25 May 2017

Owning My White Privilege to Support a More Diverse Outdoors, Part 2

Earlier this week, someone commented on a link I posted to Facebook a few months ago, kicking off a flurry of new activity. The original post was a blog I wrote in January about White Privilege in the Outdoors, in which I talked about owning my white privilege to create a more welcoming outdoor community. Most of the comments were supportive. A few of them were not. One, particularly, got to the heart of it the debate:
"I'm a white male...and I'm going to say it's b.s. to assume I had any advantage over anyone to get to where I am....the only advantage I had was being born to good parents but that was luck."
I shook my head as I read this, and challenged this person to re-read my article, re-read his comment, and try to see how the very thing he was saying in defense of privilege was in fact a confirmation of said privilege.

Let me acknowledge here that I am in no way an expert on 'privilege' - I hardly know what I'm talking about. Anything I say is from my own experience and not a place of authority (writing a blog on the internet does not make you an expert). I am absolutely worried about saying the wrong thing. But I do know what it feels like to be marginalized, and I feel strongly that not saying something is worse than putting my foot in my mouth and learning something new in the process. We all have to start somewhere.

Which brings me to the comment, above. It got me thinking more about the word 'privilege' and the connotations associated with it. To me, it's really easy to understand that privilege = luck. Yet 'privilege' has the connotation of something that was asked for or something that was earned. 'Privilege' carries with it the weight of society's expectations about who you are, where you came from, and what you're going to do based solely on the way you look. It's a higher profile word - a fancy word you'll find deep in the pages of a thesaurus.

Whereas 'luck', well that's just plain dumb luck. Anyone can be lucky, and you couldn't know it from looking at them. You don't need to feel guilty about luck.

Whether you call it luck or privilege or fate or God's will, the point is we all need to recognize the existence of these invisible "booster seats" and work to counteract the imbalance.

I could argue that I have worked incredibly hard and that's why I'm sitting here right now writing this. I could point to the fact that I put myself through school working nearly full-time my entire 4-years of school. I could say that I landed my dream job because I'm smart and talented and hardworking and brilliant. But it would ignore the obvious: I am privileged to be here. 

The fact that I was even in a position to apply to the University of Washington was due, in part, to being born into a white, middle class family. I grew up with food and clothing and a place to call home. I went to decent schools. Both of my parents were involved in my life, even after their divorce. We weren't rich and famous, but the reality is I was set up by 'luck' - and by the greater socialization of our culture - to succeed. I didn't ask for this privilege, but I'd be naive to think it wasn't real and that I don't still benefit from it every day. 

This makes it my job to use my position for good. To give a voice to others who have been marginalized. It doesn't mean I need to feel guilty, only that I should have an awareness of the power differential and use that position to help those who, circumstantially, don't have the same inherent privileges. I hope you'll join me.

18 May 2017

Turns All Year: Month 66

April is an amazing month for skiing in the PNW - it's honestly one of the best months of the year. Despite the time of year, snow continues to fall and you can find everything from powder to spring corn. Most people think ski season is over, leaving the resorts largely untouched and wholly abandoned. Plus, can you say, "goggle tan"?

But wait, what am I saying? Spring skiing sucks. Don't do it.

I skied four days this April, and really enjoyed two of them. Here are my favorite photos:

Muir Snowfield, April 2

Taylor and Nick climbing up in the fog. Can't tell what's sky and what's not. This pretty much sums up the trip.

Muir Do-Over, April 9

We had a Kokanee Reunion, and I went climbing with Anthony and George. Photo by George Smilov.

We made it to Muir in 3 hours and 15 minutes, my fastest time yet! After some navigational errors, we skied the Nisqually Chutes to the bridge. This photo is not angled correctly, but here's Anthony charging the steeps (look at the mountains the background to orient).

I love zee skiing!

We ran into a group of girls and had a party in the parking lot! Happy Birthday Mena!

April 15, Secret Stash at Crystal

Told you there was pow in April! Photo by Theresa Sippel.

We are happy girls playing in the snow!

April 16, Mount St. Helens

What do you do when you forget your tent poles? Make a lean-to with the car, of course!

She's a beat!

The climbing was beutiful and terrible at the same time.
We summited in 5 hours and 15 minutes, then immediately skied 2k to get out of the wind. We had a beer, complained, about how terrible the skiing was, then skied all the way to the car for the long drive home.

Honorable Mentions
While not skiing related, occasionally I do other things that I enjoy like visiting New York City to eat all of the pizza and enjoying a night-out reunion with friends.

Team Shit Show reunion! We haven't been skiing together in a long time, but we can still go drinking together!

J and I went to visit his family in NY.

And I am not ashamed to say I ate 5 slices of pizza. It's only been three weeks and I already want to go back and eat 5 more.

11 May 2017

What To Eat For An Alpine-Start Breakfast

It's 4am. It's dark, it's freezing, and the last thing you want to do is eat. Your cozy tent and warm sleeping bag are calling your name, but you must get up and force food down your pie hole because you'll be spending the next 10ish hours climbing a mountain, and filling your belly with calories is just good common sense.

The question is: what to eat? When picking a breakfast for your next alpine-start, you need to consider three things:
  1. Prep time.
  2. Cleanup required.
  3. Risk-ratio of tastiness to potential vomiting/diarrhea.
Personally, I much prefer food that doesn't need hot water and leaves behind minimal waste. The trade off is that I sometimes make choices (like, Snickers bars) that don't feel so good a few hours later. You live, you learn, you pack poop bags.

Whatever you decide, the important thing to note is that this is your choice, and your choice alone. Don't let anyone try to tell you what to eat or when to eat or how to eat it. Hell, if you aren't a breakfast eater, DON'T EAT BREAKFAST. Put some snackies in your pockets and be on your way.

Bottom line: your body needs fuel for big days and you need to feed it continually. The moment you're hungry, it's too late. I try to eat every time I even think about food, which is roughly every 30-minutes. I keep gummies in my pocket and snack on those, then have something of substance every 1-2 hours. Keep those snacks handy - you won't want to stop to dig through your pack - and chew away throughout the day for a happier, more successful trip.

To help you pick your next alpine-start breakfast, I've created a menu of 5-options preferred by the backcountry community. Each is rated related to the three 'considerations'. Pick your poison.

The Standard

Oatmeal. Tear open a bag of your favorite flavor, put it in a bowl, add hot water, and voila - you have breakfast.
Pros: you can add basically anything you want to oatmeal - fruits, nuts, peanut or almond butter.
Cons: It's oatmeal, which is a slimy, messy concoction that requires two hands to eat and about 40% of people find it absolutely inedible.  
Prep Time: High
Cleanup Required: High (you've got a dirty bowl, a spoon, and the trash to deal with, unless you prepare the oatmeal directly in the packet, in which case you prep time is Medium)
V/D Ratio: Low

The Simple

Mountain House. Biscuit and Gravy or Scrambled Eggs or Breakfast Skillet or Spicy Southwest Hash. You name it, Mountain House has got it. Why make your own breakfast when you can have freeze-dried solutions for half the work and twice the price. 
Pros: You can pick your own flavor and go to town.
Cons: You generally want a partner, as it's a lot of food for one person that early in the morning, and I have yet to eat one that doesn't upset my stomach.
Prep Time: High (first you have to boil the water, then wait for the food to 'thaw')
Cleanup Required: High to Medium (a dirty spoon is one thing, but leftover MH is no good and will spill all over your bag, even when you think the package is empty)
V/D Ratio: High (at least in my experience)

The Savory

Bagel Jerky Delight. Take a bagel, add cream cheese, then add jerky. You're welcome. (can also be done with muffins and or non-jerky meat solution).
Pros: At the end of the day this is a sandwich, and you can make pretty much whatever you want and call it a sandwich; also has a good mix of complex and simple carbohydrates, if you're into that sort of thing.
Cons: Can get messy with the whole hole-in-the-middle thing.
Prep Time: Medium (advanced planning required)
Cleanup Required: Low (you can use the baggie you pack it in for trash later!)
V/D Ratio: Low to Medium

The Sinful 

Sin Dawgs. A cinnamon bread roll 'concoction by Dave's Killer Bread that is allegedly the most delicious, appetizing breakfast ever.
Pros: just looking at it you can tell it's delicious, and you can eat it with one hand.
Cons: you'll probably eat the entire thing in one-sitting, and might screw yourself out of breakfast for the rest of the trip.
Prep Time: Non-existant 
Cleanup Required: Nope (put that plastic pouch in your trash bag and forget about it)
V/D Ratio: High (have that poop bag handy)

The South-of-the-Border

Breakfast Burritos. Whatever you want wrapped in a tortilla and eaten cold or warmed on the stove, with or without sauce.
Pros: It's a burrito. Why am I explaining this to you?
Cons: There are no cons to a burrito, because it is perfect.
Prep Time: Medium to low (requires advanced thinking and preparation, but day of there's basically zero prep, only to heat it up in a skillet should you so choose).
Cleanup Required: Nope (eat with one hand, wipe hand on pants, continue climbing)
V/D Radio: Low to Medium (put normal stuff in it and you should be just fine)

Other suggestions that didn't have a quippy title:

  • Pop Tarts
  • Bacon jerky
  • Ramen
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Croissants
  • Peanut butter crackers
  • Mac n' Cheese
  • Bacon
  • Banana and/or banana bread
  • Odwalla (super-food is highest in calories)
  • Red Bull
  • Muscle Milk
  • Chocolate milk/hot chocolate
  • Beer
And coffee. Lots of people drink that but not me so I don't care about your caffeine fix. Excuse me while I have another slice of leftover pizza. Happy eating! 

Thanks to the folks on Washington Hikers & Climbers who helped with these ideas!

04 May 2017

How To Turn a Trip From Good To Great

In the outdoor community, we commonly talk about trips in terms of The Fun Scale. As a refresher, here's the scale according to climber, writer, and self-proclaimed "Margarita-specialist" Kelly Cordes:
Type I Fun – true fun, enjoyable while it’s happening. Good food, good sex, 5.8 hand cracks, sport climbing, powder skiing. Margaritas.

Type II Fun – fun only in retrospect, hateful while it’s happening. Things like working out ‘till you puke, and usually ice and alpine climbing. (Think a bad hangover that makes you swear you'll never drink again)

Type III Fun – not fun at all, not even in retrospect. As in, “What the hell was I thinking? If I ever even consider doing that again, somebody slap some sense into me.”

Recently, I went on a trip I'd call 'Type I.5 Fun'. Not terribly fun while it was happening, but not terribly terrible either. I'd compare it to drinking a flat, warm Rainier Beer on a rainy day.

Only, we were climbing Mt. St. Helens in sub-optimal conditions - far worse than the weather report had led us to expect - then skiing down breakable crust in the driving wind, only to discover the breakable crust did NOT eventually turn into fun spring corn as anticipated and instead turned immediately into grabby schmoo, meaning we had encountered two out of three of the worst skiing conditions imaginable (the third, of course, being bulletproof ice).

But you know what? I had fun anyway, because I had followed the Three Rules of Good to Great in the backcountry: 

  1. Set Really, Really Low Expectations: When you ski 40+ days a year in the Pacific Northwest you learn to deal with all kinds of weather and ski conditions: wind, rain, fog, grapple, schmoo, rime, sleet, crust, sugar.... you name it, we play in it. The best advice I've ever heard is to dial up your layering program and dial down your expectations so that, when you find yourself at 11,000' in the middle of a grapple-launching windstorm while perched precariously on your crampons and ice axe, your friend can look at you with a wry smile and say "A little windy!" and you can return your evil smirk and say, "Yeah, just a bit."

  2. Go Out With Fun People: I've written a bunch about what it takes to get into backcountry skiing and how to be a good adventure buddy, so I won't go on ad-nauseam here, but really the formula is simple: make a plan + invite good people = have a good time.

  3. When In Doubt, Add Beer: Or chocolate or chips or something that will make you feel better in the moment of awfulness. We stood on the summit of St. Helens for approximately 3 minutes, scooted down 100ft to the party zone where someone had built a snow wall for wind protection to make a hasty transition and share a beer with our 10 new best friends, then skied to a spot out of the wind and drank a cold, not-flat can of Holiday Rainier while looking south to Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood. The view did not suck. The beer made it better.
Follow these rules on your next trip to make every adventure a solid Type I.5 on the Fun Scale.