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Monte Cristo Wasatch Backcountry

Monte Cristo Wasatch backcountry, Little Cottonwood Canyon. The backcountry skiing here is not for beginners. It has huge avalanche potential, steep skiing (lowest in upper 30 degrees), and tons of exposure.  “Monte Cristo” is just beyond Mount Superior.  The ascending route to Monte Cristo is up the Mount Superior “highway”.  A frequently trafficked route to the summit of Superior.  Reaching the summit of either of these peaks is a mountaineering objective.  You will be attaching your skiing equipment to your pack and making rock climbing moves in ski boots.  I recommend you bring along an ice axe or whippets for safety.

monte cristo wasatch backcountry

Mike Mckinney and Flip Mayernik made their way up the final approach to the Monte Cristo summit in the Little Cottonwood Canyon

 From the summit of Mount Superior, continue along the ridge gaining another 82 vertical feet to the summit of Monte Cristo 11,132ft.  The Monte Cristo skiing options are only for advanced skiers.  There’s practically only 2 lines on the LCC south aspect that descend from the summit  Directissimo & Monte Cristo Gully.  These ski descents share the same entry point but eventually separate into different challenges and drainages lower down the mountain.

backcountry skiers on Monte Cristo summit

 Skiing the Edge of the World

Edge Of the World

Photographers behold; this is your chance to capture one of the most iconic photos in backcountry skiing.  From the summit of Mount Superior, you can capture the iconic skiing the “Edge Of The World” photo.  I used a 75-300 mm lens to capture these awesome photos.  The best photos were taken at 105-160 mm focal lengths.  Capturing your own version of the Edge of the world photos makes the trip worth it all on it’s own.  

skiing Monte Cristo Directissimo

Monte Cristo “Directissimo”

The Monte Cristo “Directissimo” is the main objective for ski mountaineers on Monte Cristo. Bring your rope, harness, and belay devices because this descent requires 4 rappels in some pretty exposed terrain.  When we skied it, the rappel anchors were already in place.  The previous skier had left gear, which we were able to use to rappel from.  The second rappel was off a small tree just big enough to support someone on rappel.  It’s a good idea to ask someone who has recently skied it about the condition of the anchors.   It’s a good idea to bring along some nuts, slings, and webbing/cord incase you need to build your own anchors.   

Ski mountaineering rappel Monte Cristo DirectissimoMonte Cristo gully

 

 

Directissimo is a fairly steep line.  And depending on the conditions, skiing it could feel like a simple steep skiing chute or a death defying slide for life.  Directissimo is south facing, so it gets lots of sun.  This solar affect is the main consideration when you decide to ski Dirrectissimo.  If you’re too early, it will likely ski like an icy slide for life.  If you’re too late, you could find yourself in a terrain trap with 2 foot pinwheels and wet sluffs trying to take you down.  I recommend to be familiar with the avalanche forecast and the weather forecast when planning to ski the Directissimo line. 

 

 

 

 

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Monte Cristo Wasatch backcountry

Monte Cristo Gully

I’ve not yet skied the Monte Cristo Gully. From researching it, I know that the Gully shares same entry as Directissimo.  From the summit of Monte Cristo or Mount Superior stay skier left against the wall.  I understand that about 1/3rd of the way down 1,200 vertical feet and before the 1st rappel on Directissimo, make your way skier’s left, breaking over the ridge and into Monte Cristo Guly.  Yeah baby!  From here you’re in it.  Follow the main drainage staying mostly skiers left.

  • Stay left and ski a chute.  
  • Stay left and ski on the Knoll.  
  • Stay left and drop into another chute. 

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Video 

(film credit Flip Mayernik)

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The Monte Cristo Cirque Big Cottonwood Canyon

Monte Cristo Cirque The Monte Cristo cirque is located on the backside.  This area is accessible from the Big Cottonwood Canyon side (Mill-B).  The cirque area has moderately slopped ski terrain below the huge rock cliffs that rise up to form the Monte Cristo summit. The Monte Cristo cirque can offer a handful of shorter north aspect ski lines, but you have to approach it from Mill B in the Big Cottonwood Canyon.

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Related Articles and links:

 Monte Cristo Photo Gallery

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About Christopher Comstock

Park City photographer. See more about Christopher at his website https://theoutdoorclick.com

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