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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.
|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.|
|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.|
|Lisa and Sue after our second climb and ski.|
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain. For more about Lou, please see his personal website at https://www.loudawson.com/ (Blogger stats: 5 foot 10 inches (178 cm) tall, 160 lbs (72574.8 grams).