The race was rough and I experienced cramping early on that I then fought for the next 20 miles of the race. Much of this was due to an early and fast ascent-descent-ascent. By the time I was cresting Middle Cottonwood’s Saddle Pass for the second time (mile 12), my quads ceased working as I had expected them to. This was awfully disconcerting and it took me a few minutes to get going again. I still somehow held on and managed a sub-8 hour finish despite the cramp troubles. I kept the pace as manageable as possible and stuck to a good regiment of GU, GU Roctane, Bolt Chews, electrolyte pills, and water. There was mud, blood, snow, sweat, abundant stream crossings, wildflowers, wildlife, amazing volunteers, and great company. Even a stout 7-year old Scott Creel 50K record was broken by a very fast, Jim Walmsley of Black Eagle, MT! (results here)
Over the last few days Julia and I have spent a night in the Yellowstone backcountry and then for the New Year, an overnight at the Fox Creek cabin in the northern Gallatin range. Both trips have been via metal-edged XC skis with lightweight packs over easy to advanced terrain. For such outings we’re both on Fischer S-Bound series skis with 56mm NNN manual bindings paired with this season’s Fischer Offtrack 3 BC boots. These particular setups do have their shortcomings (flimsy plastic bindings, lack of much downhill control) but the compromises and limitations are OK so long as they are used in the proper conditions. The fore-aft efficiency of movement with these XC ski rigs is great though and for that we are appreciative. We probably aren’t going to push them too far based on previous breakage issues – hence an eight mile YNP round trip and a twelve mile ski to Fox Creek and back.
The overnight in Yellowstone was quite sublime with us experiencing a nice range of weather from bluebird to blowing and snowing. And waking to the sound of wolves howling is fairly unique in the lower 48. Skiing amongst huge bison is also quite fun, until a small herd sneaks up on you. While skiing along the Slough Creek trail, which is also a bison freeway, I joked that it be funny if we encountered a herd along the narrow corridor of a trail that we were attempting to ski up. And sure enough, on the way down I turned around only to see a bison jam directly behind Julia. I can only imagine what those huge beasts were thinking upon seeing us flailing down their path on skinny skis! So we politely stepped aside behind some convenient boulders and watched as they passed by to the valley. Not your everyday traffic jam to say the least.
Our next backcountry outing was on New Year’s eve to the Fox Creek Forest Service cabin which is located six or more miles out the S. Cottonwood Creek drainage near Bozeman. Unless you really have to, don’t pay for the cabin is my recommendation for future parties. I’ve stayed in plenty of cabins – hell, I grew up in one, but this one takes the cake. Not in a good way. From the broken windows, rancid cots, and the overflowing outhouse, to the likelihood of hantavirus and the highly hazardous wood stove, it was not worth a red cent. But the experience is most of it, and we somehow made it work with a crackling fire, homemade mulled wine (!), homemade fish pie and garlic baguette, chocolate, and some bubbly to ring in the 2014 New Year. Here’s to hoping that you all had a lovely 2013 and wishing everyone a wonderful 2014! Keep calm, keep crushing, keep pushing, and keep carrying on.
These fluctuations in weather have allowed for a mix of skiing, ice climbing, and even some high mountain running. It has been absolutely great. November has yielded a few hundred meters of water ice, over 13K vertical feet of human-powered skiing and over 20K vert of trail running so far. Julia and I have even managed to put in some miles on the XC skis! It’s been a productive month and an awesome transition into what may soon be winter here in Montana. Words often don’t describe…
For just over two years I have been involved in product testing, feedback, and the design process at Hyperlite Mountain Gear in Biddeford, Maine. This has been a rewarding and fulfilling experience, as HMG is pioneering new ground and questioning the status quo in the outdoor industry. If you aren’t familiar, they are providers of lightweight, durable cuben fiber products for efficient movement in the outdoors. HMG is part of a small, but influential group of USA-based manufacturers that are pushing the envelope regarding how we think of gear.
I have now proudly been a HMG ambassador for the last year and thought it was the right time to summarize a year of mountain use with their products. Summer is coming to a close here in Montana, and it is a perfect time for reflection. HMG has been a pleasure to work with – kindly responding to feedback along the way and showing this in revised/often improved products. I wish them continuing success in all of their ventures!
This pictorial representation begins in August 2012 and continues with images from every month of the year, until Aug 2013. A huge thanks to Mike and Dan St. Pierre, along with the rest of the crew at HMG! I humbly present to you a full year of my backcountry use with their mighty-fine gear:
Twelve months and many hundreds of miles of use in the backcountry. Thus far, well done HMG. Thanks for pushing the envelope…and please do keep up the good work!