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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" »

    Product Testing - Hiking Matanuska Peak

    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: Hiking Matanuska Peak in Alaska June 2010  Matanuska peak 2


    Conditions: about 45 degrees at the bottom of the mountain and 35-40 toward the top. Light breeze and some drizzle for a bit.

    Products Tested: Women’s Release, Rock Guide Pants, Merino 3 Zip-Neck, Down Sweater, Houdini.

    Tested By: Maggie Robinson, Patagonia Customer Service

    My boyfriend Josh who grew up in Palmer, AK has wanted to climb Matanuska Peak (6119') since he was a kid. So on a pleasant but somewhat chilly Alaska day, Josh and I decided to give it a go. With a trailhead elevation of only 750 feet, we climbed and descended about 5,400 feet. Unlike most trails here in Reno, the trail up Matanuska Peak had no switchbacks and instead opted to go straight up. The last 1500 feet involved making our way through slippery shale and over unstable boulders. I have to admit that by that point I was both fairly scared and exhausted but I made it!

    W's rock guide Even though it was 45 degrees the steep trail meant I was fine in just my Merino 3 Zip-Neck and Rock Guide Pants. The Merino 3 Zip-Neck felt comfortable against my skin, didn’t get too hot while hiking, and  breathed really well. I liked the option of zipping it down for more breathability or zipping it up for warmth. The cuffs were also not too tight so could easily pull them up to cool off if needed. I hiked most of the climb in just my Merino 3 and my Rock Guide Pants and was very comfortable. The only time I put anything else on was when we stopped to eat lunch and towards the breezy and chilly summit, when I pulled out the fabulous Down Sweater and Houdini.

    [Above: Maggie on the way to Mantunuska. Photo: Josh Hejl]

    Continue reading "Product Testing - Hiking Matanuska Peak" »

    SWIP Trip: Following the Path of Wise Resistance

    RoemerSWIP-storm A bolt of lightning seeking a path from cloud to ground will trace a path of least resistance. Sometimes that path will lead a jagged bolt through a lone tree, at others, through the limbs of an unfortunate individual caught out in the storm. In our attempts to harness the power of electricity we have done our best to obey this preference, but we're ill-suited to reproduce the logic or efficiency of the lightning bolt's path. The energy-transfer infrastructure we've built reflects our best attempts to move electricity efficiently - long, low-resistance wires strung out with the assumption that the shortest distance between two points is also the most efficient. Look at any lightning bolt and you'll see it - the path of least resistance is rarely a straight line. 

    Yesterday's blog post from the Nevada Wilderness Project (NWP) wraps up their SWIP Trip - a project they put together to follow the path of a proposed power-transmission line that will shoot straight through the heart of a big piece of wild country, over 500 miles of Basin-and-Range wildlands between southern Idaho and southern Nevada. The path suggest a "shortest distance between two points" approach to moving energy across a stretch of country roughly the same reach as Boston to Washington, D.C. Once completed, it is hoped that the power line will form a critical link in a new energy infrastructure and the backbone for a host of renewable energy projects in the Intermountain West.  The project - and NWP's response to it - paints an image of what could be conservation's future: conservation groups working in collaboration with energy developers to make sure that much-needed renewable and alternative energy projects are Smart From the Start.

    RoemerSWIP-AB hike The timing of the SWIP trip coincides with storms that are currently wreaking havoc within the conservation community. Since the 60s, the relationship of conservation groups to power-development interests has been one of resistance: if, like electricity, power development proceeds along the path of least resistance, conservation's answer was maximum resistance. The strategy is not unlike two trains traveling in opposite directions on the same track. "Build up enough opposing momentum," the conservationists argued, "and we can stop these projects dead in their tracks."

    This strategy was responsible for many victories. But decades of maximum resistance has resulted in something unexpected: success. As Outside's Tim Dickinson points out in the May 2010 issue, when energy developers turn away from dams in favor of wind, solar, and geothermal, it's the responsibility of those who've demanded alternatives to join them in finding solutions. Today's conservation climate is stormy, Dickinson argues. Those conservation groups who stand the best chances are the ones whose strategies are well grounded. Put another way, it's no longer about least resistance vs. maximum resistance, it's about following a path wise resistance.

    Hit the jump below the photo credit for some of NWP's thoughts on their efforts to balance conservation and solar development:

    [Top: A spring storm sweeps across Eastern Nevada. Above, right: PCT record-holding thru-hiker, Adam Bradley, follows the route of the proposed Southwest Intertie Project. Photos: Tyler Roemer - more photos of the SWIP trip can be found on Tyler's blog.]

    Continue reading "SWIP Trip: Following the Path of Wise Resistance" »

    Will Obama Dam Salmon to Extinction?

    SalmonIn the midst of rightful concern over the plight of the Gulf, consuming conversations about the latest Supreme Court nominee, and the daily soap opera that has become our economy it's easy to become overwhelmed. Information fatigue is real; each of us can only care so much, and only has so much attention to spare after the job, the family and daily chores are taken care of. It's precisely why we feel the need to bring you this news from our friends at Save Our Wild Salmon. They're in the midst of a campaign that could determine the fate of the Endangered Species Act. At a time when so much attention is immediate and aimed at putting out fires today, lending a hand to a group that's looking out - and fighting for - a precious piece of our future can provide a much-needed tonic of hope.

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    “What is at stake here goes far beyond the issue of salmon recovery. To me, it raises the question of whether we have the courage and the will to reconcile the growing contradiction between the world we say we want to leave our children and the one we are actually creating through the decisions we make today. And it calls into question our capacity to take explicit and intentional action to shape our own future rather than to simply react to circumstances, allowing by default our future to become a matter of chance. It’s time to fight for salmon. It’s time to fight for us. It’s time to fight for our future.”
    — John Kitzhaber, former governor of Oregon, currently running for a third term

    On the heels of the catastrophic oil spill that is crushing wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration is poised to make a decision this week that could change the fate of endangered species in this country.  On Thursday, May 20, the Administration will release a federal salmon plan that will do one of two things for endangered wildlife: protect the Endangered Species Act, or weaken it. A decision to weaken the ESA for the West’s iconic Columbia and Snake River salmon could send an ecological ripple across the country — affecting every endangered species in the nation.And the situation doesn’t look good.  Instead of charting its own path, the administration is working off an illegal Bush administration plan for endangered salmon.

    [Salmon moving upstream. Photo: © University of Washington, Thomas Quinn]

    Continue reading "Will Obama Dam Salmon to Extinction?" »

    Product Testing - Spring Skiing the Tahoe Rim Trail

    We test our gear on a variety of levels. Our athletes and 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.
    _____________________________________________

    Rose Knob Product Report  - The outfit: Traverse Pull-Over, Backcountry Guide Pants, Merino 1 Tee, and Ultra Heavyweight Socks
    Activity: Backcountry Ski Traverse - Lake Tahoe Rim Trail
    Tested by: Adam Bradley, Patagonia Mail Order Customer Service

    The Tahoe Rim Trail is a 165 mile trail around Lake Tahoe that  “passes through two states (California and Nevada), six counties, one state park, three National Forests, and three Wilderness areas” along the mountain crests above Lake Tahoe. Skiing the Rim of Lake Tahoe has been a goal of mine since becoming more adept at snow- camping over the last few winters. I altered the official route to minimize exposure to avalanche terrain and shorten the trail in the Carson Pass/ Meiss Meadow area, so my route was approximately 145-150 miles. The elevation of the trail ranges from just under 10,000 ft to 6,400 ft. The scenery was, as expected, stunning and took me through places that are way too brushy to access in summer.

    I like to snow-camp as it keeps my skills sharp and compared to the summer's masses, this time of year offers true solitude. I wanted to do this trip unsupported and without any re-supplies. This meant I set out with all my provisions on my back and had to have the willpower to not purchase anything additional along the way (ed note: the trail crosses 6 highways, giving the non-purist many opportunities for re-supplies).  Food packing and planning would have to be dead-on or I wouldn’t make it the whole way around. Of course this made the pack heavy setting out from Tahoe Meadow, but it was worth it knowing I could just move forward and not be delayed by having to pick things up along the way.

    [Looking south from Rose Knob Peak. photo: Adam Bradley]

    Continue reading "Product Testing - Spring Skiing the Tahoe Rim Trail" »

    SWIP Trip: Speaking Art to Nothing

    Colossus of roads It wouldn't have been so bad if the dog didn't try to chew the photographer's face off. But that was just the start of it, and besides, how could he have known? All he knew is that there he was, huddled alone in the middle of a Nowhere most folks can't even imagine; a nowhere without many reminders of somewhere. A nowhere chock-full of things like space, shadows, light, and silence, and - at this particular moment - one hell of a springtime snowstorm.

    What this piece of nowhere had was a connection to somewhere and someone in the form of a seldom-used road. It was on this road that the Someone he knew was due to arrive with something he needed badly: food and water. With the full weight of the crushing storm bearing down on him, the snow and ice being driven like a fistful of pulverized glass by the storm's hurricane-force winds, he probably wasn't thinking about someone's dog, or the photographer's face - he was cold as hell and too hungry to think. An hour of expectation in a position of desperation is tough to handle - with one Warmth card left in his deck, Adam stood up, threw on his pack, and played it. He set out at a stiff stride toward the nearest piece of pavement - a solid day's walk away - determined to win back some warmth and get - god willing - close enough to civilization to pick up a signal. One bar was all he needed on his phone to ask, "Where are you?"

    If he'd have been able to make the call, he would have heard about the dog, about the mad scramble to hold the photographer's face together, the rush to the hospital, and maybe the location of his support vehicle. But this day on the SWIP route already felt different. The suspicion was confirmed when, against the odds, a vehicle materialized out of the storm. It had already had the makings of a day Adam would be telling stories about in years to come.

    And this was before he found himself strapped to a wheelchair, hurtling down a dirt road in a van full of drunken Indians.

    [An original Colossus of Roads, somewhere along a forgotten line. Goshute Valley, NV. Photo, Adam Bradley.]

    Continue reading "SWIP Trip: Speaking Art to Nothing" »

    Balancing Alternative Energy Development and Freedom to Roam in Our Backyard

    Badlands_sm Our Freedom to Roam campaign casts a wide net. It has to. The quest to preserve large tracts of habitat for migratory species creates the opportunity for some unexpected conversations and unlikely collaborations. Nevada Wilderness Project's (NWP) current effort to document - in collaboration with record-holding thru hiker, Adam Bradley - the proposed route of Nevada's "alternative energy backbone," is just such a project. The SWIP trip unites a new approach to energy development, protection for wildlife's migratory corridors, and on-the-ground reporting of habitat conditions to provide critical data for future conservation measures. As Adam makes his way down from Idaho to the Northern Nevada town of Wells, he's crossing land affected by these variables and more. Recent updates from the NWP blog help give a sense of the concerns that arise in just one corner of a state poised to take part in the green energy revolution.

    Last year, NWP started a Linking Landscapes for Wildlife Program to educate about the need for habitat connectivity, wildlife migration and smart planning for development of all kinds.

    One of the things we’ll be talking about on this SWIP Trip is the importance of what we call “cumulative effects.” This means that we have to start planning based on the full array of development (road building, powerlines, urban sprawl) as well as loss of habitat from natural phenomena like fire and drought. Too often we look at individual culprits for a loss of habitat . . .
    [A sampling of the terrain contained in the Badlands Wilderness Study area, just west of the proposed SWIP route. Photo courtesy Nevada Wilderness Project]

    ED NOTE: The previous post, SWIP It Good, can be found here, the next post, SWIP Trip: Speaking Art to Nothing, can be found here.

    Continue reading "Balancing Alternative Energy Development and Freedom to Roam in Our Backyard" »

    SWIP It Good - Tracing the Path of Green Energy Through Wild Nevada

    Gb_storm3 Between southern Idaho’s I-84 and the portion of I-15 transecting Nevada’s southern tip stretches a vast, empty land - over 500 miles of mountains, sagebrush, and wild bunchgrass. The area is home to some of the lower 48’s loneliest corners; even today, it's crossed by only two major east-west routes. It has remained a region of vast sagebrush oceans, naked playas, and peaks soaring to 12- and 13,000 feet, and is home to huge herds of pronghorn, remnant elk populations tucked away in forgotten mountain ranges, and healthy holdouts of predators like bobcats and mountain lions. In its more level places, large tracts of high-desert grassland look much like they have for thousands of years, while the high folds of the ancient peaks shelter trees that began growing over 4000 years ago and continue to raise their wizened green limbs to the sky.

    There are many reasons this region remains so sparsely inhabited, and the weather is a major one. Winds, unimpeded by obstacles, gain monstrous strength over the sweeping fetches between mountain ranges and whip the frequent snowstorms into vicious white-out fury. Springtime in the Great Basin and on the Snake River Plain is more a euphemism than a season. While warm, clear, sunny days aren’t uncommon during this time of year, it’s what happens between them that lends the vast region its character. Most of its valleys sit at near 6000 feet in elevation and the horizon is more often than not an unbroken line interrupted at random intervals by outcroppings of rock or the rare lone and struggling tree. The terrain here lies equally open to the warming spring sun and the hammering storms of a steely still-winter sky.

    It’s through this region that a large-scale green energy project will be developed, the Southwest Intertie Project, which will carry renewable energy from the Midpoint Substation in north Jerome County, Idaho south to the Harry Allen Substation, just north of Las Vegas in Clark County, Nevada—and beyond. And it’s also through this region, at this meteorologically fickle time of year, that Adam Bradley will be walking alone and unsupported along the entire length of that proposed power line.

    [A typical spring storm bears down on the eastern flank of the Schell Creek Range in the eastern Great Basin. Photo: localcrew]

    Continue reading "SWIP It Good - Tracing the Path of Green Energy Through Wild Nevada" »

    Yosemite Dispatches with Ron Kauk: Sacred Rok

    March 31 079 2 

    In today's audio dispatch, our friend and ambassador Ron Kauk introduces a new non-profit project he's been working on with Kenji Hakuta, professor of education at Stanford University.

    Audio_graphic_20px Listen to "Sacred Rok" (MP3 - right-click to download)

    Sacred Rok provides the chance for small groups of young people between the ages of 14 and 21 to get to know the natural beauty of Yosemite National Park. To find out more, visit Sacred Rok and check out their Activities page and FAQ. You can keep in touch with this new and evolving collaboration by subscribing to the Sacred Rok Newsletter.

    Music: "Slow Recovery" by Sus Corez. If you live in the Ventura area, catch Sus playing at Great Pacific Iron Works on April 17 for the Art Walk event with Patagonia's T-shirt artists.

    [El Cap on the morning of March 31, 2010 ... springtime in the Valley. Photo: Ron Kauk. Apologies to Ron for the long production time on this dispatch.]

    The Tin Shed Gets Tuned Up for Spring

    Tin Shed S10 We’re sliding open the doors to the Shed and sweeping it clean this spring. Tune into the season with a fresh batch of stories from our friends and ambassadors out in the wild – in videos, audio and written word. And don’t worry, just like our favorite winter sweaters, we’ve found a place to stash all the cool-weather stories – you’ll find all of them in the Tin Shed archives by clicking "View All Stories" in the top right corner of the Shed.

    Here's a taste of what you'll find this spring:

    Border Country
    Jeremy Collins and Mikey Schaefer had been planning a new route on Yosemite Valley’s Middle Cathedral when they learned of the deaths of their good friends and fellow climbers, Jonny Copp and Micah Dash. Collins said, “They showed us to never give up, to go light, to go bold, and always live with passion.” He and Schaefer sent the route in their honor.

    Mongo Metal Pirates

    In Mongo Fly ’08, Mikey Wier takes us to remote Mongolian rivers in search of the massive taimen. Check out the trailer for Metalheadz, a new video from AEG Media on steelhead fishing in the Pacific Northwest. And see an excerpt from the ESPN series Pirates of the Flats featuring Yvon Chouinard and Bill Klyn pursuing bonefish in the Bahamas.

    Freedom to Roam and Awakening the Skeena

    Freedom to Roam portrays a long-term initiative dedicated to establishing migration wildways in the Americas and elsewhere for animals now threatened by global warming. In Awakening the Skeena, a young woman swims the length of a cold northern river to inspire communities in its watershed to come to its defense.

    Jeff Denholm: Ocean Calling

    A twist of fate changed Jeff Denholm’s life in the mid-90s, but his competitive drive hasn’t diminished. Watch as he trains for, and competes in, his first Moloka’I Challenge – the 32-mile race that’s considered paddleboarding’s unofficial world championship.

    The Simplest Solution

    After seeing a wiry Nepali porter carry a 100 lb load with the aid of a tumpline, Yvon Chouinard followed suit and strapped one over his head to relieve the strain of his heavy pack on his injured neck. Following that discovery, Yvon said, “I learned to try to find a simple solution first, rather than a techno-fix.”

    Patagonia Surfers in Indonesia

    Gerry Lopez, Wayne Lynch, Liz Clark, and Dan, Keith and Chris Malloy set out with Fletcher Chouinard on the Makimba to test his new boards in Indonesia’s Mentawai Islands off the coast of Sumatra.

    Northern Alps Traverse

    In August 2009, Maxime Turgeon set off on his bike and pedaled up the high mountain passes of the northern Alps in search of classic climbs to solo. After three weeks, six peaks, 770 miles of cycling, and over 42,000 feet of elevation gain, he dove into the Mediterranean Sea at the end of this human-powered journey.

    24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell

    Team of two take on the steep, gritty sandstone near Jasper, Arkansas, during a 24-hour climbing competition. Patagonia ambassadors Brittany Griffith and Kate Rutherford team up to show the boys some sass. The self-proclaimed alpinistos gordos, Colin Haley and Mikey Schaefer, used the marathon competition to jump-start their training.

    Drop by the Shed to feed your roots with classic tales, check out fresh footage from the cutting edge, and maybe find yourself a sweet deal on your next Patagonia purchase. Thanks for tuning in!

    One Percent for the Planet
    © 2010 Patagonia, Inc.