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Another Fallen

Portland hiker's body found Saturday, ending a 9-day search

Trailside cliffs on Table Mountain. Pic:

After a week and a half of intense searching by helicopter, canine, and ground teams, two ATV riders found the body of missing Portland hiker Katherine Heuther (24) on Saturday afternoon. She was discovered at the base of a cliff face on Table Mountain, north of the Columbia River Gorge in southern Washington. Our condolences go out to Huether's family and friends.

Table Mountain (3,417 feet) is a 15-mile round-trip hike with steep and exposed trail sections. From the PCT trailhead near Bonneville Dam, where Huether set out about 1 p.m. on March 4th, it is considered a stout day-long endeavor.

The two local four-wheelers, a father and son who were intimately familiar with the area, went out specifically to look for Huether because they felt the most probable mishap site, a rugged region bordering an ancient landslide, had not been combed extensively. According to Skamania County Undersheriff Dave Cox, they "parked their 4 wheelers and...hiked some distance before finding Ms. Huether wedged behind rocks at the base of an over-800-foot cliff." She was clad in dark blue clothing and difficult to spot even at close range. Read Full Story...
Sunday, March 14, 2010 in: Survival, News & events, Tips & skills
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Photo School: The ClikElite Bodylink Telephoto Pack

A "hallelujah!" solution to telephoto stills and video pans on the run.

Greetings from my  recovery bed, readers! While I've got zero pain after my recent hip resurfacing, I'm ordered to lie flat (not sitting up) for the next 9 days. So life sucks, but self-pity is boring, so instead I'll pass along this gear tip to all you fellow photo-holics.

One of the biggest challenges to being a real trail photographer/videographer is how to carry your gear at the ready, and minimize camera deployment and tripod hassles, while still getting sharp shots and steady footage. Even if you're a nature shooter who concentrates on landscapes and wildlife, cumbersome photo equipment (virtually all of it designed for street and studio shooters) can make you miss fast-changing light and brief wildife encounters. It's an unfortunate truth that most great images are taken in spite of the gear, not because of it.

And then there's video, a whole new medium that's never been more appropriate for backcountry image capture. Unfortunately, video can bring a whole new hassle level, especially when shooting telephoto sequences that are impossible to handhold. Setting up a video tripod  level enough for flat, smooth pans on uneven terrain makes the most exacting still photogrphy seem simple. And if you get a video tripod with a "leveling ball" for the head, it'll weigh5 to 6 lbs minimum.

Fortunately, photo and video gear is just now beginning to catch up to the fast-changing language of action imagery, Read Full Story...
Wednesday, March 03, 2010 in: Survival, Tips & skills
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Totally hip survival advice

First-person lessons on long-term health in the age of lemming sports

Intimate photos of my left hip. pic:

Hey readers. This may seem incongruous while we’re all watching the Olympics and wishing we were hurtling down luge runs or throwing triple-back-twisting-quad-layouts, but I’m here to talk about caution, and how it relates to having a long career in sports.

There’s a phenomenon that rescue rangers in the Tetons call YMIS, young men’s immortality syndrome. (This is a gender-equal term since women are quickly catching up in athletic performance - and injury, and rescue statistics.) To put it simply, YMIS is really cool these days. Just watch any ski or mountain bike film if you don't believe me.  And when everybody’s out getting’ radical, raging downhill mountain bike courses and sketching up 40-foot-high boulder problems, it’s easy to get pulled along by the lycra sportster frenzy. It’s like drafting the leader in a me-too race, earning your place on the Facebook adulation party circuit.

But there’s a downside to X-Games risk and weekend one-upsmanship, and that is injury. Oh sure, you can stump around in a cast and recover later. After all, plaster on your leg is a sign of authenticity these days. But here’s the rub: In the end, no injury is temporary. They all come back to haunt you. Read Full Story...
Sunday, February 21, 2010 in: Survival, Tips & skills
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Beginner's Guide to Winter Camping, Part VII: Winter Luxury

Final words on the luxury side of winter

My backyard, Capitol Reef in winter. pic:

Alright readers. Here’s my last winter camping post. I’ll keep it short since I suspect you’re all burned out on winter camping tech for the moment. This time, it’s about the luxuries:

--Hot water bottles: It bears repeating: For winter camping, these are the greatest invention EVER! By simply boiling a liter of water, filling a strong, solidly capped bottle, and burying it as close to your body as you can stand, you’ll stay warm sitting around in the harshest conditions. Put one in your jacket for sitting around the evening kitchen. Stick one in the bottom of your sleeping bag to keep your toes warm and save the weight of booties.  Hold one in your hands to re-warm frozen fingers. And if it’s hot tea or chocolate, just wait until it’s cool enough, then drink it.

--Vapor Barrier Liners (called VBLs), are thin sleeping bag liners, or clothing items, made of light but tough waterproof nylon. You usually find VBLs used as liner socks and sleeping bag liners (pulled up to armpit level). Occasionally you see VBL vests or shirts, but they’re much rarer because few people can tolerate humidity and sweat build-up in their torso. The idea behind VBLs is to prevent evaporative cooling that happens when you produce warm sweat that later chills. VBLs also keep your insulated items like boots, jackets and sleeping bags from building up moisture inside their layers that can compromise their effectiveness. In ultra-dry polar environments, VBLs help prevent water loss and dehydration by slowing evaporation off the skin. Read Full Story...
Friday, February 19, 2010 in: Survival, Tips & skills
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Beginner's Guide to Winter Camping Part V: Simple Snow Shelters

Should you use 'em? How to make 'em.

  Moonrise over Raimondi Glacier, Huascaran, Peru. Pic:

Sooner or later, most winter campers end up sleeping in shelters dug out of, or sawed into, the snow. Tree-wells, snow trenches, snow caves, quinzhees, and igloos can be secure to live in and fun to make. But snow shelters aren't for everyone or every trip. Read on to learn the fortes, foibles, and a few tips about making and living in various snow shelters. Here's we'll start with the simple stuff, then deal with igloos and such in my next dispatch.

First off: Snow shelters versus tents

Tents Pro: They're quick and easy to pitch. You can put them anywhere that's flat, dug out or packed down. Good ones can stand up to most any weather.

Tents Con: They’re cold in subzero conditions, noisy in wind, and heavy. Four-season two-person tents usually weigh 6 to 9 pounds once they're rigged with guys, stake-out loops, or deadman anchors.

Snow Shelters Pro: They're secure in wind and quiet in noisy environments. Even in frigid weather, caves, quinzees and igloos are very warm (usually just above freezing inside). They're fun to build and rewarding to live in. They can save your life in an emergency. The can make great base camps and wilderness ‘forts’ for repeat visits.

Snow Shelters Con: You need waterproof shell clothing, spare mitts or gloves, a shovel, or a snow saw to make them, so figure those items into your ‘ultralight’ shelter weight. They can be slow to build, and you can get soaked doing it. The insides are humid and steamy, so you need water resistant gear. Be very careful cooking in a snow shelter, it’s easy to get carbon monoxide poisoning. Last but not least, you need the right snow conditions.

The upshot: Be careful of relying on snow shelters for committing thru-hikes, where you might not find suitable conditions, or have the time to erect one each evening. Always take along emergency shelter, like a tarp or tarp tent. That said, here are your snow shelter choices, from simple to elaborate.

Tree well pits: In decent weather or moderate storms, a pit dug into the ‘tree well’ beneath any large evergreen might be all the shelter you need. The overhanging branches provide a shield from spindrift and the chilling effects of open sky, while the snow walls protect you from wind. In ideal conditions, you can shovel the snow walls high enough that they support the tree’s lower branches, forming a completely enclosed space.
Read Full Story...
Tuesday, February 09, 2010 in: Survival, Tips & skills
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Beginner's Guide to Winter Camping Part IV: Taking Your First Winter Overnight

It's a big step. Here's how to do it right.

Happy Groundhog Day campers! Time to pull the trigger on your first winter camp-out. In the previous three posts, we’ve reviewed general tips, gearing up, and planning. Now it’s time to ‘do.’

For your first winter camp-out, keep things simple. EZ routefinding. No long access. Don’t turn this into a macho thing. On the contrary, your goal should be to make it as comfortable and luxurious as possible. Just learn to live in, and enjoy, the winter season. Then, once you’ve dipped your toes in the snow, we’ll review some fine points for your next invernal adventure. So get ready. Winter awaits.
                                               February in Bryce Canyon. Pic:

Fresh Info:
Check the weather and conditions again before leaving. You need the latest updates. Refer to our last post for weather information resources.

Double check your stuff
: Make sure you’ve got your maps, compass, a copy of your itinerary for a trusted friend, Bic lighters, fuel, sunglasses and sunscreen - All the little stuff, as well as the big. If you’re heading for deep snow country, bring along a small piece of plywood or cardboard to set your stove on. Check your stuff, pack your stuff, then double-check it. Trust me here. Don’t scrimp on this last minute review. I once forgot the fuel bottle for a three-day ski mountaineering trip. We made do with campfires, but the smoke-flavored water we melted was almost as nasty as the abuse my two companions rightly heaped upon me. Read Full Story...
Monday, February 01, 2010 in: Survival, Tips & skills
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