There are days when everything goes right; this was not one such day. Tuesday was remarkable in that almost everything unpleasant about Colorado ski mountaineering wrapped itself up in a single day. I set my alarm before going to bed for 2:45am; my eyes opened at 1:55am and I was pleased to see that I had another hour to sleep. Next thing I know, it’s 3:50am. Fortunatley I’d completely packed up the night before, and was able to be on the road in record time with wheels rolling at 4am sharp. I made good time and met Matt at the trailhead just prior to 7am, only half an hour late.
Though I’d hoped to be getting on a few more 14ers by now, Saturday’s trip up a high 13er was a great way to spend a spring day. Hans and I started skinning up the road at about 8:30, with Jeff and Sam running a bit late.
I’ve been itching for ski mountaineering season to roll back around, and we’re finally getting there. Much of the state isn’t ready yet, but with its thinner snowpack and warm, sunny weather, the Sangres are rapidly coming in to condition. The timing on this climb was a bit unusual, with Eric and I heading straight down for the climb after a full day of work on Thursday and skipping the couple hours of poor sleep that these days typically start with.
We made it up to 9,800′ on the Lake Como road before being stopped by snow, and were moving at 1am. Despite a relaxed-feeling pace, we made quick work of the road and hit the base of a north-facing couloir at 2:30am. This was our one point of concern in regards to snowpack stability, and we spent a full 90 minutes digging pits, poking around, discussing, and slowly working our way in to the line before making the call to continue upwards.
Yesterday was about as good as it gets. Despite a forecast for particularly unpleasant weather, Hans and I went out as we were in need of a training day at altitude. We chose a low-angle, somewhat wind-sheltered area up at Berthoud Pass with the intent of cranking out 3,000′ or so of skinning, plus the ability to test out a couple things. It started out gray, snowy, and windy; we weren’t sure how long we would stick around, but at least we were out.
After breaking trail for 1,000′ from the car, we were treated to a decent (if not wind-affected) ski down to our chosen transition spot. Despite keeping one ski on to avoid sinking in, Hans punched in pretty deep and was forced to take both skis off to climb out of a hole.
After taking a year off from the annual Eiseman trip, we went back to the Ben Eiseman hut with a dozen friends, lots of food, and – new this time – a keg of beer. Thanks to clear weather, an empty hut, and some vacation time to use, Chris and Gary decided to spend an extra night at the hut and head in Thursday afternoon, a handful of us went in late Thursday night to arrive early on Friday, and the rest came in two more separate groups later on Friday. This is sometimes a recipe for disaster, but any major incidents were avoided this time.
While some parts of the state have been absolutely hammered with early-season snow – Crested Butte for example – the Front Range has has a bit slower start. I finally got my backcountry season kicked off this past weekend, and was pleasantly surprised.
Summer has quickly faded in Colorado, and Fall is back in force. Cool, sunny days make for great cyclocross weather, and a special late-day/evening race schedule thanks to Without Limits meant a full day at the races without having to get out of bed at 5am. There are a ton of photos here (I ended up with about 650 at the end of the day) so the captioning will be a bit light.
And just like that, ‘cross season is back in Colorado. At the time of this writing things are more than a bit damp thanks to a 100-year storm, but moondust was the name of the game last weekend at Cross of the North. I’m back to “racing” in the singlespeed category, partly due to missing the pain that comes with not being able to change gear ratios mid-race, but also largely due to racing at 8am instead of 2:30pm. I’m a morning person through-and-through, and the early race works perfectly for me.
A couple weekends ago I got to do one of my favorite things – cover long distances in the mountains at night at a good pace. Several months ago, I received an email from a friend, who was passing on an email from a guy he knew, about someone else looking for a pacer (or something like that). The racer, Scott Loughney, was preparing for the Leadman competition – essentially racing all summer long in Leadville. Scott’s target time for the 100 was 24-25 hours, putting the last quarter of his race solidly in the overnight hours. Perfect.
Saturday night of the race, I headed up to the Fish Hatchery to take over pacing duties and found Scott’s brother Todd all set up and ready for Scott to come in.
This was my first time at an ultramarathon, and it was quite the scene.
Scott came in pacerless, having been too fast for his wife to keep up with.
A few minutes of rehydrating and sorting new gear and we were off, me with two packs to ease the burden on Scott’s legs, which already had 76 miles in them.
The evening was chilly, but keeping the pace up kept us both warm.
There aren’t a whole lot of pictures because, well, it was night time and we had a pace to keep up. To my pleasant surprise, Scott had no major issues during the six and a half hours we were moving through the mountains. Temps dropped quite a bit in the last hour, but a good support crew came through with our warmer clothes just in time.
Scott came in with a time of 24:31 (for a total Leadman time of 45:18, good for 14th in the series), plenty of time under the cutoff for the big belt buckle.
It was a great time and I look forward to pacing again. I even came away with a valuable lesson – that I have little interest in ever doing a 100 mile race.
Congratulations Scott, and thanks for having me along for the ride!
The Leadville Trail Marathon is now four weeks behind us. I signed up for it in memory of Rob Janssen, who passed in a climbing accident last year. My training was almost all-consuming leading up to it, as evidenced by my near-total lack of peak skiing this year, despite an excellent spring. The race was an amazing experience, but took it out of me in a way nothing has before. Motivation was nonexistent, energy levels through the floor, and recovery slower than molasses.
Things finally changed his week, thanks to the preseason Salvagetti/Happy Coffee Cyclocross team meeting. After a month of not wanting to do anything, I’m now to the point where I’m even looking forward to trainer workouts. It’s good to be back.
Because I need to get caught up on photos and such, below are two photos from the Bailey Hundo. The first is Christopher Jones blasting the end of Sandy Wash, the second Levi enjoying a free massage at the aid station.