Off-Belay: Costa Rica – The Pura Vida Lifestyle

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Entering Costa Rica offered a stunning visual of a country that chooses to cherish its environment.  The aesthetics of a healthy landscape are obvious and this vitality seemingly permeated through individual personalities and communities alike. Enthusiastic to soak in the tranquility we headed to the mountainous cloud forests of the northeast to explore the stunning Rio Celeste. Flowing with a hue unmatched in liquid beauty, the river cascades through boulders and basins protected by dark green jungle walls that hold the mystery of this unique place. Days passed by as we took in the surrounding landscapes via Land Cruiser and on foot. Our worn legs eventually carried us back to lingering evenings highlighted by traditional meals of rice, beans, chicken and plantains we collectively prepared. Pura vida lifestyle had quickly set in and from the easy reaches of our hammocks strung out beneath the flawless nighttime sky we could only imagine what was to come. 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.

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:




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Eric Larsen’s Last North Expedition (Day 47): Bears, Mental Struggle, and the Fierce Beauty of the Arctic

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 “I couldn’t decide if the Arctic Ocean was trying to swallow us whole or create the worst road block in history. It’s frustrating, scary and overwhelming all wrapped up into one big polar mess of emotions… Still there are few moments when I am not completely in awe of the beauty and power of this place.” –Eric (Day 32)

Eric Larsen and expedition partner Ryan Waters have reached day 47 of their Last North expedition, an attempt to break the unsupported ground speed record to the North Pole. Last week they crossed the 87th parallel, marking a distance milestone that sends them into the final stretch of the 500-mile journey. They have 102 miles to go.

The duo is finally making decent distance each day, sometimes reaching 17 miles via skis or snowshoes across improved ice conditions and under clear skies. Since the start of their trip, momentum has been bogged down by nearly impassible ice and whiteout conditions, as they struggled to make only 2 or 3 nautical miles, pulling sleds that felt like “dragging anchors across sand.”

Still, their daily reports haven’t been fully wrought with despair. Amid the seemingly austere and desolate swath of frozen planet, they’ve described a dynamic environment where nature is constantly shifting, drifting, and redesigning her icy architecture. Read More →

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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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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:

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.


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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