This Mount Superior couloir is probably better well known as a steep backcountry ski route, but in the spring and early summer it provides an excellent steep snow route for a climb of Mount Superior and Monte Cristo.
The couloir lies on the east face of Mount Superior, and tops out at the first notch on the south ridge route. From the top of the couloir the upper half of the south ridge can then be followed to the summit. An advantage of this route is that it bypasses the generally less interesting scrambling which is found on the lower half of the south ridge, leaving the more enjoyable scrambling still to come above.
Getting ThereTake the 6200 South exit (exit #6) off I-215 and follow highway 190 south-east approximately 2 miles to the intersection with Big Cottonwood Canyon road. Continue straight through the stoplight and follow the road another 4 miles to the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon, where an electronic billboard on the right provides current road and/or weather conditions.
Continue east up Little Cottonwood Canyon and take the upper entrance to the Snowbird Ski Resort parking area. There is also a large pullout on the left (north) side of the road a short distance beyond this parking area, but parking is not permitted along the roadside prior to May 15 of each year.
From either of the parking locations described in the 'Getting There' section, proceed north onto the low angled slopes to the north and east of the main south ridge buttress. A short section of bushwhacking will be required but this passes quickly.
Begin ascending the broad and moderately angled snowfield which gradually necks down, followed by a split into two prominent forks. Proceed up the left fork and continue upwards, staying generally to the left.
Soon the top of the couloir will become visible as a notch on the skyline. Simply continue up the couloir as it steadily increases in steepness to the top of the ridge. Depending on the season and snow conditions, a large cornice may cap the top of the notch. If so, it will be necessary to skirt the cornice near the rocks on either side of the couloir.
If proceeding on to the summit from the top of the couloir, turn right (north) and begin climbing the ridge as described in the south ridge route.
There are several options for descent from the summit of Mount Superior. The shortest descent is by descending several hundred yards down the south ridge, to the point at which it makes a brief curve to the west. At this point it is possible to drop onto the south-facing snowfields which can be descended back to the starting point.
It is also possible to access the south face snowfields by following the ridge east from the summit for several hundred feet until a suitable location is reached to drop onto the face. Either of these two options will require navigating through several series of cliff bands.
If snow on the south face is sparse then a longer but better descent route would be to proceed down the east ridge of the summit, reversing the Cardiff Pass route. Descending by this route will require walking approximately one mile down the Little Cottonwood Canyon road to reach beginning parking spot.
If continuing up the south ridge above the couloir, carry gear as described in the south ridge route description.