Pfeifferhorn -NW Couloir

RATING: S5 A ***
PITCH: 50°
EXPOSURE: Northwest
ELEVATIONS: 7,500’ – 11,326’
VERTICAL: 1,080’

 photo: Mark Holbrook


Yumpin’ jehosaphat! This is a great and easily overlooked classic of the Wasatch. Part of its obscurity comes from its location. The couloir is located right at the top of the Wasatch and splits the imposing northwest face of the Pfeifferhorn (AKA “Little Matterhorn”) right down the center, which is not really the place you’d be looking for good skiing. Due to a 50’ cliff in the middle of it, falling is discouraged on this stunningly exposed and striking line.
The descent starts right at the summit with a fairly wide and moderate chute that slowly steepens and curves to the skier’s right. About halfway down, the chute narrows and drops off an 80° ice gully for about 50’. In heavy snow years, this may be totally filled in. There is a rappel anchor on the skier’s right that should be checked before committing to it. The rappel will deposit you on to a narrow 50° slope that gradually widens out into a finishing apron.
Just about any way you look at it, it’s a long approach and big effort to ski this. Snow conditions and the cliff size can vary greatly. The recommended approach is via the eastern snowfields, but you can also climb up it with ice tools, rope and protection. The initial snowfield on the skier’s right rests on top of a smooth slab of rock that could be subject to ground failure in warm spring conditions. A minimum of 100’ of rope and 2–3 full-length runners (or a daisy chain) are recommended for belays and setting up the rappel.

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