Sunday, January 16, 2011

More Skimo: The Heathen Challenge

This last weekend was the Heathen Challenge at Sunlight Mountain outside of Glenwood Springs. It was the last of three qualifiers for the U.S. Ski Mountaineering Team so the competition was still outstanding. Jessie had the weekend off so we made a little get away out of it.

We left SLC Friday morning and took our time making the 6 hour drive. That afternoon, I went out on a quick preview of the course while JD slept in the car (working nights), then we fittingly (I'm not really of Sherpa descent - just a nickname) found some Nepalese food for dinner.

Saturday morning was perfect for racing; warm, still, and clear. The start was quick as always, but felt rather comfortable.

Eventually, the climb began to wind through the trees, and the skin track deposited us at the high point of the resort. With 2100 feet down, I was in decent position with many of the top guys transitioning around me. By the bottom of the descent, I had been passed a few times, and found myself pretty much in no man's land. Far ahead, I could see Jared looking like he'd moved up a couple spots after a presumably scorching DH.

On the next DH, I actually passed one guy, but leaving the transition, could only catch fleeting glimpses of the next closest competitor. For the next 2000 feet, I tried to put in a solo effort, knowing there were people ahead that might come back to me. A beautiful skin track through a sunlit aspen grove brought us back to our prior high point. Near the top, I looked up and saw Jared about 20 feet from the cat track, post holing with one leg while with a ski on the other. Surmising that he had suffered a skin failure, I did the natural thing and kept pushing to try and take advantage.

As Jared pulled out of the poorly marked transition zone, he mentioned in passing that his boot was broken. That didn't make any sense because on the upper part of the descent, I saw him flying down the groomer, hundreds of yards ahead. When I reached the more technical section of steep bumps, I realized the extent of his misfortune as he was carefully picking his way down with one boot obviously in walk mode. Feeling the race tilt I my favor, I carried on out of control, flailing my way down the mountain.

Maybe, karma struck me for trying to take advantage of my boot crippled friend because I ended up wrecking and losing a ski. Jared said he had to stop skiing because he was laughing so hard watching me try and ski on one leg to go get my lost ski. Two toothpicks are bad is disastrous. Luckily, it didn't go far and I was able to get back on my feet and make it to the last transition first. This was key since the last climb was only 300 feet and was all skin track making a pass near impossible. And, the last descent was a short section of cat track into open groomer to the finish line. That meant I could take advantage of my unfortunate friend because the skiing wouldn't do me in.

The last transition was a frantic tearing of skins and trying to skate away to stay out in front. Neither of us took time to lock our cuffs (one of Jared's was broken anyway) but I locked my heels while he did not. I skated down the cat track and then tried to tuck it to the finish. Milliseconds after crossing the line, a blur to my left passed me and then blew up in a cloud of snow. I turned around and saw Jared crumpled in a mess under an ill placed ski rack. Somehow, with broken boots and unlocked heels while trying to stop, he violently went down and slid into a metal post. A rush of people were coming to his aid as he was voicing concern over the possibility of a neck injury. If the situation didn't seem serious, I probably would have stopped to laugh as one patroller mistook him for a female (likely due to his powder blue suit and svelte build) and called him sweetie. Luckily, everyone seemed capable and cautious. A quick replay revealed no LOC, no other injuries, no neuro deficits, and a cold guy in spandex shivering in the snow. Nonetheless, patrol wanted to send him to the ER, so I held his C-spine while a C-collar was placed and he was transferred to a backboard.

Sorry buddy, I had to take some pics (Jared OK'd the use of this picture but if at any time he wants it taken down that's his right).

The next couple hours were spent gathering all our stuff and hanging out in the ER at Glenwood Springs. Then, in spite of our protest, but being the stand up guy that he is, Jared took Jessie and me to lunch before he had to drive back to SLC alone.

So, the results (through the top 11) ended up as follows:

Pete Swenson 1:48
Scott Simmons 1:49
Jan Koles 1:50:43
Max Tamm 1:50:53
Travis Schafer 1:51:09
Greg Ruckman 1:51:28
Chris Kroger 1:51:34
Marshal Thomson 1:53
Jon Brown 1:57
Andy Dorais 1:58:53
Jared Inouye 1:58:54

In many ways, this was the most fun race I've done. I'm feeling stronger on the climbs and putting some distance on people later in the race. However, the down hill continues to cost me minutes and keeps me from being competivie, but at one point Jared joked that he'd give me some skiing lessons. That seems fitting since pretty much everything I do skiing related is because of his influence - either directly or through his little brother Sam. Even this blog is a near knock off of the better known

Saturday I nipped the poor guy at the line, but if it weren't for some serious equipment malfunction, I think he'd be laughing his way to Italy next month for the World Championships.

Any thoughts on the new blog format?


  1. "a journal of adventure and training"

    "a training and adventure journal"

    at least it's a little different...

  2. own background pic vs. stock picture. And I changed the SLC part. Might move one day. I'd say it's evolving nicely.

  3. Looks like the usual suspects were there again. Top 10 with those names is great.

    Like the new look Andy Sherpa.

  4. Geez, this is the picture of what happens when competition between friends goes a little too far..

    "Sweetie?" That's far funnier than the "Korean Lady!" One-upmanship by a patroller that was unaware they were one upping. You have the best stories.