| Ski Jouring on Mt. Elbert
Route: Mt. Elbert South Slopes
Participants: Colin (trip photographer), Craig and Kia (ski jouring team)
Time: 8.5 hours round trip
Vertical: ~4,500 vertical
Distance: Don't know, we went pretty far off route
Sports, including mountaineering, are extremely competative these days. There seems to be hordes of freaks who are stronger, faster, and smarter than I am. It seems like every route that isn't suicidal and/or a 46 hour death march has been done.
So how to push the limits of mountaineering to new heights? Ultrarunning mountains, alpine climbing, climbing in winter, biking to trailheads, running to summits straight from the bar... There are macho men and women who beat me badly at all these activities.
How to stand out and do something that hasn't been done? It came to me in a moment of clarity while jogging with my fiancee's overweight dog...
Combine two obscure and ridiculous sports into one...
Ski jouring and mountaineering. Skijourmountaineering. It's got a great ring to it. Now, I'd messed around with ski jouring a bit. For us, it involves being pulled on skis by the dog. The term is also used to refer to being pulled on skis by horses if you are in Steamboat or Leadville. But I don't have access to a horse.
Picture skate skis, the skis that those athletes in the Olympics who carry the guns and ski between shooting ranges use. Little skinny things that are real fast. And made for mostly flat, groomed trails.
Now picture Kia, a Siberian Husky/Chocolate Lab mix. She is 65 pounds of calorie storage, fur, tongue, and bad attitude. With a few muscles under there somewhere.
I've come up with some bad plans in my time. This one might take the cake. My plan was to pick a nice easy 14,000 foot mountain in Colorado and hit it during spring ski season. When you have a dream (also known as a bad idea, depending on how it turns out) you have to chase it. Sometimes you have to try more than once. Our first attempt, on Sherman during the 14ers.com spring gathering, failed. We'll blame that failure on bad snow conditions. Long story.
Our second attempt was on Mt. Elbert, Colorado's highest mountain.
Here is how it unfolded.
At 8am we started from the South Elbert Trailhead paved parking area and headed up the road. Still a little snow, but we probably could have driven another 1.5 miles with a crazy driver and high clearance 4x4.
Ski jouring is not conducive to all terrain, so I walked up the road. Can't ski jour if there isn't snow. I also walked through the trees and along the trail. Certain conditions are too technical to ski jour.
I harnessed up Kia at about 11,000 feet and she pulled! Went pretty quick for about 15 minutes.
Then it was break time.
She managed to completely wrap herself up in the cords and bungees that comprise the lead. We didn't do near as much training as we should have. While I unknotted the lead, she took off after Colin, who was hell bent on skiing his first 14er. I caught the crazy dog after another 1,000 vertical feet or so and got her to pull me for about another 15 minutes.
Below the summit pitch, after much flailing around I got the dog to triumphantly pull up the summit ridge! Success was ours! We managed to ski jour the highest mountain in Colorado. This may be the first time a 14,000 foot peak has been ski joured. It's certainly the first time anyone admitted to it publicly. We summitted about 1pm.
Summit photo and others are blurred due to a possible pending sponsorship deal (or cheap camera, low batteries, and/or camera operator error). Any potential sponsors, contact me! I'm waiting! There is no way I'm ever doing this again unless someone ponies up some cash, bling, and cool new gear.
I considered skiing down, for about 5 seconds. Skiing down on little skinny skis without metal edges and on boots with no ankle support is just dumb. I tried a bit but gave up quickly. Mostly I walked the windblown ridges and windpacked drifts. About 12k or so, it started to get soft. I was postholing too much to walk so I put the skis on. I managed one jump turn, two stem christies, and a little bit of snow plowing. Everything else I did either involved sitting in the snow or did not resemble skiing at all. Eventually I got to the standard trail, which is so consolidated from a winter of ascents that it can be walked on, even on a warm spring afternoon.
We got back to the cars about 4:30, making for a nice workout.