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My second first summit

Having recently discovered the Uintas (after 7 years in SLC -- I really need to get out more), I was excited to note that Iron Mine Mountain was as yet uncheeseburgered, so I figured here was my chance to recover from the unfortunate experience I had the time I tried to do a bunch of first summits in our nation's capitol. So, armed with instructions from a posting at, I set off early from Sugarhouse. Things got off to an inauspicious start, as I was a bit befuddled by the network of roads in Soapstone Basin off of the Mirror Lake Scenic byway. The entire basin, which is beautiful, was filled with RV encampments, each of which was surrounded by fleets of ATVs. I was getting an early start, so almost no one was up and about, except for a few gnarly looking souls who glared at me suspiciously as I drove by. It turns out that the sign I was seeking for Lambert Hollow was a bit understated, so I missed on my first pass. It was more easily noted when I back-tracked, and since it was not clear where to park, I took a wild quess and left my car in the middle of a meadow. From here, there is an additional 2.3 miles of road to the trailhead, but this was described as passable only by a high clearance vehicle. A 12 year old Honda Accord does not seem to meet this criteria, so I walked up the road. This seemed like a bit of pointless extra work, but on the other hand, I swim laps in the pool for exercise when a jet ski would be faster, so why not? It was a pretty walk none-the-less. At the trailhead, there were two extremely high clearance pick-up trucks parked, leading me to immediately become concerned that someone else was going to beat me to being the first to cheeseburger this summit. I located a large club-like branch in case this turned out to be a problem. From the trailhead, it is another 2 miles on a less well defined road to the summit. This part is posted as closed to all vehicles. In addition to the gate, trees have been chopped down to fall across the road to further emphasize that it is closed to ATVs. Works for me. The road is a gradual, but relentlessly uphill climb through pine forests, aspen groves and meadows. The panoramic views are sparse, but it is peaceful and pretty. Near the top, it opens up into a large meadow-like area with very nice views, bright wildflowers and fluttering butterflies. I half-expected a unicorn to go prancing by. At this point I encountered the two parties from the pick-up trucks and was able to determine that they had never heard of summitcheeseburger, so I was able to discard my club. It was not hard to locate the benchmark, where I consumed my cheeseburger, ravenously at this point, as I was REALLY hungry. The trip down was speedy, and on my arrival back in Soapstone Basin I noted ATVs now flitting around at high speed, all driven by 10 year old boys. There were also plenty of flies. So, I did not linger.

Second Time's the Charm

Back in High School, 30 years ago, a friend and I talked about Shasta and Whitney.  Although Whitney is taller Shasta is a much better looking mountain and therefore deserves to be taller.  We came up with a scheme to dump 200ft of rocks on Shasta's summit via helocopter so it can be the tallest summit in the contiguous United States.  I suspect I'll never amass the resources to make Shasta taller but I figured some day I'd climb it.

Mt Shasta from the Highway

The summit has mocked me from the highway for years.  Finally I committed to summit Shasta on my 45th birthday.  Unfortunately I didn't make it (see my Misery Hill posting).  On my 46th birthday I left the Mount Shasta trailhead at Bunny Flat with a bigger group then the year before: Chris Wong, Corrina Wong, Kevin Wong, Ryan Wallace an Christina Wallace.

Bunny Flat Parking Lot

Ryan and I continued from Horse Camp where we left the others.

Horse Camp

Ryan and I camped at Lake Helen so we could to start our Summit attempt from 10000 ft the day after my birthday.

Lake Helen

Lake Helen at Sunset

At 04:30 on the day after my birthday we started out for our summit attempt.  Sometime after 10:30 we saw the true summit from the top of Misery Hill.

Summit from the Misery Hil

We had our Cheeseburger lunch on the summit of course.

Cheeseburger Summit

At around 11:30 we left the summit triumphant.

Triumphant Summit

Now that I think of it, it would be easier to knock 200 ft of rock off of Whitney then to add 200 ft to Shasta.

Ripped shirt on Kelly Hill

After the easy jaunt to Windy Hill, some creative hiking and scaling of barb-wire was required for summit 2.  Kelly Hill's fence claimed one of my shirts, but I made it relatively unscathed.  The view from this hill was best to the West, where the great Pacific could be seen through the haze... barely...


Burger 2 was dispatched from atop the round crest of the Summit.  The retreat back to the car led to a shortcut attempt.  Though this route was a fast way to the car, it required a trip to wallgreens on the way back to my temporary home so that I could purchase a pair of tweezers to pull out the many (hundreds perhaps?) of thorns, slivers, and other flora stuck into my hands, legs, and arms.  Despite this annoyance, it felt good to knock off two summits after a long break from successful attempts...

Kirk's Windy Hill

After a productive Sunday, it was time for a break.  On the advice of a friend (and namesake), I dropped into Kirk's Steakburger for two juicy 1/3 pound cheeseburgers.

With burgers in hand, it was a relatively short drive to two nearby summits up some beautiful hills.

Upon reaching the Windy Hills Preserve, it was an incredibly easy jaunt up to the Summit where views of San Francisco and the entire valley could be had to the North, East, and South.

One of the burgers was quickly dispatched, and it was on to summit #2...

Unicorn Peak Snow Lakes Route

Unicorn Peak is the highest point in the Tatoosh Range, across Stevens Canyon from Mt. Rainier with unparalled views at the summit. We hiked into Snow Lake Friday evening and made camp under moonlight with the shadow of Unicorn looming above us.

We set out at first light and made quick progress ascending the two couloirs, donning crampons and kicking careful steps into the icy morning hardpack. At the top of the second couloir we came to a deep moat and had to downclimb and scamble over some exposed wet rock to reach the other side.

On top of the moat the grade dropped from 40 degrees to a gentle slope to the rocky saddle, with excellent views of the other major cascade volcanoes to the south. We left our crampons on over a short section of rock before the steep traverse to the summit block. Here we dropped our packs, put on our harnesses, and built a directional anchor at the bottom of the Open Books Crack route- a nice balance of difficulty and exposure. The most experienced climber in our party led the route, placing a few pieces of protection along the way. Two more followed, with the final member cleaning the route as we belayed him from the summit.

On the Unicorn Peak summit we were surprised to find a unicorn eating a summit cheeburger. Naturally, we joined him. With Rainier looming in front of us, we finished our burgers, snapped a few photos, and set up for an exciting free rappel onto the narrow saddle below, with about 3000 feet of exposure on either side. The descent found much softer snow thanks to intense heat of the overhead sun, and we were able to glissade most of the way back to our camp where we finished off the cheeseburgers before packing out. 

Summit unicorn Unicorn summitcheeseburger!

Mt. Hood West Crater Rim

We met our party in the climber's registration area at the Timberline Lodge.  It was 11:30 pm and the room was a quiet swirl of excitement, nerves, and cold mountain air.  After a word from our fearless leader, we split up pickets and ropes and began our ascent up the the climber's route along the Palmer Glacier.

The moon and the summit remained shrouded in black: our headlamps provided the only light and our feet the only view.  Earlier climbers offered flickering beacons along the high walls of the mountain.  They were inviting us to join them while reminding us of the thousands of vertical feet remaining.  

By the top of the Palmer, two in the party had turned back.  The remaining climbers attached crampons and forged ahead.  We began moving west along a steep snow field as we approached Crater Rock.  We could see our first challenge, the walls of the West Crater Rim.  Our leader continuously evaluated the walls of the crater, displeased with what he was seeing.  "It's all rotten!"  Just what we wanted to hear.

We reached a staging area as the sun peeked over the horizon behind the mountain, turning it into a sun dial and casting its shadow for hundreds of miles.  As the light picked up, so did the wind.  Ice and rocks were chased out of the Devil's Kitchen by sulfar scented gusts.  Time to get going.  Split into three rope teams of three, our party began the steep ascent on the least rotten stretch of ice available.  The climb was slow and demanded faith in our axes, crampons, and pickets.

At the top of the rim, we traversed to the Old Chute for the final push to the summit.  We worked up the steps planted by the parties before us, weaving through the bottleneck of excited climbers.  At the top, the wind was howling, but it couldn't spoil the view- or the delicious cheeseburger we were about to eat.  We were greeted with bluebird skies and a backdrop of St. Helens, Rainier, and Adams to the north; Jefferson and the Sisters to the south, and a juicy Hawthorne Hamburger Project burger to top it all off.

We couldn't stay long, as the rising sun was melting our descent route and powerful gusts threatened to force us off the narrow ledge where we'd paused for pictures and burgers. We headed back along the knife edge of the rim, down the Old Chute, and across the Hogsback.  We were able to glissade from the Steel Cliffs back down to the Palmer, then slog the rest of the way to the parking lot for hard earned snow cones and beer, and eventually, more burgers.

Blue Hill and the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge

It was a lazy Saturday and it was decided that it should not be spent sitting around. I needed to get out and do something. A Cheeseburger Summit would be just the thing to get me out of the city for a day and enjoy some sites. I knew very little of the summit, Blue Hill, upon my arrival. It is the tallest point within the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge. An area of sandy swamps and streams created by glaciers.

The half mile hike was quick and easy. The toughest part was finding numerous deer ticks on myself and my dogs.

There were two views:

This view is of the northwest:

And this view of the south.

After the short hike I enjoyed my delicious Burger from Val's Rapid Serve out of St. Cloud, Minnesota.

Neither photo does it justice. It was a great view. 

Proud to knock off another Minnesota Cheeseburger Summit. 

Mt. Whitney Mountaineer's Route

We camped at Whitney Portal on 5/17/13 and started up the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek around 5:45am. We made it across the Ebersbacher Ledges, past Lower and Upper Boy Scout Lake, reaching Iceberg Lake around midday. We watched a roped party descend the notch, laced up our crampons, and started the climb. Slushy snow, dangerous rock fall, and the first signs of altitude sickness slowed our party down. After talking to the last descending group, we decided that the safest option would be to summit and descend via the standard Mount Whitney Trail. We reached the top of the couloir, took in the view from the notch, and began the traverse across a steep snowfield around the north side of the mountain. After a unplanned self-arrest we abandoned the traverse and climbed a third-class ridge to gain a clear view of the summit hut. We made it to the top and connected with the main trail just south of the summit. A short hike later we enjoyed some cold, slightly stale, but delicious cheeseburgers at the highest point in the lower 48, 12 hours after we set out. After a few bites it was sadly clear we needed to start down. The sun was setting and the main trail was starting to ice over, so we had to endure eleven miles of relentless switchbacks by headlamp. We reached the parking lot around 2am, for a round-trip total of 20 hours. We slept for a few hours in our cars then headed back to Lone Pine, for hard-earned elk burgers at the Mount Whitney Restaurant, which rightly claims the best burgers in town! 

Mt. Whitney from the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center

True story.

Fire Tower Hill -- Minnesota


I’m no longer disappointed my first solo summit was an easy one. This means my next one will be even better! My drive looks relatively flat, and I think to myself, “Well, it will be easy to find this next summit!” HA! My initial route brings me to a dead end that says “No Trespassing” Hmm….I guess I could be a rebel and break the law, or I could turn around and forget about the second summit planned for the day. I look at my lone remaining burger sitting in the seat next to me and am determined to enjoy it at Fire Tower Hill. Being the law-abiding citizen that I am, I decide on finding an alternate route. Over the river and through the woods to Fire Tower Hill I go! A few moments later I have arrived at my coordinates. Sadly, I realize this summit requires no hiking, but I do manage to find a glimpse of a snow covered lake through the trees. I take a moment to look up and see how beautiful they sky looks today; perfectly blue and filled with sunshine. I end this adventure with a full stomach and the satisfaction of completing my first solo summits. 


Successful Summit Day..

Hickory Hill; Hooray for my first solo summit!

I had been feeling the need for an adventure, but I wasn’t sure what that adventure should be. I was planning a drive across the state of Minnesota to see family, and researched available summits along my route. I had done a few summit cheeseburgers before, but this week my accomplice was unavailable; did I dare attempt a summit alone?! Heck yes!

It’s just me, the open road, and 2 cheeseburgers riding shotgun. The anticipation of my first solo summit is killing me. I daydream on my way to my first summit--picturing myself climbing up the hills in knee depth snow, huffing and puffing, and then being rewarded with a great view of one of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes and eating a tasty cheeseburger. My daydream is interrupted when my GPS then tells me I have arrived at my intended latitude and longitude, Hickory Hill. I look around….Hmm…this doesn’t seem right, I have barely gone up hill. I continue my drive only to find I am coasting downhill. Odd. I go back up the hill, talk to a couple nice gentlemen in their yard, and briefly explain my endeavor. I promise them I’m not crazy to which they reply with a chuckle “not completely crazy anyway.” They assure me I am at the peak of Hickory Hill. I’m disappointed there was no hiking and a minimal view, but I am thrilled my first summit was a success.  (Insert a really big smile here)