|Hiking||12.93 Miles|| 8 Hrs 33 Mns ||1.72 mph|
|6,792 ft AEG|| 1 Hour 3 Mns Break|
|Switchbacks? We don't need no stinking switchbacks (except at the very beginning) ....|
Gaining on average over 1,000 feet per mile (one way), with the last 1.25 miles to the 11,068 summit of Provo Peak packing in nearly 2,800 feet of aeg, this hike is one of the biggest calf- (up) and quad- (down) busters I've done.
I was up in the area to attend the graduation of TWO of my daughters from BYU. #proudpapa Of course, I can't be so close to such great mountains without taking some time to explore, so ....
The hike starts at the Y Mountain Trailhead, with wide, groomed, but steep switchbacks heading up the popular local trail to the large "Y" on the side of the mountain, representing the BYU campus below. On a Saturday morning, this part of the hike is unsurprisingly crowded. Every one of the 13 switchbacks is numbered and signed with distance, elevation, factual tidbits, and encouragement for the casual hikers to keep plugging away to the top. The "top" of the Y is reached in a little over a mile of work, with about 1,000 ft. of elevation gained. The crowds (which on this day, included my wife and daughter and son in law) are deservedly satisfied with the accomplishment of conquering the Y and taking in beautiful vistas of the city below, with Utah Lake on the far side of the valley, Mt. Timpanogos towering over the valley to the North, and three different LDS temples visible in the panorama.
But for the adventuresome, bigger challenges--and rewards await those who venture beyond.
At the top of the Y, the trail continues up and around the side of Y Mountain, at a slightly more moderate grade, into Slide Canyon. On this day, as I rounded the corner into Slide Canyon, I had my wildlife sighting for the day--a large, bighorn sheep, bounding up the south-facing side of the canyon with ease, and casting aspersions in the general direction of what mere humans consider "steep."
Just before the 3-mile mark, a use trail forks off to the left (marked on my GPS track), giving access to a steep, switchback-less climb up to the top of Y Mountain. A worthy endeavor of its own, but I have my sights on bigger fish this day. So, I stay the course, continuing up through Slide Canyon, as it serpentines around the unnamed Peak 9,089 that neighbors Y Mountain to the First Right Fork Canyon Trail Junction (marked). This section of trail travels through some nice aspen groves. It clearly gets much less use and was heavily overgrown with fairly thick, waist-to-shoulder height foliage--mostly some variety of sunflower with leaves about 2.5 times the size of my hand. Unfortunately, the petals had mostly fallen off the flower heads by this time--surely, the "full-petal" experience would have been even more spectacular. As it was, I enjoyed the "jungly-type" stroll, and even though the foliage was thick in parts, it did not really slow me down--compared to the AZ manzanitas, this was like walking through plush velvet.
I crossed paths with a handful of bow hunters out looking for deer, and only three other hikers, whom I intersected with at the Slate Canyon Trail junction (marked), which provides an alternate approach to Provo Peak. None of the three had Provo Peak on their radar, but were doing a loop down Slide Canyon and back the to the Slate Canyon TH (where they began) via the Bonneville Shorline Trail that skirts the bottom of the Wasatch Mountains.
At that point, I hung a sharp left, and headed up and around the unnamed 9001-ft. peak that stands in the way of my final destination. I enjoyed complete solitude from this point all the way to Provo Peak. As the trail rises up from the "canyon" and around the side of Peak 9001, the views of Mt. Timpanogos, Rock Canyon, the top of Y mountain, and northerly vistas come into view. Rounding the north side of Peak 9001, the trail enters into a beautiful forested area, with large fir trees that eventually break into another worthy aspen grove.
As you crest the final ridgeline around Peak 9001, the imposingly steep approach to Provo Peak finally comes into view for the first time. Unfortunately, I had to drop (and then regain) nearly 400 feet, to bridge the ravine that separates Provo Peak from Peak 9001.
At the base of the dividing ravine is Squaw Peak Road, which is a dirt road that provides more direct access to the Provo Peak Trailhead, for those looking for a shortcut to the "stair-climber."
Having crossed the road, I'm now at the official "start" of the Provo Peak ascent--at 8,340 feet, the TH sits a mere 1.25 miles away from the 11,068 summit, with only 2700+ feet of climbing separating me from its 360-degree, alpine views.
From here, it's just UP--no switchbacks, no mercy--just UP! If you eat contour lines for breakfast, the smorgasbord awaits. As for me, after about 9,300 feet, I settled into a "gain 100 feet/take a short break" strategy. Because of the steepness, it seemed like I only needed a couple dozen steps between breaks.
I eventually reached, the weather-vane-crowned summit, which I had all to myself. The summit weather vane was well constructed, with mirrors on the fin and what used to be a propeller on the front end. The blades were broken off at the welds, but it still spun nicely. I wondered whether the fins were a victim of violent winds or vandalism (?). In any event, on this day the breeze was moderate, providing a nice reprieve from the summer temps at lower elevations.
There are several forest fires in Utah that had been filling up the entire state with smoke, so I lucked out on having pretty good summit views, due to a storm passing through the night before with a little moisture to clear up the air. (By the time I got back to my car, the smoke had returned with a vengeance, leaving Mt. Timpanogos a vague outline on the the north end of Utah Valley).
After signing the summit log and taking in the panoramic vistas for 15 min. or so, I started my trek back. It was every bit as hard on the quads/toes going down as it was on the calves going up.
By the time, I made it back to the top of the Y, the 13 switchback signs worked in reverse for me ("Only 9 more, toe-grinding, quad busting switchbacks to go ....").
By this time of the afternoon, the Y trail traffic had substantially diminished. Upon arriving at the TH, I slipped on my "victory shoes" (aka, Oofos flip-flops--highly recommend), laid down in the parking lot for a quick stretch, and then headed down to the BYU Creamery on 9th East for some celebratory ice cream and vanilla Sprite (which, for some odd reason, my body seems to crave after a hard effort).
Great hike! Mt. Timpanogos still tops my list of Wasatch Mtn hikes so far, but this one was definitely right up there as well.
With my annual R2R coming up in a month, this was a good fitness test. With Provo Peak packing nearly 1,300 more feet of aeg, crunched into half the miles, I'm feeling good.