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

line of the Week
Icefields Parkway

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? (3rd and 2nd)

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)
XCX Marathon (Kettle cross, but at the Nordic Centre!) September 3

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!