15 October 2017

5 Camping Hacks For Your Next Trip

My parents had a VW Bus when I was a kid, and some of my earliest memories involve camping in that van. My dad would pack everything up, my mom would load me and my twin sisters into the back, and we'd drive down a dirt road for what felt like forever until we'd land somewhere in the forest for the weekend. The top popped up and I slept above the driver's seat while my parents and sisters all slept in the bed in the back. We'd roast marshmallows and swim in mountain lakes and play until we fell over from exhaustion. It was magical.

My camping program looks a little different now, but I still love spending the night outside. I've had the benefit of "camping mentors" over the years to help me become more proficient, and I want to share some of their best advice. Whether you're new to camping or a seasoned pro, these tips will make your next trip easier and more comfortable, and give your gear a long, happy life.

#1: Stuff your sleeping bag inside out
Recommended by: Elise Sterck

Maybe it's just me, but I find stuffing a sleeping bag to be exhausting. My arms get tired, I start to sweat, and I struggle to make the bag transform into a neat, tidy little package. It sours me toward camping before the trip even beings. I was complaining about this to my friend Elise, who suggested turning the bag inside out before stuffing it. Theoretically, the outside material is less breathable than the inside (to keep the water away) and if you turn it inside out the air will compress more easily. I don't know if this is scientifically proven, but I must agree it's easier this way.

#2: Put a backpack (+ everything else) under your sleep pad
Recommended by: Theresa Sippel

A few years ago Jordan and I hiked into Russell Glacier for a weekend of skiing and celebrating Lisa's Birthday (recap here). We had just come from a Tom Petty concert at the Gorge (may he rest in peace) where we slept in the back of the truck. In our haste to hike in to meet our party, we left our sleeping pads in the back of the car. This being a snow camping trip, we were going to freeze, but thankfully everyone loaned us what they could spare and we spent a surprisingly comfortable night atop a bed of backpacks, buckles, and clothing. In the morning we found out everyone else had been cold, while we were warm. From then on I started sleeping with my backpack under my sleeping pad.

Layering under your sleeping pad makes a huge difference in terms of warmth at night. The ground is cold, your sleeping pad is only one layer and can get permeated by the cold, so more layers under you will keep you warmer. Theresa showed me the ropes for the best layering system on our recent trip to Glacier Peak: put your backpack under the top half of your pad, with the hip belt toward your head (to prop you up) and the brain flap open to give you extra leng, then layer everything else you aren't going to be wearing under your lower body (like ski pants, extra gloves, gaiters, etc.). This will keep you nice and toasty.

#3: Sleep with a hot water bottle
Recommended by: All women, everywhere.

I sleep cold. Most women do, especially in the hip/bum/thigh area. Even if I'm generally warm, the cold skin from that part of my body will make the rest of me cold as it slowly comes up in temperature. A down skirt will help (blog about why here) as will a Nalgene full of hot water.

Fill your water bottle with boiling water before bed. Make sure the lid is on tight and toss it into your sleeping bag for a little pre-warmth. Sleep with it by your feet, on your chest, or, for the ladies, in between your legs at the upper thigh. I'm not sure who taught me this, suffice to say all of the women I know do this, and you should too.

#4: Store trekking poles upright and away from the tent
Recommended by: Jordan Tursi

I like to hike with trekking poles. I heard once that using poles can take up to 30% of the weight off of your tired legs, and I get really swollen hands when I don't hike with them, so they're usually in my camping kit. And I sweat on them. I have sweaty hands anyway, so they get...damp. A lot damp.

Animals are attracted to the salt in your sweat (and urine) and will attack anything with traces of that salty goodness. A few years ago some critters went to town on the handles of my trekking poles and kept me up for part of the night. On a recent backpacking trip in Glacier National Park, Jordan suggested we keep the poles away from the tent and jammed in somewhere so they'd be standing upright. This kept the critters away from both the tent and the pole handles. I give this solution five stars.

#5: Fold your tent poles from the middle
Recommended by: Abbie Feigle

Shortly after I bought my tent (and REI Half Dome) I was camping at Skaha with my friend Abbie and a few others. She was a river guide and has put up and torn down her fair share of tents over the years. Tents are like anything else: they wear out over time with use. Abbie had all types of tricks to keep their guide and client tents in good shape. Most people, she said, start at one end of a tent pole to begin the collapsing process. She starts in the middle. This causes less uneven stretching to the tension string inside the pole, meaning the string will keep it's elasticity for longer. If you want your tent to last, fold those poles from the middle. Extra bonus points if you store your tent with the poles not-collapsed, as that's the very best for them.

Best of luck on your next camping adventure!

20 September 2017

Here's To Wild Places

I'm humbled and excited to share this video with you. 'Video Producer' is not a title I ever thought I could add to my resume, but after the success of the We Are Mountaineers video I got to partner again with the incredible Mike Short on this piece celebrating the value of our public lands. I hope this message moves you to action. Enjoy.

Big thanks to Cabot Norton who wrote the opening pieces of this script and gave me such a great runway to launch from for the rest of the words.

07 September 2017

7 Tips To Nail A Job Interview: Nonprofit Edition

At the nonprofit where I work, hiring is a collaborative process. When someone leaves or is promoted, the hiring manager revisits the job description to make changes as necessary, then shares it with colleagues for feedback. The job description is finalized and posted (generally to our website and Idealist.org), and we wait eagerly for the applications to come streaming in.

The average job posting gets 20-100 applications during the 2-3 week posting window. The hiring manager is responsible for culling through the cover letters and resumes, grading applicants on things like relevant skills, nonprofit experience, volunteer experience, enthusiasm, grammar, and overall presentation (for tips on how to make your application stand out, check out my How To Get A Job: Nonprofit Edition blog), and selecting the 10-15 people who will move on to the next round of 30-minute phone interviews.

During this initial phone call, I specifically look for someone who is excited about the job AND about the organization, can give relevant examples of related skills, and stands our from the pack. These things, along with scores from the previous resume review round, are all tallied into a spreadsheet. The top 4-5 candidates are asked in for an interview with a team of interviewers (generally 2-4 people who will be working closely with the position).

No matter how hard we try, we always end up with someone in an interview who shouldn't be there. I once had a girl answer a scheduled phone interview while she was driving (she had picked the time!). We had another candidate come in for an in-person interview who was so long-winded we got through two questions and still went over our allotted time.

To avoid being "that person", here are 7 Tips to Nail a Job Interview:
  1. Do your research. Before you arrive, research the organization and make sure this is a place you want to work. I can tell if you want to work here or if you just want to work somewhere. I don't need you to recite the mission statement, but I want to see that you understand and relate to our ethos. Bonus points if you can relate the job to how it will benefit the overall organization.
  2. Say enough, but not too much. This should go without saying, but, per the example of Blabby McBlabberPants, it does not. You want to share enough information without losing your audience. You also need to talk long enough to answer the question that has been asked. If you are a numbers person, plan to talk for 2-5 minutes per question. A sure sign an interview has gone awry is if it's over well before the allotted time.
  3. Make eye contact. Always look at your interviewer(s) in the eye. You don't need to be creepy-staring-person, but use the appropriate amount of eye contact. This shows you understand basic human interaction and that you will be comfortable to work with. Bonus points if you use your interviewers' names in the interview.
  4. Assume interviewers know very little about you, especially the people who did not conduct the phone interview. With 10-15 phone interviews and probably no more than 5 minutes to review your resume and cover letter before an in person interview, it's safe to say you earned your spot at the table but need to remind your interviewer(s) why you're there. Don't be afraid to repeat things you've already talked about or reference relevant experience highlighted in your application. As long as you aren't quoting yourself verbatim, it'll be welcome context for your conversation.
  5. Prep answers to standard questions. I'm going to help you out. Here are some standard questions you should prep for: What do you find most exciting about this position? What do you think will be your biggest challenge? What's your greatest professional success? Failure? Can you provide an example of a difficult work situation, and how you worked through the conflict? What is your ideal work environment? Worst environment? How does this position help you get to where you want to go in your career/life? What other stories do you want to share with us?
  6. Bring 3-4 questions to ask in return. Interviewers expect you to have questions, especially ones that show you've given thought to how you would contribute to the team. Ask questions during the interview to make it more conversational or save them until the end. You can learn a lot when you ask how long people have been in their position, why this current position is open, and what people find most rewarding/challenging at their organization. The last question should always be, "I'm really excited about this position. What is the next step?"
  7. Remember, interviewers want it to go well too. The person sitting across the table from you is absolutely rooting for you. Hiring is exhausting work, and I personally want every person who to be my next great staff member. Because then I get to be done hiring and begin the next stressful activity of on-boarding. But seriously, I'm rooting for you.
Follow these steps, and basic common sense*, and you'll land your dream job*. I wish you the best of luck in your next interview.***

*Don't show up hungover and smelling of booze...yeah that happened...
**Dream job not guaranteed, but seriously these tips are sound. 
***Full disclosure: I wrote this during a really bad interview, so sometimes I'm not rooting for you so much as rooting for it to be over.

25 August 2017

Turns All Year: Month 70

I have not been motivated to ski this summer. Maybe it's been all of the housework or the streak of sunny days, or maybe it's that - after 69 consecutive months of chasing anything that remotely resembles snow - I'm a little tired. 

By this time last summer (May-August) I had skied 13 days. The season before I did 9. This year, I've done, 5 and I'm fine with it. I've still managed to get in one day a month, and last weekend I completed my 70th month of Turns All Year. That's nearly 6-years of strapping skis to my feet for at least an hour to make turns. If it sounds like a long time to you, believe me, it is! But I have friends who are in the 200s...if I'm feeling this unmotivated now, who knows what the future will hold?

Nevertheless, I'm happy to have made it to 70 months. Fingers crossed the annual September turns at Mt. Hood will go great, we'll get snow in October, and then it'll be smooth sailing November-April to make it an easy glide toward 79 months, which is practically 100. My goal is to make it to triple digits, then see how I feel.

Hey. Wanna go for a hike? Photo by Jason Sellers.

For August turns, I texted my friend Jason to ask if he wanted to go on a hike. Only after he said yes did I clarify that by "hike" I meant driving to a far away place where snow still exists and hiking for a long time, then hitting snow and hiking more so I could ski. AKA we were going on a trip to Mt. Rainier and a hike up the Muir Snowfield. Lucky for me he was still game, and he brought his fancy camera resulting in awesome photos for me. Win win.

I picked Jason up downtown at 7:15am on Sunday, August 20, and we were in the parking lot at Paradise by 9:30am. The Park has completely repaved the road from the Longmire entrance all the way to the Paradise lot, and let me tell you, it's incredibly smooth and easy driving. It makes for a much less painless trip up zee mountain. Even so, the lot was nearly full when we arrived.

Not pictured: the lines of folks we just passed to get this shot. Photo by Jason.

We were hiking by 9:50 and cruised past a bunch of tourists on the way up. I have to say, I've been wearing the damn tutu for five years now and I've noticed a sharp decline in comments about my outfit. I'd like to think it's because I'm so famous on Instagram so people already know who I am, but in reality I think it indicates a growing level of disenchantment among people in general, which makes me sad. Smile people. Strike up a conversation with a stranger. I promise, it's not going to kill you.

I carried skis for about 90 minutes to 7,400' before transitioning, just above Pebble Creek. Jason - who doesn't ski - waited patiently while I swapped from hikers into ski boots, and then we were off. We never intentioned to go all the way to Camp Muir, but the climbing was easy and Jason was gabbing and before we knew it we were within sight! After 3 hours and 40 minutes, we arrived at Camp Muir.

The Muir Snowfield looking up toward the Nisqually Glacier. The snowfield was...dirty. The glacier was calving like crazy all day.

So close we can almost taste it! Photo by Jason.

The weather was slightly overcast and calm, but still warm enough to sit at Muir in shorts and a tank top, airing out my sweaty boots and letting my sun shirt dry. Jason hasn't had "my beer" yet, so I brought a Kick Step for him and he had a good time taking its photo. That can is darn photogenic!

Two legends together at last. Kick Step and John Muir. Photo by Jason.

Look Ma! It's the beer I made! Photo by Jason.

Kick step gets two thumbs up. Except, my other thumb is busy right now holding my beer. Photo by Jason.

With beers in bellies, there was only one thing to do: head down. I'm not going to sugar coat this for you: the skiing was horrific. From 10,000' at Camp Muir down to about 8,000', the skiing was a VW Beetle sized shit-show. With huge, sharp penitentes and deep, slugbug sized holes, it was like trying to ski down an angry, frozen ocean of terror. 

Thinking I would get way ahead of him, Jason hurried down the hill only to turn around and see me stopped every time. He thought I was waiting for him to get ahead. In reality, I was waiting for my legs to recover and hoping my heart wouldn't explode from the combination of exertion and fear. For the first time in my life, I regretted having skis and wished instead for the sweet comfort of glissading down on my bum.

We managed to get only one photo of the heinousness, and I'm not upset about it.

Survival skiing to the max. Photo by Jason.

Eventually the snow smoothed out to your standard dirty, pocket-filled, August affair. Then the skiing was okay. Dare I say almost pleasant? According to my tracker, I even managed to hit a whopping 20.1mph. Watch out Lindsey Vonn, I'm coming for you!

Jason glissading down. I was jealous.

Then that was that. We were done with the snow and before we knew it we were back at the car by 4:30pm. The whole thing took 6.5 hours, including an hour break at Camp Muir. Not bad for a day's work.

The crowning glory of the day is this photo Jason captured of me on the ascent: 

Legs for days. Photo by Jason.

I stand at 5'2". You would never know it by looking at this photo. When I posted it to Instagram saying, "proof that short girl dreams can come true", another girl couldn't believe I wasn't 5'7". Thanks to a low angle, short shorts, a hip pop accentuated by the pink tutu, and heel risers, for the first time in my life I look like I have legs. 

Thanks Jason. This photo makes my week! Who knew heel risers are the only type of heels a girl needs?

23 August 2017

What You Can Do With A Gallon of Paint

Before and after, all in one photo.

When Jordan and I met three years ago, we each had our own individual dreams of buying a house. Last May I was able to buy a townhouse to celebrate my 32nd birthday (in a truly serendipitous fashion), and this year Jordan closed on a house-house a week before I turned 33. And that was that. After exactly one year in my townhouse and one lovingly painted mountain mural, we packed our stuff and moved into the new place!

I'm so happy with our new home, and all of the work we've done to make it our own. Jordan scored this beautiful 2-bedroom, 1 bath, rambler-style 1948 house on 1/8 of an acre, but that's a story for another time. For now, let me tell you that it only had one previous owner who lived here for nearly seven decades. The house has good bones, a solid roof and foundation, and recently replaced windows. It also has a furnace the size of a Subaru and a "pink" problem.

Believe it or not this was the garage. It's white and full of our favorite gear now.

The long term plan is to expand the house, but for now we're focused on making it as comfortable as possible for the two of us. We started by ripping up carpet and linoleum, having the floor refinished, and painting every room in the house (except for the hallway; we'll get you one day my pretty!). It's amazing what a few gallons of paint can do!

We started in the living room. Our predecessor had owned a number of cats through the years and we are both highly allergic, so we pulled out all the carpet we could and ripped down drapes. Anything that had cat hair had to GO. Then I set about painting the living room walls and ceiling a nice white to give us a fresh, clean canvas.

Living room, with view of the front door toward the kitchen. I love the way the floors came out.

Living room view, while standing in the kitchen.

We managed to paint the living room and both bedrooms before we moved in, and were able to get the floors refinished too. After moving twice in a year and needing to do a lot of painting both times, I highly recommend this method when you can make it work.

The guest bedroom went from purple to blue. The dark purple baseboards took four coats of paint to cover, and the walls took two coats of primer and two coats of blue. Luckily I only had to paint the ceiling once, and had Theresa's help. Who knew ski buddies were good for more than skiing?

This is the guest bedroom, repainted a color we affectionately call "schmoo". 

For the master, we opted to get rid of the turquoise (which had been recently painted and wasn't bad) and go with a more calming, sage color. We both LOVE the way this came out, especially with the white molding. Sadly our beloved bed won't fit around the corner to make it into either bedroom, so we have to sell it, but we're becoming quite comfortable with our mattress on the floor solution (if you know anyone who wants an awesome, 4-drawer platform bed, hit me up!).

The master, our sage oasis.

The bathroom was a headache-inducing yellow. It felt like standing inside of a yellow mustard container. Even the ceiling was yellow. To tone down the heat, I walked into the bathroom with some primer and did a quick coat of white. I didn't tape anything or do it properly, and there are still big chunks of yellow behind the towel racks, etc. But I don't care. It's a total blind spot for me now. It's amazing how quickly you can learn to live with something after a few weeks.

Yellow onslaught before & after. Eventually we plan to swap the tub, add tile, and get a low-profile sink.

The last big thing we tackled was the kitchen. In keeping with the theme of the house it was PINK. And also peach/yellow. Jordan pulled all the cabinets and we got to work painting the insides of the cabinets white. Because of our fears of lingering cat dander, we opted to paint the entire cabinets, inside and out. The first coat, which also required sanding, took us both working for 6 hours. Jordan got stuck doing the second coat, and sanding, painting, and adding the new hardware to all of the cabinet doors, on his own. 

I eventually continued the sage we loved from our bedroom into the kitchen. After buying a little mobile dishwasher, the transformation was complete!

Kitchen looking toward the living room before & after.

More green paint.

And finally this week Jordan finished his crowning achievement - a very pacific northwest rock wall out front! We're excited about how this is coming along, and are grateful to everyone who helped us get to where we are. A housewarming party will be coming soon ... or probably in about 6-months if our last house is any indication.

Seattle City Water Bills, and above average heat, are responsible for the color of the "after" grass.

03 August 2017

What are the "Dr. Seuss Flowers" in the mountains?

Did you know Steelhead Trout are simply Rainbow Trout that choose to head into saltwater for 3ish years, thus growing bigger and living longer than their non-anadromous counterparts and becoming Steelhead? Yup! Steelhead Trout and Rainbow Trout are, in fact, one in the same. I love things that aren't quite what they seem.

That's why I find myself in love with the Western Pasqueflower. Last week my colleague and friend Suzanne shared photos from a recent hike and told me all about this shape-shifter. I've seen it for years and never knew the history of this dynamic plant. With this year's wildflower 'Super Bloom', it's an awesome time to go see this Dr. Seuss Truffula Tree in real life.

Here's what you need to know:

Sometimes called the white pasqueflower, this Dr. Seuss looking plant is a member of the buttercup family and starts its life as a short-stemmed flower. The flowers are usually white or soft purple, with a yellow buttercup center.

A White Pasqueflower. Photo by Suzanne Gerber.

These plants flower briefly in the mid-spring to mid-summer, usually right after the snow has fully melted, exposing the ground to sun. You can find these beauties in western North America, from British Columbia to California, from Washington to Montana. They thrive on gravelly slopes and in moist meadows. 

As the flowers grow, the petals (5-7 of them on average, if you are a counting person) fall off. The buttercup grows hair and the plant shoots up into a seedhead, eventually standing 1-2 feet tall. The hair continues to grow, giving these plants the Dr. Seuss we all love.

Photo by Suzanne Gerber.

You can see the entire lifecycle of the pasqueflower on this youtube video. And you can see it in person RIGHT NOW! Head to the mountains, specifically at an elevation where the snow has recently melted. If you're in the Pacific Northwest, head to Mt. Rainier or Heliotrope Ridge on Mt. Baker to see these in person. Extra bonus points if you dress as a Lorax for your adventure.

Photo by Nikki Brown. She likes to call them "floofs".

27 July 2017

Turns All Year: Months 67-69

When it comes to chasing Turns All Year, some years are easier than others. Sometimes you go big, carving turns every weekend, and some years you begrudgingly trudge into the mountains to make your obligatory turns one day a month. This summer has been the latter.

Despite a pretty killer winter that's carried snow well into the summer, I've struggled to find my stoke this year. Maybe I got in too much rad skiing in April. Maybe it's because I spent May, June, and July moving and settling into a new place after one-too-many house projects. Or maybe it's been so. damn. hot in Seattle this summer that I've turned into a sloth.

I've still managed to keep up the streak alive, and here are some of my favorite photos from Months 67, 68, and 69.

Alpental Closing Day: May 7 (month 67)

Last May I skied 5 days at the Kokanee Hut nestled in the heart of the Kokanee Range in BC. This year I skied lifts for two and a half hours at Alpental. You win some, you get drunk some.

Wiggin out with Tony.

Skiing face!

Only the best beer for Alpental's closing day.

Glacier Peak: June 24-26 (Month 68)

After two failed attempts at Glacier Peak, Theresa and I finally stood on her beautiful summit. Someday I'll write a trip report, but for now here are my five favorite pictures.

Skiing to camp after our first, very long day. Tired legs. Photo by Theresa.

The morning takes us to zee summit.

Summit beer. Photo by Theresa.

Most of the skiing was shit. The top five turns though, they were delicious. Photo by Theresa.

We're almost home (aka to the car). Can you feel the excitement?

Baker Crater - Via the Squak: July 1 (Month 69)

Jordan has never been to the summit of my favorite mountain: Mt. Baker, via the Squak Glacier. Despite a less than ideal weather forecast (too hot) and us needing to be back at a reasonable hour for work the next day, we slept out in our car and started up the Squak at 5am on the first day of July. We made it as far as the crater rim before calling it a day because of the aforementioned reasons and my screaming legs, tired from Glacier Peak just 6-days prior. The views were stunning and the skiing was.... skiing.

Views for days. See Glacier Peak?
Up we go. Went for a different color tutu. Photo by Jordan.

We play in big places.

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 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, without fear of your bum and other bits being exposed to the world. 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. I never have to subject any part of my body to gross trailhead toilets and I don't accidently pee all over my pants while squatting.

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 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, release the dam, and enjoy. The liquid is propelled forward, away from you and your immediate surroundings. 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 (edited to add two other recommendations: the p-style and the shewee).

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 2-3 times to get used to it.
  • Your first time outside, be sure you have a good seal to avoid leakage.
  • You may get stage fright on occassion. 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 stream 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 wherever you choose to store it. 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!