Saturday, January 09, 2010

Hogum Creek telemark playground

The wind was howling as a Chinook blew through Great Falls Friday and Saturday night melting snow in all directions.
We wanted to avoid the breezes and ski in some powder so we ventured to the west side of the Continental Divide and explored the Hogum Creek drainage. It was 20 degrees colder on the west side and unmelted powder.
About 15 years ago on skinny skis I came down from Stemple Pass along an old powerline right of way, but I didn't remember much about the run.
On Saturday we went from bottom up from the Forest Service's Hogum Creek Cabin on Black Diamond Creek.
I hadn't recalled what the cabin's beautiful, remote setting so I made a mental note to return.
The skiing is darned good in this area on a cross country trail marked with blue diamonds along an old logging road.
There are a number of logging roads in this area.
The elevation is relatively low, about 4,600 feet, but there was plenty of powder snow about 3 feet deep.
It didn't takes us long to start exploring readily handy ridgelines for telemark slopes. We found plenty as we gained about 1,000 feet.
On top the ridgeline we could clearly see the Continental Divide, the Blackfoot River Valley above the town of Lincoln, and north into the Scapegoat Wilderness.
The topography was similar to the Stemple Pass area, except more open with lots more telemark possibilities. We found bigger trees more reminiscent of old growth forest. There are some stunning examples of towering Ponderosa pines in the tele meadows.
We didn't see any snowmobiles or hear any, although we know the entire Lincoln area crawls with machines. We just lucked out.
We skied east and west across the big ridgeline above the creek, hitting tele slopes where we could.
Jim Heckel's altimeter recorded over 2,500 feet and Mark Hertenstein and I did a few additional runs and took a different route back than Jim, so I'm confident we did at least 3,000 feet.
Beautiful open tele slopes

Hogum Creek ranger cabin
Rediscovering Hogum Creek was a wake up call for me.
I thought I had the Great Falls area fairly well scoped for winter possibilties.
I was reminded of all the great possibilities in the Continental Divide country.
While it is nearly 70 miles to Kings Hill from Great Falls, it is only an additional 10 miles to Hogum Creek.
The skiing made those 10 miles well worth the effort.

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