Wednesday, May 29, 2019

GTNP Skiing 2019

In an effort to keep the blog going but with minimal effort, here is a collection of mostly photos from my skiing in the Park this winter and spring. 
son of apocalypse in pow conditions
engaging downclimb near the bottom (that fills in later in the season)
 (bria photo)
you know you're in for a great day when this is your view from the trailhead
dreaming and scheming atop 25 short (bria photo)
lower broken thumb
skiing past rap stations on upper apocalypse (bria photo)
deep stable pow in the apocalypse 
ski through at the lower ice portion (bria photo)
chuter buck
a great little line to practice efficiency of ski rappels
dropping into the nugget
nugget in pow conditions
the middle and the grand from atop the south teton 
steep south face of the south
poor conditions in the lower amora vida 
dropping onto the glacier route from the summit of the middle
taggart lake trailhead on a sunny saturday in april
a look back at the red sentinel couloir 
grand, gunsight and owen
approaching the top of the fallopian tube 
sliding down the tube 
climbing the E ridge of buck
dropping into the buckshot couloir
That may be a wrap on my ski season as my enthusiasm for walking to snowline is fading while enthusiasm for running and biking on newly melted out trails continues to soar.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

2019 Skimo Racing

I did a mix of old and new races this winter including my third time at Bridger and fourth time at Shedhorn as well as new experiences at CROWBAR and Telluride.  Read on for a recap of each.

Bridger Skin to Win 
I went into Bridger with the same goal as last year, be within striking distance of 2ndat the top of the first climb and use the downhills and steep climbs to move up into second behind Foote.  What ensued was a thrilling battle and a close third place finish.  
le mans start (bria photo)
I spent the bulk of the first climb (brutal drag race up a groomer) in 7thwith jeffrey right on my tails.  Stephen mistakenly deviated from the ridge on the way to hidden so I arrived at the top of hidden in 6thwith 3 other racers still in the transition. 
nice lighting on the ridge (bria photo)
 I passed alan on the downhill and out-transitioned Sawyer and Andrew D so as to start up the climb in 3rdplace with them and Jeffrey in very close pursuit.  Jeff was well ahead of us in second place so the stage was set for a battle for third.  The four of us would remaining within 30 seconds of one another with some back and forth passing on the climb, descent and the next (third) climb til Sawyer broke a ski (Fischer of course) on the third climb and let us by.  Jeffrey, Andrew D and myself remained neck and neck til I had to stop when the 4thclimb gained the ridge to swap a skin that was about to fail.  I knew at that point I was now doomed for 5thbut quickly threw on a new skin and gave chase. I was pleasantly surprised to catch and pass jeffrey at the transition atop slushmans as we ripped skins together and continued south along the ridge towards the final short bootpack.  
At this point in the race the wind on the ridge was howling and threatening to blow us off the ridge.  I managed to catch and pass Andrew D on the final bootpack as he stopped to move his skis from his hand to his pack (I had already put mine on my pack at the bottom of the booter yet still had to hold them with one hand due to the intensity of the wind).  The three of us arrived at the final transition within seconds of one another, Andrew D was the first out and I was second, skiing recklessly fast in pursuit.  I managed to catch and pass him but then caught a ski and went down!  As I scrambled to get up and moving again, I watched in horror as he skied past but moments later, he then caught a ski and went down!  I then re-passed him and hammered the two little uphill skates with a small but appreciated time cushion, crossing the line in 3rdplace, 37 seconds ahead of him.   
final skate to the finish (bria photo)
Jeffrey arrived about a minute later and we were able to recap our thrilling back and forth battle.  Props to Foote for another commanding win and to Jeff for a solid second place.  Full results here.  The hot soup at the finish was as delicious as always and the ensuing afternoon skiing the lifts was a lot of fun. Despite the ridiculously steep skin tracks on climbs 2-4 and the stupid leash rule enforcement, this race continues to be an awesome start to my racing season.  
hyalite the next day (bria photo)
 Two weeks later I was excited to check out a new race, the all backcountry CROWBAR race outside of Logan UT.  Bria and I drove down the night before and I was able to preview a portion of the course before dark and heading down logan canyon to our airbnb in town.   
sunset on my partial course recon
The next morning the race start ended up being delayed by a full hour despite being told “we are starting in a few minutes…” countless times as I tried to stay warm in the cold temps.  The race started up a barely uphill cat track so I was expecting a brutally fast start but was surprised to find only a few racers (including one junior who led the race for the first minute) hammering right out of the gate with me.  Once the course transitioned to duel skintracks at a nice grade, adam and dave and gemma roughly caught the junior and I and both adam and dave passed me midway up the climb.  
~20sec into the race, myself in blue, adam in black and dave in red (the enthusiastic junior is out of frame in the lead) (wayne wurtsbaugh photo)
the first climb (wayne wurtsbaugh photo)
I arrived at the first transition with dave still there and gemma right behind me.  I had a slow transition due to my mittens so gemma beat me out but I passed her on the first short downhill and proceeded to out-transition dave to start up the second climb in second place.  This climb was a short barely uphill cat track and I managed to close the gap to adam and transition with him at the top. The second downhill was scrappy and had a few sections of skating and sidestepping but passed quickly.  I started up the longer third climb in a nice aspen grove slightly behind adam but he would go on to open a gap on me and drop into the third powder field descent before I arrived at the transition.  This descent was so good a part of me wanted to quit the race and just lap this powder field.  But alas I continued along the course, now in no-man’s land with a comfortable lead on dave and gemma but no longer within sight of adam.  
final descent (wayne wurtsbaugh photo)
Descents four through six were good snow but well tracked by rec course racers.  Near the top of the seventh/final climb I could see dave and gemma several switchbacks below but knew I still had a comfortable cushion for the final descent and cat track skate to the finish.  I ended approx. 5min behind adam and 3min ahead of gemma who bested dave for third.  Full results here.  Overall a fun and well organized event with a cool course minus the second climb and descent. 
adam and I receiving our gold and silver crowbars (bria photo)
Bria, Jeffrey and I made the long drive down to Colorado together for a  go at a longer teams race.  The race started in the dark skinning up main street before making a short skins-on descent to the base of the mountain and up the first 3000ft climb.  Jeffrey and I tried to keep the pace in check given the longer course (21mi & 11k vert) and the high elevation (between 8,800 and 12,100ft).  We spent the climb in fourth place, slightly behind team cripple creek from carbondale. It was light out by the top of the climb and the beginning of a gorgeous, bluebird day as we transitioned and began a miserable 3000ft descent of predominately big moguls back to the base area.  My legs felt horrible on this descent and made me worry about the long race still ahead. We transitioned with team cripple creek and started up the second climb right behind them, which turned out to be steep and scrappy switchbacks that resulted in 5 blown skins between jeffrey and I over the course of this climb.  In doing so we lost contact with cripple creek but rejoined them at the bottom of the second short descent.  I was on the tail end of a cold on race day so ended up getting the first of several tows from jeffrey on this 3rdshort climb up the gondola liftline.  
photo from the gondola after the race doesn't do justice to the beauty of telluride
The third descent was a long groomer down to the other base area and due to some confusion by doug of team cripple creek, jeffrey and I managed to catch and pass them and start up the fourth climb just ahead of them.  This fourth climb was up a long, seemingly barely uphill green circle that seemed to drag on forever but we managed to put a gap between us and cripple creek.  At the top there was a short skins-on powder descent before making a short additional climb to the top of a lift.  The fourth descent was short and uneventful and on the fifth climb we caught and passed paul who was the leader of the solo division.  One minute before the top of the climb at the top of the prospect express was the course’s sole aid station and we briefly stopped for water and some snacks.  Due to the avy danger from a stormy week leading up to the race, ski patrol axed the bootpack up towards palmyra peak so we instead skied a brief pitch of powder followed by groomers down to the base of goldhill express.  Here jeffrey and I lost a minute or two in confusion over the flagging changing to green to indicate uphill yet continued downhill through the trees.  We cautiously continued down til the course started ascending and we put on skins, assuming we were still on the right track.   We hammered up this second to last climb to the top of the polar queen express before skiing offcamber moguls down the liftline.  With just one climb to go, we were anxious to be done but this final ascent was a real grind made all the more difficult by a long stretch of steep, poorly set switchbacks near the top.  As we were nearing this final transition, we were surprised to see two strong skinners rapidly gaining on us, whom we didn’t recognize from the morning.  It turned out they had started the race 10 minutes late and been playing catch up all day.  Jeffrey and I were not happy about the thought of being caught at this 11thhour and being knocked off the podium.  A four person downhill melee ensued, with logan and eric squeezing by both jeffrey and I through tight singletrack skiing in the trees.  Both jeffrey and I managed to pass logan when he crashed and frantically continued up a small uphill skate and furious flat poling with eric between us and logan in the rear.  I was the first across the line, followed by eric, then jeffrey and lastly logan in close succession so we narrowly held onto third over the course of that wild final downhill.  Full results here. 
stoked at the finish (bria photo) 
tellurando podium (COSMIC photo)
We spent the next day ice climbing over in Ouray before making the long drive home, having thoroughly enjoyed a beautiful weekend down in the San Juans. 
rapping into the ouray ice park the next day (bria photo)
Shedhorn is perhaps the coolest skimo race I’ve done anywhere in the country so I was excited to return for my fourth time with a promising forecast for good snow and weather on race day.  Plus with the race overlapping with world championships in Switzerland and pierra menta in France, the field was not super competitive so I felt that a podium finish was a realistic goal.  Sure enough I found myself leading a pack of 5 other racers on the initial cat track climb out of the base area (myself, jeff, CJ, andrew d, gerrit and paul).  As we were approaching the top of the swiftcurrent lift, CJ started to pull away from the rest of us and I found myself falling back to 5thplace by the time I reached the bootpack transition for bonecrusher/alto ridge.  Crampons were again required for this bootpack only so I hastily put on my crampons and gave chase to andrew d and gerrit just ahead of me.  Bootpacking is not a strength of mine in racing which makes shedhorn a tough race for me since there is a tremendous amount of booting.  I held onto 5thplace though to the summit and was excited for the big couloir descent to start making up ground.  
lone peak as seen from my parking spot at the end of the day
The couloir skied much more firm than I was expecting and I was also surprised to not see andrew d or gerrit in it when I dropped in from the top.  They were both low on the parachute bootpack as I transitioned so I quickly transitioned and gave chase.  I managed to catch andrew d by the top of the three forks descent but gerrit was already gone.  As expected, three forks held better snow than the big couloir so I charged after andrew d and transitioning to skins at the bottom with both him and gerrit. Shortly into the ensuing climb gerrit blew a skin so I cruised past him into 4thand close behind andrew d. The three of us were in close succession up the long booter back up to and along headwaters ridge.  It is cool to travel this same stretch of ridge as during the Rut and actually get to ski down off it rather than just look at all the ski descents like I do during the Rut.  We arrived at the top of parachute all together and gerrit was the first to drop in til I passed him and continued to bomb across the bowl towards the top of swiftcurrent.  I was surprised to catch and pass jeff to briefly move into 2nd place as I continued towards the fourth climb on the middle road.  

This “climb” is barely uphill and up for debate whether it’s faster to skate or skin.  While both jeff and I were stopped putting on skins, gerrit came by and opted to skate and built a small lead on us.  After several minutes as I was passing gerrit, he muttered something about “I should have put skins on a while ago…” and jeff and I proceeded to reach the aid station at the shedhorn grill at roughly the same time.  The cat track downhill to nearly the Dakota lift is nothing exciting and jeff was the first to start up the fifth long climb with myself approx. 30 seconds back and gerrit less than a minute behind me.  This monster climb back to the summit of lone peak is by far the crux of shedhorn.  Last year I fell apart on this climb and was passed by probably ten people so it was my goal this year just to keep moving at a decent rate.  As expected, it was a brutal climb with lots of slippery technical switchbacks and I quickly lost contact with jeff but managed to build a decent gap on both gerrit and andrew d who managed to catch and pass gerrit over the course of this long climb.  The final stretch from the resort boundary to the summit seemed to drag on forever but I eventually made it, ready to be done racing. 

The ensuing downhill from the summit was different than years past and legitimately steep terrain that demanded full attention on my quivering legs. Thankfully the snow was decent despite the sun and south aspect.  Once at the bottom of the shedhorn lift, I put on my skins for the final time, thankful to have a gap on Andrew d and gerrit as I was worried on the big previous climb that one or both of them would catch me and set the stage for a close race on this final boring climb.  At the finish I would later learn that this was the case for the two of them, who would battle on this climb and barely downhill final descent and cross the line within an arm’s reach of one another.  It was boring but nice to do this lackluster final climb and descent alone and cross the line for 3rd place.  Full results here.  I had a great time battling back and forth with Andrew d, gerrit and briefly with jeff on a beautiful day with the best overall snow conditions I can remember of my four years at shedhorn. 
myself, CJ (winner), and jeff (2nd place) at the finish
By my count, this was my 11thand 12thsummits of lone peak under human power between shedhorn and the Rut.  And I’ll be back in September for the Rut triple crown.  Hanging out at the finish catching up with friends and making new ones was fun before hitting the road home.  Its cool to see how big of a turnout this race now draws from big sky and bozeman area non-racer backcountry skiers.  Definitely recommended and a big thanks to big sky resort, COSMIC and especially the big sky ski patrol for all their hardwork putting on this great event.          

Monday, November 5, 2018

Grand Canyon R2R2R

Bria and I took a week off in late October to go play in the desert.  We visited bryce canyon, zion, the grand canyon and spent several days climbing in red rock canyon outside of Vegas.  While at the grand canyon, I planned to tackle the classic double crossing of the canyon (R2R2R) in a day, one of the most iconic non-race ultra distance runs in the country.  Given the rest of our trip itinerary, we visited the more remote north rim.  My day started just after first light, running the 14 mile and 6000vert descent down to the colorado river.  
initial descent into the canyon
down down down
There was a 60% chance of rain/thunderstorms in the forecast so I started to worry about flash flooding when it started to rain as I was running through “the box” before phantom ranch but fortunately nothing more than ten minutes of a drizzle materialized all day.  I stopped to refill water at bright angel campground just before the river, 2:20 into the day, feeling great and excited for a change of pace, i.e. start climbing.  It felt weird and a little concerning to be 14 miles into a run with 11,000feet of climbing and having not yet done any climbing.   
unfortunately this is my only picture of "the box" north of phantom ranch 
the mighty colorado river 
I opted for the longer bright angel trail instead of south kaibab due to the presence of year round water halfway up the bright angel trail.  I crossed the river and ran another mile or so til the trail steepened and I switched to a primarily hiking cadence.  Back in 2012 I had visited the south rim of the canyon and done a hike to the river and back (down south kaibab, up bright angel) so I was now in slightly familiar terrain.  I stopped for more water at the beautiful indian garden oasis as the number of people on the trail continued to steady grow as I climbed towards the south rim. The upper three miles of the trail was downright crowded but fairly easy to pass as the trail is nearly 4ft wide for the most part.  I reached the S rim in 5:15, fifteen minutes later than planned but feeling well.  I hit the bathroom and water spigot and had a snack before starting back down.  
the trail construction in the canyon is a remarkable feat
half way..
pictures can't do justice the size and splendor of the canyon

approaching the river for the second time
I got a lot of interesting looks and comments as I ran down past people that I had passed earlier on my way up.  The descent to the river took longer than expected but I arrived around the 7 hour mark feeling tired and with heavy legs.  The approx. 7 mile stretch from the river to cottonwood campground was the low point of the day as I was forced to strictly ration my remaining calories to stretch for another 5 hours of exertion, the sun was out and beating down on me and despite the flat to low angle grade of the trail, my legs weren’t tolerating much running.  There was over an hour long period in which I gave up on my sub 12 hour goal and just plodded along.  I was surprised to see running water at the cottonwood campground spigot as it was a week past mid-october which was the stated time of this water being turned off for the winter season.  I was also glad to see the trail steepen so I didn’t have to feel bad about hiking instead of running.  
looking back at the trail above roaring springs 
At the junction for roaring springs (4.7mi from the N rim), a random woman from a group of backpackers sitting along the trail offered me some candy and my first instinct was to say no.  A moment later I realized I wasn’t racing and could accept aid so I gladly took a mini bag of skittles from her.  The skittles and her words of encouragement when she learned I was nearing the end of a R2R2R outing lit a fire under my ass and I mentally recalculated my remaining time and mileage and realized sub 12 hours was still within grasp.  I proceeded to drop the hammer as best I could, needing to power hike sub 20min miles up the steep remaining miles to hit my goal time.  I was feeling much better than the earlier section from the river to cottonwood so I cranked along at race-ish pace (last 15min in the dark), reaching the trailhead in 11:54 elapsed, happy to be done and thrilled to have rallied and hit my goal time.

Stats: about 48mi and 11,000vertical in 11:54 round trip 

This was my longest outing to date in a non-race setting and my second longest outing ever and my body seemed to handle it well.  Most of the suffering was self-inflicted with the stout pace at the end of the day and had I not cared about time, could have finished much more comfortably in 12:30

Rose: the beauty of the canyon as well as rallying the last couple miles to break 12 hours on this iconic outing
Thorn: mental low climbing from the river to cottonwood, not bringing enough food
Bud: I’m intrigued about pushing myself mentally and physically over longer distances/times and am excited to tackle a 100k race next summer as well as more 40+ mile non-race adventure runs                         

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Summer 2018 Races

I don’t care nearly as much about running races as I do skimo, but I still generally do about two running races a summer.  This summer, I did the beaverhead 55k in july and then the rut 28k and baldy hill climb in September.  Read on for a brief recap of each.

Beaverhead 55k

I went into the race with little knowledge of the course, only ramblings about the “runnable first half” and then the several miles of “horrible talus on the ridge.”  The initial half was in fact completely runnable, more so than the type of terrain I most enjoy.  I spent a lot of miles running in a loose group of several guys, til the trail got steeper and forced us to a hiking pace and I made a point of dropping them.  The only person who caught me was brian and we enjoyed a couple miles together before he started to cramp and had to slow down as I ran on.  I soon caught and passed another runner to move into a surprising 4thplace.  I ran the entire “horrible talus on the ridge” section all alone, thoroughly enjoying the technical terrain and outstanding views.  
Brian, close to where the course exits the trees and truly starts to become good
the highlight of the course is the several miles along the ridge
From the final aid at bohannon creek, I was worried brian or another runner was going to run me down but I kept on chugging along, feeling ready to be done.  The final two miles dragged on in full sun and rising temps but I eventually caught sight of the finish area and was happy to cross the line and relax in the shade.  My rough goal time coming into the race was sub 7 hours and I finished in 6:55, which was surprisingly good enough for 3rdmale/4thplace overall (the female winner was fast and crushed the female course record by 25 minutes).   Results here.  The low key vibe and food at the finish area cheering on other finishers was great before catching a shuttle back into Salmon.  I had heard great things about this race in years past and it did not disappoint (although the first half is too easy and runnable for my taste).  

RUT 28k

This was my fourth year at the Rut and I was ready for a change so I ran the 28k for my first time instead of the 50k.  I had a blast and enjoyed the shorter course that still includes all of the steep and technical terrain of the 50k.   The weather was perfect in contrast to the two previous years (rain/cold in 2016 and hot/sunny last year).  I was surprised not to pass anyone during the headwaters climb but managed to pass several folks along the technical running on the ridge, which I seem to be faster on each year.  I caught sight of john fiore on the road up to swiftcurrent but was unable to catch him til the descent off lone peak.  
photo: crystal images
photo: crystal images
We descended several miles chatting together before he dropped me during the downhill road running before the last aid station.  I had a few minor cramp twinges on the final climb up andesite but nothing too major. I though I was running the final downhill hard but the 2ndplace woman bombed by me as if I was standing still.  I finished in just under 4:17, hitting my pre-race goal of sub 4:20 but about 2:30 behind john.  Results here.  The afternoon was spent cheering on Bria and other friends in the 28k.  I must admit it was nice on Sunday to be able to sleep in and go for a mountain bike ride instead of toeing the line in the dark at 6am for the 50k start.  Overall the Rut continues to be an excellent weekend of friends and family, racing and now that I own a bike, mountain biking.  I’ll definitely be back.        

Baldy Hill Climb (VK)
a couple seconds into the race.  i felt overdressed with a shirt and vest (to carry my phone)  photo: bria
Although it is only advertised as the “baldy hill climb”, it is nearly a VK, climbing 3200vert in just 1.9 miles, straight up the warm springs ski run.  It had been on my radar for several years but I finally made it out to sun valley this fall to battle against a bunch of fast nordic skiers.  I was a little sick on race day but pushed hard anyways, taking 9thplace in just under 46 minutes.  I used poles as I just recently bought a fancy collapsible carbon pair which were great for the steep, sustained grade.  I was only two for four on my pre-race goals: top 10 and don’t get chicked.  The two I failed on were losing to a teenager and I didn’t break 40min (in retrospect this was too ambitiously fast for me).  I could definitely break 45 or maybe 44 minutes if healthy but the top several guys were wicked fast and way ahead of me.   Sun Valley was beautiful with the fall foliage so maybe I’ll be back to give it another go.  Full results here.   
fall foliage the next day