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Backpacker Magazine – February 1998

Ultralight: The Ray Jardine Way

He rocked the world of climbing, challenged the accepted wisdom in sea kayaking, and now Ray Jardine turned his renegade way of thinking to backpacking.

by: Peter Potterfield

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Some climbers embraced friends for what they could do—reliably protect a climber on the most difficult routes. Jim Bridwell, undisputed dean of Yosemite climbers and the man who just barely beat out Jardine for the first one-day ascent of The Nose on El Capitan, said friends were the "greatest advance in climbing since nylon ropes."

Others, however, considered them unethical and said using friends was akin to cheating. Royal Robbins, grand master of the climbing world, wrote that the new cams made climbing "too easy." Ray Jardine found himself in the middle of a raging controversy.

"Ray was advancing the sport more than any other person at the time," said Bridwell. "When you do that, you're going to take some shots. Sure, it was controversial, but there's no turning back the clock. Everybody started using (friends)."

By the time friends became an indispensable item on every climber's rack, Jardine wasn't around to see it. With the realization that he'd done what he wanted to do at Yosemite, he knew it was time to move on to new adventure. Using proceeds from the licensing of friends, Jardine bought a 50-foot sailboat suffering from a lot of what he called "deferred maintenance." Months of repair were required to make it seaworthy, but eventually he and Jenny set off on a voyage around the world.

For more than three years they sailed through a "world without boundaries," stopping for months at a time in South Africa, in the Caribbean, and in other ports of call that struck their fancy. It was, says Jardine, the freest he's ever felt. The couple survived hurricanes, typhoons, and one memorable electrical storm so intense the boat's rigging glowed with St. Elmo's fire and all the on-board electronics fried, including the radio. At that moment, utterly alone on the vast ocean, Jardine was surprised to find himself calm, almost relieved. "With the radio gone, the satellite navigation gone, everything gone, it was...simpler. Jenny and I were confident we could take care of ourselves, even under those circumstances. We had come a long way, and we had learned to work together."

That partnership would soon be put to the full test as Jardine's focus began to shift once again. "After more than three years, the ocean can start to seem a sterile and austere place," says Jardine. "Jenny and I began to dream of spending a long time in the mountains. So we decided to head for California, sell the boat, and hike the full length of the Pacific Crest Trail."

When Ray and Jenny finally hit the PCT after a full year of physical conditioning to make up for the years spent in the tight confines of a sailboat, their course was slow and erratic. They took frequent short cuts and "long cuts," detours off the main trail for the sake of scenery or even whim. In 1991, they hiked the trail a second time, this time sticking strictly to the PCT itself.


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READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star
Keith
Nov 22, 2013

brilliant guy, but the first book has all these weird hippy tangents; lectures about handwashing in restaurants, that are just a waste of space

Senior Hiker
Jan 08, 2009

Jardine's, Peter and BPM... Thank you for a great article! Very inspirational! I started hiking late in life. At age 60 I set off on the PCT trail head at Highway 4, going north to South Lake Tahoe (approximately 60 miles), with a 72# pack. Five years later and many subsequent hikes my pack is under 40#'s for equivalent hikes, and the hikes are far more enjoyable. Each year I enjoy many multi-day hikes and one long distance hike or climb. This summer the John Muir Trail is calling me!

A special note to senior readers that haven't started hiking yet... what are you waiting for? Get out there and enjoy the beauty of this country. It's not too late to start! I was disabled and sixty pounds over weight for eighteen years. My doctor's gave me a second chance, and I grabbed it by the horns and haven't looked back... ArnoldMtnMan

Senior Hiker
Jan 08, 2009

Jardine's, Peter and BPM... Thank you for a great article! Very inspirational! I started hiking late in life. At age 60 I set off on the PCT trail head at Highway 4, going north to South Lake Tahoe (approximately 60 miles), with a 72# pack. Five years later and many subsequent hikes my pack is under 40#'s for equivalent hikes, and the hikes are far more enjoyable. Each year I enjoy many multi-day hikes and one long distance hike or climb. This summer the John Muir Trail is calling me!

A special note to senior readers that haven't started hiking yet... what are you waiting for? Get out there and enjoy the beauty of this country. It's not too late to start! I was disabled and sixty pounds over weight for eighteen years. My doctor's gave me a second chance, and I grabbed it by the horns and haven't looked back...
Switchback Cowboy

BannerBlueBill
Nov 22, 2008

How do you print a page from your website?

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