Terrible Skiing: An Ode

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Photos and Story By Evelyn Spence

Over my three and a half decades as a skier, I’ve witnessed a lot of things and been to a lot of places, from Alyeska to Vermont, from heli to hut. But before I stepped off the bus at Mongolia’s Sky Resort one January, I’d never seen a man skiing in pink swim goggles. I’d never seen a woman tucking with a Louis Vuitton crossbody purse flying behind her. I’d never seen a group of kids passing around a bottle of vodka while standing in the middle of a groomed run, nor a teenage boy plucking his eyebrows while waiting in line for a rifle range that’s inside of a ski lodge. I’d never seen a girl walk through a building with her skis still on. As a longtime lover of mountains and adventure, this was the farthest I’d flung myself so far.

And I’d never been so cold in my life.


I was in the Land of the Blue Sky to explore the country’s first ski area, which was built in 2009 by South Korean developers and then bought by a mysterious conglomerate that dabbles in beer, vodka, mining, construction, cashmere, and real estate. Mongolia’s economy, fueled by the discovery of natural resources like copper, was and still is growing like double-digit wildfire; I heard that there were already two Lamborghinis in Ulan Bator, and the woman with the flying purse probably purchased it at the sparkling new Louis Vuitton store just off Sükhbaatar Square. At the VIP building at Sky Resort, there were $4,000 Lacroix skis for sale, and someone told me that they’d already sold six pairs. Lots of new money in a very old, very nomadic place. Read More →

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Off-Belay Americas: Home is Where You Park it

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Among outdoor adventurers, rarely is one’s vehicle simply a form of transportation. Instead, it often doubles as a storage unit and can even moonlight as a mobile hotel. For our overland adventure from Seattle to Patagonia, our 1987 Toyota Land Cruiser needed to be ready to go in all three of these categories. Thus, we were forced to make a few modifications to “Beckey” that dramatically increased both her gear capacity and level of comfort when trying to grab a bit of shut eye.


If you hit the fabrication blogs you’ll discover one thing real quick—the two tiered system is king. A two tiered storage system eliminates the need to unpack and repack all your gear when you want to access some of it. It allows you to isolate gear that needs to stay dry from the wet stuff (skis, boots, etc.) on the bottom. It also gives you a significant level of increased security by covering your valuables without looking like you’re covering expensive gear with a blanket or tarp. In certain circumstances and vehicles (Westfalias) it may not be the best fit, but I highly recommend it as a starting point for your first design iterations. Below you can see our implementation of the system. While our top tiers are offset due to the height of our refrigerator, the design is still undeniably two-tier.


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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Backcountry Dog Etiquette

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Allie, a young Labrador, enjoys her first excursion into the Mount Baker backcountry

Allie, a young Labrador, enjoys her first excursion into the Mount Baker backcountry

During a recent ski tour to Table Mountain in the Mount Baker backcountry, three friends and I rescued a lost dog. It was an hour before sunset on a cold December afternoon and there were no other people in sight when we spotted the shorthaired mutt searching for her owners. As the shivering, disoriented animal limped higher up the mountain, away from the parking lot, it became clear that something was wrong. One member of our group, Kirsten, attracted the timid dog with an avocado sandwich. Kirsten phoned the number we found on the dog’s identification tags and was able to get in touch with the owner, who was waiting in the cozy Heather Meadows lodge, about a 30-minute hike from our location. The dog was not able to run through powder because of some bloody cuts on her feet, so Kirsten and I carried her in our arms while skiing. Soon we came to a firm skintrack that was easier on her paws and she was able to run next to us the rest of the way to the ski area boundary, where we met the grateful owner. This incident highlights the importance of proper training and dog etiquette in the backcountry. Here are some things to consider before you take your puppy into the snow.

Dog Safety and Comfort

First and foremost, make sure your dog is comfortable in cold weather and can travel safely in the snow. Avalanche rescue dogs are commonly larger, furrier breeds like German Shepherds or Golden Retrievers, but that doesn’t mean your Labrador or Blue Heeler should stay home. If you have a small, shorthaired breed think about buying a brightly colored doggy jacket, which has the added benefit of making your dog visible in the snow. Pay special attention to the dog’s paws because soft snow often gets jammed between the pads, causing painful cuts and bruises. Some handlers will even slather Vaseline between their dog’s toes to prevent this problem and others will purchase dog booties made specifically for this purpose. Also, if you are planning an extended tour, remember to feed your dog a bit more water and food than normal. High-protein foods are particularly important because the dog will burn more energy thanks to the cold temperatures and hard work. Read More →

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MSR Winter Backcountry Poles: Behind the Gear

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©Earl HarperMSR Senior Design Engineer Blake Andersen answers a few questions about the design and performance of MSR Backcountry Poles.

Who were MSR Backcountry Poles engineered for?

MSR Backcountry Poles are designed for winter backcountry travelers who want a high performance adjustable pole that won’t slip, and makes no compromises in weight, stability or ease of adjustment. That could be mountaineers, skiers, snowshoers, or splitboarders who rely on their poles for efficiency and safety through many types of terrain.

The inspiration came from our president who walks an impressive distance every day with poles. He recognized the need for lightweight, positive-locking poles that were easy to adjust. After finding the current offerings lacking, he asked me to come up with a better solution.

What were your design goals with the Backcountry Poles?

The primary driver for this line of poles was the refusal to compromise—in user experience and the poles’ reliability. The winter backcountry is an often unpredictable place and the last thing you want to worry about is whether you can trust your poles—your support tools. So we worked hard to make sure the solutions we created for the easy-adjusting locking mechanism didn’t compromise the performance, strength and durability of the poles. We focused on those areas because that’s where we saw user frustrations with others on the market.

What makes their locking design unique?

The SureLock System is different in that it doesn’t use a friction-based mechanism to fix the sections together, like a flip- or twist-lock. Instead, it employs a lockpin-and-hole design for “positive-locking performance.” In other words, your poles can’t slip. The length that you set them is the length that they will remain. When you put weight on them while bootpacking or crossing slick logs, they won’t collapse beneath you; you won’t get to camp and realize that one of your poles is an inch shorter than the other.

To refine the design, we made the pole shafts tri-lobe shaped so the sections wouldn’t rotate while you’re adjusting, allowing consistent alignment.

Why did you add a Trigger Release on certain models?

The Trigger Release is unique. It allows users to easily adjust the length of their poles on the fly—without really changing their hand position. It’s typical for a backcountry user to “choke up” on poles with each switchback, or to make them shorter on steep bootpacks or longer on the flats. But it would be impractical to stop and adjust poles that often. This seemed like a compromise to us. If the pole was so easy to adjust that the user didn’t have to stop or change hand position, it would be a game-changer. After countless brainstorms and prototypes, the Trigger Release system was finally born.

What materials make up the pole shafts?

The aluminum that we use for the pole shafts is a custom blended high-strength aluminum exclusively developed by our supplier. It has a higher yield strength than most “aircraft-grade” aluminum used by other companies.

What other unique design elements went into the poles?

If I had to pick a favorite design challenge, it would be the releasing strap. The idea that a user should be able to adjust their poles without compromising their hand position got us thinking about backcountry skiing. Typically, skiers take their hands out of their straps when they head into the trees. That sounded like a compromise. Skiers do it for safety: if a pole gets caught, it can yank you hard enough to cause injury.  If we could make the strap in such a way that it could never yank you hard enough to hurt you, you wouldn’t have to take your hands out of the straps. The releasable strap is the first step in the disassembly of your poles for maintenance—and allows you to ski without compromise.

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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.


Off-Belay Americas: Climbing in Joshua Tree

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As climbers, our path has led us from one crag to the next while we continue to push south to Patagonia. Two weeks in our route brought us to the community of Joshua Tree, California. I say “community” because Joshua is not simply a National Park or popular crag, but a winter season gathering place for dirt-baggers, weekend climbers, and nature enthusiasts alike. Eleven months had passed since our first visit to the lunar landscape of granite mounds in this unique place and we were stoked to be back. Read More →

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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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Off-Belay Americas: From Seattle to Patagonia and Everything In Between

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Belay: verb – fix (a running rope) around a cleat, pin, rock, or other object, to secure it.

A rope and harness are essential pieces of equipment for any climber on a belay team. They offer assurance and security while crossing glaciers or when scaling a sheer face. Comparisons are often drawn between climbing and the journey we all embark on in life. Both offer peaks, valleys, treacherous crevasses and points at which the hand holds just seem to run out. A year ago we asked ourselves if this life journey we are on is at its fullest when navigated “on-belay.” Honestly, it’s an answer we don’t have, but a question we are dying to ask.

Over the past two years we’ve had the ability to see one side of the equation. We enjoyed established corporate careers where we were comfortable, insured and safe. It’s now time to give the debate a fair shake and dive head first into the flipside of the conversation. Through the next 10 months on the road we are taking this rope team off-belay to embrace a life of adventure and meaningful relationships along the way.

To achieve an undertaking such as this we enlisted many key partners throughout the planning process. Hailing from Seattle we like to keep things local, which led us to reach out to hometown companies to lend us their strengths. At the top of the list fell Mountain Safety Research for outdoor equipment ranging from stoves to tents; Nuun for hydration tablets; TorFab for Land Cruiser support; and KAVU for outdoor lifestyle apparel. In essence we’re stepping “off-belay” while maintaining an incredibly strong rope team built from these sponsors and our supportive friends and family.

So at this point it seems we’re unroping proverbially while maintaining an incredibly strong rope team…Wait, that doesn’t make sense… Or does it? Regardless, we’re on our way, and you can ride shotgun with us as we continue to contribute right here at The Summit Register!
~The Bowlin Brothers

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