A photo has been circulating around the internet showing a group of young girls dressed in princess costumes, except for one girl who is standing on the end dressed as a hotdog. When I first saw this, I laughed as anyone would, but as the day went on, I referenced it a couple more times to friends and I started to realize that the photo was so much more than just an internet meme; It spoke to me. Not because I’ve always wanted to dress up in a hotdog costume, although i’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t enjoy it. It spoke to me because I have a really deep respect for people who shrug off the norms of society and live their lives how they want, regardless of how weird it might seem. I respect them because they don’t go along with the crowd just because everyone else is. I think being a hotdog princess applies to all genders, not just to women. We get so caught up with who is doing what on social media and trying to find ways to feel validated by others that we forget who we really are; just a bunch of total weirdos trying to find a weird little place in this world. So I say to everyone. Be the hotdog princess that you know you are.
A few years ago, I spent some time in Norway with my good friends Cameron Sylvester and Angela Percival. Cameron was filming an ice climbing piece for Arcteryx and had asked me to come along to help out in the vertical world, while Angela was shooting stills. During the planning process, we had heard about giant formations along the coast, however after showing up, we quickly realized that the unusually warm spring had left all the coastal climbing rotting in the sun. After sitting down to discuss logistics, we decided to push inland. Cameron and I weren’t super enthusiastic since we had our hearts set on filming on the coast, but what we found was more amazing than either of us could have imagined. After a few hours of hiking, we came upon Storfossen, a colossal 500 foot monster that is formed in the Gorzi canyon located on the outskirts of the Lyngen Alps. Technically we didn’t stumble upon it. Cameron had briefly scouted it on a previous shoot, but because of time and logistics, they weren’t able to film on it.
The climb was accessed by either a 3 pitch rappel, or a diffiuclt down climb further up the canyon to the east. Since we hadn’t scouted the down climb, Cameron and I decided to rap down in order to get the approach shots we needed. Arcteryx athlete and badass Slovenian, Luka Lindic and his climbing partner Blaz Markovic (aka Lobo, which I think translates roughly to “Meat”, which would make sense since that is all he ate the entire trip) led the charge and after about 30 minutes, we were all at the bottom, staring up at the days project.
After filming a portion of the approach, Luka and Blaz started climbing, while Cam and I headed back up in order to film the last pitch. It was a long day, but the footage ended up looking really good, so we were psyched.
The following day, after making our way back up to the formation, we decided to rappel in from the top and film the individual pitches. While getting ready to rap in, we could feel the water that formed the climb underneath us, vibrating the entire column. Rapping down a few pitches, we arrived at a chamber that seemed to be much more stable than the upper pitches and also felt like a good place to start. The two of them geared up as I moved into position above them. About halfway through the 2nd pitch, after getting drenched by the melting ice, a huge windstorm came blowing up the canyon. The wall of white pushed toward us much faster than I had anticipated and didn’t have time to prepare for the inevitable blizzard. The intensity of it all caught me off guard.
Between the near impossible visibility and my soaked camera (sorry Cameron), the three of us quickly made our way up to the ice chamber that served as the last belay. As we waited for the storm to pass, we all exchanged glances. None of us were terribly excited to still be on the formation. The vibration was noticeably stronger at the last belay, and after a few minutes, the storm let up enough that we were able to leave the cavern and quickly make our way to the top.
Later that evening, after we descended in the dark, we stood by the car, watching the northern lights dance across the sky. The laughter faded as the group fell silent. Ribbons of green snaked past constellations and all at once, everything was perfect.
It’s funny how most everything that you learn about life is based on a mistake. If not a mistake, then maybe an unfortunate situation. For a long time, I put work over friends and family. I would break plans constantly, all because I had this idea that if I just did one more job, it would set me on the path to success. And while I still wouldn’t consider myself successful in any right, and occasionally I have to break a plan or two, I realize that having a group of people that will support you in everything you strive to become is far more important than making that little bit of extra money.
On Aug 8th, 2015, around 930 am, Alexis Baum-Crellin and I met Stacey Pearson at her home near the base of Little Cottonwood Canyon to do some last minute gear shuffling. We stood around the large room filled with expensive looking exercise equipment debating the minutia: How much water we were bringing, what sort of food, etc. . . Aware of the task at hand, we quickly wrapped things up. After a few minutes we all fell silent. Alexis grinned, “Well, should we get going?” I let out a heavy sigh. Both of the girl’s excitement made me feel like I had made a wrong choice somewhere along the line. While visibly unfazed, my true excitement was buried deep within, and wouldn’t be awaken for quite a while.
All three of us piled into Stacey’s car and drove the couple miles to the trailhead at the base of Ferguson Canyon. We exited the car and geared up. The problem with running is that it takes very little equipment, so it took almost no time to get ready to go. Usually, on different adventures, the process is a little more complicated, so one gets time to work it out in their head what it is they’re about to embark on, but this time It happened so fast. One moment, I was safe in the confines of a nice warm car, and the next, I was running behind Alexis and Stacey, trying to convince myself that I had made the right decision.
The WURL, or Wasatch Ultimate Ridge Linkup, is a 33 miles ridge traverse that circumnavigates Little Cottonwood Canyon just outside of Salt Lake City. With a little over 20,000 feet of elevation gain, it’s not something to be taken lightly. Jared Campbell was the first to complete the run, and less than 20 people have completed it since.
Stacey and Alexis had been plotting to run the WURL for quite a while, rehearsing sections that would need to be accomplished in the dark, and running water up to the top of the ridge for a resupply. A week prior to there departure, Alexis posted something about the WURL on Facebook and I immediately took interest. It’s something that I had always wanted to do, in the same vein that i’ve always wanted to go into space. Sure, it was something that was technically achievable, but i hadn’t actually made any sort of effort to make it happen. This time, however, I decided to pull the trigger. This seemed like a great opportunity for me to tick this one off the list, as well as shoot some photos throughout the process. After a little bit of thinking, I texted Alexis and told her I wanted to come. If I had fully understood what I was getting myself into, I might not have volunteered my time up quite so easily.
Cruising up Ferguson Canyon, we gained the ridge that led to the top of Twin Peaks; the first of many summits. The wind howled, moving clouds quickly up and over the ridge, occasionally blocking the sun. The terrain was difficult; moving from Twin Peaks over O’Sullivan, then onto Dromedary was slower than we had anticipated. There were a handful of no-fall zones that had to be navigated with caution, however after Dromedary, things eased off and we were able to make better time. We topped out Mt. Superior and searched for a water stash that had been placed earlier, but came up empty handed. We weren’t too concerned, though since we had a friend meeting us a ways down the ridge, but when we arrived at the resupply location, no-one could be found. After a few phone calls, we found out that a road biking race had closed the canyon and they weren’t able to make it up to us. Slightly frustrated, Alexis, Stacey and I pooled our water and after a few more phone calls, had Alexis’ husband lined up for meeting us at Catherine’s pass, which was about 5 miles away.
Over the next hour, we made our way along the more mellow parts of the ridge, passing Honeycomb Cliffs. The pace picked up as steep jagged hills gave way to rolling runnable terrain. This was by far the easiest portion of the run. We made our way through aspen groves, up and over Mt. Wolverine and down to Catherine’s Pass where we finally we able to restock our food and water. We rested briefly and spoke with a nice couple who volunteered to take some of our trash for us. Since it was already a supported run, none of us really felt bad about offloading our protein bar wrappers on to them. We set off on a slow pace, headed for Devil’s Castle. As the sun inched closer to the horizon, I noticed the silence. We hadn’t been a very chatty group, which was fine. Sometimes the biggest motivator is the sound of your own breath.
By the time we got to Devil’s Castle, night had fallen. We broke out our headlamps and navigated the technical no-fall zones at a slower pace than we had anticipated, but because it was dark, everything felt focused. We were only really concerned with what was immediately in front of us. Before we knew it, we had made it up and over Sugarloaf and were sitting in the warming hut near the tram dock, which was a little over halfway. If the tram had been operating, I might have considered just heading down and calling it, but fortunately for my ego, it wasn’t. We rested up for about 30 to 45 minutes, eating delicious fruits that I had stashed, then reluctantly made our way back out into the darkness. The next few hours before sunrise were a blur. The hiking turned to scrambling, which made an already slow effort even slower. Route finding became hit and miss, and a lot of time was spent down climbing massive boulders, only to have to climb back up and head a different way.
We arrived at the Pfiefferhorn cold and exhausted. Up until this point, we had all crashed at least twice, however they were never at the same time, so when one person was having issues, the others could motivate them until they were able to get out of the funk. Now, however, the traverse was beginning to take it’s toll. Despite all of this, we were excited at the prospect of being finished, which I suspect was the biggest motivator. After our amazing friends had left, we watched the sunrise as we made our way off of airplane peak. The finish was in sight.
Sluggishly, we made our way across Lightning Ridge, and topped out Thunder Mountain’s south peak. Mentally, this was the hardest section. Despite being on the true ridgeline, it felt as if we were hiking in the wrong direction. The last two peaks were slow, but uneventful. Alexis, Stacey and I topped out Lone Peak about 24 hours after we had started. Chatting briefly with a couple on top, we bailed off the summit and worked our way down a sketchy couloir to the north. There was no trail off of Lone Peak, so we bushwhacked a while until we found Upper Bells Canyon Reservoir, then ran on pristine single track to the bottom, only getting lost once, when the trail abruptly ended at a rocky section. The last few miles were difficult. Bones ached, muscles were sore, and tendons felt tenuous at best. All three of us finished about 3 hours after topping out our last peak, with a total time of 27 hours and 15 minutes.
It was cool to see Stacey and Alexis take about 10 hours off the women’s record. Their motivation definitely kept me going when I didn’t really want to, and I’m sure that I just would have thrown in the towel had they not been there. After taking a month or so off, I’ve been able to look back and appreciate what we did. It’s helped me realize what’s possible with the right motivation, and I look forward to future adventures with amazing people.
Auyan-tepui, Venezuala - Mike Call traverses along the lip of a boulder just outside of base camp on location for the Point Break remake last October. A few days prior, I had taken a 45 minute helicopter ride from Canaima to the top of Auyan-tepui. Criss-crossing rivers, winding over the jungle canopy, I could see the camp in the distance. The scene was something straight out of a dream. About a dozen tents sat atop pallets dotting the rocky uneven landscape. It was free of vegetation, however a thick jungle was just a stones throw away.
I left the confines of the helicopter and was completely taken off guard by my surroundings. No longer was I suffocated by the thick jungle air, but instead had ascended into the clouds high above the valley floor. That evening, after I had met with Mike and the rest of the crew, we wandered off to explore the surrounding landscape. Giant sandstone boulders sat within sight of camp, however finding a route over was tricky. After working our way around several large chasms, we found an amazing array of boulder problems. Crooked relics formed for a millennia. Overhanging slabs that defied the laws of gravity shot out from all angles. It was perfection hidden in a hostile jungle.
Sasha Digiulian works her way up El Matador on Devils Tower. The formation, which many of the surrounding Native American Tribes refer to as Bear Lodge, was given its name after a mistranslation back in 1875 and has since come under fire for misrepresenting the sacred nature of the monolith. According to “In the Light of Reverence”, a documentary delving into the conflict between the tribes and the public, during the month of June when the tribes hold most of their ceremonies, 85% of climbers adhere to the voluntary climbing ban imposed by the park.
Jeff Richards cruises through the top moves on Superman, a highball boulder problem in Joes Valley. I believe this was the same trip where Chad Parkinson basically broke his ankle falling off the same climb, but it wasn’t my fault because I wasn’t spotting.
The silence that extended out across the lake was as tangible as the water beneath us. Birds circled high overhead, darting down toward the water, landing on the distance. All around us the Universe continued its violent expansion, and yet the only sounds we could hear were our own. Josh’s rhythmic breathing cut through the air, while our paddles propelled us closer to our objective. Hardly a word was spoken between the steady, methodical strokes.
On a whim, Josh and I had left Salt Lake City at 9 o’clock the night before, driving the requisite four and half hours to get to Jackson, Wyoming. By the time we arrived and found a place to crash, it was 2 am. Exhausted, we spent an hour packing, unpacking, and repacking the kayak, in order to get all of our gear to fit. When we were finished, we decided to take an hour nap, a decision that would later prove to be frustrating.
Waking up at 4, we carried the kayak about ¼ mile to get to Jackson Lake. It was dark when we put in, and not a soul was in sight. The stars above arced out across the heavens, illuminating the lake with a billion points of light. 30 minutes into our paddle, the sun was lurking below the horizon.
To our west, we could see our goal, Mt. Moran, rising above trees that crept down to the shore. As the sun rose higher, light moved down its slope onto the lake, warming the air around us. Within minutes, we realized the day was going to be much hotter than we had anticipated.
After about two hours of paddling, we arrived at the base of Mt. Moran, pulling the kayak up onto the sand. The snow was still deep from the heavy winter, so we were able to start skinning just pass the edge of the lake.
Climbing higher and higher, we realized that we had misjudged how long it would take us. Arriving just below the final couloir we stopped to assess. Disappointed in our time management, exhausted from our lack of sleep, we briefly discussed our goal and decided to pull the plug. The weather was just too warm and the snow was quickly turning into crud.
The skiing wasn’t anything memorable; shitty concrete, pockets of creamed corn, mixed with some aggressive tomahawking down to the flats. What stood out to me though was the paddle earlier that morning; The blisters covering my hands. The water dripping down the paddle, soaking my shirt. The cool air against my face, The silence. It was definitely the silence.
Denali National Park, Alaska - Mountains stand, jutting straight up from the valley floor. And while the quiet calm washes over those willing to accept the challenge, filling the human spirit with determination and hope, they continue their stand, ready and willing to break anyone that isn’t up for the task.
Joes Valley, UT- One of the things I love about living in Utah is the rock climbing. Any direction you go, there is good climbing. Joes Valley, down near Orangeville, is one of those places. I first started going there about 10 years ago with one of the rowdiest groups of climbers I've ever met. Loud, obnoxious, immature, idiotic: All are adjectives I could use to describe us, however we all had fun, and that's what is most important. A couple years ago, we started hiking up random drainages to find new boulder problems. We had seen a particularly tall one from the road and had even walked up and looked at it, but it looked impossible, so we went on in search of other climbs.
Last year, Griffin Whiteside and I, along with some others, went back to it, and started cleaning it, brushing all the gunk off, making sure certain holds wouldn't break off. It was a necessary evil. A couple weeks after we had cleaned it, A group of us headed back up to it carrying large crashpads so that Griffin could try it. Nobody else had any desire to try it. It's tall and scary, thus the name #Tall. The moment I captured on Griffin's first ascent, is one of the critical moments on the climb. Your right foot swings out, something climbers call a barn door, and the weight of your body starts to shift. If you're not strong enough, your body will continue to swing to the side, your hands will pop off and you will land on your head and die.
The shouts of "come on" and "stick it" went quiet as Griffin's right leg started swinging back. He looked down in fear, eyeballing the landing. Chad, moved some pads around, while scott feebly held his hands up, getting ready to make sure he didn't land on his head. A breath escaped Griffin as he put his right foot back on. The screams from below started back up again as he finished the last couple moves to top out. Easily one of the tensest moments I've ever witnessed while climbing with some of the best friends i've ever had, except Scott.