Exploratory Mountaineering – The Tien Shan Mountains

16 Days and 8 First Ascents in China’s Tien Shan Mountains The Tien Shan range in China is ideal for exploratory mountaineering expeditions. There are hundreds of valleys, each with handfuls of unclimbed peaks and each mountain with plenty of route options. A lot of the routes can be simple mountaineering, but you can choose a line more demanding and direct. Although a lot of these peaks can be easily climbed it’s important not to underestimate the experience needed to safely climb in the mountains, as well as having the correct mountain equipment. I had never experienced exploratory mountaineering before—it had always been daunting. I wanted to make sure I had enough experience to make the most of any unclimbed mountains before an opportunity arose. It had taken me years…

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Mountain Running in the Sierra Nevada

One of the best parts of mountain running is when you get to walk. I’m not calling mountain running a gentle stroll, but generally, you’re not full-on, maxed-out sprinting hour after hour up an enormous rock pile. The running part is great, but the main draw is that rock pile and the ones around it. Just being, and moving, in the mountains. Starting from the smell of sage and climbing into solitude with the sounds of rushing water, birdsong, and your own feet finding rhythms on the ground. Often, if you are walking, you are someplace spectacular: a steep forest trail,  a technical ridge, or on the way to a lonely summit where the air is thin. As a mountain runner coming from the Alps, I’ve been adapting to the…

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How to Choose the Best Backpacking Tent

When backpacking, all your gear is important, but one could argue that your backpacking tent is the most critical. We won’t claim that outright because we know each piece plays a significant role in allowing you to confidently explore the backcountry (which is one reason we are proud gearheads). Finding that unique combination of gear that is perfectly tuned to our specific adventures is what it’s all about. That said, in the unpredictable—and often unforgiving—backcountry, the value of a good shelter can’t be overstated. Whether you are looking to upgrade your current backpacking tent or picking up your first, it’s a big decision. There’s a lot of factors, features and technology that go into each tent. Below we break down the critical aspects of backpacking shelters and contextualize them to…

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Reflections & Camp Recipes from Granada, Spain

Motes of ochre and gold cover our shoes. Grains of sand, millennia-old and shaped by wind and water, feel as insubstantial as flour or dust. Yet all around us, we see towers and walls hundreds of feet tall, sculpted into wondrous forms from these same grains. A thousand kilometers to the north the Pyrenees are locked deep into winter mode, ski tourers and mountaineers playing on frozen faces and in deep powder. Here in Andalusia, we’re bathed in bright light, desert heat and cricket chirps. The smells of a desert environment are totally different, judging by Whip the dog’s intense sniffing and tail thumping. He’s static, nose in the air, nostrils flaring as he takes in the scent of wild animals, dust and a million other molecules that we can’t…

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