September 12, 2010

The Bullion Divide

Some of the peaks on Little Cottonwood Canyon's Alpine (South) ridge [photo taken in late June]. The Bullion Divide traverses from Sugarloaf Peak to Red Baldy. I intended on going extending the traverse all the way to Pfeifferhorn (green arrows) but ended up bailing early (purple arrows).

Date: September 12, 2010
Distance: ~15 miles total
Vertical: ~6000 feet
Time: 8 hours
Peaks: Sugarloaf Peak (11,051 ft), Mt Baldy (11,068 ft), Hidden Peak (10,992 ft), East Twin Peak (11,433), West Twin Peak (11,489), Red Top (11,378), Red Baldy (11,171)
Route: White Pine trailhead to Albion Basin on the road. Then climbed Sugarloaf Peak, traversed the ridge to Red Baldy, and descended down the NW slopes and White Pine trail.

The Bullion Divide is once of the classic Wasatch ridge traverses, usually starting at Albion Basin (Alta ski area) and ending somewhere past Snowbird. Summitpost describes the route as terminating at White Baldy, while the Wasatch Mountain Club describes it as ending at Red Baldy. With Andrea out of town this weekend, I wanted to do a longer traverse than either of those descriptions, and intended on taking the divide route all the way to Pfeifferhorn. To add to the challenge, I'd add a 6 mile, 2000 foot hike before starting the route (this route usually requires a car shuttle, but since I was hiking solo, I had to walk from the end of the route to the beginning). I ended up "just" doing that standard route, because I'm struggling with a case of plantar fasciitis, so I bailed after climbing Red Baldy. It was still a great hike with beautiful views and some fun scrambling sections. I hit the top of 7 peaks (5 ranked with 300' of prominence). This is a hike that I'll definitely want to repeat in the spring (with snow!). My splits are below and the pictures (which came out great thanks to some wispy clouds) are below as well...

Start from White Pine TH - 7:30am
Cecret Lake TH - 8:55am
Sugarloaf Peak - 10:02am
Mt Baldy - 10:37am
Hidden Peak - 10:57am
East Twin Peak - 11:46am
West Twin Peak - 11:57am
Red Top - 12:12pm
Red Top / Red Baldy saddle - 12:44pm (this segment took forever b/c the rock was loose and it was killing my foot)
Red Baldy - 1:15pm
White Pine TH - 3:30pm (the descent off Red Baldy was not fun without snow)

My intended route in green, which I followed until Red Baldy and then descended via the purple route

Starting off at 7:30am. I only took this b/c I got my new Utah license plates this week!

Passing by Snowbird

Passing by Alta

"Our Lady of the Snows Church" in the town of Alta. They pray for snow here... and apparently pray HARD b/c Alta gets about 50 feet per winter!

My first target, Sugarloaf Peak, to the left

Cecret Lake (yeah that's how its spelled)

Looking towards the next 4 peaks I'll reach

Cecret Lake from the top of Sugarloaf

At the border b/w Alta and Snowbird. Mt Baldy is up the ridge to the right.

Looking down Little Cottonwood from Mt Baldy

Hidden Peak and Twin Peaks from Mt Baldy

The Snowbird tram

The next goal was to follow the ridge starting on the left that snakes its way up towards the east twin...'s what the same area looked like when we were skiing here in April!

The lower section of the ridge had some pseudo-knife edge sections... if you look closely, you can see....

... an anchor BOLTED into the rock?!? I can't imagine using ropes here would be necessary, but I did put my helmet on when I reached this section.

Some of the steeper sections on the ridge. The rock was solid and it was fun climbing.

On the East Twin, looking towards the West Twin, Red Top, and Red Baldy

Looking back down the ridge I climbed

Looking East... all the peaks I had climbed so far are visible

After the Twin Peaks, I made the quick jaunt up to Red Top. That part was fine, but going down was miserable... I had to descend this ridge, which was all loose rotten rock. My foot was killing me at this point, and I thought about bailing at the saddle, but the climbing on Red Baldy looked fun, so I decided one more peak was in order...

This buttress and ridge up to Red Baldy looked fun!

Looking down from the first buttress. I stayed right on the ridge crest... it was steep and exposed, but surprisingly solid. You could probably bypass some of the difficulties by dropping to the east side of the ridge, but that would have been boring!

Excited for this last pitch!

On the summit - White Baldy (double summit to the left) and Pfeifferhorn (pyramid shaped peak in the center) were on the original agenda, but I had to call it a day at this point :-(

Obligatory shot of Timp. The snowfield is almost completely melted out! Its been a hot summer!

Scoping for the winter... this looks like a fun snow climb route.

NW slopes of Red Baldy. Much easier to travel across when its covered in 10 feet of snow!

More boulderfields

Red Top looks to have some awesome ski terrain

North Ridge of LCC. I love how the rock changes color a few hundred feet from the top.

Back at the trailhead... WOW I need these kind of shades for my jeep!


  1. This is a great post, I was looking for some good info and maps on this route. I can't wait to do this.

  2. This is a great post, I was looking for some good info and maps on this route. I can't wait to do this.

  3. Do you need technical gear to do this route?