Showing My Momma A Colorado Weekend

This past weekend, my mom came to visit me and my brother. My brother, Chris, is only here for another couple of weeks before he and his girlfriend head back to Chicago. We jokingly asked if she wanted to try camping while she visited and, surprisingly, she enthusiastically said yes!

We planned to meet up with our friends, Lucas, Nancy and Justin, who spent Friday night in 11 Mile Canyon, a Colorado State Park 50ish miles west of Colorado Springs. We met up with them on Saturday morning at Elevenmile Dome in the canyon and harnessed up. We could not have asked for better weather – sunny, mild temps, slight breeze. We truly lucked out with another quintessential fall day in Colorado (see also: Boulder Canyon climbing!).

Climbing in 11 Mile Canyon // lgsmash.com

We climbed Moby Grape, a really fun dihedral rated at 5.7, and Happy Trails, an interesting and slabby route rated at 5.6 (but feels like it should be rated higher). Lucas is the only lead climber in our group so he lead both routes and set up top rope anchors for the rest of us.

Climbing in 11 Mile Canyon // lgsmash.com

Happy Trails

Climbing in 11 Mile Canyon // lgsmash.com

Happy Trails

 

Climbing in 11 Mile Canyon // lgsmash.com

Moby Grape

Climbing in 11 Mile Canyon // lgsmash.com

Late in the afternoon, we broke for lunch and to wait out the overcast clouds that had rolled in. Lucas, Nancy and Justin found a solid campsite the night before and, because we were car camping, we arrived to camping luxuries like a real campstove, extra chairs around the fire ring and chips and salsa waiting for us in a cooler.

Climbing in 11 Mile Canyon // lgsmash.comClimbing in 11 Mile Canyon // lgsmash.com Climbing in 11 Mile Canyon // lgsmash.com We spent the evening playing with the slingshot, throwing sticks to excited pups and sharing laughs over beers around the fire. My mom, who’d never been camping, was a real trooper and had a great time in the great outdoors. It was really special to show my mom how Alex and I (and Chris and Jenna!) like spending our Colorado weekends – she sees all of our adventure photos online but having the opportunity to share the adventure with her was priceless.
Climbing in 11 Mile Canyon // lgsmash.com In the morning, we iced the luxurious camping cake with pancakes, sausage and bacon for breakfast. Heavenly! More laughing in the cool October air over warm camp coffee was the perfect Sunday morning, in my book.
Climbing in 11 Mile Canyon // lgsmash.com We packed up camp and headed back down the canyon soon after breakfast. Lucas, Nancy and Justin opted to climb a multi-pitch route before heading back to town while my family and I headed back into Denver to spend the last few hours of my mom’s visit doing things she wanted to do – eating meals as a family, hanging out and spending precious quality time together.

As usually is the case, saying goodbye early Monday morning was really sad. Family trips seem to feel shorter as I get older; like they say, you don’t know what you got till it’s gone. Or, at least, not living in the same city as you. Seeing my family less makes our visits that much more special to me and I savor the moments together.

Okay, sappy family stuff over, back to the canyon: I’m definitely a fan of 11 Mile Canyon and hope to get back soon for more climbing and camping. We just missed peak ‘leaf peeping’ season but I can only imagine how stunning the canyon is when it’s canvassed in golds and bright yellows.

Climbing in Boulder Canyon – Nip and Tuck

Boulder Canyon Climbing Nip Tuck // lgsmash.com

Saturday was a perfect morning for rock climbing – crisp, chilly air in the morning that warmed by lunch, yellow leaves shimmering in the breeze, not a cloud in the sky.

We piled in OsCar the Outback and navigated towards Boulder in the morning, meeting my brother, Chris, and his girlfriend, Jenna, to bring them along with us. Neither had been climbing outside before and wanted to do it before they move back to Chicago at the end of the month. Lucas scouted out a route that offered routes with varying difficulty where the first-timers could learn, the intermediate (me) could be challenged and the more advanced (Alex and Lucas) wouldn’t be too bored.

We ended up at Nip and Tuck, 10.5 miles into Boulder Canyon. It’s a popular crag situated in the sun very nicely in the morning.  We set up a couple of top ropes and Lucas led a couple different routes over the course of the day. We moved to a new section of the crag when the third pair of climbers popped in, wondering if they could climb when we were finished.

A couple more laps on a really fun final route ended our day as gray cloud cover rolled in overhead. Beers and burgers back in Boulder and a quick stop in Neptune Mountaineering’s gear swap before we pointed OsCar’s wheels back toward Denver.

If there ever was a perfect fall day in Colorado, this was it. Spending the day outside, in sunshine, with some of my favorite people having the best time learning, teaching and challenging ourselves on a giant rock. Filing this Saturday in the memory bank under: A for Awesome.

(Routes climbed: Surprising Slab, Hare Balls, Dan-D-Line, Old Dihedral, Doc’s Route, Finger Crack)

Sierra Trading Post Opened Colorado Stores!

Cue the backpack-shaped confetti! Sierra Trading Post has opened not one but TWO retail stores in Colorado!! You guys don’t even understand how excited this little mountaineer is!

This weekend, the Fort Collins store opened this week and a few weeks ago, the Denver/Greenwood Village store opened. It’s no secret that I love the deals Sierra Trading Post offers or the people behind the brand. So when they invited me to come help celebrate the grand opening of their Denver store, I battled traffic and met a fun group of local bloggers at the store in the Tech Center for party time!

Sierra Trading Post CO Store Grand Opening // lgsmash.com

The Social team – Heidi, Andy, Chris, Nick and Juliette – put together a really fun night for the night-before-the-grand-opening party. Heidi had split the group up into teams and were were tasked with 3 challenges: knot tying, gear shopping and tent pitching.

My group took on the knot tying first and quickly tied the 5 required knots.

Sierra Trading Post CO Store Grand Opening // lgsmash.com

We then headed to gear shopping where we had to find our 10 essentials for hiking and backpacking throughout the store. Also not a secret that the 10 essentials are my jam so it was fun to frantically shop with my group, making sure we had the best shopping basket in the shortest amount of time.

Sierra Trading Post CO Store Grand Opening // lgsmash.com

Then we moved to tent set up. Our mission? Set up and tear down a tent as quickly as possible. The group with the shortest time to complete got extra points so our team tried to buzz through our setup and tear down. Sierra Trading Post CO Store Grand Opening // lgsmash.com

At the end of the night, Heidi tallied up the scores and the winning team was awarded Sierra Trading Post gift cards. Much to my surprise, my group was announced the winners! I promptly turned around and spent my gift card money on a new OR long sleeve Echo Hoody.

So how does a Sierra Trading Post retail store work? Exactly like their online shop – they offer great, high-quality gear at discount prices. Prices mirror what the product retails for online…but no shipping fees! And you get to things on first! It’s awesome.

Since the Denver store opened, I’ve been back shopping 3 more times, despite the 20+ minute drive out of my way. The deals are worth it!

So – Denver and Fort Collins friends: stop into the new stores and say hey to the STP folks! The Fort Collins store is partying it up this weekend at there newest location. If you’re nearby, swing by and join the fun!

Gear Review: Brooks Ghost 7 Ombre Running Shoes

**Disclosure: Finish Line sent me these shoes to review at no charge with no promise of review and no compensation. All opinions, thoughts and photos are my own. **

For the past couple of months, I’ve been running mostly on roads and ‘urban trails,’ as I like to call the loop around the park. Thanks to a new daily schedule and earlier sunsets, trail running opportunities have been limited recently.

Brooks Ghost 7 Ombre // lgsmash.com

While I’ve definitely been missing #trailtime, running in these new Brooks Ghost 7 sneaks have made running in the city more fun. And so much more comfortable than what I’m used to.

Brooks Ghost 7 Ombre // lgsmash.com

When Finish Line asked if I was interested in testing a new pair of Brooks shoes, I signed up. I’d never run in Brooks and all the chatter I’d seen online was people either LOVING or HATING their Brooks so I was pretty curious which camp I’d be in.

I haven’t run super log distances in these shoes – no more than 6 miles at once – but have run in them 3+ times a week, 3+ miles at a time. So I can’t speak to long distances but I can speak for shorter miles and for my shorter runs, I’m definitely in Camp Love-My-Brooks.

The Brooks Ghost line is designed for neutral runners and offers a light, bouncy and balanced ride for runners. Comparing these against my usual running shoes, I felt these were super supportive and definitely had more ‘bounce’ than what I’m used to. As someone who’s had multiple knee surgeries, I welcome as much comfort and support when pounding the pavement. My little (er, big) tootsies have felt super comfortable and happy. Brooks has claimed the phrase #RunHappy and I have to say, my feet, joints and miles have definitely been that…happy.

Brooks Ghost 7 Ombre // lgsmash.com Brooks Ghost 7 Ombre // lgsmash.com

As I mentioned, I’d never run in Brooks before so I can’t speak to former versions of the shoe but I can tell you that, per their website, the Brooks Ghost 7 has bigger lugs in the forefoot to offer a more responsive shoe. These have felt really responsive on my runs but, again, can’t compare to a different pair of Brooks. Brooks Ghost 7 Ombre // lgsmash.com

I also really liked the full-ground contact of the Brooks Ghost 7, too. I’ve been running in these Brooks almost exclusively in the city but, this morning, decided to give my ‘old’ shoes a try to have an immediate comparison in my mind and immediately, the Brooks feel more supportive and stable – part of which I attribute to the full-ground contact. When I run, I tend to collapse my knees  toward each other (thanks to multiple surgeries) but feel like I do it less in the Ghosts.

And I can’t write up my thoughts about these shoes without acknowledging the awesome colors! The ombre coloring gets so many envious glances and comments which, for right or wrong, I enjoy. It feels neat to be trendy for the first time ever in my life!

Brooks Ghost 7 Ombre // lgsmash.com

So when the time comes to replace my road running shoes, Brooks are definitely on my (very) short list. I’m looking forward to putting some longer miles in on these shoes but even if they stay ‘short run shoes only’, I’m okay with that, too.

Lowa Cevedale Pro GTX Mountaineering Boots Review

Mountaineering boots are EXPENSIVE. For a reason, but they’re expensive.

Before Basic Mountaineering School, I knew I’d need to invest in a pair of mountaineering boots but I wasn’t too keen on spending $$$ when I really had no idea how I’d be using the boots or what would be important to me. I’d been hiking and backpacking previous to the class but wasn’t entirely sure what true ‘mountaineering‘ entailed.

So I kept my eyes on Sierra Trading Post and snagged a pair of Lowa Cevedale Pro GTX mountaineering boots for a steal. They had positive reviews, satisfied my requirements (stiff sole, crampon compatible) and were reasonably priced. When I brought them to the first day of mountaineering school, I got push back from my instructors that these boots wouldn’t work, that crampons wouldn’t stay on these shoes because there was/is too much flex.

Inspired by my instructor’s doubt, I filmed a (very elementary, not polished) review because I used these boots throughout my entire class – hiking, scrambling, rock climbing and couloir climbing – with no issues. No crampons popping off, no slipping, no blisters, no hot spots. I probably wouldn’t take these ice climbing as they’re not insulated but for the other 3 seasons? Hell yeah!

In a quest to get better at being comfortable on a video and at vocalizing gear reviews, I enlisted Alex to help me film this back in June. We made this video when 1) I was brain fried from our High Peak Couloir Climb (so you’ll hear ‘these boots these boots these boots!) and 2) we were still figuring out how to meld our creative visions. So it’s not the best video but I really love these boots (these boots!) and hey, every YouTube star started somewhere right? (to note: YouTube star is not on my bucket list.)

Trip Report: Mt. Bancroft East Ridge

Back in June, I skipped out on my Routefinding field day with my Basic Mountaineering School class. I had a flight for a business trip that night and made the choice to stay home instead of participating. I knew I’d need to make up the trip in order to graduate and this past Saturday was makeup field day.

Our objective was to summit Mt. Bancroft, a nearby 13er, via the East Ridge route. Bancroft sits at 13,250 and the East Ridge is an interesting scramble, much like Kelso Ridge without the knife edge. In June, too much snow on Bancroft meant the team snow climbed up a gully to the summit but in late September, we enjoyed a beautifully rocky East Ridge.

Mindy and I carpooled from Denver and met our other 4 members at Loch Lomond, a lake at the base of Bancroft where the team camped. A note to other non-high clearance vehicles: The dirt road to Loch Lomond is very rocky! It was do-able for my Subaru Outback for about 1+ miles before I found a pull off and parked; we hiked the remaining 1.5 miles to the lake.

Mt. Bancroft Trip Report // lgsmash.com

Just after 7:30 a.m., we met our team, threw on our packs and headed up the mountain to gain the ridge we would follow to the summit of Bancroft. Because this was a student-led trip and I was technically the only student (the others had graduated), I was responsible for route finding. Instead of taking the trail to the southeast of the trailhead, I opted for the direct route…straight up. We bushwhacked through literal bushes and ~.25 mile and 600 vertical feet later, we were on the ridge.

Mt. Bancroft Trip Report // lgsmash.com

Mt. Bancroft Trip Report // lgsmash.com

And then….the scrambling began. Holy moly did we scramble!

Mt. Bancroft Trip Report // lgsmash.com

It was mostly class 3/3+ scrambling that was very doable. Nothing too exposed and hand/foot holds were ‘bomber’, in climber lingo. We scrambled until we hit the infamous notch.

At the notch, climbers must rappel 80+ feet and then climb a 30+ foot headwall on the other side. There are a few obvious places to build a rap station as webbing from previous climbers has been left on boulders. We built our rap station and sent the team down, one by one. Note to future climbers: beware of loose rock on the rappel and at the base of the rappel. Lots of chossy, flakey rock. Also note that once you start the rappel, you have no bailout option except to finish the route so be sure you have time and energy to press on!

Mt. Bancroft Trip Report // lgsmash.com

On the other side, Sylvia lead climbed the headwall and belayed the rest of us from above. It was a short 5.2 climb with plenty of holds but, again, be sure to check the rock first.

Mt. Bancroft Trip Report // lgsmash.com

The rappel and headwall climb are definitely the crux of this route but most trip reports I read failed to mention the additional, exposed class 4 scrambling after the notch. Note to future climbers: way more scrambling ahead!

Mt. Bancroft Trip Report // lgsmash.com

Mt. Bancroft Trip Report // lgsmash.com

The next section of scrambling was a bit more intense – definitely class 4 as we climbed along the top of the ridge. Without a cloud in the sky, we took our time and carefully moved across the ridge. Three or four false summits later (I lost count), we came out of the rocky scramble section and finally reached the grassy, ‘mellow’ hike to the summit that I’d read about online.

Mt. Bancroft Trip Report // lgsmash.com

And then, the summit! We did it!

Mt. Bancroft Trip Report // lgsmash.com

To return to the trailhead, we followed the southeastern ridge back to Loch Lomond. It was full of boulder and talus fields because what’s the fun in an easy, mellow hike out?!

Mt. Bancroft Trip Report // lgsmash.com

In total, our hike was 5.5 miles from trailhead to trailhead (does not include the 1.5 mile hike to Loch Lomond) and took us 7.5+ hours.

Mt. Bancroft Trip Report // lgsmash.com

lgsmash-created caltopo map or our route

actual garmin stats of our route

actual garmin stats of our route

Mt. Bancroft Trip Report // lgsmash.com

Looking back on the East Ridge route

Overall, I really enjoyed this climb. Definitely, more experienced climbers will move on the East Ridge much quicker than we did but with big blue skies and no threat of storms, we took our time and enjoyed the spectacular September day. This is what living in Colorado is all about!

I couldn’t help but notice how much I’d grown as a mountaineer on the East Ridge…where I would have been close to tears and battling with my mind to stay focused on the task at hand (and not jump to worst case death scenarios) in previous field days, I remained calm and steady. Not once did I feel panicked or anxious – just mentally and physically exhausted. I felt truly proud of myself and enjoyed every sip of my post-climb celebratory beer.

Super Easy Stovetop Broccoli Chicken Mac N Cheese

Last week, I was feeling pretty under the weather. Everyone at work was sick, Alex was sick…it was only a matter of time before it caught up to me, too. And when I’m sick, like the rest of us, I crave comfort food. Something warm and familiar. Last week, the only thing on my mind for dinner was mac and cheese.

I’ve made this recipe a couple of times before and it’s super easy. So easy that a sick person who doesn’t even like cooking can make it in 30ish minutes.

Easy Stovetop Mac & Cheese // lgsmash.com

Clearly, I’m not a food blogger or a very good food photographer but I’m posting this recipe so I don’t have to look it up elsewhere on the internet in the future. There are a ton of variations in how to make your own mac and cheese but this is what I’ve found I really enjoy.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz pasta of your choice
  • 1 cup broccoli florets (1+ish fresh broccoli heads with florets cut off)
  • 1 lb cooked chicken
  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • 3 tablespoons of flour
  • 1/4 cup onion, minced
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 2 cups of shredded cheese
  • S/P to taste

Directions

1. Boil pasta; when it’s a few minutes from being done, throw in broccoli florets. Drain when broccoli is cooked; leave in strainer or move to a bowl.

2. While pasta is cooking, pan fry (or cook however you’d like) the chicken. Be sure not to overcook the chicken. (Speaking from experience, it makes for terrible mac n cheese.)

3. Cut up cooked chicken into bite sized pieces and add to pasta + broccoli.

4. Using the same pan from cooking the pasta, melt butter over medium heat. Toss in onion and cook till slightly brown. Add in flour and whisk! You’re creating a roux so it will be clumpy and look not tasty. Slowly add in milk while whisking to create a creamy sauce. Keep stirring for a few minutes, letting the sauce thicken. Add salt and pepper to taste.

5. Add in cheese, keep stirring.

6. Once cheese is all melted and looks delicious, dump in the pasta, broccoli and chicken. Combine well!

From here, you can either choose to eat it as is (yummy) or transfer the pasta to a baking pan and bake for 15+ minutes in the oven (also yummy). If you’re baking, add some bread crumbs and sprinkle some extra cheese on the top for a nice cheesy crunch.

As listed above, you’ll end up with enough food for 2 hungry human dinners and leftover lunches.

Ibotta What?!

To be completely cliche, time FLIES when you’re having fun. And learning a LOT.

Today marks the end of my first month at my new job! After 5 years of working as a marketing manager for an insurance company, an opportunity to join an exciting, young startup fell into my lap and I jumped in.

I’m now working for a mobile app, based in Denver, called Ibotta. (said: i-bot-uh)

Ibotta screen

(Funny story: I kept calling it ‘ee-bot-uh’, refusing to say it phonetically for whatever reason. At one point, Alex made a joke when I mentioning I was starting a new job at Ibotta and said, ‘Oh? Ibotta what?!’ And…it clicked. Of course! I-bought-a. Sandy Moment.)

Back to the app! 

Ibotta is super cool and I’ve been using it even before I knew I might work for them. It’s essentially an app that pays you cash back (real cash! not points or kicks or whatever else) on your grocery and retail purchases. Really, anything that can be bought has potential to have an Ibotta rebate.

Here’s how it works. You download the app (here’s my referral link!) and before you go (grocery, clothes, Target) shopping, you scroll to see what products have rebates running in the app. Participate in two simple engagements (learn a fact, read a recipe, watch a super short video) for products you’re already going to buy and unlock cash back. Once you purchase that item, snap a photo of the barcode (UPC) on the product, upload a photo of your receipt when you get home and…voila! Ca$h monie$ in your account! You can then transfer your cash to a PayPal account, Venmo or redeem for gift cards.

I promise not to get too sales-pitchy but by using my referral link above, we’re put on the same ‘team’ (and if you connect your Facebook, your team includes your friends on Facebook who also have the app – but don’t worry, nothing is posted to Facebook ever.) Each month, there are ‘teamwork’ bonuses that give the potential for users to earn additional money. So the more people on your team, the better. And I use the app a lot (obviously) so I’m a good person to have on your team.

Back to Ibotta life! 

This week is Denver Startup Week which is basically a celebration of startups and the entrepreneurial spirit of in Denver. Truthfully, it’s felt like spirit week! We are all wearing our Ibotta shirts, our CEO and engineering team have been speaking multiple times on various panels and our office was a stop on the Startup Beer Crawl Wednesday night.

Team Ibotta! // lgsmash.com

It’s been a whirlwind of a month and I truly am excited and inspired to come to work everyday. I’m learning SO much every day – like how the heck a Mac computer works or why I can’t resize an image in Photoshop. I work with motivated people who are passionate about building something incredible. Our CEO has big plans for Ibotta and the startup community in Denver and is probably the most inspiring business person I’ve met.

So that’s what’s been keeping my days busy this past month! Maybe I’ll share more about startup life and what it’s like working for a mobile app but… maybe not. It’s definitely a different world but I’m certainly not the first gal who’s written in a blog and worked for a technology startup so..there’s that.

All I know is this: I’m incredibly grateful to the universe for aligning the stars for this change to happen in my life. Thanks for looking out, universe. (And Elizabeth!)

Ibotta Beer Crawl // lgsmash.com

tl:dr: startups are kewl but Ibotta is coolest. Go download the app and start earning cash back. Also, the universe rules.

Oh HAI, Mini-Life-Update

I’ll soon be back to my regularly scheduled programming but until I settle in at my new job, my online interactions will be sporadic! Things are going so well and I’m so excited about what I’m doing but at the end of the day, the last thing I want to do is come home and sit on my computer or look at my phone. I’m certainly not complaining, just explaining the radio silence.

Anyway, Alex showed me this really funny video last week and, while I’m sure you all have probably seen it, I wanted to post it too. Mostly so I can come back and watch it later. Of course, I meant to post it on Sunday for obvious reasons but I spent the weekend working for DRY Soda and failed at getting myself online in my off time. But guess what! It’s just as funny on a Wednesday as it is a Sunday.

 

This weekend, Alex and I are headed to NYC to visit our friend Alex. I only have a few things on my agenda: 1. Run my Skirt Sports Virtual 10k 2. Find myself some new hipster glasses at Warby Parker and 3. Eat at the meatball only restaurant (The Meatball Shop!). Past that, everything else is a bonus!

 

Whirlwind Hoody Review (#ORInsightLab)

Disclosure: I’m participating in Outdoor Research’s (OR) #ORInsightLab to help test gear and offer feedback. This softshell hoody was provided to me at no cost but, as always, opinions are my own. You can find my other Insight Lab reviews here: Airbrake Climbing GlovesVoodoo Pants, Clairvoyant Jacket.

Last but not least! It’s been far too hot here in Colorado to really put this hoody to legit test until recently. Sure, I’d taken it out a handful of times and it was always stuffed into my pack just in case but the weather was just not cooperating with me earlier this summer!

OR Whirlwind Hoody Review // lgsmash.com

OR Whirlwind Hoody Review // lgsmash.com

Of course, I failed at taking any sort of action shot, any time I’ve been out in this hoody except for awkward self-timer photos that no one needs to see. Blog fail.

I do really like this hoody – it’s lightweight and durable and a perfect top to throw in my pack for the in-between season adventures. I’ve been wearing it most mornings when I run around the nearby park, to/from workout classes and while camping in the evenings. I’ll definitely be getting more use out of this piece as summer fades to fall (but not today with 90* temps!) and I find the air cooler, crisper and windier.

What I Love About This Hoody

I love how lightweight it is, for sure. It adds virtually no weight to my pack – I mean, the thing weighs only 8.5 ounces! Another really nice feature is how the sleeves fold over your hands to cover exposed fingers. This is actually kind of genius because it allows you to protect and shelter your hands when you might only need a short reprieve from the wind rather than rooting through your pack for gloves.

As you can see in the photo above, the hood is legit. It looks and I feel like a conehead when I have the hood on but that thing does not move, something really rare to find in the lightweight/soft-shell pieces. Any time I threw my hood up, I knew that sucker wasn’t flying off like other hoods do. Much appreciated, OR!

And vainly, it’s also a really nice length for my long torso – I never felt like it was too short or that I had to yank it down. The fit it wonderful – long enough in my arms and torso. (For those considering this hoody – I’m 5’11″ and am wearing a medium).

What Would I Change

The biggest hangup for me was the little chest pocket. It can double as a stuff sack for the jacket – which is really nice – but in real life use, I wasn’t able to really utilize this except to hold an ID and credit card on a run. It is big enough for my phone – but the weight of the phone pulls the jacket down and bounces around. Same for keys. I like that there IS a pocket – I just wish I found it more useful!

Overall Thoughts

This is a versatile softshell hoody to easily bring along for windy 14er summits or cool evenings by a campfire. I rarely leave home for a workout or adventure without it! Again, fit is awesome and the high-quality fabric really seems to perform in cooler conditions for the in-between seasons. Will report back later this fall as the weather cools with any changes in opinion but I feel pretty confident that this will continue to be a staple piece of gear in my pack.