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    Save the Waves Chile Earthquake/Tsunami Relief Update

    4 July-Pichilemu-boat2 Editor's note: Between the floods in Pakistan, the Gulf oil spill and the anniversary of Katrina it's easy to forget about the 8.8 earthquake and tsunami that brutalized Chile in February. Our Friends at Save the Waves Coalition haven't forgotten and continue their relief efforts in the hard to reach coastal areas of the country. This story comes from Philip Muller, Save The Waves' Chile tsunami relief coordinator in Pichilemu:

    There was only one death of a fisherman here in Pichilemu due to the tsunami, a man named Choco. He left a wife and two young adult kids - a son and a daughter - who both have their own children. This family of 8 people have lost their main source of income - Choco's modest salary from local small-scale fishing - and they all now sleep in 2 rooms, with Choco's widow sleeping on a mattress on their kitchen floor. Choco's daughter was pregnant when the tsunami hit and she gave birth last week to a baby boy.

    [Pichilemu boat repaired by Save The Waves grant. Photo: Philip Muller]

    Continue reading "Save the Waves Chile Earthquake/Tsunami Relief Update" »

    Ultra Tough

    Kc - TR start_2417(LR) There’s a great saying that goes, “If you don’t travel, you stagnate.” I think the idea also applies to engaging ourselves with people beyond our usual crowd. We can so easily get stuck in our own little circles, which also breeds stagnation and ignorance.

    And so two weekends ago I went with my ultraunner friends Krissy Moehl and Ellen Parker to Buena Vista, Colorado, where they were competing in a six-day mountain-running stage race called the TransRockies Run. It’s a team race, and Krissy ran in the Open Mixed division with Bryan Dayton, and Ellen in the Open Women’s division with Melody Fairchild. I’d asked them how they thought they’d do. Might they win? Did they have expectations? Did it matter if they placed? Coming from a climbing background, I readied for the spraydown, but both women pretty much just said that they wanted to do their best. Boooooring.

    The famous Leadville 100 (Krissy took second in the women’s division in 2005 – yeah, running 100 miles…what is wrong with these people?) was the same weekend, starting the day before TransRockies, so we figured we’d watch some of it. Sure, watching people run rivals only climbing on the excitement scale, but it’s real and anyone who can run 100 miles, or even give it an honest go, is a superstar in my book. Makes me wonder, what makes someone a badass? Anybody can coast by on natural talent – it’s easy to do well when things go your way. But what about when they don’t? Can anyone feel good for 100 miles of running? No freakin’ way.

    The ultra crowd fascinates me; I’m a big fan. Their attention to training, nutrition and hydration gets me thinking.

    [Starting gun at the TransRockies Run. Photo: Kelly Cordes]

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    Introducing Tracing the Edge a Ten-Part Video Series featuring Gerry Lopez, Colin Haley & Krissy Moehl

    [Tracing the Edge playlist, kick back and watch episodes 1-5. Video: Fitz Cahall & Bryan Smith]

    Our friend Fitz Cahall, who you know from The Dirtbag Diaries, and his partner Bryan Smith have created a new 10-part video series, Tracing the Edge, that peers into the lives of three Patagonia ambassadors. You saw the first four episodes in the Tin Shed. Today we're picking up the series with episode five. Read on for some background on the project from Fitz, then watch episode five with Gerry Lopez. You can look forward to a new episode every week from here on out.

    Adventures don’t always begin at trailheads. They can start in the most mundane places. Take for instance this dorm room at the Banff Centre for the Arts I’m currently calling home. The bedspread is the most wonderful floral pattern. Just lovely. Canadian reality TV is just as inane as its American counterpart – you lose just as many brain cells watching it, so I don’t. Whenever I’m here, lovely Banff always provides perfect working weather – steady rain.

    Continue reading "Introducing Tracing the Edge a Ten-Part Video Series featuring Gerry Lopez, Colin Haley & Krissy Moehl" »

    American Alpine Journal Gems from 2010

    Kc - AAJ_2368 Climbing reports come in all forms. Some basic, simply giving the key details of a climb. Some tell a story, sometimes understated and sometimes overstated, sometimes hilarious and outrageous. And occasionally we stumble upon absolutely beautiful stories.

    I’m mostly talking about reports we receive for the American Alpine Journal, which is a yearly tome reporting the big new routes worldwide. It’s been published annually since 1929, and, for the last 10 years, I’ve been one of the editors. We strive for first-hand accounts from the climbers themselves, which generally makes for honest and authentic reporting.

    Again, it’s almost all big new routes – you won’t find reports from cragging or from tourists getting dragged up Everest. The reports range from major climbs that everyone knows about, to the less-technical but way remote and exploratory, to plenty of super badass climbs that went otherwise unreported (side note: in case you didn’t already know, there are a ton of low-key, under-the-radar, hard-men and -women out there).

    I’ve read thousands of reports in the last 10 years, and every year I make mental notes of my favorites. We on the editorial staff (all two-to-four of us, depending on the year…) call these “AAJ Gems.” They’re some of the best reports anywhere, I think, some of the best storytelling and best writing, often written by people you’ve never heard of.

    Jeff My vote for Gem of the year in the AAJ 2010 (which just came out and was recently mailed to AAC members and contributors) goes to someone many of us already know from the film 180 South: Jeff Johnson.

    [Top right: The 2010 AAJ. Photo: Kelly Cordes. Right: Jeff Johnson, courtesy Woodshed Films]

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    Winters of My Life, Howard Weamer

    I first met Howard Weamer back in 1977 when a couple of friends and I decided to ski into the Ostrander Hut in Yosemite. Sporting rented wooden 210 cm skis, low-cut Alfa boots and Tonkin Cane ski poles, we waxed up the skis, loaded up our framed Kelty packs and off we went. I should mention that none of us could ski at all.

    At least 10 exhausting hours later we finally arrived at the hut, where we were greeted by John Muir. At least that’s what we thought in our breathless stupor; Howard, with his huge beard, certainly evokes the famous conservationist. Over the years I’ve become at least a bit more competent on skis and I’ve visited the hut a dozen times or more and have gotten to know Howard fairly well. We’ve spent many an evening discussing the merits of the latest and greatest telemark equipment and various ski routes all over the Sierra. Beneath his quiet demeanor lies a gearhead with an encyclopedic knowledge of the Sierra backcountry. 

    I’m convinced that Howard has done more backcountry skiing in the Sierra than anyone alive. Once, while passing through Ostrander on a trans-Sierra ski tour to Mammoth, we stopped in to say hello. Howard asked about our route and offered a few suggestions, upon learning we were headed up to Mt Lyell his eyes lit up and he explained that route could be a bit tricky but all we had to do was head for the sawtoothed ridge and aim for the gap where one tooth is missing. It was the perfect beta.

    Howard is also a highly acclaimed photographer who still shoots in film with a large format camera. To see some of his amazing images, visit his website.

    Filmmaker Jonathan Burhop has just completed a short video on Howard and his 35 years at Ostrander and we're honored to share it here. Enjoy!

    Winters of My Life from Jonathan Burhop on Vimeo.

    Talk About Your Dream Expedition, Win a NOLS Trip

    Dream_Postcard_5 Let’s put this in the simplest possible terms: If you can pick up a video camera and press "record," you have a chance to win a kick-ass trip.

    It really is almost too easy: all you have to do is submit a short video describing your dream expedition. If you’re at a computer, chances are good you’re sitting in front of a video camera right now. Click the “record” button and spill the beans. Tell the world where you dream of going and click “submit.” Make it good, and you can plan on packing your bags . . .


    So where do you dream of going? A climbing trip to the Karakoram? A carbon-neutral quest for surf along the Baja coast? Perhaps you've got some pow to shred on the shoulders of Kamchatka's temptingly remote volcanoes. Regardless of where you dream your dreams will take you, a NOLS course is the best first step to getting there. That's why the National Outdoor Leadership School, the leader in wilderness and leadership education, is offering their classic Wind River Wilderness course as the top prize for the best Dream Expedition Video.

    Spending a solid month hiking, bagging peaks and catching trout in some of America's most beautiful mountains not your thing? No sweat. The grand-prize value can be applied to any NOLS course you're eligible for - it could be sailing and sea kayaking in the Gulf of California, mountaineering in the Waddington Range, exploring Amazonian rainforests, or losing (and finding) yourself on a three-month expedition to Patagonia. It's up to you. Oh . . . did we mention money for domestic travel expenses is included, as well as all the Patagonia gear you need to stay comfy on your trip?*

    So don't dally: Check out the full contest details, get yourself a camera and give the NOLS folks a taste of your inner Scorsese.

    *visit the NOLS contest page ( for complete rules and award guidelines.

    Rain on the Tent

    5 Cordes - Josh river LR The Fall Alpine catalog just came out – or will be out soon – and has a theme of near-misses. Those climbs where we gave all we had but came up short. Anybody who’s thrown themselves to the alpine knows the story, and in the catalog we share some of those specific tales. I wrote the intro essay (inside cover), about mine and Josh Wharton’s 2006 failed attempt at the unclimbed north ridge of Shingu Charpa, Pakistan.

    I love the theme of failure, and not just because it’s my specialty in life, but because I’ve always admired those unwilling to succumb to irrational fear, willing to try their hardest, willing to try and to fail by fair means, and willing to straight-up admit what they did without rationalizing.

    It’s a disingenuous cliché, a justification seemingly present after every summit-less climb, that coming home itself defines success. Sure, OK, maybe at some point, but extend the thinking and you’d never leave the couch to begin with. Likewise, defining success merely by the summit oversimplifies everything, because you could get there with a helicopter. Somewhere in between we have route names lavishing self-congratulations for leaving the ground and stopping wherever the climbers got shut down. It goes like this: We could have done it, or, We retreated from the end of the difficulties, or, It was too hard/dangerous/whatever and so we retreated, followed by the obligatory: We reached our personal summit and named our route Steel Balls. Arg.

    I suppose that the rationalizations remain unimportant. Maybe trying hard and returning with that feeling somewhere between emptiness and spaciousness is what we’re after – yes, I think that’s ultimately it. Whether “success” or “failure.”

    Granted, success feels better than failure, but they’re both important, no?

    [Josh Wharton in the Nangma Valley, Pakistan. Photo: Kelly Cordes]

    Continue reading "Rain on the Tent" »

    Product Testing - Rafting the South Fork of the American River

    We test our gear on a variety of levels. Our Athletes & Ambassadors are responsible for putting the latest designs and fabrics through the paces before we'll add a new product to our lineup. But just because something reaches our shelves doesn't mean testing is over. Once a new item shows up in our catalogs, our Customer Service staff gets busy ground-truthing the latest offerings. They know the questions our customers will be asking, and turn that attention to our gear. This June, they headed off to California's South Fork of the American River to raft, camp and well...have some fun. Mail Order Customer Service Representative Laurel Winterbourne files this report:

    Gg raft grp Patagonia Mail Order's first overnight group field day was a success. No broken limbs, just good times with good friends. Thanks to W.E.T. River Trips and our amazing Pro Team member and raft guide Maggie Mroczkowski we were able to take our crew on a rafting trip down the South Fork of the American River and test some Patagonia gear. Major props to Gary Ghiggeri (“GG”) our team leader, for planning the best field day ever!

    We rolled into Camp Lotus, outside the tiny town of Coloma on the western side of the Sierra, at about 6:30. After some unpleasant haggling with a neighboring camper about who got which site, we set up camp. Who knew we could bring so much stuff for an overnight camping trip? But we do work at Patagonia and own multiple tents, sleeping bags, jackets, baselayers, fleece and other random stuff. We’ve learned to always be prepared for snow in the Sierra, even in June. Better to be safe than sorry. The beer was located and the tents went up. 

    [Team GG checks into Hospital Bar, South Fork American River. Photos: W.E.T. River Trips]

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    Border Country

    Clifford - 5PT-8800 We love the escape. Sometimes climbing is just climbing, and everything doesn’t need to symbolize anything more. I read that Hemingway said there was no symbolism in The Old Man and the Sea (my all-time favorite book), and that “The old man is an old man. The sea is the sea.” We can draw our own parallels however we like, which is part of the beauty of art.

    Other times, the symbolism isn’t just part of it, it’s everything.

    Too many climbing films suffer greatly from lack of story, I think. At least they used to – the filmmakers seem to be catching on; or maybe the artists, writers, and photographers drawn to creative approaches have begun to see film as another outlet for storytelling. I think that’s it with Jeremy Collins. His film Border Country combines art and animation, blending video and stills, and the story and narration struck me as perfect, right on time, not overdone, not underdone, but just perfect.

    [Jer Collins (left) and Kelly at 5 Point Film Festival in Carbondale last spring. Photo: David Clifford Photography]

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    Of Marmots and Men

    Julyhike Every year, some friends and I converge on an really cool spot near Yosemite where we hike six miles carrying absurdly heavy packs and eat crazy amounts of really good food. Over the years, the only down side to this idyllic spot has been the parking. And by parking I don’t mean finding a space, this isn’t San Francisco; it’s the local fauna that’s been the problem. We've parked our cars all over the Sierra but for some reason this is the only place where we’ve had a consistent problem with marmots. Oh sure the California black bear gets quite a bit of publicity for its vandalism, but we’ve had more than our share of problems with Marmota flaviventer sierrae, the Southern Sierra Marmot. I, myself have been victimized twice.

    The first time, I was driving out on the lonely dirt road and I noticed that not only was my engine running unusually hot, there was steam pouring out from under the hood. It turns out a marmot had chewed a hole in a radiator hose. Luckily, this marmot was kind enough to chew through it near the end. Also lucky for me, MacGuyver used to be my favorite show, so using my Leatherman (I know, it should have been a Swiss Army Knife) I unscrewed the hose clamp, cut off the chewed-up end and reattached the hose. I then filled the radiator with creek water and off I went. Five years later and the hose is still intact. Another time, I started having electrical problems right after returning from the trip. I finally took it into my mechanic for his diagnosis. After a long look he asked me, in the gentlest way possible, just where exactly I lived. I guess he thought I must live in some rat-infested hovel. Unfortunately, this time the marmots had chosen to dine on my wiring harness. This is not an inexpensive repair.

    [Above: Walking away from the marmots. photo: Ken La Russa]

    Continue reading "Of Marmots and Men" »

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