Denali Training — Satphone Bloggin’


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | April 3, 2010      

We spent last night out at 11,300 feet up behind Aspen Mountain ski area. It could have been colder, but some gusty wind gave it the edge. Louie and I slogged our pulk sleds up from the valley. I feel like a 10th Mountain Division vet I met once, who said “after the 10th, I vowed to never ski uphill again.” I’ll paraphrase that and say “after Denali, I’ll never ever ever strap on a sled again.” Following is the report and photos I sent via my satphone from inside our tent.

Backcountry skiing

Five of us were along for this mission. We set up two Hilleberg tents along with our Golite 'circus tent' for our dining hall. The wind blew a bit and we were delighted about how quiet the tents were, and that was without triangulating the guy lines.

Slogging with a pig isn’t my favorite mountain recreation. I’d rather eat pork than be tortured by it. But hauling a cargo sled is the best way to move poundage up a flat glacier, so we tow the “pig” during our practice trip so we’re ready for the big one.

Backcountry skiing

Louie slogs with pork up Little Annie area south of Aspen, Hayden Peak in background. While doing this kind of training, you just have to ignore things like Hayden, otherwise you'd skip the drudge work.

Problem is, the pig puts some weird stresses on your body. The trace rods anchor to your hip belt and dig into your pelvis, and no matter how hard you try to walk smooth you still get a little jerky push/pull as the momentum of the sled doesn’t match your body motion.

But you progress if you keep your nose down and think good thoughts. In that way, Louie and I did the 4 mile 2,400 vertical foot slog up the Little Annie Road to our campsite here at 11,300 feet on Richmond Ridge behind Aspen Mountain ski resort.

We’ve got two Hilleberg tents set up, myself and Louie in one, Joe, Tyler, Colby in the other. And we’ve of course got our huge Golite “circus” tent set up as the dining hall. It was windy last night, but not a gale. Now, as morning light glows our red tent walls, it’s still and I can hear fresh snow pattering as we get what sounds like a decent accumulation.

Cooking for backcountry skiing

Inside the dining hall, cuisine worthy of Joe's soon to happen wedding reception.

Seven people need a lot of water, and all your water on Denali comes from melting snow. So we're carrying 4 XGK EX stoves and large enough stove boards to gang two or even three stoves under one pot for super fast melting and boiling.

Seven people need a lot of water, and all your water on Denali comes from melting snow. So we're carrying 4 XGK EX stoves and large enough stove boards to gang two or even three stoves under one pot for super fast melting and boiling.

Main purpose of this trip is to dial gear. To that end, I can see that having a chair system for blogging in the tent is essential. Also need to work on my electronics a bit more, such as adding a barrel connector to my Brunton battery connector splitter. Also will need thin gloves with the fingers cut out, for typing.

We practiced some speedy snowcave building. In this technique, you start with a wall that two or three people can dig side-by-side into, then after hollowing out most of your cave you wall up the opening with snow blocks and dig a lower elevation door portal. Amazing how fast this is compared to the mole burrow technique.

We practiced some speedy snowcave building. In this 'longwall' technique, you start with a wall that two or three people can dig side-by-side into, then after hollowing out most of your cave you wall up the opening with snow blocks and dig a lower elevation door portal. Amazing how fast this is compared to the mole burrow technique.



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Comments

14 Responses to “Denali Training — Satphone Bloggin’”

  1. russ April 3rd, 2010 9:30 pm

    Lou, what kind of footwear (booties or whatever) will you wear around camp?

  2. Jonathan April 3rd, 2010 10:54 pm

    I hate the herky jerky sled hauling too. Try putting bungee loops between your hip belt and the sled rods to smooth things out.

  3. Lou April 4th, 2010 7:30 am

    Russ, we all have Neos overboots in which we can wear either our ski boot liners or a bootie. The Neos are beefy and versitile, perfect when your other shoe is a ski boot. The Neos are well made.

    http://www.wildsnow.com/2217/neos-overshoes-backcountry/

  4. John Dough April 4th, 2010 8:03 am

    What pulk sled were you guys using? Granite gear makes one worth looking into if you haven’t already. It has the sweetest suspension I’ve seen, plus a few more bells and whistles that make it a pig hauling machine. BTW I love those Hilleberg tents. Any idea what the weight is on them?d

  5. Lou April 4th, 2010 8:17 am

    JD, we are using several Wilderness Engineering sleds and a couple of Mountain Smiths. Due to budget, we can’t run out and buy any sleds. All are customized with crossed traces, flexible hose connector for traces, etc. All that remains is for us to rig a connector to our Cilo Gear packs that has less play. The packs have a connector built in, all we have to do is use something better than a caribiner, perhaps something like Granite Gear.

  6. John Dough April 4th, 2010 8:23 am

    Yeah, I pulled a mountainsmith’s around for a few years using the carabiner to the belt technique. Definitely not optimal but it gets you there. I’m sure you guys will come up with some fancy rigging. Have you tried incorporating Dynafit toe pieces yet? 😉

  7. Joel Gay April 4th, 2010 8:36 am

    When pulling fully loaded sleds in steep terrain, we had terrible problems with rollovers until we started cross-bracing the poles. The first time was with spruce boughs. After that, a trip to the welding shop and we were in business. You guys might not need that on Denali, but it’s minimal weight and a bomber system.

  8. Lou April 4th, 2010 10:31 am

    We just cross the poles in an X, bind at the X, and load with weight low and have not had any problems. That said, we don’t usually sledge in truly steep terrain. In that case, it’s time to either load up the 70 liter pack or do a double carry.

  9. Ellen Miller April 4th, 2010 12:29 pm

    Way to do the preparation and training guys! The key to successful mountaineering expeditions. Sometimes I wonder which I prefer: training for the climbs, or the expeditions themselves. Good luck on Denail, you will love it. I’ll be cheering you on!

  10. Eeva April 4th, 2010 12:56 pm

    Gotta love towing “pigs” around, I have named mine Shamu. How are you rigging your sleds in preparation for a possible crevasse fall? I am always interested finding out how different folks solve this scenario.

  11. Jamie Wolter April 4th, 2010 2:46 pm

    Used to haul pigs all the time while working for COBS. Used an old chest harness worn backwards and connected to the pig with some cord and some bungee material. Billy Roos and I came up with the idea really helped on steep terrain and helped to smooth the pull eliminated some of the jerky motion, used a waist belt as well. I am sure you could rig and attach this to you pack we just strapped the pack on top of the pig. Worth a try we had really good luck with the system. Good luck!

  12. chris davenport April 6th, 2010 2:05 pm

    way to get after the practice boys. You guys are gonna have a blast . I just got back from Ak and did a little recon trip into the Alaska Range. i’ll send you some pics of the very icy looking West Butt.

  13. Dave DePodwin April 23rd, 2010 7:25 pm

    Lou,
    Where did you score those nifty ‘stove boards’ pictured in your CO Denali-trraining trip pix? I ck’d the MSR site but do not see. Did u hand fabricate these? If so, what gage stainless, and what dimensions? I see u said u ganged the stoves for max. heat and water capacity output, nifty. Dave DePo.

  14. Lou April 24th, 2010 5:58 am

    Dave, you haven’t been reading Wildsnow the required amount. You are busted.

    http://www.wildsnow.com/2706/stove-boards-101-or-102/

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