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Archive for May, 2012

From the Bay (Almost) to the Breakers

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Who: Tom Cruise Wannabes

What: San Francisco Bay to Breakers

When: May 20, 2012

Gear: Running Shoes, Sunglasses, Backpacks, and Costumes

I’m definitely not the first person to run around San Francisco without my pants on. But it was still one of those rites of passage that needed to happen. And the San Francisco Bay to Breakers was the perfect place to check this item off my bucket list.

The party started at 7 a.m. when we woke up to someone ready to go and yelling outside our window. There are many who take the Zazzle Bay to Breakers seriously and actually run the 12K race from the Embarcadero at the San Fancisco Bay to Highway 101, where the waves break onto Ocean Beach. But most of us wander the course in costume with beverage in hand. Make no mistake — running or wandering, this event gets started early.

Our group decided on a theme of Whiskey Business, which was perfect for my goal of walking the streets of SF without a pair of pants. Paying homage to The Man (aka Tom Cruise), we popped our collars and wore tube socks and shades.

The streets of San Francisco were quiet, until we crested the hill above Hayes Street. A river of people who were dressed to the occasion meandered down the hill. DJs played from the apartments above. The sun blessed San Francisco with its presence that morning and everyone was in good spirits. Rainbows, gnomes, astronauts, Twister players, naked men (obviously), feathers and fur and face paint, even Kermit the Frog made an appearance.

The cross-city race began in 1912 as an event to lift the spirits in San Francisco after the city was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake. The race was dubbed Bay to Breakers in 1965, and in 1986 became the world’s largest footrace with 110,000 participants. It’s no longer the largest race, but it still attracts thousands of runners and unregistered “bandits.” This year, Sammy Kitwara from Kenya won the race with a time of 34:41, and Mamitu Daska from Ethiopia took first place among women with a time of 39:03.

I have no idea how long it took me to reach the finish line. But I do know that I made it to Golden Gate Park and found a sunny patch of grass to rest my feet and head. The San Francisco Bay to Breakers is definitely still lifting the spirits of its residents and visitors.

Deuter Race X
Deuter Race X
MSRP: $68.95



11 Tips to find the Best Campsites on your next Wilderness Adventure

Monday, May 28th, 2012

Max Neale, Review Editor for Outdoor Gear Lab, shares some tips on how to choose the best campsites and where to set up your tent for the next time you hike into the backcountry. Max regularly contributes reviews and tales from the road on our blog.

A good campsite can make or break your wilderness experience. When traveling long distances or through remote areas, I break the campsite selection process into two steps.

At the macro level, I look at maps an hour or two before bedtime and identify — based on my average speed and the desired time I want to bed down for the night — a general area to sleep. At the macro level, I look for an area that is:

  • Off trail, so you don’t interfere with other people’s wilderness experience
  • Flat, where you’re most likely to find a level place to lay down
  • Near resources such as water and firewood
  • If the bugs are bad, in a breezy area away from breeding grounds such as swamps and slow moving water
  • Not in the bottom of a valley where the air will be colder and dew and frost will be greater
  • Not near animal paths or ideal habitat, which might lead to an unwelcome nighttime guest
  • Finally, away from natural hazards such as flash floods, potential rock fall, and avalanche

Once I’ve identified a site at the macro level I zoom in and focus on micro level details. Specifically, I look for a campsite that’s:

  • Dry, because wet ground is more thermally conductive and can promote condensation in your shelter
  • On a surface that’s not prone to being flooded by rising groundwater during rain
  • Covered in soft materials like leaves, pine needles, sand, or moss, which will be more comfortable and warmer than compact ground (Note that it’s also important to camp and travel on durable surfaces. Weigh your comfort with your potential environmental impact. Camp in established sites while in a high use areas.)
  • Next to or under something that will act as a windbreak and reflect heat back to your shelter. Trees, bushes, and rocks can work well.

Finally, once I identify a potential campsite, I lie down and mark the location of my head and feet with a rock.

Happy camping! And may you find some of the best campsites out there.

Mountain Hardwear Drifter 2
Mountain Hardwear Drifter 2
MSRP: $194.95
Sierra Designs Lightning HT 3
Sierra Designs Lightning HT 3
MSRP: $349.95


Make this Father’s Day the Kuhl-ist!

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

We’re doing another Kuhl Clothing giveaway, just in time for Father’s Day! Celebrate dad in style with new Kuhl shorts and shirt.

Lake Tahoe's Alive submission to our last Facebook Kuhl Contest.

Contest Guidelines: Tell us why your dad needs a Kuhl makeover! Dorky dad shorts? paint spattered shirts?  Just post up your story on our Facebook wall and @ tag Kuhl’s Facebook Page for your chance to win! Photos welcome (just be nice, he’s your dad, and you’re doing this because you love him). We’ll pick the winner, but we may ask for Facebook fans to help by liking their favorite!

Our last Kuhl Facebook contest was a huge success, so let’s keep the free stuff coming!

Josh Myers winning submission to our last Kuhl Facebook giveaway.

Winner Selection: The winner, picked June 8 on our Facebook page, will choose one pair of Kuhl Shorts and one Kuhl Shirt, color and sizing subject to availability. Free shipping inside the continental US, if the winner is outside the US, winner will be responsible for shipping charges.

Why we love Salomon Trail Runners and Hiking Shoes

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

The Salomon Synapse, Women's XR Mission and Men's XR Mission

Walk into the Tahoe Mountain Sports shop here in North Lake Tahoe, and odds are at least one employee has Salomon shoes on his or her feet.

I became sold on the Salomon XA Pro series of trail runners (also in GORE-TEX waterproof) when I wore them on a 2-week thru-hike of the 165 mile Tahoe Rim Trail in 2007, where out of a group of 15 hikers, I was the only one without blisters. The airy mesh kept my feet drier (moist feet are more likely to blister) and the secure fit (Salomon calls it SensiFit) from the non-stretch zig-zag material on the sides, non-stretch kevlar quick-pull laces and the best heal cup I’ve ever sunk my foot into all worked together to keep hot-spots from forming.

Salomon noticed a lot of long-distance hikers, from the Appalachian Trail to the Pacific Crest Trail, had traded traditional, heavy boots for trail running shoes like the XA Pro, and decided to make a shoe just for them. Enter the Salomon Synapse.

Tahoe Mountain Sports’ Owner Dave has been wearing the Synapse for almost a year now, using it for everything from hiking to running, and he raves about them:

“I got one of the first pairs of Synapse shoes to hit the market at Outdoor Retailer last summer and they didn’t tell me much about them. Salomon said to run in them, hike in them, do whatever you want and tell us what you think. So, I did! I took them out on 5-10K runs, played 36 holes of disc golf in them and hiked a number of full day hikes. Immediately I noticed the slight cant of the shoe and I really mean that it likes to rock a bit, especially under the fore foot. I started to do both heel strike running and fore foot strikes and noticed little difference other than being comfortable in both positions. Then, when I hiked with them, I was pretty psyched that they were so light to begin with but also noticed that they were beefy enough where I wasn’t feeling every rock on the trail. They totally held up and were quite comfortable even on a full day hike. Then to the disc golf course, which, believe it or not, is the ultimate in wear and tear activities of your footwear because you are planting and dragging your foot, digging in your feet for additional grip and stability and tromping through the woods for hours. Where many shoes fail in this regard is in the toe. They simply start to peel apart or can’t handle the foot plants and start to get sore. These did none of that and worked great for all my rounds out on the course. I have had these shoes about 8 months now and have spent quite a bit of time on my feet with them. There is no deterioration of the materials or the sole, laces are still in perfect shape and overall, quality seems to be the usual Salomon attention to detail and craftsmanship.  I think this shoe can handle all the abuse you want to throw at it and is incredibly versatile as a hiker, runner, disc golfer or all arounder of any sort! My recommendation: Get them!!” – Dave

And as far as long distance hikers are concerned, Jennifer Pharr Davis broke the speed record hiking the 2,181 mile Appalachian Trail (46 days, 11 hours, and 20 minutes) using these shoes!

Here’s a video with our Salomon rep explaining what sets the Synapse apart:

We’re also really excited about the Salomon XR Mission Running Shoe:

Salomon set out to create a shoe that can go from your front door and down the road to the trail and over the dirt, roots and rocks without missing a step.

After a few generations of the XA Pros, I’m really impressed with the the way the XR Mission grabs a hold of the back half of my foot, locking my heal in place, while leaving the toe box roomy – super comfortable.

Here’s another video explaining the features of the XR Mission:

Beyond the light trail runners and hiking shoes, Salomon also makes great hiking boots like the Salomon Discovery GTX. Former store manager Kevin hiked the 200+ mile John Muir Trail in Salomon Hiking Boots last summer. So whether you’re looking for a shoe to go on a quick run after work or a hiking shoe or boot to take you down a 2,000 mile trail, check out Salomon Footwear at Tahoe Mountain Sports.

Annular Eclipse 2012 – as seen from Tahoe and Truckee

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

Tahoe Mountain Sports was lucky to be in the direct path of the annular eclipse today (we’re located just below Reno on the above map), and it was rad! Here’s a look at a few photos from around our region. Share how you captured or experienced the annular solar eclipse with us on our Facebook page.

WHO: Everyone in Tahoe

WHAT: Annular solar eclipse 2012

WHEN: May 20, 2012

GEAR: sunglasses and eclipse-viewing lens

Tahoe City Annular Eclipse Action: I joined a small group of friends out on Bristlecone Beach and there were loads of people there. I heard there were some 50 cars lined up by Eagle Rock, so Tahoe was in force for this event. I made a cereal box eclipse viewer but it sucked in comparison to the welder’s lens (above, center photo) and eclipse-viewing specific glasses (the pink ones above) that some friends had.

Kings Beach Eclipse 2012: Just outside the TMS shop was prime eclipse viewing, as Kings Beach is on the lake’s north shore, with great views to the west. The shadows get crazy during an eclipse and the sun/moon combo is mirrored in shadows, and your shadows get ultra blurry around the edges.

Truckee Eclipse Party at 5050 Brewery: Mr. Truckee shared his photoset from the party at 5050 Brewery in Truckee with us on Facebook. It appears from his photos that the place was packed… and that he has a sweet photo lens to take great eclipse shots with. View all his photos from the event on the Mr. Truckee Facebook page.

Eclipse resources:

I found this post to be helpful, but the cereal box eclipse viewer sucked compared to glasses and the welder lens some other folks on the beach had. Some other resources I consulted were the NASA eclipse-viewing tips and how to photograph an eclipse. Do you have an eclipse viewing tips, tricks or photos? Share with us on Facebook.

The Tahoe Mountain Sports Adventure of the Week blog series takes a walk, hike, bike, or annular eclipse viewing in someone else’s shoes, from pro athletes to local Tahoe adventurers. Let us know if you’ve got an adventure to share.

Suncloud Patrol Aviators
Suncloud Patrol Aviators
MSRP: $59.95
Smith Parallel Sunglasses
Smith Parallel Sunglasses
MSRP: $128.95
Suncloud Speedtrap Sunglasses
Suncloud Speedtrap Sunglasses
MSRP: $49.95


Why CamelBak is Synonymous with Hydration

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

CamelBak started simply in 1988 when Michael Eidson was competing in the  “Hotter’N Hell 100” and needed a way to carry more water. The solution, a IV bag in a tube sock. From there the hydration reservoir backpack was born.

We’ve noticed here at Tahoe Mountain Sports that when somebody wants a hydration pack, they ask for a CamelBak – a brand name synonymous with the category just like Kleenex is with tissue.

The heart of the system is the hydration reservoir, and CamelBak hasn’t rested on their laurels since the old IV bag and tube sock, constantly making improvements, culminating in the CamelBak Antidote. The hydration bladder features a baffled design so it lies flatter when full, built-in arms that aid in drying for daily care, a easier to open lid, and a quick disconnect hose. As for durability, you can find videos on the internet of them being run over by bicycles – and trucks – without springing a leak.

Here’s a quick overview:

A new innovation that’s proving to be a big hit both in the backcountry and for travelers is the All Clear Water Bottle that has a built-in ultraviolet water treatment system in the lid. Just fill the bottle up from a lake, stream or other suspect source, turn it on, and disinfect.

Here’s a quick look at this great new backcountry water treatment system:

We’re also carrying a full range of BPA-free water bottles, stainless steel water bottles, hydration packs and accessories from CamelBak this year, so if you’re looking for the best way to stay hydrated on the go, check out our full selection of CamelBak gear at Tahoe Mountain Sports.

CamelBak Antidote 50
CamelBak Antidote 50
MSRP: $29.95
CamelBak Eddy Kids Bottle
CamelBak Eddy Kids Bottle
MSRP: $12.95
CamelBak Day Star Pack
CamelBak Day Star Pack
MSRP: $79.95


The Innova Boss – distance world record set

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

We now have a world record holder in our midst here in the shop: the Blizzard Champion model of the Innova Boss, which David Wiggins Jr. launched 255 meters (836 feet) on April 13th in Primm, Nevada.

David’s throw (with a 134g Innova Boss) beat the near-decade-long title held by Christian Sandstrom, who set an 820-foot record on April 26, 2002 with an Innova DX Valkyrie.

You can watch David (only 16 years old!) in action as he breaks this record below. The winning throw comes just after 2 minutes in.

There’s obviously a lot of technique involved, but we bet his new disc helped David out too. This year, Innova released a new Blizzard technology incorporating thousands of microbubbles into its durable Champion plastic. The company considers this a huge milestone, and this new record proves the capability of this technology. The microbubbles allow for high-speed, premium plastic drivers in weights down to 130 grams. Innova’s testing even shows that their models under 140 grams will float… nice for those of us who play near water.

Here’s what David Wiggins Jr. says about the Blizzard technology:

“I love the new Blizzard technology discs! I recently went to New Mexico and thoroughly tested them side by side with other discs at various elevations and wind speeds. The new Blizzard discs came out on top. . . .
From what I’ve observed, the Blizzard discs fly with almost the same stability as the equivalent model 20 grams heavier. They feel and throw like heavier discs than they actually are. This allows for much longer throws, especially in the right conditions. I’ve tested the new Blizzard discs in weights ranging from 130g to 155g and can honestly say that these are going to add distance to many disc golfers’ games. From the average player to the experienced pro, everyone can benefit from Blizzard Champion Discs.”

And a few more pros chimed in on the Innova Boss specifically, on the Innova website:

Dave Feldberg

“The Boss is my favorite disc for distance shots. It gives me the distance and control to perform my best in tournament play. It has elevated my distance game. It works great for skip shots, low shots, high shots and any kind of disc golf shot you throw. Try the Boss, it will get to the basket first!”

Gregg Hosfeld

“I’ve come within a few feet of my all-time personal best in distance throwing the Champion Boss…against the wind.”

Try out the Innova Boss and the other lineup of Blizzard Champion discs for yourself; we’ve got them in stock and ready to ship!


Zion Hiking and Camping: Our Utah Roadtrip, Part 1

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

WHO: Lis and Chris

WHAT: Zion hiking and camping, part one of our Utah roadtrip, from Tahoe to Zion National Park to Escalante and back

WHEN: April 14–22, 2012

WHERE: Zion National Park, Utah

GEAR: MSR cookset, Lole Twist tanktop, leatherman

Wow. Utah is amazing! Zion National Park was the first stop on our roadtrip last month and the weather was prime for hiking and camping. Cool nights, not too hot days, I highly suggest a spring visit to this park. It took us about 11 hours to get to the park from our home on Tahoe’s West Shore, but we stopped for plenty of photos.

We arrived to the park at sunset and chose the Watchman Campground to set up our tent. It’s more set back from the main road than the South Campground, with newer amenities. Our site was on the outer rung of the campground, providing great views of the towering Watchman right from our tent. We couldn’t secure the site for two nights though, so night 2 we set up camp at the walk-in site the next night. You have to walk in your gear, but bear boxes keep your food safe for the night, and some communal campfire spots make the walk-in sites great for groups. An extra bonus was a short, steep trail up the knoll behind our tent to a historic Indian storage site with great valley views.

Day One we got right into hiking, choosing to tackle the famous Angels Landing first. A rocky cliff that juts up from the valley floor right smack in the middle of the park, it’s a one-of-a-kind hike that provides views of the canyon from every angle. You start at the Virgin River, near towering Fremont cottonwoods, on a very pedestrian friendly trail (mostly paved) trail. There are tons of switchbacks but the hike is very easy due to the mostly paved terrain.

At the top of the most-traveled trail is a fork: Left leads on the West Rim Trail, along a trail affording views of Moonlight Buttress (one of Chris’s climbing goals so we made an excursion out here after Angels). Right leads the rest of the way (1.5 miles) along a spiky ridge to the top of Angels Landing. This part is not for the height-sensitive. Or is it? I am pretty afraid of heights but was so happy that I did this hike, or scramble. Lots of chains are installed to help you up the tricky sections. The slickrock topped with sand is a bit fear-inducing if you’re not used to it but you’ve just got to trust your feet. It’s amazing the amount of people that do this hike despite its difficulty. As we were going up, an older couple from Florida was behind us and made it to the top. I kept watching all the flatlanders around me and told myself that if they could do it, I had no excuse to be afraid.

After descending we treating ourselves to lounging by the Virgin River in the sun, shoes off and bare feet in the frigid water.

Day Two we set off for a full lengthwise hiking tour of Zion. We took the park shuttle to the end of the canyon and hiked the 1 mile approach to The Narrows. The water was too high for The Narrows to be open but when it is you can continue up canyon to ultra-narrow walls as you walk up into the Virgin River.

Though not advertised, there is a small riverside trail that runs most of the way down the park. It’s a beautiful way to see the park outside of the shuttle; we were even treated to a deer herd running by us and crossing the river. Big Bend was one of our favorite stops as it’s just north of our previous day’s hike and has great vistas as the river takes a huge turn around Angels Landing. From there, we continued down the small river trail to Weeping Rock, where we hiked up to the Weeping Rock and to Hidden Canyon, for more chain-assisted hiking to a dark hidden canyon. As you can see in the below photos, the trail wraps along a cliffside for some pretty cool hiking terrain.

From Weeping Rock to the next shuttle stop down canyon (The Grotto, where you get off to hike Angels Landing), there is not a good riverside trail, so you’ll need to take the shuttle. We tried to do that hike but had to hike on the road for half of it, so take my advice and shuttle it!

At The Grotto, we crossed the river to the Kayenta Trail that follows the riverbank up to Emerald Pools. This trail was awesome, with great river views, mellow hiking and a cool section that goes through a split rock. This trail is definitely one of the best Zion hikes that the whole family can do.

After two full days of hiking (and a big backpacking trip ahead of us), we treated ourselves to afternoon ice cream and then dinner at the Whiptail Grill in Springdale, the town just outside the park. The chicken enchiladas with chile verde sauce are a must-order!

Day Three we headed on our next adventure, toward Escalante, which afforded us a great opportunity to see the rest of Zion National Park with a drive on the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway. While you can’t drive up the main canyon, you can drive on this part, and the road takes you through a long tunnel and then out onto a dramatically different landscape that looks a lot more desert. Then it was off to Escalante for slot canyons and backpacking… which I’ll tell you all about in Part Two of this adventure.

The Tahoe Mountain Sports Adventure of the Week blog series takes a walk, hike, bike, or Zion National Park hike in someone else’s shoes, from pro athletes to local Tahoe adventurers. Let us know if you’ve got an adventure to share.

Lole Twist Tank Top
Lole Twist Tank Top
MSRP: $49.95
MSR Stainless Steel Camp Mug
MSR Stainless Steel Camp Mug
MSRP: $14.95
Leatherman Juice Pocket Knife
Leatherman Juice Pocket Knife
MSRP: $84.95


How we’re training for Denali: from Tahoe to Kansas

Friday, May 4th, 2012

Brad Miller and Clay Kimmi of Adventures for Action set out this May to climb the West Buttress of Denali (Mt. McKinley) to raise awareness and funds for the International Health Partners of the United States and Tanzania (IHP-TZ). This blog post is the second in a series Brad and Clay are writing for Tahoe Mountain Sports, who is helping to gear them up for Denali. Brad mused on the difficulty of big mountain training and inspiration from his brother in his last post.

Training for a big mountain is a funny thing.  Oftentimes people who have their sights set on a far away peak don’t live anywhere near the mountains.  Those of us who are lucky enough to reside in a mountainous domain are still challenged by the fact that the mountains we live near are usually much shorter that whatever goal we have in mind.  Clay and I have found ourselves in both of these situations and it has made for an interesting 9 months of training. I live in Tahoe, which is a great area if you are in training for a mountain goal.  Although the peaks top out around 10k feet, the plethora of mountains means I have plenty to keep me busy. Clay on the other hand lives in eastern Kansas, where the hills roll and the mountains are but a distant memory.  He has had to adapt his training regiment to suit his surroundings and busier life.  Here, in our own words, is how we manage training for mountain climbing with and without mountains.


I have always subscribed to the sport-specific method of training; the best training for a sport is to play the sport itself.  Of course, I cannot go climb Denali all year, but expedition climbing a big mountain (as opposed to light and fast alpine style) is all about carrying lots of gear, and Tahoe affords me ample opportunity to prepare myself for really heavy loads.  Having so many peaks out there helps me have lots of fun peak-bagging and seeing new places, and helps stave off the inevitable boredom that training eventually educes.

During the summer months I found myself hiking on dry dusty trails up to the many close summits that surround Tahoe.  My two favorite trails for weight training became the “direct” approach to Pyramid Peak and the Ralston Peak trail.  The Pyramid trail is a steep 4000-foot climb over a short 3.5–4 miles.  This allows for a really tough day that can be completed relatively quickly.  The trail offers spectacular views of Lovers Leap to the south and is the perfect outing for anyone who wants a stiff challenge.

The Ralston Peak trail starts higher and is thus shorter.  It is also less steep, more scenic, is a little closer to Meyers, which all together provides a shorter day.  It is also, in my opinion, the best-kept secret in Tahoe day hikes.  Although no one ever talks about Ralston except to backcountry ski, this peak overlooks Echo and Aloha lakes and rewards hikers with some of the most magnificent views that Tahoe has to offer.

Besides being a climber that was in descent physical shape to begin with, I began my Denali training 9 months ago in the summer of 2011.  I stayed pretty casual about it but tried to get out at least once a week for a steep day hike.  I began with a 40 lb pack and eventually worked my way up to 60 on the trail.  Because Tahoe did not produce a heavy winter this year, I stayed in trail hiking mode for many months, gradually increasing weight, distance and height.

Along with hiking I continued body weight strength training; pushups, climbing hangboard and pilates to build and maintain overall strength.  I do not lift heavy weights, in part because as a climber I avoid adding mass, but mainly because I do not have access to a gym with weight lifting equipment.  I also began running, which I hate, but I find running important as it adds an aspect of high-output cardio that helps me maintain a lower working heart rate while on a mountain.  Running is also a great way to get a quick workout when you are pressed for time or can’t get out for a long day.  I began with jogging a mile or two and worked my way up to five, where I capped my distance runs.  In the 3 months prior to departure I added interval training, starting slow and working up to one hour of intervals at 45 seconds of fast running and 75 seconds of walking for recovery.  Interval training is great and I like it much more than distance running.  It is a fantastic cardio workout, can be done on a bike, is a great way to burn fat if needed and is a good way to change things up to add variety to your workouts.

When it finally snowed in Tahoe I switched my regiment to more specific activities.  On Denali we will be traveling on skis and pulling a heavy sled along with carrying a pack.  Fountain Place Road, one of Tahoe’s service roads offers a great “day one” simulation in that it rises 1500 feet over 4.5 miles (a little taller than base camp to camp one on Denali.  In times of good snow coverage, I skinned up Fountain Place road, carrying my pack and pulling a sled.  Once on top I could dump weight and ski down the road creating a realistic gear cache scenario and a shorter day out than just hiking.  This not only allowed me to gain sport-specific strength and experience what working day to day will feel like, it also allowed me to test my gear and dial in my sled system.  Again, I gradually added weight until I was able to carry a 65 lb pack and pull a 70 lb sled, hopefully 20 or more lbs beyond what I will haul on the mountain.

As the weather has turned warmer I have heard the climbing-sirens’ irresistible call and have spent more time on the rock, which is probably not the best choice but keeps me sane and physically strong.  I have also hit the road more, putting in long rides on my cyclocross bike.  With little lake level snow I have abandoned the sled and mainly run and ride for my cardio workouts, but I do so knowing I can now handle the weight and feel that if I hit the mountain tomorrow I am ready for the challenge.   Tahoe has helped me prepare well.


Oh my goodness, I miss the mountains!  When I graduated from the University of Kansas in the winter of 2005, my stint in the flatlands was done.  I KNEW that I would never again be subjected to the unrelenting monotony of the Great Plains.  I gratefully migrated upstream to the rugged, majestic beauty of the mountains.  Love at first hike!  Rolling amazing terrain to hike, bike, run, climb, snow slide and swing ice tools… everything that I had longed for in the days of my youth in Kansas City.  The mountain lifestyle got in my blood and, as with many of our ilk, became my lifestyle.  My days of laziness and inactivity were a thing of the past!  I found myself getting cranky if I was not out pushing myself mentally on the sharp end or post holing at altitude with the dogs “helping” to break trail.  Training was never really on my mind, but the daily hike, climb or ride became the norm.  I found grace in the seasonal migrations, following the snow uphill toward Summit County, CO, and then sliding with the melting snow down to the Left Coast for summer gardening and High Sierra playing.  The grace of my waste vegetable oil–powered suburban and dumpster-diving for food made the free flow quite literal.

Ahh the days of yore…. writing about them brings a big ‘ol smile and loads of gratitude for that lifestyle.  Training was not something that ever crossed my mind.  Daily, I would scratch whatever itch popped up and stay in darn good shape in the process.  Alas, change is the only constant in life, and a wedding in October of 2011 lured me back to Kansas City.  I had a blast welcoming a new cousin-in-law to the family, and a 10-year reunion two weeks later seemed like a good way to wait for the snow to start falling in the high country.  Well, there must be something about the combination of family, friends and loads of connections that can spring the trap of opportunity.  I got snagged, hook, line and sinker, and found myself teetering on the edge of moving back to the flatlands.  Fortunately, a climb of Rainier at the end of September 2011 with great friends led to a promising opportunity of another sort – a trip back to Alaska.

So, this past fall, I found myself with one of the most challenging decisions I have made in a long time: leave the mountains where I had found my bliss playing in the hills, connection to the Creator and a groovy seasonal lifestyle, or return to the flatlands to pursue exciting new opportunities and create a more sustainable future in community with family and friends.  Hello conundrum!  After loads of wrestling with pros and cons, ups and downs, ins and outs, the return to the homeland won.  BUT, the caveat was that I had something BIG to look forward to – a trip to attempt Denali.  I realized that this meant a huge change in my lets go play out the back door in the mountains mentality, to getting psyched up to train with a heavy pack running up stairs over and over.  I love challenges, and generally thrive when they are presented.  However, the abrupt and somewhat rude transition from earning my turns at 13,000’ after work to dripping sweat in a poorly lit stairwell in a tall building in Kansas City, Missouri, was, well, shocking.

I found that the surreptitious access to a hotel stairwell had replaced ducking ropes for powder turns; 330’ at a time with an elevator descent had replaced my hike off of 6 chair to Snow White Chutes at 12,000’ and descending with graceful turns down to the chairlift for another lap.  Every week as I add another gallon of water to my pack or push for another lap in the dingy stairwell, I am motivated by the slopes of the Great One.  It is a change to say the least.  The miracle of the interweb continues to provide a constant level of motivation.  Videos, blogs and trip reports all help to keep me motivated, knowing that others are out there getting the goods in the alpine realm.  Regular trips also help keep the stoked meter up.  An annual trip to Red Rocks in Vegas provided an opportunity to pack in some serious climbing.  A return to Colorado to collect gear and dial in my ski/skin setup allowed me to solo some ice and grab some turns for sanity’s sake.  Most recently, a trip to New England allowed for the first time exploration of the Gunks and Northern New England.  Variety is a spice that I love, and it has certainly helped with the transition in both living location and training.

Finding ways to stay motivated with little to no vertical relief is far and away the most challenging part of living in Kansas City.  The land that I had been caretaking in the San Luis Valley, CO, has an unbelievable view of the Sangre De Cristo mountains – 6000’ of vertical from valley floor to the summits of the Crestone Group of 14’ers.  I placed my hangboard to maximize that view, and each session my inspiration and motivation came from the majesty before me.  I went from that view to 33 lonely flights of stairs in a dark stairwell.  Lets get psyched!  I have never been a gym person and the idea of spending federal dollar notes to go sweat with suburbanites makes me want to puke.  Time to reinvent and revamp the daily routine!  I have found myself doing things that in the past I thought were crazy.  However, necessity is the mother of invention, so the knobby tires came off the bike and slicks went on, the harness went into storage and the running shoes were found.  No skis, snowboard or ice axes to play with this year – they were left for a lonely winter in a barn.  I had gallon water bottles, ankle weights and a heart monitor to play with this winter.  Learning intimately about interval training, hill repeats, periodization, nutrition are all part of the arduous and sweaty process.  I have managed to find ways that I feel actually simulate some of the motions that will be encountered on the mountain.  I spent a week shoveling, wheelbarrowing and raking more than 200 cubic feet of compost on a suburban permaculture project.  If pushing 6 cubic yards of compost in a wheelbarrow through mud is anything like pulling a sled on a glacier than I am feeling pretty ready for this!

In the past several months, I have carried heavier loads, ran and ridden longer distances and durations than I ever thought possible.  Pushing my body to the edge of its capability in new ways has proven to be an interesting and delightfully surprisingly change from simply playing.  The necessity of changing both my mentality and mode of training has helped me to change my view on exercise.  I am aware of the importance of daily physical activity on a deeper level.  Living in Colorado, being active literally came with the terrain.  Living in Kansas, exercise has become a necessity for sanity, yet one that does not come without motivation.  Finding that motivation daily to go out and push myself is one that I still am challenged with. Fortunately the dangling carrot of Denali gets me stoked!


Tips for big mountain training

1. Form a training log.  Google docs is a great way to share what you and your partners are doing and helps keep you honest.

2. Carry water or other eject-able ballast.  Water is heavy and allows you to dump your load at the summit to save your knees on the descent.  Rocks can be used if you don’t want to waste water but water allows you to really fine tune your pack weight and increase by small amounts.  You can also be a Trail Angel; more than once I have filled up the canteens of hikers who misjudged their water needs.

3. Use trekking poles.  For a long time I thought trekking poles were lame.  That all changed when I started packing really heavy.  Poles help reduce knee strain and have saved me from terrific falls many times.

4. Variety is key.  When training over the course of many months, it is easy to get disheartened and bored.  Do many different activities to keep your spirits up and mind fresh.

5. Utilize rest and recovery.  Remember, you build muscle during recovery, not activity.  Find the right number of days a week you need for rest and recovery and stick to them.  Occasionally take longer breaks off to go on a trip and mentally recover. Fuel yourself with healthy, nutritious food.

6. Dial your system.  Use training days to test gear and figure out your systems, allowing you to hit the mountain ready to climb.

7. Find a partner.  If you can’t train with your climbing partner, find someone else who will motivate you to work out with.

8. Take a few training runs up other mountains.  Meet with your partners to check each other out while having fun.  Practice skills and make sure everyone is up to date, fresh and has good group chemistry.

9. Take skills training if needed.  Some skills are better learned from instructors.  Avalanche avoidance/rescue and glacier travel and crevasse rescue fall under that heading.  Make sure you have the skills to rescue yourself and others, regardless if you are using a guide service.

If you have any big mountain training or Denali training tips specifically, share them with us in the comments. [Denali photo by bdearth/flickr]

Tioga Pass Opening Weekend – April 2012

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

This Adventure of the Week comes from TMS owner, Dave, who ventured down to the Eastern Sierra to salvage this crazy, low-snow season for some high elevation, alpine fun!

Who: Dave, Andy from Sierra Descents, Zach, Sara and Molly the dog

What: Backcountry spring skiing

Where: Tioga Pass Road, the Eastern Gateway to Yosemite National Park

Gear: Deuter Guide 45 Pack, Black Diamond crampons and ice axe, Sol Sunscreen, Mammut Gobi Hat and so much more……..

Caltrans doesn’t take a big liking to skiers I don’t think, but when fishing season is due to open, you can rest assured that means most of the roads on the Eastern Sierra are going to try and open. And luck just has it that every year, the fishing opener coincides with some of the best spring skiing the country has to offer. Yup, right in our own backyard, the Eastern Sierra is a spring skiing mecca, and when the roads open up to 9,000 ft+, you can’t really go wrong.

View of False White from the parking area on Hwy 120

View of False White from the parking area on Hwy 120

Being a horrible snow year in this part of the Sierra, we were quickly turned around from a lower route on Mt. Koip due to miles of hiking that would have had to be done on dirt, and instead opted for the snow start and end. We parked at the intersection of Saddlebag Lake Rd and Hwy 120 both days. False White is a pretty easy and straightforward 2.5–3 hour climb from this parking area. Saturday was super warm with almost no wind, so we opted to explore a bit as the regular descent (southeast face) was a bit mushy already. Instead, we headed to this notch we spotted that would drop us on the north side into the Skeleton Lakes Basin.

The shoulder on False White by which we accessed the North Bowls

The shoulder on False White by which we accessed the North Bowls

This proved to be a great choice as the skiing stayed wintery over there and gave us an extra long tour to get out. We were still off the snow by 2pm as the warming was getting extreme and the snow was turning quickly. Our views and ideas just as quickly turned to Sunday and the idea to bag one of the couloirs on Mt. Conness.

For Sunday, Andy from Sierra Descents and Sara (Zach’s wife) met up with us for what was sure to be an epic. I had never traveled in the winter back to Saddlebag Lake and Conness in particular so I was extremely excited to see this new terrain and ski some of the best stuff we could find.  We started at 6:30am to ensure the midday heat would not be as much of a problem as it was on Saturday and headed out towards Saddlebag Lake. Once rounding Saddlebag, getting overtaken by some super fast and crazy backcountry Nordic skiers (see this photo album), we pushed on to the Conness Glacier and eventually the Y-couloirs on another route to the ridge.

The Conness Basin as seen once rounding Saddlebag Lake

The Conness Basin as seen once rounding Saddlebag Lake

It took about 4ish hours to reach the base of the Y-Couloirs and based on the look of them and the possible bergshrunds that we could see in the shorter, Summit Couloirs, we decided this was the way to go. Crampons and axes out, we headed up. Andy lead the first half and then I took over for the second on some pretty steep and exposed terrain; we sure were happy to have those crampons on. After about an hour in the chute, we pulled up and over and were on the ridge with a view out into the rest of the Sierra that can’t be beat.

Sierra PanoramicThe snow in the chute was perfect, edgeable and carveable with even a little pow thrown in for fun. And then, the way out was just perfect soft, corn snow and we were able to kick and glide our way back to the car without donning skins again. This video from Andy at Sierra Descents pretty much sums it up. Can’t wait to get out there again!

See the rest of the pictures from this Tioga Pass skiing trip on our Facebook Album.

Black Diamond Raven Ultra Ice Axe
Black Diamond Raven Ultra Ice Axe
MSRP: $109.95

The Tahoe Mountain Sports Adventure of the Week blog series takes a walk, hike, bike, or Eastern Sierra backcountry ski trip in someone else’s shoes, from pro athletes to local Tahoe adventurers. Let us know if you’ve got an adventure to share.

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