Sunday, August 28, 2011

Clarity In Motion

The mountains have always been my refuge but this trip was less about the climbing and more about finding my own balance. Life knocks you off your feet every once in awhile and regaining that balance can be a struggle between family, friends, love, work and your own issues. I have managed over the last few years to keep both feet on the ground which leaves balancing life a very easy task but also allows great things to pass me bye when Im not willing to take risks. I have taken my fare share of risks in the mountains but those risks are always rewarding no matter the outcome. There are so many other risks to take in life and I have recently learned I dont seize these opportunities and overcome my fears I will never know the rewards. Life and climbing are much alike and even after 12 years of climbing Im still learning.

The sky burns with brilliant flames over my head as the mighty Tetons cast a canopy in front of me. Starting with a lightly lit trail leading to the heart of the Grand Teton I begin the nearly 6000ft elevation gain into the darkness. Headphones on and blazing trail I make it to the lower saddle around 11pm and also got some bonus elevation gain due to getting off route (rookie move). I reach the warmth of my sleeping bag and my body begins to shutdown with only one thought remaining in my mind, to re-boot in the morning.

Stevo (Stephen Berwanger) had been in the Tetons for a couple days getting his first tool swings since the 2011 Bozeman Ice Festival where he completely blew his shoulder out on Black Magic. Stevo loves ice and and will chase it no matter what month it is and this time his chase led him to the Tetons. We decided to hook up for a day of ice and rock and we got every bit of what we asked for. We had the Black Ice Couloir on our mind but once we saw there was no ice in the bottom and were told it wasnt worthwhile anymore we decided to climb the Enclosure Couloir and then climb the Northwest ridge of the Grand Teton to the top.

The morning started off right!

I have heard the stories of the Valhalla Traverse and it lives up to everything I have heard. The quality of the dirt is much like soupy potatoes and the rock is similar to a bag of chips.

Stevo enjoying his second day of throwing his ice tools. The smile on his face could be seen from Idaho!

Almost a thousand feet of icey goodness.

Incredible place...

Climbing 5.7 in ice boots always makes you feel a little less highly about your skills as a climber

Stevo shouldering the load and pullin hard on that newly purchased shoulder

Mommas dont let your kids grow up to be climbers that get caught in lighting storms. We got lucky to find a place to dive into while the lighting storm passed. Nothing like climbing with lighting rods (aka ice tools) on your back high on the mountain. I will upload some great storm video soon.

This was just another great pitch of climbing with some fresh sun after the storm

My turn to carry load and find some friction in my ice boots

Stevo "Take rope not pictures Mulkey"

Clarity is much easier to chase then it is to catch and perhaps we are never meant to fully find it, the journey it which we seek it defines who we are. My love and passions have taken me to some spectacular places and I believe the best is yet to come I just hope that place is ready for me!

Monday, August 15, 2011

The High Road

The mountains are in incredible place for me that always bring resolve to my life no matter the weather or season. There are few things in life that hold that power over a soul. Obstacles in life are in everyday event but obstacles in the mountains are life changing. Much can be learned about ones love for the mountains and we can only hope each trail out leads to a better life.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Looking For The Edge

Why would you want to search for the edge of the world ?

Deep within one of Wyoming's mountain stained towns on a weathered bar stool this question emerged over a bravely ordered margarita. A Whiskey seasoned cowboy over hears our conversation in the barrel sized pub within scope distance of the mighty Wind River Range. This would become the finish line for many of my adventures to come but little did I know it would be where the story would begin. The random discussion was fanned across the sparsely occupied bar top as we discussed exploration in the mountains and searching for the unknown. The set of tattered dusty cowboys at the end of the bar perked up and asked " Why would you want to search for the edge of the world". Stunned the cowboys wanted to partake in the conversation we quickly fired back our thoughts and the conversation would last for another hour. The drive I feel to seek out the unknown is a fearful yet fulfilling need. I once heard Hendri Coetzee say something like " We fear the unknown but its also the unknown that attracts us".

Been Here ?
An email from Forrest McCarthy of Jackson, Wy streams across my screen with a few pictures of a river and a short brief on a backyard run. I didnt know Forrest at this point, but anyone willing to hike untold miles with a heavy pack, map and a hope is a guy to stay away from for most people. Emails began to stream back and forth and before I knew it I was shouldering my boat nearly 8 miles into the Wind River Range.

Tom Sunderland- " We are following this trail to where"

trying to transport myself to the putin

Did I mention these crazy guys were coming with us ?

Forrest is a well know explorer and carries his raft all over the Wyoming Mountains and when he said he had a possible un-run river in the Wind River Mountains I signed up instantly. I started looking at the proposed mission down the East Fork River and the topo lines got closer and closer and my thoughts began wondering if these rubber pushers knew what they were getting into. Im always up for watching some carnage but this river would take us many miles from any trail or help. I enlisted the young trusty epic appetites of Tom Sunderland and Nathan Danforth who have survived previous Wind River Missions with me.

You cant tell but I have a huge grin ear to ear

Once at the trailhead i decided it was time to become an Alpacka Rafter. This was Forrest's pack with his raft and all supplies needed for the next two days.

Argh... here is my stuff needed for the next two days. I told Forrest he should be a kayaker for the next 4 hours and I would carry his pack but for some reason he wasnt convinced. Notice the sick Cilogear pack? yes this thing is light and almost waterproof. basically I shoulder my kayak and carry all my heavy gear in the pack. It works super well and since it is all waterproof light weight fabrics it doesnt soak up water in my boat and I can keep all my food and supplies in it. WINNING!

Tom Sunderland Firing up some mank (add water)

Notice the Mosquitos in the pic ? They were horrible the entire trip off the river. Resting during the hike in was not welcoming by the swarms of mosquitos.

Tom Sunderland busting through the whole in one of the fabulous gorges!

Forrest showing us how its done!

This bigun marked the end of day one for us. There is a possibility the lower is runnable but its gonna be spicey. This is after about 7 hours of paddling and a 4 hour hike . Lots of great drops throughout the day and over 2000 feet of drop to come the next day!

A fire in the middle of nowhere and miles of unknown whitewater ahead.... Life doesnt get much better!

Day 2 was off to a great start and I was all smiles on this one

Wyatt Roscoe pushing the limits of Alpacka Rafts and styling it

Hands down these guys owed plenty of booty beers but damn they were going big

Tom Sunderland getting his wake up call for the morning

Nathan Danforth thinking he has found graceland!

This is why I explore

Forrest boofin rubber

More water would be great but were not complaining

We covered almost 18 miles of river during out East Fork River mission and I would go back in a heartbeat. We needed more water although it was probably ideal for Forrest and Wyatt it was a bit low for us. Double the water and this creek is an instant classic with miles of easy read and run class 5 with some big drops scattered throughout the run and some very cool gorges. I think we only portaged maybe 10 times which is damn good all things considered.

Normally the breeds of rafters and kayakers dont mix but we moved incredibly fast and the team worked well together. Forrest and Wyatt are very talented guys and I would be happy to paddle with these guys (almost) anywhere!

I bet the edge of the world would have a great view

I told those Cowboys if there were an edge of the world we would find it and come back to tell them all about !

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Winds Trip Teaser

Just recovering from an incredible trip chasing the unknown in search of whitewater treasures deep within the Wind River Mountains. There is something about these type of missions that purifies why I kayak or climb. I will have a full write up with photos soon but for now these will hopefully get you psyched for the full story!