Monday, January 2, 2012

From Borneo to Baker: From a Life of Ease to a Snowy Wake Up Call


I'm Jeremy, the new AAI Equipment Shop Retail Manager. I recently moved to beautiful Bellingham, WA to join the AAI crew, and came all the way from Borneo!


Yes, Borneo. It is not a fine wine. It is the land of headhunters, impenetrable forests, sap sucking heat and humidity, and of course home to all things amazing, especially the orangutan, proboscis monkey, sun bear, which is the smallest mature bear in the world... and it has the world's largest (and stinkiest!) flower, the Rafflesia. Borneo's actually the 3rd largest island in the world. Put that one in your quiver trivia geeks!

I lived there the last three years teaching at a school with my wife, and also took care of my two young daughters. Before my equatorial and fatherhood time, my wife and I lived in Poland, too. We did make it to the Alps and the Dolomites our first summer there, and some short trips to the Tatras, but my how things change when you stack up aging into a new decade, parenting, home ownership from afar, and adjusting to the hot life in the tropics... and NOT climbing or getting into the mountains for several years!

Is there climbing in Borneo?

Kind of.

There's actually a huge, amazing rock spire in central Kalimantan that remains unclimbed. Good luck getting there. That's all I'll tell ;-)

On the north side of Borneo is the massive and majestic, all granite, Mt. Kinabalu, the tallest peak between Asia and Irian Jaya/Carstenz Pyramid in Papua. Standing at 4,095 m (13,435 ft), Kinabalu has quite the presence looking from sea level while in the tourist town of Kota Kinabalu (good snorkeling, too!). Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, Alex Honnold and Kevin Thaw all put up a huge new route on it the spring my wife and I hiked up. Oh, and I also got to do Mountain Torq's Via Ferrata, the highest altitude via ferrata in the world. Pretty sweet! Oh, of course Honnold soloed a new route while up there, too. At least one. What a sicko.

We do, however, have some 4 to 5 star cross country mountain biking:

Me buried in the jungle, about 3 kilometers from my home.
Photo: Ben Sheridan

Anyhoo, so I'm back in the land of plenty and loving it. I've also been too busy to even set foot in the mountains. The sacrifices we make for our dream jobs!

But in October, we here at the shop had just got some sweet Voile Mojo RX Splitboards in for our rental fleet and we were eager to test them out in real backcountry conditions.

Where does one go to do this kind of thing before winter was even upon us?

Mt. Baker, the lower 48's northern-most volcano!

Well, despite my learning to ski in 2002/2003, just so I could ski Denali with my two avid ski partners, Geoff and Glenn, I hadn't been on sticks or a fat board since 2004. But once a skier, always a skier, right? Ha! I grew up outside Chicago where the only ski hill was man made and usually covered in a sheet of ice. Blue jeans frozen to shivering thighs and a frozen butt was the norm for my one or two outings in high school. "This sport is pretty stupid!" or so I thought at the time.

Well, my coworker, Jeff, convinced me it was time to shirk my management responsibilities and get back in d'em hills. The Cascades got hit by another Fall storm. 5 to 9 inches was forecasted, along with cold temps.

Jeff showing the way... he'd just been out on freshies the week before.

Denali memories flooding back, minus the 60 pound pack and the 80 pound sled (fyi we were going for 2 routes on the Big Mac!) I did opt to refresh my skills on skis instead of facing the possible increased punishment on the splitboard... of which I haven't used in an even longer time period!
Jeff, though, is an avid Splitboarder and has even made his own. Here he is facing the slightly challenging creek crossing.

So, my former lightweight skis and skins decided to absorb as much of the snow, slush, ice, dirt, twigs and pinecones along the trail as possible. Dragging an extra 10 to 15 pounds on your feet is pretty fun, and great training weight. Glopping is one word for it, but this day I reached a new level, one that I nor Jeff had ever witnessed, the √úberglop:

(btw, this was after I'd skied off the dirty stuff!)

We did actually make it high enough to get some turns in. But not as high as either of us would have liked. Chalk it up to me having to knock off 8 years of rust. At least it was early season!

So lessons learned?

-Bicycling gets you in great shape for bicycling.
-Fit your boots again, no matter how good they felt a decade ago.
-Check over your technical gear with someone who knows more than you and does this for a living, not just once a year.
-Pack your pack like you'll need to grab X, Y or Z easily, or rather not have A, B and C at the very bottom. It's fun digging in your pack and pow in sub zero temps.
-Photo-chromatic lenses go dark in the cold, even in a dark forest. . So much for alpine starts with clear visibility in those expensive things!

Needless to say, I just learned about a wonder product, Black Diamond's Glop Stopper. Wow, why didn't my ski/board fanatic coworkers tell me about this stuff before we went out!?

Mt. Baker/Komo Kulshan... I will return!

--Jeremy Wilson, Equipment Shop Retail Manager

No comments: