Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Fishing Story To Remember

On Saturday, my family hopped in my drift boat for a fall fishing session on Strawberry Reservoir.  We wind drifted and trolled flies on a fly rod and two spin rods.  Immediately, we had success, and we were happy.  My 5 year old was using my fly rod.  After catching 4 or so nice big cutts, he lost a bit of focus.  Before we knew it, he had a fish on, and the fly rod went rocketing out of the boat.  I watched as the rod, reel, and orange backing zoomed away through the water.  It was a helpless feeling.  I liked that rod and it had served me well the last 12 years.  I thought it was gone.  My little boy felt bad, and I scolded him and told him it was ok at the same time.  But again, in my mind, I was feeling the loss.

Here's the little guy before the rod rocketed out of his hands.
Almost as soon as it happened, I cast out a spin rod.  My daughter already had her rod out.  I swung the boat around and moved over the water where we saw the rod zoom away.  Nothing.  Then, my daughter said she had a fish on.  We stopped the boat and focused on her fish.  And temporarily, we forgot about the lost rod.  My daughter's fish took a couple dives, but she steadily brought it in.  When she lifted her rod, we expected to see a fish on the other end, because there was a fish on the other end.  But instead, there was just a dark, olive, green, sinking line -- MY FLY ROD'S LINE.  

The line angling down and to the left is my daughter's.  You can see the fly hooked to the fly rod line.
The weight of the fish on one end of my fly rod line and the fly rod itself created enough tension to allow my daughter to pull in my fly line.  I gingerly reached out and grabbed the line, handed the fish-end to my son who brought it in, while I hauled in my rod.  I got it back!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Molas Pass to Durango on the Colorado Trail

A couple weeks ago, Bart and I rode the Colorado Trail from Molas Pass to Durango.  Wow.  It was definitely the coolest bike ride I've done.  It was the full meal deal.  Tight single track. Sprawling and amazing vistas. High elevation.  Rain.  Hail.  Hike-a-bike.  12,000 foot plus mountain passes.  80 miles.  13,000 feet of climbing.  Over 18,000 feet of descent. And to make it epic-er, 25+ miles in the dark with a couple headlamps not meant for biking.

Since I hadn't broken 80 miles on a bike this year, I approached the ride with a bit of trepidation.  But it's something I've always wanted to do, I had a willing partner who is OK on a MTB, and we were in the area, . . . . wait, my bike had just been broken to bits by a Ford F250.  Bart wouldn't let me back out, so he adjusted Rosie's (his wife) bike so that I could ride it.  It turns out that a Scalpel 29er makes a Scalpel 26er feel like a crash machine.  I'm pretty sure that had I been on my Scalpel 26er, I would have crashed 10x more than I actually did (I went over the bars once at about 11:30 pm).

Because we had to break camp and get our families on their way to Durango, we didn't get an early start.  6:30 would have been ideal.  Instead it was more like 11ish.  But we weren't too concerned.  We conservatively projected an 8 to 10 hr finish.  At about 8 to 10 hrs into the ride we still had at least 40 miles to go.  We came to a point where we could bail, but we just rode past it.  The trail was a lot more technical and challenging than I expected.  And the darkness made it even tougher.  Fortunately, the last 25 miles of the ride dropped 6000 feet.  We finished in just under 14 hrs total.  It was after midnight.

Looking toward the Needles and Chicago Basin

Bart would stop, I would catch up.  Then he would get ahead.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.

After 2500 feet of climbing . . . 

We topped out at some pass (forgot the name).  It rained and hailed for a while, but not too bad.

Bart was chomping at the bit to "shred" something.  And he did.  This was a long descent, which meant that we'd be climbing again soon.

Climbing out of Cascade Canyon.  
The Lizard Head and Uncompahgre in the distance.  

Topping out on another long climb.  Forgot the name of this pass too.

See those mountains clear back there . . . yes, waaay back there.  That's where we had ridden from.

Descending again.

The La Plata range in sight. 

Rosie's bike on the Indian Ridge Trail.

Hike a bike section at 12,500 feet.  approaching Kennebec Pass.

And then it got dark. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Family Adventuring in Colorado

One thing I've enjoyed in the past is driving backcountry roads and exploring new trails.  Before I had kids, I was a fly fishing guide in the Frank Church Wilderness in Idaho.  I spent lots of days driving around the mountains between Cascade, McCall, and Stanley.  It was fun.  And someday soon, I'd like to do the same thing with my family.

For the last few years, I've visited the San Juans each summer in Colorado.  The roads down there are pretty rough and moving the family through those mountains wasn't really doable in our Honda Pilot.  So, with an eye toward more backcountry adventures with the family, I recently bought a 2009 4Runner.  I thought about a Sequoia and a Suburban might have crossed my mind, but for what I've wanted to do, those vehicles are too big.  The problem with the 4Runner was that it didn't have a third row seat, and I need to seat 6 people.  So, after a bit of research and trolling ebay, I found a jump seat, and after some drilling through the bottom of my 4Runner (and narrowly missing the gas tank), I bolted the jump seat in.  Third row seat.

The jump seat took a lot of space, so I modified my Thule T4 bike rack by removing two of the bike holders and bolting on an ATV cargo rack so that I could haul a cooler, an inflatable kayak, and camping gear.  More drilling.  With a Yakima roof box and my modified rack, I was able to carry camping gear and food for six people in a relatively off-road worthy vehicle.  With those gear mods -- drilling into otherwise perfect pieces of equipment -- we set off for the San Juans.

If you happened to notice the blog post below, you might surmise that our adventure through the San Juans was not without difficulty.  I got a flat tire at 12,000 feet, and in my haste to change it (because it was raining and hailing and getting dark), I left my back hatch open. And I lost a handgun out the back hatch.  And some shoes.  Oops.

But before that, because of the rough roads and the decreased departure angle of my T4 rack, which caused my special modified rack to drag on the road, my bike fell off.  And then Bart ran over it with his F250 truck.  He obviously needs to work on his off-roading skills.

But those slight trials aside, the trip up Corkscrew Gulch, over and down Red Mountain, up and over Hurricane Pass and Cinnamon Pass and then to Animas Forks was worth it.  Such cool country!

Bart, having a family conference about safety in the mountains.
F250 climbing up Red Mountain.

Switchbacks for long wheel base required some spotting and maneuvering.
Hanging out at 12k.
We drove down that road to find Hurricane Pass.
We had intermittent hail and rain, making things a bit tenuous, but nice and clean.
Looking off toward Ouray from Cinnamon Pass.
The family. 

Cool mushrooms.  Trippy?

A few days later connecting to Durango via Ophir Pass.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Lost Gun Between Cinnamon Pass and Animas Forks, Ouray, Silverton, Colorado

Lost the week of August 12, 2013 on the road between Cinnamon Pass and Animas Forks.  Let me know if you find it.  Reward.

(Thought I'd just put this out there.)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Grunge: Video by Jason Dorais

Jason and I skied the Grunge a couple weeks ago.  He made a video, which was nice because I'm low on cameras right now (Canon S90 (fell in lake), Canon video camera (run over after I left it on wife's bumper), Sony Nex 7 (accidentally left camera bag open and flung it across garage; did not survive), GoPro Black Edition (junk, took it back).

The Grunge from Jason Dorais on Vimeo.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Avalanche's Gift

One year ago, I nearly died in an avalanche.  Shortly after the incident, I wrote down some of my thoughts here.  In the last year, I don't think that a day has gone by that I haven't thought about that incident.

I distinctly remember my attitude the day I got swatted off the mountain.  I was over confident.  I was cocky.    I was not afraid.  Jason and I had just skied the north face of Mt. Superior.  I had triggered and skied out of an avalanche, and I had laughed.  No biggie.  Just as I thought, just as I would have guessed, and not surprisingly, I triggered it, managed it, and skied out.  I was, after all, a pro skier.  There wasn't much that could stand in between me and what I wanted out of the mountain. . . . or so I thought.

The day I stood on Superior and confidently arced turns on its south face might have been the highest point in my ski "career."  That day, I was standing on what I considered to be a pile of accomplishments: a variety of ski traverses, ski linkups, decent results at some rando races, and a speed ascent (and record) on the Grand Teton.  But as the avalanche swept me off the mountain and into a funnel lined with sharp and merciless rocks, I instantly realized that of the things that matter most in life, my skiing stunts were not among them.

It's odd how time nearly stood still as I churned and  pin-balled off the mountain.  Although my fall likely was less than one minute, I had ample time to reflect on what was happening to me.  I felt overwhelming anger and guilt, understanding that the next bashing might be my last.  I was fully aware that if my life were to end in the next cartwheel, I would leave a family behind.  My family.  That's what made me angry and guilty.

If I had to pinpoint one thing the avalanche taught me, it would be that I was a lucky guy.  I realized that in the years I had been moving in the mountains, I hadn't conquered anything.  I hadn't mastered much at all.  Rather, I had gotten away with things.  The mountains had given me gifts.  I had just gotten lucky.  Timp solo on an unstable day?  Luck.  Scaling the north face of Buck Mountain with one tool and no rope?  Luck.  Triggering avalanches and skiing out of them while skiing off Twin Peaks and Dromedary (in the same day)?  Duh, dumb luck.

This ski season has been a bit weird.  For the first time in years, I haven't had a burning desire to stand on or ski something scary.  I haven't had much of a desire to do much except for safe skinning and skiing.  Standing at the top of a powdery, class-A couloir kind of scares me.  I haven't summitted Mt. Superior since the avalanche.  I now think that the ideal ski day is when the snow is frozen solid.  Seriously, what is wrong with me?

The fact that I have seemed to have lost whatever moxy I used to have has troubled me, slightly.  But I've gotten over it.  I suppose that my old self would say that the avalanche took something away from me.  That it stole my fire.  But now, I don't think of it that way.  The avalanche gave me a gift.  It supplanted overconfidence with fear.  It didn't take away my desire to be in the mountains, but it gave me a healthy dose of respect.  It showed me what might have been without completely divesting me of what I had.  And that too was a gift.

Monday, March 11, 2013

2013 Powderkeg Individual Race

I was forced to be a spectator this year.  And spectating is almost as fun as racing.  I put a "fun" video together that includes lots of people, lots of layers, some skiing, some jeering, some cheering, and it will probably make you cross-eyed -- just like the Powderkeg.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Wasatch Citizen Skimo Series La Sportiva Ski Raffle -- WIN SOME SKIS!!

On February 26, the Wasatch Skimo Citizen Series will have its 9th and final (official) race.  Join us at 7:00 at Brighton Ski Resort.  Afterwards, we will convene at Molly Greens to give out awards an to RAFFLE OFF A PAIR OF LA SPORTIVA SKIS.

If you would like to participate in the raffle, you must be present.  You also must fill out this form:

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

For Sale: Really Light Rando Boots and Skis

My friend Joey Dempster is selling his Pierre Gignoux XP444s, size 275.

He says: "I bought them for the 09/10 season direct from Pierre. I only raced in them, and trained in a pair of dna's. I have used them probably 10 or 15 times total and not at all for 2 seasons now. I'm not an aggressive downhill skier, so I never broke them, but I did manage to put a small tear in carbon on the outside of the right lower, near the sole. It has been repaired."

He is also selling: 

1st gen DNA carbon boots 
DNA carbon skis with Montura auto lock race bindings 

He didn't give me a price, but he's an eminently reasonable guy, except for the fact that he appears to be getting out of rando racing.  

Contact him at:

Maybe he's just going to upgrade to this:

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Vail Winter Mountain Games Skimo Race

On Saturday, I raced at the Vail Winter Mountain Games presented by Eddie Bauer, formerly known as the Teva Winter Mountain Games.  Vail is an interesting venue and it's always fun visiting Colorado to race.

The skimo race is part of the COSMIC series put on by Pete Swenson, held in conjunction the Mountain Games.  The skimo race seemed to be a huge success.  At early morning registration, I attempted to console a disheartened Pierre Wille as he had just driven from Aspen to learn that the race (capped at 200) had sold out and he couldn't race.  (That was remedied, and he did, indeed race.)  Let's just say that pre-registration is not something on the minds of most skimo racers.

The course is somewhat unique in that it features a full tour of Vail, like 19-20 miles.  This translates into a few punchy climbs, some challenging (one suicidal) descents, and lots and lots of low angle skinning.  Compared to other courses, this one is long and flat.  But, still fun.

The race started out under relatively clear skies and relatively pleasant temperatures.  But as we topped out on the first climb, a snowstorm rolled in, making the race cold and even more challenging.  At one point in time, I had several icicles on my face.  At the start line, I made the mistake of not taking a buff, goggles, or a jacket.  So, when things got dire, my only option was to rev the engine as hot as I could and forge ahead.  It was a cold race.

In the end, Jan Koles took top honors, edging out Bryan Wickenhauser.  Actually, Brian Smith won the whole race, but since he was in a separate contest (the Ultimate Mountain Challenge, skate+skimo+vertical race), we all got bumped up.  These guys were followed by Mike Kloser (also UMC) Billy Laird, me, Ben Kadlec, Jon Brown, Mike Hagan, Chad Ambrose, Colin Cares, and so on.

I was happy with 4th place.  I had a slow start and moved from 15th place or so to end up where I did.  Last year, I cramped and bonked spectacularly on the final climb, so I was quite satisfied when I had the condition to go fast on the final climb.  Maybe a slower start is better?  Or maybe, since this was my first race of the year, I had some fresh legs.  Who knows?  It was a pleasant surprise, especially since my water froze during the first half of the race.

I was especially happy for Chad for being solidly in the Top 10 in his first ever skimo race in the "elite" field.  While taking part in his post-mortem, I prodded him a bit about the fact that he stopped to put clothes on and to eat 2 Snickers.  That was certainly the rational thing to do.  In any event, he raced strong and will be a force to be reckoned with.

For the record, Chad and I drove from Vail to his house in Sandy, Utah in 5 hrs and 35 minutes.  That includes the time it took for Chad to get pulled over and receive a speeding ticket.

Notably missing were several of the guys who are now in France racing.  Although I'm sure I would have bumped down several spots, it would have been fun to have them in the mix.

Some pics I found on Facebook:

Jan Koles from Slovakia and presently of Colorado, winding up to crush everyone.  He moved remarkably fast across the flats and he is an impressive downhill skier--apparently, a deadly combination.
Me trying to get some glide and a gap between Colin Cares and Jon Brown.
Since my boots are broken, Jason let me use his Aliens.  
It's nice, after the fact, to see what was happening at the front of the race.  Ben is getting stronger and I think he's got a lot of potential.  Ben Kadlec,  Mike Kloser, Colin Cares, and Billy Laird.  
CHAD AMBROSE, focused on some flat skinning and not the awesomeness to his left.  
Jon Brown.  I've raced with Jon for several years now, and he never ceases to amaze me.  Obviously, he is gutting it out here.  But here's the rest of the story.  On his first descent, he broke both of his poles, one 20 inches below the handle, and the other 10 inches from the bottom.  Did that stop him?  No way.  He kept gunning, pole-less, for 12 miles.  Not only did he finish the race, he won some money too!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Alta to Millcreek, Rando Style

As has become somewhat of a tradition on "Considerable" avy days, my brothers and friends and I skied from Alta to Millcreek. I'm not sure why I like this tour so much. Maybe it's the scenery. Maybe it's the company. The skiing is pretty good. Maybe it's because I feel like I've accomplished something by skiing the 15 or so miles from Alta to Millcreek. Whatever it is, it's fun!

This year, at a "fun" pace, we did the tour in 3 hrs and 10 minutes. "Fun" pace includes pinning it up Cardiff and Reynolds behind Tom Goth, Chad, or Jason; hanging out on the top of peaks, joking around and eating; skiing 3 wonderful powder shots; and, of course, the full-on, rando/nordic races out of Cardiff and Millcreek. The runout races include a bit of roller-derby, skier-cross, drafting, downhill racing, V2, and a bit of trash talk. They are hard to describe, but I think we may have made an impression on a few startled scouts and dogs. Sorry, kind of.

How many rando racers does it take to collapse the Wasatch snowpack right now?  About 3 or 4.

Chad breaking trail with Tom, Jason, and the Inouyes in tow.
Brother Aaron, Brother Sam, and "Brother" Jason, "Mmm, can I have some of that? "

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Denali: An Adventure -- The Movie

This year, for New Years Eve, my family had a film festival. For this event, I put together some footage from my Denali trip earlier this year. The product was a family-centered movie about Denali. After all was said and done, it turned out to be 25 minutes. I've posted various clips on my blog, so some of it is a repeat. Hopefully, with my attempt to link it all together, it's better.


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Wasatch Goodness (a few photos)

Four Inouye Brothers:  Jared, Sam, Aaron, Jordan (taking picture) skiing on New Years Day.
Chad Ambrose and me climbing the Pfeif on 1/5/13.  More from Chad here.  Photo by Bart Gillespie.
Me looking into the NW Col of the Pfeif.  I didn't drop in from there.  Scary.  Photo by Chad Ambrose.
Rapping the NW Col of the Pfeif on 6mm cord and a Munter.  Photo by Chad Ambrose.
Bart on the Obelisk with the Pfeif looking on.  Photo with my iPhone.
A Japanese Guy (Shingo) and a French Guy (Alexi) on the Obelisk.