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Attempting the Triple

3 min read · tagged wasatch triple, challenge, failure

On Friday, since I had no climbing partner and no desire to drive somewhere for the millionth weekend in a row, I decided to stay local and work on my cardio. I vaguely remembered somebody mentioning that people had tried to hike Mt. Timpanogos, Lone Peak, and Mt. Olympus in a day, which seemed like an appropriately ambitious cardio challenge. However, I couldn't find anything online about it. I dubbed it the "Wasatch Triple", a linkup with 32.2 miles of hiking and 13,841 ft of elevation gain!

This morning I started driving towards the Timpooneke Trailhead at 4am, arriving just before 5 to find the parking lot already full. Luckily I found another spot that only added a quarter mile to the hike. I seemed to be moving at a good pace for the first 20 minutes, until I ran into a dead end. I tried to retrace my steps and find another way, but only wasted nearly a half hour. I had gone through a bend in the trail and saw the headlamps snaking up and right. As soon as I realized, I ran back down and started up the right way. I continued to make really good time and reached the summit in 2:38, even with my detour. The descent over the reasonably graded trail lent itself well to running and I hit the home stretch in an hour from the summit. Then, I started to bonk - never a good sign at the start of the day. I overcooked it coming down and had to walk-run the last 20 minutes to the trailhead.

timp summit

Trying to recover for the next 5000 feet of up, I downed a Frappucino, a Powerade, some Shot Bloks, and a Lara bar. That perked me up a bit, but the tightness in my calves and the soreness of my soles wouldn't leave.

Pro Tip: Don't wear minimalist shoes to run on talus, if you're not used to it.

At the bottom of Jacob's Ladder, I knew I had to fight through and just keep moving to even have a chance today. The calorie infusion wore off about a third of the way up the steeps and my pace slowed to a crawl. One foot in front of the other and no breathing through your mouth. Kanye's beats and egotism pulsing in my ears pushed me through the next two and a half hours of increasing agony. My stubbornness shouldn't come as a surprise to most, but the last 1000 feet epitomized the lengths to which I'll push myself.

The summit brought both relief and apprehension about going back down. I ate the last of my food and set out gingerly across the ridge. Just after the meadows, I took a break under a lone tree, trying to stretch out my calves and give my feet a break from the slip'n'slide. No improvement. Am I going to make it down before dark without pain killers? And why did I choose this day to not take my med kit? The first group passed and had nothing to offer but granola bars. I got up and hobbled down the trail for another 15 minutes, grunting to distract myself and moderate the pain. Finally, a very nice family came by with glorious ibuprofen and a fabulous turkey sandwich (that might be my desperation talking), which I happily accepted. By no means pain-free, but with the edge significantly off, I made the car in an hour and decided to call it. No Olympus for me today without some more ibu and a dose of stupid.

All in all, I can't be too sad about bagging two big peaks and finding my limit, but I've got some lessons to learn for next time. And some really dirty feet.


Avatar of Sean McLaneSean McLane is an amateur climber and coder based in Salt Lake City.