This weekend, I posted a video showing some fun camera angles of a snowboarder. For those living in the mountain states, snow season is here. For most of the rest of us, it won’t start in earnest until December.
That means there’s time to get in ski shape. Doing some exercising and conditioning now will make the slopes more fun and safer later. So here’s some info on the subject:
Let’s start with the legs. Any coach or trainer will tell you that the foundation of a good athlete is a pair of strong legs. Skiing and snowboarding are, by their nature, athletic endeavors. So you need to strengthen your legs. Some of my favorite exercises:
1. Squats. With or without weight, depending on your fitness level. Keep your feet about shoulder width apart, toes slightly out and back straight. Squat down until your legs are parallel to the ground, then stand back up. Do eight to 10 repetitions. Take a short (1 minute) break, then do that again. Do three sets. This works both the front and back of the thighs as well as your buttocks. Squats are widely considered the best overall exercise for legs, and if done right, also strengthens your core.
2. Lunges. Again, this can be done holding a pair of light dumbells or no weight at all. From a standing position, lunge forward with one leg, then push your body back up to a standing position. Alternate legs for eight to 10 reps each leg, again, for three sets. This works the same muscles are squats, but in a different way. If you are a telemark skier, this exercise is one your should do regularly anyway. If squats are considered the No. 1 leg exercise ever, lunges are No. 1a. For an extra twist, do walking lunges up and down the gym floor.
3. Calf raises. With your feet close together and legs straight (not locked), rise up on your toes, then down again slowly. Three sets of eight to 10 reps. Your calves do a lot more work than you think when you’re on the slopes.
4. Core work. Crunches, leg lifts and other abdominal exercises should be a part of your routine. They’ll help stabilize your upper body as you maneuver and reduce upper body fatigue. It will also help support the weight of your upper body, allowing your legs to be more focused on maneuvering.
You can use other leg weight machines at your gym or at home, but I stuck with the squats and lunges because they are compound exercises, where you are teaching your body to use several muscle groups in conjunction. I think that’s more realistic.
Lastly, work on your cardiovascular strength. How you do it is up to you, whether it’s running, elliptical machines, bikes or something else. But you should try to get in 20 to 30 minutes of vigorous cardio work three times a week.
There’s a couple of reasons for this. First, the majority of us ski in the Rockies. Unlike east coast ski resorts, the Rockies are high elevation sites, with most runs starting above 9,000 feet. Most Oklahomans live at or below 1,200 feet. So the air is much thinner on the slopes, which will make your heart and lungs have to work harder.
Second (and this works in conjunction with the effects of altitude), a person who has a strong cardiovascular system doesn’t tire as easily as a person who is out of shape. And it’s when you’re tired that you’re more likely to have an accident. According to the netfit Web site, most accidents occur in the afternoon, when you’ve been at it all day. The unfit person will be on the low ebb of their energy; a fit person will remain strong right up to the time when the lifts are closed.
Ideally, you should begin training eight weeks before your trip, according to netfit. So there’s still plenty of time to get your body ready. I’d rather come home with good memories of a fun outing than a leg brace and a hospital appointment. One way to help prevent that: Get in shape!
“K2: Life and Death on the World’s Most Dangerous Mountain,” by Ed Viesturs (with David Roberts)
In Ed Viesturs’ second book, he goes from autobiographer to historian. And in tackling the tales from K2, the world’s second-highest peak, Viesturs brings forth a number of accounts from some of K2’s most famous—and infamous—ascents.
“K2: Life and Death on the World’s Most Dangerous Mountain” is not what you typically see on the market today concerning high altitude mountaineering. For starters, it avoids the easiest literary target in mountaineering, Mount Everest, and instead focuses solely on a mountain considered by Viesturs as “the holy grail” of mountaineering.
What I found surprising is how little literature about K2 ascents exists. So to have a compilation of stories from the peak, dating back to the late 1930s, gives readers a good perspective on the history of K2 climbs as well as the pioneering days of Himalayan mountaineering.
Viesturs is not a color writer. So if you’re looking for the intense sensory descriptions of say, John Krakauer, you won’t find it here. But what you quickly find out about Viesturs is that he’s an astute student of mountaineering history. The book describes the hardships of K2’s earliest climbs as well as the advances made as the sport evolved. But it also gives you a strong feeling that no matter how much has changed in the climbing world, the peak is always the boss. The 2008 climbing disaster illustrates that point, showing how a once permanent-looking feature of the mountain (a huge, overhanging chunk of ice he called “the Motivator”) suddenly gave way, starting a chain of events that eventually contributed to many of the 11 deaths of climbers who perished within a 36-hour period on K2.
Viesturs is also not shy about bringing his own experiences into the mix, talking about his own 1992 ascent of the peak. He readily admits his mistakes and points out that he feels he may have gotten away with one, so to speak. Having a guy who has climbed all 14 of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks also gives a high degree of credibility to Viesturs’ opinions.
Lastly, I like the way he dissects information from the climbs of which he writes, finding key elements to their successes and failures. Such lessons are important when it comes to endeavors in which life and death can be in the balance.
If you’re into climbing or adventure stories in general, pick this one up.
IF YOU LIKE “K2”…
Then check out Viesturs’ first book, “No Shortcuts to the Top.” It’s his autobiographical account of how he eventually became the first American to climb all of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks. Similar writing style, but more personalized and chock full of lessons.
This isn’t from this season, but it’s a cool video nonetheless. If you’re a true hillfiend (skier or boarder), this will get you amped for the upcoming snow season (by the way, Loveland and Arapaho Basin are now open). Have a look:
Looking back at episode 3 of “Alone in the Wild,” one might have been fooled in its early stages that Ed Wardle was turning a corner. He was finding food, finding things to lift his spirits and, in general, seemingly adjusting.
But it was just a tease. In time, those old companions — hunger and isolation — finally won out.
The show follows Wardle as he tries to see if he can survive 90 days in the wilderness of Canada’s Yukon Territory. The drama of the show, as well as how it’s put together, is stuff for real reviewers (though I love the Spartan use of a narrator and music). I’m always looking for something to learn. So here goes (SPOILER AERT):
Isolation does weird things to people. Forty-two days in, Wardle finds a moose skull. He names it “Bruce.” Kind of reminds of Tom Hanks’ friend in “Castaway,” the volleyball he named “Wilson.” Wardle also tries to meditate, but finds himself instead having long, imaginary conversations with his girlfriend. Wardle also admits, via a Twitter feed, that he often talks to bugs, the forest and himself. With that in mind…
…People are social by nature. So prolonged deprivation of contact with other humans can be debilitating for most folks. Wardle admits, “I miss people so much.” He later says that his stay, absent of people, is more like surviving than living. Even when he’s feeling great about his circumstances, he admits, “This place is pretty amazing. I’m living the dream now. But I miss people.”
Hunger keeps pounding away. The expected salmon run never came. He caught fish, but they were small, and were always trout of grayling. Even with a bounty of berries and leaves, Wardle still wasn’t eating enough. As I watched, I wondered if he mistimed the salmon run. He mentioned that the river where he camped fed into the Yukon River, which eventually empties into the ocean. But the Yukon River is huge, nearly as long as the Mississippi. Could it be that the salmon run didn’t come yet simply because the fish had so far to travel? Not sure, but it’s a guess. There was game to be had (caribou, moose, ducks and other waterfowl), but Wardle chose to follow the local hunting laws and not shoot anything out of season. In a true survival situation, I’m sure he’d have chosen otherwise. Even with the fish and another porcupine, he still has to dip deep into his rations which begin to run out.
Closing thoughts… It seemed that Wardle’s loneliness and hunger were just too much. His crew, on medical advice, dropped off extra rations. I think accepting these rations was the final straw. It appeared he saw this act of “kindness” as a sign that he’d failed. And with that, he made the call and asked to be picked up.
The episode didn’t reveal much in terms of survival lessons (like the first two), but did show the effects of being out there and suffering through the hardships of wilderness survival. If a person was truly marooned, I wonder if the isolation and hunger (and the lethargy and cold that come with it) would eventually cause that person to simply give up, lie in his hammock and wait to die.
Ed Wardle made it 50 days out there, a little over half the time he’d hoped to spend. He said his goal was to live an extraordinary life, do extraordinary things. I’d say this qualified.
For us, the viewers, the show definitely gave us a lot of food for thought.
So what did you think? Reply here or e-mail me.
Also, check out the conversation on last night’s live blog here: http://ngccommunity.nationalgeographic.com/ngcblogs/inside-ngc/
Two miles into what would be a 16-mile high country trek, it appeared on my wife’s ankle. Popping up on her Achilles tendon was a sizable blister.
Not a good thing.
She gutted it out for the rest of that day’s hike to our campsite, then the next day summited Wheeler Peak, made it back to camp and then the trailhead to complete the 16-mile odyssey. But that was one war wound that took weeks to heal.
Thankfully for her, the wound was something that came and went. Painful, yes. And annoying. Blisters can inhibit your performance during a run and make a walk of any real length pretty miserable.
In backcountry environments, it can get worse. A ruptured blister can become infected, which in wilderness scenarios can be that one little thing that goes wrong which can lead to much more serious consequences.
What to do? I did some looking around to see what others had to say about this issue.
First, let’s talk prevention. Namely, what you put on your feet. I’ve mentioned several times how cotton is a less-than-ideal fiber for outerwear. This is especially true on your feet. It absorbs and retains moisture, which will in turn moistens your skin. Sweat, water, whatever—it takes cotton forever to dry out. Wet skin is more prone to being injured by friction inside your shoe/boot than dry skin. So wearing moisture-wicking socks is best, whether that be wool or some synthetic fiber that mimics wool.
Some people advocate sock liners. I’ve used them before and didn’t really get any benefit from them. In fact, they just bunched up in my boot. So I don’t wear them. Others, however, swear by them. Try it out and see what you think.
The boot fit is important. I can’t tell you how many times people go hiking in the wrong footwear and end up with big, nasty blisters. This was the case with my wife, wearing boots she had recommended to her from a friend that turned out to be anything but up to the task. (The blister wasn’t the only problem. Arch support, or a lack thereof, also took its toll.) So choose a boot with a good fit and hits you correctly in the potential trouble spots: the back of the heel, sides of the foot, and the arch. Make sure to tie your boots in such a way that give you adequate support—not too tight, not too loose.
If you feel you’re getting “hot spots,” stop and readjust your boot. You might also think about using duct tape to wrap troublesome areas of your foot. Sounds silly, but it works. Duct tape is something you should have with you on any backcountry trip anyway, with strips wrapped around your hiking poles or on the bottom of a water bottle.
What if a blister occurs anyway? Well, you’ll want to treat it. As best you can, clean the area around the blister (alcohol, soap, or some kind of antiseptic cleanser you might have with you). Lance it with a knife or sharp tool and drain it. Then use antibacterial ointment to disinfect the wound. Again, these are things you should have in your pack. It might be good to let it air out for a time before continuing. Once it’s dried out, a small bandage should be applied, then secured with duct tape or medical tape.
A couple other tips:
- Stay hydrated. Dry skin tends to “tent up” more than hydrated skin. Loose skin is more prone to blistering.
- Bring a change of socks. If you tromp through water, sweat a lot or end up plowing through a lot of snow, there’s a good chance your socks or even your boots will soak through (this happened to me on a snow climb I did in June). A dry pair of socks will delay blistering, even if your boots are wet.
- If your feet get wet, stop, take your boots and socks off and let your feet and socks dry out.
So there you go, for what it’s worth. There’s a ton of products out there (Moleskin, for one) designed to treat and prevent blisters, so do your research. Prevention, however, goes a long way.
Got any tips? Pass them along here or e-mail me.
Loveland opens up Wednesday; Arapaho Basin on Friday!
These are the kinds of stories I like. A lot of times, we spend our time outdoors and may not think too much about what goes into making and maintaining a good trail. It’s hard work. And many times, it’s up to volunteers to do the labor.
I saw some photos that a friend of mine, Ouida Plumlee of Moore, posted not too long ago. Herself, plus members of the Oklahoma City Outdoor Network and the Green Country Outdoor Club of Tulsa, went on a work-trip to the Ouachita Mountains to do some trail maintenance on the Ouachita Trail. Ouida was kind enough to let me use some of her pictures and give a short narrative on their efforts. Here’s what she said:
“Myself, Betsy Hughes, Scott Schaerer with OKC-Outdoor Network and Brian Stephens with Green Country Outdoor Club from Tulsa, we worked with Friends of the Ouachita Trail to make sure the trail was clearly visible and marked. We removed dead trees covering the trail, loose rocks, weeds, briars, anything in the trail that could pose a hazard. It was back-breaking. Scott told me not to use that word, but the effort was worth it. We have had runners and hikers tell us that they appreciated what we were doing. Enjoyed giving back.”
She also had a word about the groups represented on the trip:
“OKC-ON and the Tulsa chapter are just groups of people who have gotten together to hike, camp, backpack, mountain bike, bike, kayak, canoe, fish, etc. Basically anything outdoors. You can find both groups online and others. I have met a lot of nice people with the same interests that I have and someone to do them with.”
Finally, it wasn’t all about the work. Some fun was added in there as well:
“It was a great time. Camping out under the stars. Some really good Dutch oven cooking. And sitting around a nice big campfire. This was my second time to do trail maintenance. The group goes twice a year. I love hiking, so doing something to give back was enjoyable.”
Join me in giving Ouida, Betsy, Scott and Brian a hearty thank-you for their work. Those of us who use these trails really appreciate it. Maybe next time, we can help out and add to their numbers!
If you’re looking for an excuse to get off the couch and do something extraordinary, here you go. Check out this story about Chris Waddell, a paraplegic who found a way to the top of Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak. Inspirational stuff. Have a look:
So last week I wrote a little about Leave No Trace, a form of outdoor conservation ethics. After writing it, I solicited opinions from an informal poll I did on another Web site’s user forum.
Just to review: Leave No Trace ethics encourage people to have as small an impact as possible when going into the backcountry. That means packing out trash, not feeding animals, sticking to established trails (or staying on areas where the least amount of environmental damage can be done) and traveling in small groups. It also encourages people to not build fires (or at least use established fire rings) and to properly dispose of human waste, either by burying it in catholes or even packing it out.
Whew, now that we’ve got that out of the way, here’s how it went. I asked, “How closely do you follow Leave No Trace guidelines?”
I listed four possibilities:
1. I strictly follow LNT ethics, even to the point of packing out human waste.
2. I try to follow most LNT guidelines (not packing out any poop, though).
3. I don’t follow LNT guidelines. What I do in the backcountry is my business.
4. I don’t know what LNT guidelines are.
I posted this on 14ers.com, which has a collection of users from pretty much all over the country. It also has a good number of people with varying degrees of outdoor acumen. Fifty-six people responded. The results:
Seven people chose answer No. 1; 44 chose No. 2; 4 chose No. 3; 1 chose No. 4.
Some interesting responses…
One person asked, “Does LNT also include principles such as never cutting a switch-back (trail) and never making fires in the back country?” Answer? Yes to the first question, no to the second.
Another, further explaining his policy on waste: “As long as the bears crap in the woods, so will I, and when the bears start leaving tp behind so will I.”
Interesting point. Another, arguing some semantics, but still making a good point: “The whole concept of LNT is itself an oxymoron. Face it, the only way to Leave No (None,zero,nada,nill) Trace is to not go there at all. It would be impossible to go there and not leave a trace of some sort. It’s a LLT (Leave Little Trace) policy at best.”
So there ya go. Let the debate continue. But please do take care to leave those backcountry spaces as pristine as possible.
In last week’s, episode of “Alone in the Wild,” we saw glimpses of what total isolation — plus the hardships of living in the wilderness — can do to someone. This week, those pressures seemed magnified.
A few disclaimers: I know that the editing process is done to help tell an entertaining story. But there are some very real lessons to be learned from the second episode of the series. And from a drama standpoint, you can certainly see how quickly things were unraveling for Ed Wardle as he attempted his three-month stay in Canada’s Yukon.
Just like last week, the angle I’ll take is what can be learned from the show, not a critique. So here goes.
My take (SPOILER ALERT):
Assumptions are almost uniformly bad in the wilderness. Food took center stage in the episode, even more so than last week. We learned that he packed in a limited supply or rice and oats to supplement his diet. His thinking: He’d use those foods to pad his diet until he got better at fishing, hunting, trapping and gathering. After a few weeks, he figured he’d learn enough about the skills and the availability of food to sustain himself, thus he’d be able to either wean himself off the rations or conserve them to the point where he could have enough to last his entire stay.
Televised drama aside, we saw plenty of proof that showed this assumption to be flawed. He clearly lost a lot of weight. The snares weren’t working. Aside from one nice-sized fish, all he caught were fingerlings, even when he moved to a new lake. Edible vegetation was getting more sparse. My guess is any hunting efforts weren’t working that well, either.
As time progressed, food supplies dwindled. Caloric intake slowed his metabolism (high 20s BPM heart rate? Whoa!), which in turn leads to lethargy, apathy and susceptibility to cold. In time, all you would want to do is sleep and stay warm, which only further degrades your ability to get food.
You can see where this leads. Stay idle long enough, and you’ll be too weak to do anything about it. A slow death, for sure.
Little things add up. Blisters on your feet. Loss of strength due to malnutrition. Various wounds and cuts. A bad decision which leaves you vulnerable to getting wet. By themselves, these things are nuisances. But an open sore or cut can become infected, and you don’t have a lot of ways to heal those infections in the wilderness. Getting wet and staying wet makes you cold, which saps your strength. Not getting enough food will make you colder, weaker and less able to fight infections and heal. Add all these together and you’ve got a hot mess on your hands. Time becomes your enemy.
Morale is critical to survival. You saw how something like a beautiful vista or catching a fish really lifted Wardle’s spirits. You also saw how being hungry, empty traps, tiny fish and an endless bushwhacking slog from one lake to the next nearly broke him. One minute, he’s loving the experience. The next, he’s ready to pack it in. One thing he does right: He gives himself opportunities for success. He does this by making decisions. Go to a new campsite. Set snares. Go fishing. Build your shelter and make it a home. Had he sat idle and been left to stew over the hardships of hunger and loneliness, he’d have given up much more quickly. If you’re out in the wilderness, you MUST keep making decisions.
Some closing thoughts:
- You can tell how hard it is to travel off trail. Five miles in one day doesn’t seem like much. But it’s different when it’s all bushwhacking.
- The show reminds me how easy all of us really have it. Are you hungry? Go to the fridge. Heat something up in the microwave. Head to a fast-food joint. We barely give it a thought. In a wilderness setting, it’s hard work, and it never ends. This quote from Wardle sums it up: “There’s no breaks, no help. I just desperately want some help.”
- Seems like things are coming to a head. After 33 days, Wardle is headed downhill fast in every critical area — morale, nutrition, health.
What are your thoughts? Do you like the show? Any insights? Would love to hear from you.