South Ridge, Mt. Superior, Utah
Considered a Wasatch classic climb, the south ridge of Mt. Superior lies directly north of the Snowbird Ski Resort. In the summer, the south ridge is a spectacular climb, which is mostly 4th class and a few sections of low 5th class rated at 5.3. Under snow cover, the route becomes more challenging as you climb 55-60 degree snow, negotiate cornices that swallow the ridge proper, and search diligently for good protection. Overall the ridge is a magnificent climb in superb surroundings. This one comes highly recommended!
Here come the photos...
Our ascent up the south ridge and descent down the south face of Mount Superior.
Glenn enjoying the sunrise on the lower slopes of the south ridge. The majority of the initial slope is between 30-40 degrees. As the slopes funnels to create the first narrow section of ridge, the slope max is roughly 50-55 degrees.
Atop the initial slope, we gained our first view of the majority of our route.
Exposed sections of the ridge, which are quite comfortable in the summer, become more unnerving as cornices swallow up the real estate. We attempted to chop a hole in this cornice, but the snow and ice was rock solid.
Looking down the first narrow section of ridge, with a beautiful cornice peeling over the east side.
The final section of the first narrow ridge on the south ridge route. This section of ridge ends at the top of the Suicide Chute. With some exposed rocks and horns we could have used a running belay, but with all this snow, the rope would only assure that we all died together in a fall, so we kept the rope coiled away.
The view up the middle section of the south ridge as seen from the top of the Suicide Chute. This was a great spot for a rest.
Above the Suicide Chute was a 60-degree slope that I didn't bother to take a photo of. I just wanted to climb up it fast. After that fun, we got back to narrow ridge lines.
Along the entire route there was so much snow that protection was few and far between. This was the best belay all day.
A nice mild section of climbing just over midway up the route. On these broad sections of the ridge the snow was a bit soft, but still powdery so trailbreaking wasn't too hard.
This was the first really exposed move on the route. Although the camera doesn't show it too well, the rocky areas in the middle of the photo required some of those full-commitment moves. Glenn found some good protection by wrapping a sling around an ice column under the overhanging rock.
A close up of some of the huge cornices.
Other than the tree belay shown earlier, the rest of the climb was boot/axe belays and the like.
The last section of exposed climbing on the south ridge. Again, the camera doesn't do this justice. Before Glenn placed his steps, this was a thin fin of sugary snow and it was very hard to tell where the rock ended and the cornice began. Although we all pulled our share of leading, Glenn took the two most difficult sections, which earned him the "balls of steel" award. It was some fine climbing.
After the last exposed section of ridge, it was time to relax and coil the rope. What a climb this was turning out to be!
Taking the last section of the ridge to the summit. Most of the south ridge is visible below.
The summit of Mt. Superior with Monte Cristo in the background. Days like this make you pinch yourself to assure it's real.
Traditionally we would walk down the east ridge route, but with the stable snow, how can you resist a glissade down the south face of Superior? During our climb, we watched three groups of skiers put lines down the south face, so we decided to join 'em.
In the soft snow we could only glissade so far, the rest was postholing...fun. I swear my hips and thighs nearing exploded by the time we reached the road below.
How would we sum up the day? Unspeakable! Great partners, stable snow, perfect weather and spectacular surroundings. Ah, the mountains, it doesn't get any better.