There’s plenty to be said about the challenges inherent in backcountry skiing. A lot of the best freeriders come to the backcountry from a downhill ski racing background. Why? I suspect it’s because after years of banging gates, trying to shave tenths and hundredths of a second from their downhill times, it all becomes a bit tedious and boring. Why? Because it’s not challenging any more. That, or maybe it’s too challenging, trying to drop a full 2 seconds from their time to remain competitive.
The fact is, ski racers know how to ski quite well. But it’s not just racers who get bored with the inbounds scene. Once one has acquired the chops to ski all the double black diamonds at any ski resort they go to, the obvious question(s) loom: Where to from here? How to keep up the sense of challenge? To sustain, or re-acquire, the sense of challenge, people need something Continue reading ‘Coming to Know Challenge (Answer 7 of 12)’
100k, as in 100,000 vertical feet, not 60-odd miles.
Lately, I’ve been doing some reading of books by mountain oriented folks, absorbing the concepts, and doing plenty of thinking about them. In a word, I’d say this has been inspiring. Mountain fitness is a frequent topic, regardless of the author’s particular discipline. It’s hard to go big in the mountains without being in shape. This is part of why getting into the mountains regularly is important – maintaining fitness is a lot easier than building it up. One has to re-build their fitness if they stay away from the mountains for any decent length of time.
Clearly, exercise is something one does to maintain or even increase their physical conditioning. After some of the concepts read, I’ve had a simple realization. Although I get mountain exercise pretty regularly, I rarely set concrete metrics to hit. It’s often been enough for me to leave it a bit nebulous, something like – I’m working on getting stronger. And, according to Continue reading ‘Project 100k’
Did a loop around Grandeur Peak this afternoon. There are several trail variations. I headed up the familiar west slope trail, reached the summit, and ran off the backside. Missed the turnoff onto the Pipeline trail. No great loss, but it would have kept more of my day on mountain trails. As it was, I spilled out onto the Mill Creek road at the Church Falls trailhead, then ran the road down and around, back to the car. I haven’t been doing much road running lately, so maybe it was easier than usual to justify enjoying the smoothness beneath my feet.
A Grandeur Loop. 10 miles of mountain bliss right next to the city.
The cars in that canyon are something else though – they didn’t offer up a whole lot of room to this runner. With narrow shoulders and plenty of windy twists to the road, I suppose it’s harder than usual to give much extra space without threatening a head-on collision. (Put that in the mental notes for next time)
Anyway, this route is 10 miles, and gaining the summit offers up about 3,300 vertical. This route is mostly down from there, so that’s about the sum total of the vert.
Didn’t see anyone on the ascent, but the descent revealed plenty of folks hiking up from the Church Falls trailhead. Maybe this approach is more popular because it’s shaded. Or because it’s almost a thousand vertical less, since one drives upwards a good distance to the trailhead. Either way, it was a strange juxtaposition of busy/unbusy routes to the same place.
The colors are bright and vivid right now. Pretty spectacular Fall hues – hope they stick around for a while. They always seem to disappear too fast!
Startlingly vivid hues along the way.
I have occasionally found (because I look for it) the black humor in the following encounter. When it happens, it goes something like this:
Person: You and your pals sure ski a lot.
Person: Are you guys all trust funders?
Me: What makes you think that?
Person: You and your pals sure ski a lot.
Me: Huh. That makes us trust funders?
Person: Well, you know, it fits.
Me: It does? Paris Hilton doesn’t ski, does she? Try this: my friends and I are driven type A’s who work hard, play hard, believe deeply in a non-murky concept known as quality of life (which demands that both of the aforementioned factors coexist), and are willing to sacrifice sleep, train a lot, and be tired much of the time, to get our skiing (quality living) in.
Truth be told, that last Continue reading ‘No Set Hours (Answer 6 of 12)’
It’s kind of the skier’s version of the chicken and egg question (What came first, the chicken, or the egg? – for those who may have missed that question along the way). Does skiing in the backcountry improve your health and fitness, or do you improve your health and fitness to ski in the backcountry?
Both approaches work, and, depending on one’s own priorities, either approach is sufficient. But however one arrives at human powered adventures paired with skis, the short and thick of it goes like this: you’re going to arrive, or get, in shape if you regularly engage in backcountry skiing.
It’s simple physics, combined with human physiology, really. Add Continue reading ‘Health and Fitness (Answer 5 of 12)’
With all the diversity available in the backcountry, it can matter little whether or not one has been in a particular mountain range before. Where winter travel is concerned – with its lack of signage and sometimes invisible landmarks – it’s often an exploratory day. Figuring out the day’s route during the approach is not uncommon. Wondering what you might encounter around the next bend, be it a canyon bottleneck, abandoned mining ruins, or a moose, is part of the daily adventure.
Determining what gear to bring to allow for the maximum chance of success in the outing is always interesting, even if the route is known. There are just so many options. Bring an extra puffy or stick with a softshell? Less water? More? A second pair of gloves? Rope? If so, how long? If so, then a harness and anchors are appropriate. What type of anchors? Crampons? Ice axe? GU Chomps or GU Roctane? Oxford English Dictionary (strictly for weight training purposes)? Who is carrying what? Can it be done in daylight or will the day spill into the night, necessitating headlamps and possibly more layers? And of the utmost importance, just who is bringing the chocolate chip cookies?
Putting the route together to arrive at where you originally wanted to go is part of the fun. Especially during Continue reading ‘A Sense of Adventure (Answer 4 of 12)’