31 August, 2005


As a child, my mother thought it was fun to take two children, a map and a compass into the woods...and actually try to accomplish something.



But I'll be ever grateful she introduced me to orienteering.

Sure, sure, GPS units are cool. Geocaching must be quite fun, what with the walking around playing with electronic toys and finding goodies and all.

But it can't possibly compare to the sheer accomplishment of translating land features to markings on the map, while using a simple magnet to find other specific locations...

all while competing against the clock and other teams.

So I enrolled in a seminar course at my college to refresh my skills. Imagine, I can get college credit for wandering around in the woods!

This weekend, we sojourned to Mt. Falcon, which is located in the front range of our beautiful Rocky Mountains.

It was a perfect Colorado morning, that is to say, cool, sunny and crisp. We wandered about, taking headings.

I did well, except for failing to account for the deception of nearness in the different mountain ranges. My map reading is rusty after all.

Many places that I go, maps aren't even necessary. In CO, there are many places that require trail usage. And there are many where it's obvious where you are and where you want to go (distinctive/solitary mountain, canyon, etc).

So I've got work to do.

As a classmate pointed out, it's great practice for adventure racing. I think I would kick ass at that sort of thing.

Drop me in an unknown place with a compass and a few supplies, and I'll find my way out.

Either that or I'll take up with a band of nomads and never come back.

Who can tell?

23 August, 2005

alas, had I known...

I vaguely recall reading about "some rock climbing" a few years ago in my home state, New York. I thought to myself, "I should check that out and do some backpacking sometime", but it hasn't happened to date.

These days, I'm doing my homework. An article from Outside magazine caught my bleary eye this morning at o'dark hundred.

It's about The Gunks. Some super fun climbing!

The Shawangunk range is located near New Paltz, NY.

I'm from Brewster, NY.

That's about an hour away, kids. Additionally, I have an aunt who lives in Poughkeepsie.

Can we say 'There's a dual-purpose trip in the offing?'

I knew you could.

22 August, 2005

upgrading and vertical tools

This weekend's gear acquisitions include a summer bag, the JetBoil, and an altimeter.

Total weight savings: 3lb 5oz

Highgear Aerial



*Wrist-top information center provides weather forecast, current temperature, elevation and your rate of descent
*Input base altitude and current altitude (at top of ski run), begin chrono and start skiing--calculates speed of descent once the base altitude is met
*Altimeter reports elevation in 3- ft. increments displays accumulated elevation in feet or meters); includes threshold alarm
*Barometer forecasts changing trends in the weather; 1mbar with 300- to 1,100-mbar resolution
*Digital thermometer reports temperature with 1-degree resolution in Fahrenheit or Celsius (min. -4F to max 140F)
*Watch features dual daily alarms and time zones; time reported in a 12- or 24-hour format
*Tracks time in two time zones simultaneously; features two programmable alarms plus a selectable hourly chime
*Chronographic feature records 1/100 second-resolution; 50-lap memory; stores run number, month/date, lap number, split, time and average lap
*Backlit for easy viewing in low light
*Water resistant to 165 feet (50m)

So far I've set the time and calibrated the altimeter. My altitude calibrations were performed at the Echo Lake Lodge (10600ft) and on the fifteenth step of the Colorado State Capitol building (5280ft). It's fairly easy to use and seems to be pretty accurate. I have a lot to learn, though. Altitude is a barometric measurement and as such, is affected by weather changes.




There are two main features that sold me on the Jetboil:

1. The stove, fuel and cooking pot weighs 1lb, as opposed to my current system, which weighs 3lb.

2. Push button lighting - no priming time.

Ancillary feature I like: the Jetboil fuel mix works 4 season, at high altitude.

16 August, 2005

canyon biking

On a recent Saturday I loaded up my mountain bike and drove the trifling 20 minutes to Waterton Canyon. It's located just south of C-470 and Wadsworth Blvd here in Metro Denver.

I arrived at the canyon around 7am. The sun was up, but not far - the light hadn't quite come over the rim of the canyon as I pedaled in the cool air.

A dirt road follows the canyon down to the Strontia Springs Dam. It's easy biking, with a steady but gentle grade. It's deceptively gentle, in fact, because I was feeling the effects rather more than I had expected.

Nevertheless, I pressed on. I was passed by nearly everyone. My constant stops for photo ops didn't help that situation, but if there's one thing I've learned about photography, it's never to waste good lighting.

Some interminable number of miles later, I was feeling tired and hungry (why did I think it was a good idea not to eat breakfast?), so I stopped at a convenient rock outcropping overlooking the river.

I had no idea how much further I had to go, so I only ate a bit of a trusty Clif bar. A cold wind picked up to keep me from lingering. I remounted and took off. Just around the bend was the Strontia Springs Dam, my designated turnaround point for the day.

Above the dam, a path connects with the Colorado Trail. There's some great singletrack up there, but it wasn't in the cards for that day. Partially because I was feeling burnt out, and partially because the trail is quite busy on weekends with Super Bikers with whom I had no wish to compete.

I did stop and actually read the message board near the dam for once. Camping is allowed once you hit the Colorado Trail, and there's even a site nearby. This bodes well for my Continental Divide plans. I could hike in through Waterton, camp the first night at that site (or press on, energy permitting) and walk a few days of the trail. Bango! All I'd need to do is find an exit point near a road so that I could arrange for pickup, thus avoiding the out and back problem.

After chatting with some other bikers, I took off for the long coast down the canyon. I can remember a time when the speed was scary for me. That time is long past, apparently, because I pedaled the whole way.

Right near the entrance to the canyon, there was a great sandstone face that was begging for some bouldering. I was happy to oblige and it was super fun. On top, I sat for a while, basking in the sun and people watching. I downclimbed and decided to get fancy with an overhanging bulge. Unfortunately, it was more sand than stone and it crumpled under my hands. Luckily, I wasn't far from the ground at the time.

Note to self: New Balance trail runners are not optimal for bouldering. Not terrible, but not optimal.

Gorgeous canyon with biking, fishing, hiking and camping? 20 minutes from home. Today's reason why the west is the best.

15 August, 2005

The Winner

Montrail Torre GTX

You have won the day, O Montrail Torre! Our adventures have already begun, and the heavy task of carrying the torch is upon you. Are you up to the challenge? Have you the fortitude, the gift for comfort and the toughness to endure?

We shall see.

12 August, 2005

contenders for Das Boot

In no particular order...

Asolo Stynger GTX Hiking Boots - Women's

Upper Suede leather
Lining Gore-Tex
Midsole Polyurethane
Support DuoAsoflex shanks
Outsole Rubber
Average weight
2 lbs. 8 oz.

These boots felt very solid and supportive, with a boot-like fit. My concern: difficult to get clinching/locking over the instep laces due to the tongue design.


Montrail Blue Ridge Gore-Tex Hiking Boots - Women's
Upper Nubuck leather/nylon
Lining Gore-Tex/nylon
Midsole Polyurethane
Support Nylon
Outsole Vibram rubber
Average weight 2 lbs. 6 oz.

I haven't tried these boots on yet, but they appear to be a step above the Torre in Montrail's line of backpacking boots. The description mentions that they have a stretch Gore-tex lining. Don't know if the other boots do. It also mentions a special woman specific heel cup design, and it looks like it has wicked lug design.


Montrail Torre GTX Hiking Boots - Women's
Upper Nubuck leather
Lining 3-bar knit/Gore-Tex
Midsole Microporous rubber
Support Nylon/steel shank
Outsole Vibram rubber
Average weight 2 lbs. 4 oz.

The only boots I've ever put on and literally said "Ahhhhhh". Out loud. In public. They are so damned comfy. They're like sneakers that just happen to be tough backpacking boots. They're very light, and have high quality lacing hooks that really lock in the laces. I simply cannot find anything wrong with them.


Vasque Sundowner GTX Summit Hiking Boots - Women's
Upper Nubuck leather
Lining Gore-Tex/nylon
Midsole Polyurethane
Support Nylon
Outsole Vibram rubber
Average weight 2 lbs. 14 oz.

I initially tried on these boots because my old, beloved boots were made by Vasque. They felt OK. But nothing special. Very bootlike. They don't even come close to the Montrails for comfort, and they're $40 more. Why?!


I've also tried on the REI Spirit II GTX boots, which felt a bit off to me. Like they might stretch out and feel wierd somehow. Also, my heel pops up unless I buy a special insole. These are made for REI by Raichle. Again, I don't see why they should be $190. They are also the heaviest of the lot at an even 3lbs, though probably a few ounces more in my size 8.5.

Last, but not least is the La Sportiva Trango S Evo GTX. These are ultralight mountaineering boots with strap on and hybrid crampon compatibility. They really are a terribly good fit on me, but they're also $250 and hideous. Why, WHY must they be metallic baby butt electric icky blue?!

At this point, I'm almost decided on the Montrail Torre boots. I will go back for one final fitting. I need to be sure that they fit as well as I remember. A big concern of mine is heel popping and toe slippage. I had some bruised toes with my old boots towards the end. This is Bad. The decision will be made by the end of this weekend.

requiem for a boot

O boot, you have borne me uncomplainingly through many adventures. Alas, your time has now ended. No more shall we traipse through burning wastes, frigid rivers or darkling woods. Never again will you carry me stumbling into camp after an arduous scramble/hike/death march. My terror will no longer shake your laces when I attempt something ridiculously dangerous. The earth cries out at your death, and I am greatly saddened. I have lost a great friend, and your mate is inconsolable with grief. But fear not, for I celebrate your existence, and I will lay you to rest on tongues of glorious flame.

But who, who shall carry the torch? What boot could possibly fill the gaping void left by your demise?

11 August, 2005

dream mountain II

Height: 19,340 feet (5,895 meters)
Location: Tanzania, Africa
Lat/Lon: 3.06°S, 37.35°E


Kili is considered an "easy" mountain, as you can climb it entirely by trekking if you wish. Harder routes do exist, though, as there is a glacier on top. I must admit that I was inspired to climb this mountain because of an IMAX film.

I wish to do some ice climbing on Kili, simply to get experience doing so at high altitude. Also, let's face it, for the challenge. Though, from what I've read, even trekking is a challenge at that altitude. I've never been above 14000', though, so I don't know yet.

The climb encompasses several climatic zones and is quite lovely. It is the tallest peak in Africa, and is easily reached from the fabled Dar es Salaam, a city that conjures magical images to a dorky lifetime reader like me.

This is an official life goal for me, but I honestly think that the only bar at this point is money. I easily have what little technical skill is required. The only question in my mind is how I will perform above 14000'.

10 August, 2005

dream mountain

Ama Dablam

22,467 feet (6,848 meters)
Khumbu Himal, Nepal, Asia
27.86°N, 86.86°E

This beautiful freestanding peak lies below and in front of Chomolungma (Everest) and one day I will climb it.

It is accessed via Kathmandu, then Lukla. The SW ridge is the most popular route.

Many mountaineers have gotten their start in the Himalayas on this peak, including the amazing David Breashears, climber and filmmaker. He was involved in creating the IMAX film 'Everest'. As if it's not enough to climb the tallest peak, he filmed the entire expedition. Moreover, the film was made during the disastrous 1996 season (inspiration for Into Thin Air), and he assisted in rescue efforts to boot.

I can't help but dream today. This week feels stifling with its severe lack of adventure.

not your typical climbing festival

Children, I have found something Very Fun to do next spring. While the weather is crappy and cold here in the paradisical Colorado, I shall be off to Nevada for the Red Rock Rendezvous.

Oh yes. I shall camp out with a bunch of bums and climb on the red rocks. It shall be glorious.

While my discovery of this festival is surely a blessed event, it points out one of the few shortcomings of Colorado.

Our Red Rocks park does not allow climbing. At all. Violators are subject to a $999 fine and/or 180 days of imprisonment.

It's a good thing the formation spans the country. These rocks are fun to climb on, and their energy is so nourishing and peaceful.

I mean, that's what I've heard. I, of course, would never violate access laws, honoring a strict code of climbing ethics.

Okay, let's be real. I've climbed the rocks. In fact, I got some very valuable experience and instruction there from my Partner In Crime*, who is perhaps aptly named at times.

*This Partner In Crime is one of my best friends, who goes on many of my exploratory adventures and things with me. He learned to climb in the military - in fact, it was a motivator to join. He knows about all sorts of things. He will henceforth be referred to PIC.

Kayak shopping: Part I

The kayak store was closed when I dragged my corporate booty downtown. Le sigh. I must sally forth again another day.

So I trotted over to the ubiquitous REI. They only had one kayak I would even consider, simply for reasons of portability. I was quite skeptical about its toughness, but the salesdude explained the cordura and whitewater raft materials used to manufactor this feat of engineering. Mayhap.

REI does not carry whitewater kayaks. Bastards.

Advanced Elements Inflatable AdvancedFrame Kayak

  • With a rigid bow and stern and a multi-chamber inflatable body, this kayak delivers performance and portability in a cutting-edge design!
  • Improved design eases set up and increases kayak's efficiency on the water
  • Rigid bow slices through water, rivaling the tracking of a hard-shell day touring kayak
  • The stern acts as a skeg, increasing the tracking performance; new tracking fin further enhances tracking
  • Sets up quickly, and is compact enough to take along for an adventure just about anywhere
  • Offers generous on-board storage space without cramping your legroom, making extended trips much more enjoyable
  • Durable double-coated fabric plus welded seams, a neoprene paddle guard and military-style air valves ensure a long life for the kayak
  • Adjustable back support improves comfort on the water
  • Bungee deck lacing and D-ring tie-downs stow gear
  • Comes with a repair kit and a heavy-duty duffel bag for transporting your kayak to your favorite destination

Upside? Portability, external gear attachment, no float bags needed

Downside? No spray skirt capability, not extreme, no rolls

I did find a great PFD while at REI. The lowriding float panels negate the Rack Factor*. It's quite comfy and allows a large freedom of movement.

Meanwhile, I have found four or five kayaks for sale on craigslist, so we shall see what we see. I'd love to have a package deal, but honestly, I don't see how that can happen, given my body type and propensity for Perfect Gear.

By the way, today's reason why the west is the best is that the kayaking store, REI and Wilderness Exchange are all located next door to Confluence Park, which is a riverside park/whitewater play course at the confluence of the Platte River and Cherry Creek.

*The Rack Factor refers to my enormous rack, which gets in the way of nearly everything I like to do.

09 August, 2005

battle of the bags


Temperature rating: 46 deg F*
Size: 82” x 31.5”
Stuff sack size: 10" x 6"
Weight: 1 lb 7 oz
Construction: Layer 1 + 1
Insulation: Dupont Thermolite Extreme 100 g/m2
Shell: Polyamide Ripstop
Lining: Polyamide Ripstop
Colors: Storm/Anthracite
. Technical full wraparound hood with double closure
. Cold proof flap
. Full length auto lock YKK two way zip
. Left and right zip
. Box construction with offset stitching

I am pondering buying this sleeping bag to take on solo backpacking trips. My current bag, The North Face's Cat's Meow, is wonderful. I love this bag. I love it so much that when it was stolen a few years ago, I bought another one.


Zipper Location: Right Side or Left Side
Weight (Average Total): Reg: 2 lb 13 oz (1273 g)
Temperature Rating: 20F/-7C
Stuffsack Size: 8" x 17" (20 cm x 43 cm)
Sizes: Regular, Long, Women's
Shell Fabric: Firestorm™, BottomLine taffeta
Max User Height: Reg: 6'0" (183 cm)
Fill Weight: Reg: 1 lb 10 oz (730 g)
External Length: Reg: 84" (213 cm)
Circumference (shoulder): Reg: 62" (157 cm)
Circumference (hip): Reg: 58" (147 cm)

Notice anything important? Weight and bulk, kids.

800 Extreme
Stuff sack size: 10" x 6" Weight: 1 lb 7 oz

Cat's Meow
Stuffsack Size: 8" x 17" Weight: 2 lb 13 oz (website) 3lb (actual, I weighed it this weekend)

The downside? No extra features. No lipbalm pocket. No pillow pocket**.

The upside?

Look to the right. This is the upside. At the moment, my sleeping bag compeletly fills the bag compartment in my rucksack. With the Lafuma, I could also stash my Thermarest pad or possibly my solo tent. This would free up a great deal of space in the main compartment.

Another benefit would be that I don't need to carry a winter weight bag around all of the time. My solo trips are likely going to take place only in the summer. Winter is too dangerous alone, at least at this stage of my journey. So the fact that this is technically rated as a summer-only bag is actually a strength. Plus, the company has three ratings on the bags - comfortable, reasonable and minimal. I can't remember or find these ratings for this bag, but I am hot natured, so I should actually be comfortable to considerably lower than 46 degrees.

Also, this obviously ties in to my Great Lightening Up Project. More to come on that one.

Best of all, though, the lafuma bag costs only $59.95 at a local dealer. That means that with the $129 I spent on my Cat's Meow PLUS the lafuma, I've still spent less than down snobs would have on one bag.

*The lafuma website lists the temperature rating of this bag at 37 degrees F.
**A velco secured pocket that you can stuff with clothing to make a pillow.

like a duck to water

A buddy of mine called me Sunday afternoon.

"Do you want to go to the lake with me? I'm going to do some fishing...and some kayaking."

Sure, I thought. Why not? I'm just lying here, stupid with heat, sweltering in town with exhaustion from my adventures earlier in the weekend.

So up we go to
Gross Reservoir, a pristine lake surrounded by forested mountains. The place is stunning. Like all Colorado water, it's cold and clear. This lake happens to be quite deep, and my buddy cautioned me about this fear-inducing characteristic.

We fished from the bank for a bit, then my buddy took off in the kayak for some better fishing opportunities. He'd offered to have me go first, but I said that I wanted to watch him first to see how it's done.

Then it was my turn. He'd prepared me for getting wet by saying that his kayak was built for whitewater, so it feels quite unstable. He told me how to bail out in the event of my capsizing - you pull the blue handle on the spray skirt, then wiggle your hips backwards. Rolling is a skill to be learned later.

The neoprene spray skirt goes on first, then the life jacket. He recommended that I put my sunglasses in the life jacket pocket until I got the hang of balancing in the boat. I considered leaving my hat behind, but decided that the high altitude sun was too much for me.

My buddy held the boat while I wiggled in and attached the spray skirt. I was so excited - kayaking has been a dream of mine for years and years, ever since I was a child learning to canoe and sail.

Suddenly, it was time. I wriggled free of the rocky shore and was afloat. My buddy was right - this craft did feel a bit wiggly. So I sat still, leaning forward a bit for balance, with the paddle balanced across the bow of the boat.

Presently, I steadied myself and began to paddle. Tentatively, at first, but with growing vigor. I stayed near the shore, and near my buddy, in case something went wrong. After a few moments, though, I felt that I was fine, so I took off for the next cove.

As I paddled along, I felt that for once I was totally in my element.

It was so beautiful, and so silent. I glided along, playing with paddling techniques and checking out the scenery from my duck's eye waterlevel view. I could see many, many photo ops in the making.

The only time I felt any concern was when the wind picked up. It created a strong SW current, and I had to fight to stay near the shore. I was worried that if I didn't point my bow into the current, I'd be knocked over.

Luckily, though, I had no trouble and stayed safely afloat until I returned to our fishing spot.

Then I discovered the true draw of the kayak, at least for my fishing-obsessed friend: freeing rock-snagged lures.

The technique is to hold the reel while floating free in the kayak. Then reel in, allowing yourself to be drawn toward the lure. When the boat is floating directly over the snag, it pops loose.

Oh yes. Kayaking is grand. I am beginning to shop for my own boat now, and my buddy has offered to loan me his next weekend.

Gross Reservoir is huge, with plenty of little nooks to explore, and it also has some whitewater.

Just another reason why the west is the best.

05 August, 2005

It's revolution up in this b$tch. Sound the alarm for Defcon 5!

Defcon Covert Snowboarding Glove

This glove has the potential to be fabulous. I need to test it for actual warmth performance.


1. Waterproof zippered compartment on each hand
2. Goggle wiping ridge
3. Goggle chamy (resides in pocket)
4. Super grippy palm
5. Velco wrist band and nylon wrist strap to keep out snow