Archive for Hiking

Getting Stronger

// January 21st, 2014 // No Comments » // Climbing, Hiking, Leadership, Reflections

You have trained your whole life to be the best, the toughest, most loyal soldier you can be.  You are part of an elite special ops team fighting an enemy on their turf and on their terms.  Terms that do not meet the rules of engagement which you follow.  It is like fighting with one arm behind your back and now as you move in on your target (mission classified) a grenade goes off near your head: confusion, concussion, injury, blood and blindness follow.  The men you are with are still relying on you but you urgently need help.  The medic tries to pull you away but you insist on staying, running the communications back to the team to ensure your team makes it out safely.  Just another heroic day at the office.

Is this you?  It is hard to say how we ourselves would react in a situation like this, but I know for sure it is a rare few who would do what Marty Bailey did a few years ago when he lost his sight.  I can guarantee that his team was thankful to him and thankful for his courage.  I am too.  This is why we have formed www.BlindStrength.org so that we (this means anyone who wishes to support it) can help Marty and soldiers like him who have sacrificed so much for us.

Last week I met Marty for the first time on our team’s first training climb in Utah’s Wasatch mountains.  The team is preparing to climb 20,320′ Denali May of 2014.  Blind for only a few years Marty has come a long way, and is now again pushing his limits as part of a team that hopes to make the first blind ascent of the Upper West-Rib, a climb that offers plenty of challenge for seasoned sighted climbers – let alone a climber who is blind.  Once again he will be fighting with one arm behind his back and the rules of engagement once again, unfair.

In freezing temperatures, at altitude, with a heavy pack and hauling a loaded sled in one foot of fresh snow pushed by 30 mph winds, blinded Master Sergeant Marty Bailey pressed on in spite of his cramping legs and small, awkward, snowshoes.  Using new tools and climbing with a new team on only the few hours of sleep that travel delays and a sixteen month old baby girl would allow, I herd him stop and out of frustration say “I’ve just never been the weak link.”

This is what it is all about.

Most all of us will admit that at some point in our lives we may have felt as though we have let others down, or that we were the weak one, or the reason for failure.  I hope so.  This is the reason for team, for community, for trust and reliance and it makes us humble like it or not.  Peyton Manning quarterback of the Denver Broncos has just had the most successful season a QB has ever had and I know for a fact (I watched the bad games) on his journey there were days he was off and relied on the team more than others.

No matter who we are, we need the strength of each other to help us through the off days, to get back on our feet, to get to the top – help in getting stronger.

“No, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are actually very important.” 1 Corinthians 12:22

Wool Undies?!

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

 

A Gear review.
IOMerino

 

 

 

 

 

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 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.

McCormicks

 

Lord of the Rings

// May 3rd, 2012 // 1 Comment » // Climbing, Getting biblical, Hiking, Reflections

Firehouse West 5-3-12

On a cold day in December, as the ice climbing season here in Vail was getting underway, I had gone up to “Firehouse West” for a day of guide training with Apex Mountain School. The approach to the climb is long but at least it’s steep.  The thick underbrush of summer is laid flat by all of the snow as well as the big boots of climbers that tromp up this slope with their heavy packs.
It is wise to dress light for the 35 minute slog up, and then as the sweat dries add layers at the base of the ice climb changing gloves as well before starting up the technical climb.
It was later on this day that I realized that somewhere along the way I had lost my wedding ring (my second and more expensive wedding ring made of white gold) inscribed with Romans 15:5-6. I was upset and I knew my wife Amy would be even more disappointed. So a couple of days later, armed with a metal detector from Radio Shack, I made the slog back up to find the ring. No such luck – the ice had formed 2 feet thicker over the place where I had changed my gloves and with all the action this place had seen, I knew there was no chance but to wait for the spring thaw.
I pray everyday, and this morning as I set off to Firehouse intent on finding my lost ring 6 months later, I said a prayer that I might find this ring. The grass was starting to grow, the thornbushes that normally lie covered under the snow were devouring my shins as the willow and aspen branches taunted me with every loose and or muddy step. Finally as I arrived at the climb’s base I saw what still looked to be a climbable pillar of ice touching down on a frozen platform that covered, even now, the place where my ring had likely slipped off of my finger. Completely crushed and in disbelief the thought of coming back to a raging waterfall in one more month flushed away any hope of finding the ring. I had come up full of hope and without a metal detector knowing what God can do, but now I thought He just chose not to do it. “Hopeless!” I exclaimed. I had given up.

The Trail - ring is between log & stick

Turning, taking two more steps, looking down the slope right in the middle of the wintertime trail, sitting above all the choss and debris, sat a round treasure. “My ring! Thank you God! Thank you God!” I literally shouted it out with joy.

There it lies - as if placed there

So on this national day of prayer I want you to be encouraged, just as I am, that God does hear us and is even interested in the seemingly small things. So wether obstacles seem insurmountable, or just too small to offer up to a big God, this event today reminds me that just as I share concerns big and small with my spouse, I too should be mindful to share every concern of my daily life with my God.  Jesus gives us these words to give us exactly this hope and understanding:
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. (Matthew 10:29 NIV)

Romans 15:5,6

The Depths Reflect the Heights

// November 8th, 2011 // No Comments » // Hiking, Reflections

Maroon Bells reflected in Maroon Lake, CO

One of the things I love most about the outdoors is the chance it gives me to spend time with people that I care about.  To me a day out is as much about relationships as it is about wilderness and activity.
While participating in activities like rock, ice, and mountain climbing as well as road an mountain biking I find that there are plenty of times I need to depend on another person or that they need to depend on me.
The older the friendship, the greater the number of outings, the greater our ability to handle adversity together.

Recently while out climbing a peak I was given the chance to deepen a friendship – this is another way of saying we had a rough and trying day.  The peak threw everything it had at us and we had to dig deep into our physical and mental reserves to finish the day.
In this state of being it is easy to get rattled, to get short and impatient with each other and lose focus as well as a grip on the reigns of our thoughts, words and actions.

The beauty of a deep friendship built on a solid foundation is that it can better withstand such a storm and see the true person still buried deep within that cloud.  The cloud will likely pass and the friendship resume as normal with nothing more than a good story to remember.  However if it is a first time out in a new relationship – it well could spell the end.

This thought gave me the following words:

Friendships, like mountains, are born for adversity.
They stand firm spiting the weather and storms that threaten their stature.
Friendships deepen like the reflecting waters below
when they are tested on the heights that are scaled above.

The deeper the waters run, the greater the heights to be climbed.

 

 

 

Sweat for Greatness

// October 24th, 2011 // No Comments » // Hiking

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/greatness/?xid=shareFB

Sports Illustrated and Gillette have partnered to support three courageous people who are not letting setbacks in their lives set them back.  The link here is to a page that will allow you to see three inspiring videos and then vote for the person you would like to see win the grand prize.

All three are worthy of the win and each of these guys is very special, but one of them is a friend of mine that I have been climbing with for almost ten years.  John Olson has struggled with a seizure disorder for most of his life.  The seizures became so severe when he was young that he underwent a surgery to separate the left and right hemispheres of the brain.  John has been on and off a number of medications and recently underwent another surgery to have a nerve stimulating device implanted in his shoulder to further reduce, if not eliminate, his seizures.

Throughout all of this John has not let epilepsy get the best of him.  He competed on his  high school’s swim team, volunteers for the park service, holds a part-time job, is an avid cyclist and skier, and really has a passion for getting out into the high peaks of Colorado.  If John should win he would like to go and achieve a dream of his which is to climb a volcano on the west coast – Oregon’s Mt. St. Helens.  There is even the possibility that he might attempt a ski descent.  Please watch these inspiring videos and then please vote for my friend John.  Each person who votes can vote once each day until the contest is over at midnight on November 14th.  This contest is affiliated with Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the year award and the winner will be announced the same evening of that award.  One lucky voter will also get a framed SI cover of their choice.

John On Torrey's Peak

 

Longs Peak Memorial Climb

// August 11th, 2011 // No Comments » // Climbing, Events, Hiking

The Diamond

Caution: I am weird
I fast because I’m hungry
I run because I am thirsty
I die every day because I want to live
I lead because I follow
I give everything away to become rich
I am weak and broken so that I will be strong
I see more when my eyes are closed
I’m in love with someone I haven’t seen
I love the unlovely
I am honored when people mock me
I embrace these foolish things to become wise
I will walk whole heartedly out on any limb He requires,
because even if He lets it break, He can teach me to fly.

Lygon Stevens

 

 

 

View from Summit of Chasm Lake

To stand on the summit is a privilege not a victory.
No one can conquer a mountain,
it is impossible and does not exist.
All people are mountain climbers but not all people will climb.
This truth does not change for any person:
The privilege of standing on the summit only lasts a few minutes –
no one can linger there.
Keep pushing on and learn that victory comes in the day to day,
not the product of the day to day,
not the few moments in which the pushing upward ends.
Victory and glory come from conquering oneself
not the mountain. Lygon Stevens

We began our climb at 3:45 a.m. after a sleepless night for me.  An alpine start on Longs Peak after I had delivered a presentation the night before to  a group eager to raise funds for a good cause.  The funds the year before went to a gal who with $1,500 dollars started an orphanage in Nepal that now serves 250 kids.  Wow.

In the darkness we began with a prayer offered by Lygon’s brother Niklis, who was also caught in the 2008 avalanche on Little Bear peak that claimed his siter’s life.  Up the trail we went covering different routes as different teams dressed in the neon colored T’s of the event took on the 14,259′ challenge .  Hundreds of others were also on the mountain that day and as they asked about the bright shirts we were able to share about the testimony that Lygon’s life was.

It was a joy to become acquainted with the Stevens family and especially Nik as we climbed that day.  John Trousdale of www.DurangoTV.com filmed for www.DayofDiscovery.org as we ascended on this cold and windy morning.  But as the sun appeared we felt the familiar warmth of hope that it offered in contrast to the cold that we felt.  New friendships and insights were gained as we shared stories – some tragic, some humorous, and all offering perhaps just a little more peace and understanding as the passing of a loved one brought worlds and lives together that would not have otherwise met.

Thanks Stevens family for letting me in and sharing your mountain with me.  Climb High.

John Trousdale, Eric Alexander, Niklis Stevens

A Peak Experience

// August 3rd, 2011 // No Comments » // Climbing, Hiking

I just returned from a week in the peaks with a group of high school graduates from Indiana, a 63 year old mentor/Supermom, and a bearded Appalachian Trail through hiker who paused 300 miles short of completing his goal to join this trip and climb two stunning peaks here in Colorado.  The trip was a huge success because we all returned with our bodies and friendships intact, that is not to say we didn’t have our trials – because we did.  Altitude sickness, vomiting, a divided group on Buckskin pass, allergic reactions, middle aged skinny dippers, and no water filter were just a few of the initial setbacks.  A recipe for disaster?  Nope, this group adapted, worked together, found solutions, stayed positive, helped each other out and made the most of the mosquito infested wilderness to experience what one student said was “the most fun I have ever had.”

There were lessons in this for everyone:  From the experience of pushing ourselves to our perceived limits and reaching a difficult summit (a lesson that things/rewards in life do not come without hard work and perseverance), to learning to walk in faith and trust in the Lord and to trust those around us.  We had evening devotions and discussions on moving forward in life towards college and what to expect, how to stay morally grounded, avoid distractions, set priorities, and live a life of faith in a secular college environment.

I was able to teach techniques for traveling safely on steep snow, and how to stop in case of a fall and even how to answer nature’s call.  The group selected my book The Summit as this year’s read which was fun for me as I heard certain stories and quotes coming back at me throughout the trip.  Time like this, to be free in the mountains offers one the chance to be free from the outside world and reflect inwardly and upwardly at the things which are most important in life.  For a few days we all had this opportunity.  Take a look at my Flickr site to see more photos and videos of our trip.

The Group on Snowmass

10th Anniversary Blind Everest Summit

// May 21st, 2011 // No Comments » // Climbing, Events, Hiking, Skiing

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Everest’s first blind summit my team hosted a fundraiser for the No Barriers foundation and the Soldiers Project by climbing Quandary Pk and raising money to help those who have been injured in battle.  The evening celebration was terrific as we got to see old friends and preview Michael Brown’s new film for the Soldiers to the Summit climb last fall.  This will be an amazing work when it is complete.  The climb began before the sun rise and fifty plus of us made it to the 14,200 foot summit.  Some were blind, some were missing limbs, others had their own issues to overcome, but nothing could stop us (not even the weather) from having a great day and a great celebration.  Congratulations on who participated and thanks for being there with us on this joyous day.

http://youtu.be/YsYWsnwZIR0

No View from This Summit

// January 11th, 2011 // 1 Comment » // Climbing, Hiking

It really was like any other short, cold, windy, December day in Colorado except for the fact that on this day I would be climbing to 14,283′ with a blind student Terry Garret, my friend John Olson who struggles with a siezure disorder, and a team of others including: high school star athletes, a contingent of army special ops members, and a film crew.  On the film crew would be standout climber and internationally known film maker Rob Raker. 

With special permission from the landowners we got a reasonably early start on a day with subzero (windchill) temperatures.  We skirted the frozen waterfalls on the lower slopes of Mt Lincoln, hiked up through scree and boulder fields covered in a patchwork of snow causing us to post-hole much of the way.  Coming up out of the lower gully many started to turn back as the winds were almost pushing us backwards.  Soon the only one wanting to push on towards the sumitt was the most unlikely one of all – blind Terry Garret.  With only film maker Rob Raker remaining Terry pushed on into the wind barely able to hear my voice giving him directions.  At certain moments I would physically grab his ski pole and lead him by tugging on the opposite end.  By sheer will power he stood on the summit of that peak demonstrating that desire is often the most critical component in reaching our goals.  Had the others been better acclimated we would have seen more summits, but I am so proud of Terry and the effort he gave as well as the lesson he taught me to never give up when all seems to be against us.