Top 10 in 10 – NW Couloir of the Pfiefferhorn

| January 17, 2009

 #4 – NW Couloir of the Pfiefferhorn

The Pfiefferhorn is the Wasatch’s version of Switzerland’s famous Matterhorn peak. Like the Matterhorn, the Pfieff is triangular, sharp, jagged and can be seen from all around the mountain range.  In a splendid act of geological creation, it has a splitter couloir that runs right from the summit all the way down the northwest face with a 75′ cliff right in the middle of it, which tends to keep the riff-raff away.

The Pfieff doesn't need a red line to show where it goes

The Pfieff don't need no stinkin' red line to show where to go. Start at the top and hold on tight.

My partner for the day was Jared Inouye, who I’d only met once before at the top of MBA (Mill B Aspens), but have gotten to know as he is helping to keep the PowderKeg race alive.  Since we had never actually cranked turns together, this was kind of a first-date-from-hell, but hopefully the mental scaring will heal soon and Jared will be up for more, which would be excellent as he’s a super-strong partner.

Jared at the entrance to the NW Couloir of the Pfiefferhorn.

Jared at the entrance to the NW Couloir of the Pfiefferhorn. He chose this moment to tell me that he was a father of three young children.

The Pfieff has no mercy.  It goes from steep with huge exposure to steep with tricky skiing, to steep with a rappel, to just plain old steep and then on to a final apron, which would be nice, except center-punching an avalanche slope is your only option for getting down.  Today’s conditions were firm up high (understatement), but stable down low.  Pick your poison.

Jared at the rappel.

Jared at the rappel. He chose this moment to tell me that he was wearing women's underwear. I instantly thought of thongs, but he said, no, they were Cloudveil long underwear that he got on Steep and Cheap. I was a bit disappointed, but personally plan on wearing thong panties next time I ski the Pfieff as they are lighter and easier to clean, which is important on a line like this.

The Pfiefferhorn gets its classic status not so much for the actual turns, but more for its mind-blowing location.  A trip down the Pfieff is kind of like floating in a sea of creamy Italian Tiramisu while being devoured by piranhas at the same time.

But wait... there's more! The lower section still keeps your full attention, especially when it is firm.

 Tomorrow: A cold pit in your stomach.

Help support and punch a booter up the Pfieff with a pair of Scarpa Spirit 4 Alpine Touring Boots from Click on the photo below…


Category: current conditions

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 (13)

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  1. Alexis says:

    Pretty cool your top 10 in 10!! I always wonder how you deal with the anchors for the rappel in the middle of a couloir like that? Is there fixed gear? Do you leave gear behind?

    Thanks! Alexis

  2. Andrew says:

    Hi Alexis – The “original” anchors, which is to say the first ones I knew of, were put in by Alex Lowe and consisted of an old piton and a hex strung together by some tattered webbing. Since then, they have been replaced with two huge 3/8″ stainless steel bolts and beefy steel bolt hangers, all of which is left in place, or “fixed” as it is called. Climbers/skiers carry their own rope and thread it through the anchors, then when they get to the bottom, they pull the ropes down.

  3. Kris says:

    Sick lines, and the weather is still looking good for you to get the rest of these done! Can’t wait to read tomorrow’s. Enjoy!

  4. Layne says:

    Thanks for the great pics and awesome website! I have you on an RSS feed always like seeing your new posts and tips. May have many sales from the links on your website.



  5. Andrew_L says:

    Beautiful! I give this one a 10 out of 10! Now please redirect the storm track to California ASAP.

  6. Derek says:

    We looked down it today, looked pretty damn bony. You guys must have skied the right hand ramp into it?

    When are you skiing the East Ridge of Timp? You have to do it…you know that.

  7. Andrew says:

    Hi Derek – The East Face of Timp gnaws at my being like a hungry rat, but, I’ve never skied it. I take it I’m missing out?

  8. vicki says:

    hi, I hope you guys all use birth control and don’t have kids. Plus, your poor significant others. Be careful, but it’s crazy when there so much other stuff to ski.

  9. Derek says:


    Yes, you are missing out. Go get it, I’m sure it’s prime right now. The descent is longer than the approach, and the descent ends at a bar. What else is there to say?

  10. Andrew says:

    Hi Vicki – Ski mountaineering is its own form of birth control, but I’ve still somehow ended up with kids all the same. Hmmm. :)

  11. paul busto says:

    wow the pheifernugen aint even filled in oh no shit sweet ass sideslippin action,sick pow you guys should hand out with the powderbirds cause there beaters like you .oh look at me sideslip the nugen to a 75′ rap big shit

  12. paul busto says:

    ANDREW why dont u put your wranglers on grab you coolest belt buckle and head to the rodeo oh i mean timp or grow some balls and ski some shit east facing on cascade you know south of timp south of provo canyon you should know your so bad ass “not” get it beater

  13. Andrew says:

    Hi Paul/Tyson – always great to hear from a PowderBird guide.

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