In early November, the Wasatch Mountains of Utah received a series of storms covering the central range in four feet of luscious, powder snow. For two weeks, the skiing was good; but a continuation of warm, dry weather reduced the snowpack to a stout sun crust over sugar. From a skiing perspective this was depressing, but for early season winter climbing it was phenomenal! Lesson learned: If the snow gods give you a lemon...climb it!
The North Ridge of the Pfeifferhorn (middle-left).
Climbing the northeast couloir. Early season conditions provided some good mixed climbing that needed to be protected.
Pfeifferhorn poking above the forest.
Traveling through Maybird Gulch.
Approaching the northeast couloir (Variation B).
The base of the couloir. Our first sun of the day (almost our only sun of the day).
The Lower Portion of the North Ridge
The northeast couloir maxed out around 50 degrees with a good mixed section. From this couloir we gained the north ridge. Brenton (fowweezer) began the climb through 4th class terrain. Although powder snow glazed many of the rocks, ample protection opportunities made the climb safe overall.
Matt (marauders) considering the options ahead, below the Lightning Bolt Crack.
Nearing the mixed portion of the northeast couloir (Variation B).
Matt (marauders) leading the mixed portion of the northeast couloir.
The snow glazed rock of the lower north ridge.
The first portion of good, bare granite along the lower north ridge.
The Middle Portion of the North Ridge
After some good 4th class granite, the middle portion of the north ridge provides a fun, exposed traverse across a granite slab that ends in a steep couloir down the northwest face of Pfeifferhorn. Initially the slab looks harder than it really is. There is a network of cracks that provides secure footholds.
Brenton (fowweezer) leading the traverse.
Alec (PocketsOfBlue) providing a useful belay.
Brenton (fowweezer) reapproaching the crest of the north ridge.
Looking down on the granite slab. Just don't look down while your on it.
Alec (PocketsOfBlue) making his way across the slab.
The Crux & The Summit
After the granite slab, the north ridge narrows substantially and is bisected by the Lightning Bolt Crack. The crack appears slightly overhanging, with minimal features. Can it be climbed? Definitely. But that's not my cup of tea. Instead we took the standard route to the east of the crack. This circumvention places you on the northeast face where the crux moves exist. The 5.3 moves are simple, but the steep terrain, snow, crampons and gloves give it some added spice. Why climb this in the snow? Well, the ridge is normally a loose pile of granite. So the snow and ice help hold the rocks together. Don't dwell on that too much as you look between your legs!
The crux moves circumventing the Lightning Bolt Crack.
Brenton leading toward the crux.
Looking straight down the northeast face. So exactly which rocks are solid?
The last snow ridge to the summit.
Descending the east ridge of the Pfeifferhorn.
Few climbs have provided the full adventure and satisfaction of the North Ridge of the Pfeifferhorn.
Great weather, great conditions, and superb partners. Life is rarely this perfect.
Glissading down Maybird Headwall.
Skiing down Maybird Gulch in early season conditions.
Alec and the sunset.
The North Ridge of the Pfeifferhorn.