Category: Summits & Outdoor Fun

Ski rodeo, Methow style

Olympians and future Olympians gathered yesterday for the annual ski rodeo in Winthrop, WA. The “U8” racers set the tone during the first (1k) race. The competition for podium spots would be fierce.

Meanwhile, up on the hills above town the Methow Valley Nordic team showed why this valley keeps turning out champion skiers. It was a long way back to the next skier.

We spotted an old friend Michael Karas giving his all in the 10k race.

Alas, he was no match for the Olympic lungs of local ski celebrity, Laura McCabe. 

Meditation comes in many forms

Crayon, iron, scrape, brush. Nick is in his happy place when prepping our Nordic skis. He does good work!

Ultralight backpacking geekery: stoves

As a climber, I’m always looking for ways to lighten my pack weight so I can have more energy to go for bigger, more exciting peaks. I’ve always like the idea of alcohol stoves. Their weight is counted in grams not ounces after all. But I never took them seriously because they use considerably more fuel than a basic canister stove. The incredible speed of an even heavier JetBoil or MSR Reactor also made that type of stove an attractive choice.
Then I had a conversation with a couple of alcohol- and esbit-burning stove converts on Friday evening, which got me thinking about them again. I got to pondering the break-even point for stove systems (i.e. when carrying an alcohol stove becomes less weight-efficient than a canister or other option), and before long I was elbows deep in spreadsheets.

Previously, I’d just been calculating total weight of the two systems at the beginning of the trip. I like to have a hot drink in the morning and a hot meal and a hot drink in the evening. This means I’m boiling roughly 48 ounces of water per day. This nets out to roughly 3 ounces of denatured alcohol, 3/4 ounce of iso-butane for a basic canister stove, or 1/2 ounce of iso-butane for a JetBoil. On a four-day trip, the total starting weight of the various systems including fuel is as follows:

Alcohol Stove: 14.25 ounces
Basic Canister Stove: 14 ounces (includes a full 4-ounce canister)
Jetboil Ti Sol: 17.375 ounces (includes a full 4-ounce canister)

See what I mean? Using this calculation, the basic canister stove system wins. Why bother with the slow alcohol stove? 

It finally occurred to me, though, that this comparison didn’t take into account how far you have to carry the weight and the varying rate at which the systems diminished in weight as fuel is burned. For example, even though you have to take more fuel for an alcohol stove, the system’s weight decreases rapidly because it burns so much fuel. I got to thinking that a better way to measure this would be to calculate the “weight-distance” of a stove system. (I readily admit that I may be reinventing the wheel here and this how everyone already compares one system vs. another, but it was such an a-ha moment that I wanted to share just in case no one had thought of it before.)

The calculation would go something like this: If you carry one ounce for one mile, you get a value of one. If you carry one ounce for 10 miles, that’s 10. If you carry 10 ounces one mile, that’s also 10. You can extrapolate this over a period of days based on the base weight of your stove system, amount of fuel you need per day, and your planned hiking distance to give you a total value for the “weight-distance” of a given system for a particular trip.

I played around with spreadsheets this morning and came up with an example of a four day trip. For one person, the weight-distances (in ounces) of the three stove systems would be as follows:

1-person-stove-chartClearly, the alcohol stove is the winner. Under my distance assumptions, it is more than 11 pounds lighter than a basic canister stove system and 26.5 pounds lighter than a JetBoil. That is a lot! 

Spreadsheets are amazing things. What happens if two people are using the stoves, burning twice as much fuel?




All of a sudden, the basic canister stove is the lightest option by more than 12 pounds. Huh!

Finally, I added it all up for a three-person trip, because sometimes you only take two stoves when there are six people on a trip.




The basic canister stove is still lighter, but the JetBoil comes in a close third and will likely be the better option in spite of the weight because of the time required to boil water for three people.

Finally, I added extra days to the solo chart until the numbers flip-flopped and the basic canister setup became more the lightest option. It finally happened when the trip length got to be six days long – two days longer than I originally thought:



These numbers blew me away. What do you think? Does this calculation make sense? Is this how you’ve been calculating weight all along and I’m just now catching up?

Larch love on the Maple Pass loop


Fall in the northwest is extraordinarily beautiful. Nick and I were lucky to be able to share it with his cousin, Ethan, and Ethan’s girlfriend, Giulia, today. Thankfully, the North Cascades didn’t disappoint! The blueberries are almost gone, but the larches are in their prime.

It threatened to snow on us a couple times, but tea and apple cake from Anne took the chill off.

Assortment | 3

Grand Prismatic Spring

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone NP

I’m buried in photos from my motorcycle trip in June, an impromptu trip to Dublin, and a few hikes, climbs, and overnight bike adventures in between. Thankfully, while the rest of the world is out adventuring, gear manufacturers are hard at work in Friedrichshafen and Salt Lake City, showcasing drool-worthy new gear for adventures to come. Some of it is available today, and some of it will arrive in stores this winter. Here’s a few of my favorites.

roof-top camperWhite Lightning Hard Shell roof-top camper. You can put racks on top of this low-profile camper so you can carry your bikes, surfboard, kayak, or whatever and have a comfy place to sleep. (At $3800, it’s pricey, but if you preorder this for delivery in the fall, you can save $500.)

pocket cleatsThese ultralight Pocket Cleats look like the first decent alternative to microspikes. At only 5.6 ounces per pair, that’s half the weight of the alternative. Oh, and did I mention they’re $10 cheaper, too?! It’s hard to imagine buying winter traction in August, but they may be hard to come by this winter.

There are a lot of portable espresso makers out there. Reviews are mixed, however, on the quality of the espresso produced. The Caflano All-in-One Coffee Maker looks like it could possibly make the world’s most perfect, fresh cup of drip coffee. A little adjustable grinder nests inside a mesh drip filter. Coffee drips into an insulated thermal mug. You’ve got to see the video to appreciate just how slick this thing is.

ATCBlack Diamond is releasing an upgraded ATC belay device. I don’t know anything about it, but it looks right sexy.

nano air lightAnd when the Patagonia Nano Air Light comes out, you can bet I’ll be buying one for super cold cross-country ski days. It looks like the existing Nano Air Jacket, but with hybridized panels for extra breath- ability – perfect for high-exertion activities in winter.

One helmetBolle has also introduced The One Helmet, a bike helmet I think I pretty much need to have. It’s got removable areo shells (okay, I don’t really need this), a built in LED safety light, interchangeable liners for summer and winter, a removable visor, and a “sunglasses garage” to hold your glasses when you want to take them off mid-ride.

Finally, if all this gear didn’t make you go glassy-eyed, Will Gadd’s article on overcoming fear is fantastic. Lean into it, analyze/learn from it, and when you decide to go for it, really commit.