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Elk Mountain Grand Traverse Packing List (Updated)

Posted on March 07 2016

Elk Mountain Grand Traverse Gear List.

The Grand Traverse is an incredible event that combines my two favorite winter pursuits, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineer racing.  Most skimo races exists primarily in the confines of the resort while the GT throws you in the middle of the Elk Mountains, one of the most gnarly sections of the Rockies in the lower 48. When you are out in the real backcountry for 40 miles it is no wonder that the gear list required for a 24 hour bivouac is a mile long. 

Here is a little help from our experience, both as racers and long time gear shop employees. Our recommendations are prefect for someone who wants this gear, not just for the race, but as tools for years of backcountry and ski mountaineering enjoyment.

Ski System

Skis – The Hagan X-Race was the original competitive price point ski. It was in the 700 gram zone of skis well over $1000 but at the low price of $800. The Atomic Ultimate 65 you can get for just $599.

Boots – Affordable boots can be narrowed to two choices, the Dynafit PDG and Scarpa Alien. Although I could write a whole post teching out on the differences the most important thing for a 40 mile race is comfort. So pick the one that fits best.

Bindings – I like the Hagan ZR bingind or the adjustable version for this. Super light, under $600 and it has a flat walk mode for the long slogs.

Note: The use of a ski retention system (leashes) is mandatory on Aspen Mountain.  Each racer’s ski retention system will be checked at the top of Aspen Mountain before racers are allowed to enter the ski area and descend to the finish.

I left this quote in because I never attached my leashes to go down Ajax. Somehow after skiing race gear without leashes hundreds of times before without incident, my ski blew off, shot into the woods, and was never seen again. Trust me skiing down Ajax on one ski is a shitty way to finish a 10 hour effort and an expensive mistake.

Poles – Your backcountry adjustable poles will do fine for this. The La Sportiva RSR pole is a great price for a high end skimo pole. I would not recommend XC poles with little baskets.

Climbing Skins – 4 Pairs of skins per team is necessary, more would be better. You need one pair that is full width for Star Pass and some skins cut to half width for the lower angle climbs, trimmed 8 inches behind the binding for added glide. Pomoca’s Race skins are pure mohair and lightweight.

Towing- If you are a team where you know one partner is much stronger than the other, you are probably going to want to tow. I really recommend using the Camp Alp Racing Harness for both the tower and the towie. I have towed and been towed in this race and it will ruin your day if you are using backpack straps.Elk Mountain Grand Traverse Packing List

Clothing System

Race suits don’t just make you look like a superhero, they are incredibly functional for temperature control and have internal pockets to keep your extra skins warm and sticky. Check out the La Sportiva Syborg 2 piece options, because in a 10 hour race you will probably have to go to the bathroom at least once!

For insulation pieces- The Dynafit Mezzelama Jacket and pant are designed for this and other races that require warm pieces. If its going to be really cold you will probably bring something warmer, but nothing will be lighter.

Eye & Skin Protection– Visors attached to your helmet work great and don’t fog up. Whatever your do bring some low light lenses.

Its a new rule in the last few years that you need a lightweight helmet. Try the Camp Speed Helmet for helmet that is light and will ventilate. 

Your BC ski cloths will work for the other pieces of clothing required.

Winter Survival System

Shelter - The Brooks Range UltraLite Alpini Shelter feels like cheating. At only 8 oz I wouldn't want to spend the night in one, but man does it save weight and space in the pack.

Pack – At the time of this post the Camp X3 600 is impossible to find in our country, but an ideal GT pack. I tried to get all the gear in a regular race pack and maybe the top guys can do it, but something in the 25-30 liter size would be perfect.

Food and Water – A hydration pack works if you are very careful.  Bring a backup water bottle for when it freezes.

Headlamp – Any headlamp and backup will do. We recommend the Black Diamond Storm with 160 Lumens while still not using an external battery pack.

Sleeping Pad – As always the lighter the better. Simple foam pads have to be strapped to the outside, but they are just as light as super expensive air pads.

Avalanche Rescue System

Avalanche Transceiver –  It is probably not worth buying a separate super light beacon that you would only want your dog to be carrying. Just use your regular backcountry beacon or check out the Tracker 3 for small and light but also super functional

Avalanche Shovel – The Camp Crest Shovel is the standard and its cheap. Just don’t let your partner see what you are packing.

Avalanche Probe – Nothing gets lighter than he Camp Carbon Probe. 

Below is the rest of the required gear that is not SkiMo specific. You are on your own for this but email me at Doug@cripplecreekbc.com if you have any questions. 

Team Gear -  The following items can be shared between two team members

Course Map – I like to just print out a color version of the map listed on the Grand Traverse website and then use packaging tape to make it waterproof. I don't know if this is lighter but its free and its ok if it gets lost or destroyed.

Emergency Plan – Teams must carry a copy of the Emergency Plan.  The Emergency Plan is on the back of the medical card racers fill out at gear check.  Racers receive these back at final beacon check.

Compass – No electronic compasses.

Altimeter* –  Must be calibrated at race start.

Stove – Commercial quality stove must be capable of melting snow in sub zero temperatures.  Solid fuel stoves (Esbit) are allowed.  Teams may be required to demonstrate the ability to melt snow at gear check-in.

Fuel & Igniter -  A full fuel container or eight solid fuel blocks.  Matches and/or lighter to start stove.  Propane (isobutane mix) is the recommended fuel as butane is not an appropriate fuel at below-freezing temperatures.

Pot with Lid – Minimum capacity 20 oz.

SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger* – Each team must carry a SPOT beacon and know how to use it.  SPOT beacons may be owned or rented from Trackleaders at registration (Rental SPOT fee- $40 / Personal SPOT fee- $15).  Rented units will be handed out during the beacon check at Mountaineer Square Friday night.  Visit www.findmespot.com

Repair Kit*– Minimum Includes:

  • Spare pole basket
  • Spare binding – (unless using Alpine Touring or Telemark gear).  Compatible spare bindings can be shared between teammates, unless teammates have incompatible systems, in which case an extra binding for each racer must be carried.
  • Binding screws – A binding ripping out of skis is not uncommon so racers are required to carry the proper repair equipment and tools. Racers will explain their strategy for repairing their binding to the judges unless using Alpine Touring or Telemark gear.  For more information, visit the FAQ page, under the Athletes tab on this website for some suggestions.
  • Multi-tool – Minimum components include knife, pliers and screwdriver (binding repair).
  • 3′ of duct tape
  • 3′ of baling wire
  • 3′ of 2mm cord
  • 1 spare headlamp
  • 1 set of spare batteries for headlamps

First Aid Kit* – Minimum Includes:

  • 4 large safety pins and triangular bandage
  • 3′ of 3″ Coban (or other self-adherent elastic wrap)
  • Band-aids
  • 2  4”x4” gauze pads
  • Surgical ABD or sanitary napkins (or some means to manage heavy bleeding)
  • Any prescription meds racers require.  Over the counter pain killers if desired.

Blister Kit* – Minimum includes:

  • Alcohol swabs
  • Moleskin or second skin
  • 3 ‘ of of  athletic tape
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