Roads Rivers and Trails

Dream. Plan. Live.

Monthly Archives: February 2018


Dreamin’

by: Brandon Behymer

Living in the Midwest has a way of instilling habits of more work and less play.  While this is great for saving money for reliable vehicles, mortgages, and retirement, it’s not an efficient way to relax or partake in the more colorful aspects of life.  For this I typically rely on daydreaming about the next trip, the next mountain, the next indulgence in discomfort.  Blogs, magazines, and podcasts are my preferred inspirational crutch when my imagination is having a slow day.

Some of my favorites:

  • Dirtbag Diaries– This podcast is sponsored by the outdoor clothing company, Patagonia. They do a wonderful job of representing a wide range of outdoor pursuits in their time managed episodes.  The stories shared come from all over the world and have an equitable number of male and female protagonists, which in the outdoor industry isn’t always the case.
  • Outside Podcast– A production of Outside Magazine, this podcast explores the outdoors from the point of view of professional athletes, weekend warriors, and everyone in between. Some of my most hairbrained ideas for getting out and active have come from the hours spent listening to this podcast.
  • Myths and Legends/Fictional- Jason Weiser does a phenomenal job of retelling both popular and obscure myths, legends, and now in his most recent podcast, classic literature, in a way that is entertaining and easy to understand. Whether driving cross country or putting some hours on the bike, this is a refreshing form of stimulation.  Honestly this may be my favorite podcast on this list.
  • How I Built This with Guy Raz– A podcast from NPR that shares the stories of entrepreneurs of many calibers and the businesses they created. I love listening and dreaming about one day owning my own company, making my own hours, and earning enough money to fund the shenanigans and travel that I would like to be doing now.

I do listen to several other podcasts and am sure to make additions to this list of favorites in the near future.  Now for the reading materials.

  • Adventure Journal– Though newer to the outdoor print publication scene this quarterly magazine packs a lot of adventure into a small package. Every article I’ve read seems to be timely and well researched.  These guys obviously have a huge passion for everything outdoors and promote the lifestyle as well as sustainable outdoor policies.  Well worth the read in my opinion.
  • Bikepacking.com– A fantastic source of inspiration as well as a plethora of information about bikepacking routes the world over. Some of the tracks are fairly obscure and others are quite popular.  The cool thing- they’re all well researched and tracked via gps. This means you can download the tracks and replicate the trip or use it as a reference to help you plan a trip of your own.  Along with the navigation help there are gear reviews and trip reports that stoke the imagination and, at least for me, tender some seriously hairbrained ideas for traveling by bike.
  • Outside Magazine– A monthly print that is in its 41st year of publication and has become the standard bearer for outdoor news and entertainment. Though it is chock full of advertisements the quality of journalism more than makes up for all the airbrushed photos of scantily clad pro athletes promoting chocolate milk or some $600 Down Jacket that will not only keep you warm and dry but also make you breakfast in the morning (breakfast ends promptly at 9am so be sure to rise early).  This magazine and its corresponding website also have great fitness and nutrition tips, gear reviews, and write ups on an endless amount of destinations sure to supply an adventure of some sort.
  • National Geographic– Can’t say enough about this publication and organization. Continuously is print since its first issue in 1888, it has explored all corners of the globe and written about them in astonishing detail. The photography of National Geographic is among the best in the world.  One of my favorite projects of theirs to read about and follow is Paul Salopek’s ‘Out of Eden’ walk (read about it here).  Starting in the Rift Valley in eastern Africa and ending in Tierra del Fuego, the walk will be approximately 21 thousand miles in length and is projected to take about seven years.

Again, this is an incomplete list, and many will be added in time.  I find inspiration in these audio, print, and online sources but my favorite source is from people I interact with where I live and where I travel. Friends and strangers alike, sharing their stories and pushing me to make more of my own is part of what makes the outdoor and travel community so special.  To put aside differences and enjoy seeking the next horizon is what its all about.

Mt. Washington

by: Brandon Behymer

Bryan and myself recently returned from a winter ascent of Mt. Washington (wiki link).  Known for having some of the worst weather in North America and the fastest recorded wind speed ever, the highest peak in New Hampshire’s reputation stands much higher than its actual elevation of 6,288 feet. Having done some winter mountaineering out west prior to this trip, I never thought much of it. How demanding could a mountain under half the elevation of Colorado’s highest peak be?  Fairly demanding it turns out.

We departed Cincinnati at 5:30am on Tuesday, February 6.  Groggy, and excited to be on the road, we started off with a few podcasts in a futile attempt to keep our minds occupied during the ‘too early for conversation’ hours of the morning.  Bryan drove for the first six hours through light snow and fog.  We started calling his wife’s Honda Accord the Magic Carpet since every time one of us looked at the gas gauge, it appeared that it hadn’t moved. And yes, we borrowed his wife’s car because neither of ours will make it confidently out of the tri-state area. I’m curious to find out when the stench of four of the most outrageously smelly feet attached to ankles will finally dissipate to a tolerable level in that Magic Carpet. Sorry Laura…

After paying our tolls through Pennsylvania we passed through a small portion of New York, through Hartford, around Boston, and up into New Hampshire.  Tuesday night was spent in great company at the friend of a friend’s cabin on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee. Going over maps and forecasts at the dinner table while exchanging stories reminded me that the feeling of home has a lot to do with the company kept there, and the cabin quickly felt comfortable and warm. The view the following morning was incredible, and I can only imagine the good times had on the lake both winter and summer.  In fact, Wednesday morning a brave soul driving a Chevy Silverado went barreling across the frozen surface of the lake, presumably to an ice fishing shack, at a speed indicative of their lack of confidence in the thickness of the ice.

Bryan and myself were eager to get closer to Mt. Washington and decided that with the impending snow storm, reaching Harvard cabin (Harvard cabin website) early Wednesday afternoon would be the best course of action.  Snow began to fall just as we lost cell phone reception on the drive into the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center.  It didn’t stop for the next twelve hours.  Our hosts from the night before accompanied us on the snowshoe hike up to Harvard cabin and then turned back to the vehicles, leaving Bryan and me to enjoy the 14-degree cabin, soaking wet from the steep hike up Huntington Ravine Trail.  We began building the fire promptly at 3:55 joking about how rebellious both of us were being for ‘ignoring’ the sign hung discreetly and directly over the wood burning stove saying that no fire shalt be built prior to 4pm.  The fire gods would punish us immediately for our haste.  The cabin filled rapidly with wood smoke, to the point of me opening the doors, fearing smoke inhalation issues.  Later that evening, a caretaker from the Hermit Lake cabin stopped by to check on the cabin. Upon walking in her only greeting was “Holyshit, you guys have clearly never seen a wood burning stove before”, and then demonstrated how not to kill everyone from asphyxiation overnight.

Five other men joined us in the cabin Wednesday night, two from Atlanta, their guide, and two hardcore skiers from Canada.  Like camp in forty below zero with a smile kind of hardcore.  We had a couple beers and entertained each other with stories of past travels to the hills and some goals we had for future adventures.  I could tell Bryan was getting tired, sitting quietly with a beer in hand is a sure sign of his exhaustion. As for myself, I wasn’t far behind.  Being lulled to sleep by the wind in a 65-degree cabin is not a difficult thing to do.  The guide and his two clients rose at 6am and were out the door by 7.  Bryan and I opted for a later start time to avoid the high winds in the morning forecast. At 10 below zero Fahrenheit, with a 50mph wind, any exposed skin would be frostbitten in 10 minutes.  It feels as if Mother Nature is trying to cut capicola ham from the flesh of your cheeks, under the bottom edge of the sunglass lens, and above the top of the buff protecting your nose and lips.

While the normal winter route isn’t very difficult, little more than a walk up past the Lion’s Head feature and on to the summit cone, the cold and wind are relentless. We left the cabin at 10:30am and snowshoed as far as we could before we put on our crampons. I stopped above Bryan on the slope and repeatedly pushed fresh powdery snow that had accumulated the night before down onto him and his pack.  Only one of us found this lightly entertaining.  Shortly after the crampon comedy we ascended a steep section of trail where both piolet and crampons are required. This section was quite fun and reminded me of how much I enjoyed climbing ice a few years ago in Colorado.  The next bit of trail extends up through the tree line, where the wind really picked up and leads to an outcrop of large rocks supposedly resembling the head of a lion. Neither of us saw the resemblance but the outcrop was impressive in its own right.

From here you can see the summit and exhaust pipes of the weather observatory, the current one taking weather readings every day since 1932.  Mt Washington is the first mountain I’ve summited that the summit looked as far away as it actually was.  No deception here.  2 miles give or take and 2 hours of biting winds and bitter cold.  Honestly it wouldn’t have taken quite as long had it not been for a cleverly placed cairn, on the far corner of a steep snow field that we both failed to see.  Instead we opted to follow two skiers and their skins tracks across the Alpine Gardens, post holing the ENTIRE way, and then up a very steep snow field about 200 meters from the proper route.  Several times along this poor choice of a route we stopped to laugh and take in the discomfort that our lack of observation skills had brought us.  Discomfort would have found us either way. Blaming ourselves only took the attention off the wind cutting our faces and the steepness of the snow field.

We reached the summit at 2:30 Thursday afternoon, and a goal that’s been on my mind for three years had been accomplished.  Both of us were pretty spent by the time we summited.  I had to cajole Bryan the last 400 feet to the top and that was about all that kept me going.  There is a familiar and exotic feeling about being above the clouds, on the highest point in sight in any direction.  Explaining it is difficult.  I tend to get a bit emotional and existential when standing atop a summit.  Why did I come here?  Why would anyone come here?  Is this what an outsiders’ perspective of Earth would look like? It’s so cold. I’m so tired.  My face hurts.

previous arrow
next arrow
Slider

Starting down is an exercise of patience for me. I want to stay at the top to admire the beauty.  The cold convinces me otherwise.  Knees protest the increased force of gravity.  Crampons pierce the fabric of my softshell pants and I stumble several paces forward, cursing loudly at my own coordination. Attention to detail must be at an elevated level.  My attention descended faster than my feet.

There are two other options to ascend to the summit and both require more technical skills than Bryan or myself currently have; however, after this trip I hope to become confident in those skills to climb the Ravines next winter.

We make it back down to the cabin at 4:30, after two hours of walking and glissading and laughing hysterically from the joy of sledding down the hill on our butts, trying to stop before colliding with an unfortunately placed rock or tree.  Once back inside the safety of the cabin we got the fire roaring and the interior heated up to 70 degrees by the time the second of our three dinners had been devoured (about an hour). I will absolutely have a wood burning stove in the house I build someday.

 

Want another perspective? Check out Louie’s Mt. Washington blog here.

After the Climb – Aconcagua

By: Olivia Eads

                There is no protocol to the return of society after a month in the mountains. The transition is not easy, and never will be. Aconcagua, the Andes Mountains, and Argentina seem like a distant dream. Shout out to Alpine Ascents and Argentina Mountain Guides for making that dream come to life. More specifically our guides: Jangbu, Bettiana, and Bryce, without your expertise and knowledge this trip would not have been possible. Thank you for providing consistent communication, keeping us safe, comfortable, and well fed. Where do I start to explain this epic adventure? I suppose the beginning, in Mendoza.

Upon arrival, Bryce picked us up from the airport and transported us and our gear to the Hyatt. There we met the team, checked our gear, discussed the map and expectations for the days to come. They say you eat your way up the mountains, and that is exactly what we did. We feasted and toasted libations to a successful climb. The following day we picked up permits at the parks office and took a bus to the town of Los Penitentes, about two and half hours northwest of Mendoza. Highly suggest Hotel Ayelen, the lodge we stayed at the night before our trek to basecamp. It is about a 15-minute drive away from the trail head, the food is amazing, Steve (the owner) is a hoot, and he keeps the best candy at his desk. Finally, we checked in the next morning at the ranger station of Punta de Vacas, ready for the journey that was ahead.

Our first meal together. Names are as follows, left row, front to back: Bryce, Bettiana, Jeff, Mike, Me (Olivia), and Kara. Right row, front to back: Jangbu, Maria, Jose, Matt, Dave, and Adam.

 

Permits Obtained!

Punta de Vacas trail head and ranger station in the background. We look so fresh and ready to walk.

The Vacas Valley is one of the most beautiful glacial carved valleys I’ve had the pleasure to stomp through. We followed the rightfully named Vacas River for two days. Our trekking packs were light (~25 lbs) thanks to the Arrieros or Argentinian cowboys and their mules. In duffels they strapped our expedition and group gear to the ungulate’s backs then rallied them up the mountains. It was incredible to watch how easily those beasts made it up the steep and unstable terrain. At the end of the second day we got our first glimpse of the Aconcagua.

The third day trekking into basecamp, we crossed the Vacas River into the Relinchos Valley, and were able to watch Aconcagua grow bigger as we approached Plaza Argentina or basecamp. From there we lost sight of the summit, because we were on the back side of the mountain. Each expedition team is expected to come up with a name before arrival to basecamp. This is where the expedition began for team Vertical Chorizo.

Blue skies and amazing weather in the Vacas Valley.

Arrieros wrangling their mules, and our gear, up the mountain.

Aconcagua, how stunning is that mountain?

Stomping into basecamp.

Safely arrived at 13,800 feet. Team Vertical Chorizo is at Plaza Argentina, huzzah!

Basecamp is pretty much a party and straight luxury. There are fixed tents, people that stay there the entire season preparing food for climbers, porters carrying gear for a hefty chunk of change, a doctor to assess climbers as they hope to ascend to higher altitudes and bag Aconcagua’s summit, a bar, wi-fi for purchase, electricity (solar), and hot showers again for purchase. We stayed at basecamp for four days. We played cards, ate delicious foods, told jokes, shared many laughs and simply acclimated to the higher elevation we were at. The cache day to camp one was difficult with my heavy expedition gear, but felt great to move up the mountain. Coming back down, realizing the scale of this mountain was breath taking. After a rest day, and some snow flurries that swirled through, we were ready to move to camp one and start ascending to higher camps leaving the luxury of basecamp below.

Basecamp upon arrival.

Decent after the cache day, being able to see the entire camp surrounded by peaks.

The higher camps blur together and this is where the dream began. A lot of rest steps, pressure breaths and looking down at my feet, taking it one step at a time and one breath at a time. Camp one was situated at 16,300 ft. underneath Maria’s Peak. We decided to name camp one camp Maria, considering it was the only one without a name, after our Maria and the peak it was underneath. Here we encountered the iconic penitents, however their abundance was very low this year. The winds were fierce. To kill time, we played games like throw rocks in a circle for points, of course Jangbu won every time. Go figure he is magic.

We cached our group gear and things not in use at camp Guanacos. To get there we traversed beyond the northside of Ameghino Col, Aconcagua’s sister peak. The camp is located at 18,200 ft and overlooks the Guanacos Valley, a wilderness preserve off limits to humans. We went back down to camp one, had a rest day, then made the move to camp Guanacos. Cache and move to high camp, or camp Colera followed the same formula of hike high, camp low. We moved everything up to Colera that we weren’t using, then went back down to Guanacos. That night at Guanacos before the final move, we had a discussion of the summit and how our window was slim due to high winds. January 28th was our day, and we were given the expectations.

Camp Maria and the view from our campsite.

The things you do for fun on a windy, mountain day. Throw rocks into circles.

Views while trekking to Camp Guanacos.

Eating dinner at Camp Guanacos and discussing summit day following our move to Camp Colera the next day.

The move to camp Colera went smoothly. It was an early night considering we had a 4:00am wake up to begin moving at 6:00am to arrive at the summit within a reasonable time frame. The stars and sunrise that morning were incredible. The route ascended to the white rocks, first break, up to the North ridge of Independencia, second break, traverse the west face, then to the caves (canaleta) where we took a nice long break at 21,000 ish feet. This is where I started to feel nausea from altitude, and being a part of the expedition had to express my concerns to continue with the entire group. I ingested some medicine to help and we continued going up and up to summit ridge. Unfortunately, on summit ridge, at 22,470 feet I stopped my attempt at the summit due to 2 more symptoms of AMS, vomiting and a headache in addition to my nausea.

Responsible decisions are always hard and I try not to be discontent over the failed attempt. At 400 feet shy of the summit I stopped, high fived all my Chorizitos as they passed and bid them good luck as they ascended further to finally summit. I was close enough to watch them make the final push. Bryce babysat me as I failed to keep down water, and we waited for Bettiana to come back down so she could escort me off the mountain, and he could make his first summit on Aconcagua. The decent was long and tiresome, remember the summit is only half way. Eventually, we made it back down to camp Colera around 6:00pm. The rest of the Vertical Chorizo team arrived back around 8:00pm, exhausted and ready for sleep.

Vertical Chorizos at the summit! I’m there in spirit.

Where I ended my summit push. If you zoom in closely to the summit, you can see my team climbing up the final leg. It was such a clear day, I could hear them celebrate at the top (Kara’s voice mainly).

Camp Colera, looking to the left is Chile, to the right is Argentina. 19,500 feet of pure bliss or maybe lack of oxygen.

The decent to Plaza de Mulas was hard. 6,000 feet over 12 miles, if I remember correctly. Knees wobbly, lacking nutrients from my body rejecting everything the day before, I wanted to just fall and tumble down the rest of the angular scree. Moral of the story is we made it safely down to the other basecamp and were back to the luxuries associated with it, cheese burgers waiting for us and all. We sorted our expedition gear for the mules and transitioned back to our light weight trekking packs. From this basecamp you can see Aconcagua and all her glory. The next morning, we woke up and started the magnificent hike out of the Horcones Valley. A bitter sweet, 18 mile, farewell to the mountain we considered home for the last 16 days. Together we walked arms linked stepping from trail to pavement for what seemed like the first time, celebrating the fact that we made it.

Aconcagua on fire as the sun is setting.

Trekking out of the Horcones Valley.

Looking back at the beautiful mountain we just climbed.

 

Friends crossing the boundaries between nature and civilization. Amazed at the accomplishment we just made, together.

We are back in civilization, now. Sunburnt, smiley, and relatively clean we took on the city of Mendoza for four days, considering no use of the foul weather days built into our itinerary. I went to climb a large mountain and came home with countless memories, a new perspective on life, and 12 new special friends. Eagerly awaiting our next reunion for adventure, as it is always waiting.

Our “final” dinner together, celebrating success and good health.

Rent Now