The Cleanest Line

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    Hard Sayin' Not Knowin'

    2_DSC_0189_2 The boxes had started to stack up around my desk, but they weren’t addressed to me. “c/o Kate Rutherford” was acquiring quite a stash of stuff, and when she and Mikey Schaefer finally rolled up in their basecamp-on-wheels to Patagonia HQ one sunny Southern California morning, all the pieces started to fall into place. Mikey’s Sprinter van, a vehicle now synonymous with the climbing new-school of luxury vagabond living, was pimped to the nines with all the essentials – full bed, full kitchen, swiveling seats, skylights, ample storage and a cabinet custom built for loading a 12-pack of Tecate.

    [Kate Rutherford following an exciting mixed traverse on the ninth pitch of what would become Hard Sayin' Not Knowin'. Aguja Guillaumet, Patagonia, Argentina. Photo: © Mikey Schaefer]

    The plan was to park it, unload the contents into a grip of duffels and haulbags, and travel from L.A. to Patagonia for six weeks of climbing objectives. It was several days before their flight took off from LAX, so we did our best to fill their stomachs with good food, their company with good friends and their spirits with moral support … and red wine. Mikey and Kate would soft-spokenly discuss their objectives when prodded about it, but ultimately they were looking for a great experience and “to get up something". Knowing their talent, I knew it wouldn’t take long for them achieve this. I handed over our latest prototypes for testing, told them to keep an eye out for our other ambassadors in the range - Nico Favresse and Sean Villanueva – and with big hugs sent them on their way. Depending on what your definition of “home” is, Mikey and Kate were either leaving it behind with the Sprinter, finding it in the mountains ahead, or experiencing it with one another.

    Well, I was right; it didn’t take long. Earlier this week I got a good-news message from a very happy birthday-girl informing me that she and Mikey had already established a new route on Guillaumet. “Seriously!?” I could hardly believe it. Kate gave the nod of approval for us to run her trip report up the Cleanest Line flag pole, and in the images and text here, I think we can agree that this new route lives up to this blog’s namesake – or perhaps it’s the other way around? And don’t forget, their trip in Patagonia has only just begun, and there’s got to be good weather on the horizon …

    Two mornings ago I dreamt my way across the glacier, trying not to faceplant falling asleep walking. At 4:30 in the morning we sat on our packs, finally back at the base of Guillaumet after finishing a new route. We ate some cheese and salami, drank a bit of slushy water and decided we would name it Hard Sayin' Not Knowin'.

    Continue reading "Hard Sayin' Not Knowin'" »

    Backyard Adventures - Delmarva Surf Hunt

    Kayak prep From the frosty summits of Rocky Mountain National Park, to the sultry sea of the eastern shore, our Backyard Adventurers are taking us on a grand tour of some of some true surprises. Grab a brew, pull up a chair, and enjoy as Mark Carter takes us along on his hunt for secret mid-Atlantic surf:

    The DelMarVa Peninsula is not high on the list of adventure in many folks' minds. People often skirt the area on interstates heading to New England or south toward warmer waters, but DelMarVa has a few secret spots if you're willing to look for them. There are 18 essentially uninhabited islands along the southern coast of the peninsula and numerous inlets offer huge potential for uncrowded and perfect waves. All you need is a keen sense for swell forecasting, some paddle power, and a fair bit of patience. If you explore these spots enough, you're bound to score. NOTE: Although this trip described proved unfruitful in the way of waves, one member of the party recently reaped the benefits of our earlier recon and enjoyed a little pre-Christmas gift this December in the way of fun waves with only three guys out.

    Remember what Bilbo used to say: "It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

     The Coast Guard vessel motored up along side of our kayaks; the young coastie said "You know there are severe thunderstorms today?"

    "Yeah, we know." 

    Tidal currents, firm headwinds, potentially infectious insects, and three venturesome friends in surfboard-laden kayaks were the main ingredients needed for some Delmarva-based adventure gumbo.

    There are 18 barrier islands ranging 60 miles from the Maryland/Virginia border to the tip of Cape Charles where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. The plan was simple: Strap surfboards to the kayaks, stuff camping gear in the dry hatches, and paddle out to one of these islands in search of potential surf.

    [All photos courtesy, Tom Ferebee collection]

    Continue reading "Backyard Adventures - Delmarva Surf Hunt" »

    The Year of Big Ideas 2009: Mr. Smart Goes Big

    The_year_of_big_ideas_2009Once again, The Dirtbag Diaries kicks off the new year with a podcast full of inspiration for a fun and rewarding 2009. Show host Fitz Cahall sets the stage:

    Rangi Smart was riding a small spur of his favorite single-track trail when he stumbled upon a perfectly designed mountain bike jump. A platform of two by fours and plywood launched a rider outward and 20-feet down the steep hillside. It was the kind of thing Rangi had only seen pro riders stomp on mountain bike videos.

    The 33-year-old math teacher thought to himself, “What kind of nut-job rides off something like that?”

    Then Rangi imagined that he was that nut-job

    We can bide our time, wait patiently for our chance to shine, but more often than not, the moment chooses us. It’s our job to answer. Here’s to another year of big ideas, another year of slaying giants, bearing down, not giving up, chasing daylight, paddling in and fostering change.  We bring you the hopes, dreams and goals of professional athletes, regular joes, parents, soldiers and students.  Here’s to the dirtbags. Here’s to Mr. Smart.

    Audio_graphic_20px Listen to The Year of Big Ideas 2009 (mp3 - 19:45 - right-click to download)

    Fitz is always looking for great stories to feature on the podcast. If you're a climber, skier, surfer, activist or anybody who can't get enough of being outside, consider sharing your story at

    'ppreciate the Props

    Patagonia_PETA_Proggy Just wanted to take a moment to express our gratitude to those who've recognized Patagonia recently:

    • Merci to Communication Arts for making the Tin Shed their site of the week.
    • Gracias to PETA for awarding Patagonia Footwear a Proggy award for the Best Outdoor Vegan Shoe Retailer.
    • Mahalo to the users of the outdoor social media site for voting Patagonia the Gear Maker of the Year and best Clothing for 2008.
    • Arigato to National Geographic Adventure for inducting Rick Ridgeway, Patagonia's VP of Environmental Programs, into their Best of Adventure Hall of Fame.

    Our thanks for these acknowledgments extends to you. Whether it's customers, blog readers, or what-have-you, Patagonia supporters are what make things like this possible.

    Backyard Adventures: The Thin Curtain

    1_mt_meeker Gather 'round the virtual campfire friends. It's time for another Backyard Adventure from The Cleanest Line masses. This time, reader Doug Shepherd has a story to share about ice climbing near his home in Colorado:

    I have been climbing in Rocky Mountain National Park since I moved to Colorado five years ago, slowly gaining the confidence and familiarity that come with climbing in my backyard. Over that time I have learned the history, forged amazing bonds, experienced more failures than successes and developed an infatuation with climbing ice.

    [The North Face of Mt. Meeker. All photos courtesy of the Doug Shepherd collection]

    The ice climbs in the Park can be fickle and intimidating. Almost as intimidating is the tradition of amazing locals constantly pushing the boundaries, generation after generation. Earlier this fall, a line formed on the north face of Mt. Meeker that I had never seen before. I had heard rumors of climbs in this area, but never seen anything myself and wondered if this was another “hardman” line. I called a friend and we had a leisurely start on the Longs Peak trail, anxious to see what the mountain had in store for us.

    Continue reading "Backyard Adventures: The Thin Curtain" »

    State Budget Cuts Kill Organic Support

    NVGrown Here in Nevada, we're getting ready to go on a diet. It's a common New Year's resolution, so perhaps that's what Governor Jim Gibbons was thinking when he announced the state's dramatically trimmed budget this January. For the first time in 35 years, the governor has proposed a budget that is smaller than the preceding year's.

    But this isn't your garden-variety fiscal diet. No sir. This diet is going to hit Nevada citizens right in their bellies, for it's about to eliminate our ability to buy locally grown organic produce.

    While budget cuts are old news at this point, Gibbons is earning his attention for doing things like carving 15% from K-12 education, and 36% from the university system. And his most recently revealed cut is a death blow to the state organic certification program. Nevada's organic program--signed into law in 1997--has created a consistent industry for the state. Prior to 1997, a Nevada farmer would have to obtain organic certification from an out-of-state agency. This was highly cost-prohibitive, and thus, Nevada agriculture floundered in a sea of industrially grown alfalfa. Since the creation of the organic program, farmer's markets featuring a wide range of organic growers--once unheard-of in the Silver State--now appear in 26 different locations. This is remarkable in a state with only two major metropolitan centers and the country's least rainfall. Nevada-grown produce has become feature for restauranters, and a draw for businesses like Whole Foods. Nevada's residents have made it clear: we like and wish to support our organic and local farmers.

    Most compelling in all this news, is that the proposed cuts would happen to one of the few consistent growth segments of the state's economy. Long a pillar of Nevada's well-being, casinos continue to suffer from sagging profits. Warehousing, another of the state's revenue sources, has also suffered big losses. Yet despite the down-turn in two of the state's backbone industries, organic production has continued to grow. This boom in local producers has triggered changes in the state's agricultural landscape, making locally-grown grass-fed beef and organic dairy possible in an environment impossible to bend to the whims of prototypical industrial agriculture. And renewed faith in the state's agricultural potential has led to such unlikely developments as the successful launch of the state's own wine industry.

    The lesson for all organic consumers: be vigilant. We know that tough economic times mean drastic savings measures, but let Nevada's experience be others' lessons. Cuts to sustenance programs like education and agriculture are the wrong direction. At a time when so many are growing hungry, does it make sense to cut support to the very things that feed the mind AND the body?

    Nevada residents: make your voice heard. Hit the jump for contact information for key state officials who can help make sure Nevada continues to support local organic producers.

    Continue reading "State Budget Cuts Kill Organic Support" »

    My Footprint series - Grow with the Flow

    Series intro: A new citizen is emerging. That citizen is engaged, concerned, and most of all, confident; confident in his or her choice as a consumer, confident in his or her power as an employee, confident that change is possible.

    The Footprint Chronicles were developed to document the changes we’re making as a company to lighten our environmental impact and do less harm. These chronicles are as much an inspiration to Patagonia employees as they are an outgrowth of our personal values. The “My Footprint” series shares the stories of Patagonia employees who have been inspired by the Chronicles, and whose inspiring lives help fuel the vision of what we can do as a company.

    Their stories are offered here, glimpses of individual footprints spotted along the path toward positive change.  We invite you to enjoy these personal accounts, and share your own in the Comments section included with these posts.

    Lines [Ed note: This installment comes from a local Ventura canoe paddler; someone whose time on the water has influenced their concern for water resources. Faced with a different set of problems than our previous contributor, the solution outlined below is a do-it-yourself inspiration. Enjoy reading this footprint, and remember to click the "About" section if interested in submitting your own.]

    Our family had long considered doing something to solve both the problem of old plumbing running over from our laundry, and needing to water our large backyard — adding a greywater system to the washing machine seemed the obvious solution. Our laundry room is in the back of the house, conveniently perched at the top of a hill above the backyard. A simple water-diversion scheme for the laundry's greywater made a great deal of sense.

    [Looking more elaborate than it is, a simple valve system controls which portion of the yard receives irrigation through a newly installed greywater system. Photo: tps]

    Continue reading "My Footprint series - Grow with the Flow" »

    Backyard Adventures: The Fine Line Between Danger & Adventure

    It’s time for another reader-submitted Backyard Adventure. This one comes courtesy of longtime Cleanest Line commenter CM, otherwise known as Craig Metzger from Southern California. CM’s story first appeared on his blog Get Outside More 

    1_thecrew_drylake I’d been planning a backpack trip with friends for some time. The plan was to hike in, camp and then hike out in the amazing San Gorgonio Wilderness (SGW). Finally everyone’s schedules aligned and dates were picked for the adventure.

    [Dan, Alex, Craig and Tom. All photos courtesy of Craig Metzger]

    Around this time I applied for the permits and began to watch the weather like a hawk. I knew that this time of year in the SGW the weather could turn foul. The final week was upon us before the trip and the weather all of sudden was showing 20% chance of snow. "20%," I thought to myself, seemed pretty low and the way weather works in California our odds were good that it wouldn’t snow. On the day before we left I visited the weather site and now there were chances of high winds and still a 20% chance of snow. I began to think about calling the trip off but after discussing it with my fellow tripmates we felt our odds were good but decided to prepare for the worse. I’m glad we did.

    Continue reading "Backyard Adventures: The Fine Line Between Danger & Adventure" »

    The Hammer Monkeys

    BikeSouthAm In early January, former Patagonia performance baselayer developer, Elissa O’Brien, and Chris, her significant other, boarded a plane for Montevideo, Uruguay. Their plan? Eight months on bikes through South America.

    Elissa and Chris are sharing their trip via a great Web site full of fun narrative, photos and video. So if bicycle touring and/or South America hold any appeal, or you just need a moment’s respite from that mind-numbing spreadsheet, live vicariously with the Hammer Monkeys at 

    Hit the jump for a few photos and an excerpt from their recent adventures.

    [All photos: the hammermonkeys]

    Continue reading "The Hammer Monkeys" »

    Train Ride to the Inauguration

    By Ethan Stewart


    Many Americans traveled to Washington D.C. for today's Presidential inauguration. Two in particular made the long trek from Santa Barbara, California: writer Ethan Stewart and photographer Kodiak Greenwood. In true historic fashion Ethan and Kodiak hopped a train in Los Angeles and road it cross-country to Chicago, and then on to D.C. for the ceremony. The duo are documenting their travels for the Santa Barbara Independent in a series dubbed "The Obama Express." They also generously offered to share a taste of their journey with The Cleanest Line. We all witnessed the ceremony. Here's a taste of what it was like getting there.

    [Kodiak (left) and Ethan (right) who says, "This looks posed and that's because it is." Photo: © Kodiak Greenwood]

    The mojo is rising. It is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and we are on a sold out Amtrak train headed straight for history. With any luck, by nightfall, we will be in our nation’s capital along with an estimated 3 million other Americans, to celebrate the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States of America. Time folds over itself as we speed through the rural countryside of western Pennsylvania. A fresh half-foot of snow blankets the scenery as meandering rivers, abandoned mills, steaming steel factories and two–traffic-light towns blur by our window. A young girl, red, white and blue beads braided in her hair, walks by our seats with her mother in tow. Tugging excitedly on her mom’s hand, the girl, no more than 10 years old, asks innocently, “Will we be able to see him Mommy? Will we be able to see Barack?”

    Continue reading "Train Ride to the Inauguration" »

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