You have to be crazy to build trails in the harsh and unforgiving Negev Desert. Summer temperatures that rise to over 40 degrees Celsius and a rainfall average of less than 20mm per year are not ideal conditions to ride bikes in. Couple these meteorological roadblocks with the rock-infested terrain that makes up the majority of the landscape of Southern Israel, and you basically have the antithesis of great riding. It’d take a lunatic to dream up the idea of creating a riding destination down here, right?
Yaron Dari agrees. “I’m crazy, but just the right amount of crazy”, he tells us, as we bump along in a Land Cruiser towing a custom-built bike trailer, heading up into the mountains above his home at the Kibbutz Samar, towards his trail network. Yaron is the man responsible for the trails we’ve come to ride in this far corner of Israel, and the man just nuts enough to pull off the ambitious goal of creating a mountain bike destination in this inhospitable area.
YouTube Video link:
Despite the un-welcoming nature of the Negev Desert as a whole, the Kibbutz Samar is a veritable oasis in the middle of it all. The kibbutz was established in 1976, and like the hundreds of other communal kibbutzim in Israel, was founded with agriculture as its base. Plump and juicy dates were, and still are, its main export and source of revenue, but mountain biking is poised to become another reliable source of income. The Samar Bike Hotel runs from November to March (we’re visiting a week before the season kicks off). The timing of the operating season takes advantage of the cooler temperatures and more frequent rain.
The hotel is more of a collection of small cabins, featuring a welcoming open air gathering area, and a dining area shared with all the kibbutz members and volunteers. Bike hotel guests eat what the kibbutz community eats, which generally means healthy, wholesome meals, mostly sourced from the immediate area. The amenities are all perfect for a laid back, relaxing stay, and one of the best features of the hotel is the pumptrack. A striking anomaly in the desert, the cement pumptrack is bordered with green grass, and has overhead lights for cooler night sessions around the track. The track is our first sign of the kibbutz’ commitment to mountain biking, and the night we arrive the lights go on and we carve up some laps.
Despite some abnormally heavy rains recently (over 30mm in twenty minutes a couple days before our arrival), Yaron is psyched to show off the fruits of his hard labour. On our drive to the trails, I watch a timelapse on his phone of his team moving a multi-ton rock out of their proposed line using pneumatic pillows. Why not go around? “My vision for the trail was such that the rock needed to be moved, so we moved it”, is his reasoning.
As we explore the trails, I learn the extent of the rock transportation that Yaron has undertaken. His trails are not dug into the mountain, but rather built out from them. Boulders are shifted to create elevated benches, but instead of fighting the terrain, the terrace-style build flows with the hillside, almost belying the amount of work that went into them. Not only does this style of building blend seamlessly with this particular environment, it also aids dramatically in drainage, evidenced by the lack of destruction caused by the near biblical recent rainfall.
Yaron leads us down less manicured trails as well. On the upper ridge above the main valley, and looking across to the Red Mountains of Jordan, the Israel Bike Trail runs 300 kilometres from the Red Sea to the town of Mizpe Ramon. This length of trail is about a quarter of the full 1200 kilometre proposed distance, spanning the entire distance of Israel. We ride a very short portion of it, and then drop off the ridge on gnarly descents taking us back down towards Samar. These trails are rocky and real, dropping off exposed ridgelines down to the stepped desert plains below, and into more flowy terrain dips and dives in and out of dry riverbeds. These descents follow ancient trade routes that have been modernized for mountain biking by Yaron and his trail building crew.
As we explore the region on our bikes, the bleak first impressions of the area quickly fade away. Like the Kibbutz Samar, these trails are a mountain biker’s oasis amongst the rocky cliffs and vast open desert. Our respect for Yaron’s efforts deepens with every turn railed and each descent enjoyed. It takes a certain type of person to flourish in these extremes of this environment., and Yaron is just that type of character. Lucky for us, he’s also just crazy enough to take on the herculean task of building a mountain bike destination in the desert for us all to enjoy.
Every year I find myself in the same place; ending the previous season, taking some time off to rock climb, and then back into training for the next year’s round (of competitions and winter climbing). It’s a cycle I’ve been following for a few years now-train, climb, compete, repeat. It’s been awesome and I’ve seen a certain level of success that I thought never to be possible. I’ve worked really hard to have been given the opportunity to travel the world and do what I love doing most…to climb. But It hasn’t been an easy road; the sacrifice of time, juggling my climbing career and my family all the while trying to find the balance in my sanity. And let me tell you…it’s been of great effort to hold it all together. Near on every day filled with “To-Do’s” of all sorts, demanding time and energy, commitment at the highest rate. Go ahead, just ask me how many cans of Red Bull I drink to make it all possible.
A couple of months ago, when i Began “this year’s training”, during a session, a coach I work with attached a tag line to a picture he took of me, “Take the ferocity, take the focus, and pour it into this…every day.” I read a lot of motivational content, study mental toughness books, and even work with a sports psychologist, but that quote, the ferocity, it rung so loud in my head, that it did something strange…it changed something, even broke something. Saying it over and over in my head, to pour “it” into this every day. What was “it”, what did that quote really mean to me, in fact…the better question…what was it doing to me?
Mentally I felt like someone had just removed the shackles from my repetitive cycle that I was caught in. A routine that had carried me through the last several years had been overtaken by a deeper willingness, a deeper passion, and more drive than I had ever experienced before. A collaboration between coaches (physical and mental), my family, friends, we all had a new attitude that had reached a heightened awareness of what was actually attainable. Last year I experienced the most success in my climbing journey: I won the North American championships, placed 4th in a world cup, and climbed my hardest route (outside) to-date. Wow. Total success. Or was it?
Recently I posed the question on Facebook, “What does ‘Success’ mean to you?” The answers came from every direction with all sorts of ideas. Everything from “winning” to “being happy”. Both equally right in there own sense, and for me…both applicable to my own personal definition of success. But recently that word has transformed into a more personal meaning. Success to me is it’s own form of winning, it’s own form of a podium. Would I feel successful standing on top of a podium? Yes, and I have felt that. But the podium, or “winning” isn’t the success, where as the success for me is the process. Winning is just the by-product. I’ve come to realize that my success is the ultimate effort. Not to be confused with the ultimate sacrifice. These to facets are different. My ultimate effort is full-heatedly believing that I poured every ounce of energy into a task at hand, and then some. Doing that, and knowing you did it, that’s the end of the rainbow…that’s the pot of gold.
Hearing that quote, “Take the ferocity….”, it’s like it opened a door within me that gave way to untapped energy. A resource I knew not of, but that was waiting for the right time to be channeled towards a specific direction or goal. Yes, as I said, last year was successful…to an extent, but deep down I knew there was more, more I could do, more I could try, more I could give. I knew deep down I hadn’t given it “my all”, the ultimate if you will. I could feel that there was still reserve energy but didn’t know how to get to it, how to channel it. Until now.
We took the time to understand. Breaking down the previous cycle of how; the program for preparation‑things needed to be changed, re-invented, and thought through very carefully to how the “absolute” could be attained. My coaches and I analyzed previous years, broke down the errors, weaknesses, and reasonings behind falling short of certain goals. Many were clear, some still unknown, but what was apparent…change was of the utmost. And change? That was associated with me, especially geared towards my “ultimate” (willingness). How bad did I “really” want it? How hard was i truly willing to push (physically and mentally)? Did I have that? The push?
It meant starting earlier; more focus on strength, dynamic technical climbing, more time route setting (focusing on every movement possible), it meant tempo (learning how to climb fast- technically with precision), not necessarily more time per say, but utilizing my time with a new focus, and new effort‑”the ferocity”. It meant “taking the ferocity, the focus, and pouring it into this…every day.” For me to reach my ultimate success, I need to believe in a level of energy that’s beyond my horizon. But that’s what it takes (for me anyways). For me to be successful I need to believe in the impossible. I need to believe that I’m capable of the impossible. There’s a lot on my plate for this coming winter, with competitions and personal climbing goals. To get through it all, I need to go beyond what I thought was my ultimate, and rise to a new level of “try hard”.
It’s a new season, there’s a new focus.
(#risetotheabsolute is a hashtag i created that’s linked to my push for “ultimate success”. You can use the hashtag on Instagram, twitter, and Facebook)
Climbing has become part of my daily routine. Whether training, climbing, or competing, with every hour–physically or mentally, climbing plays a role. I was once asked, “Why do you love climbing?” And the only response i could come up with was, “because without it, I feel short of breath”.
My focus is mixed climbing competitions. I travel the world every winter competing for Canada on the World Cup Ice Climbing Tour. I prepare months in advance in becoming ready to climb at my best. Throughout the “off season” I love to rock climb, spending most nights at my local crag or traveling to amazing places like Wyoming, Las Vegas, Kentucky, and my favourite: The Bow Valley (Canmore, AB).
Over the years I’ve found that in order to be fitted with readiness, you must train…and train a lot. From that I’ve built “the machine” in my backyard. Back there; it’s my fortress of solitude…where i learn, re-group, and try real hard. The backyard is outfitted with a 30ft Arch, bouldering walls/cave, and many training apparatuses.
What I do, where I go, all of it wouldn’t be possible without the support of my amazing family, and sponsors–those who believe in my dream and encourage me daily to keep going after it.
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…
Canada had become a safe and familiar place for us over the year we had been studying at Trent. We were about to leave all of that behind and cross the US border into Washington. After some initial confusion from not realizing that speed limits were now in miles per hour rather than kilometers – so people weren’t actually travelling almost twice the allowed speed all the time – we found that much of what we saw felt like it could fit into a Canadian landscape.
We didn’t have a route south planned out – for a couple days we just drove as far as we could towards Yosemite, our first US destination. Unfortunately that meant driving straight past a lot of places that we could have spent weeks exploring but we had the second date of the trip to keep as a week later we had arranged to meet friends in San Francisco.
We arrived in Yosemite Valley in darkness late at night and pitched our tents at the North Pines campground. We woke up as the sun entered the valley the next morning. Yosemite was a place that we had all seen pictures of before, we knew the names of the domes, some of the famous climbs, and we felt like we had a slight grasp of what Yosemite was. Actually we had no idea. That first morning, was spent in a state of incredulous awe, staring up at the enormous granite rockfaces that surrounded us in the valley on almost every side. Far more eloquent writers than us have written about the valley and it’s tempting to quote Muir or Adams but instead we would urge people: just go. We had all read the words and seen the pictures but neither went any way towards really preparing us for what we saw that morning.
The Appalachian Trail is one of the longest continuously marked footpaths in the world, measuring roughly 2,180 miles in length. The Trail goes through fourteen states along the crests and valleys of the Appalachian mountain range from the southern terminus at Springer Mountain, Georgia, to the Trail’s northern terminus at Katahdin, Maine.
Known as the “A.T.,” it has been estimated that 2-3 million people visit the Trail every year and about 1,800–2,000 people attempt to “thru-hike” the Trail. People from across the globe are drawn to the A.T. for a variety of reasons: to reconnect with nature, to escape the stress of city life, to meet new people or deepen old friendships, or to experience a simpler life. Appalachian Trail Conservancy
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As Spring blooms, so does our excitement for the 12th Annual Red Rock Rendezvous which takes place in the beautiful Red Rock Canyon just outside of Las Vegas, NV and is hosted by Osprey Packs retailer Mountain Gear. This year is guaranteed to be a great one — attendees will be coming in from across the nation to enjoy a weekend of climbing, clinics, demos, storytelling and much more!
Those interested in experiencing premiere rock climbing, desert single-track mountain biking, trail running and much more will gather at the mighty red rocks that overlook the event. The crowd will range from top outdoor industry brands to expert outdoor athletes to novice enthusiasts interested in learning more – everyone is welcome and all RRR attendees will leave after an experience like no other!
What’s going on March 27-29, 2015 at
Red Rock Rendezvous:
Clinics with Exceptional Athletes: Mountain biking, climbing, running, or general backcountry skills – you name it and there’s a clinic for it! With over 75+ clinics, you’re bound to find something that interests you. Taught by experts in the field, these clinics provide a unique, hands-on experience in a small group setting.
Dyno Competition, Dance Parties, Pancake Eating Contest and More! Be sure to check the schedule because this weekend is jampacked with a variety of fun games, on-site events, and presentations. You won’t want to miss the famous Red Rock Rendezvous Dyno Comp. in which participants put their dynamic climbing skills to the test! The same goes for the live music and other games put on by the sponsors of Red Rock Rendezvous — there’s a lot of fun to be had this weekend in the desert!
Now that you have an idea of what Red Rock Rendezvous is all about, let’s fill you in on what’s happening at the Osprey Packs booth:
NEW for Spring 2015: Come by to check out the latest at Osprey Packs as we will have our select Spring ’15 product such as the Syncro Series and the revolutionary Atmos/Aura Anti-Gravity Series, and much more! Our on-site staff will show you all the latest and greatest and will be able to answer any questions you may have!
Demo Packs at Red Rock Rendezvous and Feel the Osprey Difference: We’ve got your back and will have our demo fleet of bike, climbing, and running packs available all weekend! Stop by the booth and talk with our team of expert pack fitters and outdoor enthusiasts who can help you make the best selection for your needs. Available demo packs at RRR include our Endurance/Trail packs, the Rev Series and 2015 Syncro Series as well as our Vertical Endeavor packs like the Mutant Series and Variant Series!
Our Anti-Gravity Fit Station: Revolutionary. Innovative. And maybe a little bit magic: our award-winning Anti-Gravity™ Suspension system provides seamless comfort that contours the body allowing a trail experience like no other. Combined with custom capability and a full feature set, the Atmos AG™ sets a new standard in ventilated backpacking. Interested in what it feels like? Stop by our booth to try AG for yourself at our Anti-Gravity Fit Station.
Trail Running Clinics with Osprey Athlete Ben Clark: Interested in getting on the trail? Learn from the best at RRR — Osprey Athlete Ben Clark will be available to share his knowledge of trail running with anyone interested in pursing this growing outdoor endeavor!
“Creme de la Creme” Giveaways: Just another great reason to stop by the Osprey Packs booth — we’ll be giving away custom Osprey hats, coozies for your bevy, organic lipbalm, and much more!
Needless to say, it will be a great time in the desert and we hope to see you there! Don’t forget to the visit Red Rock Rendezvous Facebook page for updates!
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“Test out the all of the latest and greatest bikes on the world-class trails of Moab, Utah. For three days, the world’s best bike and gear manufacturers will be set up at the Outerbike Expo site. You can walk through and see next year’s innovations, pick a bike you’d like to try and take it for a ride.
Repeat as needed.
There are 20 miles of connected loops that range from fun and easy to technical and gnarly. Your registration fee buys you access to the all the bikes, lunches, shuttled rides, prizes, movies and entrance to our evening parties.”
You heard right – it’s Mountain Bike Season and we are kicking it off in Moab, Utah — a stone’s throw away from our hometown of Cortez, CO! (more…)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Alison Gannett, autumn, DIY, farm, farming, harvest, holy terror farm, Osprey athlete, Osprey Packs, Rippin Chix, Self-reliance, Steep Skiing Camps, Sustainability, winter
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.
Half of the reason for coming to Chamonix is to climb with other guides. I’ve spent the last two weeks climbing with Andrew Wexler, an IFMGA guide from Canmore, Alberta. We’ve been buddies for 15 years and been on our greatest adventures together: the Ptarmigan Traverse in a day, the Eklutna Traverse in a day, full-length ski traverses of the Neacola and Tordrillo Mountains and a ski traverse from Anchorage to Valdez. These will probably remain the apex of our athletic careers. Since then we’ve become more work-focused, but that feels right.
Now Andrew and I get to guide and play together in Chamonix. This is one of our free days. We chose the Aiguille du Peigne in the Aiguilles du Chamonix. This is a moderate alpine rock route that starts with the classic Papillion Arete.
The lower altitude of Aiguille du Peigne seemed right for a forecast calling for afternoon thunder showers. Most of the route is easy fifth class like this.
Some places the rock kicked up to 5.8, with lots of exposure.
This is the crux pitch, a delicate traverse to a chimney with perfect finger and hand cracks in the back. The pitch was streaming with water, but the finger locks and hand jams were so solid it didn’t matter. Behind is the north face of the Aiguille du Midi.
Andrew’s beautiful photo of me leading moderate rock on the summit ridge. The new Osprey Mutant 38 worked perfect. Thanks Osprey! Chubby bolts made for four easy rappels, then we lost the rap route in the fog. We ended up slinging horns for rap anchors to get back to the normal descent route. Thanks for a great day Andrew! See more of Andrew’s photos on his site globalalpine.com.