Hiker has scaled about 60 Wasatch peaks, plans book

Posted: Wednesday, May 08, 2002

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- In the summer of 1995, Mike ''Mick'' Wenzbauer was on the 14,433-foot Mount Elbert in Colorado when hail, snow and lightning forced him and a climbing buddy close to the summit to instead run down the mountain seeking cover.

Since then, he's been staying closer to home, which is now Syracuse, bagging one peak after another.

His focus has been the Wasatch Front, from Mount Nebo north to Willard Peak in Weber County. He's chronicled 45 Wasatch peaks on his Web site, and plans a book by winter.

To date, he's climbed nearly 60 what he considers significant and ''obscure'' peaks just along the Wasatch, perhaps the best climbing range close to a metropolitan area in the United States, he says.

He can trace back to his youth his passion for the clean air, stellar views, peace and serenity that he finds while hiking and hanging out with his head in the clouds a welcome change from working with computers all day in downtown Salt Lake City.

When he was 12, Wenzbauer, now 29, climbed Hidden Peak with his dad and two older brothers. It may have been the changing vistas and ruggedness of Little Cottonwood Canyon on that hike that pumped climbing into his blood. But the constant call of the mountains needed time to gestate.

He didn't hike much in high school, except for Mount Olympus in 1990. A year after graduation in 1991, with a yearning to climb Lone Peak, located on the border of Salt Lake and Utah counties, he and a friend decided they had what it took to conquer the 11,253-foot mountain.

''We grossly underestimated it and got our butts kicked by that one,'' he remembers.

They spent the winter thinking about their failed attempt, and in the summer of 1993, they made it to the summit.

''That was very satisfying,'' he recalls.

But then they overheard people talking about a tougher climb, Twin Peaks.

''So, it was a case of, 'We need to try that,' '' he says.

And the peaks started falling.

''I kind of wanted to start climbing all of them,'' he says. ''It's just snowballed into finding every little sub-peak that I can find now.''

The book he has planned and he's OK with it if someone beats him to it and does a ''good'' job will cover the major summit climbs as well as the lesser-known hikes in the Wasatch Mountains. He hopes to include detailed route descriptions, totaling possibly 150.

The inspiration for the book came from seeing how popular climbing and, in particular, peak bagging is in Colorado.

''Our mountains here are just as nice to climb and as scenic and difficult,'' he says.

What keeps the Wasatch Mountains on par with Colorado's finest, he says, are the elevation gains many hikes start at valley floors and the rugged beauty throughout.

This year, he joined the Wasatch Mountain Club, in part to help him with tougher climbs as his regular climbing mates go their own ways. He's learned how to traverse summer snowfields on higher peaks and over the next few months will finish research for his book by climbing Y Mountain, Big Baldy, Thunder Mountain, White Baldy and Cascade Mountain.

He has some incentive to hurry he and his wife, Emily, are planning to try for their first child.

''She's supportive of it,'' he says. ''She admittedly gets a little nervous when I go off and do some of the more dangerous ones.''

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On the Net:

Mike Wenzbauer: http://www.micksmtn.20m.com



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