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Athletes on the La Sportiva Ski Mountaineering Team.
On April 12, 2012, I was caught and tumbled by an avalanche while skiing Mt. Superior in the Wasatch. My partner Jason Dorais wrote this report. I've added my thoughts below.
When I went to Europe for the Ski Mountaineering World Championships a few weeks ago I intended on writing a brief write-up every day about the races and the things Team USA was up to. Well, as often happens, I found myself much busier than expected and chose to take extra time to recovery or (gasp) ski! So here I find myself, home for almost two weeks, sitting at the keyboard trying to figure out how to share what happened.
A few of us in from the US Ski Mountaineering team arrived in France yesterday. We had a super long travel day getting to Pelvoux, but fortunately it was uneventful. I snuck in a run last night just as the sun went down, which I ended up finishing in the dark. After a nice dinner, we all crashed hoping to get rid of some jet lag.
Well it's time. The first big race of the ski mountaineering season is Saturday, followed by the second big race on Sunday. I have spent the last several months working with Adam St. Pierre (Boulder Performance Medicine) and Rob Shaul (Mountain Athlete) preparing myself in the very best and systematic way possible. For the first time I have included a very rigorous strength training program to kick off the training cycle and then at least twice a week since. Adam developed a very thoughtful progression of endurance training, based loosely on my training from last year.
As I arrived in Geneva, the pilot informed us that it was 2 degrees Celsius, considerably colder than the 82 degrees it had been at home when I left. I bundled up for the drive to Chamonix to meet my teammates Lyndsay Meyer and Nina Silitch wondering if I was ready for skimo racing again after mountain bike racing in the desert the weekend prior.
Every race has its ups and downs, both literally and figuratively. The GT is so unique because, unlike shorter ski mountaineering races, it goes on for 8 to 15, or even more, hours.
Welcome to the Prestigious Hidden Valley Time Trial – the HVTT. Gloat when you win, throw a tantrum when you lose. Or, at least, come up with excuses. Problem is, none of us knows a damned thing about skiing. We’re all climbers. We’re the Skimo equivalent of a bunch of kids who just watched Cliffhanger and decided they were going to do a climbing race.
Apparently, the promise of a home remodeling project is good motivation for me to race hard. After a lot of hand-wringing last week about the Winter Teva Mountain Games (WTMG), my husband Ian promised that if I raced and won, we could get the new shower we desperately need in our bathroom.
With winter being absent in most of the western US, I think there was a lot of uncertainty going into this years US Ski Mountaineering Championships. Training, for me at least, was very challenging due to the limited snowpack. For many of the racers it would also be the first race of the year, which also added to the unknown.
And Manaslu this year was special for another reason...skiing. Each of the previous three times I have climbed the peak, I have dreamt of skiing it. The mountain is perfect for a serious ski descent; with the right skills and conditions it is possible (but serious) to ski every foot of the mountain, from the summit almost all the way into basecamp.
he Himalayan season is another exciting one. Once again I will be guiding Manaslu (for the fourth time) and Ama Dablam (for the ninth time). These peaks challenge me every time and this season has some extra twists.
All classic descents on one mountain - how about all three in a day? Unfortunately with the snowy spring, it was not until the last day in June to tick this off my list.
On Saturday, I skied the Grand Teton. I've been after this all year, and I'm happy that it's done . . . for now.
Buck Mountain stands about 12,000 ft tall in the southern Tetons. There are three prominent lines off "Bucky's" north face--the Bubble Fun Couloir, the Newc Couloir, and the North Couloir. Brian wanted to ski all of them, and that's what we set out to do.
May 1st we were able to get up into RMNP and get in some good skiing. We had some people in from Europe and we got to show them some great touring in the park and we also got a lot of people out on the Hi5's
When organizers in Aspen announced the first ever Power of Four, a ski mountaineering race covering 27 miles from Snowmass to Ajax with over 12,000 feet of climbing, I was intrigued. An epic race in my backyard? Yes, please.
If you're heading into the backcountry for a day or multi-day tour it's key to have a ski repair kit. You never know when something is going to crap out. You can save the day and avoid a potential epic by putting together your own kit. Here are a few things I have in my pack:
At 7800 hundred feet it was just a light drizzle, but as we wound our way up and over Red Mountain Pass from Ouray to Silverton it quickly turned to snow. The 2nd Annual San Juan Rando Race was held 6 miles south of Silverton on Molass Pass. Pulling into the parking lot just after 7am, with the glow of excitement on familiar faces, we jumped out of the car and shared the joy with fellow racers.
The EMGT podium is an elite boy's club. A quick look at the results from the past ten years reveals many of the same names; Mike Kloser, Pat O'Neill, Jimmy Faust, Bryan Wickenhauser and Pierre Wille to name a few. I'm proud to say that this weekend not one, but two women's names will be added to that list.
I often, even on a powder day, find myself clipping into my 65 mm race skis, which weigh 2.1 pounds per foot. Why? Because going light = going higher and longer with less effort. Because going light allows me to ski routes like the Hulk Hogum.
This past Saturday was the running of the 9th annual Wasatch Powderkeg. This year's event, like last year, was held at Brighton Resort in the heart of the Wasatch. Brighton is a wonderful host for the resort and the terrain around the area (most of the race was held outside of area boundaries) made for a brutally fun race.
When you arrive in the Alps and all the locals tell you it's been the worst snow year in 5 decades, it's easy to get a bit depressed. Especially when your hometown (in this case Squaw Valley, CA) is getting pummeled by a storm cycle that ended up dropping almost 15 feet of snow in the two weeks I was gone.
As I sit here in the Venice airport, I can’t help but reflect back on the last 10 days. It truly has been an amazing experience to represent the United States at the World Champs. Claut and the surrounding towns are a gem in the Dolomites, many people see the Dolomites around Cortina and further west, but as Pete described it this area is the “sleepy” part of these amazing mountains. The landscape here is stunning, awe-inspiring, breathtaking and any other adjective that has a similar meaning.
Things in Claut are starting to heat up, both figuratively and literally. Many more teams are arriving by the minute. It is very interesting to see all of the racers and teams in fully decked out kits, spandex race suits, and the most intimidating look they can muster. The weather is also heating up, today the fog finally lifted and showed us the beauty of the Dolomites. Today the entire US team went up to the race area and spent a couple of hours exploring the area around where the course will be held.
There are times when decisions need to be made with many more people in mind other than myself. Okay, probably all the time... Anyway, having been away the previous weekend for a funeral on the east coast, I made the decision to skip the COSMIC race at Monarch and spend the weekend with my family.
Doesn't matter if we go up or down. I'm not going to need these," he said.
"True." After another minute or two, I started taking my skins off too.
"You missed a night's sleep and drove a long way, but those are shitty reasons."
Well in an attempt to actually post on a daily basis from the Ski Mountaineering World Championships I thought I would drop a quick note about traveling to Claut. The flights from Idaho Falls, Idaho to Venice Italy were pretty uneventful. It was a long time to be in a tight space packed with people, but luckily all my flights were on time and both of my bags arrived in Venice the same time I did. I enjoyed an hour and a half drive with Roberto, although it was a bit awkward as he spoke no english and I no Italian. The couple of times we tried to talk about something pretty much ended in uncomfortable laughter and nods. Neither of us really had any idea what the other was saying.
It was a beautiful clear, warm, early Sunday morning as we pulled into the Monarch parking lot. The only people scurrying around were dressed in spandex, pulling short skinny skis out of their cars. This has been the routine for the past couple of years with ski mountaineering competitions. Get up early, put on some tight clothes, grab a 160 length 65 underfoot ski, do a couple quick sprints and line up at the starting line.
I was really looking forward to the International Ski Mountaineering World Championships in Claut, Italy next month but unfortunately it is not going to happen for me. Decisions have to be made with my entire family in mind which is why I'll be staying in Colorado. I am extremely bummed to not represent the United States this year but deep down I know it was the decision that needed to be made.
A little over one month ago I qualified for the US Ski Mountaineering Team at the US Championships in Jackson Hole, Wy. Since that moment I have been working very hard at preparing to represent the US in Italy at the World Championships.
This new ski gear is the other reason for all my anticipation. Before I leave for Cham next week I should be receiving my new La Sportiva 188 Hi5 skis with RT bindings! I skied the setup a couple of weeks ago in Utah at this winter's Outdoor Retailer show and was super-impressed.
The weather put a damper on my weekend plans. Not wanting to let a Saturday go to waste, Bart and I hooked up for some skillz training in the Triangle Couloir. The Triangle Couloir is a ~2400 foot shot in Little Cottonwood Canyon. While the Triangle isn't endowed with the height and beauty of its stepsister the Y Couloir, or the nobility of its westerly cousin, the Coalpit, the Triangle does have one allure: a 200 foot unskiable ice fall right at its midline.
On Memorial Day, Brother Aaron and I set out to climb and ski Mt. Baker. We woke up to rain. We drove up Glacier Creek road in the rain, and when we hit snow about 2 miles from the trailhead at about 3000 feet, we started hiking and then skinning . . . in the rain.
Between recovering from that effort and prepping for World’s, Restwise had a chance to catch up with this rising star.
It is a question I have heard for some time. Why have straight tails on your skis? The usual answer involves creating snow anchors while ski guiding. Well, I have a new answer because of an adventure I had last Thursday (January 20th) in the Wasatch range near Salt Lake City Utah with a good friend Matt. The new answer is the ski tails can be used as ice/snow axes to penetrate a layer of ice and enable you to climb out of a dangerous situation. For the real life story read below.
Perhaps, in the future, I'll make some other WURLOS-related posts, like, what you think about during 21.5 hour tour, or why I dry heave when I see GU, or essential WURLOS equipment (or lack thereof), or how to cure to being afraid of vertical exposure, or how about, Making Sense of the Senseless? For now, the mountains . . . .