Marker Alpinist and Leashes

I’ve been using B&D ski leashes since Art Freeman recommended them several years ago. They’re a superb alternative to the itty bitty short leashes the binding makers sell. I managed to go several years without breaking a fuse link, and this year I’ve already managed to break two.

Although mine seem to have failed during traveling near other pairs of skis, the fuses are designed to break during spectacular yard sales and to prevent skis from being avalanche burial anchors. Bypassing the fuses is suicidal, touring without a leash isn’t awesome, and so I searched for an improvement.

Marker doesn’t document the feature but my Alpinist bindings have two itty bitty holes for attaching leash cords. I found an online comment telling me where to find them so I tossed my skis onto the bench and gave the bindings a closer look.

The active mount has the black cord included with the leash. I populated the second hole with orange 3mm accessory cord and a spare fuse. Next time a fuse breaks, I can just pop the leash onto the spare.


2022 Patrol Race, 9h:46

Shane and Doug, on a training day

Last weekend was the annual 20-mile backcountry ski race that I’ve been training for since December. We start at Snoqualmie Pass and follow the Pacific Crest Trail through the backcountry for 20 miles, ending just past Stampede Pass at Meany Lodge. I raced this for the first time in 2020, when Dan, Greg, and I completed the race in 12 hours and 13 minutes.

I raced it again in 2021, substituting Maud for Dan, after Dan suffered a ski injury. Our team, Mock Speed didn’t get an official time because a mile into the course, Greg’s binding ripped off his ski. Since it’s a team race, everyone has to finish. After a failed repair attempt, we escorted Greg to a bail out point and Maud and I finished the course in about 10 hours.

This year I recruited a couple “kids” my age (Greg is 10 years my senior and Dan is 20) to join Quaranteam: Smells Like Strong Spirits. My goal for Doug, Shane, and myself was to best the fastest Meany teams time of 10h:32m. This year we had great weather, with a fresh dump of mid-week snow and several days of consolidation (reducing avalanche risk) leading up to Saturday. We started skiing in the rain which transitioned to gentle snow as the day cooled. We had great weather, a great time, and crossed the finish line in 9h:46m.

SkiMo: Ski Mountaineering

Our family spent our Jan-Mar weekends as one of the half dozen families that hosted ski guests at Meany Lodge. In a normal year, guests would spend the full weekends at Meany. Due to COVID, we opened only for day use this year, serving hot meals outdoors and doing all we could to assure everyone had as good a time as was safely possible.

My Patrol Race team from last year decided we’d race again this year. In anticipation of the big race in mid-March, I spent much of January and February prepping my gear and body for the race. The easiest conditioning was skiing the 3 miles to and from the Sno-Park to the lodge each weekend. In addition, I took every chance to sneak away from the Meany campus and into the backcountry with Bev, Maud, Jim, Dan, Adam, Ben, and anyone else who would go. Most weekends I was able to ski about 30 side or backcountry miles on my AT skis.

I was feeling confident in my conditioning when in mid-February I bungee-towed an under-the-weather-from-his-COVID-shot skier uphill for 8.5 miles. A week before the race, Dan broke his thumb and Maud filled his slot. Then another disaster, a couple miles into the race, and Greg suffered a binding blowout. We did a trailside repair that lasted a half mile. Since all 3 racers must cross the finish line together, that dashed our dreams of an official time. Maud and I then escorted Greg to a bailout point. All dressed up and ready to ski, Maud and I pressed on and finished the race in 10 hours. Had we not been disqualified, we’d hold the best time ever for a Meany Lodge team.

The Meany ski season ended in mid-March but we still have the best snow in the mountains that we’ve had in many years. With great snow, well tuned gear and bodies, why stop skiing now? Others feel similarly, and so each week plans have materialized as we keep getting “one more” ski in. As the snow retreats, we follow it up the mountains. Stampede Pass. Rainy Pass. Yakima Pass. Snoqualmie Pass. Amabilis Mountain. Roaring Ridge. Mount Saint Helens. Plans are forming for Mount Adams.

SkiMo, or Ski Mountaineering is a mixture of two of my passions: skiing and climbing mountains. I took a hiatus from both after buying our current house. With the house projects all nearing completion, much of the physical effort I had been focusing there shifted to skiing and now towards SkiMo. The differences between ascending a mountain on boots or skis isn’t dramatic. In soft snow, skis are vastly superior. On steeper slopes and firm snow, kick steps are often superior. With SkiMo ascents, we have both options. We recently ascended most of Mount Saint Helens on skis, then skis with crampons, and finally on boots. The difference between mountaineering and SkiMo is most pronounced on the descent.

The hardest part of climbing on my body, especially my knees, has always been the descent. With SkiMo, the descent is not just icing on the cake, it’s a second slice of cake included. Descending on skis is far more fun, dramatically faster, and huge bonus–my knees aren’t sore for days after.