Sometimes it’s the things that go unsaid that are the most telling. For instance, when people say that they’re into the outdoors, they’re also most likely not big fans of crowds. Sure, we might maintain that we’re just looking for a little peace and quiet, maybe some solitude, some unspoiled vistas, or fresh tracks— but no matter how you package your passions, “getting away from it all” is pretty much code for avoiding your fellow human beings.
Whether your taste for company runs more towards “prefers small groups” or full-on agoraphobia, if you’re a backcountry skier, untapped stashes devoid of the hoots and hollers of other powder harvesters are getting harder to find. In 2015, something like 3.2 million skiers and snowboarders slapped on a set of skins or snowshoes and got after it in the mountains under their own steam. That year saw an eight-percent increase in the sales of alpine touring gear, and the delta on that data can only have increased even more since then.
That means that increasingly, getting out into the good stuff means going further, faster. Suffice it to say, the kitchen sink approach—that pillar of the average ski touring gear list you’ll find on most sites—isn’t going to get you there (at least not like that).
For the 2016 Ouray Ice Festival Elite Mixed Climbing Competition winner, the secret to success was all in his head. We tapped him this week for training advice in the lead up to the 2017 event. What we ended up with was a peak into a philosophy that pays dividends in any outdoor pursuit.
Neil and Ian Provo have a good thing going. Just two years apart, they seem to have somehow managed to achieve the kind of sibling synergy more common in twins. One zigs, the other zags. Ian skis; Neil snowboards. Neil shoots video; Ian shoots stills.
Since moving to Utah in the early 2000s, they’ve put their uniquely comprehensive skillset to good use. Rarely pausing long enough for their gear to gather dust, they’ve progressed from committed powder hounds to fly fishing obsessives, bikepackers and serious wilderness explorers.
From time-to-time they’ll drop an edit, the kind of quick web clips that’ll make even the most committed office jockey spray coffee all over their cubicle. Pristine powder lines begging for tracks, gin-clear streams coursing with trout, veins of brown carpet single track cutting through obscenely beautiful backcountry terrain—these are the currency of the Provo Bros’ trade.
Words & Photos by Cam Honan
The essence of going lighter in the woods is not so much about gear, as it is about the adoption of a simpler, less cluttered approach to one’s time backpacking.
Insofar as this philosophy relates to shelters, tarps fit the bill both tangibly and intangibly.
In the following article I’ll examine the benefits of tarp camping, as well as share some tips and techniques to minimize the perceived negatives. I’ll end the piece with an overview of environments in which the hiker is better off leaving the tarp at home, and going with a tent.
(Spoiler Alert) Both trails require the essentials.
Word & Photos by Robin Standish
I finished the Appalachian Trail (AT) in mid December, 2015. Hoarfrost glazed the landscape, icicles lined the slick, frosty trail, and a damp, east coast chill seeped through ever layer I wore. It was time to be done, though it wouldn’t be for long. A few months later, when the feeling in my toes had returned, and my hiker hobble lessened, I headed for the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). I was confident in the hiking part, but was uncertain about how my gear setup would have to be altered.
An Alaskan coastal traverse between Cordova and Icy Bay, Alaska using fatbikes, packrafts, and inspiration from those whom came before.
Words & Photos by Mike Curiak
(Continued from Part 1)
Waking to the sound of rain wasn’t what I’d dreamed about. Although honestly, at first, I wasn’t sure that was even what it was. The optimist in my drybag hoped that it was Doom, just outside, slinging handfuls of sand at our tent while taking a selfie and mouthing ‘perf!’ at the camera. Once I scraped the crusted sand from my eyes and focused, I could see a million+ droplets beaded up on the outer skin of our ‘mid, a few hundred of them sliding earthward. Going to be a wet one.
An Alaskan coastal traverse between Cordova and Icy Bay, Alaska using fatbikes, packrafts, and inspiration from those whom came before.
Words & Photos by Mike Curiak
175 miles in 7 days, though the numbers are still irrelevant. I mention them only to provide some context — a framework if you will — to understood what we did in Alaska. I doubt I can explain why to anyone that doesn’t already get it. Highlights included dense fog on the Copper River and its delta, massive swells buoying us along on the crossing of Icy Bay, brief moments of sun (or at least not-rain) amidst all the rain, thousands of seals, mirrorlike beaches near Katalla, millions of berries, and the camaraderie developed between friends attempting a challenging and worthy objective.
19 days and 400 Miles thru Alaska’s Brooks Range.
Words, Photos and Video by Luc Mehl
The Brooks Range has always intimidated me as a logistic challenge: expensive, remote, cold in the winter and buggy in the summer. But it is the largest swath of Alaska I haven’t seen, and with a lot of planning, we were able to do a long and remote trip within my budget. We had to have the route, logistics, and pace, dialed-in to pull off this ambitious trip. Our route evolved to be: fly to Anaktuvuk, float southwest on the John River, hike west to the Alatna River, float southeast on the Alatna to access the Arrigetch, cross the Arrigetch, float northwest on the Noatak River, hike southwest to the Ambler River, and float west to Ambler. 400 miles in 19 days.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador and well-known ice and alpine climber Angela VanWiemeersch recently visited the Hayes Range, Alaska, in order to put up a couple new lines. (i.e. alpine climbing routes). During a trip to the area in 2014, she spied the two formations. “I was blown away by their beauty and steepness—blue ice drooling from the magnificent faces.” She decided then that she’d have to come back for these peaks. She and Anna Pfaff spent a month there, but got denied by snow and bad weather. But, as she says, a failed expedition is just another learning experience. We recently chatted with her about what she learned from her third big adventure up north.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear is proud to be an unofficial sponsor of the unofficial Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic.
The Mountain Wilderness Classic is Alaska’s premier wilderness challenge, a grassroots event where participants push to their exertion and exhaustion limits. Ultralight is the name of the game, so it is no surprise that the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Porter is the pack of choice.
The 2016 course started at Galbraith Lake and ended in Wiseman, completing a north-south traverse of the Brooks Range, Alaska’s northernmost mountain range. The course was short by Classic standards, a minimum of 110 miles, half of which was floatable. This was a welcome change from the 2015 300-mile route in the Alaska Range, which was only finished by four of the thirty participants.
The short Brooks Range course and 24-hour daylight allowed participants to cut even more gear from their packs, with many participants expecting to go without sleep. Sleeping bags, shelter systems, and extra clothing were all left behind. One participant even opted to leave his packraft behind, starting with a 13 pound pack (this ended up being a bad decision).
Read more about the Classic, and check out a sweet video.
3 Explorers Embark on a DIY Multisport Adventure to Alaska’s Mountains using Packrafts, Skis & Their Feet.
Not everyone can handle spending three weeks camped out on an Alaskan Glacier putting up first ascents of rock, ice and snow routes on unclimbed spires and peaks. Even fewer can then handle skiing out on handmade skis with 100-pound loads, over high mountain passes and across unknown terminal moraines to a river of unknown difficulty. But the trio of Craig Muderlak, Drew Thayer and David Fay did. Supported by the American Alpine Club through the Copp-Dash Inspire Award and various sponsors, including Hyperlite Mountain Gear, they climbed, skied, hiked and packrafted on the adventure of a lifetime. We recently chatted with Muderlak about their wild, multi-sport adventure and the reasons for their success.
What did you do exactly?
In the second week of May we flew into the North Fork of the Pitchfork Glacier in the Neacola subrange of the Aleutian Range in southwestern Alaska. We established a base camp and explored climbing routes on neighboring peaks, including two attempts on the NW Ridge of Citadel Peak, two new rock routes and an additional attempted route on Dogtooth Spire on Peak 7235, a new route up an unclimbed mountain adjacent to Peak 8909 that we call ‘Spearhead’ at the head of the North Fork of the Pitchfork, and a new route to the summit of a rock spire we call ‘The Wing’ on the W side of the Neacola Glacier across from Triangle Peak.
After spending 21 days climbing, we made a human-powered return to Cook Inlet via ski, foot, and pack-raft over six days. This part of the expedition proved to be very arduous and fraught with uncertainty. We descended the Pitchfork glacier with 100-pound loads on skis and reached the terminal moraine the second day, which we crossed by shuttling loads. The next day we descended the Glacier Fork of the Tlikakila River on pack-rafts; this eight-mile river was flowing strong with Class II and III whitewater and we ran all but one rapid. Read the rest of the article.
The Appalachian Trail under his belt, photographer Nicholas Reichard is on round #2– thru hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.
Nicholas “Click” Reichard didn’t grow up hiking or exploring in the woods. He had a passion filmmaking, and wanted to be one of the best. So he attended the Savannah College of Art and Design where he obtained a BFA in filmmaking. But despite his skill and talent, he found his options limited. So he sought a change–a new perspective on life. And what better way to do it than hike the “big three” long-distance trails in the United States. He planned to become a Triple Crowner, hiking the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail and Continental Divide Trail. It didn’t matter that he had little backpacking experience, he would photograph his adventure with a film camera. So in 2015 he got some gear together and began thru hiking the AT. Six months and 150 rolls of film later he completed the first leg of his journey, and he was hungry for more. Currently Click is partway through the PCT. We caught up with him on a day he had phone reception and asked him a few questions about how he balances ultralight with photography.
How did you discover thru hiking?
So the funny thing is I never wanted to hike the AT, or even enjoyed going on day hikes. But I knew undertaking such an epic adventure would change who I am as a person and as an artist. Boy was I right. Now I sleep better outside than I do at home. I think the challenge of covering so much ground over the span of a few months is also really appealing to me.
How do you plan for a trip like the Pacific Crest Trail?
I’m not sure there is a right answer for this. I’d say it’s fun to plan the trip but I’m more of a figure it out as I go which seems to make things happen more naturally. Read the rest of the Q&A.
Thomas Turiano on his new comprehensive backcountry ski book, Teton Pass Backcountry Guide.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador and professional skier Thomas Turiano has been writing skiing guide books for 21 years, but his most recent is the first ever “guidebook for backcountry skiing on world-famous Teton Pass,” he says. Teton Pass Backcountry Guide boasts 130+ pages of maps, pictures and guides explaining how skiers can get the most out of their time in the Teton Pass backcountry. When not writing guidebooks, Turiano guides climbing and skiing trips in the Teton backcountry, and he plays guitar professionally. He also claims more than 400 ascents in the Greater Yellowstone mountains and packrafts throughout the area as a way to reach the most remote spots.
Turiano wants to help more people explore the backcountry, and he’s a big proponent of lightweight hiking. Carrying less weight, he says, allows him to suffer less and thus be able to focus more on helping his clients achieve their goals. Turiano transitioned early on in his guiding career to lightweight philosophies. While attempting to put up new routes in the Teton’s during the 90’s, he was forced to rappel down after a failed attempt. During the rappel, his heavy pack almost flipped him over backwards due to the sheer weight of it. It was at that moment that he realized that it was time to reduce the amount of gear he carried and streamline his kit.
In celebration of the release of his new book, we chatted with Turiano about what drives him to write and what it takes to write an comprehensive guidebook.
Honey Buns, Packing & Other Appalachian Trail Thru Hike Tips
More than 600 miles in on the Appalachian Trail, and Lays, Ron-Jon, Scuba, Gadget, and I usually just talk about food these days. “You can tell a good hiker by the amount of calories in her honey bun,” or so they say. People stare enviously over their lumpy oatmeal and crushed Pop Tarts as we eat one of our Mrs. Freshley’s Grand Iced Honey Buns. At 680 calories per sugar bomb, the Freshley’s are the pinnacle of a thru hiker’s eye for maximum calorie to weight ratio. Not to say that you need to slay almost 700 calories of carbs ad sugar every morning to hike the Appalachian Trail, but it’s more the principle of the thing. Becoming savvy to the thru-hiker lifestyle takes time, a lot of mistakes, and many good friends to show you the all-star level tricks and tips. Here are a few of them:
- Doritos are a good way to add cheese and a crunch to trail burritos.
- Body wash found in a hiker box can be used to wash clothes in a sink.
- Pilfer a hand full of Q-Tips from said hiker box.
- Make friends with locals. They will drive you places and make you feel like a rock star.
- You can, and probably should hike out pizza if you try hard and believe in yourself.
These are the things you see thru hikers doing that weekend warriors are most likely not. Thru hikers also wear Crocs with socks and all their rain gear while doing laundry. And they buy $17 worth of candy from Dollar General to eat while waiting for said laundry. We live a silly life, but it’s the life we were dying to live.
A Pack Not Packed is a Pack Not Worth Packing
When you slide the removable aluminum stays out of a Hyperlite Mountain Gear pack you immediately lose a couple ounces, and you also gain a little more freedom and wiggle room within your pack. That’s what Lays did a couple days before arriving at town. Realizing that her pack was very well balanced and sat well against her back, the stays served no more purpose and were removed to be place in a Appalachian Trail hiker box for the next Hyperlite Mountain Gear pack user. I pack my bag differently and prefer to use the stays; the contents of my bag contour with their shape and help support my load even more. Read the rest of the post.
Ambassador Kt Miller discusses her ski/climate change documentary, available for your viewing pleasure.
For two years Kt Miller was a helicopter skiing guide helping clients use the fuel-hungry machines to reach the top of mountains. After learning more about climate change and seeing the effect it had on the mountains around her, she quickly lost her fondness for the business and the obscene amounts of fuel the helicopters consumed. Miller made a choice. She cut back on travel that hurt the environment and focused on sustainable living. She now resides in a single-room 14-by-12 foot cabin in Cooke City, Montana, population 76. She tries to travel using sustainable methods wherever possible and hasn’t been on a helicopter since she left her job. Now she focuses on making awesome ski videos while bringing the plight of the climate into the public’s eye.
On one of her more recent expedition, she and four women embarked on a human- and wind-powered trip to the western coast of Greenland to document the effect climate change has had on the ice sheet in the area. They also skied multiple first descents along the coast to help motivate snow sport enthusiasts to get up and do their part to conserve winter landscapes. Now that the trip has finished and her documentary about the adventure is being shown across the world, we took some time to ask Kt Miller a few questions about her new documentary, “Shifting Ice + Changing Tides,” and the experience she had during the filming process.
Click here for the full Q&A.
Ambassador Bethany Hughes weighs in after 5 months of thru hiking the Americas
The scale at the international flight counter weighed each of our packs, full of everything except food and water, at 10 kilos (about 22 pounds). Planning to mostly thru hike the length of South America over the next three years, going lightweight is a must. Our route has taken us through National Parks and Preserves, and we have often marveled at the bulk of what many visitors carry. They shuffle and trudge, backs bowing under the weight of their packs as they frown at the dirt before their feet while giants such as the Torres del Paine, Fitz Roy and Cerro Norte tower above.
Raised in a Scouting family, backpacking has long been a part of my narrative; lightweight, not so much. I’d never even heard of a baseweight until the night before starting the Pacific Crest Trail in 2010. Hanging my pack from a scale for the first time I thought 58 lbs. wasn’t bad. By the end of that trail my full weight was around 35 lbs.
But going lightweight has been natural and necessary development in the transition from backpacking to thru hiking. For Neon and myself, it has become essential, and being out of reach of easy replacement gear, durability is also an important component. It is a question of balance and simplicity, and it’s something we think about every day. We hike light for the practical reason of sustaining 20-40 kilometers a day over years to come.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Partners With Maine-Based Whitewater Athlete
The Allagash Wilderness Waterway. It’s remote, but also well managed with established sites that make camping very comfortable. My favorite spot is just on the river, where the water pools up above some rapids. I paddle in, accompanied only by the white noise of the river and of the bird songs. Temps are warm, even as evening approaches, and only the slightest breeze rustles the white pines. I pull my canoe on the shoreline, unload my gear and settle in where I can watch the water. I’m tired after a long, hard day of paddling, but I feel invigorated. I watch the brook trout sip mayflies from the surface of the river, and out of nowhere comes an Osprey. Taking a trout totally unawares, she makes a splash in the river and flies off just as quickly as she arrived. The sun sets, the colors of the rainbow playing over the surface of the Allagash. A rare and precious moment, I feel fully connected to nature. –John Connelly
Hyperlite Mountain Gear recently partnered with former US Canoe & Kayak team member and Maine resident John Connelly to support his 1500-mile solo river/sea odyssey. Connelly has numerous first descents under his belt, along with decades of experience on whitewater. His 75-day trip will take him through two countries and four states and over 22 streams and 58 lakes. The journey will be the first to link four major waterways: The Northern Forest Canoe Trail, Saint John River, Bay of Fundy and Maine Island Trail. We are providing Connelly with a 5400 Porter Pack from our soon-to-be-released Expedition Series, along with an Echo II Shelter System and Stuff Sacks.
Nearly Finished with the Appalachian Trail, Ambassador Mary “Speedstick” Moynihan Strives to be 1st Female to do the Calendar Triple Crown
The American Long Distance Hiking Association has given 250 people the Triple Crown Award. These folks have hiked America’s three major long-distance trails—the Appalachian Trail, the Continental Divide Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail—either in sections or doing each trail in one push. But only four people have actually achieved the Calendar Triple Crown (CTC), hiking all three of these trails in one year.
First done by Brian “Flyin’ Brian” Robinson in 2001 as a section hike, this super thru hike covers a total of 7,900 miles, has more than one million feet of vertical gain and travels through 22 states. To put this in perspective, one would have to hike about 21.64 miles each day for 365 days. Three other people have completed this feat: Matthew “Squeaky” Hazley was the first to do the trails back-to-back in 240 days; Justin “Trauma” Lichter did the Triple Crown plus another 2100 miles in 356 days; and most recently Cam “Swami” Honan hiked it in just 236 days (as part of his 545-day, 14,342-mile “12 Long Walks” challenge). New Hyperlite Mountain Gear Trail Ambassador Mary “Speedstick” Moynihan is currently on the way to becoming the fifth person to complete the Calendar Triple Crown, and the first woman.
Moynihan is three-quarters of the way done with her northbound journey on the Appalachian Trail. She left in January, hiking through the snow and in freezing cold temperatures for most of the first few months. “Hiking in the winter is complex!” she says. “At the end of February I was hiking in snow, and so started my mornings hiking with all my layers on.” She wore a hat, neck gaiter, down vest, down parka, fleece, base layers, gloves, and she’d even wear her rain jacket just for that extra warmth. “It’s all about layering and making sure you have the layers designed for whatever conditions you might come across. I literally got rid of five pounds of gear once winter was over!”
Notoriously difficult, the Te Araroa’s terrain involves deep wilderness, wild and scenic beaches, volcanoes and cities. Ambassador Ashley Hill embraced it all.
Thru hikers know the Appalachian Trail and they’ve probably heard of the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT), but few can boast they’ve hiked New Zealand’s long trail. Relatively new, the Te Araroa is an 1864-mile trail running from Cape Reinga in the north of the country to Bluff in the very south. Opened late December 3, 2011 by the Governor-General of New Zealand, Sir Jerry Mateparae, it’s less well-known hiking trail (or “tramping trail” if you are a Kiwi). It’s also long and difficult, typically taking hikers three to six months to complete. It involves startlingly different types of terrain; one day you might find yourself walking along a road and then, the next day find yourself deep in the wilderness.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador and happily obsessive thru hiker Ashley Hill recently completed the journey in three months and three days, saying it was one of her favorite trails ever. Read our Q&A with Hill. Post continues here…
Ambassador Ashley Hill braves the mosquitoes, embraces the Flat Tarp
Each month Hyperlite Mountain Gear will feature one of its ambassadors. This month we’re highlighting Ashley Hill (trail name, Bloody Mary). A thru-hiker, lover of life and avid user of the Flat Tarp, Hill recently finished hiking the Te Araroa. Stay tuned this month for a blog post about what it takes to hike New Zealand’s most famous trail, plus a feature Q&A with Hill. This article reprinted from Hill’s blog.
Text & photos by Ashley Hill
I remember it vividly, the moment I saw her, a solo female hiker named Mountain Spice. She was sheltered beneath a flat tarp at a mosquito infested lake on the PCT. I thought to myself, “Wow… I want to be like her one day. A woman with a tarp. She’s extreme. She’s bad ass. She’s doing it like one should.” How romantic, only using a small square piece of material for protection from the wilderness.
Now, I rarely sleep in a shelter, even when it rains. There’s nothing I love more than closing my eyes under the shooting stars, when you’re alone in the open… Vulnerable… Cowboy camping… Like a fresh little baby drinking it’s first breath of air. I know, it is more than necessary to have something to protect yourself from the elements. My little hypothermia scare taught me that. Even if I camp in a sleeping bag on the dirt, I’ve always carried my tent, just in case.
For my Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT) trip, I decided to be “that women with a tarp.” Now, this hike is not comparable to the Pacific Crest Trail. I skirt a constant latitude similar to that of the Nordic climate, (at least it is in my mind): rain falls daily, if only for an hour or two, mosquitoes swarm in the millions, creek and river fords are a common occurrence, and I’m always on watch for the wild animals. Perhaps a tarp isn’t the ideal gear choice, but I don’t care, I want to be her, and after making it 400 plus miles, I think I can say that I am.
I’m using a 10 ounce 8.6′ x 8.6′ cuben fiber tarp for my shelter, crafted by my friends at Hyperlite Mountain Gear… and by golly, I love it. It takes time and experience to learn how to set up this kind of ultralight system, but once you’ve got it down, you’re gold. Tents might be easier to rig and protect you better from the bugs and rain, but when you wake up and start hiking, everyone is on the exact same page… The only difference is that I’m lighter and I’m cooler… I’m that bad ass women with a tarp.