5 Ways to Celebrate Earth Day

Proposed by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1969 and first celebrated in 1970, Earth Day has grown from a small, grassroots movement of nationwide demonstrations and “teach-ins” to a global celebration observed every April 22nd with worldwide rallies, service projects, and conferences.

That first Earth Day led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. A multitude of environmental legislation successes also followed, including expansion of the Clean Air Act, amendments to the Clean Water Act, and passage of the Endangered Species Act. An estimated 20 million Americans had taken part, and that number grew steadily, eventually causing the event to go global in 1990, with 200 million people in 141 countries getting involved. These days, more than one billion people in 195 countries participate in Earth Day activities, and the Earth Day Network assigns a different theme to each year’s celebration. This year, the campaign is End Plastic Pollution. Here are five ways that you can get involved:

Credit: Katie Caulfield
Credit: Katie Caulfield

1. Join a Trail Clean-Up Crew

Check out organizations like the Access Fund, Appalachian Mountain Club, Southeastern Climbers Coalition, or whatever equivalent is local to you to see if they’re hosting a trail clean-up nearby, and join the team! Picking up trail trash—which is, more often than not, plastic—not only helps prevent said waste from leaching chemicals into the soil and water and endangering wildlife, but it also makes spending time on the trail or at the crag far more enjoyable. No local crews to team up with? Start your own! All you need are a few friends and some garbage bags. Just make sure you keep the trash and recyclables separated, of course.

2. Host a Teach-In

Get back to Earth Day’s roots and help educate your community! If you’re a teacher, set aside some time the Friday before to start a conversation with your students about the dangers of improperly disposed-of plastics and ways they can be part of the solution. Troop leader of your child’s scout group? Gather up the den, and make sure the kiddos understand the “Five Rs of Recycling.” Willing to teach but not sure where to find an audience? Check in with your local gear shop, climbing gym, or community center, and ask about setting up an information table or leading a discussion on the perils of plastic.

Credit: Edmund Falkowski
Credit: Edmund Falkowski

3. Take Personal Responsibility

For the most part, good things don’t happen on a large scale, unless you work to make them happen in your own little bubble first. So, if you want to see the decline of plastic pollution on a global scale, you have to first cut down on the amount you use in your daily life. You can start by signing Greenpeace’s “Say No to Plastic Pollution” pledge. Once you’ve committed to reducing your usage, make sure you invest in a good reusable water bottle to ensure your hydration levels don’t take a hit as you cut ties with single-use containers.

Consider leaving a heavy-duty tote bag in your car to use when you’re out shopping. And, the next time you shop for beers to quench your post-adventure thirst, try to steer clear of cans that come in those old-school six-pack rings. If you have no other choice, be sure to cut the rings apart before you throw them away.

4. Practice Leave No Trace (Always!)

Each of the seven principles of Leave No Trace (LNT) is important. But, it seems as though people have the most difficulty adhering to the third one: “Dispose of waste properly.” The amount of times I’ve picked up other people’s trash—primarily plastic bottles and food wrappers—on the trail is staggering. Yet, if more individuals were mindful of their actions, the amount of plastic pollution in our wild places and waterways could be drastically reduced.

But, don’t practice proper waste disposal just on Earth Day. Make sure you adhere to LNT every time you head outdoors and pack out your trash. And, if you want to rack up extra karma, get in the habit of designating a pocket on your pack or taking a small garbage bag on your hikes for picking up trash others have left behind.

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5. Get Involved!

Supporting the Earth Day Network’s campaign to end plastic pollution is a noble endeavor. However, it’s far from the only way to celebrate Earth Day this year (or any year, for that matter). Our open spaces, public lands, and National Parks need all the help they can get, if we want future generations to be able to enjoy the outdoors the way we do now.

If you have the means, consider donating to an organization, such as the Access Fund, the Nature Conservancy, or the Sierra Club. Short on money, but have a little time to spare? Look up volunteer opportunities with groups like Wilderness Volunteers, the Surfrider Foundation, or with the National Parks System’s “Volunteer in Parks” (VIP) Program. Short on time, too? Then, simply take a few minutes to sign any number of petitions that have been created to stop the destruction of our outdoor playgrounds. Protect Our Public Land and the Wilderness Society’s Keep Public Lands in Public Hands are good places to start.

 

How will YOU be celebrating Earth Day this year? Share your plans with us in the comments!


5 Tips for Staying Comfortable Hiking in the Mud

Spring’s arrival is often a welcome change for the hikers, backpackers, and weekend warriors among us. It means that we can finally shed those cumbersome layers of wool and down, hit our favorite recently-thawed trails, and enjoy some warm weather for the first time in months. But, with spring comes mud, and a lot of it.

Hiking through the mud presents a unique challenge. Not only can it be exceedingly uncomfortable to trudge through ankle-deep puddles, but it can also increase your risk of injury and have a disastrous impact on the trail itself. Thus, it’s important to know how to responsibly and safely enjoy a springtime trail. Here are a few hacks to make sure you’re maximizing fun and minimizing impact during your mud season adventures.

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1. Bring the Proper Footwear and Clothing

And, make sure you don’t mind it getting soaked and dirty. Springtime hiking might not be the time to break in your brand-new boots, unless you know how to maintain them, as muddy conditions can potentially damage your footwear. Instead, reach for an older, sturdy waterproof pair that you’re not as concerned about potentially wrecking. In addition, it’s always a smart idea to invest in some high, water-resistant gaiters to keep mud and water from seeping in. You always want to keep your feet dry and comfortable when you’re hiking, especially when you’re walking through the cold spring slush.

Footwear aside, you’ll want to wear a good, sturdy pair of hiking pants that can stand up to the elements and have a water-resistant finish to keep the mud from caking on your legs. You’ll likely be getting a little wet, so look for pants that are made of a quick-drying fabric, like EMS’ Men’s True North Pants, to keep you comfortable on the trails. A moisture-wicking hiking shirt and waterproof top are always a safe bet, too.

2. Carry Trekking Poles and Mind Your Footing

Anybody who’s descended a steep, muddy trail knows how quickly your feet can fly out from underneath you without warning. Not only does a slick trail increase the chances of an embarrassing (and wet) fall, it also heightens your risk for a potential injury. For this reason, it’s important to use trekking poles for the added stability and traction they provide. Even if you’re not otherwise a big fan of trekking poles, bring them on muddy hikes. They help you keep your balance, minimize slips, and prevent falling altogether on a precarious descent.

On the topic of footing, it’s a good idea to make sure your shoes are tied snug—ever had a boot stuck in the mud and then tried to pull it out?—and to keep a close eye on where you’re stepping. Walk using smaller strides than you normally would to help maintain balance and keep sliding to a minimum. If there is any ice remaining on the trail, you should bring your MICROspikes, just in case. Also, when hiking in the mud, you should try to go at a slower pace than you normally would. In these conditions, being deliberate and mindful of your footing benefits you more than speed.

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3. Muddy Trails are Susceptible to Erosion, So Stick to the Middle

Once the winter snowpack has melted, trails are at their soggiest and most saturated. As a result, they are more vulnerable than ever to serious erosion damage. For this reason, it’s super important that you stay on the trail’s center and tread as lightly as possible. It can certainly be tempting to walk on the trail’s edges, or off it entirely, in order to go around that large puddle blocking your way. But, doing so would widen and erode the trail. So, do the right thing, and stay on the trail regardless. If you’ve heard or read that a trail is in particularly rough shape in the springtime, consider hiking elsewhere, until the ground has hardened up a bit.

In addition to sticking to the center of the treadway, do your best to step onto rocks whenever possible. Stepping from rock to rock helps minimize trail damage—not to mention, it keeps your footwear dry and in better condition. The conscious springtime hiker will always understand that the muddiest trails are also the most fragile.

4. Consider the Time of Day and Weather

Springtime is known for its fickle weather. Although temperatures can become warm during the day, evenings and nights can still get very cold—occasionally dropping below freezing. This means that the trail is likely going to be softer around midday and will be at its firmest early in the morning and later in the evening.

During mud season, always be aware of these temperature changes. You may want to plan for an early morning hike, as opposed to one in the late afternoon. The trail will be firmer, making for a less messy and more comfortable experience. Time of day aside, you’ll also want to keep a close eye on the weather forecast beforehand. A steady rain can turn an already-muddy trail into a Slip ‘N Slide. If it looks like it’s going to pour, it might not be a bad idea to reschedule your hike for a sunnier day.

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5. Plan for the Post-Hike

One of the best ways to make hiking in the mud a favorable experience is to know exactly what you’re going to do once you’re done. For starters, you should always bring clean socks, extra shoes, and dry clothes to change into after. Seriously, there’s no better feeling than getting off the trail and having warm, fresh clothes and footwear to put on. Conversely, there’s no worse feeling than a soggy drive home. It’s also important to think about where you’re going to put your soaking wet, mud-caked boots and clothes when you get back to the car. Keep plastic garbage bags handy, or use a tarp to line the trunk as you put them away.

When you get home, wash your muddy clothes right away to prevent further damage and mildew from building. And, even though it might not be fun, remember to thoroughly clean your footwear! Leaving the mud on can dry out the fibers, cause cracking, and ruin your footwear’s weatherproofing altogether. Take care of these post-hike essentials, and you’ll be ready to go for next time.


7 Tips for Mountain Biking Etiquette During Mud Season

Springtime means warm weather, blooming flowers, and, for many, the switch from speeding down snowy trails on skis to flying down muddy ones on mountain bikes. Unfortunately, with all of the melting snow and April showers, trails can deteriorate very quickly. Particularly, riding on soft, muddy ground leaves damaging ruts and increases erosion. Thus, with repeated springtime beatings, the trails may not last, impacting access for all cyclists. When conditions get too wet, some locations may in fact formally close the trails to preserve their quality. In order to avoid damaging the trails, follow these tips to ensure they stay rideable for everyone, all year long.

1. Do your research

Check trail conditions before you head out. Thanks to social media’s ever-growing reach, trail condition updates are just a click away. Many local mountain biking clubs and groups post these updates online, so that riders know where things are good and which ones need time to dry out. Organizations like BETA, MTBNJ, and VMBA are just a few groups in the Northeast that regularly provide this information. 

2. Take to the hills

Some areas naturally drain and dry more quickly than others. Trail systems situated on flat areas more often than not require more time to dry than hillier networks or those with more climbs and descents. If conditions are questionable at the flatter areas, head to the hills to avoid making ruts and mud puddles.

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3. Get on some rock

Not all trails are created equal. Sculpted, flowing routes made from dirt or clay tend to be more sensitive to muddy conditions, whereas technical, rocky ones are more robust and less likely to be damaged if damp. If conditions are questionable, ride the techy stuff and practice your rock garden technique.

4. Steer dead-ahead!

It is inevitable to find lingering wet spots and mud puddles while you ride, even though everywhere else seems dry. When you come across a mud puddle, ride through it, not around. Widening trails are a problem everywhere, and are difficult to reverse. Consistently riding around a puddle’s edges only makes them wider, perpetuating the problem.

5. Gravel is great

Sometimes, everywhere is a sopping, wet mess, but you still need to get out on your mountain bike. In that case, head to the gravel roads, carriage paths, or rail trails. Here, you will still be able to scratch the off-road itch while protecting the singletrack trails until things dry out.

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6. Pay it forward

It takes a lot of time and hard work to make trails fun and sustainable. So, consider joining your local bike club for a trail work day. Building new, sustainable trails or fixing lingering problems on existing ones is a great way to help preserve the network and make it enjoyable for everyone. Just be sure you are working with an approved group, as rogue trail building does more damage than good.

7. Remember what you’re seeing

If you are expecting dry ground on your ride and are surprised to find less-than-ideal conditions, let others know that the trails still need some time before they’re rideable. Make a note of perpetually muddy or wet sections that may need some extra attention at the next work session. 


9 Tips for Taking Your Climbing from the Gym to the Crag

With ropes hung, routes marked, and a trained staff on hand to ensure safety, the rock gym is a great place to learn how to climb. But, pulling on plastic just isn’t the same as climbing on real rock, and many climbers eventually look to expand their horizons to local crags. If you’re considering taking your climbing outside this year but aren’t quite sure where to start, here are some things you need to know.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

1. Pick Your Discipline, Then Get the Gear

Bouldering and top-roping are the main options for most new-to-the-outdoors climbers. Both styles involve some common gear, namely shoes and chalk, but also require some items specific to the activity. Thus, deciding on a style is an important initial step.

Bouldering is a popular way for gym climbers to transition outdoors, because it doesn’t require knowledge about anchor building or belaying. When bouldering, climbers use a crash pad, rather than a rope, to protect themselves when they fall. Bouldering crash pads come in a variety of sizes and styles, and it’s not uncommon to use multiple ones to protect your climb. Although bouldering requires less technical knowledge, the physical climbing encountered is often more difficult than what’s found on top-rope routes.

Climbers who have been top-roping in the gym can replicate that experience outside if they know how to build anchors and have the gear required to do so. The specific gear will vary between locations, but a static line, a few slings, a cordelette, and a handful of locking carabiners—larger carabiners like the Black Diamond RockLock Screwgate are great—will usually do the trick at areas with first-timer friendly setups. In addition to anchor-building gear, invest in a belay device, your own climbing rope, and a harness, if you’ve been relying on a gym rental. Top-ropers should also add a helmet to their kit, as time spent below a cliff exposes you to the threat of something being knocked down on you.

Some climbers who lead in the gym may also want to take the sharp end their first time climbing outside. For those looking to jump right into sport climbing, check out our sport climbing gear list.

2. Get the Guidebook

Doing some research before picking a destination saves a lot of time and aggravation. For example, does the area you’re planning on visiting have fixed anchors, or will you have to build your own? Guidebooks are a valuable resource for learning about what to expect at a climbing area, and offer up information on everything from where to park to what gear to bring. Although guidebooks are helpful, an internet search lets you broaden your knowledge of an area and get up-to-date information about access and conditions.

Pro Tip: If it’s your first time out, avoid routes that the guidebook says require trad gear (camming units and nuts) for building the top-rope anchor.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

3. Pick the Right Location

Choosing the right location for your first time climbing outside can make the difference between success and frustration. Boulderers will want to find spots with a wide variety of problems and safe landings. A few popular destinations for newer boulderers in the Northeast are Hammond Pond, just outside of Boston, Massachusetts; Lincoln Woods, a short drive from Providence, Rhode Island; and Pawtuckaway State Park, about 30 minutes from Manchester, New Hampshire. Fellow gym climbers can also be a great resource, so don’t hesitate to ask around the gym’s bouldering cave about nearby areas to visit.

New outdoor climbers looking to top-rope should seek out sites with easy setups. Ideally, the location will have a diverse grouping of climbs, easy access to the cliff top, and simple anchoring solutions. Greater Boston has a plethora of excellent crags for first-time top-ropers, including Hammond Pond, Quincy Quarries, Rattlesnake Rocks, College Rock, and Crow Hill. So, too, does Connecticut, with Ragged Mountain being a popular destination.

Pro Tip: A 75- to 100-foot static line is a great solution for when the guidebook recommends bringing “long slings” for top-rope anchors.

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4. Partner Up

No matter if you’re bouldering or top-roping, a good climbing partner is critical. Although bouldering can be a solitary sport, it’s much easier and safer (and more fun!) with a partner. A good bouldering partner spots you when you fall and moves the pads underneath you as you climb. They also are great for helping you decipher moves and keeping the stoke high.

A top-roping partner is essential, as they will literally be holding your life in their hands while belaying. In a perfect world, a new outdoor climber’s partner will have more experience and can serve as a mentor through the transition.

5. Don’t Set Your Expectations Too High

Although gym and outdoor climbing have many similarities, the transition may be challenging. For instance, the grades are harder. So, even if you’ve sent all the “hard stuff” indoors, don’t plan on crushing your first day on real rock. You’ll also need to re-train the way you think. Outdoors, the routes aren’t marked with brightly colored tape and may be difficult to follow. In addition, real rock holds may be hidden and may be greatly different from what you’ve encountered at the gym. Along with these points, indoor climbers often start to learn a gym’s holds. While the gym may change specific routes, climbers have likely gotten familiar with approaching particular holds.

6. If You’re Climbing on a Rope, Learn Some Basic Skills

If you’re going to be climbing on a rope, get familiar with some basic skills. Even something that you’ve been doing in the gym, like belaying, can be complicated outside due to hazards like rocks, uneven ground, and roots. Furthermore, if a climber is heavier than the belayer, the use of a ground anchor might be necessary. Speaking of belays, if you had to execute a belay escape, could you? To prepare, spend a few minutes at the end of each gym session to practice these skills before going outside.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

7. Hit the Books (and Not the Guidebook)

Before heading to the crag, take a moment to hit the books, and brush up on the techniques and systems needed for outdoor climbing. A Falcon Guide: Toproping is one of many great books available to new outdoor climbers. For climbers interested in learning to advance their systems, in addition to their skills, to the next level, Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills covers everything from basic to advanced topics in all climbing genres.

8. Safety is Critical

Whether you’re climbing inside or outside, the sport is dangerous. But, the outdoors has far more hazards to manage. Here are a few tips to keep you safe:

  • Close your top-rope system by tying a knot at the end of your rope. That way, you can’t lower the climber off the end.
  • Always be mindful about where the cliff edge is, especially when you’re setting up a top-rope anchor. Anchoring yourself in while building your anchor is a great way to stay safe.
  • Rocks break and nearby parties sometimes knock stuff off while they’re setting up. Wear your helmet even when you’re not the one climbing to protect your head.
  • Boulderers should scout the descent and be comfortable with it before committing to the climb.
  • For boulderers, falling is almost as important of a skill as climbing. Practice correctly falling—ideally, with slightly bent legs to absorb impact, and avoid leading with your hands to protect your shoulders, arms, wrists, and fingers—and spend some time identifying safe landing zones before you head up.

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9. Take a Lesson

If you’re interested in getting outside but don’t feel confident doing it yourself, sign up for a lesson with the Eastern Mountain Sports Climbing School. In no time at all, the Climbing School’s AMGA-accredited guides will have you familiar with the fundamentals of building a top-rope anchor and mitigating outdoor climbing hazards.

Can you think of any other gym-to-crag tips? Share them in the comments!


Don't Be a Fool. Stop Doing These 10 Things While Climbing

Every year, we celebrate April 1st with practical jokes and hoaxes. But, if you’re practicing the following climbing habits, the joke’s on you. Here’s a list of 10 safety tips for you to employ this year, so that you’re not climbing like a fool.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

1. The end is near

It seems every year there’s another story about a climber making the foolish, dangerous, and potentially deadly mistake of rappelling off the end of their rope. Easily avoid this imprudent error by tying stopper knots at the ends or otherwise closing the system before you rappel.

2. Reckless rappelling

In addition to stopper knots, learning the right way to rappel can prevent you from looking like a fool. Start by extending your rappel device and using a third-hand back-up. Don’t know what we’re talking about? Here’s a good video from the AMGA showing the whole process.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

3. Don’t lower your guard

These days, both sport climbs and ropes come in a wide variety of lengths, increasing the odds of making the misguided mistake of lowering your partner off the end. Make sure the joke isn’t on you by tying a stopper knot on the free end before you start climbing.

4. Crack jokes—not your head

Whether it’s falling debris from above or an impact during a fall, your head is exposed to all sorts of danger when you go rock climbing. Considering that helmets have gotten increasingly light and comfortable, in addition to protecting you from a potential head injury, you’d have to be a fool not to wear one at the crag.

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5. Does the trick every time

Sometimes, the oldest tricks work best. For example, the tried-and-true act of checking to make sure the climber’s knot is tied correctly and the belay is rigged properly before you leave the ground is an excellent way to avoid a joke that falls flat.

6. Aging antics

While some old tricks work great at the crag, old gear certainly doesn’t. We get it—climbing gear is expensive. But, risking serious harm or death over the cost of a sling, harness, or rope is more than foolish; it’s dumb. Learn about your gear’s lifespan and replace it accordingly. Not sure where to start? Check out our goEast article “When Should I Retire My Gear?”  

7. Cleaning anchors is no joke

A potentially catastrophic mistake commonly seen at the crag is climber-belayer miscommunication when cleaning anchors. Before hastily heading up a route, confirm your course of action with your belayer, and stick to the plan. Even better, stop being a clown, and learn the right way to clean an anchor.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

8. Buffoonery at the belay

There’s plenty of time for tomfoolery at the end of the day, and the real trick is getting everyone home safely. Since the belayer literally holds the life of the climber in their hands, all of the attention should be focused on them—not on clowning around at the base of the climb.

9. Don’t be a one-liner

Driving to the crag alone is awesome…April Fools! Don’t do this—it’s expensive, it’s bad for the environment, and most crag parking lots have a limited capacity. Try carpooling, even if it’s only for part of your drive. While you’re at it, check out these outdoor podcasts to keep the drive from getting monotonous.

10. The price of the put-on

Thinking that access, fixed gear, and keeping the crag clean just happen is the pinnacle of buffoonery. Consider donating to the Access Fund, or a local climbing association, like the Rumney Climbers Association or the Gunks Climbers’ Coalition. Better yet, volunteer for a cleanup day, or perform the ultimate stunt by practicing Leave No Trace.

 

Do you have a good tip to avoid being the crag jester? If so, we want to hear it! Leave it in the comments below.


Loosen Up: 8 Yoga Stretches for Runners

Short, tight muscles don’t feel great, and when it comes to running (or hiking or biking or any sport, really), they can lead to imbalances and inefficiency. Foam rolling and massage are effective ways to relieve muscle soreness and boost recovery, but a good stretch session after each run will help lengthen your muscles, putting them in prime condition to crush your next one.

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1. Upward Salute

Most of our post-run poses will address the core and lower body, but your shoulders and upper back deserve a good stretch, too! Spend a few breaths in Upward Salute to stretch the shoulders, back, and armpits. You’ll be surprised by how nice it feels. Begin by standing tall with either your big toes touching or your feet hip-distance apart. Relax your shoulders and rotate the arms, so that your palms face forward. On an inhale, sweep your arms out to the sides and overhead, bringing the palms to touch. However, if that makes your shoulders feel too hunched, keep the arms parallel with the palms facing each other instead. Hold here for a few deep breaths. When you’re ready to move on, use an exhale to hinge forward into a standing-forward fold.

  • Variation: Add in some side bends to stretch your obliques. On an exhale, bend your upper body toward the right, keeping your pelvis facing forward. Inhale back to upward salute, and then, exhale into a left side bend. Repeat three to five times on each side.

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2. Cross-Leg Forward Fold

After spending a few breaths in a regular forward fold, return to standing just long enough to cross your right leg in front of the left. Fold forward again on your next exhale, reaching your fingers to the floor. Spend a few breaths like this, and then, repeat with the left leg in front. Adding the leg cross is a great way to stretch the outer hamstrings and address tight hips and cranky IT bands.

  • Variation: If your legs are too tight to bring your hands to the floor, use a stack of books or a couple of Nalgene bottles to rest them on.

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3. Figure Four Chair

The glutes are a key muscle used in running, and without good balance, runners would just fall all over the place all the time. The best part of this stretch is that it helps with both! Start by standing with your feet somewhere between hip- and shoulder-distance apart and with your hands on the hips. Keeping your weight in the heels, lower your butt toward the floor. Peek down at your toes here; if your knees aren’t blocking them from sight, you’re good to go! Once you’re as low as you can comfortably go, shift your weight onto the right leg, and pick the left leg up, bringing the left ankle to rest on the right thigh. Keep your hands on your hips if you like, or reach the arms overhead. Hold for five to 10 breaths, and then, switch sides.

  • Variation: Use a wall or chair to help keep your balance if you need a little extra stability.

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4. Squat

Hitting the road, trail, or track for miles at a time is a lot easier when your legs function with a full range of motion. And, an easy way to stretch and increase (or maintain) your legs’ range of motion—front, back, inner, outer, and from ankle to hip—is by spending some time in a “yogi’s squat.” Begin by standing with your feet about shoulder-width apart, and lower into as deep of a squat as you can while keeping your heels on the floor. If the heels won’t stay down, try placing a rolled-up towel under them. Bring your palms together in front of your chest, and use your elbows to gently press the knees away. Hold for at least 10 breaths, and then, bring your hands to the floor and step your feet back to come into a plank.

  • Variation: If your hips could use a little bit deeper stretch, spend a few breaths slowly rocking side to side before moving onto your plank.

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5. Plank

There’s a fun little saying in the yoga world that “the pose you don’t like is the pose you need,” and the proof is in the pudding—er, plank. I’ve never met anyone, runner or otherwise, who enjoys holding plank pose, but the benefits of this simple-looking exercise are so vast that it’s one we should all probably be doing every day. Runners can use plank to build strength in their core, glutes, and legs all at once—not to mention mental strength, which some runners may argue is just as important as physical strength.

On the off-chance you’ve never done a plank before, here’s the deal: The goal is to create a long line from your heels to your head. Keep the wrists directly under the shoulders, gaze down-but-slightly-forward to maintain neutrality in your neck, press back through your heels, and don’t let your butt sag or stick up too high. Keep your core engaged by “pulling” your belly button toward the spine. Hold for as long as you can, and then, use Downward-Facing Dog or Child’s Pose to rest.

  • Variation: There are so many! If a traditional plank is too intense, lower your knees to the floor, or try a forearm plank instead. If you want to spice things up a bit, play around with leg lifts, “running planks,” or side planks. Want to stretch the obliques some more? Lower to forearm plank, and do a few rounds of hip dips.

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6. Lizard Pose

Everyone wants a “tight butt,” but for runners, tight glutes are no bueno—especially when you’re trying to nail your hill repeats and speed workouts. Use lizard pose to give your glutes some post-run love, as well as to stretch the hip flexors, hamstrings, and quads. From your plank, step the right foot up to the outside of your right hand. Lower the left knee to the floor for a little less intensity, or keep it lifted for a deeper stretch. If it’s comfortable, lower down to your forearms; if not, continue pressing into the floor through your hands. Stay here for about 10 breaths, and then, switch sides.

  • Variation: If it feels okay, gently roll onto the outer edge of the front foot to open up the hips and stretch the groin and hamstrings a little more.
  • Variation: Add in a deep quad stretch by lowering the back knee to the floor and bending the leg, reaching back to hold onto your foot or ankle with the same side hand.

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7. Toes Pose

Whether your dogs are barking because you suffer from plantar fasciitis or simply ran a little too hard today, it’s important to stretch out the soles of your feet. Begin on all fours with your toes tucked so that the balls of your feet are on the floor. Keep it here if you can already feel the stretch through the bottoms of your feet; otherwise, start to walk yourself back toward a kneeling position. If you can bear it, sit all the way back on your heels with a nice, tall spine and hold for up to a minute.

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8. Legs Up the Wall

If you only have time for one yoga pose after a run, make sure it’s this one. Legs up the wall not only feels amazing, but it also gently stretches the hamstrings and lower back, helps reduce swelling and cramping in the feet and legs, slows down your heart rate, and can boost circulation. Start by sitting with one hip as close to a wall as possible. In one semi-fluid motion, roll your upper body down and swing your legs up, so that you’re lying flat on your back with your legs, well…up the wall. You can control the intensity of the stretch in the backs of your legs by shimmying closer to or farther from the wall. When you find the sweet spot, close your eyes and rest for as long as you want—you’ve earned it!

  • Variation: If your hips and inner thighs could still use more stretching, move the legs into a “V” shape for a wide-legged legs up the wall, OR bring the soles of the feet together and use your hands to gently push the knees toward the wall.

7 Reasons You Should Take Your Running Off-Road

There’s no denying that road running is a great workout. It’s perhaps the most convenient way to exercise, but it’s not always the most enjoyable. There are cars to contend with, it can be jarring to your body, and running the same few loops through your town eventually just gets boring.

If you’ve found yourself tending toward the “hate” end of your love-hate relationship with running lately, it might be time to try taking your runs off-road. Trails are a lot like roads, except they’re a little more challenging and far more enjoyable. There are plenty of reasons it’s worth switching from pavement to dirt, starting with these seven:

1. It’s a good excuse to slow down

Sure, running fast has its benefits—and getting faster is often a runner’s main goal—but slowing down every once in a while is good for you, too. The road, however, has a sneaky way of making runners feel like they constantly need to push their pace. When you hit the trail, the roots, rocks, uneven terrain, and steeper inclines naturally force you to run slower. In fact, expect a pace anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes slower than your typical rate. But, you’ll never feel guilty about it.

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2. There’s no traffic

If you enjoy the smell of exhaust, horns honking, doing that silly jog-in-place thing road runners do at intersections, and the risk of getting hit by a car, then by all means keep pounding the pavement. But, if you’re looking for a way to get away from all the noise, fill your lungs with fresh air, only stop when you want to, and not have to worry about being pancaked, it’s time to hit the trail. As a bonus, the animals you’ll see will generally be alive, instead of mangled in the middle of the road—just be sure to keep your distance from them.

3. The scenery is way better

Every once in a while on a road run, I’ll pass by a building or house that looks cool enough to make me slow down and stare for a second. Most of the time, though, there’s nothing truly fascinating or beautiful to look at when you hit the streets. Trails, on the other hand, are much more aesthetically pleasing, from the colors, including lush greens in spring and summer, bright reds and yellows and oranges in the fall, and enchanting crystalline whites in the winter, to the way the sun shines through the trees to reaching scenic vistas and overlooks. Nothing you see on the road will ever beat the magic of the wilderness.

4. You’ll develop greater proprioception

In addition to being a fun word to say, proprioception is hugely important when it comes to running. After all, without awareness of where your body and its parts are in space, you wouldn’t be able to run without looking down at your feet the entire time. With all of the extra obstacles trail running presents—things like rocks, roots, fallen trees, and water crossings—your proprioceptors get as good a workout as the rest of you. In turn, this leads to better stability, balance, and the ability to better judge when and how to adjust your stride whenever you encounter one of those aforementioned obstacles.

5. It’s easier on your joints

There’s a reason people refer to road running as “pounding pavement.” Paved roads are hard, and every time your foot strikes down, a shockwave runs through your body. Of course, our bodies are designed to handle this kind of stress, and for the most part, they’re really good at it. But, over time, it can lead to trouble, especially in your knees. Running on trails reduces some of that stress. Particularly, the ground is softer, allowing your foot to slightly sink in when it lands and absorbing some of the shock before it makes its way up your leg.

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6. It’s a better workout

Running on the road is an incredible workout. It builds strength in the legs, increases cardio fitness, and burns a lot of calories. Running on a trail does all of that, in addition to naturally incorporating lateral (side to side) movements by forcing you to avoid obstacles, improving balance, and potentially burning even more calories.

7. It makes you faster on the road

Because trail running offers a better overall workout—especially if you do your hill repeats in the woods, which generally have steeper, more sustained inclines than paved hills—your overall running fitness and economy will improve. Don’t be surprised when your road running paces start to get faster as you spend more time on the trails.

 

Now you tell me: Are you a trail running convert? What made you switch? Or, are you sticking it out on the road (and why)? Leave your thoughts in the comments!


DIY: Pegboard Gear Storage

When your early-morning alarm doesn’t go off in time and you’re forced to frantically rush around, trying to get ready and out the door for your adventure, having your gear organized instantly becomes more important. Of course, right before a trip is when you realize you don’t know where half your gear is. If only you had taken the time to set up some kind of organizational system, you’d know right where everything was, and you’d be on your way already.

Just like the power tools in your shed, your adventure gear deserves a home worthy of its beauty. And, there’s nothing quite as nice looking (or as organized) as hanging everything up on a pegboard. It’s easy to sort and customize, simple to look at, and totally Instagram-worthy. And, thankfully, it’s easier to get organized this way than you might realize.

Materials & Tools

  • (2) 2 ft. x 4 ft. pieces of pegboard
  • (2) 1 in. x 2 in. x 8 ft. furring strips
  • 1 lb. box of Grip-Rite 2 in. construction screws
  • Everbilt 47-piece Locking Peg Hook Assortment
  • Tape measure
  • Level
  • Power drill
  • Circular saw

Directions

1. Find a room or space where you want to organize your gear.

For me, this space turned out to be my garage. Adding a pegboard here allowed for quick, easy access to all of my gear in a central location whenever I packed my car up for an adventure.

2. Find the wall studs to get an idea of exactly where your pegboard will go.

You can use the tried-and-true method of light pounding with your first and then measuring with a tape measure, or you can use an electronic studfinder. However, most studs in residential construction are 24 or 16 inches apart. So, you can use these measurements to figure out exactly where you will be attaching the furring strip to the wall.

In my garage, the studs were 24 inches apart. So, I used this figure to frame the backing furring strip, as shown below. If yours fall 16 inches apart or even 12, you may want to play around with how you center the pegboard over the furring strip.

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The pegboard accessory kit I used does come with spacers, which you screw through the pegboard and into the wall behind. But, I chose to use the furring strip instead, because of the weight I would be placing on the pegboard. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and this method provides a much sturdier and solid support system that connects your pegboard to the studs and utilizes the strength of the wall itself. Since the pegboard is 2 ft. x 4 ft., and the furring strip comes in eight-foot lengths, you’ll need to cut it in half (at 48 inches). This is where you’ll need the tape measure and saw.

3. After cutting the two pieces of furring strip, it’s time to mount them to the wall.

Make sure you use the level to line everything up nice and straight. As an alternative, your iPhone may have a built-in level based on the accelerometer’s functions. To attach the strips to the wall, I used three screws in each piece: one in the center and one near each end. But, don’t place them too close. Furring strip tends to be a dryer wood and is therefore more susceptible to cracking if you try to add screws right at the edge.

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4. After the furring strip is up, it’s time to hang and attach the pegboard!

You’ll want to make sure you center the pegboard’s side edge on your furring strip’s center piece and make the top edge flush with the upper piece of furring strip. Placement is fairly straightforward if your studs are 24 inches apart. If they are 16 inches apart, however, you may have to play around with this.

I used two screws on the longer sides of each edge, between the locations of the furring strip’s existing screws. Once the first piece is up, the second follows quickly. Keep in mind that it’s often easier to do this step with the help of a second person to hold and guide.

5. Now, it’s time to use the hook accessory kit to start arranging and hanging your gear.

I like the accessory variety kit, because it comes with quite a few different shapes and sizes, which can be used for specific items of gear. So, play around to see which pieces work best for your supplies.

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Organization Tips

When it comes to organizing your gear, you want to try to distribute weight as evenly as possible. Take the heavier items and spread them out, and fill in the spaces in between with smaller, lighter items. For my pegboard, I try to keep all items in the same category grouped together—headlamps, water bottles, jackets, etc.—in order to save time looking for them. Since backpacks and jackets tend to take up a lot of volume, a good tip is to hang them on the pegboard’s bottom hooks. Doing so creates more space for other items.

For larger items, camping gear especially, I’ve found that they were just too big and bulky to organize on the pegboard. Instead, I keep them stored and organized on a five-tier plastic storage shelving system. When it comes to grouping smaller gear, you can use stuff sacks, small plastic totes, or similar bags to keep like items together.


8 Tips to Prep for Ice Climbing Season

With temperatures dropping across the Northeast, the ice is starting to form, and ice climbing season is kicking into gear. To get you going, here are eight tips to help you sharpen everything from your tools to your skills for sending that perfect pitch or goal gully this season.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

1. Sharpen your picks

Nothing takes the fun out of ice climbing more than dull tools. The inability to sink a stick melts stoke faster than the mid-winter thaw. If you’ve never sharpened your tools or it’s just been awhile since the last time you did, now’s a great time.

The goal of sharpening is to replicate your tools’ original shape. Doing so only requires a mill bastard file. Begin by filing off the rounded point at your pick’s end, and then, put the bevel back on the pick by filing outwards on each side, following the factory grind. When you’re done sharpening, use a hex wrench to make sure your picks are tight. Check out this fantastic video from the AMGA to see the process in action.

Pro tip: Use a vice when sharpening your tools instead of balancing them in your hands to save yourself the embarrassment of a season-stalling puncture wound or stitches.

Courtesy: @jamisonknowlton
Courtesy: @jamisonknowlton

2. Add some grip

After perfecting your picks, add some grip tape to your axe shafts. A layer of tape improves grip and helps insulate your hands from the cold. Furthermore, it makes it easier to distinguish your tools from your partner’s and protects against the scratches that come with use. Depending on how much grip they want, climbers use everything from electrical tape to skateboard deck tape.

3. Sharpen your crampons

Although most associate ice climbing with axes and upper-body muscles, the real magic happens with your feet. Because of this, you’ll want to sharpen your crampons before jumping on the sharp end this season. In fact, because crampons often get used to approach climbs and descend them, they typically dull faster than tools. As such, it’s a good idea to give them a quick sharpening after every ice outing.

If you have crampons with vertical front points, like the Black Diamond Cyborgs do, use the mill bastard file as you did for your ice tools to sharpen your crampons’ front points along the factory bevel. And, don’t forget about your crampons’ secondary points. It’s recommended to file the secondary points on their backside, so as to not change their length and affect performance.

Pro tip: Once again, use a vice. With all those points, a mid-sharpening slip with your crampons can be even more hazardous than with your ice axes.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

4. Dial in the fit

Getting to a climb, only to realize you haven’t sized your crampons to your boots, is no way to start a day, much less a season, of ice climbing. Adjusting crampon length is most often done with a pin-lock system on the center bar, and while making adjustments is easy, it’s finicky work best done at home, without gloves. Doing this at the base of the cliff will leave you with cold hands before you even start climbing.

When adjusting, you want to achieve a tight fit without the boot overhanging the front or back of the crampons’ frame. As a good at-home test to tell if you’ve adjusted correctly, put your boot in the crampon. If you pick the boot up and the crampon comes up with it, without being formally attached to the boot, you are on the right track.

5. Protect your protection

Dull ice screws can put a damper on an ice climbing outing. At best, they’ll be hard to sink into the ice; at worst, they won’t thread into the ice, leaving climbers in a treacherous situation. To make matters worse, it seems you always come across the dull screw on your rack when you’re most desperate for protection.

Until recently, most ice climbers sent their screws out to be sharpened. Then, Petzl unveiled the LIM’Ice, a device that makes sharpening ice screws straightforward and easy. Of course, if you’ve had your ice screws for a few years, it might be time to upgrade. Newer ones like the Black Diamond Turbo Express have speed knobs for easy placement; light-colored hangers instead of black, which speeds up melting out; and two places to clip ‘biners, which help to declutter busy belays.

Courtesy: @claireebruce
Courtesy: @claireebruce

6. Get your head in the game

Before going out to make your first climb of the season, it’s worthwhile to brush up on your mental game. Spend some time reading up on technique, thinking about movement, and practicing the requisite rope work to get your mind in mid-season form.

If you’re planning on climbing alpine gullies, refresh your avalanche awareness, and refamiliarize yourself with your beacon, probe, and snow safety kit. Not confident in your skills? Consider taking an early season avalanche class or ice climbing lesson with the Eastern Mountain Sports Climbing School. Whether you’re looking to get up to date with the latest in snow safety or just pick up a few pointers, an early season class gives you knowledge you can use all season.

Pro tip: Practicing companion rescue with your avalanche beacon is a great way to pass the time in between those too-cold-for-rock-climbing and no-climbable-ice-yet weekend days.

7. Tune up your body

Doing some sport-specific exercises before your first outing will pay big dividends. Even better, you don’t need a fancy gym to get yourself into ice climbing shape.

For your upper body, simply hanging from your tools on a pull-up bar or hangboard is a great way to build grip strength and prepare for what is coming. Mix some pull-ups using your tools in with the hangs to further build upper-body strength.

Of course, ice climbing requires a fair amount of heavy gear, and less-crowded climbing is often away from the road. For lower body fitness, consider hiking your favorite 4,000-footer with a weighted pack. Can’t make it to the mountains? A favorite workout of ours involves laps up the local ski hill with a weighted pack.

Courtesy: @peterkbrandon
Courtesy: @peterkbrandon

8. Make a tick list

A great way to get psyched about ice climbing season is to make a tick list. Whether it’s a local test piece or a dream line, having a goal in mind makes hanging from your tools in the basement a little more bearable, and looking at and reading about those lines will have you stoked to start the season. Start picking out your next route in the ADK Blue Lines, or get inspired by the guys and girls putting up the Northeast’s classic ice climbs before Gore-Tex, Schoeller, or PrimaLoft while using straight-shafted ice tools in Yankee Rock and Ice.

 

At the beginning of every ice climbing season, you’re sure to see someone at the base of the climb fiddling with their gear and mumbling, “I wish I had…adjusted these, trained, practiced, etc.” Avoid these common pitfalls, and nail the approach—to the season, that is—by following these simple steps.


VIDEO: Photographing the Milky Way Over Acadia

Video and text by Kris Roller
Video help from Nick Girard

Behind every great photo lies a story, one that describes the process and events leading up to the photograph. To me, the amount of planning and effort you put into its creation makes it that much better, and no photos require more work and preparation than astrophotos. When planning a shoot that involves the night sky, you have to take a few things into account: the equipment you are using, the location, and timing.

With astrophotography, the Milky Way is an extremely popular subject. But, depending on what part of the world you are in and the time of year, getting the perfect shot can be tricky.

Location

Generally, you want to be in an area with little-to-no light pollution. I use Google’s light pollution maps to help me pinpoint the darkest spots anywhere I travel. Also, the farther south you go, the more you can see the Milky Way and its galactic core. When you are in the Northern Hemisphere, the Milky Way always faces south. So, for this photo, I knew I had to choose a location that would allow me to face in that direction, and Google Earth 3D helped me identify possible spots. And, because I knew I was shooting rock climbers, I also had to find a climbable rock that was pretty exposed to the night sky. Acadia, Maine, turned out to be perfect.

Timing

For those in the Northern Hemisphere, the Milky Way’s core can only be seen from February to late October. Depending on what’s in the foreground and where you want the Milky Way to be, you will want to plan your shoot during certain months. Various apps can help you organize this, and for this specific photo in Acadia, I used PhotoPills. The timing of the year was important, too, because I had to get the Milky Way a couple of hours into its initial rise above the eastern horizon. July ended up being ideal.

Equipment

Most DSLR cameras are great for shooting astrophotography. The equipment that I used was a Sony a7RII with a 24-70 mm f2.8 lens. Usually, you want to shoot the night sky anywhere from 14 to 24 mm—wide enough to see the Milky Way’s vastness. My setting was 24 mm 2500 ISO for 15 seconds. Generally, you can set the shutter speed to 20 or 25 seconds, but I had live subjects, so I had to keep it shorter than usual. Otherwise, any sudden movements would’ve made them come out blurry.

Post Processing

After I took the photo, I processed it in Adobe Photoshop first to bring the Milky Way’s details out. Then, I imported it into Lightroom to touch up the rest of the composition and balance the light on the foreground. After your shoot, there are numerous ways to process your work, but these two programs are the most common for night photography.

Credit: Kris Roller
Credit: Kris Roller
Credit: Kris Roller
Credit: Kris Roller

Song credit: “Pyrite Promises” by Dionysia