Gear Review: Montane Volt Fleece

15 Oct
Montane Volt Fleece - Quien Sabe Glacier - North Cascades National Park

Montane Volt Fleece – Quien Sabe Glacier – North Cascades National Park

Note: This review precedes my affiliation with The North Face. 

I carefully unwrapped my new Montane Volt Fleece from the shrink wrap and ran my hands over the coarse material. While it wasn’t exactly soft to the touch, but it was light. In alpine environments, where I am frequently, a mid-layer fleece can be the difference between trapping essential body heat, and getting dangerously soaked in sudden snow and rain. What I was looking forward to was having a piece that would be as essential at altitude as at camp and would push the limits of my sleeping bag.

The Montane Volt performed exceptionally over the course of my climbing season.

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#2DaysInSeattle: Seattle Has Issued A Challenge – I’m Taking It.

23 Sep


I’ve been challenged before. By friends, family, coworkers, and by myself. But when my city issues me a challenge, then I have to take it up. Every challenge is the same: Take an idea that you’ve never tried before, go out, accomplish it, and document the results. This week I was contacted by the folks over at Visit Seattle, the organization that champions Seattle tourism. Every year they invite different groups of people: coffee fans, foodies, and outdoor enthusiasts to the PNW to see Seattle and document their adventures through social media.

This year they had a new plan: Hand it over to the locals. That’s where we come in.

So what’s this all about?

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Introducing Cairn: A New Delivery Service For Cool Outdoor Products

18 Sep


Every year we see new products all across the outdoor industry. Every niche is filled, from hydration, to salves and balms, packaging, and the gear for outdoor exploration. Cairn is a new box-subscription service was developed with a simple idea: Get people excited not only about the outdoors, but also excited to use their gear. Each month, subscribers receive a box of specially selected items ranging from trail snacks, hydration devices, and even a hammock, all for only $25 a month. The products that the subscriber receives exceeds the value of the price, so people are actually saving money on some very cool gear.

Continue ahead to check out what I got in my box, and check out a VERY SPECIAL offer at the bottom!

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I Summited Rainier

4 Sep
Summit of Rainier - August 12, 2014

Summit of Rainier – August 12, 2014

“14,000 ft!”

My friend, Mick called back to us as we crossed the upper reaches of the mountain.

This was it. This was the moment I’d been waiting over two years for.

It was 7:45 AM, we’d been climbing since 12:30, having rustled out of our tents under gray skies at 11:30 the night before.

My crampons dug into the snow, while my calves were trying and failing to bear the weight of my exhausted body. Every part screamed to stop and catch breath, as the summit ridge lay smothered in thick clouds. I was now at the highest elevation that I’d ever climbed, and the altitude made itself known, sucking out breath and energy as we walked by crevasses that fell into abyss-like depths. My pack, which was light, considering we had taken out the tents and cooking gear, felt like a ton-weight on my shoulders, bearing down on me with every step. I looked over my shoulder and in the break of the clouds, I could see the face of the mountain, bathed in a golden light from a partially obscured rising sun. I’d seen the sunrise on Rainier once before, but this time it was different. While in 2012, the sunrise over thick clouds was a forewarning of the storm we were about to run into, this time, it was hopeful and joyous, making us turn off our headlamps, and guiding to the long-awaited summit.

We climbed up a final steep snowbank, the spikes under our boots digging just millimeters into the thin ice and reached a plateau under a stony field of talus, that lead to the true summit. My companions forged ahead while I took an extra moment to regain my strength for the last 50-feet. Mick stayed with me and treaded behind as I began the exhausting climb up the ridge, my ice axe digging into the soft stones, as clouds enveloped the trail. I looked over to my left and in the break, I could make out the crater of this semi-active volcano, while the snow swirled all around us, coating my blue puffy jacket. As I got closer, I could see misty figures on the plateau, arms raised, cheering, beckoning me, and my eyes began to well. I heard the calls “C’mon Mike!”, “You got this!” and I stepped across onto the flat surface. My companions were cheering around me, I clutched my axe and felt a hand comfortably pat my back.

Then I began to cry.

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I’m A North Face Ambassador!

8 Aug


It started off with a mysterious e-mail.

I had been chosen between a handful of excellent bloggers as being an outdoor influencer. Someone who has an important voice in the community and lives an outdoor lifestyle that inspires exploration and challenge. The company that was seeking me to represent them is The North Face, one of the most respected brands in the outdoor industry, and the one that I have always admired, not only for their equipment, but for their expeditions, their films, and their athlete team.

I get to represent the company by writing reviews, trying gear, going to special events as a VIP Guest, holding contests, and continuing my work to inspire people to explore and go beyond limits. I get to be part of a team of runners, climbers, triathletes, and hikers as we document adventures through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more.

This is a significant moment in my writing career, as it’s a partner to my brand that I couldn’t be prouder to represent. I get to inspire a wider audience, I get to work with some great industry professionals, and I get to represent a brand that doesn’t only emphasize great outdoor-wear but the want to use it per their motto: Never Stop Exploring.

So I need to thank The North Face for this extraordinary opportunity and it’s time to get outside, starting with my trip back to Rainier this weekend.


Forbidden Remains Forbidden – But I Got To Climb Something Just As Spectacular

15 Jul
Forbidden Peak above the Boston Basin

Forbidden Peak above the Boston Basin

Where the hell is my ice axe?

That was my first reaction when I saw the empty slot on my pack. It was two AM, we had just come running down the glacier, past a treacherous snowfield of boulders and ice ready to let loose, and we were preparing to make our way up the couloir towards Forbidden Peak and in the moonlight making the ice glisten, I berated myself. The fact that I had failed to latch it properly had now condemned our summit attempt to not happening, and now we had a 2,000-foot climb back up the glacier to look for it. It was an amateur mistake and a tough lesson, especially considering that up until that moment, we had moved fast and efficiently. As we searched for options so that the trip wouldn’t be a total loss, our guide turned to an icy tower that loomed over the Quien Sabe Glacier, a hulking monolithic 1,000-foot granite wall called Sharkfin Tower.

It would turn out to be one of the best climbs I’d ever done.

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Breaking The Forbidden Ridge

12 Jul
Forbidden Peak - West Ridge is the entire left side

Forbidden Peak – West Ridge is the entire left side

Today I’m launching into the second part of my four-peak project. Forbidden Peak is one of the crown jewels of North Cascades National Park. An 8,000+ foot wall of ice and stone piercing the sky above the Boston Glacier. It’s everything that a great alpine ascent should be: a glacial approach, a moderate grade but wildly exposed rock climb, and one of the most dramatic summits in the entire state. If there was one mountain that I was excited to climb this year, this is it. Forbidden Peak differs from Rainier and Hood because it’s alpine rock over hiking up steep glaciers. It’s the kind of climb that I’d always imagined: wearing rock shoes instead of mountaineering boots, clawing my way across a thin knife ridge to a breathtaking summit, and doing so with the skills and lessons that I’d learned from years in the rock gym.

So why am I so stoked about this?

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