Sunday, Jan 29th – GoreTex North American Ski Mountaineering Championships Race



Ok, Saturday taught me a couple of critical lessons.  Sunday morning I woke up with the alarm again with a buffer of time before the second set of beeps was scheduled to trigger.  Up and out of bed I hit the shower to clear my head, the cold was rearing its ugliness since the sprint, and the warmth really helped my foot.  Then downed some tea and decongestants to open up my airways for the race.

Next I gathered up and reviewed all my gear making sure I wasn’t going to leave something behind.  Out to the van which had had a heater running in the engine bay all night.  I engaged both batteries, ethered the intake, and warmed the plugs and extended the cold advance and he turned over and caught first try.  Things were looking up at this point.

I stopped in CB to get some fuel and headed to the Day Parking again.  My boots stayed warm under the blanket and I geared up in about 10 minutes leaving parking money on the dash (as discussed the previous day with the parking attendant).

At the starting line I skinned skis and began to warm up on the hill.  Our beacons were tested and we entered the starting area.  I lined up with a few folks at the back of the pack.  At 8:15 the start was signaled and we were off.  The lead pack shot out of the gate and there was no way I was going to keep up with them.  I brought out my mantra early to keep myself moving steadily and set my timer for 10 minutes to ensure that I stayed hydrated.  There was a trailing pack and I found myself near the lead of the slower folks.  Ok, just keep up your pace and you’ll be ok.

A couple of cat track switch backs down and we entered the line below the Red Lady lift on skin tracks.  Kick turns and kick turns stretched out before me.  Scott Radek was just in front of me with Sarah Stubbe just ahead of him.  The three of us accordioned up the climb, each time someone encountered a difficult kick turn the person trailing behind caught up a bit and then was slowed by the same difficult kick turn.  At the Peel Ridge (Guide’s Ridge) Sarah knocked off to the right and Scott carried on over the lower ridge running the recreational course.  Sarah had started the climb and was on the second pitch when I got into the transition zone for the climb.

The lower couple of pitches were flakey and so the going was slower.  At one point the rope above me dislodged a rock, I ducked under and yelled out as soon as it got to me.  Then back to climbing.  I soon caught up to Sarah, I think the exposure was probably playing anxiety tidily-winks with her so I decided that better to enjoy my relative comfort on the ascent and help her out as much as I could.  We negotiated a couple of difficult pitched together and eventually caught up to the tail end of the lead pack.  What a bottle neck!

Sarah did super and I enjoyed talking with the ski patrol and mountain guides at the pitch transitions.  Finally we broke out into the sunshine and topped the ridge.  A quick descent down the back side of Peel Ridge with Andrea Koenig and Bryan Wickenhauser and into the transition zone.  The sunshine was out and heating me quick so I opted to take off my jacket and buff and repack as quick as I could.  Sarah was long gone and Andrea had skins to snow keeping her jacket and harness on.

Back on the track I skinned up to the first descent and was notified that Noon was the cut off.  I’d probably only get one lap on the back side.  Just work on easy and keep moving I said as I descended my legs burning with fatigue.  At this point I was kicking myself for not reviewing this part of the course the previous day.  Oh well, work on easy and kicking yourself is not is just not.  Into the third transition skins went on without a hitch, and started up right behind Andrea.  As it got steeper I was able to pass her in the trees on the inside of a turn.  Later she and one other skier were hot on my tails so I pulled over on a particularly difficult kick turn and let them by.  This segment of the climb was much more difficult than the portion under Red Lady lift primarily because the snow conditions were really a lot worse.  Poles punched through everywhere, skins slipped and at one point a slab slumped significantly under me.

I topped out and got directions to head down.  Ripped skins and at some point on the descent down the finish I passed Andrea (probably in the trees high up).  My legs were burning and my muscles locked up periodically.  Work on easy, over the bumps, through the trees, punching the mashed potatoes cooking in the sun.  Finally I bottomed out and tried to skate up the hill to the finish line.  I was just too tired at this point so I unlocked my skies and tried to run poles in one hand skis in the other.

Crossing the line Tess and sleeping Aral waited for me cheering me on.  Race official got my number and checked my gear and I limped to rest a bit.  The decongestant I took before the race had long since worn off and my nose was running like a river again.

Race results are posted here.

This was an excellent experience over all, and I’d highly recommend anyone with the least interest to try this sport get out there.  While the Peel Ridge ascent was fun, I think next time I’ll enter in the recreation class.  I do not have the mojo to keep up with the race class folks, and I believe that could have been more competitive had I not spent so much energy on the climb.

A really big thanks to Bryan Wickenhauser and everyone else who volunteered to make this event happen.  Also to my family, Tess’ help and support have made it possible for me to train and finish with a smile.  I’m a super lucky guy.

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