Friday, June 30, 2006

Old Gabe 50K - Are You Man Enough?

53 men and 25 women began the 9th Old Gabe 25K/50K trail running race at 6AM on a beautiful, crystal clear June day. Old Gabe is Jim Bridger's nickname after living 45 years in the west and is the new name for this 50K. The race, sponsored in part by Backcountry.com, covers over 32 miles of single-track trail in the Bridger Mountains of southwest Montana beginning and ending at the Middle Cottonwood Trailhead north of Bozeman.
Course Profile - like a roller coaster ride.

50-year-old local Matt Lavin hung with veteran ultramarathoner Brandon Sybrowski for the first half of the 11,800 feet of climb over very rocky trails with multiple stream crossings. Brandon pulled away on the third of four long climbs but Matt finished a respectable seventeen minutes back. Meanwhile another local, 46-year-old three time Bridger Ridge winner Liz McGoff was in a battle for the women's win with neophyte Zusana Drobnik.

On the way back up Sypes Canyon Liz shared her worries with Zusana's boyfriend who informed Liz that she ought to be nervous because Zusana is Czech (as is the winner of this year's US Championship Mountain Climb). Zusana was gunning for Liz on the downhills but just couldn't hang on all the climbs. Due to this hot pursuit Liz did cross the line with a new course record by ten minutes. Seventy nine year old Bob Hayes (oldest finisher of the Bridger Ridge Run) was eleven years older than his nearest competitor and finished ahead of 15% of the field.

Beartooth Creek crossing during the Old Gabe 50K Trail Run
Three of the top four males in the 25K were over 40 won in record time by 46-year-old Jay Rotella testing out trails after many good times on the road. Several complained that the beautiful wildflowers and high alpine and cliffy scenery distracted them from serious running.

Always a competition - A snowfed stream passing by the finish line started a friendly competition for half body immersion. Despite the hot day, the record stands at 46 seconds. The gauntlet is thrown down for anybody willing to go for it next year in the icy stream.

--Thanks to Tom Hayes for text and photos--

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Do You Eat Nails for Breakfast? E100

If you don't eat nails for breakfast the Endurance 100 (E100) may just eat you for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The "12 Hours of the E100" took place last week in Park City, Utah. As part of this event they raised over $800 for the National Ability Center's disabled cycling program! Check out the event
photos by photographer Joaquim Hailer.

Coming up on July 22 is the E100 team relay. Although it is a 100 mile endurance relay race (if you're not a team player you can go it alone on the E50) it is still one tough race regardless of how you look at it.

IF you're still standing, or able to sit, after the team relay then step up and give it your best shot on August 26 and go the distance - 100 miles of rugged mountain bike trails - solo.

Props to Boris Lyubner the race organizer for envisioning and putting together a great race.

Get in the saddle and get ready.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Hot Race - 2006 Primal Quest Utah

Bring it on - I'm frying eggs on rocks at the Primal Quest Utah!Primal Quest 2006 is here in Utah - what a lovely place to vacation for 10 days.

It's proving to be a tight race for first between Robyn Benincasa and Ian Adamson...er, I mean Team Merrill/Wigwam Adventure and Team Nike PowerBlast.

Follow along on the leader board. Backcountry.com is sponsoring 3 teams this year - Team Nike ACG, Team YaMule and Team WickedAR.com who are in 41st, 48th and 72nd places respectively.

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1% for the Tetons - Niche Marketing Works

You may have heardOne Percent for the Tetons - Support the Tetons of 1% For The Planet, an organization launched in 2001 by Yvon Chouinard (founder of Patagonia) and Craig Mathews (owner of Blue Ribbon Flies) . I too had heard of it but wrapping your hands around the entire planet can seem a little daunting, being such a big place and all. But the Tetons, now there's something a lot more tangible and relatable. In fact I'm headed there this summer on 3 separate climbing trips. I love the Tetons. (I love the planet too, just in case you were wondering)

1% for the Tetons is a new fundraising program for supporting Jackson Hole'’s long-term sustainability. Member businesses contribute one percent of their annual revenues to 1% for the Tetons. These tax-deductible contributions fund competitive grants for projects focusing on sustaining Jackson Hole'’s extraordinary natural resources and related essential qualities.

1% for the Tetons was launched on Thursday, June 8, at a kick-off event in Jackson, Wyoming. Yvon and Craig were present at the kick-off as key note speakers.
"“My business is over 20 years old," said Mathews, "and nationwide, the fly-fishing business has been stagnant for years. But since we launched 1% For The Planet five years ago, my revenues have tripled. That's unheard of. People from around the country go out of their way to buy gear from me, because they know by doing business with me, they're giving back to the planet."”

Mathews continued: "“One percent is a lot of money, and the hardest thing you'll ever do in business is writing that first one percent check. But it gets easier each year, and by the third or fourth year, you can't wait to write it. Why? Because it's the right thing to do for your business, your community, and your world."
The Numbers Don't Lie

Following the launch event an additional 8 businesses signed up, bringing the total to 32. This will gross perhaps $20 million in the next year, putting the initial granting pool around $200,000.

To put the 32 businesses figure in context, in one fell swoop the worldwide membership of 1% for the Planet increased by 10%.(Since member of 1% for the Tetons are part of the 1% For The Planet too) To put that $200,000 in context, the Community Foundation of Jackson anually makes around $250,000 in general grants.

There are also another 8 Jaskcon area businesses that had already joined 1% For The Planet, giving Jackson a grand total of 40 "one-percenters". That puts this little niche of the planet around 11% of all the 1% For The Planet members in the world. It also gives little old Jackson Hole more member businesses than any state except California, or any foreign country.

I've love to see Jackson trump California - although doesn't half of California currently live in Jackson? (the other half lives in Park City)

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Don't Camp at the Permit Window / Echo Canyon

Adventure Report: Check out Adventure Reporter Eric Godfrey's latest canyoneering video and pull up a chair for a campfire story about why it's not a good idea to camp at Zion's permit window!

It’s been a busy month for me. In all of June I was able to only do a quick one day trip down to Zion. I took a buddy from work that had never been through a slot canyon before, down Echo Canyon and we both had a great time. Nothing too exciting happened though so here is the video:



As for the write up, I elected to tell a story from when I started Canyoneering. Before just jumping into a new sport I decided to get a little training to increase my chances of not dying and signed up for the American Canyoneering Association’s excellent three day course. The class taught me all the basics of setting up the ropes and I felt confident jumping into some easy slot canyons. I had arranged to meet up with a group two days after the class ended to give me a chance to go through a canyon with some more experienced guys, leaving Saturday open for whatever. There was another guy in our class that had some experience and he was meeting up with one of his rock climbing buddies from Salt Lake to do a canyon or two on the day I had nothing going on. He invited me to go with them and I of course accepted.

We drove to Cedar City to meet his friend then found a place to camp. By the time we ate some grub and got our plans together it was around 1:00 a.m. Now for those not familiar with Canyoneering in Zion National Park, they have a horrendously obnoxious permit system that requires you to stand in a long line in the morning hoping that you can descend the canyon you want that day. If it’s popular forget about getting a permit unless you get there the day before really early in the morning. We decided in order to ensure actually being able to get a permit one of us would get in line around 4:30 in the morning. As we settled in for some sleep, one guy suggested we just camp at the permit window since we will have to get up in a few hours to get in line anyway. We all agreed that was a good idea, even though we had heard your technically not supposed to. Whats the worst that can happen?

... More ...

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Still thinking snow - Mount Hood delivers

For a lot of us at Backcountry.com we've got snow on the brain 365 days a year. Bode Merrill, Backcountry.com employee and pro rider for Team Nitro just returned from a week at Mount Hood for the first session of High Cascade Snowboard Camp. Writer Jennifer Sherowski was there to document what went down for Transworld Snowboarding.

Backcountry.com employee Bode Merrill in his hunter orange is easy to spot for the paparazzi. photo credit: Mark Welsh


With snow all the way down to the Timberline Lodge and the Palmer Snowfield stacked with features this summer could be the best in years at Mount Hood.

I'm headed there next week to see for myself. Below is a photo from today's webcam. Not too shabby.

Check out the current conditions at Timberline and get your summer road trip on!

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Monday, June 26, 2006

Skiing California's High Sierra From Mammoth to Yosemite

Adventure Report: This report comes from Horde Member Heather Burror about her adventure in the Sierra's. Look for more trail and ski related posts from Heather this summer.

Skiing across California'’s High Sierra is a dream of most ski mountaineers, and the route from Mammoth Mountain to Yosemite Valley is one of the most popular. We began our journey on a beautiful bluebird day, donning our packs and skinning up at the base of a ski lift next to Mammoth Mountain Resort’s main lodge. Skinning up a groomed run next to a ski lift while carrying a full pack garnered us some strange looks from skiers heading downhill, the more traditional direction at the resort, but we soon turned off the groomed run and left the crowds behind as we climbed toward Minaret Summit.

San Juaquin Ridge in the Sierra'sReaching Minaret Summit, the familiar granite faces of the jagged Minarets, Mount Ritter and Banner Peak welcomed us home to Ansel Adams Wilderness, a favorite summer haunt. Continuing up San Joaquin Ridge, we opted for the wind-scoured East side over the wind-loaded and heavily corniced West side, a decision that kept us relatively safe from avalanches but required carrying our skis over a few rocky sections. We ended our first day with some sketchy turns on breakable crust, finally descending to a level camp just as the sun disappeared behind Mount Ritter and Banner Peak.

We woke to find Mount Ritter and Banner Peak bathed in the golden glow of the sun’s first rays. We quickly packed and enjoyed carving a few icy turns before reaching a sunny breakfast spot, where we watched the moon set behind the mountains as we planned our route for the day. We originally had planned to ski to Thousand Island Lake and then follow the summertime John Muir Trail route over Island Pass and up the Rush Creek drainage to Donahue Pass. But with several obvious avalanche hazards between us and Thousand Island Lake we opted for an alternate route instead.

The most logical alternative was to ski directly to Rush Creek, a long, gentle descent of over 1,000 feet followed by a long climb up the Rush Creek drainage to Donahue Pass. But loathe lose any of our hard-fought elevation, we instead tried to traverse to the head of the Rush Creek drainage without losing any elevation. By midday we had gained and lost thousands of feet, much of it over sketchy, steep terrain, and seemed no closer to our destination. Resigned, we skied down to Rush Creek and began the long climb to Donahue Pass, camping for the night just below tree line.

We began climbing with the sun the next day, and reached the top of Donahue Pass by mid-morning. Donahue Pass was icy, and we skied cautiously. But soon after we left the pass the ice softened into delicious spring corn snow. We harvested fresh corn turns all the way down, ample reward for two days spent mostly climbing.

The snow through Lyell Canyon was consolidated and fast. With virtually no avalanche risk, my long-suffering brother sprinted ahead to the Tuolumne Meadows ski hut, leaving us to follow, once again, in his skin tracks. Periodically he stopped to carve messages to us in the snow. "“BEAR!" he wrote, with an arrow pointing to unmistakable, freshly laid bear tracks we might otherwise have missed. "Sorry about the trees," read another message, shortly after a low hanging branch had clocked my husband in the forehead as he followed my brother'’s chosen path.

By the time we reached the Tuolumne Meadows ski hut, the sun had disappeared behind the clouds and my brother's ski tracks were slowly filling with fresh snow. Spreading our wet gear on spare bunk beds and along the clotheslines hanging from the rafters, we built a roaring fire in the wood-burning stove and quickly made ourselves at home. Our "“neighbor"” Bruce (one of the two Tuolumne Meadows winter rangers) dropped by during dinner, the only other person we saw during our trip.

Skiing along a deserted, snow-covered Tioga Road the next morning was a surreal experience. In the height of summer, Tioga Road through Tuolumne Meadows is often lined with cars, trucks and motor homes, with cars and pedestrians stopped on the shoulder to view Lembert Dome, Unicorn and Cathedral Peaks, and other popular sights. But with piles of snow carpeting the meadow and covering the familiar granite domes and peaks, we had the entire road to ourselves.

We started under perfect blue skies, but the clouds began to roll in by mid morning and the temperature dropped noticeably. The good news was that the cooler temperatures meant that the notoriously avalanche prone Olmstead Point area would be less likely to slide. The bad news was that the early morning sun had already warmed the steep granite slopes to the sliding point, and with thick clouds now completely obscuring our view, we couldn'’t see the danger directly above us. But we could hear it.

Stopping momentarily to check our bearings with the GPS, we heard two small slides release nearby and quickly dropped below the road. Rejoining the road again at Olmstead Point, we stopped to get our bearings, resting under a tree immortalized by a famous Ansel Adams photograph of the area. With the weather deteriorating, we decided to press on to Yosemite Valley that night, making for a long, 24 mile day.

Leaving Olmstead Point, we followed Snow Creek as it slowly meandered its way toward Yosemite Valley, enjoying a few hard-earned turns as we went. Visibility remained minimal due to thick clouds and falling snow, and the snow turned to rain as we continued to lose elevation. Rain and slush rendered the glue on our skins completely useless, and we stopped briefly to stuff our soggy skins into waterlogged packs. Pushing on into the rain, we did not stop again until we ran out of snow at the head of the canyon.

Strapping skis to packs, we exchanged our heavy ski boots for lightweight Crocs and continued down the so-called Snow Creek Trail, more creek than trail due to the rain and the melting snow. The Crocs performed surprisingly well on the slippery trail, and seemed the perfect compromise between carrying much heavier trail runners or hiking boots or hiking in ski boots to avoid the extra weight. We quickly dropped below the clouds, where the imposing face of Half Dome reflected in the misty waters of Mirror Lake signaled that we were home.

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Beal Rope Brush vs. DIYS PVC Rope Cleaner

Wondering what DIYS means? You haven't been spending enough time inrope cleaner from knick-knack.com the garage lately have you? Do It Your Self - DIYS has long been the creed of dirtbag climbers and this little home made PVC rope cleaner is a great example of a Home Depot hijack. The plumbing department will certainly be surprised as you one up the "You Can Do It, We Can Help" motto of the Home Depot. To test the theory, ask your local hardware store or Home Depot plumbing department if they can help you make a rope cleaner. Take your digital camera for the "huh?" expression. Tell us the responses you get.

Not feeling up to the challenge? No worries cause Backcountry.com carries the Beal rope brush which according to reviewers is the real deal and simple to use.

One customer reviewer wrote:Beal rope cleaner - get that dirt off my rope!
I used my rope brush for the first time. I never knew my rope was that dirty!! I keep my ropes fairly clean but with the rope brush the dirt literally fell off my ropes. I was amazed!! Even when the water ran clear after rinsing, the rope brush still dislodged dirt from my rope. It is a must for any one who likes to have a clean rope but especially those of us who climb in the desert.
So if you can only admire from a distance the McGyveresque skills that the folks at knick-knack.com have displayed in putting together a home made rope cleaner just pick yourself up a Beal rope brush. Your rope will be happy either way.

Stay tuned for the rope cleaner show down - Beal Rope Brush vs. Home Depot special.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

National Skateboarding Day vs. National High Five Day

When National High Five Day rolled around a couple months ago, I remember thinking, “Man, it doesn’t get any better than this, a nationally recognized and sanctioned day of throwing high fives.” The problem is that I’m just not a high five kind of guy. I mean, it’s just kind of awkward and meaningless. I think the last time I gave a high five was when I fixed my roommate’s old Schwinn Cruiser by using a C-clamp to hold the handlebars since we couldn’t find the pinch bolt. It seemed appropriate and I was kind of drunk, “Hey, high five.” Maybe my dislike stems from the time I saw my friends steal two bar chairs, and then throw a high five moments before getting arrested. They turned out fine, nothing more than a lifetime ban from Brit’s Pub in Minneapolis.


Anyway, I was pretty stoked when I heard that it’s National Skateboarding Day (even in Fort Wayne, Indiana). It’s a little secret that a handful of people who work at Backcountry.com skate. We’re trying to convince the right people to let us put a fun box or something in our warehouse. For now, we skate behind the building trying to jump over stacked up 4x4s. Tonight in Salt Lake, Brewvies Cinema is showing a bunch of skateboard movies for free, and someone told me that they’ll also have $2 Pabst.

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Monday, June 19, 2006

Backyard Delicacies - Rock Climb like Dean

Build your own Delicate Arch and learn to climb like Dean. Backyard not included.

The Full Story

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Sunday, June 18, 2006

Looking to train for triathlons?

Most people who compete in triathlons cite swimming as the weakest of their three race legs. Training to swim faster and more efficiently can be particularly difficult to do without help, but most people don't really know where to look for coaching. One viable option is to join a master's team. The coaches tailor workouts for a multitude of abilities and will place you with others of your ability. They are also typically available after workouts to help with stroke technique and training tips.

Masters swim programs available in most cities. The US Masters Swimming Organization has a resource for finding masters programs in your state as well as swimming facilities in your area. The best way to find a team is to contact a nearby pool and ask if they have a masters practice schedule.

If you are in Salt Lake, Steiner Aquatic Center near the University of Utah has a nice 50 meter outdoor pool (less turns for those who haven't yet learned to flip turn) with really flexible masters training schedule.

For those loner types among you, there are lots of good resources with example workouts and stroke techniqes, including:

  • Online Triathlon Training Swimming Resource: has a list of coaches in different areas and some swimming articles and tips

  • Beginner Triathlete: for information about the three events, and specifically this article comparing Olympic (sprint) versus long distance (triathlon) swimming styles

  • Triatlete Online: contains tips and resources for training


  • While books and articles can help, I find it particularly imprtant to simply have someone take a look at my stroke. The overall goal is to decrease the amount of effort required to go any specific distance during your swim. This usually results in the additional benefit of improving your race times not only in the swim but in the following run as well. Often, someone familiar with swimming and stroke training can spot weaknesses or inefficiencies rather quickly. So if you are afraid of joining a team- for whatever reason, keep in mind that your stroke is likely to benefit significantly from the attentive eyes of a good swim coach.

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    Friday, June 16, 2006

    The new Gore - Comfort Mapping

    I wouldn't expect anything less from our friends at The Piton than an insiders look at the first word on the concept of Comfort Mapping from Gore. Gore is entering "another evolutionary stage" in the history of Gore fabrics. Through testing they've found areas on a jacket where added warmth and functionality are needed. These areas may be constructed from a fleece backed softshell while the rest of the jacket may be constructed with XCR Gore-Tex.

    Chris Townsend tells about his test.

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    Thursday, June 15, 2006

    "Our Hike" Adventures on the American Discovery Trail

    Let a few of our "Our Hike" Adventures begin by introducing myself and my hiking partner. My name is Robin Grapa, 26 years old, from Oshkosh, Wisconsin. My hiking partner is my mom - yes, I said that right - my super-tough mom. Her name is Patty Laatsch, 48, from Phillips, Wisconsin (also where I grew up). I began planning this trip across America as a way to do something with the life I almost lost to Aplastic Anemia, a bone marrow disease in which the bone marrow stops making blood for the body to survive.

    Planning for this hike was our first challenge. We had maybe taken 4 short backpacking trips before, so we considered ourselves novice hikers. But after a lot of gear research, trail research, and reading up on other thru-hikers' adventures, we felt excited. I don't know if we ever felt ready, but excitement alone was enough to get us going. Some have said we are very brave. We say in response, "Nah, we're just clueless!" with a chuckle afterward.

    In West Virginia, we were told not to camp on top of Dolly Sods, an Appalachian mountain peak, in February. We were told by locals that the wind blows so constant in one direction that the branches on the trees only grow on one side; it can snow any time of year; temperatures are below freezing without the wind chill; it resembles the Canadian Tundra; it's easy to get lost. But even after all the warnings, I thought to myself, "Ahh, I've camped northern Wisconsin winters, I can hike across Dolly Sods in February." Well, finally, a couple miles before our climb, a local hiker convinced us to at least wait until morning so we wouldn't be camping up there. So we heeded the warning, and turned out to be glad we did. When we got up there, the conditions were - to put it lightly - blizzard conditions. We could barely see 20 feet in front of us. It was a situation I was very thankful to have a partner with me, or I'd have been tempted to just hunker down in the woods somewhere in my sleeping bag and wait out the cold - and I probably would have froze. But with mom there, we were able to just look at each other with icicles hanging from our eyelashes, laugh, and trudge on. All of our water froze solid, and we were exhausted from fighting below freezing temps and trudging against strong winds through deep snow. After what seemed like forever, we began the descent. Half way down the other side, a couple of bear hunters picked us up and brought us to the Canaan Valley Ski Lodge, where we got a room and warmed up. Looking back, we may have gone up there because we were clueless, but probably more likely because we were just really determined. We are very glad we did, and very proud for getting up there and making it across.

    We are using the American Discovery Trail as our guide across America, and are now in Dodge City, our half-way point. Mom has really been touched by our journey so far. She says, "The ADT truly invites you to see America from the smallest towns to the biggest cities. From fording rivers to climbing mountain tops. The people we have met along the way have been tremendous and the trail angels are magical! Thanks to Robin, I'm hooked on hiking! Maybe it will be the Appalachian Trail next!"

    One last tidbit that I'd like to add is our trail names. We both started with our regular family nicknames (Bobbi and Poot) because we felt left out not having a "trail name." But we always felt funny that they weren't earned. Well, since then, we have taken on new trail names - ones that have a story behind them from our trail adventures. Mine is Milkshake. With hiking, I found quickly that you can't seem to consume enough calories, so I was able to rediscover my love for milkshakes, particularly chocolate ones - and I have one at just about every opportunity I get. Mom is now Gumdrop. She made some really nasty-tasting oatmeal for breakfast one day by mixing in corn muffin mix. To make it taste better, she added the only sugary type food we had with us - gumdrops. It turned out to be pretty darn good! It's no surprise to us that both of us acquired trail names from something food-related!

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    Tuesday, June 13, 2006

    Goat Sighting - West Fork of the Rio Santa Barbara

    This week's "Show Us Your Goat" winner comes to us from a very cool area of the country - the West Fork Rio Santa Barbara in New Mexico. Greg Scott and his friend ventured into the Pecos Wilderness on the West Fork Trail. I'm not sure if Greg had to watch his step while on the trail but one hiker did who visited this area not too long ago.

    Photo Shot by: Greg Scott
    Photo Location: Pecos Wilderness \ West Fork Rio Santa Barbara, New Mexico
    About the photo:
    My friend and I enjoy backcountry fly fishing and it's a 5 mile hike into the upper meadows of the West Fork of the Rio Santa Barbara in the Pecos Wilderness where the cutthroat fishing is great. We based camped for several days and took the goat sticker with us. Just thought you guys would like to see the pics with the goat sticker.
    --------------------------
    As a weekly winner Greg will receive a Backcountry.com Nalgene water bottle that he can use on his next backcountry fishing adventure.

    If you think you've got what it takes to stick a winner but you haven't got a sticker to stick, well head on over to Backcountry.com and get yourself a FREE goat sticker. Then get out there and stick it, take a photo and submit it online.

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    Donner to Squaw

    Preparations and rations were acquired in Reno and Tahoe City. Once that was dialed and the cars were shuttled to the appropriate locations, we found ourselves at the summit of Donner Pass. The tour began with an ascent to the top of Sugar Bowl resort. Some of the Sacramento ski bunnies were providing some unique grimaces as we were apparently going “the wrong way,” up the hill. Upon reaching the top Sugar Bowl we continued along the ridge to the top of Anderson Peak (8,683').

    Located about 650 feet below Anderson Peak is Benson Hut, a historical fragment of the infamous Sierra Club. Built in the 1930’s, we had a little trouble discerning the exact location of the hut. After a few minutes of wandering around, we stumbled upon a small building with the name Ken’s Place carved delicately into the shack above the door…it was the outhouse. Fifty yards uphill we discovered a small opening in the snow to what appeared to be a snow cave. 15 feet within it was a small window, the attic window to the Benson Hut. We had reached the hut after 8 hours of touring. A small ladder led to the first floor from the attic. The base area of the hut has a front door that is completely locked by snow. Like a cartoon after a huge snow day, the entire hut was completely enclosed by snow. The windows that normally provide light had been completely shaded by snow for months now. It was a powder hound’s dream to literally see nothing but white as one’s headlamp shined through the window. We had reached our first destination.



    After a long day of travel, the first priority is the fire. Once that is lit, the most important element needs to be created, water. With a group of eight, snow needs to be melting on the stove constantly in preparations for the next days travel. Once that is established, it becomes the typical camping scene with the cooking crew and the dish crew. Conversation began to flow as the wine and bourbon were poured and cheese and salami were served. This is our vacation.

    With another few miles ahead of us to the Bentley Hut, a few turns are made in the morning with lighter packs, before we leave our winter palace. The high traverse continues over to Tinker Knob (8,949’). From there, we are adorned with spectacular views of Lake Tahoe, a forever unfrozen masterpiece. The topographic maps and compasses are pulled out of the packs to navigate us. A few lines are spotted and skied in route to the Bentley Hut. Skiing with a 35 pound backpack strapped on, can be discouraging; it’s like swimming against the current.



    The Bentley Hut is a little more modern in comparison to Benson. It is an A-frame without the abundance of mice. We arrive in time to take a trek without the heavy packs. A huge lightening storm brings this skin to a halt (apparently a bolt of lightening from this same storm struck Squaw’s gondola with enough volts to shut it down for the remainder of the season). The same routine takes place. As dinner is cooking and all things are hung around the fire to dry, some games of cribbage bring the conversations to an even louder decibel level.



    The next day, there are a few more turns taken with lighter packs down Silver Peak. The sun is out and its time to make our way to the base of Squaw Valley. After many river crossings, we find ourselves toasting beers at the Le Chamois.

    The tour has concluded. Our team of eight splits off for a variety of destinations. Some head to Mt Whitney (the tallest peak in California), others to the Ludlow Hut (another Sierra club gem, closer to Lake Tahoe) and a few are off to the coast to catch some surf on Pacifica Beach.

    b. gulotta

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    Monday, June 12, 2006

    The limitations of human physiology

    Let's face it, our bodies just aren't capable of withstanding significant forces. Impacting a solid surface at 10 miles an hour will in the best case scenario leave us stunned, and bring the speed up to a "mere" 25 mph, and some of us sustain serious injuries. A decent number of outdoor athletes enjoy walking that thin danger line. We get a thrill out of the fear chemicals released at high speeds and during close scrapes. As a result, we continue to demand more and more of our bodies. We get around these limitations by strengthening our muscles, and training our minds to react quickly and appropriately to avoid serious injury.

    Statistics dictates that the chances of something going wrong increase with repeated exposure to risk. So, a good number of us eventually manage to bash ourselves up sufficiently enough to take us out of the game. Those of who really truly love our sport- understand how heartbreaking such an injury can be. For some, the patience necessary to heal comes naturally. For others, not so much.

    I'm one of the latter types. I recently herniated a disk and though it is not as serious as it could be- I'm not doing too well with the patience thing. The kicker, is that I've been encouraged by my physical therapist to continue climbing- but I am under no circumstances supposed to fall. Not even on a toprope. At first I faithfully stuck to the rules, but as I heal, I find myself constantly testing the boundaries. "Maybe short falls are okay" or "Maybe I'll just make sure to absorb the impact properly so I won't damage anything". Sure- like that works.

    Invariably I end up stiff and sore the next day, vowing never to be so stupid again. In the end, I've started swimming again, but nothing really does it for me like climbing. So I stick to endurance climbing- especially the easier trad lines of Little Cottonwood. And, to my surprise, my climbing has been improving. By forcing me to concentrate on aspects of my climbing that I typically neglect (in favor of shorter more bouldery sport climbs), I am bringing my weaker areas up to par.

    So, for those of you who, like me, won't be getting after it quite like you had hoped- remember that focusing on something else for a while leave you better off than before that blasted injury.

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    Building Packs for Dirtbags? I like it.

    Bumped into a litte pack manufacturer out of NYC (yes, I said NYC) called CiloGear. Never heard of them? Neither had I. They seem focused enough to make a splash. From their site:
    CiloGear makes backpacks.
    The Cilogear WorkSacks can compress without straps or zippers for the ultimate functionality. Of course, they do come with straps. They aren't complicated, and they are built to last.
    The materials list of stuff they use the build the packs reads like an industrial engineers dream list.

    There is an interesting interview on Gunks.com about Graham Williams and his dream to build bomber packs that dirtbags and college students can afford. From the interview:
    The company is trying to make the best possible stuff for people who like to get out into the mountains. But we are trying to deliver this stuff at prices college students, bums and others can afford -- or allow somebody with a job an extra day (out).
    The Full Story

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    Everest 2006 - a little overview

    Had enough of Everest? I know it's been a melee of stories and press induced "controversies" but here are a couple articles worth reading that come from the source.

    Andrew Brash talks about the decision to help save Lincoln Hall and thus giving up his summit dreams on a windless clear day.

    Russell Brice, owner of Himex talks about his team's summit day and the encounter with David Sharp.

    Photos and a more detailed description about Lincoln Hall from Myles Osborne can be found on EverestNews.com. He sums his experience of helping to save Lincoln up by saying:
    We reintroduced ourselves [once back at advanced base camp] and sat there talking about [Lincoln's] family and wife. During the conversation, I could not help but wonder, "How in ANY way is a summit more important than saving a life?" And the answer is that it isn't. But in this skewed world up here, sometimes you can be fooled into thinking that it might be. But I know that trying to sleep at night knowing that I summited Everest and left a guy to die isn't something I ever want to do. The summit's always there after all.
    Additional reading in the Roof of the World Vagabond blog

    Check out the Everest summit video from the Climb For Peace - the music on this video sets the tone for a different sort of Everest impression.

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    Friday, June 09, 2006

    Sue Nott and Karen McNeill missing on Mt. Foraker

    On May 14th, alpine climbers Sue Nott and Karen McNeill started up the Infinite Spur on Mt. Foraker in the Alaska Range. No one has seen them since they began climbing 26 days ago. Their plan was to climb this extremely difficult 9,400-foot route to Foraker’s 17,400-foot summit and then descend the Sultan Ridge. Expecting to be down by the 24th, they took 10 days’ worth of food and a little more fuel. The Denali National Park Service launched an aerial search on June 1st with a Lama helicopter. The search continues, now aided by fixed-wing planes, but it has been difficult due to bad weather and cloud cover. The 2nd day of searching revealed Nott’s backpack, and other items including a jacket and a glove were spotted during later flyovers. The NPS also spotted footprints at 16,400 feet. Both of these climbers have years of experience in the Alaska Range and elsewhere in the world. Two years ago, Sue and Karen climbed Denali’s difficult Cassin Ridge in poor conditions. We’re hoping for word of them stumbling into base camp with another harrowing story.

    You can find more information at: http://www.nps.gov/dena/home/news/index.htm

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    Tuesday, June 06, 2006

    Using the Gear We Sell - well, most of it.

    We'd like to think that we're a bunch of hard core's here at Backcountry.com, following our mantra "We use the gear we sell". One of our own, Brett Williams has just upped the ante.

    Brett was recently faced with a decision about what running shoe to purchase for the running season. "Do I get the La Sportiva Crossroads at $95 or do I go with a full road shoe in the Nike Airmax 360, at nearly $160?"

    Decisions, decisions. So what did he do? He thought, "meh, who needs shoes" and he ditched his kicks and began running barefoot. I'm with ya Brett...at least at the beach I'm with ya.

    Brett just finished his first marathon and he did it barefoot. He told me that it "was a leisurely 5:04" since it was his first ever, with shoes or without. He's running in the Wasatch Back Relay on team SteepandCheap.com later this month.

    Brett gives new meaning to "rest your weary feet"
    Brett Williams after running the Salt Lake Marathon - barefoot
    The Full Story - Wall Street Journal - free online subscription required

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    Pura Vida! A journey to Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula

    Adventure Report: This report comes to us from Greg Findley of Detour Destinations who recently traveled to Costa Rica to get the 411 on adventure travel guides.

    The Osa Peninsula, home of Corcovado National Park which contains Central America’s largest remaining chunk of old-growth coastal rainforest in Corcovado National Park, is not like the rest of Costa Rica. Here, trees grow bigger than resorts, amenities are primitive, and roads are few and boat docks even fewer. In the Osa, nature rules.Corcovado National Park - Huge old growth trees

    My wife, Hayley, and I knew the Osa would be different from the rest of this pleasant country from the moment we arrived at the domestic airport in San Jose. There we found that out of the 40 or 50 people in the terminal, we were the only two passengers on the 10-seater flight to Drake Bay. Upon arrival in Drake Bay’s primitive, gravel-strip of an airport, the jungle swarmed us with a cacophony of insects and birds and air so thick we had to sift it through our teeth to breathe. Instantly we were drenched with sweat. At the thatch-roofed, open-walled “terminal,” 6 or seven passengers milled about patiently to board our plane while a police officer draped his left arm sleepily against the wing of a tiny blue police single prop parked just off in the grass. We later learned that “all of the activity” at the airport (the police airplane) was because the Minister of Energy and the Environment was lost in the Osa Peninsula’s Corcovado National Park, and a search and rescue mission was underway to find him.

    Following a short drive on a rough dirt road that crossed several rivers without bridges, we arrived in the town of Drake Bay, a couple of houses and a café, where we were picked up on the beach for the 30-minute boat trip to the Marenco Lodge and Rainforest Resort. Time passed slowly, if at all, as we motored past unbroken, pristine jungle under thick, gray, broken skies, and by the time we arrived at the Marenco’s beach and hopped out of the boat to wade to shore, we had already forgotten what day it was. The Marenco Lodge, nestled in its own private nature reserve of 500 hectares, sits high on a hill overlooking the rainforest and the Pacific Ocean. Toucans and pairs of brightly colored scarlet macaws roost in the trees just beyond the open walls of the dining room, and white-faced capuchin monkeys roam the grounds. One morning there we were awakened to monkeys tap-dancing on the tin roof of our cabana.

    That first afternoon we saw no other people as we walked on nearby pristine beaches and body surfed waves in the warm Pacific Ocean. The next day we took a boat trip to Caño Island to snorkel and scuba dive, where the water teemed with reef sharks, rays, sea turtles, and schools of fish. On our last full day in the Osa, a naturalist led us through thick, old-growth forests in Corcovoado National Park, pointing out three monkey species, hawks, snakes, poison-dart frogs, and other indigenous flora and fauna. Jaguar are not uncommon in the park, and another group in the area saw two pumas that day; we were not so lucky. Corcovado reminded me a lot of the Amazon Basin, a place I’ve visited a number of times in Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador.

    The skies turned cloudy again our last night in the Osa, and like the night before, water poured from the sky. Between the pounding of the water on our tin roof and the booming of the loudest thunder I’ve ever heard, it was impossible to really sleep. Sometime in the early morning, while dozing between explosions of thunder, our cabin shook violently. In a sleepy haze we thought our cabin was falling off the cliff, only for the shaking to stop as quickly as it started. Earthquake, we would later learn. Just another night in the Osa.

    In the morning we were awakened with the news that the rivers on the way to the airport had grown dramatically overnight, and the road was impassable; our flight had been re-routed out of Sierpe, more than 2 hours away by boat.

    Nearing the end of the long, wet boat ride out of the Osa and back to civilization, I lifted my face from the hood of my black North Face Circadian Gore-tex jacket to catch a last peak of the magnificent mangroves lining the water. Through the rain my eyes caught the amiable, plump, middle-aged Tico across from me in the boat. He was hunkered under a black plastic garbage bag, which he had pulled up over his head, his shirt off to keep it dry. His slacks, like my Royal Robbins zip-n-go pants, were soaked. He lifted his head for a quick peak outside, and our eyes met briefly. Water ran down our foreheads and poured off of our noses, but we were in the Osa, where nature still rules, and we started to laugh. Pura Vida! Pure Life: We were fully alive in the Osa Peninsula!

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    Monday, June 05, 2006

    Got some old shoes? Chaco Recycle program

    For years I've contended that the sign of a good summer are Chaco tan lines. You know how it feels when you're at the beach/lake/river/pool in late Sept and you look at the guy next you with dark feet and the signature Z from the Chacos he's been living in all summer. Then you look down at your pasty white feet and think of how different your two summers may have been. Just thinking about it kinda makes you shudder, doesn't it? Don't let it happen to you again.

    This summer Chaco and Backcountry.com are making it easier to kick it in style. No, they aren't negotiating for Chaco Friday's at the office - you're on your own for that. What Chaco has come up with is a shoe recycling program to help impoverished areas of the Himalaya. Through a partnership with the dZi foundation they will take your old kicks (shoes, flops, hikers, etc) that you mail in to Backcountry.com and distribute them to those that need them.

    What's in it for you? 20% off on any pair of Chacos from Backcountry.com. Not a bad deal at all and better yet the good will of passing along a pair of your used kicks to someone who doesn't have a pair of shoes. Hurry thought the deal is of after June 11, 2006.

    Chaco did this last year with over 1500 pairs of shoes distributed.

    Chaco and Backcountry.com Shoe Recycle Program Details

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    Friday, June 02, 2006

    Pfiefferhorn - Still Feels Like Winter

    Here are some pictures from the Pfeifferhorn (Wasatch Mountain in Utah) over Memorial Day weekend. We left the White Pine trailhead at 6:30pm and summited in the dark. Spent the night on top and skied down in the morning. I tried the Dynafit TLT Comfort AT bindings for the first time (with the Voile Carbon Surf and Scarpa F1s. I normally tele but thought I'd give this AT setup a go. I recommend all of the above. Good control yet light weight and comfortable for climbing).



    As you can see there's still plenty of snow up there. It's about an hour hike from the White Pine trailhead currently to reach continuous (skinnable) snow.

    The Mirror Lake Highway in the Uintas should open any day. Anyone have some beta?

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    Done with Dean? Delicate Arch Delivers

    So are you over Dean and the Delicate Arch issue? Seems Outside Magazine (yea, I said Outside and I couldn't believe it either) has done a little investigation of thier own and discovered that Dean was not so "Delicate" while doing a "pure free ascent"of Delicate Arch.

    So how pure was Dean's climb? Fixed ropes for fliming, a top rope climb by Dean prior to the filming and 2 distinct grooves on the top of the arch left from the ropes seem to tell a different tale.

    Notice the rope grooves in the rock
    Photo by Steve Howe

    "The Chief" over at SummitPost.org had some good commentary about this "stunt for personal advancement".

    Kudos to Tim Neville for telling the tale in on Outside Online. Click and read, it's worth the trip.

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    Thursday, June 01, 2006

    K2 buys Karhu and Line

    K2 goes for it again with yesterdays purchase of Karhu and Line Skis. This brings both old school (Karhu was founded in 1900) and new school (Line was founded in 1995) brands into the fold that includes every other brand in the outdoor industry (isn't it that?)

    In other news, K2 also buys PM Gear...

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    Gobi March Update

    Backcountry.com Athlete Chrissie Evans has taken the lead among women competitors in the Gobi March race. From the Racing The Planet website:
    The top 3 woman also are battling for 1st place ranking. Australian Christine Evans came in first followed by Kazuko Kaihata of Japan. Today Theresa Schneider seemed to be suffering about midday through and fell to third.
    A fellow competitor from the Sahara Desert Race said of Chrissie:
    She's not a fast runner but she is mentally tough. In the Sahara her feet were hamburger and any normal person would have quit. She finished....
    In the past two stages Chrissie has made up over 26 minutes on the former leader to take the lead by nearly 7 minutes. To give you an idea of the type of competitors that Chrissie is competing against, Teri Schneider has 5 top 5's at the Hawaii Ironman and competed in 7 Eco Challenge's - she's one tough competitor.

    2 days left to go in the Gobi March Race. We're crossing our fingers.

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