Saturday, November 26, 2011

Mixed Bag of Situations

On the return approach to the Boreas trailhead.
Happy, smiling, cruising Huskies!
Today's skijor outing had quite the mixed bag of situations to maneuver through. Our plan was to skijor from the Boreas Pass winter trailhead up Boreas Pass Rd to the Boreas Summit and then return the same route - a nice 13-14 mile outing. We had some fresh snow fall last night and Max, Zorro & I were the first to the trailhead today - breaking trail and laying fresh tracks in (mostly) 3-5 inches of untouched powder all the way up to the summit! But, the following 4 "situations" lead to some interesting events on our outing...

1) Situation 1: Exposed terrain
We are still waiting for that Nov/Dec storm to dump 1+ feet of snow (all at once) and pave the backcountry trails for the rest of the season. As a result, we are still skiing "storm to storm" as we get 3-5 inch teasers. Unfortunately, Boreas Pass Rd has a few exposed areas that are subject to high winds. On the way up to the summit, we encountered two long sections that were so wind blown that the snow had been completely removed from the trail (along with 4 more sections with a very light layer over sheets of ice). I had to remove the skis and hike/jog up the trail over these 2 sections. I also had to make a mental note of the "sheet of ice" sections as I'd be re-encountering these on the way down at Siberian down speed!

2) Situation 2: Snow Physics
If the wind has blown to expose or leave less than an inch on parts of the trail - well, where does that snow go? Into snowdrifts, of course. The counterpart to "situation 1" - we encountered about 6 areas of prolonged snowdrifts 8-12 inches in depth (corresponding to the 6 areas of exposed terrain and sheets of ice). Snowdrifts are, of course, extremely fun for us to skijor through; but they do introduce some extra exercise to our 14 mile outing...

3) Situation 3: Extreme Cold
It was 2 degrees outside when we left the heavily wooded trailhead. Now, factor in that we skijored up 1600 feet to terrain above treeline with increasing winds. 2 degrees + 1600 feet up + above treeline + high winds == a windchill of probably 20-30 BELOW zero at the Boreas Summit. As we crested onto the summit, I could feel the bitter cold; so we skijored past the summit and a little ways down the backside until we found a group of trees to huddle next to. This represented our "break point" and I gave Max & Zorro their skijoring hotdog rewards at this point and changed into my warmest gear (oh did those warmer gloves feel GREAT!). We do not have many pictures for today's outing primarily because of the extreme cold - the human needs to take a glove off to get pictures and the hand refused to relinquish its glove.

4) Situation 4: Equipment Issues
So, we are on the way down and I know there will be 2 sections where skis need to be removed (the same 2 sections as the way up). We get to the first section and stop to remove the skis and .... my right boot will not detach from the ski! "You've got to be kidding," I thought, "this cannot be happening!" The skis I was using were my "new" pair that I bought used at the local Nordic Ski Swap a few weeks ago. I knew one of the bindings (the one on my right ski) was in less than perfect shape; but the skis were an incredible deal and useable under initial tests/outings. Well, today was apparently too much and the binding was locked to the boot and would not release. Okay, so my right ski will not come off, the exposed terrain is not skiable - now what? Well, I removed my left ski, raised my right foot, and hopped with Max & Zorro over the bad terrain until I could restart skiing. Add up the 2 sections of "remove skis and hike - er, I mean hop" and I spent about 25 minutes navigating terrain on one leg - ow... These skis will be making a trip to the ski repair shop next week!

Despite all of these challenging situations, it was still a great fun day for the 3 of us. We hit 14 miles as our total distance (longest outing of this 2011/2012 season) and cruised at a very nice pace when both skis were on!

Vital Stats: 14 miles; 190m total time; 129m skijoring time, 15m uphill hiking without skis, 25m downhill hopping on one (now sore) leg, 21m stopped time (our mid-break and ski inspection & cursing ;-) ... 16 MPH top speed and 1600 feet of elevation gain along the outing.

One time I dared take off a glove to take a quick shot.
Not a very interesting shot, but the hand wanted back in its glove!
Second (and last) time I dared to remove a glove and snap some pictures.
A look at the structures at Boreas Summit as we ski by heading for more
cover to hide from the wind and take a break before heading back down.

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