Alpine granite within view of the valley floor! The cirque has always been a bit of the Canadian Rockies right here in Salt Lake. Beautiful four to five hundred foot, almost-vertical granite with cracks, seams, off-widths, chimneys, and exquisite face climbing surround an idyllic alpine meadow, with snowfields providing fresh water until late July.
Routes range from 5.4 to 5.12. If you're stout enough to make the 5600'+ vertical, six-mile long grunt, the climbing will more than reward your efforts. For best effect, plan on spending 3 or 4 days and sampling a half-dozen or more of the best climbs. Don't leave without doing the "triple crown" of cirque climbs... Triple Overhangs (5.10a), Vertical Smile (5.10a), and The Undone Book (5.9+ R). All three are correctly given four stars.
The hike I take is a bitch and has minimal to no natural water until you're almost into the cirque. This lack of water has nearly killed a few folks, myself included. Take plenty of water and hike at a moderate pace.
There are two or three well established approaches, but as of this date I've only used the Corner Canyon approach. I've heard both good and bad about the Alpine approach, but I can't address it accurately. There are a ton of hike descriptions for both on the web as well.
As far as the Corner Canyon Approach goes, here's my version:
Because most everyone knows where BCC and LCC are, I'll start there. Follow Wasatch Drive south from BCC or LCC. Stay on Wasatch as it meanders through the kings and their castles and ultimately turns west. After turning west, travel another couple of miles and at the first stop light, turn left onto Draper Parkway.
Follow Draper Parkway south until it also bends and heads west. At the first light after it heads west, turn left onto 1300 East.
Follow 1300 East to the "Roundabout". Exit east out of the roundabout onto Pioneer Road (12300 south).
Follow Pioneer Road east until you hit 2000 East. Turn right, and head south as it transitions from pavement to dirt.
I usually park about about 3 miles up this dirt road at an obvious pullout (the Falcon guide book has a couple adequate maps, but some good route-finding skills are a bonus).
Hump the packs on and head up the four-wheel drive trails to the northeast of the pullout. Look up the hillside and you'll see two major rock outcroppings. Both of these have trails leading up to them, but you ONLY want to head to the east-most outcropping, creatively called "Lone Rock".
By the time you reach this rock, you'll be covered in powdery dust and will start wondering what you've got yourself into. From Lone Rock, head north up the steep scrub-oak covered hillside, following a faint but visible trail. When you get to a steep ravine, don't descend into it, but follow the edge of the ravine east until you catch the trail that proceeds north again up the large ridge above you.
Follow the steep trail and switch-backs all the way up this ridge, and after your intestines completely knot up and come out of your throat, you'll join another trail that comes in from the west (this is called the "Draper Ridge Trail", which I've descended before and is NOT recommended).
As you head east on this trail the hike actually begins to be enjoyable. The scenery improves consistently until you feel as though you're in the Canadian Rockies. The trail is pretty obvious, and passes through a pine forest, then across a huge granite slab, and then up the drainage that runs from the cirque itself.
Where the trail becomes faint, look for cairns as they are plentiful. Once you begin moving up through the obvious talus towards the cirque itself, don't head north along another line of cairns. Stay eastbound and begin working your way over the huge boulders in the talus field.
Once you crest the talus, you'll see the meadow and the cirque beyond. Work across the boulders to the meadow, drop the pack, stuff your head in the icy water, and prepare for some truly outstanding routes.
Remember you are climbing/camping in a wilderness area, and please pack it ALL out.
A few side notes; the water usually only lasts until late July so climbing in late summer or fall requires packing water in. Emergency contact can be made via cell phone by standing within view of the valley (at least with AT&T). Try to tread lightly in the camping areas so the meadow can maintain its pristine nature.
The crux of Triple O's is my favorite pitch in the Wasatch. Tremendous exposure, spectacular rock, bomber gear. While the 1st and 2nd pitches are not as memorable, the crux is all I needed to put this one in my top 3 all time. You can, however, start and finish on Vertical Smile, for a supposedly more consistent, and challenging variation. If Beckey did it first in 1962, you know it's good. ...[more]Browse More Classics in UT
The Corner Canyon road is currently closed due to "washed out and dangerous conditions". From the look of things, it may be a while before it is drivable by passenger cars, though we did see a police GMC go through there. This adds about 3 flat (but very warm) miles to the approach. Also, you can now avoid some of the steep 4x4 road at the start of the hike by starting up a bike trail 150 feet up road from the parking pullout (just before the hairpin turn).
I recently attempted this approach to Lone Peak, and found much of the information listed here outdated. Firstly, lots of new housing development has gone up around the old 'dirt road' and the dirt road no longer exists- it is paved. there is still, however, a dirt pull-out by the corner canyon road (which is gated and unusable to vehicles). also, a new trail head termed orson smith trailhead sign has been put up in the pull out. my best advice for those attempting lone peak is to research the heck out of the approach. this can best be done by simply googling lone peak, utah. i found much better beta and certainly interesting facts that would have actually made my climbing attempt a success. basically i can tell you what not to do. do not take trail of the eagle(although it is well maintained-accessed off the bonneville shoreline trail fron the orson smith trailhead), do not head for the outlaw cabin hamongog, and do not trust that cairns will be placed early on in the season. we took trail of the eagle, and though we did eventually reach the cirque, we were dumped out exactly across from the peak and bowl itself with a scary down climb to get into the cirque. we ran out of time becuase the approach took us so long and didn't get to climb after all that uphill torture. it's a beautiful inspiring place though- can't wait to go back and actually climb. still lots of snow in the cirque and melted run off for water.
I parked my car at the dirt corner canyon pull-out (where there is a sign post for the gated corner canyon road). However, we did not start from the corner canyon road at all. we headed directly east on the orson smith trailhead(located in the northeast corner of the dirt pull-out), intersected the bonneville shoreline trail, and headed north to trail of the eagle. I think we could have made it into the cirque if we had continued east on the cherry canyon logging trail-i've read some reviews about getting to the cirque via this route. there was a critical moment there where we turned north instead of going straight east into cherry canyon. whoops.
The Jacob's Ladder trail is worth mentioning as a good approach to Lone Peak Cirque. Draper City has built a nice trail head called the Orson Smith Trail Head Park for accessing numerous trails at the foot of Lone Peak. You can drive from the Orson Smith Trail Head on a graded dirt road 2.5 miles into Corner Canyon to a gate and parking area at the start of the Jacobs Ladder Trail (elevation 5,700', GPS = N40.49398 W111.81595). It is 7 1/3 miles from the trail head to Lone Peak Cirque.
Orson Smith Trail Head Park 12600 South Highland Dr. (2000 East)
A slightly more direct route (steeper) to Lone Peak Cirque is via Alpine. This route starts from a neighborhood in north Alpine and follows a well used trail past First & Second Hamongog. The trail then heads right up the south face of Lone Peak followed by a scramble to the summit. Some route-finding may be necessary to navigate around the west side into Lone Peak Cirque to the base of the climbing routes.
Directions to the Hamongog trailhead in Alpine: (elevation 5,400', GPS = N40.47919 W111.76209) - Drive north on Main Street in Alpine - Turn RIGHT on 200 North - Turn LEFT on 200 East. 200 East becomes Grove Drive - Follow Grive Drive for about 1.5 miles - Turn LEFT on Alpine Cove Drive - Turn LEFT on Aspen Drive where you will find the trail head
start at Orson Smith Trail Head as previously mentioned hike straight up from the PAVED lot via the cherry canyon/BST access trail, See topo in photo section. (currently this trail has a closed sign on it due to flooding in the spring of 2008, but is still usable, if you find yourself in a large cravasse just look for the little orange flags marking the new trail location) Once you reach the BST then go LEFT(North) for about 100 yards or so of the 'cherry canyon trail' sign where you will then see the new, very sandy start for cherry canyon trail, marked by orange flags. Follow this trail for a horrendous 3.1 miles to a T in the trail marked with a pile of rocks. Left (north) takes you to the outlaw cabin (not lone peak cirque) right take you on the draper ridge connector trail. This would be the trail you want except that it is exptremely overgrown and almost impassable, to the point where you WILL lose the trail and end up bush wacking until you find the draper ridge trail. The best option is to leave the trail at the T and continue up the hill to the East South East, Staying on the ridge, just south of the tree line. The first 500 yards is a bit of a bush wack through wild rose bushes(see photo), but look for the horse trail through and it will go well. After that you will reach the grassy, slightly sagebush ridge with a single dead tree marker (see photo). Follow the ridge, Just south of the tree line until you eventially run into the Draper ridge trail. This method will save you probably 500ft of vertical and maybe 45 minutes hike time. You will join the draper trail somewhere near the end of Jacobs Ladder. From there follow the Jacobs ladder trail until the split and the stream that may or may bot be running. Look for the karn on the large log on the right trail, go right. This may be your first point to find water. Then continue until the trail splits again and go left. After this point the trail comes and goes but you will work your way up to the cirque via the small canyon stream. Like the other methods this is a long and strenuous approach, bring lots of water and don't expect to find any until the cirque.
The best way to access the Cirque is the Jacobs Ladder approach from Alpine . The approach is around 2-4 hours depending on fitness level and is pretty strenuous. It is key to go light for this one, and bring plenty of water for the hike and food for the stay . Water can be found in the form of snowpack run off, and because of the high snowpack this year will probably be running from late June through the end of August.
Camping is easy, just find a flat spot among the boulders and call it home. There are a few very strongly recommended ethics guidelines to follow pushed heavily by the climbing community up there to continue to support the pristine nature of the area.
-Packing out your crap by the use of doggy bags is the biggest one. Bags dedicated to this are available at IME or other outdoor retailers. Or can be made by using a large gallon sized ziploc bag and a trash bag with about one or two cups of kitty litter, you use the garbage bag for a larger target area while doing your buisiness, then spin it shut and put it in the ziploc, the kitty litter and double bagging reduces the smell to tolerable levels for the hike out.
- The other big one is the Russian Thistle, it is a non native invasive species that is choking up the valley, bringing some gardening gloves and doing a little Thistle pulling around camp during rest times goes a long way and if seen by the right ones might earn you a beer or two.
Since we could not find this info elsewhere and had to find out for ourselves (I hate carrying water!), here goes:
Alpine approach: Water can be found: 1. 15 minutes before the first hamongog at a tiny stream that runs right across the dirt road. Not sure how reliable this is in late season. This is about 45 minutes from the trailhead with heavy packs. 2. At the entrance to the first hamongog. Looks like year-round stream. About 1 hour from TH with heavy packs. 3. At the spring just below the trail exiting the second hamongog. Looks like year-round. This is about 2 hours from TH with heavy packs. This looked like the last reliable water before the cirque. 4. About a half-hour later while hiking up the steep slabs, there was (July 1st 2012) a tiny runoff stream. Only the lower half of this section had surface water (running underground higher up). Looks seasonal. 5. The first water you will encounter after this is in the cirque, at least 2 hours further.
If I did this again, I would not carry any water up to #3, then a quart per person to cover the rest of the way into the cirque.
I found this approach steep and long but easy to follow and on mostly good trails (except the steep slabby section above the 2nd hamongog).
Let's hope the Quail fire doesn't change all this...
Climbed Open Book on Pie and Beer Day last week. Some how lost a number 2 TCU and Wild Country sling draw. If you find it and would be kind enough to return it I would gladly make it worth your time i.e. Beer, Money, a Thank You Card or Cookies.
Climbed in the cirque 4th of July weekend. It was perfect. However, water is starting to get scarce and afternoon sun is hot. Beware of rattlesnakes on the corner canyon trail. Literally jumped over one that I did not see in the trail last night. It was rattling and struck as well. I got lucky. Be careful flying back down to the car. I also lost a Black Diamond 0 C3 (green with possibly yellow tape on the stem or trigger loop) on pitch one of the Center Thumb on July 6 and would be super grateful if someone were able to retrieve it (email@example.com).