Monday, December 29, 2014

The filming of LONU

Last year I made a ski film, or really, I sat around on the edge of making it and watched. Occasionally getting to ski and act silly. The film is credit to Henry Worobec and his crew of talented friends.

"Land Of No Use" was born a bumper sticker by our old time conservative brethren, and re-born into a ski film by our younger generation. (Click this link to watch Land Of No Use on vimeo.)

There has been debate about the making of our film, because of the whole Wilderness thing, and thus the making of a non-commercial film. I mean, why? Do we hate money? Is this supposed to be an environmental documentary, a ski film, or what?

So here's the skinny and the dirt behind the making of an outlaw film, and the three things I don't ever say to Henry.

Why make a non-commercial film about skiing in designated Wilderness?

Many big production films have segments filmed in Wilderness, but as long as they don't exploit the area; i.e. name the peaks, valleys, trails, trailheads, and try to sell you a guide/book/souvenir/movie,,,, then the Feds don't seem to mind so much.

But it seems if you start naming things and laying claim; the Feds want in and want money, and require expensive permits to lay your claims. And this is where it gets sticky, because big productions can easily pay the $15,000 for a permit to film.

So why not make a big production out of it? Pay the fees, and make a rad film about the meaning of Wilderness and what it means to us as skiers, Montanans, and passionate people with a voice. (And pay our bills, and make some money in the process, like the rest of us?)

Because big budget projects; can, have, and will be denied by the Feds for filming in Wilderness areas.

Probably because it becomes propaganda, and propaganda is also sticky. So is the Constitution to someone like me who doesn't know much. But what I understand, is that the Feds are able to control all commercial Wilderness propaganda, but can not control the Freedom Of Speech.

Meaning we can make a film. Anyone can, about anything. We just can't promote it to the world and profit off of it. If we did that we could be held at fault and sued by the Feds for breaking their rules.

And they have rules, so that's why you can't buy our film. That's why it's FREE now and forever. The Feds made it that way, in a way.

Now here is one of the things I don't ever say to Henry. For a ski-bum we skied and partied all winter, and not in that order, and then you come up with this non-profit status with Cottonwood Environmental Law Center to protect yourself and gain leverage.

I thought you were a ski-bum. What, did you actually go to college? And here's number two; the aloof thing with the ladies, is annoying. Every time we go out, all the ladies are like, Oh Henry wanna go float some rivers,,,,, piss off Chris.

And the third thing I wouldn't say directly to Henry. Sure you ski better than me, big deal, but you grew up in Boston, and that makes no sense; so I'm torn between loathing you and loving you for it. Peace.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Knowledge Route

My climbing mentor and I couldn't have been more different than one another. He slept with a gun under his pillow, frequently pulling it out, and soloed like he was pointing it at his own head.

I felt lucky though, because he liked me, the town hippie, and he was willing to show me the steep side of ice climbing around Valdez, AK.

When I first met "The Climber Who Shall Not Be Named" he had just soloed, Keystone Greensteps, Bridal Veil Falls, Simple Twist of Fate, and The Glass Onion; in his first three days in Valdez.

Some of the locals were pissed, because that's Valdez. Who was this guy? Did he ask permission to come in here and crush our routes? These are the biggest climbs we have. Damn him.

The guy had Montana plates, and looked to be living in his truck in the winter. Kindred spirits, I thought. I walked up immediately and asked him….. WTF dude? Where's your partner?

Like any good recluse, he avoided bragging at all cost and looked at me and said, "don't have one, just kinda made my way up." He didn't even know the name of the route he just crushed. I did.

I lived in a shack just up the road from the canyon. I asked DG; my ski partner, landlord, and resident sourdough, if our new friend could join us and stay at the compound. He said yes.

Then I made another no-brainer. I asked to go climbing. I said I had three years experience, was self taught, my gear was outdated (even for 1999), but that I would be willing to follow anything. Trouble started with the next breath.

Let's hop on Royal Ribbons, he suggested. My heart fell out of my ass and ran away. Royal Ribbons I trembled. Right now? I'd never climbed a multi-pitch mixed route. I don't even think I knew what mixed climbing was.

The climb looked spectacular. A 150ft pitch of beautiful blue/green ice leading up to a roof, where the ice ends as it emerges out of cracks in the rock.

From there, the climb traverses right on loose rock for 30 feet to reach a tiny ribbon of ice that spills down a blank vertical wall from above, for a pure 100 feet of perfect climbing. The Royal Ribbon.

I remember thinking, this is my first hanging belay, and shouldn't there be more than two ice screws. And when buddy kicked off a huge piece of ice on the second pitch, and it started oscillating at 150mph, making a loud hissing noise as it arced through the air…..

Well that's when he started screaming. At first my ass fell out again, but then I realized what he was saying. THIS IS FUCKING AWESOME!!!!! Yeah it was. I saw this huge grin, and about a 50 foot run-out from his last piece.

Welcome to the real world of ice climbing, I thought. Now let's pass the initiation exam….. It lasted two years.

I know that I am lucky to have found an old school, old world, and traditional coach in the sport of climbing. Funny thing was; he's 2 years younger than me.

HydroMonster; Yellowstone NP.  2010

Well now the exam is over, and while my mentor moved further into the AK bush to quietly push the limits of extreme alpinism; I moved back to Montana, and have been holding classes of my own.

My first attempt at mentoring ended poorly; with a broken leg, a ten year limp, and my best friend moving to Sacramento.

But then I met Kyle Rott. A goofy 17 year old kid from South Dakota that wanted to climb so badly, he was willing to try anything. Ice, rock, big walls,,,, he wanted to climb it all. So we did.

Maybe someday Kyle will start holding classes of his own, but he might have to move out of his truck first.

Kyle Rott, Avalanche Gulch, 2014

The Prodigal Dirtbag warming up on the choss in Hyalite Canyon.

Kyle of Expanding Horizons, during The Bozeman Ice Fest

Making it to the ice on Expanding Horizons.

Saturday, December 13, 2014


The Fat One
photo: Pat Claton

How is it possible that riding my bicycle to Canada took less preparation than riding 22 miles up The canyon south of town?

I ask because it baffles me. Why am I so freaked out to ride my bike to the Grotto trailhead and go ice climbing?

I've ridden hundreds of dirty winter roads, and I've gone climbing in many amazing and awe inspiring places. So why does my backyard scare me and freak me out so much?

I don't know. But I love it. I love the interconnectedness I feel about the place. The history. The climbing. The people. The animals. The trees. And the way I feel when it's snowing in the middle of a route. Awesome.

The place is made of heroes. They're there every day. And unlike many hot-spots on the climber's radar; to me, this place is not just a proving ground; it's just a special place.

Sure The canyon comes with a reputation. And sure, every climber who's ever climbed in The canyon, should know the reputation and how to act appropriately.

It's like the first day you climb in Yosemite, the first day you ski in Valdez, the first time you're like, Oh shit,,,,, am I really doing this? Oh yeah!

Certain places and mountains make us come alive. And not just us climbers and skiers who forgot about mainstream life. But for anyone who goes there and goes there frequently.

Hello Grotto.

The 29er+ mid-fat wheel size is great for long distances.

The 3" wide tires aren't quite fat enough to be a snow bike.
Best ride into The canyon yet.

Fully loaded for an overnighter and a day of ice climbing.

There are so many new tire sizes now for bicycles. I've been riding a 4" wide tire on a 26" wheel fat-bike for a few years now in the winter. This was the orginal size for fat-bikes, and great for snow riding, but slow over long distances.

This year I'm riding a 29er+ with 3" wide tires, and I've been calling it my mid-fat because it looks like a fat-bike, but really it's not.

The 29er+ has very low rolling resistance and is great for long distance travel. The 3" wide, low volume, tires on the 29er+ make for an extremely comfy ride, and allows adjustments in air pressure (10-25psi) to match changing road conditions.

Riding up The canyon, I was not worried about the icy paved section in the narrows. Sure, steep mountain roads, with icy corners are dangerous, but I was worried about the last three miles past the reservoir.

Would the ruts be to big to ride through? Would the snow be to deep for my skinny 3" tires? I didn't want to come up short, and not make it to the trailhead. Realistically I could stop and camp anywhere near the reservoir, and walk the rest of the way into The canyon to climb some ice.

But that's not the plan. The plan is to be ABLE to make it to the trailhead, relatively EASILY, from home, in winter weather and changing road conditions.

Well it's not really a plan, yet. More like an idea or a wandering gaze across the arctic circle where the earth curves. The sort of vision that alters reality, and the sort of reality that alters vision.

I wouldn't say human-powered mountaineering, during it's inception, has been a constant vision quest, or that to be a human-powered mountaineer I've had to wake up every morning and remember why I swallowed the red pill.

But I will say that I have an active imagination, and that's mostly what it takes. I think. I guess. I don't know?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Ski & Flu Season, and the Athlete's Dark Cycle

Adrian Dingle; Rock Skier

Many of us have been hiking in the mountains this year. Skidding and sparking the rock skis off the rocks.  Swinging ice tools in slushy moss.  And getting ready,,, cause it's almost WINTER... Yeah!!!

And if you're like me, you love winter, and you hate to get sick. Winter comes and everyone starts coughing up yellow, green, and brown phlegm-balls, and passing it around like lunch.

So for years now I have been taking immune support tinctures in the late fall and early winter.  This boasts my immune system for these cold and dark months when we are forced to close all the windows and stay inside.

True, I stayed healthy living in a tent in Joshua Tree, CA. for two winters. But that's southern California desert, and there were lots of people around to climb with. (and hide from rangers with)

But, I got sick as a dog living in a damp teepee type tent-structure in Girdwood, AK.  Don't worry, I was young and dumb. Little phased me then. I was in Alaska to ski and I wanted real experiences. They found me.

Examples of immune support tinctures;
Astragalus, Echinacea, GoldenSeal, Ashwagandha, Hawthorn

Oil of Thieves
For robbing graves and surviving plagues. 

PLEASE NOTE: Always consult your doctor and health care professionals before taking any new form of medicine or drugs.

Now when the flu bug comes through town; I feel it. But I don't go down anymore. No more insane bronchial infections. No more lingering colds that last for weeks on end. And no more worry about my health.

I know how to take care of myself now. For centuries our culture has practiced preventive health care. It's cheap, easy to learn about, and can make a difference in your ski season.

I also know the importance of taking time off each year from being hard core and intense. As an athlete it is important to take brakes, both mentally and physically.

I call this the Dark Cycle. For me it comes in late August and lasts for a month or two. This year, the dark cycle lasted two and half months.  I'd burned myself out, and I needed a huge break.

I broke my strict diet, stayed up late, drank beer, socialized, and generally forgot about being cool all the time.

It was amazing, healthy, and some-what controlled. In the past, when I didn't know to take breaks; I would burn-out and not know why. I'd get frustrated, depressed, fall off the wagon, and end up hitch-hiking around the west coast with hippie girls in need of drug rehabilitation centers.

This year, the dark cycle allowed me to see changes in my life I was not expecting. At first it sucked, and I had to keep myself in check. Mentally I felt like there was a need to go out and keep proving myself. But physically I was flat.

The struggle (to chill-out) lasted over a month. Then when the feeling of being content came, there was this beautiful realization of having meaning in my life that I could see. Yeah, a small victory!

Dealing with the ego is difficult. As athletes, we pick up the sword, we wield our strength, and we attract certain demons because of it. How we deal with our demons determines champions.

In the gym with my trainer Chris Bender.

Coming out of the dark cycle with Amazing Grass smoothies.


Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Courage to Speak Softly

Who wants to talk about divorce? It can be a painful subject, and it's what I went through last ski season. I'd quit blogging, and shut off parts of myself to the world for 10 months.

I was also making a ski film with all my heart and soul; going to therapy, and working to maintain friendships.

It was the most difficult time of my life. I divorced a woman I shared great love with, and saw all the ugly parts of myself come to the surface.

What's next for me?  I didn't know if I would continue to pursue my dream of being a skier and a mountaineer. I didn't know if I had it in me still, and I was really looking.

I joke that I have the hardest job in the world; but the hardest part of my job is the soft human stuff.

It's the times I spend in the dark, alone, thinking about stuff I can't express any better than the fumbling mistakes I've lived through and endured.

So what's next for me? I don't know.  Hind-sight is never there it seems like. Going forward, I guess it's ok to be unsure about what's next.  And maybe, I like it best that way.

The mid-life crisis bicycle.

Another morning in the mountains.

I bought the mid-life crisis bicycle in May and focused on cycling for the first time in my life. Regularly going out and putting the hurt on myself. 60 to 80 mile days on dirt trails became normal.

In August I attempted to climb Mount Cowen in-a-day from my house. A 126 mile round trip effort, with close to 11,000 vertical feet of gain and loss would be required.  With no support.

My plan was to ride 50 miles to the trailhead from my house during the full moon in August. From there run/walk to the summit of Mount Cowen (the highest peak in the Absaroka Mountains at 11,211 feet) and back. About 26 miles.

Then finish off with another full moon 50 mile dirt road ride over Trail Creek Rd. Again unsupported.

I almost pulled it off; turning back just shy of the summit in slippery running shoes on dangerous snow conditions. And I made it home in just over the 24 hour mark at 24hr 20min. Bummer. I was so close to being cool.

The best part came at 4am on the first leg of the trip. I felt awful, and wrapped myself up in an emergency blanket for an hour on the side of the road.

I laid there hoping to sleep, but I was scared to let myself relax. Finally I gave in and passed out for 20-30 minutes. It was amazing. For those moments it didn't matter if I climbed the mountain or even if I made it home under my own power.

I was right where I needed to be. Laying in the grass, feeling crazy and content with the madness of my life.

Happy to put the hurt on; Mount Cowen.

I have lots of news going forward. From new partnerships, sponsors, a new film, and some fun product design and testing in the new human-powered world of outdoor adventure sports.

I am honoured to say I've joined Caravan Skis here in Bozeman and will be riding for them as an athlete. This is an awesome shock to me. My first real ski sponsor!

In my twenties I mangled at least 3-4 pair of skis a year. And somehow always ended up with a new pair of used skis in better shape than the ones I broke. It happened so many years in a row, that I made reference to being sponsored as a soul member of the world team. I loved it.

Yes, there was lots of ramen noodles and smoky nights spent in snow caves. And yes, hind-sight was never there as I blazed through Jackson, Girdwood, and Valdez as a young ski-bum.

Sure was fun though...

Caravan Skis, Bozeman MT

Ashley and the crew at Chalet Sports are stoked on Caravan Skis.

So what is next for me? For human-powered mountaineers? I have no idea. So stay tuned.