The Five Peaks
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03/12/2016

14.2 miles, 7,000ft gain, 6hrs 25mins

It's been 4 years since Eric and I did the Elk Mountains Grand Traverse SkiMo race, and we were long overdue for another. The Five Peak (The highest Ski Mountaineering race in North America) was right up our alley without a huge time commitment, traveling, or training required. I was going to use my tele setup (heavy) and Eric found an excuse to get new skis, boots, and binding (a sweet lightweight setup). As usual, it's a victory if we make it to the trailhead together, and we met in Breck at 6am. We left his car at the ice rink, thinking it was free, and drove my truck over to the south gondola lot, which was free because it was so early. we walked over to Maggie's and checked in. Apparently I was the only one with tele stuff as everyone else had lightweight AT SkiMo setups and most were wearing skin-suits. We had a good time catching up on each other's lives and toe'd the line at 7:30am sharp. It didn't take long for the fast teams to run in skis up ahead while we slowly dropped towards the middle of the pack. Skinning up the easy green of Silverthorne and the Peak 10 road felt good. It was cloudy, warm, and I was sweating my ass off. At the top of the Falcon Superchair we took off our skis and booted up towards Ballroom on the east shoulder of Peak 10. Clicked back in, and down the black diamond run and into the trees. I felt good on my skis and Eric's new setup performs better then hoped. Of course the descent was too short and it wasn't long before we were putting on skins again in Lehman Gulch.
I was hitting my groove and felt awesome. Eric was slowing a bit and pounding food and water. At the top of the Mercury Superchair we continued up the ridge of Peak 9 on patchy connecting snow leaving treeline. Eric's skins were not sticking real well and he was using a ton of energy fighting them. He was starting to feel the altitude and was hating life. I towed him for a bit until the slipping and sliding got to be too much. I was getting frustrated at all of the waiting but knew that it wasn't his fault and he was in a bad place. Eventually he carried his skis and we topped out on Peak 9 around 10:30am. Eric was done, wanted to quit, and just ski down. We bombed down the double black diamond NE bowl and into Twin Chutes. Of course the descent was too short, once again. We had a reality check here and did what we do best during races... work together. I took Eric's gear from his pack and once the skinning became tough again, I strapped his skis to my pack so he could boot up the slopes. He would do the exact same thing for me. We figured we had plenty of time to make the cut-off at the T-bar and agreed to just keep moving and take a long break there. Good positive vibes and sticking together was the plan. "There are no bad times in good company." At the top of the T-bar we joked and re-filled bladders then started up to the top of the Imperial lift then on to the summit of Peak 8. I was able to skin most of the way up while Eric booted. One slide/step at a time.
The top of Peak 8 was a bit of a victory as we had the three big climbs out of the way. The course followed the north ridge of Peak 8 down then a short climb up to Peak 7. Gotta love the views and double diamond bowls up here! At the summit of Peak 7 we ripped skins once again and bombed down Upper Dunes. There was a bit of a wind-blown crust here and I almost lost it a couple times. Back on with the skins and kick turns up Dumbwaiter towards Peak 6. I took my skis off here too and we both suffered up the snow, ice, rocks, and then mud. Just a bit of a traverse to the summit of Peak 6 and we were both really psyched. Next was down the double diamond Intuition to Barton Breezeway, under the lift, along some XC ski trails with short annoying climbs to the base of Peak 7 and the finish (where we luckily passed the last place female team with seconds to spare)
6 hours and 25 minutes. Thank goodness that was over! We took a short break then hopped on the gondola only to realize we forgot to pick up our bag that they transported to the end. Eric was really hitting the wall now and I grabbed our bag while he hit the bathroom. Back onto the gondola with a couple of strangers and he looked at me with desperation and said "I'm seriously going to puke". I gave him my food bag and within seconds he was filling it from his gut. Like a good friend, I took a picture. We headed to the truck and then to the post-race beer/food/raffle. We didn't stay long as Eric was about to lose his guts again, so we headed to his truck to find a $30 parking ticket and headed home.
Unfortunately, Eric had a bad day at altitude. Fortunately, we finished and had a good time doing it reminding ourselves why we make a great team.

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