Thursday, December 31, 2015

Three Things Thursday. Issue #12

Meagan. Tail guiding on Teton Pass. Christmas Day, 2015

  • Tim Ferris interviewed Jaime Foxx. Sure, it's more pop culture than mountain culture. But, for some reason, throughout the entire multi-hour interview, I felt like I was listening to a mountain fanatic talk about maximizing his enjoyment and success in a variety of mountain endeavors. Jaime Foxx is a versatile entertainer. So many mountain fiends wish to be versatile mountain travelers. 
  • Super well thought out article on backcountry ski gear repair kits. The lightweight equipment we use isn't "bomb-proof". It's close, but not perfect. Carry the right amount of the right stuff to keep mobile. 
  • The gear repair kit article is from one of the web's most accomplished multi-sport, sub-arctic, long-distance travelers. Trip reports in that category are my favorite, and his are among the best. Check some out:

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Three Things Thursday. Issue #11.

Both mountain endeavors and writing about mountain endeavors have taken a back seat recently. I got wicked sick last week, and have been squaring away other life tasks in the meantime. I did get out skiing, one day, at Red Mountain Pass with Kling Mountain Guides. Josh Kling hired me to conduct a day of his staff's pre-season ski guide training. It was great to share, but perhaps even better to tune up my own skills in preparation.
Red Mountain #2, San Juans, Colorado. 12/6/2015. I'm out in front. Josh Kling photo. 

  • Speaking of tuning up for the backcountry season, part of my preparation was refreshing my own personal pre-trip checklist. There are now multiple pre-made checklists out there for avalanche terrain planning and preparation. I find that I "comply" with the checklist far better if it has my own "stamp" on it. I developed my most recent iteration with the input and inspiration of this article
  • Like I said, I got sick last week. Colds hit me hard, so I laid low for a solid four days. Gauging one's recovery and readiness to return to action is always difficult. For a long time, one's resting heart rate was touted as a good way to estimate degree of recovery. However, measuring resting heart rate was problematic. No longer. Check out my latest OutdoorGearLab articles for reviews of devices that can monitor heart rate (especially resting heart rate. These devices aren't as good for tracking activity) and steps and sleep. Tracking sleep and steps has always had curious appeal, but not enough to cement one of these devices into my life. Adding heart rate, however, finally tips the balance and I've been wearing one all the time. 
  • I am a total sucker for the multi-sport, Alaska, long-term trip report. This one is great. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

Stuff To Sell, Winter 2016 Edition.

Whatchu want? Let's use Paypal to make the transaction. Most of this stuff I can ship to you. Or you can retrieve it from me in Driggs, ID.  If we ship, you cover shipping costs. Shoot me an email

Not pictured: MSR Whisperlite with large fuel bottle. $90

Petzl Sarken Crampons. Barely used. $115
Petzl tikka. Works. $10
Patagonia women's tank top. Size XS. $10

Columbia women's base layer. Size small. $12

MEC women's base layer. Size small. $12

black diamond yellow headlamp. $10

Cheapo three person tent. $20

LL Bean down vest. Reversible. Size kids large. $20

Mec lightweight fleece. Women's xs. $15

Mountain HardWear women's hiking pants. Tan. Size 4 $20

Tan women's hiking pants. Rei brand. Size 4 $18

Pink champion women's tank top. Size small. $5

Arc Teryx bora 80. $100

$9 each.

Two different Black Diamond Raven Pro ice axes. Both are 65cm. Both are lightly used. Retail $100. One is fully intact for $55 and the other is cut to that length, therefore omitting the "spike". Cut end shown in photo. $40

Pelican case. $10 retail. $6

Outdoor Research Rumor Hoody. Lightly used. Fully functional. $50

Size 24.0 Women's Garmont Mega Star AT ski boots. $100 

Brooks range Hybrid Sweater. Size medium. No down insulation on the back. $45

Chalk bag. Brand new. With belt. $8

Evolv Geshido. "Split sized".  10 left. 9.5 right $35

Black Diamond Jupiter Mitts. Size large. Barely used. $30
Blue alien (sold) and Grey TCU ($20). 
Synthetic The North Face T Shirt. Size men's Large. $6

Friday, November 20, 2015

Backcountry Winter Meals

Feeding oneself in the winter is hard. It's cold and you get awful hungry.

You wanna eat hot food for dinner and breakfast. But you don't want to spend a ton of time cooking. For me, anything that requires more than boiling water (simmering, cooking, frying) is relegated to summer or hut trips. Or very special occasions.
High, cold, chaotic. Camping in tough conditions, whether winter in the Rockies or 19,000 feet in Peru (as shown here) is exhausting. Simple food streamlines the whole process. 

That leaves "just add water" options for efficient and comfortable fueling in the winter (or up high in spring expedition season).

Instant oatmeal and commercially marketed "freeze dried" meals are easy and obvious. And they each have their place. But there are other options. Whether your palate or budget won't tolerate these standard choices, I've got some ideas for you.

First, breakfast. In addition to instant oatmeal, try one or all of these:

  • Instant grits
  • Hot water over powdered milk and granola
  • Ramen soup
  • Rice noodle instant soup. My favorite breakfast is the Thai Kitchen brand noodle packets.
  • Protein drink powders. Consumed hot, with powdered milk as a base, this can be almost a meal on its own.
  • Cheese sticks, nuts, bars, etc. 
Dinner is a little easier. Now, of course, any of these meals can also be consumed at breakfast. But convention is convention. For dinner, in the winter, I do three parts. First, a soup course. Then a main course that is some some starch (either flavored/salted with a dedicated flavor packet or with a bouillon cube), and some protein. Mix and match as you see fit. 

  • Instant Soups. None of these are marketed as "instant", but I can tell you that they all hydrate just fine, up to 19000 feet or so. 
    • "Noodle Soup" packets. Available in a box of two packets in most grocery stores. Lipton is the brand name, and most stores have their own brand too.
    • "Onion soup and recipe mix". 
    • Bouillon cubes
    • Miso soup.
  • Starch
    • Couscous (with or without included flavor packet)
    • Minute rice (truly minute rice. Not the boil-in-bag kind nor the kind that requires even 5 minutes of simmering). Flavor/salt with bouillon.
    • Instant stuffing. "Stove Top" style. Just add water. Already flavored.
    • Ramen
    • Instant rice noodle soups. 
    • Instand Mashed Potatoes. Usually already flavored. 
  • Protein
    • Foil bag chicken
    • Foil bag fishes (tuna, salmon)
    • Jerky
    • Nuts (no joke. A hardcore, vegetarian friend survives on big missions with a mix of mashed potatoes, stuffing, and nuts.)

Winter Climbing Gear Lists, 2015-16

Scratching on Mount Evans, CO. 11/2015

'Tis the season!  The winter season.  Or, more accurately, the time to equip for the winter season. I have basically got my systems down, with minor tweaks one year to the next. Here's what I'll use this winter for climbing.  Ski gear is broken down in two separate posts.  This one outlines what I use for your standard ski touring missions.  And this one expounds upon kit for more specialized ski endeavors. 

First, for ice and mixed climbing day trips. Days like this are characterized by harder climbing, longer belays, and the ability to dry out back home at night. I start with a good night's sleep in a warm bed, some hot and fatty breakfast, and then spend 6-10 hours out and about.  

Ian M on the first known ascent of "Guilty as Charged" 2/2013
  • Garmont Icon Plus boots.
  • Wool socks.  
  • Wild Things Saloppette.  My beloved "onesie".  Rigged with elastic under the instep:  No need for gaiters.
  • Synthetic Boxers
  • Synthetic/wool t-shirt
  • Light syn long sleeve hoody
  • Camp Neutrino Hoody
  • Camp Magic Jacket and Pants (Or Rab Xiom jacket, if the weather's really nuking)
  • Feathered Friends Helios jacket
  • Fleece helmet liner
  • Leading gloves: Camp G Comp Warm Gloves
  • Belaying gloves: Camp Geko Hot
  • Drytooling gloves: Ironclad Gripmaster
  • Approach gloves: older pair of lead gloves
  • Native Hardtop sunglasses, with lighter interchangeable lenses
  • Approach hat: usually a stylie wool beanie. But sometimes a baseball cap for warmer days.
  • Approach soft-shell jacket. ArcTeryx Gamma MX.  
Technical gear, etc:
  • Camp C-12 crampons
  • Camp X-Dream ice tools
  • 7 Black Diamond and 5 Petzl ice screws.  Mainly 13 cm.  
  • File, v-threader, and tools for crampons and X-Dream.
  • 10 draws, mixture of alpine, sporty and load-limiting.  Equipped with Camp Photon carabiners. 
  • Grigri and associated 'biner
  • 3 more locking carabiners.
  • 12 foot 7mm cord
  • Double length sling
  • Camp Air CR Harness
  • Camp Speed 2.0 Helmet
  • Cams, nuts, pins, and tricams (only for silly rock climbing stuff)
  • Rope. Usually a 70m single. But could be almost anything, depending.
  • First aid/emergency kit.
  • A liter of water
  • Half a liter of some hot drink
  • Food.  4 bars and a salad or sandwich.  
  • All packed into a Camp M3 pack.  

And then for day trip alpine routes. In the Sierra, Tetons, and Rockies in the winter that mainly means snow-covered rock.

12/2012. Mount Morrison. Colorado. 

  • Garmont Tower Extreme boots
  • Wool Socks
  • Outdoor Research Cirque soft shell pants.
  • CAMP super light wind pants.  
  • Very, very occasionally I'll wear long underwear. Very rare.
  • Synthetic Boxers
  • Synthetic/wool t-shirt
  • Light syn long sleeve hoody
  • Camp Neutrino Hoody
  • Camp Magic Jacket and Pants (Or Rab Xiom, if the weather's really nuking)
  • Feathered Friends Helios jacket
  • Fleece helmet liner
  • Sun hat
  • Leading gloves: Camp G Comp Warm Gloves
  • Belaying gloves: Camp Geko Hot
  • Drytooling gloves: Ironclad Gripmaster
  • Native Hardtop sunglasses, with lighter interchangeable lenses. 
Tech Gear:
  • Camp C12 Crampons. Or CAMP XLC 490.  Or, commonly, none at all. 
  • Petzl Sum'Tec hammer and adze pair.  Or CAMP Corsa.
  • Rock pro. At most: 
    • 10 slings
    • 10 cams
    • 10 nuts
    • 4 pitons
    • 6 screws
  • Grigri and associated 'biner
  • 3 more locking carabiners
  • 12 foot 7mm cord
  • Double length sling
  • CAMP Blitz Harness
  • Camp Speed 2.0 Helmet
  • Rope. Single, 50m at most. 
  • MSR Denali snowshoes
  • Camp Xenon 4 trekking pole
  • First aid/emergency kit.
  • Two liters of water
  • Half a liter of some hot drink
  • Headlamp
  • Food. 6 bars and a salad or sandwich.  
  • All packed into a Camp M3  pack.  
  • Iridium GO satellite phone. 
  • iPhone loaded with relevant maps, gps app, emergency phone numbers, camera, route beta, guidebook photos, etc.  

Finally, for overnight climbing.  Here, we're talking trips to more remote peaks and the multi-day ridge traverses. Like a winter ascent of the Grand Teton. 

Middle Palisade. 2/2013
  • Clothing.  Basically the same as the single day alpine missions.  For slow-going trips to the highest and coldest "Lower 48" peaks I'll switch the Helios Puffy for something thicker.  I have a few options there.  Also, throw in another pair of socks.  Nothing more.  
  • Boots:  Most trips it's La Sportiva Spantik double boots.  Climbing and camping up high with single boots is the most common super-aggressive choice winter climbers make.  I do it, and pay for it a significant percentage of the time.  Are you climbing in single boots because of ignorance, thriftiness, or because you absolutely, couldn't-possibly, make the moves in doubles?  Only one of these is valid.  And still won't prevent foot cold injury.  
  • Sometimes I carry the climbing boots while skiing in. Sometimes I'll climb the mellow routes in ski boots.
  • Camping
    • 21x40 inch chunk of new, flat closed cell foam.  No egg-crate shapes, no ridges.  Just flat foam.  HTFU. 
    • Thermarest NeoAir XTherm if I'm feeling extravagant
    • Feathered Friends Widgeon (-10f) or Lark (+10f) sleeping bag.
    • Or, depending on the partner, Feathered Friends Spoonbill bag.
    • Black Diamond "Can't wait 'til" Firstlight.  
    • MSR Reactor and 2 oz per person per day of fuel.  
    • Lighter and matches.
    • Wag bags
  • Tech gear- Basically the same as for day trips.  I'm more apt to shorten the rope and slim the rack and shorten the pitches when the pack's got camping gear in it.  
  • iPhone loaded with books and tv and maps.  
  • Food- Just add water dinners and breakfasts.  Fill a 1 qt ziploc with energy candy and bars etc for each day.  About 1.7-2.0 pounds per person per day total.  Include some vessel to hold hot food (usually a freeze dried envelope. But sometimes a rigid bowl) and something to eat it with: a light spoon. 
  • Toiletries. Toothpaste and brush, eye care, sunscreen, personal medications. 
  • All packed into the Camp M3. Yeah, it fits. If it's real big and sloggy, I have a Cold Cold World Chaos.  But that's less alpine and more expedition-like.  

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Three Things Thursday, Issue 10

Training time. 
Quotes, and only quotes.

On training:

  • "Strong people are harder to kill, and more useful in general" – Mark Rippetoe
And on execution:
  • "We must be on the rock while we are young and strong" – Layton Kor
  • only those will ever know who give the freest and most buoyant portion of their lives to climbing and seeing for themselves.” – John Muir

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Ski Mountaineering Gear, Winter 2015-2016

Ski mountaineering is a broad category. People practice a wide range of skiing and refer to it as ski mountaineering. One way to define ski mountaineering is skiing in which the hazard or concern is something other than, or in addition to, avalanches. Maybe you're going for speed on a low-hazard day. Maybe you're going for distance over multiple passes. Maybe its spring-time corn touring.  Perhaps its high altitude, or glaciated, or requires technical climbing equipment and skill. Here are some thoughts and notes on what I carry for this.  To see what I use on "simpler" missions, check out this article. To see what I carry for winter alpine climbing, check this out.

I've gotten in the habit of updating this every year. This is the latest, as of November 2015. Ski season this year has already launched, two months earlier than I got on skis last year. Whoa. Incidentally, the ski "quiver" isn't as simple as outlined here. Each winter now I test some skis for In that capacity I'll have four different sets to choose from this year, in addition to the skis I already own.

Ski Gear.  Keep it small, light and simple.  Use skill to negotiate funky snow and terrain:
  • Dynafit TLT 6P boots
  • Dynafit PDG skis (or Fischer Hannibal 94)
  • Dynafit mohair skins (or Fischer skins)
  • Dynafit race bindings (or Dynafit Speed Turn)
  • Fixed length poles. Equipped with a sweet "Pole Clinometer" 
Clothes.  Most carry and wear too much.  Keep it simple, move fast, carry an awesome puffy jacket. 

Safety Gear, etc:
  • Backcountry Access Tracker 3 Transceiver, BCA B1 shovel, BCA Carbon Probe.
  • Communication
    • Almost always have a set of BC Link Radios for comms within the group. 
    • And then, in terms of talking to the outside world, sometimes as simple as a cell phone, sometimes a SPOT Device, occasionally (mainly in Canada) a 2-meter, 2-way radio, and more and more my Iridium GO Smartphone modem.  Adventure is awesome, thriftiness is noble, but failure to consider communication with the outside world is ridiculous.
  • Navigation- 80% of the time the phone, preloaded with maps and apps, is enough.  Carry a "back-up" paper map and analog compass.  In big, new-to-me, complicated terrain where visibility is likely to shut down, I'll bring the full kit:  Dedicated GPS (Suunto Ambit 2), large-scale waterproofed paper map, compass, altimeter, clinometer.  
  • Emergency Shelter- Very occasionally it is as simple as the mylar (space blanket style) bivy bag that lives in my omnipresent First Aid/Emergency kit.  Usually though, I bring the 8.5'x8.5' 9 oz Hyperlight Mountain Gear Cuben Tarp.  
  • Emergency Evacuation- Sometimes it's as simple as the bivy or tarp.  Drag someone on that.  In many cases, I'll carry the Brooks Range Eskimo Sled.  If you are not already packing a rope, carry a chunk of cord for dragging a packaged casualty.
  • First aid kit.
  • Ski repair kit.  (it should be around a pound for groups.  Less is probably inadequate.  More is silly.  Let me know if you want more detail on what I carry)
  • Snow Study:  Saw, crystal card, magnifier, ruler, documentation.  Be equipped and trained to make sound decisions for yourself and large column tests for the avalanche center.
  • Food, water. Whatever's clever.  
  • Headlamp
  • Sunscreen, TP, hand sanitizer, lighter. 
  • If I need a rope while skiing it's almost never less than a 40m half rope.  If I need a rope while skiing it's almost never more than a 60m single rope.  
  • Spikes.  As it gets steeper and firmer, add in this order: 
  • Also as needed:
    • Camp Speed 2.0 Helmet
    • CAMP Blitz Harness
    • Rack of gear.  If it requires more than 5 of anything (cams, nuts, screws, slings) leave the skis behind.  
  • Glaciers?  Crevasse rescue skills and equipment.  
  • Pack:  Maybe the BCA balloon pack, maybe an alpine pack (Camp M3), maybe the little CAMP Rapid race pack.  
Multi Day Ski Touring
This is what we live for.  Getting way out there, going out of contact.  Seeing what few get to see.  Most of the gear is the same as for day trips.  But you'll add in camping gear.  And eliminate some things.  You won't need emergency shelter if you have a dedicated tent, for instance.  
Living the good life in British Columbia's Coast Range.  April 2013.

  • Shelter.  I pick from three, in increasing weight and weather protection:  Black Diamond Betalight, Black Diamond Firstlight, and Hilleberg Nallo 2.  
  • Feathered Friends Widgeon -10 sleeping bag.
  • Thermarest NeoAir XTherm.
  • MSR Reactor with 2 oz per person per day of fuel
  • Lighter and matches.
  • Bigger Pack.  Hyperlight Mountain Gear 4400 Ice Pack
  • Food.  Just add water for dinner and breakfast.  A mess of bars and energy candy and jerky and cheese for lunches.  It should all add up to about 2 pounds per person per day.  Depending on individual metabolism and work load. You'll need some way to serve and eat this food. Lightest is to just use the first night's freeze dried bag. And a spoon. 
  • Toiletries. Toothpaste and brush, eye care, sunscreen, personal medications.
  • Water bottles.  2 gatorade bottles.  Nothing more, nothing less.  

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Three Things Thursday. Issue 9

Winter Begins. This morning, ski touring for exercise near Tennessee Pass, CO. 

More on the cerebral side of our mountain pursuits. Everyone has their own mental game going on. There are demographic patterns, mainly age and gender based, but we all have moments of humanity to alternately embrace and overcome. I like these articles about humanity in the mountains.

  • Great buddy Sheldon on the "confidence gap"
  • Ultra sender McKenzie, with a different angle, on the same thing.
  • It ain't mental stuff, but I have access to a couple gear deals. Shoot me an email if you want the code for discount on Patagonia stuff (expires tomorrow) and Backcountry Access (expires Nov 18). 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Three Things Thursday, Issue 8

We've all gotta reduce our impact out there. For a long time now there's been the classic "Leave No Trace" guidelines. just having these things on your mind is bound to reduce your impact in the wild. And now other organizations are building specialized protocols tailored to specific activities. Check 'em all out, give it some thought, and tread a little more lightly.

  • Classic Leave No Trace
  • The Access Fund has developed The Pact, targeted at crag-style rock climbing and bouldering. 
  • The Winter Wildlands Alliance has taken the original seven LNT guidelines, and expanded upon them for winter recreation

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Three Things Thursday. Issue 7.

IC Posse climbing

  • Habits of ski, snow and avalanche pros. Certified Ski Mountaineering guide and Exum guide (and friend) Sarah Carpenter has cooked up what is perhaps the best "checklist" for ski touring and avalanche safety. 
  • One of the best reasons to use a standardized checklist for decision-making and execution in high-conseqence, complex situations (like alpine climbing or backcountry skiing) is that our memories are poor. There are many studies out there, in addition to anecdotal evidence of course, documenting just how poor even "good" memories can be. I find the study of "flash bulb" memories to be the most illuminating. 
  • I get all wound up on the decision-making/risk-management type of stuff. I think what goes on in our brains is the most important part of keeping safe in the mountains. But keeping safe is just part of the process. Being super stoked is another part. Acquaintance and mega spray-master Vitaliy is ultra stoked. Surf through his website if you want to see huge motivation! 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Three Things Thursday. Issue 6

Happy Anniversary to Meagan and I! Don't worry, I set this up to "auto-publish"while she and I celebrate together in the Utah backcountry. 

Solo time in Granite, CO. Speaking of granite, get your #garmontgranite photos entered on Instagram to win a sweet pair of shoes. No catch, just one winner of sweet shoes. 

  • Pick the right boots. Let Ian help you. My favorites: 
  • Educate thyself on the Dunning-Kruger effect. In short, we all have a gap between what we know and what we think we know. Beginners in any field have a bigger gap than the more experienced and/or better trained in that same field. The more you know, the better you know what it is you know. Beginners: beware. It's "common sense", but not. All at the same time. 
  • Ski season approaches. And there ain't much better stoke for the high, wild, and steep than the trip reports of madman Sky Sjue. Dig through for more than your share of inspiration.  My favorite is the Liberty Ridge in-a-day report. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Little Fish

Karl Birkeland is the director of the National Avalanche
Center. Colorado Snow and Ava Workshop. 10/2015
Dad doesn’t fish a lot, but he has always had wise words about fish and ponds. Specifically, he uses the fish-and-ponds-and-their-relative-sizes metaphor. I remember nothing specific about his fish and pond advice, but I know what has sunk in. Be careful when you start to feel like the big fish in a little pond. That feels good, but life’s real growth comes when the little fish has to scramble for scraps in the big pond.

Now, ego is what it is, and feelings are what they are. While very nice things have been said about me, it would be hard to defend the idea that I’ve ever been a big fish in any size pond. But I have taken recent months to intentionally put myself in the position of a tiny fish in a variety of big ponds. And it’s hard as heck. It is quite the lesson in humility to be the full-time, respected professional at the bottom of the heap. If the humility growth is significant, however, it is all the other lessons that are absolutely huge. My dad isn’t the only one to recommend being the dumbest person in the room, but he’s the one I respect the most. All these smart people know that learning and growth accelerates through the roof when one teams up with the more experienced and stronger. 

Who wouldn't jump at the chance to teach alongside Tommy
Caldwell? ROCKProject 10/15

What does that look like for a mountain guide and professional climber/skier? That’s a good question. I’ve lived much of my life directed by my father’s fish and pond admonitions. That intentional search for mentorship and inspiration underlays much of what I do. If I could build my entire annual schedule around educational opportunities and mentored experiences, I would. However, I must also make a living. Education and apprenticeships are expensive, at the very least with the opportunity cost of not working. The trick, therefore, has been to balance paid work with new lessons and terrain and to find ways to receive compensation while also working under more experienced practitioners. This year, 2015, I have, better than ever before, minimized my ichthyological size while maximizing the bodies of proverbial water I'm swimming. 

To get the lessons and growth, you must give things up. First, let go of familiarity. In 2015 I have on-sighted more terrain, both on the clock and off, than ever before. I skied, for work and for play, on new terrain in Canada, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, and even California. On known terrain, on skis, one can generally go closer to that avalanche hazard line, and go a little longer. New terrain offers lessons, but requires conservatism. Climbing is similar. Climbing and guiding unknown routes is slower and more mentally taxing. That mental stimulus, however, is rewarded with a skill-improving response that makes one better and better. 
Josh Beckner. School for International Expedition Training. 6/15

Next, give up some pay. I worked in Peru this year, under the amazing supervision and mentorship of expedition guru (and good friend) Josh Beckner. I made considerably less than I could have made in another setting, but my professional growth was exponential. The mental stress of on-sighting was there, and the financial compromise is stressful, but the overall advancement was well worth it. In other instances, primarily the last couple weeks this fall, I have forgone paid work in the interest of volunteering, co-teaching, conference attendance, and formal professional development. This latest binge of non-paid time has been taxing. I woke this morning with my body and mind feeling the same sort of relief and satisfaction that follows a big stint of guiding, without the financial reward that those big stints bring. Basically, over the last two weeks I have received no compensation, but have gotten up before dark more days than not. I have climbed precious little. As the lessons and experiences continue to sink in, however, the value will overcome the financial stress. I am a better climber, skier, and professional because of time spent volunteering, studying, and trying these recent days. 

Finally, let go of the pride. I worked for almost ten years in the Sierra. In that time I put myself on the top of the heap, so to speak. Other than company owners, I was the most experienced and well-trained guide in the entire range. I had clients coming directly to me, by reputation alone. I had other guides in all stages of their careers come to me for advice and guidance. Climbers and skiers sought out my intimate terrain knowledge. The experience and terrain familiarity I developed there will go no where. But my “status” there is gone. That status means nothing to
The Exum guide team holds an amazing depth and breadth of
experience and knowledge. Grand Teton, 9/15
anyone but me. But it was valuable. It mattered to me, it turns out. To switch gears this summer made sense, in a variety of ways. Going to the Tetons to work for Exum was closer to where my wife would spend her summer. The Teton region is one in which both Meagan and I can envision spending at least the next stage of our shared life. The Sierra is not. However, pulling up Sierra roots and being the “new guy” on the Exum roster was a challenge. Thankfully Exum is full of experience and history and institutional power. My position at Exum is very much that of the tiny fish in the huge pond. It is a friendly body of water, welcoming and supportive. But the big fish are powerful and experienced. I have much to learn from the Exum and Teton community. I can’t possibly live long enough to develop the terrain familiarity that top Exum climbers and skiers have. 
Talking avalanche rescue with the big dogs.
LouDawson on the left, Bruce Edgerly on the right.
A-Basin, 10/15.

You have heard this sort of thing before. But, if you’re anything like me, general advice like “surround yourself with challenge and strong mentors” is a little vague. As a general life philosophy, it is sure to guide you in the right directions. Having that guidance rattling around in the back of your mind will help steer choices to the path that encourages rapid and significant growth. When it comes to the guiding and mountain life, hopefully my few examples here will suggest at least slightly more concrete options.  

The original fish in a new pond. Dad, his jeep, and immense Moab cliffs. 10/14

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Three Things Thursday. Issue #5

Jake Gerry. Mayflower Traverse. October 7, 2015

  • Inflammation kills. Athletes, fight it with a "recovery shower". Cycling hot and cold is proven by science and Scandinavians to reduce intramuscular inflammation and in turn aid in recovery from training. Recover better: perform better. 
  • Life is balance, right? For us mountain types, in our thirties, the most fascinating components to balance are mountains and social or family time. Sometimes they come together, but often they are at odds. Some give up one in favor of the other. But I'm not into that. I find balance in time management. And binges. I work a ton, all at once. I ski a ton, all at once. I spend a ton of time with Meagan, all together. I take weeks to go back east and visit family. And I admire those that find their own balance. I don't know Jim Herson personally, but I feel as though I do. His web presence, and "coverage" of his family and climbing time is legendary. You should check him out. Whether you climb or not, whether you have kids or not, whether you want kids or not, he's got something for you. Dig through his site.  
  • Climbing locations aren't all sunsets and rainbows and neon lichen. Sometimes there's graffiti. Sometimes it's worth taking some time to clean that graffiti up. Ideally, work with your local climbing organization. And use "Elephant Snot". That's really what its called. And it's made by a company called Graffiti Solutions. No joke. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Three Things Thursday, Issue #4

Lone Peak Cirque, Utah. 9/20/15. Climber: Josh Beckner

  • I can get you a deal on any of Evolv's Cruzer shoe line, for a limited time. Tag me and #evolvcruzers in an Instagram photo if you want the code. (Or just shoot me an email.)
  • Poop smart. I love traveling light. I'll leave all sorts of amenities behind. But we have a responsibility to the land. Dealing with our feces responsibly is high on the list of important things. Sometimes there are facilities for us, sometimes we carry it out, but many times we need to bury it. I don't care how clever you are, you won't dig as deep a hole without a tool of some sort. Your ice axe works, but you won't always have that. All the rest of the time? Bring a trowel. Please. 
  • This is my favorite trip report in a while. I'm biased, but I think Ian's ridge-climbing acumen and accomplishments makes him one of the country's best traversers, ever. And he gives us all this great window into his latest creation.  

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Three Things Thursday. Issue #3

I'm on the road this week. It goes like this: Leadville-Ridgway-Salt Lake-Bishop-Hulk-Palisades-Mammoth-Leadville. All in about 10 days. Ouch.

Obscure, weirdness. 9/18/2015

  • In guiding, I interact with an amazing array of passionate people. Many of the most impassioned are chasing some specific goal. Many of those are pursuing some sort of list completion. The most ambitious of the list seekers consult "Lists of John". Check it out, if you dare engage this sort of number-cruncher's inspiration. 
  • Pocket app. Everybody's got their favorite apps. This is one of my most recent favorites. Basically, it allows one to save any website for off-line viewing. It works with your computer browser and various social media apps to save content to your phone. What's the backcountry application? Well, first, I save weather and avalanche forecasts using it. Once in the wild, I never need again to try and remember exactly what the forecast was. Next, rather than kill precious social and "front-country" time reading the news and other articles, I save interesting links to Pocket. I can then read them during tent nights in the backcountry. 
  • Garmont and I are giving away a free pair of the DragonTail approach shoes. It's an Instagram photo contest. Post up a shot of some backcountry granite climbing this past summer. Equip it with a clever caption including little or nothing more than @garmontboots, @JediahPorter, and #garmontgranite. We'll announce the winner on October 15. (Incidentally, that's my wedding anniversary...) 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Three Things Thursday, Issue #2

This week, summer ends. Officially. It's snowing some places, with perfect rock climbing temperatures in many others. Git some. 

Warbonnet Peak, Winds. 9/5/2015

This week's tidbits
  • I know, I know... One of my three things last week was a death too. But damn, it happens. By far the most crushing news in my world this week is the passing of legend and mentor Bela Vadasz. While I would run into him periodically at guide gatherings and in the mountains, my most intimate experience with the guy was during my first AMGA ski course. In 2008 we toured up and down the Sierra, on peaks and terrain spanning hundreds of miles. I was, to put it mildly, starstruck to be skiing with, and learning from, this California and world-wide legend. On that course, near the end, Bela injured himself and had to be evacuated by helicopter. Years later I spoke with the rescuer that day. Dave G, from Inyo County SAR, remembers Bela in excruciating pain but continuing to instruct all of us students. 

  • There are many perspectives from which to view the explosion in popularity of gym climbing. As a climbing professional, I embrace the approach of more and more potential partners and guests. As one who values quiet, open space, I have some trepidation about the onslaught of this athletically-motivated, somewhat outdoors-ignorant cohort. Thankfully, the business as a whole is being proactive with assisting climbers through the gym-to-crag transition. Most readers here have likely already made that transition. We can help out now. I, for one, am stoked to be participating in a few weeks in Access Fund's ROCKProject, Denver. AccessFund is leading the way, while most gyms and large guide services are picking up the momentum with their own "head outside" programs. All such programs emphasize making this transition safely and with due consideration to the natural landscape and environment. It's an honor to be part of a proactive, positive movement at an exciting time in climbing history. 

Bela never withheld the kind words!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Winding the Winds

Viren motoring to the next climb. George Creek,
California. August 2014. 

I have mixed feelings about climbing with people after Viren has had his way with them. 

Viren Perumal, one of my best buds and a solid guide and instructor, has a very loyal following. He fills his seasons with strong guests on ambitious itineraries, year after year. With my expanding horizons, professionally, I have something to offer his guests now. He referred Phil to me this summer for some Wyoming climbing. 

What are those mixed feelings, you ask? First, I was intimidated. Phil is a huge Viren fan. As am I. Could I hold a candle? Next, it is an absolute pleasure to adventure with such a well-trained climber. Viren has made this guy badass! Phil's rock solid. He's relatively new to climbing, past his Social Security retirement age, and doing it essentially only on yearly vacations. Almost regardless of these qualifiers, his performance is absolutely remarkable. Finally, the itineraries that Phil is accustomed to are brutal! In six days in the Wind River Range we walked almost forty miles and climbed 34 pitches. Phil thinks this is a “normal” climbing vacation. Little does he know that the Viren experience is anything but normal. 

I basically closed out my Wyoming season with a binge in the Wind River Range. A returning client and Phil both booked trips there, and they turned out to be back to back. It was perfect. Now, my departure from the Sierra has been bittersweet. One of the things I miss the most is the amazing alpine granite climbing. The Cirque of the Towers is a little slice of Sierra-worthy granite perfection in the middle of wild Wyoming. Don't tell the Sierra, but Cali doesn't have the lock-down on wild adventure climbing. 
Phil on pitch 12 of 14. East Face, Pingora.
Wind River Range. September 1, 2015

The time with Phil showed me just how valuable excellent climbing instruction is. Our guide community is actively involved in a dialog about the distinction between, and the symbiotic value of both guiding and instruction. Our most recent trade publication, the AMGA's "Guide Bulletin" is entirely devoted to discussing this distinction and diversity. Phil, into middle age was, in his own words, "pathologically acrophobic."  Something about climbing appealed to him, and he had the excellent fortune to tie in with Viren early on. Viren is an educator. He cares about the details, the big picture, and he can articulate it to anyone. Basically, if you are looking to advance your climbing from any level, Viren is your guy. I've learned much from him, and intend to continue to do so. His influence is so strong that simply by climbing with Phil I feel I learned more from Viren over that week. 

Get good climbing instruction. It matters.