The Hike of The Week series will follow myself in my quest to hike all 37 of the 11,000’+ peaks in the Wasatch Range in one summer, while providing you with beta to get yourself on top of the most spectacular and seldom visited peaks in the Wasatch.
My first hike took me to the Alta Guard Station 8.3 miles up Little Cottonwood Canyon. The hike to Mt. Superior is one of the more popular 11,000′ hikes but still stunning in many ways. The hike begins with taking the trail up to Cardiff Pass. There are two options to get to the top, you can either take the foot trail or you can take the more mellow abandoned mining roads. Whichever route you take please be respectful of the private property you are hiking through for the first 1/4 mile.
Once at the top of Cardiff Pass at the weather station, the route to Mt. Superior (11,040′) is very straight forward with great views of Alta, Snowbird, and Big Cottonwood Canyon. There is a well used trail that will take you to the top, however it tends to disappear and reappear. If you are lucky you might get to see the mountain goats hanging out on the south face.
From the top of Superior the next objective comes into view. Monte Cristo (11,132′) is next in line. Monte Cristo is hiked significantly less than Mt. Superior despite being a short ridge-line away. The ridge out is quite narrow at points and gives a great feeling of how high above the canyon floor you are. Unlike many of the surrounding peaks, Monte Cristo has a dome shaped top, beware of the west side of the peak due to 300’+ cliffs. Once atop Cristo a decision must be made to continue to the next 2 peaks, or head back down. Once you head further west than the summit, you must deal with steep down climbs, ridge-line bouldering and slabby scrambles, all above massive exposure. This section I personally won’t do again without the aid of trad climbing gear.
If you do decide to continue use extreme caution as you traverse the ridge about .3 miles to the 3rd peak of the trip. This peak is unnamed and tops out at 11,050′. To get down to the ridge, head south of Monte Cristo until you can see a “chute” headed down to the west ridge. As mentioned before the ridge is technical and has massive exposure to either side. If you make it to the 3rd peak you are committed the climb and ought to head .2 more miles to the 4th and final peak of the trip at 11,033 feet and it is also unnamed. This last leg is very similar to the previous ridge and requires extreme caution. Between the two peaks there is a bulge in the ridge, continue on past this until you reach the final peak.
At this point there are two options that will take you back to where you began. The first option is to traverse all the way back the way you came to collect any gear left in the cracks to aid in a safe ridge traverse. The second option is to down climb into the Little Pine drainage and then walk back up the road to where you began. I opted to down climb through Little Pine since I did not have climbing gear with me, but it is very steep with numerous cliffs you must navigate around. I would highly recommend that anyone attempting the two unnamed peaks bring trad gear and take the same route out as they took in.
The hike from the Alta Guard Station to the 4th peak and back following the ridge is about 8 miles round trip and a total of around 4,000 feet of vertical hiking. If you attempt the hike allow an entire afternoon to complete it. This hike falls into the category of one of my all time favorite hikes however don’t let the beauty distract you from safely completing the ridge-line traverses.