Friday, December 12, 2014

Vert 180 and a couple of hut trips

A bit of a slow start to the season for me, but I Travis and I got 'er going with an overnighter over a long weekend.

Jumbo Wild

Great snow with a packrat and some sledders to keep us company.

Vert 180
Even with the lack of skiing, I felt pretty good at the Vert180 and finished 2nd behind Travis. No hip flexor pain, so things are looking good for this season!

Asulkan Camp
With tired legs from racing hard for 3hrs and tired bodies from frantic late night packing, meeting at 9am at the Asulkan parking lot was out of question. We ended up leaving Canmore at 9. The ACC had taken a page out of Alison Redford's playbook and generously block-booked the hut for us so we would have lots of elbow room to eat and sleep as just Michelle, Martha, Steve, Travis and I were attending. 

After a 3hour ski up to the hut, through tracked out snow and watching numerous groups ski down, the sleeping bags and hut booties seemed more inviting than a couple of short laps above the hut in wind affected snow. 

Monday brought a lazy start but with some ambitious goals. None of the weekend groups had skied above the hut and the weather and avalanche conditions were looking good, so we set our sights up to the top of Youngs Peak. Travis punched the track up the steep headwall and we quickly topped out. I was expecting to pound out a couple of laps on the steps of paradise, but soon we were skiing down the other side towards the forever young couloir. which was untouched since the last snowfall. Meanwhile, some German ski mountaineering racers had topped out the couloir from the road so I had some company at the top while I waited my turn. We all made it down safely with varying levels of slough management techniques depending on what order we dropped in.

Typically these camps are a chance to ski lots of vertical, but with tired legs from racing this adventure was an interesting diversion. After a couple of afternoon laps of the triangle moraine, the legs were getting tired, the light was fading and it was time for a classic staple of these SMCC Asulkan ski camps: The bonk-slog up the tree triangle back to the hut at the end of the day.

Shortly after the last stragglers arrived back at the hut, the wind got much stronger and battered the hut all night. The wind sustained through the morning and brought warm temperatures along with it. Freezing levels rose above the hut, motivation levels did the opposite. Trees were uncovered by the wind and their snow was blown into the outhouse thanks to some broken locks. And it was raining. It was time to bail.

The ski down from the hut was interesting as the snow got slower and less supportive as we worked our way down the tree triangle. The snow could be described as elephant snot or fluffy powder depending on whether the person you were talking to was from Fernie. On the way down we encountered what is likely another full house at the Asulkan. Nobody was pumped to hear that it was raining at the hut.

Well at least I got back to Edmonton at a decent hour!

Monday, November 3, 2014


Ah the much neglected blag.

Did a bunch of races, some fun (Stoked to get spanked again!), some rather mundane (24 hours of adrenalin)
Racing went well. I managed to get my first elite ABA cup podium at the Hardcore race, had another strong race at the Iron Lung, raced hard at the Stoked to get Spanked, and suffered hard in Devon and at the Perogy Race. I snagged another podium in Canmore after a night of rocking out to Trooper and Chilliwack. I made the long trek out to the Sufferfest in New Denver and it did not disappoint. 100km of cruising, and I paced well so the suffering was minimal!.

I snuck in an Enduro race in there and although descending is not my strongsuit, I put in a respectable effort in Canmore in the rain.
Mt. Cartier, 2200m bike descent. The climb is mostly a push, but the descent is all rideable! 7.5hr day
It always seems that things really get going near the end of the season. Better weather, less racing = more alpine! September and October were awesome. Cyclocross season for me had its ups and downs with some strong showings early on and at the Tuesday races, but then, let's say everyone else started training hard, so I suffered later on and never really got into it.
My "summer vacation" was an extension of labour day weekend with a trip to New Denver for the Sufferfest race. I had a great race as I fueled properly, and I enjoyed stopping in Canmore, Golden, Nakusp, and Revelstoke to ride along the way.

MS Hinton was a highlight of my summer. Each day is a great wilderness ride, not just another lap attack at the nordic centre in Canmore. I was able to add a little extra spice to both days by checking out Mt. Solomon, Hinton Bike Park + Gasifier DH, and High Froehler trail.
and I arrived back in time to see the Tour of Alberta riders suffer in the rain.

Lots of loam in Hinton!

Jasper stole my heart. Beautiful cross country appropriate trails right from town. 

Got some bro shredding time in later.

Milked the alpine riding right until the end. Jumpingpound Ridge to Cox at the end of October!

The skis should be coming out soon, but with how much I enjoyed the riding in September and October, I still feel like milking the last bit of dry dirt before bashing the skis on rocks.

Wapta in a Day

Beauty day on the Wapta. Full report here

Joffre in a Day

Saturday, April 24, Travis and I day tripped Mt. Joffre. It was my second attempt at pulling that off after bailing high on the face with concerns about stability due to wind affect.

The long weekend started off with a snowy good Friday where we skied powder and got chased by wet slides.

With the recent snow, I wasn't too keen on the Wapta traverse, but Travis was ready for something big, so he suggested trying Mt. Joffre.

dry up high, wet down low

Tire change crossfit

Early morning skate across Upper Kananaskis lake

Nearing Aster Lake after ~2.5hrs

Approaching the face after having passed 2 parties who were camped at the lake

Summit! my first 11,000er

The lake is still (kinda) frozen! Just under 11hrs car to car

Not as great weather on Hector

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Dogtooth Dash and Vert 180

I apologize to my regular readers for the delay, I just have not been very motivated to write when there is TV to be watched, Facebook feeds to be scrolled through, and bikes to be ridden.

This year, the Dogtooth Dash began a day early with a vertical race. Having sat out the vertical race at world championships last year, this would be my first crack at the format that favours efficiency and power rather than technique and fearlessness (other than laying it on the line!)

The race started with the usual mad dash on some appropriately angled terrain, then the course hit a steep wall! I was actually doing quite well here, relying on skinning technique (keeping those skis flat on the snow rather than edging), getting in a good rhythm and being able to go max out JUST to get up the hill! Then as the course crested onto the 10 road cat track, the angle lessened and classical diagonal stride technique became very important. I broke the instep buckle rivet on my boot trying to get a good kick and glide going. I put in a strong effort, and had a really good sprint in the run towards the finish, but lost some ground on the flatter sections. Looks like I'll have to spend some time on the classic sticks next winter. Roller skis? Mmmmmmaybe...

Nice and sunny at the finish.
The next day was the main event. I felt like I had recovered well from the vertical race the day before but a hard effort had taken the very top end out of my legs. This actually led me to race with a different strategy, rather than starting out hard and blowing up, I would just race at a reasonable pace. Now I'm a big believer in the slingshot effect of getting a good start and then recovering, but oh well, let's give this one a go!
I was feeling good and sitting well but suffered on the leadup to the tunnel vision bootpack roughly halfway into the race. After having the race of my life and finishing 3rd last year in just another highlight of a wonderful season, I was in tough shape. My mind was tormented with thoughts of self doubt, emotion from an event that happened the previous weekend, that had me really questioning why I had been burning vacation days, weekends, and dinosaur turds to head to these races. Then on the next climb I looked up and could see that the battle for 3rd place was not too far ahead and I was just a skin failure (not unrealistic with dry snowy conditions and lots of transitions) or blowup away from really being in race. I'll take that as a consolation prize for this Weekend Warrior.

With a flawless transition and excellent skiing on the last descent, I really lit a match under the wick of those in front of me and I was ready to battle for the next couple of spots. I didn't have much left to make the catch, but I was happy with that.
So yeah, definitely feel like there is some work to do to get back to the level that I think I can race at: I've got to get more intimate with staircases and XC skis.

A couple of weeks later was the Vert 180, rescheduled after being postponed in December due to cold weather. Normally this race is a great time to work on transitions and get 3hrs of hard effort to kick off the season. Now moved to the end of the season, where my mind was craving spring skiing and rest and I had no reason to practice transition skills that I would not need for 9 months, I was not terribly motivated.

But with the sun shining, soft snow, and my sleeves rolled up, I actually enjoyed racing on last time this season. We bombed down the slalom pitch which got icier and icier as the night progressed. I settled into 2nd position. Travis was untouchable, not even a broken boot cable and stopping to fetch a Voile strap could allow me to reel him in. The course got faster as the night approached and the snow froze. I felt like I was able to maintain a good cadence the whole time and so I can say that I had a lot more fun than I thought that I would have.

So a great season capped off. I've got my work cut out for me if I want to hang with the lead group next year!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Mistaya Week!

In February of last year, I made a short compilation out of the best clips that I had gotten up to that point. At that point, I was well into E-SKIMO episode 8 and I had lots of great video to chose from. I ended up winning Backcountry Lodges of British Columbia Association's monthly prize, a week at Mistaya Lodge!

Fast forward to earlier this month and I was pumped, and although the average age of that week's clients would exceed 55 as estimated  by the lodge manager, the weather was looking good. Weather-wise, I picked the perfect week. After a week of frigid weather, the skies opened up and it snowed almost 1m of snow while I was there!

On Sunday the fly-in day, I was a little hungover and I knew I had to bring my 'A' game if I was to sit shotgun in the helicopter for my first ever ride. Fortunately the flight went fairly smoothly, but with some clouds obscuring views of the high peaks of the Freshfields and Mt. Forbes. Mistaya Lodge is just on the other side of the divide from Peyto Hut, in fact it is not uncommon for motivated groups to exit to Bow Lake over the Trapper-Baker col.

Upon arriving at the lodge, I was hit full force with the smell of warm cinnamon buns, in a warm, spacious lodge complete with composting toilets and 4 person bedrooms. A definite step up from the ACC huts.

Delicious breakfasts preceeded days of skiing deep snow that had refilled skintracks intertwined with digging into our lunch bags for home baked goodies, then followed by tasty apetizers, sauna time, massive dinners, and sweet deserts.

We explored zones like Heather Ridge, Mista Vista, Leprechauns, Wildcat Moraines, Grindal Moraines, Red Cliff, Mohawk Ridge, the Abyss, the Waterfall, Shroom Room, Sarah's, and Leah's Lane. Runs below the lodge (Shroom Room, Sarah's, Leah's) were definitely the highlight of the week as they were full of partially submerged boulders where we could bounce over the pillows.

I really enjoyed the skiing, and I found that lodge owner, Dave, and assistant guide Ken had an excellent handle on the area and were able to get us into some fun terrain even during elevated avalanche danger.

I found the guided pace to be almost excruciatingly slow. There were probably some of the best ski conditions that I would find all year (comparable to Valemount), but collectively, we just didn't have the speed, endurance, or quick transitions required to make the most of it. A couple of days into the week, I resorted to breaking my own trail to keep things interesting for me. There was a 6-4 split of slower skiers to "better" skiers, and there were days where we skied as a 10 person group!

Cave at the top of Sarah's

Spacious lodge

After my first heli ride. shot gun!

Skiing to the Shroom Room. I would get to punch this track in on Friday!

Pillows everywhere in the Shroom Room.

Leah's Lane funnels into an avalanche path, very much like a ski run at the hill.

Awesome glacier runs would certainly be a highlight if the weather, group abililty, and stability stars align.

My handiwork. A new track every lap!

Sky cleared up so we could fly home and what did we see!

It does snow in the rockies!
The food and terrain knowledge of the guides has made me a believer in the catered and guided experience, but I think it is important to roll up with at least half the lodge consisting of shredder buddies to make the most out the skiing experience! Or I should check out Selkirk Mountain Experience or CAPOW's Fit and Furious week.

Coldsmoke ROAM Rally

This one was interesting. With both HWY's 3 and 3a scheduled to be shut down on our travel day, we opted to instead head to Nelson via Revelstoke, and unknown route for me, but an excellent adventure.

"3 BONErs is enough for today"
We stopped at a small ski hill just outside of Nakusp with the intent of skiing a couple of laps to keep the legs from getting too stiff. We skied up and down an untracked run on the far side of the ski hill...until we got kicked off! Apparently the run was closed, and an obviously annoyed patroller wanted us to pay to continue to ski there. And she was not impressed that we were from Alberta. Supply of BC bud must be tight! Is Summit Lake on public land? I guess it's better to ask for permission than to beg for forgiveness and we rolled out. Anyways, those were my first real runs on the Gignouxs, they skied awesome, I was stoked to race in them!

Logs coming across one way, logs heading back the other. I guess they are probably 2 different types of wood.

Lots of ski lines visible from the ferry.
At the meeting, we were presented with a course that would avoid the corniced ridgeline skiing and skins-on descents of previous years. And there were lots of big guns attending (except for Nick Elson). Giddy-up!

It was cold the next morning and it took a while for everyone to get lined up so I was freezing in my skinsuit! I got my trademark fast start, but lost some places where the track steepened after leaving the groomed run. I skied the next descents well and enjoyed the climb up to the aesthetic bootpack. Things unraveled when I lost the flags on the 2nd to last descent, skied by the unmanned checkpoint and lost some time (but caught the guys in front of me, who also got lost) skinning up then descending back down to the checkpoint once we finally found it.

Fortunately that extra transition didn't lead to any skin failure issues as I was prepared with my secret weapon but knowing that the people who I had put some time into at the top of climb #4 were now well ahead of me, I mentally shut down, and went into "get to the finish mode". I ended up 7th whereas I was sitting in 5th before that mishap. Fortunately, I snagged a good draw prize from ROAM for my troubles!
Gignouxs. Enough to drive some 187 G3 Districts. Note the G3 ion binding. The toepieces did not play well with the Gignouxs.
On the way home, we stopped at Kootenay pass for a couple laps in the Baldy rocks area. We enjoyed our day, but that enjoyment was short lived after we arrived home and learned that there had been a fatality on the adjacent Lightning Ridge. So sad.