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    Returning to the Rock - Kitty Calhoun enjoys an El Cap Comeback

    Comebackn Informal or vb come back (intr. adverb)
       1. a return to a former position, status,etc.
       2. a return or response, esp. recriminatory
       3. To become fashionable again

    I am just leaving the belay on Pitch 5 of Aurora (5.8, A4), a steep, difficult aid line on El Cap. It has been five years since I was last on El Cap, and the experience had left me crippled. The arduous hauling and long descent with the haulbag “pig” was the last straw for my hips, eroded by a career as an alpinist and mountain guide with a passion for running. Two years later, both hips were resurfaced with metal and now, hopefully, I am “good to go.” I am about to clean the pitch distinctly noted as “no fun” on the Supertopo. It takes me way too long to clean the pitch but both my partner and I are patient and we carry on.

      Kitty @ 1st bivy-1
    [Kitty at belay station, before cleaning the "no fun" pitch. Photo: Kate Robertson]

    Kate Robertson loves equipment, so naturally she was drawn to ice climbing and it was in Ouray last winter that I met her. I expressed a secret desire to see if I could return to unfinished goals and a life of adventure. I am afraid of losing my mental and physical “edge” if I have to live with “restricted activities” - I am just not ready to lower the bar. So plans were hatched.

    Editor's note: Patagonia Alpine Climbing ambassador Kitty Calhoun began climbing in her home state of South Carolina at the age of eighteen, and started ice climbing in college. Kitty's climbing has taken her from Alaska to the Andes and the Himalaya. She led successful expedition to the West Pillar of Makalu and put up a new route on the West face of Middle Triple Peak in Alaska. Kitty has worked extensively with the Castleton Tower Preservation Initiative and "Chicks with Picks," a series of women's-only ice climbing clinics. She lives in Castle Valley, Utah when she is not out on the road. When asked what she would like people to know about her, she smiles and says, "I'm a mom and a storyteller."

    Continue reading "Returning to the Rock - Kitty Calhoun enjoys an El Cap Comeback" »

    Dad Most Rad - The first of your Rad Dad stories



    Ever ridden in a backpack, surfed tandem, skied on a leash, been pulled up to the belay, sat on the handle bars or just had a downright radical experience with the helping hand of your Rad Dad? In celebration of Father's Day, we put that question to you a little over a week ago.


    The replies we've received have been funny, admirable, and impressive . . . we didn't know so many babies could type! Your stories have also been humbling; touching in a way that's possible only when you ask a person to say something thoughtful about someone they love. Thanks for putting us - and Cleanest Line readers - on the receiving end of your good words.


    In that original invite, we said we'd "pick the best stories to post on our blog." One thing became obvious pretty quickly: How do you pick the "best" of something like that? The short answer is, you can't. So we've decided to share the stories that touched us in a unique way, or exemplified what makes a dad truly rad. We hope you enjoy these stories and photos as much as we have. The first of three comes from young Abby B. Her story starts below, with photos after the jump.


    Ever since I was little, I knew I had a pretty rad dad. Even from the beginning, I was taken on countless adventures with him. I was always the little baby you see riding on a sled behind their cross-country skiing dad, or the little three year old plodding up a trail, pushed along by an encouraging father. Even now, my dad is behind me all the way up the rugged mountain trail, or the waist-deep powder run. He's involved me in nature ever since I can remember, and I owe my passion for the outdoors to him.

    [From the original Rad Dad post - Violet and Daddy check check out a waterfall together. Photo: Lisa Polley]




    Continue reading "Dad Most Rad - The first of your Rad Dad stories" »

    Dirtbag Diaries: The Accidental Journalist

    Accidental_journalist iPods rejoice! The newest episode of The Dirtbag Diaries has just gone live. Our friend and host, Fitz Cahall, is here once again to set the stage.

    As a child, Freddie Wilkinson was fascinated by K2 and the adventure narratives from 8,000 meter peaks. It led to an incredible career as an alpinist seeking out difficult routes on obscure peaks across the globe, but his interest in climbing the trophy peaks waned. In August 2008, 11 climbers lost their lives on K2. The ensuing media frenzy was just that -- a frenzy. Facts were hazy and right from the start people began making broad generalizations even though the details had yet to emerge. Something about it pissed Freddie off and stirred his curiosity. What really happened up there? Freddie started asking questions and in the process he found himself chasing an incredible story. You don't need a journalism degree or a press pass to be a reporter. All it takes is a little New England "Can Do Spirit" and curiosity that won't rest.

    Audio_graphic_20pxListen to "The Accidental Journalist"
    (mp3 - right-click to download)

    Bonus episode: Faithful Dirtbag Diaries listeners have no-doubt heard the latest Short, but we erroneously neglected to post it here on The Cleanest Line. Hit the jump to listen to James Lucas talk about his dreams of rock climbing stardom -- recorded in a tent at Camp 4 in Yosemite Valley.

    Continue reading "Dirtbag Diaries: The Accidental Journalist" »

    Spring Climbing in Verdon Gorge with Jasmin Caton

    Fetesmall  Editor's Note: When Americans tell stories about climbing in France, their tales usually include a mention of the food, the wine, or an encounter with a crazy Frenchman. Patagonia Climbing Ambassador Jasmin Caton recently returned from a climbing trip to France's Verdon Gorge, where, it seems, she enjoyed close encounters with all three. 

    Prior to coming to France on a climbing trip, the Verdon Gorge held mythical status in my climbing imagination. Friends who had climbed there spoke of long, rad, sparsely-bolted or mixed routes that could only be accessed by long, steep, intimidating rappels. If you weren't able to get yourself back up and out via your chosen route, you could expect an all-night hike in your rock shoes just to exit the gaping maw of the gorge.

    The good thing about having the Verdon Gorge built up to mythical proportions by these stories was that when I finally got a chance to climb here it wasn't nearly as intimidating as I expected. Don't get me wrong, the week I just spent climbing in the Verdon Gorge was anything but mellow; as different from last year's Kalymnos club-med bolt clipping vacation as an Indian Creek offwidth is from a Ceuse pocket ladder.

    We started off the trip on La Demande, the popular moderate classic of the area, featuring 10-11 pitches up to 6a (5.10b). Really fun climbing, but I wouldn't recommend it if 5.10 is your limit, some of the pitches only have one or two bolts in 50m. I appreciated my trad background on the final several pitches which are full on back-and-foot chimneys. Don't forget to dangle your pack and move your gear to the front gear loops; my lucky leaver biner with my Houdini, knife and prussik loop did the old magical unclip as I writhed my way up. The saddest part was Evan actually caught it while belaying but then fumbled it as he tried to clip it to his harness and it did the full 400m plummet into the scrubby bushes at the base of the route. Unfortunately, this wasn't the only item we sent into the abyss....

    Continue reading "Spring Climbing in Verdon Gorge with Jasmin Caton" »

    To Swim or Not to Swim

    50_51_hoesterey_m_0001 We’ve received some phone calls and emails from concerned readers regarding a photograph Patagonia published in our Summer catalog, page 50. The photo by Morgan Hoesterey (shown here) is of Sanja du Plessis freediving off Oahu. Near her, are several spinner dolphins. The people who wrote and called were worried that the photograph might encourage people to “swim with dolphins.” Local Hawaiians wrote to us to tell us that the phenomena is offensive to their tradition and has disrupted dolphins in their native habitat. They told us that tour boats dump their customers near dolphin habitat so they can swim with the mammals. We asked the photographer to give us more information:

    “We are out on the ocean under our own power. We swim from shore, and comparatively speaking have a very low impact on the environment. We don't go out in boats, jet skis, and are always aware of our environment. When I am in the ocean I am in the sea creatures' home not the other way around. We have full respect for our surroundings as visitors.

    Continue reading "To Swim or Not to Swim" »

    Banging My Head Against the Sphinx Face of Mt. Temple for the Last Time


    The trees are in bud, green leaves are unfurling, robins are here, but winter is hanging on in the high country. People are skiing big lines, the last of the winter ice climbs are weeping from the rock walls and collapsing in jumbles or broken blue blocks. I've been scheming with my Salt Lake City buddies, Blitz and Billy, to get some alpine climbing in before winter left. We dreamed of the Emperor Face on Mt. Robson, the boys got the time, arranged the flights. The weather man convinced me that we'd only be given time enough for Mt. Temple.

    Editor's note: Patagonia ambassador Barry Blanchard shares a tale today from his home base in the Canadian Rockies. If there was ever an example of a Rad Dad it's this man. Barry offers exceptional guiding services when he's not writing, spending time with his beautiful family or climbing personal objectives while testing Patagonia gear. If you're planning a trip north of the border be sure and hit Barry up for a day or two in the mountains. This story first appeared on Barry's blog

    I'd attempted the Sphinx Face, in winter, four times in the past. Twice in the '80s: initially (before it was a route) with Wink Barron; the next go round, Carlos Buhler and I made it to the huge traverse ledge, 300 feet below the Black Towers, over three days but we tried the wrong line (read too steep and hard) and escaped by traversing said ledge all the way around to the Aemmer Coulior, and down that.

    [Approaching Mt. Temple. Photo: Bill Belcourt]

    Continue reading "Banging My Head Against the Sphinx Face of Mt. Temple for the Last Time" »

    Tell Us About Your Rad Dad - Score Him a Present from Patagonia

    LP east side hike Ever ridden in a backpack, surfed tandem, skied on a leash, been pulled up to the belay, sat on the handle bars or just had a downright radical experience with the helping hand of your Rad Dad? In celebration of Father's Day, we'd like to hear your story. We'll pick the best stories to post on our blog, The Cleanest Line, and stoke you and your Rad Dad each with a sweet Patagonia prize. Submit your story about your Rad Dad before Monday, June 21, to this e-mail address:

    Pictures are also heartily encouraged and can be attached to your email. Submissions can be as long as you'd like (within reason - no novellas, please), but should be a minimum of 1 or 2 paragraphs. We'll publish our favorites on The Cleanest Line starting the week after Father's Day. Full contest guidelines are available in our "About" section.

    PLEASE NOTE: While we do welcome stories from across the globe, we can only ship prizes within the United States.

    We gag on legalese as much as you do, so we're doing our best to keep things simple. That said, please be sure to review the Submission Guidelines and Contest Rules here before sending us your story. Hit the jump to enjoy a few more pictures of some of Patagonia's rad dads in action.

    [Brian Polley enjoys an east-side hike with the kids, Sierra Nevada. Photo: Lisa Polley]

    Continue reading "Tell Us About Your Rad Dad - Score Him a Present from Patagonia" »

    Patagonia T-Shirt Artists Inspire and Engage at Ventura Artwalk


    [Original artwork, like this painting by AD Maddox, was on display alongside Patagonia clothing and gear inside Great Pacific Iron Works. Photo: Dave Kanarek]

    Back in April, Patagonia T-shirt artists were featured in a “Meet the Artist” reception at Great Pacific Iron Works, the original Patagonia retail store in Ventura, California. As a participant of Ventura City Council’s Spring Artwalk, the event served as an open house and opportunity to showcase the work of Patagonia’s amazing T-shirt artists.

    Approximately 200-250 people attended the open house throughout the evening. We featured great music by Sus Corez and her band and four of the artists were able to attend the event: Geoff McFetridge, AD Maddox, Jason Stowell and Chris Del Moro.

    Big thanks to Sunday, Hillary and Michele for coordinating the installation of the artwork, and to all of the artists who shared pieces for this event. Hit the jump to take a virtual Artwalk of the displays.

    Continue reading "Patagonia T-Shirt Artists Inspire and Engage at Ventura Artwalk" »

    Patagonia Ambassador and Friend Arne Backstrom Dies While Skiing in Peru

    Gen4_ambass_backstrom_8_26_09 All of us at Patagonia are deeply saddened to share news of the death of Arne Backstrom, our friend and skiing ambassador. Our love and support goes out to the Backstrom family and all of Arne's friends.

    Arne (29) was at the height of his professional freeskiing career, having just won the McConkey Cup, the Canadian Freeskiing Championships and the Sickbird Award. Details of the accident can be read below.

    June 6, 2010 - At 9:45 am on June 3rd Arne Backstrom was killed while skiing Pisco (5752 m) in the Llanganuco Valley of the Cordillera Blanca, Peru. With him were Kip Garre and Dave Rosenbarger. The team arrived in Peru on the 28th of May for a month-long ski mountaineering expedition. On June 1st the team established a base camp at 4650 m in the Llanganuco Valley with intentions of climbing and skiing Pisco as apart of their acclimatization process. At 4:45 am on June 3rd Arne, Kip, and Dave started their climb from base camp under clear skies and calm winds. They ascended the Standard Route via the Huandoy/Pisco Col and SW Slopes with no difficulties. The team made the summit at 9:00 am and began their descent at 9:25.

    Snow conditions off of the summit were consistent and ideal for skiing. An inch of warmed, soft snow overlay a firm base. Approximately 150 m below the summit the team stopped at a ramp leading to Pisco’s S Face, a 400m 50-55 degree slope of snow and rock. The S Face was a feature that the team had observed and discussed during the two days prior to their climb. At 9:45 am, after some discussion, Arne decided to descend the ramp to assess the snow conditions of the face. He made a few turns down the 40-degree ramp in soft conditions before encountering hard snow or ice. Arne attempted to traverse onto the S Face to what appeared to be softer snow. Conditions on the face remained firm and the team noticed Arne accelerate. His downhill ski released causing Arne to fall out of Kip and Dave’s sight.

    Continue reading "Patagonia Ambassador and Friend Arne Backstrom Dies While Skiing in Peru" »

    What is Quality for Our Time? - Watch part 3 of our Footprint Chronicles video series

    Writing about Patagonia’s Footprint Chronicles for the blog Greenovate, Michael Hurwitz states, “While many companies are, of course, implementing transparency initiatives, Patagonia’s project is more or less unprecedented, because of the size of the company as well as the fact that it originated from customer demand.” After over three years of steady work on our Footprint Chronicles video series, Mr. Hurwitz's comment was a good reminder to look up from our work, take a breather, and scan the horizon. 

    A lot has changed since we launched the Footprint Chronicles in 2007. The business landscape has taken on a greener cast, but our digging and research has shown us that reforming and refining business practices to be less environmentally harmful is difficult and incredibly lengthy process with a fantastically complicated web of interconnections, akin to John Muir's observation that "[w]hen we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe."

    Can a good product be made in a bad factory? We talk to business people and teachers about a contemporary definition of quality that includes social and environmental responsibility ­ and every process involved in the creation of a product.

    Watch all three installments of our video series in the "Digging Deeper" section of the Footprint Chronicles.

    One Percent for the Planet
    © 2014 Patagonia, Inc.