Archive for August, 2013

Wool Undies?!

// August 28th, 2013 // No Comments » // Climbing, Gear, Hiking


A Gear review.






After many weeks this summer out in the peaks, woods, ice, rain, snow, dust, streams, crowded buses, small planes, tight tents, mist, fog and sun I have much to report.  I had the luxury of testing out some new products and pushing the limits of some old.  I’d like to write a few posts about what I learned so that by reading this you might be able to make a better decision when it comes time to buy some outdoor recreational equipment.

So let’s start with the first thing that goes on after stepping out of the shower, and that in the mountains might remain on for several days: undies.  Opinions abound and people have their favorites – it is a delicate and sensitive topic involving a sensitive area.  When you see these on a store’s rack questions will immediately arise: do they ride, creep, pinch, squeeze, chaff, smell after an hour of wear and are they worth the price?

My answer is I/O Merino.  No riding, creeping, pinching, etc and even after days on the trail no significant odor.  I have tried many other reputable brands and styles of synthetic briefs and boxers that wick, dry quickly, keep a person warm when wet but begin to smell the moment you look at them (never going back).

By wearing wool you get all of the same benefits of synthetic but without the odor.  Many people when introduced to the idea of wool will flinch when they think of wearing it as a base-layer, but let me tell you fine merino that is well made does not itch down there.  Not clammy like cotton, if I could afford to wear these everyday I would.  I can afford to wear them everyday while on the trail and in the tent my tent mates appreciate the fact I smell a little less.

Warm, warm when wet, low odor retention, dry fast enough, and even after ignoring the care instructions many times they are holding up after repeated wash and dry cycles.

Shopping for expedition undies – look no further than I/O Merino.  I am a 33″ waist – my medium boxer briefs fit a bit more like boxer shorts.  If you want more support go down a size.

I/O Boxer Brief

I/O Boxer Brief

The Whiteout

// August 22nd, 2013 // Comments Off // Climbing, Getting biblical, Leadership, Reflections

White Out on Pisco

White Out on Pisco

Through the darkness of the early morning hours we began our climb.  Headlamps shining brightly to illuminate the rocky terminus of the glacier we navigated by instinct and small piles of rocks called cairns.  The small circles of light were just enough to illuminate each step and where it should be precariously placed before glancing upward to spot the next pile of rocks showing the way.  Hours would pass by as time and time again we would briefly lose our way.  Pausing, examining the surroundings, exploring possibilities, we would regain our course and press on.  A favorite scripture of mine speaks to this: Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path – Psalm 119:105.  The destination is unseen, the entire plan unknown, there is just enough light, just enough information to take the next step.  In faith – take it.  Navigation requires focus, experience, the ability to be alert to each step even while carrying on a conversation.

Have you ever  been at a place in life where you were wondering which way to go?  Have you been seemingly stuck, no map, no signs, no GPS coordinates, and no one to guide you and make tough decisions for you?  True in business, true as a parent, true for the student figuring out the future.  We have all been there.  So what does it take to carry on in such uncertainty?

Fortitude and faith.

We emerged from the darkness into the light of day long enough to get geared up and hit the glacier.  Only minutes after setting foot on the glacier we were again moving blindly, and this time a headlamp would be of no use.  The wind kicked up, the snow was moving sideways, the clouds came down and now there was no visual separation of earth and sky.  Hello vertigo.  Progress became slow, morale dropped, and what was supposed to be a “gimmee” of a climb became a real challenge indeed.  Winter in the Andes is predictable: the sun always shines – ha.  The drifting snow covered the tracks of yesterday and as the ridge narrowed, we began to wonder if we might walk right off the ridge stepping onto a cloud thought to be solid ground.


More exhausting than the altitude and the climb itself was the amount of focus it took to discern and stay the course.  Probing with poles for each step, the mind playing tricks on the senses and the senses playing tricks right back on the mind, up seemed down and down seemed up and at times the team tied to my rope would disappear into the white.

Just when all hope seemed lost a break in the clouds would reveal some footsteps, or a feature up ahead, just enough to ensure the course was still true.

We walk by faith, not by sight.  Says 2 Corinthians 5:7.  It is that faith that assures me the course will be revealed at some point, so I ask myself do I have enough faith to take another step when all I see is my feet?  Well one more…then another…and so on.

We made the summit of Pisco in challenging conditions.  Experience, a positive well equipped team, moving forward in fortitude by faith.

So if you are facing difficulty, uncertainty and that next step seems impossible – try this:
Trust in the Lord with all of your heart.  Lean not on your own understanding.  In all of your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5,6.











The White Range

// August 9th, 2013 // No Comments » // Climbing, Hiking

Sunrise on Huascaran

Sunrise on Huascaran

The snow here in Colorado covers our peaks for a few months, but eventually melts away allowing flowers, grass and goats to flourish and make this harsh environment seem almost hospitable.
It may seem odd to call the Rockies gentle, but that is exactly how they seem after a trip to some of the world’s other great ranges.

This summer’s expedition took eight other climbers and me to the White Range – the Cordillera Blanca of Peru, with the goal of climbing Pisco, Chopicalqui and Artesonraju.  The team would be as diverse as the mountains we would climb. Ranging in age from fifteen to sixty plus and coming from California, Colorado and Chicago the biggest challenge was making sure we were all on the same page, and just as importantly the same plane.

The McCormick family is adventurous.  They have traveled the world like home-schooling gypsies and while doing so have managed to participate in about every adventure sport imaginable.  When Gil McCormick and his two sons signed on for this trip I wasn’t the least bit concerned that Grant, at only 15 years of age, would be climbing to 20,000′ nor was I worried that he would be relying on his old man who can only see out of one eye to lead the rope team over snow-bridges and deep, dark, crevasses.  No worries because they took it seriously, were fitter than I, they were properly equipped and trained, and when it came to positive team attitude…they had that too.

Traveling with my long time climbing buddy J Whorton, we met the rest of the team in Houston: Bob Balshizer of Granite Arch climbing gym fame, along with guitar virtuoso and new father Gabe Becker and finally former gymnast Jeremy Wall.

Since the team had spent a lot of time acclimating pre-trip we expedited our itinerary and were soon at the base of Pisco – our first peak.  The team opted to forego the slog to moraine camp with heavy packs and instead make one long summit day from base-camp.  Finding an unfamiliar path through a boulder field at night is a challenge with two eyes.  Gil magically managed to do this with one eye and emerge with the sunrise on the other side unscathed.

16,000′ and we were now facing the glacier.  The morning was cold and breezy, but at least the visibility was poor.  The low clouds and high winds made visibility next to nil, and what was supposed to be an easy warm-up climb – a dangerous challenge.  For brief moments I could make out tracks in the snow from previous climbers, then in an instant they would be blown over and covered up.  Even a person familiar with this peak would have had trouble finding his way in this cold soup, but we felt good and we pressed on, snow to our knees at times, exposed ice at others.

Leading the group through this mess was the biggest challenge for me in that it was so mentally draining and such a strain on the eyes as I would continually see things that weren’t really there.  Pressing on the team made the summit feeling great.  Jeremy felt so good in fact that he attempted a backflip, crampons and all… he landed, but not on his feet.

The ridge was narrow and all was white, but at least the fall would be long.  Going down is usually easier, but in this case the weather did not clear and the challenge was more mental than physical.  Progress was slow but we finally made it down below the cloud and storm – what a relief it was.  Success at 18,700′ in the White Range.

Tune in tomorrow for more on the next peak, our sponsors, and some gear reviews.