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South Thunder Mountain - 3/5/2016
By Taylor Waddel
| South Thunder Mountain (11,154') is a peak on the Alpine Ridgeline that separates Little Cottonwood Canyon from Utah Valley. The trailhead starts off at a water tank in northwest Alpine, right on the border with Lehi. We carpooled up to the trailhead and got a nice early start at approximately 6:30 AM. Almost right off the bat we ran into small patches of snow tucked away under small stands of trees. By the First Hamongog we decided to put our snowshoes on. We made it to the First Hamongog around 1 hour after we left the trailhead and took a small break to grab a quick bite to eat and adjust layers.
By the Second Hamongog there was enough snow to really make the snowshoeing fun. Since it was still early, the snow was fairly solid and easy to walk on. We were all grateful for the stiff snow since we began the steep climbing after leaving the Second Hamongog. After a small steep section we made it to a really nice flat section on the south end of Big Horn Mountain. From this point on we hiked through some spectacular scenery. Rugged granite cliffs, pine forests, and awesome views of the South Wasatch were the backdrop for this portion of the hike.
We started up a ridge to the west of Lake Hardy and climbed up a few very steep sections. Right before noon we made it to a good place to cache some of our unneeded gear for the summit. We then started up to the saddle and on to the summit. From the summit, we were rewarded with awesome views of Lone Peak, the Alpine Ridgeline, Salt Lake Valley, and Utah Valley. The clouds that had kept the snow solid all morning started to break a little. Blue skies, abundant sunshine, and awesome lighting on the surrounding peaks provided us some great views.
Fortunately, the snow didn't soften up too much in the sun on the way back down. There were a few slippery sections in the very steep, south-facing parts of the hike, however, other than those sections we made very good time back to the cars. At the trailhead we enjoyed some delicious fruit and yogurt that the trip organizer, Michael Hannan, had brought in a cooler. I enjoyed talking with everyone about the adventure we'd just completed as well as previous adventures from around the world. It was a fun way to wind down and relax after such a fun hike!
This hike was rated MSD (Most Difficult) and I definitely agree with the rating. There were steep, sustained sections with a lot of stair-stepping. According to my GPS we climbed 5579 vertical feet and hiked 11.5 miles. Michael kept track of the time to major points along the way, his record of major points along the way is included below:
TH/1st Hamongog: 1+02, 0+50;
1st H/2nd Hamongog: 1+04, 0+38;
2nd H/Plateau @ 9,450,: 1+10, 0+38;
Plateau/Cache point: 1+05, 0+55
Cache point/summit: 0+24, 0+14.
Total time for the ascent, including breaks: 5+35.
Total time for descent including breaks: 3+37
Time on summit: 0+15; total time for breaks including summit time: 1+38
Thanks again Michael for planning and including us on this fun and exciting hike to one of the most beautiful places in the Wasatch!
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