  Other times, you just need to pretend like you agree.

We shouldered our packs and started walking up the Dry Canyon trail around 2:30 AM.  I was still anxious about the ridge but it felt good to be moving.  It was too cold to stop for more than a minute so we made it to the saddle between Mt. Baldy and Everest Ridge in good time.  It was still dark and clear enough to see the lights of Utah Valley as we switched from snowshoes to crampons and discussed our route options.  Up the steep hill toward a weak spot in a cliff band, and from there, who knows?

The snow was variable, steep and frustrating, and Jeremy led through the 10 foot cliff band.  With my ice axe hooked on the rock and my crampons scratching for purchase I had a powerful thought:

I am afraid of falling.  I might slip and fall on my back and slide a thousand feet to my death.  I’m not sure my foot will hold if I shift my weight to it so I keep my weight on my other foot.  If I do make this move and keep going I will only be higher and more scared.  How did Jeremy do this so easily?  I know I can’t stay like this for long.  With much effort I dismiss my doubts, focus on my body and the rock, and make the move.

In reality, the move was easy and relatively safe, but as I stood on top of that tiny cliff and looked down at Provo lights, I felt elation.  I was genuinely scared but I pushed myself through it.  This is why climbing is fun.

Me on Everest Ridge. Photo by Jeremy Henderson.

As we continued up the ridge the sun came up and clouds moved in below us.  The setting was majestic and dramatic, and the climbing was thoroughly enjoyable.

My baggy ski pants and borrowed gaiters were failing significantly.  My boots were full of water and my socks were completely saturated, and I had to stop every 15 minutes to remove the ice-collar from around my ankles.  This, combined with the deep snow on the ridge and my general lack of fitness was really wearing at my spirit.  By 11:00 we were below the technical cliff band and about 1,000 vertical feet short of the summit.  Jeremy asked me if I had it in me.  I said no.

The descent was uneventful except that I kept tripping over my ripped pants and nearly cartwheeled down the ridge.  12 hours after leaving the car we dropped our packs on the ground and took our boots off.

I wish we had continued to the summit.  I could have made it.  It would have been worth it.

Still, a great trip.

Timpanogos from Everest Ridge. Photo by Jeremy Henderson.

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