29 September 2016

One Year - With Gratitude

One year ago, I made a commitment to myself to write one new blog per week. I didn't really tell anyone, and I doubt any of you noticed, but I'm happy to be celebrating my 1-year, 52-post blog-iversary today. This also happens to be my 300th post. I'm pleased by this unplanned happenstance.

I started writing this blog in 2008 after an inspirational trip in Patagonia. I wrote it for no one in particular - more as a public diary of stories and photos. Through the process I discovered my passion for story-telling. I've always been prone to verbal outbursts of ridiculous exaggeration, why not write it down too?

Like most people who start a blog, I've gone through periods of writing fanatically followed by months of silence. I mostly wrote about travel, then branched out into climbing and skiing. Inspired in 2005 by one of my favorite writers, Brendan Leonard, I slowly started branching out with blog topics with more relatable messages. I wrote about being someone who uses 100% of my vacation time, talked about why everyone needs an action figure mascot, and shared the importance of the pivotal choices we make in life. Each one of these posts helped me find my voice in this cluttered landscape of churning content.

On average, each of my blogs will get a few hundred page views, most of which come right after I write and share on social media. As you'd expect, the posts quickly fade from view, and only a few get occasional 'hits' from a Google search. I'm thrilled when a blog gets more than 500 page views, and have been floored lately by a few folks who wanted to share my words on their own sites. Really, nothing makes me happier than knowing something came out of my brain and landed on a page in such a way as to resonate with someone else. When something that's so very personal to me means something to someone else.... well you can't find better fulfillment than that.

Your views and likes and comments and shares mean the world to me. Really. Thank you. I am so grateful.

To celebrate this milestone, I pulled together the 10-most viewed blogs of the last year. I also pulled out three honorable mentions: blogs that weren't posted this year, but still get a high number of views. In looking at this data, I discovered people tend to gravitate toward the stories that were often the most difficult for me to write - the ones that are intensely personal. I guess that makes you all sick, dirty voyeurs. Thank you for being you.

Top 10 Most Read Posts This Year

#10: How To Be A Beginner
Learning as an adult is hard. We have inertia behind us, and any deviation from the path is difficult. Personally, I've stopped and started piano lessons more times than I can count. I've had my heart broken when I didn't know how to let go and all but given up on learning how to cook a half-decent meal. Spanish still eludes me.

#9: Outdoor Toilet Fails
I don't think I need to summarize what this is about.

#8: How To Paint a Mountain Mural
I painted a mural in my bedroom. It turned out pretty good I think. At least one other person was inspired to paint their own as the result of this blog. I call that a win.

#7: How To Be  A Good Adventure Buddy
Whether you are new to the outdoors or a grizzled mountain-man, follow these guidelines to be a good adventure buddy for your partner(s):

#6: How To Get Into Outdoor Sports (Or Pretty Much Anything)
"Maybe you want to buy a house, write a book, or become a professional road cyclist. Put $20 in the bank instead of buying coffee. Join a book club. Attend a cycling Meetup. Even if you don't know the totality of your end goal, you can still take one small step in the right direction. A little momentum can go a long way."

#5: A Technical Review: Unicorn Onesie
I don't like to play favorites, but I had a really fun time writing this irreverent blog about how wearing a Unicorn Onesie will make you more badass in the backcountry. Related: Reasons to Buy An Adult Onesie

#4: The Unglamorous Reality of an Adventurous Life
My blog is called "The Adventurous Life" because I liked how that sounded years ago and kept it around. A dark, ugly side exists to this life style though. This is the story of how I ended up strapping a 15-20lb bag of literal shit to my backpack and carrying it up the hill.

#3: How To Layer In the Backcountry
"Mastering your personal layering comfort is one of the most difficult aspects of backcountry travel. Too many clothes and you're soaking yourself from the inside out. Too few and you're freezing your little tootsie off. No bueno either way."
#2: How To Get Started Backcountry Skiing
A lot of people ask me how to get started, so I took a stab at writing 10-Step list. I felt like I was too harsh in the blog, but my friends thought I could have been stronger to discourage people getting in over their head. Read it an decide for yourself.

#1: Set Up Your Emergency Contact Information
Two of my friends have died in the mountains. The worst possible thing to happen is not being able to get in touch with their parents because of a locked cell phone. Solutions exist. Please just set up your damn phone already.

Top 3 Honorable Mentions

#3: Why I Embrace Being Ridiculous
I love wearing tutus. They make me happy, and inspire others to start a conversation and have more fun themselves. Learn how it all started.

#2: How To Be Happier
"Recently my friend Jason made another trip around the sun. He wasn't overly excited about this particular milestone, and instead of celebrating he chose to quietly remove his birthday from Facebook, and had planned to spend his "special day" ignoring the fact that he was now one year older. I had other plans."

#1: Dear Climbing: I Quit
People were shocked when I announced that I was quitting climbing. I believe humans are capable of having more than one passion in their lives. It doesn't make me happy anymore and I'm done trying to force myself to love it again.

22 September 2016

How To Be A Beginner

Trying something new.

I'm not very good at being a beginner. Most of my hard lessons in life came at a young age. When I was 2, I walked into my father's spade as he was shoveling dirt and ended up with a hole next to my eye. At 5, I tripped running down the street wearing jelly shoes and skinned the entire left side of my face. By 7, I fell from the monkey bars and broke my arm (and yes, scraped my face... again). These young-life lessons were simple enough: don't grab metal when it's frozen, wear appropriate footwear for running, don't walk behind Popi when he's not paying attention (I'm still working on the face thing).

Learning as an adult is much harder. We have more inertia behind us, and any deviation from the path is that much more difficult to achieve. Personally, I've stopped and started piano lessons more times than I can count. I've had my heart broken when I didn't know how to let go and all but given up on learning how to cook a half-decent meal. Spanish still eludes me.

But I'm trying.

When SheJumps hosted a mountain biking event last year, I didn't go. I thought that I wanted to go, but invented reasons to bail at the last minute. I almost bailed this year too, but was guilted into attending thanks to my friend McKenzie.

Stevens Shredders

I've never been so nervous for a day at Stevens Pass. I've spent countless days there ripping groomers and shredding pow, but the idea of slaying dirt was completely foreign to me. I didn't know where to go or what to do. Body armor, full face helmet, riding gloves? Okay, sure, yeah, I'll take them all! Sign my life away on your waiver? Saddle up on a bike I can barely clear with my short legs? I guess this is what I signed up for!

The first run was absolutely terrifying. I hated every minute of it. We were going too fast, the turns were too sharp, and the damn dirt was far too slippery under my tires. I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes. I'm not good at riding a bike in general - what on earth made me think I should do it downhill at high speed? The body armor clamped to my arms and legs suddenly felt laughable.

But then something happened. The trail mellowed just a little. The knot in my chest loosened and the near-tears dried up. I smiled just a little.

We got back on the chairlift.

At the top of the second run we saw a kid in tears. "I feel you kiddo." Still, our group inched toward the top of the singletrack. The beginning was still terrifying. I was still going too fast and still thought the turns were too sharp, but the dirt felt a little less slippery and my legs were a little more confident. We didn't have to stop as often. My hands weren't cramping from grabbing on too tight. I smiled, big this time.

By the end of that second run I was hooked. I did two more laps, then a fifth on an intermediate run! I had graduated to a blue square in a matter of hours!

A week later my friend McKenzie found me a sweet deal on a used bike. "Friends don't let friends not own a mountain bike," she said, an argument I obviously found convincing enough to make the drive to Portland to buy it. My first ride on T-Rex (it's a Trek, so the name should be self-explanatory) was on the Oregon Coast, where I felt unsteady even on flat ground. Then I week later I took her to Winthrop for a friend's birthday. My first time uphill/downhill riding covered 12 miles and dipped into black diamond terrain. I hear it was an easy black diamond, but I don't care.

Winthrop crew. Happy Birthday Becca!

My last blog was about the importance of taking a single step, and how that can alter the course of your life. Not wanting to be a hypocrite, T-Rex and I took a solo trip to Duthie, a mountain bike park about 40 minutes from my house. Like a total noob, I strapped on my helmet and rode cautiously toward the park map. When I decided I had procrastinated enough, I just picked a damn trail already and rode for 7 miles through the lush, green forest.

I ended the day on two blue squares. They were the best. I can't wait to go back.

I like being in control and knowing what will happen next. I love sharing my passions with others and teaching people how to love the things I love. Maybe someday I'll learn how to be a good student too, but for now I'm settled on learning how to be a beginner.

T-Rex the Noob.

15 September 2016

Turns All Year: Month 58

With only one day to ski in all of August, I called in two guys who I knew would be stoked to get out: Amar and Blake. Accessing snow from Paradise on Mt. Rainier is the lowest-commitment this time of year (August 20). It also has the most favorable skiing:suffer ratio. So we slogged up the standard climbing route to Muir with everyone else. We cut away at 8700' to the top of the Paradise glacier and skied down on surprisingly decent snow.

As expected, the sun cups were prevalent but not nearly as bad as on the Muir Snowfield. The snow was dirty up top but perfect corn for about 1,000ft in the middle. A few sections of #LinkingPatches and before we knew it we were reunited with the trail after skiing nearly 2500' of vert! Not bad August. Not bad at all.

Amar likes to stop on the way with his fancy camera. This was taken with my 3-year old iPhone. I'm sure his pic is much more stunning.

Amar rocking the sun hat.
Blake only wears his fancy hat when he is STOKED. Don't let that frown fool you.

Amar showing us how it's done.

I am just so happy to be outside!

Bonus: National Geographic Moment skiing past two lounging mountain goats. We had to ski right next to them (it was the only way we could go, or we would have given more space) and in doing so we startled them. They took off running down the snow to a protective rock ridge. Seeing them bound through the snow was pretty incredible - sorry I don't have it on film!

08 September 2016

How To Get Into Outdoor Sports (or Pretty Much Anything)

I used to watch a lot of television. As a kid, I knew the time based on what was on the boob tube. I'd stay up late on Friday nights watching Letterman and Conan, then be "too tired" to go skiing with my dad on Saturday. Outside of gym class, skiing was the only real outdoor activity I did growing up.

Fresh out of college, I was addicted to Tivo. I'd record all of the terrible shows like The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and my roommate and I hosted parties to watch The Bachelor. I let my "To Watch List" loom over me like an endless, unanswered to do list. It controlled my weeknights and determined how I'd spend my weekends.

Then, one day when I was 22, I was chatting with my coworker Ariana when she casually mentioned that she didn't have television. My reaction to the news was visceral. "YOU DON'T HAVE TELEVISION?", I replied to her in my all-caps voice. "But what do you DO?"

Turns out she liked to read a lot. And she listened to the radio. She enjoyed walks through her neighborhood and getting together with friends. Ariana didn't have time to watch television.

All you need is a glimpse that something else is out there.

The concept of not owning a television really did blow my mind. But it also planted a seed - maybe one of the first if I'm being honest - that I could have a different life, one not controlled by the blip of a Tivo. Ariana's seemingly impossible feat cracked my mostly-sedentary exterior to let in just enough light to shine on areas of my brain I'd previously refused to consider.

The desire to try of rock climbing had been percolating in the back of my mind since college, and with new-found motivation I actively sought out someone to do that with. One of the newer ways to to meet people was online. In the age of pre-Match.com internet dating, I managed to meet a decent human on the Craigslist Personals who was interested in the same things as me - only to a much more extreme degree. He liked to climb, hike, and bike, and he did this crazy thing called "backcountry skiing" where he hiked up the hill to ski down. "Sounds like a lot of work," I said.

He took me rock climbing for the first time. I liked it, but not enough to invest in gear until I met another climbing gal the following year. Kristi and I started climbing together regularly, and before I knew it I was the proud owner of a harness, climbing shoes, a rope, and a rack of quick-draws. 

Then I had to buy a backpack to put it all in. 

Kristi in purple and me in blue, in one of my first ever rainbow pics.

The relationship didn't last but my love for getting outside did. Weekend trips were becoming commonplace, so obviously I needed my own tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad. Because of all the climbing, I also spent a significant time hiking to and from the crag. Trekking poles and hiking boots were acquired. My gear closet was getting full.

My community was growing too. Every time I'd go out climbing I'd meet someone new. I'd spend weekends camping and cragging with new buddies. With each trip would come plans for another - an invitation to meet even more new people.

Wanting to get into better shape for climbing, I took up running and met an entirely different community through my run group. Most were runners second (or third or fourth) and had a first love like skiing or sailing or scrambling. They opened my mind even more. The run group can be credited with officially introducing me to backcountry skiing (this time it stuck).

And that's pretty much how it's continued until now. One step led to another, until it snowballed into me buying a mountain bike and kayak all in the same week. 

My first time riding downhill. Of course I wore a blue unicorn onesie.

I'm making this all sound very expensive...like if you buy the gear you will become the person you dream of being. But the real message is: you can build a new life for yourself - outdoors or otherwise - if you just take the first step. For me, Ariana planted a seed and I took action to change. I got very lucky and met some amazing people who helped me on my path, but without that first step I never would have found my outdoor community. 

Here's the advice part of this 'How To': if you want to do something in your life, think about the very smallest possible step you can make toward that goal, and take it. 

Maybe you want to buy a house, write a book, or become a professional road cyclist. Put $20 in the bank instead of buying coffee. Join a book club. Attend a cycling Meetup. Even if you don't know the totality of your end goal, you can still take one small step in the right direction. A little momentum can go a long way.

Richard running around Rainier after summiting.

This summer my friend Gavin (and his friend Ras) made history with the first completion of the Mt. Rainier Infinity Loop, a climbing objective that takes you from Paradise, up over the top of Mt. Rainier, down the Emmons Route, half-way around the mountain clockwise back to Paradise, then back up and over, only to run back around counter-clockwise. Gavin and Ras accomplished this incredible feat in 99 hours and 7 minutes, completing 2-Rainier summits and covering 120 miles over 40,000' of vertical gain.

The same weekend, my friend Richard set out to climb AND circumnavigate four volcanoes: Rainier, Adams, St. Helens, and Hood - all in one trip. The entire project took him only six and a half days (156 hours), with 108 of those hours being actual moving time. He covered 247 miles and 74,000 feet of elevation gain. He called the project "Dick's RASH" (because he is awesome). 

Today, people like Gavin and Richard are my new "normal". Most of my friends have ran marathons or climbed Mt. Rainier or gone on some grand adventure where they pushed their personal limits. To many, my own lifestyle is mind-blowing. But just 10 years ago my mind was blown by a TV-free house. Think how much you can change your life with one small step.

01 September 2016

Turns All Year: Month 57

Any day spent on the snow is a lucky one. Whether it's bluebird corn or dumping powder, I am the happiest in zee mountains. I know I'm fortunate to make skiing at least one day a month a priority - adventuring is not a luxury we can all enjoy and I don't take it for granted.

To make the most of July, I spent five days playing on the snow. Some of the crew from Lisa's Birthday trip made a pilgrimage back to the Russell Glacier for a two day retreat. Then, I joined 20 rad women (and one awesome dude) for 3-days on Mt. Rainier in support of the SheJumps fundraising climb (more on SheJumps here). The SheJumps trip was especially rewarding knowing I had a small part in helping get 6/8 climbers (and 3/4 guides who also volunteered their time) to the summit while raising nearly $25,000 for SheJumps!

Russell Glacier - July 2-3

Another trip with skis on our backs.

Trail markers since we always come late :-)

Jordan makes it look easy (for a change).

When your friends say 'Party Ski' you say 'YES!'

My favorite picture from the whole trip.

I love this side of the mountain.

Normally I only post skiing success photos, but sometimes you fail.

When your tent is wet and it wants to blow away, just wear it as a cape.

#LinkingPatches with T-rish.

Mt. Rainier - July 22-24
*most photos by Freya Fenwood :)

The climbers and some of the support crew before heading out.

Climbing up through the mist. Not pictured: our misery.

Camp, once we finally made it above the clouds.

Amazing alpenglow captured by Freya.

More sunsets by Freya.

Looking into the Cowlitz Glacier.

When Lynsey Dyer is leading the way, you just go for it.

Circle up!

Support team!

Freya knows how to capture my happy face in my happy place.

The view never gets old. Snow camping is the best.


Time for 11 neon ladies to hike out with skis. We made quite the scene, as did the other climbers coming down.