Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve Race Recap

This snowy Christmas Eve morning we had another delightful race with around 40 in attendance, earning their holiday feasts.  The course was to summit three prominent peaks along the Brighton ridge line but visibility and conditions didn't cooperate so plan B was to put in three climbs of decreasing vertical gain along the Great Western boundary line.

Tom, Layne, and Josh, very graciously joined me just before 6 AM to set the course in the new snow.  We put in a skin track that offered a variety of terrain including steep kick turns, flats, and groomer drag racing.  The first lap ascended to the top of the GW run (1750 gain) and then mostly followed the track for off piste skiing back to the base.  The new 6 inches provided great racing conditions.  The next lap climbed just under a 1000 feet along the same course and the last was a sprint with around 400 vertical gain.

Overall the "peloton" has gotten much faster.  I noticed people with new race skis, new speed suits, and  generally moving much better.  The Trab Tour Rando demo skis allowed a couple more people to catch a glimpse of why "light is right".  There are three pairs available...let me know before the races if you'd like to try em out.

After the racing, most of us congregated at the Milly Chalet for some breakfast and to hand out some quick prizes and pies.  Tom dominated the field but gave up his pie which went to the next rightful heir, Tim Holmberg.  On the woman's side, a new threat (name?) showed up and pushed Emily throughout and was awarded a big apple pie.  The Sport Loft generously supported this race and provided custom ski straps and a pair of Fly Low gloves as the grand prize for the day.  Those guys are true pros and have been great to work with over the past couple years.  Thanks Sport Loft!

We will now take a break from racing to get our powder fix and will resume the shenanigans on January 15th at 7:00 PM.  Hope to see you all there!  Happy holidays!

The field strung out early on the first climb

Eric, Chad, and some more suits

Luther and Tim

People with more fashion sense

Except Brent? and his new speed suit

Tom with victory sealed while still only on the second of three laps

The ladies race

Pies and prizes (donated by the Sport Loft)

The Sport Loft...celebrating 40 years of business

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Jason's Big Day

My brother finally has committed himself to a wonderful woman and we attended his wedding this afternoon.  Their story is a beautiful and touching one and is available here.

More importantly, yesterday was his bachelor party.  Instead of the usual strippers, booze, and debauchery, we went skiing and filled the day with strippers (Tanner and Tyler graced the party with some nude skinning), powder, booze, Mountain Dew, sausage, and debauchery.

The day prior, I hiked a BBQ grill to the summit of one of the Honeycomb peaks and we dug a long trench that would serve as the next day's headquarters.  On Thursday, about 17 of us hiked up hauling brats, sausage, chips/salsa, cookies, tangerines, Coke, Mountain Dew, cheese, hot chocolate, cider, bread, candy, and other assorted treats to the top.

From there, I grilled and folks took fantastic powder laps all day.  We gang skied and celebrated Jason's impeding marriage and mourned his loss of bachelorhood.  Thanks to all those who came out to make Jason's day.

Here is the proof and a wonderful five minute video that Jared put together (WARNING - disturbing content follows):

Firing up the grill

Part of the crew on the summit of one of the Honeycomb peaks (boobie cake by Bart G)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Wasatch Skimo Race #3

Tonight was a great night.  We counted 55 people that came out to join in the festivities.  It was cold with a faint glow in the air from the night lights of Brighton skiing reflecting off the clouds and people were jolly in spite of the hour of suffering they were about to endure.

Milling about before the start
We all sprinted from the start but quickly settled into a pace we could each sustain.  The course was almost entirely off piste and meandered through pines, made tight kick turns, sported a short boot track, and then subtly climbed to our high point.  From there, a quick transition sent skiers (and a few splitboarders) down a parallel path through fantastic powder.

The challenge was for the dorky looking folks in spandex (actually really good looking and fashionable) on skinny skis to do four laps and for everyone else to do three.  The cold air and dry powder stymied those who didn't have extra skins but I think everyone completed the course.   After crossing the always crooked start/finish line most made it to the official finish line...Molly Green's

There, we enjoyed food and drink and handed out some great prizes.  The Powderwhores donated a copy of their new movie, "Choose Your Adventure" and SCARPA donated the grand prize for the night which was a pair of Ski Trab Race Poles.  As always, pies were awarded to the winners and then shared with other hungry racers.

The movement is growing!  There seems to be solid interest in learning to move fast.  It makes sense though.  Climb faster to ski more and have more fun.

And, special thanks to Brighton, Brandon Dodge for being our advocate, Tom and Chad for help setting the course, SCARPA for the pin flags and the demo skis (3 pairs of Ski Trab Tour Rando skis which were well received and will be available at each future race on a first come first available basis), and to all of you for coming out and making these things so fun.

See you all next time (December 24th at 7:30 AM).

Below are some pics from the evening, most courtesy of D. Maack.  I'd like to get pics of everyone but these are the ones that turned out given the poor lighting and fast movement.  

Kick turn conga line (photo by MH)

Tom G smiling in the middle of a tough lap?

Watch out for this man in the future...

Is that who I think it is?

Another battle

Josh racing on Megawatts?

Newcomer Katie on the Ski Trab demo skis looking like she's having a good time

These awesome women braved the cold (along with a few others) to cheer us on with cow bells

Powderkeg President Chad through the lower trees

Hanging out at Molly Green's after 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Robert's Horn Ski and Ice Cragging

Almost exactly one year ago, Jason and Jared took pleasure in chasing a fun local adventure, while I was learning about sleep deprivation shortly after Lars was born.  They scratched their way up some early season ice that flows into Primrose Cirque from Robert's Horn and then tried to scratch their skis on the way down the back side.  Their day ended in the dark after a phone call to Jared's brother, Sam, asking for directions as to how to get back down without going over one of the many cliff bands that traverse the headwall.  

Today, not looking to spend the whole day out, Sam and I took more of a cragging approach and just climbed till the ice ran out and then rapped down to our skis.  Next time, I'd like to finish the route and enjoy a ski from the summit but time, a poor rock to snow ratio, and other responsibilities conspired against us today.  

Regardless, it was a blast and since I'll never climb "hard" ice, I prefer to add some skiing to the moderate variety that I enjoy.  

Skinning toward the "goods".  Note the large debris pile...apparently a lot of snow is not needed to have large avalanches

Sam getting started

A little higher up - it is a little steeper than it appears with short vertical steps punctuating the lower angle flow.

Looking dorky and getting confused by all the gear that used to feel second nature but now makes for a nice junk show.  Also trying out some new ice climbing boots

Now for some skiing...

Friday, December 7, 2012

White Baldy - A Classic Winter Scramble

Jason, Tom, and I went for a hike up White Pine this morning.  The guys wanted to stand on the summit of the Pfeiff but I convinced them that White Baldy would be more fun.  Besides, neither one of them had stood on the summit previously so a nice adventure was in store for all.  

The UAC had predicted high winds throughout the day with gusts to the 50 mph range.  We thought they were wrong as we left the parking lot under calm skies.  An hour later as we climbed high into the White Pine basin the wind picked up enough to make Jason pull over his hood since he forgot a hat (and sun glasses for that matter).  30 minutes later, the wind was sufficient to make us cower behind any boulder we could find on the exposed ridge, even if the relief was only temporary.  

In spite of the incessant biting wind, we enjoyed easy rock moves over the blocky granite ridge and Jason and Tom both stood on the summit for the first time. Unfortunately, my promise of good skiing on the Red Pine side appeared to be a lie.  From the top all we could see was endless talus dusted with too little snow.  However, a continued traverse allowed us to spy a shallow gully that seemed to hold enough.  Another 5 minutes of down climbing set us free. 

Not quite done, we bounced over to Lake Peak and sampled fantastic snow in the Lake Couloir and in another more NE facing line before braving the Alders on our exit.  

It was really nice to get in one more day in the high alpine before some more sustained weather moves in over the next few days.  Looks like our scheduled workout consisting of painful intervals just got pushed back another day. 

Skinning toward White Baldy as the winds begin to strengthen

Tom (blue) and Jason (orange) along the Baldy ridge

The way is up!

More fun moves

And a couple more with big exposure to the climber's right

Jason dancing around rocks on the descent
Tom and some cold powder

JD also forgot a helmet on top of sunglasses and a hat

Last one of the day
And just for fun if you have 30 seconds to waste, here are a couple clips showing the cool ridge and the wicked winds.

A few clips of a windy day on White Baldy from andy dorais on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Classic Wasatch Tour

Today the weather was supposed to be moody but the morning was a gift from the gods.  Not sure what to expect after a few days of wicked winds and high rains, we started by taking the mellowest of routes to the summit of Patsy Marley.  The powder was dense, atop a slight crust, over a few other layers of varying rottenness but the skiing was fabulous.  The remainder of the day went as follows:

Descend to the parking lot - climb one of the Honeycomb peaks - descend into Silver Fork - climb Davenport - descend a nice chute into Day's (Jaws?) - climb Flagstaff - descend Holy Toledo - climb Cardiac Ridge - ski a nice chutelette - climb Superior via one of the north couloirs - descend the South Face - cheat into Suicide and climb to the col - ski Suicide and out.

The weather deteriorated throughout the day with the cloud deck lowering until it swallowed us while trying to figure out if the South Face would go or not.  It did, but not without some careful navigation and reliance on old memories.  Anything on the northern half of the compass skied quite well above 9000 feet or so.  Below that or on the southern aspects, the snow was getting heavy and I'm sure a stout crust will be prevalent in the morning but we didn't let that bother us today.

The whole day was filled with good company and great skiing.  I know this area is highly congested at times but those descents in those drainages are quintessential "Wasatch" and when combined, this tour is a classic!

Cold morning powder and bluebird skies

I think Jared wears a name tag so people quite confusing him with the me and Jason


Holy Toledo

Layne, about to end his wallowing and ski a cool chutelette on Cardiac Ridge,

Worsening weather but the snow is still great

"Big skis" and little boots...worked well today!

Josh, near Superior's summit

"Uhhh, are you sure we can get down this?"

A moment of incredible sharpness before the clouds made the descent "tricky"

Almost done with Suicide

Another teaser break in the swirling fog.  Jason and Josh are PSYCHED!

Heading home
To end on an equipment discussion, today I used the largest skis I've used in a long time.  The Ski Trab Volare is 99 mm under foot and mine are 178 in length.  They are reported to weigh 1480 grams per ski and with the Trab TR Race binding adding another 145 grams, this is still a fairly light total package (although it took some time to become accustomed to the added weight relative to my other skis).  I wanted to put in a decent day (ended up with just under 9000 vert) to see how I'd feel after toting around a bigger ski.  I'd say I'm slightly more fatigued than I would be if I were on light skis and it did take a little longer to complete the same tour.  But, I could definitely ski the down more aggressively and thoroughly enjoyed myself today.  They definitely have their place in the quiver.  Another question that arises is if lightweight boots like the Aliens are sufficient for such skis? Today they were given the pleasant snow conditions.  In fact, my bet is that they will always be sufficient in the backcountry for 99% of people.  In bounds would be a different story but I don't really spend much time there.

Anyway, my ultimate ski mountaineering quiver is coming along nicely.  I'll review each one and put up some pics and specs shortly.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Citizen Series Race #2

Whoa!  We just had a huge turn out in the spitting rain at our first Tuesday night race.  Thanks to all who endured the elements and raced!  These things are fun because of all the positive energy and support everyone offers each other.  Also thank you to all the wild family and friends that braved the cold and rain and cheered from the base with cow bells.  That made the night!

Blurry pic of a bunch of cool people, psyched to race in the rain!
I'd guess that in total well over 40 people raced the rainy dark course.  The format was new and I believe suggested by Courtney Phillips and was an instant hit.  We climbed to the top of the Milly lift via off piste skinning and then descended back to the base by headlamp.  Our second climb ascended the same skin track but stopped just short of the dam before once again descending to the base.  Finally, our last climb followed the now very well worn highway for only a few hundred vertical and then finished back at the Milly base.   There were no mishaps that I'm aware of and it seemed that everyone had a great time and workout.  Afterward, we mistakenly thought Molly Green's would be open for prizes, food, and drink but they had closed since there is no night skiing on Tuesdays.  We improvised and handed out cookies to the winners (Jason and Gemma) on the deck of the Milly Chalet.  A few newcomers earned a strawberry and an apple pie and other lucky folks walked away with a DVD courtesy of the Powderwhores or some skimo clothing schwag!

Next time, if we can't convince Molly Green's to stay open for a party, we'll move the show down to the Porcupine Grill (a bunch of people did just that tonight).  Also, as interest grows, we will add a page to the citizen series website that will hopefully include a gear swap listing as well as info for training, touring, carpooling, or racing for those looking for partners with similar schedules.

Thanks again to everyone for coming out, to Brandon Dodge and the rest of the Brighton patrollers for being so friendly and supportive, and to Brighton for being a real skiers resort!

See you all at the next gathering on December 18th at the same time (7:00 PM) and same place (by the church on the Milly side).

A lonely pin flag left on the course.  SCARPA is just one of the many great companies supporting our shenanigans.  Others will be highlighted in the future.

Tom on clean up duty after a solid 2nd place showing tonight!