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About Lis

I'm Tahoe Mountain Sports' web editor and a 6-year Tahoe resident. Yep, I live the life, with a lake view from my desk, lunch breaks on the beach with my dog, and morning powder runs when the snow's good. I ski, snowboard, skate ski, and cross-country ski in winter, and hike, mountain bike, backpack, and lay around on Tahoe's beaches in summer.

+Lis Korb

Posts by Lis:

New Year’s Eve Tahoe Style – The Outdoors Guide

Friday, December 28th, 2012

This timely post comes from Lis Korb, Tahoe Mountain Sports’ previous Web Content Manager turned Adventure Traveler Extraordinaire. Lis doesn’t dilly dally when it comes to making the most of her day, as you can see by her following suggestions for a healthier New Year’s Eve spent outdoors.

Forget crowded bars, sweaty dance floors and TV screens broadcasting shiny dropping balls… this New Year’s Eve do something active or outside to really set 2013 off on the right path. Here are my top five picks for the Tahoe area. Don’t live here? Use these ideas as jump-off points to create your own adventure.

1) YOGA w/ a DJ This event is on my agenda for the last night of 2012! I’m going to sweat it out in a rocking flow class set to live DJ music at Tahoe Yoga Institute in Tahoe City.


2) FULL(ISH) MOON SNOWSHOE OR SKI The moon will be just past full, so there will be plenty of light for some nighttime outdoor fun. Find the nearest meadow or overlook and tromp or ski there. Bring a thermos w/ a hot toddy and you’re set! For those cold weather drinks I recommend a double-walled, insulated stainless steel bottle like a Hydroflask, which keeps hot liquids hot and cold liquids cold.

3) WATCH FIREWORKS AT SQUAW OR NORTHSTAR Fireworks go off at 9 p.m. at both resorts. It will be a pretty cool site as fireworks reflect off the snow. Night skiing at Squaw Valley is closed for the night, but you could stroll around the village and hang around the fire pits for warmth. The Northstar Village also has awesome s’more kits available, which make for a fun family treat or a romantic snack around the fire.

4) BUILD AN EPIC SNOW FORTRESS & BONFIRE With all this newly fallen snow, this is prime-time for backyard sculpting. Dig out a pit for a well-managed fire. Around it, carve out of the snow a circular bench for your guests to sit on. If you want to get crazy, build an igloo for the kids to play in, a luge course for sledding or a rail to practice freestyle tricks on. Warm winter boots like the Chilkat II are insulated, hike well and have great traction on the soles. My girlfriends and I love these boots for any outdoor winter activity.

5) PARTY OUTSIDE AT THE SNOWGLOBE FESTIVAL This outdoor winter festival in South Lake Tahoe is one of a kind. The lineup this year includes Deadmau5, Wiz Khalifa, Beats Antique, Big Gigantic, Laidback Luke, MiMosa, Madeon, Polica, Flosstradamus, Minnesota, and many more, with Gramatik and Chromeo headlining on New Year’s Eve. The Snowglobe main stage is completely outdoors (some stages are under tents) so you will have to party in your puffy. How fun would this be if snow were falling?!

full moon skiing

A full moon provides great light for outdoor adventures.




Happy Llamas Come From California: Potato Ranch Llama Packers

Monday, September 24th, 2012

Lis Korb is Tahoe Mountain Sports’ previous Web Content Manager turned Adventure Traveler Extraordinaire. This week her “wildcard” prose comes from Sonora, California, where she briefly touched down to hang with some awesome, luminous llamas.

WHO: Lis and friends

WHAT: A visit to Potato Ranch Llama Packers

WHERE: Sonora, California

WHEN: August 2012

GEAR: BigTruck trucker hat, Sol sunblock, La Sportiva Boulder X shoes

I had a dream. I knew it was an unrealistic fantasy. Llamas spit. They are dirty. Llamas would probably be like cows, uninteractive and oblivious to my charms. But when I made my dream a reality, it far surpassed all my expectations.  The llamas at Potato Ranch Llama Packers in Sonora, California, are friendly. They didn’t spit, or kick, or care less. In fact they cared a little too much! They were so friendly and in our faces that I had to wipe my face of llama kisses. And the best part? These charming animals can be your trail companion. Hiking with llamas, you can go further without resupplying, you can bring the whole family without mom or dad bearing too much of a load, and you can hike despite a disability or illness that impairs your strength to carry a large pack. Just imagine the possibilities if a llama could help you carry in your heavy climbing rack or photography equipment.

Potato Ranch Llama Packers is a 28-llama, 5-acre ranch located in Sonora, California, at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Owner Greg Harford offers more than 26 years of llama packing experience, and his operation is the only Northern California outfitter renting trained pack llamas. From his ranch, short drives give you access to the John Muir Trail (JMT) — where the llamas are pictured in the above photo, the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT), Tahoe Yosemite Trail (TYT), Emigrant Wilderness and more. I think that with Potato Ranch being my first llama experience, I’m a bit sheltered to the “real” world of llama packing – Greg’s llamas are so well trained and friendly. Especially a couple of the males, which were very eager for attention.

I can’t recommend the experience more. I only visited the ranch for training purposes, and took llama superstar Quicksilver out for a short walk. I plan to return to rent the llamas for a backpacking trip soon.

Llama rentals through Potato Ranch cost $50 per llama, per day. They can carry 60 pounds each. You must rent two llamas as they need a companion. Have you ever been hiking with llamas? Tell us about it in the “Reply” box below!

Sol Sunguard Altitude SPF 40 Sunscreen
Sol Sunguard Altitude SPF 40 Sunscreen
MSRP: $6.69-14.95
La Sportiva Boulder X
La Sportiva Boulder X
MSRP: $104.95
BigTruck The Dome Hat
BigTruck The Dome Hat
MSRP: $27.95

Lole Meetup at TMS – Beach Ultimate Frisbee Friday Sept 28

Friday, September 21st, 2012


Kings Beach main beach, across from Tahoe Mountain Sports

Friday September 28, 4:30 to 7:30 pm

Tahoe’s very own women’s ultimate frisbee team (co-captained by Lolë ambassador Lis Korb) is hosting a Lolë meetup this month!  Join them for a game of beach ultimate frisbee on the sand across from Tahoe Mountain Sports‘ Kings Beach shop, and get a peek at the latest from Lolë. No ultimate frisbee experience or throwing skills needed. Just show up and we’ll show you the ropes!

Lolë, the Montreal-based women’s activewear brand, is the perfect partner for athletic pursuits, with technical fabrics and a smart and stylish design. See Lolë clothes in action, learn about ultimate frisbee and walk away with some special gifts.

Tahoe Mountain Sports will offer a free gift with purchases over $75 and 15% off all Lolë clothing before, during and after the event. Tahoe ladies, tell your friends you’re going on Lolë’s Facebook event page. See you on the sand!

For more info on Tahoe ultimate frisbee, visit Truckee Ultimate and Reno Ultimate.

Tahoe’s Ultimate Frisbee Tournament: Lay Out Sky Dive

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

WHO: Lis and 5 team-worths of ultimate players

WHAT: Lay Out Sky Dive Hat Tournament

WHERE: Tahoe City’s North Lake Tahoe High and Pomin fields

WHEN: June 16, 2012

GEAR: Lole Movement shorts, water bottle, Patagonia cap 1 jerseys

Last weekend Tahoe’s ultimate frisbee community had a rare treat: a tournament in our own backyard! Organized by Tahoe local and UNR student Morgan Paulson, Lay Out Sky Dive is an annual hat tournament, which means players sign up individually and are placed on a team according to their skill/athletic level. Hat tournament teams tend to be pretty equal in skill with beginners and advanced players spread among the teams, so it makes for some fun play.

I got lucky and was placed on a particularly skilled team that went 4-1 for the day, winning the finals round in the end. Here we are pictured on the line below about to “pull” to our opponents (I’m hands on knees at far right). Our fans (er, hecklers) are on the sideline enjoying the finals BBQ while we sweated in out in a heated battle for the title.

This is a must-play event for any ultimate fan. The finals take place at Pomin field at Lake Forest, which affords a dip in the lake after playing. Doesn’t get much better than that!

Lole Movement Shorts
Lole Movement Shorts
MSRP: $59.95
Nalgene Tritan OTG Bottle
Nalgene Tritan OTG Bottle
MSRP: $8.95
SmartWool Microweight Tee
SmartWool Microweight Tee
MSRP: $59.95


The North Face Shoe Modeling – Spring 2013

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

The North Face came to Tahoe last month to train its team on the Spring 2013 line. Turns out they needed a pair of feet to model some shoes and mine were just the right size! I showed up at the Resort at Squaw Creek not sure what to expect and in an hour found myself strutting a catwalk (images 2 and 5 above) with 3 other Tahoe locals. The place was crawling with TNF employees and gear. Even the lobby’s hallways were not spared, with the latest tents popped up on display (image 6).

While they dressed us up in full North Face clothing, our feet were the focus. You can see the impressive lineup of shoes in image 4 above and just how big our feet got on the giant screens to show the audience closeups of the shoes (image 1). I had to quickly change into some 15 pairs of shoes, with clothes changes thrown in there as well.

It was hard to keep track of all the shoes I tried on, but there were some standouts, including the cool retro Back to Berkeley hiking line (hightop pair shown in image 3), the new design of the Base Camp ballet flats, and the new North Face water sandals (image 7) that feature ultra lightweight synthetic strapping versus the typical webbing you find on Chacos or Tevas.

I scored two pairs of Spring 2013 The North Face shoes to take home: a Back to Berkeley low-top hiker and a pair of ultralight running shoes. Love the colors on these!

The North Face Verto Approach Shoe
The North Face Verto Approach Shoe
MSRP: $109.95
The North Face El Rio Sandals
The North Face El Rio Sandals
MSRP: $54.95


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


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]

Black Diamond Orbit Lantern Review

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Ever since the Black Diamond Orbit Lantern hit TMS’s shelves, I had my eye on it. 4 compact inches, 45 lumens, a mere 3 ounces in weight… I had to have it. So buy it I did, right before a big camping/backpacking trip to Southern Utah. You can see the BD Orbit above in a photo I took of it in our tent set up down in Coyote Gulch, right by the impressive Jacob Hamblin arch, in Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument. This little lantern lived up to my expectations; here’s my Orbit lantern review:


The Black Diamond Orbit Lantern provides ample light for reading, lounging and searching for items in your tent at night. It really makes your tent feel more like a little home with that perfect amount of ambient lighting. We also used it when car camping in Zion National Park for additional camp kitchen light and the BD Orbit worked great for this. Sometimes the laser beam of your headlamp isn’t exactly flattering to your food, so the Orbit provides enough light to see but not too much concentrated directly on your plate. Its dimming ability is really a bonus. You can take it from a mellow 10 lumens up to 45 lumens. Using its minimum setting, the Orbit can last for 24 hours on one set of batteries! The collapsible hooks make it ultra easy to affix to the top of your tent or a branch, and the dimming button and extendable nature of the lantern make it mighty despite its small stature.

The only issues I found were: 1) It’s hard to read lying on your back as the Obit shines down on you making it a little hard on your eyes. Headlamps are better for back-readers. 2) The collapsible hooks are easy to open, which is good and bad. Bad when you’re in an ultralight/small backpacking tent and don’t have much space to move and thus knock it off. A way to remedy this would be to use a small caribiner in addition to the collapsible hooks BUT then this would put the lantern even lower so you’ll have to do this on a case-by-case basis. We’d need a extra small caribiner for our tiny tent. 3) It’s not the best camp kitchen light for backpacking since it needs to be hung/elevated to provide the best use of the light. If you happen to camp under a good tree, then it’d work great. We never had a spot that it could work in, especially because it was caterpillar season for Utah’s cottonwoods. I’m sure there are some clever ways to elevate it. When car camping we perched it up on a few items on a picnic table, but when backpacking, there just wasn’t enough cook space to warrant using it. Plus, we were in the tent by dark anyways so there was really no need!


The Orbit’s weight is hard to beat. 3 ounces w/o batteries, so it’s barely noticeable in your pack. I will definitely bring this lantern on any future trips.


Unlike Black Diamond Equipment headlamps, this little camp light doesn’t come equipped with batteries. So keep that in mind if you’re buying it on the go. Be sure to buy the four AAA batteries, or grab a Black Diamond rechargeable kit; the Orbit is compatible with the NRG2. Black Diamond Equipment does a great job with minimal packaging. Similar to buying an Apple product, you feel good with your purchase: very little packaging trash, easy to open (unlike those awful sealed plastic packages some brands use) and the lantern feels light and high quality in your hand.


At $29.95, it’s a bargain. This is a lantern that will last a lifetime so I highly recommend it for the price.


Me and my camping partner brought along the Black Diamond Storm and Spot headlamps. The Storm is waterproof and a bit more burly, which was good to have in our packs since we were hiking miles through a stream.

If you have a Black Diamond Orbit Lantern review of your own, let us know in the comments.

Black Diamond Orbit LED Lantern
Black Diamond Orbit LED Lantern
MSRP: $29.95
Black Diamond Storm Headlamp
Black Diamond Storm Headlamp
MSRP: $49.95
Black Diamond Spot Headlamp
Black Diamond Spot Headlamp
MSRP: $39.95


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