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Elk Mountains Grand Traverse

April 9, 2009
Homie and I near the top of Aspen Mountain

Homie and I near the top of Aspen Mountain

I recently competed in the 40-mile Elk Mountain Grand Traverse back-country
ski race. Holy cow! This race is tough. It was eye-opening. I liken it to an ultra-marathon, where you see people who you wouldn’t think could hold a candle to you in mountain adventures, passing you. This is an event you have to learn, because pure fitness isn’t nearly enough to conquer this race. The Grand Traverse is very serious, very committing and so very different from nearly any other competition I’ve done. You have to enter this race as a team of two because of the serious nature of it. The race starts at midnight, so you get to do the first 6+ hours by headlamp. We had good snow conditions this year, but horrible wind up high. My buddy Homie and I finished in just over 15 hours (the winners were under 10 hours!) You can read lots more details here, if interested:

http://www.wwwright.com/climbing/tripreports/2009/GrandTraverse.htm

Grays and Torreys Times Two

February 13, 2009

I’m training to do the Grand Traverse ski race, which is a 40-mile backcountry event that goes from Crested Butte to Aspen. Of course I should be doing a lot of backcountry skiing (duh!) but I’m a climber at heart and I can no more just go for a ski than I can go for a hike. If I’m doing either my next question is “What are we climbing?”.

Ideally I’d climb mountains with long ski approaches, but I’m not big on driving very far either. One convenient pair of mountains is Grays and Torreys. These are almost always referred to together, as once you have climbed one, it only takes 30 minutes more to climb the other. In the summer the roundtrip is 8 miles and 3400 vertical feet or so. In the winter you have to start down at highway and the total is 14 miles and 5000 vertical feet, of which more than 9 of those miles can be done on skis.

I climbed them both a couple of weeks ago with my Grand Traverse teammate Homie in 5h44m and we spent 10 minutes on each summit and some time chatting with friends on the way down. I felt by near continuous movement I could get this under 5 hours, so the next weekend I was back, alone. Unfortunately, the weather was much worse with colder temperatures and a biting wind. Then my goggles broke and I fell descending a rock-hard snowslope that I had no business being on without an ice axe and crampons. I nearly died as I cartwheeled towards the rock below and in fact honest thought it was over for me. Seconds later I was able to self-arrest.

Alas, I was still able to turn the trick, finishing in 4h39m and doing the last 3 miles on the snowpacked road in 11 minutes – you’ve got to love skis for descending! Now I’m thinking that with more fitness, perfect conditions, no mistakes, no falls, approaching 4 hours is possible for me. But more mountains are calling as well…

A full report is located here:

My Year With Longs Peak

December 8, 2008

I’ve been meaning to post something here for a long time, but have been too lazy. Now is a good time, though, since I’ve finished my year-long project. This past Saturday, with the help of Mark Oveson and Chris Plesko, I completed the Longs Peak Project. The goal was to climb Longs Peak for a different route in each month of the calendar year. I ended up with 14 unique routes, doubling up my ascents in May and July.

Inspired by the great Bill Briggs, partnered by Phil Gruber, Homie, Stefan, Mark Oveson, Hardly Manson, Derek, Ben Hoyt, and Chris Plesko, and sponsored by La Sportiva and Kahtoola, I had a great year with this wonderful mountain. Some would say I’m obsessed with it, spending so much time on a single mountain when I could have been climbing 14 different mountains instead. Guilty as charged. I love this mountain. I love it for its great variety of routes, its incredible climbing, and its proximity to Boulder. Thanks to everyone that supported me.

For the really fun details, you can read about each ascent here: Longs Peak Project

On the summit of Longs in November

Bill


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