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Alta Utah.

 

Alta Utah-Little Cottonwood Canyon 7.5 minute Quad: Dromedary Peak, Brighton.

There has been much written about the backcountry in this canyon and the Wasatch in general. The guidebook Wasatch Tours was published in the 1970s I believe and has had subsequent additions. It is written by Alexis Kelner and David Hanscom with a current publishing date of 1993. Another title from notable backcountry author Andrew McClean is the Chuting Gallery for the exposed and dangerous lines only. Suffice it to say that this is a locals area as well as a destination powder location with exquisite lines, snow, access, and competition! There are test pieces in the Wasatch that plunge at 45 degree plus angles through rock bands and cliffs directly to access roads. Mount Superior being the most obvious, directly across from Snowbird Resort. From Mt Superior the ridge east provides many additional lines right back down to Snowbird and Alta. With the high snow loading usually experienced in the canyons here and the altitudes reaching 11,000 feet, even these south faces experience great powder days as well as many days of late season corn snow. My first tour from Alta was a dawn patrol, and I started from the Chapel of the Snows. I made the requisite prayer at such a monument and proceeded solo up the skin trail to Flagstaff Mountain east of Cardiff Pass. Enroute right at sunrise other users were catching big air in pink sunshine…photoshooting surely. Expect company even at dawn until you make some moves and distance. Likewise the Wasatch powderbirds fly helis to ski the area, check the local avalanche forecast (http://www.avalanche.org/%7Euac/advisory_w_glossary.htm) to see where they plan on touring on any given day. This forecast is one of the best in the country and should be checked before any tour in the area. Additionally there is much avalanche related information on their site that will benefit any backcountry user’s regular perusal. From the summit of Flagstaff there are multiple descent lines north into the head of the canyon, Day’s Fork, as well as ridge touring east to Silver Fork and west to Mill D South Fork, all of Big Cottonwood Canyon into these side canyons. Mount Superior itself is better accessed from the east at Cardiff Pass. Returning south to Alta is about 2500 vertical of open slopes many which descend into avalanche gullies, be careful with micro routefinding and know your forecast and slope angles. Grizzly Basin the eastern/north drainage into the Alta development is best accessed from easternmost part of the parking lot. Grizzly Basin has nice mellow north facing slopes for the beginner and intermediate tourer as well as access to the well photographed backcountry at the Wolverine cirque which crests the divide between little Cottonwood and Big Cottonwood and descents towards the base area of Brighton. Appoaches to the Wolverine cirque and Sunset Peak can be easily achieved from the upper Albion Basin Chairlift at Alta. A short traverse east brings the ski tourer to Catherine Pass and approaches to this part of the Big Cottonwood backcountry. Suffice it to say that if headed towards this area of ski country bring your skins and touring outfit, beacon, shovel, probe and hopefully a partner. This is why they make Fritschi bindings and is an area in the US that mimics the opportunities prevalent in Europe. Likewise there are many resources in the SLC area for maps, books, guides and information. Stop in the Black diamond store for info or Wasatch Touring, both good resources for local information. Also check summitpost.org for additional online resources pertaining to this and any other areas you desire!