Kitted Out: Summer Mountain Biking

Whether you’re tackling uber-classic singletrack in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom or simply sneaking in one of these great early season rides, having the right gear can not only make mountain biking more enjoyable, it can also make it safer. From all-day epics to post-work training rides, this kit will get you on the trail, railing turns, and sending it through summer.

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Helmet: Bell 4Forty MIPS

Between rock gardens and roots, mountain biking in the Northeast is so perilous that even the best riders are bound to hit the dirt (not in a good way) every once and awhile. To protect one of your most vulnerable and valuable parts, wearing a helmet is a must. The Bell 4Forty MIPS features the added protection of MIPS technology, offers deep rear coverage for extra security, and has enough ventilation for humid summer rides.

Helmets with MIPS technology add an extra level of protection over traditional bike helmets, as MIPS (multi-directional impact protection system) is designed to reduce rotational forces and lessen the transfer of that energy to the brain. In short, choose a helmet with MIPS.

Sunglasses: Julbo Shield

The growing popularity of fatter tires and the ability to run them at lower air pressures (thanks to tubeless tire setups) has led to more debris being kicked up than ever before. Protect your eyes from tire-flung debris as well as branches and bugs with a good pair of sunglasses. You can’t go wrong with shades from Julbo—their aptly named Shield sunglasses provide the ideal blend of protection, breathability, and good looks.

Hydration Pack: Camelbak M.U.L.E./L.U.X.E.

Despite increased competition from waist packs and the people preaching “no pack,” hydration bags remain a staple for most mountain bikers. There is simply no better way to carry all the gear needed for a day on the trail than a bag—just ask backpackers, hikers, climbers, and backcountry skiers. Released in 1996, the Camelbak M.U.L.E. (men’s) and the L.U.X.E. (women’s) have been reliable performers for over 20 years.

Pro tip: Buy the hydration pack with the largest possible bladder; A large bladder works equally well for short trips (simply don’t fill it all the way) and long trips (by filling it to capacity).

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Jersey: Louis Garneau H2O Jersey

Save the tight-fitting spandex jerseys for road rides. The Louis Garneau H2O Jersey (men’s/women’s) features a relaxed yet performance-oriented fit, is lightweight and wicking for the hottest summer days, features highly breathable fabric where a rider’s hydration pack sits, and has a single zippered back pocket for stashing your keys or phone. Try one out the next time you ride at Maine’s Carrabassett Valley.

Shorts: Louis Garneau Leeway/Latitude Shorts

Leave your spandex shorts at home, too. The Louis Garneau Leeway Shorts (men’s) and Latitude Shorts (women’s) come with comfortable padded liners, feature stretchy-but-tough baggy outers, and have zippered pockets for securely stashing small essentials. Best of all, they allow riders to hang out and have a post-ride beer without making everyone around them uncomfortable.

Gloves: Giro Rivet II/Riv’ette

Full-finger gloves increase grip, add comfort, and provide some insulation on crisp morning and evenings. Additionally, gloves provide protection from thorns, thickets, and in the event of a crash. The Giro Rivet II (men’s) and Riv’ette (women’s) provide the protection mountain bikers crave while delivering a barely there feel.

Shoes: Giro Privateer/Manta

There’s a lot of debate over the best type of pedal for mountain biking—flat or clipless. The primary benefit of flat pedals is that they offer a rider more confidence and less fear when tackling tough terrain. The notable advantage of clipless pedals is that they allow a rider to both pull and push the pedal, providing a more efficient and powerful stroke. No matter what type of pedal you use, invest in a good, comfortable pair of bike shoes. For those riding in Greater Boston and beyond, a clipless shoe like the Giro Privateer (men’s) and Manta (women’s) is a solid choice.

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Socks: Smartwool PhD Cycle Ultra Light Crew 

Nothing says newbie more than a rider on the latest bike and kitted out in the nicest new gear sporting white cotton socks. Socks like the Smartwool PhD Cycle Ultra Light Crew Socks (men’s/women’s) will not only complement your kit but also add a bit of comfort to all your rides.

Pro Tip: High socks in lighter colors make it easier to spot ticks after a ride!

Lightweight Jacket: Louis Garneau Modesto 3

Weather in the Northeast is variable to put it kindly. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to tuck a lightweight jacket into your pack. A jacket like the Louis Garneau Modesto 3 (men’s/women’s) weighs next to nothing and adds valuable weather protection and warmth when needed.

Floor Pump: Blackburn Chamber HV

As mentioned earlier, mountain bike tires are getting larger by the day. Because trying to fill fat tires with a mini pump will exhaust you before even getting on the bike, we suggest owning a floor pump. The Blackburn Chamber HV is built specifically for mountain bikers with rugged construction and an easy-to-read dial for setting tires at the perfect pressure.

CO2 Inflator: Genuine Innovations Air Chuck Inflator

While adding air to your tires at the trailhead is hard enough with a mini pump, it’s even worse when you pop a tube on the trail and need to pump up a new tube. Here’s a solution—stash a CO2 inflator and a CO2 cartridge or two in your hydration pack in case of a flat. The Genuine Innovations Air Chuck Inflator is a nice choice and comes with two cartridges.

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Tubes

It’s been our experience that the worst things happen when you’re as far as possible from the car. Packing a spare tube in your hydration pack, even if you’re running a tubeless setup, is a good way to avoid doing the long walk of shame out of your favorite trail system.

Tire Levers: Muddy Fox Tire Levers

Sometimes you get lucky and mountain bike tires just pop off when changing a tire: other times, it’s a struggle. Muddy Fox tire levers weigh practically nothing and you’ll be glad you snuck them into your hydration bag if you need them.

Multi-Tool: Blackburn Bike Tradesman

Any number of things can go wrong on a mountain bike and it’s best to plan for the eventuality of a mechanical failure. The Blackburn Bike Tradesman is equipped with all of the hex and torque keys you’ll need to make on-trail adjustments. We love that it includes a quick-link tool and are extremely appreciative of the integrated quick-link storage (make sure to use it and always carry a backup quick-link).

Après: Yeti Rambler Colster

Just because ski season is over doesn’t mean après beverages have to end. The Yeti Rambler Colster is perfect for keeping your beverage cold and covert when you’re winding down post-ride.

 

Lastly, before hitting the trail, give your mountain bike a good once over as detailed in our article Tuned Up: Your Spring Mountain Bike Walk-around—issues are much easier to resolve at home than on the trail.

Did we forget an essential piece of your kit or miss a critical item you never leave home without? If so, we want to hear about it! Leave your must-have item in the comments below.

 


13 Things to Think About When Buying a Trad Rack

Building your first trad rack can feel overwhelming. There are so many choices, it’s a big cash outlay to buy all at once, and it’s hard to know exactly what you’ll need. If you’re in the market for a trad rack right now, here are some things to keep in mind.

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1. Know What You Need

The specific gear you’ll need to protect yourself on a route—the “rack”— varies from climb to climb. That said, a basic trad rack starts with three general components: stoppers, cams, and draws.

2. You Don’t Have to Buy Everything at Once

It’s fine to build your trad rack a few pieces at a time. Several nuts here, some discounted cams there and the expense bar won’t seem as high. Moreover, if you watch for when manufacturers introduce an updated model—like Black Diamond just did for its C4 cams—you can often find the older, perfectly good model on deep discount.

3. Try a Variety of Brands

While many established trad climbers are particular about the brand of their gear, what works best for them may not suit your needs. Before you commit to buying a full size run of cams or nuts, try out a variety of brands to find out what you like best.

4. Borrow

One way to get a feel for the various brands is to experiment with someone else’s gear. Next time you’re at the crag, grab pieces from friends’ racks and place a few of them. Are some easier for you to place than others? Even better, find someone you trust whose gear you can use regularly before committing to buying a rack yourself. This is one of the biggest advantages to finding a mentor.

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5. Where Are You Going?

Think about where you’ll use your rack. A standard desert rack is different than a standard rack for sending a classic like the Northeast Ridge of the Pinnacle on New Hampshire’s Mount Washington. Do a little research (a few Google searches or prowling Mountain Project forums will suffice) about what is required for your area or desired climbing destinations.

6. Approach Secondhand Gear Cautiously

Don’t skimp. Avoid secondhand gear unless you know exactly how it was used and by whom—and even then, you should carefully inspect it (actually, you should inspect all gear, even newly purchased). While gear is expensive, if you intend to trad climb, pay your dues. Climbers get in trouble when they try to be cheap. Nothing is more valuable than your life.

7. Think About How Your Gear Overlaps

Understanding how various types of pieces cover overlapping sizes will allow you to build a more versatile and cost-effective rack. Tri-cams are key here. They can be placed passively like a nut or actively like a cam, allowing them to do double duty as your larger nuts and smaller cams. For this reason, Camp’s 0.5 Tri-Cam Evo is a staple of many a Northeast climber’s rack.

8. Get Good at Placing Nuts

Nuts are much less expensive than cams, which means you can purchase 4 to 5 of them for every cam. They also weigh a lot less, so you can carry 3 to 4 for every mid-sized cam, giving you a lot more options for placing gear and building anchors. Additionally, you won’t feel as bad if you have to leave a couple nuts as part of a bail anchor if you end up on a route that’s too hard for you.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

9. The Necessity of a Nut Tool

Yes, nuts are cheaper than cams—but leaving them behind on a climb because they got stuck can add up fast (and is poor form). Add a Black Diamond Nut Tool to the end of your rack for freeing passive protection, grabbing triggers on cams placed too deep, and popping celebratory beers at the end of the day. It won’t take long for the nut tool to start paying for itself.

10. Don’t Forget the Alpine Draws

A trad rack is more than just nuts and cams. The third critical component is the draws you’ll use to attach the gear to the rope. Sure, you can probably “get by” with your sport draws, but the first time you climb a wandering route, you’ll really appreciate how the extra extension of an alpine draw really helps cut down on rope drag.

11. What Goes Up Must Come Down

The shiny cams and nuts used to protect climbers as they move up the rock draw the majority the attention when building a trad rack; however, many traditional climbs in the Northeast require a climber to rappel. The addition of a simple autoblock to your rack is a great way to back up rappels and protect yourself on the descent.

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12. Practice, Practice, Practice

It’s natural to dream of owning a massive Yosemite rack and to have a gear room overflowing with cams, but seasoned trad climbers will tell you that the art of trad climbing is doing more with less. Trad gear is heavy and awkward to carry—learning how your gear works and being proficient at placing it allows climbers to carry less and climb more. The best way to do this is to find a rock (you don’t even need to be able to climb it) and begin placing as much gear as possible.

13. Check Your Head

Helmets (the Petzl Sirocco is a long-time favorite) might be passé for the bouldering, sport climbing, and top roping crowds (even if it shouldn’t be), but the potential for dropped gear and loose rock make it essential for trad climbers. After all, a climber’s best tool is their head (okay, and strong fingers).

 

Do you have a gear tip for new trad climbers that we missed? If so, leave it in the comments!


Kitted Out: Fast and Light Peakbagging

Whether you’re pursuing Vermont’s tallest peaks, tackling classic hikes such as the Presidential Traverse, or looking to bag a popular summit like Mount Monadnock, having the right gear is critical for success, safety, and comfort in the mountains. If you’re starting to pull together your peakbagging kit for the summer, here are some tried-and-true pieces to take with you into the mountains.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Pack: Osprey  Talon 22

If you take too big of a pack into the mountains, you’re liable to overpack. By contrast, if you bring too small a pack, you might be forced to leave an essential item behind. For just the right balance, try a pack like the Osprey Talon 22. The panel-loading Talon 22 has all of the features you need for moving through the mountains, and none of the features you don’t—helping keep it airy enough for the “light is right” crowd but durable enough to stand up to a big day in the Carter Range.

Hydration Bladder: CamelBak Crux 2L Reservoir

A key to moving fast in the mountains is minimizing stopping, and by allowing hikers to drink on the move, hydration bladders put an end to time-consuming water breaks. The Black Diamond Speed Zip 24 is hydration compatible, meaning a bladder like the 2-liter CamelBak Crux, will slide right into it. CamelBak has been making bladders since the beginning—they’re easy to drink from, simple to fill, and require minimal effort to fill.

Hiking Poles: Leki Micro Vario Core-Teck

Improved hiking efficiency, reduced wear and tear on joints, and increased safety are just a few reasons why you should hike with trekking poles. Trekking poles like the Leki Micro Vario Core-Tec (men’s/women’s) collapse small enough to tuck away inside/are easily stowed on the outside of a pack when not in use, are adjustable for adapting to a variety of terrain, have interchangeable baskets (making them appropriate for four-season use), and are sturdy enough to stand up to rugged Northeast terrain.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Headlamp: Petzl Tikka

Even if you’re just going for a short trip up a state highpoint like Massachusetts’ Mount Greylock, it’s a good idea to carry a headlamp. A headlamp can save you from epicing in the dark if a trip takes longer than anticipated and can be used to signal for help in an emergency. The Petzl Tikka is powerful with a maximum of 200 lumens and has been a standout of Petzl’s headlamp line for years.  

Sunglasses: Julbo

Whether you’re trying to complete the Adirondacks’ 46 peaks over 4,000 feet or New Hampshire’s 52 with a View, odds are you’ll be spending some time above treeline and in the sun—making sunglasses a good addition to your hiking kit. With options to fit all types of faces and a wide variety of styles, the “right” pair differs between individuals. That said, we love Julbo shades (the crazier the color scheme, the better). Look for something polarized and get a hard case to protect them in your pack.

Puffy: EMS Alpine Ascender

It’s easy to be lulled into complacency by mild spring and summer weather at the trailhead, but be advised that it could still feel like winter at higher elevations—for example, the record high temperature on New Hampshire’s Mount Washington is just 72 degrees. Because of this, it’s a good idea to always pack a puffy coat. The EMS Alpine Ascender delivers the warmth needed for frigid peaks and frosty ridgelines while still being breathable enough to wear on the move.

Hardshell: Outdoor Research Helium II

Mark Twain famously said, “If you don’t like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes.” With that in mind, pack a hardshell to deal with the Northeast’s fickle weather. The Outdoor Research Helium II (men’s/women’s) is a long-time favorite for summer conditions due to its lightweight packability and weather protection (which was essential as we explored Camel’s Hump, a Vermont classic).

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Windshirt: Black Diamond Alpine Start

Probably the layer that gets used the most, a windshirt is perfect for everything from taking the chill off of early morning starts to keeping you warm when the wind is whipping above treeline. The Black Diamond Alpine Start (men’s/women’s) is light and packable enough that it never gets left behind and has proven itself capable of standing up against the region’s coarse rock that would shred lesser jackets.

Sunshirt: Black Diamond Alpenglow Sun Hoody

Sunshirts are an integral part of any peakbagger’s kit, especially when above treeline—on Cadillac Mountain’s South Ridge Trail, for example—as they offer protection from the sun, help keep hikers cool, and efficiently wick sweat away from the body. A nice bonus of sunshirts is that they also offer protection from bugs, making them a particularly well-loved piece during the Northeast’s seemingly interminable black fly season. The Black Diamond Alpenglow Sun Hoody (men’s/women’s) delivers 50-UPF protection and features a hood to help keep the sun off your head, neck, and face.  

Trail Runners: Salomon Speedcross

Moving fast is essential to picking off multiple peaks in a day on hikes like the infamous Pemi Traverse. Not only is the old saying “a pound off your feet equals five pounds off your back” true, but heavy footwear affects hikers in other ways too. For example, the stiff and less responsive nature of heavier footwear reduces the body’s efficiency—resulting in 5% more energy expended. Shoes are an incredibly personal decision, but in the past, we’ve had luck with the Salomon Speedcross (men’s/women’s). The Speedcross delivers superb traction in a variety of terrains, lightweight, and enough cushion for comfort even the longest days in the mountains. Pair them with Smartwool’s PhD Pro Light Crew Socks (men’s/women’s) for a fantastic fit and smooth stride.

Pants: Outdoor Research Ferrosi Pant

If you haven’t tried the Outdoor Research Ferrosi Pant (men’s/women’s) yet, you’re missing out. Perfect for all but the warmest days, these are staple of our summer peakbagging kits. If you run warm, the Ferrosi Short (men’s/women’s) is awesome, too.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Other Essentials

It’s always a good idea to stash a first aid kit, emergency bivy, map and compass, hat (men’s/women’s) and gloves or mittens (men’s/women’s)— yes, even in the summer, communication device, fire starter, and some extra food in your pack as well. While we hope you never need any of it, it’s nice to be prepared in an emergency.

Do you have a key piece of peakbagging gear that didn’t make our list? If so, let us know what it is and why you don’t hit the trail without it in the comments below.


Second to None: NH’s Off-List 4,000-Footers

Since 1957, the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) has encouraged hikers to visit all the summits over 4,000 feet in New Hampshire. The club maintains a list of the 48 peaks that meet its exacting criteria: the peak must be over 4,000 feet tall and rise 200 feet above any ridge connecting it to a higher neighboring summit. But those focused solely on summiting the 48 listed peaks have probably overlooked a handful of beautiful 4,000-footers, just because they lack sufficient prominence to be considered independent 4,000-footers and thus aren’t on the AMC’s list. Read on for a few off-list 4,000-footers that should be on your list this summer.

READ MORE: 10 Tips to Tackle the New Hampshire 48

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

South Peak

Located approximately a mile from the summit of Mount Moosilauke, the highest peak in the western Whites is the 4,523-foot summit of South Peak. Easily ticked by hikers as they traverse the ridge line toward Mount Moosilauke’s summit, it is accessed by a short spur trail near the junction of the Glencliff Trail and the Carriage Road.

Those making the 0.2-mile jaunt will be amply rewarded, as South Peak’s summit delivers a spectacular 270-degree view not all that different from the one found on Moosilauke’s summit. In fact, sit back, take in the quiet, and enjoy roughly the same view, along with a stellar perspective of Mount Moosilauke and the people crowding its summit.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Little Haystack Mountain

Sandwiched between 4,459-foot Mount Liberty and 5,089-foot Mount Lafayette is 4,760-foot Haystack Mountain—or simply Little Haystack—the only 4,000-footer on the iconic Franconia Ridge that doesn’t count toward the NH48. The most straightforward way to Little Haystack’s summit is via the 3-mile Falling Waters trail, which leaves from the Lafayette Campground parking lot on the north side of Route 93.

Little Haystack is often climbed by hikers as part of a Franconia Ridge Traverse, but is a worthy objective in its own right. Located near the middle of Franconia Ridge, the summit affords a fantastic perspective of Liberty to the south and Lincoln and Lafayette to the North. To the west is the imposing rock face of Cannon Mountain and the Kinsmans while the Bonds are to the east with Mount Washington and the Presidentials on the horizon behind them.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Mount Guyot

With the Twins to the north, the Bonds to the south, and Zealand to the east, the 4,580-foot Mount Guyot is surrounded by 4,000-footers. Despite being near so many peakbagger-provoking summits, Mount Guyot is one of the more difficult-to-access, non-counting 4,000-footers and is commonly summitted by hikers as part of longer trips that hit other peaks on the NH48, such as a Bond Traverse or Pemi Loop. In fact, it’s difficult to climb Guyot without summiting at least one 4,000-footer that counts toward the AMC’s list. The easiest route to Guyot’s summit is up and over Zealand Mountain—leaving the trailhead off of Zealand Road, hikers will follow the Zealand Trail for 2.5 miles before joining the Twinway for roughly 3 miles to the summit of Zealand Mountain, from there continuing another 1.3 miles to the summit of Mount Guyot.

Although Mount Guyot requires a lot of effort for a peak that doesn’t count on your list (for now, anyway), the effort is worth it and the seclusion and sights found there make it one of the best summits (it’s actually two bald domes separated by about a tenth of a mile—the southern dome boasts a cairn, but summit them both) in the White Mountains. Surrounded by stone and Krumholz on the summit, hikers are afforded a fantastic view of Franconia Ridge to the west, the Presidentials to the east, and the Bonds and the eastern portion of the Pemigewasset Wilderness sprawled in front of you. Go ahead and look for a sign of civilization—no roads or huts are visible from Guyot’s bald summit.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Mount Clay

Nestled in the Northern Presidentials between 5,712-foot Mount Jefferson and 6,288-foot Mount Washington is 5,533-foot Mount Clay. Like many of the other peaks on this list, Mount Clay is often an afterthought of hikers in the midst of more ambitious pursuits like a Presidential Traverse—although they will have to make a slight diversion which adds about a one-third of a mile onto the Mount Clay Loop. To hike Mount Clay directly, hikers leave on the Jewell Trail (the last trail discussed here) across the street from the Ammonoosuc Ravine Parking lot and follow it for 3.7 miles to the Mount Clay Loop which, after a little more than a half-mile, brings you to the summit of Mount Clay.

Above treeline and in the middle of one of the most rugged and beautiful sections of the White Mountains, the views from Mount Clay can be counted among the most spectacular in the Whites—presenting an awesome vantage point for viewing the Northern Presidentials, Mount Washington, and the Cog Railway. Watch your step and enjoy the peek into the Great Gulf (the largest glacial cirque in the White Mountains), which falls precipitously away from Clay’s summit.

Credit: Doug Martland
Credit: Doug Martland

Mount Hight

Home to some of the best views in the Whites, the 4,675-foot summit of Mount Hight should be on every peakbagger’s list. Just a short detour away from the summit of Carter Dome, the alpine zone atop Hight offers fantastic 360-degree views of the Presidentials (including all the major ravines on Washington’s east side), the Carter Range, and the Wild River Wilderness. Whether you’re doing a day hike in the Carters or doing a full range traverse, don’t miss this awesome subpeak.

The easiest way to get to Mount Hight is to climb Carter Dome via the Nineteen Mile Brook and Carter Dome Trails. From the summit, backtrack down the Carter Dome Trail until the Appalachian Trail and its white rectangular blazes bear off right. Follow the AT for a short distance until it opens up to a beautiful alpine zone. While we recommend hanging out as long as possible in this awesome spot, when it’s time to go, continue north on the AT until it re-intersects with the Carter Dome Trail. Round trip, the hike clocks in at just over 10 miles.

 

Know of another spectacular sub-peak in the Whites that should be on every hikers’ list this summer? Tell us in the comments.


A Dirtbag’s Guide to the KonMari Method

Whether you have a whole “gearage” to store your outdoor essentials or are living in the tight confines of a 150-square-foot Sprinter van, everyone can benefit from getting more organized. After all, the more organized you are, the easier it is to get outside with all the gear needed for your chosen adventure. That’s right, no more embarrassing moments showing up to the trailhead without your pack, the ski resort without your helmet, or the crag without your harness (all things one of us has done over the years). Also gone are those stressful moments packing when you just can’t remember (again) where you left your headlamp!

Who is Marie Kondo?

These days, when talking about organization, one person stands out like a booty carabiner just below the crux of a climb: Marie Kondo. If you haven’t heard of Marie Kondo, she’s the Alex Honnold of home tidiness thanks to her incredibly popular book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, and her Netflix show, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.

If you prefer reading guidebooks and endlessly rewatching Free Solo on Hulu to either Marie Kondo’s book or television show (we don’t blame you), and you’re simply looking for a few tips for cleaning up your dirtbag existence, you’re in luck. Below we’ve distilled the KonMari Method down to a few simple steps.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Tackle Categories

Decluttering and organizing your gear room with the KonMari Method might seem overwhelming at first, especially if you participate in numerous gear-laden sports (i.e., you have backcountry ski stuff, climbing gear, a backpacking kit, too many trail runners to count, and probably some sort of big floating thing for a water sport). And unless you’re super-organized, it’s probably all a mess, too.

If tackling the organization of all that stuff at once sounds overwhelming, try this instead—focus on the gear for a single activity at a time. Collecting, laying out, and going through all of your gear for one sport at a time will help you get a better picture of what you have, what you need, and, most importantly, what you don’t. Take your climbing rack, for example. Do you really need four red C4s? Probably not, unless you’re going to Indian Creek sometime soon.

Everything Has a Place

One of the simplest lessons you can take from Marie Kondo is to make sure all of your gear has its own proper, functional place to reside. When designating places for your gear, try to keep like items near each other. For instance, store your climbing gear near your climbing shoes, climbing helmet, and chalk bag. That way you might actually bring your helmet the next time you go climbing (getting you to wear it, however, is another story).

At the end of an adventure, don’t just dump your pack in the corner—make sure that all of your gear is returned to its designated place. This includes going through all of your pockets (jacket, pants, pack, etc.) to ensure no small items, like your Buff or headlamp, are hiding and not returned to their proper spots.

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Just Say No to Nostalgia

Everyone seems to have an item (or items) that they just can’t get rid of for sentimental sake. But whether it’s your first fleece, your all-time favorite set of skis, or the cam that held your first whipper, this stuff isn’t doing an overcrowded gear room any favors. So why are you holding on to it? If you find that once-favored item is being moved a lot more than used and eliciting more frustration than joy, it’s time for it to go.

The same can be said for swag. If your gear room is cluttered with t-shirts from 5ks that you never wear, logoed pint glasses that collect dust, or an endless amount of koozies and bottle openers that you never use, it’s time for them to go.

For the same reasons, now is the time to get rid of the gear from the sport you no longer participate in. Indeed, even if you plan on getting back into something like rock climbing in the future, all your gear has a natural lifespan and you’ll be safer (and better attired) if you invest in some new duds after a lengthy hiatus.

Only Keep Joyful Items

The KonMari method isn’t about discarding items, it’s about deciding what to keep. When going through your gear room, hold each item in your hand and ask the question: Does this bring me joy? It might seem silly—after all, how much joy can an old pack evoke?—but you’ll be surprised how quickly the answer will come to you.

That softshell you never wear because of its weird color (no wonder it was on the clearance rack)? Gift it to a friend who desperately needs a gear upgrade. Those old climbing skins that need to be reglued but you’re holding onto as a backup “just in case”? It’s time to toss them. The toe-crunching climbing shoes that never quite broke in enough to wear? Put them on eBay.

Store Bags in Bags

Participation in a variety of outdoor sports often results in a ridiculous number of bags—backpacking bags for multi-day trips, crag packs for climbing, and hydration packs for mountain biking are just the tip of the iceberg. All of these bags take up a lot of space!

Marie Kondo has a simple solution for reducing the room needed to store all of your bags and make it easy to find what you need when you need it. She suggests simply nesting like bags inside one another.

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Make Gear Yours

We’ve had a long tradition among friends of showing up to the trailhead, crag, or hill with new gear still in its package or with the tags still on. The fun of the tradition was making a big production of unwrapping the new gear in front of everyone and hopefully getting some joy by sparking some envy. Much to our chagrin, the KonMari Method advises against this.

According to Kondo, we should take the tags off of our gear right away. Clothing and gear with tags still on has not yet been made our own—they’re products, not possessions. When we take the tags off, we not only assert ownership, but we’re more likely to start using it and stop saving it.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Kondo says in her book: “Even if we remain unaware of it, our belongings really work hard for us, carrying out their respective roles each day to support our lives.” This feels especially true of outdoor gear, so we should take special care in treating it well by giving it a place to rest that gives the item time to breathe.

This element of the KonMari Method is easily applied to outdoor gear—for example, store your climbing gear out of the sun, kick or scrape any mud off your boots before putting them in their rightful place, and wash your smelly, dirty puffy when it needs it.

 

These are just a few ways to use the KonMari Method to tidy up your gear room and put yourself on the path to a neater, more organized outdoor existence. If you like the results, maybe stop thumbing that Rumney Guidebook or take a break from Free Solo and pick up Marie Kondo’s book or check out her Netflix show.

If you have any tips for organizing your gear room or have applied the KonMari Method to your gear room, we want to hear about it! Leave your story in the comments and help convince us that our treadless trail runners are no longer bringing us joy.

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How to Choose a Rain Shell

When you need a good rain shell, you really need a good rain shell. When the clouds open up or the wind kicks in, having a good layer between you and the elements is essential to keeping you moving, happy, comfortable, and safe in the mountains. But the diversity of rain shells available to shoppers today is incredible, with jackets ranging from under $100 to pushing well above $500. So what is the difference between these shells? And, more important, what type of raincoat is “best” for what you want to do?

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Waterproofness and Breathability

No matter the outdoor activity, you’ll want a jacket that’s waterproof and breathable (i.e., a jacket that prevents rain from penetrating the shell while also moving perspiration from the inside of the jacket to the outside). Because waterproof/breathable jackets must account for moisture in both directions—shielding water on the exterior and moving moisture from the interior—they compromise some of both attributes to balance performance.

For example, a rubber rain slicker is great at keeping water out, but because rubber doesn’t breathe, wearing one while doing anything active will leave you soaked in sweat. Likewise, a Techwick t-shirt excels at moving moisture, but don’t expect it to keep you dry during a rainstorm. Fortunately for consumers, the industry has developed two ratings (a waterproofness rating and a breathability rating) to indicate how a jacket will perform and make comparing products easier.

Waterproof Ratings

A raincoat’s water resistance is measured by how many millimeters of water it will hold before it leaks—most commonly represented as 20K, 15K, and 10K. To paint a clearer picture, imagine putting a one-inch by one-inch tube on your 10K-rated raincoat—you could fill that tube with water to a height of 10,000 mm before water would begin to leak through. That’s almost 33 feet high!

READ MORE: 10K, 20L? What Waterproof and Breathability Ratings Really Mean

Jackets rated to 10K are generally capable of handling light rain and snow for a short amount of time, while 15K-rated jackets can protect against moderate rain and snow for a longer duration. 20K-rated jackets provide the best defense against moisture and are able to guard against heavy rain and wet snow.

Breathability Rating

A shell’s breathability is also represented as 20K, 15K, and 10K, only this time the number is representative of the amount of water vapor it can move through one square meter of fabric—from inside to out—over the course of 24 hours.

Jackets with breathability rated to 10K are ideal for  less vigorous activities where you’re less likely to break a sweat, like commuting and travel while 15K jackets are slightly more breathable and better-suited for things like alpine skiing or ice climbing. Jackets rated to 20K provide maximum breathability and are the choice of athletes moving quickly through the mountains: hikers, climbers, and anyone doing something more physical.

While these jackets are rated for breathability, it’s worth noting that numerous factors, such as the temperature and humidity, can affect the breathability of a jacket.

Air Permeability

Although breathability and air permeability are often used interchangeably, there is a subtle difference between the two. A waterproof/breathable raincoat needs water buildup or pressure inside the jacket to push moisture out—meaning moisture transport stops when a person stops moving. Conversely, air permeable shells constantly allow air and moisture in and out. However, because air permeable shells allow constant air exchange, they are not completely windproof like traditional waterproof/breathable jackets.

Air permeable shells are still in their relative infancy and can cost substantially more than a traditional raincoat. Keep your eyes peeled for more of these slick slickers in the future.

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2-Layer, 2.5-Layer, and 3-Layer Construction

Rain shells are constructed in three different ways: 2-layer, 2.5-layer, and 3-layer. In many respects, how a jacket is constructed explains its performance better than its waterproof/breathability rating, with 3-layer raincoats being the highest performing and 2-layer jackets being the lowest.

3-Layer Raincoats

3-layer rain jackets are constructed by bonding three layers of fabric together, with a waterproof/breathable membrane sandwiched between a face and liner fabric. The body-facing liner fabric helps prevent sweat and oils from clogging the microscopic pores of the waterproof membrane (for improved breathability), while also helping disperse moisture on the jacket’s inside. Because of this, 3-layer jackets often don’t feel as clammy as other types of shells. The multiple layers also make these shells the most rugged and durable of the three types of raincoats—making them the best choice for people who spend a lot of time outdoors and in wet weather. There is, however, a performance premium, as 3-layer shells can be heavier than other options.

2.5-Layer Raincoats

Most shells found at Eastern Mountain Sports, and other retailers, are 2.5-layer shells. 2.5-layer shells are made of a face fabric that’s bonded with a waterproof/breathable membrane with an inner coating (the half layer) designed to protect the membrane from abrasion and microscopic-pore clogging sweat, oil, and dirt from your body. Balancing performance and affordability, 2.5-layer shells breathe well and are durable, packable, and reasonably priced, making them a great choice for enthusiasts on a budget.

2-Layer Raincoats

The improvements in technology and the subsequent reduction in prices of 2.5-layer jackets have, for the most part, relegated 2-layer jackets to urban and non-technical use. Two-layer raincoats feature a waterproof/breathable membrane bonded to an outer face fabric. Because 2-layer shells lack the half-layer found on the insides of 2.5-layer coats, they often use an additional hanging liner of mesh (or other lightweight material) to protect the membrane.

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Waterproof/Breathable Membrane

The most well-known waterproof/breathable membrane is GORE-TEX, a high-performance fabric that has set the standard for rain jackets for the last 25 years. There are now several types of GORE-TEX membranes in addition to the original: Active (for, you guessed it, highly aerobic activities), Pro (for the most extreme conditions), and Paclite (for lightweight, super-packable shells).

Almost every company making outdoor clothing has a proprietary waterproof/breathable membrane. For EMS, it’s System 3; for The North Face, it’s HyVent; and for Marmot, it’s MemBrain. They are all great and, because they are company-specific, sometimes mean that you’ll be getting a more reasonable price on the jacket.

The final membrane worth mentioning is NeoShell. Manufactured by Polartec, it’s most interesting because it is as waterproof/breathable as the other membranes, without requiring as much internal pressure buildup to force the exchange. In other words, NeoShell provides more natural thermoregulation.

Durable Water Repellents (DWR)

Almost all waterproof/breathable rain shells feature a durable water repellent finish (DWR). The DWR finish found on raincoats is what causes water to bead up and roll off the outside of the jacket. However, this finish wears off over time and with use. When the DWR finish wears off, the jacket’s surface fabric can soak through, negatively affecting the breathability of the jacket and giving the jacket a cold, clammy feeling.

Luckily, reapplying the DWR treatment to your shell is easy.

READ MORE: A Guide to Picking the Ridge Nikwax Product

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Other Features

With all the technical aspects of today’s raincoats covered, there are still some other features that you should consider before purchasing your next raincoat.

Hood

An overwhelming majority of raincoats have hoods. After all, how good can a jacket designed to protect you from the rain be with a giant hole in the top? A nice touch found on many of the hoods on today’s jackets are adjustments to ensure a proper fit. Another consideration, especially if you plan to use the raincoat for mountaineering, ice climbing, or skiing, is if the jacket’s hood can accommodate a helmet.

Rain jackets typically come with one of two types of hood configurations: storm hoods and drop hoods. Storm hoods are directly integrated into the jacket while drop hoods have a separate collar that the hood pulls over. Drop hoods are particularly popular with people participating in winter sports, as they protect a person’s face from the elements even when the hood is down.

Seam Taping vs. Welding

Rain shells are built by combining multiple sections of waterproof/breathable material together. Manufacturers use two methods to secure these pieces—typically the body, arms, and hood—together: stitching and welding (attaching pieces with adhesive or fusing the pieces with ultrasonic bonding), both of which result in seams.

Welding seams is the lightest and least bulky option. The other advantage of welded seams is that there are no holes in the fabric, so water can’t sneak in.

Rain jackets that are stitched together require seam tape to waterproof the holes created by sewing. There are two common methods of seam taping: “fully taped” and “critically taped.” On a fully taped shell, every seam is covered with tape, while a critically taped shell typically only has the most critical seams taped.

It’s not uncommon to find raincoats using both methods of construction with high-usage, high-stress areas like arms and shoulders while incorporating welded construction into zippers and pockets.

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Denier

The denier of the fabric used to make a raincoat is another clear indicator of the jacket’s overall durability. The denier of a fabric refers to its density—the higher the number the denser (and therefore stronger), the fabric is. So if you’re planning on doing a lot of abrasive outdoor activities, get a jacket with a high denier number.

Zippers

Zippers are another chink in a rainshell’s armor. Manufacturers address this in one of two ways: a laminated zipper or a storm flap. Laminated zippers offer users a waterproof zipper option and are lighter and more packable, but they can also be tricky to zip. Less effective but more affordable, a storm flap is simply an additional piece of fabric that covers the zipper that prevents it from being directly exposed to rain and snow.

It’s also not uncommon to find jackets with both types of zippers—for example, the main zipper with a storm flap and pockets with laminated zippers.

Venting

Even the best rain jackets can fail to keep up with a user’s breathability needs during strenuous activity. Because of this, most rainwear features some manner of venting. The most common style of venting is pit zips or underarm vents. However, some jackets use other methods, like large pockets on the torso that double as vents. No matter what system is used, the idea is the same—to allow better air circulation.

Packability

Another consideration when choosing a rain shell is how packable it needs to be. If you’re using a shell for alpine skiing, the answer may be not very, but if you’re pursuing light-and-fast hikes, a super-packable shell might be very beneficial. Be aware, however, that ultralight raincoats typically have to make a sacrifice in order to achieve their lighter status, which means they’re either not as rugged or waterproof as more robust models.

Fit

Fit is another important characteristic to deliberate before buying your next raincoat, since the way the jacket fits will affect how you use it going forward. When sizing your raincoat, consider whether or not you plan on layering underneath it. If so, keep in mind that you’ll need extra room to accommodate those layers. Indeed, you may even find that you’ll need different rainwear for different conditions.

 

Do you have any tips for selecting a rain shell? If so, we want to hear them—leave them in the comments section below.

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Tradition or Truth in New Hampshire’s White Mountains

The goal of climbing New Hampshire’s 48 mountains over 4,000 feet in elevation and joining the Four Thousand Footer Club has a 60+ year history dating back to 1957. However, over the past few years, the United States Geographical Survey (USGS) has been re-examining the topography of the White Mountains using Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR), and has made a shocking discovery: at least one of the 48–Mount Tecumseh, the shortest of the 48 4,000-footers—is actually 8 feet shorter than previously thought, putting this now-3,995 foot peak in jeopardy of being excluded from the AMC’s list of recognized 4,000-footers. And while 8 feet is small potatoes in most contexts, for the list-conscious hikers among us, it’s a huge deal.

But, the potential “losers” list may be broader than just Tecumseh. To date, the USGS hasn’t yet made all of the survey data collected public and the AMC has only evaluated the new information pertaining to 26 of the 48 4,000-footers. Still, with more accurate mapping technology available and more survey data to be reviewed, it’s safe to assume that low-lying 4,000-footers besides Mount Tecumseh could be in jeopardy of losing their status as 4,000-footers. Mount Isolation (4,004 feet) and Mount Waumbek (4,006 feet) are two candidates that come to mind. “The NH45” doesn’t have the same ring.

Of course, during the new survey, some mountains could find themselves picking up elevation. For example, at 3,993 feet, Sandwich Dome is just 7 feet shy of the magical mark under the old standards—is it possible it’s “grown”?

Likewise, some peaks could see their prominence (to qualify as a 4,000-footer, a peak must have a minimum rise of 200 feet from all surrounding peaks) increase, thus making them new additions for the 4,000-footer list. Indeed, according to the new data, Guyot now has sufficient prominence on the side facing South Twin. However, the data from Guyot’s other side has either yet to be released or analyzed. But if substantiated, it would mean that a full Pemi-Loop would net a peak-bagger 13—not 12—4,000-footers in one trip.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

How Will This Affect List-Conscious Hikers?

Revising the list of 4,000-footers in New Hampshire is certain to send shockwaves through the peak-bagging community. For many pursuing the NH48, this will surely alter their plans—possibly adding new peaks to their lists while subtracting others. For those with more committed projects—like gridding—changes to the list could significantly complicate their quests. Meanwhile, for those competing for a fastest known time (FKT) for completing New Hampshire’s 48 4,000-footers, subtracting Tecumseh could save a speed-hiker a couple of hours (including drive time, of course).

The flux in elevations of the New Hampshire 48 thus begs the question: How, if at all, will the AMC adjust the list? Will it just change the list to reflect the mountains’ true elevations? Or will it continue to include some of these now-“lesser” peaks on the list even though they no longer technically qualify? Believe it or not, this isn’t the first time the list keepers in the Northeast have faced the question.

History of AMC Changes

In the past, the AMC has adjusted the list according to a peak’s true elevation. In fact, the story of the New Hampshire 4,000-footers begins with just 46 peaks, ironically mirroring what was thought to be the number of Adirondack peaks over 4,000 feet in elevation. It wasn’t until the USGS published a new South Twin Mountain quadrangle that the New Hampshire 4,000-footers became 48 with the addition of Galehead Mountain in 1975, followed by Bondcliff in 1980. The most recent change came in 1998, when new survey data lead to Wildcat D replacing Wildcat E on the list of 4,000-footers.

Despite these changes, the AMC has not, to our knowledge anyway, ever just subtracted a 4,000-footer from the list. Indeed, even when they swapped the Wildcats, they made clear that ascents under the old standard would still “count.”

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

An Adirondack Tradition

With a tradition dating further back than New Hampshire’s (Robert Marshall, George Marshall, and Herbert Clark first completed the Adirondack 46 in 1925) more than 10,000 hikers have followed in their footsteps since, according to the ADK46ers—the ADK46 list is more steeped in tradition than true elevation, as more recent USGS surveys have shown 4 peaks to fall short of 4,000 feet, while one peak found to meet the essential elevation has been omitted (MacNaughton Mountain). Despite the updated information, the ADK46ers continue using the same list of 46 peaks that was used back in 1925. And, as two Tecumseh traditionalists—to be clear, we’ve hiked the mountain a lot—this could be a great solution in New Hampshire as well.

 

Given all this, what do you think the AMC should do? Would you be excited to see a new list and a new challenge? Or, would you prefer the AMC keep the tradition of the 48 alive? We want to hear! Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.


Don’t Be a Fool: Stop Doing These 10 Things While Spring Hiking

April Fool’s Day is a time best known for pranks and jokes. It’s also a time of tricky conditions in the mountains as winter gives way to spring. Mud, ice, snow, unexpected weather, high rivers and more can all add challenges to spring hiking that we don’t see year-round.  Keep reading to avoid being the joker who gets caught unprepared hiking this spring.

1. Lighthearted Layering

Don’t get the wool pulled over your eyes by the warm weather in the parking lot. Instead, be prepared to add layers to your body as the early spring weather in the high mountains rarely aligns with the warm, sunny conditions you had down low. Wide-ranging weather is common this time of year and often a hike that starts in short sleeves will end in a heavy puffy coat.

2. Footwear Folly

Trail runners might seem like a good idea at the car but could be closer to clown shoes up in the alpine. The additional height of hiking boots keeps snow from scheming against you and sneaking in the top of your shoe. Even better, waterproof footwear keeps you from being bamboozled by wet feet while providing a little extra warmth.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

3. Not-So-Silly Snow

The absence of snow at the trailhead is a common hoax this time of year, tricking hikers into leaving their snowshoes behind. Colder temperatures, more snowfall, and hiker traffic packing down snow on trails can cause it to linger at higher elevations throughout the spring—making snowshoes necessary to avoid being duped into post-holing through unexpected snow.

4. Traction Tomfoolery

Melting snow, spring rain, warm days, and cold nights all conspire to make mischievously icy trails. Pack a pair of traction devices for navigating this tricky terrain and to avoid senseless slipping.

5. Muddy Monkey Business

Trying to avoid mud in the spring is a fool’s errand in the Northeast. When you encounter mud while hiking, either stick to hard surfaces to avoid it or walk through it, as walking around it on soft surfaces widens the trail, damages the delicate ground, and leaves behind a long-term record of your mischievous misbehavior.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

6. Worrying Water Crossings

Snowmelt and spring rains increase runoff, swelling mountain streams and rivers, making otherwise benign water crossings deceptively difficult. No laughing matter, take the time to find the best place—i.e., where the water is shallow and slow-moving, or where rocks protruding above the water’s surface form a natural bridge—even if it means spending a few extra minutes searching up and downstream.

7. Trekking Pole Trick

Carrying trekking poles is an easy way to avoid being the butt of the joke when it comes to mud, ice, and water crossings. There are so many reasons to use trekking poles, including that they let you probe mud and water depth, and help increase balance and stability while making tough crossings and moves on slippery rock.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

8. Deceived by the Dark

The days are still short this time of year, heightening the risk of getting benighted. Don’t get hoodwinked and hike without a headlamp; Hiking in the dark is a punchline no one wants to hear.

9. Wait for a Less Foolish Day

Sometimes the conditions just don’t line up—treacherous water crossings, too-slushy snow, and unstable weather are just a few pranksters that can disrupt even the best-laid plans. If things don’t look right, consider picking a different objective or call it a day early.

10. Whacky Weather

It’s undeniable that spring is known for its comically inconsistent conditions. One way to avoid being a victim of this practical joker is by checking conditions. In New Hampshire, the high summits forecast from the Mount Washington Observatory is a great resource for gaining info on expected weather while websites like New England Trail Conditions use community-based reporting to deliver up-to-date trail conditions.

 

Have a spring hiking tip that’s kept you from playing the fool? If so, we want to hear about! Leave it in the comments below.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

This Hike is a Blue Square: The Problems with NYS's Plan to Rate Hikes Like Ski Runs

The New York State Assembly is currently considering a bill that would rate the difficulty of hikes in the same manner in which ski areas rank the difficulty of their trails—black diamond for experts, blue square for intermediates, and green circle for beginners. According to New York State Assemblyman Chris Tague, the bill’s sponsor, the purpose of this trail-rating measure is to improve hiker safety. But this also begs the question—how does slapping a circle, square, or diamond at a trailhead do this?

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While the bill may provide a very generalized assessment of difficulty, it doesn’t say anything definitive about what a hiker is “in for” on a particular trail. Nor does it explain what hikers should be carrying in their packs in case of emergency. This is information that has historically been included in guidebooks and on signage found at many trailheads. Why not refocus this bill toward improving the existing information by consolidating it into an online region-by-region guidebook, then posting detailed trail descriptions at trailheads? That way hikers could easily research their objective before they left home and, if it was a last-minute outing, read about the hike at the trailhead. From websites giving detailed trail descriptions, (such as our Alpha Guides) to dedicated enthusiast websites, to personal blogs, much of this information already exists and consolidating these sources would give hikers a much better picture of what to expect (mileage, elevation, terrain difficulty, etc.) than a single symbol.

From websites giving detailed trail descriptions, to dedicated enthusiast websites, to personal blogs, much of this information already exists and consolidating these sources would give hikers a much better picture of what to expect than a single symbol.

A second concern with the proposal is that it doesn’t account for seasonal and weather-related changes to trail conditions. Consider a situation common to hikers in the Northeast, where icy conditions, a winter snowpack, or a water crossing with high water turn a moderate hike into an epic. Diligent hikers do their research, seeking out an up-to-date picture of what to expect on the trail before they leave home. Is New York going to similarly dedicate staff to changing that green circle into a black diamond when conditions warrant? More so, where community-based websites are already filling this role, aren’t the State’s resources better allocated to helping foster a state-wide trail condition forum like NewEnglandTrailConditions.com or TrailsNH.com (which already cover some of the state’s higher peaks)?

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A third problem is that difficulty is incredibly subjective. Simply scroll through the comments on some of the hiking pieces we’ve written for goEast or on a website such as AllTrails.com and it quickly becomes clear that one person’s easy hike is another’s nightmare. And it’s not just the web where the subjectivity influences trail descriptions and level of challenge—hikers are rarely in sync with the suggested completion times found in popular guidebooks. Once again, the ever-changing nature of trails and weather can play a role in this. Dry conditions and mild temps can make for an easy ascent one day, while slick, wet trails or heat and humidity can lead to struggles the next. It’s not dissimilar to a problem shared by many ski resorts—shred a black diamond run that’s filled with snow and it may feel easy, but encounter it later in the day when the snow has been scraped off and the challenge rises exponentially.

Simply scroll through the comments on some of the hiking pieces we’ve written for goEast or on a website such as AllTrails.com and it quickly becomes clear that one person’s easy hike is another’s nightmare.

It’s not only the dynamic nature of trails that make using a single rating to define their difficulty a problem, but the question also arises, what do we, as hikers, think is difficult? Will the ratings merely be based on mileage and elevation gain? What about the quality of the terrain? After all, a rough and rocky trail is much slower to navigate than a smooth trail. What about how rapidly the elevation is gained? Many of us find a slow, gradual ascent easier than a steeper, more direct ascent. Then, of course, there are technical bits such as water crossings, ladders, and steep sections which, depending on experience and comfort level, will feel easy for some and turn others around.

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Finally, what happens if hikers are planning on using multiple trails? Do two greens equal a blue? Or, three greens equal a black diamond? It seems to us that this system could quickly cause more confusion than it helps to clarify. In addition to sowing confusion, could rating hiking trails like ski runs lead to complacency? For example, would hikers be encouraged to leave behind essentials such as a headlamp because a trail is a green circle?

Do two greens equal a blue? Or, three greens equal a black diamond?

Interest in hiking and exploring our wild places is on the rise and thinking about how to make our trails safer and more inclusive should be on the top of people’s minds, especially those in charge of managing these places. But, while we feel like the New York’s heart is in the right place, we don’t think that rating hiking trails like ski trails is the solution they’re looking for.


The Forest through the Trees: Skiing the GBA’s Glades

If you haven’t skied any of the Granite Backcountry Alliance’s new glades in New Hampshire’s White Mountains yet, you’re missing out. Formed in 2016, the GBA’s mission is to provide low-impact human-powered backcountry skiing opportunities to the public through the creation, improvement, and maintenance of ski glades in New Hampshire and Western Maine. Working in partnerships with public and private landowners, the GBA has so far established five glades, with more on the horizon. Want to sample the GBA’s handiwork? Keep reading for the beta on a few of their most recent projects.

Skiing the trees on Bill Hill. | Credit: Tim Peck
Skiing the trees on Bill Hill. | Credit: Tim Peck

Great Glen North/Bill Hill Glades

Named after a local who “spent some time in them thar hills,” Bill Hill is located on land owned by the Gorham Land Company—who also own the Great Glen Trails, the Mount Washington Auto Road, and the newly opened Glen House Hotel. Categorized by the GBA as a “lunchtime lap” destination, don’t be dissuaded from spending a day sampling the skiing at Bill Hill; The various glades here may be short, but they feature tightly spaced trees in an area that was recently logged and have just the right amount of pitch. On top of that, Bill Hill is north facing so the glades hold snow after a storm.

To access Bill Hill, park in an obvious plowed area on Bellevue Road—just outside of downtown Gorham—and begin skinning on an established snowmobile track to the far end of the airport, which is easily identified by a brick building. Snowmobile traffic here can be heavy at times, especially on the weekends, so keep your guard up, wear bright colors and, if traveling in a group, skin in single file. At the end of the airport, traverse through an open area—that’s also clearly popular with snowmobilers—and loop back along the opposite side of the airstrip for a few hundred yards before entering the woods on the right. If this seems confusing, just picture the approach as a “U.”

Shortly after entering the woods, skiers will come across a mountain bike trail sign reading “For Pete’s Sake.” Follow that trail momentarily before breaking left onto an old logging road that leads to steeper terrain, eventually gaining a ridge and the top of the gladed skiing—if you’re not skiing in the middle of a storm, there is a good chance someone has done the hard work and put in a skin track to follow. From the top of the ridge, there are multiple glades to drop into and enjoy the 600-foot descent through the trees to the old logging road you entered on. From here, either head back up for another run or retrace your steps to the car.

Looking down on the Crescent Glades. | Credit: Tim Peck
Looking down on the Crescent Glades. | Credit: Tim Peck

Crescent Ridge Glade

Another great glade is just up the road in the Randolph Community Forest. Offering something for everyone, Crescent Ridge Glade features five distinct ski corridors—described by the GBA as “low-density vertical lines that are approximately 35-50 feet in width”—that all funnel skiers into a large hardwood glade and, eventually, back to the trail they entered on. From here, skiers can easily head up for another lap (or three) before returning the way they came to their car. Offering a wide variety of terrain in a relatively condensed area, the initial pitch of Crescent Ridge’s runs vary between 30 and 35 degrees, before mellowing to 20 to 25 degrees, eventually giving way to 10- and 15-degree terrain on the ski out.

Crescent Ridge skiers start the day at a plowed parking lot located at the end of Randolph Hill Road, right off of U.S. Highway 2 in Randolph. From the parking lot, skin past the kiosk on a wide track for a few minutes before entering the woods on the Carlton Notch Trail. Following the GBA’s blue blazes, skiers will skin through gently rolling terrain, through a large open field with amazing views of the Northern Presidentials (just turn around), and past the bottom of the large hardwood glade. It’s here that the skintrack steepens for the final push to the ridge and entry points to the ski corridors, which are numbered 1 through 5.

Skiers should plan on it taking between an hour and an hour and a half to make the little-under-two-mile, 1,000-foot climb from the parking lot to the ridge and expect it to take 20 to 30 minutes to transition and make the 600-foot climb needed to lap the trees. Getting back to the parking lot is easy and fast (provided the water crossings are filled in)—simply ski back the way you came in.

Skiing Maple Villa with Mount Washington in the distance through the trees. | Credit: Tim Peck
Skiing Maple Villa with Mount Washington in the distance through the trees. | Credit: Tim Peck

Maple Villa

Maple Villa Glade is the largest, longest, and most popular glade on this list. Skiing at Maple Villa—which is named for a hotel at the end of the original ski trail—has a long history, beginning in 1933 with the Civilian Conservation Corps cutting the “Maple Villa” ski trail. Shortly thereafter, Maple Villa became the Intervale Ski Area, which operated for approximately the next 40 years. Following the closing of Intervale Ski Area in the mid-1970s, the Maple Villa area was home to the Eastern Mountain Sports (cross-country) Ski Touring Center. Skiers today will discover everything from tightly spaced trees to resort-esque runs varying in length from 800 to 1,700 feet.

One of the factors for Maple Villa’s popularity (in addition to its expansive terrain) is its proximity to North Conway. The parking lot for Maple Villa is found on 70 East Branch Road in Intervale and is just minutes from North Conway. Leaving the parking lot, skiers follow blue blazes along the original Maple Villa Ski Trail as it slowly gains elevation along the two(ish)-mile skin that climbs approximately 1,700 feet. A number of descent options are obvious from the top of the glade—all of which offer a mostly moderate pitch and terrain alternating between closely spaced trees to more widely spaced runs. Keep your eyes peeled as Mount Washington can be spied through the trees on the descent.

The upper half of Maple Villa is meant to be lapped, and the area’s primary runs all deposit skiers to the same place—allowing them to follow the skin track back up roughly 800 feet of elevation, or providing them with a gentle ski out the way they came, along the old Maple Villa Ski Trail. Skiers can expect it to take an hour to an hour and a half to go from the parking lot to the top of the gladed terrain and between 30 and 45 minutes to skin a lap.

 

Whether it’s establishing larger areas like Maple Villa or maintaining smaller “lunch lap” locations like Bill Hill, the Granite Backcountry Alliance has put a lot of time, work, and money into these projects. If you explore these glades, please be courteous of the area and respectful of the rules, especially where to park if a lot is full. If you’d like to support the GBA, consider donating, becoming a member, attending one of their events (like the upcoming Wild Corn on April 4th), or taking part in one of their workdays.