Sunday, January 09, 2011

Skimo Nationals

Quick trip to Jackson Hole for the USSMA Ski Mountaineering National Championships. Check out Powder magazines write up here and catch a glimpse of our own Samurai taking the whole shot cyclocross style.

Jared and I drove up Friday and got a quick ski out on the mountain. Much better snow coverage that last year but again no actual backcountry skiing on course. The route consisted of 8000 feet of groomers and moguls, 2 long boot packs, up Corbets with the ladder at the top, and tons of steep skiing. Unfortunately it all had that resort skiing feel. I have also wondered why the National championship does not change venues. Same place every year???
They have the same validity problem as the Utah State Mountain Bike Championships.

Cool picture by Powder mag.

The turn out for the race was impressive and surely was the deepest strongest field ever in North America. Also cool to see our Canadian National Team friends from our trip in December. Reiner took the well deserved win!

Quick recap of my race: Started well and felt pretty good on the first and longest climb, roughly 45-50 minutes. Settled into a steady pace in the early teens with Jared (recovering from illness and not his samurai self) roughly 20 seconds ahead at the 1st transition. Skied a bunch of huge steep bumps down a chute. My bottle fell out at the top and shot straight to the bottom where I was able to pick it up. Flat light and light snow made the skiing tough. Smooth bottom transition straight into a mogul ascent. Passed a guy or two guy and basically followed just behind Jared with him making time on the DH and me catching back up on the climbs. Up the first boot back it was windy and I was getting cold, very cold. Across the ridge was frigid but the Coombs couloir made it worth it and was surely the most interesting skiing on the course. An event free transition led me towards the Corbets boot pack where my day completely fell apart. While going up Corbets my ski holder strap on my pack broke off and I lost my skis off my back. I retrieved one quickly but the other required a little post holing off the booter to retrieve. After digging around in the snow I found my strap and reattached it only for it to fail again another 20 feet up the chute. I noticed a couple Canadians and Andy passed me while I was wrangling in the snow with my skis and pack. Finally I just tied it onto my shoulder strap to get me to the top. The damage was done and I was now hypothermic. I booted to the top, up the ladder, and walked up the ridge in a whiteout gale in full survival mode. I could not speak and my hands where quickly dying. I was nauseated and ready to vomit from the cold. Nate passed me on the top and I could not even speak to him. I ducked into the hut on top and saw my white fingertips, I quickly decided to descended straight to the bottom of the mountain and to a hot shower to salvage my hands. Bummer, I missed the last short climb and was officially a DNF. Jared, Andy, Tim, and Lane all finished up strong, although maybe not the results they were looking for either.

During these races you walk a very fine line. It's like a cyclocross race in the cold bad weather. Your dressed in your underwear and if you are not on the limit you can't stay warm. Futzing around in Corbets for 5-10 minutes was all it took to put we over the edge and in dangerous territory. It didn't help that lower on the mountain was warm with no wind and I had worked up a good sweat, then I had to stop in the worst possible spot. My finger tips are still a little numb but I think they will heal and I hope to not have any permanent damage, I'm' all to familiar with the lasting effects of frostbite.

Once again I learned a lot and came away feeling good about the race despite not getting the result I was looking for. No I was not in the lead group, but time wise I was running much closer to the top guys and for the first 3/4's of the race I was in the mix.

I also learned that I may not be in a position to pursue skimo racing. Living in Utah requires to much travel for competitive racing and takes away from the adventurous part of ski mountaineering. Just think of all the cool things I could do in 2 full days. Instead I was driving, hiking groomers, and skiing moguls at a resort. If I had unlimited time, then yes I could do it all but I have ridden around in circles for 20 years on bikes and need the exploration aspect of skiing to sooth my soul.


Anonymous kris walker said...

Bart, you should do the San Juan Rando--it is all in the backcountry and sounds awesome. I am thinking about that except I am not so skilled in the backcountry stuff and they have a place where you have to clip into a fixed rope (scary)

kris walker

9:08 AM

Blogger Layne said...

Bummer about your backpack mechanical if you can call it that. I'm sure you'll tear up the local races here in the next couple of months.

4:09 PM

Blogger Bart G said...

In hindsight I should have had better gloves for the top and just went bare hands at the bottom where it was warm to prevent them from getting wet. With that I think I could have handled my Corbets issues without my hands dying. I had no idea it would be like that up top.
Always learning...

Kris- I am sure the San Juan race would be awesome. Very inspiring terrain down there. Is that in April?

6:31 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ski for fun, you race plenty on the bike

11:28 AM

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