Favorite Columbia Gear While Traveling Jordan

I know, I know, you’re probably alllll waiting with abated breath to read about my experiences in Jordan, but my laptop has died and I can’t bring myself to post about the trip without my pictures to help tell the story. So for now, I’m going to steal from the other #OmniTen on this less than emotional topic.

Putting it to the Test

Over the course of the 11 days we were visiting the Kingdom of Jordan, we thoroughly used and abused our Columbia gear. We hiked and swam through miles of slot canyons. We toured the Lost City of Petra, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and ancient Roman, Greek, and Aramaic ruins. We rode camels. We scrambled up rocks. We spent time in two major seas of the world. And we dressed up nicely for Five-star restaurants. (Have I mentioned how diverse Jordan is?)

We floated. We walked. We ran. We climbed. We slid. We swam. It was cold. It was hot. It was wet. It was sunny. It was cloudy.

And everything mostly held up well. (That will be separate post.) I was really impressed by all of the gear, but a few things stood out more than others. Sometimes for fashion, sometimes for function, sometimes for both.

These are a Few of My Favorite Things

Bahama Vent PFG boat shoes

These have become my go-to shoes for daily life. They’re vented incredibly well and help prevent sweaty feet. They’re loafers so they just slip on and off but still manage to stay on your feet while walking. This is important in your day to day travels so you don’t step on broken glass, rusty nails, and dog poop with your bare feet. That’s a free pro-tip.

The one downside is that if you wear them without socks, in a boating or other shorts-wearing activity, they do hold onto the stank a little more than I’d like. Nevertheless, that fact isn’t stopping me from listing them as part of my favorites.

Here is one of Seth’s photos of Caleb rocking the Bahama PFGs while mingling with the local children. They were pretty fascinated by the drone, but lesbi-honest, so were we all. The entire trip.

Bahama Vent PFG

Performance Zero Arm Sleeves with Omni-Freeze Technology

I tried these out a couple weeks before going to Jordan while mountain biking in Moab and Fruita. They worked great then, and they worked great hiking in slot canyons and Petra too.

It takes a decent amount of glisten (sweat) to activate the Omni-Freeze, but once it is, you can really feel it working. I think the Omni-Freeze probably works here better than anywhere else on your body because of how tight it fits against your skin. This makes having big gunz even more important. Or I guess you could just buy the size according to your arms. Either way.

The other main reason I love the arm sleeves is that I don’t have to cake on the sunscreen. They have UPF 50 protection so you can put them on before or after you’ve gotten your daily allotment of mocha skin inducing UV rays. They even look way cool like an NBA player, with or without a shirt.

I was like, this Cathedral thing in Petra is pretty cool. Let me do a handstand real quick. (You can also see them in my Saying ‘NO’ to TryingStuff post.)

DCIM100GOPRO

Royce Peak Pant

These pants are pretty amazing. Mostly, a lot amazing. They fall into the same category as the Bahama Vent shoes: perfectly functional for outdoors, look great for urban wear.

I mostly used them for the latter on this trip whenever we’d go out to a fancy restaurant. Because we had absolutely no idea what we’d be doing every day, I never wanted to risk getting stuck in pants if we were going to be active in the desert. However, before I left for Jordan, I wore them hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park and when I climbed the First Flatiron in Boulder.

Not only do they fit better than any designer jean I’ve ever worn, but they are incredibly functional for outdoor use. I’ma buy at least one more pair.

Casey grabbed this one of Justin wearing his Royce Pants atop his noble steed. I’m pretty sure camels are considered steeds.

Royce

Zero Rules Short

I saved the best for last. When I got these in my box of goodies, I was a little leery but equally excited. They have a built-in [Omni-Freeze] liner so I assumed these were swimming trunks. Most shorts I wear come down to mid-knee or possibly below, but these fit well above there. I was like, “sweet! Short-shorts!!” But I also knew that might make me a little uncomfortable in the fashion department. They also have the weight of the super awkward, really short, I-can’t-believe-people-actually-wear-them running shorts most often seen on middle-aged men that think they’re still going to win the Boston Marathon.

Turns out, I kinda like ’em that short. At least for hiking and swimming. The liner makes sure everything stays where it’s supposed to, and since it’s made from Omni-Freeze fabric, we came up with a lot of really great slogans. Think: cold sensations and the family jewels. I’m sure you can come up with something.

The best part about these is that they really increase your tan above an oft neglected area these days above your knee. I’m fairly certain that’s the first thing people notice in the summer. AmIright?

They give Seth the power to backflips into the Red Sea. Otherwise I’m sure that wouldn’t be possible. (Also, don’t be afraid to follow me on Instagram. I swear I post cool stuff there too.)

 

 

Now, go #BuyStuff. In the meantime, I’m staving of jet lag.

Cultural Awakening: The People of Jordan

As I sit here and wait for my day to start in 30 min. to go hike in the lost city of Petra, I thought I'd try preface my trip to Jordan with Columbia Sportswear. I don't know how many posts I'll end up writing about Jordan, but this topic needs to be mentioned exclusively from everything else we've done, or will do. To me, I think this may be one of the HUGEST misconceptions about Jordan, and I want to do my part to set the record straight.

“The Middle East (Near East) is not one big country.”

Westerners, myself included, tend to lump all countries in the Near/Middle East together as if they were one big dysfunctional family. This is exactly what I thought.

“What's the difference between Syria, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, or Israel?”

Sure, different countries, different rulers, different religions, but in the end, “it's all same but different.”

 

After having been in Jordan for just 6 days, the people of Jordan have completely blown me away and made me realize this region truly is individualistic.

In Amman, I felt completely safe walking down the street at night. In Jerash, we were constantly bombarded by Jordanian children eager to get their pictures taken. In the downtown market, I got countless smiles and thumbs-ups for wearing the Jordanian scarf. The people have been nothing but amazing. Always smiling. Always willing to try speak in English. Always ready to accommodate as best as they can.

I was also not sure what to expect in terms of the presence of religion in the day-to-day interactions with the Jordanians. This has less to do with Jordanians, and more to do with me never experiencing an Islamic culture. I'm quite aware of the stereotypes people of the U.S. hold of Muslims, and I absolutely did not bring any of those biases with me. And yet, I am elated those stereotypes are all completely based of a few terrible examples.

The people here are simply just people. People that love their country. People trying to make a living. Happy. And incredibly welcoming.

The biggest and most pleasant surprise has been the smiling faces and nonstop humor. Our tour guide, all of our hosts, vendors, and even random people we talk to in the market all try to make us laugh. They all have stories (including running around naked if you encounter a hyena). They all have experiences. They all want to share them with you. And in the end, it doesn't matter what language you speak or what God you believe in. The people of Jordan, are truly amazing.

 

Pret Snowboarding Helmets and Tree Runs

Between OR Show and SIA, I had the pleasure of interacting with Pret Helmets on Twitter. Those interactions led to a scheduled interview, and that scheduled interview led to helmet to test out.

Since I know each and every one of you read each and every one of my posts, I know that you’re familiar with my history of TBIs. I love snowboarding, but I’d never do it without a helmet.

Since most active sports have an associated helmet, and most of them are single-impact helmets, one of the first questions I asked was, “how do I know if I should replace a helmet?”

Unfortunately, there’s never anyway of knowing. You don’t have x-ray vision to lookin at the foam inside your helmet. The answer I received was, “if you think you’ve taken hard enough falls to damage the foam, it’s probably time for you to replace it.”

Ummmm…under those conditions, I should have replaced my old snowboarding helmet 12 falls ago. Thank goodness I met with Pret!

Pret Helmet SelectionThey have 4 different models for men:

  • Cynic
  • Shaman
  • Effect
  • Carbon Effect

And 3 different models for women:

  • Lyric
  • Luxe
  • Facet

Pret prides their construction on being lighter and having a lower profile than their competitors, but still meeting all industry impact ratings and certifications. They are obviously doing something right as they have seen 100% growth in sales from Year 1 to Year 2 and expect similar numbers in Year 3.

Pret Helmet TechnologyThe helmet I got was the Carbon Effect. You’ll notice that the “rubber lime” color I have on in the video below isn’t on the website for that model. That’s new for Winter 2014.

What you will notice is the reinforced carbon composite protected areas. These are areas where impacts to the head can do the greatest damage.

And finally, the “nice to haves”…

  • X-liner, removable, anti-microbial helmet liner….to reduce the stank.
  • VTT3 – Their most advanced ventilation system that allows you to control the heat escaping your dome.
  • Removable ear covers, for fashion and function (on warm, spring days)
  • Audio ready ear covers, for listening to your sweet sweet tunes as you slash the powder.
  • Magnetic buckling system – No snaps, no clicks, no need to take your gloves off.

All in all, very glad to have Pret protecting my head. You’ll see why below. Enjoy!

Updated 2014 Voile Splitboard – the Revelator

I’ve only very casually been watching the splitboard scene until recently, but it seems like anyone that is serious about it at least mentions Voile, if not outright owning one. I had the opportunity to interview them the recent Winter OR Show as well take it out for a demo ride the Snowsports Industry Association’s (SIA) Snow Show. They’ve had their Artisan model out for several years now and seen great success so I was pretty much already sold. But after meeting with them and being able to try it out first-hand, I can definitely recommend this splitboard to anyone.

Made in the USA

Puck binding channel system
Puck binding channel system

For those that don’t know, Voile is based out of Salt Lake City, UT, and all of their manufacturing is as well. You can feel good about local when you buy their products. And now they’ve taken it one step further. The Revelator core is made out of Paulownia wood, which is mostly found in China, but it is being grown in the Southeast U.S. too. Which mean a majority of their raw materials, if not all of them, are also harvested from U.S. soil. I’m not always a big “made in the USA” kind of guy, but when I can support local jobs at a cheaper price, it’s an absolute no-brainer.

Tech Specs

Alright, so, now that we all feel good about buying an American produced, American made snowboard, let’s talk about why you should be buying this thing in the first place. With more and more companies jumping into the splitboard mix, it was time for Voile to bring some more innovation to the table. What they came up with was the Revelator and Revelator BC (backcountry). (Frickin cool name!)

Maybe hard to tell, but the pucks are tapered for a more natural and better riding position.
Maybe hard to tell, but the pucks are tapered for a more natural and better riding position.

Both models have a new channel puck system. Rather than mounting your bindings in predetermined hole patterns, there are two machined out channels in which you can slide your pucks back and forth to get a true specific, customized stance width. Not only that, but the pucks are slightly angled to put your knees and ankles in a better riding position. They also made it a lot easier to get out of your bindings with a new quick release system, allowing you to release both straps with one simple pull. At first it seems like a novelty, but then you try it, and you realize how awesome it really is.

Getting back to the construction, the Paulownia wood is lighter and just as strong as traditional core materials. They’ve encased that in carbon glass and elongated the cambered area underfoot. Add to that an early rise nose and a 7mm taper in the tail, and you have a lot better performance in the deep backcountry powder – skinning up and floating down. And speaking of skinning…

1 Pull, 2 Straps
1 Pull, 2 Straps

New fish scale bottoms for the Revelator BC!

These won’t replace skins altogether on steep terrain, but for lower angled approaches, there’s no need to mess around with skins. And if there’s flat traverses after a sweet pow run, don’t worry about having to get your skins out just for 100 yards. Cross Country Skis have had fish scales for years and years and years. It only makes sense that they’re finally showing up on backcountry touring gear.

Test Laps

As I said, I actually got to ride this magnificent creature. Specifically, “just” the Revelator (not Revelator BC) so I didn’t get to see if or how the fish scales would affect downhill performance. And I wasn’t too sad about not being able to try them skinning up the mountain at Copper either. I didn’t have time nor ambition for in-bounds skinning. Haha!

What I can say about the downhill however is that I was completely blown away. I don’t know if you’re at all like me, but I was fairly skeptical about a snowboard split in half and clipped together being able to perform as well as solid, single snowboard. Not only was I wrong, but I was way wrong. It was the best board I rode all day.

Voile Revelator BC with fish scale traction. Yum!
Voile Revelator BC with fish scale traction. Yum!

I was able to carve and feel the edge dig into the groomer and hold it. It also had enough “pop” to allow me power through some sharp transitions. I didn’t stay on the groomer long until I got into some sweet, sweet untouched powder in the trees of Copper Mountain. It had snowed 20-some-odd-inches the days prior, and this was a magnificent way to test out its powder capability and maneuverability.

To that date, in the 11 months since I had been riding, I had never had such a good tree run in my life. Turning became second nature and the board responded with every torsional flex and kick. I even got some sweet air on my exit from the trees. And when I say sweet, I’m talkin a good 8″. Yeah. THAT sweet.

The only deficiency that the Revelator revealed was in its bindings. Halfway through the tree run, the toe strap came off the end of my boot. I was cranking pretty good through the trees, but that’s something that could actually cause you to end up *in* a tree if you weren’t ready for it. I explained this to the reps as I returned, and they seemed aware, or not surprised, by what I told them. They explained that they are currently in the process of designing and testing new….designs….until they get it right. As it turns out, binding companies don’t share trade secrets exceptionally well. And probably rightfully so. I have no doubts that by the 2014 season, they’ll have this all figured out. And then you’ll have one badass piece of backcountry setup.

Product Testing Stage Ideas goggles and Cornice Dropping Video

If you follow me on social media, you’ve no doubt seen me ranting and raving over the snowboarding conditions this past weekend. Not only was there fresh powder everywhere, but Rob and I decided to try dropping off some cornice at Loveland Ski Area’s 13,000ft. ridge. Both first timers.

While we were at it, since it was a magical bluebird day, I also decided to try out my new Stage Ideas goggles with spherical lenses that I picked up at OR Show in January. My current setup still has the flat profile so I was eager to try them. Plus, all the cool kids where spherical lenses. I wanna be cool too, guys!!

They blocked the sun wonderfully and gave me better depth perception to see bumps and grooves along the way. Unfortunately, they did not turn me into a pro snowboarder…as you will see below. My only concern is that they did give off kind of a fish bowl effect depending on where you were looking out of the lens. It’s not a deal breaker, but it certainly warrants more testing. The other cool thing about Stage Ideas is their massive selection of customizable straps. No matter your interests, or your humor, they’ve got one for you. Not only that, but they have plenty of lenses to choose from as well. They’ll be coming out with a photochromic lens by next season at the latest.

And as usual, my GoScope Extreme GoPole held up to all the falls.

Arc’Teryx – New for Men Fall ’14

I recently went to the winter Outdoor Retailer (OR) Show for the first time ever and had very little clues as to what I was doing. This is what I knew:

  1. I was excited to see all the #OmniTen that were back in town. I mean, it had been 2 weeks. That’s a long time, ok?!
  2. I was excited to be staying with Josh and his couch dweller, Gina.
  3. I had one scheduled appointment with Columbia. Which was basically so I could get some alone time with Daniel.
  4. I had one scheduled appointment with Arc’Teryx so that I could finally meet one of my two favorite Arc’Employees.
  5. I was going to spend the rest of the time walking around and talking to people. Basically because meeting new people and talking are my two favorite things. After smiling.

I accomplished all of these things and more. But this post is not about my OR experience. This post is about my interview with Arc’Teryx and their Fall 2014 lineup.

Arc'Teryx Lithic Comp Jacket and PantsLithic Comp Jacket and Pants

Being winter and my current obsession, the first thing I asked about was their new backcountry ski gear. I was brought to the Lithic Comp jacket and Lithic Comp pant.

Lithic JacketGranted, I’ve been snowboarding less than a year so I’m not up on what every manufacturer is doing for every sport they represent, but what I saw was incredibly cool. I’d say innovative, but like I said, maybe someone else is already doing it, and I just don’t know it.

Arc’Teryx took into consideration that during your uphill charge, you’re likely going to sweat. A lot. But on your way down, you’re going to have that sweet sweet powder splashing against your legs and torso. What they came up with is Gore® Fabric Technology hardshell bonded to their proprietary Trusaro™ softshell material. Your sweaty bits are covered with the Trusaro™, but your chilly bits (when being hammered by pow) are covered by Gore-Pro.

Trusaro SofthshellThe Trusaro™ is under your arms and sides as well your entire back. The Gore® Fabric Technology covers your hood, shoulders, and the front of your torso. But don’t worry, the chest zippered pockets open up and there’s a mesh liner that allows air to flow through the front of your jacket too.

On top of all of this, they also used their 3D ergonomic molding to give you the best freedom of motion wherever you need it. When skinning up the side of a mountain, you want to be able to use your poles and extend your arms in front of you. In the pants, you want to be able to bend your knees without causing that awkward junior high “high water pants” issue. They used this common sense notion to give you more room in the shoulders, thoracic spine, elbows, hips, and knees (long live the Oxford comma!!) to give you the freedom you want while moving, but still fit perfectly in all the right places when you need it.

The jacket comes in at $45o, and I forgot to ask what the pants were going for. Both are available in September of 2014.

Stikine Jacket and PantsStikine Jacket

Sorry, kids, there’s not much to add about the Stikine jacket. It’s the “dumbed down”, insulated version of the Lithic. There’s no Trusaro™ softshell areas or Gore® Fabric Technology. It’s just bombproof Gore-Tex® that’s guaranteed to keep you warm and dry in the harshest conditions. But the cool thing about this jacket is that the Thermatek™ insulation is bonded to the shell. This will alleviate cold spots created by settling insulation. I hate those things. Just like gnats.

Macai Ski Jacket (On Sale Now)

The Macai Ski Jacket is the Stikine Jacket on D-bol. You’ll only get the d-bol reference if you’ve ever dabbled in the fitness world. It’s steroids, ok?! It’s a freakin insulated, waterproof, breathable shell on steroids! It doesn’t have the softshell bonded to hardshell technology like the Lithic, but it still sports all the same 3D ergonomic molding and fit and full-fledged Gore-Tex® technology.

What sets this apart from anything that I’ve ever heard of (again, not saying it doesn’t already exist somewhere else), and the Stikine, is that it’s down insulation baffled with synthetic coreloft insulation bonded to the Gore-Tex®. This bad boy is for those extremely cold days above the treeline, and retails for…wait for it…are you sitting down?…. $850.

But if I can say anything about Arc’Teryx, it’s that you get what you pay for. Also, no pictures of this bad boy. Click on the link above to go to the website, mkay?

Arc'Teryx Ceres JacketCeres Jacket

Now that I’ve got all ski and snowboard nonsense out of my system, let’s talk about climbing. Please?

Internally, they (Arc’Teryx) call the Ceres Jacket the “do-everything workhorse”. It combines synthetic coreloft insulation in the high moisture areas like the shoulders, neck, armpits, and wrist cuffs with 850-down fill everywhere else. Oh, and did I mention it has a wind-stopper shell? It does. Can anyone say “belay jacket from Zeus himself”? I’m sure there’s more than a couple people stuck in the Polar Vortex that wish they had this jacket.

Arc'Teryx Alpha Comp HoodyAlpha Comp Hoody

I’m really excited to tell you about this jacket. Why? Because I knows a sekret about it. But you have to wait for the end of this section to find out. No skipping ahead!!

This jacket is the Lithic Jacket of the climbing world. It combines the softshell and hardshell technology but in different areas. Whereas the Lithic has Gore® Fabric Technology on the front of the torso, the Alpha Comp utilizes the Trusaro™ softshell material there as well as the back. The Gore® Fabric Technology is only on the hood, shoulders, top of arms, and waist. Why? Think about it…

As a climber, you’re not getting sprayed with snow. You may get snow/ice/water dripping from above (hence, “GFT” on the hood and shoulders and arms), but it’s not coming at you horizontally. There’s no need for “GFT” in those areas.

And just like the Lithic is articulated for forward movement of the arms, the Alpha Comp is articulated for overhead reaching. Because climbing. Get it?

So now you want to know my sekret???

Full production of this jacket isn’t scheduled until later this year, making it available for September 2014. HOWEVER, there will be a limited amount available to purchase online from the Arc’teryx website on February 15! As in, 16 days from right now! And that’s enough exclamation points for one paragraph.

As usual, Arc’Teryx is on the cutting edge of extreme mountain wear. Their products are top-notch. And while the price tag may be hard to swallow, I guarantee…GUARANTEE…there will be a moment when you realize it’s worth every penny.

And just because I’m obsessed with packs, I wanted to take ALL of these home with me. All of them!

Featured Product Review: GoScope Extreme – GoPro Pole 2X

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received GoScope Extreme – GoPro Pole 2X  for free from GoScope as coordinated by Deep Creek Public Relations in consideration for review publication.

Well, what can I say? I was really excited to have the chance to try out this GoPro Pole. I haven’t had much luck capturing and sharing my mediocre snowboard skills, and my pictures have been limited to chairlifts, post-falls, and shaky helmet mount videos. Not anymore!

The GoScope Extreme – 2X is awesome because it collapses down to just 17″ for tight tree runs and can extend out to 37″ for wide open groomers. The small, compact nature is also great when I’m not using it. It fit well in my backpack, right next to my Hydroflask filled with….liquid confidence. The fact that it’s a measly 6oz. certainly makes it something that can always come with for those video-worthy moments.

Short for trees
Collapsed for trees
Long for groomers
Extended for groomers and Action Selfies

 

It also has two mounting platforms at the end so that if you’re a really fancy videographer, you could mount one GoPro upside-down facing forward and other facing back at you for maximum selfie satisfaction. I am neither a fancy videographer nor a great snowboarder. So, just one GoPro for me. In fact, one is too many.

The last feature I really like is the wrist cord. Comes in really handy when things like this happen:

And yes, I was using the GoScope during that fall. It survived wonderfully, and I had no worries about losing it if I accidentally let go because you can tighten it to whatever size your wrist is.

Other cool little trinkets that come with (as you can see in the first pic)  are two vest clips and a small lanyard. I used these in a different way. I put a slipknot in the lanyard and put it around the base of the GoPro mount (where it mates to the GoScope). Then clove hitched the vest clip and attached it to the pole. That way, if I took a real crasher and the GoPro disconnected from the pole, it would hopefully not be lost on the mountain, and instead just dangling behind.

Needless to say, this is going to find its way into my bag anytime I head out to ride. It small, it’s light, and I’m not afraid of a selfie here and there. Or filming sweet crashes like the one above.

Speaking of that, stay tuned for the next GoScope Extreme installment when I finish editing all of the video from that day. It’ll be just as mediocre as me!

GoScope Selfie

Boulder, Colorado Pho

I have lived in Broomfield, worked in Boulder, and visited Denver since January 2013. I moved from Minneapolis/St. Paul. Minneapolis/St. Paul has a very large Vietnamese population, and on top of that, I’ve been dating a Vietnamese immigrant for 2.5 years. So now that we have that information, I feel confident in saying that I know good pho when I taste it.

Since moving, I’ve tried four different pho restaurants. None of them were that great. In fact, the only “good” pho is the pho that I, or we, made in the apartment. Thank goodness her family taught me how to cook it.

Black Pepper Pho (Boulder)

The soup was good as long as it was just called “soup” and not “pho”. It was quite bland and the broth tasted old. It was missing anise, cinnamon, and cloves to be certain. I needed to add bunch of fish sauce at the table too.

Pho Duy (Broomfield)

Again, this broth was missing stronger anise and clove flavors, but it was better than Black Pepper Pho. I would at least call this “pho”, just not that great. The upside of Pho Duy is that the serving size was ginormous. That said, for the amount of pho they give you, they barely give you enough bean sprouts, basil, and lime to even notice they’re in there.

Viet’s Restaurant (Denver)

This was by far the most authentic restaurant of the four that I’ve been to so far. The host and server at least spoke Vietnamese. The employees of all the other restaurants were predominantly white. (That’s already a red flag when looking for good Vietnamese food.)

The pho was really quite decent. Good amount of sprouts, basil, lime, and jalapeno’s. Sadly, the soup wasn’t very hot. Not even hot enough to blanch or tenderize the sprouts. According to my Vietnamese lady friend, the temperature of the broth when served is a very very important custom. If it’s not hot, you should send it back. Almost like ordering a steak medium-rare but getting it well-done, here in America.

Vietnamese Cuisine Young’s Cafe (Fort Collins)

There is no way this should have been the best pho I’ve had in Colorado so far. It’s in a “small town” compared to Boulder and Denver. The dining area was way too nice and way too modern. There were no Asian patrons to be seen, just white people everywhere. They didn’t even use Vietnamese names for the menu items. “Pho” was “Vietnamese beef noodle soup”.

“Oh boy, this is going to be horrible.”

NOPE!

So far, it is the best pho I’ve had in a Colorado restaurant. The broth was a little light on flavor, but much much much better than the other three. It was served hot. It had ample amounts of side veggies.

On top of good pho, we were feeling risky and ordered sweet and sour hot pot too. That wasn’t even offered in all of the Vietnamese restaurants in Minneapolis/St. Paul so I really didn’t have high expectations. Again, we were pleasantly surprised.

 

Hopefully these reviews help to encourage you to try other pho restaurants before these (except in the case of Young’s Cafe). I will add more restaurants to the list as I experience them.

 

Trip Report: Climbing in The Black Hills

I’ve been climbing in the Black Hills over the 4th of July for three years in a row now. This trip is all about relaxing, climbing, and enjoying who you’re with, not neccessarily about pushing your limits all the time. We keep it low stress, highly entertaining, and eat way more than we should. Not once have I written a comprehensive trip report about this. I always mean to, but when I come back, other things get in the way. I’m gonna try something a little different this year: write it as I go. Novel, eh?

Day 1: Travel

Piton Perch traverse, VedauwooMy day started early. I called up Keese to see if he wanted to hit a climb or two in Vedauwoo on my way to the Black Hills since I was passing through Cheyenne anyways. Pffffft. Of course he did. But before we hit The Woo, he introduced me to Cheyenne’s premier breakfast place. I had the potato, egg, and bacon breakfast burrito slathered in green chile sauce. Or should I say: “awesomesauce”?

Anyways, we loaded our stomachs and the 2lb. burritos they contained back in my Subaru to head to The Woo. We did a 5.6 chimney route called Piton Perch. Keese led the first pitch, and I got the second, a simple “hike through the formation”. Yeah, “hike”. What they really meant was, “chimney traverse and hope that your C3’s hold or you’ll cheese grater down the slot.” Great. Thanks, Keese. (It actually wasn’t bad. Quite fun, actually.) We topped out and had a fun free-space rappel.

Done with those, back on the road, 4 hours to South Dakota. We say our hello’s and head out to the Bugling Elk for the 1st evening dinner. I had wild boar. Weird, right? Tasted like chicken. Several beers and a Moscow Mule later, we head back to the cabin to figure out what we’re doing the next day.

Day 2: Humble Pie

I’ve been leading really strong lately. Everything has been clicking. Trad lead, sport lead, free solo (5.6’s but hey, it’s still a different headspace)…it’s all going well.

Not here.

I followed up a 5.7 and thought, “hm, kinda awkward.” But no problems.

Then there was a 5.10 sport route looking at me. I’m all like, “bro, what are you looking at? Come at me!”

Trad silhouetteStrike 1

I get to the first bolt after some more awkward moves and maneuvering around a stupid, bulgy overhang in my way. I don’t see any hand holds that I feel like lunging for after the first stance. I back off.

Strike 2

Sick clip the second bolt to protect decking out after lunging for your first set of hands past the 1st bolt. Great, just like top-rope. Getting past the bulge really wasn’t that bad. Bolts 3 and 4 are pretty good, and now I’m at the second crux: another friggin bulge. After messing around for 5 minutes, I back off again because we’ve set a top rope on the route from another set of anchors. We’re climbing with 7 people so efficiency is kind of important. Oh well.

Strike 3, 4, 5

After watching a 17 year old make it past the 3-move crux and finish the route, I have to try again. Get back to the upper bulge, fail. Try again. Fail. Pull on the rope to get to the next move, fail. Pull on the rope more, fail. Pull on the rope more, got it. <rolls eyes>

We moved to another area and had a couple top-ropes already set after one of the more daring members of the group trad’ed up a stiff “5.9”. I managed to top-rope a 5.10 cleanly, get spit off a 5.9, and I think I finished another 5.9+. We’re not sure how/where that route finished. It was weird. Trust me.

So anyways, I have to remind myself The Needles are not Colorado. I can’t expect to walk up a 5.10 or 5.11. Here’s to hoping I can find some “easier” stuff tomorrow. Geesh…

Day 3: Short ‘n Sweet

We went to The Love Knob and started the day with a 5.7 trad lead. There was only 4 of us so we all met on the top. We set top ropes on a 5.8 hand crack and a 5.10+ slab. The weather was coming in so a couple people did the 5.8, and I did the 5.10+. After the previous day, I wasn’t feeling confident, but I made it without a fall. Hoooray!

Back to the cabin we go.

Once the rain stopped, we decided to take the kids to an easy area behind the Sylvan Lake Dam. I top roped a stout 5.7. I would have led it, but, you know, 2 bolts for a 90′ climb didn’t appeal to me.

Day 4: So Picturesque

I got the honor of leading one of the coolest features I’ve seen in The Black Hills. The area is called “Picture Window” and the route is called Gossamer. It’s only a 5.7, but it’s pretty intimidating. You climb a GIANT flake that has a huge wind blown hole going through the middle. It was just cool.

After that, I hit a 5.11b on top rope called Broken Window and a beastly 5.9+ that had an off-width section, and then turned into a teeny-tiny crystal pulling fest. It was almost harder than the 5.11.

The last area we went to that day was “Shipyard Rock” in the South Seas. We did a sweet 2-pitch 5.8 called “Waves”. It has some groovey vertical “fins” that I haven’t seen anywhere else in the Black Hills. The view from the top was pretty spectacular, but NO PICS FOR YOU!!

Day 5: Half-day Rest day

Did a quick and easy 5.8 lead with a bunch of chicken heads for natural pro. Then we went around the spire and did a cool 5.9+ up a flake system.

Called it a day. Went back to the cabin to get dinner marinating. Wished I had climbed all day instead.

Day 6: Rain, rain go away

We had two newcomers join the group, one of which was really looking forward to climbing. However, as we turned a corner and crested a hill, I knew the clouds wouldn’t cooperate. But I still had hope.

We ventured out, despite the high chance of getting rained on, and I decided that I really wanted to get this new person on the rock. There was a 5.6 I did last year called “Boxcars and Airplanes“, and it’s quite a short climb. I ran up as fast as I could to set a top rope for her, but just as my feet hit the ground, the rain started, and it could not be ignored.

But my quick draws were up there. Shit.

Despite the very distant thunder and lightning, I decided I wanted my draws. I think that was the fastest I’ve ever climbed an outdoor route. Thank goodness it was on top rope.

Day 7: I don’t want to talk about it

According to the forecast the night before, the rain was supposed to be on and off all day. That really sucked because I had gorrrrrgeous 170′ chimney picked out that I wanted to trad lead on Old Baldy. Rather than risking leaving an $80 cam in a chimney to lower off of in the event of a storm, we just decided to not climb this day.

Which was stupid.

Steven and Josh (have I mentioned Josh yet? There was a “Josh” with us. There, now I have.) decided they were going to just hike around and look for climbs while the rest of us went and did touristy stuff. They were smart enough to bring gear and rope with them, and ended up getting in several pitches that day.

Steve and Josh – 1; David – 0

Day 8: The final day

Just hangin' out, waiting for my turn to lead Garfield Goes to Washington.
Just hangin’ out, waiting for my turn to lead Garfield Goes to Washington.

All week Steve had mentioned he “only had 1 goal this whole trip” (yeah right, Steve) and that was to do a 3-pitch, 5.8+ trad route called “Garfield Goes to Washington“.

Josh and his brother Jeff left the night before so there were only 4 climbers left. This worked out perfectly so that I could be the other leader, rather than taking up 3 or 4 of us on one rope. What a pain that would be! Plus, I really wanted to lead it too.

The whole route was pretty chill…until you got to P3. Looking up from the belay station, it’s not intuitively obvious where you’re supposed to go. The outer slab looked low angle…but slabby. Straight up from the station looked blocky and chunky but nearly vertical with about 2′ diameter bowls quite a ways up. This is concerning because I’m not seeing in cracks. Did I mention we’re trad climbing? No cracks = no pro. And the outer slab didn’t have any nearby cracks either. Great.

I opted for the chunky, vertical, dished out bowl option. It was chunky and easy climbing for the first 10′, and I even got a piece in. At least my belayer was now protected (for the most part). Then I made it up to the first bowl, about 20′ off the belay slab, 10′ from my last piece. Look around, look around….no pro. Only option is to go up, and the route is getting more vertical and less chunky. I’m actually having to “climb”.

After a minuscule mental freak out and a few deep breaths, I make it up to the second bowl, 25-30′ off the belay slab, 15-20′ up from my last piece. Fuuuuuuuuuuuudge.

Storm coming on the top of Garfield Goes to Washington

This time when I look around, I notice somewhat of a mushroom shaped dish on the bottom of the bowl. “I think I can sling this!!!!!!” I thought to myself. Sure enough, it held. I had my first piece of pro in the last 20′. It was by no means bomber, but damn did that feel good. Also, “look, a bolt!!” The moves here were a little thin too, and I wasn’t greatly excited about taking a leader fall on a slung dish, but at least it was only 6′ to the bolt. I made it, and clipping a bolt never felt so good.

 

The rest of the route was low angled and had jugs on jugs on jugs on jugs. I absolutely LOVED the run out. I don’t know what it is about trad, but big run-outs get me amped. Remember that 5.6 free solo I talked about a long time ago in the beginning? I definitely get it. It’s not something I seek out. In fact, if I see an “R” or “X” rating on a route, I won’t even consider doing it, but if I’m not aware of it and it just happens to happen, man, that’s great.

As my partner and I got to the summit, there was a huge thunderstorm about 15 miles away from us, but we could see the downpour. I snapped a few selfies because I’m awesome like that, and then we got the heck outta Dodge. (As it turns out, we barely got a dribble where we were.)

We all ate our final meal together at the Bavarian Inn, fed some burros on the National Wildlife Highway, packed some stuff, and called it a night.

Day 9: Goodbye

Cathedral Spires from the top of Garfield Goes to College
Cathedral Spires from the top of Garfield Goes to College

 

 

As per usual, the rest of the pictures…

Climb On! Bar for Men: More than just Hand Care

A couple of months back, I told you how great the Climb On! Bar for Men was for fixing dry, cracked, “flapper waiting to happen”, callused hands. Since then, I’ve used it for a couple of other things. While they do have specific products for which I used the bar, I just decided, “eh, I’ll try this first.”

Sunburn and Windburn

One of the last days of the snowboarding season was a bright, sunny, a little breezy bluebird day. I went to Loveland to take advantage of the 13″ of fresh powder they received overnight. I had intended to wear my sweet Airhole Face Mask all day, but it was just too warm. The face mask had to come off. On the plus side, I got my first goggle tan, and that made me feel legit. On the downside, my face frickin hurt the next day!

Goggle tan after snowboarding

Climb On! to the rescue!

The burn/tan wasn’t very severe to begin with, but I’ve no doubts the Climb On! helped. I was worried that it would leave my skin oily and cause me to get some additional, highly attractive adult acne. Nope!

Also, it still smells just as good as the day I got it (quite awhile ago).

Blister Care and Prevention (maybe?)

After my 15 mile tramp around Longs Peak, my feet were in pain! It felt like my skin was literally separating from my epidermis with every step. In fact, when I got back to the car, I didn’t even look at my feet. I couldn’t. I didn’t want to see the carnage.

It wasn’t until a day later when I could finally bring myself to do it. In fact, that day is right now. It’s still too early to tell if this is the deepest, nastiest blistering of my life, or if maybe I’m lucky and they turn out to be a not-so-bad pressure spot.

If a blister never develops, I can never know if the Climb On! helped or if it really was never going to be a blister. Nevertheless, the pain went from “I have to walk on the outside edge of my feet, and I can’t wear shoes at work” to “I can walk flat on my feet, and I might be able to do some mountaineering again this weekend” overnight, once I used the Climb On! I think it deserves at least some of the credit, don’t you?