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Category: Climbing/Hiking

Rock formations of the Ulakhan Sis

Rock formations of the Ulakhan Sis

The Ulakhan-Sis Mountain Range is in the Sakha Republic, Far Eastern Federal District, Russia. This range is one area of Yakutia – which is one of the most isolated and distant portions of northern Russia. What makes it interesting is that the area is marked by fascinating baydzharakhs rock formations. Kigilyakh rock formations are also found on this range, some of them quite impressive.

Baydzherakhs are formed by a cryo-lithic process in which polygonal ice-wedges thaw within the permafrost and reach heights of 15-30 feet. They form a landscape of unearthly spires. Not that different than the Penitentes in the Atacama desert.

This area is largely unexplored and uninhabited – only being first mapped in 1870. They’ve been getting a little more exposure lately with climbers and visitors making the treacherous thousand mile trip to the range.

Creating really cool camp stove fire

Creating really cool camp stove fire

Hoshizora Camping demonstrates a cool way of making your camp stove super cool. He first angles the holes in the secondary combustion layer and then adds a fire ring to an ordinary, boring camp stove. With some tweaking, the flame coming out of your stove will be tornadoed into a cool braid-like effect. I like how he shows how he experiments with different configurations to get the best effects.

I think this would be a great way to add a luxury touch to your camp stove and give you something cool to watch at the end of a long day of hiking or climbing.

How to use all the features of a base plate Compass

How to use all the features of a base plate Compass

The fellow from the Map Reading Company channel did something that I tried during my Mazamas mountaineering courses. He tried to find a video or document that described all the different markings, rulers, and parts of a standard baseplate compass and how to actually use them.

It turns out that he found what I found – a solid guide and explanation of all the parts didn’t exist. Even on the compass company websites. So he made this excellent video that shows how to use the different parts to set bearings, navigate, determine slopes, and use all the other hidden tools the compass provides you.

It’s worth stating that just having a compass and a map will do you no good unless you know how to use them. It’s like having a car but not knowing how to drive it. It is just as useless as not having one – or maybe even more dangerous if you use it wrong.

“I have a maps app on my cell phone” is something you read all the time from people that get lost and need to be rescued in Oregon. Why? Because it is surprisingly common to get into a spot with no signal or not enough signal to download the map. Some apps try to re-download the map every time you open it and greet you with a blank screen until it can re-acquire signal. Something you often don’t learn until too late – far in the wilderness. Beyond cell coverage, some canyon/bottom areas/cliff areas do not even have reliable GPS device coverage. Electronics have batteries that run out after you spend a few hours lost and using them – let alone more than a day or two. I lost a device when it started raining/snowing and the electronics got just wet enough to stop working/screen fogged up until it was dried out. Electronic devices can be dropped in water, or destroyed if you fall/drop it. Additionally, a surprising number of lost hikers don’t even have the basic navigation skills to understand where they are and how to get somewhere safely with a digital device or map.

Click this youtube link below to see his great video on baseplate compasses:

His youtube channel also has lots of other videos about bearings, navigation on slopes/rough terrain/around obstacles, timing/pacing, etc that are definitely worth checking out.

Hiking boots are out

Hiking boots are out

I ran across this interesting article on The about what footwear people wore while hiking the 2190 mile Appalachian trail. Taking many weeks to complete, the trail is a grueling test of equipment. Most trail hikers ended up wearing out 4-5 sets of shoes – matching the recommendation to retire shoes after 500 miles of hiking.

The most interesting point to me was that hiking boots were not high on the list of footwear hikers have been wearing. While still recommended for snowy sections, the vast majority of the hikers used trail runners. When I started hiking decades ago, I actually preferred hiking easier trails in more rugged tennis shoes too. I somewhat feel vindicated. 🙂 The data they collected for the last 2 years shows boots were only worn by around 10% of hikers. There was also the trend that people that started with hiking boots were more likely to end up switching to trail runners during their journey.

Shoe satisfaction showed 91 percent of respondents who began their hike in trail runners said they were happy with their choice. On the other hand, only 64 percent of hikers starting in hiking boots were satisfied.

For all shoe types, fit was one of the most important factors in switching footwear; which just reinforces the age-old wisdom to get plenty of long miles in your boots/shoes before major trips to make sure they don’t have any hot spots, issues with swelling feet, or other similar problems. I personally find the adage of ‘breaking in’ boots/shoes to be complete bunk. In my experience, if the shoes don’t fit and aren’t comfortable right off, they never become so later.

You can read the rest of the excellent article since it also has recommendations and breakdown of hiking shoes, socks, and other equipment they most used. The summary was this:

  1. The trend of most hikers wearing trail runners over heavier, sturdier boots continued this year; the numbers were about the same as last year with a slight (3%) dip in popularity for trail runners.
  2. While boots may still be preferable during the snowy sections, we recommend that hikers planning thrus or long sections consider lightweight, more flexible shoes for the majority of their hikes.
  3. In general, thru-hikers should plan to go through four to five pairs of trail runners or two to three pairs of boots.
  4. Altra remains the top brand for trail runners, and the most popular model was the Lone Peak.
  5. Topo Athletic made the list for the first time, ranking in the top 4 brands and boasting the third most popular model overall with the Ultraventure.
  6. Darn Tough, Injinji, and Smartwool socks were all well-represented on the AT, but Darn Tough was by far the most popular with 75 percent of respondents using them.
  7. Injinji is the leader in sock liners, used by almost a third of respondents.
More Oregon Hike recommendations

More Oregon Hike recommendations

  1. No Name Lake and Bend Glacier via Broken Top Trail – considered one of the best hikes in the state.
  2. Tamanawas Falls – Mt Hood
  3. Tom, Dick, and Harry – Mt Hood
  4. Hamilton Mountain Trail – Gorge
  5. Maxwell Lake – Wallowas
  6. God’s Thumb via The Knoll – Oregon coast near Lincoln City
  7. Clatsop Loop Trail – Ecola Park – easy but good views. Great intro trail.
  8. John Dellenback Dunes Trail – Oregon coast near Reedsport
  9. Natural Bridges Viewpoint Trail – South Oregon Coast – probably most amazing views of multiple natural rock bridges and coastal rock formations.
  10. Trail of Ten Falls – Silver Creek State Park
  11. Misery Ridge Hike – Central Oregon
  12. Tumalo Falls Trail – Bend
  13. Green Lakes/Soda Creek trail – Bend –
  14. Cleetwood Cove Trail – from rim to water at Crater Lake

Major multi-day hikes:

  1. Three Sister’s Loop – 46 miles
  2. Steens Mountain Gorges Loop – 28 miles
  3. Paulina Peak trail – gorgeous sunrises, rent a snowmobile in winter
  4. South Sister Trail to summit – 12 miles

More information and some of them taken from here.

Tools for wildflower season in the Gorge

Tools for wildflower season in the Gorge

Purple and golden wildflowers cover a landscape

It’s springtime, and that means wildflowers are blooming in the gorge! Knowing when to go and what trails you want to take can be overwhelming. Here’s two good resources.

  •, is created and maintained by flower superfan and photographer Greg Lief. The exhaustive site collates recent trip reports from wildflower wanderers. Follow links to discussion groups and “up to the minute bloom conditions” as well as links to further information including handy wildflower databases and local plant lists.
  •, a clearinghouse maintained by local partner agencies. ReadySetGOrge offers complete information — maps and directions; trail lengths, elevations and difficulty levels; facilities and required passes — for all 181 recreation sites in the Gorge.
  • OregonLive list of some popular trails (where I stole most of the above info from)

With the increased popularity of the gorge, you now need permits more than ever before to hike trails and see the flowers. Here’s some links for that:

Mailbox Peak Trail

Mailbox Peak Trail

You may have heard Mailbox Peak Trail mentioned in hushed tones, the kind reserved for stories about some legendary storm or a bad accident. What inspires such reverence?

The original trail proceeds more or less straight up a ridgeline to the summit, gaining a jaw dropping 3,800 feet in two and a half miles. After a short flatter section, there is nary a switchback in sight as it climbs and crosses an open talus field. Until the Department of Natural Resources built a new, much gentler trail to the summit, accidents and rescues of wayward hikers were a fairly regular occurrence. Most of the old trail remains, marked for much of its length by a string of white reflectors nailed to trees – an earlier step DNR undertook to keep the uninitiated from losing their way in the most confusing parts of the trail.

While it might not be the most scenic of trails, it is definitely one of legends. It reminds me a lot of the Heartbreak Ridge trail on Table Mountain. It is so steep as to be a near scramble up, or requires using the trees to descend without tumbling. Heartbreak climbs 1650ft in 1.2 miles – which is almost the same pitch, but only half as long.

Finding Forrest Fenn’s Treasure

Finding Forrest Fenn’s Treasure

In 2010, Forrest Fenn hid a treasure chest containing gold and other valuables estimated to be worth well over a million dollars. The only clue to its location was a 24 line clue-filled poem.

What followed was a decade of treasure hunters searching, trespassing, harrassing, breaking into Fenn’s home, suing each other, going bankrupt, and even dying in pursuit of the treasure.

Yet on June 6, 2020 an unassuming 32-year-old Michigan native and medical student named Jack Stuef finally solved Fenn’s poem and found the treasure in Wyoming – after only 2 years of searching.

After the chase, some Fenn treasure seekers now on hunt for closure | Local  News |

He has tried to stay anonymous and has kept the location secret in the post-finding madness. He says it is almost certainly what Fenn would have wanted – which shows the lengths he went to understand Fenn himself.

Which lends itself to the most fascinating aspect about his search technique:

The key was really just understanding Forrest Fenn. Stuef hunted solo, never discussed his search with others, stayed away from the blogs after his initial looks at them, and tried hard not to get caught up in any groupthink.

To read about Stuef’s search, the best way to find the treasure was to simply get to know the man. Which might have been Fenn’s whole goal – to have someone else really understand him. The final goal of a 90 year old man before he made his own departure shortly after the treasure was found.

Read more about the fascinating interview with the finder here:

Grand Canyon hiking

Grand Canyon hiking

In January 2020, I had the amazing fortune to score a cabin with friends at Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

One Best Hike: Grand Canyon: Everything You Need to Know to Successfully  Hike from the Rim to the River―and Back: Wenk, Elizabeth: 9780899974910: Books

We used the excellent guide “One Best Hike: Grand Canyon: Everything You Need to Know to Successfully Hike from the Rim to the River―and Back” by Elizabeth Wenk. Based on her tips and recommendations, we took the South Kaibab Trail down, then the Bright Angel Trail back up. I highly recommend the book because it details the trail mileposts along with giving you all the training, preparation, and other information you could possibly need. I made copies of her maps+guide to bring with us and they were spot on.

Additional Amazing Trails

Besides hiking down in the canyon itself, I also found a really good article by Annemarie Kruse from REI Adventures. We only had time for our Phantom Ranch hikes, but there are many different trails that can be even more amazing at the right seasons and times of day. She gives her expert opinion and list of trails – along with the best seasons and times to do them. I found them so good, I wanted to include them here too in case the article goes away.

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Cape Royal Viewpoint

Where: North Rim (open May 15–October 15 only)
Distance: 0.6 miles (round-trip) from the parking lot
Best time to do the hike: Sunrise, especially from July to September (monsoon season) for incredible cloud drama
Highlight from the trail: Sweeping views to the eastern edge of the Canyon, and out toward the rocky badlands of the Painted Desert and Navajo Nation
Best for: Beginners who want an easy win with memorable sunrise views

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Kolb Studio via the South Rim Trail

Where: South Rim
Distance: 2.5 miles one-way from the Grand Canyon visitor center (check to see if the free shuttle is operating so you can take it back to your car)
Best time to do the hike: Mid-September, when air conditioning at the visitor center offers a respite from the heat and the Grand Canyon Conservancy, the park’s nonprofit partner, typically kicks off its annual Celebration of Art. Nearby Lookout Studio (pictured) also affords views, and a gift shop, naturally
Highlight from the trail: Passing through the Trail of Time with its geology exhibits en route to the perilously perched Kolb brothers’ photography gallery built in 1905, now a hub for artists exhibiting works inspired by the Canyon
Best for: Beginners with a penchant for art and human history

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Grand Canyon Lodge via the Transept Trail

Where: North Rim (open May 15–October 15 only)
Distance: Four miles round-trip
Best time to do the hike: September–October to walk amid changing, fiery-colored aspen groves
Highlight from the trail: Hiking directly from the popular lodge to the edge of the Canyon, alternating between dense woodlands and killer cliffside views of the Transept tributary and Bright Angel Canyon
Best for: Beginners looking to get their feet wet hiking at North Rim’s high elevation

Grand Canyon

Toroweap Overlook

Where: North Rim (open May 15–October 15 only)
Distance: Two miles round-trip from Tuweep Campground
Best time to do the hike: May to June, before the muddy monsoon season
Highlight from the trail: Backcountry vibes off the tourist map and the chance to stare down the edge of an abrupt gorge and a 3,000-foot sheer drop, the tallest in the Grand Canyon
Best for: Any level of hiker craving a rugged, remote option and prepared for the rough drive (a high-profile vehicle is a must)

Image may contain Nature Mountain Outdoors Plateau Valley Art Painting and Canyon

Ken Patrick Trail to Point Imperial

Where: North Rim (open May 15–October 15 only)
Distance: 5.4 miles round-trip
Best time to do the hike: June for spring wildflowers
Highlight from the trail: Hiking through a wooded alpine climate to the highest overlook point on the North Rim at 8,803 feet
Best for: Intermediate hikers who prefer minimal elevation changes

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Bright Angel Trail to Indian Garden Campground

Where: South Rim
Distance: Nine miles round-trip
Best time to do the hike: October to December for minimal crowds, color-changing cottonwoods, and a festive finish with holiday cocktails outside on the veranda of the historic El Tovar Hotel
Highlight from the trail: Descending into Native American history with rock pictographs en route to the turnaround point of Indian Garden campground, a lush, creek-fed oasis once farmed by the Havasupai
Best for: Intermediate hikers who want a solid introductory descent into the canyon

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South Kaibab Trail to Skeleton Point

Where: South Rim
Distance: Six miles round-trip
Best time to do the hike: November–October (though it’s good anytime but April, when high winds can overcome this exposed hike)
Highlight from the trail: A quick, switchback-laden descent opening up to a ridge and 360-degree panoramas with views to the North Rim, across the river corridor, and then, from Skeleton Point, a rewarding perch about 1,000 feet above the rarely spied Colorado River
Best for: Experts looking for jaw-dropping views of the canyon and the river below

A view of The Grand Canyon Grandview to Horseshoe Mesa

Grandview to Horseshoe Mesa

Where: South Rim
Distance: Six miles round-trip
Best time to do the hike: September–October and March–May for comfortable, snow-free temperatures on a challenging hike
Highlight from the trail: One of the most remote trails from the South Rim, this rugged backcountry route doesn’t lead to Phantom Ranch or take you from rim to rim, but does offer an uncrowded option through signature Grand Canyon scenery, deep into the desert and high up to a forested mesa sprinkled with pioneer mining history
Best for: Experienced hikers with between a few hours and a half day to explore

Grand Canyon Rim Trail to Hopi Point Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon Rim Trail to Hopi Point

Where: South Rim
Distance: Five miles round-trip from Bright Angel Trailhead
Best time to do the hike: June through July, when shade under the pines offers respite from a blazing summer sun
Highlight from the trail: Accessibility may be the draw, but sweeping views of the West Rim from the wide Hopi Point promontory will impress every level of hiker
Best for: Beginners and those who’d rather trade elevation for a flat, well-maintained trail