The Royal Arch Loop – Grand Canyon

It’s 5am on April 17, when a Ford F250 pulls into the dark parking lot. Peter Bakwin and I say hello to Elaine, who fills us in on local lore while driving an hour and half out to Pasture Wash, where we are dropped off by an abandoned cabin. We shoulder our packs and navigate straight west across the flat and featureless plateau until the abrupt vertical cliffs. Vertical indeed – it’s 6,000 feet down to the Colorado River – it’s not called the Grand Canyon for nothing. We’re looking for a very interesting way down thru the Toroweap sandstone, called the Point Huitzil route, a hidden route that we turned up while researching on the Internet. This connects with the Royal Arch Loop, way out on the west end of the Park, which I’ve been wanting to do for decades. Then we’re going to walk the Tonto Rim back to Hermits Rest. Total distance: about 70 miles. 2.5 days. We just have to make it the next few hundred meters.

“We have an unknown distance yet to run, an unknown river to explore. What falls there are, we know not; what rocks beset the channel, we know not; what walls ride over the river, we know not. Ah, well! We may conjecture many things.”

- John Wesley Powell, 1869


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Dark Needles Loop

Spring is in the air. This can mean many things, but for Peter Bakwin and I, spring means, “go to the desert!”

This year we were going for full value: a 3 1/2 day, 110 mile backpacking route starting from the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, thru the very remote country of Beef Basin and Fable Valley, and down into the bottom of Dark Canyon. Then back again (can’t forget that part). Backpacking allows us to get into the really remote places, to watch the sun come up and watch it go down again, to see the stars, and to experience the desert environment up close and personal.

“Lawrence, only two kinds of creatures get fun in the desert: Bedouins and gods, and you’re neither. Take it from me, for ordinary men, it’s a burning, fiery furnace.”

“No, it’s going to be fun.”

- Lawrence of Arabia


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Zioneering – the Temple Throne Traverse (not quite)

March 14, 6 AM, Canyon Overlook Trailhead

Jared Campbell and I are in Zion National Park. It’s a cool starry morning, and we immediately are enjoying scrambling up the white and red sandstone in the total darkness, our headlamps illuminating tiny circles in the smooth rock. Hey wait, it isn’t supposed to be dark … we timed our 6 AM departure based on when “Civil Twilight” was supposed to start.  Hmm… we keep climbing up the bare rock … then both realize that it’s not going to get light for another hour because I forgot to adjust for Daylight Savings Time. There are a few more things we should not have forgotten as it turns out… JaredMorning

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From New Zealand – Team UD Wins Motatapu Adventure Run

Grant Guise from New Zealand is our Guest Blogger this month – here’s his report.

The inaugural Motatapu event was held in 2005, with marathon and mountain bike options, and attracted around 1000 competitors. Fast forward 10 years and the event has over 3700 people taking part in over 5 different events – the original marathon and mountain bike, an Xterra Tri race, the 15km “Miners” trail running race and the “Adventure Run”.

New Zealand Landscape for Ultra Running Race

New Zealand Landscape is Unreal! Photo Chredit: Jim Pollard

The Adventure Run tackles the true high country, traversing steep country, rough animal tracks and often no track at all, for 49km with over 3100m of ascent.  If the terrain was not unique enough, it’s also a team race, where you must race with your teammate for the duration, side by side.

New Zealand Running Trails

Motatapu Trail. Photo Credit: Jim Pollard


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Meet Our Adventure Running Ambassadors

We’ve put together a crew of runners from all over the country to help us test and represent Ultimate Direction. We are proud to have these talented ambassadors on board and want to wish them a great season of racing and adventuring. Keep an eye out for them on the trails!  We’d like to introduce you to the class of 2014 –>

Ultimate Direction Ambassadors Team

Ultimate Direction Ambassadors Team

Find us on Instagram @UDHydrates


A Beginner

For the first month of 2014, I’ve been injured, again. Back in the first week of the year, I aggravated a hip flexor while shuffling my way up a mountain, and a month later it’s finally showing signs of health. Injuries aren’t unfamiliar to me, but after 19 years of running, they are no less frustrating. Especially when seemingly induced by an activity (skinning uphill) that, by all accounts, should be the perfect, low-impact  winter complement to my summer pursuits. A year ago, I wrote a post about dealing with injuries, so I have no desire to re-tread that ground.

With skiing (skinning) and running off the table, I’ve been attempting to remain physically engaged in the only other activity that holds serious interest to me: climbing. Except that it’s the dead of winter here in Boulder and the local crags are typically wet, if not fully encased in snow and ice. Other than a week in mid-January when I was able to get in three days on proper granite and sandstone, this means that I’ve been climbing plastic, in the gym.

Rewritten, Eldo Canyon. Photo: Caroline Treadway.

Before the cold snap in January. Rewritten, Eldo Canyon. Photo: Caroline Treadway.

This has very much been a first for me. Prior to this winter, I had roped up in a gym exactly once before. But, I have some modest climbing-ish goals for the summer season (mostly a couple of moderate but long and tricky traverses/link-ups in Wyoming) and getting stronger and improving my technique will make those go a whole lot more efficiently, hopefully. And especially with the winter conditions, the easiest way to be consistent, improve, and lay a base for the summer is to hit the gym. At the first of the year I finally committed to the indoors by buying a pass to Movement Climbing+Fitness and have been going four or five days a week.

The climbing gym (especially in Boulder, CO, where there is a pretty astounding concentration of climbing talent) is an eye-opening place. First, I’m not a good climber. Outdoors, I’m a below-average climber; in the gym, I’m a rote beginner, both in terms of strength and technique. Second, the vast majority of my climbing outside has been of the traditional variety, meaning that I’m placing my own removable protection (stoppers, cams and the like) on lead, or seconding beneath a belay constructed of same. Third, while well-placed cams and nuts are fully capable of holding a fall—but, really, who wants to unnecessarily test this?—I generally subscribe to the maxim that the leader does not fall. As a result, almost everything I climb outside has been fully within my abilities, which doesn’t offer up much opportunity to really push myself and get stronger.

The first week in the gym, I was barely able to climb. After maybe 30-40min, my grip strength was completely exhausted and I could barely untie my shoes let alone continue clinging to a hold. To counteract this, however, is the totally ridiculous but still nice ego-boost one receives by rocketing up grades that I typically wouldn’t even consider outside. Even if one factors in the generally safe, controlled environment of a gym (pre-hung draws, top-ropes, extreme unlikeliness that a hold is going to break or a rock is going to fall on your head), gym ratings still seem outrageously inflated. In the gym, I typically warm up on a grade that is at my leading limit outdoors. Fun! And after six weeks, endurance is rarely the limiting factor for me anymore; I can usually climb with decent technique for almost all of my typical 2-2.5hr session.

Any inflation in my confidence is very short-lived, however. The simple fact is that I am a horrendous climber. This is not annoying self-effacement. This is fact. Much like how in running, the track and stopwatch don’t lie, in climbing, one’s pure strength and technical expertise (or glaring lack thereof) is laid out quite starkly in the gym. Essentially, all the heady intangibles of actual climbing—wind, loose rock, run-outs, lichen, wet rock, poorly-placed protection, etc, etc—are removed and all that is left is pure performance, the movement. My chosen gym is aptly named, I’ve found. Just like there is no denying that I’ve never run faster than a 4:42 mile, in the gym there’s no denying that in my current state, I will almost certainly fall off a 5.11b.

On any given day, I am pretty close to being the worst climber in the gym. Again, this is no exaggeration. Thanks to the previously mentioned, prominently posted grades, it’s really easy to see how easy or hard everyone is climbing. And everyone climbs harder than me in the gym. Women twice my age. Dudes with beer bellies. Tiny girls a third my age. Fellow weakling runners, who, given their technical trail skills outside (or lack thereof—I’m looking at you, Trent :-)) I would never expect to excel in the vertical world. So, it is deeply humbling. The ego is deflated.  It turns out that being able to nimbly scramble a flatiron in running shoes (or ten in a morning), or launching up a multi-pitch climb in Eldo with no more than five cams and a set of stoppers (climbing gear is expensive!) has absolutely zero bearing on one’s ability to crush in the gym.

But, the flipside of this is that my curve of improvement is pleasantly steep. In running—especially in the mountains—I’ve felt competent, even accomplished, for many years. My improvement in that arena continues to go up, but it occurs in predictably incremental steps. And to continue to improve, I have to keep paying attention to smaller and smaller details.

Conversely, after only six weeks in the gym, I can tell that I have made significant gains, if only because I started so pathetically low on the spectrum. Most of the improvement comes from simple consistency and from realizing that there is usually an easier way: rotate your hips into the wall, move your feet up, read and anticipate the sequence, don’t hold on so tightly, quickly move past the bad holds instead of stalling out on them. It’s all pretty basic stuff, but, like most things, is also easier said than done (at least for me).

While applying myself with commitment to something new is inherently fresh and exciting, it is also frustrating. Since my goal is improvement, it seems that working towards that on a climbing wall inevitably means struggle and failure and an overall feeling of incompetency. Because of the cush, controlled environment, it doesn’t take long for laps on easy routes in the gym to start feeling like complacency instead of training for endurance. So in striving to improve, a lot of my time is spent falling off of routes that are at the very edge of my current ability. This is frustrating, especially when you can feel yourself doing it wrong—climbing with poor technique—but somehow feel powerless to do anything about it.

Because I’ve been running for 19 years, being outside, moving quickly and efficiently in the mountains has become the main thing in my life where I feel competent. I feel reasonably skilled, effective, a master of meshing my effort and abilities with the terrain and covering ground quickly. If indoor climbing is supposed to be my physical outlet right now, in almost every way it’s an awfully poor one when compared to what I’m usually able to do outside.  But that’s okay. Growth only comes through challenge and failure, so I’ll take my lumps. And, eventually, hopefully, it’ll have a positive effect on my experiences out in the mountains.

More noob activity---top-roping ice in Clear Creek Canyon this week. Photo: Joe Grant.

More noob activity—top-roping ice in Clear Creek Canyon this week. Photo: Joe Grant.

Deanne Buck Shares – A Member Of The Women’s Collective

Deanne Buck is the Executive Director of the Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition and was apart of the UD Women’s Collective that helped design and test the new Jenny Collection.  We got to sit down and ask her a few questions about the experience.

Deanne Buck - Avid Runner. Member of the UD Women's Collective

Deanne Buck – Avid Runner. Member of the UD Women’s Collective

How long have you been into running?

I started running when I was 4- playing kick the can with my neighborhood friends. I stopped running for about 10 years in my teens and early 20′s and started back up when I was 22 years old- over half my life time ago. . .ummm, did I just paint myself in a corner?

 What is your sweet spot for weekly distance?

Sweet spot is anywhere from 25 miles – 40 miles depending on how I am feeling, time of year, and what else is going on in my life. My sweetest runs these days are out my back door (which abuts National Forest land and trails) with my 15 year-old running companion, Sequoia (dog).

How did you enjoy being apart of the UD women’s collective to create the Jenny Collection?

On many runs, I dream of designing the perfect product, one that meets my every needs. Being a part of the Jenny Collection allowed me to live out that fantasy. I felt like queen for a day.

Now that the products are actually ready for the public which piece would you recommend most? The Handy 10oz is great for everyday use.

Working on UD designs

Working on UD hydration designs.

Now that you’ve gotten to see the “insides” of the design and development process what was the most eye opening part of it?

The thoughtfulness that went into every aspect of the final product.

 Where was the last place you ran that really made you go WOW?

I live at 8,200 feet and have trails and mountains out my backyard. Pretty much every run is a WOW run for me. . . and, it is not lost on me on how lucky I am.

What is your post race/run treat?

Sushi – a complete food: rice, tuna, seaweed, and wasabi.

Prodcut Testing the Women's Collective

The Women’s Collective Product Testing!  Susan, Jenny, Deanne, Marily, Elizabeth and Michelle.

Shop the whole Jenny Collection!

The Signature Series 2.0 is Coming!

Take a peek at the 3 new product videos about the new and improved 2.0 versions of our 3 Signature Series running vests.

Anton Krupicka’s Race Vest 2.0  -  Watch Now

Scott Jurek’s Ultra Vest 2.0  - Watch Now

Peter Bakwin’s Adventure Vest 2.0 –  Watch Now

anton krupicka, peter bakwin, scott jurek, ultra running vests

Updates to the Signatures Series Vests are coming!

The next generation of our Signature Series arrives soon! The vests Scott Jurek, Anton Krupicka and Peter Bakwin designed were incredibly successful, but the boys thought of some great ideas for improvements, so here they are: Signature Series 2.0.

For additional durability, we switched the Cuben Fiber for Silnylon 66, beefed up all the mesh and bungy cords, and added edge binding to the stretch pockets on the three vests. For easier sizing and a better fit, we added lateral adjustment straps on Scott and Peters, and for easier access to an internal bladder those two vests now have a third access zipper. Anton’s vest is more streamlined without the pockets at the bottom of the main compartment. And everything has been updated with our new color and logo.

The vests stayed virtually the same capacity — they are just stronger and tuned to perform better.

AK Race Vest: $99.95 – (weight w/o bottles 7 oz)
SJ Ultra Vest: $129.95 – (weight w/o bottles 11 oz)
PB Adventure Vest: $159.95 – (weight w/o bottles16 oz)

Also stay tuned for our NEW website!


Top Ten FKT’s of 2013

“Let your instincts guide your steps … he’ll take you where you most love.” – Kilian Jornet

For several years I have maintained a simple website dedicated to recording and documenting Fastest Known Time (FKT) efforts on various trails, routes and mountains. “Fastest Known Time” essentially means the same thing as “Speed Record”, while acknowledging it is the fastest time that we know about, as some may have been forgotten or not reported. By making this information much easier to share, the Internet (with help from my site), has probably made possible the explosion of FKT-style efforts over the last few years.

2013 was huge for FKT attempts, and may represent the start of new era for this niche activity within the overall sport of mountain, ultra, and trail running. We now are now seeing elite runners make FKT efforts a central focus; they are putting as much effort into an FKT as they would for a race. This has, of course, resulted in some impressive times on some classic routes!

What follows, in no particular order, are my picks for the Top 10 FKTs of 2013. Links are all to pages on my FKT site, which will direct you to further information about these remarkable trips. What are YOUR top picks?



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