Sunday, January 11, 2009

Grand Targhee Rando Race

Photo from

The first rando race of the US Ski Mountaineering Series season was held this Saturday at Grand Targhee in Wyoming. It was a team event and I partnered up with a Brian Harder, a Jackson climber, Exum guide, cyclist, and PA (among other things). Dave Bergart kindly put me up in Victor.

As you can see from the photo above, we started out fast. I did my trademark "Fast and Fade" start, which involves me sprinting off the line 'cross style and then getting caught and dropped by the front group. The first leg of the course was a long steep climb from the bottom to the top of the Grand Targhee resort -- about 2000 feet. On the first climb, there were four teams at the front: Kroger and Cary Smith, Brandon French and a new (and very fast) racer from Montana, Zahan and a Driggs guy, and me and Brian. I faded a bit when the slope turned up -- like 40 degrees up -- and I tried to zig zag up the hill instead of power climbing it like the front runners. Eventually, I had to suck it up and power climb like everyone else, i.e., stomp the skins, hunker down, and hang/pull on the poles. I hung with Zahan's team to the top where Brian (who was waiting) helped me deal with my skins. We were the third team to leave the transition.

We ripped the DH and arrived at transition no. 2 as the other two teams were pulling out. The second climb was a bootpack -- no need to skin up -- so we put our skis on our back and booted and scrambled up the toilet bowl. Some tree branches and root aids were involved. Three quarters of the way up the climb, I had to shift into four wheel drive, and using both hands and feet, climbed up to the lip of the bowl. When we arrived at transition no. 3, Cary and Kroger were gone, and Brandon and his teammate were getting ready to pull out.

We ripped the DH again. At transition no. 4, we were all together. Kroger and Cary were the first out, followed by Brian and then me. Brian took a couple steps and his ski fell off. Wanting to keep the pressure on, and afraid I might get dropped, I opted to go ahead. I started skinning and Brandon and his teammate followed. As I started out, I had hopes of catching Kroger and Cary. But they were going fast and opened up a gap. Behind, I knew that if Brandon wanted to go, he could, but he was sticking with his teammate. About two-thirds up the climb, Brian got around Brandon's team, bridged up to me, and we went to the top of the final ~2000 foot climb together. Brandon's team, who had some skin problems, followed and Zahan's team was in tow.

We hit transition no. 5 just as Kroger and Cary left. Once again, we had a smooth transition -- quick smooth rips, fast buckles, no dropped skins, etc. And we ripped the final DH once again, or tried to. The snow had a bit of a zipper crust making skiing challenging. I invoked my 34 degree rule, which is, "if less than 34 degrees, straighline it. Midway down, Brian stacked it up and nearly lost his ski. Luckily, he didn't and he got it on (the ski and the race).

We crossed the line together, and celebrated a great race. As we found out soon after, we were actually the first to cross the line, even though Kroger and Cary were ahead of us. Unfortunately, they missed a turn and went off-route. Bummer. They were definitely the strongest team.

Finish order:

1. Brian and me
2. Brandon and co.
3. Zahan and co.
4. Cary and Kroger

When the individual events come around, expect all of those guys to be in the mix. They are fast!


Our time: ~1 hr 28 minutes
Total Vert: ~4400 ft
Time climbing: ~1 hr 18 minutes
Time descending: ~11 minutes

Who says it's all about the down?


JZ said...

Congrats man. That sounds like brutal stuff. I think mountain bike races at least have a little better ratio of climbing to descending time.

thaddeusmt said...

nice! cool to read another perspective on the race. especially from the winners! I ended up getting dead last in this race... but winning the freeride the next day! (because no one showed up...)

why, btw, did everyone leave after the first day?

cheers, and keep up the good work!