On Saturday, I joined members of the Wasatch Mountain Club for a snow climb of the Pfeifferhorn, an 11,326′ peak in the Alpine ridge south of Little Cottonwood Canyon.
We approached through Red Pine, starting at around 8:30. Snow covered the trail almost all the way to the parking lot. That would have been fine, except that it was a particularly hot day. The snow became very sloppy, making for slow going, and it took us almost 4 hours just to get to Red Pine Lake. All of us post holed up to our knees repeatedly.
Once there, we had lunch and noticed all the recent wet slide activity on the steeper ridges. This did not bode well for finishing the climb, since we would be traveling on avalanche-prone steep slopes.
We tried walking around Red Pine Lake to see if the snow would get firmer up high. Almost right away, we noticed that there were at least three distinct soft layers with crusts in between. Acknowledging that we had started too late in the day to proceed safely, we turned back. This turned out to be a good decision – another group descending from the peak set off a small wet avalanche later in the day. On the trail back to White Pine, we felt a “whoomph” of the snow settling – not a good sign! I was happy that we turned around.
The rest of the hike was scenic and easy. From the Red Pine trail there were great views of the canyon and the valley below.