Monday, May 28, 2012

Double Trouble. Flower/Pacman

An easy double: the flower stem was pretty icy but still snagged it, I gave up on the pacman for similar reasons. Some other time.
"Not now chief, I'm in the zone"

Not a bad consolation prize.
The time might have run out on steep lower elevation north facing couloirs.Oh and disk golf is fun.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Hardcore XC race, and more spring awesomeness

Congrats to Dave Roberts and wife Bridget Linder for putting on an awesome race.

I had a great race, I would say one of my best elite races yet. I took it easy off the start but was feeling good for the whole race and slowly picked off riders, eventually finishing 9th.

Back in Canmore, I proceeded to continue shredding my legs apart, first by doing a Tuesday MTB race (the only Tuesday MTB race this year?)  and the "Hammer Ride" on Thursday, which is definitely the hardest groupride I have ever been on and my legs were toast for a couple of days.

Things were looking up on the weekend, so back to the skis on Saturday. A lifted road closure opened up a new objective, so we set off at some ungodly hour in the morning to ski a beautiful SE face.

Some people were going to ski that face of Temple. Nice line!
After that, we determined that it hadn't warmed up too much, and we went for a line on the backside of the peak. Craig was suffering, but I soldiered on to the top of the line. We were both wrecked on the way back around to the col, but a nice easy ski down to the lake capped off this wonderful tour.
Lefroy was dumping snow all day. 
Okay, who pissed off the mountain?

Spent the day in Windows desktop background land.

We finished off the day with some fun biking and climbing, which was in retrospect a little silly as we should have been resting up for Sunday.

but alas, we pushed too hard on Saturday and were too tired to giv'er again early on Sunday. Still got some fun objectives in mind to cap off the season, just need some partners!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tricks to maximize skiing time (aka fun time)

Skimountaineering racing has put a whole new perspective on how I go ski touring for recreation or for training. When I did my first race, the Dogtooth Dash, with my normal alpine touring setup, I focussed on quick changeovers. Many of the skills I practiced in that Dogtooth Dash I apply to my normal touring. It's all about being comfortable on the long climb (which takes up ~90% of the time), feeling energized on the descent, and going faster and longer (faster to the top = nobody stealing your line, longer = more skiing).  Or you can wake up later = get more sleep for skiing the same objective. Less time spent transitioning on that 45 degree slope with sketchy snow you are bailing on (or under cornices or seracs) =  less chance of death. We spend so much energy and thought limiting exposure objective hazards, but people are fine taking twice as long to change from uphill to downhill mode.

-Taking skins off without taking the skis off. I like to lock my heel down, lift my leg up to grab the tail of the skin and rip while kicking the leg back. You can even put your skins inside your jacket! If you aren't as coordinated and have to remove your skis, leave at least 1 ski on so you don't wallow down in the snow and possibly ice up the toe tech inserts.

-Boots: If I'm not going to ski something gnarly, I usually don't bother to do up the powerstraps. To change form ski to tour mode, I just open the top 2 buckles (leaving the buckle on the rung), flip the walk mode lever and I'm ready to rock. With TLT5's or F1's (with no powerstrap) it takes just 1 motion! I'll use the removable tongues and powerstrap on bigger/stiffer skis.

-Clothing:  I like to ski down in the same gear that I climb up in. That saves a bunch of time at the top and bottom, but requires something breathable and relatively windproof. Cycling windbreakers work well, as does the Polartec PowerShield jacket I have been using. When it gets real cold and windy, I bring out the full on shell. I find most people overdress when they are rolling out and have to stop to shed a layer 10mins into the tour. I tour up using a thin fleece liner glove, and throw on some glove shells at the top for the descent. I don't mind leaving the sunglasses I climbed up in on for the descent.

-Hydration: Another time sapping buzz kill is stopping to dig into a pack for water, which may or may not be frozen. I like to put my waterbottle on an inside pocket of my PowerShield layer. Quick access, and my body heat keeps it from freezing, and I can add snow to the water bottle if I need more.

-Gear: Okay, so while racing has turned me into a little bit of a weight weenie, I think there is a place for fun skis out there. BUT there are so many fun options out there that are lightweight.

-Rando racing has taught me to skin well, and prevent my skins from slipping. Sliding backwards saps your energy, and if you are using tailless skins you have to worry about skin failure. Make sure skins are cut correctly, showing just enough edge so you have good grip on steep climbs and on sidehills. If you can't skin up a crusty slope to save your life, use ski crampons! Or you can have fun missing out on awesome spring skiing.

-Trailhead transitions: I like to have my bag packed when I leave the house and I am suited up in the car. With my powershield layer, I can wear it comfortably in a large temperature range, so I am ready to go right from the car, just need to put my boots on, skins on, thin liner gloves on, beacon on, GPS on, and GO! (well wait for my buddies to get ready)

Slow transitions can be a buzz kill if there is another group coming up and wanting to drop into that fresh line you have been eyeing, if you are trying to get out of dangerous terrain and limit objective hazard, or you are trying to move quickly as you have a long day and need to get onto a slope before conditions change. Or you have an anxious Peter waiting to drop in, who has to wait for his buddies to get ready in case he gets into some trouble. Just another good skill to let you ski more vertical in the same amount of time.

Any other tips? Am I taking this way to seriously?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Dear future me...

Spring in the rockies is WORTH THE WAIT. Since the Ken Jones Classic, we have been able to get up high into beautiful terrain. I just have to remind myself in the future that yes, there will be a time where I can get up into that terrain that I dream about.

Ian almost at the top of Lyautey

Mt. Lyautey. skied a gully right from the summit!

Twin couloirs on the centre-left of the picture were our initial objective, but we didn't like the snow. We ended up climbing a gully further to the right which led us to the true summit.

Still winter up high, but unfortunately travel through the trees is getting more complicated. Approaches are getting longer and tougher, requiring stronger partners to keep the stoke flowing. I'm off to Edmonton to help    run the Hardcore race this weekend. I've still got some "low hanging fruit" ski objectives in mind, but also would be game for some longer tours with the right partners.

I've been using my race skis from last year, the 160cm Atomic TM:11. Funny looks turn into envy and curiosity by the end of the day as my partners realize that the skis don't ski that badly, and they are a lot more pleasant as you tick up to 1800m of climbing or 12hrs of skiing.

The biking in Canmore is starting to come into shape. I think all but the upper CNC is dry.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Spring skiing, crevasse rescue, and an attempted day trip of Mt. Joffre

Somehow, I still haven't ridden my mountain bike since I got to Canmore.

A couple of rainy days, then when it finally cleared, I went to the now closed for the season Nakiska for some turns. 15cms of wet snow on top of a hard wet base, but fun was had.

Bill is working now, but he was up for a dawn patrol mission and we went for what we thought would be a short tour to a cool line we saw while touring in the area. We had to turn back early due to time, but the consolation prize wasn't bad.

Then it was off to Bow Hut for a crevasse rescue course. Our guide was Thomas Exner and he was excellent. Highly recommended. Pretty fun learning to lift someone up with just a little muscle, and sometimes some mechanical advantage. 

Bill. Packing extraordinaire

My take on "spreading out". It is an excellent idea. Minimizing group exposure. But if you have 4 or 5 people who are strong and able to move quickly through the canyon, why not let them go ahead rather than have them more slowly so as not to bunch up. Spending less time in the canyon is minimizing exposure.

The infamous Bow Canyon terrain trap

This weekend's faction of the Edmonton skimo team.

Graeme leading the way up the glacier and into the whiteout

Bill, looking very pro!

I brought the light gear up and it felt really at home here.

Mt. Gordon: signing the summit register is lame.

Fun pitch down to Bow Hut

Album cover. We liked that above slope so much, we did it again after dinner.

Skiing the glacier under a full moon.

Who actually tells the truth in the Bow Hut register?
Really fun course. Climbed Mt. Gordon on Saturday, and Crowfoot on Sunday.

 Also a good introduction to hut living. The packs are heavy! For food, we brought up a 2kg precooked ham, some bagels, bread, lettuce, rice cheese, and other snacks. Ham for breakfast, lunch, and dinner was convenient, but definitely got old, even after only 2 days.

Then returning to Canmore after an awesome weekend, it looked like there would be a good freeze, and I was pumped to go for a day trip of Mt. Joffre. I'll admit, I have been mildly fascinated with this mountain ever since I saw this . We were thinking about it last weekend, but it is a pretty long day and you need a dedicated group. Ralph was keen (did Highwood, Cirque Peak, Mt. Field, etc. with him before).

Left the car at 4:45, skated easily across upper Kananaskis lake (oh yeah, Ralph is British and can't skate!). Getting up to Aster Lake is definitely not easy. We worked our way up old tracks through steep trees, did a little bit of extra climbing and finally, up into the alpine. I heard a few new English words from Ralph who eventually had to put on ski crampons. He is not the skinning jedi that I am! Then more perfect skating conditions, then had to pick our way up the moraines, looking for snow that was not moist. 

It was then easy to work up onto the glacier. We were switchbacking up the face, avoiding what looked to be wind affected rollovers on the right side until we would have to cross over, but eventually I found that the snow wasn't feeling right, it wasn't as supportive as I had hoped, so we bailed, about 250m below the summit. 

We were working our way to the right when we decided to bail. Maybe we should have gone right earlier?

On the way out, we found a way to eliminate some unnecessary climbing on the way in. Skiing our wasn't too bad, a little sketchy at times on steep slopes in isothermal snow. The real kick in the nuts was that the lake didn't look safe to cross, so we had to go around the shore.

Some key notes:
-Because of the large elevation range involved I would advise doing this with low freezing levels or starting even earlier. The moraines 2300-2600m were getting warm and it is hard to avoid their steep slopes. We went up and down a ridge. Also, it would be nice if the ski out isn't through isothermal snow and the lake is still frozen (and start at interlakes). But perfect skating conditions save some time and energy.
-The face is steep, 45+ degrees. Good stability is required. Afterwards, we were wondering if the steeper (?) right side may have had more consolidated snow than the main bowl.

Sometimes after a long day, it takes a couple of days to forget the suffering, but right when I got back to the parking lot, I was pumped to try it again sometime. But due to reason #1, I think I will wait until next season. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Finally finished school, the final marks have been pouring in, and I don’t feel like such a poser for wearing this:

Spring is finally here and that of course means that my focus shifts to bike racing season:

not that 1000m vertical bootpacks do not give me a good workout:

Bill's skiing style is unreal. Confident, fluid, and beautiful.

Only the 2nd peak I have ever bagged while skiing. Craig put our names in the register

Good freezes in the valley bottoms make a perfect canvas for skate skiing

I have moved down to Canmore for the summer and possibly the winter, probably working part time. That said, I have been cruising Placepro and applying for jobs in “neat” areas of BC, looking for the right to act like one of those self entitled transplants.

Next weekend, I am off to Bow Hut for a glacier travel course that should also offer some great ski mountaineering. I am pumped.