Cardiff Peak OverviewKnown by The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) and The Utah Avalanche Center (UAC) as Cardiff Peak, this mountain has an elevation of 10,277 feet. Known by many local Wasatch climbers as Pole Line Peak, this mountain has adopted 2 names over the years. Located on the Big Cottonwood/Little Cottonwood Canyon ridgeline, Cardiff Peak is surrounded by its taller neibors Mount Superior and Mount Flagstaff. From the summit one can see most of the bigger peaks in the Central Wasatch. With a 360 degree view from the top, the views of Flagstaff Peak, Patsy Marley, Mt Wolverine, Mt Baldy, American Fork Twin Peaks, Red Baldy, White Baldy, The Pfeifferhorn, Mount Superior, Reynolds Peak, and Gobblers Knob are all definatly in the outstanding catagory. Also at the summit is a weather station that is well decorated with christmas lights (which are occasionally turned on around mid December). Just below it's summit is Little Cottonwood Canyons famous Hellgate Cliffs, a popular rock climb destination and occasional ski base jump area.
Getting ThereThere are two basic approaches for ascending Cardiff Peak......
Little Cottonwood Canyon (ALTA)- Start by driving up Little Cottonwood Canyon. When you pass Alta's entry 1 (Wildcat/Collins parking lot) start keeping an eye to the left side of the road. Just after the Shallow Shaft resturant there is a large parking area on your left and right. Park here and hike back down just below the Shallow Shaft. There should be a short paved road with the Alta Police Station and "Our Lady of the Snows" church buildings. Head up this paved road up and around the police station. From here the road turns to gravel. Follow the gravel road up and around a curve. Shortly after the curve a snow study plot will appear. At the study plot take a left and follow this trail to Cardiff Pass. Using this route to get to Cardiff Peak takes under an hour making this route the most popular with climbers of all types, just about anytime of year.
Big Cottonwood Canyon (Reynolds Flat)- Drive up Big Cottonwood Canyon until you reach the Reynolds Flat. In the summer you can drive about 1 mile up the road to a small parking lot. In the winter months this 1 mile stretch is only open to local home owners, making this route just that much longer. Whichever month you choose, start by heading up this road. When you reach the upper (summer) parking lot keep to the road that has a gate (this gate blocks vehicles not people). Follow this road keeping to the right whenever you come up on any forks in the trail. After the bottom of a huge slide path is crossed the trail will cross the main stream onto the left side of the fork. Keep to this obvious trail, passing the trees and abandoned mine structures until the peak comes into view. From here just keep hiking up the left drainage until you reach Cardiff Pass. At the pass make a right and you will be at the summit shortly.
Red TapeWhen the avalanche danger for the Little Cottonwood Canyon highway exceeds a certain limit the highway is closed and so is any uphill traffic. There is a sign at the Alta Police station trailhead that will flash when avalanche control work is planned and/or closed, but don't count on it.......for I have been near the ridge when the avalanche control work started and the sign was not flashing that morning. On the Utah Avalanche Center website there is usually a warning of what time UDOT is planning avalanche control work. Please do not ignore those warnings.
AvalanchesSince 1995 over 25 avalanches on and around Cardiff Peak have burried the Little Cottonwood Canyon highway. The Big Cottonwood side of this peak is no safer. Just off of the summit is a north facing, 35 degree hanging snow field that is commonly crossed as a "short cut" when heading for Mount Superior. This hanging snow field is located above a 30-40 foot cliff and has an average of 2-3 avalanche related accidents a year. In 2010 a visitor from Switzerland was using the ridge to gain Cardiff Peak, avoiding the hanging snowfield. Near the top of the ridge/peak the gusty winds blew his jacket onto the hanging snowfield. As he went to retrieve his coat an avalanche broke out and carried him off of the cliff. When his party reached him he had a broken femur and pelvis, and they eventually had to call in a helicopter resque. Please make sure you bring a beacon, probe, shovel, avalung and a partner with you during your winter travels.
SkiingThe skiing off of Cardiff Peak is what some skiers in the Wasatch would call a paradise for every ability level. Avalanches are a common and frequent threat on and around this mountain so please carry a beacon, probe, shovel, avalung, a partner and common sense with you during your winter travels. Here are some basic descriptions of some of the runs that Cardiff Peak has to offer.
Cardiff Pass has two runs strait off of the pass, a south side (little Cottonwood Canyon) and a north facing side (Big Cottonwood Canyon). The south side is usually more popular due to the general gentle nature of the run....and it gets you back to your car. The north facing side usually holds better snow and is steeper but not for long.....however this run is technically the longest if you ski all the way down Cardiff Fork.
Hellgates Backbowl This steep mostly west facing slide path is a known avalancher. On spring powder days this run is the last to warm up when compared to the other south facing runs inbetween Cardiff Peak and Superior. The lack of sun and large snowpack totals make spring the best time of year for skiing this one. Early season the choke can be rocky so be sure to scout out your line before skiing too far. Scouting out your line is best accomplished on the drive up Little Cottonwood Canyon. If you do find that the choke is too rocky, do not panic, just traverse skiers right into the Two Trees Slide Path.
Two Trees Just slightly down ridge from Hellgates Backbowl is a steep south facing avalanche path known as Two Trees. Starting in some evenly spaced trees, the slope angle quickly increases to 35+ degrees as the trees disappear. Soon you will find yourself on a broad open face that funnels into some twisting gullies. Follow the gullies to the LCC road and hitch-hike back to your car. If Alta is closed and you have a Snowbird pass, use the Tram and Mt Baldy to get back to your car. The best time of year to ski this run is during a corn cycle when avalanche conditions are absolutely stable as could be.
[img:613890:aligncenter:medium:Two Trees Slide Path]
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