Water Treatment 101: When & Why Should I Treat Backcountry Water?

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The natural landscape is a dynamic place, and therefore so too are the qualities of the water supplies that flow through it. While an undeveloped water source may seem clear and clean, it can be carrying waterborne pathogens, microscopic agents that cause illness in humans. Popular backcountry camp spots are obvious high-risk zones, but places like the high alpine that see little human or animal traffic can actually be pretty low-risk. Still, the simple truth remains: The only real way to verify that your water is safe to drink is to treat it. And the effort it takes to treat water is minor compared to the complications of illness. Read More →

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Colorado’s Longs Peak: A Reward Worth The Suffering

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The boulder field, photo by Whitney Oliver

The boulder field, photo by Whitney Oliver

Story by Hilary Oliver 

When it comes to hiking, there are mountains—and then there are the mountains that haunt your fantasies. The legendary peaks that don’t come so easily. The ones with iconic shape, or stunning cliff faces. Longs Peak in Colorado’s Front Range is one of those mountains—one of the most scenic and challenging summits to bag without technical climbing.

I fell in love with Longs as a 16-year-old hiking it in jeans and a cotton T-shirt. We ran out of water. I ripped a hole in my jeans and got super cold near the summit. But the scenery and the experience hooked me. I’ve gone back several times since—with more mountain savvy and better clothing, for sure—which makes the experience a little less Type-2 fun. Here are my tips for making it to the top via the Keyhole Route and have fun doing it. Read More →

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What the Wilderness Teaches Us: Mentoring Urban Youth with the Big City Mountaineers

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Anyone who has spent time in the backcountry knows how transformative a wilderness experience can be. For over 20 years, the Big City Mountaineers have used wilderness mentoring expeditions to transform the lives of underserved urban youth, instilling critical life skills through backcountry experiences. In July, MSR category director Chris Barchet took some time off work to volunteer as a mentor and guide, and share his passion for the outdoors with those who wouldn’t have access to it otherwise.

For some youth, the five-day backpacking trips are their first glimpse into the backcountry. “They want to be there,” says Chris, “but they have to learn to commit to the responsibilities of it all. Read More →

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The MSR Gear that Got Eric Larsen to the North Pole

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By Eric Larsen

On May 6th, my expedition partner Ryan Waters and I reached the geographic North Pole after 53 grueling days. To reach the North Pole from land is a journey of 480 miles in a straight line, but the route is anything but direct. With sea ice moving and shifting due to winds, tides and ocean currents, the surface is constantly in flux. Huge pans of ice collide and crack in a screeching chug, chug, chug sound. There is an overall drift to the ice, too. The entire mass moves slowly from the pole toward Canada, the U.S. and Greenland. In fact, waking up each morning, we were usually quite distraught after checking our GPS—losing up to 3 miles of forward progress while we slept. Read More →

Flashback: The 1970 MSR Climbing Tower

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We’ve been looking through the original Mountain Safety Research Newsletter archives (1969-1982) again, and wanted to share this gem from the May 1970 issue announcing the new climbing tower. MSR Founder and newsletter Editor Larry Penberthy—always meticulous about setting the standards of safety through testing—built a tower structure for product testing and made it available to the public. It was free for Mountain Rescue groups, and only $1 per person otherwise. To use it, climbers needed to bring their own ropes and safety equipment, and make sure to follow the safety rules.

The May 22nd open house offered a chance to “see (and try) the new belaying techniques” and reservations were requested by phone, so enough “soda pop and cookies” could be provided.

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To see more of the Mountain Safety Research Newsletter archives, visit http://thesummitregister.com/mountain-safety-research-newsletter-archives/. See something particularly interesting? Tell us in the comments!

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MSR Staff Picks: 5 Fast-and-Light Pieces

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This one is for the ounce-counters, minimalists and ultralight packers. We asked five MSR employees which pieces of gear they pack when the objective is to go farther—faster. These pieces represent some of our smallest, lightest and smartest products for minimizing weight without sacrificing reliability on high-adventure journeys. Read More →

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The Sherpa Support Fund

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The tragic death of 16 Sherpas in the April 18 icefall avalanche on Mount Everest has deeply affected the alpine climbing community. As families, friends and colleagues struggle with the sadness, many are also seeking and establishing ways to support the families left behind.

One such organization is The American Alpine Club (AAC), a longtime MSR partner whose mission is to “support our shared passion for climbing and respect for the places we climb.”

In the wake of the event, the AAC quickly responded by establishing The Sherpa Support Fund. The purpose of the fund is to lend aid and support to the families of the fallen climbers and the communities affected by this tragedy. We spoke with AAC Executive Director Phil Powers to bring you more information about the fund. You can join us in making a donation on the AAC’s website.

Why did the AAC respond with The Sherpa Support Fund?

As climbers, we care about the people who support us in the mountains we visit around the world. At the AAC, we felt we had the infrastructure and ability to mobilize quickly and help. We can make sure all the money goes where it should and we have the connections to make sure the organizations involved are coordinated.

What has been the donation response?

There has been an inspiring response and we have raised over $60,000. We plan to close the fundraising on May 30 so that we can turn our attention to making sure the money is spent well. I think we will easily surpass $75,000 by that date. It is an amount that can do a lot of good.

How will the funds be distributed?

The AAC has no real infrastructure on the ground in Nepal so we will be working with other organizations to make sure our funds are deployed well and in coordination with the efforts of several other non-profits who are trying to help.

We understand that the AAC is putting together a committee to help decide how to distribute the funds fairly and wisely. What kind of leaders are you seeking for that role?

I want a small group of people who care about the area and have a good ability to help us evaluate the right partners.

How can people get involved?

Certainly people can donate. There are several organizations doing good work here and I have a high regard for the American Himalayan Foundation, The Juniper Fund and the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation. And we can all look to our own personal practice and how we treat others. Personally, I am trying to do something for the people in Pakistan who I depended on during my climbing days there.

What are the next steps after the fund closes on May 30th?

My main goal is to make sure we convene the right people for conversations about long-term solutions. We are hosting a conference here, Sustainable Summits, in July on this very topic.

Please consider joining us with a donation to The Sherpa Support Fund. http://americanalpineclub.org/p/sherpa-support-fund

The AAC’s July Sustainable Summit of land managers, climbers, planners and scientists representing the world’s mountainous regions is open to all interested individuals around the world. For more information, visit: http://www.americanalpineclub.org/p/sustainable_summits

 

 

 

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BUILDING YOUR BACKCOUNTRY KITCHEN, PART 2: THE ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS

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Story and Photos by Laurel Miller

I grew up in a family that embraced the convenience of freeze-dried meals and deviled ham when it came to camping trips. It wasn’t until a college spring break trip to Baja’s Bahia Concepción that I discovered it’s possible to actually, you know, cook while camping. We’d procured some scallops from the bay. My friend Caroline, an avid cook, sautéed them with garlic and chili flakes, adding a splash of her beer and a squeeze of lime to finish. I was gobsmacked—left to my own devices, I’d been subsisting on canned frijoles refritos and tortillas. That pivotal moment not only inspired me to go to culinary school; it redefined what I thought of as camping fare. Today, there are certain ingredients that are staples in my home and backcountry kitchen. In a previous post, I addressed how to curate a camp kitchen. Here, I tell you how to stock it.

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Tip:  I love trying regional foods, and when I’m traveling domestically or abroad, I explore markets for staples like spices, cheese, bread, olives, dried or fresh fruit—anything adds to my portable pantry. Here’s to a summer season free of freeze-dried.

5 Essentials for the backcountry kitchen 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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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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