Hiking Hard Core

Power lifting takes weight lifting to the next level. And now, Utah has power hiking thanks to the Gay Men’s Advanced Hiking group, with spring and summer hikes beginning in May.

“This is a group hike. Our average hike time is eight to ten plus hours,” said Edwin Delaney Pederson, hike coordinator and group leader. “We hike to the peak of our destination 99 percent of the time. We do move at a pretty moderate pace with little break time.”

Pederson says hikes will begin with less intense trips in May that will only last four to five hours. Although Mt. Olympus hike is considered an easy hike, for example, consulting a physician before joining an intense hike might be prudent if you haven’t hiked aggressively up steep hills or hiked when there is pressure to stay with the group.

The Saturday hikes are a great way to explore the mountains of the Greater Wasatch Front. GMAH reaches the summits of all local ski and snowboard mountain ranges above 10,000 feet, sometimes traversing the ridges along the top of a range. (A word of warning: Elevation sickness will affect hikers who haven’t visited high elevations recently.)

Right now, most hikes have obstacles like snow, mud, hail and rain. The temperature can change abruptly and sometimes shrouds of dense fog obscure sudden snow flurries or break up to reveal intense sunlight. The views are spectacular and on a GMAH hike, sometimes one can see for miles in the distance. Wildlife is abundant; larger mammals usually are spooked by hikers, while snakes — including rattle snakes — coming out of their holes after their winter slumber move slowly on the trails.

Hiking is also a glorious way to enjoy the outdoors and exercise while viewing nature as it blossoms and is affected by the weather. The snow melt swells creeks and rivers, creating new ponds, and snow rivers, usually obscured from view, are apparent to a hiker’s ear. Also, sliding down snow-covered terrain that isn’t directly hit by the sun makes for great fun within the group.

“Even though we have met and become great friends, the foundation of these hikes is centered on the workout and endurance,” said Pederson. “Many of the climbs reach just under a Class 4 climb, so it can be very dangerous as far as scrambling, but [climbing] equipment is not necessary. Though we move at a moderate pace, we still maintain breaks where needed for the workout. Should you choose to join us, be prepared to push yourself.”

The group is serious about safety paying attention to each person who has joined the day’s hike. Hikers are required to stay together and wandering off the trail is not tolerated. Communication is important, and if there are any issues on the hike, participants need to speak up about how they are feeling — especially if they have any apprehension about where they are, or if they notice another hiker is having any difficulties. Band-Aids, insect repellant and sun block are suggested for each hiker, along with warm clothing, since it is always easy to take off layers. Usually each hiker brings a backpack to hold clothing, extra hiking shoes or snow boots, safety accessories and lunch.

“I generally pack a couple of sandwiches, averaging about six bottles of water, trail mix of some sort to snack on, sun block, a hat, extra layers for unpredictable weather,” said Pederson, who suggests Hi Tec, a widely carried hiking brand of boots that are sturdy and reliable. Sporting stores and outdoor retailers also offer many brands and some special offers and deals. Sunglasses, an extra pair of socks and a rain coat with a hood are also suggested articles to bring.

Preparation for going on advanced hikes should include cardio activities, like stair steppers, swimming, running, biking and smaller hikes up hills. Though last year’s hikers included many experienced hikers, anyone wanting to try it out is welcome, and they should be prepared mentally for a workout.

“The group is primarily made up of gay men, but not exclusive. It is, however, a men’s hiking group,” said Pederson. “We always meet at 9 a.m. sharp [special hikes will have specific information on times]. I am at the meeting spot at 8:30 a.m. I prefer you be punctual and on time for this, and if you are going to be like five or so minutes late, we will wait, but you have to give me a call and let us know to wait.”

The group generally meets at the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon, at the parking lot off of the 215, as you turn to go up to Brighton and Snowbird. Pederson says he will be there in his White Ford F150 Truck each Saturday. The first hike will be May 15 and will go to Lake Blanche and back.

“This is a very easy hike. It is our opening social hike,” said Pederson. “So don’t feel intimidated to join us, come and get to know the group and see first hand of what to expect.”

Pederson has been leading the group for the past three years. He decided to change the name this year and create a logo, as he is also a talented graphic artist who recently created Team Utah’s logo. Pederson also swims with QUAC and has just published his first novel.

“Lastly, setting a goal to conquer a mountain peak that does everything it can to break you, is amazing,” said Pederson. “Standing on a peak at 14,000 feet is one amazing feeling of accomplishment. We have an awesome time.”

To reach GMAH, look for its Facebook page or email Delaney Pederson at [email protected], or call him at 801-503-4234.

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