Behind the Curtains of Hell: 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell

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A report from the 9th annual 24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell endurance climbing competition.  

by Andrew Chasteen


The shotgun blasts, and 280 climbers scatter like buckshot in all directions.  Most are running—some are walking briskly up the steep approaches to the crags that make up the borders of Horseshoe Canyon Ranch.  Ten minutes ago the full crowd of 700-plus was lost in a trance of psyche and adrenaline as Jeremy Collins and Kris “Odub” Hampton put on a show (as usual) for the famed Climbers Creed to “I got 99 problems but 100 pitches ain’t one.”  But now minds are focused and fixed on the next 24 hours of pain. Read More →

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MSR Backcountry Cafe: Make Ahead Mac-N-Cheese

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Story and Photos by Tara Alan

Where I live, in the Green Mountains of Vermont, the first yellow, orange, and russet leaves are beginning to appear scattered upon the ground. Nights are becoming cool enough to wear a jacket, and the scent of wood smoke is apparent on the breeze. It’s clear that autumn is just around the corner!


What better way to spend these glorious end-of-summer days than in the woods? And what better way to end them than with an evening of camping? On chill nights like these, I want a supper that’s warm and cheesy, quick and easy: macaroni and cheese.

As far as I’m concerned, there’s a spectrum of macaroni and cheese. On one end are those blue boxes containing a handful of elbow noodles and an accompanying “cheese” packet. The resulting dish is neon-orange, and of dubious nutritional value. On the opposite end of the spectrum there’s pasta with an unctuous cream sauce and pockets of oozing melted cheese under a burnished top. Think four cheeses melted together with bacon, chili flakes, and caramelized onions. Or how about mozzarella and ricotta with chunks of fresh tomato?

So, what do we do when we want the cozy, comforting dish of mac and cheese while on the trail? When we want the simplest of dinners, but we want it to have ingredients we recognize? When we want that delicious, cozy treat, but we don’t want to pack a ton of items to make it? We make it ahead of time and carry it along, of course!

Below, you’ll find my recipe for a version of macaroni and cheese that falls somewhere between the two extremes of the spectrum, closer to the ease of blue-box side. It’s a cinch to assemble and pack for the trail, and it’s quick to cook once you’re out there. It also makes a great base for improvisation. See my suggestions below the recipe for ways to jazz up your mac. Read More →

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Backpacking to British Columbia’s Garibaldi Lake

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Photos and story by Riley Leboe

I’m lucky enough to travel the world doing what I love. Chasing powder snow as a professional skier has brought me to many amazing places around the globe. Still, I often find it difficult to leave the west coast of British Columbia, where I call home. With the Sea to Sky corridor offering so much in the way of activities, I’ve left much unexplored in my own backyard. Read More →

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Getting the Shot: Behinds the Scenes on the MSR Snow Tools Photoshoot

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Photos and words by Scott Rinckenberger

This spring, I had the pleasure of shooting the photography that will be used by MSR in the marketing materials for their new Snow Tools line of products. In an impressive effort to round out their hardware offerings to support backcountry travel, MSR’s new Shovels, Probes and Snow Saws are smartly designed and intended for professional use.

In order to reinforce this commitment to professional quality in the new products, it was important to MSR that we photograph the gear being put through the paces of an actual practice use scenario. To that end, they recruited long time collaborator, ski patroller, ski guide and NWAC field observer Jeff Hambelton to lead myself and a couple of Baker pros on a mission to take field observations and run a simulated avalanche rescue.

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Read More →

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Colorado’s 10th Mountain Huts: A brief history and how-to guide

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Photos and story by Laurel Miller

Although I’m a native Californian, I grew up skiing Colorado. This is because my parents met while students at Colorado A & M (now CSU) in the mid-50s, and they were avid skiers. My dad was finishing up veterinary school, and my mom was on the barrel racing team. Although they chose to move West to open my dad’s large animal practice, Colorado to this day retains a stronghold on their hearts—something that was passed on to my brother and me in utero (I can only presume).

My dad’s obsession with the Rockies began when he was pre-med and trying to obtain residency for vet school, courtesy of the GI Bill. A World War II veteran and Arizona native, he moved to Colorado and worked summers as a wrangler on various ranches, which was a convenient way to indulge his combined loves of horses and the high country. The U.S. Ski Patrol visited Dad’s high school when he was a senior, looking for recruits for the 10th Mountain Division. At that point in the war (1944), the Army was no longer looking for experienced skiers; rather, they wanted to train their own. Camp Hale, the Army training facility, was located between Leadville and what is now Vail, on the Tennessee Pass. Read More →

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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.

Climbing Tower

To see more of the Mountain Safety Research Newsletter archives, visit See something particularly interesting? Tell us in the comments!

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