Saturday, February 20, 2010

So much to tell, so little time!

All photos courtesy of Jody Brewer.  Thanks Jody!
It's been nearly a week, and I finally unpacked my duffle bag from the B.C. hut trip. I did a load of laundry and finally got back to some running. The Goat and I pulled off a nice 16 miler this morning. The snow had a crust on top which slowed our pace, but the warm temps felt good. We saw several folks out training for the Traprock 50K. I'm not sure the Goat believed it, so I asked the next runner we saw if he was running the Traprock 50K. He said one word, "YUP!" I said, "Alright!" as I caught a glimse of the huge smile on Goat's face. Sweet!

So, we have runners, a name and logo, and a proposed course....the issue is getting the MDC to grant us permission. The Goat is working this area, and plans to pull out all the stops this week. I have high hopes, but am considering plan B. Either way, I think we have settled in on the date of April 17 to give us a couple more weeks to prepare. Stay tuned!

Now, to the trip report for British Columbia....the trip was amazing! Our good friend, EuroMan, pulled off another fantastic trip...many thanks to him and his faithful companion, Grover. Although, I still think Grover does most of the work.

Our journey began on Friday, February 5 when the Goat and I left Bradley Airport around 6PM. I changed into my superhero outfit in the airport restroom after the Goat and I downed a couple bean burritos. Ahhh, let the vacation begin! I was desperate for some reading material for the flight, so picked up a book with a crazy title, "The One Minute Millionaire". Catchy title probably made him millions off suckers like me. Anyway, it was a good read and kept my brain occupied for awhile.

Our first flight took us to Minneapolis. After the Goat watched me consume nearly every edible item at the airport, we were on our way to Seattle. I don't know what got into me, but I ate and ate and ate....which can get expensive at an airport. I even had a hot fudge sundae at McD's. Yum! I think my instinct was to add fat since we were heading into a hut for a week. As the only vegetarian on the trip, I was a little concerned about getting enough calories, but this turned out to be a non-issue.

We arrived in Seattle around midnight and found the trusty EuroMan in our room. I gave him one of the warm cookies they provided at the front desk and scarfed down the other one. Add on the fat!

Saturday, 2/6/10

In the morning, EuroMan headed up to Vancouver to pick up Rick and Jody, 2 of our other CT teammates, while the Goat and I met up with the balance of the crew. These folks consisted of young Law Enforcement National Park Service Rangers and Ski Patroller types from out west. In the lobby, we met Chris and Maria, a married pair of Rangers from Yosemite Valley, Tara, a ranger from Rocky Mtn. National Park and Colorado Cyclocross Champion, and Ben, a mutant runner/ski patroller, who ran a 4:20 something mile in high school. We then headed back to the airport to pick up the last member of the team, Brian, another LE ranger and ski patroller from Tahoe. I drove with Chris, Maria, and Tara while the Goat rode with Brian and Ben. We met up with the others in Chilliwak, B.C. and headed for Clearwater. Along the way, we bought all our supplies. The deal was that teams of 2 (except Tara who was solo) had to prepare a dinner for the others and there was one group dinner that we all help create - spaghetti. We turned it into a competition for the best meal. We were all running around the aisles of Safeway like a bunch of people on the Amazing Race. Goat and I were eyeing up a Cheesecake for dessert and Chris and Maria watched to see if we would grab it. It was too funny!
So, we all had dinner and beer at a motel in Clearwater and then crammed all of us into 3 motel rooms. This was not exactly the way I wanted to spend my last night in civilization, but at least I had a nice hot shower in the morning. My last shower for a week!

Sunday, 2/7/10
After a great breakfast, we met Ian, the owner of the hut which is located in the Wells Gray Wilderness just west of the Canadian Rockies. It is a Provincial Park, well protected, and has some gorgeous terrain. He collected our waiver forms, and took us to the helicopter for our briefing. I've flown on a helicopter previously, so was not too concerned. The pilot provided a very thorough briefing and then we left for the rendezvous location. The plan was to take us in 3 loads and Ian would come in for a couple days to fix some things at the hut if we had extra weight allowance (which we did).

The hut was modest with sleeping quarters for us in a loft above the kitchen and eating area. Heat and lighting was from propane, and there was a propane sauna adjacent to the main building. Water was picked up in buckets from a spring, and the toilet was an outhouse.

The Goat was the lone snowboarder on the trip. He used a split board arrangement which allowed him to "skin" up the slope as we do with skis and then he mated the 2 halves together for the ride down. We also had 3 telemark skiers - Jody, Rick, and Tara. The rest of us used a Randonee binding which allows for a free heel on the skin up and a locked-in heel for the ski down.

I had not skied at all this year, and only a couple times in the past 3 years. When the young guns heard this, I think they were wondering what kind of chump they had along with them. In fact, I was wondering how I would ski.

After securing our sleeping spots for the week, we all headed up to the top of Discovery Hill for what Ian described as "low hanging fruit". A short skin up, but a full 1,300 vertical foot drop. At the top of the hill, Goat and I followed the tracks of the young guns until we reached the edge of a cliff. Gulp! We then followed their tracks to a chute that looked pretty darn steep. Great! My first run of the year and it had to be this... I asked Goat if he was comfortable with it and he said he could do it. We jumped in and let it rip! Sweet! My thighs were burning, but the snow was good! We cut some killer turns and eventually bottomed out at a lake. That's where the problems started. Goat took a long time getting his board set up for the skin and we were the last ones to start back to the cabin. It was late in the day, and we did not know the area. We started up and things got worse. The Goat's skin came off one of his board halves. The skin provides friction for the ski to permit walking uphill. Without it, you can't walk up. Damn! I put half his board on my back and he post-holed up the hill with one foot. Needless to say, it took forever and it was shortly after dark when we got back to the cabin. I was ready for a beer. It was only our first day and we were both exhausted.

Monday, 2/8/10
On the second day, most of us traveled out to take a look at the big mountains. We traveled across some great terrain, but realized the quality of snow was not very good up high. It was fairly wind-blown, so most of us opted to ski the trees down lower. We hit another cliff and Goat, Tara, and I hit a narrow, steep chute...ugh, what a way to jump back into it. Tara and I started down and then the Goat decided to jump in sans board. Holy shnikes! The Goat slid a long way, but was no worse for the wear. The run was sweet, and Tara, Brian, Ben, and I went back up for a couple more runs. EuroMan and Goat skied over to find some other terrain, and we joined them there later in the day.

Tuesday, 2/9/10

The weather was looking good for the next day and the young guns were eager to go for the summit of Trophy Mountain. It became apparent that I was our lone hope for someone from the CT "over 40" crowd to make the summit team. EuroMan asked me to bring the CT Climbers and Mountaineers flag for a summit photo, and with that we were off. On the skin up, Ben broke trail and I tried to hang with him. Damn this kid is strong. I learned that Ben was college roommates and cross-country teammates with the legendary Anton Krupicka. Tony won the Leadville 100 a couple years ago and is a monster ultrarunner. He regularly logs 200+ mile weeks. The scary thing is that Ben was faster than Tony in college. The kid is strong! I met my match. Besides his speed, I'm old enough to be his father.

We skinned and skied and skinned and skied, and my legs burned. We were still not even close to the top and it looked a long way off. The summit was off in the clouds and we pressed onward and upward. The summit ridge looked rocky and I wondered how we would get down. We made it to the saddle before the final push to the summit and stopped to re-group. The visibility was poor and getting worse. We had no idea what the ski off was on the other side, so elected to ski back down the way we came up. After taking a few sub-summit photos, we skied down some steep and sweet terrain. I was hurting, but loving it. On the next slope, I followed Ben and Brian down a steep line through the trees, and loved every second of it. It was a long day, but so much fun.

Back at the hut, we learned that Goat had more issues with his split board, but it was improving each day. We had a great meal, and played a fantastic game of charades along with our traditional "Speedracer" game (trying to see how close you can get a matchbox car to the edge of the table without falling off). Each night we received a weather report from Ian's wife, and that was our only contact with the outside world. Thankfully, Blackberry service was unavailable. I could learn to love it there!

Wednesday, 2/10/10

The following day, we decided to shoot for the top of Table Mountain. It had a flat top as you might guess. It was me and the young guns again. After gaining the summit, we had a beautiful ski on an open face for the first 750 feet or so, and then it dropped into the glades. At one point, Ben hit a steep and narrow coloir, and I was part of the way into it before I realized it. No one else was around and I didn't feel like hiking back up, so I went for it. The chute was so narrow that it was hard to turn. I took one fall, but then hit some great turns before exiting the chute. What a sweet line! We took another run on the lower half and Brian was psyched when he saw me catch some air off a little ridge. Ha! The old man still has something left!

Tara and I took some photos of Brian and Ben ripping down some crazy stuff and then we headed back toward the cabin. This is where it gets interesting. After hitting the summit in white-out conditions, we were able to find the skin track and skied down it most of the way. Then, we decided to get bold and follow the fall line down through the trees. We bottomed out at a lake, and I started to skin back toward the hut. Ben popped out his GPS to point us in the right direction. He said I was going the wrong way. This didn't make sense to me, but I trusted the GPS. I started through the trees leading the way. My instincts kept pulling me left, and they kept telling me to go right. At one point, Ben just started leading with the GPS because I kept going "the wrong way". After following Ben for at least 30 minutes, we all started getting suspicious of the GPS. Thankfully, Tara pulled out her compass and we found a location to get a bearing. We decided to move for another 30 minutes and then would backtrack if we did not make progress. After about 5 minutes, we were back at the lake. There were our tracks. Uh-oh! The GPS led us in a big circle. The compass pointed us in the direction I had wanted to take originally, and off we went. After a long haul, we made it back to the hut. We averted another epic and I was tired. Another great meal, and I hit the hay. I should mention that each night we jumped in the sauna before dinner. The ritual was a sauna followed by scrubbing in the snow, and another sauna cycle followed by more snow. Painful, but cleansing and relaxing for the muscles.

Thursday, 2/11/10

The next day, Thursday, I skied with Goat and EuroMan. It was a short day for everyone, but I felt particularly drained. It was fun to ski with the guys. Goat and I had to cook dinner that night, so we ventured back to the cabin and got happy hour underway. Our dinner consisted of, chips and guac followed by a big salad and lasagna. Cheesecake topped things off for dessert. Brian was psyched about the cheesecake and after we each had some cheesecake, he noticed that 4 pieces remained. We challenged him to eat all 4 in less than 2 minutes: the Cheesecake Speedround! Goat got the whole thing on video while I was the official timer. Brain didn't manage to swallow it all, but he did manage to get all of it in his mouth which earned him $60 for his efforts.

By this point in the trip, Goat had his fill of all the farting and snoring, so he took up residency in the sauna prep area. I sleep with earplugs and am a pretty sound sleeper, so I was fine with everything.

Friday and Saturday, 2/12 - 2/13

Only 2 more days of skiing! It had snowed pretty consistently for the past couple days and we had picked up about 8-10 inches of freshies. Visibility continued to be poor, so we elected to ski a 2,000 foot run called "Pinball Wizard". It took us awhile to find the right gully, but it dropped a long way down once we hit the right line. Nice! The skin back up took us 1.5 hours, and then there was some work getting back to the cabin.
Saturday was more of the same, but folks were getting worried that the chopper would not be able to get us out on Sunday due to poor visibility. Frankly, I wasn't concerned either way.
Sunday, 2/14 - Happy Valentine's Day!
As it turned out, all the worrying was for naught as we were able to get the chopper in and out.

Our faithful leader, EuroMan, headed back to Jackson, WY while the rest of us made tracks back toward Seattle. It was a fun trip, and I made some new friends. It was great to be away from civilization for awhile, but I did miss taking a shower :-) As far as gear, I love my Ice Breaker shirt. It is made from merino wool and it does not retain odor like tech shirts. I wore the same shirt skiing everyday and it did not smell at all! No joke! Check it out - good stuff. After buying a new balaclava, I found my old trusty blue balaclava in my ski jacket pocket. Thank you for being there old friend. My new helmet came in handy as I did manage to get intimate with a tree on one descent.

I had some time to do some soul searching and didn't have any major breakthroughs. I did get time to think about some of my goals for the future. As usual, the goals took a backseat once I arrived back home and reality hit me square in the face. Oh well, I had a great trip and hope to pull off another adventure sometime soon!

In the meantime, join me in wishing my Granddaughter, Maliyah, a very happy first Birthday!!!!

Yeah, Maliyah! You go girl! Can't wait to get you on the big mountain with Grandpa!

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