20 July 2017

Ladies: Get A Pee Funnel

With a pee funnel, you can go just about anywhere... like here. Photo by Freya Fennwood.

Peeing outside is an joy everyone should experience. From the first time you break the seal (and get it all over yourself) to becoming a master in doing number one in nature, emptying your tank in the outdoors is a experience all it's own. I strongly believe we should pee outside, and do it more often. You haven't really lived until you've sprinkled your tinkle in an outdoor 'bathroom' with a view.

As someone who has clicked on this blog and therefore, presumably, is not in possession of the natural ability to pee standing up, I'm here to attest that you need a pee funnel. It's a game changer.

I love my pee funnel for all of the obvious reasons: you can pee anywhere, anytime, and live without fear of your bum and other bits being exposed to the world or getting it all over yourself. Not worrying about when and where I'm going to 'drain the dragon' means I drink more water and end up feeling better at the end of the day. I also avoid bug bites in those hard-to-reach places and never have to subject any part of my body to gross trailhead toilets.

Because my pee funnel has brought me so much joy over the last three years, I feel compelled to help you embrace your female right to equality by peeing standing up!

How it works

Pee funnels are easy to use once you get the hang of it. Officially known as a "urinary director", the device is simply a little funnel that slips over your bits to direct your waste away from your body.

You can use it without dropping trow; simply unzip, slip the funnel between your legs, relax, and enjoy. The liquid is propelled forward, away from you and your immediate surrounding (aka: you won't pee all over your pants in a strange squatting position), and when you're done, slowly pull the funnel out while "scraping" it against to your body to "wipe", leaving you relatively clean and dry. In my experience, no toilet paper is necessary.

What to get

A quick Google search for "female pee funnel" will give you a lot of results, most of them disposable. I don't recommend disposable funnels for a number of reasons (mainly environmental), and from what I've heard you have two good options: the freshette and the go-girl.

I have a freshette and have not been disappointed. It's made of hard plastic and comes with a separate funnel, unlike the go-girl which is one piece and seems to be made of a softer, rubbery material. According to the very outdated looking freshette website it even comes with a reusable pouch, but to be honest I just toss this in a side-pocket of my pack and wash it after every trip. Urine is sterile after all.

Whichever brand you choose, the most important part is mastering the art of the stand-and-tinkle. 

Peeing is natural. Peeing standing up for the first time is not. Here area few helpful tips to get you started:

  • As a girl, the sensation of peeing standing up is a new one. I highly recommend testing the yellow waters with your new funnel in the shower a 2-3 times to get used to it.
  • Your first time outside, be sure you have a good seal to avoid leakage.
  • Know you may get stage fright. That's okay. Give yourself a few minutes, but if it's not working put your funnel away and hold it until you're somewhere more private and can try again.
  • If you pee too fast you can overwhelm the funnel. This is rare, but be aware to control the flow to avoid overflow.
  • Remember to lean forward and drop the hips to put the funnel in the correct position. Don't try to be a hero and pee up a hill or into a wind. Even boys know better than that.
  • Because the "hose" portion of the funnel is wide (it doesn't pinch to a tight point like true male anatomy), it's hard to aim your stream in any particular direction. This means you won't be able to write your name in the snow like the boys without considerable effort. I know, I'm bummed too.
  • This last tip may feel like an overshare, but you are reading a blog about pee funnels so you should expect this: remember to hold out for the "last dribbles" to come out. Sometimes this takes a few seconds but it's well worth the wait. These little drops will come out whether you want them to or not, so better to wait and let them come out the funnel than rush and have it leak all over your undies.
When you're done, be sure to shake out your funnel (or I like to wipe it quickly with snow) and then place it back in it's "special sack" or put it back in your bag. And remember, always follow good principles of Leave No Trace when using the great outdoors as your restroom. The world is now your urinal, and with great power comes great responsibility.

Happy peeing!

13 July 2017

Registers & Canisters: A Grand Northwest Tradition

Photo by Brad Geyer

I heard the buzzing first. As we were placing our signatures back inside the summit canister, an unfamiliar noise tickled my eardrums. The hair on the back of my neck stood up, and I could see the hair on my partners’ heads rising to the sky as if to kiss an invisible balloon. I spun frantically searching for the source when it dawned on me: it was us. We were buzzing. Our ice axes and skis and the metal zipper pulls were vibrating in unison. I didn’t know what was happening, but I knew it was time to move, and fast.

We should have noticed the signs of the coming storm, but the trip to tag Little Devil Peak in the North Cascades in April 2012 had been, so far, a pleasant affair. We’d camped under clear skies and awoke to high clouds. As we neared the summit in mid-afternoon, we were suddenly engulfed in your classic Pacific Northwest weather - gusting wind, driving rain, and disorienting fog - all hiding the ominous clouds from view.

The buzzing, I would later learn, is caused by ambient static energy from an electrical storm. Crackling, hissing, humming, or buzzing noises are indicators of a possible lightning strike. In the best-case scenario, like ours, you get to lower ground as quickly as possible. In less friendly situations, you want to drop your metal gear and get as far away from it and as low to the ground as possible. Our situation was scary, and we were lucky.

I had never experienced this phenomenon before, but the trip was full of firsts for me. First time snow camping, first time planning a multi-day trip, and first time writing my name in a summit register.

And thus begins my article on summit registers and canisters, which I was super excited to write for The Mountaineers  summmer edition of Mountaineer magazine. Like all of the stories I've written, I really enjoyed researching and writing this story and learning more about history of adventuring in the PNW in the process. Read this original version of the story (fantastically designed by the talented Suzanne Gerber) in our digital version of the magazine here (on pages 34-37,and I'm also responsible for the Member Highlight and Mountain Love section), or check out the spread and text below:

Cairns and Canisters and Registers, Oh My!
Explorers have been leaving signs of their presence on our peaks since the dawn of adventuring. Methods for marking a summit conquest have evolved through the years. Early explorers built cairns or left flags marking their achievement. Today’s summiteers take photos to share on Instagram and check-in through geocaching websites.

The history of summit markers in our area is as storied as it is long. In researching this article, I learned a lot about summit registers and canisters and how they evolved over time. First, a point of clarification: the term “summit register” usually refers to the “document” containing records of who has reached the summit. This is the thing that you sign, ranging from loose pieces of scrap paper to formal printed and bound ledgers. The “summit container” is the item holding these documents.

When you reach a summit today, you’ll find a variety of summit markers. Many impromptu canisters still remain on our peaks. Less effective canisters include a whiskey bottle (the paper has expanded and won’t come out), spice jars (won’t fit a pencil), soup cans (don’t seal), metal cigar containers and band-aid boxes (prone to rust), and film vials (popular in the 90s; always wet).

The best canisters, as trial and error has proven, are tubes — specifically tubes which minimize moisture while offering drainage and ventilation while being big enough to access the register without destroying its contents. And these are what you will most commonly find on peaks - both in historical brass, and in modern plastic.

The History of Summit Canisters
It won’t surprise you to learn that some of the earliest efforts to create summit markers were by Mountaineers members. From our 1915 annual:

A committee of which Mr. Redick H. McKee was chairman was appointed to investigate and make recommendations with reference to some kind of weather-proof record box to be placed on the tops of mountains. The result of the committee’s efforts was the purchase of eighteen cast bronze cylinders, each 1.75 inches in diameter and 7 inches long (inside measurement), with a hinged flap top fastened down by a heavy brass wire ball, and having attached to it six feet of brass chain for anchoring to the rocks. Each cylinder has a number stamped on it, and in raised letters along one side is the word “Mountaineers”. Inside of each is a book on which those who climb the mountain may record their names and addresses and the date.

The committee commissioned 18 brass tubes in 1915, then a second run of 18 more in 1919. These tubes were numbered 1-36 and placed on the most popular peaks in Washington, including the ‘six majors’. One tube, #8, was placed on The Tooth and later appeared in a film called “Ascent of the Tooth”, featuring Jim Crooks and Fred Beckey. Both men, with Fred in the red hat, can be seen signing the register, and rappelling from the summit using the hair-raising dulfersitz method.

Walt Gunnason showing the dulfersitz rappel method in a photo taken on Pinnacle Peak, near Mt Rainier, circa 1950. Courtesy of The Mountaineers.
In the 1930s, Mountaineer and REI co-founder Lloyd Anderson fabricated more than 100 additional tubes. Unlike the originals cast in brass, Lloyd’s “second issue” were fabricated from off-the-shelf plumbing materials (like heavy gauge pipe and fittings), with “Mountaineers” and the canister number hand-stamped into the pipe. These tubes were then distributed by hearty Mountaineers. It’s interesting to note that Lloyd also fabricated “lightweight private issue” tubes - their eventual destination unknown.

The history of summit markers was left undocumented by the club until Mountaineer Don Goodman took up the cause in the 1980s. In December 1982, Doug pitched a “Proposal for the Establishment and Maintenance of Summit Registers in Washington State” to the Board, who approved $1950 to fabricate 200 tubes and print 300 register books. He’d been working on this project with a committee formed to work on the project for two years already. “There was a great debate on the material to use, the various properties of metals and plastics, preliminary designs, etc.,” said Don, recounting the ordeal.

“Casting in metal had one huge hurdle: we didn’t have a clue as to where the casting mold(s) were.”

Then, “one fateful meeting in a room at the 719 Pike Street clubhouse (now buried by the WA Convention Center), I was literally staring at the ceiling when I noticed a wood box on the top of a storage locker. Standing on a chair I got that box down and - low and behold! - it was the mold!”

The committee went to work. “The bronze castings were poured at a foundry on Harbor Island. My father, Jim Goodman, volunteered to do the machining of the tube and cap threads and the other finish work, which he accomplished with the generous support of Mountaineer John Glaser who owned a machine shop. By the summer of 1983, 200 tubes, each with a register, were ready for placement. Each tube was numbered by hand stamp and assigned to a specific climbing summit. The registers were printed on waterproof paper, an improvement over the vellum version from prior years.”

Interestingly, only about 20% of the tubes assigned to various peaks made it to their intended destination. A handful of those successful tubes were delivered by esteemed Mountaineer Fay Pullen.

Little Devil register with Fay Pullen's signature. Photo by Kevin Koski.

Everything’s Coming Up Fay
I didn’t know it at the time, but when I added my name to the register on Little Devil Peak, I was weaving my history to that of PNW legend Fay Pullen. The first woman and fourth person to complete the 100 tallest peaks in Washington by the 400-foot prominence rule, Fay has stood atop the summit of Washington’s most obscure peaks. She was also the 25th person to complete the Bulger 100 List and can remember signing a handful of original registers from the early 1900s.

“When I first started climbing almost all of the peaks in the Top 100 had a register on them,” said Fay. “As I set about climbing more and more obscure peaks and I’d be dismayed when I wouldn’t find a register on them. At that time you could get a brass canister and a register from The Mountaineers if you wanted to place it. But those brass canisters are heavy, and I was doing multiple peaks at a time - it was too much weight to carry.”

Fay is passionate about the history contained in the registers, and, wanting to preserve this rich legacy, she started creating and placing her own. A plain piece of PVC pipe, a cap glued to one end, and a friction cap on the other end, they’re easy to make, lightweight to carry, and serve as homing beacons from the past. “It’s fun to see who’s been up there and get a sense for how often a peak has been climbed. Plus, you know you’re really on the summit when you find a register!”

She has no idea - exactly - how many registers she’s placed, but she’s guessing it’s well over 200. “I think registers are a valuable part of the mountains,” says Fay, who has been climbing since the 1960s and published trip reports in magazines long before the internet existed. “They’re an important part of our shared history and we should all take part in caring for and preserving this history.”

In the early 90s, a few rogue rangers chose to remove and destroy registers. Fay’s not sure why it happened and she’s glad it’s more or less stopped. The result of these actions, and of animals and the elements taking their toll, is that we don’t exactly know how many Mountaineers or Fay registers remain, but they’re out there. “I remember finding an old register on a no-prominence peak in the Cascades. It had been placed by one of the early land surveyors in the 1920s and was full of fascinating, detailed history of the area. Who knew this obscure bump had such an interesting story?”

Each time we venture into the outdoors, we share new and different experiences. If we’re lucky, we learn something new about ourselves, our landscapes, and those who came before us. I’m grateful to Fay and all the mountaineers for preserving this rich history of exploration. Thanks to them, you can add your own name into the fabric of our shared history. All you have to do is explore the freedom of the hills on an obscure peak in our PNW and revel in the stories and names of those who came before.

Kevin Koski (hand), Ben Cote, Ryan Thurston, and Kristina at the top of Little Devil. Photo by Kevin Koski.

 Special thanks to Don Goodman and Fay Pullen for contributing to this piece, and to Mountaineers history buffs Lowell Skoog, Milda Tautvydas, Mike Torok, and Monty VanderBilt with their help researching this article. For more information on Fay, check out our December 2012 Mountaineer magazine online in our archives at mountaineers.org. We’ve also shared the “Ascent of the Tooth” video, where you can see Fred Beckey’s spicy 1940s rappel, on our blog.

If you find a full register on your climbs, you can turn it in to The Mountaineers Seattle Program Center and our history committee will make sure it is archived at the UW Special Collections library.

06 July 2017

I Wrote A Thing For A Beer Can In A Store Near You

A few months ago my boss called me into his office and said, "I want The Mountaineers to do a beer. Would you like to be involved in the project?" The answer to a question like that is always yes.

He went on a few first dates with local breweries to meet the perfect match. Finding a partner who shares your intrinsic values AND who has the time, resources, and interest to do a partnership beer is hard.

Then he met the one: Ghostfish Brewing.

Located in south Seattle, Ghostfish is the first and only dedicated gluten-free craft brewery in Washington state. We loved their vibe, ethos, and genuine enthusiasm for The Mountaineers. Plus their beers taste damn good. It was a no-brainer.

The process to create a beer was more complicated and interesting than I anticipated, starting with the name. We had 60+ possible name choices when we started, from iconic outdoor landmarks to technical climbing and paddling terms. One by one we crossed them off the list for being too obscure or for sounding weird when you say them out loud or, most commonly, for already being taken, either as a brewery name (well played Crux Fermentation Project in Bend) or by an existing beer (who knew QBrew already made QuickDraw Pale Ale?).

In the end, we had 6 names we liked and it was time to discuss imagery. How could we convey the name in a dynamic, captivating way on a 4.5"x8" beer sleeve? It needed to be catchy and fun and represent both The Mountaineers and Ghostfish. Something that "transcended limits". We quickly zeroed in on one: Kick Step.

The rest was straight-forward. Ghostfish started brewing the IPA using their signature low-impact grains and their incredibly talented designer went to work designing a can based on our brand colors and the photos we provided. Turns out, all my time spent outside WAS worthwhile, and I like to think you can see a little bit of Theresa in the climber on the beer!

With a few tweaks we had a final design we loved. It was time to write the "romance copy". For the uninitiated, "romance copy" refers to the flowery, love filled-language brands write to give you all the feels. The first draft was my job, then I sent it to Ghostfish's head brewer for review. He made it pop, adding phrases like "liquid representation of our shared values". I made a few more tweaks and it was ready to print.

That's how words I wrote ended up on a beer can coming now to a store near you

Ghostfish Brewing and The Mountaineers were both founded on the idea of transcending limits. We thrive on a spirit of wonder, a sense of adventure, and a commitment to the wild places of the Pacific Northwest. We’re powered by passion – strong, vibrant communities support our missions. Whether it’s delivering distinctive craft beer made from high-quality, low-impact grains, or offering unique, life-changing experiences in the outdoors, we believe life is meant to be lived and lived well – no matter who you are. We're excited to bring you Kick Step IPA: a liquid representation of our shared values, with proceeds benefiting The Mountaineers. Explore – Learn – Conserve.

We're having a big launch party on July 12 and I would be so happy to see all of your lovely faces there! You can register for free here. And you can learn more about the partnership on The Mountaineers blog.

29 June 2017

Why ski in a tutu?

In 1987, a woman named Kathy Phibbs took four girlfriends to the top of Mt. St. Helens wearing a red chiffon dress. The mountain had been closed to climbing for 7 years after the 1980 eruption, and she felt the occasion called for special attire. At the top, she happened to run into a Seattle Times reporter, who snapped a picture of Kathy in the red dress along with the four ladies, who were dressed as can-can dancers. A week later it ran on the front page.

A tradition was born.

Now, every year on Mother's Day, hundreds of climbers and skiers visit St. Helens's summit wearing all sorts of festive regalia, mainly dresses and tutus. It was on Mother's Day 2012 when I first experienced this grandeur. My friend Johnny gets credit for officially launching #TeamTutu, as does my birthday-buddy Ben who took me to St. Helens that very first year. But it wasn't until after a 2013 trip to St. Helens, and a successful climb of Rainier that my personal tradition of the pink tutu was born.

The real reason I wear a tutu in the backcountry is because it invites conversation. It's the ultimate outdoor icebreaker. You cannot hike around in a tutu without getting noticed, and I would estimate I have 78% more conversations on the trail with a tutu than without. Just last month I hiked Angel's Landing in Zion with my grandfather. We were celebrating his 80th birthday. He wore a purple tutu that he picked out himself to mark the occasion. Everyone, and I mean ev-ery-one talked to us to see what was going on. When we got to the top they sang him happy birthday. The experience gave me chills. Lots of memories were made that day.

Aside from being fun, silly, and a conversation starter, the tutu has practical uses too. It doesn't exactly fulfill all of the 10 Essentials, but it comes pretty darn close.

Here are 10 practical uses for your tutu:

  1. Pillow. Who needs a pillow when you have layers and layers of tulle for comfortable head resting?
  2. Seat. Sap on the log? Moss on the rock? Slap this puppy down to keep your bottom clean and dry.
  3. Butt warmer. More layers = more warmth. 
  4. Towel. Spill something? Tutu's got you covered. Mop it up then lay the tutu in the sun to dry in minutes.
  5. Gauze. The tutu might not be the cleanest (see #1), but in a pinch can absolutely be used to dress or pad your wounds. 
  6. Sun protection. It happens: it's hot out, you're wearing shorts, and you manage to sunburn your bum from the reflection off the snow. That malady is much less likely if your bottom is covered in a tutu!
  7. Wind sock. Don't know where the wind is coming from? No problem. Whip that thing off and hold it high in the sky and watch it blow to your heart's delight.
  8. Fire starter. Not recommended for children under 12.
  9. Trail marker. Lost in the woods? Rip off a few pieces, tie them to a tree, and safely find your way back home.
  10. Locater beacon. I am not the type of person who should be left unsupervised. With the tutu - I'm not! Any one of my people, at any time, can ask, "have you seen the girl in the pink tutu?" Chances are there's been a recent spotting, and I'll soon be located.
There you have it! 10 more reason to wear a tutu. Now you just have to pick your color and get outside!  

22 June 2017

What Happens When You Don't Drink Coffee

I'm a 33 year old woman, have lived in Seattle for the last 15 years, and I don't drink coffee.

Go ahead and let that sink in. I know you need a minute.

Coffee, to me, is this mysterious elixir that has enchanted everyone else, yet I possess a strange immunity to its gravitational pull. My mom needs coffee to function in the morning and my dad carries the same cup of coffee around with him all day and nukes it for 30 seconds every hour or so. I certainly didn't come by this preference honestly.

The truth is I've never liked coffee. I don't think it smells good, I certainly don't think it tastes good, and I never enjoyed the hassle of having to deal with it as the very first thing you do every. single. day. I like that I wake up in the morning annoyingly perky without it.

I'm also cheap - my other more selfish reason for not joining the coffee cult. When I was in college I didn't like beer (did anyone?). Given to social pressures, I felt it was important to at least try to like beer. My tastebuds were persuaded over $3 pitchers of High-Life my junior year, and BOOM! I was a beer drinker. Now I love beer. I think it's tasty and delicious and the elixir of life, and I imagine the way I feel about drinking one at the end of a long day is similar to how you feel about your morning cup of jo.

The downside of liking beer, of course, is that I have to pay for it. Beer is expensive and so are my hobbies, so I continue to choose not to teach myself how to like coffee even though I can clearly see how much joy it brings so many people.

When you tell people you don't like coffee, one of three things happen: 

  1. You receive a look of horror that morphs into a look of repulsion before an insult is hurled at you related to the state of your mental health. 
  2. You are asked a series of questions: Why? How is that even possible? But how do you wake up in the morning? Does your life even have any joy?
  3. You are offered a cup of tea instead.
I don't like tea.

Beer and water. Wine. Occasionally a gin and tonic with lime. I'm a pretty simple girl. Unless I win the lottery, then I'll have an Oprah moment and it'll be COFFEE FOR EEEEV-RRRRYYY-OOOONE!

What's your shocking secret?