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    Dirtbag Diaries: Origins

    by Fitz & Becca Cahall

    Editor's note: Hard to believe it's been five years since The Dirtbag Diaries was born onto the Internet. There have been so many good stories, so many inspiring people. Now, we can't imagine an Internet (or this blog) without them. Thank you Fitz and Becca for all your hard work. And thank you to the fans of the show for your passionate support. Here's Fitz and here's to five more years:

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    The Dirtbag Diaries turns five. This also happens to be our 100th episode. To celebrate the occasion, we reached out to our collaborators, our contributors and our friends and asked for ideas. I pitched them a bunch of ideas. They shook their heads. Their response was resounding. "We want to hear your story, the story of the Diaries," they said. Our intern, Austin Siadak, stepped forward to do the interview and relay the story. The tables were turned. By nature, we like our creation stories simple. An idea appears in the void.  A light bulb goes off. The apple hits Sir Isaac Newton on the head. In reality, creation stories are messier, more complicated and more interesting than abbreviated elevator pitches. They are a sum of parts. So here goes.

    Audio_graphic_20pxListen to "Origins"
    (mp3 - right-click to download)

    Visit dirtbagdiaries.com for links to download the music from "Origins" or to hear past episodes of the podcast. You can subscribe to the show via iTunes and RSS, or connect with the Dirtbag Diaries community on Facebook and Twitter.

    [Graphic by Walker Cahall]

    The Ptarmigan Traverse

    By Steve Graepel

    1_CascadePass

    Scott scrambles up to Cache Col and drops his pack besides mine. We've been moving just over two hours since the trailhead and have stopped to get our first glimpse at the route before us. Our goal is the Ptarmigan Traverse – a 35-mile off-piste, haute route traversing the southern upheaval of the North Cascades.

    This terra incognita was first explored in July of 1938 over a period of 13 days. The Ptarmigan Climbing Club made numerous first ascents along the route – an effort that is still recognized as one of the greatest feats in the North Cascades… ever. Their report was never published, and due to tumultuous world events, the traverse wasn't repeated for 15 years. In September of 1953, Dale Cole, Bob Grant, Mike Hane, Erick Karlsson and Tom Miller reversed the route and published their report in The Mountaineer. It was this second traverse that turned the Ptarmigan Traverse into the classic it is known as today. Miller’s photos were published as a book, The North Cascades (1964), and later submitted as supporting documents in a bill sent to Congress that established the North Cascades as a National Park (1968).

    [Above: The author jogs up to Cache Col from Cascade Pass. All photos courtesy of Steve Graepel]

    Continue reading "The Ptarmigan Traverse" »

    Dirtbag Diaries: The Year of Big Ideas 2012 - Frozen Lemonade

    by Fitz & Becca Cahall

    Dbd_yobi_2012

    When will it snow? It's the question on the lips of ski town locals throughout the West as fluttering flakes have been late to arrive. Sill, the winter provides opportunity: tacky mountain bike trails usually buried under feet of snow, ice climbing on routes normally inaccessible, and ice skating on remote alpine lakes. John Dittli says the skating has been epic in the high Sierra. While others have bemoaned the lack of snow, John has seized the extended window to ice skate on multiple lakes – many more than a typical year allows. He may even secretly hope that the snow remains at bay for a little longer. In the spirit of making the most out of a situation, we present the Year of Big Ideas 2012 – goals from friends, pros and creative thinkers. And no matter what 2012 brings, we'll make sure there's more lemonade in all we do.

    Audio_graphic_20pxListen to "The Year of Big Ideas 2012 - Frozen Lemonade"
    (mp3 - right-click to download)

    Visit dirtbagdiaries.com for links to download the music from "Frozen Lemonade" or to hear past episodes of the podcast. You can subscribe to the show via iTunes and RSS, or connect with the Dirtbag Diaries community on Facebook and Twitter.

     

    Mike Colpo 1975-2011 - Raising our Glasses to Localcrew

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    Mike Colpo, associate editor of this blog and frequent contributor (as “localcrew”), died suddenly on December 7 while trail running on his lunch hour near the Patagonia Distribution Center in Reno. He was 36.

    [Above: Mike and Skeena share some love. East Humboldt Range, Nevada. Photo: Old School]

    All of us who worked with him are in shock: Mike was young, fit and apparently healthy, his loss unexpected. And Mike was so modest about his talents and accomplishments that, now that he has gone, we’re coming to realize how much he took with him. He was a graceful writer and fine editor and a Zen-like master of the 140-character Tweet. He was a committed, and knowledgeable environmentalist who had a special love for Nevada’s wild places. He was a monster on his mountain bike and his beloved Xtracycle, an excellent backcountry navigator, telemarker, fly fisherman and alpinist who took a month out every summer to guide for the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in Wyoming.

    Guys like Mike never just disappear though. He’ll pull away and maintain a pace you can’t quite match. You see him cresting the hill way ahead and dig deep to catch him. He’ll drop in on the pow stash and you’ll just see him, a speck on the horizon until you’re not sure he’s still there at all. But like all adventure hounds, he’s there somewhere, among the trees and tall grass, his nose to the ground, thinking and looking for something fun. –Team Bacon Strip from “R.I.P. Mike Colpo

    Continue reading "Mike Colpo 1975-2011 - Raising our Glasses to Localcrew" »

    Dirtbag Diaries: The Way of the Underdog

    The_Way_of_the_dog_small_300 After a well-deserved summer break, Fitz is back with another episode of The Dirtbag Diaries.

    The Underdog is the most potent myth in America. It pervades film, pop culture, music and sports. Politicians use it to frame their campaigns. Professional sports teams use it to psyche themselves up before big games. In theory, we've always liked the long shot. Is this special type of hero just a myth or is the underdog real? Contributor Brendan Leonard thinks it's real because he's seen it in person. Jayson Sime was a small town Iowa kid from the tough part of town. He was told he wouldn't amount to much by his teachers and hazed by his peers. The greatest successes require the most difficult obstacles. From north of nowhere to a career in politics to Mount Shasta's summit, Jayson has overcome. Maybe heroes are real. To be in their presence is a powerful thing. Can you learn how to emulate the underdog by watching one?

    Audio_graphic_20pxListen to "The Way of the Underdog"
    (30:38 - right-click to download MP3)

    Actually, Fitz wasn't totally relaxing over the summer. He posted his annual Dirtbag's Playlist Volume 6, a special episode that highlights the music from all of last year's podcasts. He and his partner Bryan Smith also released The Season 2 video series.

    Visit dirtbagdiaries.com for links to download the music from "The Way of the Underdog" or to hear past episodes of the podcast. You can subscribe to the show via iTunes and RSS, or connect with the Dirtbag Diaries community on Facebook and Twitter.

    From the Trenches series - Caring for your Down Clothing

    Trenches Like flocks of swirling swallows or shimmering schools of tropical fish, our customers swoop in with mysteriously synchronized concerns and questions on a regular basis, prompting the need for ready answers. Times like these, nothing would be more handy than magically beaming knowledge out into the ether. Our very own Old School is here to do just that. He's stepped back from the front lines to answer some of these more popular questions.

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    How Do I Wash My Down Jacket?

    Ws down sweater Perhaps it due to all the warnings about the perils of wet down, but it seems a lot of people are afraid to wash their down jacket. Down is remarkably tough stuff and though wet down has virtually zero insulation properties, getting it wet doesn’t hurt it in the least. Washing a down jacket is not much harder than washing a pair of jeans. 

    There are 3 things you’ll need to wash your down jacket: down soap, a front load washer, and a dryer with reliably low heat. While you can use regular detergents, they can strip away the natural oils in down and don’t always rinse out cleanly so I recommend using a cleaner specifically designed for down. I find NikWax® Down Wash works really well but there are several other effective down cleaners on the market.

    Continue reading "From the Trenches series - Caring for your Down Clothing" »

    Good vs. Honesty in the Mortenson Debate

    Kc - hushe area school 295 I’ve long had this idealistic notion that the ends don’t justify any means. It’s why I’m a stickler for truthful reporting of climbs. The half-truths, clever omissions and misrepresentations we sometimes see – and I learn about too often in my work – are just different forms of lying, and for what? If you can’t be honest about climbing, what else in life do you lie about?

    But who cares…it means little – unless, on a fundamental level, we think that truth matters. I think that it does.

    So what, then, if someone is dishonest – or just inept – and they serve a greater good?

    60 Minutes recently aired a damning indictment of Greg Mortenson, the Nobel Peace Prize-nominated humanitarian who founded the Central Asia Institute. The Institute has educated tens of thousands of young children, mostly girls, in rural and grossly neglected regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Mortenson, a former climber, started his organization after a failed attempt on K2 in 1993, when, he claimed, Pakistani villagers helped nurse him back to health and he promised to return and build a school. 60 Minutes and Jon Krakauer – author of a 75-page article, Three Cups of Deceit (How Greg Mortenson, Humanitarian Hero, Lost His Way) – allege significant fabrications in Mortenson’s best-selling book, Three Cups of Tea, and its follow-up, Stones Into Schools. Worse are the allegations of serious financial mismanagement, including a woefully low percentage of CAI’s proceeds actually going to schools, and large sums being spent on publicity and travel for Mortenson’s books and speaking engagements, for which he, not the CAI, receives the proceeds.

    [Above: A Central Asia Institute school along the road to Hushe, Northern Areas, Pakistan. Photo: Kelly Cordes]

    Continue reading "Good vs. Honesty in the Mortenson Debate" »

    Tracking Endangered Mountain Caribou - Patagonia Employees Help Witness for Wildlife

    Caribou Last year, six groups of Patagonia employees ventured out to explore, document, and help protect various wildlife corridors in the U.S. Among those groups were Dave Campbell and Andrew Marshall, who travelled north in hopes of spotting caribou along the corridor located in the lush region of southeast British Columbia.

    These citizen-naturalists were participants in Witness for Wildlife, a Freedom to Roam initiative.  As a co-founder of Freedom to Roam, Patagonia has, for three years, supported efforts to protect the critical wildways that animals must have to move and survive in the face of pressure from human development and climate change. Witness for Wildlife needs more volunteers dedicated to chronicling and protecting wildlife corridors - visit www.witnessforwildlife.org to become a citizen naturalist, and read the following story by Patagonia employee Dave Campbell to get inspired.

    Last spring Patagonia’s environmental department announced that they’d pulled together funding to sponsor select employee groups to travel to and document critical, at-risk wildlife corridors within North America, as part of the Witness For Wildlife and Freedom To Roam campaigns. Coworker Andrew Marshall and I took interest in the endangered mountain caribou corridor of the Selkirk Mountains of B.C. and after an extensive amount of research, we found ourselves on the road headed north.

    Andrew and I identified a low elevation old-growth cedar forest deep inside the Goat Range Provincial Park and decided to access it via Wilson Creek. The weather was clear when we parked and while hiking up a two-track paralleling lower Wilson Creek it almost seemed like we were in for a smooth outing. However, within a half hour we encountered a large mass of wood debris where a bridge used to be at the first tributary, and after a messy crossing we were unsuccessful at finding a trail on the other side.

    [Photo courtesy Conservation Northwest ©2010 Patrice Halley]

    Continue reading "Tracking Endangered Mountain Caribou - Patagonia Employees Help Witness for Wildlife" »

    Product Testing - New R1 & R2 at the top of Colorado

    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.
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    P8280700 Field Report: Climbing Mt Moriah, NV & Mt Elbert, CO
    Conditions: Cool & Windy
    Products Tested: W's R1®, M's R2®
    Tested by: localcrew and Dr. Liz

    With help from our friends at Polartec®, we've recently updated our Regulator® fleece. The information we have on our website says that this new stuff is warmer, lighter, and more compressible than the Regulator® fleeces that came before it. This is all true. But I’ve always wondered what phrases like “29% more breathable” (the R2® ) or “23% more compressible” (the R1® ) mean. How do you turn stuff  like that into something that makes sense? If my new R1® is 23% more compressible than my  old one, will I have space in my pack for another Snickers? (yippee!) Will 29% greater breathability on the R2® mean a 29% greater chance that my sweetie will smell my too-often loved, too-seldom washed Capilene® underlayers when we go hiking? ....Yippee!

    It was time to find out. OldSchool had picked up a box of some of the latest and greatest Capilene® and Regulator® stuff. It was only right to offer him a little help getting familiar with all these redesigned products. My little margarita and I had some hikes coming up, so I roped her into the deal. Old School handed us our goodies and our assignment: for Liz, the ladies' R1® Jacket; I got the men’s R2® Jacket. Ladies first . . .

    Women’s R1 Jacket
    W's R1 I, like many women I know, tend to have a very sensitive internal thermostat. I can go from chilly to burning alive in moments. For that reason, I am a fan of layers and I have a wide variety of layering options. The Capilene® 2 and 4 as well as the stretch velocity pullover are a few favorites for chilly outdoor running and hiking. For even cooler hikes, I always pack my Down Sweater and Houdini. When I was recently given the opportunity to test the R1® jacket, I was not sure that this addition could add a significant contribution to my array of layers. But I was wrong.

    [The summit trail on the way to the top of Eastern Nevada's Mount Moriah. Photo: localcrew]

    Continue reading "Product Testing - New R1 & R2 at the top of Colorado" »

    Product Testing - Backpacking with the New Capilene® 3

    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.
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    Field Report: Backpacking into the Ionian Basin. Klake11837

    Conditions: Rain, then Sierra sun.

    Product Tested: Capilene 3 Midweight Crew

    This season we’ve revised our Capilene® Midweight Baselayer, long our most popular cold weather Capilene. It’s now made from Polartec® Power Dry® 5.4-oz polyester, a double-knit fabric with 65% recycled content. The bi-component fabric matches an absorbent inner layer with an outer layer designed to spread moisture quickly, and the new fabric also has improved stretch and durability. But the first thing users of the new Capilene® 3 might notice is the feel; it is much softer against the skin than the old stuff. And it doesn’t just feel better, the new fabric dries 130% faster and wicks 38% better as well. Along with the new fabric, it gets new seaming and fit, making what we think has always been the best baselayer on the market even better.

    So, you might be saying, “It all sounds good, but what does this mean for the person in the field? Are these changes really noticeable?” Good question, questions we have asked ourselves. Our products have always been tested by our Ambassadors and product testers. These folks no doubt give outstanding insights but most are elite athletes, a far cry from the rest of us. So some of us Reno folks are giving our only slightly biased field reports on some of the new fall gear. We may not have a fabric lab but we have lots of mountains. Like most of you, we’re not pros, but still love to get out there…

    [Finally, Old School takes in the Ionian Basin. Photo:Sally Loomis]

    Continue reading "Product Testing - Backpacking with the New Capilene® 3" »

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