Thoughts on flat tarps

This last week we took a quick climbing trip to the City of Rocks where I tested out my just-finished 8x7ish flat tarp. I made this out of Lawson's .74oz banana cuben. 

--Some notes on the tarp constuction--

Hysol is much more difficult to work with than I anticipated. If you have a nice big well-light and well-ventilated space to set out a massive jig then it'd be fine, but I do not and it was a struggle. So the construction was a bit sloppy, but it turned out fine and seemed to weather the probably 20 mph gusts last night.

I also got to test the John West/Borah Gear bivy, older Golite quilt and ridgerest combo down to the mid-20s at a little elevation (7 I think?) and a stiff breeze whipping across southern Idaho. Condensation wasn't a problem on the tarp or inside the bivy, a testament to the temperature and wind speed. I've finally accepted that when I'm packing light and don't have any extra clothes at night, I want something for me head. So I'm going to begin using my MYOG POE stuff sack pillow at 1.9oz. 

So far I've been using my flat tarps in the pitch pictured. It's kind of a double-pole flying diamond sort of thing. I also pitched it in an A-frame but the wind was strong enough that I wanted really good protection on two sides. The stick prop helped bring the tarp off my bag a little. A 'mid style pitch would have also worked well.

If you're using a poncho and the hood is closer to one end than the other, pitch the hood closer to your feet. An excellent space for your feet is created when you pull the hood out. 

Logan Ice

Had the opportunity to finally get on the roadside ice up Logan canyon. Norm showed me the ways of river crossing via extension ladder (the sketchiest part by far) and provided a solid top belay.

The limited section of nearly-vertical ice.



If you an unequivocally rugged, original and beautiful backpack, steer your wallet towards ZimmberBuilt packs. Chris Zimmer has been custom building backpacks, initially through the online ultralight community, backpackinglight.com


Without a Camera

One thing lightweight philosophy taught me, as I spent more and more time scrutinizing ounces, was to evaluate the role of a camera. I remember writing, in my first concerted gear list ever, that I felt a camera critical to my full enjoyment of my trip. What I meant was that I liked the process of seeing beauty, framing a shot, balancing light and subject. I liked to sit at home, months after a trip, and regain a sense of the experience as I flipped through images.

Eventually I started to question myself. What did a camera offer my experience and what was I comprising during my time in the wilderness for a sense or recognition, accomplishment or permanence? Was it about longevity or showing off?

I think for many it might be a sense of durability that we are seeking when we bring our cameras into the backcountry. We are uncomfortable with the briefness and immediacy that the wilderness presents to us. It isn’t enough simply to be once. For me, it takes serious focus to be in a moment so genuinely that a camera becomes trivial. But time is telling me that no lens and no set of pixels can fully imagine the overwhelming, multisensory gift of me, in nature, right now.

And it isn’t permanent; and it is better for it. But I didn’t get there quickly. Last fall, packing for a trip to Coyote Gulch in the Escalante of Utah, I decided to take the old Canon SLR my dad had recently sent me. I like the imperfect feel of film photography, it makes pictures seem unique. But standing alongside my car rubbing the red canyon dust out of my eyes, worrying about those tiny grains working their way into the Canon, I thought better of it. After all, my friends had their cameras.

Recently the social network alerted me that I was tagged in a photo, the thumbnail was the blocky reds, browns and yellow of southern Utah in the fall. Excited, I clicked on, examining the record my friend made of our trip on her digital camera. But wait, this isn’t the canyon I hiked. The stream I walked down had towering red walls on either side that crumbled into arches and alcoves. It was by covered with a blinding, deep blue expanse. Its bed was a network of ripples, ridges and spines, brushstrokes through sand and gravel. It echoed sage and cottonwood. The canyon I visited has been a home for millennia. And her pictures didn’t show me that.

When you have time: check out Barry Lopez (yawn... skip to minute 16:00)


Productive Weather

The Utah Avalanche Center called this a "more productive weather pattern." At least for my employer, I'm pretty sure they mean less productive. 


Snow Will Come!

Alright folks, we're all wondering the same thing: where the hell is the snow already? I'm as disappointed as a the next guy, this is my first winter in Utah and I'm geared up with a pass for the Beav and skins for rest of the Bear Rivers. At least I'm not missing any pow days while I'm teaching the kiddos.

But! According to the wizards over at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center , things are likley to shift towards the end of this month, and we here in northern Utah could be in a uniquely fortunate position for once. These shifting patterns are likley to hit to only dip down into the northern most ranges in Utah, potentially missing the Wasatch until later this winter. Our friends in Oregon also look to be in a sweet spot right now, as long as they can maintain cool enough temps. Observe:

I've been watching the 1-month and 3-month outlooks for a few weeks now, and the green band (above average precip) has begun dipping into Utah only in the last week. It's all got to do with what's happening in the central Pacific and a subsurface waved called the MJO. The MJO occurs during weak La Nina years (us right now), which should mean cooler than average temps, but it looks like warm air might be a concern for snow accumulation:

Let's hope the trend continues, as NOAA predicts, through the rest of the winter. Check out the 1-month forecast:

And the 3-month:


We Beaver skiers may be in for a treat. I'm just going to make the claim right now that the snow up here could be the best in the country (Schweitzer is another solid bet) around President's weekend. As long as we keep growing our beards and burning old skis. Fingers crossed.


Delicious Ambiguity

Check out Delicious Ambiguity, Risa Capezutto's photo blog, featuring beautiful Sun River in the Oregon Cascades.  I think she's done an excellent job capturing the soft and subtle design of Oregon's landscape. Keep it up Risa.


Crumbling - - a short story

"The guy was a real solitary type of guy, real lonely seeming. And that house, man, that house was old. Crumbling, actually, rotting at each corner, sagging along the rooflines. Thick green moss practically swallowed it up, wrapped it in a fuzzy damp layer of organism. It smelled like moss smells, like humus and decay smell. It was the kind of earthy, wet, devouring air that gets closer and tighter around your body when you walk up the path towards his door. "


Microbrews from Behind the Zion Curtain

From the August issue of Dirt Rag:

Hard-fought breweries turn out fine craft beers Utah

In Utah, beer makers have a bit of an uphill climb bringing their product to market. 115 years of conservative sentiment in the state has resulted in a strict set of laws concerning the sale of what the rest of us call plain old beer. Here in Utah its “heavy beer” and it might as well be a bottle of whiskey. New to the state and its sober ways, I ventured to root out the best of the heretic brewers.
            A solid handful of microbreweries have set out into this hostile policy environment and are not only making a business out of it, they’re making great beers too. Two breweries from Salt Lake City rise to the top: Epic, founded in 2008, and Uinta founded in 1993, are putting great care and style into producing light, heavy and everything in between.

            While Utah brews have followed the hop-happy trend as well as anybody, I like something that can refresh me on a hot afternoon without leaving me too puckered. My two picks are both mild on hops and accompanying bitterness, but pack flavor and uniqueness nonetheless.
            The Uinta Cockeyed Cooper is a wind powered, certified organic barley wine ale aged in bourbon casks. This beer explodes sweet and buttery deliciousness. Vanilla and cheery are in your face before you even take a sip. Uinta recommends having this big-bottle corked beer with old cheese or fancy desserts. I say skip the nonsense and enjoy this delicacy on its own. Never has so much alcohol been so well concealed, and at 11.1% ABV you’d better mind your p’s and q’s when you drink this one. The Cooper is a beautiful dark brown, really too drinkable, and complex without sitting too heavy. Keep your eyes out for this because it’s a special treat.

            The Cross Fever from Epic was, apparently, brewed with cyclists in mind. The makers are self-proclaimed “beer geeks, foodies and epic adventure junkies,” and with this beer as testament, I’ll take them at their word. It’s still mild on hops like the Cooper, but with just enough edge to keep things interesting. I enjoyed mine right from the bottle, but it pours a deep brown amber with a smooth, light head. At 4.8% ABV this beer represents Utah’s tendency toward mild beers, but it manages to stay smooth without tasting wimpy or watered down. I found the hearty malt base did well in supporting the almost too subtle hops. This beer would find good company in a burger, but stands alone too.  One of Epic’s “Classic” (read: cheapest) line, the Fever turned out like a good ‘cross bike: versatile and dialed in. 

Horseshoe Canyon

Horseshoe Canyon – A Yet Kept Secret I sit on the western rim of Horseshoe Canyon. A collection, the Park Service assures me, of some of the most important and breathtaking aboriginal art in the U.S. I have just traveled 32 miles along a dusty and rutted road, one of the washboard variety, to get here. It’s an entirely different experience than that which I had yesterday, in Arches national park, where pavement leads the way nearly to the base of all but a few of the most dramatic arches.

I experienced Arches for the first time, perhaps unfortunately, while also reading Ed Abbey for the first time. In Desert Solitaire Abbey spends much of his time railing against what he calls Industrial Tourism: The idea that the national park system, at least since the proliferation of the automobile, has become yet another cog in an oil-based, consumer society where citizens are too lazy to walk, pitch tents, dirty their faces and hands. Well damn, here I am ready to appreciate the magnificence of nature and Abbey’s got to rain all over it. I’m just an ant, his least favorite creature, crawling out of my steaming steel cage to join the rest. If Abbey could see Arches now, not 50 years since he was the sole curator at the end of a long dirt road in a National Monument where only the hardiest of tourists dared to venture, if he could see it now he’d be nauseous with disappointment. I am, at least.

But here on the rim of Horseshoe Canyon I’m somewhat reassured. A yet remote and detached “unit” of Canyonlands N.P., the stretch of archeologically significant canyon was added to the park in 1971. Horseshoe Canyon attracts only those visitors with the tolerance for at least one full hour of jarring travel and heightened risk. The 6.5-mile out and back is one of the longest hikes in the park. Not five cars sat in the red-rock parking lot when I arrived.

Tomorrow morning I’ll make the trip down into the canyon and see the Great Gallery and other sites for myself. Tomorrow night I’ll attempt sleep while my mind grapples with thoughts of genocide, destruction and loss, but for now I’m comforted to know that there are still places remote and rugged within our system of natural attractions. There are still places where well-trained tourists like me forget to bring water to the middle of the desert because they assume anything marked with the ubiquitous little tent symbol must have a pump. I’m not asking for a pilgrimage every time I want to see a national park, but I am asking for a long, sweaty hike that will leave me parched, exhausted and fulfilled.



Amidst the dramedy that is my life, I fell out of a tree and broke my leg. That is how it looks on the inside.

It's fixed now though, with a nail.

In the meantime, I discovered MYOG (stands for: use your Mom's old sewing machine and spend 100% less on gear). Next I just need to dust off my Dad's old foundry and I won't have to invest in quickdraws.


Middle Sister, September 2010

Last fall we were able to make a weekend trip to the Three Sisters Wilderness on the east side of the Oregon Cascades.
We were attempting to make what for us rookie mountaineers would have been an accomplishment: 2 Sisters in a day. We decided the Middle first would give us the most options. We left on Friday night, hiking about 7 miles from the Pole Creek Trailhead to somewhere near the base of the Middle. We left camp at 7 am, foolishly stashed our gear amongst the maze of stunted pines and glacial drainages, and followed our eyes to the summit.

At the saddle of the North and Middle (center right above) we confirmed our suspicions that the south ridge route to the North's summit would be more unprotected vertical scrambling up loose garbage than we were ready for. 


We arrived at the summit about 9:30, totally exhilarated. 

 We observed the rain shadow that defines Oregon.

We descended down the north side of the Middle, hoping to also summit the South from the north.

This route turned out to be slightly more treacherous than we'd hoped.

It was good we turned backed because we needed the last few remaining hours of daylight to find our backpacks cached near our morning's campsite. Good times.