Trip Report: Little Cottonwood Canyon, UT – The 3,200-Vertical-Foot “Y Couloir”

Miles Clark | BackcountryBackcountry | Trip ReportTrip Report
The Y Couloir of Little Cottonwood Canyon. Stock image

Brought to you by 10 Barrel Brewing

Report From March 5, 2021

Yesterday, March 5, 2021, I went for a long boot pack up a narrow couloir in Little Cottonwood Canyon, UT with 2 good buddies – Martin & Daryn (the best realtor in UT:).

The “Y Couloir” is 3,200-vertical-foot long, 40º steep, classic, and possibly one of the very best chutes in the Wasatch Mountains.

Andrew McLean says this about the “Y Couloir” in his legendary book, The Chuting Gallery:

“The most impressive aspect of The Y is that it hits 40º immediately and never varies more than a few degrees in its entirety.”

This was a great way to kick off Spring in the Western USA.

The skiing up high was powder, then once we dropped into the chute proper it was chalky, then at the very bottom it was pretty firm snow with wild wet avalanche death balls.

The Y Couloir in Little Cottonwood Canyon, UT:

  • Summit:  9,400′
  • Car:  6,200′
  • Vertical From Car:  3,200′ round trip
  • Vertical skied:  3,200′
  • Max Pitch:  42º
  • Aspect:  N
  • Distance:  2.5-miles round trip
  • Time From Car to Summit:  3 hrs
  • Car to Car Time:  4 hrs 24 mins
  • Recommended Equipment:  crampons, ice axe, no skins

Do excuse the shaky video here, my GoPro broke partway down and the stabilization went haywire –

I did my best to hack it together but it’s a bit “Blair Witch Project“…

We started booting up the chute at 11am and got some beta from some kids who’d just come down that the couloir was powdery, then chalky, then firm.

The 8 or so skiers who had just come down the chute erased the majority of the boot pack so we had to reset it, but the snow was mostly firm enough for good boot packing.

The Utah Avalanche Center had rated the day as LOW avalanche danger at all elevation and all aspects – which put our minds at ease on the grind up.

“The best approach to The Y is to climb straight up it, bearing in mind that you will be exposed to avalanche hazards 100% of the time and getting caught in even a minor slide here could be fatal.” – Andrew McLean, The Chuting Gallery

Miles happy on top. image: snowbrains

We all felt well-rested at the start and we zipped up for the first half of the chute chatting away the entire time about life, love, successes, failures, travel (especially Italy), and future goals.

After the halfway point the snow got softer, the boot pack was more of a struggle, and the conversations stopped.

We followed the boot pack as far as it would go to just a bit short of the summit.

Daryn sliding down low in The Y. image: snowbrains

We considered pounding in the boot pack the last little bit for the view but thought better of it as the snow was deep and hollow and we calculated that it might take an hour to finish the thing.

We had a bite and a sip and dropped in.

The upper reaches of the chute aren’t exactly a chute at all.

Views to Salt Lake Valley. image: snowbrains

There are 3 gullies and some woods you can choose from.

We chose the woods and I ended up on a short but very fun spiney-nose thinger that got me stoked.

The snow was powder up high but it was dense and a bit hooky.

Miles turning on the spiney-nose he found up high in the powder. image: snowbrains

We hooted and hollered and ripped and slashed the upper powder region before getting funneled into the chute proper where the snow turned to chalk.

It was soft, very edge-able chalk in the upper part of the chute.

We hammered down the long top section and navigated rocky, choke-y crux after fun rocky, choke-y crux.

Daryn ripping down the lower section of The Y. image: snowbrains

The skiing was great in the chalky chute.

We were worried that down low the snow was going to get very firm and the chokes were going to get tricky.

But that wasn’t the case.

Martin up high. image: snowbrains

The whole chute skied well and only one of the chokes required side-stepping.

The rest of the chokes were wide enough for turns and creative sliding.

At the very bottom, there were some old wet avalanche death balls that were bizarre and challenging, but we only had to make a few turns on those weirdos.

Daryn levitating in the middle of The Y. image: snowbrains

We were pumped at the bottom.

Across the creek, back up to the car, 10 Barrell Brewing beers, a few toasts and cheers, and plenty of shouting over the raging Little Cottonwood Canyon weekend traffic.

Spring has sprung here in the Wasatch and we can’t wait to see what big adventures it brings.

Apres ski with 10 Barrel with The Y in the background. image: snowbrains

Recent Trip Reports:

Photo Tour in Chronological Order:

Unknown soldier in the very last choke crux before we started. image: snowbrains
Daryn on the first pitch with the avalanche death balls. image: snowbrains
Avalanche death balls. image: snowbrains
Daryn & Martin heading up. image: snowbrains

Martin grinding up. image: snowbrains
Martin pushing up. image: snowbrains
Martin near the top. image: snowbrains
Martin on top. image: snowbrains
Looking up canyon to Alta. image: snowbrains
Look across Little Cottonwood Canyon to Lisa Falls. image: snowbrains
Miles about to drop into the top of The Y Couloir. image: snowbrains
Miles turning on the spiney-nose he found up high in the powder. image: snowbrains
Lower chute fun. image: snowbrains
Lower chute fun. image: snowbrains
Daryn levitating in the middle of The Y. image: snowbrains
Daryn in the last crux choke of The Y. image: snowbrains

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