Monday, January 21, 2008

Day 18: A Little Cross-Country Fun

As I was unstrapping my skis from my pack, recovering from the short bootpack, I looked up and saw the unmistakable lion's mane of the Wizard himself, Bob Athey. He was casually skinning up the steep crest of the Obelisk's ridge that I had just gasped and struggled up with my skis on my back.

"Hey, you got crampons on those things? How'd you do that?" joked Josh.

"What? Ya mean ski cross-country? Isn't that what we're supposed to be doin'?" He lit up a Camel and took a few puffs. "Are you guys some of those BMFR's?"

Quizzical looks all around.
"Big Motha-fuckin Rippers?"

"Big Mountain Free Riders."

"Uh, no. We suck. Well, except maybe Dan. He likes to jump off stuff."

And then he was off, skiing into Hogum and towards the Hypodermic Needle. My first time ever meeting the guy, and all I can think of is what a strange old man he is. But boy howdy, the guy can skin and ski like a madman.

Saturday was on the agenda as "big day" for the weekend. Snow conditions had stabilized nicely after all of the storms, and we wanted to get out and do something new. I had been desperately wanting to go into Hogum for the last two years, especially after hearing about it from Josh last season. None of us had skied the Hogum 200, so that became as good an objective as any. Plus, Josh wanted me to see the Obelisk, a strange rock monolith on top of the hogback between Maybird and Hogum.

Chris had called earlier in the week and was psyched to get out with us. I also got a phone call from Dan the night before, having just gotten back from Costa Rica a few days prior. We started skinning around 8:30 and chugged slowly into Maybird. We ran into a lot more people than I expected, following a group of five up to the Obelisk and seeing several parties heading to the Aprons. Josh had his eye on a chute on the Maybird side, so we passed the parties dropping into the first chute and headed for the Obelisk.

After two years of wanting to see it, I was so excited to finally look down into Hogum Basin. As we reached the ridge, I realized we were so socked in I couldn't even see the basin below us, let alone the granduer of the Pfieff, Chipman Peak, and Lightening Ridge. Pisser.

Well, all was not lost. We dropped the Maybird chute to very high quality snow and got some great turns in back to the skintrack. Although the morning had not gone so well for me in terms of skinning (I felt extremely slow and run-down), the skiing had lifted my spirits and I was ready to attack the ridge again. A dozen or so switchbacks and a bootpack later, we were on the summit again.

Lo and behold, the clouds began to part and Hogum came into view. Unbelievable. The scale of Lightening Ridge was overwhelming and the North face of the Pfeiff was stunning with its big apron below. And surprise - the camera batteries were dead. Good lord, that's always the way it goes.

So we figured skiing off the summit of the Obelisk into Hogum was the way to go. We picked our way down through a rock minefield and picked a good-looking chute (which had been skied that morning). The top was windcrust city, but we took a quick left and dropped into another chute with some quality snow. All in all, it was about 2000 ft of skiing. Not bad. However, we started skiing out the canyon, and we saw what we had missed (and where Athey had gone - why didn't we pay attention??) There were several more beautiful northwest facing chutes just north of the summit with longer fall-lines. I guess it's all a learning process poking around in the Wasatch. I know where I'm skiing next time I'm in Hogum.

Another hour or so of bushwhacking, sidestepping down death chutes, sweating bullets, and a river crossing (no thanks to Chris and Dan laughing as I floundered across), we were back to the road and the sweet smell of burning brakes around 3:15. A little under seven hours - not too shabby.


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