March 30, 2013
Over the last few weeks I’ve been doing some training to prepare for my trip to Alaska. Most of it thus far has been running, doing laps on the Icicle and standard rock climbing. Yesterday Matt, one of my partners for the trip, and I decided to do the South Ridge of Mt. Superior. I’d done this route with Alex in the fall last year and it was good fun. Doing a winter, or in our case an early spring, ascent of the route is about as close to Alaska climbing as I’ll be able to do in Salt Lake right now.
Spring has really settled into the Salt Lake Valley. A few weeks ago we still had plenty of snow around in the Valley. A week or two of 50-60 degree weather made quick work of that and now the only snow is up in the mountains. This fact made this route a little difficult. The temperatures even at 8000 feet where the route starts were near freezing overnight. This makes the snow soft and difficult to walk on. An almost alpine start was necessary and we started climbing around 6:00 under a bright moon and clear skies.
The approach wasn’t too bad, a couple hundred yards of punching through every few steps, luckily only up to mid-calf. It could have been much worse. Between the moon and the slowly brightening sky our headlamps weren’t really necessary. As we finished the approach we roped up and shortened Matt’s 30m to about 50 ft between us. The plan was to simul-climb as nothing is terribly difficult on the route. Our rack consisted of 3 nuts, 4 tri-cams, and one link cam. Only change to this rack I’d make is adding one or two more smaller nuts, otherwise it was a perfect amount of gear for us.
We moved up along the ridge working through snow and rock. We had no ice on the route and the snow was soft enough to forgo the crampons, making the rock sections a bit more comfortable. The prevailing winds from the west made some nice cornices which needed to be careful with. In the warm temps they were sagging and we didn’t want to break one off.
We topped out in an unimpressive 6+ hours. However with firmer snow I think the time could be cut down. It also would be quicker next time simply because we are now familiar with the route a bit more. Descending wasn’t too bad. Due to the snow we were able to simplify the summer route by just cutting straight down the snow. With the warm temps and the sun we opted to go one at a time through some of the more questionable snow. However I think the chances of us cutting something loose would have been small. Once on slightly less steep terrain I tried glissading but the snow was too soft to keep up speed.