September 22, 2010

SOUTH RIDGE SUPERIOR


The South Ridge of Mt. Superior, 11,050', is a classic, mixed alpine route. It starts with a low-angle "apron" leading to a 45-degree Couloir. This connects to the knife-edged rock and snow "arete." After a spectacular summit the route descends the easier East Ridge.

Crunch, crunch, crunch...up the solid spring snow of Suicide Chute. Zigging back and forth with cross-over steps we move efficiently keeping the feet flat and crampon points in the snow. This "French Technique" propels us far up the Couloir in the early morning hours. Sherman keeps his Ice Axe pick facing forward as he belays himself for security on the firm, steep slope.


Ahhh...Sunrise...and we're nearing the col. The snow climbing is just about over.

Keeping the crampons on for the occasional snow step, we find the points work fine even on dry Quartzite. Using the rope for added security we employ "running and fixed belays" on the more difficult and exposed sections.

Although most of the terrain is moderate, we start to "feel the air under our feet."

Sherman collects slings, stoppers, and cams as he "seconds" the route and "cleans" the "pro."

With a snug belay from above, he gets ready to pull through the 5.6 "crux", where a finger-lock move on steep ground is required.
On the upper ridge the angle softens, but hand holds are often scarce on the "slabs" of smooth rock.

The Quartzite soon gives way to darker Slate / Shale, and we can cruise unroped for the final 300 feet to the narrow summit. Behind is Monte Cristo, 11,126.

We use a "short-rope" and downclimb carefully on the tricky, rocky upper sections of the East Ridge. Then, in places where a safe runout exists and the "corn" snow has softened into perfect slush for glissading, we opt for the easy way down. A cool reward for our strenuous ascent, and a relaxing finish to a great day in the Wasatch Mountains!


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