I parked out at the end of the snow plowing and had a relaxing warm up road ski to the lower trailhead. Good refreeze, calm winds, clear skies, excellent snow coverage - it was going to be another good day. I left the trailhead at 7:11 and was immediately hit with some residual fatigue from touring the previous day. I kept the pace well out of the pain cave, and made good time to the summit of Gash Point.
|Fast conditions near the summit of Gash Point.|
|Ski tracks on the north face.|
|Back at the trailhead. A little haggard but psyched.|
The tour: Clock starts and stops at the lower Gash trailhead. Skiers have to summit Gash Point proper and Sky Pilot peaks and ski all the way down to Bear Lake at least once.
Splits (approximate): Upper trailhead 0.27; Gash Point summit 1.37; transition to Sky Pilot climb 1.58; Sky Pilot summit 2.38; Bear Lake 3.18; Start final ski out; 4.11. Trailhead and rest 4.32. Car and beer approx. 5.0.
Philosophy: It is completely understandable to question the desire to do tours like this for speed. Racing the clock is admittedly a silly and arbitrary game, and running around the hills in spandex and skinny skis is not as sexy as sending powder lines. That being said, speed touring provides another way to experience the backcountry, and the ability to go fast and long is rewarding on many levels. And as much as it hurts, touring quickly through the mountains is liberating. Kind of like flying. Except you get GU instead of complimentary beverages. And you can keep your shoes on. And while you may enjoy the ride, you don't get to sit back.
Regrets: Skiing along the skin track in search of my camera left fairly ugly ski tracks on an otherwise beautiful mountain.
Equipment: Dynafit Broad Peak skis with race bindings, Mohair mix skins, Dynafit TLT 5 boots, ski crampons, lycra racing suit, racing pack, 2 servings Perpetum (thanks Colin), 2 GUs, 1 liter of water from Bear Lake.
Equipment not used: ski hook, Voile ski strap, sunscreen (left in car. whoops)
Room for improvement: Conditions were fast, but they could be faster with a drier skin track to Gash Point (better glide) and a residual skin track of any kind beyond Gash. Some dense powder on the north face and glop and ice on the return added a few minutes. Slow transitions with time for pictures and donning a parka added a few minutes. I lost composure a bit on the last climb. Better fueling and drive would have saved a few minutes. Having a partner to keep a brighter pace would save a few minutes. True race skis would shave off a few minutes. Finally, touring 8,000+ vertical feet the previous day was not good for peak performance. It would be reasonable to find at least 10 minutes in there somewhere, but a sub-4 hour Sky Pilot would be pretty stout. This is probably a speed record for the tour, not that anyone is counting. But maybe not, anyone who has done it faster let me know. Or give 'er a go yourself and let me know how it goes!