Sayulita

After being together for almost 22 years and married for almost 15, we decided it was time for our first beach vacation.  We had spent a day here and a day there at beaches before, but never done a true beach trip.  We decided on Sayulita, Mexico as it would give us a chance to see Chris and Ashley (our Aspen Lane neighbors who moved there a few years ago), it came highly recommended from several friends, and it wasn’t touristy like most well-known beach areas.

We decided against racing at Steamboat on 05 April an instead had an amazing Whiskey Ski Tour (Alta to High West; 16.3 mile; 7550′ ascent; 9,200′ descent)

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      Whiskey at High West after touring there from Alta

24 hours later, our backpacks were loaded on the local Puerto Vallarta to Sayulita bus and we were enjoying a Pacifico in route to the beach.

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We had a  relaxing first evening walking around town and having our first of many  meals of fish tacos from the numerous street vendors and enjoying a few beverages and the amazing view from our balcony.

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     View from our balcony

Monday Emily took her first surf lesson and I spent most of the day reminding myself how to surf.  We enjoyed the first of several evening with Chris, Ashley, Alex, and Trace.

My back had given me issues the week before vacation and I was on a dose of Prednisone.  As has happened other times I am on this, my immune system was weakened and just like other times, I ended up getting sick on Monday night so I spent Tuesday resting.  Emily enjoyed the ocean for another day.

This area is not well known for scuba diving, but since it had been several years since we had the opportunity to dive, we took a 1 day dive trip to the Marietas Islands.  It was a lot of fun to dive again.  The area was all volcanic rock so there were lots of caverns and tunnels to dive through. This was a new experience for us and a lot of fun.

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     Heading out to dive 

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Dive #1

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     Underwater selfy with a GoPro

We figured we needed to have at least 1 dinner that was not street tacos and enjoyed an amazing meal at Don Juan’s.  We made a great evening of it walking around the area and then as usual, retreated to the balcony to watch the ocean and have a few beers.

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     Enjoying another great night

Thursday we enjoyed another night with Chris, Ashley, Alex, and Trace and an amazing meal of fresh caught tuna.

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The sunsets from Chris and Ashley’s are truly amazing.  I can see why they love Sayulita so much.

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Each day was filled with surfing, relaxing, reading, more surfing, street tacos at least once, and numerous beers and margaritas in the sun.

It was great to get up on Saturday morning and get 2 hours of surfing in before heading to the airport.  Just 24 hours after surfing, I was back on skis in the Wasatch feeling refreshed from the week.

 

The Sliver – A Wasatch Classic

Hogum Fork is one of my favorite places in the Wasatch. It is topped off with the Pfiefferhorn (my favorite peak) and is a massive alpine area with lots of great ski lines. Two of the classics are The Hypodermic Needle and The Sliver. Andy Paradis and I had hopes of skiing both lines on Saturday, but ended up just skiing The Sliver. In The Chuting Gallery, Andrew McLean gives this line a 5- our of 7 for steepness and mentions that the top section ‘can be a mildly technical mixed rock and snow climb in low snow conditions.’ The Wasatch definitely has low snow conditions this year. When you look at the Sliver from the bottom, it doesn’t look like it goes all the way to the top, but once in the chute, you can see a very narrow choke the allows access to the ridge. Three years ago we climbed the Sliver to access Coalpit Gulch and since that time, I have wanted to get back to ski it.

Andy and I decided to approach The Sliver via the longer route from White Pine Trailhead, up to Red Pine, across Maybird, over ‘Small Pass’ then across all of Hogum Fork. The approach was 5.5 miles and 3200′ of climbing just to get to the base of The Sliver.  Once at the top of the Sliver we enjoyed the great views of the western Wasatch and Salt Lake Valley.  Looking over the edge put butterflies in my stomach.  I measured the top section to the choke at 58 degrees.  Add to this, slipping or falling in this section would have made a person into a pinball off the rocks. I was a little nervous, but once my tips were over the edge and I dropped in, I realized it was exhilarating and not nearly as bad as it looked.

 

Ski Mountaineering Season Is Here

Most people anxiously await spring as they are ready to hit the trails, garden, bike, and do other warm weather activities. For me, spring means a new type of ski season starts. As the high elevations move into their warming and freezing cycles, the snow strengthens allowing us to safely get into the steep and alpine terrain. More and more each year, spring for me is about climbing peaks and skiing some bigger lines that I don’t venture into during the winter.

Over the past several years as I have done more skimo racing, it has allowed me to do more big ski mountaineering days in the spring. My back is still healing from January and I am unable to run yet so I am excited about a big spring of skiing. This weekend felt like the start of ski mountaineering season with a lot of big lines skied and people getting after it in the Wasatch. On Friday I mounted a pair of the new Voile Wasatch Speed Project skis and I was excited to try these. My hope was that these would be my go to ski mountaineering skis for this spring since I felt they would combine the light weight of a race ski with the ‘ski-ability’ of the rest of the Voile line of skis.

I wanted to try go ski one of the main chutes of LCC on Saturday with plans to go big on Mt Nebo on Sunday. Without a set plan, Blake and I headed up LCC on Saturday with a leisurely 9:15 departure from the city. We were contemplating Tannners or Little Pine. Since Blake had skied both of these, we ventured further east to Limber Pine. Had we planned this out ahead of time, we should have left earlier and tried to ski the triad of Limber Pine, Little Pine East, and Jedediah. Our late start prevented all 3 and our leisurely pace meant we only were able to ski Limber Pine before the snow warmed up too much.

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Looking up the choke of Limber Pine – it was mostly skiable

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Blake booting up Limber Pine

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LCC/BCC Ridgeline with the LCC road 3,100’ below

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Blake skiing Limber Pine

Limber Pine was a great ski for a quick ski day. I am excited to return of ski the triad.

Sunday was the day that Eric, Nick, and I had been planning all week. We had the hopes of ascending Mt Nebo from Pole Canyon and skiing the Champagne and Northwest Couloirs. There are 2 northwest facing couloirs off the North Summit of Mt Nebo that start at 60 degrees and then ease out to about 45. I was excited to ski these as it would be the steepest terrain I would have ever skied.

Unlike our leisurely Saturday morning, my alarm rang at 4:15 on Sunday morning and I was out the door by 5AM. We were able to 4-wheel my pickup farther up Pole Canyon than we had planned saving us about 500’ of climbing. We were walking up the rode in trail runners by 7:30 and reached snow after only about 20 minutes.

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We skinned up the road missing turn to boot up the basin to the base of the couloirs so we climbed to Wolf Pass then took the ridge to the summit.

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Chad & Nick on the ridge from Wolf Pass to Mt Nebo (photo by Eric Bunce)


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Nick (foreground) and Eric on the ridge

We skinned and booted the ridge to the Mt Nebo summit to find the Champagne couloir looking in rough shape. The top 100 vertical feet was blown off down to the rocks and would require a down climb. The Northwest couoir looked to be in moderately better condition, but would either require a down climb or some creating side-sliding and side-stepping to get into.

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A cold and windy Mt Nebo North Summit

While contemplating these objectives, we all agreed that the northwest to southeast aspects looked amazing and we decided that we better give those a try while we decided what we wanted to do about the couloirs.

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Creamy snow on the NE aspects (photo by Eric Bunce)

After climbing out of the first run, we decided we needed one more run on these aspects. The snow was great and the terrain was huge.

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Booting up in the warming day

The day was warming quickly and by the time we got to Wolf Pass after 2 runs we needed to make a final decision: 1) down to the road from the pass, 2) up to the summit again and down the NorthWest Couloir, or 3) up to North Peak and gamble that there was enough snow to ski out. No one really had a big preference other than based on already having climbed over 8,000’ and it getting later i the day we felt the NW couloir would take too long. Always up for an unknown adventure I voted for North Peak and no one vetoed (at least not very loudly).

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Mt Nebo from the North Peak Ridge

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Looking back at Nebo and the aspects that we skied

We skinned and booted to the peak, then had to boot down to snow line where after a little bit of creativity, we popped out into a great west facing gully with 1,000’ of perfect snow. We were lucky to have a fairly easy exist through the avalanche path and back down to the road. The road was a mix of corn, hardback, and ice and we were quickly at our ‘shoe stash’. We grabbed our shoes and continued to pick our way through patch snow to within a 5 minute walk to the pickup.

We had a great day on Nebo and it really just opened the door to some amazing terrain. There is an almost limitless amount of lines to ski in that area and almost guaranteed solidarity. I will definitely be heading back down for some big days.

The WSP skis did not disappoint me at all. Over the weekend I was able to ski them on ice, powder, corn, and breakable crust and for a ski/binding combined weight of 880g, they skied amazingly.

Ski Mountaineering Technique Tip

I have wanted to start putting together some ski mountaineering tips posts for quite a while.  Stano at www.skintrack.com does a great job of this and as a race director and racer, I especially like his post on race organization.

After being at World’s last year, I started to spend more time on skin waxing.  With Emily racing this year and having to wax 6 pair of skins before every race, I feel like I have perfected my technique. This is not the only technique and probably not the best one, but I have found it very successful.  I put together this short video ‘how-to’ on hot waxing skins.  I would love to hear feedback in the blog comment of other techniques people use or if they find this method useful.

 

Coupe du Monde de Ski Alpinisme – Verbier

I had what I thought would be the perfect plan. I had to be in London for client meetings 13-17 January. Looking at the skimo race schedule, the first World Cup race of the season was scheduled for 17-19 January in Verbier. A couple of quick calls and I found out that my round trip ticket would be $400 cheaper flying out of Geneva on Monday and I could fly from London to Geneva on Friday for $120. To complicate the schedule a little bit, Emily and I would be racing Heathen Challenge at Sunlight Resort, Colorado on 11 January. With a little bit of complicated packing/planning I think I had it figured out how to pack for 2 race weekends on different continents plus a week of client meetings.

Heathen Challenge was a great race. Long, but not a lot of vertical so it was a great chance to work on my gliding. Emily and I both had good races (Heathen Challenge Results ).

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Emily at the finish of Heathen Challenge

I was flying out of Denver on Sunday so after the race, I rented a car and drove to Boulder for the night to visit Matt and Walter. I was excited to catch up with them and have a trail run on Sunday.

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Matt and Walter

After a trail run on Sunday, I was off to the airport. It wasn’t a good start with a security flag of some type being put on my ticket and it taking me over 90 minutes to get checked in. I missed the first leg of my flight, but was able to get a later flight out and still get into London on time.

It was a busy week in London with client meetings, but I was really looking forward to the weekend and getting to race my first Euro Skimo race and then getting to free ski in Verbier for a day. Wednesday morning is when things went bad. I was stretching in the hotel in the morning and something in my back ‘snapped’. When this happened, I was hardly able to get off the floor. The only time I had experienced something like this during Leadman in 2012, but this was worse. I struggled through the next 2 days of work in constant pain and just hoped for the best. I was barely able to make it through the airport at Gatwick to my flight to Geneva on Friday. Every few steps I would have to stop breathing hard and sweating from pain. This was not good. I arrived in Geneva, picked up a rental car and headed to Chamonix to pick up Meredith and Wild Bill. It would be Meredith’s first World Cup race.

We arrived in Verbier and quickly starting catching up with race friends. I was excited for the World Cup race weekend .

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Chad, Meredith, Martha, and Wild Bill

I knew the only way I would be able to determine if I could race would be to get out and skin a little. Meredith and I did a short 1100’ climb from Verbier. The climbing felt good, but when it was time to transition, I could reach my boots and bindings. When it was time to ski, I was not able to engage any of the lower back and leg muscles on my right side and therefore could hardly turn left. That pretty much made my race decision and I was extremely disappointed and bummed out. I had done all this traveling and had built up a lot of excitement about my first Euro skimo race and I was going to be sidelined.

At least there was still work to do. There was an interesting coaches meeting on Friday afternoon to review all of the new and updated ISMF rules. It was great to get clarification of them. Verbier is also the host of the 2015 World Championships so I was able to get a ‘lay of the land’ for next year’s races. Meredith was also really nervous so being able to support her in a ‘coaches’ role would be very beneficial to her and at least make me useful.

The pre-race briefing had lots of ‘show’. There was the parade of nations and presentation of numbers for the top 5 men and women racers.

Verbier World Cup Individual Race

The best of the best in the world

 The blistering fast start pace of a World Cup race

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Melanie Bernier of Team Canada at the first transition

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Somewhat obscured view of the top of climb 2 (up the ridge on the right) and climb 3 (straight up the front)

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Martha on the final climb

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Meredith on the last climb

The race was great to watch. My back got much worse when walking near the starting line and my foot sunk through a hole and my entire body seized up trying to hold the fall. This was not good and it only got worse throughout the day. By night I was not able to even stand up out of a chair. I was not in some of the most severe pain I had ever been in my life. After a tough night of sleep, I wasn’t able to get out of bed on Sunday. Unfortunately I missed the race on Sunday as I knew I couldn’t get up and down the mountain. I was not a lot worried about my back and my ability to get home the next day. After the race, we drove back to Chamonix for the race. What should have a dream for me, was more about pain management and I didn’t really get to enjoy my time in Cham.

I am now on the flight home and trying to feed the pain with Vitamin I and Valium and not sure of what to do next.

I had a busy week planned with the OR Show Race and OR Show meetings for the Powder Keg. I can’t imagine at this point being able to be on my feet for any amount of time for OR and am having doubts on being able to ski for a few weeks. I have dealt with back pain for many years, but this is like nothing else.

 

Wyoming Roundup Race Recap

3 Skimo Race, 15,000’ climbing, 18 miles of distance, in 2 days

At first thought, the idea of putting all that in 2 days sounded crazy. The Wyoming Roundup would be the newest US Skimo Stage race. It would combine The Jackon race, Grand Targhee Classic, and add in a new Snow King Sprint race. It was guaranteed to be a very busy weekend. Drive to Driggs on Friday, race Grand Targhee Classic Saturday morning, drive to Jackson, attempt to dry out gear before Saturday’s second race at Snow King, try to sleep, race Jackson on Sunday, then drive home. It makes me tired even recapping the plan.

As is typical for this race weekend, the weather forecast was cold. It was going to be snowing, below zero (F) temps, and very windy.

Emily and I were both excited for the race weekend. For me, it was to return for the third year to race Targhee and Jackson and for her it was to have her first big multi-race weekend.

We had a great Thai dinner in Driggs with Jason D, Josh, Nick, and Brita, then were back at the hotel to get our race gear ready. A 9AM start on Saturday allowed us a somewhat relaxing morning. The weather at Grand Targhee was socked in, windy, and cold as expected. There was a nice layer of fresh snow so we were hoping for good skiing conditions until Andy (the RD) told us to expect otherwise since the 40mph winds of the previous afternoon had scoured everything up high. We warmed up for a while, then had to wait for a 30 minute race delay for avalanche control work. We warmed up again and the race was off with the standard ‘stupid, fast’ pace. I struggled to get into a rhythm on the steep first climb. A fast and good descent got me into my rhythm for the second climb and I enjoyed the climb and the booter up Mary’s Nipple. The second descent was what I was worried about after last year’s breakable crust. Expecting the snow to get bad at any time, I skied cautiously. The snow stayed good, but was very thin. The last climb was long. I blew both skins and lost 4 places. After replacing skins, I pushed the pace up to regain 2 of the places. I reached the top and was excited about the steep couloir off the top. It skied great followed by a straight-line descent down the apron and onto a groomer. I crossed the finish line in 1:55:48 for 12th place. I was 2 minutes slower than 2013 which was disappointing as I was hoping to be around 10 minutes faster. I got some warm cloths on and waited for Emily at the finish line. Emily came across very cold with frost nip on her thumbs at 2:40:21 for 11th. Full Grand Targhee Classic Results.

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Emily at Grand Targhee Classic Finish

We waited for awards and were on our way over Teton Pass by around 1. With lots of wet gear, we had things spread around the car as much as possible to dry. We go to Jackson and checked into our luxurious Super 8 room and went about getting our gear dried. Heater on high, doors and windows wide open. With Mark, Emily, and my wet gear the room did not have a good smell. Emily Sullivan came by and wouldn’t come past the door way it smelled so bad. We weren’t left with many options. We had just over 1 hour to get our gear as dry as possible before the Snow King Sprint Race.

We loaded up and headed to Snow King a little before 4. We got ready and started to warm up on the sprint course. The race would be 3 laps of 400’ each with several switchbacks and a booter. Sprinting is neither of our strong points so we just hoped to survive. When the gun went off, I felt very good and was able to push hard. All of our practice at transitions definitely paid off. Was was able to finish the 3 laps in 21:03 for 8th place. Emily finished in 27:54 for 7th.

Chad transitioning at the sprint race: http://www.jkaphanphotography.com/#!/portfolio/C0000xkYKqzUSodI/G0000GT2Z_NATWZw/8

We went straight to dinner (another Thai meal), the back to the hotel as quickly as possible to get our race gear ready for the next day. I decided against waxing skis and skins and instead just wanted to get things ready and off to bed.

Jackson was an 8AM start so we were up early. We arrived at the resort to cold and windy weather. Forest (the RD) announced it was -8F and 40 mph winds. Frostbite would be a real concern for everyone. Most people grabbed an extra layer ‘just in case’. As usual, we got warmed up and anxiously waited the race to start. Jackson is a big race. 10 miles and 8200’ ascent with some super steep descents. It is intimidating on fresh legs and even more on legs with 2 races on them.

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A Speedy Jackson Start (photo by Jackie Concannon)

Jackson Start:  http://www.jkaphanphotography.com/#!/portfolio/C0000xkYKqzUSodI/G0000GT2Z_NATWZw/21

I was having a great race. The ascents felt good and the skiing was very good. I kept a steady pace and tried to maintain my warmth. As I approached the Corbett’s booter, I put on an extra pair of gloves.

Chad topping out at Corbett’s ladder: http://www.jkaphanphotography.com/#!/portfolio/C0000xkYKqzUSodI/G0000GT2Z_NATWZw/33

After topping on on the Corbett’s we were in the full strength of the weather. It was so windy it was hard to stand up and it was so cold it was hard to breath. We moved our frozen bodies to the top only thinking about getting down as quickly as possible. When Emily arrived here, the volunteers told her she could not continue without going inside as her cheeks were white. She went in the patrol shack and as quickly as possible thawed her cheeks and thumbs and then was out on course again. This was standard for lots of racers and many who went in ended up dropping so it was great that she was able to dig deep and continue on. I got off course descending from the top of the tram not able to find the course in white out conditions. Once back on course, I pointed the skis down and did all I could to make up time. This descent is over 4000’ and it hurt. Your legs are burning and you know that you have 1 more 1200’+ climb left.

I reached the last transition, put on fresh skins that I had saved for this painful ascent and set out on a pace with Stevie and John on my tails. The 3 of us had been pushing each other all day and it was going to come down to this last ascent. Any mistake would cost me a place so I had to make sure everything went perfect. My fresh skins proved to be a great idea and I avoided any skin issues and the 3 of us topped out within second of each other. Time to make it a race. 1000’ of big moguls, then a groomer. I pointed them down and hung on. I crossed the finish line in 3:04:32 in 9th place.

I expected Emily in about 4 hours. That came and went and she came through very cold and frostbitten in 4:29:05 in 10th place.

I ended the 3 race series in 9th place in 5:21:23. Emily ended in 6th in 7:27:51.

The overall Jackson results and Wyoming Roundup Results can be found here:

STAGE RACE RESULTS WOMEN:    https://app.box.com/s/yozz1f16vuzgwu5u8j98
STAGE RACE RESULTS MEN:     https://app.box.com/s/5lnszm9ze72k33inwa71

JACKSON RACE RESULTS WOMEN:     https://app.box.com/s/28j6uhc20780t72qwruq
JACKSON RACE RESULTS MEN:      https://app.box.com/s/bxh9obbjgq8sfali0luh

We have a very busy couple weeks coming up with lots of racing.

  • This Saturday (11 Jan) is Heathen Challenge at Sunlight Resort
  • Next Saturday (18 Jan) I am racing the Swiss Cup in Verbier. I am in London for work and I was able to sneak in a side trip for this race.
  • 21 Jan is the OR Show race
  • 28 January is another Citizen Series race.

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Impacts of racing in -8F and 40mph winds

Utah Ski Mountaineering & Wasatch Citizen Series

7 days until the first Wasatch Citizen Ski Mountaineering Race! I hope everyone is ready. The snow conditions will make for a challenging time with a good course.

Our goal of the Citizen Skimo Series is to grow participation of the sport by introducing people to ski mountaineering races in a fun and non-intimidating atmosphere. The races have grown from ~15 people at the early races to over 70 people at the races last season.

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We have been very lucky for the past 2 seasons to be able to make the races 100% free. Unfortunately due to the growth of the races we have had to formalize the races more than prior years and for the 2014 season, we are faced with very large insurance costs this year. We need to raise $2500 to cover the insurance for 7 of the 8 races (not including the OR Show Race).

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We have started the non-profit Utah Ski Mountaineering association to promote and sponsor skimo events (races, clinics, etc) in Utah.  We have submitted our non-profit application and hope to have 501(c)3 status by the end of the year.  UT Ski Mountaineering will be the official organization that will put on the Citizen Series.  Please consider joining UT Ski Mountaineering to support the Citizen Series.  An annual membership in UT Ski Mountaineering is $30.  100% of the membership fees go to support the Citizen Series.  For those not wishing to be members or if you do not know if you will race very many races, we are recommending a $5 donation each time you race to help cover these costs.   Some of the benefits of your membership include:

  • Entrance to and support of 8 great Citizen Series races
  • Entry into an additional end of season opportunity drawing for great prizes (skis, clothing, etc)
  • 15% off a skimo gear purchase at Gear 30 in Ogden
  • We will be providing additional benefits as the season progresses including some swag and discounts at local retailers

We will also be requiring a race waiver this year. Please print the race waiver and bring it to the first race you attend this season.

Please see the membership page of www.utahskimo.org for more details, to join, and for the race waiver.

See you all Thursday in the fight for the first pie of the season.

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Howling in the Desert


The semi annual, loosely unorganized, multi-day, fall Coyote running week has become a mostly annual tradition for us since we attended Coyote Moab 4 years ago. Chris Scott always does a great job planning great runs in amazing locations with lots of social activities for the evenings. This year with Coyote being in Arizona with runs split between the Grand Canyon and Sedona, Emily and I decided to tie this in with some additional running and vacation time.

We left Salt Lake City after work on Wednesday driving a little past Cedar City. On our drive Thursday we were planning a run in Bukskin Gulch, but with the cold temps we went with a recommendation from Roch and ran the Guacamole trail by Virgin. We had a great ~7 mile run through the slick rock with great views of the valley below. It felt great to shake the legs out part way through our run.
We arrived at the Grand Canyon and met up with our fellow Coyotes about 5p. We enjoyed catching up with friends, meeting new friends, and planning our next day’s adventure. Since we had already done R2R2R we thought it would be fun to run something new. The something new that we decided on turned out to be our first backpacking trip in 1995. We were going to run the same route that took us 3 days. We were excited to see this terrain again and compare our abilities from 18 years ago.
Before, we started, there were a couple of rules to remember about the Grand Canyon
Day 2 - Grand Canyon
Day 3 - Grand Canyon
Roch had planned the route and Krissy, Monica, Emily and I joined him. We left the campsite at 6am for the ~2 mile run to the bus stop to take us to Hermit Rest. From Hermit Rest, we ran down Boucher Trail, across Tonto, down to the Hermit Creek Rapids, then up Hermit Trail and back to Hermit Rest. We had a great day of running and hiking the steep technical trails enjoying the beauty and solace of little traveled trails. A trip to the Grand Canyon is never complete without actually reaching the Colorado River and enjoyed cooling off with a frigid swim at the river (actually, only Chad was dumb enough to swim in the 49F water). We moved quickly up to the top fearing we could miss the last shuttle and end up with 8 miles of road back to the campsite. We luckily reached the top faster than we reached the bottom and were able to get back to camp by 6pm. We were both amazed at the technicality of the trail for our first backpacking trip. Our work for the night was just starting as Roch was head chef and we all had to chip in to get diner cooked for the 35+ people that were in our party. Our crew kept trickling in with people taking from 12.5 to 27 hours to complete their various journeys in the canyon (many of them first timers). We had a great evening talking about our adventures of the day.
Day 2 - Grand Canyon
A dark and chilly start

Day 2 - Grand Canyon
Roch, Emily, Krissy, and Monica running Tonto Trail

Day 2 - Grand Canyon
Chad and Emily overlooking Colorado River from Tonto Trail

Day 2 - Grand Canyon
Monica, Roch, Krissy, and Emily at ‘the river’

Day 2 - Grand Canyon
The slog up Hermit Trail

Day 2 - Dinner
Gourmet Kitchen
Since we didn’t go down the “normal” trails Friday and had another optional day to run the canyon. Krissy and Monica joined us to run South Kaibab to Phantom Ranch and back up Bright Angel on Saturday. We didn’t have a lot of time as we had to be to Sedona by 6Pm to help with dinner so we kept a fast pace down and up (took a little over 4 hours). We had a leisurely run down with lots of photo stops and reached Phantom Ranch in 91 minutes. We spent 20 minutes at the ranch as post cards were written, then decided to push hard on the ascent. We made up back to the Bright Angel Trailhead in 4:22 for a total of 4:02 of running time and Emily’s running time of 4:15. We were thrilled with this time especially considering that we were not trying to go fast.
Day 3 - Grand Canyon

Krissy descending South Kaibab Trail

Saturday night was another great meal with salad, grilled salmon and fresh vegetables. It was also talent night which didn’t disappoint with some crazy and funny spectacles. The Roch/Billy/Lou band also entertained us.
Day 4 - Final Dinner
Roch-Billy-Lou Band (minus Lou)
Sunday we had a group run led by Lindsay and Adam from the Sedona Running Company. Adam and Lindsay were amazing hosts in Sedona. They led us on a 13 mile loop with about 20 people. When we had finished the temps had risen to near 80 and none of us were interested in the next 18 mile loop planned so we cut the same loop short and did another 10 mile loop around Cathedral Rock.
Day 4 - Sedona
Chad and Emily in Sedona

Day 4 - Sedona
The famous Hillary Biscay running in Sedona

Day 4 - Sedona
Roch pontificating about long mileage

Day 4 - Sedona
Lindsay showing the way
We enjoyed our last night with the whole crew eating another fantastic meal and more entertainment of stories, awards, and Roch/Billy/Lou band.
We got out for the last group run early Monday morning led again by Adam and Lindsay. They took us on another great 5 mile loop. Many of us were feeling that our legs were very tired from the 80+ miles and two trips to the bottom of the Grand Canyon so it was not a fast 5 miles.
After a farewell breakfast we checked into the Hilton resort and enjoyed time by the pool before Grandma and Uncle Gary arrived. We spent time with them, did a little shopping, and had a great Italian dinner at Cucina Rustica. After breakfast with grandma and Gary we headed north and west to Lake Havasu to visit Chad’s parents. We stopped to run to the top of Bill Williams Mountain. It was nice to fun in the forest but our legs were super tired and we looked forward to a day off on Wednesday.
Day 6 - Bill Williams Mountain Lookout Tower
Top of the fire tower on Bill Williams Mountain
A few days of recovery and relaxation in Lake Havasu and we are headed home tomorrow with a side trip for a long run at Red Rocks by Vegas.

Kings Peak Run

In lieu of doing more races this fall, we decided instead to do a lot of fun runs that have been on our ‘tick list’. So far, we have had a great late summer of runs with the Ruby Mt Traverse and Highline Trail. Last weekend we both paced friends at Wasatch 100 and had a great time (as usual) taking in the race scene. With a wet week and a grim forecast for the weekend, we had a hard time making the decision if it would be wise to head out into the high Uintas. After numerous emails, Christian Johnson, Tom Diegel, Emily Sullivan, Emily and I were all game for a wet run through the Uintas. We all agreed it would be a ‘social pace’ and to be smart and not get summit fever so that if it looked like lightening, we would turn around. We all packed a few extra cloths ‘just in case’ we ended up with a Uinta Epic (I have had many).

The crew arrived at our house at 4AM Saturday morning and we were on the road with full cups of coffee a few minutes later. We arrived at the trailhead just after 6:30 and quickly got our shoes on in the chilly morning air (41 F according to the car thermometer).

  
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Christian, Tom, Emily B, Emily S, and Chad at the Henry’s Fork Trailhead

We enjoyed the cool, rain free morning as we ran along Henry’s Fork River and to the meadow and past Dollar Lake. My only other summer Kings Peak summit had been as part of the Highline Trail many years ago. After 4 trips to Kings in the winter, it was fun to see the trail in the summer. We kept to our ‘social pace’ with several breaks and good conversation. The clouds were low and we were unsure of what our summit weather would be and even if we would be able to summit.

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Low clouds in the meadow before Dollar Lake

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Approaching Gunsight Pass (Emily S and Christian)

We passed a few other hikers on our way up to Gunsight Pass. We dropped down from Gunsight Pass into Painter Basin and began the climb up to Anderson Pass. This was the area that Emily and I had completely botched on our Highline Trail run. Actually being on the trail, made this climb significantly easier and much more enjoyable. We topped off water in one of the numerous fast flowing creeks and continued to the pass.

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Water fill

We had discussed the scramble from Anderson Pass to the Summit unsure of how slippery the rocks would be for the ~1mile scramble. Our weather had been good to this point, but as we left the pass, the rain started and eventually turned to snow. We were all excited to be in our first snow of the year (it snows all year in the Uintas, but this was all of our first snow of the season).

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Climbing up from Anderson Pass to the Summit

We continued to climb, still unsure of the weather, but we could see a few patches of sun in the distance.

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Taking an opportunity to play in the snow


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Being one with the clouds

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Super Hero or Summit Poser

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Summit Picnic

We were treated to a break in the weather at the summit, enjoyed a little food, then headed down. The photos stopped at the summit because shortly after leaving the summit we were in the rain again which turned to hail. By the time were just below Anderson Pass, it was a torrential down pour. By the time we reached Painter Basin, we were all soaked to the core and getting cold. I commented to Christian that at least it hadn’t gotten cold (yet). We all kept to ourselves just moving at whatever pace we could to keep warm. By the time we reached Gunsight Pass, the temperature had dropped. I think we were all not far from being in a bad place, but we all kept moving and laughing about how it is a little odd when we all considered being cold, soaking wet, tromping through the mud with altitude headaches to be fun. By the time we were across the meadow and back into the trees the rain had pretty much stopped and we were able to start warming up and drying out. We were able to pick up our pace and start to eat and drink again now that we could move our fingers. By the time we reached the trailhead, the sun was out and we were ready to get out of our wet cloths.

We had estimated that it would take 6-7 hours and it had taken 8.5 hours round trip for the ~29 miles and 5,000′ of climbing. Part of the longer time was our socializing, but the wet rocks on the summit scramble (which is 2 miles round trip) and being so cold really slowed us down. In addition to a great run, for the second time, I got to take Tom on his ‘longest run ever’. Four of us had commitments at 7PM and it was after 3:30 and we had a 2.5 hour drive so we quickly enjoyed a post summit beer and some snacks then hit the road again. We were back to summit park by 6:05, almost exactly 14 hours after leaving and all having enjoyed a day of epic Uinta weather.

Double FKT on the Uinta Highline Trail

The Uintas are one of the only ranges to run east/west in the US and contain the highest peaks in Utah. I have always had an affinity for the Uinta Mountains for many reasons. Over the years I have had many summer and winter great trips and epics in the Uintas. The western edge is only an hour from home so it is a shame that I don’t go there more often. The Highline Trail is an ~78 mile trail that runs east/west across the Uinta Mountains in eastern Utah (although most of us who have run it have come up with distances of around 81-83 miles). The trail is predominantly above 10,000′ and travels from pass to pass and lake to lake crossing through high elevation meadows in between. The entire trail is around 100 miles and 15,000′ of ascent, but the eastern section has been turned into ATV trails and is not really considered worth running. When I ran the Highline Trail in 2010, I had set a fastest known time of 28:16. I always felt that this was very slow and that the record should easily be down around 24 hours. My record was broken twice this summer and the current fastest known time (FKT) for the Highline Trail was 27:41 hours set by Stephen Jones in July.

When Emily and I were contemplating what we should do over Labor Day weekend, I mentioned maybe she should attempt a women’s FKT for the Highline Trail since there was currently not a recorded women’s speed record. She thought this sounded like a great idea, so we started putting our plans together. We weren’t sure if it was a good idea to be going for a speed attempt a week after the Ruby Traverse, but we didn’t care too much as our main goal was to just do the run together as opposed to getting caught up in chasing the existing FKT (not always an easy thing for me to do). We did hope to finish in 27 hours as we felt that would be an achievable time if we had good weather and good navigation. Emily had not been on the Highline Trail since we backpacked it many years ago so she was excited to get back on the trail. Having learned a hard lesson in Uinta weather in 2010, I updated my gear list to include an extra running jacket, better lights, and a full handheld GPS.

We spent the week getting a few odds and ends together as well as getting the mapping dialed in (well, I thought it was dialed in a lot more than it was). On Friday we shuttled a car up to Hayden Pass (the western trailhead) and convinced our friend Meghan into driving us to the Leidy Peak Trailhead on Saturday morning (a 4 hour 1 way drive).

2013 Highline Trail FKT Run

Chad’s gear for the run (Emily’s gear was similar). 6,400 calories, good lights, warm weather gear, minimal first aid all crammed into the great CAMP Trail Vest Light

The weather was looking perfect (which rarely happens in the Uintas) and we were on the trail at 10:32.

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Perfect Uinta Weather Forecast


Our packs were heavy with food and emergency gear. My pack was just under 14 lbs and Emily’s was just over 12 lbs (with water). After my struggles in 2010, I knew it was worth the weight for the full size GPS and BD Icon headlamp (both were the most essential gear we had). At 10:32 we were off at a leisurely pace and were enjoying the great weather, beautiful mountains, and technical trail running. The miles clicked away and we were settling into our routine for navigation, treating water, and eating.

Around 4 PM, the first storm moved in. As we were getting higher and higher on North Pole Pass, we had lightening and thunder on 3 sides of us. We kept moving as fast as possible and dropped down the other side of the pass to the protection of the trees around Brook Lake. We were making great time all through this and were quite a bit ahead of my 2010 split times (around 40 minutes at North Pole Pass). We were lucky that the weather parted without any rain.

It got dark when we were in Painter Basin on the east side of Kings Peak and it only took 10 minutes of darkness before we were off trail. We were following the GPS closely and we would be on trail, then back off trail just as quickly. After struggling with this for some time, we made the critical mistake of deciding to just scramble straight up through the scree to Anderson Pass. This cost us at least 30 minutes of extra time and took a ton of extra energy as we took two steps up and slid one step back.

We continued to have good weather, but also continued to struggle with navigation. After getting off trail a couple more times in Garfield Basin, we decided that we needed to take a slower pace as anytime we started to run through the meadows, we would lose the trail. We figured that if we just followed the GPS route and did a fast walk, we would actually save time. As morning came and we were climbing Red Knob Pass Emily’s stomach was not doing well. We were right on my 2010 splits and I knew that I had lost at least 1 hour being lost between Dead Horse Pass and Rock Creek in 2010. I felt that if we kept pushing on, we could still finish in around 27 hours. We ran down to Dead Horse Lake and worked our way up the steep (but short) trail to the pass. At the pass, I knew that to break 27 hours we would have to move fast. We had not moved fast all night, so I was quite surprised we were still this close to a 27 hour finish.

Emily wanted me to move ahead (due to her stomach issues), but I was worried she would not be able to stay on the trail. We finally decided to part ways around Ledge Lake and I would leave arrows or 3 small rocks at any trail junction so that at least if I got off trail, we would end up at the same place. She continued to have stomach issues until Rocky See Pass. After Rock Creek, my back flared up causing excruciating sciatica in my right leg. Once at Rocky Sea Pass, even though my back and feet were killing me I thought that 26:30 might be possible. I was enjoying the final 8+ mile of running finding I could keep my back pain down by contracting the muscles of my lower back. I reached the trailhead sign at 1:14PM setting a new FKT at 26:38 and was completely wrecked. My feet hurt, my back hurt, I was starving, and I was tired. I was surprised when our friend Ron drove into the parking lost 2 minutes after I finished on a start to his own adventure. It was nice to have someone to visit with for a few minutes.

I figured Emily would be 30-40 minutes behind me since I had seen her at the bottom of Rocky Sea Pass when I was at the top. I got some dry cloths on, had a Recoverite, then grabbed the camera, a beer and tortilla chips and walked a little down the trail to wait. She showed up just about on cue and finished in 1:56 exclaiming that it was the run was harder than any 100 she had ever done. She was as wrecked as I was. She got some dry cloths on and we had the obligatory trailhead finish photo and headed home.

In cleaning out our packs, we still had heavy packs at the end (Chad – 7.5 lbs, Emily 7.3 lbs without water). We were trying to decide what to leave behind while still having what I consider are some of the essentials to be in such a remote place for so long (at most times you are 10-15 miles from a trailhead if you need rescue) and I really couldn’t think of anything except some food that could be left behind (I started with 6,400 calories and finished with 800 calories left over).

It’s awesome that I can be married to a person that I can go out and do such amazing adventures with.

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If I return to the Highline Trail, it will only be to prove to myself that I can run the entire trail without having navigation issues. I know this would make it much more enjoyable both from a running perspective as well as from feeling like being a good navigator through the night.

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Comparison of 2010 and 2013 Splits

 

Chad’s food eaten

  • 10 Gels
  • 2 packaged Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem
  • 3 Justin’s Almond Maple Butter
  • 3 packages Stinger Chews
  • 2 Stinger Waffles
  • 4 small Snickers
  • 1 small Pro Bar
  • Small baggie of trail mix
  • Small baggie of beef jerky
  • 2 Amy’s frozen burritos
  • Small baggie of chocolate covered coffee beans
  • 1 5 Hour Energy

Gear I wouldn’t have left at home

  • Full GPS
  • Really good headlamps (BD Icon for the head ad BD Storm for the waste)
  • Good rain jacket
  • Light rain pants
  • Warm cloth
  • Spot Messenger (just in case)
  • BD Ultralight Poles

Gear that worked well

  • CAMP Trail Light Vest
  • CW-X Revolution tights
  • New Balance MT1210 shoes
  • Dry Max Socks
  • Hoorag head band
  • Smith PivLock Sunglasses

The adventures of Emily & Chad