Little Hobble Creek TrailheadMike, the trip organizer, has been up Little Hobble Creek before, albeit only a few miles. I was worried about low starting elevation and about snowmobiles, but Mike reassured me that the shady canyon will have enough snow at the bottom, and that those few 'bilers who aren't in church or watching Superbowl will stick to Main Fork and Daniels Summit.
By the way, the complicated business about local Hobble Creeks may need some explanation, 'cuz about every other creek around here is Hobble Creek of one or another sort. There is one at Daniels Summit flowing South-East to Strawberry Res.; the other Hobble Creek, with Left and Right Forks, is a very long drainage flows West through Pole Haven towards Utah Lake; finally "our" Little Hobble Creek flows North towards Provo River, and it's also got Left and Right Forks.
From US40 near Deer Creek Reservoir, we turned South to Wallsburg, a quaint Mormon farming town in the aptly-named Round Valley. It is kind of hard to imagine such a rural, frozen-in-time place just minutes away from the resort sprawl of the Park City area. The official winter parking for Little Hobble Creek is on the South edge of town, at 40° 21.14'N, 111° 24.13'W.
In a low-snow winter like this one, most cars would have little problem negotiating the next 1/3rd of a mile of a snowbound road, but beyond that point, the turnouts get scarce and the creek crossings are difficult.
We noticed some wild turkeys just short of the TH and hurried to make pictures ... only to be literally ambushed by dozens of the huge birds at the parking lot! They are after your bread crumbs - and not hungry enough to accept yuppy nonsense like dried mango which I tried to feed them.
One can probably do some touring in the nearby hills (e.g. behind the locked gate of Left Fork Little Hobble Creek) but our plan was different.
Right Fork Little Hobble Creek
This "easy" section of the tour followed summer unpaved road to Little Valley corral. There were vehicle tracks all the way - some jeeps made it as far as two and half miles in, already past the FS boundary, and then, as the road got steeper, only ATV tracks continied. But we had the road to ourselves; and in any case, an ATV just doesn't make the stink and roar to rival a snowmobile.
The lower 3 creek crossings weren't frozen, and even I couldn't make it across some of them on skis, despite the most determined effort :)
Shortly before the corral, the views opened. Rattlesnake Ridge rose prominently ahead, and to the left, we could see our future destination, Hill 9,082 of Rock Slide Canyon Ridge.
We stopped for lunch by the firs at the edge of open Little Valley, and decided that John and Mary-Ann are not going to accompany the rest of the crew on the soon-to start exploratory part of the tour. This leaves four of us, Mike, Rob, myself, and Judy.
Push towards Strawberry Peak
We skied up to the Great Western Trail junction on a ridge separating Right and Left Forks of Little Hobble Creek above the corral, and after some deliberation, decided to take the North Slopes road towards Brumley Creek, instead of gaining the ridge right away by GWT. After couple miles of increasingly heavy trailbreaking, we topped Balsam Bench Pass at 8,180, and finally glimpsed Strawberry Peak ahead.
We would have lost about 500 vertical ft now by following the North Slopes road. Instead, we skinned up and started an ascending traverse towards the ridgeline. The snow was soft and deep, and not once we remembered the picky telemark skiers of "Wasangeles" who complained that all the snow around has already been tracked.
The Timp, and Round Valley, gradually came into view. At last, the slope eased near the ridgetop. Alas, the time was already 3:15 and still about two miles separated us from Strawberry Peak. Maybe the time to temper the ambitions and just get to a high point of the ridge to enjoy the view? And what a view it was!
Downhill over Wing Flat
We were heading back to the car, but exploring wasn't finished yet. The Great Western Trail route, which we pondered at noon, now lay barely half mile West of us - and 700 ft below. The snow was heavily crusted on the ridge, but just to the North, it was great glide in finely recrystallized powder. It was Judy's first ever descent on this kind of BC gear, and we were absolutely elated to see how well she was doing ... even a short while later when I blundered into the thicket of aspens (don't go too far West if you wanna avoid it). We turned a bit right, into more open woods, and in a nick of time, caught our breath in the open meadow of Wing Flats.
Some old, snow-covered snowmobile tracks continued down along the GWT, and soon we were toasting the success of today's exploration with some leftover hot tea at the junction with our morning track. The alpenglow lit the ridge behind for the last time, and the icy track lay ahead, but these four miles of the canyon road took just minutes to negotiate.
Thanks everybody for a great tour! Looks like we may explore this terra incognita again!