Saturday, February 26, 2011

Look Out For That...

Cruising up French Gulch - in between team
organization meetings and/or fox hunting,
depends who you ask...
The highlight of Saturday's skijor outing should have been surpassing 200 miles on the season.

The real highlight of Saturday's skijor outing was, "Look out for that FOX!" - as a silly red fox popped on the cross country trail less than 10 feet in front of us, sprinted a few feet up the trail and then shot off the trail.

What do Max & Zorro think of a fox on the trail, you ask... "FOOOOOOD! MUST CATCH! MUST CATCH!" I am not sure if I really went airborne after they bolted towards the fox; but I sure felt like I was airborne! The fox incident lead to 3 states of affair: (1) I had two "super juiced" Siberian Huskies on the hunt for the rest of the day; (2) we had many "team organization meetings" to discuss the objective of skijoring as opposed the objective of hunting foxes; (3) my partners were possessed and I was determined to re-establish myself as pack leader at all costs (thus the team organization meetings ;-)

Despite the "fox possessed" Siberian pair, it was a fun & fast tour up French Gulch and to Sally Barber Mine.

The Route: Reiling Dredge trailhead up French Gulch Rd to & past the French Gulch winter trailhead; up French Gulch to the last private cabin in the gulch; sprint back down French Gulch to the Sally Barber Mine trail; up to Sally Barber Mine; sprint down to the Barney Ford trailhead.

Vital Stats: 8.7 miles (surpassing 200 for the season!); 1h 45m total time; 1h 25m moving time; 6.15 MPH moving average; 21 MPH top speed.

You read that right - an impressive 6.15 MPH moving average (especially given the elevation gains) and an impressive 21 MPH top speed! But, a surprising 20 minutes of "idle time" - did I mention our need for frequent team organization meetings to discuss skijoring over fox hunting????
Taking a break at the last private cabin in French Gulch.
Max & Zorro are convinced the fox MUST be under the snow here!
Nice shot from Sally Barber Mine looking over French Gulch.
Closeup of Sally Barber Mine.
Max raising his nose - "where'd that fox go?"
Zorro digging to China - "maybe the fox is under the snow here!?!!"

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

An Indiana Creek/Boreas Tour

A little "head dunking in the snow" as we connected from Indiana
Creek onto Boreas Pass Rd
Following up on Saturday's 13.5 mile adventure - Wednesday found us doing a mild 8.2 mile skijor tour.

The Route: Indiana Creek winter trailhead up Indiana Creek; to & past the Dyersville junction and up to Boreas Pass Rd; hang a left and sprint down Boreas Pass Rd to the Boreas winter trailhead.

The Conditions: (1) packed from the Indiana Creek trailhead to the Pennsylvania Creek junction; (2) 2-3 inches of powder to the Dyersville junction; (3) increasing powder to 1 foot from Dyersville to Boreas; (4) packed powder to packed down Boreas Pass Rd.

Vital Stats: 8.2 miles; 105 minutes total; 90 minutes moving time; 5.5 MPH moving average; 16 MPH top speed.

The Siberians: "these 8-9 mile tours are getting too easy - bring on the 15 mile tours!"
Connecting with Boreas Pass Rd. A look to the right, up Boreas Pass.
Connecting with Boreas Pass Rd. A look to the left - our "down route".
Taking a break before we started down Boreas: conducting a "taste test" of the snow ;-)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Skijoring vs Cross Country Skiing...

Cruising up upper, wind-blown Boreas - about 1-2 miles
from the Summit. Zorro, looking back, says, "Hey deadweight -
I thought I felt you slacking! Stop taking pictures, put that
camera away and drive your poles with us!"
On Saturday Max, Zorro & I did our furthest outing of the season: 13.5 miles of skijoring fun!

We skied ~6.75 miles (& 1,300 feet of elevation) up Boreas Pass Rd to Section House, at the Boreas Summit, and then back down the same route. Section House is one of the backcountry huts in Colorado that offers overnight lodging for the backcountry ski enthusiasts.

I am often asked what is the difference between Skijoring with Siberian Huskies and traditional Cross Country Skiing. Yesterday's route sums it up:
  1. The route up Boreas Pass Rd to Section House is rated as a 4-5 hour cross country ski tour. Max, Zorro & I did the up section in 1.5 hours!
  2. Many people find the need to bunk at Section House for the night to rest before taking one of the "down routes" the next day. When we reached the summit, I was snapping photos and changing some of my gear - after about 7 minutes of "break", Max & Zorro broke out into a full wrestling match. 7 minute break and they were restless and ready for more, so we started back down!
How best to summarize Skijoring with Siberians vs Cross Country Skiing.... relentless, endless & quickness - hang on! ;-)

Vital Stats: 13.5 miles; 2h 47m total time; 2h 30m moving time; 5.5 MPH moving average; 12 MPH top speed.

Yes, only 17 minutes of "stopped time" on this long tour: (1) 7m break at the summit; (2) 4m getting the stupid human out of chest deep powder after he made a "skiing mistake" and flew off the packed trail; (3) 6m of dealing with 8 different sets of loose dogs on Boreas.

Yes, a mild max speed of 12 MPH - not much sprinting, just 2.5 hours of constant Siberian cruising!
At the Boreas Summit - looking to our left at Section House.
A bit windy, but beautiful blue skies... 
At Boreas Summit - looking to our right at a "railroad relic" from the days when Boreas Pass Rd was a train route.
This is a 180 from the previous "blue sky" shot - the skies show the storm that is headed our way!
Another shot from the Summit - looking backwards from where we took a break.
Max, at the Summit, rolling around in the snow to cool himself off.
A few minutes of this and he & Zorro were "full rested" and ready to go!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sprint & Plow in French Gulch

Max & Zorro breaking trail in the last of the open
meadows in French Gulch. Note the hard pack surface
to the snow - evident by their deep "foot/leg indentations"
without any "body indentations" you get in frech powder.
Wednesday found us skijoring 2 extremes in French Gulch...

A warm mid-February has found temperatures hitting the low 40s in Breckenridge for 3 days. No new snow, high daily temps, low nightly temps leads to FAST PACKED trails and hard packed backcountry...

The route: French Gulch winter trailhead; sprint up French Gulch to & past the last private cabin in the gulch; plow to & past the last open meadow in the gulch; start up the big incline as you leave the last meadow; (realize it's getting DEEP & STEEP, so turnaround); plow back to the last private cabin; and SPRINT back to the winter trailhead.

Leg 1 - French Gulch trailhead to the last private cabin in the gulch: this is a well-traveled stretch, so we had hard, fast packed trail conditions. Ready for a fun stat: this section of the route is about 5.1 miles - Max, Zorro and I spent a grand total of 45 minutes on this stretch (30 up, 15 down). That is a 6.8 MPH moving average! Wow!

Leg 2 - leave established tracks at the last private cabin and break trail through the meadows to the edge of the French Gulch meadows and back: This was an interesting stretch... No existing tracks, so we were breaking trail; but given the recent warming/cooling conditions, the top of the snow was a hard 1/4 to 1/2 inch of ice. So, with each step, your foot would pause then break ice and hit the powder hidden underneath. But, your belly would not break the top ice layer, so you would bounce back up and continue on with your foot/leg pushing, pausing and then sinking. This clearly had Max & Zorro really working hard and this 1.2 miles of "out & back" was a workout!

Leg 3 - SPRINT back down the gulch to the winter trailhead: hard packed, frictionless surface, 2 Siberian Huskies - what else can I say but, "FAST - wooo weeeee!".

Vital Stats: 6.3 miles; 85 minutes; 75 minutes moving time; 5 MPH moving average (but 6.8 for 80% of the route!); 19 MPH top speed.

Max says, "It's hot out, I need to dunk my head in the snow to cool off!"
(it was 34-36 degrees - Siberian Hot)
A look back from the edge of the last meadow in French Gulch.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Uphill Sprint, Whiteout Gusts, Downhill Anvil

Max says, "Look at the incline! Let's GOOOO!"
Saturday was an interesting skijor day (to put it mildly :-)

- Imagine sprinting up 10-14% uphill grades!
- Imagine 40-50 MPH whiteout gusts of wind!
- Imagine going 14 MPH in a FULL snowplow!
Imagine all 3 of these happening in the same skijor outing!!! Wow...

We returned to the backcountry trails leading to & from Crystal Lakes on Saturday. We did this same expert route back in early December - at that time I discovered Max & Zorro needed more practice to conquer such expert terrain. Well.... 2 months later and WOW - they were incredible, focused, Siberian machines! I was the intermediate and they were the experts. We've skijored the same trails/terrain this winter and I am still advancing out of intermediate whereas Max & Zorro have advanced to extreme expert levels!

It was a very interesting day of mixed terrain and conditions - the highlights:

Leg 1 - Spruce Creek Trailhead to Francies Cabin: packed to packed powder. We took the Crystal Lakes Road path and were at Francies Cabin in about 30 minutes. To truly appreciate this feat you must understand that this section of trail rises over 1000 feet in about 1.9 miles - that is an average of 10% grade - cars have trouble ascending 10% grades! But it gets better... the route has a few gradual sections and even a couple of down dips - so, in my estimate, the steepest parts are easily a 15% grade. We FLEW up this section like racing professionals - I was in awe of my Siberian partners!

Leg 2 - Francies Cabin to Tree Line: 1-3 feet of untouched powder. Not a flinch in my pals - Max & Zorro powering up almost without notice of the depth!

Leg 3 - Tree Line to Lower Crystal Lake: as we approached and surpassed the tree line, the wind gusts started to really pick up. We were skiing head-on into the gusting wind. Each time a big gust blew it approached whiteout-like conditions with all the snow in the wind. Each time a big gust blew Max & Zorro dipped their heads, unphased, and trotted forward into the wind!

Incident 1 - Blown Over: just before reaching Lower Crystal Lake, we paused to readjust and survey the terrain. Max & Zorro were detached at the neck while I was adjusting my equipment (changing to warmer wind gear). I was kneeling over switching gear in my pack when a 40-50 MPH gust of intense blowing snow flew into us. I fell - blown over. Zorro (the smaller of Max/Zorro) was sliding across the slick, wind-blown surface when he hit the end of the gangline - allowing him to get his footing and crawl back to me. He curled at my side as the 2 of us hugged to ride out the whiteout. Max, you ask, well a 40+ "blizzard gust" only served to make him frisky - he was dancing up and down, trying to pull Zorro and I head-on into the direction of the gust! After recovering, getting our bearings and reassembling my pack I heard/saw another gust coming off the peak. I went straight to my knees to brace and Zorro hunkered down at my side again. This gust was even stronger than the first - I looked up to assess Max - I could not see him! The whiteout of the gust was so strong that I could not see Max only 7-8 feet in front of me; but I could feel him pulling on the gangline, once again wanting to take off into the gust and conquer it. Crazy Red Boy!

Leg 4 - the return route: as we started on the return route, a mild 30 MPH gust came up from behind. The wind gave me a boost on my skis and the crazy pair (Max & Zorro) took this as sign that I wanted to GO! Off we flew at extreme speed! What else to say about the down/return route... Remember the fun of sprinting up 10-15% grades? Well, what goes up must come down. I was in a full snowplow most of the way down, trying to keep under control as my extreme expert partners were saying, "Look at this incredible downgrade - wooo, let's FLY!" I now refer to them as the Downhill Anvil - I am just an anchor along for the ride :-)

Vital Stats: 5.8 miles; 2h 10m total; 90m moving time; 3.9 MPH moving average; 14 MPH top speed; over 2,000 feet in elevation gain (and then loss!). The large amount of stopped time was (1) crouching in 40-50 MPH whiteouts, waiting for a break; and (2) constant resting on the way down as my thighs were BURNING from trying to keep us going a sane & safe speed - crazy boys - what FUN!
Approaching Lower Crystal Lake (just over the next hump).
No, my camera is not "fuzzy" - the fuzz is blowing snow as we trekked into the wind abyss.
No, this is not 40 MPH gusts - no way I could even attempt to photograph during those!
Remember the "high point" of the peak in front of us....
Our return approach to the Spruce Creek Trailhead.
Take a glance at my right leg - my right ski is in "more than snowplow" position
as I try to keep the Downhill Anvil under control!
A shot from the town of Breckenridge looking up at Peaks 9 & 10 on the ski resort.
Remember the "peak point" from 2 images ago?
Well, that is the "Peak" labeled in this image!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

22 mph on the Breck "Groomed Road" System

Sprinting down the final homestretch.
We hit our top speed of the season today: 22 mph! Woohoo -we were FLYING!

Every once in a while you get a full days dump of snow (as happened Saturday) which leads to the following fun condition the next day:

The entire system of roads throughout Breckenridge become a network of "groomed ski trails." That is, the plows clear and pack the deep powder - transforming the roads into a condition akin to the trails you'd find at a well-groomed nordic center.

You have to hit the roads early & quick, before the sun can melt through to the dirt or asphalt and before the plows do any 2nd passes on the roads.

This is what Max, Zorro and I did today - skijored the streets of Breck as if the town was one large, well-groomed nordic center!

If you have followed our adventures of this season, you will note that I have never mentioned "well-groomed" or "nordic center" to date. Our usual skijor routes are strictly backcountry - today was a rare venture onto well prepped trails. The difference between skijoring a nordic center versus backcountry, you ask? Speed, Speed, and MORE Speed - nordic center conditions are a frictionless sprint track to my Siberian Husky pals!

The Route: Carter Park (in central/south Breckenridge) to Sunbeam Drive; cruise up Hermit Drive and connect to Goldflake Drive; sprint down Goldflake to Wellington Rd; cruise up Wellington to French Gulch Rd; cruise up French Gulch Rd to the French Gulch winter trailhead; (rest the human); SPRINT back down French Gulch Rd to Wellington; cruise back down Wellington to Royal Tiger; ski up Royal Tiger to Pine to Goldflake and reconnect with Hermit Drive; return Hermit/Sunbeam to Carter Park.

Vital Stats: 9.7 miles total; 1h 45m total time; 85 minutes moving time (we had to deal with the occasional cars, plows and loose dogs - leading to 20 minutes of non-moving time); 6.9 MPH moving average; 22 MPH top speed!

The only letdown: Wellington Rd had been "return plowed" for both of our stints on this road. That meant we had to take this stretch carefully - dodging the occasional asphalt/dirt/concrete patches (often skiing on one ski, holding the other off the ground until sufficient snow returned). Had Wellington been less plowed, we would have *easily* hit a moving average of well over 7 MPH - darn, that would have been cool!
Cruising up French Gulch Road.
Recently plowed over yesterdays' big dump of snow - turning the road into a "nordic center like" groomed trail.
Our return leg down French Gulch Road is where we hit 22 mph!!!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Deep Powder Day in Indiana Creek

About 1 mile into our route - about a foot of powder
and it only got deeper the rest of the route!
Notice no tracks/trail in front of us -
we were "blazing trail in 1-3 feet of powder"!
Woke up to some fresh (and still falling) powder this morning - this got Max, Zorro & I itching for the trails. Little did we know what had been developing an extra 1,000 to 2,000 feet in elevation (over our base elevation of 9600 ft) up in the neighboring wilderness!

Our plan: go enjoy 4-6 inches of powder in Indiana Creek (we had 3-4 inches at home).

The reality: after the first mile, we never saw powder less than 1 foot and it was up to 3 feet in places (remember Max & Zorro are under 2 feet tall - so these 3 foot areas were quite the exercise event)!!! After the first 1/4 mile, all previous tracks were invisible - we were blazing trail, in deepening powder, for most of the day! The snow was coming down so hard in Indiana Creek that our own "up trail" was invisible most of the return trip down! Wow - deep powder day in Indiana Creek!

The Route: Indiana Creek winter trailhead up Indiana Creek trail (powdered over existing tracks for the first 1/4 mile to the winter gate on the jeep trail); no tracks after the winter gate - increasingly deep powder from the winter gate to the Spruce Valley gun range; 1 foot of fresh powder after the gun range - it never got less than 1 foot the rest of the trip, hitting 3 feet in areas; continue up Indiana Creek towards Dyersville; take a break at the Indiana Creek/Dyersville junction; return back down the same route.

Vital Stats: 5.1 miles; 95m total time; 85m moving time; 3.6 MPH moving average; 12 MPH top speed. Remember 1-3 feet of fresh powder most of the route: Max & Zorro say, "You try moving your 'under 2 foot body' through this much powder faster than 3.6 MPH!"
Approaching the Dyersville junction. Snowing, snowing, snowing!
Zorro checking the conditions: head covered in snow, powder up to his mid-body - "perfect" he says ;-)
Max taking a break under a tree at our high/turnaround point.