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Ascent of Hogback Mountain on 2015-10-07

Climber: Gustav Sexauer

Others in Party:Dick Ellsworth
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Wednesday, October 7, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Hogback Mountain
    Location:USA-Nebraska
    Elevation:5062 ft / 1542 m

Ascent Trip Report

After our Morrill County debacle where we searched and searched for the land owners of that county's highpoint, we drove off of NE 71 on the county road which is actually just a long driveway to the house that "Arch" lives in. No one was home at this place that could be described better as a cabin. There were old national park signs and other wood adornments which betrayed that an outdoorsy person must live here. We decided to leave a note and start hiking anyway, seeing as it was late in the day (around 3 or 3:30) and we wouldn't have time to make it if we waited around. I took my pack, but Dick did not. We only had about a liter of water between the two of us and we hadn't drank anything in a few hours. The signs were telling me that our late start combined with unpreparedness was a red flag and we shouldn't go, but I figured we could endure some hardship and still make it out given our location and the low difficulty of the hike. Also, Dick packed a headlamp and I had a wind-up flashlight for when it got dark.

We left the homestead and passed through a gate into a field with horses and cows. The path frayed into many a cow path until we got to the far end where it began to look like an old logging road. Two of the horses charged us and I got a bit scared. I'd dealt with too many bad dogs and bears over the past couple years to know what to expect from horses. They just seemed happy to see humans. We continued on and they didn't follow as we ascended the windy old road up the edge of a steep sided drainage. Once we got up on the main ridge I heard some grunting. It was a bull elk herding his harem away from us across the drainage. I was a bit cool in my T-shirt in the shadow of Wildcat Mountain. Dick and I decided not to hike it, although it was only a fifteen minute side trip if a break at the top was accounted for because we really were short on daylight. I was happy to find that I still had a few drinks of water left in my camel back, but it had dried up by this point. We continued across the mostly flat grassy ridge until we got up on the right side of a steep pitch. I hiked up into the notch in the middle of it and found that we should skirt it around the north side, but then make our way onto a rock walkway which led to the summit plateau. This required a couple minutes of bushwhacking and hoping our boots held in thick steep soil. The rock walkway was the best part of the hike; it reminded me of a similar place on a bluff near Reno, MN. Once on the plateau it was an easy stroll over to where the GPS said we had made the top. The problem was that the clearing before the one with our coordinates seemed just as high and so did the next one which required losing about 20' vert before coming up the other side. This is actually the summit that Google Earth puts the mountain symbol on. A nobby circular butte to the northeast only a quarter mile looked pretty tall as well, but probably was a couple feet shorter. The view was fantastic in all directions and it was indeed the onset of sunset. NE88 had a fair amount of trucks on it for the rural setting. We started making our way back, but were definitely going slowly due to our dehydration. At the other side of the rock walkway we stopped and broke out two gigantic apples. They were really my only food that would hydrate us rather than drying our mouths. They were a major help, but stopping cost us time and we had to get going again. I ate a bit slower and let Dick start before me because I knew I could catch him again. It was getting decently dark by the time we were behind Wildcat once again and I was in the lead. I turned off the ridge and started down too soon, but in the darkness I didn't realize it until we were ten minutes down or more. We realized we had to traverse the steep pitches, then go through a gully or two before regaining the path. It was at this point that I found out Dick hadn't brought his headlamp even though he said he would! We had to continue on with me shining my flashlight in front and behind me while we were crossing slopes which would make great expert skiing. The light was many times brighter when I was cranking it and not too effective when I wasn't so I pretty much had to continually crank it from there on out. It was difficult to find a spot to cross the gully due to deadfall and slopes too steep to step on that rose 10 to 20 feet on each side. We made it down and up the other side and eventually found a fence that we had to cross through at the top of the logging road earlier in the day. Once we had gone through that, we were able to follow the trail reasonably well the rest of the way down. I was starting to worry that if Arch was home he may be worried about us and potentially call a search party. The name Arch made me think of a guy in his 30's in the 50's that played football and wore glasses, but I figured he'd be different in person. Once we approached the house we saw a flashlight on our car, then searching the dark bluffs. We made light contact, then made verbal contact five minutes later. I said that I hoped we hadn't scared him, being out into the night. Arch replied, "I don't get scared". He said that he thought about calling a search party, but thought we'd be fine. Some other folks had been out through the night once. He welcomed us in and was happy to hear about our adventure in the bluffs that he also enjoys so much. It turned out he was a large man with a ZZ Top beard and a fitting backwoods accent. Arch gave us some water, thankfully, and told us some stories while we sat in a room with a fire place and many animal bones and heads. He even tried to sell us some elk antlers at what he said was a great price. He said he knows that Hogback is the state prominence point and that it's higher than Hogback, but his landlord is convinced that Wildcat is higher. Both don't mind that a few hikers from around the country have an interest in hiking up here. Arch called himself a "Bluffsman" and said that, with the exception of getting old, life was just great for him. His fondness for the bluffs characterized the entire western portion of the state over the hour that we chatted. We eventually had to go because we still hadn't had enough water and were famished as well. Our talk with the friendly hermit made me want to come back someday and hike Wildcat, just because.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:1314 ft / 399 m
    Elevation Loss:1314 ft / 399 m
    Distance:5.8 mi / 9.4 km
    Grade/Class:Class 2
    Quality:4 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Open Country
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:964 ft / 293 m
    Extra Loss:272 ft / 82 m
    Distance:2.8 mi / 4.5 km
    Trailhead:Arch's House  4370 ft / 1331 m
    Time Up:2 Hours 6 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Elevation Loss:1042 ft / 317 m
    Extra Gain:350 ft / 106 m
    Distance:3 mi / 4.9 km
    Trailhead:Arch's House  4370 ft / 1331 m
    Time Down:2 Hours 20 Minutes



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