Virtually every backcountry skier in the Wasatch passes across the north face of Cardiff Peak at one point or another. It’s the most direct route to Wasatch gems such as Mt. Superior, the Cardiac Ridge, Monte Cristo, and a host of other prime real estate. However, with substantial cliffs bisecting the upper face from the lower, most users don’t travel down the northern fall line from the summit.
Since I subscribe to the deeply religious philosophy of, ‘let not that slope go unskied which can be joined by a rope,’ it seemed high time to visit the terrain. The text to Jason Borro read: Short, sweet, steep, with a rappel. 45 min approach. Rarely done if ever. Tomorrow a.m. You in? Some time later I received a three letter, one word answer, rather than a paragraph of demurring explanations. That’s just what I hoped for. It was game on.
I can blame a hard workout the day before and J-Bo can blame burritos for his gastrointestinal distress, but neither of us felt superbly energetic on the ascent. Guess it was a perfect day for these sorts of problems, as the approach is incredibly short. In no time we were on the Cardiff Peak summit.
After suiting up with harnesses and stripping skins, with Jason’s comment on the conditions ringing in my ears, I dropped in. ‘Death gnar ice to cliff edge,’ as he said, was a pretty slick assessment of the route at hand. It did leave off the ‘steep’ designation, though. While the first three or four turns are easy stuff, the line immediately steepens into a memorable pitch. It remains that way to the edge. Fortunately, the surface snow was textured, so we didn’t entirely lose grip on the steep slope.
Keeping the trees beneath us, we skied down near the edge. It was somewhere in here that Jason’s other excellent comment of the day had me giggling. It wasn’t what he said as much as how he said it, but the giggles were fierce. ‘How do you come up with these ideas?’ Laughter was my only answer, and I was relieved to see him join in as well. Skiing steep death gnar ice to cliff isn’t for everyone, apparently.
Near the edge, I built an anchor, and promptly threw the first rope coil into some trees, bushes, and rocks. Recoiling the rope, the second throw went further on course, but hung up worse than the first throw. Dropping the second line didn’t go much better. I went down to deal with the mess face to face, and in working out the kinks, dropped the camera. Whoops. It rolled end over end for about 500 feet.
After working our way through a non-vertical section via rope, it was back to skiing steep death gnar ice, this time with the addition of suncups. Eventually the slope leveled out – about where the sun was hitting it – and the turns were soft as golden corn on the cob. Skiing over to the camera, I was entirely surprised to see that it still worked.
We skinned back up to Cardiff Peak, skied the ridge, and dropped in at Pole Line Pass. A bit of mis-judgement on my part had us walking an unnecessary dirt section, but from there it was turns (almost) all the way to the car. It’s melting out fast, though. Fine by me. Hopefully the exodus of winter 2011/2012 gives way to a far more stable snowpack next season.