Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Winter's Coming, Right?

While it looks like the Pacific NW has a good base and the Rockies are progressing, we in New England have just about finished up the warmest November on record. Some of our ski resorts with top-notch snow making equipment seem to be producing a good base, but those of us in the lowlands and coastal areas are just plain warm and dry. Forecasts are conflicting, but for now, we're just praying for snow. To bide the time, here's the latest webisode from KGB.

And, while we're on the topic of snow, (or lack thereof), avalanche safety and skills are important, whether you live in the West or the East. So get out there and learn a new skill or sharpen your existing skills this season. I took AIARE Level I through EMS last year and it was great, but there are many places that offer the class.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ah, New England!

Do your best to conjure up your best Boston accent when reading this highway sign that was put up today.

(David L. Ryan / Boston Globe staff)

In other news, the storm waves should clean up nicely for tomorrow for a Thanksgiving morning session for those who want to earn their turkey meals.

Happy Thanksgiving from NEMO!


Monday, November 14, 2011

Adventure Anywhere, Really.

You can Occupy in anything (or nothing), but if you're out there, you might as well camp in style.


Friday, November 11, 2011

LongTreks Morocco - Episode 5: Losing Our Minds to Zagora

One of the biggest lessons that comes out of the Longtreks journeys is that for every up there is a down; for every section of smooth perfect buttery pavement, there are unending sections of just utter crap that isn't even fit to be walked on. How these guys push hundreds of miles on this bone chattering grossness boggles our minds.

If anything, misery breeds... revolutionary new long distance skating techniques (see 4:15ish)


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Banff Mountain Film Festival, Recap

We just got back from the Banff Film Festival which wrapped up this past weekend. For outdoor enthusiasts out there, it is a pretty magical place to be celebrating outdoor spirit and culture, and to be surrounded by both amazing mountains and adventurers alike.

Mountain towns like Banff give off lots of energy, and it's not just the endless march of puffy jackets and beanies (toques for our Canadian friends out there). There's a happiness and fulfillment when you talk to people that you just don't see in the general population.

This year we sponsored the prize for Best Film in Exploration and Adventure, which was awarded to Kadoma.

Some favorites from the weekend to watch for as the festival rolls through your town:

We were enchanted by Obe and Ashima—sorry, couldn't find a trailer.

My personal favorite, Chasing Water.

Cold pretty much swept the awards and ran the gamut of emotions. A must-see.

Solitaire set a great mood with perfectly selected music.

A great short on living simply, 23 Feet:

And gratuitous shots of NEMO tents were abound in Steve Fisher's Halo Effect:


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

COMMITTED: Grand Teton, North Ridge via the Cathedral Traverse

After our time in the Bugaboos, Canada, we headed south, back to the Motherland. Driving through Montana we were excited to easily interpret the speed limit signs, have working cell phones, and buy “half-priced” gas.

Before long we were in one of my favorite places, the Tetons! Janelle and I have traveled here at least once a year since we meet 6 years ago. The Upper Exum Ridge was one of my first alpine climbing experiences. We honeymooned in Jackson. Janelle became the US National Ski Mountaineering champion at Jackson Hole ski resort. Needless to say, I have many fond memories from being in these mountains.

North Ridge, Grand Teton via Cathedral Traverse from Mark Smiley on Vimeo.

I first heard about the “Grand Traverse” during one of my early visits. This Traverse links all 7 major mountains in the range (with a handful of smaller peaks in-between). I hoped that one day I would be strong enough to tackle such an endeavor, and on August 24th that day came.

Last year we climbed the North Face of the Grand, and the only classic climb remaining was the North Ridge on the Grand. The glacier to get to the route can be broken and nasty this late in the season, so we concluded doing the Traverse would be the best/most fun way to approach the ridge.

Having climbed in fair share in the area, I knew that route-finding was going to be a crux of the experience. There is a lot of terrain to cover during the Traverse, and getting off-route would simply burn precious daylight. We collected quality beta from, some Exum guide friends, and other friends that had done it before. The best tip was to take only one 70-meter twin rope, which helps with the long rappels. We took our Sterling Ice Thong 7.7mm rope...super thin!

The other major crux is getting your pack as light as possible. We simply wanted to climb fast with a light backpack. So we bribed our friend, Rob, into porter-ing our sleeping bags, pads, and extra food to the Lower Saddle campground on the South side of the Grand Teton. He was cheap, so it worked out well. =)

The plan was to climb the “Cathedral Traverse” (Teewinot, Owen, the Grand) day one, sleep at the Lower Saddle, then finish the Grand Traverse on day two. We left the parking lot at 4:00AM with happy (light) packs, amped and moving fast. There were several forest fires in the area, and the air was thick with smoke, which made breathing a little difficult. Halfway up Teewinot we got above the smoke layer just as the sun was rising. It was amazing. Reaching the top of Teewinot in a few short hours we were rewarded with the most spectacular view of the Grand Teton’s North Face.

From there the terrain is fairly easy 2nd-4th class until the first rappels. At this point another “traverser” caught up with us. He was doing it solo. I offered him our ropes to rappel, instead of using his own. From there we moved together to the top of Owen, crossing mostly broken rock, some quality rock climbing, and a little snow.

Some say the crux of the route finding is getting from the summit of Teewinot to the Gunsight Notch. Last year, Janelle and I climbed the Serendipity Crack on Owen, so we had seen this terrain. That experience helped keep us moving quickly. From the Gunsight Notch up to the Grand Stand is the highest quality climbing on the North Ridge, in my opinion.

Once we got to the North Ridge proper there are two main ways to go. The Italian Cracks or the Chockstone Chimney. The Chockstone Chimney is the route listed in “the book” so we went that way. There was a small section of ice to chop through, but compared to Mt Hunter, it was a cakewalk. The climbing in the chimney was really good too. We decided to pass on taking rock climbing shoes, so pulling the 5.8 crux in my guide tennie approach shoes helped keep it real.

From the top of the chimney the climbing is straightforward. All paths lead to the top. On top, we hung out for a while, soaking in yet another Grand Teton experience. This route was way more enjoyable than the North Face, which doesn’t take much since the North Face is a big pile of crap!

We arrived at the Lower Saddle campsite around 5:00PM. Rob had delivered the goods, and we were eating dinner that he carried up for us shortly thereafter. We wanted to be as nice as possible to him, so we did not have him bring up a tent. Well, that backfired on us. At 6:00AM the next morning we awoke quickly to rain drops hitting our sleeping bags, then hail! We threw all our stuff together and ran for shelter.

There were thunderclouds to the West, approaching fast. Our plan to complete the Grand Traverse we getting washed out. Janelle and I looked at each other, wondering what the other person was thinking. Should we keep going? Should we bail? Just then a big flash of lightening in the distance sealed Plan A’s fate. We reluctantly decided walk down and get breakfast in town.

I hate bailing on my plans in the mountains, especially when the ski clears halfway down to the car! I couldn’t believe it. At 6:00AM it looked like Zeus was having lightning bolt target practice with the Tetons, and then at 7:00AM it was bluebird. I was pissed to make the wrong decision to bail. Regardless, we kept walking downhill, back to the van. At 8:00AM dark clouds rolled back in and unleashed a rainstorm full of lighting. Standing under a big pine tree, out of the rain, I was smiling ear to ear. We had made the right decision. Amusing isn’t it, how the same decision can be good one moment, bad the next, and then good again.

The Cathedral Traverse is by far the most fun I’ve had in the Tetons, and I recommend it to anyone interested.


Friday, November 4, 2011

And the Journey Continues....

We are so proud of NEMO ambassador Erin Nelson as she continues to bike around the world in her goal of becoming the youngest person, as well as the first African American female, to do so.

This latest video is a recap of the past year that she has been on the road. You can also for her here.

Good luck Erin, keep on pedaling!