Imagine a desolate desert of snow and ice as far as you can see, devoid of all vegetation and with only a few living creatures–penguins, seals and seabirds. Antarctica still seems a vast white landscape untouched by humans. But while Antarctica may seem like some unreachable and unfathomable place, adventuring in the continent is becoming increasingly popular. More than 37,000 tourists visited Antarctica in 2009. Most people hire experienced guides. However, non-guided adventures and experiences are still possible, but extreme precautions need to be taken. We talked to Seth Timpano, a Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador as well as an Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions Travel Safety Manager, to learn about how to prepare for an Antarctic adventure.
What are different sorts of things that people have to think about when they’re organizing expeditions to Antarctica compared to trips they might organize to Alaska or Pakistan?
Antarctica is the most remote continent on the planet and the costs are high and logistics of simply getting to Antarctica complicated. Thorough planning for an expedition to Antarctica is a must, and the most successful expeditions are the ones with the best planning and logistics.
Ambassador Steve “Doom” Fassbinder works for Alpacka Rafts, but we don’t know where he finds the time for a 9 to 5. He’s constantly sending us stellar photos of his bicycling, packrafting and climbing adventures. For his latest trip, he invited fellow ambassadors Scott Adamson and Angela Van Wiemeersch to embark on a wild multi-sport adventure in the Utah desert backcountry. It involved numerous first ascents of sandstone towers and granite walls, plus packrafting the San Juan River and bikepacking.
For 19 years, ice climbers at all levels and from all over the world have come together at the Bozeman Ice Festival to climb, eat and check out gear. This year’s festival runs from December 9th to 13th and will feature a myriad of climbing-related events and parties, including the UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup. And we’ll be there for our fourth year, along with a few of our athlete ambassadors (see below in the “Clinics” section for details).
“This is one of my favorite ice climbing festivals anywhere,” says Hyperlite Mountain Gear CEO Mike St. Pierre. “The ice climbing in Hyalite Canyon and surrounding areas is excellent. And the event itself offers both newcomers to the sport and more advanced climbers some great opportunity to learn from the best ice climbers in the world and to see the most cutting-edge gear made in the industry.”
If you are at the festival, feel free to swing by our booth to visit with Mike or our ambassadors and check out our new gear or demo an 2400 Ice Pack. Below is a quick overview of the event schedule. To learn more about the festival check out the website. Read More
As part of our Stripped Down series, Ambassador Samuel Martin talks ultralight photography in the backcountry.
Samuel Martin maintains he’s an adventurer first, photographer second. His stunning landscapes and surreal trail photos bring the wilderness to life and show his love for the outdoors. However, photography is not something that truly meshes with the idea of lightweight backpacking. The heavy gear only serves one purpose; so lightweight photographers often find themselves facing the choice between sacrificing the quality of their photos or bringing along extra pounds. However, Martin has found a sweet balance between ultralight backpacking and the camera equipment he carries, producing photos while still being efficient and mobile. We caught him between adventures and asked him a few questions.
Do you leave other things behind so that you can bring more photo gear?
I definitely make sacrifices so that I can carry my camera gear. For example, on my recent thru hike of the John Muir Trail I ditched a second short sleeve shirt, a pair of pants, a pair of gloves, and many small miscellaneous items to make room for my gear. Personal preference and needs play a large part in what I leave behind. On some trips I don’t need a lot of warm clothes, so those get ditched. Other times I don’t need warm food, so the stove gets left behind. It’s important to evaluate the needs of each particular trip and go from there. Read the rest of the article.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear CEO Mike St. Pierre’s account of his Grand Canyon thru hike is coming to a close with this third and final installment. This week’s post will contain his journal entries from day 10 to 15, which feature a flash flood, extreme rain, a summit attempt and a sad goodbye.
Readers should absolutely not consider this a guide to hike the length of the Grand Canyon below the rim. Rich Rudow carefully planned this adventure over the course of a year, after spending decades exploring the Grand Canyon. There are no trails at all, anywhere, and water sources are extremely limited and difficult to find. To see more photos, please visit our Thru Hike Below the Rim of the Grand Canyon Facebook photo album. Read Days 1-4 and Days 5-9.
Day 10–Today was supposed to be a layover day, but we are skipping it due to getting behind while the other two gentlemen were with us. Instead, as a reward for the hard push to just get here, we are forgoing the 4:30a.m. wake up call and sleeping in. On the move by 9:00 a.m., we are all sore and tired but welcome the sleeping in.
We traversed saddle canyon, 49 Mile and 49.9 Mile canyons. Super hard, but exhilarating day traversing three huge canyons; these things are big and take hours to hike around. Came across some rock art that dated back to 800-1000 years old, cool to find and see. Downclimbed from the top of the Redwall to the Little Nankoweap drainage and then down to the Colorado River. I felt like I was in “Lord of the Rings” on the route down; it was jaw dropping, technical and steep. We got off the Redwall after four days and camped at Little Nankoweap on the river.
6:30 p.m. Washed clothes inside a Hyperlite Mountain Gear large roll top stuff sack in the river by adding a little gravel and soap and swishing it around. It worked really well. Sipped margaritas and inhaled 1500 calories for dinner. I’m too tired to write right now, but it was an amazing day. Read the rest of the article now.
Ultralight techniques don’t just mean carrying minimal weight on thru hikes or long backpack adventures; going light is equally important for speed and efficiency while hiking technically challenging trails in sub-24 hours. In keeping with our philosophy of building you exactly what you need and nothing more, we’ve developed an optimized, high-performance, lightweight Day Pack, the Daybreak.
Built out of necessity, we designed this ultralight day pack to stay snug and comfortable while we navigated our home turf—the rocky, brushy, mountainous landscapes of the Northeast’s White Mountains and Presidential Range. Constructed of non-woven, rip-stop Dyneema® Cuben Fiber, this day hiking backpack is exceptionally durable and highly water resistant. But it’s not just the cutting-edge fabric that makes this pack ideal for lightweight backcountry travel; as with all our technical packs, you can tailor it to your torso length. In other words, this isn’t your one-size-fits-all book bag. We offer it in three torso sizes—small, medium and large—so you can optimize the fit of your hip belt and shoulder straps. The Day Pack is also more fully featured than our other 1800L bags, and includes a large back pocket with additional shock cord for compression and side pockets for water bottles; the outer pockets make it easy to access rain gear or snacks. It’s also capable of carrying a mountaineering ice axe for those quick and fast days in the alpine. Read more about the Day Pack here.
Continuing on last week’s post about Hyperlite Mountain Gear CEO Mike St. Pierre’s 16-day thru hike adventure through the Grand Canyon, St. Pierre shares his journal entries from day five through nine. This week features destroyed gear, hyponatremia, two members of the crew dropping out and getting sick because of bad water.
Note: Readers should absolutely not consider this a guide to hike the length of the Grand Canyon below the rim. Rich Rudow carefully planned this adventure over the course of a year, after spending decades exploring the Grand Canyon. There are no trails at all, anywhere, and water sources are extremely limited and difficult to find. To see more photos, please visit our Thru Hike Below the Rim of the Grand Canyon Facebook photo album. To Read the first installment of this series, please click here.
Day 5—4:15 a.m. wake up. We hiked two miles to 25 Mile Rapid and arrived at 8 a.m. Filled up on water, and there was a discussion to stay there due to one of the crew not feeling well. Not the best of ideas as we would have been totally exposed to the sun. We thought we were at Cave Spring (which we were not) and agreed we really needed to get a few more miles in before the heat was too unbearable on top of the Redwall Limestone (This layer averages about 335 million years old and is composed of marine limestones and dolomites). From 25 Mile Rapid, we left the river to hike up above the Redwall. We hiked two miles to Tiger Wash. There was a break in the Redwall that allowed access to the river via a steep 500′ downclimb. We rested during the hottest hours of the day with plans to push on to Fence Fault, another break in the Redwall with river access 3.5 miles down river. Two of the crews feet are in total disarray and not sure how they are going to make it 10 more days. My shoes are falling apart and will need serious repair when we get to our next cache. We are almost a full day behind.
7:45 p.m.—we came 1.5 miles short of our destination of Fence Fault as night came over us. We are still 400′ above the river on top of the Redwall. By headlamp we downclimbed into the top of a slot where we found some potholes of water in one of the drainages that cut into the Redwall layer. We made camp here. We followed the slot and it ended up being a non-technical canyon that ended at a 400′ drop straight down to the river below. Two of the crew decided to bail on the rest of this leg at South Canyon due to severe blisters and continual heat exhaustion. That’s the right choice for these two. We are logging about four to six river miles per day, which equates to eight to 10 miles on foot. Hard, hard miles. All our shoes are seeing severe wear. My sole has a four-inch split running down it, and the sticky rubber sole layer is starting to peel off. Not good! I’m totally whipped tonight and starting to get more and more sore.
It’s truly hard to wrap your head around the scale and magnitude of what has, can and does happen in this place. When you have a chance to reflect, even on what we get to see each day, it’s truly jaw dropping.
With an unquenchable thirst for adventure, it is no surprise that Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador Quinn Brett is now embarking on yet another expedition to the Garhwal Himalayan region in Northern India, thanks to GORE-TEX®’s Shipton-Tilman Grant. She will be meeting up with partners Crystal Davis-Robbins and Whitney Clark to explore the Obra Valley and/or the Bhilangna Valley. We wish her luck and hope that she stays safe and has fun. Brett also recently put up a first ascent on a popular peak in Rocky Mountain National Park, where she works as a climbing ranger. This post is a brief account of that ascent.
The day started early for Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador Quinn Brett and her boyfriend Maximillian Barlerin, a 4a.m. wakeup for a truck-ride to the trailhead in preparation for what would end up being a first ascent up the North East face of Chiefs Head Peak, the third highest peak in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). Brett had worked a rescue until 10p.m. the night before; with less than six hours of sleep going, simply standing up was a challenge. Read More
Walking the length of the Grand below the rim takes years of planning and significant backcountry navigation skills. Our CEO Mike St. Pierre accompanied slot canyon expert Rich Rudow on part of his more than 600-mile thru hike below the rim. In this series of blog posts, we will explore the nature of this extreme thru hike, plus share St. Pierre’s diary entries from the trip. In parts of this series St. Pierre details the path they took. However, readers should absolutely not consider this a guide to hike the length of the Grand Canyon below the rim. Rudow carefully planned this adventure over the course of a year, after spending decades exploring the Grand Canyon. There are no trails at all, anywhere, and water sources are extremely limited and difficult to find. To see more photos, please visit our Thru Hike Below the Rim of the Grand Canyon Facebook photo album.
Only two-dozen people have hiked through the Grand Canyon from Lees Ferry to Pearce, and those who have all did it differently and at different paces, says Tom Martin. Martin, the author of “Guide to the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon: From Lees Ferry to South Cove,” hiked the trail over 42 years. Twelve have done it as a thru hike and 12 as a section hike, two have walked the south side in a push, and ten the north side. Only three people have done the distance on both sides of the river: Robert Packard in segments; Andrew Holycross as a thru hike on one side and in segments on the other; and Robert Benson as a thru hike on both sides. Park Ranger Todd Seliga, who has done the north side twice, is the only person to do the thru hike on the same side more than once, and holds the record for hiking it in 24 days.
“Any way you look at it, that’s a mighty small number of people,” Martin explains. “To attempt to put this in perspective, about 5,000 folks have made it to the top of Everest, and over 300 have climbed K2.”
As reported by Outside Mag’s 2012 Adventurer of the Year and Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador Rich Rudow in our post, “Below The Rim: Extreme Grand Canyon Thru Hike,” the terrain is just too difficult, complicated and devoid of water. It takes years of experience and careful planning and preparation to hike the 500 to 700 miles along the river and up, down, through and across the canyon’s different cliff bands.
On the other hand, says Martin, while it’s an extremely difficult endeavor, the key reason it’s rarely done is that it’s been off most peoples’ radar simply because there is no trail for the journey. “Yes, it is true that in places there are trails going the length direction in Grand Canyon, the Tonto Trail being the most well known. As more people make the journey, a trail will no doubt be created, making the walking and the very nature of this journey much much easier.” Rudow and Chris Atwood are currently trying to become the 13th and 14th people to finish this extreme thru hike. Dave Nally accompanied them for 24 days and 300 miles, and Pierre joined the adventurers for 16 days and 200 miles. Both Dave and Mike plan on finishing the trip in upcoming years. Read Mike St. Pierre’s Grand Canyon Thru Hike Diary!
Editors Note: NOLS instructor Andrew Altepeter regularly contributes educational articles to our blog on how to teach ultralight backpacking skills. We got the chance to chat with him about his personal transition to lightweight, techniques to lighten your pack weight, some of his favorite equipment and the inspiration he continues to find as a instructor. Read Altepeter’s other articles here.
Andrew Altepeter fell in love with the outdoors at a young age after a transformational hike up to Knapsack Col in the Wind River Range. Pushed past his limits by his father, incredible views of the northwestern Wind River Range awed him. He was hooked. This passion stayed with him through four years at Whitman College, where he regularly participated in the school’s outdoor program. Next came work in the energy industry as a drill-site geologist, but still he managed to find time to adventure when not at work. However he soon moved on, taking an instructor course with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). There, he started to learn about lightweight hiking. “By summer of 2010 I had worked a few courses, and I was hooked,” he says. And five years later he shows no signs of slowing down. He says the the chance to be an instructor has “provided an avenue to support transformational experiences for others” and helps him appreciate the importance of the wilderness. Plus it has given him the opportunity to hone his ultralight hiking skills and how he teaches these skills to others.
What do you appreciate most about your transition to ultralight backpacking? My first experience with maximizing efficiency of all systems involved with backcountry travel was in 2009 on the instructor course that I took at NOLS Southwest. The instructor team that facilitated the course emphasized lightweight hiking principles to help us think critically about everything we put in our packs and on our bodies. What I love about going light is the mindset of thinking systemically about the group and personal gear that you bring. This practice of being hyper-aware of your abilities, yourself, the group, the environment, and what you have with you to make it all happen is very satisfying and translates into rich experiences. Read the rest of the article here.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear has partnered with the specialized tour operators, CaminoWays.com, to offer you and a friend the chance to win a trip of a lifetime to trek for a week on the Camino de Santiago. If you win, you’ll walk the last 100kms of the famous Camino Francés from Sarria to Santiago. And, you’ll be hiking with two sets of Hyperlite Mountain Gear Stuff Sacks and our brand new Day Pack (or Summit Packs if you prefer). The runner up will a TBD pack. Sign up for the contest and see the terms & conditions by visiting “Win a Week on the Camino,” or scroll to the bottom of this post.
Known to spiritual seekers around the world for over 1,000 years, the Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) links pilgrim routes across Europe to end at the tomb of St. James at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galacia, Spain. Read more about this special trail on the UNESCO website.
We’re excited to report that SectionHiker.com’s Philip Werner announced that the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest Pack won his annual “Gear Of The Year” Award today. Every year Werner recognizes the piece of gear that had the biggest impact on his hiking and backpacking experience. Werner highlighted the pack’s streamlined design, its “toughness” and water resistance as reasons it beat out the competition. We’re still in the early adoption consumer phase of our technology and ultralight philosophies; so we’re thrilled to be recognized by the thought-leaders and influencers in the industry. —Mike St. Pierre, CEOClick here to read more!
In its latest comprehensive review of Ultralight Tents for backpacking, thru hiking and climbing, the popular gear review website, OutdoorGearLab.com, gave Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s its “Top Pick Award.”
“At a mere 10 ounces, our favorite shelter for rough terrain bivies and alpine climbing, the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Square Flat Tarp provides a versatile, ultralight shelter for expert users,” stated Valentine Cullen, OutdoorGearLab.com’s Marketing Manager. “We love the bombproof protection it provides in exposed mountain environments.”
In 2014, the Square Flat Tarp won OutdoorGearLab.com’s Editor’s Choice Award. The Top Pick award is given to a product that excels at a specific application or area, while the Editors’ Choice award goes to the highest scoring product overall. Read the full review at OutdoorGearLab.com. Read the Ice Pack & Summit Pack reviews!
So you are intrigued by ice climbing, but it seems inherently “dangerous” and or way too expensive? It can be both of these things, however it can also be as safe as taking a Sunday stroll and not so expensive to try. There are several great ways to get started:
1.) Ice Festivals
Ice climbing festivals are popping up at every cliff imaginable that has any sort of frozen waterfalls; some are much better than others. Chances are there is one with in a six-hour drive or flight from where you live. You may show up, take a clinic, and decide you hate it, and then never do it again and you will only be about $100 out of pocket, then again you may like it. Most of the time all gear is provided. Some of the bigger ice climbing festivals with the most gear to try and best areas to ice climb are Bozeman Ice Festival (Hyalite Canyon), Cody Ice Climbing Festival, Mt Washington Valley Ice Festival, and Ouray Ice Festival, among many others. Read the rest of the article here.
We go out into the wilderness to remove ourselves from modern society and experience the beauty of nature in its untouched, finest self. I was drawn to the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT) for that very reason; resources weren’t readily available, and it is still widely unknown in the hiking community. In fact, I met many rangers overseeing its terrain who hadn’t heard of its existence.
#1 Main Challenge: Mosquitos
There were three main challenges I experienced on the trail: mosquitos, keeping dry and navigation… especially when it came to my new proud vocabulary word “bushwhacking.” Let’s start with the mosquitos. They were so horrible at one time that I considered quitting my hike. You can’t do anything about the bugs… I carried three types of repellent, (100% DEET, aerosol spray, which I highly condone and eucalyptus lemon oil). Wait it out, and you’ll be fine. The mosquito issue only lasted about three weeks and will depend on each year’s weather conditions. Any thru-hiker can handle it, but it’s imperative to keep your moral high. Become one with the bugs! (Read more about how she dealt with bugs on her blog).
#2 Main Challenge: Staying Dry
Now, keeping dry is another story. Rain and river fords destroyed my feet. Even in record high weather temperatures, I still got soggy. I handled this struggle by purchasing improved rain gear, making mandatory stops on trail to dry my shoes and socks when the sun poked through and I ALWAYS kept my sleeping gear in a dry bag. If the rain stops at 8:45a.m., I’d be making hot cocoa on trail! Because the PNT is largely hiked in the summer months, there is more discomfort than danger regarding this issue. Hypothermia can occur in above freezing temperatures, so please remember this and use extreme caution.Read the rest of her article here!
A National Outdoor Leadership School Instructor (NOLS) for five years, Andrew Altepeter has taught hiking, lightweight hiking, climbing, mountaineering, canyoneering and skiing courses. Always looking to optimize his adventures, he modifies everything from his backpacks to his cooking kit and toiletries. He also carries the lightest gear he can find. As a NOLS instructor, he has the opportunity to share his knowledge of ultralight hiking with his students. Here are a few Lightweight Backpacking Tips ideal for students or any aspiring thru hiker or backpacker:
Becca Skinner knew she wanted to explore when she grew up, and then in 2010 she fell in love with photography after winning grant to photograph New Orleans post-Katrina. She has since become a rising star in photography and a recipient of the National Geographic Young Explorer Grant. Her talent and passion for photography and appreciation of the natural world is evident in the photos of her own adventures.
Now she is preparing to go on an expedition with fellow photographer Bertie Gregory (recipient of 2012 Youth Outdoor Photographer Award) to Canada’s West Coast to raise awareness for the conservation of the unique British Columbian coastal wolves. These wolves are a close relative of the grey wolf, however instead of a normal diet of deer and elk, the coastal wolves have evolved to eat seafood such as mussels and salmon eggs. The pair are planning on spending 18 days on the island with the wolves in order to photograph, film and observe the animals. Before she leaves, she had time to answer a few questions about her trip, her life and ultralight backpacking:Read the Q&A with Becca Skinner!
This is the second in a series of two articles on Don Carpenter’s August 2015 expedition to the Arctic Wildlife Refuge and the Leave No Trace (LNT) principles he and his team of three practiced while there. (Read the first article). At Hyperlite Mountain Gear, we feel that the Leave No Trace principles are absolutely in line with our philosophy of stripping down your load on outdoor adventures and in life. Minimize your impact on the environment just as you would dial in your gear and your systems in as minimalist a manner as possible!
Photo & text by Don Carpenter
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Alaska is a special place. A large and diverse ecosystem of rivers and spruce forests exists on the south side of the Brooks Range, while glaciated peaks lie in the heart of the range, and the coastal plain expands to the north, with rivers draining into the Arctic Ocean.
Marshy, spongy muskeg tundra made walking more challenging than it appeared from afar. Although obscured by fog, cold drizzle and wind, I could feel the large glaciated peaks of the Brooks Range to the south and the Arctic Ocean to the north. My team of three people and I had encountered only small pods of two to six caribou. But I imagined this plain brimming with the huge caribou herds that visit the coastal plain to calve and feed early summer. Many of the birds had already migrated south, but we encountered large numbers of geese preparing to move out, as well as falcons and harriers every day. Fewer animals, cold weather, and the vivid red and gold of the tundra made it apparent that fall was well underway by mid-August.
Though we didn’t see a lot of wildlife, we took great measures to be prepared for possible encounters. In part I of the series, we discussed Planning Ahead and Preparing for your trip. In Part II, we’ll discuss how to deal with wildlife and fires in the backcountry. Read the rest of the article now!
This is the first in a series of two articles on Don Carpenter’s August 2015 expedition to the Arctic Wildlife Refuge and the Leave No Trace (LNT) principles he and his three teammates practiced while there. (Read the second article). At Hyperlite Mountain Gear, we feel that the Leave No Trace principles are absolutely in line with our philosophy of stripping down your load on outdoor adventures and in life. Minimize your impact on the environment just as you would dial in your gear and your systems in as minimalist a manner as possible!
Photo & text by Don Carpenter
On my first ski expedition to the high peaks of the Arctic Wildlife Refuge in 2014, my eyes were constantly drawn north. In that direction, the glaciated peaks of the Brooks Range transition to the open coastal plain and the Arctic Ocean beyond. I knew I wanted to go there someday.
Just over a year later, I found myself walking across the Refuge’s coastal plain, en route from the south side of the Brooks Range to Beaufort Sea. My three partners and I were traveling by packraft and foot, linking four rivers over 12 days. Our goal was to explore a vast, pristine landscape, while minimizing our impact following strict Leave No Trace (LNT) principles.
We practiced all seven of the LNT principles on our trip. Here are some details on how several of the principles applied to our adventure.
Principle #1 Plan Ahead and Prepare…
You can’t take care of the environment around you if you aren’t prepared to take care of yourself. Expedition planning is an art form balancing safety, efficiency and pack weight. We wanted our packs to be light, but erred a bit heavier with a few items due to remoteness and anticipated weather. In an environment such as the Arctic in August, where winter conditions may not be far off, going light is a relative concept. Read the rest of the article now!