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blueBlack Farmington Spine

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3.9 mile 6.2 kilometer point to point


Ascent: 3,880' 1,183 m
Descent: -1' 0 m
High: 8,711' 2,655 m
Low: 4,831' 1,473 m


Avg Slope: 19% (11°)
Max Slope: 48% (26°)
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Trail shared by Spencer Parkin

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This is the poor man's approach to Rice and Mud bowls.

Spencer Parkin
Type: Backcountry or Sidecountry

Need to Know

The start of this ascent has been claimed by many locals as an unofficial shooting range. If you hear shooting on the return, it's best to hike around it.


This approach has the Rice and Mud bowls in mind as ski destinations. It is, however, not practical, but it is a viable option. Allow for a 3 hour ascent, ski what you can, then allow 3 more hours for the return. The best option would be to drive or snowmobile Farmington Canyon road to the Sherrif's Cabin, and start from there.

Unfortunately, however, the canyon road is no longer maintained for winter access. After a mud-slide damaged Farmington Canyon road, the FAA decided it was cheaper to chopper their employees to the radar towers rather than plow the road once it was finally fixed.

I did this approach in spring (late March, early April), so I'm going to give a description here based on that. First, start early; timing is everything. You want to hit the bowls immediately after they've been softened up by the sun, but don't stay until the sun creates too much instability (i.e., wet slides). Second, it's best to try after a nightly refreeze, otherwise the snow may be bad. Several freeze-thaw cycles may help all the layers bond.

The first ~1.5 miles must be booted. The next ~0.5 miles is a bit thick, but you can skin up it and actually ski down it with some patience. The next half-mile is actually not a bad ski run (see Farmington Spine Run). All that remains is about 1.5 miles to the top. Most of it can be skied back down, but a single transition is needed on the return.

Once on the final ridgeline, stay back from the northeast side! It is heavily corniced. If you go at the right time, you'll often see a few openings between the cornices. Ski through one of these, or down-climb one of them to get into the Mud/Rice area.

The divide between the Mud and Rice bowls is often used to re-ascend. If you begin to see fresh roller-balls, you've overstayed your welcome. Remember that to go back the way you came, you have to re-ascend. If things get too unstable, you may not be able to do this. You'll then have to get out via Farmington Canyon Road. Hitch a ride, or take Farmington Canyon Trail as a short-cut. This trail connects to the canyon road at Sunset Campground.


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