Adapting to a little rain on Ester Dome

After a very dry summer, the recent rains have resulted in soft and slimey road surfaces with an occasional downed tree. SCUM attendence for today’s ascent (and descent) of Ester Dome was down in numbers and enthusiasm as seen in this first photo from the top:

With proper coaxing, they were able to smile and then show mud residues from their ascents.

Right footed Mom and left foot dominant Bernardo

Bill had sprayed some vegan bug dope with teflon on his legs before we started. Not only were mosquitoes repelled, but mud was too:

Bernardo without teflon (left) and Bill with (right)

Only Bill would be wearing white socks on a thoroughly wet day. However, he kept his socks and legs a lot cleaner than the rest of us did.

Descending into the fog, we celebrated another Ester Dome ascent as we can prepare for winter 2021-2022 and whatever surprises it will bring.

No rainbow with a pot of gold yet this morning

4 FWW ascents for the 9th of July (delayed due to smoke)

For the SCUM, each year increases the challenge. Last year, one 70 year old SCUM and two youngsters did 4 ascents of the Fort Wainwright chair lift trail for the 4th of July. (https://sonotkkaazoot.org/2020/07/03/4th-of-july-celebration-under-covid-19/).This year, we hoped to do better. However, last Friday (our normal ski walking day at FWW), winds blew smoke from the Munson Creek fire into Fairbanks so the air quality was hazardous. Thus, we delayed our workout until today.

Six of us left the Birch Hill stadium at 9:00 a.m., three were youngsters and three were over 70 years old. Robert Hannon, one of the kids, opted to just do 3 speedy ascents so he missed the photo documentation.

On their second ascent, Poles was leading Dan (hidden behind Bill) and Bernardo
Dan, the youngest of the SCUM, was working to draft behind Bill

And two-way traffic on the trail was spreading out as we used different pacing strategies.

Bill, Bernardo, and Dan head down as Carl works his way up for his 4th ascent

Temperatures stayed in the low 60s, but we were definitely overheating by ascent 3. However, all of us completed 4 ascents.

Dan, Carl, and Bernardo claim their 4 ascents

Billl had dropped his poles midway up his 4th ascent figuring that he’d go back down to meet Carl after he’d finished his. However, Carl ended up a lot faster than Bill expected so three of us accompanied Carl on his last ascent. Meanwhile, Bill had to go further back down the hill to retrieve his poles and to finish 4 ascents WITH poles.

Bill after his 4 full ascents with poles (and half without)
Mom and three SCUM ski walk with poles for 4 FWW ascents (photo by Bernardo Hernandez, who also did 4 ascents)

The lupines, roses, and irises have gone to seed on the trail already as summer speeds by. Will your carcass be ready for skiing by the time the snow covers the trails? The SCUM hope theirs will be.

Bad Bob Baker is planning new courses for the 35th annual Denali State Bank Sonot Kkaazoot in 2022, and they will involve more climbing (including the Sunnyside trail instead of the Chena River) than in the past for all 3 distances. Start hill training now.

What a difference one week makes

Last Friday felt like fall with temperatures barely in the 40s, whereas today temperatures were 25 degrees or more higher, the hills were much colorful, two dozen fire fighters were also training on the hill, and the mosquitoes more blood thirsty.

Above we see Robert Hannon leading Dermot on their third partial ascent. After their second ascent, they headed down and met Bill and Mom a little below “flat rock” and followed them up.

Here Dermot shows that he can carry one of the smaller rocks momentarily (with an assist) while Bill takes his photo:

The Birch Hill trails have dried out significantly and if users avoid the marked wet areas, the trails should stabilize for multiuse during the non-snow months.

The remedial SCUM will be doing 4 ascents by the weekend of the 4th of July so join them soon so you’ll be ready for the Independence Weekend challenge. We leave the Birch Hill stadium at 10 a.m. on Friday mornings.

Flat rock travels downhill during break-up

Under fall-like conditions this morning (42 deg F with 15 mph winds and 22 mph gusts), the remedial SCUM attacked the Fort Wainwright alpine hill for the first time in 2021. In doing so, we discovered that one of our key landmarks had eroded downhill during break-up.

When doing the 0,83 km ski walking/bounding interval up the alpine hill under the chairlift, “flat rock” indicates that the steepest section and roughly 30% of the hill is over. Thus, we needed to move “flat rock” back its proper location on the hill. So Bernardo, our vegan SCUM, showed off his buff boulder lifting prowess as he moved “flat rock” to it’s rightful home.

Buff Bernardo lifts “flat rock” to move uphill

And here the SCUM document where “flat rock” had rested after break-up:

“Flat rock” in foreground and SCUM indicate where we found it today

Having already done our inaugural FWW alpine hill ascent in under 12 minutes, we took time on the way down to smell the lupines:

Poles plays marmot
SCUM smelling lupines, note how Dermot dermotizes with insulated mitts in summer too

We did our second ascent at a leisurely pace (since Dermot joined us as we were finishing our first ascent). Dermot, who has been missing in action because of a spained ankle, added welcomed groans of effort as we ski walked our second ascent. None of us were cold by then.

Walking back down the tower loop, we found the trail soft in places but it was easy to skirt the mud. The winds that greeted us today will allow Birch Hill trails to dry out and become firm like those on the Fort Wainwright alpine hill. However, the erosional forces of spring time were evident as the meltwater carved new gullies along the trail under the chair lift.

Skiing the White Bear on 23 April

In spite of a couple weeks of daytime temperatures in the 50s and 60s, our deep snowpack is allowing the trails to freeze overnight as the ground is still colder than the air. Thanks to Tom Helmer’s grooming efforts this morning, the remedial SCUM skate skied the White Bear on 23 April, a full 6 months after we started skiing in the fall.

It was 46 deg and sunny when we left the stadium at 9:03 a.m. being urged by Nick Crawford and friend that the optimum skiing time had been at 7:00 a.m. We took off down the White Bear access delighted with the glide accompanied our efforts. In a flash, we were down to the bottom of the White Bear, where we found the big, slow mosquitoes and a temperature of 40 deg.

SCUM at the SCUMometer at 40 deg w/ mosquitoes lurking–all photos by Don Pendergrast

At the base of Heart Rate Hill, we pulled over to let a young shirtless skier and his friend pass us. After our photo documentation, we were prepared to climb slow and steady through the slush and sunshine:

We haven’t started the climb yet, but Don’s windbreaker has already been removed

It is a SCUM ritual that if we climb Heart Rate Hill without stopping for a rest break we get to poke the tree at the top with our ski pole. Even though I was supposed to be doing an easy distance ski, my heart rate slipped briefly into level 4 as the slush made the going tougher than it would have an hour earlier. Being SCUM meant that not stopping took precedence over keeping my heart rate in level 1. This means I have to do a distance ski tomorrow to record as my LOD in FXC Masters virtual training. Just don’t tell Christina.

Only Bernardo still was wearing his hat after Heart Rate Hill

The skate skiing is the best that it has been all season. The mean age of our workout group today was 71 years old and we had a blast! Don’t miss out on the best skiing of the season.

SCUM ski South Classics as Spring arrives

Just one month ago, the remedial SCUM made history by skiing the South Classical loops without anyone falling. (See: https://sonotkkaazoot.org/2021/03/12/historic-scum-ski-of-south-classical-loops/). Today as we left the stadium at 11 deg F with temperatures at Fort Wainwright still in the subzero range at 10 a.m., we knew Spring was around the corner. The tracks were feeling slick before we even left the stadium. However, by skiing both the North and South Classical loops within 48 hours in the month of April would be historical, too. All the SCUM fell at least once today. Only the wannabe SCUM (Norma Haubenstock and Joanna Fox) stayed upright for our Sunday ski of the South Classical Loops.

Here are some photos from the Chinook and Blackhawk Loops while we’re upright:

The end of the train in the Chinook–all photographs by Joannna Fox
Pondering SCUM
Norma, smiling and upright as she was for over two hours

And here are some photos when the SCUM were examining the snow on the trails:

Bernardo down
Dan getting up from his fall

Some of us were very thorough in our skiing of the South Classical trails in that we also skied down Little Bird (and back up again) from the intersection with the Blackhawk Trail:

The Little Bird skiers
Bernardo returning up Little Bird

Those of us not using magic skin skis had to work hard for our kick as the temperature on the Blackhawk was 26 deg.

Mom overheating to get kick

Unlike when we skied the South Classical loops at -16 deg F, all of us were overheating today. However, we definitely enjoyed the sunshine, warmth, and great April skiing. Thank you Travis Kulp for grooming these trails! We had a great time–the long downhill out of the Blackhawk was especially sweet as we finished our tour.

A suggestion to skiers interested in following us. Blue kick wax wasn’t providing enough grip, but +2 on the magic skin skis was.

A -8 deg F ski on the North Classical trails this morning

Although Tom Helmers was out grooming the lighted loops (as well as blue and Outhouse) while we assembled for our Friday ski, we opted to ski the North Classical loops that Ken Coe had fun setting yesterday afternoon. The thermometer on the new building read -7 deg F but the Sourdough Fuel one on the Classical Bear as we were heading back to the stadium said only -8 deg so that’s the temperature I took for the title.

With 8 of us assembled at 10:00 a.m , we had some difficulty getting ourselves to the trail head of the Classical Bear, but we eventually managed. Don and Byron lead the way allowing our fingers and thumbs to warm up as we followed Ken’s newly set tracks. Unfortunately, a moose had also discovered the tracks so they weren’t as pristine as they had been.

Regrouping in front of the Fairbanks North Star Borough Parks & Rec Trail sign on the Classical Bear (all photos by Joanna Fox)

On the North Star trail, we had almost as much fun as Ken had setting the tracks. It was easy to kick up all the hills and stay upright on the untracked corners. That is until the Really Steep Down Hill. Ken hadn’t bothered to roll the RSDH bypass as he figured that any skier who would be skiing the North Classic trails would be able to negotiate the North Star downhill on over 90″ of snowfall packed firm enough for skis but still soft for poles. His reasonable assumption may have been valid for non-SCUM skiers but two of us ended up in the unpacked snow on one corner. Another SCUM went down in the trail because he was following an unstable SCUM a little too closely. Three down out of 7 remaining SCUM at that poiint is probably not what Ken counted on. But we enjoyed rolling in the snow almost as much as skiing the humps and corners. It’s lovely to watch the forests change from spruce to birch.

Heading back down the North Star, post-RSDH

Although we weren’t moving very quickly, none of us was having difficulty staying warm in what started out as -20 deg F windchill temperatures. In the singletrack trails, surrounded by trees, the wind proved not to be an issue. However, we were disappointed not to find any cookies decorating the spruce trees like during the holidays. Some SCUM are lured on our workouts with promises of treats just like kids.

The skies had turned robin egg blue while we were out on the North Classics and the sun was distorting the corduroy of the newly groomed stadium as we were finishing.

Can you see the light distortion in the skate platform?

Another wonderful ski on April 9th, with temperatures subzero and snow groomed to perfection.

No sign of snow melting where the warm-up loop passes under the main building.

Thank you Ken and Tom. We’ve made supplemental contributions to the Birch Hill trails fund to allow you to keep grooming for us. To ski the North Classics in April (and not be on sheer ice) was a super treat.