photo - Mt. Superior viewed from the Alta Ski Area parking lot. photo by Zach Taylor, 2016
Members of Group - Sam Jordan & Zach Taylor
Ascent Route - East Ridge
Descent Route - South Face
The south face of Mt Superior rises 3000 vertical feet directly above Little Cottonwood Canyon right across the road from Alta Ski Area in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah. I have wanted to ski this classic face for years. Sam and I had just skied/snowboarded the Terminal Cancer couloir in the Ruby Mountains of Nevada the day before and had one more day off to ski together.
Sam was living outside Salt Lake City for the winter season and snow conditions in the area seemed like they might be pretty good for an avalanche safe, good snow descent of Superior so we decided to drive back to Utah on the 23rd to make a ski attempt the next day on the south face of Mt Superior.
We crashed at Sam's Dad's house outside SLC and got up around 4am to begin the drive up Little Cottonwood Canyon. The trailhead for Mt Superior is basically Alta Ski Area. We parked just past where the south face's slide path crosses the road and parked up on the road above the main parking lots.
There are two ways to climb Superior from here; either climb directly up the south face or skin to the top of Cardiff pass and scramble the east ridge to the summit. We elected to do the latter. We got to the parking area early morning, just as ski area employees were showing up to prepare Alta to open. Sam and I crossed the road and began the skin up Cardiff pass.
We made short work of the pass and were on the ridge after an hour or so of work. We stayed skinning on the ridge for a while. The skinning got a lot harder as everything on the ridge was frozen rock solid and there were a lot of cliffs in places on either side of the ridge. I cursed a bit as I slid around skinning on hard snow.
After a bit we shouldered planks and climbed the rest of the way on the ridge with axe and crampons.
photo - Sam Jordan making his way up the south face of Mt Superior. photo by Zach Taylor, 2016.
photo - Looking out over the Wasatch. photo by Zach Taylor, 2016
The climbing on the ridge was pretty straightforward for us. There was a decent bit of hiking interspersed with some steeper snow climbing and rock scrambling above cliffs in a few places. We felt like the class III rating the ridge had been given in literature was reasonable for the difficulty. It was fun scrambling and the views were spectacular.
photo - Sam Jordan climbing the east ridge with the summit of Mt. Superior pictured behind. photo by Zach Taylor2016
photo - Looking down into Big Cottonwood Canyon. photo by Zach Taylor, 2016
photo - Sam Jordan climbing along the east ridge of Mt Superior. photo by Zach Taylor, 2016.
photo - Looking out over Big Cottonwood Canyon from the east ridge of Mt Superior. photo by Zach Taylor, 2016
photo - Zach Taylor climbing the east ridge of Mt. Superior. photo by Zach Taylor, 2016
photo - Zach Taylor looking out over Little Cottonwood Canyon from near the summit of Mount Superior. photo by Sam Jordan, 2016
After a little over three hours of skinning, snow climbing, and scrambling we reached the top of Superior. The Wasatch is a beautiful range and we hung out in the sun for a few minutes enjoying the views. It was a gorgeous day and the snow seemed to be set up pretty nicely for us. We saw no signs of recent avalanche activity, the day had stayed cool up high despite the sun, the avy report had no report of recent deep slab releases, and the snow below us seemed to be nice, slightly chopped powder. I dropped in first to great snow conditions....
photo - Zach Taylor on the summit of Mt. Superior. photo by Zach Taylor, 2016
photo - Zach Taylor getting ready to drop the south face of Superior. photo by Sam Jordan, 2016.
photo - Zach Taylor dropping into the top the south face of Mt. Superior in the Wasatch range of Utah. photo by Sam Jordan, 2016.
photo - Zach Taylor descending the south face of Mt. Superior. photo by Sam Jordan, 2016
video - Sam Jordan and Zach Taylor dropping in on the south face of Mt. Superior. video by Zach Taylor, 2016
video - Zach Taylor and Sam Jorda descending the middle section of the south face of Mt. Superior. video by Zach Taylor, 2016
The snow was great. We enjoyed choppy, steep pow turns up high and through the middle, then transitioned to excellent corn on the lower third of the face.
photo - The lower part of the south face of Mt. Superior. photo by Zach Taylor, 2016.
photo - Zach Taylor riding out from the bottom of the south face of Mt. Superior. photo by Sam Jordan, 2016
photo - Descending back to the Alta Ski Area parking lot after a great descent of the south face of Mt. Superior. photo by Zach Taylor, 2016.
This line gets skied/ridden a lot and there is a reason, it is a really classic descent with easy access, and a very short approach. It is still not a line to be taken lightly though. The top of the line pitches out in the low - mid 40s and the face regularly avalanches and buries the Little Cottonwood Canyon road under 10'-20' of snow, so take it seriously. Astute and informed knowledge regarding the snowpack/current avalanche conditions and the technical ability to descend steep lines are a necessity!