Gear Review - Mammut Parinaco Jacket

I love jackets. I am a jacket connoiseur and whether it is a light wind shirt or a heavy duty down parka I love trying on jackets, feeling the fabrics fit and cut and seeing all the features. I really can't get enough of them and now that every outdoor company is throwing in outrageous colors it is even better!

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Gear Review - Black Diamond Mission 50 Backpack

This is the mother of all technical backpacks. I would describe this pack as comfortable, versatile and feature rich. Heavy loads are no problem, stripping weight is no problem, carrying a rope, ice tools, crampons and all the usual alpine/ice gear is no problem and even skis can be carried by the Black Diamond Mission 50.

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Tallahassee Rock Gym Expansion

Every climber has a similar story of their early days...driving home late after climbing with forearms burning thinking of the problem or route that shut you down go after go. I remember it like yesterday. Working at the Tallahassee Rock Gym was a privilege and climbing there was a blast.

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Gear Review - Outdoor Research Stormsensor Glove

Gloves. I don't think there is a more important piece of gear for winter activities than gloves. Your gloves need to be warm and dexterous but they also need to be comfortable and dry. The perfect glove, I have found, does not exist, but there are many good options for all around use and only a few suitable for specific activities like ice climbing or skiing.

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Longs Peak Cirque Ice Climbing - 11.5.12

Alpine climbing at its finest. High elevation, wind, little sun, cold temperatures, it all combines to make an epic day on the mountain. My first day out this season was up to the high alpine of Rocky Mountain National Park in the Longs Peak Cirque. We started at the Longs Peak Trailhead parking lot at 6:20 am and didn't return until about 4:30 that afternoon.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Hidden Falls - 12.18.10

Hidden Falls is a great ice flow in the Wild Basin area of Rocky Mountain National Park.  The trail follows the St. Vrain river in the shadow of Mount Meeker.  This farthest south entrance to the park is popular with snowshoeing and cross country skiing, however the ice flow is only a couple miles from the trail head and offers a low altitude alternative for ice climbing compared to Loch Vale and other high alpine ice climbing.  This is a perfect place for someone's first ice climbing experience.
Short secondary ice flow
Ryann needed to get out on some ice and I thought this would be the perfect spot for her very first time.  I decided it would be a great place to teach her the basics and get her comfortable with ice climbing.  She would have the chance to practice some good technique on the short secondary fall and then run some laps on the main fall.  I would help her with pointers on technique, temperature management and efficient climbing styles.
We hung a top rope over the small fall and I gave Ryann some pointers for efficient climbing.  I also let her know that a huge part of ice climbing doesn't have to do with climbing at all.  It has to do with temperature management and proper clothing for the elements.  We worked on making sure she had a few things that are essential when ice climbing anywhere.
  1. Windproof Beanie
  2. Multiple pairs of gloves
  3. Softshell pants and jacket (windproof)
  4. Warm boots and socks
  5. Fleece/wool layer and down/synthetic layer
  6. Long underwear (wool or fleece)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Winter Park 12.5.10

Winter Park is quite possibly one of the most user friendly ski mountains in the world.  Mary Jane, the second mountain at WP, has enough parking to accommodate the early crowd and the parking is right next to the ski runs.  That means you get lunch at your car with a comfortable place to relax, eat, and split a six pack, then it is right back to the lift.  I went up with Austin and met Mike, Crystal and Brian.  We got some early runs in with great snow.  We charged hard and I got some great footage with my Contour HD helmet camera.
As you can see from the video I got some great perspective shots from mounting the camera onto my ski pole and holding it out in front of me.  This worked really well and gave a different feel with the skier in frame instead of just snow and skis.  It was fun to get the shot on the lift with Austin sitting next to me in the chair.  I am looking forward to editing helmet footage and this ski pole footage together in the future.  Check out my review after the break...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Follow My Tracks

So my super sweet Android phone has a free app called "My Tracks".  It uses the GPS in my phone to track exactly where the phone goes on Google Maps.  It also records a myriad of statistics including distance, speed and elevation.  I have used it for mountain biking, but i can't wait to chart some ski runs and ice climbing locations.  Look for a lot more My Tracks to come.  Check out my public Google Maps page to see where I have been and all the stats of my adventures.

One of my mountain bike rides

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Lincoln Falls - 11.28.2010

Mike climbing the right line
So it was the Sunday after Thanksgiving and I decided to go ice climbing with my friends Mike and Crystal Gasell.  My girlfriend Ryann had to go back to school so I told her parents I would take her to the airport in Denver and hook up with Mike and Crystal there.  The plan worked out perfectly and we got a long day of ice climbing in at Lincoln Falls just south of Breckenridge, CO on Hoosier Pass.
Crystal climbing and Mike belaying
I got to Mike's place right after 9:00am and we left for Breckenridge right away.  We stopped for breakfast sandwiches in Breck and continued on to the top of Hoosier Pass, probably 1.5 hours from Denver.  Lincoln Falls is a great place to ice climb because it is a fairly easy approach and offers a variety of terrain from fat flows to pillars and even a little mixed climbing.  Since we got a later start than usual we arrived at the base with 2-3 groups taking up a good chunk of the main area.  We warmed up and got ready for the thin right side as one of the parties was cleaning the route and heading out.  The route was a little brittle and thin, but it was a fun WI 2+/3 and offered some good technical climbing.  Apparently showing up late wasn't all bad; by the time we got done with the first route the other groups were heading out!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

New Gear - Epic HD Helmet Camera

So I finally got my Epic HD helmet camera.  I took it out skiing at Copper Ski Resort here in Colorado and it worked pretty well.  It is lightweight, shoots HD video, takes still photos on a customized timer and can go anywhere thanks to an adhesive mount, a vented helmet mount and a jointed mount.  It uses AAA Lithium batteries to power it and it takes a SD card up to 16GB.
Epic HD Helmet Camera
The camera shoots high definition video in 720p at 30 fps.  It captures a faster sport like skiing pretty well and there is very little color distortion.  I had the camera mounted onto my vented helmet with the provided strap and it worked well.  The camera did not shake at all and the mount did not affect the footage.  A fish-eye effect does happen every once in a while because of the wide angle the camera uses (120 degrees).  This wide angle causes the camera to readjust to the changing dynamic of the environment more frequently because it is catching more information.  It also has more of a bubble lens instead of it just being flat and this probably contributes to the overall distortion.  It is a good and bad thing and I will be working with the settings to see if I can customize it.  Check out the video after the break.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween ride at Lory State Park

Not a big fan of Halloween.  Today was a trick instead of treat.

The weather is still good out here in Colorado, so I thought I would try to get a few more days on my mountain bike before the weather changes completely.  Lory State Park has many fun trails that climb forever and have flowing and technical single track all the way down.
I decided to do The Big Loop at Lory today.  It is a beast of a trail that climbs more than 1,300 ft. to the summit of Arthur's Rock and descends back down to the valley trails.  At over 12 miles and a 2+ hour ride, it is a great test of endurance and skill.  It is also a beautiful ride the spans the length of Arthur's Rock ridge.  The ride starts in the valley and climbs up from the North to the backside of Arthur's Rock.  The climb is brutal, but fun all the same.  The technical rock sections are very hard, but a good test for any rider, and the down on the other side is fast and technical.
Tiny little gash...big problem!
My ride went great and I summited behind Arthur's Rock in good time.  I had a quick snack and got ready for the descent.  I was flying down the Howard Trail back toward the parking lot when a strange sound caught my ear and I stopped. I looked down at my rear tire and knew immediately that I would be walking the rest of the way back (2+ miles).  A small rubber bubble was poking out the sidewall of my tire!  Apparently it had taken a gash earlier in the ride and the inner tube was pushing itself out the opening in the tire.  I knew it was only a matter of time until it popped and I didn't have anything to patch the actual tire.  I kept riding, wincing every time I went over any obstacle. Five minutes after stopping the tube blew and i hiked my bike the rest of the way down the mountain.
I had walked the rest of the trail to the valley, but still had 1.5 miles back  to the entrance of the park where I had parked.  As I walked into the valley parking lot a man and woman were packing up after riding.
"How's it going?" I said.

"Better than you it looks."  He said.
We laughed.  I told him what had happened and asked if I could get a ride back to my car.  He was happy to help me out.  We threw all the bikes into their truck, drove back to my car and they dropped me off.  Despite the blown tire the riding was fun and the weather held out until I got back to my car.
Arthur's Rock with Fort Collins below.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Epic HD Helmet Camera

Soon to be my new toy, is the Epic HD helmet camera.  This thing shoots HD video, captures 8 megapixel stills and does it all while weighing next to nothing (under 5 oz.) and being the size of a salt shaker!  I am really excited to get this for a couple different reasons.  One, I can document all my endeavors more dynamically.  I am looking forward to editing video and putting together short flicks.  Two, I can use this thing for mountain biking and skiing which will be awesome.  Look for videos to start popping up of me climbing, biking and skiing from now on.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

New Gear - Scott Spark 40

I got my Spark 40 in June of this last summer and figured I would write up a quick review for anyone interested.  While the bike rides great there are a few improvements that could happen to make it even better.  For the price point this ride is in, it fits perfectly and accomplishes everything a bike for this money is meant to do.  I got in the saddle probably 25+ times this summer in all sorts of terrain; 20 mile XC, switchbacks, rock gardens, mud, sand, fast single track and bumpy fire roads.  The overall feel of the bike is great and I have kept everything stock on the bike so far.  The drive train is a combination of SLX and XT components and would be the first thing I would change to make a significant improvement to the bike.  However, shifting is super fluid and crisp when cranking or cruising.  The brakes are Avid Elixir 5 and they work brilliantly for the size of the bike.  They have great stopping power and even better regulation for tapping before a switchback or technical section. Speaking or regulation, the suspension is top notch.  There aren't any huge names here, because of the pricepoint, but Scott did good by the Spark 40.  The front fork is a Rock Shox Recon SL with 120mm of travel, plenty for an XC workhorse and the rear travel is a DT Swiss M210.  Both have adjustable air chambers for rebound adjustment.  They both also allow the rider to lockout "on the fly" with Scott's Twinloc system.  The included cables allow you to connect the Twinloc mechanism so that you have lockout on your handlebar right next to the brake.  Flip the switch and the rear suspension and the fork both lockout for a rigid ride.  This helps mostly with climbing and flat sections when speed is of the utmost importance.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Much more to come...

I reside in the mountains.
For too many years I was stuck in Florida with no mountains and no winter. I was deprived until the summer of 2006 when I graduated from college and moved to Colorado. Life here in Colorado is amazing and I wouldn't trade it for anything. I vacationed for years back east in the mountains of North Carolina and learned that I belonged in the mountains, permanently. The people and culture in CO represent a passion and enthusiasm that I always exuded but had few people to share it with. It is different out here. People can pick a Gore-Tex jacket out from a 1/4 mile away and will drive through 10 inches of snow to go skiing, but hit the snooze, for work, when there is only two.
Now I am an all around outdoor junkie, a walking talking encyclopedia of gear knowledge. I snowboard, ski, rock and ice climb, mountain bike, etc.  I share a common bond with so many other outdoor enthusiasts. People that feel the hair on the back of the neck rise just before they drop in to a chute or right before they reach the money hold on their latest project thrive on being in the moment. This blog will hopefully bring that lifestyle to whoever follows with pictures and video to narrate it all.   Let me know what you think.
Today's climber... carries his courage in his rucksack... Faith in equipment has replaced faith in oneself.  [Reinhold Messner]