As morning sun illuminated Castle Peak like a military laser firing a warning shot, the unholy stench of coyote piss rose from my Jeep like a parody of macho cologne. Just moments ago I’d dribbled the stuff liberally, figuring it might work as marmot repellent. But since ancient days when middle age plagues were spread by rats, rodents have never been controlled by man, only endured. Today would be no different.
We shouldered our packs and started up the trail towards Montezuma Basin and what looked like decent summer backcountry skiing. Twenty steps from the Jeep I turned and watched as two marmots casually approached the vehicle, stepped over the miasmatic musk barrier like it wasn’t even there, then did pullups on my axles and disappeared into the undercarriage looking for snacks such as water lines, radiator caps, seat upholstery$$$, and other “cuisine de marmoo.” DANG!
To avoid expensive damage we cancelled our climb and stayed on marmot guard duty close to the truck. We used a nearby snow patch for testing the Marker Dukes again, then headed home. Nice to get out, but having our day controlled by rodents was not ideal. At least I didn’t catch bubonic plague (no symptoms yet, anyway).
Next trip I’ll try moth balls and some kind of fencing. A small game license and .22 rifle might help as well. Problem is, I’ve heard marmots taste yucky.
(Notes: Vehicles with enclosed cabins are less worry than our open Jeep — at least a marmot attack isn’t going to trash your interior features. But one hears frequent stories of marmots trashing hoses and wires to the point of stranding a truck at parking. We’ve noticed the marmots of Montezuma tend to spend time under every vehicle parked up there — if you’ve been there you might want to inspect your vehicle for rodent damage. As for repellent, the stuff we used was “Coyote Trapping Lure,” which is supposed to be coyote urine scent and thus repel coyote prey animals such as marmots. Perhaps we need another version.)
|Main mission today was more testing of Marker Duke binding in climbing mode for backcountry skiing (shown above with climbing lift engaged), with comparo to Fritschi and Naxo. I was concerned that with the Duke binding positioned rearward for free-heel climbing and touring, the ski might be tip heavy which makes uphill kick turns difficult. The ski still dropped at the tail, but just barely. A bit of snow weight on the ski tip shovel would cause it to drop more at the tip — perhaps too much. Something to keep in mind when comparing bindings. With heel lift deployed in either high or low position the Duke can be toured in the forward locked position, thus changing the balance point and causing your ski tails to drop more easily during a kick turn. This doesn’t work with heel-flat-on-ski (no lifter) mode, but one doesn’t use that mode for climbing anyway. Conclusion, for climbing with Duke consider favoring use of the heel lift and locking the binding plate in the forward position (as if locked for downhill, only heel latch is not engaged).
Other Duke notes: Heel lift can be moved with ski pole while you’re in the bindings, though doing so is hit-and-miss. If you’re flexible you can reach down with your hand and deploy the lift. While traversing in touring mode the binding is torsionally solid compared to Naxo, and we like that.
|As our ski options were limited, we took a short walk from the road up to the old Montezuma Mine portal. You can look into the caved-in part of the portal, and still smell the flinty odor of hard rock and mine water. Above is what it looks like to the camera held into the tiny opening at arms length.|
|Scott took the controls as the marmots chased us down the road. Look out you brown pests, we’ll be back.|