2014 Winter Wilderness Classic, Wrangell Mountains

Thomas Bailly

That is some big country up there.

We started up the glacier route but the fierce headwinds made us change our minds and we bailed up Skolai, which also had 2 days straight of fierce knock you down winds. Miles and I got separated at dusk of day 2 in crazy winds and blowing snow, he lucked into a 3 walled cabin out of the wind and I ended up spending the night behind a small rock at Skolai pass unable to even light a lighter or match, let alone a stove………. so after no hydration that evening and that night my feet swelled like crazy and turned to hamburger which dropped my pace to a mile an hour or something. I ended up bailing at Chisana.

I was pretty stoked on my feet after day 1 and think I prefer 3 pin boot with thinsulate lining to frakenboot [dynafit boot with mods]. My goal was to take care of feet on this one, duct tape ended up creating folds and starting blisters. Jelly certainly slowed them down down. My skin tears easy when wet and tape doesn’t adhere well, I have tried a few different types so far. Dave Cramer was saying that medical compression socks are the way to go, sounds like my next option.

Miles is faster than me, you guys should get together and blow something up. Day 1 he kept waiting for me and then would hammer ahead because he wanted to catch up and help Josh and Brad break trail.

Sounds like him and Danny and Andrew and Josh and Brad all rolled together at the end. I am going to encourage Miles to hook up with faster partners and exploit his potential. I love the man and want to see him pull and inspire more than just me and be inspired and pulled by others.

Thats all for now, Dave said weather and snow factor made it harder this year than last, although I am sure we enjoyed a solid inversion almost the whole time, otherwise those winds would have robbed a few noses, cheeks and fingers.

Hope you are healing up ok,

Steve Duby

How’s your toe doing? It was a bummer not seeing you in the Classic, but it appears your usual teammates did alright without you (minus Eben – real bummer for him). I ended up scratching on Tuesday morning, having only made 14 miles progress on Day 2 against an awful headwind that set in early Monday morning. I knew going into this that if I was going to finish with the time necessary to get back up to Fairbanks and on my scheduled flight back to Nulato, the conditions had to be near perfect. They weren’t. It’s difficult to scratch when you’ve got the capability and the will to keep going. At the same time, I had a few complications that slowed me down aside from the wind…one of which was a 50-lb. pack at the start, a considerable amount of bad food weight, and blisters forming/formed on one of the worst spots for me (the arches).

I ran into Team Heavy on my way back, approaching Rob just as he had finished taking a shit right outside his tent. He had gotten sick and couldn’t keep anything down (or in, apparently….he mentioned needing to wash the outside of his tent after getting home). I chatted with Greg while Rob slept, and when we parted ways it sounded like they were also going to scratch. They did.

I got back to McCarthy early Wednesday evening….and to put an exclamation point on the end of my scratch route, just as I was crossing McCarthy Creek back into town, I crossed my ski tips and completely wiped out. When I arrived at the B&B, I found out that Team Heavy had officially scratched, having camped at the toe of the Nizina (where I saw them) for a full day so Rob could pull himself together. I figured they were at least 24 hours behind me, so I spent my idle time going through every aspect of my pack and ski system to see what could be improved. I found a lot of things to improve. Sure enough, 24 hours after I got back, Team Heavy showed up and we drove back to Dave’s Thursday night, then to the Log Cabin Friday morning for breakfast, which at the time should have been called “Scratch Central.” Thomas Bailey, John Wros, and Seth Adams were there, having bailed out from Chisana on Thursday, all feet-related. I lucked out with Seth (a Fairbanks resident) being there, as he offered me a ride back north and a place to crash. Despite having gnarly heel blisters and skiing 90 miles with boots that literally froze solid while he was skiing in them, Seth is skiing the White Mountains 100.

A few reflective thoughts on the Winter Classic:

1) Clif Shots and Larabars should never make up over 1/3 of one’s total food weight…especially when you crave other things.
2) Make sure you do your pack shakedown a long ways prior to the night before flying out of a remote village.
3) It sucks when you have to resort to using a 110 liter pack (@ over 6 lbs. empty) to pack 65 liters worth of actual gear, for lack of the properly-sized pack that you were thinking about buying for several weeks, but never got around to it.
4) As per Dave’s recommendation, stock up on Compeed blister patches.
5) Skiing with 3-pin bindings off-trail or with skins is too much like driving with the parking break on; reconsider Dynafits.


Danny Powers

Danny: I just got back from the classic. I met ur friend brad… he’s cool. packsaddle was good. you would have loved it.

Luc: so did you guys climb through the heart of the ice fall, on the right side? i thought the route would be to climb a rocky ridge just after pack saddle’s gap. but i don’t think you guys had to do that… you had a more direct route? and the steep-as-shit section was to gain the final pass?

Danny: Exactly. Right up the lookers right of the root and gates and the start of the packsaddle then bear left across the thick of it till you walk/skin/crampon up the packsaddle island till the final push up the headwall and over a sub ridge of Ahtna to the Nabesna. Big schrund on the back of the ridge going onto Nabesna you can see Andrew jump into. We stayed on lookers left of the Nabesna all the way down to the terminus. Saw where Paige and Danielle got flown off last year. Ran into Josh and Brad on the top of platinum before the pass (thank god for the new trail breakers, especially Josh) and found Miles Raney on the start of the little tok with a busted eye from skiing down Noyes mountain overflow waterfalls in the dark

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