Archive for April, 2008

Ski Mountaineering Races

April 27, 2008

From November to March I turn my attention from mountain running to ski mountaineering racing, a budding sport in the US, with deep, deep roots in Europe. Since the WWII the Europeans have been hosting enormous and often very committing races climbing and descending on skis deep in the Alps. The races involve skinning up several thousand feet before ripping skins and descending steep faces and tight couloirs. Though strong downskiers can make up time on the descents–the race is won or lost in the climbs.

The sport is still in its nascent stages in the US where races are often shorter, but at higher elevation in colder temperatures. This last winter I had the great fortune of being a member of the US National team that competed at the World Championship in Champery Switzerland.Florent Triollet

The opportunity to compete at a World Championship level was tremendous, especially since this sport is dominated by the Europeans–who did not dissappoint with stellar performances.

I raced the team relay, which took place at night under flood lights with a huge core of spectators. This was a very short race involving two 7 minute laps on a skinning and booting course.

Early the next morning my teamate Steve Romeo and I raced the Teams event together, a crushing 3 hour event, with 6 climbs and 3 steep booting sections.

 

Teams Race

My last race was the vertical– a hill climb event.

on my way to the finish line

Over dinner and while roaming around town I met many competitors from around the world, including numerous members of the La Sportiva Teams of Europe.

Viva Sportiva!

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Maze Super Loop (hopefully)

April 25, 2008

I leave this morning for Canyonlands National Park, from where l expect embark early Saturday morning on  a 3-4 day jaunt I’m calling the “Maze Super Loop”.  The Maze (measured by time/distance to services) is the remotest place in the lower 49 states.  It’s great.

Normally I’m loath to announce any plans in advance … why risk telling anyone what you’re doing,  if there’s a fair chance you’ll fail?  Utilizing this strategy, one looks back at the previous 10 years (or in my case, 40 years) and the record shows nothing but an unbroken string of fabulous trips, great adventures, and grand discoveries.  But as we all know – and in the interest of honest blogdom I’m owning up to right now – that record doesn’t list all the miserable failures, total screw-ups, and complete debacles.

So here we go … if all goes well I’ll file a Trip Report on Wednesday or Thursday.  But if I mess it up … well … maybe I’ll just delete this Post and we’ll forget about it, eh?  😉

Mount Williamson

April 15, 2008

I climbed Mount Williamson with Dave Johnson on Sunday via the North Fork Bairs Creek route. Williamson is just north of the famous Mount Whitney, but is considered by many climbers to be a more impressive and superior massif. The peak is the second highest summit in California and the sixth highest in the contiguous United States at 14,375 feet, but is guarded by long and arduous approaches. It is a huge mountain with 10,000 feet of relief right out of Owens Valley. Complete trip report here.

The North Fork Bairs Creek route is the most direct to the summit, although not the easiest with a rugged, brushy, trail-less approach. It is also very scenic passing through a glacier-carved amphitheater and a super fun couloir providing access to the upper slopes. The weather was idyllic with bluebird skies and unseasonably warm temperatures. The views of the southern high Sierra were amazing from the summit with superlative clarity.

A routefinding error cost us an hour and an additional 1,000+ feet of elevation gain, but we still made good time in 12:43 roundtrip. Check out the complete trip report with many more photos!

Flyin’ Brian does Barkley

April 14, 2008

Flyin’ Brian Robinson – a good friend and the first person to do the epic “Triple Crown of Backpacking” in one season (!) – completed the Barkley ultramarathon on his third try on on March 29.

After he gave it a huge effort and didn’t quite finish last year, I actually advised him to forget about it … Barkley is an strange event that to me, is more about enduring needless suffering than being in spectacular surroundings, navigating difficult terrain, going fast, etc.  Others certainly feel different about it!  (Feel free to post your Comment below).

This year he was very proud to not only be the 7th person ever to complete the course, but nabbed the CR as well; major congratulations!  He worked extremely hard and is very happy, and posted a good report on his blog:   http://flyinbrianrobinson.blogspot.com

Canyonlands – March 26-30

April 2, 2008
Canyonlands is a great place. We went there at the end (hopefully) of this long winter, the best part being as one runner friend said, is “so we can touch actual earth for a change”.

Elephant Butte Indeed.

We started by going up Elephant Butte. It had some tricky spots. It’s not called “adventure running” for nothing.

We then moved on to a canyon called Bighorn. The weather was in the 60’s, the sun was out, and … no mud or snow!

The slickrock country of course is amazing. Miles and miles of pure sandstone, blue skies … and dry ground.

Bighorn required us to employ an unusual anchor for a rappel. Two of us lay spread eagle on the slightly sloping slickrock, while the other two in turn rapped 100′ down to gentler ground, with nothing but body weight anchoring the rope. The first person down got hung up on an overhanging section, which dragged us two “anchors” 6″ across the rock, causing an anxious moment. Then the second to last (and lightest, since now there is only one person anchoring the system) rapped off. The very last person of course has to figure out something else entirely, which in this case was a thin downclimb finished off with a two person shoulder stand. Anyone observing this might wonder if we were trying to win the Darwin Award, but it actually works well:

The next day we were in the Needles District, and tried to find a way into Lower Salt Creek. None of the backcountry rangers knew anything about it or had heard of anyone doing it; thus the obvious allure. This day turned out to be a good example of adventure running: we failed. We bushwacked for 5 straight hours along the rim of the canyon, continually trying to find a way down into it, which turned out to be impossible without a lot more rope than we had.

 

Which was fine. The terrain was bigger and better than we were, which is how it should be. You can’t complain when nature wins. And there was no mud.

The Needles of course are a great place for running. The NPS does a great job of marking trails, which tend to have much more of a wilderness quality than what most of us are used to. And there’s plenty of places with no trails …

lisa.jpg

More photos: http://gallery.mac.com/buzzburrell#100015