Trip Report: The South Face of 11,253′ Lone Peak, UT

Martin Kuprianowicz | | Trip ReportTrip Report

Report from Sunday, April 16, 2023

After surviving the throes of the deepest winter on record, corn season has finally arrived in Utah.

What better way is there to kick it off than by skiing one of the biggest south faces in the entire state? 

11,253′ Lone Peak, UT – The South Face

  • Start point: Schoolhouse Springs trailhead, ~5,500′
  • Summit: 11,253′
  • Top of South Face: 11,253′
  • Vertical from car: 6,238′ 
  • Vertical skied: ~3,000′ (4,000′ if you count the trail-ski out) 
  • Pitch at steepest point: 35-38º
  • Aspect: South
  • Distance: 10.41-miles round trip
  • Time from car to summit: 5 hours and 30 minutes
  • Car to car time:  8 hours and 26 minutes (including lunch break) 
  • Recommended Equipment: ski crampons, skins
  • Additional Notes: One of the best, longest spring corn runs in Utah 
Good morning, Salt Lake. | Photo: SnowBrains

Driving up and through the hills of suburban Mormania, we found ourselves bumping around in my car on an obscure dirt road through juniper trees and scrub oak.

It took a while to find, and there was a dead deer at its entrance.

The climate was chilly, just below freezing, and the little lingering snow at the trailhead was frozen over.

It was a good sign; if there hadn’t been a solid refreeze we would have to had turned around and gone home, back to the warmth of our beds, which was temping at five in the morning.

Under semi-starry skies, we left the static hum of the city and started toward Lone Peak from the Schoolhouse Springs trailhead.

Puma print. | Photo: SnowBrains

We started in walking shoes, ski and snowboard boots strapped to our pack, and began the climb.

The glow of the buzzing city came into view as we gained elevation, slowly fading as the sunrise crept upward.

On the trail, I spotted a fresh mountain lion track pointed toward the city. 

There were houses less than a mile away.

Wolf on the trail up. | Photo: SnowBrains

We hiked on dirt for roughly one-and-a-quarter miles until we hit the snowline and started touring.

The sun was almost out and headlamps were no longer required.

As we skinned upward, more of the magnificent Wasatch Range came into view; Box Elder Peak, Timpanogos, and then finally, the South Face of Lone Peak.

The run was unthinkably large.

Morning glow. | Photo: SnowBrains

You pass through two hamongogs on the way to Lone Peak: the first is near the trailhead and the second is much higher.

The first one was free of snow while the second was still completely buried in a deep, frozen spring snowpack when we got there.

It was unreal how much snow was still here this late in the season.

Buried. | Photo: SnowBrains

The snow was rock solid and ski crampons were a must in order to keep from slipping and sliding every which way on the skin track.

Halfway into the tour, one of my ski crampons broke.

I kept the other on and painstakingly trudged onward.

City views on the climb up. | Photo: SnowBrains

Wolf, my touring partner, was feeling the early morning wake-up and grueling approach.

Once the morning sun’s rays hit us, a burst of cortisol woke us up and I began to feel stoked.

It was going to be a good, corn-filled day of skiing and riding.

Wolf and the city. | Photo: SnowBrains

Once past the second hamongog, we were finally on the south face proper.

It was massive; a field of snow stretching as far as our eyes could see from the right and to the left, running over several thousand feet of vertical drop.

100 skiers could all drop the south face at the same time and have plenty of room to make their own lines, top to bottom.

The south face coming into view. | Photo: SnowBrains

When we got eyes on the south face, we noticed a large wet avalanche that likely broke sometime last week that was big enough to bury a house.

You don’t want to be here in the wrong conditions.

Avalanche on the south face.  | Photo: SnowBrains

It took about two hours of touring up the south face proper to make it to the top of Lone Peak, where just below the summit we stopped on a perfectly-flat granite rock and had lunch.

My sandwich tasted extra good with the wonderful views around me of the city below, Utah Lake, and the surrounding Wasatch.

It’s captivating how much snow is still in these mountains even though it’s mid-April.

Lunch rock. | Photo: SnowBrains.

After lunch, we skinned for another 10-15 minutes to the summit of Lone Peak and got eyes on the infamous NE Couloir.

We stood for a while and debated on skiing it since Wolf has only seven lines left in order to complete The Chuting Gallery, but we ultimately decided against it since the snow in the entrance looked exceptionally bad due to the southwest winds on the summit which had prevented it from softening up.

The corn on the south face, on the other hand, was ripening to maturity.

After soaking in panoramic views of this weird, wild place where salty desert meets snow-clad mountains, we transitioned and dropped in toward the city below.

NE Couloir of Lone Peak. | Photo: SnowBrains

Wolf went first and arched smooth, easy turns in pristine corn.

I followed suit, smiling and rejoicing as I skied the beautiful, spring corn-snow.

It was friendly, fast, and so easy to ski.

Wolf looking down at his kingdom. | Photo: SnowBrains

We made what felt like an infinite number of turns down the south face with views of the city and lake the entire way.

It was sunny, warm, and gorgeous, almost feeling more like the beach than the mountains.

We cruised our way over past the second hamonog where the snow started to get slushy and a bit sticky by this point in the afternoon.

It was 1 pm and we were enjoying the endless descent. 

Corn. | Photo: SnowBrains

Cruising through the bushes was still fun though, and the snow wasn’t too awfully sticky or grabby.

As we went lower, the ribbon of snow on the trail we were skiing on thinned and narrowed until we ultimately had to put our shoes back on and walk back down to the car.

It was a lovely stroll in 60º weather and intense sunshine.

Headed home. | Photo: SnowBrains

There weren’t any clouds but a cool breeze kept us from feeling uncomfortable.

We had finally made it down tired, drained, and colored from the sun and a large day of hiking.

Lone Peak is not for the faint of heart; it’s a massive approach in big country and spooky avalanche terrain. 

But late in the spring, when most everyone hangs up their gear and hits the mountain bike trails or the rock walls, you’ll be rewarded with a bountiful harvest of delectable corn if you time it right.

Just bring a big appetite… 

Avalanche Forecast 

Utah Avalanche Center 4/17/23


NOAA 4/17/23

Photos in Chronological Order

Dawn. | Photo: SnowBrains
Morning glow. | Photo: SnowBrains
Touring up the Schoolhouse Springs trail. | Photo: SnowBrains
Lines. | Photo: SnowBrains
Lone Peak coming into view. | Photo: SnowBrains
Southern Wasatch. | Photo: SnowBrains
South Face, viewed from mid-line. | Photo: SnowBrains
Looking west from the south face. | Photo: SnowBrains
Gorgeous day. | Photo: SnowBrains
Upper Bell Canyon. | Photo: SnowBrains
Lone Peak Cirque. | Photo: SnowBrains
Looking north from Lone Peak. | Photo: SnowBrains
Box Elder Peak. | Photo: SnowBrains
Wolf posing. | Photo: SnowBrains
Looking down. | Photo: SnowBrains

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