Thursday, February 09, 2006

Jasper, Travel Time

I had to go up to Jasper for the last few days to work on an ARD (German TV) documentary on the Canadian Rockies with Pat Morrow, so we made the most out of it by stopping at the Cineplex along with Andy. I've been doing more aerobic stuff and so on, but jumped on Musashi for training, found it still hard. I've lost some of my fitness for really hard routes over the last month, I timed a good physical peak for the Ouray comp and have slid down from that. It's to be expected, without any clear-cut goals I can't hold a peak fitness level for all that long. Still did some good laps on Musashi (with hangs to figure out moves, that route is always changing but always good), and Andy did the M7 a couple of times, not bad for a self-described "out of shape painter." Right.

Tuesday I got to climb in Maligne Canyon with my dad for the camera, that was great fun. My dad recently had some medical issues sorted out and is still recovering, but fired the Queen first go. We first climbed the 100-foot Queen in about 1980 together and last did it maybe six years ago, good to see Ben still getting after it. I feel pretty lucky to be able to do a TV show with my dad, and my mom, Cia also came out and threatened to climb it, plus Pat Morrow on camera. My dad of course bitched about his fitness level, but he's a much better athlete than he'll give himself credit for, give him a couple of weeks and he'd be leading it. He hadn't ice climbed in a couple of years but still hiked the Queen for his first route...

The drive back to Canmore down the Parkway yesterday was fantastic, about a foot of new snow in places with wild winds blowing the snow off the tops of the peaks--I get gripped even watching the wind loading from the car, things will be interesting in the alpine avalanche-wise for a while after that storm I bet. No matter how many times I drive the Parkway I still get fired up by the mountains, there's just nothing like it anywhere else that I've seen. The avi hazard did look high, but it doesn't matter as I'm off to Scotland in the morning, then Norway, then back home at the end of Feb, things should have shaken out by then.

The plan is to climb "classic" Scottish mixed routes, as well as some new-wave stuff with a leading local activist over there, Dave Macleod. He specializes in really run-out "old school" mixed climbing during the winter and super-hard bouldering the rest of the time, should be entertaining, plus doing some filming with the Hot Aches crew, drinking a lot of scotch and just soaking up the scene that started this whole mixed climbing madness. I've heard about Ben Nevis climbing for decades, going to be fun to finally climb there and see the legend in person... Then it's off to Norway to hook it up with my bud Andreas Spak, climb some huge new ice routes, then back home. Yeah!!!


Monday: Cineplex. Enough said.
Tuesday: Laps in Maligne Canyon, pretty relaxing day.
Wed: I hadn't done any Yoga in about a week and was stiff like a dead dog so had at that, then went for a run that ended at the Vsion, just rock-bouldered then did some pegboard training, somewhat relaxed but fun session.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Sunshine 5000 Report

One of the things I love most about outdoor sports is trying new ones that I suck at. Yesterday I did the Sunshine 5000, which is a "rando" race up Sunshine ski area, down part of the area, up, etc, for a total of somewhere around 4,000 feet of climbing. Josh convinced me to do it Friday night, and after putting good skins on my new (used a few times for going to ice climbs) AT skis I found myself at the start line Saturday morning with Josh, Darryl and around 40 other people. I've been a telemark skier for 20 years--the only times I've skied with my heals locked down was coming out of ice climbs. I had fresh Scarpa Matrix boots on my feet, super fat skins (who knew you had to cut them to size these days) and fat BD skis with Fritschi bindings. It was all basically wrapper-fresh, I hadn't even formed the boot liners to my feet... Perfect, an opportunity to try something completely new...

The first half of the course was a gasp-fest to the top of Delerium dive. I tried to keep the heart rate reasonable but didn't as Josh and I race up the hill for 2000+ feet around mid-pack. Near the top people started to blow up, so Josh and I were able to gain a few places. Josh had a tricky way of taking his skins off with the skis still on, but I tried that and fell over, so I took my skis off which was OK as we had to walk down the stairs to the top of the much-vaunted "Delerium Dive." It took me an extra minute to figure out how to lock my heels down on the Fritschis, then it was point 'em and rip. I was a little worried about this run from its reputation and 'cause I hadn't skied in real AT boots ever, or even downhill boots since about 1984, but it was OK, this AT gear rips. I only had to stop once to let my shaking quads recover before reaching the "skins on" transition to the second climb, boom, back up. Josh caught up to me at the transition--I'd been ahead of him by a bit at the top, he'd made that up by nuking the downhill. There was a guy with big hair I'd passed just at the top of the run, he too caught up to me at the transition. I often find aerobic races turn into a sub-race between me and a couple of other people once the leaders are gone, it makes it more fun. We could still see the leaders busting ass up the hill, and off we went to catch 'em (right...).

The second climb was short, and I managed to keep my "mini-race" guy close as we pulled over the top. I'd assumed we would take our skins off for every descent, but the guy just in front of me kept skiing with his on so I did too, we dropped down another 500 feet with our skins on, just point 'em and go, it was faster than taking the skins off, good tactics. We could see the lead "pack" busting up the third climb. I could feel the load of the last hour so I deliberately slowed down and chewed down a gel and tried to drink some water, but my hose was frozen solid so I was now in "camel" mode, oh well. The gel hit almost immediately, funny how that works, and we blasted up the third climb relatively well, the gap on the guys behind us grew. Another bud from Canmore, Heath, yelled, "skins on as he went down by me on the third descent while I was still skinning up it, so I knew the "keep the skins on" tactic was in force, thanks Heath! I yelled the same to Josh as I went by him. My legs were just worked as we dropped around 500 more feet, I lost all ability to turn and skied into a small tree at the bottom of the third downhill, which was useful for hanging onto as I changed the bindings over to uphill mode. As soon as I started skinning up I felt a blister bust on my right heel, which hurt like hell, but that's racing.

The fourth climb hurt, and my lack of aerobic training started to show. The leaders blasted by on their final descent as I grunted up, fast bastards. I saw Josh come down the third descent as well, he had taken his skins off and was hauling ass as he actually knows how to ski. Unfortunately he missed the turnaround and went all the way to the base of the ski hill, bummer! My friend Ryan was running the checkpoint at the top of the fourth climb, good to see a friendly face there. I had a slow transition but stayed ahead of my mini-race crew behind me, then dropped off down the last downhill with Jello legs and brain. I only crashed once before finally making it to the finish line in one hour 47 minutes. The winner did it in 1: 34 or so, good effort! Josh skied all the way back up from the finish line to the top of the climb he missed, good effort!

So that was a Rando race, pretty fun. I'd planned to ski some more with heals locked down for practice after the race, but my heals were hammered with blisters and I really didn't feel like skiing at all so we ate big and drank in the bar until the awards, which we didn't get any of but still had a really fun time. Thanks to Greg Hill for putting the race on, Arcteryx, Ortovox, Life Link and the other sponsors for the Swag (everybody got something pretty nice who went to the race!), and Josh and Darryl for the motivation. I'll do more of these races in the future, it's a fun format. I'd like to know how I actually placed but the official results aren't done yet, I'll post a link when they go up. Even if I suck I always want to know exactly how much I suck... A four-month pregnant woman did the race, and a woman from Golden skied the full "race" course we did in 2:02 I think, pretty damn impressive (there were two courses, the full "race" course, and "rec" race that missed the last climb, that's what likely confused Josh).

Aerobic racing is painful, but this race inspired me to go backcountry skiing more, the new AT gear is wicked. It's lighter than my tele gear, gives a lot more control and is even better on the flats. The stiff plastic tongues on tele boots really screw your kick and glide up, the stiff tongues drive the toe of the ski into the snow every stride. If the AT gear is lighter, skis downhill and even flats better, well, I think my telemark days are done. I'll still use relatively light XC gear for doing big traverses like the Wapta where it works really well (did that a couple of years ago in a day on nordic gear, definitely a better choice than the relatively heavy AT or tele gear), but I'm starting to think modern tele gear has just reinvented alpine gear without the heal piece--? I ski a lot with a pack in variable snow conditions, I'm just too damn old to face plant hard anymore, power to the tele beasts but I'm over it.

Today I'm worked, so not much is getting done beyond cleaning up and getting ready to head up to Jasper in the morning for an ARD (German TV) shoot with Pat Morrow and my dad, we're going to climb the Queen of Maligne as a father/son team, shoud be fun. Maligne Canyon is where I learned to ice climb way back in the day.