Friday, March 20, 2015

Plaza2Peak - Sat. April 11th

Daybreak at the top of the Triple Chair - Towers just beyond
One of our local hard-chargers has developed the brilliant idea of a DIY enduro race from the Plaza to Tesuque Peak. Run or Bike to the ski area, then skin or ski to the Towers, and finish back down at the parking lot for the post-race bash and casual apres-ski. More importantly, Mady has pulled together plans, a date, entry forms, and multiple emails encouraging friends to promote the genius mountain foray.

Loosely organized last December the tentative date for Plaza2Peak is now set for Sunday Saturday April 11th, 10am start. A date that may even work for harried tax accountants.

Many of us talk of setting something up like this. Several of us have even sent town-to-towers in one form or another (running from the Tesuque trailhead off CR 72A to the Towers via Winsor is about 13mi, takes about 3hrs), but it's rad that someone has added organization to an interesting idea that usually goes solo or in isolated groups of two or three. Katie Arnold moved this type of idea forward several years ago with the Dale Ball Buster.
Moar Plz!

Entry forms can be found here:

Race Director-provided motivational training video here:

Related Posts:
 - Freeskiing the French Alps (extra motivational)
 - Taos Ski Valley Bought Up by Hedge-Funder
 - Ski Touring Deception Peak

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Nambe Creek - TR 160

Getting dirty
Got out for a nice backcountry excursion up in the Pecos Wilderness several months ago as the fall season rolled to a close. A long night reading by lamplight, followed by a beer-breakfast, followed by a long morning run in the montanas; The holy trinity. Thought it'd be fun to share here with photos and such.

The run starts from Aspen Ranch following Upper Borrego (TR150) over to the Nambe watershed, then up the creek (TR160) toward the high peaks. Saw a deer, an eagle, some cows, a hunter out looking for grouse, and even a couple of grouse (run little fellas!). Hadn't been out on these trails for a few years so I was excited for the adventure and new exploration.

Borrego at Rio en Medio
Into the burn area on Borrego. Notice the creek bed with several feet of silt, tree trunks snapped in two.
Just to confirm what I already knew, the Rio Nambe is still recovering from the massive Pacheco Canyon Fire (human caused) that burned through these parts a few years back. It will be recovering for some time. Pretty effing amazing what a fire can do. The area is spectacularly wrecked, even the trail is only just barely there along parts of the creek bed. It's gone entirely in other spots, decent route-finding skills are essential. Lots of downed trees and obstacles. In fact, I'd credit the summer herd of cattle up there for preserving any type of trail/passage at all. I often curse those damned cows, but there they were doing nice things for me. Nicely played cows. I smile uneasily and slow-clap your efforts. *clap....*clap....

Nambe creek at Borrego. Heavily channeled but not destroyed.
Upper Borrego junction, with burn scar tree trunks

Absolute ruin and moonscape up valley
Massive channeling of the creek bed

One of many widow makers still rocking in the breeze
Initial plans were to follow a route that included a climb up to La Vega and the Puerto Nambe saddle but slow-going through the Borrego fire wasteland forced my hand into bailing out and up at Nambe Trail (TR403). This is the dreaded Elevator Shaft. No, I would not recommend this route to others unless descending. Two miles, 2,000ft, ~45min - I suffered in silence but it was a crusher.

Side canyon from a north fork of the creek, scoured down to bedrock

A bit higher the 'trail' tunnels through new aspen saplings 

Junction with trail 403 up to Winsor (charcoaled). The immediate forecast: PAIN
The Elevator Shaft
Topped out on Upper Winsor (TR254). The faint whiff of cow crap down in the Nambe morphed into a faint whiff of dog crap up on the Winsor-Baldy freeway. Motored past a parade of at least two dozen hikers and their dogs over the one mile section descending down to the ski area and Rio en Medio Trail (TR163). I nodded and offered a good morning to all of them. It was a good morning by God, freaking beautiful up there.

Caught a few odd looks most likely because I happened to be running in jeans. The running shorts somehow didn't make it into the truck the night before. Fortunately shorts aren't required running equipment. Running shoes and beer are - and I sure as shit didn't overlook either of those. Interestingly, the extra leg-cover spared me a significant amount of lashing and thorn swipes from the overgrowth and off-trail running in the Nambe. So, best day ever to forget shorts. Sometimes you win some, and sometimes you win some. A very memorable morning.

Junction at Winsor and Rio en Medio, below the Ski area
Rio en Medio falls restore balance after the apocalypto nihilism of Nambe
Distance:  10mi
Max Elev:  10,800ft
Net Climbing:  2,500ft
Time:  2hr 42min

Related Posts:
 - Adventure on the Winsor Trail
 - Rio en Medio Winter Bike Descent
 - Scouting Backcountry Trails by Plane

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Bandelier Celebrates its 99th Year

August storm
Wednesday was the 99th anniversary of the Bandelier National Monument - signed into existence on February 11, 1916, by President Woodrow Wilson. 33,000 protected acres on the Pajarito Plateau, over 70mi of trails, and it sits right in our backyard. Entry fees to the Monument are waived for the weekend (including Mon.) in celebration of the anniversary so Casa Dirt is jumping into action for an afternoon visit.

Rangers and personnel at the Monument regularly update the Bandelier Facebook page with magnificent photos of the Mesa, Frijoles Canyon, the San Miguel mountains to the south, and all the marvelous animal and plant life that fill the canyons. An absolute treasure. A small collection of photos from the last year:

Box elders

Related Posts:
 - Bandelier Natl Monument and Lummis Canyon
 - Frijoles Canyon in Recovery - Bandelier
 - Los Alamos - How Physicists Once Cleared a Ski Hill

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

French Alps Freeskiing - Candide Thovex

This last weekend was tailored made for the mountains after that slow moving storm came through and left us with a fat new blanket of accumulation. Unless of course, you didn't make it to the mountains. Ahem.

Right, but that's where the internet can smooth things over until the next storm systems rides through. Instant inspiration. The video below went viral a few weeks back. French skier Candide Thovex crushes an afternoon in Val Thorens, France, accompanied by his GoPro head-cam. It's brilliant. 

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Nordic Skiing in Chama - Edward Sargent Wildlife Area

Winter trip to Chama this last weekend. Drove up to spectate some of the racing at the annual Ski Classic. Originally planned to do some racing myself but this happened to be my first outing of the year so that plan went out the window.

Instead we toured around at the Edward Sargent Wildlife Area. They manage the area in winter giving the west side of the WFA over to skiers and snowshoes and the north/east side to the snowmobilers. It was nicely signed and tracked-out, and we navigated across and along the Rio Chamita in a 6km loop, leaving other loops to explore for future visits.

We chatted with a group of snowshoers that were part of a Ski Classic tour I believe. Saw a half dozen other skiers including a friendly guy from Santa Fe who tells us he has a place in Chama and happened to be putting up several of our friends from Santa Fe/Los Alamos for the weekend's race. Saw plenty of animal sign, but no actual animals other than eagle calls from across the valley. There may also have been a low snoring/growling sound, possibly coming from the small child in our tow-sled. Fascinating insight into the human condition.

Panoramic photography skills courtesy of the Desert Babe (not to be confused with the Desert Toddler)

Related Posts:
 - Nordic Skiing, Cumbres Pass
 - Chama Chile Ski Classic
 - Neff Mountain Yurt Trip, Chama NM


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