Stairs Gulch

Salt Lake City

Wasatch Backcountry

Stairs Gulch is 4,000 feet long, serious with a combination of a steep, technical chute and a flat, more mellow finish.

Ski Touring Difficult

Distance
3.1 km
Ascent
0 m
Descent
1.5 km
Duration
0-1 hrs
Low Point
1.8 km
High Point
3.2 km
Gradient
42˚
Stairs Gulch Map

Stairs Gulch tops out at the same unnamed 10,400 foot high point as Bonkers. It's huge open headwall is composed of steep rock slabs. It has generated some of the largest avalanches in the Wasatch Mountains. It's safest and easiest to access from the Broads Fork trailhead at the "S curves" in Big Cottonwood Canyon; follow the summer trail, then up Bonkers. Or, it is also possible to go straight up it; park at the Storm Mountain pull-out and hike right up Stairs Gulch.

Description

This is a huge line through very beautiful terrain that can hold great snow since it's N facing and doesn't see much sun. Due to the rocky nature and large change in elevations, Stairs Gulch can vary greatly from year to year and from time of season. There is a fun, but short entry couloir that will deposit you out onto the open face. In a big winter this line can fill in very well and have several variations down it. However, in lean winters there can be many cliffs forcing you into a tight pinch where you may or may not encounter a short 10-20 foot ice section.

After this choke the run opens up into a huge amphitheater of mellow angled terrain. You will then funnel into a lower chute with just enough room for turns. This section lasts for a few hundred feet before it then opens up again.

The remainder of Stairs Gulch is very flat, but can vary greatly depending on snowpack and whether the face has avalanched, and how far the debris has run. It can be thin coverage skiing over rocks with many stream crossings, or it can be completely filled in all the way to the road. If you encounter the stream then stay to the right as you ski under Storm Mountain, which is the huge rocky face off to skiers left. You may be forced to take your skis off down low to cross the stream to the left bank, but cross back over to the right and you'll eventually hit a narrow trail and ski or walk out until you encounter the road.

Difficulty

Difficult

Serious gradient of 30-38 degrees where a real risk of slipping exists.

Medium Exposure (E2)

2 out of 4

As well as the slope itself, there are some obstacles (such as rock outcrops) which could aggravate injury.

Remoteness

4 out of 4

In the high mountains or remote conditions, all individuals must be completely autonomous in every situation.

Best time to visit

March, April, May

Features

  • Cliffs

Equipment required

  • Skins
  • Crampons

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area