Pfeifferhorn Summit via Red Pine Lakes Trail
Base Elevation: 7,650
Summit Elevation: 11,326
Elevation Gain: 3,780
Distance: 11.1 miles
Moving Time: 5:11
Date: July 12, 2020
Pfeifferhorn, or sometimes referred to as the “Little Materhorn”, is one of the pinnacles of the Wasatch Mountain Range and is an absolute must hike for peak baggers. Depending on what list you look at, this summit is a top 5-8 peak if you don’t count sister peaks like north and south Timpanogos. CJ’s “official” list of top peaks in the Wasatch is: 1. Nebo (11,928), 2. Timpanogos (11,749), 3. American Fork Twin Peaks (11,489), 4. Broads Fork Twin Peaks (11,330) and 5. Pheifferhorn (11,326). This peak has quite the reputation as being rather sketchy and technical to summit so I must admit- I was a little nervous before doing this hike.
My buddy, Court, and I wanted to hit the trial early to avoid the heat and the weekend crowds that swarm Little Cottonwood Canyon so we arrived at the trail by 6:45 AM (Court wanted to arrive by 5:00) and the White Pine parking lot was already full. You start out on the White Pine Trail which is a relatively flat and shaded trail. After about a mile of casual hiking, you come to a junction and the White Pine Lake trail goes to the left but you want to go straight which becomes Red Pine Lake Trail. The trail will head slightly north as it crosses over into the Red Pine Fork drainage. As you get into the Red Pine Fork drainage- it gets pretty steep as you make your way up an avalanche gully. At about 3.7 miles, you will come to the north end of the Lower Red Pine Lake which is spectacular. The lake looks like an emerald bath when viewed from the ridge above.
The lake is in a basin and when you look up, you think the Pfeifferhorn summit is ahead of you but that summit is No Name Baldy (pictured below) so be prepared for this false summit to avoid any disappointment.
The trail traverses along the east side of the lake and you soon get to a large field of boulder rubble. We got a little off course here so you want to stay on the ridge which is to the right of Upper Red Pine Lake. Soon you get to a very steep section of about 400 vertical feet of loose rock and dirt. Court was a machine up this section so I just kept my head down and followed his lead (sometimes it helps not to look).
Once you completed this section, you are now on the saddle and the Pfeifferhorn summit finally comes into view. From the saddle you can see all the way to SLC as well as Utah Lake to the south. As a warning, Pfeifferhorn seems very far away and very intimidating but it is not as far and treacherous as it seems. Court and I guessed how long it would take to summit from the saddle and he guessed 75 minutes and I guessed 60 minutes. We both overestimated and to our surprise- it only took 30 minutes.
The trail passes to the left (south) of No Name Baldy which offers a bit of break before the big summit push. But the hardest part and most daunting portion of the hike is the knife edge ridge of boulders that you have to cross before you get to the base of Pfeifferhorn. There is no easy way around this section and I took the right side going up and the left side going down and I think the left side (as you are going up) is slightly easier. The granite rocks are big and stable but the drop off is substantial. Just take it slow and use all fours if need be.
Now that you have crossed this precarious ridge, you are at the feet of Pfeifferhorn crown and from a distance it looks almost insurmountable. We could see several different hiking groups climbing up and they looked like ants on this giant face. But as you get closer, you see a defined trail that leads you up this beast. As before, I just kept my head down and followed the worn out route not thinking about anything but the next step in front of me. There were a few loose sections but for the most part the final climb wasn’t that technical. Yes, you have to use your hands but there is no section that you are pulling yourself up or have to perform any crazy maneuvers. Summiting Pfeifferhorn is very popular and there were probably over 100 people that summited this peak this day so it is very doable.
Broads Fork Twin Peaks
American Fork Twin Peaks