Saturday, February 21, 2015

Local Backcountry Recon Mission

This has been a long time coming.  Finally got out in my own 'backyard' to poke around a bit.  I'll probably be codifying this post.  No point in sending the entire internet to my backyard as it were.

I had a run in with a line that looked interesting this past summer and I had made a mental note to myself that I should probably come back and check that out in the winter.  Although I also noted the terrain seemed like it would need a decent amount of snow to fill in and really be safe and enjoyable to ride.  Queue Feb of 2015 and there is no longer a need to worry about snow depth.

This was a general recon mission with low expectations.  My main plan was to ride this line I had scoped out over the summer but there was some other stuff I wanted to get my eyes on as well.  I was solo so decision making was conservative and I was going to stick to the plan seeing as that line had the highest probability of actually being reasonable.

First part of the skin up is a real treat.  Perfect grades to get warmed up, the sun was out and its a good thing because it was pretty damn cold...again.  I spent most of the early skin up glancing into the woods trying to find those tell tale signs of tracks or slightly open sections of woods that might be rideable.  Before too long you get to see the lower sections of the line I was intending to ride and things looked good.  Deep, open and no one had touched it,.  This sort of surprised me seeing as the line is super obvious and reasonable to hike to.  I figured at least someone in the area would have ridden it since the last major snow fall.

I was taking a round about way to the summit so after seeing the lower parts of the line I traversed north a bit to where the path to the summit multiplies by 3.  I choose the Blue option because it heads over to a drainage that I had an inkling might be rideable.  There was only one track ahead of me and it looked to have been set before the last little accumulation we had.  Again this trail was great for skinning.  Even terrain with reasonable grades.  I was actually somewhat surprised I was able to skin all the way to the summit, I thought there might be a section or two that might require a bit of booting.

To my surprise the drainage actually looked pretty darn appealing.  Sporty but certainly doable, at least for as far as I could see.  But it didn't seem ideal to be heading off into the somewhat unknown solo so I stuck to my plan to stay a bit more centrally located on the mountain just in case.  I'll leave that for another day when I can talk someone into checking it out with me. Rest of the skin up the blue option to the BRT was good.

working my way across the ridge just below the summit

Navigating the ridge got a bit interesting in spots.  Wind was drifting the snow and obscuring the trail in spots.  I had a set of snowshoe tracks to follow but even those tracks disappeared at times due to wind.  I was eventually reminded not to just blindly follow tracks in front of you when navigating in the backcountry.  Remember kids just because someone has already gone that way doesn't mean that person wasn't a complete idiot heading in the complete wrong direction.  As I followed the tracks I began to notice (too late) that the brush around was getting tighter and tighter and then I realized I hadn't seen a blaze on a tree for awhile and BOOM off trail and wandering around. WEEEEEEEEEE

Luckily I've poked around this area in the summer a few times and my sense of direction is pretty good.  I cheated a bit and used Google Maps with the sat image overlay to verify I had the right bearing to hit the fire tower I was shooting for.  Turns out I had already gotten myself pointed right at it, just had another few hundred yards to go.

Temps warranted a quick transition (and little to no picture taking) and I got on my way.  The top section of the line was a bit tighter than I had been anticipating but still completely reasonable and actually down right enjoyable and it only got better as I went.  Little bit better than boot deep fluff with a nice smooth consolidated base underneath.  Good pitch, able to link turns without issue.  I couldn't really believe my luck.  For some reason I had completely prepared myself for a shit show of really sketchy skiing but this was downright shred.

Absolutely great the whole way down.  Intersected the lower skin line and most days I would probably have transitioned back over and gone to do that drainage.  But I had a plan and I nailed it so I figured I would scram and go get some other stuff done at the house.

Very likely this is going to be one of my new go-to spots.  Lots more potential in the area and close to home.  Lots more recon missions to come.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Fat & Furious at Gunstock v2.0

More snow. More people. More course. More windchill.

Race number 2 in the Polartec series and the final weeknight race at Gunstock.  Word must have gotten out a bit from the last race because attendance was bumped up at least 20 or so riders I would say.  And that is despite it being quite a bit colder this time around.  Last race was maybe 20+ degrees, no wind...last night was maybe single digits with a nice solid breeze making things pretty damn RAW.

I think I layered about right but trying to do relatively intensive cardio "comfortably" in single digit temps is a pretty tough nut to crack.  We hid out in the warming hut until the start.  Things got pretty hilarious within the first 30 secs.  I was lined up next to Eric from Chainline and got a slight jump on him in the initial scrum.  But then he screamed #braaaap! and tried to shoot a gap to my left.  He pretty much made it but clipped my bar mitt going by sending me into a pretty sweet tokyo drift.  I was able to steer into it and eventually got sorted without going down.

Turns out it was a fortunate mishap because about 200 yds later there was a carnage pileup just after a 90 degree right hander at the bottom of a hill.  Very likely I would have been right in the middle of it had it not been for my earlier dust up.  Thanks Eric!  Got around the tangled bodies and bikes and got to freezing my ass off.  Caught and came by Eric early on the first climb.  Thought about returning the favor but figured luck would have me going down as well and it was far too cold for too many shenanigans.

Lap was longer this time around.  They sent us a bit farther out and increased the length of the climbing.  There was even a hike a bike section that was just a bit too steep to ride seated and traction did not support out of the saddle hammering.  Pushing a 35-40lb bike up a snowy slope in bike shoes is really fun!  Luckily it was just a short little headwall.

Descent on the course was rolling and fun but COOOOOLD.  There was one section I was actually getting caught on because I was just rolling it while others were hammering.  I didn't feel like creating any more of my own windchill and I was usually catching those guys back on the climbs anyway.

No clue where I was again this time around.  Felt like top 10ish after the start.  There was a bit less lapping this time around due to the longer lap.  A bit after the halfway mark I was having issues with my right foot.  For some reason my left foot was completely fine but my right was a brick.  Completely numb.  My hands had a rough patch early but came back around as I warmed up.  I was lapping through at one point and for some reason I had it in my head that there would likely be 2 laps left.  There were 4.

No idea why I was that far off in my head I could see the time on my Garmin and knew how much was left.  Temps must have been affecting my math skills...or maybe I was suffering from HACE. Either way this was a pretty decent mental blow.  I was getting a bit worried about the thaw out horror show I was going to have with my foot and I even thought my face might be at risk as the temps dropped and wind picked up.  Wasn't sure I had 4 more laps in me.  I kept at it, I was still feeling ok from a power standpoint and I wanted to get a good effort in.

I was coming into 2 to go and feeling pretty certain I was going to call it and head to the warming hut.  But lucky for me I had been caught and lapped by the top 2-3 guys on that lap and I was no longer on the lead lap.  I was still thinking about just calling it and getting some hot cocoa but when I came through they yelled one to go! and quitting with one lap to go just seemed silly.  Kinda funny looking at my lap times my last lap was about 30sec faster than my second to last lap and was I think my 4th fastest lap overall.

Finished up in ?th place and then tried not to puke while thawing out. GOOD TIMES.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Doublehead: Round 2

Winter seems to have finally arrived in New England.  At least as far as snow cover goes.  We are now clear of #Blizzard2015 and another sleeper event a few days later that dropped a decent amount across NH.  As is usually the case after a few days like that Bill reached out looking to get into the BC somewhere.

We were both looking for somewhat of an easier shakedown tour.  We were both on new setups for the first time and also both looking at our first days skinning for the year.  Always nice to ease into it and we were looking at forecasts for some brutally cold temps and wind on the day.

We decided on getting the Doublehead ski trail, an old CCC trail we had both done together back in 2009 (has it really been that long?!). We were both pretty green in the backcountry game back then.  It is really fun to look back on that post to see what I packed and how silly of an endeavor that was compared to how easy and straight forward our second attempt was.

view of Washington from N. Doublehead

The snow was good albeit a bit tracked out. We got there pretty early but Doublehead is a popular spot being right in Jackson and being a somewhat easier run it caters to a wide range of folks.  We were probably 3rd or 4th up.  Skin up was nice.  Certainly way better than hauling all your gear with snowshoes.  New skins were great, lots of grab although I think my G3's had way better glide but that might have been partially due to the days snow conditions.  I'm not a huge fan of the tail clip.  I was worried about them after trimming the skins and I definitely had a fun time trying to get them off with cold hands on the transition at the top.  Not horrible but way trickier than my old G3's and on a day like yesterday a few extra mins struggling with a tail clip can mean you get pretty damn cold.

double fall line!

you'd think it was nice and warm. you'd be wrong.

Hi Mom!

I actually got the layering just about right and was able to regulate my temp by keeping my pace reasonable and shedding mittens and unzipping halfway up.  Other than the tail clips I was able to actually transition pretty quickly.  Somewhat surprising since I am usually pretty rusty first time around and bumble with my skins.  I guess crazy cold temps and wind can get you focused a bit on being quick and efficient.

Ski down was great.  Its a fun trail, uses the terrain well and is decently steep in spots.  Keeps things interesting and is just long enough to feel worth it and get a nice burn going.  Couldn't have asked for a better shakedown.  Just enough to test gear and fitness but not leave me shredded.  More snow in the forecast tonight into tomorrow. Looking good for more days like this one in the near future.