Women's Adventure Winter 2013-14

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Winter 2013/14



Pedal-Powered Skiing in Arctic Norway The New Age of Adventure: Exploring Into Your Golden Years


High Tech Jackets Cozy Winter Boots



Ski Mountaineering Hut Trips Snowboard Tuning

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Athletes and Autoimmunity, Winter Out West, Avalanche Rescue Dogs, Italy’s Volcanoes

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The New Age of Adventure Meet the ladies who are fervently traveling racing, and working into the prime of their lives. By Lola Akinmade Åkerström

Two Wheels, Two Planks A photo essay documenting a month of pedal-powered skiing in Artic Norway. By Emily Johnson





10 Discuss Solo Brooks Range Hiker 14 Trends Cozy, Cute Boots 16 Tech Talk Athletes and Autoimmunities 18 Tech Talk Snow Survival 20 Hotel Homebase Jackson Hole 24 Trends Haida Gwaii 26 4 Ways To Travel Well in 2014 28 Getaways Low Angle Adventures






Learn about the technologies that come together in this season’s array of outwear that actively works to keep you dry, warm, and happy outdoors.

32 Beyond High Altitude Mountaineer Ellen Miller 34 Beyond Hiking the Volcanoes of Italy 38 I’m Proof Women Are Strong Enough 46 Advocate Boarding For Breast Cancer 48 Dream Job Avalanche Dog Trainer 50 Try This Biathlon



62 Skill Hut Trips 64 Sport Ski Mountaineering 66 Mix It Up Ski and Snowboard Maintenance 70 Partnerships 71 Marketplace 72 It’s Personal Intro to Skiing in the Rockies

Cover: Agnes Hage bombs through the birch trees on an average day of powder skiing in Hokkaido, Japan. The month of January on the North Island of Japan is like living in a perpetual snow globe with at least a meter of snow every day.


Š2013 Brooks Sports, Inc.


WINTER 2013/14 Lola Akinmade Åkerström is an award-winning Nigerian-American writer and photographer based in Stockholm, Sweden. Her work has appeared in several publications including National Geographic Traveler, BBC, CNN, The Guardian, amongst others. Lola’s photography is represented by National Geographic. From working as a field journalist during an expedition race in Fiji to blackwater rafting and caving in New Zealand to chasing Northern Lights and husky sledding in Lapland, Lola is always up for an adventure and hopes to someday reach both the North and South poles.

Emily Johnson and her husband, Brian Mohr, have spent nearly one thousand nights in a tent together. Last winter, Emily skied into labor before bringing their daughter, Maiana, into the world. Emily and Brian co-own Ember Photography and provide photography for clients of all kinds worldwide.

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PUBLISHER SUE SHEERIN EDITOR-IN-CHIEF JENNIFER C. OLSON Designers D. Kari Luraas, Sarah Chesnutt Web Director Susan Hayse Travel Editor Gigi Ragland Online Communications Manager Jennifer Davis-Flynn Copy Editor Mira Perrizo Contributing Writers Lola Akinmade Åkerström, Emily Johnson, Chris Kassar, Morgan Tilton, Jayme Moye, Robin Enright, Cece Wildeman, Daliah Singer, Kristen Lummis, Julie Peirano, Stephanie Nitsch, Heather Hansman, MacKenzie Ryan Contributing Photographers HagePhoto (cover), Ember Photography, Tyler Roemer, Markus Greber, Ian Coble, Heather Muro, P. Patrick Nelson, P. Eric Seymour, Mieke Schlaroo, Jason Williams, Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris, Gigi Ragland, Rusty Parrot Lodge & Spa, Spring Creek Ranch, Jackson Fork Ranch, Kate Lapides, Lutz Eichholz, Evan Rice, Brit Cogan, Kristen Lummis, Mark Allen Photo, Jim Harris, Ryan McDermott

SUBMISSIONS For contributor’s guidelines, visit www.womensadventuremagazine.com/contributors-guidelines Editorial queries or submissions should be sent to edit@womensadventuremagazine.com Photo queries should be sent to design@womensadventuremagazine.com Women’s Adventure is always looking for new and innovative products for women. For consideration, please send non-returnable samples to 3005 Center Green Drive, Suite 225, Boulder, CO 80301

Key Accounts Julie Peirano



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Get Women’s Adventure hot off the presses four times a year and enjoy our seasonal issues packed with outdoor adventure, tips, gear reviews, and feature articles. BACKPACK SOLO • ADVENTURE RACE • STAY IN A FIRE TOWER


Journey Across the Rockies A Finisher’s Story of Fear, Fun, and Discovery

Off-Roading in Morocco

Bethany Hamilton and Chrissie Beavis Team Up

47 Gear essentials

Urban Riding River Trips Mountain Biking

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Deep Water soloing Voluntourism Bike Packing

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Backwoods Gourmet, Paddle Tips, Earth-Friendly Gear, Summer Getaways

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On the Web

Adventure’s just a click away! If you haven’t yet, make sure to check out the new and improved website that we launched in August. Thanks to a fresh, clean design and a brand new layout, our site is much easier to navigate. You’ll find new posts on a variety of topics every day!

Contests Visit our website to win products from:


FALL 2013


The Road Not Ridden


Trail Running Biking and Jogging Safety Muscle Recovery


Afghanistan’s First Women’s Cycling Team

Master Backpacking


Rock Climbing Mountain Biking

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FALL 2013 Display Until November 1 womensadventuremagazine.com

Q&A With The Youngest AT Thru-Hiker Ever, Why Spend On Socks, Autumn In The Adirondacks



Highliner Emily Sukiennik On Fear and Falling


Our travel section has been reimagined to capture the spirit of the modern journeywoman. Stories and tips are organized by international and domestic destinations, and we’re introducing a new category called “Out There” for women who crave more exotic or remote experiences.

Why Try


Road Biking Canyoneering SUP Racing

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SPRING 2013 Display Until May 20

Endurance Training Fly Fishing Hiking


Cast Your Line, Dive A Wreck, Protect Your Skin, Retreat In Hill Country


WINTER 2012/13

Life Unleashed


Is Nomadic Life For You?

Mothering Nature

Women Fighting For Our Planet


Backcountry Ski Stay Cozy and Dry Carve Big Lines

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Why Try


Snowshoe Racing Backcountry Touring Keeping Active in Winter



Good health requires a holistic approach, so that’s why we’ve divided our new health section into both “Mind” and “Body.” Our new health section features tips from life coaches and wellness experts, muscle recovery and nutrition advice, and recipes galore!

How Your Boots and Bindings Work Build a Snow Cave


Subscribe to our print magazine for $18/year.


6  WAM • WINTER | 2013

Our dedicated online columnists are experts in their field, be it raising outdoorsy kids, thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, or even whipping up a delicious kale smoothie. Drop by and say hello. They’re always willing to answer any questions in the comments section.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for contest updates!


From the Editor I

t’s been 16 years since my mom rode a bike. She wrecked and fell in our driveway at the start of a family bike ride once. “I’m done riding bikes forever!” she declared. With a skinned and bloody knee, she got up off the gravel and walked her bike back up to the house, leaning it against old backpacks and bins of holiday decorations in the storeroom, where it’s been sitting ever since. I was 10. One weekend recently, I called her to check in. “I’m just heading out to the storeroom to air up the tires on Dad’s old bike,” she said, excited and proud. “Then I’m going to try a short ride before dinner.” Though a bit surprised, I wasn’t totally stunned. She’s a healthy and fit woman, if not conventionally athletic. In her fifties, she vigorously walks two miles-worth of steep hills daily and participates in two Pilates workouts each week, along with at least that many yoga classes and at-home stretching sessions throughout the course of her average week. Sometimes, she’ll hike with friends, kayak on vacations, and even gently do the backstroke in a calm swimming pool. Her favorite jokes involve showing off her “guns” and reminding her family members of the days when she did water aerobics with seventy year olds at age thirty. But cycling? Skiing? My mom would have nothing to do with either. “Maybe I’ll ski on a Tuesday,” she suggests now and then, “when no one else is on the slopes and I only have to worry about myself.” My sister and I still have never motivated her to ski, though. And we gave up on encouraging her to ride bikes before we even graduated middle school. She said she wouldn’t ride, and we know that what our mom says goes. So, when she decided to go on a bike ride, I asked why she was giving it another try now. “When you guys are home for Thanksgiving, I thought we could go on a Sunday drive-paced bike ride,” she explained, rushing on eagerly. “You guys are going to go crazy because it will be so slow, but we have enough bikes here for everyone to ride.” Nice idea, Mom! She sounded animated, like she was venturing into exciting new territory and was thrilled at the possibilities. Before we hung up, I told her to wear a helmet. She laughed, “I have dinner plans in half and hour and can’t mess up my hair!” The next day, I asked for an update. She had walked the bike to the bottom of the driveway then ridden uphill for a quarter mile, turning around at the end of the road and cruising back home. That was enough for day one. But it left her exhilarated, ready to ride again. “I want to ride somewhere flat,” she said, “on a dirt road maybe— just to get into it and build some bike muscles. Where should I go?” In this issue of Women’s Adventure magazine, you’ll read about more women who started new sports or are continuing their outdoor explorations into the prime of their lives. You’ll also read about young people pushing the boundaries of the sports they love, and about athletes striving to beat the odds, defy diseases, counter misperceptions, and take up things they thought they’d given up on doing. Our feature stories are two of the best I’ve seen in Women’s Adventure to date, and both will wow you. One, a round up of ladies in their 60s, 70s, and 80s who travel, race, and work in the outdoors, is guaranteed to motivate women of all ages (page 52). The other, a photo essay about a month of pedal-powered skiing in arctic Norway, will inspire even the most daring explorers (page 56). And, this edition’s wonderfully winter-focused skills articles (starting on page 60) offer the knowledge necessary for you to begin mastering things to keep you active and adventuring this season, like hut trips and ski mountaineering. We even include a tutorial on ski and snowboard maintenance. Pages 68 and 69 will educate your gear purchasing decisions and help you toward a more informed approach to choosing and using soft goods, while pages 40 through 45 offer up deals on the tools you need to stay prepared in the season’s icy cold environment. As always, each page of Women’s Adventure magazine is planned especially to inspire wonder, share the stories of other aspiring adventuresses, and steer you toward mastery in the outdoors. I hope these pieces all ultimately spur you to take advantage of your strength and independence, break out of your comfort zone, and have a blast in the outdoors this winter. You’ll have this magazine in your hands by the time I’ve had a chance to see it [my mom riding a bike] with my own eyes. But, I’m looking forward to hearing about the places she goes—and the new muscles she discovers. Next time, we’ll have to celebrate the holidays at a ski destination. Who knows what could happen then!

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Jacq Smith works on getting her camp set up at the edge of Crater Lake in Oregon last April.


Solo On an Unmarked Route Across Alaska The first woman to traverse the Brooks Range on her own shares how she did it—and why Interview by Jennifer C. Olson

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his summer, Kristin Gates became the first woman to traverse Alaska’s Arctic Brooks Range solo. She hiked and packrafted 1,000 miles across trail-less wilderness from the Canadian Border to the Chukchi Sea in 51 days. How, you ask? Read on. You’re no newbie. Which of your past adventure accomplishments prepared and led you to the Brooks Range? Happy in my Henry Shires Tarptent on the I went on my first long distance hike when I first night of the trip. was 18 years old on the Long Trail in Vermont. I thought that I would enjoy that one great adHow old are you? 26 venture and head home satisfied. I did not realize Where are you from? I grew up all over I would fall in love with the lifestyle. Like many New England—Connecticut, Maine, New long distance hikers, I have thru-hiked the long Hampshire, New York trails in the lower 48 in order of difficulty. Each What’s your day job? I train Iditarod race one has been a stepping stone to a more difficult dogs in Alaska. trail and has given me new skills. On the Long Trail, I learned how to backpack. On the Appalachian Trail, I learned how to hike long distances. On the Pacific Crest Trail, I had my first taste of navigation issues when I reached the snowbound High Sierra and parts of Oregon. On the Continental Divide Trail, I learned even more about navigation because a lot of the trail is cross-country travel. On the Arizona Trail and Grand Enchantment Trails, I continued to build on my navigation skills in snowbound and trail-less areas. So, what about the arctic is a draw for you? I moved to the Arctic in the spring of 2011 and have not left Alaska since. The Arctic is a very special place, because it is still wild in a way that nowhere else in our country is. There are no hiking trails in the Brooks Range—only one road crosses it—so it still belongs completely to the grizzly bears and caribou and wolves. The people up there are great, too. Perhaps it is because people are so far and few between, but people are still good to each other up in the North. They look out for each other, and every relationship means something. I wanted to travel across the Arctic so that I could see it all, so that I could see how the world is when it is completely untouched by humankind. What did you do to prepare for this summer’s journey? Preparing for the Brooks Range traverse was a full time job and took five months. The most timeconsuming part of the preparation was mapping out the route and putting food caches together. Because there are no hiking trails in northern Alaska, I would be traveling cross country or bushwhacking the entire distance. I had to map out my route beforehand. There are a few descriptions online of routes that previous travelers have taken, but it was important for me to map out my own so that it could really be mine. I also thought that I could learn a lot from the experience of doing that. womensadventuremagazine.com




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w Discuss I started out by purchasing USGS maps for the entire Brooks Range and marking the places where I knew I could re-supply and the places that I really wanted to see. Then, I studied the contour lines and connected the dots in the most logical manner possible. The next step was creating maps for the route that I could carry on the hike. I plotted my route on alltrails.com then printed out hundreds of maps and downloaded the gpx files onto my GPS so that I could have the route there, too. In order to re-supply on the hike, a bush pilot flew out two food caches for me, I mailed four packages of food to myself in native villages that I passed on my route, and one very good friend packrafted a food cache in for me on the Alatna River. To prepare physically, I hiked the 730-mile Grand Enchantment Trail from Phoenix to Albuquerque. Even with all your maps, how did you pull off navigating so well? The route that I made was fairly easy to follow. I was mostly drainage hopping, so I was walking along rivers most of the time and just had to pay close attention to where I was leaving the river.

A sunny day in the Arctic.

What did you eat? I eat granola bars for breakfast [on thru-hikes] and will normally have two Nature Valley bars. Then, for lunch, I usually eat dried hummus and crackers or peanut butter and crackers. For dinner, I will have some kind of pasta or rice mixed in with dried vegetables. For snacks, I have beef jerky, nuts, dried fruit, and chocolate. What gear did you bring? All of my clothing was from Patagonia, my shelter was a Henry Shires Moment DW, and my sleeping bag was a Feathered Friends Petrel UL 10. I also had an Iridium SAT phone and a Brunton Solar panel to recharge the phone and my iPod. The rest of my gear I re-used from previous trips. My pack was a Go-Lite Quest, which I wore while hiking the Appalachian Trail, and my packraft was an Alpacka Alpaca.

Kristin enjoys a sunny evening after a great day packrafting down the Kobuk River.

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What about your journey surprised you? One thing that I was not expecting was how many amazing people I met. I passed through five native villages during this trip. My plans were to get to the villages, grab my re-supply box, and continue but every single time, I would meet the most amazing people and would end up staying for a couple days. In Wiseman, I was offered fresh vegetables from a resident’s garden; in Anaktuvuk Pass, I was invited to stay at the town’s Fire House and was fed delicious meals; in Ambler, a local took me out fishing on the Kobuk River; in Kiana, a woman who worked for Fish and Game invited me in for a meal and gave me an ATV tour of town; in Kotzebue, a new friend gave me a great tour of town and fed me a steak dinner. It was a privilege to get a peek into how other people live, and their hospitality overwhelmed me. What is your next adventure goal? This winter, I will be running dogs with Iditarod/Yukon Quest Racer, Brent Sass. I will be living in Eureka, Alaska, population 8 (including me). My goal is to survive the winter without losing any toes! And to learn as much as I can about running sled dogs and life in the Alaskan bush. I have a lot of long distance hiking ideas for the coming years! You can follow my adventures at milesforbreakfast.com. What sort of advice or encouragement do you have for other adventurous women? Live life to the brim! Don’t wait for your dreams to happen. Make them happen.

A large male grizzly bear stands at a caribou carcass that he had just stolen from a pack of wolves.


Read more about Kristin Gates’ Brooks Range traverse and follow her future adventures at milesforbreakfast.com.

Normally by mid-June, the caribou are already north of the mountains at their calving grounds by the Arctic Ocean, but this year they stayed in the mountains longer because there was a late thaw.

Kristin is reaching the Chukchi Sea after having hiked and packrafted 1,000 miles across Alaska.

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Tecnica Moon Boot. These rainbow Moon Boots boast retro style and arctic-grade warmth. They’re throwback pieces worth adding to your collection now, even if you’ve never owned a pair. $150; tecnicausa.com

Patagonia Tin Shed Rider. A lifestyle boot that goes above and beyond, the Tin Shed Rider features a water-resistant leather upper that boasts supple comfort and an easy-to-use zip on/off design. A padded and 70 percent recycled footbed sits on a lugged Vibram outsole to ensure you confidence on strolls in your snowy locale. $230; patagonia.com

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KEEN Delancey Boot WP CNX. A low-profile but high-performance leather boot that promises waterproof protection and out-of-this-world foot support, the Delancey is an elegant seasonal staple. $150; keenfootwear.com


Chaco Lucia. The suede and waterresistant, oiled nubuck Lucia boot is topped off with a stylish jersey knit collar in a vintage print. Most of all, this pair of boots is outfitted with Chaco’s famously comfortable footbed and a 25 percent recycled rubber outsole that’s fit for winter walking. $145; chacos.com

Timberland Authentics Waterproof Fold-Down Boot. A classic look gets updated and, most importantly, cold weather-ready in this teddy fleece-lined suede boot. On extra frigid days, lace the leather top up and let the waterproof membrane work its magic. And, every day, count on the stylish boot’s burly lugs to get traction on any surface. $140; timberland.com

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w Tech Talk

Strengthen Your Autoimmunity Armor How You Can Stabilize the Immune System and Stay in the Game By Morgan Tilton your tissue it can cause inflammation in vital organs and tissues, and once those are damaged the inflammation can become chronic.”

Diagnosing Auto-immune Disease


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moon—a colonoscopy, an MRI, a CAT scan, x-rays, and a genetics test—and sought help from a mass of medical experts from hematologists to gastroenterologists, but her condition remained undiagnosable.

A Backward Immunity Mee struggles with a health case that progressively more and more Americans face: an autoimmune disease. Today, more than 50 million Americans have at least one autoimmune disease, and autoimmunity is the second highest cause of chronic illness according to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA). Autoimmunity is when the immune system’s ability to recognize foreign cells diminishes, so the body begins to create and direct T cells and antibodies toward the self-antigens in its own cells and tissues. In other words, the immune system can no longer distinguish between the self and the nonself, so it mistakenly attacks normal, healthy cells. “Your immune system—which is supposed to protect you against viruses and bacteria—for some reason attacks your own tissue,” explains Virginia Ladd, RT, the founder and president of AARDA. “When an autoimmune disease attacks



t 4 a.m. Mee McCormick collapsed on the floor beside her bed. Roused by the cries of her 18-month-old daughter, Lola, Mee moved toward the crib, but a series of spasms pulsed through her stomach, lower back, and abdomen and the whirlwind of pain debilitated her. Helpless and isolated, she curled up on the concrete floor of her beachfront abode in Sayulita, Mexico, encircled by the hum of the jungle and the resonating ocean waves. Mee’s husband, Lee, had left town for the weekend, so she was alone with Lola and her five-year-old, Bella; there was no way to reach Lee (a recent storm had demolished the phone line); and the closest hospital was a five-hour drive away in Guadalajara: She feared for her life. For 10 years Mee Tracy McCormick—now an autoimmune cooking expert and author of the Amazon number four best seller for whole foods diets, My Kitchen Cure—had endured stomach inflammation and innumerable bowel obstructions. Following her near-death experience while living in Mexico, McCormick felt a sense of urgency to decrypt the root cause of her stomach flare-ups. After a year in the village, Mee and her family moved back to Nashville, Tennessee, and she underwent every medical test under the

Beneath the umbrella of autoimmunity researchers have discovered at least 100 distinguishable diseases and 40 or more others that are in question, affirms AARDA. Identifying an individual’s autoimmune disease can be very challenging because at present, there is no medical specialty that focuses on autoimmunity as a whole: The modern medical approach identifies a disease based on the anatomy of the disease, or where it occurs in the body. However, when the entire immune system malfunctions then the symptoms can branch across multiple specialties, so it can be difficult to narrow down the primary inflammation and likewise, what activated the irritation. Another hurdle is that the cause of onset differs per individual. “We know that certain kinds of infections can trigger certain autoimmunity, but it’s not like every person with an autoimmune disease has the same trigger,” explains Dr. Betty Diamond, MD, a physician and the head of the Autoimmune Disease Center at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, New York. In fact, the exact cause can be indeterminable, she affirms. Genetics, stress, viruses, infections, toxins, and chemicals are considerable factors in provoking the inflammatory process and autoimmunity. In some cases, people could have a predisposition to autoimmunity but a secondary factor invokes their autoimmune disease. One theory suggests that hormones have a significant influence: “Estrogen seems to facilitate autoimmune disease and androgens seem to protect,” says Dr. Diamond, who has researched autoimmunity for 30 years. In light, 75 percent of all autoimmunity patients are female. Within some diseases the ratio is even higher. “Hypothyroiditis, or low thyroid, is 10 to 1,” shares AARDA patient educator Patricia Barber. “The other side of the coin is hy-

Tech Talk


Real Food

perthyroid, and that’s called Graves’ disease, and that’s 7 to 1,” she says and continues through the list. (See chart above.)

Be the Boss “Don’t let the disease control you—you control the disease, which doesn’t mean you have to give up what you love to do. Even professional athletes have to make adjustments,” says Ladd. “Learn how to listen to your body and pace your activity.” Case in point, in 2011, professional tennis player and four-time Olympic gold medalist Venus Williams was diagnosed with Sjögren’s Syndrome—which can lead to joint pain, swelling, numbness, and fatigue—and, at times the condition has forced her withdrawal from tournaments. “[Venus] doesn’t let it stop her,” Ladd adds. “She’s learned to adapt to a chronic disease and she keeps a very positive attitude.” Each individual’s symptoms—which differ case by case, even within the same disease— signify an imbalance in the body. Individuals can use personal tools to reinstate balance, according to licensed acupuncturist Inger Giffin, L.Ac., Dipl. Ac., who owns Wisdom Ways Acupuncture in Fort Collins, CO. For example, a hyperactive person may benefit from relaxing music where as a sluggish person could benefit from hot yoga. “There’s no cookie cutter approach—what is balance for one person may not be for another person,” says Giffen. “One person’s rheumatoid arthritis might get worse in hot weather and another person’s is diagnosed as getting worse in cold, so the treatment would be tailored to that individual.” Furthermore, offsetting a variety of activities—such as alternating trail running and Iyengar yoga—and giving the body rest-time both help to prevent a systematic imbalance. “A lot of athletes I work with feel guilty if they allow themselves to rest, because they feel like they’re not accomplishing,” explains Giffen, “but it nourishes them and brings energy back to the body, which helps them to perform longer.”

After two years in Nashville, Mee finally mastered a healing tool for her malady: cooking real food. Real food is natural and simple, unprocessed and unrefined whole food that is free of additives and artificial substances, Mee explains. “If you have an immune disorder, your immune system is working hard 24 hours a day,” she says. “If you eat something that’s not a real food, the body is notified that there is a foreign substance, which taxes your immune system.” Now, Mee travels nationwide to raise awareness for the autoimmunity epidemic and to help others improve their health through hosting group-cooking lessons, coined Community Kitchens, which are based on teaching the healing values of food and real food recipes. Alongside whole-and-fresh ingredients, here are Mee’s tips for strengthening the immune system and combating autoimmunity: 1. Pinpoint your real foods. Find out which foods you’re allergic to and eliminate those from your diet. 2. Identify your excess and rotate your foods. Athletes get in food ruts when they eat from a particular point of view—for muscle mass, weight gain or loss, or for a certain amount of protein or fat—and that incongruity creates an imbalance that causes flare-ups for autoimmune diseases, Mee explains. Ask yourself what you’re eating everyday, and that’s your excess. Instead, support your immune system by rotating foods: switch up your meals day-to-day and restructure your grocery list to incorporate different foods each week. “Your body needs a lot of different things to function, and rotating your foods is a good way to get everything you need. It’s mindfulness,” Mee says. 3. Aid Digestion. Eat watery, high-fiber foods such as sweet potatoes and apples; and fermented probiotic foods—which have healthy bacteria—like oldfashioned sauerkraut. 4. Ease the Mind. Practice a calming exercise such as tai chi, alleviate and prevent flare-ups with acupuncture, and find a place where you can express selfdoubts. “Especially when you have a disease or a chronic illness, getting mad at your body for that condition will not support the body. The body follows the mind,” says Mee. “Find a place where you can be safe emotionally and where you can process grievances.” Speak with a therapist, join a support group, or volunteer within the autoimmunity community.

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w Tech Talk

Snow Survival How to prevent a dire situation—or make the most of a wintry outing gone wrong. By Chris Kassar

“Just because you love the mountains … doesn’t mean the mountains love you.”


hese wise words courtesy of famed mountaineer, Lou Whittaker, play over and over in my head. Never before has the truth in this sentiment been so clear. It was December 21, 2002. To celebrate Winter Solstice, we were heading for the primitive ski cabin near Tuolumne Meadows, but the altitude and exertion of breaking trail in fresh powder up and over Tioga Pass smoked my backcountry partner. He hit a mental and physical wall and simply couldn’t push on. Miles from anything, dark setting in, temps rapidly plummeting into the single digits, and all I can think is: How could we be so stupid? The promise of a fire in a cozy cabin meant we didn’t bring a tent, a stove, or really much. We were two experienced backcountry folk who underestimated the terrain, started later than we should have, failed to plan for the worst, and now found ourselves digging a snow cave in Yosemite’s wilds. Between the two of us we had enough stuff and luck to survive the long, frigid, uncomfortable night, but we’ll never make the same mistakes again. We’ve learned from our blunders and hope you will, too. Here are some tips to keep you safe on your winter adventures.

Plan to Prevent Nature is unpredictable. At times it can be breathtakingly beautiful, full of rainbows and sunshine, but only too quickly becomes harsh and unforgiving. Although most of us can’t see the future, it is our responsibility as explorers to prevent catastrophe by planning and preparing before heading outside—especially in winter. You’ve probably heard these before, but we mention them again because so many of us fail to actually implement these simple, potentially life-saving steps. TELL SOMEONE. Call or text a friend, write a note, or check in on a social media site. “This is the critical first step to surviving. Someone should always know where you’re going and approximately when you plan to return,” says Kathleen McBride, an instructor who teaches snow science and snow survival classes to college students in various spots across the country. BE REALISTIC. “Know your personal limits and don’t challenge Mother Nature. You will likely lose,” says Kathleen. Sometimes this requires having enough smarts and strength to abandon a goal, like summiting a peak or carving turns on a beautiful backcountry run. “If you find yourself too fatigued, without the right resources, or in the wrong weather conditions, then stop and try for another day.” KNOW BEFORE YOU GO. Get as much information about the environment, terrain, and weather as you can. Bring a topographic map (a.k.a. topo) and know how to use it. “Electronic maps are great but they should never be your only source of information,” says Kathleen. By looking at a topo before you leave home, you can learn about and strategize for the area you’re going to explore. “This is important. If going out into avalanche ter18  WAM • WINTER | 2013

rain, then you should know the basics of avalanche safety and be equipped with the basic tools: shovel, beacon, probe, and avalung.” Check the weather forecast before heading out, but more importantly pay attention to your senses and changes in temperature, barometric pressure, winds, and the sky. Know what different types of clouds mean, watch for incoming snow or lightning storms, and make decisions accordingly. PLAN FOR THE WORST. “Don’t take your house with you, but bring enough to keep you warm in case you unexpectedly have to spend the night,” says Kathleen. (See the “Don’t Leave Home Without ’Em” sidebar.) Conditions change on a dime and you have to be ready for anything; a massive snowstorm blowing in, breaking an ankle, surviving a nasty fall, or getting lost. “Anything can happen … and yes, it can happen to you, too. It can happen to anyone. Know that you are not invincible,” says Kathleen. “It’s important to remember that the environment can be your best friend and your worst enemy.”

Decide to Survive: Act Sometimes even all the planning or experience in the world can’t keep a disaster at bay. You don’t have control over when or how the unexpected will hit, but you do have a choice: Will you freak out or keep it together? Stay calm; your survival depends on it. “Panic can cause you to make terrible decisions, so do the best you can to stop panicking,” advises Kathleen. “Take deep breaths and remember there are resources all around you. Remind yourself that you are smart enough to get through this.” Here are some steps to guide your response: SAFETY BREAK. Survey your surroundings; are you safe? “Look around and look up. Snow moves, and it generally carries rocks, trees, and other forms of dangerous debris with it. Be sure that you are out of the path of moving snow,” suggests Kathleen. While taking stock of your location and potential hazards, note deep snowdrifts and hillsides—both are good components of a solid snow cave or shelter. Once you’ve secured a safe spot, begin caring for yourself and then others in your group. Treat injuries, get out of wet and/or sweaty clothes, put on a hat (you lose 40–45 percent of your body heat from your head), stay hydrated, and do what you can to conserve energy while making an action plan. HOME SWEET HOME. Now focus on removing yourself from the elements. Choose a spot out of the wind where you can fashion a shelter from natural materials. In the forest, you can hunker down amidst large trees, seek refuge in a rock overhang, or build a shelter, like a lean-to from downed trees and logs. In an alpine environment, the best option will be to build a snow shelter like a snow cave, quinzee (a hollowed-out pile of snow), or trench. “It doesn’t have to be perfect but you need to stay protected from extreme weather conditions, like wind, snow, rain, sun, etcetera,” says Kathy. “Snow is a great insulator and, despite it being a cold material, it will keep you warm. In most instances, a snow cave will keep you warmer and dryer than any other type of shelter.” And, to minimize heat loss, don’t sit directly on ice or snow. Insulate your shelter with something like pine boughs or needles, grass, a foam pad, or your backpacks, and be sure to ventilate it properly. BURN BABY BURN. Staying warm will be your ultimate challenge. Build a fire, if you have the means. You can dry clothes, cook, melt ice or snow for water, and heat up rocks to place under your sleeping pad for womensadventuremagazine.com

Tech Talk


warmth or in your boots for drying. Fires also signal others and provide a huge morale boost. Often times, a candle placed in a snow cave or quinzee can create significant heat, light, and comfort. Just make sure to strategically place it near vents and monitor heat output so it doesn’t begin melting your shelter. Stoking the fire within is also important: Put on insulating layers, keep moving around, and consume serious calories throughout the day, emphasizing fatty and protein-packed foods before bed. DON’T EAT YELLOW SNOW (or any snow, for that matter). It’s easy to forget about staying hydrated when it’s cold, but even if you’re not thirsty or sweating, you are losing fluids and need to replenish. In winter, bring insulated vessels and fill them only two-thirds of the way full (sloshing equals less freezing). Avoid eating snow or ice directly, because the amount of metabolic energy required to melt snow in your stomach outweighs any gain made in hydration. If you have the choice, melt ice rather than snow; ice produces a lot more water than snow. Although fire is more efficient, Kathleen reminds us that you can still make water without one. “Put it [ice or snow] in a container of some kind and use your body heat to melt it.” If you’re going this route, keep a layer of clothing between you and the container to avoid heat loss.


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Every time you venture out in winter, make sure to bring these with you. Layers: Loose clothes worn in layers provide more insulation due to the dead air space between them. Choose synthetic base layers (for lightweight, quick-drying performance) and windproof, waterproof outer layers. Keep clothes dry, and save cotton for the mall. Sunglasses: Often forgotten and/or overlooked, sunglasses protect against snow-intensified UV rays that can cause snow blindness. Bring them, wear them, or know how to improvise eye protection by cutting slits in a piece of cardboard, tree bark, or other material. Plenty of food: Have more than enough food and the ability to get more. Shovel: Buy a good, strong, light, collapsible one, and keep it in your pack. Even if you’re not in avy terrain, you need one to have any hope of building a shelter. Fire: Never leave home without at least two means to make a fire. Flashlight and extra batteries: Keep both warm. Snow sense: A trail you hike all summer will be very different in winter. It will be tougher to follow, and covering ground will take more energy and more time. The trail may also become more technically challenging with snow cover, so plan for longer days and prepare for ice, steep and snowy slopes, and other hazardous conditions. Do your research, know what you will need for a certain area (i.e., ice axe, snowshoes, traction devices, avalanche gear), and bring it. Navigation know-how: including how to use the old-fashioned compass and topo map you have in your pack. Avalanche savvy: At a minimum, you should be able to size up whether you are entering avalanche terrain so you can decide to turn around or continue, based on the skills and equipment in your group. Trusted partners: Choose backcountry partners wisely. “You should have friends with you that you trust and are knowledgeable,” says Kathleen. “They will be your first responders.”

ro Fl uor o

WAM • WINTER | 2013  19

Lutz Eichholz and Stephanie Dietze, July 2012, riding down from the top of Cima Ombretta Orientale in the Dolomites in Italy.



a I'm Proof I’m Proof That …

Women are strong enough to push the boundaries of extreme sports By Cece Wildeman


hen Stephanie Dietze first got on a mountain unicycle in 2004, the feeling of balancing on one wheel was familiar. What wasn’t familiar was the steep, bumpy slope she was about to ride down. It was the unicycling world championships, and she competed in freestyle unicycling, where she completed routines with costumes and music. After their competition, she and some other freestyle unicyclists went to watch the mountain unicycling competition—and ended up trying it. She liked it, but for the next couple years her goals with the sport remained the same. Stephanie had been unicycling since she was eight years old and competing internationally with Team Germany since she was sixteen. She spent most of every year training for the German Nationals, just enjoying the sport and her teammates. In 2006, Stephanie moved to Austria for her studies and no longer had a practice gym for freestyle riding. But she found something there that she didn’t have in her hometown of Dudenhofen, Germany: mountains. She started practicing outside in skate parks and in nearby mountains. “I had seen too many gyms from the inside anyways and was a little tired of traveling the world, never seeing anything but the inside of sports centers,” she said. Now, Stephanie spends most of her time on a unicycle completing challenges that push the boundaries of this fairly new sport. And when she does complete them, she’s usually part of the first group of unicyclists to do so, and she’s almost always the first woman. “Part of me does these trips and challenges to prove that women can

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be very strong too,” she said. “Really, it wasn’t until three years ago that I realized there was so much that hasn’t been done with the sport, and that I could do it.” Stephanie really fell in love with mountain unicycling when she traveled New Zealand by camper van and unicycle with a couple of friends. It was her first alpine trip and, one day, after failing to find another group of unicyclists they had planned to meet up with, Dietze’s brother drove her and her friends to the top of a mountain. There, on one of the northernmost points of New Zealand, the group started to ride down. The trail ran next to the ocean, and the landscape seemed so exotic to Stephanie. They rode through jungle-like forests full of plants she’d never seen in Germany. Their ride ended on the

beach, and the whole group jumped into the ocean. On the last night of the trip, the group sat around the campfire and asked each other, “What’s next?” Their idea: to hike up and unicycle down the highest mountain in Germany, the Zugspitze. In the summer of 2010 they completed the challenge, and Dietze was the first woman to do so. At the end of the trip, the question was raised again: “What’s next?” A year later the group set out to cross the Alps on unicycle, using established hiking trails and huts along the way. They wanted to know if it was possible, if they had the physical and mental strength to do it. One day in the Alps, after hiking and carrying her unicycle for more than eight hours, Stephanie

began to doubt that she could continue. She began to doubt her physical strength, herself, the trip, the sensibility of unicycling. That morning, the group had the impression that it would be a short day. But once they started walking and could see the terrain ahead, they realized there would be nothing but rough mountains for hours. It began to snow and Stephanie cursed the group member who had planned that day’s route. When the guys she was with offered to carry her unicycle, she refused, determined to do it herself. For a while, her refusal motivated her to keep going and be strong. But as the day went on, she fell farther and farther behind the group and knew she had to take them up on their offer if they were to reach their hut for the night. She continued hiking, she said, even though she thought it was impossible because her body was so tired. She continued because there was no other option. On all of her unicycling trips, Stephanie says she reaches a point where she doesn’t believe she can go on and thinks, “This is stupid. Why am I carrying this thing up a mountain?” But when she reaches her goal, doubts fade away and she thinks only about the next trip. The group completed the Alps challenge and Dietze became the first woman to cross the Alps on a unicycle. She’s since gone on to ride in the Dolomites and Pyrenees and even to ride down the Matterhorn. When her teammates took her unicycle from her in the Alps, Stephanie was relieved. But it also felt like giving up, she said, because she wanted to do things herself and prove to herself that she could do womensadventuremagazine.com

I'm Proof



“I love the teaching staff. They are all very clear, all had a vast knowledge base, and most importantly all were extremely patient.” Wendy, Vancouver, BC it. She was mad at herself when they offered to help because she felt like she was giving the impression that she wasn’t strong enough to do it on her own. Later, Stephanie realized that part of the reason for committing to challenging trips is to experience her own weaknesses and the borders of her abilities. That day in the Alps, she said, she was doing all she could and the guys were nice enough to help her out. Male and female bodies are different, she says. Although she used to deny it, Stephanie now says that it’s just a fact that her

male teammates have more physical strength. But that doesn’t mean she can’t be out on her unicycle, pushing the boundaries of her sport. “Unicycling in general has taught me to be endurable, to try and try again if something is not working at first,” she said. “When doing something on a unicycle, after hundreds of tries it’s all of the sudden possible. Where I saw a trail full of huge rocks and roots before, all of the sudden, I see a line that I can ride. I learn how to see a solution, rather than a problem.”

“It was time and money well spent. It increased my confidence a ton!” Karen, Longmont, CO

Locations in Portland and Ashland, Oregon www.bikeschool.com 541-488-1121 Facebook: www.facebook.com/ unitedbicycleinstitute Twitter: @unitedbicycle WAM • WINTER | 2013  39



TOP: Midnight at our first camp on the ocean west of Tromso— our first of many beautiful seashore camps. The “nights” only got brighter throughout the trip. A late season winter storm here treated us to excellent skiing in the birches and cozy nights at camp spent sipping hot drinks, playing Boggle, and catching up on rest. AT LEFT: On our third day above our first camp, a few breaks in the storm allowed us to sneak above tree line for some deeper powder before another round of whiteout squalls chased us back into the birches below. Although we headed to Norway with primarily spring conditions in mind, we were also hoping and ready for one last blast of winter like this. It was a dreamy few days of skiing, no doubt. (skier: Emily Johnson)

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Two Two Forrest joked that Per was softening us. We had met Per while skiing above the island city of Tromso on our first day in Arctic Norway. It was late April and, after we spent two cozy nights at a guesthouse downtown, Per and his two goddesslike teenaged daughters insisted we spend a night in their home before we finally set off. As avid skiers and cyclists, like many Norwegians, they were curious about our month-long, pedalpowered skiing adventure ahead. We feasted on delicious homemade lasagna, fresh bread, and Per’s hand-picked wild blueberry cake.


Wheels, Planks

Pedal Powered Skiing in Arctic Norway


By Emily Johnson

Mugs of hot tea soothed us off to bed. The weather forecast called for a major spring snowstorm to arrive by morning. Lying four abreast that night in the mudroom of Per’s small house, we wondered how we’d motivate to pedal away into a brewing storm the next day. Our Vermont team—including my husband, Brian, and our friends Forrest and Tom—had put only a dozen kilometers between us and Per’s house when the storm hit and the wet snowflakes began to fly. Donning our ski goggles and waterproof socks, we followed a winding bicycle path away from the city. We were bound for a cluster of peaks along the coast that we had eyed during a ski tour above Tromso. A few hours from the city, with the road now coated with fresh snow, we spotted a sheltered place for a camp along a stream by the shoreline. There was no one around. A few small fishing boats knocked about in their slips nearby. Mountains soared above the seashore, cloaked by the storm. Wanting to stay warm, we beat feet, working together to put up our two tents. Luckily, there were plenty of small boulders to help us anchor our shelters amid the howling winds. After a surprisingly restful night, despite gusts of winds roaring by like freight trains, we woke to several inches of fresh snow at sea level and the promise of an exciting day ahead. Leaving our seashore camp secured, we pedaled in our ski boots for an easy kilometer down the desolate coastal road to the base of a valley where birch forests stretched high into the steep and stormravaged mountains. We stashed our bikes in the trees, attached climbing skins to our skis, and climbed into the mountains. Blizzard conditions prevailed, but the snow in the birches was surprisingly sheltered, and deep.

TOP: Pushing into the heart of the Lyngen Alps called for long days beginning and ending at the sea. Now nearly ten days into what would turn out to be a rare twenty-day stretch of mostly sunny weather, the idea of a rest day was hardly on our minds. Convinced the weather would give out at some point, we simply kept skiing. (Left to right: Emily Johnson, Tom Hite) BOTTOM: This was 1:30 a.m., during the first of several midnight ski tours later in the trip. Peach-colored corn snow, kept soft by unusually warm nighttime temperatures, lured us to ski straight through the night, high above the Norwegian Sea. We didn’t ski back to camp until 5 or 6 a.m. (Front to back: Emily Johnson, Tom Hite)

WAM • WINTER | 2013  57

Two Wheels, Two Planks

TOP: A local family near Lyngseidet, whose farm is evolving into a cozy retreat for travelers, invited us to stay with them for the night. We helped with some chores, swept out the old barn, and set up camp for the night. RIGHT: Brian and I unwind after one of the longest days of the trip—a loop on skis combining two glacial valleys, several steep descents, and a short bike ride. Fortunately, a waffle breakfast awaited us the next morning. BOTTOM: During the middle two weeks of our trip, we immersed ourselves in the heart of the Arctic Alps, one of the highest mountain regions in Norway. Approaching the well-known Lyngen Peninsula one evening, we camped directly across a fjord from some of its highest peaks, a cluster known as The Giants, which tower well over 1,000 meters directly above the sea. (Left to right: Emily Johnson, Forrest Twombly, Tom Hite)

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We lived and breathed with the storm for three days, resting beneath the Arctic twilight by night and skiing delectable fresh powder by day—a true gift in late April. We stayed warm and dry by moving at a steady pace, and sipping lots of hot drinks. Looking back on that first week of trip, it was obvious that we were just paying our dues to the weather gods. Nearly a month later, light winds under bright skies had dominated the weather for more than two weeks. We had settled into a rhythm driven by daily ski adventures in the mountains and relatively short bike rides whenever we felt the urge to move. We had covered nearly 200 kilometers of coastline, while laying ski tracks upon two dozen mountains. Eventually, record warmth for May lured us into a string of ski tours under the midnight sun, when the risk of wet snow avalanches abated. We’d ski ’til three, four, or five in the morning, and then sleep ’til noon. On one of our last evenings of the trip, high above a camp surrounded by waterfalls on the northern tip of the Lyngen Peninsula, we gathered atop a rocky summit at midnight. Per insisted we visit this place. Basking in a warm, Arctic glow, we witnessed the sun slide horizontally across the sky—hiding briefly behind islands, but never setting—before rising again. The sounds of shorebirds, snowmelt, and the surging sea filled the air.


TOP: After satisfying days of skiing above our first camp, hot drinks, dinner, and the shelter of our tents awaited us just a short bike ride away from the base of our ski runs. To keep things simple, we pedaled in our ski boots. (Left to right: Tom Hite, Emily Johnson, Forrest Twombly) BOTTOM: Later in our trip, record temperatures made it feel more like summer in Norway. We had to be extra cautious of wet-snow avalanches at lowerelevations, but warm days enabled some quality sun bathing at camp.

This trip was a test for us, combining two things we all loved— cycling and skiing—and grew to like these sports more than we ever had before. We had spent many months of our lives bicycle touring in remote places and even more time exploring faraway mountains on skis. But I never imagined that an extended bicycle-powered skiing adventure would work so well. Before the trip, I was a little apprehensive that the cycling would be too much of a slog. Yet, even with our bikes loaded with the gear we needed to camp, cook, stay warm, and ski safely, the relatively flat roads of Arctic Norway made cycling a pleasure. As we skied a final run back to our waterfall camp, we savored the freedom, simplicity, and spontaneity of living with only two wheels and two planks. Of all the ways we’ve gone skiing over the years, going by bicycle had now become our favorite. And upon reaching the shoreline and crawling into our tents that morning, we could only imagine what tomorrow would bring. n

WAM • WINTER | 2013  59

Photographer Ian Coble snapped this shot of his wife Karlee and their friend, Elizabeth, at the top of Stevens Pass, Washington. They had arranged to get early ups with the resort that day and are shown waiting at the top until ski patrol finished the day’s avalanche bombing so they could safely venture onto the slopes. Elizabeth and Karlee braved the howling wind to admire the soft morning light from the ridge top.


By Stephanie Nitsch

“Start with a guide to see if it’s something you like. Take it one step at a time. It’s a gradual progression. The friendships you make and the feelings of accomplishments are extraordinary. You’ll be enlightened for life.”—Kim Havell, on getting started in ski mountaineering By its most formal definition, ski mountaineering (skimo, for short) is a beefed-up version of backcountry touring that combines a variety of navigational skills to travel up, down, and across a mountain by skis—most often on steep terrain. While many veteran alpinists rely on ice axes, crampons, and harnesses to ascend to knifepoint ridgelines, not all aspiring ski mountaineers will need to have equipment for such extreme pursuits. “Anyone can get into it if you take all the right steps,” explains Kim Havell, a professional ski mountaineering guide and athlete who has racked up ascents on all seven continents. If you’ve had a taste of laying tracks in the backcountry, then you’ve got a head start. Nevertheless, it takes time to cultivate all the skills to make the leap from backcountry skier to peak-bagging mountaineer. “It’s a gradual learning process,” explains Sarah Carpenter, owner of American Avalanche Institute and a certified AMGA (American Mountain Guides Association) ski guide. So, with a few tips from these expert skiers, you’ll be on your way to navigating over glacial crevasses in British Columbia, rappelling through narrow couloirs in the Tetons, or summiting volcanic peaks in the Pacific Northwest—all for the sake of sweet virgin powder turns.

Planning Resources Blogs, community forums, topo maps, and Google Earth are valuable tools in route planning and in figuring out the safest) path of least resistance. Also, says Sarah, “Ask around. People are amazing at remembering small pieces of their trips.” And it’s often those small details that can greatly affect the outcome of your objective. An annual membership to the American Alpine Club (AmericanAlpineClub. org) is an additional asset when it comes to finding expert advice and route beta. Membership fees begin at $40 and include great perks like gear discounts and accident and rescue insurance.

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Amp Up Your Fitness Physical fitness is key in prepping for an objective. No matter how light you pack, you’ll inevitably be carrying a few dozen pounds of gear on your back for many hours each day. Kim and Sarah emphasize the importance of strength training, but you don’t need to invest in a gym membership to reap the benefits. “Train at home,” says Kim. “You can do it really inexpensively.” Rocks, sand bags, or heavy books are cheap and accessible alternatives to weights and fit well in backpacks. womensadventuremagazine.com


Ski Mountaineering

m Ski Mountaineering

m Three Tips 1. Know your equipment. Before setting off from the trailhead, you need to be comfortable using your gear and familiar with its functions. “You don’t need to be an expert to use it,” says Kim, but it does take time in the field to learn what your gear is capable of doing. Kim recommends practicing on a small hill so it becomes second nature when you’re in bigger terrain. 2. Assess the environment. Weather plays a major role in determining your route objectives. Spend time researching the snowpack and weather forecast prior to your departure, and constantly keep tabs on the conditions when you’re in the field. Above all, never hesitate to turn around based on any deteriorating observations. 3. Skin efficiently. It’s important to recognize that going up takes a lot more time and energy than coming down, says Sarah. Follow her advice and strive for a fluid, gradual climb. “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast,” she says. Additionally, when it comes to techniques, “keep your hips forward when you’re skinning or walking. You’re more efficient when you’re upright.”

Partner Up One of the biggest hurdles in ski mountaineering is finding a partner who shares your goals. Both Kim and Sarah stress the importance of pairing up with reliable partners when you embark on an objective. “To me, having a partner who shares my ambition and risk tolerance is as important as understanding the route,” says Sarah. When you’re just starting out, however, it can be intimidating to find a mentor who is happy to show you the proverbial and literal ropes. “Try not to feel bad about it,” assures Kim. “As women, we tend to do that a lot. But the more you develop these skills, the more people will want to go with you. [When you start,] you’re gonna be a liability to whoever’s taking you, but you won’t be if you’re respectful and listen to what they say. Watch and observe everything you can.”

Good Reads While it’s best to leave the paperbacks at home on a skimo trip, a little knowledge from these classic books goes a long way. • Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills is the bible for any aspiring alpinist. • Bruce Tremper, director of the Utah Avalanche Center, lays out the facts when it comes to assessing hazards in Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain, a comprehensive pocket guide to winter travel in the backcountry. • As the only U.S. Army unit ever to grow from a sport, the 10th Mountain Division became the most historic combat troop to employ alpine tactics. Author Peter Shelton recreates vivid tales involving these soldier-athletes’ training regimes and extreme expeditions in Climb to Conquer: The Untold Stories of WWII’s 10 th Mountain Division Ski Troopers.

“Pair everything down and figure out multi-purpose pieces so you don’t have to carry as much. Invest in gear. It’s worth buying highquality and lightweight items. All the little things add up. Ounces equal pounds, and pounds equal pain.” —Sarah Carpenter, on packing

Follow These Tweets Imitation is the best form of flattery, but it’s also the best way to boost your knowledge of a new hobby. Discover inspiration, ideas, and tips from these influential skiers and organizations on Twitter. • @USSMA_SkiMo, your source for events and races sanctioned by the United States Ski Mountaineering Association. • @mtmaman, insight on training, racing, and life as a fulltime mom from World Cup ski mountaineer Nina Silitch. • @KimHavell, stories and photos of mountaineering adventures from the expert herself. • @AlisonGannett, musings on ski mountaineering, sustainability, and climate change from skier/advocate Alison Gannett.

Sarah Carpenter

Kim Havell

Gear Checklist Not including avalanche gear and ski equipment, this gear covers the most basic essentials for any mountaineering goal. þþ Helmet þþ Headlamp þþ Medical kit þþ Layers þþ Backpack þþ Gear repair kit (A few savvy items, like zip ties and hose clamps, can do wonders for fixing a broken binding or skin in an emergency. Don’t forget the duct tape!) WAM • WINTER | 2013  65

Partners S e r i e S

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WAM • WINTER | 2013  71

It’s Personal

Intro to Skiing in the Rockies

A native east coast skier reflects on her first powder day By Julie Peirano


suddenly found myself stuck, literally, in waist deep powder, wondering why I’d ever agreed to this in the first place. As I lay there contemplating my options and my best plan of action, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed by the simplicity and beauty of the deep puffs of fluffy snow in which I’d found myself. I marveled at the fact that these same puffs that had taken me prisoner had also managed to glisten and sparkle all around me in the most calming of ways. I know what you’re thinking. Too much powder? Nonsense! But all I could think was “How exactly did I end up here?” The answer would have to begin with my journey to Colorado. As a skier raised on the east coast, I knew that steep slabs of ice were no match for our narrow planks. However, Colorado skiing presented me a whole new sport. Comparing skiing on the east coast to skiing in the Rocky Mountains is like comparing a toddler taking her first steps to a runner crossing the finish line of a marathon. Both noteworthy accomplishments

72  WAM • WINTER | 2013

requiring determination and a willpower that won’t quit, these actions are rooted in the same foundation but have different methods, skill sets, and levels of technical prowess one must achieve in order to find success. With many thanks to my parents, I grew up spending time each winter in sunny and mild upstate New York. (Sorry, did I say sunny and mild? I meant dark and frigid.) We vacationed at a quaint cabin of which I hold the fondest of memories. While cruising down a steep backyard hill in a toboggan in New York might resonate similarly to doing so in Colorado, I can assure you that skiing is much different. As I followed my Colorado-native friend off the lift and across the short catwalk, I soaked up the breathtaking views, ignoring the fact that the hill which I was about to experience would be unlike any ski run I’d ever known. “Well, here goes nothing,” I thought to myself. I dropped in and immediately went down, as in, boots-out-of-my-bindings down.

An ungroomed hill polluted with bumps and obstacles too busy to fly straight down? What was this all about? As I gathered myself from my first laughable tumble, I stood there, not sure exactly what to make of this monster of a mountain and finding myself wondering why I thought I was even a skier in the first place. Just then, Liz, my aforementioned ‘Colorado-native friend’ ripped down beside me, playing Leap Frog most of the way down. Revived by her kind words of “You’re doing great! You’ve just never skied this kind of terrain before,” I trudged on and slowly continued on my difficult descent. Finally, I found myself on the lower half of the grueling mountain, where the obstacles had thinned out and the powder had become fluffy and glistened in the silence of the trees. After a couple nose dives head first, I got to practice digging myself out from being wedged deep in the heavy snow. My short-lived enthusiasm faded in the harsh reality that, though I might have been seasoned in playing in the snow, I was a far cry from navigating the muddy waters of Rocky Mountain powder. As I lay there stuck deep in powder on the lower half of the mountain, I realized that this would be a whole new ballgame for me. My frustration only impeded upon my ability to pull myself out of the heavy snow, and as passersby urged me on with smiles and well wishes, it brought me back to the exact reason I would come to love skiing, once again, so much. Not only is the ski community vibrant with people who are so friendly and alive, it is also filled with people who are just down right out of their minds. Every time I perch myself onto the next chair or am packed into a gondola like a sardine, laughter is always to be guaranteed. By the time I finally got myself out of my very own Colorado ‘stuck in the mud’ situation, I let out several sighs of frustration and followed suit, getting back into the next lift line. As I mindlessly trailed to the top of the next route with my head down, I looked up only to find myself at the top of an even more difficult trail. “Welcome to the Rockies!” Liz said with a smile on her face. And with a new set of expectations, I was back at it.


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