“In an effort that could go down as one of the great feats in polar history, the American Colin O’Brady, 33, covered the final 77.54 miles of his 921-mile journey across Antarctica in one last 32-hour burst during which, without sleeping a wink, he became the first person ever to traverse Antarctica from coast to coast solo, unsupported and unaided by wind.”- NY Times
A team of Poland’s most elite climbers just launched an attempt to scale one of the deadliest mountains on Earth—a feat no one has accomplished. The Polish team has been preparing for almost two years, purchasing the best climbing equipment and hiring a supplemental team of weather forecasters, dietitians, sports trainers, and doctors.
They encompass the world’s best climbers and is overseen by renowned Polish climber Krzysztof Wielicki. The 67-year-old made headlines in 1980, when he became the first person to climb Mount Everest in winter. He has led three winter expeditions to different peaks on K2, but never to its tallest point.
Check out the award winning book about Polish climbers specializing in winter Himalayan ascents : Freedom Climbers by Bernadette McDonald. This book won the following awards:
2012 American Alpine Club Literary Prize (USA)
2011 Munday Award, Banff Mountain Festival (CANADA)
2011 Boardman Tasker Prize, Kendal Mountain Festival (UNITED KINGDOM)
Here are my two previous blog posts ( 2008) about Polish ascents of the winter giants:
I just unpacked my 4 person SeekOutside tipi for shoulder and winter season heated tenting.
Don Kivelus of Four Dog Stove is crafting me a tiny custom titanium airtight wood stove for the tent. The total weight of the tipi/stove/stovepipe should come in at around 10 pounds, and will sleep two very comfortably with the stove in use. I plan to use it on winter fat tire bike trips, fall and spring canoe trips, and on winter toboggan hauling trips either solo or with 1 other person sharing the tent.
Composed of a floorless ripstop nylon tipi and utilizing wood-burning titanium stoves, the Seek Outside Hot Tent allows you to carry a heated shelter into the back country.
Exiting the car in the iced-over parking lot on Friday afternoon I decided to leave my Stabilicer traction devices in the vehicle.
My brother Roy was already walking on the multi-purpose trail and he shouted over, “No ice here” so in they went. I hate carrying extra weight and with all the pierogis, kielbasa, and my 8 person car-camping cook set bloating my pack I was well into 30 plus pounds on my back. Stabilicers would have helped this weekend.
I started humping up the big hill. Auntie Mame was walking beside me, decked out in her rain poncho. My brother Roy was up ahead, as he was for most of the weekend’s hikes.
Less than a half-mile up the hill, we encountered the two lead hikers in our party, Kristi and David Kirkham, who love their granddaughter’s baby carriage so much that they use it any chance that they can !
It was alternately sleeting and raining, so the following 9 miles were a slush walk.
Walking in cold rain at under 40 degrees is a setup for hypothermia. Once again, I was slightly under dressed: two thin merino undershirts- one short and one long sleeved, and a ratty, old Patagonia Specter rain shell holding it all together. In these conditions, I have to have something covering my hands. Today, the fix was waterproof mitten shells with felted wool mittens liners.
Who cares? We are staying in a cabin heated by a wood stove. Wet clothes will be dried out. Miles were traveled. Old friends are also with me.
After we dropped off our packs at the shelter, I accompanied Auntie Mame out to the alternate parking lot.
We were bringing in the last member of our overnight party. Both of us decided to accompany Ann Breyfogle on her walk in to join us.
Those two ladies had no problem walking up yet another big hill and making a couple of more miles as the foggy evening light started to fade.
For me, this weekend was also about hiking, and my plan for Saturday was to roll the walking odometer over into double digits for the day. I am fortunate enough to still have people who not only want to do this with me, but have the ability to make it happen.
Ann, Pat Hurley, and my brother Roy joined me. Here is a photo taken at the today’s high point atop Mt. Megunticook.
Unfortunately there are no views from the summit so we descended on the often icy Ridge Trail.
We quickly reached the highly popular Ocean Lookout.
From here we descended to the junction of the Jack Williams Trail, which we followed for two miles where we came back onto the Ridge Trail. I showed the group a short cut that eliminated a dangerously icy incline at the start of Zeke’s, which we took back to the Multipurpose Trail and the end of our day’s hike. Here’s the morning’s Strava data:
The 5.5 mile hike took us two hours, which was super good time for the often icy path. After an afternoon of reading, sleeping, and gabbing, Roy, Pat and I decided to take a night hike up to the top of Bald Rock Mountain. Here are Pat and Roy, just before the sun left u in darkness.
Kristi told us the moon rise over the Atlantic would not happen until 10:30 PM. She was absolutely correct. Although the starlight was astounding, we did need headlamps on the way down off Bald Rock and back to our shelter, where we added another 5 miles to our tally for the day.
Despite the crappy weather getting in on Friday, the weekend was a huge success. If any of you know Ann, ask her about Uncle Tom’s uncanny ability to psychically locate lost car keys, including her’s. I’d also like to thank John Bangeman for his Saturday visit, and a huge shout out to Martha Conway-Cole for guiding Pat and the rest of us through a most excellent, best ever, Saturday morning breakfast.
Tim Smith has launched a video series focusing on key aspects of best practices for not only survival, but what I call “thrival” in the northern winter forests. This video lays out your two choices: cold/dry, and cold/wet scenarios. It is a good review for me.
I am planning a few days of camping in Acadia this coming week, and the forecast three days out looks like I will be living in the cold/wet setup.
I’m back in Fairlee, Vermont to attend my favorite annual gathering of the year, The Snow Walker’s Rendezvous. The event consistently attracts 100 fans of winter foot travel, be it walking, hiking, snowshoeshoeing, or skiing. It runs from Friday night to Sunday morning. I have been attending for over 15 years.
Friday night’s program kicked off with two of presentations that focused on winter backcountry skiing expeditions of 4-10 days duration in Quebec, specifically the Groulx Mountains, just north of the Manic 5 dam that is located several hour’s travel north of the St. Laurence River. That area is totally unique in that a map displays a perfect circle of blue water just above the gigantic dam, a geographic feature that was created millions of years ago when a asteroid hit the earth there.
The first two presentations took place in the deep winter of Quebec, Cacada!
Number one was by a two young folks who were in group of five that spent 10 days in the winter wilderness. Their trip was totally self-supported. One of the speakers was Andy Staudinger. The other was Emily Hughes. In 2008, Andy skied the length of Vermont, built a voyager canoe, and then paddled the length of Vermont, and managed to portage the boat and all the team’s gear back to base camp at Kroka Expeditions.
The second presentation was from Don Tedstone ( Quebec ): “Winter Travel in Les Monts Groulx“ Don has 7 successive years of 10 day winter trips to the same area. He is an advocate of “hot camping”, and shared stories and photos of the trips and his expertise in building his own silicone-coated nylon tent and stainless steel stove and stovepipe to heat the tent.
Here is a picture of the tent the Don designed and made himself.
The featured attraction of the evening was Tim Smith’s humorous and candid review of his experience on what turned out to be the final episode of The Discovery Channel’s “Dude, You’re Screwed” survival show.
Tim is the founder of the Jack Mountain Bushcraft School, and is a Registered Master Maine Guide.
Tim enlightened us with the fact that the 1 hour show was composed of actual events, staged events, and trumped-up drama. The show is set up to be a game, where the contestant (Tim) is kidnapped and then helicoptered away to a very remote wilderness area (Northern Norway) above the Arctic Circle. The copter leaves Tim with one cameraman (who provided him with no direct assistance) and a small pile of assorted gear. The on-screen clock then started down from 100 hours, the amount of time Tim was allotted to reach civilization.
Parts of the drama of the show were believable, like disorientation of Tim’s sleep cycle cues. Tim deduced that he was above the Arctic Circle, due to the fact that the sun never set. However, without a watch, there was no way that Tim knew when to sleep. His first sleep occurred close to 24 hours of being moving and awake. This introduced the dramatic element of Tim habitually dropping off to sleep, even while he was keeping his makeshift coracle (primitive boat) upright while he was careening down a rapids-filled river.
For those of you who have no subscription to the Discovery Channel, here’s a YouTube link to the episode that I just found that is currently active. These clips go offline quickly, until someone puts them up again, so if you would like to be thoroughly entertained for 45 minutes, check it out right away.
Day one here was as good as I hoped for tomorrow should be even better.
Nuts and bolts:
Meals & Lodging: Simple lodging is available at the Hulbert Outdoor Center. Cozy 3-4 bedroom heated cabins provide comfortable accommodations. (As well as your tent!) Meals are served buffet style in dining hall. The Center is located on Lake Morey, and is easily accessible from I-91.
Program registration -$60; student/limited income-$45. Registrations accepted until program is full.
Meals & lodging packages are available for the weekend (Fri. Dinner through Sun. Breakfast, 3-4 occupancy/room)
Commuter & tent rates available
If you want to experience a most interesting weekend in Vermont next year (November 11-13, 2016), then ask to be put on the mailing list so that you won’t be left out in the cold- Mailing your request toLynn_Daly@alohafoundation.org
In this brief video, Don and I discuss our mutual upbringing in farm families, the lack of spontaneous outdoor play in many communities, and my impressions about a most enjoyable weekend and meeting new friends while learning skills and techniques for enjoying the outdoors in all seasons.
I am very pumped to finally experience Master Maine Guide Kevin Slater in action. Kevin and his partner Polly Mahoney are MGS.
Kevin’s been a Maine Guide for forty years. In his early years as a climber, Kevin guided trips up Denali. MGS is now known throughout the world for guiding dog-sledding trips in Maine and in Northern Canada. Part of the mission is carrying on the bloodlines of the Athabascan sled dogs from the Yukon Territories. There are 42 dogs here.
It got noisy, really fast, when I pulled up in the pitch black dark here last night. The deep howls were truly wilding.
Tonight, Kevin kicked off the teaching with a slide show that conveyed winter knowledge, featuring Inuit and Innu Natives in scenes from northern Quebec, all the way up to Baffin Island, above the Arctic Circle. It was a show and tell that focused on acclimatizing to the cold. We also went deep into dressing appropriately for winter conditions.
As in backpacking, the name of the game in surviving and even thriving in the deep cold is moisture management. I learned a lot tonight, and especially appreciated the winter footwear segment, where a half dozen different types of winter boots were laid out in front of the group (there are four “paid sports”, and three apprentices attending) and discussed in detail, pro and con. I was impressed with the insulating layers exposed in a cross-section of a “ mouse boot”, a thick, off-white, rubber survival boot that is generally available through army surplus outfits. They have a few of them out here.
Scott Oeth, from Wisconsin, is attending. I enjoyed hanging out with Scott when I was presenting at the Winter Skills Symposium in Wisconsin this past October. Scott is also a Maine Guide, gets outdoors a lot and maintains Bull Moose Patrol, one of the better outdoor adventure blogs.
You’d think that the “wet-is-here” cut point would be 32 degrees. Winter moisture all about preserving body heat- via insulating and wicking off moisture, however, that critical decision point comes in around 25 degrees. At that point there’s a clear line where things are going to get wet- where sweating from exertion and wicking from snow makes it’s presence. This is where we discussed whether wool/ down or synthetics like fleece and pile.
It’s a top notch facility here. We are spending night one on the third floor of The Lodge, a relatively new building in the MGS compound. We have got a big radiant Defiant wood stove, braided rugs, and exposed post and beam rafters all around us.
There are separate bunk rooms with showers for men and women and all our meals are cooked right here in the main room.
Here’s the view out the window looking north toward Grafton Notch. That’s where we’re going to be heading for a couple of nights in the deep woods.
Just in time for holiday gifting. Consider an immediate purchase of the grandaddy/grandmummy reference of old-school traditional warm comfort in the winter camping.
This book has been out of print ( again ) for several years now, but is back and available untilo it sells out again. I recently re-read the book (I have a couple of my own treasured inscribed copies) and discovered additional material that I’ve somehow overlooked or breezed over on past readings.
You won’t find this Fourth edition on Amazon, but it’s now available from one of the authors: Snow Walker’s Companion : Winter Camping Skills for the North, written by Garrett & Alexandra Conover
Paperback – 288 pages, 32 full-color pages, from Stone Ridge Press.
From the North Woods Ways Web site:
“Snow Walker’s Companion is a guide to comfortable winter camping using tried and true traditional equipment and native skills. The Conovers show us how to sleep warm, travel safe and enjoy the white season. Guides in Maine and Labrador for over 30 years, Garrett and Alexandra have learned not only how to survive in the North in winter, but to thrive. They share their little known secrets in an easy–to–read conversational manner.
-Learn how to stay warm in extreme temperatures
-Tips on reading lake and river-ice conditions
-Practical advice on setting up tents & stoves
-Choosing the right footwear and clothing
-How to pick the best snowshoes for you
-Common sense psychology for the trail
BONUS! A 32–page color insert on Garrett & Alexandra’s epic 350 mile snowshoe trip across Ungava, Quebec. Excerpts from their journals are highlighted with photos from the expedition.
If you would like it inscribed to someone, send the name(s) along. You can pay via PayPal. Remember to include your shipping address. Checks may be made out to:
North Woods Ways
2293 Elliottsville Road
Willimantic, ME 04443
In the meantime, if you can’t wait for your own copy and want to learn more about the specific techniques that are detailed by the Conovers, check out this recent blog post from Paul Kirtley, entitled How to Live in A Heated Tent . Paul runs Frontier Bushcraft, a wilderness bushcraft school, offering bushcraft courses and wilderness expeditions. Paul’s photos and text hits a lot of the highlights of just how heated tent winter camping works in the UK, which is strikingly familiar to how it works here in the USA and Canada.
If you decide to get your own copy of the Snow Walker’s Companion, tell Garrett that Uncle Tom sent you.
Last weekend, I attended the Snow Walker’s Rendezvous in Vermont .
I experienced the weekend through a new lens-through the eye of a newly Registered Maine Guide. Other Maine Guides were in attendance, including Master Maine Guide Tim Smith, and another new friend I made at the weekend, Portland-based Lou Falank.
I really enjoyed hanging out with Tim on Saturday night.
Tim Smith has been finding his way into the conter of the bushcraft/backwoods survival skills spotlight for some time now. He developed and continues to run his Jack Mountain Bushcraft School, the highly respected Maine-based ” University of Outdoor Skills” . Tim’s long-term immersion programs are the longest and most comprehensive bushcraft, survival and guide training courses in North America.
What’s bushcraft? The JMB website explains: ‘Bushcraft is the active component of our interaction with the natural world. Both art and science, bushcraft is doing, making, crafting, traveling, building and living in the natural world. It is an inclusive term for doing things outdoors and is composed of activities such as, but not limited to, primitive skills, modern survival, classic camping, expeditionary skills, prepping, hiking, paddling, crafting and outdoor living, as well as more specialized disciplines such as hunting, fishing and trapping. Bushcraft has no political agenda or worldview, isn’t about preparing for the end of the world, and isn’t an “ism”. It is made up of people of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds who share a love for being active outdoors.’
Now Tim’s going to be on our living-room or palm-based screens in upcoming episodes of Dude, You’re Screwed on the Discovery Channel. Tim’s episode should be entertaining us before 2015 rolls around, sometime in early December. Stay tuned for more details.
The normally bushcraft-distant New York Times gave considerable column length to the show in their Dec. 20, 2013 review : “Dude, You’re Screwed” centers on five men, most with advanced military training, who take turns running gauntlets designed for them by the others. Episodes open with essentially a staged rendition — the mark is kidnapped, hooded and bound at the wrists, then spirited off to who knows where. Unhooded, he’s left to fend for himself with just a handful of tools provided by the team. (As for suspension of disbelief, wouldn’t the participants know their destination when they’ve presumably gone through passport control?)
While the contestant in the game — all the men refer to it as “the game,” though there’s no prize — makes his way through various struggles, the other four men observe him remotely, and sometimes say grim things like “Moisture kills out here.”
But more often, their mood is light. Its like the home run contest before the All-Star Game, an essentially meaningless display of skills where titans watch one another show off. But the casual mood also serves to take the edge off the very real struggle of the man in the wild. I want to see this show, but I don’t subscribe to the Discovery Channel. If tell you when it’s on, can someone help me see it?
I also had a great time talking with Lou Falnak.
Lou runs his Mountain Bear Programs and Guide Service.
Lou has provided programs as a director, instructor, and co-facilitator at camps & schools across Maine, New York, and Pennsylvania. He’s a Registered Maine Guide. His L.O.S.T.(Learning Outdoor Survival Techniques) Program specializes in bringing youth from a wide variety of backgrounds into the outdoors to learn skills and experience community. He’s making a difference in the lives of children in the Portland area, bringing after-school bush-crafting skills to the next generation.
Lou and I hit it off. We’ll get together in the near future, after Thanksgiving, to do something together in the outdoors.
I was recruited to kick off the weekend at Friday night’s whole group meeting ( the event cuts off at 100 registrants) with a half hour reading from my blog. This was old school, no iPhoto or Powerpoint, just one guy trying to entertain the faithful by reading a half-hour story of an actual deep winter adventure in the Maine woods.
I read about my one-week walk across the frozen Moosehead and Seboomook Lakes. Here’s the link to the talk- this time there are photos and three video clips –The Great Slush Walk of 2009.
I plan to include at least one more entry about the weekend.