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Try Taking an Osprey to Cuba and See What Happens

August 10th, 2010

Bags are a hot commodity in Cuba, and I mean all kinds of bags.

A few years ago, customers would be hard pressed to find a store that would bag their goods in plastic sacks; thus, the habit of rewashing and reusing “nylons,” as my mother-in-law calls them. Now, unfortunately, plastic bags are ubiquituous in Havana’s shops.

But personal bags and backpacks… that’s another story entirely.

When we call Francisco’s family before a trip to ask them what they’d like us to bring, the list inevitably includes bags. Purses, school satchels, and backpacks are all hot items. Into my three Osprey bags went a pink backpack for our niece and two large purses — one red, one white — for a sister-in-law and a friend of the family.

It was inevitable that I’d lose one of my Osprey bags; I always come back home lightened of my luggage. Someone in the family decides they need to relieve me of a bag or two, so I knew this time would be no different. Above is Francisco’s son with his newly acquired Osprey pack.

And if you’ve never been to Havana and are wondering what it’s like, you can see photos from my recent trip here.

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Traveling Road

July 12th, 2010

It has been quite some time since I last wrote, and quite some time since I was last in the U.S. The winter in Montana was a good one aside from the tragic loss of Guy Lacelle. He was one of best ice climbers world wide, not only in ability but in his pure and genuine love for the sport.

As the snows began to melt I blasted off to Costa Rica to attempt riding on the swells of the massive Pacific. We spent 7 days on the remote Peninsula de la Osa among howler monkeys and flocks of Macaw parrots. Most days I would have no more than a pair of shorts and my machete for harvesting the abundant coconuts. Mornings and evenings were for surfing, mid-day was for siestas. After 10 days of work I managed to get a flight to Cuba, a nation I have always wanted to visit. I spent a night in the city: shared a bottle of rum with 6 employees at an ice cream shop, smoked my first cuban cigar with a family who practiced afro-cuban voodoo, and caught some spectacular Cuban rhythms!

The next 4 days I was in Vinales the famous tobacco producing area that also happens to be Cuba’s epicenter for sport climbing. I passed the days climbing on the overhanging-stalactite covered walls of the Karst geological formations with motivated local, Yorobys. Climbing in these expansive overhangs requires thinking three-dimensionally. The skills needed to transfer from steep mixed rock to daggers of ice could be applied to this new-to-me style of climbing.

After Cuba it was off to Mexico to work on the Yucatan.

The whole month of June I was in the midst of the saturated air of these three nations, sweating form day one until my return to Montana. The locals I met along the way made it a memorable travel.

I will have to say that I’m happy to be back home in the cool and dry high mountain air. I got to spend 4 days in Bozeman prior to blasting down here to the Tetons to start the summer guiding season with Jackson Hole Mountain Guides. Yesterday, we took 3 young kids up the classic “Guides Wall” a 5-pitch 5.8 in Cascade Canyon. Feels good to be back on the rock.

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