The last time I saw Rob was two Springs ago, when he came to visit me, as did many of our Classic brothers, at Alaska Regional Hospital. And we really miss him.
Rob and I decided to partner up for the 2011 Ski Classic when we were both in in Rohn during the ITI. Rob was doing what he does-warming up the racers with hot soup and a heated wall tent-and I was lingering-in no big rush to get back on my skis and out into the cold, when I could hang out instead with Rob in the wall tent and share Classic stories- as he used tongs to pull hot cans of soup from a pot of boiling water- and administer the needed psychological/spiritual boosts that emboldened many a down and doubting racer that they could indeed finish.
Rob and I had both skied routes in the Brooks Range and the Wrangells with other partners- but we’d spent enough time together pre-races and skiing side by side in portions of those races- that we both had a good feeling that our traveling styles and personalities would be a good fit.
We met up with everyone else at Bernie and Uta’s in Wiseman. I drove up with Dave, who came in to Fairbanks to pick up all the great food and beer we have pre- and post-. Dave and Rob had a long partner/friend/ship, but Dave was going to help a rookie, Chris Z, navigate the steep Classic learning curve, so it was a perfect year for Rob and me to team up.
The combination of my inability to carry or pull a load anything EVEN NEAR the amount Rob could, and my reluctance not to pack my fair share of group gear, made for some entertaining Saturday night pre-race group gear negotiations.
The shininess of my new XGX convinced Rob that we’d be ok taking just one stove (although he snuck his woodburning back-up stove in his pack when I wasn’t looking!), and we settled on taking just one shovel and just one ice axe, and each just taking crampons, leaving the Yak Trax and Neos fitted with wood screw behind.
Rob offered to break the sled trail over Peregrine Pass for me, Dave and Chris. It was an amazing display of strength and power to follow, as he furrowed out a deep sled track through the thigh-high snow.
Rob and I shared a lot of great miles together on that trip-as well as great campsites, company and conversations, traveling almost all of the way with Dave, Chris and Yoshi.
Yoshi had to fly out from the North Fork for a family emergency, Dave came down with a terrible flu and Chris injured his shoulder, so by the Glacier River it was just me and Rob.
We made an agreement that neither of us could get hurt and we were both going to make it in to Wiseman.
Once we got on the trail off the Glacier, we hit the best skiing of the race, and were really flying until the finish, feeding off the energy of pushing each other along and of the great week we’d just had together.