In the weeks leading up to my attempt of the Casual Route (at 5.10-, the easiest path up the face) I oscillated between stoke and nerves. I’d look over the route description to confirm it was well within my ability, then look at the mountain and forget it was in my range.
I climbed the route on a Saturday in mid-July with Salvador “Sally” Bastien. The approach began at a Denver camp, where I picked Sally up from his summer job. We ate gas station taquitos for dinner—proper fuel for serious climbers—and grabbed assorted bars for the next day.
We began hiking as the sun set, moving quickly through dense forest. The trees rustled peacefully, the last remnants of day filtered through their overlapping branches. As the air thinned, the trees grew smaller and eventually disappeared, replaced by alpine meadows. We saw the Diamond, glowing in the moonlight, towering above the land. As the trail faded into scree, we decided to call it for the evening. We slept soundly under boulders, regrettably close to the trail.
The Keyhole trail up Long’s Peak is startlingly popular, and we woke at 2 a.m. to a conga line of stoked hikers, headlamps visible—and almost uninterrupted—for miles down the valley. We dozed off and on for another hour and a half, then packed our bags and joined the train.
The vertical face of the Diamond begins a third of the way up the wall, guarded by loose lower angle climbing. We opted to hike through boulder fields and then rappel into the base of the vertical section, a method I do not recommend. It felt disrespectful not to climb from base to summit, and it also took a lot longer with the added hiking.
By the time we arrived at Broadway ledge, there were at least 10 other parties vying for various routes. Luckily, only one team was ahead of us on “The Casual”. We didn’t start climbing until 9 a.m.
At the top of the third pitch I was ready for a snack. We’d split a breakfast muffin, (from the aforementioned gas station) at 6 a.m., and I was starting to get cranky. I looked through the pack and didn’t spot the food. After some reflection, Sally realized he had left the snacks back at our camp. “Drink water?” he asked with a smile.
We were on the wall for seven hours. One of the members of the team ahead of us had only been in Colorado for a day, and vertical crack climbing near 14,000 feet is strenuous. As a result, we spent as much time sitting on small ledges as we did climbing.
The Casual Route is a true classic, and surprisingly casual given the imposing face it ascends. Go figure. The climbing is an excellent instance of what I’ve come to appreciate in the alpine climbing of Rocky Mountain National Park. Diverse movement on solid rock provides passage up marvelously exposed terrain. With only two 5.9 pitches, and one 5.10 move, it is a delightfully safe and simple path up the most sought after alpine wall in Colorado, and possibly the lower 48. We summited Long’s at 5 p.m. and rappelled the old Cables Route. On our way out, we begged some campers for food to break our fast. The dark forest felt menacing in our exhaustion, and we were delighted to see the car and parking lot water spigot when we returned at 9 p.m.
Nachos have never tasted so good, nor sleep felt so sweet. The next day I was back in reality, waiting tables and sleeping in my car, worth it for those moments of alpine serenity and the adversity that brings us closer to our friends.
Despite our miserable night sleep and our lack of food, we managed to turn what may have been an utter failure into a true adventure. Maybe it was nerves, or maybe it was lack of experience, either way, next time we’ll be sure to come better prepared.
Chris Burkard is a leading outdoor photographer. He is based in Coastal California and posts photos of landscape and lifestyle photos of his travels. His photos will definitely fuel your wanderlust. He is one of the top outdoor photographers on Instagram and one you should know.
Christin Healey is a photographer based in Charlottesville, Virginia. It’s refreshing to find an East Coast Outdoorsy Instagrammer, because so many live out West. Along with her colorful photos of the Blue Ridge Mountains, she posts pictures of her travels across the country. I had the pleasure of meeting Christin last winter, and I can say with confidence she is as authentic and down-to-earth in real life as on her Instagram. And if you love dogs, she has two beautiful pups that she loves to bring on her adventures and feature on her feed.
One of three triplets (check out their joint Instagram: @hopeyoulikefreshair), Kylie is a high-energy, hat-loving outdoors woman. Living out in the mountains always has her capturing lifestyle photos from all sorts of adventures. Her photos provide all the right vibes to inspire you to have a great time no matter where you are. Also, her Snapchats are some of the most entertaining things I’ve seen, definitely go follow it @kylieturley!
Kyle is a designer and photographer from Boulder, Colorado and the lead designer at The Outbound Collective, which, if you don’t know, is one of those sweet sites that help you turn your images into adventures. He is always off hiking, backpacking, or something rad.
Ashlee is one of my favorite Instagrammers. She has a great eye for photography and her edits are beautiful. She genuinely makes me want to go out and explore more. She fishes, climbs, backpacks — somehow able to do it all. Whatever outdoor activity you love, she will inspire you to do more of it.
Joey Schusler is one true outdoorsman. From mountain biking in Belize to shooting videos New Zealand, he’s done it all. As an ambassador for Yeti Cycles, he lives a wild life. His desire to experience diverse and invigorating experiences in far off places is clear from his Instagram — good thing he never leaves for an adventure without his camera.
This is for all you climbers out there. The intense adventures that Alton goes on will make you lust after the climber lifestyle…or be absolutely terrified. He is definitely what you would consider an adrenaline junkie. In addition to the photos of him and his friends scaling mountains and mountain biking, he also films videos that captivate his adventures in a thrilling way.
Growing up in the PNW, it’s no wonder Jeff is an outdoor enthusiast. His photos of the outdoors are able to capture the true vastness and beauty of the world. He posts a variety of photos from all different landscapes and activities. Some of his photos make you question if he really was hanging off the cliff for a photo, or if it’s some Photoshop magic.
Andy Mann is a director and photographer. One of my favorite things about his feed is his ability to capture emotion and wildlife. A lot of the outdoor photographers listed above focus on people and landscapes, but Andy has up close photos of a fever of stingray and photos of him swimming in the middle of a pod [JE1] of sperm whales. His Instagram makes you appreciate the wonders of nature and what it has to offer.]]>
Plan it out – Count how many meals you need to prepare for and whether you’ll have extra water to spare for a meal when you stop. Running out of food is never a fun thing. It’s always good to have some extra snacks in case of an emergency.
Count your calories – I know this is often frowned upon, but for backpacking, it’s a special case. Backpacking is no joke. It definitely takes a toll on the body and it is so important to make sure you are eating the right amount of food to ensure you have the energy to last the trip.
Snacks are important – Snacks are a key part of backpacking. Although it might be tempting to pack a couple big meals to save the back, it might not be the smartest way to eat. Snacks are easy to store and are also key in maintaining proper blood sugar throughout the trip.
Bring fresh food – Dehydrated foods are easy, long-lasting, and light to pack — that’s why they’re so popular, but they can be unsatisfying and unhealthy. In mild weather, fruit and veggies last for a surprisingly long time. They might get a bit beat up in the pack — but the juiciness of fresh foods always beats dehydrated meals after a long day of hiking.
Length of your trip – One thing to make sure you keep in mind while planning for a trip is how long it will be. If you are going on a short trip, you can often pre-cook most of the meals. This means you will be able to eat a greater assortment of foods.
Granola – Granola is a quick and easy option that is high in calories and flavorful. Most grocery stores now have a large assortment of different wonderful, nutrient packed granola that actually tastes good. You can also opt to make your own to cater to your favorite flavors. This vanilla almond granola recipe is one of my favorites.
Oatmeal – Oatmeal is a classic breakfast choice. Companies like Quaker Oats have created convenient instant to-go oatmeal in the shapes of cups and packets that are perfect for backpacking trips. Oatmeal is also a good source of carbs, protein, and fiber.
Bagels – Bagels are another easy-to-pack food for backpacking. Top it with your choice of nut butter and you are good to go. The combination of bread and nuts will fuel you with plenty of energy to start the day.
Breakfast Bars – I love breakfast bars for a quick on-the-run breakfast any day. These are a yummy, sweet treat that will also fill you up. There are so many different recipes that incorporate all sorts of seeds and nuts. You can customize it to fit your taste. One of my favorites is a banana quinoa breakfast bar, but a quick Pinterest search, and you’ll find yourself with a whole variety to choose from.
Wraps/Bread – Tortilla wraps and bread is a great thing to bring to top with all sorts of food. It’s perfect to eat with beans, peanut butter, anything you want if you just try it! They are very versatile and fill you up quickly.
Ramen & Noodles – Ramen isn’t the most calorie dense food, but it definitely is an easy and quick meal. Heat up some water, and you are good to go. Some ramen brands don’t even need to be cooked over heat, they can easily rehydrate with some water. Pasta and noodle dishes are a go-to meal for me on a weekly basis and it definitely still is when I am backpacking. You can pack the dish with all sorts of veggies and you are good to go.
Prepared Meals – Mountain House is a freeze dried food brand that is popular among many backpackers. Unfortunately, they don’t make any options for vegans. Outdoor Herbivore and Good-To-Go are two other dehydrated camp food brands that have vegan options.
Wheat Thins, Fritos, Oreos, Swedish Fish, crackers are all surprisingly vegan snacks. I get that not everyone wants to sustain off Oreos for an extensive backpacking trip, but when you need that little bit of sugar to bring up your energy, it’s good to have a stash in your bag. If you just look at the ingredients of the various snacks in your grocery store, you might be surprised at how many of them actually fit a vegan diet. Here is a list of some of my favorite snacks to bring backpacking:
I hope this guide is helpful in preparing for your next backpacking trip and hopefully make food prep less daunting. Just remember to always listen to your body, it knows best.]]>
At midnight, hours before, the florescent lights in the refugio shattered the pure calm I’d sealed inside my sleeping bag. I curled tighter into a fetal position, fending off the bitter cold. I hadn’t slept well. This stone-built refugio, known as “high camp,” was smaller than the “low camp” refuge about 3,000 feet down the mountain. The main room, packed with twelve bunk beds and lined with one long, skinny table, housed the assemblage of expedition teams making their last stop before Huayna Potosi’s summit.
At almost 20,000 feet, Huayna Potosi is one of the most accessible, thus popular, technical peaks in Bolivia’s portion of the Andes, the Cordillera Real. During peak season in August and early September, the mountain sees dozens of climbers a day. This particular night, only five of us occupied the refugio’s beds. Still burrowed deep in my sleeping bag, I heard the other four groan in near-unison. I didn’t know them—all four burly Australians, with broad chests and thick facial hair. I’d embarked on this trek by myself, which had started two days before from the lower camp. At the time, I was four months deep in a seven-month solo-backpacking trip.
Weeks prior I’d met two French men on a bus to La Paz, Bolivia’s cultural capital. They were returning for another try at Huayna Potosi, which looms like a watchdog over the city. “Altitude sickness man, it’ll get you.” They’d only made it to the first base camp before one got so sick they’d had to turn back down. “But the mountain man, she’s a beauty. There’s nothing that beats a killer mountain.”
I wasn’t sure exactly what he’d meant by killer—which definition his French had translated to heavily accented English: destroyer or amazing?
I emerged from my sleeping bag cocoon and immediately slid into my second puffy jacket. It must’ve been well below zero. I shivered head to toe, and pulled on a hat to cover my ears and a messy braid that I hadn’t bothered to redo since leaving La Paz. That day I was the only girl on the mountain. I tip-toed into the adjacent gear room where Rocky, my guide, was sitting. With dark features and a strong stature, he was only 23, three years older than me, but about five inches shorter. He sat on one of the benches, lacing up his boots. “Buenos dias chica, ¿lista para las aventuuuuras?”
I sat down to pull my own boots on. Putting my head down between my knees I could feel my pulse, thick in my temples, rapid and fierce. Nervous or the altitude? In addition to icing my lungs, the air was noticeably thinner, so I found myself taking shallower, more frequent breaths. From a medical Wilderness First Responder course, I remember that a major cause of mountaineering-related deaths is high altitude pulmonary edema, where fluid gathers in the lungs, restricting breathing and oxygen absorption into the blood stream. A cough and dizziness can manifest in even the most experienced hikers, but severe conditions can lead to a deadly combination of symptoms.
“Lista,” I said, intentionally taking one full deep breath. Today was our big day, the final push to the summit.
When we breathe in, oxygen molecules pass through our lungs into air sacs, or small pods where purple oxygen-deficient blood cells come to refuel. Once revitalized, the cells metamorphose red and return to the bloodstream highways, delivering the essential fuel for bodily function. Being at high altitudes, the air pressure, and thus oxygen supply, is significantly lower than normal. This drastically increases the risk that blood vessels begin leaking—either resulting from the unfamiliar pressure levels or changes in their permeability, no one really knows. What scientists do know is that climbing too high too fast primes the perilous conditions for pulmonary edema, or excess fluid in the lungs. Such a state can be deadly, and can only be corrected only by returning to low elevations and increasing the oxygen supply.
I shouldered my pack, thankfully light compared to the previous days’, now only filled with our tools and a couple snacks. The four burly Australians and their guide entered the room, hee-hawing about racing to the summit. “You ready sister?” they asked me, maintaining their joking intonation. I smiled at them and then at Rocky, who winked at me, inspiring my confidence. I said, “See you at the summit.”
To prevent and combat high altitude pulmonary edema, mountaineers typically spend days or even weeks acclimatizing incrementally to high altitude climates. Around 17,000 feet is when the exposure to alpine environments becomes more severe; sleep loss, muscle wasting, and weight loss are significantly exacerbated, more often than not resulting in signs of full-body deterioration.
The month before this trek, I’d done some high-altitude hiking in Peru, reaching over 15,000 feet. Feeling strong then, I figured something higher and more technical was the natural next step.
I’d spent a week adjusting to the Bolivian mountain altitude, which, in La Paz, already sits around 11,500 feet. While I’d been running six miles without a problem down at the beach in Peru, I could barely make it three miles without wheezing and feeling dizzy. That people live there, and in even higher communities throughout the surrounding mountains, amazed me. I found out that their genes are structurally different from those living at sea level. After centuries of permanently occupying high altitude territory, both the Andean and Himalayan folk, have developed key physiological differences, such as low hemoglobin concentrations, that tame altitude sickness. While each day got a little bit easier for me, I could tell it would take a long time before I’d be cruising my normal six miles.
I got a job bartending at the Adventure Brew Hostel, famous in the Western backpacking circuit for their daily batch of free and endless (read: not tremendously tasty) pancake breakfasts. During the day I’d wander through the city, and by night I’d post up behind the bar to serve drinks to the foreigners, listen to any stories they were willing to share and eavesdrop on the rest. Many were there to party, but more than I’d expected were there for Huayna Potosi. Some would regale with wild stories of success; others would embellish failures with hilarity or severity. My curiosity was beyond piqued. “It’s easy compared to other technical mountains,” I’d overheard a bearded Australian guy with tattoos lining his arms say, but he’d been flirting with a girl all night, so I couldn’t gather how seriously I’d take his comment.
I promptly signed up through an expedition company recommended by the hostel. For just about $100 they provided my guide, transportation, food and outfitted me with supplementary equipment: cramp-ons, mountaineering boots, an ice pick, insulated pants, a helmet, and an old smelly fleece I could use if needed.
At 12:45 a.m. outside the refugio, I fastened a figure eight knot into my harness, tethering myself to Rocky. The Australians emerged and we all paused to fasten our crampons. I leaned back against my pack and gazed above me, watching my breath swirl fuzzy, weightless molecules across my headlamp’s stream. Our position thousands of feet above any other light sources opened a window into the universe. No cloud was in sight, just a huge sprawl of glittery stars, the cleanest expanse of the Milky Way I’d ever seen.
Two hundred meters up the slope we could see another cluster of headlamps outside another, newer refugio. “How many people are going up today?” I asked Rocky.
“I think there’ll be 12 of us,” he said.
The Australian group stepped up ahead of us, assuming they would begin first. I rolled my eyes, annoyed, before putting it behind me. We all fell into single file zig-zagging up the slope. Starting out behind everyone was slow, but after an hour, a group of three turned back. As soon as they were out of earshot, Rocky turned to me. “We’re making it to the summit, right?” It wasn’t so much a question as a statement. I could only nod.
The other groups bobbed ahead like little LED ants. We hiked endlessly under the stars’ glow, traversing staggering cliffs and avoiding deep crevices. The moon climbed along the sky in tandem, racing us to the summit. As we entered the world above the clouds, a thunderstorm brewed across the valley underneath us, allowing witness to the birth of lightening from above: sparkly golden electricity gathering, deep purples and grays and golds coalescing before striking down on earth—the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.
At 2:38 a.m., nausea blended in my stomach and I fought to keep down. The novelty of the adventure wore off, and the reality of the bitter cold, biting wind, and thousands of anticipated steps sank in. Ice clawed at my gloved fingers. Another group turned back; only six of us remained. I had all the corporeal sensations of sprinting—fast heartbeat, shortness of breath, chest tightness—but felt like I was moving through molasses, laboriously in slow-motion. Would we ever get there?
Rocky paced the hike well, but from his strong and meaningful gait, compared to my haphazard trudge, I could tell that if he’d untethered me, he’d be at the peak in a flash. Every time he glanced back at me, he flashed a smile, you’re doing it Chiquita! Later, Rocky told me that he during the peak season, he summits the mountain three to four times a week, often staying up at the low camp in between clients. Nothing tires him anymore.
At a flat pass we caught up to a group taking a water break. One of the guides looked at me. “¿Chica Americana?”
I nodded as my unforgiving breath slowly returned during the pause. “Si, soy yo.”
He laughed. “¡Bueno!” And held his palm up: high-five. Rocky and I continued before them, overtaking the other group ahead within a half hour. Now I reckoned only one, maybe two parties were ahead of us.
At 6:02 a.m., the sight of the summit rounded into our vision. A small burst of much-needed energy jolted into my system at the thought of being almost there. Another climber was at the base of the short vertical ice wall that led to the final traverse to the peak. “¿La chica joven?” he asked Rocky, his face completely covered by a blue balaclava.
The little girl? How did everyone know about me?
The peak was right behind him. All I wanted to do was finish and stand on it, that pinnacle of physical exhaustion and beauty. The sun was creeping up and my energy further waning. An emptiness crept inside me as I paused to breathe between each step, though my heart kept racing, pulsing throughout my whole body. I tapped into my annoyance at being called a little girl and urged Rocky to begin again. I just wanted it to be done.
Along the exposed traverse, sheer drop offs on either side, I kept my gaze down and tip-toed behind Rocky. The wind came, whipping my hood back and I turned around to see the sun birthing the horizon, illuminating the grand expanse below. Five more steps to the summit. Ice crunched. Breath hard, dry, cold. The wind bit at every part of me.
And then Rocky stopped. I almost ran into him. He stepped aside. Two more steps. All of a sudden the breathlessness at almost 20,000 feet, the thousands of steps, the head-down trudging, the equal exhaustion and exhilaration, the everything it took to get up there became insanely, instantly worth it.
At 6:32 a.m. the sun, diffused by the lingering morning misty clouds, wound its rays in between the lower peaks. I occupied the highest point within our periphery. While the sun beckoned a new day for the rest of the world thousands of feet below, I whooped and hollered directly at its fiery giant orb, celebrating how much of the day I’d already lived.
I felt so alive, invincible and mortal all at once. Does Rocky feel this way each time he summits?
Okay, maybe “bears” isn’t actually climbing lingo, but you get my point. Rock climbing utilizes a, shall we say, special vocabulary. Sometimes climbers are yelling strange words of encouragement, other times they’re offering rapid-fire advice with super specific terminology. To help you understand what the devil’s going on, we’ve compiled a vocab list for you as a sort of climbing cheat sheet, defining types of climbing, moves and holds, and miscellaneous slang.
Top roping: Climbing a route on top rope means the climber is secured to a rope that runs through the anchors at the top to a belayer on the ground. All you have to focus on is the rock in front of you. So zen.
Sport climbing: A style of rock climbing in which the climber clips to pre-installed bolts spaced out along the route as they climb. The climber is attached via rope to a belayer, and secures the rope to the bolts via quick-draw as they ascend.
Trad climbing: A type of rock climbing in which the climber brings and installs pieces of specialized protective gear designed to fit into holes and cracks in the rock. When the climb is complete, the protection can be removed from the rock. Trad, an abbreviation of traditional, is the “leave no trace” version of climbing. Example: “Nah bro, I respect the rock so I only do trad.”
Bouldering: Ropeless, partnerless, climbing for the maverick-minded. Normally limited to relatively short climbs (see “highball” below for exceptions), this type of climbing needs only a crash pad or stolen mattress for protection. Grab one of those, scramble up some stone, and boom, you’re bouldering.
Dyno: Defying gravity. A dynamic, powerful move where you jump from one hold to another, accompanied by both feet leaving the wall and a burly yell.
Heel hook: A move that involves you placing your heel on a foot hold, perfect for balance or leverage during a hard move. Now you can say “throw a heel, dude” and know what you’re talking about.
Match: The do-si-do of climbing moves. Matching happens when you bring both hands or feet to the same hold, allowing you to switch which hand or foot you move next.
Jug: Not what you’re thinking.. These are large, comfortable hand holds that you can hang on to for days. (Get your mind out of the gutter)
Crimper: The sour patch kids of climbing holds. These tiny holds are both sour and sweet, terrible to hold on to yet they allow you to climb the most seemingly impossible of faces. Depending on your strength and skill, they can be as narrow as a pencil or a butterfly’s eyelash.
Pocket: A deep yet narrow hold, good for one or two fingers. If you’re really lucky you’ll come across a mono, or single finger pocket, which is basically the dream for pocket fanatics and sloths.
Sloper: Ugh, you know you’ve encountered this kind of hold when you reach to grab it and slip right off. You think you’re holding on to something but there’s nothing there. Securely hanging onto a sloper requires a lot of hand strength and maybe some spiderman gloves.
Highball: Beginner Alex Honnold-ing. Highball refers to a boulder problem that is a little higher than one would like. Sometimes climbers will practice a highball route on top rope before going for the send.
Chossy: Used to describe a route that doesn’t have a clean rock face. Some grass tufts here, a brittle patch of lichen there, and usually raining rubble onto the belayer. This fun word usually comes with a connotation of the precarious. Synonyms include: questionable, crumbly, less-than-ideal.
Send/sendy: Get sendy. I sent it. Send train. A versatile climbing term that basically means DO IT when spoken as encouragement, and DID IT when used in the past tense. Sending a route means doing the entire climb without falling or taking a break, and it feels damn good.
Spotting: Using fellow climbers as protection. When bouldering, the spotter stands below the climber with their arms extended, guiding the climber onto the pads if they fall. Commonly heard from a spotter: “I gotchu.”
Pumped/pumpy: The feeling you get in your forearms on a particularly long or overhung route, when your muscles feel like lead and the battle to stick to rock is on. Simultaneously the best and worst feeling in the world, some say.
Beta: Any information about a route that helps you get to the top, including rock type, difficult sections, style of climbing, prime weather conditions, best nearby cafe, etc. etc.
The project: Ah, the current love child of a climber. The route that you’ve been laboring over for a month, a summer, five years, however long it takes. The route that essentially owns your soul, keeping you up at night as you hypnotically go through the movements of climbing it. If a climber tells you about his or her “proj,” look out for that manic glint in their eye, the sign of obsession, the ultimate love-hate-love relationship.
Tssssah (or a variety of other noise, including grunts, yells, and intense breathing): Forget words, often times the crag or gym is just a cacophony of animalistic sounds, from the shrill roar of a climber sending for a dyno, to the controlled in-and-out puffs of someone gently treading up a precarious slab section. Feel free to unleash your inner creature as your climbing career unfolds, as these noises help with breathing techniques, getting psyched, and being a climbing beast in general.
Crag dog: Faithful, floppy-eared climbing companion, any shape, any size.
When I started playing around with the idea of College Outside, Yvon Chouinard’s book Let My People Go Surfing fundamentally changed the way I viewed running and owning a business. I knew that if I was going to create something, that it needed to have a positive impact in the world, and that I could use the power of Business (with a capital B) for good instead of evil. As College Outside grew, so did our reach and influence with the clubs and programs that we worked with. I knew that these programs trusted us to not only provide them with the best gear, but to also use their support for the greater good.
All of this is to admit that there is an internal conflict that I hold with a business model that is designed around selling shiny new products. Our mission is to provide students with the tools they need to get outside, connect with nature, and ultimately build their own personal relationship with our natural spaces. These tools and products often take energy and water and chemicals to make, a necessary evil in order to adventure outdoors safely and comfortably…right? As much as movements like Patagonia’s “Worn Wear” make my heart warm, I certainly cannot elongate the life of something like my rope or harness without seriously compromising safety.
I’m constantly on the lookout for companies that share my passion for environment, especially ones that have woven it into the fabric of their business beyond just a checklist to complete. I worked with Black Diamond and the Access Fund on their ROCK Project campaign, and learned first hand what it meant to throw your brand behind ethics and education. We recently started working with the new Edelrid North America team who is changing the baseline for what we consider necessary evils in safety equipment.
Edelrid is an incredible example of a company that makes me jump for joy. In 2009, Edelrid converted all of their rope and sling manufacturing over to the strict standards of the Bluesign system, which (compared to their traditional rope manufacturing,) has yielded a 62% reduction in CO2 emissions, 89% savings in water, 63% less energy consumption, and 63% less chemicals. I can now shout it loud, “I resoled my climbing shoes three times, AND my rope is eco-friendly!”
So here’s my refurbished goal: if we’re going to sell shiny new products, we also hold a responsibility to support companies who truly care as much as we do. We have an obligation to thoughtfully spend our money on equipment that causes less harm, and to support the people and businesses that are working to close this gap.
Founder and CEO, College Outside]]>
Some say we are like books: our lives are a composition of chapters, each one chronicling growth and change—my middle school graduation, moving across the world for college—while some chapters foreshadow adventures and dreams—being introduced to climbing, hearing a kick-ass female journalist speak—and few provide key highlights—accepting my dream internship—or deep sadness—saying semi-permanent goodbyes to life-long friends.
The beauty in this analogy comes from the clichéd optimist; the end of each chapter simply signals another’s beginning. This spring, as I prepared to close one chapter of my life, saying goodbye to Birch, my climbing partner and best friend, before her college graduation, we planned a road trip to bid our farewell to the Northeast, where we’d been living the past four years.
We loaded the car with a suite of FrictionLabs products: all three chalk textures (fine, chunky and super chunky), a Magic – Reusable Chalk Ball, a bottle of liquid chalk and the Climbskin balm. We intended to try a new one at each location we stopped to climb. With a double rack, enough food for a week and significant phone data dedicated to Mountain Project, we had a couple things on our tick list ready to tackle: Mt. Katahdin, Cathedral Ledge, Cannon Cliff and the Adirondacks. We suspected the slew of FrictionLabs products would treat us well as we traversed the varied traditional climbing locations across the Northeast.
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TL;DR – Too Long; Didn’t Read
My favorite all-around product: The Magic Chalk Ball – a prudent choice for multi-pitch climbers and those that hate excess chalk.
Product with room for improvement: Climbskin – while it was amazing at its job (hydrated and repaired my hands well), the smell was slightly off-putting. Yet, I understand that a central tenet of FrictionLabs philosophy is only using pure and necessary ingredients in their products, so the smell is surely something I can live with.
One I’d go back for again: Gorilla Grip (chunky chalk) – with its balance of fine dust and small, compact globules, this felt like the best loose chalk.
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Overall, FrictionLabs chalk held up to its performance campaign. Between the plentiful variety of textured powdered chalks, liquid chalk cream and chalk ball, there is sure to be a favorite for everyone, depending on personal preference and the type of rock. FrictionLabs claims to be a higher performing chalk brand that is also healthier for your skin. Their Climbskin hand cream did such a great job that I couldn’t tell whether it was the chalk that left my hands and cuticles in better shape, or my obsessive use of the cream. Throughout trying all the suite of products, I learned that I’m not a fan of super chunky chalk, and that I prefer the chalk ball, but the quality of each product is noticeable and consistent, so choosing a texture should come down to personal preference. At the end of the day, it’s your climb, so choose your chalk. FrictionLabs won’t be what leaves you hanging.
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First stop: No chalk yet… Mt. Katahdin, Maine
Absolutely uneventful in terms of climbing—skip this sadness if you’re looking for the good chalk information.
We drove seven hours only to hear from the ranger that Mt. Katahdin hadn’t yet been opened for the season due to unrelenting snow and ice on the trail. Apparently it didn’t make a difference that we wanted to climb and not hike. Instead we hiked the staircase up South Turner Mountain and caught a great view of Katahdin’s western slopes, swam in the small lake near the trailhead, camped out next to gorgeous fire and headed for New Hampshire the following morning. Birch and I are notorious for failing to check weather conditions. We attribute it to our energetic “go-get-‘em” spirit, but others might call us lazy or simply unprepared.
TL;DR Don’t be dumb. Check the weather before you leave. It’s worth it.
Bam Bam – super chunky blend Cathedral Ledge, New Hampshire
Since our trad debut in New England the year prior, everyone had been telling us about the classics scattered around the iconic ledges just outside sleepy North Conway. It was late in the afternoon by the time we arrived, so we racked up for Thin Air (5.6, 3 pitches), one of the most popular routes, hoping it’d give us a flavor of Cathedral climbing. We filled our chalk bags with the super chunky Bam Bam blend, placing larger golf-ball and smaller grape-sized chunks into our pouches. Aside from placing zero protection on the first pitch, the climb was routine, a little exciting with a chimney on the upper half, and finished on a ledge right under another crack system, Pine Tree Eliminate (5.8+, 90’). The climb was moderate and the day was cool, so we hardly chalked up on Thin Air. Once we decided to hop on Pine Tree Eliminate, however, things began to change.
Pine Tree Eliminate’s complicated crack (read: lots of varied sizes, two distinct roofs, some key underclings) was an exciting challenge. The physical exertion and nervousness combined throughout the climb generated a high frequency need for chalk. I found that while I was in several crux positions, chalking my hands with the Bam Bam blend was difficult and became frustrating. While I wanted a quick dip in and out, I found myself having to fumble around in my chalk bag to rub the dust from the chunks off on my hands. It was hard to get chalk in between my fingers, which is important for me when I’m sweaty and trying to finger and hand jam because I don’t like my fingers to slip against each other.
Birch appreciated how easy Bam Bam’s chunks were to pick up once accidentally spilled. The globules stayed compact and provided a nice, light coating when you could take the time to breathe and chalk up in a resting position. On a wet section we even used one of the chalk pieces to successfully dry a foot hold. I can imagine this product is popular with boulders, who often fill chalk buckets with large chunks to rub on their hands.
TL;DR Bam Bam super chunky wasn’t great for me on a challenging climb with several crux positions. I didn’t like how long it took to fumble the pieces around in an effort to chalk my nervous, sweaty fingers. The chunks held up well, however, so for those that do like bigger pieces, it’d be a solid bet.
Magic Chalk Ball
Gorilla Grip – chunky blend Cannon Cliff, New Hampshire
This wasn’t our first time up to the alpine-like conditions of Cannon Cliff. Birch and my first trad climb together had been the Whitney-Gilman (5.7, 5 pitches), so it felt fitting to return to Cannon for one of our last climbs together out east. For months we’d had our eyes on Moby Grape (5.8, 6 pitches), and in the preceding weeks we’d already been sent away by bad weather a handful of times. When we woke to clear skies after sleeping in the parking lot, we went full steam ahead.
I knew this climb would be long and challenging in some spots, so I opted for the Magic Chalk Ball and sprinkled in some chunky Gorilla Grip. The combination proved perfect. With my tape gloves, the ball prevented excess chalk from affixing to the tape while still releasing enough chalk to coat my skin. The Gorilla Grip texture was a great supplement, providing a quick and easily available chalk layer throughout the entire 8-hour climb.
The chalk ball has a nifty drawstring that, once opened to its wide mouth, affords it an easy, clean refill. The ball’s porosity is such that it allows a truly excellent amount of chalk to filter onto the hands. Because it’s so easily refillable, it feels like a wise and prudent investment to extending the life of chalk (less spillage and more conservative use).
TL;DR The Magic Chalk Ball was my favorite product. Easily refillable and sized well, the ball transposes chalk to your hand effortlessly. It’s an especially great choice for those that climb with tape gloves or those that like conservative chalk use but don’t want to deal with fumbling around chalk blocks.
Again, no chalk… The Adirondacks, New York
We learned from our mistakes and checked the weather before fully committing to the five-hour drive to the Adirondacks. This time we only made it to Vermont before deciding to turn back down south and return home before facing the inevitable rain blanketing the Northeast.
TL;DR Checking the weather pays off… Just do it.
Secret Stuff Chalk Cream
Unicorn Dust – fine blend Lincoln Woods, Rhode Island
Back on our own turf in Rhode Island, we headed out to “the woods” for a final bouldering session. Here we tried out the Secret Stuff Chalk Cream, applying it as a base layer before climbing, and then reapplying a handful of times throughout the day. Notoriously hot, muggy and buggy during the summer, Lincoln Woods didn’t disappoint, even in late May. Though we found a boulder tucked into some shade, by a couple rounds in we were lamenting the slimy coat our touch left across many of the holds. The chalk cream, which is simply isopropyl alcohol mixed with chalk, is easily dispensed by via a small “face-lotion-like” pump and served us well: as we rubbed the liquid between our hands, it settled a fine layer of chalk in between many wrinkles and crevices that powdered chalk can fail to reach, affording us a solid base layer that kept our hands dry throughout the day. In between climbs, we supplemented the liquid cream with the fine blend Unicorn Dust, which also easily and generously coated our hands, but without too much excess. I was impressed with how long the liquid layer lasted, and pleased with how conservative the fine chalk presented itself by not overloading my hand each time I dipped it in my bag.
TL;DR The liquid chalk and fine Unicorn Dust were a great combo on a muggy, humid day. The chalk cream’s convenient pump made it easy to apply. It dried quickly, and when supplemented by the conservative, yet dutiful Unicorn Dust, both proved a great match for humid weather.
I find that chalk application, especially over the course of an eight-hour climb, not only causes general dryness around my hands, but starts to exacerbate the gross, dry condition of my cuticles. The act of dipping my fingers into my chalk bag constantly snares and aggravates any hangnails (which are plentiful) or cuts along my nail bed (also prevalent, especially the more I crack climb). I applied Climbskin after our stint on Moby Grape. The faded-orange cream was cool to the touch and had a putty-like texture that spread evenly once warmed between my hands. The smell was slightly off-putting, close to neutral, but still maintained a small chemical or manufactured aroma due to the fact that they add no artificial colors or perfumes. In any sense, the smell evaporated within minutes.
According to the FrictionLabs website, Climbskin was engineered by a team of chemists, biologists and dermatologists with the intent of creating a hand cream specifically for climbers. The biggest difference from other climbing-marketed balms is that it’s not wax-based. By using a shea butter base, Climbskin actually hydrates your skin rather than just trapping the moisture already there. This way, Climbskin is more readily absorbed, and therefore can successfully employ the “most potent skin regenerative agents found in nature” that they add to the mixture.
At the time I didn’t realize that Climbskin should be applied 1-2 hours before climbing, as their website suggests, because there was no where on the container that suggested this sequence of events. In addition to my palm and the back of my knuckles, I applied it straight onto my cuticles, hoping it could help reduce the inflammation and restore some much needed conditioning along the nailbed. It soothed the back of my hands and palms right away; they felt less stiff and more hydrated to the touch. This was particularly satisfying because Climbskin didn’t leave them overly clammy or with excess residue like other climbing balms sometimes tend to do. Like the smell, within minutes it was absorbed and left my hands feeling fresh. While I didn’t notice substantial improvements on my cuticles until the third consecutive day I’d applied the cream, I’d say it definitely helped.
TL;DR If you have rough, cracked or dry hands, Climbskin will help. It’s quickly absorbed and thankfully doesn’t leave a greasy residue. The cream’s moisturizing and rejuvenating properties really pull through, so be sure to apply before and after for maximum benefits.
+ + +
In closing a momentous chapter of my life, colored by Birch’s love and inspiring passion not only for climbing but for a life of vigor and authenticity, I am optimistic. The bond that forms between two climbing partners, threaded tightly with compassion and trust, is specially fortified by a unique, familial love that allows for bickering and criticism with the confidence of good intentions. Finding a good partner is challenging, and replacing one is even worse. While I’m unenthused about Northeast climbing sans Birch, the bond now inherent to our friendship leaves me confident that we’ll continue to color each others’ life’s chapters, for as long as they are written, wherever we may be.]]>
So why do we need your help if New York is buying the land already? Well that’s the thing, New York hasn’t decided what to do with the land yet! We need your help to ensure that this land becomes a designated wilderness area. Decisions are being made on how to classify this land, and this classification will determine whether or not motor vehicle access is allowed. Increased motor vehicle access would remove the beauty of this remote landscape, but also will lead to further disruption of the ecosystem. We want to ensure that this land stays untouched, preserving it for generations to come. In a world that is losing its forests at greater and greater rates each year, help us make sure the Adirondacks stay wild forever. Take a stand and be part of the solution!
To pledge your support click here, or to learn more, visit the BeWildNY website!
Boreas Ponds Photo © Carl Heilman II/ Wild Visions Inc.
1) Do yoga on the quad
If any member of your club is interested in teaching a yoga class, set up an early morning session in an open grassy area on campus. Pick a nice day in the fall or spring, bring some speakers and invite the whole club—unlike a trip where spots are limited, it’s easy to include everyone in a yoga class. Plus, it’s a great way to get some sunshine and wake up your body before class in the morning.
2) Screen a movie
Reserve an auditorium or any room on campus where you can project a movie. Send out a mass email, pop some popcorn and enjoy. There are tons of great outdoorsy movies on Netflix. Or, if your club budget allows, consider bringing a film festival to campus such as REEL ROCK or Mountainfilm (you can read about bringing them to your school on their websites).
3) Organize skills classes
Teach club members valuable outdoors skills such as pitching tents, cooking with camp stoves, knot tying and bear bagging. Recruit some club leaders and set up stations with signs in the center of campus where there is a lot of foot traffic in the middle of the day. That way, participants can wander in and out as they please. This is a great way to get the word out about your club and get people excited about going on trips.
4) Host a potluck
Everyone loves food, and inviting the whole club to a meal is a great way to form connections between club leaders and members and build a sense of community. You can even share some of your favorite backcountry recipes—who says GORP is only for backpacking trips?
5) Explore local destinations
Run a mini trip to a nearby park or ice skating rink. Send an email to the club with a meeting time and location so that everyone can walk or take public transportation as a group. Outing club trips don’t always have to be big productions—explore the area around your school to find accessible adventure.
6) Play in the snow
You are never too old for a good snowball fight. Inform your club of a time and place for sledding, igloo building, or a snowman-making competition. You can even offer prizes as motivation!
7) Plan a sleep out
This one might require permission from your school’s administration. Pick a warm night and invite the whole club to bring their sleeping bags to a grassy area on campus. Bring headlamps, snacks, and organize some games to keep things exciting. Who says you have to be in the middle of nowhere to enjoy sleeping under the stars?
8) Throw a party
This is college, after all. Arrange an outdoorsy theme, like flannels and hiking boots!
9) Run general meetings for the whole club
If your club is suffering from a division between leaders and members, bring everyone together for a meeting once or twice each semester. This is a great way to keep club members informed about upcoming trips and events, and foster a general sense of community.
10) Plan a gear swap/sale
Get the club together for a yard sale-style gear swap—outdoor equipment only! Sell t-shirts, water bottles, or stickers to raise money for your club.]]>
It all started with an unseasonably beautiful March day in Hamilton, NY. Colgate students and faculty generally experience such long and frigid winters, so we are quick to jump at the first sign of good weather, ushering in the beautiful upstate spring by holding classes outside, playing frisbee on “the quad” and all kinds of other “classic” college-looking activities.
To start off my break I took a day to walk with friends, ride my board, and otherwise revel in the fresh air and warm sun, while letting the stress of the past week become a distant memory.
Next I met up with Morgan and we headed North the Adirondacks. Morgan is a friend from high school who now goes to Syracuse U. Morgan and I have planned a road trip around the country this summer, so we planned this spring break trip as a “test drive” of sorts.
Once in the Dacks, Morgan and I met up with Glenna and Hailey (friends from Colgate), who were staying in a family cabin for the week.
Our days were planned over hot tea, followed by bountiful breakfast spreads to keep us going through the morning.
One day we spent hiking along the Boreas river through a mix of rain, snow, sleet and hail.
The next day we climbed Crane Mountain and did a little bit of rock climbing and rappelling.
We filled our evenings with writing, reading, painting and cooking. We spent our nights huddled around fires, playing games and engaging in deep talks about the world, our growing awareness of its problems, how we can help, and always coming back to the simple joy of warmth and good people.
The second half of my break began by heading south, dropping Morgan off at SYRU, and then continuing on down to the Catskills. As I drove I was struck again and again by the different ways of life that many people in rural NY lead.
The silence and stillness, the great expanses of farm country and forest; compared to the bustling metropolis of NYC or even suburban communities, central NY seems almost eerily quiet. However, seen in a different light, this rural landscape resembled the epitome of peace and freedom.
Upon arriving in the Shawangunk Mountains, I met up with my friend Danny and a fellow he had brought. Danny’s friend went by the name Snaps and quickly lived up to the unusual title.
Over the next 4 days, Danny, Snaps and I climbed a few thousand feet through a vertical world of stone.
The Gunks are renowned for blocky-featured rock, strewn with horizontal cracks and gigantic roofs. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the daily journey, stepping, gripping, pulling, and swinging my way through the natural architecture.
After a long day of climbing our crew would find a spot to park the cars for the night, cook a simple meal over a small stove, and swap laughs and smiles into the fresh, dark air.
During the trip I met a few characters that furthered my opinion of the climbing community as an eccentric group of capable and friendly individuals, who as a whole have a deep appreciation for nature and willingness to share their knowledge and stories with those who take an interest.
One night we met a fellow named Bruno Paciulli. We quickly learned that Bruno was creative director of an online magazine, RadicalHer.com, that features competitive women’s stories. In only a few minutes of talking to Bruno I learned about his education in art and his continued passion for creative expression. Bruno was one more supportive figure, inspiring me to really believe that there is a way to craft a career that is meaningful, rigorous, and allows me the lifestyle that I want to live.
One afternoon while attempting a challenging climb, a sage older gent sauntered up and started giving me advice. I soon learned his name was Michael Emelianoff and that he was a lifetime climber who has put up routes all over the east coast.
Like many of the knarled aging climbers I have had the pleasure of meeting, I found Michael to be an artist, philosopher, all-around outdoorsman, and generally an interesting and insightful fellow.
Talking to Michael really helped to solidify my understanding of why I do “this”.
Why I spend spring break in a tent.
Why I drive for hours just to find a barren rock face, or silent forest.
Why I spend hours hanging from a rope or wrapped in a struggle for my life against the pervasive force of gravity and the cold uncaring rock.
For the simplicity, for the challenge, to do something under my own power, and as a contrast to the technologically enhanced, over-stimulating “modern western world”.
~ Nick Knoke]]>