My buddy Steve and I were at it again this year racing the Elk Mountain Grand Traverse. Last year was our first go around and this year could hardly have been more different.
First off we did not do the traverse from Crested Butte to Aspen. Due to high snowfall amounts and the associated avalanche hazard we did the "reverse" route which starts and ends in Crested Butte.
Last year we raced under a new moon while this year the moon was nearly full which meant we could see the fine mountain scenery the entire night. Here the moon leers over the start of the race (pic stolen from the internet).
Another distinct difference was the cold. Unlike last year's balmy weather we skied in very cold conditions. There were several bonfires along the route, but these were a mixed blessing. Their warmth was welcome, but when we left, the coldness seemed doubly harsh.
The cold and our inexperience in the cold led to frozen water bottles and bladders. We managed to drink enough for the most part, but we spent a lot of extra time fussing.
Another problem with the cold is that the skin glue does not work as well. Early in the race I "threw" a skin which promptly collected snow and became useless. Fortunately my back up pair had better glue and although I threw one later in the race it kept sticking well enough.
The "reverse" is a completely different animal than the traverse. Not only is the route different (although it is the same for the first several hours), but the type of skiing is much different too.
The "reverse" requires a lot more technical skinning, particularly in the latter half of the race. Steep kick turns, side stepping, and overcoming logs, branches, and rocks were all part of the mix unlike last year. Furthermore, the trickiest sections come in the last four miles when strength, focus and patience are waning.
The descents were more demanding too with pretty wild "bobsled" runs down trails and narrow roads made all the more challenging in the dark with a fading headlamp!
Perhaps one of the best things compared to last year was that I felt good and healthy. Last year was a difficult ordeal as I had remnants of a respiratory infection, a queasy stomach, and lacked energy.
This time I could truly enjoy what we accomplished!
Tough and rewarding.
Thanks for being a great partner Steve!