Mind Over Mountain

Mt. Timpanogos – Check
Overcoming Fear
Tragedy on the Cliff by Eileen Dover
Panic on the Side of the Mountain
Getting High on the Mountain
Climbing Through Fear
A High Goal Achieved

All of the above were potentials titles I was going to use for this post. I settled on MIND OVER MOUNTAIN because it definitely describes a big part of my experience climbing a mountain. It also has application well beyond the climb into broader components of all of our lives.

Yesterday I finally did something I had been planning to do for over 4 years.

I climbed Mt. Timpanogos in Utah.

Mt. Timpanogos as seen from “the meadow”, which is about 5 miles into the hike.

Mt. Timpanogos (Timp) makes over 25 appearances here on The Umenum Blog. Other than my children, it is probably the most photographed thing here on my blog. It’s not surprising because, as I am writing this and looking out of my office window, I can see Timp towering just a few miles away.

Last summer Ann and I committed to hike Timp this summer. We have been planning for this day since then. Actually, I have mentally been planning since I moved to UT in 2016.

It seemed so mystical, magical and out of reach. When I first saw it and found out it was 11,700 feet high, I thought that there would be no way for me to climb it. I have been hiking steadily since that point.

This year, my hiking has gone to a new level. I have never hiked more and I have done some long hikes and also some hikes at higher altitudes. Before this hike of Timp, my highest was in July at Alta Ski Resort where I barely hit 10,000 feet.

We set the date for the Timp climb about a month ago. We cleared our calendars and made sure nothing got in the way.

We got up at 4:30 am the day of the hike. We already had our bags packed, with the exception of a few things in the fridge. We finalized the provisions in our bags and headed to the car.

Here is what I had in my bag:

  • 4 bottles of water with a “Go Far” powdered supplement added (drank all 4)
  • 6 frozen bottles of water (drank 2)
  • 4 regular bottles of water (drank all 4)
  • 6 RX Bars (ate 0)
  • 2 GF Granola bars (ate 0)
  • 3 boiled eggs (ate 1)
  • 2 peanut butter sandwiches (ate both)
  • a small bag of GF pretzels (ate it all
  • a small bag of Sour Patch candy (ate about half)
  • 5 pouches of chocolate GU (ate 1, Ann ate 2)
  • My Solomon hiking boots (I wore tennis shoes for the first 5 miles)
  • My light blue jacket (never used)
  • 2 LED flashlights (used for about the first hour)
  • 2 pairs of sock (never used)
  • 2 phone chargers and a cord (used 1 charger)

I definitely had enough stuff. I was planning on 14 hours for the hike. It only took us 10 hours and 9 minutes.

Note that the list did NOT include any Nikon camera equipment. The only camera I used was my cell phone. Believe it or not, I was trying to be lean.

Several people commented about how big my pack was. I just figured that I’d rather have too much than not enough. If it did end up taking 14 hours, I would have definitely used all the water and would have eaten some of the bars.

We had about a 30 minute drive to the trailhead for the Timpanookee Trail. We went through American Fork Canyon to get there.

When we arrive at about 5:20 am, there were about 20 other cars in the parking lot already. I am guessing they left even earlier than we did. Word on the street is that you leave early in the morning to beat the heat. My goal was for us to be on the trail at 4:45 am, but I was fine with the time we actually had. I am 110% a morning person and Ann is 110% NOT a morning person, so we found a balance.

Right in front of where we parked, was one of the camp bathrooms. You know the dirty and very stinky ones. While they are gross, I was actually quite pleased to have it. I wanted, and please excuse the crudeness, to have a bowel movement so that I would not have to take care of that on the trail. Fortunately, my body cooperated and did so throughout the entire hike.

After a few minutes of taking care of business and getting our packs on, we headed up the mountain. It was about 5:35 am.

And so it begins…

Of course with it being so early and the fact that we were encased by mountains and foliage, the first hour or so of the trail was dark. I didn’t think I would like that part, but I actually did. It was wonderful seeing the stars and how their light silhouetted the clouds. As the first hour went on, the light increased and at one point Ann and I looked at each other and said, “and there it is.” It seemed like it went from dark to light in an instant.

When the light became sufficient, I turned back away from the trail and took this early dawn photo.

Looking back from the trail at about 6:30 am

Because it was dark, we missed some of the beautiful scenery of the first two miles. One of my favorite areas on the trail are the first two meadows. The first is almost at the very beginning but can be seen up to about 1.4 miles in, and the other is about 2 miles into the hike. I have posted many pix from here before. A few of my faves from previous hikes are shown below.

Because we had agreed to not take pictures on the way up the mountain, we do not have many shots. We broke the rule a couple times because otherwise, we would have missed the morning light. Below was the 2nd exception to the rule. Following that are the 3rd and 4th exceptions.

The view from the 2nd meadow
On the way up past the 2nd meadow, the light hit nicely here.
Before arriving to the 3rd meadow of the day, I took this with the sun peeking over the mountain

When we arrived at the huge Timp meadow, we planned to stop and have some lunch. Since we were already stopped, we took a bunch of pix during our break. TBH, even if we weren’t go to stop for lunch, we would have taken pix at this meadow because it was so beautiful.

Ann and I in the meadow with Timp in the background
Wildflowers were still present, but you could tell we were a bit late for the full show.
Ann snapping away on a hillside in the meadow
Ann took this one of my starting to climb out of the meadow
The path through the meadow taken from the beginning of Devil’s Pass

When we made it up to this last meadow, we were energized after the 5-mile climb because we could see our destination clearly and only had about 2 miles to go. When we started hiking again, it was wonderful to prance through the meadow.

It was such a magnificent place to be.

Off to the south we could see the “glacier”, which is a long stretch of snow that some use as a short cut to get down from the summit. It leads right to Emerald Lake. We did not go that way, but we did discuss coming back and hiking to Emerald Lake on another day.

As we walked closer and closer to the mountain top, I could begin to see the trail for the last section of the climb up to the top. From far away the people looked like dots moving up and down. From far away it looked like it would be a nice finish.

Ann referred to the trail as Devil’s Pass. I am not sure if that was her name for it or the common name for it. But I could see no reason for that name.

Since I have been planning this hike for a long time, I have been trying to manage my incredible and sometimes insane fear of heights. In fact, I had several dreams of being on a ledge of a cliff and having to hold on for dear life.

For most of the hike so far, I had a few areas that tweaked my fear, but in general, I remained focused and unscathed by the demon heights.

When we got close enough to the last ascent trail that we could see the mountain goats (shown in Ann’s photo below), I realized that what looked innocuous from a mile away, looked very, very different up close.

A mountain goat and offspring (to the right, a bit hard to see)

Seeing the trail ascend, and get rocky, and get narrow, was beginning to put my acrophobia into red alert.

The good news was that we had less than a 1/2 mile to go.

At first, the climb was rocky, which wasn’t so bad. Then it became steep, which also was manageable even with tired legs and feet. I began to think, as we neared the top, that this was going to be tough, but it would be ok.

But then…

…then it happened.

We encountered what I will now forever call, Satan’s Cliff of Eternal Hell and Damnation, an appropriate name for a cliff on Devil’s Pass.

As we got closer and closer to the top, the trail made a series of switchbacks. One of them led to this cliff. Keep in mind, this is being told from the perspective of an acrophobic hiker at about 11,000 feet.

When I saw the trail go over this razor thin ledge on a cliff that dropped what looked like hundreds of miles, I started to panic.

Breathing stopped. Heart pounding so hard I thought it was going to cause an avalanche.

As soon as I stepped on this treacherous ledge of certain ghastly death, I knew I made a big mistake. I froze and clung to a few rocks that were sticking out.

They were the Rocks of Salvation. Without them, I would have slipped off Satan’s Cliff of Eternal Hell and Damnation and would still be burning there right now.

The passageway was narrow, and yet people were going past me as I clung for my life on this ledge. How were they doing this? They weren’t even holding on to the Rocks of Salvation!

Maybe this was a dream and I was going to wake up and realize that I hadn’t even been on the climb yet. Oh please!

Ann, while trying to be helpful in between her chuckles at the situation, kept saying, “It’s all in your head. Mind over matter. It’s all in your head.” She was trying to be helpful.

She was failing! Nothing she said helped.

I knew this was the end, so I just turned my face into the rocks and started crying. For reals. Tears coming down my face. Sobbing.

I have waited and worked for so long for this hike and I wasn’t going to make it because I was going to die on Satan’s Cliff of Eternal Hell and Damnation.

“I am done. I cannot go anymore”, I said to Ann.

“You got this babe. Mind over matter.”, she replied. “You’re almost there.” She then pointed to the top.

There was no way I was going to make it. I was frozen in fear on the side of the mountain. I couldn’t move.

The next period of time is a blur to me. I literally do not remember how long I was on the ledge or how I got off of it. I just remember a big flash of panic with me hunched over and leaning forward as I frantically moved. (After reading this, Ann told me that I told her to stop talking to me and for her to move on up the trail so I could follow her footsteps. I do not remember this.)

Somehow I got to a level place, a switchback on the trail. There was a husband and wife standing there and enjoying the view.

They looked at me sympathetically and said, “That was hard.” They then told us the story of their journey in the dark last night.

In the dark? My knees went weaker at the thought.

The shirt from my children

After I started breathing again, we continued up the last stretch of the pass. Within about 50 feet of the top, there was another ledge. It was not as bad as the other one, but nonetheless, it was going to prevent me from going the last part of the trial to the top.

I then remembered that I was wearing the t-shirt that my children got for me 2 years ago (shown right). I told them I was not going to wear it until I climbed Timp. Since I already had it on, I had to make it to the top. In fact, this was the second time in the day where I had that thought.

Somehow, I was able to get my feet to move and I made it that last 50 feet or so to the top.

When I got to the top I was relieved, but still in an all out panic mode. I sat down at the first chance I had. I could sense that I was up very high, but I could in no way look and see the view.

I could feel it however. I knew if I looked, it would put my panic into hyperdrive. So, I just sat there.

I noticed that the space was quite narrow. People were stepping over me. They were talking. They were happy and having fun.

What is wrong with them? I couldn’t move. I was paralyzed from head to toe.

I could see out of the corner of my eye that Ann was eating snacks out of her bag.

I was trying to breath. I was trying to calm down. But every time someone moved or spoke, it only added to the anxiety.

Again, I do not know how long we were up there.

Toward the end of the time, I tried to get some logic going in my brain. I had to do something. I couldn’t take any pictures of the view. I couldn’t even look at it. So I thought I would try to take a picture of Ann and I in selfie mode. Then I tried to shoot a little video. Both are shown below.

The selfie that I took at the top of Timp. Somehow I got some UT Valley and Utah Lake in the shot. Even looking at it today totally freaks me out!

If you know me and follow my blog or follow me on Facebook, you know that I am usually happy go lucky, energetic and bubbly. But when you see the picture and watch the video, you will see a different side of me. Listen to my voice and see the tension in my face.

I think the juxtaposition of my demeanor and Ann’s cheerfulness behind me is hilarious. I love how she nods in affirmation when I say that I am paralyzed by fear.

“The hike was good. The heights, no so much.” Then I tried my best to make a fake smile at the end.

Fortunately, Ann, who is like a mountain goat when she hikes, was able to take some pictures. The first one shows the path that goes to the summit house. What do you think the chance was of me getting on that path? I would say, NEGATIVE INFINITY!

Even though I was totally freaked out like I have NEVER been before, I was still able to feel a great sense of accomplishment. I hiked Timp!!

I cannot even look at this picture. This is the top called the saddle.
A suicidal chipmunk considers taking an 11,700 feet jump. (Not really)
This was the last ledge right before the top. While it is treacherous in its own right, it nothing compared to Satan’s Cliff of Hell and Eternal Damnation.

When we finally started our way back down, within seconds, I felt like a 1,000 pound weight had been taken off my back. When it came time to face Satan’s Cliff of Eternal Hell and Damnation, I looked at Ann in wonderment and said, “Is this the same cliff?” She nodded and I was astonished. It did not look treacherous at all. In fact, I pretty much just walked across it without any fanfare at all.

I am totally amazed at the difference in going down and coming up. My best guess is I had thought it about for so long and had anticipated the panic, that when I got there, I was totally primed for acrophobic nonsense.

I felt like a different person going back down. I was so happy that I made it to the top.

On the way back down, we took some pix at things that we saw on the way up. The views were breathtaking.

Our legs, and especially our feet, were screaming on the way back down. We actually passed a lady who was on her way back up the mountain. We saw her coming down when we were climbing up. She was making her SECOND CLIMB OF THE DAY. Holy cow!

Ann stops at some flowers on the way down.

The last 2 miles of the hike were torturous on our feet. Ann actually stopped to take her shoes off and soak them in one of the cold spring-fed waterfalls along the trail. She said it felt great.

Ann soaks her throbbing feet in an ice cold spring.
The trail was super dusty. I got a nice dust tan on the hike.

We made it back down in about the same time it took us to get up – about 5 hours. It was 14 miles. I was thrilled with the time. I thought it was going to take between 12 and 14 hours.

I was very proud of both us. While it was a fantastic time, it did take a physical toll on us. I am writing this the day after and my feet are still screaming. I am going to lose 2 toe nails on my right foot, and I have muscle soreness in my legs, back and shoulders.

Even so, I feel great. We did it. We climbed Mt. Timpanogos!

People talk about the triumph of the human spirit. Today I had a triumph of the human body and that’s why people were applauding me at the top. My guts and my heart.  While I eventually puked my guts out, I never puked my heart out.  I am very very proud of that. 

– Michael G. Scott, Regional Manager – Dunder Mifflin Scranton

Mind over mountain!

In closing, I will let my feet speak (and smell) for themselves.

My sore, aching, tired, worn out feet at the end of the hike.

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