Kings Peak – 3rd Time Is A Charm

A ski descent of Kings Peak is something that has eluded on 2 other occasions, but I was finally able to tackle the beast.  My first attempt was in February 2005.  Chip, Audrey, Andy H, Emily, and I packed for a 3 day trip.  We had full heavy touring gear (heavy tele boots, tele skis, non-free pivot bindings, etc) and were planning to camp for 2 nights.  We had a great trip, but were turned away at Anderson Pass due to weather. 

February 2005 Attempt

In March 2008 as part of our training for Elk Mountain Grand Traverse (EMGT), Chip, Audrey, Andrea S, and I attempted the summit in a single push.  For this attempt, rather than camp in the cold, we decided to leave Summit Park at 1 AM so we would be skiing by 4:30 AM.  We had hope do summit and return to the car in around 13 hours.  Since we would be doing the EMGT on Nordic gear, we decided to use the same gear for Kings Peak since the distance was approximately the same and the vert a couple thousand feet less.  We arrived at the trailhead to a lot of fresh snow and started breaking trail while it continued to snow.  The weather continued to get worse.  The picture below is the high winds we had on Gunsight Pass.  We had a turn around time of 1PM, we continued to push this back until finally at 4PM and just a few hundred feet below the summit we knew we had to turn around.  It had stormed enough that we had to break trail all the way back to the trailhead and finally arrived at the car after an 18 hour push and we still had a 3 hour drive home.  We arrived home sometime after 2AM making it a solid 25 hour round trip sufferfest.

March 2008 Attempt

 

After a second failure, I was wondering if Kings Peak had it out for me.  I had thought a lot about the peak since 2008, but just hadn’t found time to go back.  After taking up skimo racing this winter and having a successful Power of Four race, this seemed like the year to do it.  I had the right gear and a had already done a 26 mile skimo race.  The Utah snow pack was quite low so I figured this would be good and bad.  It would be good as we would hopefully be able to drive closer to the trailhead (previous attempts had us parked 3 miles from the summer trailhead since they don’t plow the road), but it would be bad as it would likely mean quite a bit of walking since there would not be consistent snow at lower elevations.  I sent out the email to some of local skimo racers and Eric (my partner from Power of Four) was in for a day of suffering.  We worked out the logistics and decided to drive to the trailhead on Friday night to camp in his Sportmobile and attempt the summit on race gear (race skis, boots, bindings, poles, and speed suits), but larger packs that would accommodate crampons, a stove & fuel, full shovel, probe, a down jacket, a few spare parts, a small first aid kit, and an emergency bivy.  Expecting hard snow up high, I also decided to throw in my ice ax.  As we expected, we were able to drive just over a mile closer to the trailhead.  We camped for the night and were treated to single digit temperatures in the morning.  Our goal was 10 hours round trip and we wanted to be skinning by 6:30. Our start was delayed since it was so cold that it took a little longer to get our boots thawed and on.  We left the van moving fast to keep warm.  At 10 miles in (Dollar Lake), we were averaging 3 miles per hour with stops and numerous sections of walking (note – we made the mistake of taking the summer trail instead of following the creek, this cost us probably 45-60 minutes).  Our feet were both killing us at this time from extremely sticky snow on the flat trail (we had only climbed 1,450’ in 10 miles) so we had to stop to tape our feet.  We knew the weather was going to be good so we left our stove, Coke, and Red Bull along the trail and continued on with slightly lighter packs.  From Dollar Lake we finally started climbing up to Gunsight Pass.  Things were going very good and we were at the pass in 4.5 hours.  Definitely not blazing speed, but we were happy and figured we could make the summit in another 1.5 hours.  We were able to get a nice long traverse through the rocks off of Gunsight Pass to the approach to Anderson Pass.  We made the decision to stay on the face of the summit instead of going up to the pass and spending a significant amount of time on rocks.   After having spend most of the last month at close to sea level in San Jose, CA for work, by the time we got to 12,500’ I was really feeling the effects of the altitude and I was moving slowly.  The snow on the summit ascent was perfect.  We were able to skin to about 13,000’ and then kick steps in without crampons the rest of the way.  We finally made the summit in 6:17 after a difficult last couple hundred feet through rotten snow and rocks.  The weather at the summit was sunny and calm.  We put on a down jacket and enjoyed a sandwich with views from the roof top of Utah.  We had a few hundred feet of good snow on the descent followed by a variety of breakable crusts and sastrugi.  We opted to cut the descent short and traverse as much of the distance back to Gunsight Pass instead of skiing all the way down to Painter Basin.  A short skin and we were back to the pass and on the descent back to our caffeine stash.  We enjoyed a quick shot of caffeine and started and 10 mile skate through soft snow back to the trailhead.  We were able to make good time back to the trailhead getting a little bit of glide on our skate and following the creek instead of the summer trail.  We crossed the creek over 30 times on snow bridges (most of which held) and had over a dozen spots where we had to walk across rocks and dirt. We reached the van 9:45 after starting.  Thirsty, hungry, tired, but by no means destroyed.  I definitely had not eaten or drank enough the entire day.  My water was frozen for the first 3 hours so I didn’t eat or drink during that time.  I drank just over 1.5L of water (plus a Red Bull) and only ate 1800 calories.

Kings Peak

 

SkiMo Season Wrap Up

My SkiMo race season continued until early March.  After the Jackson and Targhee races, I competed in the North American SkiMo Championships in Crested Butte.  The was the second year of the race and was the first year being an ISMF (International Ski Mountaineering Federation) sanctioned race.  This was a 2 day race with day 1 being the sprint event (2 laps of ~250’ climbing with a booter on the second lap) and the second day was the full race which included a technical rock section where we were required to have an ascender and via ferrata kit as we climbed to Mt Crested Butte.  This race was a great learning lesson about the important of gear.  I had a great placement getting on the fixed line, had a gear failure and had to stop for 1 minute and ended up in a bottleneck on the rope that in the end cost me 35 minutes.  Here are some great photos from Kevin Krill of the race (I am in #13). 

This race confirmed that I was going to commit some time to this sport and I ordered a pair of Hagan X-Race skis.  These skis reduced my race setup weight from 1,442 g (ski and binding) to 862g (ski and binding).  This weight was noticeable on my first day on the gear. 

I was hoping to extend race season into April, but instead my last race was the Power of Four race.  In this race you climb and ski each of the 4 mountains at Aspen (Buttermilk, Snowmass, Highlands, and Aspen) for a total of just over 26 miles and 13,500’ of climbing.  I felt this would be much more my style of race instead of the normal ‘sprint’ races.  This was a partner race and my partner, Eric Bunce, and I had a great day.  We were able to finish the 8th men’s team and 10th overall in 6:43.  Our goal was 7:30 so we were thrilled with this time.  We learned a lot about long partner races including team work when Eric had to take care of my gear when my hands and face froze on the top of Highlands and towing each other to keep our pace strong late in the race.

Two days after returning from the Power of Four, it was time to start getting the Powder Keg setup.  We were excited for this year’s race.  It was the 10th anniversary race and we had a large and fast group of racers.  Unfortunately, due to poor snow, we had a lot of unsafe terrain and had to spend an entire day working out a re-route to the course.  The modified course turned out great, harder, longer, more climbing – everything and ultra runner turned skimo racer wanted.  Check out the Powder Keg website for details on the course, results, and lots of great photos and videos.

What’s next? Well, since spring arrived far too early in the Wasatch, it is time to become a runner once again and start preparing for Leadman.  There will still be more skiing including an attempt on Kings Peak on April 6 and hopefully some more powder days and of course corn season.

USSMA SkiMo National Champtionship and Targhee Mountain Classic

Since the first Wasatch Powder Keg 10 years ago I have dabbled in ski mountaineering races and come to be race director of one of the largest skimo races in the US.  Over the years, I had put together a quite light tele rig to race on and had enjoyed it.  After touring in Switzerland last spring, I started to get the bug for a light weight AT setup that would tour good and also race good.  This fall I started putting that setup together.  I got a pair of Dynafit TLT Performance boots, Ski Trab Free Rando Skis, and Dynafit Low Tech Light  Bindings.   Luck would have it that Andy and Jason Dorais finally took on the challenge of starting a Citizen SkiMo Race Series and our snow has been extremely low so I have had a lot of opportunity to race up and down Brighton to test out the setup.  I was hooked and thoroughly enjoying myself.  From several years of ultra running, I have found that I don’t have much of a top end (i.e. I’m slow) so this has been a great way to speed train during the winter.  Several of us decided that for our first major race of the year, we would go up to Jackson, WY for the USSMA (US Ski Mountaineering Association) and race in the National Championship race.  We realized we would be in well over our head, but new that it would be fun.  For an added challenge, Grand Targhee has a race the following day.

Beings it was our first race, we didn’t really know what to expect.  Evan, Matt, and I packed all our gear, plus everything else we thought we might need, into Matt’s van and off we went.  Walking around Jackson waiting for packet pickup we ran in to many familiar faces from ultra running, adventure racing, and the Powder Keg.  We had nervous anticipation as we checked and picked up our race packets.  Of to Victor where we were staying with Evan’s friend Dahvi and Tom (thanks for the hospitality).  After dinner and a couple of beers, we started getting our gear ready for the race.  After numerous text messages and calls to Luke Nelson, we our packs were ready (with the only real contents being shovel, probe, tiny wind shell, and spare skins).

We were on the road early Saturday for the drive over the pass.  The morning atmosphere can be described as light and agro.  People were having fun, but you could tell there was a lot of stress in the air over a big race and when people started warming up, the differences from an Ultra were readily apparent by the seriousness of the competitors.  Being my first race and having been fighting a cold all week, my goals were to simply finish the 8,200’ climbing and 11.5 mile race in under 4 hours.  When the gun went off, the pace out of the gate was nothing less than extraordinary (check out the video below showing the start and other highlights).  I set a hard pace (for me) and settled in for a long climb to the top of Jackson.  Although being well out of my comfort zone from an exertion level, I was having lots of fun.  The race had 6 climbs and 2 booter’s.  The skinning and skiing were both tough with ice, moguls, rocks, and breakable crust.  I learned why Luke had told us to make sure to have spare skins as I had a skin failure after the third descent and had to use my spare skins which were much narrower than my skis and caused me to have to side step a lot of the icy sections.  This probably cost me 10 minutes.  My water bottle froze 90 minutes into the race so I was without water for the majority of the time.  The second to last descent was from the top of the mountain to the bottom (over 3,500’).  At this point in the race, it was all you could do to hang on as my quads felt like they were going to explode.  With only 1 climb and descent left, there was nothing to do but put my head down and push as hard as I could.  My skiing ability paid off the entire race where I could catch and pass numerous people on the descents, then just try to hold them off (or keep up with them) on the ascents.  Have skies/bindings that were not true race gear (~2-3 lbs heavier) was definitely a disadvantage climbing.  I crossed the finish line in 3:35.  That was just an hour under Luke’s winning time which I thought was pretty good.

SkiMo-Jan2012-1

The fast guys of Team Wasatch SkiMo

SkiMo-Jan2012-2

Men’s Race Division – Luke Nelson Winner

We enjoyed the rest of Saturday talking with racers/friends, drinking beer, and eating as much as possible to refuel for Sunday.  Sunday morning came and we all felt good.  Some tiredness in the legs, but not stiff or sore so that was good.  The Targhee race had a relaxing 10:30 AM start.  We were at the mountain early and took out time getting ready.  Luke was kind enough to spend 15 minutes before warm up giving us a transition clinic, then it all started over like on Saturday.  The Targhee race was shorter, 5,700’ climbing and 8.5 miles, but the climbs were quite steep and long.  To keep this from getting too long, the weather was cloudy with even some mist so it was difficult to see on the descents.  I was happy to finish in 2:09, just under 30 minutes behind the winner.  Saturday was a Wasatch sweep of the race division with Jason Dorais, Gemma Arro Ribot, and Evan Calplis all bringing home the gold.

SkiMo-Jan2012-3

Men’s Heavy Metal Division – Evan Caplis Winner

 

SkiMo-Jan2012-4

Men’s Race Division – Jason Dorais Winner

Additional Race Photos

Jackson National Championship

 Targhee Classic

What’s next, I am hooked on the sport.  It is time to get a lighter set of skis and get my total boot, ski, and binding combo below 9 lbs.  I am also planning several more races this year.

Race Date Location Notes
US Ski Mountaineering National Championship 1/7/2012 Jackson Hole, WY Done
Grand Targhee Ski Mountaineering Classic 1/8/2012 Grand Targhee, WY Done
2012 ISMF North American Championships 01/27/2012 – 01/29/2012 Crested Butte, CO  
Alta Tele Rando Race 02/25/2012 – 02/26-2012 Alta, UT  
The Power of Four Ski Mountaineering Race 3/3/2012 Aspen/Snowmass, CO  
Wasatch Powder Keg 3/10/2012 Brighton Ski Resort, UT Race Director
Cody’s Challenge 3/17/2012 Steamboat Springs, CO Tentative
The Five Peaks presented by CAMP 4/7/2012 Breckenridge, CO If I can find a partner

Our Approach to Backcountry Safety

Below is the backcountry safety blog I wrote for Coaching Endurance.



 

With the dangerous start to the Wasatch winter, our touring group has spent a lot of time talking about what has happened and what we think will happen over the next several weeks. As we discussed this, I thought it would be good to document some of our processes around decision making.
 
With the first snow each winter, our touring group starts to get excited for winter. We get out during the early snow so that we can get a feeling for what that snow is doing. At this point of the season, we are interested in things like how much there is, where it is, any faceting that may have started, slides that are already occurring existing snow structure, any week layers that are present of are forming, and other factors. This information becomes very useful as some of the basis for our snowpack evaluations later in the season. We also use these early season days to do a lot of beacon drills since it is harder to spend time doing drills once there is great powder. By the time winter is really here, we feel comfortable with our gear and understand what the snow against the ground is doing.
 
Our group considers ourselves fairly risk adverse. We all enjoy skiing big, steep lines, but we are also happy meadow skipping. We will ski tour on most all days, but make conservative choices of locations based on a variety of information including
 
Within our group, several of us are very interested in the snow science factor. Because of this, we spend a significant amount of time digging pits and talking about the snow and snow structure, what has been happening, what we think will happen, and dozens of other topics that have tendencies of driving people less ‘snow geeky’crazy. We feel that it is because of these continual discussions that we are able to make good decisions, stay out of trouble, and maintain good group dynamics (we are usually all on the same page since we spend so much time discussing these item).
 
For the past 3 years, the Utah Avalanche Center has put on the Utah Snow and Avalanche Workshop (USAW). As part of the UAC Observer Program, we are able to attend the morning professional session as well as the afternoon public session. The UAC does a great job of putting together a full day of workshops bringing together professional experience, new research, and presentations from accident survivors. This workshop is a great early season refresher for our group and is a chance for us to learn about some of the latest snow/avalanche research that is taking place.
 
Each year, Ian McCammon presents information from his research (which is based on his analysis of existing data). Ian typically focuses his research on looking at creating processes that the ‘average’ backcountry user can incorporate into their backcountry decision making. Ian has presented to key concepts
  1. Analysis of 5 structural parameters in the snowpack to determine a relationship between these parameters and human triggered avalanches.
  2. Introduction of ALPTRUTh and FACETS to analyze Situational Awareness and Psychological Distractions.
Our group uses both of these methods as part of our backcountry decision making. In this discussion, we will focus on how we use ALPTRUTh and FACETS methods as part of our decision making.
 
ALPTRUTh – Situational Awareness
Avalanches in last 48 hours
Loading from new snow, wind, etc
Known avalanche Path
Terrain Traps
Overall avalanche Rating
Unstable snow signs (cracking, whoomphing, etc)
Thawing (warm snow on top)
 
Our touring group has always informally used the ALPTRUTh scale. This winter, we have decided to start formalizing our use of the scale. We each have a laminated copy of the ALPTRUTh scale below in our cars and we use it as part of our discussion as we drive to the trailhead each morning and on our ski approach. To use the ALPTRUTh scale in your evaluation (either before you start skiing or during your approach), you assign 1 point to each of the factors that exist in the area you will be skiing. Ian’s research has found that ~98% of accidents had a rating of 3 or higher and ~92% of accidents had a 4 or higher. There was also a surprisingly high percentage of accidents that had a rating of 5 of higher. Our group considers any rating of 3 or higher to be a reason for careful analysis of the decisions we will be making. The use of ALPTRUTh is just 1 of your decision criteria you should use to make your decisions.
 
Notes
  • The ALPTRUTh scale incorporates what are considered the standard avalanche red flags: recent avalanches, heavy snowfall, wind loading, cracking, collapsing, and rapid warming.
  • Ian’s data used for his study was from 622 recreational avalanche accidents (fatalities and not) involving 1,180 individuals in the US between 1972 and 2001.

ALPTRUTh-Table

                                              Printable table we use for ALPTRUTh analysis

 
FACETS – Psychological Distractions
Familiarity (with terrain, location, etc.)
Acceptance (not wanting to stand out in group, etc.)
Commitment (we came here to ski this so we have to)
Expert Halo (not speaking up when feeling other people know more)
Tracks (fresh line syndrome)
Scarcity (we may never be able to ski this spot again)
 
To incorporate Psychological Distractions into your decision making, use the FACETS acronym. The psychological distractions are more subjective, but should be used as you are making your decisions to help ensure your decisions are not being adversely impacted by these distractions. Most people have been in a situation where they are talking themselves into skiing a particular line. This is a perfect example of a psychological distraction. There is something telling you that you should not ski the line and you are telling yourself why it is ok. You should pay attention to make sure that you are not getting impacted by these psychological distractions while you make decisions.
 
Self (or group) Analysis of Decision Making
You can use the ALPTRUTh and FACETS Scale together to help determine patterns that you (or your group) may have in their decision making. To perform this analysis, look at 5 or more days (the more the better) that you skied and felt things were not perfect (bad decisions, close calls, group dynamic issues, etc.). For each day, add up your ALPTRUTh score and plot that with a dot next to each of the FACETS components that existed. Do this for each of your days and you will create a scatter plot. Most people (groups) will start to see a pattern over time. This pattern makes you aware of which psychological distractions that you are most influenced by.

FACETS-Table

                              Printable table we use for ALPTRUTh/FACETS graph



References

The Role of Training in Recreational Avalanche Accidents in the United States

Ian McCammon
Proceedings of the International Snow Science Workshop,
October 2–6, 2000, Big Sky, Montana, pp. 37 – 45.
 
Evidence of heuristic traps in recreational avalanche accidents
Ian McCammon
Presented at the International Snow Science Workshop,
Penticton, British Columbia, Sept. 30 – Oct 4, 2002.
 
Heuristic Traps in Recreational Avalanche Accidents: Evidence and Implications
Ian McCammon
Avalanche News, No. 68, Spring 2004
 
The Role of Training in Recreational Avalanche Accidents in the United States
Ian McCammon
Proceedings of the International Snow Science Workshop,
October 2–6, 2000, Big Sky, Montana, pp. 37 – 45.

Homemade Boot Dryer

With winter now setting in (the snow plows made their first trip through Summit Park on Tuesday and it was 16oF on Wednesday morning), it’s time to shift thinking to skiing (in reality, my mind rarely shifts away from this).  I mounted Dynafit’s on Emily’s rock skis on Wednesday night with hopes of getting a walk in the snow on Sunday.

I wanted to share my simple, low cost boot dryer.  Our house is heated with a boiler so we are fortunate to have a small boiler room that stays very warm in the winter when the boiler is running.  This room has always made a great drying room, but I had always wanted to design some type of fan that would force the warm air into the boots.  It took several seasons before I finally got around to actually designing and building this.

Basic Components

Fan: The key component for the dryer was the fan.  This was why I kept putting off building the dryer, I did not want to buy a fan.  Eventually I learned that many models of dish washers have small electric fans in them for the dry cycle.  I was able to go to an appliance repair shop and remove the fan from a dish washer in their junk pile (beware – I am told the fan is a very common component that burns out on dish washers so double check that the fan you take actually works). 

Tubing and Couplers: The time consuming part of the boot dryer was spending time at the hardware store looking for various plastic tubing parts that I could use to attach the tubing, then reduce size to eventually split it out into 4 small tubes.

As you can see from the photos, I was not able to find the perfect tubing and coupler sizes, but I was able to find things that were snug and could easily be held together with hose clamps.  I stepped this down from 1-1/2” to 1-1/4” to 1” and to a final size of 1/2” tubing to provide the air to the boots

Power: I had decided that I didn’t want to just plug the fan in and then have to unplug it (I was guaranteed to forget).  I was hoping to find a 2 hour timer, but I was unable to find a low cost 2 hour timer, so I settled for a 1 hour timer (remember, my goal here was a low cost boot dryer).  I used a cheap extension cord that I cut both ends off of, then wired it from the fan motor to the timer switch.  I then used another extension cord with the female end cut off and ran it from the timer switch to the power source.

Boot Rack: I kept this easy and used a scrap piece of 2×4 with 3/4” dowels drilled and glued into the 2×4 at somewhere between a 30-45 degree angle.  I rounded the ends of the dowels to ensure the boot liners wouldn’t get damaged.

Installation

I was able to easily mount the fan in my ceiling of my boiler room with 2 screws.  I then attached the tubing across the ceiling and down the wall. I ran the smallest tubing up the dowels to blow into the boot.  I kept this pretty simple (and ghetto) by just taping the tubing to the dowels.  The rest of the tubing was attached to the walls and celling with a screw through the loose end of the hose clamps.  I mounted the timer switch in a gang box directly behind the boot rack which was the most convenient location.

I built this boot dryer last January and after 3+ months of use last winter, I have been very happy with it.  I find that typically the boots will dry in an hour, but when I remember, I try to set the dryer for another hour.  I have also found this works great for shoes, hiking boots, gloves, etc.

My First Elk Hunt

Warning – if you are offended by hunting and the sight of dead animals, read no further.

Growing up in North Dakota, hunting was a normal fall past time.  The opening day of deer hunting season was practically a state holiday.  When I moved to Minnesota, I gave up deer hunting as I had no desire to hunt from a tree stand.  When I moved to Utah, I always said that with all the possibilities for hunting, I would eventually have to start hunting again.  After skiing with my friend Evan for a few ski seasons, last winter he finally convinced me that this should be the year to take up hunting again.  When a Nate Thesing, a friend and coworker from MN and an avid hunter, moved here in February, it made the timing seem even better (now there would be 2 of us hunting in UT for our first time).  Between Evan, Nate and I, we were able to get a cow and 2 spike bull permits as well as a buck mule deer permit each.  Having not hunted for 15 years, I was a little bit nervous.  I brought my guns back from ND when we were visiting in August (nothing like flying somewhere to run 100 miles and coming back with guns).  Finally a few weeks before season, I figured since I had not shot the gun in 15 years, I should probably go to the firing range.  Other than a sore shoulder from shooting 20 rounds, that went good.  A couple of shopping sprees to Sportsman Warehouse and Cabela’s and I was ready to go.  The season opened on October 8th and our first winter storm moved in on the 5th with cold temperatures, rain and snow.  We were only hunting 1 hour from our house, but decided it would be easiest to camp for the weekend.  We drove down on Friday and scoped out the place we intended to hunt.  After a cold and wet night camping, we left camp on foot, in a snow storm 45 minutes before sunrise on Saturday.  With the fresh snow, we were able to find lots of fresh signs, but spent over 10 hours hiking and bushwhacking through the mountain side to not see a single animal.  It was a tough day of being cold and very wet all day and continual frustration with the difficult walking in the thick scrub oak and bushes.  The evening cleared, we had a new plan, and after a good dinner and a few beers by the campfire, we were ready to get some sleep in preparation for another long day.

We over slept on Sunday, but were still out of camp before 7.  We had a 15 minute drive up the trail to where we could cross the creek and start climbing into the higher elevations to hunt (we were camped around 6,700’ and were planning to hunt between 8,000’ and 9,000’.  After only an hour of bushwhacking, the woods opened up and shortly after we all (separately) had our first elk sighting, but none of us were able to get a shot off.  We were all hunting individually, but had 2-way radios and would make contact every 2 hours (or when we heard close shots) for updates of where we were at and what we were seeing.  At our 11:00 contact, I had decided to head to high ground and was on my way to a 9,200’ ridge which I intended to follow a couple of miles until it intersected a trail which would then drop down into the canyon we were camping in about 4 miles from camp.  For 2 hours I followed numerous sets of very fresh tracks and at 1:00, I saw a good sized elk standing 75 meters from me in the grove of aspen trees I was climbing up through.  I was only able to see the entire body for a couple of seconds before it hid behind a tree.  From my vantage point, I was able to just see the neck and head.  I was standing next to an aspen tree so I stabilized my rifle against the tree and squeezed off a round.  I couldn’t tell if I had hit it or not, it appeared to duck, but then disappeared.  I assumed I had missed (it was hoping for too much to hit an elk on my first shot hunting in 15 years), but regardless I ran over to the area it had been standing.  I found a large blood mark, but no animal, I was able to follow the blood track, scared the elk up a hundred meters or so later and then followed it another 300 meters before I found it dead.

     1 of the 2 animals we had down

All this while, I am on the radio trying to get Nate and Evan.  It wasn’t until I heard 3 more shots (before I had even found my elk) that Evan came on the radio to tell use he had an elk down.  With 2 animals down, none of us really knew what we were getting ourselves into.  Nate went to the truck to gather packs and rope then meet us at the animals.  Evan and I both started to field dress out animals – not having hunted in 15 years and only having cleaned a deer, I really didn’t have much of an idea of what to do.  Compared to dressing a deer, an elk is a complete different story.  You can’t straddle the animal and hold the legs apart, they are just too big.  I didn’t have rope to tie the legs to trees and I was on a steep hillside so every time I would try to do something it would slide down the hill.  After about an hour, I had most of the guts out, but was not able to get everything removed so I had to leave it, and I headed over to help Evan with his animal.  We were 1.5 miles (as the crow flies) and 2,000 vertical feet from the truck.  There was no way to get any closer to where we were without an ATV (there was an ATV trail 3/4 mile and 800’ below us).  We started the task of skinning and quartering the elk.  At this point we thought that the 3 of us would be able to carry both animals out in 1 trip.  By the time we got the packs to the animals and the animals both skinned and quartered it was 6:00.  We loaded 2 quarters onto a pack and quickly realized there was no way to carry this.  It was well over 130 lbs.  New plan – we decided to carry out 2 rear quarters and all of the loins, back straps and small scraps.  The rest of the meat we hung from trees with a plan to return on Tuesday to carry it out.  We had everything packed and hung and stared down through the woods in the dark at 7:30.  We had hoped to make the hike out in 2 hours, but instead it took us 3 very long hours with 70-90 lb packs, rifles, etc.  There was no trail out so we had to do everything including scrambling, down climbing, wading the creek, and literally crawling up the bank on the other side.  When we finally got to the truck, we were exhausted and we still had to break camp and drive the 1-hour home. 

     Nate and Evan hiking out in the dark exhausted

By the time we got to my house to hang up the meat it was 12:30 AM, we had been going hard since 6:30AM and we were exhausted.  We decided we would figure out the rest of the meat on Monday.  Monday Evan went out to scope out any better access and was able to confirm we had 2 options: 1) hike 2 trips down the way we did on Sunday night which would take about 10 hours or 2) get an ATV.  My neighbor was kind enough to lend us his ATV and we rented a trailer.  We convinced our friend Andy to come with us and on Tuesday the 4 of us took off to get the rest of the meat.  We had a 3.5 mile approach on a technical ATV trail.  We had 3 mountain bikes, an ATV, and our packs.  We biked and hike-a-biked in, then swapped bike shoes for hiking boots and started carrying elk quarters down to the trail. 

     Going back in to haul out elk quarters

Unfortunately, we had 3 quarters that had been pulled down by a bear (we think it was a bear based on the scratch marks on the trees), but only a small amount of meat was eaten.  With 2 ATV trips to get the meat out and us hiking and biking out, we were able to get all the meat out in 6 hours.  This was still a challenge, but much easier than 10 hours of hiking on steep terrain.  We got everything loaded and were able to get back to my house to get the meat hanging not much after dark. 

     My garage/butcher shop

The first elk hunt was a lot of fun, but it was also as huge learning lesson about how much larger an elk is than a deer, the massive differences between deer hunting in farm land and elk hunting in the mountains, how much work it is to haul out an animal on your back, and much, much more.  Nate still has a spike bull tag, but we may not have time to fill the tag as we have realized that you need to plan for an entire day to haul out the meat after you shoot an animal.

Biting Back at the Bear

Prelude

I went into this season for redemption.  I had a rough race season in 2010 with a tough day at Big Horn 100 (due to stomach issues and getting lost) and a DNF at Bear 100 (due to kidney issues).  The year started out great when I had an amazing day at the 2011 Big Horn 100.  After Big Horn time just kept rolling by crewing/pacing Emily at Tahoe Rim 100, numerous uneventful and uninspiring runs, a great run on the Maah Daah Hey Trail in North Dakota, and a fantastic Big Cottonwood Canyon ridge traverse.  After the BCC traverse labor day weekend, I was lacking energy and feeling overall drained.  I didn’t feel I had been over training, but that run did seem to put me over that fine line of hard training vs. over training.  With the Bear 100 3 weeks away, it was time to work with friend and coach Matt to come up with a  strategy for the next 3 weeks that will put me in peak condition for the start of Bear.  A week before the race I was feeling better, but still feeling like I needed more and more sleep and my resting heart rate was 8-10 higher than I would have liked.  It was on this day that I figured I would take a quick 1 hour after work mt bike ride.  Descending too quickly down a wide, but rocky trail, I hooked an outstretched tree branch with my arm which in turn jack-knifed my front wheel and sent me super-manning down the trail.  I landed 10-15’ from my bike and skidded to a stop in the rocks.  Extremely startled and shaken, I laid there a minute to take stock of my body parts (I hadn’t hit my head, my right arm hurt, but not that badly, my left leg was scraped up, and both adductor muscles and my left hip and glute hurt pretty badly).  I stood up and retrieved my bike, which thankfully was not damaged and realized how hard I had hit by the fact that I was close to throwing up from the impact and in all the falls I had taken, had never felt like that before.  By the time I got up Christian who I was riding with had come back to make sure I was OK, I said, ‘I think so’, because that was all I knew.  By the time we rode the 5 miles home, I had a baseball size lump on my left glute and walking hurt.  Well, this was going to put 100 miles in a whole new place.  I spent the next week taking daily ice baths, stretching the muscles, and eating lots of omega-6’s, papain and bromelain (all natural anti-inflammatories that work very well for me), but on Thursday when I left for the race I still ached and just lifting my legs to cross them hurt.

All pain aside, I never questioned if I should race or not, I was not going to get beat by the Bear again this year and I figured 100 miles hurts regardless so it may just hurt a little more.  The weather forecast for the race was perfect – a warm 78-84F in the afternoon (with a threat of being hot when out of the shade or breeze) and a comfortable 38-44F at night.  I had the standard pre-race nerves on Thursday, but the company of Matt, Ellen Parker, and Krissy Moehl on the drive to Logan and during dinner was a good distraction.  Emily drove up after work and by 8:30 we had everything ready for the next day (truck packed, aid station bags ready, breakfast set out, race number pinned on, etc.).  We relaxed for a half hour and it was time for lights out.  I usually don’t sleep well the night before races, but I slept quite well getting a solid 7 hours and waking up just before the alarm to eat and get ready. 

Fun

Last year was the largest Bear race at 140 runners, this year there were 260 registered runners.  The starting line (at a park in the city of Logan) was crowded and chaotic with anxious racers and sleepy crews.  With 3 minutes before the starting gun, several of us lined up in the first couple of rows in order to get a fast start and good position when we hit the single track a mile in.  The first 10 miles is a continual climb and traverse to the aid station at Logan Peak.  I was feeling great on the climb and my legs had loosened up.  The next 10 miles had a small amount of climbing and a massive descent into Leatham Hollow.  I knew that this section could blow a person’s quad muscles so I took a hard, but smart pace.  I reached Leatham Hollow right on a 23.5 hour pace and somewhere around 15th place.  My crew and some crew of friends (Emily, Emily Judd, Matt, and Krissy) kept me moving right out of the aid station so as not to waste any time.  

Leatham Hollow Aid Station

Suffering

As I left Leatham, we had a 3 mile gradual climb up a gravel road to Richard Hollow.  This section has always left me hurting as you need to run it even though it is a good climb (over 1,600’).  Roch Horton caught up to me on the road and we both suffered together up the road. We reached Richard Hollow, donated our headlamps to the aid station (we had both stupidly forgotten to get rid of them at Leatham) and start up the grinding 6 mile climb.  Both Roch and I felt quite poor on this climb and by the time we reached Cowley Aid Station 7.5 miles later, we had been passed by 12 runners.  Emily and I had decided not to crew at this point, but I was happy to see our friend Emily Judd (who I ran a lot of Big Horn with) there.  She took care of me, gave me a quick pep talk and sent me on my way.  I was not planning to pick up a pacer until Temple Fork (mile 45.2), but asked her to tell my Emily to get ready to run with me from Right Hand Fork as I needed company.  I wasn’t feeling great as I left Cowley, but I pushed hard up a hot climb then pushed it as much as possible during the awesome single track descent into Right Hand Fork.  At Right Hand, I once again had a great crew of 4 attending to me as I did a quick foot repair and left with Emily.  Emily only had 5 minutes from the time Emily Judd arrived until I arrived so my change of plans had caused a bit of chaos for her.  We left Right Hand together and while not feeling good, I was happy to have some company. 

Right Hand Fork to Temple Fork

At this point my stomach was not in a good place due to my aches and pains from the bike crash and several hours of heat and exertion.  I kept eating and drinking as much as possible, but kept feeling more and more bloated.  I kept pushing on and Emily was able to get my motivation up.  We got passed by a few more people on this section and I was in about 35th place now and on a 24.5 hour pace.  This early in the race, I don’t get too concerned about being an hour off my pace as I know if I have run a smart race up to this point, I can easily make up an hour in the last 50 (or even 25) miles.  We quickly crewed at Temple Fork (Sallie Shatz had now joined my crew and it was good to have another always smiling face), I unsuccessfully attempted to fix my stomach in the toilet, and off I went with Kristen Swenson.  Kristin is Emily’s favorite pacer and she always gets Emily extremely motivated and moving quickly.  I had never had Kristin pace me and I was looking forward to this as I needed it.  Kristin kept me motivated with her good conversation and we made good time climbing out of Temple and running down the amazing single track into Tony Grove.  At this point, I was coming to terms that I may not feel good on any of the remaining climbs, but I was able to push the downhill’s quite hard.  I quickly moved through the Tony Grove aid station and took off with Emily pacing me.  The climb out of Tony went ok, I was not feeling great, but we were pushing as much as possible.  My quads were starting to feel trashed and I was only at mile 52, but since I couldn’t push the climbs, I had to keep pushing the descents.  I made the decision that at Beaver Lodge I would change to compression tights to try to save the legs for the last 25 miles.  I was able to push hard on the flats and downhill’s all the way to Franklin Basin and I ran this section 10 minutes faster than my 23 hour pace chart.  I now had my strategy for the rest of the race – suffer the uphill, crank the downhill. 

Running into Franklin Basin

Perseverance

At Franklin I grabbed some food and picked up Mark Christopherson as my pacer to get me the next 38 miles to the finish line.  Mark has been one of my ultra mentors and training partners for the last 5 years and I knew that his experience and strong running abilities would be just what I needed to get me in under 24 hours.  At this point, I didn’t think it was possible to achieve my 23 hour goal, but under 24 hours was still within reach as I was at about a 24:15 pace and I knew I could make up 15 minutes over 38 miles. Mark and I continued my strategy of going as hard as possible uphill (which was not that hard), the letting me go on the flats and downhill’s. Sometimes this meant I was doing a 20 minute/mile pace and sometimes it was an 8 minute/mile pace. It was now dark and we had a few issues with route finding prior to the Logan River aid station where we spent close to 10 minutes trying to find the trail. We were in and out of the aid station and on to Beaver Lodge (at Beaver Mountain Ski Resort). With Mark pacing me, we were able to start running these sections at (or even faster) than my 23 hour splits. We were making up good time and passing people along the way which was helping with my motivation. I took a few minutes at Beaver Lodge and switched into CW-X compression tights. For the past 5 years I have sworn by CW-X compression tights so I was confident that the time it would take me to change into them would be more than worth it over the final 24 miles. I wasn’t disappointed as when we left I could immediately feel a difference having the quad support was making. The next section to Gibson Jack Basin was a 5.5 mile climb that seemed to go on forever. We did what we could and kept pushing. Everyone we met on the trail at this point seemed to be in the same place. Hovering a little bit inside the pain cave and suffering trying to decide to go deeper or exit and take it easy. We chose the former. The comedy of the run was getting into Beaver Creek aid station. The creek was knee to thigh deep or there was a sketchy 8” log 15’ long and 2’ above the water. It was quite cold at this time and my body was not regulating its temperature very well so we chose the log. Knowing we could not walk across it, 4 of us (2 runners and 2 pacers) butt slide across the thing. Not the most graceful crossing, but it prevented other issues around trying to warm up. I was running in 16th at Beaver Creek and although suffering, was really happy with how Mark had been able to keep pushing me. We spent a little too much time at Beaver Creek aid station eating (I came in hungry and knew I had to take advantage of it) and then we were off. On the way to Ranger Dip, we once again found ourselves questioning the route and lost a little bit of time stopping to look for route markers. Eventually we made it to Ranger where Emily and Sallie were waiting.

Final Push

There is an ~1 mile crazy steep climb out of Ranger Dip. This climb destroyed me, but I knew once I reached the top, it was (almost) all downhill to the finish. I wasn’t fast on the climb and at the top I told Mark I needed to put music on for some motivation to the finish line. The second song was “Glory Days” from Springsteen. This song always gets me moving and this time it was no different. As soon as this song came on, Mark and I were quickly cruising down the technical and rocky descent. Shortly after the most technical portion of the descent, I decided there were only 5 (or so) miles left and I was going to give it everything I had. I was able to keep a very strong pace all the way to the finish line (with 1 short stop when there was a left hand turn and once again I couldn’t find any markers so I wasn’t sure where to go) and finished in 23:24:46 for 14th place. I was happy as I had made up 50 minutes in 38 miles, I had suffered for 80 miles, and while not making my 23 hour goal, I had made my sub-24 hour goal.

A huge thanks to my pacers (Emily, Kristin, and Mark) and all those were helped crew me along the way (Emily, Matt, Krissy, Emily Judd, Sallie, Kristin, and Mark).

Wasatch 100 – Mission Accomplished

What a race. After completing the Wasatch 100 in 2008 as my first hundred, in which I suffered immensely, I had no desire to run this race again. After my strong Leadville 100 finish last year (which marked my 2nd under 30 hour finish for a 100 mile race) and pacing a friend at Wasatch I started to reconsider. Have I gotten smarter/faster to possibly get under the 30 hour benchmark? Is that at all possible for me? I decided that there was a good chance of it and applied and got drawn in the lottery. It was now time to determine strategy and training to make sure I could meet my goal of under 30 hours.

I skied all spring specifically because we had a 3 week ski trip in the Alps planned so I didn’t really start my race training until May. I also missed my first race of the year (Pocatello 50) due to a work trip to Japan that I could not pass up. My next race was Tahoe 100 on July 16, so I started a very rigorous training schedule to get ready for that. Although I completed Tahoe, it was not within my goal time as I had a very serious lung infection during the race. This not only took a lot out of me physically but also mentally. After I recovered from that race and my lung infection (my lungs are still healing today), I had one last big training push to make sure I was ready for Wasatch (I was able to do most of this training on the Wasatch course where I made every run count). I also spent a lot of time working on splits, a race plan, studying the course (which I already knew really well), and mentally and physically preparing myself for the race.

I was as ready for Wasatch. I had a great plan, crew, and pacers ready. I also had lucky number 62 (6 is my favorite number and 2 for the 2nd time completing Wasatch). We started out at 5AM and cruised along the single track. Within 38 minutes of the start my light went from bright, to dim, to totally dead – yikes. I knew I still had about 40 minutes of darkness so I moved as quickly as I could using the light around me. This cost me time and at Francis Peak (18.76m) I was about 13 minutes behind my goal pace. I knew I had a long time to make it up so I wasn’t going to let this affect me. I came into Big Mountain (39.4m) at 2:45p and was happy to have Ann join me for the next section.

Big Mountain Pass Aid Station

As we headed up the first hill we were so happy to notice that it had clouded over making this section so much more enjoyable than it usually was (the early racers were treated to an extremely warm section). We got into Lambs (53.13m) at 6:21p and it was amazing to see so many friends there to cheer me on as I made a quick pit stop (thank you Christian, Corrie, Berkley, Mischa, Ray, Katy, Tyson, & Erin). Kristin and I headed up the Lamb’s canyon road on the way to Big Water in Mill Creek. Kristin kept me company for the next 22 miles (with a quick crew stop from Chad at Mill Creek). It was entertaining when she told me about memories that she had of me from this section in 2008 and I didn’t remember many at all. It’s crazy to think that this section took almost an hour and a half longer in 2008 than it did this year. At Brighton, Chad, Brent, and Kristin got me in and out quickly changing socks, shoes (then putting my Hokas back on after taking them off), fixing blisters, and a snack. I then headed out the door with Chad, my #1 pacer. I continued to feel strong going up Catherine’s Pass, down into Ant Knolls, and on. I was able to keep moving, drinking, eating, and just really maintaining a decent pace. I couldn’t believe that we were almost to Pot Bottom before it got light out. We climbed the last big hill coming out of Pot Bottom and then started to run. I ran all but 2 short climbs the entire way to the finish line. At that point my legs were killing me and I had been trying to keep my stomach from going south for quite a while. We hit the road and I was so incredibly happy knowing that I was almost done. We ran in with a couple from the neighborhood going out for a nice Saturday morning run. I remember them stating that they were out for a little run and I said “me too, but I started at 5a yesterday morning.” The gentleman ran on the other side of me to make sure no cars got close to me.

I crossed the finish line at 9:16a (finish time of 28:16:29). I was so happy to be done and incredibly ecstatic that I met (and blasted out of the water) my goal. I was rewarded at the finish line with many friends (thank you Jenny, Terry, Erin, Tyson, Tom, Stephanie, Ann, Anya, Amanda, Ian, Kristin, Brooke, and Jenn) to cheer on me and our friend Suzanne.

THE FINISH!

I am so happy that I was able run a strong race and that all of my mental and physical preparation paid off. I actually went from the 101st place at mile 53 to 46th place (and 5th female overall) at the finish line.

2011 Wasatch 100

Thank you so much to my awesome pacers: Chad, Kristin, and Ann. Thank you also to Chad for being there for me at every location that he possibly could and always being so incredibly supportive. Thank you also to everybody that sent me their good vibes to get me through. I could feel the strength of others as I went. I couldn’t have done it without all of my super supportive friends and family!

Mountain Hardwear Running Hydration System Reviews

Mountain Hardwear Single Bottle Waist Pack

I have a hard time finding waist packs that fit me correctly. My typical issue is that the packs ride up off my narrow hips and end up on my stomach and being very uncomfortable.

This is a fairly minimal waist pack weighing around 2oz  The pack has only a single small storage compartment on the waist strap.

  • During my first use, I had some issues with the straps slipping through he buckles so I needed to tighten it a lot.  On subsequent uses, the waist strap had collected enough sweat and grim that it did not slide through the buckles as easily. A buckle with sharper teeth or a rougher web strap may remedy this.
  • I had some issues with it twisting around my waist.  I think some small rubber pads on each side of the bottle holder would cause it to stick to your shirt or shorts and not move as much.  I think this may also prevent it from riding your shirt up like most packs do on me.
  • The gear pouch is small, but easy to access and very functional. I could easily fit 300 calories in it and was able to squeeze 400 in when needed.
    • The gear pouch is removable, but also slides around a lot.  I like that you can take the pouch off, but I think that a small piece of Velcro to hold it in place would be a good addition.
    • Additional pouches would be great including 1 large enough for a gel flask
  • The water bottle sleeve was super easy to get a bottle in and out of which was great.  I was extremely impressed with the bottle sleeve.  It is one of the easier sleeves I have used on a waist pack.
  • The bungee to hold the water bottle in was ok. I found that with a full bottle, you needed the strap to ensure the bottle does not slip out, but once the bottle got lighter, slipping out was not an issue.  I found it easy to get off the bottle, but it took some practice to be able to reach back and get the strap on the first grab.
  • There is a bungee strap that wraps around the water bottle holder. When carrying a Patagonia Dragon Fly jacket, the extra weight did not change the way it bounced or sat at on my hips. I was very impressed with this as I was worried that with the jacket attached to the bottle sleeve and not close to the waist that it could cause some bouncing.
  • The pack bounced a little bit with a full bottle, but once the bottle had a few ounces out of it stayed very steady on my waist.
  • I had few issues with the pack riding up on my waist when running. This thrilled me since it is always one of my concerns.

Overall Summary: I was impressed with the comfort of both the narrow waist band and the minimally padded bottle holder.  I am used to bottle packs with more padding (and usually weighing around 6oz) so it was great to see that this was just as comfortable with a fraction of the weight. Based on the weight and functionality of this waist pack, it will most likely be my ‘go-to’ bottle holder.

Mountain Hardwear Fluid 6 Hydration Pack

The Fluid 6 pack is Mountain Hardwear’s entry into running vests. 

   

This is a lightweight hydration vest that is very well built without any unnecessary frills.  The pack has 2 mesh pouches in the front straps with a single small zippered pocket.  The pack itself has a single large pocket with an internal separation for a bladder.  The vest weighed 8.5oz compared to 11 oz for my other race best.  This weight savings alone was enough to have me excited to try it out.

Even after my first use, I loved the pack for the light weight and simplicity.  I initially had a problem with both the side and chest straps continually loosening, but similar to the waist pack, when the straps collected enough sweat and grime, the did not slip.  Similar to the waist pack, I think either rougher straps or better teeth on the buckles would eliminate this.

The small zipper pouch on the front left shoulder strap was perfect for electrolyte tablets.  It is large enough for this, but no larger.  There are times when this pocket could be a little bit larger, but it was always sufficient for how I used it.

The left chest pocket easily fit 300 calories and the right pocket is large enough for a gel flask.  The chest pouches are made out of a stretchy mesh so they keep the contents locked in and don’t allow things to shake or bounce.

The pack itself has a bungee looped between the sides.  The bungee was large enough to get quite a bit of clothing or other items strapped on.  The interior of the pack is very large.  It has a nylon divider to keep the bladder separate from the rest of the pack.  It has a Velcro loop on the top to hang the bladder from.  I felt this was necessary to keep the bladder from slipping down into the bottom of the pack and from bouncing.  I also found that the rear bungee had to be kept snug to keep the contents from bouncing.  A small bungee at the top of the bladder sleeve may also help to stabilize this or making the bladder sleeve out of a stretchy material.

The main compartment was large enough to hold clothing, food, and a small set of emergency gear with room to spare.  I feel that the overall compartment size could be reduced by 25-40% and still be sufficient for most long day runs.  The pack at its current size would support enough food and water for extended run (10+ hours).

The back panel of the pack is constructed of a very light (almost mesh) material.  On hot runs, I found that filling the bladder with ice helped keep me cool while running.

Using the Fluid 6 on my run of the Maah Daah Hey Trail

There were also a few negatives about the pack:

  • Both the bungee and shoulder straps were far too long and would need to be cut back. 
  • The black fabric of the pack seemed to absorb a lot of solar heat and warm the contents, a lighter material would be better.
  • There is no internal storage so there is no location for keys or other small items so these items tended to get lost on the bottom of the pack.  This pouch could be very small and would add minimal to no weight to the pack.
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