Taking the climbing photography clinic last month at the Red Rock Rendezvous (and my unsuccessful attempt to win the Rock and Ice photo camp contest) has reignited my passion and interest in photography–along with the spectacular scenery I’ve been seeing. I’ve been doing more reading and research, picked up more photography accessories, and purchased Adobe Lightroom (another ouch cost).
So in a page ripped directly from fellow outdoor blogger Wilderness Dave and his excellent Photograph of the Week series (definitely check those out), I thought I might start a new semi-regular series of blog posts about the exploration of outdoor photography. I intend to discuss process and the behind the scenes elements which will serve first and foremost as a means to document what I have learned from both a composition, color, and light perspective, as well as an exploration of learning Adobe Lightroom–it’s a totally new and unfamiliar program to me. Read More
I had hoped to take off from Ouray early Thursday morning, initially, but I had to stick around through the late afternoon to see the doctor and see whether I could get my stitches removed or not. She would do it for free versus having to pay another doctor somewhere to remove them if it wasn’t ready. Problem was I was supposed to be in Sierra Vista, Arizona to see my relatives by Sunday, so my time “exploring” New Mexico was slightly constrained.
I did indeed get my stitches out, thankfully. If you ever need stitches, don’t hesitate to see Dr. Shirley Olson at Ouray Family Medicine on the north side of town. She was great. I also had to pay a lousy traffic ticket before leaving town–don’t ever pass on the left in town! Even if the car ahead of you is virtually stopped in the middle of the road… As the officer pulled me over, the driver who caused the problem even hollared to the cop “Sorry, that was my fault!” But of course he still gave me a $100 dollar ticket. My last days in Ouray weren’t exactly the highlight of my stay. Read More
Before this season in Ouray, I had gone from climbing ice on just a handful of occasions (maybe around 15 days total), to climbing ice five or six times a week over the course of six or seven weeks. I was typically climbing about 3 days on, one day off, or some variation of that rotation. I was able to climb every single day that I wanted to climb, there were always partners to be had and people to climb with in Ouray. No problems there. I most definitely improved my technique over that period (one should hope, right?), and started getting into leading easier grades (WI3). So overall I thought my time there was a resounding success. Tons of climbing, seeing improvements in technique, new friends, fun times, and no injuries! Read More
I decided to do a double down with ice instruction, so to speak, and after my 1:1 course with Mark Miller where we dialed in technique on the steep stuff, I then followed it up with San Juan Mountain Guide’s 4-day Leader’s Seminar, which also was with Mark Miller. A total of seven days over two weeks with the foremost ice climbing instructor in all of Ouray? It doesn’t get much better than that.
Up until this point in Ouray I had only led a couple pitches of easy WI2 ice. I’ve always been a little timid when it comes to hoping on the sharp end, what can I say? It’s something that I wanted to work on (and which I continue to work through). I thought this course specifically focused on leading ice would be a good way to boost my competence and confidence. Read More
I’ve been in Las Vegas for about a week now and while I haven’t been doing as much climbing here as I would like, I have been busy trying to play catch up with the blog. And since I’ve been spending so much time in Starbucks using the internet, writing new blog posts, and working on photos, I created the above image as a little reminder to myself what’s important…
Life is too short to watch it pass by from a desk…
I hope it resonates with you as much as it does with me–if you’d like to share the above photo with your Facebook friends, CLICK HERE, or to Tweet the quote and image to your followers, CLICK HERE. It was with that mantra that I started this whole Desk to Dirtbag trip, so I better get outside myself a little more! Read More
“Get me a Korean … any Korean!” That was the eye-catching title of an old article from Reuters that I recently stumbled across. It’s about the world of Olympics archery coaching…
“First they spend months learning the proper stance. Then it’s months learning to raise one arm, then both arms for a couple of months.” Rabska said South Korean archery students continued to practice the most basic elements until they had perfected the technique and bio-mechanics “Those kids have six months intensive training before they shoot their first arrow.” The approach in the West is much more direct. And much less successful.
“You know, practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes permanent. The more you practice the wrong things, the more you lay on the hard drive and the harder it is to get rid of it.” Read More
I continued climbing with members of the Potomac Mountain Club who were in town for their annual trip to the Ouray Ice Park. All in all, there might have been about 10 people who came through from the club. It was good to see some old familiar faces, as well as meet a few that I hadn’t seen before. We continued climbing throughout different areas of the park, and exploring a few areas I had yet to spend much time in, like the Trestle area and the Grad School area. The Grad School is a fun area that, while limited in the number of routes, offers up some of the longer routes in the park–forcing you to lower in and belay from above, like the Upper Bridge area, though they much more moderate in nature, thankfully. Read More
As a born and raised Pacific Northwesterner, I really appreciate a good cup of coffee to get me going in the morning. I love the smell, taste, and ritual of drinking a great cup of black coffee; the morning caffeine jolt is an obvious benefit, but so too perhaps are the other purported health benefits of coffee consumption. So what’s an avid coffee consumer to do when they’re out in the wilds, far from their favorite barista?
There are a myriad of camping coffee makers on the market that enable you to brew in the frontcountry and/or backcountry, from portable french presses, to white gas powered drip coffeemakers, to percolators, to various instant coffee variations, and many, many more options… Some are super heavy, some are ultralight friendly, some are more convoluted to use, or a hassle to clean. So how does one go about making the World’s Best Cup of Coffee while not only considering the ease of use and cleanup, but also the simplicity that most of us seek while out in nature? Read More
I bought the NW Alpine Black Spider Light Hoody back in September 2011, and have gotten quite a bit of use out of it, depending on the season and conditions. I consider it a great baselayer+, by which I mean I almost always wear an Icebreaker 150 t-shirt as my baselayer of choice, but in cool to cold conditions I will pair it with the NW Alpine Black Spider Light Hoody on top to act as a combo baselayer.
The NW Alpine Black Spider Light Hoody is made of a light microgrid fleece that has an athletic, form-fitting cut. The design is simple and clean, with a good balance of desirable features, while not including anything extraneous. The size medium garment weighs in at 10 oz, according to manufacturer specifications. The Black Spider Light Hoody retails for $110 directly from NW Alpine. Read More
After almost two full months of living, climbing, and playing in Ouray, I’ve realized you can’t sustain climbing day after day after day indefinitely. You’ll need to incorporate periodic rest days (at least I do!). So what is there to do in and around Ouray in the winter when you aren’t climbing? Turns out there are quite a few options for Ouray rest day activities, particularly so if you have access to a vehicle. Read More
After Sameer’s departure, I continued climbing with Justin and Jason–the early arrivals from the DC group. Tuesday morning we just happened to connect with John and Jim from Salt Lake City when we were all climbing around one another in the School Room in the Ice Park. They let us in on their plan to get on some backcountry, multipitch ice the following day at Dexter Creek Slabs, and they kindly invited us all along to join them. Very cool! We jumped on the opportunity to tag along with some folks who knew the route (they had climbed it in previous seasons).
Dexter Creek Slabs is a 2-4 pitch, WI3-4 climb located a few minutes north of Ouray. It is situated pretty spectacularly, high on the hillside with commanding views over the valley below. The climb was a lot of fun, and one that I would wholeheartedly recommend. We rendezvoused early Wednesday morning (January 23, 2013) and caravanned up to the trailhead. You head north out of town approximately two miles before turning right up Dexter Creek Road (County Road 14) and following it up the hill. It was a low snowfall time when we did it, so the gate that sometimes restricts driving access to the upper portion of the road was not a problem. We drove up to the big switchback with a small pull off parking lot which can hold maybe 4 cars or so (see the map below for clarification). Read More
Following the Ouray Ice Festival the crowds disappeared, though the bitter cold remained. This weather was beginning to feel more reminiscent of the screaming barfies inducing New Hampshire ice climbing scene. This 30+ degree F climbing and easy accessibility of the Ice Park had been making me soft! Well, at least I could finally use some more of my toe warmers (I’ve got two boxes of the things, after all).
I met up with Colin again, late on Monday morning, for his last day in the Ouray area. We started the morning by exploring some of the steeper routes in the Five Fingers area of of the park, located just downstream of the Lower Bridge. The anchors in this area are all rigged with long, single chains that stretch across the road–you can then attach a cordelette or two to the individual links (best practice is to attach to two separate links on one chain, ie one higher up and one lower down). Everything was pretty beat out from the Ice Festival, unfortunately, “Hooks-n-Ladders Heroes”. Read More
I officially departed on my Epic Dirtbag Adventure on Saturday, January 5th for the long drive down to Ouray, Colorado. I blasted through Washington State into the eastern corner of Oregon and on to Boise, Idaho on day one. I had my first Wal-Mart parking lot camping experience at the 24-hour store on the east side of the city. It was a chilly 12 degrees, but sleeping in my truck bed under the canopy was slightly warmer. It was a little strange sleeping in such an urban environment and it took me a little while to get to sleep. Once I did, all was well though! In the morning there was a bunch of iced-over condensation covering the interior windows of my canopy. One nice thing about sleeping in Wal-Mart parking lots is you can just wander into the store when you wake up and pick up some breakfast.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with climbing guide Kel Rossiter of Adventure Spirit Rock+Ice+Alpine Experiences about the world of climbing, adventure, and what it can teach us about life in general. I’ve had the pleasure of climbing with Kel on a handful of occasions–a couple times up in New Hampshire seeking out ice, and most recently back in Washington State on the Torment-Forbidden Traverse. Kel is an excellent guide and an all around great guy, as well, and I’ve particularly enjoyed his approach to guiding and instructing clients (which is why I keep climbing with him!). Read on for some profound insights about the nature of climbing, how the public’s perception of successful climbers shapes climbing, the benefits of climbing with a guide, and much more!
Well, another year is over, and thankfully the Mayan Apocalypse didn’t happen! That would’ve really messed up my climbing plans for this year. On the surface 2012 was a year pretty much like the past few years, but behind the scenes it was a year where some major changes were transpiring. Chief among them being the realization in March that I would no longer have a job at the end of the year. Big changes, indeed! Here’s a wrap up of my outdoorsy experiences in 2012, as well as a behind the scenes look at Desk to Dirtbag, how many visitors I’ve received, and what things have helped it’s modest growth.