Small Business Saturday

In 2010, American Express began Small Business Saturday to support the 27 million small businesses in this country.  On the Saturday following Thanksgiving, Americans everywhere are asked to support their favorite local small business by committing to “shop small.”

The push to shop small has huge impact on the health of the American economy: collectively, small businesses account for 54 percent of America’s GDP. Because small businesses are responsible for roughly three quarters of new job creation, many see them as the savior of this poor economy and unemployed workforce. Local companies reinvest more money in their communities than “big-box” competitors and contribute more to local charities and philanthropic efforts.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear is fortunate for the support of American Express and to all those committed to Small Business Saturday. Raising awareness for small business everywhere not only helps our business, but also supports a thriving American economy. This year, Google and American Express teamed up to support small businesses by offering a video contest as a means to help business owners broadcast their story. Hyperlite Mountain Gear was one of 36 winners of the My Business Story contest and received marketing resources to further our efforts. We are grateful to both of these companies and to the organizers of Small Business Saturday.

We encourage all of you to participate in Small Business Saturday and to educate yourselves on the importance of small businesses in your own communities and in America itself.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear – Porter and Ice Pack Debut Article

Over the past few weeks our team has been talking with Philip Werner from TrailSpace.com.  This morning Philip posted his article about our new Ice Pack and Porter Pack.  Take a look!  Don’t forget to visit TrailSpace: http://www.trailspace.com/

Title: Hyperlite Debuts Cuben Fiber Climbing Packs

By: Philip Werner

Posted: Monday, November 7, 2011 at 9:47 am

Hyperlite Mountain Gear (HMG) has just introduced two new backpacks for ice climbing and mountaineering called the Ice Pack and the Porter. They are made using an ultralight non-woven fabric called Cuben Fiber.

Originally developed to make World Cup racing boat sails, Cuban Fiber’s durability and light weight make it a natural choice for ultralight backpacks and tarps.

“We’re getting a lot of great feedback about these packs from sponsored climbers and expedition guides,” said HMG’s founder and CEO, Mike St. Pierre. “They also cost much less than other lightweight ice-climbing and mountaineering packs, which are two or three times as expensive.”

The Ice Pack (left) and Porter.

The Ice Pack is designed for ice climbers. Weighing in at 26.5 ounces, it has a capacity of 2,400 cubic inches and features dual ice axe holders, an exterior crampon attachment system, and hip belt loops for racking climbing gear.

The higher-capacity Porter is a general purpose mountaineering pack, weighing 25.1 ounces, with a capacity of 3,400 cubic inches. The Porter features a double-reinforced bottom and a three-tier compression system that can be used to attach skis, snowshoes or a sleeping pad to the outside of the pack.

Made in the United States and priced at $255 and $275, the Ice Pack and Porter backpacks are available in four torso sizes, ranging from 15 inches to 21+ inches, and with three different hip belts, to accommodate waist sizes from petite to burly.

Both packs have external daisy chains, haul loops, numerous attachment points, and accessories for trip-specific customization.

St Pierre, an avid hiker, backpacker, and ice climber, founded Hyperlite Mountain Gear two and a half years ago. “Before we sold any products, we spent a year on product design and testing to make sure that our gear was extremely durable,” he said. “In the process, we developed a proprietary ripstop Cuben Fiber/nylon hybrid that makes our backpacks much more abrasion resistant.”

“If you look at the inside of an HMG pack, you’ll see that the pack and its back panel are cut from one sheet of Cuben Fiber which is taped together, making it virtually waterproof,” said St. Pierre. Some stitching is still required, but HMG’s proprietary Cuben Fiber material helps facilitate that process, according to St. Pierre, making it much faster to manufacture the packs and keep up with customer demand.

http://www.trailspace.com/blog/2011/11/07/hyperlite-cuben-packs.html

http://www.hyperlitemountaingear.com/

Idaho Traverse; Part IV

The bright morning light illuminates the tent. Evidently we pitched over a dormant anthill. With the sun, I feel a throng of them tracking over my legs. As I reach to brush them off, my head instinctively recoils back into my parka’s hood. A searing pain stabs my right eye…it’s like a paper-cut on my cornea.

“Chris, something’s wrong.” Unable to see, my arm thrashes for the first-aid kit.

I calm down enough for Chris to take a look. My eye is red, weepy and in immense pain, but nothing appears to be in it. I take two hydrocodone and Chris helps me stumble into town.

If you haven’t given much thought to it, your eyes work in concert—providing us with stereoscopic acuity. So even with my injured eye closed, it moves when my good eye moves—dragging it across my closed eyelid. Pain. The bright alpine light forces me to wince. Pain. I blink. Pain. I try to relax, pull my buff over my bad eye and sunglasses over the buff.

At the Salmon River Clinic, the PA applies a fluorescein solution and wands a black light over my eye.

“Do you mind if I call in a few other people?” she asks. Down the hall I hear her ask enthusiastically, “Hey, you wanna see something interesting?”

A line of interns funnel into the room and crowd around me. “You know how we’ve been looking for a corneal ulcer all summer long? Well, this is a great example!” She waves the wand with the precision of a tarmac ground crew.

She applies an antibiotic eye ointment, patches it, and sends me on my way. “Give it four days to heal, stay out of the light.”

Ouch — a closeup of a recurrent corneal erosion

I pass the next two days touring the dark corners of Stanley’s coffee shops. But the eye wasn’t getting any better. We weigh the options of waiting it out. I need rest, a clean bed. If the eye heals, we could press on—but what if the issue resurfaces? Our next stage is 250 miles through the largest contiguous wilderness in the lower 48. Calling it from The Frank Church or Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness could potentially leave us a hundred miles from a trailhead. Right now, I can’t walk 100 feet with out Chris’s help.

Chris awaits my decision

We paddled the most technical water, rode through the hottest temperatures, pushed bikes over the highest point on the route…but we were finally faced with the insurmountable. The pain was too much, the risks were too high, the next move was mine. I turn to Chris to share my decision and place the call home. We wait for our ride over pizza; me hunkered in my seat searching for solace in my basil on red, Chris engaging questions from patrons and passers by.

Back in Boise, I met with a corneal specialist. It wasn’t a scratch; I was diagnosed with recurrent corneal erosion syndrome. In short, when in a dry, dusty, windy environment, or I get dehydrated or too little sleep—in general, how I spent my week on the route—can precipitate a sloughing off of the eye’s epithelium, exposing the corneal nerves. The expedition was the perfect storm. The decision to bail was the right choice.

I’ve spent enough time in the mountains to figure out how to get over it when I can’t get up it. The slow, tedious transition from alpine to the steppe and eventually to the lush forests and turgid rivers below provides ample time to work it out. Here, our extraction was almost immediate, leaving us both with the bitter taste of soured business.

Would we do it again…maybe, hell-no, absolutely…perhaps I’d skip the ride through the desert, though. I get this question all the time, and my response shifts almost as frequently. In short, it’s too soon to tell, but it won’t be anytime soon. But given the right conditions and some testicular fortitude, we found that it’s possible.

Idaho Traverse Movie

Big thanks to Hyperlite Mountain Gear for helping us take a stab at the dream

Idaho Traverse; Part III

Chris packs up before the cycle up Bennett Mountain

The early morning light washes the desert-scape in pastels; we soak it up before we put wheels on the road. Once the sun crests the skyline, it’s back to the business of relentless pedaling. Wind gusts blow sand across our path and exposes the light underside of the aspen leaves. It takes us three hours (and four liters of water each) to summit Bennett Mountain, after which it is down to Castle Rocks and across Highway 20.

The endless road ahead

We hole up at an RV camp to sit out the heat of the day, where we hydrate and ask about our route to the town of Pine—our next waypoint. From the maps, it appears there is an unimproved road connecting to the next reservoir and eventually to Pine. Our conversation progresses something like this:

“Road? There’s no road…”

“Well, you see that property across the field? There’s a dirt road over there, but you’ll have to walk through the saw-grass to get there. Rattlesnakes!”

“Well, if you head down the hill a bit, you’ll find a tractor path to that dirt road…once you’re there, it’s level for a bit, then all downhill.”

We continually found that “level” and “all downhill” are both words that locals use to describe a road they took before it headed up and they turned around. In our case, the road ends at the next reservoir forcing us to bushwhack up the adjacent hillside to find another road. As we top out, I hear Chris mutter “ouch.” Of all the four-letter words, this one does seem most appropriate. The desert scrub shredded our legs and our muscles are spent from cramping. Deprived of electrolytes, we’re craving a salt lick.

Its all downhill...

As we roll into Pine, we prop our bikes against a diner and saddle up for burgers and fries. Well, I saddle up for burgers and fries and Chris, completely nauseous, watches me eat his fries. We stock up on salty foods and make camp by the reservoir. Chris finally finds his appetite and sucks down a jar of pickle juice. Meanwhile, I tend to the latest issue of the hour. While I stuffed only bulky, light supplies in my pack—the PFD, paddles, and bivi gear—the added weight of the pack has caused saddle sores. “An issue serious enough to force riders out of the Tour,” shares Chris. “You ride until the pain becomes too much…or you get an infection.”

I rifle through my first aid kit and find Keflex, an antibiotic to treat, among other things, skin infections. As I open the canister, I read a fold-out warning: “Persistent diarrhea may rarely occur weeks to months after using.” I weigh the risk of infection against our supply of Imodium and warily take my first dose.

Fortunately (for me) the following day was only 25 miles of riding before we turned north to skirt over the shoulder of the Sawtooths. Unfortunately for Chris, that meant pushing bikes up 5,000 feet of motorcycle trail. A self-proclaimed non-runner, he’s been blunt about his abilities on foot. On the map, this route looked to be the path of least resistance while honoring the mechanized travel restrictions in the Sawtooth Wilderness. In any case, I relished the change.

The trail was rideable for the first mile, after which it became a bed of loose stone. Seven miles into the push, we pass a pair of motorcyclists. “You boys are ambitious…” He stops to readjust his mounted chainsaw.

Typical hike-a-biking found in the foothills of the Sawtooths

While Idaho boasts over four million acres of wilderness, the majority of our land is BLM, unrestricted and open to anyone. These guys were here on a weekday, maintaining the trail for fun. Of course, we each had our own idea of fun and ours was getting to Alturas Lake before night.

“No way; can’t be done,” quips the biker. “It takes us a full day to get there and back on motorbikes.”

We continue push our bikes to just short of 9,000 feet where we camp for the night. Alturas is another pass and 13 miles of single track away. The soil is wet; snow blankets the north side of the cirque and probably lined the meadow a mere week before. We eat and hunker down for the night.

Our sleep systems are ridiculously simple for this altitude. We pull on all of our clothes (including our rain shells), wiggle into our custom 8-ounce, half-length quilts and shove our legs into our packs. As if to sniff out warmth, we bury our noses in our parkas and shiver until first light.

Chris setting up camp at 9,000 feet

While morning reveals another stunning view, we’re quick to break camp and get back to the monotony of pushing bikes to the final summit ridge. The backside is dense with trees, shading the trail, which is still covered in snow. We continue to walk our bikes, this time downhill. Itching to go, at 7,500 feet Chris pops the clutch, swings a leg over the saddle and roars down the mountain. The trail cuts tightly through the steep mountainside over rooty, rutty and muddy terrain.

Chris fixes a flat on the backside

A much better cyclist than me, I struggle to keep up. That is, until I see his front wheel dive deep into a rut. His fork compresses completely. Then, as if in slow motion, it recoils, pitching him over his handlebars and into the wallow. Cautious, we throttle it back as we descend into the valley and onto dryer ground.

The pleasure of the descent quickly comes to an end as we are forced to walk it out other side. Shorter, and with less elevation, we make the next summit in three hours after which the thrill of another descent brings us down to Alturas Lake.

Chris lets his bike off the second divide of the day

Riding echelon, Chris and I swap leads into Stanley. My saddle sores force me to continually readjust, which essentially just widens the damage. We only have one more day of cycling ahead of us before we return to the boats for 250 miles. Once in Stanley, I notice my eye feels dry, irritated—like something was in it, but nothing is. I pass it off as dry eyes and, exhausted, I quickly fall asleep.

Idaho Traverse; Part II

Moonlight bores a hole into our camp as we wrestle loads to the boats. We launch at first light. While the Bruneau River is fed by snowmelt from the Jarbidge Mountains, the water is warmed to 70 degrees by the sun-baked rock. Immediately the overhanging canyon walls engulf our small rafts. In contrast to the desert above, we paddle through a lush grotto. The curtains of basalt are laced with wispy strands of vegetation, peaked by volcanic hoodoo spires, and ruled by raptors. We watch eagles, owls, hawks, kestrels and falcons perform aerial acrobatics above our rafts.

Chris paddles down the Wild and Scenic Bruneau River. Steve Graepel

Running at just below 500 cfs, the river vacillates between placid and technical boulder gardens. We split our time in tranquil awe and on-the-edge-of-our-seat maneuvering. Our reality becomes clear: Surrounded by vertical walls, to abandon the river we would either need a rack ready to tackle 5.10 climbing or run the river to its take out.

Near the end of the run lays a five-mile section of sustained class-IV paddling called, simply enough, “five-mile.” While we had hoped to position ourselves to run it by 4 p.m., we were late. Lower water translated to slower paddling. Milking the most of the day, we paddle into the first set of rapids at 6 p.m.

The canyon narrows and the river disappears. I quicken my pace, pick a line and maneuver in, around and over the sharp rocks. A paddle in the water translates to forward traction. Exhilarated, I turn to see how Chris is faring, but all I see is the black bottom of his raft tossing over the big water. I hear Chris shouting. It was either the paddle or the raft—he was asking me to catch his raft.

Chris entered the first drop and immediately ran his boat’s nose up on a rock. He was then immediately sucked back into the eddy’s rinse cycle, flipping his boat upside down while still securely in it. Running it upside down, he was putting our decision to use bike helmets as paddle helmets to the test.

Shaken but not stirred, he caught his raft and resituated, and I led a route between two rocks that are quickly blocked by a split boulder. Unable to maneuver quickly enough, my boat wedges in the crack. Water immediately starts to suck over the spray skirt.

Taking the same path, Chris is quickly faced with the same situation. “You don’t want a part of this fun,” I share. He bounces off my boat, pushing me deeper into the splitter. My port-side sucks under, catching the full force of the flow. I pull out of the skirt and immediately suck under boat and into the crack. I kick frantically and finally surface long enough to grab onto solid rock and pull myself on top of the erratic.

My boat completely wrapped around the rock, I look at Chris only to see him fumbling with his camera. He looks up and flashes a grin and a thumbs-up.

On top of the eratic, Steve Graepel contemplates escape options. Chris Minson

I finally pry my boat from the river’s grip, point it downstream and launch myself off the four-foot boulder like I’m dropping into the bucking chute. While my dismount scores aesthetic points, the force pops the horseshoe-shaped seat in half. I paddle the rest of the evening by Braille, reading every hidden rock with my tailbone. Rather than pushing it further, we choose to make camp for the night and let the anxiety of the day’s events wash over us before tomorrow’s paddle.

Now fully educated in the school of scouting, we start the next day with a cup of coffee and a walk downstream. With water levels dropping each day, these rapids are quick and fun with small pools between them. As we descend, the steep walls give way to the hot, arid, sagebrush desert. We stop to scout the last class-IV, Wild Burro. Not willing to be taken for a ride, I make the easy portage to its left and watch Chris have a discussion with his inner youth. In the end, we both agree the trip is early and we’ll have plenty of opportunity for big water.

Chris makes the transition from paddles to pedals in the heat of the day. Steve Graepel

By noon we paddle up to our cache and make the transition from boats to bikes. Of course, our first stop is the Bruneau general store, where we stock up on fluids and snacks and grouse about with the store’s owner.

Outside the store, the thermometer reads 100…in the shade. Once on the road, we’re drinking upwards of two liters of water an hour without urinating. We ride from township to township to keep the reservoirs filled and throw electrolytes back by the fistful to counter the frequent heat and exhaustion cramps. Chris, an exercise physiologist who specializes in thermoregulatory physiology, is great fun on junkets like this. He’s quick to illustrate why we hurt and shares how close to the limit we’re pushing it. Fifteen miles of paddling, 40 miles of riding and our first significant transition, we finally stop to make camp next to the Blair Trail Reservoir below Bennett Mountain. Chris turns to me and says, “And that’s only day two!”

Chris evaluates the magnitude of our days progress under the setting sun. Steve Graepel

Idaho Traverse; Part I

I raise my sunglasses to my forehead and step out of the heat and into the Bruneau general store. The owner is an older fella with a face like a fist and bushy eyebrows growing over the rims of his glasses. He’s leaning over shop counter, reading the paper.

“You have a map,” he mutters without lifting an eye.

“We’re looking for Indian Hot Springs… the put-in for the Bruneau.” The Owyhee Desert roads are largely unnamed; friends shared that we should inquire in town for specific directions.

“Why are you here now? You should have been here last week,” he quipped, still focused on his reading. He’s somewhat right; the river is snow-fed, thus its season flashes through spring. For most boats, it’s typically floated around 1,000 cfs…for most boats. Our intent was to float it in guerilla style—packrafts during lower flow. The river was at 500 cfs, ideal for our micro-rafts.

“Well, we’re here now…” I share.

“That road was destroyed years ago by the earthquake.” In 1983, a 6.9-earthquake caused 2-meter scarps in the Lost River Range. My in-laws felt it as far away as Caldwell. “Do you have four spare tires?” he added. Remote and notoriously broken, the road can be completely inaccessible during Idaho’s “monsoon” season. It’s no place for a city car.

Chris, my partner on the expedition, supportively cajoles, “We have four bike tires!”

“Bikes?” He put his paper down and raised his eyes. Apparently we had his attention now. He strained his gaze over my shoulder to the truck out front, loaded with bikes and bags. He then stares us squarely and shoots “Boys, what the hell are you up to?”

I share our plan to cache bikes at the take-out.

“Plan? You guys are crazy…” he shook his head. “The take-out sees over 150 kids every weekend. You think you’re going to find your bikes there when you return? You should turn around and go home now.”

“It’s a big desert, we’ll find a place to put the bikes.” Crazy, maybe. But two years of planning, a year of training and weeks of last-minute details…turning around now wasn’t part of the plan.

He shakes his head and sends us out the door with a cursory set of directions.

We cache the bikes along with three days of rations in the willows below a set of weirs and continue south past the Saylor Air Force bombing range. A dusty dirt highway, Clover 3 Creek Road, is the only sign of human presence in this vastly open wilderness. In the distance, my eyes trace a fractured line etched across the desert plains. I know what it is, but my mind’s eye questions the obvious. The Bruneau Canyon cuts deep; standing at the top, there are sections so narrow that one can’t see the river below. I’m seeing the top of a canyon perhaps 50 feet wide, 300 feet deep.

Photo from the 3 Clovers road
Warning: objects may fall from aircraft

After 30 miles, a sign points us west to the Bruneau. The road quickly becomes choked with basketball-sized rocks baked into the summer soil, slowing us to 5 to 10 miles per hour. After an hour of class-V off-roading, we watch the road vanish into the deep canyon. With airy ledges likened to a Himalayan highway, I suggest we make this our official transition and send Erik, our backcountry chauffeur, back home with the truck.

Steve with his pack on and contemplating the 850 miles ahead of him
Steve contemplates the route ahead. Photo courtesy of Erik Nystrom.

The stress of last-minute preparations has shredded my nerves. As we pack our scant supplies into our 40L packs, my gut continues to wrench as I try to comprehend the entire 850-mile route before us. Each day will certainly present unforeseen obstacles, so I breathe deep and focus on the immediate task.

Steve and Chris depart towards the put in of the Bruneau River
Steve and Chris depart towards the put in of the Bruneau River. Courtesy of Erik Nystrom

We part ways with Erik and hike the two miles to the river.

Christi “Deva” Holmes Finishes the Appalachian Trail

2,181 miles. Done.

Maine was by far my favorite state. Having grown up in Maine, I am probably a little biased. Psychologically it was a big boost knowing, “Hey, I really am going to finish this thing.” I met quite a few south-bounders and many section hikers. They were easily to identify because they had HUGE packs and guts only a little smaller. They complained of aches and pains and blisters and told me I was hiking much too fast so wasn’t enjoying my hike. I offered encouragement and assured them I was enjoying my hike very much. Mahoosuc Notch was really exciting. Through the infamous “slowest mile on the Appalachian Trail (AT),” I had to crawl under boulders, take my pack off to squeeze between rocks, climb up using my hands, and slide down on my butt.

I enjoyed the serenity that Maine offered and wished the entire AT was more like the 100 mile wilderness. I stopped almost every day to swim in the many lakes and ponds that the trail winds around. I often picked blueberries at lunchtime and one day even watched a young moose saunter down the trail. I camped at Antlers Campsite one stormy night and the watched the sunrise while listening to a family of loons the next morning.

The night before I summited Katahdin I was a bit forlorn.  My last night blowing up my sleeping pad, last campfire, and last time cooking dinner.  I met my parents the following morning and we started up Hunt Trail. When my other AT friends caught up, I kissed my parents goodbye and told them I’d see them at the bottom (they didn’t plan on summiting). With strong seasoned legs, our group of ten ran past day hikers onto Baxter Peak. Though I had climbed Katahdin before, this time was different.  It felt surreal as we climbed above 5,000 ft and into the clouds.  The lifestyle I had come to know for the past 4 1/2 months was no more.

My hike was over.

After many photographs and some emotions, I turned my back to the white blazes and started down the Knife Edge.

I cannot thank Hyperlite Mountain Gear enough for providing me with their gear and supporting me throughout my hike. Lightening my load saved my body, allowed me to hike faster and longer, and made my overall hike so much more enjoyable.

Hikers realize that every ounce counts.  A thru hike is especially taxing on your body because it’s so long. One extra pound may not seem like much, but over 2000 miles it certainly takes a toll on your body.  I’m only 23 and used hiking poles but my knees ached when hiking downhill, and sometimes my back as well. After switching to Hyperlite Mountain Gear, I had no pain at all.

Having such a lightweight tent and pack enabled me to hike much longer before getting tired. I proved this when, after taking four days off, I caught up to my friends in three days. When we pulled our first sun up to sun down 35 mile day with my new gear, I was surprised at how much better I felt at the end of the day. Before switching to Hyperlite Mountain Gear, I had only done two 30+ mile days and they were exhausting; by the end of those days my body and morale suffered. After making the switch, I still felt tired, but my feet didn’t hurt at I had more energy by the time we set up camp. I could hike faster and longer thanks to my gear.

Because my base weight was so low, I could carry a few luxuries I hadn’t originally been carrying- a change of clothes to wear while doing laundry, swimsuit and extra food.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear is worth the price and the customer service is outstanding. When Mike thought my first pack was too small, he immediately sent another. Even though I thought it fit great; turns out the second one rode even better. Because of their small size, Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s craftsmanship, attention to detail and product quality are exceptional.

I can confidently say that my Hyperlite Mountain Gear products made my body felt great, boosted my confidence and made my thru-hike much more fun. Thanks Hyperlite Mountain Gear!

-Christi “Deva” Holmes, August 2011

First Photos from Steve Kominsky’s 10 In 6 Challenge!

 

Hyperlite Mountain Gear received the first photos of Steve Kominsky and his Windrider on the 10 In 6 Challenge.  The photos look great!  Here’s what Steve had to say:

“Thank you so much for the support. The Windrider was incredible to have with me.  In 5 days on the trail I covered 77 miles and climbed 33,000′.  35 miles were at a jogging pace and the pack felt incredible.  My longest day was 15 hours, and I never had a tired back or sore shoulders.  The shelter was in the pack on each day, it is great to have a shelter that weighs so little!”

More photos and stories from Steve coming soon!

Deva Makes it to Maine with her Ultralight Windrider and Echo Shelter

I made it to Maine!

But first, a little about the Whites. I entered the Whites July 11, doing 18 miles over Mt Moosilauke with Porter, Pace, Toto, Crop Duster and Dreamwalker. The view was gorgeous, but the climb down was a bit treacherous. The next morning, the Whites lived up to their name and the mountains were capped with fog. We stopped into Lonesome Lake Hut for free leftover pancakes that made a grim day look brighter. We then hiked into North Woodstock to resupply our Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windriders, and pushed back onto the trail.  I stealth camped above 4,000’ in my Echo I Shelter just below Mt Lincoln.

5:00AM came early as we headed into more fog. After three bowls of split pea soup at Galehead Hut, things were clearing up. Crop Duster and I stayed at Zealand Hut and did work for stay. We got to sleep in the warm hut and eat leftovers in exchange for 30 minutes of cleaning. We did feel a bit like dogs as we waited on the porch while the real guests ate dinner; sleeping under the tables didn’t help the feeling either.  The following night I stayed at Lakes of the Clouds Hut in the Refugee Room, for emergency use only.

I was the first and only person at the summit at 6:45AM the next morning.  Crop, Spike and The Maine Boys followed.  It was a gorgeous day, but windy at the top. We ran the ridge down to Pinkham Notch, and with tummies full of trail magic, we climbed up and camped atop of Wildcat Mountain.

After some R&R in Gorham, I pushed out and crossed the Maine border! It felt so good! Mahoosuc Notch was really fun and I got to work on my flexibility bending around and under boulders. I saw a moose, and many beautiful ponds (I can’t wait to jump in one!) I’m staying in Rangeley with my parents tonight and am hoping to summit Katahdin August 4th!

Steve Graepel and Chris Minson, on an 850 Mile Idaho Traverse

When I moved to Idaho, I picked up the gazetteer’s map and almost immediately noticed the dashed black line running through its pages. The arc delineated the Idaho Centennial Trail, an 850-mile trek from Nevada to Canada… I filed it away in my black book of to-do’s.

As I began to explore my new home, that black line continued to creep into my maps. The Sawtooths, The Frank, the Owyhees… there it was. The Centennial trail was devised to cut through the best of the State, and I didn’t have the time–or the urge–to hike it all. Studying the maps, I noticed key rivers flowed north before turning west to the Columbia. The wheels began to take traction. Why not boat the rivers, then cycle or pack between the drainages?

So I devised a plan that would move us through a northerly route in an expeditious way. Success hinges on embracing “fast and light,” using featherweight kits with minimal supplies. But it’s not enough to just have the latest carbon and cuben fiber. It’s critical to be trained in body and mind to go fast, smart, and ultimately be smart enough to go light.

My adventure background stems from mountaineering and distance running, where training has always been a core part of the journey. It’s a habit woven pretty tightly into my fabric. So when someone asks how I get in shape for an endeavor like this, I usually reply that I try not to get out of shape. But the Idaho Traverse averages 50-60 miles a day, with monster days on the bike, requiring me to move new muscles for longer duration. I laid out a plan to build up speed, muscle, and endurance. My wife insisted on a spin bike, which was probably a game-saver during this year’s wet winter and spring. (The flip side is I have liters of my soul stained into the basement grout.) As we moved into summer, I focused primarily on longer endurance riding.

Fall/Winter

Tuesday/Thursday: I would do a lactic threshold run or ride, followed by 20 minutes of weights–working mostly core and upper body to balance the load on the legs.

Sundays: I’d either sit on the spin bike or run for 2-3 hours.

Monday/Fridays: 1.5 hours on the spin bike or running.

Spring/Summer

The Boise foothills are a fantastic playground to train in. We have over 130 miles of single track which I’m able to access right out the back door of my office or 5 minutes from home. Go a little longer and I can ride these trails to the backcountry fire roads, the same system that will take us all the way to Canada.

During the week: I dropped the weights and held on to the lactic thresholds as much as I could, which was usually one tempo ride a week. In June I transitioned to mostly 2-3 hour daily rides or runs. To maximize time, I’d sometimes divide workouts into morning runs and lunch-hour rides.

Weekend: I’d take in an early long ride on the local fire roads. One of my repeated routes was a 60-mile loop with 7,000 feet of climbing (or 5-6 hours in the saddle). If you can ride that long (and stay hydrated and fed), you can ride all day.

 

 

 

Gear

While the Idaho Traverse is a multi-sport endeavor, we can divide our route into cycling and pack-rafting legs (which also includes backpacking). But our method requires us to be able to leverage the same gear during either of these legs. A streamlined kit is paramount.

Packs. We had our pick and chose to use Hyperlite’s Windrider pack. At 40 liters, it’s the perfect size. While cycling, we’ll put our ‘puffy’ items in the pack. It compresses well, doesn’t round out and stays clear of helmets. The pack is well taped and we’ve seam gripped exposed seams. With a roll top, it’s virtually a drybag; it should keep our gear plenty dry while rafting. And when we need to hike, its side pockets hold paddles tight and the large kangaroo pocket in back allows wet gear to dry out or the solar panel charging our electronics.

Clothing. Clothing can be divided in to clothing worn on the go, and clothing incorporated into our sleep system.

Base layer:  While on the go, we’ll each have two pairs of shorts each, one for cycling, one for hiking and rafting—both are a Lycra, bike-fit type short. We’ll use one synthetic short sleeve shirt each for both cycling and hiking. Instead of bringing long sleeve shirts or tights, we’ll use cycling ‘sleeves’ and leg warmers, which offer greater warmth when we need them, and more flexibility across disciplines.

Wind layer:  In addition to shoes and our ‘super hero-like’ base layer, Salomon provided a great 5oz wind jacket. It’s ideal for riding during the twilight hours and I’ll likely sleep in it.

Rain gear:  Eddie Bauer is our primary sponsor and has made a big reentry into mountaineering with their First Ascent line. For rain gear, we’ll be using Eddie Bauer’s BC200 jacket (10 oz).  I’m supplementing the kit with a pair of Patagonia Grade VI waterproof pants (6 oz).

Footwear:  We’ll be using Salomon XA Pros for rafting and hiking, cycling shoes, and two pairs of wool running socks.

Head and handwear:  My all around head wear is a buff—which works great in both hot and cold conditions, and a pair of soft shell gloves for chilly morning riding conditions. It’s Idaho in summer, so it will be hot and dry for the most part, but I’m throwing in a pair of plastic medical gloves for dire, wet situations.

All counted, our entire clothing kit weighs 4.5 pounds.

Sleep System / Insulated clothing. It’s no secret that if you wear your clothes to bed, you’ll stay warmer. A key part of our sleep system is integrating Eddie Bauer’s insulation line into our sleep system. I’ll be using a Women’s XL Downlight Hoodie (13 oz. It was a hot item this season and sold out in men’s sizes). Chris chose to go with synthetic and will be using the Eddie Bauer Igniter jacket (20 oz). Instead of sleeping bags, we will both carry a 1/2 quilt by Nunatak (9 oz), upgraded to 975 fill power. We’ll use torso-length Neoair thermo-rest pads (9 oz) with our dry bags and packs as supplementary ground cover.

Shelter. We worked with the team at Hyperlite Mountain Gear to develop a three-person shelter that would work for pack-rafting, cycling, or backpacking. We can readily pitch the tent using our 4-piece paddles, poles, or even our bikes. Our original team had three members; one pulled out after we had prototyped the shelter. But the extended space is ideal for pack-rafting: if you want to use your rafts as pads, two rafts readily fit under its walls. The shelter weighs 25 oz.

Cooking. Taking a page from Andrew Skurka, I built a cat food-can alcohol stove. It weighs virtually nothing (like 0.3 oz). Filled, this stove quickly fired up and boiled 0.8L of water in 5 minutes and then burned another 7 minutes. It only needs an ounce of alcohol to boil water. We’re bringing an 0.85 L titanium pot and an 0.7 L titanium pot. Both of us will use a titanium spork.

We’ll each carry 2-liter and 3-liter MSR bladders, providing backup should one fail, and 5 full liters of water to cross the Owyhee desert.

Device vice. Getting sponsored to go light has its payback, and it’s all in this line item. We’re documenting the trip with RAW images and HD video. My primary camera will be a Sony Nex 5 (love this), but we’ll also bringing two GoPro helmet cameras to capture on-the-go video. We’re bringing a SPOT connect to track our route and share quick updates along the way, and my satellite phone looks like something Tubbs would brandish on the South Beach strip. We’ll be charging it all with a solar panel.

Cycling. With epics like “Ride the Divide” and adventure races, adventure cycling has embraced ultralight practices. We’ll be using the same gear during the cycling legs, just carrying more of it on our frame bag system. To keep most of the weight out of our packs, we’ll use a handlebar bag, a large seat bag, and a “gas tank” bag that rides over the top bar. In addition, I’ll be using a small bag that fits inside the frame geometry, keeping the center of gravity tight. All of our bike gear will be shuttled around the Frank Church and Selway-Bitterroot wildernesses, so that we can swap boats for bikes and pedal onward to Canada.

Pack-rafting. This fringe sport is more than strapping a kiddie pool to your hindquarters; it’s blossomed into an active community of adventurers, seeking to cover more miles through wild areas. While we expect to hike between 30 miles a day, we can paddle between 30-50 miles a day with much less effort. The entire kit–paddle, boat, spray skirt–weighs about 6 pounds. We won’t skimp on the PFD, though. If the Bruneau is running below 500cfs, we’ll ship our boats to a ranch sitting at the edge of the Frank and exchange them for our bikes in Lowell, 250 miles later. If the Bruneau runs above 500cfs, we’ll run the Bruneau and then carry the boats with us to the Frank.

Food. Chris found out that he has a gluten intolerance, which goes directly against my strict complex carbohydrate and saturated fat diet. Fortunately, Chris is a professor of physiology and has had many students who have graduated and moved onto interesting careers…like endurance athlete nutritionists. Big shout-out to Sarah Weber for putting together a creative solution for our diet dilemma. In general, we’ll be eating calorie-dense foods that have high calorie-to-ounce ratios: think nuts, nut butter, dried soups, dried potatoes, hummus, quinoa, and halvah.

All together, we plan to carry no more than 35 lbs at any one time. We’ve strategically arranged for caches every 200-300 miles so we can travel 50-75 miles per day, which allows us to travel with 4 days of supplies for every block of travel.

– Steve Graepel

The team at Hyperlite Mountain Gear would like to wish the best of luck to Steve and Chris on this traverse.  We are excited to follow Steve and Chris’ progress and to see photos and videos of their expedition.  We are so happy to be be able to sponsor this team with companies like Eddie Bauer, Patagonia and Solomon.  Steve and Chris are scheduled to depart Saturday, July 23.

A day on the trail

I’ll start with last night. A BBQ place in Fort Montgomery, NY, was featuring a special called The Pig Out. Porter challenged me to eat it, and being the competitive person that I am, I accepted. It was a half rack of ribs, half BBQ chicken, pulled pork, kielbasa, and some other unidentifiable pork. Plus cornbread and two sides – I chose Mac ‘n’ cheese. Two hours later I limped back to my hotel room clutching my stomach in defeat. I couldn’t eat the kielbasa.

The next morning rolled around and I woke up feeling worse than I did the night before. I started to pack up to hit the trail, but decided a forced vomit was needed. After reliving the night before in a bad way, we headed out. I grabbed two yogurts while Pace tried unsuccessfully to call a cab. We ended up begging the manager to let a desk worker drive us two miles to where we got off the trail the day before. We offered her $20 but she refused. In our usual order – Pace, me, and Porter – we started our hike across the Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson. We had to cross a crosswalk and waited a solid five minutes since NY traffic stops for no one. After a truck with New Hampshire plates finally let us cross, we began a steep uphill. I was still feeling weak and queasy, and Porter was nursing his own hangover. Pace was quiet with his own thoughts. I guess he was fantasizing about naked hikers. It was summer solstice, known in the hiking world as Naked Hiking Day. We were not naked. We finally peaked out and our climb ended so we chatted about hiking naked – the chaffing, sunburns, mosquito bites, and about which hikers we would hate to see in the buff.

Six miserable miles later, we came to a road with a gas station! We bought cold Gatorades and I ate a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Milk & Cookies. My tummy was feeling better. Pajamas, another thru hiker, showed up. We were surprised to see him with clothes on, since we pegged him as most likely to hike naked.

Two overweight girls wearing jeans stepped out of their card and set out for a hike with their dog. Their packs were huge – complete with a cooler and chair strapped to the outside. Before they set off we warned them about naked hiking day. We caught up to them a few minutes later and Pace asks for a photo with me in the center because we are doing a study on packs. I tried unsuccessfully to contain my laughter.

After passing the girls and joking behind their backs, we saw a big black snake to the left of the trail. It vibrated the end of its tail on some leaves, imitating the sound of a rattlesnake. I wondered where he would learn something like that – his mom, snake school, Kiwanis for snakes, maybe his best friend was a rattler.

We kept moving. Little ups and little downs. I turned my phone on occasionally to text and pass the time, and to share with Pace and Porter anything interesting I found out. We grabbed some granola bars out of our packs and ate while hiking. Pace stopped to pee so I went first, moving slowly in case of snakes. Then I saw them. Coolers! And on top of a mountain?! Surely they’d be full of trash and ants like so many others. But no, this Trail Magic was stocked and we stopped to enjoy cold Gatorades.

A few minutes later a southbound section hiker passed us and told us that her friend close behind didn’t have his hearing aids in. She also said she’d seen some partially naked hikers. We passed her friend, and Pace started mumbling things to see if he really couldn’t hear. I broke into laughter for the second time in one day and had to stop hiking to compose myself.

We hiked on, mostly in silence, pointing out a toad here or turkey there. Pace got hungry so I handed him some snacks from the outer pockets of his pack. We crossed a road and there was a pump house so we stopped to fill our water bladders since it’s nice to not filter it. It started to rain. Pace put his pack cover on, but Porter and I have Cuben Fiber packs, so didn’t need rain covers.

We hiked up to a view of a lake. A bit later we came upon two kids playing guitars. On the way down, two other kids passed and I could smell how clean they were. I told Porter and Pace I’d check their cars for a soda and steal it. They didn’t have any. I would have left them a couple bucks, don’t worry. We hiked on, under power lines, and Pace moved fast because he has a pacemaker. We finally got to a campsite with a water pump and set up our tents.

At the campsite were the only thru hikers we’d seen all day. I was disappointed because they weren’t naked (not that I wanted to see these particular people naked, but did want to have some sort of special experience on this day). I found a summer sausage in my backpack while unpacking – Porter had hidden it there while I was in the bathroom throwing up my bucket of meat! That is the last thing I want to see! We all laughed, I made dinner, brushed my teeth, and went to bed. Through the mesh part of my Echo Shelter I could see fireflies floating around the yard. I was reminded of my grandparents’ home and I drifted to sleep thinking of Kentucky and our 28-mile day.

Deva is in New England!

I’ve made it to Connecticut!

Here’s what I’ve been up to:

Pennsylvania was flat and a little boring. The northern part had little round rocks, and big sharp boulders and everything in between. They ate through a pair of Keens, and slowed me down a bit, but overall the rocks were not as bad as I expected. Towns were frequent and near the trail, so I think I had one too many cheesesteaks and managed to gain weight while in PA.

In Delaware Water Gap, the last town in Pennsylvania, Hyperlite Mountain Gear sent me a new pack to test. It rides much nicer with lumbar padding, and the hip belt comes out of the lumbar pad, rather than the pack’s side seam. The belt wraps and hugs the hips better, making for a more comfortable system all around. There are external compression straps, and less external mesh, but surprisingly I haven’t missed the storage space. There is an accessory pocket attached to the compression straps, where my water bladder rides now. I was afraid the water would get warm faster, but since the Appalachian Trail (AT) is mostly shaded, and the bladder is off my back, I think the water stays cooler.

Porter also bought a Windrider and is enjoying it. He says his back pain has stopped completely since switching to the lightweight Cuben Fiber pack.

I crossed into New Jersey, which was very beautiful with lots of wildlife: snakes, deer, and turtles. There were some hills, but that meant views. Finally!

A rainy night and day meant I slept in until 7:00am (I usually wake up around 5:30). I hiked into the town of Vernon, NJ to dry out and resupply. I got a care package from a friend and hit up the local carnival!

I crossed into New York, and received some awesome trail magic from a past thru hiker, Patio. Then I hiked through the Lemon Squeezer, which wasn’t really a tight squeeze since my Windrider pack is so little!

The mosquitoes made a convincing argument to start tenting once I entered NY. My first night tenting was in Pennsylvania and with the help of my friends, the Echo I shelter worked out really well. My first time setting it up by myself was a different story, but I got the job done. Lately, I think I’ve gotten the hang of it. The tent is minimalist; it’s cozy and keeps me dry. When I pack it up and see the size and feel the weight, I can’t complain. Two nights ago, I went to sleep watching the fireflies from beneath the tarp.

I hiked into Harriman State Park in NY and to the lowest point on the AT- the bear’s den at the Trailside Zoo! The trail literally goes through the zoo. Next I crossed the Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson River. It was June 21, summer solstice, known in the hiking world as “Naked Hiking Day.” I was crossing a lot of busy roads that day, so I did not participate. I warned section hikers I saw, but never saw any other thru hikers that day. I thought about the dangers of hiking naked – bug bites, chaffing, sunburns, and was glad I didn’t participate.

Yesterday it poured. Really, really poured for an hour straight and normal rain the rest of the day. But by the end of the day, everything in my pack was dry. This morning I put on my soggy sneakers and pushed out of the shelter at 5:45am. I crossed into Connecticut and was welcomed home to New England with more rain. The heavens opened again but as they say, “No rain, no Maine!”

We are Featured in DownEast Magazine

DownEast Magazine just came out with their “Best of Maine” issue, and included Hyperlite Mountain Gear and a review of our Windrider pack:

“Ultralight” equipment is the latest trend in backpacking, so it’s no wonder Hyperlite Mountain Gear, a designer, manufacturer, and supplier of outdoor gear based in Biddeford’s North Dam Mill, is attracting attention for its Windrider Pack. Made from the high performance sail-making fabric Cuben Fiber, the frameless, waterproof Windrider weighs only 25.5 ounces, yet easily carries thirty-five pounds of gear. Designed for long-distance hiking, we think it makes a great daypack, too.

Deva on the Appalachian Trail

Meet the newest member of the Hyperlite Mountain Gear team. Christi (trail name “Deva”) is about half way through the Appalachian Trail (her first thru hike), and she’s experiencing the benefits of a lighter load. We met Deva at Trail Days, in Damascus, Virginia, and realized she’d be a perfect candidate to demonstrate the difference a lighter base weight can make. Before setting out on her hike, she visited the LL Bean flagship store in her home state, Maine, and loaded up on all the gear she thought she’d need (and then some). A backpack weighing 5 ½ pounds (plus rain cover), a 3+ pound tent, heavy stuff sacks, a heavy water filter, and other non-essentials combined to give her a base weight of 22 pounds. And that’s without food, water, and fuel!

Fit and fast, Deva was making great progress along the trail, even with her heavy load. But we knew she could move even faster. We compiled a list of everything in Deva’s kit, then systematically replaced whatever we could with lighter options, and removed anything unnecessary. With a new Windrider pack (1.6 pounds), an Echo I shelter (1.48 pounds, with guy lines), lighter stuff sacks, an alcohol stove, and other equipment, we helped her reduce her base weight to 12 pounds. That’s almost a 50% weight reduction!!!

A before and after breakdown of her gear and base weight is below.

Deva was already covering some impressive daily distances. But now she’s cruising through as many as 30 miles a day. Her two hiking companions, Porter and Pace, both experienced thru-hikers, say she’s one of the strongest hikers they’ve ever shared the trail with. They were having a difficult time keeping up, so now they’re both carrying Hyperlite Mountain Gear packs and have lightened their base weights in an effort to stay on track with Deva.

As she continues north, Deva will be updating us on her experience. She’ll tell us about how a light load doesn’t mean sacrificing comfort. We’ll see how her gear performs. And we’ll just follow along as she makes her way up the trail, back to her home in Maine. Stay tuned…

Hyperlite Mountain Gear in TrailRunner Magazine Gear Guide

TrailRunner magazine’s 2011 Gear Guide just came out, and Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s Echo II shelter received high praise and the TrailRunner seal of approval. Check out the the images below, or pick up a copy of the magazine and read about great lightweight gear for trail running.

Echo II in Trail Runner Magazine

Go Ahead Feel the Earth Beneath Your Feet

Perhaps you’ve felt this way before. The world you live in is not the world you feel comfortable in. Cell phones, iPads, computers, and plasma TV’s begin to edge us away from our reality. Living in our world can be fast paced and often leaves us feeling disconnected. Take heart we can all step away from technology just by stepping outside. Whether you set off to hike a local trail or tackle the Appalachian Trail, we can all reconnect to the natural world and bring ourselves back to the present. Go ahead feel the earth beneath your feet, smell the spruce trees, hear the stream running, breathe some fresh mountain air.

Take the time, it will be worth it. Read the rest of the article here.