August 31, 2006

Sierra High Route, Day 6: Dead tired at Cirque Pass

In this brief transmission from his off-trail campsite at 11,000 feet, you can hear the fatigure in Steve Howe's voice. At the end of his fifth day on a solo thru-hike of the 220-mile Sierra High Route, Backpacker magazine's Rocky Mountain editor acknowledges the difficulty of humping a load up and down thousands of feet of steep, occasionally technical terrain--and casts a worried eye towards building storm clouds. Click here to view Steve's progress on an interactive map or Google Earth.

Sierra High Route, Day 6: Suddenly, solitude disappears

After four days on the Sierra High Route, Backpacker magazine's Rocky Mountain Editor Steve Howe has seen no other humans. This morning, all that changes. As the SHR joins with the legendary--and highly popular--John Muir Trail, Steve's solo thru-hike becomes a very different experience. Listen in as he describes the crowds, the scene on Mather Pass, and his next goal: a steep, zigzagging scramble from Lower Palisade Lake across Cirque Pass and a return to the high, untrailed country he's been crossing on the SHR. North_from_mather_pass_small_1(Photo: Looking north from Mather Pass, sans crowds. © Andrew Matranga) Click here to view Steve's progress on an interactive map or Google Earth.

Sierra High Route, Day 5: Deer lead the way

Showe1wagner Towards the end of day five on the Sierra High Route, Rocky Mountain editor Steve Howe rejoins an old portion of the John Muir Trail that hasn't been maintained since the 1920s. He finds the path in surprisingly good condition -- possibly because of deer traffic -- another variation he's found to what's described in the guidebook. He also offers a stern recommendation about Frozen Lake Pass for any other hikers looking to tackle the SHR.  Click here to view Steve's progress on an interactive map or Google Earth.

Sierra High Route, Day 5: Decision time at "the cartwheel of death"

Steve Howe is a well-prepared and fairly conservative backpacker, something he's learned through hard experience on remote solo trips in some the most extreme environments in North America. That's particularly important today, because he encounters a challenge this 5.10 climber might not feel comfortable undertaking: Frozen Lake Pass, which has a 75-degree ice gulley on the other side with microwave-sized rocks waiting to tumble. Listen in as our Rocky Mountain editor thinks out loud about how his decision -- should he downclimb this doozy, or retrace his steps for a day to the alternate route over Cartridge Pass? His extra supplies give him a margin of safety someone less prepared might not have.   Click here to view Steve's progress on an interactive map or Google Earth.

Sierra High Route, Day 4: Zen ponds and the prospect of heavy weather

Coming to the end of day four on the Sierra High Route, Rocky Mountain editor Steve Howe talks about his next challenges: a dauntingly steep climb that he must decide whether to tackle now or with more energy in the morning; and dark thunderclouds that have suddenly appeared on the horizon ahead of him. Behind him, a mesmerizing day spent wandering amid "a zen-like garden" of pristine ponds set beneath sawtoothed cliffs. Click here to view Steve's progress on an interactive map or Google Earth.

Sierra High Route, Day 4: The most beautiful lake I've seen in 40 years

Rocky Mountain editor Steve Howe reports on a rugged day on the Sierra High Route during which he only made 5.5 miles due to steep sidehill traversing, lots of loose talus, and short cliffs of 10 to 15 feet that he had to climb or down-climb. The highlight of the day: a swim in what Steve calls as "possibly the most beautiful lake I've seen in more than 40 years of backpacking." Tune in to hear him describe the exotic colors of this lake and its phenomenal alpine setting. Click here to view Steve's progress on an interactive map or Google Earth.

August 28, 2006

Sierra High Route, Day 3: Leg-breaking country

As he cooks dinner on day 3, Steve looks back on a day that plunged him into the "truly wild" heart of the SHR. He talks of hiking the route of a disappearing Sierra Club path, then entering ruggedly steep country above the timber. Calling his campsite "easily the most spectacular spot of the hike so far," he describes the immense views and jagged peaks around him. Listen in as he shares Showe2wagner_1 the deeply remote feel of the location, the challenges of the navigation, and the risks to a solo thru-hiker like himself. Click here to view Steve's progress on an interactive map or Google Earth.

August 27, 2006

Sierra High Route, Day 2: Getting Primeval

On day 2 of his Sierra High Route solo thru-hike, Steve Howe dives into an off-trail portion of the route and experiences a much different world than on the first day, one marked by a riot of wildflowers, patches of snow, and a technical challenge that almost forced him to turn around. Listen in as he describes the various flowers, meadow camping paradises, and challenges of navigating this little-traveled route.Showe1wagner_1 Click here to view Steve's progress on an interactive map or Google Earth.

August 26, 2006

Sierra High Route, Day 1: Switchback Hell

Backpacker's Rocky Mountain editor Steve Howe phones in his first trip report after a grueling first day on the 220-mile Sierra High Route. Listen in as he describes the overall route (and its difficulties), his encounters with hordes of gnats, the spectacular mountain views once he broke above treeline, his plan for breaking up the trip's mileage into manageable chunks, and the daunting heft of his pack with 11 days of food aboardCassstevehowe3lowres_1. You'll also hear his special words of praise for the first 6.66 miles, which he says, were nothing but switchbacks. Click here to view Steve's progress on an interactive map or Google Earth.

August 13, 2006

What's Up With MontBell?

PR guru Scott Guenther chats with Backpacker map editor Kris Wagner about going ultra light, and beyond.

Gear Goes Green

Img_19191 Img_19201 Gear Editor Kristin Hostetter talks about a few gear highlights and trends at Outdoor Retailer.

Tents Without Poles

Cam Brensinger talks about the philosophy behind the unique design of Nemo Tents.

August 12, 2006

Inside A Gear Designer's Workshop

Hardwearbag1 Hardwearbag2 Have you always wondered what the inside of a gear designer's workshop looks like? Mountain Hardwear product development director and longtime tent designer Ted Ganio takes us on a tour of his design shop. He also shares an insider's view of the last decade's tent and sleeping bag developments, and details the seam-welding and other features of Mountain Hardwear's new UltraLamina sleeping bag line.

Images of Adventure

Img_19141 Executive Editor Peter Flax sits down with acclaimed adventure photographer Gordon Wiltsie to discuss his stunning new book To The Ends of The World, which highlights some of the most spectacular expeditions of his storied career in the field.

Climbing for a Cause

P8120452_1 A conversation with Mark Godley, Executive Director of BIg City Mountaineers, about that the good work that organization is dedicated to...and how you can personally get involved.

SNEWS You Can Use

Gear Editor Kristin Hostetter chats with Michael Hodgson, a longtime insider in the world of outdoor equipment and president of SNEWS, about the latest gear and trends in the industry.

Matters of Survival

P8120450 Executive Editor Peter Flax talks about the latest, greatest survival gear with survival guru Doug Ritter, editor of Equiped to Survive.

The Ongoing Stove Revolution

Img_19131 Backpacker editor Jonathan Dorn talks about recent major developments in stove technology with expedition climber and Brunton product development guru Mike Lilygren. Plus, learn what's new in stoves and headlamps from this Wyoming-based company.

Built to Last

Map Editor Kris Wagner talks to Black Diamond co-founder Peter Metcalf about cool new product, ultralight gear, and how his company tests gear.

The Past and Future of Packs

Zpack3 Zpack4 Backpacker editor Jonathan Dorn sits down with Wayne Gregory, founder of Gregory packs, and John Sears, his design manager, for a conversation about the biggest breakthroughs in pack technology, the importance of fit, and finding the perfect balance between ultralight construction, comfort, and durability. Plus, learn about major changes that Sears has made to the Z Pack, a weekender that's earned good reviews in Backpacker.

Live From the Wobble!

Img_19061_1 Associate Editor Shanon Davis reports live from the Wasach Wobble, in a conversation with Lisa Raleigh (of Trail Runner magazine fame) about the right gear for trail runners, her adventures in Nepal, and how to aim and throw horse poop.

August 11, 2006

What is in Ed Viestur's Closet?

Executive Editor Peter Flax chats with climber Ed Viesturs, the first American to summit every 8000 meter on the planet without supplemental oxygen. Among other things, Viesturs discusses his upcoming adventures: a new biography, his first attempt at the marathon, and a expedition up Everest's north face. And he promises to share what's in his gear closet.


The Best Hikes in the World?

Noted adventurer and author Peter Potterfield talks to Executive Editor Peter Flax about his beautiful new book (The Best Hikes in the World) and describes some of the most incredible trails he's ever hiked on.


Women's Gear On The Rise

Industry veteran and former Shape gear editor Kristin Carpenter-Ogden discusses the improvements in women's-specific gear with Backpacker editor Jonathan Dorn. Hear her stories about the early struggles for companies that wanted to make gear for the female form, plus boot, sleeping bag, and pack tips for female hikers and backpackers.P8110432_1

GoLite Founder Talks About The Latest In Ultralight

P8110430_1 Backpacker editor Jonathan Dorn talks with Demetri Coupounas, founder and president of GoLite, about advances in ultralight gear design and materials. Plus: the latest theories in shelter use and a look at GoLite's newest apparel product, an update of last year's Editors' Choice Award-winning Xirtam waterproof/breathable soft-shell jacket.

Skurka is on the Move

Executive Editor Peter Flax somehow convinces super-backpacker and Go Lite sponsored athlete Andrew Skurka to sit down for an interview. The accomplished fastpacker discusses a dizzying array of hiking adventures and explains why he just spent 15 minutes sweating on a treadmill.

Mike Lanza Tells All!

Northwest Editor Michael Lanza offers a sneak peak at the hottest new gear, discusses his upcoming epic hike on the John Muir Trail, and shares what he's learned about cornstarch.


The First Couple of Climbing

Img_18831 Superclimbers Tommy Caldwell and Beth Rodden sit down with Executive Editor Peter Flax to discuss the joy of breaking gear, the life-list trip they've never taken, and the last piece of equipment they bought for themselves.

Aron Ralston's Next Big Move

Img_18821 Executive Editor Peter Flax sits down with Aron Ralston, author of Between a Rock and a Hard Place, and discusses Ralston's now-famous accident, why he still climbs solo, his dream trip, and the reason why he keeps going back to Blue John Canyon.

25 years of climbing--and counting...

Img_18841 Backpacker Gear Editor Kristin Hostetter speaks with climbing legend Peter Whitaker of RMI Guides.

More pie, please

Macpacamp Associate Editor Shannon Davis chats with Brian Alder of Macpac and finds out how the New Zealand gear company's packs are built to lastImg_18791  and why pie is great for breakfast and dinner. That's right, pie.

August 10, 2006

How Green are Your Socks?

Img_18781 Southwest Editor Annette McGivney talks with Joel Anderson, president of Fox River, about how the sock industry is going green.

What's Cooking with Jetboil?

Executive Editor Peter Flax talks with Jetboil cofounder Dwight Aspinwall about what's hot in stoves and other segments of the outdoor industry.Img_18771

Big Agnes Interview

P8100427 P8100429 Northwest Editor Mike Lanza sits down with Bill Gamber of Big Agnes for a conversation about the hottest new gear.

On Everest's Summit--16 Times!

Img_18751 A conversation with Apa Sherpa, a legendary climber who has reached the summit of Mount Everest an incredible 16 times!

Running the Sahara

Img_18741 Endurance athlete Charlie Engle talks to Executive Editor Peter Flax about his upcoming 4000-mile run across the entire Sahara, the worthwhile cause he is running for, and how he balances the demands of hard-core expeditions with the responsibilities of a family and full-time job.

Welcome to Outdoor Retailer

Meet the seven editors from Backpacker who are attending the outdoor industry's biannual gear festival as they get ready to view thousands of new products being introduced by several hundred companies exhibiting here in Salt Lake City. You'll also hear stories about the editors' oddest moments at OR from a combined 100-plus years of experience at the world's biggest outdoor trade show.

August 09, 2006

Shoe Testing in Little Cottonwood Canyon

Img_18681 Img_18721 In this podcast, Backpacker associate editor Shannon Davis reports live from Little Cottonwood Canyon, a popular climbing and hiking area just outside of Salt Lake City. He joins La Sportiva on the eve of the Outdoor Retailer show to try new climbing, approach, and trail shoes. Learn how boot designers get ready for the year's biggest trade show, what's new this summer from La Sportiva, and -- drum roll, please -- the official pronunciation of what may be the outdoors' most mangled manufacturer name, Vibram.