With summer in full swing and the snow mostly melted off of the highest peaks in the state it is beyond time to be moving from Southern Utah adventures to full on mountain ascents and peaks to bag. This also means that late summer and fall ultra season is on to full swing. We gathered early in the brisk morning at the base of Snowbird Ski Resort up Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon. There to get the full swing of details from ultra running great Karl Meltzer as he was about to start the well known and respected 50k known as Speedgoat.

This year my wife would be towing the line with many of the fastest in the sport of ultra running as she was to take on, arguably, the hardest 50k in the United States. This is Karl’s own special breed of a race that he plots out and marks himself with some serious ups and downs between 8,000 ft and 11,000 ft above sea level. Leslie was ready to take on this beast of a race and complete for a top bidding.

Speedgoat 50k Start

The gun went off as they all headed up the front face of Snowbird to arrive at the summit of Hidden Peak. This peak is named appropriately as it is hidden just below 11,000 ft between the American Fork Twin Peaks at over 11,000 and Mt. Baldy which also sits above 11,000. The Snowbird tram arrives right at the top of this peak, and that is exactly where I was headed. I road the tram up to the top of the peak to watch Leslie and the other runners come powering up the hill. This was a much different approach than when we were watching this race last year. Last year we had run up the front ridge of Mt Baldy to watch atop a windy 11,068ft peak as the runners came across the ridge line and onto the remainder of the race. This year would be entirely different.

I have the opportunity this time around to support and cheer for my wife as she powers through a tough 50 kilometers of steep climbs and descents amongst some of Utah’s most challenging terrain. As she approached up the first brutal climb she looked pretty spent (as did everyone else not named Sage Cannaday). This was indeed a sign of the difficulty of the climb.

Climbing up Hidden Peak

As she took off out of the Hidden Peak aid station she had high hopes and firm goals to compete amongst the best. I watched her descend down the trail into Mineral Basin. It was going to be a while before I would see her come up and over Mt. Baldy. She had a long run ahead through Mineral Basin and around Miller Hill in American Fork Canyon. Well, this would afford me the opportunity to get an adventure of my own.

The route down into Mineral Basin

The route down into Mineral Basin

From Hidden Peak I had so many options to go explore various mountain tops. I was literally on top of the world! Up amongst the wildflowers, dirt and rock of the high Alpine Ridge Line of Little Cottonwood Canyon is one of my most favorite places to be. I have taken various trips up in these mountains around White Pine, Red Pine, Lone Peak, Pfeifferhorn, Devil’s Castle, Mt Baldy and so much more. These are mountains I grew up experiencing rock climbing and backpacking. I have many memories here. It was only fitting that I would create one more on this great day!

I opted for the rocky and gnarly ascent up the American Fork Twin Peaks. From Hidden Peak it looked doable, but challenging at the same time. I headed a little way along the trail and dropped my pack and took out a couple of gels and a handheld. With this I would push forward to the summit of the great twin peaks. The climb up the ridge from Hidden to the first of Twin Peaks was much more fun and simpler than I anticipated. This was a good boulder scramble. It was a well used route up along the line. The weather was perfect with some sun shining, few clouds in the sky and a slight breeze to keep me cool up at this elevation. I enjoy climbing and hopping from boulder to boulder. To bring out the climbing prowess and scramble up fourth class rock adds a great element to any peak bagging adventure.

Twin Peak Ridge Approach

The route goes to the west from Hidden Peak then turns subtly to the south with great views into Mineral Basin, Silver Lake Flat and over to Mt. Timpanogos. At this point I came across a slight field of snow where I was able to add to my handheld for a little more fluid. I then summitted the first of the two peaks. What a marvalous view!

A top Twin Peaks

I then pushed onward and made a good dash over to the second peak. From there it was tempting to continue onward towards Red Top, but knowing that Les was in the middle of racing and I did not want to miss her I headed back to the first peak. The feeling that I enjoy a top the world is one of the great joys of life. I am so blessed to be able to enjoy the great creations of our God. I am grateful for the health and level of fitness that I am able to maintain to be able to accomplish these great things.

I made my way back down the ridgeline, again enjoying the great view around me. Soaking in the high mountain air and plotting my next adventure up in these mountains. I look forward to again be up here.

Once back down I grabbed my pack and headed over between Hidden Peak and Mt. Baldy to watch for Les and the other runners coming off of Baldy. In the race they make their way up a gnarly climb from Mineral Basin to come up on the saddle between Baldy and Sugarloaf and then climb up and over Baldy to then descend down to the saddle between Baldy and Hidden and then wrap around down to the tunnel under the saddle and back down towards the front side of Snowbird. Halfway down the mountain they then turn back up the north ridge of Hidden Peak and must climb up that steep ridge back to Hidden Peak to then head back to the west and eventually turning again north on the final descent down to the finish at the base of Snowbird.

Leslie making her way off of Baldy towards the tunnel

Leslie making her way off of Baldy towards the tunnel

After watching her come off of Baldy then through the tunnel I waited atop Hidden Peak again as she made her final pass there. As she finished that final brutal climb she was in a top 10 placement and I cheered her through and then hopped the tram to get to the finish before she did. I made it down with some time to spare. I was able to watch her come through the finish strong in a 12th place finish amongst a very challenging and competitive field. I am so proud of what she was able to accomplish out there today. Glad I can be there to support her and cheer her on.

Leslie Howlett Speedgoat 50k Finish

I footnotes