Alpine Climbing in the Wasatch: Lowe Route (5.8) | Lone Peak Cirque

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We began hiking up Jacob’s Ladder trail just as the sun started lighting the horizon and the stars faded into the dull grey. The low-light, black and white landscape slowly filled with color as the brightness of the day began to warm the cool fall air. Step by step, Kirk and I lugged our climbing gear, food, and water for the day upwards toward Lone Peak Cirque.

11217505_10153419196722745_6270790265592855582_nThe recent cold front kept things cool for the hike, but it worried us a little that it might be too cold to climb Lowe Route since it sits in the shade all day. The terrible slog to the ridge line opens up to a beautiful meadow backlit by the daunting walls of Lone Cirque. I could feel the excitement and anxiety begin to well up inside me.

Before long, Kirk and I were maneuvering the boulder field within the cirque and making our way to the base of the climb. A team of three was roping up and began climbing Pete’s Staircase as Kirk and I organized our gear and prepped for the climb. Here was our plan for tackling each pitch:

Kirk: Pete’s Staircase (135 feet of 4th class to 5.4)
Me: Pitch 1 (85 feet of 5.8 dihedral)
Me: Pitch 2 (115 feet of wandering/exposed 5.7)
Kirk Pitch 3 (140 feet of stellar/exposed 5.7 face climbing)

And so it began. Kirk made his way up Pete’s staircase to the base of the dihedral and belayed me up.

IMG_0466We waited for some time for the party above us to get ahead before I stepped off the snow covered ledge and up the 85 feet of hands, to thin hands, to fingers at the crux near the top of the pitch. With numb feet it is difficult to feel if you are secure in a thin hand crack, but I was able to send clean and was pretty pumped about it.

I waited for the the party again before I was able to build an anchor and belay Kirk up. By the way, those pitons are positioned in the worst spot and force you to have a hanging belay when there is a perfectly good ledge to belay of off. Might not want to even use them.

Before long, Kirk and I both stood on the ledge atop of pitch one. I racked up and started up pitch two. I loved this pitch. The description says this pitch is wandering and not that exciting. I thought it was fantastic. It was much easier climbing than the sustained first pitch, the gear is awesome and easy to place and the exposure picked up a lot! I found it amazing.

11219126_10153422906472745_3704490181956471469_nI arrived at the belay ledge just as the last two members of party of three were starting up the third pitch. I built my anchor and began belaying Kirk. I was feeling super stoked and quite a bit warmer than I was an hour earlier. Kirk followed up hesitating for a moment to work on a piece of gear that I had set a little too well, but was at my side in a few short minutes.

He racked up and started up the finger crack to the next ledge and out of site. I had an amazing view of Lone Peak and sat and watched a party top out on Open Book and a few hiking parties summit as well. It felt really good to feel so comfortable in such a vulnerable position. About 30 minutes later, Kirk was calling off belay and began pulling the slack.

IMG_0465I started up the delicate face, into a dihedral and up onto a ledge with a long runout above me. I climbed out right onto awesome jugs and moved left up to a crack. The exposure was insane but the climbing is really fun and easy. A few trickier moves at the top of the pitch and Kirk and I were both standing on the top of “One of the best 5.8’s in the Wasatch, and maybe even the U.S.”

The stoke was high as we hiked of down Collin’s Highway and did two rappels back to our bags at the base. We packed our gear up and began the hike back down to the car. We had started the route around 11:00am and were packing up at the base around 3:30pm. 4.5 hours wasn’t too bad considering we waited for the party above for about an hour to an hour and a half.

The hike down was long and a bit miserable, but we made it back just before the sun set at about 8:00pm giving us a car-to-car time of 13 hours. We were both pretty psyched because we usually aren’t the fastest climbers in an alpine setting and 5.8 is pretty tough for us in the alpine as well. Overall, it was one of the best adventures I had this summer!

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