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Long Start to the Journey: Help Osprey Ambassador Chris Gallaway share his Appalachian Trail story

January 24th, 2014
Chris Gallaway- before and after shots.

Chris Gallaway- Before the AT and after the AT.

 

Osprey Ambassador Chris Gallaway is seeking support through Kickstarter to make his a film, “The Long Start to the Journey” a reality. January 31st is the campaign deadline to support this compelling documentary about the Appalachian Trail and if the campaign does not meet its goal no funding will be collected and given to the movie.

In support of Chris’s Kickstarter campaign, we’re giving away an Exos 48 Superlight Backpack to the next donor to pledge $220. The Exos 48, our newest ultra-light technical backpack, is a masterful combination of ounce-shaving, durable materials and a feather-weight internal frame to keep you fast and comfortable on your next journey. Your pack will have a “The Long Start to the Journey” patch sewn on to commemorate your part in making this film possible. Note: We’ll need to get your unique sizing before fulfilling this reward and you must be a resident of the US to be eligible.

To support The Long Start to the Journey and learn more about the campaign, visit www.maketheATmovie.com.

To follow Chris’s journey on the trail last year, visit www.theATmovie.com.

 

Long Start To The Journey

 

A question I have often heard since completing my 7-month thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail is how the experience changed me. That’s a difficult one for me to answer, and it’s probably better addressed by people who know me well and have observed me from the outside. The images above were taken at the beginning and end of my hike (the third, cold morning in February on Blood Mountain Georgia and the last day in September as I walked down from Katahdin). While I know that these two self-portraits encompass a host of experiences and some of the most significant changes of my life, it’s difficult for me to articulate what’s different between them. Read more…

Active Lifestyle, adventure, AT Trail, causes, Conservation, Ditch Your Car, Guest post, Hiking, Non-profits, Osprey Culture, Osprey Life, Outdoor Activities, travel, Uncategorized , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Guest Blogger Ben White on Returning to the Familiar

December 6th, 2013

Ben White is a New England native who moved to Salt Lake City to attend the University of Utah. He loves skiing in the backcountry, climbing, mountain biking and generally messing about in the mountains.

Playing in the mountains is an incredible thing. Be it skiing, climbing, biking, hiking, paddling or any other fantastic activity, it’s all fun. However, when the trees change color from green to fire or from grey to green, the fun stops, or at the very least, changes. From when I was twelve until about fourteen or fifteen, the loss of snow in the mountains brought about foul moods and boredom. Once I started mountain biking, it was still a bummer to lose ski season, but riding a bike became just so darn fun. With the addition of climbing on the list of fun things to do, there’s a whole new dimension to be added in both the warm and cold seasons. While some people might get jittery at their favorite crag melting out or trails being dry enough to ride, I have always been captivated by the first snow of the year

So happy to be back on snow after too much dry ground

So happy to be back on snow after too much dry ground

It’s December now, so there has been snow on the ground and all the resorts are open, and while the feeling of returning to the familiar is slipping away, there is still more to be had. In November, feeling the snap of bindings and hearing the sound of skis sliding on snow went from being pleasurably nostalgic about the last season to the way things should be. Watching the mountains fill in and returning to areas that need more snow is just happening now.

As much fun as Utah is, New Hampshire still feels like home after skiing the 48, and watching Tuckerman Ravine fill in via webcam is almost as fulfilling as watching Snowbird fill in. Checking the snowpack for places like the La Sals, Idaho and the Pacific Northwest by word of mouth and looking at trip reports has me excited for what is to come.

Myself in the winter and my friend Andrea in the summer at the same place. Waiting for things to fill in or melt out can feel like forever.

Myself in the winter and my friend Andrea in the summer at the same place. Waiting for things to fill in or melt out can feel like forever.

Seeing clean tracks in an area for the first time that season is like a notice saying “hey everybody, it’s good in here again!” It’s like seeing people at a roadside crag or with smiles on their faces and mud on their backs from riding for the first time in the spring.

We all love playing outside, and often times it’s hard to choose a favorite activity. The feeling of the familiar returning after a few months of missing it is something exciting, comforting and all-together pleasurable. For me, the snap of carabiners and the whir of a hub are always enjoyable, but just don’t do it for me the same way that the zip-zop of skins followed by muffled sliding on snow does.

Active Lifestyle, adventure, Guest post, Osprey Culture, Osprey Life, Outdoor Activities , , ,

Mountain Biking Multiple Meccas in America

December 5th, 2013
On the road again...

On the road again…

Americans get behind things. I mean, when there is something Americans believe in, they wholeheartedly invest their time and energy into making it a reality. Us laid-back Canadians might poo-poo this idea, but in many ways it is true. How do you think the good ol’ US of A grew into a superpower in the span of a few short centuries? Or, look at the near-rabid following of the Tea Party, or hardcore evangelism. When people wanna believe, they stick to their guns (forgive the pun).

It’s no different with mountain biking, and the way mountain towns have latched onto the sport as a way of bringing tourist dollars into their communities. This fall I traveled to America with some friends from Vancouver, on a road trip to some of the new, and old, mountain bike meccas of the Lower 49.

In the span of ten action-packed days we drove to and rode in Sun Valley, Moab, Fruita and Park City. All mountain bike hotspots in their own right, and deserving of a “mecca” status for different reasons.

Sun Valley, our first stop after leaving Vancouver, was a spot I had visited years ago on a Bike Magazine assignment, driving through the American MidWest in Honda Elements and riding the most obscure spots we could find. Sun Valley is far from unknown, especially in the ski circles, and the riding surrounding Ketchum and Hailey, the two towns that make up Sun Valley, is world class.

Our host this time was Greg Randolph, the director of public relations and social media for the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance. Greg has a rich background in cycling, and straight up loves where he lives, which shows in all of his marketing efforts and events hosted. Lucky for us mountain bikers, he does play favourites, organizing an annual mountain bike festival, developing a detailed trail map and generally stoking out the mountain bike community whenever possible.

Chasing the last rays of sun in Sun Valley

Chasing the last rays of sun in Sun Valley

We rode two days of perfect singletrack, from sinuous desert rips to flowing loops in the forest. We hit the road after riding the Prairie/Miner Loop, a mini-epic that took us up into the fresh snowline of the alpine, and where Greg had to get in a dip in one of the close-to-freezing-over lakes. “I never miss a swim up here!” he exclaimed, surveying all the new snow in the high country. With ambassadors like this, Sun Valley is going to continue to attract keen riders for years to come.

A late night drive, along with a stop at a suspect Taco Bell in Salt Lake City, took us to Moab, our southernmost destination and a spot I had never ridden. Yes, I had never ridden. That’s blasphemy according to many riders who consider Moab the true Mecca, and make pilgrimages whenever possible. I thought I had to check it out for myself.

Ripping down Porcupine Rim, Moab.

Ripping down Porcupine Rim, Moab.

Moab is a place that seemingly needs to do no work to attract mountain bike tourism. Gracing covers of magazines worldwide, the surreal landscape of the Utah slickrock has implanted itself in mountain biker psyche as the place to go, as the ultimate mountain bike experience. This is evident in the number of bike shops, guiding outfits and shuttle services that dot the town. While the Slickrock trail has sustained this mountain bike boom for years, Moab is not one to rest on its laurels. The Whole Enchilada, a 42 km, 7,000-foot downhill epic draws thousands of riders each year, as does Captain Ahab, a newly-handbuilt maze carved out of the unforgiving sandstone that offers perfect flow its entire length. The mountain bike community in Moab has seen the sport evolve, and has evolved the trail offerings to match.

It's not a Moab visit without a Slickrock Trail loop!

It’s not a Moab visit without a Slickrock Trail loop!

Connecting the blue dots in Moab.

Connecting the blue dots in Moab.

We were welcomed to Fruita by a three-story banner of a mountain biker in action plastered to the side of a grain elevator towering over the small town. A sure sign that the community is on board! As we only had the day to check out the riding, we tried to maximize our efficiency and headed to the 18 Road trail system. We were not alone here, and for a mid-week day the parking lot was surprisingly busy. The trails were flowy and fun, and we looped back and forth underneath the Bookcliffs, sampling as much singletrack as we could possibly muster. We ended the day with amazing pizza at the Hot Tomato Café in town, a business born of the mountain bike boom, owned by mountain bikers, and a rad spot that definitely catered to the two-wheeled brethren.

Sampling the sweet singletrack of Fruita.

Sampling the sweet singletrack of Fruita.

Another late night drive (and more shady Taco Bell) took us to Park City, our last stop on this roadtrip. We had planned this stop based on some rumours, and a friend who promised great singletrack. I had not ever heard of the riding here, but was willing to give it a try. When we arrived it was obvious that Park City is ready to show the world what they have to offer. With over 400 miles (yes, 400) of trails, three lift-served bike parks (and some free public bus shuttle zones) this place is a mecca in the making. IMBA apparently knows how good it is here, and this year gave Park City the first (and so far, only) Gold Level Ride Center designation.

IMBA gold-level singletrack high above Park City

IMBA gold-level singletrack high above Park City

It was certainly golden in Park City, with vibrant fall colours from the aspens lining the long singletrack climbs and epic descents. We rode trails straight out of our condo, and did shuttles to 10,000 feet. The mix of trail styles was amazing. The main street indicated the level of commitment Park City had to mountain biking as well. Every lamp post was adorned in bike-focused slogans; “IMBA Gold Level,” “Epic Singletrack” and more. Money abounds in this wealthy area, but smart minds prevail also, and are not letting the mountain bike tourism opportunity pass them by.

Fall colours in Park City

Fall colours in Park City.

Real life was calling the desk jockeys on our road trip, and we sadly pulled up stakes and made the painfully long drive back to Canada. During the drive we had plenty of time to reflect on the impact that mountain biking is making in these small communities, and marveled at how Americans really do get behind whatever they believe is a good thing. Lucky for us, in these cases, it’s singletrack.

adventure, Bike, Osprey Athletes, The Cycling Buzz, Travel , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Grandest Time

November 26th, 2013
The Colorado River carving through the Grand canyon as seen from the South Kaibab trail.

The Colorado River carving through the Grand canyon as seen from the South Kaibab trail.

“Life comes from water,” my friend Erich explained at the kitchen table over a beer. “Everywhere you look is something” he quipped, describing the lushness that fills the banks and surrounding terraces along the Colorado river as it carves through the Grand Canyon. Although Erich had made a month-long voyage through the canyon by boat before, this conversation was just 22 hours after our visit there. A journey that made an immutable impression on me as I traversed on foot from one side of the canyon to the other and then back — doing something known as a Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim.

To know something, I must dive in, get my hands dirty and commit. This was my first adult trip to the Grand Canyon so I set my bar high. Always an eager ear to listen to my river-loving friends’ tales of the months of their lives spent exploring this place, one of the seven wonders of the world, I came away with a sense that the canyon was quite large and almost guaranteed to free you from the technological and municipal tangles of daily life. It has walls that are five-to-six-thousand feet high, hidden trails that can only be reached by water and tales of explorations in rugged environments as variable as winter and summer in the same day. My friends always echoed that planning is critical to success, keeping it in check is critical to success and luck… well, that would be a part too. I had that this weekend, that was the most critical piece to my success venturing into this stunning terra firma — not for a month, but for a very long day.

At 5:06 AM in sub freezing temps on November 19th, 2013, the three of us, Erich, Heather and I, dropped over the South rim of the Grand Canyon via the South Kaibab trail. A feathery wave of warmer air softly invited us to descend into the chasm, guided by a full moon and anticipation of our long day. The trail was wide and well worn, with each foot strike powdery bursts of red dust erupted and sent a misty cloud into the follower’s headlamp beam. Massive jagged shapes — like those drawn in Dr. Seuss’s books — slowly rose above us as Gotham-esque outlines. In an hour we were warmed up and dropping 4700′ of vertical to the Colorado river minute by minute. Then suddenly it happened…”Ben” Erich exhaled from behind me “I fell.”

I knew how he felt, the day before I had stepped off a snow-covered front porch in Telluride, Co and ate it so hard. I fell directly onto my butt and took a diagonal impact across my entire lower back and sacrum to the point of some immediate swelling, bruising and an occasional pinch since then. Content to carry on and visit the canyon anyway, I iced it in the drivers seat, took some ibuprofen and figured that a six-and- a-half-hour car ride was plenty of time to determine how it would play out.

Erich Owen running through the canyonlands

Erich Owen running through the canyonlands

Unlike my klutzy self, Erich made it to the trail before going down. He caught a foot step in a powdery pocket of dust, hyperextended his right knee and sent his body hurtling forward. Starting from 8 mph and ending at 0 with a white flash and nausea, a crumpled red dust covered being barely set atop a rock is a tough place to be 5.2 miles into a 42.4 mile day. I walked 150′ back up to Erich and helped him assess the situation. His gear lay strewn about the stark landscape like a gypsy yard sale at a Phish show. The impact had been “big” and he sat on a rock, reeling from mild shock.

“Man, what do you think?” I said. “I think I blew my knee and I’m seeing white” he said. Ughhh, I thought, THAT sensation, when you have cratered full-on superman style into a pain cave, disorientation and a sense of despair so low, so ominously coursing through every inch of your body that retching is all that sounds good. Erich was going to need a few minutes to recover, then we would see where he was at. He is a strong dude with a solid chassis.

In a little time, Erich shuffled to his feet and walked 100′ downhill and it was clear that he could move, but rather than take that as a sign to continue, he wisely chose to use his energy to get himself out of the canyon less injured. He was finished. We both knew Heather, tactfully descending somewhere above us, would be a solid back up as she was doing a burly 14 mile day with 9400′ in vertical change, turning around at the bottom of the canyon and heading back up. I cleaned his shades, put his visor back on him and said good bye with his confidence I could still complete the day alone.

Off I went into the dark maw until dawn. I crossed the Colorado river and arrived at my first water break at Phantom Ranch some seven miles, 4700′ of descent and two hours into the day — a slow setup to a long sustained effort. Forty extra minutes of darkness and low temperatures were absorbed in the scenario above and it was important to cruise with a little urgency in the cool morning up a 6200′, 14.2-mile climb to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. I had time thanks to the early start and I wasn’t bothered at all about being off schedule, just aware that the sun would be up soon. I took off from Phantom Ranch after hastily replacing the half liter of fluids I had consumed and had a nice time running a little harder on the North Kaibab trail’s lower reaches and seeing the life Erich had spoken about, the life that comes from water in the depths of such a stark and craggy stack of monoliths.

As I strode through a broad section of opening valley, a hole burst in my hydration reservoir, right at the bottom of the pack and like that, at mile 13 — I had potentially blown this attempt. I had fumbled around in my pack in the dark and placed a sharp object too close to the durable plastic. When I filled the bladder to capacity at Phantom Ranch it put too much pressure on it. My jacket, gloves and two McDonald’s cheeseburgers were soaked in an orange solution of gatorade and fresh water. I was super pissed, this was my fault and now jeopardized successfully completing the traverse to one rim, making running back to the other nearly impossible.  All I had left were two gels, three blocks, one granola bar and 29 miles to stretch it out.

 

It goes on and on for days, huge craggy spines and monolithic structures a scale unlike any I'd ever seen!

It goes on and on for days, huge craggy spines and monolithic structures a scale unlike any I’d ever seen!

I have not had an episode like this in a while, where a total meltdown could be so imminent, with nearly no solid food and no water or way to carry water. I was in the bottom of the Grand Canyon, six miles from people in one direction and going to have to pull off 22 more miles with what I had with only two chances for mere sips of water in between. This was a moment for contemplation as a bright wave of sunlight slowly pushed silhouttes of the enveloping 5000′ canyon walls down into the valley and soaked into my bare shoulders for the first time.  I made my decision and went for it; I like to finish things, and figured that if had to hike out to conserve energy — I would, I could — even if it meant going into darkness.

This was my sixth “ultra marathon” distance run. I went into it expecting to just cruise it, albeit with a partner, food and water.  I had strategically wanted to run hard from miles 21.2 to 35.4 for training, but other than that, I had no real goals other than finishing before dark and having a nice day on the trail with some friends. This was not a race, it was a day out. I had never set foot on a trail in the Grand Canyon so it felt like I should allow time for photos as well, you know, like a tourist. But now this, a chance for an epic draw on my deepest reserves instead became part of the experience. I hadn’t explored that kind of distance totally alone before and this was my last run before a mandatory prolonged break for a few weeks in between seasons.

The trail leading toward the North rim of the Grand Canyon

The trail leading toward the North rim of the Grand Canyon

Without belaboring the point or disrespecting the canyon, I will say the eight miles and 6200′ of uphill in the sun were hard with no water! As I neared the top and mile 21.2, I felt the pangs of desperation uncoiling from within and sequestering my brain to intervene and stop this messy attempt if I saw anyone at the parking lot. When I arrived, there in the frost-covered shade of a stone-planted National Park sign were three spigots of water I had planned on seeing. I strolled up, tried all three and not a trickle flowed. “Shit, no water, oh man, it’s over,” I thought! I sat down, it was cold, my clothing was soaked in my pack and I sort of zoned out and was trembling from the still, cool air in the shade. Moments later, a trio of climbers I passed on the way up appeared and I asked them if they had any disposable water bottles. They gave me a fresh 24 oz. water bottle that I opened and chugged.  Damn I was lucky. Flat out, that gesture took this from being the longest day ever to the longest day on empty.

I crammed the awkwurd bottle in my pack and had revitalized my hydration to a manageable point that could be recovered. Cramping in my side due to dehydration and the fall off the porch from the day before inspired me to jog down the trail a little easier until it abated and soon the trail was flowing singletrack and a river ran nearby. I was never afraid I wouldn’t be able to do it and even got to push the 14 mile section I wanted to, not a ton, but enough to feel like I really “ran” the rim to rim to rim.

By mile 35 I had been through everything, I had lost my partner, my water, my solid food– but I gained the confidence I needed to carry forward and I took a chance that paid off because of luck. As I sat at Phantom Ranch the second time passing through, seven miles and 4700′ below the South Rim in post lunchtime sun, I wiped my salt covered face off with a wet handkerchief. Autumn’s golden foliage flowed from side to side and I sat undisturbed at a drinking water spigot outside the ranch’s canteen for nearly a half hour. Wow, I thought, it’s nice to sit down for a moment and reflect at the actual lowpoint of this trip. I had almost totally crossed this huge feature on foot with the bare minimum and couldn’t really complain about anything. It was all working out, just with some readjusted expectations. I was fast enough to get it done and slow enough to see it for an experience and not just an achievement, it was real and not just a blur.

Boaters portaging at Bright Angel landing below the suspension bridge at the base of the South Kaibab trail.

Boaters portaging at Bright Angel landing below the suspension bridge at the base of the South Kaibab trail.

With this in mind, I departed down trail to the Colorado River and stopped to observe portaging boats as they made their way to and through the beach at Bright Angel campground in the midst of their own three-week journeys through this magnificent feature — the same journey my river-loving friends were always bating me with. I thought about how still and tranquil it must have felt for them at times and how glad I was at the time to know my compressed journey was almost done and it was long before sunset. I was ready to head back to the world to friends and family.

Ascending out of the valley and up the South Kaibab’s 4700′ trail winding through dreamscape and postcard views, I soaked up the last of my water, an 80 calorie espresso flavored gel and just plodded along on empty. In perfect light above wild steppes and crumbling mountainsides carved out of a vastness so immense, I could understand now that which can only be understood after 42.4 miles and 22,000′ of elevation change in a place. My expectations were totally vanquished, I couldn’t help but revel in the sheer magnificence of this iconic National Park and at the same time still obsessively eyeball every 10th of a mile on my GPS watch until the end — about 54 in a row on the grueling return uphill. There is no way to come here and say it should be called, “pretty big canyon” or “yeah that’s a nice canyon.” This thing is the definition of Grand to the core. The running part, totally secondary.

The final four-tenths of a mile at the top were steep but Heather and Erich were there cheering as I approached the end of my first journey through the Grand Canyon. With sunken eyes and waning energy I was thankful for hearing their voices, the jug of water they handed me… and sitting down. Life comes from water, sharing a few sips and scanning the horizon for the last rays of the sun dappling the many features of the sterile and parched upper canyon, life indeed was coming back.

Some of the steps in the final miles of the Rim to Rim to Rim crossing.

Some of the steps in the final miles of the Rim to Rim to Rim crossing.

adventure, Osprey Athletes, Osprey Life, travel , , , , , , , , , ,

What a Difference a Year Makes

November 18th, 2013

The Dolfin arch of Rodellar, Spain. I tried a route right on arch. Beautiful hiking all over the place as well.

What a difference a year makes. Last November Jasmin and I were on a ‘working’ vacation. Now don’t get me wrong, free climbing El Cap was a dream come true for us, but I would be lying if I didn’t say it was the hardest thing I have ever done in terms of athletic endeavors. I have done big days in the mountains on skis, rock and ice, but the sheer labor involved in free climbing a big wall for five days with diminishing sleep and a taxed body is a huge mental and physical struggle. I think combining that trip after a summer of desperately rebuilding the family business after storm damage, followed by an ankle joint infection requiring surgery, and then six weeks later destroying my knee led to one of the hardest years of my life. I had great friends and family through it all, and money was never a stress so there is a lot to be thankful for because at the end of it all was the muy tranquilo Spanish climbing vacation that Jasmin and I so desperately needed.

After a spring and summer of rehab, which is every bit mental as it is physical, I feel like I am finally firing on all climbing cylinders again. September saw me get oh-so-tantalizingly close to my sport climbing five-year project. Even though I didn’t send it, I did better than I ever had before, on my hardest route ever, which to me means that I was back from injury better than ever. The new and improved Evan, I hope!

Yours truly having fun while following the outrageous steeps.

Yours truly having fun while following the outrageous steeps.

So with that mentality Jas and I left for seven weeks of clipping bolts in Spain, specifically Rodellar and Terradets, two well-known destinations in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Tons of tufas drip and dangle from the overhanging walls, teasing us desperately toward the top of 30-40m endurance climbs. If steep, fun sport climbing, with five star hikes on your days not climbing is your thing, then it’s time to head to Spain.

Chris and Heather following us up the famous Riglos climb "Fiesta de los Biceps"

Chris and Heather following us up the famous Riglos climb “Fiesta de los Biceps.”

Overall, the quiet Spanish towns are friendly and chill, which was a huge contrast to spending two days in Barcelona. I know we are not city people, but the homelessness and unemployment of Spain didn’t hit until we got to the city. 25 percent unemployment is high, and crazy enough is the fact that youth unemployment is 50 percent! A quick trip to the city made me thankful for all we have; jobs, homes, friends, family and health. At home I feel as though there is so much opportunity and support for me to pursue my passions.

Riglos, Spain. Home of the wildest sport multipitch climbs any where I know of. Long approach too ;)

Riglos, Spain. Home of the wildest sport multipitch climbs any where I know of. Long approach too ;)

So we continue to climb until we can’t hold on any more on some of the best rock we have ever touched. Staring off and wandering through the beautiful country side, enjoying local artisan breads, cheeses and produce. The simple life of eating, sleeping and climbing is being extra appreciated right now with the final countdown of just a few weeks to 17 hour work days and bottomless powder. Now and in the busy winter to come I will surely be loving exactly where I am and what I am doing and who I am doing it with! Except of course for the four days that I have to sit in a classroom to re-certify my first aid!

 

Just another ancient Spanish town on a cliff above some amazing canyons.  Alquezar, Spain

Just another ancient Spanish town on a cliff above some amazing canyons. Alquezar, Spain

 

 

 

Active Lifestyle, adventure, International, Osprey Athletes, Outdoor Activities, Travel , , , , , , ,

Live Every Day as if it Were your Last

August 22nd, 2013


Nothing like an alien brain tumor the size of tennis/baseball to spice up my summer! For the past two years, I had noticed that my coordination and memory were just not spot on, but I attributed it to stress and my insane work, play and farm schedules. But starting in February, things began to get very strange: First I fell asleep at the wheel about a hundred times from the Outdoor Retailer show to Silverton, Colorado. Then I forgot to pack entirely for my three week Canadian adventures and my KEEN Osprey Rippin Chix Camps at Crystal Mtn, Red Mtn and Whitewater. I ceased to pay all house bills, insurance or do any invoicing or sponsor updates and, what’s worse, didn’t even notice. I actually forgot to catch a plane to Reno where I was the keynote speaker for Microsoft and a roomful of CEOs. But the straw that broke the camel’s back was on June 30th when I almost burned the house down cooking our piggy’s bacon for breakfast. While I was oblivious to my actions and just moving through life like everything was normal, Jason was most definitely freaked out by my behavior. It was if there was another person who now inhabiting my body.

After I just about killed myself with the now infamous bacon incident, Jason called our local rural Paonia doctor and begged for something to be done immediately. Dr. Meilner obliged and called every hospital within a two hour radius to see who could perform a CAT scan at midnight on a Saturday night. Finally Saint Mary’s in Grand Junction could take us, and Jason coaxed my almost lifeless body out of bed and into our ancient Subaru. Strangely, the alien tumor made a potent move at that point, and about the last thing I remember was directing Jason to where the hospital was located. Next thing I knew it was two days later, I was suddenly entering surgery at the Ann Shutz neurosurgery center at University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora. I couldn’t understand why all my family had flown or driven in to see me — luckily I didn’t comprehend the papers I signed, as this surgery is most deadly (hence the sudden arrival of all the family). Next thing I knew, I woke up in the ICU, which was a scene out of the bionic woman TV show, and my brain was clear and sharp. Immediately I demanded my dental floss, much to the glee of the hospital staff, my friends and family, and especially Jason who had not left my side; my feisty normal self was back! Again, I had not known that many people take several years to recover their memories and often have partial paralysis, although I did have amnesia from the bacon moment onward and most of June was a more than a bit blurry.

I’ve been out of the hospital for just over a month now, and can’t believe how fast the recovery is — way easier than it was for eight ACL/meniscus/articular cartilage knee surgeries! I’m back to working planning the upcoming ski and bike seasons, which I love (thanks Osprey!), walking and hiking, lots of farm work and joyous harvesting, fracktivating and planning a big keynote speech next week for the EPA, The Whitehouse and The Green Sports Alliance. More than anything, I notice the wonderful little things in life — a great night’s sleep in a comfy bed, petting the dogs, eating our amazing food and kissing my amazing guy. I’ve reflected on how amazing my life has been — how I have gone after everything like it could have been my last opportunity. And even though I am a bit petrified for my full body PET scan and three spinal MRI’s on September 6th, I feel confident that my neurosurgeon, my naturopath and my naturopathic oncologist Dr. Nasha Winters and my Ketogenic Diet with the Namaste Health Center in Durango will take me to a whole new level of health and well-being. Cheers to this wonderful life — the sky is blue and there is a big puffy white cloud that is so pretty, and I’m actually able to go eat four squares of organic dark baking chocolate right now!

adventure, Bike, causes, Osprey Athletes, Osprey Culture, photos, Uncategorized , , , , , , , , , , ,

Where Will You Take Your Pack?

July 10th, 2013

We’re fortunate that we live in the age of social media — because it’s increasingly easier for our friends, fans and family to send us shots of their Osprey Packs in action. Take this shot, for example, Tweeted to us by Leon McCarron, who wrote: “Really enjoying the Xenith 88- possibly my fav Osprey pack so far! Here it is at the top of Ireland”

A few short words and a beautiful shot are all it takes to give us the inside scoop on where you took your pack. Much the same way a sturdy bike and a great pack are all it takes to make an amazing and photo-worthy adventure! So: Where will you take your pack?

Thanks, Leon McCarron, for sharing!

Active Lifestyle, adventure, Osprey Life, Pedaling Change, photos , , , , , , , ,

Gregg Treinish, A MoveShake Story

June 6th, 2013

Today marks the online release of a film that showcases an incredible story of courage, passion and action for change. Produced by RED REEL and very well-received at its world premiere at Mountainfilm, the fourth MoveShake series presents ‘Gregg Treinish, A MoveShake Story’, which takes us on Gregg’s journey as the founder of the non-profit Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation (ASC).

At its core, ASC bases everything on the natural connection between adventure and science. It operates by asking adventure athletes who are traveling the globe to collect scientific data, which is then collected and presented to researchers. In essence, ASC uses the adventurer as the middle man, who willingly performs the task of, as ASC puts it on their website, “getting expensive, time consuming, and difficult to reach information from the remote corners of the globe.”

As this MoveShake film so readily presents, Gregg has dedicated himself to this organization that’s experiencing rapid growth and support. But the film delves deeper, revealing “the reality of day to day life.” From the Vimeo film description:

“In this story we hear how Gregg struggles to balance the responsibility he feels toward the environment with the relationship he holds dear. We’ll follow Gregg during one difficult expedition where he realizes that relationships are what give us the courage to make change in the first place.”

Want to support ASC? The organization is currently raising money to support adventure science expeditions for young students. Donate to the cause and contribute to the experience of a lifetime for some seriously lucky kids.

adventure, causes, Conservation, film festivals, Osprey Athletes, Osprey Culture, video , , , , , , , , , ,

Adventure Cycling Association’s Best Overnight Bike Video: Use Your Weekend

April 11th, 2013

Just a little over one year ago, Adventure Cycling Association teamed up with Blanche van der Meer and her WorldCycle Videos group on Vimeo and launched their first-ever Bicycle Travel Video Contest. The premise of the competition was simple: “to celebrate the booming trend in bike touring and travel documentaries.” The result, thanks to some fantastic volunteer judges, is several fantastic videos that capture the essence of cycling.

The above video won for the category of Best Overnight Bike Video. Here’s why, according to Adventure Cycling Association:

“Inspired by the work of one of our judges, Alastair Humphries, Sam ventures by bike into the Catskill Mountains for the first time, and on a cold winter weekend to boot. This video nicely illustrates that even the shortest of bike tours can be long on adventure.”

Stay tuned for the third of these winning films, which we’ll publish next week!

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Looking Back is Moving Forward

March 21st, 2013

Ben Clark on 24,688' Annapurna IV's North Ridge. Clark and Josh Butson were the first to lay ski tracks on this notoriously unstable route. Photo credit: Josh Butson

Carving one last wet, heavy mid afternoon turn into camp last May, I stopped, clicked out of my ski bindings and took a step back from 10 years of working alpine routes in the Himalayas. I began this 10-year career with an Everest summit on my second expedition and then attempted 13 more peaks in the Himalayas. My partners and I would dispatch routes in a bold style that, depending on whether you read the NY Times or the Adventure Journal, either brought us closer to death or closer to life in this humbling and crushing mountain range. I have a biased assessment on the position of life or death. I made it through physically unscathed and can reflect on experiences “in the field” with great partners, good memories and only “some” bad luck. But a lot of my friends, and some of my mentors did not fare as well: some died, some quit, others didn’t know when to stop. It is with that disclosure that I begin to wax sublime on some of my more memorable moments and a couple of caveats to explore if you think this is an interesting topic:

1. All I wanted to do was see the world.  From the age of 20 until 32 that manifested into mountaineering and channeling all my efforts, extra money and time into the Himalayas.

2. This was not a hobby for me. It was an obsession that drove almost every decision I made during that time. It had to or I would not have survived what I was doing. No mountain was worth giving up the chance to explore another one for, so I had rules that I followed and when I committed to climbing a peak, made it happen despite a real job.

3. I love this sport whole-heartedly and it makes me hurt deep down in the pit of my stomach when I think about never doing it again. But not as bad as the thought of making a fatal mistake and hurting the people I love.

So here you go, a snapshot of what I have to contribute on life, death, risk… and why I personally chose to take time this year to consider what I was doing.

It was a chilly October and my right butt cheek was smeared against a frigid corner of bare granite, knee grinding into the opposing wall over a single toothy crampon point that held my weight while a heel sloped downward and my achilles fought for reprieve. In this precarious position 90′ above Josh, my partner on the wall and belayer, I had a left leg flagged out into space pressing away from the corner. It was desperate, my quivering right arm clutched an ice tool hooking an 1/8″ nub of bare rock while my left arm extended into a steel pick scratching a surface of thin decomposing snow and ice. In the still air at 17,000′ I yelled down to Josh to untie from the rope between us, “Josh, take me off!” He responded: “What???” I repeated what I knew he had to do: “Take me off, I will kill us both if I fall.” At that moment, severely exposed and wildly wrong about adequate protection (I had placed none) in the vertical corner I was inching upward in, “26 year old me” knew if I made one error I would die from a fatal 1200′ fall and violently rip Josh off as well, the two of us tumbling to death six days from a road that led to a town where people spoke only Mandarin, in a Chinese valley where no one knew we were. This was difficult terrain to be soloing but I knew I could execute the moves to safety because I never allowed my emotions free reign to seize and paralyze me in the moments where my life, death and the future was suspended in balance like this. I had nothing to lose, which helped. After all, I would leave nothing behind but about $700 in my bank account, no debt and an e-mail to my parents from a smoky bar in Rilong — a forgotten relic of a town in the far Eastern Himalaya that crumbled in an earthquake in 2008.

But I didn’t fall that day in 2006. And we still had an epic time getting off that mountain in the dark, in a major storm with two ropes and barely any protection for adequate anchors in the featureless compact granite. We took risk and we executed, death was an option, just never acceptable for us. But I want to phrase that carefully; I did not see this as cheating death, I was cheating odds, which is a different game and mindset. Even though I love nature and alpine environments, luck was the most prevalent explanation for living and also the most seductive element of adventure granting clouds and snow, sun and summits and fate or failure. When we got home to Telluride, Co. from that trip, all I wanted to do was have a conversation with my local mentors Charlie Fowler and Chris Boskoff about how awesome the trip had been, how confident I now felt putting up a new route in the Himalayas. They too were in China on an expedition, but they never came home, an avalanche swept over them a few weeks after the storm we had survived. They died doing what they loved.

Jon Miller belays Josh Butson as the team reached the site of a 5 night stay at 21,600' in a fierce Himalayan maelstrom on Baruntse. Photo credit: Ben Clark

In 2009, with three more aggressive years to hone my experience and an appetite for dangerous runouts, I was in the lead on a new route on the NE face of 23,390′ Baruntse in the Nepali Himalayas. Josh, Jon and I had committed to what we thought was a six-day alpine style push with the bare amount of equipment to climb the mountain by a new route, summit and then ski down the other side. This was my dream climb and the route I would say had the most influence on me than any other route I ever touched. I wanted to traverse it more than any ground on earth. But on that day as I led, ice climbing on a shiny spine of ice cleaving a wide open face capped by dangerous icefall on either side, I peered across valley to the 8000′ south face of 27,940′ Lhotse to watch the jet stream explode against it in a 3000′ tall mushroom cloud framed by an eerie alpenglow. I scarily uttered through chattering lips with 2000′ of air nipping at my heels: “Living people do not see things like this.” That night, on a ledge we chopped out and sat on for five days, I hunched over with my frost nipped feet warming on Jon’s stomach holding his hands so he could lean forward and puke into a Ziploc bag. Josh melted water in a stove almost hanging in space on the edge of the tent. We settled into an uneasy realization of what we all knew may be true — this could be it if the storm built steam and blew our tent to pieces. We had reached a point of too far, not yet no return, and would have nothing but time to worry about our fate as Jon’s stomach ailment deteriorated into a serious condition.

21,600' camp on the NE face of Baruntse, aka "the good times clubhouse." Josh Butson, Jon Miller and Ben Clark spent five nights here in a storm that everyone down below thought killed them.

But the storm built only so much steam and we lived. After 10 days on the mountain we rappelled the route rescuing Jon and in three months I was in Salt Lake City, Utah at the Outdoor Retailer show talking to an athlete manager of a company that supported me as an athlete. Recounting this tale and then discussing the fate of a new friend I had made that year who had reached out to me for advice before my trip — Micah Dash, we remembered Micah’s adventurous spark, which was extinguished with two others by an avalanche in Sichuan while we were on our climb. The last e-mail I got on day six of our approach to Baruntse was about Mt Edgar; “Did I know anything about it?” The news of why he hadn’t responded to my last e-mail hit me just one week after returning home from Baruntse and somehow the stock sentiment made me pale this time. He died doing what he loved.

In May 2012, with my wife at home pregnant with our son, I broke trail in 3′ of snow up a large valley on 21,506′ Chulu West with Jon, Chris and Gavin. We climbed three awkward pitches of rock the day before to get into position to be the first people to ever ski this valley and were hit by a major electrical storm that delayed our start and lay fresh snow over some dangerous terrain up high. At just after noon that day we stood looking at the last steep pitch leading to the summit ridge, the sun was intense, heat was picking up and large chunks of cornices had crashed into the slope and triggered a couple of sizeable avalanches. At that moment, my mind drifted to where it always had, where I knew that there was a good chance that if we set foot on the slope it would avalanche, but I wanted to go anyway because I have tempted fate many more times than just what is above and it has worked out. That is what it takes to make it to the top.

But this time it didn’t work out, we did not “succeed” and tag the summit. We talked about it. We talked ourselves out of it. Why? Because I don’t want to die a suffocating oppressive death after being ripped to pieces and then buried beneath a ton of snow. We would not settle for eight more ski turns and a stale eulogy. I did not want to be someone who “died doing what they loved” because if that were the case, then I would die hanging out with my family, sleeping, eating ice cream, pizza, editing a film, listening to a great song — just sayin’. Luckily, by committee, everyone elected that we should “just ski”… novel right?  We didn’t actually have to increase our risk of death to pull that off and have fun. My God, why did it take me so long to learn that?  Just skiing there was “extreme” enough and I was so engrossed, so used to laying it out there that I could not even see that was an accomplishment. It had become routine to pioneer, dangerously so.

With occasional views like this, why wouldn't you at least be curious to explore the Himalayan high Country? I snapped this photo right before skiing off the summit of 20,201' Thorung peak.

In 15 peak attempts in the Himalayas from Dhaulagiri in Western Nepal, the summit of Everest in Tibet and the far reaching slopes of The Savage Sister in eastern Sichuan, I had come close or had completely risked it all every time, every time except this one. I have broken an ankle, rescued a friend, run out of oxygen on summit day, been in an avalanche scenario and watched friends fall in crevasses, lose feeling on the right side of their body and cry, cry in the anguish of physical and emotional defeat. I have given up myself in the dark hours of a stormy night and understood the process that leads one to freezing to death alone and undisturbed by that choice. This time everything went right, including my attitude toward it all… so I quit, the moment I finally got “a head.”

Situations and tolerances vary for everyone and across latitudes and longitudes. Education is the best backup to support your judgment when taking risk. There will still be moments after you have gained that medical and snow science knowledge when you are in the mountains and your tolerance will negate what you have learned or the situation will fall outside what you were taught. If you proceed at that time you must knowingly commit and pursue your present goal with little more than faith that the consequences you are anticipating are truly manageable within the system of variables you are engaging with. That is adventure; it is in that space I loved so dearly, where I learned to be present on the line between here and now and tomorrow or never. Don’t forget though, that the system you are engaging is greater than the slopes around you and you may have to speak to someone’s mother, father, wife or brother about the mistake you don’t think you are about to make, even though most of the time you won’t. But if you do, if something goes wrong, if you nearly cost someone his or her life or are there when something out of your control goes completely wrong, I can only tell you that in my experience, it is a far lower low than any altitude high you may ever reach.

Every now and then, it makes sense to press pause. On our iPod, during a movie, in a heated debate… sometimes we just need a break to process all the excitement and the stimulation. There is little room for pause in real life or the types of scenarios above. There is no skill that will comfortably guarantee survival either, for that there is only luck. I think that is why they call it risk and nothing else. I think that is why I always encourage others to go if that curiosity drives you. Considering what I have survived, I would go forward in some instances where others may have stayed home because I felt it was necessary to explore boundaries. I don’t regret that I did, but I’m not continuing onward today. I have already gone and I have come back.  And on this side of things, I am enjoying a state of pause, reflection and peace with my decisions.

"Of course it is worth it"- Ben Clark skiing powder on the North Slopes of 20,201' Thorung peak with 21,506' Chulu West behind him. Photo credit: Hari Mix

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