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!

No comments:

Post a Comment