Polar Bear Plunge

In college we lived in Provo, UT. There is a large mountain called Mount Timpanogos located on the Wasatch Front that you can see for miles. It has a trail system with one of the routes leading to the highest peak of the mountain which is just shy of 12,000 feet above sea level. The hike is 14 miles long round trip and has 5,300 feet of elevation gain. It's a considerable challenge.

One summer, a bunch of us decided to take on the challenge. We set out early in the morning with day packs and a lot of enthusiasm. The scenery is beautiful and there is plenty of wildlife. We saw a moose munching in the willows along the stream. 

The trail has a lot of switchbacks because of the significant elevation gain: 5,300 feet over a 7 mile distance. We strongly recommend being in great shape to make the ascent.

Around mid day we summitted the mountain and looked out over the Utah valley. It was a stunning sight! As we looked around the other direction we noticed the well traveled glacier on the other side of the peak bowl. We eye-balled one another and decided part of our descent would include sliding down the glacial snow. 

We hiked around the rim and entered the glacier route. A lot of people had preceeded us so there were well groomed grooves. We happened to bring garbage bags to sit on to stay dry and accelerate as quickly as possible. Once we sat down, we took off on our gravity assisted descent. It was exhilarating.

Once we reached the bottom we stowed our trash bags and took pictures at emerald lake at the bottom of the glacier. The water was so cold that the glacier snow remained solid while submerged. One of the guys touched the glacier water and remarked at how cold it was.

Of course, that's when the dare was born: "Who wants to take a polar bear plunge?" one guy yelled. Someone else responded, "I'll do it if you do."

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Soon, 4 of us were standing on the edge of the freezing cold lake in our shorts staring at each other. The others were egging us on. It was daunting to look across the small body of water and see the snow peering back. 

The moment came to make our move. A crowd had gathered - oh great! One of our roommates yelled, "on the count of three! ONE, TWO, THREE! We all launched into the water. It was instant pain as our skin contracted in shock. I felt like I came out of the water as quickly as I went in. 

People were cheering and laughing at our stupidity and the shocked look on our faces. We quickly swam to shore and pulled ourselves out. I was surprised at how quickly the energy was sucked from my body. I pulled myself onto the shore into the summer sun and started to shiver. I tried to smile to show my bravery but all I could focus on was how much I was shivering. 

We were only cold for a moment as the sun heated us up. We laughed at each other and geared up for the rest of the descent.

The downhill direction was much easier for me than the climb. While some people have knee issues that hamper them going down, I love the descent. 

The descent took about half as much time as the climb. At the bottom we were all wiped out. What a great outing!

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