South Ridge of Superior Scramble

| September 11, 2009

The South Ridge of Mt. Superior is an all time classic alpine scramble in the Central Wasatch Mountains.  It can be done in the winter, but due to cornices and steep slopes on each side, I think it is far more fun in the summer, especially as preseason training.  The climb is almost exactly 3,000′ and is often done as a loop by going up the south ridge, then running along the east ridge trail back to Pole Line (Cardiff) Pass, then down to Alta and back to your car on the road.

Rick running back to the car after completing the loop.

Rick running back to the car after completing the loop.

There is no real route to speak of, and although the climbing guidebook rates it 5.4 or so, you can always avoid harder sections by traversing out onto the south face.  It is a very fun outing on mostly solid rock, but should be treated with a good dose of respect as there have been fatalities on it, including a good friend, Dan Rector.

One of the hardest parts of the entire route is actually finding the start.  After walking up an old spur road directly under the south face, go about to the middle of the clearing and start up a narrow path.  From here, stumble your way up a loose talus field, angling slightly to climbers left and looking for a white face/gully.

It doesn't look like much, but it's the best way to start the ridge.

It doesn't look like much, but it's the best way to start the ridge.

Work your way up through this, and keep angling to climbers left.  When you get up a bit, you’ll be able to see the GazEx tube.  Head towards it.

Head right towards the GazEx, but before you get there, take a look to your right - there's a hidden gully.  Take it to a dead tree at a notch.  Start up from there.

Head right towards the GazEx, but before you get there, take a look to your right - there's a hidden gully. Take it to a dead tree at a notch. Start up from there.

From here, you are in power scramble mode and stay on the ridge within about 10-15 feet.

A classic part of the lower ridge.

Rick Angell on the classic part of the lower ridge.

After crossing the top of Suicide Chute, you wander around for a while and eventually end up at a lower angle hiking section which is mostly ebony and ivory colored rocks.  A bit after this at around the 2,000′ level is the crux if you choose to stay right on the ridge.  This can be easily skirted to the climbers right via a chossy gully.

Rick Angell pulling through the optional crux.

Rick Angell pulling through the optional crux.

Go dog, go!
Help support and stick to the South Ridge with Scarpa Quest Approach Shoes from Click on the photo below…


Category: Route Info

About the Author ()

Andrew McLean lives in Park City, Utah and is a gear designer, writer, photographer, ski mountaineer, climber, Mountain Unicycle rider and father of two very loud little girls.

Comments (8)

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  1. Ken McKean says:

    After reading just re visited “Theory of Relativity & Safety”, having a 15 year old son who just returned from The City of Rocks bragging of free soloing a four pitch 5.6 I think I’ll have him look at it as well.

  2. Andrew says:

    Hi Ken – the route would lend itself well to short roping, if you are familiar with that technique. It might be a good way to go the for the first few times. I’m the first to admit that I’ve lost much of my objectivity about how easy/hard it is because I’ve done it enough that I know which way to go, but if you don’t, it would be possible to climb yourself into a hole, or perhaps wander off onto loose rock.

    I just climbed it this morning with Noah Howell and it was as fun as every and getting slightly colder each day!

  3. Layne says:


    This is way off topic, but I’ve been dreaming of sewing my own kite for some time now, and dreams are starting to give way to action. I’m going to try it using your instructions. To be in line with the “green revolution” (saving my cash for other ski stuff) I’ve been thinking of rounding up some old coats, windbreakers, etc. and using that for the material. Bad idea? Maybe I should save myself the embarrassment of a patchwork kite and pony up for good material, but it might be nice to cut my teeth on something that is inexpensive/free and I wouldn’t feel bad about ruining it. Any advice for someone on a budget?

    Also, do you just use a standard sewing machine with regular sewing thread?

    Thanks in advance and I can’t wait to try it out this winter.

  4. Andrew says:

    Hi Layne – stitching up your own kite can be fun and very satisfying! Good luck. I’d personally go with something in the 2.3m size to begin with, and for that small a size, you’d be better off just buying some good ripstop nylon. The main cost is in the labor, and for something that small, you’d be talking about 10-20 bucks at the most. Tent flys would work though.

    On the machines, the lighter the better. Any old home machine will be fine. Be sure and use UV thread though – it will hold up much better.

  5. Jonny D says:

    Andrew –
    A group of us rookies (started in the BC last year) find ourselves stoked as we were up scouting superior as well this morning. We went up and back the easy way, from the jeep trail by the Alta city offices. Thanks for the posts and educating, we follow to absorb all that we can from the likes of yourself, the Wizard, and anyone willing to take us fledglings under their arms (that is where the merino wool is handy I suppose).

  6. Mark H says:

    Just curious Andrew, how much hiking or biking are you doing every week to get ready for the ski season?

  7. Andrew says:

    Hmmm, probably once or twice a week right now, but in the past it has been as much as 5+ days a week.

  8. Big Nick says:

    I just found your site. I’ll favorite it and check back frequently. I’ve climbed Superior a few times by the east ridge and would love to do the south ridge route. I at 60 yo, climbed the Suicide Chute just yesterday with my son and his friend. The lower portion of the chute was a bit sketchy with light snow covering loose rock. We broke out the axes and crampons about a third of the way up and had a wonderful climb. Noticed the memorial marker dedicated to your friend at the notch. I spend a lot of time hiking in the area and can’t seem to get enough.



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