Sunday, February 1, 2009

A Superior Saturday

I'm a box ticker. I have done certain things for no other reason than to check that box off my list. For instance, I've been to North Dakota and Alabama for no other reason than to say I've been there--didn't see anything, do anything, or eat anything--just crossed the border so I could say I had done so.

Other things I have done because they were on my list AND because they were a lot of fun. Lone Peak was one of those. Nice to get it off the list, but I'd certainly go back and do it again. Climbing Mt. Whitney was another.

I still haven't quite figured out where to put Saturday's climb up Mt. Superior. Superior has been on my list for as long as I can remember. I don't know how it couldn't be for anyone that skis Little Cottonwood canyon. The problem is that in order to get to the top, one has to hike along a knife-edge ridge composed of snow and rotten rock with massive exposure on either side. For someone like me who gets a little queasy from that sort of thing, it was nothing more than will and an unwillingness to descend alone that got me through it.

Things started out easy enough, skinning in the dark up to Poleline Pass. I'm getting used to getting up at 4:30 on Saturdays, even if it was 3 days out of the last 5 that I was up for the day at that hour. I can't believe the concentration of people in my neighborhood willing to do the same, as Dug, Jon, Mike, Rob, and Rick all got up early for the fun. Here's the skin track approaching the Black Knob.
The knife-edge ridge heading towards the summit. We were walking along the top of a cornice that was so thin in places you could see daylight coming through the snow. Considering it dropped several hundred feet to either side with cliff bands below, let's just say I was not particularly comfortable through this stretch.
Dug and Jon scrambling up the final stretch to the summit.

Looking back at what we'd just climbed. I think I would have been more comfortable crossing this had I brought along an ice axe or a Whippet to arrest in the event I slipped. Interestingly, nobody else in the group expressed any feelings of being ill at ease with the climb (and at least two of them did it in boots with plastic alpine soles rather than Vibram soles like I have), so maybe I'm just a wuss.
Cardiac Ridge with our ski tracks on the apron below. We dropped from the summit down the North face through a chute onto this apron. Sorry, no summit pictures. On the summit, my nerves were so completely gone that I just sat there (yes, I sat, not stood) trying to get it together enough to ski down.
But the glorious snow on the apron had me feeling good by the time I got to the bottom. Here's Mike making some huge, fast turns through the fluff while some skiers from another party skin back up.

It was so good we lapped it. Mike at the bottom wishing he could keep going down.

From here we did one more short shot then skinned back up to the ridge below the Black Knob. 2,000 more feet on the South face of Superior back to the road. The first 1/3 was sublime--surprisingly good as we found some snow that had been sheltered on an easterly aspect. The middle 1/3 was intermittently good, as long as you could find east-facing ridges. The bottom 1/3 was heavy, knee-tearing slop, although I've learned to appreciate even that because it's like a lesson--I'm not very good at skiing it, so it forces me to improve. Here's the view from the road with what we'd just skied behind us.All things considered, it was another great day in the Wasatch with well over 4,000 vertical under bluebird conditions. As difficult as it was to deal with the exposure, I'm a junkie, so if this climb is suggested in the future, you know what my answer will be. As long as it's another calm clear day.


  1. Ending the day with some quality vittles (Thanks Rachel) made the day a perfect 10...

  2. you will never be able to ski Alta without looking over your shoulder and look at Superior in a different way.

    nice one.

  3. You bagged another one. The skiing looks fantastic.

  4. Good times for sure! I have been staring at that peak for a long long time thinking I should really ski it someday! Nother notch in the backcountry belt.