Osprey Packs Athlete Joe Stock is an internationally certified IFMGA mountain guide based in Anchorage, Alaska. He has been climbing and skiing around the world for 25 years with extensive time in the mountains of Alaska, the Southern Alps of New Zealand, the North Cascades of Washington and Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. Since 1995, Joe has been freelance writing for magazines starting with a feature article in Rock & Ice on climbing the Balfour Face on Mount Tasman in New Zealand. Since then, he’s published numerous articles on adventures and mountain technique in rags such as Climbing, Backcountry, Alaska, Climbing, Trail Runner, Men’s Health and Off Piste.
In 2009, Paul Muscat and I climbed Mount Chamberlin, then considered to be the highest summit in the Brooks Range at 9,020 feet. Now, Mount Isto might be the highest at 9,060 feet. It was just the excuse we needed for another trip to this pristine wilderness.
Joining us was Glenn Wilson and James Kesterson. Over the past 17 years we’ve been on many trips together: Denali, Mount Baker, Marcus Baker, Mount Bona, Mount Iliamna, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Mount Chamberlin, Mount Logan and the Central Talkeetna Mountains. On this trip we didn’t get up Isto, but we had a blast exploring and bagging peaks.
With logistics help from Alaska Alpine Adventures, we flew direct from Fairbanks to the Jago River with Wright Air. It was a two and half hour bush flight, with no in-flight service. This region is better known as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, where Alaska’s embarrassing half-term governor once said, “Drill baby drill.”
The plane is a Helio Courier, made in the 1970’s and designed for a low stall speed. Supposedly it will fall horizontally rather than nose dive. The tires are Alaskan Bushwheels, made near Anchorage in Chugiak. They are the “premier tire for extreme backcountry adventures.”
Glenn and I got brand new Volt 75 packs for the trip. They were perfect! The right size for our eight days of food, fuel and mountaineering gear. They fit like a slipper, straight out of the wrapper. Once again, Osprey made our trip better.
Our first summit was the 8,625-foot Screepik. While conducting summit LNC (Leave No Cairn) we found Tom Choate’s name in a sodden film canister. In 1999 he climbed Screepik and made the impressive scramble over to Isto. His trip reports are in the October 1999, February 2000 and the November 2013 Scree newsletters from the Mountaineering Club of Alaska. Choate called Peak 8625 “Spectre”. First ascentionists called it Shadow Peak. Keeping with the tradition, we called it Screepik. Scree for the endless boulderfields, and “pik” for the Inuit word for “genuine.”
Descending from the summit of Screepik. Nobody out there. Just us.
After eight days of mountaineering at high camp, we returned to a base camp by the landing strip on the Jago River. Here’s Paul on one of our day-hikes from camp. Our tent is a tundra-colored dot in the tundra fields way down there along the river.
Another day hike along the Jago, this time up the big split in the river. While the first part of our trip was cold, drizzly and snowy, the second part was warm, calm and sunny. The bugs weren’t even out yet. Conditions were ideal for snoozing in the soft tundra.
James, Paul and Glenn mid-layover at the Arctic Village Airport terminal on the flight home. Thanks for another great trip guys! And all the memories. I can’t wait until the next installment. Maybe to try Isto again. Maybe to try the next highest Brooks Range summit. There is a rumor that it’s now some unnamed peak. Oh bummer. I guess we have to go back….
Wheelies Rule. Period.
Is it the coolness/radness factor? For sure.
Fun and thrilling? Yep.
Hydration packs have come a long way since 1988, the year that a young EMT named Michael Eidson invented the CamelBak by stuffing a pilfered IV bag into a tube sock and safety-pinning it to his back during a century ride. But while hydration packs are ubiquitous today, anyone who has ever attempted a a multi-day mountain bike trip can attest to their main shortcoming: most of them are too damn small. You can’t, however, say that about Osprey’s Escapist 32, which boasts a load range of 15 to 30 pounds.
The Escapist 32 is designed with mountain bikers in mind and if bikepacking isn’t your thing, it also makes for a great day hiking pack…
Known as the birthplace of skiing, Norway has probably been the subject of most backcountry skiers’ dreams. It has always been on my radar after watching the Norwegians dominate the Olympic Cross Country Ski events over the years, not to mention the stories of endless daylight and sweet terrain.
There’s only one problem Norway creates for skiers…it just happens to be one of the most expensive places in the world to visit. Be warned my fellow skiers: Norway is the 5th richest country in world, as is visible in the sculpture-laden streets of all the towns we visited. Here are some examples of what things cost in Norway as opposed to Canada:
- Laguna Burger, no fries: $30 CAD. California patio with beach views not included.
- Corona beer: $25
- Gasoline, per/litre: $2.25
- Last minute car rental: $199 per day
Having a lifetime of practice in ski bohemia, I knew we could stretch a budget. But Norway’s prices and our lack of preparation before this trip made for quite an uphill battle. Luckily we don’t mind ‘earning’ our turns, and our Norwegian Ski-Bus-Skineering mission began.
We started in Oslo, but the classic fjord skiing was waaaaay up in the Lyngen Alps in the North. Following a quick Facebook check, I noticed that our friend Adam U. was in Norway and he diverted us to the much closer Jotunheimen zone and we hopped on the first bus out. This was all good in concept, but after we fell asleep the bus kept on driving right past our desired mountain pass in the night. Good thing camping is allowed anywhere in Norway, so we camped on the grass in Årdalstangen, a quaint little town that reminded me of Terrace, BC.
In Ski-Bus-Skineering if you don’t plan efficiently you can lose use huge amounts of time, forcing you to spend down time at bus stations (which tend harbour some sketchy characters). Eventually, we did reach snow.
Once on snow and skinning uphill it felt good to be in our natural environment. The variable weather felt like a familiar mellow BC coastal ski tour. Of course in any new area it’s always good to respect the weather — I was feeling confident we’d get up to the peak when BOOM — whiteout, and the classic “stay-or-go” debate began. Fortunately it did clear after 5 minutes and we tagged Turboka peak.
24 hours to left to burn meant GO: Oslo to Lom by bus, hitchhiking with a German plumber to Spiterstulen, set up camp. At 7:30pm, climb…then turn around 500 feet from the summit thanks to another whiteout.
“I like to push myself to the maximum in the mountains to see what I can do physically to my abilities. My parents got me into skiing and the mountains at a young age. I progressed to ski racing, to front country, then I started finding powder stashes I had to keep going further and further to see what was around the next corner.
In addition to having worked eight years as a ski patroller, I have been racing in the pro/elite category for several seasons as a mountain biker. Racing enables me to go further and faster in the mountains in pursuit of steep skiing and speed traverses. Other activities I like: free ride mountain biking, road riding, bouldering, rock climbing, mountaineering, ice hockey, tennis, trailrunning . I like to go see live bands in small venues. I’ve been following the Vancouver Canucks for many years in their quest for the Stanley Cup.”
Andy Traslin, bicycle, Bike, cross country skiing, Denmark, earn your turns, Mike Traslin, mountaineering, norway, Oslo, Osprey athlete, ski tour, skiing, skinning, Traslin Brothers
Mountainfilm is dedicated to educating, inspiring and motivating audiences about issues that matter, cultures worth exploring, environments worth preserving, adventures worth pursuing and conversations worth sustaining.
Telluride Mountainfilm: The Festival
Started in 1979, Telluride Mountainfilm is one of America’s longest-running film festivals. Through the years, in and out of trends and fads, the festival has always been best described by one unchanging word: inspiring. Far more than any other adjective, that’s how festival audiences describe their experience.
In addition to screening leading independent documentary films from around the world, the festival includes a full-day symposium on a contemporary issue, art and photography exhibits, early morning coffee talks, outdoor programs, a book-signing party, an ice cream social, student programs and a closing picnic/awards ceremony.
Osprey Packs is proud to be an Official Sponsor of Telluride Mountainfilm, taking place May 22-25, 2015.
The 37th annual Telluride Mountainfilm festival brings together a community of filmmakers, authors, adventurers, musicians, activists and artists for a weekend of incredible, inspiring events.
From suncups to blower pow, huge peaks to bunny hills, North Vancouver brothers Mike and Andy Traslin have been consecutively earning their turns every month of the year for the past…wait for it… 101 months. They’re not alone in the endless pursuit of ‘turns all year,’ but they sure are passionate about it.
The quest for earning your backcountry ‘turns all year’ is especially popular with zealous skiers and riders in the Pacific Northwest of the United States and of course here at home in BC. With huge peaks holding snow year round, especially the Cascade Volcanoes, it almost makes you wonder why every skier doesn’t do it.
Like Mike says — if you’re really jonesing for some ski turns in the fall, why wait? Just go do it!
In celebration of Mike & Andy’s 101th month (and hopefully hundreds more to come) here is a quick freeflow of thoughts from Mike, and some image highlights from the last 30 or so months: (more…)
Andy Traslin, backcountry, backcountry skiing, BC, Canada, earn your turns, first descents, Grouse Mountain, Japan, Mike Traslin, Mt Logan St Elias, Mt. Baker, Mt. Fuji, Pacific Northwest, powder, ski, ski mountaineering, skiing, Snow, Traslin bros, Traslin Brothers, vancouver, whiteouts
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.
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.
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.
This 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 around 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.
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
Central Asia, DIY, energy, Greasecar, inspiration, Kyrgyzstan, Mollie Busby, Mongolia, Montana, motorhome, off-grid, offgrid, Osprey Ambassador, Osprey Ambassadors, Riding On Insulin, Sean Busby, ski, skiing, snowboard, snowboarding, solar power, The Busbys, tiny homes, travel, Two Sticks and A Board, Whitefish, yurt, yurtlife, yurts
Unless you’ve been living under a very big rock, you’ve heard the tales of Japan’s surreal terrain, neck deep powder on tap — day or night. The hype was buzzing extra strong this season and we were itching to go get a taste of it one way or another. When the plans finally took shape, it was May! Not exactly the prime month for free refills of pow, but if we didn’t pounce on the trip this year, it might have never happened, right? So we went with the flow and booked a ticket.
Touchdown Narita airport where the culture shock began. In a bustling world far from home, we circled through security not once but twice, but it worked out for the better. Our extra lap bumped us right into a Japanese snowboarder wearing a Canada toque, fresh off a winter in Canmore. Turns out our new friend Yuske (last name), local snowboard legend, also rode a G3 split and represented the Caravan crew we were trying to meet. Off to a good start. Yuske led us and our bulky bags through the maze of Tokyo train systems to a meet up with the Caravan crew, G3’s Japan distributors. After food, drinks, and a classic night in a ‘capsule’, we were eager to escape the bustling city for the mountains. Our bus to Hakuba pushed us upstream through nonstop currents of cities and people in constant motion before dropping us at the source…the mountains.
A world apart, we found mountains quite reminiscent of our Coast Mountains back at home, with multi-peak linkups just waiting to be skied. After a week of fun, we were ready for the bigger days. Fortunately our pension owner in Gakuei-kan was an instructor, guide and pro back in his day, with a wealth of Japanese ski touring history to share with us, shaping ideas for where to head next. The plan hatched for the Hakuba Sanzan, linking the 3 highest peaks in Hakuba in a day.
The Inca Trail in Peru is perhaps the world’s most famous trek. This four-day camping trip follows a 500-year old stone path that ends at Machu Picchu, an ancient city reclaimed from the jungle. I hiked the Inca Trail with my Dad, my sister Kate and her girlfriend Kim. We started and finished the trip in Cusco.
A mushroom cloud of smoke from hundreds of barbecues rises from Inti Raymi celebrations in Cusco. Inti Raymi is the biggest festival of the season. This party is taking place at Sacsayhuaman (pronounced “Sexy Woman”), a location famous for 100-ton stones fitted together so tight that a toothpick can not be fitted in.
While city center Cusco is tidy and historic for tourists, the surrounding streets are real Peru. This woman is selling chopped up snakes in a soda bottle. Other bottles contain the hallucinogenic San Pedro cactus juice and various potions for what ails you.
The Inca Trail is lined with ruins. Here’s Kate exploring the Phuyupatamarka ruins. The fascinating thing about all these Inca ruins is that nobody really knows what happened. There was no written language before the Spanish arrived. And all of the written accounts have a Spanish Conquistador twist. This results in each Inca history buff having their own theory of what happened. Historical spiels by tour guide’s often start with “I believe….”
Dad eleven hours into the second day. What is a comparable trek in the US? Rim-to-rim on the Grand Canyon? The Wonderland Trail around Mount Rainier?
Porters resting at the high point of the trip at Dead Woman Pass at 13,829 feet. Porters carry 20 kilos of group gear plus their personal gear. We carried our sleeping bag, pad and hiking stuff in 35-liter Mutant 38s.