Let me take you to a place where there are more fish than people, where every campsite has a lakeside view and a swarm of mosquitos takes on a whole new meaning. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) is located in the most Northern reaches of Minnesota. Where regulations restrict motorized boats, there are no roads and the basic luxuries of a campsite latrine and fire ring provide primitive access while protecting the pristine environment. The regulations go so far as to allow no more than four canoes and nine people to gather at any time. This is wilderness.
This week I’m going to talk about my time in Southern Peru last September where I ran a fourth class river and soaked in hot springs at the bottom of one of the deepest canyons in the world.
“What food should I take into the backcountry?” is a frequent question among novice backpackers. Us frequent backcountry travelers often get into a funk of the same foods that work for us, but still run into specific cases where we reconsider what we are optimizing for: weight, volume, tastiness, comfort, preparation time or price. In this post I’m going to crunch some data to better understand which foods are best for certain situations and offer my own advice from over 100 days in the backcountry.
I happened upon the Convict Lake area on my birthday backpacking trip up to Mt. Baldwin in 2016. The area is an amazing Eastern Sierra setting with two notable peaks (Morrison and Laurel) within a mile of the parking lot and an amazing remote basin several miles back. In this trip we were to follow the East Slope Variation route to ascend the chute between Mini Morrison and Mt. Morrison, ski down the chute, camp and then the next day ski out via the East Slope route. (map)
Last weekend with snow pouring on the Sierra all week EVERYONE was going out skiing, but I wasn’t going to get stuck in Tahoe traffic or waiting in a lift line. No, ten extra feet of snow at Lassen Volcanic National Park meant we were going out for three day backcountry ski adventure where we would sleep in snow caves and ski down untouched powder in low avalanche conditions.
Its that time of the year where you have some time to peel away from work and find time to read a book during the long dark evenings. I thought a lot about the popularity of Wild last spring and earlier A Walk in the Woods as representing backpacking and outdoor culture to the mainstream. I think its great to inspire people, but something rubbed me the wrong way about the romanticism of being unprepared. Disillusioned by the disregard of Leave No Trace in “A Walk in the Woods” I never got around reading “Wild” myself. Why read a book about an outsider to the woods when I could read about adventures of those well versed in wilderness. So, if you are looking for a good read I highly recommend these books which tell a much more relatable story for all of us explorers out there.
After a mile on trail I again disengaged straight in the direction of a pass. Crossing a flat basin and then climbing consistently higher towards a single prominent glacial clad mountain.
The Cordillera Huayhuash is regarded by some as the second best trek in the world. It brings you through remote, majestic 20,000+ ft peaks capped by large gleaming glaciers rushing into the turquoise alpine lakes. Then at night you camp in alpine basins, losing yourself in awe of the high andes landscape.
Most people complete this 8-14 day trek using a guide and donkeys, but spiritually I believe (like these people) self-sufficiency is an important part of the wilderness experience so I went solo and unsupported. Not content with the already difficult Huayhuash circuit, I pushed this trip further, driving myself to spend most days off trail or on the alpine circuit using a quality map and guide book. As a result, I spent my 73 mile route constantly above 14,000 ft, climbing over five 16,000 ft passes, and racking up 28,000 ft of elevation by the end of my eight days.
Alastair Humphreys is the true modern day adventurer who crosses deserts by foot and rows across the Atlantic. It goes without saying he is an amazing inspiration to myself as an explorer. For some time I’ve been thinking how I can bring his concept of micro adventures (bringing adventure into our every day lives and making it more approachable) into a normal week. I started the process this summer by sleeping outside in the hammock in my backyard some nights and now regularly skipping a tent in the backcountry. However, what I really wanted was to bring that backcountry adventure into my daily life…
I was invited to do one of the hardest backpacking trips in the lower 48: The Caribou Scramble is 26 miles with a massive 13k elevation gain. However it was kind of hard figuring out the actual route so we misidentified and embarked on this Caribou Figure Eight that even Summit Post suggested. Combining it with a class three Caribou rim traverse our trip was still a respectable 22 mile, 7k elevation gain trip with a warm (rare) alpine lake swim and plenty of granite scrambles.