I’ve posted several theoretical gear lists over the past few weeks and just wanted to post an update of an actual gear list that I’ll be using on a trip down in the Smokies this upcoming week. I just got done with a string of five exams in the last two weeks and with my first med school spring break having just begun, I am stoked to be getting out in the woods for a short fastpacking trip. I’ve laid everything out and with low temps in the low 40s, think I can get away with a base weight of just below 3.5 pounds, FSO (from skin out) base of 5.74 pounds. The trip is the 170 mile North loop of the Benton MacKaye Trail/Appalachian Trail in Great Smoky Mountain National Park starting from Twentymile Ranger Station near Fontana Dam, heading north on the BMT, resupplying at Davenport Gap, then back south on the AT. The theoretical total was 8.7 lbs. but it ended up coming out to 7.8 with 2 days with food and 1L water.
This is an epic video that my friend Scott put together of some of his adventures this past year, including beautiful footage of our thru-hike of the JMT and some free-diving down in the Florida Keys. Enjoy!
We were two miles from the end, practically prancing down the trail with excitement heading for Whitney Portal, nearly done with a 220 mile thru-hike of the John Muir Trail, having started in Yosemite National Park eight days earlier. We turned around for a last look at the towering summit behind us, now with a cap of deep ominous black clouds settling on its summit. It was a Saturday on one of the most popular hikes on the west coast and I hoped the crowds we had seen on the way up had good enough judgement to be off that summit and be racing to get back below tree line at this point. I imagined them hiding under boulders, the masses of them doing anything they could to escape the storm. Continue reading Yosemite National Park, Day 0
I’m usually a pretty serious advocate of buying brand name gear when your life depends on it. Recently, however, I’ve needed things that are so specific for what I am doing that they simply aren’t marketable. Last year, I made gear to allow me to safely paddle a kayak from Key West to The Tortugas which required a sail, cockpit cover, sea anchor, and outriggers among other things (click the links to see the designs). But recently, I’ve set my eye on a backpacking trip necessitating the lightest gear and have been seriously disappointed with the options currently on the market. I was very impressed with the light weight and affordability of my 7 ounce silnylon Integral Designs Siltarp 1 that I purchased last year. But I figured using a similar rectangle design with Cuben fiber instead of silnylon could drop that weight even further. I did some calculations and figured I could make a Cuben fiber tarp using ZPacks materials that weighed just 2 ounces. Continue reading DIY: Two ounce cuben fiber tarp
I’m lying in the bed of a pickup truck. I’m lying on my neoair, or as my hiking partner, Scott, called it while acknowledging its limitations, a yellow balloon. He had popped his while laying on granite shards at the base of one of yosemite’s large cliffs. And it is of such a strikingly un-outdoorsy shade of yellow that I claimed the Thermarest fabric supplier must have had a sale. When his sleeping pad had popped a week earlier, he wasn’t even mad. It had been a long day and it was almost expected that something else might happen. The worst face of Murphy’s law. Continue reading Euphoria: Thru-hiking the John Muir Trail
Standing among high mountains, we are instantly humbled. Their towering peaks, foreboding granite walls instill a sort of humility that only the powerful forces of the universe can provide. And yet they almost seem to crave being climbed, beckoning like a child wishing to be acknowledged. It is like Schrodinger’s cat, the sort of thing like some philosophers hypothesize the universe necessarily must spawn life in order to exist. If a mountain exists in the woods and no one is there to climb it, does it exist? The mountains seem to announce a similar array of necessity, not an insecurity, but rather a requirement to be observed. Continue reading The patient life: life of adventure
I shoved my ice axe down, trying to establish a self belay, essentially the lifeline for my travel on this alpine glacier. If I fall I would quickly grab the axe and hopefully it is well planted enough to hold my weight. The axe penetrated just a few inches in. Before it had been going deep into the snow. It happens though, there are occasional patches of ice. I pushed through again. Didn’t budge.
His name is Alex, a recent immigrant to Boulder, Colorado. But to someone from another coast, another world, his move from Seattle to another high mountain range seems altogether mundane. And in truth it was. He was working now at a small start up technology firm vying it out with giants like Sonos and those robot vacuum cleaners. A fascinating enterprise which he had studied for his masters in Seattle. He is one of those economical academics who worked in the PhD program, secured funding and a generous stipend, then abandoned with his masters, a genius loophole to obtain a masters with no debt, and one which the universities have yet to close or don’t have enough concern to care. Continue reading The story I wanted to tell: climbing Longs Peak
I wanted to believe it wasn’t happening again. I lied to myself, I lied to her, lifting my face up from the mud “just some mild altitude sickness” as I lay on the trail. I held my hand up with my thumb and index finger just an inch apart to emphasize “mild”. She rightly didn’t seem convinced and set her pack down. She was waiting for her husband and decided some ibuprofen may help me. I returned my face to the ground and lay curled up just off the side of the trail. Just before she had arrived I had drank several liters straight from a creek launching down from the alpine snowfields. Liter after liter I guzzled the snowmelt like my life depended on it. In reality, my life did depend on it, but more so it depended on my body’s ability to accept it. Continue reading Acute mountain sickness, hell on earth