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.
In 2009, Paul Muscat and I climbed Mount Chamberlin, then considered to be the highest summit in the Brooks Range at 9,020 feet. Now, Mount Isto might be the highest at 9,060 feet. It was just the excuse we needed for another trip to this pristine wilderness.
Joining us was Glenn Wilson and James Kesterson. Over the past 17 years we’ve been on many trips together: Denali, Mount Baker, Marcus Baker, Mount Bona, Mount Iliamna, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Mount Chamberlin, Mount Logan and the Central Talkeetna Mountains. On this trip we didn’t get up Isto, but we had a blast exploring and bagging peaks.
With logistics help from Alaska Alpine Adventures, we flew direct from Fairbanks to the Jago River with Wright Air. It was a two and half hour bush flight, with no in-flight service. This region is better known as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, where Alaska’s embarrassing half-term governor once said, “Drill baby drill.”
The plane is a Helio Courier, made in the 1970’s and designed for a low stall speed. Supposedly it will fall horizontally rather than nose dive. The tires are Alaskan Bushwheels, made near Anchorage in Chugiak. They are the “premier tire for extreme backcountry adventures.”
Glenn and I got brand new Volt 75 packs for the trip. They were perfect! The right size for our eight days of food, fuel and mountaineering gear. They fit like a slipper, straight out of the wrapper. Once again, Osprey made our trip better.
Our first summit was the 8,625-foot Screepik. While conducting summit LNC (Leave No Cairn) we found Tom Choate’s name in a sodden film canister. In 1999 he climbed Screepik and made the impressive scramble over to Isto. His trip reports are in the October 1999, February 2000 and the November 2013 Scree newsletters from the Mountaineering Club of Alaska. Choate called Peak 8625 “Spectre”. First ascentionists called it Shadow Peak. Keeping with the tradition, we called it Screepik. Scree for the endless boulderfields, and “pik” for the Inuit word for “genuine.”
Descending from the summit of Screepik. Nobody out there. Just us.
After eight days of mountaineering at high camp, we returned to a base camp by the landing strip on the Jago River. Here’s Paul on one of our day-hikes from camp. Our tent is a tundra-colored dot in the tundra fields way down there along the river.
Another day hike along the Jago, this time up the big split in the river. While the first part of our trip was cold, drizzly and snowy, the second part was warm, calm and sunny. The bugs weren’t even out yet. Conditions were ideal for snoozing in the soft tundra.
James, Paul and Glenn mid-layover at the Arctic Village Airport terminal on the flight home. Thanks for another great trip guys! And all the memories. I can’t wait until the next installment. Maybe to try Isto again. Maybe to try the next highest Brooks Range summit. There is a rumor that it’s now some unnamed peak. Oh bummer. I guess we have to go back….
The GoPro Mountain Games are the country’s largest celebration of adventure sports, music and the mountain lifestyle and they return to Vail, June 5-8, 2014. Over 3,000 professional and amateur athletes annually converge on the mountains and rivers of Vail to compete in 25 sports for over $110,000 in prize money. Spectating at the event is free and over 53,000 spectators annually attend for four days of athletes, art, music and mountains. A festival atmosphere engulfs Vail comprised of four expo and demo areas, nightly free concerts, an outdoor photography competition and an Outdoor Film Festival.No matter how you get to Vail for the Summer Mountain Games, we assure you there are plenty of adventures on the way. Bring your toys, take some extra time and enjoy some of the best country in the United States. Perhaps you will end up like some of us and never leave.
We’re starting summer off right in Vail, CO, the weekend of June 5-8 2014 at the GoPro 2014 Mountain Games! Summer 2014 sporting events include steep, freestyle, sprint and full contact kayaking, rafting, mountain, road, and slopestyle biking, World Cup Bouldering, amateur climbing, fly fishing, stand up paddling, slackline and trail, mud and long distance running.
Here are some highlights from this year’s games: (more…)
adventure, adventure sports, bouldering, Climbing, Colorado, concerts, demo GoPro Mountain Games, expo, festival, film, fly fishing, Go Pro, GoPro, kayak, mountain, Mountain Games, MTB, outdoors, rafting, road biking, running, slackline, slopestyle, steep creek, SUP, Trail Running, vail, Vail Village, yoga
Osprey Athlete Joe Schwartz is a resident of British Columbia, Canada. He has been a professional mountain bike rider for over a decade, and was a featured rider in the New World Disorder series of bike movies, as well as other movie productions and TV shows (Ride Guide, Drop-In). Through his work with film companies he has been fortunate enough to travel all over the globe, riding in some very exotic locales. Joe is an ACMG certified backcountry ski guide, and has worked for numerous catski, heliski, and ski touring lodges all over BC. While mountain biking is his main love, Joe uses his skis as an escape mechanism. His past adventures include completing multi-day ski traverses throughout BC and achieving a number of committing descents in the BC Coast Range, the Canadian Rockies, and in the French Alps.
This is a question normally asked in the initial research part of planning a trip somewhere exotic, before you’ve made any decisions, but I had already committed to this destination and legitimately had no idea where the island was. The reasons for this were a long winter of ski guiding, my Ireland-med school-attending girlfriend, our months apart from each other, and that Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands off the coast of Morocco, was the furthest south she could get a direct plane ticket to after a rainy winter in her new home of Cork. The plan was already in action, and I would have been happy to meet her on an oil rig in the middle of the Atlantic, so tickets to this Spanish island were booked, and then I started looking in to exactly where I was headed to.
They said it was the storm of the century.
On Wednesday we watched the weather as it fell by the feet, crossing our fingers and hoping it would roll into Colorado. On Thursday, the storm blew east, dropping over a foot in 24 hours in the Colorado mountains. Powderhounds throughout the state rejoiced—us included, with reservation. We were stoked that the ski areas on I-70 were getting dumped on, but I-70 wasn’t our destination. Our sights were set southwest of Summit County, way southwest. So far southwest, in fact, that we would be closer to New Mexico than to Vail Pass.
Can you guess where we were headed? Silverton Mountain, Colorado.
The storm flirted with us. It was headed to Silverton, and then it wasn’t. And then it was. And then it stayed. And stormed. And stormed. And stormed.
The storm coated the roads and blocked the visibility and made us—a pack of women, of powder whores, of chicks—giddy with excitement. We threw our fattest skis and warmest coats in our cars and trucks, kissed our people goodbye, and drove into the blizzard. (more…)
What better way to kick off 2014 than with a few jitters, chattering teeth, and a full serving of adrenaline as you carefully choose where to swing your axe next??
That’s what will be happening in the little town of Ouray, Colorado, as people from all over the country travel to Ouray to participate in one of the largest ice festivals in the nation. This will be our 10th year attending and there are MANY reasons we keep coming back!
It will all kick off on Thursday night, January 9th, with presentations and delicious beers brewed in the heart of the San Juan Mountains. (more…)
I don’t like to admit to hastily-made plans or half-baked ideas, but this attempt of the Tour de Mont Blanc (TMB) was verging on that. I had done some previous research into the route, even including some first-hand accounts from friends who had done the trip before. It had been a jam-packed summer, and with a single day of rest between departing on the TMB and 18 days straight of bike guiding for Big Mountain Bike Adventures in the Swiss Alps, I hadn’t afforded myself much time to prepare mentally or physically for the task ahead. All I had was the commitment from a friend, Trevor Mitzel, to join me for the adventure, and a couple maps, which I hadn’t actually opened and looked at yet. I was winging it a bit, I know, but I was confident in our abilities to make it up as we went.
We arrived into Chamonix in the evening, the clouds boiling around Mont Blanc high above town. It was dismal looking weather, but a forecast promised nothing but blue skies and warm temperatures for the following week. Getting our gear and bikes dialed, we decided on our route, and even reserved a couple places to stay along the way. Things were starting to come together. All that was left was to saddle up and head out on the 160km loop that promised over 8000m of ascent along the way.
Day 1 – Chamonix to Les Chapieux
The weather man was right, and the morning sun highlights the upper reaches of Mont Blanc as we pack our bags and scurry around the village picking up essential trail food items (sausages, cheese, chocolate and bread). Spirits are high as we connect to gravel paths that take us down the valley, and towards Les Houches. Our lack of planning is made apparent when we arrive at the bottom of the lift station to find the lift running and open for bikes. We gladly use this bump up to ridgetop, happy with our unexpected elevation assist. Our smugness is quickly and efficiently wiped away for the rest of the day though, starting with a crucial juncture missed, sending us deep into the valley and resulting in an extra hour’s climb back up the road. Once the proper route is established we get a few kilometres respite before beginning a 1600 metre climb up the Col de Bonhomme, the ascent mostly consisting of steep dirt road or rocky hike-a-bike.
The sun does little to warm us on the Col, and we are presented with another soul-crushing surprise, more climbing to the Col de Croix de Bonhomme, which is a seemingly endless series of ridges away. Finally achieving this last col, and feeling the effects of a large day on the bikes, we wobble our way down the descent to the Auberge de la Nova, a secluded refuge tucked in a remote valley far below. Dinner is hearty and delicious, and we retire early, slightly wary of the next day, and a little unsure of what we have gotten ourselves into.
Day 2 – Les Chapieux to Courmayeur
It’s amazing what a night’s rest will do. We awake stoked to tackle the day ahead, albeit stiff and sore. The climb up to the Col des Seigne (2,516m) is an arduous one, but mostly all climbable on the bike, which makes it enjoyable, in a masochistic kind of way. The views help too, with the sun rising on the broad valley where we had spent the night, and the Mt Blanc massif coming into sight as we crest the col. We had begun a tally to weigh the pros and cons of attempting this route on a bike, and where the hikers probably had won on Day 1, we were definitely winning today. The col marks the border between France and Italy, and the descent into Italy is welcomed. Italians seem to take less pride in their waterbar construction (years of riding in the Alps has made me a de-facto waterbar expert) and we have to negotiate numerous logs placed in awkward positions on the trail. Not enough to ruin the experience, but the flow of the trail is altered slightly. Descending into the valley is spectacular though, with big alpine walls on both sides, and glaciers yawning up above. As quickly as the TMB gives though, it takes away, and we steel ourselves for another climb, this one extending a mere 400m above the main valley. It is a deceiving 400m, as our legs feel like it is at least double. The reward is there though, with a ripping fast trail that descends to the top of the Courmayeur ski resort, and finally into the picturesque town below the ski runs.
Day 3 – Courmayeur to La Fouly
The bikers definitely lose to the hikers on the climb out of Courmayeur. It is a rocky, steep affair all the way to the Rifugio Bertone, pushing/carrying our bikes the whole way. Once at the Refugio, a split in the trail requires a decision. One, a beautiful looking traverse around the corner, and on the map it looks like a fine, lower level option. The other route continues with the hike-a-bike, but promises some ridge-top singletrack and a peak to climb with the bikes. Being gluttons for punishment, we forgo the smooth-looking traverse and shoulder the bikes for more climbing. The climb pays off with unbelievable views and great trail once we get higher, but the ratio of riding to hiking is skewed the wrong way, and we regret our decision. We make our way off the ridge eventually and downclimb to the Col Sapin, and from there ride a fun trail that takes us back to the main route, the smooth, buffed trail we stupidly avoided. Oh well, next time. We soldier on up the stunningly beautiful and easily accessed (judging by the number of cars out for a Sunday drive) Val Ferret. Another giant climb is hiked up (we are really losing to the hikers today) and we look down into Switzerland from the Grand Col du Ferret (2537m). This is when we start winning again, with a sinuous descent that drops over 1000m down to the sleepy town of La Fouly. We check into a somewhat questionable auberge, but are treated to an amazing steak dinner, washed down with beer and wine.
Day 4 – La Fouly to Trient
With the skies still a perfect azure blue, the morning is a relaxing mix of singletrack and exploratory roads through quiet Swiss villages. We really start to feel like we’re on a bit of a bike holiday, rather than a sufferfest. The inevitable climbing begins eventually though, and we work our way out of the valley towards Champex Lac. Lunch is spent at a café by the lake, and we easily turn it into a two-hour stop, enjoying ourselves and soaking up the perfect September weather. The food sits a little heavy an hour later though, as we approach the base of the Bovine, a 700m wall of a climb. Appropriately named too, as all the cows had just been escorted out of the alpine for the winter, and the trail was left ravaged by cow shit and swarms of flies. We escape the Swiss agricultural tour eventually, and rip a long fast descent all the way into Trient.
Day 5 – Trient to Chamonix
While we probably could have squeezed more riding into Day 4 and pushed on to Chamonix, we did not feel the need to, given the amazing weather. Where else would we rather be? Day 5 is a bonus, and we mean to treat it as such, maybe go do a little exploring. With that in mind we stray from the normal TMB route, and even from the recommended variation route, and head out on a little ride. The little ride ends up turning into a gnarly hike-a-bike complete with bolted chains for safety, getting completely lost in the woods, and eventually finding some very rarely traveled-on singletrack. Despite our momentary lapse in route-finding, we have a great morning of riding, connecting long-forgotten trail that eventually takes us down to le Buet, at the north end of the Chamonix Valley. We now embark on the only planned part of our TMB adventure, a booze cruise hitting key pubs all the way into the town of Chamonix, where we continue to celebrate an amazing mountain bike trip.
Story and photos by Osprey Athlete Joe Schwartz
Expedition Denali is history in the making, another first for the books and a step in the direction of changing the world we live in. This National Outdoor Leadership School expedition will take nine mountaineers to the top of Mount McKinley this June, making them the first all-African-American group to summit Denali. Of course, reaching the top of North America’s largest peak is not the ultimate endeavor; Expedition Denali’s most significant objective is to inspire people of all colors to experience the outdoors. This statement from Expedition Denali’s Kickstarter Campaign gets to the root of the ascent:
By 2019, it is estimated that minority children will become the majority in the U.S. These kids will become the leaders of this country and the world, and a staggering majority of them don’t feel the outdoors is a place for them.
In an effort to connect as many people as possible and inspire diversity in the outdoors, a documentary film will be made telling the story of the summit. Here’s just part of what the film itself will capture, from Kickstarter:
This group of climbers will do more than climb a mountain. At an elevation of 20,320 feet, extreme altitude and harsh weather aren’t the only barriers Expedition Denali is determined to break through. On the 100th anniversary of the first Denali summit, Expedition Denali is a symbolic step forward, encouraging people of color—and particularly African American youth—to participate in and become inspired by the vastness and beauty of nature.
The good news is that Expedition Denali, with support from The North Face, REI, and the Foundation for Youth Investment, has actually exceeded its Kickstarter Campaign Pledge, thanks to donations from people all over the world. Of course, we can all help by spreading the word about what an amazing, inspiring and world-changing expedition this is. Be sure to follow Expedition Denali on Facebook for updates, news and information and to share the updates that inspire you.
Osprey is proud to announce that we will be attending the action-packed Dominion Riverrock Festival in Richmond, Virginia during the upcoming weekend of May 17-19. We’re super excited to be a part of the only festival of its kind, one that combines the best of both the outdoor adventure and the music worlds. Throughout the Fest, there will be endless competitions in biking, hiking, running and climbing, as well as performances by top notch artists such as Toots and the Maytals and many more!
Not only will there be on-going comps, music and fun, we’ll be there hosting our own events. One such activity will be the infamous Osprey Packs bola ball toss, which you can play to win a pack! All proceeds will be donated to the Blue Sky Fund, which makes your chance to win a pack that much better. We’ll also be selling packs in alliance with Blue Ridge Mountains Sports at a killer 20 percent off, and our very own Osprey Athlete Ben Clark will be guiding hikes with Virginia Trail Blazers and signing free posters throughout the weekend.
If you’re in the area and looking for a mind-blowing good time with loads of things to do, stop by our booth to check out the packs, get a poster or try your chance at bola ball for a good cause! Connect with the Fest on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and share the #riverrockrva love!
You may have already heard the news. Regardless, we’re proud to shout it out! Veteran Osprey Athletes Alison Gannett and Timmy O’Neill were both given the honor of being nominated Best Outdoor Personalities by Elevation Outdoors in its annual Best of Colorado poll.
The Colorado-based magazine Elevation Outdoors serves as the area’s guide to outdoor recreation. What’s more, it celebrates what’s best in outdoor sports and gear and who’s doing the most amazing things in the world of outdoor adventure. Here’s what Elevation Outdoors had to say about our very own Alison and Timmy:
Best Colorado Outdoor (female) Personality winner Alison Gannett is a World Champion Extreme Free Skier, an accomplished mountain biker, surfer and inspirational speaker. An Osprey athlete since the late 90’s, Gannett is a global cooling consultant helping companies and individuals find cost-effective and meaningful solutions to reduce climate change impacts.
Longtime Osprey Athlete Timmy O’Neill was named Best Colorado Outdoor (male) Personality. O’Neill’s resume includes climber, comedian, slackliner, lecturer, drummer and coffee drinker. This year, O’Neil was named executive director of Paradox Sports, an organization helping disabled individuals enjoy life to the fullest through climbing, biking, surfing and paddling.
“It is fantastic to see Elevation Outdoors and its readers recognize Alison and Timmy,” said Osprey’s Director of Marketing Gareth Martins. “We are huge fans of Alison and Timmy with great respect for them as both athletes and activists. We can’t wait to see where this season will take them!”
You can read the entire Elevation Outdoors Best of Colorado 2012 list here!
It is funny to me how goal setting can be such an indomitable force. Sometimes I have to strive for something really impossible just to find my motivation, while other times I’ll set my sights too low and be greeted by successful dissatisfaction. I’ve found that balance is harder than executing, especially when the factors are out of your control and dictated by nature. But not this summer… this summer in the mountains has been one of the best, and it just keeps on giving.