Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Jed's Annual "Bike-to-Bag" 2010

Most might already know the whole story- Every year I've lived in Bishop, once a year in fact, I've ridden my bike from town, up into the mountains, and then skied up and down a new-to-me peak. Bike to the mountains, "bag" a peak... Bike to Bag. As part of the tradition, I've 'blogged' each year on the website. I started my backcountry skiing career on telemark-style skis and this website and its "residents", helped me out quite a bit early on- still does, for that matter. Entries from 2003 and 2004 disappeared when that site was hacked. If you're interested in the pattern, and really bored, check out my Trip Reports (TR's) of ever increasing length at these links: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010.
The bike ride starts out in the dark, takes way too long, and almost always feels like the hardest part. Not this year, however. Ample recent training on the bike, mainly with Annie and her knee recovery, plus an ambitious ski-portion plan, made the ski part of the day definitely feel like the crux.

So far, with each of my eight bike trips to the mountains, I've been able to climb and ski a peak new to me. Eventually, should I be fortunate enough to do this in future years, I'll have to repeat old peaks. Especially if I do multiple peaks each trip, like I did this time.
My first peak was the Keyhole Plateau- I climbed up it's SE Side. Incidentally, this would be a great down-ski too.
The top of the plateau showed a few signs of this spring's, and today's, weird weather. First of all, there's been more snow than average. This covered the plateau with a nice smooth blanket, rather than sand and talus. The east edge of the plateau held a pretty significant cornice- evidence of recent, consistent and moderate winds. Finally, at the very summit, recent snow, from just two days prior, had melted off the rocks and dripped down into the shade where it refroze into big icicles. Then, the very morning of my trip up there, some clouds rolled in. (It actually rained a bit at one point, snowed a few flurries through the day and heavy clouds would again move in for the evening) These morning clouds, plus a little wind, pushed some rime ice onto these icicles. Maybe not the most spectacular picture, but a phenomenon I had never seen before.I skied down to the west (further from home) up the next peak (still further from home). Here I am on the summit of peak #2 (Mt. Goethe)
I skied down the North side of Goethe (again, further from home... what was I thinking?) My exit was grueling (over two passes and up over the Keyhole Plateau again), increasingly storm-threatened, and held excellent skiing. All these factors combined to make it particularly non-photogenic. And solo skiing isn't all that exciting in photos anyway. At some point, after the last climb and it was all downhill, I figured it was in the bag. I made an unlikely call home, enjoyed some excellent cloudy corn snow, and snapped this picture. I liked it, and it reminds me of that satisfied sense of accomplishment. Even though I was still 3 hours from home.
Looking back now, I can say I fully met my goals with this trip. I wanted a challenge, I wanted to meet that challenge, and I wanted to do it in style. Accomplished, on all counts!

Monday, May 24, 2010


I've been finding inspiration all around me. In this case, for personal athletic endeavors. It comes lately from two very distinct and divergent directions.

On trips I'm guiding, especially the recent spate of Whitney Winter Expeditions, I'm taking people well beyond their comfort zones. They rise to the occasion in an unfamiliar, strenuous and difficult environment. These folks are digging deep, going "all in", going balls-to-the-wall if you will. Incidentally, only such euphemisms seem to adequately describe the phenomenon I'm talking about. These clients I climb and ski with give themselves a rare combination of opportunity, motivation, and oversight that allows them to express their full potential. They have dreamed of the trip, accepted the challenge, given up hard-earned dollars and time off, trained as best they know how, and then put themselves in the care of a professional.

Climbing mountains is brutally physical, especially for the inexperienced. It is also very insecure feeling for the uninitiated. As a guide, I can do very little to mitigate the absolute volume of work required. Nor can I fully alleviate any of the insecurities and uncertainties associated. I can, however, provide a true and valuable margin of safety for climbers pushing their limits. These folks end up faced with a significant personal challenge and the peace of mind that they can give themselves fully to that challenge. The result is inspirational athletic performance after inspirational performance. I get to see clients regularly surpass anything they ever expected they could do. It's rarely "pretty" and always enlightening. I envy and respect these performances in the mountains- doing that which is difficult and uncertain and unexpected, and doing it with precious little prior experience.

As mentioned, I recently completed a binge of Mount Whitney trips. Specifically, 5 4-day trips in about 6 weeks spanning March and April. As I came up for air at the end of that period, jonesing for my own adventure, I thought I wanted what my clients had. I thought I wanted to similarly work myself. However, I soon had the opportunity to watch our friend Jeff Kozak express a totally different kind of inspiring athletic accomplishment. Annie volunteered to run an aid station at the Bishop High Sierra Ultramarathon and I got to help out. Jeff holds the record for the 50 mile course, runs like its his job, and came cruising through mile 26 this year way ahead of the pack. He was clean, fresh, lightly laden and knew exactly what he had to do. Despite "not feeling it", Jeff held his lead, won the race, and was sitting around at the end drinking beer and looking clean and fresh and on top of his game. He puts monumental and directed effort into his training. He has years and miles of experience plus a careful approach to planning that allow him to express the potential of his training and running predisposition. Folks at the back of the pack in the same race looked far more haggard and frantic, and had far more stuff hanging from their packs and bodies. And they still didn't win.

I wanted to be like Jeff- top of my game, smooth and in control but still performing at a high level, doing something difficult and doing it very very well. With inspiration from these two different angles, I made myself the time for a grand adventure and went and did something difficult. Maybe I'll tell you about it...