Saturday, April 30, 2011

Closing out April - Siberian Style!

About 1/2 mile from the Indiana Creek trailhead.
No tracks, breaking trail - we would not encounter
any tracks for the next 7.5 miles and we'd be breaking
trail in up to 18 inches of powder! 
What a wild April! Miles skijored in the month of April = 72.8; miles breaking trail in 6+ inches of powder = 58.2 - that means serious trail breaking exercise 80% of the month!!!

Max, Zorro & I closed out April doing a 9.6 mile tour from the Indiana Creek winter trailhead; out & up to Boreas Pass Rd; and then down to the Boreas winter trailhead. After the first 1/2 mile, we were breaking trail in 6+ inches of powder. This continued for the next 7.5 miles reaching up to 18 inches of powder at times! The last 1.5 miles had us on packed powder trails and the Siberian Engines had enough juice left in the tank to hit 16 MPH on this final sprint leg!

Highlight of the outing: NO DUCKS. When a typical cross country skier encounters steep or steep-and-deep uphill terrain, the skiing form is to fan your ski tips outward and do a "duck walk" like motion to propel yourself upward without slipping downhill. Max, Zorro & I have an agreement: I will never "duck walk" - all steep and steep/deep uphill terrain will be conquered with parallel skis and pure Siberian power...

In the upper portion of Indiana Creek we hit a steep section of trail where the powder was deeper than Zorro's shoulders (about 18 inches or so) and extends on a very serious grade for about 100 yards. A few yards into this section and I felt my skis slipping backward and saw Max & Zorro starting to slide backwards as well. No Duck Walking!!! I planted my ski poles to anchor us and called out to Max, "Ok Max, let's go - come on, forward, let's go!" Max is the lead dog in our configuration (e.g., the listener) and Max is also the stronger of the two. Zorro, though, has no backdown in his personality, if he sees Max exerting himself he is going to try and "one up" him - thus giving us a powerful V8 engine combining the 2 of them.... Lift my poles a little and feel the backward slip starting again... "Let's go Max - come on Max, let's go Zorro" - see Max plant his legs, lean forward with his shoulders and feel a forward slide... Zorro immediately tries to "one up" Max and I feel a little more forward slide. "Woooo, good forward Max, good forward Zorro!" We then proceed to power up this 100 yard steep incline while breaking trail in 18ish inches of powder and my skis remain parallel! Woo Hoo! What Siberian Power!

We had about 3 episodes like the one above - steep inclines that normally cause us no problems on this trail, but throw in 12-18 inches of powder and we needed some real Siberian energy to power up these inclines with the human's skis remaining parallel (and apt to slide backwards at the slightest loss of momentum). What good boys! It is moments like these that have me addicted to skijoring with Max and Zorro.

Vital Stats: 9.6 miles; 2h 25m total time; 2h moving time; 4.8 MPH moving average; 16 MPH top speed; 1300 feet of elevation gain (and loss); breaking trail in up to 18 inches of powder!
On Boreas Pass Rd - a look back at the trail we ascended out of
Indiana Creek to connect with Boreas.
On Boreas Pass Rd - looking at the direction we will break trail down.
You cannot see it, but there really is a trail Max & Zorro know how to
follow. It was head down and skijoring straight into a growing wind
and increasing snow for the next 1-2 miles until we got back into the
protection of trees.
Max & Zorro sharing a snowcone before we start down Boreas Pass Rd.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Late April and Breaking Trail in 6-12 inches!

Midway up French Gulch - breaking trail in
6 to 12 inches of fresh powder!
It has been a wild and snowy end of April in Breckenridge - snowing at least an inch or two daily for at least a week straight. A good storm blew in Monday night, continued snowing all day Tuesday and left Max, Zorro & I with an amazing amount of fresh "April powder" to plow through Wed morning!

We found ourselves breaking trail in 6 to 12 inches of fresh powder for 2/3 of our outing today! Factor in the "spring effect" (heavier snow than in winter) and this was quite the Siberian workout - what a BLAST!

The Route: (1) start at BnB trailhead and skijor up French Gulch Rd to the French Gulch winter trailhead (2-4 inches of powder); (2) continue onto the French Gulch trail and skijor up about a mile to the forest service gate (4-6 inches of powder); (3) continue onward/upward to the last private cabin in the gulch (6-12 inches of powder). Take a short break at the last cabin and return down - it was still snowing, it was deep and we were the only tracks - so we were breaking trail most of the return route as well. When you are under 2 feet tall, this is the definition of a real trail breaking, powder plowing workout - a Siberian Dream!

Vital Stats: 7.2 miles; 95m total time; 85m moving time; 5.1 MPH moving average; 15 MPH top speed; 550 feet of elevation gain (and loss). Pretty good stats when you consider breaking trail in 6-12 inches for 2/3 of the route...
No tracks + deepening powder = FUN Siberian Workout!
Taking a short break - Max in "front leg deep" fresh powder.
Zorro has dug himself a nice little trench in the snow.
Notice the "snow wall" just behind his head - his trench is about
shoulder high.
Zorro digging a tunnel under my ski. Why dig a tunnel? Because you
can! (Zorro's motto ;-)
On the return approach to the French Gulch winter trailhead.
Happy husky faces, happy husky bodies, HAPPY HUSKIES!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Skijoring the Ski Resort

Cruising up Four O'clock Run on Breck Ski Resort
It has become an annual tradition for Max, Zorro and I: the day after Breckenridge Ski Resort closes for the season, we set out to Skijor the Ski Resort!

Closing day for Breck was April 24th, so the morning of the 25th found us setting out to tour the mountain. Who needs those silly chair lifts to enjoy the ski resort when you have Siberians to power you uphill!

Remember now... A ski resort is designed for downhill skiing. Siberian Huskies are designed for full throttle sprinting. Humans are not designed for reckless abandon. Something had to give...

Our Route: We started on the Four O'clock Ski Run at the base of the Snowflake Lift; skijored up Four O'clock run until intersecting with the top of 5-Chair: climbing 1050 feet in 1.6 miles - a 12% grade in 29 minutes! Take a break at 5-Chair and then skijor down the Swinger Ski Run to the base of Peak 8: descending 800 feet in 1.2 miles - a 13% grade in 7 minutes!

As we started down Swinger, Max & Zorro said (and did), "Oh boy - downhill - full throttle, reckless abandon - let's SPRINT straight down!!!!" Stop... Team organization meeting, let's rethink our approach to this downhill section. I offered a great idea, "Let's ski on diagonal sweeps across the ski run - swing to the right, swing to the left, wouldn't that be fun?" Ok, restart and try a sweeping angle to the right, perfect, now a sweep to the left - Zorro says, "Boring... Think I'll bite and tackle Max!" Stop... One more team organization meeting to explain that I am not capable of sprinting straight down a ski run at reckless abandon. Ok, sweep to the left, call out "right turn", perfect form and sweep to the right, call out "left turn", perfect form and sweep to the left - this is working!!! Repeat the left/right wide sweeps and calls to turn for the next 1.2 miles without a single issue! Fun, Fun, Fun - what perfect Siberian pals. We got some good speed going with the left/right sweeps and Max & Zorro seemed to realize, "Hey, we are going fast, these turns are kinda fun!" Thank you, what GOOD, listening boys!!!

Vital Stats: 2.8 miles (1.6 up/1.2 down); 42m total time; 36m moving time (29 up, 7 down); 4.7 MPH moving average; 16 MPH top speed; 1050 feet ascent, 800 feet descent. Chair lifts are for wimps - so says Max & Zorro ;-)
Starting out to skijor up Four O'clock Run. Note the parallel skis
on uphill terrain - powered by Siberians!
Couple of yards up from the last shot, making a left to head
out onward & upward.
Taking a break where Four O'clock run intersects with the top of 5-Chair.
Swinger is the run we chose to take down.
A look at the path we will take down. A little Siberian cooperation and we did
perfect sweeps left & right to cut diagonally across the run all the way down.
Before we started down, Max says, "Whew! We towed you up 1050 feet in 1.6 miles,
I need to roll around in the snow and cool off!"

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Moving Average: 7.6 MPH!!

Note the "break" in the snow to the right of Max & Zorro.
French Creek is just below the snow here. As we were
approaching, the snow gave way and created a sinkhole
into the creek. I just happened to have the camera out
as this happened! Notice Max scooting to the left, "Whoa,
where'd that sinkhole come from?!!?"
Max, Zorro & I did a short tour in French Gulch Saturday morning. The highlight: we maintained a 7.6 MPH moving average for the duration of this skijoring outing!

If you have read our recent posts, our last few tours have been strenuous outings - combining distance, snow depth and extreme conditions. So, I decided to reward everyone with a short sprint outing today.

French Gulch is the perfect trail for this goal when the conditions are right. The right conditions: (1) inclined, but not too steep for the human to lose control (French Gulch rises 700 feet over 3.3 miles - a gentle 4% grade); (2) 2-4 inches of fresh powder to give the human a little friction to keep under control; and (3) hard packed trail under the fresh powder to keep the human stable on the trail. Yes, the criteria for "right conditions" are all a function of the silly human - the right conditions for the Siberians: snow (any amount, any type, any trail ;-)

French Gulch was in perfect condition for the human to "skijor sprint" with the Siberians today! The result: a 7.6 MPH moving average as we sprinted up from the French Gulch winter trailhead to the last meadow in the gulch and back. FUN!!!!

What did Max & Zorro think of my rewarding short sprint route? "Geeeez Dad, if you'd told us we were going out for only 6.6 miles, we would have really SPRINTED! Yawn, how's a husky supposed to get any exercise around this joint!"

Vital Stats: 6.6 miles; 60m total time; 52m moving time; 7.6 MPH moving average; 19 MPH top speed; 700 feet of elevation gain (and loss).
Cruising across the last open meadow in French Gulch.
Rolling around in the snow before turning around and heading back
to the French Gulch winter trailhead.
A look back at our tracks & path up French Gulch.
2-4 inches of powder over a packed trail with moderate incline = the recipe
for maintaining a 7.6 MPH moving average!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

350 - miles, rabbits, pounds...

Cruising up Indiana Creek. Fun, tight trail weaving
through the trees.
We surpassed 350 miles skijoring for the season today!

We encountered (at least) 350 rabbit tracks on the trail & crossing the trail all day long. Active day for the snowshoe hares!

Not sure which of these events was more impressive. The guy with 2 legs on skis was pretty impressed at passing the 350 mile mark. The guys with 4 legs were more impressed by the number of rabbit tracks on the trails today. Once I started counting the tracks, I got to 350 before we were done (and there was probably 100 or more before I started counting).

We did one of our favorite routes today: start at the Indiana Creek winter trailhead; tour up & about in Indiana Creek until connecting with Boreas Pass Rd; skijor down Boreas Pass Rd to the Boreas winter trailhead.

I skijor with a very "sticky" set of cross country skis. This is usually a good equipment choice as it is highly advisable to have a ski that can help you keep speeds under control when you are attached to two Siberian Sprinters. We had a very heavy, wet & sticky snowfall on Tuesday that was fresh on the trails for us Wed morning. Sticky skis + heavy/sticky snow = STUCK :-)  Seriously, it was quite the exercise event (for all 3 of us) to keep my skis going on the trails today. A few times the stickiness between the skis and snow was so much that I had to high step jog (while on skis) to keep going with Max & Zorro. When the skis were gliding, it was still a rough surface requiring a lot of husky pulling and human pushing. Max & Zorro must have thought I weighed 350 pounds today with the stickiness they were pulling against!

The sheer volume of snowshoe hare tracks was truly amazing. They were crisscrossing across the trails all day - on both Indiana Creek and Boreas Pass. They would occasionally go along the trail for a short stretch before diving off into the trees again. I started counting the tracks halfway up Indiana Creek as a joke - I could not believe it when I surpassed 350 tracks on our way down Boreas!

Vital Stats: 8.9 miles; 2h 25m total time; 2h moving time; 4.5 MPH moving average; 12 MPH top speed; 1,200 feet of elevation gain (and loss). Like I said, very rough & sticky conditions - tough to get your speeds up when the skis won't glide!
Snowshoe hare tracks - you cannot believe how many of these tracks were
on the trails today! 
Max & Zorro inspecting some rabbit tracks. To the right (going between the
2 trees) you can see a ton of snowshoe hare prints in the snow.
Normally we do not stop to sniff tracks; but I needed a breather from
skiing in the heavy snow, so I let Max & Zorro enjoy some snowshoe prints.
Taking a break after we climbed out of Indiana Creek and onto Boreas Pass Rd.
This is a picture of our path down Boreas. As you can see - zero tracks, it was
up to Max & Zorro to power the human down this sticky trail.
Max & Zorro, "Whew! That human was quite a haul uphill today!
Must roll around in the snow to cool off before starting down."

Sunday, April 17, 2011

On Fire!

Max rolling around in the snow.
"Never been so hot, never been so hot! I am on FIRE!"
It was snowing (ever so slightly) off & on most of Saturday. This led Max, Zorro and I to skijor up into the backcountry Sunday morning - hoping the higher elevations got some better snow...

It was 42 degrees when we left the trailhead around 9am - mostly cloudy with a little sun breaking through occasionally. Even though we were ascending up over 1,000 feet, the day was growing so the temps remained over 40 our entire route.

40+ degrees and we are skijoring?!?!! Whose bright idea was this??? We think this is the hottest temperature EVER experienced by 2 Siberian Huskies! Global Warming! What was that you said? "forward/faster"? Ok, we cannot resist, but you realize this is the hottest day ever! 

The previous paragraph was brought to you by Max & Zorro. They both have "Siberian Summer Blockout Disorder" and refuse to believe they have every exercised when over 40 degrees - until today! Despite the record heat (according to them) we did an 8.5 mile skijoring tour. Given the temperatures, the trails were slushy & mushy in many areas - we maintained an impressive 6 MPH moving average through this heat wave and wet/sticky skiing terrain...

The Route: Indiana Creek winter trailhead; up Indiana Creek until connecting with Boreas Pass Rd; down Boreas Pass Rd to the Boreas winter trailhead. Nearing the Boreas trailhead, there are two sections of trail with high "canyon walls" on both sides - meaning not much snow collects on these 2 patches. With the recent temperatures and not much new snow, both of these sections were down to dirt. I had to remove my skis and walk across these two areas. The life of "spring skiing" conditions...

Vital Stats: 8.5 miles; 1h 45m total time; 1h 25m moving time; 6 MPH moving average (in slushy/sticky conditions!); 16 MPH top speed; 1,100 feet of elevation gain (and loss).
Cruising up the lower sections of Indiana Creek.
Although there are "no tracks", the trail is easy to see ascending up through the trees.
On Boreas Pass Rd taking a short break.
A look back at the path we skijored up & out of Indiana Creek.
Frisky Zorro - preparing to pounce on Max.
He may look innocent in this shot; but he's got mischief all over his face
and "prepare to pounce" in back legs ;-)
Zorro pounce successful. Max saying, "try that again and I'll FLATTEN you kid!"
Cruising past Nancy as we sprint towards the Boreas winter trailhead.
Notice the airborne, flying feet on the siberians!
Back home and recovering from sprinting 8.5 miles through slushy/sticky snow in the
hottest temperature ever seen by a Siberian Husky...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Spring Powder Workout

Intersection of Sally Barber trail with French
Gulch trail. About to restart after a slight equipment
adjustment for the human. Max says, "Conditions
are GREAT! Let's GO!!!!"
Wednesday night brought the beginning of a nice Spring snowstorm. Thursday morning found the snow continuing & increasing! Powder day - Max, Zorro & I hit the trails for some skijoring.

The snow was a heavy, wet Spring snow. The depth ranged from 2-8 inches. Moving your body (4 legged or ski legged) through the heavy snow, while breaking trail, is quite the Siberian workout - WOO!

First Section: starting at the Barney Ford trailhead and skiing up to Sally Barber Mine and then down to French Gulch. One set of existing tracks on the way up, breaking trail on the way down, 2-6 inches of heavy, wet powder. FUN!

Second Section: connect with the French Gulch trail after descending from Sally Barber Mine - hang a right and head out & up to the last private cabin in the gulch. Take a break (for the human) and return back down the gulch to the French Gulch winter trailhead. No existing tracks after the first 1/4 mile up the gulch - breaking trail in 4-8 inches of heavy, wet powder. Snowing/blowing hard enough that our "up tracks" were covered almost as soon as we started down - breaking trail again in 4-8 inches of heavy, wet powder. MORE FUN! What a workout.

It is hard to imagine this is the same "French Gulch trail" that left me beaten and battered just 8 days ago. What a difference a little fresh powder has on the dynamics of skijoring!

Vital Stats: 8.0 miles; 2h total time; 1h 40m moving time; 4.8 MPH moving average (while breaking trail in 4-8 inches of heavy, wet snow); 14 MPH top speed; 1,300 feet of elevation gain (and loss).
Beginning the serious part of French Gulch - zero tracks in front of us.
Breaking trail in 4-8 inches of heavy, wet snow.
A glance at the "trail" in front of us. Good thing Max & Zorro instinctually
know how to identify and follow a buried trail :-)
A look back at our tracks from our turnaround point in French Gulch.
About 5 minutes into the return route and our "up tracks" were already
covered in fresh/blowing snow - so it was breaking trail down too!
Still at our turnaround point. Zorro says, "Hold on a sec, I think there
is a Siberian treasure buried in the snow right here!"
Back home and a "zonked out" Max. Spring Powder is quite the Siberian Workout!!!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Exploring Pennsylvania Creek

Navigating some tight curves through the trees in
upper Pennsylvania Creek. The camera could not
stay out long - the human had to turn & duck tree limbs.
It was supposed to snow 6 inches Saturday night but we only got about 2 - boo!

But, do not waste any powder in Spring - so to the backcountry Max, Zorro & I headed on Sunday morning.

Our plan was to start at the Indiana Creek winter trailhead, start up Indiana Creek and then hang a right onto the Pennsylvania Creek trail. In theory you can ascend up Pennsylvania Creek, then wrap around the mountain near the top and connect back down into Indiana Creek for a return route. We have never skijored Pennsylvania Creek, only hiked it in the summer. So this was an exploratory outing for the 3 of us.

What Happened: We did the heavily wooded Pennsylvania Creek ascent just fine. At around 11,100 feet you need to break from the main trail and go out & up another 400-500 feet (rising above tree line) before wrapping around the peak and heading back down into Indiana Creek. We broke from the main trail as planned and skijored up above tree line - nearing the peak. On the approach (above tree line), the wind really started to pick up. We had active snowfall plus blowing snow - my visibility dropped to about 20 feet. As we rounded the peak (planning to start the descent), my visibility was 15-20 feet and my Siberian pair said, "Are we starting downhill - woooo, crank up the speed - GO!" Limited visibility + steep downhill + Siberian turbo engines + unknown terrain = we turned around and headed back the path we came up. Yes, I chickened out (according to Max & Zorro) and we headed back down the same route we took up. It was still a ton of fun and Max & Zorro quickly got over the return route letdown and happily cruised down Pennsylvania Creek.

Vital Stats: 6.7 miles; 2h 10m total time; 1h 40m moving time; 4 MPH moving average; 16 MPH top speed; 1,500 feet of elevation gain (and loss). Certainly not one of our faster outings - but we were exploring uncharted territory and frequently stopping or slowing to assess the terrain & most probable path.
More weaving through the trees as we search for the route to the peak.
Taking a break before heading back down the main Pennsylvania Creek trail.
Zorro says, "Break?!? Who needs a break, think I'll dig to China!"
Max says, "Why do we keep stopping and staring at that silly GPS? Just
follow ME!"
The trail (or lack thereof) as we left the main Pennsylvania Creek trail and
headed upwards & onwards to ascend above tree line to the peak.
The GPS said "turn here" - so did Max & Zorro - so off we went ;-)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Good, The Bad & The UGLY

Coming down French Gulch.
Skiing "in the rough" off the trail to
avoid getting locked into an ice chute
on the trail.
Wednesday found us skijoring the Good, the Bad & the UGLY in French Gulch...

Background: it has not snowed since Sunday and weather has been "spring like" (highs in the upper 30s/mid 40s, lows in the 10s/20s). So, the trails have been melting in afternoons and then freezing overnight.

THE GOOD: We skijored up French Gulch in record time. 2.6 miles up 600 feet of elevation gain in just 25 minutes - a 6.24 MPH uphill moving average!

THE BAD: Snowmobiles had been all over the French Gulch trail the last few days. The problem this presents: a heavy snowmobile's front skis make deep "ski tracks" in the afternoon slush that then freeze into 3-5 inch deep "ice chutes" overnight. Try skijoring down a skinny trail (like French Gulch) that has been overrun with 4 inch deep ice chutes and ... if your ski catches a chute, it locks into the chute and you are now a trapped & frictionless device attached to 2 sprinting Siberian Huskies! Seriously, getting your one ski out of the chute requires putting all your weight on your other leg in a snowplow position and then trying/praying/hoping the weightless chute leg can pop out of the trap - all of this while being propelled by 2 Siberian engines who think, "what great conditions, let's try for 30 MPH!" As a result, I spent most of the down route in an extreme snowplow trying (and not always succeeding) to stay out of the ice chutes - a slow 25 minutes down 600 feet over 2.6 miles.

THE UGLY: In full skijoring sprint ... my left ski gets trapped in an ice chute ... throw my weight to my right leg and watch it catch into an ice chute before I can react. Both skis in an ice chute, the Siberian engine is accelerating, OH NO - right turn ahead.... BAM - fly off the trail and face plant into the thin layer of ice covering the deep snow. The damage: (1) busted, bleeding lower lip; (2) scratched, bleeding nose; (3) scratched, bleeding left cheek. Ow... But, on the bright side, this was my first injury of the season - not bad...

Vital Stats: 5.2 miles; 75 minutes total time; 50 minutes moving time; 6.2 MPH moving average; 18 MPH top speed; 600 feet of elevation gain (and then loss). 25 minutes of "stopped time" you ask (so did Max & Zorro ;-) - realigning my nose after the face plant plus 2 episodes of stupid loose dogs no where near their owners equals 25 minutes of down time...

The pictures: Sorry, no uphill pictures - flying uphill at 6.24 MPH does not leave you with a free hand to get the camera out. Sorry, no downhill pictures - holding on for dear life while dodging ice chutes does not leave you with a free hand to get the camera out.
Max, after sprinting uphill, "So hot, must roll around in the snow!"
Zorro, "SO HOT, must roll around in the snow in the shade!"
Max, "Really, is it cooler in the shade? I'll wiggle and roll that way!"

Monday, April 4, 2011

Wind Beaten

Max says, "I'm soooo hot - 10 degrees and 20-40 mph
winds, need to cool off!"
It snowed most of the day Sunday - so Max, Zorro & I hit the backcountry Monday morning to skijor in fresh powder.

The route was Indiana Creek winter trailhead up to Boreas Pass Rd and down to the Boreas winter trailhead. The last 1/2 mile of the up route and first 1/2 mile of the down route is above tree line. The temperature was around 10 degrees and the wind was blowing at a constant 20 MPH with gusts in the 40 MPH range for this 1 mile stretch above tree line.

This may be the coldest I ever felt in my life! I was wearing my midweight gloves and both pinkies froze solid during this stretch. I contemplated changing into my heavyweight gloves, but that required two things: (1) stopping (BRRRR); and (2) taking my gloves off to put the new ones on (DOUBLE BRRRRRR)! So the 3 of us sprinted to get below tree line. Phew - once below tree line the wind was not as strong and the pinkies of my gloves started to thaw. Were Max & Zorro cold, you ask? Ha! No - see the picture above of Max rolling around to cool off in the "husky hot" 10 degrees and 20-40 mph winds!

The Conditions: (1) Existing tracks for the first 1/2 mile. (2) Zero tracks the next 7 miles breaking trail in 4-9 inches of fresh powder! (3) Existing tracks the final 1.8 miles to the Boreas trailhead. That 7 mile stretch of breaking trail was a real Siberian workout...

Vital Stats: 9.3 miles; 2h 15m total time; 2h moving time; 4.7 MPH moving average; 16 MPH top speed; 1,200 feet of elevation gain (and then loss). Not a bad moving average given that we were breaking trail for 7 miles in 4-9 inches.
Lower section of Indiana Creek. We just skied past the only other person
on the trails - it's trail breaking for the next 7 miles - wooo, fun!
As they say - if you aren't the lead dog the view never changes - fluffy white butts ;-)
A look back at the path we ascended out of Indiana Creek and onto Boreas Pass Rd.
The "haze" in the picture is blowing snow. Where are our "fresh tracks" you ask?
Well, our tracks are already covered in wind blown snow - it took less than 5 minutes
for all evidence of our path to be blown over and invisible!