Sunday, January 26, 2014

Fernie Spring Water

The directions for Fernie Spring on were a little sketchy.

Found this image on the 'net for Fernie Spring Water
and knew I wanted to find the location!
On my drive from Elko, BC towards Fernie, I kept my eyes peeled on the left hand side of the road. Just after the short tunnel through the mountain, there it was at the Rest Stop with a Parks-type animal-proof trash bin.

Love the similarities between the two photos almost 6 years later
Water is outstanding, crisp and cold! 

My guestimate the location was at least 10 km past Elko, for sure past the tunnel through the mountain.

I clocked the mileage towards the Fernie Ski Resort turnoff, it was 11.8 km. A sign to look for travelling from Fernie would be for "Trit Trot Farms" or Morrissey Road. The spring and Rest Stop is about 3 km after on the right hand side of the road (west).

Best water EVER!!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Whitefish Whiteout Bootpack Special
Original course was set to be 4 climbs and 3 descents with one boot-pack section on the 3rd climb. Mostly due to snow conditions, not much skinning was to be had after the first groomer climb. There were 3 extra boot pack sections. Not that I minded, just not expected.

Good racing crowd - 40 Racers start! - from Big Dave`s video
28 Recreational/Ascent-Only racers start (1st & 4th loops only) - from Big Dave`s Video
Race announcements went well ahead of start time. It was nice to be on the start line and off on schedule. Weather was socked-in with fog though warm, hovering just below freezing.

Lead racers ascend into the fog - from Big Dave`s video
I went out a good consistent pace on the 1st climb having Carl Kohnstomm in sight who I had duelled on the climbs at Castle Mountain's race. Closer to the top I managed to squeak by him on a steeper pitch. It was so foggy it was difficult to see the orange markers, as well as the racer 10 meters in front of me.

Even the top transition zone came as a surprise. Transition went well though not flawless as a couple guys came and went around me. Difficult to go fast on the first groomed run due to limiting visibility in the fog.

Peter Knight starting first foggy descent - from Big Dave`s video
Almost missed the turn into Cal's Country descent. Sketched my way thru following the wonderful tall slalom gate race flags. The double-black descent down Haskill Slide was narrow and sketchy with lack of snow. Slowly scraped my way safely… that grating sound of the ski edges on solid snow. Just leaving transition, racer Chance I skied with alot last year was just coming in and said 'hi'!

2014 Course Description for reference
1st Leg - Toni Matt Ascent  Start right of Chair 1, in main lift plaza. Ascend to Big Mtn summit(new this yr- checkpoint at top Chair 5). Transition to downhill.
2nd Leg - Haskill Loop  Descend Inspiration to Cal's Country to Haskill Slide. Transition - ascend MoeMentum, up North Bowl Face, to summit transition.
3rd Leg - East Rim Loop  Descend Fill Hill out Russ' Street past Moose ski run. Turn right at 'Buckle your Boot' traverse, go out apron, down Moose. Transition to climb bootpack N.B.C. to summit.
4th Leg - Hellroaring Loop  Down Hellfire from Connie's road. Descend Slingshot to 'Glory Hole' road. Transition to skins for skin track up Glory Hole to Hellfire road. Quick charge to finish line at Summit.

2nd ascent had a little bit of skinning in the trees up snowy steep climbs. Unlike last year where it was a lot of super tough kick turn climbing. To my surprise, as I missed hearing this in the morning race briefing, of a few possible boot-pack sections. Two extra times up this climb before skinning to the top to the wonderful sounds of cowbells!

1376 elevation gain, 740m loss, over 8.1 km
first ascent 630m over 2.2 km
4 bootpack sections shown in orange
very much an ascending race!
and mostly bootpack in the latter legs
2nd descent, I kept my eyes peeled for the gate markers. I was almost fooled and turned at one. The marshall was just around the corner to the entrance to a fun descent in the gladed forest - like a slalom run with trees as the gates.

Short descent, got spit out to transition to a short skin up to NBC boot-pack. Boot-pack went by uneventful, a flat skinning section then steeper skin to the same transition with cowbells. Transition was a gong-show falling over on the uneven surface while removing my skin.

Local skier Ben Parsons leading Canadian Eric Carter
up the N.B.C. boot-pack - from Big Dave`s video
3rd descent started with an easy groomer with a direct dive into Slingshot. This descent was steep with reasonable sketchy snow. My quads were on the verge of cramping. The descent was so short that I skied right by the marshall. She hollered this was the last transition.

Peter Knight crossing the finish line - from Big Dave`s video
Meanwhile, a woman in a skinsuit just arrived to transition as I was leaving. That quickened my pace up the boot-pack! This ascent was supposed to be a skin up though an earlier racer started boot-packing so we all followed the steps. As I passed around a rec racer, I felt a hand give me a huge push up! Unexpected though helped stability.

I was thinking of what best to do at the top of the boot-pack… take time to put the skins on or skate-ski. It was probably only 400m to the finish. I'm an x-c skier and chose the latter. With a slight incline, had to work the two-skate then could single-skate once I was closer. The hardest part was the final five feet up to the steep finish line!

Marg  Michelle  Tele-Martha  Peter - chilling at the top post-race

Michela Adrian from Bozeman, who I met at the Jackson Hole Race, finished a couple minutes back. She put her skins on for the final leg.

Michelle Katchur Roberts braved the event with her healing fingers (frostbite at JH race) and came in soon after in good spirits. Quite a few racers were missing due to colds, and one recovering from ACL surgery.

It was nice to be warm the whole time during this event. Thanks to the organizers and volunteers standing out there. It was a fun racer crowd to ski with as well.

My first ascent 32:45 was a minute quicker than last year's time (course was slightly altered). The top racer up the ascent won a $50 prize with Eric Carter having a stellar sub-28 min time. Last year women were included in the ascent prizing. This year, not sure what happened to equal prizing for women on that one! It may still come. Hopefully, it just got lost.

Super thrilled to find the spring just west of Fernie!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Castle Mountain Skimo - 2nd view

Visited Edmonton friends Dave & Deb Whitten who now live in Crowsnest Pass. Spent Thursday at Castle Mountain Resort following Dave's tracks. Back in 2000, Dave and I were on a 4-person adventure race team at the Full Moon in June in Nordegg.

I was thrilled that double-black diamond Lone Star was ski-able and not the scary-fest I had one year ago. Winds were high at the top. Dave & I checked out the rocky bootpack North ridge from last year and noted it was wind-blown and had no snowpack on it.

Note the predicted 90 kph winds for Sat morning!
Pre-race night, it was convenient to stay at the hostel on the hill with only 50m to walk to the start. Race day morning, the winds were already strong at the base with fresh wet snow falling. Temp was warm at -2C.

After a couple race course revisions already removing the upper bootpack section, then switching to the black diamond run North Bowl as the Chutes were not open... the ski hill safety had the race start one hour later with allowing a loop course on the upper cat track.

Two loops - total 5450' elevation gain, 12.5 km
Did not sound like a terribly exciting course... though with all the snow and strong winds, the racers were happy to get a course to race on and it was sufficient for the conditions at the time.

30 racers off the start - photo Castle Mtn Resort
After the first groomer climb to the top of the Huckleberry chair, Rec racers went down Sidewinder to the start for a 2nd loop, Open racers continued up the cat track then similar descent to a 2nd loop.

The conditions were now harsh with being pelted with snow at 90 kph. I could barely look forward to see the green flags and at one time was at a standstill. Very reminiscent of last weeks race! Despite the warm temps, the windchill was cooling. I had laden my nose with Vaseline as it was susceptible to frostbite from last weekends race. I tucked behind my balaclava and kept my head to the side at times.

Finally reaching the top, there was little shelter from the wind for transition to descent. I took my goggles out of my pack and could still barely see through the blowing snow.

Skiing back down the cat track, it was scary to maneuver around racers ascending. I finally got into a downhill groove once clear of the ascending skiers. Out of the blasting winds, all was soon forgotten as it was much calmer below. The snow on Sidewinder was a little challenging in its deep sogginess.

Damp gloves from the first ascent were cooled on the descent. I thought I could get away with them warming up on the next climb.

Once into the next climb, I stopped to grab some food... then took the time to change my gloves as I would rather be comfortable.

Used the same skins though could have switched as they iced up a little.

Women stuck close together -
Carla McKirdy, Katarina Kuba, Kylee Ohler, Marg Fedyna
 - photo Donna Murray-Clark

Fun to duke it out with young racer Carl Kohnstamm! And cool to see so many new faces trying out their first skimo event.

Thanks to organizers Brent Harris and Dave Dornian for perseverance in keeping this event going.

On my way home, night time venture for spring water near Longview
Post x-c ski from Pocaterra on Sunday for Di's birthday

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Skimo in Jackson Hole WY - Epic!

Ventured to the 3-stage 2 day Wyoming Rando Round Up skimo race based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming with Canadian skimo buddies Michelle Katchur Roberts and Steve Sellers. The stage race format was intriguing!
We made the long drive down arriving 8 pm on Thursday Jan 2. Roads were smooth sailing, though I was disappointed Customs took my organic Mandarin oranges away!
Main square in Jackson Hole has one of these arches in each corner. The arch is made of elk antlers from the National Elk Refuge; Snow King hill in background
Stayed at Couchsurfer Kristie's right in town. Super convenient and nice to be in a family home environment. There was an awesome green juice place blocks away.

Stage 1 - Sat Jan 4 - Grand Targhee Ski Mountaineering Classic - Elevation Warm-Up!
On-route, we passed the turnoff to Targhee from the small tourist town Driggs. Race start was delayed 1/2 hour for avalanche control, and started at 9:30 a.m. Temp was reasonable at -7C.

Exciting to be amongst a crowd of racers all decked out in racing gear. Still a relatively small field but fast crowd. Starting pace was a sprint.

At this base elevation of 7400', I started gradually to let my 2200' elevation lungs acclimatize. Once the climbing got crazy steep, I eased into a good pace. A few of the lead guys began switching-back though most of us could grip the steep skin track.

3 ascents, 1 bootpack, 3 descents
First transition went smoothly. My first descent of the season went ok considering I was in the mix of a bunch of women. Next ascent gentler, then a gnarly descent which was not so steep with lumpy snow. Lizzie from Bozeman cheered as she gracefully zoomed by.

3rd ascent was ok until half way up where the headwinds were strong. The climb took forever. At the top, the snow was sparse for the descent, then went through the coolest narrow rocky chute. The rest was a fast easy groomed run. Since the flags were spaced far apart, I shunned my speed until I realized I was already at the finish.

Longer race than expected for the 1st of 3 stages, 2 1/2 hours with 5500' elevation gain... much a fitness race.

Ran straight inside to warm up. After awards, we got back to town by 2 pm-ish leaving minimal time to dry gear and get ready for the evening race at 5 pm.

Stage 2 - Sat Jan 4 - Snow King Sprint Race - Gong Show!
Fortunately, it was a 5 min drive to the hill from our accom.
site of the Sprint Race
We parked right at the base. A few racers were checking out the 3-Loop Course with a skin direct up 400' elevation, a short bootpack of carrying the skis, with descent through slalom gates.

Start went fast with a mass of racers. With no desire to sprint, I hung back. I figure I was the racer living at the lowest elevation.

Racers with mandatory headlamps on
The start was chaotic with bumper to bumper skiers. The bootpack section bottle-necked. Race finally spread out on the first descent.

Lead guys stormed past me as I was into my 2nd climb. All my transitions were a gong show with some technical aspect forgotten as the timing was so quick. All in all, the event was super fun! Only 1/2 hour effort and another 1200' elevation gain.

Stage 3 - Sunday Jan 5 - Jackson Hole Randonee Rallee - EPIC!

I was surprised to have a good night sleep following 6700' of racing and sleeping so high. Making our way to Jackson Hole Resort that morning was eye-widening to see the massive ski hill. It is understandable why it is one of the top ski resorts... so many epic steep descents of chutes and couloirs.
Fast start - photo Jeffrey Kaphan Photography
Start was early at 8 a.m. Racers shot off fast as I trotted off back of the Open field and in front of the Rec field. Once the climbs rose steeply on the groomers, I started to make ground. Mid-way was a few km of cross-country ski flats before heading into a climb of steep snowy terrain. It was a long ways up.
Made it through the first descent. Snow stuck to my gloves which were sweaty from the first climb. I thought my effort on the 2nd climb would warm up my cooling gloves.

The 2nd descent was amazing Tower 3 Chute - steep, snowy and fun! At the next transition, there were 6 women and 1 guy. Awesome to have so many women around!

I started the 3rd ascent with cold finger tips... the thought of a possible DNF due to cold fingers crossed my mind.

On a gentler slope, I shuffled along and attempted to warm my fingers under my armpits. I finally conceded to stop to put on my spare gloves.

My goal in this stage race was to get through each event comfortably and finish. Time was not a factor. It was all in training and at an elevation I was not prepared for.

I decided to overwork the saying... if your fingers are cold, put on a jacket. At the base of the 1st bootpack section, I dug into my pack and put on my windbreaker jacket, an extra toque over the balaclava I was already wearing, and even put my overmitt shells over my gloves. This was my emergency backup for fingers! Tossed the already heated small handwarmers into each glove as well.

Bootpack was straight-forward and 3rd short descent, though after that it was not clear when to put skins back on. Ahead, I saw what looked like skate-ski tracks so I did the same up the more than gentle rise. Finally, realized skins were to be on again.
Barely moving into the wind with head down - photo Mark Gocke

The wind was blustery and it was really difficult to put the skins on while hoping my poles would not blow away. While I was skinning next to another guy, we were both lifted off in the wind - super scary! Most of the time, I had to put my head to the side to shelter from the pelting snow.

Super excited to make it to the base of the 2nd bootpack section. A few hearty women volunteers made sure I was warm before heading on. The scenery was epic though the weather conditions were harsh.

super steep! - photo Mark Gocke
I went as fast as I could up the barely visible kicked in toe steps in the almost vertical climb. Fortunately, the wind was blowing me into the mountain as it was scary to maintain a steady effort up. The bootpack took awhile. Closer to the top, a rope with knots was visible though I felt more stable with my kicked-in toe steps.

The actual ladder climb was a haven as it gave a rigid secure support to hug. Made it to the top to full on wind. I was told I had a little white frostbite showing on my nose. Since I had my balaclava on, I just pulled it up and wished to continue on as next was a descent.

Shortly into the 4th descent, the wind was lessened. Made my way down following another woman racer. It was a long descent from top to bottom (guess close to 4000'!). The last section was horrid through cut alder and sparse choppy snow conditions.

The 5th and last ascent was sheltered from the wind and at a warm temperature. It was challenging with energy depletion as well as the steep pitch and loose snow. I finally started cutting my own skin track at a lessor angle.

One last sketchy descent starting with a bony mogully section with exposed rock, then finally an easy groomer to the end. Took awhile to debrief after this one!

Another 8200' elevation gain to total 15,000' for the weekend!

Most everyone had their own venture with the cold with 75% of the racers having frostbite. At the top, the temp was -8F with a 40mph wind. Hard to not get frostbite with blowing snow and sweaty faces!

Sad to see Michelle head off to first aid at the finish. Her fingers got cold to the point of not feeling them, hence continuing on. They were a tad blue at the end. She was as eager as everyone else to finish this event.

I've had my fair share of the mind persevering over the body in past events and coming out with the prize of a chronic injury. This one from 24 Hour Worlds Solo mtnbike is memorable...

All in all, the event was EPIC and I would gladly come back!