Triple Trek

I pushed through the Tamarisk thicket on my hands and knees, being careful to avoid puncturing my air mattress, then waded out up to my waist in the cold, brown, swirling water, my shoes sticking in the mucky bottom, and while wearing a backpack, tried to get on my yellow inflatable mattress. It was an awkward moment. Peter and I had discussed practicing the technique in advance, but since Boulder had been cool and rainy, and we don’t like being cold, we skipped that part. So this was our first try – it was not going to be elegant no matter what – so nothing to do now but trust our plan, lunge up onto the mattress, and start paddling across the Green River.

We started as far upstream on Queen Anne Bottom as we could get, having first rappelled down a short cliff band, and were aiming for Millard Camp on the other side, after which the River pushed up against more cliffs, making an exit from the River impossible, and a much, much longer River trip probable.  I kept wondering how Peter was doing behind me, but never turned around – we really had to make that one exact spot – if he didn’t make it there was nothing I could do about it, and vice versa, so I looked toward my spot paddled for it. The Green was running 14,740 cfs, so I was “ferrying” – pointing myself slightly upstream in order to get as far across as possible while the strong current pushed us downriver. It was going to be close. The River turned left here and we were aiming for the right bank, so the water was moving much faster on this side – I paddled harder – hmm, really need to make this I thought, but the current was really strong now. A wedge of rock stuck out in the River, I figured there would be an eddy line behind it – yup, still 15’ from shore but the eddy line grabbed me just as I was being swept past the exit point – made it!

I scrambled onto the rocks, took off my pack, and looked for Peter. He was on the same line as me – he narrowly made the eddy line but recirculated twice before managing to get out, as his arm strength was too far gone.

Not too bad. Our plan worked. It was 10am on the first day of our planned 3 day, 100 mile trek in Canyonlands National Park.

16 River Gear

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TA SI SOBO: Adventures in Middle Earth

On a crisp early fall day Stephanie said, “Let’s go someplace warm this winter and do a long hike.” This seemed like a good idea, but didn’t take root until a while later when I got the flu for 2 weeks, giving me nothing to do but dig into the details of a trip plan. I could think of only one thing that interested me: traversing New Zealand’s South Island via the Te Araroa (Maori for “The Long Pathway”). This route, which was finally linked only in 2011, runs the length of both islands, but we didn’t have time for the full 3000 km. The 1300 km (800 miles) of the TA on the SI would be most suited to our tastes: rugged, remote, and wild.

“TA SI SOBO” was born: “Te Araroa, South Island, SouthBound” (Thru-hikers are as efficient with their jargon as they are with their hiking!)

Te Araroa

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R2R2R is a world-class route, staring on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, running 5,000′ down to the Colorado River, across a bridge, then 6,000” up to the North Rim. Then back again – “Rim to Rim to Rim”. I first ran it sometime in the 80’s, and it was quite the thing back then, but in the last few years this route has become extremely popular, particularly the R2R version, which has created conflict, controversy, and even caused the Park Service to institute Day-Use Permits for Groups of over 7 people.

We wanted nothing of that churn-fest, but did want to explore the millions of great things to do in the 1,900 square miles of the Grand Canyon besides getting in line, so we decided to run Rim to Rim to Rim – by a different route. It was a great plan. Super fun. No one had ever done it. That’s because there is no bridge – you have to swim across the River.

It’s not called the “PB Adventure Vest” for nothing!

PB Vest

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Wind River High Route

The Wind River High Route is possibly one of the best backpacking routes in the world. It runs along the spine of the Wind River Range in northern Wyoming, probably the most wild and remote range in the Lower 48, is modeled after the famed Sierra High Route, and thus is mostly off-trail and above timberline.  I put together the great team of Andrew Skurka and Peter Bakwin, and July 29-Aug 3 we gave it a go. It still has never been done … Alpine Pass

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Tenmile Range Traverse

June 21, 2014 – – –

The “Tenmile Traverse” is a classic long mountaineering route near Breckenridge, Colorado, which links ten summits uncreatively named Peaks 1 through 10. But, the route covers only half of the Tenmile Range, and the lower, easier half at that. The true Tenmile Range Traverse” (TRT) is simply the entire range, which adds six high 13ers and some really gnarly terrain to boot. Buzz and I were looking for a long training day, he won’t do anything that isn’t both classic and interesting, and I happen to be probably the world’s foremost expert on traverses of the Tenmile Range (for what that’s worth :-)… so let’s get on it!

TRT Ridge

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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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A Lifetime of Adventure

I never intended to become a runner. As a kid I hated running as a sport…

I never really thought of myself as an athlete. I didn’t do organized sports at school. Fitness and “exercise” were things I associated with that old dude in the sweats on TV. But I grew up skiing, and have been doing it as long as I can remember. When we lived in western Mass in the 1960s, my father had part interest in a small ski area. I had lace-up leather boots, cable bindings and skis longer than I could reach, and I remember being picked up off the ground regularly by the rope tow.

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Transcendent Running

Running into the tiny village of Guipry, in France’s Brittany district, on August 31, 2002, I was feeling pretty worn. It was the fourth long day of La Transe Gaule, an 18-day stage race across France. I’d run maybe 25 km already that morning, and had another 45 or so to go – a typical 70 km day. This was beginning to seem like a long race!

My low mood was not helped by the pretty town – as I loped along Rue de la Liberation, feeling sorry for myself, I was unmoved by the beautiful late summer weather – sunny but not hot, with a gentle breeze. I was aware that my pace was starting to lag from of my target pace, and it just seemed like too much work to pick it back up.

As I ran through the central square bells began ringing, and a wedding party poured out of the town’s small church. It was a lovely scene, but what flooded my consciousness was the ringing of the bells, which were heavenly. I felt my whole being lighten as they continued to chime, my heart suddenly opened, my step quickened. In a few seconds my whole mood shifted to pure joy. Running felt easy, almost effortless. I finished the stage easily.

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The Escape

Being wedged into a mass of humanity is not a novelty in Japan, but the crowd my wife Stephanie and I were stuck in clearly wasn’t going anywhere for hours.  I had visions of a Who-concert-style stampede and trampling, but of course the Japanese are used to this kind of thing and take it in stride, with their seeming infinite patience and courtesy.  Us Americans, on the other hand, have to be moving – we simply can’t abide being powerless and stuck.

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Wham Ridge

Wham Ridge is super-classic – the best alpine route in the San Juans.  While high and wild, the San Juan Mountains of SW Colorado are mainly giant gravel piles, consisting of massive talus slopes below crumbling ridges.  Wham Ridge is the opposite, being composed of beautiful, hard quartzite.  It is the north face of Vestal Peak, in the heart of the Grenadier Range, which is the heart of the San Juans.  It’s rated 5.4, and usually done in 6–10 roped pitches.

What really makes it classic, is it’s location in the middle of the Weminuche Wilderness, the largest in Colorado.  There are three approaches:

• Follow the train tracks along the Animas River down from Silverton to Elk Park, then up Elk Creek.

• Take the train from Silverton, which is very cool as it’s an authentic 19th century steam locomotive – get off at Elk Park, then continue the approach up Elk Creek.

• Start from the Highway on Molas Pass (10,900′), descend 1,800′ to cross the Animas at Elk Park, then continue the 3,000′ crank up to the base of the climb itself.

Option #1 is interesting but I’ve never heard of anyone doing it.  #2 is very cool, but would require camping due to the train schedule.  #3 is the longest, but since Peter Bakwin and I are too old and lazy to camp, that’s the easiest.  We would run in from the car, solo it w/o ropes, and be back for lunch.

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