elisa jones liberty cap trail in winter

Rising Up

“For the stone from the top for geologists, the knowledge of the limits of endurance for the doctors, but above all for the spirit of adventure to keep alive the soul of man.” 
― George Mallory

I love exploring new trails. I’ve never been to Liberty Cap before, but it’s been on my list since before we moved here. There are two approaches to the rock formation, one via the Corkscrew Trail (personally, I would have called it “Devil’s __________”, but I guess I didn’t have a say in the trail names in the National Monument. Pity.). The other is up the Liberty Cap trail, proper.

I had been told the Liberty Cap trail was one heck of a climb, and from the maps the Corkscrew Trail looked properly screwy. So of course I opted to rise up via the screwy one, and descend down the steeper one. Here’s what my route looked like: CLICK HERE.

So kind of a loop with a short out-n-back to the cap. From up there the view was incredible. You could see how incredibly full of junk the valley was/is.

Click on it to do it justice.
Click on it to do it justice.

This recalled to my mind the many years I spent living on the Wasatch Front. I think I’ve expounded on this before: the smog so thick you can chew it, so dense you cannot see the mountains… So, yeah. I’m not a fan. But even as bad as it seems here, I am still thankful for these things:

1. It was actually pretty warm in the sunshine today. And that’s something immense: the sun can still get through the smog.

2. Even hiking (vs. my typical MO of running) I was above and into the pure sunshine in under an hour. Probably less.

3. The terrain, even with the inversion, still flatters the overall landscape. The Monument cliffs were still red, the snow still sparkled white (and was, on the top layer, melted and re-fozen so many times they were no longer snow flakes, but ice crystals the size and texture of grains of Jasmine rice).

4. All of the animal tracks in the snow (and the sheep poop on the trail) gave me hope that even  in the cold and snow the animals somehow survive. I can survive this winter, too.

The trail up to the cap itself was steep, twisted, and technically challenging. I was glad I hadn’t tried it last week. I still have 5 stitches in my wrist, but the pain is far less than it was. Maybe this just means I am far more likely to over-use and injure it. Hm….(pondering silence)

Okay, so I get up to the cap. Apparently you can climb to the top of this rock formation. I wasn’t that suicidal today, so I opted just for a good look around. And I wasn’t disappointed. (see pix below)

Hiking down from Liberty Cap on the trail proper was a whole other animal. My shoes were less-than-adequate, my body kept wanting to run (I was trying to take it easy!), and I was way too happy for that. I was listening to music and when Flow Rida came on the playlist I couldnt’ help but put some speed into the descent. Dangerous. Tricky. I loved it.

It’s only 1.5 miles from the cap to the Wildwood TH. That’s a drop of 1200 ft. That’s 800 ft/mile. So if you’ve ever run down a slide covered in ice, then you can imagine what it was like. Awesome.

I was so glad that I rose above- not just the smog, but my comfort zone as well.

The TH
The TH
Corkscrew trail. Winds through the trees along the base, and slowly climbs until you suddenly find yourself on the edge of this canyon with black-streaked walls. Immense.
Corkscrew trail. Winds through the trees along the base, and slowly climbs until you suddenly find yourself on the edge of this canyon with black-streaked walls. Immense.
Me on the trail. Love in it.
Me on the trail. Love in it.
A little shot to show the kind of exposure you switchback up.
A little shot to show the kind of exposure you switchback up.
Where corkscrew meets up with the Liberty Cap proper.
Where corkscrew meets up with the Liberty Cap proper.
A little screen shot of my PDF maps app. I was testing to see how accurate it was (since I'll be doing similar testing when I go to Moab next). To see how accurate, check out the adjacent pic.
A little screen shot of my PDF maps app. I was testing to see how accurate it was (since I’ll be doing similar testing when I go to Moab next). To see how accurate, check out the adjacent pic.
This is where I was standing when I took the screen shot.
This is where I was standing when I took the screen shot.
Another shot, after the trail junction. I just can't get enough of the red rocks. There were several arches i spotted up there that I have yet to gain from any other aspect.
Another shot, after the trail junction. I just can’t get enough of the red rocks. There were several arches i spotted up there that I have yet to gain from any other aspect.
Me with the Bookcliffs in the background.
Me with the Bookcliffs in the background.
Enjoying the sunlight! That's Liberty Cap behind me.
Enjoying the sunlight! That’s Liberty Cap behind me.
Climbing up Liberty Cap is like ascending a ladder that's 1.5 miles long.
Climbing up Liberty Cap is like ascending a ladder that’s 1.5 miles long.