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Plan B on Gutless Wonder 5.14b

February 9th, 2015
Ben Rueck on Gutless Wonder -- 5.14b, Fault Wall, Puoux -- Glenwood Springs, CO

Ben Rueck on Gutless Wonder — 5.14b, Fault Wall, Puoux — Glenwood Springs, CO

 

If there’s one thing you can count on during any photo or video shoot, it’s that you can’t count on anything.  It was a simple enough plan: Get together with a couple of pro climbers, film them on one of the most exquisite routes in SW Colorado, have some good times, then head on home.  Mission complete.

Don’t get me wrong, just like any other shoot, there was a ton of logistical planning involved.  Multiple shotlists were written.  Engineering obstacles on how to safely and effectively rig cameras on an overhanging 5.13+ finger crack were tackled.  Assistants were hired.  Groceries were bought.  Sleeping accommodations were booked.  Truck was packed full of camera gear, rigging equipment and a case of home-brew. All ducks were in a militant little row.

As I rolled into Grand Junction, I found myself driving straight into the inhospitable embrace of a winter storm, stoke level dropping faster than the mercury.

Now, you may be asking yourself, ‘Dan, during all of your careful planning, why didn’t you bother to check the weather report?’

Ahh, that’s a wonderful question.  You see, while a blustery curtain of white obscured our view of the great sandstone splitters of Escalante Canyon, the current weather forecast insisted that we were standing under clear, sunny skies.

Knowing exactly what to do in situations like this, I opened up the tailgate, pushed the case of homebrew aside and reached for a flask of bourbon.  It was time for Plan B.

The problem was, we had no ‘Plan B.’
Plan A= Amazing.  Plan B=Not so much

The crew, consisting of Ben Rueck, Sam Feuerborn, Mayan Smith-Gobat and I, decided to head back to town with our tails between our legs. As the truck warmed up and took the chill from our bones, we moaned about the seeping and now unprotectable cracks that would take days to dry…even if the sun were shining.  Options were few.  Indian Creek would surely be in the same, sad condition.  Likewise for Moab.

It was then that Mayan chimed in with her charming Kiwi accent, “It’ll be cold, but why not shoot the Puoux?”  Of course!  Among the overhanging limestone walls of Glenwood Springs, there was a gem of a climb called ‘Gutless Wonder.’  The route, which took two agonizing years of Ben’s life to complete, would offer just enough shelter from the roving mountain storm…probably.  I could see the pain on Ben’s face as soon as it was mentioned. It was a route he thought was in the rearview, one which he had never expected to revisit this soon, if ever again.  Having sent the route less than a year before, the wounds were still fresh in his mind.

We took refuge in a local coffee shop, closing the door on the thick clouds that loomed in the cold, dark sky. As Ben and I scribbled out a shot list, we faced the fact that this would be a run and gun mission. We’d be attempting to film a 5.14b route in single digit temps on the side of Colorado’s busiest & loudest highway. Because we were shooting on the Winter Solstice, the shortest of all days, we would only have a four hour window to film the entire piece. It would be rough, but we now had a plan B.

The wintery conditions were actually perfect. Well, maybe not for Ben – but definitely for the shoot.  The thick buffer of clouds diffused the intense Colorado sun, providing us with soft, even light.  As it turned out, this high mountain weather painfully echoed the same conditions Ben endured when he finally sent Gutless in 2014, so the agony you see in this video is quite authentic.

 

 

My name is holz2Dan Holz, and I have the good fortune of being the staff photographer for Osprey Packs.  Photography has been a passion of mine since grade school and I’ve used it as a vehicle to take me everywhere from my backyard in Colorado to the lush jungles of Borneo and the glaciated landscapes of Patagonia. People often ask if I have a ‘specialty.’  It’s kind of a tough question, because while I specialize in active lifestyle and mountain sport photography, I find myself chasing the magic light more than anything else.  If the face of a Nepali farmer is suddenly cast in the beautiful shadow of contrast, I become a portrait photographer in that moment.  Or if a setting sun embraces a rice paddy outside of Chiang Mai, for an instant I’m a landscape photographer. As a photographer, I am always exploring self-expression and pushing the limits of what I – and my camera – can do.  It’s a passion, it’s a job, it’s a lifestyle all wrapped up in a single package.  And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

 

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Around the World: Alison Gannett’s Favorite Places to Ski

February 4th, 2015

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I’m often asked about my favorite places to ski, so here are some of my recommendations from around the world:

Kootnay Mountains, British Columbia’s Red Mountain Resort and Whitewater Resorts:
While I love almost all of the skiing in BC, I’m choosing this area because of the consistently great snow that adheres to rocks, GREAT ski towns, the friendliest locals, phenomenally varied steep terrain, affordability and easy access (flights to Spokane,Washington,USA and short drive across border). When folks ask me if and where I have a pass, I respond that I don’t, but if I did I wish it was here and I wish I could live in Nelson or Rossland! Almost nowhere in the world have I experienced pillows like those in Steep Roots at Red Mountain, or powder that felt like backcountry but was actually inbounds like in Whitewater. It’s no wonder I choose to spend most of my season at these two places and that I run most of my Steep Skiing Camps in the Kootnays. What I also adore is the non-resort vibe at these towns/ski areas – reminds me of my childhood at Crotched Mountain New Hampshire. This is skiing as it should be.

Tip: Don’t miss the $25 dorm rooms at the Adventure Hotel or pay-as-you can or trade for rooms at Angie’s B&B. Don’t forget about the great slackcountry — bring all your backcountry gear almost every day to these areas.

 

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Verbier, Switzerland + Chamonix, France or La Grave + Serre Chevalier, France:
I’m mushing these together because different folks may want one over the other or, ideally, both. Both are beyond words when using the lifts to access the backcountry. When I want to scare myself, I go to ski the couloirs in Cham. Besides Argentina, I don’t think I’ve ever almost peed my pants like when we skied the Rhonde when icy, and a guide died that day in the couloir next door in the same hour. I’ve also skied almost 7,000 feet of blower snow in a chute almost all to ourselves. Verbier also has epic backcountry off the lifts, but it is more wide open peak to peak adventure skiing and if you want to end up at a place with a bus or train back where you started, hire a guide or make a good friend at the bar. Another strong contender in this category is La Grave (pucker factor even higher than Cham) and Serre Chevalier (OMG steep trees/spines).

Tip: Be prepared to always wear a harness/crevasse rescue gear and use a rope frequently. Make sure to have great maps and at least two ski touring guides.
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Manali, Indian Himalayas:

Typical response, “what Mountains are there?” Duh, they’re the HIMALAYAS, only the greatest, tallest and most epic mountain range in the WORLD. But great mountains don’t always make for a great skiing experience. Case in point, I adore skiing in the Chugatch Range of Alaska (Valdez, etc), but the rest – grey weather, greasy food, epic down time, heli expense, lack of trees for backcountry hiking on gray days, etc.) don’t contribute to my absolute favorite overall experience. Manali is an breathtaking Indian honeymoon destination, which changes everything. Epically tasty and inexpensive cuisine, no AK47’s like Kashmir/Gulmarg, colorful and almost weekly Buddhist and Hindu  festivals, 5-star lodging and service at a budget hostel expense, Colorado-like weather/snow with Utah-like Intercontinental snowpack, and the mountains? Well, need I say more? Don’t leave home without: CR Spooner’s book “Ski Touring India’s Kullu Valley.”

Tip: Use airline miles for dirt bag trip sidetrip and go surfing in Sri Lanka!
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To Be Continued…

 

Osprey Athlete ALISON GANNETT is a self-sufficient farmer, World Champion Extreme FreeSkier, mountain biker, award-winning global cooling consultant and founder of the multiple non-profits. In addition to being an athlete, ambassador and keynote speaking, Alison runs KEEN Rippin Chix Camps which offer women’s steep skiing, biking and surf camps around the globe. She has starred in many movies, TV shows, and magazines receiving many awards for her work including National Geographic’s “Woman Adventurer of the Year,” Powder Magazine’s “48 Greatest Skiers of All Time,” and Outside Magazine’s “Green All-Star of the Year.”  In 2010, she and her husband Jason bought Holy Terror Farm, kicking off their next chapter of personal health and self-sustainability.

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2015 #MusicMondays with Osprey Packs and Jam In The Van!

February 2nd, 2015

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Jam in the Van is one seriously epic road trip, touring from one festival to the next and collaborating with both established and up-and-coming musical talent to provide listeners around the world with original recordings from the world’s first solar-powered “music discovery vehicle.”  If you search through the live recordings on Jam in the Van’s website you’ll quickly notice what makes them unique — Jam in the Van shares music by artists whose work spans a variety of genres and whose performances are guaranteed to be entertaining — and each video uploaded by the Jam in the Van crew offers music-lovers the chance to enjoy a live performance by artists recorded inside the “heady” location that is the Jam in the Van mobile studio. As music aficionados ourselves, Osprey Packs is pleased to announce Jam In the Van as our official music partner for the festival season of 2015! Jam in the Van and Osprey Packs will be releasing 2 live performances a month, better known as #MusicMondays, to help you get rid those funky, skunky Monday Blues and hopefully give you a little extra pep in your step!

To kick off this fabulous February, Jam in the Van has introduced us to the 14ers!

The 14ers have a special place in the heart of the Jam in the Van crew being as that they were one of  the first artists whose music was recorded recorded in the mobile Jam in the Van studio! We’ve also become quite fond of 14ers because their name represents the highest mountain peaks in our home state of Colorado. As the lead singer Ryan Kirkpatrick puts it, “I don’t care who you are. It doesn’t matter where you come from. I’ve got the altitude…come and get some!” – we can dig and we hope you do too!

Like what you hear? Check out other #MusicMondays from 2014!

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The Moto Diary – A Trip through Columbia by Motorcycle

January 12th, 2015

Osprey Packs Ambassador Matt Hayes is a resident of Boulder, Colorado as far as the postal service knows. Since graduating from the University of Colorado he’s actually lived in 3 different states and 5 countries. Matt learned the intricacies of broadcast production and still photography in college, how to twirl wrenches working in bike shops for a decade, and how to race mountain bikes by getting beaten all the time. His other skills include playing the saxophone, jumping off cliffs into powder fields, rocking a mohawk, and eating nachos with two hands while riding a bike. He is a certified EMT, is currently enjoying a budding “career,” and shortly will commence saving the world. 

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While Colorado is an amazing place to live, Autumn can be a bit boring as the bike trails get a blanket of snow but haven’t collected quite enough to start skiing. Consequently, I decided to spend a few months this Fall in South America guiding mountain bike trips and riding through Colombia on a 125cc two-stoke motorcycle.

I left my temporary home in San Gil, Colombia and headed north towards the coast. Honestly, I didn’t really expect my 1996 Yamaha DT to survive the trip. A favorite model of the drug-runners in the mid-90’s, my motorcycle had already had two gaskets leak, the clutch fail, and the throttle seize in the two months I had owned it.

I was a little surprised and completely overjoyed when I pulled into the Costeño Beach hostel outside of Santa Marta. After a few days frolicking on the beach I set off towards Riohacha.Beach Moto

The highway hugged the coast line and every hill crested led to a beautiful beachfront view. It was gorgeous and I eventually had to force myself to stop taking pictures for fear I wouldn’t actually complete any mileage.

I shouldn’t have worried so much – about an hour later the road turned flat, straight, and hot. I cruised to the city of Riohacha, got some lunch, and took a dirt road out of town that led straight into an impassible river. Negotiating a different route out of the city, I saw a sign for The Beaches of Mayapo. I remembered seeing a map of a small road that wound along the beach ending up in Quatro Vias which I wanted to check out so I followed the sign.

The road surface was one of the best I had encountered in Colombia so I figured it was a main road, which was good because I knew I was low on gas. The long sweeping corners with nothing to obstruct the view allowed me to push the little 125 as fast as it would go. I was having a blast until the road suddenly, without warning, turned to a network of spidering dirt trails.

Roadside3This was completely outside my frame of reference. How does a main road disintegrate to unmarked trails within a meter? There was no town, no turn around point, no road signs. All I could do was shrug and go back the way I came.

As the sun set I flirted with the idea of camping for the night but ultimately decided to find a cheap hotel. The road was just as fun on the way back and I was feeling euphoric until the bike sputtered and died as it ran out of gas. Exasperation set in.

I started pushing the bike until I found two security guards chatting by a school. I told them I needed gas and they answered in the most accent-riddled Spanish I have ever heard. I couldn’t even understand the word for “10.” Luckily they understood me fine and eventually we worked out that one of them would walk about 2km with me to a cluster of homes where some guy had some gas.

One of the main features I like on the Osprey Farpoint is the removable daypack. It’s perfectly sized to hold my valuables without being bulky, and it can stow inside the main pack if there’s room which is how I had been traveling. I grabbed the small pack and we started walking down sand footpaths into the dark. I was sure I was going to get gas or get robbed, but I had no idea which one.

After several random turns we arrived at a trailer where a disheveled man showed us to a locked shed. He opened it, and as his flashlight darted around I saw 10 or 15 five-gallon containers all presumably filled with gasoline. He sold us a few gallons which I lugged back.

With new gas the bike fired right up and, after thanking the guards profusely, I backtracked towards Riohacha yet again.

I was exhausted, sick, anxious, and even a bit scared as I followed the deserted road but the stars overhead were mesmerizing. I stopped, turned off the bike, and starred at them for a few minutes. I felt like I was on a big journey but I was only venturing arouRoadside1nd one part of one country on one planet. I felt far from home, but my DT125 topped out around 70kmh and I had only been riding for a few days. The star light had been traveling at a billion kmh for 100’s or 1000’s of years to get to the same spot. Granted – light doesn’t have to deal with running out of gas, getting directions, mechanical failures, or FARC kidnappings, but it still made me feel infinitesimally small and my problems even smaller.

I stopped at the first hotel I found, and with thoughts of all the problems that day juxtaposing the immensity of the universe I climbed into bed excited for the next day’s adventure.

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The Largest Ice Festival In North America: Ouray Ice Festival Celebrates 20 Years

January 7th, 2015

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If you’ve never attended the largest ice climbing festival in North America, we can certainly give you a few reasons to come out for the 20th Annual Ouray Ice Fest. This celebration of ice climbing takes place in our beloved backyard of Southwest Colorado, January 8th-11th. Osprey Packs has been attending the Ouray Ice Festival for almost a decade and each year the festival manages to outshine the previous year with exceptional clinics from professional athletes, gear demos from over 20 sponsors, and, most importantly, awe-inspiring ice climbing competitions featuring top competitors from all over the world.

Ouray Festival Clinic

The park itself is an attraction worth seeing — for months preceding the festival, the Ouray Ice Park “Ice Farmers” have been cultivating immaculate, deep blue pillars of ice. The pillars stand a few hundred feet tall, towering above festival-goers in the small box canyon outside of Ouray. The stent of the ice-formed “hallways” provides over 200 ice climbing routes and makes a perfect playground for every ice climbing enthusiast, from skilled professional athletes to aspiring first-timers.

Need another reason to head to Ouray? How about demos from some of the top outdoor industry companies in the sport? Each day of the festival includes the opportunity to demo the latest and greatest from gear and apparel companies like Outdoor Research, Petzl, La Sportiva and of course, Osprey Packs! If you find gear that you like, you can test it out in one of the many clinics offered by San Juan Mountain Guides. All of the clinics offered during the Ouray Ice Festival are taught by world-class ice climbers and athletes, including Conrad Anker, Will Gadd, Kyle Dempster, and Osprey’s very own Ben Clark and Marcus Garcia!

After an exhilarating day of watching the competitions, testing gear and perfecting your ice techniques in the park, you’ll want to check out the additional events happening after-hours in the town of Ouray. There will be a celebratory kick-off on Thursday, a fashion show on Friday and “Prom Night” put on by Petzl on Saturday! Here’s a complete list of events.

 Osprey Packs will be located in the Gear Expo area just above the park and we will have several great on-site activities that you won’t want to miss:

Demo our packs: Whether you own an Osprey pack or in the market for a climbing pack, come try out our updated Mutant or Variant packs. Both of these provide unique features that can complete your ice climbing experience, whether it’s in the backcountry or at the park! 15_OurayIceFest_Demo_403x403

Win a pack! Take our 3 minute Event Survey and you will be entered to win an Osprey Packs Limited Edition Trip 20, ideal for multi-pitches, day-hikes and everything in between. We will select a winner each day of the festival at approximately 3 PM.

Fit Specialist on Site: Our staff are the cream of the crop when it comes to finding and fitting the perfect pack for you. Feel free to stop by and ask questions, geek out on our gear, or receive  advice on what is best for your upcoming travels, treks & endeavors.

20% off all Osprey Packs at Ouray Mountain Sports: It’s a “Win-Win” if you’ve found the right pack for you: after trying on and testing out a demo pack you’ll receive a 20% off the at local Osprey Packs retailer Ouray Mountain Sports, located conveniently in town.

Clinic With Osprey Athlete Marcus Garcia: San Juan Mountain Guides is a premiere guide company in Southwest Colorado and a longtime partner of Osprey Packs. SJMG works with top-tier athletes from all over the world to bring you the highest quality clinics and experiences. Maximize your experience at the Ouray Ice Festival by signing up for one of SJMG’s clinics, taking place Friday, Saturday and half of Sunday. Most of the clinics are full or filling up rapidly, but check out the remaining clinic, “Introduction to Ice Climbing” with Osprey Athlete and local CO legend, Marcus Garcia.

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Don’t delay — get your axe in gear and get to the

20th Anniversary of the Ouray Ice Festival! 

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Mt. Fuji Skiing with Osprey Athletes Mike & Andy Traslin

December 22nd, 2014

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Fresh off the plane and on our way through customs, we stopped and stared at a poster of Mt Fuji. We were still wearing the Variant 37 ski mountaineering packs we’d crammed into the overhead compartments to avoid extra baggage fees. The stewardess first thought we were participants in “The Amazing Race,” but now with Mt Fuji in front of us, the method to our madness was being revealed. Nevertheless, her comments boosted my motivation for what lay ahead.

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We spent the next tens days climbing and skiing in Hakuba, Kita Alps and surrounding areas. Then we set our sights on Fuji. One evening, I asked the owner of the pension Mr. Maruyama about climbing Mt. Fuji, and his eyes immediately lit up. He grabbed his homemade green tea, some paper and pens, and crafted a hand written map of Mt. Fuji. He spoke few English words, and used his  daughter for translations where needed. He had fond memories of driving to and from Hakuba and Mt Fuji to climb it in a day. “Fuji Attack! Fuji-san Attack! Attack!” I thought I was getting ready for a hockey game, further boosting our motivation. He even lent us his special edition Mt. Fuji mountain bikes. We managed to sneak in a training ride on the local singletrack trails.
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The bus system in the area is efficient when you know what to ask for. We hopped on the bus to Shinjinku en route to Fuji, where we hit a logistics roadblock when we were told ‘no bus to Fuji or climbing’. After scrambling around Shinjinku for alternatives, my brother asked the same people the same questions and sure enough – there was a bus to Fuji that evening. Oh, traveling and language barriers.When got where we needed to be, found a hostel, and lined up a 10am departure for Fuji… just to add to the challenge.

Mt Fuji is known as the most visited mountain in the world, with some 300,000 climbers and hikers each year. We met plenty along the way. The Germans were skeptical about our summit bid, and I wasn’t giving us very good odds either with a late start and clouds hovering on the mountain.

The backpackers blasted off the bus with their running shoes and cotton t-shirts, while we stood with our gear perfectly prepped for departure at the back door. The jammed back door. Waiting for each and every hiker to unload through the front. Not your usual start to a mountain wilderness experience.

We got on the move, and traversed to a sign that detailed a complete ’14 step how-to guide to the summit’. Good to see we were on the right side of the mountain and off to a good start.

 

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Once we hit snowline it was go time and we could safely abandon the signed route and do things the old-fashioned way. Up, up and away, past the T-shirt and running shoe crews.

As I was cresting the crater, a couple of Japanese climbers looked at me from above. No crampons, eh! A couple sporty front point ice moves with no gloves did the trick.

 

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But the true summit was the highest point of the crest, not where we were standing. After some debate with the Japanese about traveling by rock or snow, we of course chose snow. We’re from the Coast after all, and snow travel is always faster. So we wished luck to the rock walkers and sprint skinned to the summit to avoid the impending whiteout.

 

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We’d bagged the summit, but the Amazing Race was far from over. We had a plane to catch. We dropped off the summit and skied epic corn on the 40 degree SE Face, one eye on the snow, one eye on the watch.

 

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Story: Andy Traslin

 

 

 

 

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Learning to Catch Air with Osprey Athlete Alison Gannett

December 19th, 2014

 

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One of the main reasons I started KEEN Rippin Chix Steep Skiing Camps was frustration. There was no information out there regarding catching air, let alone doing it well. In order to win freeskiing competitions, I had to up my game and my airs were just not consistent or confident. I even landed on my face jumping from a tramway in a ski movie. Embarrassing!

So I started asking the top male pros how they did each air, and why did they choose different ways to catch air off of different obstacles. Most responses consisted of “I just go”, “don’t hesitate” and “all air is just the same.” Needless to say, this didn’t help one bit. Clearly there must be certain muscles flexed and not flexed, focal points for the eyes that would increase success, better places to put my hands/arms/shoulders/knees/ankles/ass/etc.

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Years of observation, success and failures have enabled me to develop my own special way to catch air, which ultimately led to my step-by-step process to teach ANYONE to be successful catching air if the desire is there. A memorable moment was teaching three 80-year old ladies and their 90-year old friend – I’ve never seen smiles so large.

So what are the keys to catching air? Read more…

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Hiking The John Muir Trail

December 13th, 2014
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Osprey Athlete Payge McMahon is an adventure athlete, ‘rockin’ yogi’ and journalist who travels the world inspiring others to get outdoors, try new things and start checking off that bucket list.

 

2015 U.S.A. Adventure Recommendation

…and which Osprey Pack you should take!

Payge Osprey Packs John Muir Trail

I’ve backpacked all over the world and the JMT is my all time favorite!

Located in Northern California, this breathtaking trek takes you 221-miles, up and over 11 mountain passes, ranging from 9,703 ft. (Cathedral) to 14,496 (Mt. Whitney), for a total of 84,000 feet of elevation gains and losses.

If you’ve ever wanted to trek the Pacific Crest Trail, but thought the 2,650 miles was just a bit much, do the John Muir Trail instead! A 170 of the 221 miles are on the PCT and you will trek through the most beautiful national parks in the United States. From Yosemite Valley, the John Muir and Ansel Adams Wildernesses, Kings Canyon, Sequoia National Parks and up and over Mt. Whitney to Lone Pine, CA. Enjoy remote the wilderness from; rivers, blue lakes, waterfalls, forests, mountains, deer, marmots to the occasional bear – you will see it all.

The best time to go is from June – August.   The trek is traditionally done in 14-21 days, and if preferred, can also be section hiked.  Most start in Yosemite and go south, but if you want to get the hard elevation out of the way first, start in Lone Pine/Mt. Whitney and go north.  Get your permits early, pack clothes for hot to freezing weather and plan your food wisely.

Read more…

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Holy Terror Farm: Fall Harvest with Alison Gannett

December 3rd, 2014

I love and I hate farming. It all started with a quest to grow and raise all our own food five years ago. I even remember the last month I needed to actually go to the grocery store – April 2010.

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Certainly there are a few key exceptions – coffee for my hubby Jason, chocolate for me, spices that we can’t grow, and life-maintaining Real Salt from Utah – for ourselves and the animals.

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But back to the love and hate thing – I adore having this connection to our land, this feeling that we are doing something immensely important, and this incredible sense of self-reliance. Everyday I learn something new that my grandmother must have done her whole life.

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She never had to figure out make all this garden/orchard/pasture bounty to last for months – to render lard/tallow, make butter, dry herbs and veggies, can tomatoes, ferment peppers/cucumbers, cure squash/pumpkins/nuts/shallots/onions/animal forages (corn, sunflowers, barley, wheat)….the list is endless.

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The days are long, tedious, exhausting – feed, water, harvest, cook, feed, water, irrigate, harvest again, dry, preserve, freeze, jar, vacuum seal. When tasked with putting up all our food for the long winter, quitting is not an option. Skipping out for a bike ride and leaving the tomatoes to freeze and burst or the walnuts to be stolen by the squirrels he “inbox” is never empty.

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But in the end, with the root cellar and freezers full of our 10 months of hard labor, we are pleasantly content to enter the long winter. Now finishing our fifth year, it has gotten a bit easier as we have figured out our ancestor’s systems. And while I wish we could take irresponsible vacations together more often, the “prepper” in me feels ready just in case.

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In reality, I will most likely just have the world record amount of our farm food in all of my Osprey Packs (Transporters, Ozones, Snowplay) as I travel to my many KEEN Rippin Chix Steep Skiing/Adventure/Powder Camps this winter – Silverton, Crystal, Whitewater, Red Mtn and to anywhere the snow is DUMPING! Join me?

Think Snow!

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Life in the Round: Building a Yurt in Montana

December 1st, 2014

Sean & Mollie Busby are Osprey Packs Ambassadors. Sean is a professional backcountry snowboarder. In 2004, while training for the 2010 Olympics, Sean endured a complicated diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. Considering leaving snowboarding all together, Sean was inspired by reading stories of kids living with T1D that inspired him to keep living his dreams. He founded Riding On Insulin, a nonprofit, to honor all the kids who inspired him to keep living. In February 2014, Sean became the first person with T1D to backcountry snowboard all seven continents at the age of 29 in 2014. Mollie Busby graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with degrees in Journalism and Retail. A series of life-changing events brought Mollie and Sean together in February 2010, and after five months, Mollie moved west. The pair was married in September, 2011 and now resides in a 30-foot yurt with their dogs, Daisy and Glacier, in Whitefish, Montana. Follow their adventures at Two Sticks and A Board and to learn more about Sean’s work educating kids about diabetes and winter sports, visit the Riding On Insulin website.

We had never built anything, let alone a home. But today, I’m proud to say that my husband and I live in an off-the-grid yurt, that we built with our bare hands.

The first part of our story begins in 2012. Sean and I had just begun our journey as Greasecar owners with our 1977 Dodge Travel Queen motorhome that we purchased from our co-owners, Russ and Brittany. We’d gotten a taste of living simply on our drive to Alaska and back (Read more of that here). Not only did we utilize a waste product (waste veggie oil) for our motorhome’s fuel and a natural product (Goal Zero solar power) for our electricity, but we learned a lot about using less. Living in small places, making do with what you have, and using the earth in ways it was intended to be used. (Editor’s Note: I wouldn’t recommend driving to Alaska with 4 people and a dog to figure these things out.)

The second phase of our yurt journey was a trip to Central Asia in December of that year. We visited a small, mountainous country called Kyrgyzstan near the birthplace of yurts (Mongolia) where being a yurt-craftsman is a highly respected, lucrative trade. Families depend on the sale of these structures to support themselves. A yurt — simply defined — is a round structure traditionally used by nomadic tribes in Central Asia. ShelterDesigns.net defines it a bit further: “A yurt consists of a round wall and a roof system that is free standing using a tension ring at the wall and a compression ring where the roof rafters tie together.” Some would call it a glorified tent:

While in Kyrgyzstan, Sean and I fell in love with the symmetry and balance we found in traditional yurts. As opposed to the jagged, 90-degree angles of a traditional house, we felt more at ease in these structures where energy can travel with easy throughout the space. Keep in mind, these photos are of very traditional yurts — not quite the same structure we’re putting on our land (we’ll get to that in a minute). For now, I love this photo of Sean — it captures true happiness:

If this family could sell three yurts a year (which they do — sometimes more), they will have enough income to not only survive, but fare extremely well in comparison to families of other trades in the village.

 

Flash forward to Whitefish, spring 2014: Sean had gone back and forth to determine what sort of “tiny structure” we were going to build on our land — tiny house, yurts, fire towers, tee-pees, etc. After months of research, he landed back on a yurt, officially. As if the universe had been waiting for us to decide, Sean came across a pre-assembled yurt for sale on YurtForum.com 20 minutes from our home manufactured by Montana’s Shelter Designs. A Montana-made yurt available LOCALLY… and technically, we would be buying second-hand. It was perfect.

Here is the yurt before we disassembled it in Kalispell, Montana:

Here is a photo of the yurt, reassembled on our property in Whitefish, Montana:

Some hard facts: Our yurt is roughly 700 square feet of living space, plus a loft (300 additional square feet). It’s 1 bedroom (plus sleeping space in the loft) and 1 bathroom, fully wired and plumbed, although we opt for solar power, a composting toilet, and rainwater collection. We have come so far, and yet have so far to go! Stay tuned for more posts from yurt life!

To see photo and read stories of the whole process, from disassembly to building a deck to building the yurt itself and more, click here. You can also follow our travels on Instagram: Mollie @TwoSticksAndABoard and Sean @SeanBusby

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