Archive for January, 2010

A Nap Time Ski

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

While Nancy was off helping Ms Marsh train for the White Mountains 100, the twins and I had an adventure of a different sort – I decided to take them out for a spin in the chariot on skis during their regularly scheduled nap time. I bundled them up and tucked them in with several warm water bottles, and we where off.

Polar and Remus where off with Nancy, so only Togiak joined us for the ski.

Soon after we started the twins where off in deep slumber land. They really like napping in the chariot.

The twins and I did a six mile loop, which took about a hour and a half – with a bit of stopping and goofing off. The chariot and kids combine for a bit of a heavy, slow load.

Eventually we ended back up at the house, where the girls refused to get out of the chariot, wanted to continue napping for the rest of the day.. Alas, that would generate much sadness for me in the evening when the over napped twins had to go to bed.. Eventually we reached a compromise – they could say in the chariot a little longer so long as they stayed awake. So the twins spent some time hanging out in the chariot, watching me do dog chores, before eventually getting pried out and taken inside. Some times life is so hard!

A Nap Time Ski

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

While Nancy was off helping Ms Marsh train for the White Mountains 100, the twins and I had an adventure of a different sort – I decided to take them out for a spin in the chariot on skis during their regularly scheduled nap time. I bundled them up and tucked them in with several warm water bottles, and we where off.

Polar and Remus where off with Nancy, so only Togiak joined us for the ski.

Soon after we started the twins where off in deep slumber land. They really like napping in the chariot.

The twins and I did a six mile loop, which took about a hour and a half – with a bit of stopping and goofing off. The chariot and kids combine for a bit of a heavy, slow load.

Eventually we ended back up at the house, where the girls refused to get out of the chariot, wanted to continue napping for the rest of the day.. Alas, that would generate much sadness for me in the evening when the over napped twins had to go to bed.. Eventually we reached a compromise – they could say in the chariot a little longer so long as they stayed awake. So the twins spent some time hanging out in the chariot, watching me do dog chores, before eventually getting pried out and taken inside. Some times life is so hard!

A trip to Wolf Run

Sunday, January 24th, 2010


On a fine Sunday I escaped civilization with Nancy’s blessing (Nancy is the world’s most understanding wife!), and joined Tom and Marsh off for a overnight trip in the White Mountains NRA. Our destination was Wolf Run cabin, about a 60 mile drive and 23 mile ski. We arrived at the parking lot and were welcomed by nippy -20f at the trail head but things warmed up quick as the sun rose. The trail into Wolf Run is a mix of rolling hills, black spruce spruce swamp, and open tussock fields. This was also the first trip in the White Mountains were I only saw human powered transport – we passed one biker and six or so skiers. Quite impressive!

The first 5 miles or so of the Colorado Creek Trail had fresh snow machine tracks, but these turned off the main trail and headed off in a different direction. We were left to follow the some super large “fat bike” tracks, apparently running the new Surly “Larry” tire.

We later learned this biker was the legendary Jeff Oatley on a 60 mile day trip, going from the Colorado Creek trail head to the Wickersham dome trail head. Wow!
The trail winds though black spruce forest that burned circa 2005, and is quite scenic. The trail has a completely different feel now after the burn and is much more open and has better views. On the downside it is now much more exposed and can drift in.

Just before the junction with the Big Bend trail, the trail crosses a huge wind blown open field, and the views really open up, with fantastic views of the White Mountains.

The wind can really blow though this section, and it was moderately windy on the way in, and calm on the way out. Fortunately it was very sunny when we travelled though this section and now that the sun is high enough on the horizon to give significant warmth, it was quite warm. From this point on there is a gradual decent to Beaver Creek. The trail has wonderful views of the surrounding hills and mountains – this area is super scenic. The trail crosses several huge wind blow tussock fields.

The tussock fields had small sastruga that were quite fun too ski on. Sometime this area gets really immense sastruga that are almost waist high, but alas we don’t have enough snow for that currently.

We eventually reached Beaver Creek, and we quickly learned why there had been little snow machine traffic up to this point – there was not much snow and the tussock tops were quite exposed, which would make for a bumpy and rough ride. After a two miles of roughish trail we reached the cabin. Hurrah! The previous visitors had left a huge wood supply, and we had a fire going quickly, and soon the cabin was toasty warm.
Tom had a bit of a binding failure, and had to come inside with the ski still attached.

After a large dinner and most of a turtle cake, we hit the sack for a early departure.

Morning arrived quickly, and after a large breakfast of pancakes, bacon, and the remainder of the turtle cake, we were off!

Remus got an extra special treat – kibble soaked in bacon drippings. Yum, yum!

The view from the cabin in the morning was spectacular!

The ski out was relitively uneventful, though a lot warmer as the it was fairly calm and very sunny. Spring is wonderful!

Pictures follow for the photo inclined..

Snack time on the trail:

Wolf Run cabin, in the glow of the sunrise:

It was really strange to follow bike tracks for most of the ski in. I don’t believe I have ever done that before.. After a while one of my legs started getting strangely sore, which eventually realized was because I was skiing with one ski on the bike tracks, and one in the 1″ of fresh snow.. I then started switching back and forth, changing which ski was in the powder – much better!

Remus had a blast on this trip. Between running back and forth checking on the humans and checking out all the sents on the trail, he was a busy and happy dog.

I was happy to see even the super biker had to walk occasionally (but rarely – he is quite the biking juggernaut!).

The burned trees were very stark looking.

Tom took his new sled setup on this trip. It appeared
to work quite well for him, though it added a bit of drag. It worked well for Marsh too:

More photos here.

Ski boots, the saga..

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

So, I should preface this discussion by saying this post is about gear.  All gear, nothing else.  So, if thats not your cup of tea, please move along.   Or run screaming, if you like.  Try this site perhaps for writing and pictures of actual skiing, because there is not any here today.

..

During the last couple of years I has switched from skiing with back country skis and boots to using lighter touring skis (and lately low end race skis) and combi boots for most of my skiing.  I spend most of my time on snow machine trails which are mostly pretty well broken out so the lighter, stiffer skis allow for longer days with less effort. Earlier this year I got rid of most of my back country boots as I was just not using them all that much. Nancy was quite amused by my collection of 7 pairs of back country boots, most of which ended up going to the Northern Center for their annual auction.

I was pretty happy with my first pair of combi boots, which was good, as they where the only ones the local ski place I got the boots from, Mountain Sports, carried. They are Alpina SP45s, and alas don’t seem to be made anymore.

They lasted me about 2 years before they started showing enough wear and tear that I had to do something, which in this case was slather a bunch of  Freesole on the areas on the sides receiving the most abuse.

This made them usable for another 2 months of skiing before a large crack opened in the sole, which relegated these boots to only occasional use as having the sole rip off on a trip would be a major bummer, as it would mean a walk out.

So, the search for new boots began. The fellow at Mountain Sports carries a newer version of my original boot, which I tried out but it felt funky, so I moved on. I ended up with a full on skate boot (Fischer RC5s) due to some hard selling from a sales person at one of the other local ski outlets, Beaver Sports.

I was somewhat worried about the “skate” nature of these boots, as the soles are very stiff and I seldom skate in the back country. The boots ended up working quite well and I am very happy with them, except for one problem – after about 8 hours my feet start hurting. Not too big of a deal, as most of my longer trips are under 8 hours, however – I have a super long ski planned in March, which will probably be >20 hours of skiing, so I started looking for another pair. Eventually I got a pair of the updated version of my first boots, mainly because I got them cheap and they fit as well as the other options I had tried – they felt a little funky but would do. Initially I was quite happy.  I should say by “cheap” I mean they where $145, which most people would probably not think is cheap for a pair of boots.  I  purchased them at Play it Again Sports and used the credit I had for trading in two pairs of used back country boots to buy them.   I saw them marking prices on the boots I traded in, and strangely the price on one of the pairs was more than I paid for them new – go figure.   They don’t have as stiff of a collar as the Fischer skate boots do, so they don’t have quite as much control and they are not fun to skate in, but they are comfortable even for long 10 hour classic skis. One major problem arose however – after about 2 months of skiing, they are now in worse shape than my original boots. Much sadness. I had even  wore over boots just to protect the boot for most of those two months, but this did not stop the cracking of the outside of the boot…

I really don’t understand it, as the boots are not cheap, and should last much longer than just two months. Its not like I am all that high of a millage of a person.. What if an actual “hard core” skier purchased them – they might last all of a week.  Its hard to tell from the photos, but the cracks go all the way though the side of the boot to the lining.  Its only a matter of time before the lining goes and then I will have a nice, large hole.

So, the boot search is back on. Hopefully this time I can find a pair that is comfortable for long days and will last at least one season. That does not seem like too much to ask..

The boot collection:

More wind, more cold

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

I had yet another aborted ski trip in the white mountains.  I had crowberry cabin which is about a 26 mile ski in from either the mile 28 trail head on the Elliot Highway, or roughly the same distance from the trail head on the Steese Highway.  I had been warned that it was going to be pretty cold and windy, but the weather stations in the area said it was around -10f in the hills and windy, and so I decided to give it a try, as I could always just turn around.  Warmer weather was forcast to be arriving on Sunday, so coming back out should be nicer.  I left the trail head at around 10am, well after sunrise.  It was quite windy but fairly warm, around -5f according to my thermometer.  This is fine with me – not too cold even with the wind, and the trail was in great shape. BLM had recently groomed the trail and it still had the corduroy patterns.

It gradually got colder as I got further away from the trail head, and was -15f at Lees. Not too big of a deal, that was still manageable. A couple of miles later, as I looked down a hill where the trail crossed a valley, I noticed some icefog or blowing snow covering the bottom of the valley. Hmm. I skied down the trail and down into the lower section, and wow – the stuff I saw from above was icefog – it was super cold, and very windy. My thermometer was still dropping and reached -35f before I decided to put it away and get moving. This was a little more than I was interested in doing, as there are two more low sections just like this one I would have to cross, so I decided to once again bail and ski back out. Disappointing, yes, but -35f in hard winds would not have been fun.

On the upside, it was a beautiful day out there and in the hills it was quite pleasant.


The sky in particular was quite beautiful.

Hmm, well it was cold… and then I wimped out

Saturday, January 9th, 2010

Last weekend I had planned on heading out to Caribou Bluff cabin the White Mountains NRA, but alas the folks I attempted to conscript into coming along all either where too busy doing real work or thought it would be too cold to be fun.  I decided to go anyway and ended up skiing out a little more than half way, 17 miles or so, then decided that this was not such a good idea, and turned around and headed back out.   At the trail shelter the thermometer read -30f, with some of the lower sections noticeably colder. This was not particularly a big deal, its just raises the stakes in case of an accident or other troubles on the trail. I am not too big of a solo cabin trip sort of person, as its pretty boring being in a cabin without people to annoy with my endless babble, so with this combined with the safety worries I decided to bail and turn it into a longish day ski with a heavy pack. It was probably a good call, as it was quite a bit colder at my house the next morning, so the -30f temperatures on the trail would probably have been -40f on the way out. On the upside, I did this trip with stiffer racing skis, and they really rock with a pack on the heavy side – the extra stiffness really makes for better glide and keeps the kick wax on longer.

In the first couple of miles out of the parking lot I was treated to fantastic views of the Alaska range, back light by the rising sun.

In the “less fantastic views” category, just before the the Trail Creek Trail junction, the dogs found several well chewed moose hooves in the trail.

The dogs where quite excited by these trail finds and had to be forcefully prompted to keep going.  Polar was so excited he carried his hoof part for about a mile before I was forced to take it away and ditched it in some deep snow.

Besides the cold and the wind, it was quite a beautiful day – sunny and clear.


The only people I saw where in a low flying super cub who appeared to be headed out to a inholding on beaver creek and flew back out a hour or so later.

The trail is in quite good shape and super hard and fairly fast, given the temperatures.

Besides the moose parts, I also found another interesting trail find – a round fur ball about the size of a softball.  At first I though it a piece of hare fur, but on a closer look it was definitely not hare.  It was near where a musher had stopped, so perhaps someone lost a tassel on a fur hat..

The dogs enjoyed the trip, though by the end Polar was shivering. I think Polar’s days of 30 miles skis with dog packs are limited..

The overflow on the this year on the Wickersham Creek Trail is not bad at all – the spots that have been bad the last could of years are quite tame.

On a temperature related note, I did get to play a bit with a digital thermometer that I picked up a while back. Its supposed to be good to -55f, but alas the display seems to stop working at around -30f.

A spin on the new skis..

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

About two months ago I picked up a set of low end “racing” skis and until recently I had been too afraid to take them out for any long skis due to the low snow conditions. Yesterday I decided enough was enough, and took the new skis out for a out-and-back to Eleazar’s cabin the the White Mountains NRA.

It was not a long ski, only 26 miles or there abouts, but enough to say that the new skis are a bit faster than my old sport glasses and keep the kick wax on a bit longer in abrasive conditions. Hurra!

The trails are in fantastic shape in the whites, if you ignore the rocky sections in first quarter mile of the Wickersham Creek trail.

There was a fantastic temperature inversion going on – the temperature on the trail ranged from +15f to ~-25f. I stopped at the trail shelter, where it was a little below -20f:

And at Eleazar’s cabin, where it was around +8f. The distance between these two places is around a half a mile in a straight line (possibly less) – it is amazing to me that there can be such a large difference in temperature for such a short distance..

Eleazar’s cabin has a fancy new deck that is a new addition since my last visit – quite spiffy!

There were no critters to be seen (besides some gray jays anyway), though I did see a fantastic vole race track.

Amazingly enough, I made it back to the parking lot just after dark. The days are getting a bit longer – soon the best time of the year from a skiing perspective will be upon us. Wahoo!

I should mention that yesterday was quite a day for trail finds. I found a crescent wrench, enough dog booties that stopped picking them up, and a handful of neck lines. I really don’t understand how mushers could be losing neck lines but they are getting to be a common trail find for me these days.