Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Best Time of the Year

Well, there's finally snow in the mountains and I'm back from my foray into biking.  This summer and fall were as enjoyable as any I can remember but now it's time to ski!  Obviously, the snowpack is shallow, the sharks are lurking, and we really can't ski anything that cool yet.  But, I feel the anticipation and excitement that rolls into the season and accompanies the first few storms (combined with the holidays), makes early winter the best time of the year.

SCARPA has recently released a video to highlight their Freedom SL boot.  While I choose to pursue a slightly different style of skiing, the video is beautiful and I can't wait to move around in the mountains with the freedom provided by my other gear.

For those that are more into the "light is right" philosophy, there are now more options than ever.  Some good reviews are available at skintrack.com and some great deals can be found at skimo.co

Skintrack.com is a website produced primarily by Stano Faban and is a huge resource for folks getting into the sport.  It also serves as a nice media outlet that covers recent events in the sport on this side of the Atlantic.

Skimo.co is an internet based company specializing in lightweight ski mountaineering gear.  They are based in Salt Lake City and have one of the widest selections of this type of gear in the world.  It's run by Jason Borro who is quickly becoming the most knowledgeable gear head on the planet when it comes to all things light.  He takes time to personally answer questions, stands by his products, and will guide you based on what's right for your skiing rather than his bottom line.  Multiple times, I've needed something last minute for a race or adventure and have only been able to get gear from him when other outlets are closed or too slow or out of stock.

Last, adding to the anticipation surrounding this coming winter, there's rumor that I'll get to fondle some of these in the near future!

Photo taken from Wildsnow.com
If that turns out to be the case, I'll put up more photos and a real review.  And, I'll let my friends come touch them too!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

I'm a Cyclist Now

I always thought one of my strengths was being durable.  Lars and Tom have been dealing with plantar fasciitis for a while and Jason and Jessie have both suffered stress fractures during their competitive time on the track.  Up until a few weeks ago, I felt like I could run as much as I wanted or had time for and wake up better for it.  

This season, I ramped up my mileage a little faster than previous as the skiing failed to inspire and I wanted to get a jump on training for some bigger races.  I felt a big mistake I made last year was not doing enough vertical training and then paid the price at Speedgoat and Leadville.  Determined to harden my quads a bit and fostered by the fact that I now live on the shoulder of Mount Olympus, I set out shuffling up the foothills everyday.  

I was loving running as much as at any point in my life and was feeling pretty good pretty much all the time.  That is, until May 29th at about 11 AM while on a run with Lars.  I had worked late the night before and missed most of a long run with Lars, Jason, and Tom.  I drove up Millcreek Canyon and headed up the Desolation trail to try and catch them.  A few miles up I intercepted them as they were running down, now about 25 miles into their day.  I turned around and we ran fast down to the road where I decided to run Lars home and then head back to the mountains.  Over the next mile, I went from running completely pain free to feeling an annoying pressure in my left SI joint.  I tried to stretch to no avail and finished the run at Lars' house with a limp.  

For the next two days, I tried to run but could take no more than a couple steps.  Walking made it ache while Ibuprofen really seemed to help.  I went to a sports med chiropractor and a massage therapist with no relief.  Finally, I asked one of the orthopedist at work what he thought and after a two minute conversation he felt it was a stress fracture until proven otherwise.  

Damn.  Of course.  I had been blinded to the possibility and didn't even consider a stress fracture, especially in the pelvis.  But, once suggested, it was the only diagnosis that made sense.  The MRI was a formality to confirm the fracture so I could quit living in athletic limbo and shift my energy to something else.  
Bathroom selfie just before heading into the MRI
I worked overnight from Sunday to Monday, wrestled my way into a clinic appointment, got the MRI, confirmed that I did indeed have a sacral stress fracture along the left SI joint, and then went and bought a road bike that same day.  It was an emotionally frustrating and manic 20 hours ameliorated only slightly by some retail therapy and a big bike purchase.  

So, now I'm a cyclist.

My new bike as recommended by Bart G and Sam T.  I really didn't know what to get but those guys said the SuperSix Evo is where it's at!
I'm not allowed any impact for six weeks to two months, effectively wrecking my summer running.  Fortunately, the doc did recommend swimming or cycling and since swimming is unnatural and probably the most boring sport ever, I'll spend my summer on a bike.  

And, the interesting thing is that I'm not too bummed about it.  I will absolutely miss the races, friends, summits, singletrack,  and everything else about running.  But, I'm finding that what I really love about sport is the process.  I'm learning a whole new sport, developing specific fitness, and just trying to get faster and more efficient.  I'll get to spend time with a bunch of friends that I previously shunned because they would "only" ride bikes.  And, when the snow falls again, I won't have missed out on anything aerobically since I can probably spend more time on a bike than I every could running.     

It's been a week and a half and I'm captivated by the bike, the tradition of cycling, the speed, distance, scenery, and by the fact that I can stop in the middle of a ride and eat a huge meal with no apparent ill effect!
It's pretty hard to pull up to a chinese joint on a run and inhale all that and keep going!  On a bike, it's all so civilized!

Photo from the internet of the Alpine Loop.  I can't get as intimate with the mountains stuck on a road but I can still get all up in em.  

Also, the bike can take me to a lot of weird places that I would never see on a run.  

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Paria River Running Video

As usual, any attempt to make a video while running turns out horribly shaky and is less interesting than simply telling a story of, "We started here and ran to there."  But, I tried again anyway and hopefully this rubbish below can give a glimpse of the beauty we saw.

Paria Canyon from andy dorais on Vimeo.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Paria Canyon River Running

After a strange winter, it's now adventure skiing season.  Unfortunately, my planned work break and the weather didn't line up to attempt some projects outside the Wasatch.  So instead, I've been running as much as my feeble legs allow and this week Jason hatched the idea of going on an adventure run in the desert.

Jared suggested Paria Canyon amongst others and after a little googling we decided it looked worthy. Jason drove down with his sweetheart early on Thursday while Tom and I left SLC at 10 PM in order to stay with ours until we couldn't any longer.  By 2:30 AM we were regretting our late start while looking for a roach motel in Kanab.

Six short hours later we were donning our gear and packing gels and stuffing our bellies with doughnuts and other junk to ready for a long day.  We picked up Jason and drove the 40 miles out of town to the trailhead where the scenery looked quite disappointing.  Across the highway, there were desert towers, plateaus, and canyons but on our side there was a trickle of water and some sage brush.

Unceremoniously, we started trotting down the river drainage, doing our best to keep our feet dry.  Within minutes the mood all changed as we grew more and more excited by the deepening canyon and narrowing walls.  Pretty soon, we were charging straight through the river and yelling about how pretty it was.  We were a modern mix of Paiutes, Silvestre Escalante, steeplechasers, and Butch Cassidy.  We toyed with the idea of gunning for Jay Aldous' FKT, since we could tell with the low water flow, the conditions were fast, but ultimately decided to just play around, explore, and take pictures.  As it turns out, running over an hour slower than Jay was still hard.

The first 25 miles were a joy as we played and splashed like kids.  We explored the Buckskin Gulch confluence, drank from trickling springs, and took turns laughing at each other every time someone would fall in what appeared to be supportable mud.

The last 13 miles got a little tougher as the trail left the river bed and became quite sandy to the point where running felt almost useless.  It was hot and Tom's white legs were starting to get burned.  Our tender feet began to hurt as they've been protected by ski boots for months.  We must have been getting tired cause we stopped taking pictures and the desert began to attack.  Jason found a cactus.  A large stick gouged my leg.  And, Tom quit being Tom.  He normally runs off the front and pushes the pace but he seemed content to fall in line and let me or Jason dictate the shuffling.

Pretty soon though we started seeing signs of man with the ranch ruins, old fence lines, and then finally we were at the trailhead.  Standing on the pavement above the Colorado River we all felt a little woozy and nauseated.  We needed some salt and real food and Amanda and Aimee were there to deliver.  They had driven to within five miles of Lee's Ferry where they encountered a detour on Hwy 89.  Incredibly, they backtracked and detoured 90 miles to come get us, panicked that we'd have to wait or think they weren't coming.  We were pretty grateful for the treats and the deluxe chauffeur service.

Utah is incredible and while this region is designated and protected wilderness land it doesn't get nearly the recognition of the more famous parks of the desert southwest.  The whole day we saw only  a handful of parties hiking mostly within the first ten miles.

I am still psyched to ski if conditions line up, but I for sure have a lot of desert time on the mind.

Here are a few pics to try and prove the beauty but as always they fall a little short...

Early on we were trying to keep our feet dry...until we realized that was a futile waste of energy

Splashes of light and shadow amplified the beauty of the canyon 
There were miles of river running

We poked around up Buckskin Gulch but with nearly 40 miles to run for the day, we were too scared to tack on much more than a few minutes. 

If only he had fallen all the way in!

More river running

Near the end, the canyon walls grew higher (reportedly up to 2700 feet) and the landscape opened up to give a sense of eternity as the desert tends to do. 

Driving home the sunset was fabulous and Amanda really got overwhelmed by the beauty of it all

I wonder how many other unheard-of gems are out there....

Some Details:

Total mileage: 38-40
Time: 7:30 ish
Food: a few gels that Tom gave me (I would have been screwed without em), some crackers, and sport beans
Drink: Powerade (without the bromanated vegetable oil!) and dirt water from a couple springs

SCARPA Tru shoes (due out this summer)
Outdoor Research Echo shirt
Outdoor Research Visor
Suunto Ambit
Salomon pack
Adidas shorts

Friday, April 4, 2014

The 2014 La Sal Grand Traverse Video: By Jason Dorais

Jason put together this video of our traverse last weekend.  He would sprint ahead to shoot some video then sprint to catch back up.  We slogged slowly while he did intervals for 14 and a half hours.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The La Sal Grand Traverse 2014

This weekend makes the third time that I found myself in Crested Butte to race and that I left without actually racing.  Previous attempts were derailed by sickness but this one was thwarted by a last minute course change secondary to avalanche conditions.  We had intended on representing Outdoor Research in the Elk Mountain Grand Traverse from Crested Butte to Aspen, a race we have done the last two years.  But this year, when we found out it was rerouted as an out-n-back we suddenly lost interest and felt a desperate need for some adventure.  

A few years ago, Jason and I had thought about trying to traverse the La Sal mountain range and then I gave it a shot last spring with Teague and Tom coming just short as we battled horrific conditions for some 16 odd hours before bailing.  With the Elk Mountain Traverse now a "Reverse" we had a new plan.  We race to be able to have the fitness and skill with light gear to be able to attempt big adventures and nobody in our group needed to be reminded of that now.  We ran the new plan by Christian Folk, Outdoor Research Top Brass at the race.  He was nothing but encouraging and said we needed to do what inspired us.  He'd race in our place in spite of some apprehension as he felt ill prepared.  We found him a partner and he was set for an adventure too.  What an incredible company to support us like that!  He wanted us to have as much fun as possible and stepped up to suffer to maintain an OR spot in the race and allow us to feed our adventurelust.  

Jason and I were 'in' as were Tom and Lars as we all rode together from SLC.  Teague checked the weather forecast and immediately signed up with his EMGT partner Brad LaRochelle.  Good.  That put us at a party of 6 which seemed rather large but since all these guys are top tier racers and can handle themselves in the mountains it seemed like it might just work.  Getting food in Grand Junction, we realized we forgot about Durango hardman, Scott Simmons, and called him up.  I asked what he was doing this weekend and he just replied, "I guess I'm skiing the La Sal traverse."  The man has priorities!

We all caught a few hours of sleep before driving out to Lacky Basin to begin the 4x4 drive up to the start of the traverse on the far southern end of the range.  Teague was the only one with a suitable vehicle so all seven of us piled into his Tacoma and we bumped our way up to the trailhead (where the road gets too rough or we encounter snow).  

Jason and Lars getting ready for the drive to Lacky Basin

Most of us pulled on running shoes and with skis on our packs Tom and I jokingly sprinted up the road for 50 meters or so to start our long day.  Soon patches of snow began to dot the road and perhaps a little too early to warrant shoes, we switched to skinning.  The conditions were fast and smooth and we made good time to the summit of South Mountain (11,817).  With seven bobbing headlamps and the faintest hint of dawn to the east, we gang skied a couple inches of fast powder down the upper slopes and into a playful forest to the east of La Sal Pass.  Feeling like we had skied far enough toward Colorado, we transitioned and started the long skin across the basin and up Mount Peale (12,721). 

Jason skinning up Peale with South Mountain in the background
The with forest and mountains glowing red from the eastern sun, everyone was playful, shouting back and forth and skinning with good momentum onward and upward.  Gaining elevation, the light sharpened and the wind picked up to damn near gale force (39-54 mph as defined by the NWS).  Fighting to keep balance while skinning or booting, our skinny skis would catch the wind as little sails. We all summited within a minute of each other and found shelter on the lee side to transition again, our third of perhaps 100 throughout the day.  
Lars heading up Peale with Tuk and red canyonlands beyond

The conditions were appropriate for gang skiing the ridges and our approach was methodical.  Each person was a model of efficiency with race transitions, quick skiing, and continual upward movement as everyone took a turn breaking trail or putting in a booter when needed depending on who felt strong at the time.  

Jason on the summit of Mount Peale with Mount Mellenthin and the rest of the range in the distance

Next up was Mount Tukuhnikivatz (12,482) which afforded brilliant views down into the canyon lands around Moab contrasted against the snowy ridges we were climbing.  After a few pictures and a short discussion on how to approach the ridge to Mount Laurel (12271) and Mellenthin (12645), we decided to ski a fun powder shot into Gold's Basin and then climb back up rather than retrace our path.  Four inches of snow from a couple days prior proved nearly heroic as we put seven tracks down into the basin.  
Jason and Teague on the summit of Tukuhnikivatz
The crew on Tuk
Damn ,I don't want to ski last...
Back into the wind we climbed, over Laurel and Mellenthin where we paused to look down toward Gyser Pass and the North Group.  On my previous attempt to traverse this range we had battled severe weather and worse visibility to this point and had a little trouble getting off Mellenthin.  Now, with clear skies and visibility forever, this was going to be good.  The guys skied down the ridge a bit to a nice steep shot right down the North Face.  Here, we skied one at a time with Jason being unlucky number 7.  It's the price he pays to get great photos.  

Cruising along the summit ridge of Mount Mellenthin
Looking north from the summit of Mount Mellenthin to the North Group and the rest of the traverse
Tom dropping onto the North Face of Mount Mellenthin while the rest of the group vies to go next and not get sloppy seconds...or sevenths
Teague is always happy but extra so when he gets to ski which is nearly everyday but even extra happy when he's skiing thousands of feet of soft snow with his buddies in a cool setting. 
We skied and skinned our way across Gyser Pass and shortly started up Mount Tomasaki (12239) but warming temps coupled with our lower elevation wreaked havoc on our skins and nearly everyone had some issues with snow glopping.  We had wax and extra skins and the train rolled onward and upward.  

I remembered from our previous visit that the climb up Tomasaki was hard and this day was no different.  I worked hard to catch up after stopping to change skins and felt the effort.  Jason was nearly giddy on the summit cheering and shooting video while most of us glumly chewed some food and skied off without much chatter.  I guess they were feeling it too.  

With what looked like innumerable small peaks on the ridge to Castle Valley, we got to work.  First Manns (12272) then I think Green (12163) then Piolet (12200) amongst the named ones and then we could smell the barn as Lars tried to say.  He sometimes struggles with colloquial phrases much to his chagrin and our entertainment.  

On the summit of something with some of the traverse spread out behind...
A lot of the peaks on the northern end looked improbable for skiing but there was always just enough snow to skin and the descents were always better than anticipated with the lee slopes harboring some soft snow. 
We must have been getting punchy as some strange stuff started happening.  Scott climbed a pole, there was some hugging, and a lot of premature celebrating.  We tried calling Dominique, Tom's ever patient and supportive girlfriend, as she was going to pick us up at the head of Castle Valley but unfortunately the call wouldn't go through.  She was supposed to be there at 6 PM so we figured we shouldn't linger, particularly since we were just going to figure out the exit of the fly.  

I don't even know...
Smelling the barn...

Skinning up Mount Waas with just a couple more peaks to go
On the summit of Mount Waas we felt much joy
Jason skiing from the summit of Castle Mountain with Castle Valley below
Summit of La Sal Peak
Mount Waas (12331), Castle Mountain (12044) and then La Sal Peak (12001) ensued and we were now truly psyched.  It looked like we'd be able to easily ski directly to the north and finish our traverse in good style.  I commented that it was amazing that we had all independently moved across such significant terrain yet stayed as a group.  No one fell behind.  No one broke gear.  No one crashed severely or was injured.  

30 seconds later I was blind sided by Lars (who claims I turned into him!)  and we both went down.  

3 seconds later we realized nothing was broken and we all were laughing at our foolishness and on we went with gravity.  We were having a good time working our way towards the drainage and eventually a road where Dominique was waiting.  

Teague on the last descent of the day on the aptly named La Sal Peak
Unfortunately, our progress became labored as the snow went to crap and we began fighting through the most unhealthy of forests with downed trees and limbs so dense an exit began to feel improbable.  

We skinned up one last time to gain a sub ridge that offered slightly less annoying travel and then I heard a shout, "I found a house!"

One of the guys had broken through to civilization.  A dirt road took us a couple miles directly to the parking area where Dominique had been patiently waiting for hours, just in case we finished early.  

Most of us brought shoes but Teague doesn't care and just went Teton style for miles...

I sat down for a bit while we regrouped and it felt so good to stop moving finally.  We played a bit more Tetris putting seven stinky guys into a Landcrusier with all our gear and bags for the weekend, drove to Moab, ate some food, and slept.

Seven happy stinky dudes

Back to where they started!

Thanks to all the guys for working hard together to have our own Grand Traverse!

I think the total stats ended up somewhere in the 19,000 vertical gained range with mileage being around 30 miles in 14 and a half hours.  All our watches died so no one captured it in it's entirety.  

That was a damn fine day. 

Jason traced a rough map of our route
Gear list:

SCARPA Alien 1.0
Ski Trab Gara World Cup skis
Coltex/Trab race skins
Ski Trab Vertical Race poles
CAMP XC 600 pack
SCARPA speed suit
Ski Trab wind pants
Outdoor Research Helium jacket
Outdoor Research Radient Hybrid Hoody
Outdoor Research Lodestar gloves
Julbo Trail glasses

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Little Canada (Broad's Fork and the Twins)

Went up Broad's again with Lars yesterday.  It seemed he had two goals this winter and they were to ski Lone and the Twins since he looks at them everyday on his drive home from work.  Since I had such a fun morning with T-Dawg (he calls it little Canada) the other day I figured we should do it all again but this time I planned on skiing directly from the summit...rocks and crappy snow be damned.  

We started hiking Teton style and were shortly skinning on a firm spring-like snow pack into the upper drainage.  I felt like garbage and after confiding this to Lars he said that he was enjoying the pace and that it was easy.  Screw him.  

We must not have been going that slow cause we managed to summit in just over two hours and topped out with local Salomon man, Brody Leven and superb photog Adam Clark.  We shot the breeze with those guys for a bit and then dropped into the NE "Couloir" from the summit and found an incredible mix of dry powder on the skier's right and perfect corn on the left side of the chute.  Spring skiing is probably my favorite.  But then again, powder skiing, steep skiing, and ski racing are also my favorites.  

After a lot of smiling and laughing, we found our selves walking in our boots down the last stretches of pine needle trails back to the truck.  That fine morning was topped off with a nice Chinese lunch and a nap before strolling into work quite happy with the world.  

Also, I think I've now skied the F1 Evo to do a proper review so when I get some time I'll put down a few thoughts and detailed pictures...

It's T-Shirt weather heading up into "Little Canada" as Tom Diegle likes to call this place. (photo by Lars)
Time to do some scramblin (photo by Lars Kjerengtroen)
Testing out the blue boots on some rock while taking a crotch shot of Lars who is about to ski the Twins for the first time.
Hiking the East Ridge to the East Summit of the Salt Lake Twins (Photo by Adam Clark)

We were running to try and catch up to Brody and Adam and didn't know that Adam was shooting some pretty cool photos of us on the ridge. (Adam Clark)
Pretty happy to be on another summit. (photo by Brody Leven)
Adam Clark got a few pretty shots of us making ugly turns off the summit

Big Lars hopping his way down a nice mix of cold pow on the skier's right and nice corn on the skier's left side of the chute.
Corn skiing at 10:15 AM on March 25th.  It's too hot in Salt Lake. 
Pretty scenic backdrop for a little skiing
 Thanks to Brody and Adam for the pictures!