Category: Story

Ultralight Hiking Article Rebuttal

Ultralight Hiking – what does that even mean?

In a [social] Group there was a link to an article about Ultralight Hiking [link removed] and after attempting to read it, I was dumbfounded. I need to step aside here for the next few comments, then I’ll get back on the topic of ultralight hiking in response to this article.

Ultralight Hiking Pack recommendations from the article
Ultralight Hiking Pack recommendations from the article

Ultralight Hiking Backpack Weight Recommendations

This is the type of information we get in this article. I’m contemplating a total newbie first time ever hiker at 180 pounds loping along the trail with a 36 pound backpack. On a day hike. And imagine the expert toting along a 65 pound backpack. Wow. As the spinner generated text so aptly states “The mind really boggles when you start researching the topic.” Here’s a real quote though, and one that addresses the whole ultralight hiking mentality.

“it is easy to get into the trap of opting to save a pound or two in weight”

And that sums it up nicely. If you’re intelligently boggling your mind by researching the topic of ultralight hiking, you’ll start tossing weight right and left until you’re trimmed down to your own minimum weight. That is what it’s all about.

When working on my Couch to Colorado 14er Training Program I recommended a maximum weight of 12 or so pounds for a day hike on one of these huge and popular mountains. That’s not even ultralight hiking weight either. That allows for a lot of extras that you could easily do without. It’s just that as a “couch to…” book it’s designed for newbies, who don’t know what is most important for their own hiking needs. Once you’ve been hiking for a long time you get a pretty good idea on what is essential or not.

Ultralight Hiking action shot
Ultralight Hiking action shot

What’s in my ultralight hiking pack?

When I do a hike up Quandary, a Colorado 14er near Breckenridge, I used to carry a lot more. Now I’m down to this simple 3 pound pack setup.

  • Ultimate Direction SJ Pack: 8.2 oz
  • Snacks and TP: 5.2 oz
  • Gloves, Hat, Bandanna: 3.7 oz
  • TNF Flashdry Vest: 6.5 oz
  • TNF BTN Hoodie: 5.3 oz
  • 3/4 Full Water Bottle: 19.4 oz
  • Total: 48.3 oz or 3.02 lb
Ultralight Hiking Daypack with gear spread out
Ultralight Hiking Daypack with gear spread out

Even my winter hikes here are with a very similar pack. I might carry a hooded down jacket instead of the vest, and I might carry two water bottles, but add in the two of those together and I’m only up to 5 pounds.  Going that light I don’t have a lot of margin for error, so if something goes wrong I’ll have to be prepared to suffer a little bit. I’m intimately familiar with the trails so I don’t have to worry about route finding or being lost. This kit is good for me in a temperature range from about 15-50 F. I can’t make a general recommendation as to whether this would work for you or not. If you feel inclined to try your hand at ultralight hiking then please experiment gently on known familiar terrain and work your way down slowly.

Read about Ultra Running Gear Requirements HERE

Ultralight Hiking Pack Video:

Here’s a video I made showing the above items packed in my pack as I pull them out so you can see how they all fit. Keep in mind that this is actually what I do take on my Colorado 14er hikes, even those of 10 or more miles, like Grays from Bakersville or the Grizzly Gulch Fork.

Obviously this is a minimum to carry and I don’t recommend it to anyone of any level of sanity or lack thereof. Remember that Ultralight Hiking can be quite dangerous and you MUST start off slow and take proper precautions for safety and any emergency equipment or gear. Do not rely on cellphone service and rescue crews. You are always on your own.

Valentines Day for the Spouse of a Mountaineer

Valentines Day is that special time of year when we give little gifts or cards or chocolate to our loved ones. It’s also a great time to say “I thank you” for all that we put them through. Mountaineers put their spouses through a special kind of torment. We might be held in captivity by mercenaries in a foreign land. We might be gravely injured or ill and unable to be evacuated. We might be stuck in a deadly storm in a cave 125′ beneath the surface of the glacial ice. I’ve caused my poor spouse to suffer under the stress of all of those and more on my mountaineering adventures. She persists in giving me the inspiration I need to continue to pursue my dream.

Updated – New Offer BELOW

My Valentines Day Girl: ascending to the ice climbing routes near Provo Utah
My Valentines Day Girl: in the ascent gully to Stairway to Heaven

In fact, the woman I commemorate this Valentines Day was the one who helped me to define my dream. As a couple we both traveled and shared our love of foreign cultures and peoples. As we grew in our relationship we found our own dreams. She loved figure skating and competing. I loved mountains and climbing. We set our goals around our own goals and the goals of the other. I started skating, something I hadn’t done since I was a kid growing up in the Great White North. She took up climbing with me on plastic, rock and ice.

My wife winning her category for Figure Skating

She is a good friend to fellow Elbrus Race 2014 team mate Jen Hamilton. Her figure skating coach is Todd Gilles, my padowan and climbing buddy. Jen’s husband Ryan, of is my Utah climbing buddy from way back. We’ve all climbed and hiked together in various combinations. On this Valentines Day I’d like to also thank them for the support and suggestions and the opportunity I’ve had to serve them with support of my own. Relationships are important when you engage in a sport in which you stare death in the eyes every time out.

Valentines Day reflection: Hoosier Pass for Angie and Jen
Valentines Day reflection: Hoosier Pass for Angie and Jen

Valentines Day for the Spouse of a Mountaineer

We support each other’s dreams. We endure hardship and separation while she’s away competing or training and I’m away in some foreign jungle or glacial desert. We love deeply and with passion, each other, and our dreams and goals and aspirations. I hope that this Valentines Day finds you thanking those that support you in your endeavors and that you never forget that without them, you could not accomplish half of what you wish for.

Update Jan 3, 2015

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Give your loved ones a  Valentine's Day reward, or reward yourself for a job well done and get a FREE PAPERBACK
Give your loved ones a Valentine’s Day reward, or reward yourself for a job well done and get a FREE PAPERBACK

I am totally thrilled that my spouse has been such a great support to me over these years of adventure and achievement, and I am happy to share that joy with you all here.

Please go to my Origami Owl Custom Jewelry page HERE and order $75 or more in gifts from a USA address, and I’ll send you a free autographed copy of one of my paperback books. Choose from one of these:

  • Carstensz, Stone Age to Iron Age
  • Elbrus Race 2013
  • Summit Success: Training for Hiking, Mountaineering, and Peak Bagging
  • My Sweet Infected
  • Finding Time to Train

It’s a great offer and I know you’ll enjoy sharing your love, and getting your own free autographed copy of one of my paperback books. To celebrate Valentine’s Day this year. Stay tuned for upcoming special edition Valentine’s Day 2015 lockets and charms.

Offer expires January 15, 2015 and limited to stock on hand for paperbacks. Get yours now before I run out.

Valentine's Day Heart Locket with meaningful charms
Valentine’s Day Heart Locket with meaningful charms

Is This Your Brain on Adventure?

In June of 2009 I had a pivotal experience on Liberty Ridge on a trip guided by IMG guides Mark Allen and Jeff Ward. We barely survived summiting in 60 + MPH winds, wandering along steep cliffs and crevasses in a whiteout to spend the night in a moat (ice cave) 120′ below the surface of the glacier. Over the course of the trip I realized my own comfort level was off a bit compared to “normal” people, including sleeping 6″ overhanging the edge of a 75 degree ice slope:

The camp is basically a couple of tent platforms on a 45 degrees slope, beautiful and exposed; with very little room to move around. Blue-bagging will be a challenge here; but we all do our duties. We cook dinner, and I try to eat as much as I can. Little that I knew at the time, I would not have another meal in 30 hours. We settle again for the night, I am glad I am sleeping on the uphill side; Ann is in the middle and Rick just over the edge. His position does nothing to prevent him to quickly fall sleep and soundly snore throughout the short night. Thankfully I am well equipped with drugs and earplugs. Jeff announces start time for 2:00am. – Dodging Bullets on Liberty Ridge – Claudio Argento – Alpine Lines Blog

I also realized my own comfort level on Alpine Mixed terrain of steep slopey blocks of rock and ice and mud, and shallow (AI 2-3) ice. My climbing friends all say this is not normal. I normally don’t think about this too much, and just take it for granted, but today I received a notification for an article on Outside Online Magazine about the differences in brain chemistry or physiology for abnormal risk takers, quoted here:

There are three major emotional ingredients to risk taking … all driven by individual brain chemistry. One is desire for adventure (“sensation seeking”), in what’s known as the reward pathway of the brain, the mysterious mechanisms where happiness juices flow; high-risk takers may simply get a bigger bang than other people, leading them to seek more intense experiences. Another is a relative disregard for harm, meaning, basically, that they’re not as afraid of negative consequences as regular folks. The third is impulsivity, or acting on your desires without fully thinking them through. — What distinguishes an everyday adventurer from an extreme or foolhardy one lies in the interplay of these factors. Mountaineers may be adventurous and well able to handle stress, but they tend not to be impulsive, often carefully planning their expeditions for months. – This Is Your Brain on Adventure – Outside Magazine

While on my Seven Summits Quest, I have had all 10 fingers nearly to the wooden stage, been stopped dead in my tracks unable to breath, been struck by the static discharge of close lightning, been up all night gasping for breath, had nearly non-stop diarrhea for days, spent the night in a tent with a puking partner, twisted my ankle with a 16 mile hike out, frost-nipped my face so I stopped shaving, lost and blackened toenails, endured bleeding blisters, nearly exploded gall bladder. Yet I persist on this pursuit, and have plans for more summits in the coming years.

While training Mixed Climbing (dry tooling) in Ouray last week, I managed to pop off a very vertical (read: overhanging) cliff face and swung out inverted (upside down) about 60′ from the ground, and as I swung out, still hanging onto my ice tools, silent, I thought to myself “I don’t seem to be sliding out of my loosely-worn harness. Good. So if I can tap the wall when I come back in, maybe I can straighten up and sit right.” It worked and I managed to come back into the wall on a shelf and shake it out. Picture below is just after I tapped my right foot, flagging my left foot as I swung back upright at the end of the pendulum. I had fallen from the left wall under the ice curtain.

Was/am I in denial? Are you in denial? If you’re going to consider the Seven Summits, please consider the risk with an open mind. People die every year on almost every one of the Seven Summits, even the so-called easy ones. I was saddened to hear about some recent deaths on Elbrus, for climbers I met during the Elbrus Race 2010:

Rescuers have found a body of a Ukrainian climber, Maryna Khytriakova, at the height of 4,700 meters on Mount Elbrus – Ukrainian female climber found dead on Elbrus – Kyiv Post

Anyone who climbs for a long time will eventually have lists of friends and acquaintances who were crippled, maimed or killed while climbing. Denali and Everest are particularly notorious among the Seven Summits for annual deaths. Aconcagua has many deaths as well, though not being so much in the headlines. Do yourself a favor and think, consider where you are on these lists, where you could be, and plan appropriately.