Landed a decent photo of Pinball Alley when I was on Cardiff Peak with J-Bo last week, and it looked continuous upon inspection. Why wait? The days aren’t getting any shorter or colder. I proferred ski options during the invite process. Jason offered his own, suggesting ‘continuous pow.’ Hmm. Presuming that he preferred to avoid using the lengthy shoelaces for a descent, we agreed easily upon Mount Superior’s Pinball. It was a good choice, even if it didn’t offer either of his chosen descriptors.
We met up at the Park n Ride at 7am, and, following a quick drive up the canyon, were quickly in position to ascend. We agreed that booting looked favorable, and left skins in the auto. Some mixed walking – snow, then talus, then snow again – found us at the base of the couloir in short order. We donned crampons, pulled out ice axes, and began to ascend. Because there are shadows cast on the looker’s left half of the line, we found that snow to be quite firm. The snow on the right half was soft corn. Sticking to the left side for the ascent made for easy uphill motion, but the descent was obviously going to be a bit more complicated. Tips on ice, tails on soft corn is inspiring, if nothing else. Maybe I’ll craft a poem about it sometime. In the meantime, I’ll note that in the spirit of it being Spring, I wore a lei during the entire outing.
J-Bo had brought an inclinometer, and I suggested multiple readings, because I never feel that a solitary reading gives enough indication of what’s going on with a slope. He measured the slope angle twice, landing 52° and maxing at 60° on separate readings. The steeper section represented the findings at the present crux of the line, which, like everything in the Wasatch, is desperately short of snow. The crux was a pinch that was significantly narrower than our skis. Maybe four feet wide? How we both got through there with skis on our feet is beyond me, but we did manage to descend the entirety of Pinball Alley without removing our skis.
In a scene of hilarity, as J-Bo worked his way through the crux with a double handed move on the snow (and I watched from nearby) his phone began to ring. We chucked at the precise timing of this intrusion. It’s hardly the first time the outside world has managed such precise interruption during high concentration maneuvers, but it added some humor this time.
With the crux behind us, we moved lower until turns were feasible again. From our vantage point on the apron, an idea formed, following a descent that I decided was worthy of not one, but two pole clinks between partners. After I asked if he’d be up for skiing Suicide Chute too, J-Bo gave the best answer possible. ‘Yeah, and let’s check out that other chute in there, too.’
Thus did a day which began with only Pinball Alley in mind conclude with an effort to ski all four of the prominent chutes that line the south ridge of Superior. While the lowest one is referred to as Almost Suicide (the approach was melted out, and the snow didn’t go all the way to the ridge, so we gave it a pass) I don’t know what the other one is called. So the day ended up consisting of Pinball Alley, Suicide Chute, and the chute that lies betwixt the two.
Having thrown a solitary gel into my bag for the day, it began to be harder and harder to ignore the growling stomach noises some time after I consumed it. Fortunately J-Bo was willing to share his ProBar, and I gulped it down hungrily, finishing my water in the process. I definitely hadn’t packed enough for a longer-than-planned-for-day, which is clearly a bad idea when plans can and do change. Again fortunately, J-Bo had been up Suicide Chute recently, so we managed to make use of his old booter while the soft corn on either side deepened in the heat.
Descending each chute beneath Pinball Alley in turn, we linked up patches of snow and only had to take our skis off for a very short section as we headed to the unknown chute, and at the waterfall descent beneath Suicide Chute. From there, a few chocolate chips aside – and these were not the sweet variety – we managed turns down the apron all the way to the Subie. Although my hopes had been high to begin with, the day turned out to be far more fun than I’d expected. Hooray, go team!