Monday, October 31, 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Late October Teton Psych!

Well, here goes the usual story...

I had a day off of work and was fiending for some excitement.  Luckily, I know a few other addicts who happened to be available for a rowdy ski trip into Garnet Canyon in GTNP.  I say rowdy because there really isn't a lot of snow up there, but we were going to find some skiing anyway, regardless of the conditions.

Jared and I left SLC Wed evening and made it to Jackson without getting pulled over. We tumbled into the Professor's house, where he had set up the hide-a-bed.  Jared was against sharing and inadvertent cuddling so he took the floor (this would change later).  First the Dutchman, and then the irrepressible Kim Young, showed up on Brian's door in the morning.  We were to be a crew of five searching for elusive October powder.

We started just after 8:00 down the Lupine Trail, half jogging to warm up.  In the parking lot, the temperature was in the 30s and we were all chilled, wearing our standard lycra.  An hour and a half later, we strolled through the Meadows and sat down to exchange running shoes for ski boots.  The lower angle fall light and the crisp autumn temperatures aided our gleeful mood as we sat in the snow dusted talus debating our next move.  All eyes were drawn upward by a swath of white coming out of the West Hourglass Couloir that looked skiable.    

The boys finding reasonable conditions in the West Hourglass Couloir, Nez Perce
Kim Young finding unreasonable conditions in the West Hourglass Couloir, Nez Perce
What we found was boiler plate through the lower section, which inspired us to don our crampons, then a brilliant slope of creamy powder, before the upper stretch of rock strewn, wind scoured, alpine ice/névé.  Curious, we pushed to the top since Jared and I had never been there before.  Looking over the South Fork of Garnet Canyon, the mountains felt large.

Waiting to regroup, we put on all available scraps of clothing in a futile attempt to stay warm.  With the wind chill hovering around zero, I was wearing two puffy coats over two smaller jackets.  Jared was a little worse off and now was more than willing to cuddle to stay warm.  Kim nearly threw up from the pain in her hands as she topped out the couloir.  I think Nate and Brian were unfazed as they looked at us with pity for being so weak. 

Motivated to get moving, the group down climb ensued until we were back on reasonable terrain to start skiing.
Alpine ice, dirt, rock, and a little snow kept the skis on our backs

The Professor's first turns of 2011/12
Once we finally put our skis on, we found what we were looking for...

...better than expected skiing with a bit of dry powder to sluff around.  Then we hit the lower slopes which, being less protected, were bullet. No matter.  Everyone was smiling and commenting about how enjoyable the skiing was. Carefree, and unfettered by thoughts of the world below, everyone was easy as we moved towards the Middle Teton.
The Middle Teton Glacier
Nate sneaks above the bergschrund
Jared sped away, skinning the glacier while the rest of us pursued "Teton Style", trudging upwards with skis on our backs.  It seems backcountry skiers in the Wasatch prefer to keep their skis on their feet and skin as much as possible.  I do.  Jared does.  We both feel it's more efficient and quite possibly faster.  Wasatch style or Teton style? Which do you prefer?  

Initially, we thought we might be satisfied with skiing the lower glacer, but the allure of steep powder plastered to the upper couloir proved too much.  The slope angle came in at 51 degrees, and no one could believe the mid winter conditions.  We were about to make turns in stable powder on a steep classic line in the Tetons, in October.  It was perfect.  As we topped out the couloir, we found ourselves standing at the notch between the Dike Pinnacle and the main summit of the Middle.  The air was calm and the autumnal sun was enhancing all the colors around us.  Even Jared seemed content to absorb the view as he shelved the idea of going to the summit.  

High on the Middle Teton having a perfect day


Kim Young hanging with the boys

The flying Dutchman

October powder?

End of the road...
Unfortunately, the facade of winter ended while still well above the Meadows as we eked out the last few meters of turns.  With the pyramidal shadows stretching past the Snake River, no one seemed bothered by the inconvenience of hiking as the mood remained elevated throughout the 4+ miles back to the trailhead.  For nearly 8000 feet of climbing, everyone looked pretty spry back at the cars. 

Back in town, we exchanged quick good byes with our Jackson buddies and  then made the well familiar drive back to SLC, only getting pulled over twice.  

When's my next day off...?

Brilliant home movie pending...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Mid October Psych

Over the weekend, four of us eschewed the perfect climbing and mountain biking and made an ill advised trip up Baldy for another look at the main chute.  The weather was warm and the snow line was hundreds of feet higher than just the day prior.  

No matter.  The leaves are turning and it was one of those Autumn days that make me never want to return to work again.  

The pics (all by JD):

Autumn from high in Little Cottonwood Canyon
Rock skinning
Psyched for some more October skiing!

Tanner picking his way through last year's ice... Never said it was good skiing.
And just for the fun of it, we made a video of the day filled with horrific skinning and skiing.  The music is by Cedar Wright and fits the carefree mood of the day.  

Although always worth it, I don't think I'll ski again until we get some more snow.  And unfortunately, the forecast is grim...sunny and 60 all week.  

Friday, October 14, 2011

Movie Madness: The Grand Canyon and Mountain B Sides

I have no future in cinematography.  But, making movies is fun and here are my two latest efforts.  The first is a nauseating 5 minute ensemble from my recent R2R2R run in the Grand Canyon and the second is a collection of "B sides" from my video library.  Most of the clips from the B Sides movie are from last winter but a couple are from this summer and our attempt at the WURL.  I also snuck in a few recycled favorites from prior posts.

Running the Grand Canyon:

Mountain B Sides:

Mountain B Sides from andy dorais on Vimeo.

Continuing the theme, it really has all started again with today being our third on skis.  The loose powder has settled nicely and what you see is what you get...  I still manage to hit plenty of rocks though.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Running the Grand Canyon: Rim to Rim to Rim

Cold morning view from the Kaibab Lodge
I'm not sure when I first heard about the idea of the rim to rim to rim.  It might have been from Adam or Jared a couple years ago.  Regardless, I have been planning on doing it this fall and was rather disappointed when a work shuffle left me without apparent time to join Jared and Jason last week.  

After skiing Friday, I convinced first myself and then my wife to make a one day trip to the Grand Canyon on my day off, so I could attempt the fabled Rim to Rim to Rim run.  She is 31 weeks pregnant and the standard accommodations in the back of the Subaru just weren't going to do.  The GC Lodge had no vacancy and the Kaibab Lodge had a single room with a double bed.  We took it.  I arranged a shuttle for 6:45 in the morning and then we were off driving into the night.  Arriving at one AM, we set the alarm for "early" and went to bed.   

Since Jessie couldn't run with me and no other partners materialized, I went and found the shuttle driver alone.  Seeing my breath and the snow on the ground felt like a good omen.  I do better in the cold and I was hoping the temps would be mild throughout the two impending canyon crossings.  

The secret is in the white powder.
However, it wasn't without some trepidation that I started running down the choppy trail at 7:15 that morning.  Unsure as to why, I haven't had a "good" run in weeks.  But, throwing caution to the wind, I decided to roll the first five downhill miles.  The air were cool but I shed my jacket 5 minutes into the run as the sun was strong.  Arriving at the first watering hole, I took a look at the crowds and kept moving.  From there, 8-9 miles of mostly gentle downhill follow a side canyon to the Colorado River.  

The canyon was beautiful with the early morning light playing off the walls and the sounds of the creek providing a musical accompaniment to the Fanfarlo I was playing on my ipod.  I took a pull off my gel flask around an hour in and had to keep reminding myself to drink.  The running was easy and relaxing and I was enjoying the moment.  

Descending from the North Rim

Following North Kaibab Trail endlessly downward
I trotted into Phantom Ranch around 1:45, looking to refill my water for the climb up to the South Rim but found a hoard of people lined up at the spigot.  Eager not to waste time, I kept going and found another just before the river crossing.  Crossing the bridge as the watch ticked over to 2 hours, I felt strong.  Jason and Jared had given splits to the South Rim, 50K, and the finish and I thought I was ahead of their pace, which provided ample motivation.  Once across the river, out came the poles and away went the camera.  I was able to run/shuffle much of the 4800 ft climb to the South Rim but never pushed.  Walking when prudent or when held up by mules, I started to see more and more people without packs.  Then the final switchbacks.  Then the South Rim.  3:43:30 into the day.  

Striding quickly to the fountains, I must have appeared frantic to the tourists posing for pictures and eating their lunches.  I fumbled with my pack (Jason's, which I used for the ability to carry poles), mixed more EFS drink, spilled half on my shoes, choked down a gel flask, wet my head, played tourist for 1 min taking pictures, and then I was off 10 minutes later.  Looking across the expanse to the North Rim was intimidating and my legs were giving the first inklings of bad times ahead.                   

The long descent back to the river doesn't lend itself to smooth running as it resembles a broken staircase littered with equestrian droppings.  Losing elevation led to hurting legs and a more tempered pace.   At this point I began to question my nutrition strategy, which was to drink my calories.  With water available every 5ish miles, I had planned on mixing EFS, Hammer, and Cytomax products for an energy source supplemented by gels.  Lately, I haven't been able to stomach food on long efforts and this day was no different.                                                                                                                                                                                  

Ooh Aah, just below the South Rim

Dropping back to the River, the bottom of the canyon is the narrow gash in the center of the picture.  North Rim is visible in the distance. 
I crossed the Colorado River for the second time right as the watch read 5:00.  After quickly refilling my water for the third time, I set off at what I felt to be a sustainable pace for the remainder of the run.  Figuring I had 8 miles of gentle up hill before hitting the main climb back to the North Rim, I thought I could count on 9-12 min miles, after which, fast hiking and jogging the lower grades would take me home.  Mental calculations had me hoping for a total time of just over 8 hours (really slow compared to the record but relatively fast).  My pride began to swell and my taunts to friends were already forming in my mind.  

Then reality.

The temperature was too warm. I had started too fast.  My nutrition was abysmal.  I forgot electrolyte tabs.  I was experiencing whole body cramps.  Damn. 

I sat down at mile 34 (of 42) and tried to stretch.  That just led to cramps in the antagonistic muscle groups.  Salvation came in the form of other runners attempting the R2R2R, when they gave me a handful of salt tabs.  I took a few and kept walking.  Afraid to run, the strategy shifted from moving fast to finishing.  Every time I tried to even walk at a more upbeat tempo, my quads would threaten utter rebellion.  

The mental calculations commenced again.  This time to evaluate the damage.  15-25 minute miles for 8 miles?  Huh? 
The bridge over the River Colorado 

I didn't run another step over those 8 miles.  And, in spite of not being able to run, I was happy.  I almost pulled off a great run and was going to finish (which I had questioned on the drive down).  The scenery was still spectacular but leaning on my poles didn't allow me to carry my camera and I was too lazy to get it out of the pack.  When the canyon walls closed down, my watch would temporarily get confused with the intermittent satellite signal so I couldn't trust it not to lie to me.   As I approached the top I started asking the hikers how far was left.  Some guy said 3 miles.  Another lady said 2 miles from the tunnel.  The tunnel came and went.  A father and young boy thought a mile and a half.  The views dissipated as I marched into the forest.  Then I could hear cheering above.  Rounding a bend an animated gentleman said 200 meters and pointed onward.  Feeling relief, I stumbled out to the trailhead 9 hours and 12 minutes after starting and walked past a hoard of people who had just finished their own adventures.  

Then, as tends to be the case, the second part of this endurance endeavor was a long drive home, since I had to be at work early the next morning.  Luckily, Jessie provided lovely conversation for the majority of the ride home...except when she fell asleep.  Just outside the park, we drove through an old burn and passed through what may have been the most picturesque vistas of the whole trip.
Old burn on fire again

Golden hour

Total Time 9:12:38
42+ miles
10-11,000 vertical gained
10 gels 
4 water stops
uncountable muscle cramps
13 hours driving
5 hours sleeping

Here's the data from my sketchy watch.  There vertical is oddly doubled but the map should be accurate. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

And so it begins...

I was at work this morning when I received a picture text of alpenglow on a snowy Mount Superior.  Jason and Jared were trying to push my buttons.  Off around ten, I rallied out of work and convinced JD to head back up for more "first turns" of the season.  He protested that the skiing really wasn't worth it.  Isn't it always worth it?  

Summer flowers hanging on.

JD being reckless with abundant lurking sharks.

Getting my first turns of this season.  Photo taken without permission from

Photo taken without permission from

I think fall will return before winter finally sets in.