Archive for June, 2010
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On July 12th, Boulder Creek’s spring run-off peaked @ over 1,000 cubic-feet-per-second. I was planning on climbing in Boulder Canyon but since it was raining Kyle and I decided to double ducky (two-person inflatable kayak) the creek. Bad idea. At the put-in a member of Boulder’s SWAT team was vetting potential boaters. We assured him of our knowledge and excellence as boatman. We immediately were swept sideways down the 1st drop, causing boulders to tumble, the 2nd drop had us broached on a mass of flood-wood on river left. It really never got better until the sweet taste of beer at the take-out.
We were pummeled by massive keeper-holes while tree trunks and branches battered us along the inundated banks. I piloted the craft and barked orders: “I need full power”, “Hard left, hard left, hard left”, “Hard right, hard right, hard right”, “Oh my god, look out for that tree trUGGGHH OWWW…” Exhausted and chilled we stopped part way down to grab a cup of coffee and some Noosa Yogurt at the Farmers Market. Hours after putting in we passed under Arapahoe Avenue near Foothills Parkway (‘urban adventure’ – who says you need to leave your postal code for an epic?) and took out.
For the denouement we were almost strained like limp pasta through some rigid shoots of Elm trees. Tired and rattled we toasted our success and luck, alongside the manicured grass of business park, with a tasty beverage and agreed never to double ducky the creek in flood again.
We’ve mentioned the Flathead River Valley a few times here on the Osprey blog. One of North America’s wildest places, it’s one that we certainly believe in protecting and we were happy when in February an official ban was placed on mining and energy operations in the area.
Now there’s even more good news coming from this beautiful place. At the recent G8 and G20 summits, President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper deliberated over B.C.’s precious Flathead Valley. According to an official White House statement, “They discussed how relevant U.S. and Canadian agencies, including the U.S. Department of the Interior and Environment Canada, working with representatives of the Province of British Columbia and the State of Montana, could support this understanding and could help ensure the sustained protection of the Flathead River Basin.”
Because of the deliberations, there’s an international conservation agreement in the works for the American and Canadian Flathead River watershed. That means the potential for a National Park in the area. Which we whole heartedly support!
To learn more you can check out Flatheat Wild.
June 21st, the longest day of the year: Solstice.
I wake up at 5:30 am with the sun sparkling through the thick lodge poles in the Cochatopa Hills of Colorado. Another beautiful day on the Continental Divide Trail, and today I have a special challenge that I’ve set out for myself. My mission: hike 31 miles to Monarch pass by 7 pm, hitch to town, eat a good meal, & find a comfy spot to sleep once the sun sets on this longest day of the year.
Step 2: brush teeth & spray my spit on the pine duff.
Step 3: assemble everything I possibly can before leaving my warm sleeping bag.
Step 4: the most dreaded step of all- leaving the sleeping bag.
Step 5: stuff everything in to my pack, which goes fast because I am shivering in the early morning chill.
Step 6: shoes on & hit the trail!
by Chris Kassar
6,170 miles. This is the distance between Flagstaff, Arizona and Puerto Bertrand, Chile — the town closest to the source of the Rio Baker. This creates a formidable gap (the equivalent of driving from Boston to San Diego and back) between where many of us live and the rivers we are fighting to protect. Why then, are five folks from Flagstaff and two from Colorado so damned concerned about a river and a watershed that are so far from home?
The simple answer is this: we believe rivers should flow freely — from source to sea — as nature intended. But, there’s more. We are also motivated by the missteps made in our very own backyard. We live in the shadow of Glen Canyon dam — aka “America’s most regretted environmental mistake” and we constantly grapple with ‘what could have been’ if this place had not been lost. This dam stands as a beacon, reminding us of a past heartbreak and calling us to action in order to prevent others.
The lessons we have learned from the tragedy at Glen Canyon have made many of us in the Southwest unwilling and unable to stand by and allow the same mistakes to be made again, even in remote regions that are thousands of miles away. Despite the geographic distance between where we lay our heads and Patagonia, our connection to these rivers is strong and the need to stand up for them remains close to our hearts.
Recently, a few members of the team re-visited Glen Canyon Dam bringing with them newfound knowledge and experience as a result of our trip in Chile.
Strange things take place north of the 66th parallel come mid-May. On about May 17th, the sun seems to enjoy its perch above the horizon and for nearly 60 days it refuses to dip below the horizon creating the “Midnight Sun”. While 24 hours a day of sunlight screws with your body clock, it does make for some incredible skiing.
I took a 2 hour flight from Oslo to Tromso, followed by sections of ride in vans and ferries to navigate the endless fjords carved from rugged peaks and glaciers.
After every possible form of transport — planes, trains, automobikes and boats — we arrived at the ultra-plush Lyngen Lodge, which would serve as our basecamp for a week. I use the term basecamp loosely as the lodge has 5 star accomodations and dining for 16 people and a boat moored out from to take you to the bottom of a lifetime of lines.
Your only limit is your own engine. With 24 hours a day of sunlight you can never blame the darkness on snuffing out another lap. On the first night we enjoy Reindeer steaks and some tasty Rhone wine. After dessert, I headed out for a 3,000 foot ski out the backdoor. I charge up the peak and stop only to snap some photos of the sun tracking horizontally across the horizon line for hours on end.
At home in Colorado, great Alpenglow lasts about 10 minutes, so it takes some time to realize that the light is going to be lighting my turns for the next 7 hours before it starts to get really bright again around 8AM. And a run in stellar corn is a good way to burn off some reindeer and flush wine from the system. I arrive back at the Lodge in time to have breakfast before heading to bed around 7AM.
I awake mid afternoon in time to take a boat trip out for some cod fishing. After our fishing excursion (very short lived as I have ADHD and fishing can’t hold my attention for any more than 30 minutes) we head across the fjord to a commercial fishing village that survives solely on cod fishing. The fish are hung from wooden racks for months until they dehydrate and then they are shipped to Spain and Portugal and served as a delicacy. The heads are dries as well and sent to Japan for fish-head soup. The factory has more than 100,000 fish heads drying while we visit. The smell is not one likely to be bottled and sold as perfume anytime soon.
Fishing aside, this trip is all for skiing. The highlight is a long boat ride through various fjords landing us in a sea-side basin below 5,000 foot peaks. These peaks are ultra-rugged and a lifetime’s worth of lines spill toward every edge of the island.
We started the skin at midnight and dropped in around 2:30 in the morning. The light was amazing and the corn snow had taken on the shade of a pumpkin shell. The glassy sea is broken only by islands and mirrors the color of the sky. The light is like nothing I have ever seen. Orange softens to pink and is replaced by bronze as nature lays tricks on my eyes.
Around 3 a.m. I dropped in and skied prefect corn thousands of vertical feet back to the sea. We scrambled to the sea and waited for our boat to collect us off the rocks. I cracked a beer (a rarity in Norway as they are $10+ per can) and sipped to my good fortune. Surrounded by friends in what may be the world’s most scenic location, the rock of the boat on the ocean’s ripples lulls me to sleep and I start to dream of another day skiing under the Midnight Sun.
Over 500 youth from across the Nation met in Central Park in New York City this past weekend to discuss opportunities and new ideas to inspire more people to go outside and seek active, adventurous lives – just like our Backwoods Mission Statement. This was a unique experience and the first of its kind. Thank you to Backwoods and Osprey for sponsoring a delegate and myself to attend this phenomenal event – Outdoor Nation Youth Summit.
The delegate we sponsored is Dezi Howard from Cape Girardeau, Missouri and I had the privilege of meeting him in NYC. Armed with his Osprey Halo daypack and small duffel he set off to the big city for this energetic gathering of his peers. Dezi had a smile as wide as the state of Texas and full of excitement to be involved with the first ever Outdoor Nation Youth Summit.
This Summit gathering consisted of youth from all 50 states and Canada to discuss their ideas with each other on the following issues:
- Cultural Diversity and the Outdoors
- Education and Recreation – Redefining the Outdoors
- Health and Active Living
- Media and Culture
- Green Jobs and Outdoor Careers
Each table in this huge tent in Central Park was focused on one of the issues above and generated suggestions to share with their peers for voting. Each suggestion was presented to all the delegates where they were immediately able to vote on the importance level to them via a hand held electronic survey device that was used throughout the event. The delegates were able to see their results immediately and they were even able to sort the results by age, gender, location and race. During this two-day Youth Summit, President Barack Obama’s staff were also present and actively involved in hearing what the delegates had to say.
Outdoor Nation Youth Summit was supported by the Outdoor Foundation and a coalition of more than 50 organizations. This event focused on outdoor activities and advocacy to help raise awareness about the vital role the outdoors and recreational activities play in leading active, healthy lifestyles. More than $300,000 in funds were announced during this Summit to support concepts generated by the youth delegates.
It was exciting to be involved with such a revolutionary type of event that is promoting people to go outside and seek active, adventurous lives. Following this event, Dezi was inspired to head back to Missouri and encourage more people to use the local parks in Cape Girardeau. He has several ideas already spinning in his head and is anxious to make a difference in his community. We will check back with Dezi in the months to come to see what progress he has made in inspiring his community to seek active, adventurous lifestyles.
The world needs more people like Dezi and the delegates that attended the Outdoor Nation Youth Summit, who are excited and motivated to make a difference.
The U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources passed the San Juan Wilderness Act last week soon will pop up for a full House vote — protecting almost 62,000 acres in portions of the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison national forests in Southwest Colorado.
The bill, introduced by Rep. John Salazar, D-Manassa, would provide permanent protection for some of Colorado’s most-renowned views and mountains, including the slopes of Mount Sneffels and Wilson Peak…
“Today’s passage of the San Juan Wilderness Act is a major step in the process and a victory for the communities of Southwest Colorado,” Salazar said in a news statement. “This bill came from the ground up, from my constituents and local government representatives who came together to work out a bill with me that enjoys strong support on the ground.
“The bill will provide permanent protection for crystal-clear water and soaring peaks while protecting agriculture, grazing and water rights,” Salazar said. “The stunning beauty of this region provides the economic driver for these communities.”
Thanks to Conservation Alliance grantee Wilderness Support Center for making this happen!
At the end of every ski season I breathe a huge sigh of relief. Not because I am excited that the winter is over, more so that I am excited I navigated through the avalanche mine field successfully, that all of my guests/clients were safe, and that seasons are changing, and it is time for rock shoes and chalk.
Running a backcountry ski lodge (Valhalla Mountain Touring) in the wilds of British Columbia is definitely a dream come true, but after you work 100 days in a row, give or take, in avalanche terrain, you are ready for a break.
So this year, my wife and I decided that we would spend 5 weeks cruising around France, sampling the finest in French limestone, red wines, cheeses and baked goods. I may have put the rock first in that list, but the other items may have brought more joy in the end…
We started our journey with 10 days in an area known as the Gorges du Tarn, 1 pitch steep and pocketed limestone cragging, where we could attempt to transfer our ski legs in to climbing arms. We threw ourselves at pitch after pitch of overhanging jug hauls until the aching forearms made us quit and return to our ‘Gite’ to drink some wine (a gite is a French term for a small studio vacation rental. These cost anywhere from 20€ to 30€ a night and are all over France). After a bunch of days we decided we had just barely enough fitness to go try our hand at some long routes.
Ever since I started rock climbing, I heard mythical tales of the Verdon Gorge. The 1,000-foot deep limestone canyon required you to rap in and climb out, with no easy means of retreat. Grades were supposedly REALLY hard, and the runouts between bolts were astronomical. GULP. So there was no choice on our next destination — the Verdon — and to see if the rumors were true.
Far and away, my favorite type of climbing is to do long, multi-pitch free routes. I love doing pitch after pitch of hard climbing way above the ground — maybe that is why I have made Squamish, BC my home with its plethora of hard multi-pitch free climbs. This is what the Verdon Gorge is all about.
I did some research enroute and found us an incredible gite to stay, just right up our alley. The place is called ‘Mayreste‘ and is run by this great couple named JF and Anita. It is a few kilometers away from the gorge on a quiet piece of land with stunning views, running on solar power and spring water. If you go to the Verdon, you have to stay with these guys!
Now there was nothing left to do but climb, and I had a slew of classic routes for Jasmin and I to tackle. We parked at the top of the cliff, walked for 30 seconds, and were at the rap anchors. With wide eyes and butterflies in our stomachs, we decided to start with ‘La Demande’, the first full length route in the Verdon, completed in 1968. Being the first full-length route, it follows a big weakness in the cliff, with cracks and chimneys for large portions of the climb. Jasmin and I are both trad adventure climbers, having done our crack and chimney penance, so the 11 pitch 5.10 route went relatively fast, and before we knew it, we were drinking wine back at out gite. So far the Verdon wasn’t as hard and scary as we thought… But were we getting too cocky?
Next up was something a little harder, Pichenbule, a 5.11+, that weaves its way up the walls for 12 pitches. Back we went to the canyon rim, and rapped in with overcast skies-but rain wasn’t really in the forecast. The first 4 pitches of the route went relatively fast, but then the drizzle started. Being at a ledge, we weighed our options — we had a choice of a 5.5 escape route back to the top, so we wouldn’t have to rap down and walk out 15km back to our car in the rain. We decided to take that option, but halfway up the weather seemed to get better, so we rapped BACK down to the ledge and started back up the original route. Oops, 2 pitches into that route, the skies began to laugh at us, belching heavy rain and hail on us. Luckily we chose another 5.10- escape route at that point with well bolted hand cracks taking us back out of the the canyon. Three soaking wet and lightening electrified pitches later we were back on the rim, running for the car. At least we weren’t walking out all afternoon in the rain!
After some rest (and gear drying!) we decided to try and tackle one of the classic test pieces of the Verdon. ‘La Fete des Nerfs’ which translates to something like the birthday of nerves. Hmmm. At 10 pitches long with all of the pitches being harder than 5.10 and half of them around 11+/12- we were in for a hard day on the rocks. We started early, packed light and rapped in, psyched for the hard climbing and the adventure.
Yeah, there were some big run outs and the climbing was hard, but Jas and I were warmed up for the adventure and right where we wanted to be. A few falls, over all, but pitch after pitch of brilliant climbing, under steel blue skies, with amazing rock. It was so great to be there, and it makes my hands sweat just thinking about it. Lucky for me, I chase my dreams and make sure they come true — and climbing in the Verdon has been a dream of mine for a long time.
After ‘La Fete des Nerfs’ we moved on with our road trip, sport climbing in Ceuse, and then some more amazing multipitch routes in Presles, but by far and away my time in the Verdon was the most memorable of our 5 week road trip. Now I am back home, climbing the granite of Squamish and super excited for the alpine rock climbing season to start here!
For more info on the Verdon Gorge check out this online article
For the past two years my wife and I have called Iowa City, Iowa our temporary home. We moved here for my wife to pursue
a pediatric residency. A priceless decision for a major career accomplishment. This two year commitment brought us to a place that I would have never imagined I would live. For a boy that grew up around rivers full of rapids and trout, mountains with ample single-track and long winter runs; Iowa was really the last place I would have visualized myself calling home. My knowledge of Iowa was little more than a bit of knowledge about that big cross state bike ride, RAGBRAI.
However, being in Iowa I have been pleasantly surprised to find one of the best technical single-track trail systems where no one would expect a strong mountain biking community. Iowa City is home to one of the better single-track systems in the midwest, the Sugar Bottom Trails. The two years spent here have treated me well with ample opportunities for some great single-track and providing a new drive in my MTB passion. Matter a fact Iowa City was ranked as one of the best towns in 2007 by Outdoor Magazine. Sugar Bottom Trails were a major contributor to that ranking.
It was a typical day on the North Shore mountains of British Columbia — wet and slick trail conditions. Fromme Mountain is the birthplace of free-ride mountain biking and host of Wade’s Excellent Adventure, put on by the Godfather of free-riding: Wade Simmons.
The idea is to ride four laps on Fromme Mountain in the coastal mountains above the city of Vancouver. Four tough laps of some of the most technical mountain biking in the world. But growing up in this area, I wasn’t too concerned as we started riding with rigid forks on the front and no suspension on the rear.
The first lap on Upper Oil Can was impossibly slick, then down Oil Can and traverse over Baden Powell. Back up for another lap all the way to the bottom. We got the long climbs out of the way first and continued on to the fast section of pipeline.The last lap was on the classic Ladies Only.
By the end, my nerves were shot, but my brother and I rode steady and rolled in for the victory in a time of 3:23:23 for 32 km and 4,700 feet of climbing.
Our Talon packs were ideal for the race: wicked day on the mountain bikes testing the limits in gnarly conditions.
Photos by: Stephen McCabe , Jurgen Watts
Story by Andy Traslin