Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Stuper Tour Digested

Noah has a great post on the Stuper Tour here. I thought I'd write about some high points of the trip.

Hey, do you have a headlamp in there?
It was still below freezing at Alta. I was slipping my boots on. Noah was chatting with Daryl who had just driven up in his vintage Volvo with a Yakima box and an army surplus missile container plastered with ski-climbo stickers bolted to the top. "Hey Daryl, why don't you join us . . . I've got an extra Gu packet for you."

Daryl politely declined, and then snickered.

"Are you bringing your puffy?" Noah asked.

I stuffed my trusty, stained Patagonia down sweater into my pack. "Yeah, I get cold easy."

"Do you have a headlamp in there?"

I snickered, "No." I thought Noah was joking, but maybe he wasn't.

Where are you going?
Thinking about it now, I can't even remember the approach to Sugarloaf. Soon enough, we had bagged Baldy, traversed out of Alta, and ascended Hidden Peak. A few skiiers exited the Tram along with a bunch of Snowbird ski patrollers. One of the patrollers informed us that the resort was open and that we needed to sign something in the hut.

It was a waiver of sorts in which Snowbird represented that the backcountry is "very dangerous and life threatening." We signed, agreeing that Snowbird was not responsible for what happened to us after we exited their gates. Even so, the waiver asked that we disclose our destination. Noah wrote that he was headed to Lone Peak. In a bout of one-upmanship I jotted down, "Salt Lake." Ha!

Parlez Vou Francais?
At the top of the Twins, we encountered a touring party. They had toured up from Snowbird and were heading to White Pine. They had normal alpine gear and simply shouldered their skis and hiked in their alpine boots.

Dan asked, "Where you headed?"

"Salt Lake."

"No, I asked, where are you going?"

"Salt Lake."


"Yeah, were trying to tour to Salt Lake. And hit some peaks on the way."

"Oh, what a wonderful adventure."

One of the guys had a La Grave sticker on his ski and asked him about it. He spoke with a french accent. Noah took over from there and started speaking to him in french. Then we skiied to Red Stack.

Noah in Tibet . . . err, on Red Stack

Being Zen
I have a credibility problem with most of my ski partners. My regular partners -- the ones that I can convince to ski with me again -- no longer ask me questions like "Are we there yet?" or "How far is it?" or "When will we be back?" I fear I may have let them down too many times.

Going into the Stuper Tour, I underestimated. Actually, WE underestimated since we had both been independently scheming about the Stuper Tour and fortuitously partnered up to execute our scheme. (It turns out that Andrew planted the seed in both of our heads.) We underestimated the length, the difficulty of getting up the various peaks, the technical aspect of the traverses, the amount of water and time that we would need.

Maybe we over-estimated ourselves. That would be scary, except that at the same time, everything worked out. Our traverses magically linked up. We managed to find firm snow on near-vertical terrain that allowed us to ascend. When the snow mushed up, we were able to use rock spines and ridges to further our progress. When our descents cliffed out, we found a way around, or in some cases, over.

I found Noah's philosophy of the Stuper Tour, to skiing, and maybe to life, was quite refreshing: carry over and on. Kind of Zennish. It's not a reckless, conquer it kind of attitude. It's more of an unassuming work with it, we'll get through it approach.

And we zennishly got through several tough spots, including:

Running a booter up Red Baldy's north east face.

Kicking steps in on the White Baldy's steep north face.

A little rock and ice on White Baldy.

But there was a lot more to come.

The Crux(es)
When we got to the top of White Baldy, I said something like, "Ok, that was the crux. . . . It's a straight shot to Lone Peak from here." As I sit here now, I struggle to see how I thought that Lone Peak was a straight shot given that the Pfeif, Chipman, and Bighorn rose up between me and Lone Peak.

Between the two of us, we had been to the base of the Pfeif six times this year. But our confidence eroded when we sunk to our waist making our first steps up the ridge. Yet another "crux." Sorry no pics.

Then, as we were scrambling up Chipman, we were quite sure that we were conquering the Real Crux. In short order, it only became known as Crux #3 -- one of several.

And then as we climbed Bighorn, we couldn't believe that there would be a tougher pitch. Here is Noah putting moves on some Bighorn granite -- Crux # 4:

It got tougher though. Here is Noah cliffed out, with nowhere to go.

I suppose if we were using the term correctly, there could only be one crux. But truly believing that the grass was greener/snow was better on the other side turned out to be an effective coping mechanism.

If I had to choose, I would say that the real true crux was getting around and off of Bighorn. In the picture below, you can see where we cliffed out, and our tracks through Bighorn's steep westish face.

Reward: I'm not complaining about the Cruxes.
I think that the reason I remember the Cruxes so vividly is because of the feelings of relief, gratitude, and exhilaration that came as we solved those problems. Noah and I had not ever followed the Stuper Tour route, and we weren't quite sure what to expect -- or whether we'd make it. It was the uncertainty and the Cruxes that made the Stuper Tour memorable. And I'm a bit saddened that the element of uncertainty will be missing when, actually if, I do it again.

I acknowledge that it's a bit silly thinking that big adventure is in the direct line of sight of Salt Lake City. In another way, it's quite amazing that you can truly feel like Marco Polo and hear Kennecot Copper Mine at the same time.

Needless to say, reaching the south summit of Lone Peak was rewarding. I was surprised that 13 hours had passed.

The views further heightened our reward.

I Give.
From the south summit of Lone Peak, we made bid for the north summit, but ultimately called it off. In somewhat of a schizophrenic moment, I had a conversation with myself that went something like this:

"It's really steep, icy, and sketchy. What are you doing?"

"I'm going to climb to the top of Lone Peak. I came all this way after all."

"You're willing to take a big risk? For what? It's getting dark."

"I want to make it to the top."


"To say I did."

"You're vain. It's not worth it." I could see Hiro's big black eyes in my mind. Hiro is my 8 month old son.

"You're right." At which point, I turned around to tell Noah that I was calling it. About that time, I heard him say something like, "F it." He must have been talking with himself too.

We skiied off the east face of Lone Peak.

Hell's Bells
Maybe the mark of adventure is that it keeps going and going and going even though you really really really want it to end.

Noah and I took a few moments to look at our line off Lone Peak.

We laughed, clanged poles, and rode off into the sunset. This photo is at the top of Bells Canyon looking over Salt Lake.

We skiied to the end of the snow line, which was probably about 7000 feet and several steep rocky miles from Wasatch Blvd, where the PW-mobile was waiting. It got dark long before we got there. And neither one of us had a headlamp.

The last 2.5 hrs out Bells was a exercise in endurance. Luckily, Noah found the trail and guided me out. Noah used his cell phone LCD at times to find the trail. I pretended I was Hansel, and at times, Gretel, following the white rocks down the trail, trying not to break my ankle. And luckily about an hour from the trailhead, a nice couple on their first date, and more importantly, with 3 lights caught up to us. They guided us down the mountain. It was 11 p.m.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Stuper Tour: Alta to SLC

I'm still trying to digest the Stuper Tour, and I'll put up a more detailed post after it's digested, and after I recover, and after I stop shaking (from fatigue, fear, and giddiness).

The Stuper Tour is the official name given (by Noah Howell) to a tour that begins in the Alta parking lot and tags several high points, most of which are over 11k, including, but not necessarily limited to, the following:

Hidden Peak
Twin Peaks
Red Stack
Red Baldy
White Baldy
Chipman Peak
Bighorn Peak
Lone Peak

The Stuper tour exits out Bells Canyon and ends on Wasatch Blvd. The Stuper Tour is somewhat of a play on the "Super Tour" as discussed in Wasatch Tours aka the Wasatch BC Skiing Bible by Hanscom and Kelner. The name was born as Noah and I were sprawled out on a rock at noon -- in a stupor -- after just having summited 6 peaks, with several peaks between us and SLC. The name is a nice melding of Super, Stupor, and come to think of it, Stupid.

Photo Above: Noah Howell with Bighorn Peak in the background, ascending Lone Peak, the last pitch of the Stuper Tour.

Photo Above: Noah Howell doing what he does in a couloir on Lone Peak's east face.

Posted by Picasa
More later.

Friday, May 8, 2009


The DMV weekly "training race" is something I miss during the off-season, which indicates that it must be something I like in the on-season. Though when actually feeling the DMV pain, I often question whether I like it. Deep down, I must.

The first time I rode the DMV was in 2005, mid summer. I entered the B flite and got dropped after 3 laps. The next time I entered I hung on for a few more laps, and the next time I might have finished. Having ridden it fairly consistently since then, I've had the chance to observe how good riders do well the DMV. I suppose if I were to be completely genuine, I would have titled this post, "How to Ride the DMV like Dave Harward." Instead, I have pirated his tricks, labeled them as ancient chinese secrets (FYI Samurai are not Chinese), and am now fully divulging them to you. If you think you can use them to beat the Hardwood, good luck with that. . .

Ancient Chinese DMV Secret (ACDMVS) No. 1: Pedal Fast. Chances are you're disappointed and do not consider this a secret, but how fast do you pedal up the hill? Do you pedal fast? Or do crush a big gear? Pedaling fast, both when standing or sitting, will save you energy in the long run and leave you fresh to crush the big one when you absolutely need to.

ACDMVS No. 2: Draft. Duh. More often than not, there is a wind at the DMV. I prefer a wind out of the North, but it varies. Sometimes it's a cross wind. If you think drafting is simpy riding behind someone, you need to take ACDMVS No. 2 to heart. In order to effectively draft at the DMV, in any given lap, you will be directly behind a rider, behind and to the left, behind and to the right.

ACDMVS No. 3: Pedal through the corners. This is a tough one, especially if you clip a pedal on the ground. However, it is possible to pedal through every one of the DMV corners, and if you do, you'll be able to gain an advantage or reel in a break or avoid getting dropped. Figuring out the right lines is key.

ACDMVS No. 4: Put the hammer down at the top of the hill. If you are in a break or trying to get in a break or trying to catch back on or trying to create a selection, it helps to really drive it through the parking lot on top. That's when people tend to want to let up or are winded from the West Valley Wall.

ACDMVS No. 5: Tail gun the hill. Don't be super concerned if a slight gap forms right before the down hill section. In fact, sometimes I intentionally let up to save some energy, knowing/hoping that I'll be able to tail gun back on at the first corner. With good tail gunning tecnique, you'll never need to touch the brakes.

ACDMVS No. 6: Position yourself for the sprint. If you aren't in the front of the pack with 2 laps to go, it will be really hard to place well.

What are your DMV tips?