Written by MAX TAAM
Living in Aspen it’s hard to not know about the Grand Traverse. I race the biggest skimo races in the world in Europe but when I am at home everyone is always asking about the Elk Mountain Grand Traverse. It’s a one of kind race and on many Colorado (and beyond) residents bucket lists.
The Elk Mountain Grand Traverse is a backcountry ski race that starts at midnight and crosses the 40 miles from Crested Butte to Aspen. There has always been a friendly rivalry between the two mountain towns and a team from Aspen hasn’t won the race since its very first running 20 years ago.
Photo Jacob Wearsch
On April 10, Peter Bakwin and I ran from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon to the South Rim. “R2R” of course is now quite normal; a bucket-list route for many. But this took us 11.5 hours. Why so long? Because we started on the North Rim of the Little Colorado River, descended the fabled Hopi Salt Trail, ran and thrashed down the LCR for 10 miles to the Confluence with the Colorado River, traversed along the Beamer Trail for another 9.5 miles, then cranked up to the South Rim on the old Tanner Trail. It’s an interesting route; a worthy addition to our “R2R2R.alt” of a few years ago.
by: Buzz Burrell
NEW ZEALAND (“Aotearoa” in Maori) is a fabled recreation destination. Everyone you know has been there or wants to go. Including you.
One week into our 3 1/2 week trip to New Zealand this January, my companion said, “I can see why people want to move here.” Indeed: great beaches, mountains, lakes, food, wine, and people – what’s there not to like?
Well, maybe hoards of Sandflies, but everything else is top-notch. So where to go and how to do it? Here’s a few hints from my third trip to the land of the Long White Cloud – –
By Peter Bakwin
Living in Boulder, as I have for most of my life, can be strange. Nearly everyone here, young and old alike, is insanely fit. Everyone has set some outlandish running or climbing goal for themselves, something to keep the sense of adventure alive and to expand their skills and experience. I myself have set many, and even achieved some, and this has been a lot of fun and very satisfying. These days, now that I’m receiving mailings from the AARP, I don’t go in all that much for goals or “projects”, preferring just to enjoy time out in mountains and on the trails without any particular aim. But, once in a while something still resonates inside my soul, a spark of an idea will come and I feel compelled to follow. This is intensely personal – I don’t care about setting marks, only about doing things that ignite my flame of curiosity and enthusiasm. Such has been the Longs Peak Project (LPP).
Photo Courtesy: Kendrick Callaway
When I did a Longs Peak Triathlon last summer, I remember thinking it was only logical to apply the same tactics in the calendar winter season. Maybe unsurprisingly, there simply didn’t seem to be many attempts at such a thing, let alone actual completions of the task. To be sure, even in the age of the Internet, we don’t always know what exciting things people have been up to, but the only completions I could find were by Justin Simoni (a constant inspiration when it comes to bikes and mountains) and Tina Lewis, both in the 18-19hr range. Maybe I’m weak for wanting to wait for at least decent conditions—call me crazy, but this seems to be an important part of the tradition of mountaineering—but I couldn’t figure out how it should take quite that long. And riding dark roads at night doesn’t hold a huge amount of appeal for me. So I waited for good conditions.
Last month I was out at dinner with some friends when my friend Roch started talking about his hope to one day ski the length of the John Muir Trail. The JMT—the classic 200+ mile route through the High Sierra from Mt Whitney to Yosemite Valley—is an extremely popular summer hike, but Roch figured it had only been skied a couple of times. This conversation was quite inspirational for me—Roch is an undeniably compelling and confidence-inducing orator— and I started thinking about the kinds of things I could reasonably do on skis.
I doubt I’ll ever have the skills or confidence to be scratching and jump-turning my way down the really steep stuff in the mountains, but the thought of covering a lot of miles over the mountains on more mellow terrain holds a distinct appeal. More “ski touring” I suppose, than “ski mountaineering”. This appeal is facilitated in no small part by the fact that such activity relies on a physical capacity—all day endurance—that I’ve been honing my entire life, as opposed to the more skilled and technical requirements of steeper descents. Skills I certainly don’t currently possess. Maybe I’ll get there one day.
“What a great trip! We didn’t get injured or lost!”
While Peter Bakwin enthusiastically agreed with this assessment, I noticed I was defining success not by how fast or far we went, the two usual objectives for runners, but by the fact we didn’t get hurt doing it.
So either I’m getting old, slow, and conservative – which I actually am – or the 5th class scrambling, elaborate route finding, and river crossings on this wilderness route contained enough risk that to have cruised it and enjoy every minute (except for the quicksand) was a worthy enough accomplishment.
Three full days in Canyonlands National Park, traversing all of its four Districts in one 85 mile loop – what’s there not to like?
You may have seen this guy around… maybe at his 10 Hardrock finishes including a win in 2010, finishing all 5 laps at Barkley, finishing Nolans 14, setting canyoneering speed records in Zion … or maybe you haven’t seen him because Jared doesn’t use Facebook, doesn’t talk about himself, doesn’t seek any limelight … and doesn’t run on roads.
10 o’clock at night, standing alone on the bank of the Colorado River in full flood stage. Can I swim across? Theoretically, yes. Emotionally, no. I conducted an inventory of my emotional reserves and made a rational decision: I’m not going. I measured, and my cajones weren’t big enough.
This trip I had brought a Space Blanket, so wrapped myself up in that and slept soundly, while learning that sleeping in a Space Blanket keeps you both remarkably warm and remarkably wet, becoming quickly soaked in your own perspiration.
Next morning I hiked upstream to allow for the fast current, eased myself into the brown water, and swam across with no incident, and without regretting the previous nights decision. I busted butt up Red Lake Canyon (what lake?), across the various fins and valleys the Needles are renowned for, including the infamous Elephant Hill jeep road, reaching Squaw Flat Campground by mid-morning where I had a friend waiting for me with food supplies for the rest of the route.
Except instead of my friend, there was a note pinned to the campground sign which read: “You didn’t show up so I left. Hope everything is OK.”
No food and 45 more miles to go wasn’t that OK. Kaput again. Busted. Without further ado I put out my thumb and began the long hitchhike back to my car, pleased that I had extended the route, but also noticing that by failing at Spanish Bottom last year I got a direct boat ride back to the start, while failing at Squaw Flat meant it would take hours to hitch all the way around. My second ride was pretty good though, peaceful because there was no radio in the car. I asked why, and he explained he stole the car two days ago and had already sold the radio.