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TGR/REI Rogue Elements 2/2

Skiing During Summer Vacation at 18,000 Feet

Story by Hadley Hammer

One, two, three. Keep counting. Keep moving. Up, Up, Up. Head throbbing. My stomach twists and turns like the clouds below. That’s right, the clouds are below my feet. At over 18,000 feet, it appears that everything is below me, the tents, food, donkeys, the city of La Paz. The only things ahead are Ian McIntosh and a boot pack to the summit.

When I’m not counting my steps or holding in sickness, I wonder. What am I doing in Bolivia? It’s May. Most of my friends and fellow skiers are in Mexico, surfing. Why am I still wearing Gore-Tex and walking long distances in ski boots? When Sam Smoothy asked me if I wanted to “get high” two months ago, I’m not sure this was exactly what I imagined. And why Johnny Collinson and Ian McIntosh agreed last minute to fly south? That’s a question that I’m not sure I’ll ever get the answer.

But I take a second to look up from the bootpack-a move that feels harder at my current altitude. This place is amazing and soul-stirring. The mountains rise out of the high desert plains, some piercing the sky at 21,000 feet. And skiing is still my favorite activity no matter what season. The question of why am I here turns back to: will I make it to the top? Will my lungs be able to take in the thinner air? Will my head stop pulsing or my stomach let me eat something, anything? And will we crest the summit before our pre-determined turnaround time? The ski line and descent back to camp are in the periphery of my thoughts, but for now, it’s about the top.

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Bolivia isn’t necessarily a top ski destination. The country’s only resort, Cerro Chacaltaya, stopped operations due to the receding glacier in 2009, a haunting reminder given the resort is at an altitude higher than Everest base camp. There are no ski shops in La Paz and no easy shuttles into the mountains. There are gear stores dedicated to mountaineering, but it is a far cry from the infrastructure available in Jackson Hole or Chamonix.

 

Need a generator for the camera batteries, but don’t speak great Spanish? Be prepared for a full day of charades punctuated with laughter and a lot of head shaking. We hoped at every store we entered that our hand gestures and guttural noises would signal our desire to rent a generator, not a chainsaw.

Need to get dropped off in the mountains and picked up on an unknown day with a questionable weather window? Find a man named Pacifico, who seems to always be there when you need him. And not only will he show up, but he’ll come with snacks, and a brush cleaner for your very muddy ski boots, which he will take off for you like he did for Sam Smoothy so he could continue to puke from the altitude on one of our acclimatizing missions.

Learn More About TGR's New Film Rogue Elements

Need adventure, some type two fun, a struggle-fest? Well, Bolivia is your place. While it may take some work, you’ll at least be rewarded with mountains that evoke your deepest sense of curiosity. The slopes, which are really just ice plastered to rocks, cry out to be skied despite the horrendous conditions.

 

Bolivia is a country of contrasts. The steep, white-capped mountains rise out of a red high desert plain. Their slopes evoke a conflicting sense of excitement and pure fear. The whole trip revolves around these contrasts. We spent many nights sleeping in the city of La Paz. The city and surrounding areas are bustling with a population of 2.3 million people. On the other hand, The Cordillera Real mountain range seems to be populated by more donkeys and llamas than humans. Delicious street food is replaced by dehydrated spaghetti.

Sleeping in the city, the noises never stopped. The city streets are marked with bright colors, the steam of sausages and other mystery meats rising from carts lining every corner. In the mountains, the silence was deafening: Ala Izquerda, at 5,532 meters, its presence looming over us as we attempted to sleep in the thin air. The mountains cast their shadows over our tents, reminding us that we weren’t in Bolivia just to eat choripanes.

 

After days spent rotating between the city and the mountains, we were finally on our official mission. After a day of recon, the group split in an attempt to ski the ice-covered peaks around us. Mac and I head to Pequeno Alpamayo (5,370 m, 17,618 ft) and Johnny and Sam rebate their previously failed attempt on Pyramid Blanco (5,230 m, 17,158ft). We weave through glaciated terrain, avoiding the gaping holes shaped like the condor’s wings. We skin, boot pack, and scramble up and down rocky ridges. Time becomes an inconsistent measurement, as one step no longer takes one second, but three. Our alarms were set for our turnaround time, ensuring protection against our own hubris. We were racing the clock but moving like turtles.

 

Ten more steps. Mac is at the top, and if I just move ten more steps I’ll join him. The radio crackles with hoots and hollers from Johnny and Sam who can see us from their own mountaintop. The clouds continue to swirl. The jungle is to my left and desert to my right. Each step brings a different feeling: sickness, happiness, headache, awe. As I take my last step, my alarm goes off, waking me from my hazy altitude induced state. I’m at the top, and it’s time to ski. I watch as Ian heads down the steep slope.

Learn More About TGR's New Film Rogue Elements

I pull my backpack on, thinking of the Bolivian women who are never without a filled blanket wrapped around their neck and back. They are always carrying, but also always smiling. And so I smile and ski down. Pequeno was a slope of ice. It was far from perfect. Far from easy. Far from Coronas and flip-flops on the beach. Definitely a bit scary, but that’s Bolivia. A place for adventure, a place for appreciation, a place I cannot wait to return to. 

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TGR/ REI Rogue Elements 1/2

Jackson Hole Through the Eyes of Johnny Collinson

Story by Hadley Hammer

There’s a dual nature to the creature formally named John Collinson. Some may see a shirtless, motorcycle riding, Red Bull drinking blonde. Others, the technically gifted skier, and mountaineer. And gifted is an understatement. While you were taking the bus to the zoo for your childhood field trip, Johnny was climbing the seven summits. While most skiers fit into either a freestyle category, mastering tricks, and spins, or big mountain chargers, sending cliffs and mountains with nuclear speed, Johnny can and frequently does both. He survives off of chicken tenders and Coors Light, but will always be the first and fastest up the boot pack. You can’t put John into a box, and that’s what makes him so successful, but also wildly underrated.

So what’s it like filming with this elusive creature? Well, it could be described as the following... hate hucks, fat to flats, sketchy in-runs, sketchy out runs, sketchy jumps, banshee bungees, rooftops, roadside hits and of course chicken tenders. While it was technically my job as the Jackson Hole native to show Johnny around for the segment of this year’s TGR film, it was definitely me being shown how to do everything else besides navigating the lifts and terrain of my home hill.

I think the reason why Johnny is so good at everything lies within his duality. He isn’t afraid to try anything, or be anyone. So subsequently, while filming, we tried everything. During the first storm cycle, we veered away from the Wyoming classic lines and powder lanes. We found new zones, even to me. Johnny found absurd tree hits and built even more absurd jumps. Areas I’ve looked at for my entire life all of a sudden became new. And while maybe 75% of the lines and airs attempted were a total failure in terms of takeoffs and four-point landings, they pushed our skiing or at least made our abs stronger from the laughter that ensued after double ejections, bloody chins, and broken trees.

When most people, myself included, watch TGR films, I think it’s assumed that everyone is nailing every shot every time. Being relatively new to filming, I always felt the pressure to get the shot. Filming with Johnny, I quickly learned that the only way to get those truly great moments is to spend most of your day eating snow, your knee, and digging around for your lost GoPro, ski, or goggles.

One memorable day with Johnny occurred about a month into filming. It had snowed the entire month, restricting us to powder lanes and jumps. Finally, the sky cracked blue and we figured it might be time to leave the comfort of soft fluffy snow in search for some serious airtime. The Tramline was buzzing with excitement and you could tell it was going to be a sprint to get to any of the lines before the crowds. It’s always good to have Johnny on your side when trying to outrun eager locals. When the light switched from red to green, signaling the mountain’s opening, we sprinted to Fat Bastard.

It looked terrible (well at least more than normal). “What if we go warm up on the Kina Pickett line, I asked. It’s only about 20 feet of air but similar style to fat”. Johnny, eager to feel the wind flow through his golden locks, agreed and we veered our course. The Kina line, named after my old ski coach, ex-racer and TGR film star, follows a similar trajectory as Fat Bastard.

Being the “local”, I took it first. My “local” knowledge failed me instantly as I forget that despite the record snow year we were having, that it’s early and the classic lines may not have been as filled in as my memory would have suggested. I left the lip of the cliff, and as the tranny came into and quickly out of view, I thought, huh, this will be interesting.

Upon landing, I retrieved my skis and try to find my dignity. I radioed up to Johnny. “Um so I think it’s maybe more than 20 feet, might be closer to 40”. Johnny, claiming that everyone in Utah says everything in Utah is 40 feet, takes my same speed and direction and nearly the same bomb hole. Unfazed, albeit a bit bloody. Johnny just laughs it off.

I don’t think Johnny was purely ignoring my warnings. I’m pretty sure he simply doesn’t have any other speed other than full throttle and full curiosity. Crashes are not failures. Bodies recover with ice and Advil (and did I mention chicken tenders). And filming a segment is just another chance to attempt a new way of skiing. Johnny doesn’t put himself in a box, why do you?

So if you want a local’s tour of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, I suggest you search out the blonde-locked younger Collinson. He might not know where he’s going exactly, but he sure as hell will show you the most creative way to get there, or at least where the best chicken tenders and Coors Light on tap is.

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Powder Magazine FWT Coverage 4/4

Is the Freeride World Tour Safe?

More than five competitors were injured at the Fieberbrunn stop amid questionable snow conditions

March 21, 2017 By Hadley Hammer

The Fieberbrunn competition is one of the most heavily attended stops on the tour. PHOTO: FWT

Skiing will always have inherent risks. Big mountain competitions will always have even more. With a set timeframe, budgets, and sponsor pressure, the decision making process on the Freeride World Tour is complicated. Often organizers are at odds with Mother Nature and competitions are held in less-than-ideal snow or light conditions. So when are conditions too dangerous for skiers to compete safely?

Last week Fieberbrunn, Austria, hosted the third stop of the Freeride World Tour. The event was the last chance to qualify for the final two stops in Haines, slated for this week, and the infamous Bec des Rosses, in Verbier. With the rest of the season on the line, riders certainly felt the added pressure. For many, everything had to be put on the line to secure their continued spot on the tour. The paradox was apparent—you had to risk big for a big reward.

Carl Renwall takes a calculated risk in Austria. PHOTO: FWT

But in this case, it’s easy to argue the consequences were too high—both in terms of riders' safety as well as the image of the sport. The Fieberbrunn competition is one of the most heavily attended stops on the Freeride World Tour. Freeskiing is revered in Austria, as skiing is their national sport. The event is a massive production, second only to the finals in Verbier. For the past four years, the Wildseeloder North Face venue has proved to be problematic, and this year was no different. The face is steep, avalanche prone, and littered with cliffs and rocks. It pushed skiers mentally and physically, and perhaps the event never should have happened in the first place.

Author Hadley Hammer is also the host of "Nausicaa Cast," a Powder Radio podcast exploring the trajectory of the world's leading female skiers who have dedicated their lives to snow.

The venue was controlled the morning of the competition, leaving multiple slide paths and further exposing rocks on takeoffs and landings. Serious crashes occurred. Top riders including Jeremie Heitz, Bene Mayr, Dennis Risvoll, Ivan Malakhov, and Mark Mikos all sustained injuries.

"Sitting atop the venue and watching so many heavy hitters go down as hard as they did it messed with everyone’s head up top," said competitor Conor Pelton. "It felt like every other guy was going down and going down hard."

To the common spectator, every big mountain competition seems dangerous, but riders and organizers are thoughtful and constantly evaluating the risks.

Read “The End Game,” a feature on the delicate balance of risk versus reward, relevancy, and staying alive in the digital age.

But risk tolerance is different for everyone—riders and organizers alike. Two schools of thought arise: Consequence of death or injury should be eliminated wherever possible, versus the argument that high risk elements have their place in the sport, and are to be mitigated only by the athletes.

Drew Tabke (who was absent at the Austria event due to scheduling conflicts) argues that death and season ending injuries shouldn't be an option. By closing dangerous lines, you prevent riders from hurting themselves.

"You can't give riders the option, because they will go based on the pressure," says Tabke.

In Fieberbrunn, the stress of fulfilling partner and sponsorship obligations for the organizers was equal to pressure felt by the riders. The organizers are tasked with a huge responsibility of highlighting the athletes, sponsors, location partners, and the sport.

"We pretty much pushed the limit of what should be a proper face and snow conditions to have a comp on, but with the weather outlook it was the only possible chance to get the comp off," says Pelton.

So the questions have to be asked: What is the benefit of continuing to run, or even starting the competition? Does it send out the right message? Does it put the athletes in jeopardy?

Are organizers and riders keeping the long-term outlook of the success of the Tour in mind while making short-term decisions? Furthermore, who answers these questions—the riders, judges, organizers, or partners?

Just like a powder run can erase your memory of a heinous refrozen crust run, successful comps like last year's Haines event will help riders and organizers forget the dangerous conditions of Fieberbrunn. But difficult competitions create an opportunity to reassess practices, rules, and processes. The FWT has a storied and important place in the world of big mountain riding and hopefully organizers, athletes, and partners will continue to create discussions around producing the best—and safest—events. It’s essential for the long term health of the sport.

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Powder Magazine FWT Coverage 3/4

The Cost of Competing on the Freeride World Tour

Skiers spend thousands of dollars to compete—and there's no guarantee the investment will pay off

February 17, 2017 By Hadley Hammer

Arianna Tricomi knows the Freeride World Tour ain’t so free. PHOTO: Jeremy Bernard/Swatch FWT

Drew Tabke secured the men's win in Vallnord-Arcalis when the Freeride World Tour kicked off the season early this month, while Italian Arianna Tricomi came out on top of the female line up in a freeride-oriented style not usually seen in the women's competition. Spirits were high, the sun was shining, and a fresh coat of snow blanketed the venue. There were big airs, tricks, crashes, smiles, and fist pumps—all of the classic components of a FWT event.

What wasn't seen on the live feed, however, was the financial cost to the skiers standing in the iconic Swatch-face start gate.

For most FWT athletes, at least two years are spent on the qualifying tour. To keep costs low, athletes cram into hotel rooms, live off of free Clif bars, and put up with cramped carpooling. With the five qualifying events costing at an average of $600 (beer not included), athletes are looking at spending at least $3,000 per qualifying season without a guarantee of ever standing on top of the Bec des Ros—the Tour's final venue in Verbier. Connery Lundin spent five years on the qualifying tour without financial help from sponsors.

"The costs and sacrifices of competing are absolutely worth it," says Lundin, who won the American-based Subaru Freeride Series and went on to film with Matchstick Productions and Powder Productions. "While competing on the FWQ I met my best friends, faced failure, and refined my process to become a better person and skier."

Still, securing a spot on the FWT doesn't guarantee financial assistance from sponsors. Current tour rookies Kylie Sivell and Mark Mikos hosted local and online fundraisers to be able to head to Europe for the winter this year. Conor Pelton spends the summer setting up stages on the Warp tour to foot the bill of competition, while Griffin Dunne saved every dime he earned from his full-time job since he secured his qualification last winter. Previous competitor Kyle Taylor competed in in skijoring and gelande events to stack up prize money that could then be used to compete in FWT events.

For Drew Tabke, pay-to-play resulted in a win. But that’s not always the case for skiers on the tour. PHOTO: Jeremy Bernard/Swatch FWT

With the Tour holding more weight in the European markets, many (though not all) Region 1 riders are able to support their athletic careers through commercial and local sponsorships. But the support usually covers basic training and competition costs. Most Tour riders, regardless of nationality, are looking to come away from the year with a break-even balance. Even with podium wins, athletes like two-time Tour winner Eva Walkner avoid vacations, live simply, and put every dime back into training, hospital bills, and gear.

The lack of financial support for skiers is nothing new, nor is it endemic to competitors. Funding falls short for even top TGR athletes. If anything, the lack of financial gain is just a testament to how the spirit and soul of skiing can be motivation enough. These athletes are arguably the most pure one can find because success (or just perpetuation of career and skill) is in no way motivated by financial gain, because frankly, there isn't any. And yet, you’d be hard-pressed to find a skier who regrets the unredeemed sums of money spent to be on the Tour.

"[Competing] was the best decision I've ever made. It felt so good to chase my dreams and stop slinging burgers, but it also added a lot more pressure to win," says Jess McMillan.

In reality, athletes will always continue to compete, regardless of costs. But, what would happen with a larger pool of funding, access to coaches, physicians, nutritionists: Is there potential for even more impressive runs with athletes that are trained more like their U.S. Ski Team counterparts and less like college freshman? Or is it a testament to the free nature of the sport that these athletes can go without traditional methods of preparation that require financial support including training and time-off, while still sitting on top of a podium?

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Powder Magazine FWT Coverage 2/4

Skiers to Watch on the Freeride World Tour

It's anyone's game when the tour kicks off in Chamonix this week

January 27, 2017 By Hadley Hammer

PHOTO: Jeremy Bernard/FWT

The Freeride World Tour is, by definition, free. Free of traditional teams, coaches, and practices. It's up to the individual athletes how they prepare and compete. Some, like Jeremie Heitz (whom I would bet heavily on as the overall winner), take a more traditional approach. The Swiss steep skier trains in the gym, sleeps well, and studies his line choice like a hopeful Ivy league applicant.

Others, like Drew Tabke, are more likely to be found surfing breaks outside of Seattle and reading Thomas Pynchon in order to prepare. Some riders choose to take advantage of hotel saunas and quiet restaurants the day before, while others lap the Aguille and savor the European nightlife. There are no constraints on how riders prepare, which leaves rookies and hopefuls without a guidebook. It levels the playing field, and puts the podium within anyone's reach.

It's this variability that keeps each competition stop exciting. Each venue holds potential for any of the 34 skiers—and each rider will win or lose in their own way: spinning down the Mount Blanc valley a la Fabio Studer, or like Jaclyn Paaso will most likely do, spending most of their run airborne over the largest feature on the Clocher Clocheton face.

But in the spirit of subjectivity, for big mountain competitions are just that—subjective—these are the riders who we will be keeping an eye on this season, beginning at the first stop in Chamonix on January 27.

The Katniss and Peeta: (The ones you would vote into the arena)

Jeremie Heitz and Logan Pehota. Heitz has been close to the top for the past few years, and his hunger is evident. His runs will be quick and bold. His downfall being that he can be underscored due to the quickness of his runs distracting the viewer and judges from the actual difficulty of his line choice.

Coming off a successful rookie year, Pehota displays his comfort skiing big mountains with perfect technical skills. He placed second last year, and was mere points from the overall win. What he lacks in competition experience, he makes up for in mountain experience, growing up chasing his family around the high peaks of Canada.

Veterans

Anytime I'm unmotivated to ski, I'll put on Drew Tabke's underscored Haines 2016 run. He has the experience to win and always finds his own creative way down the mountain. If the Flyin' Hawaiian takes the podium, it'll be because of unique lines and a graceful style. You can't discount veteran riders like Reine Barkered and Nadine Wallner either. While they had mixed results last season, they have the experience and skill level to be at the top of the podium at every event. They are two riders who you can never count out of contention.

Dark horses

What's a competition without a dark horse or two? Conor Pelton, now injury free, will have some show-stopping runs. He blurs the line between freestyle and race technique better than most. He might also be the happiest kid on the tour, which counts for something.

I'm also excited to see three athletes who will bring more of a park style into the backcountry. Arianna Tricomi, Kylie Sivell, and Elizabeth Gerritzen are capable of spins and grabs that are often absent in a typical run. They have less experience than many of the other women, but like Gerritzen displayed in winning the first FWQ of the season in Japan, they see the potential for more progressive and creative runs.

Most likely this will all be proved wrong as it's nearly impossible to postulate the results of a freeride competition. These guesses are based off the supposition that the riders will perform how they have in the past—and on the tour, anything can happen.

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Powder Magazine FWT Coverage 1/4

Does the Freeride World Tour Still Matter?

Why competition skiing is still relevant—and always will be—in the social media age

January 13, 2017 By Hadley Hammer

Loic Collomb-Patton preps for his run down Chamonix’s Mont Blanc in 2016. The run earned him the top podium spot on last year’s Swatch Freeride World Tour. PHOTO: J. Bernard

The world's top freeride skiers will be dropping into the alpine needles of Mont Blanc massif at the end of the month to kick off the burly Freeride World Tour, the annual competition that historically offers skiers a platform to cut their chops in hopes of increasing their skill levels, garnering sponsors, or securing film segments.

Extreme ski competitions were born in Valdez, Alaska, in 1991 when a cast of characters, including Doug Coombs and Kim Reichhelm, came out to test their steep skiing skills. The Freeskiing World Tour, now the Freeride World Tour, was established about 10 years later with screen legends Shane McConkey, Ingrid Backstrom, and Griffin Post ripping down venues around the world.

Now, it attracts some of the best skiers in the industry, including two-time winner Drew Tabke and European alpinist and long-time competitor Sam Anthamatten, who spend their winters finding creative ways down five different mountains in venues across the Americas and Europe. This year the tour also expanded to make its debut in Asia with the inclusion of a qualifying event in Japan.

For a complete competition schedule, go here.

While the big mountain competitions haven't changed much since the ’90s—other than less money going toward the FWT—the landscape of the ski industry has evolved, and some would question if competition skiing still has a seat at the table. For a long time, the tour was the best place for skiers to make themselves visible to potential sponsors. Now, there are a myriad of ways for would-be pro skiers to "make it" on a variety of platforms.

Ski media is now largely consumed on our phones, allowing newcomers and pros the chance to upload their self-made edits and content that will reach thousands of consumers directly, instead of waiting for the call from a major production company. Which begs the question, does the Freeride World Tour still matter?

At the rate ski bums and juniors continue to sign up and sell out the qualifying tour and newly formed junior tour season after season, it would appear so. Freeride competitions have a low barrier to entry. They are not as expensive as race programs for juniors and cheap enough for most local ski bums.

If you have internet access, you can sign up. Plus, local ski clubs are adding big mountain programs to their historically race- and park-based programs, and participation is growing. The Jackson Hole Ski Club has seen its freeride program grow from six participants in 2008 to 60-plus last season.

"It's this grassroots relevance, that can also be projected to a global scale, that makes this sport so durable over time.” —Drew Tabke

Tabke, who has competed on the tour for 13 years, says he's seen a growing success with junior freeride programs and qualifier-level freeride events at ski centers globally and attributes that to the accessibility and inclusiveness on a local level.

"[Freeride skiing] has a huge appeal to families and regular skiers, the people who are the bread and butter of sustaining a healthy ski industry," he says. "It's this grassroots relevance, that can also be projected to a global scale, that makes this sport so durable over time."

Competitions also educate newcomers to the sport. Athletes learn how to look at a mountain and find their line, how to assess risk and reward, travel the world (usually on a very small budget), and, most importantly, test their skills as a skier. To an outsider, the competitions may seem a bit loose, but the athletes are well trained and calculated. Rookies learn very quickly to approach the sport and the mountains (and let's be honest—the after-parties) with a high level of respect.

Listen to Hadley Hammer’s recent interview on the "Sponsored" podcast, presented by Powder Radio.

For tour winners, being the "best in the world," while subjective, is a consumable statistic for the athletes to deliver to their supporting sponsors. The winning line of a tour, while subject to speculation (judges are humans, after all), stands out from other means of judging a performance—like video views, likes, followers, or even contract dollars.

Jackie Paaso lays down her winning line in Verbier last season. Paaso finished third overall on the tour. PHOTO: J Bernard

On the tour, there is no editing, no filters, no single turns. It's a display of the world's best skiers putting everything out there, usually in heinous conditions. Just watch Sam Smoothy's winning line in Valnord to validate the level of skiing that occurs.

But the real reason why big mountain competitions are still relevant—and why they should always stick around—is for the camaraderie found at every level of freeride competitions, from small-scale local events to the world stage of the FWT. These passionate skiers are willing to pay their own way to compete, where they push their own limits—and their peers, and connect with skiers from Russia to Vermont.

The FWT unifies skiers across countries and ages. It's brimming with soul, from the start gate to the finish corral because it's made up of a group of people who love skiing enough to endure sleeping in cars, missing rent, and having to explain to their parents what they are doing with all their time and money. It's that love that will sustain its place in the skiing industry.

Hadley Hammer is a former FWT competitor, who has traded competitions for TGR films, but still remains one of the biggest fans of the tour (other than Drew Tabke's dad).

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Grand Traverse

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Grand Traverse

It was a Sunday afternoon and I had just come down from my favorite hike in the Jackson Hole Valley-Avalanche Canyon to Lake Taminah, when I checked my voicemail. "Hey Hadley, it's Brenton, do you think you could do the Grand Traverse Tuesday and Wednesday, call me back"

My mind started racing. I had been working 6 days a week all summer, training at Mountain Athlete at night and Core Pilates in the morning and frankly I was exhausted. Furthermore, my schedule did not allow for too many days hiking in the Tetons-Avalanche Canyon was my third trip into the Tetons all summer. Would I be able to summit 10 peaks, nine over 12,000 feet, with 20,000 vertical feet up peaks and valleys- in just two days?

After a tossing and turning all night I called Brenton (fellow Marmot Athlete and Exum Mountain Guide) in the morning and agreed. I kept telling myself that Brenton wouldn't have asked me if he didn't believe I could do it. I begged my very forgiving bosses for the days off (I can't thank them enough for allowing me such flexibility), scurried around town for the right gear, and tried to get one last night of sleep.

At the ripe hour of midnight I met Brenton, fellow Marmot Athlete and Exum Co-Owner Mike Poborsky, and local photographer David Stubbs. We shuffled gear around and were hiking away from the Lupine Meadows parking lot around 1am.

This is a glimpse at the next 20ish hours (not 100% accurate time wise, as most of it was a blur)

2am-Spotted a friendly fox who would follow us for the next few hours

3am-Becoming increasingly jealous of the fox's endless energy up what seems like the steepest trail in Jackson

4am-The trail turns from dirt to rock as our amazing guides lead us through the darkness

5am-5,500 feet later, the summit of Teewinot, blanketed in wind and darkness

6am-The most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen. I am still not sure how to translate the beauty of it all without being incredibly cheesy, but I have never felt more inspired or more at peace.

7am-Repelling down towards the base of Mt. Owen

8am-Utterly amazed by Mike and Brenton's comfortableness in the mountains.

9am-Remember that feeling of peace...it turned into exhaustion

10am-Questioning if my feet will move forward

11am-Pondering how we keep walking yet Mt. Owen seems to always stay the same distance away

12pm-Rejoicing in being able to drop our packs as we went for the summit of Mt. Owen

1pm-Yes I would love to rewalk this knife edge again to take more videos

2pm-Summit of Mt. Owen

3pm-Fried Chicken

4pm-Climbing! Feeling rejuvenated and ready to use my arms to get my body up the mountain

5pm-Base of the Italian Cracks, 6 pitches to go

6pm-Unreal exposure on the North side of the Grand's belay ledges

7pm-Standing at 13,770ft, the highest point I had been in my life

8pm-The group and the sun descending down to the lower saddle, once again blanketed in a golden glow

9pm-The perks of an Exum guided trip is after all your walking, your next camp is stocked with water, food, and three sleeping bags

10am-Deep Sleep

Unfortunately, our next days plans changed a bit when we woke up. David had done a good amount of damage to his knee, and the second part of the trip postponed. However, instead of heading straight back into civilization, we stopped on our way down to climb the Corkscrew route. Although it would be a bit of a trek for a day climb, I highly recommend the route. During one of the pitches, I even caught myself giggling in delight.

We finished the route, cruised to the parking lot, scarfed hamburgers and all parted ways. I cannot wait to get back next summer for the complete route, hopefully not off the couch again.

I can't thank Brenton enough for the invite, Mike for the inspiration on how to move so gracefully in the mountains, and David for the evidence of our hard work.

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