Gregory, the world’s leading pack maker for over 35 years, has been honored with the 2015 Backpacker magazine Editors’ Choice Gold Award for the newly redesigned Baltoro backpack. Bestowed on a manufacturer whose products have sustained best-in-class performance for more than five years, the Gold Award is the benchmark editorial award for a backpack. “The Baltoro and women’s Deva are our pinnacle products and we took their redesign very seriously,” states John Sears, director of product development at Gregory. “By introducing a new suspension and adding features while cleaning up the aesthetic and reducing weight, we’re confident that consumers will love this product. We’re thrilled that the team at Backpacker, which is renowned for its rigorous testing process, agrees, and has once again presented us with such an important award.” Since its inception, the Backpacker Editors’ Choice Awards have come to be regarded as one of the most sought-after awards for outdoor equipment and apparel in the industry. All winners excel under extensive field-testing conducted by Backpacker’s team of editors, who take hundreds of products into the backcountry to put them to the test. This extensive process ensures that the performance of the winners is truly worthy of distinction and meets the guiding principle behind the program: gear that is of real value to the readers of Backpacker magazine, who are active, long-term outdoor enthusiasts. The men’s Baltoro and women’s Deva feature the new Response A3 suspension. An Automatic Angle Adjust chassis keeps the packs comfortable and balanced by adapting to your body and maintaining your center of gravity throughout variable conditions. Two-position adjustable, independently pivoting shoulder harness and hipbelt components, combined with a 7075 aluminum wishbone frame define the new suspension. Additionally, a ventilated center of the back panel provides breathability and a removable foam pad provides adjustability to lumbar support. The pre-curved 3D shoulder harnesses and hipbelts feature an easy-change design for quickly finding the perfect custom fit. The Baltoro is available in 85, 75, and 65 liter volumes while the Deva is available in 80, 70, and 60 liters. All of the bags include the Sidekick pack, an internal hydration reservoir compartment that doubles as an ultra-light removable daypack for summit bids or quick trips into town. Top-load design with large U-zip and a sleeping bag compartment with a drop shelf all provide ample access to the main compartment of the pack. A WeatherShield pocket on the hipbelt protects electronics from weather, as does the included color-matched raincover. The Baltoro 85 and Deva 80 retail for $349 while the Baltoro 65 and Deva 60 are $299. Backpacker editors Dennis Lewon and Kristin Hostetter formally presented the awards to the Gregory team during the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market in Salt Lake City in January. The complete list of Backpacker’s 2015 Editors’ Choice Award winners will be officially announced in the magazine’s April Gear Guide issue, on newsstands March 10th.
Oct 7, 2015
At age 7, Tyler Armstrong was the youngest person to climb Mt. Whitney in a single day. Now 11 years old, he's decided to embark on an epic quest of heroic proportions to climb the world’s Seven Summits – the highest mountains on each of the seven continents, including Mt. Everest. If Tyler succeeds, he will be the youngest person to ever accomplish this feat.
But Tyler is not just trying to set a world record; his goal is to raise awareness and funds to cure Duchenne muscular dystrophy, the most common and lethal muscle disease found in children. Duchenne afflicts approximately 300,000 boys worldwide.
On August, 9, 2015, at age 11, I climbed Mt. Elbrus in Russia, the third mountain in my 7 Summit attempt. Mt. Elbrus is the highest mountain in the European continent and is in the Caucasus mountain range. The climb starts above a ski resort. We loaded up our gear and food and took a tram up to 12,000 feet. Even though we were surrounded by glaciers it was not that cold. You could still wear pants and a T-shirt.
On our base camp were these large bunkhouses that looked like barrels. The barrels fit six people in them and had hard wooden beds, but it was still very tiny. From our base camp we did acclimation climbs for two days, followed by a rest day. What was amazing this high on the mountain was that there was a kitchen barrel with tables. There was a wonderful Russian woman who cooked all of our meals. But you only had 30 minutes for each meal since the next group needed to get in to eat also. The food there was pretty good, but you just have to remember to eat and drink a lot to help prevent altitude sickness. Altitude can make you feel nauseous so it might make it hard to eat and drink at these high altitudes, but you must do it anyway.
After three days of acclimatizing we headed for the summit. But there is something hard about this summit attempt, as it is the longest summit day of all the seven summits. In all, you do 6,000 feet of elevation gain on summit day. Other summits you typically climb around 3,000 to 4,000 feet on summit day. To make this long brutal day easier on Mt. Elbrus, most climbers take a snow cat 2,500 feet higher which can save many brutal hours. We started very early in the morning and climbed over a huge ice slope in darkness. It was so cold that our water was freezing quickly. I was excited when the sun came up as it made me feel warmer and I could see where we were going.
After many long hours of climbing we reached the ropes. We had to clip ourselves in because of the dangerous drop. Part of the challenge was waiting for other climbing teams on the ropes. You didn’t want to be exposed for too long waiting for other climbers. After the ropes, you make a final easy hike to the summit. The summit is around 18,500 feet. Along the way there are many false summits that after a while it makes you aggravated. The summit area is not big and can get jammed up with other climbers. What was amazing on the summit is that you could tell you are at the highest point on the continent.
The way down seems short compared to the many hours it took to climb up. However, you almost need to be more careful on the way down because you are more tired, and it is difficult to climb down steep areas. It was great to have the ropes to help protect us from falls. When we got back to camp we spent one more night in the tiny barrels. Then, in the morning we packed up all of our gear and took the tram back down the mountain.
Find out more about Tyler’s epic quest at http://climbtocureduchenne.org
Help Tyler raise $1 million to save his friend’s lives with Duchenne at: https://www.crowdrise.com/climbtocureduchenne
Sep 22, 2015
Ambassador, Alex Gavic, recorded his thoughts during a 7-day, 80 mile hike, through Utah's backcountry along the High Line Trail.
Here, you must slow down. The grind of everyday life doesn't exist. Time remains ticking at the slow, steady pace that it always has. You must look, listen and feel closely. It is a harsh environment where surviving is all that matters. The Uinta High Line Trail is one in a million. It skirts 100 miles from east to west and is almost all completely above 10,000 feet in elevation. It is littered with thousands of high alpine lakes and streams. Ashley National Forest and the High Uinta Wilderness run for almost 80 miles. Only an estimated 100 people hike that 80 mile section each year. Altitude sickness, excessive bodily wear from the rugged terrain, extreme day time sun and almost everyday afternoon thunder and lightning cause many to evacuate the trail early each year. This is a climate that makes it's own rules and can be harsh and cruel.
Most people start hiking at the Leidy Peak trail head on the east side of the range and head west, ending at the High Line Trailhead on the Mirror Lake Highway just in front of Hayden Peak. The length from A-B is about 78.4 miles. I have been looking into this trail since I heard about it a few years back. I remember driving east on I-80 and seeing the span of the Uintas that seemed endless. I knew there was somehow a trail that endlessly spanned these mountains. The beauty had me instantly lured in. After spending a few summers hiking and climbing on the west side of the Uintas, I finally ventured out the first 8 miles of the trail this past June to get a grasp on what the trail was actually like. I imagined knife edge walking across 80 miles of a good portion of Utah's most rugged peaks. The picture I had, and the beta mission I went on, were two completely different settings. The trail was a beautiful single track winding through high altitude forests, meadows and crossing rugged passes only where the vast cirques blocked the path. After seeing this, I knew that I must "hike the High Line".
This 80 mile task would be my first real big trip. I have spent a ton of time hiking and splitboarding in the backcountry. Usually these adventures last a day or two. I know I can push myself to the limit, and I know my limits very well. The 80 mile distance was a mere objective to me, rather than a daunting task. The 10,000+ elevation is an altitude that I am very comfortable in. I have imagined this trip for 3 years, and it was finally about to happen. Dave VanArtsdalen is a good friend of mine. We have been adventuring around together for years now. We made a plan to leave Monday, July 27th, and we gave ourselves 12 days out. This could give us a rest day or two if needed along the way. Like I said earlier, I have never done a multi-day trip before, so I wasn't positive how my body was going to perform with the weight, distance and altitude after several days on the trail. I didn't know what to eat, what to pack, what not to pack. So I did what my friends and I do best, I gave myself a general layout, and went out into the mountains to test it out. "You will never succeed if you never try. Maybe we just got lucky."
I planned "better safe than sorry" for the trail. I made 2 trips to the grocery store to make sure that I had all the snacks, meals and safety items I needed. Mostly freeze dried meals, instant rice and potatoes, tuna packets, oatmeal and snack food. I had just finished reading "Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills". This book gives good general information on everything you need to know about mountaineering, "600 pages of glory." The planned items included: 12 medium sized day portions of food, 2.75 liters of water, 1 down filled sleeping bag, 1 sleeping pad, 2 pairs of socks, 2 pairs of underwear, 2 base layers, a rain jacket, 1 pair of gloves, 1 first aid kit, 1 fishing pole, 1 Gopro Hero4 with 4 batteries, 1 gimbal with 4 batteries, cell phone/ camera, a Goal Zero Nomad13 solar panel, and half the tent. I packed up my Gregory Baltoro 65L pack and it weighed 49 lbs (not including Gopro and gimbal). This is when I realized I was in for a pretty extreme beat down.
Day 1 I picked Dave up at 7:30 Monday morning, July 27th. After all of our last minute checks we loaded up and made the 55 mile drive from Park City, Utah, to the trail head 36 miles up Mirror Lake Highway. We were on the trail and walking at 10:20 am. The latest weather forecasted sun through the entire week. The Uinta Mountains tower up thousands of vertical feet from the Salt Lake City valley. They are so vast that they create their own weather patterns. Sun today could become lightning and torrential downpour this afternoon, followed by another sunny evening after the storm. It can snow in August at these elevations. Today we planned to hike the first 8-10 miles. The trail took us across logs and rivers. Wild flower filled meadows offered true picturesque places to stop and snack. By mid-day, we reached the bottom of the first pass, Rocky Sea Pass. Before the ascent, we sat and ate lunch. Eating plenty of calories at the high altitude is a must to make long days manageable on the body. The pass is a nice 1 3/4 mile section that gives about 1,000 feet of elevation gain to the top. Once there you get to look across a vast valley almost completely encased in mountains with only a small passage from the south feeding the entire bottom of the valley with forest. We continued on down the switch backs on the other side. It is a setting that isn't in your everyday routine. It's some of the most beautiful country you will see. Lakes and streams flow. Mountains reflect off the water. Wild flowers fill the grasslands. After hitting the low point in this drainage, we called it a night, About 10.5 miles on day one. Camp was set up in the trees close to a stream where we could filter our water and enough beetle kill wood to supply an army.
Day 2 An 8 am wake up call. My legs were sore, mostly the outer hips from the heavy weight in my pack. We boiled water for breakfast, filtered some water, and packed up camp. The first day I had drank 6 liters of water. We kept on trucking with what we had. The first bit of the trail from camp was all up hill. Nothing like stair steppers in the morning to get the legs fired up! After about 2 miles we topped out on the hill. Mountains towered everywhere around us. Standing in a wild flower filled meadow, looking back at where we passed over the mountains. It looked so far. We were only 12 miles in. The trail length just sounded so endless, 12 miles in and 66 to go. Mind games must not limit the trip. Controlling your attitude is a huge part of success out here. You must keep reminding yourself what you're doing and why. After crossing a few large meadows and passing over some streams, we exited the timberline into the high alpine. The wild flowers here were spectacular. If you know me, you know I love wild flowers. I found myself laying on my belly, taking photos of elephant heads with my 50 pound pack on my back, several times. I couldn't get enough. The energy was very positive. We reached the base of Dead Horse Pass by late morning. A couple of guys we saw the night before said there are skulls and bones on the hillside. We didn't know what to expect. A long series of switch backs took us up the pass steadily. We reached the top. Holy beautiful. We dropped our packs and took it all in. Huge peaks tower over an aqua blue lake. This was one of my favorite sights to date. We snapped countless photos, ate a snack and headed down the other side of the pass. This side was much steeper and I could now imagine why it had the name. We saw horse skulls and some bones along the trail. Just a reminder of the power these mountains hold. We stopped for a rest at the lake. The fishing was great there. We were thinking that this was going to be camp for the night, but after an hour of hanging out, the "trail bug" hit us and we continued on. Down into the forest we went. Here we saw 5 bucks and a good sized bull moose before popping out the other side and back up above the timberline. The size of the mountains from the bottom was pretty amazing to see. They towered thousands of feet up. We had one more large pass in front of us, Red Knob Pass. I wasn't looking forward to it. Fatigue had set in for me. Dave kept us motivated at a "nice and easy pace". A couple switch backs and one very long traverse took us to the top. The view from where we came was great. The view to where we were heading was great. We were surrounded by greatness. Over the back side of the pass there were hundreds of sheep grazing below the mountains. Then a sheep dog rounded them all up. It was quite the sight to see, an ocean of sheep flowing below mighty mountains above. Just another mile of downhill walking and we set up camp below a beautiful mountain with no name.
Day 3 We woke up cold and the 12,000 ft. peak we camped below was still hiding the sun’s rays. There was frost on everything. The water in our bladders was half frozen. We packed up, ate breakfast, and hit the trail. A nice flat trail down into the valley was a pleasant beginning to our day. Then the stair steppers hit. A nice set of switch backs took us up to the edge of the no name peak we camped underneath before leveling out. The forest here was a sad sight to see. Beetle kill dominated the majority of what surrounded us. We continued into the meadows out of the forest and into the vast meadows ahead. Our lunch stop was in a set of trees just before the next pass. This would be the last bit of shade for the next 2 days. We exited the forest and walked at a slight incline through a meadow. Porcupine Pass was ahead and looked so close. We walked and walked. My knee was achy. The sun was intense at 11,000 feet. We stopped at a small stream next to a fellow day hiker, Jeff. We exchanged some stories. We continued on through the never ending meadow. "The Never Ending Field of Joy" is the nickname we gave it. Finally, after 4.5 miles we were at the base of Porcupine Pass. It was about 1,000 vertical feet. My knee was very sore and my spirits were a little low because of it. We started slowly up the pass. Baking in the mid-day sun surrounded by a sea of rocks. We reached the top. We gazed into the coming meadow that had several lakes in it and hit the trail down. We passed up the lakes and went over the very small, Tungsten Pass. A small lake on the other side was our home for the night. We were just a few miles below King's Peak. I was totally exhausted and my knee was not doing well. I had a really in depth stretch session and found it to be my hip abductors pulling on my IT band. I hoped that it would allow me to continue through the days to come.
Day 4 Last night was the first really good night of sleep. The high altitude was giving both Dave and me a bit of insomnia. But beneath King's Peak we slept well. The stretching helped too! My knee was feeling a bit better, however not totally right. Some freeze dried eggs and we were off. It was easy walking for the next 3 miles and before long, we were below Anderson Pass, a massive pass to take you to the ridge line for the summit of King's Peak. We trekked up and kept our pace steady. There were some Boy Scouts up on the pass and they asked where we came from. "Mirror Lake" we replied. They were astonished. It was pretty fun seeing the reactions of people when we told them where we were hiking from. Here at the pass, it's a short detour up to summit King's Peak. We dropped our packs and went for the summit. Some easy scrambling up and we were there in about an hour. Snacks and water accompanied the amazing views up top. All was going well. We headed back down and hit the trail again. It was all downhill and the next day of hiking looked to be flat. We logged 10 miles plus the summit and called it a day. After setting up camp we were graced by a pretty spectacular sunset that encompassed the valley around us. One for the books.
Day 5 My body felt good again. Dave has been healthy the whole way with no problems. We are probably 45 miles in which puts us over halfway done. Today's objective was Painter's Basin to Fox Lake. It was a 13.5 mile section of trail. We set off and the trail quickly took us into the forest. This was the first shade in nearly 2 days. It was flat walking and there was no passes for the day’s schedule. Spirits were high as we smashed out 6 miles in 3 hours. We ran into a family that was out on horseback. There was a skinny section on small rocky incline. The father walked the horses up and the last one slipped on a stone and fell down. I had never seen a horse fall and it wasn't graceful. She ended up being all right and the cowboy had her on her feet in no time. We played a little bit of leap frog with them until they forked off the trail. There was an old "Lincoln Log" style structure and horse stable. A man appeared and showed us around. He told us some history of the area. There are supposed to be cannons in the hills up here from the old Spanish War. He hadn't found them but insisted they were here. We set up camp and I started fishing. I caught 10 fish in an hour. They were large too! I kept 2 that we roasted in the fire and mixed up with mashed potatoes for supper. So tasty. Another "fire in the sky sunset" made the night’s end very delightful. I'm sure even the thousands of mosquitoes enjoyed that one.
Day 6 We decided after yesterday we are going to finish the trail in 7 days total, or 2 more days until the end. We haven't had an ounce of rain which is quite a bit of luck. The weather forecasted some deterioration of the high pressure at "the end of the week," said everyone we ran into. So we pushed on. We have been easily doing 10+ miles per day and we were 25 miles out. We were shooting for a 13 mile day. Right away was North Pole Pass, another stair stepper morning to fire up the legs. The trail over here was less travelled and not so well marked. On top of the pass there were signs marking the edge of the High Uinta Wilderness and Ashley National Forest. We were a long way from home. The pass twisted and turned down the rocky backside. I had seen a pair of people walking in front of us. We followed their path to the left. We walked a bit farther before we eventually found out that we were off trail for the first time. After consulting the map, we decided that if we walked on we would eventually hit the path. After an hour of whacking bush, we made it back on the trail. We crossed a stream and followed a set of cairns. After an hour we hit the road for Chepeetah Lake. Here, we jumbled with the map trying to decide where we were. We walked the road for a while before getting picked up by a truck to take us up to the lake. Turns out, we made a wrong turn and ended up being 2 miles down the road, off trail. The road walking was hard on the feet and legs. I was feeling really healthy before that, only to have sore knee and feet after. We filtered some water at the lake and headed on the trail for the last 3.5 miles for the day. We ended up at Whiterocks Lake. It was definitely our best camp site. No mosquitoes, and lake side views. We ate like kings that night.
Day 7 The last day on the trail. We packed up and got to stepping. Turns out there was a group of two that camped just 100 yards up the trail. We didn't even know they were there until we passed them on the way out. We told them we came from Mirror Lake, had nothing but sunny blue skies and were finishing today. One of the guys told me he last was up there and got snowed on and how he had tried the trail previously and had to bail at Anderson Pass. Poor guy, the weather would again, not be in his favor. We hiked the last up hill and crossed around Leidy Peak. Here is where the Uintas would not let us leave without a 10 minute cycle of rain. We hit the Leidy Peak trailhead and were headed for highway 191 to hitch a ride home. We walked down another gravel road and again my body went from great to an achy mess. 5 or 6 miles and we were now off the map we had. I had thought that we were close. A family drove by and stopped to assist us. We told them where we were headed and they told us we had another 30 miles to the road! "30 miles?!" It turns out when people hike from the Leidy Peak trailhead, well it is 30 miles deep on a gravel road. Failure to research on my part. They put us in the bed of their 1991 Ford pickup truck. Before long, hail and lightning engulfed us. We put 5 people in the single cab. They gave us a ride down to Vernal, Utah where they lived. We tried to hitch a ride to Park City with no luck. These kind folk made us cheeseburgers, gave us a place to sleep and turns out they were headed to Salt Lake City in the morning and dropped us in Park City on the way.
A trail of beauty and power. We passed unscathed and forever grateful. The High Line Trail is one that I feel everyone should experience. I would imagine that if you were out there at any other time you would no doubt be pummeled with lightning and rain at some point, but don't let that deter you. It is filled with never ending beauty. From beginning to end there is always something to see. Observe closely because with the sheer size of the mountains around you, you could miss the little things you pass along the way. Make your presence light and swift on the surroundings for places like this are truly few and far in between. You end up learning a lot about yourself when you're out there in the extremes to survive. It gives pride to complete such large objectives unscathed. Until the next, "the mountains are calling, and I must go." John Muir.
Sep 16, 2015
Ambassadors, Zach and Cindi Lou Grant, can be found snowboarding and traversing snow covered peaks in the winter, and backpacking, fishing, hiking, climbing and mountain biking in the summer. Their pup, Yoda Bear, often tags along on their many adventures. Read more about their travels on their personal page Backcountry Living. Written by Cindi, and photography by Zach and Kordell Black.
There is a place where our continent is hydrologically divided east and west by a beautiful granite massif. Although the continental divide extends 8,000 miles from Alaska to Patagonia we set our sights on the Wyoming sector, The Wind River Range. This destination has provided Zach and I with a place to retreat and reset before the snow flies each year. This being Zach’s decade year to the range, and with aspirations to ride there, we decided to traverse the whole range north to south staying as high as possible.
We scouted untouched lines, caught lots of beautiful fish, and mostly, Zach Grant, Kordell Black and I walked for a long time. There is a certain priceless clearing that happens to the mind when long days are spent in the wilderness. I see it as a moving meditation but instead of trying to be in my head, I’m trying to be fully present in this incredible place, taking it all in.
As the miles add up we pass through one incredible place after another, we adopt the routine of packing, walking, navigating, and camping every day. We quickly adapt to the endurance of our pace and our heavy packs, the consistency never allows our muscles to tighten up and the daily movement becomes welcome. We would collect the purest water with our MSR pump and our handy Lifestraw from all the abundant water along the way.
The lines we find ourselves surrounded by are incredible and we dream of these couloirs filled with Wyoming powder. The trip is paying off big when we find new ways we will be able to access this range on our splitboards. We create link ups and scree scramble through tight places with winter in mind. We spent most of our traverse off trail, and terrain navigation became the name of the game. One day we got lucky to find a shoe wide ledge that we had to cross 30 feet above a deep lake. We carefully crossed it and assisted Yoda, our dog along to gain access to a small patch of grass we would call home that night. The beautiful alpine lakes pass can be seen in the distance in that photo.
We caught huge Mackinaw and exotic golden trout in the pristine high alpine lakes. Lucky lures and juicy looking hoppers were the ticket to dinner. We found awesome places to rest each night, and the clear skies filled our nights with starry wonderment.
Our dog Yoda Bear did amazingly well for the amount of boulder hopping that was required. He was stoked to get to camp each night and give the paws a rest. His pack got lighter as the days went on and he couldn’t help but chase squirrels into their holes as we hiked past.
One night we spent fishing a lake that has been a favorite of ours for years. In the distance we heard the load calls of climbers in the face of Mt. Hooker and it piqued our interest. As the sun set and the darkness crept in we saw their head lamps on the 1800 foot wall. I stayed up to watch and listen with awe as they topped out around midnight.
One day we went over a col that has never been documented. We called our original link up Tress Pass because it goes into the native reservation. It was by far the most technical part of our trip as we ascended from Sheila Lake to the tress pass. We lowered Yoda dog down carefully into the loose scree chute from where our descent began inside a cave. After we got off the exposed shale face and onto the glacier we looked back in relief and checked it off the list.
As we reached the southern end of the range and our trip was nearing its end we passed by the infamous Cirque of the Towers. All in all with 12 days and 100+ miles behind us we entered back into society with full hearts and focused minds. For us, this was the most refreshing way to mark the end of summer and turn our thoughts to snow, just in time for our best friend, winter, to start the battle of the seasons.
Aug 16, 2015
The climb to Mt. Rainier with my Gregory Wander 50 backpack was amazing. I went to support the organization Cure Duchenne which is dedicated to finding a cure for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. The view of the mountain was totally awesome and the view around the mountain was so beautiful and breathtaking. Lower on the mountain we went through meadows filled with thousands of colorful flowers. I was also able to see Mt. Adams, and Mt. Saint Helen's off in the distance.
On summit day, we were high on the mountain and had to cross large crevasses. We used ladders to cross some of the crevasses. For part of my training, we setup some ropes and suspended across a crevasse to learn how to climb in, out, and across a crevasse on a rope.
My Gregory backpack made the trip much easier on me. With the new belt pouches on my Wander 50 I could put little important things in there (like my chapstick, and cough drops). This made using them really easy. Also, the straps to carry my ice axe are a great new design! My new Wander 50 has more padding on the shoulders and waist belt. This made carrying my heavy load of mountaineering gear up the mountain much easier and more comfortable.
Since my Wander 50 could handle my mountaineering climb on Mt. Rainier, it could easily handle any other mountain kids might need it for. The amount of pockets, straps, and comfort made it easy to carry a heavy load, yet with enough pockets to be organized. I love this backpack and we will see what mountain I challenge it on next.
Tyler Armstrong is an eleven year-old boy with a dream to climb the 7 highest summits in the world. Previous hikes include Mount Baldy (10,068 ft.), Mount Whitney (14,495 ft.) and Mount Kilimanjaro (19, 341 ft.).Follow his story on these websites: Climb To Cure Duchenne and Top With Tyler
Jul 26, 2015It was a journey I knew I wanted. What I didn’t know was that it would change my life, forever. New York City seemed so far from the Pyrenees Mountains in France; especially with 30+ pounds of weight on my back. I climbed over the border and soon landed across the wheat fields of Spain. My Gregory pack felt heavy that first week even with the lightest tripod strapped to the bottom. I was an avid adventurist and globetrotter, venturing to document each day. I had my first Gregory in 2012 when I hiked 180 miles of the Appalachian Trail. In 2014 I attended Trail Days in Damascus, Virginia and upgraded to the new J53 from my original Jade 38. This ended up being the perfect pack for my first thru-hike as a freelance video producer/professional photographer. It was comfortable with great weight distribution. It had great new access zippers on the front and allowed me to have my tripod easily accessible. My sister hiked with the J53 as well. She raved about the outside pockets where she could easily access her phone up front and store blistering foot essentials in the back. We had our packs and were ready for the 900 kilometer (600 mile) journey. It was June 2014. An ever-changing experience filled with moments of joy, sadness, laughter and love would soon occur. I’m going to share where I left those moments here. You can find them in sunrises over vineyards, in Las Tiendas learning Spanish, in making meals with people from around the world and in a loved ones eyes; because in those foreign lands - that’s home. Those moments are in the countless steps that take your breath away and give it back to you again. If you want culture, adventure, realizations, a new way of life and to feel like you’ve never felt; buy a plane ticket to Paris. Go alone or with someone you love. Don’t worry about the dates - give yourself plenty of time (at least six weeks). Once you land, get on a bus to Bordeaux, and then on another to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. Register your name, buy a hiking stick and don’t ever look back. Hike 5 kilometers in the wrong direction, meet a woman who speaks no English and you, no French. Work through the barriers and find your way back to the yellow arrows and shells, your Camino. You will continue and walk with wildlife. Go on through nature, with new friends and discover the inner peace you went out there for. If you’re lost, get into nature. At first, you may become even more lost. But somewhere along “The Way” you’ll find yourself. You may find that being with you is where you’re meant to be. That no mountain, person or amount of time will change that; but letting go will. Letting go of so much through stones and prayers and countless kilometers did it for me. The Camino was my trail. The trail spoke and I listened. And what I heard was, “Life is all about The Way, the journey. First, endure then enjoy and now, make it a good one.” To anyone looking to do their first thru-hike or planning their next adventure, remember to enjoy The Way, and Buen Camino <3 Alexandra Klos is an avid adventurer and professional photographer. "A gal with itchy feet recording a nomadic experience." Alexandra's portfolio of images: Klos Up Pictures
Jun 29, 2015
Ted and his wife, Christy, who live in Aspen, CO, have been adventuring together for 15 years. They have tackled all 54 Colorado 14,000 ft. peaks, and recently completed skiing the 100 tallest mountains there, a feat never accomplished before now. They often rely on the Targhee 45 and J63 during their outdoor ski excursions. You can read more about these adventures on their blog Stuck in the Rockies.
As closing day on the ski hill neared, it was looking as though the backcountry and ski mountaineering season in Colorado might be a bit of a dud. A warm, dry pattern settled in over the west for much of March and April, and the snowpack was rapidly disappearing. It was disappointing; we had some big ski plans around the state. But just as we started to write it off and began to look towards summer, the storm track shifted, and it began to snow.
The bike gear and running shoes went back in the closet and the skis and boots came back out. We were skiing again.
At first we stayed local, hitting some noteworthy high 13,000 foot peaks around Aspen— Star Peak, Taylor Peak, Mount Raoul, and Bellevue Mountain. One weekend we road tripped to Potosi Peak, 13,786 ft., down by Telluride, a really cool summit with a north couloir that San Juan ski mountaineer’s consider a real classic.
But the best part and our big goal for the spring was to finally finish a ski project we started years ago, to climb and ski Colorado’s Centennial Peaks— the 100 tallest peaks in Colorado. Prior to this spring we had skied 96 of them. Only four peaks remained.
Three of them were technical and remote (which might explain why they were left for last). Pigeon, Turret, and Jagged peaks proved to be every bit as challenging as they were hard to reach. But we got them done, and with that, established ourselves as the first to ski all the Centennial Peaks in the state.
And just in time for summer. Looking back, we probably wouldn’t have had much success had the weather not changed. But that’s how it is in the mountains, you never really know what you’re going to get. You have to be nimble and ready to move when the conditions are right.
Since then, the skis have been put away, the landscape has changed from white to green, and the trails are drying out. I guess it’s time to get started on our summer goals.
Jun 8, 2015
Editor's Note: This guest blog comes from Gregory Ambassadors Patrice and Justin La Vigne, who live a life less ordinary and write about it on their personal blog here.
For the past 4 years, my husband, Justin, and I have been getting the whole nomadic thing dialed. Our lifestyle consists of working our butts off in contract work so we can go on the next big adventure, which usually involves wearing our house on our back like a tortoise.
The latest page in our storybook includes a thru hike of Te Araroa (pronounced tee-are-a-rho-o) trail in New Zealand.
My last blog update to the Gregory team and readers was that I was nervous about the planning and prep that this trip entailed. I wrote:
"I am confident we will get both to do lists done by our trip. I am confident we will love Te Araroa trail and all its challenges. I am confident we will love international travel."
Turns out, all of that--and more--came true.
When people ask how our New Zealand hike was, I struggle to answer in 2-3 sentences. It's like asking someone, how was your childhood? Or, can you sum up the last 6 months of your job?
But to try to put it in a nutshell, Justin and I followed the contours of New Zealand's natural, cultural and historic identity more than 3,000 kilometers (nearly 2,000 miles) from Cape Reigna at the top of the North Island to Bluff at the bottom of the South Island through alpine forests, sweeping valleys, rolling farmlands, windswept beaches, active and dormant volcanoes and towering mountains with 360-degree views. The other half of our story comes from the legendary Kiwi hospitality we encountered as we walked through various settlements, townships and cities. Rewarding, enriching, challenging and awesome are the words that come immediately to mind when we reflect on our trip.
We chose to use Gregory backpacks for this trip. And not just any Gregory packs, but the upgraded Baltoro and Deva packs. We used the Baltoro and Deva during our 2011 thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail and fell in love with the comfort, the space and the pockets. Before even knowing Gregory was coming out with new versions, we reached out to the company during our Te Araroa preparations. It was kismet that we would be the first ones to take the new Baltoro and Deva packs on a long distance hike.
Going forward, we have more epic adventures planned. In fact, our travel wish list grew with each person we met in New Zealand. Stay tuned to see where we take our Gregory packs next!
(Photo credit given to Kevin Gallagher)
Feb 22, 2015
Editor's Note: Gregory ambassador Lacy Corlis checks in from Malaysian Borneo where she has been living out of her backpack.
I wipe the sweat from my forehead; we have been hiking for hours in the heat and humidity, machete creating our path. My arms are in constant motion slapping mosquitos away. It seems that even 100% deet can't keep the Kinabatangan bloodsuckers away. A leech has made its way up my sleeve and found its self attached to my forearm. I am no longer squeamish as I press the slimy creature between my fingers and glide it back onto a nearby tree. It’s been two weeks working in the Supu rainforest reserve in Borneo, and here I am again collecting seeds from the forest. I've donated my blood, sweat and time to this place, and I could not be happier. I am just a solo girl who had a mission: get my hands dirty while doing my part to save the rainforest. Even though I am traveling and volunteering alone, I could not have made this trip possible without the very generous support of some friends, family, complete strangers and my brand new Gregory Pack backpack. Toting around 14kg worth of clothing and gear for a two month trip, my Deva 60 makes running between airports, bus stations, taxis and homes a breeze while I am traveling.
In Malaysian Borneo, 80% of the rainforests have been logged, burnt or decimated by the palm oil industry. As a botanist, I have always been drawn to rainforests; call it a schoolgirl crush, if you may. When I stumbled upon KOPEL and the MESCOT initiative, I knew I had to go. Borneo is home to the oldest rainforest in the world, hosts a plethora of endemic species, and is one of the most diverse places on earth. Here, on the lower Kinabatangan River, a small community has banded together to repair the forest, provide habitat to endangered species, and promote sustainable tourism to keep the local villagers from having to move from their homes and abandon their lifestyles. The program has been extremely successful. With support from international NGOs, researchers and conservation groups, KOPEL works closely with local governments and universities to replant the forest, monitor wildlife, examine water quality and clean up lakes that have been invaded with foreign aquatic species.
My days have mostly been spent participating in the tree-planting program. There is more to it then just plopping trees in the ground. We tromp through the riparian forest looking for ideal seed trees. Once found, we collect seeds and seedlings from the forest. I have already collected over 6000 seedlings and hundreds of seeds in my short time here. Next, seeds are germinated and seedlings are carefully replanted at the local nursery, where they are cared for until ready to plant. Silviculture treatment is done in areas needing reforested. Once trees are planted, careful monitoring and maintenance is done until the trees have re-established. I also became involved in a pilot program to provide environmental education to the local youth free of charge. We get the kids involved in water quality and wildlife monitoring, while teaching them the importance of conservation and the value of the forest they are living in. I have spent evenings setting camera traps to search for wildlife, and a day performing trail maintenance with a machete.
Every four nights, I move to a new home in the village. I pack up my Deva 60 that Gregory Packs has provided me and walk across the street, or a few houses down to meet my new host family. Living with the locals means living like the locals; squat toilets, showering in cold, collected rainwater, eating the most delicious food with my hands, and enjoying a relaxed pace of life. The constant moving has been a breeze thanks to my Gregory Pack. The bag has not only provided me ample room to pack all the gear I need while working in the forest, but I still have room left over for the handicrafts I have purchased. The ability to access my gear from 3 sides is my favorite feature of the bag; it combines the ease of carrying my gear on my back with the access convenience of luggage. I cannot wait to get it home to the Pacific Northwest and take it backpacking.
If you want to know more about my trip, please feel free to check out my blog, www.lacetacular.com. If you are interested in supporting this amazing organization through a donation, or want to get your hands dirty yourself, check out www.mescot.org to learn more. A million thanks to Gregory Packs for helping me through this volunteer trip, I know I will be able to pack up anything I need for my next adventure with my amazing backpack.
Feb 10, 2015
Editor's Note: With warm temperatures and low snow across the West, Gregory ambassador Ted Mahon thinks back to an autumn trip to the Utah desert. We share his trip report here.
As the days get shorter through late fall, I always feel the need to make a pilgrimage to the desert. The style in that we visit might vary from year to year— sometimes it’s on a mountain bike to a place like the White Rim, other times it’s as a long run on a course like the Rim to Rim to Rim through the Grand Canyon. This year we set up an incredible hiking/backpacking tour of four desert canyons, in the area between Glen Canyon and Zion National Park.
Our group assembled in Page, Arizona where we started with a famous and extremely photogenic slot canyon in Navajo Nation— Antelope Canyon. Unlike some desert slots, Antelope is safe and accessible and for that reason it’s a little touristy. Actually, it felt a bit like a circus, but it’s a must-see for any desert lover. We’d catch some solitude later.
The next slot we hit was Water Holes Canyon, a technical canyon south of Page that requires a permit and a bit of climbing gear. Unlike the more benign Antelope Canyon, Water Holes has several (7) rappels, and a lot of mud and water, with a lot of semi-technical scrambling in between. It’s super-fun.
Next we headed north into Utah and made a two-day trip through Buckskin Gulch, which has the distinction of being the longest continuous slot canyon the world. It’s 13 miles long from where the slot begins to its confluence with the Paria River. Though not technical in nature, you should plan on getting wet and dirty and be certain that there’s no weather in the area— flash floods are a real risk here.
After two days in Buckskin we headed to Zion National Park and made a trip up through the Zion Narrows. This route through the heart of the Narrows is different than the other canyons on our trip— the entire route is spent hiking the actual river. Some booties and dry pants or a wetsuit are handy in the cold water and be sure you have a few dry bags to keep your things from getting wet in the event you have to take the plunge.
And with the annual desert trip complete I feel good about heading into the long winter. It won’t be long before I start to ponder next year’s annual pilgrimage to the Desert Southwest.
Feb 8, 2015There’s a train waiting for you at an outback station in Australia. There’s a refugio at the ready in the Dolomites, a hostel in Amsterdam, and a deserted stretch of coastline beckoning from Brazil. There are lush rainforest trails in Oregon, rocky outcrops in the Adirondacks, even a campsite in the hills behind your home, ready to welcome you and your friends for a day, a night, a weekend, or longer. We designed the totally new Gregory Stout and Amber to open the doors of possibility, to offer you the unrivaled joy of mountain vistas, starlit nights, sunny days, and adventures in unfamiliar locales. Ready for the trail and packed to the brim with value, the Stout and Amber let you connect with the outdoors, charge up on good times, and share unforgettable experiences with those close to you. Inspired by the advanced A3 suspension found in Gregory’s new Baltoro and Deva products, Gregory designed the TrailFlex suspension featured in the Stout and Amber to provide exceptional support without excess weight. The suspension channels the pack load onto the lumbar region for comfort while on the trail and pre-curved shoulder harness straps and adjustable hipbelts provide a customized fit. A spring steel frame and flexible back panel provide adjustability while preventing the pack from barreling. With Solar Ready™ attachment clips that are specially designed for solar panels, the men’s Stout is available in 75, 65, 45 and 35 liter volumes and the women’s Amber is available in 70, 60, 44, and 34 liters. The larger Stout and Amber styles also include the Sidetrak daypack, a combination hydration reservoir sleeve and ultralight daypack. Dual oversized hipbelt pockets also provide plenty of room to bring along your favorite point-and shoot camera and trail snacks and have them easily accessible on the trail. U-Zip access opens the pack for easy packing and the included rain cover provides protection when a storm sneaks up on you. The Stout 75 and Amber 70 will retail for $219 while the Stout 35 and Amber 34 will be priced at $149. The larger Stout and Amber styles also include the Sidetrak daypack, a combination hydration reservoir sleeve and ultralight daypack. Dual oversized hipbelt pockets also provide plenty of room to bring along your favorite point-and shoot camera and trail snacks and have them easily accessible on the trail. U-Zip access opens the pack for easy packing and the included rain cover provides protection when a storm sneaks up on you. The Stout 75 and Amber 70 will retail for $219 while the Stout 35 and Amber 34 will be priced at $149.
Jan 25, 2015For Spring 2015, Gregory will reintroduce its pinnacle backpacking products, the Baltoro and Deva. Long considered the benchmark of fit and comfort for a large capacity pack, the Baltoro and Deva have been redesigned from the ground up to meet the needs of modern backpackers, providing the best fit and new, innovative features for multiple days on the trail. The men’s Baltoro and women’s Deva feature the brand new Response A3 suspension. An Automatic Angle Adjust chassis keeps the packs comfortable and balanced by adapting to your body and maintaining your center of gravity throughout variable conditions. Two-position adjustable, independently pivoting shoulder harness and hipbelt components, combined with a 7075 aluminum wishbone frame define the new suspension. Additionally, a ventilated center of the back panel provides breathability and a removable foam pad provides adjustability to lumbar support. The pre-curved 3D shoulder harnesses and hipbelts feature an easy-change design for quickly finding the perfect custom fit. The Baltoro is available in 85, 75, and 65 liter volumes while the Deva is available in 80, 70, and 60 liters. All of the bags include the Sidekick pack, an internal hydration reservoir compartment that doubles as an ultra-light removable daypack for summit bids or quick trips into town. Top-load design with large U-zip and a sleeping bag compartment with a drop shelf all provide ample access to the main compartment of the pack. A WeatherShield pocket on the hipbelt protects electronics from weather, as does the included color-matched raincover. The Baltoro 85 and Deva 80 will retail for $349 while the Baltoro 65 and Deva 60 will be $299. The full line of Gregory’s Spring 2015 products will be on sale at specialty outdoor retailers and at gregorypacks.com, starting March 1, 2015.
Jan 14, 2015Spring 2015 signifies more than just the debut of a new line of industry leading backpacks. Spring 2015 signifies a significant step in the complete overhaul of the Gregory brand. Gregory will introduce a new logo across its entire line of products. Expressed with a single, unbroken line to mirror the clean design of every Gregory product, the logo demonstrates that Gregory is constantly evolving and looking forward while never losing sight of its original mission. The logo redesign beautifully compliments the redesign of the iconic Baltoro and Deva packs that will debut in February 2015. Founded in 1977 by Wayne Gregory, the iconic Gregory brand has only employed three logos in over 35 years of producing the world’s best backpacks. The first Gregory Mountain Products logo, the “San Diego” tag, is an expression of the Gregory mission to make mountain-ready packs that fit better than anything else. By integrating the mountains of California using simple geometric forms, the original logo has undergone redesigns throughout the years – from the outspoken, neon 1980’s to the expressive abstract wave of the 90’s and 2000’s – but despite these evolutions, it has never drifted far from the original. Beginning with new Spring 2015 line of products and carrying over to all other products, the new logo will first be seen at retail stores in February 2015. So, stop by your local Gregory retailer and check it out for yourself!
Jan 6, 2015
For many, another day in the park means hanging out with friends, simple food, and good laughs. For others, like Joe Kinder, it takes on a whole new meaning. With lots of time, and plenty of muscle, he and friends pass each day with the joy that only climbing can bring. Sit back, relax, and plan your next day in the park.
Dec 29, 2014
This blog comes to us from Matt Hundhammer, with Soul Poles. Below is a small snippet of the work they do, and the fun they have when the combined environmental consciousness with good outdoor fun.
In the early days of Gregory Mountain Products, Wayne Gregory loved to talk tech with customers at his retail store in San Diego, where he built his packs in the back shop. He wanted to know firsthand what worked and what didn't. The idea for field-testing is nothing new, but its importance cannot be understated.
When Soul Poles, a socially and environmentally conscious, ski and trekking pole manufacturer out of Park City, Utah, approached us to see if we had any gear to test on a four-day trek through southern Utah and Northern Arizona’s, Paria Canyon and Buckskin Gulch confluence, the answer was an undeniable. Along with their trip, we were able to send out packs on all AT, PCT, and many trails in your own backyard.
The opportunity to work with a small company known for attention to detail, product impact, and craftsmanship, would set the stage for critical feedback on our the latest update to the Baltoro line.
With a dramatic desert backdrop and a rugged cocktail of pack and poles, the crew set off for what would be a decidedly “epic” journey into a crack in the earth.
From an advocacy standpoint, Soul Poles sees their poles as climate change icon products - sparks for enlightening conversation around the dynamic world we live in. Manufactured by hand in their Park City shop, Soul Poles are built with renewable bamboo, recycled plastics, post-consumer alloys, and up-cycled materials positioning the company in the barrel of a green wave of products coming to market for the conscious consumer.
Whether building poles on the road at a mobile workshop event, in their Park City shop, skiing the slopes of Alta Ski Area, or hiking the slots of Paria Canyon you can count on Soul Poles to walk the walk towards a greener future.
When the trail speaks, we listen. The positive feedback we received from Soul Poles on this round of product testing came in loud and clear and we are excited to see this new pack take to the trail this coming summer.
To learn more about Soul Poles visit their website – www.soulpoles.com
Social: Facebook: Soul Poles Twitter: @soulpoles Instagram: @soulpoles
Paria Canyon Photos: Nick Cote http://www.nickcotephoto.com
Dec 21, 2014
There’s a little backcountry stash just up the road from here. A few locals know about it but in general, it remains a secret. It’s tucked away, back in the forest, just hard enough to get to that it keeps most people away. The approach is straightforward. Pull off to the side of the road, start skinning though the dense evergreen forest until it breaks out into the open and the stash opens up ahead of you.
Conditions at the stash are always variable. Blower powder after a storm, manky crud a few days later, icy chunder if the weather patterns aren’t favorable for a few weeks. But, when it lines up just right, there’s no better place in the world to go skiing than the stash. It’s just that good.
Since the chance to ski at the stash can appear at any moment, I always have my pack ready to go. My hands-down choice is the Targhee 32. It’s just large enough to contain everything I need for a long day out but small enough that it nearly disappears while being carried on my back. I keep it packed at all times, avalanche tools in their dedicated pocket, helmet in the holster for the way up, until I need it for the ski down, and main compartment with extra layers, food and water. The water reservoir hose snakes through the pack and out the shoulder strap to be ready at a moment’s notice.
In addition to the 32L model that I prefer, the Targhee is available in 18, 26, and 45-liter versions. The backpack is built around the VertFlex™ suspension system that was developed to provide a stable and comfortable load transfer while maintaining the torsional flexibility necessary to accommodate the dynamic movements of skiing and riding. Skis can be carried in an A-frame or diagonally, as I prefer, with a stowable ski carry system that includes a cam-lock system for added stability.
I don’t often use them but the packs include a dual ice axe carry system for when the way up gets more technical. The nice part is that the anodized aluminum hardware is quickly tucked away so that they hide until they’re needed.
With all the attention to detail and a suspension that carries like a dream, there’s no reason the Targhee 32 shouldn’t be packed and waiting by the door. When the clouds roll in and dump that fresh coat of snow, will you and your pack be ready to ski the stash?
Dec 17, 2014
This guest blog comes from Gregory Ambassador Dan Krauss. Along with three good friends, he traveled California to search for good climbing, awesome highlines, and a sense of peace that only being outside can bring. Find more about his #slacklust tour at http://dankrauss.blogspot.com/2014/11/slacklust-coast-to-crest.html
You can also find more at http://www.dankraussphoto.com/outdoor-action
"Man it’s cold” I thought to myself as I pulled my head out of my sleeping bag. “Is it morning yet?” Nope. It was still pitch black outside. I did this every hour for the entire night. David’s booming snores filled the pop-up camper on top of the van. Everything inside the tent was wet from freezing condensation. When I finally saw the frosted grass turn orange, peeking out of the tent's air vent, I begrudgingly got out of my now-ice-covered sleeping bag and pulled on my puffy jacket. My whole body shuddered as I climbed out of the tent and walked the 500 yards to the hot spring.
We had spent the night at the Mammoth hot springs, day 7 of our 2-week trip. It was the first water my body touched that whole week. We were filthy and our skin was raw from climbing in Joshua Tree and Bishop with no rest days. When I picked up my towel and swimsuit that morning, they stood up straight, frozen solid. It had apparently reached temps near zero that night, and wouldn’t warm up past 20degrees F for another few hours.
I figured the hot spring would be empty at such an ungodly early hour, but to my surprise found a middle-aged woman sitting in the tub, wearing nothing but a toe ring. She didn’t say much, though I could tell she wasn’t pleased to see me.
I undressed and hopped in, my cares and worries melted away with the icicles in my hair as it made contact with the warm tub of water. The field of yellow was glowing in the sun. Salt deposits gave the appearance of snow on the ground and blades of grass were frozen from the steamy hot spring. I stared back at the Grandfathers, slightly dusted in snow and slipped into a quiet moment of pure bliss.
We live in a world of instant gratification, with the ability to share our achievements instantly, in a wide range of mediums. Every day a new record is broken. It feels like everyone I see is in the rat race to be the best, the fastest, the hardest climber, or break the newest highline record. What happened to just going outside to raise the stoke meter?
I get more inspired by seeing someone cross their first highline, than seeing someone break a new record. That look in their eye when they set that first foot back on solid ground. The wide-eyed, shit-eating grin, half-stoked, and half-terrified. I’m all for pushing the limits of human potential, but that’s not what gets me out there. I relish personal stoke, pushing personal boundaries, competing with yourself and enjoying every second of it.
When I planned this trip, that’s what I wanted the goal to be. Just plain fun. Enjoying the land, the solitude, and the random company that camping provides, swapping stories over a hot fire. We weren’t going to climb the hardest routes or rig the longest lines. We wanted to enjoy the most beautiful places, bask in the diverse landscapes and climates, and explore the only state that can have you get a tan on the beach and summit a snowy peak within 24 hours.
Over the 2-week trip, we climbed some classic routes in Santa Barbara, highlined under highway 1 and between a redwood ravine in Big Sur. We spent the most time in Bishop, bouldering at the Buttermilks and The Happies, then switched it up some multi-pitch trad on Cardinal Pinnacle and sport climbing in Owen’s River Gorge. In Joshua Tree, we opted for one of the out-there lines, strung across the Astro Domes. The last time it had been rigged was almost 5 years ago, probably due to the fact that this was a mere 45-minute hike, and most lines in Joshua Tree are 5 minutes from the car.
Aesthetic was key and the point was bliss. We certainly reached our goal and can say the trip was an absolute success, though we each had our asses handed to us at one point or another.
The team consisted of David Kingston, of Pasadena, Calif., Wilson Cutbirth, of Sedona, AZ., and Heather Larsen, of Golden, CO. Each one of them had their own special set of skills, but they all shared that unassuming, humble personality. Competition wasn’t their goal, only to enjoy their passions at their maximum ability.
Dec 17, 2014
The holidays are a time to spend time with family, reflect on what you care about most, and to give back. Here at American Hiking Society, we are focused on protecting the places you love to hike so you can do just that – keep hiking! Gregory Mountain Products is a proud sponsor of American Hiking Society and a long supporter of National Trails Day®, the country’s largest celebration of trails. Not only does Gregory wants to help YOU protect the places you love to hike, but they want you to look good and feel great while doing it. They have provided some sweet prizes for our END OF YEAR GREGORY GIVING RAFFLE! American Hiking Society is grateful to all donors, both large and small that further our mission of making sure future generations can hike the same trails we do!
As fellow hikers, we know how much you love your Gregory Pack. We have teamed up with the good folks at Gregory Mountain Products to make your end of year giving work for you. Over the next few weeks we will announce Gregory Giving raffles to outfit you on your next hike, bike, walk about town, or trip with the family. Remember, every time you enter, you are giving back to the places you love to hike.
There are two ways to win…
- Enter the GREGORY GIVING RAFFLE any time after 12/18. This makes you eligible to win the ‘Cadillac’ of packs custom fit just for you, the Baltoro 65 ($329 value). The more you give the more chances you have to win. Drawings for this raffle will be on the last day of the year and there will be multiple chances to win.
- Enter to win during GREGORY FLASH RAFFLES. Like us on Facebook or join our email list and you will be in-the-know on when GREGORY GIVING FLASH RAFFLES will be happening (Hint: they’ll be during the last week of the year - 12/24 to 12/31). If you give to American Hiking Society during these flash raffles, you will be entered to win the Miwok 18 or the Maya 16 ($100 value). There will be lots of chances to win and the more you give the better your chance!
Why not finish off your end of year right? Join Gregory and give to help protect the places you love to hike. The trails thank you and so does American Hiking Society. Just look at all the work YOU made happen this year.
Dec 14, 2014
Editor's Note: Gregory Ambassador Kir Newhard lives in Aspen, Colorado and filed this trip report after her trip to Europe this fall.
When your husband decides it's time for you to leave him with the kids and go on vacation, you say yes. So, where do you go when you want outdoor adventure with some creature comfort? Not to East Asia (too far away, too much travel time.) Not a rock climbing road trip (more fun to do with the husband.) Not a city or spa (too crowded, pricey, and memories are not built via manicures and mousse.)
You go to the mountains in Europe where you can hike to your heart’s content , sleep in quaint mountain huts equipped with simple delicious fare all above 9,000 feet.
This past fall my friend Carrie and I escaped the back-to-school crush and took on the Walker’s Haute Route — different than the ski route and named one of the finest hikes in the world — the Haute Route crosses 11 high passes between Chamonix and Zermatt across over 100 miles and 40,000 vertical feet. You don’t need climbing gear, technical expertise or a guide: just a good pair of shoes, a 20-pound pack and some trekking poles!
Most HR walkers follow Kev Reynold’s Cicerone guidebook (aka: the Bible), but with just a little zest for adventure, you can add little side trips to fabulous huts on lakes just off the main path. Europeans love mountain culture, so signs mark trail intersections everywhere in the Alps. If you go during off-season (early September), you can get by without reservations at huts. And you can travel relatively cheaply by staying in dormitory rooms with half-board (bed, dinner and breakfast ~50 Euro.)
Completing the entire route in 10 days is a bit ambitious unless, like us, you love to hike 7-11 hours per day. Most parties take 12-14 days total. But there is always great wine in the evenings to help dull the pain. You won’t see many Americans, and you may have to pull out that high school French. You will hike far, you will eat well and you will be happy.
Dec 10, 2014
This guest blog comes from Gregory Athlete Ambassadors Patrice and Justin Lavine. They have spent months preparing for the next trip of their lifetime, a thru-hike of New Zealand. Below is a short excerpt from their preparation. To hear more about their trip, log on to http://wanderinglavignes.blogspot.com/
On Dec. 21, my husband, Justin, and I are leaving for New Zealand to hike the Te Araroa trail. The biggest thing right now is we have 2 different to do lists. One is for the trail and the other is to prepare for international travel.
Justin & I are no strangers to backpacking, and even long-distance hiking. We have completed a thru hike of the Appalachian Trail, as well as long sections of the Long Trail in Vermont and PCT. So this to do list is pretty doable.
Perhaps my biggest challenge with this trek is that the Te Araroa trail is so new, so it doesn't have a guidebook. There are lots of trail maps and trail notes that you can piece together to create your own "guidebook." This makes me a little nervous, but, other people have survived, so we will too.
A second challenge is there is a lot of beach walking, so you have to pay attention to the tides. I can just picture us getting to a section and having to wait hours for low tide to come in because we got confused.
A third challenge--albeit a bit exciting--is that there will be some kayaking involved. First off, our beloved kayaks will not make the packing list. Second of all, our gear for kayaking differs than our gear for backpacking, namely involving a lot more dry bags to keep everything dry, but eh, I'll say it again, other people have survived, so we will too.
The other to-do list is the one more daunting.
Justin and I have driven close to 100,000 miles together around the great United States, but we've never gone anywhere international together, unless you count Niagara Falls. I've traveled internationally for work when everything was planned for me, and he traveled internationally once, but it was a million years ago before cell phones and the Internet (Al Gore wasn’t around then).
For our first international debut, we have chosen an English-speaking country which will make our travel go a little more smoothly. Plus, unlike the rest of the whole world, we've heard that New Zealanders like Americans. Yet, I would be remiss if I didn't admit that I am a little scared and anxious about the trip.
Prepping for an international trip involves items like obtaining a 6-month visitor visa, booking flights, booking hostels, obtaining travel insurance, understanding their medical system, buying a converter plug, converting kilometers to miles, converting US dollars to NZ dollars, customs regulations and well, many other things my brain is forgetting in this very moment.
I am confident we will get both to do lists done by our trip. I am confident we will love the Te Araroa trail and all its challenges. I am confident we will love international travel.
"There are things known and things unknown and in between are the doors."
Nov 25, 2014
This guest blog comes from Gregory Athlete Ambassadors Ted and Christy Mahon. While training to summit and ski off all the 13ers in Colorado, they did a trail run traverse of the Four Pass Loop. Find out more about their quest for summits at http://centennialskiers.com/
As we crested treeline we came up on a group of backpackers, so overloaded with camping equipment that their pace was best described as a crawl. Christy announced our approach with an “on your left” and they clumsily stepped to the side of the trail to let us by. As we passed, we exchanged a quick hello, and gave a thanks for making some room for us to pass. One of the exhausted backpackers exclaimed, ”Man, I think I’m doing this the wrong way. I need a small pack like yours.”
We were out on the Four Pass Loop, an incredibly scenic connection of trails that circumnavigates the Maroon Bells. Cresting four passes greater than 12,000 feet, the loop resides entirely within the Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness. It’s one of our favorite long runs, and one that’s become a bucket list objective for many trail runners and backpackers alike.
Being a loop, the route can be completed clockwise or counterclockwise, and its reported distance and elevation gain varies a bit depending on who you ask and where you start. There are multiple access points near Aspen, Crested Butte or the Marble/Crystal area. When measured from the most common starting point, Maroon Lake near Aspen, the route has a cumulative elevation gain of near 8000 vertical feet over an estimated 25-27 miles. Each foot of gain and mile of trail is hard faught, but well worth the effort.
After passing the group of backpackers, we crested the first pass of the day, stopping only to snap a quick photo and pull out a little something to eat before the descent. I thought for a moment about the backpackers comment— sure our little running packs were nice and small, but it meant we were light on gear and we couldn’t afford to waste any time, we had to keep moving. From my perspective, the backpackers’ situation was enviable as well. They didn’t have to rush, they would be able to enjoy a night or two of camping and take leisurely breaks atop the passes.
As we tried to push a jog up the next pass, I asked myself if I should try the multi day trip instead of the single push? Could they be having more fun? And as I went back and forth with the pros and cons of the multi day versus the light and fast— our preferred approach— I came to realize that speed or style doesn’t matter. What is most important is that you’re simply finding a way to get outside and enjoy the outdoors.
We’re going to stick with light and fast.
Nov 20, 2014
At the end of 2013, Gregory athlete Alex Gavic had a mellow wreck that turned out to be season ending. While sitting in the hospital, he made the conscious decision to take it as it comes, and take a different path when life sends you down a new road. He claims this is the circle of life. Get back up, pick a new line, and stick it.
Video by Croshane Media
Oct 27, 2014With 12 miles and 3,500 vertical feet to cover just to reach your campsite, you start to have doubts. You begin to wonder, can I make it? All that stuff that you laid out on your floor seemed necessary to pack but you weren’t sure what it would weigh. Did you pack everything you need and could you carry it all? Once all the clothing, gear, food, and water were put together, your load was pushing 70 pounds. You’re worried that it will be a real pain to carry. But after you carefully pack it into your new Denali 100 pack and hoist it onto your back, you find that the load transfers comfortably to your hips and feels like it fits just right. Camp doesn’t seem so far away after all. The new Denali 100 and Denali 75 utilize the FusionFlex Pro suspension that is rated to carry 80 pounds and is a dual aluminum stay with an anti-barreling cross stabilization system that is proprietary to Gregory. A canting harness automatically adjusts to individual shoulder angles while the strippable 3D pre-curved expedition hipbelt uses dual density LifeSpan EVA foam for optimal weight transfer of heavy loads. This suspension allows you to comfortably place huge loads on your skeletal structure, close to your center of gravity, setting a new bar for performance available in a large expedition pack. The pack’s aluminum stays, waist belt, top lid, and bivy pad can all be removed for shorter ascents while a dual layer, internally laminated TPU front panel protects against crampons and ice tools. On the interior, a center divider transforms the dual front pockets into a single large compartment for versatility in how the pack is set up. The 100 liter pack is $399 and the 75 liter version is $359. So, the next time you’re loading up for a big adventure, whether it’s basecamp deep in a remote alpine range, a long-range trek through the desert with lots of water on your back, or hauling heavy equipment into the backcountry for trail building, consider the new Denali. With its bomber FusionFlex Pro suspension carrying the load, we’re confident you’ll enjoy your adventure just that much more.
Oct 21, 2014
The Conservation Alliance’s mission is to engage businesses to fund and partner with organizations to protect wild places for their habitat and recreation values. Gregory Mountain Products is one of 190 outdoor industry companies who share these values and contribute annual membership dues to a collective fund distributed to grassroots environmental organizations. This funding is directed to community-based campaigns to protect threatened wild habitat, preferably where outdoor enthusiasts recreate.
Since its inception in 1989, the Alliance has contributed more than to $14 million to grassroots conservation groups throughout North America. The results of this funding have been remarkable. Alliance funding has helped save more than 42 million acres of wildlands, protect 2,825 miles of rivers, stop or remove 26 dams, designate five marine reserves, and purchase nine climbing areas. A rigorous grant proposal review process is followed ensuring grants go to organizations that can succeed given the necessary financial resources.
Gregory’s partnership with the Alliance has span close to 20 years and in these years, they have contributed more than $200,000 to our collective fund. By supporting The Conservation Alliance, Gregory is able to invest in an array of the most compelling conservation projects in North America and leverage their collective commitment for results that would not be imaginable on their own.
- We are catalysts. Providing a link between the conservation community and the outdoor industry, we enable and inspire our colleagues to work together to protect the wild places vital to their business.
- We represent strength in numbers. We recognize that our greatest strength is our collective nature. Our members are competitors who come together around a common purpose.
- We embody simplicity and effectiveness. We are laser focused on providing resources to grassroots conservation projects. We strive to find the best conservation partners who will succeed given adequate support, and we measure that success in terms of measurable, on-the-ground protection for wild places.
- We are responsible. As a group of outdoor businesses, we have a responsibility to invest in protecting the places that are important to our colleagues and customers.
Oct 14, 2014
This guest blog comes from Robyn Smith, a Gregory customer that spent her time with the Peace Corps in Uganda helping others. Below is the story of how her Deva 60 saved her life while there.
The guys that run the taxi/bus stage in Mbarara are all too familiar to me. I am glad to see their familiar faces when I am passing through town and they text me if I have been “lost” for a time. This time, I had no idea what that this taxi ride would take me through.
The most useful language I have learned since moving to Uganda is “Niyenda Kushitama omu meshow”, (I want to sit in front), which usually elicits a good laugh from my taxi guys and, more often than not, gets me my preferred seat. On this particular occasion my linguistic charm was not having the effect it usually does, maybe because my patience was already wearing thin. Two taxis headed to Kabale stopped and insisted I ride with them….in the back as the front was already occupied by some rather large women. I declined
Eventually a mostly empty Matatu (taxi van) came up. The driver knew me well enough to kick the other people in the front seat out to let me sit. After about 30 minutes of driving around picking up passengers the conductor insisted I “extend” for another passenger and put my giant backpack in the back. I refused and after the typical argument over price I agreed to pay for both seats in front to avoid straddling the stick shift for the remainder of the journey.
I snapped on my seatbelt , as we proceeded down the Mbarara-Kabale road. Once paved, the road has eroded to a strip of asphalt roughly the width of one lane, riddled with giant pot holes, and reduced to rocks and dirt at the edges from poor construction and years of overloaded use. The driver was speeding and swerving to avoid holes, cows, buses and people. Although clearly unsafe, he certainly wasn’t the worst driver I have ever ridden with. I saw the two giant potholes just as it became apparent that the driver did not. We hit them full speed, one after another, making sounds like a spat of gunfire. I could feel that eerie floating sensation that meant we were sliding, not driving, towards the side of the road. The magnitude of the situation must have become apparent to some of the passengers in the back because a few of them started to scream.
I grabbed the “oh no” handle with my left hand and braced myself against the dash with my right as the matatu smashed into the far wall of the trench on the side of the road. The impact stopped the forward motion of the vehicle and shattered the windshield. It was eerily quiet, and it took me a moment to realize the taxi was about to roll. The passengers in the back began to scream through the first rotation. Glass and debris flew around the cabin of the vehicle we began to roll again. This time the sound of the screaming had changed from fear to pain.
The matatu eventually came to rest upside down at the bottom of a small slope. Fortunately my window had busted and I was able to crawl out of the passenger side window. I looked back in the wreckage and saw the driver. He was hanging upside down with the steering column driven into his pelvis, with blood dripping from his still body, not making any sounds.
The people in the back started screaming again, this time peppered with angry shouts. There must have been at least 16 people in the back and none of the doors or windows would open. I could see bloody hands clawing at the windows and bare feet kicking at the glass as they began to shout at each other and scramble to get out.
I crawled back up the hill and flagged down two or three passing cars. Some men followed me back down and broke out the windows on one side and people began to crawl out. One of the first to emerge was a man whose face had been smashed, with his eyeball dangling from the socket as he was staggering up the muddy slope to get back to the road. Two kids came out with what appeared to be broken limbs. I pushed the one eyed guy into the next car that came by and told the driver “Hospital, now!” and slid back down the hill toward the overturned taxi.
It took me a moment to register that this didn’t seem to be a big deal to anyone but me. The passengers, the people helping, it all seemed very routine.. I pulled my backpack and computer bag out of from the dash and saw the driver still hanging there, not moving. I quickly became aware I was sitting in a puddle of gasoline, blood, rain water, and garbage; just a few feet from a body still trapped in the wreckage.
I grabbed my bags, walked up the hill to the road, stopped a car and told them I needed to get to Ntungamo for medical help. As we pulled up to the Total in Ntungamo I pulled a large piece of glass out of my arm.
The questions are haunting. I think about the driver. I think about his family and friends. He kicked people out of the front seat for me. Maybe it was those kids with the broken limbs. Maybe it was the one eyed man. Maybe that should have been me?
I am angry. Disappointed. Disgusted. Ashamed. Why do these drivers speed so excessively on poor roads in broken cars but have no schedule to keep? How do you get people to see the value of a human life as more than a means to an end?
I know I am lucky. I know that insisting on being in front, paying for the extra seat, and wearing a seatbelt helped keep me safe. I know my giant blue backpack full of civil life’s necessities kept me from smashing against the dash, probably saving my life. I would be lying if I said I would never again ride in the back, overpacked, without a seatbelt. Maybe that’s the moral of the story. Time and money are finite and fleeting. Spend it purposefully.
Oct 7, 2014
The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail waits for those that wish to walk it. The crisp air, golden aspen, and seasoned sage lie still except for the chilly autumn breeze. Our partners at the Continental Divide Coalition, the people that care for the CDT to insure it is there for you when you need solitude most, have come up with a must-do list for this fall. Five hikes, in five states, on one awesome trail for you to explore this season. Get a friend, plan the weekend, and get away before the snow covers the leaves from seasons’ past.
Please note: These are all alpine areas where the weather can change quickly. Expect the worst weather and best days of your life.
Montana: Pitamakin Pass in Glacier National Park offers what is arguably one of the grandest views in the park. Up on the divide, lakes are seen below and valleys carved by the park’s namesake are prominent. Larch and aspen are often blazing with autumn color. An approximately eighteen mile loop can be done with nearby Dawson Pass. A pleasant overnight backpacking trip for most or an ambitious day hike for more athletically inclined hikers.
Idaho: Lemhi Pass is a suitable place to bring the family with interpretative trails and easier hikes. This historic area is best known for where Meriwether Lewis described seeing an “immence range of high mountains”. Over two-hundred years later, this area is still very quiet and scenic. In the fall, the mountains seen with a dusting of frost with the multicolored green of the woods and the surrounding tundra below makes for site that is as impressive today as it was two-hundred years ago.
Wyoming: Maine with its rolling, wooded hills, large lakes and the cries of the loon is justly famous for its fall backpacking experience. How to get the same experience on the Continental Divide National Scenic trail? A fifteen-mile out and back trip to Heart Lake in Yellowstone National Park is a little bit of Maine in Rockies. A large lake where bald eagles can be spotted and occasional loon can be heard. A one-mile round side trip off the Continental Divide Trail may also be done to Rustic Geyser to complete the Yellowstone experience.
Colorado: A nine-mile round trip hike to Hope Pass outside of Leadville, CO is a challenge for a fit hiker, but a challenge with a great pay off. The view from the pass in fall shows the mountain blazing with yellow. And in the distance, three “fourteeners” can be spotted to further wet the appetite for future alpine hikes.
New Mexico: New Mexico is the “Land of Enchantment” and this designation is very apparent in the fall. Plenty of aspens in New Mexico with a touch of gold to be found. But the red rocks that evoke more of the desert southwest than the Rockies give the landscape a look that is not found elsewhere on the divide. And a great way to see this red-rock country? A short three mile loop hike on the Continental Divide Trail just outside Cuba, NM is perfect for all skill levels. And in the fall, the weather is just right! A scenic highlight of this hike is seeing the distinctive old volcano that is Cabezon Peak in the distance. After the hike, be sure to have a bite to eat in town and enjoy something else that New Mexico is famous for: scrumptious green chilies!
Author: Paul "Mags" Magnanti: pmags.com
Sep 29, 2014
This guest blog comes from Gregory’s Director of International Sales, Dion Goldsworthy. This summer he took the opportunity to take time off work, do what he loves, and backpack through Yosemite with his son and 9 other Boy Scouts. Below is the story that unfolded.
6 days, 50 miles, 10 Boy Scouts. At least that was the plan. The 50 mile loop would connect six of Yosemite’s High Sierra Camps, offering overnight accommodations in canvas “tent cabins” set on wooden platforms at remote and scenic sites within Yosemite National Park. First introduced in 1916, expanded in the 20’s & 30’s, with the most recent established in 1961, they offer delicious meals to hungry hikers willing to make the trek in. Unfortunately, we were one week early before the camps were open, so we had to cook our own meals. Luckily, this meant we would have the place to ourselves.
The scouts, ages 14 – 16, all had previous backpacking experience. Four dads were along to make sure everyone stayed in line, but it was really an excuse to enjoy the Sierra Nevada and leave the email behind for a week. Leaving El Dorado Hills, California at 6:00 a.m., we entered Yosemite from the eastern side at Tioga Pass and were on the trail by 11:00 a.m. The hiking was on well-maintained high country trails, including sections of the Pacific Crest Trail. The scouts were motivated by meeting several thru-hikers on their journey from Mexico to Canada, much longer than the 50 miles we were doing. Beginning in Tuolumne Meadows at about 8800’, the route includes Glen Aulin (7800’), May Lake (9300’), Sunrise (9400’), Merced Lake (7200’) and Vogelsang (10,100’) camps. Each offers a unique and beautiful setting, most near a lake or stream, making easy access to filtering water and some cold water swimming! With beautiful waterfalls at Glen Aulin and Merced Lake, and high alpine lakes at May Lake and Merced, we swam almost every day to refresh and relax. Gone were the hot showers, but the cold water washed off the musk of the previous miles of hiking.
To teach the skills of backcountry cooking, it was the boys’ responsibility to plan, shop, pack in bear canisters, and cook all of their own meals. Truth be told, it was nice to have the kids cook for us for once! Most used a lot of freeze dried meals, only needing hot water to cook their dinner. But my son Max found a 5 day meal plan that didn’t rely on freeze dried, so we tried that, and ate well. The menus were designed to be easy to make, loaded with 3000 calories per day and available at regular grocery stores, all only weighing two pounds per person per day. We certainly didn’t lose any weight on this trip, and we always had enough to share with the rest of camp.
There were a few long days, at least for us, from May Lake to Sunrise Camp, at about 8 miles and 2000 feet of ascent. This was something the PCT hikers did each morning after a cup of coffee. Another day, from Merced Lake to Vogelsang, we hiked about 8 miles and 3300’ of ascent. Everyone did well, with few blisters to repair on the side of the trail. The worst injuries were mosquito bites, which were a real nuisance at the higher elevations but were never too much to make the trip unpleasant. The views always made you forget any discomfort you might have.
My son and I were testing two new packs from Gregory, the 2015 Baltoro and Stout, and were very happy with the new designs. With loads around 40 - 42 pounds, we were easily cruising the trail with little thought of the loads we had on our backs. Most of our Scouts’ packs were in the 30 – 35 pound range, making the trek easier for the teens. We were passed by some ultra-light thru-hikers with loads around 20 pounds, one of whom was using an original Gregory Z pack, a great treat for me to show to the rest of the scouts. The lowest tech, but most effective piece of gear on the trip were the mosquito net hat covers.
We met hikers from Europe and Asia, who were out to experience the backcountry of Yosemite. We sat around campfires, only allowed at camps below 9,600 feet, sharing stories and enjoying the spectacular beauty of the night sky. The weather was the kind that spoils you. Warm sunshine-filled days, cool nights, not a drop of rain, and crystal clear skies with enough big white clouds to make for good pictures, made for a great outing for the whole group. On our drive home, we came down through Yosemite Valley to take a look at the beauty and drama of El Capitan and Bridelvail Falls before loading up on some outstanding pizza in Groveland. The final leg of our return route was on California historic Route 49, which winds through the beautiful foothill country that was the site of the Gold Rush, through towns like Angel’s Camp and Sutter Creek. I know I will have to come back, maybe next time with only my son and our backpacks behind us.
History of the Camps: http://www.yosemitepark.com/high-sierra-camp-history.aspx
Overview Map: http://www.yosemitepark.com/Files/HSC-Trails-Map.pdf
Sep 23, 2014
In 1977, out of a love for designing backpacks and getting people into the outdoors, Wayne Gregory founded Gregory Mountain Products. That same year, out of a love for whitewater rafting and getting people into the great outdoors, Martha Ham founded Splore. Years later, the two companies combined forces and launched a partnership that helps people, regardless of ability or income, experience the joy and power that only the outdoors can bring.
Splore believes that people’s lives can be changed for the better through outdoor experiences. Their goal is to connect underserved and disabled populations with the great outdoors through whitewater rafting, rock climbing, canoeing, snowshoeing, and skiing. Through these recreational activities, people who think they do not have the means to get outside, find that they actually do. Sports that seemed out of their reach, can finally be grasped.
“I got to the top of the climb and cried.” A Veteran shared, “I’m 75 years old and didn’t know I could still do that.” Splore believes that with adequate support, encouragement and planning, anyone can feel the thrill of the rapids, fall asleep under the stars, climb to the top of a rock wall, and most importantly, feel loved and accepted. After a rafting trip on the Colorado River, a participant normally confined to a wheelchair elated, “for that one week, I was totally free.”
Based in the great state of Utah, Splore is able to partner with local and national companies who share our passion and joy of outdoor recreation. Gregory has been an avid supporter of Splore’s programs and has helped raise scholarship funds for countless participants to partake in life-changing outdoor experiences. Throughout the years, Gregory has supported Splore by outfitting their guides with packs, donating to Splore’s fundraisers, and, most importantly, been an advocate for getting people of any ability on outdoor experiences that inspire and enable them. Please join Gregory in raising awareness and opportunity for these people to get outside. With a collective effort, anyone can be free from the chains, or chairs, that bind them and become open for adventure.
Sep 18, 2014
His hat looked like a headdress. Littered with feathers from predatory birds while molting, the guy stuck out like a Ramones fan at a Lilith Fair concert. I could tell he was a thru-hiker by the lightweight gear strapped to his back and the dirt covering his calves. It was obvious that he had been out for a week without the need for showers or deodorant. Slowly approaching, he could see I was offering cold beer. He quickly took me up on the donation, noting the Gregory sticker we had put on the side of the high-end beer affectionately known as PBR. After just walking into town, he was stoked for such a gesture to kick-start the PCT Days weekend.
The Pacific Crest Trail is not something that can be taken lightly. With 2.650 miles of vast wilderness, many mountain ranges to cross, and the need to carry 6+ quarts of water, the trail is a serious endeavor for even the seasoned hiker. Luckily, there is a growing contingency of thru-hikers, willing to help you out in time of need. The PCT Days festival was just that: a place for hikers to talk with manufacturers, get gear fixed, and learn more about what the miles ahead will bring.
The PCT festival was nothing short of awesome. Gregory was there for the whole festivity, from setting up tents to closing down the bar at Thunder Island Brewing. We were there to share stories, give away free packs, and help hikers in need. From replacing a broken spork from eating cold peanut butter to replacing a buckle that got smashed during their last zero day, we were all too happy to help.
Luckily, some of our PCT Dirty Dozen crew of ambassadors were there to participate in the fun with us. Joe McConaughy (a.k.a. String Bean), the recent record setter for the PCT, came to help give out free gear, including the ever-famous Gregory watermelon. Joe’s time of 53 days, 6 hours, and 37 minutes crushed the previous record by over 10%, probably pushed faster by his crew lead Jordan. Slack and String Cheese, two of our other Dirty Dozen, were around just long enough to take us up on the offer for free dinner, even going for seconds as any hungry hiker should. We were happy to oblige, and were excited we could spend time hearing stories from the last few months of their journeys.
After talking with lots of hikers, both long distance and day, we know we must come back. There is too much to do in town and way too many miles to hike in one weekend. Cascade Locks, Oregon will be a destination town on any hiker’s hit list before long.
Sep 16, 2014
This guest blog comes from Black Diamond and Gregory’s Web Developer Ian Dorko. He, along with Black Diamond employee Jon Coppi took two weeks off from work to climb the Bugaboos in Canada. Below is their story of taking time from work to do what they were truly passionate about.
Everything hurts. Four hours up the approach to the Applebee Campground in the Bugaboos, with an hour to go, I find myself cursing the massive load strapped to my back. My only solace is that I’ve forgone my usual haulbag for the Denali 100, the largest actual backpack I could find. Carrying two weeks’ supply of food, fuel, camping and climbing gear sucks pretty much no matter what, but I’m happy for the little breaks we take, as I am able to take the load off my shoulders by resting the pack on the nearest boulder. Slowly, step by step, we continue to grind up the trail to camp, taking comfort in the knowledge that we will only have to do this once.
The next two weeks go by in a blur as we settle into a routine. Check the weather forecast. If it’s good, we set the alarms for an alpine start. Get up, make coffee, grab our kit and head out. Our objectives are suited to the light-and-fast style of alpine climbing, a drastic change from our initial approach. After glacier approaches we swap the harnesses, rack and ropes inside our packs for the approach shoes and crampons on our feet. Axes get strapped to the outside and we leave the horizontal for the vertical.
Exhaustion grows exponentially the closer we get to the summit. Often, reaching the summit is the easy part. Many routes require complex descents, often a combination of exposed fourth-class climbing, rappelling and finally a trip back down the glacier back to camp. The top lid of the Verte 25 is stuffed with caffeine-laden snacks which fuel our tired bodies until we make it to camp, where we feast on our food cache from the initial hike to basecamp. If the forecast stays with us we prepare for the next day and go to bed, waking up bleary-eyed to do it all again. Sometimes we hope for a rest day, but know that we have to climb when the weather is good, because it may not stay that way.
Rain days are lazy. Sleep in, make instant pancakes for breakfast. Lots of reading and socializing with others around camp. Before long, we get antsy, hoping for the weather to break. Even through the aches of days of climbing in a row, longing for an excuse for a rest day, the thought of long granite routes makes us want to get back on the wall. Mother nature gets to decide.
Life is simple in the Bugaboos. With no immediate access to the outside world, our normal lives are completely on hold, allowing us to completely focus on the task at hand—climbing as much as possible. Driving back to Salt Lake, I wish for the simple life to return, with little time for the chores of civil life. I am already ready for another road trip.
Sep 2, 2014
This guest blog comes from Gregory’s Product Line manager, Rebecca Larson. Given the opportunity to go to Europe, she took the chance to get outdoors. Below is her story of finding true mountain people and places.
As I looked across the traverse, all I could see was air. Gone was the ledge I could easily walk on. Few were the holds to cling to. What had I gotten myself into, and why had I done it alone? I had hoped for adventure, and Germany had delivered.
Traveling to Europe for work at the OutDoor show, I knew I had to spend a few days in the mountains. Hiking, drinking nice coffee, and maybe finding a via ferrata route was on the hit list, having heard that climbing while in the Alps was at the edge of extreme. This was my chance. Via ferrata , a style of climbing that uses cables and iron rungs, was used in WWI to move Italian troops thru the Dolomites. These days, it is a popular way to climb in the Alps and almost anyone can do with a stomach for heights.
With this in mind, I headed to the little village of Murren in Bernese-Oberland, Switzerland. Murren sits at about 5,400 feet above the Lauterbrunnen valley. You can take a long hike up from Lauterbrunnen, a town 3,000 feet below. I opted for the tram.
My hotel room faced the fabled Eiger mountain as well as Monch and Jungfrau. The view was jaw-dropping. With full mountain weather, the whole area was socked in. I decided to hike up to the base of the Schiltorhorn and take the gondola down. This gondola is known for its starring role in the 1963 James Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. With foggy air and damp mountainside, sightings of the Schilthorn remained elusive.
The next morning, after a hearty Swiss breakfast, I walked down past the public tennis courts to look for the entrance to the via ferrata route. The route, 2.2km long, winds its way down to the village of Gimmelwald, and takes about 2.5 hours to complete. The views were stunning and much of it felt like a day of extreme hiking. With only a few sections that made my heart flutter, most of the hike was steep with ladders and walking along narrow ledges. The first section to make me stop and breathe deeply was the 40 foot long traverse with only the Swiss Mountain air under my feet. Likely 500-800 feet to the ground, it had made me question why I was here. And alone. ‘At least the views are nice’ I thought to myself, as I headed out to the ledge. Thankfully, the cables gave confidence just when you needed it most.
With a few more tight rope walks, and a long suspension bridge over a deep gorge to negotiate, I was to the end of the route. I was greeted by the small mountain village of Gimmelwald and the annual ski-team fundraiser. A small event, with the village polka band playing and beer flowing, it could not have been a more Swiss way to end my time in the mountains.
Aug 26, 2014
This guest blog comes from Gregory Ambassador Kristin McLane (aka Siren), a northbound thru hiker on the Appalachian Trail in 2013. We first met at Trail Days in Damascus, VA; and through field testing and her many adventures, we came to ask Kristen to be part of the Gregory team. Below is a small excerpt of her fun travels on the A.T. Look out for her now, as she crushes the Colorado Trail.
The Trail Provides
Living on the trail pares life down to its most simple needs. Amidst the hiking, all I need to worry about is food, water, and shelter. There is much more time available to enjoy the journey through natural surroundings when you don't have to think too much about "real life" stresses and can just focus on the basics. Not only is it relaxing, it opens you up to people and experiences you might not normally be receptive to at home.
There's something hikers refer to as "trail magic". This is receiving something unexpectedly that is just what you need at the time. It can be from other people or it can be from the trail itself. Maybe a lot of rain keeps you from getting as far as you planned to go that day, and you end up in just the right place to catch the most beautiful sunset you've ever seen. Maybe you're feeling sick or blue and a day hiker gives you a soda, or even takes you home with them for the night to enjoy home cooking, a hot shower, and a bed (not to share).
Hiking northbound on the Appalachian Trail from a town stop once, we made it just three miles to a shelter. We intended to hike much further but there was another hiker with a weather radio at the shelter, letting everyone know that a storm of biblical proportions was on its way. We didn't think we could make it to the next shelter before the storm hit so we agreed it was best to stay, making little progress on the huge adventure we had set out for. While everyone started collecting firewood to settle in, I made an offhand remark that if I had known we were going to be hiking such a short day, I would have hiked out a bag of wine (only the finest when do when living in a tent). Lo and behold, two other hikers stumbled upon a grocery bag with a box of wine, a firestarter, and a giant candy bar in it. This bag wasn't on the trail itself, where you might expect a trail angel to leave something; it was in the middle of the woods. True trail magic!
After that I tried asking the trail very specifically for more treats but I was all too greedy. Like a prayer that goes unanswered, there must have been a reason. However, there was always just a little bit of magic when I needed it most. Lost a tent stake? One appeared at the next campsite. Water source dry? Gallon jugs of water sat at the next road crossing. Simply put, the trail provides.
That's just one of the many reasons I can't wait to get back out there and see what magic the trail can bring.
Aug 12, 2014
There it is: the summit: it’s only a few hours and a few miles away. It’s so close you almost taste it. But this summit will be hard earned and the culmination of many months of planning and preparation.
When you began planning several months ago, you knew this peak was the one you wanted. It would be hard to reach and require a long haul deep into the wilderness. With all the food, water, and gear needed you meticulously planned what you’d bring. You got in shape, made your plans, and when the time finally arrived, you hit the trail.
But now with the summit in reach, it’s time to go light and fast. You want to be as efficient as possible for the push to the top. No extra weight, nothing to hold you back. That’s why you’ve chosen the Verte pack from Gregory for summit day. You never noticed it on your trek into camp but now you unfurl it to reveal the ultimate tool to get the job done.
The Gregory Verte 25 and Verte 15 have removable foam framesheets and hipbelts and can stuff into itself for the ultimate in packability. The packs have dual ice axe loops and a daisy chain, a hydration port and sleeve. A custom aluminum hook closure provides single motion quick action access to the main bag.
So, grab the Verte that’s right for you and pick out that summit.
Jul 29, 2014
This guest blog comes from Gregory Ambassador Tyson Bradley, owner of Utah Mountain Adventures . This summer, he guided a group up Denali wih the Denali 100 pack from Gregory. This updated pack comes out in two weeks, but Tyson got his hands on a sample to test, something Gregory does wtih every pack we make. Find out more about Tyson and his company at http://www.utahmountainadventures.com/.
Scaling Denali, North America’s highest and coldest expedition peak, and returning healthy, requires preparation, endurance, a lot of luck, and MANY wag bags (if you don’t know what this is, look it up). A giant pack is necessary, as you have to carry around twenty days worth of camping supplies, food, and cold weather gear. This time, I reached out to Gregory, because in the past, big expedition bags had always crippled me. Luckily, they had a sample of the new Denali 100 for me to test during the odyssey up the Alaska Range giant this May, and it proved to be the most comfort in a harsh alpine world.
I lashed 80 pounds of food, fuel, tents, and more to my sled and towed it with the pack, inside which I carried another 30 pounds of light, bulkier gear for the single-carry from the Kahiltna airstrip to 7,800 feet. It is all too obvious that the 110 pounds worth of gear will get old soon. Above here it gets steeper, so we climb each section twice, with half our load at a time, mostly on our back.
As we camp at 11,000 ft. and move up to 14 camp, wind rattles our tents and spindrift fills the air. On the first calm day, we jumar up the icy headwall to 16,000 feet and clip our ropes into pickets along the spectacular, exposed West Buttress ridge to 17,000 feet, the high camp. Tents tear, and building snowblock walls is our only defense against the massive gusts that cripple gear, climbers, and their faces. Snow pelts my face like a barrage of BB’s. I keep thinking to myself ‘this is fun, right?’.
Finally we nail the summit on our second attempt. A good weather window still means braving 40 mph winds on the knife-edge summit ridge. Little time is had on the top, with photos to prove our bravery, and stupidity of the whole situation. This is what makes you remember why you climb. Stressful navigating in a whiteout gets us down the summit plateau and “autobahn” traverse. Here, we helped rescue a fallen party from the night before. At times like this, you are glad that there are a few folks around on even the most remote parts of the earth.
This 16-hour summit push was the stormiest in my 10 years of guiding Denali, and it felt great to stumble into base camp 36 hours later and fly back to warm, sunny Talkeetna, knowing we’d fulfilled dreams and beaten the odds: the only guided team to summit in May 2014. Over warm fires and cold beers, we exchange stories. I just know I have to come back.
Jul 22, 2014
This guest blog comes from Gregory Ambassador Matt Swartz. Matt started the PCT this spring, and had lots of time to reflect on the greater things in life. Below is his story.
The goal is nothing without the journey.
I've been off the trail now for more than two weeks. Gone are the days of eating Oreos covered in peanut butter while lying in my sleeping bag at 5 o'clock in the morning. Absent are the dirty, super-fit vagabonds who I've seen eat skittles found on the side of the trail, covered in dirt, shouting with enthusiasm, 'Yes! A red one!'. I fully intended to thru-hike the PCT this year, but circumstances change.
What I've come to realize though, is that I'm totally fine with only making it 800 miles. Sure, I miss my filthy brothers and sisters, still out there, forging their way North, but it's OK. I'm happy they're still out there putting in the miles towards making their dreams a reality.
Ultimately, hiking the PCT, even less than half, was a beautiful and amazing experience. I lived the trail life for two months. I have experienced trail magic. I once put in 98 miles in 72 hours and would regularly eat 5000 calories in a day. It's cliché to say, but it was the journey, not the destination.
I learned a valuable lesson about having a goal and not achieving it. It's about being thankful for experiences in which we can grow and learn as individuals. Obviously setting foot in Canada wouldn't make or break the result of hiking on a trail for five months. I lived fully in the moment and loved every minute of my journey.
So learn from my experience. Take a chance, even if you're not sure that you'll achieve what you set out to accomplish. Who knows what you're capable of? Even if you don't reach your ultimate goal, putting your full effort into the journey is something you'll never regret.
Jul 15, 2014What happens when you combine cancer survivors, their family, a tough mountain objective, and a team of top-notch guides? Survivor Summit was a trip to Kilimanjaro in 2012 and a partnership between Livestrong, Survivor Summit and Earth Treks. Check out the video below to learn more about the incredible trip and the emotion that elicited among the team.