By MICHELLE COOK
Majestic Mount Timpanogos, the dominating landform of Utah Valley, awaits another season of hardy hikers this summer.
The mountain landmark is a favorite destination of many explorers each year, yet many are unprepared for both the beauty it offers and the potential danger it holds.
“It’s a killer hike, but it’s something you’ll remember for years,” said Glen Meyer, director of the Timpanogos Emergency Response Team. He has spent 65 weekends on Mount Timpanogos.
On average, 300 hikers venture up Mount Timpanogos to Emerald Lake each Saturday in the summer, Meyer said. The number drops to about 50 on Sundays. Last Labor Day weekend there were 1,800 hikers on the mountain, he said.
Mike Jones, a graduate student in computer science from Cedar Hills, Utah, hiked Mount Timpanogos for the first time with his roommate after he returned home from his mission.
Jones said many people enjoy the hike because it is so close.
“It’s right on our doorstep,” said Michael Kelsey from Provo, author of the hiking guide “Climbing and Exploring Utah’s Mount Timpanogos.”
His favorite things to do on the hike are watching the hikers and mountain goats and enjoying the wildflowers, Jones said.
Tim Garcia, of the Pleasant Grove Ranger District, said the wildflowers are at their peak for only three or four days in August.
Jones likes to make the hike a two-day trip and camp overnight. This way the hike is more fun and relaxing, he said.
Jarom Olson, a junior computer science major from Cincinnati, Ohio, hiked Mount Timpanogos for the first time last summer.
“It’s a long hike, but it’s not a very difficult hike,” Olson said. “At the end of the day, you’re completely worn out and it feels so good.”
Mount Timpanogos can be tackled several ways.
The two most popular trails are the Aspen Grove trail and the Timpooneke trail.
The Aspen Grove trailhead begins at the North Fork of Provo Canyon, above the BYU Aspen Grove Camp. The Timpooneke trailhead begins at the Timpooneke Campground approximately seven miles up American Fork Canyon.
Both trails lead to Emerald Lake, a landmark feature of the hike, located at an elevation of 10,800 feet. Emerald Lake is created from the run-off of a glacier. The hike from Aspen Grove to Emerald Lake is 6.9 miles; the Timpooneke trail to Emerald Lake is 7.5 miles.
Hikers may continue three miles past Emerald Lake to the summit, at an elevation of 11,750 feet. At the summit is a shack where hikers can sign their name in a book. Many people like to stop and eat lunch in this spot overlooking Utah Valley.
Olson began his climb of Mount Timpanogos at midnight. He and his friends reached the Summit an hour before sunrise.
After finding a piece of rock to sit on, Olson said he sat and rested and thought for a while.
“Whenever I want to relax, I always think of that spot,” Olson said.
Mount Timpanogos was designated a “wilderness” area in 1984. There are certain restrictions placed on the area.
There is no mechanized or motorized equipment allowed, and hikers are not allowed to shortcut trails or to build campfires. A group size limit is set at 15 people. It is also recommended that camps be set up within 200 yards of a water source.
Meyer explained that a “wilderness” designation means the land is not to be intruded upon by man. Even Forest Service workers have to get special permission to use a stretcher with a wheel on it, he said.
Garcia said some people are not prepared for the long hike.
“Remember, it’s a long hike in one day in a wilderness area,” Jones said.
Hikers can take preventative measures before they take their first step on to Mount Timpanogos.
The biggest problem hikers experience is dehydration, according to Meyer. He said hikers should hydrate themselves before the hike.
A minimum of two liters of water per person is recommended by Heidi Spencer, a junior nursing major with a military science minor from Arvada, Colo. Spencer is a member of the Timpanogos Emergency Response Team.
“Drink it all,” Spencer said.
Heat exhaustion is another problem. Hikers should be prepared with sunblock.
The type of clothing brought on the hike is important. Because of the high altitude of the hike, weather conditions can change drastically. When it is 100 degrees in the valley, it may be closer to 60 degrees on the Summit. Rain storms can also come up suddenly.
Spencer recommends bringing many layers of clothing.
Hikers must also bring proper footwear. Snowfields will have to be crossed, as well as some water. Spencer recommended bringing a separate set of shoes for crossing streams.
This year there will be a late snow melt, Garcia warned. He said the trail will not be completely melted out.
“Power Bars,” granola bars, fruit and other food with “substance” are suggested by Spencer. First aid supplies should also be packed.
Garcia said some of the common problems encountered on the Mount Timpanogos hike are heat stroke, hypothermia, twisted ankles, scrapes and bruises.
Meyer said some people get altitude sickness when they fly in from out-of-state and attempt to hike Mount Timpanogos too soon after their arrival.
Hikers must be prepared for a hard workout.
“It’s not something you can just do every weekend,” Meyer said.
“Make sure you’re equipped for it and that you’re in shape for it,” Spencer said.
In 1983, the Timpanogos Emergency Response Team (TERT) was created to assist hikers on Mount Timpanogos. The team is a combined force of volunteer amateur radio operators, climbers, emergency medical technicians, and other interested individuals.
TERT works together with the Utah County Sheriffs Office, the U.S. Department of Forestry and the Pleasant Grove Ranger Station. They are on duty each summer between Memorial Day weekend and two weekends after Labor Day.
“We’re the eyes and ears of the sheriff station,” Spencer said.
Meyer said the team’s efforts are focused on prevention. Besides first aid, the team educates hikers and helps people who are lost or separated.
Members of the team are stationed at each trailhead on the weekends to answer questions and to give information. They also set up camp at the shelter near Emerald Lake.
Typically, there are about 50 serious injuries on Mount Timpanogos between mid-June and mid-September, Meyer said.