Hillman’s Highway Zone April 9, 2016

This has been a frustrating year to be a New England skier. Plenty of storms and moisture content have been passing through, but mostly as rain. The forecast was calling for another event to roll through starting off as snow, transitioning to rain and then temps dropping as the front passed and moisture transitioning back to snow. Dust-on-crust or potentially some soft snow in sheltered locations. A long drive if it was the former but the fallback plan was to spectate the Inferno.

Avalanche bulletin rated Hillman’s Highway at Low and 3.5″ had fallen on mostly west winds on the back end of the storm.

The classic shot of Dodge's Drop and Hillman's Highway from Hojo's.

The classic shot of Dodge’s Drop and Hillman’s Highway from Hojo’s.

The view from Hojo’s showed fresh snow throughout the zone. Upon reaching the lower flank of Hillman’s the snow was bulletproof but more filled in that my trip 9 days prior. I think the solid rain crust down low is what kept almost everyone else out of the area. I booted on the crust, occasionally venturing onto the new snow to test stability. Depths were mostly 4-6″, was well bonded to the snow below, and had little energy. I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking. Order was HH climbers Left, then HH climbers Right, Diagonal,* and Dodge’s Drop. *There is also a Diagonal Gully in Huntington Ravine.

Cold dry snow in early April!

Cold dry snow in the gut of Hillman’s!

An unmolested Diagonal. This is the name I was given from Jeff Lane. I have also heard it referred to as Stovepipe.

An unmolested Diagonal (this is the name I was given from Jeff Lane). I have also heard it referred to as Stovepipe.

Looking down Diagonal from just below the top.

Looking down Diagonal from just below the top.

View of Dodge's climbers right side from the top split. I went left.

View of Dodge’s climbers right side from the top split. I went left.

Looking down Dodge's from the split.

Looking down Dodge’s from the split.

Top of Dodge's

Top of Dodge’s

Looking back up Dodge's from the ice bulge.

Looking back up Dodge’s from the ice bulge.

The kind of mention you want from the avalanche gurus. http://www.mountwashingtonavalanchecenter.org/2016/04/10/un-spring-like-conditions/

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Dynafit Cuff Rivet Replacement

The Dynafit TLT5/6 and DyNA Evo are hugely popular in the backcountry skiing community. Despite their popularity, Dynafit has yet to address a glaring design flaw: the cuff rivets. (At least they changed the lower buckle on the TLT6 from the catastrophe that was on the TLT5 but still remains on the PDG!)

Back to the problems with the cuff rivets, yes plurality was intended. The issues at hand are that the rivets are a pressed rivet but the more fundamental flaw is that the rivets are not oriented to operate in parallel planes. If the rivets operated in parallel planes, the pressed rivets would be much less of an issue (except for those that need to cant their boots). Because the rivets are not parallel, each rotation of the upper cuff puts a force on the rivet that over time will loosen the press on the rivets. Once play develops in the rivet, the carbon cuff will begin to wear. This downward spiral can lead to the destruction of your very pricey boots. Another way to think about the issue is a straight line should be able to be drawn that goes right through the center of each rivet. The boot designers obviously had more pull than the engineering team.

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Angle formed between cuff rivets in non-parallel planes can easily be seen during a test fit of the metal components of the rivets.

Bill over at B&D has developed a replacement system to address this issue. It isn’t cheap and does require a fair amount of effort to install but well worth the investment over buying a new pair boots. Once the replacement rivets are installed, the system is much more rigid and the lower shell will now flex slightly with each rotation to absorb the energy that was formerly loosening the pressed rivets.

The B&D replacements will work on the TLT5, TLT6, and on the DyNA Evo. Due to thinner materials in the Evo, an additional washer is required. The standard spacer for the TLT5/6 is 0.030″. Bill provided additional 0.040″ washers in the kit for the Evo but I found that the 0.030 + the 0.040 didn’t allow for resistance free cuff rotation over the entire range. I instead used 2x of the 0.030 washers.

Here are a few pictures from the retrofitting process

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Start with a pilot hole, I used 1/8″ and it is not necessary to go completely through the rivet.

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Swap to a 3/8″ bit and drill until you expose some plastic material.

On the Evo this exposed material is not part of the lower shell but a bushing (installed on all models that also have a full rubber sole). On the TLT5/6 there is no bushing and this will be a small protrusion of the shell. You will be removing this protrusion at a later step but it is prudent to check your progress often!

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Pry off the rivet being careful not to damage the carbon cuff.

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(Many) drilled rivets and an old bushing from the DyNA Evo.

Repeat on the other side of the boot and then tap/press the remains of the rivet from the outside of the boot and retrieve it from the inside of the boot.

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Old bushing on left and the individual components of the B&D replacement kit in assembled order. All rivet sets are shipped properly assembled. Keep at least one fully assembled for reference.

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Slight gap between bushing and carbon cuff.

Bill will provide oversized bushings at your request. The standard bushings have an outer diameter of 0.500″ and the oversized are 0.560″. I measured my cuffs from 0.510-0.520″. That seemed like a lot of carbon to sand away so I wrapped some electrical tape around the bushing to fill the gaps. The tape should not see much wear but the great thing is it will now be simple to remove the rivets whenever you need to.

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Electrical tape placed on the bushing.

Two wraps of tape got me a nice snug fit. The amount of tape required will depend on how worn your cuffs are.

Some lubrication on the delrin/metal interfaces is highly recommended. The grease I used was Molykote EM-30L by Dow Corning. This is the same grease Dynafit uses when assembling their bindings. You can usually find this on eBay or Amazon for around $10.

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Don’t forget the lube!

Bill will sell you a spanner tool with the kit to hold the inner nut in place while you tighten down the screw. A dab of thread locker should keep the screw from backing out.

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Chad Denning Memorial Run

The Chad Denning Memorial Run will take place on August 22, 2015 departing from the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge Trailhead in Benton, NH at 6 AM (1 Ravine Rd, Benton, NH).

Distance: 32 miles with over 9200ft of elevation gain. A 21 mile run is also an option (just cross the bridge at the 2nd water stop to return to the Ravine Lodge).
Water stations at miles 13.5 and 20.5.
Participants should be well prepared for solo mountain travel.

Signup here. Group size is limited due to USFS restrictions.

Lodging is available at the Dartmouth Outing Club Ravine Lodge for Friday, August 21st. A block of bunks has been reserved and there may be a spot or two open.

Chad Denning Memorial Run Course Map

Chad Denning Memorial Run Course Map

Turn by turn directions can be found here.

Chad Denning Memorial Run Course Profile

Chad Denning Memorial Run Course Profile

Chad Denning passed away while running on Mount Moosilauke on September 7, 2014.

Donations can be sent to :
The Chad Denning Family Fund
Ledyard Bank
67 Main St
West Lebanon, NH 03784

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Presidential Range Snow Plots

Historical data for snow depths from manual snow plots in the Presidential Range of New Hampshire is next to impossible to find. The USFS snow rangers maintain plots at both Hermit Lake and the Harvard Cabin. However, they have not been willing to publish or share this data with the general public. Randolph Mountain Club maintains a manual plot at Grey Knob at the north end of the range as well. These are the primary areas of interest for backcountry skiing. I have been archiving the daily AMC reports as well as the weekly RMC reports for the past few seasons. There are some gaps in data but this is the best information available.

2010-2011 Yellow
2011-2012 Blue
2012-2013 Red
2013-2014 Green
2014-2015 Dark Purple
2015-2016 Light Purple (Worst Year Ever)

Hermit Lake Snow Plot Data

Grey Knob Snow Plot Data

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How to Replacing a Race Binding Heel Fork

Worn Titanium Heel Fork

Notched titanium heel fork.

After a few seasons of use, the titanium heel forks on my Dynafit Low Tech Race bindings have become notched. The notches allow the boot to rattle a bit when in ski mode and can cause inconsistent release at the heel.

For a weight penalty of 7-8 grams per ski the Ti forks can be replaced with steel forks. The steel version is much more durable, gives a slightly higher vertical release value, and costs less. I decided to go with steel as I would likely never have to replace them again. Skimo.co has a good selection for different binding brands.

Use a punch to remove the retainer pin making sure to support the binding. The punch I had wasn’t long enough so I improvised with an insulation support and a pair of pliers. I clamped the pliers an inch or two from the end, placed against the partially removed retainer pin, and hammered on the pliers. Make sure to have something to catch the retainer pin.

Improvised punch.

Improvised punch.

The old fork is easy to remove but getting the new fork on is a bit tricky. I forced one of the forks against the binding and twisted my pliers between the forks to spread them enough to slide the fork into the binding.

Twist the pliers to spread the forks

Twist the pliers to get enough leverage to spread the forks.

Finish by pounding the retainer pin back in (again, make sure to have a way to support the binding). A vise would also work to press the pin into place.

Completed heel fork replacement.

Completed heel fork replacement.

The procedure for Plum and Kreuspitze bindings should be similar; knock out the retainer pin. Hagan, Ski Trab, and the older style Dynafit Low Tech bindings use a screw to hold the fork in place.

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Mt Washington Speed Record

A car-summit-car speed attempt on Mt. Washington has been on my to-do list for a while. Kevin Tilton’s posting of his winter run time of 1:47:31 gave a good target to shoot for. Josh and I talked about doing it together but matching schedules can be difficult. A weather window seemed to open up but it was on the same day as the Tuckerman Inferno. A few attempts to get other partners fell short so I decided to go solo. A spring weekend in Mt. Washington’s Tuckerman Ravine can bring thousands of hikers and skiers (1800 was the estimate of 4/12/14) so I would be far from alone.

On 4/12 I skied from Pinkham (Started at Avy sign) to summit and back to Pinkham (stopped at GOS sign at the parking lot by the leach field) in 1:57:00. Route was TRT->Triple Right Gully->Lion’s Head->TRT->Summit->Headwall (Lip)->Sherbie. Plenty of room for improvement on this time.

25:35 at the LH split, 35:41 at the Hojo’s Avy sign, 1:07:00 rejoined LH, Summit in 1:34:14. http://www.strava.com/activities/129604212

-There was no set bootpack going up the Lip. People were just getting to the base of it when I got a view heading in. This was my intended route and I deviated to RRR because I was able to keep my skis on and skin quite high. Both routes will have some flat skinning, either on the lower bowl or along the rim of the bowl. There was no set bootpack in RRR either so Lip may have been a better choice from that perspective. I did wallow around in some krumholz on a few occasions.

-Snow was discontinuous in a few patches requiring extra transitions on the summit cone for both the up and down. Attempt was probably a week or so late this season.

-Sustained 45 MPH winds above the bowl didn’t allow for the sun to soften the snow above the rim of Tux. Careful skinning and some sidesteps on the way down were required in icy spots. This was especially true once above the parking lots.

-Tricky exit from the bowl. Streambed has melted out in places requiring a short bushwack in a few spots. One of my calves also cramped up in here.

-Sherbie was super slow skiing. Even with my warmest temp wax, it was not enough to overcome the surface tension of the water in the snow. Super grabby so I stayed in the shade when possible.

More than a few people were confused when I came cruising through Hojos thinking that I was an Inferno racer but didn’t take the turn toward Hillman’s. No time to explain, but a quick “not in the race” comment returned a few puzzled looks and slightly stunned reaction from one of the snow rangers. Spandex skimo suits aren’t the norm in Tux (yet).

Josh won the Men’s Inferno and Nina the Women’s title.

2014 Tuckerman Inferno Solo Champions!

2014 Tuckerman Inferno Solo Champions!

After some recovery time and food, Josh and I headed into the Gulf of Slides for some bonus vertical.

Skinny Skis in the Gulf of Slides

Skinny Skis in the Gulf of Slides

 

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Dynafit Snow Leopard Challenge 2014

March 8-9, 2014

Lack of snow has been a common theme this season. Organizers were fortunately able to reschedule this weekend of racing that was originally planned for January. One new venue and two new courses would provided a weekend with plenty of action.

Jay Peak played host on Saturday with a 7.5 mile course climbing 4250 ft encompassing some of the most difficult terrain on the mountain. The redesigned course layout started at the new Stateside base lodge and climbed up a low angled groomer before traversing across 3 black diamonds and turning up a fourth. The pitch quickly cranked up to near the limit of skins and the pace was subsequently brought to a crawl. At least one competitor found the angle too steep and resorted to booting up the pitch.

Start of the 2014 Dynafit Snow Leopard Challenge at Jay Peak.

Start of the 2014 Dynafit Snow Leopard Challenge at Jay Peak.

Five or six competitors were within a minute at the top of the first climb. George got away first, Martin second, and I followed close behind as we dropped into a glade for a few hundred foot ski. Martin crashed early and I exited the glade onto a groomer just behind George. No flagging was to be seen in the low visibility but I was confident we were at the transition. I lead out of the transition with Josh and Leigh able to surpass George as well. The three of them closed the gap as I punched out the boot ladder up Green Beret. On to the summit we were all still tightly bunched.

Visibility again made it hard to follow the bamboo markings leading George to ski off course by missing a turn into the glade (30 sec penalty applied that allowed Leigh to take the victory). Leigh was on home turf, and put a gap on us during the descent as he and George were gone before Josh, Philippe, and I pulled into the skins-on transition. The three of us traded positions during the sequence of skin/boot/skin, descent of the mogul field on Power Line, traversing a green run, a slight uphill to gain another glade, and then straight-lining the condo slope into the transition for the final climb.

I pulled away first and tried to leave it all on the skintrack of the last short climb. I couldn’t hold of Josh as we pulled into the transition together. I fumbled a skin, skated into some soft snow and all I could do was watch as Josh pulled away for 3rd.

Sunday at Owls Head in Quebec brought a slightly longer course (8.6mi) with a bit more climbing (5050ft). The skiing was strictly on groomed piste but still a very enjoyable course with the majority of the climbs taking place in the backcountry sector. With a $500 cash prize on the line for the lowest combined time for the two days, all of the top talent from the day prior were in for another day of racing.

A short groomer lead to a steep moguled climb and I was able to position myself near the front so that I could choose what I felt was the most efficient line (which I scouted while warming up). I picked the left side while most of the others headed to the right side of the trail. My scouting paid off as I was able to get cleanly through the moguls without expending a lot of energy early on in the race. The first climb was short at 170m (we were in Canada, eh) and the first transition was closely packed. I pulled away first and made my way back to the starting line to transition for a traverse across the mountain and into the backcountry sector. I reached the mandatory downclimb and about halfway down stopped as I lost sight of the flags allowing a few people to get ahead and show me the proper way down to the road. A skins on descent lead to the low point an the climbing began in earnest. I trailed Leigh, George, and Martin with Josh and Philippe in hot pursuit. I was able to pass Martin while Josh, Leigh and I trailed George by a few seconds by the time we reached the summit.

Josh, Jerimy, and Leigh battling for 2nd.

Josh, Jerimy, and Leigh battling for 2nd.

I tried to follow Leigh on the descent, but he somehow evaded my tail and I missed a turn resulting in a 30 sec penalty for Josh and I. George took a spill on the descent and trailed Leigh as the four of us came to the skins on transition. A short climb lead us back to the now familiar downclimb and backcountry ascent. Josh and George passed me on the downclimb with Leigh on my heels. This order held up for the bootpack and into the final skins on transition. The last climb/descent was a repeat of the first climb/ski of 170m. I passed Josh in the transition and tried to gain on George. I ran out of real estate as George skied away just after I came into the final transition. An uneventful ski to the finish gave me 2nd place on the day and 3rd in the 2-day standings.

Nearing the bootpack to the summit of the Owl's Head Rando.

Nearing the bootpack to the summit of the Owl’s Head Rando.

The Dynafit QC rep, Jeff Rivest put in a lot of effort facilitating this two day event. I think it was very successful and would like to see the trend continue. Lets hope the snow and weather cooperate next year. Unlikely for the Northeast!

This week the NE Rando Race Series returns to Magic Mountain, VT.

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