Christy and I completed another Elk Mountains Grand Traverse, our 14th, and 8th time as a coed duo. We just can’t stay away.
The annual ski race/pilgrimage From Crested Butte to Aspen started at midnight on Friday and sent 215 teams of two on the 40 mile journey.
The weather was near perfect. Despite concerns of unsupportive snow, the temperatures were cold enough to keep the course firm and fast, yet it never required much more than liner gloves and a single layer up top. Considering the warm days we’ve had recently, we thought the snow coverage was very good, much better than expected. The creek crossings were not an issue, a makeshift bridge was put in place to get across the East River. There were four stretches of dry ground through the East River and Brush Creek valleys. None of them were very long though, certainly nothing close to the dry conditions experienced back in 2012.
There was no wind, a beautiful sunrise, and the finish area was sunny and warm– it was just a good year for the race.
The race organizers decided to make a slight change the route from Friends Hut to Star Pass this year. Rather than the usual switch-backing skin track up the shoulder, the route this year (like 2012) incorporated a boot pack which put us in a position to simply pull our skins and traverse down to the Star Pass from above. We’re not sure if this change was due to low snow on the standard route, but it was more pleasant this way and we think it should be made permanent, that is if it’s possible from a safety perspective. We’ll see.
Below is the GPS track of the race.
Christy and I had a great day as well. We finished in 9:49 which was only four minutes off our fastest time together. That wasn’t good enough to make the podium this year due to an impressive field of fast racers. We ended up 7th in the coed category and about 35th overall.
On that note, the fast course conditions and the competitive front end of the field led to some impressive results. Several teams broke the 7-hour mark for the first time ever. The prior course record, tested over 17 years, was around 7:23 or so. If you consider the distance and terrain it’s hard to believe anyone can go so fast. The leaders reportedly made it the 15+ miles to the Friends Hut in around 2.5 hours. That’s just crazy.
We’re already talking about next year.