This is not my usual gear review. Normally, I write the review after at least a few months of heavy use. This time, however, I returned the gear before I was able to use it because I quickly realized that the Koflach Degree just does not fit my foot type. I had heard a lot about the Koflachs of old, still performing well after decades of use, so I was bit a disappointed.

I just went through a long process of ordering and returning various sizes of the Koflach Degre, talking to dealers, talking with a Koflach rep, and reading all the internet reviews for the Koflach Degre that I could find. I learned a lot of information that is not publicly available and I consolidated the sparse and diffuse information available on the internet.

So even though I decided not to use the Koflach Degre, I believe that other people will benefit from the information I have to share. And hopefully this will help you to make a quicker and easier decision if you are thinking about buying the Degre. Continue Reading. There’s More!

We felt like gorillas.

On July 3rd Jim and I completed a new route at Fountain Bluff, and we believe it is the longest climbing route in the Midwest. The route is a 1,400 foot traverse of Fountain Bluff in Southern Illinois. We climbed it in 12 pitches. Neither of us are good at rating things, but we gave it a 5.8 R, which is basically the rating for any ground-up trad route we have climbed at Fountain Bluff.

The idea for this route evolved slowly over the last several years.

Fountain Bluff has a unique style of rock climbing. To be honest, it is not for everyone. The rock quality is highly variable. There are long stretches of “vertical vegetation” – that is, climbing up vines and what-not. A couple of years ago, when my friend Chris still lived in the area, we invented a term for it – Mississippi River Valley Alpine Climbing. Continue Reading. There’s More!

The Freedom of the Hills

Slovenian Alps

There is a great book, known throughout the climbing community, that goes by the title “Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills.” It is the classic how-to book for climbers and continues to make its presence known in ever-increasing edition numbers. The 7th edition occupies a prominent place on my self.

The subtitle, The Freedom of the Hills, is an amazing statement, for in five simple words it embodies what climbing and merely being in the hills are for me—freedom.

Freedom is a powerful and loaded word; perhaps most infamous for the carefree way in which contemporary marketers, politicians, and revolutionaries kick it around like a well-worn hacky sack. Continue Reading. There’s More!

Evernote for expedition planning

There are a lot of lists on the internet for the “Best Adventure Apps” or the “Best Outdoors Apps.” National Geographic made one of them. Frankly, those lists are horrible. Maybe the app creators paid the writers to include their apps. Or maybe they were just trying to appeal to a wide audience. Either way, none of the lists include any of the apps I use, and I spend about a 1/3 of every year in the outdoors, and on almost every trip the iPhone gets used. Some of the lists are so extensive that it brings to question list author’s credibility, because I just don’t see how they could have field tested each one under a range of conditions and seasons.

So, this is my list of mobile apps that I actually use while in the wilderness, whether it be a climbing, paddling, or hiking trip. These apps are not going to teach you how to do anything. Having them on your phone will NOT make you a hardman, an explorer, an adventurer, etc. These apps are going to help you to do whatever it is you do.

Additionally, there is no requirement that you must have these apps to go on an adventure or undertake an exploration. All these apps do is better integrate our primitive adventures (let’s be honest, a human in the wild is primitive) with our modern, technologically driven life. Continue Reading. There’s More!

Ernest Shackleton made perhaps the most remarkable and famous open boat voyage in recorded history. And for that he is one of my heroes… someone whose tale I look to for inspiration when I am deep in the throes of life and exploration.

Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage

Shackleton had set out to make the first crossing of Antarctica. However, Shackleton and his crew of 27 men never reached the cold continent. Their ship, the Endurance, became locked in the pack ice.

For ten months the ship and the crew drifted with the pack ice, until the immense pressure of the shifting ice crushed the Endurance. With the Endurance lost, they camped on the pack ice for almost four months, until the ice became too unstable, living off seal and penguin meat. Continue Reading. There’s More!

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