Far West Nordic Junior skiers began the transition from summer training to Autumn intensity last weekend at the first-ever Virginia Lakes Fall Camp. Set in an incredibly beautiful canyon in the Eastern Sierra, at 9,400 ft elevation, Virginia Lakes offers a great combination of high-altitude roller-skiing and hiking amid the pine and aspen forests of the Sierra Nevada. The weekend was designed as a high-intensity mini-camp for some of the top athletes in the division looking to jump-start their training for next winter’s race schedule.
Because camping at such a high elevation in the Sierra in Autumn can be a dicey experience weather-wise, Far West Nordic took advantage of the Tiernan Family cabin as a base for it’s activities. Led by coaches Jeff Schloss, Mark Nadell, and Nancy Fiddler, athletes came from the western Sierra Foothills, Truckee, Crowley Lake and Bishop to participate. The weekend began with a strength session at the high school of the eastern Sierra hamlet of Lee Vining near Mono Lake, followed by a pizza-fest at the famous Whoa’ Nellie Deli.
Saturday’s activities were based completely within the boundaries of Yosemite National Park, a short, but scenic 45 minute drive from the cabin. After a cold night (with temperatures in the teens), and awakening to a thick layer of clouds in the morning, campers were delighted to break out above the gloom while driving over Tioga Pass, cheering for the emergence of the bright sunlight. The highlight of the day was a long, strenuous run/hike to the peak of Cloud’s Rest, straddling the high country of the park’s Tuolumne Meadows area and the well-known spectacular granite of Yosemite Valley. With the massive bulk of Half Dome looming in the foreground, the athletes climbed to the top of the 10,000 ft. peak in perfect, calm weather conditions.
After the return to the trailhead (completing the 16 mile roundtrip and 3,400 ft. overall elevation gain), the athletes were treated to an afternoon of climbing on the world-famous Tuolumne Meadows granite. The small knobs of the Tuolumne rock served as challenging climbing at Tenaya Lake’s Polly Dome, set in a beautiful alpine valley.
Sunday began with a morning intensity session of roller-skiing up the Virginia Lakes road, a 6 mile, 1,500 ft. climb from the main highway back to the cabin. After a short technique session led by coaches Schloss and Fiddler, mid-level skate intervals were the order of the day, with athletes feeling the effect of the 9,000 ft. altitude on their cardio-pulmonary systems. At this elevation, proper pacing became a key element of the training.
After a quick lunch, a short ski-walking session led by 2-time Olympian Coach Fiddler completed the activities of the camp, with the Northern California contingent piling into the van for the 3 hour ride back to the Truckee-Tahoe area. Participating athletes included Sophie Aaron, Daniel Gelso, Alex Hamilton, Russell Kennedy, Carson Lindsay, Justin Ondry, Adam Wrigh, and Angela Raso from Truckee; Dayna Stimson from Crowley Lake, and Veronica Holmes and Bryce Tiernan from Bishop. Every one of the athletes put in significant high-quality training for the weekend, and are looking ready to transition to more winter-based activities whenever the first snows are likely to hit the Sierra (hopefully in a month or so).