North Ridge of Pfiefferhorn

North Ridge of Pfiefferhorn


On April 2, 2022, Craig Pierson and I summited Pfiefferhorn via the North Ridge in winter/spring conditions. We skied off the summit with rapidly warming snow, but successfully got back to the car without incident.

I felt horrible all day, pretty much from the moment we left. I had nightmares and slept only a few hours, tossing and turning. I even overslept (AM/PM malfunction) and was late to meet Craig at the park and ride. Sorry Craig :( .

Notwithstanding my struggles, we made the best of it and had a beautiful day out with engaging climbing (engaging for ski boots at least).

Weather & Conditions

The day started cool, warming considerably by the afternoon. We found nice powder in shaded and treed aspects, including the Maybird Headwall. All sun affected slopes kicked off pretty large sized wet sluffs. Snow contained some graupel from a previous storm, and some dirty snow from the latest dusting a few days earlier. There was some also strong wind on the ridge.

Elevation, Mileage, and Timing

We certainly didn't set any speed records with my pace. The car to car time was 7:06. Unfortunately I forgot my watch today and Strava is a useless hunk of junk unless you pay for it (in which case its a slightly less useless hunk of junk), so I can't discern any segments from that.

From my photos, we started moving around 7:25 AM, we got to the base of the couloir to gain the ridge around 10:15-10:30, gained the ridge around 11:10 AM, and summited around 1:10 PM.

So roughly, 3 hours to gain the couloir, about 45 minutes booting up, and about 2 hours climbing.

North ridge of Pfiefferhorn - John Sigmon’s 10.3 mi backcountry ski
Shit sleep, felt like shit on the skin. Rewarded with scary turns off the summit and fantastic turns into Maybird.


Overall the day went off without a hitch. I felt pretty bad on the skin, which went away afterwards. You can only climb so fast in ski boots and so I couldn't get my heart rate up high enough to feel bad again. Booting up the couloir was an unfortunate time. The snow was quite wind loaded down low, with sections of pure sugar up high. We just about had to start tunneling through waist deep sugar to gain the ridge.

The climbing was good. I've done the north ridge in the summer and it is an especially loose route. I thought it might be a little more glued together this time around, but I was surprised at how loose it still was.

None of the climbing was particularly scary, I'm not sure how I'd even rate it on an M scale. Likely M3+ or 4- were the hardest moves, considering there are a few steep sections, if only for a body length or two.

The snow scramble to the summit was also pretty sugary and terrible. We got to the summit likely just in time. We let down some pretty good sized point releases under our skis as we came down, which kept you from side slipping anything. The top four inches or so of snow was sliding right off the icy surface underneath. I got my first experience doing jump turns in very consequential terrain. We pitched it out down to the Maybird headwall, where we got some nice powder down into Maybird Gulch.


Heading off from the road up into the Red Pine drainage
The bridge leading off from Red Pine into Maybird Gulch
Pfiefferhorn comes into site once we round the corner to Maybird
We traverse around the east side of Maybird Gulch
Traverse traverse traverse
The route! The ski off the summit is on the backside and not shown.
Partway up the couloir. Craig telling me that he did the route in 3.5 hours car to car and I am slow.
The nice part of the couloir before we sank to our waists in sugar
Craig leading off on the first pitch
Looking down into Maybird Gulch
Where I pulled a loose block and fell on the route in the summer
Up up up
Craig finishing the west facing slab pitch
Looking down from my belay for the slab pitch
Looking off towards Airplane Peak
Just before unroping for the scramble to the top
Skiing into Maybird!