Leor Pantilat: Big Sur Waterfall Project

Discovery Falls

Discovery Falls

When I was in first grade my family moved to a home next to a greenbelt with a lush canyon and “The Creek” at the bottom. This perennial stream with a small salmon run was the source of my first adventures in creeks and I loved it.  It was an escape where hours exploring the canyon felt like minutes. I’ve always enjoyed the flow of water, particularly in the form of waterfalls, but I took a hiatus from exploring creeks for over a decade. In the last couple years I rediscovered this joy in the rugged and mystical canyons of Big Sur.

The Big Sur region has incredible topographical relief spanning over 5,000 vertical feet from the rocky shores of the Pacific Ocean to the summits of the Santa Lucia Mountains. It should therefore come as no surprise that the rugged canyons draining the peaks hold many amazing waterfalls. In fact, almost every major stream and drainage contains a waterfall, or in some cases a handful! The falls range from delicate 15 ft falls to towering 200+ ft falls. The setting of the falls is equally varied including coastal falls onto the sand, lush redwood-filled canyons, rocky slopes with endemic Santa Lucia Firs and ephemeral falls in the drier chaparral zones. The waterfalls range from cataracts deep in the most remote and wild corners of the wilderness to the easily accessible falls near the highway. Other intricacies include varying degrees and type of mineral calcification, rock types, and the depth and size of plunge pools. Every waterfall is different!

My fascination with Big Sur waterfalls has evolved into a project to discover, document and catalog as many waterfalls in the Big Sur region as I can. So far, I’ve cataloged over one hundred waterfalls and there are likely several dozen more waterfalls to see (https://pantilat.wordpress.com/big-sur/waterfall-project/). The project only takes into account falls that I’ve subjectively determined to be worthy (there are dozens, if not hundreds, of truly ephemeral falls that only appear immediately after heavy rain, which I generally exclude).

Inspiration Falls

Inspiration Falls

Only a small subset of the falls are accessible by road or trail and the remainder lie in remote reaches of the wilderness, often entailing many miles of trail running followed by off-trail adventures. Many of the falls are within the immense Ventana Wilderness, which covers over 240,000 acres and is one of the greatest unspoiled coastal wilderness areas in existence. The Ventana has a long history pioneering and exploration, but the range has largely been overlooked in recent decades leaving many hidden treasures for the modern day adventurer to discover. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting and naming many falls with no prior evidence of visitation by humans, which I call a first known sighting (FKS). I imagine many of the FKSs had been visited by Native Americans and early explorers, but the passage of time and the lack of documentation or evidence makes them modern day discoveries.

In order to find and locate potential falls, I use topographical maps and Google earth satellite imagery and then carefully plan my route to reach the destination as efficiently as possible. As good as the maps and satellite are these days, they only tell a small part of the story and I’m never quite sure what I will find until I’m there on the ground. Sometimes the waterfalls far exceed expectations while other times they are a bust. This is because the maps often do not pick up micro-features of the rugged canyons or the falls are shaded by relief or forest canopy. Off-trail travel in the Ventana is particularly arduous with the primary goal to avoid bushwhacking through dense chaparral that is virtually impenetrable and covers the vast majority of these mountains. In addition, one must contend with the “terrible five” of the Ventana – sharp yucca plants that can slice skin upon contact, biting flies, ticks, poison oak and rattlesnakes. Often times, the most efficient route is by wading in the creeks, but creekwalking can be arduous and technical with high water flow, deep pools, log jams and slick rock.

While many of the falls require quite a bit of effort and planning to reach, the waterfall project has become one of the most rewarding and enjoyable endeavors I’ve pursued. In this in this day and age of sophisticated technology and infrastructure it’s not easy to find places that have not been domesticated or mapped so I treasure the opportunities for true adventure and a sense of pioneering that I’ve found in the canyons of Big Sur. At the same time, I’m also cognizant of preserving the wild and unspoiled nature of these canyons so those that follow can enjoy the same sense of adventure and exploration.

Happy Mothers Day!

Mothers Day is May 8!  
Since there are now more female runners in the US than male – 21.8 vs 20.2 million – and 57% of race entries are women (!) – Mothers Day is more noteworthy than ever.  Obviously, mothers comprise only a percentage of these overall numbers, but we wondered:  What are the challenges?  Can you raise children and lower your race times at the same time?
For this very non-comprehensive survey, we asked Pam Smith and Sarah Lavender Smith (no relation!) their esteemed thoughts – – –
Now that's what I'm talkin' about ...

Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about …

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Ultimate Direction welcomes new Ambassador

April 1, 2016
For Immediate Release
Boulder, CO –

Ultimate Direction, manufacturer of market-leading hydration systems, is pleased to announce the signing of a new Athlete, Katniss Everdeen.

Katniss, a Tribute from District 12, is the Winner of the 74th Hunger Games, plus an entire civil war, and is well known for her extreme endurance, toughness, and problem-solving, in addition to archery skills.


“The Girl on Fire is the perfect addition to our Ambassador Team”, says Buzz Burrell, UD Brand Leader. “Along with Krissy Moehl, Nikki Kimball, Devon Yanko, Michele Yates, and others, we unquestionably field the strongest women’s team ever in the sport.”

Katniss-run“I really look forward to running with Katniss”, says Krissy, who along with Kilian Jornet is the only winner of both the Hardrock 100 and the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc. “I’m a little faster than she is, which I know is hard to believe, but she has backcountry skills that will really help me on my upcoming trips to the Sierra’s and Peru.”

“Roasted Squirrel is the next energy food”.

Scott Jurek, 7-time winner of the Western States 100 and supported FKT holder on the Appalachian Trail was more measured in his welcome. “While I admit red berries are not the ideal snack, due to complications stemming from certain and excruciating death, a more plant-based diet could probably enable The Mockingjay to achieve her true potential.”

Brian Metzler, Editor of Competitor Magazine and Founder of various other projects we can’t yet mention, believes the timing is perfect. “The Hunger Games have joined the IAAF, where their unparalleled record of horrific graft and profiteering were welcomed with open arms, and have petitioned for inclusion as an official Olympic Sport. Having a vicious fight to the death among young teenagers would be a lovely way to close out the Olympics, as it would bring the crucial Millennials demographic back in front of the TV, and be far more interesting than some boring road Marathon.”

“I look forward to doing a 3 minute video interview of her”, said Bryon Powell, co-owner of iRunFar.com, “as soon as she finishes in the top 3 of some race in Europe no one has heard of or can pronounce.”

“I’m not sure if she qualifies for ‘Ultra Runner of the Year’ voting”, noted Karl Hoagland, owner of Ultrarunning Magazine. “Her results seem to all have taken place in Panem, while we only include those from the United States”. Realizing this will set off the usual fire-storm of protests from ultra runners with too much time on their hands, Karl added, “But our committee of really old people who used to run will take a careful look and see what we can do. Or not.”

Despite the flurry of speculation taking place on social media forums, Ultimate Direction is declining to confirm when the new “KE Survival Vest” will hit the market, because as all their other product introductions have been late, they don’t want to catch more flak when this one probably arrives late as well.

Katniss Everdeen field-testing the KE Survival Vest prototype

Katniss Everdeen field-testing the KE Survival Vest prototype

Who is Jared Campbell?

The Legend: Jared Campbell PC: Buzz Burrell

The Legend: Jared Campbell PC: Buzz Burrell

Who are the silent badass athletes in the outdoor arena? Ultimate Direction Ambassador Jared Campbell comes to mind. Most outdoor enthusiasts have never heard of Jared (unless they have watched the new Barkley Marathons documentary on Netflix!)

So, who is Jared Campbell, and why has he done more adventures than anyone you’ve never heard of?

UPDATE:  On April 4, Jared became the first 3-time Finisher of the infamous Barkley Marathons …

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Winter Longs Peak Triathlon

DSC02919When I did a Longs Peak Triathlon last summer, I remember thinking it was only logical to apply the same tactics in the calendar winter season. Maybe unsurprisingly, there simply didn’t seem to be many attempts at such a thing, let alone actual completions of the task. To be sure, even in the age of the Internet, we don’t always know what exciting things people have been up to, but the only completions I could find were by Justin Simoni (a constant inspiration when it comes to bikes and mountains) and Tina Lewis, both in the 18-19hr range. Maybe I’m weak for wanting to wait for at least decent conditions—call me crazy, but this seems to be an important part of the tradition of mountaineering—but I couldn’t figure out how it should take quite that long. And riding dark roads at night doesn’t hold a huge amount of appeal for me. So I waited for good conditions.

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I Love My PB

With Stephanie Ehret and Peter Bakwin

“I think we met while drinking whisky out of a bottle and wrestling on the couch. I accidentally poured some in Peters eye.”
“It stung.”

That was in the 10th grade – 37 years ago – and this ultra couple has been together ever since, celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary this last December.

Peter Bakwin is of course, the signature on the award-winning “PB Adventure Vest”. But he’s not on Facebook, ignores all social media, and never speaks of himself. So who is PB??

PB Garage

PnS 1

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Multi-City Film Premier – Kissing The Rock

Matt Trappe’s World Premier of his running film, Kissing the Rock is kicking off in BOULDER COLORADO!  Join us for drinks and light snacks while you watch this inspiring film followed by a Q and A with Matt and some local Hardrock competitors. Watch the Trailer Now!



The hardrock miners of Colorado experienced adversity on another level through the hardships they faced in the San Juan Mountains. When the mines closed and the jobs dried up the town of Silverton was in search of a new identity.

The Hardrock Hundred Endurance Run epitomizes the community aspect of mountain running perhaps due to the grueling nature of the course and the adversity the runners face. The mentality of everyone vs. the mountain exists especially at Hardrock. Friends and runners gather each July in Silverton and a town is reborn.

A production by Matt Trappe Photo & Film
In association with Louder than 11
Edited by Matt Trappe Louder than 11
Additional Editing by Jess Carfield
Score by Fizzix Productions
Post Produced by Louder than 11
Produced and Directed by Matt Trappe

Film made possible with support from Ultimate Direction, Hoka One One, Clif Bar, Feetures! and Competitor Magazine.

Power of Four Skimo Race — 2016

Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer / @mykehphoto / mykejh.com

Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer / @mykehphoto / mykejh.com

Well, that was worthwhile.

It’s not like I’m realizing anything ground-breaking here—in fact, mountain and ultrarunners crossing over to skimo in the winter months is treading perilously close to the tipping point of being cliche—but holy shit, what an absolutely fantastic sport! If you like moving quickly and efficiently* in the mountains, this style and format of activity is the only one that makes sense in the winter.  *(I prefer the “efficiently” adverb, because I believe it is one’s mindset and intent—not absolute velocity—that positively or negatively shapes the experience.)

Of course, the Euros have known this for a long time; they have a deep, intense pool of athletes over there who have been going at this for decades. Backcountry skiing or alpine touring in general is certainly nothing new here in the States, but it is definitely a growing sector, and with big advances in lightweight gear, runners (and others) with a bent for the mountains are increasingly being attracted to the sport’s extreme light-n-fast sector—skimo racing. So it shouldn’t come as much surprise that Ultimate Direction is making the logical cross-over, too. Garment-like hydration vests/packs with front carrying capacity have become the norm in running; why not apply the same design principles to skimo-specific packs? I’ve certainly been enjoying testing the new products.

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Get To Know The UD Chicks, Class of 2016!

It’s 2016 which means we have new pairs of speedy legs to add to our team. At Ultimate Direction we look for athletes that exude the UD lifestyle, have outstanding personalities, and who of course love the product!

Our new cast and crew includes: Krissy Moehl, Nikki Kimball, Ashley Erba, Jessie Young, Devon Yanko, Kristina Pattison, and Hillary Allen.

Krissy Moehl is a veteran in the ultra scene, running her first ultra back in 1999. Since then she has raced over 100 ultras (winning 55) and has just penned her first book: Running Your First Ultra.

Krissy Moehl

Krissy Moehl

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Run. Laugh. Celebrate. That’s Zooma.

Ladies need a motivator or excuse to travel & run? Check out the Zooma Race Series and go on a race-cation!

Zooma Women's Running Races

Zooma Women’s Running Races

“Run by Women” ZOOMA is unique among other women’s races in that it is literally “run by women” (pun intended!)  ZOOMA’s Founder and Executive Director is a woman, mother, and runner, and the staff are all women.  Our primary goal is to execute events that cater to the real needs and wants of women runners.  – See more at: Zooma Run.

Imagine a powerful sea of women on the move – encouraging fellow runners, creating unforgettable moments, and celebrating personal running triumphs.  Picture an inspiring weekend filled with “mocktail” parties, yoga sessions, an exciting expo, and celebrations in an unforgettable resort location.  This is ZOOMA Women’s Race Series.

Mission: To inspire women to live healthy, happy, & active lives.

Boutique events in awe-inspiring destinations with a “fit girls weekend” schedule of activities. The inaugural event held in Annapolis, MD on June 1, 2008 attracted over 1,600 runners 2016 events held in Annapolis, MD, Amelia Island, FL, and Cape Cod (Falmouth), MA! Today you can find several race options all over the country and you can stay in touch virtually year round.

Zooma race calendarGrab your girlfriends (and maybe a TuTu) and plan a race weekend of health & fun. Currently – we (Ultimate Direction) are hosting an Instagram takeover – pop over to their page and follow the action – https://www.instagram.com/zoomarun/  We want to see your trail flare, lucky charms or any sort of race gear you can’t live with out. Tag your photos #ZOOMAStyle for a chance to win a UD Jenny Ultra Vesta.

Tag your race day flare with #ZoomaStyle for a chance to win UD gear!

Tag your race day flare with #ZoomaStyle for a chance to win UD gear!