A dve n tu r e s
Localsâ€™ top journeys of 2015
ADVENTURERS SHARE THEIR TRAVELS Bhutan everest iceLand south PoLe and more
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A dve n tu r e s
On tHe COVeR: Kim Hess poses in the gear that brought her to Mount Everest in 2015, before an earthquake shattered her summit bid.
Locals’ top journeys of 2015
adventurers share their travels Bhutan EvErEst IcEland
PHOTO BY JOHN F. RUSSELL
south PolE and morE
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LetteR FROM tHe eDItOR Everyone in Steamboat knows you’re likely to encounter an Olympian in the gondola or grocery store line. But you’re just as likely to brush elbows with a world-class adventurer pursuing his or her outdoor pastime away from the international stage. The reason is simple: Steamboat is a great community offering easy access to nearly every mountain sport under the sun. And this lures a certain outdoorsy kind of person who is a lot more adventurous than you might think. Cast a fly in the Yampa, and the angler next to you might recently have been chasing barracuda in Bermuda. Set a top rope along Seedhouse, and the belayer the next crag over could have just returned from Patagonia. Tube the Yampa, and the kayaker in the eddy might have just notched a first descent in Botswana. So we decided to highlight these adventurers to give them their due and to give you an inkling of the kind
of people who call Steamboat home. To unearth their exploits, we made calls, sent emails, chatted on chairlifts and spread the word at bars to bring you the following adventures taken by locals in 2015. The list is impressive, by anyone other than Ernest Shackleton’s standards, including a 5,200-mile canoe trip, surviving an earthquake on Mount Everest and even a solo ski attempt to the South Pole. It all shows that this little hamlet we call home is also home to some very adventurous people (anyone out there summit Everest more times than Chhiring Dorje Sherpa’s 12?). And to pay it forward, we’re also donating a portion of sales to Everything Outdoor Steamboat, an organization dedicated to getting local kids outdoors. Consider it our way of ensuring the next generation of Steamboaters gets the chance to experience the great outdoors as well. — Eugene Buchanan
s ni p pe ts
Pe t e r Ha ll
SUppInG Japan’S YOSHInO
Pe t e r Pe r r y
tReKKInG peRU’S CORDILLeRa HUaYHUaSH In August, local builder Pete Perry, 58, along with his son, Jackson, 19, and daughter, Dani, 21, headed to South America to trek the country’s famed, 90-mile Cordillera Huayhuash route in the Peruvian Andes. “It’s a special place,” he says. “We did the classic, 90-mile trek in about two weeks, climbing about 4,000 vertical per day.” As a side trip, they climbed “a moderate Alpine route” on 17,716-foot Diablo Mundo en route. “The hardest part was seeing an Israeli kid in our first camp who had died of complications from altitude,” Perry says. “The highlight was fly-fishing for trout at 14,000 feet. Plus, you can get donkeys to carry your gear and a cook for next to nothing. I’d recommend it as a great adventure for anyone.”
Visiting an international distributor has its perks. Just ask Peter Hall, owner of stand-up paddleboard company Hala Gear, who flew to Japan in November for business as well as a little boarding. The latter occured on the Yoshino River with an assortment of team riders, dealers and local river guides, including local SUP stalwart Masayuki “Yaku” Takahata. “It was as much a cultural handshake as it was a paddleboard and business trip,” says Hall, whose crew camped along the river at an off-season river guide outpost. “They showed us a lot of Japanese hospitality and numerous rivers.” The hardest of the waterways was the Yoshino, whose
“it was the steepest, fastest and biggest drop i’ve ever done on a paddleboard. it was a great place to test out some of our new products.” Peter haLL Class IV rapids made it “the most legit whitewater I’ve ever paddled,” says Hall. Using the company’s new Hala Luya board, he proceeded to make the main rapid’s only clean run out of 45 combined attempts.
s e r gi o r y a n GRInDInG GeaRS tO tHe GRanD
Coal mine loop, schmoal line loop. Last summer, Sergio Ryan rode his bike round-trip to an even bigger ditch in the earth. On a heavy, steel, 1980sera Fuji road bike borrowed from his father, Ryan, 23, pedaled to and from the Grand Canyon for a grand total of 2,200 miles. When he made it back to Steamboat on Oct. 23 — 53 days after leaving on his birthday, Sept. 1 — he had learned a lot about perseverance. “Once I started, I knew I would finish,” says the Minnesota transplant who works as a ski instructor. “Every day, I’d set my own goals, and it was up to me to complete them.”
“You learn a lot about what’s important on a ride like that. it’s sad when you come home, but that’s when you just start planning your next adventure.” serGio ryan Avoiding the Interstate, Ryan went southwest through Telluride before cutting through Utah’s Monument Valley to the Grand Canyon’s North Rim. His return journey took him through Utah’s Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, where he had one of the best moments of his trip. “With the super moon rising over the cliffs, I climbed to the top of the highest dune in the middle of the night,” Ryan says. “I had a pretty good revelation up there.”
tom s ha r p tReKKInG eUROpe anD ICeLanD
It was a big hiking summer for retired water attorney Tom Sharp, 71. First, he knocked off the 90-mile Walkers Haute Route from France’s Mont Blanc to Switzerland’s Matterhorn with his son, Brian, 38. Then, no sooner had he untied his laces back home, he flew back across the Atlantic to tackle southern Iceland’s 40-mile Laugavegurinn Trek, knocking off the 40-mile hike in five days. “We stayed in mountain huts and inns on the Haute Route,” he says of the nine-day trek linking Chamonix and Zermatt. “One time, we arrived soaking wet in the dark just in time for a familystyle dinner and round of applause from the other trekkers.” In Iceland, his group trekked from Landmannalaugar to Porsmork, traversing moss-covered valleys and lava fields riddled with hot springs and fume holes into a land of snowfields and glaciers. They also visited “a cave reportedly home to trolls” before celebrating the trip’s end in Reykjavik with a dinner of rotten shark and horse steak and toasts of Floke, an Icelandic single-malt whisky.
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do ug tu m mi n e llo SKiing to the South Pole
Maybe at the end, it’s a teapot that best sums up the extremes Doug Tumminello endured during his quest to ski from the edge of the Antarctic continent to the South Pole.
“I’ve never had a pot break on an expedition,” he says. “It was the one thing I wasn’t redundant on, the one thing I didn’t have two of.”
Tumminello spent years preparing for his adventure, procuring and packing supplies, food and equipment until it overwhelmed his North Routt home in the days leading up to his November departure. Testing everything from base layers to skis and snacks, he had redundancy for nearly everything important — two methods of communication, two GPS devices, two cooking burners and two compasses. But he only had one teapot.
Yet there he was, on Christmas Day at the bottom of the world in a tent buffeted by wind, staring at a crack in the bottom of his teapot.
He’s summited mountains near and far, and rowed across the Indian Ocean.
SKiing in a Ping Pong ball Maybe a cracked pot wouldn’t be a noteworthy problem in the average American kitchen. On an expedition like this, however, it was everything. Tumminello has been on more dangerous expeditions. He sum-
from Steamboat Springs
36 days on ice
DeC. 7 - Jan. 11
Photo courtesy of douG tummineLLo
Fast fact: The sun rises and sets only once per year in Antarctica.
The daily view for Tumminello on his 36day attempt to ski to the South Pole.
mited Mount Everest in 2006. Compared to that, what’s so scary about Antarctica?
sled lightened, he was making only eight — which adds up week after week.
Antarctica is a lot of things, he says. For one, it’s beautiful at times. “It’s this stark beauty like you’re looking at the terrain on another planet,” he says.
Near his end, he pushed it to see if he could sustain a higher pace. “My foot didn’t handle it well,” he says.
Other times, it’s miserable. “Skiing in a ping pong ball, as they say. Very windy, too,” he wrote in his blog in December. “I was only able to go 9.5 hours before I had to stop – a bit more than 10 miles. Toward the end, my goggles were completely iced over, with only one small, clear spot I could view the compass through. Everything else was completely white.” Weather like that caused all sorts of problems. Try, for instance, to navigate a straight line when you can’t see more than a few feet in front of you. “It’s harder than you might imagine,” he says. “You think you can walk in a straight line even without visual reference, but you really can’t. Next thing you know, you’re walking in circles.” Because the sun never set, Tumminello kept going day and night. “I had no sense of how fast I was going or the passage of miles,” he says. “Without having any references, it’s impossible to know. It seems like you’re not going anywhere, like you’re on a treadmill of snow. Add in the sun never setting, and it feels otherworldly.” There were other miserable moments, as well, perhaps none more so than dealing with the tent, the two worst parts of his day. He’d planned to leave it semi-pitched at all times, on top of the sled carrying his supplies, and he did, but it became more headache than help when a strong gust of wind broke its poles. He had backups, of course, and fashioned replacements. But it never was quite perfect.
A goal unmet The weather, his foot and the tent all seemed like the big problems, but the cracked teapot, which he tried to fix with duct tape, was the clincher. “The stove flame burned the tape, despite the water in the pot,” he wrote in his blog. “I ended up with a still-leaking pot and water that tasted like duct tape. I don’t recommend it – duct tape tea is not good.” The teapot was the only way he could melt snow. If it got worse, he’d be without water. That wouldn’t be a problem if ALE’s planes could swoop in to help him, but if they were grounded by weather, the problem would become critical. Tumminello did find a solution. He called ALE, and they flew to his last-known location, followed his tracks and airdropped a new pot. The decision switched the expedition from unsupported to supported, but Tumminello says it was the smart move. Similar logic eventually led him to decide to stop a little more than halfway, or 300 miles, to his goal. All the factors that make such a trek so daunting eventually became too much. He would have needed a re-supply to reach the pole, and he may have pushed up against the end of the season, when ALE stops flying. He approached the Thiel Mountains, where a naturally occurring blue-ice runway makes extraction possible. He weighed his options and decided it was time to leave.
Even more critical was a steady pain in his right foot, the product of another equipment failure. He’s still not sure where the failure in his right ski was, just that there was something wrong. “It kept rolling out, so when I’d ski forward, it’d put pressure on my ankle and foot,” he says. “I don’t know if it was a binding, mounting issue or snow building up under the skin.”
“For me, turning back is never the wrong decision,” he says. “The mountain’s not going anywhere. The pole’s not going anywhere. So it was a good decision. I’m back and healing and in good shape, all in all.”
The pain built mile after mile, ever present. He’d wrap his foot and re-tape it, but it always came back. Alone, he wasn’t sure what the damage was, wondering if he had a small stress fracture or nerve damage.
“The summit, or the pole, in this case, really is the end goal, but really, that’s not what the expedition is about,” Tumminello says. “Expeditions are about the experience, the challenges overcome, the beauty and the risk. Hopefully, you make it to your end goal, but that’s never guaranteed, and more often than not, people don’t make it to where they want. I’m goal-driven, as are most people who do these things, so it always does sit out there. It’s a goal unmet in that I did not make it to the pole. But I’m very good with the decision to have gotten pulled out when I did.”
“It was shooting nerve pain, throbbing and numbness all combined, every minute of every day,” he says. That combined with the weather — one of the nastiest summers workers with Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions, Tumminello’s logistics support, have ever seen — slowed his progress to a comparative crawl. Hoping to make 10 to 12 miles per day, especially as he consumed supplies and his
A cracked teapot didn’t end his expedition. Weather and injury ended it, but taken together, they illustrate just how daunting the task was in the first place.
— Joel Reichenberger
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G r e g Ha mi lton in Search oF the golDen mahSeer
from Steamboat Springs
10 days on river
apRIL 23 - MaY 18 Fast fact: Bhutan translates to “Land of the Thunder Dragon” for its ﬁerce storms rolling in from the Himalayas. It was also the world’s ﬁrst country with constitutional obligations to protect the environment.
Previous page (clockwise from top): rafting the Drangme; propaganda championing dams; landing a mahseer; and a sign heralding the importance of nature. This page (clockwise from top): a mahseer taking a hand-tied fly; filmmaker Greg Hamilton with some of the tools of his trade; and kayakers braving a drop on the Drangme.
Fish the Yampa for rainbows all you want: Steamboat Springs filmmaker Greg Hamilton will take heading to Bhutan to chase the elusive golden mahseer, the hardest-fighting freshwater fish in the world.
Photo By John f. russeLL
Photos courtesy of PoWeroftherivermovie.com
Hamilton, a former producer for Warren Miller Entertainment, flew to Bhutan last spring for his documentary, “Power of the River,” to help stop the Drangme River from being dammed. En route, he discovered a country wrestling with preserving the region’s environment while quenching its need for power. “Bhutan is losing rivers to hydro-power at an alarming rate,” says Hamilton. “We wanted to show it to the world so maybe people would give more attention to saving it than damming it. The premise is, can fly-fishing keep a river wild and free?” After spending two years lining up the necessary permits, Hamilton spent 25 days traipsing across Bhutan with world-renowned fly-fishers Bryant Dunn, Misty Dhillon and Dave McCoy. Led by local guide Karma Tshering, the trip culminated with a 10-day float and first-ever fishing access on the Drangme Chhu River — ranked No. 10 on the International Rafting Federation’s list of “untouched wild rivers.” Intent on saving one of the planet’s wildest, most beautiful places, Hamilton’s crew was in a good company preaching preservation. In Paris last December, Bhutan was heralded for creating the world’s most ambitious conservation plans, targeting 60 percent of its lands to be preserved as national forest. Why a tiny Buddhist kingdom has the world’s ear when it comes to conservation owes to its beauty and politics, Hamilton says. In 1972, ruler Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the Fourth Dragon King, coined the term “Gross National Happiness” and committed to protecting the country’s forests. A year before handing the throne to his son in 2006, Wangchuk finalized the country’s peaceful transition to democracy. While the adventurers had their hands full with everything from logistics to river running — which included getting through a Class V rapid called Gates of Manas safely — fishing for the endangered golden mahseer, found only in Bhutan and northern India, was always at the mission’s core. Hamilton’s crew was the first group ever granted permission to fish it. This success was mirrored by the attention they
managed to draw to the Drangme. Despite breaking seven fly rods — including a new, two-handed spey rod when their gear raft flipped in a rapid — they caught and released 13 of the endangered fish, four chocolate and nine golden. Included in the tally was a 20-pounder “way farther upstream than anyone expected.” “That shows that the river environment there is still intact,” says Hamilton, adding they also caught brown trout and the endemic asla, or snow trout. “The mahseer is a bio-indicator species. As the river’s biggest fish, it’s the canary in the coal mine for when the river is no longer healthy.” While the Drangme remains an intact ecosystem, indications of dam development, from survey markers to excavating sites, appeared as they drew closer to India, where they finished their trip in the Manas Tiger Preserve. The group also got a surprise when it floated back into cellphone range and received a photo from Dhillon’s Indian protege, Bobby Satpal — whose own village is due to be flooded by an upcoming dam — showing a world record, 50-pound golden mahseer he had just caught on a fly rod in northern India. “Misty received the photo once we crossed into India with a mix of both pride and jealousy,” Hamilton says. Mahseer fortunes aside, the team also reeled in something far more important — support to help preserve one of the most pristine rivers in the world. “The real issue, we realized, is that the river is very much at risk,” Hamilton says. “India’s hydropower quotas could require damming every last river in Bhutan. The Drangme dam has been in the works since the ‘70s, so the momentum for it is heating up.” He’s optimistic the film might help. “In a place where happiness is a higher goal than money, perhaps anything is possible,” says Hamilton, who says the trip has made him more interested in local conservation movements. “We don’t have the solution, but the movie plunges straight to the heart of what most threatens Earth’s wild spaces— and what will most likely save them.” Info: www.poweroftherivermovie.com — Eugene Buchanan
s pr i n g Br e a k
5,343-7,500 miles from Steamboat Springs apRIL Fast fact: 65 percent of Steamboat Mountain School’s students travel abroad in April.
st e A m b oa t M o u n tai n sc h ool
greece, mongolia anD tanZania While most students were staring at chalkboards last spring, Steamboat Mountain School students were sea kayaking in Greece, riding horses with Mongolian nomads and hunting with Hadzabe tribesmen in Tanzania. It’s all part of the school’s Global Immersion Studies program, which each year takes students abroad to broaden their cultural understanding.
greece Let’s see ... 26 days exploring Greece, or sitting at a school desk? For SMS students last spring, it was the former, with a side of falafel. First, the group spent six days camping amidst Mete-ora’s sandstone peaks and exploring the UNESCO World Heritage Site’s six Orthodox monasteries. They also rock climbed, rafted and explored Theotetra Cave. Next, they traveled to the Pelion Peninsula to “coasteer” along the Aegean Sea. The trip ended with a five-day sea kayak/marine biology tour through Alonnisos and Northern Sporades national parks and studying the ruins of Delphi.
mongolia SMS students learned there’s more to Mongolia than mutton on their 20day trip to the Land of the Blue Sky. Focusing on home stays and community service, the trip started in Ulaanbaatar before the group flew to the westernmost aimag of Bayan Olgii. There, the community work began, teaching English to Khazakh secondary school children while staying with nomadic families in their gers (yurts), tending their flocks and learning the art of Mongolian horseback riding. Next came a visit to the Tuvan throat singers, a service project at Altai Tavan Bodg National Park, and bird watching and horseback riding at Gun Galuut National Reserve. A final tour of Karakorum — Mongolia’s ancient capital, founded by Genghis Khan — and its world-famous cashmere factory completed the excursion. Beats a white chalkboard: The Greece shoreline as seen by students from their classroom seats.
tanZania Not many classrooms let students take a bow and arrow lesson and then tag along on a hunt with an African bush tribe. SMS students spent 20 days in Tanzania teaching English, studying local culture, learning how to make arrowheads and more. The trip included a youth-to-youth exchange program along Lake Victoria and exploration of the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. The group ended its trip by learning survival and hunting skills from the Hadzabe, one of the last truly nomadic tribes of Africa. — Eugene Buchanan
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K u r t Ca s e y:
a FirSt DeScent oF boliViaâ€™S rio PilcomaYo
When a river flushes through a natural tunnel of rock right ahead of you, you know things are getting dicey. When that happens on a Class V rapid during a 400-mile first descent in Bolivia, it’s even more harrowing. In his more than 30 years as an international expedition kayaker, Steamboat Springs’ Kurt Casey admits he’d never seen anything like it. On day two of a source-to-sea first descent of Bolivia’s Rio Pilcomayo, the canyon walls closed into a tunnel overhead, funneling the entire river through a gauntlet of granite. After giving it a cursory scout, Casey signaled his expedition partners, Rocky Contos and Greg Schwindingler, to watch him and then peeled out of his eddy through the darkened arch and into the daylight below. The scene was one of many Casey encountered on his kayaking exploratory expedition to the Pilcomayo last February when his team descended more than 10,000 vertical feet on a 400-mile stretch of river. While they timed the trip during peak rainy season, the river started out as a trickle at 11,120 feet high in the Bolivian Andes. But it quickly picked up steam, reaching a peak of more than 23,000 cubic feet per second — higher than a typical release on the Grand Canyon — by the end of their 10-day first descent. The team finished the expedition close to the Paraguay border in the town of Villamontes at 1,000 feet above sea level. “The river was pretty small at the put-in, with boulder-choked rapids passing through tight, slot canyons,” says Casey, who spent 25 years kayaking the rivers of Chile and Peru and founded the go-to websites for the region — peruwhitewater.com and riversofchile.com — before moving to Steamboat in 2011 with his two kids, Pablo and Luna. “Then, it continuously grew due to daily rain storms and tributaries, which gave it a dark-brown, silt-laden color.”
from Steamboat Springs
10 days on river
FeBRUaRY 3-21 Fast fact: Bolivia has 37 ofﬁcial languages, and its capital, La Paz, was the ﬁ rst South American city to have electricity (it was powered by llama dung). Photos courtesy of Kurt casey
Riddled with Class IV-V rapids, the river traversed multiple canyons, and from day three on, Casey says it maintained “a pushy, big water feel.” Throughout the expedition, they watched the scenery change from high altiplano with condors soaring overhead to a tropical, parrot-filled jungle. Casey’s crew named the top 80-mile section, from Yocalla to Puente Sucre, Slickrock, rating it Class IV-V and suitable only for kayakers. “The top part flows through several sandstone canyons and gorges reminiscent of the Glen Canyon and Escalante areas of Utah,” says Casey. “The whitewater is pretty continuous, with a three-hour portage through a massive landslide.” They christened the next section, from Puente Sucre to Puente Aruma, the Gran Cañón, for its 5,000-foot-deep walls, alternating between sandstone, granite and limestone. With abundant Class IV, it would be a perfect commercial rafting trip, Casey says, which Contos, a longtime South American outfitter, plans to offer this spring. The crew dubbed the lowermost, 80-mile section, the Yungas, saying it offers “one of the best Grand Canyon-style trips in the world.” Its toughest rapids are in the final gorge, which marks the river’s final exit from the Andes. “The lower stretch is big, big water with massive wave trains often a couple miles long,” says Casey, whose trio is heading to Burma this spring to explore some southern Himalayan rivers. “All in all, it was a successful exploratory, and it has the making of a great commercial trip — just not the tunnel part.”
Left page (clockwise from top): Have paddle, will travel (Kurt Casey); navigating the Pilcomayo’s silt-laden rapids; taking a break to source some fruit from a local market; and Casey eyeing his next move. Above: Casey scouting his line through a Class IV-V rapid.
Info: www.sierrarios.org — Eugene Buchanan
Ba r r y s mi th telemarK SKiing icelanD
Don’t let the fact that he got piggyback rides across the water from a burly Icelandic guide named Runar sway you from thinking Barry Smith’s boat-accessed skiing trip to Iceland last spring was pampered. And even if it was — complete with aprés toasts around a warm fire in a restored sheepherder’s hut — they earned every fiord-lined turn they schussed in their weeklong adventure at 65 degrees latitude. Smith, a Steamboat Springs Telemark skiing instructor, embarked on the adventure in May after wrapping up last year’s teaching season and just before opening his Mountain Sports Kayak School on the Yampa River. Joining him on his Icelandic adventure were his son Charlie and friends Chuck Mann and Dave Holt, who collectively billed skiing the fiords of Iceland “the trip of a lifetime.” “Chuck was the one who came up with the idea,” says Smith of his longtime friend who has a second residence in town. “He was surfing the Internet and stumbled upon a company offering it.” That was all they needed to sign on, and the four soon found themselves renting a car in Reykjavík for an eight-hour, snowwall-lined drive to northern Iceland’s Isafjörður (Ice Fiord). There, they met company owner Runar Karlsson and hopped on the 40-foot boat Bjarnarnes for a two-hour ride to their first ski. After inaugural piggybacks from boat to shore, they strapped on their skis and skins in the late afternoon, northern latitude sun for a 2,000-foot climb and their first taste of skiing Iceland. “The whole thing, from arriving via boat to skiing above fiords, was surreal,” says Smith, adding it was odd wearing a life jacket on the boat with ski boots, ski clothes and goggles. “And it never gets dark there that time of year, so you have super-long days to ski.” He describes the terrain as volcanic, similar to the Flat Tops, with wide open drainages and bowls devoid of trees. “It’s
one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever skied,” he says. “Everything, from the low-angle lighting to the lay of the land with ski slopes falling straight to the fiords, made it otherworldly.” After linking arcs in carvable corn to the fiord far below, the group climbed back in the boat for a short ride across the fiord to Kviar Lodge, a restored, abandoned sheep farmhouse in the center of the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. This would be their home and basecamp for the next six days of boat-accessed skiing. “We headed to a different fiord every day to ski,” Smith says. “We skied everything from full-on corn to wind-slab and windblown powder, sometimes all on the same run.” Their biggest day involved rising early and motoring to a remote fiord, where they skinned 4,000 feet up and over a ridge before skiing down the opposite aspect to a different fiord on the other side, where the boat was waiting to shuttle them back to the lodge. There, as with every other night, they reveled in dinner and drinks around the fireplace while sharing tales of the day’s exploration and resting up for the day ahead. During whatever down time they had, they’d stand-up paddleboard in the fiords. One afternoon, they even got a visit from National Geographic photographers, who were there to document Arctic foxes. Which, of course, brings up another unique aspect of the trip — its wildlife. While returning from one ski, their boat even grazed a humpback whale. “I can certainly say I’ve never encountered whales skiing before,” Smith says. “After we brushed against it, it turned and looked right up at us.” Info: boreaadventures.com — Eugene Buchanan
Photos courtesy of chucK mann
from Steamboat Springs
Photo By John f. russeLL
Fast fact: Arctic foxes have incredible hearing, aided by wide, front-facing ears that allow them to locate prey beneath the snow. When they hear a meal under the snowpack, they leap and pounce onto the delicacy, often a lemming, below.
From top: Charlie Smith walks back to the boat after another epic ski line; lunch break above the arm of a fiord; Barry Smith and his Icelandic shred machines; and the floating chairlift they used to access the goods.
Photo By John f. russeLL
r o b e r t Or r
racing the ariZona trail, tour DiViDe anD coloraDo trail Don’t blame North Routt local Robert Orr if he was a tad saddle sore last summer. He had just completed mountain biking’s notorious Triple Crown — racing the Tour Divide and Colorado and Arizona Trail races all in the same calendar year — at the ripe age of 61, breaking the age group records in all three. It began in April, when Orr, a former world-class adventure racer, headed to Mexico to race the 750-mile Arizona Trail
Race, a suffer-fest taking riders from the state’s southern border with Mexico to its northern border with Utah. Including the section passing through the Grand Canyon, where racers had to carry their bikes down and back up the Big Ditch (“It’s a national park,” says Orr, “so your wheels can’t touch the ground”), Orr finished in just over nine days for a fourth-place showing overall. “It was pretty brutal,” he says.
t r i pl e Crown
“And the finish line was in the middle of nowhere — there wasn’t even any water there.” Next up came the Tour Divide, a 2,800-mile cycling slog along the spine of the Rockies from Canada to Mexico. The world’s longest off-pavement cycling route, it takes riders through the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, as well as Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. By route’s end, riders climb nearly 200,000 feet of vertical, more than half of Orr’s total for all three races.
Racing it for the second time, Orr almost wasn’t able to finish.
“I hurt my back and had to go to a chiropractor in Butte, Montana,” he says. “It cost me about a day of my time.”
apRIL 14-24; JUne 12-30; JULY 26 - aUG. 1
You wouldn’t know it from his clock-in of 18 days, six hours, shattering his age group record by almost a week and good enough for 11th place overall.
Fast fact: The Triple Crown involves a total vertical climb of 340,000 feet; only nine people have ever completed it.
At the end of July, it was then off to the Colorado Trail Race, a 550-mile, high-altitude affair from Durango to Denver, which he finished in seven days. “It was hard going straight into that one,” he says, adding it included 100 miles of hike-a-bike terrain. He finished in a new age group record of just over seven days. — Eugene Buchanan
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riDing the tour DiViDe The Tour Divide is not for the weak of heart or mind, taking riders 2,745 miles through the Rocky Mountains from Canada to the U.S-Mexico border. Riders climb nearly 200,000 feet — the equivalent of scaling Mount Everest from sea level seven times — with no aid stations or cushy, catered campsites. Riders provide their own food, water and anything else they might need.
2,745 miles 21 days
JUne 12 - JULY 3 Fast fact: Schlichtman lost 16 pounds during the race on a diet of convenience store burritos and M&Ms.
Six years before entering last year’s race, Steamboat’s Mike Schlichtman, a former hog and cattle farmer, found himself out of shape. So he started running, eventually working his way up to a marathon and full Ironman. Then, he bought a used mountain bike off Craigslist and found himself training for the Tour Divide. The views, he says, helped pull him through. “They were incredible, particularly in Canada and Montana,” he says, adding that once a pronghorn broke off from its pack and offered him a race. Another time a bear ran in front of his bike. The Montana leg took him seven days, and his stop in Steamboat en route provided needed motivation, even though rules kept him from sleeping in his own bed. “To be over halfway done and reach Steamboat was a milestone — more so than the actual finish,” he says. He only crashed once on his trip, a fall onto a cactus that left him digging out thorns. His body withstood most everything else, after altering his shoes to accommodate flared-up Achilles tendons. Days and nights of being cold and wet wore on him, but his mental attitude carried him on. “The task is so monumental that you don’t really have any time to think about anything else,” says Schlichtman, who finished on day 21, 34th out of the 153 who completed the ride. “There’s something very freeing about that.” Apparently so, as he already has plans to ride it again in 2017. — Matt Stensland
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B ucha n a n s
SuPPing tortuguero national ParK The main differences between caimans and crocodiles are caimans’ smaller size, pointier head and upper jaw that covers their bottom teeth. But that’s hard to tell from a paddleboard when all you see are menacing, beady eyes. And it’s hard to explain to your kids wobbling next to you.
monkeys screech overhead, flinging from branch to branch. Slaloming through vines and ducking under giant frond leaves, our path is finally blocked by a 250-year-old mountain almond tree. It fell, says Rey, only two months ago, and its wood alone is worth $30,000.
We’re on the Rio Mora in Costa Rica’s Tortuguero National Park, and while caimans are commonplace, SUPs aren’t. According to our guide Reinaldo, these are the first SUPs the soulless, reptilian eyes have ever seen.
It’s these and other indigenous hardwoods, as well as the world’s largest green sea turtle rookery, that led to the region’s preservation in 1978. Located in a maze of jungle-lined rivers along the Caribbean, Tortuguero is one of the country’s most heralded national parks — the perfect place, I reasoned, to instill an environmental ethos in my kids from the perch of a paddleboard. While most people get to it via motorboat, my friend, Rafael Gallo, had a better idea: Take paddleboards to it for the first time ever, down an 8-mile-long, remote tributary.
“It’s okay,” he says to my daughters, Casey, 12, and Brooke, 16. “We’re bigger than they are, so they’re afraid of us.” “Yeah, and I’m bigger than you,” Brooke chides Casey. We continue upstream, taking a tiny fork to the right. Howler
At our put-in on the Rio Suerte, we unloaded a mix of SUPs and kayaks and began our paddle to Mawamba Lodge on the park’s outskirts. The jungle’s charm quickly took hold. Spider monkeys, the second fastest tree monkey in the world, launched overhead above yellow trumpet flowers and daisy chains of heliconias illuminating the green banks. Two hours later, we entered a fresh water estuary paralleling the Caribbean from Nicaragua and paddled to lunch on the bank. A boardwalk hike through the selva quickly prompted Casey to whistle the bird song from “The Hunger Games.“ A viper, toucan, poisonous red dart frog and hand-sized, golden orb weaver spider later — its web is the strongest in the world, synthetically emulated to make bulletproof vests — we made the final push to the lodge, whose green roofs emerged around a corner. A covered dock housed a fleet of motorboats used by its more conventional-arriving guests. Built in 1985, the 40-acre, 56-room lodge was one of the first established in the area. An open-air bar, porch hammocks and pool with bridge and waterfall quickly sent the kids scrambling. But its best feature is its location, sandwiched on a jungle spit between the freshwater estuary and the sea. It’s a fivesecond hike to Caribbean waves on the east, and a mango throw from the fresh water of Tortuguero to the west. Owner Maurizio Dada clearly follows his government’s conservation ethos. That afternoon, we toured the lodge’s bio-digester, which heats the rooms’ hot water with human waste, as well as the “ranarium,” or frog farm, and butterfly pavilion filled with blue morphos and zebra longwings. The country has 10 percent of the world’s total butterfly species, and Maurizio hopes to keep it that way. Walking back through a forest of paprika, avocado, lime, coconut, guava and other trees, we saw a three-toed sloth lounging high in a tree, prompting Brooke to ask for one as a pet. While litter box upkeep might be a snap – they poop only once a month – our cats remain safe. At the bar, the kids basked in virgin piña coladas while we settled for soda and cacique, a local, triple-distilled sugar cane liquor. With the lighting hitting the witching hour, 28
we loaded the boards on the motorboat and shuttled out to the river mouth. When the sun radiated a wall of green under a flock of white egrets, we paddled over to where the freshwater met the crashing waves of the Caribbean. Waking to a cacophony of bird calls, we find local critters having breakfast before us. High in a guava tree, the mouth of a green vine snake wraps around the head of a claycolored robin, Costa Rica’s national bird. Next to it, an iguana the size of Casey’s leg placidly gnaws a leaf. Fueled by thick, Costa Rican coffee, we motor to the park office for our 8:30 a.m. entrance slot. Heading south toward Panama, we turn up a tributary bordered by towering walls of foliage. A caiman submerges with a flop of its tail in the same lily pad we set the boards in. “Dad!” my daughters yell in unison. Taking idle strokes down the Agua Fria, we witness a log standoff between a caiman and orange-eared slider turtle — Mayweather vs. Pacquiao played out in the jungle. Casey startles a Jesus Christ lizard, so named for its ability to run on water, using its tail as a rudder. Humans, says Rey, would have to reach 80 mph for such an escape. Plunging in to cool off while exploring myriad waterways, we eventually make our way back to the lodge. At sunset, on water matching the magenta of the sky and seashell smooth, we paddle to the roadless community Tortuguero for what Casey’s eyed all trip: a coconut with a straw. Pulling up to kids at the dock, we stash our boards, take in a pick-up soccer game on a palm-lined field and stroll through town with its “Don’t worry, be happy” Caribbean vibe. Locals play cards at a park table, kids zing around on rusted bikes and dreadlocked Rastas mill around in Bob Marley shirts. We find Casey her coconut and watch the sky turn blaze pink. We toast Tortuguero and the experience of seeing it from a SUP. When I ask Casey what could be better, she emits a caiman smile, “Maybe if I had this coconut on a paddleboard.” Info: riostropicales.com, mawambalodge.com — Eugene Buchanan
from Steamboat Springs
Photo By courtesy of rafaeL GaLLo
25 percent of Costa Rica is protected as a national park or reserve â€” the highest percentage in the word. Itâ€™s also the only country without an army or military.
Previous page: Brooke and Casey Buchanan take in Tortuguero from atop stand-up paddleboards. This page: supping the freshwater canal leading to the crashing waves of the Caribbean.
c ha m o ni x
from Steamboat Springs
Photo By John f. russeLL
Fast fact: The birthplace of mountaineering, Chamonix, site of the ďŹ rst Winter Olympics in 1924, is also known as the death sports capital of the world, with more than 100 people killed on the Mont Blanc massif each year.
Matt Tredway checks his rope (above), and tightrope walking a ridge on Franceâ€™s Mont Blanc.
M a t t tr e d wa y climbing mont blanc, chamoniX
Sketchy conditions — and dead bodies being carried off your target mountain — can melt a mountaineer’s morale like the polar icecap. That’s why Steamboat Springs climber Matt Tredway, who headed to Switzerland’s Bernese Alps in November to scale the Eiger, had no qualms about changing plans at the mountain’s base and heading for the greener climbing pastures of Chamonix. “We went there with the intention of climbing the Eiger but got spooked,” Tredway says of he and partner Chris Krupthupt’s attempt to summit the iconic peak. “The conditions were too unsafe, which was reinforced by the bodies of two German climbers getting carried off the face from rockfall.” So he called an old climbing buddy, who he met while climbing Tibet’s Cho Oyo and who now lives in Chamonix, and did the old summit switcheroo. Next target: 15,781-foot Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in western Europe and the Alps. “We wanted to knock off some of the classic routes on it,” says Tredway, who’s made four climbing trips to the Himalayas. That, they did, first climbing a variation of the classic mixed snow/ice Cosmique Arete route in the Mont Blanc massif, whose crux he describes as being “as wide as a loaf of bread, with a 5,000-foot drop off each side.” Next, they knocked off the classic Goulotte Chere, whose steep snow approach led to a final crux of vertical blue ice high off the valley floor. “This was a classic, multiple-pitch climb that featured a snow couloir giving way to steep blue ice to the summit,” Tredway says. The climbers also completed a big rock route on the Aiguille Du Midi — “A group of Korean tourists watched us most of the day and applauded when we finally made the top,” Tredway says — as well as “other smaller climbs, by Chamonix standards,” before setting their sights on Mont Blanc. Ignoring the fact that two other climbers died on Mont Blanc while they were there, they started out at 3,000 feet, and in two days, climbed 22,000 vertical feet up and down the peak, including the final snow and ice summit crux.
Photo By chris KruPthuPt
“It was definitely a lot of vertical in two days,” he says. “But we had great conditions with bluebird skies, cold temperatures and good stability. While there were a lot of stronger and bolder climbers there, this was a pretty big couple of days for us. It was awesome mountaineering, and we had the perfect day.” Above all, Tredway says, the best part was simply being in the Alpine climbing world’s epicenter. “We felt like we were in the birthplace of mountaineering,” Tredway says of the region’s climbing heritage. “Each climb we did was very committing and high-quality. It’s an amazing place, because you can be in short sleeves in a coffee shop in Chamonix and then on the summit of Mont Blanc two days later.” — Eugene Buchanan Steamboat
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s mi lk st e i n s hiKing the DolomiteSâ€™ war caVeS
It was a far cry from the local uranium mine cave. Dan and Mo Smilkstein persevered through dark, dank conditions on a 3,000-foot descent of the near vertical Lagazuoi Tunnel, then stepped gingerly along an exposed ledge in the fog during a multi-day trek through the Italian Dolomites last September. Many Lagazuoi hikers clip carabiners into a steel cable for protection. But not the Smilksteins.
from Steamboat Springs
Sept. 1-15 Fast fact: WWI ﬁghting in the Dolomites began in 1915 after Italy declared war against the Austro-Hungarian Empire, separated by a 230-mile-long, mountainous border. The battles revealed altitude and terrain as a common enemy, spawning what soldiers called, “A war within the war.” Previous page (clockwise form top): Dan and Mo Smilkstein atop a peak in the Dolomites; Dan at the entrance of the Lagazuoi Tunnel; a panorama of the Dolomites; and Mo scaling the trail to the top entrance of the cave.
“That probably would have been a good idea, if we’d been able to see what we could have plunged to,” Mo says. “But it was so socked in we couldn’t see.” Still, the challenges the Steamboat Springs couple faced were mild compared to the privations endured by the Italian soldiers who laboriously tunneled upward through the rock during an obscure action in World War I at Lagazuoi. Ultimately, the Italian troops succeeded in planting nitroglycerine in the heart of the mountain and blew up the fortress of the Austro-Hungarian soldiers, who had been picking them off from above. Sounds like the script for a black-and-white war movie starring Richard Widmark and Richard Burton but not a great vacation, right? Actually, as with all of their adventures, the Smilksteins loved it. “It was 3,000 feet of wet, dark caves down through the mountain,” Dan says. “It’s not really recommended for a first date. We dubbed it Torture Mo day.” In all, the day consisted of 4,000-plus feet of climbing, eight hours of hiking in the rain and fog and descending 3,300 feet through caves with head lamps. Mo says they also had to “walk along a spine at one point on a pretty rickety ladder.” Still, it was hardly a suffer-fest for Dan and Mo, who have consulted the book “Classic Treks: The 30 Most Spectacular Hikes in the World” for inspiration to tackle massive rambles from the Indian subcontinent to Peru. In Italy, during the course of their trek, they stayed in mountain lodges known as refugios, each with its own gourmet chef and local beer. “It was unique for a lot of reasons,” Dan says. “It gave us an appreciation of what humans can do when they’re determined. And it was a great way to get from the summit down to the valley far below. We only went down once, while the soldiers did it all the time while carrying big loads. Afterward, we drank a large beer in their honor.” Dan has tackled several world-class adventures, including soloing 19,785-foot Tocllaraju in Peru. During a get-away to Zion National Park last autumn, he climbed the cracks of several marquee sandstone spires. And in terms of “hanging it out there,” he acknowledges ice climbing Vail’s Rigid Designator this winter was a bigger deal than descending the Lagazuoi Tunnel. But frothy beers and fluffed pillows aside, it was a classic adventure for one of Steamboat’s most adventurous couples. “If you’re in decent shape and determined, it’s a cool way to see a part of the world not everyone gets to see,” he says. “It’s a great ‘everyman’ adventure.” — Tom Ross
Ki m H e s s
an earthQuaKe on mount eVereSt There were a handful of terrifying moments, Steamboat Springs climber Kim Hess explains. She was on Mount Everest on April 25, 2015, as high as nearly any climber had been yet during the spring season, tucked away in her a tent after a grueling morning journey from Camp 1, at 19,685 feet above sea level, to Camp 2, at 21,000. That’s when the Earth shook — the first terrifying moment. “I was sitting in my tent with my tent mate, and the ground just started violently shaking,” Hess says. “I thought our tent was going to implode into the glacier we were sleeping on.” It didn’t, but it was just the start of an adventure that proved far more than even Hess had bargained for. For Hess, Everest was part of a larger quest to reach the peak of all the Seven Summits, the highest peaks on each of the world’s seven continents. She’d already completed four of the seven — Africa’s Kilimanjaro, North America’s Denali, Europe’s Mount Elbrus and South America’s Aconcagua. She’d had terrifying moments along those journeys, too, including an accident on Denali that left her with a broken wrist, stranded miles from help. In April, however, Mount Everest proved an entirely different beast, and it started as she rested in her tent. A massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal and, in an instant, ended the climbing season and threw into peril the hundreds of climbers on the mountain, not to mention the millions of people around the region. Hess sat right in the middle of it and lived through the series of terrifying moments. She rushed outside after the initial shaking, barefoot and wearing only long underwear. Her crew had climbed that day’s 1,400 feet not headed to the summit but in an attempt to acclimate and prepare for their real push maybe as much as a month later. Low clouds had rolled in, and the mountain was socked in tight at 21,000 feet. “You could just hear a rumble in this amphitheater we were in,” she says. “The ground stopped shaking but the noise was just ... it was terrifying. You didn’t 36
know where it was coming from. We knew there were avalanches we couldn’t see, so we just waited for some to come down.” Avalanches weren’t rare during her time at Everest. She says they were a part of life at base camp, and when the earth first started moving, she wondered if it was the effects of an avalanche she was feeling, perhaps more amplified at a higher altitude. She was able to quickly dispel that notion, however, as the avalanches did come, crashing down around Camp 2, she could only wait and hope. One nearby slide was stopped by a crevasse. Another shook free from a nearby peak, and yet another charged down the climbing route to Camp 3 and sent a billowing cloud of snow into Camp 2, coating all its inhabitants. By the time that dust blew through camp, less than two minutes had passed. Hess was climbing with International Mountain Guides, a Washington-based outfit, and was quickly able to check in with teammates and guides spread across the mountain. They were OK, but bad news soon followed. “Everyone radioed in that they were fine and everyone was accounted for,” she says, “and then you just heard chaos at base camp.” While Camp 2 and its temporary inhabitants had managed to avoid all the threatened avalanches, base camp — the backbone of any Everest climbing season — had not. A slide swept over the camp and killed 19 climbers, Sherpas and guides. Hess and her team could do nothing but wait for help. Eventually, it came in the form of helicopters that flew them away from Camp 1 and back to base camp. From there, they slowly made their way out of the country, donating extra supplies where they could and stopping in their guides’ nearby hometowns to help clean up and start the long rebuilding process. It was an unforgettable experience, Hess says, terrifying and heartbreaking at the same time. It didn’t change her goals, however, and before she was even off the mountain, she was sure of one thing. “I’m going back.” — Joel Reichenberger
e ve r e st
from Steamboat Springs MaRCH 22 MaY 7
Photo By John f. russeLL
Fast fact: The 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Nepal on April 25, 2015, literally moved a mountain, shifting Mount Everest 3 centimeters southwest.
No rest for the weary: Kim Hess plans to tackle Mount Everest again this spring, for her fifth of the worldâ€™s Seven Summits.
Photo By John f. russeLL
Lu k e Ki m m e s
From the gulF to the arctic ocean Luke Kimmes, 26, had never even been on an overnight canoe trip when he and five friends began their upstream paddle on the Mississippi River from the Gulf of Mexico on Jan. 2, 2015. Their journey, dubbed “Rediscovering North America,” lasted eight months and took the six men in three canoes up the Mississippi to the Arctic Circle 5,200 miles away. It’s safe to say Kimmes, an outdoor programs instructor at Colorado Mountain College, has now mastered the art of canoe camping.
Mexico up the Atchafalaya River west of New Orleans on Jan. 2, 2015, with riverside fishermen already pointing out they were headed in the wrong direction. They’d wake up at 5 a.m. each morning and paddle up to 10 hours each day in two-hour stints, with one person stroking left and the other right for seven minutes at a time before switching. “It was a continuous effort to be on the same stroke,” Kimmes says.
The brainstorm for the trip came from team member Winchell Delano, who convinced fellow wilderness instructors Daniel Flynn, John Keaveny and Adam Trigg and Jarrad Moore to join him. Moore invited childhood friend Kimmes to round out the team.
Traveling upstream, it was a constant struggle to stay moving. Even a quick water break would cause them to drift backward. If the wind was right, their only reprieve was unfurling small sails. “Sometimes it’d only be for five minutes, but it would help,” Kimmes says.
After months of planning their route, the crew packed their food and gear — including essentials from local sponsor Big Agnes — and hit the water. They departed from the Gulf of
He adds it was impossible to prepare their bodies for the task. “The first month was pretty brutal for all of us,” he says. “We’d wake up in the dark, tear down in the dark and eat in
Photos courtesy of rediscoverna.com
N or th A m e r ica
5,200 miles 246 days
Jan. 2 - Sept. 2 Fast fact: In their entire 5,200 miles, they only capsized once — 559 times less than the total number of energy bars they consumed on their journey.
Clockwise from left: Luke Kimmes 5,200 canoe miles later; the team on Canada’s Coppermine; the group making its way upstream on the Mississippi; Kimmes taking a rare break from paddling; and Kimmes with a northern pike to replenish the day’s lost calories.
the dark. Some days, we were so tired we’d fall asleep while paddling.”
ewan, Churchill, Slave and Yellowknife rivers before reaching Canada’s Northwest Territories.
The dark days were often brightened, however, by the kind acts of “river angels,” who provided warm burritos, beer and places to do laundry. After more than 2,000 miles of upstream paddling, they reached the Laurentian Divide along the Minnesota and South Dakota border, where the water finally flowed north, allowing downstream travel. Though the current was only a measly 6 cubic feet per second, the team celebrated the pivotal milestone.
On Aug. 30, the team reached the Coppermine River, meaning it had fewer than 100 miles to go. On Sept. 1, they left Blood Falls, their final portage, undeterred by 48 degree F. temperatures and 25-mph headwinds. They pulled in on the west side of Kugluktuk the next afternoon, 246 days and 5,200 miles after starting.
“The guys didn’t really like talking about the Mississippi once we were done with it,” Kimmes says. They then traveled downstream on the Red River to Lake Winnipeg, crossing into Canada and passing the 3,000-mile mark. From there, it was upstream and down on the Saskatch-
Now, Kimmes is back in Steamboat, saving up for his next adventure. “I’ve considered doing a Pacific Crest Trail trip, or the Iditarod or maybe an Ironman,” he says, adding they plan to release a documentary about their trip this spring. “There are a lot of places I want to go.” Info: rediscoverna.com
— Teresa Ristow
2,663 miles 159 days Sagan
apRIL 24 - Sept. 29
Photos courtesy of Ben machieLa / GreG saGan
Pa ci f i c C oa st
150 days Machiela
apRIL 24 - Sept. 20 Fast fact: First proposed by Catherine Montgomery in 1926, the PCT has a total elevation gain of 314,711 feet.
PC t Br iga de
treKKing the PaciFic creSt trail The 2,663-mile Pacific Crest Trail, tracing the West Coast from Mexico to Canada, passes through three national monuments, seven national parks, 24 national forests and 33 wilderness areas. But when nine Steamboat locals set out on it last April, they were in it for self-discovery as much as the scenery. Although the hikers met beforehand at a gathering known as PCT Days and started out together, they soon went their separate ways, following the trail’s motto “Hike your own hike.” Following are two of their tales.
greg Sagan For Greg Sagan, the trail held special meaning. After beating testicular cancer at a young age, Sagan quit his job as a correctional officer and began exploring the mountains near his Massachusetts home. After following a friend to Steamboat Springs, he became sponsored by Vasque Footwear to complete the PCT and partnered with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation 40
to raise awareness for children’s cancer. Three months of training and trail preparations led to his April 24 departure. His 30-pound pack held food and water to get him to the next re-supply, be it a grocery store or post office. “The trail teaches you what you need and don’t need,” he says. “It teaches you how to enjoy the simplicity of life. It’s helped me to downsize and be less materialistic.” He remembers the PCT community, one that christened him “Zoolander” for his brightly colored pants, fondly, and made countless new friends along the trail. But he admits it wasn’t all easy. While crossing the Mojave Desert, his feet blistered so badly he was forced to wear Crocs for 60 miles. Later, while in town restocking, he learned that one of his friends in Massachusetts had passed away. This gave him the motivation to finish.
Steamboat’s PCT Crew In all, nine current Steamboat residents completed the trail in 2015, three of them moving here after finishing it. As is custom, all adopted nicknames befitting their character or an anecdote en route. Name
Scott Miller Frosty Cheeks Cale Rogers Dirty Marmot Lizzie Morrison Sando Rory Hart
Jascha Origami Bowen-Kreine Kacie Ross Firefox Zac Barbiasz Hollywood
Clockwise from left: The PCT crew at trail’s end at the Canadian border; Machiela and Sagan setting up camp, hiking, relaxing and celebrating at various points along the way.
“Knowing he was looking down on me gave me everything I needed,” says Sagan.
as “helpful, loving people who give without being asked, whether it’s food, a ride to town or a roof for a night.”
Sagan carried a bottle of champagne to British Columbia, where he popped it open Sept. 29 to celebrate the trip’s end and a lesson learned en route: “You just have to stay optimistic.”
“I was amazed at strangers’ kindness,” he says. “At a grocery store once, a complete stranger paid for my entire food supply. That’s how you make a bearded man smile.”
The isolation was also challenging. With limited cell coverage, the only real communication came from posting and reading comments in trail registers. “You had to dig deep for personal strength and to sort out the reason you’re there,” he says. “Solitary hikers are strong people.”
Ben Machiela has always loved the joy of the trail. “I’m good at walking,” says the former snowboard instructor and ranch hand who now handles maintenance for Bella Vista. “On the trail, I was known for being a drill sergeant, always wanting to go, go, go.” He applied that same ethos when through-hiking the Appalachian Trail two years ago, where he earned the trail name “Wrangler” for driving six cows away from camp one night. The nickname also applies to his ability to wrangle food to augment his staples of tuna, Ramen and Pop Tarts. For this, he’s grateful for the help of “Trail Angels,” which he describes
The biggest lesson he learned was the mental stamina needed to finish. He credits his last step on Sept. 20 after 150 days to hiking fast, but taking long breaks. “Stubbornness and hope will get you through,” says Machiela, who now has his eyes on the Continental Divide Trail, completing the hiking world’s coveted Triple Crown. —Annie Martin
from Steamboat Springs
Photo By John f. russeLL
Fast fact: Nepalâ€™s April 25, 7.8 earthquake killed 8,617 people, injured 16,808 and displaced 2.8 million. It also destroyed more than 473,000 homes.
Clockwise from above: Eric Meyer, Mark Cox, Dan Bell and Chhiring Sherpa; the team on the top of Yalung Ri; and Bell trekking through Nepalâ€™s Rolwaling Valley.
Photo By fredriK stranG
n e pa l
treKKing For earthQuaKe VictimS After Nepal’s worst earthquake in 80 years — one that also killed 16 Sherpas in the deadliest avalanche in Mount Everest’s history — four locals called attention to the area’s devastation by trekking there themselves. Led by local mountaineer Chhiring Dorje Sherpa, who has summited Everest 12 times and has created a foundation to help his hometown village of Na, the locals — including local anesthesiologist Eric Meyer, Storm Peak Mountain Ranch manager Dan Bell and Steamboat Springs Winter Driving School President Mark Cox — spent November trekking up the Rolwaling Valley to benefit the region’s reconstruction.
Photo courtesy of eric meyer
“Chhiring was wondering how to best help out his village,” says Meyer. “They need more than just money; there’s no workforce left to rebuild. All the young men have left to find work elsewhere. So the idea was to trek there to show the villagers how important it is to rebuild.” After an eight-hour drive from Kathmandu, the group of 12, including porters, spent two weeks hiking up the Rolwaling Valley, averaging up to 15 miles per day. The effects of the earthquake quickly sank in. At the village of Simagaon, they saw the remains of a centuries-old monastery, whose surviving artifacts had been moved into a makeshift stone building. “It had been there for hundreds of years,” Meyer says. “It was the first real eye-opener of the valley’s devastation.” Staying in teahouses, people’s homes and camping among the wreckage, the group helped with rebuilding efforts wherever possible. “It was mostly girls and women remaining in the villages,” says Meyer. “One goal of Chhiring’s foundation is to rebuild the local monastery school. We’re adding a greenhouse, where the kids can grow vegetables to eat and sell. Hopefully, this will encourage other villagers to do the same.” After trekking through Beding and Chhiring’s home village of Na, where Meyer and Fredrik Sträng took a side trip to ascend and ski 18,471-foot Yalung Ri, the group continued over 19,000-foot Tesi Lapcha Pass. From there, they descended into the Thame Valley and the village of Namche. “The sheer scale of the mountains was incredible,” says Bell. “It’s way off the beaten path. Not many people trek there. It was good to show its villagers that people are interested in it.” Overshadowing the vistas, however, was the far-reaching effects of the earthquake. “It was incredibly widespread,” Bell says. “Every village was significantly impacted, whether from landslides or buildings collapsing. “It just takes a long time to get there to help,” he adds. “We saw 16-yearold girls carrying bags of concrete for three days to Beding, then turning around and heading back for more.” Info: rolwalingexcursion.com.np. — Eugene Buchanan
Photo By JuLes Poma
J a co b McCoola
rowing From Steamboat to laKe Powell Jacob McCoola’s excursion might have been closer to home than others, but it was no less adventurous — even if it started just a mile from his front door. McCoola spent 50 straight days last summer rafting 600 miles from Steamboat Springs to Lake Powell. While “stroke, stroke, stroke” became a mantra, he didn’t have to listen to it echo off the canyons solo; friends joined him along the way. “I did it for the adventure,” says McCoola. “All winter, I worked up to 80-hour weeks, saving money to go back to school, while my skis, hiking boots and boats sat unused in the basement. That isn’t a way to live for very long. People need exploration, whether they know it or not.” After negotiating the trip’s logistical hiccups, including permits, gear and provisions, McCoola drove his truck to Hite, Utah, then hitchhiked back to Steamboat. On May 16, friend Jason Peasley drove him to the put-in near the KOA campground, where he shoved off.
After Duffy and Juniper canyons came his first and only time off the water. “Cross Mountain was too high, so we portaged up to the Little Snake,” he says. “Other than that, my boat didn’t leave the river until we took out at Lake Powell June 27.” Next came aligning with the required permit for running Yampa Canyon, before hitting the Green River and floating Split Mountain Canyon into Desolation and Gray canyons. “It was rainier than expected, which tested our gear and attitudes,” he says. “It also meant more mosquitoes. At one point, I counted 90 bites on one arm.” From there, a flat-water float through Labyrinth and Stillwater canyons brought him to Class IV-V Cataract Canyon just below the confluence with the Colorado. It was here, with the river flowing 40,000 cubic feet per second, where the most harrowing moment of the journey occurred. “One of our rafts flipped before Big Drop, so we had to chase it and a swimmer seven miles down the canyon,” he says. “We
L a k e P o w e ll ended up running it in two days instead of four. It was pretty humbling and intense.”
600 miles 50 days
MaY 16 - JUne 27
Fast fact: Lake Powell’s Glen Canyon Dam, completed in 1963 and rising 710 feet above the river, took 17 years to ﬁ ll and is the country’s second largest manmade reservoir.
Rapids behind him, the massive silt banks of Lake Powell finally escorted him to Hite Marina and a well-deserved hot shower. Despite his introspective solo time behind the oars, having companions along was key. “I was joined by everyone, from scientists and outdoor educators to children, first-time rafters, poets and musicians,” he says. “Apart from bringing resupplies, they provided a great change of perspective. You build great relationships on a river.” While he admits to facing some adverse conditions, “the tough moments were just a wonderful part of the experience,” he says. “Overall, it was an amazing journey, physically, mentally and spiritually. It was great to get to know a place so intimately. Rivers are a perfect metaphor for life, and being able to live that metaphor is a privilege.” The hardest part, he says, wasn’t the rapids, bugs or weather but bidding adieu to friends and deflating his raft at trip’s end. “Saying goodbye to amazing friends, both new and old, at each boat ramp was tough,” he says. “And so was taking out at the end. Sometimes, you just want to keep going, but there’s a dam in your way.”
Sitting at an elevation of 6882 feet, with RWY 14/32 at 4452 feet long, Bob Adams Field gives you year round access to world-class adventure, dining, shopping and more.
(970) 879-1204 www.steamboatsprings.net/airport
— Eugene Buchanan
Locals' top journeys of 2015