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    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" »

    The One Move I Couldn’t Do

    Patagonia Climbing ambassador Nico Favresse headed to Baffin last year with fellow ambassador Sean Villanueva O'Driscoll to see what they could see - maybe climb a few things. They returned with killer images and a sack full of first ascents and notable repeats of huge granite lines in a landscape seldom visited and even more rarely climbed (original post here).

    As a follow-up to the trip, Nico dropped this nugget in our inbox - an account of his attempts to free one of the more rugged climbs: The Belgarian (5.13 A1, 850m) on the west face of Mount Asgard’s South Tower. The climb was completed in 11 days, big wall style, with one aid move. Our palms are already sweaty after checking out this trailer for their movie, "Asgard Jamming." Nico's essay gives us a better idea of the wrestling match that went into that one move standing between him and freeing the route. Read on for the report and pick up a copy of the full film online at or

    Here's Nico

    I have been blocked here already for at least one hour, hanging on the very tip of the sharp end at more than 600 meters from the glacier. I am looking for any weakness of the rock. Maybe it will go here, and if not maybe I can lower and join another crack system by traversing on the face. Here where I am it’s hard, that’s for sure! But my instinct tells me there is something; a possibility is hiding behind these microscopic crimps. I analyze the sequence, imagine a solution and here I am going for it again. My fingers crimp with all its strength and I throw myself again at it hoping to have some kind of new sensation… GGGRRRRR!! I dyno, I see the hold, it’s getting closer then… It’s going away again, I fall... the nut holds.

    Continue reading "The One Move I Couldn’t Do" »

    Dirtbag Diaries: The Pugilist

    The_pugilist Patagonia ambassador Kelly Cordes steps into the ring this week for another round with Fitz Cahall and the Dirtbag Diaries:

    "Fantasies happen from a safe distance. It's one thing to say you want something, even convince yourself of it. It's another thing all together to stand under a 3,500-foot nightmare you've feared for 15 years and try to actually climb it," writes climber and writer Kelly Cordes. At a quick consideration boxing and alpinism have little in common. Ponder it for a second and you might see the similarities. After years in the ring and even longer in the vertical life, Kelly certainly does. Each challenges its practitioner to accept fear. A boxer's opponent can deal out pain and defeat, and when you put it in that light, a mountain isn't all that different. Today Kelly presents a story about the biggest fight of his life and embracing the mythic choss pile that has haunted him since his early days of climbing.

    Audio_graphic_20pxListen to "The Pugilist"
    (mp3 - right-click to download - contains some expletives)

    For more from Fitz, visit the Dirtbag Diaries or slide open the door to the recently updated Tin Shed. For more from Kelly, pull up your silky shorts as high as they'll go and jab your way over to his fantastic blog.

    Dirtbag Diaries: The Shorts - Scars

    Shorts_NB_man Happy Mother's Day to all the Patagoniac moms out there. Thank you for all you do. In lieu of organic roses delivered to each of your doorsteps, we present a new Shorts episode of the Dirtbag Diaries for you to enjoy in bed while your offspring prepare your favorite breakfast. Show host Fitz Cahall introduces the podcast, and his wife Becca.

    "There is a wonderment in scars, the remnant of a body able to heal itself," writes Becca Cahall. "I love that my skin has chosen to retain memories that I might otherwise have forgotten." We've all got them. War wounds. Battle scars. We get them from crashing bikes in the woods, surgeon's scalpels and cheese grating falls on granite. If you look back at each scar, each of them tells an incredible story, tales to share around campfires and over beers. The real incredible thing is that we choose to see what we want in our wounds and in others. We look past them to the emotion and memory behind them. They become the physical diary of our lives.

    Audio_graphic_4  Listen to "The Shorts - Scars"
    (mp3 - right-click to download)

    In between full-length episodes of The Dirtbag Diaries, listeners like you have the chance to narrate your own story on the show -- these are the Shorts. To submit your story for consideration, visit The Dirtbag Diaries and look for the Story Suggestions? link in the sidebar. You can subscribe to the show via iTunes and RSS, or connect with Fitz via Facebook and Twitter.

    The Making of "Border Country"

    Inside the recently updated Tin Shed is a beautiful and poignant, animated video by climber and artist Jeremy Collins. It's called Border Country. Today we're stoked to share a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Border Country and the passion that was poured into it by Jeremy and his companions at ThreeHouse.

    [Video: The Making of Border Country from Jeremy Collins on Vimeo.]

    [With thanks to Stuart]

    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!

    Dirtbag Diaries: The Shorts - Upward Mobility

    NB_manOne world, one love, one blog. Yesterday we heard from an East German employee, today, India native Harini Ayer shares her Short on The Dirtbag Diaries. Host Fitz Cahall sets the stage:

    Throughout the course of the Diaries, I'd hazard to guess that hundreds of you have written in about the struggle many of us -- me included -- experience between work and our passions. Even if work is one of your passions, the mountains, rivers, all the tiny places in this great wide world can seem impossibly far away. We are put in positions where we have to decide between pragmatism and passion. Harini Ayer's story epitomized this struggle. She came to the States from Southern India almost a decade ago and fell in love with this country, her research and climbing. Her ability to stay here has always been tied to her visa. Her work was a form of upward mobility. But there was a catch. If Harini switched jobs, or took a break from her research, she lost her ability to stay here. Climbing took a back seat, until eventually Harini made a stand for herself, her style of life and took an incredible risk.

    Audio_graphic_4  Listen to "Upward Mobility"
    (mp3 - right-click to download - music credits)

    In between full-length episodes of The Dirtbag Diaries, listeners like you have the chance to narrate your own story on the show -- these are the Shorts. To submit your story for consideration, visit The Dirtbag Diaries and look for the Story Suggestions? link in the sidebar. You can subscribe to the show via iTunes and RSS, or connect with Fitz via Facebook and Twitter.

    Ten Pounds of Tequila - Climbing Venezuela's Acopan Tepui with Mikey Schaefer, Kate Rutherford, Brittany Griffith and Jonathan Thesenga

    20100215_Acopan_Venezuela_1648 Jonathan Thesenga has been everywhere. A great climber, traveler and storyteller, his hit list is adorned with some of the best out-there adventures and destination discoveries of the last decade. Morocco, Mali, the Czech Republic and the storied Stolby trips come to mind immediately. So when he expressed interest in exploring some new routing options on the iconic tepui formations of Venezuela I was eager to see the adventure happen. With his new bride, Brittany Griffith, and friends and fellow ambassadors Mikey Schaefer and Kate Rutherford rounding out the dream team, a successful ascent was undoubtedly lurking amongst a sea of laughter and good times. Today’s trip report comes from Jonathan himself, complimented by images from Mikey Schaefer. Mix a Gatorita, sit back and picture yourself there. ["Questing upward!" Brittany Griffith maximizing her reach on another spicy pitch. Photo: Mikey Schaefer]

    On February 7th, Brittany Griffith and I flew from the homogenized world of Salt Lake City to the rough and tumble world of Caracas, Venezuela where we met up with Mikey Schaefer and Kate Rutherford who had flown up directly from a month-long mission in Patagonia. They stashed their entire alpine kit at our great friends Kami and Jose’s house (no need for ice tools and DAS parkas where we were headed!). Our objective was to fly into the Gran Sabana in the heart of the country’s rainforest jungle and climb a new free route on Acopan Tepui, one of the stunning sandstone tepuis that tower above the rainforest and savannah.

    We caught a flight out the next day to Ciudad Bolivar, where we then hired two Cessnas to fly us and all our gear into the jungle to the village of Yunek (a huge thanks to our main man Jochen from Gekko Tours in Ciudad Bolivar for all his help getting the flights lined up). For us four it was our first time venturing into the rainforest and we couldn’t take our eyes off the endless green canopy far below. The same could not be said of our pilot, who quickly became bored with looking out at the green nothingness, pulled out his newspaper and, to our amazement, began intently reading the paper while flying.

    Continue reading "Ten Pounds of Tequila - Climbing Venezuela's Acopan Tepui with Mikey Schaefer, Kate Rutherford, Brittany Griffith and Jonathan Thesenga" »

    Backyard Adventures: Pioneer Trifecta (aka. Fatherhood Shakedown)

    Jj_Hyndman A little over a year ago, we invited readers to submit stories of their own Backyard Adventures and announced a deadline of January 9th, 2009. Here we are in 2010, and still (happily) receiving submissions. Today's post is from previous Backyard Adventure contributor Steve Graepel, author of an earlier piece about traversing central Idaho's Sawtooth Range. Steve's been working hard on his plan to thread a 900+ mile route through Idaho's wilderness by foot, raft and mountain bike. This installment of Steve's Backyard Adventures could be considered a recon-mission for his big trip, but with a new baby on the way, Steve had something different in mind . . .


    After ten years of marriage, life finds a comfortable rhythm; it’s a well-tuned circuit of work, exercise and leisure.

    And then along comes your first child...

    "It will change your life...your life will never be the same...parenthood gives back so much more than you put into it...". Growing wary of the overabundance of encouragement, or perhaps out of sheer panic, I jumped at the chance to get lost during the baby shower. There aren’t many problems you can't solve after an 8.5 hour push.

    I wanted to knock out a trip I'd heard rumors of. Nestled in Sun Valley's backyard, three hours from Boise, the "Pios" court those with a zest for adventure. . . .

    [Above: The view of Hyndman Peak from Cobb's south face. Photo: James Just]

    Continue reading "Backyard Adventures: Pioneer Trifecta (aka. Fatherhood Shakedown)" »

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