Today, September 25, is my birthday. I’m older than dirt, but that’s not what this post is about. It’s about celebration—and challenge. Every year, on or around my birthday, I try to do something a little crazy. Once I took a flying lesson. Another time I rafted the Grand Canyon. Last year I went to Peru. Some years find me at home. Even then I celebrate—I climb the mountain.
Mt. Timpanogos (from a Paiute word meaning rocky river) is 30 miles south of my home. Its spectacular summit rises to 11,749 feet. The climb isn’t a technical one. But it’s long and exhausting, about six hours to the top and three or four hours down. For me and my family it’s become a September ritual.
The trailhead starts at about 7,000 feet . To say that the scenery is breathtaking is an understatement. The trail zigzags upward through a series of hanging valleys. In the summer there are wildflowers, in the fall the blaze of turning aspen and maple. We usually see deer and moose. Higher up in the rockslides we can watch the hay-gathering antics of little picas.
Below the crags that mark the top, the land spreads out into a wide Alpine basin. In July and August, when it’s filled with flowers, it looks a lot like the cover of my November book, THE BORROWED BRIDE. In September the flowers are gone, but the hills are cloaked in hues of bronze and gold.
The climb from there to the top is short but grueling. The first stop is the “saddle,” a spot about the size of a bus (far right in photo), where you’re on the skyline but not the highest peak. From there the trail zigzags across a sheer rock face to the summit. It’s easy to get lightheaded at that altitude. If you fall—and people have—they go looking for you with a body bag. I did the full summit on my 50th birthday with my daughter and sister. With my mild fear of heights, it scared the living daylights out of me. At the top there’s this little metal hut. I lay down on the floor and shook. These days I just go to the saddle. Once is enough.
I was hoping to have done this year’s climb in time to write this blog. But last weekend’s weather was iffy, and Timpanogos is no place to be caught in a storm. The weather is looking better for Sunday, so I plan to go with my son’s family and maybe a friend or two. I’ll let you know if we made it.
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