About Willis Wall

1987: my 50 pound packBefore I launch into an "all about me" soliloquy, expounding on my athletic and intellectual prowess and amazing the reader with tales of impossible feats, one thing needs to be clear: I am average. What I can offer on this site is a melding of my experience and background in the hopes that the reader/watcher/listener can glean perhaps one little thing and add to their own knowledge base for continued growth.

Most of this site is about the outdoors. To this end I have varying experiences. I didn't start backpacking until I was 30 years old, in the mid 80's. I foolishly launched on my first trip by tackling Mt. Rainier's Wonderland Trail in 6 days, laden with a 50 pound pack with various gear I had collected over some months in anticipation of the trip. Nice heavy gear, like a 20 year old borrowed pup tent, a beautiful sharp knife with a heavy sheath, a double D flashlight complete with magnets for attaching to metallic trees, and a synthetic sleeping bag that rolled up to the size of a small trash can. Cotton T shirts, fashionable short shorts, and no appreciable rain gear except for a poncho that weighed a couple pounds with nice grommets. I had no guidance, Al Gore was still formulating how to invent the internet, and I did what people are still doing today: I went to a retail store, picked up some stuff that looked good and then went on my 92 mile trip. This started a process we all go through; refining our gear to what works for us based on experience and knowledge gleaned from other sources. In this last respect the ability to gather information today is vastly superior to 30 years ago.

2013: late season Wonderland TrailAs I gained experience with hiking and backpacking, along came two kids. Those buggers cramped my backpacking style in that I could no longer selfishly take days to go on trips. I had a few options; shelve overnights, go shorter distances, or go the same distance in a shorter time. What evolved from this was ultra running and fastpacking. I ran marathons, 50Ks, 50 milers, 100 milers and 24 hour events. The biggest benefit from these endurancefests was becoming very familiar with my body and the mind-body connection. When you know how your body reacts, how it recovers, what to do to counteract physical and mental lows, then your confidence in outdoor endeavors grows. An example, I had one weekend of fantastic weather in mid September some years ago, and decided it was a good time to do the Wonderland….in that weekend. Familiarity with the trail, my body, my physical and mental conditioning, all led to confidently donning a small pack with minimal equipment and fastpacking the trail in 36 hours.

During this time frame I also ventured into mountaineering as I wanted to climb Rainier. I took a course, trained a few buds and off we went. This was my introduction to altitude sickness and the odd feeling of my legs dangling below me as I swum back to firmer snow. I gained a new awareness of my body as I dry heaved my way to the summit over the last 2,000 feet. But by now I had a strange affection for suffering, and suffering is something that everyone should experience so you know how your body rebelling at every footstep can be commanded by your steely mind. Just one more thing for the outdoor experience bank, and skills that can come in handy in a pinch.

UFO award winnerReader, we're almost there. You'll see a lot of video on this site. You'll see I have had successful submissions of short films to various mountain film festivals. This harks back to my early years as a musician and music major in college. As a senior I wrote a comic opera, complete with pit orchestra and a contingent of singers. It was staged and realized in one sold out performance. I had spent months handwriting the score sitting at a piano, then copying each part for the musicians. Today, I can conceptualize, write, orchestrate, record, mix and master anything I want in a matter of hours or days, depending on the project. Such is the miracle of modern recording equipment, software and virtual instruments. After a long hiatus from music, I was able to start writing again and today score just about everything I do. A short film that played at Banff in 2005 actually won the Banff Audio Post Production Award, and I was back in the Banff studio for 5 days in 2006, all expenses paid (including lattes) and running every evening in the mountains. Sweet!

Where did Willis Wall Multimedia come from? Well, I started practicing Kendo with my then 11 year old son and after some time my Sensei asked me to do a beginner's DVD. I needed a legitimate avenue to market the finished DVD so Willis Wall was born, named after the north face of Mt. Rainier.

Willis Wall, Mt. Rainier and the Wonderland Trail

Mt. Rainier is less than 2 hours away for me. I have a special affinity for this place, and although I may venture to other areas of the state for trips I always return to Rainier. I make no official claims, but after hiking all or parts of the Wonderland Trail every year for 30 years I may have more familiarity with it than anyone outside of the park service. In 2012 I time lapsed the entire trail, including the alternate route over Spray Park, for a total of 101 miles. Yes, I carried a 3 camera pole in front of me for every foot of the trail, logging every water source and touring every campsite. In the process I hiked the Wonderland 2.5 times in 2012 alone. I have summited a few times, climbed near vertical ice on the Nisqually Glacier, biked the roads and skied its flanks. In the process I have amassed a huge video library for documentation, much of which can be found on this site. Curious about biking the Carbon River road?  What condition is the West Side road in? View it here. Where the hell is Tokaloo Rock? What about those campsites? Can you really ski the Inter Glacier? What was the trail like before the 2006 floods? After? Hey, what equipment do you use? What if I have a specific question on the Wonderland Trail? How can I hike the trail in 4 days? Wanna see me suffer over 3 days to hike the Wonderland? What about off trail at Mt. Rainier National Park? So much video, how to choose?

Take some time to explore the site. Sure there are a few books out there about the Wonderland that are valuable resources, but nowhere else can you have access to hours of visual information and eye candy.
Most of this video is free for viewing, but the expense involved in filming the Wonderland in 2012, not to mention the months of processing 20 hours of video and editing, makes this a pay-for product. I have everything available on Vimeo Video On Demand for viewing on any device and downloading. If the reader is spending thousands of dollars on this destination hike then the paltry sum I am charging for viewing every foot of the trail, touring every backcountry campsite with panoramic 300 degree video, and seeing every year round water source (complete with lat/longs) equates to just a few days of food. Plus, it's totally unique. You can view the format for the campsites here, and see 25 minutes of panoramic video on the Music pulldown.
Enjoy the site! If you have any suggestions, questions, critiques or other offerings, please contact me via the contact page. Happy Hiking and Striking.

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