I’ve learned in my life that if I don’t write things down they are soon forgotten in the no man’s land of my brain. If this goes for simple tasks like taking a package to the post office, or sending in official forms, won’t it transfer over to bigger, loftier goals I have?
I decided I don’t want to chance it. So here is the beginning of my to-do list. When I started thinking about everything I want to do it quickly became overwhelming, so instead of frantically searching the Google to find everything that should be on my “bucket list,” I left it where it’s add and will add to it as ideas come to me.
Run a marathon
Climb in Yosemite
Climb a big wall
Finish the John Muir Trail
Write a book
Write an ebook
Learn to climb splitter cracks
Run the Leadville Ultramarathon
Run the Wasatch Ultimate Ridge Link-up
Live out of a car
Make the switch to Veganism
Donate my time and money to organizations I believe in
Become a successful freelance writer
Write an article for National Geographic
Climb the Getu arch in China
Climb in Patagonia
Ski in Denali
Backcountry hut trip through the Uinta’s
Uinta Highline Trail
Antelope Island 50k
Ski Mt. Superior in Little Cottonwood Canyon
Climb in El Potrero Chico
Climb in Kalymnos
Trail run in Iceland
Visit (and climb in) Squamish
Ski (and climb) the Grand in Teton National Park
Climb Squawsatch in Provo
Get Yoga Teacher Training Cert
Complete WFR, SPI, and AIARE 2
Become a columnist at a major magazine
Become proficient in Trad climbing
Ski Mt. Hood
Climb at RRG, Hueco Tanks, Joshua Tree, Wild Iris, Tensleep, Rifle, Indian Creek, Cochise Stronghold, the Gunks, and everywhere in between.
Participate in Horseshoe Hell
Attend Burning Man
What do you want to accomplish in this one precious life?
It goes without saying, your abdominal muscles are some of the most important in your body. They help stabilize and reduce the incidence of injury. They’re also probably the most photographed muscle in all of Instagram history. As with any muscle group, the beginning steps to definition are hard. I’ve been known to feel defeated if after one workout my abs aren’t debuting they’re presence in the world. C’est la vie.
Professional climber and athlete, Paige Claussen, commits to ten-minute abs after every climbing session. She picks ten different exercises and does each one for a minute without stopping.
My go-to ab exercises are either five minutes of leg lifts or circuits. My husband has been doing five minutes of leg raises for quite a while and has begun modifying to include scissor kicks, butterflies, and raising/lowering at different paces. They’re easily adaptable. If you’re unable to complete five full minutes of leg lifts, start with one minute, rest 10-30 seconds, do another minute, rest 10-30 seconds, and so on. Do what’s best for you, but I also encourage you to push yourself.
When I have more time or brain power I like to do ab circuits. Choose 3-4 ab exercises and repeat 2-3 times. Generally, if I’m doing an ab circuit I like to throw in an arm or leg exercise, like squats or push-ups, to mix it up.
Favorite ab exercises for circuits:
Start laying flat on the mat. In one motion raise your upper body and straight legs up to form a “V.” For a modified version, you can keep your legs bent at whatever angle is doable.
Start sitting. Lower your upper body slightly, so that it’s at a 45-degree angle from the mat. Bend your knees slightly, with your heels just grazing the mat. With hands clasped above your stomach, lower them down to your right side, and then over to your left. Repeat. Add weights/medicine ball if it feels too easy.
Good old fashioned fun! Planks are my definite go-to because I know exactly what to expect and there are so many modifications. Start laying face down on your mat. Place forearms on mat and lift body so your only points of contact are forearms and toes. Take extra caution to not rise up in your shoulders, or sink your lower back and hips. Think stiff as a board!
Start lying down on your back. With arms across chest, right hand touching left shoulder, left hand touching right shoulder, roll up, and reach to touch your toes. Re-cross arms and lie flat. Repeat.
Hanging Leg Raises:
I confess, these are tough and I fight my will to complain whenever I incorporate them. Using a pull-up bar, extend your legs straight below you. Engaging your core, in an effort to remain still, bend your legs at the knees and raise to your chest. Lower, and repeat. The real trick with this one is to keep your body from swinging and using the inertia to bring your knees to your chest. Go slow, and be precise.
There are so many ab exercises out there that this list isn’t even the tip of the iceberg. Climbing Magazine did a great article on ab exercises for climber’s that you can find here.
Happy exercising and may your abs soon be defined!
Patagonia’s Super Alpine Women’s Bib is the bib to end all bibs. Made specifically for big (or small) mountain adventures in the worst conditions, the alpine bib delivers with thoughtful specifications, like the two-way full-length side-zips and drop seat configuration.
I bought the alpine bib’s with my first touring set-up. I was working at a gear shop at the time and wanted to outfit myself with the best gear. For me, Patagonia almost always falls into that category. Besides their ethical code of conduct for every part of production, they strive to take care of the planet, and create killer products that last as close as you can get to a lifetime.
Back to the bibs: 100% nylon Gore-Tex that doesn’t suffocate the user, and easy-to-access zippers make it hard to overheat. I’ve used these bibs as low as zero and as high as 50 and haven’t had issue at either end. I love the snap closure at the top zip which allows for a large air vent, or the ability to pee without shedding every layer. The shoulder straps are easily adjustable by shifting the cross strap at the back or through the hook-and-loop Velcro at the front.
There are two pockets on the front of the pants that are great for holding snacks or a cell-phone, although if I put my cell-phone in the right leg pocket while the pants are vented, it creates an uncomfortable pull across the thigh.
Although I’m not yet into serious winter ascents where I need crampons, the bottom of the pants are heavily reinforced to prevent tears from crampons or skis.
I’ve had these pants for three seasons and haven’t found a single issue with them. The bib is low enough to be comfortable, but high enough to keep powder out on waist-deep days.
I am a die-hard lover of the paper version. I’ll take a book over a kindle, a newspaper over an online edition, and a map over an app. Generally. However, the Wasatch Backcountry Skiing App is a game changer.
The Wasatch Backcountry Skiing App takes it’s parent paper version and turns it into an interactive technological map that can be zoomed in/out, turned, and oriented either in the direction of travel or north.
One of the best features of the app is it’s GPS component. As long as your cell phone has battery life, you can track your progress through a blue dot on the app. With the GPS, you can also find your elevation, longitude/latitude, and compass degree. This has helped me figure out where the skin track is supposed to be, and has allowed me to get a better idea of where I am in the backcountry.
Because of the improved GPS accuracy, you can search for a location in the Cottonwoods and choose it as a destination. The compass then incorporates a blue arrow that points you in the direction you wish to go.
The App also features an “Email Current Location” option so you can track your own progress, or alert friends/family members of your most recent location.
Some other great features are the shading of slopes steeper than 30 degrees, and route finding capabilities.
The only downfall to the app is the inability to get your bearings once you’ve zoomed out. However, the app is best used as a companion to the Wasatch Backcountry Skiing Map.
I highly recommend this app for its ease of use, slope shading, and GPS features.
You can purchase for either iPhone or Android through the App store for $12.99.
For further information, check out the developer’s webpage here.
Breaking into backcountry touring is exciting, sometimes scary, and full of unknowns. You may have spent twenty years on the slopes, but gracefully making your way up a skintrack is not necessarily a natural skill. With the uptick of users on social media and the repetitive pow shots put up by pro-skiers and pro-recreationalists alike, it’s hard to not load up the van (or in my case the badass go-anywhere Prius), and do whatever it takes (including post-holing in high avy-danger territory) to get those “sick pow shots, brah.”
But please, show some restraint, and just don’t.
First things first: Get the Right Gear
There’s a lot that goes into backcountry travel, including the massive investment in the right gear. While you can use snowshoes for the ascent and your skinny skis from the 90s for the descent, the whole fat skis, tech bindings, alpine boots, and skins can run you a pretty penny. At full retail, the whole outfit can easily surpass the $2,000 mark. Add to that the beacon, probe, and shovel and you’re looking at the price of a smaller used car with relatively low mileage. Best advice on gear? Set yourself up with pro-deals or learn to religiously scour your local thrift stores, Craigslist, or Ebay.
Then Get Educated:
Once you’ve got your set-up I highly recommend attending a Know Before You Go class. I’m fortunate enough to live in Salt Lake where we have one of the best avalanche forecasting centers in the nation. The Utah Avalanche Center puts on classes and regularly partners with REI to provide brief, information packed sessions to educate backcountry users on the dangers of avalanche terrain. If you’re in a more remote location there are tons of resources online. BCA has an entire series on YouTube about backcountry terrain, companion rescue, and how to read and dig a snowpit.
If you’ve done all of the above, have toured some low-consequence areas and want to expand your knowledge, you can sign-up for an AIARE 1 course which is an introduction to safe snow travel, how to dig a pit and asses on a basic level, and how to identify terrain traps.
Do Your Research:
Thankfully we live in a time where information is a click away. Utah, Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming, Washington/Oregon, Canada, and Idaho all have avalanche forecasting centers that provide daily, and sometimes twice daily, avalanche condition updates. If you don’t live in one of these states, it’s important to keep track of storms and snowpack conditions. This might mean digging more snowpits than someone in the Wasatch, but if you treat it like a workout you’ll keep a better attitude and possibly save your life.
Find Good Company:
In Utah there are a handful of tours you can take on your own due to the low angle of the area’s slopes. But let’s be real. Touring is way more fun when you have someone to enjoy it with. Through social media and groups on Facebook I’ve found a solid group of people to tour with. So get out there, charge, and then get home safely.
Whenever I introduce a friend to backcountry touring their first question usually is, what do I bring? Packing a bag for a half or full day tour can be easy once you know what to anticipate.
I always suggest checking the forecast in the morning. Will it get warmer throughout the day? Is a storm expected? This will give you some insight to what layers to wear, what layers to pack, and what layers to leave at home.
If the weather is supposed to be 40 and above in the Wasatch I leave my puffy at home. Generally, it’s good advice to always have a puffy with you, but the majority of tours I take in the Wasatch are low angle and close to emergency services. I know the chances of being out overnight are slim. But please, always do what feels comfortable for you and your situation. You know your environment better than I do.
In terms of food, I prefer to snack throughout the day (unless I have some leftover pizza!) I pack dried fruit, cliff bars, nuts, and lots of water. I always fill up my 3L CamelBak regardless of tour length.
Always, always, always take your beacon, shovel, and probe. Even if you aren’t traveling through avalanche terrain, there are groups in the backcountry who are, and it may be up to you to rescue them. Always be prepared for anything that can happen.
In my pack:
Batteries (for headlamp and beacon)
Extra gloves (lighter or heavier depending on the weather)
Wilderness First Aid Field Book
First Aid Kit
Bag for my Skins
Wasatch Backcountry Map
If you’re just starting out it’s safer to overpack. With more tours you’ll get a better feel for what’s important to bring into the backcountry, and with the exception of beacon, shovel, and probe, it’s different for everyone. A good general rule is to pack for the worst and hope for the best. The last thing you want in the backcountry is to be wishing you’d brought something you’d opted out on because of the extra weight.
Anything I missed? Let me know what’s in your pack in the comments!
If you’ve read any of the avalanche advisories you may be weary to break out the skins on a high avy danger day, and for good reason. When avy danger is high it is so important to stay well away from avalanche terrain. Having a way to measure slope angle, read a map, and determine terrain traps are some of the best tools you can take into the backcountry. And always follow the seven P’s!
In the Wasatch, there are a number of tours you can take even if the avalanche danger is high. These are some of my favorite tours regardless of avalanche danger.
Big Cottonwood Canyon
Located in Big Cottonwood Canyon across from Solitude resort, USA Bowl offers a wide-open low-angle bowl where you can make figure eight turns to your hearts content. The tour is mellow up until the last push to the ridge. Start out on the summer road across the street from Solitude’s upper parking lot and head west on the skin track. At about 8500’ you’ll come upon a large cabin to the east where the skin track heads north. The track meanders through aspen glades until it meets the bowl. If you decide to put in a switchback, don’t cut too heavily into the untracked powder. In USA Bowl, rumor has it that east of the Mississippi slides, so to play it safe, stay west, and enjoy!
Mill D offers a wide variety of tour options. With the exception of the east face of Reynold’s peak and the north face of West Desolation Ridge, the terrain in Mill D is low-angle and low avalanche danger. From the Spruces trailhead, skin north on the summer road to the community of cabins, once past the gate you can access:
Short Swing: Known as the Dawn Patrol route, Short Swing is best if you have time constraints. The track is the first one that heads east, a little more than half mile up the trail, and ends at point 9,269. Be cautious of the cornice that forms to the north of 9,269’s ridge. Aspen glades and good powder can be found west on the descent.
Powder Park 3: About a mile up the skin track, head east along the northern side of a gully. The track eventually leads to a meadow—this means you’re close! Across the meadow and to the south is the skin track leading to the cone at about 9200’. You can choose to descend from the top of the cone, or keep skinning to the south side of West Desolation Ridge, which offers extensive tree skiing. (This can also be accessed if you head north at the meadow, and gain the ridge).
Tom’s Hill: Tom’s hill can be accessed by taking the Mill D trailhead and heading west up the skin track, or by following Spruces trailhead until it splits at the furthest part of the drainage and heads west. The two most popular descents are to the north, Tom’s Hill, or to the west, Weathering Heights.
Park about 13 miles up the canyon alongside the road. To the north you can see a sign on a tree that reads “Beartrap Fork.” Follow the skin track north through the aspen glades. The trail is about 2 miles to the top of the drainage where you can access the Beartrap Glades and connect to peak 9,990 in Canyons Resort.
Beartrap is one of the best places to go for beginning backcountry skiing. The aspen glades to the east about half mile up the trail offer excellent, well-spaced, low-angle tree skiing. From the meadow, about a ¾ mile up the trail, you can also head west to The Cone (connecting you to Powder Park 3 in Mill D), or point 9,269, and ski the east facing aspects. The east side of The Cone offers open skiing, while the east face of point 9,269 has a mixture of open skiing and well-spaced aspen.
Little Cottonwood Canyon:
Grizzly Gulch is the beginner’s tour in LCC. The summer road is groomed by Alta to support their Cat Skiing operation, which makes it one of the easiest skins in either of the Cottonwoods. I can’t speak much to the beginner terrain in the area, but have included a link to some information through the Utah Avalanche Center.