Groundhog Day

Not too many years ago on February 2nd, we'd all go run gates at Alta on telemark skis for the Groundhog day. Things have changed. The race is still held, but has been moved to the nearest Saturday and it doesn't hold the same attraction.

So, we just go touring instead.

It was a beautiful day in the mountains. Cool temperatures a few inches of settled recrystalized powder and clear skies. The plan at the trail head was to go to Bells.

One of the easiest ways to get to Bells, involves first descending off the Hogum -Maybird ridge. The run is called the Hogum 200. There are a few variations as can be seen. We like to do the lower looker's left, because it usually has the best snow.

On the first run of the day, the old guy goes first. Ski cuts produced nothing, although the bed surface from a large slide during the January cycle was quite slick, with the skiing in the runout, clinker avoidance.

The second skier, started a sluff which ran a ways and the last our splitboarder made it a little bigger. Pictures were posted on the avalanche site's photo page along with a photo of a skier triggered slide from the day before in one of the chutes farther south.


Eric, the fun seeking splitboarder was testing a new board with the run through the debris adding a few lumps to the test.


From the top of the monolith ridge, we had a great view of Thunder ridge across the valley. Thoughts of Bells were replaced with doing a line off the ridge. The needle looker's far right had obvious wind damage in the apron, but the sliver on the left looked smooth.

The scenery on the climb up the steep secondary was spectacular with the back bowl of Hogum and the Pieferhorn and it's northwest chute providing a distraction from the long slog.

The choke required booting, since it was so narrow. didn't quite make it to the ridge, thwarted by depth hoar and slick granite. We did make it to the top of the snow.

The young guy, well he turns 37 on the 4th, took first tracks with good skiing from the top.I went second and we split the run into a couple of pitches.

Eric takes first tracks down the second pitch.

Running it out to the bottom.

Brian, the first at the top, finishes skiing the sliver.

Too late for heading up and out Hogum for a run down Thunder Bowl, but still early enough to take another, we skinned up the Hypodermic needle, once again thwarted from reaching the ridge by time and a slippery bed surface under the new snow. With a little ambition it could easily have been done from the ridge. Been there, done that and maybe the next time.

Skiing out we discovered the slide off the west face had been truly massive extending for something over a quarter of a mile and descending about 2500 vertical snapping off large trees in it's wake.

The run out the bottom was doable on skis, but not a lot of fun with only an inch or so of fresh over a very firm base and as the descent progressed more and more brush was encountered. After descending the creek is crossed and a summer trail needs finding to avoid climbing the berm to the highway. Everyone made it safe and sound with only a few scratches.

We saw our shadows, with six more weeks of winter ahead.


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