Uto Speed Mission

After climbing Uto Peak’s southwest ridge with Ryan in July, I was left wondering just how fast I could get up there. We’d made good time, but knowing we had a long, long alpine ridge ahead of us we certainly hadn’t been going at anything resembling full speed. When, in late August it was still on my mind, I decided to go for it. I figured at worst I’d blow myself up on the approach and have a fun, mellow time cruising up the classic southwest ridge.

I gleaned a few splits and some inspiration from the current Sir Donald FKT holder (drdirtbag.com), then headed up to the pass to try my hand at that peak’s neigbouring mini-me.

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Ryan on Uto earlier this season.

I didn’t put too much energy into the Sir Donald trail’s opening flats, as I figured I’d need it later. By the time the trail turned upwards toward the bivy site, though, I was definitely hammering, and I dispatched the approach in about an hour. Then I grovelled 25 or so minutes away, doggy paddling up morainal gravel to Uto – Sir Donald col.

Garbage dealt with for a while, I put on my helmet and gave myself the little mental talk; “Ok Matt, slow down, take care. Running time is over – you’re a climber now”. Starting up the excellent southwest ridge, I couldn’t help but enjoy the climbing, even at a pace that made me want to throw up a little. I passed a fellow soloist from Minnesota early on and had the rest of the ridge to myself.

At the summit, I paused to check my watch and see if it was worth pushing the pace on the descent. 2:16 was the time and I decided it was, so I left the top quickly. I’m likely slower going down than up.

It’s easy travel on the northwest ridge though, and before long I was shoe-skiing the last vestiges of snow down from Eagle – Uto col back to the bivy site and Sir Donald Trail, which is as ill suited to running in a downward direction as it is up. That didn’t stop me from punishing my joints on its steep, gravelly switchbacks in an effort to get back to the car in under four hours. I redlined onto the pavement with 3:57 on my watch, so mission accomplished. Take that, knees.

After asking around a little I can’t find any faster times, but that certainly doesn’t mean they don’t exist. I left quite a bit of time up there, and I look forward to returning to see how a fitter and more experienced Future Matt stacks up. At any pace, it’s a very enjoyable loop.

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