Sunday, December 30, 2012

Ski St. Vrain

~9 Miles, 3500' gain
TH/Route Information in "Powder Ghost Towns" (online preview)

Snow had been a scarce commodity so far, but after another storm (and a few days for things to settle), the balance of enough-snow and avalanche conditions were more promising (moderate above treeline).  The first day of winter, I was eager to try a new but classic ski tour with some downhill turns, up along the old "lost" Rock Creek Ski area.

If conditions were favourable, instead of gaining the ridge of the old ski area, I would instead aim for a new-to-me summit: St. Vrain Mountain, on the border of RMNP and Indian Peaks.
The East Face of St. Vrain is a mellow-angle tour, with lines around 30 degrees at the top (I used hillmap to check this out), in addition to glades along the way.

I pressed on toward treeline, to be greeted by howling winds.  These winds scoured the plateau below the St. Vrain summit ridge, and packed and sastrugified the snow.  Not ideal powder conditions, but at least the East Face was completely covered.  Onward.

After a few false summits, I eventually ran out of snow and had a few hundred feet of rocks.  I carried my skis a bit in case there was more snow at the summit (there wasn't), but the wind pitched me sideways as I navigated wobbly talus on plastic boots.  I gave up that effort and stashed the skis so as to claim the very windy summit.

I ducked in the shelter of a summit rock wall, which was just big enough to keep my head out of the jet stream, as I took in familiar, surrounding peaks.  I layered up with everything I had and made it back down to my skis, sliding down tentatively at first as I tried to dig into the hard snow, but eventually enjoying more turns as the slope ran out.

I picked my way over the thin snow and back into the trees, enjoying turns some more.

Lower down, the snow was great in the trees, but I didn't want to take too much risk on a solo effort, so I mostly traversed through the forest, waiting to pop out on the Ski Road approach.
I felt temporarily misplaced for about 15-20 minutes, wishing I had just stuck to the road, but soon enough ended up right back on it.  Although the skin up didn't feel all that steep, the ride down was actually pretty fun.

All in all, this is a great tour for skinning to a summit, checking out the old ski area runs, or just XC skiing on the NFS roads.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Pennock Pedalin' Powwow 2012

Pennock Pedaling Pow-Wow
107 miles, 10 hours

This year's second Winter Ralleye series ride took us up and over Pennock Pass, over 9000 feet above sea level and 4000 feet above town.  I'd never ridden it before, so was delighted to join around a couple dozen hardy souls for a long day in short daylight.

I enjoyed brief chats with old and new friends on the Spring Creek trail, before separating a bit climbing up the dams
As in other rides, there was quite the mix of bikes.  Despite the foggy morning and cool, damp weather, the conditions were actually promising for this ride at this time of year, with only a trace of packed snow at the upper reaches of Pennock Pass.

With all of the pavement, cross and touring bikes were still the best bet.  I'm even more motivated to cross-ify one of the bikes in my garage, just a few parts short, and I need to move some racks around between bikes.  Instead, I went with knobbies again, and a heavy backpack full of warm clothes, making myself work a bit harder to keep pace.

We chased the sun for a bit, but never fully warmed up.

Eventually, we turned West, and began the long climb up to Pennock.  It's steady until a few switchbacks at the end.

Feeling steady but just about bonky, I was glad to have the extra piece of birthday cake that I saved from the party the night before.  I regrettably wasn't too social, as I was feeling a bit worked from the ride and the cold.
We lingered a bit at the top, but blustery wind encouraged us to descend -- after putting on every layer we brought with us.

The descent down Pingree Park Road was a sustained and enjoyable break from pedaling, and the warmer temperatures towards the bottom were a nice change from the chattering and shivering up top.

Despite the damage from the High Park fire, the views were still inspiring.

We split into smaller, disorganized groups for the descent down the canyon, and I worked fairly hard to keep in line with other riders, knowing that pedaling by myself would both be more lonely and a significantly harder effort.  But I seem to have recovered and was able to pedal more strongly and take some pulls.  Even if a bit uneven, I love working in a paceline, and that's a dynamic that can't exactly be replicated in running.

We took one final break at the Mish:

I followed another small group out before splitting up and heading home, just needing the small blinky light on front for the last half hour or so.

Another great ride that beat me up, though I felt a bit stronger than last month, being my longest mt. bike ride ever, and my longest ride since January, 2011 (almost 2 years ago).  Ironically, that meant I just snuck in a century ride right before the end of the year, which continues a streak of 8 years that I hadn't purposely worked on, but is a streak nonetheless.  That should satisfy Alex, who taunted me (late the night before) for stopping 5 or 6 miles short last month.

Find more Bike Ride in Fort Collins, CO

Once again, a great ride, great scenery, great folks.  Definitely enjoying the mix of activity this time of year, and also inspired by these riders and their rides to rig up one of my bikes (that I told J I would sell) for these sort of rides.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Snowmass Uphill Ski

Snowmass Ski Resort
Base Elevation: 8100'
Big Burn Hut Elevation: 11,800' 

Visiting Snowmass for an annual conference, I enjoyed the opportunity to sleep right next to a premiere skiing destination.  With this year's thin snowpack, however, only a handful of groomed, icy green runs were open, and a couple of chairlifts.  With climbing skins and a willing spirit, however, this made conditions actually quite good.

For all of the Aspen areas storied reputation for elitism and wealth, the four developed ski resorts themselves show a respect for the tradition of free uphill skiing.


I did this last year, on skinnier skis, but was a little more hesitant this year due to the reduced terrain -- would it be too crowded such that an uphill skier, swimming against the stream like the salmon of Capistrano on limited snow, would be obnoxiously in the way?  Would machines be running full-bore on the non-open runs in order to manage the snow?  It turns out that these concerns were for nought.

Not only were the downhill skiers respectful (or at least a non-issue), but all staff and patrollers were respectful and kind as well.  As I put my skins on at the base, a patroller gave me some beta on the conditions above.  Heading up, I generally kept an eye out for any snowcats or other machines, and the times I made eye contact with them or lift operators, I only got thumbs-up.

This time, I was much smarter about wearing limited gear uphill, working up a sweat, with plenty of warm clothes to wear downhill.  In just over an hour, I was already at the top of the lift-served terrain.  I followed an occasional skin track up another 45 minutes to the top of the Big Burn.  Here, I saw a solo skier enjoying the snow, and he told me he had just warmed up at the patrol hut at the top.

Great place to take a break, I appreciated it being open.  I was careful not to track in any snow.

Taking my time, I changed clothes and de-skinned, before heading down.
Although the snow was still scarce up here, there were plenty lines of a legitimate 2 inches of untracked powder.  On a pleasant day, I had a wide-open run to myself!

Too quickly, I rejoined the skied-off runs and masses, dodging gapers and trying not to get taken out by other people.  It was fun while it lasted.

I didn't have enough time for a second run, but I headed out again for more of the same the next day, this time skinning up under freshly falling snow.  Mid-mountain, some snowboarders were having a party, gave me the thumbs up and called me over.  They were out of beer but gave me a jello shot, and another one for the road, which I took to the top, before again having my own run down on even fresher powder.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Lotteries and 2013

It's lottery and 2013 sign-up season.
Good luck to the WS100 lottery entrants, especially the local never-run-before's, with the lottery coming up this weekend.
Specifically rooting for Alex, who first heard about this nonsense regarding a teacher of his that ran the race while he lived in California, and has entered enough times without luck.  He did a fine job pacing me last year, so he knows the course!
Also rooting for Cat, who ran solid at Vermont, is always steady, and deserves a shot at WS, where she'll run well.
And Katie, who grew up near the race, volunteered at it, and was in the movie pontificating about Killian's chances -- and runs a strong downhill.
How cool would it be if they all got in?


I really enjoyed the experience last year, and would love see how well I could run it with a good run, but am not in the lottery -- only so much time and money to spend on these things while balancing other parts of life.

The lottery I'm excited about is that July race right here in Colorado.
It's not an uncommon story, but being out in the mountains during the race got into my soul.  Pacing was awesome (being out there and observing NMP and others handling the course), and so is the race atmosphere, so I'll be out there that weekend in some capacity.  I love power-hiking if the course dictates it, so I love training for that sort of thing.  Others deserve to get in much more, so I'm rooting for them, too.  I'll keep entering that lottery until I get a chance.

Ironically, a longer and 'worse' finish at Steamboat (than Leadville or WS) made me feel more hopeful about being prepared for Hardrock (can't be completely prepared of course), as I spent more time on my feet and finished in broad daylight, dealt with a lot of uncertainty, ran stronger the last quarter of the race, and in general just let go and had fun.


If that doesn't work out, I'd love to head to the Black Hills and race out there.  Racing in South Dakota before, twice, I know that the scenery is great, the scene is great, and the directors put on a top-notch event.  I'd love to test out the rolling, hilly singletrack of the Centennial Trail in South Dakota, and I also like to envision the training that would go well with that course: trail runs done right here in town (local trails being similar terrain at a higher elevation), and some quality speed (heresy!) on the roads during the week.  A bit different than Hardrock training, but I enjoy the structure that I'd build into something like that.

HR is the priority because of the lottery, but that doesn't make Black Hills a backup: I'll be excited for either one.
If the WS lotteries don't work out for local folks, I'm going to make a stronger push for them to join me, and urge other folks to take a look at another great race within driving distance.

I'm only going to sign up for one big race, because I never know how much I'll want to keep doing it.

I hope to be in Leadville in August to pace.
There are good options in September: The Bear, and the new UROC race.  But the whole family had a lot of fun in Steamboat.  The 50 looks great...or maybe I just pace and ride bikes with my brother-in-law on the trails (which looked great for biking).


Closest to home, Quad Rock is a great event and fun time.  I'll either run or help out.  (Leaning towards running, but ironically feel like I'm missing out by not being out at an aid station).
Either way, it's a great course, great scene, great RD's and runners, prizes, food, beer, music, and impeccable course markings.
Go sign up if you haven't already!