Great video recap of the Ultimate Mountain Challenge at the Teva Mountain Games.
Great video recap of the Ultimate Mountain Challenge at the Teva Mountain Games.
Lyndsay Meyer and I have been looking forward to racing the Power of Four Ski Mountaineering Race together for months now. Both of our partners last year ended up on IVs, one in the hospital and one at ski patrol. Although we both finished unranked without our teammates, this year we planned to complete the course together and hoped to finish strong in the women’s division.
We decided to use a bungee cord tow system from the start, ensuring that we would stay close together. Racing in pairs can be difficult when teammates have different strengths, so a bungee gives a big advantage.
I’ll spare you all the gory details of the race, but suffice it to say, climbing over 11,700 vertical feet over 26 miles is no easy task. Lyndsay and I worked well together – I paced on the uphills and she led the way on the downs. We both got pretty darn cold climbing up Highlands Bowl, where it was blowing over 60mph but we kept all our skin covered and thankfully avoided the nasty frostbite that a lot of teams suffered.
In the end, we finished in second place in the women’s division, with a time of 6 hours 28 minutes, behind the super strong women’s team of Stevie Kremer and Gemma Arro Ribot.
Full results here.
Here are some photos Ian took at the finish line.
Overall winners John and Pete Gaston. They beat Bryan Wickenhauser and Brian Smith by just two seconds. Read more here.
Ty Newton and John VanNordstrand
A weekend of racing in sunny Crested Butte is always something I look forward to – summer or winter. However, this year’s Crested Butte COSMIC race made me a little anxious for two reasons. First the race served as the North American Ski Mountaineering Championships, drawing an international field of racers. Second, because the racecourse included a new technical climbing section requiring ropes, via ferratas and ascenders – and anyone that knows me well, knows I’m not a climber and I don’t particularly like heights.
In order to step up to the European standards of skimo racing, a sprint race was added on Saturday morning. We woke early in order to get a sufficient warm-up in before the short six minute race. The temperature was frigid, -18 degrees Fahrenheit at the start, which does not match well with spandex race suits and thin gloves. I had never participated or even watched a sprint before, but understood that it included uphill kick turns, a descent, another ascent, a bootpack and a final descent. It was an individual time trial format with racers going off at 30 second intervals.
Of course, I was chosen to go first for both men and women so I had no one to pace or watch for pointers. Six minutes is not enough time to really get hot, so my fingers were completely numb when I tried to put skins back on my skis for the second ascent. I dropped my skins a few times purely because I could not feel what I was doing. The second girl to start, Melanie Bernier of Canada, caught me in transition, meaning she had already made 30 seconds on me. I finished just behind her, went inside and worked on thawing my fingers. I manged to finish in third behind Melanie and Janelle Smiley, about 35 seconds back from 1st place.
The championship race on Sunday was truly epic. Leaving the base of Crested Butte ski area, I pushed hard to stay close to the front of the pack in order to have as few people in front of me on the ridge as possible. Racing alongside men I usually am behind, I felt strong from the start. When I arrived at the rope for the Guide’s Ridge section, I quickly transitioned and managed to pass about five people. Despite my fear of heights and ropes, I managed to move pretty well on the ridge and even pass a few people. Only a few people passed me, all of whom are experienced climbers and mountaineers. One of the people to pass me was Janelle Smiley, my Sportiva teammate and a great climber.
I was relieved to hear at the top of the ridge that Janelle had only put about five minutes on me throughout the rope section. I put my head down and worked hard to make up any ground I could over the next two ascents and descents. As I got within about two minutes of Janelle, I got panicky and lost all form, causing my skins to come off. Quickly replacing skins, I lost vaulable time and momentum. Caught behind a bunch of racers on their first lap at that point, I realized I didn’t have enough mountain to catch Janelle so I sat up and enjoyed the final climb and descent.
I finished Sunday in 2nd place, 4 minutes 21 seconds behind Janelle. With our combined times from Saturday, Janelle won the weekend and Stevie Kremer placed third. The American women swept the North American Championship podium! It was an amazing course that tested my skills and my comfort level. Thanks to Bryan Wickenhauser for organizing! Links below.
Ascending the Guides Ridge. From bottom: Chris Kroger, Sari Anderson, Janelle Smiley and Jan Koles
With just over a month of rest, I jumped back in with the first skimo race of the season at CS Irwin Lodge on Kebler Pass. Ty Newton, Lyndsay Meyer and I left the Roaring Fork Valley this morning with great views of the lunar eclipse. We hopped on our snowmobiles for a fun 45 minute sled ride to the Irwin Lodge for the 2nd annual COSMIC race.
As usual, the start felt fast and I pushed to keep pace. It felt great to be back racing on my skis however I knew early on I would suffer straight through the finish. Stevie Kremer, Janelle Smiley and myself raced alongside one another through the first climb and descent and partway up the second climb. At which point Janelle started to trail a little.
Stevie and I raced tip to tail up three quarters of the final climb when I finally cracked. I could tell Stevie had more in the tank when I pulled over to fix my boot for a second. As Stevie went by, I tried to hold on as long as I could but she quickly opened a gap.
I finished a few minutes behind Stevie leaving everything I had on the course. Janelle finished in third with Lyndsay and Jari Kirkland in 4th and 5th. It was so much fun to race so closely with Stevie and Janelle and to fight right until the end. There is lots of work to be done before the next race but I’m ready for it after a nice relaxing off season.
Unofficial results from memory:
Thank you very much to Jake Jones, Bryan Wickenhauser and the CS Irwin staff for another great race!
Judging by the recent weather in Colorado (another few inches on the ground this am), winter is still in effect, but I’m happy to say my randonee racing season is now over – and it ended on a high note. On a cold and snowy last day of April, I lined up for the final COSMIC race of the season – the Arapahoe Basin Marmot Grind. I felt a little sluggish on my warm-up, which I haven’t decided was because I had raced four weeks in a row, or because the race topped out at over 10,000 feet. Probably both.
With early reports of temps barely above 1 degree, and 30mph winds on the top of A-Basin, I opted for my ‘baggie’ gear. My skin suit does not have any wind protection so I threw on my Patagonia Knifeblade jacket made from Polartec PowerShield Pro and stretch woven pants, knowing I would be much more protected and happier.
As we started up the first climb, I felt the normal burn of skimo racing. I pulled my skins and started down the first descent when I caught up to Bryan Wickenhauser. Wick’s race was done almost as fast as it had started because of a broken buckle. I was thankful for how well my La Sportiva Stratos boots have held up all season.
With the next woman, Stevie Kremer, just a minute or so behind, I continued to push myself up the next climb and down into Montezuma Bowl. It appeared that I had opened up a bit of a gap towards the top of the final climb, so I slowed a little to cover my face from the winds. I looked back as I dropped into the final descent, I saw Stevie just behind and realized I better keep moving.
I crossed the line as the first woman feeling relieved to be done racing for a few weeks. Had it not been for the $500 cash prize, I’m not sure I had enough motivation to continue pushing the pace for the almost two hours of racing. My teammate Max Taam pulled off the win for the men with Mike Kloser in second and Marshall Thompson in third.
I want to thank La Sportiva for their super light boots and skis and support for the season. And none of this would have happened it if weren’t for all the work of Pete Swenson, COSMIC organizer and the man responsible for getting most of us involved with skimo racing.
As it continues to snow into May, I think I have hung up my skis until the fall but I know many of you will continue to bag peaks and enjoy some amazing spring skiing. Either way, make sure to get out and enjoy something in the mountains and sun.