Story last updated at 2:34 p.m. Thursday, April 18, 2002

Shafer wins hill climb
By Sepp Jannotta
Staff Writer

It's a simple concept really. Whoever can go up and down a 2,500-foot mountain the fastest wins the Valdez Mountain Man Hill Climb and earns Alaska snowmachining's King of the Hill title, an unofficial state championship.

It's ceases to be simple, however, when the rider hits the throttle. On the way up the 40-degree slope, the snowmachine fights the pull of gravity to accelerate, and on the way down the rider fights to stay astride the now bucking and careening sled.

Brok Shafer of Anchor Point found the right mixture of power, balance and intestinal fortitude needed to win the King of the Hill title.

Shafer captured the title after winning the modified 700-cc and modified 1500-cc classes with a full-throttle attack of the quarter-mile-long Thompson Pass course, site of the April 5-7 event.

"The only way you win is if you're barely hanging on," Shafer said. "You've got to be right on the edge, that's what it takes. You've got to keep it wide open."

More than 60 competitors tore up a Thompson Pass course that climbed over 2,500 vertical feet in less than a half mile. The riders from the lower Peninsula competing in the event were Cam Shafer, Chet Williams, Gordon Grebe and Eric Overson of Anchor Point, and Ryan Turkington of Homer.

Avalanche-prone Thompson pass, a place that records more annual snowfall than anywhere in the state, received a lean snowpack this year. But Shafer said the course was in good shape after, the Valdez Snowmachine Club, with the help of a roadside howitzer, removed the threat of slides.

"They really shoot the mountain down big time before the races," he said. "It was extremely stable."

While the race venue is controlled and relatively safe from the threat of avalanche, Shafer added that when he and his friends snowmachine in the mountains, they carry beacons, shovels and healthy dose of snow sense honed by taking avalanche awareness courses.

"You've got to be sensible about what your doing," he said. "The most important thing is to aware of the snow conditions."