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I’ve been AWOL for a while.   Life has been crazy for the last 18 months or so.  Why?



We had a new house guest who was on the way.



He showed up not long after I got back from Teton.   Looks like he’ll be sticking around for a while.  Something like 18 years.  Maybe more.



Being a dad is a full-time job, so it hasn’t let me a ton of time to write.  But I didn’t mind too much.


But now he’s a little older, life has settled down a little bit.  So I’m going to try to get back to writing.  I’ll wrap up my trip report for Grand Teton and share some pictures and stories of other stuff I’ve been doing, including our trip to Mt. Shasta in California.






Look at that view!

This time tomorrow Dave and I will be on a plane headed for Jackson, WY.  All the preparations have been made; the permit is secured, the lodging is booked, the rental car is waiting.  Now all that remains is a little bit of laundry and packing of the bags.

This is what lies ahead of us in the next few days:

Tomorrow morning we’ll take off out of Dulles and fly to Denver where we’ll get a connecting flight to Jackson.  We’ll pick up our rental car at the airport, grab a quick lunch and drive out to the Ranger station at Jenny Lake to pick up our permit.  Then, we’ll check in at the climbing lodge and drive back to Jackson to pick up some fuel for our Jetboils, grab some last minute supplies and check out the town.

We’ll grab dinner in town and wait around till about 9 when our friend Matt will be flying in from California to meet us.  Once we have him we’ll drive back to the lodge, unload our sleeping bags and crash out.

Wednesday morning (July 4th!) we’ll wake up, make a quick breakfast while sorting out our gear and drive out to the trailhead to start the hike up Teton.   The first day will be about 5 miles of uphill hiking, gaining around 3000ft of elevation.   Luckily we have all day to do this so we can take our time and not get worn out trying to rush up.  We’ll camp the first night at the Meadows campsite, or if we feel strong, we can continue up another couple of miles and setup camp at the Lower Saddle, just below the summit. Either way, we’ll eat our freeze dried dinners and crash out in our tents.

On Thursday, depending on how high we’ve hiked the day before and how the weather looks, we’ll either keep hiking up to the Lower Saddle or we’ll wake up super early and make our summit climb.  We may push this to Friday, but regardless it’ll involve another couple miles of hiking, another 1500ft of elevation gain and then the technical climb.

On the day we start out for the summit, whether it’s Thursday or Friday, it’ll be an early morning.  3-4am is our wake up time which will put us near the start of the technical climbing portion right around sunrise.

We’ll rope up at the base of the Owens-Spaudling route and begin our 1500 vertical feet of climbing.  If all goes well, we’ll summit by 10am, hang out for 30 minutes or so and rappel and hike down to the Lower Saddle by noon.   A quick lunch followed by breaking down of camp and we’ll hopefully be back to the car by 5pm.

For those of you counting, that’s 14 solid hours of hiking and climbing in one day.  We’ll really enjoy those cold beers and pizza that night!

Finally, on Saturday, we’ll wake up, enjoy a nice leisurely breakfast and do a hanging around downtown Jackson until it’s time to head to the airport for the flights home.

I’ll try and upload some pictures from my iPhone using the wordpress app as we go.  I have no idea what the cell phone service is going to be like up there but I’m not counting on it.  Though I’ll have a satellite phone on me, the $4 per minute usage charges will likely keep it in my bag unless there’s an absolutely emergency.

That’s it.  Hope to have lots of good stores, photos and video to share when I come back.  Till then, happy trails!

I was dangling on the rope at Great Falls, looking down at the sharp rocks and churning river 40ft below me.   My friend was belaying me from below, the rope tight with my weight.  The only thing keeping me from crashing down on the rocks was this rope and the little aluminum carabiner it was run through.    At this moment I couldn’t help but wonder how strong that little carabiner really was.   Do they even design them to take the weight of a big guy like me?

I did a little research and I found this nifty little video on Youtube on the making of carabiners.  After watching it, you’ll probably feel at least a little bit more confident:







A send-off climbing trip with Dave, Matt and three of Matt’s co-workers as Matt is moving to California next weekend.

It was bittersweet to have Matt leave but we enjoyed a great weekend of climbing, good food, better friends and maybe a beer or two (or 5).

“I think we’re in big trouble”

That’s all I could think as Dave and I looked around in the storm that had changed the weather to complete white out conditions.

We were lost. Bad. And completely worn out. We had spent so much energy rushing our way to the top, we had very little strength left in out bodies. It was obvious that we had missed a turn somewhere. In our rush to get back below the tree line we had somehow gone right past our turn. We were now on a completely unfamiliar part of the mountain and it would be getting dark soon.

Nighttime on that mountain could spell a death sentence. It was -2 degrees with gale force winds and the temperature was dropping. If we didn’t get back on course soon, we could be stuck out here all night. Without a tent or bivy sack, without a stove or sleeping bag. A night out here would be disastrous.

If only we could see more than 100 ft in front of us, we could tell which way to go. I was pretty sure we had gone too far west, but how far? If we wandered too far west, we risked heading down the Tuckerman Ravine. Over 1500 ft of near sheer drop off. Going back east meant going back up hill and trudging through waist deep snow. Our legs were so already spent, we could barely walk as it was.

I looked over at Dave. He was just as exhausted as I was. “I have no idea where we are man. This is bad.” We stopped for a few minutes to discuss the situation. We couldn’t stand here long. As soon as you stop moving, you get cold. Plus, we were losing daylight.

Dave decided to head up and east to scout out a new route. Meanwhile, I’d look at the map and try and orient ourselves. I could look as my compass and see our direction, but I couldn’t find a big enough object to use to direct ourselves.   We had to find a way back down soon…..




It was Thursday afternoon and I was on the train heading to new york where I’d meet Dave who was up already up there for the day. He was going to grab me a couple of slices of NYC pizza, hop on the train and we’d roll the rest of the way up to Boston where we’d grab our rental that was waiting for us.

We got to Boston around midnight and I was immediately glad we decided to rent a 4×4. It was snowing like crazy. A weak weather system had gotten hung up on the east coast and was just sitting there, dumping snow all over New England. By the time we got the car and left the rental car office, it was nearly a full on blizzard.

A drive that was supposed to take a bit under 3 hours ended up taking nearly 4 and a half and by the time we arrived in Jackson, NH at the Synnott Mountain Guides Bunkhouse at 4:45am, we were thrashed. We quietly made our way inside to the one room house that featured several beds where other climbers were already passed out. With headlamps on, we found a free mattress and couch to crash out on, which we did almost immediately.

3 and half hours later, our guide Joe came in the door looking for us. We had booked an all day ice climbing class with Synnott Guides, and he was ready to get going. There were no blinds or curtains in the little house we had flopped in on the night before so the bright morning sunlight was reflecting off all that new snow and right through our window. Looked like getting up was our only option anyways.

So we threw on some clothes, test fit our climbing gear and set out for one of the many ice climbing destinations around Mt Washington. After a quick stop at the local Eastern Mountain Sports for a few last minute items and a second stop for a giant cup of McDonald’s coffee, we were at the trailhead, starting the 45 minute hike to Champney Falls.

We got to the falls, which was already covered with other climbers, and setup a top rope anchor. Our guide, who knew we were both rock climbers, took a very hands off approach to teaching us to climb. He helped us get our crampons on and basically just threw us on a wall with ice tools. 10 minutes later Dave and I had both top roped a 30 foot class 4 route.

During the way, our guide would take time to critique our technique or form. Showing us how to get better crampon purchase in the ice or the sound a tool should make when it gets a good stick. By the end of the day we were doing a 60ft class 4 plus route with relative ease.





While ice climbing is obviously a different animal from rock climbing, many of the same principals apply.  Smooth, balanced movements are preferred, using your feet to climb instead of your arms, visualizing your route, remembering to breathe…  All key if you want to have successful and enjoyable route.

We both had a blast and by the time we hiked back to the car we felt like the day had opened up new climbing avenues for both us. Too bad there’s not much in the way of ice climbing in Virginia!

We left and headed out to the gear store so Dave could get boots and crampons for the next day’s hike up Mount Washington. Afterward we stopped a local dive bar for some well deserved greasy food and ice cold brewskis, and discussed our big adventure the next day.

After dinner we checked into our accommodations at the Nereledge Inn, local B&B that caters specifically to climbers.  Steve, the owner,  gave us a big, clean room with two comfy beds and promised to have a breakfast ready for us when we were heading out at 6am the next morning.

After we got unpacked, we wandered downstairs to hang out in the common area where there was a TV and a wood fired stove where we met two older guys playing chess. We struck up a conversation and found that they had both been on some pretty seriously climbs, including several winter summits of mt Washington, a 5 week long climb up Denali and even a couple of Himalayan peaks! They told us we’d have a blast on our climb the next day, but to take care to not underestimate the weather on the mountain.

After enjoying several beers and listening to stories and wisdom from newly found friends, we retired to our room. We got in bed around 9:30pm and set the alarm for 5:45am the next day. When we awoke, it’d be time to head off the mountain for the highlight of our little weekend adventure.



To be continued…..

We can’t all choose how we’re going to go.  In fact, most of us will not.   Statistically speaking most of us will succumb to one form of cancer or heart disease, hopefully when we’re older, likely in a hospital or hospice.  It’s sad, but it’s a part of life that we all must face sooner or later.

But, the lucky few will pass from this world in a manner in which they would consider fitting or maybe even poetic.   And while death is never something to be cherished, the life and legacy that remain should be.

My friend Dave’s brother-in-law, Ted Smith passed away on New Years Eve.  A local surf legend in his home of La Jolla, Calf, he died doing what he loved and what he was best known for; surfing.

Last weekend, the local surf community came out for a “ride out”.  One last surf to pay tribute to their dearly departed friend:

May we all be so lucky.   Rest in peace Ted.



Happy trails.


On Sunday morning Matt, Dave and I went down to Carderock in Maryland, just on the other side of the Potomac to do a little outdoor top roped climbs.

While were there, Matt took some time to show Dave and some of the basics of traditional climbing, specifically setting artificial protection pieces.

It was a tremendous learning experience and a great way to spend a cool Sunday morning outside before heading home to drink beer and watch football.

Enjoy the pictures!

You shouldn’t do it, at least according to an email I got from them today.    It was an interesting email and I would like the share the message with you:




Today is Cyber Monday. It will likely be the biggest online shopping day ever. Cyber Monday was created by the National Retail Federation in 2005 to focus media and public attention on online shopping. But Cyber Monday, and the culture of consumption it reflects, puts the economy of natural systems that support all life firmly in the red. We’re now using the resources of one-and-a-half planets on our one and only planet.

Because Patagonia wants to be in business for a good long time – and leave a world inhabitable for our kids – we want to do the opposite of every other business today. We ask you to buy less and to reflect before you spend a dime on this jacket or anything else.

Environmental bankruptcy, as with corporate bankruptcy, can happen very slowly, then all of a sudden. This is what we face unless we slow down, then reverse the damage. We’re running short on fresh water, topsoil, fisheries, wetlands – all our planet’s natural systems and resources that support business, and life, including our own.

The environmental cost of everything we make is astonishing. Consider the R2® Jacket shown, one of our best sellers. To make it required 135 liters of water, enough to meet the daily needs (three glasses a day) of 45 people. Its journey from its origin as 60% recycled polyester to our Reno warehouse generated nearly 20 pounds of carbon dioxide, 24 times the weight of the finished product. This jacket left behind, on its way to Reno, two-thirds its weight in waste.

And this is a 60% recycled polyester jacket, knit and sewn to a high standard; it is exceptionally durable, so you won’t have to replace it as often. And when it comes to the end of its useful life we’ll take it back to recycle into a product of equal value. But, as is true of all the things we can make and you can buy, this jacket comes with an environmental cost higher than its price.

There is much to be done and plenty for us all to do. Don’t buy what you don’t need. Think twice before you buy anything. Go to, take the Common Threads Initiative pledge and join us in the fifth “R,” to reimagine a world where we take only what nature can replace.





Yet another reason why I love Patagonia (you can read my review of my down jacket here).  Not only do they make outstanding products which I love, they have a value system that directly impacts the way they handle their business.

And it’s a good reminder for me to reflect on purchases I make not only today, but everyday.   Because more and more, I’m finding myself wanting buy things that I’ll own not for a year or two, but for a decade or more.  Not only do I end up being more environmentally (and financially) responsible,  I end up owning things I cherish far more.  And, I have a lot less useless, unwanted junk  cluttering my house that eventually ends up in a landfill.



It’s been a crazy few months.  Between getting married, the honeymoon, tough mudder, marine corps marathon and the seneca rocks trip, I feel like i haven’t had a chance to catch my breath.   I promised my wife after the last trip that I was going to take it easy for a while.   And frankly, I’m looking forward to spending more time at home with her and the dog.   Not that I won’t be keeping busy, just not quite as busy as before.
One of the things I’m doing now is planning for next year’s adventures.   I’ve got a few months during the upcoming holidays to put together a game plan for what I want to do in 2012, and would you know I’ve already come up with some ideas…..


1. Mt. Washington Winter Hike – I’ve been wanting to do this since last year. We had the plane tickets, the gear and the will, but a bout of bad weather cancelled the flight and ruined our hopes of making it out there last winter.   Next year, I’m hoping to take another stab at the home of the “World’s Worst Weather”.

2. Appalachian Trail Hike – No, not the whole thing.  I would like to do a multi-day hike of the of 101 miles of Appalachian trail that winds through the Shenandoah National Park.  It would be a great chance to see a good part of the park and a pretty decent physical challenge as well.    I feel like I could get at least one or two of my crazy friends  to come out and join me.

3. New backpacking trip – I’ve been out in the Shenandoah more times than I can count.  Last year we went out to Dolly Sods Wilderness for a change of scenery and it was amazing.  I’d like to take another trip to a different area to see other backcountry trails on the easy coast.  Maybe North Carolina or Tennessee?

4. Kayaking – I really wanted to try out kayaking this summer, but I just ran out of free weekends.  So it looks like this will get pushed out till next summer.  Luckily there should be a lot more free weekends to experience the abundance of kayaking opportunities in the DC area.

5. Grand Teton – Climbing Seneca Rocks was the most epic outdoor adventure I’ve done.  I really loved climbing routes outdoors and summiting an actual mountain.  Now I want to go bigger.  I’ve never climbed anything out west and, after doing some research, I think I’m going to make Grand Teton in Wyoming my next climbing challenge.  Grand Teton’s 13,775ft summit is a considered a classic American mountaineering destination and is featured in the historic climbing text Fifty Classic Climbs of North America.


And who knows what else might pop up next year?    I found all kinds of fun, impromptu adventures last year that we didn’t really plan too far ahead of time.   So who knows, maybe the best adventure is one that I’m not even planning yet….


What about you?  What are your big adventure plans for 2012?


Till next time, happy trails!



Stuff I’m doing this year:

July 3-7 - Climbing Grand Teton, Jackson WY

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