Mt. Superior is Supreme
Elevation Gain: 2,825
Distance: 5.1 miles
Date: August 5, 2018
I have often regarded Mt. Superior as the pinnacle of the Wasatch range despite the fact that there are many other peaks that are taller. The reason that I hold this peak in such high regard is because as a long time skier of Alta and Snowbird, you stare at this imposing mountain as you look out across the valley. The steepness of the center line is daunting and enticing at the same time. You are drawn in by its beauty and you are terrified by the avalanche risk that it poses. After a snow storm, you will gaze at this mountain and see some awe inspiring ski lines right down the gut. You are envious of those who laid those perfect lines and yet you are transfixed by the risk they assumed to capture those turns. The utmost respect that I have for Mt. Superior makes this peak one of my most cherished summits.
As usual, my nephew-in-law, Sean was game to bag another Wasatch iconic peak which made it easier for me to recruit my two older sons, Sebastian (15) and Beckett (14), to join us. In addition, another good buddy, Mark, joined the party as did Butter, my dog (more on that later). The trail starts in the “town” of Alta behind the Sheriff’s office. The lower part of this trail is tame and relatively boring but enjoy the mountain flowers because that is about to change. The trail takes you to Cardiff Pass and once you are on the ridge it starts to get very interesting. At Cardiff Pass, you head west and you come to another ridge (or bend) and at this junction we decided it was too dangerous for our dog to continue (just before the Two Trees ski line) so Sebastian elected to stay with him which we thought would only be 30 minutes but we grossly underestimated the time it would take to reach the summit. Yes, you are right- dogs are not allowed in LCC and I was not aware of that until another hiker on the trail told me that dogs were not permitted (my bad but I brought a poop bag).
It was a good call leaving Butter behind because the trail becomes very narrow and then it goes straight up.
The trail starts to splinter here and there is not a clear route so you just have to pick the line that looks best to you. We elected to stay on the south side of the ridge and there was one section that was so steep with loose rocks that I seriously contemplating turning around. But Sean, Mark and Beckett overcame this section so I couldn’t let me 14 year old son out climb me. The guide books say that part of this hike has class 5 hiking/climbing which could/should require a rope but that is not necessary for this hike. After we crested this section, we were back on the ridge and my hiking partners were way ahead but I continued to hike at my pace and comfort level. There were several false summits along the way so be forewarned not to get overzealous until you reach the top.
Of course the summit was uber rewarding after the precarious climb and the views were outstanding. The southerly view captures all of Snowbird and to the north you peer into the Cardiff Fork down to Big Cottonwood Canyon. The west gives you a great view of Monte Cristo (11,132) which many people tackle on the same hike. If you are into peak bagging, I strongly recommend adding on another 30 minutes to summit Monte Cristo and I regret not summiting this peak.
Given how steep the south facing approach was, we decided to descend the top section from the west side of the ridge which was considerably more manageable (I wouldn’t say easy). This route will ultimately pop you back onto the ridge and then you will follow that back the way you came but I highly recommend staying on the western side from the summit.