Spring Backcountry Mission

By Tim Roberts Apr 14, 2008

So, this season, I've been on a mission to tackle some backcountry routes that I've been wanting to do for a while. So far I've ticket "The Seagull" on Argenta and that's it. Between having access to every resort in Utah and a busy schedule dominated by a two year old, I've had a hard time finding the time to wander the backcountry. When you're in a time crunch and you can either go hike for hours for a single run or go the Brighton and lap Millicent 10 times you can figure the decision I've been making.

Yesterday, I set out with Kristian to tick Mt. Superior in Little Cottonwood Canyon off the list. We got off to a bit of a late start, but we were hiking at 8:30 outside of the chapel at Alta taking Poll-Line Pass. I normally go splitboarding on these kinds of missions, but, out of solidarity with Kristian I strapped on a pair of verts. Basically they are snowshoes made of plastic and turned out to be a great hiking option in today's snow conditions. It was a bluebird day and the snow looked great. In April the sun is brutal and the avy report was warning of wet slides on east, west, and especially south facing aspects. Our intended route down the face of Superior faced due south. We knew that if we were going to get it we needed to hustle. Once the sun heated up the face it wouldn't be safe. It was a race against the sun.

Doing the ridge on superior can be somewhat spicy. It gets pretty thin and in some spots you can definitely feel the exposure. We made pretty good time and were standing on the summit at 11 a.m. Unfortunately that wasn't early enough. During the last 500 vertical of the hike we started seeing the wet sluffs coming off the face. The sun had done it's job in no time. When you've got an avalanche warning for a certain aspect and then you start seeing natural activity going down, it's just not responsible to ride that slope at that point no matter how bad I wanted it. We decided to backdown and weighed our options.

Luckily we didn't have to think long. Right off the backside of Superior there is another wide chute that drains down into Cardiac. We strapped in and rode two good descents in springtime pow slashing untracked waves of powder on the way. It was a blast and took the bitter taste of disappointment from not having ticked a descent off the list. At least I was having good fun turns down another line I had never done before. After hiking around and backup to Poll-Line Pass, we strapped in and pointed it back to the truck to the heavy sun blasted slush.

On the drive down we looked back up Superior and about 80% of the south face was now washed out with wet slides all the way down. In the backcountry, it's important to not get so caught up in riding your line that you don't recognize and heed changing avalanche conditions. No matter how bad you want it.  I'm not done yet, Superior.  See you soon.

Mt. Superior. Photo by me (Tim Roberts)