About Me

My photo
I like being outside if it's nice out. This includes mountain biking, trail running, sailing, climbing, skiing and much more. If you're going on a fun adventure, let me know!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Southern Straits 2017

The forecast was looking quite favourable for the fast and light boats in the 49th annual Southern Straits race. If the race had started a week earlier, the fleet would have either been sailing into a very strong April storm, or sitting at the dock listening to the VHF radio, drinking rum. The weather was fairly benign on race day, with a low sitting off Vancouver Island. Leading up to race day, the models were generally in agreement from run to run, if somewhat different depending on the forecast model.

Looking into my crystal ball, I figured the race weather would go something like this in an email I sent out to the Ultraman II crew the night before the race:

"We will probably end up rounding after the southeasterlies die down, so we'll be sailing into a dying breeze is my guess if we're not rounding before 7pm. After 7pm, the wind will likely drop into the 5-8 knot range. I think we'll see a band of heavy precipitation early tomorrow morning as the cold front passes (expect cold rain), but it should dry out through the day as we head north. Another band of precipitation is likely sometime in the middle of the night. 
Working the Vancouver Island shore seems like a less effective strategy this time around. The wind is forecasted to be lighter closer to shore due to the wind shadow, without the usual benefits of the Qualicum outflow winds due to the cold rainy weather. Staying in the middle won't be too adverse tide-wise given the weak flood. It will probably pay off to seek more wind than a little bit of tide relief for that flood between 3:15am-8am (only 2ft). It'll be interesting to see how the overnight winds pan out, as one of the models (the ECMWF) is still showing decent (8-10 knot easterly) through the night, whereas two other models are showing pretty light winds (GFS and NAM) until they pick up again in the morning. 
In the end, the ECMWF model was bang on, showing a drying trend on Friday, as we sailed north through some squalls, but also plenty of sunshine. The breeze was best in the middle of the strait overnight, while boats that sailed north of Halibut Bank (including us) ending up in some wind holes and a dying easterly, and boats that stayed south of Halibut Bank caught the post-frontal southwesterly first and sailed past those stuck above. 
Untitled
The new Ultraman II battle flag flying as we motored off to West Vancouver to the start line off Dundarave Pier.

Untitled
Smoke, TP52

This photo shows the Ross 930 looking small next to a TP52.
Photo by Harold and Lynn Gordon.

Untitled

Light air, downwind start with an ebbing tide.

Untitled
With the light winds in English Bay to start, everybody was looking for the best winds to get out of the bay.

Untitled
Finally out of the bay, and sailing into the stronger breeze.

Untitled
Andrew driving on the long 50 mile spinnaker run out to Sisters Islet. We all took turns driving, even the bowman who's not used to being at the back end of this boat.

Untitled
Fortissimo sailing behind us

Untitled
Skipper looking back at one of our competitors, Scoundrel, an Olson 30, in Division 6. We almost let them pass us on the upwind going home, but managed to hold onto our lead.

Untitled
Down below for a rest

Untitled
Looking back at our competitors with the Vancouver skyline

Untitled
The wind picked up into the steady 18-20 knots, which was the upper end of our 2S spinnaker. The foredeck team did an awesome job with a very fast bare-head change to the 4S spinnaker. Not bad for a crew that hasn't sailed all winter. We were all more comfortable sailing with that one in the bigger breeze, and the skipper more comfortable with the possibility of blowing that one up.

Untitled
Once the Ross 930 was up and surfing, we were able to extend our lead over the other boats in our division, and we were up at the front of the fleet in the medium course.

Untitled
Going downwind at 11-12 knots, with top speeds in the 15s.

Untitled
We caught up to back half of the J/109 fleet. This is Mojo, sailing to our left.

Untitled

Untitled
Vibrant rainbows on the race course.

Untitled
Mojo sailing off Lasqueti Island

Untitled
Rainbows were a common sight. The weather was really nice during the day and night. There were only some light rain showers as the squalls blew through. The daytime and nighttime temperatures were fairly comfortable, especially given the light overnight winds. We sailed under the sails, and caught a glimpse of a near-full moon rising through the clouds.

Untitled"What do you guys rate?"- Legacy

"100." - Ultraman II

"Oh, you guys are doing really well!" - Legacy

Untitled

Untitled
Neptune's Car on the beat back on the long course

Untitled
Sangster Island and Mojo

Untitled

Untitled
The scenery was pretty awesome. A day earlier, and the race would have been much different.

Untitled
A photo op of the photographer before getting ready to take down the spinnaker for the rounding around Sisters Islet. I don't get a chance to take a photo of the interesting moments like the roundings. Onboard Ultraman II, chances are that if I pull out my camera, it probably means there's a maneuver that's just about to happen, whether that be a sail change or a gybe.

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled
Sailing conditions were quite pleasant at Sisters Islet. The wind diminished to SE 10-12 knots and flat water.

Untitled
Nobody lives here anymore, and the buildings are all boarded up.

Untitled
Sailing back in 8-10 knots towards Parksville. We were way ahead of our division at this point, and we were following the four J-109's in front of us. We lost some ground here, sailing into some lighter breeze on the north side of Ballenas Island. In hindsight, we went too far right when the wind was still good in the middle. We watched the fleet behind us sail close to the rhumbline off Lasqueti Island, so we tacked out converge back with the fleet. I'm glad we didn't try to go to the other side of Ballenas, where the boats sat in a wind hole before sailing back out into the middle.

Untitled

Untitled
Enjoying a sunset over the Salish Sea, somewhere off Parksville. A nice sunset here, but too far from our competition.

Untitled

Untitled
Looking back at where we sailed from

Untitled
Freeze-dried dinner on the rail

Untitled
Boat speed, 1.5 knot. We sailed too far south off Ballenas Island and lost a large portion of our lead by this point.

Untitled
Floating along with the A1 sail, hoping to get back into the better breeze.

The rest of the fleet was also going left at this point. We converged with the front and right side of the fleet. We crossed tacks with Beats Per Minute (Olson 30) at midnight. We lost them after a few tacks, when they went right to sail a course south of Halibut Bank, while we sailed closer and closer to the shore. This move would not pay off, as the boats ahead sailed into wind holes off Roberts Creek and Gibsons. There was a light outflow from Howe Sound that curved up along the Sunshine Coast, meeting up with the post-frontal southeasterly south of Halibut Bank. At 23:00, the wind was E 8 to 12,  and an hour later it was SE 6 to 8. Beats Per Minute and Diva sailed the south course and were lifted to the finish, while we struggled with a weak breeze. As Peter Salusbury said during the Straits tactics talk, the race is won or lost at night, with the focused and determined crews being able to make up ground overnight.

 At 2:30am, we decided to go back out into the middle, but it was too late by this point. We crossed in front of another competitor, not knowing at first it was our sistership, the Ross 930 Dilligaf. We sailed another five-minute out, and then tacked back for the fast starboard reach across the south side of Bowen Island. We owe them 17 minutes, and we weren't quite able to make up that time by this point. They were also sailing double-handed too and pulled off an awesome race.

Untitled
The finish line is off Point Atkinson, but the fastest route is rarely to sail straight towards the finish. In the early morning, it usually pays to sail further south, way further outside than you expect before heading back to the finish line. As per usual, we were tricked into sailing closer, but the wind shifted from a southwesterly to light eastery off Point Aktinson. It turned into a tacking battle with the other Ross 930, who would eventually fall back. But they covered us from behind, ensuring they wouldn't get more than 17 minutes behind us if they sailed into a hole.

Untitled
We had a fantastic race, enjoying some really nice sailing conditions. It was all smiles as we cracked open the morning finish line beers. We crossed at 6:04am, after sailing for 19 hrs, 28 min, 16s. We would end up with line honours for Div 6, 2nd/9 in Div 6, and 4th/41 boats overall in the medium course.

Untitled
Breakfast rums back at the dock with the Ultraman II crew. From left to right: Jason (Skipper/Main), Andrew (helm/secret weapon), Jason (trim/ chicken soup miester), Gavin (mast), Callum (trim), Richie (bow/tactics/sandwich guy).

Untitled
The finish line is a beautiful spot, even if there's not much wind here sometimes. After catching up on some much needed sleep, I went out for a run and caught the last boat in our division, Bedlam II, crossing the finish line just before sunset. There were still two other medium course boats left out there in a very light breeze, and only one of them would finish before the midnight cutoff.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Mount Mulligan

December 25, 2016

Mount Mulligan is a small summit, mostly forested except where logged (and quite extensively!), just southeast of Squamish. Unlike the Red Heather area to the north, this area sees a lot less skier traffic, and more snowmobile traffic, as the access road is not plowed, nor is it in a park. However, the area offers a straightforward ascent, with some easy open skiing on smooth cutblocks. 

On Christmas Day, I found myself in the snowy Apron parking lot, wondering where my friends were. Greg and Lisa were in Squamish picking up their friend's dog (Sky) and we were going to meet to go and ski Mulligan. "I'll meet you at the Apron parking lot." "Where's that?" "Right by the Chief." "Sorry Rich, you'll have to be more specific than that." Sometimes, I forget that not everybody is a climber.

Christmas day would have been awesome for skiing on the North Shore, but Greg and Lisa were up in Squamish for a dinner that evening. It was probably good to break up the North Shore skiing streak. Greg and I had skied Hollyburn the day before, and we would ski St Marks the following day, and then Hollyburn again after that. Ski conditions on the North Shore had been spectacular in late December, and it was hard to convince me to ski anywhere else. I found myself that morning, driving past the Cypress exit, wondering why I was driving further to worse snow!

The snowpack in Squamish was thinner in comparison. We drove up the icy Mamquam Main, where chains would be a good idea. The Mamquam Main is plowed up to the Skookum Power Project, but you don't need to go that far to get to Mulligan. The Mulligan spur road (M7) leaves the Mamquam Main at 6.8km, and branches off to the right, with an immediate switchback. The road climbs quickly, and depending on the snow condition, you may want to just park at the turnoff. Greg drove the 4Runner up to 520m, where we started skinning from. There are not many spots to turn around on, so drive up the road at your own caution. You might piss off a snowmobiler or two if you pick a poor spot to park.

Snow conditions were pretty poor on the road. An inch of breakable crust at the lower elevations. The road only has a brief flat section, and otherwise climbs all the way up to 1200m, with a big cutblock ending at 1350m. From the end of the road, you can either ski up through the big open cutblock towards Mount Mulligan, or continue following the road towards the Mulligan-Anif col. Getting to the col is steep, but Anif Peak is a more open summit with good views of the Sky Pilot Group. There are some nice steep north facing bowls in complex terrain, to ski on both Anif and Mulligan.

Fortunately for us, the snow quality improved as we climbed up the road. Low density boottop powder sat on top of the firm crust. I don't know how busy this road gets on a normal weekend, but being Christmas day, it was completely quiet. This was also part of the reason I came here today. I figured most people have other plans today. We stopped for lunch just below the cutblock, and there was only one other skier who came by.

We headed up into the big cut block. If you look at the area on Google Earth, you will see that almost all sides of Mount Mulligan has been logged, save for the last 200m elevation band below the summit. The snow was probably as good as could be for this type of terrain. A big open green run, thanks to recent logging. There were only a few stumps that broke up the otherwise planar slope, no more than twenty degrees. I broke trail up towards the summit, enjoying the open trees leaving the cut block, and the boot-top powder over top of the firm crust. Greg and Lisa stopped just below the summit, while I continue up to get some more views of the Sky Pilot area. It started as a sunny morning, but the clouds associated with the next weather system moved in by the early afternoon.

I skied back down to Greg and Lisa, where we celebrated Christmas by enjoying the apple crumble pie that I carried up. Greg also hauled up a full growler filled with hot chocolate and schnapps to go along with the pie. It was easy skiing through well spaced trees back to the cut block. You could actually continue skiing further down the trees along the northwest ridge, but we headed back out into the cut block.

The snow was just perfect for these conditions. Fast, light, blower powder. It was hero snow, but not too much of it. We had fun skiing down the gentle slopes, where any more snow, or heavier snow, would be a slow descent. The ski down to the truck is quick, as the road is almost all downhill, with a very short section of skating. I only took off my skis once near the bottom, on a steep hill with a surface of ice and gravel.

Mount Mulligan seems like a great place to go if you're looking for some easy ski touring with good views, and as a nice alternative to Red Heather. From the end of the road and up to the summit, there are really great views of the Garibaldi area, the Tantalus Range, Skypilot, Howe Sound and Mamquam Mountain.  I'm not sure how busy this place gets with snowmobile traffic during the winter. While we were up there, there were only two other snowmobiler-skiers up there on Christmas day. Later in the year, or in early season, you should be able to drive further up the road. This is a quick trip, with most of the time on the ascent up the road, and hopefully a fast easy glide out back down.

Approximate route up to Mount Mulligan traced in on Google Earth. The white line is our up and down route. It was approximately 7km, and 1050m from where we parked, up to the summit.

Untitled
Sky and Chilko

Untitled
In case you can't tell, Chilko really loves sticks. He would have been a good asset last year when I was helping out with the Lizzie Creek road trailwork. Hey Chilko! Don't poop in the skintrack =)

Untitled
64 oounce stainless steel growler full of boozy hot chocolate, a Christmas day ski touring essential

Untitled
Heading up the logging road, with some old snowmobile tracks

Untitled
The dogs are less interested in the hot chocolate

Untitled
Heading up through the wide open cutblock with a view of the west side peaks of Howe Sound. Mount Murchison is on the right.

Untitled
Just like Red Heather, but here it's been logged instead of sub-alpine meadows.

Untitled

Untitled
Entering the forest

Untitled
Sky Pilot and Habrich, with clouds rolling in from the south

Untitled
Summits and pies

Untitled
Lisa finally makes it to one of my South Coast Pie and Beer Club Meeting

Untitled
The "Team Slash" photo. As you can tell from above, Greg has far more experience in "working" the turn for the camera.

Untitled
Lisa leads the pack down

Untitled
Fast snow and big air

Untitled
Lisa skis towards Squamish, with the Tantalus Range above

Untitled

Untitled
Great day in the Squamish backcountry!