With an Ice Beard, you feel, anything is possible. It is transformative. Almost like a drug…Normal Mark sees a locked door and thinks, “Ah well. Guess I won’t be entering THAT room.” Ice Beard Mark sees that same door and smashes it with his Ice Beard. – Mark Remy, “The Power of the Ice Beard,” runnersworld.com
One of my strengths as an outdoor athlete is my perpetual search for bad ideas. Late last year Luke informed me that Patagonia needed some cold weather photos and footage for upcoming projects-I knew just the place. The Greys River is nestled in between the Salt River and Wyoming Ranges in Western Wyoming. We decided it would be a good idea for a human powered push the length of the river starting at Poker Flat and exiting at the trailhead at the mouth of the canyon near Alpine. Our trip would consist of about 110k over 3 days. We knew the first part was groomed and would move pretty fast-the middle 20 miles was uncharted territory. I had only been over it once, in a car, during the summer.
Monday night Luke, Fred, and I met at my place to finalize logistics and gear. We needed cold weather footage and the weather guides were more than willing to oblige. it was forecast to be -25 in Auburn the following morning. We decided the Fred would accompany us running part of the time, and via snowmobile to get the footage needed. Luke and I also packed some additional food/warm gear in Black Hole bags strapped to small pulks that we constructed the night before. Our plan was to be at the top of Commissary Ridge at dawn. This required a 4:20 wake up call and blitz for the backwoods.
Peeling the layers off to start was painful but it was nice to get moving. It was a long grinder climb to the top of the pass but the views and heavily flocked trees were astounding. The real pay off came when we were able to get our sleds to return the favor down the back side of the pass. The groomed trail provided for the perfect bobsled run. We just flipped the stays back, straddled the bag and let it rip. Legend has it that we reached 30+ miles per hour on the descent off the pass and of course we had to try it again. And again. And again.
Finally we decided that we’d better get moving. At the end of the groomed trail we refueled and relaxed at a warming hut then started toward the Cazier Cabin which would be our first stop of the trip. There had been no travel in this section, the trail was not groomed, and we immediately began postholing and cursing our way to the cabin. The going was slow and difficult. The crusty, unconsolidated snow would punch right through sometimes and almost hold on others. About this time I realized I had done a really poor job fueling and hydrating. My energy began to wane and my digits started to get cold. My 3 year old winter 110’s we soaking through and freezing. Finally I decided to switch socks and then put on my Neos over boots. They are a bit clunky but it was obvious that no land speed records were being set and the extra warmth, surface area, and traction was wonderful. Part of our mission was to further test the Patagonia Nano-Air. I had never used one of these jackets before and it turns out that running in -15 they are the perfect piece. After 10 hours of nature I had no complaints. It worked beautifully.
Finally about dusk we reached the cabin. I was toast. It was nice to peel off the sweaty layers and get some food going. Fred and Luke decided that a lap down the river would make the next day much faster going. We had Ultragen, mashed potatoes, smoked Salmon and some Patagonia Provisions lentil soup. I made a vow to do much better the next day with my fueling.
We decided to get some extra sleep because of heavy cloud cover the next morning. We rolled out late morning. The weather had warmed and the trail they packed the night before was much easier to run. We meandered by the river. The trail rolled a bit and as the river grew so did the cool ice flows. It would choke, flow, and freeze into cool formations. We made much quicker work of the second day. Eventually making it back to the groomed trail in Forest Park. Forest Park is the home of an elk refuge where they feed the elk. We stopped to check out the big bulls in the hundreds of elk before hustling down to the Meadows cabin near the Box Y Ranch. We knew they would have a tasty dinner waiting for us. By the time we reached the cabin we felt like we were flying. I suppose we were-at 10 minute per mile pace. We were getting tired of dragging our gear and looking forward to to switching modes of travel. Dinner was delicious and it was good to see some other people. In the previous 2 days we had not seen a soul-which we had hoped for but it was good to be getting back to civilization.
The third day we rode out on fat bikes. McKay Erickson and crew, the Vaquero Race support specialists (think Cowboy aid station) brought our bikes in. Due to some car trouble we got a bit of a late start but were grateful to be pedaling instead of running at this point. The early season training was not sufficient for such long days. At first the trail was solid and Luke’s tires were way under inflated. Here we saw some of the most breath taking scenery. Virginia and the surrounding peaks were popping. Shortly there after it really became a drag. the lower sections of trail had received a lot of traffic and the cold temperatures left the snow sand-like and loose. It made the going tough. 4.5 hours and a half-dozen crashes later we finally made it back to the truck. It was gave us all that we wanted. We were pleased with our effort and that it had finally warmed up to -7. Amazing how quickly the human body adjusts to its surroundings. It only took 15 miles to thaw the ice from our beards. Now that’s a sold door-smashing adventure for sure.