Wasatch Spot: Hogum Fork, Little Cottonwood Canyon
By Ben White
The topography of the Wasatch provides for easy subdivisions of terrain. The north sides of Alpine and Cottonwood Ridge are nicely divided into gulches carved out by glaciers. With steep walls and wide, flat centers, each fork looks relatively similar on a topo map. One of the more difficult to access gulches is Hogum Fork.
Hogum lies south of Little Cottonwood Canyon Road and three gulches west of Snowbird (White Pine, Red Pine and Maybird are the three gulches between). Approachable from the White Pine lot via a 3000 vertical foot approach or by crossing Little Cottonwood Creek and struggling up the steep side for about 2000 vertical feet before the base of Hypodermic Needle, it is not easily accessible. With such a relatively difficult access, visitors do not frequent Hogum nearly as much as some of the forks in Big Cottonwood. In an interesting twist of fate and geologic processes, it just so happens that some of the gnarliest lines in the Wasatch are located in this dreamland.
There are no trails in this gulch, so mountain biking does not exist here in the summer months. The nearest hiking trail is to Red Pine Lake, which one can continue on from to summit the Pfeifferhorn and look into a veritable Disneyland for skiers and climbers. Climbing the north ridge of the Pfeifferhorn is done in the winter as an alpine-style climb or in the summer as a relatively easy rock climb. Granite cracks abound for the curious to explore on a rope should they want to. Tucked in the very back of Hogum is a 750 foot rock route called Hogum’s Heroes that only sees a couple of ascents per year. Arguably, the easiest time to play in Hogum is the winter, where snow covers the boulder piles and skis make for quick gliding around from one line to another.
None of the ski lines in Hogum are for the faint-hearted. Skiing from the top of the Obelisk (The Hogback) that separates Maybird and Hogum is probably the easiest line, with a few chutes coming off the summit. The Northwest Couloir of the Pfeifferhorn drops off the summit and ends in Hogum. At 55º with a rappel in the middle, it is steep, technical and not for the faint of heart. The western side is cut with three beautiful couloirs. From looker’s left to right lie Montgomery, The Sliver and Hypodermic Needle. Each of these three couloirs is steep, narrow, and long. The Dresden Face and Coalpit Headwall are to the left and right of Hypodermic Needle, respectively, and look like Alaska. Skiing any of these lines is worthy of a feather in your cap.
Being so un-used yet so full of wonder, this place seems to feel like the heart of the Wasatch, at least for skiing. Very remote feeling, super fun and interesting lines and rarely a soul to come across, it’s a dreamland.
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