Saturday, November 5, 2011

Ride the Wild Bago

posted by Christopher

In following with Joshua Tree traditions, as soon as I heard the loud diesel engine puttering through the campground, I started running.
"Get the camera Justene!", "there's a bago coming!" I yelled in mid sprint, tearing through the campground in my flip flops.
It was 7am and we where packing up to leave the monument after a week of rock climbing and lizard lounging. I had the tent about half packed when I first heard the motor of a Winnebago idling past our camp site.  So as the Hidden Valley rock climber's campground tradition entails; when a RV drives through the camp, your'e supposed to drop whatever your doing, chase that thing down, climb up the ladder, and surf it;  without getting caught by the people that are in the Bago driving it.
Now I don't know exactly who started this tradition but it dates back about 40 years.  In fact there is a climber's route in Real Hidden Valley called "Ride a Wild Bago" and it was first done in the early 1970's.  Rock climbers in those days had a penchant for being crazy.   You had to be if you wanted to be a rock climber back then.  First the gear was not nearly as good and safe as it is today, and second; the non-climbers, which was everyone, told you that you were nuts to begin with.
All this makes for things like surfing wild bagos seem totally natural.  I mean this is Hidden Valley Campground.  There are no spots available for  RVs.  All the desert rat climbing bums from every part of North America have holed up here like protesters on Wall Street.  And the loop through the camp is slow and windy, with some small hills and knolls that make driving a Winnebago through here a mistake.  So we take advantage of this unrealized mistake by the RV driving tourist and get a free ride out of their little mishap.
There are a few techniques involved with getting a good ride and surfing wild bagos.  One of my favourite techniques is chasing the thing down which sometimes means that I'm running straight at the RV while it is driving towards me.  The people inside wearing their casual american apparel probably have no idea why this person is running through the camp ground in an all out sprint, and it's probably even further out of their mind that the reason I'm sprinting straight at them is to get on their vehicle.  At first I felt a little unsure about this.  Like the driver was telepathic and he knew that he was my prey and that I was about to mount his wild steed.  But then I thought about this one day while surfing a large grey whale of a motor home through our quaint little desert rat oasis.
"The last thing on their minds," I thought,  "is that I'd be running towards them because I want to surf this behemoth."
Other techniques are surfing topless; getting on with two or more people; or climbing up one that doesn't have a ladder.  These all add points to your surfing ride and sometimes if there is enough of you on the roof, swinging you shirts in the air, you'll get a group of people taking your picture by the time you get back to the front of the loop.  This gives you even more points because the people driving will wonder for days why there is a small contingent of people waiting for them at the front of the campground, laughing and pointing and taking their picture.
Then of course it's time to climb down. This is not exactly easy in flip flops on a moving land whale, but it's a must do before you get the edge of the campground and the whale slips back into the deep sea.

For me, riding this particular wild bago on my last morning here has made my time in Joshua Tree complete.  I can now leave feeling totally fulfilled.   The climbing has been amazing and since it has about 4 year since the last time I climbed here I realized that this is one of my favourite spots of the earth to go climbing.  The rock is featured and amazing.  It's a coarse granite and the friction for your feet while climbing gives it that magical 'I'm walking on air' feeling.  That and the whole experience and ambience of the desert itself makes this space as special as each individual Joshua Tree.  I love this place!!!

A birds nest in the thorns of a prickly pear.

 Jr. Banger posing after his send of 'Heart of Darkness'  5.11b

On our last day in Joshua Tree, we see our first tarantula.

Symbol of creativity and the balance of life.

David Miller and his faithful guardian Max.
We met David and Max on evening while driving back up into the park.  David is on a year long journey that have him cross the USA four times by bicycle.  Don't worry Max only runs up the hills when David is going really slow.  I used to say that I am the slowest bicycle tourist that I've ever met. Now David Miller has that title from me.  He is towing 2 trailers behind his bike. One for Max to ride in, and one for all of his stuff.
We had the pleasure of helping David and Max on this day and we really enjoy there their company at our campsite that night.  Max is five years old and David just turned 50.  His web site is
David may also take the title of being a guy on a bike that is crazier than me too, but when he woke up that morning in the campground and I was still all fired up after having just surfed a wild bago, it's a tie and that we share that title together.  Go David!!! And please root him on.  This guy is awesome!!!

Well as you can see, Justene was not able to get a photo of me surfing a giant land shark, but that is OK. The story is full to tell and will be sure to become a campground tradition that you will tell your kids about.

We are just finishing up our time in So Cal.  Yesterday we gave a slide show at Citizens of the World carter school to 60-some second graders.  The photos of glaciers and wild mountains and the animal that live there had this class of kids screaming and howling. The teachers of these three classes had told us the last year the kids had been taught a little about sustainability and we were happy to help them see places on this earth that kids in LA don't usually get to see.  A lot of the initial questions were about how we got the photos of the water?  At first I didn't really realize what the kids where talking about and then it dawned on me that they hadn't seen that many photos of glaciers and glacial tarns, those little lakes that form on the edge of glaciers.
We really enjoy the kids, and our time in So Cal.  So it's time to keep on keeping on.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Post Climbing Report

posted by Christopher

I didn’t know what to expect.
Or what I would find.
Or what I would do.
I knew only one thing.
The Bugaboos are Rad.
More Rad than me.
And in two months, 
I was going to scare myself silly.
Wear myself thin.
Dig down deep.
Reach for the heights.
As I ask the mountains, 
to show me the way.
It’s not easy to turn back the time.
It’s not even easy to slow down enough to find a sense of that lost peace.
So I’ve approached the mountain,
slowly and carefully. 
I’ve asked her for her real name.
I’ve asked her to show me the way.
The way through,
to another place. 
A place of peace.
A place without time,
or a place that hasn’t forgotten its memories. 
photo courtesy of Steven Gnam

My life is one that has been marked by mountains.  This is were I live and it is where I thrive.  
“Some things are meant to be secrets”
she whispered to me from behind the clouds.
“On clear and calm days, everyone is welcome to tread here upon my breast, but it is only on those brutal windy and frigid cold days that I reveal my secrets, and only to the kind hearted and peaceful warriors that endure and enjoy the test of my moods.”
As a climber we all know those days that test a person’s metal.  
The days when the mountains are doing everything they can from letting the world destroy it’s self, and you. 
The difference here, and the forgotten memories that have been all but erased from the minds of men, is the mountains are our mother and the giver of life.  
It’s not the mountain that is trying to destroy us.
It’s not the mountains that we are doing battle with.
And it is not the mountain the we are attempting to conquer.
It is only ourselves that are trying to destroy us.
Our own egos.
Silly in its attempts to be greater than the world, 
and separate it’s self from the breast of our mother.

The Misty Mountain, and the frozen labyrinth of time.

Ancient cultures knew all about this.  They new thousands of years ago that the mountains are these perfect beings of impeccable strength that hold this world together.  
These primitive peoples knew that it was the mountains that protected them from the sky crashing down upon them.  It’s the mounains that hold the tides in check as they are the backbone of the their Mother Earth.
It is the mountains that turn chaos into order,
and piles of rock, into a perfect summit pyramid.

Christopher on the summit of Crescent Tower after soloing the
Ears Between Route
photo courtesy of Steven Gnam

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dr. Muse and the Mountain Oracle

posted by Dr. Muse

Dr. Muse consultes the Mountain Oracle.

Did you know that questions are the beginning to all the answers?  Hmm...
I often get asked, "So what kind of doctor are you Dr. Muse?"   Well, I am a doctor of Anthropology of Imaginistic Studies.  A rare field of science that is now seeing a resurgence of activity and I am the doctor in charge.  Me and Dr. Suess anyway.
What is the anthropology of the imagination I ask you?  Remember please the famous quote by Albert Einstein when he said, "imagination is more important than knowledge."  And remember what is really meant by this.  That knowledge tends to be limited by its own definitions.  Knowledge is a way of seeing things in one way and defining them by one definitive point of view.  Where as imagination is infinite; which is the nature of the universe.  So to understand the universe (that which is infinite by nature) requires not knowledge, but the imagination.  This is my field of study; the centre of my universe so to speak.

Now onto my story and the task that I have been given.  This is no easy task, and no easy subject to broach, so I will ease into it slowly;
The other day as I sat quietly with the mountains by my side and the wind in my hair.  I heard a small voice.  As if the tiny rock at my feet where trying to talk to me.  I was astonished by the seeming impossibility of this situation.  Pulling my mind back and forth from one reality to another, I began to listen to the little normal looking rock and what she had to say to me.
"Dr. Muse, you must direct these climbers, those people that are close to the mountains, in how to honour the mountains properly. To educate these climbers about how to make the sacrifices that the mountain spirits asks for if they want to receive again those blessings that man-kind once did."
I couldn't believe it, the little unassuming rock's tiny voice was barely audible.  But she gave directions in how to find the Mountain Oracle of the Bugaboos and then fell silent.

Wow! I've been assigned a task from a little rock that looks almost no different from all the other little rocks.  I had to think back to my early years of Anthropological Imaginations Studies at the Hidden Valley School in Joshua Tree National Park just to get my bearing.  During my first season, err semester there, I learned all about the imaginary magic of the desert.  Of the seemingly impossible symbiotic relationships that exists in the desert.  Like the relationship between yucca moth and the joshua tree, and how the joshua tree may go for years without blooming, and then when it does bloom, it produces this amazing looking fruit that sends out only one tiny pink little flower only one night a year, and how that tiny pink little flower is only capable of being pollinated by the one yucca moth.  I was so enthralled with this tale of desert magic that I had stayed up night after night to hear the song of the tiny little pink joshua tree flower and then witness the sexual magic of this mysterious yucca moth.  Of course all of my contemporaries (except Dr. Suess) thought I was wasting my time and telling me how the joshua trees are dying and the desert is getting dryer every year, but I waited.  I waited because I love the idea.  I loved the idea that a song like this could exist and that something so far reaching really was a reality.
Those where the early years, and they where very good to me.  I did hear the song of the tiny little pink joshua tree flower that is only sang but once a night on those rare years that the tree produces its fruit.  The song is so amazingly soft, supple and alluring that for a brief moment during that night I was lifted out of my trance of reality and into world of desert magic.

Back in my present situation I knew I had to find the Mountain Oracle, as I knew that my task was not one that I could wait on.  I readied myself for a long journey through the mountains.  My directions were complicated and I had a sense that this was going to be a bit of wild goose chase.  But the little rock, that did at first glance seem almost ordinary, had mentioned something about sacrifices.  And apparently finding the Mountain Oracle was going to take more than my imagination, as I was given specific directions about which mountains to climb over and over.  First from the south then from the north, then back again.  This was going to take sacrifice all right, but all in the name of science.

The first few days where the hardest, because I seemed so far away from reaching any sort of "destination."  I already knew the nature of these Oracles that dwell in the mountains, at least from stories if not from personal experience.  I knew that they often tended to be a bit of a trickster and were always testing the people that dared to seek them out.  I thought of this in all the harrowing places I had to tread.  The times that I found myself stumbling around in the darkness trying not to get lost or lose my will.  Or the many times that I was clinging with mere fingertips to the side of one of the remote peaks that my task had bound me to climb.  I thought about these things and why I had become a doctor.  But it was the little rock of unsuspecting nature, with the tiny little voice that told me to go, that kept me going.

After days and nights of climbing these immense rock faces, risking my life, over and over, I made it back to camp and there was the Oracle, waiting for me in silence.  As I pulled up a seat on the ground in front of her; a loud buzzing sound overcame my whole body and I drifted off into another time and space.  The Oracle was with me as my guide, along with her protector, the unassuming, non-suspecting, little rock with a tiny voice that I had met earlier.  The three of us moved through a landscape of mountains and clouds that were inhabited by thousands of god like beings from the past.  I saw things not as they are, but as I imagined them to be.  Giants, maidens,  monsters, saints, and mountain sentinels.  All strangely looking at me as if waiting for something.

I asked the Oracle about this.  I asked her why they were all looking at me so strangely, and if I had done some thing to cause this.
"It's been along time since a man has traveled through this realm and they are not sure you are even capable of seeing them yet," the Oracle replied.
Well I do see them, and it seems that are becoming aware of this fact.  In fact they were all staring at me closer now.  Turning there attention towards me, getting ready to speak.
"There is power here in these mountains," said one of the cute cloud monsters.
"It is the power of the gods," said another.
"This power is available for all those who seek it and all those that visit the high places of the mountain," continued one of the mountain sentinels.
They're ability to communicate with me was like nothing I had ever witnessed before.  They spoke to me telepathically. One after the next, continuing  each others sentences, with seamless rhythm and understanding.  As if speaking from one individual mind.
"You must make the people believe as they once did; that the mountains are alive, and that this is a place where great spirits dwell." This was the last thing that I heard before I was returned to my camp by the Oracle and her little rock protector.

Only I was returned to my camp to the moment before I sat down with Oracle and left with her on the journey through space and time.  And this time the Oracle was gone from my camp and all I was left with was this absolute feeling of deja vu.  Like some thing amazing had just happened to me, but that I was about to lose it because of my own sense of reality.

THINK Dr. Muse, think.  No better yet, imagine... I said to myself... imagine.... So I began to imagine about all the tails of the past.  About Moses on Mount Sinai, about Lord Shiva on Mount Kailash, about all the warriors who sought their visions on Chief Mountain so they could bring back sacred medicine to their people.  I thought about all the times some one in a small mountain town looked up at the mountains and exclaimed "This is gods country!", as if they had just seen a glimpse of one of the gods riding a chariot of made of clouds.

No this was no deja vu.  And for the first time in my professional life as a doctor I can say with double blind certainty, that I was there. In the presence of gods, riding the wings of the wind, sailing through time and space to a place that was once forgotten.

Once again Dr. Muse possesses photographic evidence of mystical science.  This time it's the Virgins Sentinels; Mary, Eva, and Ariel. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Revolution Has Begun

Posted by Christopher,

As I've said a few times now, my diet has been key for me to do what I'm doing, and I really want to share some of the things that I have learned with you.  These are my secrets to success, and to top it all off, this diet and herbal medicine is not just healing myself, but the world around me.  Being a human-powered mountaineer for me is more than a catch phase or a marketing gimmick.  It's me .  It's the way I live my life, it's my lifestyle and it's a process of continual improvement that I live for.
Three weeks ago I attempted my first 3 day challenge.  I wanted to test myself and my physical strength and endurance and also I want to prove a point to myself and to other people as well.  I wanted to prove a point, not because I don't like the questions and comments that I get being a vegan athlete, but because I do like being a vegan athlete and do like being that person that can tell people about the health benefits and athletic benefits of a plant based diet.
On that first 3 day challenge I pulled my left shoulder while climbing and had to take a few days off and rehab quickly to get back in shape to keep climbing.  Rehab, the word it's self is spelled ARNICA MONTANA.  If you have heard of Arnica yet then here it is.  Arnica Montana is a flower.  And when taken internally 24-48 hours from the time of physical injury, it speeds up recovery ten fold.  I am continually amazed at how well the stuff works.  It is absolutely just amazing how well and fast the stuff works.  So what is it? and how does it work so well?
The reason it works so well for almost all physical injuries is because it promotes the bodies own healing process.  So it is helping the body repair torn  and damaged muscles, cells, ligaments, etc...
I use both the homeopathic tablets (to be taken internally) and the cream or jell forms of Arnica (that are used topically as a rub).  So no more taking ibuprofen that only reduces swelling.  Arnica reduces swelling by the fact that it is actually helping heal the body in the process.  Not to mention that ibuprofen is not good for your stomach, especially over prolonged use.  Arnica is safe, effective, speeds up recovery time so much that it is truly fantastic.  I know it sounds funny to some so I'll just say for a laugh,  Go Flower Power!!
What might have been a season ending injury three weeks ago turned into a week of rehab (spelled ARNICA MONTANA) and I'm right back at it.  Hanging it all out there on the rock.  Pain free, strong, good as new, and in fact the boast of rehab has increased the amount of training that I have been doing and I have come back stronger than before the injury.
The other things that I have been learning about have come directly from my favourite author Brendan Brazier.  Now I've already thrown his name out there and told every one to look him up and look Vega, the line of whole food supplements that he originated.
Anyways, I'm going to do a lot of paraphrasing from his book Thrive Fitness here.  First off I am done being a slave to coffee and sugar.  This is huge if you want to see significant results in health and fitness and this is not just for those looking for athletic performance.  Stimulants cause the adrenal glands to work hard which released the hormone cortisol.  High levels of cortisol inhibit deep sleep.  Without good rest and achieving deep sleep when sleeping the body does not release GH (growth hormone) which promotes muscle cell regeneration.
So now I use Mate Factor yerba mate when I want an extra boast of caffeine.  Yerba mate has a different form of caffeine than coffee and is free from the negative side affects that coffee has.  I also use maca in my post work out protein shakes.  Maca aids in the support of the adrenal glands, which helps lower cortisol levels and promotes better sleep which contributes to fast recovery from long hard days of pushing my body to the breaking point.  But again this information and is not just helpful for hard core athletes looking push themselves to the next level.  This is beneficial for anyone in the fast paced world that we live in.
One of the questions that I get a lot is, "where do you get your protein?".  A fair question for some one who is not familiar with a vegan or vegetarian diet.  When it comes to protein, as Brendan Brazier says, "it's quality not quantity that is important".   He has what he calls 'high net gain foods'.  Meat and dairy immediately fall into low net gain foods because of all the energy that the body has to use just to process those foods.  So plant based protein has a higher net gain than foods from animals.  This means that you eat less, get more energy from what you are eating and this diet is better for the environment as well.  I get my protein from hemp, chlorella, flax seed, and other seeds and nuts.
Boy I could keep going right now, but I will finish up with one word, RAW...
Raw food is a huge key ingredient.  Now I'm not saying that you should go on a raw food diet immediately or any time soon.  But what I am saying is eat raw food.  It's that simple. It really is.  Raw food digests faster, easier, and taxes the body less in the digestion process.  Eating raw food has been proven to reverse diabetes!!! Look up Tree of Life rejuvenation centre.  It's like a crazy joke that nobody told us.  A cure for diabetes just by eating raw food!!!  Yes this is the revolution that I talk about.  The modern food revolution!!
Last week I failed to complete my 3rd three day challenge of the season.  As I said before.  I feel great about that.  I pushed myself really hard.  Mentally and physically.  Climbing is such a mental thing.  It's scary.  Just the thought of a climb sometimes is enough to make me have to use the rest room.  Justene knows.  We'll be out in the mountains, and I'll be getting ready to try a climb that will be hard for myself, and nature calls.  I have to run back down the trail to the out house and relieve myself.
Even though I didn't not complete the challenge I'll post my stats; 21km of cycling, 13,650ft of climbing,  44km of hiking, in three days.
This is the revolution, and its full of vegan and flower power, now stop laughing... my comedy routine is over.  Thanks for reading.

My girlfriend thinks I have a nice axe.

Joe and Michelle on Bugaboo Spire. Best day ever!

Sitting in camp; staying psyched is half the work.

Just ask this girl what she thinks about the revolution

Cobalt Lake as seen from Brenta Spire

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Gambler's Tale

Two climbers descending off Bugaboo Spire.

Ok, fine I admit it
I pushed a little to hard
I upped the ante
Increased the wager
And when I tried a little harder;
I lost
I failed
I folded my hand and walked away

What can I say,
The Mountains win again.

Yesterday was day 3 of my three day challenge this week.  Each day of the challenge I was to hike all the way in from the bottom of the valley and climb a route that I have not climbed yet this year, and then hike all the way back down to the bottom of the valley.  As you can see in my cute little poem, I did not complete this weeks three day challenge.
How do I feel about that?  I feel great, and a little tired today.  Winning wasn't actually part of the equation.  That's never how I've viewed climbing in the mountains.  To me it's not about winning, losing, conquering, or being conquered.  To me climbing mountains is a live on stage drama.  There are characters and a plot and when played just right, there is a lot of passion and a true sense of understanding between the actors by the end.  This is what I call mountain communion.  It's also about trying, and if it was going to be easy, it would not have been a challenge.  Last week on my three day challenge I climbed 2 moderate routes first and one long moderate route at the end on day 3.  Completing the challenge as I hoped I would, but not knowing at the start of the challenge how I would do.  So this week I wanted to make things a little harder for myself, if not a lot harder.  The first two routes I did this week were definitely a lot harder than anything I climbed last week.  Ears Between on Crescent Towers and the Northeast Ridge of Bugaboo Spire together had 18 pitches of technical climbing a scary and exposed summit traverse on both peaks, and lots of down climbing and scrambling through long and loose talus fields filled with giant boulders.  While I woke up yesterday feeling good and ready to go on day 3 of the challenge, when I got to the base of the route I was bushed.  My plan was to climb the Southeast Spur of Brenta Spire.  An easier route than the two that I had done previously this week, but it is still a long approach just to get to the base of the route, especially from the bottom of the valley.  As I sat there in the talus field at the start of the climb, I just wasn't feeling good about it.  My feet hurt, the sky was grey with clouds, and the idea of the long descent that would follow this climb added up to me just sitting there for a while.  Long enough for me eat all the food that I had with me that day and say to myself, "at least I've tried".
I had tried, and there I sat.  Tired and a bit sore.  And still a long ways from camp.

Sunset on day 2 of the challenge

Hiking around in the forest in the dark is a lot more glamorous than it sounds, and it is also romantic, even when your by yourself.  Ooo, I hope that was me that just pinched me!

My rack for the last couple weeks.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


posted by CBangs
Perfect fingers, old piton

Yesterday was day two in this weeks three day challenge, and a very good day at that.  I got an early start for myself, about 8:20am and went for the Northeast Ridge Route on Bugaboo Spire.  This is one of the 50 Classic Climbs in North America, and it deserves every bit of that.  As I said earlier this week I am going to up the ante.  Yesterday I sure did.  This was the best day I've ever had climbing!  The best route that I've ever done; in the best style that I could possibly imaging doing such a great route in.  Valley bottom to the summit, back to the valley bottom!   And it was also the best day of gorgeous weather we've seen this year in the Bugaboos.    My plan was to not carry a rope with me even though I knew I would need to make several rappels on the summit traverse and on the descent.  This plan involved other people.  I would need other people on the route to team up with once I reached the North Summit.  This is one of the really nice and relaxing things about climbing by myself.  Speed.  When your not roped up you can move so much faster and freer over the rock.  The movement is unencumbered by the rope and all the gear.  Yes it can be much more dangerous.  That much is obvious.  What might not be obvious though is that it is equally that much more rewarding, and the fluid uninterrupted movement of climbing with no attachments is pure joy!
So my plan worked out perfectly.  My pace and my timing was also right on par.  I didn't catch up with any of the other teams on the route till we were all near the top of the North Summit.  The beginning of the route is long and continuous, so I didn't want to have to stop or try to pass another party on the lower sections of the route.  I started up the climb sometime after 12 noon.  With the blood still dried on my hands from the day before, I jammed my fingers and hands into the cracks and with calm and controlled steady breathing started up the crux first pitch.  Finger cracks are my favourite! and this route has so many perfect fingers on it that I felt like a teenager on ecstasy.
The summit traverse; now here's something not to be taken lightly.  The summit traverse on Bugaboo Spire involves 3 rappels and about 3 rope lengths (or pitches) of climbing.  The exposure at the top is as good as it gets.  As I already said, this was the best day every!  And summit traverse helped put that into perspective.  One place in particular had some really delicate climbing directly above the East Face.  Every step sideways bought my gaze downward towards my feet and the 2000ft of air hovering between me and the glacier below.  Just amazing.  It was so riveting that I had to stop, tighten my grip on the rock, and take a picture.  Wow!!
Wow is right.  I didn't make it back to my camp last night till about 12 midnight.  Now it's 9:30am, and I am getting ready for day three of this weeks three day challenge.  I'm feeling really good this morning and I have a couple of options of things I can climb today.  Later in the week I really want to tell you about all this amazing new stuff that I've been learning about with my diet.  It is really making all the difference for me and it is giving me so much more energy and clarity I have to share the secret with you.  Stay tuned.
Different day, same smelly t-shirt.

The Northeast Ridge is the line between the sun and the shade!
Special thanks go out to Maryeve, RJ, Joe, and Scott.  Thanks for teaming up with me and helping me get off the mountain.  Without all of you I would not have been able to climb this great route!  Your awesome, and I hope to meet up with you again some where.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Urban Mountain Legends and Modern Myths

by Dr. Muse
Double wrap your car my friend, this is serious stuff!!!
In the Bugaboo Mountains of British Columbia there’s an urban mountain legend that climbers here know all about.  It’s the legend of the car eating porcupines.  Porcupines so big and ferocious they’ll eat your car tires, brake lines, and the trim right off your windows.  These porcupines are huge, way bigger than your house cats (not yours Eric, Butters is still biggest pigeon toed walking tabby that I’ve ever seen.  Butters, you walk like a grizzly bear; be proud) and they love eating rubber.  At least that is the way the legend goes. 
So when you pull up to the Bugaboo’s parking lot and see every car in the lot double wrapped in chicken wire, think to your self, huge car eating porcupines.  They’re here man!!  No joke about it, this is serious stuff.  Just talk to anyone around here and they get all serious on ya real quick. “This is a big deal man.”  I was told.  Apparently they'll eat the tires right off your rims, peel the trim off your windows, and then they go for your brake lines.  These porcupines are like mechanics from the urban mountain hood and they can find brake lines on any make or model your driving.  That’s impressive.

Now parking in the mountains is a normal thing any where else, but not here my friend.  When you park your car here, fence that thing off, and line up as many rocks and logs as you need to hold that chicken wire in place.
These porcupines are crazy, and they love rubber, cause car tires have salt on them, so do the brake lines, and the window trim. Right?  
Climbers themselves are a bit crazy too.  Sometimes all that crack they’ve been climbing gets mixed in with their tobacco, and then you never know what they’re going to do.

To the Native Americans, the Porcupine is the symbol for innocence.  To Bugaboo climbers this is a dangerous car eating monster that will destroy you car and leave you stranded in the mountains.
The scene at the parking lot might look strange the first time you see it.

The Story of Grrock and Karn

If you haven't heard of the story of Grrock and Karn, the mystical sisters that exist high in the mountains. Then listen closely my friends, because this is a tale you won't want to forget. Grrock and Karn are close friends with the mountain climbers and will often show themselves to help you find your way home.  Most mountain climbers have seen them quite a few times, but nobody really seems to know who they are, how they got there, and how they perform their magic.  Especially Grrock.  She is one of those forgotten forest guardians.  The memory of her has long sense been heard by the ears of humans.  But people are always saying that they’ve seen Karn.  There’s Karn here, and there she is again over there. Little do they realize how much work it is for her to be in so many places at once.  But now that modern science has proven the existence of multiple dimensions (I'm not joking about this, look it up), and that an object can exist in more than one place at the same time!!!!  Maybe it will become easier for us to realize what Karn is doing and how she is doing it.

There's Karn in two places at once. Photographic proof of a parallel universe.
It’s a special task to take care of lost climber.  We come in droves.  Our numbers increasing everyday, and we are not getting any better at finding our way home.  Even with things like GPS, and radios we still get lost.  That’s where Karn comes to the rescue.  She always seems to be in just the right place, unless your totally lost.  Then you might be better off to look for Grrock.  But who is she, and where will she lead you?  She’s a little smaller than Karn and a little harder to see, and it’s not exactly your home that she will lead you to.  It’s her home.  That labyrinth deep in the forrest.  Where ever thing is alive; the rocks, the wind, the glaciers, and the mountains.  Where the wood sprites are looking after the trees, the gnomes are hanging out with caterpillars smoking on top of the mushroom. It’s a magical place that most of us have not been in for a long time, but it’s out there.  And all you have to do is find Grrock and let her know that your lost and want to go home with her. She is easy to identify and looks a little different that her sister Karn.  Usually she's in a small room, framed in with what looks like bars on a window.  The reason that she is in there, and that there is a frame around her is because she letting you know that there is a barrier that you have to cross to enter her realm.  A barrier that exist, but only in you mind.

To enter the forrest simply walk in, to enter Grrock's realm simply open your mind.


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Unorthodox style of Chris Bangs

Justene nearing the top of the snow headwall at the Bugaboo Snowpatch Col

I was looking to write a blog about being low-tech vs. hji-tech.  About camping low on the mountain  and not carrying heavy loads into a high camp.  About riding nearly 700 miles on a bicycle in a pair of Crocs.  There are so many things that I do and practice that are not usually the way someone would do things.  About the fact that when I head out on a big alpine day, I sleep in and totally forget about the alpine start.  The way I figure it is if I'm going to get up at 3am and walk up the approach to my climb in the dark, what's the difference then between sleeping in, waking up a casually hour and walking the end of the day back down the trail in the dark?  Either way I'm walking around in a forest in the dark, and I've never had a big problem with that anyway.
Now I'm not saying that I've got all these thing figured out.  There are obvious flaws in my systems; like during a ten hour day on a bicycle in a pair of Crocs, yes my feet do ache a little more than when I'm wearing my expensive cycling shoes.  But then there is the flip side to that one also.  Expensive cycling shoes are expensive, they look stupid when your not on your bike, and they walk only a little more comfortably than those Dutch wooden clogs.  Crocs may not be the most fashionable foot wear out there but they are about the most comfortable and light weight piece of gear I'm carrying with me.  My Crocs are also 4 years old, so for the price you can't beat that.
Our first climb together in the Bug; Eastpost Spire

Human-Powered Mountaineering (HPM) is the opposite of Mile per Hour (MPH).  This is another part of our so-called style.  HPM is the opposite of MPH; we're not in a hurry.  In fact we are the opposite of being in a hurry.  We are trying our hardest to slow things down for ourselves.  Non of this "car-to-car in ten hours" bullshit lingo here.  We take our time, because why did we come here anyway?  Just to be in hurry.  This place is super, natural British Columbia.  I'm not going to go around bragging about how I was in this super awesome beautiful place and I made it back to my car (or bike as the case may be) as fast as I could.  That's just stupid, and I'm just as guilty as anyone for having done it.  But I'm learning.  I'm learning that I really love being in the mountains.  Like last night walking back to camp by myself.  I was sore and tired and didn't have clue what time it was and everyone I met on the trail on their way in was looking at me like I was some sort of lost hiker, because who would be walking back at this time and with that small of a backpack there is no way I'm a "climber",  just look at those old inexpensive generic shoes he's wearing, definitely not a "climber",  just a lost day hiker posing for a rescue add.  "Climbers" have heavy duty shiny boots, huge packs, and often the judgement to match how much they spent on all that crap.  How do I know this?  Well again, I'm as guilty as an anyone for doing this.  When I first started climbing I was hooked.  I wanted to climb every mountain in the world.  But I was a young kid just starting my own business and I couldn't afford all that gear.  Even if I didn't know what all that gear was for, it didn't matter, I wanted it.  I wanted more than anything to be a "Climber".   It's funny how things work themselves out, because now days, it's what I do.  I'm a rock climber.  I'm making a documentary on rock climbing.  I'm living in a tent for months at a time.  Still can't afford all the fancy crap, and still don't know what some it is for, or if we really even need it for that matter.  But here I am, living in the Bugaboo Mountains for an entire summer.
My new friend Evan on top of Bugaboo Spire

That brings me to another of the things that I think that I have figured out for myself about style in the mountains.  Walking home slowly.  At the end of a big day I make sure to slow way down.  For me it's the difference between waking up totally cramped up the next morning because I ran down the trail to brag about how fast I went, or waking up the next day ready to do it again because I walked the last 6-10km at a snail's pace.  We all know or have heard that walking downhill is bad for your knees and your joints, but there is more to it than that.  Those last few kilometres of the day can be therapeutic if you walk slow or they can be damaging to your joints and muscles if your worried and hurried. By walking slowly at the end of the day I'm giving my body time to recover from what I have just done in a way that sitting and resting doesn't do.  In fact last night I was starting to get quite sore on the trail.  My feet hurt, my right leg felt a little crampy, my lower back was tight, but when I woke up this morning I felt great.  No lower back pain, no cramped muscles, no sore feet.  All because I made sure to walk back down the trail nice and slow.  The other thing that I think that helps quite a bit is the bicycle.  After my marathon day climbing Bugaboo Spire by myself, I got back to the trailhead to my bicycle and rode the 4km back to my camp on the river.  Cycling is great for the joints and muscles in the legs, but again only if your doing it right.  By right I mean spinning, and by spinning I'm referring to peddling fast.  It burns out all that lactic acid in your legs.  If you peddle slowly it builds up synovial fluid in your knees and makes them swell up as well as cause your legs to cramp up.  So I hike slow and peddle fast.  I don't have a shoe sponsor yet (hint hint Crocs) and I soloed Bugaboo Spire yesterday in a snow storm, kind of.  Actually it only snowed a little bit while I was on the crux pitch, the famous Gendarme Pitch, so I turned around at that point because I was not carrying a rope and I didn't not want to get stranded near the summit of the mountain.  Then I would have been the poster boy for the rescue add. Instead I started down until I met a party of 3 that was also debating whether or not they should retreat or if they would wait out the storm and keep going.  We decided to join forces and keep going.  In the end we all made it to the summit and it worked out well for all of us.  I trailed a rope up the crux pitch for  them and then was able join them on 3 rapples on the way off the summit. A great day in the mountains!!!  
Another beautiful day in the mountains

The best parts were the internal visuals that I had of seeing myself in a bright green jacket, clinging to the side of a vertical cliff with no rope attached to myself, thousands of feet off the ground near the summit of one of the most iconic peaks in North America with the wind blowing light snow around, slowly making the next move upward, testing the hand hold, taping my foot on the foothold, feeling solid and connected to the mountain in both a physical and spiritual sense, those were the best moment for me that day.  And when the guy in camp the day before asked me why I would do such a thing, I got lost in thought and don't even remember if I answered him, because I was dreaming about the sensations of timeless weightlessness that the Mountain can give to me once I've arrived at that moment of perfect connection  and union with the Mountain.  This is the ultimate!!!  So a better question than,  'why would I do it" is, WHY WOULDN'T I????  I mean really.  In a world were you can fret about everything.  Why not train myself to perfect some thing as grand as this?

A baby Ermin came up to us to say "Hi"

Then a Spruce Grouse and five babies hung out with us on the trail for a few minutes.

And finally this toad was in the trail waiting for us to come by.  Quite the day!!
Our animal friends are one of the things that make these adventures special and remind us why we live this life the way that we choose, in harmony and in love and fearless....

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Zip ties and Duct tape

posted by Chris

Mile 450
After an early morning thunder storm from an anonymous cloud we headed towards Eureka where we are planning on visiting Ten Lakes Farm today.
Then SNAP!!!
The bolt holding my bike seat together snaps as I'm riding and luckily the seat post dosn't get deposited in the wrong spot.  OK, bust out the zip ties and the duct tape.  And thankfully not for me arse!!!

The broken bolt

Schlep has seen better days.
The ride comfort improved for the first few miles. Then a slight rocking chair effect took place.  And finally a laid back low rider look had me clenching my cheeks together to keep the seat from slipping off.
We made it the 15 miles to Eureka on a Sunday.  The hardware store is closed, possibly till Tuesday, and now I am riding standing up and I'm on the look out for a new bolt.

Lunch at Walking Bear Farm with Lyn Hendrix homemade sprouts and homemade preserves.

No this is not Woodstock, it's the Eureka Farmer's Market

Stone Hill's heat stone

For all those non-believers who think you need to eat meat; eat your heart out!!

 Picked up Jack Skellington outside Bigfork where he was hitchhiking from.

Monday, June 27, 2011

go go granny gear

Kale trees at Peaceful Gardens

It's the morning of day four on the road.  We've covered over a 161 miles in the last three days.  Through Helena, out to Chase Family Farm, up and over McDonald Pass, and to a great camp spot on the Little Blackfoot River in the town of Avon.  Just a few miles out of town, my front shifter breaks.  The bike drops into the granny gear in the front chain ring and I can not seem to fix it.
Now I'm assuming that everyone knows what the granny gear on a bicycle is.  That little tiny chain ring in the front for climbing hills.  The one that if you shift into it at the wrong time your legs start spinning a million miles per hour.  Yep, that one, and now I'm stuck there.  In granny gear.
Justene and I have 75 miles to ride today to get Seeley Lake.  We are also hoping to meet up with my dad who's riding in from Missoula to join us for 3 day.
After playing around with the cable and the front de-railer for a while to see what my options are.  We keep going.  I could rig the cable so that I'm stuck in the middle chain ring, but then I wouldn't have a hill climbing gear.  So I settle for the granny gear as it seems to be the best option.  I'll be able to climb any of the small hills that we have ahead of us and I will be able to peddle up to about 13mph before spinning my legs out of control.
The day before this in Helena we were riding down a back street and saw three really cool metal sculptures of snails.  These snails are like us I thought.  They're slow moving creatures that are pulling around a giant shell that they call home.  Just like us.  Just like me.  Stuck in granny gear, pulling around a giant trailer that has everything in it that I will call home for the next 3 months.  We have found our power animal.  The Snail!!!
They're so cute too, and perfectly fitting for our adventure as we are in no hurry.  Often we will ride until dark to get to the next camp site.  Wherever that may be.  On the night of day two Justene and I are in Helena thinking about getting out to Chase Family Farm.  We've cycled over 50 miles that day already.  Pushing through 20 miles of headwinds and battling with sunburns, we decide that 10 more miles at this point is to much.  It's dark out and we are tired.  So we pull into an empty field right in the middle of town and pitch our tent.  This is one of the perks of bicycle camping that I really enjoy.  With the bicycle, it's like an a free pass to camp almost wherever you want.  When the neighbours finally see us in the morning they just sit there in the kitchen and watch.  No phone calls to the police, no harassment or harsh looks.  Just wonder and stares.  Like who the hell are these people on bikes???
We make it to Bigfork on day 5 and set up at the Marina Cay for our first rest day.  Bigfork is a great little place to take a day off and walk around.  It's Saturday and we hit up the Farmer's Market and right away we meet Paul.  Paul is larger than life at six foot four and he's the only one there selling fresh produce.  It's been a slow year growing food for most people, but not for Paul.  He runs Peaceful Garden  here in Bigfork and has a 51 foot geodesic dome that he grows all year round in.  Only in his 3rd year gardening, Paul already has a lot going on.  He's retired and has made a huge life style shift, and now he is a raw vegan specialist.  His stories are amazing as he begins to tell us about his life.  I haven't even mentioned to him what Justene and I doing and that we are making a documentary on the availability of local organic food.  This is just the person that we want to meet.  Finally I ask him if he will repeat some of what he has just said for the camera.  The whole time I have been just standing there listening and have forgotten to press the record button.
Peaceful Gardens .net

In Bigfork I am also able to get "Schlep" (my bicycle) fixed.  Cameron at the bike rental shop has a spare shifter that he sells me for $20 and teaches me a little about bike maintenance.  We get a lot of laughs from the guys at the bike shop when they hear that I have just ridden 150 miles in my granny gear.
Check this guy out.  Paul Renner is our hero!!!
Paul Renner with the ladies; Justene, Mela, and Jeannette (girlfriend, sister, and mom)
Now we are onto Whitefish today to visit Walking Bear Farm.  Then another farm stop in Eureka on Tuesday at Ten Lakes Farm.  We will also plan to spend at least one day rock climbing at Stone Hill before crossing the boarder in to Canada.  It's getting more exciting everyday.  The scenery is better and better and we are falling into a good daily rhythm on the road.
We've seen lots of wildlife.  Sandpipers flying over head chirping at us, two baby elk with their mothers, turtles, crawdads, hawks, pelicans, tiny lime green beetles, and ourselves, our alter egos,  Whippoorwill and Ruff Hewn alive and well.
The Road its self has also proven once again to grant us the things we need.  Justene (or Whippoorwill) has found not only her trail name for this adventure, she has also found a beacon.  A large glass prism that mounts perfectly on her handle bars.  A traveler's symbol for lighting the way.

When the traveler is ready, the light will appear.