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first day trip backcountry skiing: what a disaster....

post #1 of 36
Thread Starter 
. went backcountry skiing today for first time and i must say it was one of THE hardest activities i've encountered recently.... mainly as i was wearing my new downhill boots (only worn 5x and was told my sales rep that my 3 buckle diabello cross boots should be ok for this one day outing as they're lighter and not a stiff as conventional downhill boots.....whatever)...first the boots didn't allow me to 'walk' as normally as would AT boots ...so i opened them up...didn't help much, however as shotly on right foot chafing with the boot started and turned shortly into a major blister...then sore big toes later revealed (when I got home) blue toenails (bruising?)....once we hit the warming hut after an 1.5 hrs of  of this uphilll misery (450m gain) (i was the last...the biggest loser ay vay) I stayed there and let them continue onwards...next time i won't trust anyone who says that my 3 buckle diablello alpine boots will suffice for a 1 day easy rating outing....NOT!

plus i was wayyy over dressed so perspiring in no time...and that i'm 20 lb overweight (not in my best peak condition admittedly)...and during this 1.5 hr hike (garibaldi pk in bc) we gained 450 m in one hr.

what a major disappointment and one of the most uncomfortable experiences in the outdoors i've yet endured...but major lessons to be learned too from it too and this is what i must take away from it...pain and 'failure' = good lessons if we're open to it, of course...enough of spirituality 101 aregardless i still feel deflated.

Edited by canali - 12/5/09 at 7:22pm
post #2 of 36
Sorry you had such a bad experience.  I'm new to backcountry skiing too.  I've found that having proper equipment makes a huge difference.  Also your companions set a blistering pace for someone who is new to skinning.  I'm not sure why they thought they needed to go that fast.  The key to happiness in uphill travel is to moderate the speed and skin track angle so that the entire team can maintain a steady pace without stopping, and arrive at their destination without being exhausted.  If you can't enjoy the ride down because your legs are too wobbly, what's the point?

(edited to add)

When you travel in the backcountry, a group needs to function as a team, not a loose assortment of individuals.  That mean you have the responsibility to speak up if you're having trouble; and the group needs to respond accordingly. 
post #3 of 36
I think many of us discover that besides being physically demanding, the skinning thing just has all kinds of things that can add up to deliver great fun or huge misery. Layering matters. Gear matters (although for a basic day, I'm surprised a Dalbello 3 buckle is a problem - I just use my SPKs). Hydration & food... Pace... Fitness. Etc. And there's always the fun of being the newb in a gentle breeze -  connecting skin glue to assorted bits of gear and body. (it also helps not to click out too carelessly where your first foot out has about four feet to sink when you put it down...thank you very much...)

I'm definitely a skinning JONG. But every time seems to be more natural & fun. And offers up something new to learn.

I bet you'll have more fun each time out. Maybe a few deliberately un-ambitious tours can serve a good practice function.

However, IMO there's no denying the appeal of certain mechanized devices capable of hauling people uphill. 
post #4 of 36
Thread Starter 
 yeah at one point the team leader was so far ahead of us I couldn't call out that i needed some blister pack (admittedly my mistake in forgetting to bring my bandages but i only had 2 hr sleep night before and 2 tbsp of peanut butter for 'breakfast' ...didn't hydrate enough at all....so sleep deprivation and being 'scattered' didn't help....but despite the leg burning all the way down in a long snowplow, that latter portion to get to the car (toes were frozen) felt great.

i realized,too,that despite this outing being rated as an 'a1' level, most participants were sesaoned bc skiers and this was to serve more or less as a seasonal warmup...so no wonder they all zoomed ahead and i was the last one there (of course, my boots and fitness level had to do something with it too, no doubt)
post #5 of 36
Wow!  Well, you've done a good analysis.  Once your foot heals up, if you get yourself the right tools for the job, a little more experience, and perhaps a more homogeneous group with less ambitious goals, you will probably start having fun in no time.
post #6 of 36
Thread Starter 
 it's funny but a part of me found the trekking part a bit boring (would prefer snowshoeing) and the glide that came from nordic or skate skiing (more distance covered...so maybe i should also explore backcountry via nordic skiing...??)....but it's a new venue afterall and i have to respect it as it is: a new 'language' to my body/mind and one i'll either revisit or bypass to stay with the other activities i do already like: downhill, and both nordic and skate skiing.....we'll see.
post #7 of 36
Glad you survived.  In case you decide not to continue with bc skiing, what size are those skis?     Kidding.  

But I think that there's another valuable lesson that shouldn't be overlooked - the importance of finding a good mentor.  I didn't catch where you came up with your partners for the day but the ideal is to find someone that hasn't just been bc skiing before, but an experienced and learned person that is tuned into helping newbies and will take a close interest in the newbies' equipment and conditioning, and set reasonable (and adjustable) goals and the pace for the day.  Easier said than done, but worth searching out, and if/when you find one, figure out what their favorite scotch is.  

http://straightchuter.com/tag/partners/
post #8 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by canali View Post

 it's funny but a part of me found the trekking part a bit boring (would prefer snowshoeing) and the glide that came from nordic or skate skiing (more distance covered...so maybe i should also explore backcountry via nordic skiing...??)....but it's a new venue afterall and i have to respect it as it is: a new 'language' to my body/mind and one i'll either revisit or bypass to stay with the other activities i do already like: downhill, and both nordic and skate skiing.....we'll see.

My constant quoting of this site might get tedious but why reinvent the wheel?  
http://straightchuter.com/tag/uphill/
post #9 of 36
 I find kryptons to skin quite well, hiking kinda of suck in them though!

dress as if you were going for run or bike ride outside! not skiing. take clothes for the ski back down or any breaks.

In 30 degree clear weather for me this means only one layer on top going up no hat, snow pants with shorts on underneath.

Word of advice on the krypton put the buckles on the loosest setting but do not leave them unbuckled or have them tight. I can skin comfortably probably 4000-6000 vertical feet and never have problem with these boots, its only hiking that can really start to hurt me feet.

2 hours of sleep? yeah that doesnt help and lots of food. The more food the better, more water the better, and you will get faster with time.

FYI IMO the best way to get better at skinning/hiking is to go out during extremely low avalanche days(most of the time this is spring time) and ski low angle shots. think steep green run steepness. Although I advocate traveling in avy terrain as a well prepared team, spring time touring by yourself on really beign terrain is a great way to get use to the act of skinning. Just let someone know where your going to be and dont take chances. Its nice to be able to go your own pace and not worry about anyone else but yourself.

When setting your own skin track its best to keep the angle low and use the terrain to make the most gentle path up the mountain. Try to make nice round turns instead of switchback and avoid using your climbing bars. Most people gain vertical faster and more efficiently by taking a shallower path. If the terrain dictates you must use your climbing bar then by all means use them.

the only pain you should ever have from skinning is from legs/lungs anything else is ill fitting equipment.
post #10 of 36
Thread Starter 
 ''RE: Glad you survived.  In case you decide not to continue with bc skiing, what size are those skis?     Kidding.  ''
 
hey you're like all of us: in search of a good deal...well not to be had here, as i rented mine gear from mec...was told to do so the first season to first see if i'd like it enough....i'm not some wuss about to give up that easily  as my synopsis of this activity being a new 'language' to my body/mind is true: you sometimes have to listen to a new music, or try a new food or whatever more than once to truly open up to it and explore it...so blue toenails and sore big toes and battered ego notwithstanding, this is where i'm at....i love a bc ski motto: 'you earn your turns'  I have tons of now well founded respect for bc skiiers.
post #11 of 36
Thread Starter 
RE ''dress as if you were going for run or bike ride outside! not skiing. take clothes for the ski back down or any breaks.

In 30 degree clear weather for me this means only one layer on top going up no hat, snow pants with shorts on underneath''

y
eah and i mistakenly didn't...wasn't told or advised how to dress...instead  thought: backcountry skiing...hmmmm, remote, avalanches...dress well...so i bring my westcomb hardshell (even with event material it too thick at 21oz) a thicker fleese top and then 2 layers of thinner wool base underneath...'tis little wonder I was sweating buckets only 1/2 hr into the activity...so when I delayered later and continued to climb (also had a smaller backpack that couldn't carry all the stuff, another mistake) here i was with my shell and fleese wrapped around my waste (lol real cool looking that image)...but all that sweat now got cold and even when I stayed at the 1/2 way point in the warming hut (insert song: "heaven, i'm in heaven...'') and let the group go on to the upper elfin lakes ridge of garibaldi, i still couldn't shake the cold dampness.....was later told to next time wear not a hardshell (will use the one i have mainly for my downhill skiing i guess) but instead to bring a softshell...just wasn't aware of the energy expenditure. (duh on my part but it was my first time).

RE: ''FYI IMO the best way to get better at skinning/hiking is to go out during extremely low avalanche days(most of the time this is spring time) and ski low angle shots. think steep green run steepness. Although I advocate traveling in avy terrain as a well prepared team, spring time touring by yourself on really beign terrain is a great way to get use to the act of skinning. Just let someone know where your going to be and dont take chances. Its nice to be able to go your own pace and not worry about anyone else but yourself.''

i'll def keep that in mind....felt under alot of pressure to keep up with group...i started a bit behind even from parking lot (4/5 of group were wayyyy ahead of us...leader and someone else ahead of me in distance...i was the 'weakest link' trying to keep a pace that wasn't working when all the stops (fighting growing boot blisters, tightness ...dealing with fatigue from only 2-3 hrs of sleep...constant adjustment of buckles/straps to get some flexibilty but then too much as the onset of blisters...delayering, having to hydrate, try to eat 1/3 of a frozen protein bar)... a friggin' disaster overall (yet cause for laughs, too, in hindsight).

I actually just now wrote my group leader suggesting that there should be a cheat sheet for beginner skiiers to know what to bring (and not to bring) and how to layer etc....i'm sure i'm not the only one who was ''in the dark'' on their first outing...and imo that gap shouldn't exist.



Edited by canali - 12/6/09 at 10:50am
post #12 of 36
Food for me is the key.  I bonked my first trip and will never willing go there again.  I have learned to keep pre-cut food like apples or power-bars in an available pocket to suck on constantly.  Energy improves form which reduces injuries, blisters and otherwise.  I have found that taking a couple of power-bars and cutting them into little cubes and then tossing them in a zip-lock bag with a teaspoon of icing sugar so they don't stick together keeps the engine purring through a 6000 vertical day.  Without it I am toast.
post #13 of 36
I use my alpine boots for BC and, while they are heavy, they are comfortable enough.  Bushwhacker's advice is good advice.  Never unbuckle your boots for a long hike - you are just asking for blisters. 
post #14 of 36
Thread Starter 
 i had to unbuckle them to get some movement as they were too tight and i wasn't getting any forward flex while walking with the skins...then it was a matter of trying to get the right amount of movement that without blistering (little luck that)...next time i'll just do all the things I should have done in terms of proper prepping all around.
post #15 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by canali View Post

 yeah at one point the team leader was so far ahead of us I couldn't call out that i needed some blister pack

Not good.  Unless I'm breaking trail, I find the best place for a newby is in front, setting the pace.  (Assuming that is, that you want to the person to have fun).  If I keep them up front, they can find a pace, and I can keep an eye on things like skins coming loose, heels wrong height, etc.

I dress light on the way up, then quickly change my whole top layer for dry stuff at the top.

Keep the faith...it can be fun.
post #16 of 36
Hey there Canali,
Sorry I've been rough on ya, but many of your questions sounded like a day that might be headed in this direction.

1400 vert (feet) in an hour an a half isn't a "blistering" pace, but I've had days I definitely climbed slower.  The fact that your group wanted to take a first timer higher at that speed doesn't speak well to the group communication at the very least.  

Your boots need to be replaced, but unfortunately, the inability to skin with them for a short day trip is a sign of poor skinning technique.

Regarding kick and glide, yeah, there ain't much of that in the bc.  Sometimes, on some long flat spring approaches, you can get some kicker skins and get a little of that kick and glide, but there isn't a lot of that back there.

Keep at it, eventually, the climb has to become fun or you won't do that. 

I long for powder in the fall, but I really day dream about the feel of a skin track.  I like the slide and grip feel.  Of course the riding is the fun part, but you gotta like that climb.

 

Everyone gives decent advice.  Go out with people on smaller days and do small things to make the day enjoyable.  Definitely get some more sleep, food wise, hell, that's about how much I eat before jumpin' on the track, but put some more fuel in the tank.  Take it slow, take a camera, take pictures, and enjoy the environment you are in.  Take some tea and something decent to eat and enjoy the day.  If that means one run, then so be it.  The whole point is quality over quantity.

Find a mentor that is patient.  Go slower, get to that fancy warming hut you spoke about (wish we one of those around here), eat some food and do some beacon drills while resting.  Dig in the snow, learn what it's doing.  I don't take a lot of first timers out, but when it's someone I want to take out, they probably think I'm too slow, because I'm making sure they aren't getting tired, point out things around us, and describing what I'm looking for in regards to snow stability.  

post #17 of 36
^splitter and newfydog have some invaluable advice on pacing and group dynamics.  Read and heed.  
post #18 of 36
Thread Starter 
 yeah and thanks...didn't have the group dynamics i was looking for on this trip, i guess
post #19 of 36
Out of curiosity, what did you rent from MEC?   Was it Trekkers or an actual AT binding? 
post #20 of 36
Thread Starter 
the bindings were AT ones mounted on  (a bit too large) spitfires ie, i ride a 163 but these were 170
Edited by canali - 12/9/09 at 8:30am
post #21 of 36
Thanks for letting me learn from your mistakes. 
Note to self: Do NOT go BC skiing in alpine boots.
That is all.

Anybody got experience simulating DH skiing in the BC on cross-country skis?  I got given a pair of Elan RB Mohair skis with three-pin bindings. I still need to get XC boots for them though.  .
post #22 of 36
Thread Starter 
 RE: post 16/skinner: ''Your boots need to be replaced, but unfortunately, the inability to skin with them for a short day trip is a sign of poor skinning technique.''
 
skinner: i disagree somewhat...i've done loads of xcountry skiing so know very well the technique of gliding..sure it's different from skinning but not totally different.

RE: ''Go out with people on smaller days and do small things to make the day enjoyable.  Definitely get some more sleep, food wise, hell, that's about how much I eat before jumpin' on the track, but put some more fuel in the tank.  Take it slow, take a camera, take pictures, and enjoy the environment you are in.  Take some tea and something decent to eat and enjoy the day.  If that means one run, then so be it.  The whole point is quality over quantity.

Find a mentor that is patient.  Go slower, get to that fancy warming hut you spoke about (wish we one of those around here), eat some food and do some beacon drills while resting.  Dig in the snow, learn what it's doing.  I don't take a lot of first timers out, but when it's someone I want to take out, they probably think I'm too slow, because I'm making sure they aren't getting tired, point out things around us, and describing what I'm looking for in regards to snow stability."

...totally agree...wish i had had you as the group leader.
post #23 of 36
Interesting thread.  My feet were miserable last year for the first two months in my new Krypton Cross boots.  It took custom foot beds, lots of adjusting and breaking them in to finally get comfortable in them.  I only use them for downhill. 

I have never done any real BC skiing but I do like to putter around the woods on my BC nordic x-country skis.  The BC nordic boots are very comfortable - right out of the box.  The problem with the x-country skis is that they are so difficult to turn going down hills. 
post #24 of 36
Skinning with AT bindings and AT or alpine boots is not the same as nordic skiing.   You need to keep your weight farther back, especially for maintaining skin traction on a steep climb, and as you found out, hiking  while  leaning forward in unbuckled alpine boots produces blisters very quickly.  Best to think of pushing your skis ahead of you as an image to focus on.

Regardless of what others have experienced, AT skiing in alpine boots is like going backpacking in bowling shoes.  Is it possible? Yes.  Can some people get away with it without getting massive blisters? Yes. Is it a good idea?  Definitely, not.  Alpine boots are designed to function only for skiing downhill.  They suck for walking on the flat, much less climbing with skins.  The group dynamics and poor preparation aside, you had the wrong tool for the job. 

Some AT bindings accept alpine boots so that you can use the skis for downhill skiing, not so that you can use the boots for uphill skiing.  You not only had a bad day AT skiing, but I bet the blisters you produced will screw up your alpine skiing for quite some time.  One theme you continually see on this forum is that good fitting boots are your most improtant piece of equipment, and that goes double for AT skiing.

A good AT setup should allow you to comfortably climb, descend and traverse.  It is expensive to have two boot/binding/ski setups, but the benefits can be physically and spiritually rewarding, not to mention unlimited untracked.
post #25 of 36
If you skin up something really steep, on the highest heel setting, good fitting Alpine boots work just fine.  I know people who use them instead of their AT boots for certain outings.

Once it flattens out and the potential exists, as Mudfoot describes, to push your feet ahead and glide a bit, they are awful.
post #26 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by newfydog View Post

If you skin up something really steep, on the highest heel setting, good fitting Alpine boots work just fine.  I know people who use them instead of their AT boots for certain outings.

Once it flattens out and the potential exists, as Mudfoot describes, to push your feet ahead and glide a bit, they are awful.

This is just like hiking up a steep hill in alpine boots, they are fine if you kick the toes in and keep the bottoms flat, which gets tiring, but if you have to step with the heels raised or lowered they get uncomforable real fast. 
Edited by mudfoot - 12/9/09 at 11:23am
post #27 of 36
Canali - sorry to hear about your bad experience, but some of the fun of any sports is learning from each experience and getting better from them! 
Have you read Volken's book "Backcountry Skiing" yet?  You will find a bunch of usefull information instead of learning it the hard way.
post #28 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghost View Post

Anybody got experience simulating DH skiing in the BC on cross-country skis?  I got given a pair of Elan RB Mohair skis with three-pin bindings. I still need to get XC boots for them though.  .

What size foot?
post #29 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by canali View Post

 RE: post 16/skinner: ''Your boots need to be replaced, but unfortunately, the inability to skin with them for a short day trip is a sign of poor skinning technique.''
 
skinner: i disagree somewhat...i've done loads of xcountry skiing so know very well the technique of gliding..sure it's different from skinning but not totally different.


I can definitely appreciate your point  of view.  It is true you would need new boots if you plan on continuing.  However your extreme discomfort and experience do not line up well the myriads of people that choose to skin short day trips in the alpine boots so they have downhill boot performance or the fact that a whole lot of people get out there in their alpine boots doing the same thing you did, checking it out.  My wife, who lets me know each step she is uncomfortable, spent a season in her downhill boots before getting some megarides.

450m's in an hour in a half should be doable in cement blocks for a seasoned backcountry skier.  I know you aren't this, but, as mentioned, skinning does in fact take some technique.  Yes, most people can get out there and slide the foot forward, but, as with anything, there is technique you won't even realize until you get on some more tracks.  I'm still learning to skin better and I've been on countless tracks the last 7 years.  

So, to summarize, yes, alpine boots suck for skinning, but your extreme discomfort, to me, is probably exacerbated by being new at skintracks.

Speaking of group leaders and dynamics, did your group leader have you do any beacon drills? 
post #30 of 36
Thread Starter 
 thanks, splitter: you might be right, then, about my lack of skiing technique (my bruised ego i guess...)...anyway, no, there were no beacon drills, just that we checked before going ahead that our beacons were all working.

 I had let my fitness levels slide...so am dilligently working on that aspect, too (let myself slide after a somehat rough relationship breakup)....thanks for your support (and everyone's replies).
Edited by canali - 12/10/09 at 1:15pm
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