Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Going Fast Part II: Lighten up?

Last ski season, I wanted to do a series of posts on traveling light and fast in the backcountry.  Here's one on waxing skins.  This post is on weight: the lighter your setup, the faster, higher, and longer you can go.  The tough question is, how fat? how thin? four buckles? no buckles? tail fix on skins or no? It's a tough question because there is a point of diminishing returns on both ends of the spectrum.  Too skinny and you won't be able to break trail or ski down fast.  Too fat and you won't be able go up as fast or cover as much ground.  Four buckles and it's going to add weight.  No buckles and there might not be enough support.  It's a trade-off that I've spent a lot of time obsessing about.

The other night, I pulled out my bathroom scale and weighed some gear.  Using a Sharpie, I wrote the weight on each piece.  The Insanes (the big fat ones) aren't mine, but I labeled them anyway . . . .

From December 23, 2009

Ski Weights:

164 Trab Duo Race w/ Low Techs: 2.1 lbs per ski, 64 mm at waist, race and fast touring.
160 Dynafit SR 11 w/Low Techs: 2.3 lbs per ski, 62 mm at waist, race and fast touring.
172 Dynafit ST 7 w/TLT Speeds: 3.6 lbs per ski, 74 mm at waist, fast touring, spring.
169 Dynafit Manaslu w/TLT Vertical: 3.8 lbs per ski, 95 mm at waist, touring, powder.
173 BD Havoc w/Dynafit Comforts: 4.7 lbs per ski, 88 mm at waist, rock skis.
183 Voile Insane w/TLT Speeds: 4.8 lbs per ski, 120 mm at waist, ????.

From December 23, 2009

Boot Weights:

Dynafit Zzero, four buckle, 3.6 lbs
Scarpa F1, 2 buckle, 2.8 lbs (I have modified F1s that I got down to 2 lbs)
Pierre Gignoux 444, 2 buckle, 1.4 lbs

From December 23, 2009

Skin Weights:

Pomoca Race for 160 cm skis: .2 lbs
Dynafit Speedskins for 160 cm skis: .3 lbs
BD Mohair Mix cut for Dynafit ST 7s: .6 lbs
BD Glidelite cut fo Havocs: .7 lbs
BD Ascension cut for Manaslu: .7 lbs

There are a lot of combinations with these skis, boots, and skins.  At the lightest end of the spectrum, the Trabs with PG 444s and Pomoca skins weigh 3.7 pounds per foot.  Contrast that with the Manaslus, Zzeros, and BD skins at 8.1 pounds per foot. That's a difference of 4.4 pounds per foot or 219 percent heavier -- huge, especially during a long tour.  If you think about it in pounds lifted per vertical foot, over a 10k vertical tour, that's a difference of 44,000 lbs!  I plan on using F1s with the Manaslus and will get some Dynafit Speedskins, which will bring the weight down to about 7 lbs per foot. 

One might suggest that the comparison above is misleading because my race setup is stupid light.  To a certain extent, I might agree, but the fact is, I tour a lot in that setup and have skied every condition imaginable in that setup.  Can I straightline Cardiac Bowl in that setup?  No.  Can I competently ski down Cardiac Bowl or a steep chute in that setup and have fun? Absolutely.  In fact, there are several ski mountaineers like Benedikt Bohm who have set speed records up and down 8000 meter peaks on similar setups.  That said, there are times when a race setup does not make sense, like on a big powder day.  Breaking trail on 65 mm waisted skis doesn't work that well.  And going down in 2 ft of fluff in that kind of setup is way too '80s and a bit irreverent.

Enter the Manaslus, or my "fat" setup.  Manaslus, F1s/Zzeros, and BD Ascensions are quite light.  There are very few, if any, 95 mm waisted skis out there that are as light as the Manaslu.  The Voile Insanes might come close.  I think Goode and DPS make some light carbon skis that have some girth.  Obviously, any setup that doesn't incorporate Dynafit bindings is more than a pound per foot heavier and, quite frankly, a waste of energy.  My guess is that most conventional backcountry setups are in the 9 to 12 lb range.  The Havocs, which are skinnier and which I used for years, are a full pound heavier. 

My friend Joey and I were laughing the other day about our touring setups in 2002.  I was on Scarpa T1s, Voile Mtn. Surfs/Rossis/Tuas, and Hammerhead bindings.  I think the Mtn Surfs and Hammerheads alone were over 8 pounds.  The T1s were probably another 5.  And that setup didn't even have a free pivot.  Uggh.

Assuming the goal is going faster, higher, and longer (and not making turns with "soul"), I think the question that should dictate backcountry ski choice is: what can I get away with?  This is a loaded question because the answer depends on lots of things like conditions, partners, terrain, route, distance, time, skill, and binding choice.  But generally speaking, in my not-so-humble opinion, most of us American backcountry travelers can get away with a lot less than we have or think.  In my mind, the less you can get away with, the better -- you'll go faster, higher, and longer.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Wackcountry Tour

This week my training focus was on high volume.  I did two interval sessions, logged 15 hrs, about 19k vertical, and about 35 miles, which is a lot for a working, family guy.  Probably 10 of those hrs were at "endurance" pace, or under 140 bpm.

On Saturday, I logged 6 hrs and about 8k vertical doing the Wackcountry Tour, which starts at Snowbird, ascends to Hidden Peak, descends Mineral Basin, ascends the same to Alta, descends Alta, ascends Grizzly Gulch to Twin Lakes Pass, crosses Highway to Heaven to Solitude, descends into Brighton, ascends Guardsman's Pass, and descends into Park City.  Our route, if you include the forced detours, ended up being about 18 miles and 8k vertical, and not a whole lot of great powder skiing.  Still, it was safe, fun, and a bit wacky.

The Stats:
- Time: 6 hrs
- Distance: 18 miles
- Vert: 8k
- Put in:  Snowbird viz a viz UTA Bus
- Take out: Park City viz a viz Rosie (Thanks!)
- Accomplices: Bart and Alex -- Note to self: make sure you start skiing in October so that you can keep up with these guys.
- Equipment: Alex, Voile Insanes, Dynafit Speeds, F3s; Bart, Dynafit ST 7, Dynafit Speeds, F1s; Me, Trab Duo Race w/Low Techs and Pierre Gignoux 444s
- Equipment blowups: 1 -- see below
- Food Consumed: 2 peanut butter and honey sandwiches, 1 coke, and 1 bottle of water.  Very hungry at the end.
- Friendly Resorts: Snowbird, Brighton, Solitude
- Not Friendly Resorts: Alta, Park City
- Faceplants: 2 -- me=1, Bart=1
- Entertainment for the Day: Alex

Exhibit A:  (As we are skinning up Snowbird after Alex slid down on his back) "Man, I sure could have used some Whippets."

Exhibit B:  We're ducking below a ridge, just out of sight of the Alta lady with studs in her face who had just denied us entrance.  Our plan is to rip skins, run across the cat track, and disappear down the slope.  Time is of the essence because we are sure the Alta lady has called for backup.  The problem is that Alex has to first, take off his pack; second, put on his bright fluorescent green jacket; third, take out his special Montana skin savers; fourth, figure out how to rip skins with skis on; fifth, untangle skins that got wrapped around the perimeter rope and his neck; sixth, fold his skins using said special Montana skin savers.

Exhibit C: We are skinning up in the Brighton backcountry and some snowboarders chastise us for going the "wrong" direction.  As Alex, a former bro brah himself, tells them, "Duh, we're in the backcountry and I didn't see a sign," the first one stacks it up and the second one piles into him.  They are strapped into their boards in a ravine, faces buried in the snow.  Stuck.  The second one gets up and gives us the finger.  We laugh.

Some photos:

Can someone tell me how these binding things work?

From December 20, 2009

Bart skiing Mineral Basin.

From December 20, 2009

Three sets of tracks. Bart on the left, Alex in the middle, me on the right. Alex made a total of 3 turns.

From December 20, 2009

Our exit: a 100 meter skate through White Pine to Hotel Park City. Then walk to the corner and wait.

From December 20, 2009

Um guys, I think my binding broke. Hmmm. . . Ya think? Alex skied from Solitude to Park City free heel.

From December 20, 2009

Alex's Version here.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cardiac Ridge Avalanche: Part 1

I'm going to present this in two parts.  Part 1 will be my best shot at presenting the objective facts -- 3rd person account, no wishing this or that, and no swear words.  Part 2, which might come later after I process it, will be my own subjective analysis.

A group of 4 skiers (Skier 1, Skier 2, Skier 3, and Skier 4) gathered the morning of December 12, 2009 in Big Cottonwood Canyon at Mill D.  They headed south, hoping to ski in the Cardiac Bowl/Ridge vicinity.

From December 12, 2009

Snow Conditions
About 5 inches of snow had fallen during the night (the "New Snow").  Winds were blowing from the southwest and had done so throughout the night.  On Cardiac Ridge, the New Snow had fallen on a layer of hard windblown snow.  A very cold period of 2-3 days had created likely created a layer of facets on top of the windblown layer.  There was some wind loading on the east facing slopes.  The snowpack was relatively shallow.

The Avalanche
The avalanche was triggered near the top of Cardiac Ridge.  Cardiac Ridge runs north and south and connects Mt. Superior and Mr. Kessler.  The skiers were working their way up the north end of the east facing slopes along a rock band and less than 200 feet from the ridge top when the avalanche was triggered.  An illustration of the skiers relative positions follows:

From December 12, 2009
Skier 1 triggered the avalanche from the position shown in the picture above.  Skier 1 and Skier 2 heard a "whumpf" and felt a collapse.  Skier 1 felt a slab under him move a few inches and stop.  A few seconds later, a soft  slab above and to the climber's left pulled out and began sliding down the slope.  The soft slab consisted of wind blown and fallen New Snow.  The soft slab most likely failed on the thin December 8-11 facets and ran on a hard wind blown crust.

The soft slab was about 10-12 inches deep and 40 to 50 feet across.  The total area is unknown since it quickly turned into a big powdery sluff. Here is a picture of the crown:

From December 12, 2009

The avalanche ran approximately 300 to 400 feet.  Here is a picture taken 100 feet above the burial site.

From December 12, 2009
The Burial
Skiers 1, 2, and 3 were sheltered by the rock band above them and generally out of the way of the avalanche path.  Skier 4 was directly in the avalanche path and was swept away.  Skier 4 was carried approximately 200 to 300 feet.  A portion of the avalanche ran down a gully.  Another portion of the avalanche piled up before a roll over.  Skier 4 was deposited in a low spot before a roll over and buried perpendicular to slope. His head was about 2 feet under. He was lying face up. He lost one pole, but held on to the other one.  Both skis were on -- dynafit toe pieces locked.

Skier 4 was located within 1 minute after the burial.  By wiggling his one pole, the basket created a disturbance on the surface and then exposed the tip of the pole, which was observed by Skier 1.  Skier 1 used hands to dig down to expose Skier 4's face.  Skiers 2 and 3 used shovels to dig out Skier 4.  Skier 4's face was exposed within 3 to 4 minutes after the burial.  Skier 4 was fully conscious and took a big breath when airway was cleared.  Skier 4 was uninjured.

Below is a photo of the burial site:

From December 12, 2009

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Below Zero

It was cold up there.  As they say, this latest storm was all huff and no puff.  Only five or six inches in LCC at 10k.  And like I said it was cold, below zero.  Still, it was good to get out and get a nice steady state block in.

A few shots with my Canon S90.  I'm really liking it so far.

From December 8, 2009

From December 8, 2009

From December 8, 2009

From December 8, 2009

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Dirt Tour

The ski touring lately hasn't been great.  This morning, my plan was to hike up Cardiff and ski North Superior.  I was up there awhile back and it held some decent snow.  However, as I was heading up, I happened to look up Tanners.  It looked interesting, so I pulled over and started hiking.  I thought I would climb up, ski off the north side into Broads, climb out and hike down. Here's a view midway up -- lots of scrambling and boulder hopping.

From December 5, 2009

Tanners is classic Little Cottonwood granite at the bottom, but up higher, it turns into Big Cottonwood quartzite. The picture isn't good, but there is a point where the transition is quite acute: red quartzite on one side and granite on the other. Anyone know the geological explanation for this?

From December 5, 2009

Going up without the benefit of good snow cover takes a long time. I think it took a little over 2.5 hrs to top out. Off the other side, I was pleased to find some skiable snow.

From December 5, 2009

There were several areas that still held legitimate powder (with some toothy rocks lurking underneath).

From December 5, 2009

When I got to where it was tough to turn, I looked up. I was concerned about having to hike down Tanners since it was quite steep and loose. So I headed out Broads. Here's a view looking back.

From December 5, 2009

The trek out Broads was through about 10 inches of snow. I had to walk most of the way. The highlight out Broads was being followed by a coyote. It would keep its distance, but its yipping and howling was a bit unnerving. I think it was hungry. I hit the BCC road a little under 4 hrs after I left the LCC road. I stuck out my thumb, and immediately got a ride down the canyon. Gotta love the Wasatch.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Lots of low intensity volume this weekend.  Fiddling around with a new point and shoot camera -- Canon S90. 

Rice-Eccles in the center.  Must have been a football game going on.

Jon riding the BST.

Me on the Bobsled on my CX bike.  Everyone should try it at least once.

Some DH guy jumping a car.

Booter through some sugar.

To get to this. 

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Friday, November 20, 2009

And They Call this Training?

Jeremy Teela put this little clip together. Jeremy and Billy are off to Europe for some hot XC action in preparation for the Olympics. Good luck.

Alta Pre Season from J Teela on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

5x4 Interval Session

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I did an intensity session this morning -- 5x4 intervals, and about 22 minutes of "on-time." I would like to work up to a 8 interval block by mid-December. Some notes:

- I went too hard on the first interval. What is weird is that on a Perceived Exertion scale (1-10), I felt it was an 8 whereas Interval 4 I felt was a 9.5.

- Ideally, I would like to get faster throughout the session, not slower, like I did. My understanding is that you get more quality "on-time" if you can have negative split intervals.

- I couldn't push past a HR of 184. I've seen 198 on a bike. Maybe the intervals aren't long enough, or maybe skiing is different than biking. Has anyone figured out their Max HR, Skiing/Running vs. Biking?

- I wish I could do ski intervals at a lower elevation.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Ski training has been tough with the marginal snow lately.  It was good to get some more.  First tracks this morning.

From November 14, 2009

Mid-chute, watching the sun creep across the valley. 

From November 14, 2009

Brett is a jumper, so naturally, he teles.

From November 14, 2009

Billy D incorporating some BC/tele into his Vancouver 2010 training regimen.  I think this is like BC/tele hour 9 this week. 

From November 14, 2009

This was the last we saw of the sun.  After that, the storm rolled in. 

From November 14, 2009

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Function Over Style And Other Reasons Why I Occasionally Wear Women's Clothing

I've mentioned a number of times that occasionally I wear women's things. (If you are a weirdo (by my standards) that stumbled on this site by googling "men wear women's things," this isn't what you were looking for, go away.) Someone recently asked me, "So how many women's pieces do you actually have?" I'd better not disclose that publicly. But I will say that my gear collection includes a range of women specific skis, harnnesses (ouch -- didn't work out so well), boots, packs, socks,and underwear. The answer as to why I buy that stuff is pretty simple: cost and functionality. If it's cheap and if it will help me get the job done, it's worth it. I should also mention that I am not large in stature and sometimes women's pieces actually fit better. To be clear -- very clear -- if I have a choice between man-gear and woman-gear, and it's the same price and serves an identical function, I will choose man-gear 100 percent of the time.

With that subject out of the way, perhaps the more interesting question is: why do I disclose to my partners (no, not that kind -- this is getting weird) that I am wearing women-specific-gear? Why don't I simply and smugly relish in the fact that I scored a great deal on a functional piece of gear? Well, I've thought about that, and here are a few explanations, none of which is necessarily applicable to me, that come to mind:

A) Trust me, it's not like that. In the harsh environments in which I recreate, I want my partners to be as focused as possible. I want them to fully trust me as I trust them. I can't afford to be a distraction. I don't want them feeling like they have to look over their shoulder, if you know what I mean. So when I show up wearing powder blue clothing or maybe even something with a purplish hue, I don't want my partner to be distracted. I don't want my partner thinking: Is he . . . .? So, I take the proactive, preemptive, cut-to-the-chase, full disclosure approach: yes, I am wearing women's underwear. It fits and it's functional. Can we rip this trail/slope now?

B) The Dirt-Bagger Proclamation. Amongst some mountain people, there is an ethos in which dirtbaggerness is a virtue. Dirtbaggerness is a true counter culture in which renunciation of normal cultural material ambitions in favor of roaming freely in the wilderness (with cool gear, of course) is the standard. What you paid for something is not what impresses; rather, it's what you didn't pay for something. Thus, my proclamation that I use/wear women-specific gear is often a crowd pleaser amongst the mountain dirt-bag folk. It demonstrates a dirt-bagger ethos in a number of ways -- he is willing to wear a woman's scoopneck, pastel green shirt, and subject himself to the ridicule of the stylish brethren, just to have means to pursue his passion! Cool dude.

C)Beat This! I am the first to admit that I am competitive to a fault. Sometimes, it's hard not to look at the scoreboard of Tuff-ness. There are all kinds of games of Tuff and in my realm such games can range from climbing or descending this or that in x amount of time without this or that kind of aid, to death marches across the Grand Canyon (see below). One thing that is hard to compete with, however, is the tuffness of wearing women's clothing/gear. It's a statement that you are confident and Tuff and simply don't care about what people might think of your appearance. In many circles, it's simply too hard to compete with a man comfortable in women's underwear.  So when I say competitive to a fault, I mean so competitive that I'm willing to invent a game in which only I am likely to play.  Lame, I know.

In conclusion, I'd like to help you out, whether you are man or woman. I recently scored a pair of Scarpa Divas for $90. Yep, $675 boots that were basically brand new for $90. (I'm taking this at a Dirtbagger angle, see B above.) If you look closely, Scarpa Divas (woman) are essentially Spirit 4s (man), but with different colors, and with a volume-reducing insole that is removeable. I don't know that for sure, but I have a pretty good reason to believe that is the case. While you probably won't get the Dirtbagging deal that I got (I'm now taking the Beat This! angle, see C above.), you can get a pretty decent deal on some women-specific boots that could very well suit your needs.

Sierra Trading Post is selling some Scarpa Divas (Spirit 4s) and some Scarpa Star Lites (Spirit 3s) at a decent discount.  If you subscribe to their Deal Flyer, you could probably get an additional 20 percent off and free shipping.  That's more than 50 percent off retail.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Grand Canyon: Rim to Rim

From October 30, 2009

On Friday, I ran (mostly) from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Because I'm not really a runner (the collar of my team bike jersey says, "Running is for Criminals"), it felt like a long way and now my feet hurt. But it was worth it and was a great adventure -- definitely something I'll remember for a long time.

We left the Wasatch front on Thursday night, drove to Panguitch, had dinner at the Cowboy Smokehouse (great restaurant!), proceeded to Kanab, then to Jacob's Lake. We got to Jacob's Lake Lodge about 1 am in the morning and slept for a few hours. 4 guys, 2 beds -- I can handle it. We got up at 5:30 am and drove 1 hr to the North Rim. When we got to the trailhead, it was 7 degrees.

From October 30, 2009

For whatever reason, I've never been to the Grand Canyon. I guess I've kind of thought that it was too touristy or too mainstream. I've been missing out. I was pretty much stunned as we descended the North Rim. "Grand" barely describes the the landscape and strata laid out before and under us.

From October 30, 2009

The trail from the North Rim descends from a little over 8000 feet to a little over 2000 feet. The first 3 or 4 miles are quite steep, so we fast walked this portion.

From October 30, 2009

I would stop and take pictures, then run and catch up with the group. In the photo below, you can see the group descending on the trail just as the sun began to hit the cliffs. Magical.

From October 30, 2009

After Cottonwood Campground, we ran. We ran through the "Box," a narrow canyon section that follows Bright Angel creek, which eventually empties into the Colorado River.

From October 30, 2009

Bob, stretching out after running through the Box.

From October 30, 2009

Barry and Bradley running out of the Box.

From October 30, 2009

By the time we hit the Canyon floor, the temperature had risen significantly. People were perspiring. And I could smell some major BO. As I was running through the Box, I was thinking, man, someone stinks. I haven't smelled that smell since Day 4 of the Pierra Menta -- after everyone had been wearing the same skinsuits for 4 days. It was strong. When we hit the Colorado River, I paused on the bridge to take it all in.

From October 30, 2009

As I was standing on the bridge -- all by myself -- I was surprised to smell the BO again. And it got me thinking: I am the only one on the bridge, I smell BO, it's definitely BO . . . wait, could it be me? I smelled my shirt. Gag. It was me! But it couldn't be me I thought. I know what I smell like. I've been smelling myself for 35 years. So I smelled my left armpit. Gag again. It was me! But no, it couldn't be.

So, there I stood on the middle of the bridge over the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon smelling one armpit and then the other. Frantically. What was going on? What did I eat? How could be happening? And then I figured it out. Last week, in preparation for this run, I bought a fancy running hydration pack at the REI garage sale. I made a point to choose the cleanest looking, least-used pack, and the one that I settled on was a woman's model. It fit, so I bought it. I should have sniffed it.

It turned out that as my perspiration soaked into the pack, it was bringing to life some rank BO spores or some wild-living-bad-smelling thing. Not only had my shirt been contaminated. My body seemed like it was emanating that bad BO. Gross. I was wearing a pack that belonged to a woman with really really bad BO. And now the BO was on me. Here I am, wearing the BO pack, comtemplating jumping in to the Colorado to cleanse myself. Oh, and the shirt also happens to be a Smartwool woman's model as well.

From October 30, 2009

Once you hit the Colorado River, the trail starts heading up again. There are two options to the South Rim, the South Kaibab and the Bright Angel trail, which we chose. We thought this sign was amusing, but a little misplaced since it is at the bottom of the Canyon.

From October 30, 2009

Before heading up, I scrubbed my pack and washed my shirt in a stream. I didn't put my shirt back on, and instead ran topless from the bottom of the Canyon to the top of the South Rim. Here's a shot with 4 really steep miles to go. South Rim is on the top.

From October 30, 2009

Unfortunately, because I was out of breath and because my camera got a bit wet during the BO cleanse, I didn't get many pictures of the south side. And I have to admit that I was unable to run 100 percent of the last 7 miles. I ran the first 5 miles, but as I gained altitude and as fatigue set in, I couldn't keep the legs going. The last 2 miles I would run a few hundred yards, then walk, then do the same again. By the time I hit the South Rim, my legs, particularly my feet and ankles were pretty well spent. The full trip was about 25 miles. As I sat at the top of the South Rim waiting for my compadres, I thought of the crazies who do a Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim. That would really hurt.

The reward for crossing the Grand Canyon was a 4 seat Piper Arrow waiting for us on the South Rim. While Rim to Rim by foot is less than 30 miles, Rim to Rim by car is 225 miles. Stan, the orchestrator of the trip, arranged for a plane to fly us back from the South Rim to Provo.

From October 30, 2009

Bye Grand Canyon. I'll be back.

Anyone want a pack?