Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Skiing with Bella Dog


Saturday December 10, 2011
Teton Pass, Wyoming


Monday, December 5, 2011

Wyoming cold temps and ski touring

December 3rd, 2011 Ski Tour
A long time friend suggested we head into the mountains for an early season ski tour. I was game, as we hadn’t been out in the mountains together for awhile together. The forecast was for super cold temperatures, sunshine, and a little wind. We set plans to travel towards Grand Teton National Park or simply ‘the park’. 
We met at a coffee shop at the easy hour of . A third party arrived at the coffee shop and we were heading north in a warm car and knowing we were soon going to have to brave the cold. We set out in the early sunshine with a tentative plan to ski up Avalanche canyon and make a long ski tour. We traveled less than fifteen minutes and realized the travel up the canyon looked daunting.  Low snow and extensive bush whacking and travel through downfall canelled thoughts of early season travel in that area from the valley bottom. We all shrugged. We looked to the next canyon north and we all smiled. Garnet canyon was our inline option.
We traveled quickly over the glacier moraine and across the frozen lake to the base of the canyon and climb. We climbed steeply and through fairly well covered terrain with much effort. Large ski packs filled with down clothes, wind breakers, food and water kept our progress honest. However, we all soaked in the sunshine as we pulled out of the valley and skied inward towards the heart of the canyon. As we approached the ‘meadows’ we stopped to fuel and water up and take a sit down break in the last sunshine for awhile.
We ate quickly as the temperatures forced us to eat and talk on the move. We headed up the north fork of Garnet canyon to a snow platform below the Teepee glacier and south-east face of the Grand Teton. Skinning up canyon we were able to follow an old skin track partially for awhile.
After the meadows we skinned and booted our own chosen line. The platforms we had skinned to, we all agreed, was our time to ski and put the climbing skins away.
We skied mixed and variable conditions for 4,000 feet, but we found mostly good quality powder. The coverage was a bit sparse and the skiing was tentative, slower than usual, and extra careful about what lays below the slopes surface – rocks. 
However, we found the good ski lines, soft snow , and splendid alpine views.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

2011 Fall Trails, Colors, and Summits

The months of September and October have shelved out several outings into the various local mountain ranges. The trips have been mostly hiking adventures which have included long days walking in the various weather and trail conditions. A few early snow storms have produced some snow in the higher elevations in the surrounding mountain ranges.
The varying terrain can make travel tricky and much slower as conditions vary widely. Planning and timing of route selection becomes more challenging in the higher elevations. Expect Fall colors in certain locations as the tree’s spill out their last colors before winter arrives. The trails are mostly quiet now and few people are seen except for hunters.
Snow, cold temperatures, and wet conditions can be expected at the higher elevations. September and thus far this October have netted nine notable peaks in four different mountain ranges. Snow capped mountains and cooler temperatures have arrived with wind to produce dynamic large scale views.
The trail walking and hiking this time of year produces great glimpses of migrating elk herds, migratory birds blowing and quickly passing through the area, and other tracks of big wild animals gathering food before winter season.
Excellent hiking partners, solo trips, and Bella dog have provided many laughs amongst the beauty and adventure. 
September started off with Buck Mountain and Table Mountain in the first half and finished with Steamboat Peak, Palmer Peak, Grand Teton, and Antoinette. October has yielded Cache Peak, Powder Peak, and Jefferson Peak. The recent mountain ranges include the Gros Ventre, Teton, Snake, and Centennial.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mountain Weather

Mountain Weather
New snow in the high country
This past weekend on September 17th, 2011 a friend and I had a plan to go up high in the mountains. As Saturday approached, the weather had gone slightly downhill and rain was forecasted. Cool temperatures surely meant snow in the high alpine and thus our plans were changing and in motion. Luckily, our first back up plan suited us both well. The route to be explored potentially had excellent ridge walking, peak bagging, alpine meadows, high plateaus and large scale grandeur.
Perfect weather
A second mountaineering excursion with a good friend, I now knew what to expect: a late start, late summit, and late finish.  Not my normal plan, but I was game and the outing involved some peak bagging and had no significant grades.
Fall in Wyoming
Including the drive, we were on the trail by… 10. I had been up the first portion of the trail a few times and kept a steady pace to gain time on the day. The first 6.5 miles is on a great trail and took us up 3,500 feet. We were met at the alpine saddle by big views, clouds, sun, wind, and cool temperatures. A trace of new snow outlined the shady north faces. The conditions were perfect and we set off across the high expanse above tree line.
Bella: route finding
Surrounded by peaks, we made our way through high alpine meadows and ridges over 10,000 feet. After a few hours of travel we were on the second summit enjoying the views.
Summit views
It was just after and we were off the 11,400+ summit in 5 minutes. The wind was gusting on the ridges and summits and we knew we had best be heading for the car as the day light would soon fade. After a quick look off the summit to find a fast approach to the new trail, we decided to back track. After a few miles, the shadows cast their prominence and the temperatures plunged. We snuck up over the ridge where we had last seen the trail. This trail would loop us back to the car, but neither of us had been on it before. We checked the map one last time and agreed to drop down and merge the trail. We were soon on the trail and now we were racing the remaining light of the day. Alpenglow on the peaks made us stare and stumble down the trail.
Soon, the light was fading and we were quickly making haste to get closer to the trailhead. It was a futile effort as we both knew we would have to circumnavigate a large mountain in the process. Darkness came upon us, we grabbed our headlamps and were off again. Three hours and 15 minutes after dawning the headlamps we stumbled off the trail and into the parking lot at 11:15pm. A long day in the mountains, good company, summits, beautiful terrain, and evening/night stars made for a great Fall hike. Bella dog was strong the entire day and was great company as well.

Friday, September 16, 2011

2011 Summer Race Results

2011 Summer Results

This summer I had a few Hill Climb running races highlighted on the 2011 calendar. Along with the Hill Climbs I entered one ½ Marathon and a Steeplechase race. The race schedule was a good mix of local events as well as a few outside of town races. Training consisted of mountain hiking, mountain walking, mountaineering, climbing, a few flat runs, some trail runs, road bike, and a lot of hill climbs.
Temperatures in Wyoming are starting to drop and the valley will soon be in bloom with the Fall colors on the trees. And not far behind, Winter will be arriving and bringing whiteness to the mountains. Skiing will be here soon. This summer has been preparation for the upcoming ski mountaineering race season.

June 4th        Sun Valley ½ Marathon      9th   Sun Valley, Idaho       13.1 miles   
June 25th      Wrun for Wray  Hilll Climb  4th   Grand Targhee, Wy.    
July 23rd       Snow King Hill Climb        10th  Jackson, Wyoming       
August 6th    Jupiter Peak Steeplechase 10th  Park City, Utah         
August 20th   Pikes Peak  Hill Climb       46th  Manitou Sp., Co.      
August 27th  Rendezvous Mt. Hill Climb  6th   Teton Village, Wy.       

Pike's Peak 1/2 Marathon Ascent

7,815 elevation gain

Approaching 14,000 feet
Sun Valley 1/2 Marathon

First 1/2 Marathon 1:30:44

La Sportiva Mountain Cup Series.  Jupiter Peak Steeplechase

Monday, August 8, 2011

La Sportiva Mountain Cup

La Sportiva Mountain Cup
August 6, 2011

Classic single track

The Jupiter Peak Steeplechase mountain trail run is a 16 mile course that starts at the base of the Park City Mountain Resort in Utah. The race tops out on the summit of Jupiter Peak which is 3,000 feet in elevation gain from the base area. The race start had a healthy looking crowd signing up, warming up, and dressed to go. I had a spot on the front row and left side. At we were set free from the starting line.
I had a strategy for the race and it was mainly to go out hard, but steady, and see how the race initially unfolded and then potentially make a move. I had walked and previewed the initial 2 miles of the course and last 2 miles on Thursday when I arrived in Utah. I knew that the first half mile was on a mountain service road and then it went under the canopy and onto single track. I knew that it would be prudent to get in a decent position before the trail narrowed to single file. It can be difficult to pass other runners on single track as you often have to wait for an opening or widening of the trail to pass.

Early part of course - single track

The first half mile is a bit steep and I was able to watch the front runners ahead of me well. The leaders made the turn for the single track and team La Sportiva was amongst them. I wasn’t far back and guessed I was in about 12th place or so when I hit the single track.
I locked in behind another runner for the first portion of the single track, but soon heard footsteps behind me. I waited a short while and stepped to the side to let the racer pass but kept my momentum going. I continued to pace until another runner approached from behind. Again, I slowed a bit and stepped to the side and she went by me as well as the person I was pacing off. At the next possible passing zone I took off after the others who had gone by me. I focused on the runner ahead of me, a La Sportiva Sponsored Athlete Runner, and she had a good steady pace. By now it was probably 1.5 miles into the race and I was slowly gaining on her. I took advantage of all the small downhill’s and accelerated on all of them until I had taken to her heals which took another half mile or so. She was the lead woman in the field and eventual women’s winner.
Park City, Utah
I had a pacer and the speed was about right. I checked by fuel balance and hydrated from my water bottle and kept pace. Soon, there was a pair of other runners ahead of us and in sight. We were gaining on them steadily and surely. We ran step for step until we caught them and they quickly pulled to the side as we dashed by. At about mile 3.5, I again went for a shot of nutrients and water, and I fell a few steps off her pace and she took a quick look back to see who was behind her and if I had fallen off. I hadn’t and quickly gained her tail again and began to pace off her. We dashed through the woods, jumped the creeks, and continued to gain elevation. We passed an old mine at about mile 5 and the trail steepened and I saw her pace slow just a bit, the trail was wide there, and I made my move and passed her and then sped up a bit more to finish that climb. The course was mostly single track but also had some service roads mixed in occasionally. I hit the dirt road and knew this was the start of the final switchbacks and climb to Jupiter Peak. I looked ahead and could now see two more runners ahead of me and I was gaining ground on both of them, again I picked up the pace a bit. At the final switchback before the steep climb to the summit I took a look back to see what was developing behind me. I saw two runners, the lead women and another not too far behind her. The steepest part of the road is just before the ‘scramble’ to the summit. I was gaining quickly on the person ahead of me, though our pace slowing due to the pitch. The runner in front of me was ‘power-walking’ and I passed him just as we went for the ‘scramble’ to the peak. He knew I had caught him and he let me go. I looked ahead and another runner was suffering on the last portion before the top. The ‘scramble’ was only a couple hundred feet, but loose and steep. We all were forced to power stride. Again, I was gaining quickly and dropping the person I had just passed. I almost caught the next runner before the summit and as I crested the top a fellow said “you’re in 7th place” (though it may have actually been eight). I was a bit surprised, but on the final switchback, I had seen the yellow colors of the La Sportiva team on the scramble to the summit. From the summit of Jupiter, I ‘tagged’ the pole and bolted down to a saddle. There was one more climb before the descent. Again, I saw the racer ahead of me and he was forced to a power walk and hands on knees – he was suffering. I ran half the way up the steep climb and then, I too, power walked to drop my heart rate. The runner ahead was now only 100 feet from me.
Racers at Finish area
At the top he had held his position and he flew down the hill. I realized there were still 7 or eight miles to the finish, but it was all down hill from here. I also realized the runner’s behind me were also going to let it fly on the downhill. On the initial switchbacks going down I could see the runner ahead of me and two runners behind me. After another mile and on the dirt road I made a push to catch the runner ahead of me, this time I did, and locked on his heals. He pushed the pace harder and so did the runner’s behind us as they soon caught us. We were in a pack now and cruised a few miles together. At around the 12 mile marker one of the runner’s went by me. Again, at the 13 mile marker a runner went by, I had moved to the side and he thanked me as he went for the others. I felt like there were rocks or pebbles in my shoes but there was no time to stop and I didn’t want another runner to pass me on the downhill. 
Team La Sportiva Mountain Runners
I also felt the first tightness in my quads and calf muscles. I continued on and our pace was probably a 6 minute mile or less on the downhill. The 3 ahead were slowly pulling away and I was bothered by the apparent dirt and pebbles in my shoes. Soon, I recognized the trail again, it was the final 2 miles I had walked 2 days prior. I knew the end wasn’t too far ahead. I worked through it and kept a steady pace and even a few small sprints until a volunteer said “you’ve got 2 more minutes to the finish”. Soon, I was off the trail and on the final ¼ mile of asphalt to the Finish line. I ended up 10th place Overall and was happy with the results. I was greeted at the Finish by a friend and I congratulated him on his 3rd place finish, a La Sportiva Sponsored Athlete Runner. I powered a lot of water and then snuck off to get the pebbles out of my shoes. To my surprise as I took my shoes off, there was no dirt or small rocks in there.
I then took off my socks to find blisters on both heels and this was the culprit a few miles before the Finish. The La Sportiva Mountain Cup’s final race in the series – the Jupiter Peak Steeplechase was a great race.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Muddy Shoes

Muddy Shoes
Trail conditions
August 1, 2011

Today, I set the alarm for and planned on a little different than the ordinary morning. Instead of getting up just after for work as usual and having a casual breakfast, a short dog walk, and a few relaxing moments over a brew of coffee. The plan was to sneak in an early morning trail run and hill climb before work. An early morning trail run offers an abundance of reasons to set the alarm clock a bit earlier. Including, the first light of the day, solitude and quietness, being first on the trail, the sunrise and its colors on the mountains, birds singing and chirping, the fresh air, and much more. 
Bella dog on summit
So shortly after I made a quick exit out of the house and was on the road. It was raining outside, but that didn’t alter my plan, in fact it made it more appealing on this day. Breakfast was still settling in the stomach as I drove towards work and the trailhead. My dog Bella was looking like she wanted in and I knew the trail and running distance would suit her well. She slept in a bit and gulped her food down and was ready by the time I was. She jumped in the back of the car in the darkness and we were off. I was sipping a good up of coffee and had some good music playing in the car to get me going for the day.
The rain continued off and on as I drove to the trail. I was moving on the trail by and Bella dog didn’t seem to notice the rain at all. The trail run was 2.7 miles and gained 1,850 feet on a service road. I started easy and watched Bella bolt around the new surroundings with ears popped up with alertness and wild excitement. I jogged further up the trail and enjoyed the intermittent rain showers. The trail was in good shape down low and had a few spots of wetness and slickness at the higher elevation. In the end the trail offered everything from dry under canopy, to tacky, to slick and wet in spots. But, all in all, it was as expected and if anything the rain seemed to soften the trail quite a bit. I picked up the pace the final 10 minutes of the 35 minute hill climb and finished in a complete sweat.
Mud shower
At the top, the weather had backed off and wasn’t raining. I took in the views from the summit with Bella as she scanned the valleys for creatures, scent, and movement. Clouds dominated over the 11,000 foot mark and behind me the next wave of showers was ready to rumble in. Bella was excellent company and I could tell she had had a great morning. I was in agreement and sometimes the morning run is a great way to start your day.                                                                                 

Dog owner

Muddy Bells


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Snow King Hill Climb Run 2011

Snow King Hill Climb 2011

Jackson Hole and the Tetons on an early morning training run from top of Snow King
The 44th annual Snow King Hill Climb was today Saturday, July 23rd.  The race is a longstanding event that has tested the guts of many athletes, runners, hikers, tourists, and visitors that come just for the race.
Snow King I believe is the third ski resort to open to skiers in the United States. Sun Valley, Idaho was the first in 1936. In Utah, Alta quickly followed suit in 1938. Snow King was next in 1939. Snow King is Jackson Hole’s in town ski area. The opening of a rope tow at Snow King in 1939 marked the first ski area in Wyoming. In 1946 Snow King added a chairlift that took skiers to the top of the mountain. A lift ticket cost $2.95 for a full day of skiing.

Looking up from bottom of Snow King
It was nineteen years later that the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort opened in 1965. The aerial tram was operating by 1966 to the top of Peak 10,450.
The Snow King Hill Climb attracted 101 racers or Hill Climbers. A great turn out for a very tough event. The running race is part of the 2011 Run to the Summit Series which includes 3 area Hill Climb races culminating in 12 miles and over 7,500 feet of elevation gain. All three Hill Climb events are at the local ski resorts – Grand Targhee, Snow King, and JHMR’s Rendezvous Mountain Hill Climb.
Looking down towards bottom of Snow King and Town Square from near top
Today’s race started at 9 a.m.under perfect Wyoming blue skies. It was the second race of the three part series. I had placed 4th at Grand Targhees’ Wrun for Wray on June 25th. I decided to try a new tactic for my own race today. I have always been inspired by Steve Prefontaine and his incredible talent and guts. I was reaching a bit for extra motivation when I found a new quote of his; it quickly became my motto for the day. “The best pace is a suicide pace and today’s a good day to die”. It fit perfect for me. Steve Prefontaine was a “front-runner” and liked to give it his all from the very start of a race. Not wanting to wait for the race to unfold, but to give it all he had from the start. I was game to try this exact theory. I have many times not gone out full tilt watching and letting others break wind. Today it was my turn to try.

Steep Switchbacks

Loose terrain and steep
approached and quickly runners took the front line spots. I was a bit tardy on line up as I was talking with friends from out of town. But, I got up to the third row. The gun sounded and the shoes were kicking and flying through the air. After 20-30 seconds I was in about 6th place, it wasn’t all my effort as I had promised myself. I looked for an opening and quickly was behind the leader, again I had more to give and took off into the lead and stretched it far enough that I couldn’t hear the others behind me. I looked back over my shoulder and saw the attackers staring me down. I held on for the ½ mile sprint to the bottom of the steepness. Quickly, a few runners went by me as I was in oxygen debt. I stayed focused and kept after the climb. A few more runners went by before the first switchback. From this point on only one runner passed me and I swapped places with another on the entire climb. The top finisher was fast and was only a second from the 44 year record. I was pleased with my effort and my tactics, I tried to be Pre, and was honored to have “front-run” for part of the race. I finished in 10th place out of the 101 entries and was fairly happy with my time and results. I had run the course faster earlier in the week, but that is racing, you take what you give on race day and don’t complain, at least that’s my theory. The top guns deserve credit for their incredible performance.
Chris Kroger, Pete Swenson, Jaime Falcon

Top 10
Partial Results 2011 Snow King Hill Climb