ADVENTURE localsâ€™ top journeys 2017
ADVENTURERS share their tales from 2016 MYANMAR EVEREST NORWAY PERU BAJA THE ARCTIC and more!
ah W etze
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ADVENTURE | 3
40 30 15 26 8
12 M YA NM A R
14 NOR WAY
36 Hugh Newton Hank Salyer Alisha Johansson Casey Oâ€™Donnell U . S . A . Josh Scott John Peretz 15 CANADA
Susan Petersen Jill Boyd Kristen Hager 4
Ben & Helen Beall
39 NEW ZEALAND Bryna Sisk
35 42 NEPAL & U.S.A. U.S.A. Tashi Sherpa
“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” —Jawaharial Nehru
ADVENTURE | 5
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR An evening of adventure To pay it forward, proceeds from our special Adventure Night March 29 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Chief Theater benefit Everything Outdoor Steamboat, helping the next generation of Steamboaters embrace the great outdoors. For info and tickets visit,
While Steamboat’s an awesome place to live and raise a family, it’s not exactly Hardguy (or gal) Town USA. Rock climbers might choose Yosemite; extreme skiers the steeps of Jackson, Snowbird or Squaw Valley; ice climbers Ouray; fly-fisherman Bozeman; and kayakers and kiters the winds and waterfalls of Hood River. But don’t be fooled; we have more than our share of world-class adventurers happy to call the Yampa Valley home for its community and access to the outdoors. So that’s what this second installation of our Adventure issue is about — to give you an inkling of the kind of person that calls Steamboat home. As with last year’s compilation, we spread the word far and wide to come up with the following sampling of adventures taken by our globetrotting locals in 2016. They range from a first kayak descent in Myanmar to a summit of Everest, all by locals likely standing next to you in the gondola line.
Publisher SUZANNE SCHLICHT Editor LISA SCHLICHTMAN Magazine Editor EUGENE BUCHANAN Advertising Executive BRYNA SISK Design Manager AFTON POSPISILOVA /CMNM Creative Services DARIN BLISS /CMNM Steamboat Adventure is published by Steamboat Today. Have a worthy adventure from 2017 for next year’s compilation? Pitch it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Steamboat Adventure magazines are free. For advertising information, call 970-871-4235. To get a copy mailed to your home, call 970-871-4252.
– eugene buchanan
ADVENTURE locals’ top journeys 2017
ON THE COVER
share their tales from 2016
MYANMAR EVEREST NORWAY PERU BAJA THE ARCTIC and more!
Dan Bell and Chhiring Sherpa atop Nepal’s Lobuche Peak. Photo by Dan Bell
CARBON QUOTA Your new magazine is great. One item catching my eye: the miles these adventurers traveled from Steamboat. It made me think of the tons of carbon generated by those trips, especially with today’s climate change concerns (an organization called Protect Our Winters deals with this issue). When my friends and I plan adventures, we try to use public transportation, make loop trips and avoid using fossil fuel-intensive transportation. When we do fly we purchase offsets to neutralize our carbon footprints … renewable projects that wouldn’t hap6
pen unless we contributed funds. Think about how you can incorporate this concern with Adventures magazine while not alienating local coal interests. –john spezia
CANOE CANOE? Thanks for a great Adventure issue. My wife, Alexa, and I did a cool one that same year, participating in the 90-mile, three-day Adirondack Canoe Classic race, from Old Forge to Saranac Lake, New York. Each day follows historic North Country trade routes, and time cutoffs mean you need to keep paddling. It’s not like
some of these other adventures you listed, but cool nonetheless. And we’re signed up again this year, switching from the two- to four-man division. Want to join? – rick pighini
this as well. No one in the audience moved during the entire show, and everyone got a huge sense of inspiration. You need a raise. – mat t tredway
Your Adventure magazine was very well done. I can’t wait for this year’s, for which I have an idea. There are many throughhikers in Steamboat that have hiked the Continental Divide Trail from Mexico to Canada. It passes right through Rabbit Ears, so most hikers drop into Steamboat for supplies and rest.
What a great event you held in conjunction with last year’s inaugural Adventure issue; that was a serious brainchild you pulled off. I loved every presentation; it pulled the covers off many local adventures and got a lot of people involved. It was also great to include EOS as the beneficiary; local kids will benefit from
– ed miesen
ADVENTURE | 7
HIK ING T HE CON T INEN TAL DIVIDE TR AIL
FROM CHAM TO JAPAN
Hiking all 3,100 miles of the Continental Divide Trail is tough to do in a year. Just ask Ed Miesen, who knocked off 2,100 miles of the Canada-to-Mexico traverse through the Rockies in 2015, and nearly all the rest of it last year by tackling the Colorado leg.
As an associate professor for Colorado Mountain College’s Ski and Snowboard Business department in Steamboat Springs, Michael Martin juggles time in the classroom with time in the white room. Last year, that balancing act brought him on a 20-day ski trip traipsing the globe from Chamonix to Japan.
“I hiked to Rabbit Ears Pass in 2015 from the U.S. border of Canada, after completing the New Mexico section in spring,” says Miesen, who also notched the 2,660-mile Pacific Crest Trail in 2014. “I flipped over Colorado in June of that year due to the unstable snowpack. Then, I decided to winter in Steamboat with a friend.” When not vagabonding on trails through the West, he works at the ticket office at Steamboat Ski Arwea. On his 2016 Colorado crusade, he finished another 612 miles from Cumbres Pass to Steamboat. “Unlike some other sections, the Colorado route goes high up on the Continental Divide and stays there,” he says, adding that one day he encountered two elk herds, a fox, a bull and cow moose and various birds of prey. “During monsoon season, this means a front-row seat to afternoon thunderstorms. The challenge is to miss them when climbing the passes. It was never summer-like weather up there.” Founded in 1978, the CDT extends 3,100 miles from Canada to Mexico, carrying hikers through a multitude of ecosystems, from tundra to desert and high alpine mountains, and dishing out an elevation range varying between 4,000 and 14,000 feet. It’s heralded as the highest, most challenging and remote National Scenic Trail in the country, luring about 150 ambitious, Dr. Scholl’s-wearing souls to attempt it in its entirety every year. As for Miesen, he’s not quite finished with Colorado yet. “Last September, I climbed from Berthoud Pass to the top of 13,123foot Mt. Flora in a freezing rainstorm and turned around to stay at the hostel in Grand Lake,” he says. “This created a gap, so I’ll complete the last 55 miles this year. Taking three seasons to finish the CDT is no big deal because hiking in the ancient natural world lifts my spirit.”
A filmmaker on the side, shooting promotional material for such clients as Nordica, Martin made his second trip to Chamonix last January, hitting it in the ideal powder window. “We got to ski the ‘other’ side of Chamonix,” says Martin, who regularly clocks 100-plus days a season. “We didn’t get to ski the extreme, steep lines it’s known for, but we hit deep powder every day, which was great.” En route, he also hooked up with a couple of former Steamboat residents now living in Munich. From there, it was across umpteen lines of longitude straight to Japan, where the powder stars again aligned. This time, he toured out of Kirroro on the north island of Hokkaido, adding more untracked lines to his steep and deep dossier. “It was kind of like skiing Steamboat on its best day, every day,” he says of the terrain. He also used the trip as a scouting mission to create a study abroad course for CMC’s Ski Business department, in partnership with tour operator Sass Travel. The class will have students create a marketing plan for Liberty Skis and acquire footage and other assets for it on a 10-day trip to Kirroro next January. “It’ll be a great class,” says Martin. “Plus, the students will get a chance to ski Japan.”
“ We got to ski the ‘other’ side of Chamonix. We didn’t get to ski the extreme, steep lines it’s known for, but we hit deep powder everyday, which was great.”
WA HOO F ISHING (A ND CH A SING HE MING WAY ) IN CUB A
USING BIKES TO POWER COMPU T ERS IN NEPAL
Trolling a fishing line deep in the Atlantic off the Cuba coast, Steamboat Springs Realtor Cam Boyd couldn’t help but feel a hint of Hemingway this past fall, even if Boyd was chasing wahoo instead of marlin.
Feel good about riding your bike up Emerald? You’d feel better philanthropically if you followed Nathan Proper’s lead and powered computers by bicycle in Nepal.
“My old college roommate invited me to compete in a fishing tournament over there,” says Boyd, a relative novice at competitive deep sea fishing. “It was a pretty unique opportunity.”
Proper and Alex Moon, from the nonprofit Maya Sherpa Project, did just that last summer, bringing laptops and pedal-power to the village of Mera.
So he found himself crossing the Straits of Florida on a 36-foot, open, sport fishing boat, with four, custom 300-horsepower engines that topped 60 mph. Even that, however, wasn’t enough to prevent the 1.5-hour crossing from becoming a seven-hour, seasick-filled sufferfest caused by 15-foot seas.
“We had a request from the monastery asking how they could power computers to help residents learn,” says Moon. “The issue was generating consistent power; Mera only has a small hydro-electric system, which was damaged by the 2015 earthquake.”
“At one point, a wave crashed over the bow, shattering the windshield and filling the hull with a foot of water,” Boyd says. “It was a pretty rough trip.”
Cuba stats P O P U L AT I O N
11 MILLION D I S TA N C E F R O M F L O R I D A
AMOUNT OF COASTLINE
2,300 MILES H I G H E S T E L E VAT I O N
6,476 FT Pico Turquino
L I T E R A C Y R AT E
One of the highest in the world
Stomachs settled, they finally arrived at Marina Hemingway near Havana, where the three-day fishing tournament began for wahoo, a sportfish that can swim up to 60 mph and reach 100 pounds. “But it was rough, too,” says Boyd. “The seas were about 12 feet, we were continually drenched, and the fishing wasn’t all that good. But we ended up winning the tournament.” From there it was on to Cuba’s more traditional attractions, like driving around in vintage 1950s-era automobiles, exploring Havana, dancing the Mambo, and visiting the home of Hemingway, who lived there for nearly 20 years, prompting “The Old Man and the Sea.” “Hemingway’s still a big deal down there,” Boyd says. “There are photos of him all over. But I think he caught a few more marlins than we did wahoo.”
So Proper, an electrical engineer, designed a pedal-power energy system and the Maya Sherpa Project’s Computer Power program was born. “The computer aspect was easy,” says Proper, adding that Germany’s Mountain Spirit donated laptops, pre-installed with education software and an offline version of Wikipedia. “The power aspect was more involved.” On an earlier trip, the two had joked about harnessing the power of the young monks running around by putting them in hamster wheels. This led to the bike-power idea to produce electricity. A few months later, after flying to Kathmandu, jeeping for 10 hours and hiking for four more, Proper and Moon arrived at Mera’s monastery and began work. The result: a custom-built controller and bank of four car batteries, recharged by a roof-mounted wind turbine. A bicycle connected to a small generator helped power the battery box. Not knowing if the turbine would work, a windy day confirmed that the batteries were charging and the bike-power and laptops were working. And the monks loved the software – especially the touch-typing. But Proper says there’s room for improvement. “Bike’s aren’t terribly efficient at generating power,” he says. “We need to fix the gearing. But it was by far the biggest hit. Someone was always pedaling like crazy and laughing, while trying to keep their robes out of the way.” – eugene buchanan
ADVENTURE | 9
S U M M I T I N G M T. EVEREST EN ROUTE TO THE SEVEN SUMMITS
The details, especially the miserable ones, have mostly fallen away for Kim Hess. She’s forgotten how hungry she got while climbing Mount Everest, how long she went between showers and how boring some times were and how tiring others were. When she thinks back on her summit day, May 20, 2016, she remembers just a few things after those final steps to the top of the world. “I remember it was a hell of a sunrise, and I remember it was really cold,” she says. “I don’t think I cared much about the cold. All you remember is how awesome the summit was, and all the great friends you made. You forget the bad stuff.” Summiting Mount Everest allowed Hess to check another peak off her quest to climb the Seven Summits — the tallest mountain on each of the globe’s seven continents. It was her fifth. She’d already climbed Denali in Alaska, Aconcagua in Argentina, Mount Elbrus in Russia and Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
“I remember it was a hell of a sunrise, and I remember it was really cold .” Five down, two to go: Hess, en route to bagging Mount Everest, her fifth of the famed Seven Summits. Photos courtesy Kim Hess
Some of those accomplishments were more difficult in some ways. She broke her wrist descending Denali and had to get rescued from a lower camp. None, however, have had the resonance of summiting Everest.
Hess reached the summit on her second of backto-back attempts. Her first, in 2015, was halted midway at Camp 2 where she rode out a massive earthquake that rocked Nepal and the ensuing avalanches on Everest that took a deadly toll. After two years so utterly focused on one goal, she has mixed emotions watching her friends in the climbing community prepare for the 2017 season. “It’s a relief not to be packing for a nine-week trip,” she says, “but I also have FOMO (fear of missing out). I’m sad and longing to return to such a beautiful place with some of the few people I can relate to.” Everest still dominates her life, however. She’s given official presentations about it to sold-out theaters, and an infinite number of informal talks to friends and acquaintances. Bartending at Backdoor Burgers downtown can mean talking to an awful lot of people, many to whom she’s just “the Everest girl.”
She’s struggled with that, with how to relate such a personal experience to people she barely knows. Some challenge her about her own reasons for climbing, or lecture her about the treatment of the Sherpa people or the collection of garbage on the mountain. “People want to ask really personal questions, and they already have an opinion,” she says. “It’s like talking politics with someone.” Hess is already thinking about how to expand on her initial Seven Summits goal. If she also hits both the North and South Poles, she’d have reached the Explorer’s Grand Slam. She has two mountains left. One is easy, Mt. Kosciusko, in Australia. That amounts to nothing more than a hike. She doesn’t have a firm date for that trip yet, but she’s hoping to knock off the other outstanding mountain soon, Antarctica’s Mount Vinson Massif. That could come late this year or early next, and Hess says she already knows what she hopes to find at the top of that mountain. “I hope it’s not too cold,” she says, “and I hope the sunrise is awesome.”
ADVENTURE | 11
K AYA K ING F OUR F IR S T DE SCE N T S IN M YA NM A R
Local international expedition kayaker Kurt Casey certainly could have picked an easier country to paddle in last spring than Myanmar. But that would have been too easy, and that’s not his style. Formerly known as Burma, Myanmar is wedged between Bangladesh, India, China, Laos and Thailand and bordered on the north by the Himalaya and on the south by the Bay of Bengal and Adaman Sea.
custody. Winning the Nobel Peace Prize, she was released in 2010, holding a parliament seat until 2015. That November, her party won a landslide victory, selecting the next president: Suu Kyi’s adviser, Htin Kyaw. Shortly later, Suu Kyi was named state counselor.
While that alone makes access difficult, its political climate has been even more foreboding. It’s been a pariah state since 1962 when military dictatorship commenced under General Ne Win, closing its borders.
With this came a loosening of world sanctions and the opening of the country to visitors. While certain areas are still off limits, they can be accessed with proper permits. One such area is the mountainous, river-filled region of Shan, Myanmar´s largest state comprising 33 different ethnic groups. That’s what captured Casey’s kayaking eye.
“Little news has come from the country beyond reports from refugees fleeing into camps in Thailand,” says Casey, adding that it harbors 133 different ethnic groups, each with their own language, food, customs and culture. Many also have their own military and a shared distrust of the Burmese government. Just ask Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of Major General Aung San, who gained the country’s independence from Great Britain. Returning to Burma in 1988 to care for her mother and promote democracy, she was arrested a year later, spending the next 15 years in 12
“I remember looking at maps of the area in the early ‘90s and dreaming of a trip there, but it wasn’t until Google Earth that you could map out river courses,” says the international adventurer. Casey and partner Rocky Contos visited Myanmar in 2015 and secured permits for a whitewater kayaking trip in 2016. Last April, Contos, Casey and Josh Fischer arrived in the capital of Yangon with trio of kayaks and a pair of rafts, intent on a month-
OPPOSITE PAGE “I think we should go left”: skirting a massive wave on the Salween. ABOVE Negotiating a waterfall on a first decent, and entertaining locals on the Salween. Photos courtesy Kurt Casey
long river running odyssey. All the rivers they ran were exploratory first descents, ranging from low-volume steep creeks to huge, Amazon-sized whitewater on the Salween — one of Southeast Asia´s largest rivers. First, they tackled the Nam Pan, whose limestone canyon forms the border between the states of Shan and Kayah. The group started at a small Buddhist monastery along the river, tackled its Class IV-V whitewater and finished at a bridge surrounded by three opposing armies.
The next river they explored was the travertine ledge-riddled Nam Teng, requiring them to bring overnight gear. Paddling self-support, the trio spent three days kayaking the river, including watching it rise threefold thanks to early monsoon rains. Next up was the Nam Pang, “a medium-sized river with 86-degree azure waters and spectacular waterfalls and rapids.” Shorter trips notched, they then tackled a longer, bigger endeavor — a 286-kilometer-long section of the Salween, flowing at a “low” pre-monsoon level of 60,000 cubic feet per second (five times the average flow in the Grand Canyon). Here, they used their rafts to carry gear on the nine-day trip. Born in the highlands of Tibet, the Salween, called the Nujiang (Angry River) in China, features the longest river canyon in the world. It enters Myanmar for 1,200 of its 2,815-kilometer course. “Many river runners have thought of trying to run an exploratory trip on it over the years, but being off limits, the lack of roads and ethnic fighting has kept them away,” says Casey. “It was pretty wild to be in there for the first time.” Encountering big wave trains, secluded beaches and a few Class Vs and mandatory portages, the trip was so successful that Contos, through his company Sierra Rios (www.sierrarios.org), plans to commercially run kayak and raft trips in the region this year. “The only sad note,” says Casey, “is that several dams are planned on what is now one of the world’s longest free-flowing rivers. If they go in, it will ruin a fantastic whitewater run.”
FUN FACTS Myanmar’s largest mountain, Hkakabo Razi (19,295 feet), wasn’t climbed until 1996 Myanmar is the largest country in mainland Southeast Asia (261,970 square miles, about the size of Texas). It has a population of 55 million. Myanmar is one of only three countries in the world that hasn’t adopted the metric system (joining Liberia and the U.S.). The common local unit of weight is the peiktha (3.6 pounds). Temples and pagodas found throughout Myanmar were built during the 12th century under the Pagan Empire as Theravada Buddhism spread; to-
day, 89 percent of the population is Buddhist. Signs of pagan worship still exist, with dolllike Nat temples scattering local villages. Men and women use a yellow paste from the bark of the Thanakha tree as a cosmetic to tighten the skin and prevent oiliness. A typical meal includes steamed rice, fish, meat, vegetables and soup. Locals use their fingertips to mold rice into a small ball and mix it with various dishes. . Children wear holy thread around their necks or wrists for protection from bad spirits or spells.
ADVENTURE | 13
BIK ING NOR WAY
HUGH NEWTON/ ALISHA JOHANSSON Biking more than 1,000 miles along the coast of Norway is all fine and dandy, save for one thing: all those irksome fiords. “You’re going in and around fiords all the time,” says Hugh Newton, who undertook the trip last July and August with local Alisha Johansson. “And you’re always climbing passes to get to the next one. And this is the flattest route in Norway.” Climbing an average of 3,300 feet each day, the local riders spent 17 days biking north to south along the coast from Tromsø to Trondheim, mostly above the Arctic Circle. They did the trip entirely self-supported, carrying their camping gear in panniers. Pedaling knobby-tired cross bikes — Newton’s a custom-made Eriksen and Johansson’s a Specialized — loaded with 50 pounds of gear, the first part of their route took them to the island of Senja, the Vesterålen archipelago and the Lofoten Islands. From there, it was a three-hour ferry ride, one of 13 in all, to Bodø where the ride south continued. En route, they passed through old fishing villages and farms, marveled at ice-capped mountains and re-supplied — “we ate a lot of meat and potatoes and beet salad” — for their one-pot meals every day. Without any flats or mechanicals the entire way, the trip was perfect, in fact, save for the rain and headwinds. “It was unusually wet,” Johansson says, adding at one point they experienced non-stop rain for five straight days, prompting them to rent a cabin. “There was no way to stay dry. We just chalked it up as the ‘humidity’ being up again.” They became adept at taking ferries, which, with a bike, gets you treated as a walk-on passenger, as well as riding through tunnels, which they relished because it negated another hill. One day, they spent seven kilometers biking underground. They also learned a few tricks of the trade. In Norway, you can camp within 150 meters of any inhabited structure, making finding tent spots easy; you can pick and choose when you want to ride, with the Arctic summer offering 24 hours of daylight; and the backroads often provide the best ride. “The best advice we got was to stick to roads that don’t have a centerline,” says Newton. “The drivers go slower on them.” The credit for piecing the route together goes to Johansson, who visited Norway a few times while living in Sweden for five years. 14
While weight was an issue, that didn’t stop Newton from buying a half-pound bronze sculpture of a king cormorant from a village blacksmith, that he lugged along as a mascot. “Some people might bring along a tiny, and lighter, stuffed animal or something as a talisman,” he says. “It inspired us every day.”
Norwegian wheeling: Newton (top) and Johansson cranking out the fiord-lined miles.
That held especially true on the steeps, with some roads topping 15-percent grades. “We barely had low enough gears to get up them,” Newton says. “Oftentimes, we’d make our own switchbacks on the road.” As for advice they’d pass along to others repeating the feat? “I’d highly recommend planning a rest day or two,” Johansson says. “On our rest day we still climbed 2,500 vertical.”
D I S TA N C E T R AV E L E D
1,006 MILES D AY S O N B I K E
E L E VAT I O N G A I N
48,000 FEET ROUTE
TROMSØ TO TRONDHEIM H I G H E S T L AT I T U D E
69.7 DEGREES LONGEST PERIOD WITHOUT RAIN
Sea kayaking through a lost civilization: the waters, totems and old growth of Gwaii Haanas National Park.
F E R R I E S TA K E N
3,700 METERS STEEPEST GRADE
15+ PERCENT FARTHEST UNDER SEA LEVEL
C O L L E C T I V E M E AT B A L L S E AT E N (E S T. )
Kayaking Trip L O C AT I O N
GWAII HAANAS NATIONAL PARK, BRITISH COLUMBIA D AT E S
AUG. 25-SEPT. 2 D AY S O N T H E WAT E R
SE A K AYA K ING H A IDA GWA II
HUGH NEWTON Sea kayaking through the remnants of a lost civilization was sobering and scintillating for Hugh Newton last summer. On a seven-day trip through British Columbia’s Gwaii Haanas National Park along the east coast of Moresby Island, every stroke took them father back in time to when the Haida people flourished. “It made you realize how well established that civilization was,” Newton says. “The park service is trying to preserve what’s left of their culture, but there’s not much left. It’s almost a mortuary.” Known for their craftsmanship, trading skills and seamanship in large red-cedar canoes, the Haida settled in Canada’s Queen Charlotte Islands and Inside Passage of Alaska more than 8,000 years ago. But their numbers were decimated upon the arrival of European settlers and smallpox. By 1911, it’s estimated only 589 Haida natives remained, a number that has since grown back
to 4,000. And the best way to see the lost civilization is by sea kayak. With a group of friends from Canada, Newton did just that, taking a Zodiac Aug. 25 out of Sand Spit on Moresby Island three hours south to the national park. From there, they paddled 60 miles down Hecate Strait to Rose Harbor, camping among old growth forest and relics of a civilization known as People of the Cedar. “Every place you could land a boat there was evidence of the indigenous inhabitants, from village sites to totem poles and middens,” Newton says. “You could see how great that nation once was. It’s sad to realize how quickly it disappeared.” As for the paddling, it was “pretty protected waters most of the way” but still involved several
long crossings and negotiating waves. “That area is relatively shallow, which magnifies the wind chop,” he says. “You can’t take it lightly.” On one day, he adds, they had to turn back twice during a three-mile crossing due to six-foot swells and two-foot chop. His favorite part of the trip, he adds, was exploring the area’s massive, old growth rainforest. “It’s never been logged,” he says. “It was very powerful and peaceful.” As for sea kayaking among the lost Haida civilization, he says it was unlike any other paddling trip he’s ever done. “It’s a beautiful yet haunting place,” he says. “Given the powerful native culture that once inhabited the area, the village sites now feel like a graveyard.”
– eugene buchanan ADVENTURE | 15
We are here to keep
you out there.
Eric VErploEg, M.D.
HEnry Fabian, M.D.
anDrEas sauErbrEy, M.D.
MicHaEl sisk, M.D.
970.879.6663 | www.orthosb.com | email@example.com 940 Central Park Drive, Suite 280, Steamboat Springs, CO | 595 Russell, Craig, CO Official Physicians of the US Ski Team and the PRCA Pro Rodeo Series 16
LOCATION: White Rim Trail, Canyonlands, Utah | PHOTO: noahdavidwetzel.com
OUSTED ON AMA DABLAM
MATT TREDWAY For local mountaineer Matt Tredway, abandoning his summit attempt on Nepal’s 22,467-foot Ama Dablam this fall can be traced to his gear bag in Kathmandu. What seemed a minor scratch on his hand at the time from the bag’s zipper was enough to derail his goal a few weeks later.
Tredway planned to make the summit attempt with Steamboat Springs local Chhiring Dorje Sherpa, detouring from a 50-mile trek he helped organize for fellow local Dan Bell and Canada’s Greg Bastamoff. “It was a great trek,” Tredway says. “It went over a few high passes, which helped me acclimate, and connected a bunch of different regions, including the Khumbu region of Everest and the Rowaling Valley. Some of our party even climbed 20,000-foot Lobuche.”
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT Tredway in his gear. Photo by John F. Russell Dan Bell and Chhiring Sherpa atop Lobuche, and prayer flags flanking the trek. Photos by Dan Bell
All the while, however, Tredway’s scratch had gotten infected, swelling his wrist. Add in the rigors of the trek and his immunity also suffered, giving him the “Khumbu Cough,” or an altitudeinduced cold. “I probably screwed myself a bit,” he says. “If I’d been at a base camp I probably would have been sequestered and been healthy. But my hands just wouldn’t heal.” Realizing his deteriorating health, he retreated down to 13,000 feet and spent four days recuperating at the village of Pheriche. Feeling better, he advanced again, only to see his hand swell up again. This time, he also felt his heart tighten.
ADVENTURE | 17
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“ I went in for a puja ceremony and ended up getting an exorcism.” –Matt Tredway
A short time later, he took part in a customary puja ceremony, inviting blessings for his Ama Dablam climb. “It was pretty surreal,” he says. “I was led into this monastery through a catacomb to a small room with prayer flags and a sole light, where a huge monk was sitting in a window. Then all of a sudden he started smacking me all over my body with rolled-up prayer flags. He said a ghost had caught me by the hand and was now trying to grow into my heart. So he was driving him out. I was pretty freaked out.” The next day Tredway woke up feeling better, realizing maybe the prayer flag spanking was exactly what he needed. Resting for another day, he decided to head out to keep acclimating, when he met a couple of Swiss doctors, who diagnosed him as having pericarditis and gave him appropriate drugs. “I was still thinking I’d be able to climb Ama Dablam,” he says, “so I thought I’d run up to 20,000 feet on Lobuche and see how it felt. But they said that was crazy.” That night the dreams came. “The monk said I needed to keep track of my dreams,” he says. “Usually, at altitude, I’m on Ambien so I don’t dream, but that night I dreamt about a bunch of cute little puppies.” When he told Chhiring about his dream, his friend’s face turned ashen. “He said that the monk said if I dreamed about buffalos, monkeys or dogs, I had to get out quickly,” Tredway recalls. Chhiring wasn’t one to ignore the monk’s advice. A few years earlier, the same monk told him not to guide trips on Everest for three
years. He acquiesced, only to see two western climbers fight with Sherpas after a rockfall incident the first year; a giant serac fall in the Khumbu Icefield, killing 16 Sherpas in year two; and an earthquake causing an avalanche that tore through the Khumbu Icefield, killing 22, in year three.
Mount Everest in all its glory. Photo by Matt Tredway
Tredway heeded the doctor’s advice as well, backing off his Ama Dablam attempt. “Two highly educated western doctors and an eastern lama were both spot-on in their diagnoses — the doctors reaching theirs through 12 years of medical school and the lama through prayer flags and an exorcism,” says Tredway. The decision proved serendipitous. On his planned summit day, an earthquake hit the mountain, killing a Sherpa and ruining several camps. “I ignored everything,” Tredway says. “I didn’t focus on my own intuition. I systematically tried to cover every base, but it was out of my hands. Apparently God’s, or whomever’s, list is more comprehensive than mine. “It was one of the most surprising non-summits I’ve ever done,” he adds. “I completely understand having to turn back from avalanche danger or rockfall, where it’s easy to say, ‘Live to climb another day.’ But turning around because of a scratch on my hand? Sometimes the stupidest little things can change everything.”
– eugene buchanan ADVENTURE | 19
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HORSEBACK RIDING TO PERU’S MACHU PICCHU
Machu Picchu mammas: Boyd, Hager and Petersen on a rare break from the saddle en route to the fabled lost city.
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Susan Petersen’s cousin and travel agent Felicia Ingwers is on a roll. First, it was the trek she organized through Iceland on horses. The latest excursion she booked took Petersen, her cousin and two other Steamboat women on a five-day horseback riding adventure through Peru. Petersen, Jill Boyd and Kristen Hager traversed mountain passes with “enormous and mystical snow-capped peaks,” exploring more than 15 different ecosystems while staying at lodges sitting higher than the summit of Mount Zirkel. Throughout their adventure, they rode more than 60 miles. “We went five days without seeing a wheel,” Petersen says. “But by no means were we roughing it. We’d arrive at a lodge and were greeted with hot steaming wash cloths and cups of green tea.”
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“ The people in Peru are so genuine. They love their country and love to share their culture and history.” –Susan Petersen
The adventure started in Cusco, the historic capital of the Inca Empire. There, the adventurers spent a day and a half acclimating to the altitude, getting outfitted and partaking in traditional Peruvian cocktails called pisco sours.
Breaktime: The horses and gals refueling after the day’s ride; and Boyd celebrating a climb.
They then saddled up quarterhorses and Arabian horses and embarked on a five-day trek through the Andes Mountains along the Salkantay Trail, which leads to Machu Picchu. The first stop at the end of a six-hour horseback ride was the Salkantay Lodge, which sits at 12,690 feet and offers views of peaks towering as high as 20,574 feet. The second day took the women through the Soraypampa Valley, where they saw Andean condors circling a baby calf. “Horseback riding is such a cool way to see a country and travel, because you can cover a lot more distance than you can hiking,” Petersen says. Every step and trot of the way, their guide, Antonio, taught them about the area’s culture. “The people in Peru are so genuine. They love their country and love to share their culture and history,” Petersen says. The third day of riding was the most difficult, taking them up and over Salkantay Pass at 15,213 feet before descending through the Rio Blanco Valley in a hailstorm. The trip culminated in a six-hour hike through bamboo forests along the Urubamba River on the way to Machu Picchu. But the ancient city wasn’t even the trip’s highlight, says Petersen. “As incredible as Machu Picchu is, it was more about the riding and being in the mountains,” she says. What’s next on the travel dream list for Petersen and company? They’re eying a possible hut-to-hut trip in the Italian Dolomites.
– scot t fr anz
ADVENTURE | 23
OF F - R O A D R A C ING T HE B A J A 10 0 0
HANK SALYER CASEY O’DONNELL JOSH SCOTT The draw of one of the world’s most notorious off-road adventures has been pulling local motorcycle racer Hank Salyer to the desert arroyos of Baja, California, for years. “Right up until the second I sit on the bike, there is a lot of anxiety,” Salyer says of taking part in last year’s 830-mile SCORE Baja 1000. “It’s like I’ve never ridden a motorcycle or been in a race before. But once I pull out onto the course, I feel totally comfortable.” There’s good reason for the anxiety. First staged in 1967, the SCORE Baja 1000 is one of the world’s premiere off-road races, offering different categories and divisions for different riders. The course changes slightly each year, from point-to-point affairs from Ensenada to La Paz, or a loop starting and finishing in Ensenada. Regardless, it’s one of the most rugged races in the world. “It’s a combination of super rough, rocky roads and smooth sand beaches,” Salyer says. “If you’re into off-road racing, it’s the biggest event you can do. And anyone can sign up, from millionaire racers with helicopter support to guys like me. It’s like signing up for the Indy 500 and showing up in your car.” In 2008, Salyer got a taste for it as part of a team. He tested his skills again in the individual division in 2009. Last year he returned twice, placing fifth in February’s 250-mile race and joining a Steamboat-based team that placed fourth in the Baja 1000 last November.
“The biggest thing is that we were able to finish,” he says. Salyer was one of four riders who teamed up to complete the 830-mile race, including Steamboat’s Casey O’Donnell and Josh Scott. Steamboat’s Chad James and Scott’s brother and father were part of the support crew.
From the ‘Boat to Baja: Racers Hank Salyer, Casey O’Donnell and Josh Scott placed fourth in their division at 2016’s 830-mile SCORE Baja 1000.
“We were doing some work for Hank in his back yard,” says Scott, who works with O’Donnell’s excavation company. “We started talking about dirt bikes, and one thing led to another.” The team had hoped to finish the grueling race in 24 hours, but a few early setbacks delayed them. They had equipped their KTM500 X-CW with foam tires designed not to go flat. But they were no match for the rough course. “We had three flats in the first 150 miles,” Salyer says. “So then we switched to more traditional tires.” The delays resulted in chasing the leaders throughout the race and a finish time of 28 hours, 35 minutes. While the team was thrilled with its fourth-place finish, Salyer says they’re eager to give it another try. He’s heading back this spring to race the 250-mile Baja 250, a loop that starts and finishes in San Felipe, and has plans to return to tackle the Baja 1000 again this November. And this time, with more than 10 riders contacting him since their most recent race, the operation may include two teams.
“If you’re into off-road racing, it’s the biggest event you can do. And anyone can sign up, from millionaire racers with helicopter support to guys like me. It’s like signing up for the Indy 500 and showing up in your car.” –Hank Salyer ADVENTURE | 25
PACK R AF TING CANYONL ANDS
BEN & HELEN BEALL
By boot and boat: Camping out in rare respite from the wind (above); and sussing out a route to the river. Photos courtesy Ben and Helen Beall.
Call it an “Adventuremoon.”
That’s the label Steamboat Springs newlyweds Ben and Helen Beall bestowed upon their six-day hiking/pack rafting trip last spring traversing Utah’s Canyonlands. In a way, it was fitting, seeming how they got married outside a snow cave on Gem Mountain in north Routt County, Helen skiing freshies in her wedding dress. But this was the desert, something as foreign to them as their nuptials. “We’re not really desert people,” says Helen. “This was the first time we had ever tried anything like that.” The freshly vowed duo started in the Needles District, discovering they had to hike — carrying 60-plus-pound packs, complete with food and water for six days, as well as rafts, paddles and PFDs — the final four-wheel-drive road over Elephant Hill into Red Lake Canyon, eventually overnighting in the “crazy valleys” of an area known as the Grabens. The next day, they hiked down to the Colorado River, inflated their pack rafts and paddled across to Spanish Bottom. “That was the point of no return,” Ben says. “We knew then we weren’t turning back.”
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“ It felt awesome finally taking off our hiking boots and letting the river carry the load... We had done it. We were now officially pack rafters!” –Helen Beall
They then rolled up their rafts and hiked up into the labyrinth canyons of the Doll House and the Maze, breakdown paddle blades extending high above their packs. “It was some pretty interesting route finding,” Ben says. “The trail was marked by cairns, but they were hard to find.” A lynchpin to the journey, they found, was a 30-foot piece of rope, which they used to lower their packs down cliffs. “It was like a giant, human puzzle,” Ben says. “It was like being in those Chocolate Drop canyons of the game Candyland.” While water remained an issue — they brought five liters each — they found it when they needed it, night two in a remote canyon in the Maze. “That was a huge, huge day,” Helen adds, likening it to including a bit of everything you’d learn on Desert Hiking 101 orienteering course. Day three involved venturing off trail and relying on more routefinding skills as they continued hiking north through the Maze and its winding, sand-filled canyons. Eventually, they found an oasis to camp at in Horse Canyon, complete with a fresh water spring. Day four saw them follow the canyon down to the Green River. “We had read a pack-rafting blog and saw that someone else had done it,” Ben says. “But that’s all we had to go on. We did a lot of guessing and route-finding on the topo.” Almost at the river, they still had to negotiate a 25-foot cliff to get to the water. Once they figured out that hurdle, they inflated their rafts and put in for a 23-mile float down the Green. “It felt awesome finally taking off our hiking boots and letting the river carry the load,” Helen says. “It was a big moment for us. We had done it. We were now officially pack rafters!” The wedding Bealls then floated to their next camp at Water Canyon, where they took a great side hike and even bummed some beers off of a rafting party. Then the tides shifted. “All hell broke loose” the next day with a shift in the weather. Fortymph winds upstream disrupted their planned leisurely float, pinning them
Take a Load Off Fannie: Finally getting the water of the Green River to carry the weight.
to cliffs and making progress agonizingly slow. “We had to huddle on the side, hiding out wherever we could,” says Ben. “Pack rafts don’t handle so well in the wind. We got pretty beat up.” “It wasn’t quite the easy-going, flatwater, pleasure trip we had in mind,” adds Helen. In all, it took them six hours to go six river miles, “being punished the whole way,” before they finally made it back to the confluence of the Colorado and Spanish Bottom. From there, they packed up the rafts again and hiked back up Red Lake Canyon. The silver lining: a beautiful, windless camp overlooking the Doll House, with a mesmerizing sunset and their last ration of whiskey. By the time they made it back to their car the next day, they were left with 16 almonds each, one and a half tortillas and two Honey Stinger gels. Would they do it all again? Absolutely. “It was a great trip for us to do together after getting married,” says Helen. “As a team, we made it happen. Our vows included doing adventures together, so this set a precedent for that.” This winter they followed it with a more conventional honeymoon in New Zealand. – eugene buchanan
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ADVENTURE | 29
A POLAR BEAR EXPEDITION TO HUD S ON B AY
Stare into the eyes of a wild polar bear. It’s awe-inspiring. Also, it’s eerie — as if you’re gazing at the Ghost of Arctic Future. Traversing the windswept tundra, it’s mid-November, and I’m marking Earth’s hottest year on record with a visit to see Ursus maritimus, the King of the Arctic — a threatened species whose survival depends upon an annual freeze-up. NASA and NOAA have declared 2016’s planetary surface temperature the warmest since modern accounting began in 1880 — the third year in a row to set a new high. With about 10,000 translucent hollow hairs growing out of every square inch of black skin, polar bears aren’t big fans of a warming trend. It’s chilly enough for me to bundle up in gloves, a hat, Sorels and a down coat, but not freezing enough for sea ice. The bears’ layers of fur stand out in creamy contrast against the tundra’s dusting of white snow. My eyes quickly attune to finding their stately presence. This polar bear expedition with Natural Habitat Adventures is based in Churchill, population 800, a remote and quirky Canadian outpost near Wapusk National Park, at the boundary between Manitoba and the Inuit territory of Nunavit. There’s nothing fancy about the place, but it’s clean and hospitable and they have Gypsy’s, a bakery that makes killer fresh rhubarb pie from a local greenhouse. About 1,000 bears regularly travel through this narrow passage on the western shore of Hudson Bay. This is peak season for them to funnel toward the sea ice, earning Churchill the reputation as “polar bear capital of the world.” But I find myself equally lured by stories of the warm summer here, when upwards of 3,000 friendly migrating beluga whales let snorkelers, kayakers and paddle boarders
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mingle among their congregation at the mouth of the mighty Churchill River. Fur traders set up camp here for the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1717, but the town is still inaccessible by road 300 years later. A thousand pounds of fat and muscle ripple with every lumbering, pigeon-toed step a bear makes, but by late fall, their fierce physique is increasingly lean muscle. Polar bears are lipovores, hunting meat expressly for the purpose of devouring the fat. Eat the ringed and bearded seal blubber; leave the protein for a snow-white arctic fox on your trail. The bears are anxious for ice to form. They’re hungry for winter’s sealfattening feast — starving if the ice doesn’t float in. In the tradition of a safari, I spend days riding around in a six-tire monster truck with a polar bear bobblehead jiggling on the dash. My brain fills with intrigue about bear science and Arctic studies while my eyes devour the tundra. Access here is limited by strict permits. We humans are few. Polar bears are popping up constantly, along with snowy white arctic hare and ptarmigan. Exceeding the nine-foot stretch of a curious bear, I’m perched just above the grasp of paws as big as dinner plates and claws longer than a human finger. This is technically the subarctic, a distinct coastal transition zone between the boreal forest and the Arctic tundra. Without sea ice, the bears have yet to move off land. We watch them prowl the tundra and an intertidal zone laden with orange lichen-covered boulders and piles of blood-red kelp.
Bear necessities: More than 1,000 polar bears travel through Wapusk National Park near Churchill every year, earning it the nickname “Polar bear capital of the world.”
I watch mama bears roam the shore with their cubs. Fat bears loll about, belly-up, in the mineral-rich kelp. Large males nap on frozen puddles, blending into the willows as “polar boulders” if you fail to keep a keen eye. Sometimes, a curious bear ambles up to our rover. One lies down in front of a tire. Another slow walks around the vehicle. A third wanders over to our back deck, where I stare down directly into his eyes. The encounter takes my breath away. An evening mesmerizes me with long, fluttering slashes of green aurora borealis melting out of the sky. It’s another special kind of magic. Everything in this wilderness is new to me. In town, my small group mingles with locals, talks business with families who run trap lines and absorbs lore from mushers who run the brutal Hudson Bay Quest, a 220-mile dog sled race that traces the history of the fur trade. We get curling lessons and laugh ourselves silly sliding across the ice — an indoor activity safe from prowling polar bears. We are amazed by intricate Inuit miniatures carved in whalebone, soapstone and caribou antlers at the Itsanitaq Museum. We meet a lively Métis woman who sculpts small polar bears and other Arctic scenes out of caribou hair — a traditional art called tufting. A few lucky souls head up in a helicopter to soar farther afield, watching over sparring Ursus. For a week, I linger in awe. It’s impossible not to ponder the bears’ plight and this cinematic expanse they call home. I long to bring my nieces and nephews up here for an eye-to-eye encounter with the king of the frozen North. The bears are mighty. The terrain is both delicate and ferocious. And if you are fortunate enough to peer into their fierce and wild eyes, it’s impossible to look away from the perils of a changing climate or doubt the wonders of Mother Nature.
–jennie l ay
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e h t n i t s â€œI got lo e rday.
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DENALI’S WEST RIB/ BUT TRESS, EVEREST F OR 10 T H T I ME
TASHI SHERPA Tashi Sherpa making his way up Denali, and showcasing a Brazilian soccer jersey on his 10th summit of Everest.
Few people get to climb with the likes of Nepalese mountaineer Tashi Sherpa. Last year alone the part-time Steamboat resident added his 10th Mount Everest summit to his climbing dossier and knocked off the coveted West Rib and West Buttress routes on North America’s Denali (as well as an attempt on its famed Cassin Ridge). “He’s intense,” says Steamboat climber Matt Tredway, who climbed Tibet’s Cho Oyu with Tashi. “He’s strong as hell and super focused.” Tashi spent the past year in Steamboat with family, including his brother-in-law Chhiring Dorje Sherpa, another legendary climber. Working as a sherpa since age 14, he has done 42 expeditions to date, first summiting Mt. Cho Oyu in 1998. His first summit of Mount Everest came in 2001. In October 2015, Tashi and two other climbers formed a Nepalese team to climb three new peaks in three days, summiting Nepal’s
Mount Raungsiyar, Mount Langdak and Mount Thakar-Go East. “We wanted to spread the news that Nepal was still a safe place for mountaineering after the 2015 earthquake,” he says. Last June, Tashi and two other climbers became the first Nepalese team to summit Denali via the West Rib. They then turned around and summited its West Buttress. Last May, he also made his 10th Everest summit, bringing along a jersey from his son’s favorite soccer player, Brazil’s Ronaldinho. “I brought it along just for my son’s wish and fulfillment,” Tashi says. Tashi now has the goal of conquering the Seven Summits, the tallest mountains on each of the seven continents. While he’s looking for a sponsor, if he doesn’t find one, he’ll still aim high. “It just might take a bit longer,” he says. For sponsorship information, visit www.firstascenttashi.com.
– mat t stensl and ADVENTURE | 35
JOHN PERETZ T HE 10 0 14 E R M A N
In a town full of Olympians and super athletes, I have a confession to make — I’m not one of them. But I’ve been fortunate enough to have summited all 58 of our beautiful Colorado 14ers and have bagged over 100 in all. T HE B E GINNIN G S It started on a quick getaway weekend eight years ago when I thought I’d hike Quandary, 10 minutes out of Breckenridge. I looked at the route and did some quick calculations: If I hike a 15-minute mile, the 7-mile round trip starting at 10,850 feet should take less than two hours — or so I thought. An hour in, not even halfway to the summit, reality hit. Making it to the top of a Colorado 14er is different from just hiking around town. And that’s when I realized this was going to be a five-hour journey. The next year I did Grays and Torreys, two 14ers that you can do in one day. The following summer, I didn’t do any.
last. Finally, in year seven (2014), I reached my goal of summiting all 58 of the Colorado 14ers, finishing on Aspen’s North Maroon on a beautiful midweek fall day.
T HE R E UNI O N T O UR While I thought I was done, I found myself daydreaming of the beauty and exhilaration of hiking at altitude. So I cherry-picked my favorites for a “reunion tour” of sorts, and now I have over 100 14ers under my belt. When I first started, my goal wasn’t to finish them all, and I didn’t think I could handle the hardest ones. But as I gathered more experience and confidence, it became a reality.
GE T T IN G O N A R O L L
Y O U D O N ’ T H AV E T O B E A S UP E R AT HL E T E
In 2011, I saw a Facebook photo of local Reall Colbenson on top of Mount Princeton waving an American flag on the Fourth of July. I thought to myself, “I have to do more of these.” And so the journey began. That year, I climbed 15 more 14ers, for a total of 18. The next year, I made it to 33, and the following season I ran my total to 45, leaving the hardest ones for
There’s no special talent or mountaineering skills required to do the vast majority of the 14ers — just determination, perseverance and time. You should be with an experienced group when you do the hardest Class 4 climbs. My friend Jon Kedrowski, who has summited Everest, was my go-to guy on five of the toughest. His book “Sleeping on the Summits” is a
Three years ago, local John Peretz completed his goal of climbing all 58 of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks. Last summer, he knocked off a dozen more on a “reunion tour,” bringing his total to 100. Here are his tips from the trail.
fascinating read of his quest to sleep on top of every Colorado 14er.
T R A IN B E F O R E Y O U G O Never underestimate a 14er. I’ve been up the easiest of them (Mount Sherman) with people who thought it was the toughest hike of their lives. And outside of a few easy ones, they’re all a significant undertaking. Don’t make a Colorado 14er your first hike of the season and make sure you include elevation gain in your training.
S TA R T E A R LY T O MI T I G AT E W E AT HE R R I S K S Start early. Summer brings a monsoon pattern, with violent thunderstorms that can begin before noon, and the exposure above tree line is huge. I often start hiking at 4 a.m. (or even earlier) so I can be off the mountain by the time
C H O O S E Y O UR C L IMB IN G PA R T NE R S C A R E F UL LY
The five easiest 14ers MOUNT SHERMAN (BY FAR) MOUNT BIERSTADT MOUNT EVANS GRAYS PEAK TORREYS PEAK the storms roll in. I’ve never being weathered out of a summit, but starting early and knowing the weather forecast contributed to that luck. And nothing compares to a sunrise on a Colorado 14er. The soft pink, orange and blue colors appear like cotton candy out of the sky.
C E L L P H O NE C O V E R A GE On most of the Front Range mountains, and the Collegiate 14ers, cell service can be avail-
able at the summit but often not on the way up or down. On the more remote 14ers, cell coverage is spotty or nonexistent. I wasn’t able to call my wife one time on a two-day adventure near Lake City, and she called the Sheriff’s Department, an embarrassing and unnecessary event.
B E P R E PA R E D You don’t want to over pack, but my daypack includes some key items, like the 10 essentials (Google it). I also have a compact SteriPEN UV water treatment wand that’s very compact, as well as a small bivy sack, bandages, extra batteries for a headlamp and high-energy food like honey. I’ve never gotten stranded overnight, but I came close on the Mount Harvard-Mount Columbia combo when I got lost and made it out at twilight.
C L IMB O N W E E K D AY S IF Y O U C A N I usually didn’t have that luxury, but the busier 14ers attract so many people that it’s like ants at a picnic from a distance. On a recent hike up the Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln and Bross quadruple peak climb, I kept looking for Moses coming off the mountain with his followers. All the more reason to start early, and when possible, do a counterclockwise climb from what everyone else is doing.
Kit Carson Peak in the Sangre de Cristos, and Peretz with son, Justin, atop his 100th 14er, Mount Huron, last summer.
A 14er is not the best time for a first hike together. If you’re faster or slower than your partners, it’s not going to be as much fun. I learned this the hard way on a hike for charity. The organizer gathered a group of 19 people to climb Longs Peak, consisting of four younger college athletes from Minnesota, five hikers in the 65-plus age group, and the rest of us in the middle. But half of our group never made the summit, some due to altitude sickness, the others because of fitness levels. The last two climbers took 22 hours to get back to the trailhead, delaying everyone and pissing off the Go Alpine shuttle driver. It was the worst climb I’ve had.
C A MP AT T HE T R A IL HE A D I started doing most of the 14ers by leaving Steamboat very, very early and driving to the trailhead. I’ve since found it much easier to leave the evening before, and camp at the trailhead. If you can sleep in an SUV or truck, even better, since you don’t have to worry about a tent.
T HE F UN R E A L LY I S IN T HE J O UR NE Y What I cherish most isn’t checking peaks off the list, but the fabulous places, nooks and crannies, small towns, great friends and microbreweries discovered in the journey. Colorado is a fabulous state, and our 14ers stand as sentinels, guarding our high country.
–john pere t z ADVENTURE | 37
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permits are available for trekkers wishing to go solo and stay in bunkhouses.) They offer transportation to and from Queenstown, including the short boat ride across Lake Te Anau to the trailhead. En route we’d overnight in lodges with hot showers and indoor plumbing, dine on fine local fare and even enjoy alcoholic spirits in the evenings. Each day, hikers plunge deeper into Fiordland National Park, the cornerstone of the Te Wahipounamu Southwest New Zealand World Heritage Area, among daily sightings of such birdlife as Robins, Kea, Weka, Fantail, Parakeet, Bellbirds and Kiwi’s, whose songs ring throughout the day. Alongside an international array of fellow trekkers, we passed gorgeous deep mountain lakes, silent fiords, thick lush forests and sheer granite canyons. Days one and two were bluebird, perfect for the six-hour hike from one lodge to the next. On day three, we climbed Mackinnon Pass from Pampolona Lodge — the most demanding day with a long, steep climb up Clinton Valley followed by a rocky descent into the Arthur Valley and finally Quintin Lodge. That’s when the rains came. The deluge began 60 minutes into our trek. First, light and fun drops that were no bother, but within two hours, angry torrents cascaded all around. The mountainsides came alive with the water’s thunderous roar. Soaked to the bone, we made our way up and over the pass and then down the other side in awe of Mother Nature’s might. Safe and dry at Quintin Lodge, we watched as the rain continued. Over the day, the valley floor became swollen and flooded. And impassable. We managed to make our way in the knee-deep stream up the trail to get a glimpse of Sutherland Falls, but the rain was so hard we could barely look up to see it. On our return, knee-deep had turned to thigh-deep; we were glad to be safe again at the lodge. The next morning the call came that the entire track would be evacuated via helicopter, cutting short our last day, a 13-mile hike to Mitre Peak Lodge. In all, hundreds of people were evacuated. Once safe at Mitre Peak Lodge, we sailed out on Milford Sound to see the dolphins and fur seals the area is known for but scarcely saw a thing for all the rain. There is a silver lining to all the clouds. Jerry and I decided we’d have to return — technically, we haven’t finished the track. Maybe this time we’ll opt for the “The Classic,” which combines Milford and equally famous Routeburn tracks on an eight-day, 60-miler. Hopefully, my umbrella will make it on the flight.
Kiwi cascade: New Zealand’s Sutherland Falls raging from recent rains. Photos courtesy Bryna Sisk
FLOODED OUT ON NEW ZEALAND’S MILFORD TRACK
BRYNA SISK My friend Dr. Eric Meyer once said, “I never pack anything I can’t run through an airport with.” That’s solid advice. But it won’t serve you when your gear is in Sydney, Australia, and your body is in Queenstown, New Zealand, departing for a five-day trek on the famous Milford Track. Since Donald Sutherland discovered Sutherland Falls (the world’s fifth highest) in 1880 and Quintin Mackinnon pioneered the route in 1888, the Milford Track takes trekkers through Fiordland National Park, before ending with a cruise on Milford Sound. It’s been described as the “finest walk in the world.” Or perhaps, I should say, “wade.” Tackling it with my 73-year-old father-in-law, Dr. Jerry Sisk, we gathered at New Zealand’s Ultimate Hikes offices in downtown Queenstown for our briefing — an opportunity to meet fellow travelers and learn about the trek and gear we needed. A winter resort known half the year
for The Remarkables mountain range and as a playground for climbers, paddlers, trekkers, paragliders and mountain bikers during the summer, Queenstown is a lot like Steamboat, offering something for every outdoor junkie under the sun. Replacing my lost gear with one outfit to hike in and one to sleep in — a minimalist approach that gave me a sense of accomplishment — I borrowed a backpack, trekking poles and extra large rain jacket (it’s all they had) from the outfitter, and we set off early the next morning. Ultimate Hikes has the only contract to run guided tours on the Milford Track. (Limited
– bryna sisk ADVENTURE | 39
THE BUCHANAN FAMILY PA DDL ING A L A S K A’S B E S T- K E P T S E A K AYA K ING S E C R E T
It was the proudest I’ve ever been as a father. It was the first evening of our five-day sea kayaking trip at Kayaker’s Cove in Prince William Sound, Alaska, and, tired of all the travel and logistics getting there, I headed out at 9 p.m. for a quick solo paddle while the kids got cozy in the cabin. Reveling in the area’s beauty, I circumnavigated Hat Island, surprising a romp of sea otters, and then crossed back for the paddle home alongshore, feeling guilty about not rallying my kids out. The splash of a paddle approached in the distance, most likely that of the caretaker. As it got closer, however, I saw the beaming face of my daughter Brooke, 17. She, too, had apparently decided to venture out solo. “I had to,” she gushed. “It was just too gorgeous out.” So we stayed out, heading farther down shore to a waterfall-lined grotto. Before veering into it, I glanced back and saw my other daughter, Casey, 14, giving pursuit in her own single kayak. “Casey!” I beamed. “What are you doing out here? Nice rally!” “I’ve been trying to catch you,” she said. “But you kept disappearing around the corner.” As with Brooke, she, too, had come out on her own, mesmerized by our surroundings. Here I was wishing my daughters were with me, and Voila!, there they were, each magically appearing out of nowhere. 40
The view from the High-fiving mid-water, we turned into the cove and cabin’s beach, a lone paddled under waterfall spray before turning around tree marking the passage home and and dodging sea otters for the half-hour paddle home. paddling into a Dragging our boats up the cobblestone beach at 11 waterfall- and otter-lined grotto. p.m., we ventured inside for hot chocolate and freshPhotos courtesy baked brownies before snuggling into bed. Welcome to Bill Heubner Alaska’s best kept sea kayaking secret: Kayaker’s Cove. Despite Prince William Sound’s allure as a sea kayaking hotbed, camping in the rain is overrated. Especially with kids in tow. (Nearby Seward gets an average 73 inches a year, Whittier a whopping 156.) So we stumbled upon Kayaker’s Cove, a 12-person cabin, with two out cabins sleeping another eight, in the heart of Alaska’s 5-million-acre Chugach National Forest. It would provide a roof overhead, warm kitchen and living room, wood-fired sauna, and most importantly, a shed full of sea kayaks to explore some of the most pristine wilderness on the planet. On the wall of the outhouse, reached by a boardwalk above the primordial rainforest floor, a poster lists all 28 members of the Alaska Hostel Association. An asterisk by Kayaker’s Cove notes it’s the only one requiring a water taxi to get to. So we shuttled a half hour out of Seward across Resurrection Bay to a tiny cove nestled in a waterfall-filled nook below jagged mountains. En route, Brooke saw an orca whale.
IF YOU GO Kayaker’s Cove costs $20 per person per night. Bring your own food and libations. Sea kayak rentals, which include spray skirt, paddle, PFDs, bilge pumps and rubber boots, start at $25 per person per day. info
SWEET SIDE TRIP: BEAR LAGOON Want your hostel experience on the rocks? Add a little ice, courtesy of Bear Lagoon. Offering sup and sea kayak trips among icebergs out of Seward, Liquid Adventures is one of two outfitters licensed to operate in Bear
Lagoon. Meet at the train downtown, where you’ll get outfitted in drysuits and boots before jet-boating to the end of Resurrection Bay. There, you’ll negotiate a shallow shoal thanks to the jet boat’s 4-inch draft before throttling up the Bear River, protected from the waves to the left by a huge terminal moraine regurgitated by your destination: Bear Glacier. Soon you’ll veer to shore, uncover a fleet of kayaks from a tarp and paddle up the river to Bear Lagoon, where a ghostly gathering of massive icebergs coalesce, courtesy of underwater currents streaming out beneath the glacier. info
Caretakers Stan and Sally Olsen met us on the cobblestone beach, Stan a retired construction manager and England-born Sally as psyched on kayak fishing as she is on Brexit. While Stan gave us a quick orientation and helped a family of four from Anchorage leave on our boat, Sally headed out to jig for rockfish. Hauling our bags up the back steps, leaving our coolers on the porch, we met our other hostel roommates — a group of eight 60-something ladies, led by Barb, freshly retired from the military, solo traveler Meg, and Eric and Lisa from Reno. On day two we’d lose Meg but pick up Fabio and Frank from Switzerland. It’s like a ski hut you’d find in Colorado, only for sea kayaking. Guests come and go, staying for different durations, all here for the same reason: a roof overhead in the wilderness, and sea kayaks for exploring it. You also bring your own food and booze, keeping the price down. Inside, we shuttled our sleeping gear and duffels up a ladder-like set of stairs to a loft above the kitchen, unloaded our food into various cubbies and hung our clothes on assorted hooks. The kids wasted no time settling into games on the dining table. Surrounding a crackling wood stove, the living room has two couches and three easy chairs, a wood coffee table and windows and deck overlooking the rainforest and glass-like water beyond. In the morning, we feast on fresh, kid-picked blueberry, watermelon berry and salmon berry pancakes and bacon before heading off to the boats. Outfitted with rubber boots, sprayskirts, PFDs, paddles and bilge pumps from a storage space below the deck, we grab our kayaks, adjust our footpegs and shove off, heading north toward Humpy Cove. We’re a formidable flotilla, in three tandems and two singles. Counting sea otters, eagles and waterfalls along the coast, we veer into the cove and haul our kayaks over seaweed-covered boulders to escape the rising tide. We then hike to a waterfall cascading into a deep pool, with a natural walkway behind it. The spray coats us before we return and save our boats from the tide. On the way back, we detour around Hat Island and surprise a harbor seal frolicking off its point. In the evening, Nino and I sea kayak out for supper. We quickly catch nine rockfish, jigging a lure 70 feet deep, at one point reeling in a trio on the same three-hooked line. On shore, Barb’s group is under a tarp around the campfire, with one drysuit-clad lady outside the perimeter, reading a book through a Ziplock bag. We warm up in the sauna just behind, plunging into the icy water of the Sound at 10 p.m. The days blend together, blurring salmon dinners with saunas, charades, hikes through Spanish moss-draped Sitka spruce, and day-long paddles. Four days of drizzle do little to dampen our spirits. The kids learn that out here, you take things as they come – a lesson thankfully softened by our warm cabin. On our final day, Casey and I head out past a tiny, banyan-looking spruce atop a lone rock island and veer left in search of a rumored sea cave somewhere along the jagged shoreline, across from a landslide scarring Fox Island. Poking our bow into various nooks, we finally find it, five eagles and four sea otters later. Timing our entrance with the tidal surge, a few strokes have us threading a tight passage to see the cave tower overhead. Rising and falling with each pulse of the ocean, we poke around, name starfish and marvel at the shafts of light filtering through the opening. We arrive back just in time for our 3 p.m. pick-up, where another group taking our place is unloading — it’s a 10-person “Friends and Family” trip put on by outfitter Pinkie and Goose Adventures. It’s the first time co-owner Goose (Jake) and his three brothers have been together in 19 years. As my own family knows, it’s hard to script a better place to bond.
– eugene buchanan ADVENTURE | 41
Desert solitaire: A few scenes from the author’s guiding exploits through the Southwest. Photos courtesy Alex Handloff
GUIDING FRENCH THROUGH THE WILD WEST
ALEX HANDLOFF Everything seems more important when it’s far away, be it Botswana or Borneo. But don’t forget what lies close to home, which brings me to the following adventure in our neck of the woods. For six months this past year, I worked as an adventure travel guide for French speakers, s’il vous plaît. With cappuccinos in hand (OK, cowboy coffee), we visited a dozen national parks in the western U.S., as well as state and tribal parks, and national forests, monuments, recreation areas and everything else in between. And it was all bursting with awe and wonder, without having to 42
hop a jet liner to visit the Louvre. I performed handstands on the Great Sand Dunes, monologues in Monument Valley and even cracked open a couple of cold ones in Death Valley. I slept under the desert stars for weeks on end, counting them in vain. And the French tourists — and the Germans and busloads of Chinese — know more about these destinations than we do. They
throng to these locally ignored places because they’re amazing and right in our own neglected backyard. How good was it? Well… People talk about speaking different languages abroad, but believe or not, about half of all visitors to our national parks are foreigners. You can learn Chinese, Japanese, Czech, German and French, among others. While I was soaking up the sun and staring at the terraced, travertine deposits of Yellowstone’s Mammoth Hot Springs, I learned how to say “friend” in Chinese. Check! You don’t have to cross the Atlantic to gain memorable experiences, as evidenced by our front-row seat in Zion to witness a bighorn sheep battle. As they clung to the striated, red-and-white sandstone cliffs, they butted heads, creating a cacophony of thunder echoing off the canyon walls. Check! People talk about getting sick abroad. But it can happen here, too. In Yosemite, as the sun was setting between two glimmering granite domes, I cooked a beautiful lemon chicken pasta
and gave myself and my whole group of picky French eaters food poisoning. Check! You also don’t have to go abroad to be culturally sensitive. One day I climbed into an ancient kiva at the ancestral Puebloan site of Mesa Verde and learned that they built complicated, well-insulated, impermeable wood roofs without the use of nails or glue — all 1,000 years ago! Check! You also don’t have to leave the U.S. to get out of your comfort zone. While riding road bikes through Nevada’s Valley of Fire, forgetting to breathe while staring at the marshmallow plops of sedimentary rock to either side, a French guest flew off her bike and landed on her face, breaking her arm. I had to reset it, which was ... uncomfortable. Check! So in the end, while my French tourists were having the time of their lives visiting my country, so was I, close to my hometown of Steamboat. Exploration doesn’t care about international borders; it starts with a good attitude and an interesting place, not hours in an Airbus.
– ale x handloff
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Steamboat Adventures Magazine 2017