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coming soon: The Mt. Rainier Grand Tour....and you thought the Wonderland was tough.

Monday
Jul142014

STP (Seattle To Portland) 2014 bike ride

This is the second year my buddy Craig rode the STP so I mounted a Contour Roam2 to my front fork to capture the experience for him. The first day was very hot, into the 90s, but the second day saw cooler temps and even some rain. Over 10,000 riders sign up every year and about 2200 do it in one day. Centralia, WA is the halfway point where many people spend the night. I find biking to be an excellent cross training tool in my fitness regimen, although I do have a tradition of only doing one major trainer before this event. Let's just say my derriere and neck muscles bear the brunt of my undertraining.

 

Sunday
Jul062014

2014 Gear Testing

ZPacks Duplex in Mt. Rainier National ParkI have acquired some gear over the past year that I would like to report on but haven't had enough field testing time. Check back at the end of this season to get a more comprehensive review of the following items:

ZPacks Hexamid Duplex tent: a promising design that may shape up to be one of the best backpacking tents out there. It will be put through its paces in the Pasayten Wilderness and Mt. Rainier this season.

Suluk46 TiCa ice tool: I have not found any reviews on this specialty tool, weighing in at about 5 ounces. I plan on using this for a Mt. Rainier trip where I will be making forays high onto some of the divides, cleavers and ridges. I ordered mine in a 60 cm length.

Enlightened Equipment 50 degree Enigma Pro Quilt: The colors, sizing and options have changed quite a bit on the EE website since I ordered my quilt. I anticipated using this quilt exclusively throughout this season.

Beyond Clothing base layers and clothing: They promise me that the Brokk pant will be available before a planned trip this month. I was able to try these on at the Seattle store but they have not been released for retail yet. The aether base layers are sweet, very light with a weave that allows for trapping of air. Since there is a lot of schwacking in my plans for this summer, I want the pants for anticipated durability and breathability. We shall see if these hold up to close scrutiny.

ZPacks Arc Slim pack: so far I have used this pack on a number of trips but would like some more trail time before rendering a final opinion

ZPacks Pertex Quantum bivy: More usage required, so far I am not thrilled with the design of the netting and may have to modify this. However, the breathability of the top material has proven to be excellent.

These major items will play the key role in my trips for this summer. As always, I hope that each purchase I make stands up but from experience know that only through real world usage can I write a review that can cover both the pros and the cons.

Saturday
Jun072014

Wonderland Trail Outlook 2014

On June 3rd 2014 I grabbed my skis for a check of the snow conditions from White River to Panhandle Gap in Mt. Rainier National Park and was surprised by the sparse cover for so early in the season. I usually do an update of this area every year around the third week in July, but this year I'm glad I was out early. The coverage is so thin below 5000' that I can see the entire Wonderland snow free at this level and below by July 1st. I also think Panhandle Gap will be bare before September 1st. This video is a combination of stills and ski video where you can check out the tree wells and snow levels for yourself. Peruse the Past Updates section here on williswall.com to see what prior years have looked like.

Friday
May232014

Mt. Rainier Cornucopia

my destination comes into view on the bike to ParadiseA corny title for a corny day. A perfect weather and conditions forecast had me at my stomping ground, Mt. Rainier National Park. A note to prospective visitors, try to arrive early before the construction begins (weekdays); the stretch between the Nisqually entrance and Longmire is a mess, and we waited in line on the way out once for over 20 minutes. This was a hybrid day for me, including biking, hiking, skinning and skiing. I started at Longmire (2800') on my bike and enjoyed minimal traffic and perfect temps for the climb to Paradise (5400'). My buddy Craig drove my vehicle up to Paradise after dropping me off and get a head start on the climb towards Camp Muir. After the swap of bike gear for ski gear, I started the skinning right at the parking lot at Paradise, so still plenty of snow. My legs were still good at the bottom of Panorama Point and I decided to continue skinning up this steep section. Alas, on my third turn about 2/3 of the way up I caught an edge on my right ski (I guess I didn't lock it all the way down) and watched it slide straight down the hill to the bottom. No leash and the brakes are up while skinning, so chuckling (I wanted a workout, right?) I booted back down the slope and regained my errant ski. From this point I decided to boot straight up the slope with the skis on my pack and continued in this fashion until I reached the top of a few steep rises above Panorama Point (@6500'). The skins came back on and I was starting to feel it in the legs, so by the time I caught up with Craig I was up for a break. Enjoying expansive views in all directions, we finally got to skinning up the Muir snowfield until we reached 8300', deciding that the extra climb on the gentle grade to Anvil Rock was not warranted and we wanted to catch the corn when the snow was prime. Craig and I have had a few outings with the ski touring gear and the last few were not particularly successful, including a turn back on Mt. St. Helens before we even took the skis off our packs due to Craig having severe cramps. What a pleasure to enjoy the mostly gentle slopes of the Muir snowfield on perfect corn, not having to suffer through grabby slop like the last time. The weather, the views, and conditions, the temperature....it doesn't get any better than this when you earn your turns. Of course, I had to try some video and captured most of the descent on a ski mounted helmet cam. Check it out if you want to see a ski's view of the trip down to the parking lot.

 

Thursday
May082014

ZPacks Pointy Hat

ZPacks Pointy HatKavu Chillba on the Wonderland TrailI have to admit, I like pointy hats. I went hiking a few weeks ago with 2 other guys. One had no hat, the other had a ball cap. I had a sun protective cap. When we got back I was the only one who got burned....what gives? I'm like the canary in the mine shaft, I burn before anyone else. Even though I take precautions I can still get burned. To help combat harmful rays on my noggin and neck, last year (despite groans from my daughter) I had fantastic luck with a Kavu Chillba pointy hat. Then Joe at ZPacks finally released a version of his own pointy hat for the masses, the aply named Pointy Hat. I think it's an improvement over the Chillba for a few reasons. One, it has a (waterproof) zipper on the back that allows the hat to lay flat, perfect for a sit pad or to wrap around gear in a pack (you do not want to fold and crease the hat, as it is lined with 3/8 inch foam). You can also use it to supplement your sleep pad system if you are using a 3/4 length torso pad. Second, the cuben material is waterproof so it can be used as a rain hat, keeping the drips off your neck area. The design also incorporates a slightly shaved rear portion to help keep the hat from rubbing against a higher backpack. I recently wore the hat on a ski tour trip to Mt. Rainier's Muir snowfield. I can attest that in the sweltering bowls, with the sun reflecting off the snow, that the insulated hat shaded my head well. The best part is the air conditioning effect when a cool breeze was blowing. The design of the hat, which is best used clipped to a sweat visor, allows the air to flow over your head; it felt like I have my own personal fan helping evaporate the sweat. This hat proved much cooler than the sun cap and neck drape I would normally wear and which I saw many people clad in. Of course I still got burned because of the ray's reflection off the snow, despite slathering on some very pricey sun screen. My buddy? I lent him a ball cap and he draped a fleece hat on his neck and came out unscathed, using the same sunscreen. In any event in normal hiking I can't be attacked by rays from below. When the wind blew across my Chillba sometimes I had to remove the hat because of the aerodynamics. The ZPacks Pointy Hat clips onto your cap or headsweat visor and is actually much more secure; I was able to ski in the Pointy Hat no problem. It's also a great conversation starter, I got many comments from fellow skiers on my headwear. I always say function before fashion and this hat functions. I perfer to think of the look as the latest in hiking chic and functionality versus looking like a dork....you decide.

ski touring in the Pointy Hat

Saturday
Apr262014

New Tricks for Old Dogs

I've been thinking about it for years, and my 67 year old buddy and I have been talking about it for years. We even tried it almost twenty years ago: ski touring/mountaineering. With visions of figure 8s left in our wake from the summit of Mt. Adams, we got a reality check in early April back then. We rented touring gear from a local shop, packed up, and were outraged by the gas prices down in The Gorge on our trip to Adams: $1.40 per gallon! We were able to drive the access road to within about 5 miles of Cold Springs Campground and proceeded to skin up the road, trying out our rented equipment for the first time. Somehow we successfully found the campground and continued up; however, wefirst turns from a tip mounted cam were soon engulfed in blizzard like conditions with sideways snow and low visibility. We found a place right at treeline as we were reluctant to continue on in those conditions, set up a mountaineering tent, and tried to sleep that night with 3 season bags.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Apr092014

Undercurrent: Enchanted Valley Chalet on the Edge

On April 7th, 2014, I hiked into Olympic National Park's Enchanted Valley to enjoy excellent weather in a snow free hike and check out the teetering Enchanted Valley Chalet. There has been much chatter online about the fate of the chalet, as the Quinault River has altered course and undercut the chalet's foundation, as well as eradicating large swaths of the valley meadow. The landscape has changed markedly since my last visit 16 years ago. As of this writing the fate of the chalet is yet to be decided. Let nature take it's course and allow the structure to eventually slip into the river? Or hire a professional house mover to relocate the structure further from the encroaching Quinault. This was a long but rewarding day with views of elk and bear along with the green infused scenery.

 

 

 

 

Monday
Mar312014

Good deals on The Clymb

You'll notice I don't have advertising on this site, I don't like the visual clutter for the viewer and it's not worth the few cents per month to collect advertising revenue. However, I've been using The Clymb online store for over a year and have done some amazing deals. Outdoor gear can be expensive and finding savings is always a plus. My most recent purchase was for a set of randonee skis, advertised on another online site on sale for $650....my price, $234 delivered. They are even the 2013/2014 model. Outdoor Research soft shell jacket, list $225, my price $70. Or how about the Ultraclamp I bought from Rhino Camera Gear for $29.99...I just picked up 2 more from The Clymb for $7.95 each. The Clymb sells outdoor gear for many sports including biking, hiking, skiing, climbing and running, to name a few. My daughter just picked up a dress and sandals, items that are still selling for full price elsewhere, for more than half off retail.

Help support Williswall! Click on any of these links and I get a bonus with your first order, but it doesn't cost you anything. WARNING: saving on The Clymb may become addictive.

Wednesday
Mar262014

The 7 Continents

A recent trip to Brazil made me realize that that was the last place to complete visits to the 7 continents. Here's a pictoral reminiscence of the places I've visited over the years, some surely never to be repeated.

A continental tour

Thursday
Mar132014

Watch out for Beyond...Clothing, that is!

Beyond Clothing: stitched in the StatesIn my quest to find gear that is manufactured in the US, the most elusive part of the job is clothing. However, there is a new/old company about to enter the outdoor retail scene based in Seattle, WA. Beyond Clothing essentially has a leg up on your typical start up: they have been making clothing for the military for a number of years.

Click to read more ...