Sunday, September 18, 2011

Mt. Superior

First off, I haven't forgotten about a Wasatch 100 report, I'm getting around to it. Instead I thought I would do a post about a little adventure this weekend instead. For a couple of years now I keep telling myself I want to bag a few peaks in the fall as the leaves are turning and there are no races on the horizon. You know, head out with a few friends, nice and casual like, stand on a peak and eat some dried mangoes. Well, I sent out the call and it was answered by Peter, Jay, Jon, Mandy, and John. Greg and George decided to hit the same peak but started  a little earlier than my alarm was programmed for this time of year. They also took a slightly different route than we had on the agenda.

Jon Schofield (who paced me the last 25 of Wasatch just the week before) suggested a route earlier in the week that would take us up the south ridge of Superior and down the standard way to make a tidy little loop. In my haste I agreed, and without looking at the route the stage was set.
Up the South Ridge, down the trail

Peter put together this cool video, unfortunately the GoPro took a dive about halfway and did not survive.

The morning and weather were incredible, just cool enough to raise a few goosebumps but as soon as we started climbing the jackets came off. We parked at the 4th entrance to Snowbird and hiked up the road a few hundred yards before starting our way up the boulder field.
Peter, taking a picture of me taking a picture of him

A little way up further, looking down on Snowbird
Still in the boulder field, Jay and John make their way up
The boulder field gave the ankles a good workout and my breathing rate increased as we climbed higher and higher, but I wasn't really that concerned until we hit the ridge proper. I want to make it clear at this juncture that I am a TRAIL RUNNER and not a mountaineer or rock climber. The next two hours presented some tense moments that many folks would hardly give a second glance, but I for one definitely had a pucker factor of TEN on a few exposed sections.

Soon the route required the use of my hands which was still okay, but eventually I had to stand by the mantra of maintaining 3 points of contact as my progressed slowed. At some point I heard a very different sound than rocks tumbling down the cliffs around me. I'm quite sure it was Peter's GoPro camera that I heard, because I came around a ridge a few moments later and joined him in the search for the missing pieces. We only spent about 10 minutes looking around for the pieces and Peter was able to find the camera, battery, and memory card before we carried on.
Jon and Mandy about halfway up
Jay with the Pfeiffohorn in the background
Just before reaching the real crux of the ridge John McGuire had a large rock dislodge and hit his lower leg. The mood was somber for a while as we let him decide if we should carry on or not. The wound changed color a couple of times as the blood pooled to the surface and then receded. John figured he was fine and judging by the way he completed the run he was right. Way to soldier on John!

John's lower leg

The climbing begins
As we entered some of the climbing sections my heart rate quickened. I was definitely out of my element (Donny). A lack of attention on the ridge would result in a very long fall. Maybe not fatal in all cases, but definitely something to take serious.
The final approach to Mt. Superior
I couldn't believe how happy I was to finally see the peak and realize I was within a couple of hundred yards. My pace quickened in the excitement as I started to run along the final approach. Suddenly my foot made contact with a frost covered rock and slipped a good two feet down the next ledge. I decided it would be a good idea to slow down just a bit to ensure I reached the peak.
Looking down the South ridge we just acsended
Mt Superior! John, Christian, Jay, Mandy, and Jon
The peak was fabulous! We sat around for a good 15 minutes discussing the distant peaks and ridgelines along with the new dusting of snow up around Hidden Peak before heading down.
Peter and Jon about halfway down
John, Mandy and Jay, with the South ridge of Superior in the background.
All in all a great day in the mountains with friends. Thanks.


Erik said...

I'm glad I stuck with Greg and George this morning. Just looking down that South Ridge when we were on top earlier in the morning made me get a bit dizzy. I'm definitely not a ridge, scree, scramble, "three points of contact" type of adventurer.

Regardless of how we made it to the summit, it was a beautiful morning!!

Anonymous said...

Be careful up there. You can definitely hurt yourself:

jun said...

Great report. I tried the So Ridge a couple of years ago in winter and had to turn around due to being extremely ill (yeah, stupid idea to try and climb a winter peak while sick, I know). And since running I've been eye-balling that exact route for a while. Maybe I'll have to go do it this week.
This is perfect peak running season. I've been hitting about 2 a week lately and plan to continue that until it gets too cold. So awesome up there right now.

Chuck said...

That memorial tombstone halfway up in your photo is sobering. Another fun loop is at the top head west to Tanners.

JohnnyMac said...

At one point with Jay right behind me, I reached up for an handhold, and instead began to pull a nice 40 lb rock towards myself. Oops... So I pushed it back in place, hopped over it, and found a nice secure home for it a few feet away. That place was a house of cards! Helmet next time.

Anonymous said...

Ha, it took me a minute before I got the Big Lebowski reference