Climbing a Granite Big Wall, Discovering New Species for Science, and Starting a New Conservation Area. Aka, Going Camping.
Right now I am supposed to tell you I am ready and that I know what I am doing. I’m neither.
Projects that matter take self-trickery to make happen. I never asked myself if it was really possible or a good idea to splice together climbing and science and conservation and Malawi and Mozambique and 14 individuals all trying to achieve a collective goal. I just set about doing it. Now it is happening. Which means now is when the panic of the reality sets in. Put another way, we’ve already climbed the high dive ladder, stood on the edge, and jumped off. Now—when there is no way to go backwards—is therefore the first time when I am finally allowing myself to look at the giant body of water which I’m heading for at full speed. It’s just the way I like to do it.
I’ve spent the majority of my life in and out of major expeditions. I was that kid who had her dolls and stuffed animals organized for imaginary camp with peanut rations and toilet paper sleeping bags. It stands to reason that I am now the adult who has the following decisions to make:
- What percentage of the poisonous snakes which we will be around have fangs that are over ½ an inch long and thus make a case for the thicker high-top leather hiking boots versus low-tops?
- Will deet from 2004 still work, and work well enough against malaria-carrying mosquitos? Chance it or change it?
- Will 33 porters be obscene or accurate? And what size T-shirts do these porters wear/should we bring for gifts?
- Is EtOH alcohol available for our scientists’ specimen vials in Blantyre, Malawi, or should they tuck it in their luggage here in the U.S. and act none the wiser?
- If the rainy season starts early will it make any difference if I bring one rain jacket or two?
My nine-year-old niece Miranda called me yesterday evening to talk about camping. She was just back from a family trip in Northern Minnesota
“How was it?” I asked her.
“Camping is cool,” she said. I laughed and agreed.
We talked about her favorite part (waterfalls) the scariest thing (the sound the rain made on the tent) and yuckiest thing (sleeping next to her brother). Once we covered the highlights I asked her if she would do it again. “Well, yeah” she said. I think she would have said “Duh, yeah” had her mother not been listening.
“You know, Miranda,” I said, “I sort of camp for a living.”
She giggled. Usually she tells me I am silly for pretty much everything I say. This time she said “You’re lucky, Auntie Majka.”
After Miranda and I hung up I went upstairs and looked at the pile of climbing gear with pieces for every possible situation known and unknown, stacks of maps and research and logistics papers, rain coats and rain pants, bug nets, gaiters, sat phones, energy bars and more. This is the highest high dive off of which I’ve ever jumped. But at a certain level, it’s also camping—something I have been doing my whole life. And if camping is cool to Miranda, it’s also cool to me. After all, the thing I’m also most worried about is too much rain on the outside of the tent.
By Majka Burhardt, Lost Mountain Project director and Osprey Athlete
#LostMountain begins October 27th; Follow along at thelostmountainfilm.com
Exams are tough. Whether they’re your first driver’s test, an important midterm or a job-dependent physical exam, they all force you to lay it on the line. There is no hiding behind feigned indifference, or deferral to a more knowledgeable friend. It is you, the challenge laid out, and the raw truth of what knowledge or physical prowess you have amassed up to then.
To be a student and attempt an exam is normal; the risk of failure is part of the learning process, and is a generally accepted part of educational progression. But the Canadian Mountain Ski Guide (run through Thompson Rivers University for the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides) exam process has a distinct difference. Candidates go into their exam identifying as ski guides already. The risk of failure is compounded by that negative result outing you as an unworthy guide, which is as crushing an assertion as anything to people who have worked so hard to get where they are already, and by all accounts are very capable of safely guiding clients through the mountains. This “what if” outcome is always close by, reminding us, the candidates, to train harder and prepare more thoroughly for the upcoming exam. Maps are pored over, techniques refined and ski miles are pounded in. We visit the exam area, scouting potential routes daily, hypothesizing over different examiner approaches to a particular situation. The evenings are spent discussing more potential exam options, every candidate with their own opinion of how things will unfold. Everyone is fueled along by their own “what if” scenario, adding to the general group stress and anxiety. The weeks before the exam generally unfold like this: The focus is singular, creating a mad sort of efficiency, all of the candidates striving towards one goal, the successful completion of the exam.
In many ways we are no different from law students preparing for the bar, or firefighters with their physical tests. All of this preparation has come down to one week in the mountains with my fellow candidates and examiners. We are now up to the challenge, skills honed from weeks of training and years in the mountains. The pressure lies in putting together seamless days back to back. One great lead is not enough. The next day we need to put together another great lead, and the following day, and the day after that. The singular focus remains from training and all other worldly worries melt away. All that matters is the day in front of us. The stress of all our prior assumptions disappears as well, as now this exam is a reality, and we are actually out there, skiing in some wild places. The proper reasons for embarking on this crazy process come flooding back, as I top out on another Rocky Mountain peak, a vast expanse of mountainous terrain expanding before me. “What exam?” I think, as we lay turns between massive rock walls, sinuous pathways of powder cascading far down below into the valley.
The longest week of my life somehow quickly comes to a close. We are now left to reflect on the week, wondering what we would have done differently, if anything at all. Feeling thankful for a pretty much perfect week of weather and conditions with a great group of candidates, I now allow my body to start recovering from an intense winter season of guiding and training and begin a new stressful period: waiting for the official results of the exam to be mailed out in a couple of weeks.
“I still remeber the simple pleasure of riding my bike to little league baseball in my uniform.” Andy Traslin graduated to carrying his skis.
Osprey Athletes the Traslin Brothers (Mike & Andy) have been skiing their entire lives. Growing up in the mountains, their snow endeavors were only natural. As such, this photo by Mike Traslin of Andy riding with skis on his back is exemplary of their lives. We hope it inspires you to get out and go!
Thanks to Mike Traslin for sharing this shot with us on Facebook!
Sometimes we all need a good motivator, a reason every day to get out, an excuse that actualizes our habits. I usually need a mountain, a big one somewhere far flung, and something I can obssess about for months and then go and set foot on. As such a goal usually demands, there is an inherent discipline that goes with it, including daily exercise, weekly planning and monthly milestones. Recently however, as I have been preparing to do not one, but 14 continuous 14,000′ mountains in one 60 hour push, I joined a website that allowed me to hold myself accountable, communicate my daily training with some modesty and to participate in a contest to win a treadmill. Yes, I know what you’re thinking: why the hell would I need a treadmill living in Telluride, Co.? Read on…
When I began this #nevermiss contest, I thought I would win. It was titled #nevermiss and inspired by Mark Covert, the current record holder for the longest running streak at over 44 years of at least a mile every day. I’m an endurance athlete and have a lifestyle that facilitated the daily minimum — to walk or run one mile a day each day and build the longest streak of doing so between 11/1/13 and 12/31/13. I hoped to win the treadmill for my wife, who with our recently born premature child, has not been able to get out much but is a very cardio-motivated person as well. I started on 11/2, the day after a man named John Di Rienzo (a Hawaiin resident). Although most of his mileage would stay localized in the beauty of Hawaii, I would hit multiple locations in Colorado and Utah as my quest to get outside battled mother nature’s quest to force winter!
Sure, it sounds like a decent idea, but this was no bare minimum contest for either myself or Mr. Di Rienzo. There would be some 25 mile days, 50 mile days and over 340 miles and 52,000′ of elevation gain during this time, as I attempted to stay committed through a race and a rest period afterwards. I checked in daily and stayed in the game with Mr Di Rienzo’s daily posts. He was getting it done every day and so was I. It’s funny how this motivated me and how it challenged me to execute every day. I found excuses to climb some of the coolest peaks I had seen for years just right off interstate-I-70 in Colorado; I finally got out of the car near Crested Butte, Co. and hiked to the Dillon Pinnacles on a 7 hour drive; I took much-needed breaks from work to just stroll a mile around my hometown and remember why I live here and almost every day take a picture. #nevermiss became an actualizer of opportunity for me so much more than just a contest to win, it became a fundamental excuse to be conscious of how awesome my life is and how fortunate I am to meet this criteria, of being able to walk or run a mile everyday and share a photo of where.
Although Mr. Di Rienzo won the contest having started one day before me and because he honestly stuck to the ethos a little better — running a mile everyday rather than hiking some like I did, I did not feel bitter that I could not win the treadmill for my wife. Instead, I felt thankful that I had a new habit and had opened my eyes to things that otherwise I may have ignored on my quest to do the lower mileage hiking days. Now that I am nearing almost 100 days and 500 miles since 11/2/13, I can look back and say that this streak has been a good thing in my life and that I hope other people take on challenges like these, not necessarily for the fitness but for the chance to take a break, get outside and do something you love every day!
Osprey Athlete Alison Gannett seemingly wears a million hats. She’s not just a Champion Big Mountain FreeSkier, accomplished ski mountaineer and Environmental Scientists; she’s also a pioneer in the movement to reduce our global carbon footprint and, most importantly, she works hard to save what she loves most: winter.
Our friends at Grist recently wrote up a story about Alison’s inspiring eco-efforts, and it goes something like this:
At first blush, Alison Gannett’ssacrifices in the name of fighting global climate change don’t seem all that sacrificial. In 2001, the world champion extreme freeskier gave up helicopter skiing. She sold her snowmobile in 2005. Several years ago, she rejected a lucrative contract with Crocs because of the shoe company’s questionable environmental practices. (She kept her contract with the more sustainable Keen Footwear.) Just recently she turned down a photo shoot in the Alps because the flight over the pond was too much for her carbon footprint to bear.
Go ahead, roll your eyes. (Oh muffin … no heliskiing??) Then take note: Gannett walks the walk when it comes to living green. She and her husband grow their own food on an earth-friendly farm, and she’s battled to bring sustainable eats to residents in her rural corner of Colorado. Gannett has also leveraged her personal experience into a business that helps individuals and corporations — including a few of her athletic sponsors — reduce their energy consumption by up to 50 percent.
The American Alpine Club owns a single backcountry hut. It’s the Snowbird Hut, up in the Talkeetna Mountains of Alaska. Through the hard work of AAC Alaska section president Harry Hunt, James Brady and Cindi Squire, the new hut is functional for this winter. The Snowbird Hut sits above the Snowbird Glacier. The Glacier is just a stagnant melting piece of ice like all Talkeetna Mountain glaciers, but the skiing is incredible. A popular trip in the area is the Bomber Traverse.
I joined Harry and Cindi for a super fun weekend at the Snowbird. The old dingy, leaky, half-crushed-in-by-snow Snowbird Hut sits below the fancy new Snowbird Hut. The old hut will be helicoptered out next summer.
Cindi reveals the shiny new steel kitchen counter.
Harry fluffs in the R30 duff into the ceiling. Toooooasty!!
In splitter weather we insulated the ceiling, finished sheeting the floor, started sheeting the ceiling, built a bench and a table. It helps that Harry is a carpenter.
We had both a full moon and the northern lights. Become a member of the AAC and visit the best hut in Alaska. P.S. The Mountain House on the Ruth Glacier may be more dramatic, but the location will drive a skier batty.