Thoughts from Pfeifferhorn

The day before, I had no idea where I was going to run. Mentioned to my roommate that I was contemplating attempting Pfeifferhorn. He said there was no way with all the snow. I thought what does he know, he doesn’t even hike that much. While his reasoning was sound, (snow on the east side of the mountain would still be there) it made me want to do it just to prove him wrong. Dumb reason if ever there was one.

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Night before, looked at All Trails for basic info. 9 miles round trip, no big deal. Prepped my pack for a regular run. Had a biggish breakfast and drove out. Cold start. Encountered some patches of snow. Pretty soon, it was all snow. Got off course a bit, but soon found the trail. Saw footprints from a day or two ago. Followed those.

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img_20181024_112117img_20181024_112610This is about when I started to think how unprepared I was. I had no microspikes. I knew this would be an issue. But I had done Lone Peak without them and survived. I was relying on my poles, and they were doing a good enough job.

I do not own waterproof trail shoes. They would have been super helpful on this day. I have waterproof socks, but totally spaced on wearing them. I also spaced on packing a spare pair of socks, even though I had though about it the night before. That would have been nice, because by the end of the run, my feet were soaked. Luckily, my feet never got really cold, so it wasn’t too bad.

My gaiters worked okay, but allowed snow to get into my shoes several times. I need to get four point gaiters and/or consider getting the Altra Lone Peak mids. Also just taller waterproof gaiters may be necessary, especially for when I start snow shoeing.

I thought about how dumb it was to be out here on my own. If I twisted an ankle or something happened, I had nothing other than my phone. I barely had any warm clothing. I was wearing just a short sleeve technical tee and my windbreaker. I didn’t have an emergency blanket. I had no way to make fire, to signal, to whistle. At least I had jokingly mentioned to my roommate that if I didn’t show up that night, he knew where to send the search party.

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Hiking up to the ridge was a pretty steep climb in the snow. When I stopped and turned around, all I could think was if I slipped, I would have a very long, bumpy slide down.  I debated whether I should continue or not. Just make it to the ridge and then reassess, I told myself. Here I began to wonder at what point do you stop? When do you tell yourself, this is dumb, I could die, I need to turn around? I figured if that was really the case, my stomach would tell me. I made it to the ridge, and it wasn’t a big deal.

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Looking at the app on my phone, I was so close to the peak. But first there was some scrambling to be done. I wished there was someone with me, another brain to help decide if this was doable, or dumb. I sat and contemplated. Just take it slow. If it gets too sketchy, I’ll turn around.

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I stowed my poles and slowly and carefully, I made my way across the rocks, seeking out what seemed like the safest route. I tried to stay on the west side of the ridge where there was less snow. I recalled scrambling over rocks with Brian. This wasn’t so bad.

I made it across the scramble and stared up at the climb. There was a trail of footprints in the snow. It looked crazy steep. I was nervous. I sat there awhile wondering if this was the point to turn around. I tried to remind myself that going forward is great, but I would also have to return the same way. I thought again about when Brian and I did our little mini WURL. The peaks all looked crazy high and far, but eventually we would summit. I figure this was no different. Go for it.

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Step by step, I inched up the final climb. When I stopped to look back, it was a bit nerve-wracking. I was in for a lot of broken bones if I slipped. I made sure to dig my poles into the snow, making sure that one was in the snow at all times. There was a large swath of rock that I got on and instantly felt a million times safer on. There was no snow on it and I could grip really well. It became necessary to look up and see where I would go to stay on the rocks.

And then I made the side summit, and walked the 20 feet over to the true summit. I wish there was a geological marker, but I didn’t see one. Took several photos of course. Sat there and enjoyed the absolute silence. It was a gorgeous day to be on top of the world.

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As I began to descend, I realized one of the drawbacks of hiking up on the rock: I couldn’t see where exactly I had gone. There were no footprints to follow. But it wasn’t that big of deal. When I got to the scramble, I breathed a sigh of relief. I was off the crazy steep stuff. The scramble was much quicker on the return trip. Then one more downhill.

Once I got to the bottom of that hill, where earlier I had wondered if I should continue or not, I scoffed at why I was scared. I think familiarity has a lot to do with it. This is all new to me, so it seems scary. Chances are though, I will see these steep snow-covered climbs frequently living in Utah. It will cease to be scary. As I descended, it was a lot less scary.

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The rest of the run was uneventful. My feet were plenty wet by this point. No blisters though. I slipped a few times, thankful that I saved them for flat ground. After about 6 hours I was back at my car, happy to have not died. Also, I was happy that I could tell my roommate that I summited Pfeifferhorn in the snow.

 

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