Walker Ranch Loop Valley

Walker Ranch Loop: Maybe the only Boulder mountain biking trail I never want to return to

I haven’t ridden every single mountain biking trail in Boulder yet, much less the entire front range, but I have ridden quite a few. And several of them multiple times. While I’m not a front range expert, I can say that I don’t really want to return to Walker Ranch Loop.

Walker Ranch Loop River Bridge
The end of the first forgettable downhill section at Walker Ranch is a bridge over some rapids.

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Climbing Vedauwoo: The most fun you’ll have not sending

I was climbing at a famous off-width crag in Wyoming by the name of Vedauwoo (Ever heard of it? You should, I wrote about climbing in Vedauwoo with Pamela Shanti Pack last year.), and something bizarre happened. I only sent two routes all weekend, and it was arguably some of the most fun I’ve ever had at a crag.

What you need to know about me is that I hate failing on a route (that is, not reaching the top of the climb). I don’t really believe in projecting, and my happiness/amount of fun I have climbing is largely dependent on my ability to send. You may or may not agree with that, but that’s the way it is and I’m ok with it.

Momma’s Got a Sqeeze Box

Vedauwoo Momma's got a squeeze boxThere were some people warming up on Worm drive, a 5.11 off-width, and Shay decided to put up some 5.9 hand crack. I looked at Derek and said, “welp, I guess we better go set that squeeze chimney.” We had no idea what it went at, but Danny, a fellow Team Evolv climber, said, “oh that one’s fun!” It didn’t look so bad from the ground, and hell, we all know what they say about chimneys, right? You can’t fall out of them. (Once we got back to civilization, I looked up that route. It was Momma’s Got a Sqeeze Box, 5.10a.)

We were both excited and not excited to lead it, but it was bolted and Derek stepped up. He made the first two bolts seem pretty easy as it is a lot wider down at the bottom. It was a little tighter, and not quite as effortless up to the 3rd bolt. Above the 3rd bolt, the squeeze chimney turns into a legit off-width. This was Derek’s first time off-width’ing, and he wasn’t quite ready to step out on lead. Queue me…

I have climbed exactly two (2) more off-widths in my life than Derek. I guess that made me the more experienced one of the two, and I offered to finish the route. What I would soon find out is that the the first two bolts were not easy, even on top rope. The size of the crack between bolts 2 and 3 was perfect for me for a bomber chicken wing. And then I was leading an off-width.

Climbing Momma's Got a Squeeze Box
Photo Courtesy: Skin Poetry (Shay)

My chicken wing was a little less secure because it kept getting tighter, but still too big for a comfy leg bar or a heel-toe. If it weren’t for the still mostly great chicken wing, the remembrance of the palm down technique, and the hope my Evolv Trax rubber was going to stick, I don’t think I would have made it. Emphasis on trusting my rubber.

Once I got to bolt #4, I found a much needed rest. I hung out a bit, looked up, and noticed it didn’t get any easier. The crack was now too small for a chicken wing, and even though I could get a decent arm bar, there was absolutely nothing else for my left hand or either feet. That was, until…I saw some crimps. Crimps? On the face of an off-width? That felt like razor blades biting into my frozen fingers (it was only about 55 degrees outside)? I tried everything I thought I knew, but a lead fall at this point would be pretty disastrous. You’d end up business side first right into the corner of the crack. Plus, I was so intimate with that crack at this point, I didn’t want to leave. You can’t fall out of a chimney, but you can lead fall off a face climb. My head wasn’t in it, I was pretty physically cashed, and my fingers were much too cold for those razor-edged crimps. FACK!!!!! Queue Shay…

At this point, Shay had already led a route and flailed her way up Worm Drive. But if there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s guilting Shay. She deserves it. And that’s all you need to know. Getting back to the story – she also makes her way up to the 4th bolt. Then, with a little hesitation and a lot of nervous breathing, she pulls the crimps, steps out of the crack, and makes it to the anchors. Ugh. Now I have to do it on top rope. Later. After I steal her little creature. (Click for higher res)

5.9 Hand Crack

This climb isn’t on Mountain Project, and Danny said it was a 5.9 so I’m just going with it.

There wasn’t much to say about this climb. Other than the fact it was the most physical 5.9 crack I’ve ever climbed. I had pretty solid hands and fists the entire way up, but where there wasn’t, there was a corresponding lack of foot holds as well. And this crack was on an inside corner so it wasn’t always possible to get both feet in.

I’m not the greatest crack climber out there so I’m sure this didn’t have to be as physical as it was, but for me, it felt like I just went a couple rounds with my teenage nephews (plural). Shay also said it was a brute of a climb and we agreed it’s somewhere in the low 2-star range. That made me feel slightly more justified in my struggle.

Crag dog in Vedauwoo

Back to Momma’s

I’ll save all the details and just pick up where I left off. Now that I knew the crimps were the key to success, and I didn’t have the fear of a lead fall, I kinda made that crux my b*tch. Don’t worry, the razor crimps still got me, and I immediately hated myself for not finishing the lead.

By this time, the rope was off Worm Drive, and I never had a chance to flail or see if I could get off the ground (the crux of the climb). After my 2.625 climbs for the day, I was absolutely DONE so it didn’t hurt my feelings I didn’t get a chance to climb the hardest route of the day.

Day 2: I’m bouldering?

Vedauwoo Crag Dog
This is how *I* feel about bouldering

David’s Climbing Axiom #2: I don’t boulder.

However, just about every single muscle in my body was sore, not to mention the contact bruises that come with inserting yourself into granite cracks. So when Danny invited us to boulder with him, I was at a crossroads. On one hand, I don’t boulder (much less off-width boulder). On the other, flailing and struggling for 100′ is a lot more work than flailing and struggling for 15′. I chose….bouldering. It seemed physically less horrible.

First up was Life Without Parole, a V4 requiring an inversion, which I’ve never done before either. I cannot explain to you the mind-f*ck you go through the first time you trust cammed feet in an off-width crack and cut your hands loose, leaving your head to hit first should your feet fail. Thank goodness we were only 8″ off the ground.

The ever popular face smear
The ever popular face smear

I was just really happy I could invert on my first try. The next couple were spent trying to get my feet deeper and higher into the crack. Then pulling out and switching my right foot to cam the other direction. And the final foot trick once I could switch my right foot, was pulling my left foot out and changing it to a toe-hook at the back of the crack. After all of that (which actually doesn’t take long if you’re good at it), you have to do one MASSIVE sit-up to get a stacked fist near your right foot. I got to this point one times but couldn’t pull the move. It was so much fun though!

After Life Without Parole, we went deeper into The Dungeon for Escape Tunnel, V5. Once again, this climb starts only about 2.5′ off the ground and requires an inversion. I got that the first time again and cleared my head (which is the first mini-crux). And that was as far as I made it on that climb. To be fair, it was starting to get dark and stormy, other people wanted to try, and there was still one more tortuous problem left.

The Warden, V9. Funnest. Climb. Ever!!

The Warden Inversion in VedauwooIt starts with a squeeze chimney that is just the right amount of awkward to make you question how to get off the ground. Once you get up high enough, you hit a solid, vertical chicken wing and then start your inversion. This was very heady as your….head….is about 3′ off the ground and there’s not really any space to tuck and roll should you fall out. There’s not really much space for your spotter(s) to do any good either. (P.S. 3′, head first, feels more like 10′.)

Now, the trick of this part is to do a controlled lower via double-inverted chicken wing and wriggle your way out of the crack (horizontally). I made it this far, but after being upside down for what felt like 5 min., I kinda gave up. I think I could have made it out to the pivot at least, but that seemed like too much effort.

The thing about Off-Widths

So that was that. After The Warden, the skies opened up, lightning was striking, thunder was rolling, and we headed into Laramie for burgers and beers. All in all, I completed 2.625 routes the entire weekend and attempted 6. Here’s the thing about off-widths…

They suck.

But they suck in a good way.

And no one expects you to be good at them. Ever.

Stuck in an off-width in VedauwooIf you flash, red point, pink point, brown point, on-site, (I don’t even know what all of those things mean, I just hear climbers saying them sometimes) or just ‘send’ an off-width, everyone is completely stoked for you. But it doesn’t appear to be the norm.

The Norm

The norm appears to be more like, “well, shit, I guess I have to go climb this. I want to, but I really don’t, but I guess I will.” Flailing, aiding, top-roping, swearing, insults, and talking sh*t are all encouraged. Laughing at your own pain and suffering (or others’) is what gets you through the climb. No one seems to mind if you can only do 2 or 3 climbs in a day. There seems to be a lot less judgement if you decide you don’t want to climb at all the day after.

The climbs are generally slower which leads to more downtime for you and your belayer to joke around (safety first!). If there’s an audience, there tends to be a little back and forth with some small encouragement mixed in.

Crag beer and crag whiskey are almost required. I think it’s to numb the pain you’re about to put yourself through and/or forget the pain you just felt.

All in all, off-width climbing feels a lot like a bonding over misery. But with the right people, it’s incredibly fun. No expectations. No disappointments. Just a lot of joking around, smiling faces, a little bit of climbing, lots of fear, and whiskey.

Friends in Vedauwoo
Photo Courtesy: Skin Poetry (Shay)

For more (and MUCH better) photos, check out Shay’s post from this weekend.

When Trying Stuff Goes Wrong

I’ve written quite a bit about Trying Stuff. It’s an absolute great slogan for Columbia Sportswear, and it gives me endless opportunities to write about it since I’m always Trying Stuff. I’m going to assume you all follow each and every single post with the same vim and vigor with which I write them, but juuuuust in case you let one slip through the cracks, here’s some recap:

What's that on my head?!?!

The first time I went off-width crack climbing with Pamela Shanti-Pack

My first post about “hiking for training” after becoming #OmniTen

Refurbishing Cast Iron Cookware – I had to try it for the first time to get good at it every time thereafter

Then I went to the OmniGames in Park City, UT and explained what Trying Stuff means to me

Then I started my first garden ever

And lastly, the best way to Try Stuff is to never say no to stuff

Trying Stuff isn’t always glamorous

A lot of us in the OmniTen love to promote our success and fun adventure, but trust me, we all fail A LOT too. In fact, my failures are sometimes a lot more interesting for you to read…and painful for me to relive. Constantly pushing yourself and constantly needing to be the best at everything you do means there’s going to be some pain. I’ve had no shortness of that.

Off-width chicken wingPotential brain damage from a history of head injuries

The first time I dropped off a cornice

That one time I ran into a tree on my snowboard

And the time I tipped a row boat in Class 3 rapids without a life jacket

 

Today I bring you the next installment of failure.

Despite the fact it looks like I lose control as soon as I launch (which would be an accurate observation), I actually landed this sucker cleanly twice before. As soon as the camera came out, all hell broke loose.

I was hoping to get some rad product shots for my new Niche Story 2.0 snowboard, but instead they got this, and I got a headache (to put it lightly).

So, my fellow outdoor enthusiasts, I’m well aware of what you’re all about, but share some failures with me, will you? Don’t worry, I’ll only laugh a little.

Mistakes in the Backcountry

Wellllllll, helllllooooooooo, everybody!!! How are you this fine Monday morning? I hope you got outside this weekend. I know I did. Mountain biking in Moab and Fruita was friggin amazing. I’m sure you’ll see all about it if you’re following me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. While this was my first time ever mountain biking in the desert, the weekend went off without any problems. It’s not always like that. I’ve been known to make a mistake or two, and I’m not just talking about forgetting an extra pair of underwear. I’m talking about BIG stuff that alters your plans or trip entirely.

Today I’m going to let you in on two of my dumbest mistakes I’ve made in the backcountry. If you find them hilarious, there are several other people writing about their mistakes as well, and you can find them all linked from Sierra Trading Post’s Social Hub. And if you want even more, join in on the Twitter chat at  6pm EDT/3pm PDT this Thursday. The entire Twitter nation will be sharing funny stories and how to avoid these mistakes in the future. Be sure to tag your tweets with #STPLive.

Anyways, let’s talk about how dum I r.

Winter Summit of Mt. Elbert

You might remember that I’ve already written about this one, but I’m going to give you the short version here.

Elbert and Massive TrailsI had planned for weeks and weeks for this trip. At this point, I had lived in Colorado for 4 months and still hadn’t done anything extreme or awesome or extremely awesome. This was going to be that thing. In preparation, I read Summit Post. I read blogs. I checked the weather everyday. I plotted my route on Google Earth, and I made sure I had the map downloaded on my phone’s GPS app for when I lost cell coverage. I was ready. I was gonna do Colorado stuff.

And then I wasn’t.

First, the weather said, “ummmm, why don’t you take a seat right over there. I’m going to be cold, cloudy, snowy, and relentlessly windy on Friday. Why don’t you come back on Saturday?” So that’s what I did. I drove to the trailhead at 7:30pm on Friday evening with the plan of sleeping in my car, and then pushing for the summit early Saturday morning.

And then I couldn’t.

I turned off the main road, onto the Forest Service road, and made it about halfway. I drove through a few snow drifts with no problems. And then I hit the one that stopped me. At 10:00 pm, I was digging my car out of a snow drift, and I still had 4.5 miles to get to the trailhead. I had no idea how often the road was plowed and the wind was still blowing more snow.

And then things got better.

I was able to get my car out and turned around and thought I could spend the night in a parking lot, go talk to the ranger in the morning, and maybe I would have a chance to get back there later on Saturday. It was likely that I wouldn’t be able to do Mt. Massive, but at least I’d still get Elbert.

And then it got a lot worse.

All of this didn’t matter: the planning, the forecasting, the digging, the doing everything right (except not bringing a snowmobile with me)…

I forgot my jacket.

Yup, not an insulating layer, jacket. My real jacket. The Gore-Tex, waterproof, insulated, super awesome jacket I was going to need to combat the -30+ windchills and blowing snow. It was sitting at home in my closet.

At 11:15pm, I accepted defeat, turned around, and went home.

Summiting Mt. Elbert
I went back in June. It was still snowy and a lot easier.

Up a Creek without a Life Jacket, with a Grease Fire, and kind of a Motor

This one is a LowGravityAscents original. I think. But, I still have to reach back to somewhere around 2008 or 2009 for this one.

Mat and I (one of the original Dudes with a Tent) wanted to do a weekend river fishing and camping trip about an hour and a half north of our hometown in Northern Wisconsin. We knew that stretch of the river had plenty of fish and campsites along the way. We also knew there were some Class III rapids. No biggie. Our little rowboat would have a 6hp engine on it, and we could just motor over to the portage if we needed to.

The first day was pretty awesome. We caught enough fish to eat for dinner. We caught more fish to throw back. It was a very warm June day so even when it started to drizzle a little bit, we weren’t too upset. We noticed that the river was pretty high that weekend, and that made the smaller rapids and rocky areas we went through a little angrier than usual. We navigated them ok, and at least we didn’t have to get out and push through the really shallow areas.

Grease fireEventually, we found where we were going to camp that night. We pulled over, got the boat situated, I started to build the camp, and Mat started cleaning the fish. 30 min. later, the tent was up, a fire was made, and the fish were clean. We put a pot of oil on the fire (to deep fry the fish and onion rings) and stepped away to gather more wood. When we got back, there was some smoke coming off the oil that had been heating up. I turned my head for one second to look out at the river and the poof! Apparently grease is combustible. There was a moment of panic, but I eventually I realized I could still pull the cast iron off the fire. The grease fire continued to grow and grow until it was almost 6 feet tall. In the end there was nothing we could do but sit there and watch and be ready in case the earth started on fire. Luckily I grabbed a picture when it was just starting.

And that’s not where this story ends.

We had enough leftover oil that we could try again, and this time we got it right. We had perfectly fried fish and onion rings for dinner that night.

The next morning we woke up to blue skies once again. We packed up camp in our little boat and the rods ‘a firin’ again.

A couple hours later, we encountered a very questionable rapids. We pulled over and sat and pondered it. We talked to a party that was camped right next to it, and they said some other people went through earlier and dumped one of their canoes. However, they also chose the dumbest possible way to go about it. We hmmmm’ed and haaaaaa’d over it, but ultimately decided to make a run for it. I pulled up the engine, got the oars ready, and went for it. Sadly for Mat, there’s nothing he can do during rapids navigation but hold on for dear life and help me spot rocks, hoping I don’t dump us.

Shore lunch fishIt was an intense 5 minutes, and our hearts were racing, but we made it! We got back to fishing and enjoying our day.

An hour or so later, we realized we still hadn’t come upon the BIG set of rapids yet. We started talking about portaging or going for it before we ever saw it since the last set was so stressful. Ultimately we decided to do the same as the last one. Get close enough with the motor so that we could bail if we had to, or go for it if it looked safe. ::shrug:: Seemed legit.

By this point, the fishing wasn’t going so well. We didn’t catch much the second day. We were basically motoring between spots on the shoreline that looked like they’d hold fish. We’d fish a hole, get skunked, and then motor to the next one. It was during one of the times we were fishing when I looked downstream as far as I could, and I said, “Mat, does it look like the river just drops off up there or is it just because it turns the corner?” The accepted answer was that it was just the corner.

We didn’t pull anything out of that hole either so I started motoring down river again. All of a sudden, I was pretty certain I saw water splashing above the water line that was supposedly just the line that meets the water’s edge and curves. I was right. We were heading straight for some ANGRY Class III rapids and because the water was higher and faster, the motor wasn’t strong enough to pull us back. We had just enough time to pull the motor, get the oars in, and point straight. I picked the best possible place for us to go over a 3-4 foot drop….in a rowboat.

There was a whole lot of panicked looks and “HOLD ON!!!” as we went over. And all of a sudden….

THUD!!

The bow of the rowboat bottomed out on a huge rock once it made it over the drop. It’s a 12′ rowboat so the back half was still on the upper part of the falls! It pivoted around so fast that I don’t even remember it happening, and then all of a sudden….

THUD!!

Now the stern of the boat is hung up on a giant rock!! It might actually have been better if we could have been able to spin completely around and get off the rock we were originally stuck on. But now, here we sit, completely perpendicular to a 3-4 foot waterfall, with waves slamming into the side of the rowboat.

Amazingly, we hadn’t flipped yet. We were actually semi-safe and secure in this position as long as a rogue wave didn’t overflow the side of the boat facing the drop.

So now we’re both standing with pale faces and huge “WTF DO WE DO NOW?!?!” looks. Being that we were “safe”, we tied down as much as we could, and then I grabbed both oars, handing one of them to him. The flowing water was pinning us against the two rocks that were holding us in place. There was no spinning off either of these rocks (which is the common get out of trouble tactic). Our only choice was to decide if we should try push ourselves forward or backwards, scraping the boat along the way.

In this situation, it’s a no-win. It was very unlikely we were going to be able to move at all, but if you go forward, that means the back-end gets freed first. Which would then pivot your back around, probably free the front, but then the momentum would slam against the rock that originally hung up the stern. If you go backwards, you’re likely to submerge the back end since the transom only sits 3-4 inches above the water.

Dudes with TentsWe chose forward. Because at least if we got off one rock safely, we could deal with whatever came next. However, if we submerged the back, we’d be screwed right there.

We each put an oar in the water, down to the bottom of the river. We quickly got a refresher lesson in the First Law of Physics because just buy bracing the side of the boat against the stationary oar, something had to give. Our boat rocked effortlessly towards the falling water and almost came over the sides.

“HOLY SH*T THAT WAS CLOSE!!!”

So then what?

I just looked at Mat and said, “I don’t know.”

I told Mat to hold on and be ready for anything because I was going to try push us from the back. Nope, not happenin. The next logical choice was to have him try push from the front while I kind of jump-scooted the back in sync. It worked!!! Kind of. I think we moved an inch. We did this a couple more times and then SPLASH!!!!

I have no idea what happened, but one moment I was in a boat and in the next I was underwater grabbing fishing poles, oars, and tackle boxes. One of the fishing poles grabbed me by embedded a hook into my hand, but I didn’t care because I was also trying to keep my feet up in case I ran into any rocks.

The boat was floating upside down, and the propeller was doing no good as a helicopter blade sticking straight up in the air.

I looked over at Mat and he was doing the same thing I was: trying to stay afloat and grab as much stuff as he could.

In all that time planning. In all that time trying to figure out how to not die, we forgot the single easiest thing we could have done: put on our life jackets. This thought was really driven home when my ass slammed into a rock.

We finally made it alive down to some calmer waters. I grabbed all the gear that Mat had in his hands while he drug the upside down boat over to the shore where the rest of our stuff and cooler were collecting. Before flipping the boat over, I spotted an oar drifting past as if it were on a lazy river, mocking us as it went by. As if it were looking at us saying, “what’s your guys’ deal? Just relaxxxxx.” What a dick. Anyways, I asked Mat if he should go get that (he was closer). He said, “nah, it’s going to run into short right up there.” I went along with it and we flipped the boat. I started bailing out the water and noticed the oar didn’t stop. Mat finally decided he should go after it while I took care of everything else.

He took off, and I started taking stock of the situation. We had everything but one of the fishing poles my dad lent me. Great. That thing is at the bottom of the river somewhere, and I’m out $150 to replace it. Oh well, nothing I can do about it now. I finished bailing out the water and got everything packed up. And then I waited. And waited. And waited. And waited. Where the heck was Mat?!

About 45 min. later, he reappeared. On the other side of the river. Buahahaha! He said the oar made it downstream about a mile and he had to swim across a not-so-narrow river to get it. Of course, he had to swim back to get to me, which means he had to walk upstream of me so that when he swam back across he wouldn’t end up 400 yards away.

He made it, and we were on to our next challenge. There was one of only two boat landings, besides the one we put in at the day before, coming up. But we told my dad, whom was coming to pick us up, that we’d be at the second, not the first. And those two are about 5 miles away. Our options were to take out at this first boat landing, leave one person there, and have the other start walking/hitchhike down to the second to get my dad when he showed up. However, what takes 5 miles by water, takes 15 miles by land. And if a car never showed up to hitchhike, we’d be pretty screwed.

That alone pretty much guaranteed we’d chose Option 2, which was to just row the entire 5 miles down to the second boat landing. Seemed like a good idea actually considering the water so high and fast. Until it wasn’t.

We got about a mile down river when all of a sudden it wasn’t a river anymore. It was a full-blown lake. And the water was hardly moving. GAAAHHHHH!!!!!

It was a long day, but I managed to row the rest of the 4 miles. We met my dad. And we got the heck out of there.

Now, which part do you want me to say was the mistake?

Backcountry Pooping Stories

Yup! It is exactly what this title is talking about!

I got the idea for this magnificent post when my roommate sent me some pictures and links to the climbs she did when she visited the Bugaboos last summer. In one of those links from Mountain Project was this gem:

Click ze picture to go to the Mountain Project route website, mkay?

I had to promptly post that to my Facebook and Twitter pages (obvis) and proclaim that to be the most magical place to poop ever. And then I thought:

Fart jokes are always funny. And so are pooping stories. I bet my friends have a few they could share!

And so they did. And here they are. “Enjoy”!

Pooping Makes you Climb Harder

Justin Fricke – The Weekend Warrior

It was on a climbing trip to Foster Falls in October 2013. My girlfriend and I had been climbing with our friends all day, and everyone wanted to get one last send under their belts. I had been feeling a little uneasy below my belt for part of the day.

Some of us wanted to send this sweet looking 5.10a, and I agreed to clean the route if someone would set it. With only one person left to climb, it hit me. I excused myself and scurried down the 45 degree angle mountain in my Chacos, grabbing leaves as I went and forgetting to check if they were littered with chiggers.

Once I was out of sight with a handful of leaves, I found a perfect area with three trees lying on the ground forming a triangle. I jumped into the center, dug a quick little cat hotel, and upon standing up, I noticed I made a terrible error. I was standing in the middle of a thorn bush!

Since I was about to burst at the seams, I carefully lowered my pants and made sure my junk and rear stayed clear of those thorns. Holding onto a tree and leaning back, I let it go and experienced a slice of Heaven. After cleaning myself with the leaves I had collected on the way down, I made my way back to the trail, jumped on Premarital Drilling (5.10a), and flashed that sucker!

After the euphoria of sending my first 5.10a had passed, I realized something. My rear end wasn’t accustomed to such a rough texture, and I had the worst pain back there for a couple days after.

Oh well. At least I got the send!

You can Poop in Slot Canyons, Right?

Kristie Salzmann – An Appetite for Adventure

Someone caption this for me down in the comments!
Someone caption this for me down in the comments!

This past October I hiked Buckskin Gulch in southern Utah with Joshua and a few others.  During this 22 mile hike, you are in a gorgeous slot canyon the majority of the time.  Because of the fragile ecosystems of these canyons, hikers are given bags that look like they are from outerspace.  No seriously, they look like a weather balloon!  Our group had taken a few with the hopes of never having to use them.  Fast forward about 15 miles and 6 or so hours, and I was feeling the need to move faster because I didn’t want to use one of those dang bags!  Cue canyon floor becoming a river up to my ankles or even knees and our progress slowed.

Somewhere around mile 18 I was in pain.  Joshua asked what was wrong, and I clued him in that I might need one of those weather balloons. I was hoping to make it past the water area, but ten minutes later I was yelling for a bag…in complete darkness…on a rocky shoulder of said creek.

Teetering with my headlamp to navigate parts of the process, I opened the shiny silver bag to expose the garbage bag that I would have to do my business in, followed by tying it off and having to shove it all back into the silver bag, to then close in much the same fashion as a Ziploc.  Turning my headlamp off, I did the deed and then quickly realized I then had to carry said bag for the remaining miles. Which I did.

It was possibly my most satisfying poop ever!

Off-Trail Surprise!

Landon Faulkner – Climb For Change

I started climbing Mt Olympus in the Wasatch front near Salt Lake City, UT very early in the morning. During the last few hundred foot scramble to the summit, I realized I had made a huge mistake. I forgot to do my deed back at the house in my early morning stupor and would soon need to poop. Once at the summit, I checked my pack for my wipes and pack-out bag and made the horrifying discovery: I had forgotten both!

After some pondering of my plight, I formulated a plan. I would descend the backside of the mountain and loop back around to the trail after finishing my business. I tore a few blank sheets from the summit registry (thank goodness for those pages) and headed down. I found a spot with adequate coverage, dug a good hole, and went about my business. No sooner had I begun than I started hearing approaching voices. Now I was really in trouble! I had to finish up and quick!

Seconds before the voices came into view, I buried my little pit toilet and tried to look natural. Why can’t people just use the trail?

 

If there’s one thing we can all learn from this, it’s that pooping outside is one of the best feelings you may ever experience!

Come as #OmniTen, Leave as #OmniFamily

 As I pondered how I wanted to close out this series of the Dickens Challenge (the final event that will help determine who wins the trip to Jordan), I couldn’t help but think of all the possible directions this post could take. At first I wanted to make a giant video montage of everything else I haven’t yet shown. Then I considered doing multiple posts per day on singular facets of everything we experienced.

But neither of those things are really how I operate. Yes, I’ve put together a video or two for climbing, and sure, there have been occasions when I post multiple times per week. But by and large, I tend to do longer, written streams of consciousness and more spread out. I don’t write outlines and plan posts. I don’t take multiple days to think them over. I wait for inspiration, lay my fingers on my keyboard, and let the words pour over my screen. I feel like if I were to pump out too much content, forcefully, all real meaning and emotion would get lost in the chaos and lack of inspiration. I didn’t want that. I wanted to be genuine, to bring you all with me, to feel the experience as I felt it. And I can only do that if I stay true to my “craft”.

And yet, I was still somewhat stressing out over how to wrap this all up. It wasn’t until Daniel innocently tweeted the following for it to really hit me:


And I coupled it with what he also said in an email:

Though, these stories you’re sharing aren’t just for us. They’re for your family, friends, fans, and future. Because when we all look back on this past week, we’ll have an amazing collection of stories from so many diverse perspectives, it’s like writing history from the present.

He was right. Yes, Columbia is judging us all on our storytelling abilities, but it’s not for them. Call me narcissistic if you want (I’ve been called much worse), but I enjoy reading my own writing, especially if it’s written while inspired. If I never get asked to join Columbia on another epic adventure such as this one, this post is for me. To relive the memories. To think of all the people, from different corners of North America, with exceptionally different backgrounds, that I bonded with solely through our love of the outdoors and desire to push ourselves to try things we’ve not done before.

I can think of no better way of sharing and concluding my adventure with Columbia and the #OmniTen families than through my keyboard and into your hearts and emotions. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I know I will enjoy writing it…

Assumptions, Inaccuracies, and Envy

I have been following #OmniTen since members of the first season stepped foot onto Arizona’s dry, arid, desert land. At that point, I was just re-starting my outdoor life after a very long hiatus to focus on college, playing football, powerlifting, becoming a strength specialist, and attempting to start my own business. I didn’t really know who these people were, on social media or otherwise, so I didn’t really care about “them”. I was simply envious of the trip and envious of the gear.

I knew they were just a collection of individuals that [mostly] had never met in real life before. They went on a trip, and in only 3 or 4 days, they were already claiming to be family. I didn’t tell anyone, but that made me snidely chuckle inside. I have been on many teams in my life of athletics that spent years and years together, going through much more difficult times, and sharing vastly more, diverse ranges of emotions than these 10 people had in those four days, and still had not considered some of my teammates to be family. But these ten people claimed they were? It sounded like feel-good marketing to me, but I let them go with it. It wasn’t hurting me or anyone else, so who cares? Besides, I was still only envious of the gear.

Then something happened – I continued to follow these people and interact with them and started to learn more about them. They were still only profile pictures and text on a screen, but they became humans. Season after season, Columbia continued to pick genuine people to represent their brand and inspire others along the way. After each and every seasonal trip, the cohort claimed to be family. Was it more than kitschy shtick? Was there something going on that made these people feel this way? As an outsider, I had no idea. I was incredibly intrigued but still apprehensive to actually believe them.

All the while, I continued following everyone. Interacting with all of them. Telling them secrets and inner fears that I rarely tell “real life” friends and acquaintances. I was definitely not part of their family, but these people were already becoming very close to me. I could not wait for the day to finally meet them, even if I never had become #OmniTen. I still would have bonded with them but not like after this trip. I watched them interact with each other, perpetuate inside jokes. make fun of each other like only families can, and it finally became apparent….these people were family. I now cared less about the gear and more about being able to join their family.

An Outsider’s Observations

In Season 1, there were people that lived in cars, climbers, peak-baggers, backcountry skiers and snowboarders, ultra-runners, and big-time social media influencers. This was the inception of #OmniTen and Columbia’s first attempt at trying something new. Since it was new, they had no idea if this was a one-time thing or if it would continue into the future. They picked the best they could to represent their brand at the time, regardless of background. A very good strategy for not having a crystal ball.

After the success of Season 1, it seems like they knew they were onto something good. In Season 2 (fall/winter), they picked mostly big time, hot shot skiers and snowboarders. People that could rip the slopes and shred the gnar. Several of these people lived in the same city or had already met due to their shared passion of skiing. Just the antics they portrayed on social media was enough to convince me the people of Season 2 were my people: goofy, dedicated, hilarious, driven, and passionate.

Season 3 once again saw people more apt to summer activities. There were a lot of hikers, trail runners, photographers (not that that’s specific to summer), and people that enjoyed warmer weather in general. By this time, I “knew” all of them. We had been socializing for years. And they had also been following the Omni-Adventures the entire time. I was very happy for all of them that they were chosen.

View from the Inside

And then came Season 4. “My” season.

Seth, Andy, and Wendy seemingly devote the vast majority of their time to skiing. Or at least if they could control the seasons of the year, they’d always choose “ski season”. Seth and Wendy alpine ski while Cobra Commander (Andy) teli’s like a boss.

Heidi is primarily a trail runner and inexplicably getting into ultras. She continues training throughout the winter, but always finds time for riding. She even bought a split board this season so is obviously a more than capable boarder. When her cats allow.

Derek has a love of wine and hiking and has been skiing (ice) for years. He’s hiked countless, countless miles and peaks. More than I could ever imagine hitting in my lifetime. When I see pictures, or read stories, about him sharing those experiences with his daughter, I somewhat question the direction of my life.

What can I say about Beth? She lives her life on the road with her husband, “F”, and dog, Sprocket. They both have a love of off-roading, hiking, and anything else they can get their hands on. Thankfully for her, she grew up skiing on the lovely slopes of Washington’s White Pass, Crystal Mountain, and somewhat less lovely Snoqualmie Pass. Then she went to college out east and maybe gave their notorious ice slopes a try or two.

Then there’s Patrick, Josh, and I. We’re climbers primarily that just so happen to all snowboard too. Patrick and I love long, “easy” summer alpine climbing. We can climb 10’s and 11’s at the crag, but if we had a choice, we’d love to find an amazing 14-pitch, 5.6 alpine route. Josh, on the other hand, crushes boulders. He sport climbs too, but he professed his affinity for bouldering a lot more. Bouldering is my least favorite type of climbing, but I can appreciate anyone that does it with passion. I’ll run out some 5.9 trad and risk blowing a piece, but if you put me on a V0 boulder 10 feet off the ground I freak the f*ck out.

Lastly, there’s Michelle, our one and only full-time Canadian member of the entire #OmniTen group. I honestly don’t know what she doesn’t do. This summer she plans to climb across the U.S. with her soon-to-be-husband for their honeymoon. She shoots archery, she ice climbs, she skis AND snowboards, she mountain bikes, she hikes, she backpacks, she does it all. And she does it all fearlessly. I think all of us dabble in all of these activities, but it seems like Michelle and Mike are constantly on the go, constantly doing something different, and not really favoring one activity or another. I want to be like her when I grow up.

Michelle is the only one who gets a picture due to the tenacity it took to join us in UT. Your efforts will not be forgotten, and we’re all so happy you made it. (Photo Courtesy of Dave Creech)
What's that on my head?!?!
What’s that on my head?!?!

Because this was “our season”, Columbia allowed us to show up two-and-a-half days before the other seasons. This allowed us to learn about each other and bond together like the previous groups before they showed up for the #OmniGames. We spent our days running laps on groomers, taking turns spraying each other with snow as we waited for our turn to be interviewed, and generally having an amazing time. There was never any downtime or awkward silences. The only time things got awkward was when Twister was taken out of the box. There were moments of uneasiness and “HEY, WATCH IT!!”, but to me, that was the moment we became family.

Over the next day, the others started showing up, but no matter how many splinter groups were formed, or how many people passed between them, it seemed like Season 4 was always together. Whether it was at 7:30am for breakfast, 9:00am for first chair, out on the mountain, or the nights that turned into mornings, we were together.

It saddened me to no end that we were without two of our members: Wendy and Michelle
It saddened me to no end that we were without two of our members: Wendy and Michelle (Photo by Daniel Green)

Family Reunion

It’s now Wednesday evening, and all of the #OmniFamilies are finally meeting for the first time. It was a crazy, bizarre feeling to be meeting people for the very first time, yet also feeling like a family reunion. We all knew each other so well, and there was always something to talk about. I met so many famous people, I could hardly believe I was apart of it. And when I say “famous”, I mean everybody. They were all famous to me because they came before me, and I had been following them for so long.

This was probably my favorite night of the entire trip. There was so much energy. So much stoke. So many stories. New friends. Old friends. Plaid. Lots of plaid. And party. More than a few of us got caught up in the moment, but I doubt there are very many regrets for that. The next morning might have been a little rough, but those were memories that will last a lifetime. Thank goodness there were no lack of pictures; I’m just sad it would be improbable to post all of the pictures that everyone took here.

Courtesy of Anne Carney
Courtesy of Anne Carney

 

Me and Little B

Weston is explaining how tall he is when he stands up.
Weston is explaining how tall he is when he stands up.
One of my favs
One of my favs
These two are tall. And have great sense of fashion.
These two are tall. And have great sense of fashion.
Plaid Party! Photo by Heidi Henry
Plaid Party! Photo by Heidi Henry

 

Pranks, Dancing, and Weird Things (with Beards)

Speaking for myself, I will only be as big of a goofball as the people around me. Until I’m comfortable around them. It seems as though no one else had that issue, or it was just that we all got used to each other so fast that it was completely a non-issue. It started with Brett trying to tackle me in the snow. Little did he know of my cat-like reflexes and extensive Junior High wrestling experience. I ended up with the upperhand, but I felt I needed to repay him. I turned on my GoPro and snuck up behind him, but as soon as we both hit the ground, the camera ended up turning off. I did see some other cameras around though so some documentation of this might surface at some point. Fingers crossed!

Later that night, unfortunately for Brett (again), Wes came up to me and asked, “when Brett’s giving his interview, will you push him over if I get down behind him?” I hesitated for one micro-instant and came back with a resounding, “yes!” We pulled in Gina to capture it for us. She was taking still photos so you can see Wes perfectly, but I’m just a blur that shows up in the middle for one picture as I go running by.

Unfortunately, I can’t embed the Flipagram so you’ll have to click here if you want to see it.

That same night, a spontaneous dance party broke out. Once again, Gina captured the start of it in a gif. Later, it would grow to be huge with the entire crew joining in. Bystanders were incredibly confused.

Flash Mob Dance Party! Courtesy of Gina Begin.
Flash Mob Dance Party! Courtesy of Gina Begin.

There was no lack of Shotskis either.

Courtesy of Weston Shirey
Courtesy of Weston Shirey
Photo courtesy of Josh Riggins.
Photo courtesy of Josh Riggins.

Which perhaps led to the following pictures, the next four taken by the fabulous Anne Carney.

Mix 'n Match

More weird

OmniYoga

I wish this didn't happen. But it did. And here it is.
I wish this didn’t happen. But it did. And here it is.

Then I saw Seth do this…

Jump splits

Miley Cyrus was played…


And Beth and I stole Anne’s phone to do a little photoshoot. We tried to upload them to all her social media accounts before she noticed, but we got busted.

Selfies!

Whatch YOU lookin at??
I have absolutely no explanation for why I giggle every time I look at this.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Steve Weiss!

Who is Steve Weiss?

 Heather and Katie, always keepin’ it classy

Stay classy, Park City

Beard envy at its finest.

Beard Envy

As you can see, there were some fairly “intimate” moments captured during this trip. Intimate moments and moments that take so much comfort in trusting and knowing the people around you, that they would not be possible if we really were just a bunch of random individuals without a central core of beliefs that brought us all together. That is a very special thing.

Come as #OmniTen, Leave as #OmniFamily

I feel as though if I were to ever venture into any one of these amazing people’s lives again, I’d have no problems asking for a small patch on their floor to sleep. And I can’t do that to just anyone that I’ve only spent two-and-a-half days with. It takes me a looong time to feel that connection with regular people. But with #OmniTen? That connection is instant. It’s electric. It’s real. I can’t wait for Patrick to tell me he’s coming to Colorado so that he, Justin, and I can go climbing. I can’t wait for any of the rippers from Season 2 or Gina or Steve to tell me to meet them at Berthoud pass to hit some backcountry turns. I can’t wait for Josh to setup a mountain bike ride in Moab and have Beth and F join us. One of these days, Heather and Heidi might convince me to hike a 14’er with them. The next time I’m in Florida for work, I’ll ask Julie if she’s around to hit a workout in the park. I’ve never been to Cali…Cali…Cali, but I’m guessing Derek and Casey wouldn’t have issues showing me around SoCal. And you better believe if I ever make it down to Arizona, I’ll be contacting #OmniTeam9 partner Heidi; the man responsible for making so many of us look good in all our posts, Dave Creech; and “Mr. I Hike Everywhere”, Adam Nutting.

I now understand what everyone from seasons past meant when they said they are now part of a family. It’s an honest statement. There is a gravity of calling someone family, one that I don’t take lightly. Because there is nothing more important to me than family. And I am proud to now be a member of this one.

This family isn’t limited to just #OmniTen. It’s also extended to the leader of this gigantic event, Mr. Daniel Green. I cannot fathom the amount of time, effort, and energy it took to pull this off, regardless of event planning contractors. I know we shared some drinks together on the trip, but my liver is still healthy, and there’s always room for more. Thank you for everything you did and making this run as smoothly as humanly possible.

And there’s Tori. I lump Tori in with #OmniTen because Tori IS #OmniTen. Season 3 to be exact. But she now also works with Daniel at Columbia Corporate on the social media team. She also had a huge part in the success of this event, making sure everyone had what they needed and teaching everyone how to take a proper GoPro selfie. Invaluable information for people like us. Thank you, Tori.

To everyone I didn’t mention, I am truly sorry. You’ve all left a lasting impression on me, and I enjoyed every second I spent with each and every one of you. As I said in the beginning, if I’m never lucky enough to join Columbia and the rest of you on another trip like this again, I will look back at this post and remember all the memories, all the relationships that were built these short days, and the exuberance we all felt being surrounded by such astonishing people from all different walks of life, coming together because of our love of the outdoors.

Until we meet again. #OmniTen

 

Climbing to the Top of the #OmniGames

Hello, again.

I’m going to keep this brief because the video pretty much says it all. (And because I’m sitting at work and have a TON of real world career type stuff to do.)

As I mentioned yesterday, Columbia Sportswear brought all four seasons of their #OmniTen groups to Park City to participate in the “#OmniGames”. They did a great job of mostly keeping us in the dark about what the games would entail until the day they started. As we pulled into Garff Ranch, nearly everyone in my shuttle van became as giddy as school children when we saw a plethora of snowmobiles and a gaggle of dogs.

We all gathered in the main meeting area, and fearless leader Daniel explained everything that was about to take place in detail. On the line was another sponsored trip to the country of Jordan. The #OmniGames were ON!

I was instantly excited when I drew Heidi’s name out of the hat. If you follow her blog and/or social media accounts, she’s just as goofy as I am. (I would later learn she might be goofier. Normally I’d up my antics once I saw hers – because I don’t really believe in boundaries, except to match those of the people around me, but since I didn’t have a voice, it kind of held me back. Poop.) She’s a runner and a desert person; I’m a climber/snowboarder and a cold-weather person. I wasn’t sure how well we were going to do in the games, and winning a trip to Jordan would be the 2nd most amazing thing to happen to me (this trip being the 1st), but I really just wanted have fun, get to know Heidi, and let our results speak for themselves.

For full explanation of all the events, check out Heidi’s post, The Art of #TryingStuff, and learn what challenges she faced and how she conquered them along the way.

Lastly, before you can click play, I have to tell you about some of the pictures. If you notice any of the still photos are NOT taken with iPhone or GoPro and look like they’re from a professional, that’s because Season 3 member @DavidECreech (Blog: Wilderness Dave) was unfortunately unable to play in the games. So instead, he took AMAZING photos. If that weren’t enough, he allowed any and all of us to use any and all of his pictures. Thanks, Dave, you’re really f*ckin cool!

Now, onto the video!

 

#TryingStuff with Columbia Sportswear

Yo, yo, yo, YOLO!!

This post is something I’ve never tried before.

  1. I hate the sound of my own voice, especially when it’s hoarse
  2. I’m not very skilled at making videos, but I figured, “eh, what the heck, YOLO.” (That’s already two ‘YOLO’s’ if you’re counting.)
  3. I didn’t think it would be like anything any of the other #OmniTen members would be doing. (Yeah sure, there will be videos, but with a voice-over?! Doubtful….I hope.)

If you remember correctly, I announced back in October that I had been selected to become a member of the afore mentioned #OmniTen crew for this fall and winter season. This season was nothing like the previous three.

Instead of having three days to spend with nine other outdoor enthusiasts and social media influencers within my season, we were going to have ourselves a little competition against everyone from the previous three seasons! And so the #OmniGames had been written, and so they had come to pass.

Bananabuzzbomb!We were broken up into teams of two by picking names out of a hat and pairing summer members with winter members to try level the playing field. I chose the righteously fabulous @Bananabuzzbomb (Heidi Henry) from Season 1. She’s a desert rat living in Arizona right now, but I have faith we can pull off a Top 5 finish to win the trip to Jordan (the country). Oh! Did I not tell you that’s the grand prize? Well, it is, and now you know. And knowing is half the battle.

I’ll tell you a little more about the specifics of the #OmniGames later this week, but for today, I wanted to focus on #TryingStuff.

As I explain in the video below, #TryingStuff is more than a slogan. For Columbia and its employees, it’s a culture – a way of life. This resonates with me because I love to make jokes about trying stuff:

“Just ate pure wheat gluten tonight for the first time. #TryingStuff”

“Just got a drink tossed in my face for pretending to be Barney Stinson. #TryingStuff.”

“Read my first book ever. #TryingStuff”

… and I can go on like that!

But honestly, I hate complacency. I hate being really good at something and then never challenging myself to be even better. I can honestly say, that before this trip, I had no idea how dedicated Columbia is to continuous innovation. They’ve made a believer out of me.

So without further ado, an amateurish video in which I will hate watching over and over and over and over again. Enjoy!

Chasm Lake in snow

Training Hike and #TryingStuff Volume I: Chasm Lake

Of the few people that read my satirical post about hiking being horrible, I think most of them thought I was joking. But in reality, the joke’s on them! I really do not like hiking, and if you follow me on Twitter, I’ve probably told you as such many, many, numerous times. I just don’t get it.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t have to do it. If I want to alpine climb, there’s usually a long approach: hiking. If I want to go winter camping, it’s not very fun to camp right at the car. So, hike (snowshoe). This winter, I hope to con someone/people into taking me backcountry snowboarding. More snowshoeing/hiking because I don’t have a split board. And if someone invites me on their weekend backpacking trip, guess what, I need to keep up. More hiking in my life.

Who disappeared the mountains?
Who disappeared the mountains?

As much as I may dislike hiking, it’s always going to be a part of what I do outdoors. And as I learned on a failed attempt at the Grand Teton, I need to be in hiking condition so that I’m still physically capable of doing the climb once I get there.

Now, with all that pish posh out of the way, I forced myself to go on a hike on Sun. Alone. Something else I never do because I can’t motivate myself to do so and because I’m an extrovert to the max. I did it anyway. In order to do this, I just needed to get into the frame of mind that this hike is a “training” hike. Because I will do a lot of things in the name of training, in order to be able to perform better at a more “important” activity. I guess every hike will be a “training hike” from here on out.

I really wanted climb Mt. Audubon, but the trail head was already closed for the season, adding an additional 3+ miles (one way) to the hike. No way. Instead of climbing a mountain, I decided to drive a bit further to the Longs Peak trail head and hike to Chasm Lake.

The weather said it would be mid-twenties, a sustained 15 mph wind with 35+ mph gusts, and 1-3 inches of snow. I was excited! With that combination, I thought for sure it would get down to the low tens of degrees (if not lower) with the windchill. Perfect conditions to try out my new OmniTen gear.

To start the hike, I was wearing my Columbia base layer, lined with their OmniHeat technology, my Arc’Teryx Beta AR pants as windproof, and a Nike DriFit t-shirt. That’s it. But I did have another layer of insulation (top and bottom) and the Columbia Millenium Flash shell for windproof in my pack just in case. I also had a hat lined with OmniHeat.

This is how I normally feel about hiking.
This is how I normally feel about hiking.

I started the hike hot ‘n heavy. Way too hot ‘n heavy. I needed to slow my pace about a half-mile into it. By the end of mile 2, I was bored out my gourd (as per usual). So then I tried something else new: I listened to music.

I don’t know if I’m more annoyed that I listened to music, or that I liked listening to music.

But either way, the hike went a lot better!

The weather conditions held true to the forecast. In fact, it got so windy and snowy that Longs Peak and Mt. Meeker literally disappeared. However, I never did put on anymore layers except the hat. The OmniHeat base layers (with a little windproof help on the lower half) were fine enough, especially with the hat. That’s one benefit of being really “hot blooded”, but now I’m going to have to wait until the temps drop even more to try out the OmniHeat Millenium shell. Other than in-bound snowboarding, I’m not sure when I’ll get to wear the insulated pants they sent too. I can already tell those suckers are going to be hot!

So, yes, I hiked. Yes, I went alone. Yes, I listened to music. Yes, I wore my first set of Columbia’s technical winter-wear. And yes, I think I might find myself doing this again. It wasn’t completely horrible. Just don’t think I’ll be cancelling “better” plans (like I mentioned in the beginning) in order to hike.

Oh, and I made it to Chasm Lake and back (8.5 miles) in 4 hours, including breaks. Eh. Not too bad for someone that despises this game, right? 😉

Chasm Lake in snow
Longs Peak is only a hundred yards away or so, but you still can’t see the peak. Nifty, eh?