Friday, August 31, 2007

Will Dive for Food. An Essay from hIrSch

This is the third and final of three essays from hIrSch who has been helping out in his ongoing bike ride around the world. In this essay hIrSch explores the topic of obtaining food while on the road.

money is precious and is spent only when neededhirsch in morocco - a rare grocery purchase and my major expense is: FOOD! and trust me here, when you cycle for eight hours a day hauling all your junk with you, your appetite is cyclopean!

and so, when i took that boat from morocco to europe, i got the shakes. off to euroland. and the dollar is weak. and i gotta eat. how's this going to work...? and when i timidly entered my first grocery store (i NEVER eat out), my shakes got even shakier. hell's bells i'm in DEEP, i thought.

as my dad always told me, necessity is the mother of invention.

here is a little exercise for you. the next time you are grocery shopping, pretend you are on a bike. pretend you are hungry. very hungry! you are always hungry! and pretend that you have no job and that every one of your dollars is very, very, very precious to you. and now pretend that you do everything in your power not to waste what little you have. so what would you do?

well, before you trigger the automatic door opener to be blasted with hot air when it's cold or cold air when it's hot and horrible music that you can just barely hear, yes yes, before you do that:

you go to the dumpsters!!
biking through spain
now wait wait, don't tune me out yet! i know the word dumpster conjures up images of dirty diapers and unidentifiable sludges and slimes. but this is not the case. many dumpsters are quite clean. and even if it is a little dumpstery, wouldn't you still be willing to snag that completely and perfectly sealed bag of cereal that was tossed because the box surrounding it got a little smashed?

yes folks, dumpsters are goldmines for free food. not always, but for the far majority of the time you can always find something. and what i find is what i eat. and as long as it's not meat, i eat!! so if that means my dinner is carrots and cinammon rolls, well, ok then.

and so there you have it. two methods of my madness. dirtbagging and dumpster diving.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Satchel of Soil. An Essay from hIrSch

This is the second of three essays from hIrSch who has been helping out in his ongoing bike ride around the world. In this essay hIrSch explores the topic of sleeping while on the road.

i am often asked what the hardest part of the trip has been and the answer is simple: sleeping.
hIrSch's home sweet home on the road
every morning i wake up wherever it is i am. and i never know where my head will lay at the end of the day. from drainage pipes in patagnia to people's front porches (thank god they never came home!) in norway, i've done it all. most nights in my tent, some nights in barns, one night in a ladie's bathroom (men's room reeked of urine). schools, churches, abandoned houses, fire stations, cemetaries, shacks, cabins, even garbage dumps. yes folks, i dirtbag it.

i camp wild. free camp. stealth it. choose your own apellation. but if there's one thing i won't do, it's pay to sleep (ok, ok, except in central and south america where even i would occassionally splurge on a $3 per night room....). i don't really like showers. i prefer digging my own toilets (much more sanitary when you really think about it....). and hell's bells at the end of the day the last thing i want to be with is a bunch of yahoo's. so forget camping grounds and forget "official" places. just give me some trees and less than a 15 degree slope and i will dirtbag it yesssir!

but it ain't always easy kids.Solitude is an empty campground.

here is a little exercise for you. the next time you are driving, pretend you are on a bike. pretend the sun is setting. pretend you are exhausted (a great feeling...) from eight hours of riding and hauling all your gear behind you in a trailer. pretend you are salivating for your dinner. and pretend you are looking for a place to sleep. now don't just look out in the trees and think that it's easy, that you could just camp anywhere. because, are you sure there is no barbed wire fence in the way? are you sure you can pull and drag and push and curse your fully loaded bike and trailer to wherever it is? are you sure that you are invisible from the road? are you sure that spot is somewhat flat and even doable? now add rain or snow or the constant 30mph winds of patagonia.
yes my friends, sleeping just isn't easy.

but sure sure and yes yes, it can be. i have met some cyclists who hotel it every night. a swipe of a magnetic strip and they have it all. oh and god forgive me for the occassional (and incredible!) envy i have sometimes felt for these wealthy cats. but when it all comes down to it, i prefer my method. they can have their bleached white towels and free soap. i'll take my bag of dirt, thank you! This little camping spot will do

but dear lord sometimes i have ridden and ridden and ridden just praying for pop up. and in the end....sometimes a VERY long always does.

so even though sometimes it can try your patience, this method of travel keeps the dollars in your pockets where they can escape to better and more useful things. i have travelled for 2.5 years. even if i got a cheap hostel room or went to one of those cheesy gawdawful campgrounds just once a week, at say $10 a pop, that would be $1300 clams just for sleeping!!! RIDICULOUS! and even more so ridiculous when you have no income. welcome to my life.

Coming up next is the second half to this essay that dives into the art of dumpster diving.

Labels: ,


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Goat Sighting - Angel Falls, Venezuela

Although this looks to me like a love fest between The North Face and it's most certainly adventure at its finest. Luis sent us the following message along with this photo:

Hello Dear Friends,
...take a small sample in what we are doing in Venezuela Climbing and exploring the Jurassic Land of TEPUYS. We have more than 54 hours of film and more than 13 Gb of pictures of this 2 expeditions and we have 2 more expeditions planning for this year.

For the next expeditions we need more equipment that we order from you soon by e-mail, thank you for your help we really appreciate !!!
We like to share pictures with my friends trying to help others to figure out that we have a small planet whit unending beauty and possibilities ... if you stop exploring you stop growing ...
I hope you like the pictures, thank you very much for your help i wish to you happiness and prosperity!!!
Warmest Regards
Luis E.
Believe me Luis, the love fest is mutual. If you stop exploring you stop growing....pretty much sums it up.

Check out more of Luis' images on his profile page.


Photo Shot by: unknown
Photo Location:
Angel Falls, Venezuela
About the photo:
Sunset with the Angel Falls behind, the falls are full of water after 3 days raining.

Luis Eduardo on Angel Falls, Venezuela--------------------------

Goat Sighting winners receive a Organic Goat Tee Shirt for submitting a winning photo.

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.

Labels: ,


Europe....You're Up? An Essay from hIrSch

Some of you may remember hIrSch who has been helping out in his ongoing bike ride around the world. After a short stint in Africa hIrSch has found himself in Europe traveling from the southern tip of Spain to the northern tip of Finland and most everywhere in between. This is the first of a couple of essays hIrSch has written for the Backcountry Blog.

and so i took a boat from morrocco to spain because ridingHirsch is on the map my bike is both what i want to do and what i do (a convenient couplet) and those african borders and visas and "independent travel permits" weren't going to allow me to do that.

but europe? aw hell...europe?? first of all, how am i going to do it on my $6usd per day budget? and thirdly, will it even be cool?

well johnny rockets, i am here to tell you one thing right now. a) no, i will NOT be able to do it on my $6usd per day budget, but rather, for less!! (more on this later) and b) europe is cool.

but my europe is not "europe." my europe was spain, but not madrid or granada or sevilla. my spain was ubrique. and saint feliu. no salsa nor flamenco dancing. but goats with bells on their necks. and bread and jam sandwiches under a tree while an indifferent river went where it goes. and france was not paris or wine or crepes and i didn't go to the louvre only to be disappointed by the mona lisa, but rather france was the famous passes from the tour de france and staying with a farmer's family who gave me udderly delicious warm milk straight out of their cow with a chunk of homemade bread.

how i move, how i travel, how i experience this planet is different. the world is my movie, and my bike saddle is my seat. and everyday, i watch. that is what i do. it's what i have been doing for 2.5 years. and what i hopefully will be able to do for about 2.5 more.
Say hello to camp Switzerland
so yes, switzerland was the awesome alps, but not from behind a pane of glass at an overpriced hotel with a cup of tea in hand, pinky extended. but rather from the top of an 8,000 feet (high for europe) pass where the declivitous descents dried out all the accumulated sweat from the 30 mile climbs. and italy was not a paid picture with a man dressed up as a gladiator in front of the colosseum, and austria did not have me running around tra la la'ing that the hills were alive with the sound of music and germany was not buying an actual and authentic piece of the berlin wall.

not that there's anything wrong with that kind of travel. i mean, yes, sure, i like to extend my pinky while drinking tea too. don't we all? but this trip is not about that. this trip is about a life of movement and watching places, people, and culture unfold - not as pages - but as reality opening up before me.

like watching that lonely old woman dressed in her robe open the door to her farmhouse look left, and then right, and then lean down to pick up her paper and wondering for miles if she ever looks right first. like getting summoned from the side of the road by those friendly moroccons for some of the ubiquitous mint tea. like that nice family from norway asking me about my trip and then insisting that i follow them to their house for a shower, meal, and bed. that is what this trip is about. if you watch and believe cnn, nbc, etc., you begin to lose faith in humanity. when you travel the world on your bike, you regain it.

and now my three tires have found themselves in the land of scandinavia. sweden, to be exact. norway was first, and it will be again when i cross back over to go to the north cape, the northernmost point in europe. and then? down the finger of finland through estonia, latvia,All the way up...or headed all the way down? and lithuania. into poland and all over, this way and that, eastern europe. utlimately to turkey. and then it's georgia and azerbaijan and kazakhstan and china and i will just keep pointing my front wheel east east east until i lose interest, complete a circumbikeulation (or three), or die.

this trip has become a self-defined norm for me. i can imagine no other lifestyle. the day will of course come when the atm receipt reads $0.00. but until that day, i'm living it up!!

hIrSch, who does not own a cell phone, has the amazing skill of sniffing out a town library and has been honing his stealth skills across the globe in order to update his blog from time to time, for free of course and free of suspecting librarians. Check out hIrSch's iFitiStObeiTisUptOmE blog from time to time.

Labels: ,


Friday, August 24, 2007

Cell Phones on Mt. Rainier

I don't own a cell phone. It has been almost two years since I had one in my name and I usually make fun of people who have them. On my recent trip up to Mt. Rainier I borrowed a Samsung Super-Duper 2000 just in case we got in a bind.

We hiked for about an hour when my partner suggested we take a picture. He took out his 7 megapixel mini digital to find the lithium battery was missing. This being our only camera for the trip we stomped our feet and knew we were in trouble if we returned to civilization with no proof of our climb.

I joked that the picture feature on my phone would save the day. After a *ding ding dong bing* when I turned on the phone and a *bing blong dong* when I took the picture we were somewhat relieved.

We had missed the DC access by a week and took the Emmons traverse up to the summit. We got to about 12,500 ft and I felt hypothermic and we both had altitude sickness. We decided to take one last *bing blong dong* picture and headed down. The climb was very fulfilling and the sites up Emmons are awesome.

I was amazed how well the pictures turned out and wish I would have taken more. So in response to should we have cell phones in the backcountry, I think its ok as long as you turn down the sound, respect others, and try not to look like a 15-year-old girl at the mall.

In response to Mike Gauthiers cell phone coverage question on Mt. Rainier, my T-Mobile serviced phone had no bars and our other Verizon phone didn't either. Walkie-talkies are always good to use and there are always flare guns. KA-BOOM! Watch for avalanches.

All photos here were taken with the AMAZING cell phone and I have already emailed the company to do a commercial.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

But I Want to be a Famous Climber

For starters, climbing is pretty boring to watch. Even when I'm belaying a buddy it's mostly boring.

Sure I love reading the stories about climbing epics as much as the next armchair QB and quite honestly climbing and bouldering vids are getting better and better. (case in point my post of King Lines from yesterday)

But why is it that some guys get all the glory when there are a fist full of other guys, just as tough, just as "core" who silently slay big obscure alpine walls, tackle V10 with ease and flash 5.13d like it is 5th class and still find time to "bring home the bacon" like every other Joey at the office? Yet nobody knows them and their phone isn't ringing off the hook from the likes of Hardware, TNF or BD.

As one of those marketing guys working at a company that portrays and feeds the gear needs of the core of the pursuits I love (climbing, ski mountaineering, skiing, ice climbing, et al) I'm often told by friends, "oh man, you guys should sponsor this guy!" More often than not it's some guy I've never heard of before and the marketer in me says, "Why?" while the outdoor athlete in me says "Why not!" But the reality is (in the words of my friend Dave) that "most of these guys don't have the stomach and/or the time for it," even if a sponsorship came knocking.

With that in mind, meet Mark Westman. Ever heard of him? Neither had I. Jeff Apple Benowitz wrote an essay on the last page of Alpinist Magazine Volume 19 this past spring that introduced many to Mark who in seven short months managed a list of impressive climbs including Fitz Roy, the third ascent of the Escalator on Mt. Johnson, the west face of Kahiltna Queen, a new route on the east face of Broken Tooth and the Mini-Moonflower among others....but it's likely he's now been forgotten by most if not all. And that's perfectly fine with Mark.

Alpinist Magazine - Why Mark Westman Isn't Famous, by Jeff Apple Benowitz.

Image credit: Tami Knight

Labels: ,


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Big UP Productions King Lines

You know those moments when you say "no thanks" or decline something and then at some later moment you wonder why on earth you were so stupid? I just had one of those moments.

During the Outdoor Retailer show a couple weeks ago I met with the guys from the Access Fund and they gave me an invite to see King Lines in a "sneak preview" at the Rose Wagner Theater in Salt Lake City. After watching the trailer this morning I now see the folly of my decision.

However, lucky for me Big Up Productions' King Lines is coming to Salt Lake on September 5 to the Tower Theater. It's the world premier and will also be showing in San Diego and Boulder that same night. Save yourself the "I'm so stupid!" moment by checking the Reel Rock Tour calendar and get yourself to the nearest showing.

Enjoy the trailer:



Adopt-A-Crag at New River, WV

Have you ever driven along the highway and seen those 'Adopt a Highway' signs? Every time I see one of those signs I think it would be cool to have my own section of asphalt. I wouldn't go the Kramer route by splashing paint thinner all over the road but imagine owning part of the wide-open-road!

The Adopt a Crag program is great for climbers and outdoor lovers who care about their crags future. You can usually score some food at the events too which I can't confirm with the Highway program.
Planned stewardship activities often include litter clean-ups, visual
impact mitigation, trail construction and restoration, erosion
control, and wildlife monitoring.
-The Access Fund
The New River Alliance of Climbers of West Virginia plan to clean up the New River Gorge area on September 1st to maintain climbing access in the area. is proud to sponsor the event through sending gear goodies and other shwag to stoke out the volunteers.

The 63,000 acres of the New River Gorge contain 1,400 established rock climbs that range from crack to face. The area is one of the most popular climbing getaways in the country. If your in the area contact Elaina Smith and check out the events page for more information.

Labels: ,


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The North Face and the Trango Towers Passion Expedition

Let's see, do I take this one or that one? Cedar Wright in PakistanPassion. You've either got it or you don't, period. It's not offered in night school, there isn't an MBA course on it and you sure aren't going to pick it up working around passionate people because believe it or not, it isn't contagious like the flu.

Some say The North Face lost it's passion sometime in the early 90's but I've recently been following the Trango Passion expedition sponsored by The North Face and it's clear that their passion for climbing mountains and supporting those that push the limits still exists within. Pointing fingers is far easier than getting out there yourself. Let's face it, we're all a bunch of armchair QB's.

That said, I agree with what The Piton "pointed" out today via the - someone's gotta cut that crap outta the R&D filter. Pass the pink slip, puhleeeze.

Anyway, back to my point, and there is one, comes this post from Cedar Wright (sponsored North Face climber) who with Renan OZturk is in Pakistan climbing in the Boltoro region.
I wish that this dispatch was filled with inspiring tales of success, summits, and glory. But unfortunately, as in all aspects of life...sometimes it's all glory...and sometimes it's all beat down. In this case we're talking 100 percent Grade-A beat down to the ground.

The Trango Towers group - PakistanYup, the last couple of weeks have been a real humbling face-slapping, butt-kicking suffer-fest for Renan and I and the last two days have been the icing on our humble pie. After a week and a half of stormy unstable weather, we jumped on the first clear window in an attempt to reach the two summits of Cat Ear Spire. With little information on the line, we were instantly off route, but forged on, hoping that somehow we could force our way to the summit. I have never climbed at altitude before, and without any acclimatization, found myself nauseous, head achy, and gasping for air. But I sucked it up, quite literally, and we pushed on. One cold shiver bevy later, we managed to push nearly two thirds up the face before the route became too loose and dangerous for the sensible minded. So we bailed, which was a small epic in and of itself, with stuck ropes, and the possibility of being forever plastered to the face of the Cat Ears being the main worries. The exclamation point on the whole experience was a grapefruit sized rock whizzing past my head followed by several others which I dodged like I was in a surreal video game.
After their climb-a-thon in the Ruth Gorge in June, Wright and OZturk are meeting their match - Mother Nature.

Some of the gear from The North Face that is helping these guys survive the beat down are:

Labels: ,


Monday, August 20, 2007

Semi-Annual, Sale

I woke Saturday morning to a distinct smell and feel to the air...rain, cold rain and that earthy smell that a long overdue rain brings with it. For the first time in months the weather had shifted from hot and dry Utah heat to Pacific Northwest rain (read - drizzle) with low hanging clouds as if to signal that fall is just around the corner with winter to closely follow. Semi-Annual Sale - climber girlAnother sign of the seasons changing is the Semi Annual Sale over at that kicked off this morning and runs through September 3rd. I was surprised to see how much stuff is winter related. Guess it's time to clean out the winter gear closet and refill it with some nice finds like these:

(FYI - To find the deals click on the "Sort By" drop-down and select "% Off" from a category page(like Alpine Skiing) and you'll get right to the nitty gritty)

Head Mojo 90, 193cm, 1 pair left at $359.37 (I love this ski) - 50% off
Head Mojo 90

Burton AK Continuum Fuse Jacket at $199.98 - 40% off
Burton Continuum Jacket - go lightweight but go burly

Black Diamond Shadow Backpack - at $113.97 - 40% off
Black Diamond Shadow Backpack - proceed with speedI was bummed a bit to not see a big pile of climbing gear on sale especially since the banner on the front of the site (see the top image) is a sweet pic of some chic climbing a multi-pitch route with a nut in her mouth, getting ready to place it. But then again it's rare that climbing gear goes on sale anymore. However, after checking with my sources I'm told that at or before 2pm (Mountain Standard Time) there is another push of 8000 sale priced items that will hit the site, some of which will be climbing gear. I'm crossing my fingers.



Thursday, August 16, 2007

People Do NOT Belong in Crevasses…

Crevase on Mount Rainier
This post is from Sarah McConkie who is a former Gearhead for and who will be sending in adventure reports to the blog on a monthly basis.

The term graveyard shift comes from historical point where health was not completely understood. Graves would be reused when a digger felt the time was ready. They found that a disturbing number of people were being buried alive as evidenced by the fingernail claw marks on the inside of the wooden coffins, thus "graveyard shift" came about when small stings with bells were tied to the deceased when they were buried, so if they came to, they could be exhumed before suffocation. My mind could not help but instantly draw this parallel when I was chimney'd in crevasse on Mount Rainier last week, looking at my own crampon puncture marks on a glacier wall near my feet. I came to realization that people die where I was hanging. It was like drawing claw marks on your own's funny to observe where your mind goes when you are under deep stress.

Climbing a mountain's glacier field is an experience out of this world. The expanse and subtle sounds are humbling. My rope team was the first in a stream of fifty or so headlamps making our way up the Emmons Glacier on Rainier last week. Climbing is always good, but is unideal when it is difficult to find rest in the heat of the day, when your sleep is shaken by the nearby rockfall and collapsing serac [ice] fields. You wake up in the mid evening and the "morning" is at your feet for the summit push. [In the spring and summer, most glaciers should be climbed at night, or you must be nearly off the glaciated sections before the afternoon as the ice turns to mush under your crampons, crevasses spread, and snow bridges weaken under the sun.]

People train for mountains, they build a variety of experiences for bigger challenges, there are advances in gear, an increased understanding in nutrition and human performance...and you have to tell yourself that this is enough to come off conqueror when in reality the mountain can choose to take anyone.
Sunrise on Mount Rainier - Little Tahoma in the foreground
It doesn't mater how long you have climbed, if you continue to climb mountains you WILL come up on sections that are run-out, sketchy gear placements, big mountains that can produce their own and often unpredictable weather systems, and you have to be prepared for it all. It is an inherent risk in this pursuit that you are building a relationship with the ever-changing natural forces—-and there is nothing like it!

While climbing the Emmons Glacier last week there were 45mph winds with even stronger gusts to what I estimate were near 60mph. I had studied up on snow brides and crevasse rescue. While ascending I was blown from a knifepoint ridge, a one-foot-in-front-of-the-other narrow stretch of glacier between two gaping crevasses, which I did not even consider as a possible scenario until it was happening. I attempted to self-arrest. I was blown hard enough, that when I swung my axe to catch myself it only caught air.

I have taken my share of climbing whipper falls and have always been able to get out a "take!" or a "falling!" yet this was a straight up scream from deep within.

Fortunately the rescue was as picture perfect as possible. Anchors Our gear, almost as organized my gear closetwere able to be set at an area beyond the knifepoint (thanks Nate). A fellow climber behind caught the fall (thanks, Court) and I was uninjured in the process, aside from the wind being knocked out of me and a small blow to the face causing a mild bloody nose. I was able to prusik out of the vertical section and was pulled over the lip of the crevasse that could have claimed me and my

Sounds simple, and the objective was, but the process took 90 some minutes and then a few more to regroup. The moments that were most unnerving were when trying to communicate. The wind swallows all words, especially when you are hoping for crucial ones like: anchor, I got you, and I am okay.

A lot of climbers turned around at this point, considering the conditions and delay. Others took advantage of the now dying winds and 5 newly placed pieces of protection on the route. I cannot thank Nate, Courtney, and Dan enough for their strength and sound skills, the good times and the memories. Sunrise has never looked so good. I would rope up with this crew anytime and know we will all be able to overcome many obstacles. I hope the situation would never arise, but if ya'll fell, I would catch ya.



Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Olympic Peninsula Adventure Race is stoked to sponsor the challenging Olympic Peninsula Race which covers Paddling, Mtn. Biking, Trail running and navigating. Registration for the 4th Dimension 5-10h and 24h Adventure Race is now open. After the absense of a 24h adventure race in Washington state for over two years 4th Dimension Racing found a great venue near Hoodsport, WA.

The start is at Camp Cushman nestled in the foothills of the Olympics Mountains in Hoodsport, WA.

Local powerhouses DART-nuun and have already signed up along with many competitive and recreational teams. So save the date, September 15th, and get your teams ready for an exciting new place and a race that will put your skills to the test.

Click here to Register for the race.

Labels: ,


Sunday, August 12, 2007

X-Rated Slots

Technical Slot Canyoneering Technical slot canyons, like technical mountain climbs/rock climbs, are given ratings to inform those venturing into them of the canyons difficulty. In climbing we use things like 5.8 or 5.10 etc.. in canyons we use ratings like 3B IV or 4C V. If a climb has an abnormal risk involved an R is added to the end, if a high risk of death is involved an X is added. Canyoneers use this same system, we add R's and X's to the end of our canyon ratings. A competent and experienced canyoneer can generally get through an R canyon without any problems, and feels very satisfied at the added challenge. X-rated canyons should probably never be done by anyone, even the most experienced canyoneers could die or be seriously injured if they make one bad step in an X canyon. The most common "X" factor is high off the deck stemming, basically free climbing with big time exposure! This month I would like to share my experience in my first "X" canyon, something that no one should be stupid enough to ever try.

Morning dawned as the suns first rays pierced through my sleeping eyelids. I peeked out of my bag to see Ram shuffling things into his vehicle and then noticed "Spiderman" Steve had rolled in sometime last night without me even stirring. We quickly stuffed our gear into our cars and were off, following the road that once led wagon trains of the past on their way to the Hole in the Rock looking for a way to cross the mighty Colorado River. Luckily for us we were riding in fancy cars and SUV's instead of oxen drawn wagons. After endless driving we were finally at the trailhead, a high, sandy, sagebrush covered plateau overlooking a vast expanse of slickrock.

Our group was strong, me being the weakest link. Ram has been descending canyons since the 70's, back when he used Dynamic ropes (oh the horror!) doubled over and brought inflatable rafts to ferry packs through water(what a pain!). Hank's list of canyons reaches far beyond anything I've done, he was part of the "first" descent of Sandthrax, a high stemming, very scary X canyon feared by many in the canyoneering community. And "Spiderman" Steve, who after hearing of Hanks first descent of Sandthrax, decided to breeze down it solo in an hour and a half. I on the other hand hadn't really done a full on X canyon yet, but was assured by Ram that my skills were sufficient as long as I stayed focused and did not let the high exposure play with my head. Besides, we had confirmed the week before that the worst of the X section could be bypassed if I decided to chicken out.

By the time we started doing the approach hike, the sun was starting to scorch the ground. Highs were supposed to be in the high 80's to low 90's so the sooner we could get to the shade of the canyon, the better.

After routefinding around the maze of slickrock it was time to drop into the slot. Things started out right away, the slot being shallow but beautifully sculpted with twists and turns around every corner. We did not spend much time touching the sandy bottom, we instead were forced about five to ten feet above the slot where we were basically horizontal route climbing, finding ledges to use as feet and hand holds, relying on body position for balance and twisting technique to get the stretch we needed to reach that next foot hold.

The canyon continued to twist and narrow forcing us higher off the deck before getting a brief respite on the canyon floor at the point of no return. Looking at the small, yet deep crack in front of me, my body trembled at the thought of continuing. There was an easy exit up a large rockfall, but if I didn't take it, it would mean descending a long drop into a slot barely wide enough to shimmy sideways through. I gathered my courage and down we went into the bowels of the earth, a subterranean twisting slot stared at us commanding our respect. After squeezing downward the ground leveled and the slot skinnied, now too narrow to fit even the smallest of humans. Back we went to a good spot to go up where we did a very fun 5.7 climb up forty feet to horizontal stemming up to around sixty feet off the ground. Across we stemmed, sometimes back on one wall, feet on the other. Other times twisting our bodies for that next foot hold, or steadying our balance for that perfect hand placement. It was exhausting work both physically and mentally but after rounding a few curves and dropping buckets of sweat the canyon relented and it was a mere elevator ride (elevatoring is a canyoneering term used when you press your arms and legs against both sides of a narrow slot and then release enough pressure to "slide" straight down but yet stay in control. Feels like taking an elevator to the bottom floor) of about 40 feet back to the canyon floor.

Whew... the canyons scariest section now past we continued through the now deepening and increasingly beautiful canyon. A rappel brought us to the next forbidding looking section of slot. At this point the canyon dropped about thirty feet down, but the walls both slanted at about a 70 degree angle. The bottom was black and looked too narrow to fit through, however the option of going high looked just as bad, probably would have to go 80 to 100 feet above the bottom to bypass this section. We looked back at Ram like scared children, "where do we go?"

"Down," was his commanding reply.

We looked down into the blackness... "uhhh... are you sure, come take a look at this"

Ram came up from behind us and peered into the dark drop below us, we knew he would realize he was thinking of the wrong spot and give us some sane way of going through this section. "Yup, that looks right... go down."
Trusting Ram's judgement down we went, into what turned out to be wide enough for us to shimmy sideways, but so dark we could not see our hands in front of our faces. On we shuffled through the dark until a long sliver of light could finally be seen marking the end of the blackness. Splash went our boots... oh great, a pool of water in the pitch black. We kept moving toward the light as the water level crept near our waists, finally we could see the walls, but once again the canyon constricted to a section too tight to fit through. Luckily this time we only needed to go about fifteen feet off the deck to get to a spot we could fit. The tricky part would be getting to that level as there were minimal hand and foot holds to get up there. After much grunting and fighting we all made it up and over, not the most exposed, but the most difficult section of canyon.

After regaining our sight it was more spectacular scenery, with a short swim and another rappel into a fantasy land of springs, slickrock, thick foliage and massive overhangs. This was truly a magical place.

My feelings of awe and reverence for this amazing, but dangerous place are hard to describe. I was tested to the limits of my abilities and have come out of the experience with more confidence and awareness while on the rock. As with many outdoor challenges this one really made me feel alive. Can't wait for my next adventure!

All photo's taken from various websites, including:

Labels: ,


Cloudveil Celebrates 10 Years as Founders Climb the Dome

Cloudveil - Solid Outdoor Clothing from Jackson, WyomingIn the Tetons amid lofty peaks like the Grand Teton, Middle Teton, Mount Owen and South Teton is a high point that when seen from Jackson Hole calls to any mountain climber. Although Cloudveil Dome is not an actual peak but rather a "prominent point" on the ridge between Nez Perce Peak and South Teton, it's enough of an inspiration to climbers to be oft considered a worthy destination within Garnet Canyon.

It was also inspirational enough for a couple of guys who in 1994 found themselves employed as a manager and retail buyer at Skinny Skis, a Jackson, Wyoming ski and mountaineering shop. It was during that year that Cloudveil took shape in the minds of Stephen Sullivan and Brian Cousins. It would be 3 years later, on June 24, 1997 that Cousins and Sullivan would incorporate and pursue the dream that became Cloudveil. This past June on the 10th anniversary of forming Cloudveil and unknown to many of the Cloudveil employees, Cousins and Sullivan attempted for their first times to climb the "point" that is the namesake of their successful clothing company - Cloudveil Dome.

It's not like these guys aren't climbers. They are and had climbed many peaks and lines even within Garnet Canyon. But for some reason or another Cloudveil Dome hadn't been an objective of theirs. The time had come to scratch another line off the "tick list".

Along for the climb was David Gonzalez and Lauren Whaley of who shot and produced this video featuring Cousins and Sullivan making their way to the summit where they celebrated 10 years in business.

Watching it makes me wonder how many other outdoor industry Presidents and Vice-Presidents could even make the hike into Garnet Canyon, let alone summit Cloudveil Dome. Props to you guys for keeping it real amid the 10 years of hard work, long hours and the success you've seen. After all, we're in the outdoor industry because we spend time in the outdoors, right?

Check out Cloudveil's clothing line at

Labels: ,


Thursday, August 09, 2007

Back from the Himalayan Health Exchange

I was very nervous as I boarded the plane to Delhi, India to begin my medical trip in Northern India. Although the Himalayan Health Exchange had planned everything, I felt nervous and excited about the impending adventure. The night before I had my gear laid out one more time. I felt confident in what I was bringing and was ready to begin the trip.

After 17 hours of plane rides I was in India. I met with my group and everyone was very much like myself. There were several doctors, many medical students, one optometrist, and one dentist. There were three days of traveling before we got to the trailhead and we were all very ready to hike. With monsoon season upon us, we ended up hiking before we had intended because our trucks got stuck in the mud. As we hiked to the first campsite, the views were unbelievable. Despite the often downpours we encountered, nothing in my bag got wet. I was using the Arc’teryx M40. Even though I was at no time skiing, the bag was chosen because of being waterproof, small, and very affordable. This was one of the best pieces of equipment I brought on the trip. The small top pocket got damp, but nothing inside the main compartment got wet.

That night we camped and I began falling in love with my Big Agnes sleeping bag and pad. I was apprehensive about this bag because of its size and it is a few ounces heavier than my old sleeping bag, but it ended up being wonderful. It will be hard for me to ever go back to using another sleeping bag. Despite a leaky tent, the inside of the sleeping bag never got wet. That alone was worth the extra weight.

The next day we had our first clinic day. This reminded me of why I was there. Although I love being outdoors, my passion is medicine. As a nurse and a medical student, this experience taught me more about medicine and myself than I could have imagined. By far, this clinic day was our slowest day. Not only did we have to get used to each other, we had to learn how to practice medicine in such a remote area. Without lights, I had to use my Petzl headlamp to interview my patients.

The entire three weeks were just like the first few days. We would trek hard then set up clinic. The trekking was very difficult at times. While I trained before the trip, it was hard to compensate for the altitude. The trail was very steep with recent rockslides due to the heavy rains. It made for a tough, but rewarding hike.

The temperatures were in the 70’s during the day and dipped into the high 40’s to low 50’s at night. I had a soft-shell jacket from backcountry that really was the only jacket I needed. It was warm enough to wear when it was in the 40’s and wet, but it was also light enough to be comfortable in 70-degree weather and wet. Although it is not waterproof, it was as close as a jacket can get without being a rain jacket. A few times I would only wear this jacket during a downpour and I only got wet at the seams. This jacket is an ace in the hole for outdoor use.

By the end of the three weeks, we had seen some amazing medical cases and proved we could trek into the different regions of the Himalayas. This was very rewarding in many different ways. We ended up seeing over 2500 patients. Not only was this trip able to teach us about clinical cases we may never see again such as poliomyelitis, it showed us the beauty of this mountain range that so few get to see in their lifetime. I feel lucky in that I never got sick and the group I was with was one the best groups of people I have ever worked with. They will always be labeled friends to me.

-Jennifer Guthrie

Labels: ,


Friday, August 03, 2007

Goat Sighting - East Ridge of The Grand Teton

This weeks "Show us your Goat" winner comes to us from Mike Dawson, longtime customer and Park City, Utah local. His buddy Jared submitted a trip report on about the east ridge of the Grand Teton and told him that it was straight forward and "easy going". Sandbagger.


Photo Shot by: Ken Meyer of Mike Dawson (shown in the photo)
Photo Location:
East Ridge of the Grand Teton, Wyoming
About the photo:
We geared up and tackled the infrequently traveled East Ridge of The Grand, which provide classic scrambling, route finding and mixed technical rock and snow travel in exposed terrain. The total vert round trip for the one day push was about 13.5 Kft.

"The Goat" is proudly displayed on my Petzl Elios helmet, which I purchased from last summer. Thanks!

Mike Dawson on the East Ridge of the Grand Teton, Wyoming--------------------------

As a weekly winner Mike 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.