Mt. Rainier seen from Seattle
Every adventurer knows the soul crushing feeling of having to turn around before the summit. It’s a heartbreaking yet necessary call when there is just no way to continue safely. The story of my 2012 attempt on Rainier, my first glacier climb and my first true peak, was a huge learning experience. After dreaming of climbing big peaks and having that incredible opportunity, I made it within 500 ft before a storm pushed us back. It was a devastating call but it was a trip I feel defined me as a climber. This is exactly what I wanted to so, despite the suffering. That disappointment is what drew me into moving out to the northwest. Not only did I want a second chance at Rainier, but I wanted to be an alpinist and I was willing to make any sacrifices possible to ensure that it would happen.
I’m proud to say I’m launching a project that will finally achieve all my ambitions.
When people tell me to go to hell: Usually in the form of people cutting me off on the interstate, I take it with a shrug, a fist, or a vigorous shaking of the head. When my friend Adam of Hiking The Trail approached me and asked me if I’d like to join a trip to Hell, I grinned and gave my immediate approval. So hence, 13 adventurers, bloggers, and I have been asked to partake in Hell Hike and Raft, a 6-day hiking and rafting tour of Hell Canyon, Idaho. Come September 1st, we’re going to take part on a trip thats going to traverse the Seven Devils Mountain Range first by foot and then by raft. It’s an opportunity to work with a number of fine companies who are sponsoring our trip and it’s one of the more unique adventures I’ve undertaken. I’ve never taken an extended raft and hike and Idaho is a state that I still know very little about terrain-wise, so in a way, this is the kind of exploratory adventure that I’ve always dreamed of doing.
I’m pleased and excited to announce that today I’m launching my new business / online portfolio site MichaelRestivo.com
Since starting Mike Off the Map in 2011, the blog has been the guiding star of my outdoor life, providing opportunities not only to tell the stories that excite me and keep me outside, but to inspire others to lead an active travel oriented lifestyle. In this, collecting these stories has been a passion project and one that I am ready to share as a professional adventure travel writer. With this new site, Mike Off The Map will continue to be updated regularly and will keep it’s current format, abet a few design changes I am currently pondering. In the meantime, I urge you to discover myself, my stories, and my philosophy and passion for travel writing at my new site. If you have a blog or project that you would like to work on together, contact me and I would be pleased to discuss new clients and partnerships.
Sierra Trading Post is hosting a chat on outdoor backcountry mistakes (Thursday @ 6 PM EST/3 PM PST) and as my contribution, I’m telling the story about how I nearly lost my tent in a brutal windstorm at Vantage, Washington in March of 2013.
The Frenchman’s Coulee Basin of Vantage, Washington
We knew the weather was up when we arrived in the dark. There were already several gusts of wind as we were pitching my Kelty tent, but we didn’t think too much of it. We managed to stake the main body into the soft red clay soil of the canyon country basin, wind filtering through the basalt columns made everything impossible to set down without holding on with two feet. The rain fly was becoming almost kite-like as we tried desperately to latch it to the overlapping poles. As we settled all our gear inside the cabin: backpacks, pads, sleeping bags, we could already feel the nylon bottom starting to lift up from under our backs. As we settled in for the night ready to get up and climb in the morning.
We didn’t realize what a miserable night we were in for.
Hiking the Enchantments with Lee, a good friend who I met through the #HikerChat forum
When I was younger, my parents told me one simple rule: “Never talk to strangers.” I think over time this adage became true in some respects, but not much in others. As an outdoor blogger and writer, it’s important to be able to connect with others in my field, and ever since I’ve started Mike Off the Map, I’ve joined a community where I’ve met some of the most inspiring people that I’ve ever come across.
It seems like such a simple idea to pay homage to, a group of people who share the same interests get together every week and talk about hiking, climbing, and just passion for the mountains. However it’s become so much more than that. We’re friends, hiking and climbing partners, we inspire each other so much that we’ll move cross country if only to be closer and although many of us have never met in person, we share inside jokes, silliness through tweeting, but at the same time sharing information or planning meetups at a trail. Last week we celebrated the two year anniversary of our Twitter chat #ATQA (Adventure Travel Question and Answer) where every Wednesday we get together in an open forum to discuss outdoor topics that while trying to remain serious just dissolves into fun and roaring laughter. The point is this group has stuck together through triumphant summits, disappointments, moves, relationships, success and tragedy. A tight knit group of adventurers unlike anywhere else.
Recently, I was asked a question that I hadn’t thought about in a long time. It seems strange that as someone who spends as much time in the mountains as I do I hadn’t really thought about it before:
How do you train?
Truth is, I don’t. So how can I call myself athletic if I’m not at the gym pumping weights, on a jumprope, using complicated machines, paying a monthly fee, or grunting for life with every breath? Because after a year of big climbs, intense hikes, and spending every moment that I can on the trail, I’ve come to realize that there’s no such thing as training. You’re either climbing or you’re hiking, spending a part of the day outside, or you’re not. When I think of the word “activity” the root of the word is right there: “active” and for me, that’s all I really need.
Getting ready to kick off at Stevens Pass
As much as I was always fascinated with climbing when I was growing up, I was just as fascinated with skiing. My one and only experience came when I was three years old in upstate New York. It resulted in a 10 minute slide down a small hill that didn’t even reach the bunny slope, and a flight into a frozen patch of ice which resulted in tears and a scratched face. It was clear, especially since we moved to Florida years after, that skiing was never going to be a part of my life. Still the more people I was meeting in the outdoor community, the more prevalent it seemed to me, and in mountain sports, it was exactly the direction I wanted to go. Sure I had tried snowboarding over the span of a grand total of four days on small trips in college, but watching the skiers elegantly carving out deep grooves in the snow and coming to such a smooth stop I decided right then and there what it was I wanted to actually do. It also didn’t help that this was around the time I was obsessively watching ski films in between documentary marathons, and studying the movement, the posture and the sheer size of the hills these guys were hurling themselves down, I was inspired. So I’ve joined a full alpine ski course taught through the Washington Alpine Club. In only two weeks, I’ve progressed at a level that I never imagined, and I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process.