3 Ways inReach Made Our Mountaineering Trip Easier

Brian and I recently returned from a trip of a lifetime: we went to the highest place on earth we’ve ever been. With our hut at 2057 meters (6750 ft) and peaks rising from there, we weren’t quite sure what to expect. Would our bodies respond favourably to the altitude? Would we move efficiently through the terrain? Would we even like being up there? Would our inReach work???

Aside: An inReach is the world’s first two-way satellite communicator with built-in navigation. It has the ability to plan routes and waypoints ahead of time, receive weather forecasts, and can send and receive messages to any cell phone, email address or inReach device. It can also pair with Facebook and Twitter for update. It also has a built-in digital compass, barometric altimeter and accelerometer sensors that provide heading and bearing info, accurate elevation readings, speed, and more. (source)

In those 7 days at the ACC Toronto Section‘s mountaineering camp, Selkirks North, I was full to the brim with knowledge. I learned about managing risk, conquering exposure, how to stare at and study the clouds for a really important purpose – safety – and more. I learned that tools were important; specific ropes, shoes, techniques… And I learned how much I truly value owning an inReach.

Like a lot of the backcountry hiking we’ve done with our inReach, here in the Selkirks there is no cell signal. There is no landline. There isn’t anyone but the group you came in with. While still remaining satisfactorily disconnected from the world we enjoyed escaping for a few days, having a tool like the inReach allowed us a little more intel about the terrain, the atmosphere, and what was to come.

Here are 3 ways inReach made our alpine adventure easier:

Checking the Weather

Weather, I learned, is one of the key factors in deciding your day when you’re at in the mountains. If there are clouds in the sky, you study them at all hours of the day. Was it cloudy overnight? If so, the snow on the mountains will be softer than if it were clear. Are there clouds at 3am? 4am? 5am? It might not be a great idea to push too far ahead. Will it rain tomorrow? What sorts of risks come along with these situations?

Our ACMG guide Mark Klassen said he uses a satellite phone to call someone for weather reports every couple days. On the 3rd day, he tried to contact his source but the calls continually dropped. That’s when I discovered the inReach’s ability to check the weather. For the cost of one message, you can get a 3-day forecast for a waypoint or your location. Because we had variable cloudiness all week, having this information available to us was extremely valuable.

Like a kid in elementary school who’d just finished their drawing before anyone else, I eagerly brought my findings to the group. “I have the weather!” I said proudly. They initially seemed hesitant, perhaps because we talked up this connectivity device in a place where we all worshipped remoteness. But as the week went on individuals planning specific routes began to ask if we could check the weather for a certain area. “Yes!” I said. And this information helped them plan accordingly.

The inReach, in this situation, provided a small bit of assurance allowing executable prep both with gear and mental planning.

Communication

Our camp was graciously and expertly catered by Mo’s Mountain Cuisine. “Remember, this is a vacation,” one of our leaders told me when my jaw dropped to the floor upon seeing our first 3-course meal.

“Right,” I replied, devouring dinner.

Heather (pictured below) had a binder full of recipes, a meal plan she executed with ease. But we were week 1 of a 2 week camp and the dropped calls on the satellite phone began to worry her. How would she communicate with her colleague about restocking food for week 2? We offered up our inReach of course and with 3 messages she was able to contact ground control. This was our first experience at altitude where the inReach completely mitigated our quandary. But this wasn’t our last…

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On the last day of our trip, despite being warned about the inability of keeping to scheduled pick-ups when going in and out of the mountains via helicopter, we had a tight schedule. Here was the low down: I was co-host of my cousin’s baby shower happening on Sunday in London, Ontario. I really wanted to be there and so I took a deep breathe when booking our travel and said that the risk of making such tight travel plans was worth possibly making the shower. The latest flight from Calgary to London that would allow us to make it to the shower on time departed Sunday at 6am. Are scheduled departure from the Hut was Saturday at 2pm. As 2pm approached, when we were supposed to be picked up by helicopter and brought to our shuttle back to Golden, the helicopter was nowhere to be seen.

Missing this 2pm helicopter pick up meant that the odds of us catching the last bus out of Golden at 7pm were low. If we missed the last bus, how would we get to Calgary? Thankfully, with our inReach device, we were able to contact Brian’s mom who was standing by in case we required help shuffling our travel tickets around. We spent the afternoon at ease as she researched different ways for us to get to town and texted them back to the device. This information helped others travelling to Calgary, too.

We ended up making it to the baby shower through a strange fusion of seclusion and connection. The inReach device really helped us out of a bind.

Route Finding

Perhaps the most obvious and practical use of the inReach is route finding. When we embarked on a 6 hour granite climb up Quadrant – an adventure that turned into a 12.5 hour day due to elements and our route, we used the device to see exactly where we were, where we took a wrong turn, and where we descended. The device also gave us accurate timings, elevation, and maps so that other groups could leverage this knowledge and apply it to their climbs up Quadrant in the following day (yes – our adventure paired with our GPS route fuelled others to climb Quadrant!).

We also used the inReach when summitting Mount Damon (2740 m/8990 ft). While this route was very direct and we didn’t really require any route finding, we did enjoy the ability to study our path, elevation, and waypoints. 

 The inReach allowed us insight that we wouldn’t otherwise have without it. It played a key role in planning and execution of alpine adventures and helped set aside some unavoidable stressed that comes with travelling in the backcountry. It’s definitely remains a must-have in my pack, and an investment I’m extremely happy with.


Go, Peakbaggers, Adventure, Mountaineering

Committing to “Go”

There’s something powerful and empowering about the word “go”… at least for me anyways. To “go” can be terrifying – causing hesitation – but once you’ve decided to actually “go” it can be invigorating – everything becomes real, you move past your hesitations and focus on doing what needs to be done.

One month ago Andrea and I had a big conversation about this project and our upcoming peaks and the challenges before us. We were confronted, once again, with a decision to go. Would be go to Alberta to summit Mt. Columbia this Summer? Were we ready to travel across glaciers and ski (and split-board) up and down a mountain? Did we have the skills to travel with ropes, and perform crevasse rescues if necessary?

Ultimately the response was, “No”, quickly followed with, “How do we get those skills?

We realized the ideal situation would be attending one of the Alpine Club of Canada‘s many mountaineering camps. The camps are all in mountain ranges near or in the Rockies, we would be on glaciers and mountains for a week, our bodies would be fully acclimatized to the 3,000 m (10,000 ft) elevations.

We initially hesitated and then finally went to book into a camp. With about 2 months or so before the first camp, everything was full. We put our names on the waitlist and waited. Then, two spots opened up on the Toronto Section camp opened up. This was happening!

It was a big moment when Andrea and I paid our deposit. Everything became real and official and terrifying. It was also extremely exciting and empowering. The decision had been made. From July 15-23 we would be high in the Selkirk Mountains, travelling on glaciers and summiting peaks around 3,000 m of elevation.

Things started to fall in to perspective. There was planning and preparing to do – we had a gear list to check off, technical skills to study and practice, and lots of physical training.

Since committing to go here are some of the ways I’ve prepared:

  • Attend a crevasse rescue clinic where I learned to ascend ropes and haul people using ropes
  • Read most of “Freedom Of the Hills“, “Alpine Skills Summer”, “Selkirks North. (Climbing Guide)
  • Aquire a mountain of gear including: Helmet, Alpine Pack, Belay/Rappel devices, Various carabinears, ropes and cords
  • Train 3x a week with a personal trainer focusing on single leg strength exercises, balance, and running

I’ve also had many, many moments of fear, hesitation and excitement. I find myself constantly checking in and asking, “Am I really doing this?” I am. And I’m not doing it alone.  I am going with Andrea, which helps a lot. We will also be out there with many more skilled members of the Alpine Club.

It’s one week away and I think we’re ready. We committed to go and we’re going. As Abraham Lincoln said, “I walk slowly, but I never walk backwards.”


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Looking Back, Charging Forward: Our Top 10 Moments of 2015

We can’t even begin to describe in words how epic 2015 was for us. For starters, this ENTIRE project began in the first few days of 2015. Mere days after new years Matt Manhire brought the idea to summit the tallest points in each province and territory to Brian after a crossfit class, who brought the idea to me (Andrea) knowing I just started a production company. We slowly formed a true force of energy and inspiration, the 3 of us, giving birth to all the wonderful goals, dreams, and adventures you’ve seen us embark on throughout the entire year.

We spent cold winter days in cafe, we learned how to rock climb, we laughed a lot, we sat in silence a lot, we wrote and spoke and researched a lot, we all bought freeze-dried food, bear spray, and gators for the first time… I learned what gators were for the first time… All this to say that looking back at our top ten moments of 2015 is a much needed task because, without these moments (and so, so, so many more), we wouldn’t be where we are today.

Our Top 10 Moments of 2015

#1 // Camping under a meteor shower in Cypress Hills Inter-Provincial Park

While there aren’t any meteors in this photo, there is a vast and wondrous sky. We stood outside our tent with our heads cocked north for so long that we didn’t notice the cramps in our necks. It was the first time we’d ever seen a sky like this, and we’ll never forget the moment we looked up. Jaws dropped, we didn’t want to fall asleep for fear of missing out.

thepeakbaggers-sask-sky

#2 // #DiscoverYourWild

On July 1st we organized our first meetup with the help of the amazing people we met at MEC Outdoor Nation (see next item!). Discover Your Wild has not only taught us that it’s EASY to get outside, but it’s made it accessible and fun for so many other people other than ourselves. Last year we explored an urban jungle steps away from a subway stop, we saw graffiti via bike all over the city, and we ran hills and through beautiful parks that are just behind our houses. We meet up every Wednesday, and would love for you to join us! Oh yeah – and Discover Your Wild is always free! Thank you to MEC Nation for providing the platform to create such a thing as this.

#3 // MEC Outdoor Nation (& MEC Staff in general)

MEC Outdoor Nation was where we really came together with our community. We’d been chatting up the Vancouver-based MEC Nation team for months and we finally got to connect in person to share goals, ideas, and passions with them and 135 other people in Toronto and surrounding area. It was a short but incredibly fun weekend where we met similar minds who have helped us improve ourselves and build programs like Discover Your Wild. (Photos below courtesy of MEC Nation)

#4 // Ishpatina Ridge round 1

Going out to Ishpatina Ridge in the dead of winter not only kick-started our systems and our belief in our abilities but it challenged us in innumerable ways. We can’t wait to share the story with you March 25th, 2016 when we share Episode 1: Ishaptina Ridge with you. Stay tuned!

The-Peakbaggers-Ishpatina-Ridge (21)

#5 // Finding a geocache box on the summit ridge of White Hill

We don’t want to give too much away but once we hit the summit ridge of White Hill, Nova Scotia’s highest peak which is buried in the Cape Breton isle, it was one of the best feelings in the world. Complete isolation turned into a grounding sense of success and connectivity, knowing that we were two of a small group of 3 individuals who had touched that tip the entire year.

The-Peakbaggers-Maritimes 26

#6 // Turkish Coffee (mention Phil & Seb and Capital)

We learned quickly that the luxuries of aeropress coffee in the wild was something we didn’t want to carry on our backs for days. Every ounce in your pack counts. So we picked up some deliciously roasted beans (THANK YOU PHIL & SEB) and found a method that worked for us. Turkish-style camping coffee. Check out the video we made on how to brew this us for yourself!

#7 // The thunderstorm on Baldy Mountain

At the top of Baldy Mountain’s lookout tower in Manitoba a storm brewed above us and it got louder and louder the longer we were up there. We planned to hike Beaver Trail, a 3km loop off the edge of the tower and we decided to stick with it since it wasn’t raining yet. We got our packs ready for rain and embarked down the mountain-side. The weather in Duck Mountain Provincial Park was hot and sticky – we were sweating, having overdressed for what we were sure would be a downpour. I looked up at the sky at one point and said, “We are ready for you! Just let it all go!!!” and 100 steps later it began to rain. It was a glorious feeling, knowing that we were (a) prepared, (b) in serious need of a cool down, and (c) on the edge of a mountain as thunder roared and we walked this beautiful trail all by ourselves in the summer.

thepeakbaggers-mb-storm

 

#8 // Discovering inReach

We did an interview with Nik at MEC Toronto last year who recommend this GPS device that sounded too good to be true. Well, it is true. It is a real thing that you can hold and rely on. The DeLorme inReach added such an incredible element to your travels. Among its features is a GPS app you can pair with your iPhone (many times Brian would hold onto the inReach and I would hold onto my phone, meaning that we both had map access), capabilities to send emails if we were in need (i.e. “I’m not going to make it to work on Monday because I’m lost in Ontario wilderness!!”), and the ability to log our coordinates on a map that was on our main webpage so family, friends, and followers could see where we were at any given moment. We wouldn’t have felt as safely secluded and on track as we did without this little machine. It was a key piece in our packs and we’re really grateful that technology like this exists as we embark on such a wild journey. Oh – and we tweeted from the peaks of all the places we’ve been to! Who can say they’ve done that!? Thank you inReach Canada!

#9 //Getting real with our bodies and our minds

This project not only challenges our minds but our bodies and it has shown us that our bodies are capable of amazing feats. Body and mind go hand and hand – don’t be fooled! Without one you wouldn’t have the other! Strength of mind and body is something we actively work on every day and we’ve noticed a positive change in ourselves since starting this project. Our relationship with each other, the urban world around us, and the beautiful and wild Canadian terrain we have been exploring has blossomed in an energetic way. We feel better, we communicate better, and we understand the world a little bit better just by actively being a part of it.

Matt and Brian at the start of the 13km bushwhack.

Matt and Brian at the start of the 13km bushwhack.

#10 // Meeting people like you

We met so many incredible people this year, it’s hard to really wrap our heads around it! We’ve managed to somehow organically surround ourselves with people who do the same things we are doing or who do the activities we want to do and it’s been the best way to prove that anything is possible. Living with an open heart and open mind has brought us to places that have touched and truly changed our lives. Mountaineering is a skill we never thought we’d so actively be acquiring and, yes, we have our doubts, fears, and hesitations, but we embrace it. The stories from the people we have met – every ability, age, and attitude – excite and inspire us in an indescribable way. You are what you believe you can do, and this year has shown us that we can do anything we put our minds to. And that’s in great part thanks to you.

Thank you for reading, and for being a part of this journey.

The-Peakbaggers-Maritimes 5


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What Stops Us From Getting Outside?

If I haven’t talked about this before, then I constantly think it. I sometimes feel so bogged down in the city that I feel this urge to get out and into nature. The trees and wind and stars and sky don’t judge me, bother me, poke me, or invade my privacy. They just… exist.

What’s amazing about The Peakbaggers and, now, Discover Your Wild, is that it’s given me an opportunity to get outside without any excuses. I’m motivated by the goals of both projects and always surrounded by people who sometimes feel what I do and want the same – to get out of this busy buzz of city living. One of the neatest things about Toronto is that this can happen right outside my front door.

I never saw Toronto as a city that could provide this for me until I actually moved here. I took up residence in The Beaches and ran the boardwalk every morning at 6am because it was there and it was beautiful. I never thought I’d be a runner, or want to run for that matter, but I did and I shocked myself and most my friends. That little decision to change is what has brought me here, to this point, today.

Two weekends ago we took The Peakbaggers to MEC Outdoor Nation where 135 like-minded people gathered to discuss things like motivation and barriers. Shannon Lyon of the Natural Leaders Alliance created and led an amazing activity where the group of us each took little dots and placed them in a variety of categories. She first asked, “What stops you from getting outside?” and I went up and put my three dots on three of 13 categories. Then she asked, “What isn’t a problem for you to get outside?” I basically ran to motivation, cultural connection, and friends to go with (factors that would be so different for me only a few years ago). Shannon then flipped the question. “Think of someone you know who doesn’t get outside. What, in your opinion, stops them from getting outside?”

Shannon compiled the data and found the following:

  • What stops us: money, time
  • What we think stops them: motivation, self-confidence
  • What sometimes stops us: friends to go with, skill level, time
  • What we think sometimes stops them: motivation, skill level, body type
  • What doesn’t stop us: motivation, cultural connection
  • What we think doesn’t stop them: time, friends to go with, transportation

– Results from Natural Leaders Alliance‘s motivation/barrier workshop

Our smaller barriers of motivation and self-confidence are our friends’ biggest barriers, Shannon explained. But one observation in particular validated my love for this blog, itself, and that’s Shannon’s observation that “we all sometimes get stopped by not knowing the skills.” If we want the Peakbaggers and Discover Your Wild to be a success, we want to focus on these elements – motivation, self-confidence, friends to go with and time and ability to learn the skills. This is our goal and this excites me so much. I feel all these barriers, and here is a program to combat them.

Last weekend Brian and I booked and Air BnB cabin (get $32 off your next trip here!) on the back acreage of a farm in Kawartha Lakes. One of my favourite feelings over the time I spent there was the same one I feel when I’m hanging in a park like Christie Pitts or running the boardwalk in the Beaches. It’s that of connection – to the earth and sky and air… and bugs. Oh, and the people around me! Alone or in a group, I’m never the only runner, slackliner, smiler… The only difference between this secluded farm and Christie Pitts is that you can feel the subway come and go below you if you’re lying on the south side grass of Christie Pitts park – and whole other set of emotions comes with that!

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The Peakbaggers and Discover Your Wild are yours as much as they are ours. I sound preachy but, hey, it’s working for me! We’re all climbing mountains of different sorts and, if I’ve learned anything since we’ve started, it’s that we’ll all get much farther if we go together. So, let’s go together.


What stops you from getting outside? Let us know in the comments below!

We’re heading to Trinity Bellwoods Park on Wednesday, July 15th at 7pm for a WOD in the park – that means we’re going to do a workout in the park! Bring your runners, water bottle, fury friend, or non-fury friend! Stay tuned to @ThePeakbaggers for more details.

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