Peril Atop Mount Timpanogas: An Adventure to Last a Lifetime


Mount Timpanogas viewed from the east. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons (All my photos were destroyed by water)

Five o’clock came early on that fateful morning of November 22, 1976.

Misty puffs of air from my breath fogged everything around me as I peered through the small opening in my uncomfortable sleeping bag. Well, the bag wasn’t so much uncomfortable as the ground beneath.

You see, during the night, a herd of small, hard stones had conspired to gather together underneath me. You recall the story of the Princess and the Pea? Well, it was like that, only I didn’t have twenty mattresses and twenty feather beds under me, just twenty jagged-edged stones.

I was lying half-way up the 11,700-foot plus Mount Timpanogas, about an hour’s drive south of Salt Lake City, Utah, along with a group of young college students from my church. I was the oldest college student of the group, being past the normal college age.

The first half of the climb to the summit was accomplished via a curvy, paved road, which we traversed the night before. Now, we were ready to tackle to second half of the climb.

Someone already had a fire going, but in order for me to take advantage of it, I would have to pry myself loose from the warmish sleeping bag, uncomfortable as I felt. Yet, the smell of bacon and eggs did the trick for me.

Soon I was briskly rubbing my hands together at the fire, along with several others, trying to chase the chill out of my body. After an all-too-quick breakfast, departure time was fast approaching.

Six o’clock was the official starting time for the six-hour hike up the back, eastward side of the mountain. Several cliques of students gathered together and headed out even before six. Those of us who remained departed as though we were supposed to be a group instead of the leftovers.

I’ll say this: the scenery was breathtaking. Grand vistas were everywhere. The fall flowers were blooming in profusion. The air was cool but not cold.

As we neared the peak, we noticed that clouds were banging into the steep west side of the mountain and shooting straight up at great speed. I’d never seen anything like it. It was a vertical wall of fast-moving white.

We continued on without thinking what would cause such a spectacle.

The last leg of the journey was up the steep western face of the peak. The clouds continued their vertical ascent, no less quickly.

We followed a zig-zag trail up to the peak. Oh, did I mention: I have acrophobia. That would come into play later.

It wasn’t so bad going up, though, as long as I didn’t look down. I don’t know how I thought I’d get down once I got to the top.

When we did, we dutifully signed the register. And, as I looked down the way we had just come, I was overcome with vertigo and a slight spinning sensation. I thought, “There is no way I’m going to go back down that.”

Just then, someone asked, “What do we want to do now?”

Quicker than a heartbeat, I blurted out, “Why don’t we go across the face and slide down the glacier?” Never mind that a light snowfall had just started and here we were at an elevation of over 11,700 feet above sea level. And I was in my slick-bottomed church shoes, the only ones I owned at the time.

So off we went, in spite of the increasing snowfall. After all, what could go wrong with snow falling atop an 11,700-foot plus mountain with steep sides?

I led the way along the trail while the trail slowly started fading away due to the accumulation of snow. To top off the experience, there was about a 60- to 70-degree drop-off to our right, making the disappearing trail all the more, shall we say, interesting?

About that time, there was a really loud buzzing sound in the air, kind of like walking under a high-tension power line, only a hundred times louder and with no wires to hold all that electricity in.

Then a round spot at the crown of my head started getting really hot. And everyone’s hair started standing on end, at least those who weren’t wearing a hat.

The next thing I knew there was a loud boom all around me and I was knocked flat on my bottom. Looking back, I’m lucky I didn’t slide down the mountainside.

I suddenly found myself alone, so I remained where I was until the rest could catch up. When someone did, I suggested maybe we should have a prayer. So, the young lady went back to the other two and they prayed. I didn’t go with her because of my slick-bottomed shoes were not wanting to move. (Who expected snow on a bright, sunny day?)

When the three came back around the corner, I let one of the young ladies squeeze by me on the trail, as she had on treaded hiking boots.

It wasn’t more than a minute later that the clouds opened up and we could see the sun hazily shining through them. And, it stopped snowing.

We soon came across a break in the mountain on our left, a pass, if you will, and we turned off and headed down the other side. And wouldn’t you know, it was the so-called glacier—snow that remained on the mountain all year long.

Then the skies clouded over and it started snowing again, but strangely enough, not on the east side of the mountain, which we were now making our way down. The glacier was really dirty and full of large rocks, and not at all “slideable”. However, we eventually made our way back to camp, one thankful group of kids.

No one ever mentioned the side trip, at least to me. Yet, I was so embarrassed at having led us into this perilous situation, I never went back to the church I had been attending but went to another instead.

Yet, I’ve always wanted to go back and climb that mountain again—this time in the summer—but I never got up the energy. Now, I’m too old and live too far away. Still, it was adventure to last a lifetime.

Linked back to Daily Prompt: By the Skin of Your Teeth

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12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. The Feists Great Escape
    Apr 13, 2012 @ 21:42:45

    Were you hit by lightning?!

    Reply

    • Cris
      Apr 13, 2012 @ 22:38:56

      I think I was hit by a little stringer of lightning. At least, that’s what it felt like, really tiny. There were no after effects. I also had wondered if it were just the blast of the thunder that knocked me down. But I think there was some connection between the lightning and the heat sensation I was feeling in the crown of my head, which disappeared after the lightning was gone. In any event, there was a lot of electricity in the air. I’ve never experienced anything like that before or since.

      Reply

  2. musenwrite
    Jun 10, 2012 @ 07:40:42

    Hello,it is nice to meet you 🙂 Those are some cool pics that you posted and your hiking experience is indeed interesting and intriguing! I am an avid reader, a poet and a travel enthusiast. I am an indie author and I write about celebration of life with adventure and inspiration . I have written an ebook : 12 Precious Anecdotes from Life and it is released in Amazon http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0087OXSS2 I could connect with the blog posts you have written and the title of your blog, so I am mentioning my book to you. If you have some time, you are most welcome to have a look at my blog and the book synopsis and the book links I have posted there. Have a nice day! Thank you

    Reply

    • Cris
      Jun 10, 2012 @ 22:04:15

      Good luck to you, Payal Roy. I’m not sure which “cool pics” you were referring to, as I only posted one pic with this post and it wasn’t mine, due to flood damage to my pics of the hike.

      I’m always willing to help another author in whatever way I can. And let every writing stand on its own two feet, so to speak.

      Again, good luck.

      Reply

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