Monday, July 31, 2006

Cordillera Blanca Gear Tests:
Mountain Hardwear Sub Zero SL Down Jacket

On the summit of TocllarajuMountain Hardwear Sub Zero SL Down JacketThe Mountain Hardwear Sub Zero SL Down Jacket is extremely warm, water-resistant, and about as burly as they come. I was never cold when wearing this jacket, and its water-resistant shell kept the insulation from feeling one drop of moisture. However, it weighs more than the sleeping bag I took to Peru, and it’s nearly as bulky.

The Sub Zero SL is great for ice cragging and hanging out in base camp, but I’ll definitely be getting something lighter for taking on routes. I sold this jacket to the hostel owner when I left the country. It paid for most of my month in her place, and she was psyched to have it. But then again, she doesn't have to carry it up a mountain.

The low down on this down jacket:
  • Super warm
  • Super tough
  • Too heavy
  • Too bulky


R U A Meeting Donkey 2?

A buddy of mine took a promotion at a ski resort to be the Marketing Director this past year. While he was stoked to be moving up the food chain we both agreed that all promotions are not good ones when it comes to ski time. One would think that being a Marketing Director at a ski resort would ensure plenty of time on the hill.

After asking him how he was doing and how the past season went this was his reply.
I like the new job and have learned a ton. That said, I've also learned that it's very easy to become a meeting donkey who never skis so I'm working on that balance point.
Meeting donkey, heh. Are you one too?


Cordillera Blanca Gear Tests:
Petzl Elios Helmet

Andy testing the Petzl Elios HelmetPetzl Elios HelmetThe Petzl Elios Helmet is light, comfortable, and burly. This is another piece of gear that my partner and I each brought. We even had the same color. It was like wearing the same dress to the prom, but we dealt with it like adults.

The Elios holds a headlamp securely, which is very important in the mountains, and doesn’t roll back on your head when you look up to ensure the serrac is still where it's supposed to be. The wind blew a chunk of ice off Tocllaraju's ridge when we were on the West Face Direct. By the time it struck me 200ft below, it had enough force to blow my crampons out of the ice and drop me on the anchor. The fact that I’m writing this is proves that it works.

Why I use the Petzl Elios Helmet:
  • It's light
  • It's tough
  • It fits well
  • I'm still alive because of it


Joe Holland Takes Second Place at Atacama

Joe Holland, athlete, finished out the Atacama Crossing race in second place. A very respectable finish for a guy that said, "This is my vacation". Joe said of the race while writing an e-mail from the airport in Santiago, Chille:
Had a great time and a solid race. Only a few minor/normal mistakes with pacing and direction.

A million things can go wrong with these sports and I was very luck.

Second as you know and you could probably tell from the results that we had a mutual truce a the end and decided to run as a group. We punished each other enough. After the race I feel strong enough to literally turn around and run it again. Not even a blister. Don't think I lost weight either.
We're looking forward to following whatever it is that Joe is planning for his next vacation. Stay tuned.


Friday, July 28, 2006

Cordillera Blanca Gear Tests:
Julbo Reflex Sunglasses

My partner and I each took the Julbo Reflex Sunglasses to Peru and immediately liked them. Though they did fog a little when the going got really tough, these sunglasses performed great. Make sure to wear them with Chums if you’re on a climb all day, as their unpadded arms rub on the ears quite a bit. I was worried that they wouldn’t have enough side coverage for my light-sensitive eyes when we topped out into the sun, but they kept me squint free on every climb. It was also nice to change out the lenses and wear them for the ride back to town instead of sporting the old-school leather side-shield models.

Why the Reflex sunglasses are with me every day in the outdoors:
  • Four interchangeable lenses match any light condition
  • Large lenses block wind, making them great for biking as well as climbing
  • The wrap-around shape lets in very little light, barely more than glacier glasses with leather side shields


Goat Sighting in the Atacama Crossing Race

The Goat has landed. Joe Holland, athlete, has been spotted on stage 4 of the Atacama Crossing. It's easy to spot Joe if you look for the Goat.

Photos from Racing The Planet

Stage 5 has just about concluded and the final results are not in yet as there are a few competitors still on course. Mark Tamminga (currently in first place), Francesco Galanzino (third place holder), Ahn Byeung Sik, Joe Holland (still holding onto second place by 2 minutes) & William Coffey crossed the finish line together at 7:13pm last night with team GB close behind. At that time the majority of competitors were still on course, waiting for daylight before final stretch to camp. Stage 5, affectionately called the March of Death, was an overnight stage streching for more than 50 miles.

About Racing the Planet

RacingThePlanet is an international outdoor lifestyle brand and world leader in organizing some of the world's most prestigious outdoor events including the 4 Deserts, a series of 7-day footraces across the world's largest and most forbidding deserts. These events include the Gobi March in China, the Atacama Crossing in Chile, the Sahara Race in Egypt and The Last Desert in Antarctica.


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Ben the Brit - Postcards from Atacama

Ben Furgusson is one of the competitors from the Atacama Crossing race who is blogging each night. He's got some good humor and witty commentary.

Ben Furgusson's Blog


Cordillera Blanca Gear Tests:
Peruvian Toilet Paper (papel higiénico)

Peruvian toilet paperI tested the shit out of this stuff, and it sucks! The resemblance to 40-grit sandpaper becomes strikingly apparent after a few days sitting in the bathroom trying to figure out which meal made you so sick. If you're heading to Peru, bring a few rolls of Charmin—double ply for sure.

In addition to plush toilet paper, you should bring:
  • Cipro, lots and lots of Cipro
  • Probiotics (for the post-sickness stomach rehab)
  • All the books you can carry


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Day 4 of Atacama and the Winds are Winning

It seems that the winds will prove to be the winner of stage 4 in the Atacama Crossing race. The winds are so powerful that a few competitors have pulled out of the race. Race officials were thinking of shortening the course but

From the Racing the Planet race organizer came this note:
High winds now buffeting campsite. Tents barely holding on. Several competitors have pulled out of the race and except for frontrunners, the rest are still on course.
We've been following the athlete Joe Holland over the race. After the third stage he was in 2nd place overall with a 10 minute gap between himself and 3rd place Francesco Galanzino of Italy who has been racing strong in all the stages.

Correspondence with the racers is limited but Joe managed to fire off an e-mail to us (at the cost of $10 per e-mail!) about stage 2. It explains why he dropped so much time to the stage winner and current leader Mark Tamminga of Canada.
Today's stage proved to be a formidable challenge. We started out running 5 miles in some of the most beautiful slot canyon I have seen. Except for the freezing water that required that I jump out of the water and literally scream as the feeling returned to my legs, it was amazing.

From the river we headed down a road for a few miles. As the competitive spirit kicked in, the lead group ended up missing a turn and running an extra 3 kilometers. After that I was so aggravated that I broke my cardinal rule and strayed from my game plan. I ran up the toughest part of the course as though we were in a 5K running race and paid for it during the last 10 K's of the day. Dropped 20 minutes in the last section. With some luck, tomorrow will be better.

From an organizational view, the staff and RTP continues to out perform all expectations and we are grateful.
We'll see how Joe and the others faired in the high winds of Stage 4. Check in at the Atacama Crossing 2006 site for daily results.

Photo credit - Racing the Planet


Cordillera Blanca Gear Tests:
Black Diamond Firstlight Tent

Black Diamond Firstlight Tent below PirimideBlack Diamond Firstlight TentWhile in the Codillera Blanca of Peru, Andy and I used the 2lb 9oz Black Diamond Firstlight Tent for everything, and we were both amazed at how well is held up to the conditions we encountered. One morning was so windy that everything without a rock on it was blown off the ridge. Packs, helmets, pickets, and half-full water bottles all went for a ride. We were sure this ultralight tent would be ripped to shreds by the time we left camp, but it held strong.

Make sure to pitch the Firstlight with its back directly into the wind, as it folds like a kite when it gets a good shot from the side. Also, use the guy-line attachments to secure the tent and provide extra support to the poles instead of just staking it out from the corners. Each time we came back from the mountains we found another tiny hole in the floor, but we stayed in less-than-ideal moraine camps with lots of small, sharp rocks. My partner liked this tent so much he bought it from me when I left—even with the newly patched holes.

Three reasons why my next trip to the Andes will include this tent:
  • Ultralight
  • Takes up less space than a bivy sack
  • Small size allows it to be pitched about anywhere


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Cordillera Blanca Gear Tests:
Mountain Hardwear Torch Jacket

Mountain Hardwear Torch JacketAfter a season of ice climbing in the Mountain Hardwear Torch Jacket, I was so confident in its performance that I brought no other shells to Peru. It breathes well when I’m breaking trail, and the long pitzips give me a little extra ventilation when needed. The pockets are high enough that they’re accessible with a harness on, and they’re plenty big.

My only complaint is with the hood, which barely fits over a climbing helmet and doesn’t provide enough face protection in really nasty weather. Make sure you have a balaclava with you if you're expecting any strong winds.

Why buy the Mountain Hardware Torch Jacket?
  • Breathes very well
  • Highly water resistant
  • Harness compatable
  • Weighs only 17oz (much lighter than most softshells)


Everest Debate Continues to Smolder

I was over at the Adventure Blog (which by the way is worthy of a bookmark) today reading commentary about David Sharp, the Englishman who was left for dead on Everest despite being passed by nearly 40 people during his final hours of life. It's a long read but one that raises some interesting points. One of them is this -
...maybe this wasn'’t a mountaineering story but a story about how mountaineering serves as a microcosm, albeit a very intense microcosm, of human nature. Aren't we all susceptible to the impulse to avoid the bleeding man on the curb, to leave the problem to someone else? Don'’t we resent having to bail out the less fortunate when they've brought trouble on themselves? And do any of those impulses absolve us of the responsibility to help any way?
Read the whole story about David Sharp on


Our man Joe - Day 3 of the Atacama Crossing

Stage 3 is under way in the Atacama Crossing desert race and our man Joe has just passed the second checkpoint.
July 25, Stage 3, 11:30am - At second checkpoint of the day, Ahn Byeung Sik, Korea in lead. Mark Tamminga, Canada and Joe Holland, USA, in second and third

Yesterday Joe finished 5th in stage 2 and gave up the overall lead to Canadian Mark Tamminga who is just 2 minutes and 20 seconds ahead.

If there is one thing for sure it's that Joe can withstand a fair amount of suffering and with a long 26 mile uphill leg today and Stage 5: Marcha de la Muerte (March of Death) coming up my money is still on Joe to take it all.

Check out the athlete bios and see what nationalities are represented in this years Atacama Crossing.


Monday, July 24, 2006

Cordillera Blanca Gear Tests:
Let the mountains be our lab

Andy on the summit of Tocllaraju, Cordillera Blanca, PeruA month of climbing in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca weeded out the good and bad qualities of nearly every piece of gear my partner and I brought with us. Some gear we sold to local guides when we found designs, materials, or construction wanting. Other pieces performed so well my partner bought them off me instead of loosing them when I had to fly home. Stay tuned for the low down on which pieces of gear continually put a smile on our faces and which ones were traded for soles the second they were no longer needed.

0 comments Athlete Joe Holland in the Atacama Crossing

The Atacama Crossing is one of 4 Racing the Planet desert racesJoe Holland getting down and dirty in the Gobi Race where competitors cross one of the most inhospitable and driest locations on the planet. Founded in 1996, these races crossing the Gobi Desert of China, the Sahara of Africa, the Atacama of Chile and a portion of the "Last Desert" in Antarctica, these multi-stage races are not for the typical weekend warrior. athlete Joe Holland has competed in 2 of these races placing 5th at the Gobi and 3rd in the Sahara race both in 2005.

After the first stage Joe is in the lead with a 17 minute cushion between him and the next competitor. But these races with their marathon distance days have a way of shaking up the leader board. I doubt Joe will be relaxing too much even with a nice day 1 lead.

We'll keep updating the blog with daily results over the next 7 days of the race. Stay tuned.


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Atacama Desert of Chile - A Great Place for a Race

Joe Holland, a athlete, will be competing in this year's Atacama Crossing race in the highlands of Chile.
From the Atacama website comes this small description:
As promised, the Atacama Crossing will take place at an altitude that is at least a mile high and cover 250 kilometers over seven days.

The Atacama Crossing 2006 will be centered around the colorful and historical areas surrounding San Pedro de Atacama, the archaeological capital of Chile, over land mostly owned by the Atacamenos indigenous communities.
The race starts at an elevation of nearly 14,000 and follows a portion of the Inca Trail on what could become a crushing downhill stage. It then moves across some undulating desert scenery and some minor mountains. We'll be following along and reporting on how well Joe survives the Atacama.


Thursday, July 20, 2006

Aaron Ralston in Miller's Man Laws

Aaron has been getting some air time with the Men of the Square Table - Miller Beer's new Man Laws

Here he is in one of many commercials that he speaks in.

The "garage fridge" commercial makes reference to Aaron's arm being cut off - where he replies to a what-if statement, "I didn't have a fridge for my arm after I cut it off." Who woulda predicted this as a result of cutting one's arm off in the Utah desert and living to tell about it?

As one friend said, "That's what happens when you have an agent. First the book deal, speaking gigs, commercials, films...action dolls."


Friday, July 14, 2006

Ruth Lake Climbing Crag and Trail Work Day - Utah is organizing and sponsoring an Access Fund Adopt-a-Crag event for the Ruth Lake climbing area in the Uintas. If Rock climbing at Ruth Lake, Utahyou live in Utah or will be visiting and would like to get involved with the event visit the Ruth Lake Event blog to find out the details and how to get involved.

This is the first time climbers have worked with the Forest Service in the Uinta Mountain Range of Utah and we hope this will be the start of a long positive relationship.

If you have an Access Fund rock climbing crag event in your local area and you'd like to have sponsor it e-mail Kendall Card - kcard AT backcountry DOT com

About Ruth Lake

Ruth Lake is one of two very popular rock climbing crags in the Uintas that have seen an increase in traffic over the past few years. I remember when in the summer of 2001 the only beta for the area was a couple of scribbled drawings that I photo copied at White Pine Touring. At that time Ruth Lake had a few bolted routes and there really wasn't a trail from the main hiking trail to bring climbers to the crag.

Over the years a few meandering trails have been created with no commonly accepted route. Additionally the two "warm up climbs" are located at the top of a talus that wraps around to the west of the crag. This talus is a mess to negotiate and has seen a fair amount of erosion.

Now, with the publishing of a full fledged guide book in 2005 the area has seen the number of climbers and dogs increase dramatically as many are fleeing the 100+ temps of the cottonwood canyons to find solid rock and sweatshirt weather in July and August.

Event Link


Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Chuck Norris Power of ProBar

A couple of years ago while in a local climbing
shop I saw a ProBar sitting among the many energy bar options. It definitely stood out back then with its home grown wrapper and message from the founder Art Eggertsen. With time they've gone with a more, shall we say, presentable wrapper featuring the same message from the owner but they've expanded their offering from the Original Blend by adding Whole Berry Blast and most recently a Nutty Banana Boom.

To your taste buds a ProBar is like a chewy creative nutty trail mix that any self respecting hippie vegan would be proud to call their favorite. Although I'm not self respecting hippie vegan I am proud to call ProBar my favorite energy bar. It simply tastes good without the need for a sugar or chocolate coated "taste great!" I've never needed to use a Jedi mind trick on myself when approaching a ProBar. No more gag reflexes. Just mmmmmm good.

To your body it offers 400 solid calories of "I'm going to pump you up" energy. I mean, just look at the ingredient list - almonds, apples, organic banana chips (in the banana flavor of course), organic molasses, sea salt...and more.

To your colon it is like a Chuck Norris style kung fu clean out. Like I said, look at the ingredients. 27% of your daily dose of fiber. More whole foods, nuts and oats in a 3 oz bar than your Grandma's cracked wheat that you used to eat for breakfast.

Speaking of meals it's also a good meal replacement. Perhaps ProBar will find their own "Jared", although it is marketed to the already active outdoor lifestyle.

To spread the gospel of the ProBar one of the owners and current president has set out on a year long road trip with his family in tow. He has a road trip blog that he updates every once in a while.

Get yourself some ProBars at


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Epic - Adventures and Insights from The North Face Athletes

A new site (spotted on The Piton) from The North Face has popped up that expounds on the adventures their athlete's take and provides some interesting insights.

So far the offerings are minimal there are a couple of gems from Greg Child, but we'll be bookmarking this one and keeping an eye on what's up over there at Epic.

Epic - from The North Face


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

in iPod vs Beer, JanSport wins

If the Associated Press report last month that iPods are more popular than beer on campus is right, then it should be tough for JanSport to have a bad fall06. At last year’s OR Show in Salt Lake, no one came on stronger in the iPod-compatible category than JanSport with their massive line of Livewire packs which dropped this week. Really, you have to wonder how you can compare the popularity of two things like beer and iPods, it’s like saying apples are more popular than wooden.

Anyway, the iPod backpacks and messenger bags begin selling this month, and we’ll finally have a litmus test for how much it matters to have that “iPod compatible” on your product instead of just “media pocket,” as companies like Burton have done with their backpacks.

According to an exec at a competing vendor, iPod approached them about selling iPod backpacks, and they wanted about 8% of the total selling price of each pack for the licensing. He made the point that BMW probably wasn’t paying 8% of their iPod-wired cars.


A Canyon Revisited

Adventure Report: Adventure reporter Eric Godfrey revisits an old nemesis, Kolob Canyon in Zion National Park.

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Nearly a year after my epic unplanned bivy on the climb out of Kolob Canyon last September, the time had finally come to revisit the canyon we had so many problems getting out of on the last attempt. You can read about that adventure here.

The plan had been set more than a month in advance. Ben, Josh, and I all had been trying to coordinate our schedules to get together a trip where we could hit some of the Zion big hitters, 4th of July weekend was finally a time we could all get off work and school. Ben and I did Heaps Canyon together (a long difficult canyon) last year but neither Ben or Josh had been down Imlay or Kolob, two other big canyons with a reputation for chewing people up and spitting them out. Unfortunately mother nature didn’t cooperate with us very well and due to fire and flash flood warnings we were forced to do some of the more mellow, easier-to-escape-in-case-of-a-flood type canyons. However we were still able to sneak in one of the heavy hitters, the mellowest of the three, Kolob Canyon.

This canyon took the life of two scout leaders about 10 years ago when they entered with extremely high and deadly water flow. It was also the place that I, with a large-ish inexperienced and somewhat out of shape group got stuck in the dark while attempting to exit the canyon and was forced to spend a long cold night before climbing out the next day.

This trip started the same as the previous; we had to get the permit in the morning and ended up starting later than we would have liked. This time however we had about 45 minutes more daylight, a smaller and more fit group, and at least I had done the exit once so maybe that would help the route finding on the way out. I did however think I found an arch and another small slot canyon on the exit last time that no one I’ve talked to had ever noticed. I was anxious to check these out to see if I really saw what I thought I did while wandering around in the dark.
After dropping into the canyon I immediately realized this was going to be a much different experience than last time. Last time was full of stress waiting for people to get on rappel, worrying about how late it was getting, and wondering if we were going to make it back to the car before dark. This time I found an extremely beautiful canyon with water flowing down every drop filling the deep cold potholes with crystal clear water.

... More (including 7 minute version of the above video and photos) ...


Monday, July 10, 2006

Weather Too Hot? Shave Your Head

For probably 6 of the last 10 summers I've gotten to a point where the need to cool off the melon has prevailed and led me to shave it all off. Besides checking your ego at the door shaving your head is an instant conversation piece especially handy if you're lacking in the social department.

As far as outdoor adventures go there are a few things that may make you think twice about going outdoors sans hair:
  • Mosquitos now have more exposed skin to go after
  • Carrying a beanie all summer for those cool breezes gets old real fast
  • Remember those childhood bumps on the noggin? No more soft hair to protect (and hide) them from tree branches
  • Your white melon could turn lobster red in 15 minutes
  • Shedding your tee shirt in a hurry for a skinny dip doesn't work so well when your scalp acts like velcro stubble
  • If you're on all fours a hunter may mistake your head for a deer's butt
Still not diswaded? Very well. Although the act of shaving your head seems pretty straight forward if there was any doubt as to how to get the job done the folks at (I'm not making this up) have a step by step guide to shaving your head.