What do I know?
The legend of Mt. Timpanogos
I grew up in central Utah in the valleys and foothills below Mt. Timpanogos. When I was growing up, Mt. Timpanogos was reported to be 12,008 feet high, the highest mountain in the Wasatch Range of Utah.
I climbed the mountain 5 times between the age of 12 and 17. Climbing Mt. Timpanogos was not like the pictures you see of people climbing the world’s highest mountains. It was merely a hike up a steep trail that began more than half way up the mountain but at that time my friends and I did not know the difference. We thought that we were real mountain climbers.
The trail zigzagged up the mountain until it arrived at a glacier. The top of the glacier was the first crest of the mountain top. The glacier was climbed the same way we climbed the mountain. Once the top of the glacier had been reached it was an easy hike along the crest of the mountain to the summit. Someone had built a small metal canopy hut and the organizers of the “Timp Hike” were there waiting to congratulate you and give you a small round button pin that proved you had reached the summit.
I was proud to have climbed Utah’s highest mountain and Utah’s only glacier. It was something to brag about. I knew that I could conquer mountains and glaciers. The world was mine. Nothing could hold me back. Those feelings were great and I love to recall them even though it is obvious that I was not a conqueror of mountains and glaciers. I was merely a boy meeting the local challenges of growing up.
I also grew up with stories about the Indian Maiden that slept on the top of the mountain. If you look close and someone points out the bumps and curves, the top of Mt. Timpanogos has the shape of a woman. There were stories of Indian legends about an Indian maiden with a broken heart jumping off of a cliff and the gods causing the earth to rise and create the mountain in her honor.
I didn’t believe the story but I did believe that it was an Indian folk tale.
My first disappointment or ego busting experience came a few years after the last time I climbed the mountain. Someone recalculated the elevation and discovered that the mountain was really only 11,988 feet high. It really wasn't a big deal but somehow I felt cheated. However, Mt Timpanogos was still the highest mountain in Utah so my accomplishment was only diminished by a few feet.
My second disappointment came when I found out the legend of the Indian maiden was made up by a college professor that wanted to romanticize the mountain and the hike. The professor wasn’t even an Indian or related to any Indian in any way. I wondered why some of the local Indians had not scalped him but I guess they had higher morals than he did.
The final blow came when I was doing some research about Utah County for my life story and discovered that Mt. Timpanogos isn’t the highest mountain in Utah. It’s not even the 2nd highest or the 3rd highest mountain in Utah. It is only 11,750 feet high and the 7th highest mountain in Utah.
However I have figured out how to overcome the blows to my childhood memories. I have decided that when I climbed Mt Timpanogos it was the highest mountain in Utah at 12,008 feet. Since then, the wind has blown a few feet off the top of the mountain.
The Indian maiden? Maybe the professor was right. After all, what do I know?