Archive for October, 2009
The Osprey Brand Team, a group of ambassadors reporting from the field at consumer outdoor events across the country as well as reporting on adventures in their own neck of the woods, delivers the latest from new team member Aimee Cebulski who is on a 6-month world travel adventure. She’s taking an Osprey Sojourn 28 with her (from our new Travel Collection). This is her sixth (and final) update coming to you from Egypt…
One of the top things we both wanted to do during our time in the Middle East/North Africa was to camp somewhere in the desert under the stars…Until we got to Dahab and heard about the Camel Diving Safaris, we hadn’t even thought about combining the desert camp with diving and an ocean view!
Like Baja California, Most of the Sinai is desert right up to the water. As a result, you have several small Bedouin (local) villages set up just along the shore. Buildings are no more than huts with no real walls or roofs to speak of. Since it rains maybe one day a year in the Sinai for about 15 minutes, this isn’t a problem.
Many of the villages (especially those close to interesting dive sites) welcome visitors to stay overnight in one of the many available huts and even cook you dinner and breakfast for a small fee. We decided to do a Camel Dive Safari out to Ras Abu Galum, an almost untouched dive site with far fewer visitors than other parts of the Sinai.
Ras Abu is only accessible via boat or camel – No roads. Many dive shops organize Camel Dive Safaris where you hire a local guide and local camels to take you and all the necessary dive gear out to Ras Abu. You can choose to do an out and back day trip (leaving early in the morning) or an overnight stay, leaving later in the day and doing most of your diving the next morning. We elected the overnight stay to be able to camp under the stars.
On our way to the location to meet the camels we stopped for a midday dive at Rick’s Reef, another less frequented location and had a nice quiet dive with just us and our guide April (who was my course instructor – she’s awesome as both a guide and instructor!).
We met the camels in the mid afternoon and watched the Bedouin locals load up all the camel bags with our gear (regulators, BCDs, masks, fins, overnight equipment, sleeping bags, food, even the air tanks for all our dives). These animals are amazing creatures, quiet and steady, workhorses that are the transportation backbone for this region.
This was my first time on a camel and let’s just say it’s quite bumpy and my butt was quite sore after just a short time. After a short ride on the camel I hopped off and walked the rest of the way – Ras Abu is about 4 miles from Dahab. It was a beautiful, breezy night and the walk right on the coast was spectacular.
We arrived at camp just as the sun was setting and we were treated to gorgeous colors in the sky, along with a few local children and women trying to sell us bracelets and scarves (of course). As the sun went down, we ate dinner by candlelight and took in the millions of stars.
Jeff & I elected to take our sleeping bags outside and just sleep under the stars. We did see a few remnant shooting stars from the Orionoids shower and fell asleep to the sound of the water. However, the sand was quite hard and even with a sleeping bag and pad, neither of us got a full night sleep. Oh well! The view was totally worth it.
We woke up with the sunlight coming over the back of Saudi Arabia (across the Gulf of Aqaba) and geared up for an early morning dive. The conditions, the reef and quality of marine life were out of this world! No one was out there but us and we saw tons and tons of fish (some really big ones) and amazing colors of coral.
We got out of the water, had breakfast, and then went in for our second dive, going in the opposite direction of the reef. We were greeted by a sea turtle, an octopus and a school of barracuda. Super cool!
After the second dive and cleaning up, packing the gear, it was almost noon and time to head back to Dahab. Unfortunately, the hike back was not nearly as fun as the way over with blazing sun, no clouds and 90+ degree temps. We all rode the camels for a while since we were tired, but it’s actually hotter and slower up there, so we got off and hoofed it back.
Jeff & I checked into our new place, the Dahab Coachouse, which is a lovely small B&B run by a Danish couple, took massive showers, wolfed a big dinner of the local meatloaf surprise cheeseburgers and promptly crashed! Today we are taking it easy; I might do yoga tonight again here at a local class. Tomorrow is our last full day in Dahab before making the trek to Petra, Jordan.
Dahab has been the perfect stopover after the craziness of Cairo and Sharm El Sheikh and the fast pace of the European leg of the trip. Super excited to see Petra and then move on to Eastern Africa when we touch down in Nairobi on November 1.
Features of the Sojourn 28 wheeled convertible pack: Our StraightJacket™ compression system has always been well-suited to the rigors of travel. Add the High Road™ Chassis to the mix and you’ve got the Sojourn. For those who want to reduce the hoist component of their haul time it can’t be beat. When you do need to carry the Sojourn our superb zip-away suspension is on the ready. You’ll also find foam sidewalls for keeping the load secure, while handy mesh pockets, clothing straps and front panel daisy chains maintain your organization. Colors available: Earth, Charcoal, Pepper. Click here for more information – Sojourn Series.
For more information about Aimee, check out her bio page here.
The Osprey Brand Team, a group of 10 ambassadors reporting from the field at consumer outdoor events across the country as well as reporting on adventures in their own neck of the woods, checks in with bike racer and brand team member, James Whitesides. Here James describes the enormously active (and slightly contentious!) Pacific Northwest cyclocross scene…
Come to Seattle because good fun is being had by everyone in the PNWCX scene! If you don’t know what that is don’t worry; Scotty came up with it last month for our beer cozies. Rivalries have been restarted, racing has been fast (and big), and we are just about to get some real rain. After spending the better part of four days in Las Vegas at Interbike it has been great to be home and enjoying our trails and racing. Lots of people are sure that the Northwest is rainy and nasty in the winter but being from the MItten I find it to be much more enjoyable than everyone lets on. As the days get shorter out come the lights and the knobbies and everyone gets their lube on nice and thick.
Nick and I started sampling the joys of fall and winter riding here in the northwest last week at Tiger Mountain State Forest. Logging constantly disrupts our use of the trails, and we are forced onto about 1/16th of the parks trail system to stop “erosion” caused by mountain bikes. I find it a little hard to swallow some of the vitriol that greets us every time we run into hikers on trails that are designated multi use when they have just walked through a massive clear-cut to get to the trail we are riding in the trees.
Luckily, Nick and I only saw one other soul out there and he was cruising up to the top of the hill to ride the Preston Trail down and up (not the usual exit) thanks to a closure so we knew that there would be little to distract us from some great riding in the rain. I had the Talon packed with my camera and we played around with shooting a few poor quality movies just for the heck of it. Nothing like tight rooty single track in the wet! Only two and a half hours of riding and I was sore that night. I realized that I hadn’t ridden over an hour since the Rapha ride in the middle of September!
Despite a little mountain biking, Cyclocross (CX) has been dominating my riding schedule lately and I am finally having consistent races. As of today I am 4th in the MFG Cat 3 field after three races and I think I might be able to get that top step with a little bit of luck. I raced the Cross Crusade race in Rainier, OR this weekend and I am more than impressed with what they bring to the table. If anyone doubts that Oregon is the heart of CX in the good ol’ US of A then they need to take a look at the result sheets.
Our biggest races in WA bring out 900 people for the day. Their average is around 1200 and they just held the biggest CX race ever with about 1450 racers. That’s a lot of people! Not only do they have a ton of racers but they also make it feel a lot more like Europe than anywhere else I have raced. However, we did steal the Grail de Grunge this weekend with a fine showing on Saturday in Seattle and a little bit of craziness on Sunday. There will be a lot of talk over the next week in the blogosphere about how crazy seven guys from Seattle are for stealing the cup from right under the noses of a guy with a sledgehammer. If you doubt my story go check out the pictures on the Cross Crusade site. I can only say that I acted in the heat of the moment and we are all lucky that no one really got hurt (except Brett but he only bled for ten minutes). People are keen to defend the honor of the their cross scenes! I hope that means we are going to see a more consolidated racing schedule over the next couple of years where SCX, MFG and the Cross Crusade work together for the betterment of each series.
Ed.’s note: Check out this story and video on Wend for a better idea of what James is describing!
Driving home from Seattle all of us were stoked to talk about some long rides this winter and we are all planning on doing some long races this winter. After seeing the new hydration pack online and the Flapjack at Interbike (Thanks Osprey for supporting Bike Hugger) I am really excited to test the new stuff and I am already dreaming up ways to abuse some packs!
For more information about James, see his profile page here.
Employees of Osprey Packs gathered outside our headquarters to register support for the 350.org Day of Action. As a team and individuals we strive to lower our carbon footprint each day through actions such as natural lighting in our headquarters , planting trees to maximize the passive solar benefits of our location, purchasing green energy blocks from our energy provider, recycling everything that can be recycled, carpooling and biking to work, and systematically learning how to truly analyze the impact of our products upon the planet.
The Osprey Brand Team, a group of ambassadors reporting from the field at consumer outdoor events across the country as well as reporting on adventures in their own neck of the woods, recently attended the Adventure Travel Expo in New York City. Brand team’er-for-a-day and photographer/outdoor sports enthusaist Rex Hunter roamed the trade hall with his Osprey Meridian 28 and a bunch of fun Osprey goodies including hats. Here’s the report!
I spent a day with the vendors at the The Jacob Javits Adventure Travel Show in NYC. I found many like-minded folks at the show. So many of them knew my favorite runs at Jackson Hole, understood what Ice Lodge Mt was, and were intrigued by tele skiing. I met a lady from Costa Rica who loves the surf community and helps run a surf school. She was about 47 years old and had the passion of a 12 year just learning to ride a bike.
My biggest discovery at the show was my encounter with the BC team from Mica and Powder Cowboy. These guys are the real deal. They offer heli skiing & cat trips in Canada for (on the low end) $ 2700 to upwards of $5000. It snows all the time. Since their opening they have had only 3 down days. This is amazing if you watch DVD’s of Alaska where it seems like waiting for snow is the norm.
Another stand out at the show was Tents & Trails (a shop with a 50 year history…can you believe it?!). Talk about a specialist. CBGB’s did not last that long! I spent most of my time speaking to them about Osprey and tele skiing.
The Osprey Meridian bag I have been using all week is always pulling fast ones on me! Just when I think it can’t do this, it does it. When I think no there’s no space, there’s more space. Truly, I under estimated this bag and it came in handy at the show.
The Osprey Brand Team, a group of ambassadors reporting from the field at consumer outdoor events across the country as well as reporting on adventures in their own neck of the woods, delivers the latest from new team member Aimee Cebulski who is on a 6-month world travel adventure. She’s taking an Osprey Sojourn 28 with her (from our new Travel Collection). This is her fifth update coming to you from Egypt…
Are we in Egypt or Las Vegas? Sharm El Sheikh turned out to be much more of a resort town than we thought. Once upon a time this was a diver’s haven, a little strip of land right on the Red Sea. Now, it’s a super developed, all-inclusive style of resort town. Not really our scene (but it does have a Casino!).
There are countless 5-star resorts and a sea of buffets (along with people stuffing their faces) – And diving is a big business here. We almost fell over with sticker shock when shopping for a hotel. We scored a sweet deal at the Iberotel Lido – which is actually a very nice property, right on Naama Bay, with a killer view. We nabbed a rate of only $180/night – includes breakfast and dinner. This is a steal here. Needless to say, we dramatically changed our plan to spend only a few nights here and then move quickly out of the area.
We’ve enjoyed the hotel, relaxing on the pool deck and taking in some of the local seafood at restaurants here. Our main purpose to come to the Red Sea was to do some scuba diving. For the last 2 days, we’ve been heading out with Camel Dive Club, one of the oldest dive shops here.
It’s a well-oiled machine, extremely organized and also very focused on diver safety, which is excellent. Jeff says it’s the most he’s ever paid for diving, so again, we are not staying here as long as we first planned.
We’ve done 2 dives each day over the last 2 days. The water conditions are outstanding, warm, clear and blue. Tons of fish, amazing coral (color, styles and variety) but not as much wildlife as we have seen in other spots (turtles, reef sharks, etc.).
A videographer accompanied our group on our dives today out in Ras Mohammed National Park and she produced a video for viewing before we were even back at shore! You home video fans (dad!) would have been super impressed at the video quality underwater and the production value of the finished piece. However, at 45 Euro (about $68) for a finished copy, purchasing one was just not in our budget! We were shocked at the price. At 45 Euro, no one bought one. If she had priced them more like 10 Euro, she would have sold out!
We’re staying here until Friday (not diving tomorrow) and then heading to the coastal haven of Dahab. This is much more of a backpacker’s place and more like the experience we are hoping to get out of the Red Sea. We booked a cool little hotel called the Alaska Camp & Hotel (go figure) – Our 7 nights there will equal ONE night here. Insane!
We haven’t taken too many pictures – but a few here of us and the Red Sea.
Signing off for now, hopefully will blog again in Dahab, our hotel is supposed to have free WiFi.
Features of the Sojourn 28 wheeled convertible pack: Our StraightJacket™ compression system has always been well-suited to the rigors of travel. Add the High Road™ Chassis to the mix and you’ve got the Sojourn. For those who want to reduce the hoist component of their haul time it can’t be beat. When you do need to carry the Sojourn our superb zip-away suspension is on the ready. You’ll also find foam sidewalls for keeping the load secure, while handy mesh pockets, clothing straps and front panel daisy chains maintain your organization. Colors available: Earth, Charcoal, Pepper. Sojourn Series.
For more information about Aimee, check out her bio page here.
Hey readers, here’s another reminder that our brand team is evolving and we need YOU in 2010! Head over to Backpacker.com and give us your story…you even have a chance to win an Osprey Exos 46 pack just for “playing.”
So what is the Osprey brand team…
If you’re one of our blog’s regular readers you’re probably familiar with our brand team project. Basically, it works like this: back in early February we recruited a group of athletes and adventurers to write about their experiences using Osprey packs. The contract is simple — be trustworthy, love our product, provide us with a consistent stream of new content documenting your journeys (with photos and videos wherever possible), and attend an outdoor event in your region as an “on-the-ground” rep for a day. It’s that easy. Our 2009 team has done a fantastic job so far and we would love to hear why you would make a great addition for 2010. So. Go. Now. Backpacker! We’ll be in touch soon!
I struggled to keep up as my “client” raced down the icy arete. Falling to our left would have sent us careening down thousands of meters of icy granite, falling right would have deposited us into a bus-sized crevasse. We continued sprinting across the glacier to the base of the 9-pitch Rebuffat route on the still snow and ice chocked, south face of the Aiguille du Midi in Chamonix, France. I frantically racked up as my “client” calmly removed a yellow notebook from his coat pocket and began to write.
This was day one of the American Mountain Guides Association’s Advanced Alpine Guide Course/Aspirant Exam and my “client” (complete with yellow exam notebook) was an experienced and uber-fit IFMGA mountain guide and examiner. At this point I had seriously begun to question whether traveling this far from home in Crested Butte, CO to spend the summer guiding season in the French Alps, was really the right decision. As the route unfolded with pitch after pitch of golden granite I soon found my groove and all my apprehension melted away.
Chamonix needs little introduction with regards to it’s terrain and ease of access. What you may not know is that Cham is really the birthplace of mountain guiding and is host to the largest number of active mountain guides worldwide. With several courses and exams still left in my progression before becoming a fully certified AMGA/IFMGA mountain guide, Chamonix was the natural choice to help me develop my high alpine guiding skills. After countless hours of emailing and phone conversations, I had somehow convinced two of my American peers to make the pilgrimage with me to the Alps and take our course and exam in this intimidating venue.
Throughout the twelve day course we were thoroughly challenged by the varied terrain, complex glaciers and spectacular routes, all the while musing about how much more approaching we would have had to endure, had the course been held in the states.
Regardless of the intimidation factor and the intricacies of Euro-style guiding, I completed the course and passed the thorough examination. Upon completion, I was granted IFMGA Aspirant status and was therefore able to continue my learning through summer work under the supervision of a full IFMGA mountain guide.
The process of becoming a fully certified mountain guide through the American Mountain Guides Association is a rewarding though sometimes stressful process, and requires substantial financial investment.
I was able to participate in this program through the 2009 full tuition scholarship from Osprey. I am proud to have had the support of Osprey and want to sincerely express my appreciation for this scholarship. Osprey’s support of the guiding profession in the United States and most specifically their help in assisting aspiring guides achieve their goals, is what sets them apart from other manufacturers. This opportunity certainly improved my guiding skills in Alpine terrain and as I look forward to future exams, I am endlessly grateful for having been granted this opportunity.
AMGA Certified Ski Mountaineering Guide/ IFMGA Aspirant Guide
The Osprey Brand Team, a group of ambassadors reporting from the field at consumer outdoor events across the country as well as reporting on adventures in their own neck of the woods, delivers the latest from new team member Aimee Cebulski who is on a 6-month world travel adventure. She’s taking an Osprey Sojourn 28 with her (from our new Travel Collection). This is her fourth update coming to you from Egypt…
We’ve now left Europe behind and are starting our African portion of our trip…We landed in Cairo, Egypt on October 1. We’ve been here for the last four days and there is just too much to say!
Neither Jeff nor I had ever been to Egypt and really didn’t know what to expect. We had heard everything from fears of harassment and constant scams, talk of unsafe neighborhoods and overflowing garbage and a general overall consensus that Cairo was best to “get in, see the sights on a tour, and get out…”
We were blown away at how wrong our perceptions were. From the moment we arrived in Cairo and met our driver from the hotel (the historic Windsor Hotel in downtown Cairo), we have been treated with respect, kindness and courtesy. Friendliness and chants of “hello” and “welcome to Cairo” followed us almost everywhere we went.
Like any big city, there have been the occasional moments of someone trying to sell us something, pollution, people cutting in line, etc. – But, we have just been floored at the positive energy of Cairo.
The Windsor Hotel is a turn-of-the century hotel with a famous bar and lounge, old-school gate elevator and even an old-fashioned punch style phone switchboard downstairs. It has the aura of a hotel that was once grand but now a little faded. It is in need of some repair and you can tell things might not work as well as an ultra-modern hotel, but we are loving it! Staff is unbelievably nice and helpful – In the mornings, they always make sure I have a take away for Jeff if I go down for breakfast early and he hasn’t faced the world yet…
The best experience with staff so far was 2 nights ago – I was sitting in the lounge doing some research and a nice gentleman was introducing himself \to everyone in the lounge, making sure they were enjoying themselves. He was the owner, Mr. Doss. I mentioned to him that Jeff & I were going to head out the Khan el-Khalili Bazaar later that night. Mr. Doss volunteered to personally drop us off there on his way home, even though it was out of his way! It was a comfortable ride in his Mercedes, but we were swallowed in a sea of crazy traffic as he pointed out facts about parts of the city we were driving through.
A word about Cairo traffic: Insanity. If you think you’ve seen bad traffic in LA, NY, London, Bangkok, wherever – You haven’t seen anything like this. Traffic lanes are merely suggestions, lights really don’t exist, you cross the street “Frogger” style (hopping from lane to lane) – However, we haven’t seen a single accident of any kind! Cairo drivers are either the best or the worst in the world!
In terms of attractions/activities, there are so many to mention. I’ll let the photos do the talking but I’ll post some highlights here:
(Night 1 – we arrived, went to hotel, enjoyed the lounge…)
Day 1: Over to Old Cairo, walked the maze of streets below the city, underground churches. We left the tourist area (you can easily see everywhere where the tour buses stop and how tourists are shuttled away, never to see the real Cairo)….We ended up walking for miles just checking out local neighborhoods, finding the old city walls, etc. I didn’t take many pictures as we didn’t want to intrude into people’s lives, just a few here…But we were greeted by so many smiles it was wonderful! We were the ONLY tourists we saw anywhere during our excursion; one little boy even said “cheese” and took my picture!
Night 2: We went to the Khan el-Khalili Bazaar. Overwhelming! People, stalls, food, scents, sounds, a crazy mix and a fun way to spend a few hours. Got a few cool trinkets.
Day 2: Egyptian Museum in the morning – amazing collection, but it was a bit jumbled and disorganized (as much of Cairo is!) – Royal Mummies were cool but overpriced; favorite part was all the loot that was taken out of King Tut’s Tomb in 1922 – Over 5,000 pieces, including his sarcophagus and head piece!
Night 3: Relaxed at hotel for a bit, then went out over to The Nile Hotel (right on The Nile River) for their rooftop bar – fantastic views of the river, we enjoyed some food and drink and took in a football (soccer) match on TV.
Day 3: Pyramids!!! We started early, went around the grounds, into some smaller tombs – The only bummer was The Great Pyramid was not open to interior visits today due to restoration work, but we plan on going to tons of temples at Luxor so we were OK with that…Walked around the Sphinx, enjoyed cold drinks in the café looking out to the plateau…Obviously, pictures don’t do it justice.
We took our time, watching tour groups getting herded in and out in rapid succession. We even left the grounds for a while, explored a bit of the Giza neighborhood, had lunch at Pizza Hut (one right outside the gates has the BEST view in the world of the Sphinx and Pyramids)…
It’s a trip – The pyramids are right in a suburban neighborhood – you look over in your car and bam! There they are…We went back in, walked around some more, had another cool Coca Light and took it all in before heading back to the hotel for some much needed rest.
Later today, we are heading to Luxor via the night train and can’t wait to see more temples. Cairo has been an absolute blast and we are so glad we did things on our own, used the subway, walked around (and got lost on occasion, but had a great time) – It’s a shame more people don’t venture out of the cocoon of their tour groups and tourist hotel compounds – we feel like we saw a lot more than the average visitor and are leaving with a fantastic impression of the city and the Egyptian people.
My Sojourn continues to serve me well. I wheeled it around the Milan and Cairo airports easily and have found a few new nooks and crannies in the bag (the space behind the straps inside the zip-up portion makes a great space for storing dirty laundry!)
Sorry this is so long – there has just been so much to share! Signing off for now…