Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Former CSUer Matt Briggs - NENSA Interview

There is a nice interview Janice Sabilia had with Matt Briggs. Matt skiied a few years with CSU in his formative years and we'd like to think we got him started on his path to collegiate success!


Matt (on the right) at the Rumford Sprints

Alex Takes 2nd at NENSA Rollerski Hill Climb

Since I know you guys are into race reports, whatever the season, I figured I'd regale you with tales of my expedition to VT this past weekend.

NENSA started these rollerski races last year, after V2 donated many pairs of matched rollerskis. The top-ranked competitors get to use the skis, to make the race as fair as possible. The course started with a gradual climb/false flat for ~7km, then it went steeply uphill for another 3k. When I say steeply uphill, I mean STEEPLY uphill. The middle section of this uphill was recently repaved, but the top section had plenty of cracks and gravel occurrences to throw off a tired skier's rhythm. Here is the gmap route of the course, complete with elevation gain (about 1000 ft): http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=2077702.

The girls started about 5 seconds after the guys, and the big guns were Ilke Van Genechten (last year's overall winner), Katrina Howe (17th at NCAAs last year) and Keely Levins, an up-and-coming junior skier. Keely was leading, with all of us skiing in a train behind her
up the first climb. Then the course flattened out and Ilke took off like a shot. It took me a second to realize I had to go with her, or else the pain of chasing up the hill would be unbearable, so I went off after her, and it took about a km to catch up. Once I did, we traded leads for a while, trying to put more distance on the other girls.

Although it was only 70 degrees, it was so humid that I was projectile sweating. I was a little worried that I was working so hard on the flat, it felt like entirely too much work to be going this fast on what looks like a flat (until you see the elevation profile), but thank god for the volunteers with water just before the climb. We turn onto the climb and Ilke puts an immediate 5-ft gap on me. I needed just one more downhill before we started climbing... oof. For most of the climb I felt good, controlled and comfortable, but the last two steep pitches were getting ugly. I staggered around the road for a while before my head could take over again and force a quicker
tempo, but the damage was done, and Ilke was out of reach. It was a tough race, but definitely a rewarding one! The next race is up in Jericho, on the paved ski trails.

Alex Jospe

Monday, July 14, 2008

Luke's Summer Adventure!

While the rest of CSU was sweating and cursing the heat on some rollerski workout, I was on snow for three days.

This week, my uncle turned 40. However, rather than get everyone together and eat cake and get fat, we decided to do something a little bit more adventurous. Well, maybe a lot more adventurous. Instead of a party, we were going to climb Mt. Rainier, Washington State's tallest peak at 14,410 ft, and one of the most difficult climbs in the lower 48 states.

So it was with this goal in mind that I packed my backpack on saturday and got on a plane to Seattle early last Sunday morning. After a day of last minute shopping and preparations, we left for the International Mountain Guides base camp in Ashford, WA on Tuesday morning. This is the last town before the entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park, and its barely a two hour drive from Seattle. There, we me our head guide, Jason, and proceeded to rent gear like boots, ice axes, and crampons, and packed all of our gear and food into our packs. After a long afternoon of packing, we hit up a local restaurant for a cheeseburger before collapsing in our motel room. The next morning, we arrived at IMG at 8am to climb in the van for the 40 minute drive to the trailhead at Paradise, elevation 5,500 ft.

After everyone had figured out the complex double-plastic mountaineering boots, filled up water bottles, put on sunscreen, and donned their packs, we were ready to go. This year, Paradise received a record 90 FEET of snow, so the trail was snow-covered nearly the whole way. Even so, the temperatures were upwards of 80 degrees as we climbed out, and the sun was fierce as we began on our first leg. THe first day, we climbed to Camp Muir, the main high camp on the mountain. The climb is about 5 miles with an elevation gain of 4,500 feet. With 40 pound packs, it is no small undertaking. We climbed for about an hour at a time, pausing for food and water breaks in between sections. In total, it took us about 6.5 hours to reach Camp Muir, where we spend the night in a permanent hut erected by the guide services on the mountain. At 10,000 feet there is significantly less oxygen than at sea level, so some people were feeling some negative effects from the altitude. Even so, we all managed to eat copious quantities of the burritos prepared by our guides Eben, Chris, Jason, and Mark.

That day, we also witnessed the speed record for Mt. Rainier being set. As we were climbing up to Camp Muir, we saw a guy running full out down the snowfield. When he passed us, our guides told us that his name was Justin Merle, and he was breaking the speed record for Mt. Rainier. Round trip, it is 18 miles, with 9000 feet of elevation gain (and then loss). This guy did it in 4 hours 49 minutes. Pretty impressive. Put him on skis, I say.

After dinner, we all tried to go to bed. However, the high altitude prevented most of us from sleeping much, and while I got a few hours, I was better off than most. The next morning was no less eventful. The previous day, three disabled Iraq veterans had summited through the efforts of a non-profit called Camp Patriot. Two were blind, and one was an amputee. To honor their efforts, there was a flyover of the high camp by two F-15's. Directed by a former fighter
pilot associated with the organization, they made 5 incredibly low passes over the camp from different angles.

After all of that early excitement, we ate a delicious breakfast of blueberry pancakes and bacon, and then got down to the business of the day. We spent the morning and early afternoon learning how to use crampons, harnesses, and ice axes. We learned the basics of walking in a rope team and how to stop yourself from sliding down a glacier. By 2pm, we were ready to move out to our next camp, another 1000 feet up the mountain on the Ingraham Glacier. After a quick traverse
of the Cowlitz Glacier, we climbed up a steep rocky, loose dirt slope called the Cathedral Gap onto the Ingraham Glacier, where we found a small tent camp already set up for us. After ditching our packs and crampons, we unpacked our sleeping bags and crammed into the cook tent for an early dinner. The wind was howling, and it almost took out the tent several times.
By 7:30 we were all in bed, preparing for an early morning wake up and summit attempt. As we went to bed, the wind only got stronger, blowing as hard as 60 or 70 miles. Needless to say, between altitude, wind, and nervous anticipation, we barely got any sleep that night. Luckily though, by 1am the wind had subsided enough to start our summit attempt. We were all woken
up, and we went to the cook tent for hot drinks and cereal. Then we bundled up, leaving unnecessary items in the tents, and joined a long line of headlamps already journeying up the Ingraham Glacier towards the Disappointment Cleaver, a nastily steep and technical ridge of rock that must be conquered before advancing to the summit cone. After climbing up Cleaver, we took our first rest break. Shivering, I stuffed a powerbar and a Gu into my mouth, washing it down with water before continuing up the slope. When the air is that thin, and the slope that steep, all you can do is put one foot in front of the other. The next section consisted of very steep switchbacks on rock hard snow. By this point, it was starting to get light out, and we turned off our headlamps and got our sunglasses ready to go. By the next break, the sun was above the horizon, and already bright. It wasn't even 5am, and we already had our sunglasses on. At this break, they told us it was another 1.5 hours of climbing to the summit. However, the slope soon mellowed out a bit, and within 45 minutes we were standing in the summit cone of Mt. Rainier. All 8 of us made the summit successfully, including my mom and aunt, both 54 years old. It was perfectly clear and nearly cloudless, and we had 360 degree views to the Olympic Mountains, the Cascades, including Mt. Adams, Baker, St. Helens, Jefferson, and Glacier Peak. One of our guides said it was clearer than he had ever seen it.

After a quick trip across the crater to Columbia Crest, the highest point, we signed the summit register, then prepared to head back down. Leaving the summit by 7:30am, we descended to our high camp by 10am, packing quickly and leaving for Muir by 10:30. We arrived at Muir about 30 minutes later, where we took a long lunch break and changed into shorts for the final descent of the Muir snowfield. Despite making rapid progress, we were held up at Muir by a Medivac helicopter which came to evacuate a climber who had been hit in the face with a falling rock only about 1.5 hours before we passed by the same spot.

After we left Muir, descending started being fun. The first several hours were leg burning, knee jarring, terrifying walks down steep icy and rocky switchbacks. This was a straight descent on soft snow, with no obstacles. One could either run/slide on their feet, using trekking poles for balance, or sit on your butt and slide down, using a trash bag as insulation. This is what I chose to do for most of the way, shortening up my trekking poles to do a sort of sitting double pole on the flatter sections.

All in all, it wasn't TOO hard. Climbing up to Muir was just like a long hike with a full pack. Climbing to the summit was a bit like herringboning as slowly as you possibly can for an hour and a half, taking a short break, then doing it again. Then again. Then coming down you sidestep down the same hill. I survived to tell the tale of Mt. Rainier, and the only damage done were nasty blisters on each pinky toe from the descent, and a pair of totally thrashed legs.

Pictures to come when I get them.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

CSUers, Send Me Your Summertime Stories!

Send me your stories and pictures of summer training, ski camps, hikes and whatever else you've been doing to stay fit for next ski season for posting!

Send to jdoucett@comcast.net and I'll get them up here.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Thursday Jr. Workout

Its summer and the weather is fine for rollerskiing. Katie, Jamie, Nick and Chris getting ready to start off for the Thursday evening Jr. workout.