Kurt Ross: The French Route, Mount Hunter

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J.D. Merritt and Kurt Ross tagged the summit of Mt. Hunter after ~52 hours from base camp. “The clouds suddenly cleared, allowing us to descend the West Ridge instead of retracing our steps to rappel the North Buttress.” -Kurt Ross. Photo by J.D. Merritt.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador Kurt Ross recently returned from a mega-successful climbing adventure to the Kahiltna Glacier, Denali National Park, Alaska. Please see Part I to read an overview of the five routes he climbed. Below is his personal report of climbing The French Route on Mount Hunter.

I rappelled to the end of our ropes, slammed in a couple of screws, and yelled, “I’m off!” to my climbing partner, J.D. Merritt. While I threaded our next rappel, the rope didn’t move. I screamed a few more times, pulled aggressively on the lines, then gave up. I slumped onto the slings attaching me to the face and dozed off, as I had done at every other moment where my wakefulness couldn’t help our progress. I was happy for the opportunity to take weight off my feet. Keeping them sealed in soggy boots for the past few days waterlogged my skin, making them feel blistered all over. After an indeterminate amount of time, J.D. buzzed down the rope and we continued.

Somehow, after three full days on the go with only a couple hours of rest, we didn’t feel out of control. Of course we were extremely tired, but we could still think clearly enough to problem solve our way through the terrain. It’s scary to think about how we would have dealt with a bad storm or messy fall, but pushing ourselves this far didn’t feel reckless in the situation as it was.

We were descending the West Ridge of Mt. Hunter after climbing the Garison-Tedeschi (A.K.A. French Route) on the North Buttress of the mountain, a route Mark Westman calls, “the proudest and most intimidating line on the wall.” We decided to try The French Route instead of any other one because we figured it might be more intact than any other line on the face after the long spell of warm temperatures that we’d had on the Kahiltna. The hard-man Slovenians, Luka Lindic and Ales Cesen, also encouraged us; they had climbed the route to the top of the buttress a couple weeks prior. The only real beta we had on route was the finger-point directions that duo had sprayed at us in base camp. Read the rest of the article!

Killing it on the Kahiltna Glacier: Kurt Ross’ Climbing Report

"We watched another sunset on Mt. Hunter while nearing the top via some beautiful ridge climbing between the cornice bivi and the summit plateau." -Kurt Ross  Photo by J.D. Merritt.
“We watched another sunset on Mt. Hunter while nearing the top via some beautiful ridge climbing between the cornice bivi and the summit plateau.” -Kurt Ross Photo by J.D. Merritt.

This past May Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador Kurt Ross climbed the Southwest Ridge of Mount Francis, the West Face of Kahiltna Queen, an unreported route on the South Face of Peak 12,200, Bacon & Eggs on the Micro-Moonflower, and the French Route on Mount Hunter with various partners. Accustomed to climbing steep technical terrain, Ross says he learned to move efficiently on the “moderate” low angle ice, cracked glaciers, snow ridges presented on all these routes.

“People have only been asking me about the North Buttress of Hunter, but I doubt I would have felt ready to attempt it if I hadn’t bailed off of it twice and climbed those other moderate routes earlier in the trip,” Ross explains. In an 80-hour push, he and J.D. Merritt tagged the summit of Hunter

“The French Route was by far the biggest, most wild and most memorable route that I’ve ever tried,” Ross says. “It was a huge step up for both J.D. and I, requiring every bit of experience and skill that we’ve gained by climbing less committing objectives.” Read the rest of Part I of Kurt Ross’ Alaska Adventure here!

A Woman in the Woods: First impressions of hiking light

Two months into her hike, Christi “Deva” Holmes finally “Lightened Up!” An avid hiker, Deva embarked on an adventure to hike the AT and, with help from Hyperlite Mountain Gear, she reduced the weight of (and waterproofed) her thru hiking load for the first time. Read a chronicle of her adventures by clicking here.

Deva on the AT.
Deva on the AT.

June 1st was my first day with the new gear. I left Harpers Ferry late, hammering out 30 miles before dark. And the next day, I did 30 more! The first thing I noticed with my new, ultralight Windrider Pack was that my knees stopped aching. Usually when I near the end of big mile days, my knees ache on downhill portions. But on these consecutive days, they didn’t. I slowed to a 17-mile day when I passed the halfway point and entered Pennsylvania because I had to complete in the half gallon challenge. Hikers are encouraged to eat a half gallon of ice cream to celebrate reaching the halfway point. I finished in 23 minutes and will never eat Vanilla Brownie Chunk again. Read the rest of the article here.

Love Paddling? Canoe & Kayak Review Wrap-Up

Canoe & Kayak Mag
Canoe & Kayak mag

Canoe & Kayak magazine published various reviews on our products online and in their print publication late 2014. Stay tuned. More to come. But here’s a wrap-up of what they thought about our UltaMid 2, Echo II Tarp System and the 2400 Southwest Pack.

UltaMid 2

“My experience . . . I don’t always have much time to get shelter over my head. No time to unpack and pitch a tent. No time to find trees and string a tarp. Or no trees. Most of those moments are driven by the undercurrent of desperation as violent squall or windstorm is approaching. And it’s in those conditions that a ‘mid’ shelter is a godsend… The Ultamid is also sweet for shade on a hot desert afternoon (vents at the peak enhance the air flow) or as the tent on trips free of bugs. I’ve even pitched one over passengers in the front of a raft during a sleet storm. The price tag is the main drawback, but the benefits are clear: ease of setup, quality of design, and the ability to sleep two people under a one-pound shelter.”

Read more.

Echo II Tarp System

“The Echo II is made with high performance Cuben fiber fabric with an unmatched strength to weight ratio. They call the Echo series the most technically advanced professional tarps available and I believe it. A three piece modular: tarp, mesh tent and detachable vestibule, handy concept for some, not so much for others who might want it factory integrated, but target market is extreme light and modular provides the option to tailor needs perfectly. Construction is excellent, including military grade hardware. Cuben material is as light as spider spin and way tough: Seriously lightweight at 1.84 lbs complete! Covered space is more than the 4P Hoopla even, but of course, 4P under the Echo are all on their backs. Erects with a kayak paddle.”

Read more.

Southwest Pack

“There’s nothing worse than humping a one-size-fits-all drysack with a couple of questionable shoulder straps across a swampy, mile-long trail. Hyperlite’s pack series offers comfortable suspension systems in three frame sizes, and the lightweight Cuben sailcloth material adds remarkable durability.”

Read more.

Live With Less; Experience More

KT Miller ski mountaineering in the Grand Tetons.
KT Miller ski mountaineering in the Grand Tetons.

Simplifying can be Scary, but the Rewards are Great, from our Stripped Down series.

Photos and text by KT Miller

It all started after I spent a week skiing with Beau Fredlund outside Cooke City. More literally I followed him around, unsuccessfully trying to keep up. I didn’t know it back then, but that was the beginning of my transformation—a transition from being a passionate backcountry skier to an athlete. At 23, I finally started settling into my body and honing my physical stamina. I also learned, finally, to use efficiency as a tool to compensate for being small.

I had a Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ice Pack that I had been using for climbing and absolutely loved, but for some reason I hadn’t even considered using it for backcountry skiing. Instead I used an old go-to pack that had a rear entry zipper I used to access my camera, a separate pocket for my rescue gear (shovel, probe, snow saw), a goggle pocket, a helmet pocket and more. It seemed perfect, but it weighed just under 4 lbs empty. After a few weeks of skiing Beau noticed I had an Ice Pack. He had been a Hyperlite Mountain Gear fan and user for years. He picked it up and then picked up my other ski pack. “Why aren’t you using this one?” He asked holding the Ice Pack a little higher. Read the rest of the article.

2015 Review Wrap-Up

In case you want to check out what reputable outside sources are saying about Hyperlite Mountain Gear, here are a handful of reviews. Likewise, we would love to hear what you think about our gear. Your feedback is valuable. Please write your reviews on the product sections of our website.

Packs

Section Hiker.com review of the Southwest Pack.2400 Southwest
Excerpt by Philip Werner, SectionHiker.com

“While highly water resistant as a benefit of its hybrid cuben fiber construction, the value of the 2400 Southwest Pack lies in its unique combination of low weight and durability without skimping on functional features. If you need a backpack that can go through off-trail hell and high water, the 2400 Southwest Pack is your ticket.”

Read the entire review.

Read the rest of the reviews!

Why Cuben Fiber? It Just Makes Sense

Stripped Down Dyneema® Composite Fabrics (formerly Cuben Fiber),

CF8 green Cuben Fiber.

By Mike St. Pierre

When I first delved into the world of ultralight backpacking, I combed the Internet trying to find a technologically advanced material that would change my backcountry experience. The fabrics used at the time had major limitations. For example, Silnylon, the primary lightweight fabric used, absorbed moisture and swelled and sagged, requiring constant re-tensioning. The slippery material also forced people to put liquid glues on the floors of their tents to keep their pads in place. Worst of all, silnylon is made when both sides of a thin, woven nylon fabric are saturated with liquid silicone, and there were no standards for these silicone coatings. So basically every batch was different. So when I discovered a small cottage industry outdoor company using Cuben Fiber I did some more research. Read the rest of the article here.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Raises Bar in American Manufacturing

John Schafer has 40+ years experience in manufacturing and management.
John Schafer has 40+ years experience in manufacturing and management.

John Schafer was ready to retire. At 64, he’s spent the last 30 years working in manufacturing, including the last few years running Shape Fabrication, a fabrication company for architectural and marine industries. At 6’4 and 280 pounds, he still lugs his Maine-made bleachers and steel staircases around with ease. But, he says, he was prepared to start spending more time smoking cigars and drinking cocktails on the 24-foot Grady-White power boat he docks at Biddeford Pool. Then he met Mike and Dan St. Pierre, owners of Hyperlite Mountain Gear. Their shop was just around the corner in the same 180-year-old textile mill where he ran his company. Schafer and the St. Pierres became friends, and then Schafer began to help them a bit with managing and organizing the production floor, where all the Cuben Fiber tarps, mids and packs are made. And then, before he knew it, the St. Pierres asked him to come on full-time as the Director of Operations. He agreed. Read the rest of the article.

On the Chetco River: A Packrafting Adventure

On the Chetco River.

Photos & text by Mike Curiak (republished from 2013)

About a year ago I was introduced to the wonders of multi-day whitewater packrafting. When I returned, glowing, from my trip, I spent lots of waking moments searching out other rivers for future trips. Thanks to a writeup I found, Oregon’s Chetco River rose to the tip-top of that list.

Doom (aka Steve Fassbinder) and I had planned to run it last spring, but the bottom fell out of the flows a few days before we were able to get there.

I spent the next few months watching weather patterns and the gauge, hoping that the water would come up before the season was too far advanced to enjoy it. Jeny’s need to burn a heap of vacation time before October 1st also hastened the desire to head north. When I called Bearfoot Brad to arrange our vehicle shuttle he protested that there simply wasn’t any water. Unlike Brad, I’d been methodically checking the forecasts, and within hours of our arrival in Oregon the fall rains began, taking our target from 60cfs to over 800.

On!

Highlights of the trip are many. Top of the list has to be the impossibly clear water, followed closely by the carved-through-bedrock gorges, both ensconced within the remotest feeling place I’ve yet experienced in the Lower 48. Both of us are lifelong mountain bikers and agreed that we’ve never been able to get anywhere close to this ‘out there’ by bike.

Jeny and I completed our trip in four days. That was a bit ambitious for a first time down, and given a choice I’d add an extra day next time. The hike is easy and takes half a day rain or shine–I’d want the extra time to savor and photograph the gorges and canyons once floating.

Read the rest of the article.

Seth Timpano & The Cotter-Bebie Route

By Seth Timpano, Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ambassador

The Cotter-Bebie route on the North Face of Dragontail Peak in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness outside of Leavenworth, Wash.
The Cotter-Bebie route on the North Face of Dragontail Peak in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Leavenworth, Wash.

The weather in most of the Pacific Northwest and the Northern Intermountain Regions had been atypical this past winter and late spring. For many skiers and ice climbers the warm temperatures made for less than ideal conditions most of the season, but for some of us this abnormal weather patterns made incredible alpine climbing conditions. In March, several climbing partners along with myself were fortunate enough to establish three quality melt freeze mixed climbs in the remote backcountry of Montana and Wyoming. Not wanting to hang up my tools just yet for the season; I was fortunate to get a call from my friend Lee who lives in Bellingham, Wash. The alpine climbing conditions in the Cascades were shaping up nicely and the weather looked promising. We decided on the Cotter-Bebie route on the North Face of Dragontail Peak in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness outside of Leavenworth, Wash. The route is 2000 feet of beautiful alpine ice and mixed runnels through stellar granite rock.

The peak had seen quite a bit of action throughout the winter and early spring, but we found the north face empty the days we spent in the wilderness. We setup a quick camp on the frozen Colchuck Lake and tucked in early for the night, intending on pre-dawn start. Read the rest of the article!

Trail Days

The ambassador team at Trail Days
The Trail Days Ambassadors: (L to R) Porter Laclair, Annie MacWilliams, Angela VanWiemeersch and Brian Threlkeld.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear recruited a variety of expert thru-hiker and/or multi-sport adventurers to work the Trail Days 2015 booth alongside our President and Founder Mike St. Pierre. Between them, they have hiked, climbed, rafted or otherwise traveled through the backcountry tens of thousands of miles. In this year’s wrap-up blog post these athletes reflect on the importance of events like Trail Days. Check out a full album of Trail Days photos on our Facebook page.

According to Mike St. Pierre, first and foremost, Trail Days offers outdoor adventurers and thru-hikers the opportunity to see the most groundbreaking gear in the industry.

“All innovation is coming out of small companies like Hyperlite Mountain Gear and many of the other brands represented at Trail Days,” he explained. “You can’t find these products at REI and other big box stores. People who are truly active are starting these businesses; they need cutting-edge gear for their adventures, and so they are making what they need.” Read the rest of the Trail Days wrap up.

Mids Make Going Light Easy

Text by Roger Brown, guest blogger. Check out his website. He wrote a fine piece on pyramid tents (aka “mids”) that we recently discovered, and so we asked him to write one for our blog. Thanks Roger.

I have spent the last five summers hiking in the open treeless plains and mountains of Lapland, Finland. Two experiences led me to the conclusion that mids are the right option for me. First, I used a GoLite SL2 on an 18-day trip along the Nordkalotteleden in 2011. One evening as the wind began to increase and rain rapidly approached, I found a spot to pitch the shelter. Quickly, I had it pegged down and I crawled inside, extending the poles as the rain increased in intensity. It was then that I realized the benefits of a mid compared to a framed (or hooped) shelter.

Read the rest of the article here!

Why You Won’t Freeze or Starve Going Ultralight

Stripped Down Ultralight Backcountry Travel, By Mike St. Pierre

going Ultralight doesn't mean freezing your butt off or starving
Going ultralight doesn’t mean freezing your butt off or starving.

People new to thru hiking and backpacking often don’t realize they need far less than what they think or what their local big box outdoor store salesperson tells them they need. They base what they bring on their fears. Don’t fall into this trap. Understanding what you need is the secret to knowing what you don’t. You absolutely need something to sleep on, to sleep in and to sleep under. Plus you need insulating layers, waterproof layers, some kind of water treatment, a knife, a headlamp and the right kind of food at the right time. Anything else is gravy. I’m not saying you must leave your nonessential, favorite items behind; I simply recommend you strip down to the bare essentials, and then rebuild your list from there with your wants.

These are some common fears or questions we’ve heard over the years:

  • How warm is that tent?
  • I’d better bring 2 layers of fleece in case I get cold!
  • What if I don’t have enough food?
  • I need a stove to cook.

These fears are misplaced, and here’s why.
Read the rest of the article here.

Bug Off! UltaMid Mesh Inserts

We've got 'em: UltaMid Mesh Inserts :)
We’ve got ’em: UltaMid Mesh Inserts

In the end we regret only the mesh we didn’t take…

If you follow us on social media you probably already heard the news that we launched UltaMid Inserts for our 2- and 4-person mids. You can get them with a 100% waterproof Cuben Fiber bathtub floor or without. Either way, you’ll get that added bug protection that you didn’t have using the mid on its own. We used to advertise the mids as a three-season shelter—Fall, Winter, Spring. But it’s a bonafide four-season shelter now. No matter where you are—the Northeast during black fly season or the farthest southern reaches of mosquito-infested Greenland—you won’t have to worry about bugs. And, if the weather is super nice in the summer, you can use set up the Insert (with floor) on its own. Read the rest of the post here!

Black Cuben Fiber: Because Color Weighs Too Much

What do you expect from a company that makes #WhitePacks?

Hyperlite Introduces the Southwest in Black Cuben FiberIn an effort to expand our “color” line, we’ve built the 2400 and 3400 Southwest packs in Black Cuben Fiber. We’re still partial to our #WhitePacks, but we know you want variety (and we love the black, too!). The black packs are made with 150-denier Cuben/Poly hybrid–the same fabric we use on all our 4400 packs and to reinforce the bottoms of our 50-denier Cuben/Poly hybrid white packs.

Black packs came about after we developed a handful of urban/commuting packs made from the 150-denier black Cuben Fiber alternative. After we released that product, customers immediately started calling and asking if they could get our standard line of packs in black. So we launched our 1800 Series of Summit backpacks in black in 2013 and have custom-built our standard line in black upon request. Read the rest of the Black Packs article now.

The History of Going Light

Stripped Down: The Philosophy of Going Light

Old Fashioned Backpack
Photo courtesy of Kevin Dooley / Foter / CC BY

Now & Then

Major changes have taken place in the world of backcountry travel in the last half century. Adventurers now rock climb 3,500-foot walls in record speeds and hike thousands of miles carrying backpacks that weigh less than a small dog. Pioneers have questioned tradition and tested boundaries, transforming their adventure sports and the gear they use for those sports.

When Warren Harding, Wayne Merry and George Whitmore first climbed El Capitan, Yosemite National Park, they spent 47 days on the route using “siege tactics.” They hammered in hundreds of pitons and fixed thousands of feet or rope. Nowadays, people regularly climb their famous route, The Nose, in less than 24 hours. Alex Honnold and Hans Florine climbed it in just over two hours in 2012!

Likewise people have been trekking and camping long-distance on horizontal terrain since the early 1900s, regularly carrying one-third of their body weight (50 to 70 pounds). But thru hikers like National Geographic “Adventurer of the Year” Andrew Skurka and winter Pacific Crest Trail record breakers, Justin Lichter and Shawn Forry, have revolutionized hiking. They ditched the metal canteens, woolen knickers and cotton sleeping bags, replacing them with innovative, often custom-made equipment that was not only lighter, but also more streamlined, durable and effective. Imagine Skurka trying to hike the 6,875-mile Great Western Loop in 208 days with an external frame pack. No chance. Read the rest of the article!

How to Choose a Campsite

Echo II TarpBy Max Neale, a former Review Editor for Outdoor Gear Lab

A good campsite can make or break your wilderness experience. When traveling long distances or through remote areas, I break the campsite selection process into two steps. At the macro level I look at maps and identify–based on my average speed and the desired time I want to bed down for the night–a general area to sleep. Here, I look for an area that is: off trail, so you don’t interfere with other people’s wilderness experience; flat, where you’re most likely to find a level place to lay down; near resources such as water and firewood; not buggy, in a breezy area away from breeding grounds such as swamps and slow moving water; not in the bottom of a valley, where the air will be colder and the dew and frost will be greater; not near animal paths or their ideal habitat, which might lead to an unwelcome nighttime guest; and finally, away from natural hazards such as flash floods and avalanches.

Read the rest of the article

Ambassador Spotlight: Bayard Russell

Bayard Russell, Mugs Stump winner to climb Mt. Deborah, Hayes Range, AlaskaPhoto by Anne Skidmore Russell

New Hampshire’s mountains may be small compared to Western ranges, but they offer some ferocious terrain and hearty individuals. We recently chatted with hunter, climber and adventurer Bayard Russell. As we write this, he’s on his way to the Hayes Range, Alaska with partners Elliot Gaddy and Michael Wejchert to make their second attempt on the unclimbed south face of Mt. Deborah (12,540′). The threesome won the prestigious Mugs Stump Award.

Their plan: to climb a giant (i.e. 4500-foot) face, traverse a 1.5-mile ridge “across a classic, horrifying, double-corniced traverse,” to the summit of the mountain, and then descend to the other side of the mountain, and climb a pass and hike “six to ten miles” to get back to basecamp.

“It’s a big new age wall objective with an old-school Alaska mountaineering objective,” Russell explained. “The guys selectively provided me with information to get me psyched,” he added with a laugh. Read the rest of the article!

Stripped Down: Community Tips

    Go light. Hike in your socks :)

Comments moderated by Mike St. Pierre

Thanks so much to our community for providing so many good tips & tricks to lighten your load. We’ll be expanding some of these into blog posts in the upcoming weeks.

  • From Charles Greenhalgh via Instagram (@daily_maple): Use a very large poncho. It provides protection from rain, but breathes really well and covers your pack and your legs to the knees. It can also serve as an emergency shelter. Charles has waited out hailstorms on the trail and made lunch under his poncho.
  • Thanks to Chris (@snow_slog) who advised us via Instagram to take a smaller pack than normal because it forces you to pack less. This brings to mind something I often tell my customers; I recommend you buy your pack last. By purchasing all your necessities first, you can figure out the lightest, best options for you. And then buy a pack that reflects those purchases. Buy a big pack from the get-go, and you’re just going to fill it, often with unnecessary stuff. Read the rest of the community tips…

How to Use Trekking Poles to Increase Speed and Decrease Fatigue

Photo by Cody Cobb.

Text by Mike St. Pierre, Photo by Cody Cobb.

Why, Where & How to Use Trekking Poles

Trekking poles prevent muscle damage and soreness. The UK’s Northumbria University conducted a study in 2010 that found that the test groups that used poles, “demonstrated a reduced loss of strength and a faster recovery immediately after the trek compared to the control group.” They drilled it down even more, finding the levels of the enzyme creatine kinase (indicating muscle damage) were significantly higher in the non-pole group, while “the trekking-pole group’s levels were close to the pre-trekking levels.” That means muscle damage was negligible when people used poles. Various studies have shown that using poles can reduce the impact on your knees from 25-40%. The catch is, you have to know how to use trekking poles to get those benefits.

Read the rest of the article…