Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Line of the Week: Main Chephren Couloir

I don't often make the drive out past Bow Summit, but when I do, I am rewarded with what I believe is the most scenic section of highway around. Mount Patterson, Howse Peak, and Mt. Chephren tower above the road and their large walls are conquered by legendary climbing routes.

More of interest to skiers, Patterson and Chephren are riddled with couloirs of various lengths close to the road.

Climbing routes on Chephren are notorious for their loose rock and the couloir is no exception. Be on the lookout for bowling balls coming down the alley as the sun warms south east facing rocks above the walls of the couloir. Start early, and avoid completely on a warm day!

Total Elevation Gain: 820m
Line Length: 500m
Top Elevation: 2500m
Round Trip Distance: 3.5km

Selfie, with the base of the couloir in the background

Other options in the area: Should there be a party already climbing up the main Chephren Couloir, there are lots of other options:
-other Chephren couloir starting off the glacier just north of the main Chephren Couloir. The Kumbaya Couloir?
-Various couloirs off the north ridge of Mt. Patterson
-The diagonal couloir off Angel Peak, an eastern oultier of Mt. Patterson. This one has lots of overhead hazard, so be careful on a warm day or just after a storm.
-Various routes from Chic Scott's guidebook: Mistaya Traverse, Bow Summit Area, Peyto Glacier, etc...

Hillmap Route

If it were easy, there would be more people doing it.

Early in my cycling career, I had a chance at a spot on the provincial team for the cycling events at Western Canada Summer Games. Ultimately, there were 10 boys battling for 5 or 6 spots and I didn't make it. On the girls side, I think there were only 6 girls battling for the spots and I believe the coaches even asked for the maximum age to be raised so they could include another girl. Obviously I was choked that I didn't make the team and I even thought it was unfair that 7-10th placed boys were training harder than the 6th placed girl who made the squads.

Prize money should reward commitment to the sport. I've always believed that the top male and female athletes in any event are on average equally as dedicated to training and competing and deserve equal prize money. As the prize money trickles down: sure in a deeper men's field, the racers may be more dedicated than the women, but we're getting to the $50 and lower levels of prize money which might cover the entry fee, but not the transportation, accomodation, and maintenance costs. Might as well just keep it equal.

Anyways, back to the team quotas. I now have the opportunity to represent my county at the Ski Mountaineering World Championships. The 6th ranked French skier who trains way harder than me doesn't. But that French skier likely has the opportunity to live and work in the mountains, train on a nearby ski slope and is placed in a culture supportive of his activities, where I live 4hrs from the mountains, work a 9-5, and don't have nearly the same access to ski mountaineering race gear, specific coaching, etc... If it were easy, there would be more Canadians competing for spots.

I've now realized that the 6th placed girl might not have trained as much as I did, but she is more dedicated just to make it to the start line. Cycling and skiing are largely male dominated sports. Male athletes in these sports don't have to put up with nearly the same levels of peer pressure, body image, bullying, abuse, etc... If it were easy, there would be more girls racing.

2017 Schedule

The 2017 ski mountaineering season is already in full swing, and I'm gearing up to head to Italy for World Championships next week!
January 7-8 Castle Mountain Sprint and Individual (4th and 4th)
Januray 21 Fernie Lizard Skinner (1st!)
February 4-5 Panorama Steep Dreams Individual and Vertical (1st and 1st!)
February 23-March 2 Ski Mountaineering World Championships Tambre/Piancavallo, Italy. I'm doing the Individual, Teams race (with Travis), Vertical, and Sprint, and cheering hard for our Relay team!
Ken Jones Classic March 25-26 Individual and Vertical/Sprint?

Looks like an action packed ABA calendar with a couple of new events. The highlight has to be XC Nationals in Canmore. I wonder if I'll get swindled into doing another 24hr relay.

Kokanee Klassic May 27
Mountain Maiden June 3
Fluffy Bunny Marathon June 11 (the Marathon course is much better than the XC)
XC Nationals July 22, 23
Dawn of the Tread July 30
Race the Ridge August 19 (I should be out heckling with my vuvuzela for the Hardcore marathon the next day)
August 27 XCX Marathon (Kettle cross, but at the Nordic Centre!)

And then maybe a couple of Edmonton Cyclocross races if the city doesn't cancel them.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Steep Dreams ski mountaineering festival

Matt and Caroline Reid had put in lots of effort leading up to the inaugural skimo race at Panorama, working with the resort to optimise the courses, wrangle up sponsors, gifts, and prizes, and come up with innovative formats. Aside from standard individual and vertical ski mountaineering race formats, Steep Dreams introduced a race within a race: using the BC Enduro Series timing system, the 3 descents within the race were timed and bragging rights were on the line. And to cap it all off, a free skiing competition!

It is common to joke about Panorama being inside the hole of the "snow donut", meaning that while surrounding mountains in the Purcell ranges are getting pounded, Panorama is just getting a dusting. That might have still been the case this weekend, but Panorama was also getting pounded! And on top of that, the area skis pretty well anyways for not getting as much snow, although I smoked a rock pretty hard on the 2nd descent. This was also a bonus for ski conditions during and after the race. Most Calgary-based "powderhounds" head elsewhere: Fernie, Castle, Kicking Horse, and Revelstoke, the latter two of which got completely skunked, to drive in shitty conditions, then wait in long lineups.

The fresh snow was a blessing and a curse. In addition to Matt's work organizing the race, he was also the forerunner of the course, but with only one set of tracks from race skis, the track was still quite soft as I followed while leading the race. But the steep groomer on the first climb was more pleasant with a skintrack set through the powder switch backing up its slope. I had first tracks on the descents! Matt put in a valiant effort, but I eventually passed him and did some trailbreaking on the 2nd climb (he did something like 3500m of trailbreaking over the weekend!). Travis and Joel were lurking behind the whole time and it was critical to not panic when things got tough and to hammer when back on the set tracks!

I was able to hold on to the win, and was also 3rd fastest on the descents. And yes, I went skiing after the race, but my legs were screaming during the final run down Tayton bowl.

It snowed even more the next day before the early morning vertical race, but fortunately a snowcat taking our warm clothes up the mountain also groomed an ascent route for us. The legs were a little tired, but I was able to climb almost at a blazing fast 1500m/hr, even with a couple of very minor route bobbles.

But unfortunately, I was not able to get RAD enough in the freeski competition to make up for my deficit on the skiduro and had to settle for 2nd overall. Feeling fast leading up to Europe!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Line of the Week: Mt. Maude

The French-Haig-Robertson traverse is a Kananaskis classic. Pick a day with great weather and you will be rewarded with views and easier navigation once up on the Haig glacier. And the slog up the French glacier is downright miserable with the wind blowing in your face. When you get on the wind scoop at the base of Mt. Robertson, look across the glacier and gaze at the aesthetic line coming off the north ridge of Mt. Maude.

The line is another couple of kilometers from the French-Robertson col and it "grows' to its full 300m as you approach it. Put the skis on the backpack and boot up the face until it thins out near the upper ridge. As this is a steep, high, north face, the skiing should be committing, but soft.

Looking down the line to the Haig Glacier
Top elevation: 2900m
Line Length: 300m
Total Vertical: 1300m
Round Trip Distance: 21km

Other skiing in the area: Aside from the classic French-Haig-Robertson circuit, which also makes a fantastic finish to Mt. Maude, there are numerous couloirs in the French glacier drainage. Mt. Jellicoe also holds some potential as a ski descent though it is hard to make it to the south facing line before the sun. Otherwise the skiing in the French drainage or Burstall Pass is fairly mellow should you find conditions are not up to your liking.

hillmap link

Other "Lines of the Week"

Dynafit Auto-Locking Toe levers, still legal?

Screenshot from the Cambre d'Aze 2017 sprint video
Even in a professional setting, I struggle to decipher what exactly is being permitted or prohibited by a standard or code. The ISMF rules for ski mountaineering race equipment are no different with the added challenge that they are likely translated from another language. I find that the most effective way at interpreting the intent of these rules is to see examples of improved installations.

One such example is bindings. The rules state:

"which allow heel movement during ascents and are blocked for descents; they may or may not be equipped with security straps. The Binding-System must have a lateral and a front complete release system (the boot is completely separate from the ski). The lateral release (front part) has to be lockable manually without tool. If a Binding is TÜV certified, the locking mechanism is not necessary."

Some manufacturers updated their bindings with a detent between the two modes (locking for climbing, and unlocking for safe skiing) so that the bindings could be placed into a releasing mode. This particular dynafit does not have that, rather the toe lever floats and is preloaded to the autolocking mode with a torsion spring. You can rotate the toe lever back into its unlocked mode, but it will flip back to lock as soon as you release it.

So the older dynafit low tech autolocking bindings are apparently still legal. Just make sure you get a  pair with the added reinforcement around the mounting holes.
Does have these newer versions with the reinforced holes?

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

5 Hilarious but dangerous rushed driver maneuvers.

While I commute on my bike year round, I am continuously entertained yet simultaneously afraid of the moves that drivers pull to save a minute on their everyday commutes. It's like they don't understand statistics. Through one's career (250 days/year over 40 years) one will work 10,000 days. That's 20,000 commutes. Even if your driving is 99.99 percent safe, you can still expect to crash twice over your career!

Cyclists get ragged on for not stopping at yield signs and not signalling. I can count multiple instances of drivers rolling through stop signs, speeding, distracted driving, not signalling (unsafe lane changes) on my commute each day. Here are some other gems I see while riding:

The "No advance left turn light advance left turn": This one works especially well on long intersections. Being at the front of the line and guaranteed to make it through on the light cycle isn't good enough. No advance left turn arrow? No problem. Just make your turn before oncoming traffic has a chance to get going through the intersection!

The U-Turn: What's so special about a U-turn? They are common and described in driver training manuals. These people aren't lost. They are rushed and at intersections with lights (illegal) to avoid having to wait in a long line of traffic.

The "Second Right Turning Lane": Lineup for the regular right turning lane too long? Why not just go all the way up to the intersection in the adjacent lane and make your right turn there?

Parking lot or residential street shortcut: If you are driving on residential streets or parking lots you should be within 2 minutes of your destination or just starting driving. So I'm not sure I understand why there are drivers ripping through! You aren't going to make up any time here...unless you need to bypass a busy section of arterial road! There are now 4 speedbumps and a traffic circle for drivers to navigate through in my neighbourhood. Traffic calming.

The "Hurry up and wait": Rolling stop signs, dangerous or close passes, passing while turning or merging, pedal to the floor accelerations...only to have to wait at the next set of lights or stop sign. Was it worth it?