Grand Traverse Experience: 10 years I've seen it all
by Allen Hadley

White out conditions from Star Pass to Barnhard Hut.  IN the Dark.
0 deg starts with -12 deg F. reported in the East river Valley.
Perfect Balmy starlit evenings.
Frozen snowmobile tracks to perfect powder to running on dirt roads and single track.

Lessons learned.
Be prepared, don't skimp on required gear if it has to do with staying warm.

It gets cold after the Friends Hut on Star Pass.  Have warm dry gloves/hat and a good wind shell for the Star Pass.

Hand warmer/heat packs are life savers.

Face masks/Buffs that you can breath through...Cut a hole for your mouth... are a must. Clear googles or glasses for late night whiteouts are good.

Batteries go dead at -10deg F, Have the extras and a good back-up light.

Feet get wet in stream crossings. Have a plan to deal with submerged feet, whether neoprene socks or good wool content.  Dry bags over the feet have worked.  Rubber boots worked. Good garbage bags have worked.

Frozen Camelbacks seem to derail more people than you would believe.  Have a plan.  Keep the hose empty by blowing back in or holding up the tube and pinching the valve to let fluids drop back into the pack.  Monitor it Constantly.  Every time you bend over fluid will get in the hose. If there is too much pressure on the bladder the liquid will want to push up into the hose and be exposed to the freeze.  Practice or use water bottles in the pack. They Freeze too.
Get out on the course and be familiar with the general directions and major landmarks.   I can't tell you how reasuring it is to run into a post in the night in a white out that you recognize.
Practice on the gear you are going to use.  That light weight racey stuff is acceptable if you are standing on it properly.  It will break if you are flailing.  Get equipment that you can negotiate the nastiest frozen, windblown, suncrusted, frozen snowmobile track you have ever seen with. If that doesn't sound fun..participate by being a volunteer and help out with the race.  You'll see some grumpy people but they are usually damn glad to see you.
Cheers and good luck!

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