Tag Archives: skiing

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


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.


The fast guys of Team Wasatch SkiMo


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.


Men’s Heavy Metal Division – Evan Caplis Winner



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

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.


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.