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Written By: Patagonia

By Gavin McClurg, photos by Jody MacDonald


Sailing around the world isn’t new. Historians recently learned that Chinese merchant ships in the latter 15th century, which were grander, faster, and better equipped than Spanish and Portuguese fleets (Magellan, Columbus, Gama, etc.), used trading routes that vary today only because of the Suez and Panama Canals. These canals eliminate the need to navigate the treacherous Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn, respectively.

Today, we call these routes the “milk run.” When you start at X and sail to Y, there is a very sensible time of year to do it and a very sensible course to take advantage of winds and currents. This is true for all vessels of every size and type. To get away from the milk run takes a lot more effort, skill, patience, fortitude and, yes, imagination – which is, of course, why it’s worth it. It may be true that the oceans of the world have been mapped, but that doesn’t mean they have been properly explored.

[Above: Finding a barrel at the bottom of the world.]

Enter the Cabrinha Quest. On a 14-year mission to find remote wind and waves on a series of blue-water kitesurfing and surfing expeditions – during which we’ve sailed around the world twice – I have taken considerable pride in escaping the milk run as often as possible, including rounding both of those notorious capes (where pride manifests in pain!). Our latest expedition, in partnership with Cabrinha Kites, launched in September 2012 – a five-year seafaring quest to explore the most remote corners of the globe.

In four previous crossings of the Pacific, a kaleidoscopic wistful throng of islands has captivated my imagination but they have always been just too far out of reach. To get there would require a longer crossing than I have ever sailed, nearly all of it in open ocean below 40 degrees south – a band of latitudes known as the “Roaring 40s” and “Screaming 50s” for the unhindered westerly winds that rake unending around Antarctica. It’s a cold, lonely, impossibly large and wild place with no hope of support if something goes wrong.

So this year we went. 5,000 miles. 28 days at sea. Three days with visible sun. Water temps down to 6 degrees Celsius. Not a single sighting of another boat. Not a single fish caught. But at the end of it all stretched the ultimate prize: 1,000 miles of granite peaks encased in ice and snow, uncountable uninhabited untouched islands, glaciers that descend to a dark ocean bustling with strange fish and sea creatures, fjords that wander for miles and miles in a never-ending maze of lushness and plenty, waterfalls cascading from gray clouds into heavy mist, virgin forests with pancake-shaped leaves the size of large trucks dripping with eternal rain hanging over crystal clear lattices of geothermal pools. Patagonia. Where God possibly imbibed in some supernatural LSD and applied his watercolors by hand instead of brush.

The decision to come here has been in the works for years but the tipping point was reached only very recently. In our efforts to operate the Cabrinha Quest in a sustainable manner we teamed up with the uber-eco-conscious Patagonia clothing company. Yvon Chouinard named his company Patagonia after he fell in love with the region during a climbing trip with Doug Tompkins in the ‘60s. It seemed only fitting to bring some of the Patagonia crew to the place where it all started. In a small twist, we’d be going by sea instead of land.

Yvon’s son Fletcher, FCD’s board shaper and kite and surf addict; Jason McCaffrey, Patagonia’s surf brand manager; and Patagonia ambassadors Reo Stevens and Jason Slezak arrive on the docks in Puerto Montt right on time for a planned 10-day push deep into the fjords where we hope to surf waves that had never been ridden. Distances are vast, and we must carefully plan all movement around the tides. They range more than four meters on springs and neaps and create currents that turn narrow passes into raging whitewater rivers, which makes traveling heedless of their strength quite ill advised.

I am anxious to get started immediately.


Jason McCaffrey and Fletcher Chouinard prep boards for the trip.


Jason Slezak, making some adjustments to the kit.


Running lines.


But only one set of bags has arrived. An ice storm in Dallas has sent the bags to airline purgatory and we are told they might arrive “mañana,” or “mañana mañana,” or possibly “mañana mañana mañana.” ¿Pero quien sabes? Indeed. Who knows?

If we were in the tropics, not having bags would have very little impact. We have plenty of gear on board, surfboards and kites bulging out of every storage compartment on our 60-foot catamaran, Discovery. The fridge and freezer are stocked with every imaginable seafood delicacy compliments of the rich waters that surround Puerto Montt, the gateway port to Patagonia. But the water here hovers around 10 degrees Celsius. Without proper wetsuits, water activities will be considerably curtailed.

We study charts and Google Earth and come up with a plan B, and a Plan C, D, and E, depending on which mañana.

On an ebb tide we slide away from the docks at an absurd speed. With no wind and no sails we travel twice as fast as we should under power. The ocean is dark. I’m used to the translucent water of the tropics where reefs are as visible as billboards on the freeway. Here they lurk invisible in frigid water. At high tide they pass below our keels with plenty of room to spare. As the tide drops they rise above the surface like erupting volcanoes: dry, sharp, gnarled and twisted. They are a mirror of our surroundings.

We are near the winter solstice, which, this far south, means our days stretch impossibly long. Each morning we are enveloped in a dense still fog, but the sun eventually wins the battle for space and wet decks and chilly bodies are warmed generously. I can’t help but feel like this place is actually sucking in geological-sized breaths. Each day the forests and mountains take a huge inhalation, pulling in the fresh ocean air and sending a myriad of birds into the sky. Eventually, still waters and still air are whisked into strong laminar winds which we use to travel fast and far. As the sun sets, the mountains and streams and trees get their fill and they exhale, giving back to the ocean what they swept away so it can all begin again. The same pace sets in on board the boat. Why fight what Mother Nature has performed so perfectly?

We use the days without gear to wander up and down coastlines and bays, following the afternoon winds, seeking waves. The travels are stunning to be sure, but the odds are not in our favor. At one tide level we could sail right past a potential break that is totally flat, where no obvious wave exists, but in two hours, with a meter less water, it could be pumping. Persistence and considerable luck pay off when the bags arrive just in time for a solid WSW swell that comes to us from Antarctic waters and we are in position.


Anticipation of things to come as we drop the anchor at a new break.


Another session begins.


Jason Slezak, dropping in.


Fletcher Chouinard returns for a quick break between tides.


We settle into the same pace as our surroundings. Every living thing is taking in and using as much as it can. Light, water, food, air. We do the same but we add recreation. Yet even in this pursuit we are not alone. Boobie birds play and bathe in tidal pools; huge colonies of sea lions lounge in the sun without a care in the world and even surf some of the waves that we ride; terns soar cliff walls, using the sea breeze to stay aloft, clearly enjoying the freedom of flight just for the fun of it.

At first glance Patagonia seems to have escaped man’s incessant demands for resources. But look closer and the picture isn’t so rosy. Salmon aren’t native to Chile, but salmon farms are ubiquitous. The industry has been at the heart of fierce environmental opposition. They are ecologically filthy, pose a huge threat to native fish, and ultimately have been found to be a very unhealthy food source. Once-free-flowing, glacier-fed rivers that attracted paddlers from around the world have now been dammed to power mega-mines in the north.

When the swell dies we sail down Renihue Fjord to Parque Pumalin, in the heart of The Conservation Land Trust, created by Doug and Kristine Tompkins – now the largest in the world at over two million acres. The land has been set aside for conservation and their organization is teaching the locals that the economy in the long run will benefit more from leaving the land alone than exploiting it for short-term use. Beekeeping, ecological restoration, sustainable farming and fishing, and park creation are all part of the overarching goal: saving biodiversity.

No adjectives are descriptive enough to do this place justice. Powerful is the only one that comes close. Hungry? Grab a bucket and fill it in a minute with succulent mussels. Or grab a fly rod and land a fish from the sparkling river that runs through the property. An organic garden feeds all the staff. Chickens fertilize, bees pollinate, goats provide milk, and the cattle look like they’ve won the heifer lottery. Sustainability in action, all at the foot of one of the grandest and most picturesque places I’ve ever witnessed.


An unusual way to see Renihue Fjord, Jason Slezak at the entrance of Pumalín Park.


Reo Stevens, where the currents collide.


Jason McCaffery exploring Patagonia by kite.


I’m traveling with people who, like me, are concerned about the state of the planet. This trip wasn’t necessary to change anyone’s mind. We are the choir, no preaching necessary. Call us liberal, or progressive, or tree-huggers or maybe something even less endearing, but regardless of where you stand and what you think of issues like global warming or our overburdened planet, you can’t come to a place like Patagonia and go home unchanged.

I notice this change in our final days. Everyone takes a little more time to himself or herself. Everyone is a little more contemplative. Everyone is taking a closer look around. Everyone’s eyes shine differently and are a little more alive than they were when they got on board. I can’t help but think that we, and by WE I mean all of humanity, are a reflection of our environment. In Patagonia, you start to really like what you see in the mirror. Time isn’t read on a watch, it’s logged by the passing of the sun and moon. Food isn’t processed and shipped, it’s caught or foraged and eaten fresh. Movement is dictated by the weather, not a schedule. Exercise dictates sleep instead of an alarm clock.

Is it a stretch to say that if we subject ourselves to traffic, pollution, unpronounceable food additives, poorly built homes, pesticides and the myriad of other “advancements” that have made our lives “better” that we are moving in the wrong direction? We don’t have this conversation on the boat, but this is what we’re all thinking about. And this is a stretch, but try if you can to imagine that our world, the world we all share, was once like Patagonia everywhere.



Reo Stevens in search of surf.


Between the inhale and exhale a long moment of tranquility.


Gavin McClurg is the CEO of Offshore Odysseys and founder of The Best Odyssey and The Cabrinha Quest. He grew up on boats in the Pacific Northwest and commercially fished in the Bering Sea before getting into sailing in the mid ‘90s. You can keep up with Gavin and The Cabrinha Quest on Facebook and Instagram. Check out his previous post, “The Higher You Get, The Higher You Get – A Paragliding Journey in the Pioneer Mountains.”

Jody MacDonald is an award-winning adventure sport and documentary photographer. She says she's more comfortable snowboarding than wearing a dress and way happier surfing than going to the mall. You can follow her work and travels on Facebook, Instagram and


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DamNation: America’s Most Endangered Rivers 2014, Updated Tour Schedule & Recent Awards
Written By: Patagonia


It’s been a month since DamNation made its world premiere at SXSW in Austin, Texas. First and foremost, we would like to thank all of the people who’ve come out to see our film. Your support is greatly appreciated. Moving forward, we have a bunch of news and some important action alerts to share, so let's get to it.

America’s Most Endangered Rivers 2014

When, as a young man, DamNation co-producer Matt Stoecker witnessed migrating steelhead jump at, and bounce off, Stanford University’s Searsville Dam on San Francisquito Creek, he recognized the destructive power a single dam can have on an entire watershed and beyond. Matt is now a fish biologist, who has since spearheaded the removal of more than a dozen such barriers to migration and is actively involved in efforts to dismantle several others. When he and Patagonia founder/owner Yvon Chouinard, a long-time “dam buster” who for years has supported groups working to tear down dams, decided to capture such efforts and their healing effects on film, and share them with the world, they teamed up with Felt Soul Media’s Ben Knight and Travis Rummel, and DamNation was born.

Today, American Rivers announced their annual list of America's 10 Most Endangered Rivers and we’re happy to see San Francisquito Creek and Searsville Dam coming in at number five. San Francisquito Creek is the only nominee with a problem dam to be recognized by American Rivers this year. Making the list of most endangered rivers certainly isn’t a cause for celebration, but it’s a big deal in the river community and should bring national and local attention to the efforts that are underway to remove Searsville Dam.

[Above: Searsville Dam on San Francisquito Creek, California. Stanford releases no flows downstream for fish and wildlife and the stagnant creek dries out and becomes lethal to the threatened steelhead that are blocked at the base of the concrete wall. Photo: Matt Stoecker]

Unfortunately, it remains unclear whether Stanford University will remove their unneeded Searsville Dam and upgrade to a more reliable, sustainable and safer water system. The university is studying alternatives, including dam removal, and has promised to make a decision by the end of the year. Numerous examples throughout the country have proven that when a dam is removed, migratory fish quickly reestablish themselves above the barrier, often within weeks. Invasive species populations from the reservoirs are significantly reduced and water quality and habitat improve. Communities are made safer and the liability risk for dam owners is eliminated.


Aerial view of Searsville Dam and reservoir. Photo: Matt Stoecker


A pair of wild steelhead spawn below the impassable Searsville Dam in 2013. Multiple adult steelhead and their eggs died as upstream diversions and lack of access to perennial streams above the dam contributed to trapping these federally threatened fish in a dewatered creek. Watch a video of these two fish spawning. Photo: Doug Rundle


Streams merge in the headwaters of San Francisquito Creek where open space preserves have protected much of the watershed and provide ideal habitat conditions for steelhead and other native species to return to if only Stanford University would let them. Photo: Matt Stoecker


Running through downtown Palo Alto and Menlo Park, San Francisquito Creek harbors one of the last wild steelhead runs in the San Francisco Bay. However, Stanford's Searsville Dam blocks them from reaching critical year round streams, leaving the next generation to wonder who is responsible for the deaths of threatened steelhead in the creek. Photo: Mike Lanza


Video: San Francisquito Creek - America's Most Endangered Rivers 2014 by American Rivers


As a business member of the Beyond Searsvile Dam coalition, who is leading the charge, we urge Stanford to show leadership as environmental stewards and choose an alternative that will remove Searsville Dam, restoring this ecologically significant creek while protecting local residents from flooding and safety concerns.


Take Action!

  1. Tell Stanford University: It’s time to remove Searsville Dam
  2. Ask President Obama to crack down on deadbeat dams
  3. See the full list of America’s Most Endangered Rivers 2014 and help protect them at American Rivers


Tour Schedule & Screenings Update

A redesigned version of was launched recently, and with it comes a full list of upcoming screenings. Newport, Rhode Island; Missoula, Montana; Portland, Oregon and Carbondale, Colorado will round out our film festival screenings in April. Looking ahead, the film will have its theatrical release on May 9 in New York at the IFC Center, followed by a release on May 16 in Los Angeles at the Laemmle NoHo 7. The theatrical release is coupled with a nine-city tour of one-night film premieres in select markets in April and May, and a nationwide screening event at all U.S. Patagonia retail stores on June 5.


Please check the Upcoming Screenings page for details and tickets, or apply to Host a Screening in your home town.


Vimeo On Demand

DamNation is proud to be partnering with Vimeo On Demand to bring our film to your computer, laptop, tablet and smartphone. Preorders are being accepted now for DamNation’s digital release on June 6, 2014. And if you like DamNation, you’ll want to check out the Patagonia Collection at Vimeo On Demand. Curated by Patagonia and Vimeo, this collection of online films showcases Earth’s elegance, strength and fragility.


Visit Vimeo on Demand to see the Patagonia Collection and preorder your digital copy of DamNation.


Two Film Festivals, Two Awards for DamNation

We’re thrilled to announce that DamNation won the SXSW Film 2014 Audience Award in the Documentary Spotlight category, and the Documentary Award for Environmental Advocacy (and a $10,000 cash prize), at the 2014 Environmental Film Festival in Washington, D.C. The filmmakers express their gratitude to festivalgoers for the positive reception, celebrating the news as a sign that the urgent issue of dam removal is resonating and will continue to build momentum as the film tours across the country.

“Premiering DamNation at SXSW was a dream come true for Travis and I, and a dream come true for the film,” said co-director Ben Knight. “I honestly can't even wrap my head around the fact that we won the audience award yet, it feels very surreal. I could feel an energy build during the film at our screenings in Austin; our audiences were just amazing.”

“After pouring ourselves into DamNation, it is incredible to see the film resonate so deeply with our audiences,” said co-director Travis Rummel. “We’re so appreciative to Patagonia for trusting us with the creative freedom needed to bring this critical story to life.”

“The health of our rivers impacts all of us, and we have too many degraded rivers with unnecessary and obsolete dams,” said co-producer Matt Stoecker. “It’s so encouraging to see audiences connect with our film and help us build momentum to free our rivers.”


Yvon Chouinard and DamNation filmmakers on the SXSW red carpet. Photo: Nate Ptacek


Photo 1
Waiting in line for the world premiere at SXSW. Photo: Kasey Kersnowski


Patagonia employees Ron Hunter and Brooks Scott tabled outside the Vimeo Theater at SXSW. Photo: Nate Ptacek


Q&A session at SXSW with Nancy Schafer (moderator), Yvon Chouinard (Patagonia), Joy Howard (Patagonia), Travis Rummel (DamNation) and Jeremy Boxer (Vimeo). Photo: Nate Ptacek 


Window detail and a peek inside Patagonia Austin. Photo: Jared Tennant


Photo 3
Display inside Patagonia Austin. Photo: Kasey Kersnowski


Party at Patagonia Austin after the world premiere screening. Photo: Jared Tennant


DamNation filmmakers and the Patagonia Austin staff. Thanks to the entire store staff for their effort and hospitality. Photo: Nate Ptacek


We had a packed house at the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital, productive meetings with top policymakers and government officials about our Crack Down on Deadbeat Dams petition, and we won the Environmental Advocacy Award. Washington D.C. was good to us. Photo: Ben Knight




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Climbing in Iceland with Loki the Deceiver
Written By: Patagonia

By Kitty Calhoun

Photo #1

Iceland is a land of extremes – stark beauty within a harsh, unforgiving landscape and an equally daunting climate. Volcanoes are still erupting, earthquakes are nearly constant, yet the geothermal water provides Iceland with most of its energy needs and natural hot springs ease the cold of winter. Eleven percent of the country is covered with glaciers. Sighting of the aurora borealis is common. The coast is dotted with steep cliffs, overhung by glaciers and blasted by wind off the ocean. Yet over 300 species of birds nest in these cliffs, eider ducks (think eiderdown) float in the ocean and the fishery is Iceland’s largest source of income.

In such a stark and dramatic landscape, it is easy to imagine events being controlled by the Norse gods. In fact, on our quest for virgin ice climbs, we too felt their power – one in particular: Loki the trickster, deceiver, god of chaos.

[Above: Sunrise over the fjord. Photo: Kitty Calhoun]

Upon arrival in Reykjavik, we proceeded straight to our rental car company, SAD cars. I thought I had reserved a large 4x4 to carry the four of us – Jay Smith, John Catto, Beth Goralski and myself – plus our eight 50-pound duffel bags, four 20-pound day packs, and two weeks of groceries – into the hinterland. There must have been some miscommunication and a small SUV made for city streets awaited us – the large off-road vehicles were not available. After much consternation, we loaded up an old 4WD Nissan wagon, whose front doors had been hammered loose by the formidable Icelandic wind. To muffle the roar of wind prying through, we slammed the doors on our towels, which proceeded to batter the roof as we cruised down the narrow road leading north.


Photo #2
The SAD car. Photo: Kitty Calhoun


Obviously, if there was information available, we would not have headed to the North Central Peninsula. But this is a land of unknowns, a land of secrets. Not much of the ice has been discovered and our hunch was that the greatest concentration of hidden gems was in the heart of the steepest, most jagged mountains. Thus, after two days in the car, winding our way around every crease in the fjords, we arrived in Dalvík, the ski capital of Iceland. Armed with a half-dozen topo maps, we hoped that we might pry some secrets from local UIAGM mountain guide, JB. I closed my eyes and prayed as he called friends in each part of the country and, in Icelandic, asked for their permission to give us clues to where we might find the goods. We received their blessings but, to our chagrin, learned that ice climbs in this country do not form in the mountains, but rather on cliffs capped by a plateau. Deceived once again, we assumed positions in the SAD car and reset our sights on the Westfjords – the least visited region in all of Iceland.


Photo 3a
Road sign to the Westfjords. Photo: Beth Goralski


It was precisely halfway along a snow-drifted section of road, in a white-out and three hours from the last town, that we found ourselves contemplating abandoning the SAD car in search of a more suitable bivouac.

“I’m sorry ya’ll, but there is no way we are going to make it,” I said in a defiant voice. Somebody had to speak up and as the most conservative, adamant member of our group, I volunteered.

I felt relieved when Jay, who had made a valiant attempt to ram through walls of snow, supported me. “Yeah, I’m sorry we have spent so many days in the car, but I don’t think we are going to make it either.” I felt bad because he was feeling responsible not only for getting photos, but also for ensuring a productive trip.

John, a veteran filmmaker for National Geographic, offered, “We might be able to get in that abandoned gas station we just left.”

“Yeah, if worse comes to worse, we can sleep in the car.” I looked over at Beth, a 5’8” lanky blonde who was always smiling. She had the least experience in the group but was up for anything.

“I’d rather not,” I said with a solemn face, which betrayed my satisfaction in feeling that I had made the right choice to invite Beth, even though I barely knew her.

I pulled out my cell phone and in a last ditch effort, called my friend Runar, on the other end of the Westfjords, for help. He explained that neither plows, nor planes, nor ferries operate on Saturdays. He was on his way to a party, to celebrate the Feast of Thor, featuring traditional Icelandic fare such as marinated shark and rams’ testes. After a few phone calls, he found a farmhouse a mile back, to which we could retreat. Holed up in this place of refuge, with a hot tub, I marveled at our circumstances. Ancient lore would have attributed them to Loki, who ensnared everyone in complicated problems, to which he always supplied a remedy – though his solution often engendered even greater troubles.


Photo #4
Kitty and Beth enjoying a hot tub. Photo: Jay Smith


The following day, the storm relented and we ventured along the coast to Patreksfjörður, a small fishing town, where we met Valle, “gatekeeper” to the Westfjords ice climbs. Having been duly chastised by Runar for not warning us about the snowplow holiday, he more than made up for it by leading us over two more passes to the Land of Promise.

A single lane gravel road followed the shoreline. On one side of the road lay narrow, golden-sand beaches, lapped by long, smooth wave sets. Further out in the fjord, a research boat explored the sea, gathering data to determine its capacity for farmed salmon, most of which is sold to Whole Foods. On the other side of the road, a carpet of moss led to snow-covered slopes and small cirques or valleys lined with vertical black cliffs. Snowmelt on the plateau above generously provided so many frozen lines that we were awestruck.


Photo #5
Beth excited about another cirque. Photo: Kitty Calhoun


For our first climbs, the four of us naively picked out two new routes that looked like good warm-ups – not too hard, maybe WI 4. I offered the first lead to Beth, as she was keen and I was feeling generous. However, I started wondering what the problem was as I observed increasing evidence of her getting pumped – hacking at the ice, long pauses when she rapidly alternated shaking out each arm, and she had placed every screw on the rack.

As I followed the pitch, I realized that we had been tricked again. This was far from being a warm-up. It was a difficult WI 5! I had forgotten that the warm winds sculpt and polish the ice until there is nothing left but hollowed out caves and overhanging faces, devoid of any sweet spots to place your tools, or grooves to stem. Jay and John experienced the same deception and we all went home that night feeling elated that we just climbed two new routes, but also reminded that all was not as it appeared.


Photo #6
John Catto on another first ascent. Photo: Kitty Calhoun


The next morning, we set off to the same cirque to climb the next two hardest lines. At the base, Jay and John didn’t feel up for their route yet, so they decided to climb an easy pitch to get above and shoot me leading the hard route. As I waited on them to get into position, questions started to fill my head. Why am I doing this? Who even cares? Is it worth it? If I pump out before getting in a screw, the resulting fall could result in serious injury. How many years can a person keep redlining the stress meter before burning out? Will I ever be satisfied?

My thoughts were interrupted by Beth’s voice: “On belay.” John and Jay were ready to shoot. We were in an ice cave at the base of the steep ice. I looked around the column and up toward a large mushroom which blocked the entrance onto the smooth, slightly overhanging face above. Beth was apologizing for the big snarl we had just untangled from the double ropes. The thought, “Pride goeth before a fall,” entered my head.

I turned to Beth and said, “Don’t worry about it.” She smiled.

Then I took some deep breaths. Either my strength had to come from me – or else from God. I chose God. A calm confidence settled over me and that made all the difference. If it weren’t for this peace, I could have easily panicked when the ice continued to shatter as I tried to find a purchase for my tool over the mushroom. Panic tends to rapidly suck the remaining strength from throbbing forearms. The hand can no longer grip the tool enough to guide and accurate swing. As a last ditch effort, one starts to fumble for a screw, knowing there isn’t enough strength to place it. The mind races: What do I do? What do I do?


Photo 7
Kitty leading Loki. Photo: Beth Goralski


But the panic never came. Relaxing, trusting, and climbing precisely, I made it over the mushroom and up the gravity-defying face. Maybe climbing was an opportunity to test and to build trust. The ancient people believed that warriors trained in Valhalla for Ragnarok, the last great battle, the day of judgment.

After six days of climbing, we completed eight new routes and partially completed two others, most of which were two pitches long, WI4-5+. Of all my leads, the first one was the most difficult, the most complicated for me. That’s why I named it Loki.


Kitty Calhoun is a Patagonia ambassador and Chicks Climbing instructorChicks Climbing is the premier provider of women’s ice and rock climbing clinics in the United States.


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Written By: Patagonia

By Patch Wilson


Growing up in Cornwall, in the UK, it’s easy to feel blessed when you’re young. I thought we had the best waves ever, and in some ways it’s true. When you’re a kid, the waves at home are all you really need. But quickly the realization sets in – as you get a bit bigger and aren’t so scared of what the ocean can throw at you – you want more.

I‘ve travelled to the other end of the planet to get my fix of heavier hollower waves. But over the last 10 years or so I have come to realize that what I’m really looking for is right on my doorstep.

Here are some photos from a trip I did earlier in the year around the UK and Ireland.

[Above: Scotland, in my opinion, has some of the best waves in Europe but it gets cold in the winter. Changing out of your wetsuit can literally be a race to get into your warm car as quickly as possible. All photos by Patch Wilson unless otherwise stated.]

A reeling Irish left. This picture embodies what Ireland is to me: cold, windy and pumping.


Picture 22
An Aileens bowl about to beat the daylights out of me. Frame grab: Mickey Smith


Picture 4
This wave is 30 minutes away from where I grew up in Cornwall. On either side there are two other equally good waves on their day. It’s funny, when I’m traveling and I tell people where I am from their next question generally is, “Do you really get waves there?” To which I reply, “No, not really.”


Aileens last winter. We had a really good run of swell and offshore wind patterns late last winter which is pretty rare for the west coast of Ireland. We had some amazing late afternoon surfs with beautiful light. Photo: Al Mackinnon


Scotland again.


An inside-out right slab that is amazingly perfect but takes its fair share of scalps.


Sunrise in Scotland. In winter, the sun only comes up for about eight hours max and it sits really low in the sky. This leads to some unbelievable sunrises – always a good way to start a freezing morning.


Al Mackinnon looks on as this right-hand slab does its thing.


Some of the scenery in Scotland is absolutely breathtaking. This is the drive up through Glen Coe.


Ireland last winter. A really crazy day at the cliffs.


This is Crab Island on the west coast of Ireland. This wave is currently under threat from a pier development project that is definitely going to ruin the inside point at Doolin and could put backwash through the lineup at Crab Island. At the moment, things are really not looking good for this wave. You can keep track of what is happening at Save the Waves.


Fergal Smith drops into an Irish drainpipe.


Stef Left
This picture is from a magic run of swell and wind conditions we had a few years ago in Ireland – a left slab that I love surfing and is pretty fickle, really, but completely firing here.


Epic evening colours in Ireland.


Patrick "Patch" Wilson is a Patagonia surf ambassador from southwest Cornwall, England and an occasional contributor to The Cleanest Line.


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The Bog
Written By: Patagonia

By Kira Hoffman


As I paddle out into the morning fog of Pruth Bay, I can’t imagine a better way to commute to work. Alongside me are my two research assistants, Julia and Owen, with big smiles on their faces. On days like this, work and fun are interchangeable, and we’re thankful for the one-hour kayak before a sweaty, bug-suited bushwhack up the side of a mountain to get to our office: The Bog.

The three of us are working in the Hakai Luxvbalis Conservancy, located on Calvert Island in the heart of British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest. (You may have seen the Great Bear in Groundswell – it’s one of the areas threatened by the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project.) Established as a reserve almost twenty years ago, the Great Bear is home to wolves, grizzly and spirit bears, an amazing array of marine life and one of the largest remaining tracts of temperate rainforest in the world. The reserve extends from the northern tip of Vancouver Island to the Alaska Panhandle, and we’re right in the center of it.

[Above: There's real beauty to be found in the bog. Sphagnum rubellum and Sphagnum papillosum. All photos courtesy of Kira Hoffman]

The studies I do are based out of the Hakai Beach Institute, a privately run research station on Calvert Island owned by Eric Peterson and Christina Munck. Born and raised on the B.C. coast, Eric was originally a research scientist, then, for many years, a technology entrepreneur, most notably in the field of medical imaging. In 2001, Eric and Christina formed the self-funded, non-profit Tula Foundation. One of the Foundation’s ventures was to turn a failing sportfishing lodge into the Hakai Beach Institute, molding it into a center for research, teaching and community leadership. The many scientists who work here now survey everything from the seafloor to the mountaintops, attempting to understand what’s happened here in the last 15,000 years and what might happen in the future as our coast faces a rapidly changing climate.

The thick fog blankets the bay and we hug the shore, knowing there isn’t much stopping us from making a wrong turn and ending up in Japan. We pass several eagles perched in cedar trees, watching and waiting for the fish to jump. The fog is cool and we hope it burns off so we get to experience a few hours of sun, a rare thing on this wet coast.


Foggy morning in Pruth Bay.


Rush hour traffic.


This rare event was captured in late July of 2013. Opalescent squid (Doryteuthis opalescens) have not been recorded spawning here since 1996.


Juvenile baldy on the lookout as we come ashore.


We arrive at a place called Wolf Beach, come ashore and store our kayaks for the day. It takes the three of us some time to carry our kayaks above the high tide line – the tides in this region average about 15 feet and you don’t want to a) see your kayak floating out to sea or, b) have to drag your kayak a mile across the mud of a drained-out bay.

With the boats safely stowed, we spend the better part of an hour hiking – and sometimes crawling – through deep ravines and scrub forest before breaking into an open bog up high. The bogs in this region are a mosaic of rolling marshy topography intermingled with bonsai-like trees and large, mossy hummocks. They’re generally not considered glamorous places – quite often the beauty is lost to swarming blackflies, the smell of rotting plants, and the threat of waist-deep soakers.

Despite the cold weather, we’re drenched in sweat from hiking in gumboots, rain pants and bug suits. We’ve almost perfected navigating with thin black veils covering our faces, but someone usually falls victim to a misjudged step, which means either slipping back down the hill or getting stuck in quicksand-like mud until one of your friends hauls you out. Or, even worse, walking into a branch that tears your bug suit – something I imagine is comparable to a leak in your spacesuit. Bad news.


The view from high on Calvert Island, with one of our study sites in the foreground.


No we don’t ride horses in the bog. Although it appears we are dressed like equestrian riders, the outfit functions to protect us from the bugs and our sticks help us measure plants. This one goes out to one great field assistant (Julia, right) and all our fun 2013 adventures in the Great Bear Rainforest!


Field assistant Owen taking it all in stride. If it's not clouds of rain, it's clouds of bugs.


Once we’re on site, we settle down to work after going through the morning checks: weather station still running (survived the 80 mph winds the night before), experiments still intact (we’re in a constant battle with the wolves who love pulling out our temperature sensors), and everyone accounted for (nobody fell in the quicksand, got lost in the featureless landscape or got distracted by salmonberry patches along the way).

Bogs are common in our area, but they’re globally rare and at-risk ecosystems, and our work involves trying to learn more about them and how they’ll respond to future climate change scenarios. They filter water, store carbon and are important habitats for birds and animals, and they’re at risk of disappearing before we know much about them. My fieldwork is based on manipulating drought in the bog to understand if plants that have adapted to living year-round in water can survive without it. The three-year experiments involve cutting out pieces of the bog and raising them above the water table, where they are not saturated throughout the year, and then observing how soils and plants adapt to different precipitation regimes. We also painstakingly measure every plant in the twenty separate plots, and analyze the soil to see how nutrients are used.


Blanket bog microcosm at Wolf Beach bog, Calvert Island.


Soil pit on Mt. Buxton


Measuring decomposition rates in the bog.


Twenty more transplants to go!


Lipstick lichen


Reindeer lichen


The king gentian, a blue beauty of the bog.


The fiddlehead fern, one of my favorite bog species.


As we break for lunch, we feel the wind pick up and the sun finally breaks through the fog. We all sigh a bit of relief as we’re able to take the bug suits off long enough for a drink of water and a few bites of food. Just before we settle back in to work, we hear the sound of two humpback whales feeding in the bay – it’s such a quiet place here that we can hear them blowing even though they’re half a mile away. A few hours later, after an afternoon of measuring plants, we retreat downhill to the kayaks. The tide is high, and we’re happy to find that we don’t have to hike the kayaks far. By this time our stomachs are rumbling, and we’ve already started wagers on what will be for dinner tonight.

I’ve only been working here for two years, and at first I was out of my element on the coast – I didn't know how to drive a boat, and couldn't ever seem to find the right gear for day after day of endless torrential rain. Nevertheless, I'm learning, and I feel more and more that I've found a home. After a long day of tramping through the bog, it's always nice to get time to reflect on the paddle home before I share my thoughts of the day at the big dinner table. Mostly I think about how grateful I am for each day I get to spend in this place – and for all the wild places that still exist and the people who work to protect them.


Looking forward to dinner after a successful day of sciencing.


Kira Hoffman is a community ecologist studying bog ecosystems in British Columbia’s very wet hypermaritime zone on the central coast. She studies interactions between plants and soil microbial communities and how above- and below- ground processes are affected by climate change.

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21st Annual Hueco Rock Rodeo Recap & Video
Written By: Patagonia

By Brittany Griffith


“Hueco Tanks is the best bouldering in the world,” someone boldly posted on the encyclopedic climbing resource The best? Pretty strong words. I’ve been to a lot of famous climbing areas in the world and it was going to take more than a hyperbolic online endorsement to change my reservations (not the kind you need to climb here, alas, but I’ll cover that later).

As a climber, I had obviously heard about Hueco. There’s no disputing that Hueco stands as an iconic place in American climbing significance. Like Yosemite is to big wall climbing, Smith Rock is to sport climbing, and Indian Creek is to splitter crack climbing, Hueco is to bouldering. And Patagonia’s presence at the 21st annual Hueco Rock Rodeo was the perfect excuse for me to finally make the pilgrimage to the famed bouldering mecca.

I respect and enjoy all disciplines of climbing, but, if I had to choose, I’d say bouldering is my least favorite. It just seems silly to try so hard for such small terrain gains… but mostly because I suck at it.


Training for not sucking. I was so intimidated by the prospect of going to Hueco and not being able to climb anything that I trained in a cold garage for the entire month of January. Part of that training was dead hangs off a campus rung with weights attached to my waist. Photo: Steve Maisch Training archives


Ana Burgos surviving on Nobody Here Gets Out Alive, which is described on as “The best V2 in the world.” Photo: Sam Davis


Way high in Hueco. Photo: Sam Davis


The Rock Rodeo follows a format similar to most of the grassroots climbing events I’ve attended (which is pretty much all of them): vendor tents, a climbing comp, slide shows, food, beer, DJ and dyno comp.




Key elements to a successful climbing event: Booth, bonfire and, of course, beer bowls. Patagonia donated over 300 reusable origami bowls which resourceful climbers used for pancakes, burritos and even beer. We also “traded” donations for T-shirts and raised $400 for The Climbers of Hueco Tanks Coalition. Photos: Justin Wood


The climbing comp was open to all ages and all levels. The fact that four different countries were represented in the top six male and female finishers in the open category of the bouldering comp illustrates the international status that Hueco holds.





The fact that many famous climbers attended the event is great, but what we should all be most proud of is the fact that this event helps to support and sustain climbing in Hueco for future generations.

“The Hueco Rock Rodeo proudly donates proceeds to Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site, The Climbers of Hueco Tanks Coalition and local El Paso Youth Outreach Programs. These organizations strive to preserve The Park, our privilege to climb at the Historic Site and help the climbing community give back to the local community.”

One doesn’t hear about the virtues of the climbing in Hueco without hearing about the access issues. It’s a sometimes confusing and frustrating (not to mention costly) system that involves reservations, waiting, paying, waiting, rules and waiting. All things most climbers typically don’t gravitate toward.


Hueco’s waiting game. Photo: Justin Wood


Yet despite the restrictive policies of the Park (or maybe a phenomena as a result?), I curiously witnessed an uncharacteristic display of patience and a more harmonious coexistence with rules than I would have expected of climbers. Something I, as well as many other climbers, could stand to learn more.


Not everyone who hangs in Hueco is a dirtbag or on a climbing vacation. Sam Davis lives, trains, and studies electrical engineering with Hueco in his backyard. Sam and his wife, Ana, let me, a complete stranger, squat (in my Mercedes Sprinter van…) on their land for two weeks. Even though I’ve climbed around the world for the past 20 years, and been shown the upmost hospitality, I’m still impressed when people do this merely based on the fact that I’m a fellow climber.


Does Hueco have the best bouldering in the world? Is the system f***ed? I don’t know and I don’t really care to argue. But what I will defend is that there unquestionably exists what is most important to me as a climber: a community. A community of climbers that live and breath Hueco, that deal day after day to spend time in a place they love, and this is what ultimately makes Hueco world class.


Hueco Rock Rodeo 2014 - Event Video! from Bearcam Media.


Despite professional training, the author knee-barred and hand-jammed her way around Hueco.


Brittany Griffith is a Patagonia climbing ambassador and a regular contributor to this blog. She’s led 5.13 sport and traditional routes and vows someday to lead the gym’s 5.11c purple route. She obsesses over her garden and vacuuming and holds a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. As a former McDonald’s employee, Brittany served an estimated 12,308 Happy Meals.


Blast from the past: Here’s a video of Lynn Hill at Hueco Tanks in 2009, making it look way too easy.


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Dirtbag Diaries: The Remotest
Written By: Patagonia

By Fitz & Becca Cahall

We all know the feeling of remoteness. The stillness. The perspective. It's part of what keeps drawing us outside. But what does it feel like to be standing, literally, in the most remote place in a state? In the country? And what might those places reveal about the fate of our country's wild lands? In 2010, Ryan and Rebecca Means embarked upon Project Remote to find out.

Listen to "The Remotist" by The Dirtbag Diaries on Soundcloud.

Visit for links to past episodes, featured music and to pledge your support. You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunesRSSSoundCloud and Stitcheror connect with the Dirtbag Diaries community on Facebook and TwitterThe Dirtbag Diaries is a Duct Tape Then Beer production. 

[Graphic by Walker Cahall]

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B.S., Rednecks and Development
Written By: Patagonia

By Shannon McPhail


Some people call me an environmentalist. What in the hell is an environmentalist anyway? Growing up in my family, it was a dirty word to describe privileged and over-educated people who got their education out of a book instead of the woods. My upbringing taught me that hard work, hard damn work, was the way to make it in life. I was raised by a farming family in the Kispiox Valley and we made our way as loggers, guide outfitters, rodeo stock contractors and, from time to time, we worked in the mining or oil and gas industry running heavy equipment.

Editor’s note: It’s a pleasure to welcome Shannon McPhail back to The Cleanest Line. Shannon is the executive director of the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition, a group Patagonia proudly supported during their historic fight against proposed methane wells in Canada’s Sacred Headwaters. Now she's working to get her community fired up for another potential battle against liquified natural gas (LNG) development. Note: minor profanities ahead. 

[Above: My great uncles packing into the Skeena Mountains. Photo: Wilfred Lee]

But when we weren’t working the land for food or in the bush for money, we were on the rivers or in the mountains. My family vacations were spent on pack trips by horse going into the Skeena Mountains or the Atnas. But of course, we couldn’t take a vacation for a mere vacation, that would have been considered a complete waste of time. We had to get enough moose, caribou, grouse and maybe a black bear to bring home for winter’s meat. Black bear makes damn good ham and bratwurst, and you can render the fat for lard. We grew up growing or wild harvesting a lot of our own food because we couldn’t afford to buy it. Even though we raised cattle, we couldn’t eat much of it because that was money out of our pockets. So we hunted wild game to fill our pantries. The line between bankruptcy and paying the bills was incredibly thin but we certainly had an incredible life.

Living in the Skeena region has not been the easiest existence, especially in the winter. Communities are bonded by enduring the cold months together and it’s the time where we get out and get more social to chase away the long darkness. We dream of the warm summer sun, floats down the river, sitting with family and buddies around a picnic table and eating salmon so fresh that it curls when you cook it.


The Allen Family, 2010


3_Joy Chichi Shannon
Me and my mom, Joy, 1978.


I love this place. It’s my home. It was my home long before I was born – more than 100 years with six generations in the Kispiox Valley. We are known as the cowboy farmers, some might say rednecks. Actually, everyone says rednecks. My dad was known for being one helluva boxer and regularly got into fist fights. I don’t know if he ever lost a fight but then again, I don’t know that he would ever tell me if he did. He taught me how to go fist-a-cuffs and I was pretty good at it. The fact that I grew into almost a 6-footer and spent the summer tossing hay bales around for hours and hours every day might have had something to do with it. Still, I avoided conflict like the plague. I despised conflict or disharmony. They made me cringe and still do to this day. I would always try to walk away, feeling sick in my stomach, wanting to run, but growing up in the bush you know that running away only encourages chase and the best way to deal with it, or at least the most instinctual way, was to face up and deal with things because they will only get worse if you don’t.

This is why I have trouble with the word environmentalist. It’s not really inclusive of people like me or my family. We aren’t fighting for the environment. We’re fighting for our homes and for our families because we need clean water and wild game. If we protect habitat for salmon and wild game, we can eat good clean food. I can’t believe I said habitat. Hell, I even catch myself talking about “ecosystems” these days.


Moose antlers


My folks, Gene and Joy Allen.


My husband is a rig welder in the oil sands. He makes a damn good living over there but he’s gone 16 days then home for 12. When I first heard about Shell wanting to drill for coalbed methane in the Headwaters, I thought it was a great idea. Can you imagine how much money we could make? Shell is no small potato. With a big company like them comes big money and I wanted a piece of it. The history of my evolution into becoming an enemy to Shell’s proposal is a long one but the gist of it is that the more I learned about the development, the more my hackles went up. I couldn’t believe what they were proposing and moreover, I couldn’t believe they were trying to tell us that it would all be okay.

I did the only thing I knew how to do, I sat in people’s kitchens and drank coffee with them and asked them for help in figuring out how we deal with these guys who were coming into our watershed telling us that they were pushing forward with a development that we didn’t want and couldn’t stop. I wasn’t branded an environmentalist. I was Gene Allen’s daughter so there were no worries about being a NIMBY or a CAVE’r. Everyone around here knows that if anyone is going to get on the development bandwagon, it would be my family.


5_SWCC Welder
Working in the oil sands, SWCC logo on helmet.


I went to my peer group, the rod and gun clubs, fishermen, the old farmers, the guide outfitters, hunters and trappers. These were simply the people I was comfortable talking to because they were people I could relate to. It wasn’t long before some people told us about the Tahltan and that I should head up there to meet some of them because they had blockaded some of these big developments. The Tahltan had long been supporters of development with most of BC’s major mining projects being proposed on their territory, so I was curious as to why they had changed their tune.

The Tahltan were no strangers to my family. My dad had horse traded for decades with some of the Tahltan guide outfitters. He would take his champion stud named Simon (after Simon Gunanoot, the famous Gitxsan outlaw) to breed the mares in Tahltan country and in three years, he would take half the foals back as broncs while the other half became mountain horses. Simon bred amazing broncs, some of the best in the world. He also had the perfect genetics for mountain horses with big, wide feet, strong backs and a quiet demeanor about them for packing hunters and gear.

I remember making the trip to Telegraph Creek every spring with a horse trailer full of 10 horses. One was Simon and the other nine were Simon foals that just didn’t buck. That was the thing about Simon foals, all of them were quiet and loved to snuggle but some of them genetically loved to buck while the others wouldn’t buck, ever. The ones who wouldn’t buck became great horses for kids or working in the mountains. We’d get into Telegraph, give the horses a day’s rest and protein-rich grain before turning them out into the hills. Fletcher Day, a Tahltan Chief and guide-outfitter would send his Tahltan wranglers out to gather his horses and off they would go with some halters and a bucket of oats. One-to-three days later they would return with all the horses that had been turned out for the winter. I don’t know what those wranglers ate or where they slept while they were out there but they came back looking as fresh as when they left. They would gather in the round-pen and everyone from the community would come out to watch Tahltan cowboys get on the three-year-old foals to see which ones would make their living on the rodeo circuit and which ones in the mountains. All the while, Simon was having a great time with the mares.




I didn’t enter into the Sacred Headwaters campaign as an enviro or a campaigner. I came into it as a concerned citizen, a cowgirl, a hunting guide and just talked about plain old common sense. People described it as a David and Goliath story but that never resonated with me because our region is where the power lies, not industry. If anything, we would be the Goliath. When we unite, we’re unstoppable. We’ve seen it time and time again. Industry has to come in here and tried to convince us that their project is worth it, that they are good, corporate citizens. They have to spend millions to figure everything out, to “consult” and try to earn social license. Some companies have realized that you can’t buy social license in the north, you really do have to earn it. Those are the companies I want to work with.

We don’t have millions. We don’t have slick PR budgets and executive types to woo government. We simply have our truth, our stories and our relationships with each other and to the land – those are assets I’d much rather have than vast amounts money any day. These companies have to counter our truth with all that money and history has shown that it just isn’t enough. If they come to our watershed, our communities and they don’t tell the truth or genuinely have our best interests at heart, they will lose. We have a culture of uniting against bad ideas. Government knows it and they refer to us as the “Republic of the Skeena” with Kitimat included. That makes me feel pretty damn good and has given so many others hope too – hope that they can stand up to ill-advised development and the big corporations behind them.


Ancient petroglyphs on the Skeena River. Photo: Jim Allen


“We simply have opposing world views,” was a comment made by one corporate executive. Well let me give you an education, sir. You don’t live here, you don’t depend on the return of the salmon each and every year and you don’t drink the water. When PR teams come to our communities I wonder if they recognize that the First Nations territory they’re proposing their development on is the only territory that nation has? If you’re Gitxsan and someone destroys your traditional territory, you don’t get to pull up stakes and move. You don’t get another traditional territory. You have only the territory that has been passed down to you from countless generations and that you are borrowing from the generations yet to come. We are left with the consequences of our own decisions and those of industry and government, whether they are positive or negative, and as such, we should be the decision makers.

The thing about being a northerner is (something us settler types learned from the First Nations), if the shopping sucks, or we don’t like our kid’s school, our jobs or the weather, we don’t move. We work our asses off to make our community better – we have to because no one else will. Opposing world views? This place is my whole world. It’s the centre of my universe. It’s my home. It’s where I was born, where my father was born and where my grandmother and great-grandparents were born and buried. It’s where I will be buried and my grandkids and their grandkids will continue on.

No amount of money can counter the truth. It can’t counter our commitment to our home and to our future generations. It can’t counter our real connections to this place and to our neighbours. We are the people who live here and as such, we have a say in what happens here. We have a big say!

The thing that lies between the bullshit future promised by liquefied natural gas (LNG) development and an economy and environment that actually works, is us. By “us” I mean the folks who make this watershed their home. We are the people we need to turn to. We tend to look around for someone to save us but we are it, and I thank the powers that be that it’s us. Who better? But that also means we gotta get our asses in gear. We’ve got a lot of work to do and if there’s anyone that can get it done it’s the citizens and First Nations of the Skeena watershed. I’m not trying to blow sunshine up anyone’s ass or give a false sense of hope. I simply know that we are winning.


Skeena salmon. Photo: Paul Colangelo


Wild Skeena salmon contribute $110 million to our economy every year. Guide outfitting contributes another $28 million. For a watershed of 50,000 people, that’s an awful lot of money. Every seven years it’s $1 billion just for keeping our watershed healthy. And that doesn’t take into consideration the sustenance or cultural value of these things.

I get pretty grouchy when someone tries to say that we can’t be against everything because we are not. There is over $10 billion dollars of development happening in northwest BC right now, that doesn’t include the Northern Gateway pipeline or a single LNG project. People have been shipped in from the USA, South Africa, Alberta, etc. to work the jobs that are in our watershed. It’s happening right now. We are already overwhelmed with development, hundreds of mining referrals, railway expansions, power projects, etc. Then you add LNG and it becomes something out of a science fiction movie. We are a resource extraction region, it’s what we do and we’re good at it. Not one single “enviro” group or First Nation is saying we need to stop all of it, but they are ALL saying that we need to stop the ridiculous proposals that give us more to lose than gain, that trade our wild-salmon economy for bigger corporate profits in some bank account with a mailing address in another country. We are reasonable folks who want reasonable solutions and it’s up to us to help build those solutions.

That’s where my head is at these days. I want solutions. I want to help figure out economic developments that will help us more than hinder us, build infrastructure that gives us employment and energy and does so without messing with our clean air, wild salmon or water. The more we look into this, the more we discover that there are alternatives – good ones. Ones we can implement right now. Machines that convert plastic into oil from plastic we can mine from our own landfills. Wood to gas electricity systems using sawdust from lumber mills, wind power, solar heat and power, and the list goes on and on. The more we research, the more solutions we find. If we had a tiny fraction of the PR budget being spent promoting LNG, we could be completely self-sufficient and even export power as additional income. The solutions exist.

LNG is natural gas that has been frozen to -160 Celsius to turn it from a gas to a liquid. The name “natural gas” is another slick PR deal. Because it’s called “natural” gas, it invokes a vision of some kind of organic product naturally emitted from the Earth that we capture and use for clean, green energy. I call bullshit.

The Northern Gateway pipeline will never be built, of that I have no doubt. It doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of work yet to be done. It simply means that we have a big, bright light at the end of the tunnel. LNG is far worse than Northern Gateway in my opinion and we’ve got a government who has put the blinders on to try and bulldoze it all right through. Proposing terminals as big as oil sands infrastructure in our Skeena estuary where our wild salmon and steelhead go. Air quality assessments conclude these terminals will more than double the pollution in BC and result in acid rain. The gas supply will be obtained by drastically increasing fracking all over the Province when more and more countries are banning that practice daily. They’re changing our entire economic structure to be based on LNG and we don’t have a single buyer for our product. Even if we did, there are some pretty knowledgeable folks who say we don’t have the gas supply to keep the industry going long enough to pay back the investment. The problem I have with learning about LNG and educating people about LNG is that there is so much wrong with this industry that it makes it confusing. It’s so hard to keep track of all the government promises versus the contrasting reality.

The BC government is trying to get support by motivating people with fear, telling us how LNG will save us from the impending economic peril. They tell us that it will keep schools and hospitals open, that infrastructure will be maintained and the story goes on and on. Meanwhile, schools are being closed, hospitals are slammed and underfunded, ferry routes are being canceled and foreign workforces are still being shipped in.

Bottom line, it’s all bullshit and no matter how much perfume or potpourri you put on it, it’s still shit. Being a farmer, I’ve shoveled my fair share of bullshit and in the end, if we put it in its proper place, it can fertilize our gardens.

Time to get your shovel.


Shannon McPhail is a mother of two and the Executive Director of the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition, a non-profit group formed by friends, family and neighbors to fight proposed coalbed methane wells in the Sacred Headwaters of British Columbia where three of Canada's greatest wild salmon and steelhead rivers, the Skeena, Stikine and Nass, are born. On December 18, 2012, after a 10-year battle, the Sacred Headwaters received permanent protection. “My ultimate goal is to help people understand the true gift of living here and encourage active and informed citizenship.”

This story was first published on Shannon’s blog, From the Woodshed. With thanks to Moldy Chum.


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Tying the Room Together - 2014 American Alpine Club Annual Benefit, featuring Yvon Chouinard
Written By: Patagonia

By Kelly Cordes


“Holy guacamole,” I mumbled to myself. “There are a lot of ties in this room.” Lots of exquisite dresses, too.

I was at the recent American Alpine Club Annual Benefit Dinner, which begs the question of place: What was my broke ass doing in a VIP seat, wearing a borrowed bow tie, at a fancy fundraiser?

It just so happens that I know people who know people who know people. Well, OK, the secret to my magic trick: Patagonia was the title sponsor, Yvon Chouinard the keynote speaker, and the dinner was in Denver – an hour and a half from my cabin in Estes Park.

I agonized over wardrobe. As a person, I’d planned on jeans and a T-shirt. After all, it shouldn’t matter how you look on the outside. Then again, we have cultural norms, and I didn’t want to disrespect anyone, no matter how silly the norm. Ahhh, the issues that burn.

[Above: We... are... family... Kelly CordesKate RutherfordSteve HouseLynn HillYvon ChouinardBrittany Griffith and Timmy O'Neill. Photo: Lee Pruitt] 

I hate ties. Nice shirt, fine. You’re wearing a shirt anyway (unless you’re a climber dude who wants to show-off his physique, in which case a beanie substitutes for a shirt). And you have to wear pants anyway, too (I don’t know if you know this or not, but you can get arrested without them). But a tie? A tie has to be the stupidest piece of attire in the whole entire world. Yet I have a soft spot for the bow tie. Don’t know why.

Regardless, a guy like me doesn’t miss many free dinners, and I knew enough to never scratch my head during the live auction. Some observations from the American Alpine Club (AAC) dinner:

• Several years ago the AAC made the wise decision to separate the fancy dinner from other events spread throughout the weekend. Some events are more open and appeal to the younger audience, while the fancy dinner is for fundraising and connections between old friends. We all get old, and memories are all we really have.

• My friend Janet Wilkinson was inducted as a new member to the AAC’s Board of Directors. Which is great not only because she’s a real-deal climber, smart, and about half the age of the typical BOD member, but because it immediately worked to my benefit. Her husband, my friend Freddie (who received the AAC’s literary award), came along and happened to have an extra bow tie. Bingo.


Janet wilkinson photo - kc bow tie IMG_9117
Kelly and Freddie tie one on. Photo: Janet Wilkinson

• Side note: On occasion I’ve been asked by active young climbers if they should attend the AAC dinner. (For 12 years I was one of the editors of the American Alpine Journal, and twice I attended annual dinners for work.) No way. If you’re scraping to spend all your money climbing, keep doing it. Climb. When we’re old, if we’re fortunate enough to be able to give back to the thing we love, do it then. But first, create the memories.

• Best comment at the Saturday panel discussion, The Extra (X) Factor: Pioneering Women in Climbing, came from Melissa Arnot. As the distinction between “climber” and “female climber” becomes less relevant in discussions of accomplishment, potential and drive, tiresome questions remain. When asked about motherhood, Arnot astutely replied that the question would never be asked on a panel of men.

Steve House, the finest American alpinist of his generation, and one of the best ever, received the Underhill Award for lifetime achievement. Little more needs said, as his incredible list of accomplishments speaks for itself. He does, by the way, have a new book out, with co-author Scott Johnston. It’ll surely become a bible for current alpinists: Training for the New Alpinism: A manual for the climber as athlete.


Steve House accepts the Underhill Award for lifetime achievement. Photo: Liz Cunningham  


• Jim Balog received the Brower Conservation Award for his incredible work with the Extreme Ice Survey and Earth Vision Trust (his nonprofit). His work is not only the definitive documentation of the world’s rapidly receding glaciers, but he’s trying to do something about it by advancing policy and education (by now, I think all but cave-dwelling troglodytes have plenty of “awareness” of the problem – Kickstarter climbing expeditions to raise awareness for global warming take note…).

• When it came time to support the youngsters emerging from climbing gyms, the “old guard” raised a shitton of money for a new AAC program to educate those making the transition from climbing indoors to climbing outside. It’s another problem of which, as per the abundance of yearly accident reports, we’ve got plenty of awareness. Much to their credit, the AAC is doing something about it.

• For the main event, Yvon spoke and showed old photos from his early life and progression, including the golden age in Yosemite, and held the audience of 600 rapt with his classic style – the one-liners, his sincerity, honesty and a spirit that values the past – without getting stuck in it – while looking to the future. That’s what I love about Yvon and the best of the old guard: they embrace what’s worth keeping and ditch the rest.


Yvon Chouinard gave the evening's keynote speech: "Yosemite: Our Pioneering Spirit." Photo: Lee Pruitt


A few more photos from the weekend:

Friday night event at Earth Treks gym in Golden, Colorado. Photo: Liz Cunningham


Celebrity climbing comp emcee, Timmy O'Neill, chats up Brittany Griffith and Lynn Hill. Photo: Lee Pruitt


Jenna 7
Lynn Hill came in second in the women's division and stole the applause from the crowd. Photo: Jenna Johnson


Jeremy Collins 3
Jeremy Collins, Jenna Johnson and that dude with the bow tie photobombing a perfectly nice moment. Photo: Jeremy Collins Collection


Steve House and Scott Johnston, co-authors of Training for the New Alpinism. Photo: Jimmy Hopper


Timmy O'Neill and the severely underdressed Jimmy Hopper. Photo: Jimmy Hopper Collection


Jeremy Collins 1
Yvon signs a Chouinard ice axe for one of the dinner guests. Photo: Jeremy Collins


When you think about it, as we age there is no greater honor than to watch the next generation go zooming past our previous highpoints. Everything builds on everything else. Maybe the unspoken goal of the AAC fundraiser dinner was to enable the zoom.

I still maintain that ties are stupid, but what we wore around our necks didn’t matter – a love of climbing really tied the room together.


Kelly Cordes specializes in margaritas, maximizing outdoor time and climbing alpine-style routes. Kelly is a regular contributor to The Cleanest Line and his unfiltered personal blog.

More coverage of the event and Yvon's speech:
"When Climbing Was Dangerous and Sex Was Safe" by John Heilprin, AAC
"Sharma to Chouinard in a Weekend" by Alison Osius, Rock & Ice

Ready to join the American Alpine Club? Become a member


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Wooden Big-Wave Guns: Two Techniques, Same Objective
Written By: Patagonia

By Dr. Tony Butt


Nowadays there are a lot of people making wooden surfboards. Environmentally it makes a great deal of sense. Wood is a natural, non-toxic material that is infinitely less harmful to work with than polyester, epoxy, polyethylene or polystyrene, and that can be assimilated back into the environment once the life of the board has ended. Also, wooden boards are generally made to last longer, which reduces the environmental footprint at the manufacturing end and at the waste-management end. And if the raw material (i.e. trees from the forest or offcuts from other industries) is extracted at a rate that is slower than the rate of natural re-generation of that material, a wooden board can be close to being truly sustainable.

When one thinks of modern wooden surfboards, those that immediately spring to mind are longboards, retro-fishes and single-fins – boards where a little more weight and perhaps a little less speed are not too much of an impediment. Boards for riders whose top priority is having fun without necessarily being able to land an aerial 360.

[Above: Patrick Burnett (left) with his 11’0” hollow wood board and Jason Hayes (right) with his 11’4” agave board.]

But extra weight is not necessarily too much of an impediment in another type of surfboard: the big-wave gun. Dropping down a giant wave, most of the time you need to control the speed you already have, rather than generate more speed. Some say that extra weight is actually an advantage in big surf, because it helps the board push through chop and reduces the effects of windage. That’s open to debate, but, whatever the case, a lighter board in big surf usually means a weaker one, and the last thing you want is for your expensive gun to snap on the first wave of the best day of the year.

From my own perspective, the idea of a wooden gun fits in very well with my passion for the environmental and with my passion for big waves. Calling myself a big-wave surfer and at the same time an environmental activist sometimes seems a little hypocritical, especially when I spend all day driving up and down the coast looking for the biggest, cleanest waves, and must always have a quiver of guns including back-ups in case they snap.

So, recently, at a fairly ‘mellow’ 15-foot day at Sunset Reef in South Africa, I was thrilled to bump into Patrick Burnett and Jason Hayes, both trying out for the first time serious guns that they had constructed out of wood. When I say ‘serious’ I mean 11’0” and 11’4” – lengths that could potentially be used to catch the biggest waves ever paddled into.

Of course, these are by no means the first wooden guns to be made, but probably the first ones anywhere in Africa or Europe. The interesting thing is that Patrick and Jason had each decided on a completely different construction method to achieve the same objective.

Sunset Reef. Photo: Javi Muñoz Pacotwo

Tony Butt (TB): What were the waves like and how did the board feel out at Sunset that day?

Patrick: It wasn't maxing but there were some really defined and good quality peaks breaking off the back. The board paddled very well, had a liveliness entering the wave and the drive that I needed through the bowl section. I was stoked!

Jason: Surfing the board out at Sunset Reef, on a fairly onshore 12- to 15-foot day, was not the ideal conditions to be surfing in. The board has more weight than the conventional foam guns and ended up not riding the bumps all that well. However, the other day I took the board out on a clean, 10 foot day with no wind and the board was magnificent.

TB: How is the board constructed?

Patrick: It's constructed using a hollow wood frame and rib method. Glassed with epoxy.

Jason: The board is constructed from many machined Agave stems that are made into stringers, and then laminated together with cold waterproof glue in a chosen rocker profile. This gives you the blank, which you then shape in the same way as a foam blank. The board is then glassed with epoxy.

TB: Why did you choose that method over other wooden board building techniques?

Patrick: I've been making hollow wood surfboards for six years. This is the method I have chosen to experiment with/perfect and I've made fishes, single fins, eggs, mini-malibus, longboards, the lot. I make my living from making these boards and so it followed that I would use it in making this board.

Jason: One reason I chose the Agave wooden board over other timber designed boards is that right from the beginning the process brings you closer to Nature. You first have to go out into the bush, choose each plant by hand and imagine how it will form part of the board. Then, once you have laminated it all together to form a blank, you have to use your carpentry tools to shape it into a surfboard. As a master carpenter by trade, I like the idea that the process is as close to carpentry as you can get.

TB: What are the dimensions of the board and why did you choose those particular ones

Patrick: It is 11’0” x 20.5” x 3.5” thruster. I wanted it to surf Sunset Reef. Sunset is a wave where you need the length because it moves so much water and the waves move so fast. You need a big board to be able to catch waves.

Jason: The dimensions are 11’4” x 22” x 3”. At the time I had not heard of a big wave gun longer than 11’2” in Cape Town or in South Africa and I had never heard of an Agave gun that long anywhere in the world. The width ended up 22” because I battled to get out more than 3” on thickness and so compromised with more width. Note that Agave plant grows up to 15 or 18 feet long, but you need extra length in the plant in order to get the rocker in the board.

This is what the agave plant looks like in the wild. The trunks are about 15 to 20 feet high.

Agave trunks ready to be brought back to the shaping room.

Jason with the 11’4” agave board.

TB: How many hours did the board take you to make?

Patrick: It is hard to say. I made it over a 4-5 month period and was working on many other boards at the same time. But I took my time on this one. At a rough estimate, up to 80 hours of labour. I was as meticulous as I could be.

Jason: The board took many days to make. First I had to drive into the bush and look for Agave plants, choose the ones I wanted, cut them down, load them up and drive back again. That took about two days altogether. Then stripping them down and getting them into stringers that I could laminate together took another couple of days, and the laminating itself took about a day. I haven’t shaped many boards before, so the shaping probably took me a lot longer than normal – about four days. The board was glassed by a friend of mine, which took him two days. So there you have it, around eleven days altogether.

TB: How did the idea of building a wooden gun evolve?

Patrick: I've been surfing bigger waves for about eight years. Boards I surf in other conditions are hollow wood surfboards that I made myself and it has always been in my mind that I also wanted my big wave board to be a hollow wood surfboard. The first hollow wood gun that I made was a 9’6” single fin. I surfed it once in eight-to-ten foot waves and then started to tinker with it in the workshop. Eventually I put it aside, unfinished, and stored the lessons it had taught me in my memory bank. That was about four years ago. When I started making this latest board I felt like I was ready to make it.

Jason: The idea to make an Agave gun was inspired by my friend legendary Cape-Town big-wave surfer Simon Lowe. Originally my plan was to make a Pat Curren Gun, 10’6”, shaping it as close to the original lines of that board as possible. But then Simon inspired me to make a more modern board that would surf much bigger waves than Curren surfed in the 1960s. I had already cut the Agave stems, and 11’4” was the biggest I could get out of them.

TB: Apart from the environmental side of things, what are the principle advantages and disadvantages of wood compared with plastic for big-wave guns?

Patrick: I think it is an area that I'm still learning about. I haven't surfed it many times and so it is a bit early to say. But there are a few things that I'm thinking about and exploring. Firstly, the strength of the board is in the rails and although I have put some reinforcements in the central area of the board, the strength remains in the rails. But there is still flexibility through the board. I could actually feel this flex in the board on some waves - there seemed to be a real 'spring' in it coming off the bottom and setting a rail. Given that wood has good flexibility and flex retention properties this has interesting performance implications. One of the tricky questions, however, is how much flex can be built for without compromising strength. I don't know. It's an experiment.

Jason: The principle advantage over plastic I would say, for this type of construction method anyway, is strength. Even though they have not been put to any proper tests, I have no doubt in my mind that these boards are extremely strong. You are using natural growth curves to strengthen your boards and by the end of it you have natural fibres from nose to tail, side to side and top to bottom.

TB: Some people don’t like the fact that these boards are heavier than plastic ones, yet others think that weight can actually be an advantage in big waves. What are your feelings on that?

Patrick: I feel that weight does help, but there's a tipping point. You don't want too much weight. The theory is weight helps with momentum and makes the board better able to handle chop, bumps etc. I'll go with that. But I think the other aspect to wood that is related to weight is how wood with its organic, cellular structure absorbs/transmits energy and deals with or dampens bumps, ribs and all the other extreme wave conditions that big waves present, given that the board is glassed anyway and that this will therefore negate some of the natural properties of wood. I think the right kind of weight in the right areas of the board can definitely be an advantage, but must also be seen in conjunction with other design elements like rocker, fins, rails etc.

Jason: Whether a heavier board will give you an advantage or not in big waves on a particular day probably depends on one or two other factors. For example, your own strength to weight ratio – lighter, fitter surfers are generally better paddlers, giving them an advantage for catching waves under normal circumstances. But if there is a lot of wind and chop coming up the face, then heavier surfers would have an advantage and lighter surfers might need to compensate for that weight advantage with a heavier board. Ideally, you would perhaps want to have a few different weight boards of the same length for different spots under different conditions.

Precision cut-out for Patrick's big-wave board build. Photo: Burnett Wood Surfboards on Facebook

Hollow core in progress. Photo: Burnett Wood Surfboards on Facebook 

Patrick with the 11’0” hollow wood board.

TB: What are the environmental advantages and disadvantages of your particular construction technique over other wooden board building methods?

Patrick: I can't answer this question – I haven't done or seen an analysis of hollow wood surfboards versus solid wood or chambered boards, for example. I have seen a study that compared polyurethane (PU) foam boards with hollow wood boards, and stated that wood surfboard production produced less than half the CO2 emissions and other noxious emissions of foam boards.

Jason: One advantage is that Agave is considered an alien species in South Africa, and it grows pretty fast. So, even though it would be best that they never appeared in the first place, cutting them down and making surfboards out of them is certainly not doing any more harm to the environment. The other advantage is that the core of the plant can also be used to make tequila.

TB: A friend of mine thinks that a surfboard to a big-wave surfer should be like a sword to a Samurai warrior: to be treasured and looked after during one’s entire life, and never replaced. Do you think we might ever get anywhere that concept, particularly with wooden boards, or does the constant evolution of design really mean we have to keep replacing them?

Patrick: With big wave boards I think the question gets taken out of your hands. A big wave will break anything if the board is put in the wrong position, no matter how you build for strength. For shorter wood boards where the power of the wave becomes less of an issue then, yes, it is realistic to have one board for a long period of time. The question also depends on the performance aspirations of the surfer in question – someone wanting to constantly push the boundaries of size and wave type is obviously going to have more of a motivation to experiment with design.

Jason: Your friend is correct in saying that these boards should be considered like Samurai swords. There is no reason why one should have to replace these boards if they are looked after properly. If you experiment a lot with boards, but then are lucky enough one day to find that ‘magic formula’ – a board that you would be quite happy to keep for the rest of your life – it makes total sense for that board to stay under your feet till the very end. And for that to happen, of course, the board must be strong enough.

TB: Is this just a one-off or do you envisage making more and perhaps selling these boards?

Patrick: It will be hard not to make more. They are such grand pieces and I get an enormous amount of satisfaction from the process and the final product. I always find surfing the boards I make is the greatest motivation to make more – it's in the interplay between surfer, board and wave that I make realisations about changes I'd like to experiment with.

Jason: This is definitely not a one-off. These boards inspire me tremendously. As a carpenter I can feel that making more of these boards will give me immense satisfaction. I would like to see more surfers riding these boards – worldwide. A dream of mine is to be able to make a board for someone, deliver the board personally and then join them for a session at their local break.

TB: Now after having tried the board out at Sunset, do you see any particular reason why it shouldn’t be ridden on much bigger waves?

Patrick: I see no reason why it shouldn’t be used on bigger waves. I plan to surf it regularly, to learn and discover what it is capable of.

Jason: After having tried the board at largish, lumpy Sunset Reef, I’m not sure if I’d personally want to charge bigger waves with it. Perhaps if conditions were super-clean and long-period with no wind, things might be different. I feel that, with the right conditions and the right surfer, 20-foot waves could be surfed with this board.

Dr. Tony Butt holds a BSc in Ocean Science and a PhD in Physical Oceanography. He lives most of the year in a forgotten corner of Northwest Spain, where he has pioneered a couple new big-wave spots and works with NGOs like Surfers Against Sewage and Save the Waves. He makes a meager living writing articles about waves and the coastal environment for Surfer’s Path and other publications. For more from Tony, check out his books Surf Science: an Introduction to Waves for Surfing (2004), The Surfers Guide to Waves, Coasts and Climates (2009), A Surfer's Guide to Sustainability (2011) and his previous articles here on The Cleanest Line.

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DamNation to Premiere at SXSW Film 2014
Written By: Patagonia

By Travis, Matt, Ben and Beda


10, 9, 8… the DamNation premiere countdown has begun! After three years of planning, researching, shooting and editing, the film is finally complete. And we’re thrilled to announce the world premiere of DamNation will be at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas. 

For those unfamiliar with the project:

This powerful film odyssey across America explores the sea change in our national attitude from pride in big dams as engineering wonders to the growing awareness that our own future is bound to the life and health of our rivers. Dam removal has moved beyond the fictional Monkey Wrench Gang to go mainstream. Where obsolete dams come down, rivers bound back to life, giving salmon and other wild fish the right of return to primeval spawning grounds, after decades without access. DamNation’s majestic cinematography and unexpected discoveries move us through rivers and landscapes altered by dams, but also through a metamorphosis in values, from conquest of the natural world to knowing ourselves as part of nature.

[Above: Official film poster for DamNation. Click for larger image.]

It has been a huge team effort. To all of you who have been helping and following our progress, thank you for your patience, support and energy throughout the process. We are humbled by the continued interest and excitement around DamNation.

Making this film has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of our lives. To premiere DamNation at SXSW is an absolute dream come true. Our goal, since day one, has been to reach a broad audience with the film and we are confident that the size, location and diversity of events at SXSW will launch DamNation on an incredible journey.

SXSW2014_Logo_Film_RGB2For Everyone in Austin and Those Attending SXSW

Come to the premiere! We would love to see you there. Details are on the SXSW Film page for DamNation (date and location coming soon). Follow us on Facebook or Twitter for updates on panels and after-parties.

For Everyone Else Who Would Like to See the Film

Premiering the film is just the first step. DamNation will be screening at film festivals nationally and internationally throughout 2014. Sign on to our e-mail list to receive updates at  

Beyond film festivals, we are embarking on a nine-city U.S. tour this April-May, and we are partnering with non-profit groups across the country to host screenings of the film in a town near you. The U.S. tour will be coming to Seattle, Portland (OR), San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, Denver, Washington DC, New York City and Portland (ME). Please join us at one of the tour stops – the whole film crew and some of the starring characters will be there, along with local non-profit groups who are working on river restoration projects in your area.

An Elwha River chinook comes to rest below the now removed Elwha Dam on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula (fall 2011). Photo: Ben Knight

If you would like the film to come to your town, ask your local river restoration or recreation group, club, church or school to e-mail us. We are making it easy to show DamNation locally and will provide critical tools to help make your event a success. Non-profit and educational screenings begin May 1, 2014; our goal is to have over 500 screenings in 2014.

DamNation will be available to download through our website, iTunes, and other streaming video services by mid-summer 2014. As the distribution of DamNation evolves we will keep you posted. Stay tuned to, Facebook and Twitter for the latest news, action alerts and updates.

We’re ready to blow this film up and we can’t wait for the premiere. As the explosives expert says before blasting an old dam, “Fire in the hole!”

[Video: DamNation - Official Film Trailer on Vimeo.]

Travis Rummel, Matt Stoecker, Ben Knight and Beda Calhoun are the filmmakers behind DamNation.

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Winter Running
Written By: Patagonia

By Rhonda Claridge


From my house, at 9,800 feet elevation in the Colorado Rockies, I have to run downhill first. Above is sealed under feet of unrunnable, soft, post-holing snow. So it’s downhill, passing beneath nine avalanche slidepaths on a snow-packed road, often in a howling, pushy wind that streams old snow around in phantoms. I wear neon colors so that drivers can see me emerging from those white squalls. Through my clothes, the blasts to my skin feel more like a burning than a chilling.

As I descend, the open valley drops between the ridges, and conditions improve. I can see the road underfoot now, though it’s dark because of my sunglasses, necessary only to protect my eyeballs from being pelted. While I can see, I step on the crinkled tracks from tire treads and chains, which provide traction, or I stay in the loose snow on the road edges where there is no ice. Still, a leg shoots out wildly and my heart jumps as I find a way to get it back under me and recover my balance.

[Above: Claridge descending between snow walls in the southern San Juan Mountains. Photo: Himay Palmer]

A thousand feet lower, I’ve passed under a shifting cliffband that fires down cannonballs in the afternoons when the snow melts, and now I’m protected from the wind, running under giant cottonwoods that creak and tinkle. Still descending, I feel warm and happy to be out observing the frozen beaver ponds and brittle reeds, the clean, white meadows. If the sky is grey, inevitably little white feathers appear and do not melt when they land, and then whole pillows of them fall, and the wind thrusts down, so that when I reach my goal distance and turn around it holds me in place for a second.

Moving uphill into the wind is when I have to exercise willpower: “The faster you go, the warmer you’ll be.” My forehead freezes despite the wool ski hat I wear, sort of like an ice-cream headache, without the ice cream, just the energy drink in my water bottle, a slushy that ices me on the inside when I swallow it. The air seems to be making tiny incisions in my lungs, and the snow feathers buzz down my throat like ghost flies. Soon my glasses fog up and the fog freezes so that I’m nearly blind. “The faster you go, the sooner you’ll be home.” If a car stops and the driver offers me a lift, I answer, “No thanks,” frozen-faced, like somebody who just got a tooth pulled. After the car vanishes, I feel a little wave of self-pity. Usually, there are no cars.

One day, I round a corner in time to see a coyote trot across the road and up the hillside, where it stops next to another coyote, and they both stare down at me. “Two?” I usually see one alone, if any. Still shuffling uphill around the corner, I break stride. Another coyote stands on the far side of the road, looking at me impassively. The eyes of this third one, its body motionless and face expressionless, follow me as I carefully cross between it and the others on the hillside. “Three coyotes versus one tired, freezing woman,” I’m thinking, and aloud I say “Don’t!” to the closest one, for what it’s worth. Its dark eyes convey neither aggression nor fear.

Back home, I close the basement door, quickly shutting out the white howl like someone in a B horror movie. Snow dust hits the glass pane. My hands are too numb to undo the knots in my shoelaces, so I just stand there huffing interjections. “Are you okay?” my husband asks, coming over and cupping my hands between his.

Though I love backcountry and Nordic skiing, I mostly endure winter running as a necessary activity to prepare for summer ultra-racing. With no affordable gym within an hour’s drive and no room in our house for a treadmill, I submit myself to Ullr, Lord of Winter, and hope for mercy. I’ve learned that keeping a gator over my mouth allows me to run with bronchitis, though the tradeoff is asphyxia, and that, in a pinch, I can use puppy pick-up bags for gloves. And I’ve come to appreciate the solemn beauty of those winter runs – the blue-lit slopes, the forest of leafless trees creating a delicate veil over the hillside, snow banners combed from the ridges across an alpenglow sky. When the earth shifts and the road thaws, I come home with mud coating the backs of my legs. One afternoon I see a flash of movement and my first thought is “coyote,” but it is sky crossing the surface of water in a gap between reeds, the ice now gone.

Late in spring I’m 40 miles into a race outside of Bryce Canyon National Park in southwestern Utah, climbing out of Big Hollow. It’s a south-facing airless hillside with little shade and a relentless afternoon sun. I’m feeling stumbly and sleepy in the heat. “If only,” I actually have the nerve to think, “if only an icy gust would blow on my face.” So fickle is the memory, so ephemeral the seasons.

Claridge headshot_2

Rhonda Claridge teaches English at Colorado Mesa University. In her free time, she writes and runs long distances in the Southern Rockies. In 2013, she ran the length of Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas, 120 miles, to raise money for conserving reefs in marine parks. Read more of her work at Photo: Heidi Attenberger.


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Dirtbag Diaries: Starting Small - The Year of Big Ideas 2014
Written By: Patagonia

By Fitz & Becca Cahall

Dbd_year_big_ideas_2014_2Plastic bags. They clog drawers, landfills, coastlines and trailheads. Recycling them is confusing and inefficient. But what if there was a way to turn the trash into something of value? Enter Industrial Designer Will Wells. Today, we bring you our annual Year of Big Ideas. We talked to contributors and friends about their goals for the coming year. Here’s to going big, traveling to new places and trying something new. And here’s to making something that will inspire others, even if it’s small. Happy 2014.

[Listen to "Starting Small" by The Dirtbag Diaries on Soundcloud]

Visit for links to past episodes, featured music and to pledge your support. You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunesRSSSoundCloud and Stitcheror connect with the Dirtbag Diaries community on Facebook and TwitterThe Dirtbag Diaries is a Duct Tape Then Beer production. 

[Graphic by Walker Cahall]

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Tenkara with Yvon Chouinard and Patagonia
Written By: Patagonia

By Jess McGlothlin, Fire Girl Photography


My watch battery died within ten minutes of setting foot on the plane about to whisk me out of Great Falls, Montana.

I should have realized it for what it was: a sign things were about to change.

I had left behind an increasingly weird existence on the Missouri River front and hopped a plane to Salt Lake and then on to Jackson Hole. The job was to cover a Patagonia women’s fly fishing press event held near Ashton, Idaho. For my part, I hopped on that plane feeling sick, stressed and generally pretty damn tired.

Forty-eight hours later found me tenkara fishing and wading on an Idaho river with Yvon Chouinard, arguably the founding father of outdoor retail as we know it today, feeling better than I have all year. Yvon, or YC as the Patagonia team calls him, founded the company in 1972 as Chouinard Equipment. He’s an old-school gentleman; patient, soft-spoken, full of incredible knowledge and incredibly, undeniably quotable.

Yvon took two days out of his hectic schedule to spend with our little group of outdoor female journalists – yes, I was pleased to discover there are a few others out there, we’re just a little hard to find – and teach us the art of tenkara.

I was struck by the strangeness of the situation as I sat down to have a cup of hot tea with Yvon the first morning. We were the first ones up in the group, and it took me a minute to place who the kind gentleman wandering around the little kitchen was, looking for a saucepan to heat water.

We ended up talking about Russian salmon fishing while watching the sun rise over the Tetons.

After a brief run-through of the new Patagonia women’s fly fishing line, premiering in 2014 (it’s totally, incredibly awesome), we geared up and hiked down to the river to set up our tenkara rods.



After spending the summer on the ‘Mo dealing with more than my share of hyped-up frat boy fishermen who are trying to grab my bum while bragging about how far they can “chuck that fly,” the simplicity immediately appealed. I held the two-and-a-half foot telescoping rod in my hand and grinned, already imagining how easy it would be to manage the rod and camera gear simultaneously.

I tested that theory multiple times over the two-day event, and can report that it makes a world of difference.

More about the art of tenkara will come in a series of magazine articles – more on that soon – but suffice to say it’s all about boiling it down to the basics. No reel. When not in use, we stored the line on paper clips Yvon had rubber banded to the rods. We were each given three flies, special soft hackles tied by the man himself.

And when, on the second day, I set a personal record – fourteen fish in under two hours, including my first ever double – I can safely say I was standing in the river grinning like an idiot.

Of the dozen or so women on the trip, only three of us had fly fished before. And every single lady had multiple fish landed by the end of the trip, a fact we celebrated with a riverside dinner and drinks on the last night.

Having the rare opportunity to talk one-on-one with Yvon about fishing, business and life in general has provided more inspiration than I have felt in long time. I am ready to move on, ready to pursue new projects, and overflowing with new ideas.

So here’s to new passions, new opportunities and new adventures. And the most incredible people we meet on the way.



Jessica McGlothlin is a passionate writer and photographer who's always had an affinity for the outdoors and travel. Growing up in various locations across the United States and playing in the wide-open spaces of the West, Jessica is most at home on the road in wild and rugged locales. You can see more of her work at Fire Girl Photography.

The new Patagonia Women's Fly Fishing line -- including the Women's Spring River Waders -- is now available at and fly fishing retailers. You can read more about the products at Hatch Magazine, Style of Sport, Adventure Journal and Women's Movement. Stay tuned for more information on how you can get started Tenkara fishing.  

Check out some more photos from this event by photographer Jeremy Koreski (@jeremykoreski).







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Solutions Series, Part 3: Dive In
Written By: Patagonia

By Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff Project

Annie_bio_photoA few months ago, we started a conversation about solutions with the Patagonia community.  We identified three areas where solutions are needed most:  our communities, our businesses, and our governments. Last time we talked about solutions in our communities – the closest place to home. This time, we’ll offer some contacts for rolling up your sleeves and diving in.

The only bright side about our current system being so messed up is that there are any number of ways to dive in and make things better – so many options, in fact, it can be hard to decide where to begin. My advice? Follow your passion. If gardening excites you, form a group to reclaim vacant lots for community gardens. Is education your thing? Volunteer to help local schools green their operations and engage the kids in activities like stream cleanups. Love biking? Recruit some fellow cyclists and work for bike lanes in your town. It doesn’t matter so much where you plug in, as long as you’re sharing your skills and passion with others in your community.

The beauty of community-based solutions is that you can start today. Grab a friend and get going. There’s no need to be part of a national or international network to get started making change in your community. On the other hand, networks can be a great source of inspiration, advice, and lessons learned. Here are some of my favorite networks working on solutions at the community level.

Transition Towns. The Transition Town network started in 2006 in Totnes, a small town in southwestern England.  The network has since grown to include over 1,000 Transition Towns in more than 40 countries. In these communities, people are working together to figure out how to reduce carbon emissions and build happier, stronger, more resilient communities. Transition groups meet regularly and discuss plans for everything from zoning to encouraging local food production. It’s a great way to get to know your neighbors and start your community on a path towards sustainability. The Transition Towns Network has published  a primer with advice for getting started. Check here to see if there is already a Transition group in your community. If not, download the guide and get started.

Zero Waste Communities. If you’re like me – eager to take waste reduction efforts beyond our kitchens and into our communities – working for a Zero Waste goal in your community is a great place to start. You’ll be in good company, as dozens of communities all over the world are adopting Zero Waste policies.  Reducing a community's waste to zero is a long haul, but setting an official goal helps ensure that steps along the way move in that direction.  Many cities around the world have made serious progress, some reducing household waste by more than 80 percent. For tips on getting started, check out the Grassroots Recycling Network or GAIA: the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives.

Sharing. Sharing is having such a renaissance that it even has a new name: collaborative consumption. It's one of my favorite solutions because it does two things we desperately need: It helps us use less stuff and it builds community. By sharing, we can increase the efficiency of materials used – for when 10 families share a power drill, there's no need for each to buy their own. And to share we have to talk, to know each other, and to build trust, the secret sauce of thriving communities. Sharing can be as simple as weekend swap meets for kids' clothing or camping gear, or more sophisticated, like the online platform Check out for inspiration and advice to ramp up sharing in your community. Less stuff, more fun!

And don’t forget to check out our latest film, The Story of Solutions.

[Video: The Story of Solutions by storyofstuffproject.]

There are literally thousands of organizations promoting a multitude of community-based solutions. We’d like to hear from you. What solutions are you working on in your community? What resources were most helpful for you?

Annie Leonard is the founder of the The Story of Stuff Project. She has dedicated nearly two decades to investigating and organizing on environmental health and justice issues. Her monthly podcast series, The Good Stuff, features interviews with inspiring activists, entrepreneurs, scientists and others who’ve succeeded in making change.

Read the entire Solutions series:
Solutions Series, Part 1: Babies in the River
Solutions Series, Part 2: Solutions in Our Communities
Solutions Series, Part 3: Dive In
Solutions Series, Part 4: coming soon



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Tributaries – An International Fly Fishing Film of Contrast and Commonality
Written By: Patagonia

By RC Cone


Here I am in the middle of the hair-pulling, eye-bulging screen time that is post production. Another 14-hour day and I need fresh air. I go for long walks under the stars and think about the night skies of the Bahamas, Iceland and Patagonia.

After my last film, Breathe, I really wanted to explore the wider implications of fly fishing. How does our sport fit into the world? What is this worldwide community like? What are the differences and similarities on a global scale? Instead of a personal journey, I wanted to explore the world’s waters and the cultures that inhabit them.

I thought about the places and fish that enticed me – and booked flights. I put 90% of my belongings in storage, cancelled my cell phone service and disconnected the battery from my truck, consumed goodbye beers.

[Above: Prescott Smith chases bonefish on the flats of Mastic point, Andros Island, The Bahamas. All photos courtesy of RC Cone]

I’m nervous, excited and anxious. Breathe was an eye-opener for me personally and I have a strong feeling Tributaries will do the same and more.

My plan was to meet up with three guides in three very different places – Iceland, Argentina and the Bahamas – and immerse myself in local language, culture and fly fishing. I didn’t have many preconceptions and I wanted my experiences in each locale to dictate the path of Tributaries as a film. The goal was to truly embed myself and be present wherever I was at the moment.

A one-man filmmaking and fishing crew travels like a wrecking ball. Loaded with pound upon pound of photography equipment and fishing gear, for three diverse climate zones, I staggered off towards my first stop: the Bahamas.

I arrived on Andros Island in the Bahamas excited for the bonefishing and tropical weather – those things are definitely there, but there’s so much more. Actually, there’s nothing there. I expected huge resorts with sunburnt tourists in fanny packs lounging by the pool ordering room service.

Nope. Not even close.

Calling the roads pothole-infested is an understatement; the worst Montana dirt road doesn’t have anything on the Queen’s Highway, the main road through and around Andros Island. Between dodging holes and dodging other cars dodging holes, one can go miles before seeing a settlement or another person.

In the Bahamas, bonefish are everywhere you look. Of course, I could never spot them, but my guide, Prescott Smith, has the third sense. Once I saw them, it’d be too late. They’d be jetting off, laughing at my northern ineptness. Bonefish make reels scream. Pound for pound, they are amazing fish to chase and watching them dart around the flats like fighter jets is quite the experience.

Prescott knows that in a country whose number one economic generator is tourism, the flats are their most important resource. He sees fly fishing as his vehicle – training other guides, teaching the big-wigs and business men that visit him the importance of the flats, always staying involved with the young government on issues that concern Bahamians. He works tirelessly to empower everyone around him through fly fishing. Through his lodge and his organizations – the Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association (BFFIA) and the Bahamas Sportfishing Conservation Association (BSCA) – Prescott has worked diligently for 20 years to give local Bahamians a stake in the greatest resource they have: the flats.

Prescott says, “I wouldn’t fly fish if I didn’t believe it can lead to something more.”


Prescott Smith poses in front of his most important natural resource: the flats.


What do you get with the largest flats in the world? The largest concentration of bonefish.


Prescott Smith returns to his boat after a long day of bone fishing at Mastic Point, on the northeastern end of Andros Island.


The dock at Stafford Creek Lodge, on Andros Island in the Bahamas, on a starry Caribbean night.

My favorite Icelandic word is “yes.” It’s spelled but pronounced “Yow.” In Iceland, with Siggi Hauger, “” is all you can say. Siggi fishes for 12 hours a day. The sun doesn’t go down, there are salmon running the rivers, and the scenery is beautiful. Já, Já, Já, Já, Já, Já is the name of the game in the land of Vikings.

Salmon rivers; never-setting sun; hardcore, stoic fishermen – it’s amazing. I fished with Siggi for two weeks before ever having time to sit at a computer. That’s how nonstop this fishing culture is. Three different rivers, 12-plus hour days and SO MANY salmon landed made my trip to Iceland a total blur. I would’ve been exhausted if I had time to think. Where am I? What day is it? I lived the life of an Icelandic guide: out by 7am, back by 11pm and ready to do it again the next day. This is how they do it.

Siggi likes to laugh. Big jokes are accompanied by a big laugh from a big guy. The fly he invented, the Hauger, is in the fly boxes of most guides around the country. He said to me, over many cups of morning coffee and cigarettes, “You’re only ready to fish when you’re ready to fish.” He’s never in a hurry to get to the water, except when he’s fighting a fish. I’ve heard it called the Siggi Sway. He tugs on fish like a Viking pillaging a town, with absolute conviction and zero hesitation.

One night, around 3am, scotch finished, sun already rising, Siggi threw a curveball at me. He started talking about how salmon learn to slap leaders in an attempt to escape with their tails. Was it genetics? A learned behavior? Instincts? I’m pretty sure Nietzsche’s name was mentioned somewhere in the conversation but you’ll have to ask Siggi. It was over my head.


Eastern Iceland meets the Arctic Ocean at the start of another day.


Siggi Haugur walks into his favorite pool on the Hofsa River in Eastern Iceland.


Watching a giant salmon rise to the surface and take a fly is something that should be on everyone’s bucket list. Hofsa River.


Dark, imposing weather frequently backdrops salmon fishing in Iceland.

If Siggi is the booming Viking and Prescott the philosophical, purpose-driven fisherman, my next stop in Argentina, with Tuqui Viscarro, was where I met the fun-loving angler who sums up the connection between all three guides, and us all.

Once you get on the water, its one world.

Everyone talks about Patagonia. I get it now. Some of the biggest brown trout I’ve ever caught; a 5000 kilometer road trip across Argentina; a horse-accessed, barely fished, private creek; lamb lunches made by legitimate gauchos. Whoa.

I was completely out of my element fishing for salmon and bonefish, but creeping around with a 4 weight is my kind of water. Further, this area of Patagonia feels like my home in Montana. Big sweeping grasslands, willow-infested river valleys, muy frio en la mañanas y noches, yet warm enough for nice hatches during the day. The people even remind me of home – I met a few of the ski instructor/fishing guide types in Junin de los Andes. Even though I was completely foreign and barely spoke the language, Argentina felt more familiar than anywhere else I’d been that year.

I was proud to become Tuqui’s personal cebador, the one responsible for making the mate. Shake out the dust, make sure the water is hot but not boiling, take the first drink to clear the shake, and keep that mate gourd rotating! Also, if someone hands you a gourd, don’t say thank you until you’re actually done with the mate, they’ll just keep handing it to you.

Patagonia life blends new and old. Tuqui himself is quite the animated, social dude with a dedicated passion for sharing the joy of fishing with as many people as possible. He honks at everyone, waves “hi” and will always stop for a conversation on the street. Tuqui’s gaucho roots emphasize a connection to the natural world that makes him a perfect ambassador for his favorite thing in the world: water.


Tuqui Viscarro sets up to fish Spring Creek in Northern Patagonia, Argentina.


Tuqui plays one of the many Argentine trout on his favorite 2-weight fly rod.


Fooling big browns on a fly is one of the more rewarding Argentinian experiences.


Lamb asado after a long rainy day exploring new water, in a secret location, with legitimate Argentine gauchos on horseback.

Now, back in the U.S. of A., I’m trying to tell this story, and I realize the story has been there the entire time. Although we are an international crew of fly fishers, and although we fish for different fish with different styles, it’s the water that connects us. We’re all stakeholders in having clean water. Why can’t we, as the fly fishing community, be the leaders and take charge in preserving the one thing that brings vitality to our existence?

After meeting these three guides, I realized we can. A gold mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska and the issues associated with not-so-eco tourism in the Bahamas concern us all. They are both, theoretically and technically, issues that concern the same water. When you’re fishing in the Bahamas, you’re fishing water from Alaska, Iceland water in Argentina, African water in Australia, etc., etc. – and vice versa. The realization: fly fishing is a powerful current that unifies an even stronger worldwide community.

[Video: Tributaries Fly Fishing Film Trailer #1 from RC Cone.]

Tributaries is a journey to uncover the commonality among different cultures, people and water. It explores the contrasting experiences of three diverse guides – a Bahamian flats-drifter, a Patagonian trout bum and a Viking-blooded Icelander. Three stories merging into one: a tribute to the world’s water. Tributaries is an official selection of the 2014 F3T and 2014 Rise film festivals. Full-length downloads are available at and begin at $4.

Watch the full film now.

RC Cone is a photographer and filmmaker currently living in Portland, Oregon (that’s where his bike is at least). When he was 18, RC moved from the flatlands to Big Sky Country and graduated from the University of Montana with a camera and a degree in Environmental Studies. He and his camera have travelled around four continents and dream everyday of new adventures. Get his latest updates on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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Dirtbag Diaries: If You Build It
Written By: Patagonia

By Fitz & Becca Cahall

Dbd_if_you_build_itPowerful ideas often demand that we leave the comfort of a safety net. We quit a nine to five. We take out a second mortgage on our house. Along the way, we can expect to be called crazy one day and brilliant the next. In the late 1990s, Jeff Pensiero had an idea, to build a backcountry ski lodge that catered to snowboarders. It was outlandish – targeting a market that barely existed – and yet perfect. But, like any dream, it took years of sweat, worry, right-people-right-time connections, and damn good perseverance to make it all look seamless. From the shores of Lake Tahoe to the world renowned slopes of Baldface Lodge, we bring you one snowboarder’s journey to create his dream.

[Listen to "If You Built It" by The Dirtbag Diaries on Soundcloud]

Visit for links to past episodes, featured music and to pledge your support. You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, RSS, SoundCloud and Stitcher, or connect with the Dirtbag Diaries community on Facebook and Twitter. The Dirtbag Diaries is a Duct Tape Then Beer production.

[Graphic by Walker Cahall]

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Snow Tsunami in Tibet – A Mentoring Expedition for Young Slovenian Alpinists
Written By: Patagonia

By Luka Krajnc, photos by Marko Prezelj


After years of discussion, the Alpine Association of Slovenia (formerly Slovenian Alpine Club) established a program for young motivated alpinists in order to help them get the experience needed for achieving the goals they dream about. Mentoring seven different characters with various goals and ambitions (and our soaring egos), is not an easy task. We needed a leader.

Marko Prezelj is a strong character himself and someone who has plenty of experience. He proved to be perfect for the job. He helped combine us into an active group of friends who, over a series of trips around Europe, developed a strong bond. In September, we headed towards Tibet in a search of unforgettable moments and colorful experiences. Looking back now, I think we succeeded...

[Above: The town of Nyalam, two hour’s drive from the Nepalese/Tibetan border, proved to be a good starting point for our initial acclimatization climbs. Sadly, what was once a small, pristine Tibetan village is now a concrete-covered town full of soldiers and wealth-seeking traders. Photo: Marko Prezelj]


The local Tibetan tribes still make their living by helping expeditions and trekking groups pack their food and equipment to base camp. One of the yaks became fed up with his load and started running down a steep hill, wildly kicking and trying to get rid of everything attached to it. In the process, it sent our insulated meat box flying through the air, scattering all of our meat around a steep hill. Photo: Marko Prezelj


Marko jokingly asked me if I ever thought I would have to pick up frozen meat from a steep hill, and I replied that I didn’t but those chickens probably never thought they would fly again either. Photo: Marko Prezelj


The first nights were chilly and it was obvious the local animals have adapted to the cold environment way more than us. Photo: Marko Prezelj


The first view of our objective, Phola Gangchen, and its neighbors amazed us. The energy of the group changed and our jokes stopped for a while. You could feel the vibe in the air as our minds swirled with a million different thoughts. Photo: Marko Prezelj


We set our base camp on a flat grassland next to an idyllic lake. It served as a great starting point for our climbs and provided scenic views of the amazing landscape that surrounded us. Photo: Marko Prezelj


A sense of exploration guided us towards undiscovered terrain. Photo: Marko Prezelj


Marko, the two Lukas, Nejc and Martin found an aesthetic line following a series of ridges and slabs with variable rock. Photo: Marko Prezelj


After a comfortable bivy under a steep serac band, snowy ramps led to the top of Ice Tooth. Photo: Marko Prezelj


Cleaning and preparing the steep moraine bank occupied us for a whole day before we were able to start exploring the approach towards Phola Gangchen’s east face. Photo: Marko Prezelj


The approach itself demanded plenty of ingenuity. Photo: Marko Prezelj


A broken glacier followed. The next morning Luka Lindic and Marko went on another reconnaissance mission with the goal of finding a passage through the seemingly endless labyrinth of collapsed ice. Photo: Marko Prezelj


Additional snowfall didn’t make the job any easier but after another day of searching, they came back to base camp with the discovery of a dangerous exit to the plateau. Photo: Marko Prezelj


A week of unsettled weather followed and we used the short sunny windows for bouldering around base camp. Photo: Marko Prezelj


We kept our bodies and minds occupied with a wide spectrum of activities. When the good weather arrived, we again split into three teams for two objectives. Photo: Marko Prezelj


Tadej Krišelj and I got tempted by the Eiger Peak’s north face. After an early start and steady progress the weather turned bad and it started snowing heavily. In the middle of a snow storm we decided it was time to go down. Some stressful hours of snowy rappels followed. An avalanche, that on the last rappel buried Tadej neck deep, provided extra spice to a day already full of close calls and intense experiences. Photo: Tadej Kriselj


Digging out a friend and hoping that the next avalanche would wait just a few more minutes gave me extra strength – more likely it was my body releasing adrenaline as a reaction to all the stress it was under. In those moments, our survival instincts were even more intensely felt. Photo: Luka Krajnc


After a day of waiting in a tent under the wall, we woke up to a meter and a half of fresh snow and no sign of improving weather. During a tough day of gazing through deep unsettled snow in thick fog I developed snow blindness which pinned us down in the middle of the glacier for another day. Photo: Tadej Kriselj


Improvisation was the name of the game. On the seventh day, we returned to base camp exhausted but happy to be alive. Photo: Luka Krajnc


In the same period of time, Marko together with Luka Lindic, Nejc Marcic, Martin Žumer and Luka Stražar approached the northeast ridge of Phola Gangchen. Photo: Marko Prezelj


Searching for moderate passages in virgin steep terrain proved challenging due to poor conditions on ice and snow. Photo: Marko Prezelj


Reaching a snow couloir helped with the fluidity and speed of our progress. Photo: Marko Prezelj


The first day of climbing ended late at night on steep terrain with an exposed bivy and a magnificent view in the morning. Photo: Marko Prezelj


Although the clouds were visually attractive, the message they carried was everything but that. Photo: Marko Prezelj


With the end of the snowstorm nowhere on the horizon, the seriousness of the situation became obvious. Photo: Marko Prezelj


Hibernating and hoping for the snow to stop. Photo: Marko Prezelj


Empty hopes resulted in the decision to escape. The chaos of avalanches created a unique atmosphere during endless rappels. Photo: Marko Prezelj


Our awareness of how much snow actually fell became apparent when we reached the glacier. Photo: Marko Prezelj


What was once a two-hour approach, transformed into a physically and mentally exhausting descent that lasted two full days. Photo: Marko Prezelj


“Maybe they are okay, maybe not. We go!” Those were the words of our kitchen staff when all three of them decided to escape from base camp while we were on the mountains. However, too much snow prevented them of doing so – they were only able to break trail for a couple hundred meters towards Nyalam. When everyone finally returned to base camp, we were overfilled with feelings of joy and friendship. It created an evening full of positive energy and pristine moments, our eyes sparkling from excitement and relief. Photo: Marko Prezelj


The unexpected “snow tsunami,” caused by a typhoon in the Indian Ocean, dumped almost one-and-a-half meters of snow (five feet) in only three days. Evacuation from the destroyed base camp was necessary. Photo: Marko Prezelj


Happy faces back in civilization with all the comforts of modern life. Our equipment is still in base camp; we took only bivy equipment and personal gadgets. It was an interesting feeling to leave all of our material goods behind, without any regrets. Photo: Marko Prezelj


The team. Back row (left to right): Laza (cook assistant), Tadej Krišelj, Luka Krajnc, Marko Prezelj. Middle row: Tsering Dorje (cook assistant), Miha Gašperin (doctor), Martin Žumer, Luka Lindic, Nejc Marcic. In front: Karma Sherpa (cook), Luka Stražar. Photo: Marko Prezelj

Luka Krajnc lives in Celje, Slovenia where he is a member of the Celje - Nut mountaineering club. Luka competed in the last two Ice Climbing World Cups for team Slovenia, but his heart lies in the steep walls of the Dolomites. When he needs a break from climbing, Luka enjoys windsurfing and running.

Fellow Slovenian climber, Marko Prezelj, feels drawn to mountains because the outcome of every day is a mystery. He’s a Chemical Engineering graduate from Ljubljana University, and a husband and father of two. Marko and longtime climbing partner Steve House have shared previous stories on The Cleanest Line from K7 West, Cayesh and Makalu.

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China Jam – Free Climbing the South Pillar of Kyzyl Asker
Written By: Patagonia

By Nico Favresse, photos by Evrard Wendenbaum


October, 2013: Yes! We (Evrard, Sean, Stéphane and I) have hit civilization and made it back from the Chinese mountains. Thank God, food tastes so good now. And what a treat it is to be able to take hot showers whenever. Sorry for the lack of news. Again, all sat phone credits had to be sacrificed for phone sex to release some tension in our team, obviously crucial for our climbing.

We spent the first week in the mountains just exploring all the valleys around us, looking for interesting climbing targets. We also tried to climb during that first week but everyday the beautiful weather turned into a snowstorm by the afternoon. We realized with the particularly cold temps and fresh snow, we could only consider rock climbing on the south faces hoping the sun would heat things up a bit. This criteria narrowed down our choices a lot but we finally found what we were looking for: A big wall with plenty of potential to keep ourselves busy for a while. It was, in fact, the 1400m South Pillar of Kyzyl Asker (5842m) that attracted us. It's long, steep and high with rock of great quality mixed in with lots of white “things” on the upper part of the wall. I was excited by the prospect that this experience would be something quite different from all the other big walls I had climbed before.

It took us another week to bring all our gear, food and musical instruments up the long glacier to the base of the wall. The last two days, we finally had perfect weather and started climbing with our load, and fixed the first 400m of the wall. Right away we were very impressed by the quality of the rock but also by its crazy hueco shapes which made for some unique climbing.

It was finally on September 10th that we left the ground with 15 days worth of vertical life supplies. We spent the whole day hauling all our gear up the 400m of fixed terrain. We were very heavy and the altitude was pumping our hearts so hauling turned out to be a lot harder than anticipated. Around 2:30 a.m. we could finally relax and eat our lyophilized, or freeze-dried, meals mixed with funky Chinese additions, comfortably installed on our portaledge.

The next couple of days the weather maintained itself perfectly, the best so far! But I caught a cold so I couldn’t do anything other than just stay on the portaledge while Sean, Steph and Evrard made steady progress. It’s really amazing how the feeling of being on a portaledge changes radically when you are not feeling well. It felt like hell! Inside the fly everything was constantly frozen and moving around. Even melting snow cost me a huge amount of energy. With fever kicking in and the need to make a choice whether I should keep going or bail, I decided to finally take some antibiotics. Twenty-four hours later, I started to feel better and it was great to be back and able to climb.

We finished installing camp at 3am after a full day hauling our heavy bags up to our first camp. We are exhausted but the weather is perfect so there is no time to wait for action. Sean explores while Steph found a confortable belay position.

As the sun sets, the temperature drops. Stephane gathers some snow to melt for water for dinner.

We were just getting into the heart of the climb on an amazing section of the wall – orange granite that was vertical to slightly overhanging, covered with perfect splitter cracks. Sean was so excited to do some challenging rock climbing, he decided to leave the most obvious line of weakness to go up a perfect overhanging splitter. It was hard, long and very thin but amazing, and he decided to make it his big-wall cragging project. Meanwhile, Evrard, Steph and I explored what was next: Another perfect, difficult splitter pitch followed by a 3-dimensional pitch moving through huge huecos and crazy shapes.

The next day some bad weather kicked in and all we could do was play some music to wait out the storm. It was cold for our fingers to play well on our instruments, but with the four of us on one portaledge playing fast, we could quickly turn the freezer into a sauna! Evrard, who’s new to the band, took some time to make a few adjustments but after a while he managed to put in a nice groovy, xylophone touch.

Video: China Jam - Portaledge Song from Evrard Wendenbaum.

The following day the weather remained the same but, fresh from a full day of rest, we decided to tough it up and confront the bad weather. We moved our camp higher which we thought would save us some time. But as soon as we started hauling, we got ourselves caught in a whiteout with heavy snow precipitation. The atmosphere was magical. Everything was covered with 20cm of fresh snow, but we needed to maintain focus to have everything go right because in these conditions any error could be costly. This day it was Steph’s turn to not feel so good with a cold he most likely caught from me. At the end of the day when we managed to set our ledges, slinged around on each side of a horn, Steph was in a more passive mode leaving his feet and hands particularly cold. But fortunately, some hot soup later, heat came back to him.

The sun appears after 24 hours of snow in camp 1. Since the face was too plastered to rock climb, we decided to move our camp upward. But as soon as we folded our portaledges it started snowing again.

After a day of hauling in a snow storm, we finally set our camp 2.

Sunny morning after the snowstorm. Sean meditates on his climbing strategy at camp 2.

The next morning, the good weather was back and Sean and I started the day by cleaning the fresh snow out of the cracks of the two pitches we wanted to redpoint. I jugged up with my big boots and gloves but quickly felt the cold, especially with a light but freezing wind. All the snow didn’t even melt in the sun, and the water bottle hanging on my harness had frozen completely! I cleaned what I could but the pitch remained iced up. Sean’s pitch was cleaner, so he decided to give it an attempt but it was so freaking cold. Before he tried it, I set Steph’s watch in the shade to check if I was being a wimp or if the temperature was really that cold. A little later his watch showed -6° C and it was the warmest time of the day! My hands and feet were so cold that I could not imagine putting my climbing shoes on. But Sean felt OK climbing in these conditions and managed to give it a really good try, falling only at the end of the crux. By nighttime, I set the watch outside the fly and it showed -15° C!

That day, because the weather was perfect but I still couldn’t climb, it made me wonder: What am I doing here climbing in this cold? Where is the fun in this? I fell asleep mentally worn out. Fortunately, with the help of some tricks to keep my feet and hands warm, I climbed well the next day even though I was cold. It gave me back my confidence and enjoyment. Sean got closer to sending his pitch project and I redpointed my personal best pitch of the whole climb – a perfect splitter crack with beautiful exposure.

Sean big-wall cragging on a perfect overhanging splitter crack right above camp 2.

Between camp 2 and 3 there was series of amazing pitches, really nice cracks but also unique huecos. Here, Nico fires a perfect splitter crack above camp 2.

The next day, Sean gave another three tries and got painfully close to send his project pitch, but finally he decided to give up on it because it was our ninth day on the wall and we were still less than halfway up the mountain. He quickly completed an easier free variation so that we stayed in the game of freeing every bit of this mountain. Meanwhile Steph and I fixed the rest of our ropes to the base of the last headwall and finished the day in a snowstorm. The climbing conditions became icy here with lots of icicles hanging everywhere.

More and more, the summit felt just below our noses and we were quite tempted to cut loose from our static ropes to make an attempt to climb to the summit. But the poor weather conditions held us back and instead we moved our camp once more to the altitude of 5200m. Afterward, I was glad we made this move because the summit was still much further than expected. This time the camp move was not as epic. We managed to finish the day comfortably installed, enjoying an amazing view looking over many virgin peaks. After a few days in the same place, it was great to change camp and break our routine.

The next morning it was Sean’s turn to be hit by the flu so he stayed on the portaldge the whole day while Steph, Evrard and I explored the last headwall until all ropes were fixed. I was going to switch lead with Stéphane but when we arrived at the base of the climb, Steph realized he had forgotten to bring his climbing shoes. What a bummer! I was not disappointed by his mistake because the weather was perfect and the climbing was amazing!!! I climbed three full rope lengths of perfect quality splitter cracks running right on the pillar and here we were again at the end of the ropes we could fix. The atmosphere was quite spectacular with icicles hanging all over the place and the view started to dominate with mountains all around us. When we came back to our portaledge we were relieved to see Sean feeling better so we decided to plan a summit attempt and wake up at 5 a.m. the next day in order to reach the top of our fixed rope by light, around 8 a.m.

The rock was spectacular on the whole climb! Nico exploring the last rock pitches above camp 3.

At 5 a.m. the next day, we woke up and were so excited and confident that it took us about 45 minutes, and some porridge in our bellies, to look outside and see that the weather wasn’t all that good. We woke up again at 7 a.m. only to realize that the weather was getting worse. It ended up snowing all day and all night. Our gas was running low from melting water which started to worry us. Even with all the fresh snow, we chose not to miss our chance and decided to make an attempt the next day if the weather cleared up. But of course this meant we would be climbing a rock face that would be completely plastered with ice and snow. Before sleeping that night I was a bit anxious realizing how exposed we would be to the cold conditions and if the weather turned bad on us. We had absolutely no weather forecast, and we knew that often even a perfect morning here turned into a heavy snowstorm by the afternoon.

Fortunately, my excitement erased my anxiety and the next morning, the sky full of stars, gave me confidence that it would be the right day for it. Our start got a bit delayed by Steph who didn’t feel very well while jumaring in the morning. So Evrard and I passed him so that he could take it easy. Luckily, he felt better and better as the day went on. Sean started climbing late at about 11 a.m. and, to our surprise, the wind had already done a good part of the snow cleaning so it wasn’t as plastered as we thought. I switched lead with Sean and from that pitch onward there was ice and snow all over the place, so we kept our crampons and ice axes. It took us another seven pitches of steep and spectacular mixed climbing to reach the summit ridge. It felt very nice just to keep moving and not deal with the hassle of handling a long, static rope to fix.

This last section was a lot longer than what we had estimated. Darkness settled in just as we climbed the final pitch to the summit and the temperature dropped. I was very happy to be on the summit of Kyzyl Asker but the cold was biting me so hard I knew I had to get down quickly. It was difficult for me to really enjoy this moment except for the perspective that soon I would be comfortably looking back at the mountain and would feel complete. In the distance, a light from the Kyrgyz side flashed to us. It was a strange feeling to be seen from the top and have our first contact with civilization after 20 days of just us and the mountains.

Nico started this pitch with his climbing shoes but quickly realized it was not the best idea so he switched to mixed climbing. From there on, we didn't leave our ice axes and crampons until the summit. Here we are on our summit pitch, still early on. 

Frozen and happy on the summit at 10pm.

The way down was long but went well, with no issues. My feet were cold so I forced myself to make them do some push-ups inside my boots, but it wasn’t enough to get them warm. On the last few raps it was not only my feet but my whole body that was fighting the cold.

At 3 a.m., I was glad to finally arrive back to our portaledge. It took me a couple of hours to get my body and feet warm with hot drinks. Steph did the same but as my feet were getting warmer, his were still hard like a block of ice. I knew it wasn’t good. The next day they were blue and blisters started appearing. Evrard’s feet were not looking very good either. We were so exhausted from our push to the summit we couldn’t do anything else but spend the whole next day just recovering on the portaledge. But it was obvious: We had to get down as soon as possible so that Steph’s feet could be better taken care of.

The next day we rapped down and managed to slide all our gear down the glacier using our haul bags like sleds. And two intense days later of load-carrying effort, we were back with all our gear to luxury in the city of Aksu. Our adventure was over! It was time to enjoy and value the simple things in life!

With Stephane's frostbite, we hurried down the mountain. We saved a lot of time by pulling all our haulbags at once on the glacier. Behind you see the south pillar of Kyzyl Asker. It's always a good feeling to be able to look back at a mountain after climbing it. 

11am in basecamp, the driver finishes loading the camel and the mule. We are leaving this amazing place! Hopefully, Stephane's foot will soon be taken care of.

Video: Trailer - China Jam from Evrard Wendenbaum. Help support the full-length film and get a DVD or digital download at Indiegogo.

Stéphane is now in a hospital in Brussels in the hands of specialists. If everything goes well, Stéphane’s foot will be fully healed in a few months and he’ll be ready for the next adventure.

We would like to thank everyone who helped us live our dreams: Patagonia, Julbo, Five Ten, Black Diamond, The Belgian Alpine Club, Seeonee, Sterling Rope, Nikon,, Petzl, Careplus, Boreal, Crux and Threshold Provision Salmon Jerky.

Also we would like to thank our translator Alli for his good vibes, our liaison officer Yue (who was very kind to us), the camel drivers (who were very friendly and helpful) and Guo from Guide to Adventures & Expeditions (GAE).

Details about the climb: South Pillar of Kyzyl Asker, Western Kokshal Tau Moutains, China, 1400m, 31 pitches 7b, M7, all free, no bolts, no pitons. About 10 pitches on the upper part of the wall are common with the Russian route.


Growing up in Brussels, Nico Favresse bonded to the outdoors through windsurfing, mountain biking and skiing. He started climbing at 15 and immediately found his passion. As an 18-year old exchange student in the United States, he visited Yosemite and discovered a new calling for big walls. Since then he’s climbed big walls in Patagonia, Pakistan, Greenland, Venezuela and Canada.

Evrard Wendenbaum's work as a photographer has led him to the most inaccessible corners of the planet over the last ten years. His first film,
Amazonian Vertigo, shot during the ascent of Angel Falls in Venezuela, has won 11 film festival awards. Evrard also leads the Naturevolution environmental association and applies his skills to the preservation of biodiversity.

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Here We Go... Another Climbing Season in Patagonia
Written By: Patagonia

By Colin Haley


"See you down there, f***er!" writes Ole Lied – a gigantic, hard-drinking, Norwegian party animal. He dresses in dark Scandinavian leather, stuffs his mouth with snus (little tea-bags of chewing tobacco, quite popular in northern Europe), and every now and then works himself into a berserker rage, attacking big, steep mountains, and returning home with beautiful routes as his trophies (such as "Venas Azules" on Torre Egger). Every November, I convene with Ole, some other Norwegian alpinists, and all the other Patagoniacs in El Chalten, Argentina, for another dose of pretty much the most technical, most fantastic, most intense and most fun alpine climbing on the planet – Patagonia's Chalten Massif.

Editor's note: Colin wrote this piece just before leaving for El Chalten. He’s been down there three weeks now and already has a handful climbs under his belt. Visit to keep up with Colin, Mikey Schaefer, Kate Rutherford and more of our friends and ambassadors down in Patagonia. We’ll have live feeds to their Instagram accounts, tweets and blog posts throughout the season.      

Why does Norway, a country with the population of Washington State, have such a big presence in Patagonian alpinism? Admittedly, the mountains of Patagonia are very difficult, the weather is often very foul, and they certainly have a large amount of dormant Viking badassness in their genes, but I think the real truth is where Ole and his countrymen are coming from.

[Above: The Torres with Aguja Desmochada in the foreground. All photos by Colin Haley]

The epicenter of the Norwegian alpine-climbing community is Romsdalen – a beautiful place, with big, steep walls and 19 hours of daylight in late June. By the autumnal equinox, things even out and every human all over the globe gets an equal share of daylight and darkness. But things change quickly at the equinox (it is, after all, the peak of the absolute value of the derivative of the daylight curve, meaning that every day in late September is noticeably shorter than the previous one), and by early November the sun sets in Romsdalen only seven hours after rising – a good time to take off! Rather than ransacking the cities of Europe like their ancestors, my Norwegian climbing friends head to Patagonia and ransack granite spires plastered in ice.

Even though my homeland, the Salish Sea Basin, lies a mere 5,400 kilometers from the equator, the dwindling daylight in autumn is still a rough blow, and it's coupled by a very strong climactic change. In Squamish and The Cascades, we enjoy the best climbing weather in North America for three months of summer, and then the monsoon arrives. Fall is the worst season in the Pacific Northwest. The days are short. The rock is wet. The skiing isn't very good yet. The winter climbing isn't very good yet. It's a perfect time to leave. Hopping over the equator is the ultimate trick we can play on nature without pissing her off. In the past eight years, I have celebrated sixteen summer solstices!

Of course, chasing daylight isn't the only reason I've become a Patagonia junkie. The rock is the highest quality you will find in the mountains, anywhere. The ice routes are just as good. The summits are as pointy as they come, and have no easy way up. The faces are up to 2,000 meters tall, with little terrain easier than fifth class. There are no bullsh*t peak fees. You don't need a liaison officer. You don't need to acclimatize. The weather? Yeah, it can be pretty nasty, but otherwise these mountains would be too easy. The descents? Yeah, they can be quite epic – I have passed several entire nights of my life rappelling, from sunset to sunrise.


Rolando Garibotti climbing on Aguja Kakito, with the east face of Aguja Mermoz behind.


Sunrise and a rainbow on the Torres, from the Polakos bivouac.


Jorge Ackermann nearing the summit of Torre Egger.


Rolando Garibotti and Doerte Pietron on the summit of Aguja Desmochada, with the Torres behind.


Jon Walsh climbing "Tobogan" on Aguja Standhardt.

As someone who spends a huge amount of my time wandering around mountainous terrain, I feel a strong connection to the climate and the seasons. Each season for me has snow conditions associated with it, activities associated with it, clothing associated with it, and emotions associated with it. Autumn has a subdued grounded sensation, slowly decelerating into hibernation. Spring feels more exciting, more open, more energetic. Fall is a downer. Spring is an upper. Leaving autumn in the Pacific Northwest and transporting yourself to spring in Patagonia is like swapping methadone for methamphetamine.

One of the stereotypes of Patagonian climbing is that more time is spent relaxing than climbing. People imagine weeks of bad weather spent leisurely drinking mate and chatting, followed by a couple days of activity. My experience in Patagonia has always been the opposite. From the moment I arrive in El Chalten until the moment I leave I know that I will be running around in a frenzy. I don't have "free time" in Patagonia. I'm either hiking, climbing, rappelling, bouldering, sport climbing, packing for the next climb, drying gear, filing crampons, lubing cams, refueling (aka eating), repairing clothing, studying photos, checking the weather forecast, shopping for food, stretching or sleeping. I think any place is as busy or relaxed as we make it, and I usually prefer to make it busy!


Sunrise on Cerro Adela from the west face of Cerro Torre.


Jon Walsh on an attempt of "Venas Azules" on Torre Egger.


Jon Walsh descending to the Niponino bivouac at sunrise, after a long night rappelling the east face of Cerro Torre in a storm.


Leo, Max and Lucho sharing mate in a snowcave on the South Patagonian Icecap.


Dylan Johnson belaying the last pitch of the "Supercanaleta," as clouds roll off the South Patagonian Icecap.

Summer lasted a long time in the Pacific Northwest this year, but today the rainy season started. My natural instincts tell me to settle in and get cozy – start wearing a hat and waxing my skis – but I have a plane ticket to El Calafate. It's raining and it's dark at 6pm, but there is a tingling inside me because I know what is coming.

Over the past few weeks I have slowly been amassing a pile of gear that will come to Patagonia – ropes, slings, carabiners, crampons, stoppers, gloves. I have been seeking out steep, burly cracks – one final, desperate bit of procrastination training. And, of course, I've started looking at the weather forecast in El Chalten again. Fall is a relaxed time, and I'd better enjoy it while I can, because three-and-a-half months of non-stop excitement begins soon!

So, here we go... another Patagonia climbing season is about to begin. Time to take a deep breath and get ready for some incredible experiences, dragging our abused bodies up and down some of the world's most beautiful mountains.


Colin Haley grew up hiking, skiing and climbing in the rugged Cascade Mountains where he developed a love of mountain adventure and an indifference to foul weather. His climbing is focused on the mountains of Alaska and Patagonia, where he’s drawn to the steepest alpine faces. You can keep up with Colin on his new website,

Live coverage from Patagonia: See Instagram photos, tweets and blog posts from our friends and ambassadors at or with the #vidapatagonia tag.

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Weeknights on the Bowery
Written By: Patagonia

By Jeff DiNunzio, photos by Jeff Johnson


October 15 was an idyllic autumn evening in the Northeast, cool and clear at the intersection of Bowery and Bleecker. As the sun set, amps and guitars and drum kits and crates of audio gear rolled through the front doors of the old CBGB gallery, awakening the musical spirits still lingering in the iconic venue.

Throwing shindigs to launch a new Patagonia store in New York City has almost become a ritual. Hell, I’ve been to three in the last two years – one for each Tin Shed location in fall 2011 and just across town at the Meatpacking district last February. The bash on Bowery, however, stood to be the wildest so far.

The store was slated to open in time for the 2012 holiday season, but the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy combined with renovation complications pushed it back by nearly a year. “Because this store was so delayed, we wanted to skip product launches and film premieres and just have a party – an opportunity to celebrate the store and just hang out with everyone from the surf community that we met and worked with over the year it took to get the shop open,” NY district manager Joy Lewis told me. Much of the staff consists of longtime Patagonia employees who served as the faces of the company during that time, surfing when waves came and volunteering in the hurricane recovery after waves went. So when the doors unlocked on September 24th of this year, we were ready. Store intrigue grew over those months. When the party went down two weeks later, we realized just how much.

Landing on the details was easy, says Joy and store manager DL Tashjian, who tapped their networks to put things together. Food and drink came from Roberta’s Pizza and Sixpoint Brewery – both Brooklyn-based suppliers. Of course, given CBGB’s history, music was a crucial element. “We wanted a DJ spinning all vinyl since the space was previously a record shop,” Joy explained. DJ Tram – an old friend of DL’s – spun all night, except during the surprise 45-minute set played by the band Real Estate.


To keep with Patagonia’s philanthropic ethos, we held a silent auction that benefitted the on-going hurricane recovery efforts by Waves For Water, the relief organization founded by former pro surfer Jon Rose. A handful of the company’s ambassadors graced us with auction items. “We let [them] know about the benefit and asked for donations,” Joy said. “The support was incredible. A signed Gerry Lopez photo, surf lessons with Mary Osborne, a Fark with artwork by Kim Diggs that was painted during the party, a railing off of Liz Clark's boat Swell…” All told, over $4,000 was raised for Waves For Water.

The event, of course, suffered setbacks. Word of the party, which drew some 700 people, spread rapidly in the preceding weeks. So much so that several hundred more guests were turned away at the door. Understandably, our maxed capacity bred resentment that seeped out through social media outlets. “It was a major bummer to have to turn people away; it doesn't feel super Patagonia,” Joy admitted. “But we had to make sure it didn't get out of control.”

Inside, currents of familiar faces from all around New York and New Jersey drifted in every direction. Every so often, Chris or Dan Malloy would emerge from a circle of questions about their next project. And floating unassumingly through the crowd, amid rows of FCD surfboards and residual CBGB-era décor, was Dan Ross, the former World Championship Tour competitor who’s as svelte as he is talented on a surfboard.



The seventh keg kicked around 11 o’clock. Thanks were given, hands were shaken, farewells sent. “You know who your friends are when the beer runs out!” one company exec joked. The store, shockingly, suffered little abuse given the night’s fun factor.

“Are you coming Thursday?” we asked everyone heading for the door. For almost 200, the answer was yes. Friends and surfers and seekers of discomfort, Dan Malloy, Kanoa Zimmerman, and Kellen Keene, capped the week with a screening of Slow Is Fast – a new book and short film documenting their 58-day bicycling trip along a chunk of California’s Central Coast. The project highlights the mechanics of multiple family farms – friends of the cyclists who maintain an agrarian existence – seasoned with a few token surf clips and striking landscape shots of what much of California used to look like.




“The best part of the trip for me,” Dan explained, “is watching these beautiful little family farms. To see what they’re doing is one of the most interesting, creative ventures. They have a beautiful farm stand and art gallery. It’s not this kitschy thing; they sell a sh*tload of produce!”

The crew spent the bulk of a Thursday night signing books and trading stories with folks whose appreciation for self-propelled travel is bolstered by the difficulty and expense of traveling by car in New York City. Good Water Farms from Long Island and Harlem Grown, two relevant local outfits bent on establishing sustainable community farming, were on hand to promote their missions.






By Friday morning, it was hard to believe the week was over. We’d been touting the two opening events for weeks, and they’d passed in a flash. As the store returned to its original setup that afternoon, friends we’d met over the previous few days came by to rehash the festivities. And that’s when it hit us: after nearly a year’s worth of anticipation, we were, as so many passersby remarked, finally open.


Jeff DiNunzio is the floor lead and shipper at Patagonia Bowery. He's reported for the New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, Esquire, GQ, Vogue, Eastern Surf Magazine, National Geographic, and Action Sports. Jeff carries a thick affection for ice hockey, baseball, and surfing, and hopes to eventually transition to sports management.

Jeff Johnson resides in Santa Barbara, California where he works full-time for Patagonia Inc. as a staff photographer, writer, and assists with product development.

Patagonia Bowery is located at 313 Bowery in New York City.


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The Nose Wipe – Removing Trash from The Nose of El Capitan
Written By: Patagonia

By Dave N. Campbell

Another day at work on The Nose, with the author and ranger Ben Doyle. ©Cheyne Lempe


My partner shouted at the top of his lungs, causing me to jolt to attention and look down to him and our hanging camp. We were high on El Capitan’s Shield route, and I watched helplessly as a yellow dry bag containing our garbage from the past five days – including twenty-four crushed aluminum cans – grew smaller and smaller as it plummeted toward the ground. After a full twenty seconds of airtime, our bag exploded at the base of the monolith, firing shrapnel in all directions. The blast sent echoes to Half Dome and back.

The yellow bag had been clipped in poorly and detached once I began hauling our supplies to the next station. (In climbing terms: the dry bag buckle was mistakenly clipped into the taut docking line and thus came loose when my partner lowered out the bags.) It was March and, fortunately, we had the wall to ourselves, otherwise the error could have killed someone. Our team was relatively inexperienced and also greatly relieved that we did not drop something vital, like a sleeping bag. Dark clouds lurked and when we finally reached the top we were pounded by a violent storm. We fought our way down the slippery descent in the dark, and somehow found our way to the Ahwahnee Hotel, where we slept on the floor next to a crackling fireplace. In the morning, we exited quickly, forgetting about the yellow bag debacle, and drove back to school without cleaning up our mess.

Yvon Chouinard sums it up well in the movie 180° South: “The whole purpose of climbing something like Everest is to effect some sort of spiritual and physical gain. But if you compromise the process you’re an asshole when you start out and an asshole when you get back.” Abandoning garbage on or around El Capitan tarnishes a coveted process and displays weakness in both character and style. I was an asshole for leaving a mess at the base of the sacred Big Stone.

A few hours before our yellow trash bag fell off of The Shield. ©Dave N. Campbell

©Dave N. Campbell

4Hanging Camp2
Climbing Rangers Jesse McGahey and Ben Doyle on Tribal Rite. ©Dave N. Campbell

Autumn 2013
I’ve returned almost every year since those days on The Shield to climb a different route up the monolith, and this fall I teamed up with three National Park Service (NPS) climbing rangers to do something unique.

Climbing Ranger Jesse McGahey radios in the days’ progress on Tribal Rite. ©Dave N. Campbell

We climbed the Tribal Rite route and afterwards, instead of rushing down to hot food and warm showers, met with climbing stewards Cheyne Lempe and Buck Yedor on the top. Then we removed 120 pounds of waste from the upper corners of The Nose route and summit.

Ranger Ben Doyle and the author below Camp 6 ledge of The Nose. ©Cheyne Lempe

The Nose is the most famous climbing route in the world, and the most popular path up the 3,000-foot face of El Capitan. Each year, hundreds of advanced climbers travel to Yosemite from all corners of the world to give it their best – and many fail. The average ascent time is four days, and teams are often mentally and physically spent by the time they navigate the route’s upper sections. Much like they do on Mt. Everest, a percentage of people compromise the purity of their journey by leaving garbage on the route.


The final section of The Nose. ©Dave N. Campbell

NPS climbing rangers and volunteers have been doing the annual Nose Wipe since 2006 to address this issue. This was my second year volunteering. We rappel in from the top with large empty bags and use a twelve-foot retractable pole to remove waste. It’s clear that a lot of the debris was not intentionally abandoned. We found a Gore-Tex glove, sections of climbing rope, and last year pulled a $60 Black Diamond helmet from a deep slot 600 feet from the top.

A helmet removed from behind the Camp 6 ledge on The Nose. ©Dave N. Campbell

Anyone who’s climbed The Nose will also confirm that there’s plenty of valuable climbing equipment residing just out of arm's reach within the wide cracks on the first third of the route. However, most often we remove empty plastic bottles and aluminum cans. Some of the stuff smells like piss so we wear rubber gloves and face masks. Since the Nose Wipe began, hundreds of pounds of garbage have been extracted from cracks on The Nose, and we estimate that somewhere between 300 and 500 pounds remain.

9trashin stovelegs
Debris inside the “Stoveleg Cracks” of The Nose. ©Dave N. Campbell

Ranger Ben Doyle spends a good portion of his work week doing operations in vertical environments. He patrols routes like The Nose regularly and heroically rescues injured climbers from difficult to reach places. In June, Ben climbed/patrolled both The Nose and the face of Half Dome in twenty-one hours. This required climbing more than a vertical mile of highly technical terrain, and is a feat beyond most people’s comprehension. This was Ben’s fifth consecutive year doing a Nose Wipe.

Rangers Ben Doyle, Brandon Latham and Jesse McGahey at Tribal Rite’s finish. ©Dave N. Campbell

Ben refers to the Nose Wipe as a Sisyphean task, a reference to the Greek myth of a king condemned by Zeus for his misdeeds. According to the myth, the king is compelled to roll a giant boulder up a hill, only for it to roll back to the bottom once he reaches the top, thus requiring him to repeat the process for eternity. Every year, climbers leave behind garbage, and it’s hard to stay on top of the problem.

The author and ranger Ben Doyle during a 2012 Nose Wipe. ©John Connor

However, we are curious to see what will happen if we remove 100% of the garbage from The Nose in one go. The most problematic area is the slot behind the Camp 6 ledge, 600 feet from the top. It’s like an archeological dig up there because we’re uncovering garbage from different generations as we hit the different layers of compact waste. This season we removed several bleach bottles – apparently climbers used them for storing water during the ‘70s, before you could buy water and soda in two-liter plastic bottles. If we restore The Nose back to a pristine condition, maybe future climbers will be more inclined to give it the respect it deserves.

The author and ranger Ben Doyle carrying garbage loads off of El Capitan. ©Cheyne Lempe

I find myself circling back to Yvon Chouinard’s quote. Although climbers are physically ascending something tangible, there’s also a metaphysical transformation taking place, leading toward spiritual growth. However, this process is compromised if we disregard our environment. Perhaps YC’s words show us the true Sisyphean task, because there isn’t much difference between perpetually rolling a rock up a hill and climbing a mountain if neither produces the desired result: to not come home the same asshole we were when we started.

©Dave N. Campbell

Our sport is rapidly changing, with a huge new demographic of urban climbers emerging from gym to crag. We must continue to step it up as environmental stewards if we wish to maintain access to these majestic places. Otherwise, we may as well glue feathers to our backs and head towards the sun with Icarus.

The author leads out on El Capitan’s East Buttress. ©Amy Harris

Dave N. Campbell is a Pro Sales rep for Patagonia and teaches wilderness survival classes at Truckee Meadows Community College in the evenings. He holds a BA in Chinese and has spent extensive time in the mountain ranges of China. In 2011, Dave worked on a Panda restoration project in Sichuan with The Nature Conservancy and last summer he led a ski/snowboard mountaineering trip in the Tianshan Range of Xinjiang. Earlier this year Dave worked with Sean O'Neill on the first parapalegic lead climb.


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Worn Wear – a Film About the Stories We Wear
Written By: Patagonia

We would like to invite you to be among the first to watch Worn Wear, a new film from Keith, Lauren, Chris, and Dan Malloy.

Worn Wear is an exploration of quality – in the things we own and the lives we live. This short film takes you to an off-the-grid surf camp in Baja, Mexico; a family's maple syrup harvest in Contoocook, Vermont; an organic farm in Ojai, California; and into the lives of a champion skier, a National Geographic photographer, and a legendary alpinist. It also features exclusive interviews with Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard.

Released as an antidote to the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping frenzy, Worn Wear is an invitation to celebrate the stuff you already own.

[Video: Worn Wear - a Film About the Stories We Wear]

On Black Friday, select Patagonia Retail Stores across the country will be hosting Worn Wear parties. Please join us at one of the parties to watch the film, taste our super-secret limited edition beer, learn how to repair your old Patagonia gear with iFixit, and enjoy food and live music. Black Friday Party details at:


As always, you're invited to share your Worn Wear story. Just click the "submit" link at the top of We hope you enjoy the film and have a Happy Thanksgiving.

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Dan Malloy’s Slow Is Fast – The Book and DVD
Written By: Patagonia


Thumbing through my recently purchased copy of Dan Malloy’s Slow Is Fast paperback, I felt the same elation I had as a teenager buying new vinyl. Listening to Yes’s double album, Tales From Topographic Oceans, I would carefully examine Roger Dean’s ethereal cover art as Jon Anderson and Steve Howe’s highly energized rock transported this Jersey kid to another place. And that’s what creative types do. They grab a hold of you and take you with them. It’s what Dan Malloy does with Slow Is Fast. He creates a beautifully made visual tribute to his native California.

Back in the fall of 2012, Dan and his good friends, Kellen Keene and Kanoa Zimmerman rode touring bikes along 700 coastal miles, documenting their trip with plenty of photographs and interviews. Some pictures are humorous, like the road kill one, where a beanie doll is added to the mix to soften death’s morbidity. Details are everywhere. The book’s front cover has a tiny, red bike-trailer icon and there are pages torn from a calendar scribbled with notes that say four shakas, zero middle fingers and two angry honks – a record of the day’s interaction with motorists.

[“In the last month I have learned more about the people and places along the California coast than I had in 34 years and a thousand car trips.” -Dan Malloy. Photo: Kanoa Zimmerman]

A DVD comes with the book and the thoughtful production, lovely soundtrack and overall good vibe make it a must see. There are different people who show up in the DVD that aren’t featured in the book. Dan, Kellen and Kanoa are fun to watch and their humor is never forced. It’s such a pleasure to be around people like this and you feel better for it. Between visits they surf, and the water scenes lend a meditative quality to the movie. The best thing about the DVD is that it’s cleverly wrapped in a collage of photographs from the trip. When you unfold the wrapper there is a meticulous hand-drawn map of their route done up by artist, Trevor Gordon.

Getting wet between farm chores. Photo: Kanoa Zimmerman


Steady perfection. Traditional sign maker, Jeff Canham applies the final touch to Dan's board. Woodshop, San Francisco. Photo: Kanoa Zimmerman


Mickey Murch harvesting potatoes. Photo: Kanoa Zimmerman

The trip started 100 miles north of San Francisco with just the bare essentials. As they traveled down coast they stopped to surf, work with farmers, and spend time with artists and musicians. They also visited craftspeople and talked to them about their trade. There’s the Santa Cruz surfer kid who expertly makes prehistoric stone tools for the UC Berkeley archeological department, a bladesmith who considers his craft a spiritual practice and, my favorite, a hatchet throwing, jack-of-all trades surfer from Big Sur. These personal encounters make the book pulse with life.

There are photos that illustrate the difference between big and small agriculture. Long rows of tidy crops sprayed with unhealthy chemicals versus a field tended to with wind-chapped hands and a strong body. Growing up, I used to work on my grandparents' farm just outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They grew corn, tomatoes and whatever else they thought the neighbors might like. Granddad let me feed the chickens and pigeons, and pick ears of corn from a field next to the pigeon house. I remember walking between the tall rows, the warm, clumpy earth feeling good beneath my bare feet. At a smaller field I collected rhubarb and eggplant for grandmother’s homemade fritters and strawberry rhubarb pie. She made the dough from scratch.

The Murch family pause for a short break on their Gospel Flat Farm in Bolinas. Photo: Kanoa Zimmerman


Off the bike for a session near Big Sur. Photo: Kanoa Zimmerman


Riding toward the Ojai wilderness. Photo: Kanoa Zimmerman

Dan and the guys visit Brenton Kelly and Jan Smith, who run the Quail Springs Permaculture Site and Educational Center in Maricopa. Dan asks them what they like about their jobs and what’s important to them. Brenton says he loves teaching and the interaction he has with students. Jan mentions that soil and light are basic connections to life and that she considers herself a wild critter. She feels that feeding people is the highest form of activism a person can do. Their spirited and noble lifestyle is exemplified in a stanza from Dick Gibford’s poem, While An Eagle Soared Like A Desert Lord.  

He was just glad to be
Way out here
Still somewhat free
From pressure to conform
To modern times.

South of Cuyama up in the Sierra Madre, Dan sat in a small cabin with a man, wearing a wide brimmed hat and brightly colored bandana. It was Dick Gibford. He lives in the mountains tending cattle with his horse. Dan listens to Dick talk about the Spanish vaquero and their importance to the ranch culture. The American cowboy learned everything from the vaqueros Dick tells Dan. The vaquero move cattle at a slow pace, treating them with tender care. It takes fortitude and patience to do this kind of work, but it’s what Dick loves to do.

Where eagles soar like desert lords. Somewhere in Cuyama's wide-open hills, Dick Gibford tends his cattle. Photo: Kanoa Zimmerman

The old cowboy poet and everyone else we meet in the book and DVD grabs a hold of us and takes us with them. It’s what creative types do. We are grateful that Dan, Kellen and Kanoa stopped along the way to meet these folks, taking time to listen to their stories and learn about their unique skills. Dan reminds us that when we slow down and listen, we live.


Slow is Fast is now available from and Patagonia Retail Stores.

[Video: Book trailer for Slow is Fast]

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The Higher You Get, The Higher You Get – A Paragliding Journey in the Pioneer Mountains
Written By: Patagonia

By Gavin McClurg


I've been really fortunate in the last couple decades to explore many of the farthest corners of the globe – thirteen straight years of sailing, chasing wind and waves on a series of kitesurfing expeditions, which included nearly two full circumnavigations, and the last couple years, paragliding all over the Alps, South America, Central America, Africa and the Himalayas. Just like surfers chasing swell, pilots chase seasons and weather.

Reggie Crist, a former Olympic alpine skier and friend of mine who lives here in Sun Valley is even making a movie about how athletes are like migratory animals, hopping on planes or jumping in cars chasing what they “need” be it adrenaline, or escape, or just pure fun. Animals, of course, are seeking food and shelter, which is all we really need as well. But for some people this other “need” is as urgent as the next hit is for a junky. Without it we find life marginalized, gray and drab.

[Above: Gavin McClurg soars. Photo: Jody MacDonald

I’d just gotten home from one such migration, a paragliding expedition with three other elite pilots across the Wasatch Range from Southern Utah to Jackson Hole, Wyoming – a line that had never been attempted. As a “vol biv” trip (i.e. fly/camp), which is very similar in approach to alpine climbing, where only the bare necessities are packed and we fly self-supported, carrying everything we need to survive for multiple days in our flying harnesses, it was totally unsuccessful. The weather just kept shutting us down. A late monsoonal flow from the south and too much instability in the atmosphere made flying long distances impossible. We had a film crew with us, documenting the expedition for Outside TV, which added further pressure. The trip wasn’t fruitless however – we got some great flying and some fantastic footage.

We returned to Sun Valley exhausted but in good spirits. Cool fall nights and shorter days had already set in. The Aspens were already going golden. The tourists had left town. In my opinion, Sun Valley has the best big-air flying on Earth. A number of recent distance records, including my own world mountain record this summer of 240 miles, confirms this opinion. But what we don't often get to do is fly here in the absence of fear. Flying in Sun Valley is usually a full-on affair. Crazy strong thermals and nail biting wind. It's always kind of an edge-of-your-seat experience, or in our case, edge of your harness experience. But in the fall we often get days with very little wind and everything, including the thermals, has mellowed out. We can't go huge distances as the days are shorter, but we can experience some stunning flying.

My friend Matt (aka “Farmer”), who held the mountain distance record for a short period last summer, had a dream for many years to launch near town, fly out to the Pioneers – our closest range of radical mountains (about 15 miles as the crow flies) – top land at the Pioneer Cabin, which was built in 1937, and spend the night. The icing on the cake would be to launch the next day near the cabin and fly home. A proper bivy trip in maximum style, but a very tall order – one he'd tried before but never pulled off. In fact, it had never been done. I moved to Sun Valley just a year ago and had never even seen the Pioneer Cabin, and I couldn't imagine just flying around in the Pioneers. They are huge, black, some would say menacing, peaks rising over 13,000 feet – usually something we like to go over the top of with plenty of height and not look back. Not a place to hang around.

But a day arrived that looked like perfect conditions to make the attempt.

2013-09-09 10.37.20 the flight begins
The flight begins.


2013-09-10 13.53.58wee little people in big country
Wee little people in the big country.


2013-09-10 15.10.14the stunning pioneer mountains of Idaho
The stunning Pioneer Mountains of Idaho.

I met Matt and two other local pilots, Donnie and Nate, at 3pm, right across the street from the historic Sun Valley Lodge. We were up at launch an hour later, legs and lungs burning but we were all smiles – the conditions looked perfect. In no time we were all off the hill and heading up the ridge towards Otto’s Peak, at the top of trail creek, various singing “beep beep beep” verifying glorious climbs. Cloudbase was nearly 15,000 feet and there was almost no wind. The thermals were gentle, the sky more clear and blue than I'd ever seen in the Wood River Valley, which stretches out to the great basin desert and winds up to Galena Pass, the gateway to Stanley and the stunning Sawtooth Mountains. After a horrific fire season and being evacuated from our home just a few weeks earlier, I couldn't believe everything looked so pristine. The flying was so good I found myself questioning what was happening, and looking over my shoulder for the surprise that never came. Days like this come around very, very rarely.

We made the jump from Otto’s, at the south end of the Boulder range over to the Pioneers and eventually all grouped up and flew right down the range. I discovered Matt had a GoPro with him and we spiraled down, deep into the range, tight into the terrain, something that would be suicidal in summer. We must have flown 40 kilometers out and back and then back out from one end to the other. Donnie and Nate decided to fly back to town after a flight that both would later describe as one of the best they'd ever had. Matt and I carried on until sunset, wondering if someone had snuck some acid into our lunch. This just wasn't possible.

2013-09-10 19.16.15 landing just a few feet from the Pioneer cabin
Sunset landing.


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Happy Farmer with the Pioneer Cabin in the background.

[Video: The Higher You Get, The Higher You Get by Offshore Odysseys]

We landed about 50 feet away from the Pioneer Cabin at 9,500 feet. After laughing, and hugging, and laughing some more we watched the sun fade over the horizon, packed up and moved into the cabin. We enjoyed a hot cup of tea, dinner, star gazing, a lot more laughing and a lot of discussion about this shared addiction of flight – and the irony of how we spend so much time and money and effort chasing what we love around the world yet the best is right here in our own backyard.

I've traveled and moved more than I've stayed put in my 41 years on this very cool planet we call home, adding my own considerable carbon footprint to the abundance that we humans are producing daily. Maybe it's time to slow down and enjoy the horizon that is right here every day.

The next day we fired up the stove, had a coffee, walked no more than five minutes to a slope above the cabin and launched, hoping we could find a place to land in the canyon below us but couldn't see. The sun was already baking the east-facing slopes and as we pilots like to say, “It was ON.” We circled like birds up and up to 12,000 feet and pointed our wings home. A place I think I'll stay awhile.


Gavin McClurg is the CEO of Offshore Odysseys and founder of The Best Odyssey and The Cabrinha Quest. He grew up on boats in the Pacific Northwest and commercially fished in the Bering Sea before getting into sailing in the mid ‘90s. The Cabrinha Quest is a five-year seafaring expedition to seek out the world’s most remote and dynamic kitesurfing and surfing locations. Photo: Jody MacDonald

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Dirtbag Diaries: Tales of Terror Vol. 4
Written By: Patagonia

By Fitz & Becca Cahall

Dbd_tales_terror_4Is there something out there? It’s a question that lurks in the back of my mind. Probably in yours too. It’s one of the very reasons why I love the outdoors: the unpredictability.

Over the years, I’ve collected experiences. Moments, like bits of data, that collectively guide my intuition. And yet, we’ve all had that moment where hairs stand up on the back of our neck. Was it heightened perception? Or did the wind just blow the right way? And if you convince yourself it was the wind, does some lump of doubt sit in your stomach? Because sometimes you just won’t believe something is out there. Until it’s right there.

[Listen to "Tales of Terror Vol. 4" by The Dirtbag Diaries on Soundcloud]

Visit for links to past episodes, featured music and to pledge your support. You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, RSS, SoundCloud and Stitcher, or connect with the Dirtbag Diaries community on Facebook and Twitter. The Dirtbag Diaries is a Duct Tape Then Beer production.

[Graphic by Walker Cahall]

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Shutting Down or Opening Up? Reflections from Yosemite on the 16-day Government Shutdown
Written By: Patagonia
By Ron Kauk

I stood in wonder during a walk through the valley, at day 10 or something, as the exaggerated drama played out once again in this microcosm of America – a seven-mile long, mile-and-a-half wide sacred place on earth. It was as if the place could hear itself think, or simply just talk the real language of thousands of years between trees, plants, animals, rivers and rocks.
I was in awe of this feeling, the power of such a place that hosts over 4 million people a year. At the end of every summer, I feel as though it’s becoming harder and harder for the valley to absorb the impact of human stress and disconnect.

[Above: El Capitan peaks out of the trees. All of the photos in this story were taken by Ron Kauk (himself a Yosemite resident) while the park was closed to the public.]

The Merced River flowing through Yosemite Valley.

An empty trail near Fern Spring.

Changing leaves in El Cap meadow.

More than not, Yosemite has become a big attraction, a place to entertain ourselves while flying down the highways that flow through the so-called park. Amazing amounts of wildlife are run down by cars here, sometimes 18 bears or more a year. We buy bottled water while enjoying the beauty of the waterfalls. Thousands of cigarette butts, each one a human calling card, litter the ground.

These thoughts rolled through my head while standing in complete quiet – the harmony of nature’s way returning with its song that nurtures the spirit back into balance.
What I’ve learned climbing and simply being here is to look for the signs. Nature is always saying something. The shutdown was loud and clear. We are not in control of anything. The flow of life will continue no matter how confused we humans get. No matter how much we fight over money or resources, the earth will continue. The big question is whether we’ll reconnect and respect this reality, find our own humility, and take more responsibility as the only ones who’ve lost their way.

Ron Kauk has been living in and around Yosemite National Park for over 30 years. In 2009, Ron and Stanford University professor, Kenji Hakuta, created Sacred Rok, a small non-profit organization dedicated to helping young people learn how to respect nature, and through that, respect themselves.

Ron’s second book, Letters from Sacred Rok – Education Nature’s Way, is now available from and


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Things Unsaid
Written By: Patagonia
By Belinda Baggs, photos by Adam Kobayashi

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There are moments when words don’t seem to be enough, when we’re afraid they won’t do justice or that they might even scare the moment away. So instead we stay silent, keeping our thoughts and feelings to ourselves, and just hope that others feel the same.

Sharing a sunrise, or when the sunrise is at 4:15 AM, even better, lying next to your family in bed. Watching the baby chest of your son rise and fall with each breath, his little face so peaceful, mouth a perfect outline of pink, and five perfect miniature fingers clutching tight on his dad's forearm. The creation of life is a magical thing, and sharing the love of family is incomprehensible until it’s you squashed on the edge of the bed, at peace with waves going unridden, a heartwarming glow pulsing through your body.

As the hot, spring sun begins to radiate through the rice paper walls, a little croaky voice, with eyes still shut, utters, "beeeach, Beachhhhhh." Rayson is awake and ready to start another day.

[Above: The second Rayson first opened his eyes to see the daylight of Chiba, Japan. It's always the best thing to wake up with a happy baby and get a morning hug.]

A few hundred meters from our doorstep, particles of the same ocean fade out, dissolving into the shore. The sand is black but my connection to the vast Pacific remains the same. For our family, travel is a journey of the heart. Japan is kind and giving, patient, patriotic, proud and, over all else, respectful. The vast and varied coast is a treasured heaven, appreciated for every grain of sand and every droplet of water. The waves, a precious resource that bring joy and love and passion to an assortment of souls traveling from far and wide to embrace their magic.

Today, the wind is cold and onshore from the north. The masses from Tokyo join this country town, and huddle up in a protected corner. Before noon, a blanket of surfers have sprawled across the bay. Lazy peaks push through and stand up on a shallow sand bar. Rayson plays the same as he does on any other day, on any other beach, a face full of sand and cat naps shaded by a damp towel. This is the surfing life I grew up knowing and am passing onto my son.

For us, the sea is a way of life. It gives a sense of belonging to this world.

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With a strong onshore wind blowing we decided to hit the road after breakfast and head to the other side of the peninsula. On the road to Onjuku with Uncle Fuji, Aunty Yoshie and Enzo... pick of the day!

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The surf looks good! Small and crowded but clean and peeling. Aunty Yoshie and I grab our boards.

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Baby pep talk: "Play good with your daddy please!" It always breaks my heart to walk away from Rayson to surf, but it's my favorite thing to look back at the shore and see him and Adam building sand castles together.

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There is a blanket of people sprawled over the sea, but being a 'surfing mom' allows no time to waste -- first wave...

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...same wave, cross steppin' down the line. I was suprised at how good these small waves actually were!

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A handheld GoPro gives a more peaceful view of crowded Onjuku.

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As the tide dropped and the crowd filled in even more, I waited a long time to find this wave. Nasal navigation through the crowd.

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The kids played out, we retreated to the parking lot for a picnic of rice balls and vending machine drinks. So oishii!

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Story time with Uncle Fuji.

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A passionate all-around surfer, bodysurfer and paddleboarder, Belinda Baggs is perhaps best known for her graceful and technically accomplished longboard style. Bindy has a wandering spirit, but her roots are on Australia’s Sunshine Coast.

This story first appeared in White Horses issue six.

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DamNation – Susitna: Alaska’s Mega Dam(n) Proposal
Written By: Patagonia
By Matt Stoecker and Travis Rummel


The Susitna is a huge glacial river that drains the indomitable Alaska Range. Denali looms on the horizon. One of America’s last great, wild, undammed rivers, it is home to large numbers of king, sockeye, pink, coho and chum salmon, which push through its heavy currents to spawn in its clear-water tributaries. The “Su” sees the fourth largest king salmon run in Alaska, producing hundreds of thousands of them each year.

The state of Alaska wants to build a 735-foot-high dam on the Susitna to generate electricity. It would be the nation’s second tallest. It’s not the first time the Su has been looked to as a potential source of hydropower. Studies done in the 1950s and ‘80s both explored the feasibility of damming the river. Both agreed that it didn’t make financial sense.

[Above: Old growth forests and the confluence of Kosina Creek and the Susitna River would be submerged under the reservoir created by the proposed dam. Photo: Matt Stoecker]

Today is no exception. There are no private investors currently interested in partnering with the state to build the dam. This says a lot about the economics of the project, which would cost an estimated $5.19 billion dollars – more than $7,000 per Alaskan and more than the state’s annual budget. The dam would generate an estimated 300 megawatts of electricity each year (the Grand Coulee generates 2,500-3,000).

The dam would neither bring down the cost of customer’s electricity, nor help with Alaska’s critical heating needs. Its environmental impacts would be far worse than those of using natural gas, which exists in abundance and is currently used to power turbines and heat homes. Tidal, wind and geothermal power offer possible future substitutes.

Wanting to float the 42 miles of river that might one day be destroyed by the dam’s reservoir, we traveled to Alaska to visit the dam site and document what would be submerged and buried under glacial sediment. The Susitna flows through Alaska-sized country – as cliché as it sounds. Nothing is small.

The Susitna shows her summer colors at sunrise. Photo: Travis Rummel

Just above the proposed Susitna-Watana dam site, the clear, fast moving Deadman creek meets the main stem of the Susitna River. Photo: Travis Rummel

Not only would a 42 mile reservoir have dire impacts to the five species of salmon and prime caribou and moose habitat on the Susitna River. It would flood 20,000 acres of pristine forest. Photo: Travis Rummel

Just a few miles upstream of the proposed dam site, this entire scene would be drowned under a stagnant reservoir. Photo: Matt Stoecker

The lower river is accessible by jet boat, and the upper river is crossed just once by the Denali Highway. It is the remote in-between zone where the dam would be built. This was the target of our trip.

We floated five days from the McLaren River confluence to the mouth of Devil’s Canyon, where the normally broad river squeezes through a bedrock gorge to produce some of the largest and most challenging whitewater in North America. Covering more than a hundred river miles by boat, we saw groups of caribou, sometimes hundreds of them, around almost every bend. There were signs of wolves and bears along the banks, but not a single person; that is outside of the daily storm of helicopters hovering overhead that had been employed to study the proposed dam.

Upstream from Devil’s Canyon and the proposed dam site, we explored crystal-clear tributaries with world-class grayling fisheries, 200-foot waterfalls and river-side cliffs with falcons. We found hundreds more caribou along the extensive floodplain and thickly forested riparian zone. One huge gravel bar within the dam site’s proposed reservoir appeared to be a caribou proving ground. Half a dozen huge males jousted, their massive antlers colliding, while a hundred females circled and watched the display.

At one of our campsites near the mouth of Kosina Creek, we sipped whiskey while watching group after group of caribou come down the opposite river bank, swim the frigid half mile-wide-river and land on both sides of us under a fading pink and purple sky. We’d read studies and heard reports of tenacious chinook salmon spawning in this beautiful tributary after powering through Devil’s Canyon – undoubtedly one of the hardest salmon migrations in North America.

A pod of pink salmon emerge from the Susitna's silty currents and hug the bank as they continue upstream. Photo: Matt Stoecker

Every day of our float trip through the proposed reservoir zone we encountered hundreds of caribou. Photo: Travis Rummel

Another stout Susitna king salmon powers up one of the many clear spawning tributaries. Photo: Matt Stoecker

Trying to tame the mighty Susitna seems foolish, particularly since the river is entombed in ice much of the year. That any “scientist” being paid to study the proposed dam would call this place a “biological desert,” as we’d heard, or any government proposing to destroy it in the name of “green energy,” seems too ridiculous to fathom. But this is what’s said and what’s planned.

The state of Alaska has authorized expenditures of $165 million to push the project through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s expedited permitting process. As farcical as it might sound, the project is very real.

“It’s like finding out that your best friend has been diagnosed with terminal cancer,” said Mike Wood, who lives on the bank of the river with his wife.

Check out this footage from one of the first whitewater descents of Devil’s Canyon:

A more modern day descent of Devil’s Canyon:

[Video: Jeff Shelton]

Get involved / Voice your opposition

Matt Stoecker is the owner of Stoecker Ecological, the director of Beyond Searsville Dam and a Producer/Underwater Photographer for DamNation.

Travis Rummel is the co-owner of Felt Soul Media and a Director/Producer for DamNation.


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I Dream Greenland
Written By: Patagonia
By Lizzy Scully

Breakfast spire

I dreamed of climbing in Greenland for a decade. This summer I finally visited the southernmost reaches of that country and climbed in the Torssukatak Fjord with photographer John Dickey, Quinn Brett, and Prairie Kearney. Team Glitterbomb put up three first ascents: "Morning Luxury" (5.11-, 1400ft) on The Breakfast Spire, "Plenty for Everyone" (5.10+/11-, 1800ft) on the Barnes Wall, and "Four Quickies" (5.9, 400ft) on the Submarine Wall. I recorded the trip via video, audio, photo, and diary entries.

[Above: The Breakfast Spire. All photos by Lizzy Scully]

Monday, July 1
We did a fantastic new route, an awesome, clean ridgeline up the Breakfast Spire. It has never been summited via a route from the bottom! Starting at 4a.m., we did it in two parties of two, with John and I in the lead, so that he could take photos of Q & P. I felt great. I thought I might fall on the crux pitch, maybe a 5.11-, because I had to clean a bunch of grass out of it. But, I was mad at myself for grabbing a piece on our first route at the crux, so I went for it and sent.

The summit was indescribable. We saw a vast landscape of ice and snow, with jagged, sharp, smooth, orange, wildly shaped spires and rock walls. And there were lakes, some frozen, some not, and the fjord and ocean in the distance. So much space. So many rocks. So vast and desolate.

And so many more routes to do! I stared at a long, golden Astroman-like dihedral on nearby Shepton Spire all day. I'm sure it’s Ham and Eggs, one of the routes put up by the Favresse brothers, Ben Ditto, and Sean Villanueva two years ago. I imagine it's the Astro-Ham & Egg of Greenland. I want it! And then there’s the face of the Breakfast Spire…

Wednesday, July 3
I woke up this morning to Quinn and Prairie laughing and to John asking, “Do you want tea?” His desire for coffee gets him out of the sleeping bag early. “I go to bed at night thinking about the cup of coffee I get to have the next morning!” he says, laughing.

It’s sleeting right now. But this Friday it will be sunny, according to my mom’s text messages. We will go for something bigger. There's nothing here that is big like Pakistan. Everything is sub 2000 feet. I like it that way. It feels manageable. I used to do 50- and 60-hour pushes, but 20 years of overuse and persistent arthritis means my body no longer fairs well under such stress. We have 16 more days in the mountains.

Screen shot 2013-08-25 at 7.58.42 PM

Thursday, July 4
We planned to celebrate the 4th of July, but it’s raining too much. I’m reading Barry Lopez’s book, Arctic Dreams. Everything in Greenland is WAY bigger than I expect. I thought the Barnes Wall was 1,200 feet at most, but it was at least 1,800 feet. I wonder how big the polar bears are. Barry Lopez says the 12-foot-tall bears are mostly just a myth…

Friday, July 5
Ugh. One of my partners spilled boiling water on my foot last night. So I can’t climb. I longed to accompany the team as they headed off to do another FA this morning. Sigh. Instead I’m going on a walkabout up and over the Barnes Wall Col into the neighboring valley.

I'm pretty frightened of camping alone. I’m scared of polar bears. But what else am I going to do? Mike Libecki assured me before the trip that global warming and South Greenland's subsequent lack of ice on which seals can breed in the summers means polar bears are unlikely to be in the Torssukatak Fjord. But, the morning we left Nanortalik, a man in the grocery store asked me if I needed to rent a rifle.

“What for?” I asked.

“Bears,” he replied, making the universal hand and facial expression – arms up in the air, claws out, grimace on the face, “GRRRR.”

[Videos by Lizzy Scully]

Saturday, July 7
Yesterday, as I descended the col, I questioned my decision. But I reminded myself, “If Mike can spend 40 days alone in the middle of nowhere, surely I can spend three by myself.” So today I hiked down valley, following the river to its end. I thought there would be fish, but there were none. And all day I worried about bears, but silly me, there aren’t even ripe crowberries for them to eat. I looked for escape routes anyway.

Sunday, July 8
Hiking hurts. My foot is worse. I headed back to base camp today, though I spent the morning on top of the col. The view was extraordinary… the valley and fjord were completely filled in with luscious clouds. What a morning. I didn’t sleep much the night before because I was so gripped about bears. I even packed all my stuff up in the middle of the night and hiked halfway up the col just to find a safer spot, close to this hand crack that I thought for sure no bear could follow me up.

Screen shot 2013-08-25 at 9.03.12 PM

Monday, July 9
We are all back in camp. My partners got just a few rain-free hours to climb yesterday, only to find their chosen crack system bottomed out on pitch 3. So today we hiked, again, for fun. Only I’m not having fun anymore. My foot isn’t healing because it’s too wet. Jumping from boulder to boulder hurts my knees, and my ankles keep giving out. Is my trip over? I agonize over this decision. There is still the Astroman of Greenland to climb…

Tuesday, July 10
This morning I woke up in pain – my foot, my back, my knees, everything hurts. I’ve had enough. I’m going home. I told my partners I’m leaving as soon as possible. Am I bummed out? Not really. We’ve lugged 50- to 60-pound bags and barrels across the world and up and down talus slopes, across boulder fields, up and down cols. I realize with finality that I don’t need more rain or uncomfortably cold nights in the tent; I don’t need more hiking or canned tuna; I don’t even need the Astro-Ham & Egg of Greenland. I’ve already had my Breakfast Spire.


Longtime climber and writer, Lizzy Scully runs a social media management business out of Lyons, Colorado called MergeThis Media. Check out her latest multimedia storytelling efforts at, where she's documenting the recent devastating floods that destroyed her small town.

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Chuitna Mine – Pebble is Not the Only Mine Endangering Salmon
Written By: Patagonia
By Paul Moinester


Peering out the window of the plane, I took a deep breath and tried to soak it all in. The sun was glistening on the expansive mudflats, casting a bright glow over the pristine landscape. To the west, the Alaska Range was commandeering the sky, its snowcapped peaks piercing the clouds. Everywhere the eye could see, serpentine rivers were snaking through the flats on their journey to the Cook Inlet. And though too small to be seen from the sky, the rivers were teeming with salmon, beckoning me to immerse myself in these pure waters and pursue that heart-stopping tug.

It’s hard to fathom a place so raw, so barren, and so untouched. But it’s even harder to acknowledge the disturbing reality that this landscape is endangered and could soon become an industrial wasteland if the proposed Chuitna coal strip mine is given a green light.

[Above: View from the plane of the pristine Chuitna watershed. All photos by Paul Moinester]

If you’re reading this then you’re likely familiar with the proposed Pebble Mine, an enormously controversial copper and gold mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay. But chances are you haven’t heard of the proposed Chuitna Mine, which is a problem. Like Pebble, Chuitna is a proposed massive extractive resource project that, if permitted, will have a devastating effect on Alaska’s wild salmon stocks. But unlike Pebble, few people outside of Alaska have ever heard of the Chuitna Mine. I was blissfully unaware of its existence until I met Sam Weis.

View from the air of the glistening mudflats and Cook Inlet

Sam is the Communications Director for Alaskans First, a coalition of diverse groups and concerned residents fighting to protect Alaska’s way of life from six proposed coal mining projects. A native Wisconsinite and avid fly fisherman, Sam felt the irresistible call of Alaska and moved to Anchorage earlier this year to fight for the preservation of wild salmon (and to fish of course). Fittingly, I met Sam at an event titled, “Eat Salmon. Save Salmon.”

Halfway through explaining my project to him, Sam interrupted and asked if I had heard of the Chuitna Mine project. When I told him I hadn’t, he immediately pulled out his calendar and asked when I could fly out to a remote Alaskan wilderness to visit the proposed mine site. He sweetened the deal by promising we could spend a few hours chasing silver salmon fresh from the ocean. How could I say no to that?

A week later, we were crammed into the back of a Cessna Skywagon bound for the tiny town of Beluga. Only a forty-minute flight west of Anchorage, Beluga is emblematic of what springs to mind when you imagine a remote Alaskan outpost. It has 17-21 fulltime residents – the variance is due to one family that sometimes flies south for the winter. The town’s runway is a gravel road that doubles as Main Street. The post office is a converted cargo container with a dozen or so mailboxes tacked to the side.

Beluga’s post office.

We were met at the “airport” by Terry Jorgensen, a commercial setnet fisherman. We tossed our gear into the back of his old, beat-up pickup truck, bounced along the bumpy roads to the coast, hopped on ATVs, and raced down the rocky shoreline to his fishing spot. With the rhythmic sound of waves crashing in the background, Terry exhaustively detailed the plans for the proposed project. As I listened to detail after excruciating detail, I struggled to understand how this horrific project has flown under the national conservation radar for so long.

Chuitna is unprecedented in both its size and blatant environmental disregard. The scope of the coal mine is unmatched anywhere in Alaska. If approved, it would be the state’s largest coal strip mine. It’s also the first coal project in Alaska to have the audacity to propose mining directly through a salmon stream. The plan is to completely remove 11 miles of streambed and more than 300 feet of underlying soil and rock strata.

Terry filling in Sam on an aspect of the destructive mine proposal.

That’s not conjecture of potential impacts. The company behind the project fully acknowledges it will remove 11 miles of prolific salmon stream. The threatened 11-mile stretch is called Middle Creek and produces roughly 20 percent of the silver salmon for the entire Chuitna River system. It has been labeled by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game as critical habitat. It would vanish if the project were approved.

To make matters worse, the streams not directly plowed through by the project will be inundated daily with millions of gallons of groundwater from the mine pit. This daily deluge will disrupt natural stream flows and alter the rivers’ sedimentation, making this prime ecosystem less inhabitable for egg rearing. Moreover, it would destroy thousands of acres of pristine wetlands and forest that are important habitat for bear, moose, upland birds, and waterfowl.

The impact of the mine would be felt miles beyond the proposed site courtesy of an 8-mile conveyor belt that stretches into Cook Inlet. This nasty tentacle of infrastructure would deliver millions of pounds of coal to a large manmade island that will store it until enormous vessels pull up to the two-mile dock, get loaded up with coal, and head across the Pacific to Asia. This intense infrastructure network would fundamentally alter the seascape, disrupting the migration of salmon and, according to Terry, put him and all of his fellow commercial fishermen out of business.

A commercial setnet in one of the world’s premier wild salmon fisheries.

The scariest part is that everything I have described is just Phase One. If approved, Chuitna would open the floodgates for the company to expand their project and for other companies to start exercising their claims on the coal-laden watershed. The initial plan impacts 15 square miles of the watershed. Phases Two and Three would increase the footprint to over 32 square miles. And another coal company would likely exercise their claim to an additional 17,686 acres of leases, bringing the grand total to 60 square miles of destruction.

Needing a pick-me-up after Terry’s depressing depiction, Sam and I headed to the mouth of the Chuitna to set up camp and fish for a few hours. Our timing with the tides was not ideal, and we only managed to sneak in an hour of fishing before slack tide hit and the fishing died down. We were able to elicit a few aggressive follows from some chromers but no takes. While we yearned to feel that magical, powerful tug, we didn’t need to hook into any silvers to appreciate the magnificence of this resource.

The following morning we gobbled down a quick breakfast of camp stove oatmeal and rushed out to see Terry’s haul from the morning. As we pulled up, he was laying out the five species of Pacific salmon he had caught that morning – King, Sockeye, Silver, Chum, and Pink. There are only a handful of places left in the world with strong wild salmon runs. There are even fewer that receive prolific runs of all five Pacific species. And hardly any spots left where you can catch all five species in one day. The Chuitna watershed is one of them – it’s the rarest of rarities.

All five species of Pacific salmon. If I remember correctly, the order (from left to right) is Pink, King, Chum, Sockeye, and Silver.

Yet this rare gem is staring down the barrel of destruction. And for what? The carbon buried deep beneath the Chuitna watershed is the lowest grade coal on the planet. It’s of such poor quality that no market exists for it in the United States. Every pound pulled out from beneath a salmon stream is bound for Asia. And it’s all done at a huge cost to Alaskans.

A study released by the Center for Sustainable Economy concluded that for every $1 of economic output the project would create, there would be $5.84 of economic losses. So for every $1 generated by things like taxes, royalties, and job creation, there is nearly $6 of economic losses in the form of environmental damage, reclamation costs, and lost economic opportunity. And that’s just the economic losses. These lopsided figures don’t even include the incalculable cost of losing irreplaceable resources like some of the last vestiges of wild salmon and pristine wilderness.

As we bade farewell to Terry, he left us with one last unnerving statement: “The only reason Alaska is the last viable commercial salmon fishery is because it was the last to be discovered.” Those are stark words coming from a guy who is a student of the global salmon industry and whose livelihood is tied to the health of Alaska’s salmon fishery.

Me casting as the tide recedes and the sun sets over the beautiful Chuitna watershed.

Rather than viewing that statement as a depressing inevitability, we need to see it as an opportunity and as a challenge. It’s easy to analyze the state of Alaska’s salmon fisheries and think Terry’s grave words are coming to fruition. Across the Last Frontier, projects like Pebble and Chuitna are on the table and if approved, they would irrevocably harm some of the world’s best remaining salmon runs.

But concerned Alaskans, commercial fishermen, and committed outdoorsmen possess the ability to stem the tidal wave of extractive resource destruction. Anglo American’s recent announcement to withdraw their 50 percent ownership stake in Pebble Mine, a significant blow to this horrendous project, is proof positive of our communal power.

That announcement sent a loud and clear message that our collective voices and actions are a force to be reckoned with. It proved that the influence of multi-billion dollar industrial giants can be squelched by the concerns of the people. And it most certainly put the company behind this project on notice. It’s time they feel the pain of our collective power. The fate of one of the last great salmon fisheries depends on it.

Take_action_largeTo learn more about the proposed Chuitna Coal Mine, please visit Alaskans First’s website. You can help protect the Chuitna watershed from this destructive project by clicking on the “Protect Wild Salmon” tab and sending a note to the Environmental Protection Agency asking agency leaders to deny any permit to mine through a wild salmon stream.


Paul Moinester is the creator of An Upstream Journey where he documents his travels as an avid fly fisherman and conservationist. After four-and-a-half years of working in Washington DC on environmental and transportation policy for DoT and then as a congressional staffer Paul resigned from his job and embarked on a six-month, 28,220-mile road trip that took him from the Florida Keys to Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. Along the way, he fished some of the continent’s most ecologically significant waters and worked to raise awareness about the upstream battle to protect wild fish and their habitat. He’s now pursuing a Master’s degree in Environmental Resource Management as a Mitchell Scholar at University College Dublin.

This story originally appeared on the Orvis blog.

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Long Live the Dirtbag Dungeons
Written By: Patagonia
By John Burgman

4_The Cleanest Line

I am a climber, and at the risk of offending the enthusiasts of other outdoor pursuits, I’d argue that climbing is among the dirtiest, in the literal sense. Routes and problems are conceived and sent above cleared patches of dirt, moves grunted out through gritty clouds of chalk dust. Meals or snacks, if there are any, are consumed swiftly with scabbed fingers and raw palms, and airing out sweaty, grubby feet is a frequent – even necessary – occurrence.

Surfing has pristine, crystalline waves looping on the horizon. Sea kayaking and canoeing have sleek keels constantly licked by the water. Paragliding and base jumping and other aerial endeavors have vast expanses of clouds and open sky.

Climbing has gravel. And dust. And a lot of rocks.

Indoor rock climbing gyms, at least up until recent times, used to be equally grimy – dingy hole-in-the-wall vaults meant primarily for biding time until winter thawed and the natural walls of the Great Outdoors were accessible once again.

[Korean climber Zooey Ahn powers through the crux of a bouldering problem in a "dirtbag dungeon" in Seoul. Photo: John Burgman]

My first real indoor gym – meaning the one where I was comfortable being a veritable gym rat, and where all the staff felt like my extended, long-lost family – shared its space with a gymnastics club. It was located in the mysterious darkness of some Midwestern back roads, with flexible-at-best hours of operation and no next-door restaurants or shops to speak of. To my knowledge, no official climbing competitions were ever held there, and paying the monthly membership fee meant simply passing 20 bucks to whichever employee wasn’t busy working up a route himself.

But don’t get me wrong – it was a great indoor climbing gym, teeming with stories and characters old and young. I learned how to grind out hard boulder problems there; I was taught how balance, technique and finesse would trump power and brute force most of the time. And most importantly, I always left the gym tired and with my forearms pumped, but never wishing for cleaner gym mats, fancier accouterments, or larger restrooms.

At the end of the day, gravity is the same no matter how fancy a gym is.

1_The Cleanest Line
An image that is iconic and stirring to climbers of any generation: A smattering of holds, smoothed and scuffed up after years of use and thousands of attempted climbs. Photo: John Burgman

12_The Cleanest Line_photo by Dan Kojetin
The ceilings of some small, old climbing gyms are barely higher than the height of an average person. But that never stopped climbers from creating endless routes and bouldering problems. Photo: Dan Kojetin

3_The Cleanest Line
No old climbing gym would be complete without a little duct tape on the walls. Photo: John Burgman

The trend now is leaning the other way. It seems in the past year, I have read at least a dozen articles or blogs about the rise of indoor climbing and, subsequently, the evolution of indoor climbing spots moving toward swankier mega-gyms. One magazine recently ran a piece with the tag: “Indoor climbing could soon replace spin class as the urban professional’s sport of choice.” The same article detailed how newer, larger gyms “are a far cry from the urban training dungeons that sprang up in the nineties.” Brooklyn Boulders, the 18,000-square-foot marvel in New York City, was the article’s linchpin. And a few months ago, I read an announcement that a “state-of-the-art” gym will soon be unveiled in Chicago.

So what exactly are these newer gyms boasting? Sheer size, for one thing; more than 20,000 square feet is common. But they also feature fitness centers with cardio and weight training equipment, yoga studios, indoor lounges and outdoor patios, and of course, enormous gear shops. There’s also the clientele – thousands of new climbers entering through the doors each year.

One particular magazine article I read recently profiled a forthcoming gym in Somerville, Massachusetts, and said the place will possess “areas for entrepreneurs, students, and businesses to flourish and get to know one another, not to mention access to the Internet and a glass enclosure with a fire place. Developers also have plans to include spots inside the complex for a rotating selection of pop-up style retailers to sell their products.”

New indoor climbing gyms, it seems, are being dreamed of, proposed, and constructed in cities at a rate and to a degree indicating the onset of some type of Second Golden Age of Climbing. Perhaps it’s too early to tell for sure, but it’s also worth noting that many parks, malls, fitness gyms, and university health clubs constructed now also include at least some semblance of a climbing wall, and have for years.

I’m certainly not against this boom, and I realize aesthetics tend to naturally progress toward slickness, bigness, and variety. I was excited when I first read all these articles, and I will be first in line to check out some of these fancy gymopolises the next time I am in New York or Chicago or Somerville. At its core, such abundance of gyms means easy climbing access to a larger percentage of the population, and it would be selfish and short-sighted of any rock climber not to want future generations finding solace and fitness on the walls. And all the nice trimmings of these new gyms – larger spaces, nicer facilities – means newbies are likely to be less intimidated by the climbing clique, or turned off by the grunge.

Ultimately, more climbers indoors will lead to more climbers outdoors, which hopefully will lead to more stewards of wilderness conservation, more voices for prudent mountain and forest protection and maintenance.

But part of me also wonders if something will be lost in the grand evolution, snuffed out in the growth and development of the indoor gym entity. Climbing gyms have long embraced their grit and grime because being so rough around the edges translated well to actually being outdoors, hiking through the canyons, sleeping in the woods. Roughing it. And like being outdoors, the heart of the gym has always been the camaraderie, rather than the flair.

I’m not urging everyone to read this and go out and strike up a conversation with the resident old-timer at his local gym, or search out the most dilapidated, rickety shed of a rock gym and hop on the wobbly walls there. But I like appreciating the moment at hand as well, before gloss overtakes the grit. I think it’s reasonable to think long and hard about what might be lost as indoor rock climbing gyms advance from being essentially devotee meeting houses to more exercise-oriented hotspots. Tales on the mats – whether factual or peppered with stretched truths and exaggerations – will likely become more truncated (the mats themselves might become more crowded), familiar faces in the gym fewer and farther between, a sense of community and identity at a given gym slowly fading away.

So it’s just worth pausing to appreciate such threads of the climbing fabric while we still have them, that’s all.

6_The Cleanest Line
Thankfully, gravity is the same no matter how fancy a gym is. Photo: John Burgman

11_The Cleanest Line_photo by Dan Kojetin
In a big, fancy gym or a cozy cavern of holds, taking a deep breath and a step back before your next attempt can make all the difference. Photo: Dan Kojetin

9_The Cleanest Line_photo by Zooey Ahn
Touch of Grey: The author working on a wall section that is grey due to being unpainted over the years. Photo: Zooey Ahn

10_The Cleanest Line_photo by Dan Kojetin
In the end, the best part of a climb isn't the success of a route or the niceness of the gym in which it exists. It's the friends that encourage you and the family that you create along the way. Photo: Dan Kojetin

I suppose these are the same nostalgic feelings people have always had about their special climbing honey holes, just amplified and adjusted to a new urban landscape.

I currently live in Seoul, South Korea. My go-to indoor gym is a no-frills bouldering facility within walking distance from my apartment. I have become good friends with the owner.

If I want a somewhat swankier gym – one for sport climbs, for example – there’s another gym that is located on the other end of the city. There’s a retail store on the first floor, a table-and-chairs lounge on the second floor with free weights and a flatscreen TV. It’s the gym where most of South Korea’s top rock climbers train on a frequent basis, and it’s certainly impressive.

But oftentimes I’ll get my climbing fix by going to my little nearby gym early in the morning. I’ll have the place practically to myself, and I’ll shoot the breeze with the employees for an hour or so before attempting a handful of bouldering problems. At night, the place fills up – students from the nearby university, office workers, kids and older climbers congregate ritualistically below the gym’s main overhang. But if I happen to be there in the evenings too, I’ll partake in creating a route on the overhang with everyone else. We’ll discuss the holds, visualize the geometry, chalk up, and rouse each other as we make our respective attempts, fail, and attempt again.

The best part of the experience, perhaps, is that we know we’ll all see each other again the following day at the gym – same time, same place. The addictive nature of bouldering on the old overhang will keep us coming back time and again, sore muscles and all, no frills to speak of – one big, happy, dirtbag family under one roof. No fancy accouterments needed.

14_The Cleanest Line_photo by Zooey Ahn

John Burgman is a former editor at Outdoor Life magazine, and is currently the recipient of a Fulbright journalism grant in South Korea. You can catch him on Twitter at @John_Burgman.

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Inspired by Nature – The 2013 Patagonia Tools for Grassroots Activists Conference
Written By: Patagonia
By Jim Little


They flew in from rural Alaska, from Albuquerque, South Boston and Traverse City, Michigan, where they work to stop dams, preserve native forest, create urban farms and develop regional water-management plans. Coming together at Fallen Leaf Lake (near Lake Tahoe, Calif.), Sept. 11-15, for Patagonia’s Tools for Grassroots Activists conference, some 74 environmental activists from distant corners of the country and everywhere in between took a break from their often solitary, usually underpaid nonprofit existences to try to become more effective advocates for the natural world.

The Tools conference is a skills training organized by Patagonia’s environmental department and led this year by 15 experts from government, communications, fundraising and environmental nonprofits. Patagonia convenes the gathering every two years with the help of staff at Stanford Sierra Camp. This was our 13th Tools conference, and going by participants’ comments, among the best.

[Spelling it out. Environmental activists, Patagonia employees and conference presenters pose for a pic that, in case you can't quite make it out, spells "TOOLS." Photo: Mikey Schaefer]

Bill McKibben, author and founder of, got the conference started with his keynote speech. Describing the daunting and disheartening issue of climate change, he told how his group was trying to build a global movement to solve the climate crisis by breaking the world’s dependence on fossil fuels. Bill clicked through images of climate-change demonstrations his group had helped to encourage all over the world. They were quirky, creative and staged in some rather surprising places – Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and the Maldives, among them. Places where you’d think hunger, women’s rights and education would trump the issue of climate change. But to some, the harrowing global nature of this rapidly unfolding threat is not an abstraction.

Author/ founder Bill McKibben speaks to the ruinous consequences of climate change during the keynote address. Photo: Mikey Schaefer

Tools participants spent the next four days at presentations and workshops. Kristen Grimm of Spitfire Strategies showed activists how to do a better job of framing their issues and getting out their messages. Brian O’Donnell from Conservation Lands Foundation focused on campaign strategy. Carrie Sandstedt of The Pew Charitable Trusts talked about building campaign momentum. And Diane Brown from The Non-Profit Assistance Group demonstrated creative ways to raise funds. There were also presentations on using social media and Google technology tools, lobbying government officials and working with business to promote environmental aims.

Brian O'Donnell of Conservation Lands Foundation holds forth on how to develop campaign strategies. Photo: Mikey Schaefer

It wasn’t just activists who profited from the trainings. Patagonia employees, 33 in all, from all over the company also took part in the conference. Chiarra Cappellina came from our office in Italy (see her report below), Etsuko Nakanishi from Japan, and others from Patagonia stores in Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco. There were folks from our headquarters in Ventura and our distribution center in Reno, as well. Presenters, activists and employees shared cabins, conversations and meals. We enjoyed films from the Wild & Scenic Film Festival on Tour, contra danced to a six-piece band and a caller in funny shoes, enjoyed a few beverages and jumped, ever so briefly, into the chilly alpine waters of Fallen Leaf Lake.

Participants critique the intentionally flawed lobbying efforts of veteran lobbyist, Tim Mahoney of Pew Charitable Trusts. Photo: Mikey Schaefer

Activists from all over the country, working on all sorts of environmental issues, brainstorm different ways to build campaign momentum. Photo: Mikey Schaefer

On the final day of the conference, while still at the camp waiting for a ride to the Reno airport to catch a plane back to Anchorage, Rick Leo of Coalition for Susitna Dam Alternatives wrote this kind note of thanks.

“I’m on the dining room deck surrounded by copper cumuli and Jeffery pine. The lake is serene. Cathedral Peak looms. Laughter lifts from the walkway below. It seems appropriate to write a thank you note to all of you – as a team and as individuals – while still here, this last evening. This way you might, now as you read, be transported back to the power and magic of the conference. The workshops were valuable, of course, but of even greater benefit were the ad hoc conversations with Tim and Kai and Diane and John and Carrie and Kristen and Karin and Brent discussing my specific issue in depth across the days subsequent to their presentations. Yet perhaps the greatest and certainly the most unexpected worth of the conference were not the interactions with the Professional Presenters but with the other activists like myself. Do you screen for articulate intelligence? Perspective is necessary to see ourselves and our work afresh, and boy did everyone bring something clarifying to the table. So yes, thank you. Deep bows. Great job. May your tribes increase.” –Rick

Traveling from Italy to attend TOOLS, a report from Patagonia Europe's Chiara Cappellina

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At home in the Dolomites. Photo: Chiara Cappellina Collection

I wasn’t sure what to expect at my first TOOLS for Grassroots Activists Conference, but I knew I wanted to absorb everything and walk away having met and having heard the stories of people with experience working on past campaigns, and those with visions of workable solutions for the future. I learned so much. Three key things struck me at TOOLS: 
  • The increasing knowledge around issues the environment is facing, from climate change to fracking and oil pipelines
  • The exposure to new ways of presenting data and discussing issues, like Google technology tools and various social media techniques 
  • The ability to network with other activists and communicators from different countries, cultivating professional alliances and sharing experiences. Oftentimes, this resulted in discussing approaches to the pressures and challenges we face as activists.
A number of times I noted that the same environmental crises discussed at the conference, in the United States, also exist in my country. Impacts from gas pipelines and fracking concern Italy, although they play a minor role in comparison to the US. Local citizens' associations and activists have recently opposed the construction of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline in Italy, the new pipeline project which will bring natural gas from Azerbaijan to Southern Italy. While it’s still unclear if fracking is being carried out in Italy, oil companies are becoming increasingly interested in the possible reserves of shale gas in the Po River Valley. An Italy-based movement has called on the Italian government, which is appraising the shale gas as a future energy for the country, to evaluate the environmental dangers of methane extraction.

Italian activism has obtained some major successes in the past, including the campaign against nuclear power crowned by the 1987 moratorium on nuclear power production. And, more recently, the Italian agriculture ministry has imposed a ban of Monsanto's MON810 maize (corn), one of two genetically modified organisms (GMO) permitted in Europe. Farming and environmental associations and activists in Italy have been strongly opposed to GMO seeds for many years, even leading to publicly condemned actions of vandalism such as crushing of GMO crops. However, major Italian-based environmental groups regularly engage in non-violent methods to call attention to environmental problems including lobbying, awareness campaigns and protesting, and they have offered an important forum for the discussion of significant environmental campaigns.

No campaign is perfect. But each can be effective if clearly communicated. At TOOLS I was surprised to discover that the future direction environmental activism may take, could be the same as in my home country: to rethink the way we communicate about environmental issues in a way that has the necessary impact, without desperate or disrespectful attempts. I realized that large-scale issues such as global warming and climate change are requiring new and innovative strategies to challenge them, and that we need to learn how to better express the complexity of those problems while also making the options accessible to a greater majority. The hope is to inspire a willingness to change. This can be done with the help of modern technologies but especially by empowering people to do it themselves, and like Bill McKibben says, “...creating something large enough to matter.”

Attending the TOOLS for Grassroots Activists conference was about being a part of a greater network of people who are all passionate about environment. It inspired and challenged me to do more and to help those who are leading the way. Knowing how to get our message out in a values-wise way creates a win-win to share with the people we work alongside. Like the conference, it becomes a tool that can help our grantees and the groups we are supporting locally in the fight to maintain a healthy and sustainable environment to live in.

Chiara Cappellina
Patagonia Milan

A Letter from John Sterling, Executive Director of The Conservation Alliance

John looks out across the Owyhee River Wilderness. Photo courtesy of The Conservation Alliance

Inspired. That's how I feel after spending four days at the Patagonia Tools for Grassroots Activists Conference, known to participants as simply "Tools." The conference is boot camp for activists, providing training in communications, fundraising, campaign strategy, lobbying, and other essential skills necessary to winning protection for our special wild places.

Patagonia convenes Tools every other year at an idyllic camp on Fallen Leaf Lake near Lake Tahoe. Participants are drawn from the pool of organizations Patagonia funds. It is an amazing collection of activists from grassroots organizations working to protect Wilderness and rivers, halt destructive energy development, protect wild species, and engage citizens on global warming.

It is rare to spend time with a room full of such passionate and committed people. With two colleagues, I conducted a training on how conservation organizations can work more effectively with the business community. We demonstrated that most businesses share conservation values, and are good allies and spokespeople for their causes. We also shared economic data that shows that protected wild lands play a key role in economic growth. Communities surrounded by protected lands have stronger economies than those with no protected lands. Quality of life and outdoor recreation are important economic drivers.

Patagonia does a brilliant job with Tools. They bring together people who often work in isolation, and show them that there is a great community of activists working on similar issues. The respect that flows between the participants and the hosts is palpable. After the conference, another 75 people are better equipped to take on the important challenge of protecting and preserving our mountains, deserts, forests, and waterways. Nice work, Patagonia!

John Sterling
Executive Director, The Conservation Alliance

2013 Tools Participants

Chuck Swift, 4M Consutlting.LLC
Cindy Lowry, Alabama Rivers
Steve Barker, Alaska Wilderness League
Devin Dotson, American Rivers
Noah Richards, Buffalo Field Campaign
Kai Anderson, Cassidy & Associates
Ramsay Adams, Catskill Mountain Keeper
Marcia Litsinger, Churchill Butte Organics
Daniel Smitherman, Citizens for the Wyoming Range
Richard Leo, Coalition For Susitna Dam Alternatives
Theresa Labriola, Columbia Riverkeeper
Cassondra Schindler, Conservation Alliance
Rebecca Strelitz, Conservation Colorado
Justinn Overton, Coosa Riverkeeper
Scott Skokos, Dakota Resource Council
Patrick Higgins, Eel River Recovery Project
Sabrina Bowman, Environmental Defense Canada
Andrea Marie Roy, Erie Rising
Elizabeth Rosan Kirkwood, FLOW
Jennifer Fairbrother, Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics
Shane Davis,
Katie Sanchez, Friends of Nevada Wilderness
Autumn Bahlman, Friends of the Inyo
Beth Kampschror, Friends of the Missouri Breaks Monument
Phillip Pierce, Friends of the Urban Forest
Ellen Stein, Great Old Broads for Wilderness
Princess Lucaj, Gwich'in Steering Committee
Laura Yale, High Country Citizens Alliance
Aaron Clark, IMBA
Elsa Calvillo, MESA
Bartshe Miller, Mono Lake Committee
Peter Tronquet, Native Fish Society
Beth Wallace, Natural Wildlife Federation
Andrea LaMoreaux, New Hampshire Lakes Association
Dylan Rose Schneider, Noetic Insititute
Kristen Van Hoesen, Office of Resource Efficiency
Andrea J. Serrano, OLE
Rob Klavins, Oregon Wild
Kaye Fissinger, Our Health Our Future Our Longmong
Tom Flynn, Outdoor Alliance
Suzanne Little, Pew Charitable Trust
Chris Steinkamp, Protect our Winters
Becki Chall, Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science
Anders Gustafson, Renewable Resources Foundation & Coalition
James Q Martin, Rios Libres
Danielle Katz, Rivers for Change
Robyn Janssen, Rogue Riverkeeper
Sara Camp Schremmer, Salmonid Restoration Federation
Megan Baehrens, San Diego Coastkeeper
Nick Mucha, Save the Waves Coalition
Ashley Orgain, Seventh Generation
Tara Stone, Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship
Ori Chafe, Sierra Streams Institute
Phoebe Flemming, South Boston Grows
Caleb Dardick, South Yuba River Citizens League
Martin Swinehart, The Nature Conservancy
Amelia Potvin, The Plenty Project
Jessica Berry, The Western Hardrock Watershed Team
Zane Kessler, Thompson Divide Coalition
Lucas Henry, Tulane Law School
Allison Parks, Tulane Law School
Carol Kunze, Tuleyome Inc.
Karyn Bryant, Tuolumne River Trust
Ross Popenoe, Turtle Conservancy
Melinda Barnes, Turtle Island Restoration Network
Rachel Morris, VC Cool
Richard Popchak, Ventana Wilderness Alliance
Jason Weiner, Ventura Coastkeeper
Tom Uniack, Washington Wild
Allie Kosela, Waterkeeper
Jonathan Stumpf, Wild Steelhead Coalition
Will Rousch, Wilderness Workshop
Matt Wagner, World Wildlife Fund
Terri Pratt, Yadkin Riverkeeper

2013 Tools Speakers

Allyse Heartwell,
Bill McKibben,
Bill Stephens, Bill Stephens Productions
Kai Anderson, Cassidy & Associates
John Sterling, Conservation Alliance
Brian O'Donnell, Conservation Lands Foundation
Tanya Birch, Google
Karin Tuxen-Bettman, Google
Peter Birch, Google
Ben Alexander, Headwaters Economics
Brent Fenty, Oregon Natural Desert Association
Casey Sheahan, Patagonia
Diane French, Patagonia
Jim Little, Patagonia
Vincent Stanley, Patagonia
Tim Mahoney, Pew Charitable Trust
Carrie Sandstedt, Pew Charitable Trust
Kristen Grimm, Spitfire Strategies
Melinda Booth, SYRCL/Wild & Scenic Film Festival
Diane Brown, The Non-Profit Assistance Group

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Solutions Series, Part 2: Solutions in Our Communities
Written By: Patagonia

By Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff Project

Annie_bio_photoIn 1968, high jumper Dick Fosbury set an Olympics record by rejecting the standard "straddling" technique – one leg, then the other – in favor of flinging his whole body up and over the bar, head first and backwards. At first track and field officials tried to ban the awkward move dubbed the Fosbury Flop, but it was so effective that soon almost all high jumpers used it, as they still do today. The Flop was not a transactional solution aimed at tweaking the conventional way of doing things, but a transformational solution that changed how the game was played.

To make changes on the scale needed to address the severity of today’s environmental, economic and social crises, we have to change the rules of the game on three levels: in our governments, in our businesses and in our communities. Our communities are a good place to start: They're close to home; the solutions are usually easier to achieve than trying to make change at the international, national or even state levels; and the emotional and social rewards are more immediate.

Community is more than just another word for neighborhood. A true community is a group of people united not just by location but by common interests, values and goals. The key is connection – more precisely, interconnection, the degree to which members of a community share, help and depend on each other. But in recent decades, that connection has eroded to an alarming degree.

Since the publication of Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone, the book's title has become shorthand for the disturbing fact that today Americans "sign fewer petitions, belong to fewer organizations that meet, know our neighbors less, meet with friends less frequently, and even socialize with our families less often." The good news, Putnam shows, is that engaging in community – knowing your neighbors, joining a civic club, working on a local political campaign, and yes, even forming bowling leagues – adds tremendously to our sense of well-being. Getting involved in our communities strengthens the social fabric, nurtures a sense of purpose and increases our actual and perceived security.

Bringing the San Diego surf community together for a surfboard swap at Patagonia Cardiff.

24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell, one of the most incredible events in the climbing community. Photo: Lucas Marshall

Free community events are a great way to bring people, of all ages, together, like this film screening at Great Pacific Ironworks. Photo: Jeff Johnson

And community engagement does all this while dramatically shrinking our environmental footprint. How cool is that? The very things we need to be doing to build a more sustainable world are the same things that make us happier and healthier and our communities stronger and more vibrant. Things like:

Investing in the commons
. Forget the sheep-grazing analogies you may have learned in Economics 101. The commons is simply what we all own together – libraries, parks, community gardens, municipal swimming pools, trout steams, mountains and hiking trails. The more a community invests in its commons, the less likely its individual members will feel the need to build things like huge walled-off back yards that need a lot of watering (and mowing).

Sharing. There's a sharing boom happening – everything from borrowing power drills from the local tool lending library to car-sharing programs and housing for travelers. Sharing is not only good for the environment, it's good for our wallets since we don't have to buy so much stuff, and good for building communities since we have to talk to each other to share.

Nurturing new social or cultural norms. Increasingly people are opting out of the Madison Avenue-perpetuated mantra that more and new is always better. Many invitations to kids' birthday parties now specify "used gifts only." The rapper Mackelmore (& Ryan Lewis) scored a hit by celebrating the secondhand aesthetic with "Thriftshop" (warning: explicit lyrics). Patagonia, of course, is promoting its ebay shop [and Worn Wear used-clothing sections in some of their stores] to encourage customers to buy and sell their used gear. These cultural game-changers are important, as studies have found that our shopping and buying habits are heavily influenced by what those around us do.

And changes at the community level can lead to bigger transformations. Dick Fosbury came up with the Flop on his own, shared it with his local community (his teammates at Oregon State University), took it to the Olympics and from there it took over the track and field world. The same scaling up can happen with community-based solutions. In response to their frustration over the failure of national and international leaders to address global warming, in 2006 two small British groups started the Transition Towns movement, supporting community-led responses to climate change while "building resilience and happiness." Today the Transitions Network includes over 1,100 groups in 43 countries.

As I've said many times, community-level solutions aren't enough. We can't retreat into our private, sustainable, organic, cruelty-free havens and let everyone else fend for themselves. But they're a great place to start. Making relatively small changes at the community level builds our change-making muscles for bigger challenges. Today a bike rack in front of the library, next year dedicated bike lanes all over town, then on to expanding public transit and halting freeway construction, eventually taking on fossil fuel subsidies.

Next time we'll talk about practical solutions for making change in our communities, with ideas on how to get started. Meanwhile, we'd love to hear about how you and others are changing the rules of the game where you live. How is your community creating solutions for a better future?

Annie Leonard is the founder of the The Story of Stuff Project. She has dedicated nearly two decades to investigating and organizing on environmental health and justice issues. Her monthly podcast series, The Good Stuff, features interviews with inspiring activists, entrepreneurs, scientists and others who’ve succeeded in making change.


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Dirtbag Diaries: Rebirth of Belief
Written By: Patagonia

By Fitz & Becca Cahall

Dbd_70_rebirth_of_belief"We had the discussion around the campfire one night of trying to define 'what is wilderness'," John Stoneman remembers. "We determined that if you get hurt or you have a problem and there's really no way out, you're in the wilderness." Despite the fact that 29,000 people raft down the Colorado River every year, the Grand Canyon is still unquestionably that -- wilderness. But what happens if you do need to get out? When the one place you need to be is a thousand miles away and you are off the grid? In 2010, John put in at Lees Ferry and embarked upon the trip of a lifetime -- but not in the way he imagined. Today, we bring you a story about a race against time and the lengths that perfect strangers will go to help others in need. Buckle up.

[Listen to "Rebirth of Belief" by The Dirtbag Diaries on Soundcloud]

Visit for links to past episodes, featured music and to pledge your support. You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, RSS, SoundCloud and Stitcher, or connect with the Dirtbag Diaries community on Facebook and Twitter. The Dirtbag Diaries is a Duct Tape Then Beer production.

[Graphic by Walker Cahall]

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"Better Than New" - Fashion Week, The New York Times, Worn Wear & Patagonia's Common Threads Partnership
Written By: Patagonia


Today's advertisement appearing in The New York Times:

It's Fashion Week, when the design world turns its attention to what's new. We'd like to point out something better: what lasts. While we're proud of the quality and performance of Patagonia clothes, every new thing we make – everything anyone makes – costs nature more than we now know how to repay.

That's why Patagonia has chosen to celebrate our old stuff as well as our new. We've asked customers to send in photos and stories for our Worn Wear blog, which chronicles Patagonia clothes that have lasted for years or decades and become old friends. The Patagonia Surf Trunks from 1994 you see here belong to Christo Grayling, who has worn them paddling and surfing everywhere from India to Baja to Ecuador. They're still in use, though beat up, scratched up and altered. Fabric from a beach umbrella now makes up the rear. The missing strip at the hem serves as a patch on another pair of Patagonia shorts.

This fall we're opening Worn Wear used-clothing sections in several of our stores. Here you can find high-quality Patagonia clothes still on their way toward gaining the character to become great Worn Wear stories. It's part of our Common Threads Partnership with our customers to reduce consumption, repair what breaks, recirculate what we no longer use, recycle or repurpose what wears out, and reimagine a world where we take only what nature can replace.

Join us at


Worn Wear used-clothing sections will be opening this Sunday, September 15, 2013, at  these Patagonia stores: Seattle, Palo Alto, Portland and Chicago. Customers who purchase used clothing from these stores will be given a free Worn Wear patch (while supplies last).

The same stores will also buy back your used (in good condition) Patagonia shells, fleece, down and synthetic insulation, and ski and alpine pants.

If there’s not a participating Patagonia store in your area, you can also buy and sell used Patagonia clothing on Ebay.

Have a good story about a beloved piece of Patagonia clothing? Submit today at the Worn Wear blog.

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Highlights from Patagonia’s “Our Common Waters” Environmental Campaign 2011-2013
Written By: Patagonia


Over the past two years, Patagonia’s major environmental campaign has been Our Common Waters (OCW). The campaign influenced Patagonia’s impact on water and brought awareness to one simple fact: the more water people use, the less there is for everything else.

We’re moving out of this campaign, and into our next one. The Responsible Economy will start in September.

Before we leave Our Common Waters, we want to highlight some successes in the campaign, and thank some of our key partners for their ongoing efforts.

Our Common Waters focused on water scarcity, broken rivers and pollution, as well as Patagonia’s use of water as a company. At the end of this post, you'll find the environmental groups we worked with on each of these issues.

[Above: Instructions for removal. Matilija Dam, Ventura County, California. Photo: Matt Stoecker]

Scarcity: A New Colorado River Treaty

Peter McBride_2
Fifty miles south of the U.S.-Mexico border, the Colorado River’s flow is now reduced by 95% due to overuse and flow-restricting dams. Photo: Peter McBride

“…the river was nowhere and everywhere, for he could not decide which of a hundred green lagoons offered the most pleasant and least speedy path to the gulf.” –Aldo Leopold in 1949

In 2012, during the water scarcity portion of Our Common Waters, we joined with the Sonoran Institute and a large coalition of other organizations to encourage people in our community to write letters to then Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, asking him to help save the Colorado River Delta. The Delta (where the Colorado River ends in a series of wetlands at the Gulf of California) is now less than 10% of its original size.

In November of 2012, thanks to the efforts of many dedicated people, the U.S. and Mexico signed an historic treaty – the first bi-national agreement to restore vital flows to the delta. This victory is the first step on a path to a healthy river delta.

Broken Rivers: Historic Dam Removals and Patagonia Sin Represas

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Denied access to historic habitat upstream, an Elwha River chinook salmon lays itself to rest below the 100-year-old Elwha Dam on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Photo: Ben Knight

During the broken rivers phase of the Our Common Waters campaign, we saw big dams come down on the White Salmon and Elwha Rivers in Washington state and two dams on the Penobscot River in Maine. Altogether, 65 dams were removed across the United States in 2012-13. We also lent our voice to stopping ill-conceived water projects from moving forward. For example, two proposed reservoirs on the Chattahoochee River in Georgia have been put on hold.

In the Patagonia area of Chile, proposed dams on the Pascua and Baker are stalled as well. Through significant public opposition and successful litigation, activists have been able to stall the project, which at one point was nothing short of a done deal. Partner organizations recently launched a Vota Sin Represas (Vote Without Dams) campaign to ensure the issue remains central to upcoming presidential elections.

Pollution: Manufacturing Impacts


After agriculture, textile manufacturing is the next largest polluter worldwide. And because Patagonia makes clothes, the Our Common Waters campaign required us to examine and reduce our own impact on freshwater. We began working with bluesign® technologies in 2000. bluesign® is an independent group of chemists, based in Switzerland, who audit the energy, water and chemical use of their “system partners.” In 2011, we set a goal to use only bluesign® approved fabrics by our fall 2015 product season, and we’re well under way.

Any fabric you see that’s bluesign® approved is manufactured using best practices in the efficient use of energy and water, consumer safety, water emissions, air emissions, and occupational health and safety.

We have encouraged our suppliers to join bluesign and get their fabrics bluesign certified. Since the start of the Our Common Waters campaign in January 2011, we've more than doubled the number of bluesign partners among our suppliers from 16 to 45 (we have approximately 200 fabric vendors at any given time).

We have also shared our bluesign experience with other brands in the outdoor and apparel industry with the hope that they, too, will join bluesign. In the last 4 years – since July 2009 – the number of bluesign's system partners has grown from 70 to 280. These bluesign system partners include brands, retailers, textile manufacturers, and chemical suppliers.

Pollution: Reducing Stormwater Runoff

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Reducing stormwater runoff through bioswales on our Ventura campus. Photo: Jeff Johnson

Patagonia has recently focused our attention on one of the more challenging water pollution issues: stormwater runoff. When rainfall hits an impermeable surface – such as a parking lot, roof or sidewalk – it runs off, carrying with it trash, animal waste, oil, gasoline, detergents, pesticides, chemical residues, and heavy metals like copper and lead. This stormwater runoff flows to the lowest point in the area which is usually a storm drain. And from there it flows into a channel, a creek or river, and in coastal areas directly into the ocean without being filtered or cleaned.

Polluted runoff is the number one source of contamination to California waters. Our headquarters are about an eighth of a mile from the Ventura River, which flows directly into the Pacific Ocean. A number of years ago, we replaced two sections of asphalt in our parking lot with permeable cement, which allows rainwater to percolate through and into the soil instead of rushing into storm drains, and ultimately, to the nearest river or coastal area. Recently, we added bioswales to our campus. Bioswales are low-lying channels that drain runoff. They contain soil on top of gravel layers that together with plants and mulch allow stormwater to soak into the soil, which naturally filters it. Now Patagonia’s Ventura campus has a whole array of native plants that filter pollutants out of stormwater. We know there’s still some runoff from our property, but we’re making headway to reduce that impact, and cleaning up our local waters.

Pollution: Tar Sands and Fracking

Protesters gather in front of the White House for the Forward on Climate Rally in Washington, D.C. Photo: Alison Kelman

From the strip mining of tar sands in Alberta, Canada, to the spider web of pipelines expanding across the U.S. and Canada, to ports and coastal areas that would act as hubs for export: at every point in the chain of production and transportation, water is at risk from tar sands development.

Between 75 and 80% of British Columbians, including 2/3rds of BC’s federal Conservatives and more than 70 First Nations have united in opposition to oppose the Northern Gateway Pipeline. This $6.5 billion project would transport the Alberta crude to the BC coast, where it would be transported by supertankers to Pacific markets. Patagonia has proudly supported several organizations working to stop this crude proposal and unite Canadians around a national energy strategy. And, we partnered with Raincoast Conservation Foundation and a team of our world-class surfing ambassadors to create Groundswell, a film by Chis Malloy documenting the beauty of this coast and the threats this pipeline would pose.

We also supported and the Sierra Club and helped to get over 40,000 activists to Washington D.C. on a cold and chilly February morning to take part in the largest climate demonstration in history to tell President Obama to move Forward on Climate.

Courtesy of Frack Free Colorado_2
Anti-fracking signs from Frack Free Colorado’s demonstration at the Colorado Capitol on October 23rd, 2012. Photo courtesy of Frack Free Colorado

For decades, natural gas (methane) deposits were tapped by single wells drilled vertically over large, free-flowing pockets of gas. Then came hydraulic fracturing or fracking, a water- and chemical-intensive method that promised the profitable extraction of natural gas trapped in shale. One fracking well uses an average of 2 million to 8 million gallons of water, and 10,000 to 40,000 gallons of chemicals. The water used is contaminated.

Because of fracking’s wide-ranging risks and impacts, we have supported anti-fracking campaigns in several key areas across the country – from the ongoing battle to uphold the New York state fracking moratorium, to the community by community struggles to protect water, air, and land in Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, California and elsewhere. We support each community’s right to educate itself and regulate and/or ban fracking to protect its water, air, soil, and local ecosystems. We also support local, state and federal government efforts to monitor and regulate fracking.

None of these Issues are going away anytime soon. To keep up-to-date, please contact our key partners at these sites:

Water Scarcity

Broken Rivers

Patagonia's Water Footprint

Pollution - Fracking

Pollution - Tar Sands, Canada

Thank you to all of our partners (including those not listed here) and every one of you who took action on behalf of Our Common Waters.

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preOCCUPATIONS - A Short Film Series About People Who Do What They Love for a Living
Written By: Patagonia
By Chris Malloy

I’ve always noticed that people who have “dream jobs” are too preoccupied with their passions to realize they even have an occupation. That’s were our little film series preOCCUPATIONS comes from. All of the characters we spent time with were very different, but they share one common characteristic: they are driven by the love for what they do, not the size of their paycheck.

The team behind this project includes young filmmakers and musicians who, like the subjects, are making a run at figuring out how to do what they love for a living. We hope you enjoy this series, but even more so, we hope these characters inspire you to find your passion and run with it.

Chris Malloy is a Patagonia ambassador and the director of preOCCUPATIONS. You can see more of his work at Farm League.

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Small Waves
Written By: Patagonia
By Thorpe Moeckel

Small surf

Catching small waves, like catching small trout or raising food on a small scale, involves a spectrum of intricacies. It’s true that you can’t beat the gut-wrenching pleasures of surfing larger, more powerful waves. But we know that. We know all about big, groundswell waves and the adrenaline surges they inspire. They announce themselves just fine. Look at any surf magazine. You catch the drift. You know the fear, risk, reward, how they plunger you through.

Editor's note: The lengthy flat spell we've been enduring here in Ventura makes today's post apropos. It's a long story, but an immensely pleasurable read due to the skill of the author. I hope you'll set aside some time to savor his words and slide into the small-wave state of mind. Photo: Bill Moeckel

With small surf, or windchop, you have to be accurate to the point of dainty. There’s no muscling your position. It is a matter of degree: inches and quarters instead of feet. You tend to focus on other aspects of the sport when you ride small waves. Maybe focus is not the word but wander. The mind wanders. There’s no danger that demands you stay constantly alert. You’re either alert or you’re not. You’re in the ocean so you’re attentive no doubt. And there are many variables outside of the waves, outside of riding them. Studying the color of water could occupy a person for many lifetimes, not to mention the sand, sky, birds, and all their juxtapositions; that one can ride such small waves at all, that there is power enough has a lot to do with that – the ocean’s multiplicity, allness.

We arrived at the Carolina coast yesterday evening. Friends are staying on our homestead, tending to things. After they walked through the morning and evening chores with us and got a handle on milking the goats, we left them our home and a list of things to do, people to call in case of problems, and so on. It is a long list, involving feed and water instructions for chickens, ducks, rabbits, pigs, sheep, dogs, cats (barn and house), and goats. The tasks, mostly, are simple. And if they are numerous, they are small.

Nathan and his wife and their kids will walk from place to place with old buckets and coffee cans full of water and feed, and they will return with the cans empty, maybe a couple of dozen eggs in the bucket where the water was. They will follow paths and go through gates, open and close the latches. They don’t have to fire up the old Farmall or even use any electricity, assuming they use the rain barrels for water and not the well with its electric pump. No, that is a lie; there’s electricity involved in washing the milking pail and icing down the milk and cleaning the gallon jars and washing your hands.

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Feeding time at the Moeckel family farm. Photo: Bill Moeckel

It is mid-August. My cousin Alex has work obligations and is absent for this year’s family beach gathering. I’d hoped to visit and surf with him, just as I’d hoped for a tropical storm to be kicking up some kind of swell, but when we arrived the wind was blowing hard onshore, from the east, and the waves were sloppy and small and beautiful. People played in them. Pelicans cruised like another horizon, hardly beating their wings, as if on patrol. It quiets me in a thrilling way to see pelicans. Their beaks alone conjure some Paleolithic instincts. I mean it feels strange to even be wearing a bathing suit. I like especially watching the big, hard-skulled birds sway and tilt as they coast along the coast, wings and bodies rolling with wind. Sometimes you sense that they’ve caught a jolt of breeze created by a wave breaking or the wind eddying in the wave’s trough.

Since I surf once or twice a year nowadays, I take what waves I can get. It is not so much about the waves anymore as the chase and the waiting. The last time I lived near the coast was in Maine. I had the luxury then to wait for a good swell to ride. Nowadays, it is hit or miss. Recently, at my oldest pal Harrison’s wedding in Savannah, I hit. The morning after the rehearsal dinner, I drove to Tybee Island, discovered a good swell, found a surf shop, and rented a board. An hour later I was riding away a long, strange night in waist to chest waves, mute with glee.
This morning I paddled out early. This was my morning chore: to feed from the ocean’s bounty, to take care of nobody but my own selfish desires. The sun was not yet high enough to force a squint. But that fat star was larger and more orange than it would appear all day. The water juiced it, pulp and all. The waves were tiny. I was logging, as they say, riding an old ‘60s era longboard that weighs forty pounds now with water damage and fiberglass repair. The tide was coming in all morning. The wind was slight, allowing the waves to approach and roll glassy and long. Their forms varied as the beach disappeared. For a while the waves closed out, rose and crested in one long curtain as opposed to peeling left and right. They began to peel again not long after this, when it seemed the tide had covered a sandbar.

As I did my thing out there, I thought of the trim I’d run on a kitchen remodel the prior week – one by two spruce to cover gaps where beadboard panels met, roofline to gable, in our old, far from square house. It had taken a half day to shift gears from the rougher work of furring pine log rafters with two by strips. Even rougher had been the tear out at the beginning. I removed one ceiling to find it had been floated down from an older one, above which were enough desiccated rats, mud dauber nests, insulation, and dust to fill five contractor grade trash bags. Running the trim involved sanding and then pre-drilling the small pieces so as not to split them. It was slow, delicate work, and I messed up many times, fewer once changing the music from Arcade Fire to early Dolly Parton and replacing the framing blade on the saw with a trim blade.

Small waves can’t eat you the way large waves can, but they are fussier. You have to want a small wave. You have to work to catch it and work to stay on it. One is always ready to bail in big surf, especially when the wave closes out. It is different with ankle-biter waves. You pump the board in order to stay on the wave. Sometimes you squat and paddle with your hands. Other times you walk toward the nose, moving weight forward to aid with momentum. I don’t only ride them for their resemblance to large waves and the memories and hopes that likeness conjures, no, I ride small waves because the process is squirrelly and I like to scramble.

Small surf 1
The author sets his line. Photo: Bill Moeckel

The fog was thick our last morning at home. Everywhere – even the tomatoes – smelled and tasted like the river, the James, like its rocks and its mud and its fish and bugs and foam and tributaries. There were so many strands of moisture in beads on the spiderwebs it seemed strange that the silk didn’t fall apart or fray. The sunflowers, planted early and past their prime, no longer needed walkers – they were just falling over. The damp couldn’t stop beginning. The mind wandered. The bugs hardly flew, as if their wings were too heavy with moisture. Maybe the spiders waited for the sun to mop their walkways – it’s hard to say.

We were inside the fog, though later when we were feeding ourselves at the picnic table, we watched the fog disperse – was it mist then? – and rise over Purgatory Mountain and The Knob and Cove Mountain and Diamond Hill. Inside it now, we carried water and food to the various animals, the systems as entwined as our relations – a couple of cracked chicken eggs each for the dogs, some whey from goat cheese for the hogs, goat bedding for the garden beds, driveway weeds – plantain and dandelion – for the rabbits, canning scraps for the chickens and ducks. The morning was a watercolor, a duck dive, Eskimo roll. We all said thank you somehow. We waddled but it was as much a kind of swimming. The ducks seemed especially happy in the pond of that morning.

The bird and bug song seemed to come from the air itself, some tweeter in the density. Now Sophie emerged, drifting from the barn with milk pail heavy. Kirsten’s bedhead bobbed above the tickseed sunflowers and above the beans on their bamboo tripods – she was giving water to the pigs. I was dumping chicken hearts in the dog bowls. Every chore, every detail and pause between was a wave, and we, while wrinkles on its face, were waves, too – we built on the approaches. And at the fences and cages we broke, rolled. Back to the house or across the pasture, we rolled, fed as much as feeding.

Another benefit to riding small surf is there are no crowds. You don’t have to jockey for position or even think about there being another surfer on the wave. Of course the mind can get crowded. Especially when the wind blows onshore the scene reminds me of the mixed CDs my friends Peter Relic and Rob Hull make. Whether it is the sixth listen or the first, you’re going to hear something different each time, in the order of songs and the stories they tell through lyrics and melodies and how they segue, have quarrels, arguments, whispers, brawls.

There are times when a good wave approaches up or down the beach and I do not stroke to catch a piece of its shoulder but sit quietly on the board and watch it grow steeper. I anticipate the form of its breaking, whether hollow or mushy, peeling or window-shading all at once like the final curtain on some performance about moon and gravity and time and wind and depth. The imagination has room to roam then. It is as though the mind catches the wave, but more like the wave catches the mind and they join, roll towards land together. I watch the wave as if I was no larger than the pelicans or even the plover, and surf it as in a dream or in the muscle memory of having rode waves of similar character only six or seven times the size, perhaps in the north, in Maine, but not always there.

I love waking to a sore belly the morning after surfing for the first time that year. The flesh on the ribs chafed. How the ankles then, stiff, lend to my steps a wobble. It is as though rust has formed and yet the feeling is less of weakness than strength. Even the muscles of the face are fatigued from the squinting. Perhaps I hold mouth and jaw in tense positions when I ride a wave. Certainly when paddling for a wave I grimace; I must, such is my desire to ride it. I am a greedy surfer most days. Yet lazy too, greed being laziness on steroids. Position is the key to endurance. Good placement means less work, three or four strokes before standing instead of twenty. I like when it is clear from the take off which way I will ride the shoulder. I angle the board in that direction and avoid the trouble of a bottom turn. Small waves hardly require a bottom turn. The face is not large enough to merit a drop. You are at the bottom from the start, or close enough to the bottom.

Morning and evening chores and the tasks we do throughout the day deepen the pleasure and the nourishment of our meals. We walk a half a mile or more each morning on paths we know well, orbits of food, extensions of the kitchen. We veer, too, and wander. Even in sour moods, it is hard not to honor the origins of what you eat. Indeed, our days are a continuous food preparation. We don’t just go to the source for our food, or close to it, the true source being always hidden, we also have a hand in the clarity and the health of these sources. The buckets are a sensual kind of heavy, the fences a kind of weaving as well as safety. The way you slap a fifty pound sack of feed on your shoulder, the way it rests there, balances on its own even as you walk rough ground, can be a pretty wild message.

Of course we check in with the animals. We touch them and talk with them and watch them; there are always several entertainments at once anywhere you look. Most of the animals, of course, care more about the food than we care about them, and this is lovely for the ways we try and don’t try to feel otherwise and feel, always, more in tune to the mysteries of the world and our inconsequence.

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Photo: Bill Moeckel

One of the deepest pleasures of surfing is walking into the water with your surfboard. Call it the approach. It is not comparable to entering some great event, because surfing is private and inconsequential and better than great. Even though there are often no spectators, it always feels as if there were many. I am vain, so of course I believe all the beachgoers are watching me. They aren’t. And if they are, they’re likely saying, “Look at that fool with the antique board. There aren’t even any waves.”

Once I crossed the dunes at Scarborough Beach in Maine in November. Tika, our old malamute-long haired shepherd, was at my heels. There was a lovely swell. You could hear the waves peeling hollow and strong from the parking lot a half mile away. The wind was just right, offshore and not too cold. As we crossed the peak of the dunes, we saw not twenty feet away a snowy owl perched on a “No Lifeguard on Duty” sign. The owl ratcheted its downy, shocking face and put holes in my bones with eyes at once fierce and tender. Tika, rather ambivalent to feathered life, went sniffing along the plants at margin of beach and dune, laying his scent until it seemed his bladder couldn’t have held another drop. I hadn’t seen a snowy owl before that time. I haven’t seen one since, only that one almost every day.

Twice I’ve paddled into a break from a boat anchored just outside it. This is a thrilling entrance, as you have no visual of what the waves are doing. Paddling from beach to surf lets you study and learn the nature of a break, but from a boat you have only a sparse idea. You might see a slight turning, folding of the water’s horizon as the waves break. The first time I surfed off a boat was at Otter Cove in Acadia National Park. A lobsterman friend from Little Cranberry Island took us through seas running fifteen feet in a twenty foot lobster boat he built himself. It was September, the day fluffy and mild, bold counterpoint to the wild, raucous ocean. Waves churned at all the ledges and minor islands between Little Cranberry and Otter Cove. The hurricane, a big one stalled off Hatteras, sang its heavy rock and roll. Spray was everywhere. We’d learn later that evening of a tourist washed by a rogue swell from the rocks at Otter Cliffs. We were much luckier. We rode head-high wave after head-high wave, each one spilling into a channel for an easy paddle back out.

The daily chores keep us close to the seasons and the weather and the way weather and season manifest in the animals and their habitats. We watch the rain and lack of rain, and we see it in the color of the grass in the pasture and leaves on the trees and composition of the soil. We take note of the animals’ waste for signs of illness, parasites, worms. A hen’s comb tells you a lot about her health as well as the color of her egg’s yolk. You look in and at the eyes and around the eyes, especially with goats. Every day there are surprises and changes, not all of them welcome. One evening last summer, Kirsten counted our flock of meat birds out back the barn and found ten missing. We’d noticed foxes a few times at the far end of the big field. We moved Beau, the male Great Pyrenees we’d recently adopted, from guarding the sheep to guarding the birds in the yard. There were two weeks before they moved to the freezer. His and Stella’s puppies, now three months old and annoying as hell to old Tika, held their own with the sheep and the lambs. No more meat birds disappeared.

Small waves 5
Photo: Bill Moeckel

The other time I surfed from a boat was at Bomba’s off Tortola in the Virgin Islands. Kirsten and I were honeymooning at St. Johns. This was ten years ago. On a trip to town, we discovered a surf shop. The owner mentioned a good swell. With Kirsten’s blessing, I asked if I could join him, borrow a board. At four the next morning, he handed me an old seven foot single fin with no nose. The tip was broken, blunted, and he hadn’t even bothered to duct tape it. We zipped and bounced in a small Boston Whaler across the rough channel to Tortola in the dark. Dawn found us anchored offshore and rocking steady and hard. My host lit a spliff and offered me a toke as we paddled in to the break. No thanks, I said, sufficiently paranoid. The swells were running thick, large. He pointed to a colorful shack at the edge of the beach. It was small with the distance. He said they served magic mushroom omelets there. I nodded feelingly, too nervous about the waves and the borrowed board to know what was what.

Now it is dawn and there has been a thunderstorm overnight. I see lightning offshore. I see pulses of light as orange as they are red. There is the paler shine of a shrimp boat. The waves are still small. The moment I step from boardwalk to sand the rain drenches me. I hope all is well with Nathan and his family and the farm. Through the bottom of my feet it is raining on my head. A quiet kind of thunder and the patterns of its sound in the way the wind and the waves and rain have sculpted the sand.

There are plover. There are gulls and pelicans, sandpipers and osprey and egrets and terns and crows. I watch them feed, wild birds, their patterns of chase and scurry. Footprints and beakprints in sand. At a distance, silhouetted against the sun oranging the sky behind a line of storm clouds, there are more birds flying – who cares what their names are – buttoning up the sky or perhaps more accurately unbuttoning it, taking off its nightclothes. It seems they are waves too, breaking, reforming, gathering food – it seems they know all the moves.


Thorpe Moeckel has guided on rivers and trails throughout the Appalachians. He's surfed up and down the East Coast, in Brazil, Hawaii, the Caribbean, and Canada. In 1996, he worked a holiday season at the Patagonia Atlanta retail store. He now teaches English and Environmental Studies at Hollins University, and farms with his family near Buchanan, Virginia, a couple of miles from good whitewater and native brook trout streams, as well as stealth longboard sessions on the Blue Ridge Parkway. He is the author of three books – see and still wears (with pride, thrift, and some mending) the same Patagonia paddling jacket he bought when guiding on the Gauley River in 1991.

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Returning to the Source – Rediscovering Wild Places and the Wild Child Within
Written By: Patagonia
By Brett Dennen

I grew up in a camping family. We never went on any vacations that didn’t involve sleeping bags and mountains. My parents would pack up their three kids and we’d pile into our green VW bus and head into the high country, where we could truly be wild children. When I was five, my dad built a canoe and most of our camping trips after that involved paddling around a lake.

I started backpacking when I was ten, the first year I went to Camp Jack Hazard. CJH is a high Sierra Nevada summer camp, where kids learn backpacking and leadership skills. Being a kid at camp in the mountains was always the highlight of my summers. My dad recognized the fact that I loved backpacking so he started taking me along on trips he’d plan with his friends. At the age of 14, I started working at CJH, becoming a wilderness leader. I learned to play the guitar so I could sing songs around the campfire. That’s where I first fell in love with the idea of being a musician. Playing folk songs high up in the mountains. I continued working at CJH every summer until the age of 22.

[A five-year-old Brett in the canoe his dad built. Photo: Brett Dennen Collection]

As music began to take over my life, the road made itself a priority. Summers were no longer spent in the mountains. Instead, they were spent touring. I was having the time of my life, but all the while longing to get back to the source.

Family time in the mountains. Photo: Brett Dennen Collection

Hanging out in the VW bus. Photo: Brett Dennen Collection

Time off the road usually resulted in hanging out at home and resting. I would get up to the mountains occasionally, but only for a week here or there. Eventually I bought a cabin, right down the road from CJH and close to all the places my family went camping, in hopes to one day reconnect. However, momentum with my music career was building and I didn’t feel that the time was right to slow down.

The typical album cycle is a year and a half of touring and then a couple of months off to record. I know that routine very well. You write when you can even if you aren’t inspired. You write constantly because a year and a half of touring can go by quickly and before you know it, it is time to record again.

That was my life for more eight years. I knew this new record had to be different. Songs weren’t flowing the way they used to, I was losing inspiration and in dire need of a break. My music and my life needed a change.

In the late winter of 2012, my girlfriend and I moved up to the cabin, and finally made it a home. As the winter waned I went skiing every day. When the snow melted our days were spent hiking, running, swimming, fishing, and backpacking. Most importantly we relaxed into a healthy loving lifestyle. When I felt inspired, I would write, instead of writing to meet a deadline. Turns out, I was inspired all of the time. While rediscovering those wild places I rediscovered the wild child within myself.

[Brett Dennen - Smoke and Mirrors: Inspiration. Video: Ben Moon]

The songs written in the mountains led to my fifth studio recording Smoke And Mirrors. The album covers several themes, most predominantly, staying true to ones self and returning to the source. I’m feeling renewed and recharged. Ready to hit the road.

Here's a photo of me, this summer in the same canoe my father built when I was 5. I’ve been all over the world and written many songs. But I’m still a wild child at heart. And I’m excited about new songs to come, that the mountains will inspire.

Back in dad's canoe. Photo: Ben Moon

Returning to the source. Photo: Ben Moon

Writing songs in the cabin. Photo: Ben Moon

Brett's fifth studio album, Smoke and Mirrors, will release on October 22, 2013. Pre-order your copy on iTunes.

Brett Dennen is a singer and songwriter from Northern California. His song "Little Cosmic Girl (Bedroom Demo)" appeared on Patagonia Music Collective, Vol. 2 and benefitted the Tuolumne River Trust. Brett's 2013 Fall Tour kicks off on August 29 in Westhampton Beach, New York.


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Among Giants – A Film About Making Change in the World
Written By: Patagonia
By Rainhouse Cinema


In late May, Rainhouse Cinema released the short documentary Among Giants on Vimeo. The film tells the story of an environmental activist, “Farmer,” who tree-sits to protect a grove of old-growth redwood trees in northern California from clearcutting. Prior to its online release, the film played on PBS stations, Outside Television, and film festivals around the world.

Already three years into the tree-sit when filming began, Among Giants blends immersive cinematography with intimate personal reflection to create a vivid picture of life in the trees and the unwavering dedication of these activists.

[Above: Farmer at home in the canopy. Photo: Ben Mullinkosson. Hit the jump to watch Among Giants in its entirety.]

[Among Giants from Rainhouse Cinema on Vimeo.]

Among Giants was created to bring awareness to the issue of clearcutting and those who work to stop it. “Going into this film, we wanted to know why Farmer would dedicate so much of his life to protecting this grove,” says Rainhouse Cinema filmmaker Sam Price-Waldman. “Once we got to really know Farmer, we had no doubts that he was doing this from a very informed perspective, and it was inspiring to see his dedication to sustainable forestry.” The film was shot over a few long weekends in 2011, while the three filmmakers lived with the tree-sitters 100 feet up in the redwood canopy.

“Everything in the trees takes much longer than you would expect,” notes filmmaker Chris Cresci. “Just changing a lens would turn into a two-person, ten-minute ordeal. We set out to capture the isolation and physical challenges that the tree-sitters endured in their struggle to protect the grove, but there’s so much else to tree-sitting that didn’t make it into the film.”

“Life in the trees was an adventure,” says Ben Mullinkosson, the third filmmaker with Rainhouse Cinema. “Not only is the canopy of a redwood forest a beautiful place to be, but everyone up there was really friendly, and just climbing around and traversing from tree to tree was a great way to keep active.”

Filmmaker Chris Cresci, who also helps Rios Libres, heads to work. Photo: Sam Price-Waldman.

Rainhouse Cinema's Sam Price-Waldman ascends a threatened redwood. Photo: Ben Mullinkosson

Tree house. Photo: Ben Mullinkosson

Among the giants. Photo: Chris Cresci

After seeing the film at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival in January 2012, Patagonia made an in-kind donation of rainwear and other gear to the tree-sitters to help them through the upcoming rainy season.

Then, in June 2012, the tree-sit ended as a victory for the tree-sitters. As of 2013, negotiations are still underway for the sale of the land, but it is estimated that at least 1,000 acres of the grove will be sold to the Trust for Public Land.

The film’s subject, “Farmer,” answered a few questions from The Cleanest Line staff.


What do you all do to keep yourself occupied while tree sitting?

Tree-sitting is somewhat of a misnomer for us. Yes, we sit on our platforms quite a bit, but there are a ton of things to do in a tree-village. In the winter, there are torrential storms that require vigilance and constant maintenance of tarp systems in order to stay dry. I had to collect firewood for my small wood burning stove. I also kept busy building more tree platforms. In calmer weather, we worked on getting more trees tied into the system of traverse ropes that go from treetop to treetop. This network of traverses covers around five acres in the heart of what would have been Green Diamond’s road system inside one of the main groves they wanted to clear-cut in the McKay Tract. The traverse system is a defense tactic.

Of course, there are also more mundane things like reading, listening to the radio, writing letters or keeping journals, texting, playing chess, etc. Training newer folks to climb and live up there can be one of the more time consuming (but rewarding) jobs. Spending time with Northern Spotted Owls and flying squirrels is also a plus!

Were there any moments that you felt like it wasn’t going to be successful?

Sometimes I questioned if the tree-sit in Ryan Creek could go on. There were times early on and towards the end when it was down to me and one or two other people. Green Diamond attempted to hide the situation from the media and refused to answer almost all inquiries from reporters. We felt pretty isolated at times. Lucky for us, the strong environmental community here in Humboldt County, California and support from friends and family helped keep us going.
What’s next for you guys?

Coming up on June 14th to the 18th we're holding an event called the Redwood Coast Rendezvous. It will be filed with workshops, trainings, games, campfire revelry and more, all geared towards defending our planet. You can see more about this and sign up on our website,  

The struggle to defend our ancient forests, implement sane forest practices and restore damaged lands must keep moving forward. The top two timber companies and the biggest land owner in California continue to clear-cut the forest at an alarming rate. For example, they have huge logging plans on the Pacific Crest Trail right now near Truckee, California. This is a regional issue as well as a global one. The clear-cutting and other heavy handed logging practices are damaging our local ecosystems as well as contributing to climate change through massive greenhouse gas releases from the cut-over forest.
Last, but not least, we are supporting the current tree-sit in a grove of Redwoods in a planned clear-cut near Trinidad, California.

[Editor’s note: Our apologies for note sharing this in time for the Redwood Rendezvous. We encourage you to check the website for current events.]

Since 1990, over 435,000 acres of California forests have been clearcut. Photo: Lindsay Holm

Maple Creek. Photo: Lindsay Holm

Marked for destruction. Photo: Lindsay Holm


Rainhouse Cinema is a documentary production company that makes films based around people and the environment. Learn more about their work and philosophy at

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Chasing Snow into the Southern Hemisphere - Live Updates at #PursuitOfPowder
Written By: Patagonia
By Eliel Hindert


We live our lives one step at a time. Steps filled with dust, snow, mud, ice, rock, and increasingly present pavement. Right foot in front of the left ad infinium that move us through space and time, changing our surroundings while our surroundings undoubtedly transform us.

Take a single step over the equator and an invisible line is crossed from the Northern Summer into the Southern Winter. Take a couple hundred thousand more steps and you will find endless deserts dotted with snow capped volcanoes, immense glaciers colliding with lush rainforests, and temperate bustling metropolises seated at the feet of the icy mountain peaks that extend well above the surrounding clouds and pollution alike.

‘Winter’ is not simply a three-month period in North America when clouds fill the sky and icy airs settle around us. For me and my fellow Patagonia snow ambassadors, it is a search for a very different definition. One that encompasses an unrelenting drive to seek out spaces touched by winter’s hand twelve months of the year.

[Above: Alex Yoder and Forrest Shearer hiking Neavdos de Chillan during their #pursuitofpowder in Chile. Photo: Andrew Miller]

Diving south for another winter feels like a second chance. For myself, an all too real second chance after a severely broken arm pulled my powder season out from under me, just as the late winter season was kicking into gear.

It seems so foreign upon arrival that it’s easy to get caught up in the dream-like state of it all. With your seasonal clock spun 180 degrees in the opposite direction, the feeling is surreal to put it mildly. Stray dogs in mountain villages following your touring party dozens of miles into the backcountry. Warm smiling faces, hardened by the unrelenting cold and wind of these exposed environments. Islands of white seated amidst and endless sea of oceanic blue.

It is not a place but rather an idea, one that will leave this space and return it to summer as quickly as it arrives. A temporary state that cannot be captured, caged, or consumed. Only pursued one step at a time with the hope of existing amongst it and enjoying it, if only for a fleeting moment.

These are the images of that journey. This is our Pursuit of Powder.

Eliel Hindert claims residence in Canada's Coastal Range, but lives the majority of his life out of a duffel bag, wherever snow or swell take him. A Patagonia grassroots athlete and fledgling contributor to ESPN, The Ski Journal, Powder Magazine, and Freeskier, he has begun entertaining the foolhardy idea that writing might actually be a reasonable profession.

Patagonia riders Forrest Shearer (@forrestshearer), Alex Yoder (@yoderyoder), Piers Solomon (@pierssolomon), Dave Rosenbarger (@american_dave), Adian Sheahan (@aidansheahan), Carston Oliver and Eliel Hindert are searching for powder in the southern hemishpere at this moment. See their photos by following #pursuitofpowder on Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook. Here's a taste of the action so far…

@yoderyoder blasting a big backside wave at the surfy resort of Neavdos de Chillan. #pursuitofpowder Photo: Andrew Miller (@andrew_miller)

@yoderyoder and @forrestshearer about to drop the Elephant ridge. Neavdos De Chillan. #pursuitofpowder Photo: @andrew_miller

@yoderyoder and @forrestshearer double up with a view on top of Neavdos de Chillan. #pursuitofpowder Photo: @andrew_miller

@forrestshearer coming out of a massive lip cracker at Neavods De Chillan. #pursuitofpowder Photo: @andrew_miller

Cave hunting in the guts of the Andes. #pursuitofpowder Photo: @andrew_miller

Tres ninjas. Visiting fellow Patagonia ambassador @surfnavarro for some south swell and backyard ramp skating. #pursuitofpowder Photo: @andrew_miller

Offshore, triple overhead, barrels #shouldhavebeenthereyesterday #pursuitofpowder. Photo: @yoderyoder

Nuestro Grassroots Ambassador, Fede Mekis, en su búsqueda constante de nuevas líneas en los Andes Centrales. Grande @fedsikem !! #pursuitofpowder. Photo: @patagoniachile

@eliel_hindert sending sessions before the storm with #carstonoliver at @skilaparva. This landing felt way better with an extra foot of snow on it this morning. #eotc #pursuitofpowder.

Classic lost in translation // #Santiago #pursuitofpowder #chile. Photo: @andrew_miller

Fresh #pursuitofpowder. Photo: @yoderyoder

La ultima ola! #pursuitofpowder #surfvibes. Photo: @forrestshearer

Wandering through the wilds of the #andes letting breaks in the clouds and distant peaks be our guide. @skilaparva #pursuitofpowder #moderndaygypsy. Photo: @eliel_hindert

@pierssolomon getting sendy with @burnshimself and a bunch of awesome campers @sassglobaltravel @dpsskis @patagonia #argentina #patagonia #cerrocatedral #skiing #booter #sgt13 #pursuitofpowder. Photo: Ben Giardi (@bengirardi)

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The Underwear Story Part 2, Dreams Coming True
Written By: Patagonia
By Luke Mehall


When a dream is achieved a new level of consciousness can be entered. During a road trip last year, full of California dreaming, I achieved two personal dreams: climbing El Capitan in Yosemite, and becoming an underwear model for Patagonia.

Both dreams were mere sparks at first. Any climber that sees El Capitan considers climbing it, if they could, and if they ever would. The first time I saw El Cap I wanted to go home and forget about climbing, the mere sight of it revealed my most inner doubts and fears. At the same time, it was an object of beautiful desire, engaging and impossible to forget. Over the last decade-plus Yosemite’s walls have allured me back time and time again, and after ten trips and two previous failures on El Cap, last September I finally climbed the Salathe Wall, with my dear friend Dave Ahrens.

[Above: The author (left) and Dave Ahrens atop El Cap Spire on the Salathe Wall. The number 6 camalot hanging off the author's harness came in handy many times. Climbing and Facelift photos by Luke Mehall]

It was the best of times kind of climb, with the perceived fear worse than the actual fear, and off-widths so humbling even the grade of 5.7 was intimidating. At one point I found myself hanging on a #6 Camalot in a 5.7 pitch known as The Ear. I would nominate this pitch for consideration of "Hardest 5.7 on The Planet."

After succeeding on our lifetime goal, Dave and I had a couple of days in Yosemite to loiter and be thankful for the fruits of the horizontal. We participated in the Yosemite Facelift cleanup with our local homies Mark Grundon and Scott Borden, and both agreed that picking up trash was probably the only thing we were capable of after the physical, emotional and mental intensity of El Cap.

Dave Ahrens stoked to be approaching the Salathe Headwall on the team's last day on the wall.

Dave Ahrens and D. Scott Borden cleaning up Yosemite during the 2012 Yosemite Facelift. Borden lives in Yosemite and works for Nature Bridge.

Dave Ahrens showing the trash who's boss.

I may not be much of a climber, but I love it, and to have achieved that dream to climb El Cap left me in a state of contentment, almost. There was still one dream I wanted to realize in Yosemite, my dream to become an underwear model for Patagonia.

This dream, first suggested to me by my friend Amber Jeck, originally seemed just as improbable as climbing El Capitan. (For the full backstory, read "The Underwear Story".) I mean an underwear model is the king of all male models right?

My dream seemed like a joke for years, a conversation piece at parties, something I thought I’d talk about forever, but never get to actually do. That all changed last year when Patagonia published the story about my underwear dream on The Cleanest Line, which is an excerpt from my book, Climbing Out of Bed. Shortly after this my buddy Shaun Matusewicz started an online petition for me to fulfill my dream, which motivated me to write a formal request to Patagonia. To my delight, they were game to have a little fun and agreed that I could indeed model their undies!

The only catch was that I needed to visit the Patagonia headquarters in Ventura, California to do the shoot. I live in Durango, Colorado, a day’s drive away from Ventura, so the dream was still somewhat improbable. Dreams are always improbable, impossible, or difficult though, improvisation would be necessary. Then it hit me, we could do the shoot during my upcoming trip to Yosemite, in the most iconic of all places for a photo shoot, the El Cap Meadow. As it turned out, some Patagonia employees would be in Yosemite at the same time for the Facelift.

It happened our last morning before leaving Yosemite. Dave and I met up with Jenning Steger, a photo editor for Patagonia. I explained to her my dream, and she was more than happy to take some time before climbing to do the shoot. We talked climbing for a bit, and then I stripped down to a new pair of Patagonia underwear. I was jacked on coffee and the air had a brisk autumn coolness to it, but I managed to keep my swagger. I couldn’t help but think about that Seinfeld episode where Kramer takes pictures of George in his underwear (with Kramer’s voice in my head): “Give it to me, work it, you’re a man, you’re a loverboy.”




Then, lying down in the cool grass of the meadow, I did the pose I imagined underwear models do, with one hand on my hip, and the other on my head, elbow stretched to the sky. I felt so at home in front of the camera, in the El Cap Meadow, that I realized, maybe I really do have a future in modeling. We talked climbing and photography some more with Jenning, and then we were on our way back to Colorado.


My dream was finally achieved, I did an underwear modeling shoot with Patagonia! The whole drive home we laughed about it. Then the cosmic coincidences continued.

The first day back at my day job working at a Mexican restaurant, a customer grabbed my attention. I thought I’d done something wrong -- after all, I knew my mind was still in Yosemite. She started off, “Now, I’m not trying to be weird or anything, but I used to work in the fashion industry… have you ever considered doing any modeling?”

Too surprised to really answer the question I just stood there, jaw on the floor, wondering what else might be in store for me in my underwear.



Durango resident, Luke Mehall, is the publisher of The Climbing Zine and a contributor to the Durango Telegraph . He recently published his first book, Climbing Out of Bed, available in print and as an e-book on Kindle and Nook. Luke will kick off the first leg of his fall book tour starting on Thursday, August 29th at 7:00 p.m. with a presentation at Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder, Colorado.

The 10th annual Yosemite Facelift will start with an evening program at 6:30 p.m. on September 24, 2013 and will end at midnight September 29, 2013. Camping is free during the event so come out to the Valley lend a hand.


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Working for Wildness – Patagonia Environmental Initiatives 2013
Written By: Patagonia

By Yvon Chouinard


“In wildness is the preservation of the world.” – Thoreau

This year, Patagonia will be 40 years old. There is much to celebrate on this anniversary, but what I am proudest of is the support we’ve given the people who do the real work to save wildness: grassroots activists.

I’m not an activist. I don’t really have the guts to be on the front lines. But I have supported activists ever since a young man gave a slide show in 1972 at a city council meeting in Ventura. What was proposed was an extension of utilities, roads and urban services across the Ventura River to support a planned freeway-related commercial development on the western floodplain near the river’s mouth. A lot of scientists got up to speak in support of the project. They said it wouldn’t hurt the river because it was already “dead.” Mark Capelli, who was a young graduate student and called himself “Friends of the Ventura River,” then gave a slide show showing all the life that was still in the river: eels, birds, raccoons. He pointed out there were still 50 steelhead showing up each year to migrate upstream. That brought the house down. The project was eventually stopped. He showed me what one person can do. He gave me hope. We gave him desk space.

[Above: After 40 years, we still follow an early vision to protect wilderness for the sake of wilderness. Lost Arrow Spire, Yosemite Valley, California. Photo: Glen Denny]

All too often, small activist groups have to hold bake sales to gather money to go up against lawyers for big corporations. That’s why Patagonia donates 1% of its annual sales to the grassroots.

One of my favorite memories is of a guy who accosted me while I was fishing the Bulkey River in British Columbia. He was a big bearded man wearing a plaid shirt and suspenders – typical logger’s gear – and must have been over six feet and weighed over 200 pounds. He called out, “Are you Yvon Chouinard?”

“Yes,” I said hesitantly.

“I hear you donate money to environmental causes!”

“Yes,” I said, wondering how fast I could run in waders.

“Well,” Bruce Hill said, “There’s a place north of here called the Kitlope and they want to log it. I’ve got a photographer and I want to get pictures of it so we can try to save it. It’s so remote, I need to rent a helicopter. Interested?”

“Do they take credit cards?” I asked.

Over our last 40 years, we’ve aided some important victories. We contributed to saving the Headwaters Forest Reserve in Northern California. (The Headwaters Forest was owned by Maxxam, which changed generations-old policies of sustained-yield logging to clear-cutting to finance corporate debt. Many Patagonia board members showed up for the anti-logging Redwood Summer rallies up there in 1990.) We supported groups working to take down the Edwards Dam on Maine’s Kennebec River in 1999, the Savage Rapids Dam on Oregon’s Rogue River in 2009, and the Elwha Dam in 2011. We gave money and office space to the Nevada Wilderness Project, which spearheaded four successful campaigns designating more than 2.5 million wilderness acres and 500,000 acres of National Conservation Areas. We helped restore stream flows to the Colorado River delta by working with Save the Colorado and the Sonoran Institute. And we helped the Wilderness Society save the Upper Hoback River basin from oil and gas development.

Just this year we gave to Bill McKibben of, who is leading the way to slow climate change and stop the tar sands pipelines. He was arrested at the White House along with Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune. It was the first time the Sierra Club has authorized civil disobedience for its members in its 120-year history.

After 40 years, we still follow an early vision: to protect wilderness for the sake of wilderness. Now, with climate change, the stakes are higher, the need for support greater.

Yvon Chouinard is the owner and founder of Patagonia Inc.

This article first appeared in the
2013 Patagonia Environmental Initiatives booklet (PDF, right-click to download) which was just released this week. Give it a read to learn more about our environmental efforts over the past year, and throughout Patagonia's 40-year history.


Join The Fight
The campaigns and projects described in the booklet particularly those implemented by grassroots activists take guts, determination and huge amounts of time and energy. Success doesn’t come easy! We hope you’re inspired by these stories. But, more than that, we hope you’ll consider joining the fight for a cleaner, healthier planet. Here are some ideas to get you started:

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Dirtbag Diaries: Home Front
Written By: Patagonia
By Fitz & Becca Cahall

DBD_homefrontThere's a story that you may have heard kicked around in the newspapers and nightly news for the last few months. It's as unsettling as it is tragic. The rate of suicide among active military personnel, reservists, and veterans has increased to nearly 22 suicides a day. 22 every day, even as more resources are being allocated to prevent it – and finding a solution is likely as complicated as understanding why.

Veterans Stacy Bare and Nick Watson know the struggles that service members face as they readjust to civilian life. Addiction. Depression. An overwhelming feeling of being out of place. But over time, both found a place in the outdoors and the surrounding community to recreate what they missed from the military, and to feel like they had really come home. And they didn’t stop there – they became determined to find a way to make that transition easier for other veterans too. Today, we bring you their stories and the story of how these two veterans are creating a community for other veterans on the home front.

Warning: This episode does contain graphic descriptions of violence and adult language.

Editor's note: If you enjoyed this episode, check out "A Lifeline Home" from 2007. 

The Dirtbag Diaries is a production of Duct Tape Then Beer. Visit for links to past episodes and to pledge your support. You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, RSS,
SoundCloud and Stitcher, or connect with the Dirtbag Diaries community on Facebook and Twitter.

[Graphic by Walker Cahall]

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‘Medium-wave surfing’ in Spain and South Africa
Written By: Patagonia
By Dr. Tony Butt


Sometimes, to find the best solution to a problem, one has to be unafraid of trying out unconventional or seemingly counterintuitive ideas. Sometimes you have to go back and look at the original problem in a different light and think about what you are trying to achieve.

When looking for a place to surf, people often make the mistake of prioritizing the quality of the waves themselves over the quality of the experience of surfing them. For example, you might have a much better time sharing medium-quality onshore surf with three of your best friends, than trying to surf a world-class pointbreak with a 30 hostile locals. Or you might find the challenge of big, ugly surf in cold water more satisfying than perfect, easy surf in tropical conditions.

[Above: Sunset Reef, a stunning wave with a stunning backdrop. Photo: Javi Muñoz Pacotwo]

I have never really been all that bothered about surfing the most perfect, hollow, glassy waves, and I’ve never really considered warm water to be much of an advantage. Call me weird if you like, but I have often had more fun, less stress and come closer to that elusive state of Flow (see my article) at alternative, less-photogenic spots when everybody else is battling it out at the more obvious places.

At the time of writing, I have spent just over a decade alternating between winter in northwest Spain and winter in the Cape Peninsula of South Africa. Somehow, neither of these places seems to be very popular with travelling surfers, particularly in winter.

I cannot tell you exactly why this is. One factor common to both areas is that you need to suffer a bit – wait, study the charts, drive around – before being rewarded with good surf. It is often cloudy and stormy. And both places only really come into their own when the surf gets big. If you want consistent, high-quality small to medium surf with warm water and sunny weather, you would be much better off in, say, Indonesia. And, of course, if you decided to go to Spain or South Africa, you would get much more perfect waves in Mundaka or J-Bay than in Galicia or Cape Town.

In Spain, most people think that the best waves are in the highly-populated northeast, with Mundaka as the epicentre. Of course there are world-class waves there, but there are also very good waves in the northwest if you know where to look, with a fraction of the people. Perhaps the waves are a little hard to pin down, and perhaps people don’t want to waste time looking for alternatives when there is good surf at a well-proven spot.

In the Cape Peninsula, you might see the odd backpacker passing through, or you might see one or two pros turning up for a session at Dungeons; but, as far as I know, I seem to be the only person who comes back every winter specifically to surf big waves. Perhaps people are afraid of the sharks; perhaps they don’t like the cold water, or perhaps they came once but were disappointed by stormy conditions or lack of swell.

So how did I start my yearly migration to South Africa? Well, it started in early 2002 with a call from Granada Television in the UK. They wanted to film a documentary about big-wave surfing. For some reason, myself and another English surfer called Rob Small, also living in Spain, were chosen as the protagonists.

Half of the documentary was filmed in Spain in January and the other half was to be filmed in the Cape Peninsula in June. In the end we didn’t get as much big-wave footage as I would have liked, but the documentary came out better than I thought and was shown to over 20 million viewers.

During that first trip our surfing was based around one spot: Dungeons. Dungeons was already famous due to a contest called the Big Wave Africa (to which I was invited that year, but which, thankfully, never ran). But I quickly realized that the area around the Cape had a host of other big-wave spots including the Outer Kom, the Crayfish Factory and Sunset Reef.

Sunset Reef in particular caught my eye. Sunset is a large A-frame peak breaking about a kilometre from the beach. It is highly challenging but addictive. No two days are the same out there, the line-up is vast, getting caught inside can be humbling, and you need a board around ten feet just to get into the wave. Dungeons has all of that, with bigger waves, an even more confusing line-up and boat access only. If you wipe out or get caught inside you will get washed into a deep channel patrolled by great-white sharks.

After that first trip I realized that the Cape Peninsula provided a great complement to my surf base in northwest Spain. It allowed me to bridge the gap between two northern winters, and to surf some big waves instead of waiting six months before the North Atlantic came alive again. That first year I set myself up with some local contacts for accommodation, boards and transport, and am still coming back eleven years later.

My annual pilgrimage is also very useful in another way. In Spain I am isolated as far as big-wave surfing is concerned, with nobody to look up to or learn from. South Africa is a kind of reality check, a way of keeping in touch with people who are pushing the limits. Since 2002 I have witnessed the coming and going of towsurfing, the recent boom in paddling huge waves, changes in board design and a shift to a more calculated approach to surfing complicated spots like Sunset and Dungeons.

As surfing destinations, what are the similarities and what are the differences between northwest Spain and the Cape Peninsula of South Africa?

  • Both are ideally positioned to receive large, rideable surf on a regular basis. But the reefs in South Africa are a little more user-friendly: they can handle larger sizes and wilder conditions without maxing out.
  • Both places have a similar climate with plenty of wind and rain between cleaner days. But southwest South Africa is nearer to the storm-track, so those storms come and go much quicker. While northwest Spain might lock into a month-long cycle, conditions in the Cape can swing from one extreme to another on a daily basis.
  • Both places have coldish water: most of the time you’ll need booties and a hood but rarely gloves. Unlike Spain, however, the Cape is prone to sporadic upwelling events, driven by a famous wind called the Cape Doctor. If this happens, expect the water temperature to drop five or six degrees in one day.
  • Both places require considerable legwork, local knowledge and a basic understanding of meteorology before you can hope to be in the right place at the right time. In northwest Spain the spots are further apart, so you have to make a decision to head for one spot and stick to it. In the Cape the spots are much closer together, but you can still end up driving round in circles all day.
  • Both places are relatively uncrowded compared to, say, Hawaii, California or Australia. But while a big-wave culture in northwest Spain is virtually non-existent, South Africa has had a tradition of big-wave surfing for decades.
  • Spain has no sharks, but it has some nasty rocks. While most of the Cape reefs are relatively flat, some of the reefs in Spain are highly irregular and dangerous. In Spain, getting in and out of the water is more difficult, wiping out is more dangerous and conditions need to be carefully studied before going out.
In northwest Spain and in the Cape Peninsula of South Africa, the waves are not always perfect, the swells can be inconsistent, the water is not warm, and you won’t get so many good photos and videos as you might in other places. But when all the elements come together, and when you know you have worked for it, you might just end up with a more satisfying experience.

A true big-wave pointbreak in northwest Spain, only ridden by a handful of people a handful of times a year. Photo: Fran Sanchez

Empty Spanish line-up: the waves are bigger and the rocks are nastier than they look. Photo: Tom Doidge-Harrison

Not really a big-wave spot, but at least I was the first to surf it and have been doing so almost alone for the last 10 years. Photo: Miguel Rico Suarez

In Spain you wouldn’t expect to see baboons checking the surf, but in the Cape Peninsula it is a common sight.

Having an almost identical quiver in each hemisphere avoids the hassle of travelling with guns.

Classic Outer Kom: the Kom was the first big-wave spot regularly surfed in South Africa, made famous in the 1970s by riders such as Jonathan Paarman and Davy Stolk. Photo: Jacobo Rodriguez

Getting ready for the go-out at Dungeons: myself in the foreground with locals John Farrell (left) and ‘Mad’ Mike Baleta (right). These guys only consider themselves ‘medium-wave surfers’ – which puts me firmly in the ripple-riding category. Photo: Roddy Torr

Dr. Tony Butt holds a BSc in Ocean Science and a PhD in Physical Oceanography. He lives most of the year in a forgotten corner of Northwest Spain, where he has pioneered a couple new big-wave spots and works with NGOs like Surfers Against Sewage and Save the Waves. He makes a meager living writing articles about waves and the coastal environment for Surfer’s Path and other publications. For more from Tony, check out his books Surf Science: an Introduction to Waves for Surfing (2004), The Surfers Guide to Waves, Coasts and Climates (2009), A Surfer's Guide to Sustainability (2011) and his previous articles here on The Cleanest Line.

© Tony Butt 2013

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The Final Frontier
Written By: Patagonia
By James Lucas

Final Frontier_Schaefer_1

I screamed at the granite wall. The sound bounced off Yosemite’s Fifi Buttress and drowned into the roar of Bridalveil Falls. I lowered to the belay, where Katie stood at a small stance. I was six inches from a free ascent. It felt like six miles. I’d cleaned the route. Pulled out old gear. Placed bolts. Climbed on the pitches a ton. I’d trained hard. I stopped sleeping. Would the work ever pan out?

Dan McDevitt established The Final Frontier, a Grade V 5.7 A3 route in 1999 with Sue McDevitt, Brittany Griffith and Sue’s sister Penny Black. He climbed the route again with Jim Karn, the first American to win a World Cup in climbing and America’s best sport climber in the '80s. While they were climbing, Jim Karn told Dan, “It’ll go free.”

[Above: Mikey Schaefer photo of me climbing the penultimate arch pitch.]

The Final Frontier on Fifi Buttress. Photos by James Lucas (unless otherwise noted)

Last spring, Lucho Rivera freed Dan McDevitt’s Romulan Warbird. I climbed a few times with him while he was working on the first free ascent of the 5.12 route. Gabe Mange, an El Portal climber, had ropes on the Final Frontier. Mange wanted to repeat The Final Frontier and worked his way up the route 200 feet left of Romulan Warbird, fixing lines as he went. One day, instead of climbing with Lucho, I jumared 600 feet up The Final Frontier. Dan mentioned Jim’s comment to me. The route looked like it would go but it would be a lot of work.


Corner 1
Nik works the 5.12+ Lower Corner Pitch.


Fifi Crux 2
Nik finishes up the 5.13 traverse.


“This route was a savior and a gift for me,” Nik Berry said. In April, Nik and I started up the Dihedral Wall on El Capitan to scope a free ascent. After two pitches, I scanned my phone and realized the wall was closed for peregrines. We bailed. Remembering The Final Frontier, Nik and I hiked to Fifi Buttress. Gabe’s lines still hung off the 900-foot wall. We jumared the route and examined the free line. Nik had an immense amount of psyche from listening to Katy Perry all morning and a limited amount of time in Yosemite. “The next day, we started to put all our energy into this route with many hours of cleaning moss, weeds and sticks out of cracks and edges,” Nik wrote in his account of the ascent.


Fifi Crux 3
Eric Bissel executes the cross move on the 5.13 traverse pitch.

One of the first difficulties was connecting two thin crack systems. McDevitt had aided up a thin seam and then pendulumed across the face. Through the creative inspiration of Katy Perry's “California Girls” bouncing across the granite walls, we found a series of technical smears and spanned the gap between the crack features.


Mason Earle linking the crack systems on the 5.13 traverse.


“Within a few days, James and I had figured out where the free climbing should go, how to do the moves, and where the bolts should go. A week of bad weather came in and we were forced to boulder and climb at Jailhouse, which is always a nice change from Yosemite. This worked out well anyway since we needed to wait for our bolts to be delivered,” Nik wrote.


Nik and I on the summit. You can see Ribbon Falls behind us. Every day, we watched a rainbow form at the base of nearby Bridalveil Falls.


After getting all the bolts in, Nik went for the redpoint, leading all the pitches. While he rested at the belays, I tightened the bolts he had placed the day before. Nik freed the first corner and sent the traverse pitch. On the upper corner, he climbed the thin crack but fell at the boulder problem near the top. He tried again but fell. The boulder problem involves tenuous smearing on polished granite. He rested and I top-roped up to the boulder problem. I grabbed a loose hold that broke off and put a serious gash in my arm. We headed down to tend to my wound and Nik’s wounded ego. A few days later, Nik managed to redpoint all the pitches and I top-roped behind him. Being on the summit was fun – Nik sent! The route went free! A nagging feeling persisted as we descended.


Fifi 8
Bronson on the last 5.12 pitch. I removed a few heads, a pecker and pitons from this pitch and others on the route, replacing the fixed mank with bolts where necessary.


It was rad watching Nik send the route. He’s an exceptional climber and hard to keep up with. “After sending the final pitch, all the work and energy put into this route gave me an incredible feeling of accomplishment,” Nik said in his OR Blog. I knew what he meant but felt as though I was unfinished.


A topo of the route.


I returned to the route. I took down all of Gabe’s fixed lines and placed my own. I pulled all the heads and bad pins out. I added bolts where there had been bad fixed gear. I managed to send all the moves, then to send all the pitches. I climbed the route one day with Walker Emerson but I fell on the upper corner pitch.


When I got to my car, I found this ticket on my dash courtesy of Officer Smith.


I worked the upper corner pitch again with my ranger friend, Aaron Smith. I drove to Tuolumne to sleep at 9,000 feet, hoping that the increased altitude would boost my red blood cell count and make the climbing easier.


Upper Corner
Delicate smears and a difficult boulder problem cap the pumpy corner. This proved to be the crux of the route.


“You just have to let yourself do it,” Katie said as I rested at the belay below the corner. After a long bit of pouting, wondering if The Final Frontier would be another mega project left undone, I started climbing back up the finger tips corner. I reached the boulder problem and casually grabbed the crimp and threw to the jug hold.


Mason flashing the crux pitch. Mason made the 3rd ascent of the route. Tobias Wolf made the 4th. Katie Lambert and Ben Ditto returned to try the route and Will Stanhope and Brad Gobright climbed on it as well.


The next pitch, which I had rehearsed well, went smoothly. On the second to last arch pitch, I floundered a bit trying to get off the belay. The moves felt hard. I felt tired. After a fall, I returned to the belay and then climbed to the top of the pitch. Katie followed solidly, climbing the entire route with no falls.

At the summit, I was psyched. I beamed as Katie climbed the top. I sent every pitch, leading the entire route in a day. It was the hardest climb I’d ever done. I’d had an amazing experience establishing the route with Nik and then climbing on it with other friends. It was really fun. I felt very proud of myself for investing so much into the route and I felt great about the successful ascent.

That night, the summit filled my dreams. I slept well.

Final Frontier_Schaefer_2
Photo: Mikey Schaefer

James Lucas climbs and writes out of his red Saturn wagon. This story first appeared on James's blog, Life of a Walking Monkey.

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Scramblin' Around the Sierras with Spoodle and Beater
Written By: Patagonia

By Jasmin Caton


I have known Rich Wheater (AKA the Beater) and Senja Palonen (AKA the Spoodle) since my very first summer of rock climbing in Squamish. We were introduced by a mutual friend one morning at Starbucks (back then everyone hung out there to find a climbing partner in the morning) and they invited me to join them on a mission to climb Sunblessed on the backside of the Chief. Sunblessed was reputed to have a five-star second pitch of 5.10a crack climbing. Rich and Senja were kind enough to let me, a climber of a mere few months, lead this amazing pitch using their rack, and it was one of the most memorable days of my first climbing season.

[Above: Our cosy camp below the Incredible Hulk. Photo: Senja Palonen]

Since that summer day in Squamish over 12 years ago I have shared numerous climbing adventures with Rich and Senja. Wherever Rich and Senja are you will also find lots of laughing, great food, plentiful cocktails and great stoke for climbing, so generally I like to be where they are. I have chased them down in Thailand, Red Rocks, American Fork, Indian Creek, Yosemite, Skaha, Horne Lake and many crags in between. They may not be the first people to roll out of bed in the morning, but they are almost always the last ones to leave the crag in the afternoon. Don't be fooled by their casual demeanour, these two get shit done. Senja holds down a real job in the city and prances up Squamish testpieces like The Shadow on the weekends. Rich is an extremely accomplished adventure photographer. They both trail run and mountain bike like fiends.

Getting invited to join them for a week of fun in the Sierras was a perfect chance to escape the June blahs in Squamish and although we didn't get after anything really hard, we certainly kept busy and enjoyed some extremely classic cold beers, margaritas, gourmet burritos... oh and a few SPECTACULAR Sierra granite routes.

Objective #1: Matthes Crest

This climb is basically a hike to a long horizontal scramble back to a hike. The main appeal is the amazing geometry of the feature you are climbing along. The highlight of the route was definitely the overhanging rock cornice on the final section, which is much wilder than my photos indicate.

Morning light on Budd Lake, en route to Matthes Crest. All photos by Jasmin Caton (unless otherwise noted)

Beater and Spoodle and a whole lotta Sierra air.

Senja spies out her route options on the Matthes Crest.

Top of the North Summit - woop!

Although many parties descend off the North Summit, we chose to continue along the ridge for the full experience.

And good thing we did, otherwise we would have missed this rock cornice which was the coolest part!

As far as I am concerned, nothing beats a fun day of scrambling on great rock in a setting like this!

Objective #2: Positive Vibrations on the Incredible Hulk

Climbing on the Incredible Hulk has been on my hit list for years. After climbing it himself, my husband Evan described Positive Vibes as being like, "doing the Grand Wall in the alpine." How could I not want to do that? I don't know if I'd use quite that analogy. The Hulk has a deliciously more alpine feel than the Chief (maybe because it's at 10,000' and has a 2.5-hour approach?).

Incredible Hulk imitations at the start of the approach.

Beautiful flowers on the approach.

It was a dream to finally get to play on this inspiring and gorgeous hunk of rock. We hiked in late, the day after climbing Matthes Crest with enough supplies to stay for a few days. Senja and I started off by climbing Positive Vibes. It was a stellar route and a super fun day. Most of the climbing was around 5.9 or 5.10, with two distinct sections of 5.11-. The pitches were long and the biggest challenge was staying warm and relaxed with the strong winds blowing all day. Even when the sun hit us I still needed to keep on all my layers (Capilene long johns under my climbing pants, a tank, a Merino t-shirt, an R1 fleece and a Nano Puff Hoody).

The first 5.11a move of the route is on the third pitch. A technical step-across move. Photo: Senja Palonen

Senja follows the 6th pitch, a long one with the other 5.11a crux right at the end.

The amazing crack-riddled headwall of the 7th pitch. The biggest challenge proved to be figuring out which splitter to follow! When in doubt, go straight up the middle.

The Hulk is pretty classic in the sense that when the hard climbing is over, you are not even close to the summit. This section is especially time consuming when it's your first time up the route. There is a fair bit of route-finding and 4th or easy 5th manuvering to get to the final two 5.8 pitches and the summit.

Coiling up the rope on the top of the 8th pitch for some simul-climbing. Photo: Senja Palonen

Sun, moon and spires.

Summit selfie. Can you see my soul glowing? It is. I love this shit!

Senja blissing out on the summit. You can tell the wind died down because she actually took off her hoods.

Although we had intended to stay and climb longer on the Hulk, the cold wind had really taken it out of us, so after a restful bivi and a leisurely morning we decided to hike out and seek some more sheltered digs for a few days.

Objective #3: Speed of Life and cragging at Tioga Cliff

Thumbing through the guidebook and perusing Mountain Project kept revealing a super-starred route called Speed of Life. It's only 2 pitches and has a steep 45-minute approach. Not such a great suffering-to-sending ratio, but I was keen to check out the second pitch which is a 5.11b overhanging wide hands to fingers splitter.

When I opened the van door at the parking area it was very nearly ripped off. The winds were howling from the west and our only hope was that the northeast facing wall would be sheltered. We slogged uphill and forged a mini-schrund to access the base. Immaculate lazer cut granite cracks lead skyward. It looked amazing and was sheltered (enough) and almost warm (enough). I don't have any pics of the route, but Rich shot the second pitch so at some point I may have a few shots to share. We capped off the day with a few pitches of quality sport climbing at the Tioga Cliff.

Objective #4: Third Pillar of Dana

Senja needed a rest day and had already climbed this route with another friend earlier on the trip, so Rich and I embarked on a mission to climb this Sierra classic. The winds were even stronger than the day before, but once again we were banking on shelter on the east-facing route.

Fully bundled up on the approach to the Third Pillar of Dana. Photo: Rich Wheater

Nice views of Mono Lake. Not a bad hunk o' granite in the foreground.

The Third Pillar of Dana approach is rather round about in the sense that you hike up to a plateau, cross the plateau and then descend down to the base of the route, climb out, hike back across the plateau and then descend back down the other side. Whew, even typing that sentence made me tired! The approach is actually really chill overall, with great terrain for walking and lots of views of mountains and gorgeous flora to keep you occupied should your climbing partner be an overcaffeinated, trail running, mountain goat of a man.

All was going great on the final descent to the base of the route, we had found an easy way through some more exposed 3rd and 4th class terrain at the top and were cruising in some slightly loose but easy going mixed talus and scree. The last thing I remember (this is true!) was Rich joyfully uttering the words, "Against all odds Beater and Spazzmine (that's his nickname for me) send the Third Pillar of Dana." Suddenly, a rock shifted underfoot and my world was flipped upside down and then back rightside up and then upside down again. I was literally out of control ragdoll-cartwheel tumbling down the gully. I came to a stop after two cartwheels and sat up dazed. Rich yelled, "Holy shit Jas, are you OK?" I managed to get out a feeble "yes" and began to give myself a bit of a head to toe. I had a bad feeling about what might lie beneath a big tear in the shin area of my pants, but it was nothing but a bad scrape. I can still hardly believe I escaped from what was certainly my worst alpine tumble ever with only a few bruises and a sore shoulder. Given the terrain it could have been much worse.

We continued down the descent. I moved a bit slower, still reeling from a big dose of adrenaline. Luckily, the high quality of the climb cured my jitters almost instantly.

Rich spies out our descent to the start of the route.

Approaching the base of the Third Pillar of Dana.

Rich trying to kill me on this guillotine of rock that hangs straight above the belay.

Enjoying some absolutely impeccable granite on the last pitch. Photo: Rich Wheater

Rich kicking up his heels with joy on the last pitch. Such an awesome route!

Objective #5: Pull with my arms more, push with my legs less (a day of cragging at Lover's Leap)

After so much hiking and minimally challenging climbing we were all worried our arm muscles might be atrophying. A day of harder cragging was in order, and it would set us up well to deliver me to my flight home to Squamish from Reno. We spent a lovely day of climbing amazingly featured rock at Lover's Leap. My shoulder was pretty sore from my tumble, so I only did a few pitches. I loved all of them and I can't wait to go back for more!

Rich starts up Tombstone Terror, an awesome 5.10+ dihedral.

Senja cranks up R.I.P., a cool and difficult 5.11+ face.

It was an action packed week of adventure with Beater and Spoodle in California. I didn't work on my tan as much as I would have liked due to the windy conditions, but I certainly felt like I was in the mountains. Being welcomed along on this trip by Rich and Senja was yet another reminder that the community I have found through climbing is by far the greatest gift this crazy sport has tossed my way.

After a childhood of playing ukulele and attending Mathlete competitions, Patagonia ambassador Jasmin Caton caught the climbing bug at age 19, packed her Chevy Corsica and moved to Squamish. Nowadays, when she’s not on a climbing trip, she’s guiding climbers on impeccable Squamish granite or guiding backcounry skiing in blower powder at Valhalla Mountain Touring along with husband Evan and powder hound Benny.

This story first appeared on Jasmin's Adventure Journal.

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Inside/Outside: Questions for Patagonia St. Paul’s Kevin Alldredge
Written By: Patagonia
Editor's note: Craig Holloway's interview series continues with some questions for Patagonia St. Paul store employee and ultrarunner, Kevin Alldredge, whose recent story about running 50 kilometers in a skirt generated a lot of smiles. Craig talked to Kevin about his job, family, passion for writing, and advice on how to run straight through Minnesota’s brutal winters.


Craig – Are you originally from the Midwest?

Kevin – I was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, but have lived in St. Paul since 1989. Without editorializing, the two cities are pretty much opposites.

Craig – Have you been working at the Patagonia St. Paul store since it opened its doors?

Kevin – Yes, I’ve been at the store since we opened in the summer of 2005 and it’s been a great ride. It’s tremendously gratifying to see the local community embracing Patagonia’s ethics.

[Above: One short bus ride, one long train ride, and a friendly smile got Kevin to the starting line of the Le Grizz 50 Mile Run. Montana. Photo: Kevin Alldredge Collection]

Craig – What are your job responsibilities?

Kevin – My job title is Shipper/Receiver, which means I’m responsible for keeping track of the store’s inventory. The position requires strong organizational skills, effective communication and the ability to delegate. St. Paul is a relatively small store, so I pretty much step in wherever needed.

Craig – What advice do you give to runners who just moved to the Twin Cities and want to run outside during the winter months?

Kevin – I tell them to adjust their clothing incrementally as the temperature drops. If they’re warm when they step outside, then they’re overdressed. Dressed properly it should take a few miles, maybe more to warm up.

Craig – How did you feel after you finished your first ultramarathon?

Kevin – My first one was the Superior Trail 50 (actually, 52 miles) in northern Minnesota.  At the finish I was in serious physical discomfort, but my overriding thought was, “Is this feeling legal? Somebody ought to bottle and sell this!”

Mark & Kevin
Southern Californian, Mark Hofmann, leads the way for a winter-ready Kevin Alldredge on a chilly November day. Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia. Photo: George Plomarity

Today’s run calls for extra glove liners and a face mask. Photo: Kevin Alldredge

The urban trail runner knows where to find dirt. St. Paul, Minnesota. Photo: Kevin Alldredge

This local route includes the Mississippi River, plenty of shade and no traffic jams. Photo: Kevin Alldredge

Craig – How did you develop your passion for writing? Was there someone who inspired you to want to become a writer?

Kevin – When I was in school my mom took the time to help me with homework assignments and book reports. She suggested different ways to write sentences and structure paragraphs, saying that clean prose creates a strong narrative for the reader. She also inspired me to do things worth writing about. I’m now attempting to write my first novel.

Craig – You are a contributor to The Cleanest Line and wrote a beautiful piece about your mother and your experience with her in hospice care. One thing you mentioned in your story was coaxing a small bottle of Ensure protein drink into her. You said that it took about thirty minutes, but together the two of you did it. What was she like when you were growing up?

Kevin – My mom raised my brother, Greg and I as a single parent on a tight budget and it was a constant struggle. She supported us in whatever we wanted to do, and she did it with love and respect. In her mid-50s she remarried, learned to fly and earned her pilot’s license.

Mothers never stop loving. Kevin’s mom, Monnie Riddle, tends to her grandson, Ansel. Photo: Kevin Alldredge

Craig – You and other Patagonia employees were in Louisiana some years ago, doing volunteer work with the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, surveying community residents who were impacted by the BP oil disaster. What is the LBB and what was your experience like?

Kevin – The Louisiana Bucket Brigade is an environmental health and justice organization supporting communities’ use of grassroots action to create neighborhoods free from industrial pollution. Patagonia supports LBB through its Environmental Grants Program, and a bunch of us went down to help volunteers collect data from locals. I learned that most people in Plaquemines Parish rely on Gulf seafood for their livelihood and that they’re incredibly self-reliant. We heard some heartbreaking stories and some folks broke down as they recounted their hopelessness. Many believed that they were ruined financially. I hope the people we spoke with are still hanging on and that our presence helped in some way.

Craig – You’re going to run your first 100-mile run in Vermont this summer. Do you feel physically and mentally ready?

Kevin – I’m in the best shape of my life and training for Vermont is almost like Ahab’s obsession with Moby Dick. Thursdays are my big mileage days, and I told my family I’d do my best not to sink into sub-mediocrity as a husband and parent during my training. [Not only did Kevin finish his first 100 miler, he broke 24 hours. See photo below. -Ed]

Craig – What have you learned from your family and what do they continue to teach you?

Kevin – My wife, Mindy tells me not to take myself too seriously and if we bungle the job of raising our kids then nothing we accomplish matters. My daughter, Muriel, and son, Ansel, teach me the importance of patience, the value of living in the moment and that their love is endless.

Kevin is all smiles after posting a 23:19:34 at the Vermont 100. Bitten by the 100 bug, Kevin's already planning his next one. Photo: Robert Pless

All together now! Kevin’s family from left to right: Ansel, Mindy and Muriel. Photo: Shawn Holmes

Check out Craig's previous posts for more employee interviews and trail running tales.

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Deep Water Soloing on Mallorca
Written By: Patagonia
By Brittany Griffith


My ADD extends beyond the fact that I can’t finish vacuuming a room before checking my email, watering a plant or making fried rice from leftovers. It’s present in my climbing endeavors as well. But I do recognize what it is about, the different disciplines I appreciate most. My favorite thing about trad climbing: the adventure; my favorite thing about sport climbing: the movement; my favorite thing about bouldering: the no-hassle factor; and my favorite thing overall about climbing: it makes me try harder than anything else in my life. And yet, despite my love for all those forms of climbing that are typically found in the mountains or desert, I prefer to be on the beach. The seas and oceans somehow vitalize me more than the mountains.

Enter deep water soloing on the Spanish island of Mallorca. It’s got it all: adventure, movement, low-hassle, you gotta try hard, AND it’s on the beach! After two weeks of climbing on perfect limestone above the sea I was hooked. Sign me up for Spanish classes, I’m moving to Mallorca. (Locals speak in Mallorquin, which is a form of Catalan, which, I’m told, is a mix of both French and Spanish. I speak French, so I figure I’m halfway there.)

[Above: One of the first 7as we did at Cala Barques, Metrosexual, a classic line of jugs that's not too high above the calm sea. A perfect primer for the steeper, harder routes to come. All photos by Jonathan Thesenga]

Wait a sec, back up… you may be wondering, what is deep water soloing anyway? Think of it as bouldering with the water as your crash pad. In theory, the water is more forgiving than six inches of foam so one is able to fall safely from greater distances. Deep water soloing can be done five to 50 (terrifyingly more, actually) feet off the surface of the water. Sounds simple, right? No need for gear, rope, belayer, or spotter.

But what I didn’t realize before this trip was that deep water soloing can actually be quite logistically challenging. How to get to the base of the climb? Rappel, down-solo 80 feet of 5.10, or swim to the base towing a dry bag packed with your climbing shoes, chalk bag, and towel? They all present their logistical challenges. One particular day the climb I wanted to do required down-climbing a 5.10 followed by a 5.11 traverse that was damp with sea spray. Then I would try the route, fall 35 feet off the 5.12 crux, swim along the cliff for ten minutes to a get-out, and hike for five minutes to return to the top of the cliff… where I would dry out my gear for 20 minutes before starting the process all over again.

Brittany on Golden Showers (7a) at Cala Barques. Cliff lines like this wrap around nearly the entire island.

There is no "take" in deep water soloing. You fall, you swim. Here I am swimming back after falling off at the Diablo Wall.

Just getting to the start of Afroman (7b) on the famous Diablo Wall requires a 60-foot 5.10 down climb and a 50-foot 5.11 traverse (not easy when the traverse is wet with sea spray as it was on this day!). The Diablo Wall is the world's best deep water soloing venue: immaculate overhanging limestone peppered with pockets and jugs.

Drying off on top of the Diablo Wall. It usually took about 20-30 minutes to dry off and get re-psyched after each fall before heading back down for another attempt.

JT and I, despite our lust for international travel, are always on the look out for exploring/establishing new terrain/routes. A beach holiday only holds my attention for so long, which means that despite my fantasy of packing only bikinis and board shorts for a climbing trip, I had to consider the fact that despite being the world’s premier arena for deep water soloing, the island also offers five-star sport crags and 250-meter multi-pitch walls. So depending on conditions or whim, the sort of climbing we were doing could change at the last minute. And since we embraced the typical Spanish schedule of breakfast at 11am and dinner at 11pm (and no bed before 3), it was critical that I did not leave our idyllic finca up in the mountains without the wardrobe for all of the above mentioned activities. Even though I get to check 100 pounds of free baggage on Delta, I still like to travel light when it comes to clothes, and so I compiled an assortment of clothes that were lightweight and versatile.


Here’s basically what I brought with me every day in my pack:
  • Bikini base layer: Adour Bottoms, Bottom Turn Top. Both stayed secure on long falls into the water and the Bottom Turn Top passes as a climbing top/sports bra when not at the beach.
  • Meridian Board Shorts: These are short enough to deep water solo in, but long enough to wear under my harness.
  • Rock Craft Pants: For multi-pitch climbs I always wear long pants with technical features and fabric. These pants are made with a really lightweight, stretchy fabric, have good pockets and can be rolled up into capris.
  • Stretch All-Wear Capris: I typically like to wear cotton when sport climbing and since we spent a lot of time in town before and after climbing, these were perfect for both. They are really soft, stretchy and smart looking. The bright green color ensured I fit right in as a tourist!
  • Merino 1 Silkweight Tank (coming spring '14): Until this amazing fabric came out, I would have never thought to choose wool for a hot destination. But this is the perfect fabric since it is natural and technical all at the same time! It floats over sun- and saltwater-abused skin and doesn’t look too techy so it can be worn at dinner after climbing.
  • Men’s Long-Sleeve Steersman Shirt: The XS fits my big shoulders perfectly! I’m really bad at putting on sunscreen, so I usually end up wearing my sun protection in the form of clothing. And I also have a thing about wearing men’s clothes…
  • Upslope Hoody (also coming spring 14): Temperatures on Mallorca are blissfully Mediterranean, never dipping below 65, so this was the warmest layer I needed. It’s the classic hoody made with technical R1 fabric so it was just right for both climbing and hanging out.
  • Splice shoes: These shoes are super versatile. I wore them on the plane, in town, and on the approaches. They look casual but have sticky rubber and a lightweight, yet durable, upper which makes them great for hiking on sharp limestone and whacking through thorny brush. The fold-down heel is convenient for long car rides and air travel.
  • Houdini Jacket: Because I never leave home, or the ground, without it.

I go to a lot of cool places with amazing climbing and culture, yet leave knowing I’ll never return because there are just too many places and people in the world I want to experience. But Mallorca is a different story. Volveré.

JT and I fantasized about quiting our jobs, buying/stealing one of the yachts we saw in the Port de Soller harbor and spending the rest of our lives sailing the Mediterranean and deep water soloing.

Incredibly steep on perfect rock, Afroman (7b) is one of the most famous deep water solos in the world. Falling off the crux moves at 40-feet as JT and our friends yelled encouragement from the cliff top was unforgettable!

Swimming in the warm Mediterranean = a happy Brittany.

I climbed this wildly overhanging 7a at Cala Barques while just out of frame to the right were five boats full of vacationing Germans and Brits who wildly cheered me on – such is tourist life on Mallorca…

The late Joan Miro, one of JT's favorite artists, had his studio in Palma, the main city in Mallorca, and on a rest day we went to visit his studio and small museum. Always impressive to see the creative spaces where artists create their work.

Taking in the sunset above Port de Soller on Mallorca's western coast. This was taken five minutes from the stone finca we stayed in.

Brittany Griffith is a Patagonia climbing ambassador and a regular contributor to this blog. She’s led 5.13 sport and traditional routes and vows someday to lead the gym’s 5.11c purple route. She obsesses over her garden and vacuuming and holds a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. As a former McDonald’s employee, Brittany served an estimated 12,308 Happy Meals.


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Keeping Our Waters Swimmable – Bioswale Project at Patagonia HQ and Swimmable California Day
Written By: Patagonia

Over the past couple of years, and recently through the Our Common Waters campaign, Patagonia has focused our attention on one of the more challenging water pollution issues: stormwater runoff. When rainfall hits an impermeable surface – such as a parking lot, roof or sidewalk – it runs off, carrying with it all sorts of unsavory stuff: trash, animal waste, oil, gasoline, detergents, pesticides, chemical residues, and heavy metals like copper and lead. Basically, everything on the surface is washed away. This stormwater runoff flows to the lowest point in the area which is usually a storm drain. And from there it flows into a channel, a creek or river, and in coastal areas directly into the ocean without being filtered or cleaned.

Polluted runoff is the number one source of contamination to California waters. Contamination from polluted runoff at Southern California beaches sickens approximately one million swimmers every year. Here in Ventura, where our headquarters are located, swimmers and surfers are strongly advised to stay out of the ocean for 72 hours after it rains. And polluted runoff to the coast threatens California’s $40 billion ocean-based economy. California Coastkeeper Alliance is partnering with businesses like Patagonia to get the word out about these serious health and economic impacts and tackle polluted runoff.

This is our ocean, our coast, and our local rivers and streams. It matters to us what’s going in our waters.

[Above: Patagonia’s Ventura, California headquarters front entrance. This walkway runs over a newly constructed bioswale that filters runoff from our parking lots. Photo: Jeff Johnson]

With encouragement from California Coastkeeper Alliance, the California Legislature passed a resolution to officially commemorate July 25th as Swimmable California Day. Swimmable California Day recognizes the importance of clean and healthy waters for swimming and other activities – also one of the original goals of the Clean Water Act.

Patagonia is celebrating Swimmable California Day by unveiling improvements to our Ventura headquarters that make our local waters more swimmable and surfable. Our headquarters are about an eighth of a mile from the Ventura River, which flows directly into the Pacific Ocean. We have worked with Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, our local Surfrider Chapters, the Environmental Defense Center, and many other local partners for years to clean up and protect the Ventura River and nearby coastal areas. And in the Let My People Go Surfing spirit (our founder Yvon Chouinard’s book), our employees often take the quick walk down the block from the office to the beach, to surf during their lunch break or between meetings and project work.

When the surf's up, this is the last thing you want to see on the beach. Photo: Abraxas3d

One of our recent efforts is to reduce some of the polluted runoff that flows from our parking lots and roofs. A number of years ago, we replaced two sections of asphalt in our parking lot with permeable cement, which allows rainwater to percolate through and into the soil instead of rushing into storm drains, and ultimately, to the nearest river or coastal area. But the permeable pavement only fulfilled one of the three tenets of the Surfrider Foundation’s Ocean Friendly Gardens “CPR” formula to revive watersheds and the ocean (conservation, permeability, and retention).

This year, we challenged ourselves to find an even better solution. The Ocean Friendly Gardens program was one of our key inspirations as we began our research. As Paul Herzog, Surfrider’s Ocean Friendly Gardens National Coordinator, shared, “We want to mimic nature, such as a stream. Natural shapes – curves and ups and downs – as well as rocks, mulch and plants allow water to slow, spread and sink. Soil, with lots of microorganisms and organic matter, acts like a sponge, helping to filter pollutants and absorb water for plants to tap into during dry periods. The same goes for breaking up hard surfaces. Compared to sticking a filter on the end of a stormwater pipe, doing this throughout a watershed is cheaper, more effective, generates jobs and creates green spaces for people to enjoy.”

After much research and consultation with our local non-profit partners and experts in landscape architecture, we decided to use bioswales for our project. Bioswales are low-lying channels that drain runoff. They contain soil on top of gravel layers that together with plants and mulch allow stormwater to soak into the soil, which naturally filters it. The first ¾-inch of rainfall for the season is often referred to as the “first flush,” when most pollutants deposited during the dry season are washed off parking lots. Our bioswales are designed to capture and filter the first flush of an average rainfall event, and meet all three CPR tenets: conservation, permeability and retention.

This bioswale sits at a low point at our Ventura headquarters, and for the entire City of Ventura – it’s a perfect place to filter stormwater runoff. Photo: Jeff Johnson

Bioswale Diagram
Bioswales help collect and slow stormwater run-off, allowing soil to filter out pollution. The arrows in this diagram show the flow and absorption of water through a bioswale.

An entry point for stormwater runoff to flow into our new bioswale. Photo: Jeff Johnson

Breaks in the curb next to our company parking lots allow runoff to enter the bioswales. Rocks, mulch, plants and soil help make bioswales like this one act like giant sponges, filtering stormwater runoff. Photo: Jeff Johnson

A bioswale on the south side of the Great Pacific Iron Works store parking lot. Photo: Jeff Johnson

You don’t need much space to create a bioswale – even a small strip of soil, with mulch and plants can work. The parking lot behind the fence and in front of the Tin Shed is made from permeable cement which allows rainwater to percolate through and into the soil instead of rushing into storm drains. Photo: Jeff Johnson

We finished installing the project recently and have found that tackling polluted runoff makes for a more colorful and enjoyable landscape. Now Patagonia’s Ventura campus has a whole array of native plants that filter pollutants out of stormwater, including coyote brush, concha California lilac, chalk dudleya, California buckwheat, red flowered buckwheat, island alum root, and scarlet monkeyflower.

We know there’s still some runoff from our property, but we’re making headway to reduce that impact, and our local waters are now more swimmable. This is encouraging, particularly when we head down to the beach for that next big swell…

Keep California Swimmable poster design by 3 Fish Studios. The husband and wife team runs a studio near Ocean Beach and is selling prints online to benefit California Coastkeeper Alliance.

Take_action_largeTake Action for Swimmable Water

LEARN - Check out the online resources from Patagonia’s Our Common Waters campaign.

DOWNLOAD - Swim, surf, stand-up paddle, snorkel, fish, splash, dive, or wade in your local waters. Find your nearest swimming spot with the Waterkeeper Swim Guide smartphone app.

#TAG & SHARE - If you live on California’s coast, share photos of how you enjoy our world-renowned coastal areas, bays, rivers, and creeks with California Coastkeeper Alliance. Upload photos through the end of July on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with #SwimmableCA. CCKA will announce a grand prize winner on August 1, as well as top swimmable pet and youngster entries, and wettest photo.


TIPS - River rats, water-lovers and surfers outside of California can participate as well. Waterkeeper Alliance has some simple steps all of us can take to reduce our personal stormwater pollution.

WATCH - Surfrider Foundation Ventura Chapter has created a video that illustrates the benefits of transforming your yard into an Ocean Friendly Garden.


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Slow is Fast – 2013 Book Tour Dates
Written By: Patagonia
By Dan Malloy

We are so stinking stoked to announce that our book Slow is Fast is finished! Starting on August 2nd, Kanoa, Kellen and myself will tour our new book (and the moving pictures DVD that comes with it) from Mill Valley to San Diego. Please join us if you have time. There will be good music (The John Stewards up north and Todd Hannigan down south), we will screen the movie, talk about the trip, answer your questions and drink free beer. The book will also be for sale. We haven’t figured out a price yet so just bring your whole piggy bank.

A huge thank you to all of the Patagonia folks in japan who made our recent tour over there so much fun, especially Lisa Iida!

[Above: Slow is Fast book trailer. Video by Woodshed Films. Hit the jump for some DVD outtakes, production photos and the book tour details. All photos courtesy of Dan Malloy.] 

Look close at Kellen on the left. He had the worst case of food poisoning I had ever seen. It lasted the entire last week of our trip. This is the photo of us right after we decided to pull the plug. Day 57 or 58. Ventura.

Not long after we started the book edit I realized once again that my brain is wired the old fashioned way. We did tons of work on the computer but found that this wall proved invaluable to the process. It forces me to work and excludes the possibility of watching You Tube videos of Derek Hynd finless at J-bay (go for it, it's totally worth it!) for the 800th time.

Thanks to Jeff Canham, Mariko, Kellen, Steve Barilotti and Steve Sprinkle (of Sprinkle Media in SF not the farmer in Ojai, but he did help too), Kanoa picked up a box of books from the printer two days before our flight to premiere the project in Japan. We are really proud to say that every last bit of the production of this project took place in California.

The video, "Moving pictures and extra features from the book," is also finished. We decided early on that we would not waste any time filming boring shots of us riding our bikes. That did force us to fill in a few gaps when we got home. Thanks to Tiffany Morgan Campbell and her green screen expertise you won't be able to tell what is real and what is not, just like the photo above. Movie magic!

After many years on the road I have contracted a bit of the Cockney rhyming slang that is ever-present in Australia. When in Australia, saying, ‘Let's hit the frog and toad,’ is just a nice way of saying, ‘Let's hit the f#cking road.’ During our slow bicycle trip down the California coast ‘frog and toad’ became our daily mantra. Within a week of our departure, while simultaneously staving off boredom and pacifying our minds from the decent chance that we would be hit by a passing car, we adapted a newer application by adding the melody to Willie Nelson's timeless American classic ‘On the Road Again.’ We spent countless hours singing, ‘Frog and toad again, I just can’t wait to frog and toad again...’ while heading south. Thanks to Brotheryn Studios for recording this new version. I’ll be sure to thank them and Tiffany Morgan Campbell again when I win a Grammy for this one. Video: Frog and Toad

Jason Frazier of Ventura taking his harmonica amp to Brotheryn Studios to work on the soundtrack. If we are lucky, he might join us on a few stops to play music during the California tour.

Todd Hannigan and Jason Mariani at Brotheryn Studios have been an integral part of Woodshed Films for over 13 years. It was no different for Slow is Fast. I heavily leaned on the duo along with Xocoyotzin Moraza, Fernando Apodaca and Jonathan McEuen Jr. to take our 30-minute home movie and turn it into a presentable little collection of moving pictures and extra features from the book. After many years of being on the periphery of film projects, I am as convinced as ever that the soundscape of a film is more important than the visuals. Because of the Brotheryn team effort I am proud to say that 60% of the music in our short film was recorded specifically for Slow is Fast. Most importantly, on top of their creativity and tech capabilities, they are as funny as hell and a total blast to work with. A huge thanks also goes to Slaid Cleaves for granting us permission to use his amazing music. That is real country music if you ask me! Hannigan and the crew will be joining us to play live music for the southern part of our California book tour in early August. Hope to see you there. Video: Brotheryn Studios Extra Footage.

We made it to Japan safely with a box of books in hand. The Patagonia crew always takes amazing care of us over there. They also make sure I get my dose of Japanese culture. When in Rome...

In Japan, seeing an upper middle class mom riding her bike with two kids comfortably in tow is the norm (in beautifully designed bike seats, one in front, one in back). Between trains, bikes and cars, Japan seems to have the most balanced transit system I have ever seen. I was a little worried that Slow is Fast would come across as redundant over there, like, "Yeah, we already know that dummy!"

Kanoa was asked to show a collection of photos from our book at the Slope art gallery in Tokyo.

Proud as punch at the farmers market next door to Patagonia headquarters in Japan. Look close at his shirt. In an effort to promote the farmers market a local artist made a screen print of his favorite farmer.

While in Kamakura, any free time we had was spent at Paradise Baking & Company. I have a good feeling that the "company" in their title has a lot more to do with prioritizing good vibes than profit margins. They have mastered the art of switching midday from locally roasted coffee to locally brewed beer. Please visit them if you ever happen to visit Kamakura. Just be prepared for your day to disappear, in a good way.

Naomi and friends showed us slow food Japan-style. Get small or get out. We hope to see you on the California leg of our book tour (details below).

Slow is Fast Book Tour 2013

Proof Lab Station - Friday, 8/2
254 Shoreline Hwy
Mill Valley CA 94941
Tel. (415) 888.2553
Event start time @ 6pm
Live music: The John Stewards

Mollusk - Saturday, 8/3
4500 Irving St
San Francisco, CA 94122
Tel. (415) 564-6300
Event start time @ 8pm
Live music: The John Stewards

Harmony House Yoga - Monday, 8/5
991 Price St
Pismo Beach, CA 93449
Tel. 805-773-0380
Event start time @ 7pm
Live music: Occasional Mustache
Food + drink by Honeymoon Cafe

Full of Life Flatbread - Wednesday, 8/7**
225 West Bell St
Los Alamos, CA 93440
Tel. (805) 344-4400
Music – Todd Hannigan + Xoco Moraza
Event start time @ 7:30pm

** Purchase tickets for $35 at A Full of Life Flatbread dinner will be included in the price and will include local/seasonal ingredients + alcoholic beverage.

Mob Shop Ojai - Saturday, 8/10
110 W Ojai Ave
Ojai, CA 93023
Tel. (805) 272-8102
Event start time @ 7:00pm
Live music: Todd Hannigan, Xoco Moraza + Fernando Apodoca
Food by The Blue Owl

Patagonia Cardiff - Tuesday, 8/13
2185 San Elijo Ave
Cardiff, CA 92007
Tel (760) 634-9886
Event start time @ 7pm
Live music: Todd Hannigan, Xoco Moraza + Fernando Apodoca

Bird's Surf Shed - Wednesday, 8/14
1091 W Morena Blvd
San Diego Ca 92110
Event start time @ 7pm
Live music: Todd Hannigan, Xoco Moraza + Fernando Apodoca

Patagonia Ventura - Tin Shed Courtyard – Friday, 9/13
235 W. Santa Clara St.
Ventura, CA 93001
Event start time @ 7pm
Live music: Todd Hannigan and friends

Check back for updates. We're working on more tour dates for California and beyond.

Dan Malloy is a Patagonia ambassador and one of most respected figures in professional surfing. He lives with his wife near Lompoc and is a believer in the self-sufficient, well-rounded life, with farming and ranching keeping his hands busy between surf sessions.

Still not sure what Slow is Fast is all about? Check out Dan's dispatches from the road: Part 1 & Part 2.


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DamNation – 80,000 Dams, 51 Interviews and One Film
Written By: Patagonia

By Katie Klingsporn


In July of 2011, Felt Soul Media filmmakers, Ben Knight and Travis Rummel, packed camera gear, computers and a few changes of clothing into a borrowed Sportsmobile van, braced themselves for a whole lot of time together and hit the road.
It was the beginning of a 9,000-mile journey across the U.S. and beyond to research, chronicle and wrap their heads around a growing movement to tear down obsolete dams.

[Above: Co-director Travis Rummel in the field during the filming of DamNation. All photos courtesy of DamNation]

Over the next year and a half, Knight and Rummel — often joined by biologist, river advocate and cameraman Matt Stoecker — traveled from Maine to California to document some of the issues surrounding America’s 80,000 dams. They interviewed a spitfire folk-singing nonagenarian who has been railing against the Glen Canyon Dam for more than 50 years, joined a group of boaters on a historic trip down a Washington river that was free-flowing for the first time in nearly a century and witnessed the removals of the 100-year-old Elwha and Glines Canyon dams on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula – the biggest dams to fall in U.S. history. They talked to biologists and writers, monkey wrenchers, politicians, archeologists and fishermen. They met a man who spends his days holding vigil over endangered steelhead, and another who had lost his job because the dam he had worked at for years shut down. They launched a failed kayaking mission down the dammed lower Snake River, filmed underwater scenes in cold rivers, hid in the woods a few times and learned that it’s illegal to film at many U.S. dams. And they shared in the hope of the lower Elwha Klallam tribe that the salmon that once thrived in that river’s pre-dammed waters will now return.
Since both started out knowing relatively little about dams, it was, as Knight puts it, “one hell of a crash course.”


Matt Stoecker, co-producer, getting a camera into position the day before explosives blasted a hole into the Condit Dam in Washington.


The material they gathered with Stoecker — 51 interviews and 10 terabytes of footage — is now being shaped into a feature-length documentary called DamNation. Knight has been holed up in his tiny editing office in Telluride, Colorado, for the better part of the year, stitching together a compelling and beautifully shot story about how the time has come for America to rethink its dams.

The documentary is being created in partnership with producers Patagonia and Stoecker Ecological, who pitched the movie to Felt Soul Media in late 2010. Initially, Rummel and Knight — who built their grassroots film company on the success of a handful of films about fly-fishing and watersheds — were reluctant. Dam issues are incredibly complex, and can, Knight says, be pretty dull. But once they dug into the subject, they realized that many of the dams that shaped this country also wiped out salmon, destroyed towns, altered rivers and, in many instances, long ago outlived their usefulness.

“It’s been transformative for us as filmmakers to understand how much our environment has been impacted by dams,” Rummel said.

Both admit that the scope and complexity of the issue makes this the biggest challenge they’ve ever taken on. To open people’s minds to the idea of dam removal, they are telling the story through the lives, historic events and rivers that have been shaped by the building of dams.

“I don’t want anyone to feel like they’ve been force-fed information, or worse … an opinion,” Knight said. “I want to get it right.”

“We’re not advocating taking out every dam,” Rummel added. “We’re advocating thinking about dams in a different way.”


DamNation editor Ben Knight at his office in Telluride, CO.


Knight has spent many nights hunched in front of his computer screens editing into the wee hours, fueled by Red Bull and cookies from the bakery down the alley. He jokes that his new office chair has a bedpan built in, and Patagonia has hired a registered nurse to check on his IV and feeding tube from time to time. But really, he says, he’s trying to tell an accurate story. It’s too important not to.

“Just knowing that we’re making an incredibly important film for a group of people and a company that we deeply respect is personally the biggest honor I could imagine,” Knight said. “If people see DamNation and feel inspired to ask questions about the impacts of dams in their backyards, I think we’ve done our job.”

The film is more than half way there — Felt Soul is hoping to have it finished by early fall.

Until then, Knight will be living at his editing desk. And both he and Rummel are happy that van life is over, for now.

Katie Klingsporn is a writer and editor for the Telluride Daily Planet in southwestern Colorado. Look for more of her posts highlighting issues featured in DamNation a documentary film being produced byPatagonia and Stoecker Ecological in conjunction with the Colorado-based filmmaking team Felt Soul Media.



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Re-Imagining Rubber – PLUSfoam’s Flip-Flop Recycling Revolution
Written By: Patagonia

By Ethan Stewart


Even the most tender-footed outdoor enthusiasts amongst us are familiar with the scenario. You are walking back to camp from a quick creek swim, or perhaps making your way home after a day spent chasing the hollow insides of pitching lumps of salt water, and your trusty flip-flops decide to blow out. Maybe the strap pulls out or tears or your big toe finally busts through the sole. Either way, your beloved slaps are toasted and now destined for the trash can, their fate all but sealed by the very material they are made from – non-biodegradable waste taking up space forever in a landfill or, even worse, the very ocean you just spent your afternoon playing in.

Certainly, creative upcyclying (hello handplane or doorstop or fly swatter) can work to delay such a conclusion to the life of a pair of flip-flops but, eventually, a final trip to the dump is unavoidable for essentially anything (be it footwear or otherwise) made out of popular petro-chemical based materials like rubber, foam, ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) or polyurethane (PU). Unfortunately, even in this great age of ever-improving recycling technology, this less-than-ideal end game endures our children and our children’s children are all on the hook to pay the bill.

Today, thanks to the folks from PLUSfoam, a small upstart company based in Newport Beach, California, this story is being rewritten with a markedly happier and eco-friendly outcome.

[Above: The Men's Reflip Chip, and Women's Reflip Chip (not shown), feature a PLUSfoam recycled footbed that's 100% recyclable at the end of its useful life. Photo:]

For three seasons now, Patagonia has collaborated with PLUSfoam to create flip-flops that never have to go to the dump. That’s right, the Men's Reflip, Women's Reflip, Men's Reflip Chip, Women's Reflip Chip, Women's Flip Around and Men's Flipcycle are all 100% recyclable through PLUSfoam. Even more impressive, slide a pair onto your feet and you will be hard pressed to notice any difference whatsoever when it comes to performance between a PLUSfoam powered flip-flop and something more mainstream.

“They are essentially the equivalent of the standard materials in the marketplace today,” summed up PLUSfoam’s Brett Ritter recently. “Whether you are measuring compression, tear strength, durability or anything like that, we perform as well, if not better than, what is out there. The only real difference is the lifecycle of the product... It is just not possible today to achieve with EVA or rubber what we can do with PLUSfoam. People have a hard time believing it but, yeah, we are completely recyclable.”

Copy of Plus_30
When Brett Ritter (pictured) and partner Ken Wong first met, it was one of those "aha!" moments. Brett's background in footwear and Ken's chemestry breakthrough were a perfect match. All photos: Branden Aroyan

Ritter, who along with partners Ken Wong and Jason Stanson started PLUSfoam nearly half a decade ago, often finds himself having to convince people of his product’s seemingly magical regenerative properties, a task he had to do with the Patagonia Footwear team when their paths first crossed at the Outdoor Retailer tradeshow a few years back. And while he has a few tricks up his sleeve as to how best to turn disbelievers into converts, his George Foreman grill and blender routine has to be the best. In short, Ritter takes an old PLUSfoam flip-flop, tosses it in a blender, and whirls it to bits, strap and all. The colorful tiny chunks are then dumped onto the hot grill and, after just a few minutes in the press, the once-upon-a-time flip-flop has been rearranged back into fully functional slab of PLUSfoam, an achievement that would be impossible with EVA or PU or any similar material for that matter save for Polyethylene (PE, it should be noted, cannot achieve the same density characteristics of PLUSfoam).

“Obviously, when we are actually recycling our products we use an industrial grinder and a much different machine to reheat and apply pressure, but the Foreman trick does a great job of showing people what we are capable of,” explains Ritter with the telltale smirk of man who knows he is on to something. “And it is pretty fun to do.”

Results of the grill demonstration: chipped up PLUSfoam (right) and the PLUSfoam pancake (left) fresh off the grill. “We have made cookie dough. We can take all that scrap and simply mash it back up and make more product from it.”

Some folks chip yard waste, PLUSfoam chips old flip-flops.


Patagonia first met the PLUSFoam crew at the Outdoor Retailer trade show. Every product in their booth is made from 100% recyclable PLUSfoam. Pictured (L to R): Jason Stanson, Brett Ritter and Mike Carr.

Of course, PLUSfoam is still a petro chemical-based product, albeit with unrivaled recyclability, and, well, for many that is a fact that cannot be overlooked. However, to hear Ritter tell it, the trouble isn’t so much that we use petro-chemicals but more how we use them, “Let’s face it, petroleum and plastic can do some pretty incredible and important things, but at the moment we are just horrible stewards... we are completely irresponsible in how we use them.”

PLUSfoam marks a major step towards proper stewardship. That progress isn’t just evident in the recyclability of PLUSfoam products – which include everything from Patagonia’s flip-flops to yoga mats and backpack straps to dog toys and swimming kick boards and even wood flooring substitutes – but also in the post-manufacturing process. There is no shortage of waste generated by your typical footwear factory, just think of all the scrap rubber or some such similar material that goes to the landfill or the incinerator after a run of flip-flops or shoe soles are cut out from the original layup sheet. Likening PLUSfoam to cookie dough, Ritter is quick to point out that their technology does not suffer from such wastefulness. “We have made cookie dough,” he says. “We can take all that scrap and simply mash it back up and make more product from it.” In fact, according to him, PLUSfoam enjoys a roughly 30% reduction in waste on the production side alone. “Think about that for a second, that by itself is going leaps and bounds to changing how the footwear world works and that is before you consider our recycling program."

Manufacturing waste from the production of Patagonia flip-flops is simply re-ground and used to make more PLUSfoam material.


Recycled materials also furnish the PLUSfoam office in Newport Beach. Mike's desk is an old door.

... if you forget the Web address, just look on the sole.

Once your Patagonia flip-flops have lived their full life, just send them back to Ritter and his crew (Patagonia Footwear covers the cost) or drop them in any Patagonia Common Threads Recycling Bin (located in Patagonia stores and select dealer partners) and PLUSfoam will take your well-worn slippers, throw them in a grinder and re-birth them as something entirely new. Who knows, thanks to a recent partnership with NASA, your dead old flip-flops may eventually end up in outer space as part of an astronaut harness.

“It’s really an easy incentive program,” sums up Ritter. “Technically, you could just toss them in your blue recycling bin as the flip-flops qualify under the #7 category but chances are most garbage men will think you made a mistake.”

If recyclable flip-flops are an idea you can get behind, check out these Patagonia styles: Men's Reflip, Women's Reflip, Men's Reflip Chip, Women's Reflip Chip, Women's Flip Around and Men's Flipcycle.

Companies interested in working with PLUSfoam can learn more at


Ethan Stewart (pictured left) is a Senior Staff Writer for the Santa Barbara Independent and an occasional contributor to KCET's Artbound and The Cleanest Line. Born and raised on Cape Cod, he's called Santa Barbara home off and on since the great El Niño winter of 1998. A passionate explorer of Mother Nature's more open and wild places, Stewart reckons Boston Red Sox baseball is the closest thing he has to religion and considers anything ocean-related to be a mandatory daily activity.

This article was commissioned by Patagonia.


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Viva Los Fun Hogs – A #Funhogging Origin Story
Written By: Patagonia

By Jeff Johnson


I used to dread the summers on the North Shore of O’ahu, Hawai’i. Famous for its winter surf, surfers from all over the world come to see what they are made of during a certain time of year. In the summertime, the waves go away and the crowds dissipate. My friends and I dreaded the four months of flatness. We eventually realized if we remained surf-centric we would have been primed for the loony bin. So we began embracing other ways to entertain ourselves.

We got into paddleboarding, which was perfect for staying fit for the next winter season. Then we got into outrigger canoe surfing and bought a four-man for the job. This eventually led to building a six-man sailing canoe to circumnavigate the island. Then a few of us bought one-man canoes for times when no one else was around. During the summer, our beach was packed with a fleet of ocean craft, ready for any condition, waves or no waves. Eventually, we all started looking forward to the summer months. No crowds, a flat, beautiful ocean, and all sorts of ways to enjoy it.

[Above: The author has finally joined Instagram. Follow his antics at @jeffjohnson_beyondandback. #funhogging]

Winter began to have its downtimes, too. The occasional stretch of onshore wind, short interval swell, or relentless crowds would put us on the couch. When the onshore winds set in we began bouldering – rehearsing small climbing problems on the rocks above Waimea Bay. We’d bring our fins for bodysurfing and shoes and chalk bag and spend the entire afternoon down at The Bay. Our bouldering got more serious so we built a climbing wall in our garage. If it was raining, that’s where we’d be. Then we discovered “real” climbing down the coast in Mokuleia. The daily routine would consist of a surf in the morning, climbing in Mokuleia ‘til the afternoon, and if the surf wasn’t good in the evening, we’d end up at Waimea bodysurfing and bouldering.

This addiction to constant movement rolled over into our travels as well. We started to bring climbing gear on our surf trips. In Australia, we spent six weeks dividing our time between the mountains and the coast. We’d be inland at places like Mount Arapiles and hear of a swell building on the coast. We’d drive all night to Torquay and surf our brains out. As the swell petered out we’d be back in the mountains, climbing.

Around the turn of the century (I love saying that) a friend of mine gave me an old video cassette tape to watch. It was a forgotten film called Mountain of Storms. It’s a beautifully chronicled road trip taken back in 1968 with Yvon Chouinard, Doug Tompkins, Dick Dorworth and Lito Tejada-Flores. They drove a van from Ventura, California all the way to the bottom of South America (Patagonia) to climb a mountain. On the way down they surfed waves that had never been ridden, skied down live volcanoes, and got into all kinds of mishaps and misadventures. At the end of the film, on the summit of Mount Fitz Roy, they held up an orange customized flag. It read: “Viva Los Fun Hogs.” Wow, I thought, fun hogging… I didn’t know there was a name for it.

Tag your photos and videos with #funhogging on Instagram, Tumblr and Facebook. Here are some #funhogging examples from our past and present.

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Brent Edelen, a big wall climber and bee-keeper from Colorado, on top of the El Capitan Spire, Salathe Wall, Yosemite Valley. Photo by #JeffJohnson #funhogging

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@thetorpedopeople bodysurfing in Indonesia at last light. Photo by #jeffjohnson #funhogging

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Zodiac trip, Yosemite, summer 2006. Photo: Jeff Johnson #funhogging

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"Fred Beckey (left) and Eric Bjørnstad holding a sign found in Canyonlands, Utah.” Photo by Fred Beckey #funhogging

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Patagonia designer John Rapp catching some Zs after a day of #funhogging on the east side of the Sierra. Photo by @fosterhunting

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@thetorpedopeople kicking back after a day of surfing in Norway. Photo by @chrisburkard #funhogging

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Chuck Pratt and Yvon Chouinard. Photo: Glen Denny #funhogging

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Lydia Zamorano gets a spot from some cool locals. Joshua Tree, California. Photo: @ben_moon #funhogging

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Happy 4th of July from everyone at Patagonia. Photo by @devon_howard #redwhiteandblue #funhogging

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Catch! Photo by Greg Epperson from the book, Unexpected: 30 Years of Patagonia Photography #funhogging

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John Sherman enjoying a Cooper's Best Extra Stout on Lord of The Rings. Arapiles, Australia. Photo by John Sherman from the @patagoniabooks book, Unexpected: 30 Years of Patagonia Catalog Photography #funhogging

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"After climbing Denali, Rick Ridgeway and I (Yvon Chouinard) celebrated by going down to Homer, Alaska, "a quaint little drinking village with a fishing problem." Photo by Peter Hackett #funhogging

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Bivouac on Mount Temple. Photo: @mikeylikesrocks #funhogging

Jeff Johnson is the co-author of 180 South: Conquerors of the Useless. He resides in Ventura, California where he works for Patagonia as a staff photographer, writer and product tester.

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The Infamous Stringdusters Open 2013 American Rivers Tour at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market
Written By: Patagonia
By The Infamous Stringdusters & American Rivers

Having just been dusted at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, I couldn't be more excited to hear about this tour in support of American Rivers. Check out the press release and tour dates below; you don't want to miss this band. Video: The Infamous Stringdusters
Grammy-nominated bluegrass outfit The Infamous Stringdusters are getting set to embark on their 2013 American Rivers Tour, an epic summer music adventure stopping through, and winding down, some of America’s wildest and most beloved rivers and surrounding communities. For the journey, The Infamous Stringdusters are partnering with the nation’s leading river conservation organization, American Rivers – currently celebrating its 40th anniversary – to raise money and awareness for protecting and restoring rivers and clean water nationwide.

The 10-date tour – being supported by Patagonia, Osprey, Klean Kanteen and Moab Brewery – starts with an Outdoor Retailer Summer Market kick-off show at The Depot in Salt Lake City, UT, on Wednesday, July 31. Tickets can be purchased through The Depot. Outdoor Retailer attendees can take advantage of a special offer and purchase tickets day of show at Patagonia’s booth (13027). The $20 price includes an organic cotton Patagonia Free the Rivers T-shirt. Ticket proceeds will benefit American Rivers.

The show will commence a two-week, six-state effort to share the message of American Rivers – an organization that has helped protect and restore more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual release of America’s Most Endangered Rivers®. American Rivers recently named the Colorado River the #1 Most Endangered River in the nation, drawing attention to drought, over-allocation of water, and climate change. The river is a key recreation resource and economic driver, pumping $26 billion into the U.S. recreation economy each year. A variety of Colorado River groups including American Rivers, Save the Colorado and Protect the Flows will be at the July 31 show, asking people to support the Colorado River.

After OR, the tour hits river towns in Colorado, Idaho, Washington, Montana and Wyoming.

Immediately following the band’s tour, all five members of The Infamous Stringdusters will bag up their instruments in waterproof cases, grab their rods and packs, and head out on a six-day float down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River with Idaho River Adventures. Staff from American Rivers and a film crew from Fly Fishing Film Tour will join the band for an off-the-grid outdoor music adventure: campfire jams, fishing and hiking along one of the country’s original Wild and Scenic rivers, and educational and thought provoking discussions on why, and how, to help preserve our nation’s waterways. Look in fall 2013 for news on the release of the band’s documentation of what’s sure to be an epic river journey.


The Infamous String Dusters 2013 American Rivers Tour
  • July 31 - The Depot, Salt Lake City, UT for Outdoor Retailer
  • August 1 - Colorado River State Park, Fruita, CO
  • August 2 & 3 - State Bridge, Bond, CO
  • August 4 - Mishawaka, Bellevue, CO
  • August 7 -  Knitting Factory, Boise, ID
  • August 8 - Great Northern, Whitefish,MT
  • August 9 - The Hive, Sandpoint, ID
  • August 10 - The Wilma Theater, Missoula, MT
  • August 11 - Grand Targhee Bluegrass Festival, Alta, WY

For more information, visit and If you can't make a show, grab a shirt – $5 from the sale of each Free the Rivers T-shirt goes to American Rivers as part of Patagonia's Our Common Waters campaign.

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Winter Sun
Written By: Patagonia

By Patch Wilson

I was lucky enough to spend a few weeks in Sumbawa last winter at Lakey Peak. The waves were really fun and a few days it was solid and pumping. It was my fourth time out there and it’s got to be one of my favourite places in Indo. I wanted to give a little back because the place has given so much to me.

The area is struggling with rubbish control. When I first got out there, I was blown away by how much litter there is along the beach and shoreline. People coming from surrounding villages and the nearest city, Dompu, on public holidays just dump their rubbish on the beach. The locals realise what is happening and they do their best to keep the area clean.

I thought I would try and help them out a little, so on the last day me and the crew I was travelling with got together and organised a beach clean-up. We bought a load of donuts and got all the groms, some of the locals and a few travelling surfers together. We munched a load of donuts and got to the task at hand of cleaning up the beach.

In a few hours, we had huge pile of rubbish and the beach looked a lot cleaner for our efforts. Thanks to the Lakey groms, locals and everyone else who helped make a small dent in what is an increasing problem in Indonesia.




Patrick "Patch" Wilson is a Patagonia surf ambassador from southwest Cornwall, England. All photos by Patch Wilson, video by Patch Wilson and Mickey Smith.

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With All Apologies to Krissy Moehl
Written By: Patagonia
By Kevin Alldredge


I AM NOT A CROSSDRESSER! Okay, so running 50 kilometers in a skirt technically makes a man a crossdresser but I’m not compulsively one, the act was more spontaneous or, perhaps, situational.

Robert and I had been discussing the upcoming Mt. Cheaha 50K – “The Race to The Top of Alabama” – and we’d arrived at a goal of 5:30. This would be a PR for each of us in this race, his eighth and my third. A week before the race, in an exchange of emails, Robert described his status as perhaps less than what would be required for a sub-5 1/2 hour Cheaha performance. I cryptically emailed him back and advised that that I’d arrive in Birmingham with a strategy. “Good,” he replied, “I need all the help I can get.”

[Above: The field gets funky prior to the start. All photos: Brooke Nelson]

“Thirty miles through Alabama woods…” asked Mindy, my wife, rhetorically, “…in a skirt? Haven’t you seen Deliverance?”

Still no reaction from me.

“Come on, surely you remember Ned Beatty’s love scene?”

“Thirty one,” I finally replied.

“What?” frowned Mindy.

“Thirty one. 50 kilometers is 31 miles, not 30.”

Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" comes on the PA system, signaling the start of the 2013 Mt. Cheaha 50K.

On the drive to Robert’s house from the airport on Thursday evening we were discussing the race.

“So what’s the strategy?” he asked.

“I’m running the race in a skirt”, I replied. Robert laughed.

“I’m feeling good. I think I can do it in five and a half and YOU don’t want to have your butt kicked by your buddy from the flatlands wearing a skirt.”

“Well, aside from the fact that that’s a tactic not a strategy, you don’t have the balls to wear a skirt.”

Not exactly certain how to take that one, I replied, “Oh yeah?”

Early stages of the race with the mountains still shrouded in fog. The author is in the middle (can you tell?) and his friend Robert is on the right.

Saturday morning brought 50°F temps. At 4:30am it was still dark out, but we could pretty much tell that the day would be wet and overcast. Considering that a few days prior, for my last training run in St. Paul, the temperature was around 20 below zero with the windchill factored in, this weather was perfect. Robert looked at me sporting my flower-patterned Patagonia Multi Use Skirt.

“Couldn’t you have chosen black?” he asked.

“Hey…in for a penny, in for a pound.”

“Why don’t you call it a running kilt?” he suggested.

“Semantics, huh? Well, feel free to call my skirt anything you want.”

I was downing a plate of Robert’s tasty pancakes when our friend Jim arrived. This weekend, Jim’s resume would include chef, crew chief, trail groupie auditioner /procurer and wheelman extraordinaire. (Okay, so Jim wouldn’t agree to manage the groupies, but he’s still one of the coolest hombres I know.)

Even though the rain stopped just before the race, the eighth running of the Cheaha 50K was indeed wet. The trail was sloppy and the water crossings frequent, and Blue Hell was a beast getting up, just as ever. All in all, it was a fantastic day in Alabama’s beautiful Talladega National Forest. And the skirt? It wasn’t just an incentive to avoid posting a sub-mediocre performance; it’s actually extremely comfortable and functional, especially on the uphills. (Note to Patagonia Trail Running designers: might you consider a men’s version with a roomier compression liner?) And in the true nature of trail running, the comments, especially from the women, made the trail a fun place to be. “Sir, excuse me, but in your haste this morning you inadvertently put on your wife’s skirt.”

Crossing a cold Chinnabee Creek.

Mindy suggested I owe Robert an apology… you know, for being a jackass. Yeah, okay, how about this: Sorry, dude, for making you look at my ass for 20 miles. Actually, my sincerest apologies go to the great trail runner Krissy Moehl, who originally put her stamp of approval on the Patagonia Multi Use Skirt. Krissy trademarked this skirt with her inimitable grace, style and professionalism. I am indeed sorry, Krissy, for defiling the Multi Use, sorry if this vision activates your gag reflex. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I suspect that Krissy will not be terribly impressed. Mea culpa.

On the positive side, though, I did achieve a PR for this race, and I must attribute at least a portion of the success to the Multi Use Skirt. Nonetheless, I’ll probably retire it from my trail running wardrobe while I’m ahead. Then again, Patagonia did name it the Multi Use Skirt and so far I’ve used it for only one purpose. The Minnesota summer is here and I have a lawn that will need to be mown, a garage that needs some paintwork and maintenance, backyard parties to attend and on and on. The possibilities are endless. See you in July for the Vermont 100, Robert, and just wait ‘til you see the chic summer ensemble I’ve lined up.


Kevin Alldredge is an eight-year veteran of the Patagonia St. Paul store. He's been running seriously for six years and will attempt his first century later this month at the Vermont 100. His wife Mindy and two kids, Ansel and Muriel, are fully supportive of his training schedule.

Editor's note: The girls know this already, but any guys who want to follow Kevin's lead should check out the Nine Trails Skirt, our current trail running skirt inspired and tested by Krissy Moehl.

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Fracking In Our Backyard
Written By: Patagonia

Through our current campaign, Our Common Waters, and with exposure to increased oil and gas development near our homes and communities, we have grown concerned about hydraulic fracturing (commonly called "fracking") and its impact on water, air, soil, wildlife habitat, and human health. Over 90% of oil and gas wells in the U.S. use fracking to aid in extraction, and many fracking fluids and chemicals are known toxins for humans and wildlife.

For decades, natural gas (methane) deposits were tapped by single wells drilled vertically over large, free-flowing pockets of gas. Then came fracking, a water- and chemical-intensive method that promised the profitable extraction of natural gas trapped in shale.

[Above: A natural gas fracking site in Erie, Colorado across the field from an elemetary school. Photo: Topher Donahue]

  • Many fracking fluids are chemicals known to be toxic to humans and wildlife, and several are known to cause cancer (see links above for reference and further reading).
  • Trade secret laws and lack of regulation under our environmental laws allow companies in most states to keep the chemicals they use in fracking a secret. Many communities in close proximity to fracked oil and gas wells have no idea what kinds of chemicals are being used in wells nearby.
  • A loophole in the 2005 Energy Policy Act stripped the EPA of much of its authority to regulate fracking under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Fracking is exempt from full regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act and other federal, state and local rules.

Because of fracking’s wide-ranging risks and impacts, we support each community’s right to educate itself and regulate and/or ban fracking, and we support local, state and federal government efforts to monitor and regulate fracking.

As we’ve learned more about this issue, we’ve been inspired by individuals and communities across the country, speaking out and taking action to prevent harmful impacts. It is truly a grassroots movement – here are some stories and resources:

We at Patagonia recognize that, as a business and as individual employees, we use natural gas that is almost certainly obtained through hydraulic fracking. Natural gas is used to generate 37% of the electricity in California where Patagonia has its headquarters. In addition, in regard to fossil fuels in general, many of our products are made from polyester and nylon, both of which are made from petroleum. However, much of Patagonia’s polyester clothing is made from recycled polyester (some from yarn manufacturing waste and others from recycled water or soda bottles). A few of our nylon products are made from recycled nylon. Patagonia also relies on gas and oil to ship its products: please see our blog posting on manufacturing, that includes mention of shipping and carbon footprints.

In the end, our current reliance on fossil fuel including natural gas, particularly for electricity and transportation, makes it all the more important to advocate for and support a shift to renewable energy sources (e.g. solar, wind and geothermal) and conservation.

As we learn more about the impact that fracking has on freshwater, we also recognize that there is controversy over the role of natural gas in our energy future. Many tout it as a green alternative or “bridge fuel” – a necessary alternative to coal as we transition to renewable sources. While we recognize that fracked natural gas is a large part of our nation’s energy mix, we question the bridge-fuel concept. If we subscribe to a positive view of fracked natural gas, and support investment in that path, will focus on this cheap and plentiful fuel thwart development of truly renewable sources? Will government and industry have the will to shift away from natural gas in time to avert ongoing catastrophic climate change? In the end, natural gas is a fossil fuel, the burning of which leads to more carbon in the atmosphere. We can’t drill our way to a clean energy future. And, we remain largely in the dark regarding the potential impact of unburned methane emissions and leaks from natural gas infrastructure. Due to this uncertainty, we feel it is essential that we move, as quickly as possible, to a low-carbon, renewable, and where possible, zero-carbon approach. 

We’re encouraged by some of the research and conversations around alternatives: A recent paper by Stanford professor Mark Jacobson and his colleagues makes a convincing argument that New York state could be powered by wind, solar and water by 2050 with no loss of energy jobs. 

As our CEO Casey Sheahan noted in his October 2012 Denver Post op-ed on the issue, “For those who doubt the increasing volumes of science showing that fracking is bad for the environment and bad for our health, I say to you, let's give the benefit of the doubt to our children. Let's make them proud we moved to clean energy before it was too late.” We’ll continue to track the issue, and support the grassroots movement that is pushing local, state and federal government to regulate and/or place bans on fracking in communities across the country.

To learn more about the Our Common Waters campaign, please visit


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Lockwood Animal Rescue Center visits Patagonia Reno
Written By: Patagonia

By Laurel Winterbourne

Andrew and Danny Boy_1

Danny sleeps peacefully curled up in the corner while Matt, in his boisterous voice, tells the story of Danny’s heroic rescue and horrific existence in captivity in Alaska. On the other side of the room his counterpart Willow sways with sleepiness, falling over every few seconds. She is new to the group and a little more timid with the fifty or so strangers staring at her. She doesn’t want to let her guard down, but exhaustion overwhelms her. It was a long trip from the Lockwood Animal Rescue Center (LARC) in Ventura County to Patagonia’s Service Center in Reno, Nevada.

It’s hard to imagine that Danny Boy was treated so cruelly when he walks up and licks the faces of the crowd. He was held in captivity as part of a roadside attraction where 29 wolves and wolfdogs were chained up with no more than a few feet to walk around while people paid $5 to toss them a treat. The wolves, only fed every few days, were chained just far enough away from each other that they never touched, surviving thirty below temperatures surrounded by twelve feet of snow. There was no water for them in the winter; they were dependent on the snow and ice for hydration. It was a cruel existence.

[Above: Andrew and Danny Boy address the crowd. All photos by Glenda Dudley]

When Matt Simmons and Lorin Lindner of LARC found out about the wolves, and that they were going to be killed, they put all their resources into action. With the support of Bob Barker, volunteers, and some Patagonia gear to keep them all warm, the wolves were flown out and taken to the center where they were given a new start.

After meeting Danny and Willow it was clear by their temperament why people are so intrigued by wolves and wolfdogs. They are not the scary animals that we all read about in fairy tales growing up. They appeared friendly, calm and seemed to have little fear of humans. As people have become more intrigued by these animals, there has been an increase in wolfdog breeding, without any understanding of how to care for them. By nature, they are not meant to live in a house or sleep in a crate. It doesn’t take long for a wolfdog owner to realize their animal isn’t suited for the life of a pet dog. This is where LARC steps in and rescues the animal from being put down or released into the wild.

Danny Boy and Willow
Danny Boy and Willow

Danny Boy being pet by Jasmine (Glenda's daughter) & Cyril's daughter
Family members also attended this special event. Danny Boy gets some love from the youngsters.

The Lockwood Animal Rescue Center sits on 20 acres in the Los Padres National Forest, just outside of Los Angeles. Currently, they are in the process of raising funds to buy the neighboring 1,160 acres to expand their center. Their enclosures are large and designed to allow the animals ample space to run, but they are also secure. Fences are tall and go six feet underground so they can’t dig out. People may wonder why these animals aren’t released back into the wild. Since they are mixed with both wolf and dog, they are neither suited to live in a house or to live in the wild. Thankfully the Lockwood Animal Rescue Center has stepped up to create a home and life for these animals in between the two environments.

Learn more about LARC and how you can help by visiting their website at LARC offers volunteer days on the third Saturday of every month.

Patagonia employee volunteers lend a hand at LARC back in 2012.

Laurel Winterbourne has been with Patagonia for three years and finds her passion in writing, the environment and outdoor adventures. She grew up surfing in Encinitas, California, now lives on Donner Lake in Truckee and has made the Sierra her playground.

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A Belated Bike to Work Week
Written By: Patagonia
By Gavin Back


It should come as little surprise that a company with Patagonia’s environmental stance is a fervent supporter of Bike to Work Week (B2WW). Unfortunately, important business commitments during the week of May 13-17 meant we are unable to participate during the national event. But this has not deterred us from holding a B2WW!

Patagonia will be holding our annual event next week from June 17-21, 2013. Here at the Reno Distribution Center, our B2WW organizing committee has been working hard to prepare a series of events to celebrate and promote bicycles. We have great participation and support from the local community, especially from Great Basin Bicycles, the Reno Bike Project and Kiwanis. Check them all out!

In anticipation of the festivities, I thought this blog would be good to promote the hardcore who ride to work nearly every day, come rain or shine (and sometimes snow), and encourage others – whether Patagonia colleagues or not – to get on their bike more than one week a year.

[Above: Action shot from the successful 2012 Patagonia Critical Mass. Photo: ©Tyler Keck]

Patagonia has a very positive approach to reducing the carbon footprint of its employees. We have a Drive-Less Program which allows employees to log their modes of transport to and from work. Those who choose practices that are environmentally friendly – walking, taking public transport, carpooling and, of course, cycling – receive a financial reward. Coupled with reduced spending at the gas pump and less frequent car maintenance costs, this meant that I was an estimated $1,451 better off last year from the initial investment of $250 for a bike and cycling nearly every day. That is a lot more money in my pocket!

And the benefits are not just financial. There is also the very important environmental aspect. It is estimated from data supplied by our Drive-Less Program that last year I avoided 430 vehicle trips (for a total of 2,670 miles) and 2,219 pounds of unnecessary CO2 emissions. Even more impressive are the company-wide statistics for last year:

• Vehicle trips avoided: 109,994
• Vehicle miles reduced: 674,210 miles
• CO2 emissions reduced: 494,110 lbs.

Finally, there is the health benefit of cycling. Doctors have long recommended 20 minutes of light exercise per day as a means toward a healthier lifestyle. Instead of driving to the gym to run on an electric belt for an hour, why not incorporate our daily commute into our exercise routine? If it’s good enough for top NBA athletes like LeBron James and Dwayne Wade, surely it’s good enough for all of us. And just to prove how committed Wade is to cycling, here he is at a Miami Critical Mass ride:

[Video: TheMiamiBikeScene]

I hope, if you are thinking of using two wheels and a pair of legs to get to work, some of the information here has convinced you to go for it. In the meantime, you can look forward to the Reno DC B2WW’s forthcoming blog post highlighting the great events held over our bike to work celebrations.

Here is a sneak peak at what we have planned:

• Bike repair and maintenance clinics
• Fundraising for local bike advocacy non-profits
• Raffles and prizes for cyclists
• Critical Mass ride to work
• Free breakfasts for participants
• Free portraits of cyclists and their rides
• Two-wheeled scavenger hunt
• Music and party to finish the week in style

Happy pedaling!

Gavin Back has worked at Patagonia for just over a year. Originally from Great Britain, he spent nearly ten years living in Chamonix, France where he developed a strong passion for climbing, skiing and mountaineering, and became very aware of the effects of CO2 on the environment. He has been a life-long bicycle commuter and advocate of alternative transportation, not learning to drive until reaching his 30s.

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Rios Libres: Environmental Dispatches – Episode 3, The Alternatives
Written By: Patagonia
By Amanda Maxwell, Latin America Advocate for the NRDC

“El Norte tiene el mejor potencial solar en el mundo. ¡En el mundo! ¿Pues por qué quieren represas en el Sur? Es una locura. Absolutamente una locura.”

“The North of Chile has the best solar potential in the world. In the world! So why do they want dams in the South? It’s crazy. Absolutely crazy.”

A taxi driver told me these words in May 2011 on the way from the Arturo Merino Benitez Airport to my hotel in Santiago, and they have stuck with me ever since. Just days earlier, Chile’s authorities had approved the massive $10 billion HidroAysén project – five dams proposed on two of Patagonia’s wildest rivers – despite the woeful quality of the project’s environmental impact assessment and the fact that the large majority of Chileans were against the dams. The approval immediately launched demonstrations throughout the country – the largest protests the country had seen in over 20 years. 

I was not, in fact, in town to participate in the protests. I had come to Chile to present the results of a new study from NRDC about the levelized cost of energy in Chile.* NRDC had commissioned the analysis to test the argument I had heard many times in Chile: that renewables were too expensive to be developed at scale. The results of the study put that argument to rest: it showed that Chile’s biomass, biogas, geothermal, mini-hydro, and wind power options were already cost-competitive with the conventional energies – coal, diesel, and large hydro – in 2011. It also proved that solar would also be cost-competitive in a matter of years.

What did this study have to do with HidroAysén? Everything. Proponents of HidroAysén and other proposed mega-dams in Patagonia say Chile needs HidroAysén’s 2,750 MW of capacity to meet the country’s future energy needs. They say Chile has no other viable options.

This is simply not true.

Chile has a remarkable and abundant array of energy options. Renewable projects are already growing more quickly than many expected just a few years ago. In early 2009, the total capacity of the approved and proposed non-conventional renewable energy projects listed in the government’s environmental impact assessment system was approximately 1,661 MW. At the end of 2012, that number had grown to 10,328 MW, according to Chile’s Center for Renewable Energy. When you combine the renewable options with robust energy efficiency efforts, Chile’s existing fleet of power plants, and the increasing presence of liquefied natural gas in the country, the idea that HidroAysén is necessary from a supply-demand standpoint loses all steam.

It is important to add that Chile’s renewable energy resources are located throughout the country: the northern deserts are said to have the best solar radiation in the world; the wind blows consistently along the coast line; the Andes run the length Chile’s interior offering great geothermal and small hydro potential. Transmission lines are needed to connect these resources to the demand – be it a copper mine, a small town, or one of the two main electric grid. But the length and complexity of these lines are far less daunting than the 1,200 km long transmission line that HidroAysén would require.

What’s more, the distributed nature of these resources would make the grid more stable than the HidroAysén model, which requires relying on an enormous quantity of energy at the other end of a very long line traversing volcanically and tectonically active territory. Chile has suffered through enough energy crises to continue depending on the same old kinds of energy supply.

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Chuquicamata, or "Chuqui," is the biggest open pit copper mine in the world. Northern Chile. Photo: James Q Martin

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The only solar plant in Chile feeds the mega mines with electricity and is considered one of the most efficient fields in the world. Atacama Desert, Chile. Photo: James Q Martin

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Atacama Desert - the alternative-rich option to the dams. Chile. Photo: James Q Martin

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Wind farm in Patagonia, Chile. Photo: James Q Martin

Chile has a variety of options that it can use to meet its future energy needs without building massive dams in Patagonia, which would irrevocably disrupt the landscape and the lives of the people there. These options are already cost-competitive, and are becoming more so every day. They are distributed, which means they would help create a more stable grid in this earthquake-prone country. And they are more sustainable, avoiding the same kind of impacts that large dams inevitably create. 

The majority of Aysén citizens know this. The majority of Chilean citizens know this. Thanks to the Rios Libres crew and others, people around the world now know this, too. My taxi driver in Santiago knew it two years ago. It is time for the companies behind HidroAysén and for the government to acknowledge this as well.

For more information, please go to or watch the previous videos in this series: Episode 1, The People, Episode 2, The History.

* The levelized cost of energy is a way of comparing the costs of different types of energy generation resources (e.g. coal, large hydro, solar, wind) to each other on an even basis, without market or political influence.

Episode 3_ Blog Photo_Amanda Maxwell

Amanda Maxwell is the Director of Latin America projects in the Natural Resources Defense Council’s International Program. She coordinates NRDC’s country-specific work in Chile, Mexico and Peru on energy, climate, marine conservation and forests, as well as regionally focused projects. Amanda received her Master’s Degree in International Politics and Economics from Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic, and her Bachelor’s Degree in History and Spanish from Middlebury College. She works in NRDC’s Washington, DC office.

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Of Rats and Men
Written By: Patagonia

By Sean Villanueva O’Driscoll


If you are chained to a wall in a dark dungeon famished rats will slowly nibble at your flesh. You can kick, scream and quiver all you want but the rats will sluggishly keep nipping away until they reach your heart and your body goes lifeless. Then they keep going until there is nothing left.

While that might seem like a torture scenario from the Middle Ages, I’ve seen it happen many times. When the bad weather comes, and stays, day after day, and you’re stuck in a tent, a cave or a portaledge, every day you wake up with renewed hope that is quickly crushed by the same old bad weather. Much like the rat slowly eating the corpse, the Patagonian weather has a way of slowly nipping at your motivation. It can transform the most eager and enthusiastic climber into an empty, burnt out, uninspired bum. And when the good weather finally comes, there is nothing left.

[Above: Cold conditions during a summit attempt on Cerro Catedral, in Torres Del Paine, Chile. All photos courtesy of Sean Villanueva O’Driscoll]

Last season in Patagonia, my climbing partner Stéphane Hanssens and I juggled between two of the major climbing destinations. First we went to El Chaltén, Argentina, where we climbed the mythical Cerro Torre via the Ragni route. From there we moved to Torres Del Paine, Chile, where we were joined by our young friend and big wall virgin Merlin Didier. We free climbed two major (as in quality) big wall routes, one on Cerro Catedral and one on Cota 2000. Finally, we went back to El Chaltén and climbed a new route on Fitz Roy. Usually I would only expect to do one of those ascents in a season, so it was magical that we got so much done. The ambiance, experience and strategies we used were very different in both places.

The first time I went to El  Chaltén, the prevailing strategy was to stay at basecamp, and when the bad weather happened, the waiting game began. We took shelter in tents and old huts and the rat would slowly start nibbling. It really sucked the energy out of you. Since then, times and strategies have changed.

Now, basecamps in the Chaltén area are deserted during bad weather. With the weather forecast being so accurate, and with Internet access in the village, climbers stay down in the comfort of El Chaltén and only head up into the mountains when a good weather window is predicted. It makes it a lot easier. The bouldering, sport climbing and plentiful fresh food, helps keep the power and motivation high.



A little poke at Fitz Roy during a well-predicted good weather window in the El Chaltén (Argentina) region. Sean going fast and light during the first ascent of “Persiguiendo el avion” on the northwest face.


Torres Del Paine (Chile) is a different story because the closest village, Puerto Natales, is further away from the mountains and includes a three-hour bus ride. Most still stay in the park and wait out the bad weather. Staying in the mountains, isolated from the rest of the world, has more of an expedition feel to it.

We stayed in Torres Del Paine for one month. Our basecamp was an amazing cave in the spectacular French Valley. We had no radio, no satellite phone or any contact with the outside world. We didn’t see anybody except for one day when we went down to the ranger station to ask for a weather forecast. I’m not claiming that we were in a super remote place – our cave was only 30 minutes away from one of the most popular trekking trails in Patagonia, the famous “W” – but because we had no contact with anybody it definitely had more of an isolated feel to it.

It’s an interesting challenge not to have any weather forecast and try to read the sky. It’s so much tougher.

We wanted to attempt the east face of Cota 2000 in a light and fast alpine style. Every morning we woke up early to contemplate the weather. After four days of not leaving the cave because of snow and vicious winds we woke up one morning to a star-sprinkled sky. So we did the three-hour approach and started climbing. At about 2pm, when we were about halfway up the climb, the weather took a turn for worse. It started snowing and the wind picked up brutally. Suddenly, we were in a very vulnerable position. Cold to the bone, we bailed, fighting the harsh circumstances.


The team walking towards the objectives in Torres Del Paine national park. The big spire to the right is Cerro Catedral and the big El Cap looking wall to the left is Cota 2000. Both walls are 1000m high.

Dream pitches on super quality granite. Sean Villanueva freeing the crux pitch of the Italian route on Cota 2000: 35m of pure stemming!

Walking back to base camp in the beautiful French Valley, after being shut down by bad weather on Cota 2000.

Getting shut down by weather halfway through the day takes a lot of vitality out of you. Then, when you try to recover and the weather turns out to be beautiful the next day, some might have the urge to curse. These kinds of incidents happen quite often when you don’t have a forecast.

Everything changes when you have contact with the outside world. People in favor of bringing a satellite phone on remote expeditions will always say, “Well, if you do have an accident, you’ll be happy to have it along.” I can’t argue with that.

That reminds me of a presentation I attended by my good friend and big wall expert from Cataluña, Silvia Vidal, who is no stranger to spending up to 30 days alone on some remote wall, putting up a new aid line with absolutely no contact. When asked by a man in the crowd, why she didn’t bring a satellite phone along with her, she answered, “Well, things can only go wrong if you plan for things to go wrong.” The crowd burst out in laughter. But here’s what I think she meant with that answer. It doesn’t mean that things can’t go “bad,” it just means that if you don’t plan for them, then they aren’t wrong, they just “are.” That might sound arrogant, but I don’t think it’s meant to be.

So both places had a very different experience to them. El Chaltén was hanging out with friends, eating lots of fresh food, bouldering, sport climbing and the occasional quick poke at the mountain when a decent weather forecast presented itself.
Torres Del Paine was being out there in the mountains by ourselves, rationing food, looking at the sky, trying to predict the weather – lots of uncertainties, but it’s certainly more of a spiritual journey.


Rationing food can be a major mental battle when sheltering in the base camp cave on a bad weather day. Sean is living it up by making pizzas.

Now I’m not saying that one is better than the other, both have their attraction, and I enjoyed both a lot. Eliminating much of the suffering is nice, but still, there is something genuine about being completely cut off, totally committed, just relying on yourself and your friends, and not knowing what the weather is going to do. That’s when the rat can be the most destructive.

The trick is not to be waiting. If you are waiting you are dying. You have to be in the cave, living. I see these periods as an opportunity to do things that I otherwise would never spend time on: reading, meditating, doing push ups and pull ups, writing, playing music, stretching… alive… being. What a privilege it is to be there!

Sean Villanueva O’Driscoll is a Patagonia ambassador who believes he didn’t choose to climb – climbing chose him. He considers his first expedition to Patagonia as a turning point in his life because he felt utterly connected with the forces of nature and the adventure of just being alive. Climbing teaches Sean to live life to the fullest and that he can do whatever he wants if he puts his mind to it.

For more, check out some of our previous posts featuring Sean: Jungle Jamming, Greenland Vertical Sailing and Baffin Island.


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Rios Libres: Environmental Dispatches – Episode 4, The Movement
Written By: Patagonia

By Kate Ross, International Rivers

Patagonia is one of the few precious places on the planet where the array of natural beauty still defies human imagination. You are forced to think of new adjectives to describe the dramatic backdrop of snow-capped mountains and the glaciers that stand juxtaposed with green rolling hills and sheer rock faces. And through all of this flow the beguiling blues and greens of Patagonia’s largest and most powerful rivers – the Baker and the Pascua. As you stand by the side of the Baker River, the roar of the current drowns out any other sounds and the pulse of the river consumes you and transports you. It is a place unlike any other I have experienced.

The campaign to protect Patagonia – and specifically the mighty rivers of the region – has become the largest environmental struggle in the country’s history. Chileans have shown their opposition to HidroAysén by taking to the streets in the thousands. Most recently – as you see in Q’s film above – in response to a Supreme Court ruling in April 2012 in favor of HidroAysén, and before this in the lead-up to and after-math of the approval of the project’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in 2011.

The public outcry against the project has also spread internationally. In response to the EIA approval in May 2011, it was incredible to see hundreds of people gathered in front of the Eiffel Tower with signs that read “Paris contra HidroAysén” (Paris against HidroAysén), beside the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin chanting “Patagonia Sin Represas” (Patagonia without Dams) and outside the Chilean Consulate in San Francisco, as part of an International day of action in solidarity with Chile.



"It is a place unlike any other I have experienced." El Rio Baker Rio - Patagonia, Chile. Photo: James Q Martin

Protests against the dams in Santiago, Chile. Photo: James Q Martin

2012.04.15_Pretest Stgo-223
Protests against the dams. Santaigo, Chile. Photo: James Q Martin

Patagonia without dams (translation). Photo: James Q Martin

Protests against the dams. Santaigo, Chile. Photo: James Q Martin

Signs of protest on a house in Villa O'Higgins, Chile. Photo: James Q Martin


More than two years later, legal challenges filed by local community members and the Patagonia Sin Represas campaign, political scrutiny, and widespread public opposition have meant that the project remains stalled.

The controversy surrounding the beleaguered project has even prompted the companies involved to speak out. In May 2012, Colbún – 49% owner of HidroAysén – indefinitely delayed submission of the EIA for the project’s transmission line due to a lack of political agreement within Chile around energy development. In March 2013, the head of Italian energy company Enel – 51% stakeholder in HidroAysén – made a statement saying that the company would only remain committed to the venture as long as it has the support of both local and national government.

Take_action_largeTake action now to urge Colbún and Enel to drop the destructive HidroAysén project and invest in a better energy future for Chile.

HidroAysén will be central to this year’s presidential elections in November. This month the Patagonia Defense Council launched a “Vota Sin Represas” (Vote no Dams) campaign, which calls for legislators, congressional and presidential candidates to formally pledge their commitment to keep Patagonia free of dams before this year’s elections.

Whoever is elected has the opportunity to finally listen to the majority of Chileans who have said “no” to HidroAysén, and instead lead Chile towards a new energy future – one that takes advantage of the country’s wealth of clean energy resources and protects the unique and rich environment of Patagonia. 

Episode 4_Kate Ross Bio Photo_2

Kate Ross leads International Rivers’ involvement in the campaign to stop dams in Chilean Patagonia as a member of the Patagonia Defense Council, a coalition of more than 70 organizations in Chile and internationally fighting the proposed dams on the Baker and Pascua Rivers. For more than 25 years International Rivers has been at the heart of the global struggle to protect rivers and the rights of people who depend on them. In February 2013 International Rivers won the prestigious MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions.

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From a Wheelchair to the Sharp End – Story of the First Ever Paraplegic Lead Climb
Written By: Patagonia

 By Dave N. Campbell

Sean O'Neill lead climbing the 2nd pitch of Jamcrack. ©Dave N. Campbell

Take a moment and imagine yourself in Yosemite. You are climbing up a steep rock face, above the trees, with Half Dome behind you, but you do not have the security of a rope that can pull you taut from above if you get tired or slip. Instead, you are lead climbing. Somewhere down below a friend is feeding you rope – you are tied in at the waist – and every ten feet or so, as you move upwards, you are obligated to wedge man-made devices into openings where the rock is fractured so you can clip your rope into them as a safety measure. You're putting your life on the line, trusting that the rope will eventually come tight on the most recent one of these devices if you fall.

Climbers refer to the procedure of lead climbing as being on the sharp end of the rope because of the inherent dangers involved and the accelerated focus that is required. And while advanced climbers constantly dream about being in this Yosemite scenario, I think it is fair to say that much of the rest of the population would find themselves in a nightmare.

Now picture yourself in this exact scenario – whether you are an experienced climber or novice – except that you are paralyzed from the waist down. This is where most of our imaginations trail off… but this spring in Yosemite Valley, paraplegic climber Sean O’Neill made this his reality by becoming the first “sit climber” to lead climb.

Paraplegics have made major climbing achievements over the years. Sean, for example, has ascended the 3,000-foot face of El Capitan on multiple occasions. Though, until this season, all paraplegic climbers have relied on non-disabled partners to lead climb all of the sections of their route, and the disabled climber has, historically, always come up each section of the wall afterwards by means of ascending safety ropes fixed in place, using a sliding clamp and pull-up bar system. A 3,000-foot vertical face essentially means the daunting task of 3,000 pull-ups, spread over the course of an exposure-filled week.

Only a select number of paralyzed people take on such monolithic challenges, and perhaps the best thing about those who perpetually push limits is their unyielding resistance to the concept of boundaries. Sean O’Neill’s new way of breaking through is lead climbing and it completely flips the existing adaptive climbing paradigm on its head.


Sean using the conventional paraplegic climbing system on El Capitan. ©Ammon McNeely

I became involved in the paraplegic lead-climbing project last autumn. Sean and his brother Timmy came through Ventura after a failed attempt of the face of Half Dome and we went out for Indian food to discuss their ordeal. Over dinner Sean told me about something else that happened during the trip. They visited an obscure practice wall, where he put away the clamp and pull-up bar system, and began ascending the actual rock itself by plugging and pulling on the devices that climbers stuff into cracks for protection. A safety rope kept him snug from above and he was using a rudimentary ratchet system to yard himself from one piece up to the next (i.e. a strand of rope & Grigri). Upward progress was thus very slow going.

I listened intently and realized that Sean might have a fighting chance if he were to use a system with mechanical advantage. I thought of the pulley systems that we use to rescue climbers out of crevasses while mountaineering and visualized Sean using more compact versions so that he too could multiply force exerted as a method for reducing physical strain.

I returned to my desk on Monday, drew some diagrams and emailed a friend at Petzl who promptly sponsored all the components. The gear arrived and I rigged two isolated 3-to-1 pulley system tentacles, as we now call them, and then went to an indoor climbing gym with Ammon McNeely to test things out. We sat in rigid rope access work seats, to simulate being paralyzed, and were able to lead climb relatively quickly. Then I took the system outside. I was able to climb a 70-foot crack with my legs braced and we knew it was time to invite Sean back out west. Our original plan was to climb El Capitan, but two days before Sean arrived, Ammon sustained serious BASE-jumping injuries, so we decided to stick with dialing in the sit climbing lead system. 

Trips with Sean require a climber who can play the role of Incredible Hulk because someone needs to carry him on their back from the wheelchair accessible trail to the base of the cliff. Sam Macke drove out from Jackson and championed this role while also teaching Sean a great deal about lead climbing. On May 31st, Sean was ready to tie-in and climb from the ground up. We chose the second pitch of Jamcrack because it’s an ultra-aesthetic natural line, splitting through a dramatic setting to the right of Yosemite Falls, and thus a good match for Sean’s efforts.


Sean and the lead climbing tentacle system. ©Dave N. Campbell

Sean bravely set off into the unknown, up Jamcrack, on the sharp end. As the sun beat down on him, the exposure set in. He dumped a quart of water down his back to cool off but after an intense and violent struggle he buckled and had to be lowered back down to the ground. Sean lay on his side below the wall, with eyes locked shut. In all of his years of climbing, many times in higher and crazier places, he had never experienced such intensity.

Timmy and I spoke in depth before the trip and my mind kept returning to a particular set of his words, “No one knows what will happen if Sean takes a lead fall; no one has ever done anything like this.” 

As Sean lay in silence, I spent a solid hour questioning the implications and rationale behind our wild project. Then without notice, he sat up, ate a Larabar and set his site on an alternative crack climb to the left of Jamcrack. Sean set out lead climbing again, though this time he was in the shade and made a better point of pacing himself – one could almost use the word graceful. Before long he reached the anchor and history was made. We celebrated with pizza and then passed out in the dirt.


©Dave N. Campbell

Something else happened during Sean’s first lead climb and I did not understand the significance until some time later. Two climbers from California’s Central Valley were passing underneath him while he was lead climbing and they did not initially realize that he’s paraplegic, even after exchanging words with our crew. Consciously or not, they first saw him as a human, then as a climber, then may have even made note of the clothing he was wearing, and after that saw that he was not using his legs. All too often we first see someone’s disabilities and then try our best to relate to them on the common grounds that we do share. During the first ever paraplegic lead climb it seems Sean was successful in more ways than just delivering a rope up a section of a rock wall.

Sean spent the following week practicing the lead system on the LaConte Boulder while I cranked through some work in Reno. I drove back down for our last weekend together and we agreed to meet at 4:00am in Camp 4, ready for a final round on the Jamcrack. Sean was packed and ready to charge when I arrived and we were able to ascend the first pitch while it was still dark. The valley floor below was still as Sean tied in, and he began lead climbing as the first rays of morning light illuminated Half Dome. The sun came over the adjacent wall as he reached the midway point and scattered its golden light over his progress. Sean finished the route and in doing so proved that he and other paraplegic climbers are capable of doing their share of lead climbing on major routes like those on El Capitan.


Sean at the gates of dawn. ©Dave N. Campbell

The night before Sean flew home to Maine, we swung by a convenience store on our way to Ammon’s place. Sean wanted to buy a few things and I’ve learned that he does not want or need my help with trivial tasks, so I was able to sit back and observe our surroundings. Glancing from person to person and eye to eye, I saw the people around us and realized that we all have our weaknesses, our strengths, our physical capabilities and our disabilities. On that day in the city, however, I could see only one person with the ability – or better yet, lacking the disability – to lead climb on the walls of Yosemite – Sean O’Neill.


©Dave N. Campbell

Dave N. Campbell is a Pro Sales rep for Patagonia and teaches wilderness survival classes at Truckee Meadows Community College in the evenings. He holds a BA in Chinese and has spent extensive time in the mountain ranges of China. In 2011, Dave worked on a Panda restoration project in Sichuan with The Nature Conservancy and last summer he led a ski/snowboard mountaineering trip in the Tianshan Range of Xinjiang. This project with Sean was his first volunteer experience in adaptive sports.


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The Babies in the River
Written By: Patagonia

By Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff Project

Annie_leonardOnce upon a time in a riverside village, a woman noticed a shocking sight: a drowning baby, crying its lungs out, being washed downriver. She rushed to save it, rescuing the baby just before it went over the falls at the edge of town.

The next day there were two babies in the river; the day after, three more, then four. With the help of her neighbors, the woman saved them, too. When babies kept washing downstream, the village banded together, setting up a 24-hour rescue watch. Still the babies kept coming. So the community installed an elaborate alarm system and strung safety nets across the river but was still overwhelmed trying to save them the babies.

Finally they asked the village wise man, who had the solution: “Let’s go upstream and see
who’s throwing the babies in the river. If we stop them from being thrown in up there, we won’t have to rescue them down here.”

Here in the real world, there’s no shortage of people who care about a clean environment and a just society and are motivated to work for change. We recycle. We drive a Prius or ride our bikes. We “like” online campaigns. We sign petitions. We write checks to environmental groups, human rights organizations and worker unions. We pass laws to make corporations reduce pollution, use safer chemicals and disclose their fair trade policies.

These are all worthwhile and commendable things to do. But they’re the equivalent of saving drowning babies downriver. To figure out solutions for the entrenched, complex and interconnected problems that are trashing the planet, harming our health and threatening our communities – not just slow down the rate at which things are getting worse – we have to look upstream for the real sources of our crises.

What are those root causes? Simply put, they’re the rules of the game – the economic, social and political assumptions that define the way our world works. As it is currently played, the object of the game is to get more people to spend more money on more things – on anything. That’s what we call growth. That’s how most economists and governments worldwide measure the health and progress of a society – Gross National Product, the total of all goods and services bought and paid for. Who’s against that? Growth is good, right?

Depends on what’s growing. Would you rather have growth in prisons or schools? Guns or health care? Technology to clean up oil spills or safe renewable energy?

The Holy Grail of GNP doesn’t distinguish between the growth of things that make life better and the growth of those that make life worse. This is a problem, since it ends up rewarding practices that trash people and the planet.


Can we maintain the spiral of never-ending growth or will our planet's "legs" eventually give out? Photo: Josh Nielsen

So rather than frantically trying to solve problems that result from the system at the downstream end, let’s go upstream and  change the rules of the game. We could start by replacing GNP with a different metric that measures not just buying and selling, but also the health of our environment, the happiness of our children, the strength of our communities. There are lots of examples on how to do this, from the Genuine Progress Indicator to the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan’s national happiness index.

Stay with me while I get a bit wonky. There are at least two kinds of solutions to any problem: transactional and transformational. Transactional solutions are efforts that address some problem but don’t change the underlying system that led to the problem. Some transactional solutions are major improvements – like banning lead from gasoline or switching to organic cotton – but they don’t change the rules of the game. Transformational solutions, such as measuring national happiness instead of economic activity, fundamentally change all the parts of the system – the way companies do business, the way government sets policy and the way communities function. The cool thing about transformational solutions is that once achieved, many of the downstream problems just disappear.

There’s an almost endless list of things we could do better: safer chemicals, more efficient cars, a higher minimum wage. We’re all encouraged by any progress on these issues. But they won’t be enough if we don’t also work to change the larger system to make it easier to implement solutions available for safe products, happy people and a healthy environment. As Vermont law professor Gus Speth says, to deal successfully with the multiple challenges we face, efforts at reform must be matched with at least equal efforts “to create a new operating system that routinely delivers good results for people and the planet.”

Over the next two years, The Story of Stuff Project will be sharing ideas on solutions with the Patagonia community. We’ll look at solutions in the three places we need them most: in our communities, in our companies and in our government. It’s a dialogue, so please chime in and share your ideas and feedback. What solutions are you most excited about?

Annie Leonard is the founder of the The Story of Stuff Project. She has dedicated nearly two decades to investigating and organizing on environmental health and justice issues. Her monthly podcast series, The Good Stuff, features interviews with inspiring activists, entrepreneurs, scientists and others who’ve succeeded in making change.


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2013 Bike to Work Week Round-Up
Written By: Patagonia

As Gavin wrote in his preview post, we had to postpone B2WW this year and weren’t able to participate in the nationwide celebration. So here’s our belated report from the perspectives of Patagonia Reno and Patagonia Ventura (with photos from Retail). And while every day is bike to work day for many Patagonia employees, it’s become tradition to have a friendly little B2WW competition between the two offices. Who rode the most miles this year? Read on to find out.

Reno Round-Up
By Gavin Back

“As I waited nervously on my bike for the Scavenger Hunt to begin, I glanced at the clues: ‘Budweiser’s Arch Enemy’….Easy. The Coors Factory next door. I rushed over there and went straight to the reception area where I was met by two gentlemen, beer drinkers, judging by their builds.

‘Hi, I’m participating in a Scavenger Hunt. Do you have a flag here for me?’

‘No. But how old are you?’


‘No way! You’re not yet 21! What year were you born, what year did you graduate and who was your high school QB?’

“I answered their questions, they seemed happy and one of them disappeared somewhere. He returned, said, ‘Here’s your flag’ and gave me SF Giants keychain, a bottle opener and a patch. ‘We often get kids in here telling us that they’re on a Scavenger Hunt looking for a 12 pack. We never fall for that, but you’re a good guy!’”

And so began Josh’s Bike to Work Week Wrap-Up Party...

[Above: Participants in the First Annual ‘Skav-unger Games’ at Patagonia Reno. All Reno Photos ©Tyler Keck]

2013 was one of the most successful Bike to Work Weeks ever seen at the Patagonia Reno DC. We saw more participants than the previous year and managed a cumulative total of 3,715 miles. For every mile cycled, $1 was donated to local bike advocacy non-profits, so a grand total of $1857.50 each was given to the Reno Bike Project and Kiwanis Bike Program. Special credit to Brendan Lewis who pedaled an impressive 32 miles a day round trip! He was given an Osprey backpack as a well-earned reward.


We had great incentives for cyclists throughout the week, including free breakfast every day courtesy of Chef Laura, complimentary tubes and water bottles (thank you SRAM Neutral Support), t-shirts designed by Miki Proud and Val Martino and printed by Bryan Spicher and his crew, and free Patagonia socks. In the weeks building up, bike tune-ups were provided by Eric Carter, Casey Clark, Carlos Ayala and Kevin Lippman. They all did a fantastic job ensuring that over 40 bikes were in top condition and road safe. A huge thank you to everyone.

The most memorable moments were the awesome events and raffle prizes. The B2WW Committee decided to try some new ideas this year. Wednesday morning saw a dedicated group of riders (and Sean on his longboard!) meet at 7am outside Walden’s Coffeehouse, then rode together as a Critical Mass.


On Thursday afternoon, Celia Johnson hosted a hilarious ‘Fix-a-Flat’ competition, won by Nina Viola and Bryan Spicher. Honorable runners up were Amy Garrahan and Joel Oberly.

The week came to an energy-filled finale, opening the First Annual ‘Skav-unger Games’ – an inspired idea from Tyler Keck. Having been given a map and five clues, contestants had to ride to the selected destinations and find a hidden flag and return it to Tyler (no body checks allowed!). Combining fast legs and smart powers of deduction, our five winners were Ethel NÍ Mhurchú, Val Martino, Jon Fairchild, Eddie Davis and Bobby Toms.

While we were entertained by DJ Flatliner and a keg of New Belgium Ranger IPA, the draw for the raffle prizes took place. Each rider received a ticket for every day they rode (two if you wore a helmet) and placed the ticket into the envelope for the prize of their choice. We had a fantastic array of goods, provided by Navitas Naturals, Smith Optics, Selle Royal, Fizik, Skratch Labs and Carlos Coffee.




But ultimately it all came down to the three grand prizes: a gorgeous blue Trek road bike, donated by the Reno Bike Project; a stunning cruiser donated by Kiwanis Bike Program; and an amazing Raleigh 29er donated by Great Basin Bicycles. To be eligible to win the fantastic bikes, employees had to cycle to work every day of B2WW. Thanks to the great weather all week, there was stiff competition, and the proud winners were Eric Seimer from Facilities, Darin Arigoni from the Shipping Department and Nick Dols from Customer Service.




We would like to extend a big thank you to each and every one of our sponsors: Navitas Naturals, Smith Optics, Selle Royal, Fizik, Skratch Labs, Reno Bike Project, Kiwanis Bike Program, Great Basin Bicycles, Osprey, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, Juniper Ridge, Carlos Coffee, Patagonia, Eric Carter & Casey Clark.

I would also like to thank everyone who helped set up the B2WW events: Kim, Maggie, Tyler, Kevin & Kevin, Carlos, Celia, Ali, Susan, Bree, Bryan, Cindy and Darin.


Ventura Round-Up
By Paul Hendricks

Free breakfast every day from various departments on campus? Check. Slow is Fast slide show with Dan Malloy? Why not. New Belgium beer, taquitos, and an espresso bar? Treat yourself. A “car wash” for the kiddos? Gettin’ the bikes shined for summer.
This year, the red carpet was rolled out for those who engaged in a little pedal power to get to work here in Ventura. Apart from the perks mentioned above, riders also got free bike tune-ups from Trek Bikes of Ventura, refreshing acai berry sorbet from Sambazon, and a lunch-time fish taco ride. It was hard to miss the buzz of Bike to Work Week 2013 here in Ventura. Whether they rode for these nice perks, to get a little exercise, or to reduce our environmental footprint, the riders responded en mass. Throughout the week, 63 Ventura employees rode 1,048 miles. Our most devoted rider John Mirk (who actually rides to work every day throughout the year) logged an impressive 115 miles by the end of the week.

Photo (4)
Taquitos or flautas? Allison Allen and Eric Rice pick out their lunch at the B2WW Party – food provided by Taqueria Tepatitlan. Photo: Paul Hendricks

Photo (2)
Tasty acai berry sorbet from Sambazon. Photo: Paul Hendricks

Mark and Eric share some bike safety tips with the kids and point out the differences between mountain and road bikes. Photo: Steve Wages

Photo (10)
The “Car Wash” at Great Pacific Child Development Center. Photo: Paul Hendricks


Hector wants a turn on the pedals.


Thanks to Clif Bar for sharing their nutritious snacks with the kids. Photo: Mark Shimahara

Each mile ridden by Ventura employees was matched by Patagonia with a $1 donation to VCCOOL (Ventura Climate Care Options Organized Locally), an awesome climate advocacy group promoting sustainable lifestyles and public policy. With all the miles pedaled, we were able to raise $1,048 for VCCOOL.

Despite having to get up a little earlier to ride or catch a bus (remediated by Mark Shimahara’s espresso bar), coming to work a little sweatier, and braving the roads with crazy California drivers, Ventura employees were able to prevent 880 lbs. of C02 from entering the atmosphere – putting a little walk (or bike in this case) behind our talk of “causing no unnecessary harm.” Kudos to everyone who put on their helmets and biked into the office each day this week.

Photo (5)
Chipper Bro and Rob Perks of Ocean Air Cycles enjoy the festivities at the B2WW party.

Mark Shimahara brewing up espresso for riders on Friday morning. Photo: Hector Seguel

Yvon and the crew from Giant Bikes.


Big thanks to the B2WW committee who put some serious time and energy into making this such a great week: Allison Allen, Alison Perks, Ben Galphin, Chipper Bro, Corey Simpson, Deanna Lloyd, Erick Lord, Kyle Rogers, Lindsey Kern, Lisa Myers, Nellie Cohen, Robert Perks, Ryan Thompson, and Tracy On.

Also, a huge shout out to those who donated gifts for the raffle or donated goods for the various events: New Belgium, Smith Optics, Defeet, Teva, Skratch Labs, Selle Royal, Fizik, Patagonia Footwear, De Soto, Ergon, Giant Bikes, Counter Culture Coffee, Clif Bar, and Image Source.


The final tally…

Ventura: 1,048 miles
Reno: 3,715 miles

Congrats to Reno for keeping their winning streak alive and setting such a great example.

Retail Round-Up

We’d also like to recognize our Patagonia Retail Stores for bringing the same enthusiasm and committment to their B2WW efforts. Here’s a selection of photos from some of our stores.