Lightweight Hiking with Andrew Altepeter #2

Beartooth Mountains TenkaraProcessedPhotos & text by Andrew Altepeter. Above photo of the Beartooth Mountains.

I had a blast this summer working with some skilled and wonderful co-instructors and some great student groups.  On our twenty-eight day mountaineering course in the Wind River Range we experienced a spectrum of weather catching wintery conditions early in the summer that eventually transitioned into some sunny days.  After working hard to push through snow and rain storms for most of the first half of the course we were blessed with a weather window and climbed Gannet Peak, Wyoming’s highest at just over 13,800’.  Then after a fun time in the Wind Rivers and just a few days in town it was off to the Beartooth Mountains in Montana to instruct a leadership training for midshipmen at the USNA.  On this course we experienced the opposite weather progression…clear skies trending to days of very early build-up and thunderstorms.  Our technical focus on this expedition was off trail travel and we managed to get many solid fishing days in as well. Read the rest of the article!

72 Hrs: Angela VanWiemeersch Climbs Mount Hayes

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Mount Hayes is the highest mountain in the eastern Alaska Range and one of the largest peaks in the United States in terms of its rise. The Northeast Face rises 8,000 feet in approximately two miles.  The mountain was first ascended in 1941, but it’s infrequently climbed due to its remoteness and the resulting difficulty of accessing the mountain.  Check out Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador Angela VanWiemeersch’s report on her team’s 72-hour ascent of their first ascent. Read the rest of the article!

Lightweight Hiking with Andrew Altepeter

The author using our 4400 Ice Pack.

Photos & text by Andrew Altepeter

For the last five years I have been working as an instructor of hiking, lightweight hiking, climbing, mountaineering, canyoneering, and skiing courses in and around the American West for the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS).  The courses that I instruct range from one to four weeks in length with pack weights ranging from 30 – 65 lbs depending on the skill type, environment, and number of days between resupplies.  I have experimented with a variety of ultralight packs over the years and spent time modifying, stitch ripping, and chopping various bells and whistles to create simple, lightweight, and functional packs for work…and play!  I have also significantly downsized from the 90+ liter sized packs that are standard for our long expeditions by making deliberate gear choices appropriate for the given environment and gaining better understanding of how to plan and pack just what I need to have a successful backcountry experience. Read the rest of the article!

Trail Days in Damascus, VA – May 15th to 18th, 2014

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Once again, Hyperlite Mountain Gear will be traveling to Damascus, Va for the 28th annual Trail Days festival celebrating this year’s 4,000-5,000 Appalachian Trail thru-hikers.  In addition to the majority of thru-hikers that will be in attendance, the festival draws an additional 15,000-20,000 hiking enthusiasts and lovers of the Appalachian Trail from around the U.S., North America, and the entire world.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear will be loading up a few cars and trucks on the morning of May 13th to make the 1,000 mile journey from Maine to southwestern Virginia for its fourth showing at the festival.  Hyperlite Mountain Gear will have a booth set-up demonstrating its ultralight mountain gear and will also have a large stock of inventory available for sale. Read the rest of the article!

Skiing the Grand

funhogging_in_the_tetonsPhotos & text by Beau Fredlund

This week things aligned for some exceptionally good ski mountaineering in the Tetons.  A nice spring storm had come in warm, bonding well to the old snow surfaces, and finishing cold and dry.  Perfect for skiing and avalanche stability.  Our week included some excellent adventures with bicycle access in Grand Teton National Park (on a road closed to auto traffic), and was punctuated by a ski descent of the highly coveted Grand Teton.  Possibly the most iconic mountain in the lower 48, and a challenging ski mountaineering objective by any route.

Read the rest of the article!

Hyperlite Mountain Gear: off to Everest!

We’re proud to share the news that cameramen and adventure videographers John Griber and Ed Wardle will be carrying Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s ultralight packs when they climb Mt. Everest to film Joby Ogwyn’s historic wing suit jump off the summit.

NBC hired Griber to be a cameraman this spring for an event called Everest Jump Live.  He and Wardle will be following Ogwyn up the mountain filming his climb and running jump off Earth’s highest point.  No human has ever attempted this feat before, and the Discovery Channel will be airing the 11,000 foot drop and five mile descent back to Base Camp during a two hour live broadcast in May.

Joby Ogwyn 3

Read the rest of the article!

My parents went ultralight

FamilyGrandCanyon3By Amy Hatch

Large external frame backpacks protruded over their heads. Bungee cords lashed to them a frying pan, heavy foam sleeping pads and an extra daypack. A bulky backpacking shower, full books, and eggs, bacon and hash browns added to the unwieldy load.

This is how backpacking used to look for parents, Nancy and Cleve Schenck, back in the ’70s and early ’80s, before I was a twinkle in their eyes – and, for that matter, even once I became part of their outdoor adventures.

“Packs used to not have sternum straps, so we’d jerry rig the sternum straps,” my mom reminisced.

Read the rest of the article!

New Athlete! Angela VanWiemeersch

Angela VanStein

Hyperlite Mountain Gear would like to welcome our newest ambassador.  Bad Ass for sure!

“Basically I’m in love with wide open places, and I strive to explore those places to the fullest. Climbing gets me exactly where I want to be. Every time I’m climbing I think its the coolest thing I’ve ever done.”- Angela VanWiemeersch

Angela (or VanStein known for her epic stein pulls), lives for the mountains. From the peaks of Alaska to her home crags of Zion, where she works a climbing guide, Angela is constantly seeking to push herself to higher limits.  As an accomplished climber on rock, ice and mixed terrain Angela views her self as an explorer at heart.  In 2010 she completed a 1400 mile solo unsupported bike tour from Detroit, Michigan to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. The lure of the unknown and the vast beauty of untouched landscapes then continued to drive her North.

Read the rest of the article!

What is new for 2014?

What is new in 2014?

We get asked that question from the media, friends, and customers all the time. So we thought we would take a moment to give an update on what we’ve been doing at Hyperlite Mountain Gear to make our products even better!

We have rolled out NEW features across our entire pack range in the 2400(40L), 3400(55L) and 4400(70L) sizes. These include taping all of the packs critical seams for improved water resistance, a double-reinforced 150d pack bottom, re-designed hip-belt pockets for improved utility, and extended hip-belt length for better wrap around support allowing improved weight transfer capability from the shoulders to the hips.

Also on our large 4400(70L) sized packs we are building the entire pack from our Cuben/150d Poly hybrid material and we have added an additional back panel frame-sheet allowing an increased carrying capacity of up to 60 lbs.

Read the rest of the article here.

Neon, Thru-Hiking the Appalachian Trail – Segment 7, The Four State Challenge!

Every year Appalachian Trail (AT) thru hikers, gear heads and dreamers flock to Damascus, Virginia for the annual “Trail Days” festival.  This year, Trail Days was held from May 17-19 and attracted thousands of outdoor enthusiasts from all over the globe. Hyperlite Mountain Gear attends Trail Days every year to meet fellow enthusiasts and show off some of its innovative ultralight gear and accessories. One of the people Hyperlite Mountain Gear met at this year’s festival was a thru-hiker named Brenna (trail name “Neon”).  Unfortunately, Brenna had all of her gear stolen from her tent while she was exploring the festival.  When founder Mike St. Pierre heard what had happened to Neon, he decided to hook her up with a free Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 2400 pack as well as a some other free Hyperlite Mountain Gear products. Mike also spread her story among other equipment vendors at the festival.  By the end of the day, Neon had an entirely brand new setup of equipment free of charge. With the ultralight and rain-proof  2400 Windrider Hyperlite Mountain Gear trimmed Neon’s pack weight significantly which should make the next 1,700 miles to Maine even more fun. As a way of saying “Thank You” to Mike and the rest of the Hyperlite Mountain Gear team, Neon has been keeping us all up to date with periodic posts and pictures from the AT. We hope that you’ll check in regularly to follow Neon along the trail!  Here’s Neon’s seventh post from the trail . . .

The Four State Challenge

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It was tough getting back on the trail after taking four days off. My body had realized it was time to relax and allow the aches and pains to come to the surface: my feet were swollen and I hobbled up and down the stairs because I couldn’t bend my knees. It was even tougher getting back on because the first day we did 44 miles.

When I first heard about the four state challenge, I thought it was something that everyone did; one of those rites of passage on the trail. I decided then, at the very beginning of the trail, when an 18 mile day was a bit of a push, that one day I would walk 43.1 miles. Once the end of Virginia came into sight, I realized the magnitude of what I had committed myself to: I had yet to even do a 30 mile day. Thanks to peer pressure and my own mental obstinacy, there was no turning back. Read the rest of the article.

Forrest McCarthy on Tasmania’s Overland Track

Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s Ambassadors are the testers, critics and storytellers of our products.  They put our gear through the paces in the worlds toughest playgrounds and give us critical feedback which helps us drive product development.  They also help us spread the good word about our backpacks, tents/shelters and accessories — while regularly making us jealous of  what they’re doing in the field.  This past winter Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador Forrest McCarthy traveled to Tasmania with his wife Amy McCarthy to take on the Overland Track — one of Tasmania’s premier hiking routes.  Read on for the report . . .

Tasmanian Track Amy McCarthy

The Overland Track is Tasmania’s premier walk and attracts hikers from all over the world. The track winds its way through CradleMountain – Lake St Clair National Park traversing a vast wilderness of exposed alpine plateaus, tranquil lakes, and dense forests of beech, pine and gum. The entire track is within the 1.38 million hectare Tasmanian World Wilderness Heritage Area and home to unique wildlife including: kangaroo, wombat, wallaby, possum, quoll, Platypus, Echidna, tiger snakes, and Tasmanian Devils. Read the rest of the article.

Putting up a new route in Alaska with Ambassador Seth Timpano

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador Seth Timpano is a world class mountaineer and guide.  He has led him on climbing trips throughout the globe including: Antarctica, Chile, Argentina, Peru, Alaska, Canada, Spain, France, Italy, Thailand, Nepal and New Zealand.  We recently found out that Seth took a pretty bad fall into a crevasse, 55 feet, but luckily walked away with it with minor injuries and a mild concussion.  Seth told us the Hyperlite Mountain Gear pack he was wearing might have helped pad his fall — we’re not sure about that, but we psyched that Seth is fully recovered and planning some exciting new expeditions for this coming year.  Read on for Seth’s report on a new route he, Jared Vilhauer and Jens Holsten  put up this summer on Reality Peak, a 13,100 foot satellite peak of Alaska’s iconic Denali.  Awesome photos by Jared Vilhauer.

Seth Timpano on Reality Peak Summit.  Photo by Jared Vilhauer.
Seth Timpano on Reality Peak Summit. Photo by Jared Vilhauer.
In late May I left Seattle early in the morning and flew to Anchorage, Alaska. From there I hopped a shuttle van and was on ski-equipped plane by late afternoon. The flight into the Alaska Range was as memorable as the previous dozen, and my excitement for alpine climbing was high. Paul Roderick with Talkeetna Air Taxi flew by the impressive Mount Hunter and Mount Huntington and spiraled down into the West Fork of the Ruth Glacier, one of the three large glaciers pouring from the south aspect of Denali. There I met my friends Jared Vilhauer and Jens Holsten. They had been skiing around for a few days scoping out different lines and route conditions and that evening we all agreed to attempt an unclimbed route on the east face of Reality Peak.
Seth Timpano climbing face of Reality Peak.  Photo by Seth Timpano on Reality Peak Summit.  Photo by Jared Vilhauer.
Seth Timpano climbing face of Reality Peak. Photo by Jared Vilhauer.
The next day we skied to the base of the route and started climbing. We climbed about 2000 feet of steep snow and easy ice before entering into the heart of the route, a narrow winding passage of steep granite and ice. We found 1500 feet of perfect steep alpine ice conditions. Once through this crux section we found more moderate snow and ice to the where our line joined the previously established Reality Ridge. We setup a bivy, ate, re-hydrated and slept. Poor weather kept us tent bound for nearly 24 hours but this also gave us a chance to rest before attempting to summit Peak 13,100 (Reality Peak). The ridge to the summit was typical Alaskan climbing; bigger, harder and scarier than expected.
The face of Reality Peak.  Photo by Seth Timpano climbing face of Reality Peak.  Photo by Seth Timpano on Reality Peak Summit.  Photo by Jared Vilhauer.
The face of Reality Peak. Photo by Jared Vilhauer.
Difficult snow and ice conditions put us on the top in about 8 hours from our high bivy. The three of us were all very excited to have succeeded on this difficult climb, but we also realized we had a lot of work ahead of us. We tediously down climbed the ridge back to our camp, tired and exhausted. Nevertheless, we all knew we had to keep heading down before the intense sun hit our route, which would create a dangerous situation with rock and ice fall. We rappelled through the night, chasing the sun with each 200 feet decent. 27 double rope rappels found us at the base of our route. A few hundred feet of easy down climbing and we were safely back at our skis. We skied, tired but satisfied, back to camp, 4 days after we had left. Later that afternoon we were on a plane flying out of the Alaska Range and back to civilization.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear packs are without a doubt the best alpine climbing pack on the market. Durable, light, waterproof and made with climbing in mind, I continue to be impressed by my Porter Pack w/ Ice Feature. I look forward to using Hyperlite Mountain Gear packs on my expeditions to Patagonia and India next year.
HMG Ambassador descending Reality Peak.  Photo by The face of Reality Peak.  Photo by Seth Timpano climbing face of Reality Peak.  Photo by Seth Timpano on Reality Peak Summit.  Photo by Jared Vilhauer.
HMG Ambassador descending Reality Peak. Photo by Jared Vilhauer.

 

Seth Timpano
Alaska
Fall 2013

Neon, Thru-Hiking the Appalachian Trail – (Segment 6)

Every year Appalachian Trail (AT) thru hikers, gear heads and dreamers flock to Damascus, Virginia for the annual “Trail Days” festival.  This year, Trail Days was held from May 17-19 and attracted thousands of outdoor enthusiasts from all over the globe. Hyperlite Mountain Gear attends Trail Days every year to meet fellow enthusiasts and show off some of its innovative ultralight gear and accessories. One of the people Hyperlite Mountain Gear met at this year’s festival was a thru-hiker named Brenna (trail name “Neon”).  Unfortunately, Brenna had all of her gear stolen from her tent while she was exploring the festival.  When founder Mike St. Pierre heard what had happened to Neon, he decided to hook her up with a free Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 2400 pack as well as a some other free Hyperlite Mountain Gear products. Mike also spread her story among other equipment vendors at the festival.  By the end of the day, Neon had an entirely brand new setup of equipment free of charge. With the ultralight and rain-proof  2400 Windrider Hyperlite Mountain Gear trimmed Neon’s pack weight significantly which should make the next 1,700 miles to Maine even more fun. As a way of saying “Thank You” to Mike and the rest of the Hyperlite Mountain Gear team, Neon has been keeping us all up to date with periodic posts and pictures from the AT. We hope that you’ll check in regularly to follow Neon along the trail!  Here’s Neon’s sixth post from the trail . . .
I had been looking forward to my time after Trail Days because I figured I could relax and not worry about getting anywhere by a certain date- my only deadline was the cold weather in Maine. The first day out of Damascus we walked through the Grayson Highlands, one of the sections that I had heard so much about. As soon as we walked through the gate into the highlands, a wild pony started trying to bite Turbo’s backpack. We had heard the ponies can get aggressive and when he came after me, I put my hand on his head to hold him off and wielded my trekking pole like a weapon. Once we got farther into the highlands, we saw more and more ponies grazing in the fields. They brought these ponies in specifically for this reason- the highlands is a large open area devoid of trees and with large rock formations. They want the ponies to graze there in order to maintain the grassy areas. The rest of them were friendlier than the first and let us pet them without trying to bite us.
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Since so many people had either slowed down or sped up to make it Damascus for the festival, there was a huge bubble of people leaving at the same time. There was also a lot of rain in the week following the festival and so everyone wanted to stay in the shelters to avoid getting wet. Every night the shelters were full and there were sometimes up to 20 tents set up around them as well. The rain was starting to get frustrating- wet boots and clothing for days on end was getting old. Every time I started to complain in my head, I started to think about Jennifer Pharr Davis. I was reading her book about the endurance record and she is a badass. She got hypothermia, had shin splints for 1000 miles, and overcame a bunch of other problems to finish the trail in record time. Every time I felt down, I reminded myself that if she could deal with all that, I could deal with a little rain.
I was also starting to make up for my lack of trail magic before Damascus. In Troutdale, VA there was a hiker feed put on by a local church. They put up flyers at each road crossing telling hikers about it and about 35 people showed up. All the churchgoers brought in food and there was enough so that everyone could stuff themselves. There was some intense preaching after the meal and I’m not sure the preacher realized that the hikers were a different audience than he was used to, but it was worth it.
The next night we made it to Partnership Shelter, one of the shelters on the trail that you can order pizza from. There was a big group of people and it was this girl Smokey’s birthday so we ordered a bunch of food, ignored the no alcohol signs, and went into town to get some beer.
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Turbo and I were settling into a new kind of hiking- one that involved a lot more drinking. The next day we were walking along the trail when we came upon two hikers, Twoper and Bait, who were handing out beers on the side of the trail. We hung out with them and then walked along into Atkins, VA. Turbo and I were planning on doing a few more miles but decided to hang out in town for a bit. We were being classy as usual and decided to sit behind the gas station with a couple tall boys. The longer we sat, the less we wanted to keep hiking. Luckily, Lumber came by and said he had gotten a hotel room and had extra room if we were interested. We definitely were. Also staying in the hotel were Red Velvet, Predator, Hagrid, E.T., Promise, and Gigs. We hung out and I ate an insane amount of candy- 1 snickers ice cream bar, 1 bag of Doritos, 1 bag of cheese puffs, 1 package of Twizzlers pull n peel, 1 bag of Snyder’s honey mustard and onion pretzels, 1 sleeve of double stuff oreos, and probably more that I’m forgetting.
We got breakfast in the morning and then started hiking. Before we could get very far though, we came upon some more trail magic. The mom of someone hiking had a cooler full of soda and beer and a table full of fruit salad, hot dogs, chips, candy, taco salad, and more. I had ordered two breakfasts at the diner that morning and then ate a lot at the trail magic so I had to lounge around until noon before I could walk again. I was walking with Hagrid and we were planning on doing about 20 miles, but we got to a camp spot with a bunch of people that we knew and decided to stay there. Squirrel had packed in some whiskey to celebrate us getting 1/3 of the way and passed it around while someone else cooked up hot dogs for the group. I was excited to have gotten that far, but there was still a long way to go. I was also starting to get the “Virginia Blues”. Virginia is over 500 miles and much of it is just green tunnel; hiking in the trees with no views. It is easy to start thinking about how far you still have to go and get overwhelmed by the length of the trail.
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While the hiking might have been boring, the bubble was still together and we were having a lot of fun. There were about 30 of us who had been seeing each other consistently since Damascus. We would get split up, but then a hiker feed or stop in town would bring us back together. In Bland, VA there was another hiker feed that we all went to and then we planned a birthday party for Fresh Step at Dismal Falls in two days. Dismal Falls was supposed to be an awesome campsite and swimming hole and it was also just a few miles past a road crossing with a grocery store that sold beer. We all packed in food and beer, swam, and hung out by the fire. Before I had started the trail, I had a vision in my mind of what the trail would be like. I had underestimated the social aspect of the hike, but Dismal Falls was the kind of picturesque camp spot that I had envisioned beforehand. Simply put, the trail was even better than I had imagined it.
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Neon
The AT
Summer 2013

Spruce Green is the new White

Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s ultralight, cuben fiber shelter systems, tarps and pyramid tents are now available in Spruce Green in addition to our classic white.

HMG UltaMid pyramid  tent on the coast of Maine
UltaMid pyramid tent on the coast of Maine

For the past four years Hyperlite Mountain Gear has been making some of the best lightweight shelters, tarps and mids available anywhere.  But we were only able to offer then in white.  We love the white, but we know that a lot of our customers would like a little more choice in the color department.  Well, we’ve finally done it.  We’re now able to offer our full line of shelter systems, tarps and pyramid tents in Spruce Green.  The material used is the same as the white — ripstop, waterproof and ultralight cuben fiber.  And unlike other manufacturers who have offered colored cuben fiber, our products are absolutely color-fast — no bleeding, no staining of your other gear.

HMG Flat Tarp in the Maine Woods
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Flat Tarp in the Maine Woods

Here’s Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s current line-up of Spruce Green shelters, tarps and mids:

The Echo Shelter System — a tarp based system featuring a removable bug mesh insert/tub and “beak” (vestibule).  The system is available one and two-man sizes and can be purchased as set or as separate pieces.

The UltaMid — two and four-man pyramid tents.

Tarps — a line of flat tarps, catenary tarps and a hammock tarp.

All of our shelters, tarps and mids feature taped seams.  With the taped seams and 100% waterproof cuben fiber, there’s no need to seam seal or coat these products, ever.

HMG Flat Tarp in a perfect spot to make camp
Flat Tarp in a perfect spot to make camp

Like all of our gear, our shelters, tarps and mids are proudly designed and manufactured in Maine, USA.

Check ’em out and get your green on!

Hyperlite Mountain Gear
Biddeford, Maine

 

 

Bikepacking with a Tarp Shelter

A bikepacking tarp pitched between two trees.

Our friend Glenn Charles, known to put more than a few miles in on his fat bike, recently recounted his own evolution toward near-total tarp commitment for his bikepacking trips.  Read on for Glenn’s thoughts on why a ultralight tarp makes the perfect shelter for multisport adventures.

The Serene Simplicity of Bikepacking Tarps

Just back from another spectacular bikepacking trip on my Salsa Mukluk, I can honestly say that for 90% of my trip needs, a tarp is the perfect shelter. For the last five years I have experimented with tents, bivies, and a number of different tarps, so I believe that for me, I have acquired a fair bit of experience through a multitude of conditions.With the exception of some very specific situations and scenarios, the Tarp has ruled the roost.  With a bike, I can string a tarp anywhere I want, including the middle of nowhere.  Using my technigue for anchoring the bike with line and stakes, it serves as the perfect highpoint for one end of the tarp.  The other end can be anchored to some other fixed object, or with the aid of your helmet or stick, stood on end, you have enough lift to comfortably sleep without and contact between your bag and the tarp.

Read the rest of the article here

Neon, Thru-Hiking the Appalachian Trail (Segment 5)

Every year Appalachian Trail (AT) thru hikers, gear heads and dreamers flock to Damascus, Virginia for the annual “Trail Days” festival.  This year, Trail Days was held from May 17-19 and attracted thousands of outdoor enthusiasts from all over the globe. Hyperlite Mountain Gear attends Trail Days every year to meet fellow enthusiasts and show off some of its innovative ultralight gear and accessories. One of the people Hyperlite Mountain Gear met at this year’s festival was a thru-hiker named Brenna (trail name “Neon”).  Unfortunately, Brenna had all of her gear stolen from her tent while she was exploring the festival.  When founder Mike St. Pierre heard what had happened to Neon, he decided to hook her up with a free Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 2400 pack as well as a some other free Hyperlite Mountain Gear products. Mike also spread her story among other equipment vendors at the festival.  By the end of the day, Neon had an entirely brand new setup of equipment free of charge. With the ultralight and rain-proof  2400 Windrider Hyperlite Mountain Gear trimmed Neon’s pack weight significantly which should make the next 1,700 miles to Maine even more fun. As a way of saying “Thank You” to Mike and the rest of the Hyperlite Mountain Gear team, Neon has been keeping us all up to date with periodic posts and pictures from the AT. We hope that you’ll check in regularly to follow Neon along the trail!  Here’s Neon’s fifth post from the trail . . .
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After the Smokies, I was looking to get away from Ramon and hike on my own. I enjoyed spending time with him and having a hiking buddy but I also wanted to hang out with other people. He was also very slow getting ready in the morning and I was sick of waiting up to an hour each day for him. He was planning on going about 13 miles that day with Briton, so I decided to keep moving. That day I passed over Max Patch; the first of many balds along the trail. I have never experienced winds like that in my life and I can only guess their speed. 150 mph is my guess. A more realistic person might say 60 mph; either way they were insane. I had to walk at an angle, my body leaning into the wind so that I didn’t fall over. Then a gust would come and I would get blown sideways and have to dig my trekking poles into the ground to regain my position. It was awesome.

That same day day I got to talking with a section hiker about my experience and she asked me if I was still enjoying myself. I answered with great conviction that I still got up each day and was excited to hike. The trail was continually changing and each day still brought me something new.

At the shelter that night I had my first encounter with yellow blazers (people who skip part of the trail by hitching a ride). Two of the hikers there had skipped the Smokies. It was early in the trip and most everyone was still committed to walking to Katahdin so there was an awkward moment when they said they had hitched ahead and skipped the Smokies. I didn’t know how to react, this time anyway. The farther north I got, the more people I met that had skipped at least one section. Instead of getting off the trail when people got tired of hiking, they hitch to meet their friends so they can still get some of the experience. Many people don’t have the time, money, or desire for a full thru-hike, but for me yellow-blazing did not mesh my motivation for doing the trail.

The next night I was discussing my lack of a trail name with Stealth. At this point, he was still just Matt and I was still Brenna and we were both feeling left out since most everyone else already had names. I suggested Stealth for him because he wore all black and had a habit of walking quietly and sneaking up on people on the trail. We decided, based on my bright orange Crocs and yellow rain jacket, that Neon might be good for me. I hadn’t met anyone else by that name and it was short and easy to remember. That next day I started signing Neon in the shelter logs and introducing myself as such. There was a strange transition period where I had to get used to going by a different name but after a while it started to seem alright.

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“Neon” rocking her trademark bright orange Crocs and a yellow jacket

After a couple days of cold, rain, and wind, I did a 3 mile “nero” (nearly zero miles) to Hot Springs, NC. Hot Springs is the first town through which the trail passes directly. Stealth and I somehow got lost going into town, despite the fact that the sidewalks were engraved with the AT symbol in order to show the way. In typical thru-hiker style, if there wasn’t a blaze every five feet then we were lost. We stopped at the first restaurant we came to, Smoke Mountain Diner, and got some excellent food- including the best cinnamon roll I have ever had in my life. There were a bunch of hikers there, most of whom I knew and we all hung out while we gorged ourselves.

My oldest sister, Sarah, was flying in that day to do the next 70 miles to Erwin, TN. Seven of us decided to split a room at a local hotel, the Iron Horse Station, and bummed around all day and watched TV. When Sarah got there that afternoon we got a few beers at the Spring Creek Tavern where they had live music. Sarah had talked about doing a thru-hike at some point and I wanted her to get a the full experience; crowded hotel room, trail town, and the trail.

The next day, we set off early for the trail but before we could even get started someone told us that the trail was flooded. It wad been raining like crazy for days and they said the water was waist deep and we would have to hitch around. Sarah and I decided to go see for ourselves and the trail was flooded, but not up our waists. I bushwhacked around while Sarah took off her boots and walked through the water. Eventually though, we got to a point with an overhang where the water was deeper and the current stronger. Instead of wading out and possibly getting swept away, we took a blue blaze trail up the side of the overhang and came down the other side about 50 feet beyond where we had left the trail. Where we returned to the trail we could see a tent floating in the river. It was tied down and there was a bunch of stuff strewn about. I took off my boots and stepped into the water to look into the tent just to make sure there was no body floating inside. It seemed like someone left in a hurry; there was ramen and all sorts of gear floating inside, but no body. The trail was still flooded there, but we walked just to the side of it, knowing that soon the trail would climb up and out of the valley.

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We did 11 miles that day and Sarah seemed to be hurting a bit. I had told everyone that she was going to come and visit and they all told me she wouldn’t be able to handle the miles. Eight to ten, they all said. I thought she would be fine doing more and we had to average 14 per day in order to make it to Erwin on time. Watching her that first day made it seem like it wouldn’t end up being as easy I thought, but I knew she would suck it up and do the miles either way.
The next few miles were uneventful as far as hiking goes, but it was really nice to spend some time with Sarah. The first few days I hiked ahead, but I realized I was wasting our time together. For the past four years I had been at school in Missouri and since she is seven years older than me, we hadn’t lived together in about 12 years. While we saw each other reasonably often, it was usually in the presence of other family members and so it was unusual to have time together just the two of us.It turned out that Sarah had no problem turning on the miles and did a couple 15 miles days and a 16.5 to finish off her trip. We got into Erwin on time and went to Uncle Johnny’s Hostel which is is right on the trail. It is overpriced and dirty, but known to be a good time. The group renting the nice cabin with the kitchen invited us over for a feast with steak, garlic bread, ice cream, salad, beer, mashed potatoes and a fritatta. A bunch of people were also having a bonfire outside and everyone seemed to be making the most of their night in town. Ramon and Briton had gotten in earlier that day and had tried to hitch into town for a resupply. The guy who picked them up asked if they wanted to go rafting on the very swollen Nolichucky River and so they went down the river all afternoon. Ramon got his trail name that day, Turbo, because the guy kept yelling at them that they were his turbo on the river. While I had previously been looking to get away from him, now I was looking forward to hiking with Turbo again. We planned to leave the next morning with another friend, Quinoa, and begin the race to Damascus for Trail Days.

Neon on the AT
August 2013

Hike Fast. Paddle Hard. Dance All Night.

The First Annual AK Packrafting Festival

This past July Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador Luc Mehl and friends participated in the first annual McCarthy Creek Packraft Race and Whitewater Festival in Wrangell Mountains of Alaska.  We’re hoping this event, organized by Kennicott Wilderness Guides and McCarthy River Tours and Outfitters, will become an annual happening.  Hyperlite Mountain Gear is psyched to support the rapidly growing packrafting community by making some of the best packrafting packs available. 

Read on for the report on the inaugural 2013, festival.

McCarthy Packrafting Festival Poster

The McCarthy Creek runs through the Wrangell Mountains outside the quirky/charming outpost town of McCarthy, Alaska at the edge of Wrangell St. Elias National Park.  The creek runs fast and strong with rapids up to rated by American Whitewater as a class III+(V+). 
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Quinn Brett: Canada Alpine Climbing Tour

Quinn Brett joined our team of Ambassadors, Spring 2013.  Since then she’s been putting our backpacks and shelters through their paces in some of the world’s great outdoor playgrounds.  In July, Hyperlite Mountain Gear sponsored Quinn (along with Lizzy Scully, Prairie Kearney and John Dickey) as “Team Glitterbomb” on an expedition to climb unclaimed big walls in Greenland. Team Glitterbomb did three new routes in Greenland. “Plenty for Everyone” (5.10+/11-, 1800ft) on The Barnes Wall; “Morning Luxury” (5.11a/b, 1400ft) on The Breakfast Spire; and “Four Quickies” (5.9, 500ft ) on The Submarine Wall.  

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Quinn and her Windrider pack negotiating the slippery stuff.

“When you type in your Google search bar “genuine, good-spirited, ego-less hard mutherF#^&ing crankers,” I am positive the search will mention or show photos of a Canadian rock climber.  For years I have fallen for their niceness. This trip sealed the deal. I basically had the raddest three week tour in the Bugaboos, Lake Louis and Canmore.

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For a trip into the Bugaboos, a large and waterproof pack is needed.  The hike isn’t too long, but the 4000 feet in elevation gain is a butt buster.  You can do it a few ways: carry a giant load first go saving yourself multiple trips, even the loads and hike it twice, or take the bare essentials to get you through the first few days then hike down for more food later.  I chose option 1–but I was lucky that my climbing partner had much of the gear already up at base camp. 

The 3400 Windrider from Hyperlite Mountain Gear proved to be the perfect pack for this destination.  Its roomy, comfortable, waterproof, durable and I enjoy how it can be a HUGE pack or fold down into a medium sized pack. 

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Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider at our spectacular basecamp.

I left the pack up at base camp for five days as I toured other locations in Canada, stuffed with my climbing shoes and other gear.  Upon return I found my gear dry as a bone, despite huge rainstorms–and thankfully critters were not drawn to nibble the straps!!

After our first day’s first ascent, local hard man Chris Brazeau proceeded to shuffle me around the best new free lines in the Bugaboos.  Many of these climbs were old aid lines that Chris and his buddies, Jon Walsh, Jon Simms, Simon Meis, Cody Lank and others opened up with much effort over the last six or seven years.

Sendero Norte was the tour opener.  This 13-pitch route is stacked with pitch after pitch of 5.11 and 5.12 climbing.  For topos and a photo of the route line check out  Jon Walsh’s blog.

Both Chris and I fell on the lower thin seam crux pitch and both had a fall or two on the upper roof crux pitch.  The rest of the route we both climbed clean.  Rappelling down I kept saying, “this was my favorite pitch, no wait THIS was…” 

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Sendero is one of the highest quality routes I have climbed! 
 
I was lucky to spend almost three weeks in Canada.  I can’t believe I haven’t visited this amazing climbing locations before–next summer I hope to spend a bit more time!”

Quinn Brett, September 2013

Neon, Thru-Hiking the Appalachian Trail – (Segment 3)

Every year Appalachian Trail (AT) thru hikers, gear heads and dreamers flock to Damascus, Virginia for the annual “Trail Days” festival.  This year, Trail Days was held from May 17-19 and attracted thousands of outdoor enthusiasts from all over the globe. Hyperlite Mountain Gear attends Trail Days every year to meet fellow enthusiasts and show off some of its innovative ultralight gear and accessories. One of the people Hyperlite Mountain Gear met at this year’s festival was a thru-hiker named Brenna (trail name “Neon”).  Unfortunately, Brenna had all of her gear stolen from her tent while she was exploring the festival.  When founder Mike St. Pierre heard what had happened to Neon, he decided to hook her up with a free Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 2400 pack as well as a some other free Hyperlite Mountain Gear products. Mike also spread her story among other equipment vendors at the festival.  By the end of the day, Neon had an entirely brand new setup of equipment free of charge. With the ultralight and rain-proof  2400 Windrider Hyperlite Mountain Gear trimmed Neon’s pack weight significantly which should make the next 1,700 miles to Maine even more fun. As a way of saying “Thank You” to Mike and the rest of the Hyperlite Mountain Gear team, Neon has been keeping us all up to date with periodic posts and pictures from the AT. We hope that you’ll check in regularly to follow Neon along the trail!  Here’s Neon’s third post from the trail . . .

 

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After our stay at Blueberry Patch, Ramon and I felt we were ready to start doing some bigger miles. Everything I had read online before the trip said to take it easy starting out. People said that pushing yourself in the beginning would lead to an injury, but the past six days we had been averaging about 12 miles and it was boring me. We would get to our destination at 2 pm and sit around until dark. In some ways it was nice to relax, but I also wanted to see what I was capable of.

The day we left Hiawassee, Ramon and I set out to do 18 miles to Standing Indian Mountain. The miles felt surprisingly doable. My feet were sore by the end and I was so hungry that I didn’t even wait for my broccoli and cheddar pasta to finish cooking before scarfing it down, but I was satisfied. We were the only people camped at the top of the mountain and so had the best view on the trail thus far and an awesome sunset all to ourselves. We kept up that pace, crossed into North Carolina, and three days later walked down to the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC). After being in the woods for a few days, it was a welcome relief. From miles away I could smell fried food and catch glimpses of brightly colored objects. I couldn’t wait to eat good food, drink beer, take a shower, and sleep in a bed. It turned out that that weekend was the US Freestyke Kayaking Team Trials and there were a bunch of kayakers milling about and practicing in the water. Upon arrival, Ramon and I rented a couple bunks and took showers. I was learning that as a small form of trail magic, someone always left behind shampoo in the showers. I checked myself out in the mirror for the first time on the trail and realized I had lost close to 10 pounds. Eating becomes part of the trail experience for thru hikers. On the trail everyone eats processed, high calorie foods because they are light. People eat trail mix, honey buns and snickers bars as snacks and usually Ramen, Knorr pasta sides, or some other easy meal for dinner. Then in town it is time to pack in the calories. All you can eat buffets, ice cream, and often a large pizza. I couldn’t wait to eat like a hiker and started off by buying a bag of chips and an ice cream.

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Neon stumbles upon an “all you can eat buffet” on the AT

I sat in the laundry room in just my rain gear (no other options) and shared a six pack with Ramon. Later we hung out with a couple other hikers (Hangnail and Law Dog), ate some barbecue, drank some more beer, and called it a night around 9:30 (way past my bedtime these days). The climb out of the Nantahala Outdoor Center is known for being tough. It is 7.5 miles long, 3000 vertical feet, and the first good climb of the trail. Climbing out when hungover made it feel like 15 miles and 6000 vertical feet, but eventually we made it. The next day we walked to Fontana Dam, NC; the town before the Great Smokey Mountain National Park. It was raining all day long and the trail was filled with water up to my ankles. I was starting to notice a pattern with the weather- it rained all the time. We got a shuttle into town for resupply and the driver said they were already 9 inches over the average precipitation for the year. I wasn’t surprised. We got all the food we needed and hiked to the Fontana Hilton; a shelter right on the lake which fits about 20 people and has showers and a real bathroom. There were a number of people already there and I lounged around with Titty Bar Naked Yoga (TBNY for short), Tank Tank, Briton, Ramon, Runaway, and Candyman while the rain pounded the tin roof.

After walking in the rain all day, the idea of getting up the next day and doing it again seemed horrible. So we took our first zero day. Most other people had already taken their first and so I didn’t feel too guilty. We bummed around town, went to the gas station bar, and watched the rain outside. That night at about 11:30 pm, Candyman got up, started grumbling about something and left the shelter in the rain. We found out later that the mice had been crawling all over him and  chewing at his sleeping bag. It was no surprise to the rest of us since he had been keeping candy in his pockets to munch on throughout the night. It is generally expected that there will be mice in the shelters and you can hear (and sometimes feel) them scampering around most nights. For this reason, people hang their food bags on strings in the shelters (or from trees/bear cables like you should do). He had previously been known as ‘Sharkbait’, but Candyman seemed much more fitting after that.

Neon, Somewhere on the AT, August 2013

Climbing in Greenland – Nameless Creek

Earlier this summer Hyperlite Mountain Gear sponsored an expedition by Team Glitterbomb (that’s Lizzy Scully, Quinn Brett, Prairie Kearney and John Dickey) to climb unclaimed big walls in Greenland.   Hyperlite Mountain Gear is amazed at what the team accomplished and proud that our ultralight backpacks and shelters helped them along the way.

Glitterbomb PostcardRead on for a post from Lizzy Scully on the expedition and Nameless Creek, the rushing waterway that featured prominently in their time in Greenland.

Every morning this July (2013), I wake up to the sound of a nameless, raging glacier-fed creek just 20 yards down the hill from my tent. Looking out my “window”, I see it splash against big, white-spotted gray boulders and churn in small, clear holes. I call her Nameless Creek. I love how she tumbles and froths.

Nameless Creek alternately calms and scares me. She is difficult to cross, except in a few choice, semi-trecherous spots where we jump from wet, mossy boulders to steep, angular ones that we slide down despite our sticky rubber-covered shoes. Sometimes a foot or whole leg ends up submerged in frigid water, and sometimes it’s best to just take the approach shoes off and cross in the shallower, flatter gravelly bars with quickly frozen, bare feet.

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On the days we hike below the bases of the many unclimbed, sometimes strangely-named rocky peaks we aspire to summit, we walk alongside Nameless Creek. We hop the boulders that line her shores, and we wander into the florescent green vegetation through which she runs. Our feet sometimes sink fully into her marshy surroundings. We have taken two trips up and down Nameless so far to climb three first ascents, the two biggest of which I have happily been a part of. The first week, our team of four ascended a stunning 8-pitch 5.11- ridge line that we called “Morning Luxury,” on a spire that some Brits identified as Breakfast Spire (though they never summited); the three ladies also climbed a manky wet, but interesting 10-pitch 5.10+/11-, which we called “Plenty for Everyone” on the Barnes Wall (we named it that in honor of a friend who died a few days later); and finally, John, Prairie, and Quinn climbed another 4-pitch route to the ridge of the Submarine Wall on a sunny, warm afternoon that I spent meditating, resting, and slapping mosquitoes; they called it “Four Quickies” (5.9).

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We are fairly certain our two summits have not been reached by other humans, especially the summit of Breakfast Spire, a very narrow, slanted square platform, blanketed with black, potato chip-crunchy, rose-like blooms of lichen. We are the sole proprietors of the Wedgies and biners that were left, without which it would be impossible to descend. Of course, we aren’t 100% positive. A handful of climbers in the past assembled a haphazard array of trip reports and topos, one of which shows an unfinished line up our Spire. But there’s nothing definitive about this area. Hopefully there never will be.

Nameless Creek originates just where we established our advanced base camp, amidst glaciers and a gnarly boulder field the size of 10 football fields, all nestled within a giant cirque of granite walls. It is also nameless–The Cirque–at least as far as I know. Melting streams of snow and ice from other, smaller valleys also feed Nameless, but most of her raging frothiness comes from the sky blue-tinted glacier that stretches across the basin of The Cirque.

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The glacier. It’s lovely, with its swaths of pinkish sections, collapsed sink holes, and deep aqua green mini-lakes that sparkle with the shiny, silicate mineral called mica. We hear dozens of streams of varying sizes flowing underneath areas of the glacier as well, which we carefully avoid, and also beneath the boulder field.

While we climb and rappel on our longest, 18-hour day, up our favorite route “Morning Luxury”, I realize also that water from hundreds of snowy patches in the shadowy chimneys and corners of 1600-foot Breakfast Spire also feed Nameless Creek. Evidence is everywhere. It drip, drip, drips off incipient seams and plops into small pools of cold, clear water in various granite nooks. It saturates every patch of sponge-like green and orange moss on the Spire’s ledges and clusters of boulder. And it flows down dirt and grass-filled cracks until it fans out, painting the Spire’s lower slabs with big grey vertical streaks.

And at times the wetness gets very personal. I feel it as I ease my way up the smooth, slime-covered walls of a 200-foot chimney. I hope my damp hands don’t suddenly slip; there is no protection. We find the worst, unprotected, crumbling, waterlogged rock any of us has ever touched in places, and we feel the ooze of mud through our fingers while digging into cracks with nut tools in an attempt to find elusive gear placements for rappel anchors.

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Each day in Greenland, we touch and feel the water that eventually turns into Nameless Creek. Right now as I speak this story, rain that feeds her patters on the thin walls of my tent. Droplets form, a rivulet of water weaves its way down the waterproof fabric, into the grass and shrubs, through the earth, and then into Nameless. Less than 20 yards away, she drops off suddenly, falling from the flat meadow that is our base camp onto a steep talus slope. There, she falls faster and faster until she finally becomes a roaring waterfall crashing into the Torsukatak Fjord, thousands of feet below. HMG21

It is July, 2013, and every night I fall asleep to the sound of water crashing down the hillside 20 yards from my tent. I call the flow of her Nameless Creek. I love how she rumbles and churns.

Lizzy Scully, Summer 2013, Greenland.

 

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