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Showing posts with label Adventure Travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Adventure Travel. Show all posts

Two weeks, two mountains: Climbing Mt Stuart and Mt Shuksan

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It's been almost a year since I stepped on a mountain. Since my failed attempt to climb Mt Rainier, I added another goal to my Bucket List:

- take a mountaineering class (and climb major Washington peaks )

This year has been pretty great so far. I've had lots of adventures, but, unfortunately, not enough time. That's why when I got a chance I jumped on a great opportunity to climb two major Washington peaks just a few days apart : Mt Stuart and Mt Shuksan.

Last year I did a fun little hike to Ingalls Lake passing Mt Stuart on the way. While admiring the mountain I didn't think that a year later I'd get to stand on top of it...

Mount Stuart is the second-highest non-volcanic summit in the Cascade Range, and the highest peak in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Mount Stuart's upper North Ridge is listed as one of the Fifty Classic Climbs in North America and offers intermediate rock climbers a moderate route to the summit.

For me, Mt Stuart was "a strenuous hike", and a great test of my physical fitness. While most of the route is a class 5.5-5.6 scramble, the final 45% vertical snow wall was a bit intimidating...

If Mt Stuart was a training ground to brush up on my ice axe and crampon skills, Mt Shuksan made me pray for my life...

The final 600 feet to the summit involve what it's called " multi-pitch traditional climbing " ( meaning climbing more than one rope length, placing all gear required ), something that I had to learn "on the spot".

Gym or even crag climbing is fun, "easy and safe" ( relatively ), climbing with a 20 lbs backpack wearing your hiking boots is hell !

Know how to repel ( and being confident that you can do it with your backpack on while looking 9000 ft down ) is essential...as it's the only way down.

Though the mountain is imposing, beginner and intermediate climbers often climb this mountain.

Several mountaineering companies lead guided climbs on both Shuksan and Stuart charging $600-1000 for 2-3 days of climbing. So, not only did I climb two out of 18 Major Northwest Peaks, I saved about $ 1500 !

If you are a DIY type mountaineer, check out Climbing Washington's Mountains the book that provides the information needed to climb 100 of the state's outstanding summits, including all of state's 9,000-footers and high volcanoes.

Tips on visiting Everglades National Park in summer

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Everglades National Park is one of the most famous National Parks in US.
Here are no lofty peaks seeking the sky, no mighty glaciers or rushing streams wearing away the uplifted land. Here is land, tranquil in its quiet beauty, serving not as the source of water, but as the receiver of it...
With these words, President Harry S. Truman formally dedicated Everglades National Park on 06 December 1947 in a ceremony held at Everglades City.

It's true, this park is like no other parks in US. Most famous for its backcountry kayak and canoe adventures, the park offers a truly unique experience.

Tip - visiting Everglades National Park during "wet season" is ...unpleasant, if to say the least. Best time to visit the Everglades is December through April, with low humidity, clear skies and less mosquito.

A recent trip to Everglades City, where the park's Gulf Coast Visitor Center is located, made me rethink the whole idea of how most people visit our national parks.

The dream of paddling along the Wilderness Waterway, a 99-mile path between Everglades City and Flamingo, is ...still a dream.

Tip - if you are short on time, go for a boat trip

I only had a day to explore the area, and that's why I decided to do a typical "touristy" activity - boat tour.

There are numerous tour operators in the area, but since Everglades National Park has been declared a Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage Site and a Wetlands International Alliance, only Everglades National Park Boat Tours is allowed to operate in its waters. All other companies operate on privately owned land/water which makes trips shorter with fewer chances to see wildlife.

There are two "official" tours - 10,000 Islands and Mangrove Wilderness.

I've always wanted to see the dense swampy part of the Everglades, and to get a face-to-face with an alligator, manatee or even the famous Burmese Python.

Tip - if you are venturing into Everglades wilderness, use bug spray/insect repellent...and A LOT OF IT ! Mosquito, horse and deer flies will eat you alive !

Tip - keep your expectations low.

It's not like the wildlife will come out to "meet and greet" you. The gaters we saw were usually no more than a pair of cold eyes staring out from the still green water, a few manatees here and there, but mostly it's the frequent calls of birds, the occasional splash of jumping fish, and the wind whistling through the leafy ceiling overhead.

Back to my thought about how most people visit our parks...

Unlike Rainier or Olympic National Parks, you can't just roll into the Everglades to snap a few pictures and call it a day. To really appreciate this park you must "go deep".

Paddling your kayak or canoe deep into the marshy backcountry waters, with claustrophobic tunnels of mangrove trees and giant cypress trees around you is the Ultimate Everglades Adventure !

Though the park's ranger station offers maps and tidal charts for sale, Paddler's Guide to Everglades National Park is the most comprehensive guide to paddling the Everglades.

The Wilderness Waterway is poorly marked, and it's easy get lost. Mangrove waterways have a tendency to look very much alike, and no place to camp besides the designated sites. So, plan accordingly, and use all means of navigation ( maps, charts, GPS, location beacon...) or hire a local guide.

Try SUP/paddleboarding In Florida For FREE !

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Stand up paddleboarding is probably one the most beginner friendly water sports out there. Not only is it easy to learn, it's also cheap or even free to try.

Last summer I had a proper introduction to SUP, and had a great chance to try different boards during a free SUP on-the-water demo day at Magnuson Park organized by Seattle REI.

This summer, while in Tampa,Florida, I attended another free SUP demo , this time organized by a local outfitter Watersports West locataed in Largo, FL

One thing that I was looking forward to the most was a chance to paddle in the Gulf of Mexico...Unfortunately, the demo took place at a local marina, thus taking a bit of fun out of paddling. What I loved about it was a chance for me to try out a couple new boards.

Specifically designed for women paddlers, Tahoe SUP’s Zephyr and Bliss were a bast to paddle, and are the most beautiful boards I have seen. The finishing, graphics, and colors make these boards stand out from the crowd.

But what really caught my attention was Pelican Flow 106 Stand Up Paddle Board

I've tried " hybrid" boards ( sit-on-top kayak/stand up paddleboard ) like Nalu or Emotion boards before, and it was a big disappointment. Heavy and slow, the boards were hard to paddle.

No doubt, they are big, stable, and very durable. But unlike other plastic SUPs, Pelican was amazingly light and fast !

One thing that all these plastic stand up paddleboards have in common is the price. I've already seen a few Nalu SUPs on Craigslist for $300-350, and brand new ones on Amazon go for $ 350-550.

So, if this summer you decide to give SUPing a try, there is no better ( and cheaper ! ) way than attending a free demo. This way you will be able to see if stand up paddleboarding is for you, and also, decide which board to buy in the future.

Horse-Powered ....Mountain Boarding

If you've been following my blog, you know what mountain boarding is all about: basically you take a snowboard-like deck with air-filled knobby tires ( mountain board ), find a dirt road or a grassy hill, and off you go...

But Daniel Fowler-Prime from UK, took mountain boarding a step further :
Thrill seekers are competing in Britain's latest extreme sports craze of 'horse boarding' - where participants are towed behind a horse at 35mph on an off-road skateboard.

Professional stuntman Daniel Fowler-Prime, 31, invented the sport five years ago after he strung a rope between his off-road 'mountain board' and a horse. Now he has developed the daredevil stunt into a fully fledged sport and is looking forward to hosting the UK's first ever horse boarding championships this summer.

According to Daniel :

"A lot of skill is involved and the horse rider and boarder have to work together because if they don't the boarder goes flying. And you have to be prepared to take a few knocks because falling off has been compared by one board rider to getting out of a car at 30mph."

What do you think ? Sounds like another case of "animal cruelty" ?

To me it looks awesome !

Want to learn more about mountain boarding ?
Check out this category !

Washington Ice: A Climbing Guide Book

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I had a lot of fun trying out ice climbing at Alpental, and I was looking forward to doing more ice climbing this year, but being ExtraHyperActive, I wanted to try a new spot.

Eastern Washington University has an outdoor program called EPIC Adventures that offers outdoor adventures to students, faculty and staff. I wanted to join them this winter on their trip to Banff, Alberta for an ice climbing trip, but just couldn't find time...

Looking for new places to ice climb in Washington state, I came across this book:

Not only does it have more than 200 waterfall ice routes and alpine ice climbs, but, what is more important, it also includes information on how weather patterns affect ice routes and the best times to climb ( last year, because of the unpredictable NW winter weather, our ice climbing trip was postponed three times ).

The book also lists several Washington climbing schools that offer specific courses in ice climbing.

American Alpine Institute is one of those schools. Following their blog, I came across this video that did get me stoked and reminded about the thrills of ice climbing:

It might be too late to try ice climbing this year, but if the video above inspired you ( or at least made you curious about the sport ), check out Washington Ice: A Climbing Guide to find a school next year, or if you are brave enough, just grab a couple of ice climbing tools and head out to one of those places from the book.

Surfing and SUPing In Alaska

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When you think of surfing/SUPing , immediately a beautiful picture comes to your mind : crystal clear blue sky, lot's of sunshine, sandy beach...You imagine yourself somewhere in Hawaii, Florida, California, Alaska...Wait, what ? It doesn’t sound quite right does it?

Well, for some people the idea of surfing in Alaska doesn't seem crazy at all...
With something like 47,000 tidal shoreline miles in Alaska, and with ample swell activity pumping through the North Pacific year round, there’s certainly no shortage of good waves. According to local surfers, the potential is absolutely mind-blowing.
Riding a 10 minute tanker wave in the heat of Texas is one thing, but catching a mile long tidal bore wave in the mid-40s to mid-50s water is different.

Cold weather does not need to mean the end of surfing for 6 months. Just take some precautions and enjoy the challenge !

For more amazing pictures and videos, visit SurfAlaska.net

If the idea of surfing in Alaska is not extreme enough for you, may be Surfing in the Arctic Circle will give you goosebumps.

SUPing/Paddleboarding With Seattle REI

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Many people tell me that they would like to try activities like sea kayaking, climbing, mountaineering, or even skiing/snowboarding. The only thing that stops them is finances.

Remember, that you don't have to invest tons of money into gear just to try out an outdoor activity. The cheapest way to get a taste and see if something like kayaking, mountaineering or skiing is for you is to take a class. Usually, the outfitter provides all the necessary gear, basic training and makes sure that you'll be safe.

Even cheaper ( or to be exact - free ) is to attend a free demo presentation.

The past couple years , a few outfitters have been offering free SUP demos in the summer.

Last Saturday, I attended a free SUP on-the-water demo day at Magnuson Park organized by Seattle REI.

Paul "ExtraHyperActive" FrolovI've been on the fence about this sport. Should I spend $ 800-1000 on a board and a paddle, just so I could go paddling a few times during the summer ? Which board should I go with ? Is it really that much fun ( I did it last year a few times, but needed to reassure myself ) ?

After that demo...I think...I am going to buy one of those boards !

First, I realized that buying a cheap inflatable board ( like Solstice Stand-Up Inflatable Paddleboard ) is not worth saving the money.

Solstice by Swimline Bali Stand-Up Paddleboard

Second, The Ocean Kayak Nalu paddle board is not really an ocean kayak...or a paddle board.

Ocean Kayak SUP Nalu 12.5 Stand Up Paddleboard

Third, boards with thick traction pads ( stomp pads) that cover the majority of your board makes SUPing a much more enjoyable mission.

And finally, YES, it was a lot of fun ( OK, I admit, the hot weather was a huge part of that decision ) !

Looking for more outdoor activities, and Bucket List adventures in Washington state ?
Read more here...

Tandem Paragliding Flights At Tiger Mountain Video

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In my previous post I wrote about my tandem paragliding flight at Tiger Mountain in Issaquah with Ross Jaconbson from Northwest SkySports.

Reading about paragliding is one thing , but personally experiencing this one of the most awe-inspiring adventure sports first hand is absolutely different ! Paragliding is truly an experience of a lifetime.

If you've read about it, heard about it from your friends who've done it before, looked at a few pictures, but still are not sure if it's for you, watch this video below. May be , it will change your mind:

Tandem Paragliding Flights At Tiger Mountain

There is a big misconception about what paragliding is. A lot of people stereotype paragliding as an "extreme " sport for " hot shots ", " special breed " elite adventure athletes. Personally, I would call paragliding an " adventure sport " rather than an " extreme " one. Unlike skydiving or BASE jumping there is no free-falling or jumping off of cliffs.

The best way to go "soaring with the eagles" is to get a tandem paragliding flight. Tandem paragliding is safe, low cost, and a great introduction to the sport of paragliding.

Local outdoor enthusiasts know Tiger Mountain as an all seasons and all skill levels mecca for hiking and mountain biking. But few know that it's also a major metropolitan paragliding flight park ( the famous Chirico Trail is actually named after Marc Chirico who brought paragliding to Tiger Mountain in 1990 ).

Your adventure begins with a shuttle ride ($17 cash paid to the driver ) that will take you up Tiger Mountain to the launch zone. You may otherwise choose to hike up to launch via the Chirico Trail (1.5 mile / 1,700' / 45 min to an hour climb ) with the chute on your back ( if you want to save some cash ).

Once at the launch zone, your instructor will go over some of the basics. The learning curve in tandem paragliding is... Well, not a whole lot.

As a matter of fact, you are not expected to know or do anything. The only thing that is expected from you is the ability to run at full speed off of the edge of the mountain. If this doesn't seem to daunting an idea, the rest is easy. After signing a waiver and getting geared up... you are ready to soar !

The flights are smooth and comfortable, sat in a seat in front of the instructor enjoying the views. The flight time varies. Paragliding is weather dependent, and if the conditions are just right you might fly for as long as an hour ( but usually, 20-30 minutes will be just enough for you ).

Now all you have to do is choose a company to take you up. A good tandem pilot will be confident, experienced but not a maverick dare devil.

I went with Ross Jacobson from Northwest SkySports.
USHGA (United States HangGliding Association ) certified with more than 17 years of experience, he flies all around Washington: Tiger Mountain, Blanchard Mountain near Bellingham, Whidbey Island, Chelan...

Strong gusty winds didn't allow us to spend a lot of time flying that day, but even that was enough for me to start thinking about pursuing my childhood dream - becoming a pilot ( at least a paragliding pilot).

Check out a cool video of tandem paragliding flight at Tiger Mountain in Issauqah, WA here !

Ski to Sea : Why Do I Keep Doing This To Myself ?


They call it the Bellingham Olympics here. There is no drug testing, no prize money, no sponsor endorsement, and no fame and glory. Then, why hundreds of people, from elite athletes and weekend warrior to outdoor enthusiasts, torture themselves every year to compete in this crazy, seven-sport adventure relay race ?

To me the Ski to Sea race is not just an endurance event and definitely not a competition. It's about challenging and pushing myself not just physically, but emotionally and mentally as well. It's about gaining knowledge of sportsmanship and teamwork, it's the place where limits are tested, friendships are made and confidence is found.

The Ski to Sea race is one of the country's most creative, unusual sports events. Though, the event brings in some of the best amateur athletes and some pros, for most people it's all about having a good time !

From my first time participating in the event, I got hooked. Apart from the competition, it's the area that brought me back for the second year.

Named as one of the best adventure towns by National Geographic Adventure magazine, this area offers numerous outdoor opportunities : hiking, mountain and road biking, skiing and kayaking, sailing and diving.

The Ski to Sea race is a team event : families, co-workers, friends, competitive athletes - representing all levels of ability.

I want to thank all members of team EPIC for their participation and support. You all gelled and pushed hard the entire time, crossing the finish line with smiles on your faces. I look forward to next year’s challenge with all the returning racers and hope to encourage more people to take part in next year 100th anniversary of the first Mount Baker Marathon !

Cross Country Skiing : Hyak Sno-Park At Snoqualmie Pass

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Hyak Sno-Park At Snoqualmie Pass

I went cross country skiing at Summit East ( former Hyak ) several times last year , and had no idea that there was a perfectly groomed, nearly level, 7 1/2 mile xc ( cross country ) trail right across the street !

Hyak Sno-Park is an old Milwaukee railroad stop within the Iron Horse State Park. In the winter it is a very popular Sno-Park with easy access, sledding hill, groomed ski trail (with marked snowshoe route) , and heated bathrooms !

The railroad grade provides an almost level tour with a double set of groomed ski tracks ( perfect for beginners ), while the open area between the tracks is mostly used by "serious fast-paced skaters ". Off the groomed trails , you will sometimes see snowshoers along the way. In the Snow Park's parking lot, there is a nice little sledding hill for the whole family to enjoy.

Cross country skiing at Hyak Sno-Park At Snoqualmie Pass

Though, the trail is flat , don't let it fool you. I went almost 13 miles ( round trip ) to the intersection with the Lost Lake trail ( if I am not mistaken ) and it felt like a great work out ! Make sure you know when to turn around, as the trail goes as far as Easton ( cause for a moment I was wondering how far I could push myself).

Dogs are not allowed on the "main" trail, but there is a section of the trail ( past "Lost Lake road") that allows dog sledding ( I actually saw a few dog owners "skijoring" . Looked like fun ! )

I wouldn't call this trail particularly scenic , but there are sections of the trail where you can catch the views of frozen Keechelus Lake.

Keechelus Lake at Hyak Sno-Park At Snoqualmie Pass

Note: If you decide to use Hyak Sno-Park, you will need a permit !
Permit Requirements: Daily Sno-Park Permit and Daily or Annual Discover Pass; OR a Seasonal Sno Park Permit plus Special Groomed Trails Permit sticker, without Discover Pass.

Tip: If you want to save $$$, you can park at Hyak ski area ( FREE ), and walk to the trail...
But, personally, I pay the park fees to support the great job they're doing to provide us with this amazing opportunity to enjoy this beautiful surroundings !

Tip: Don't have your own gear ? You can rent full cross country setup at Hyak ski area ( BUT they only allow the use of their rentals on the ski area... BUT... nobody will know if you use them on Iron Horse trail 😉 😜)

Another option ?
Buy your own gear ! 


Shop for cross country skiing gear on Amazon

Climbing At Magnuson Park in Seattle.

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This post is not just about me climbing at Magnuson Park. It's another example of how easy it is to get into climbing. If you read my " The best way to learn climbing", you know the first steps:

-visit REI and get a "feeling", see if you like it
-take a belay class (don't sign up yet) at a local gym
-get your belay card
-invest in basic climbing gear (harness,shoes,a couple carabiners and a belay device)
-find (reliable and knowledgeable ) partners.
-keep learning

After I've done all of the above, I took another class- "Lead climbing", to learn:

• how to clip quickly, safely and properly
• advanced belay skills
• to fall safely
• understand the consequences of lead fall forces
• gain the skills necessary to pass your lead test ( hate tests).

I don't like dealing with all this "gym policy-safety first-do what we say", so I took my skills to Magnuson Park.

Did I mention it's FREE ?!

Best time to go there is on weekdays ( weekends tend to be swamped with "hard core climbers". Bring your own rope, quickdraws and , of course, a partner (or two). Basic knowledge I learned from the class, was enough for me to lead.


My next stop- investing ( or may be somebody will be generous enough to donate it ) in some basic gear -my own rope and quickdraws.

The Best Way To Learn Climbing In Washington

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The best way to learn climbing ?  One thing for sure, you won't learn it by watching videos or reading books ( believe me, I've tried). So, like they say:" Practice makes perfect".

If you are a beginner and not sure if rock climbing is for you, don't be in a rush to join a local climbing gym. If you just want to get a feeling of "rock climbing", try REI's flagship store in Seattle first. For just $25 you'll get a pair of shoes, a harness, a bunch of pictures of you climbing ( now you can tell your friends, that you are a climber and can show the proof) and a belayer ( somebody who holds the rope while you are climbing). If that felt like a thrilling experience, next step is learning the basics and getting your own "belay card".

What's a belay card? Belaying is the safety technique used to control the rope and keep the climber safe while they climb. A belay card allows you and your friends to belay each other on any climbing wall. But it's not a card you are after, since different climbing gyms have their own belay cards, it's the knowledge and skills. Every time you go to a new gym, they will ask you to take a "belay test". Good thing is, once you've passed the test (belay test ) at one climbing gym, you will be able to pass it anywhere else.

The best way to get "belay " checked ? Take a lesson! I took mine at the Edgeworks climbing gym in Tacoma. You don't have to be a member ( or have any experience) there to take a class.
For just $ 29, you'll learn everything you need to pass a test ( anywhere):

the basics of indoor climbing equipment
how to tie into a top-rope
how to belay effectively and safely
take ( and pass!) their belay test and get the card for their gym

You can rent the necessary equipment ( shoes $5 and a harness$3 ) right there at the gym at an extra charge.

After you've passed you test and got your card, and you still have doubts, you can opt for a day pass ($15).

The hardest part of climbing is not just the risk associated with this sport. The hardest part is to find a reliable partner, preferably, somebody who has more experience ( and patient enough ) to teach you, and eventually take you outside to climb "real rock".

Ziptrekking In Whistler, BC

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Ziplining in Whistler, B.C. is a year-round high-flying adventure. While ziplining is in Whistler is awesome at any time of year, I think it’s particularly special in winter. 

When the rivers are frozen and the trees dusted in snow, soaring above the silent valley in an experience like no other. So here’s my guide to everything you need to know to choose the perfect winter Whistler zipline adventure :

See the wildlife

Take a treetop tour

Zip above  the he old-growth rainforest

Experience the breathtaking Fitzsimmons Creek in winter

A truly heart-pounding adventure !

Two tour guides will accompany guests

7,000 feet of pure eco-exhilaration!

Whistler, B.C. is home to the longest zipline in USA, and Canada !

Ziptrek Ecotours hosts a selection of breathtaking tours. There are 4 distinct zipline tours, and the TreeTrek canopy walk. Their wilderness area is located directly above Whistler Village, in the spectacular temperate rainforest valley between Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains.

Breathtaking tree-top adventures and an award winning ecological curriculum have earned Ziptrek Ecotours the international reputation as Whistler's year-round, must-do outdoor activity.

The company offers 4 different tours, that vary in length and the amount of adrenaline. The breathtaking Eagle Tour ( my choice ) features five different ziplines, including a 2000-foot, awe-inspiring monster that drops 20 stories.

But for me, actually, it wasn't the tour itself that was fun. The tour guides - Greg and Kristine made the experience fun, informational and educational.

Other features I liked about the tour were: the ability to book the tour on the same day; the option to book it online, directly through the company or at the Visitors Information Center; and the proximity to the Whistler Village.

Before you book your winter zipline with Ziptrek, here are a few things to bear in mind:
  • Ziptrek zipline prices start at $99 for children and $119 for adults ( as of 2019 )
  • All guests must be between 65 lbs and 275 lbs to take part in the Bear Tour. For all the other tours, minimum weight is 75 lbs There is a chance for smaller children to fly tandem with a guide on the Bear Tour, just ask your guide.
  • Kids must be at least 6 years old to take part, and anyone under 15 will need to be with an adult
  • All tours do include some physical exertion – walking, climbing stairs, and being outside in the cold for a couple of hours.
  • Tours run from around 9am every day – you can check on the website or call guest service for exact times.
  • Most tours take between 2 – 4 hours, so prepared to be outside for a while!

Ziplining in winter is a pretty memorable experience. Even if you’re not a ski bum or an adrenaline junkie, you’ll sure be glad you took to the treetops and found out what it feels like to fly like a bird. Just beware: you might get hooked !

Check out this blog post in case, later on, you'll want to go ziplining somewhere else - "10 Amazing Places Around the World To Go Ziplining"

For more ziplining posts click here...