Tag Archives: GEAR:30

Gannett Peak Winter Attempt 2016

A couple weeks ago, my friend Phil and I went up to attempt a winter climb of Gannett Peak.  We had been looking forward to this trip for a few months and our hopes were high.  Unfortunately, things didn’t go quite as planned and the climb ended before it really began.  Let me tell you about it.

On Sunday evening, January 10, Phil and I loaded up our bags of gear into the car and started the 4 hour drive to the Wind Rivers.  The road leading into Elkhart Park is plowed to within about four miles of the trailhead, but because of snowmobile tracks packing down the snow, we were able to drive another two miles on the snow-covered road until finally on a steep     hill, we got stuck in the deep snow and couldn’t go any further.  We unloaded the car, put our gear on, and started our hike at about 2am Monday morning.

IMG_0863

2am at the car getting ready to start hiking.

 

 

The first two miles to the summer trailhead went quickly as we were skinning on packed snowmobile tracks.  We were sure that once we hit the summer trailhead, the snowmobile tracks would stop and things would get much more difficult.  Luck was on our side, though, and the snowmobile tracks took us in an additional two miles past the summer trailhead.  From the end of the snowmobile tracks we followed snowshoe tracks another five miles or so until we hit the far south end of Seneca Lake.  We were very grateful that we didn’t have to break trail for a good chunk of the hike in, but at Seneca Lake our luck ran out and from there, deep snow and breaking trail became the norm.

IMG_0864

Phil and I approaching Seneca Lake as the sun starts to rise.

 

For most of the hike into Seneca Lake, temperatures fluctuated from about 5 to -5 degrees Fahrenheit.  As we reached Seneca Lake and the sun was coming up, the wind picked up and temperatures seemed to drop quite a bit.  Both Phil and I were out of water and feeling  hungry, so we stopped to melt some snow and eat some food.  Phil pulled out his bothy bag to block us from the wind while we were melting snow.  We climbed in and though they were uncomfortably tight quarters, the bothy helped keep us warm.

Just Past Seneca Lake

Just Past Seneca Lake

 

When we finished crossing Seneca Lake, we hung a right and started the slow hike up the passes dividing Seneca Lake and Island Lake.  This was the first point where we started running into steeper terrain and the first place we started to notice that snow conditions weren’t stable.  As we started to climb over the pass, any slopes we were hiking on that were about 25 degrees or steeper would break and start to slide as soon as we stepped on them.  It was a very eery feeling that every time we stepped on the snow on the upper sections of the pass, we would hear a “whoomph” sound as the weak layers below the surface would collapse.  We also ran into many wind-loaded slopes that, as we would step on the wind-effected section of the slope, the whole slope would fracture.  If the slope was steeper than about 25 degrees, the wind-loaded slopes would slide.  We also knew there was a weak layer a couple feet down that, though we didn’t get that to slide, we were concerned that as we got higher, if a large enough cornice or other wind-loaded layer were to slide, it might set off a deeper, persistent slab.

At this point we stopped and discussed our options and ate some lunch.  It was pretty obvious to both of us that trying to climb over Bonney Pass, ski down the other side, and then try to climb up steep slopes up Gannett Peak, especially after having consistent high winds above an altitude of about 10,000 feet, was just not a smart idea and could potentially kill us.  Neither of us wanted to give up at this point, but we both knew we needed to.  So, with some hesitation, we turned around and backtracked a mile or so and set up camp.

When we got to camp, both Phil and I were very tired from not having slept for about 36 hours, so we climbed into our tent and took a nap.  When I woke up, I had a major headache and was feeling quite sick.  Phil melted snow and hooked me up with some food, hot chocolate, and water and an hour later, I felt like a new man.

We decided to go to sleep early and get an early start for our hike back out to the car.  With clear skies, the nighttime temperatures were cold, but we slept quite comfortably.  The next morning was still quite cold, but the air was still.  It was so peaceful hiking in the snow before the sun came up.  It seemed like we were the only living creatures in the whole range.

Hiking Out Seneca 1

Hiking back out toward Seneca Lake

Hiking Out Seneca 2

Hiking across Seneca Lake was a little scary. Though the ice was probably plenty thick to hike across without issue, as we would get to the deeper parts of the lake, there was a thick layer of slush about a foot below the snow surface.

Hiking Out Meadow 1

About five miles into the hike out, seven miles to go. Phil pulled a sled on the way in, but decided to carry his pack the majority of the way out.  He doesn’t just pull a sled for no reason.

Hiking out View 1

The view of the highest peaks in the range. This is where we were headed before we got turned around. We didn’t get to see this view on the hike in because it was dark. Glad we got to see it on the way out.

Almost back to the car and looking at where we were 5 hours earlier

Almost back to the car.

 

 

 

We started our hike out at about 7am and we were back to the car at about noon.  It was a quick trip-hiked in, slept, hiked out-but it was worth the effort to see this beautiful area during the winter time.  I’d love to head back on nordic skis and tour the whole area for days.  Maybe next year.

The Best Pants for Climbing

Search for the Ultimate Climbing Pant

 

For the past few years I have grown a strong love from rock climbing and bouldering. When I first started working at Gear:30, I was so excited to start testing the different clothes that they offer for these sports. I’m writing about my three favorites pants that stand out to me as a climber. Good climbing pants should be durable, flexible, and breathable. The following models from Prana have all of these.

Prana Pants 1                Prana Pants 2

 

 

 

First is the Bridger jean. Never before have I been able to wear a jean climbing that has the stretch that this jean has. The Bridger Jean offers a slim fit that looks great, and can be worn on the hardest of climbs or hikes. This organic soft stretch denim is a must own for any adventurer. (75% Organic Cotton / 23% Polyester / 2% Spandex)

Bridger 1            Bridger 2

 

 

Next is the Prana Sutra for men or the Mantra for women. My wife and I both own a pair, and they are by far some of the best climbing wear on the market. Sutra/Mantra is a light weight pant that is great for yoga and bouldering. Great for summer sessions if you need something that breathes well but can last for years of wear and tear. Made of 53% hemp which has antimicrobial properties that actually repels odor when you sweat. (53% Hemp / 44% Recycled Polyester / 3% Lycra)

Mantra 1             Sutra 1

 

 

Now when it comes to climbing we all have our hero climbers that seem to inspire us when we need it most. I have had the privilege of meeting Paul Robinson who is a Prana Athlete, world class climber, and bouldering campion. I first saw the Prana Brion Pant featured in one of his climbing videos while bouldering in Australia. That quickly became the first item on my Christmas list. I have used this pant for just about any activity. Awesome for hiking, as they are very water resistant and very breathable. This is a comfortable pant you can wear all day at work and perfect for indoor and outdoor climbing sessions(97% nylon/ 3% spandex)

Brion 1             Brion 2

 

 

 

 

 

Gannett Peak Winter Attempt Gear List

Greg Reynolds, Gannet Peak, January 2016

 

A few months ago I was feeling the need to do something stupid. In my 29 years of existence I have done many stupid things, but it had been a while since I’d done something really stupid.

 

When I say stupid, I’m not talking about saying something to my wife that lands me on the couch for the night or locking my keys in the car. I’ve done plenty of those things recently. Doing something really stupid for me is like that time when my friend and I decided to climb a mountain in the middle of a nasty winter storm and got stranded, turning a half-day trip into a two day ordeal that had search and rescue involved and had my friend and I shoving our feet in each others’ armpits to try to stave off frostbite. Or the other time when myself and some friends decided to climb another peak in the middle of a winter storm. One friend got separated in the storm, was caught in an avalanche (but luckily not fully buried), and ended up flying off the mountain dangling from a lifeflight helicopter.

 

I told my pregnant wife that I felt like I needed to do something stupid. She knew what that meant and simply said, “Just don’t kill yourself. Our children need a father.” “Deal,” I said, and started making preparations.

 

I called my friend Phil and proposed that we head into the Wind Rivers for a week of climbing and skiing. Phil is the friend who, without fail, is always game to do something stupid with me. In fact, his are the armpits that have warmed my toes and he was the one that spotted three moose while dangling from a lifeflight helicopter as he was flown off the mountain.

 

After some deliberation, Phil and I decided to try to climb and ski Gannett Peak in the Wind Rivers. Gannett Peak is the highest peak in Wyoming, 33 feet higher than the Grand Teton. And though there are more extreme peaks to climb, it is very remote and gets pummeled with nasty weather all winter long. The climbing is a mixture of glacier ice, steep snow slopes, and 50-degree rock. It is a climb, not a hike, but it’s not so steep and crazy that we won’t be able to ski off the top.

Based on the weather over the last three weeks, we are planning our gear lists based on the following conditions:

 

Daytime temperatures: 0-15 degrees Fahrenheit

Nighttime temperatures: -10-10 degrees Fahrenheit

Windy and snowy.

 

My Gear

 

Apparel

  • Bottom Layers
    • 200g Merino Wool Baselayer (Icebreaker)
    • Arc’teryx Psiphon AR Softshell Pant
    • Arc’teryx Kappa Pant
  • Top Layers
    • La Sportiva Troposphere Long Sleeve Baselayer
    • Mountain Equipment Eclipse Hooded Zip T
    • Arc’teryx Cerium SL Vest
    • CAMP Flash Anorak (windshirt for quick on/off in windy weather)
    • Berghaus Vapourlight Hyper Jacket (Ultralight waterproof jacket, mostly to block wind up high)
    • Rab Neutrino Endurance Down Jacket or Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hoody
  • Hands and Feet
    • 2x Thick Merino Wool Ski Socks (Darn Tough and Icebreaker)
    • Dynafit TLT5 Performance Ski Boot
    • Western Mountaineering Flash Down Booties (Frostbite Insurance)
    • Lightweight Merino Wool liner Glove (Rab)
    • Mountain Equipment Super Alpine Glove
    • Arc’teryx Beta Shell Glove and Atom Glove Liner
    • Black Diamond Superlight Mitt (Frostbite Insurance up high)
  • Head and Face
    • Merino Wool Buff (Icebreaker)
    • Thick Merino Wool Beanie (Icebreaker)
    • Dynafit Headband (Lightweight for skinning when not too cold)
  • Hardgoods and Equipment
    • Cilogear 60L Worksac Backpack (No top lid)
    • Osprey Kode Race 18 skimo pack (for summit day)
    • Dynafit Cho Oyu 183 Skis w/ Dynafit Radical Speed Binding
    • Dynafit (Pomoca skins) speedskins for Cho Oyu ski
    • CAMP Race Skins for flat skinning (skinny, short, lightweight, glides well)
    • Black Diamond Quickdraw Tour 320 Probe
    • Black Diamond Deploy 3 Shovel
    • BCA Tracker 2 Beacon
    • MSR Reactor Stove and Pot and 2x 8oz bottles of fuel
    • Black Diamond Highlite Tent or dig snow cave, haven’t decided yet
    • Western Mountaineering Alpinlite Sleeping Bag
    • Thermarest Neoair X-Therm Sleeping Pad
    • SOL Escape Emergency reflective bivy
  • Tech and Accessories
    • Delorme inReach Explorer Emergency Transponder
    • iPhone w/maps and Delorme GPS app (Camera, navigation, communication in conjunction with the Delorme inReach Explorer
    • GoPro Hero 4
    • Morakniv Companion knife
    • Firestarter and First Aid Kit
    • Smith Goggles and Julbo Sunglasses
    • LED Lenser Headlamp and Batteries
    • Power Monkey and Goal Zero Dump Chargers for all electronics
  • Food
    • Mostly Mountain House, Oatmeal, Hot Chocolate, and GU energy products

 

 

The total weight for the stuff I’m taking is about 35lbs without water. I’m sure there are a few items that I have forgotten, but it’s getting late and I still have a lot to do tonight to get ready for the trip tomorrow.

 

Tomorrow night we should arrive at the end of the plowed road a few miles (5-6) away from Elkhart Park. The plan is to grab our gear and start hiking through the night, hopefully arriving in the Titcomb Basin around noon the following day. That would be about a 20-22 mile day. I hope we have the legs for it. It may take us more than one day to get that far.

 

The forecast is looking clear but windy for the first half of the week so we are hoping to get up Gannett by Wednesday at the latest.

Phil and I will be communicating via the Delorme inReach Explorer starting from the trailhead on Sunday night (January 10, 2016) and we will try to send an update text about 3-4 times per day as long as there is something worthwhile to update about.

You can follow the progress (or lack thereof) at the following link:

 

http://gearthirty.com/blog/live-track-1-2016/

 

We will follow this trip up with photos and a trip report as well as a discussion of our gear choices and how well the gear did or didn’t work so if that interests you, stay tuned.

 

Thanks,
Greg

Stairway To Heaven Ice Climbing, Provo Canyon

This post is a couple years old.  This climb of Stairway to Heaven is from February of 2013.  Even though its a little old, hopefully it can be encouragement for people to get out and have some adventures this winter.

 

Originally published 3/1/2013:

 

My friend Phil and I made plans about 6 months ago to head to the Tetons in early February to give the Black Ice Couloir on the Grand a go.  We had been told that climbing the Black Ice Couloir during the winter is the closest thing to climbing the Japanese Couloir on Denali as you can get in the states.  Both are at about the same elevation, both have about the same technical grade, and both have to deal with similar temperatures. Because the Cassin Ridge is on my “to do before I die” list, we thought it would be worth checking out.

As early February arrived, my wife (who is pregnant) started having consistent contractions.  She got a checkup and the doctor told us the baby could come at any time, even though it was still a couple months early.  I didn’t feel comfortable taking off on a climbing trip and risking missing the birth of my first child, and not being around to help my wife during her time of need.  Phil understood and we canceled the trip.

After about a week of no action on the baby front, my wife started encouraging me to go to the Tetons and get this climb done (probably so she didn’t have to hear my talk about it anymore, and because she is very supportive of my good habits).  Without too much effort, I was convinced and we started making plans to go again.  A busy week of work postponed it a week, but we were ready to go.

Another appointment with the doctor a couple days before we were to leave confirmed that taking off at this point was too risky.  My wife was partially dilated and mostly effaced, and the baby was a week away of being full-term.  I called Phil up to apologize again.  He understood and we made plans for a climb closer to home (since we both already had taken time off work).

With that wordy introduction, here are some pictures and explanations of our climb of Stairway to Heaven in Provo Canyon:

Stairway to Heaven
 
Neither Phil nor I had ever climbed Stairway to Heaven.  In fact, we had never done any ice climbing in Provo Canyon.  Most of our ice climbing had either kept us closer to home, or led us to some larger mountains in Wyoming or deeper into the mountains of Utah.  But, with a baby coming soon, we decided to get on something bigger than Ogden had to offer, but close enough I could get back quickly if necessary.Phil took a nasty 65 foot tumble on snowy 4th class terrain about 3 weeks ago while approaching a gully of ice in Ogden.  He smashed his face, knee, hip, elbow, and was bruised all over.  He walked away from the fall, quite battered and sore, but still able to walk.  He assumed he was just bruised all over, but even after 3 weeks, putting on a seatbelt hurt his hip and he still has some pain in various parts of his body that were banged up on his tumble.As we approached the waterfall, our excitement grew.  We had heard stories that Stairway can be quite busy, so we were psyched to see that we had the waterfall all to ourselves.  Phil claimed the first pitch and I belayed.

Approaching the waterfall.

 

Phil half way up the first pitch.  Following the path of least resistance, P1 is WI3.  Picking a steeper line could take it to WI4.  Our path was probably WI3.
After leading the first pitch, Phil mentioned that his previous fall (from 3 weeks earlier) had gotten into his head a little, and that he’d like to top rope a pitch or two before he tried to lead something a little harder.  In addition to that, his knee, hip, and arm still hadn’t totally healed.  So, I took pitch 2.
Myself on P2.  I don’t remember how long it was.  Maybe 80-100 feet.  WI4

 

Again P2.
Topping out on Pitch 2.

 

Myself heading up Pitch 3.  It was only yesterday and I have already forgotten how long it is.  I think about 80-100 feet and WI5 (according to Mountain Project, which only had the rating, not the length).  The length to the belay anchor is much longer than 80 feet.  It seemed like steeper climbing than the previous pitches, but not quite as steep as Pitch 5 which is also rated WI5.
Near the top of Pitch 3.  Because it had been climbed a lot previously, this pitch went really quickly and easily with minimal effort.  Happy hooking:)
My view from above Pitch 3.  I didn’t get many pictures of Phil because I usually couldn’t see him as he followed.
After following a few pitches, Phil decided his head just wasn’t in the game for the day and I gladly continued to lead.  Phil is every bit the ice climber I am and would have cruised these pitches just fine.  I’ve taken some falls, never as big or as bad as his recent fall, and took longer to recover and get back out climbing than he did.  I’m impressed at how quickly he was back at it and don’t blame him one bit for letting someone else lead.
I didn’t get any pictures of Pitch 4.  It was a shorter, albeit steep pillar.  I’d guess it was about 25-30 feet.  WI4.  This ended up being one of the more difficult sections for me, simply because I got a tool stuck and had to fight for about 5 minutes to get it out.  I swung the tool into a depression and sunk the pick fairly deep, with the top of the pick flush with the ice so I couldn’t pry it up to get it out.  I tried and tried for a few exhausting minutes before I put a screw in, shook out, and went at it again.  I was afraid to chip at the ice above the pick for fear of having that pick (the one weight-bearing pick) come loose.  So, I sunk my other tool about 4 feet above my stuck tool, matched on the higher tool, hiked my feet high, and kicked at the ice.  Looking back, I think that was a pretty dumb thing to do.  I could have potentially kicked the tool loose and lost it into the snow below (which was really only about 20 feet below) and been stuck with one tool.  Oh well, it worked, I got the tool loose, and I topped out on the 30ish foot pillar, somewhat pumped and tired.  What normally would have taken 5 minutes to climb probably took about 20.  But I didn’t get any pictures of this pitch and Phil didn’t either.  I think he was watching intently, waiting for me to do something stupid and fall.
Anyway, I pulled over the top and got a look at Pitch 5, the crux of the pitches that were in.  We were hoping that they would be in up to Pitch 7, but no luck.
After the short pillar on Pitch 4, there is a small snowfield and then some low-angle ice leading up to the P5 pillar.  I belayed at the base of the pillar.
This is another view of P5 on the descent.  It was a really fun pitch.  There were a few bulges that almost made the climbing feel a little overhung in places, though I doubt that was the case.
Myself traversing out onto the pillar.  I had gloved stuffed in my jacket.  I’m really not that fat.

 

The views of the canyon from this high were incredible.  There was ice all over the cliffs on both sides of the canyon.  I couldn’t believe it.  There was as much ice in just this small section of canyon as there is in all of Ogden and its surrounding areas.
With that said, I think I’d put Ogden’s ice climbs up against almost any other ice climb of similar size and difficulty.  I’d put Malan’s waterfall up against almost any 3-pitch, WI5 climb around.  I’d put Willard Waterfall up against almost any multi-pitch WI3 climb around.  The beauty of the surroundings and the exposure (of Malan’s 2nd pitch in particular) make these climbs incredible and classics, in my opinion.
Ok, back to Stairway.
Phil at the belay.

 

Though Pitch 5 is steeper, there was a narrow runnel that allowed for a little bit of stemming lower on the pitch.  The whole pitch went pretty smooth.  Up high I got a tool stuck again (same way as before), but got it out much quicker this time with a little bit of chipping from the other tool.  It did wear me out though.  This pitch was about 100 feet of steep climbing, followed by about a 75 foot snowfield to the anchors.  There wasn’t enough ice on pitches 6 or 7 to climb, unless we wanted to do some mixed climbing, which we weren’t really prepared for (in time or enthusiasm).

 

More stemming.
A bit higher.
More of the same.
After topping out on P5, we started rapping back down.  At the top of P2, I dropped a glove which slid down over the edge of the waterfall.  We had to work around another group that was heading up, which led me to forget about the glove.  We rapped down to the bottom of the waterfall before I realized I forgot to find that glove.  Phil hadn’t come all the way down yet, so he headed back up and I belayed myself back up while he looked for the glove.  By the time I’d climbed back up the first pitch, Phil had been looking for 15 minutes without any luck.

 

I decided to climb halfway up the 2nd pitch to see if I could find the glove.
The glove slid down through the gully that is just up and right from where I am on this climb.  When I peeked my head up over the ice, the glove was sitting right there smiling at me.  This glove was a recent gift from my wife for Valentine’s Day.  There was no way I could have gone home without it.  I’m grateful to her for the gloves.  They worked incredibly well on this climb.  Rab M14 gloves.  I recommend them.

GoPro 3-Way Mount

(Video Transcript)

Hey, what’s up guys?  It’s Matt from Gearthirty.com and I just wanted to talk to you about a new mount from GoPro.  This is the 3-way mount.  It’s a really awesome new accessory that they’ve just put out.  It’s called the 3-way because it has three different functions.  You could use it as a selfie stick, like this.  The camera goes up here either facing you or facing away from you.  You could use it as a follow cam in this configuration here-the camera would go right here.  Or, it has a really secret hidden feature that we will get to in just a sec.

So, initially, when you’re looking at this guy, it will come packaged just like this.  Nice and little.  Just over 6 inches tall.  Easy to throw in your backpack.  Easy to use as just a single handle, if you want to do that.  It extends out fully, 20 inches long, so you can really get your handle out of the frame and get your best action possible without having the distraction of seeing your mount.  And then, it has these three adjustments here.  You can adjust the angle of your camera, the middle adjustment, and then the bottom where it attaches to the handle, so you can get a variety of different lengths and angles.  You can take this entire assembly here off the top and mount your GoPro directly to the handle if you want to save some weight.  And then this is my favorite feature here.  In the bottom of the handle, you see this little plug.  Just unscrew that plug, and inside is this little tripod.  This is a really cool feature.  You can screw this right back into the bottom of the handle.  You can get six inches high, you can get 20 inches high with this guy, or you can just pop this out and directly attach to the tripod.

This is the 3-way mount, and that is available from GoPro and GEAR:30 (www.gearthirty.com).

Thanks for watching.

Pre-Trip Report: Yellowstone’s Bechler Area

She calls to me. I hear it in tingling in the back of my consciousness. She’s both patient and demanding. “Come discover me. Relish me. I will be here, waiting, “ she whispers, drawing me in over the miles that separate us. And I rebuff her. It’s not that there’s no desire, it’s that there is no time. Or maybe it’s that I don’t make time. Yet she remains, she’ll always wait for me. Yellowstone.

The Bechler Meadows near Boundary Creek in Yellowstone

The Bechler Meadows near Boundary Creek in Yellowstone

My early childhood is filled with memories of her beauty, her wonders. Every October, my family would pile into the 1985 Dodge Prospector and this behemoth of a van would lurch forward, slowly, toward her Western Gate. My young eyes devouring field teeming with strange creatures: slow-ambling bison, awe-inspiring moose, stealthy foxes, all new creations in my young and wonder-struck mind.

The mystique of Yellowstone is something I’ve never outgrown and I pray I never will. In October, I will be privileged to get to share that love with a friend who has not yet experienced her.

As the crispness of autumn settles in, Otto and I will set out on our journey, the streets bathed in the cool pre-dawn glow. We will make the 3 hour drive to Ashton, ID and experience 4 illustrious days in the wild outside of Yellowstone’s Bechler Meadows area.

Wildflowers in Bechler Meadows, Yellowstone

Wildflowers in Bechler Meadows, Yellowstone

Positioned at the extreme South-West boundary of Yellowstone National Park, The Bechler Meadows area is known for its numerous waterfalls and abundance of rivers, brooks, and streams, many of which are thermal features. The plenitude of water and the varied topography of this region has earned it the nickname “Cascade Corner”.

HISTORY

In 1872, Dr. Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden, the appointed geologist-in-charge of the United States Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories led an expedition of around 50 men to the Yellowstone area to survey the recently organized Montana Territory.

During the expedition, Frank Bradly, a member of the party, named the Bechler River for the party’s Chief Surveyor and Mapmaker, Gustavus R. Bechler. Henry Gannett (considered to be the father of the USGS Quadrangle) who was another member of the troupe said that Bechler had in fact discovered the river. Later revelations would reveal that Trapper/Explorer Osborne Russell had discovered it some 40 years earlier.

"BelcherRiver1964" by RG Johnsson - Downloaded from National Park Service Archives Bechler River, 04027.jpg. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

“BelcherRiver1964” by RG Johnsson – Downloaded from National Park Service Archives Bechler River, 04027.jpg. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

Regardless, Bechler remains the name of that beautiful river and subsequently the entire region and it’s Ranger Station. The station itself is a piece of history. Having been constructed by the United States Army in 1911, it is a relic in its own right.

CLIMATE & TOPOGRAPHY

The Cascade Corner is a land fraught with sprawling plains, thick pine forests and fresh, crystal-clear water. It is a relative low-land in the Yellowstone Region, sitting at around 6,400 feet. As you arrive at the Bechler Ranger station and step on to the trail, you’ll begin a lengthy descent into the marshy, slough-ridden meadows. During the summer, (June-late August) this is a breeding ground for every creepy-crawly you can think of. And mosquitos, LOTS of mosquitos. The kind and bounty of which you can’t escape, you just have to button down, and bear it. On one trip in the summer of 2014, I returned home and my wife thought I had a severe rash. Nope. It was just HUNDREDS of mosquito bites. Bites on top of bites. I was wearing Ben’s 100 Max, which normally is the bullet-proof vest of repellents and it didn’t even phase these suckers.

Once you power through the lowland marshy areas, you’ll be treated to the challenge of a few river fords. Take a break here and enjoy the coolness, but watch out for the horseflies. Are you getting it that the bugs are thick here?

Taking a break in Bechler Meadows

Taking a break in Bechler Meadows

Upon forging the river, you’ll start your ascent back into the hill country. You’ll be treated to waterfalls, thermal features, and lots of wildlife. There are Grizzly in the area, so make sure you’re hiking loudly to let them know you’re coming. Also, carry bear spray.

The varied terrain makes this region a fantastic hike because you never know when you’re going to turn the corner and your surroundings will completely change. It really is incredible.

Because we are adventuring in the month of October, we are prepared for lows in the 20’s and highs in the upper 40’s. For your benefit, here is the spreadsheet I put together for weather data during the month of October. This is based off of data from 2004-2014: Yellowstone Historical Weather Data

We were very worried that we might run into some snow in early October but based on the data we could find, snow (at least for the last 10 years) has been a non-issue during our window of travel. So we plan to pack for cool but relatively dry conditions.

GETTING THERE

North-bound from Salt Lake City/Ogden, Utah Area:
Get on I-15 Northbound and follow it north 140 miles to US-20 (near Ashton, ID). Take Exit 119 to get onto US-20 Eastbound toward Rigby/West Yellowstone. Go about 52 miles then turn right on Main Street (a.k.a. ID-47 N). In about 6 miles, turn right again, this time onto Cave Falls Rd (a.k.a. E 1400 N). This will turn into gravel road/trail. Be watchful for OHVs and ATVs as this is a popular road for them with quite a few blind corners. After about 16 miles turn left onto Bechler Ranger Station Rd. This will dead end in about 1.5 mile at the Bechler Ranger Station. To view this info on Google Maps, click here

PRE TRIP PREP LIST

As I mentioned, I’ll be leading a 4 day trip with a good friend who hasn’t yet experienced the indescribable beauty of Yellowstone and the allure of her backcountry trails. In the interest of helping a fellow outdoor enthusiast, I’ll share with you my current packing list. This is evolving and you will need to tweak it to fit your personal style and situation.

 

SLEEPING Tent MSR ELIXIR 3
Sleeping Bag Marmot Trestles 30
Thermobarrier SOL Escape Bivvy
Pillow Klymit Pillow X
Sleeping Pad Thermarest Allseason
STORAGE Pack Osprey Aether 70 (Ariel 65 w/ Men’s Harness/Belt)
Bear Bag MSR TENT BAG
Carabiner/50′ Paracord
FOOD Stove MSR Reactor Stove
Fuel Optimus 8oz Canister Fuel
Food 2 Mtn House Meals
Breakfast Oatmeal Single Packets (2/person/day)
Cup Olicamp Spacesaver Mug
Utensil Spork
Blade UST Paraknife
H20 Purification Steripen Emergency UV Water Purifier
H20 Bottles (2 L) 2 x 1L Nalgene
Spark Firekit(H20-Proof Matches/Tampons(2)/Lipbalm)
1st Aid/Emergency 1st Aid Kit AMK Ultralight/Watertight Kit
Signalling SOL Rescue Flash™ Mirror
Direction UST Deluxe Map Compass
Map
Visibility Orange Poncho
B.I.F.F. Shovel UST U Dig It Folding Shovel
Bear Spray Counter Assault Bear Deterrent Spray, 8 oz w/ Holster
Sunscreen Kiss my face SPF30
Clothing Base Layer Bottom Saxx Vibe Boxer-Briefs (x2)
Base Layer Top Icebreaker Short Sleeve Merino Wool T-Shirt (x2)
Mid Layer Top Flannel Shirt
Insulation Top Marmot Variant Jacket
Shell/Rainwear Orange Poncho
Socks Darn Tough Hike/Trek Sock (x2)
Footwear (Hiking) Salomon Quest 4D GTX
Footwear (River Crossing) Teva Sandles
Outerwear Pant (Hiking) Prana Zion Stretch / Columbia Silverridge Cargo
Outerwear Pant (Insul.) Fleece Pants
Hat UV Buff
Sunglasses Native Eyewear Blanca Sunglasses
Misc Trekking Poles Black Diamond Ultra Distance Z Poles
Camera GoPro Hero3 (Silver Edition)
Solar Panel Goal Zero Nomad 7
Battery Recharger Goal Zero Flip 10

 

PRE TRIP CONDITIONING

To condition for the trip, myself and my friend, Otto, have begun doing full weight hikes 3 weeks before our expected date of departure. Our first hike out, we both discovered that we were more out of shape than either of us would care to admit. We loaded up our packs with our full load-out of gear and hit the local trail system. We chose a route that would give us a challenge and closely simulate the distance of our longest segment which would be about 8 miles. Our training route is slightly shorter at just over 7 miles, but with roughly twice the vertical gain of our overall route, we felt that we would rather over prep for the altitude gain since that is the area that we both have the hardest time with.

For the next 3 weeks we will hike this segment once per week while focusing the rest of the week on other areas like cardio and strength training.

IN THE FIELD

While we are immersing ourselves in the beauty and majesty of Yellowstone, we will be creating several video reviews and “how-to”s for the GEAR:30 blog. Please, comment below with any suggestions of what you’d like to see!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Matt Francis, an Ogden, Utah native was born with the mountains in sight. He enjoys helping people learn how to get more out of their outdoor experiences. He works full time at GEAR:30 doing that. When he’s not at the store, he and his wife enjoy hiking the trails in and around Ogden with their two dogs, Todd and Zelda.

You can contact him at matt@gearthirty.com

 

Snapshot: Granite Gear Trace Access 70 Backpack

Today, I wanted to talk to you about the Granite Gear Nimbus Trace Access 70. It’s my all-time favorite pack. Right off the bat you have super heavy duty Cordura fabrics so its going to be super durable for you. We’ll just go right down the list of features for you.

The Brain (lid) is fully removable and has a hip belt inside so you can use it as a lumbar pack and leave the rest of the backpack at basecamp if you want to take off on a short day hike.

The Nimbus Trace Access 70 has lots and lots of compression straps and a roll top so you can load it all the way to the top or roll it down if you’re being a little more minimal if you’d like to go that route.

The reason why they call it the “Access” and probably my favorite feature of the pack is that it is a front loader. So you can strategically load all your gear into it or if you need to get to something more quickly, you can do that without having to unload all your stuff to get to it. You also have internal compression straps furthering your organization and keeping your load in place.

Another cool feature is the 3d-molded maple backboard (frame sheet) which is perfectly formed to the shape of the human spine. It’s very comfortable, lightweight, durable and holds up well to cold-weather unlike plastic frame sheets.

You also have micro adjustments on the shoulder width and length. All you need is a philips head screwdriver. You can move the shoulder strap attachment points further apart, closer together, up or down to give you a really customized fit for your particular back.

This backpack also features big air channels on the back panel so you’re not going to be sweating as much. It has really nice padding through out.

The 4-way stretch mesh side pockets are super-big as well. Big enough to each be able handle two 1L Nalgene water bottles or your fuel canisters.

There’s also a smaller 4-way stretch mesh pocket further up on the left side. It zips securely so you can store smaller, important items there like keys, a phone, or other items that you might need quick access to but still want to store securely.

This pack is also hydration bladder compatible and will hold up to a typical 3L sized bladder.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Otto Poulson is an Ogden, Utah native who enjoys spending his time in the outdoors. He enjoys sharpening his survival skills and helping other people find ways to build their self reliance. You can email him at Otto@GearThirty.com

Crazy Mother Runners


Crazy Mother Runners

Welcome to the team, you Crazy Mother Runners!

The Gear:30 family is excited to announce our newest members: the Crazy Mother Runners (Instagram:  @crazy_mother_runners). Sherry, Carsen, and Marnie are energetic and enthusiastic ladies who are addicted to playing in the mountains, being healthy, and inspiring others to do the same. They are a perfect addition to our team and will be able to give great insight, tips, and inspiration that will help everyone enjoy the outdoors more.

A little about each of these ladies:

Sherry Traher

Sherry (at left) is a wife and mother of four; two beautiful girls and a set of adventurous twin boys. She has been a group fitness instructor for 9 years. She currently teaches yoga, HIIT, and spin classes at Gold’s Gym. Sherry is an accomplished runner on both the road and trail and will be racing her first ultramarathon this year. When she’s not at the gym, you’ll find her exploring the outdoors with her friends and family.

To quote Sherry, “I have fallen in love with the majestic mountains and trails of Ogden, Utah. On every mountaintop, I feel blessed to be able to see and feel what I do. I agree with Albert Einstein when he said, ‘Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.’”

 

CarsenCarsen (at right)has three kiddos and a husband. She was born in the Ogden Valley of Utah. She absolutely loves Utah and all four seasons that we enjoy here. Carsen works at Gold’s Gym in downtown Ogden where she teaches group fitness classes and coaches GFit. She is also a certified personal trainer. When she is not in the gym, she enjoys horseback riding, skiing, and trail running. Carsen, like the others, is an accomplished runner. In addition to many other races this year, she will be competing in her first ultramarathon.

In Carsen’s words, “I look forward to sharing my love for the outdoors as well as fitness tips, nutrition ideas, and product reviews with you.

 

MarnieMarnie (at left) has a “totally awesome husband and four great kids.” She has been a fitness instructor for Gold’s Gym for 17 years. She currently teaches BodyAttack, BodyPump, BodyCombat, and she’s a Certified Personal Trainer. Marnie also works as a hairdresser at Onyx Salon. When she is not helping others look and feel great at the gym or the salon, she spends here time running, biking, hiking, and doing just about anything that gets her outside. Marnie is also an avid and accomplished runner and has run various races across the country including the Boston Marathon. She LOVES the mountains!

In Marnie’s words, “I believe the more movement in one’s life, the better that person’s life will be. I am so blessed to be able to have my hobbies as my career. I hope to help others feel that same love I have for the mountains, nature, and fitness!

Race Report: 2015 Jackpot 24 Hour – Turning Circles in Vegas

2015 Jackpot 24 Hour: Turning Circles in Vegas

By Kelly Agnew

Gear:30 and Hammer Nutrition Ultra Running Athlete

I don’t run very many of these timed events because I don’t envision myself as a “timed event runner”. I like to see myself as an ultra trail runner…or a mountain runner. Running across ridge lines at high altitude is much sexier than turning loops for 24 or 48 hours. 
This comment is not meant to disparage the timed event aficionados of the world, but rather to highlight my own delusional opinion of myself. I want to do epic things and amazing mountain venues, and do it well. But I rarely do.
The fact is…I love running in the mountains, but I’ll never find the level of success that I do on those little loops. I need to find a way to accept my lot in life.
That point was driven home with force while running the Jackpot Ultra Running Festival 24 Hour Race in Las Vegas over the weekend.

I had no idea what to expect from this race and I didn’t really look at the website and study the course. I knew a lot of my friends would be there, so I accepted that as a testament to the quality of the event and decided to run it.

My intention was to run Jackpot as a training run to prepare for the Pickled Feet 48 hour in March. I didn’t have a goal going in, but I did give some consideration to a possible spot on the podium if all went well.

Vegas was having record breaking heat at the time of the race, so I spent a lot of time refining my nutrition and hydration plan. Hammer Nutrition is the race sponsor, so I had some comfort and a tremendous amount of experience with the fueling products that would be available at the aid stations. I planned to run with a bottle of HEED and Jo would always have another bottle available to swap with me whenever I needed it. The rest of my calories were going to come from Hammer gels for as long as I could tolerate it.

Jackpot is a 2.38 mile course, mixed with every fathomable running surface. There’s absolutely NO shade and you can see the entire course from anywhere you’re standing. It’s a sea of sweltering bodies and hard running surfaces.

There was a bit of confusion at the race start. Nobody was really clear when they started the race and we all stood there staring at each other for a moment before I decided to run. It was never my intention to lead the pack, but somebody had to take charge.

[…read more on Kelly’s blog]

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kelly AgnewAs Kelly puts it, he “is your typical anemic, vegetarian ultra runner with Lyme Disease.”  Kelly Agnew started running a few short years ago and has quickly risen to the top of the ranks among ultra runners. He holds records in 24 and 48 hour races, holds the FKT (“Fastest Know Time”) for both the supported and unsupported 100 mile White Rim Trail, and has won many other ultra-distance races. When Kelly isn’t winning races and setting records, he can be found running the trails of Ogden, Utah with his beautiful wife and dogs.  Follow Kelly on his blog, slippingslowlyintopain.com.

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How to Snowshoe: Choose Your Accessories

snowshoe-header-quiz

NOTE: This is part 2 of a 3 part article on "How to Snowshoe". Click here to read part 1.

In our last article, we covered the basics of choosing snowshoes that fit your style of adventure. So you’ve got the basics down and you’re ready to head out, right? Wrong. There’s still a couple more things to consider.

How will you get water?

Its a simple, important but often ignored question. How will you hydrate and stay hydrated? Snowshoeing, even in its simplest form is capable of burning more than 400 calories per hour. That means, you’re going to sweat. You’ve got to replace those fluids to keep moving. I have a friend who went snowshoeing last year with a friend. It was a simple enough hike, covering no more than 2 miles. On the dry trail it would’ve take about 45 minutes to an hour to complete. But it snowed that day. It was deep, powdery, dry snow. Which means they sank more than usual. It was more work to power through than they had planned. About 2 hours into it, they realized, neither of them had brought water, turning what should have been a relatively easy hike into a dangerous journey. They had to rest more so they wouldn’t start to sweat, take breaks to eat snow, and recoup energy. Overall, the journey took more than 5 hours.

Don’t end up like my friends. Plan ahead how you will hydrate. Will you need a stove to melt snow? Are you packing a filter to clean creek water? Are you going to use a bladder or a bottle to keep the water in? How will you keep that from freezing? The cold complicates everything and you need to mentally prepare for it ahead of time.

How will you refuel?

When you have the kind of energy output one see’s when you’re snowshoeing, you have to be thinking about refueling your body. Are you going to be taking some PB & J’s with you on the trail? Or are you packing energy gels, chews, and bars? How about freeze dried meals for dinners and breakfast on longer excursions? Will you need a stove and fuel to melt and boil snow to rehydrate them? Evaluate the length of your trip and plan your energy intake accordingly.

How will you keep warm once you stop moving?

When you’re snowshoeing, you are burning off lots of calories, you’re sweating, you are creating your own heat and a lot of it. Its a different story though once you stop moving. You go from burning 400+ calories per hour to burning about 35 to 60 calories per hour. You’ve got to find away to retain your body heat. You’ll want to have a good hat, a nice warm jacket and something to keep your hands warm like gloves or mitts. Here are a few factors to consider when you’re choosing your insulation layers.

Is it light weight? Remember, you’ll be carrying these layers with you but not wearing them until you need them. Choose a light-weight packable insulation material so that you can go farther and longer on your adventure.

Is it wind proof? Often, people choose to take breaks in places with great views, which means you’re exposed to the elements. Finding a windproof layer, especially in your jacket and trousers, can mean the difference between taking in the vistas and begging to get moving again.

Is it water-proof? You’re snowshoeing. Snow is wet, and when your hot body plops down onto of a snowy stump for a break, you’re going to wind up melting that snow and sitting in a puddle. Choose a layer that has water proofing where you need it most. The most common areas are on the seat of the pants, the front of the jacket and across the neck and top of the shoulders (places where snow will come to rest).

How will you pack it all up?

Now that you’ve chosen how you’ll hydrate, and how you’ll stay warm, its time to think about how you’ll keep all those things together with you as strike out into the wilderness. The most common solution is a simple one. A backpack. It’s easy to access, out of the way till you need it, and versatile. Here are a few tips to help you choose the right pack for your journey.

How long will  you be gone? This is the most important question to ask when choosing a pack. If you’re going on a 5 day snowshoe expedition, you’ll definitely need a bigger, burlier pack than someone who is just going out for the afternoon. A good rule of thumb to find a correct pack size (in Liters) is to take the number of days you plan to be gone and multiply it by 12. So for instance:

EXAMPLE: I’m planning on being gone for 4 days and 3 nights. 4 (days) x 12 = 48 (Liters). I should look for something around 48 Liters in capacity to suit my supplies for a 4 day expedition.

As you put together your kit and gain experience on what you personally need, you might want more or less capacity. Experiment with it and find what suits you!

How will you keep the contents dryAs you hike, snow will accumulate on your pack whether or not it’s actually snowing. You brush tree branches and knock snow off, the wind blows snow around, you’re hiking buddy pelts you with snowballs. The question is not “if”, but rather “when” your pack will get wet and how will you keep it’s contents dry?

Pack Covers. Pack covers are a waterproof cover that go all the way around the front, top, and bottom of your pack (think of it like a shower cap for your backpack). They can be held in place by elastic bands, nylon straps or if you’re my father, an old fraying bungee cord held together by duct-tape. They are light weight, easy to use and pretty effective in snow and rain. They do, however leave the back of the pack open and susceptible to water permeation. Usually this is not a big deal because the back of the pack is usually on you, the snowshoer. If you’re in a down pour, or you fall in the creek (not out of the question…trust me) this can leave the contents vulnerable to getting wet.

Dry Bags. Another option is dry bags or dry sacks. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The way these work is you put whatever you want to stay dry inside of these backs and seal them. Some have a gasket closure, some have roll-tops. Either way, you’re stuff will be protected should the worst happen. The down side to them is that it is a separate bag with in your pack, so it takes more time to stop, take off the pack, open it up, pull out the dry bag, open it up and retrieve your stuff.

The beautiful thing about snowshoeing is that the sport is what you make of it. If you want it to be a calm walk down a familiar trail or just a few laps around a park, it can be. If you want the thrill of hiking through the backcountry, it can be that too. You decide you’re own level of adventure. The suggestions made in this post and the questions posed are just a few things to get you thinking about what your personal level of adventure will require along with your new snowshoes. You’ll learn that you need something more, you might learn that you actually need less. The snowshoe experience is as unique as the snowflakes that make it possible.

What have tips do you have that you’d like to share with those who might be new to snowshoeing? Share them in the comments below.