With somewhat sketchy hiking legs I departed on this jaunt in Mt. Rainier National Park with the intention of bagging 4 peaks: Satulick (5577’), Iron (6283’), Copper (6280’) and Ararat (6010’). Way trails were sketchy to non existent on these scrambles so I spent much time side hilling, ‘schwacking and, in the case of Iron and Copper, gully climbing in order to access those two summit plateaus. None of this scrambling was particularly hard but the somewhat muggy day left me occasionally sweating profusely, especially on the gully climbs to Iron and Copper. My water intake was far more than usual, but the effort to tag these peaks was well worth it. By the time I finished the last peak (Copper) my legs were certainly feeling it so I dropped Ararat from this day’s list so as to arrive back at my vehicle at Longmire at a decent time. I’ve been coming to this park since 1983 and it still astounds me that there are so many more new places to explore personally. Despite it being high season for Wonderland hikers, my hours spent off trail were in complete solitude, and I lingered on the flat summits of Iron and Copper taking in the views in all directions. Once regaining Indian Henry’s I patched up some scratches on my hand from the scramble and paid a visit to Mirror Lake before departing, spending the last hour in the dark and enjoying cooler temperatures. The stats (22 miles/6500’) had my legs a quivering at the end but it was happy pain. Photo set here.
I filmed this classic climb and descent in September of 2015. However, with the newer iteration of GoPro (Hero 7 Black), the quality is so much better that I have retired that first video and replaced it with this. The Hero 7 has such good internal software stabilization that I was able to author this video in 2.7K, the same format I used for recording. I have also embraced the wider view versus the 960 video I have used in the past for biking. But enough about these technical tidbits, let’s consider this climb/descent, arguably one of the finest in Washington State. For my jaunt the start/stop point was a hotel in Port Angeles, WA, making for a 40 mile ride with 5,400’ of climb/descent. This road is in excellent shape and my early start enabled me to leave the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center (Olympic National Park, 5242’ elev) at 9:30 AM. Downhill traffic was light but lots of cars and other cyclists were noted on their ascent. My stats showed consistent speeds of 30 to 38 MPH on the descent. Of note, the steepest grade is actually the first 5 miles of the road until reaching the entry kiosk to the park. The road is slightly over 17 miles long.
The video at the end of this article includes snippets from the 2019 40th running of Seattle To Portland (STP), 206 miles. In line with complaints from last year, this year the Cascade Bicycle Club limited the entries to 8,000 (from 10,000); it did in fact seem a bit less crowded. Although the route went through the Ft. Lewis part of JBLM (Joint Base Lewis McChord), we really liked the rest stop a few years ago at McChord, absent again this year. This ride entails modest elevation gains (4,700') so some would consider this a fairly easy ride. This year we saw a unicyclist and a father/son skate pair. The ride has a fun air to it and everyone seems to enjoy themselves. You’ll see plenty of bike videos on williswall.com, as I still find biking an excellent complement to an overall fitness program. Plus, it’s just plain fun. Last year I did STP on my gravel bike (Salsa Cutthroat Rival) but dusted off the vintage Trek 5500 for 2019. If you would like a comparison to the 2014 STP, you can access the video here.
As my spring ski jaunts come to an end, I can’t say I’ll miss schlepping my skis and boots for miles for a few thousand feet of ski vertical (in this case 3,000’) but I will miss the exhilaration of strapping in and descending in minutes what it took hours to hike/boot/skin up. This trip started at the Fryingpan Creek trail head (3900’) in Mt. Rainier National Park with a hike to Summerland (6000’) where I stashed my shoes in a tree and started the skin and boot fest to reach the Fryingpan Glacier. From there it was a gentle skin with an ending boot up to Whitman Crest at 9323’, which offers expansive views to Little Tahoma (from this vantage obscuring most of Mt. Rainier) and views southward to Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams. I later learned that my son was “looking at me” from the summit of St. Helens, revisiting a climb we had done together when he was 12 years old.
The melt off is in full swing, especially after the heat wave we had last week, so it may be time to leave the skis behind and start the hiking season….hello light pack! I took up backcountry skiing 5 years ago and I really don’t do it much, just a few times a year during the spring. However, it has proven to be an excellent addition to my outdoor adventures. In the process I have visited areas on the mountain I would normally bypass as a traditional hike. This trip also provided the opportunity to tag another summit (Whitman Crest) in the park as I continue to explore this gem of the Northwest. STATS: 12 miles/5400’
I bought this bag for a discount during one of Black Rock Gear’s promotion sales, feeling kinda sheepish as I really didn’t need another backpack. However, this bag is an excellent travel pack, small enough to easily fit under an airline seat, thin enough so I don’t have to worry about whacking someone in a crowd as I turn around, yet voluminous enough to carry and organize all manner of travel stuff like chargers, cords, cameras, water, clothing….with the internal “molly strapping” system, I am able to stow my Panasonic G9 with any manner of lens up high in the pack, leaving the bottom of the pack free for other items. Instead of copying the info off the Black Rock Gear site, go here for the extensive feature list for the Urban Bug Out Bag.
I’ve had this bag going on two years and use it for any vacation time spent overseas. During a UK/Scotland jaunt last year, the pack was on my back every day for hours on end. As a testament to the water resistant qualities of the PU coated 420D ripstop material and waterproof zippers, I got drenched on the Isle of Iona (Scotland) which made short order of an eVent jacket; however, my camera and other contents in the pack stayed dry. I also find this bag comfortable even when loaded up with heavy electronic gear and a couple bottles of water as the straps are well padded and ergonomically well crafted.
A Peru trip this year saw this pack on my back all day every day, in town or hiking through various Inca sites or trails, taking some abuse in the process. I was able to easily stow it in my baggage for the 4 days we spent on the Inca Trail, then it was back on my back for the remainder of our time and our trip home. With 25L of space and weighing only 1.1 lbs, this pack is my go to for any foray involving airplane travel, city excursions, foreign day hiking etc. I especially like the ability to strap my camera in place higher in the pack along with its myriad pockets, zippers and organizational possibilities. As I approach retirement with extensive plans for future travel with my wife, I’ll most likely take just two bags….the Black Rock Gear Urban Bug Out Bag and a custom Zimmerbuilt Big Step, which I’ll cover in a future post.
Yes, this bag is expensive at $150. However, one should consider the excellent build quality including robust materials, the smart organizational layout with the ability to customize to your preferences with the molly strap system, the fairly light weight of the bag yet able to comfortably carry heavier loads, and the fact that this is a US made product (Seattle). IME it’s worth it.
I know it’s not just me….I can’t stand those ridiculous Instagram poses. My recent trip to Peru saw scads of mindless tourists sitting, either forward or backwards, with their arms stretched over their heads while friends or strangers clicked away with their phones held upright….pic after pic after pic because that’s what they see on Instagram. Sometimes I doubt they even notice what’s in the background, they just knew this was the place and the pose needed to mimic some other mindless Instagrammer who copied someone else. It really hit home on the top of Huanay Picchu as a large group filed to the “spot” and consumed 10 or 15 minutes snapping their canned poses while the rest of us endured being trapped in swarming bugs and blocked from exiting or perhaps actually getting a nice shot of the background without raised arms in the frame.
Therefore, I am now pushing for a viable alternative, the Willis Wall Pose. No sitting….you gotta balance on one leg while the other is raised 90 degrees. The arms are also raised with a 90 degree bend and palms must be facing outwards. If you can’t hold this pose for more than a second you don’t deserve to do it. If you’re afraid of falling off the precipice due to crappy balance then….don’t do it. AND, there is only one shot required. No turning backwards, no sitting, just one pose for one pic. Then turn around and actually admire the view and perhaps capture this view in a properly oriented photo.
HISTORY The Willis Wall Pose was first struck on the top of Mt. Rainier in the year 2000 out of the sheer exuberance of being on this summit at 6 AM with crystal clear skies. BEHOLD THE BIRTH!
This incredibly sophisticated pose, requiring limber joints and superb balance, was introduced to the trekking world in Peru and is already spreading like wildfire; many thanks to my daughter, who contributed mightily to this outbreak.
To ensure that future generations are introduced to the Willis Wall Pose in South America, we infected our guide Nico, who will surely spread the pose to future trekkers, who in turn will carry this epitome of photographic candidness to Europe, Africa, Canada, Kiwiland, Australia and beyond….bwa haha haha!
So mindless Instagrammers, take note. Strike the Willis Wall Pose…..just once! Then enjoy your views and surroundings. Note: pose can be struck on left or right leg.
This picture is an example of superb form, already perfected by my daughter at age 16:
BUT, I’ll end with the master, sensei and originator of the Willis Wall Pose demonstrating execution during a race without breaking stride……
TAKE NOTE AND POSE!
My daughter found this trip last year and she and my wife did all the planning, I just followed my daughter like a good Dad. We spent 6 days in Cusco and Urubamba exploring the Sacred Valley and the city prior to the trek, acclimating to the 11,000 foot altitude in the process. The days of hiking the Inca Trail on your own ended in 2010; now you must hire a guide and travel company. There are many available, but in our case we hired Valencia Travel Cusco (guide was Nico) and couldn’t have been happier with the experience. On any day there are 500 people on the trail, with 200 being hikers and the other 300 spots occupied by porters and guides. One may think this out of whack, until you see the incredible logistics involved in pampering us trekkers. Cassie and I shared a 4 person tent, always set up and waiting for us at the end of the day, along with containers of hot water with soap and a washcloth. Our group had a total of 7, all wonderful people who made this journey a true delight. My daughter and I ended up hiking mostly with Sarah and Kenny, a younger fit couple. Sarah was a beast, always beating us to the passes…..she even carried a 6 pack of beer to 13,776 feet, passing everyone including porters. Speaking of which, you have the option of hiring a personal porter to carry up to 7 KG of your belongings. To our surprise, Cassie and I were the only ones carrying all our accoutrements; sleeping bags, pads and clothing. However, our loads were quite light nonetheless since all meals were provided. We barely touched our snack foods.
I should mention that I used the phrase “this is ridiculous” many times as mountains of food were placed in front of us worthy of any restaurant. One evening, when we arrived at camp over an hour before the rest of our group, a huge plate of popcorn appeared along with some won tons with fried banana. We had purchased some Pisco and beer along the way so a good time was had by all. Vegetarian options (my daughter and myself) were offered along with delights like flaming dessert and even a cake! The grapes were peeled! We had a proper table cloth, folding chairs and a gas powered light in the dining tent. In the morning our alarm was an offering of hot tea along with hot water for bathing. I should also mention that everyone had a covered foam mattress in their tents…we just put our pads on top.
Weather along the trail was mostly good, with occasional rain showers but never a steady soaking rain. Evenings were not that cold; my daughter’s 35 degree Feathered Friends bag was more than adequate for the conditions. Considering the numbers of people along this entire 26 mile route, we were surprised at how often we hiked in solitude, sometimes for hours. However, be prepared for steps, and lots of them. Most of this route is stone laid and one’s knees might take a beating on the downhills depending on personal conditioning. Cassie and I found that the days were easily negotiated with plenty of spare energy to explore the ruins or climb to catch that extra view. Some may complain that this trek and Machu Picchu itself are too “touristy”, but my daughter and I found that this experience was one of our most enjoyable times outdoors. Immense views, sometimes empty trail, ever changing vistas, good company, an engaging guide, a multitude of ruins along the way, gourmet food….this was truly a lifetime experience. For the full photo set please click here.
The following video samples some of the trail from a shoulder mounted GoPro 7, including the climb to the prominent peak overlooking Machu Picchu, Huayna Picchu (this must be arranged beforehand). In the video I used the local spelling of the peak printed on the guide, “Wayna Picchu.”
“Huayna Picchu (aka Wayna Picchu or Wayna Pikchu), which means 'Young Peak' in Quechua, is the large mountain that sits directly behind Machu Picchu. For many trekkers, climbing Huayna Picchu is one of the highlights of a visit to Machu Picchu.”
I don’t normally post anything about skiing except occasional videos, but this year I sprang for some new ski apparel to replace my long in the tooth stuff. I am so used to the traditional setup of hard shell layers, especially for the jacket, that I was a bit skeptical about this stretchy soft shell gear.
Totally waterproof, super breathable, and incredibly lightweight, AscentShell™ technology is the surefire way to provide high-exertion alpine athletes with complete protection against ice, snow, wind, and however else the weather tries to thwart a perfectly planned ski tour. (from the OR website).
Of course, I’ve used the jacket and pants for lift skiing, but haven’t done any skinning yet. On my first day with the OR gear at Whistler, I got rather cold. I had a thermal layer and a thicker gridded fleece underneath, my usual setup under my other shell(s). Granted, it was chillier (20’s F) than my usual jaunts, but in subsequent days I added a Nano Puff and that fixed the problem. A balaclava under the helmet and mittens vice gloves took care of the rest when the temps dipped into the teens. This combo worked well and I found the jacket and pants moved nicely with the stretch and held up to snowfall or blowing snow and wind. Although I’m 6 feet and 170 pounds, I had to return the pants in size Large and exchange them for a Medium as I was swimming in the Large (Large works 99% of the time for me).
But skiing was not the real test for this jacket, it was shoveling snow for hours at a time over the course of 5 days (so far). I’m at the bottom of a shared, steep driveway….it’s big. Long. And my lower portion is a big square that requires carrying the load from the center to a few boundaries where I had to sling it in ever increasing piles, made easier to mound because of the high water content. And I had to get the snow off my truck every day. I live in the outskirts of Seattle, so snow days are rare events, but this just kept coming. My last foray outside had me shoveling wet snow and slush in the snow and rain for more than 2 hours. My point? I worked harder by far than any skinning excursion. Now I didn’t wear the pants, but I had the jacket on every time, and after coming in from the soaking rain I shook it off and took note of my dry shirt underneath. Somehow this AscentShell™ managed to keep me dry despite pumping out lots of internal heat (no breaks) and being pummeled by snow and rain at the same time. I was quite impressed by this performance of a stretchy soft shell material. Limitations of my experience…..will it hold up over the course of an entire day of rain? I don’t plan to find out.
It’s actually the experience of shoveling for hours on end, whilst at times being pummeled by snow and rain, that give me confidence in this soft shell technology. I won’t hesitate to pack this jacket and pants on any winter or spring hike, snowshoe, or ski tour from here on out; I’ll have confidence that it will perform. Oh, and I really like the pants, too.
Superb weather trumped so so snow conditions on a January 29th, 2019 at Whistler. From past experience I knew that we’d have the sun at our backs, casting long shadows across the snow in the downhill direction. An added bonus was a stop to view the ice cave that resides at the terminus of the Blackcomb Glacier. I personally am not inclined to enter these caves, but many do. I was also testing the GoPro Hero 7 Black (chest mounted), which was a Christmas gift. I am quite impressed with the video quality and stabilization of this newer generation, especially compared to past models I have owned: Hero 2, Hero 3 Black and the Hero 5 Black. The improvements are quite noticeable, with no necessity to add software stabilization in post production. These sequences were filmed in 2.7K at 60 FPS with a flat profile, so I did employ basic color correction. The audio is also greatly improved….the “scritching” you can hear in this raw audio is due to my jacket zipper around the camera, as I had the camera harness on an inside layer.
Wind shirts; love them, hate them, think they’re an essential, or a total waste….search the various blogs out there and you’ll find someone supporting any of these positions. I guess it’s my turn to weigh in to add to the confusion, but I waited all season to come to a verdict and actually used the damn thing(s) in varying conditions.
Enlightened Equipment offers the Copperfield in three denier iterations; 20D (@1 CFM), 10D (15 CFM) and 7D (35 CFM). I’m not going to pretend to explain the science of CFM, METS and so on, there are plenty of experts out there that can do a better job than I. I can tell you this: CFM=short for cubic feet per minute (cu ft/min). It is a measurement of the velocity at which air flows into or out of a space. METS=Metabolic Equivalents, where 1 MET is the resting metabolic rate….the higher the exertion, the higher the MET. So in the EE universe, the 20D will provide the most wind protection and the 7D is the most breathable.
After scouring the web in researching and formulating a basic understanding appropriate for a music major, I determined that I would get the most use out of the 7D fabric. I’m a fairly heavy sweater, and the 35 CFM of the 7D would (theorhetically) carry me through a wide range of conditions, breathing during exertion (high METS) and providing just enough barrier in colder or windy conditions to form a layer for heat retention. Let’s look at some situations where I’ve donned this gossamer piece:
Biking: Lots of wind when you are cruising downhill at 35 MPH, and still some wind on the uphills when you are cranking. I’m not gonna stop at every hill bottom and top to don and doff a jacket. In April of 2018, I biked over 350 miles around the Olympic Peninsula, thankfully during a favorable weather window (no rain). During those times when it was too chilly for a single layer, but too warm for my biking jacket, I pulled out the miniscule EE Copperfield; not only does it weigh in at 1.91 ozs for size L, but I could cram it in small spaces on the limited real estate on my bike for easy access. And yes indeed, it provided just enough warmth in the morning and evening to keep my body temperature comfortable negotiating both uphills and downhills.
Tourism: During a trip to Tel Aviv, two of us opted for a tour of Jerusalem and Betheleham; however, the weather forecast was somewhat iffy, with rain showers and low temperatures. I wore the Copperfield most of the day. My buddy opted to buy an umbrella, but this jacket served me well for both warmth and rain protection. Now, at 35 CFM, this jacket is far from waterproof, but the showers encountered were brief, and I had just enough protection to stay dry. Any moisture on the jacket was soon dried by body heat and plain old air. My buddy wanted one.
Racing: Running the Seattle Half Marathon at the end of November is always a gamble….will the weather be terrible or just bad? My daughter and I lucked out with sunny skies for this race, but temps were rather low, especially in the morning before the race started. I wore the Copperfield pre race and during the race until about mile 4, where I stripped it off and easily stuffed it into the small waist sling where I carried my phone and keys. Perfect.
Hiking: The Copperfield proved itself again and again for those conditions that didn’t warrant a jacket but were just a bit cold for a single layer. Just today I wore it on a morning trainer, 7 miles and over 2,000’ of climb and descent, some parts quite steep. My buddy stripped off his second layer, but I was good on the uphill, never reaching the point where I needed to vent despite the uphill effort…..more METS.
Copperfield Wind Pants: Yes, I bought a pair, despite rarely needing to use them. However, I contacted the folks at Enlightened Equipment and asked them to do a custom fabric choice….I put 20D on the front half and 7D on the back. I wanted wind and moisture protection forward, mostly for moisture laden brush, but the breathability and venting of the 7D behind. Again, they are light enough and small enough to pack with little consideration for weight or space penalty. I have used them for transiting snow for sun protection and I packed them for a fastpacking trip on the Wonderland where I was moving for all but 3 hours….I didn’t use them during the day, but sure appreciated them trying to retain warmth in a minimal bivy for a few hours of sleep.
Considerations: Before purchasing these products you must determine why you need them….what conditions do you anticipate, do you favor wind protection over breathability, do you run hot or cold? Humidity, temperature, elevation gain etc? I certainly wouldn’t don this jacket for ‘schwacking through brush, it wouldn’t take much to tear this flimsy fabric. I bought these with a wary eye, not sure how the jacket would perform with my use, but I have been pleasantly surprised with its versatility. I also deem EE products to be fairly priced, and these pieces provide a lot of bang for the buck….for me. I would caution to do your due diligence for fabric choice because there is a huge difference between this jacket in 20D and 7D. I’m usually a high output person in my endeavors, and the 7D performed admirably across a fairly wide range of output and conditions before I deemed it necessary to add or subtract a layer. When you look at this usefulness for the small package and extremely light weight, count me in as an advocate for wind shirts. Lastly, also consider that these products are made in the US, a bonus for sure.