Posts Tagged ‘overflow’

A leisurely 40 miles

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

I had the day off from work and decided that it would be wonderful to do a longish day ski at a leisurely pace in the Whites. I decided to ski out to a ways past Borealis and back from mile 28, as the trail was rumoured to be in pretty nice shape. Its spring break, so I expected crowds, but I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of traffic on the trails. On the way in I saw a two people skiing out from Eleazars, and two people on snow machines leaving Borealis, and the way out two parties of snow machines and a musher, but otherwise I had the place to my self. The whites are a strange place in regards to traffic – some days I run into constant snow machine traffic and other days its completely empty.
When I waxed my skis the night before, the forecast was for a nice 20f to 25f, so I waxed up with blue Powergrip. When morning came it was 0f and I was too lazy to mess with rewaxing and just left it. Amazingly the blue Powergrip lasted the entire day, with a bit of rewaxing due to icing with the overflow. The day started windy and overcast with a fast trail due to some recent mushing traffic. I made good time and zipped a long at a good clip until 13 miles or so in, when I ran into the first batch of overflow.

A short bit of double polling and I was quickly past it, and off to the next section. The overflow continued on and off for the next 5 miles or so.

Fortunately it was pretty dry and not all that intense and thus very skiable.

My first major distraction occurred when a small owl flew over me and I photo stalked it for a while.

Besides the owl, there were large number of what appeared to me to be fairly fresh caribou tracks on the trail, something that I have not see before. I spent some time scanning the nearby hills in the off chance I would see them, but alas no luck. I would love to see some winter caribou!
I reached Beaver Creek a little longer than 4 hours since leaving the parking lot, and skied on for a ways, then stopped for lunch. My lunch was a healthy handful of bear claw almond pastries – yum, yum! They had been squished together due to my poor packing, but still tasted great. Fantastic! After shoving these down, I headed back out to the parking lot. As I crossed Beaver Creek it started to snow, and the trail began to slow down. The long ski down from the first hill past Borealis is normally a long pleasant glide, but the fresh snow pretty much did away with the gliding part. Eventually I was past by a musher and things sped up again. While the musher pasted she made a comment about how it looked like Remus was really enjoying himself.

It looked like Remus was enjoying himself because he was in fact having a lot of fun. Remus loves long trips – I think in his ideal world every day would involve a 40 mile ski. Perhaps he would prefer even longer days – so long as its not too hot Remus never seems to get tired. Shortly after we past the musher we made it to the trail shelter. I had smelt a brief wiff of smoke while crossing the last bit of overflow and was quite impressed the smoke from Eleasars could blow that far.

When I reached the trail shelter, the mystery was resolved – the shelter was unoccupied but someone must have been by recently as while the fire was almost out it was roasting hot inside! Remus and I spent 20 minutes or so hanging out in the heat of the shelter, drying off and in my case adding some tar wax for a bit more glide in the new snow. Eventually we pried ourselves out of the warm and snug shelter and headed back down the trail. The rest of the ski was quite uneventful except for a funny encounter near the trail creek trail junction – there was a blue down parka in the middle of the trail. Remus was quite suspicious, and after sniffing it, gave the scary parka a wide berth. I was not sure what to do – should I leave the jacket or pack it out – but since I thought I could hear folks on the trail ahead, I scooped up the parka and continued on. After a couple of jogs in the trail, I soon saw the travellers in the distance, and was somewhat baffled as to what was going on – there appeared to be a short gnome like person who was as wide as he or she was tall, along with two others messing with something off the trail. I as I got closer things cleared up – the gnome like creature was a young boy wearing a huge adult size parka that covered him so completely only six inches or so of this legs where exposed.. The other two were trying to dig out a snow machine stuck off the side of the trail – apparently they were on an evening jaunt out of the nearby Lees cabin. After handing back their parka I gave them a hand and the snow machine was quickly back on the trail and they zoomed off down the trail. The rest of the trail went by pretty fast and I was soon back at the parking lot, hungry but none the worse for the 40 miles. The hunger was dealt with by a nice greasy burger on the way back into town – hurra! Alas not Mias quality, but it was eaten quick enough I hardly noticed. Alas, Remus had to wait until we got home for his dinner.

The White Mountains Loop

Friday, February 19th, 2010

On a sunny and warm Sunday morning, Ms Marsh, Tom, and I set off to do a leisurely ski of the White Mountains 100 course. Our plan was to ski the first day to Crowberry Cabin, then on to Windy Gap cabin, then out. This would make for two fairly mellow days and one longish day, approximately 26 miles, 34 miles, then a 40 mile day – all very doable. I was really looking forward to the section from Cache Mountain Cabin to Windy Gap Cabin, as I have never traveled this area before and was told it was quite beautiful. The other factor is that I would probably end up doing this section in the dark and would like to have some idea about the trail before attempting to blast though it at high speed by headlamp.

The first day started quite pleasantly, with a fast trail and wonderfully sunny and warm weather.

It was a bit too hot for Remus, alas. He is really only happy in sub 0f weather.

We zoomed down the trail and eventually stopped for a bite to eat at Moose Creek cabin. We passed two snowmachiners on the trail and a solo skier, but other wise we had the trail to our selves. The trail was super smooth and fast and made for fantastic skiing.

Once past Moose Creek cabin the trail climbs up a ridge and winds though a several year old burn and offered us fantastic views.

We reached Crowberry after a little under 7 hours of skiing which included a fair bit of stopping and goofing off. This was my first trip to the new Crowberry cabin. Its a new design without a loft, but it is quite spacious and has tons of room. We had a fantasic evening reading varous magizines including a road bike racing magazine that seemed quite out of place. Tom amused us by reading excerpts from a snow machining pamphlet, which espoused the many virtues of snowmaching (creating world peace and curing cancer, for example).

After a huge dinner we hustled off to bed, eagerly awaiting the alarm summing us to a early start the next morning (some of us anyway).
The next day turned out to be equally warm and sunny, and after a breakfast of pancakes and bacon we where off. The trail out of the cabin was a continuous drop all the way to Beaver Creek. Tom added a bit more “drop” and had a tremendous crash on one of the downhills that did in one of this bindings. Tom then had the distinct pleasure of skiing the rest of the trip with one floppy loose binding.
The trail got progressively rougher as we headed to Cache Mt Cabin, with lots of exposed tussocks. These sections where fairly short though and most of the skiing was quite good.

We encountered our first bit of overflow shortly after crossing Beaver Creek. It was short and dry though, and was quite fast and fun to ski though. I was using my skinny racing style skis, and don’t get too much edging power on overflow, and so have to be careful. If only someone made stiff, narrow, metal edged (or partial metal edged) skis..

We reached Cache Mt Cabin and stopped in to read the log book and have bite to eat. Several years ago I left a book here as a joke, ‘Develop Your Psychic Abilities‘ and it was still here. Strangely, a another book I had left in the cabin as a joke, “The Instant Divorce”, was gone – go figure.
Past Cache Mt Cabin the overflow got a bit more intense, but was still quite passable.

We were now on a section of the trail that I had never skiied, and I was enjoying exploring the area. This section of trail climbs for 12 miles or so, then comes over Cache Mt Divide, and drops down to Windy Gap. The trail up into the divide offered great views and was not particularly steep until the final sections.

The divide was quite scenic and had wonderful views of the surrounding ridges.

I could have spent days exploring this area, but alas we had still had 14 miles or so to go before we reached the cabin, so we didn’t stop very long.

The trail away from the divide was fast and fun – just steep enough for some high speed skiing but not so steep as to be uncontrollable. We reached soon reached the section of trail called the “ice lakes”, where the trail disappears in small valley with wall to wall ice.

A warning to racers in the upcoming White Mountains 100 race – this section was the only section of the trail that was a bit scary for me. I skied most of it, and was out of control for a good portion of the time. The ice has a slight slant to it, and where it is slushy it is very easy to ski under control. Where the ice is hard though, it is very difficult to slow down. Twice I ended up plowing into alders at high speed when I could not slow down. I would treat this section with caution and ovoid the temptation to bomb it, unless you have skis with metal edges.

Tom and Ms Marsh put on stylish bags and yak-traks on their feet and walked this section.

After leaving the ice lakes, the most fun of trail begin (at least for me) – the trail gradually drops down to Windy Gap, winding though big trees and going over a endless series of woop-a-doos. This made for a very fun 9 miles or so of double poling. Eventually we reached Windy Gap Cabin and crashed for the night. The next morning we headed out, and started out with a long section of ice. I skied this section while Tom and Marsh walked it. The skiing was fun and super fast.

The next 10 miles of trail winded though large trees and crosses Fossil Creek numerous times. The first 5 miles or so was a fun roller coaster with lots of small rolling ups and downs which made for fun and fast skiing.

There were a couple of sections of brief overflow. These were pretty hard frozen and dry making for fun skiing. These sections could be a bit tricky during the race when I am sleep deprived.

The ridges in this area are fantastically beautiful.

This section included one of the more interesting trail finds I have encountered – there was a partially eaten wolf or long legged dog carcass on the side of the trail.

Sections of this trail had a huge number of wolf prints – it appeared a small pack of wolves had followed a creek down to the trail then followed the trail up to the windy gap area. There was a couple of bird kills marked by a large cloud of feather so it looked like the wolves were having fairly good hunting.
Eventually we broke out of the thick forest and into a old burn and soon we were past Caraboo Bluff cabin and on the hilly descent to Borealis Cabin.

Shortly after Borealis-LeFevre Cabin we ran into the BLM trail groomers on their way out to Wolf Run cabin, then to Windy Gap Cabin and out. They left the trail wonderfully smooth and fast.

It was getting a bit late, so we pushed on to the trail shelter, had dinner, and then headed out to the parking lot.

When I reached the parking lot I was greeted by a bunch of Japanese visitors waiting in the parking lot for aurora to photograph. Tom and I made it to the truck first, and waited a while for Ms Marsh to arrive. We had a number of false alarms when we thought we had seen Marsh’s head lamp, only to find it was the aurora watchers taking pictures of things with super bright flashes. Things like the trail signs, trees, the ground, and a pile of straw… there was no aurora to be seen, so perhaps they were making the best of things.

All in all it was a quite fun three days and we got to ski the entire course. Skiing the course is highly recommended for racers – there is no place where anyone with any direction sense could get lost, but there are a few sections were you have to be careful due to ice lakes, overflow, steep descents, and other tricky bits, and its good to get a feel for it before attempting it in a sleep deprived hase.

Skiing a Section of the Yukon Quest Trail

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

On a snowy Monday Tom, Remus, and I headed off to Chena Hotsprings to ski a section of the Yukon Quest trail. The quest had passed though this section of trail two days prior, and the “mini quest”, the Yukon Quest 300, had passed though the day before, so we anticipated the trail to be in pretty good shape and decided today would be a wonderful day to explore it. We skied about 23 miles, in about 8 hours or so including breaks. Not a parciularlly fast showing, as we were slowed by fresh snow and lots of overflow.
We joined the Yukon Quest trail where it leaves Chena Hotsprings road, and heads up the North Fork of the Chena River. In the first mile or so we skied past a number of small houses and vacation cabins and eventually the trail lost its road like feel.
Remus was happy to be joining us, and today I attempted to slow him down a bit by having him carry my down jacket and pants.

The trail had received about a inch to a inch and a half of fresh snow over night, and we were the first to travel the trail since the snow.

The fresh snow slowed us down a bit, but made for a smoother trail. The trail was a bit rough in sections, with a couple of large rocks fully exposed by the low snowfall. We need more snow pretty bad..

The day started snowy, gray, and overcast.

The day ended bright and sunny with a nice blue sky – quite a change.

There was quite a bit of wet overflow on the trail, which slowed us down a lot. We had two options – ski across, which keeps you pretty dry and is pretty fast but requires de-icing the skis after words, or to walk across, which is a bit risky as its hard to tell how hard the crust on the overflow is and if it can support your weight.

If the ice crust on the overflow is not strong enough to hold your weight, then you can end up plunging though and a bit wet – I stepped into overflow almost up to my knees twice. It was not all that cold, so having wet feet was not that big of a deal.

Walking though overflow also requires extensive boot de-icing efforts to get the toe bar free enough of ice to put the skis back on.

I tried wearing pellet bags on my feet and just walking across..

.. But quickly learned that its hard to hold up bags while carrying skis.  An obvious lesson, for sure.

The other option, to just ski straight across, is faster initially but frequently requires you to stop and de-ice your skis.  When the wet skis hit the nice dry snow, the snow generally sticks to your skis making them heavy and robbing them of any glide.   If you actually break though the crust with skis on, extricating yourself can be quite difficult.  On a trip last year Tom broke though some overflow and spent quite a bit of time standing in almost knee deep water trying to get out, and after finding he was trapped by skis getting suck under the ice, spent even more time trying to get them off.  Not pleasant…  I had not brought a ice scraper to de-ice my skis, and was forced to scrape ice off the bottom of my skis with a wax scraper, which was less than ideal.

This was a wonderful overflow refresher course for Tom and I, as the White Mountains 100 goes though several sections that can have large amounts of overflow.   In the past I have carried some light-ish Neos Overboots, which make overflow a snap – take your skis off, put the overboots on, and walk across.   I have not been bringing them of late, as they are light-ish, but not actually “light” – at around 2lbs they are almost as heavy as my sleeping bag.

The rest of the trail was quite fantasic – lots of wonderful views of the near by hills, and when the snow stopped, clear blue skies.  The trail is on a road for the first mile or so, then slowly winds up the North Fork of the Chena, passing numerous small cabins and inholdings, eventually reaching Rosebud summit.  We stopped a mile or so short of the base of the climb to the summit.

This area burned in the 2004 fire season, and most of the forest the trail passed though had been completely burned. We passed only a couple of sections where we passed though stands of unburned trees.

It was quite a fun way to spend a day (leaving out the overflow), and is enjoyable if you do not mind overflow all that much.

There were a number of interesting sights to see along the trail, including a “tree face”.

And a single snow shoe.   Hopefully the owner is not going to require it. Currently in this area snow shoes would be overkill, as the snow is not that deep, and one can get back by just walking though it.

A map of the route.

For more photos, please see my gallery:

Skiing a Section of the Quest trail