Food On The Trail (#trailtime chat topic!)

This week’s #trailtime chat with Sierra Trading Post is all about food in the backcountry! Check out the linkup here where you can check out tips, tricks and recipes from a whole slew of awesome bloggers and join the weekly chat on Twitter at 4 p.m. MDT on Thursday, July 17 here!

I am a particular eater. Not picky, per se, but I know what I like. And what I do not like is much of the ‘standard’ trail fare. Trail mix and [insert any kind of bar here] are not my jam. Instead, I prefer to think outside the box and find creative ways to bring/make food I enjoy. Proper nutrition and fuel are a huge factor in mountaineering success so finding items that fill you up but also appeal to your palette are key.

So if you’re a little bit particular about your foods or just looking for alternative meal options to spice up your trail adventures, read on!

BREAKFAST

On the whole, I don’t like bars. There are some I tolerate as a last resort – and only one I truly enjoy – but, unfortunately, bars are usually the quickest, easiest breakfasts for early morning starts. However, an equally easy and far more tasty option is milk + granola.

Trail Time Breakfast // lgsmash.com

To make: add a serving of granola to a ziplock baggie and just add milk in the morning! For short trips, I bring in Silk Almond Milk single serve containers – they’re a bit heavier but taste better; for longer trips or for less weight, combining evaporated milk powder and water works just as well.

LUNCH

Many people reach for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or something similar on mountain summits for their lunch but not me. For day trips – like a single-day 14er hike, I might pack in a Subway sandwich that I’d bought the night before. Or, most likely, I’ll whip out a package of cured meat (usually salami) and cheese (usually Babybel) and sometimes a tortilla and snack on my ‘antipasto’ lunch. Protein, fat and salt with no fuss? Not much more this gal wants.

Trail Time Lunch // lgsmash.com

DINNER

Dehydrated meals are a go to for evening meals in the backcountry. They’re light and pretty tasty when cooked right. And while I do love dehydrated meals, I also love the luxury of ‘real food’, too. In winter, I have been known to carry in a Chipotle burrito on camping trips; this past weekend, Alex and I made our own chicken + rice concoction that blew our taste buds away.

Trail Time Food // lgsmash.com

To make: we packed in 1 package of pre-cooked Kroger brand chicken each and 1 package of microwave-ready (ie – fully cooked, just needed to be reheated) flavored rice. On our stove, we brought a bowl of water to a boil and submerged the rice, warming it up. After a few minutes in the water, we poured the rice into our chicken packets and mixed. The rice warmed the chicken and we had a delicious and nutritious hot meal in minutes.

SNACKS

Snacks are really up to the individual as everyone has their own preferred tastes. For me, I enjoy bringing dried fruit, lgsmash trail mix (cashews + peanut butter M&Ms – none of those silly raisins), Cheez-Its, Bobo’s Oat Bars (the one bar I do like), Mountain Chow dehydrated hummus and whatever else strikes my fancy in the grocery store.

I’m a firm believer in experimenting until you find what works for you – but don’t rely on experimental foods without packing fail-proof backups, too. The last thing you want is to be hungry and bonking on a trail because you don’t like your food or it didn’t sustain you as well as you thought!

These foods are geared primarily toward backpackers/hikers, people who have limited space and limited means to carry gear. But if you’re heading out on an adventure that allows for kitchen utensils and if weight isn’t an issue, your backcountry culinary options are endless! Hands down, the best meals I’ve eaten on the trail happened in the Boundary Waters on a 6-day canoe trip where we stuffed a heavy, wooden box full of delicious food and cooking supplies to float with us in our canoe. Pancakes, pizza and stirfry? The stuff adventurers dreams are made of!

[View 6 day, 5 night canoe trip meal plan here]

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Trip // lgsmash.com

Gear Review: Outdoor Research Clairvoyant Jacket (#ORInsightLab)

Disclosure: I’m participating in Outdoor Research’s (OR) #ORInsightLab to help test gear and offer feedback. This shell jacket 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 Gloves, Voodoo Pants.

Oh, where to begin with this jacket…I could wax poetic for hours about this beauty!

Hands down, this jacket has gotten the most use of the OR gear I received to review. It’s incredibly versatile and looks great when I’m out to dinner or running errands yet also functions amazingly well out in the backcountry or on the trails. Most surprising was how buttery soft it feels; a super soft shell jacket that solidly performs in adverse weather? I’m in! It’s also, coincidentally, in my favorite color which is super cool.

Outdoor Research Clairvoyant Jacket Review // lgsmash.com

What I love:

  • Fit, fit fit
  • Waterproof and breathable like nobody’s business
  • Performs on the trails but also in the city
  • Halo hood
  • Hand pocket placement

OR says on the website that they designed this for women, by women, and it’s obvious. It fits exactly like I want a jacket to fit – slimmer through the torso, sleeves with cuff closures that fit over my watch and it’s long enough to hit my hips and not irritate my back under a hip belt.

Outdoor Research Clairvoyant Jacket Review // lgsmash.com

Outdoor Research Clairvoyant Jacket Review // lgsmash.com

So much rain! So much waterproofness in the jacket!

I took this jacket on our wet and rainy Mt. Antero camp/climb last weekend and really appreciated the halo hood feature. It kept the rain out of my eyes while I munched on my dinner.

Another design feature I really appreciate is that the pockets are situated higher on the jacket so they don’t interfere with a backpack hip belt as other jackets do. I can still unzip, put trash or my phone in and re-zip without messing with my pack at all. And when you’re trying to outrun a booming thunderstorm, the last thing you wanna do is worry about adjusting your pack.

Outdoor Research Clairvoyant Jacket Review // lgsmash.com

Another perk? I’m super tall (5’11″) and have a long torso yet this jacket is long enough to hit my hips without me yanking on it constantly.

What I’d change:

Pit zips would be a ‘nice to have’ but not a necessity for me.

Overall thoughts? This is a solid, high-quality, superior performance (and not to mention beautiful!) shell jacket that is a staple item for adventures of all seasons and all types.

Buy it: Clairvoyant Jacket / outdoorresearch.com

 

Trip Report: Climbing Mt. Antero, East Route from Little Browns Creek Trail

When our friends told us they were coming to visit for the 4th of July and that they wanted to backpack, we made sure not to disappoint! Alex picked a 14er near Buena Vista, Colorado, Mt. Antero, that offered a long trek (14 miles, round trip!) and a non-technical route that allowed us to split our trip into 2 days and ensure our out-of-town guests would be comfortable summiting. We’d be tackling Mt. Antero via Little Browns Creek trail.

Mt. Antero via Little Browns Creek Trail // lgsmash.com

We rolled into Buena Vista on Thursday mid-afternoon with ornery thunderstorm clouds above. As we pulled into the Browns Creek Trailhead parking lot, the skies opened up, dumping rain and hail for a solid 30 minutes. We waited out the storm by reading or napping. As soon as the worst had passed and thunder and lightning had passed, we threw on our packs, laced up our boots and hit the trail!

Mt. Antero via Browns Creek Trail // lgsmash.com

Mt. Antero via Browns Creek Trail // lgsmash.com

We followed Brown’s Creek Trail for just about 1.5 miles until we found the Colorado Trail intersection. Turning right/north on the Colorado Trail, we followed it for about a mile until we found the Little Browns Creek Trail intersection. Turning left/west at this intersection, we hiked another mile and started looking for a place to camp.

The trail was HOT and MUGGY after the thunderstorm and full of bugs, unusual for Colorado. We swatted mosquitoes constantly and ingested an unhealthy number of gnats. The trail is densely forested below treeline so there was ample shade which provided welcome relief. And a side note to anyone considering this trail – Browns Creek Trail and the Colorado Trail portions of this trek are heavily used by folks on horseback…so there are plenty of ‘road apples’ to dodge as you hike. Consider yourself warned.

Mt. Antero via Little Browns Creek Trail // lgsmash.comThe route from Brown’s Creek Trailhead to the summit of Mt. Antero is 7 miles one way so our plan was to backpack in 3.5ish miles to an elevation of 11,000ft-ish and spend the night. We’d scouted out a few possible areas on the map that looked conducive to camping for the night (below treeline, flat-ish, near the creek for water). At exactly 3.5 miles, we found a decent site just off the trail and claimed it for the night.

Minutes after setting up camp, the skies opened up again and we hunkered down while rain pelted our tents. More reading, more napping. The rain eased up to a soft drizzle just before 8 p.m. and Alex and I ventured out to warm up our rice + chicken packets we’d brought for dinner.

The route from Brown's Creek Trailhead to the summit of Mt. Antero is 7 miles one way so our plan was to backpack in 3.5ish miles at an elevation of 11,000ft-ish and spend the night. We'd scouted out a few possible areas on the map that looked conducive to camping for the night (below treeline, flat-ish, near the creek for water).

(Side note: new favorite, incredibly satisfying trail dinner? Ready Rice packet + Kroger cooked chicken packet. We heated the rice in the bag in boiling water, added to the chicken packets (Alex and I split 1 rice packet, we each had our own chicken packet), mixed and devoured.)

We turned in shortly after, damp from the rain, and set our alarms for 5 a.m. Friday’s plan was to leave camp by 5:30-6 a.m. to get us up the 3.5 miles (accounting for 1 mile/hour + breaks) to Antero’s summit by 10 a.m. and well below treeline before thunderstorms began rolling in.

Mt. Antero via Little Browns Creek Trail // lgsmash.com

The hike is relatively ‘easy’ in that it’s not super steep right off the bat; it’s mostly a steady incline until you reach the 4WD road and join the ‘standard route’ trail. We chugged along, got above treeline, up the 4WD switchbacks and hit a flat area just before the ridgeline.

Mt. Antero via Little Browns Creek Trail // lgsmash.com

Mt. Antero via Little Browns Creek Trail // lgsmash.com

And then, it was summit push time!

Mt. Antero via Little Browns Creek Trail // lgsmash.com

We crossed the giant talus field ridgeline (maybe .25 mile?) and reached the summit just after 10 a.m.

Mt. Antero via Little Browns Creek Trail // lgsmash.com

We snapped a few photos and quickly turned around to descend Antero. As you can see behind us in the photo, baby cumulus clouds were popping up and we knew the weather called for more afternoon thunderstorms. We weren’t sure how fast those clouds would blow in but we weren’t sticking around to find out.

Mt. Antero via Little Browns Creek Trail // lgsmash.com

Trekking back out, we made great time and reached camp just before 12:30. Like clockwork, the dark clouds were moving in and we moved quickly to tear down camp, refill our water in the creek and hit the trail. As the thunder started booming in the distance, we picked up our pace to a slow jog on the flat/easy downhill sections of the trail. We kept our heads down and hustled out, cheering each time the Garmin chimed another mile down.

Mt. Antero via Little Browns Creek Trail // lgsmash.com

Just before 2 p.m., we reached the car, still dry! We’d outrun the thunderstorm! (or: we were lucky that it hadn’t blown in just overhead but settled slightly to our north) It took us just over an hour to cover the 3.5 miles from camp to car, clocking our pace at 15-17 minute miles. We booked it outta there!

Mt. Antero via Little Browns Creek Trail // lgsmash.com

My Garmin chimed our 14th mile just feet from the car so the trip reports we’d read were pretty darn accurate, mileage-wise.

Overall Thoughts:

I’d definitely recommend this hike as a 2+ day trip. The 14 miles roundtrip is not something I’d ever be interested in doing in one day – as you see above, we gained more than 5,500 feet! – but I’m certain people do it.

The trail is really well marked – both with signs at the 2 intersections (can’t miss ‘em) and cleared trail on the mountain. Bring a map (always) but it’d be pretty darn hard to miss the trail.

Campsites were pretty obvious near 11,000 ft – still mostly secluded off trail but had designated fire rings. And we did not encounter one other party camping on a holiday weekend – so I’d venture to say this isn’t that busy of a trail so you’ll likely have your choice of campsites.

As the trip reports state, this is definitely a class 2 hike. The ridge looks intimidating but it’s all bark and very little bite. Just take the talus field slowly (ascending and descending) and you’ll be fine!

Climb on!

[Summer Resolution #13: check!]

Marriage Wednesday: Cheers to Anniversaries on Long, Holiday Weekends!

Fourth of July has always been one of my favorite holidays, following on the heels of New Years Eve. I love fireworks, summer sun and BBQs. I love the mid-year celebration of summer time. I love long days and warm nights. (But really, it’s all about the fireworks.)

Three years ago on a Friday night, Alex flew in from Florida, where he was living at the time, to spend a week gallivanting Colorado for our ‘Coloradocation’. He insisted we kick off our vacation with a quick hike at Mt. Falcon Park, just outside Morrison, CO. A hike we’d done in the past but a stupid argument and early flight kept us from summiting; this time, we’d summit, proving we we face hard times and challenges but we would conquer them together. Cheesy but adorable. On the summit of Mt. Falcon, he proposed on July 2. 

Mt. Falcon Engagement Hike // lgsmash.com

Two years ago, we’d planned to make the same hike on Mt. Falcon at dusk and, on the summit, sign our marriage license, 2 months ahead of our official wedding date. It was scorching hot that July 2nd (101*!) so we scrapped hiking plans and settled on ice cream plans instead.

In the living room of our very first apartment, we signed our marriage and became official husband and wife.

Marriage: Ice Cream // lgsmash.com

And celebrated with Graeter’s Ice Cream, of course.

We kept it a secret from everyone and for those two months until our wedding, I loved sharing that special secret with my husband (though, still fiance to everyone else).

Of course, our actual wedding anniversary on August 31 (Labor Day weekend!) is my most favorite day but our ‘legally married’ day, on the weekend of one of my favorite holidays, runs a close second.

(Hot tip to people planning weddings: holiday weekends mean your anniversary is always on a party weekend!)

This weekend, Alex and I are celebrating by doing one of our favorite things (backpacking!) with a few of our favorite people (college friends!) in one of our favorite places (Buena Vista!).

Cheers to America, holiday weekends and being married to your best friend!

Wedding Anniversary // lgsmash.com

Gear Review: Outdoor Research Air Brakes Belay Gloves (#ORInsightLab)

Disclosure: I’m participating in Outdoor Research’s (OR) #ORInsightLab to help test gear and offer feedback. These gloves were provided to me at no cost but, as always, opinions are my own.

When I first opened my box of gear from Outdoor Research, I was tickled to find LEGIT belay gloves in my kit. I’m still a beginner/intermediate rock climber so my current belay gloves come from Home Depot and farm stores. I’ve lusted after ‘real climbing gloves’ but kept putting off the purchase until my cheap gloves wore out.

Outdoor Research AirBrakes Gloves Review // lgsmash.com

What I liked:

  • Spandex fabric on the back of the gloves kept my hands cool
  • Gel pockets + Kevlar stitching on the palm help dissipate heat from friction
  • Punched hole for easy carabiner storage
  • Velcro wrist closure

Outdoor Research AirBrakes Gloves Review // lgsmash.com

Clearly, these are a huge step up from too-big Home Depot gloves I’ve been using and I absolutely loved the Airbrake Gloves. While the cheaper substitutions are adequate, wearing a glove that fits, can be secured to my hand and is breathable was amazing. The gel pockets and Kevlar stitching keeps your palms from overheating or burning when the rope quickly travels over the glove and the poly-spandex back kept my hands from getting sweaty. I wasn’t worried about how my glove would hold up or if it would be a distraction (which sometimes happens with floppy garden gloves); instead, I could focus on the task at hand, belaying.

I also really like the dedicated carabiner hole. I realize probably all other climbing gloves include this feature but, again, coming from cheap-o gloves where I cut my own holes, it was a nice design element to have included.

What I would change:

As another #ORInsightLab tester, Dirtbag Darling, noted here, these run a little small which makes them a bit tricky to slip on and off, especially if you’re using tape on your fingers.

Past that, no complaints from this gal!

Overall thoughts: 

After wearing these climbing a handful of times in the climbing gym and outside, I understand why people shell out money for true climbing gloves. For a brand new beginner climber, it’s okay to use the farm/gardening gloves while you’re learning. But once you graduate to bigger climbs and longer days out at the crag, I do think investing in a pair of gloves designed specifically for climbing is a worthy investment. There is no comparison between the fit and performance and, most importantly, with these climbing-specific gloves, you won’t be fumbling around with oversized, floppy fabric gloves that can distract you from your belaying.

These gloves retail for $49 which is kind of a steep investment for beginner/intermediate climbers. But, as these appear way more durable than what I’ve been using, I expect we’ve got a long climbing life together ahead of us (will report back!).

Buy them: Airbrake Gloves / outdoorresearch.com

 

Local Product I Love: Colorado Aromatics Knuckle Balm

Disclosure: Colorado Aromatics sent me this Knuckle Balm at no cost but, as always, thoughts and opinions are my own.

Colorado Aromatics Knuckle Balm // lgsmash.com

Early into my mountaineering class, Cindy, founder and formulator for Colorado Aromatics, offered to send me a sample container of Knuckle Balm which is ‘great for dry, cracked knuckles and cuticles as well as cuts/scrapes.’ As I was quickly learning, rock climbing and mountaineering caused all of those skin ailments and more so I took Cindy up on her offer to try her Knuckle Balm. 

Verdict? Heavenly relief for my skin.

I’ve carted around my tin of Knuckle Balm since March and use it nearly every day. In recently months, my palms have started to do this really weird dry skin thing; Google tells me it’s a form of eczema but without the itchy. It’s weird. I’ve tried ‘ultra moisturizing’ lotions at night and after showers but nothing seems to work quite as well as the Knuckle Balm. My dry palms and cuticles really do seem to heal faster.

But don’t just take my anecdotal word for it. Check out the key ingredients in Knuckle Balm:

  • Calendula Extract – Anti-inflammatory, anti-irritant, astringent, antiseptic, promotes wound healing (supported by medical studies).
  • Plantain – this common weed is soothing to the skin and helps cells regenerate to promote healing.

Cindy carefully selects each ingredient to promote healing and healthy skin – in Knuckle Balm and all her products.

What’s more is that Colorado Aromatics grows many of the herbs included in their skincare products on her Certified Naturally Grown farm (which means the farm doesn’t use synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or GMO crops) in Longmont. So not only is the company based locally, most of the ingredients are harvested from the local farm, too. Shop local win!

And at an extremely reasonable price point ($8.95 for a 2 oz tin that I’m only about halfway through), Colorado Aromatics Knuckle Balm is definitely a product I’ll be spending my own money on when this tin runs out.

Colorado Aromatics Knuckle Balm // lgsmash.com

Currently…{June}

Currently - June // lgsmash.com

…excited to be an official Basic Mountaineering School graduate.

…feeling physically stronger (a little bit), thanks to classes like Power Hour, Captains of Cardio and Meta Circuit at Fitness in the City.

…feeling physically and mentally extra tired – and really sore, thanks to said classes.

…failing at catching up on sleep after a dizzyingly busy couple of weeks.

…running in city parks and on mountain trails.

…celebrating my little scaredy-pup acting more like a ‘real dog’ these days.

…wincing as my husband watches Army medical rescue shows on Netflix.

…thanking friends, family and all other military personnel for their service

…researching strawberry ice cream recipes.

…finishing Orange Is The New Black season 2 in record timing (I finally understand this ‘binge watching’!).

 

Outdoor Research Voodoo Pant Review (#ORInsightLab)

This past weekend, I took my Outdoor Research VooDoo pants out for their maiden trek. (Note: I’m participating in Outdoor Research’s (OR) #ORInsightLab to help test gear and offer feedback. These pants were provided to me at no cost but, as always, opinions are my own.)

Outdoor Research VooDoo Pants // lgsmash.com

From the moment I put these pants on, I loved them. They fit snugly in all the right places and move like a dream; the nylon/spandex blend means these pants are stretchy in all the right ways.

Outdoor Research VooDoo Pants // lgsmash.com

First, I wanna share what I loved about these pants:

    • The wind and water resistance
    • Breathable
    • Zippered thigh pocket
    • Fit and style

On the 3 mile hike in and out from Herman Lake, we post-holed through snow, stomped through creeks and hiked into the wind. These pants did not fail once – without wearing gaiters, these pants didn’t get wet and didn’t move. Even through post-holing (stepping and sinking into snow), the pant cuff stayed at my ankle the entire time – something I really appreciated!

I also really loved the thigh zipper pocket. As I’m sure many others do, I carry my cell phone in airplane with me on many of my trips to snap some photos and to have an alarm clock. This zippered pocket is perfect for holding my phone flush against my leg. No awkward moving, no danger of it falling out. This would also be a good place to keep easy-to-reach snacks like ShotBloks.

But what I really loved about these pants is that they maintained their shape and fit throughout the trip. It may be vain of me but I do care about how my clothes look on me in addition to how well they perform. The Voodoo pants fit and looked just as perfect on the hike out as they did on the hike in. That is a major win in my book!

Outdoor Research VooDoo Pants // lgsmash.com

Now, what would I change? Honestly, not much. I truly loved the fit and performance of these pants. If I had to say something I missed on these pants, it would be a way to cinch up the pant legs.

On Friday afternoon hiking in, it was warm – hot, actually – and sunny. And carrying a heavy pack made me feel even warmer. For a few minutes, I rolled my pants legs up to feel the breeze on my legs and help cool me down. Other climbing/hiking pants I wear have a feature that lets me turn my pants into capris and I really like that. Despite breathablity, sometimes you just gotta feel the air on your skin, right? I did find loops on the inside of the VooDoo pants that I hoped would fasten onto something but these are for an instep lace instead.

So, in short, I think this photo sums up my feelings about the Voodoo Pants:

Outdoor Research VooDoo Pants // lgsmash.comFun fact: I somehow convinced my husband to help me take these photos and video below (I know, I can’t believe it either!); that was the first any only jump photo he snapped! Talk about a trigger finger.

I should also note that I did not wear these for our couloir climb on Saturday morning; I was afraid I wouldn’t be warm enough in the pre-dawn darkness. I’m glad I didn’t wear them before the sun rose because it was quite a bit colder than I anticipated but once the sun came up, I’d wished I had these on instead.

Just for kicks, I tried to make a super short and very amatuer review video. Temper your expectations, folks, because I’m still learning how to talk in front of a camera and remember all of the words I want to say (and to not say ridiculous things)…but can’t get better without practice, right?!

You’ll definitely see these pants splashed on my blog and Instagram this summer – they’re definitely my new ‘go to’ pants for summer backpacking and climbing!

Basic Mountaineering School: High Peak Graduation Climb (Citadel/Pettingell Traverse)

We did it!! We finished mountaineering school!!

After 3.5 months of Basic Mountaineering School at the Colorado Mountain Club, our class came to a close this weekend with our High Peak Graduation Climb. This climb is a student-led trip, designed to pull together all of our learned skills and test our abilities. Each BMS group climbs a different mountain and all locations are kept a secret until a couple weeks before the climb to prevent 1) freakouts and 2) early planning.

Our team, Team Stoked up the Adze, was assigned the Citadel/Pettingell Traverse, a route close to Denver that summits two 13ers (mountains at least 13,000 feet tall). After a few student led planning sessions, we’d picked our route (Snoopy’s Backside Couloir), estimated climbing times and settled on a campsite. From there, a trip plan was prepared and distributed. I’m including a copy of our trip plan here – you can see the level of planning detail that went into this climb. For each and every field day, we students prepared a trip plan exactly like this.

We planned to meet Friday afternoon, drive to the Herman Gulch Trailhead and hike in 3 miles to our campsite at 12,000 feet.

Citadel/Pettingell Traverse Climb // lgsmash.comCitadel/Pettingell Traverse Climb // lgsmash.com

The 3 mile hike in was tough! We gained 1,700 feet in those 3 miles! 3 hours later, we found our campsite just above treeline and near Herman Lake.

Citadel/Pettingell Traverse Climb // lgsmash.com Citadel/Pettingell Traverse Climb // lgsmash.com Citadel/Pettingell Traverse Climb // lgsmash.com

We arrived shortly before the sun dipped behind the mountain and quickly set up our tents.

Citadel/Pettingell Traverse Climb // lgsmash.com

With so much snow, we set up a little tent village in one of the few grassy patches near Herman Lake. Next objective was water; we were able to find water nearby bubbling out of the ground (Herman Lake was still frozen!) and refilled water bottles.

Citadel/Pettingell Traverse Climb // lgsmash.com

One water bottle Alex and I were excited to fill was his Pat’s Backcountry Beer bottle. He was gifted a kit for Christmas and we were pumped to finally have a chance to make legit beer in the backcountry.

Citadel/Pettingell Traverse Climb // lgsmash.com

Survey says? It’s a winner! This genius product warrants its own blog post so more to come on Pat’s Backcountry Beverages!

Before the sun fully set, we started calling it a night. We had an alpine start of ‘boots on the ground’ at 2:30 a.m. As our alarms chimed in the morning, we hardly needed headlamps, thanks to a huge, full moon, which made getting ready and determining our route so much easier.

Citadel/Pettingell Traverse Climb // lgsmash.com Citadel/Pettingell Traverse Climb // lgsmash.com

The base of the couloir was ~1 mile from camp. Here we stopped for a quick snack break (snacks at 3:30 a.m.! Some people are eating White Castle at 3:30 a.m.; I was eating a Cliff Bar. This post applies here.) and harnessed up. It was couloir climbing time!

Snoopy’s Backside Couloir varied in steepness from 35*-50*ish with the summit situated between two summits of The Citadel, with the steepest section in the top half. This couloir is no joke. Rock fall is a very real danger on this couloir and we were fortunate to have a ton of snow which helps mitigate rock fall risk. The steepness was also pretty unnerving – it was, by far, the steepest climb I’d ever been on and knowing the consequences of a mistake rattled my nerves. My mantra of the morning? DON’T FALLIt took us just about 1.5 hours to climb up the 500 vertical feet of Snoopy’s Backside Couloir.

Citadel/Pettingell Traverse Climb // lgsmash.com

At the top of the couloir, we had an East Summit (the true summit) and the West Summit. Most of us climbed up the East Summit first, West Summit second. The exposure and snow freaked me out a little so I climbed up the initial rock to the East Summit on belay and then opted to stay put. I was confident in my ability to climb UP to the official summit, less confident in keeping my head together to down climb after. Citadel/Pettingell Traverse Climb // lgsmash.com

Citadel/Pettingell Traverse Climb // lgsmash.com

View of the East Summit from the West Summit

Citadel/Pettingell Traverse Climb // lgsmash.com

Citadel/Pettingell Traverse Climb // lgsmash.com

View of the West Summit from my East Summit perch

Once off the East Summit, it was time to review the trip plan and decide to continue to Pettingell or bail out. There was quite a bit of snow on the exposed route and very few bailout options once we began the traverse. After considering the size of our group (10), the time it’d take for us to complete the route (especially given that a couple of us were nervous about exposure) and risk of weather moving in, we opted to bail out with just a Citadel summit.

We evaluated our options to get off Citadel and settled on downclimbing the opposite side of the couloir about 100 vertical feet, traversing a snowfield and glissading down from the Citadel ridge and hike (er, post-hole…) back to camp.

Because we weren’t traversing to Pettingell, we had enough time for pancakes on the Citadel summit! One in our group, Rob, promised summit pancakes if we needed to kill time on Citadel because we needed sunlight before starting the Pettingell traverse so by nixing the traverse, we had some extra time to enjoy a hot, fluffy pancake on top of a mountain.

Citadel/Pettingell Traverse Climb // lgsmash.com

It was awesome.

Soon, we packed up, clipped our ice axes back to our harnesses and learned to downclimb. Nothing like learning a new skill in a do-or-probably-get-injured-or-die situation, right? Kidding. Kind of.

Truthfully, though, downclimbing was not challenging, just fatiguing. After a few minutes of downclimbing, we hit the snowfield, traversed to the ridge that would take us home and glissaded down!

Citadel/Pettingell Traverse Climb // lgsmash.com

Citadel/Pettingell Traverse Climb // lgsmash.com

Glissading was a perfect almost-end to the climb as we giggled our way to the bottom of the mountain. From there, it was a short distance across the valley to our campsite and a 3 mile hike back out. Unfortunately for us, the snow had softened significantly and the short route back to camp became a long hike, slipping and sliding with each step in the snow. We did finally make it back, exhausted but all in once piece.

Dark clouds moved in minutes after we’d returned and we hustled to pack our tents and get down below treeline. The last place I want to be when a thunderstorm rolls in is above treeline with a metal-framed pack and an ice ax attached to my back. Bad news! Fortunately, we made it back to our cars with no rain – but we did get a tiny bit of snow!

In total, our route from start to finish was approximately 8 miles. My Garmin died on the hike out so this route isn’t completely accurate but close enough.

Citadel-Pettingell Traverse Route Garmin // lgsmash.com

While this couloir climb was a bit freaky for me in the moment, looking back, I’m proud of myself for persevering and finishing it and I’m really looking forward to finding a time to come back and do the full Citadel/Pettingell traverse. I was way out of my comfort zone all morning but now, my little comfort zone is just that much bigger. I know I can successfully climb a couloir, down climb a couloir, keep my head together when it seems impossible, summit a class 3 route with little sleep and enjoy a pancake with syrup.

I’ve got a lot of thoughts about Basic Mountaineering School that I’ll save for a future post. In short, I’m SO glad I took this class and I’m also so glad it’s over! I learned so, so much and I’m really excited to be able to plan my own trips again, incorporating all that I’ve learned and experienced these past few months.

As they say in rock climbing, climb on!

[edited to add: this also checks off Summer Resolution #14: Summit a 11er, 12er or 13er!]

Knowing When To Say No and Knowing When To Say Yes

Long Beach - work travel // lgsmash.com

This week, I’ve been in Long Beach, California, for work. Since Saturday night, actually. This week, for me, has been a strong reminder to say no (and yes) and take care of myself.

In a weird twist, the mountaineering class that forced me to put myself first is also something I had to say ‘no’ to last weekend. Our Routefinding field day, second to last mountianeering outing, was Saturday but because of a Saturday night flight, possible late climb finish and definite early morning start (Alex left our apartment at 3:30 a.m.!), I had to make the tough decision to say no to the climb in order to take care of last minute work items and to not frazzle my poor little brain. A big climb followed by 4+ long days of conference exhibiting followed by another big climb this weekend is a recipe for disaster for this gal.

When I packed for the conference, I made sure to bring 2 sets of workout clothes. I was flying west, after all, so I’d definitely be awake early and could get a run or yoga in. I’d even tweeted a nearby yoga studio asking about towel and mat rental for a pre-conference yoga zen session.

Nope. Each morning, I opted to sleep that extra hour and said no to a workout. It’s been a while since I’ve been on ‘booth duty’ and this conference is the biggest one we exhibit at – early mornings, late nights and lots of socializing over happy hour drinks. While fun, it’s more draining than I remembered! So my running shoes waited patiently in my suitcase.

But yesterday afternoon, after we’d packed up the booth and the hard part of the trip was behind me, all I wanted to do was flop on my bed and relax with Netflix. And I should have spent my time holed up in my hotel room, making progress on work projects. But I said nope to both. I jumped into my running capris and #GetMovinCO tech t-shirt, asked the hotel staff for a running route along the beach and I hit the pavement. I spent 45 minutes soaking up the California sun and shaking off the stress of the past few days.

Long Beach - work travel // lgsmash.com

selfie on a beach with palm trees!

And this morning, instead of saying nope, I said yes to running a 5k the conference holds each year – in my 5 years working at this conference, I’ve yet to miss the 5k. I love that there’s a growing community of attendees that sign up each year and I’m happy to help support a healthy lifestyle. And when I think about the 20 mile drive back to LAX and 2.5 hour flight later, I’m glad I will have tackled a quick workout while I had the time.

So sometimes saying no is healthy. And sometimes saying yes is healthy. The true task is figuring out when to say each, owning your decision and taking care of yourself.