100,000 feet of uphill climb. it’s an arbitrary but intriguing number. my buddy jared campbell once tried to run 100,000 feet in 5 days. his failed adventure ended with an achilles injury that plagues him to this day. i’ve been kicking around the idea of backcountry skiing 100,000 ft for a while. last week i had a chance to ask greg hill about it. he said he’s done 10 in 10. meaning 10,000ft a day for 10 days. no one i talked to had heard of anyone doing it any faster than that (please comment below if you know different). when i started out i figured i’d do 10 in 10 myself, leaving a faster challenge for down the road.
i wanted this to be a backcountry adventure, since i’m a backcountry skier afterall. the problem comes when trying to ski 15,000ft of vertical gain in a day. there just isn’t enough sunlight. so i came up with a rule. my first 10,000ft of gain must be done in the backcountry. this leaves the rest of the vertical, as much as i could handle to be done under the lights at a ski resort. sorry green boot brigade, but charging up and down the ski resort for all your vert just isn’t cool enough. there must be variable conditions, challenging terrain, and breaking trail! (oh yeah and views like this one)
Day 1: Tuesday January 25
with my plan to ski 10,000ft getting up at 8am seemed reasonable. i was skinning by 10am after my morning email and tea. i think my late start on day 1 shows my lack of serious thought and or planning. i just figured i’d get up and ski a 10,000ft day. i’d push it for 15,000ft if i felt good.
i frequently backcountry ski alone. i have some safe spots i feel comfy and for this project i’d be skiing the shit out of these treed, mostly low angle terrain. so i skied mill d north, mostly short swing. the dusting we got the night before made the downhill skiing awesome. i did however have to break a bit of trail on the way up, but it was worth it. after my suunto t6c ticked off 10,000ft i was completely out of food, had long been out of water and was starting to feel a bit spacey and out of it. my ankle had hurt all day, but on the ski out i realized my ski boot was flapping. upon further investigation the riveted inner bolt had blown out. the boot barely holding together.
on the drive up to brighton i realized i just hadn’t brought enough food. my poor planning would be a running theme. i finished my day with 15,130 feet of uphill by skinning up and down under brighton ski resort’s night skiing lights.
Days Vertical Gain: 15,130ft (backcountry: 10,130ft, inbounds: 5,000ft)
Total Vertical Gain: 15,130ft
1st thing i did when i got home was order new boots from backcountry.com.
Day 2: Wednesday January 26
i got a late start again today. i still really wasn’t convinced that i was going for 100,000 feet in a week yet. skiinning out to george’s bowl at 10am had an uneasy feeling of stupidity for getting a late start… and choosing an approach that was so dam long. i hadn’t slept well and was tired. the skiing was once again much better than expected. loads of fun. with the powder birds lapping the same ridge i was kind of itching to leave, but knew that the waste of time, and subsequent vertical would set me back. all day i was putting my boot back together. skiing downhill with it broken meant it was in touring mode all day. not the safest way to make downhill turns.
after skiing … that night i shaved my head into a mohawk mullet and immediately felt the euro power.
Days Vertical Gain: 10,114ft
Total Vertical Gain: 25,244ft
Day 3: high on euro power i pushed out the first 10,000 feet in 5h 20min. had lunch and finished with a push up reynolds peak to get 11,434 feet of uphill in the backcountry.
eating as i drove to brighton in my ski boots i was in high spirits, but my ankle was throbbing. after having a snowboarder actually hit my ski pole and graze my skis on his way down… my faith in ski resort patrons was then restored when a jibber gave me a low five at high speeds (i think he was diggin the mohawk).
i started timing my transitions. i was around 2min 50secs. 2-4 mins overall for either up or down hill transition. pretty slow compared to a racer, but interesting none the less.
Days Vertical Gain: 15,565ft (backcountry: 11,130ft, inbounds: 4,131ft)
Total Vertical Gain: 40,809ft
i had sort of told myself that i couldn’t take another day in the broken boots. so if my new boots weren’t sitting on the door step when i got home i was going to abort the mission to ski 100,000ft in one week. the boots weren’t there.
although this was a failed attempt i now think skiing 100,000 feet of vertical in a week is possible. very hard and all consuming.. but possible.
actually preparing for a week of non stop vert is the key. there is simply no extra time to do anything but ski, get ready to ski, eat and sleep. i will be trying this again as soon as i can.