Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sprint Day

Short Sprint Day around Sally Barber

Today we followed up yesterday's 14 mile outing with a short sprint day in & around Sally Barber Mine. Nancy has a new iPhone 4S - so she can now try and catch videos of us at the beginning and end of our outings. The video above is a nice shot of our "take off" from Barney Ford side of Sally Barber as we sprint uphill to the Sally Barber Mine.

Today's Route: our route was intentionally short today... (1) sprint up the Sally Barber trail from Barney Ford to the Sally Barber Mine; (2) hang a right at the mine and start up Nightmare on Baldy trail; (3) take the lower loop of Nightmare and sprint back to Sally Barber Mine; (4) say, "that was fun, repeat" and repeat #2 & #3; (5) take a relatively long break (for the length of this outing) at the mine as we wait for a group of loose dogs to get far ahead of us down the trail; (6) sprint down from Sally Barber Mine to the French Gulch trailhead.

You may ask, "Why is the trail called 'Nightmare on Baldy', that sounds scary!" Well, its name is not due to steepness, as you might guess. The name represents how narrow this trail is as you weave between trees. In many sections you are cruising between tight groups of trees, the trail no more than 3-4 feet wide. Needless to say, this is a challenge to skijor through the down sections (while attached to your Siberian turbo jets) - a really good test of your skiing skills!

Vital Stats: 6.1 total miles; 72m total time, 58m skijoring time (14m of various "waiting on loose dogs" time); 21 MPH top speed; 700 feet of elevation gain.

Sprinting up the Sally Barber Mine trail. Notice all 4 back legs are outstreched
in "sprinting form"!
Waiting for the group of loose dogs to get sufficiently far in front of us.
Might as well take a pretty shot of Sally Barber Mine while waiting.....

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.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Roller Coaster Route

Returning to the Vail Pass trailhead.
As you can see, conditions are deteriorating
near the trailhead - need more snow!
Highlight of today's outing: hitting 23 MPH as our top speed of this early 2011/2012 season!

Today's skijoring outing was an tour of endurance over rolling terrain.

- We skijored up a 600 foot incline.
- We skijored down a 1000 foot decline.
- We skijored up a 1000 foot incline.
- We skijored down a 600 foot decline.

There were a few smaller dips mixed in these 4 major segments; but, in all, it was pretty much a roller coaster of 1600 feet of ups & downs spread over 9.9 miles. A total BLAST!

We returned to the Vail Pass Recreation Area. But, as opposed to yesterday when we went off trail, today we followed the major snowmobile paths around Vail Pass. What a difference a day (or a change in trail) can make. Yesterday was breaking trail in up to 24 inches of untouched powder. Today was sprinting on snowmobile tracks through the rolling roller coaster terrain.

NOTE: Max, Zorro & I will entertain co-existing with snowmobiles early on weekdays - someone out the same time as us is serious and experienced about snowmobiles. We will happily share the trails with good snowmobilers - we always move off the trail when they approach and we get a respectful wave from the driver who appreciates trail ettiquette. On the other hand, I will never ever attempt to share the trails with snowmobiles on weekends or holidays - put a bunch of clueless novices on dangerous machines and watch out!

Today's Route: (1) Start at the Vail Pass Rest Area trailhead and skijor out Shrine Pass Rd and eventually hang a left onto Turkey Creek Rd - cruise through the 1st half of the roller coaster over this mixed terrain; (2) take a break to roll in the snow; (3) return the same path - reversing the roller coaster fun.

Vital Stats: 9.9 miles; 120m total time; 100m skijoring time; 23 MPH top speed; 1600 feet of elevation gain. A nice gentle outing having fun rolling up & down through the beautiful terrain.

Near the beginning of our outing. Cruising uphill on snowmobile
packed terrain.
Deeper into the backcountry. The trail is noticeably narrower, but still a
gentle sprint up snowmobile packed terrain.
Taking a break at our midpoint. What better thing to do during a break
than bury your head in the snow???
Coming up for air - look closely, both Siberian heads are covered in snow.
A look back at the trail we sprinted down before taking our midpoint break.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Extreme Trail Breaking

Extreme Trail Breaking - Up to 24 inches of untouched powder at Vail Pass!

Some of the extreme deep conditions we encountered at Vail Pass today.
No, Zorro is not laying down - he is standing in almost shoulder deep untouched powder!
We spent over an hour of today's outing breaking trail through snow this deep (12-24 inches) - wow!

Looking for some exercise? Looking for some fun? Looking for some Extreme Trail Breaking (which is both exercise & fun)? Well, today we found it skijoring around the Vail Pass Recreation Area.

Our total outing was just over 2 hours; but we spent just over 1 hour breaking trail in untouched powder from 12-24 inches deep! When we skijor, Max & Zorro are typically attached at the collar by a neckline (along with the gangline attached to me) - this setup keeps Max & Zorro skijoring shoulder to shoulder. Take the conditions to 18 inches of powder and a new setup comes into play - remove the neckline and skijor in a single file line. The front Husky takes more of the trail breaking exercise; so you switch out the "front leader" regularly to share this extreme workload. As you can see in the picture above, Max is the taller of our skijoring team - we refer to his long legs as "snow stilts", so he is the primary trail breaker in these super deep conditions and Zorro & I swap in to carry the load when Max gets tired. Today's front leader trail breaking distribution:
  1. 70% - Max in front plowing through the powder.
  2. 25% - Zorro in front plowing through the powder.
  3. 5% - Brad in front plowing through the powder (slacker human! ;-)
Here's a fun analogy to understand extreme trail breaking... breaking through 18 inches of untouched powder for Max is like a 6 foot tall human breaking through 57 inches of untouched powder! Go try it, you'll get the workout of your life!

Today's Route: (1) Start at the Vail Pass Rest Area winter trailhead and begin up Shrine Pass Rd; (2) quickly break off Shrine Pass Rd and onto the backcountry ski trail that hugs West Ten Mile Creek up Shrine Pass; (3) within 10 minutes reach 6-12 inches of untouched powder; within 20 minutes reach 12-24 inches of untouched powder for the next 60-65 minutes of exercise; (4) eventually reconnect with Shrine Pass Rd and take this "easier" route down.

Vital Stats: 6.9 miles; 124m total time; 94m skijoring time; 18 MPH top speed; 1200 feet of elevation gain. Not a particularly fast outing, overall, but you try breaking trail in powder almost as tall as you!

We just transitioned off Shrine Pass Rd and onto the backcountry trail.
Shallow powder, "this is going to be a fast day," I mistakenly thought...
Within 10 minutes, we are out of shallow powder and breaking trail in 6-12 inches.
"Hmm, guess this will slow us down a bit," I foolishly thought.
Within 20 minutes, 12 inches is the new shallow and we are breaking trail in
up to 24 inches. "Ok, single file skijoring, take turns breaking trail" becomes
the reality of our next hour of extreme fun!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Crowded Trails

Happy Huskies nearing our
finish for the day.
We are still waiting for our first "big snow" of the season to open up all the backcountry trails. As a result, the few trails that are well shaded are the only trails with adequate snow to ski. Yet, even these trails are all interrupted by exposed rocks in the sunny patches you encounter every 1-3 miles...

The Sally Barber Mine trail is one of these few, well shaded and skiable trails. But, everyone in Breckenridge knows this fact - the result: the trail is packed. Today's crowds included 5 different sets of loose & annoying dogs. Think about it people - Max & Zorro are in harness and hooked into a working setup - they DO NOT want your loose Fluffy running into the middle of their hookup! I always say, there are not stupid dogs, just stupid people. Oh well, Max & Zorro are good; we just stop and move to the side of the trail and wait for Fluffy's human to get a clue and come move Fluffy along...

Today's Route: (1) Barney Ford/Sally Barber trailhead and skijor up to Sally Barber Mine; (2) hang a right at Sally Barber Mine and connect onto the Nightmare on Baldy Trail - heading towards Baldy Mountain; (3) eventually connect with Baldy Road and skijor up to the Iowa Mill Mine; (4) take a short break and return back down Baldy Road to Nightmare on Baldy; (5) skijor down the Nightmare trail until it got too icy, narrow and steep for me to skijor comfortably (I'm not going to try to slalom between trees being propelled down a narrow, icy and steep trail!); (6) shed the skis and jog the remaining section of Nightmare back to Sally Barber Mine; (7) cruise down the Sally Barber trail towards the French Gulch trailhead - stop 5 times for loose, annoying Fluffies; (8) finish at the French Gulch trailhead.

Conditions are still very "early season" and we are still waiting for the first "big storm" of the season to open up our typical 10-15 mile trails. Pray for snow, Pray for snow, Pray for snow.....

Vital Stats: 6.2 miles; 100m total time; 60m skijoring time (15m hike/jog time; 25m stopped time - including far too many "Fluffy avoidance" stops); 16 MPH top speed; 1150 feet of elevation ascended.

Skijoring up the trails on Baldy Mountain.
Exploring the snow off the trail at the Iowa Mill Mine.
Hey Max - how deep in the snow can you bury your head?
The Iowa Mill Mine (established 1935), still semi-operational...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Obstacle Course

Zorro with a face full of snow - aaahhhh....
Today's skijoring outing was sketchy at the lower elevations and nirvana at the higher elevations - with a whole Obstacle Course of fun along the way.

We started at the Indiana Creek winter trailhead and skijored up the Indiana Creek trail to the Pennsylvania Creek trail and then up to the high point of this trail. Then a return on the same route.

The Ugly: The first mile was a windblown ice track: very little actual snow with exposed rocks in the worst windblown areas. Slalom skijoring between the rocks on the way up and a "skis off" jog on the way down.

The Bad: The next 1/2 mile was a series of water obstacles: (1) skijoring over a frozen patch of Indiana Creek and hearing the ice crack as we crossed; (2) cruising over the creek on a skinny, one ski width bridge; and then (3) removing the skis to jump over a large exposed portion of the creek to get to the Pennsylvania Creek trail system. The Siberians frolicked in & through freezing Indiana Creek - only the human needed to long jump it. On the return, the same course in reverse: creek jumping, one ski bridge traversing and ice cracking.

The Good: As we crossed out of the Indiana Creek gulch and onto the Pennsylvania Creek trail, we transitioned from windblown terrain into heavily wooded and steep terrain. We immediately got into 6 inches of untouched powder and continued to break trail, all the way up, in powder increasing to 14 inches in depth! Continuing with the "obstacle course" theme, we had 3 downed tree obstacles going up this trail: (1) one small tree across the trail, just slow down and make sure the skis go over & not under; (2) one medium tree covering 3/4 of the trail, just slow down pass through on the narrow 1/4 portion; and (3) one large tree blocking the entire trail (see image below) - necessary to remove the skis and climb over this large obstacle. Of course, the same 3 obstacles on the return path down this trail.

The Incredible: Our route up the Pennsylvania Creek trail traveled about 1.4 miles while climbing 1000 feet in elevation and breaking trail in up to 14 inches of untouched powder - that's a 14% grade in extreme, deep conditions! Woo! Consider that Max & Zorro are under 2 feet tall - they powered me up a 14% grade while breaking trail in 14 inches of deep snow! That's a Siberian workout... Then we got to truck down this same grade, bunny hop sprinting through deep snow - fun, fun, fun...

Vital Stats: 5.7 miles; 100m total time; 65m skijoring time (15m "remove skis, obstacle avoidance" time and 20m jogging down the ugly sections of the trail). 14 MPH top speed; 1300 feet of total elevation gain; breaking trail in up to 14 inches of untouched powder!

We just transitioned from the windblown Indiana Creek trail and onto the heavily
wooded and increasingly deep Pennsylvania Creek trail.
Breaking trail in deep, untouched powder - woo!
Getting Deeper and Steeper - Keep on Truckin!
The worst of the 3 "downed tree" obstacles we encountered.
Wondering, "how will we cross this?" as we approach.
Notice the fun set of wildlife tracks in the snow just in front of us;
wonder if that animal was in the tree when it fell?
Max & Zorro say, "Hey, we can cross just fine over here to the left, let's keep on going!"
Human said, "Sorry fellas, the left isn't skiable - I need to shed the skis and climb over."
Nice shot of our "fresh tracks" coming up through the trees on the
Pennsylvania Creek trail. It was beautiful on this trail, too bad we had
to return ;-)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Porcupine Serenade

Breaking trail uphill in 8-12 inches of untouched powder!
Siberian Power!!!
What a fun day we had skijoring today. So many interesting highlights of the trip. But, for Max & Zorro, one event made the outing...

Porcupine Serenade

We were skijoring up French Gulch and going up a small steep section that we could not see past until we came over the lip to flatten out the trail. We were going a pretty nice uphill clip, that should have been my first warning. Over the lip we crested and "WOW!" - there was a porcupine in the middle of the trail not more than 20 feet in front of us! Luckily for us, the porcupine jumped off the trail and climbed about 5 feet up a tree just off the edge of the trail. OMG - we treed a porcupine! Unlucky (for me), Max & Zorro made a beeline for that tree. I stopped as quick as I could and started reeling them away from the tree by the gangline - me against 2 Siberians dead set on getting that treed porcupine! The porcupine did not climb higher, it just sat there 5 feet off the ground watching us closely. I crawled to the other side of the trail and fought to reel the crazy Siberians with me.

Now, Max is a crackup around wildlife. He lets out high-pitched screams to express his extreme interest and motivation to catch - we call this his "ii iii iiii" scream (it sounds like a "long I" at high pitch and he usually does them in sets of 3). When the wildlife is really good (according to Max), he finishes each "ii iii iiii" set with a deeeeeep, long "awooooooo". As I'm struggling to get Max & Zorro away from this porcupine, Max breaks out into his "ii iii iii awoooooo" song. 2 solos and then on the 3rd verse Zorro joins in on the "awooooo" to make a chorus. So, here I am, in the middle of the forest, fighting to keep them from the porcupine (who is clearly reachable at only 5 feet off the ground) and a Siberian Porcupine Serenade breaks out:

Solo (Max): ii iii iiii
Chorus (both): awoooooo
Solo (Max): ii iii iiii
Chorus (both): awoooooo
Solo (Max): ii iii iii
Chorus (both): awoooooo
repeat, repeat, repeat.......

I have no idea how many verses we went through as I fought to get the situation under control - at least 15 verses, probably closer to 30! Here I was, crawling up the trail to get distance from the porcupine, dragging my skis, poles, Max & Zorro and bursting out laughing at each chorus point. What must that porcupine have thought of us! Eventually, though, I was able to drag the Siberian beasts far enough away to get back on my skis and restart skijoring. Have you ever seen a Siberian Husky sprint forward with its head in a 180 looking backward at the treed porcupine? Well, that was us...

Our original goal of the day was to find a trail to connect the backside of French Gulch to Sally Barber Mine. Since we are still in "early season" conditions, we are having trouble finding routes with enough quality snow to give us a solid 10+ mile skijoring outing. French Gulch is still pretty shallow with exposed rocks here & there - fine for skiing up, but disastrous to skijor down. Unfortunately, we could not find a connection to the mine, so we skijored up & down a wonderful stretch of 8-12 inches of powder.

The Route: (1) Start at the Barney Ford trailhead and skijor up to Sally Barber Mine and then sprint down to French Gulch; (2) skijor up French Gulch - poor conditions with shallow snow and exposed rocks for many stretches; (3) break trail skijoring straight up 1200 feet in 8-12 inches of fresh, untouched powder; (4) deadend, no visible trail, take off the skis and hike for 10-15 minutes looking for a trail restart - fail and hike back to the deadend point; (5) fly down 1200 feet (again in 8-12 inches of powder); (6) reconnect with French Gulch and skijor for a short bit before taking off the skis and jogging for 15ish minutes down to the French Gulch trailhead.

Vital Stats: 8.2 miles; 140m of total time; 85m of skijoring time - 15m of porcupine disaster time, 20m of hiking around the deadend, 15m of jogging down due to exposed rocks, 5m of miscellaneous stops. 20 MPH top speed and 1600 feet of total skijoring elevation gain!

Lower elevations around our starting point. Look closely - we are trucking!
Zorro has 3 feet in the air, Max's 2 back feet are in the air - SPRINTING!!!
More breaking trail uphill in 8-12 inches of fresh, untouched powder.
No possible way I could ski up this by myself; but add 2 Siberian engines
and every uphill seems a breeze ;-)
Done skijoring for the day. Max, still in harness, cooling down in the snow.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Break Out The Sled

2 Siberian Skijoring vs 2 Siberian Dog Sledding....
Cruising towards the French Gulch trailhead. Max giving photographer mom
a happy "Hi Mom, this is great, we had a blast!" glance.
If you read our blog yesterday, you know that we busted the bindings on my skis and, thus, have no skijoring equipment until repairs are done. That is not going to stop Max, Zorro & I from missing any action on the trails. We got a light dusting of snow last night and the forecast is for a hot (above freezing) Thu-Sat; so, we had to use the trails while the early season conditions allowed it. The solution? Break out our dog sled and sled instead of skijor the backcountry.

Dog sledding versus skijoring, you might wonder... Well, with only 2 Siberians, here is the comparison:
  1. Terrain (backcountry touring). As strong as Max & Zorro are (or any 2 Siberians), they are not able to propel a sled+human up any steep terrain. The human is going to have to hop off the sled and jog up steep hills. In addition, deep snow and mild uphill terrain is going to require "human off & jogging" as well. Conversely, we have never encountered any terrain that we cannot skijor up - a "let's go" to lead dog Max and a little glide help from the human and we can go up anything. Favors: skijoring.
  2. Uphill Speed. Corollary of the terrain analysis - unless you are a world class trail runner, no chance you go faster uphill on a sled versus skijoring. I am not world class... Our typical "max uphill speed sledding" is 6-8mph; our typical "max uphill speed skijoring" is 10-15mph. Favors: skijoring.
  3. Downhill Speed. On a sled - hop on the runners and GO downhill. On skis - your skills as a skier determine the speed you are willing & able to go downhill. I am an intermediate skier, so I have to be cautious on steep downhill terrain while skijoring. Favors: sledding.
  4. Distance. Again, with only 2 Siberians, you are going to be hopping off the sled & jogging as the terrain changes. But, while skiing, you use cross country techniques and Siberian power to push & glide through changing terrain. The result, skijoring 10-15 miles is a comfortable outing, sledding 5-8 miles is a comfortable outing. Favors: skijoring.
  5. Early Season (shallow) Conditions. Consider this: I busted my skis yesterday upon hitting rocks in early season, shallow conditions; but, we did the same trail today on a sled without an issue. Cross country skis do not like exposed dirt & rocks; whereas on a sled you can hop off and jog over exposed terrain. Favors: sledding.
  6. In-Season (deep) Conditions. 2 Siberians are going to struggle breaking trail and pulling a sled through 6+ inches of fresh powder (up, down or flat). 2 Siberians are going to have a blast cutting through 6+ inches when you are on skis and can glide with them. Favors: skijoring.
Summary: Max, Zorro & I love "long distance touring of the Colorado backcountry" - powder, distance and continuous changing & extreme terrain... Survey says: skijoring is for us.

Back to today, though... Skis are busted, the sled came out. We did an "up & back" in French Gulch from the winter trailhead to the beginning of the last open meadow in the gulch. A nice, comfortable route for sledding: only 550 feet of uphill elevations, a tad over 5 miles, packed snow most of the route. As for the 3rd point above (downhill speed) - we hit 20 MPH today on the return (downhill) path - our top speed of the season so far!

Starting off from the French Gulch trailhead. Nice, packed conditions for sledding!
Returning to the French Gulch trailhead. Beautiful, blue ski day for touring the gulch!
Taking a quick break before sledding back down the gulch.
Happy, Happy Huskies!
The path we sledded up in the higher portions of French Gulch.
Pretty deep for sledding, it would have been a piece of cake on skis...
Taking a quick break in the deep snow off the side of the trail.
Nice way to "cool off" before sprinting some more!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Busted Binding!

Busted bindings or not - we still worked hard and
deserve our hotdog rewards when we arrived
back at the trailhead.
Busted Binding - waaa, our skis are in the shop!

It started as such a great day. Max, Zorro & I were skijoring up French Gulch. A few inches of fresh powder at the lower elevations. We took a less traveled right turn about 1/2 way up the gulch and were exploring steep terrain in 5-8 inches of fun, soft powder. Oh, we were having a blast! Eventually we had to come back, maybe we shouldn't have...

As we came out of the trees and back onto the well-traveled trail, we started our sprint back towards the French Gulch trailhead. It looks like a fast track, I thought, I bet we are going to hit some serious top speeds. Up & down through some gentle slopes and Max & Zorro started to shift into another gear. "Oh boy, good forward! Let's go," I exclaimed. And then "OH NO!" - exposed rocks just ahead and closing fast. Quick, get my skis to the right, get my skis to the right, can't slow down, get to the right .... and ... BANG, my left ski caught a patch of rocks before I could get all the way to the right. Wipeout, flat on the ground - "Oh that hurt," I moaned. I started wiping snow off my body, told Max & Zorro, "my bad, good wait" (they understand "my bad" command as meaning they did nothing wrong, it's not their fault we stopped). Then, wait, my left foot is not still in its ski. Look down, look back - Aaaah! No! My binding busted. No, no, no!

But, it was true, I busted the binding on my left ski. Total equipment failure! What could I do... I gathered up my skis, poles and shattered pieces of binding and told Max & Zorro, "Sorry, no top speeds today. Ok, let's go," and we hiked & jogged the rest of the way back to the trailhead.

The skis are "in the shop" as we speak. Max, Zorro & I are anxiously awaiting report on the damage and estimate on when they will be fixed. Pray for a quick ski repair job...

Vital Stats: 5.3 miles; 100m total time; 60m skiing time (40m break time and jogging back down the trail with busted skis); 18 mph top speed (the skis busted just as we were beginning to accelerate into some real speed); 1250 feet of uphill elevation gain.

Cruising up the lower sections of French Gulch. A nice 2-3 inches of fresh powder.
Taking a break high above French Gulch.
Snow angel Max cooling himself off.
Looking back at our ascent path. We are about to restart and go back down
this path. Steep, narrow and fast huskies - a skijoring musher's biggest challenge!
The return approach to the trailhead. Sad sack human carrying his busted skis!
Please let them be repaired soon!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

In The Weeds

2 of the more "interesting" stretches along Boreas
today. See, there is snow along the shoulders in
the weeds. Just enough snow to keep us going
until we got to the better condition up higher!
Oh Yes, We Did Ski This! - that was the motto of the day. Max, Zorro & I decided to test Boreas Pass Rd today for some skijoring fun.

The trailhead did have sufficient/packed snow to give us confidence to go. But, look at the pictures to the left - some of the "sun exposed" lower sections of Boreas were, well, sketchy at best. That won't stop our skijoring team, though, we saw snow in the weeds on the shoulders of the road. So, position the skis in the snow and on we go!

You can divide the path up Boreas Pass into 2 parts: (1) the trailhead to Bakers Tank; (2) Bakers Tank to Boreas Summit. The first section, to Bakers Tank, was on & off between acceptable conditions and "sketchy at best" conditions. But, we were determined to go, so Max, Zorro & I carefully navigated the sketchy patches and joyfully ran the acceptable patches. As we reached Bakers Tank, I knew there was no way we would be able to ski back down this section, so I made a "mental note" of this and onward we continued. The second section (Bakers Tank to the Summit) was very enjoyable - a few icy patches with some exposed rocks but mostly snowpacked terrain. We cruised up this section of Boreas at a nice uphill pace. Arriving at Boreas Summit, we called Nancy to ask her to drive to Bakers Tank to pick us up. Then, regroup and sprint downhill from the Summit to Bakers Tank.

Comical Event of the Day: You may have heard me mention before that one of Zorro's life principles is "none shall pass". Boreas Pass Rd is still open to cars this time of year (it closes to cars in late Nov for the rest of the snow season). Well, as we where skijoring up Boreas, a 4wd truck came up on us from behind. I guided Max & Zorro to the shoulder so the truck could pass. As soon as the truck passed by, Zorro exclaimed "NONE SHALL PASS" and dropped into sprint mode to chase the truck! Hilarious.

The Route: Start at the Boreas winter trailhead and then skijor up Boreas Pass Rd to Boreas Summit (6.7 miles); take a break; skijor back down Boreas Pass Rd from the Summit to Bakers Tank (3.7 miles).

Vital Stats: 10.4 miles (6.7 up/3.7 down); 125m total time, 110m moving time; 1300 feet of elevation gain; 19 mph top speed (and an impressive top uphill speed of 14 mph!)

Starting off from the Boreas winter trailhead. Note the conditions: packed snow
and somewhat icy - but still SNOW! See, we were not crazy to start off on this
route today - even though we had to "ski off the shoulder & in the weeds" to make
progress in some of the very sketchy patches not far from here.
Upper sections of Boreas Pass Rd (well past Bakers Tank). Nice packed conditions,
a Siberian Speedway!
Zorro reading the Continental Divide marker at the Summit of Boreas Pass.
Taking a break at the Boreas Pass Summit. Max choosing the left side of this ice
patch to "continue on". Zorro choosing the right side of this ice patch. The darned
human picked "turnaround and back down" as the path to continue - wimp, Max & Zorro
could have continued further for hours!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Things to Remember

Returning to the French Gulch trailhead.
Happy Hauling Huskies!!!
A little snow Tuesday night and into Wednesday got Max, Zorro & I itching to test the trails in the backcountry.

It was still "early season" conditions (e.g., shallow snow and some exposed dirt & rocks here and there). But, enough snow to get a good early season training run under our belts. Only our 3rd outing of this season, so we are still shaking the cobwebs from the summer time off. Three things to remember from last season that we forgot today...

(1) Brad: remember to place your skis in a snowplow position when you are bent over to pick up poop on the trail - this position is your only brake or snow hook. When you forget ... the Siberian engine lurches forward (while you are bent over) and you do a face plant (luckily not in the brown stuff! :-)

(2) Max: remember to cruise past deer tracks crisscrossing across the trail - you are the lead dog and if you veer right (or left), the whole crew gets off kilter. When you forget ... <poof> our skijoring 3 pack is tangled in the rough!

(3) Zorro: remember to "maintain speed & ignore distractions" when operating at high speeds (15+ mph). When you forget and get distracted by a squirrel off the trail while sprinting ... <bam> you stumble and the human has to cut a hard, emergency right to try and keep a ski from smacking you in the rear!

3 things we had perfected by the end of last season - still refreshing our memories and re-honing our skills this season...

The Route: Start at the BnB trailhead on French Gulch Road. Skijor up French Gulch Road to & through the French Gulch winter trailhead. Continue on the French Gulch trail until reaching the last of the private cabins in the gulch. Take a short break and then sprint back down to the French Gulch winter trailhead.

Vital Stats: 6.8 miles; 88m total time; 73m moving time; 1050 feet of elevation gain over the first 2/3 of the outing; 17 mph top speed.
Cruising up the mid sections of French Gulch. A nice 2-4 inches of
fresh powder and no existing tracks.
Our "turnaround point" - Zorro looking ahead and saying, "Turnaround? Why?
Look at the fresh, untouched snow ahead of us!!!