Treacherous Climb of the Week: Mount Fitz Roy

This mountain goes by many names but is one of the most difficult climbs in the world, and certainly one of the most treacherous in the western hemisphere. Officially, they call it Cerro Chalten, but it is more commonly known as Mount Fitz Roy. It soars to a formidable 6,401 feet, made almost entirely of granite, and Mount Fitz Roy was once a very active volcano.

The most treacherous aspect of Mount Fitz Roy is its sheer granite face, which presents significant problems for inexperienced climbers and experts alike. Finding the appropriate route to the summit can be difficult, particularly when ascending the east side. Although rock fall isn’t as common on Mount Fitz Roy as other peaks in the Los Glaciares park, many people have been severely injured from falls without the right safety equipment.

Mount Fitz Roy is located directly on the Argentina-Chile border in Patagonia. The area was largely undeveloped until recent years, presenting difficulties actually getting to the base of the mountain – never mind climbing it. Now, however, several hundred people visit Mount Fitz Roy every year to climb it, and the trail heads are far more defined.

The weather is also a problem when trying to climb Mount Fitz Roy. Its official name translates as “smoking mountain,” because the peak is constantly surrounded by a dense layer of clouds. Fog roils throughout the area, obscuring vision and making the climb even more difficult, and this area also sees a fair amount of rain each year.

If you’re going to climb Mount Fitz Roy, make sure you pay careful attention to the weather forecast, as climbing in the rain is never a pleasant experience. You should also make sure to bring a pair of goggles with you just in case and plenty of ropes for each climber.

If you prefer not to climb Mount Fitz Roy, you can take the easier route and trek around the base of the mountain. A pair of quality hiking boots, such as the Cliff Walkers from Propet, is all you’ll need for this type of hiking.

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Survival Gear: Preparing for Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park continues to attract millions of avid hikers, campers and outdoor enthusiasts each year. If you’re one of the many hiker paying respects Old Faithful this season, make sure you’re well-prepared for the adventure.

Here are a few essentials for making it through your Yellowstone trail like a pro:

Layer it up
Wearing layers is essential when hiking or camping in Yellowstone’s temperate climate. Many areas of the park experience rain showers and chilly winds, especially during the autumn and winter seasons. Make sure you’re well prepared for inclement weather with wool socks, moisture-wicking pants and shirts, an insulated vest, a wool beanie and a lightweight puffy jacket for any evening excursions on the itinerary.

Don’t get Stuck in the mud
The trails are usually very wet and muddy at the beginning of the year; make sure you’re wearing comfortable hiking boots that provide plenty of ankle support and will prevent your toes from getting wet. You may need trekking poles to make it across some of the bogs and marshes on the more challenging trails, so map out your route and factor in weather conditions well beforehand.

Pack up that First Aid Kit
Whether you’re putting together your own or picking up a pre-made kit, make sure you’re well prepared to manage insect bites, cuts, bruises and small wounds. While you won’t have many rocky boulders to conquer on the beginner’s trails in Yellowstone, you might find yourself forging through forests, thermal springs and canyons. Wrap up those wounds and treat insect bites in a flash with basic supplies stocked in your first aid kit .

Cook Smart to Avoid Bear Attacks
When you’re setting up camp in Bear Country, make sure you’re doing everything you can to avoid a bear attack. Many hikers and campers encounter bears in Yellowstone because they’re not prepared; leaving food unattended at the campsite or cooking and storing food in open areas will leave a scented trail that attracts bears day and night. Use an efficient cooking and food heating system for your meals to make that food prep and cleanup is a cinch.

Survival of the Fittest: Add a GPS

I know that many survivalists prefer to head out into the wilderness with nothing more high tech than a digital watch. However, even the most talented and intelligent survivalists sometimes run astray of their path, and a GPS system can avoid catastrophe in such situations.

In other words, GPS might save your life if you throw one into your pack along with your map, compass, knife, food stuffs and other gear. In fact, some survivalists won’t leave home without this handy device.

The great thing about GPS for survivalists is that you can use it only when you absolutely have to. If you never encounter a situation where your survival depends on knowing where the heck you are, leave the gadget in your pack and pretend you don’t even have it.

When you’re buying a GPS device, however, there are a few things survivalists should keep in mind. Simply picking the first one off the shelf is a mistake, particularly if you will only be using your GPS device for outdoor wilderness training.

First, your GPS system should be small and easy to carry. When you’re trekking through the wilderness, the last thing you want is more weight, and a smaller device will be more accessible in an emergency.

You’ll also want a GPS system that is waterproof. Not only might you find yourself accidentally falling into a lake or stream, but rain and other forms of precipitation will ruin a non-water-proof gadget.

Depending on where you go for survivalist excursions, hiking, trekking and other activities, you might want to choose a GPS device that allows you to store points or locations along your route. This will help you stay on track throughout your journey, especially if it is taking you through unknown territory.

And finally, don’t replace your compass and map with a GPS device. Yes, GPS can make survival easier, but there are some places where it won’t be helpful. Ravines, trenches, ridges and hollows are a few locations where GPS doesn’t always work, so make sure you have backup equipment.

Best Hiking Trails: The New Hampshire Cohos Trail

Looking for a challenging trail that hikes over a few mountains, sticks you in the wilderness away from your comfort zone and allows you to explore a remote area of New Hampshire that few people ever visit? Then look no further. The Cohos Trail in New Hampshire is it. The Cohos Trail begins its winding way just south of the White Mountains and heads north up to Canada. It crosses several mountain ranges and even climbs up to over 4,500 feet (the peak of Mount Eisenhower), so it’s not one for those who don’t like heights. It is, however, a beautiful part of New Hampshire, and any nature buff would love hiking on this 160-mile trail.

The Cohos Trail has many delights, including more than 50 species of birds; Table Rock, with one of the scariest views imaginable (you really are that high up, with a straight drop down); waterfalls with a kettle hole; lunch spots with stupendous views; a suspension foot bridge to cross and several high peaks you can climb.

You can hike the entire Cohos Trail, which will take you around 10 to 14 days, or you can do one of many day hikes. For a cool day hike, try the Davis Path to Stairs Mountain near Notchland, Percy Peak Trail or Percy Loop Trail.

The Cohos Trail really is that remote, but recently more campsites have been established, and several information kiosks have been opened along the way. So, if you’re thinking of heading up the Cohos Trail, don’t hesitate. The campsites are in beautiful spots, there’s now a hostel you can stay at only a few miles off the trail, and there’s also a new guidebook, which will help you all the way along the trail. The Cohos Trail is also being expanded by another 20 to 40 miles, which are projected to be ready by next year, with some new trails ready as early as spring 2009. Why not be the first to try them out? If you’re doing it in the fall or spring, don’t forget to pack your winter woolies . You’ll need them up on the higher elevations.

Vacations for the Outdoorsy Type: Sanibel Island, Florida

There are few places in this world that I would consider “perfect” for a vacation. Every destination has its flaws, its drawbacks, its annoyances. If I had to choose one place, however, where I would spend every vacation if possible, it would be Sanibel Island in Florida.

Sanibel Island is the ideal tropical paradise. It has pristine, white beaches perfect for making sandcastles, sparkling water with plenty of sea life, every tropical plant you can imagine and a wide array of tourist activities. All this makes Sanibel Island a home away from home for many Floridians. Of course, it doesn’t matter where you live as long as you can hop on a plane, because Sanibel Island is only a short drive from Fort Meyers International Airport.

Rather than spending your vacation in a stuffy hotel room with air conditioning that blows too cold, stay the night at one of the Gulf Breeze Cottages, which are situated right on the beach and provide a stunning view in both the morning and night. You can rent bicycles to travel around the island rather than bringing your car, and you can take short cruises if you want to get on the water.

There are plenty of sporting activities on Sanibel Island, so this is the perfect vacation for athletic travelers. Golf, tennis, boating, in-line skating , basketball and racquetball are all popular in town. You can also try your hand at parasailing or water skiing if it suits you.

The best part of visiting Sanibel Island, however, is the shelling. Collectors of sea shells will assume they’ve died and shot straight to heaven, because there are millions of unique, colorful shells on all the beaches of the island. There is even a seashell museum on Sanibel-Captiva Road.

For your visit to Sanibel Island, I recommend a pair of comfortable sandals for long walks on the beach and strolls through town. The Birkenstock Arizonas are a great choice for men and women alike, with a contoured foot bed and raised toe bar.

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Big Game Hunting and Fishing: Furbearers in Idaho

Although you may enjoy hunting the really big game animals such as cougars and black bears, sometimes an outdoor enthusiast has to – as comedian Steve Martin is fond of saying – get small. Many furbearing animals, though small in size, can yield trophies which are both beautiful and valuable.
One of the best places to find these furry creatures is Idaho, a state that is best known for its potatoes. The Department of Fish & Game (*DFG*) manages the harvest of the following furbearing species in Idaho:

  • Badger
  • Beaver
  • Bobcat
  • Red fox
  • Marten
  • Mink
  • Muskrat
  • River otter
  • Raccoon

Though it’s fairly easy to catch a spud (they don’t put up much of a fight), there’s a certain amount of skill involved in targeting and trapping one of the species listed above. The goal of any good trapper is the safe, humane capture of the target animal; it’s also essential to avoid destroying their natural habitats when you are going for pelts or trophies.
Besides trapping, the Idaho DFG allows you to hunt badgers, raccoons, red foxes and bobcats. It’s also possible to hunt spotted skunks, ermines and coyotes, all of which have been classified as predatory animals by the state (lynx and wolves are off-limits). The DFG also requires you to purchase your license, tags and permits before you start the hunt, but you can buy these online or over the phone.
If you don’t want to keep your trophy, it is possible to sell the pelts, which can be made into fur coats. No matter what you choose to do with your pelts, trapping is an art that requires patience, timing and spending quite a bit of time in harsh weather. For long hunts, a pair of Baffin Trapper boots can keep your feet warm and dry (they have a comfort rating that starts as low as -76 degrees).
For a chance to really “go fur“ some different types of game animals, Idaho is the place to go.

Treacherous Climb of the Week: Acadia National Park

Most people, when they are interested in treacherous mountain climbing, head to the Rockies or to the canyons of Arizona, but few think to visit Maine. Acadia National Park, located off the coast of Maine on Mount Desert Island, is home to some of the most spectacular climbs in the entire United States.

What’s unique about Acadia? The view, for one thing. Many of the most treacherous climbs involve sea cliff climbing, which means that climbers are hovering above the ocean while the scale rocky, crumbly cliffs. This is quite a head rush when you consider the dangers of falling in such an environment. Plus, a backdrop of ocean creates a strange but exciting illusion as you struggle toward the top.

The Otter Cliffs, for example, are about 60 feet tall, with routes that range in difficulty from 5.7 to 5.12, and boast a beautiful view of the water. For less experienced climbers, however, there are one-, two- and three-pitch routes in South Bubble that are perfect for TRing. South Bubble is also not as populated as the Otter Cliffs on the weekends, so you might consider that when you travel.

The danger of climbing at Acadia National Park is not necessarily the pitch or the grade of the climb, both of which can be difficult, but the threat of the tide. Visitors who fail to check the tide times upon arrival or who have no respect for the cycles of the ocean can find themselves caught on cliffs with no way to descend.

If you’re going visit Acadia National Park in the summer, however, make sure to bring a pair of comfortable walking shoes for long strolls along the cliffs in the evening. The Merrell Siren Syncs are a great choice for women who enjoy walking, as these can be worn both on vacation and at home.

Acadia National Park is a great place for climbing, especially since there are so many diverse ways to get in your daily climb. Bouldering is common here and is the perfect way to warm up for longer and more difficult climbs.

Best Hiking Trails: See Mount Rainier via The Wonderland Trail!

From pretty much any vantage point in Seattle, Washington, you can see Mount Rainier. So it makes sense when people think about hiking trails around Seattle, Mount Rainier is one of the first places to come to mind. You could of course hike (and climb) up to the summit, but – at over 14,000 feet – it would take you a fair while. Plus, unless you’ve done it before, it’s also recommended to take a guide and that can be quite expensive. For a challenging, yet not too dangerous hike in the real outdoors, Mount Rainier National Park is still the place, and the Wonderland Trail is the hike.

The Wonderland Trail is a 93-mile trail that hits just about every major zone of the park. You can start the Wonderland Trail at many different places along its way, but it will take you at least 10 to 12 days to complete it if you decide to hike the whole thing, so be prepared.

The Wonderland Trail actually circles Mount Rainier, meaning if you do the whole thing, you’ll see the mountain from pretty much every conceivable angle (except from the top, of course). There are also ranger cabins all over the park. Because there aren’t any places to purchase food, if you do decide to walk the entire trail, you’re going to have to arrange to have food packages mailed to several ranger locations for pick up as you hike.

The weather in this area can be a bit iffy, even in the summer. Park rangers will also warn you to watch out for sudden, extreme changes of weather. If you’re walking the whole Wonderland Trail, there’s a good chance you’ll experience some severe weather during the almost two weeks that you’ll be hiking. So make sure you’re prepared with all the right equipment .

The Wonderland Trail sounds like it could be too much like hard work, but, in reality, it’s one of the best ways to see the park. All kinds of flora, fauna and wildlife exist, not to mention the panoramic views. And let’s face it, if you’ve seen anything of Mount Rainier from Seattle, it’d be kinda cool to see it from so close up.