Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Northern India's Himachal Pradesh - Part Two

This is part 2 of the post Tea Boss - A Trip Report by Pat Goodman who Pat Goodman on Mahindrawas part of an expedition to northern India that Backcountry.com was proud to sponsor.

Part 2 - if you missed part 1 check it out.

Base camp was quiet without Dave and Fred around, Ramm and Pream spoke little English so we mostly played cards. One afternoon a group of 18 or so local Porters and Police came through camp with a dystopian reminder to the severity of our location; the body of a fallen trekker. They had it bent in half stuffed into a backpack and it appeared to be a man. The skin around his head and torso was mostly gone and the lower part of his body was swollen and fleshy where the ice had preserved it, the rank stench was slightly camouflaged by sticks of incense.

4:00 am came quick and as I stumbled from the tent with my BD headlamp and the pack I had loaded the day before my mind drifted to my family and the family of the fallen man - was this a bad idea?

My objective sprung upward from our base camp to a height of 5300m. Goya was the name of this peak its south west ridge had been climbed the year before (IV 5.9 600m) and looked like fun. My plan was to climb alone, rope soloing on the harder terrain. I had a 70m Sterling Nano, some stoppers, cordage, my trusty Misty Mountain harness and a serious case of “gotta climb somthin”.
Pat Goodman Soloing on Gaya
It took me an hour to reach the ridge from base camp. The climbing was mostly moderate with short pitches of 5.9. I choose to ascend the ridge right of the line that had been climbed the year before, it provided good rock and some exciting moments. The rope never came out of my pack; I love the free feeling of soloing! Goya’s summit was big and offered great views of the surrounding valleys and mountains; I named my new route in honor of my illness - “P.K.D.” IV 5.9- (550m). The climb took 8 hrs round trip.

When Dave and Fred returned to base camp we traded stories of our recent adventures and spent the remaining three days bouldering and watched the season change from summer to winter.
Our trip back to Delhi and the US was trying!

We had huge problems getting our gear back to the road in Tingrat – our prearranged deal with a local horseman fell through and required lots of hiking and yelling to remedy. Our bus from Manali to Delhi broke down three times, turning a 12 hr ride into 23 hrs. But, we managed to get a few large bottles of wine onto the plane; the flight to India was hindered by the absurd expense of booze.
Pat and Dave on the 5960 ridge
The wine went quick, as did the flight and soon we were back in the US scrambling to catch our connecting flights home and say our goodbyes. The drive from Charlotte back to Boone, North Carolina was the longest leg of the return trip – it was hard to shake the fact that everybody was obeying traffic laws and driving down what seemed to me the wrong side of the road…

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This trip was made possible by the gracious support from our sponsors; Mountain Hardwear, Backcounrty.com, Sterling Ropes, Black Diamond, Montrail, Misty Mountain Threadworks and PROBAR.

A special thanks goes to our families, Chris Strasser, Kurt Smith, Tommy Chandler and Kendall Card for going over and beyond in their efforts.

Base Camp Sunset

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Ski Utah's Fat Flake Festival

Most of the west has been skiing already and the weather seems to be cooperating if you're going to ski this week but a ski season needs an official start. Each year there is a BBQ that a few of my friends host. People come out of the woodwork, many of whom I only see at that party (hard to recognize people from afar with goggles on as they holla and drop into powder chutes). Perhaps you've got a good way to start things off with your ski partners.

Besides a good old fashioned sacrificial bonfire the next best way to kick things off is with a party like the Ski Utah Fat Flake which is this coming Saturday.The DC Abbe - it should be called the Abba and it would be straight up 80's!

The Triple F as a few locals are calling it will be a full meal deal - rail jam, local pros to sign autographs, bands, beer, DJ's and my favorite - an 80's costume party.

Since one piece fart bags are back in fashion just grab one from Tramdock.com like the DC Abbe, (no, it's not the Abba but is should be) throw those florescent Smith Goggles on your lid and you're a shoe in to win the contest.

The event is in downtown Salt Lake City at the Gallivan Center. It all kicks off at 4pm with the rail jam from 4:30-6, 80's costume contest at 8:30, The SPAZMATICS will play with DJ KNUCKLZ taking over after that. It'll be a party to remember, or not if you visited the beer garden enough.

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Tea Boss? - Trip Report from Pat Goodman

This Trip Report comes from an expedition that Backcountry.com sponsored. Their objective was to climb in India's Himachel Pradesh. You may remember them from the pre-trip story featured a couple of months ago. We're glad they are back, safe and sound...mostly.

Part 1
The sign does say an Inconvenience
“Tea Boss?” Spoken with a mixed accent of Nepali and English, was our wake up call while staying at base camp in India’s Miyar Valley. We had hired two Nepali cooks in Manali, the largest town closest to our current location, one days drive and three days of hiking away. Ramm and Pream had the good fortune of escorting and cooking for three smelly hyperactive Americans wanting to spend 31 days in the cold mountains climbing rocks. Along with Freddie Wilkinson and Dave Sharratt, I was climbing in and exploring a remote valley in northern India’s Himachel Pradesh.

The flight from the US to Delhi, India was long but not so bad, getting off the plane in 100 degree weather at midnight was awful. Not sleeping for 24+ hrs was no elixir to the raunchy stench and overly crowded streets outside the airport. We managed to get an overpriced taxi to agree to take usTrekking to India’s Miyar Valley to some hotel we pointed at in a Lonely Planet guidebook. En route to the hotel a man sitting juxtaposed to our driver played some Indian pop music from his cell phone and began his inquiry as to why three Americans were traveling with so many heavy bags.

After we attempted to explain our trip he asked if we would like to forgo the hotel stay and the bus ride the following day, buy renting his taxi for the 12hr drive to Manali. Hmmm, we all looked at each other with suspicious grins. He insisted we talk to the taxi company representatives in charge of booking such services. So, I’m still not sure if it was the best idea or we just did not have the energy to deal, but we left Delhi at 1:00am with some dude named “Happy” hopefully going to Manali. After a long drive (16hrs) we spent a day in Manali purchasing food, last minute supplies and with the help of a local travel agent also secuTrekking to India’s Miyar Valley includes some river crossingsred a Jeep ride over the Rothang Pass and into the Miyar Valley.

Another long drive led us to Tingrat – the end of the road and the beginning of 5 small villages accountable for miles of well kept farm lands. With 14 porters, mostly local high school kids, we hiked for days past fields of green peas and soon found ourselves camped in a spectacular spot known as Dali Got surrounded by some of the most visually stunning granite mountains I have seen.

Over the next week we acclimatized and made an ascent of a formation that had been dubbed “The Orange Tower” via a 1,000' crack route on the south face. We found the rock solid and featured, with a crux 5.11 pitch and a few awkward pitches, no falls were taken - our route was the first to summit the 5200m peak.
Next, we set our sights on another unclimbed peak - Peak 5960m.

Starting around 1:00am intent on a mixed route up the north face, that eventually lead to a super rad looking west facing ridge, we climbed a mix of snow, ice and bad rock for about 1,500' to the col on the ridge. After simul-climbing for a few thousand feet to a height of around 5700m, the sky turned grey and snow began toBase camp blues - bouldering fall. We waited for an hour or so but eventually had to descend. The many rappels down the ridge eventually landed us in a glacial valley quite foreign to us known as the Dali glacier that inevitably led to a cold bivy.

After some rest at base camp we moved our high camp kit beneath the west ridge on the Dali glacier. Waking early one morning we geared up for another go, but this time I was hampered by sharp pains in my lower back and unable to climb. Dave and Fred made quick work of the ridge (West Ridge - IV 5.9+) from our new location.

Another refresher at base camp fueled us up on dal, rice, alu pratha, roti’s and lots of tea. We decided the next obvious objective to be Mount Mahindra, 5900m. Mahindra’s south face juts upward from the Dali’s glacial ice exposing perfect grey and orange bullet-hard granite soaring for 2,500 feet, it’s three separate summits look like guard towers on a massive castle wall. All three summits were untrodden, although a few attempts over the years came close.

We restocked our high camp on the Dali and glassed a route that wandered up the middle of the face andMahindra looming above Base Camp ended on the middle tower. The first four or five pitches had previously been climbed by an Italian teem a few years prior. Before we could get off the ground the little demons in my back once again reared their ugly heads, my condition seemed to worsen as we gained altitude, and once again I was forced back to base camp. Dave and Fred blasted the route over the next few days, finding lots of wandering face and flake pitches with the occasional splitter corner crack. They named their route “Ashoka’s Pillar, V+ 5.11r”.

While Fred and Dave battled Mahindra, I was also at war. Sharp, jarring bursts of pain from my kidneys crippled me, not climbing was killing me; my mind was a mess, I needed to be up in the clouds, gripping granite, swinging ice tools, freeing stuck rap lines and absorbing the breathtaking summit views.....(to be continued)

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Vegas Climbing Comp...in Florida

Central Florida climbing comp
Backcountry.com was stoked to sponsor the Vegas Knights climbing comp at the University of Central Florida this past month. The University awarded points for climbing through a vegas card theme.
  • Andrew Kezer
  • Mike Rivers
  • Jesse Kelly
So our man Andrew got 4 of a kind with 6 kings high. This may not be the wave of the future for climbing ratings but I thought it was a cool twist for a climbing comp.

Backcountr.com goat winnersI think one thing they should do for next year is have everyone wear those green visors with those disturbing glasses that don't show your eyes. Ok ok ok...definitely not the climbing etiquette.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

And The Chaco Summertime Z Contest Winner is....

Doug Becker and his super Chaco Z tan
Doug Becker! Doug's Chaco Z tan was enough to win without controversy. I'm sure Chaco is proud to call you one of the family. Garnering 5 first place votes from the 7 judges he ran away with the contest. Doug will receive a new pair of Chaco's and $25 to spend at Backcountry.com

Also receiving first place votes were Rob Story and Anneka Door.

And for the Runner Up, winning $25 at Backcountry.com is....Kelsey Smith! Kelsey's Chaco Z tan was the product of a summer in Uganda. From the photo below it looks like she picked up some good foot grime as well.

Kelsey Smith - African Chaco Z tan with dirty feet on a bus...to go!
Kelsey won by a slim margin. She received 3 votes for Runner Up while Wendi Chang received 2 votes and Rob Story and Doug Becker each receiving 1 vote.

A big shout out to Chaco for their support of this contest and to all those that entered. Each person that sent in a photo got a 20% off discount code to Backcountry.com as my way of saying "thanks" for being part of the Backcountry.com community.

Given the success of this contest we'll be hosting another photo contest next month so stay tuned. In the meantime, have some great adventures and may the Z be with you.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Water Bottle Solutions for Winter

I've sworn off of Camelbak style hydration systems for winter use. It's a combination of a few things but primarily it's the issue with freezing up. Just about every pack company is now copying what BCA (Backcountry Access) first did with the zip in the shoulder strap for a hydration tube. The goal - to end freezing up. But regardless of what you do I've had these hoses freeze up time and time again.

I've tested nearly all the packs out there, they all suck at this. Most of the shoulder strap sleeves use little to no insulation and expect your body heat to keep it from freezing. Playtpus water bottle - flexible and lightSure, if I were in HAWAII perhaps it wouldn't freeze. Otherwise, you might as well just leave the thing unzipped.

Trust me, I know all the "tricks". But I didn't buy a pack to learn tricks. Save that for Halloween. Yes, I've tried blowing the water back into the bladder but ice still has a tendency to form in the bite valve rendering it useless. I've even skinned/climbed peaks with the end of the hose tucked into the neck of my jacket which yielded better results but that's a pain.

Tips

Two methods I employ to keep water from freezing while in the backcountry during the winter are:
  1. Platypus - I've long been a fan of the Platypus water "bottles" since they are flexible while full and when empty they take up little to space I think they are near to ideal. I'll often skin with one in the large chest/vent pocket of my soft shell jacket or in an inside pocket of my outer shell jacket. It's easy to get to without much trouble and keeps from freezing while inside my jacket. When it's gone, just roll it up and it's non-existent. The one draw back is the opening is small so should you forget to keep it in a jacket under the coldest of cold temps the opening could freeze easily. A ski tip is a simple way to punch it open though - much easier than a stupid bite valve.

  2. Insulator - When it's Outdoor Research water bottle holder (red) while I skin towards Powder on Mount Timpanogussuper cold out and I want to use a Nalgene bottle I'll use it with an Outdoor Research Water Bottle Insulator rather than just toss it in my pack. It's a very light weight foam insulation sleeve with a zip top and Velcro on the sides to attache over any waist strap or other location on your pack. As you can see in the image of me from last week skinning up Mount Timpanogus in Utah, I had the bottle insullator on the side of the pack's waist belt. (it's red) Temps were in the upper teens with a fierce wind. The water didn't even think about freezing up.
Winter Water Bottle Test

While at summitpost.org I saw this community member submitted test on water bottles for cold temps. It's a pretty interesting read with predictable results. It found that the thermos from GSI (this one happend to have an REI logo on it) performed best. I've not used a thermos to hold cold water as my methods have served me well but unless you're vigilant of your water while in the backcountry this winter, the chances are good that you may consider a thermos for more than rum enhanced hot coccoa.

What's worked for you? Is there a certain method that you use to keep water from freezing while in the backcountry during winter? Let the community know by commenting below.

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Got a Chaco Tan? Last Day of the Photo Contest

All good things must come to an end and today is the last day to get your Chaco Z tanned feet photographed and a photo sent in to backcountryhorde AT gmail DOT com. With only 9 entrants chances are good that your feet, if they have been in Chaco's all summer, will walk away with some new Chacos and $25 to spend at Backcountry.com. Runner up gets $25 to spend at Backcountry.com.

All of the contest details can be found on the Chaco Summertime Z Photo Contest post and the images submitted so far are to the right in the BubbleShare slide show. Just click play.

If you want to try and sway the judges, let your opinion be known about which photo you like. The names of the people who submitted the photos are in the titles under the image as you watch the slide show. Comment below and spend your $.02.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

16 Days in the Himalayas

Since this is covering 2 weeks, I won't bother with a day by day replay of what I did. Instead I'll hit on some of the highlights and then talk about what you need to do to set up your own trek. The trek I did was the Gokyo Lakes/Everest Base Camp trek.

Gokyo Lakes
: Six days after leaving setting off from Lukla, Tashi and I reached the Gokyo Lakes (4790m). They're a set of 3 crystal clear glacial lakes surrounded by incredible mountains. The view from Gokyo Ri (Ri=peak) was amazing. It's the view in the Everest region where you can take in all of the big peaks in one shot. Although its not as popular a destination as Kallapatar and the Everest Base camp, every guide will tell you that they think it offers the best views. That being said, I was a victim of weather. By the time we made it to the top at 7:30 in the morning (after fast 1.5 hr climb), all the views to the east (Everest, Nuptse, Lhotse, Ama Dablam, and Pumori) were clouded over. Luckily, I still got some great pics of the Lakes, Thamserku, Khangtega and Cho Oyu.


Cho La Pass: Most people who climb it (and are just trekking) will tell you it's the highlight of their trip. The guide books said that Cho La is no joke. It's a steep climb across boulder fields and snow covered rock before you make it to the top at 5330. From From the Gokyo side, you want to start early...around 0600 to make it up before the snow softens. Besides the fact that this was the highest I went while carrying my pack (all the other big climbs were day hikes), it's also pretty slippery on the way up. If there was any more snow, I would have wanted an ice axe and crampons. I definitely wouldn't have felt good about doing it from the other direction (Everest base camp to Gokyo).


Kallapatar: We started off staying in Lobuche (1.5 hr fast hike to Gorakshep). Initially, I wasn't expecting to climb Kallapatar that day. But after I finished lunch, I was pleasantly surprised that the clouds never closed in on Everest, Nuptse and Lhotse...although they somehow clouded up everything else. After a touch hour's climb, I made it up completely out of breath...the alititude topped out at 5550. But the views were incredible. Here I was looking at the biggest mountain in the world with my own 2 eyes. This was what I came for. Since the rest of the mountains were fogged in, we went up the next morning...for some reason, I wanted to be up there super early and we left at 0450. This put us up to the top at 0600. Although the sun was already shining on some of the lower peaks, it took a very, very cold hour before it finally made it up over Everest a good hour later.

Chukung Ri: On the way down, we stayed an extra day in Dingboche to do a side trip to Chukung Ri. From Dinboche, it's a long climb of 1100m and it also tops out at 5550m. The last 150m are a fun scramble to the top. From there, you get excellent views of Makalu, Lhotse, and Ama Dablam.

Setting up a Trek:
There are a lot of options for setting up your trek. First, if you're traveling solo, don't be afraid to do it on your own. If you choose to stay in the lodges, they're a very social place where its easy to get to know people. I met people from all over the world...suprisingly few American...but lots of Germans, Australians, Poles, and Czechs. Although I got a guide, its not at all mandatory to have one. The trail is pretty easy to follow and there are lodges at least every 1-2 hrs along the trail. Unless you're going outside of peak season (Oct-Dec, March-April), you can pretty much just follow other people and you won't get lost. Going without a guide will save you a lot of money.

So why would you get a guide? If you're going alone, having a guide does provide someone to help you if something goes wrong. More than that, I also found a guide to be very useful with giving me a better insight into the history and culture of the area. I got to meet his family and we stopped at number of his friends' houses.

If you do decide to hire a guide, you have 2 options...you can either hire one from an agency in Kathmandu ($15-$20/day) or you can hire one when you get to Lukla or in one of the other towns along the way ($10-$15). The guides you get through an agency will probably speak better English and the agency will be there to help you out if anything does go wrong. After a negative experience with a guide named Nima Gurung, I ended up just getting my guide when I got to Kathmandu...trust me, its really, really easy to set up once you get here.

I went with Trek Nepal (http://www.treknepal.com/). Unless you've got a big group, I'd just set it up once you get here. The big advantage to doing it once you get here is that you get to meet with your guide before you put any money down. Things to look for are their language skills, experience on the trek you're doing, and where they're from (best if they're from the area where you're doing the trek). Besides deciding whether to get a guide, most agencies will offer you a full room and board package. That's generally $18-$25/day on top of the guide fee. I didn't get it and averaged $15-$20/day on meals and lodging.


Lodging/Food: In terms of lodging, you have 2 options. You can either stay in the teahouse lodges along the trail or you can camp. The lodging option is significantly cheaper and it's the option I went with. Most of the groups who were camping just camped right outside of the lodge...so I'm not really sure why you'd go with that. It didn't really look like real camping to me. Personally, I really enjoyed most of the lodges. They all had a really nice big common room that was ringed with windows and benches. In the middle was wood/yak dung stove that was used for heat. They were just great places to chill out and read a book or talk with your fellow travellers.

That being said, they’re not the Ritz though. The rooms are pretty spartan. Except for a few super posh ones, they don't come with private bathrooms and hot showers are extra. But they are really cheap...expect to pay about $3-4/night. The food at most of them is pretty good. The most suprising part is the sheer variety of food they serve...everything from traditional Nepali to Chinese to Italian. I found it pretty amazing to be eating Apple Pie at 5000m halfway around the world from home.

Since there wasn’t any refrigeration, I actually went vegetarian for most of the trip. My main staples were Dhal Baa...Rice with Potatoes and Lentil Soup. The big advantage with that is you get unlimited refills of rice and lentil soup. My other favorite was sherpa stew...a stew with potatoes/rice and vegetables. Tea is a big part of the culture...for the first time in several years, I actually kicked my coffee habit. I really took a liking to their milk tea...hot milk with black tea and sugar. Pollution (from garbage) and deforestation are big issues up there.

So for water, I mainly used purification tablets (iodine and chlorine) and would only use boiled water when I was in a hurry. Since everything needs to be carried up, beer is really expensive up there. But they do have a good local drink called Chang. It's a homemade Rice Beer that tastes a bit like Sake and has a pretty good kick.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Goat Sighting in the Gokyo Valley of Nepal


Ran into a sherpa with a backcountry.com cap on while doing the Gokyo Lakes/Everest Base Camp trek...had an amazing time...trip report to follow soon!

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Chaco "Summertime Z" Photo Contest Update

The Chaco Summertime Z photo contest is heating up. We've seen almost a dozen photo submissions and with less than a week to go I suspect there are more than a few people out there who are going through image files.

The contest closes at midnight (Mountain Standard Time) on Monday October 22 so be sure to make the deadline by having the photos in the Backcountry Horde inbox.

Get the e-mail address and all the info on the Chaco contest page.

From the inbox comes an interesting photo and e-mail from one of the contest entrants.
Backcountry,
So, I went to Northern Uganda this summer to work in a hospital that has been affected by a civil war. This picture was taken on top of our beat up bus that we took on a safari. I didn't even know about the contest at the time, and just thought that my feet looked wicked awesome with my tan from the chacos. A friend told me about the contest when I got back! I dont know what information I need to include, so I'll just put the basics...

Kelsey Smith
Chaco Z tan, Ugandan style

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Cubical Overload at Mountain Hardwear

I've been reading the Hardwear Sessions blog from Mountain Hardware lately and among a slew of great stories and adventures from both customers and employees I found this little gem. We've been selling Mountain Hardwear gear for years and now we know the truth behind the vendor support calls.

These guys at Mountain Hardware seem to be having a great time with the blog. We'll have to take a que from them as we gear up for the wave that is about to hit - ski season beginning combined with holiday shopping. Look for Backcountry.com Gearheads (that's our term for customer service gurus) to set up tent city to keep the Gearheads crankin.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Come Join Us for Adopt A Crag Day in LCC

This Saturday the Salt Lake Climber's Alliance is holding an Adopt-A-Crag day out in Little Cottonwood Canyon. They are undertaking a number of important projects including restoration of the bridge leading to the Pentapitch area, Great White Icicle and the Hidden Forest area, replacement of manky climbing hardware, in addition to general trail cleanup and maintenance.

Now, you may be thinking that there's no way you'll waste even a moment of the perfect temps in Little, but Saturday's forecast so far calls for rain in the valley and snow in the mountains- so come out and spend the morning or afternoon volunteer shifts frolicking in the new snow, hanging out with fellow climbers, and leaving a positive mark on LCC.

For more information and to register online, go to: http://www.saltlakeclimbers.org/. Hope you see you out there!

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Chris Davenport Ski The 14ers Book Now Available

Well, it's not really available just yet. ButSki the 14ers book from Chris Davenport - Colorado's 54 14ers were skied in a year. the "Ski the 14ers" book by Chris Davenport is now available for pre-order and will ship December 7, just in time for Christmas. And what a gift this would be.

I personally am stoked to read the 148 pages, printed in a large format hardcover style. Each peak has a story and I'm anxious to read about it. It's long overdue that Colorado, for all it's tall and technical peaks, gets its day in the sun.

While Chris was going about his quest to be the first person to ski all 54 of Colorado's peaks that are taller than the 14,000' mark, it became more and more captivating to follow along on his site. I posted a couple of times here on the Backcountry Blog and one post related his reflection of the adventure when he had 5 peaks remaining. I'm glad he completed his goal within a year. Nice work Chris!

The description from the publishers website:
Ski The 14ers tells the story of Chris Davenport’s epic adventure through stunning photography and first hand trip reports of Colorado’s most spectacular mountains and ranges.

Between January 22, 2006 and January 19, 2007, Aspen’s Chris Davenport completed a remarkable journey. He skied all 54 of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks within one year. To successfully ski the “14ers” one must have a combination of big mountain skills including accurate avalanche forecasting ability, careful route selection and inexhaustible tenacity. To accomplish the goal, Davenport and his companions faced every condition from water ice to powder, from bluebird days to subzero temperatures and intense winds. He climbed over 200,000 vertical feet during his ascents and often the very difficult routes had minimal snow cover. The true scope of this accomplishment is known by only a handful of experienced alpinists and skiers. Colorado ski alpinist Lou Dawson was the first to climb and ski all 54 peaks, which took him 13 years to accomplish. Others have attempted to ski all the 14ers and have come close. This book is an extraordinary photo expose of all the 14ers in winter. The trip reports gives the reader a window to this rare accomplishment.

Purchase the Ski the 14ers book today Your coffee table will thank you and I'm sure those after skiing Saturday evenings this winter will be full of perusing this book.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Backcountry.com Receiving Department Quotes

Working at Backcountry.com is like any other place to work, but at the same time it's not like any other place to work. It's pretty crazy sometimes and now that I think about it a whole lot different from the rest of the places I've ever worked. If you're looking for something out of the norm, check us out.

Aside from the standard "Dog for adoption" or the infamous "Save Gas" e-mail threads, one of the more interesting (to me at least) things that rolls into the inbox every couple of weeks is a list of quotes from the receiving department at the warehouse.

Some of the quotes I question if they are for real. But when you consider the thousands of boxes of stuff that rolls through that little department it's certain to make your, and their, heads spin. Add to that the stifling heat in the summer and the quotes don't seem so loopy.

As a tribute to the great receiving team, I'm going to start publishing these quotes as they roll in...at least until the lawyers send me a cease and desist.

From the Receiving Team:

"CHICKENBOY!"

"Is it more fun than a barrel of monkeys?"

"person 1: im looking for those things that are round, and they bend, and they have a bungee thing in the middle.... person 2: you mean tent poles Person 1: yah yah thats what i mean...." gearhead special quote

"I have no sympathy! Strap it back on!"

"why" person 1 "cause it's the most ballin thing you could possibly do" person 2

"Rappenin is what's happenin"

"I'm on it like bubonic"

"Well it's cause we're dirtbags"

"it only hurts until the pain goes away"

"Well my mom try to kill me with exhaust when i was little so i'm immune."

Not to be repetitive but it just feels right, it might not be exactly how it was said but it went along these lines... "I mean we work for backcountry, but you'd think it was the congress or something"

And in addition to metal Mondays and funky Fridays there is now a "Thug Thursday"

We'd like to thank the academy for making this happen, all our beloved fans, and beer. word up keep your game high backcountry. keep it up

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

3000 miles

Recently the Mrs. and I loaded up the family truckster with our offspring and some gear to tour the west for a few weeks. While the main goal of the trip was to visit friends and family, we (well, I) managed to squeeze in a little outside time.

The Sky Lakes Wilderness Area of Southern Oregon is one of the most amazing and under utilized spaces around. With a variety of entry/exit points, a multitude of trail options, and stunning views, this is a chunk of the Rogue River National Forest not to be missed. Those who have completed the Pacific Crest Trail have already seen the splendor this area has to offer.

Another spot we (well, I again) were (was) fortunate to visit was Yosemite Valley. The park is always a treat for you and the 64,537 other visitors there on any given day. Even on a weekday in late September I found the place jammed with tourons like me. With all camp grounds full, I was forced to rent an overpriced tent cabin in the housekeeping camp. The thought of not heeding the advice of metal signs and sleeping in my car crossed my mind repeatedly, but I’m a straight and narrow kind of kid, and I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

With a less than alpine start of 7:00 AM, I took a little jaunt up to the top of this place called Half Dome I had heard much ado about. The weather couldn’t have cooperated more and the trip was perfect, save a couple of issues I take personally:

Does anyone know how to say “cutting switchbacks is bad” in French?

Littering is another problem that blows my mind. How is it, as intelligent and evolved we humans are, some still think throwing a food wrapper or a water bottle on the ground in the middle of paradise is a good idea? WHY ARE PEOPLE STILL BUYING BOTTLED WATER FOR THAT MATTER?!


[pause for soapbox dismount]


Fortunately, I had room in my pack for the nearly one pound of garbage I hauled from the trial. A big thank you also goes out to the group of climbers that swarmed the park the same week to pick up what others leave behind.

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Goat Sightings in Little Cottonwood Canyon

Rich Lambert leading Bushwhack Crack in Little Cottonwood CanyonIf you're a climber and especially if you're in Utah, then these past three weeks have been amazing. With afternoon temperatures reaching the low 70's the sun warmed granite of Little Cottonwood Canyon has been at its prime.

For the most part I've been climbing at the Crescent Crack Buttress and the Gate Buttress and although there was one day with plenty of crowds (a Friday afternoon) I've seen only a couple of parties otherwise.

Yesterday afternoon my buddy Rich and I arrived at the Schoolroom to find we were the only ones there. Far cry from two weeks ago when there was a University of Utah climbing class there. We enjoyed some good conversation that day as we headed up Schoolroom West.

Plugging gear has been on the menu and yesterday I was "served" while heading up the first pitch of Bushwhack Crack. As we started up a couple of guys I knew showed up (Dan and Matt) and just after arriving at the first belay I snapped this shot of Dan setting up anchors at the top of the first pitch of Schoolroom Direct:

Dan the man setting an anchor on Schoolroom DirectI commented about the goat on his helmet and he tossed back , "I've gotta keep the sponsors happy". (His wife Liz works for Backcountry.com)

After leading the second pitch which goes up and to the right we descended a bit and then rapped down to the base of the wall. I was second to rappel and after pulling the rope I walked back to the start of Bushwhack and found Rich talking to a guy named Mark who was belaying his buddy on top rope. I thought they were long time friends as they were talking about ski traverses in the Ruby Range of Nevada but after another minute or two of good conversation I realized they had just met. It's a pretty cool community of climbers when you can spark up a conversation with a fellow climber whom you just met and talk about similar passions for the outdoors like you're long time friends.

Mark's buddy Paul rapped down and as he arrived I noticed he too was sporting the goat on his helmet. He actually had a black on one the other side in addition to this white one.

Paul, if you're out there comment below with your e-mail address and I'll make sure you get a Goat shirt or a water bottle. Great running into you out there and I'm glad to see you sportin' the goat.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Wind and Waiting on Denali

Lauren Ditolla and Mike at the summit of DenaliMike and I had been stuck at the 14,200 ft. camp on Denali for 6 days now, and it was making us more than a little stir crazy. The weather had completely socked us in, and the wind was howling up on the ridge that led to the 17,000 ft. camp. We weren't going anywhere until the weather had cleared and the wind had tempered her fury. Fortunately, we had set ourselves up well for the waiting game. Our slow and steady slogging up the Kalhitna Glacier with enormous packs and heavy sleds were packed with enough food and fuel to last us another week and a half at Advanced Base Camp. We would wait for our weather window as long as we had the food.

Every couple of hours we would emerge from our slightly cramped, single walled mountaineering tent to shovel away accumulating snow, cut snow blocks for the wind wall, and wander over to the Ranger's tent to say hello. We weren't the only ones stuck in camp...there were plenty of other parties waiting for the weather to clear as well. The camp made for an interesting hodgepodge of mountaineers hailing from all over the globe.

We maxed out on card games by day 3. By day 4, we had killed all the batteries for the mini disc player, and by day 5 I had counted how many squares of ripstop there were in a square foot of conduit. By day 6, we were itching to get moving. The weather had started to clear up, and the forecast on the radio was promising. We hatched a plan, and decided move. We decided we would wake up at midnight, and be moving up the Headwall by 12:30am. That way we'd beat the crowds to the fixed lines, which were notorious for having people held up traffic-jam style waiting for their turn. We'd make camp at 17,000ft., have a hot lunch, then push to the summit with super light packs, all in a day.Lauren Ditolla heading to the summit of Denali

At 12am our alarms went off and the tent was frosty with the frozen condensation of our breath. The cold stung our faces even inside the tent, a not so gentle reminder that we were in for a long, chilly couple of hours. We pulled on our overboots and all of our layers, and broke down camp as quickly as we could. We were roped up and ready to go at 12:45.

At the higher elevations on Denali, the hours between midnight and 5am are brutally cold...it was all I could do to keep my extremities warm. I swung my hands and feet every couple of steps, trying to force the circulation back into them. It's amazing how fast your hands can get numb carrying a metal ice axe- even through the thickest gloves and having ensolite pad the head of your axe.
We made good time form camp to the base of the fixed lines. Our plan was working so far- we were the first ones up and moving, and the first ones to the fixed lines. We had traveled up the first 1,000 feet of elevation pretty quickly, and it may have been the fast hike combined with the intense cold that turned my mood from super motivated to super cranky. I swallowed a couple of packets of GU, and then Mike and I started moving up the fixed lines slowly. The are numerous sections of line that are fixed, so every 100 feet or so you have to get out of one ascending system and into another, which got irritating after the first 3 or so. Not to mention that locking an unlocking carabiners with bulky gloves at that altitude and temperature makes the whole process take 20 times longer than it normally does.

When we reached the top of the fixed lines, I begged for a break and we sat for a couple of minutes, watching the sun starting to peek up from the horizon. It was stunningly beautiful- oranges, purples, and fiery pinks illuminated the sky, making Mt. Foraker and Mt. Hunter look as if they were ablaze. After taking in the 3am sunrise, the cold started to penetrate our tired muscles and we roped up again, moving up.

The most beautiful part of the West Buttress route is gaining the Headwall and walking the Buttress itself. The ridge was sidewalk thin in some areas; with sheer, steep drops on either side. If you fell, you would tumble all the way down to Peter's Basin. It was nervy in spots, so we went slow and methodically. By the time we reached the 17,000 camp, we were exhausted but excited that we'd made it. Our plan was to keep pushing to the summit. We set up camp and made a hot lunch, and crashed for 2 hours. I woke up to Mike flaking out the rope outside, setting things up so that we could keep climbing.

Denali Pass was a beast- it wasn't as steep as the Headwall, but it took forever. The wind was starting to pick up, and we could see gusts of wind moving the snow around like mini tornadoes higher above us. It took us over 2 hours to reach the top of Denali Pass, which lies at 18,200 ft. We were absolutely worked, and as soon as we crested the saddle, we were in for a rude surprise...gale force winds nearly knocked me off my feet, and it took all I had to move forward even a couple of steps. We were getting blasted, sitting in an exposed saddle with little protection. All it took was a look from both of us to communicate with each other that Mother Nature had won for the day. It was time to go down.

And so we headed down. Even though we didn't make the summit that day, we waited it out at High Camp for a night and touched the top 2 days later. We were pretty excited that we had pushed up over 4,000 ft that day, and seen a gorgeous sunrise in the process. On our expedition, we had seen most all of Denali's mood swings, from the powerful winds to the biting cold and the bluebird skies. We counted ourselves some of the luckier ones-we got to summit in style and earned every step of the way!
-Lauren Ditolla
Gearhead

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Chaco "Summertime Z" Photo Contest

Chaco is the only sandal your feet need for summer adventureAlthough winter may be knocking at the door in many places Backcountry Blog announces the Chaco Summertime Z photo contest.

I've long contended that the best measurement of summertime fun and adventure is how prominent your Chaco Z tan is on the tops of your feet. From mountain trails to rivers, surf, deserts and even in church (yea, my buddy wears them to church) you can't go wrong with Chacos. I even convinced my in-laws to convert and they became their sole selection of footwear last summer while traveling Europe.

Bottom line is that Chacos are the only things your feet need for summer adventure.

Since summer adventures are winding down, it's time to prove what kind of summer it was. No longer can you spray about how that trip to Baja or the adventure in the Appalachians was. It's time to prove it.

The Contest
If you have been sporting Chacos all summer now is your chance to show just how good your summer really was. Send in the best image you have that showcases your tanned feet with the recognizable Chaco Z and you could win a new pair of Chacos and $25 to spend at Backcountry.com

Here are the details:

Contest Dates: October 10 - October 22

1st prize - A new pair of Chacos, compliments of Chaco and a $25 gift certificate to Backcountry.com

Runner Up - $25 gift certificate to Backcountry.com

Photo Submissions: e-mail all images to backcountryhorde AT gmail DOT com and I will then post them to the Chaco Summertime Z Bubbleshare image previewer.

Example - Here is a particularly fine example of some proud Chaco Z tanned feet from the Lucid Travels Blog The feet on the left would be hard to beat.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Bluehouse Skis Delivers

It's not likely that the owners of Salomon, Dynastar or even LINE are going to be knocking on your door any time soon to deliver skis to you, one of their valuable customers.

Ok, ok, so Salomon and Dynastar and the other "big guys" only sell through retailers. But wouldn't it be cool if the owner or CEO of Salomon did show up at your door to hand deliver the skis you had ordered? You'd be blown away. Or you'd be wondering what happened to the UPS guy.

Perhaps the CEO of Backcountry.com should hand deliver an order or two. I know, he's a busy guy but so are the rest of the other CEO's. I smell an opportunity for some PR.

But when you're a young independent ski company from Salt Lake City like Bluehouse Skis you have the ability to be nimble and to do things a little different. Not to mention you may have a little more time on your hands.

Aside from some designing some great looking skis with nice shapes, the owners were fulfilling some ski orders the other day - the old fashioned way.

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Adventure Contest: "The Wave"

Have you ever experienced a silence so profound it envelopes you? A silence so deep your own breathing is muted? This silence and the stunning scenery is what lures me to the Southern Utah desert time and again. There is no hum of electricity, no sounds of ATV's or highway vehicles, no rush of a stream or river, and when no one is talking, no sound of voices. Every once in awhile the wind would pick up. This wind is not the same wind you find in any city or in the mountains, or even in the countryside. This is a desert wind. It blows through your ears around your body and echoes hollow. It's a wind that sounds like it has blown for eons of time. It has no end and no beginning. It's a wind without direction and no destination. It's there to remind you that you are now in it's land, a land so vast and so beautiful and also very deadly. This is a land, that if respected reveals its secrets to you. It's a land of gentle majestic beauty.


Our destination this time was The Wave. A rock formation carved from the flow of water and rush of wind over millions of years. My friend Mason describes this place perfectly, so I'm using his words. "Below a large butte sat a large sandstone formation, probably 50 high and covering maybe an acre and a half. It was made up of fine layers of red, yellow and brown sandstone and had large, smooth troughs about 10 to 15 feet wide where the waves of sandstone dipped and soared from years of slow erosion. If the mountains of the Wasatch or the Sawtooth are evidence of the earths abrupt eruption and the glaciers sudden recession, then Wave and its surrounding area is a display of natures gentle and artistic craft."

After the long hike across the hot desert we were greatly rewarded with this piece of art in the wilderness. As I entered the wave, I was overcome with such a variety of emotions, I had to just stop and take it all in.

I had seen photos of this place, had always wanted to come here, but nothing had prepared me for what was in front of me. This formation is one of natures' most spectacular. The colors were so vivid, the waves of sandstone so perfectly formed. We were not the only ones marveling at this work of art. There were a few others, all as in awe as we were. There was hardly any talking as everyone tried to take in what we were seeing. The beauty and vastness of this southern Utah desert always puts life in perspective for me. Out there you are one tiny person in this wilderness. Out there, you realize that you are but an infant in the sands of time. What it takes for us to create and destroy cities and civilizations is nothing compared to natures work on this land. Out there, you realize there is so much more to this life than our minuscule existence. Not to say our existence here means nothing, but this desert puts your life back into perspective. The mundane things we deal with on a day to day basis mean nothing out here. Out here, nature puts everything back into place for you, helps you realize what is actually important, helps you feel the past in a way nothing else can. Out here, the past, present and future are one. Out here will continue with or without us.


Stacy Henderson

Gearhead/Live Chat

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

An Uphill Downhill Adventure Story

My car told me it was 13C when I jumped in. Far too warm to snow, but as I drove north on I-80 and I-84, I watched the temperature slowly drop. 12, 9, 7C.

I think I may have been watching the temperature drop a little to closely, because I failed to notice one of Weber County's finest lying in wait for me on the side of the road.

Once again, I was going too fast.

"Where are you headed?"

"umm... Snowbasin"

"...and what are you going there for?"

"a race"

"what kind of race?"

"ah ... errr ... a running race"

"License and Registration please"

Inquisition over, I accepted my ticket and continued on to Snowbasin to take part in the 8th annual Uphill/Downhill.

I'd been in town for several weeks straight - without any weekend quests to the desert or mountains and I was itching to get out on an adventure - where ever it might be. Unfortunately, all of my mates flaked out and prospective trips to both Moab and the Uinta Mountains never materialized.

I had learned of this race when I was flipping through the paper on Friday afternoon, searching for alternatives to my foiled plans.

After watching Lipstick Film's latest telemark movie on Friday night, I was still hedging whether I would run. In fact I told myself, I'd either go out post-film drinking on Main Street with the other kids, or do the race. I was feeling a bit too tired and off-color for boozing, so I went to bed early and half-heartedly set my alarm.

Back to the dropping temperature. By the time I arrived at Snowbasin, the temperature gauge in my car showed 3C, and yes, it started snowing a few minutes after I arrived. To be honest, I was a bit excited. A race in the snow would definitely be more interesting.

I like skiing Snowbasin. The main reason I like it is for the steeps. Unfortunately steep downhill pistes translate into steep ascents if you are running straight up them. And that's what the course of the Uphill/Downhill did. Straight up the piste from the base of the resort to the top of the Needles Gondola Express - via City Hill, Porky Face, Waterfall, Needles Run, Porcupine Traverse, and finally Sweet Revenge. Not up any smooth switchbacking trails, but straight up the piste.

Despite the conditions, a reasonable group of runners gathered at the start. Some runners decked-out in racing tights, and some like me in a full tracksuit with gloves and beanies. Standing around, shivering in the snow was uncomfortable. We were all relieved when the hooter sounded for the start and we could get our frozen muscles moving to warm up.

A few youngsters sprinted out of the start gate but the going soon got tough, and they quickly dropped back into the pack. It soon got so steep that it became difficult to continue running, and a hike/climb became the most efficient means of ascent. I was reticent to relinquish my running stride, as it felt like a cop-out, but with long walking strides I was catching a runner ahead, so I think I had the right idea.

The snow continued. Heavy, wet flakes came down harder and harder. It was becoming difficult to navigate the route of the race, which had been marked with blue flags. I was wearing Smith Threshold glasses with the clear lenses in, but they soon fogged-up and had to be taken off for any visibility.

Up the mountain, there was no trail to follow. I had to pick my own way through the long grass, and loose rock and gravel. At times I looked up from my dragging feet to see the leaders up ahead, which gave me some idea of which way the course turned next, but often when I looked up, all I could see was swirling snow and cloud. All the way to the lodge at the top where the snow had started to settle.

If the "run" up was more like climbing ... then the descent was like the Gloucestershire Cheese Rolling, but with 5km of it. The increasing snow, made the already treacherous task of negotiating the loose rock increasingly tricky. The more stable rocks were now being covered in snow making them slick land-mines. I slipped a couple of times, but thankfully didn't injure myself or roll an ankle. I fact, I took the route down pretty conservatively. That is, until I heard one of the ascending back markers cheer someone on just behind me. There was no way I wanted to be passed, so I told myself to concentrate and picked up my level of risk, and the pace.

The lower section of the course didn't have so much snow, but longer grass made identifying the hidden treasures lurking underneath much more difficult. Of course all the runners had the same difficulties, and I was able to increase my lead on the runner behind me. Unfortunately though, I couldn't quite catch the two leaders in the end, settling for third.

I ran this race in Pearl Izumi Syncro Float 2's. I've had these shoes for a few months now. I found them ideal for this race. They were lightweight enough for the uphill section, and stiff enough to provide protection on rough terrain downhill, particularly for my toes.

The Snowbasin Uphill/Downhill, despite its difficulty, is a fun 10km race to finish off the season. Now that I know what I am in for, I hope to come back next year and give it a real shake. I am sure my aching quads will have healed by then...

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A Weekend on the River

Although I am going to be in Phoenix for the weekend of the Adventure Party, and thus ineligible for all of the sweet prizes. I wanted to share my story with everyone anyways, and give a different perspective, that adventures can be had anywhere, even in Michigan.
-David Wernet


"You know how to canoe, right?" my friend Andy asked me a few weeks prior to our trip.

"Of course." I responded over the phone, "how hard is it to canoe?" Although I hadn't paddled a canoe on anything remotely resembling a river since 6th grade camp, I considered myself an expert lake canoer. And really how much different could it be?

I now found myself in the front seat of our 2 man canoe( I wisely yielded the back seat to supreme canoe master Andy) rocketing down the upper stretch of the Manistee River, in the Northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan. Our plan was to spend 3 days on the river, 2 nights camping. Rounding out the trip was our other friend Ben, who lost the ro-sham-bo and was plugging along in our 1 man canoe.

The upper stretch of the river is fast flowing, narrow, with cold, clear water that continually winds through forest and swamps. It takes constant action to keep our canoe clear of log jams, sweeper trees and submerged logs and rocks along the way. As a credit to Andy's canoeing prowess, not only is he skillfully piloting us down this river, he is also somehow managing to find time to roll and smoke his hand rolled cigarettes.

“DRAW STROKE!” Andy suddenly yells out. I have no idea what this means, but drawing upon my vast knowledge of golf, and the fact that the current is rapidly taking us directly at a huge log, I quickly deduce we need to go left, fast. After a few stressful moments and some strong left to right strokes, disaster is averted and we continue our journey.

After about 8 miles the river begins to have a broader feel, and the current slows. We spend the rest of day one just cruising, taking in the scenery, and keeping an eye out for a campsite, which we find at a perfect spot along the river, up on a small bluff overlooking a river bend.

Day 2 is a Saturday, and in Northern Michigan, in July, that means the tourists are out in full force. The river is full of canoes, kayaks, even a few tubers. And many surly fly fishermen who I am pretty sure are genetically predisposed to hate everything in the river except trout. However today we are all business as we need to cover some serious distance, about 15 miles. Everyone is hungover from last nights festivities, and as luck would have it, it's my turn in our little one person canoe. Which tracks about as well as a barge.

Everything is going smoothly until just before dusk when we need to start finding a campsite. Andy had assured us that this stretch of the river was all state land, and we can camp anywhere along the banks. However all we are finding is a river lined with cabins, and no trespassing signs everywhere. Heading into the sunset, and while trying to scan an uninhabited swamp for a suitable campsite, I pull a Titanic and run smack into a submerged log, dumping me and everything in my canoe overboard. Fortunately, thanks to my catlike reflexes I managed to save all the gear, but now I am soaked, its getting dark, and we have nowhere to camp.

As the sun starts to set we realize we are going to have to find something fast. We spy a nice area that rises up from some low lying swampy forest. We distance ourselves from a few groups of kayakers and make our move. Pulling up the canoes from the bank and lying low as the kayakers go by we settle in as outlaw campers for the night.

Its now dawn of day 3, and its a hot one. The high today is in the mid 90s. Multiple times we stop to take a dip in the river, which is continually stream fed and stays frigid year round. As the morning wears on we pass through many more groups of tubers accompanied by their flotilla of empty beer cans. There is a livery nearby that pumps as many tourists into the river as possible for a short tube trip.

After about 50 just-one-more-bend's we finally come around a corner to see a highway overpass ahead, our marker that our pullout is near. Sunburnt, hungry, and sore, we pile out of the river and find our drop car. We bike lock the canoes to a tree, cram into Andy's Honda Civic Hatchback, and make the hour plus drive back to the start of our journey, where our other two cars are located. After heading back down to the finish again, we load up the gear and canoes and head into town for some much needed beer, burgers and talk of our next trip.












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