SnowSchool Turns Students into Snow Scientists

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By Kerry McClay, National SnowSchool Director for Winter Wildlands Alliance

“So the snowpack is only about 20% water?!”  It’s a bluebird day at Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area in the Boise National Forest, and a group of students from the local high school are standing in a 5 ft deep snow trench they’ve dug themselves. Marching out into the forest on snowshoes they’ve used depth probes, density cutters and spring scales to measure snow-water equivalent (the estimated water content of the snowpack), and are discussing their findings with a snow science graduate student from the nearby university. The low water content of the snowpack is coming as a surprise to a few of them. Later these students will analyze snow crystals with macroscopes, cut snow blocks to make an igloo, and eventually take their findings back to the classroom to compare it with historical snowpack data. This is SnowSchool and through this program 28,000 K-12 students are annually introduced to the wonders of winter!

highschool snowpit

Remember your high school snow science class? Right, didn’t think so. Though mountain snow supplies up to 80% of the water in many communities in the western United States, it remains an understudied topic among scientists and the general K-12 population. To fill this void Winter Wildlands Alliance has been developing the SnowSchool program for nearly 10 years.  Historically most of the participants at SnowSchool’s 45 sites have been fifth graders, but Winter Wildlands Alliance has recently piloted a new experience for middle and high school science students.  Thus a program that was originally conceived as a simple snowshoe field trip for elementary school kids has evolved into a hands-on learning experience based on space-age science. Read More →

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MSR Backcountry Cafe: Summer Desserts

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Story and photos by Laurel Miller

A creek-chilled beer (or beverage of your choice) is a just reward at the end of a long day on the trail, but what to do when you’re craving something sweet that doesn’t come from a bottle (and no, Gummi Bears don’t count)?


Summer and early fall are the best times to bust out a backcountry dessert because at no other time is the array and diversity of seasonal fruits so abundant and appealing. Depending upon climate, space, and other logistical considerations, trail desserts can be as simple as fresh berries with store-bought biscotti, to grilled stonefruit with vanilla syrup, and mascarpone. In previous posts, I’ve provided details on how to curate and stock your backcountry kitchen, but the beauty of dessert is that it can be prepared at home, and doesn’t require special equipment or a strong back. And that, quite frankly, is pretty sweet. Read More →

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MSR Backcountry Cafe: Tomato Pasta

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Though it was early September when my husband and I were cycling through the Po River Valley region of Italy, the summer sun still blazed, dry and scorching, lending a golden light to an already golden landscape.


As well as being oppressively hot, the afternoon was also deathly quiet. We were used to this Italian riposo by now, that time between about two and four in the afternoon when shops closed, the buzz of activity at the local café dwindled, and the wooden shutters on everyone’s homes were shut tightly against that flaming sun. Read More →

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Marilyn Moss’ New Book Explores the Creative Genius of Tent Pioneer of Bill Moss

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The Bill Moss Story from Driftwater Productions on Vimeo.

Modern camping tent designs owe much to the creative mind and technical ingenuity of 20th century fabric designer and artist Bill Moss. In 1955, Moss was frustrated with the bulky, smelly, hard-to-assemble camp tents of the day. Inspired by nature’s versatile and remarkably efficient designs, Moss fashioned the now-legendary dome “Pop Tent,” redefining tent architecture, and with it, life in the outdoors—gaining a cult following along the way. 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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Take It With You: The 25-Year Journey of My MSR Titan Pot

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Video and words by Dave Anderson

To participate in most outdoor activities you need some type of equipment. The gear could be as simple as a pair of trail running shoes or as complex as a carbon fiber mountain bike. The more the equipment helps you enjoy the experience the more you become attached to that piece of outdoor gear. As a result of this sentimental bond of shared experiences, a mountaineer’s ice axe or kayaker’s paddle might be kept around long after its utilitarian function has been played out.

This past fall, while waiting out the rain and snow on a climbing expedition in the Siguniang Range of Western China, I brewed up pot of tea. I stared at the slightly dented MSR Titan pot and tried to remember when I purchased it. I spent the rest of the morning lost in reflection about all the amazing places the pot and I had travelled together during the last twenty-five years. When I returned, I made this video and shared it with MSR.

Dave Anderson is a filmmaker, photographer, writer and explorer based wherever his van, Magic, is parked. Anderson has been climbing for 33 years and has established new routes in 10 countries on five contents. His 2013 ascent of Dayantianwo in the Siguniang Range of Western China was nominated for Poilet d’Or. When not shivering during an unplanned bivy or editing his latest video in Magic, Anderson can be found leading climbing and trekking adventures in Asia with his partner Szu-ting Yi through their company LittlePo Adventures.

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MSR Backcountry Cafe: Lentil Stew

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A life of travel and adventure on the open road sounds downright romantic, but in truth, it is usually far from glamorous. At least, that was my experience when my husband Tyler and I decided to spend two years on the seats of our touring bicycles.


Sure, there were days when the sun was shining and a gentle tailwind urged us onward, through quaint towns filled with kind, curious people. Read More →

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Thank You, Chad Kellogg

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Chad Kellogg2

Over the weekend, the climbing community lost one of its greatest spirits, and MSR lost a true ambassador and friend. Chad Kellogg was a pioneer, visionary, and among mountaineering’s most elite athletes. A brilliant force of nature, he’d helped define speed climbing of the world’s highest peaks.

To us at MSR, Chad was an inspiration—larger than life, yet undeniably human.

Chad had lived his life with a sincere humility and kindness that touched all of us. His soft-spoken demeanor was juxtaposed by an intense and unwavering dedication to his passion that earned him wide respect throughout the international alpinist community. As a guide and rescuer in addition to professional athlete, he’d given himself to the sport and his fellow climbers.

Beyond Chad’s numerous first ascents on remote peaks, he set multiple impressive speed records, including the fastest round-trip climb of Denali’s West Buttress route in Alaska.

But Everest was Chad’s ultimate goal. In spring 2013, he returned to the world’s highest peak for his third attempt to set the speed record for a solo ascent without oxygen. During his preparations, he worked closely with MSR. In a video for the Summit Register, he told us:

The reason this goal is worthwhile is because it’s taking high-altitude speed climbing to the end game—taking it as far as it can go.

Before he was turned around 1,800 feet below the summit due to high winds, he was on track to set that record.

Chad provided more to the climbing community than sheer athleticism. He embodied the soul of the craft. He believed in challenging the sport to ask more of itself and to progress beyond conventional practices.

As a supporter and as friends, at MSR, we are grateful for all that Chad has taught us about climbing, about persistence, strength and determination. And about living for each moment that we get in the mountains.

Chad, from all of us at MSR, thank you. You will be missed.

In 2013, Chad Kellogg made the first solo ascent of Jobo Rinjang.


Jess Roskelley on the Path of Greatest Resistance

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Story and photos by Jess Roskelley

Climbing has always been a privilege for me. As the son of a well-known climbing figure, John Roskelley, my interest in mountain climbing grew as I accompanied my dad on more and more trips around the Pacific Northwest. I had a rare opportunity to see how a professional climber trains, works, and plans for the next expedition, while trying to maintain a normal life at home. Communication was limited in the 1970s and 1980s, so it was always a relief for my mother to get a call from dad in Kathmandu, Rawalpindi, or some exotic place to let us know he was okay and headed home. It was a fun, adventurous, and sometimes stressful lifestyle that was not for every climber or his family.

As a young kid I was fortunate to travel the world and meet people whom I would give up climbing to meet again. As a small rambunctious kid, I had no idea what dignitaries and mountain royalty I was being introduced to. Sir Edmund Hillary stayed at our home; Indira Gandhi, India’s prime minister, spoke to me and pinched my cheek at a reception in Dehli; and I spent time with climbing legends Reinhold Messner, Jeff Lowe, and others. These experiences are dear to my heart and the roots to what my climbing career is and will be. Read More →

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Story And Photos By Laurel Miller

It’s a well-documented fact amongst my family and friend that I’ll eat anything, as long as it makes for a good story or I’m getting paid (aka “working”). I’ve eaten everything from dog to witchetty grubs in the name of travel and research, and frankly, I don’t understand why people make such a big deal about the Donner Party’s diet.

I draw the line, however, at freeze-dried backpacker meals. I was a seriously picky eater as a kid, and the two lingering scars are the aforementioned- what I like to refer to as “crap in a bag-” and airline food. I know people who actually think both are tasty; as someone who’s eaten man’s best friend, I’m certainly not in a position to judge.

I used to consider a jar of peanut butter and loaf of bread adequate camping fare, but these days, if I’m doing anything outdoorsy that requires cooking, I prefer to think up healthy, inexpensive meals that feel indulgent, but add little in weight or bulk to my pack.


This beyond-easy pasta is a good example. The tuna adds protein and Omega-3 fatty acids; the key to the success of this dish is using a high-quality brand of albacore or yellowfin (often labeled “premium or premium white meat”). You want fish that’s not only mild and sustainably-caught (longlining is the most common method), but solid-packed, which will yield a better final dish, texturally. The olive oil acts as a preservative, as well as yields a richer texture. Read More →

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