Alpine Mentors: Aspirations Fueled by Experience

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Alpine Mentee Buster Jesik going farther in the Alps, Mont Blanc

Alpine Mentors is a relatively new non-profit program for young alpinists that promotes clean, lightweight, and low-impact climbing. Co-founded in 2012 by alpinist, guide and author Steve House and his wife Eva, Alpine Mentors connects seasoned alpinists with technically proficient young climbers who aspire the climb the world’s greatest mountains.

Joining the program as a mentee is no small commitment. Over the period of two years the group spends 14 weeks traveling all over the world. While the mentees don’t pay tuition, they do cover their own travel expenses.

The first four young climbers to participate in the program are finishing up their two-year cycle this year, just as a new regional chapter begins in the Pacific Northwest. We caught up with Steve and one of the first program participants, Colin Simon, to hear about how the program got started and how it’s been going so far. Read More →

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Water 101: Clean Water Solutions to Prepare for Any Emergency

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Road flooding caused by a hurricane

Water is our most important resource, but you never know when a disaster could compromise your local water supply. Whether you live in the city or in a more remote area, having a way to get clean water is crucial to keeping you safe from additional harm. In honor of emergency preparedness month, we’ve put together the information you need to ensure you have access to water that’s safe to drink.

Clean water threats

When drinking water is contaminated in municipal or developed areas, the immediate threat to human health is the introduction of waterborne pathogens—microscopic disease-causing bugs. These include bacteria, protozoa and viruses, all of which are normally removed by the city treatment center long before water ever flows out of your tap.

In a disaster situation, contamination of the existing municipal water supply can happen quickly. For example, a sewer line can break, intermixing sewage with your clean water supply, and introducing those pathogenic agents. 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: Behind 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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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!

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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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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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Eric Larsen’s North Pole Expedition Through Photos

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By Eric Larsen

On May 6th 2014, I reached the Geographic North Pole after what I can only describe as the most difficult 53 days of my life. Sitting in my chair now, with the perspective of time and distance, I am amazed that I was able to persevere long enough to be successful. After all, no one had completed a North Pole expedition since 2010 and comparatively few over the span of polar history.

In 1995, Reinhold Messner, easily the most accomplished mountaineer of all time, called his unsuccessful attempt to reach the North Pole, the horizontal Everest. While over 6,000 people have summited Everest only 250 people have traversed the Arctic Ocean from land to the Geographic North Pole—less than 50 of those traveling unaided and un-resupplied (meaning pulling all your food and supplies from the start without the assistance of sled dogs, kites or any mechanical device).

To understand why this particular adventure is so difficult, you need to know a little more about the Arctic Ocean itself. It’s huge—5 and a half million square miles (that’s larger than all of Europe) and plunges to the depth of 14,000 feet. Temperatures range from a balmy just-above-freezing in the summer to nearly 80-below in the winter. Eight countries frame the Arctic Ocean: Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Canada and the USA (Alaska), but perhaps the most unique feature of all, is the fact that nearly the entire ocean is covered in a thin sheet of ice. Because all that Arctic ocean ice is floating on water, it does all sorts of crazy things due to wind tides and ocean currents. The ice is broken up into sheets or pans that can be up to several miles wide. Pans can crack and form open sections of water called leads. Or they can collide together. Freeze and refreeze forming pressure ridges, rubbled ice, vertically heaved slabs and every other possible combination. Read More →

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Gear Archives: Trusted Source—The Evolution of the MiniWorks EX Microfilter

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Photo from the 1991 MSR catalog debuting the WaterWorks Total Filtration System

In 1991, MSR took the plunge into water products to answer the needs of backcountry travelers for more user-friendly and trustworthy solutions to gathering safe drinking water.

One of these initial offerings was the MSR Dromedary™ Beverage Bag, a rugged, collapsible bag to tote your water as you roamed. The other was the now-legendary WaterWorks Total Filtration System—a highly engineered pump filter that was more effective and so easy to use it changed how people filtered water. Today, the MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter is its evolutionary descendent and remains the world’s favorite backcountry filter for its plain and simple workhorse reliability. 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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