Off Yonder – Adventure Travel Stories - Seeing the world for what it is

Swiss Adventure: Canyoning and Hiking and Swinging, Oh My!
Jungfrau Region, Interlaken, Switzerland

Pre-Summit Adventure No. 1 – Four amazing days in and around Interlaken and the Jungfrau Region of Switzerland.

Day 1 – High ropes course with ziplines and other balancing elements high in the trees.

Day 2 – Canyoning where we followed a creek into a canyon and jumped off 35′ waterfalls, rappelled off higher ones and slid on the shallower descents.

Day 3 – An awesome 6 hour hike through the Bernese Oberland (highlands) to Grindelwald.

Day 4 – Canyon Swing: Attached to a rope 300 feet above a roaring river we jumped, we fell, we swung on the rope.

Awesome. Video.

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Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2012 Videos
Salt Palace Convention Center, Salt Lake City, Utah, United States

After putting some videos together at the Summer OR show in 2011 on a whim, Elevation Outdoors Magazine was able to pick up a sponsorship from Verde PR & Consulting to make them happen for the Winter Market OR show. A huge thanks to Verde and here are the videos, each posted by the end of the day each day of the show. Click “Full Story” below or the title above to view the videos.

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GEAR: Portable Power – Solar Charging on the trail
Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2011, Salt Lake City, Utah, United States

Back in 1999, I traveled to Nepal to study mountain ecology in the Himalaya. Part of our trip was a 14-day trek in the Annapurna region. Digital cameras were far from popular then, but somehow I managed to get one loaned to me. Since this was the era before proprietary rechargeable batteries the camera took a whopping four AA’s. Not knowing how fast the camera would use up the batteries and not wanting to cary a bag of AA’s along with me, I looked into rechargeable batteries and a solar charger. Looking back at where the technology was then, I’m amazed that I found a solar charger that held 4 AA batteries. So, I brought 8 batteries – 4 for in the camera and 4 to get charged in the charger that I strapped on the top of my pack to absorb the sun while we were trekking. No shortage of sunshine and the system worked great.

For a number of reasons, one being that there haven’t been many electronic items that people would need to charge on the trail, the idea of harnessing solar power while on the go hasn’t come about until fairly recently. While at the 2011 Summer Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City, it’s obvious that with all the little electronic gadgets made to go on our adventures with us (cameras, GPS, iPods, lights, etc.) saving weight on batteries (not to mention the waste) has driven a number of companies to invest in providing portable solar charging options. It should also be noted these devices are not recommended for use with something as large as a laptop, but exceptions and alternatives may exist. Here’s what I found:

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Outdoor Retailer Show – Summer 2011
Salt Palace, Salt Lake City, Utah, United States

The North Face: Phoenix 3 TentI’m in Salt Lake City for the next few days checking out the latest and greatest of outdoor recreation gear that will be hitting the markets in the very near future.

The show started at Jordanelle Park where participants could try out many of the new paddleboards, kayaks and the various accessories that go along with them from sails to clothing to booties and more.

Next, we head to the Salt Palace convention center in downtown SLC where hundreds of outdoor brands have set up shop to display their goods. I’m tweeting about what I find as I go at @offyonder and below are the videos I’m producing for Elevation Outdoors magazine each day. I’ll also be doing a recap writup for Snowshoe Magazine.

Click on the title of the post, above, to check out the videos.

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Maroon Bells Cycling Adventure
Maroon Bells, Roaring Fork Valley, Aspen, Colorado, United States

If you’re into cycling, Aspen is the place to be. We were under the care of the Little Nell Adventure Center in Aspen and they outfitted our merry band of bicyclists with top of the line Orbea and Colnago carbon frame bikes which were nothing but a pleasure to ride. Pro rider Scott Kasin led us up the 10 mile 4-5% grade climb. Remember that Aspen, where we started already sits at 7,900 feet and we climbed nearly 1,600 feet to 9,500 feet. Just short of the top, I passed a guy and asked him how he was doing and his reply was “Just trying to keep up with Lance!” I chuckled and replied “Aren’t we all!” Thinking he was speaking in cycling generalities. But low and behold, I pulled up to Scott chatting with a group of cyclists in the shade, and one of them was wearing a black jersey with a yellow LIVESTRONG stripe across his chest.

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Kayak Fishing
Kachemak Bay, Homer, Alaska, United States

After getting off the Kongakut, rest certainly was not an option! We’re in Alaska for crying out loud! So, after the 6 hour drive from Fairbanks to Anchorage, we unpacked the car, re-packed the car, loaded kayaks, dropped off rented bear barrels at REI and started the 4 hour drive to Homer.

With the summer solstice having just passed by only the overcast sky really made it seem dark, but we never needed flashlights, even while setting tents up in the rain about halfway to Homer. We must have pulled into the campground around 1am and slept until 9am.

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Peru Prep
Los Angeles, California, United States

Double checking when departing for a trip like Peru is key. I nearly walked out of the house without my Marmot rain jacket. That would have been a bummer up on the mountain. I’m sure I could have rented one, and since I’m renting plastic boots, crampons, an ice axe and a harness as it is, they may have thrown it in for free… maybe.

But as I was doing my final FINAL sweep, I noticed I hadn’t packed my toothbrush! Agk! So, I threw it along with some paste and floss and a small bottle of Dr. Brawners in my “Toothcase” that I got from my dentist. I then promptly set it down and probably left it behind.

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Hills and Huts
Routeburn Track, Mount Aspiring NP, New Zealand

The Routeburn Track on the South Island of New Zealand is designated as one of the “Great Walks” in New Zealand. That means beautiful terrain, awe-inspiring views and luxury (by camping and trekking standards) style accommodation. It also means it’s guaranteed to be expensive and crowded. Ah well. It’s ultimately worthwhile sharing earth’s beauty. And it’s certainly tolerable the way the New Zealand Department of Conservation manages the number of people that come up.

The Buckly Transport shuttle picked Derek and me up right outside our hostel the same morning we called and took us from Queenstown directly to the trailhead. Not 20 meters in we crossed a span bridge over some of the clearest water I’ve ever seen. Further up the stream, pools of sunlit water glowed bright blue against the pure white of bubbly, churning water flowing into them. The stark dark shadows of trees spilled in creating a frame with the sparkling rocks around the whole scene. This was a good start.

Once in the woods the wide, well-established trail made for easy walking and allowed us to gawk at the surrounding beauty rather than where we placed our feet. An endless carpet of ferns and small lush shrubs covered the forest floor, split only by the meandering white rocky path. Criss-cross patterns of sunlight and shadows floated down from the canopy above.

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Working at the South Pole
South Pole Station, Antarctica

I was told when I applied for the job that there would be a lot of snow shoveling, especially for the first month. There was really no way for me to totally understand what that meant.

For the past week I have shoveled snow at least five hours a day. Most days it’s been eight or nine hours — my entire shift. On Thursday, after a solid nine hours of shoveling, it felt so amazing to just lay down, in all of my ECW (extreme cold weather) gear and do nothing. The risk in that is falling asleep and missing dinner which would be very bad. By about day two, my appetite picked up and I’ve been eating mounds of food at each meal. Fortunately food is part of the deal here so it’s all free (so to speak).

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Atlas Trans-Sierra Snowshoe Trek
Independence, California, United States

The Sierra has truly been blessed this year with record snow fall. So, although the weather this spring and early summer has been warm, there is still plenty of snow in the beautiful backcountry. With that in mind, some colleagues at Atlas Snow-Shoe Company came up with the wild idea to do a traditional skiing route across the Sierra-Nevada mountain range on snowshoes. While this was admittedly for our own personal fun, we could justify it as a work trip to test the snowshoes.

The result was a 45 mile trek across the breadth of the Sierra. We started just east of Independence, off Highway 395, and hiked up Symmes Creek. After 12,000 feet of vertical gain and traveling and camping for six days above 11,000 feet, we arrived at the Wolverton Ski Area in Sequoia National Park. The route is usually done on skis with a few mountaineering sections to get over the highest passes, including Milestone Col on the Great Western Divide at over 13,000 feet.

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