By Heather Sterling
It’s early morning and our pre-dawn bedroom is see-your-breath freezing. But I’m curled up with my daughter Lily, snug in our cozy nest of blankets. I’m in that happy place between dreaming and waking. A habitual late-riser, I relish long, lazy mornings. I love adventure, I just prefer to initiate it after 9:00 a.m. and a good dose of caffeine.
Suddenly, I am aware of him; my husband John. I open one eye and see him standing in the doorway, fully dressed for the day that I now remember we have planned to spend backcountry skiing. I suspect that the tea has been brewed and the car already loaded. My brow furrows and dark thoughts cloud my groggy mind.
Above: Heather, John and Lily Sterling. Photo: Sterling Family Archive
Continue reading "Morning People" »
We recently received this email from Ross Curwen, a reader from, as he says, "rainy old England."
Just a letter saying thanks to The Cleanest Line community from rainy old England. About a year ago I injured my shoulder. This meant I had to cut right back on two things pretty huge to me: surfing and climbing. I was a bit mopey for a bit.
I needed to have something to maintain my fitness. Gyms, road running, cycling are all good but they're missing something. That's when I found trail running, through the Patagonia site. I don't have the huge expanse of mountains and national parks but I am spoilt with miles of cliff paths and dartmoor close to hand.
A year later and I am hooked. I love the rhythm of the trails, the temperature changes on your face emerging from dappled tree lines onto exposed cliffs. Like a lot of people in the community it becomes a bit of obsession. I'm at work knowing I've got shoes and a head torch waiting for me and trails to conquer later.
I wouldn't have this drive without reading the submissions on The Cleanest Line. I read the stories of all the different sports, trips and adventures and it inspires me to make my own. So all in all thank you to all of you and keep going as you are.
This short letter got us thinking about how we got started doing the things we love to do. Surely, we thought there are lots of interesting stories out there among our readers and we thought it'd be cool to hear some of them. If you have a story to tell, by all means chime in!
I'll go first...
Continue reading "What Inspired You?" »
by Kelly Cordes
Bang. The gun went off. I was wearing a suit. First time in a couple decades or more (for the suit, not the gun). All black, like Johnny Cash.
But I wasn’t robbing a train or singing the Folsom Prison Blues; I was doing a randonee ski race. Don’t think I’ve done a formal race in nearly 20 years – maybe since I was the first woman finisher in the Seattle Marathon. And this was a sprint race, a distance I’ve never been good at, but so what.
[The Gimpy Man in Black before the race at Eldora Resort. Photo: Cordes collection]
I’ve been loving ski touring, a.k.a. randonee, a.k.a. ski mountaineering – skimo for short. I love how stupid that name sounds, too. I’m not a skimo. You’re the skimo. The gliding motion is easy on my cankle, and allows me glimpses of that feeling I love more than anything: moving in the mountains.
Continue reading "Skimo in Black" »
It was ten years ago when we first pedaled over an obscure pass alongside South America's second largest lake and caught our first glimpse of Chilean Patagonia's wild and wonderful Rio Baker (Baker River) watershed. Never before had we encountered such a vast and ecologically diverse corner of the planet - and our physical and emotional reaction to the power and beauty before us is something we will never forget. We dropped our bikes and spent the good part of an hour treating our senses to this wild place.
Editor's note: This issue of damming rivers in Chilean Patagonia might seem like a hot new topic, but it's been on the radar for years now. Vermont photographers Brian Mohr and Emily Johnson have visited the Rio Baker Valley three times: first in 2000 on bikes, then in 2004 and 2006, on skis and foot, when they heard about a proposal to dam the Rio Baker. Today, Brian and Emily look back on those trips and their significance in light of the recent decision to proceed with the dams.
To the west stood the towering peaks of the Northern Patagonia Ice Sheet, which hovered over the glaciers and temperate rainforests beneath them. Rain and snow melt poured into countless streams and rivers, eventually joining forces with the mighty Baker - Chile's most voluminous river - on its way to the Pacific. To the south and east were the countless high mountains and deep valleys defining the drier side of the watershed - a region characterized by the small farms of Patagon families, vast regions of unexplored high country and the high-desert environs of the Argentine border. This area is also the home of the future Patagonia National Park.
Continue reading "Skiing Patagonia, Saving Patagonia - Chile needs energy, but is damming its wildest rivers a price worth paying?" »
When she's not busy making us jealous about climbing in places like Greenland and France, Patagonia Climbing Ambassador Jasmin Caton guides folks to some of British Columbia's choicest snow-covered gems with Valhalla Mountain Touring, a business she owns and runs together with her husband. Today she brings us a delightful story about some fresh turns recently made with one of the coolest ski partners a person could ask for. - Ed
The day had gone so well, maybe that was the problem. My Mum was up at Valhalla Mountain Touring to visit and ski while I worked as the lodge custodian for a self-guided group. I had had my eye on an unskied couloir for the whole season, and stability and weather were looking good, so I figured we'd ski it together since it didn't appear steep or difficult. Just a pretty rock-lined narrow powder run in a beautiful setting. As I parked us on the exposed ridge that leads into the run, my Mum started having second thoughts. "Hey Jas, I need some liquid courage" she said, laughing. I passed her a beat up brandy-filled chocolate from the bottom of my trail mix bag and she washed it down with some black tea from her small thermos (she doesn't drink water while out ski touring) and was ready to rip.
[First run of the day - some powder turns to warm up for the goods. All photos: Jasmin Caton]
Continue reading "Liquid Courage and Beer Goggles: Two New Runs at Valhalla Mountain Touring" »