Mt. Timpanogos Summit Hike
Updated: Oct 20, 2019
Elevation Gain: 4,554
Distance: 14.5 miles
Date: September 30, 2018
My kids often make fun of me about how much I talk about “Timp”. They ridicule me saying that I am obsessed with this mountain and to some extent- they are right. And ow can you not be- it is an absolute beast of a mountain that towers 7,000 feet above the valley floor and has one of the greatest prominences of over 5,000 feet. When I gaze at this peak with respect and admiration, I am bewildered that you can hike it without ropes. The massive cliffs that surround the summit present no achievable summit from afar and therefore I am drawn to understand how one can summit this mountain by simply hiking it.
After talking about this mountain incessantly, I decided to organize a crew to summit it in the fall of 2018. Of course my nephew in law, Sean, was in and his younger brother, Lukas, and their good buddy, Nate, didn’t want to miss out on the fun. I also rallied two local buddies, Paul, who I had summited Mount Grandeur with earlier this year and David, who works in the same co-work space as me. But more impressively, I was able to convince a longtime friend, David Fox, from San Francisco who loves to hike and summit to fly out for this adventure. Our crew was set with 4 “older guys” and 3 young bucks.
September 30th couldn’t have been a better fall day with temps near 70 in Heber at 7:45AM and the fall foliage was in full swing as the leaves were peaking. The older guys arrived at the trailhead around 8 AM and we got word on the drive over that the younger crew was at about 90 minutes behind us (go figure) so we took advantage of the head start and began our march towards the summit.
There are two trails to the summit and we elected to take the Timpooneke Trail which is slightly longer than the Aspen Grove trail but more gradual. The total vertical gain is pretty substantial at 4,500+ but it is over 7 miles so the avg. vertical per mile is only 650 feet which is pretty modest for such a grand summit. The first 4.4 miles takes you through the Grand Staircase which ends at the Timpanogos Basin.
The basin is grassy bowl at the bottom of the big cliffs. Once you cross the basin, you encounter the switchback section and it starts to get pretty steep with some exposed areas. Halfway through this section we decided to have lunch and this is where our younger friends caught up to us. Now our group was 7 strong and we made our way up to the saddle and we were greeted with some powerful wind. As you traverse along the saddle, you can see the Utah Valley below with views of Provo and Lake Utah. Now the “fun” begins as you enter “The Stairs”.
This final section can be quite precarious as you are climbing up a ridge that drops 2,000+ feet on either side but to my surprise - you never feel like you are in jeopardy. The reason they call it the Stairs is because you have to climb/scramble over a long rocky section. It can be strenuous and even precarious at times but the good news is that the footing is solid unlike the top of Mt. Nebo where the base is more loose shale. So just take your time and remember- one foot in front of the other.
There is a small metal hut at the top,
which was very much welcomed, as the winds were cranking between 30-40 mph so any reprieve from the howling wind was comforting. I recall taking some pictures out on the peak with my friends and feeling uncomfortable around the steep drops with the wind swirling.
The summit offers amazing views of Provo/Utah Lake to the southwest and Heber to the northeast but we didn’t spend much time on the summit absorbing the horizon as the temps had dropped and the wind made it quite unpleasant. We hustled down the Stairs and dropped over the east side of the mountain which provided a nice shield from the westerly winds. About halfway down the switchback section, we were treated to a mountain goat sighting not far away.
This was my first time seeing this majestic animal up close and if you asked me at the beginning of the day would I rather summit or see a mountain goat- I would have picked seeing a mountain goat. I am in absolute awe of this animal’s strength, their beauty, and their gentle temperament and I am jealous that they get to live in isolation at the peaks of the tallest mountains. I decided to depart the trail and climb up the mountain to get a closer look at them. As you get closer you realize how muscular these animals are and the grace and balance that it takes to travel across these rocks and ledges.
This 14.5 mile hike took us 4 hours to summit, a 20 min lunch break and 3 hours down. Afterwards we reward ourselves with a cold beer at one of my favorite bars, the Owl Bar at Sundance Resort.