Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Hulk Hogum

Pfeifferhorn, NW Couloir
This week, brothers Andy and Jason Dorais and I completed a linkup of several prominent lines in Hogum Fork in the backcountry of Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah.  Andy calls it the "Hulk Hogum."  We began with the Northwest Couloir of the Pfeifferhorn; skied a soon-to-be named/identified coolie in upper Hogum, which we thought might be Snap Dragon, but on further reflection decided, not; knocked off the some of the more popular steep lines of Lightning Ridge--Montgomery, the Sliver, Dresden Face, Hypodermic Needle; and finished with a descent of the Coalpit headwall, a traverse to the top of the Y Couloir, and out the Y Couloir.

The Stats

Andy Dorais climbing the Pfeif
- Lines Skied: Pfeif NW, Cham Chute, Montgomery, Sliver, Dresden Face, Hypodermic Needle,Coalpit headwall, Y Couloir
- Vertical: 11,700 up, 14,475 down
- Time: 13 hrs, 41 minutes
- Redundant Uptracks: up Sliver 2x , up Needle apron/Coalpit ridge 3x
- Raps: 1 on Pfeiff NW, 2 on Montgomery
- Collective Gear: lightweight skinny skis, tech bindings, Whippets, minimalist harnesses, 60 meter 6mm cord, tat, a few nuts, a few pins, and 1 ice tool.
- Conditions: not spring, not what was forecasted, WINDY, variable snow--pow, windboard, ice
- Injuries: 1 scraped knee (Jason's), several frost-nipped and now numb finger tips (mine and Jason's)
- Mood: cynical, sardonic, stoked, exuberant, pissed-off (Coalpit Ridge x 3, skin failure x 5), amazed, frightened, inspired, grateful, beat down, and lifted up.
Going Light = Freedom
Free: Andy Dorais, Jared Inouye, and Jason Dorais
In the last few years, I've been inspired by alpinism -- climbing hard and long routes with minimal gear as fast as possible.  Reading the adventures and feats of guys like Mark Twight, Steve House, and now Colin Haley, just to name a few, has left my mind spinning, and wondering.  This is one reason that I've been interested in rando racing, which is all about skiing fast and minimally.  While alpinism and ski mountaineering, ski alpinisme if you're french, are not the same, I think there are parallels and even a fair amount of crossover.  I also think that ski mountaineering has been and will continue to be informed and driven by rando racing, although the two disciplines also have differences.

Rando racing has had a major effect on my skiing.  Nowadays, it's hard for me to clip into my 95mm waisted Manaslus, which weigh 3.8 pounds per foot.  It's even hard to clip into my 78mm waisted Trab Free Randos, which weigh 3.1 pounds per foot.  I often, even on a powder day, find myself clipping into my 65 mm race skis, which weigh 2.1 pounds per foot.  Why?  Because going light = going higher and longer with less effort.  Because going light allows me to ski routes like the Hulk Hogum.  Because going light presents the possibility of one day going big.

Hulk Hogum
Andy in 4wd
If I were to choose one word to characterize the Hulk Hogum, it would be "steep."  All of the lines in the Hulk Hogum, at their best, are between 45 and 55 degrees.  We were lucky to get a couple of the lines in soft conditions (Cham Chute, Dresden and Coalpit).  Some of the others presented a clinic on skiing icy to breakable conditions on lightweight ski gear.  Although I know there were times when I didn't look (or feel) all that calm and fluid, I don't think I ever took a fall, and in my book, that's a success.

Being in Hogum Fork is always special.  Nearly every side of Hogum is rimmed with spires.  In the Wasatch, it may be as good as it gets.

Is this Snap Dragon?  The ramp trending down from top looker's right to lower left is what I now call the "Cham Chute."
The Munter
To accomplish this project, we needed some climbing gear, which would increase what we normally carry.  In trying to go lighter, I brought a 60 meter 6mm cord, used a 95 gram harness, and left my belay device in the car.  I was really happy with the 6mm cord, which at 22 grams per meter weighs less than half of one strand of a twin or half rope.  I carried the cord for the first part our tour, and after I began complaining about it, Jason stuffed it in his pack.   The 6mm cord on a Munter hitch also worked nicely, even on an overhanging rap.

A couple of the lines in the Hulk Hogum required a rope.  Getting into Montgomery from the Sliver required a rope, and then we had to rap the cliffs at the mid sections of the Pfeif NW Couloir and  Montgomery.  The Dorais brothers built the anchors on Montgomery, leaving $30 worth of offerings to the mountain for which they will be blessed, no doubt.

Jason Dorais descending Montgomery
One nut, one pin.
Where is Snap Dragon?
If it's not yet obvious, one of the recurring themes of the day was the Snap Dragon.  Where is it?  I think my partners were a bit annoyed with my Snap Dragon fixation.  Surely, the Cham Chute was a decent substitute, but I would like to find and, one day, ski Snap Dragon.  Help, anyone?


Team Crested Butte said...

Nice work! What went down for ya in the Keg? DNF? What's up?

Nice to hear about folks in the Wasatch that aren't all about 100mm+ underfoot...similar here too but I like to believe all these folks will "take off their training wheels" someday too! ...freedom of the hills! 76mm underfoot as my daily drivers!

...anyone can ski pow!

Jared said...

The Keg was not good for me. I was flat, fighting allergies, and I had a big crash on the first descent, causing me to lose a contact lense. So I bailed. Pretty disappointing. But oh well.

"Training wheels"? That's funny. I'd probably get beat up if I used that term.