The Cleanest Line

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    An excerpt from The Calling: A Life Rocked by Mountains by Barry Blanchard

    By Barry Blanchard

    Patagonia is proud to announce our latest publication: Barry Blanchard’s memoir, The Calling.

    With heart-pounding descriptions of avalanches and treacherous ascents, Blanchard chronicles his transformation from a poor kid from the wrong side of the tracks to one of the most respected alpinists in the world. This is the story of the culture of climbing in the days of punk rock, spurred on by the rhythm of adrenaline and the arrogance of youth. It is also a portrait of the power of the mountains to lift us—physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually—and the depths of relationships based on total trust in the person at the other end of a rope. Includes climbs with renowned alpinists such as Kevin Doyle, Mark Twight, David Cheesmond and Ward Robinson.

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    Chapter 1

    I SAW THE AVALANCHE COMING. It charged over the step of dirty brown ice above like a breaking wave of black water. It hammered back down into the gulley, driving into us like the fist of god, and I screamed.

    The avalanche slapped my crampons out from under me, and I was folded in half. I was going to die. The animal in me fought to force my hand into the torrent, to grab something solid. My crampons raked over the ice as I stumbled, thrusting my knees into the pressure of the onslaught, trying to get my feet under me. I shouted and I thrashed and the surging snow pushed my arms down at the same time that it swept my feet out to flap like rope-anchored logs in a strong current. My anchor leash was as tight as cable; it hummed with a high-frequency vibration that was transmitted into my bowels along the waist-belt of my harness. My senses where overcome; I didn’t know which way was up. I was terrified.

    Continue reading "An excerpt from The Calling: A Life Rocked by Mountains by Barry Blanchard" »

    Relay Handoff on a Slovenian Alpine Playground

    By Luka Krajnc

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    All stories have to start somewhere. This one started over a cold beer when Marko Prezelj, Tadej Krišelj and I were sitting on the porch of Marko´s house on a warm, early summer evening discussing future plans. The debate evolved and ideas flew by when Marko briefly mentioned that together with Klemen Mali, more than ten years ago, he tried to climb a new route on the northwest face of Vežica in the Kamnik–Savinja Alps. The wall lies in the northern part of Slovenia and is known for its steep nature and quality limestone. After climbing one long pitch and scoping the central part of the wall they realized that their fitness did not meet the requirements needed for climbing the route in the imagined style, so they put the project aside for a time when they might be stronger. After several years they decided to pass the idea on to younger adventure-seeking climbers.

    Every seed needs to be planted before it can grow and develop into something bigger. This one immediately fell onto fertile ground as we were highly motivated and eager to face the challenge. A few days later, we found ourselves on the steep approach in a joyful atmosphere full of excitement and expectation. Marko showed us the proposed line, we discussed various technical and ethical strategies and then he left us for our reality check.

    Above: Searching for friction on the vertical playground. All photos by Marko Prezelj.

    Continue reading "Relay Handoff on a Slovenian Alpine Playground" »

    Greenland Vertical Sailing 2014 – Part 3, Back to civilization and summary of climbs

    By Nico Favresse, photos by The Wild Bunch

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    How could we describe the feeling of taking our first shower in over two months? Mmmm...

    We have just hit civilization in Greenland. These last three weeks have been very exciting in many ways! Adventurous climbing, a close polar bear encounter (without anything to defend ourselves) and a very scary crossing back to Greenland which included a strong storm with snow and huge waves! On this kind of trip the adventure never seems to end until you are back under that hot shower. It does make the shower so much better!

    Editor’s note: Catch up with Captain Shepton and The Wild Bunch in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

    So three weeks ago, we sailed away from Sam Ford Fjord to explore Gibbs Fjord. Finally, the intense weather conditions in Sam Ford Fjord eased off allowing us to see some blue in the sky. It was very enjoyable sun bathing on the deck while sailing around enjoying the magical scenery of mountains, big walls, glaciers and icebergs floating around the Fjords. However, it being early September, the temperature was decreasing day by day, proportionally to the area of our bodies on which we applied sunscreen.

    Above: Nico enjoys a snow-free offwidth on Walking the Plank, Plank Wall, Gibbs Fjord.

    Continue reading "Greenland Vertical Sailing 2014 – Part 3, Back to civilization and summary of climbs" »

    FORCE – A seven-city film tour with Patagonia climber and photographer Mikey Schaefer

    By Fitz Cahall

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    I’m a homebody. My friend Mikey Schaefer is not. I made a conscious choice to develop a lifelong relationship with my local ranges and the urban environment right out my front door. A climber and photographer by trade, Mikey travels the world and he, much like I did, found a landscape that left its mark on him. It was 15,000 miles away, but, hey, when a place speaks to you, you listen.

    “Patagonia chose me, as much as I chose Patagonia,” Mikey will tell you if you ask. I’d say the same thing about the Sierra and the Cascades.

    Since his first trip as a 21-year-old to this fabled land of wind and granite (and more wind), Mikey has made Patagonia a part of his life. Every November or December, Mikey uproots his life and migrates to the South American summer and the hamlet of El Chalten where the staggering granite spires of Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy loom in the backdrop. Over the years, he fulfilled an audacious goal of establishing first ascents on all seven skyline summits of the Fitz Roy Massif. Take a look at that Patagonia logo on your jacket. That skyline is the defining element of Patagonia’s corporate logo. It’s bigger in real life.

    Continue reading "FORCE – A seven-city film tour with Patagonia climber and photographer Mikey Schaefer" »

    Greenland Vertical Sailing 2014 – Part 2, Bad weather, boat concert and night climbing

    By Nico Favresse, photos by The Wild Bunch

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    Three weeks have passed now since we arrived on Baffin Island. [Editor’s note: Get caught up with Part 1 here.] Our first encounter with the local population already happened miles away from the coast when we met eight polar bears drifting on chunks of pack ice. It was quite a surprise running into them while weaving through broken up pack ice in thick mist.

    After a quick stop in Clyde River to clear Canadian border formalities, we set sail for the big walls of Sam Ford Fjord. Right away our minds were blown away by the amount of huge rock faces and how little this place has been explored. It feels incredibly wild here, beautiful but also very powerful—we feel small and somehow vulnerable.

    Continue reading "Greenland Vertical Sailing 2014 – Part 2, Bad weather, boat concert and night climbing" »

    Innovation and Wilderness

    By John Wallin

    Double Mtn, Arctic Refuge

    I started selling fleece for Patagonia in 1993, and for six years I worked in Washington D.C., Bozeman and Reno in various customer service functions. I had a blast, learned a ton about product and people and made a network of friends who are as important to me as my college cohorts. During this time, I also began to see myself as a wilderness activist.

    The Wilderness Act turns 50 this week and provides a welcome opportunity to reflect on a uniquely American innovation. The idea, novel at the time, that our wild lands are special and worthy of protection, is embedded in the language of the Act: “A wilderness… is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” And more than almost any other law I can think of, the Wilderness Act has proved an adaptable tool for citizens to act as true patriots in the defense of their land. To date, more than 109 million acres have been protected in perpetuity as wilderness, which sounds like a lot, but in reality is only about 5% of the United States.

    Above: Camping along the Marsh Fork of the Canning River, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. All photos by Ron Hunter

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    Greenland Vertical Sailing 2014 – Part 1, Warming up in Uummannaq and 24 hours on the wall

    By Nico Favresse, photos by The Wild Bunch

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    July 15, 2014—We are off again on an exciting adventure! Reverend Captain Bob Shepton is very excited to have the Wild Bunch—Sean Villanueva, Olivier Favresse, Ben Ditto and I—back on board the Dodo’s Delight for some jamming and big walls. Already four years have passed since our last expedition in Greenland with captain Bob. This time though we brought more musical instruments, more fishing equipment and more whiskey for our captain, all of which we hope will help us with our new assignment: testing the acoustics of some massive big walls located in the fjords on the east coast of Baffin Island.

    We left Aasiaat one week ago and we’ve have had good moments so far but also harder ones. Yes, indeed, we missed the World Cup final and the ice hasn't melted enough for us to cross to the Baffin Island side. Our captain is becoming very impatient and we are afraid that he would be quite willing to take some risks for us to reach Baffin Island. If we did get stranded by the pack ice and its pressuring current, Dodo's Delight would most likely get crushed and sink. The good thing is that our captain is very familiar with that. He has two boats in Greenland, one of them he keeps below the water's surface!

    Above: Greetings from the Wild Bunch and Reverend Captain Bob Shepton. We are very excited to be back. Four years have passed since our last time on Dodo's Delight.

    Continue reading "Greenland Vertical Sailing 2014 – Part 1, Warming up in Uummannaq and 24 hours on the wall" »

    Thai Boxing

    By Sean Villanueva O’Driscoll

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    “Climb it for me!” he yelled as I walked out of the hospital room.

    I gladly would if I could, I thought to myself, but this one might just be too hard. I can’t make any promises.

    A few days earlier, after a nice enjoyable day of climbing, we were heading back to my friend Sasha’s house to cook up some grub. He was on his motorbike, I was driving his van. Life was sweet. In a split second everything changed. An old man came out from a side road and didn’t see the motorbike coming.

    We had some good adventures lined up for the week, but now Sasha was going to spend the next few months without the use of his arms and left leg. Despite this huge setback it was inspiring to see his conviction to fight his way back to good health—a true warrior.

    While he sat in a hospital bed, I was going back for a Thai Boxing match in which I had been knocked out the day before.

    Above: Ready? Fight! Sean goes toe-to-stone with Thai Boxing. All photos: Colette McInerney

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    Climbing in Iceland with Loki the Deceiver

    By Kitty Calhoun

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    Iceland is a land of extremes – stark beauty within a harsh, unforgiving landscape and an equally daunting climate. Volcanoes are still erupting, earthquakes are nearly constant, yet the geothermal water provides Iceland with most of its energy needs and natural hot springs ease the cold of winter. Eleven percent of the country is covered with glaciers. Sighting of the aurora borealis is common. The coast is dotted with steep cliffs, overhung by glaciers and blasted by wind off the ocean. Yet over 300 species of birds nest in these cliffs, eider ducks (think eiderdown) float in the ocean and the fishery is Iceland’s largest source of income.

    In such a stark and dramatic landscape, it is easy to imagine events being controlled by the Norse gods. In fact, on our quest for virgin ice climbs, we too felt their power – one in particular: Loki the trickster, deceiver, god of chaos.

    [Above: Sunrise over the fjord. Photo: Kitty Calhoun]

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    21st Annual Hueco Rock Rodeo Recap & Video

    By Brittany Griffith

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    “Hueco Tanks is the best bouldering in the world,” someone boldly posted on the encyclopedic climbing resource MountainProject.com. The best? Pretty strong words. I’ve been to a lot of famous climbing areas in the world and it was going to take more than a hyperbolic online endorsement to change my reservations (not the kind you need to climb here, alas, but I’ll cover that later).

    As a climber, I had obviously heard about Hueco. There’s no disputing that Hueco stands as an iconic place in American climbing significance. Like Yosemite is to big wall climbing, Smith Rock is to sport climbing, and Indian Creek is to splitter crack climbing, Hueco is to bouldering. And Patagonia’s presence at the 21st annual Hueco Rock Rodeo was the perfect excuse for me to finally make the pilgrimage to the famed bouldering mecca.

    Continue reading "21st Annual Hueco Rock Rodeo Recap & Video" »

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