Climbing

Insomnia Inducing Campsites

For 15 years of my life, I had a horrendous case of insomnia. Sleeping in the comforts of my own bed (which was during my high school years was a water bed), a restful night of sleep regularly eluded me. I memorized the Presidents backwards and forwards. Didn’t work. I memorized the Roman Emperors backwards and forwards. Didn’t work. I used to sit up reading Greek Mythology in the hopes that I’d be bored to sleep. Didn’t work. Turns out, I just needed to eat less carbs and start watching Sex in the City with my then girlfriend. I’ve slept like a baby ever since.

So, as I’ve become an adventurer, and especially as a mountain climber, I’ve found that there are places that are you are required to lay your head that are less than ideal for stretching out and getting some quality shut eye. Here are my two favorite insomnia inducing camp sites:

Camp 2 – Ama Dablam (20k ft): the Southwest Ridge on this 22,525ft/6,812m is technical, but the best route to the top.  It is a clean ridge free of avalanche and rock fall danger.  For a mountaineer, this is an epic trip.  However, knife edge ridges often form wonderful pinnacles that are fun to climb, but can be uncooperative when it comes to nice flat, clean places to pitch a tent.  In this case, it is the only place to camp between the relatively benign Camp 1 and the much higher Camp 3 in the snow.  The 45-degree slope with thousands of feet of cliff on all sides requires one to be roped in at night.

Camp 2 Ama Dablam

Camp 2 Ama Dablam

Ledge Camping on El Capitan: not all of us have the skills to be as good as Alex Hanold to bound up El Cap ropeless in 2 1/2 hours.  On the classic Nose Route, the rest of us require around 31 pitches to get to the summit, which can take 2 – 5 days.  That requires hauling up and anchoring a ledge to sleep in.

What are some of your craziest campsite experiences?

PATHWRANGLER NAMED HONOREE AS PART OF OUTSIDE’S ACTIVE TRAVEL AWARDS

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA | MARCH 12, 2013 PATHWRANGLER has been selected by Outside, America’s leading multimedia active-lifestyle brand, as a recipient of its second annual Active Travel Awards.  PathWrangler was honored as an Honoree. The full list of award winners will be published in the April issue of Outside magazine, available on newsstands March 12, 2013, and at Outside Online.

To select this year’s awards, Outside tapped our global network of correspondents, who spent months on the road traveling from the Philippines to Switzerland to Namibia and then some, to report a definitive roundup of the best new adventures, secret paradises, mountain epics, stunning beaches, airline deals, gorgeous islands, and more. The result is 42 fresh trips that we guarantee will change your life, plus smart travel strategies, the best travel gear, and five exciting new frontiers.

PathWrangler is proud to be awarded honoree of Outside Strategies to “Plug-In.”  With all these beautiful destinations and incredible activities to do, PathWrangler is the tool that brings it all together and makes these dream trips a reality. 

Outside magazine has long been one of the world’s most trusted advisors for active and adventurous travelers,” says Outside Editor Christopher Keyes. “In addition to truly award-worthy destinations and travel providers, this year we unearthed a handful of amazing new frontiers in active travel. Our annual edit franchise honors the year’s best trips, hotels, lodges, luggage, islands, and new destinations that will be an invaluable travel resource for years to come.”

Simply put, PathWrangler makes creating experiences and telling those stories easier than ever before.  Planning an adventure trip or an outdoor excursion is like herding cats. It is maddening to get everyone and everything prepared. Our web app brings the conversation together in an interactive place designed specifically for adventure and outdoor enthusiasts to dream and organize their trip together, and then share their stories after.  Over 100 Tour Operators, Outdoor Clubs and Outdoor Wilderness Programs and thousands of outdoor enthusiasts are using PathWrangler to run better trips and share them with their friends.

In celebration of the Outside Active Travel Awards, PathWrangler is offering its award-winning product for free in preparation for a new premium rollout in the upcoming months.  That means unlimited trips and users for any individuals or business that sign-up now.  Please sign-up here to take advantage of this offer.  Please contact us at info@pathwrangler.com if you’d like any help in getting you or your organization started.

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About Outside

Outside is America’s leading active lifestyle brand. For more than 35 years, Outside has covered travel, sports, adventure, health, and fitness, as well as the personalities, the environment, and the style and culture of the world Outside. The Outside family includes Outside magazine, the only magazine to win three consecutive National Magazine Awards for General Excellence, The Outside Buyer’s Guides, Outside Online, Outside Television, Outside Events, Outside+ tablet edition, and Outside Books. Visit us on www.outsideonline.com and www.facebook.com/outsidemagazine.

Contact PathWrangler

For further press inquiries or other requests, please contact CEO Doug Heinz at doug@pathwrangler.com and 415-309-2242.  Please visit us online at www.pathwrangler.com, www.facebook.com/pathwrangler and @pathwrangler.

REEL ROCK Film Tour Returns

REEL ROCK shows are exciting events where climbers and outdoors lovers come together to celebrate the ultimate in adventure filmmaking.

For the seventh year the Reel Rock Film Tour will once again bring the best in climbing and adventure films to locations both here in the States and to seventeen countries around the world starting September 13.

This year’s films are daring stories of strength, determination and skill that will undoubtedly keep outdoor enthusiasts and film lovers hanging from the edges of their seats until it’s over.

The Dura Dura:  Sport climbing legend Chris Sharma and 19-year old Adam Ondra battle over the establishment of the world’s first 5.15c Cataluyna, Spain. Meanwhile Sasha DiGiulian and Daila Ojeda set the standards for women climbers on the Spanish limestone.

Honnold 3.0:  Free solo sensation Alex Honnold continues his groundbreaking feats in Yosemite by attempting his triple-crown solo, Watkins, El Capitan and Half Dome in a day.

The Shark’s Fin:  Fulfilling a lifelong obsession, Alpine legend Conrad Anker, along with Renan Ozturk and Jimmy Chin, climb a new route on Meru.

Wide Boys:  The British “Wide Boys” take on America’s most heinous fissures in a crazy game of off-width climbing.

If you’re an adventure seeker, then be sure to check out the calendar to see when the tour comes to your city.

Ueli Steck Climbs and Paraglides Three Eiger Region Peaks in One Day

Swiss mountaineer Ueli Steck had a simple one-day itinerary for a warm summer day last month in the Eiger Region of the Bernese Alps of Switzerland.  His idea was to paraglide to his starting point and climb Jungfrau (13,642 ft.).   From the summit he would proceed to paraglide to the base of Mönch (13,481 ft.) and climb it.  From that summit, he would pull his paraglider out again and fly over to his next landing and his third climb of the day: the Eiger (13,025 ft.).  From there it was all down wind paragliding to the spot where he would pick up his ride home.

Eiger – Mönch – Jungfrau

Amazing!

To fly means something completely new to me.  You need a lot of patience if you want to have good conditions to be able to fly and climb at the same time.  I had this idea of flying and climbing for a long time.  I am happy that it worked.

Thanks to Adventure Blog for sharing this story.  Although I can’t imagine what it must take to scale three mountains in one day I have done some paragliding and to me that seemed to add a quite a bit of extra thrill to this ambitious endeavor.

New TARPA Initiative: Real Adventures

One of the elements of travel that we keep hearing from clients and travelers is the need for authenticity.  At PathWrangler, we try to get you as immersed as we possibly can.  However, to be a true adventurer, we not only want to put you into the shoes of the indigenous cultures, we want to put you into the shoes of the pioneers of adventure and exploration.  What did it feel like to be Ernest Shackleton, Marco Polo, Dr Livingstone, Ferdinand Magellan, or Sacagawae?

Head researcher, Mikey Clarke reveals how we can bring your trip to the next level:

On your next adventure, there is an option to take our vitamin anti-pills for an extra bout of authenticity – these anti-pills helpfully leach nutrients from your body to let you experience the pleasures of scurvy, just like the old-time adventurers!  This is for the adventurer who will have none of this plasticky, tourist-trap crap.

Another example of how TARPA is leading the travel industry in research.

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Stay tuned for the big PathWrangler announcement (which is certainly NOT a TARPA program).

PathWrangler and Cat Juggling

Just got off the phone with a client who is running some amazing rafting trips.  I learned that path to enlightenment with PathWrangler is the following:

  • Phase 1: Cats wandering aimlessly; mewing, scratching, breaking things, ripping up carpet and, in some cases, hanging from drapes.
    • Get PathWrangler Account.
  • Phase 2: Herd Cats…herd happier cats.
    • Herding Cats becomes too easy and effortless.  New inspiration is needed.
  • Phase 3: Cat Juggling: xnectf_cat-juggling-from-the-jerk-1979_shortfilms

Tired of cats running rampant?  We make it all better.  Check us out!  I only hope Nathan Johnson doesn’t get to us first!

Three Peaks Challenge – a stereotypical reaction to (encroaching) middle age

To the rugged outdoorsy types who frequent this blog, this entry will seem remarkably tame.  But all things must be seen in context.  When you live in London and have a demanding job, daily endurance challenges are generally restricted to squeezing into a Northern Line tube at rush hour or forcing yourself to climb the third escalator in a row (I’ll admit to occasional smugness, especially if I’ve got a heavy briefcase).

This year saw me and a number of school friends hit 40 so when one of them suggested that a group of us take on the Three Peaks Challenge for charity, he knew he was pushing at a psychological open door.  It helped that we were in the pub at the time, with a reduced resistance to stupid ideas.

The Three Peaks Challenge is simple – you have to climb the three highest mountains in England, Scotland and Wales in 24 hours.  The peaks are Ben Nevis in Scotland, Scafell Pike in Northern England, and Snowdon in North Wales.  You can do it as part of an organised and guided group (there are charities taking groups on this trip most weekends) but you can also just do it yourselves, which was the option we went for.  You just need to find a willing driver – the lack of sleep for the walkers makes it potentially dangerous for them to do the driving as well.  Luckily my partner’s father was up for the challenge; as a long-distance truck driver, he’s used to driving through the night and bedding down in small spaces.

We chose a schedule that, due to the lighter summer evenings, would mean we weren’t climbing any of the peaks in the dark – starting Ben Nevis at 4pm and finishing around 10pm, driving to Scafell Pike and climbing between 4.30am and 8.30am, then finally Snowdon between 12pm and 4pm.

As the highest of the three peaks, it was no surprise that Ben Nevis was the toughest climb.  The path is pretty clear all the way up, and the number of people climbing on the weekends means it’s difficult to take a wrong turn – in fact you spend most of your time dodging people coming the other way.  However, the paths are steep and for much of the second half of the ascent, you’re climbing on loose rock, so for idiots like me who had done little training, it was a painful lesson.  The weather worsened before too long, and when we finally made the summit after 3 hours, the visibility was virtually zero, with driving rain and cold wind; so if you landed here by Googling “Ben Nevis summit views”, sorry to disappoint, we got no photos of the views.  We did however get photos in front of the snow field, to boost our adventurer credentials.

After a long descent which made me glad of my walking poles, we devoured some of the cold pasta dishes we’d packed and headed for Cumbria.  Rather optimistically, I donned my ear plugs and eye mask and reclined the seat.  But a Ford Galaxy is not Club World, and 4 hours of travel and about 15 minutes of sleep later, our bleary eyes were met by a beautiful dawn breaking over the hills as we drove along the shore road at Wastwater Lake, dodging petulant sheep on the approach to the start of the trail.

Scafell Pike is pretty steep from the word go, so with already tired legs and a lack of sleep, it was a daunting start, but after 45 minutes I found a comfortable pace, my confidence undoubtedly boosted by the glorious early morning sunshine.  There is a fair amount of scree scrambling on the way up Scafell Pike too, particularly the final third, but with the clear day and improved energy levels (must have timed my food intake better after Ben Nevis), summiting Scafell Pike seemed less of a chore.  That said, two hours later, we returned to the car as staggering drunks, our legs unwilling to expend valuable energy correcting the constant stumbles.

One more to go.  After another long and sleepless drive, we strapped on the boots for the final time.  In theory, Snowdon is the easiest of the three, and we reckoned we could complete it on adrenaline alone, especially as it was in our own backyard, having all grown up in North Wales.  It starts pretty gently, but after an hour or so, there are some incredibly steep sections, and by this time the cloud had descended and the rain had begun, so it was impossible to tell how much further we had to climb.  Climbing next to the tracks of the Snowdonia Mountain Railway can also be fairly dispiriting, as you occasionally see or hear the tourist train taking more sensible folk up to the summit in comfort, whilst you battle to find the reserves of energy to scramble up the last slopes.

While some day trippers gathered round the trig point at the summit for pictures, I barged into their shots, slammed my hand on it with a growl, and headed for the summit café.  Yes, there’s a café.  Not exactly Sherpa Tensing territory I realise, but I never said I was hard core, and I don’t think I’ll ever taste a better cup of tea.

After a quick photo opp and some mumbled congratulations, we started the descent and a couple of hours later, arrived back at “base camp” (OK, another café) as broken, but proud, men, having raised over £3000 for a North Wales cancer unit.

Top tips? Take walking poles, take more food than you think you’ll need and take spare socks.  Also, even if you’re reasonably fit, do at least some training if you want to enjoy it before it’s over.  Best tip of all: if you’re down the pub with friends, and one suggests the Three Peaks Challenge, fake a stomach bug and take refuge in the toilet until they’re safely back on film trivia.

Why I Climb

It was about two or three A.M. and I was violently shivering at Interim Camp in what was supposed to be a 20-below North Face sleeping bag, but instead was a synthetic cover stuffed with newspapers.  The gear shop in Kathmandu rented me the equivalent of one of those “Rolax” watches you can pick up in Hong Kong on the street.  The “Rolax” might make you late for a meeting, but a faux sleeping bag at 19,000 feet will turn you into a popsicle.  I mumbled and chattered audible obscenities while trying to find ways to stay warm; top and bottom thermals, a down jacket, down pants and two pairs of wool socks in my bag weren’t enough.  I looked ridiculous and it was the first time in my life I really felt claustrophobic.

No matter what I tried, I could not keep my feet warm and eventually had to take off the second pair of socks because they were cutting off my circulation.  So, every 1/2 hour or so, I’d have to rub my feet for ten-minutes, stomp up and down displaying the tap-dancing skills of an awkward octopus to keep the blood flowing.  My bones were cold.   As I was doing my tap dancing, I wrote a song called Eff You Sleeping Bag Man that went a little somethin’ like this:

Eff you sleeping bag man
Eff you sleeping bag man!
Eff you sleeping bag man!!
EFF YOU SLEEPING BAG MAN!!!!!!! (repeat)

The sweet harmonies produced by this song kept my heart warm, but not my body.  The night dragged on into infinity and kept getting colder and colder until the sun finally broke over the crest of the mountains.  As the sun crept over ridge and filled the valley floor, I knew I would be able to keep all my toes.  A very inauspicious start to the most important day on my Mount Everest trek: the push to Advanced Base Camp (6,400 meters).

After a few bites to eat, Chandra (our Sherpa) and I set off with our spirits high and our Camelbaks (and bodies) frozen solid. Walking through the seracs in the vein between Interim Camp and the moraine leading to ABC was a welcomed change in scenery.  The route from Base Camp to Interim Camp puts you behind Changtse and a host of other lesser peaks, which ultimately block your view of Mount Everest, so, by this point, we hadn’t seen Her for three days.  In fact, about the only thing we saw during this period were rocks, dirt, an army of Tibetan yak men looking for free food and tea, the yaks themselves and the respective pies they would bake and deliver with regularity.  I saw so much yak shit, that when I did sleep, I would dream of yak shit zombies chasing me all around the Himalayas causing me to wake up gasping for air (the zombies were gone, but the smell wasn’t).

We switched-back up to the top of the moraine while trying to find a rhythm.  Typically, in the high altitude, the worst part of an ascent is the beginning when you haven’t found your rhythm; you are out of breath within minutes and questioning how you could possibly sustain another ten hours of this movement.  For me to get my rhythm, I would look down, start singing a song in my head and watch my feet taking deliberate and conscious steps forward.  It only takes me about five-to-ten minutes to find my rhythm: each body part moving in perfect harmony with all the others; my breathe following and eventually settling in at a rate just slightly above resting.

I had just hit this stride when I looked up and immediately lost my breath again when I saw this:

 

North Face of Mount Everest – just outside Interim Camp

Then I looked left and saw this:

An apartment building-sized, shark-fin serac on the way up to ABC

Have you ever been in an old church or basilica that was just so impressive you knew that you were in the presence of something Greater?   Well, I haven’t.  As incredible and amazing as the Sistine Chapel is, in the end it is always something that was built by men (albeit extremely talented men) as an expression of their devotion to something or someone bigger than themselves.   Through observation, man can collectively learn and understand “how” this world works, but the “why” is the Big Mystery.  Looking up at the most massive and brooding mountain in the world made my place in it feel beyond insignificant in the grand scheme of things…and it was absolutely terrifying.

The shark-fin pinnacle you see above is fairly unique to Mount Everest.  Due to the warm, day-time temperatures caused by the air in the high Tibetan desert, these apartment-sized seracs melt during the day before the sun drops.  Amazingly, even though these seracs are traveling downhill and would normally point that way, these seracs are all pointed uphill, towards Mount Everest.  The mountain’s mass is so large that it actually pulls some of the objects around it towards itself.  Walking up the moraine, you are passing through tens of thousands of seracs that are all bowing towards Her in reverence.

 

Almost-frozen toes, yak pies and the uncooked chicken at the tea house were all small prices to pay to stand where I was standing at that moment.  All the suffering, the doubts and the discomfort converted to a deep-burn in my soul fuel a euphoria that cannot be matched by anything.

After regaining our composure, Chandra and I began the long slog up to Advanced Base Camp.

Summit rotation 094 (800x450)

Eric Remza: Final Post: Mt Everest 2012

Sunrise over the summit of Everest

Overcast skies with moisture beckoning to be set free, vegetation ripe with the aroma of Spring in Emerald City commonly known as Seattle; a populous that call this land home. From the shores of Puget Sound to the Cascadian mountains that silhouette the horizon, it is a awesome to be back in one of the communities in which I have rooted myself.  Every time that I return from an adventure across the deep oceans and faraway continents to the mythical lands and cultures of my dreams, something changes deep within.  It is a transformational change of extending out into ones comfort zone into the existential uncertainty of life.

Everest 2012 was unique in its own way, a pilgrimage of many, with a common purpose of setting ones foot upon the highest point of Terra Firma.  The allure of this mountain is saturated in the minds eye of the human condition; a conquer or be conquered dilemma of ambition, persistence and perseverance.  In light of such undertones, the sacredness that is climbing a mountain is a truly magical experience and it is an opportunity that is destined for us all.

It was an honor to be back in the presence of the high Himalaya again; to share this experience with new eyes and to be alive in all that encompasses you in that moment.  What an amazing planet in which we all live, laugh, breath, and love.  Coming home is a true reward and dreaming of the next adventure is a true gift.

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