SUP Adventures in the Alpine

Heather on Emerald Lake. Photo: Jason Gebauer

Heather on Emerald Lake. Photo: Jason Gebauer (http://www.jasongebauerphotography.com)

As if I needed just one more reason to play in the mountains, I’ve found it.

When Heather from Alpine SUP invited me along to Rocky Mountain National Park to paddle some of the popular lakes in that area, I was beyond excited! I spent a lot of time on the water as a kiddo. I’d take my grandpa’s windsurfing boards out, without the sail, and paddle around on the bay. I figured it would feel similar to do that just add 9,000′ in elevation, a slight change of scenery, and much colder water.

I was hoping that the first time I tried SUP it would be on a pretty mountain lake. This would surpass my expectations. I’m pretty sure Heather has taken the “pretty mountain lake” concept to the next level. She’s hiking close to 50 pounds of SUP gear and hiking/camping gear to high alpine lakes around Colorado.

Heather’s paddle board bag isn’t your typical hiking backpack either. SUPing alpine lakes hasn’t quite taken off, yet. The packs are made to get you from car to the nearest shoreline or lake, not for hiking long distance, especially uphill. Even with the handmade hip belt that Heather sewed on, the pack is still heavy and awkward.

Quick paddle before the storm blows in. Photo: Jason Gebauer (www.jasongebauerphotography.com)

Quick paddle before the storm blows in. Photo: Jason Gebauer (www.jasongebauerphotography.com)

We arrived late afternoon in Rocky Mountain National Park. The park rangers seemed okay with it, but asked us not to go in Bear Lake. We hiked up to the furthest lake first, Emerald Lake. I’ve never seen an alpine lake that wasn’t stunning, and Emerald’s views didn’t disappoint. Pretty quickly we could tell a storm was blowing in. Heather, myself, and their friend Adam took a quick paddle before we heard the first boom of thunder. After quickly deflating the board we hid under an overhanging boulder to wait out the storm.

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Paddling on Nymph Lake. Photo: Jason Gebauer (www.jasongebauerphotography.com)

We passed up Dream Lake (which would be an excellent SUP option) and headed for Nymph Lake. Heather offered the first paddle to me. Without impending storm clouds I got to experience just how relaxing paddle boarding could be. If it weren’t for cost, I’d have bought one the next day!

Alpine SUP appeals to me for the same reason climbing does these days. I want to be in the mountains, I want to see new and beautiful places, and I like the little extra challenge of getting there.

Go follow Heather’s adventures! Alpine SUP is on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

 

 

Hiking Handies Peak

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American Basin

The San Juans have done it again completely stolen my heart.

Handies Peak has been on my list of 14er hikes for a long time. It’s short, sweet, and best of all, located in the San Juan mountains my favorite.

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One of only a few photos that I actually took.

The long 4-wheel drive road is a lot like driving to Yankee Boy Basin in Ouray. We arrived in American Basin and I ran around frantically taking photos like the views and wildflowers might disappear by morning. We ate dinner, took more photos, and went to bed. At 2 am the alarms went off. Andrew snapped a few photos while I slowly got my gear together. We decided on an early start so we could catch the sunrise on the summit. Sunrise on a 14er summit has been on my “bucket list” for a while, and because Handies’ summit promised mountains as far as the eye can see and a well maintained trail to the top, we figured this should be the one.

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2 am in American Basin. Time to hike!

My body immediately rejected the early start. I felt sick. We joked that I should just never wake up early, because my body just wasn’t having it. I couldn’t eat or drink water, so the hike went slow. Andrew asked if I wanted to turn around, but I knew I didn’t. As overly safe as Andrew is, he did a quick assessment and then let me make the call. I knew it wasn’t altitude sickness and just an upset stomach, nothing totally uncommon for me. We made it to the summit with about 15 minutes to spare til sunrise. I was thankful that I hiked slowly, because sitting on the summit was chilly. I laid down and Andrew boiled water in a JetBoil. Hot tea never tasted so good!

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Taking in the views, just before sunrise

Maybe it was the tea or maybe just relaxing, but my stomach started feeling better. Despite low clouds, pinks and oranges started appearing in the sky. We didn’t think we’d see the sun due to the clouds, but we were content with the views anyway. A curious pika playing under Andrew’s camera bag distracted us, but suddenly I looked up to see a big bright ball in the sky. I squealed and pointed; Andrew grabbed his camera.

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curious pika

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Sunrise on Handies

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I couldn’t be happier that I got to see sunrise with this guy!

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We stayed on the summit just long enough to snap some more photos, have a mini dance party (that was just me), and eat a snack. As soon as we started down the trail I was blown away at what we had just hiked. A colorful alpine lake, streams, and wildflowers that never seemed to end made for the most enjoyable 14er descent I’ve ever experienced.

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wildflowers for days!

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I can’t call Handies my absolute favorite 14er (Sneffels still wins), but it easily wins the best views award.

Round trip: 5.5 miles

Vert gain: 2,500

Photos by Andrew Bradberry

 

 

Outdoor Research Sphinx Tank Review

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I’ll be honest, I own a lot of tank tops. And, I have a habit of only wearing a few of them over and over, while the others just sit at the bottom of the drawer. Before writing about the Outdoor Research Sphinx Tank, I had to really think about what made my favorite tanks, my favorite tanks. Most of them do a pretty solid job at wicking moisture, yet some still don’t make the cut. I think it comes down to two main things: material and fit. It’s hot here in Colorado. I want something light, breathable, and comfortable. The material should be tough enough to wear climbing and not get too clingy when I’m sweaty. A cute, flattering fit is definitely a bonus, and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t spent some money on workout tops based on looks.

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One of my new favorite running tanks.

The Sphinx tank is a mix of soft polyester and spandex fabric, so its stretchy, yet comfortable. That material is great for rock climbing, yoga, or running because it stays in place, and doesn’t ride up. It did a great job of wicking moisture and it was light enough for the 90+ degree days. Outdoor Research definitely made a good-looking top with the heathered color and pretty stitching pattern. It also has a cute design, located on the racerback. Besides having a flattering fit, the racerback ensures you won’t have to fiddle with each strap during activities like climbing or yoga.

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It has a tiny pocket on the back for stashing small items.

There were a few small issues that didn’t work well for my body type. I tested a small, and it fit perfectly, except it clung to my midsection a little more than I would have liked. I should note that I prefer a little extra space in the midsection, so sometimes I size up, it’s really just a personal preference. My other small issue was near the scoop neck. It got a little baggy (see top photo) and bunched up. Extra material that I can’t fill, maybe? It never dipped too low, but I did find myself constantly pulling it up.

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I tend to prefer more coverage than a shelf bra can offer so I always double-up and wear a bra too.

Just like pants, tops can be a tricky fit. Women come in different shapes and sizes and one top is just not going to fit each of us the same way. Take this review of the Sphinx by Dirtbag Darling, while I agree with everything she had to say, we both had different sizing issues and she found the top fit looser than many of her other shirts.

Despite a few minor sizing issues for my body type, I still really like this top. It’s functional with the added bonus of being really pretty. The Sphinx is one of the few shirts that I own that stays in place, and doesn’t ride up, while climbing. The racerback style gives me a great range of motion, and the material is really comfortable. This tank definitely won’t be shoved to the bottom of my tank top drawer anytime soon.

Weight: 5.5 oz

Price: $62.00

Outdoor Research Clearview Pants Review

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When shopping for gear, finding a pair of pants, that fit right, is the most challenging thing I face. I’m pretty sure many women would agree with me on this. Each of us have our issues: Too short, too tall, hips, no hips, the list goes on.

When the Outdoor Research Clearview Pants arrived at my door, I was pleasantly surprised about how well they fit. I still remained a little skeptical of how they would do outdoors. I’ve had plenty of pants that didn’t present any obvious issues until I got mid-climb or hike.

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The Clearview pants did great! Everything I was concerned about quickly faded after just a few wears. Here’s what I love most:

  • The material (cotton canvas + lycra)
  • Fits well under harness
  • Belt loops
  • Large pockets
  • Breathable

The material is my absolute favorite feature! It’s tough and stretchy, which is great while climbing, but it’s also incredibly comfortable. I was concerned that they would get super baggy (a battle I often have with my hiking/climbing pants), but they didn’t. They do stretch out a little, but not so much that I ever need a belt. Although I didn’t need a belt, I’m still glad to see belt loops, because drawstrings are just silly. Even with the temperatures bordering on the triple digits, I can still wear these pants, because the material is nice and  breathable. The large pockets are great for outdoor adventures. I’m constantly throwing snacks, my phone, and other gadgets in my pockets while I’m playing outside.

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At 5’7″ the length was perfect, but after one wash and dry, they did shrink a bit. More-so for all the women who are shorter or taller than me, I’d like to see OR offering different inseam sizes.

The Clearview pants are my new favorite pants for all of my outdoor adventures, especially climbing. I can’t promise they’ll fit you, as well as they fit me, but I would highly recommend checking them out!

Price: $79

Weight: 15.5 oz

Color: grey (charcoal) and brown (mushroom)

I tested the Clearview pants in the mushroom color, size 4. My pants size ranges between 4-6, and I’ve found OR pants usually fit me best in a size 4.

My Introduction to the Tetons

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It’s not often that one of your favorite trips of the year involves a work outing. And for that, I feel lucky.

When our office announced a staff trip to the AAC’s Grand Tetons Climbers’ Ranch, I was beyond excited. I’d never been to the Tetons before, but after staring at my share of photos, I knew it was going to be fun!

Wyoming is beautiful, just like everyone had always said. Driving into Jackson, I wished I had time more time to fly fish, climb, road bike, and explore.

We arrived at the Climbers’ Ranch in time to enjoy the evening. Wildflowers were blooming and people were gathered around the food shelter, sharing stories. After dinner we relaxed in the library, listening to music from an amazing violinist, just passing through on his way to Yellowstone. We discussed our plans to hike to Jackson Hole Mountain Guides’ high camp, in the morning.

The start to high camp. Photo: Adam Peters

The start to high camp. Photo: Adam Peters

We woke up and packed our gear. I debated how many layers to bring, fully expecting a night at nearly 11,000′ to be chilly. We wanted to wait until the snow softened and the weather looked ideal, so we got a later start then I’m used to.

The distance to JHMG’s high camp is only around five or six miles, but the vertical gain is around 4,000′, so it’s a long day. The views distracted me from the many switch backs we had to hike before hitting treeline. Above treeline, the hike quickly turned to snow. After a quick lunch break we prepared for the steep snow climb. I’ve climbed snow before, but nothing this steep.

Preparing for the steep snow climb. Photo: Adam Peters

Preparing for the steep snow climb. Photo: Adam Peters

The snow had softened nicely and the uphill snow climbing wasn’t so bad, especially with such a solid group. We made it up to camp in good time.

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Sunrise at high camp. Middle Teton across the way.

The views from camp were stunning. The entire evening the weather was perfectthe moon was nearly full, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and the wind never picked up. I would never have expected temperatures at 11,000′ to be so nice.

Heading up the first pitch of Fairshare Tower. Climbing class 5 in hiking boots was a new challenge! Photo: Jonny Griffith

Heading up the first pitch of Fairshare Tower. Climbing class 5 in hiking boots was a new challenge! Photo: Jonny Griffith

The next morning we discussed our options. The Grand was still very snowy and never on the agenda for the entire group. However, rock formations surrounding the camp were endless and offered climbing, free-of-snow. A few people climbed the Red Sentinel (which looks amazing!) and the rest of us split into groups and scrambled up 5 or 6 pitches on the Fairshare Tower. The ridgeline consists of low 5 and 4 class climbing on mostly solid rock. For most of it, we simul-climbed, so that we could move fast, and get back down. Being on a ridgeline that high in the alpine had me feeling exposed, and despite easy climbing, I couldn’t shake the feeling of being a little nervous the entire time. Even with the butterflies in my stomach, I couldn’t help but think about what my next trip in the mountains should be.

My coworker Lisa on Fairshare Tower

My coworker Lisa on Fairshare Tower

After some scrambling and a few rappels, we were back down to camp, and packing our bags. My body and mind were already tired from mentally pushing myself that day, and I wasn’t exactly excited for the hike back to the Ranch.

As we left camp, the clouds behind us began to build. The combination of not eating enough food, worrying about the storm, and struggling to figure out the plunge step, had me feeling panicked about the steep section. I was going to need assistance getting down. I felt embarrassed that I needed help, but recognized that hurting my pride was a lot better than hurting anything else, in the mountains. Besides, everyone starts somewhere, and I was lucky to have folks that could help me through it.

The storm blew over, with only a few sprinkles. Before we knew it we were back down in the trees. Just as I was starting to relax, we had an encounter with a small black bear. He was pretty indifferent about our off-pitch singing, yelling, and clapping, but eventually wandered off. We worried more that his mom might be nearby, but never saw her.

Not so great shot of our little bear friend.

Not so great shot of our little bear friend.

That evening, at the Climbers’ Ranch, we had a BBQ and laughed about a game of trivia. For such a quick trip, it was packed-full of adventure. It opened up my eyes to new alpine experiences and pushed me both physically and mentally. Most of my experience going downhill on snow, is on skis, so I look forward to taking the skis off and honing my skills on snow travel. Alpine climbing has always intimidated me, but I think that’s healthy. I’d like to gather more experience and head back to the Tetons with Andrew, someday!

 

ThunderShirt Review

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When I saw chatter about the ThunderShirt on Twitter, I quickly jumped in. “Does that thing work?” I asked. Enough folks said yes that I bought one for Bradley, immediately.

Bradley is a relatively calm dog, with some seriously strange anxiety. It’s hard watching your pup get scared and not knowing how to help him. The main reason we purchased the ThunderShirt was to help Bradley with his fear of fireworks and thunder. Second to that, we wanted to try it out on some of other fears. Bradley is terrified of flies. He also has a touch of separation anxiety.

When the ThunderShirt arrived we read all the directions carefully and made sure to follow the rules. It’s hard not to throw it on your dog and see if it works! We started by putting it on him during his favorite moments, like right before he ate, or if he was just lying around relaxing. He was a little uneasy about the velcro noise the shirt makes, but as soon as I got it on him he was fine with it.

After a while, we decided to put the ThunderShirt to the test. If we knew a storm was blowing in, or I knew I would be leaving the house I’d put it on him, before the anxiety started.

Continue reading

Outdoor Research Echo Hoody Review

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Cleanin’ gear before work in Clear Creek Canyon.

When Outdoor Research (OR) asked me to be part of the #ORInsightLab crew again, I of course said yes. It’s really darn cool when a big company like OR wants a normal gal like me to test their gear! Even though I have the chance to test gear on a regular basis, I still feel like a kid on Christmas day, when products arrive at my door. I immediately want to throw the gear on and go, everywhere, so I can to see how it performs.

Of the five products I received from OR, the Echo Hoody has been one of my favorites, because it’s so versatile. I’ve used it for basic stuff like chilly days in the office, protecting my skin when I’m outside gardening, and for bigger adventures like: running, fishing, camping, climbing, and hiking.

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Wearing the Echo Hoody during snow travel on a warm day in the Tetons. (I’m the second to last hiker) Photo: Adam Peters

This past week, I brought the Echo Hoody on one of my biggest adventures yet, to the Tetons. I spent two days pushing my body both mentally and psychically, and for those two days I wore the Echo Hoody. Pushing myself in the Tetons is reserved for its own blog post, coming soon. The point is, when pushing limits in the outdoors you can not afford to wear crappy gear. My tiny adventures made me trust the Echo Hoody, and by the time I took it on this big adventure, I knew it was a solid piece of gear.

Before digging into the Echo Hoody’s performance, it’s worth looking at the features:

  • Wicking, quick drying material
  • Sun protection: UPF 15+
  • Small hip pocket
  • A hood with a ponytail hole
  • Polygiene to reduce odor
  • Foldover hand warmer cuffs

The features are impressive for something that only weighs in at 4.5 oz. My absolute favorite little feature is the foldover hand warmer cuffs. If I could include these on every long sleeve shirt/jacket I own, I would. I bet wiping out with your hands in your shirt is not recommended, so I used them only while sitting around camp, waiting to climb, and on paved runs. Because I find myself with cold hands all the time, I preferred the foldover cuffs to typical thumb holes.

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Foldover hand warmer cuffs? Yes please!

The ponytail hole in the hood is a pretty great idea too; but I haven’t had a reason to take advantage of it, yet. The hood itself is loose and does not tighten down, so even with your ponytail in the hole, the hood easily blows off, if not held on by a helmet or hat.

What I love most about this hoody is also my biggest complaint — the material. The hoody is so light and fast drying. Thanks to how small it is, it easily fits in the side pocket of my backpack or stuffs down in the pack, without adding much weight. While climbing a steep snow field on a warm day, I really appreciated the UPF protection and fast wicking material. It helped protect my skin from the harsh sun, and never got too wet, despite how sweaty I was. The Echo Hoody fits my body shape really well. It has a flattering fit, while still loose enough to layer under. It feels silky and comfortable on my skin, and it’s long enough that it doesn’t rid up my waist when I’m climbing—Yay!

The material is great, but it does have a few drawbacks. When I first wore the hoody I kept snagging the light material on my fingernails and got concerned that it might not be too durable. However, while rock climbing and scrambling, it has held up just fine. Go figure, right? I’m okay with a few silly snags, because that’s probably more of a sign that my fingernails need some love rather than how tough the material is. My biggest issue with the Echo Hoody is how stinky the material gets. Whether I’m on a run or wearing it nonstop for two days of sweaty climbing in the Tetons, it can become one very bad-smelling polyester top, very fast. The Polygiene doesn’t seem to be the solution to preventing stink. So far, it has not become permanently stinky, and after washing it with a little vinegar, it’s as good as new. (One a side note: If you haven’t tried washing your stinky synthetic tech gear in vinegar go do it, right now!)

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I love the Echo hoody for climbing in chilly temps!

Despite some stink, I really love this hoody and will continue to wear it. Synthetic materials are known to get a little stinky, yet people keep using it, because it works. When playing outside, what’s really important is how well a product performs. After all, if you’re working hard, or playing in the mountains for a couple days, everything is bound to get a little smelly, anyway. The Echo Hoody didn’t miss a beat when I needed it most, and that makes it one of my favorite technical pieces.

And, don’t worry, I’ll take it off before I share a tent with you.

Price: $59.00

Check out the OR Echo Hoody for yourself! Not quite convinced? Read Dirtbag Darling’s review of the Hoody.