Sunday, February 2, 2014

Hogum Hell

Great view west from Short Swing summit, an after work Friday Dusk Patrol. (not related to following post) 

NW couloir is on the right side with choke point visible midway down. Andrew Burr photo. notice how its actually a good photo? 
(all photos below in this post are courtesy of me, which are few, unrepresentative of our day, and of horrible quality due to my utter refusal to remove my gloves)

a much better TR than mine can be found practically anywhere on the internet, but here a few good ones regarding this line:
black diamond
surface skis

I have never had the screaming barfies so bad in my life.

I've summited the Pfiefferhorn somewhere in the 10+ times range, but Saturday was my first winter ascent. The usual gang minus Nick(hope the elk are doing well) found ourselves breaking our own trail starting at the Red Pine/Maybird junction in hopes of skiing the classic NW couloir on the Little Matterhorn. The 5 of us took turns breaking trail or carrying the rope(ahem, Jake did neither. "I'm tired and my free Powderhore slim lightweight bright yellow backpack is too small to carry the rope") up to Red Pine Lake and then onto the East Ridge. It got really cold once we were on the ridge. 

The person leading was the only person that didn't know they were on  frozen Red Pine Lake 

We found the short 5th class section of ridgeline before the final summit push to be trivial compared to summer conditions which gratefully surprised us. Court led us up the final 200' of waist deep powder wallowing to the summit with quite cold wind and blinding snow, making most of us question why we weren't back at home "eating greasy food in a hot shower" as Jake put it. No food allowed in the shower Jake. 

East Ridge of the Pfief

 While Jake and Court rigged the first rappel off the summit due to low snow conditions, Pete, Steve and I tried to regain some warmth back into our hands. I honestly didn't think I could put on my harness my hands hurt so bad. Luckily with some hand in the armpits action and a short prayer(if your arms are folded you might as well pray) my fingers regained 50% of normal temperature, which is the least required percentage in order to not kill yourself while rappelling down a mountain couloir. 

Then, suddenly, when most of our confidence was lost, a small ray of sunshine poked through the clouds. Our cold despair and fear of the NW couloir diminished dramatically from a score of 9 to an 8(we still were really scared) with this small beacon of hope. My prayer had worked! The sun was going to come out, we would be warm, an expansive mountain view would appear, and no one would die in an avalanche! My confidence had returned! 

The sun disappeared one minute later, but our harnesses were on by then so we had to continue.

We all slowly made our way down the couloir, some skiing, some booting, some hand line booting, to the final rap. We had Courts slim 200' rope which was perfect for the 2 raps we did.(one slung horn, one set of fat bolts)  After freezing our way down the technical portion, we enjoyed some amazing powder in a spectacular setting though it became a full on white out and our vision and depth perception were about as good as the Denver Broncos offense today. 

The boys hand line booting down the couloir

Jake thinking about skiing

Pete down booting the couloir

Past the difficulties and into the fun powder
Green machine with my superman rope crushing the NW couloir

We had hopes of doing the Sliver as well, but due to low motivation from freezing temps, no food or water consumption due to fear of hand frostbite, and the fact that we could not really see the Sliver, we bailed. Hogum is always a treat to ski out of, about as much fun as watching a 40 point Super Bowl blowout. (2nd superbowl joke if you're counting) You find yourself in some of the thickest thicket you can imagine, often times rolling down the hill in potato bug fashion with skis, poles, and your 90 lb water saturated rope that your selfish friends abandoned you with getting tangled into a huge garage sale. You remove your skis thinking walking will be faster, only to find its no better, only a different kind of miserable. It makes grown men weep. 

All of us were scattered like the lost tribes of Israel at this point, and after wandering aimlessly in the desert for what felt like 40 years, I reached the last remaining obstacle, namely the Red Sea(aka the LCC stream) that would allow me passage to the promised land. (aka the LCC trail). With Moses nowhere to be found, I found the next best thing, a log I humped across.  

My Moses

Compared to last weeks ski adventure of a warm sunny yet horrible snow day, this weeks outing was far better despite shivering 90% of the time, snow blindness, and doing more briar patch wrestling than Brer Rabbit. Glad to have this one ticked. 

1 comment:

  1. I attempted that once....bailed with my tail between my legs.