Friday, June 29, 2007

Wasatch Back Relay

Here is the backcountry video of the Wasatch Back Relay. Employees gathered to run 170 miles in 24 hours, while using the gear we sell. I went for a run the other day and I lasted about 20 min. with my keys weighing me down, so dragging a kayak is pretty amazing.

Check out this article written by Todd Cox about his experience.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Real Estate For Sale in Yosemite National Park?

This is not another post about the Bush Administration's grand idea to sell off federal lands to the highest bidder. I'm talking the dream location for owning a You could be here in 15 min.piece of paradise where you can build a cabin or home - 13 miles from the El Capitan meadow.

Hans Florine, long time Yosemite climber (he set the solo speed record on El Capitan in just under 12 hours) and well respected among the Camp 4 crowd, is selling a lot adjacent to his Base Camp cabin that has housed many a big wall hardman. .29 acres and buildable the asking price is just $199,000. Better hurry though as the offer is over after June 31, 2007.

So why am I posting this on the blog? Because if you do buy it and mention that you heard about it from the Access Fund (I read about it in the Vertical Times publication from the Access Fund so that counts, right?) then he'll donation some of the scratch to the Access Fund.

Similar lots with homes have recently sold for nearly $1 Million. I'd go on the record and say a house in this location or a cabin would be priceless.

Check out Hans' lot in Yosemite.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Bouldering Gearheads

Black Diamond took out backcountry gearheads this past week to Little Cottonwood canyon for a bouldering session. They had athletes there to whip us into shape and try out some sweet shoes from Scarpa and La Sportiva. My favorite shoe was the Katana from La Sportiva. That has really awesome fit and I am a huge sucker for velcro/slip-ons. I did try the Venom also, it reminded me of the cobra they had a couple years back. The velcro gives you a more solid feel which is good for all types of climbing.

You really have to size down on a slip on though because without laces they are going to stretch a lot more. In about 20 minutes of trying on shoes you can usually find your size. Sizing a whole size down is about standard for most people, even people starting out. The other thing to do with new climbing shoes is dip them in warm water and let them form to your foot while you watch a flick (Vertical Limit won't make you climb better by the way).

If you need help with checking out the shoe line this summer, the BC gearheads are fresh on their climbing game.


Monday, June 25, 2007

BASE Jumping in Idaho

Last weekend I taught a BASE First Jump Course at the Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls, Idaho for Morpheus Technologies, one of the few BASE equipment manufactures in the world. ‘BASE’ is an acronym for Building, Antenna, Span and Earth (cliffs) which are the four primary objects that BASE jumpers jump from. The sport of BASE jumping basically involves jumping off fixed objects (not from an aircraft) with a single parachute system (no reserve). Perrine Bridge BASE Jump

I’ve been BASE jumping since 2000 and have jumped from cool places like the Eiger in Switzerland, the Petronas Building in Malaysia, caves in Mexico and off cliffs in Norway and Italy. BASE has been one of my primary interest as it can combine hiking, climbing and jumping all in one activity.

The Perrine Bridge is one of the few legal objects in the U.S. that is open year round to BASE jumpers and it is also a great place to train first time jumpers who might need a little room for "newbie" error. The bridge sits 486’ above the Snake River and is the longest span bridge in North America at 1,500’ long. We were lucky enough to have sunny, warm weather throughout the weekend, which allows the students more time to pack and study the practical skills without having to hurry and jump before the weather turns ugly.

Obviously, for this type of activity you need premium canopy skills and usually at least 200 skydives, as well as protective gear, such as a good pair of hiking boots, preferably without quick lacing hooks, a good helmet that allows you peripheral vision and a good set of elbow and knee pads. These things are generally considered essentials in the sport of BASE.Getting Ready to Jump!

The students, a skydiver from Russia and stuntman from the UK, were provided with a great introduction to the sport of BASE jumping including: how to choose the right equipment; how to "exit" (body position), BASE safety; protective gear; packing techniques; and, canopy control techniques. These basic skills are essential to preparing a person for the world of BASE. By the end of the course, they were instilled with enough knowledge to go back home and research everything about BASE, meet other BASE jumpers, become familiar with other BASE objects and stay safe while having fun!

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Dean Karnazeas Failed but Accelerade needs Loser Camp

Dean Karnazes didn't break a record in his 24-Hour Endurance run yesterday when he attempted to surpass the current world record of 153.76 miles on a treadmill in a 24 hour period. He only managed 130 miles, the equivalent of running 5 marathons. He did manage to raise over $21,000 for Athletes for a Cure. Hurray...[silence]

The above is essentially the message that Accelerade is reporting after the event. They are completely missing an opportunity here. I mean, c'mon, are you kidding me? This guy just ran 130 miles on a treadmill in 24 hours and all you can muster is a lame after the fact play down with a rah rah at the end about pushing my sport farther? How about a time line? How about some feedback from Dean? Photos? Video? This is your athlete here, your boy wonder.

So what if he didn't beat the record! Despite popular opinion, the guy is human after all. Celebrate the effort and tell me how your product helped Dean manage 130 miles. Tell me what went wrong, how he felt, what his favorite flavor is after 20 miles, 60 miles, 100 miles.

His effort reminds me of what Ronald. E. Osborn, a widely respected minister, scholar and historian once said:
"Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow."
Celebrate the failures and the success and learn from everything. Perhaps the people at Accelerade needs to go to Loser Camp.

Dean, I'm still stoked about the effort you made, the money you raised and look forward to getting more details and thoughts about the day.



Thursday, June 21, 2007

Dean Karnazeas - Running 154 Miles in Times Square

The endurance madness will never end for Dean. No limits exist in his world.

Today, yes right now, Dean Karnazeas is running on a treadmill located on a platform above Times Square in New York City. He's trying to beat the current world record of 153 miles (and change) within a 24hour period.

Dean Karnazes running in Times Square, NYCAs of this post, he's run just over 95 miles and has about 9 hours left. However, my sources (the guy sitting in the desk next to me) tell me that right now he's currently walking . What? Oh, actually he's eating. I could sit here all day and post exactly what is going on but I have TPS reports to tend to and phone calls to return.

Go check out the live feed with a couple of different camera angles of Dean Karnazeas running at, who is one of his sponsors.

Run like Dean and pick up some Accelrade at - but let's face it, you'll never run like Dean, ever, but hey, you can drink like him!



Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Success for at-risk kids

Rarely in life do we get the opportunity to do something that is truly rewarding to those in need as well as ourselves. My climb up the Mountaineer's Route of the highest point in the lower 48 states, California's 14,505' Mt.Whitney, was just that. Thanks to all of you who aided in my fundraising efforts for the Climbing for Kids benefit climb. Your generous support will make it possible for at risk, urban youth to experience the wonders of the great outdoors.

The trip really began with a few days in one of our favorite locations, South Lake Tahoe, CA. From there I bid my son, wife and our loaf in the oven adieu and made the almost five hour drive south on the 395 to the town of Lone Pine, CA. At around 6:00 PM on Saturday June 9, I met up with the other fundraisers in my group at the Forest Service Visitor's Center. The center is located at the intersection of the road to Death Valley and the road that runs near Mt. Whitney (the lowest and highest points in the lower 48 states respectively). From there we went to the city park for a pack check and then to dinner. After eating and getting to know each other a little, we caravanned up the Whitney Portal Road to the Lone Pine Campground for the night.

Bright and early on Sunday morning we packed up our gear and drove up the steep, windy road to the Whitney Portal. By 9:30 we had all food and smelly item locked in the bear vaults (Apparently bears will rip your doors off for toothpaste) and were on the trail. The pack scale at the Portal said I was about to carry no less than 50 pounds up more than 6,000 vertical feet, though I wish I hadn't known that. It tortured me mentally far worse than physically. Our pace was slow and easy and after about 3 hours we stopped for lunch at Lower Boy Scout Lake. The views from here were unreal as Mt. Whitney and the surrounding peaks shot thousands of feet skyward from behind closer granite ridges which shot skyward from the small, lush valley. It was beautiful!

After about an hour of rest, food and hydration we pushed on to our base camp at Upper Boy Scout Lake. While this was also an amazingly scenic spot, Mt. Whitney could not actually be seen from here and being above tree line we were without the smell and shade from the evergreens. Upper Boy Scout Lake and the outlet stream did however provide all of the cold water we could drink. We had an early dinner of hot vegetable noodle soup and tea and turned in around 7:30 PM.

The wake up call the next morning came at 3:15 AM. Summit day with a group can be a very long day so an alpine start was crucial. It was a dark but clear morning with a temperature in the mid 30's. We choked down instant oatmeal and were on the trial by 4:15. Fortunately we only packed what we absolutely needed for the day leaving our packs considerably lighter than they had been the previous day. Bringing only clothing, food, water, a helmet, a "Wag bag" and climbing harness made me feel like I could run up the mountain. We stopped at Iceberg Lake for our first big rest and pushed up the couloir toward "The Notch" and the summit. The going was very slow due to the loose granite. Each step had to be carefully placed as to not cause a rock slide to fall onto those below you. We stopped for more food and water at the notch and donned our helmets and harness' for the last 500 vertical feet.

The Notch Gully is where the climb turns from a hike/scramble into class 3/4 (depending on who you ask) climbing. While the climb itself is not difficult, the views are very intimidating and a fall from up the gully would likely mean death, and has for some in the past. Having never climbed tied to four other people, I had to learn quickly. Your pace has to be just right. If you're too fast you have slack in the rope in front of you which can be tricky to maneuver around. Too quick can also cause tension on the rope behind you which can throw off your balance. Too slow has the opposite affects. Apparently I was in a hurry and several times stepped on the rope in front of me and had to perch awkwardly to wait for the person behind me. While standing on a ledge a mere 30 feet from the top, I suddenly felt dizzy and light headed. I memory serves, I have passed out only once in my life, but I thought number two was coming. My initial reaction was to keep this bit of information to myself. Then remembering that a fall could drag four others down the gully with me prompted me to speak up. Because I wasn't nauseous it was decided I had vertigo and not elevation sickness. I focused on the rock in front of me and pushed on to the summit. After 6.5 hours we were on top of the mountain.

Months of fundraising, training, planning and preparation, all lead to this moment; I was finally on the top of this mountain. The combination of exhaustion and the fact that this goal had been attained nearly brought me to tears. One of our guides offered to let me use his cell phone to call the misses but I refused, knowing that's all it would have taken to get me blubbering. While the views were incredible from the top, I felt it was much more about the journey than the destination and spent little time admiring them. We were on the summit about an hour before heading back to camp.

The anticipation of descending the gully initially really messed with my head. Once roped up and climbing down I actually had a great time. It's not natural to trust rope and a few pieces of climbing gear with holding your weight and saving your life. Once I did though, it was an amazing, exhilarating experience that I can't seem to shake. I want more.

Arriving back down at Iceberg Lake we filtered water and forced ourselves to eat. Elevation seems to rob you of your desire to eat and drink. Though I burned probably around 7,000 calories since waking, I wasn't hungry. I knew though without forcing down food I would be in real trouble. During our break at Iceberg Lake a snow/hail storm rolled in and out in just under an hour. We slogged on down to base camp. After leaving camp almost 14 hours prior, we were back. We were all a little delirious, giddy and exhausted. We ate the best macaroni and cheese ever created by human hands, shared opinions and laughs and went to sleep. The next morning we leisurely packed up camp and hiked back down the mountain.

That in a nut shell was my trip up the Mountaineer's Route of Mount Whitney. Below is a link to photos of the trip. Thanks for reading and thanks again to those who supported this cause.



Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Kayaking Kraze

This past weekend I had the chance to check out some boats at our local pond for the Venture Festival here in Salt Lake City, Utah. Sit-on-top boats just look super tipsy and only good for beach surfing, which is about a 9 hour drive away, not to mention the kayak rack I would have to purchase. I tried one though and the whole "center of gravity higher than normal" theory is very stable.

If you can tell by my lingo I am no "boater". I also tried a touring kayak with the little rudder thing on the back. By hitting each pedal slightly I was headed in a totally new direction. This may be old news but if your looking to get into a boat and think the rudder is just a $150 upgrade of coolness, it really is good to have. I also get stoked about technology that is new to me, heck last year was my first year on a shaped ski. Whoever came up with the shaped ski is a genius!

I also tried a Carlisle paddle that was fiberglass and very light. Granted I probably did a lap around the little lake and there wasn't 3 foot swells and I only had a digital camera around my neck, nonetheless it was very fun to paddle.

All in all, I am hooked on getting a boat and will probably opt for a Sit-on-top. It may not allow me to re-do any River Wild scenes like Kevin Bacon or get me on the Mississippi Challenge but its going to look super cool in my living room when I am not using it.



Longboarders to Converge on the Everest Super-Highway

I'm still shaking my head over why the IOC gave the games to the Chinese without including some sort of clause that kept them from pulling the sort of asshattary that they are now pulling off in the name of "carrying the torch" for the 2008 Olympic games.

According to 149 news sources as of this post (including the Herald Sun out of Australia) China will pave the previously rocky and bumpy dirt road that leads to Base Camp on the north side of Mount Everest.
Xinhua News Agency said yesterday construction of the road, budgeted at $23.4 million, would turn a 108km rough road from the foot of the mountain to a base camp at 5200m "into a blacktop highway fenced by undulating guard rails".
Fenced by undulating guard rails? What the?

However, I smell an opportunity here. Fresh pavement for 108 km with little to no traffic on it? Bring it on!

Introducing the first ever Mount Everest Longboarding Expedition.

We'll provide shuttles, food, transportation and will rent longboards. In true expedition fashion if you happen to go down and your longboard pitches off the road (passing over or under the undulating guard rails) no bother, we'll hook you up with another one. At Base Camp you'll rub shoulders with the top mountaineers in the world and while they put on heavy packs and head up, you'll don knee pads, a helmet and we'll head down.

These 3 week expeditions will allow enough time to acclimatize to the elevation by conducting mini descents, leading up to the 108km (67.1 miles for you Yanks out there) mega descent that is the Mount Everest Highway! Reserve your spot today.



Monday, June 18, 2007

Utah Backcountry Volunteers - Escalante River Trip Report

This trip report is from Utah Backcountry Volunteers which is a new non-profit organization that has created a partnership with. This is from a trip to the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Escalante River removing Russian Olive trees - April 29-May 5

Our adventure began by strapping on one-week backpacks and leaving cars behind at the Egypt Trailhead in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The group of 8 volunteers from all over the country, led by intrepid Park Ranger Bill Wolverton, descended 6 miles across steep slickrock slopes and pinion/juniper flats to dropThe Escalante River, Utah into the lush, oasis-like Escalante River bottom just upstream of Twenty-Five Mile Wash. Camp was quickly established on the rim of a sagebrush flat 150’ directly above the river, with short rock-hopping access for daily water jug re-fills...and for the as-needed, invigorating dip and rinse!

Our service project was removal of invasive Russian olive trees with hand tools such as a pruning saw, loppers, pulaski, and an herbicide to treat cut stumps. Non-native, decorative Russian olive trees have escaped backyards and city parks because their seeds successfully float downstream through Utah’s rivers & other waterways, embedding in banks and out-competing native young riparian trees such as Cottonwoods. Small Cottonwoods can’t succeed the tall, mature trees that typify many Utah rivers, however, cutting mature Russian olive prevents their seed production and they can be eradicated, swinging natural systems back into place.

This spring the work was particularly slow due to a huge flood that scoured the entire canyon in 25’ of water last October. Although the mature Russian olive trees are pretty easy to spot from a distance and to trim and cut, flood debris made our task arduous, yet in the end more satisfying. In four work days (Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri) our group cleared approximately 1 full mile of the river bottom of these non-natives that are out-competing young, native Cottonwood and other desert riparian trees. Removing Russian Olive Trees on the Escalante River, UtahAlthough we donated 256 hours in total, ours was but one group assisting the National Park Service in this ongoing project now in its 8th season, and sure to continue several more years.

Of course it’s not all-work-and-no-play with Utah Backcountry Volunteers. Our Wednesday group day-hike took us on a cross-country excursion to the breathtaking Neon Canyon. This red rock side canyon of the Escalante is a mellow stroll up a deep, cool, sandy wash culminating in a huge pool at the base of a 75’ sculpted, magnificent slickrock water fall. The unique beauty of this place becomes apparent upon making water ripple patterns that are reflected onto the striped sandstone bowl. As we leisurely made our way back to camp walking through the calf-deep Escalante River, we realized we were in a very special place, on a trip to be remembered. As one volunteer put it “Thanks for a superb trip! I hope to go with you again.”

Grand Staircase National Monument, Escalante River area, Utah
Grand Staircase National Monument, Escalante River area, UtahGet involved by volunteering and get into the backcounty on one of their fall service trips. Check for dates and locations.

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Mississippi Kayak Challenge -Trip Summary # 2, June 16

This update is coming to you from Cape Girardeau, MO. I have now completed 792 miles of my journey.

This past week has been one of extremes: I had 40 mile days in almost ideal conditions, 20 mile days with extreme heat and strong south winds, and everything in between. In the space of a few days, I passed through 30 miles of industrial sprawl around St. Louis, and I camped in near pristine wilderness, with coyotes howling in the night.
The heat is becoming a factor. The temperature climbed into the 90s on Thursday and Friday, and it's taking its toll on me on the river. I am planning to change my daily schedule from now on. I'll start out between 5 am and 6 am in the morning, and stop for the day around 3 pm. The hottest part of the day is between 3 pm and 7 pm, and it would be wise to stay out of the sun then. It will give me a few more hours to write everyday, so the time won't go to waste. I should still be able to average around 30 miles per day.

I passed through St. Louis on Tuesday, the 12th. St. Louis is the symbolic halfway point of my voyage. It is also the point where the Mississippi changes from being a series of lakes, to becoming a free flowing river with faster current. I also passed through the last lock of my journey at Alton IL, 20 miles north of St. Louis.

Like the heat, the current is a new variable I need to factor into my planning and paddling. On the plus side, it's helping me along at about 2 miles per hour, and I can now do 40 miles per day with the same effort 30 miles required above St. Louis. It actually feels like I am navigating a river now. My average speed is close to 5 mph now; before St. Louis it was around 3 mph.

On the down side, the current makes it more difficult to cross the main channel, and getting the kayak to a specific point on the bank or an island is more difficult, and requires me to be more pro-active in my approach. The faster current also causes more turbulence and stronger eddies below the wing dams and other underwater obstacles, which can make things more difficult for me on the water.

I broke my good graphite paddle on Wednesday. Christine shipped two spare paddles from Victoria on Friday. With a bit of luck I'll still get them today.

I'm 53 miles away from Mile 0 on the Upper Mississippi. Beyond Cairo, IL the Lower Mississippi begins, and I have approximately 850 miles on the LM before I get to New Orleans.

I'm doing well, still enjoying good health and I have lots of energy and stamina. I continue to meet friendly, helpful and interesting people along the way. Towns and cities are becoming fewer and further apart, so I stocked up on extra food supplies today, and I'll start carrying more water too. I also consume more water because of the heat, so I need to manage my water supply carefully.

It's beginning to look like I will complete my trip before the end of July; a month sooner than my original plan, unless of course I suffer a serious setback or mishap.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Everest Wrap-up (summit day, broken ropes & rescue)

Summit ‘day’ started in our tents on the South Col at 8:30pm on May 20th with the call to start getting ready. For the next hour we struggled to get into down suits, boots and crampons for the long climb. Most of the preparation just required me to pull clothes out of the foot of my sleeping bag as they had been stowed there so they would stay warm. My excitement was mixed with concern that I remember the critical "extras"… extra food, water, goggles, and gloves. A short list but on the South Col, at just below 8,000 meters, my brain was having trouble remembering these little things.

Most, if not all, of the route to the summit is fixed with what can best be described as water ski rope. The rope appears strong but does not seem to hold up to the rigors of rubbing against ascender teeth and rock as well as a high quality climbing rope. About 1:00am as our group of around 20 western climbers and Sherpa were ascending the ropes up the face to the Balcony at just over 27,000/ 8200m, the rope all of a sudden went slack and people started yelling. My worst fear had come true, the rope had broken but fortunately those closest to the break were able to stop their fall before tumbling out of control into the line of people below. In my mind, I could just see the Outside Magazine headlines “Rope Breaks And Kills 20 on Everest”. Great. I immediately unclipped my ascender and backup carabineer from the rope while those closest to the break tried to reattach to the line. After about 15 minutes of tugging and yelling, the rope was back in place. I was still a bit paranoid, however, and stepped off the rope to solo up to the Balcony with a few other concerned climbers.

From the Balcony we headed up a ridge to the South Summit. Despite the size, our team was making good time and the weather was fantastic with no wind and the temperature warming up. On the ridge leading to the South Summit, the sun started to come up over Tibet. As the sun rose and the curvature of the earth was exposed, the Tibetan peaks came into view. Once the sun crested over Everest, it created an incredible shadow of Everest in almost pyramid-like form into Nepal. I didn’t expect the beauty of the moment to be so overwhelming and it was one of the most incredible natural images that I’ve ever seen.Everest Shadow

We arrived at the South Summit at about 6:00am and quickly traded our empty oxygen bottles for full ones. My tent mate, Sebastian and I were eager to get going to the summit as there was a large group building that we wanted to get ahead of before the Hillary Step. This last part of the climb was the most exciting part of the entire trip. We traversed a knife edge ridge with views 6000’ down in to Nepal on one side and 7000’ down into Tibet on the other. Once we arrived at the Hillary Step, I paused to take in the enormity of the moment. Here I was, climbing on what has to be one of the most famous sections on the highest mountain in the world. The moment was ours to enjoy and I have to admit that I was choking up as I navigated snow and rock to the summit ridge.

I got to the summit at 7:00am on May 21st. What an incredible summit day. The temperature had warmed to around 0 degrees Farenheight with no wind and clear skies. I stayed on the summit for about 45 minutes before deciding to descend.

As I descended back to the South Summit, my sherpa indicated that his oxygen mask was malfunctioning and that I could go down by myself which was just fine with me. I slowly made my way off the South Summit, back down the ridge and headed to the Balcony completely enjoying the relative solitude on the way. I had to pinch myself to make sure I was completely comprehending the reality of where I was and what I was doing. Alone on Everest descending in great weather, after having gone to the summit; wow, was I stoked! More times than I could count, I just sat down to take in the views and enjoy the moment. Topping out of the Hillary Step

As I descended below the Balcony I came across internationally known guide Dave Hahn who was removing his oxygen system and strapping it to climber who was on the snow unconscious. As I approached Dave, I offered to help in any way I could and was quickly enlisted in the rescue of Usha Bista, a member of the Nepali Democratic National Team who had been left by team members on the mountain in critical condition and was suffering from severe frostbite and cerebral edema. More shockingly, I later learned that days before this climber had been told by several people, including doctors at the Himalayan Rescue Association at Base Camp, not to climb. Dave Hahn, myself and Sebastian (now the youngest Belgium to summit Everest) worked for over an hour lowering Usha until we were relieved by sherpas and a team who had come up from the South Col. As a postscript, it took a lot of climbers 3 more days to get Usha to Base Camp where she was helicoptered to Kathmandu and is believed to have lived but suffered significant amputations from the frostbite.

From the point where others were able to assist Usha, Seb and I continued down until we reached our tent at the South Col where we spent the night. The next day we descended past Camp 3 and onto Camp 2. The following day, May 23rd, we had our last trip through the Khumbu icefall to Base Camp and then were finally considered relatively safe and on our way back home. Top of the World!

After years of reading how Base Camp is a zoo and the South Col is a ‘yak trail” I found most of this to be offensive media hype. Granted, Base Camp is not a remote and isolated place without basic comforts (you’re there for 2 months remember) but it is not the completely excessive affair that some would lead you to believe. Also, most of the climbers that I saw were very fit folks who had trained extensively for the climb and had significant big mountain experience. The route was not technical, but anyone ascending the Hillary Step would be hard pressed not to say that it was a complete rush. Overall, I had an incredible adventure and it was truly a lifelong dream to climb on, let alone summit, Everest.


Sunday, June 10, 2007

Yosemite the untold story

This adventure report comes from Rob Phillips, who figures that by now he has spent over a year total in Yosemite and plans to return as often as possible.

Climbers returning from a trip to Yosemite always tell of seemingly never-ending walls of perfect granite, the brutal but rewarding "slogs" to the top, gorgeous views, and challenges overcome or left waiting to be overcome on the next pilgrimage out there. But what climbers rarely pass on is how great rest days are in Yosemite. As climbers, we will go to some pretty nasty spots seeking out a challenge (VRG etc.), but here in Yosemite- rest days can be just as spectacular as climbing days.

I was lucky enough to spend a week in Yosemite in the middle of May and enjoyed some perfect late spring weather. As usual, I brought along my bike, which makes getting around the valley much easier, since there are paved trails to a number of beautiful spots. I spent my time biking around, lounging on the beach, hiking to some gorgeous views, and in general, enjoying the beauty of the area.

So the next time you're in Yosemite to send your sick proj', make sure to set aside some time to take in the splendor and beauty of the National Park.

Oh yeah, while I was there, I also made it up Mr. Natural, the Moritorium, Waverly Wafer to Butterballs, Lower Cathedral sport climbs, and Astroman.


Friday, June 08, 2007

Mississippi Kayak Challenge - Trip Summary June 8

You've probably noticed that my blog updates are lagging a few weeks behind my actual progress. That's caused primarily by the limited opportunities I have had to date to get off the river to charge my notebook's battery and access the Internet, and to some extent by the fact that I've been paddling for 10-12 hours most days in an effort to make maximum progress whenever the wind allowed me to.
In order to bring everybody up to speed with the bigger picture, I've decided to do a trip summary every few weeks. The chronological blog narrative will continue as before. It's probably a good thing for me as well to stop and reflect on my progress once in a while.
Here are a few highlights of my adventure so far:
I have completed 572 miles (858 km) of my 2,000 mile journey. I started at mile 845, five miles upstream of St. Paul on May 13, and tonight I find myself in Clarksville, MO. My journey has taken me through five states so far: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa and Missouri. I have paddled through unspoilt wilderness, large cities, industrial sprawl, and everything in between. Mother Nature pulled out all the stops (and continues to do so). I have had 32 degree nights, 90 degree days, balmy days in the mid-seventies, one stifling night with the temperature in the eighties, days in the low fifties, 30 and 40 mph winds, days with non-stop driving rain, several thunderstorms, and even the tail-end of a tornado in Pike County, Illinois last night.
Clarksville is my third 'city' stop. I stopped near Brownsville, MN at the end of the first week, and last week, May 31st to June 3rd, I was forced to stop over in Burlington by severe thunderstorms and tornado activity in the area. I do not regret any one of those days off the river. I was fortunate enough to meet some of the kindest, most generous people I've ever met in my life. Everywhere so far I've been treated like an old friend, and provided with all the help I needed without having to ask for anything. This has given me a glimpse into what makes the US such a great country: people are kind, generous and caring, and they are willing to take a stranger in their midst and see to it that he has what he needs. And they do so without fanfare; without meddling. That is how they are and who they are.
I have become something of a celebrity in Clarksville since my arrival here earlier today. The owners of the Clarksville Inn (where I'm staying) came over to introduce themselves and find out about my trip, all the staff in the Steamboat Inn restaurant know about me - even the off-duty girls wave at me in the street - and I've talked to half the road crew working on the highway above the motel. Of course, it's kind of hard to miss someone who shows up dragging a 17-foot mango-orange kayak up the main street, and then parks his boat outside his motel room. And other than the motel, restaurant, gas station and hardware store, there's not much else here in Clarksville.
Any venture of this nature will serve up its share of surprises; some pleasant, some nasty. I am happy to report that thus far, my surprise scale has definitely tipped to the favorable side. A few of the good ones below:
The friendliness, generosity and kindness of strangers.
More wilderness than I had expected, especially in Minnesota and Illinois
All the bald eagles in Minnesota and Wisconsin!
Relatively little urban and suburban sprawl.
The river is much cleaner than I thought it would be.
Except in Iowa, there is much less litter on the banks and in the river than I expected to see.
Abundant bird- and wildlife along the banks.
I do not have to portage around the dams - I can go through the locks, which saved me many hours to date.
So far, it's been relatively easy to find good campsites on the many mid-stream islands.
I am holding up very well, both physically and mentally.
I've had no injuries worth mentioning, no major aches and pains; not even a cold or headache.
I have had exceptionally good luck so far. The few times I found myself in somewhat precarious situations, luck stayed firmly on my side.
I'm making faster progress than planned. I'm still averaging 20 miles per day, in spite of the days the wind had forced me off the river.
I have the best equipment for the task.
The 'bad' list is short:
The WIND. For most of the past three and a half weeks, the wind has been my nemesis. Most of the time I had 20-30 mph southerly winds to contend with, in other words, headwinds! On a few days early in my trip I ran into fierce NW winds that nearly shipwrecked me during a lake crossing. There were days when I battled into the wind for 12 hours, with only 16 or 18 miles to show for all my hard work.
Cold nights. There have been some unseasonably (so they keep telling me) cold nights. Actually, I've been cold most nights, not being geared up for cooler weather.
It's been very difficult to access cities and towns, and any facilities from the river. This has limited my access to the Internet and cell phone service, and my ability to keep my notebook and cell phone charged. However, I set myself the goal of doing this as a true solo effort, and I'm sticking with it.
I miss my wife Christine a lot, even more so than I knew I would.
I will update my gallery later tonight, and I'll try to post one or two regular blog entries.
Thank you to all my sponsors, friends (old and new) for your support and encouragement!


Otter Body Experience - Two Dougs and The Grand Teton

I really dig the people I'm lucky enough to work with each day. Today I received this e-mail from one of them:
You have probably seen this but it is worth another viewing
Yep, I had seen it. A couple of times in fact. In this video Doug Workman and the late, great Doug Coombs are climbing the Ford Coulior and then ski descend the Otter Body on The Grand Teton.

While I watched it for what I think was the 3rd or 4th time I was caught up in thought about my ambitions in the mountains and re-realized that it is true - I'm a lifer.

Middle Teton in the morning sunlight
Perhaps you too have come to a similar realization. Like me, you may have had this happen multiple times before. It could have come during mile 11 of a long trail run, while watching the morning sunrise on top of a Colorado 14'er, on the 15th pitch of the Nose, while driving to Joshua Tree for the 20th time this year, or perhaps doing something as simple as watching a mountain hero of yours ski a mountain you've climbed multiple times and dreamed about skiing yourself. Whatever the moment is, when it happens there is something that inside you confirms the realization, as if your heart nods to your mind that indeed it is true. You are a lifer and nothing will ever change that.

Hows' the saying go, "You can take the kid out of the mountains but you can't take the mountains out of the kid"? (insert anything you do in the outdoors for mountains if you haven't already)

I'm sure that nothing could take the passion I have for climbing and skiing mountains out of me. Move me to Kansas (oh heaven forbid), burn my garage down with all my gear, empty my wallet and all my accounts and still I will find a way to get myself into the mountains to climb and ski.

powstash on the summit of The Grand TetonAnd on that note, have a fantastic weekend full of adventure.

Watch the Otter Body Experience ski descent video on

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Keeping Up With Google - Ragnar Relay Race

Team Runner Kendall Card and Ben Wheeler in the Wasatch Back Relay RaceWe've got a huge banner in our warehouse that says, "Blisteringly Fast Fulfillment". When it comes to shipping out gear to our customers, yes, that is very true. But this summer 3 teams of 12 from will step up to "race" in the Ragnar Relay - WasatchBack and I'm wondering if that motto may be both prophetic and far from the truth at the same time.

No doubt there will be a number of blisters among the ranks but I doubt we'll be setting any records in the fast department. Fulfillment? Well, eventually we'll find our way to the finish line.

This year will be the 4th annual running the Ragnar Race Wasatch Back and is the 4th year that has fielded at least one team. The 12 member team relay race format is a lot of fun and I'd recommend any company with enough people who are fit enough or crazy enough to commit to running three different 3-7 mile legs in a day and a half should sign up. Ragnar now has races in the Twin Cities, Arizona and Washington.

At the Ragnar Relay - Del Sol which was held in the greater Phoenix area in February, our friends at Google took first as in first overall not just first in their division. True to thier search engine speed, they sped past 70 other teams to come out on top!

Perhaps we need to step up and challenge the good folks at Google to a friendly competition for next year's Wasatch Back, on our home turf. I'm thinking a wager of sorts would be in order, no? Any suggestions on an appropriate wager?



Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Using the Gear we sell on Rainier

For 36 years Jansport has been holding a climbing seminar and selects one person from Backcountry and other retailers to climb Mt. Rainier with RMI guides. Sam Bruni, our Director of Customer Solutions, was chosen to climb this year.

"I felt really good the day before the climb. I wasn't nervous at all." Bruni said. He told me that one item he wish he had was a Camelbak, contrary to the guides suggestion (2 Nalgenes). With taking breaks every 90 min. he said it was tough to stay hydrated.

His favorite gear up to Camp Muir was trekking poles and Julbo glacier glasses,

"The poles really help balance the pack weight and the glaciers up to Muir are way too bright to just take up regular sunglasses. "

When he got to Muir he felt great. He ate and rested but after a short time he felt nauseated and threw up, but no food came up. He waited for a while thinking it was heat stroke but he said it was definitely altitude sickness. The team of 14 was headed up that night to the top so he had to sit out on the summit bid this year.

For next time he plans to train at a higher alitude and will definitely bring a insulated Camelbak. A couple other hints he gave:
  • Careful sitting on your back panel in the snow for a rest. Definitely line your stuff with plastic to avoid wet gear.
  • If in doubt, get a disposable camera. Digital may not work and its not the time to be fiddling with techy stuff.
  • Go with friends that have been before, unless you have the money to fork out to RMI. The guides were great and helpful, the $700 guide service is quite a bit though.
Good luck to those climbing Rainier this season, I will see you up there in August. For great Rainier beta, check out the official Rainier Blog by Mark Gauthier.

Be smart. Train hard. Enjoy the mountain.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Climbing for Kids just around the bend

Well, the last pre Mt. Whitney training hike has been completed. With 45 pounds on my back and a couple of pups by my side, I made my way up and around the Long Gulch/Pioneer Cabin/Corral Creek loop. This eight mile jaunt is breathtaking both figuratively and literally. The trip is all about the views from the historic Haute Route style cabin (circa 1937) located at 9440’ in the Pioneer Mountain Range of Idaho. Just across the classic alpine valley from the cabin are a few of the area’s most spectacular 12,000+/- foot peaks.

With my Climbing for Kids benefit climb up the Mountaineer’s Route of Whitney just four days away, I’m as prepared as I’m going to be. Many thanks to all those who have supported me with my fundraising efforts and provided tips and gear ( plug here) for the trip. I am very grateful for the generosity I’ve seen.

Ciao and thanks again. Trip report soon to come.

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Canyoneering Mexico

Adventure reporter Eric Godfrey shows a new video from the canyons of Mexico.

Mexico is known for its beautiful white beaches, clear blue oceans, and ancient ruins, but what about further north? It's all desert and desolate right? Not in the beautiful sub-tropical limestone mountains around the city of Monterrey. The richest, and most americanized city in Mexico is surrounded by some impressive tree covered mountains that house some of the best scenery and rock in the world. There are incredible limestone caves found throughout, 2000+ foot multipitch climbs on excellent quality limestone, and amazing water filled canyons including one of the most geologically impressive canyons in the world, Matacanes, named for a shower head like formation found in both of the canyons two caves.

I've put together a video of my recent trip, we did five canyons, only four of them are included in the video. The video is almost twenty minutes long so if you are only going to watch part, then fast forward to the last nine minutes, this will show off Mexico's showcase canyon. The video makes it look fun, but the canyon MUST be experienced to be believed, it's like an amusement park water ride on steroids!

If you are going to plan a trip to see Matacanes it is unlawful to go without a certified guide. Not all guides are good, the one's we went with were excellent and all ACA (American Canyoneering Association) certified, which goes above and beyond the governments certification. You can visit our guides website by clicking here.


Saturday, June 02, 2007

Goat Sightings - The Horde in Crawdad Canyon, Utah

This weeks Goat Sighting winner comes to us from Southern Utah. Dow, a longtime customer of, was out climbing and spotting this old guy below the crag where he was climbing who needed a bit of protection from falling rock, or perhaps falling climbers. He doesn't look too excited about it.

(no goats were harmed in the making or taking of this photo)

Photo Shot by: Dow Williams
Photo Location: Crawdad Canyon, St. George, Utah

About the photo:
The old boy that keeps up Crawdad Canyon, a private climbing crag (local climbers coalition) north of Saint George, uses about a dozen goats to keep the brush under control below the routes. So you are climbing away and hear these bells below, it is a bit surreal.
As a weekly winner Dow will receive Organic Goat Tee Shirt.

If you think you've got what it takes to stick a winner but you haven't got a sticker to stick, head on over to and get yourself a FREE goat sticker by filling out the form or by placing an order as each box we ship gets a free sticker. Then get out there and stick it, take a photo and submit it online.

Or if you see a sticker out there take a photo and submit it as your own.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Mississippi kayak challenge off to a good start

Kayaking the mighty Mississippi RiverWell, this has certainly been more of a wilderness river adventure than expected. Who would have thought the Upper Mississippi has so much wilderness! Good news for the river and the surrounding environment, no doubt, but quite the challenge for a lonely kayaker trying to access the Internet, cell phone service, and facilities in towns and cities in general. A support team would certainly have been useful more often than not, but part of the goal I set for myself (and the challenge), is to do this solo. I will stick to my decision.

I am doing well and making good progress, but it certainly has not been without challenge, and most days have been eventful, to put it mildly. I've battled 20-35 mph headwinds for days; got blown clear off Lake Pepin by a 35 mph NW wind and had to portage around part of the lake; got rained on for an entire day; had to hide from lightning; had a few very humid days in the high 80's F; some nights in the low 30's; and I came under attack from mosquitoes and misc. aggressive insects, including spiders and biting flies. And, you guessed it, still having a lot of fun.

I've been averaging 25 miles per day, which is good going in these windy conditions. The fact that I don't have to portage around the locks and dams helps a lot - I can go through the locks like any other vessel. This saves me a good two hours each day. Having said that, at some locks I've had to wait an hour or more for barges to clear, but still, I'm ahead of the game. I've passed through 18 locks to date, with 9 more to go.

I'm happy to report that I have the best equipment and supplies for this type of adventure. Everything from having the best kayak for the job, to having exactly the right kind of quality supplements to keep me energized and healthy. Thank you to all my sponsors. I don't mean it lightly when I say that, without their generous product donations and support, I would not have been able to complete the first 40 miles, let alone the 450 miles I've done to date.

I'm stopping at the Schramm House B&B in Burlington, Iowa for a few days to rest, resupply and to update my blog and photo gallery. I posted more images yesterday, and will update my blog later today. Get the full story on my blog!

Remember, you can track my daily progress on the map on my web site

Jacob, a.k.a. The Crazy Kayaker

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