Tuesday, March 30, 2010

WURL On Skis: Can it be done?

In the Wasatch, there is a traverse called the WURL. It stands for "Wasatch Ultimate Ridge Linkup." So far as I can tell, the route was pioneered, and possibly originated, by Jared Campbell. And so far as I can tell, only two people have completed it in summer conditions -- Jared Campbell and Nik Berry (don't know if that's his real name). Their accounts are here (Jared) and here (Nik).  They are worth reading.

The route, as penned in by Jared Campbell, is depicted below.

It starts at Ferguson Canyon, ascends to the Twin Peaks, follows the ridgeline towards Superior, tagging O' Sullivan, Drom, and Monte Cristo along the way.  Then it swirls around the Grizzly/Alta perimeter, over Wolverine, Tuscarora, Devils Castle, Sugarloaf, Baldy, and Hidden.  And from there it tags several other 11'ers --- White Baldy, Red Baldy, Red Stack, Pfeif, South Thunder, Chipman, Bighorn, and Lone.  It exits Bells Canyon.  It is about 25 miles and ascends about 20,000 vertical feet.

Last year, Noah and I did what we called the Stuper Tour -- actually, I called it that; he called it the Stupor Tour.  It more or less followed the south rim of the WURL, starting with Baldy and ending at Lone.  It omitted South Thunder Mountain, but included Chipman.  I can't tell for sure whether the  WURL includes Chipman.  The Stupor Tour took us over 16 hrs, but it was done in what I consider pretty tough conditions -- lots of post-holing and bouldering.  I'm thinking that in better conditions, it could be done faster.

While we were on the Stupor Tour we joked about doing what we called the "Toilet Bowl," a route that is more or less like the WURL.  At the time, it sounded a bit out of reach.  After 15 hrs, while stumbling over roots and boulders in Bells Canyon, as a joke, it made us feel better -- at least we're not going THAT far.  But since then, that joke has lingered in my head.  Last Thursday, I was in Broads and with Twin, O'Sullivan and Drom looming above, I couldn't help but think of the Toilet Bowl again.  Jokingly, I mentioned that we should just ski out to Superior or do the Toilet Bowl.  It's a joke only after you have a few thousand vertical in your legs, because, like I said, it seems so out of reach. But as I exited Broads, I looked back and saw O'Sullivan and Drom smiling at me!  Maybe it was a sign?

Over the weekend on our little traverse (below), the subject of the Toilet Bowl came up again.  Then, I found out about Jared and Nik's completion of the WURL.  And I found about Mark Twight's attempted ski traverse of the WURL.  Bart tells me that he's now obsessed with the Toilet Bowl traverse.  And so, I find myself wondering: is a WURL on skis  -- WURLOS -- possible?  I think it is.

To do it on skis and in winter conditions, however, would require some modifications.  I'm hoping that these modifications will not eviscerate the WURL -- the Wasatch Ultimate RIDGE Linkup.  Perhaps I'll just have to call our route the "Toilet Bowl Traverse" after all.  The modifications that I'm thinking are necessary are as follows:

1. Start at Broads rather than Ferguson.  Going up Ferguson would be relatively tough and exposed with skis.
2. Rather than follow the ridgeline from Drom to Monte Cristo, drop down into Mill B and go around Sundial, back up Mill B to North Superior.
3. Do I really have to ski the rim from Superior to Dav to Black Bess to Patsey Marley to Wolverine to Tuscarora to Devils Castle?  Those peaks aren't really over 11k.  It might be on-the-fly-decision.  If we're running out of time or low on energy, perhaps we ski South Superior, cross over to Alta, and start the South rim at Baldy.
4. Chipman or South Thunder or both?
5. I am considering an exit out Dry Creek to Alpine because Bells Canyon is a rough exit.  Although the East Face of Lone Peak would be a nice final descent.

Comments?  Would these mods constitute cheating on the WURL?  My thinking is that the WURLOS/Toilet Bowl will be legitimate so long as we tag the major peaks.  Yes?  No?


Ski Bike Junkie said...

I say as long as you don't cross the street, it counts.

Dongshow said...

Yea, I second Ski Bike Junkie. Wolverine/Patsy Marley is a must though as it's the visual head of the canyon. Just don't cross the road

SLC sherpa said...

My feelings are that you should hit the 11,000 footers and don't cross the road. Skip the others if necessary. One indication that the Cottonwood ridge is gnarly is that Twight didn't stay on it without a rope. It's got some 4th class in the summer that could definitely be ugly in winter.

Some more info:


Conveniently, Wolverine and others are under 11,000. But...does that mean you include the Thunders?

Bart G said...

As we have debated. I say we hit all the 11,000 footers and ski from the top. Don't cross the road seems fair.
Thunders are not need as they are technically not on the Cottonwood rim. It's like heading North to tag Kessler, although cool, not on the true rim.
I say out Bells as it will hold snow better than down to Alpine and is in the same county as the starting point. A true "toilet bowl".
Just waiting on the weather....

dug said...

i say wow. who ARE those guys.

Faceless Ghost said...


Alex Wigley said...

Love the speed traverse! Make sure you write down your times and start/stop positions! Keep up the great work, getting me even more stoked for the spring.

Grizzly Adam said...


Jared said...

More like ski through the night. . .

Anonymous said...

Jared, I stumbled on this somehow. You have to try this. It CAN be done in a single-push. I agree with the Broads Fork entry. The ridge we avoided is ... umm ... scary looking. Tag Monte Cristo and all of the peaks at the head of the Canyon, which means the Devil's Castle and at that point in the day it's spooky looking too. We didn't have the Will for it. Lone Peak? It didn't make sense with our exit plan but it does make sense looking at a map, beer in hand ...

Have a blast,

Jared said...


Thanks for the encouragement. When I hear someone like you use the word "scary," it makes me wonder.

Since this is a ski traverse, I don't feel to guilty about skiing off the ridge. Plus, that increases the vert.

I'll keep you posted on our progress.