Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Backcountry Telemark Skinning: Video and Trip Report

Last week Tara and I skinned up Grizzly Gulch to the southeast side of Grizzly Peak (here is a little trip report plus video from the backcountry outing). Well, we finally got around to putting the telemark footage to music and editing it. Below is a little video from that backcountry trip. As you will note, there was quite a bit of wind up high (classic Colorado conditions), and hopefully we captured it.

Today, as a way of ringing in the New Year and saying googbye to 2008, we skinned in to the base of the north side of James Peak (13,294). Again, there was some wind blowing - short gusts filled with wicked micro-snow crystals. However, just down below treeline the conditions were really pleasant, and the snow was deep and soft. Perfect for making some smooth, arching tele turns in deep powder. We got a little footage of the backcountry day, and hopefully I'll post it soon. Until then, enjoy the movie. If you want, you can also check out this other telemark video we recently did. I'd love to hear feedback...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas Day Bouldering in the Flatirons: Above Shadow Canyon

Christmas time in Boulder can always be a little strange. Although it was dumping all week in the mountains (providing excellent telemark conditions), none of the storms made it over the Divide and onto the Front Range. This often happens during the winter. A storm will get stopped by the mountains and just sit up on the Divide, leaving us with cold temps, sunny or semi-sunny days, and a fair amount of wind.

This past week was no exception. Vail Pass and areas west got several feet of snow, while here in Boulder the snow from the week before stuck around despite the mellow conditions. On Christmas, as we had too many family obligations to get away, Tara and I hiked up to the base of Shadow Canyon to get in some climbing outside. Because of the cold temps (nights have been in the teens, days in the twenties to thirties), most of the projects I've been interested in were a no go - they are in the trees or shade and just would be to cold. However, there are walls in the Flatirons that you can climb on all year, no matter what the temps. They face south, have good exposure, are wind protected, and allow for a really fun session. The following two pictures are from Christmas Day, high up in the mini-flatirons above Shadow Canyon.
Bouldering Shadow Canyon Colorado

Shadow Canyon Bouldering in the Flatirons

Although not stellar photos, it is always a pleasure to get outside. Did anyone else get out Christmas Day? Happy Holidays to everyone.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Fell Running: Mountain Running British Style

I've always wanted to try my hand at Fell Running. During the summers I do a ton of mountain running here in Colorado and the Rocky Mountains, but have yet to make it over the Atlantic to give Fell Running a try. It seems like a natural progression, as mostly the mountain running I do in the summer is of a similar nature. Last summer Tara and I did over 50 peaks in the area, all in a light weight, speed oriented fashion similar to Fell Running.
Mountain Running in New Mexico
In that vein, I found this article on Fell Running to be interesting. Perhaps next year I'll make it over to give it a try...

I have never felt so unfit in my life. We are only 10 minutes from the car park and my heart is hammering, my thigh muscles screaming, as I try to keep up with the lean, agile figure on the trail in front of me. “This pace OK?” calls Angela Mudge over her shoulder, not remotely out of breath. “Er, fine,” I gasp, wondering if my lungs might collapse at any moment.

Mudge is to fell running (hill running, if you’re in Scotland) what Paula Radcliffe is to road running. Last December, she knocked 13 minutes off the Mount Everest marathon course record – a 42km race that begins at an altitude of more than 17,000ft and entails a 16-day trek to the start. This year, she won the British Fell Running Championships for the fifth time.

Rather rashly, I suggested we do a hill run together. Which is how I find myself, one bright, clear but achingly cold morning, in Rowardennan car park on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond, preparing to run up a 3,200ft mountain with arguably the best female hill runner in the world.

I feel nervous and overburdened as I pack my rucksack – heart-rate monitor, gloves, isotonic sports drink, jelly babies. Mudge simply carries an extra layer and a waterproof jacket. “I don’t do technology,” she says. “If you’ve been running long enough, you know when you’re running hard, when you’re running easy. I don’t need to be scientific about it.” Doesn’t she carry fluid? “Not on the hills. I just drink from the streams. I’ve never got into the habit of using sports drinks.” For all my gear, it transpires that my Gore-Tex trainers aren’t up to the job. Luckily Mudge has a spare pair of size seven fell running shoes, which I dutifully put on.
Fell Running in Britian
We head off through the trees, and almost immediately begin to climb. “Take short, fast strides and stay on your toes,” instructs Mudge, climbing nimbly like a mountain goat. The path up Ben Lomond is one she has run countless times, as have her two Jack Russells, Canna and Arkle, who are zipping back and forth between us, covering twice the distance. In fact, Mudge has run up all 284 Scottish Munros (mountains over 3,000ft). “This one is a hard climb, but the terrain isn’t bad, so you can keep up some leg speed,” she says.

Now, I’m not what you’d call unfit. I’ve run 14 marathons (best time three hours, 22 minutes) and I run four to five times a week. But my heart rate is already 169 beats per minute. Once we’re clear of the forest, a section of steep rock, slick with water, slows me to a walking pace. “You should walk at a certain gradient,” reassures Mudge. “It’s faster, and it uses your muscles differently, so gives them a break.” She shows me the “fell runner’s walk”, bending over from the waist and taking large steps, with hands on knees to help push yourself onwards and upwards.

Read the rest of the article on Fell Running here.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Another Long Telemark Run: Ski Movie About Going Up and Down

Well, the snow has finally been falling here in Colorado, and the backcountry has begun to open up. On Wednesday Tara and I skinned up Grizzly Gulch all the way to the base of the southeast side of Grizzly Peak (13,427 feet). Grizzly is a spectacular 13er, and this little backcountry spot often gets overlooked for areas just a little further up I-70. Perhaps one of the reasons many telemarkers skip over the valley is because it is about 5 miles of skinning before you even begin to approach the fun stuff.

We skinned in and found the snow to be quite good. The road is covered all the way to where the trail starts and breaks away from the summer Grays and Torreys trailhead. Skinning around the north side of Torreys Peak (14,267 feet) is great, through meadows and forested slopes. You get a bunch of really good views of Torreys' North Face with the two large snow couloirs descending the entire face. The further in is an amazing telemark descent in the spring, but for now we passed it to hit some of the lesser known chutes coming off of Grizzly Peak's southeast face.

There is plenty of snow up high, most of the rocks are covered, and a descent base has formed. As always, one has to know what they are doing and watch the conditions for avalanches, but it looks like the Colorado backcountry has opened for telemark skiing. To hold you over until I get the footage sorted out from the trip, here is a new video called Another Long Telemark Run. Enjoy, and if you care, share your thoughts.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The History of Skiing: New Books Gives Comprehensive History

My father-in-law is a ski history nut. He can name nearly every World Cup downhill champion of the past 30 years. On his living room bookshelf you will find copies of Ski Racing magazine stretching back to the early 1980s.

The man is going to love Two Planks and a Passion: The Dramatic History of Skiing,Roland Huntford's history of skiing. It's a deep trove of exactly the kinds of minutiae that will stick in his brain the way baseball statistics stick in mine. For the rest of us, though, Two Planks and a Passionis the sort of facts-and-dates history that keeps us from reading, well, history.
The Dramatic History of Skiing
In his earlier books, Huntford chronicled the race to the South Pole (The Last Place on Earth) and wrote biographies of Ernest Shackleton and Fridtjof Nansen. Two Planks and a Passionseems a natural progression for him. After all, hearty dogs and good skis made the difference for Roald Amundsen in his bid for the South Pole. But the earlier books were filled with tales of derring-do, and Two Planks and a Passionseems overwhelmed by Huntford's research. Somewhere along the way he abandoned his duty to include gripping stories and just started packing in trivia.

That's a shame, because there's great material here. For instance:

  • The ski predates the wheel.
  • The earliest known fragments, circa 6000 B.C., come from northern Russia, and archaeologists have unearthed evidence of skiing in Norway, Sweden and Finland dated to 3200 B.C.

Huntford reproduces a 4,000-year-old rock drawing from Russia that depicts three Stone Age hunters on skis stalking elk. It's an astonishing image, like seeing a stick figure on a Jet Ski in the caves of Lascaux.

"To prehistoric northern man, the ski was an instrument of survival," Huntford writes. "He needed good sliding, preferably without any slip on the kickoff, to overtake his prey."

In the ancient world, the ski was known across Northern Europe and Asia - though not North America, curiously - and the Lapps and the Norse were the acknowledged masters of the pursuit.

Read more on the History of Skiing here.

Friday, December 12, 2008

XTERRA Trail Running World Championships in Oahu, Hawaii

The XTERRA Trail Running World Championships just held their first race, and it looks like Max King and Cynthia Anderson took away top honors.

Max King, 28, from Bend, Ore. and Cynthia Anderson, 25, from Kailua, Hawaii won the inaugural XTERRA Trail Running World Championship half-marathon at Kualoa Ranch on Oahu on Sunday morning. More than 800 runners from 32 states and eight countries participated in the 5K, 10K and 13.1 mile events.

Near perfect running conditions with cool breezes, cloud cover and temperatures in the mid-70s greeted runners for the half-marathon championship race that featured 3,000 feet of elevation gain while weaving up-and-down the verdant cliff faces in Ka'a'awa Valley and into the dense rainforest of Hakipu`u Valley at Kualoa Ranch.
XTERRA Trail Running World Championships
King, a member of the Team USA cross country squad and the reigning XTERRA Trail Running USA Champ, led from start-to-finish and was the only runner to post sub 6-minute miles for a winning time of 1 hour, 18 seconds, 24 seconds. Ben Bruce of Eugene, Ore. finished more than three minutes back in second place at 1:21:56, and Thomas Taylor of Phoenix, Ariz. placed third in 1:29:34. Honolulu's Matt Stevens was the top local finisher just 17 seconds later.

"Ben (Bruce) is as good a runner as I am, and I am always afraid of him," said King. "This race was a lot tougher than Nationals. The last 5 kilometers were definitely the most challenging. I just didn't want to do anymore hills. This was an awesome event."

His first time in Hawaii, Bruce said this terrain, and the course's elevation gain was quite different than what he is used to. "There was more climbing in the first two miles of this race than the entire Nationals race combined."

Read more about the Inaugural XTERRA Trail Running World Championship here. For other trail races a good place to start is the Trail Runner calendar. Happy trails.

Monday, December 8, 2008

San Luis Valley Bouldering: Problems Galore in Colorado and New Mexico

So I'm adding some pictures of the bouldering down in the San Luis Valley and northern New Mexico. Tara and I go here regularly - lots of good bouldering, secluded, and quality stone are all reasons to make a trip to the Valley. There are several areas that are already known, and ton more waiting to be found or developed. Some of the best places in the Valley include: Boulder City, the Breakfast Boulders, Penitente and Rock Garden area, Rock Creek, Crestone, Orient Mine Wall, Questa Dome boulders, Tres Piedras, the Beach Wall, Cerro Azul, El Rito, Red River bouldering, Hidden Gulch, and many more.
Bouldering in San Luis Valley
If you are looking for adventurous bouldering in an amazing setting, then perhaps a trip to the Valley is for you. You can climb all year, with some of the best temps occurring from October-March.
Bouldering at Tres Piedras
Types of Stone: Rhyolite, Granite, and Basalt.
Rest Day Activities: hot springs, mountain biking, trail running, artistic tours, contemplation, excellent New Mexican food.
Breakfast Boulders in South Fork, Colorado

Bouldering near Alamosa, Colorado

Monte Vista Bouldering Colorado

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Telemark Skiing Above the Arctic Circle: Riksgransen, Sweden

There was a great article in the New York Times the other day about telemark skiing above the Arctic Circle. In Riksgransen, Sweden apparently there is a hardcore group of telemark skiers. Looks like a great place to hit next spring...

The helipad was little more than a flat patch of snow roped off between some parked cars and the hotel. The chopper didn’t inspire confidence, either: it was an ancient-looking craft, with a nearly 50-year-old fuselage and a crack in the bubble windshield. But this lawn dart, I was assured, was a gem — an Alouette III, the classic French mountain helicopter. After some perfunctory instruction by the mountain guide, we climbed aboard and belted in. Blades Cuisinarted the air. Seats shook. Two guys taking off their ski boots next to the helipad ducked for cover. Then we were hammering south into empty mountains.

Telemark Skiing in Sweden Above the Arctic Circle
When the helicopter shut down the rotor atop 5,209-foot Vouitasrita, the silence poured in to fill the void. Our mountain guide waved a pole south across a horizon of white breakers. “More or less everything you see here, we can heli-ski,” he said — all the way to the Finland border, to the east. The summit of 6,926-foot Kebnekaise, Sweden’s highest mountain, nosed for prominence on the southern horizon.

This was an April evening in the land of the midnight sun.

There’s an understanding among Scandinavia’s diehard skiers: when the weather turns warm, it’s time to finish off the season at the world’s northernmost ski resort. There, at Riksgransen, more than 130 miles above the Arctic Circle in Sweden, the skiing isn’t over until that midnight sun finally droops below the horizon.

“It’s become a bit of a legendary place for the Swedes,” explained Torkel Karoliussen, a champion Norwegian telemark skier who has visited Riksgransen more than a dozen times. “The season doesn’t really start until March, and it’s best in May, and you can ski under the midnight sun in June.”

It’s true: starting about May 10 each year, the lifts close at 4 p.m. — only to reopen (on weekends) from 10 p.m. until 1 a.m.

Read the rest of the article about telemark skiing above the Arctic Circle here.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Late High Altitude Trail Run: The Salt Creek Trail (618) in South Park, Colorado

Last week we went down into the San Luis Valley and Northern New Mexico to climb at a couple new areas that are being developed, and to get in a final high altitude trail run before the snows closed up the high country. As this fall and winter have been really dry (until the weekend after Thanksgiving when Loveland got 60 inches), a lot of the high country trails have remained open.

Running single-track is always such a pleasure, but running single-track trails well after the season normally closes is a treat - there is no one out, the temps are always nice, and the forest and wildlife have settled into their more somber and quiet winter state. Taking advantage of this, Tara and I decided to run the Salt Creek Trail (#618) and its various off-shoots.
East and West Buffalo Peak Trail Running
There are several access points onto this trail.

  • FDR 435 Brush Park. You can reach this road from US Highway 285. The trailhead is at the end of FDR 435. You can hike either direction on the trail from this location.
  • FDR 436 Middle Fork of Salt Creek. You can reach this road from US Highway 285 at the same location. Follow FDR 435 to FDR 436. The trailhead is not as well marked at this location.
  • FDR 431 Turn off of US Highway 285 onto the Buffalo Springs Road. The Lynch Creek Trailhead is located at the end of FDR 431. The Salt Creek Trail crosses FDR 431 at several points. Salt Creek Trail can also be accessed from FDR 433, which connects FDR 431 to US Highway 285 via Pony Park. It can also be accessed from Tumbling CreeK trail in the Fourmile Drainage on the Salida Ranger District. Follow County and Forest Service Road 377 from Buena Vista to FDR 375 to its end at the Fourmile Trailhead. This section is not open to mountain biking since it is in the Wilderness Area.

We came in from the last of these options, taking the Fourmile Drainage from Trout Creek Pass and ran north.

View Larger Map

As you can see from the map, the terrain is quite nice. Rolling hills in a quiet forest setting for about 15 miles one way. You can eventually take trail #618 all the way to the northern terminus (Lynch Creek Trailhead on Forest Road 431), at which point you are able to connect to the Rough and Tumbling Trail (#617). It is possible to take #617 around to the north and west of West Buffalo Peak and down towards Forest Road 375 (Fourmile Road) and then back to your starting point for a grand circumnavigation trail run of East and West Buffalo Peaks.
Trail Running on Forest Service Road off Trout Creek Pass
Total distance is 35+ miles all on single-track or closed Forest Service roads. This is one of the better, longer single-track trail runs found in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Perfect for fall or even summer, as much of the run is above 10,000 feet and in the trees.

If you don't want to do the entire 35+ mile loop, as it requires some planning, the Salt Creek Trail (618) is a worthy trail run on its own.

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Elevation Gain: 2,250 Feet (701.4 Meters)
High Point: 11,100 Feet (3460.1 Meters)
Length, One-way: 15.5 Miles (25.83 Kilometers)
Usage: Moderate
USGS Maps: Marmot Peak and Jones Hill

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Bouldering on Green Mountain: The Views and Problems are Amazing

I'm a little behind in actual chronological order when it comes to posting. I've got to put up photos of all the bouldering problems down in the San Luis Valley and in northern New Mexico that we were at last week, but first, some more on bouldering at Green Mountain. I love bouldering up at Green Mountain - no one is there (ever), the stone is stellar, and the views are well worth the hike.
Colorado Continental Divide from Green Mountain

Two weeks ago Tara and I hiked up to do some of the ridge problems. Green Mountain has a number of "areas" on it - the Ridge, the first draw with the Highlander and other highball classics, and then the stuff way out there past the ridge and the Standard Block. The potential for new problems is huge, although many of the most classic lines have been done.

Here is Tara trying her darnedest to stay on and prevent the barndoor on the very steep wall in the Sunset Outcrops area.
Green Mountain Sunset Outcrops Bouldering

The arete on the far left-hand side of the wall is also quite good. There are a number of ways to "do it" and depending on if you use any of the face or not, you are looking at anything from V4-8.
Bouldering Green Mountain Sunset Outcrops

This area has a number of fun, moderate to mid-hard problems in it. There are also a couple obscure, very hard undone lines on a couple boulders just a few feet away (one of the projects on Green Mountain still to be done exists down in the Blarney Stones...). But the real beauty of bouldering on Green Mountain - and especially up on the ridge - is perhaps the view you get of Boulder and the Flatirons when you top out.
Boulder and Flatirons from Green Mountain

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

November Telemark Footage: A Compilation of Early Season Shots

Well, November is almost over, and we have only gotten a couple powder days. Not a good start to the season. However, A-Basin and Keystone have done a great job of keeping the snow coverage on the few runs they have open in pretty good shape. No rocks, little ice, and some really fun stuff on the sides.

I see a lot of telemarkers just cruzing straight down the mountain. I get that for a few warm-up runs, but then I like to try and ride the mountain and see what it has to offer. I guess I draw on my previous pro-snowboard career when I approach telemarking at the resorts. For me, the middle of the run is the most boring part of the slope - unless I've got my race skis on and there is some really nice corduroy. Rather, I tend to weave in and out of the sides of the run, jumping back onto the run and landing switch, popping around the edge of the trees, having as much fun as possible in these early season conditions.

Well, let's all hope it snows and the steeps and powder open soon. Until then, here is some more pre-season footage (other early footage can be found here and here).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Classic Flatiron Bouldering Problems: New Gems on Old Stone

Last week we had hiked up to the Burgundy Boulder to do some old classics and some of the newer problems on its north side. On the way up I spotted some new stuff that looked like it could go. So on Monday Tara and I hiked back up to the base of Fern Canyon to check it out. Turns out, there is some really good bouldering to be done.
V10 Bouldering Flatirons
First, there is an really cool cave/slot problem. Climbing out of the dark cave on some side pulls, you have to match on a slopper, then head right as you move out of the slot. The crux comes as you begin to move right, eventually emerging from the dark and rounding the corner of the boulder. Real cool moves and such a rare problem.
Fern Canyon V10 Bouldering
Below, there is a really nice boulder that has several hard problems on it. There is a low traverse along the bottom, angling up left to right. You can choose to do the whole traverse until the top out at the end, or shoot straight up in a couple places. Either way, nothing is easy on this boulder. The traverse goes around V10ish, and choosing to bail earlier and shoot up to the lip doesn't make the problem any easier.
Fern Canyon Traverse V10 Boulder
All in all, this little conglomeration of boulders has a bunch of real nice test pieces ranging in the V7-V11 range. Fun movements, decent landings, and impeccable stone make these boulders a real gem when one thinks of places along the Front Range. Sorry, I don't know the names, but who cares. They get done so infrequently, each time feels like a FA.
Tara bouldering traverse Flatirons Colorado

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Night Trail Running: Discovering New Abilities, Ways of Knowing, and Experiences

It has been a really dry, warm fall along the Front Range of Colorado. The mountains are hurting for snow, and I'm already beginning to worry about our spring snowpack and water conditions for next summer. Until Ull pays us a visit and the snow falls, I've been busy getting my telemark legs in shape and maintaining my trail running legs. Although I run peaks and mountains mostly during the summer, I usually cut way back during the winter - my legs need the rest and I switch to my winter love - telemarking. But I don't drop trail running all together, still managing to get in some decent mileage.

Last night I went out to run my current winter trail running route - a nice training run that has some good vertical and mileage combined. Since we just had a full moon and the sky was cloudless as is typical during an Indian Summer night, I though I could run without my headlamp. Often during the summer I use a Petzl E47 PS Tikka Plus Four-LED Headlamp, Soft(thanks Wolfgang!) for the early morning mountain approaches or late evening descents. However, thinking that I could run the trail with only using the moonlight, I left it at home.
Petzl Tikka Headlamp
Long story short, the moon doesn't rise above the horizon for about two hours AFTER the sun goes down. That is, there is/was no moonlight to run by. Needless to say, I had to get back.

Trail running is a very special activity, one that I love to do. As any avid mountain or trail runner will tell you, there are times your state of reality changes. Sometimes it takes place in the form of time changing - an hour and a half slip by in a matter of seconds. Other times it is in terms of energy - all of a sudden your feet are light and your steps come effortlessly. On this night, this change in consciousness came in the form of vision.

Without my headlamp I had to shift my awareness to one based not on vision per se, but on a more subtle form of seeing that involved feeling the ground and imaging the terrain I was running over. Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking any New Age mumbo-jumbo. Science has started to back the alternate experiences trail and mountain runners have reported having (In fact, I presented a scientific paper on this back in 2004, which was subsequently published in the back of my guide book Front Range Colorado Alpine Trail Running Guide: Just The Basics for Only Those Who Are Hardcore).
Night Sky Trail Running
I've had this experience at other times, often after a long day in the mountains when I'm slogging back to the car in the dark. The ability is the same - a knowing that whatever the trail conditions are, I'll be just fine if I keep up my pace and let my body (not my mind) do the running.

I'm going to have the chance to see if I can't replicate this experience on a regular basis this winter, as my new winter training run (thanks for the memories Settlers-Sanitas loop) has no artificial light on it at all. It is 100% in the open space. As the only time I do my training run in the winter is after work, I'll be doing it numerous times in the dark. As the science seems to indicate, this experience is/was not a fluke, but rather an accessing of sorts to abilities and cognitions already within me. So really running has opened up a part of me that thus far I have been unable to access. Now I just have to be able to access this cognition at will.

Are there other stories of running opening up knew ways of knowing? New understandings? An awareness or ability that you never knew you had before? If so, why not share it in a comment.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bouldering in the Flatirons: The Burgundy Boulder

On Monday Tara and I went up into the Flatirons to do some more obscure bouldering. There are so many boulders that have undone lines on them around here it really is a wonder. I guess they only get climbed on by old-schoolers, people like me who like remote problems, or if they get press and some new hard line gets established (Black Ice anyone...). Perfect day, a little cool, not a soul around, and just a fun time.

The Burgundy Boulder, located in a meadow down at the base of Seal Rock is just such a piece of stone. Horan lists it in his various guides with a couple moderate grade problems on it. Nothing really worth hiking to, right? Wrong. The landing is perfect, the boulder has a bunch of fun moderates to warm up on, plus a couple really cool mid-range hard problems (V5-8). Besides those listed in the guides, there are also two really good problems on the north side of the boulder that are never noted.

Below is Tara on the classic V4/5 problem under the small roof.
Burgundy Boulder Flatirons Climbing
Here is Tara on the V7ish problem on the north side - the left variation.
Burgundy Bouldering Flatirons

Here I am on the same problem, but going right (slightly harder).
bouldering flatirons burgundy boulder

There are a couple of other gems in the same area. This is what makes Boulder such a great place... perfect stone, empty climbing spots, and a beautiful setting.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Early Season Backcountry Telemarking in Basque Spain

As I noted earlier, this season has been off to a slow start. This is especially true for the backcountry. I've been itching to get back up into the alpine after the trail running season came to a close a couple weeks ago, but we just have not had the snow cover. A few places have seen some coverage, but it really has not been worth it to skin in and get some good turns in. Hopefully soon. Instead, most telemarkers in Colorado have been relegated to the famous "White Strips of Death" that show up on A-Basin and Loveland every October. Luckily, that season is over, although it was fun (here is some footage from this year's A-Basin WSOD - telemarking switch keeps it interesting).

It looks like our friends over in the Basque country of Europe have beat us to some good backcountry off-piste telemarking this year. Here are a few photos from the Bask Telemark Klub on a recent outing in the Basque area mountains. Wish we had that kind of coverage here in Colorado. Soon...

Telemarking in Spain

Spain San Lorenzo Telemarking

Telemarking in San Lorenzo Spain

Friday, November 7, 2008

Ultra Runner Marhsall Ulrich Completes Run Across America

Marshall Ulrich ran for 52 days across America, through Death Valley, the mountains of Colorado, the snows of Pennsylvania, the colors of Central Park, the whole majesty of the nation and all its wicked weather.

As word spread Tuesday that he was setting all kinds of records, Manhattanites joined him on his final triumphant miles, down the middle of Broadway to City Hall as dark crept in on Election Day.

"People cheered me on, policemen on horses gave me the thumbs-up," Ulrich, 57, who lives in Idaho Springs, said today.
Ultra Runner Marshall Ulrich
"It was just after dark, about the time the polls closed, but there were so many lights I didn't need my night gear," Ulrich said. "We got to city hall and past security. I finished with my wife. Without her, I couldn't have finished it, or even started it.

"She's been an extraordinary person and wife and friend."

Ulrich, who has run more than 100 races of more than 100 miles, easily smashed the 50-and-older record for running across the nation. For good measure, he also broke the record for 40-year-olds and above.

He thinks it's the third or fourth fastest time ever. The record for the 3,043-mile trek is 48 days set by Frank Giannino in 1980. Giannino was there at the finish to congratulate Ulrich.

Ulrich ran for himself, but also for a United Way campaign to battle obesity in the United States. He's not yet sure how much money he raised, but is sure that he raised some awareness.

He started at San Francisco City Hall in mid-September, weighing in at 162 lbs.

He finished 52 days later, having lost just 4 lbs.

Read more about Ulrich and his amazing run here or check out his blog here.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Undone Boulder Problems in Eldorado Canyon State Park

With this never ending Indian Summer we are having along the Front Range, the climbing and bouldering conditions have been amazing (the telemark skiing is not so good but fun - check out A-Basin switch telemark footage). As a result, Tara and I have been exploring some areas that see little to no traffic, but have a ton of potential for new lines, new problems, new routes. Eldorado Canyon Bouldering ProblemGreen Mountain is one spot - boulders are everywhere and lines just seem to pop out. A lot have been done (check out Colorado Boulderingand Colorado Bouldering 2- the new book by Horan is controversial and should be avoided).

Boulder Problem in Eldorado Canyon
Another spot is Eldorado Canyon State Park. Again, the Musicals have been climbed on for a number of years, and so have the Metaphysicals. This is the place where Suspension of Disbelief is (V12ish) and Midnight Frightening (V11) are located. But what about other blocks? We found some amazing looking lines on our adventure. Pictures don't do justice, but here are a couple to get people psyched on the potential.

This block is amazing. Slightly overhanging with a flat landing, who could ask for more. However, the real winner is up the slope further...
Eldorado Bouldering Problem

The cave has several good lines coming out of it. A rare formation for sandstone, this block resembles something you would find in the Park more then Eldo. We worked on several problems on independent lines. There are also several potential link-ups and eliminates, depending on where you start and where you come out. Good climbing, sustained movement, and an unobstructed view of the Continental Divide.
Eldorado Bouldering Problems
And the backside is what really holds the gem. Although this photo does not do it justice, there is a clean line going straight up this slightly overhanging face. Yet to be done. Any takers?

I don't know if these boulders have "official" names. There is no evidence of chalk, the moss is thick, and if anyone has climbed on them, it was done by the ghost of Horan in the 70s.

It is exciting to know that after climbing in the Colorado Rocky Mountains for over 16 years lines like these are still to be had. Anyone care to hike...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Skiing Lanin Volcano in Chile: A Successful Descent

The season is off to a slow start here in the States. Although Colorado has A-Basin and Loveland open (and rumors that Keystone is opening next week), why not enjoy some photos and stories from our friends down south.

Down in Chile, our friend at Wagner Custom Skis and Snowboards just did a very nice descent of the Lanin Volcano.

Here is a preview...
Lanin Volcano Chile
An unsuccessful attempt in 2001, illusive yet again in 2006, and topping the list during the years in between. At 3776 meters Volcan Lanin was consuming my thoughts. This time around, in the beginning of October 2008, I would go for it again. As the chairs stopped spinning in Las Lenas and after spending some quality ski time with my brother, it was time to return to the Patagonia region with only a week remaining during a month long ski adventure. Traveling from Las Lenas through the night to the Argentine resort town of San Martin de los Andes I was inspired again with a glimpse of the volcano from the bus. Arriving in San Martin, only two hours drive from the base of Lanin, the weather waiting game began.
Skiing Lanin Volcano Chile
Staying in the hostel Puma, it was not long before I found some like-minded individuals keen on an attempt of the volcano. Spending only a few rainy, windy days around the region we made the most of it seeking out hot springs, I was happy for the rest after the previous week spent in Lenas. Eventually we were presented with a small yet promising window in the weather. It would happen the day before I absolutely had to catch a bus back to Buenos Aires in order to catch a flight back to the states.

The true adventure began when I loaded up ‘radio flyer’, a small red Suzuki samurai, with Nick Frazee, an acquaintance from Las Lenas, and Drew Friedmann, telemark skier and proud car owner from Chicago. Cramming our gear and ourselves into the rig we began driving toward the volcano. We didn’t make it very far before the sound of metal on metal and smell of burning brakes had us a bit worried. Turns out we had blown a wheel bearing on ‘radio flyer’. Two or Three hours of drinking mate with the mechanic, modifying bearing components and disconnecting the rear breaks, and we were on the road again.

Read the rest here....

Friday, October 31, 2008

Switch Telemark Video: Early Season A-Basin Footage

We have been riding (telemarking) A-Basin so far this year. They have two runs open, plus the park. Not much, but for October you really can't complain. The snow has been pretty good - hard in the mornings and then soft in the afternoons.

It's been a great time practicing new tricks, getting the legs back in shape, and messing around. Once the rest of the mountains open up - and especially the backcountry - I have a feeling that this is going to be a great season.

Here is some early video footage of us telemarking at A-Basin.

Any other crew going up there? I'm always there in the line for first chair.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Green Mountain Bouldering: Working On a New Highball

Highball boulder problems are kinda a thing into themselves. Sure, they are just a really tall boulder problem (or a really short route), but the head games are all different.

First, unless you set up a toprope, there is no way to suss out the top moves. Every time you have to start from the ground up, working your way as you go (I believe this was/is John Gill's moto as well). Similarly, because you are not roped in, but easily getting off the deck, the mental component of the route really comes into play.
Green Mountain Highball Boulder Problem
Yesterday Tara and I went to try out a really nice highball problem that I had noted last fall. Located on the backside of Green Mountain in the Boulder Flatirons, this problem is really a classic.

Start on the arete, pull up with your right hand to a good hold, then reach out with your left to a good sidepull. From here, get a high right heelhook, reach across to a nice three finger hold, and then pop up to a small left hand gaston. From here you are well off the deck and teetering on the final couple crux moves. The top out is 20+ feet off the deck, and the problem does not let up.

It didn't go, but I got pretty close. I'll need to come in with a couple more pads - I only had one Metolius with me and after taking about 10 falls 10 feet off the ground, I had enough. The hike is about 30 minutes, so it is not that bad but long enough to make you think twice.

Lots of other good lines waiting to be done right in the same area. We need some of the strong kids to get inspired by the vast potential still waiting in the Flatirons (some are in the forthcoming Rocky Mountain Highball movie). There are still tons of undone, very hard boulder problems waiting to be had.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Winter Training Run: Trail Running Out in Eldorado

Well, fall has finally hit here in B-Town. This fall we have been blessed with cool nights, warm days, and a ton of perfect weather. It has been a great fall for trail running and climbing - from up high on the Peak-to-Peak and in Rocky Mountain National Park to down lower in the Flatirons and along the I-70 corridor. Now, however, the seasons are a changing. We've had a small snow in the mountains, and most trails above 10,000 feet are shut down for the season. Besides, the telemark skiing season is just warming up and the winter climbing season is fast approaching. So now is the time to set the winter training run.
Boulder Colorado Winter Trail Running Route
Every fall I try and establish a good trail run that I train on during the winter. By setting, I mean that I run it a couple times during the fall to establish what my normal training pace is on it at that time. Coming off another successful season in the mountains, with over 47 peaks run or climbed this season, it is a good way to measure my status over the winter and to see where I am at come spring.

This winter I'm running out in the Eldorado area. Starting at the South Boulder Creek Trail, run that up to the Mesa Trail. Continue up the Mesa Trail west past the turn-off to the Big Bluestem all the way into Shadow Canyon. At the top of Shadow Canyon, cross the little stream and start heading back east. This trail winds around and then drops you back onto the Mesa Trail. Hang a right, head back south along the Mesa Trail, and retrace your run back to the Big Bluestem turn-off. From here, follow the Big Bluestem out into the grasslands again and back to your car.

Total time for training purposes: 1 hour, 10 minutes. Miles: ~7.6 Elevation: A good amount.
Trail Running Sunset
This is not a super fast time, nor is it a slow time. It's about how fast I do it with 65% effort - just perfect for training over the winter.

So that is the Winter Training Route. Not only is it a beautiful run - today I saw rabbits, a hawk, a herd of mule deer, a family of ducks - but it has a good climb in it.

On the way out this is the view I was blessed with after.

Anyone else got winter training runs in the area?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Don't Touch The Glass: Flagstaff Boulder Problem Goes

Flagstaff is the local bouldering gym for many a Boulder climber. With over 600 different boulder problems, the place can keep any hardman busy for some time. Traverses, link-ups, elimination problems, sit starts, and the like, Flagstaff has something for everyone. Well, almost everyone...

Although Flagstaff is great, it often gets overrun by CU students, drunk highschool kids, and noobs by early afternoon. Morning is the time to go. Quite, cold, and empty are the qualities of Flag on a good day.
Don't Touch the Glass Boulder Problem Flagstaff
The other morning I finally sent a really good project called "Don't Touch the Glass." Called V8, it is really hard to judge in terms of grades simply because it involves three moves. The first is pulling off the ground. The second is throwing for the lip. The third is sticking the lip, matching, and then pulling over. Simple right? Not so. As far as I know, it's been done 3 or 4 times: Will Lemare, Peter Beal, and Peter Jones.

Located on the backside of Nook's Rock, it is right next to Window Shopper, a V11. The Nook's area has one of the higher concentration of hard problems on Flag: Don't Touch the Glass (V8), Window Shopper (V11), Butt Slammer (V?), Valhalla (V7), Nooks Traverse (V8/9), Battaglia's Bottom (V7/8), Cryptic Magician (V7), and others.

The fall and winter months are great for climbing in the Flatirons: dry, cold, and not many people. Next up, some cool routes I found deep in Eldorado...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A-Basin Opening Day: Telemark Switch

A-Basin Opening Day

October 15, 2008

It was pretty crowded on opening day, but what would you expect? Only one run open (the infamous White Strip of Death), and lots of people out there getting their winter legs. Nonetheless, it was well worth it. The season has started... and it looks to be good.

About Me

Who is the Rocky Mountain Raider? Good question. I'm a native of Colorado, and have been running, climbing, and telemark skiing in the Rocky Mountains and beyond for my entire life.

I grew up cross country skiing on the trails around Brainard Lake outside of Ward, Colorado. Now I'm a serious telemark skier who loves to haul big fat skis into the backcountry.

I've been climbing and bouldering for over 16 years - I prefer undone, obscure, no-name places and routes. The more remote, the better.

Oh ya, I'm also a big mountain trail runner. Back in 1995 I held the record for the fastest person to run all of Colorado's Fourteeners (14ners), completing the marathon run in 16 days, 13 hours, and 43 minutes. Of course, I didn't have a support crew, nor did I have multiple cars, drivers, and the like. I think it is still one of the fastest times for a solo, unsupported attempt at all of the 14ers.

I wrote a book called "Colorado Front Range Alpine Trail Running Guide" back in 2003. It is now out of print, but a few coveted copies can still be found in used bookstores.

Currently, I live in Golden with my wife, who also likes to come on mountain adventures. That is the quick and dirty. Maybe later I'll add more, but right now the mountains are calling!

You can email me at: or snail mail me:

PO Box 17712
Golden, CO 80402