Randonnee Gear Makes Top 10 in Elk Mountains Traverse (Wick and Sullivan Take 6th) — and a short Hayden trip report

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This post by WildSnow.com blogger  

Bryan Wickenhauser and Eric Sullivan made history today when they placed sixth in the Elk Mountains Traverse race using their randonnee race gear (Trab skis and Scarpa F1 boots) instead of the usual nordic gear favored by past year’s race winners.

Ted Mahon (winner of coed team division along with Christy Sauer, first woman to cross the finish line) told me that Wick and Sullivan were in first place through the Star Pass section of the route, where the real backcountry skiing part of the race is. According to Wick (see comments) the duo lost time when they got lost in a ground blizzard. They retained their lead to nearly the end of the race, only to be passed by teams on nordic race gear as the route transitioned into the long nordic skate section that follows Richmond Ridge into Aspen. Spread in the winners pod was 1st place at 8:46, with 6th place at 9:14, thus the pioneer rando boys ended up about a half hour off the winners. All I can say is, Bryan and Eric, you are awesome!

What’s interesting is this shows all the race organizers have to do is add a bit more technical terrain in place of the nordic skating (this year’s Traverse started on the Crested Butte ski area), and the race can evolve to the “backcountry” ski event I’m sure it was originally envisioned as. More, as randonnee race gear improves we will no doubt see more of this equipment mix no matter what the course route.

(By the way, please know I respect this race as well as the skills and gear choices of all the winners — but I’ve always felt it could be more of a mountaineering race. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it.)

We climbed and skied Hayden Peak today (south of Aspen). The winds were brutal during our trip though beautiful spring powder skiing made it worthwhile. While we were up there I was thinking about the Traverse participants and how they had to slog through such weather without the powder reward. Reports indicate conditions were indeed harsh and they had another high attrition race. If that’s the case, it indicates how poorly prepared many of the Traverse racers are, perhaps because they assume it’s just a nordic skate through the mountains when the race is actually quite tough. Thus, the race organizers might indeed consider making the event even more “real” by adding challenging terrain that inspires the racers to show up with the gear and skills for Colorado backcountry skiing. In other words, by making the race harder they might actually make it easier for people to finish, and perhaps even safer.

Aspen Times race report.

Denver Post 1st person backcountry skiing race report.

Hayden Peak backcountry skiing.
Lisa on Hayden Peak today (Louie in background). Conditions were fairly extreme and we could only imagine what the Traverse racers were dealing with. We did the complete Hayden climb today plus an extra lap on the good powder section above timberline, for something like a 5,000 vert day. For fun, we figured out the total Dawson muscle powered verts for the week: 44,000. We were feeling bofo about that until we remembered Greg Hill does that in a day on his own. Oh well, perhaps we need more calcium or something.

Hayden Peak backcountry skiing.
Sue today. With two gals along why take photos of the guys? As bundled up as we were the clothing style points were not accumulating, but Sue looks good nonetheless since she knows how to work her skis like a pro.

Hayden Peak backcountry skiing.
Lisa and Sue after our second climb and ski.

Hayden trip report with route photo.

Another Hayden trip report.

Comments

7 Responses to “Randonnee Gear Makes Top 10 in Elk Mountains Traverse (Wick and Sullivan Take 6th) — and a short Hayden trip report”

  1. Wick March 31st, 2007 7:45 pm

    Lou – It wasn’t the gear that lost the race for us, we got lost in a ground blizzard on Gold Hill after Taylor Pass, and gave away nearly all our lead to a hungy bunch on Nordic gear at the Barnard Hut (for Richmond Ridge) on nearly perfect nordic conditions (along with the Snowmoblie whoopty doo’s.) We’ll use it next year again. Powder shots off Star Pass were worth it! It’s a great race folks!

  2. steve March 31st, 2007 7:47 pm

    Great to here about the rando gear in top ten!

    I have done that race twice (tough) and often wonder how 5lb rando kit would prevail. Good on those guys for giving it a go. My guess is that timewise, it’s over an hour between 1st and 6th. Just a guess though, it will be interesting to see.

    Nice one Lou!

  3. Gareth April 1st, 2007 4:47 am

    A message from the other side of the Atlantic – We’ve (Morzine / Avoriaz in France) just hosted the European Ski Mountaineering Champs, I wished I’d videoed some of the great technique exhibited on the flats – the glide the leaders were achieving was incredible. Makes me wonder how they would have got along in the race mentioned here. The organisers really pushed the boat out with some of the terrain covered as well, some of the faces they were sent down are rarely tackled by the locals! The winner of the “vertical race” managed 1050m (3444 ft) in a staggering 40 min – that’s an average of 26m/min (86ft/min). The organisers have made the press photos available to the public, I have put some on Flickr – http://www.flickr.com/photos/endlessride/sets/72157600037079369/

  4. Sky April 1st, 2007 12:17 pm

    “With two gals along why take photos of the guys?”

    ‘Cuz she won’t ski for my camera! Boo hoo…

  5. brian harder April 2nd, 2007 10:16 pm

    Congrats to Wick and Sulli. I kind of figured it would go well for you Bryan, as we talked. A lot of people laughed when I suggested rally gear but clearly it’s not a bad choice. With a little luck in the white out the result may have even been better. As Lou would like, a little more vertical change and the gear would clearly be the right choice, hands down. My wife and I will give it a go next year on the same set up.

    Nicely done!

  6. jamesy April 5th, 2007 10:42 am

    my pal and i are planning on the traverse in basically the same set up as sully. f1, dynafit and maybe ski trabs. skis are the only thing that may be different. I dont know about top 10! but we are going to see what we can do!

    so, wick and sulli didnt win the race in rando gear in 06? I did not know that.

    congrats to all racers this year, way to beat the ground blizzard!

  7. jamesy May 10th, 2007 9:48 am

    Boy, I need to get my history straight… anyway, Sully and Penny used nordic gear in 2006? I would have to assume from the posting.

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