TRIP REPORT: Cardiff Peak, UT (10,277′) – Snow Climb

Report from 4/5/17

Spring is FINALLY here, and I am on Spring Break!

I couldn’t wait to get out and do some climbing. I had been hiking pretty regularly at lower elevations since things had warmed up, but I had been dying to hike and climb in the snow. bad weather nearly every weekend made it difficult with student teaching, so after a nice cold front came through and stiffened up all the snow, I figured I had to get out on the hill while I had the chance!

My first choice for my first big training climb of the season was Mount Superior at 11,132′ but as you will read, that did not go according to plan, which happens. Superior is known in Utah for having the most avalanche activity so winter ascents can only really be attempted in prime conditions.

Superior overlooks both Alta and Snowbird Ski Resorts from the other side of Little Cottonwood Canyon. I have climbed it during summer months, the East ridge from Cardiff pass is rated a class 2. Starting from Alta, it is about a 5 1/2 mile hike round trip with an elevation gain of around 2500ft.

My original plan was to get up at 6:30, and start hiking by 7:30 in the morning. …I did not sleep well last night so by the time my alarms went off, I did not want to get up…. I woke up at around 8, checked the temperature up the canyon to find temperatures were still below freezing, so I left and started hiking just before 9am. Right off the bat, the snow was icy and firm. I kept up what I like to call “dry speed” which is the speed in which I can hike on dry dirt trail, so I compare my speed to my past summer climbs.

As I got to Cardiff pass and started up the ridge, the snow was INCREDIBLY soft. I would step and sink into thigh deep powder and my climbing speed basically came to a crawl. It took me 45 minutes to climb 250 vertical feet…. it was frustrating. Every step forward was a step backward. As I came up near the summit of Cardiff Peak, I took one look at Superior and sighed. I had a mile left…. a very long mile. Looking along the ridge, it seemed to be the same powdery deep frustrating snow I had just been trudging through and I would take me an eternity. The temperature was rising quickly, I was running out of time as well before I needed to be home, so I turned off the ridge trail to climb the final 20 feet to the summit of Cardiff instead. Superior or bust? Definitely a bust… but not a complete loss.

I still got a great “first climb of the season” workout, and great pictures of the amazing views from Cardiff.

Plenty more training climbs to come this Spring. ‘Til next time!


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