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.
‘Tis the season to celebrate two wheels! May is National Bike Month, and there was no better way to kick it off than with the The Bike New York event this past weekend, supported by sponsor and dear friends of ours, Eastern Mountain Sports and the NYC Department of Transportation.
New York commuters and individuals from around the world came to Pier 36 to check out the latest trends and to prep themselves with gear for their ride in the 35th Annual Five Boro Bike Tour in which the cyclists overrun the streets of New York and visit the cities that make up the surrounding areas of the Big Apple. Over 30,000 riders participated in the Sunday ride!
Take a minute to check out some photos and highlights from the trip above.
**We would like to highlight the third picture on the right, this here is Randy. Randy had never heard of Osprey and as a native of New York. Randy spends all her time commuting on her bike, getting from point A to point B throughout the city. Randy had a pack with little support for her back and the necessary things she carried on her commute. Randy told our sales rep, George (in photo) “if you can fit all the things I carry, including the old pack, in this Momentum 34, I will buy it on the spot.” Well, truth be told, George did so, and Randy was welcomed to the Osprey family with open arms!
We all have challenges in life, from balancing work with family to juggling our health and schedules. Each day we tack on ever-increasing years and mileage just by being present. Sometimes falling short is the best we can do, sometimes going bigger than we could imagine is asked of us with no more warning than the arrival of the sunrise. I’ve always on some level viewed success in life as having control of my destiny that day when I first see the sun, but that’s just the goal, a vision, and sometimes just being awake is more of an achievement than we give ourselves credit for.
On September 15th, I was scheduled to enter my first ultra-marathon, a 50-miler that would take place in the La Sal Mountains of Utah and end in the slickrock paradise of Moab — The M.A.S. 50. After hitting some major trail running goals this summer, I elected to take the next step in my mountain-obsessed career and try this. Trying something new and unleashing the process that has allowed me to throw myself at so many bizarre goals is a yearly struggle for me and brings about occasions I fight to rise to. I hate to lose as much as I hate to quit, but sometimes my goals look more like I hate myself, although that is not actually the case (I really just want to know what I’m made of). What looks like punishment from the outside is actually just evidence of emerging flaws within — weakness, doubt and uncertainty that I hope to purge. This process challenges me to constantly conjure a willingness to move forward despite obstacles and in that process, man, I feel good when I execute.
Sure, the above sounds inspiring but this is not a story about the M.A.S. 50, I did not toe the line on that day — September 15th. In fact, I did not complete one mile on that trail that day, and I didn’t even go to Moab. I met a greater representative of who I am inside, and learned to appreciate a different virtue — vulnerability on such a greater scale — just three days before that day I had prepared for with a single-minded focus. On September 12th, my wife and I welcomed a son into the world, eight weeks early.
My wife gives me credit for all the years I spent negotiating life and death situations in the mountains sometimes when I deal with something in a way others may not. However, on this occasion, all of that training saved our son’s life. It was just one simple decision to stop and get gas before speeding an hour and a half down the Telluride Valley to Montrose, Co. that made the difference. Her water broke after dinner, we packed a bag, said goodbye to our dogs at 7:10 and out the door we went, her in an immeasurable amount of pain coupled with the fear and anxiety of a premature birth and far from the world of advanced medicine and OBGYNs.
As any mountain guides know, when things go wrong, making quick decisions can alter the course of action to irreversible. I could tell that this situation was getting intense so we called our doctor in Grand Junction, asked for some advice and as I poured a cup of coffee in the gas station, grabbed my wife a cold water and pumped a few $4 gallons into our car — the five minutes of letting the situation unfold properly passed like an eternity. That five minutes to look at the situation clearly dictated the next two hours. Rather than deliver our son in the car and on the way to the hospital, we safely took an ambulance to the Telluride Medical Center where my wife and an extraordinary team delivered a 4lb 8 oz. boy — one of the few babies since 1964 to be born there. He was welcomed into the world just moments before his first chopper ride to Grand Junction, Co. and a month long stay in the NICU of the hospital.
So, no race that weekend. What I was actually training for was here early and I am proud of him as he showed me that being barely able to do anything on his own, being completely vulnerable, completely helpless, unable to really even live without so much help was OK. We saw a lot of sunrises as he stayed in the NICU in the hospital for almost a month with my wife and dedicated mother-in-law keeping constant vigil over his every breath. Each day was a small step forward as he learned to eat, breathe and keep his eyes open. He taught me it doesn’t take amazing physical feats in the mountains to uncover the human spirit, it is here already everyday — in each of us. He is the best proof I could ever have that life goes on, that moving forward is not always easy, but it is possible, and that life itself is the goal. The situation also taught me that dumb luck trumps the best laid plans; had he been delivered in the car he would have not have made it, drowning in fluid that filled his lungs. To top if off, we had to move our family two and half hours away to Grand Junction, Co. until he can come home in 4 to 6 months.
But that is not the end of the story. Life is about doing what you can even when it seems like you can’t. I always remind myself that patience and an eye for opportunity will overcome the present day at some point good or bad. It helps me to freak out a little bit when it’s bad, get over the adjustment and then pick it up and motor to the next of however many phases there are to whatever new challenge surfaces.
So two weeks later than The M.A.S. 50 in Moab, with my wife’s permission, I toed the line of a 50 Mile race for the first time. This race — The Devil Mountain Ultra in Pagosa Springs Co. started at sunrise on 9/29/12. It was just above freezing at 6 a.m. and after two weeks of very little sleep, being on high alert and a gut wrenching uber dehydrating food poisoning episode two days before, I covered 50.87 miles on trails, climbing and descending 8300′. The most memorable part of the race was spent under a tree on a mountainside during a scary electrical storm that drenched me to the core and lasted 45 minutes at mile 42. Accompanied by another shivering and damp racer, Roger Youngs, who shared the same fear of being hit by lightning, I stood back up with a stiff and riddled body to give it what I had and climbed 800′ back up to the saturated plateau that led for another 8 miles to the finish.
Although the circumstances were not ideal, I never questioned why I was here doing this. I was lucky to meet Roger Youngs that day and hang out for way too long under that tree while the storm raged above. He had destroyed his feet in minimal running shoes, I had hobbled, run and overcome a massive blow to the outside of my right foot at mile 8 that made it swell up and bruise like it had literally been run over or beat with a sledge hammer by mile 23. These were newbie mistakes that put us both at the back of the pack with fresh legs and motivation to finish, but mistakes I could accept easier than telling my wife I had been gone for a couple of days and not really done anything but bruise my foot to the point where I couldn’t run for two weeks.
When we arrived at the last aid station at mile 44.5, I gave Roger my more cushioned shoes and put on a fresh pair I had waiting in a drop bag there. We plunged downhill into approaching darkness and I finished that day by headlamp at 13 hours and 8 minutes, 3 minutes behind Roger who I made a believer in the Brooks Pure Grit shoe that after 45 miles in his other non-cushioned shoes might as well have been hovering above the trail with soft marshmallows under his riddled feet. Running slowly in the darkness with nothing more than the distantly faint sound of music and people around a feast at the finish that I was too late to enjoy, I had no idea if I could finish or not and that was not an easy feeling. I didn’t know if my foot may just completely collapse under a catostrophic stress fracture and totally take me down as the last three miles stretched onward to mile 50, and then there was an extra .87 miles to go past that. I knew I could try until it did and when I finished, it was pretty anticlimatic except for that my foot had not broken in half. I didn’t feel anything at the finish line and wasn’t overly fatigued, kind of like when I summit a peak and have all the way down to go, there was gas in the tank but this time the vehicle had no tires. Despite what you might think there was no sense of relief or accomplishment, no excitement, no hunger, nothing. Well, take that back, I felt my foot and I felt a sense of urgency to ice it. This was OK for me and something I am used to, if you are of the mindset to complete a 50 mile race, delaying gratification is probably in your DNA as well.
Sometimes we have to balance a lot in life, we have to go an extra .87 miles, we have to work harder than others, we have to overcome ourselves and the mistakes we make, we have to push our limits with pain in every step. In this case, I didn’t so much overcome the mileage or the fear, I overcame my expectations and took control of one day of my life at sunrise in the midst of an otherwise out of control plot I am living. Just because I made it to that finish line that started so far away that day only meant that race was over. I had no emotion because the moment it was over, I thought about someone else and hisr accomplishment and was excited to be a part of it. I thought about my wife and my boy and I realized that in order to feel anything like what I thought I might, I would have to be with them. I liked that, realizing that for the first time something that seems like such an individual accomplishment would at least this time hold nothing more than a lackluster statistic of being some guy who finished in the back of the pack, as usual, a display that the only real talent I have to show for my athletics is heart. Beyond that, the true and quantifiable result of running that first 50 miler wasn’t just to realize I could go the distance, but to realize that the distance from my family would be the one that would hold the most meaning and it was time to jump in the car and get moving forward with my life again. This was not the time to pat myself on the back and get too comfortable. After all, there was another sunrise to catch and each one for the last 38 days has been better than the one before.
“Drafting Dad” was originally posted on Majka Burhardt’s blog.
One day, I will beat my dad at something. I’m 35. He is 70. It hasn’t happened yet. I thought I had his number when I had him out to New Hampshire to go bike riding and canoeing. Our day one bike agenda was 42 miles and 1,500 feet of elevation gain, and I had a home court advantage. Plus, he was in bike sandals rather than shoes and had a too-long stem on a rental bike with sticky gears. He also wanted to carry a pack, in which I would, at mile eleven, place my jacket.
Let’s back up. I don’t want to beat my father in malevolent way. It’s not even about winning. It’s more about matching him in some way. I’ve had a life of shared activity with my dad and I have yet to see him try. He is like the Polish Yoda. He just does.
In May somewhere along the Annapurna Circuit’s long, winding, dusty road, I began to believe that after a safe and successful slaying of snow on two peaks that I had finally achieved my goals as a Himalayan mountaineer. This shouldn’t be that shocking since I have spent ten years pioneering first ascents and descents in the world’s highest range with narrow-minded focus and more than a handful of narrowly missed catastrophes blending the good times with the bad and no regrets for how we did it. This insight was forced upon me in January, when my friend Jack died in my climbing partner Jon’s arms and then I decided to take a day off from filming heli-skiing in Haines, Alaska and my friend Rob died on a routine run guiding clients. The number of passionate people I have seen meet their demise in the mountains now takes up two handfuls of digits and that is likely too close for comfort, and forces me to ponder my own fate.
I don’t really know anything about parenting, other than what I see from my friends and family. Besides the fact that it’s a big deal, and you know, it completely changes your life. But I have met quite a few women who loved the outdoors before they had their first child and have learned how to raise their children and not lose that connection in the process. Which I think is inspiring…
People ask me, “What’s your mom like,” and I tell them that she’s a ball of energy, running on caffeine and chocolate, kind of like…me sometimes. She’s a stubborn lady. I remember her saying one time when we were out for a four mph walk, Oh, I wish I could still run. She never makes excuses, never stopped moving because of this injury or that injury, Oh I have a bad back/bad knees/don’t have time. She just makes time.
Read the rest of In Praise of Moms Who Crush…
And since this Sunday is Mother’s Day, we decided to troll the internet for a few more inspiring stories of mothers out there. They all seem to incorporate climbing, which is alright with us — and a pretty awesome metaphor as Susan E.B. Schwartz wrote in Climbing Magazine:
As I see it, motherhood is a lot like rock climbing.
Nothing truly prepares you for either: all the expert explanations, advice from well-meaning friends, instructional videos and manuals — nothing does motherhood or climbing justice. I’ve learned this firsthand after nearly a decade at the first and two decades at the second.
In the end, climbing and motherhood come down to one thing: until you’re there yourself, perched precariously, staring wide-eyed and terrified around you, you have absolutely no idea what it’s like. Combining two such powerful and all-consuming life experiences has always challenged women.
And lastly, we love this profile on prAna athlete Carrie Cooper called 39 Weeks.
I believe that life is about living gracefully through the transitions. I have climbed the world over for the last 10 years and developed a keen sense of my body and its strengths. As a healthy expectant mother I continued to listen to the needs of my body. Staying in tune often means exploring the possibilities: changes in balance, energy needs, and the ability to move with ease. I hope you enjoy this video which means so much to me. It feels like a reflection of the adaptability of the human body and the strength of the human spirit.
Chances are, if you’re reading this blog post, you have a mom that crushes it. We hope you have an awesome climbing or backpacking trip planned with her this Sunday. Happy Mother’s Day!
PHOTO via Brendan Leonard/Adventure Journal
We see a lot of great photos throughout the week. So, we thought it was high-time we started rounding up some of our faves each week and highlighting one each Friday on our blog to inspire our weekend adventures. We call it the Osprey Round Up.
Do you remember your first backpacking trip? Whether you were 2 years old or 20, I’m betting it had a lasting impression—it definitely did for us. We believe that the more people, especially children, that we can get outside, the more people we will have protecting our remaining wild places. That’s why we love seeing families out on the trail. And if they happen to be wearing all Osprey Packs, well that’s an added bonus.
Loving this shot from Jason Boblitt on Facebook:
Osprey Packs Evolution. Summer backpack trip in Utah. The All Powerful Silhouette on the left.
Here’s to hitting the trail with your family and friends this weekend. Happy Friday!
Here at Osprey, we’re excited about the new generation of hikers, mountain bikers, climbers and conservationists, so in order to introduce these little ones to the great outdoors, we’ve developed the perfect platform: our Poco Series.
“Superb ventilation as well as quick and easy torso and hipbelt adjustment were important factors in the design of the Poco series from the outset,” said Gareth Martins, Osprey’s marketing director. “Ventilation is the key to comfort for both parent and child and ability to quickly adjust the pack between parents ensures the comfortable fit expected from an Osprey.”
The Poco Series channels everything we know about packs into a line of child carriers that are comfortable, supportive, light, well ventilated, and supremely easy to adjust for fit. Thoughtfully designed to ensure the safety and comfort of their precious cargo, the fully-featured Pocos are child carriers done right.
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Back in August we took my in-laws on a trip to Jackson, Wyoming — an adventure in the Tetons — a place that is near and dear to my heart, but a brand new experience for my in-laws. A great group of people with high spirits, and except for me and my wife, more experience relaxing on a beach then adventuring through the mountains and down rivers. This was definitely not a deterrent to get out and adventure, it was more of a drive to show them what outdoor adventure is all about. They were all strongly determined to have a great experience and explore my obsession for the Tetons.