Utah's Wasatch Range

Lone Peak

The Open Book

The Open Book from the Question Mark Wall descent. (Click on picture for larger version.)

Lone Peak is one of the beautiful alpine summits overlooking the Salt Lake Valley. At a touch over 11,000 feet, the granite walls of the Lone Peak Cirque form a relatively isolated and beautiful alpine climbing venue.

At the end of June, 2003 I finally was able to check off a climb (the Open Book) that I had been lusting after for a long time. Back in 1989, I had made an attempt to climb this route that ended horribly before it even began. We got lost on the approach up the Bell's Canyon trail. The trail we were following became more and more faint, finally disappeaing altogether. We spent five hours bushwhacking through evil, vile, nasty brush and trees, finally giving up in despair, our flesh cut to ribbons by the sharp sticks, branches, and other brutal vegetation. That approach was one of the most miserable experiences in my life.

Fourteen years later, Matt and I were determined not to get lost on the approach. We were more worried about the approach than the climb, and pored over topographical maps and descriptions of the approach in the guidebooks. We were also taking a different route up, starting from Alpine rather than Bell's Canyon.

As it turned out, the approach was relatively easy. We got lost a little bit, and ended up having to duck under some barbed wire fences and cut across some private property, but the bushwhacking was minimal and we took a reasonably direct route to the cirque. The hike was long and steep, but the scenery was beautiful, and there was water along most of the route. The two "homongogs" (meadows) were particularly lush and pretty, with clear streams and shade trees. It took us about six hours from the time we left the trailhead until we reached the Lone Peak cirque.

Our camp in the cirque was amazing. We pitched out tent on a perfectly level patch of gravel surrounded on one side by huge boulders, with a view of the cirque on the other side. We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening relaxing and checking out the big granite walls rising above us.

The Cirque. (Click on picture for larger version.)

Our intended route on the main summit wall was easily visible. The Open Book route more or less parallels the huge open book dihedral on the right side of the tower. We stared at it for a long time, attempting to commit the features to memory. Finally, when the sun sank, we slept.

The next morning, we were off. Before we reached the climb, however, we were confronted with a troublesome obstacle. Getting to the base of the route involved traversing some 30 yards across a snowfield. In the early morning chill, the snow was bullet-proof hard and slick. Crossing it was not going to be easy, and we had only lightweight running shoes on our feet. After a few useless attempts to kick steps in the rock-hard snow, we abandoned that method of crossing. I found a stick in the talus field and began to use the stick to laboriously hack and chop steps across the snowfield. After about 40 minutes of hacking, I finally got across, and then belayed Matt across in my footsteps.

The snowfield. (Click on picture for larger version.)

We roped up at the base of the route and began climbing. The first pitch was pretty easy, but the last move involved a traverse protected by a number 0 tcu stuffed up into a flake. This marginal protection was to be a hallmark of this route. Most of the cracks on the route flared outward, making placements somewhat insecure at times. The guidebook describes the second pitch as an "awkward chimney." Calling this pitch "awkward" was a bit of an understatement. The fissure was not quite big enough to cram your body into, but was too big for any sort of jamming. There weren't many options for climbing outside the fissure on the face, and the only protection on the pitch was a seam at the back of the fissure, which necessitated squeezing deep inside to place pro. Climbing this pitch involved lots of wriggling and wrestling and grunting. By the time I reached the top, I had a good full-body pump. We moved the belay a bit to the right to a more comfortable stance.

The next pitch was more fun, although a bit more technically challenging. It involved following a series of parallel cracks up a steep face, culminating in the "Bear-hug" section, jamming up twin cracks about shoulder-width apart. The climbing throughout the day was remarkably sustained, with very few sections where the difficultly let up.

The Bearhug pitch. (Click on picture for larger version.)

Overall, it was a lot of fun, with a great deal of diversity. There were finger and hand cracks, fist jamming, laybacking off of flakes, and smearing up faces. Some of the most interesting moves came near the top, where I had to traverse right out onto a steep face below a rusty fixed pin. The guidebook put this section at 5.6, but it seemed a lot more like 5.7 to me. Overall, I felt that the guidebook under-rated the difficulty of the route by a grade. If the Open Book route was in Little Cottonwood Canyon, I think it would probably be rated 5.8 instead of 5.7.

Me, with the Question Mark Wall in the background. (Click on picture for larger version.)

Matt, near the top of the route. You can barely make out our tent on the cirqure below (look for the red arrow pointing to it.) (Click on picture for larger version.)

We finally reached the summit, hot and tired and out of water and food. It took us about an hour and a half to hike around the back side and descend back down to our tent. We ate and drank and relaxed until night, and then crashed in our tent until morning. Next day, we hiked out, back down the hot, steep trail to civilization. It had been a fun trip, with great climbing and minimal bushwhacking. It was great to finally get to climb at Lone Peak.

After a long but fun day. (Click on picture for larger version.)