There have been some cool articles on fasterskier.com lately. Several articles have given us views of adventurous cross-training activities unique to various areas of the US and Canada. It's interesting to learn what our ski brethren do for ambitious fun and training in the off-season. Things like crust skiing in the High Sierra, in Utah and on Mt Ranier, and canoeing and backcountry skiing in remote Canada. The bottom line is – every place has unique outdoor options of some kind. Hopefully fasterskier readers will continue to share tales of their local adventures.
So, here's a cross-training/ adventure contribution from my home area of Southcentral Alaska. The activity: peak bagging.
What is peak bagging? Basically it is choosing a mountain and then going and climbing it. This activity is a natural for Anchorage, Alaska – because there are lots of mountains around here.
Master skier Trond Jensen nears the top while peak bagging in Prince William Sound.
For the last 20 years peak bagging such local mountains has been a fun obsession and a great source of adventure. You end up going to places that few, if any, have ever been. You are tested in lots of skills getting to and from the summit: route finding through dense brush, crossing glaciers, fording glacial rivers, rock climbing, snow and ice climbing, river and sea kayaking, mountain biking and avoiding run-ins with bears.
And you get a lot of good training in. Typical trips range from long day trips to several days. Some outings have included 16-24+ hour pushes while carrying packs on challenging mountainous terrain.. And the crew I climb with all have ski-racing roots, so that keeps the pace up no matter how long the trip is!
I realize that first ascent peak bagging is unique to Alaska and some parts of Canada. But peak bagging previously climbed mountains is an activity available to a lot of skiers in North America. Killer workouts can be had scrambling up summits in the Northeast US and Canada. Plus mountaineering options are close to endless in any of the western states and provinces in North America. However, for our Mid-Western ski-kin, a lot of driving may be involved to make peak bagging a part of your training repertoire!
Mountain ascent activities often have risks that can exceed those of standard ski training activities such as running, roller skiing and biking. So if you are new to mountain rambling, know what you are doing before you get in over your head. Get qualified instruction if you go off established trails and enter the realm of mountaineering.
For an idea of what peak bagging by ski racers is like in Southcentral Alaska — you can check out this link: http://climbing.outlookalaska.com/LearnardPeaks/ This was a climb that former UAA ski coach and Olympian Bill Spencer and I did several years ago. A railroad tunnel to the seaport town of Whittier had been widened and just opened to cars and trucks. Bill and I rushed over to make sure all peaks in the area were climbed and accounted for (before our competition got to them)! Of the two peaks we climbed that day, one was a first ascent the other was a first recorded ascent.