Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour Inspires Big Adventure

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Photo Credit: Still from the film “Sea of Rock,” touring with the 2013/14 Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour. Watch a preview here: http://www.banffcentre.ca/mountainfestival/worldtour/films/#sea_of_rock

Photo Credit: Still from the film “Sea of Rock,” touring with the 2013/14 Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour. Watch a preview here.

By Ryan Hayter

Since 1986, the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour has brought the outdoor culture’s most creative, inspiring and adrenaline-inducing stories to a global audience. Every year, the tour reaches about 400,000 fans in 40-plus countries reaching from Antarctica to Wales, who get to experience a taste of the world’s most remote destinations and daring adventures.

The North American leg of the tour started in November and has already traveled through more than 50 states, provinces and territories drawing in crowds from 100 or so in outposts like Sitka, Alaska, to thousands in Montreal, Denver and Salt Lake City. It runs through this October, with 30 more stops in the U.S. and Canada, plus more in Australia, Brazil, England, Italy, New Zealand, and Northern Ireland.

Photo from the film “Off-width Outlaw,” touring with the 2013/14 Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour. Photo Credit: Fredrick Marmsater

Photo from the film “Off-width Outlaw,” touring with the 2013/14 Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour. Photo Credit: Fredrick Marmsater

The benefits of the tour reach beyond its immediate audience. Much of its proceeds go to local outdoor programs, community causes, or non-profits such as youth adventure and outdoor pursuit programs; search and rescue operations; climbing clubs; adaptive sport programs; conservation groups; and trail maintenance organizations. Those benefactors are diverse, ranging from Texas State Parks to the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Wild. Read More →

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MSR HyperFlow™ Microfilter: Behind the Gear

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MSR Category Director Chris Barchet answers a few questions about the design and performance of the MSR HyperFlow microfilter.

Who was the HyperFlow microfilter engineered for and why?

Today’s outdoor adventurers are going faster and farther. They need solutions that increase their speed and efficiency in the mountains. So the design goals of the HyperFlow were very simple: It needed to be light and it needed to be fast. Most pump filters weigh about a pound and produce around 1 liter of water per minute. The HyperFlow comes in under 8 ounces and delivers 3 liters of clean water per minute. It’s the lightest and fastest pump available. We engineered it for anyone who needs a reliable supply of clean water on adventures where weight or speed is a priority.

What makes the HyperFlow design unique in the wide landscape of filters?

Beyond its ultralight design, it uses hollow fiber technology to deliver water 3 times faster than most other filters. Also, the Quick-Connect cap makes a fast connection to any widemouth bottle, making it very versatile.

What exactly is hollow fiber technology?

Hollow fiber was developed in the medical industry to separate particles in blood and other fluids. It’s effective for water filtration because the fibers’ pore sizes can be controlled to allow water to pass through but not harmful microbes.

The filter consists of a bundle of these fibers. Each fiber looks more like a straw, with a hollow center. The walls of the fibers have those microscopic pores. Water enters the fiber and the force of the pump pushes it through the pores. The harmful microbes and particulates are trapped inside the fibers until the filter is backflushed. Read More →

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First Tooth: The Pain and the Glory of New Routes in Indian Creek

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by Luke Mehall Photos by Braden Gunem

Perhaps more than any other climbing destination in the United States, Indian Creek will leave its mark on you. The stout, often painful cracks, rarely allow their suitors to escape without a cut, scrape, or bruise; proof of the struggle, a badge of glory to return home with. This battle often becomes addictive. After one returns from The Creek, he is either determined to never return again, or return as soon as possible. There’s a certain kind of magic is this masochistic pursuit.

The addiction now affects hundreds, maybe thousands of crack addicts. At first it was a small number; now they even come from all the way across the pond, Europeans, desperate to get a hit, a shot at crack climbing glory. And then there are the lifers, like us, just trying to find that same feeling and high, we experienced long ago. But like a true fiend, it takes much more than the original dosage to replicate those same sensations.

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I remember those first Indian Creek climbs: They defined the essence of struggle. Even Supercrack, with its wide hand jams, worked me to the maximum. One climb I tried in my early days, Binge and Purge, just right of the ever-popular Incredible Hand Crack, was the perfect metaphor for Indian Creek climbing. Read More →

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Off Belay: La Cueva del Aguila – Guatemala

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Exploration in a pure sense is an elusive quarry.  Men such as Shackleton , Cousteau, Norgay and Hillary picked some of the biggest and brightest fruits on the proverbial exploration tree in efforts that were hardly free from struggle or pain.  This begs the question: Does the twenty first century still offer new exploration for the willing and able to make their mark?

The answer is yes.  Enter rural Northern Guatemala and a pair of adventurers stocked with climbing gear on our way south to Patagonia.  With our faithful Land Cruiser taking a relentless beating, we made it to the town of Lanquin near the beautiful waterfalls of Semuc Champey.  One ridge from the town there is a village situated along a flowing, jade-hued river shrouded by thick jungle on either side. High above the twists of the river, the smoldering cooking fires of women and the chipping machetes of men, rises an enormous limestone rock face.  Reaching nearly 300 meters, the wall is framed in dense green vegetation and is threaded by industrious jungle vines descending from its pinnacle.  Approximately, three fifths up the cliff is the looming shadow of a beautiful, gaping cave pockmarking the rock face with personality and mystery. Read More →

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Anchor Replacement: For the Love of the Desert

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Mark and I were young college kids in search of gold in the Western Colorado red rock desert. Gold as a metaphor of course, but to us it was more valuable than gold: a first ascent, a chance to climb something that had never been done before.

We did our first-first ascent together the week before in Escalante Canyon, a haunted place that was the host to sheep wars in the Old West days, and is reminiscent of a scrappy, chossy version of Indian Creek.

Now, we were back, hungry for more. What we found was a climb called Oh Shit, well, that’s at least what we called it. Mark said, “Oh, shit” moments before taking a 30 foot headfirst whipper onto a red alien, landing just a few feet above the ground. After the whipper, he sent me up the perfect, but dirty dihedral, and I cleaned the crack off, aiding my way up and finally reaching the top of the line.

But, alas, despair, there was already an anchor. This was not a first ascent. Maybe a second ascent, but who cares about a second ascent? Worse yet the “anchor” was a small block wrapped with webbing that was older than we were. Reluctantly, we began our careers in anchor replacement, and placed a proper two-bolt anchor next to the sketchy relic from the 1970s. Read More →

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The Lunchroom: An Interview with Chris Parkhurst, MSR Vice President

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So what does one do as the VP of MSR?

Herd cats.

No, really, it’s about providing structure and guidance. We have a very talented team and my job is to make a platform for everyone to be successful. On the MSR team you have a really nice balance of engineering geeks, pure users and people who like to tinker. And you have very diverse backgrounds. They all have interesting perspectives of how a product should work. You get some hardcore engineering expertise and hardcore user knowledge, and I think when that comes together it can be pretty cool.

How did you get your start in the outdoor industry?

I got my start with K2 snowboarding. I joined them when they’d just started doing some sourcing overseas, so I did a lot of sourcing of snowboard boots and apparel. Then I was eventually national sales manager, then brand director. That was ‘97-2005. It was a great time to be in the winter sports industry—lots of energy, growth, and a desire to push the limits.

What drew you to MSR?

The history of the brand and what it stood for. It’s incredibly cool that you had an individual [Larry Penberthy] whose whole purpose was testing gear; his intent wasn’t even to manufacture gear at the time in 1969. He just wanted to improve the safety of others in the alpine climbing community, and what spawned from that was this notion of: I know what’s wrong, I know how to fix it and I’m going to create a better solution. To this day, these values are ingrained in MSR. Read More →

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MSR Backcountry Cafe: Building Your Backcountry Kitchen

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Story and photos by Laurel Miller

Even if you’re content to subsist primarily on reconstituted meals in the backcountry, there’s always room for improvement (it’s amazing what a dash of soy sauce or dollop of peanut butter can do, for example). If you genuinely enjoy the challenge of creating healthy, delicious fare while out in the back of beyond, having a well-stocked portable kitchen will serve you well.

The first consideration, of course, is keeping your kitchen kit lightweight and compact. I’m a fan of stashing things in labeled Tupperware containers, which necessitates organization and renders your supplies durable and (mostly) waterproof. If you’re going to be on the river or in a clime with high humidity or rainfall, stashing your kit in a dry bag is a good extra precautionary step.

Of course, you can buy handy kitchen kits with specialized camping utensils, so my advice is to purchase one, and then add to it. Why bother? Because, just as with a first-aid kit, you’ll want to personalize it to your needs.IMG_2781

The following are tips on storing, stashing, and stocking your backcountry kitchen. I’m not going to address cookware, as what you carry depends upon the type of trip, destination, and your personal preference/weight-bearing capabilities. Read More →

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Snowy Mountain Lodge & The Strait Couloir

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By Riley Leboe

The first week of February I met up with 3 Armada Skis teammates: JP Auclair, Ian Provo and Kalen Thorien, Salt Lake City-based photographer Jim Harris and Powderwhores Productions filmer Noah Howell for a weeklong ski touring trip to Snowy Mounain Alpine Tours. On assignment for Backcountry Magazine, we made the journey to Blue River, BC, Snowy Mountain’s Caribbo Range location.

Our guide for the week was Steve Ludwig, lodge owner and one of the most experienced guides in Canada. Steve has over 31 years of experience; with his knowledge of the area we had exactly the man to lead the group. Steve and partner Dana have poured their hearts into this lodge. They truly love ski touring, mountaineering, guiding and showing new groups around the terrain they call home. Steve’s insights, stories and history really made this more than just another ski touring trip.

Riley_Leboe_Snowy_Mountain_Group_Touring_1 Read More →

Off Belay: High-Altitude Mexico

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After nearly three weeks of sun and surf south of the border, we were itching for some elevation and knew just where to find it. To the surprise of many, North America’s third tallest peak does not lie in one of Alaska’s formidable ranges, but instead 250km to the west of Mexico City. Pico de Orizaba is a standalone volcano with a staggering amount of prominence. The mountain dominates the surrounding countryside, and simply needed to be climbed.

Our siege of the mountain began with a pitstop in the small town of Tlachichuca to gather supplies and a bit of beta from the reputable Señor Reyes, proprietor of Servimont, the classic European-style climber hostel in the heart of downtown. After collecting our intel, we embarked on a roller-coaster two-hour drive up to 14,001 feet where the Piedra Grande Refugio stands and our acclimatization process began.

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I would be lying if I said our acclimatization process was all day-hikes, mountaineering stories, and games of chess. Due to the fact we had spent the last month-plus at sea-level, we had a long way to go to adjust our bodies to the thin air and lack of atmospheric pressure. Señor Reyes’ recommendation was for us to hike down 2,000 feet to the tree-line the first day, as opposed to up. Of course, ever confident in our bodies physical capabilities we chose to ignore his advice and within 18 hours at elevation I was unable to hold down food or drink. Carson was able to squeak by without any major ailments beyond a small headache; I had no choice but to retreat back to town at lower elevation for a night of rest and eating as it would be impossible to tackle an 18,490 foot peak on an entirely empty stomach. Read More →

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Eric Larsen: Thoughts on Staying Warm in the Most Extreme Cold

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By Eric Larsen

People assume that because I spend much of my time in polar regions that I must enjoy being cold. The truth couldn’t be any further from the fact. I like being warm, just like everyone else. The only difference: I like being warm in really cold places. But there’s also a catch, I don’t like being hot in cold places either. I’m kind of like the polar version of Goldilocks: not too hot, not too cold, but just right.

To achieve the perfect arctic equilibrium while traveling is no easy task and it requires careful diligence and following a few simple rules.

1. Be the onion.  Back in the day, we would throw on a huge down jacket, go outside and call it good. Sure we were warm, but there was also a gallon of sweat that pooled up inside as well. Today, were smarter understand that being warm as important as the ability to wick moisture away from our bodies. Dressing in layers allows for clothing to have different levels of moisture wicking and insulation. There is no such thing as cold weather just not enough layers. Read More →

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