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: