Basics and Importance of LNT

Who’s favorite thing about hiking is finding trash on the trails?

It’s such a far cry from the truth, and yet a common issue throughout our trail networks. With the uptick of users in the front and backcountry, there needs to be an uptick in education. In Utah, the proximity to the foothills and the Wasatch front make access easy for virtually everybody in the valley. Oftentimes I see groups of people enjoying our trails who are either unaware or uneducated about the ethics of backcountry and front country use.

So, let’s start here: what is LNT?

LNT stands for Leave No Trace, a non-profit created in 1994 to educate users about their impact on the environment. At the time, their main focus was on backcountry users, to educate them on the best practices they’d discovered through scientific research. Since then, LNT has created a front country program to address the issues facing day-use facilities.

Before I dive into the main principles of Leave No Trace, I want to highlight why it’s important.

Our wilderness areas are precious, beautiful ecosystems. For as long as mankind has inhabited the earth, we’ve enjoyed the simple pleasure of venturing out to a stand of pine trees and feeling utterly at peace. As our population continues to grow, our wild areas continue to shrink as we break ground for apartment complexes, housing developments, and strip malls. Thankfully, private and public organizations, along with federal employees, are continually fighting land access and purchase battles to preserve these places.

With all the time and money that goes into protecting these primitive areas, it’s our duty, as users, to maintain and respect the land. Realistically, the more people who are venturing into alpine environments, the more people we need to proactively make minimal impacts on the environment. That’s where Leave No Trace comes in.

These seven principles aren’t rocket science, or even that hard to follow. The more closely we follow them now, the longer we’ll have to enjoy our mountain environments.

DSC06491

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare

This is as simple as checking the weather, obtaining a map of the area, and letting someone know where you’re going. It follows the line of thinking, “prepare for the worst, and hope for the best.” Most of the time you won’t need your rain jacket, but the time you do, you don’t want to have forgotten it.

2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

I know that pitching a tent in the middle of a field of wildflowers sounds picturesque, but if everyone did that, we’d have no wildflower fields left to enjoy. If you’re going backpacking, chances are someone has been on that trail before you and has set up camp in a similar location you’re looking for. The emphasis is on finding already established campsites instead of creating your own. Think flat, dirt or rock surfaces at least 200ft away from any body of water.

3. Proper Waster Disposal

If your bladder is bursting, ensure you are at least 200ft away from any body of water so as not to contaminate it. If it’s your bowels, dig a 6″-8″ hole, hunker down, and fill it in with dirt when you’re done. If using toilet paper make sure to pack it out instead of burning it. Bring an extra ziplock bag for this purpose!

4. Leave What You Find

This is the hardest principle for me because I love wildflowers. I wish I could come home with a bundle after every hike. But the more I take the fewer there are for others to enjoy. The same goes for rocks, branches, and animal remnants (antlers, bones, etc.).

5. Minimize Campfire Impacts

If possible, use already existing fire rings. If there aren’t any near your campsite, keep your ring small, and try to use dead and down twigs to stoke your fire. Make sure the coals are out before you go to bed, and when leaving the site, it’s recommended you scatter the cooled ashes. The motto with campfires is, “if it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave.”

6. Respect Wildlife

It’s their habitat, we’re the visitors. Bears, Moose, Deer, Mountain Goats, Bobcats, Squirrels, all of them, we are visitors in their territory. Respect their distance. Here’s a funny video that I think is neat and relevant:

7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

A lot of people head to the mountains if they’re seeking solace. Solace, however, can be quite hard to find when someone is blaring their boombox a half-mile down trail, or if someone’s over-friendly border collie won’t stop sniffing your junk while the owner thinks it’s hilarious. Think about disconnecting and not disturbing other users, it’s pretty simple. Take your boombox to the lake, and we’ll all probably be a little happier for it.

 



 

If we think of the wilderness like a co-op, where we’re all part owners and members of this incredible collective, it’s a little easier to enact these principles. You wouldn’t visit someone’s house and trash it, and the same goes for wilderness. Let’s all become more sustainable users.

Any tips and tricks for LNT practices? Leave them in the comments below!

 

The Chasm Between Social Media and Real Life

A few years ago, NPR aired a story about the rise of our discontentment as it relates to the rise of social media. My generation isn’t numb to these effects, in fact, we are arguably the most affected by it.

The rise of social media outlets and our obsession with, and dedication to them, has shown us just how much is possible for our lives. We’re well past the days where word of first ascents came a month later in the American Alpine Journal.

If you’re a woman who wants to be a CEO or a man who wants to be a homemaker, you can find at least one other person who’s done what you’re setting out to do, and find comfort in knowing you aren’t alone.

Literally, anything is possible.

For this, I am so thankful for Facebook, Instagram, Google, and other sites like them. I can figure out who came before me and what they did to get there. I can hop on Instagram, search a hashtag, and find a burst of inspiration to get my butt in the gym.

Along with the good, however, comes the bad.

Like how many times I feel shitty about myself because I don’t feel like I’m doing enough. I have a job and other things I love to do and I’m not out climbing or skiing or running everyday. And the problem with Instagram is it makes it seem like everybody else is.

So many accounts, my own included, display an ongoing stream of outdoor photos, and it’s time to confess: that’s not my whole life.

Don’t get me wrong, I wish it was, and I hope someday it will be. I hope someday I can make enough to set out with my husband and our future dog in tow. But until then, I think it’s important to be honest.

So I decided that going forward I’m going to be real.

For example:

I binge watch The Great British Baking Show.

I scroll through Facebook until my eyeballs hurt.

I rarely read a novel through the first time.

Sometimes I literally groan as I enter the gym.

I get scared when I’m lead climbing.

I get even more scared on multi-pitches.

I love to cook.

Sometimes I take four hour naps on sunny days.

I’m still overcoming my irrational fear of bears.

Some days I feel sad and overwhelmed by my dreams.

I often feel lost.

I consistently question my ability to write or climb or ski.

I spend a lot of time in coffee shops.

I am the definition of a work in progress.

What I’m trying to say is this, before you put yourself up against everyone else on Instagram and Facebook, give yourself some credit for being human, and then some more for all that you’re doing already.

It’s weird and beautiful to be human, and it’s important to recognize that in ourselves and everyone around us.

 

Priorities vs. Excuses

I am no stranger to excuses. In high school I fell into a particular school of thought that encouraged the pursuit of easy things. Mostly this manifested in my schoolwork; I excelled in English because it came naturally, I struggled in Physics because it didn’t. Logically it’s sound. Besides long-term-reward type thinking, why choose the hard thing?

If all you’re working towards is getting through the day with relatively little effort, the easy thing makes the most sense. It keeps your stress levels to a minimum, boosts your confidence levels, and is sustainable. You might not see consistent promotion, those rock hard abs you’ve always dreamed of, or the finish line of an Iron Man, but you will experience happiness in the most contented form. Depending on who you are, you may not find anything wrong with that. For about 24 years of my life, I didn’t either.

It wasn’t until I actually put effort into something that I realized the rewards were worth the sacrifice. The tricky part, though, is finding the thing that’s worth the sacrifice. Oftentimes, before you can commit, doubt sets in, and the urge to make excuses is too strong to stand against. Chores like laundry, grocery shopping, and fixing household gadgets are some easy go-to excuses that trick you into thinking you no longer have enough hours in the day to possibly pursue whatever challenge is nudging you. It’s an excuse I’ve made and an excuse I’ve heard over and over again. But here’s the truth: there’s time if you make time.

Take ultrarunner Sally McRae for example. The 34-year-old member of the Nike Elite Trail Team is also a mother of two and manages to balance a grueling training schedule, motherhood, and her personal coaching business. In an interview with Outside Magazine Sally said, “Stop using parenthood as your excuse not to run or workout…being a good parent doesn’t mean you throw your health out the window; it also doesn’t mean you teach your children that when they, too, become parents, that their goals and dreams are no longer important.” (You can read the full article here). McRae plans out her entire day to the hour the night before to ensure there’s enough time to fit in all she has to accomplish.

Another example is Michaela Kiersch, a 22-year-old professional climber and senior at DePaul University who manages to fit in a full course load, rigorous training schedule, and coaching five days a week at the local climbing gym. Kiersch made the first female ascent of “The Golden Ticket,” a 5.14c in the Red River Gorge. In the short film about the ascent, Kiersch talks about her hectic schedule, “I only have a couple time slots throughout the week and if I don’t climb on Monday’s at 2:30 exactly, then I can’t climb again until Wednesday at 10am. And then the drive to the Red is seven hours, and every weekend we just make this trek, this mindless drive to Kentucky, and we do every weekend without fail.”

I can hear the excuses already, “Yeah, but they’re professional athletes, it’s different.”

But where do you think they started?

I’m not saying we all need to take up some crazy-intense Double Iron Man training plan. I’m also not saying it has to be an athletic endeavor. It could be a creative pursuit. Learning the guitar, writing a book, and baking are also activities I’ve personally put off because I “didn’t have enough time.” Truth is, I’ve always had enough time, just not enough drive.

I say we all start with something small. Everybody has at least ten minutes to spare in any given day. Use that ten minutes for something you’ve always wanted to make time for. Do it for yourself. Someday that ten minutes might turn into thirty might turn into an hour, and before you know it, you’ve found the key to unlocking time by pursuing the things you love.

When You Realize Your Life Will Be Different Than You Imagined

When I was a little girl I often dreamt about the future. I pictured myself as an astronaut, a worldwide traveler, a writer. As I grew up I pictured different scenarios for myself, as a wife, a professor, maybe an editor at some big-time New York magazine. And when I got into college I pictured myself in libraries, researching, studying, spending long hours in front of my computer.

I thought of the future in common terms. As much as I didn’t want to be consumed in the 9-5 fold, I started drifting in that direction, accepting the fact that maybe doing the job I loved would mean structure and repetitive rigidity.

I never imagined myself as an adventurer. I never imagined a strong pull towards the mountains, a draw to push my physical boundaries, the desire to bag peaks and traverse ridgelines. I always played it safe.

What happens when your life begins to turn in a direction you always wanted, but never expected?

Fear has dictated the majority of my choices. I defined limits for myself to prevent dicey situations. I wanted to be “outdoorsy,” and explore more, but it didn’t seem feasible. I continually shut myself down and made excuses when opportunities to climb or tour or run came up.

In this last year all of that changed. I started controlling my fear. I began building confidence and competence in the outdoors. I asked questions, lead my first trad pitch, climbed a 5.12. I took an AIARE 1 course, toured by myself, and began planning trips that I wanted to take. And all of that is exciting and consuming and exhilarating and completely opposite of what I thought my life would be.

I assumed my life would line up pretty similarly to the way I was raised. It’s a classic issue between what we know and what we don’t know. I know that I would be comfortable and happy pursuing a stable career and a traditional life, because I know so many people who have. My parents, my friends, my friend’s parents, and parent’s friends. I assumed my life would play out a similar course.

But when I started getting out into the mountains, and exploring the Wasatch, and discovering I’m physically capable of far more than I’d imagined, I realized my goals were heading in a different direction.

It scares me in the way the unknown always does. In the way that I have no idea what this life will look like because pursuing anything physical long-term was never on the agenda for me. I’m book smart, and a repeat offender of apathy towards physical work.

It feels a lot like closure. All these ideas and expectations I didn’t realize I was holding onto are now showing themselves in the smallest ways. And, as almost all of us know, releasing expectations is a hard, tricky experience.

I’m choosing the path of most resistance, my friends, and I’ll be honest, as exciting as it is to re-imagine your life, it’s also kind-of a pain in the ass.

Cheers to semi-new beginnings and embracing what gives you joy!

Have you ever re-evaluated your life and realized it’s direction was different than you’d assumed it would be? Give me your tips!

*image courtesy of unsplash

 

The Importance of Passion

We know it when we see it. The girl with overactive hand gestures talking about the project she sent. The guy telling us about the backflip he landed at Snowbird’s terrain park. The research scientist detailing the minutia of their current experiment. The father with pictures of his kid atop the podium for the state track championships. And we smile with them, applaud them, cheer alongside them, and then wonder what it is in our own lives that brings us the same kind of joy.

I have known too many people to choose stability over passion. They turn down job offers, forgo van trips, and choose more economical majors in order to pursue the path most taken. Our FOMO is real in a more practical way than we realize. In some ways, we make choices in our twenties under the assumption that opportunities won’t present themselves later in our lives. So we purchase houses, settle with the corporate job, and begin saving and planning for children. There’s this lurking sense that if we don’t do it now, then maybe we never will.

Do we not trust ourselves? Because that’s what it is, right? If we take this van trip, quit our jobs, pursue a vagabond lifestyle, will we have the willpower to return to life as we know it?

The truth is, life won’t be the same. After a serious diversion from life’s inevitable path, perspective changes. You realize you don’t need that much stuff, simplicity is the key to happiness, and, you guessed it, bigger isn’t necessarily better.

Our fear of change and growth keeps us from pursuing big dreams–the dreams we’re most passionate about. I’m no different. My job is stable. It provides a solid paycheck, and I don’t have to work most of the month. Right now, my lifestyle is pretty good. But there are things I’ve always wanted to do that I can’t pursue with this job. And it’s really, really tempting to stay in this career, for, well, my career.

But in my dogged pursuit for passion, I can’t settle for a job that doesn’t stoke my fire. The most inspiring people,to me, are the ones who break away from society–the artists, the non-profit starters, the dirtbag climbers living in vans. I’m inspired by people who pursue freelance careers, who sell all their belongings, who sacrifice their time for years of schooling in order to become whatever it is they so long to become.

Who inspires you? They are the people that offer a glimpse into what you value and the life you long to pursue. We’re inspired by the doers, the dreamers, and the go-getters. The people that said enough, and went on to pursue their passion. As corny as it sounds, we can’t let life go by without following our dreams. So many people get to the end of their lives only to wish they had pursued a career in fashion, or quit their job to travel the world, or started a non-profit in their favorite sector.

Logistically, it might be a nightmare. And in the beginning it might be scary as hell–the unknown always is. But I can guarantee you, it will be worth it.

*this post also appeared in Thought Catalog

Motivational Monday: Make Goals not Resolutions

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0111.JPG

‘Tis the season to reflect on the past year and look forward to the year ahead. Although the fresh start only physically comes by tacking a new calendar to the wall, I still get excited about the prospects of a new year. It is what you make it, right?

I’ve asked a few of my friends about their new years resolutions and most looked at me and laughed. This is the problem with resolutions—they urge us to join gyms, wake up at 5am, or start reading Infinite Jest or Gone With the Wind or Atlas Shrugged. And then slowly, without fail, we find ourselves back to sleeping in, choosing Netflix over the gym, and making it to the third paragraph of page 117 by the end of January.

Only 10% of people who make resolutions keep them, and here’s why: we expect them to fail. I say enough! Let’s go into 2017 with goals we intend to keep.

I recently read Grit by Angela Duckworth. She makes her case about setting an “end goal.” Yeah, she says, you need to have top-level goals, the crème-de-la-crème of all goals—your purpose, your mission, your passion. And then you need to work down from there. What would need to happen right before you achieved your end-all goal? And then what would happen before all those things need to happen? And so on until you retreat to where you currently are (for me that’s sitting in a coffee shop) 😉

I made some top-shelf goals for 2017. I want to send a 5.12d and project a 5.13. I want to finally run a half-marathon. I intend to publish and get paid for it. I want to learn basic navigational skills and complete my AIARE 1, WFR, and SPI. And my list of places to ski and climb is long, varied, and expansive. But before all those goals are smaller ones, like spending three hours a week writing. Researching and nailing down a training plan for climbing (and posting it to my blog). Making reservations for those different courses and hut trips and climbing excursions.

We can’t expect writing our goals down and talking about them to be enough. It’s a good start, but our lives won’t change because of it. Trust me, I continually learn that the hard way. Instead we need to realize what it is we want, and the teeny-tiny-baby-steps it’s going to take to get there.

Cheers to 2017, my friends! I hope it’s the most productive, actualizing year of your life!

 

New Year, New Tribe

The problem, ultimately, isn’t that there aren’t enough options in retail stores, it’s that there aren’t enough women getting out and charging.

As 2016 comes to an end (can you even believe it?), and we all start making our new years resolutions and thinking about the people we are now, versus the people we were a year ago, versus the people we want to become, I want to plant a seed.

I often hear and read about complaints from women in the outdoors that they want more options for gear. We are all frustrated with the lack of options for women’s technical gear, the discrepancy in options between men and women’s climbing shoes, and ultimately the variety of what we can purchase in the store to protect us all outside.

I get it.

The other day, though, I started thinking that we’ve been wanting a band-aid cure. We just want the outdoor companies to meet our needs (which is fair). We want to feel represented and to have them recognize that woman can, and do, charge just as hard as men. I’m not here to belittle that. AT ALL. We woman are powerhouses and we have come so far in the outdoor industry. Kudos to us.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0118.JPG

Beyond that, we’re living in an incredible time where organizations like SheJumps, And She’s Dope Too, Bold Betties, She Shreds Co, Chicks with Picks (and on and on and on) are hosting meet-ups, and planning rendezvous’, and organizing all women’s AIARE courses.

Because of this, I think the answer and the push to getting more technical gear for women is in the works. From a marketing and monetary stand point, for a long time it didn’t make sense to stock the floor with technical gear for women. Think about it, whatever REI puts on the floor is a direct representation of their customers wants/needs. So yeah, there is a growing number of us who want/need a bigger variety of technical gear, but there are also a lot of women who don’t need alpine bibs or expedition mitts.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0076.JPG

Here’s what I’m saying: in 2017 we need to be more vigilant in inviting our friends outside. The problem, ultimately, isn’t that there aren’t enough options in retail stores, it’s that there aren’t enough women getting out and charging. We need more women doing more awesome things in the outdoors. The easiest and best way to do this is to find your tribe of badass woman and hit the trails and crags and slopes, and encourage them (as they’ll encourage you) to challenge themselves–to climb the harder route, to ski the black diamond, to spend five days in the wilderness. Since I moved to Salt Lake City, I’ve met so many woman (most who also just moved here) that want to get outside, but don’t know where to start. It’s so easy and fun and exciting to invite someone along on your adventure. My climbing gym gives me a free pass every month, and it’s usually spent introducing someone to climbing.

img_6430

So go ahead, write it on your list of resolutions in 2017. Let this next year be a year that women continue to encourage other women to get outside, face their demons, and overcome challenges. We’ll all be the better for it.