Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hopping Shelves

Max, Zorro and I went on a hike yesterday and discovered that some of the upper elevation shady trails still had enough snow to sled! "Oh man..." we all muttered, "We could have had the slow human on a sled today! Well, tomorrow we are coming back with the biped on his sled!"

Taking a quick break at our "high point" before sledding back down.
Max, of course, rolling a snow angel to cool off - love the big 'V' he's making with his back legs!
There were a few issues we noticed yesterday to be aware of today. (a) The snow was shallow with the occasional exposed rock: that means we used the 'dog sled' instead of the skis - hitting a rock, on skis while propelled by huskies, tends to break either a ski, a pole or a knee (trust me, I've done all 3 :-) whereas the sled can tolerate the occasional rock. (b) The trails were passable on the primarily shady sections, so we'd have to set our route to avoid sections mostly exposed to sun.

So, our planned route: hop up & across the 3 shelves of trails on the Sally Barber (north) face of Baldy Mountain and then cruise down the east face of Baldy. Each "shelf" can be viewed as a series of trails at roughly the same elevation. Given the conditions (needing to stay in shady areas) we could not take the common switchbacks to go from one shelf to the other. Instead, we had to ascend straight up 500 foot inclines to hop from one shelf to the next. Woo, what a workout! Details and visuals below...

(1) The Sally Barber Mine trails (the lower shelf of our route).
Cruising along the Sally Barber Mine trail. Just enough snow to haul the human up the trails.
Elevations in the 10,300 to 10,500 feet range.
(2) The "0.4 mile 500 foot" straight up ascent from the lower shelf to the middle shelf. 500 feet over 0.4 miles - that's a 24% uphill grade we ascended!
Hugging the side of the trail hopping us from the lower shelf to the middle shelf of trails.
Hauling the sled straight up this 24% grade (I had to hop off the sled and jog behind as two
huskies cannot pull one human up this steep a grade).
(3) The True Romance Mine trails (the middle shelf of our route).
Cruising along the True Romance Mine trail. A bit more snow and fewer exposed rocks than the
lower shelf. Elevations in the 11,100 to 11,200 feet range.
(4) The "0.33 mile 500 foot" straight up ascent from the middle shelf to the upper shelf. If you thought the first hop was steep at 24%... Well, this section is a 29% straight uphill grade!
Taking on the 29% grade moving us from the middle shelf to the upper shelf. You can see Max
really "leaning into the harness" as he and Zorro power up this extreme incline.
(5) The MZ Mine trails (the upper shelf of our route). I have yet to find a name for this mine in the Breckenridge historic mining literature. So, we named it the MZ (Max-Zorro) mine.
Breaking trail near the MZ Mine. Yes - breaking trail! Woo Hoo! We are in about 6-8 inches of
untouched snow at this point. The extreme climbs hopping up the shelves was worth it to get to
our own, untouched trails! Elevations in the 11,700 to 11.900 feet range.
Vital Stats of today's "sled outing": 6.5 miles with 1300 feet of elevation gained and two extreme climbs between the lower/middle and middle/upper shelves of trails. A pretty steep outing for the sled (versus skis). Fun, fun, fun...

Friday, October 26, 2012

Finally... Skis!

Our 3rd outing early in the 2012/2013 season and ....

"Ah, Finally - the human is on skis, we control the speeds!!!" excitedly exclaim Max & Zorro.

Our first 2 outings of this season were on the sled as the snow was too shallow to risk hitting rocks on skis. Unfortunately, with only 2 huskies, the human has to help (on inclines) so our speeds were still limited by human factors. But, we got enough snow last night to finally bring out the skis! We were skijoring - no silly human speed limiter, just pure Siberian power cruising around the trails...

Cruising along Shrine Pass Rd. Note we are in a "tire track" for groomed-like conditions.
Also note the depth of the snow to the side, about 3/4 the way up Max's tall legs.
Our outing was at Vail Pass today as we knew that Vail Pass got more snow than the trails closer to home. Max, Zorro & I were praying for enough snow to break out the skis and, oh boy, were we thrilled with these early season conditions.

The route was a fun "roller coaster ride" touring Shrine Pass and Lime Creek at the Vail Pass Recreation Area: 650 feet up, 600 feet down, 100 feet up, 100 feet down, 600 feet up and finally 650 feet down - wheeee. Our total distance was just under 9 miles (8.9 to be exact) - a wonderful "first outing on skis" for the season.

Hitting some nice speeds with the human finally on skis. Note Zorro with both back legs
airborne as he pushes to move us along. We hit a top speed of 18 MPH, not bad
for our first ski outing of the season.
Of course, no outing would be complete without Max rolling a snow angel in
the snow at our mid-point break!

Monday, October 15, 2012

When the Musher is Slow

What to do when the musher is slow hoisting the sled over a "fallen tree obstacle" on the trail?

"Ha, the answer to that is easy." proclaims Max, "You take the chance to roll a snow angel and cool off while the slow musher gets the sled over the fallen tree! As soon as that slow biped gets the sled over the obstacle, then you pop up from your snow angel, do a little shake and start hauling the sled again."

Max demonstrates in the video below - he has such perfect form :-)
[if the video does not load, click here to watch it on youtube]

We took the sled back to Vail Pass on Sunday - hoping the conditions had not deteriorated too much from Saturday. As you can see in the photo below, we did find a trail of untouched snow! We were able to lay fresh tracks down this trail and then return back up this same route.
It is SOOO much fun laying your own fresh tracks!
Now, do not be too fooled by this wonderful picture. For most of the outing we were on over-used ice & occasional exposed dirt (early) and sticky slush & mud (later). The temperatures rose into the mid 40s during our outing - quickly destroying all sections of the trail that had been over-used on Saturday and Sunday. But, we did find this wonderful "untouched trail" pictured above and had about 45 minutes of really good sledding conditions. Even the dozen or so "fallen tree obstacles" were fun given that we were on untouched snow!

Nearing the end of the outing, I needed to move the sled around another obstacle. Zorro joined in the theme of the day: roll a snow angel while waiting for the slow musher:
Max & Zorro rolling a "dual snow angel" while I get the sled over a trail obstacle.
Vital Stats: 8.6 miles; 1000 feet of elevation gain; 14 MPH top speed (too hot & too much slush/mud to get any real speed today).

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Season Opener!

Snow FINALLY came! Break out the boots, collect the gloves, get out the goretex, fetch the sled: SNOW IS HERE!!!
At our "break point" - Max doing his patented "snow angel" to cool off; Zorro doing
his patented "snow chug" to cool off. "Winter is here: Wheeeeee!" say Max & Zorro!
Snow came to the Colorado mountains Friday night and into Saturday. "We MUST use the snow!" exclaimed Max & Zorro - I was thrilled to try! It wasn't much, but anything white, cold and fluffy is better than the dirt of summer.

We headed up to Vail Pass this morning as the forecast called for snow in that direction. Here is what we found:
  1. 2-5 inches of "first snow of the season" over a rocky and/or muddy terrain.
  2. Not enough snow (given the rocks or mud just under the surface) to skijor - but plenty of snow to dog sled. So, we hooked Max & Zorro to the sled and hit the trails.
Now, remember, with just 2 huskies, the musher has to get off the sled and hike/run/sprint up steep hills. It is too much to ask them to carry me up a steep incline. So, we did a mild 7.5 miles for our first outing of the season; but WE WERE ON SNOW!!! Woo Hoo - let the season begin!

Highlight of the season... I won a GoPro in their "daily giveaway", so we have HD-quality video queued up for the upcoming skijoring season. This ought to be fun to watch...

Here is a great clip from today's video of Max & Zorro trotting at a cool 10-12 MPH pace through the fresh snow:

Now, people have often asked me "what" Max & Zorro do if we stop. Well, "stop" does NOT happen very often. But, we do stop at either the "high point" or "midway point" of all of our outings. It is usually a short 4-6 minute break (mostly to rest the human). The following video shows our typical stop point...

A few things to note:
  1. The Siberians look like they haven't even started yet!
  2. Max & Zorro get hot dogs at our stop points. Cute Max climbing all over the musher for his treat; polite Zorro sitting right in front of me before each of his treats.
  3. Once the hot dogs are passed out: (a) Max doing his typical "snow angel" roll in the snow to cool off; (b) Zorro doing his typical "snow gulp" to ingest snow to cool his jets.
The 2012-2013 season is ON! Bring on the snow... Now, before you think it was perfect conditions, pause to see the following:
Encountering a Forest Ranger far back on the trails. "Quit crushing our trail!"
The final approach to the trailhead. YUCK - what happened to our snow!!!
Vital Stats: 7.5 miles; 900 feet of elevation gain; 16 MPH top speed. A pretty good first outing for sketchy conditions...