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Grand Teton Speed Project - Middle Teton

Middle Teton ascent/descent profileWhen 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.

Gear Notes:


Trab World Cup race skis

Plum 145 Race bindings

Dynafit EVO race boots

Camp Rapid 260 race pack

Camp Race 290 crampons

1 liter water

10 Gu gels

2 packs Gu Chomps


Atomic Tour Race skis

Plum 145 Race bindings

Dynafit EVO race boots

Dynafit race pack

? food/water

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. 

- Brian

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Reader Comments (8)

Awesome. During the time you skied the Middle Teton, I burned 5 laps at the resort. I wonder who was less bored?

February 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJared

Well, Jared, you were getting the work done but you would have LOVED getting it done with Nate and I. We slapped that baby hard. Really fun.

February 7, 2012 | Registered CommenterBrian

Nice. I take it the avalanche hazard isn't so bad right now? How would it be skiing up to the Grand North Face? Time?

February 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRob

1 Litre of water in 4.5 hours? Seems like it would be hard on your recovery.

February 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKRB

I didn't even drink the whole liter. I generally feel that our obsession with hydration is completely overboard. There is some interesting work out there on the topic suggesting that we worry about it too much and it might actually inhibit performance in some situations.

Certainly in hot weather it's something to be vigilant about but in the winter, maybe less so. I think it's very individual. I'm a freaking camel, for the most part, and can get away with very little. My urine was pretty clear all day. I felt fine.

Besides, I don't really care about my recovery, just my performance. Carrying 3 liters of water, as some would do, would be heavy. Not going to go as fast with that load. I knew what I could get a way with. It was perfect.

February 9, 2012 | Registered CommenterBrian

I'm not too comfortable, Rob, giving go/no go advice to folks regarding avy conditions. it's a personal choice and a decision that should be made yourself. That said, a lot of people are going high now and getting away with it. I think the conditions up there are very different than the typical powder shots due to various environmental factors that are much more severe.

I would go up Glacier Gulch, for sure. Keep eyes open. Have fun. Get after it.

February 9, 2012 | Registered CommenterBrian

Hey Brian, just digging through your archives and saw the hydration comment above. A bunch of us had been having a similar discussion after a one-day 21-mile/10,000' traverse last month. Can you suggest any good papers or articles to read? Cheers.

March 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNick

Hey Nick,

Sorry for the delay. Haven't posted in a couple of weeks and forgot to check the comments.

Glad you're digging through the posts. It allowed me to clean up those photos. Not sure how my AK photos got there. Some glitch at the main frame, I suspect.

Anyway, I think you will find all you need about the subject of hydration right here. http://www.outsideonline.com/blog/outdoor-adventure/tim-noakes-on-the-serious-problem-of-overhydration-in-endurance-sports.html
You can tangent from there.

Cheers, Brian

April 5, 2013 | Registered CommenterBrian

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