An adventurer’s classic adage of “What’s Next?” and it’s origin.

Written by Jared Heath

I have a vivid memory from my first road trip of staring down into a Colorado Canyon in the middle of a moonlit night.  Much to the dismay of my parents, I hit the road just before Christmas, a few months after a surprise graduation from my unconventional college experience.  Younger ,and slightly more sure of how the world worked than I am now, on a whim, I packed the majority of my few possessions into the back of a small pickup truck and took off, chasing sunsets, and this ephemeral feeling of freedom with no real destination except, maybe, Joshua Tree California where I’d heard rumors of desert climbing.  After twenty hours of driving across the plains states in a blur, my cracked window simultaneously cooled my coffee and ripped the smoke from my cheap gas station cigar out the window. This trifecta was working it’s hardest to keep me awake as the cold mountain wind mixed with the stale air from my dashboard heater. I cut around a sharp bend, and the road opened up into a black scar in the earth, lit up by a nearly full moon.  Pulling to the side of the road I turn the ignition in my truck to off stepping outside in the cold, Rocky Mountain night. I’m unsure of how long I stood there watching the moon illuminate this canyon, and reflect off of the fresh ice on the road, but I am sure this was the start of the evolution of a familiar feeling. The feeling of a wave, rising up out of the ether and building enough momentum to crash down and tumble the way that I had viewed the world up until that very moment.  A wave,that if I caught right I could ride the crest, to a place that I needed to be, wherever, or whatever, that was.

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Jared Ice bouldering high above Chimney Pond. (photo credit Nightmute)

After a few months of riding this hard, climbing and meeting friends along the way.  Eventually this upsurge crested then receded back into the firmament leaving me with five dollars cash to my name and a starter credit card with a $500 limit, just barely enough to get back East.  For the next few months my nose was back to the grindstone making custom flooring in an unheated mill building, and working landscape jobs just to bank enough money so that when I could spot the next set of on the horizon I’d be set up to catch them.

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Jamison battles the sleet cyclone!

Since that initial feeling on a cold Colorado night I’ve driven across the country ten times in almost as many years always exploring, and never wanting to slow my momentum.  Yet somehow during my rest periods I always find my way back to the Northeast saving and searching for adventures here to keep me on point for wherever the current next carries me.  On the days where cold north wind wraps me in spinning snow, and I catch myself screaming song lyrics at the top of my lungs to stave off the screaming barfies, and I question my sanity for returning to this small corner of the world.  But sometimes those clouds will lift just enough to reveal golden alpenglow, vibrant azure ice, and windswept ridge lines tracing a path between craggy peaks. Other times the fog and the cold lingers for weeks cutting though all of my layers, chilling me to the bone.

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Descending during a brief clearing Baxter State Park.

One of these weeks was spent on the flanks of Mount Katahdin in Northern Maine with a group of friends on a trip organized by my friend Chris. All of us climbers, of different abilities and backgrounds, as well as photographers we drove North; chasing rumors of stunning alpine climbs and beautiful landscapes.  Instead we were gifted with a week’s worth of spiraling sleet in gale force winds stinging our faces, loading the gullies we sought to climb, and obscuring the view. We spent our days exploring the small nooks and crevices, bailing off of climbs, and laughing almost as much as we bitched about the weather. Some nights we slept in the comfort of a wood stove heated cabin.  Others, some of us were delegated to a lean to amidst the spindrift and subzero cold, spending the night staying warm by company and whiskey before waking up to 3 inches of snow blown on top of our sleeping bags. The summit was obscured in visibility zero the entire time, and I’m still not entirely sure that it exist. This still remains one of the best trips of my life. As we parted ways a small group of us sectioned off and ventured towards Acadia National Park to recoup our losses in the forecasted January sun.  Waking up in our cars the next day to a vibrant sunrise reflecting off the Atlantic Coast joined by bluebird skies above, I think we all felt slightly out of place and disconnected from our recent stint in the harsh alpine. As the sun crested it’s highpoint in the sky and began to sink towards the afternoon I found myself unencumbered scrambling amongst seaside cliffs. I looked down at the sea-foam green waves crashing and receding beneath my feet and felt the warm sun loosen my muscles, tight from hauling a sled 16 miles through the backcountry the previous day.  The ocean breeze stinging on a small patch of frostbite on the corner of my face as I shake a build up of lactic acid out of my arms. I look up from my feet and over the ocean then towards the cliffs where Matt and Jessie are shooting photographs, and wonder if they’re as taken aback as I am about the contrast from just 24 hours earlier. This too is burned into my memory.

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Jamison, Matt, and Jessie finding creative ways to keep warm.

When I begin to question myself for sticking around this part of the country sprinkled with bipolar weather patterns, and constantly less than ideal conditions I recall these memories along with the local adage: “There’s no such thing as bad conditions, just bad attitudes.”

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Jared soloing brochure crack Acadia National Park (photo credit Nightmute)

No matter where I’ve climbed I’ve found almost all summits exactly the same.  The scenery may be different but they all seem to carry an inexplicable feeling of “What’s Next?”  When I’m sitting perched on my home summits, however, I recall this adage more frequently, and if I listen to the howling wind with the right set of ears it seems that I can hear the laughter of those who embrace the mantra carried to my ears, audible in the silence between gales.  These quiet moments after slogging through less than ideal conditions, finding creative uses for hand warmers, and exhausting every reserve of energy that my body has teaches me lessons that I know will carry me further the next time the wave comes to whisk me away on my next adventure.

Jared Heathjaredheath

Jared is a photographer and climber from the New England area.  He is well practiced in an art of ascents that can most aptly be described as “blissfully lost scrambleneering.”  When not climbing, or working odd jobs to fund trips, in his home state of New Hampshire he can be found living the life of luxury out of the back of a 2005 Kia Sedona minivan; shooting photos and climbing across the country. Follow Jared’s adventures on instagram.

 

A first hike (ever!) in the Canadian Rockies. Bumps, bruises, lessons learned & a few epic photos for proof.

Written by: Jolena Hove

I’m 30 and went on my first hike 3 years ago. A friend invited me to hike Allstones Creek in Nordegg, Alberta. Not knowing what to expect; I packed a lunch and some Nikes, picked up my friend from Edmonton and we drove for three hours listening to every genre of 90’s music on the way. 

About 5 minutes into the hike our group was going down a steep embankment covered in loose rock. The kind of steep that you should descend one of two ways: slide on your butt and grab every piece of anchored foliage on the way down, or if you’re over 6’2 and very athletic- just run down it. I chose option two like the person before me, but unfortunately I’m not really either of those things and ended up tumbling head over feet most of the way down.

I was surprisingly unscathed, despite a few gashes and scrapes. After crisscrossing and rock hopping through a creek for another kilometer or so, we shortly found ourselves at a little waterfall. I was airing out my scrapes and enjoying a handful of trail mix when when someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around to find a lady with a concerned look on her face and a finger full of Polysporin.

“I’m sorry… but I’m a mom and can’t help myself- can you please put some of this on?”

Welcome to the Canadian Rockies.

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Intrigued by the brilliant turquoise water of Abraham Lake, my teacher-friend and I strapped our paddle boards to the top of my Volvo station wagon and set off for Nordegg the next summer. I was secretly anticipating the initial view of the lake as we drove the David Thompson, glad I could witness the awe of an Abraham Lake virgin. Our excitement was soon diminished when we couldn’t seem to find a way onto the lake. Sure there were some accesses to the shore, but the wind was so strong on the lake, after a quick and scary paddle out, we decided we didn’t want to die that day.

We were eating lunch at the David Thompson Resort when a man pulled into the parking lot, paddle board on his roof racks. We ran out and asked him where we could get onto the lake safely. He looked at us hesitantly, then explained:

“No. You don’t paddle this lake. I work with search and rescue and people die here all the time.”

But we had come all this way and damned if we weren’t leaving with some pictures of us on the lake.

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Somebody did die that that day. A wind gust took Krista’s paddle board off the roof of the Volvo. It was never to be paddled again.

Two years later I returned to Nordegg with another group of friends to do the same trek. I had discovered a love for hiking and the outdoors, had more than a few decent hikes and much more experience now. Or so I thought. Turns out a creek in the Rockies is much different in May than late summer. There was still a bed of snow and ice at the fall and the water was fast, high and freezing cold. It was difficult to maneuver across the rocky bed with numb feet and a strong current, but the towering rock faces and blazing spring sunshine suppressed any complaints our group might have considered.

If you ever find yourself in the Canadian Rockies and want a more primitive hiking experience, follow the David Thompson to Nordegg. Don’t worry about reservations, but remember your head lamp. Maybe a map too. And your dog.

 

 

Jolena lives in Rich Valley, Alberta- an extra small place you’ve never heard of. She is a teacher who loves to spend weekends and summers outdoors in places without cell service. She loves backpacking with her husband, friends, beef jerky and St.Bernard, Norma. Follow Jolena’s adventure’s on Instagram!

 

Risk managers: Taking calculated risks to live a life of adventure. Written by MK McDonald

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Mountains inspire opposing feelings. Feelings of being tall and small simultaneously. Ego can reveal itself while mountaineering and in my experience, any extreme sport for that matter.  In contrast, there are also opportunities to become vulnerable, trekking on the outside of our comfort zone.  How do you find balance when there is so much going on externally and internally when attempting an unknown summit (Direction, safety, maslow’s hierarchy of needs, beauty and nature, photos, meeting like-minded folks,etc)?

In the last 10 years, I’ve finally started to realize while summiting and not summiting, I’ve become a risk manager. Although my parents describe my brother (we go on a lot of hikes together) and I as risk takers.  We are aware of the risks, but we push ourselves anyway. The stories about having to bail out on a hike, I believe are my favorite stories. The last time this happened that I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face because it was blizzarding so hard.(Last year, December 22nd on Pikes peak). My brother is born on the winter solstice and he always plans a “death march” as he calls it. This year we just went camping and stayed up to watch the meteor shower! Everyone thought we were nuts when packing up the car and it being snowing and freezing outside. We got to Penitente Canyon, presently a beautiful popular climbing spot with American Indian petroglyphs and Virgin of Guadalupe painted high on a canyon wall left there by Los Hermanos Penitentes, a Spanish religious sect that favored Penitente Canyon for its solace in the 1880s. This is how the canyon got its name.  Anyway, it was like the heavens opened up, the sky was clear, and it really wasn’t that cold (-4 degrees).

The last major trekking trip I went on was to hike two 14ers in the same weekend… Wetterhorn (class 3) and Handies (class 1) with my best friend Nikki.  Needless to say we rocked it on Wetterhorn, on the top it got sketchy. In fact a gentlemen, thank goodness for him, caught us going up the class 4 route. He said “where are you guys going.” And I was like” uh, to the top!” On the right trail we approached the top by climbing up a steep wall, definitely stepping/crawling outside our comfort zone.  At the top we took real selfies of our bare butts.

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The next day we had planned to do our first sunrise summit on Handies peak, a considerably shorter hike than Wetterhorn.  We got lost in the dark, took a wrong turn and felt pretty dumb.  We couldn’t bag an easy class one … whoops!  The sunrise was gorgeous, we were safe and we were still very high up.  You never know exactly what will happen in life as mountaineers and risk managers but we are aware of the outcomes. Keep pushing your comfort zone but know when to bail. Also, learn how to read a map, bring one, know where you’re going!  Understanding your ability and what your level of acceptable risk is, is an important first step before heading out on your next adventure.

MK is an Art Educator, Yogi, Colorado Native, Snowboard Instructor in the winter and Raft Guide in the summer. On her free days she is often travelling, trekking, camping, backpacking, taking a walk with hippopotamus (a special brown dog) hot springing, and all the outdoor things.  In the summer months you’ll find her in a foreign country or living in her 1970 red VW van down by the river! 

Follow MK’s adventures on Instagram!

October in Colorado!

Every few weeks we realize that our list of short term adventures is beginning to run out and we have to sit down to plan the next dozen.  I always schedule a fall hike because well it’s the best time of year.  The bugs are not as nagging, the nights are cool and the views are stunning!  This year instead of adventuring in one of our usual north east locations we decided to use up a few of those airline miles that were burning a hole in our pockets and head to Colorado.  

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The trip included myself, Poria (my trail wife, ha), and his questionable friend. It’s not that I question whether or not Poria was friends with him but more the decisions that his friend made.  That being said, once you generally understand him and his decisions begin to make more sense the more you’re around him.

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Since we booked for early October we knew every destination was dependant upon the weather.  Snow on top of a 14er was a real concern for some of the more challenging routes.  We also tossed around the idea of visiting a backcountry hot spring, sand dunes, and squeezing in some rock climbing.  As the date got closer snow started to alter our decisions more and more.  Luckily I stumbled across an invaluable resource, 14ers.com.  To add a boat load of luck into the mix, they were having a meet up during the same time we were scheduled to head out there.  Snow basically cleared up in the San Juan wilderness (location of the meet-up) and options really opened up.  

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We landed and drove through the night to Lake City, which didn’t feel much like a city, but did have the nicest people I have ever met in my life.  We snacked on what little food we had and headed up our first CO 14er, Wetterhorn.  Yes… we went from sea level to 14K+ with little sleep and little food.  Yes… we know it wasn’t the best idea, but we did take our time and planned to turn around if anyone had bad altitude sickness.  The trek was beautiful and we met some awesome locals.  All in all- a huge success. 

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On day two, we decided we take the advice of our new friends and bagged Redcloud and Sunshine Peak.  The wind was tremendous but thankfully there were only a few clouds in the sky.  Due to a late start we ended up hitting Redcloud much later than we had hoped to but both the weather report and the sky said we’d have clear skies for the remainder of the day so we pushed on.  Instead of backtracking, we followed the route on 14ers.com into the bowl on the North West side of Sunshine. and back to the trail head.

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The snow rolled in early on day 3 and we drove slowly back to Denver for a city day, which is out of our norm but there wasn’t enough snow to play in and there was too much to summit in without proper gear.  The city day included an escape room which proved to be intensely exciting.

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On the last day we headed up to Boulder and Eldorado Spring to hike and hang out before shipping back home.  This trip was much different from our normal fall backpacking but hey… different is good!

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Making backpacking fun for toddlers!

Some people find backpacking gear a logistical nightmare. When you first start backpacking you try to pack for unexpected weather, and every situations under the sun or storm clouds. After backpacking for a few years you begin to trim down the gear you thought you needed when you started because you released you can get through so many situations without every piece of gear.  That works great until you decide to bring along a 5 year old and a 3 year old and your dog. With kids you have to keep them comfortable and good gear can go a long way to help with that. The only problem is that all of that gear has to be carried.

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Our carry situation included a 5 year old who can only carry only 4 lbs.  Mom who had to carry the majority of the gear and dad who had to carry a 3 year old and the tent.

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We had just enough room for all of the gear and and everyone was excited to get on the trail.  We reminded ourselves that kids don’t particularly want to walk for miles on end but instead play and adventure.  On our trip we stopped often. We stopped at the first river crossing about 30 minutes in to drop packs and throw some rocks.  We soaked our hats to keep cool and our pup jumped into the river. We snacked and headed out.  Short breaks will help raise their spirits and keep them excited. We kept that order going and let the boys set the pace and decided the length of our breaks.  Keeping them involved in the decision making process helps to keep them interested.

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If you cared enough to read this then you probably have not taken your children backpacking before which means you are probably in need of gear.  Here is what we did for some gear. Weight was the single most important factor, followed closely by cost. We went to our local family owned outdoor store (Ramsey Outdoor store for those in NJ) for some new gear for us and picked up a few cheap no namers off Amazon for the kids because let’s face it they don’t know the difference. You can get the kids lightweight summer sleeping bags and inflatable sleeping pads(essentially pool rafts) off Amazon on the cheap.  To be honest we opted for thermarest pro-light sleeping pads not as cheap but much better quality and they come in kids sizes.  For a hiking family it was a worthy investment.

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Car camping would have been much easier but we decided to give our boys the real experience of going deep into the wilderness and spending the night with no one around.  They got a taste of backpacking and they can’t wait to get back on the trail!

Preparing for the trek up Mt. Whitney

I have been backpacking on and off for over 15 years. Throughout college, it was something we did occasionally but it was when I finished college and started working full time that the trail really began calling me. Backpacking was always my thing and when we became ambassadors for Deuter, doors into the outdoor industry opened up for us.  We now had contacts with other amazing ambassadors from around the country. So, when fellow ambassador Benny Haddad of Sea to Summit Productions put out an open invitation for a mountaineering trek up to the summit of Mt Whitney, it was a quick yes… and then a quick realization that I knew very little about mountaineering. Here are some of steps I took to prepare for this journey.

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Those who know me and have gone backpacking with me know that I do everything I can to not be the one the holds everyone up. Immediately after agreeing to take part in the trip, I decided to take a two day beginners mountaineering course to get the basics under my belt. For those in the northeast, New Hampshire’s White Mountains provide the most severe conditions available, so I decided to take my training there. I had to act fast to get my training with an ice axe and crampons while there was still snow available. Google quickly pointed me in the direction of NorthEast Mountaineering, who offers guided services, training and even lodging in their bunk house.

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The two day course started off in the Bunk House with how to dress and pack for a cold weather expedition which I was mostly familiar with and then it moved outside. Outside, they went over proper fitting of the crampons, how to hold and walk with the ice axe, general spacing while walking and how to keep a slow but steady pace. From there, we went over self arrest techniques from multiple positions and different techniques for walking with crampons both up and down the mountain. We skipped the bunk house and decided to camp at a local fire tower. The views were amazing and the 6 miles out and back was worth every step.  Day two went into some more advanced techniques that we probably weren’t going to need for Whitney but it was good to be be opened up to the concepts.  They included repelling, building snow anchors and glacier travel. The course did not disappoint. The basic techniques were reviewed enough times that even five months later, when it came time to climb Whitney, we remembered them well.  

 

 

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My everyday life is lived at around 700 ft elevation, which makes climbing to 14500+ ft a real concern for altitude sickness. From what I’ve read, the only things you can really do to try to avoid it is drink more water and eat more than usual on your trip.  The last tip was to breath faster than normal to increase the oxygen you’re taking in. Aside from learning the basics, I began physical training 6 days a week. Before I started training, I considered myself an active person, but I never exercised. I built myself up to 3 and 6 mile runs. I would do a 3+ mile run on Monday and Wednesday. The 6 mile run took place on Saturday mornings.  On my runs, I would add interval sprints up hills and they try to continue jogging on the flats.  On Tuesday and Thursday I would head out on the mountain bike and try to hit trails with decent climbs to engage different muscles in my legs.  Finally, on Wednesday I hit the gym. I focused more on a circuit style of training that involved push ups, pull ups, weighted step ups (30lbs), squats (30lbs), crunches, planks, supermans, and leg presses. The focus was mostly legs followed by core/back with sets of 20 in each exercise.

 

 

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You’ll never be able to plan for everything you’re going to experience on the trail but if you put the effort in before hand you can at least feel confident that you will be able to get yourself through the majority of the issues that arise.

Amazing pictures captured on our Mt. Whitney trek by Benny of Sea to Summit Productions.

–Matt