When my various ski partners contact me about skiing together the upcoming weekend, it almost always involves some challenge with ample amounts of physical discomfort. My text from Nate Brown on Wednesday was typical. "Race style push on the Middle Teton for time." This meant light packs, silly light skimo race boots and skis and lots of heavy breathing. I always get a little tickle in my stomach contemplating these adventures immediately after my phone chimes with the invite. But I love this sort of thing and conditions were looking prime.
So, plans were hatched, tactics confirmed and Nate arrived at my door, empty coffee cup in hand for a 9am departure. Not exactly an alpine start but our style and cold temps allowed us some leeway. After brewing up, we adjourned to the Bradley-Taggart trailhead psyched for the upcoming effort. The lot was quiet so we were spared the usual smirky looks from others as we readied ourselves clad in our funny Lycra outfits. Most people assume we're just going Nordic skiing, anyway.
We agreed to a gradual ramp up in pace taking the first 10 minutes to warm up. By the time we topped out on the moraine we were down to business and clicking along. We've both traveled this stretch countless times on heavier gear so it was with great curiosity that we pushed along, enjoying the freedom afforded by light equipment. Bradley lake came at 23:45.
The skinner from there was in great shape, not overly steep and we made lunch rock in the Meadows in 1:14. We were very interested in this split because there's much discussion among the Grand Teton Speed Project players concerning the differences between the summer and winter trail approaches. Our loads were lighter today but we were about 10 minutes faster. Going out was definitely going to be faster.
Once we pointed our skis toward the South Fork, we were elated to find 4-5 inches of blower snow covering the usual boiler plate. The last light snow fall came in with no wind and the typical freight train of wind through there did not materialize. Coverage was still thin in places but we kept skis on until we started up under the Southwest Couloir. Booting first through talus and then on perfect styrofoam, the going proved easy.
The only hiccup of the whole day occurred when Nate tried to don his crampons and realized they were not adjusted for his boots. Even more disheartening was finding out that adjusting them required both a nut driver and a screw driver. Not good. Now, I suspect that there are more than a few skiers in this community that would presume us skimo racer types to be unprepared for this kind of dilemma. Imagine, then, Nate's surprise and my satisfaction when I produced an Ascension ratcheting screw driver AND a Leatherman from my repair kit. Although we wasted 26 minutes screwing around (literally) with his spikes, we solved the problem and moved on.
We booted until about 300 vertical feet of the summit where the skiable snow ran out and we stashed our skis. A little mixed scrambling through the narrows got us up onto some cool rime formations and then to the summit.
It was warm and sunny with little wind. My watch read 3:33. We took a few photos, pounded a few more Gu gels and headed back to the skis.We'd anticipated good skiing on the way out and weren't disappointed. Aside from walking across a section of rocks, the out was a cruise.The headwall above the lake provided the best powder turns of the day under brilliant blue skies. We double-poled across the lake and moved into skimo transition mode.
With skins on we hammered the short uphill to the top of the moraine at threshold. Another quick skin rip and we chased each other down the luge track, scaring a few parties of snow-shoeing tourons along the way. Blowing snot and breathing hard we skated the flats and stopped the watch at the car in 4:38.
Trab World Cup race skis
Dynafit EVO race boots
1 liter water
10 Gu gels
2 packs Gu Chomps
Atomic Tour Race skis
Dynafit EVO race boots
Dynafit race pack
We each carried a beacon, shovel, probe, shell (top/bottom), puffy, extra gloves, extra skins.
I brought a head lamp, mylar bivy sack, full repair kit, hand warmers, extra food. The only time we got chilled was standing around fixing crampons. Otherwise, we remained comfortable dressed lightly the whole day.
The CAMP Flash Competition Anorak was at work proving to be the perfect garment for the task. I love putting it on and off as the light winds up high demanded at times. It's so easy without the hassle of pack removal that there really was no reason to be chilled. Nate was coveting it everytime. Ha!
I also appreciated the CAMP G-Comp Wind gloves. These babies work great when red-lining the tachometer but get a little chilly when standing around screwing with, say, crampons. Popping the cookie grabbers into the wind-proof mitten shell brought my digits back everytime. Ingenious.
Once again, the whole day was fueled with Gu products. Simple and efficient fueling for these hard efforts. It still boggles my mind how even I feel all day with not a hint of hunger at the end.