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South Ridge

Easy 5th, Trad, Alpine,  Avg: 3.7 from 333 votes
FA: unknown
Utah > Wasatch Range > Wasatch Alpine… > Mt Superior / Monte C…


This classic alpine route follows a long, airy quartzite and tillite ridge with a couple of knife edge sections and towers. In warmer weather this is an easy scramble/rockclimb, but with snow and ice it becomes a more challenging alpine climb. Start early as the route gets a lot of sun. Trend right after the largest tower (above Suicide Couloir) to avoid some loose slabs out left. A good view of the route can be seen from the Alta parking lot.


The route is obvious from the Snowbird and Alta ski areas. Park in the small lot just beyond the race shack at Snowbird, walk north across the road and head up a broad slope (several options) to gain the thinner ridge above. The route is obvious from here and ends at the summit of Mt. Superior. It is just a few minutes to get to the higher Monte Cristo summit to the west. Descend the east ridge down to Cardiff Pass and then down the obvious trails to Alta. Hike down the road back to the car.


Depends on conditions and experience. For a mild season ascent skip the tight climbing shoes as approach shoes should be all one needs, however check conditions to see how much snow might be up there and if more gear might be needed (ice axe, crampons). If needed, slings, a light rack and rope should suffice to get one over the few 5th class sections. Gear for a winter ascent would obvioulsy depend on conditions at the time.

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

Knife Ridge section on 11.24.12
[Hide Photo] Knife Ridge section on 11.24.12
View of one of the best sections of the ridge.
[Hide Photo] View of one of the best sections of the ridge.
Mason heading up to ski Pinball alley Couloir
[Hide Photo] Mason heading up to ski Pinball alley Couloir
Benny on the ridge
[Hide Photo] Benny on the ridge
February 1st 2019
[Hide Photo] February 1st 2019
Miles on one of the rock bands
[Hide Photo] Miles on one of the rock bands
by moonlight
[Hide Photo] by moonlight
Shari Richins "cruising" up Mt. Superior's 5.4 class South Ridge, at 66 years old, and loving it. Taken 09-01-15.
[Hide Photo] Shari Richins "cruising" up Mt. Superior's 5.4 class South Ridge, at 66 years old, and loving it. Taken 09-01-15.
Painting right before the storm Noah rowley got caught in
[Hide Photo] Painting right before the storm Noah rowley got caught in
Filmer Croshane Hillyard climbing with a powder surfer split board headed to Monte Cristo Directissamo.
[Hide Photo] Filmer Croshane Hillyard climbing with a powder surfer split board headed to Monte Cristo Directissamo.
Dylan on a journey through whiteout conditions.
[Hide Photo] Dylan on a journey through whiteout conditions.

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

David Shiembob
slc, ut
  Easy 5th
[Hide Comment] I definitely recommend this route. It's a great exposed ridge scramble that keeps going for 3,000 vert, definitely unique for the Wasatch. Aug 22, 2008
[Hide Comment] This is a very good winter route. Thanks for posting up. Nov 27, 2008
Hayden Eatchel
Salt Lake City, UT
[Hide Comment] Great hike ! Def one of my favorite Wasatch Hikes. Exposed as you want to be. If its to easy go to the side, or if your scared stiff straddle the ridge !! amazing Jul 13, 2009
[Hide Comment] A really fun ridge scramble! I loved the variation from 3rd class to a 4th class knife-edge to a 5th class step and back to 3rd class, then repeat. Very interesting route. There's lots of exposure, and a fall would be very bad, but the climbing is mostly 4th class with a couple 5th class steps. If you're unsure, gain the knife-edge ridge just before suicide chute and see how that feels. If it's too much, just walk back down the 3rd class slope. If it makes you drool, keep climbing! Aug 14, 2009
Taylor Morgan
Draper, UT
[Hide Comment] Snowbird has proposed to build a roller coaster in Little Cottonwood Canyon, on the lower south face of Mt. Superior:…;>>

I strongly oppose Snowbird's plans to build a roller coaster on the lower south face of Mt. Superior, across from and over Little Cottonwood Canyon Road.

Snowbird claims the proposed site is not used by hikers or backcountry skiers. This is not accurate. The area is on the southwest face of Mt. Superior, directly adjacent its summer trailhead/winter access points. This area is one of the most popular and treasured mountaineering, hiking, and backcountry skiing areas in Utah.

Furthermore, Mt. Superior is among the most beautiful and photographed areas in Utah, and the West. In fact, the 1976 Denver Olympic Bid Committee used a photo of Mt. Superior on its official bid packet.

While the proposed roller coaster will not directly inhibit mountaineering, hiking, or skiing, it will significantly diminish these pursuits and will be an embarrassing eyesore in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Utah residents and tourists visit our canyons to play in the mountains, not on amusement-park rides.

Please contact your member of the Salt Lake County Council to urge them to oppose Snowbird's plans. Jan 11, 2011
Tristan Higbee
Pocatello, ID
  Easy 5th
[Hide Comment] I just did this route yesterday for the first time. It's not very good as a rock climb, but it's a great mountain climb, if that makes sense.

I don't particularly feel comfortable soloing usually, but this was an easy and comfortable solo. The crux for me was a 5.4 or 5.5-ish step high on the ridge that was about 10 feet high, though it looked like you could do a 4th class-ish traverse around it to the right.

Approach beta: (This is how I approached it, anyway.) Drive up the canyon 7.1 or 7.2 miles from the neon sign and park in a large dirt pullout on the left (north) side of the road. The ridge is obvious and right above you. Follow an old doubletrack dirt road until it disappears after a hundred feet or so in a flat, open area. Keep going and you'll see a narrow strip of quartzite talus slope coming down from the direction of the ridge (your right) into the flat, open area. Head up the talus slope towards the right-most of two funky gas pipes coming out from the ridge. From the gas pipe, you'll have several options that all go up the ridge. Just go up, picking out the line that suits you (some are easier than others) and before too long the ridge becomes knife edgy. Follow it to the top.

The true summit of the mountain is west of the point where the south ridge meets the summit ridge, and it's obvious.

Descent: Follow the trail on the ridge to the east to Cardiff Pass, then down to Alta and the main canyon road. A 10 or 15 minute walk along the road takes you back to where you parked.

I've got some more pics and beta on my blog here.… Sep 14, 2011
Spencer Weiler
Grand Junction
[Hide Comment] Stellar ridge climb. Did this car to car in 1:56. If you aren't on the ridge proper the whole time you are cheating yourself of some awesome exposure and quality 5th class. The scariest part is the shale descent off the summit. Esch. Jul 6, 2012
Garret Nuzzo Jones
Salt Lake City, UT
[Hide Comment] This actually does go at 5.4 if you stay on the ridge and don't skip out on any of the cruxes. It can easily be 4th class if you want it to but it's more fun to not wander too much. Someone fixed a brand new Camalot X4 right at the upper crux. Bummer. Jun 9, 2013
[Hide Comment] what are those pipes, other structures being added to the ridge? Jul 3, 2013
[Hide Comment] I picked up a piece of gear that someone dropped on the descent from this route yesterday. If it's yours, message me! Nov 30, 2013
[Hide Comment] I tried a combination of running shoes and climbing shoes. Bad idea. I would highly recommend approach shoes with potential addition of climbing shoes. I thought the running shoes would pay off on the trail decent but they only made the experience scarier.

@zbishop - The pipes are avalanche control devices used in conjunction with combustible gas. A bit of an eye sore but huge help for safety.

Gorgeous route in the fall. I would expect that to be a roaster in the summer as you are always on a direct southern exposure. Sep 24, 2014
Andrew Mayer
Driggs, ID
  Easy 5th
[Hide Comment] For those without approach shoes (such as myself) - I did this route in trail running shoes and felt comfortable sticking to the knife-edge proper the entire time except for one short section - a short finger crack through a mini-bulge near the top of the exposed portion of the ridge. it looked like 2 moves with slabby feet (I bypassed on climber's L on comparably steep & exposed terrain but with better feet).

All the other 4th/low 5th class terrain on the ridge proper was very juggy and had good feet. No need to haul climbing shoes all the way up there or let the lack of approach shoes keep you from getting on this fun scramble! Jul 3, 2015
Nate Furman
Salt Lake City, UT
  Easy 5th
[Hide Comment] Here's a short write up on an ascent of the South Ridge of Superior:… Jun 17, 2016
Peter Lenz
Salt Lake City
[Hide Comment] Overall: Very nice route, particularly the upper 1000 ft., where the blocks are well anchored, there is exposure, and the climbing is relatively easy and secure.

Equipment/technique: I brought rock shoes, but did not use them; my 5.10 approach shoes were just the ticket. We did not bring rope and gear, but a short rope (35 meter or so) and a few slings and nuts, would not be a bad idea, if you are unsure. If you belay, do it sparingly; this is a long route, and you need to keep moving.

Beta: Andrew McLean's website has good photos. We went LEFT of the crest, just above the suicide chute, and that may have been the WRONG way. Not certain. It was steep, and a bit brushy and although the large blocks did not move, they appeared detached and loose. It was the only unpleasant portion of the climb.

Descent: many choices, but we descended the East Ridge, which is actually a hike, albeit with one steep section.

Our Time: 8 hours car to car.

Editorial: A number of individuals, and at least one website refer to this route as a "hike," or sometimes as a "scramble." Call it what you want, but feel that this route is definitely a "climb," with potential for a death fall on much of the route. I know of at least one fatality on it, involving an unroped, competent, experienced climber. A memorial marker for him is located on the route. The local guide service describes the crux as 5.6; there is potential for a long fall at this point.
Sep 17, 2017
[Hide Comment] Fantastic ridge scramble with a touch of climbing thrown in for spice! Of all the Wasatch ridge traverses I've done this was the shortest but maybe the most fun! It just kept on giving all the way to the top. There were a few loose blocks but nothing to worry about if you're careful. It is definitely a repeat! We were 4 1/2 hours car to car at an easy pace done on 8/24/18. I will be 60 next month and not in great shape so I think this ridge is doable for most. Aug 24, 2018
[Hide Comment] the double bolt anchor on the ridge is an eye sore and should be removed. sad to see these mountains getting so over run. poor performance. Sep 4, 2022
[Hide Comment] Which bolt anchors? Are you talking about P5 anchors for Suicide Slabs? Sep 6, 2022
Jack Bushway
Sandy, UT
[Hide Comment] Make your own risk management decisions, but for what it's worth my partner and I brought and rope and a rack up this route and it was totally useless for a few reasons. First, 99% of the route is either too easy to rope up for or the difficulties can be avoided if you wish (ie choose your own adventure). Second, for the 1% of the route that is unavoidable and "hard" enough to warrant roping up, you need to be a pretty skilled mountain person to actually make use of it. We found for the 10 minutes of us trying to use the rope to improve our security, it was actually just more of a hazard. Lastly, if you use the logic that we did, which is "we'll bring gear so we can take the coolest line up the ridge with the most climbing," I'd caution against it. like I said before, unless you're really skilled at protecting this type of terrain and simulclimbing it, the rope will be more of a pain in the ass/hazard then a tool, and you'll end up just putting it away and soloing the whole thing anyways. The last thing I'd like to note is if you bring it with the thought of pitching stuff out it will take far too long.

TLDR: Be comfortable soloing the route, or don't do it till you are. Or bring gear and figure it out for yourself, maybe you'll have more use for it than we did. Have fun! Sep 26, 2022
Bolting Karen
La Sal, UT
[Hide Comment] Accidentally started about a mile downhill of the proper start but got some extra climbing in on the lower ridges. Descending down the south ridge of Cardiff adds a couple more pitches of rock climbing and avoids the loosest part of the trail. You can join back up with trail at the base of the ridge where the rock ends by heading left and crossing the drainage. Aug 21, 2023
Arch Richardson
Grand Junction
[Hide Comment] I felt safer on the ridge crest than I did on either flank. Better holds, fewer loose blocks to deal with. As long as you can handle exposure.... Sep 17, 2023
Peter Bradley
Boulder, CO
  Easy 5th
[Hide Comment] Does anyone know if there’s an official FKT for this (Car to summit)? 2 days ago
Greg Gavin
[Hide Comment] Jason Dorais 38:32… 2 days ago