Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Climbing the South Ridge of Mt.Superior

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Climbing the South Ridge of Mt.Superior
The South Ridge of Mt.Superior is a popular class 5 scramble to reach the summit. You can hike this on a actual trail this route, however the appeal of taking the South Ridge is that is offers a more challenging & technical approach. The South Ridge of Superior is considered a "Wasatch Classic" scramble with a lot of exposure and big views. It is highly recommended that if this is your first time taking this route, to go with someone who knows the way and can also help coach you through tough and exposed spots.


While I do consider myself and experienced peak-bagger, and have done other hard ridge scrambles, I did need a rope & harness to complete this ridge. More experienced climbers can do this without rope, but the exposure is what left me feeling unsure. While there is no trail, you just aim straight up the ridge, scrambling over 5.4 & 5.5 climbing sections.


Drive up Little Cottonwood Canyon for 8 miles, and park at the "Our Lady of the Snows Center" on your left. Here's a driving map.

Distance: 5 miles (loop)
Elevation gain: 2,550 ft
Time: 4-8 hours
Dog friendly? No, dogs are not allowed in LCC
Kid friendly? No
Fees/Permits? None.

Climbing the South Ridge of Mt.Superior
Start by parking at Our Lady of the Snows Center, then walk down the LCC paved road, until your each the TH.

Ok I admit I was nervous about this ridge. I've don't a lot of hikes and over 100 peaks, but for some reason this one spooked me. It just looked SO steep! Was I going to be able to do this??
Climbing the South Ridge of Mt.Superior
The "trail" begins at 
GPS: 40.5858944,-111.6537787
This is about 0.2 miles past the last Snowbird entrance on the left (North) side of the road. There is a large pull-out and you'll see the trail begin here.
Climbing the South Ridge of Mt.Superior
Follow the "trail" up as it cuts through loose shale rock.
Climbing the South Ridge of Mt.Superior
You really need to go with someone who knows the way. From here, it seemed there were several trails branching off from the shale rock area.
Climbing the South Ridge of Mt.Superior
After hiking up the shale rock for about 15 minutes, we found ourselves at the base of our first scramble.
Climbing the South Ridge of Mt.Superior
As you climb higher, don't forget to look at the views all around!
Climbing the South Ridge of Mt.Superior
Looking back down to Snowbird!
Climbing the South Ridge of Mt.Superior
I've always seen people on Instagram and Facebook groups posting pictures of them hiking the South Ridge with no rope or anything. So I assumed if they can do it, so can I. This was not the case for me.

This is a trad climb - you will need a few pieces of gear plus at least a 50 ft rope.
Climbing the South Ridge of Mt.Superior
I was so nervous that I needed to be roped up and tied in to my harness. I was mad at myself for needing the assistance and wanted to climb without the rope, just like I had seen others do. Why was this so challenging for me? I climb! I bag peaks every weekend! I was getting frustrated.
Climbing the South Ridge of Mt.Superior
On the way up, I saw lots of pipes and platforms sticking out from the small ridge over and was informed that it was to do with winter backcountry avalanche control.
Climbing the South Ridge of Mt.Superior
Looking down Suicide Shoot - a popular chute for backcountry skiers. 
Climbing the South Ridge of Mt.Superior
This wasn't very reassuring - so sad to think about a death up here!
Climbing the South Ridge of Mt.Superior
I started to feel a more comfortable on the exposed ridges. As about 8 people flew past us, I just had to realize that I felt safer with a rope and had to not care what people thought about me. Even if I didn't look "cool" with a rope on this ridge, I had to realize that being safe was better than being sorry!
Climbing the South Ridge of Mt.Superior
I had a LOT, and I mean a lot of negative self-talk on this ridge. I knew Ian was getting annoyed, and I had to realize that it wasn't making things any better. I tried to smile in photos, even though I had a death grip on these rocks and my mind was not in a good spot.
Climbing the South Ridge of Mt.Superior
I had to take so many breaks. This shows just how narrow the ridge is. No more than 3 feet across at most.
Climbing the South Ridge of Mt.Superior
I started to look around at my views again, and started to relax more on the flatter parts. The sun was starting to go down, and I was worried we wouldn't make it to the summit by dark. At least my view of American Fork Twin Peaks was awesome!
Climbing the South Ridge of Mt.Superior
Finally, the rock changed from the light brown to a very dark brown, almost black, and I knew we were close. The hardest climbing was behind me now.
Climbing the South Ridge of Mt.Superior
I disconnected from the rope, and on a flat spot, finally felt some relief. I made it through the worst part! I was extremely exhausted here, but I think Ian said something like, "pretend like you're happy!" haha!
Climbing the South Ridge of Mt.Superior
Finally, we could see Mt.Superior.
Climbing the South Ridge of Mt.Superior
It took me 4.5 hours to reach the summit via the south ridge. The fastest known time (FKT) for comparison is 59 minutes by local Chris Cawley!
Climbing the South Ridge of Mt.Superior
Looking down to the upper Lake Blanche basin, and Cardiac Ridge on the right.
Climbing the South Ridge of Mt.Superior
We stayed on the summit for about 5 minutes, then because it was already 8pm, I wanted to start hiking down. We took a minute to stop and look at the south ridge. Wow, did I just do all that?! Crazy. Doesn't look so bad from this angle!
Climbing the South Ridge of Mt.Superior
Making our way down the actual trail.
Climbing the South Ridge of Mt.Superior
Our 5 mile loop took us 7 hours to complete. I'm not happy about how long it took us, but sometimes thats just how things go. I'm just glad I completed it, and will probably never do it again. It was not only physically, but also mentally, exhausting!


Our 5 mile loop.




Hiking American Fork Twin Peaks
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Climbing the South Ridge of Mt.Superior