Tag Archives: outdoors

11 of the best climbing videos ever

1. James Pearson on “The Walk of Life”

James Pearson making the first ascent of The Walk of Life with runout poorly protected featureless slab with a HUGE whipper. Doesn’t get any better than this. “You start off and you climb almost 10 meters with no gear and then you get a really, very bad nut which is, maybe you’d hang your coat of it.”

2. Pamela Shanti Pack on “The Kill Artist”

Pamela Shanti Pack doing what she does on Moab off-widths. “Really glad I didn’t die on that.” Lol what?!

3. Arnaud Petit on “Black Bean”

Awesome video with his post-send commentary as the video rolls of him progressing up the wall.

4. Lee Cossey on “Agent of Cool”

Another series of crazy anti-drag maneuvers with Lee Cossey working his way up “Agent of Cool”. A beautiful line with super steady climbing.

5. Jason Kruk on “Boogie til you puke”

An all time classic. “I guess if you climb enough off-widths, one of these days you’re gonna get your knee stuck and shit your pants. It’s just an odds thing, really.”

6. Hazel Findlay on “Once upon a time in the southwest”

Second showing of Hazel Findlay on this list and the second feature of Dyers Lookout wall in England. “At half height you have to run it out a little bit. And that feels kinda cool cuz you’re not hindered by placing loads of shit gear all the time.”

7. Steph Davis on “Pervertical Sanctuary”

Steph Davis crushing it on one of the dream walls out in Colorado, free soloing The Diamond on Longs Peak with a wild soundtrack.

8. Alex Honnold on “El Sendero Luminoso”

“It’s just kind of weird helping your friend do something that you know could potentially lead to his death.” Beautiful video of Alex Honnold free-soloing in El Potrero Chico, Mexico with assistance from the amazing Cedar Wright.

9. Leosvany Hernandez Rodriguez on “Wasp Factory”

Incredible video from Renan Ozturk featuring the Cuban climber Leosvany Hernandez Rodriguez in Viñales, Cuba.

10. Siebe Vanhee and Sean Villanueva on Tsaranoro massif in Madagascar

“Then you have to organize the bags. Again. It’s always better to do it in your underwear. Now we can commit to the unknown of this vertical ocean and go where no human has ever been.” Crazy dudes.

11. Dean Potter on The Nose of El Cap

I love the imagination and guts it takes to solo rock climb and Dean Potter shows the crazy crap it takes to race up El Capitan alone. An antique video at this point but still amazing to watch.

Why your hands swell while hiking: the real reason

The myths of why hands swell while hiking

You’re five miles into a hike with a group of friends. You’ve never been hiking before and it sounded adventurous and fun and a great way to to get out and have fun with friends, enjoy being outside, and relax for a bit. And you’re having a great time with the exception of a weird feeling in your hands. Your wedding ring and watch are getting tight and your skin feels taut. Your arms feel bloated and you look down and sure enough you’ve got big old sausage fingers. Are you dying? Do you need to turn around and race to the hospital? Maybe you have cell service and after you post a quick pic to insta you do a quick WebMD search. It says you have heart failure or this weird thing called thrombosis. Now you’re worried and want to go back so you can do more internet searching before you head to the ER. When you get home you dig deeper in your internet searching and get more specific. Instead of just searching hand swelling, you search had hands swell while hiking and find an Outside Magazine article, where you may learn that you’re suffering from hyponatremia. You find a facebook thread of loads of confident expert internet commenters recommending the cure-all tip of hydration or electrolytes.

But nearly all this information you’ll find is absolutely, jarringly, painfully wrong, so I hope this article becomes the one to top out on the google searches so maybe some people will learn the real answer, and learn a real solution. You don’t have heart failure, you’re not alone, and you don’t need to hydrate.

The real reason your hands are swelling

The reason your fingers are swelling is multifaceted but actually pretty simple. Before I explain I just want to clarify again that you’re fine, it happens to everyone and it’s totally normal and reversible.

The vasculature in your body is just a giant network of leaky plumbing. Imagine your body being a greenhouse with a sprinkler hose with hundreds of little holes running through it. The water that didn’t leave the hose is simply looped back around, much like your veins bring blood back to your heart. That hose brings essential fluid to the plants in that garden. Your vasculature in your arm is very similar to that garden hose. It runs down your arm, releases water into that tissue, and the excess water drains back to be recycled. When you step on that garden hose, aka put backpack straps on your upper arms, it increases pressure and increases the rate of that fluid shooting out of the uncountable tiny holes in the hose.

This is one cause of the swelling. Another cause is that the backpack straps essentially dam up the return flow like putting a wall in the trough. Now imagine there’s a drainage trough alongside the garden which returns the excess water from the soil to a pool where it can be recycled back into the hose to continue watering the plants. That is comparable to something in your body called the lymphatic system, which, much like a drainage trough, is a series of ducts which drain extra water in that extravascular space and recycles it back to your heart. By clamping down on those lymphatic ducts with backpack straps, it dams the trough, preventing fluid from draining from that extravascular space.

There’s another thing at play though. And if you’ve ever hiked with trekking poles while still wearing a hand swelling inducing backpack, you may be able to reason through that there has to be something else going on by the fact that trekking poles totally fix the problem. When we hike with trekking poles, even if we have the heaviest of backpack straps constricting our upper arms and shoulders, we don’t experience the swelling really at all. So it can’t just be the backpack straps causing it, especially since some people have this issue without wearing a backpack at all.

Something interesting about the cardiovascular system is that the blood pumping through our arteries, the big pulsating vessels we feel when we check our pulse, are almost entirely pumped by the heart. The heart contracts, much like squeezing a balloon full of water, and blood comes out of the hole. However, when the blood is returning back to the heart to be cycled again the blood is to a significant degree pumped because of contracting muscles in our limbs. They have one way valves in them so when we contract a muscle that is wrapped around a vein, it pumps the blood forward. And when that contraction ceases, the blood is unable to flow backwards. That repetitive contraction of our legs and arms pushes the blood forward, back to our heart. The reason we don’t experience edema in our legs on long hikes isn’t simply because of no backpack straps compressing the vasculature, but mostly because of our constantly contracting and relaxing leg muscles. When we use trekking poles, we continually contract the muscles in our arms and push that blood back toward the heart, preventing pooling by overcoming those barriers created by the backpack straps.

Additionally the trekking poles also likely benefit the swelling by shifting our shoulders frequently, releasing the pressure of the backpack straps on the upper arms, even if just for a second at a time. There could be an electrolyte component to it, but I find it exceedingly unlikely that this is a primary cause because the swelling would be consistent throughout the body, including the face, and I’ve only ever experienced and heard of people having swelling in their arms. Additionally, it takes a tremendous blow to knock the body’s electrolyte balance off. The body is very good at maintaining electrolytes in the blood in a very narrow range of values and the hyponatremia it would take to cause swelling would not only cause significant additional symptoms like nausea, vomiting, confusion, seizures, death, etc., but it’d also take a significant blow or underlying medical disorder to cause it.

Additionally, if dehydration were the issue, once again the swelling wouldn’t be isolated to the arms, and it’s also very uncommon for water to collect in the extravascular space when there is an overall deficit of water in the body. It can definitely happen but it’s rare and comparable to a dry paper towel sitting in a pool of water. The paper towel is going to soak up the water like our body is going to soak up that swelling.

Also, definitely not gravity as the primary culprit. If that were the case our legs which are much longer and have a much harder battle against gravity back to the heart so if gravity were the culprit our feet would be as thick as elephant stumps. And definitely not altitude: just go for a hike at sea level; it stills happens and there’s no reasonable mechanism. And just for completeness sake, it’s not temperature’s fault either. Once again, if that were the case, there’s no reasonable explanation for why it would be isolated to the hands and arms.

How to keep your hands from swelling

Now that I’ve explained the pathophysiology of hand swelling while hiking, I have a couple solutions. My first recommendation is using trekking poles, for so many reasons in addition to totally preventing the hand swelling. They help prevent injuries, make hiking easier, faster, and enable you to bounce down gnarly trails like a mountain goat. You’ll look dumb to everyone who has never used them but hey you already look dumb to everyone back at home relaxing on their sofas.


I highly recommend the Black Diamond Distance Z trekking poles.

If you absolutely refuse to use trekking poles or simply don’t hike often enough to drop the dough, I recommend you do some exercises while hiking. Take your hands and put your thumbs on your backpack straps and lift them off your shoulders. This will contract your muscles as well as relieve the pressure. It’ll also elevate your forearms to help promote some of that return flow. If you want to look extra special you could wave your hands in the air like you just don’t care, maybe show off your guns and flex a little for the single does prancing through the forest. If you want to look sooooper cool you could whip out the compression sleeves but I can’t imagine that helping much.

Or just get trekking poles and accept your fate that it’s impossible to look cool while hiking.

Winter 14ers for Beginner Mountaineers: Top 10

If you’re looking to bag some winter 14ers but don’t want to risk your life to do so, hopefully this list list can help steer you to some solid safer climbs. Whether you’re looking for a more intense climb than the summer hikes or love the solitude of the off-season, winter 14ers can be an amazing experience that you can’t get during the summer.

However, before even considering attempting any of these winter 14ers, I would recommend that you have experience with climbing 14ers or at least 13ers in the warmer months, or at minimum go with someone who is familiar with the mountain and the cold. For nearly all of these climbs, I recommend having at minimum microspikes and trekking poles. It was a very rare day that these aren’t essential pieces of gear. In addition to that, most of the climbs call for snowshoes, especially after a storm or on the less travelled routes, and many of them necessitate an ice axe and the experience with using one. 10 point crampons are rarely if ever necessary on most of these routes.

This is not meant to be an all inclusive guide to each climb, just merely an introduction to help you decide which climbs to do. Always check weather and route conditions beforehand. I’ve linked to some helpful resources at the bottom.

The short and sweet winter 14ers:

1. Quandary Peak (East ridge)

Quandary peak winter
The route up Quandary follows that ridge and kicks up there in the last third.
Continue reading Winter 14ers for Beginner Mountaineers: Top 10

Therm-a-rest NeoAir Xlite review: best camping mattress on the market

After sampling multiple closed cell foam and air mattresses on trips ranging from single nights in the Appalachians to multi-day trips on snow, I can confidently say I’m not really sure why someone would use any other camping mattress besides the Therm-a-rest NeoAir Xlite and Xtherm. On 90% of trips, one of those two mattresses will be my go to. But it’s not without its downsides, so I will look to highlight why I personally think the Therm-a-rest NeoAir Xlite is the best mattress on the market but also some of its pitfalls.

Continue reading Therm-a-rest NeoAir Xlite review: best camping mattress on the market

Climbing at Pilot Mountain

There we were, scrubbing horse crap off my dog, chronicling another installment of the misadventures of Snotty Booger and The Grace Face. Scott held Rosie’s ass in the air as I scrubbed the horse shit off the back of her neck. After a long day of climbing at Pilot Mountain State Park from nearly dawn till dusk, there we were in the park bathroom bathing my dog and she was not happy about it. She tried to wrestle her way out of it, sliding her soap covered paws around the bottom of the small sink with her ass unflatteringly held in the air by Scott. Speckles of horse poo trickled down into the sink and the odor of feces became replaced by the aroma of the cheap hand soap that I scrubbed into her fur. I wasn’t about to put this poopy face mutt back into my backseat for the drive home and was feeling sympathetic toward Scott for having to ride back there with her. In lieu of a knob, the sink had one of those horrible satanic plungers that you have to depress every three seconds to keep the water running. And I honestly struggled to understand how water so cold could remain in liquid form. But hey, guess what you little turd neck, play stupid games, win stupid prizes. I freed her when the soap and poop particles were all gone and she bolted around the bathroom like a maniac, dodging the vicious beastly hand dryer on the wall and shaking as she stormed around. Continue reading Climbing at Pilot Mountain

Iceland Day 1

Day 1 in Iceland was amazing! I’m backtracking my updates because I am finally spending the night in a hostel rather than car camping. Super nice to be clean for the first time in a week but hell, not my worst stretch without a shower. First day rolling into Keflavik, my buddy Scott and I bolted to the West Fjords of Iceland, a desolate remote area with gravel roads and few sparsely populated towns. I’ll spare you dragging this on and let our daily recap video do the talking for us.

Salomon Skin Pro 10+3 for backpacking

I finally got around to putting together a video of me packing up my Salomon Skin Pro 10+3 running vest. Several people wanted to see exactly how all the stuff I needed for my attempt on the Appalachian Trail unsupported record last summer could fit into a 10L pack. I hope this provides some insight into the possibility of some crazy ultralight backpacking!

Salomon Skin Pro full gearlist

Salomon Skin Pro 10+3 review, Backpacking, Trail Running, Ultramarathon, Grayson Cobb

Salomon Skin Pro 10+3 review, Backpacking, Trail Running, Ultramarathon, Grayson Cobb

Salomon Skin Pro 10+3 review, Backpacking, Trail Running, Ultramarathon, Grayson Cobb

Mt. Elbert winter climb

To be the highest person in Colorado, a state where you can’t go a day without smelling weed, despite abstaining from any mind-altering substances, was my goal of the day: to stand on the top of Mt. Elbert winter summit at 14,439 feet. And despite some gnarly weather, I was committed to accomplishing it. Continue reading Mt. Elbert winter climb

Rim to Rim to Rim Grand Canyon

I knew a rim to rim to rim Grand Canyon hike would be grueling ever since I battled with the terrain nearly two years ago. I came out here for a med school interview at University of Arizona and drove my rental car up north for some hiking the next day. After a two day stint on the south side of the canyon, I fell in love with the place, and with the prospect of crossing from the south to the north and back all in one day.

I googled the distance to the canyon from where I was in central Colorado a week ago, saw it was surprisingly close, a mere 10 hours which I judged as less than a day rather than in absolute, holy crap that’s a decently long drive, terms. I hit the road, driving only during the day to not miss the sights along the way and enjoyed driving out of the deep snow and into the mesa filled desert of southwest Colorado, New Mexico, and then into Arizona. It was overwhelming seeing the 14k foot peaks disappear behind me; it really put into perspective what I had been doing the past few weeks. It was hard to comprehend exactly how big those mountains are until I saw their peaks towering behind me in the distance. Continue reading Rim to Rim to Rim Grand Canyon

Mt. Sherman winter summit

A Mt. Sherman winter summit had been a goal of mine nearly since I arrived in Colorado. It is an easy climb but had eluded me because of deep snow on the road to the trailhead. Just outside of Fairplay, Colorado, the road is dirt for nearly 15 miles and unplowed for the last three miles. I barreled my car into a snow drift a week ago and was back to see if the road was any clearer. But while solid tracks went further than last time, my car was high centered on a massive snowdrift miles from the trailhead again. I had stopped at Pizza Hut on the way in to use their Wi-Fi to gain some beta on the climb and drove straight here a little after 8 to get an early night’s sleep. Continue reading Mt. Sherman winter summit