Interview With Mountaineer Taylor Burroughs

I was trolling Facebook a few weeks ago and noticed one of my friends updated his status to: “Be bold, our time is short. Flying to Seattle to attempt Mt. Rainier. 14,411 feet or bust. Thanks to my training partner Justin, whoever invented peanut butter, and most importantly, the girl waiting for me at the bottom.” When I found out Taylor Burroughs was setting out to climb Mt. Rainier, I knew I had to ask him for an interview

Taylor and I met in college where we worked together at the school gym & rec center. In college, no one in the gym asks for help – it was a really chill job and we had a lot of good times. Fast forward 5-6 years and someone who grew up on the beach set our for a snowy trek at 14,000+ ft.

Let’s move on to the interview. My questions are in bold, and Taylor’s answers are below them.

Who is Taylor Burroughs? Tell our readers something about yourself – where are you from, what do you do, etc.

Originally from Cocoa Beach, Florida I moved to Atlanta five years ago after college to work in finance. Monday – Friday I live an office life so on the weekends it is great to get outside whether it is biking, running, or drinking a beer on a patio somewhere watching college football.

How did you get into climbing / mountaineering? Is it something you started when you were young? Something you picked up later in life?

Obviously Florida isn’t known for its mountainous terrain, so I’d never really grown up with mountaineering or climbing. That said, my family did travel quite a bit on vacations and my parents did an amazing job showing my sister and I different parts of the country. I remember seeing Rainier for the first time when I was young but didn’t think much about it at the time. After college and a few years in the work force I wanted to devote some time and energy to experiencing a little more ‘randomness.’ Climbing Rainier, the same mountain I remember being in awe of as a child on vacation, was a way for me to further that philosophy of randomness.

You recently set out to climb Mt. Rainier… How did you train for such a big climb? Did you tackle smaller peaks first to build up endurance?

I’ve led a fairly active life style but never having climbed a mountain before I wanted to make sure that I was training and preparing my body the right way. Fortunately, I have a friend in Atlanta with significant mountaineering experience and after some cajoling he agreed to be my training partner the months leading up to the climb. Our training sessions consisted primarily of work with weighted packs in exercises that closely mimicked the actual motions of climbing. For us, in an urban setting like Atlanta, the vast majority of our preparation involved long sessions in the stairwell of his high-rise condo with our packs.

What were your first thoughts when you started your climb?

I’d like to be more poetic here but I actually distinctly remember initially thinking that I was going to be too hot in what I was wearing right after we left. A ‘too hot’ or ‘too cold’ debate ended up occupying some level of my consciousness pretty consistently over the next few days. When I wasn’t busy living out my own version of ‘Goldilocks’ I was usually thinking about my girlfriend, who was going to be waiting at the bottom for me, or what kind of pizza and beer I was going to order first in Seattle.

You didn’t actually make it to the summit. Was that disappointing, did it cheapen the experience?

I’m a competitive person, the first part of this question would usually make me wince, but it doesn’t. The last day, our summit push, I remember resting in my sleeping bag at Camp Muir which is at about 10,000 ft. We were supposed to sleep for a few hours and then leave to make our push around 1:00 AM. For most of us sleeping was out of the question, so there was little more to do than just lie in wait until it was time to gear up. By the time we were getting ready to go I could tell the winds had picked up significantly, it was snowing, and I knew this wasn’t going to be a picturesque day. Our guides roped us in and we started climbing, 7 or 8 hours later somewhere just under 14,000, the weather had deteriorated so much you could barely see a few feet in front of you and the winds were blowing hard. The guides decided that none of us would be summiting that day and turned around those of us remaining to climb back down to Muir. Of course we all wanted to summit, but we did everything we reasonably could, it just wasn’t meant to be that day.

A climber in another party went missing the same time you were on the mountain. Did your guides know about the missing climber? Was there an effort from your party to try and find him?

I actually didn’t know about the missing climber until after we had descended off the mountain. I doubt our guides knew either or I’m sure they would have donated time and resources as appropriate to whatever rescue operation was being undertaken. I can only imagine how difficult a search would have been given the winds and almost nonexistent visibility on the high mountain.

I heard Bigfoot loves to hang out in the Pacific Northwest – did you spot him, or any of his yeti relatives while on the mountain?

No sightings, but I’m not surprised. Given how I looked and smelled toward the end of the climb I’d steer well clear of me too.

Have you ever been in a dangerous situation while on a hike or climb where you feared for your life?

Nothing where I felt like chance of death was a real possibility. I do have a healthy respect for what I would call a minor margin for error when you are up high on a mountain but for this climb our guides were complete professionals and fostered what I felt like were the safest conditions and practices possible given what we were undertaking. That said, being in the middle of a ladder extending out over a crevasse will get just about anyone’s heart rate up.

Do you have plans to climb something bigger and badder than Rainier? K2 perhaps?

First, I’d like to actually finish climbing Rainier. I enjoyed our climb and it is something that I know I will be back to finish at some point but I’m not going to sell all my possessions and quit my job in a quest to climb some of the world’s highest peaks. K2 is on a whole different level, hats off to anyone that even attempts it, but there is plenty more randomness out there to try out and experience.

Which Last of the Mohicans character best represents you: Hawkeye, Duncan, Chingachgook, Magua or Uncas?

This is a phenomenal question. I’d have to say Hawkeye for the sole reason that he ends up with Cora Munro, the best girl, and I’ve been able to do that too.

Taylor Burroughs climbing Mt. Rainier

climbing Mt. Rainier
views from Mt. Rainier

Interview With Telemark Skier and Kayaker Jake Sakson

Jake Sakson

In a previous interview with kayaker Fred Norquist, we talked about this converted ambulance called the Gypsy Mobile. Well today we have a special treat for you – the brains behind the Gypsy Mobile, Jake Sakson.

Jake drives his Gypsy Mobile all over the country looking for the best slopes for his tele skis and untapped creeks for his boat. He’s also been skiing in exotic places like Japan and Alaska. Check out Jake’s interview below. My questions are in bold, followed by his responses.

Can you give our readers a quick introduction… where are you from, what are you up to now, etc.?

I was raised in Carbondale, CO and still reside there, in all my travels I have yet to find a place I would rather live. Currently I work for a Tree Service and am saving up money for next ski season and future adventures. I am also redesigning my on-board vegetable oil filtration system and hopefully putting a turbo on my van this summer.

How did you get started in the outdoor lifestyle? Is it something you grew up with or picked up from friends?

I did not come from a family of adventure enthusiasts but at a young age I met my friend Hayden Kennedy through our ski program and his family took me under there wing – taking my climbing, biking and kayaking in the summers. Basically in debt to them for getting me into these sports.

You’re an avid telemark skier and kayaker – even been featured in some films. Is there one that your are more passionate about than the other?

I couldn’t really say I am passionate about one sport in particular – instead it is the feeling derived from challenge and finding that state of mind where one is on the edge of their comfort level. In that respect, I am more passionate about whichever sport I am doing at any given time. I tend to have a fiend like personality so whatever season it is I do that sport as much as possible. However, at this point I am on the work and kayak in the summer and ski full time in the winter program.

Is there such a thing as ‘too extreme’ for Jake Sakson? Ever been base jumping or sky diving?

Um, I definitely feel it is important to know my personal limits – I don’t want to get weeded out too early in the running. So I have definitely walked away from lines or rapids. Base jumping really appeals to me – I am sure it is an incredible feeling but the death rate of base jumpers and a lack of free time is keeping me away from that right now. But base jumping and or paragliding are things I would like to incorporate into the sports I already participate in.

I’ve seen a video of you filling up your Gypsy Mobile with used vegetable oil from restaurants. Tell me about the inspiration behind the Gypsy Mobile, how long did it take you to build and do you get all that oil for free?

Honestly the inspiration behind the Gypsy Mobile was to do everything I could to lower my expenses. In kayaking and skiing those expenses are fuel and in the winter – lodging. By building a vegetable oil powered van I hope to achieve very low costs in these realms. I also wanted a way to be well outfitted and stay comfortably on the road for long periods of time. The Gypsy-Mobile is 4wd so hopefully it can get me to some interesting places as well. I have spent about 3 months of physical labor on the van but have thought about it for much longer than that. So far I have yet to save money on fuel – due to start up costs and problems but I am determined to make it work. This is hopefully something I can figure out over this summer. The appeal of free fuel and a decreased dependence on fossils fuels is too great. I also want to put a turbo on my diesel engine – the Gypsy Mobile is grossly underpowered and I have heard these actually increase fuel economy on diesel engines. But yes – all oil I have burned I have gotten for free.

Have you ever been in a situation on the mountain or in a creek where you were scared for your life?

There have been a few times where I have missed a line skiing or kayaking but narrowly escaped disaster. When I was 15 years old I put onto Golden Gate section of the North Fork of the American at what turned out to be absurdly high flows. I missed a line and narrowly caught and eddy above a sieve – the group of paddlers I was with were screaming at me to paddle like I had never heard before. That whole run I was pretty much scared for my life though – at normal flows it would have been the hardest run I had ever attempted. It is always scary when things are moving fast and you don’t know what is behind the next corner. Scary situations seem to be inherent in these sports, this is just one of many experiences but they are good wake up calls to the amount of risk we expose ourselves to on a regular basis and are always humbling.

You’re passion for outdoor sports has recently taken you to Alaska and Japan. Do you have plans for any other huge trips? Where your dream destination?

I have so many plans for huge trips its kinda silly, making them happen is the tough part. I am itching to explore the East, South and Central America and Europe in a kayak and on skis. There is still so much exploration to do on this landmass, kayaking in California, the Northwest, Montana. Skiing in Wyoming, interior and Coastal BC.

I imagine someone with your skill level has seen his share of difficulty on the mountain. What’s the toughest run you’ve ever skied? Was it also the highest elevation?

Using the qualifier “toughest” is hard for me, in these sports we are driven to challenge ourselves. Hopefully, what is my toughest today will soon be my everyday. There are so many factors that go into the way I feel about any given run – how I skied it and my state of mind at the top – both which play together. The hardest run I have ever skied may have felt like butter, but I may have hacked my way down another, less intense run – making it “tougher.” As a freeskier difficulty, expression and fluidity are fused in any given line. However, a few years back I skied a run in freesking competition in AK that, much to my surprise and dismay deteriorated into sheer ice as it got steeper finally requiring a ten foot billy-goat stick above 100 foot cliffs, to a 50 foot air. Although I stuck my line I felt like I had narrowly escaped death. This was further reinforced when the next person who tried to ski it fell and broke their back. I probably won’t be skiing that one again…

Do you have any advice out there for younger kids who aspire to live a similar lifestyle as you?

The first step is to dream, the second to believe and then, the most grueling is of course to make it happen. In our current society there are lots of pressures that can prevent us from reaching our highest potential: the appeal of entertainment, comfort and pleasure, social pressures to be “successful” and of course economic pressure as well. The further I get down the gypsy path the more I realize – “if it was easy it wouldn’t be called the gypsy-life.” Currently I work one 40hr per week job, bike taxi two nights a week, am taking an online class in web design, am improving the gypsy vehicle and amidst all this mayhem and trying to stay and shape and get on the river as much as possible. My advice would be, do what feels right – pursue your passion whatever it is – no matter what other people think about it (listen to others input and advice of course), and when the going gets tough, which I think is inevitably will for those of us without trust funds – you just have to get tougher to make this dream a reality. But the first step – stop wishing and start doing. Get out there a lot and work hard.

I just got into watching Dexter… I freaking love it. What’s your favorite movie, TV show and music group?

Ha, your asking the wrong guy this one. I enjoy movies, no favorite though – I haven’t watched enough TV to have a favorite show – I like some music from almost all genre’s, but I would have to say Pink Floyd if I were to have a number one.

Here are a couple of videos with Jake.

Jake in the backcountry

And the world famous Gypsy Mobile

Interview With Whitewater Kayaker Todd Wells

It’s been a couple of week’s since we’ve done an interview. Well, the wait was worth it because today I’m bringing you an interview we just did we pro whitewater kayaker Todd Wells. Todd paddles out of the Pacific Northwest but has been all over the world running creeks and rivers most of us have a hard time just looking at. Todd has battled through some serious injuries but is back in the boat going as hard as ever.

My questions are in bold, with Todd’s answers following.

Tell me a little bit about yourself – where are you from, how did you get into kayaking, etc?

I’ve spent my life growing up in the quaint 1000 person town of Trout Lake, WA. With little else to do in this neck of the woods I’ve spent the last 4 years of my life paddling harder and harder whitewater both regionally and internationally. I first started whitewater kayaking with my now 16 year old brother about 4 years ago on our backyard river, the White Salmon. On that river and other local runs we progressed our paddling and together began to pursue more difficult class V rivers as well as bigger and more technical waterfalls.

The Columbia River Gorge is your home base. What do you love about kayaking there? Is there anything missing or something about the area you don’t like?

As a kayaker I couldn’t ask to have grown up in a better location that the Columbia River Gorge. We have Mount Adams to the North and Mount Hood to the South feeding numerous world class rivers and creeks. In the CRG there’s always a class V section of water within an hour that’s running, and if you can ever get board of that you can take a break with the equally exceptional skiing, mountain biking, and kite-boarding. However when I’m not kayaking, living in a town with only 60 students in the high school and more livestock than people can be difficult.

The cover shot of a recent Kayak Sessions Magazine was a photo of you on Summit Creek Falls. That’s got to be good for the ego.

It was definitely sick to see a shot of myself find its way into the mainstream kayak media. Reminiscing about the day that photo was taken brought back some unforgettable memories of our first descent of Summit Creek. Erik Boomer, Evan Garcia, my brother Brendan, and I were sitting on a ridge high above Summit Creek falls, the drop on the cover of Kayak Session. We were all optimistic about the drop being runable, but the small landing zone and proceeding series of rapids kept us plenty nervous. Boomer was first to fire her up and had a solid line. I was next to go and this is when Boomer captured the shot on the cover of Kayak Session. Evan also fired it up and, as usual, had a very steezy line. This was without a doubt one of my favorite days on the river.

You broke your back recently going over 50ft tall Money Drop (the entire story can be read here). Do you have any regrets about running this drop? Has it changed the way you kayak? Any plans to revisit Money Drop and run it again?

I definitely regret running Money Drop the way that I did. On my first lap of the day I went over vertical and was ejected from my boat. On my second lap I was so concerned about having a good line that I didn’t think too much about landing flat and took a powerful stroke at the lip that launched me out over the aerated landing zone with flat angle. Upon my flat landing my body compressed and I fractured my L2 vertebrae. This experience has shown me that in kayaking any lack of focus can have severe consequences, and has made me look at each waterfall from a different perspective. That being said I do want to continue to pursue difficult and tall waterfalls, and I do plan to revisit Money Drop in the future.

Do you have a preference when it comes to whitewater kayaking? Do you like creeking more than river running?

I’ve grown up creeking and, though I always enjoy a day of surfing big waves or paddling a high volume class V river, for me nothing can compete with the sensation of dropping into an un-run creek in the middle of no-where.

What makes the perfect run? Is it a combination of difficulty, water flow, drops, and scenery?

That about sums it up, and making sure that your on the water with a solid group of paddlers will keep each day as good as the last.

Can you see yourself doing anything other than kayaking? Maybe a police officer, accountant or engineer?

I think that whatever my future entails kayaking will be a major part of it. I could never see myself working a 9-5 where kayaking isn’t part of my every day and where extended paddling trips weren’t an option.

Kayaking is unique in that you man your own boat, but always need to run with a partner or group of friends. Do you enjoy the company? Or sometimes do you wish you could go out there alone for a few days and test the waters solo?

I always enjoy the company of other paddlers when I’m out on the water. I think that despite times of tension between a group it’s worth having the accompanying paddlers there to lend you a hand once the shit hits the fan.

What’s your favorite movie, TV show, and music group?

Easy Rider, Vanguard, and Master P.

Where is your dream travel destination – and would you bring your boat with you?

Right now I’m feeling a trip to Southeast Asia, and I would most definitely bring my boat.

Where to next?

I’m going to spend most of my summer here in the Gorge paddling the local goods and making some money for the fall. In the fall I’m planning on going to South or Central America to go to a language school then travel around with a boat and crew looking for quality whitewater. In the fall of 2011 I’m planning on moving to Northern Washington and studying journalism at Western Washington University.

Todd on the magainze cover
Kayak Session Magazine Cover featuring Todd Wells

A video Todd put together

A shot of Todd headed over Money Drop
money drop

Interview With Boulderer Scott Hall

A few days ago I had the pleasure of meeting Scott Hall online and he was nice enough to let me interview him about his love for bouldering. Scott is an established climber, even though it’s not something he picked up until he was in his 20s. I’ve got a great interview where Scott talks about him local bouldering spots, his toughest climbs, and how he gets out of “oh crap” situations. If you want more info, you can find Scott Hall on Vimeo tearing it up. I’m sure he’ll have more videos uploaded when he returns from a trip to Mt. Rainer this month.

Where are you from? Do you have any local bouldering spots that are home for you?
I grew up on a farm in eastern Washington just outside of the diminutive community of St. John (pop. 514). This region’s large fertile rolling hills were great for growing wheat, barely and lentils but lacked any significant geological features for rock climbing. However, this isn’t to say that Washington doesn’t have any rock; it’s just that I had to travel many hours to find it. The local bouldering spots for the state are Leavenworth, Goldbar and Index. I now live in Salt Lake City (because I can be bouldering w/n 20 minutes of my doorstep), but still try to get back to Washington to climb at least 3 times a year. In fact, in two weeks I will be climbing Mt. Rainier and then spending a week camping outside of Leavenworth.

How long have you been into bouldering and how did you get started? Was it something you picked up on your own or did your family get you started at a young age?
I have been bouldering now for about 7 years and started while I was attending college at Western Washington University. Growing up encircled by 100 miles of wheat fields meant that I wasn’t able to pursue the passion for climbing until I moved away to Bellingham, WA for college. My evolution through climbing disciplines has been fairly non-traditional as I started out mountaineering at the age of 20 on the volcanoes of the Cascade Mountain Range. It seems as though most people start climbing in the comfort of a gym, move outside to bouldering, progress to sport climbing, earn the knowledge needed to trad/aid climb and then finally combine these experiences in order to tackle large mountains. I reversed this order and found comfort in the simplicity of bouldering. Stripping away the compounding complexity of mountaineering allowed me to focus on the pure movement of rock climbing and my fascination with doing the most difficult singular moves possible (for me). In its simplest form, bouldering requires no gear.

Have you had any “oh crap” moments while climbing? Like maybe you put yourself into a bad situation and weren’t sure how you’d get out?
I have certainly had instances of “oh crap” while bouldering but they usually revolve around a moment of self doubt… high off the ground… when I’d prefer standing firmly below and looking up at someone else in my position. However, this typically means you need to get your “crap” together and just keep going. A good friend of mine who I started climbing with always used to say “you’ve got to move to climb”… and that is always what I think when have those moments of hesitation. Luckily, I’m kind of a sissy when it comes to really high bouldering so I’m usually pretty safe. I am not a climber that thrives on the thrill of heights… in fact, I’ve always been afraid of heights since I was a kid.

I saw a video of you doing Show of Hands V11. What’s the toughest boulder you’ve climbed? What grade was it?
Grades are an interesting subject in climbing and always a hot topic amongst the opinionated. I’ve found that grades are a good reference for locating problems within a certain difficulty that you’d like to try. Climbing has to be one of the most subjective sports around… a person’s height, ape index (wingspan), the temperature outside, humidity… so many of these factors can cause a problem to be feel +/- up to 3 grades. But grades also motivate and are great for goal setting. With that said, the hardest grade I have climbed is Escape Artist V12 at Moe’s Valley, but for me the toughest climb I have done is Bully V11 in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Do you have a dream rock or climbing destination out there?
The Mandala V12 out in Bishop, CA has always been a dream climb of mine. I remember watching a video of Chris Sharma getting the first ascent before I had even started climbing and feeling inspired. Years after I started climbing I still couldn’t even fathom doing the moves, but now, just being able to feel as though I could do it is such a victory. As for a dream climbing destination I would have to say I would love to go to South Africa… and hopefully I will be next summer!

Are you into any other outdoor sports like kayaking, hiking or snowboarding?
I am into most outdoor sports. I love mountain biking, hiking, fly fishing, snowshoeing, rafting etc. Growing up on a farm meant you spent nearly all your time outdoors… which means once you’ve grown up you do the same.

You post a lot of climbs on Vimeo. Do you have any particular interest in film or are you just a shoot and upload kind of guy?
I’m a shoot and upload type of guy. I just like the idea of sharing and inspiring others to climb certain boulder problems. I’ve always loved watching climbing videos because they motivate me to get out and climb. There is something very motivating about watching others succeed.

Ever been bitten by something while on a rock?
Uh, hunger. I have a soft spot in my heart for M&M doughnuts at the Food Ranch near Joe’s Valley, UT. When I boulder there sometimes they are all I can think of… I would say if I have a certain strength when it comes to climbing it is being able to eat doughnuts and cookies and still climb at my potential.

Now for some fun stuff: What’s your favorite movie, TV show and music group?
Movie: Big Trouble in Little China
TV Show: Arrested Development or Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Music Group: can’t name just one… maybe… Modest Mouse, Pink Floyd, Pinback, NOFX, Bruce Springsteen, or Willie Nelson.

What’s next for Scott Hall?
Going bouldering.

Here’s a video and some pictures of Scott in action. Definitely check him out bouldering in Joe’s Valley.

And some pictures:

Dirty Dude V11

Leggo My Eggo V7

Power of Silence V10

Turtle HEad V8

Interview With Alaskan Cyclist Jill Homer

Today we have a great interview with Jill Homer – extreme cyclist, author and Alaskan. I think she lives about as far away from me as anyone in the USA can! Jill spends her days writing for a living, but when she’s not writing you will definitely find her on the road or on a trail in the Alaskan backcountry. She rides in all conditions – sun, rain and snow. Nothing will keep Jill from her next biking adventure.

You can find Jill on her blog Up in Alaska. She has some amazing stories and equally astonishing photographs of her rides. Alaska is truly the last great frontier.

So check out the interview. My questions to Jill are in bold and her answers are just below it.

Your hometown is just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. How did you end up in Alaska?

I’m the worst kind of cliche for an Alaska woman – I followed a man here. My former boyfriend talked me into moving up in 2005. We traveled through the state in summer 2003 and both fell in love with the landscape and the culture, but I was reluctant to move up because I feared the cold and isolation. I remember saying to him, “What in the world am I going to do all winter long?” The relationship didn’t work out but I’m glad living in Alaska – and loving winter – did.

Where did your passion for cycling come from? Did your family encourage you to ride or did you pick it up on your own?

I was like most suburban kids. I only rode my bicycle when my parents refused to drive me to my friends’ houses. I didn’t own a bicycle as an adult until I was 22 years old. My (now ex-boyfriend) and I were driving home from a camping trip in Moab, Utah, one Sunday afternoon when I saw a bicycle tourist riding up Spanish Fork Canyon. I said, “Wouldn’t it be fun to travel around on a bicycle?” That set a plan in motion a bicycle tour around the Four Corners area. I bought a touring bike and spent the summer “practicing,” which I later relented to calling “training.” Our two-week tour in September 2002 took us all around the mountains and deserts of Southeastern Utah and Southwestern Colorado. I came home from that trip completely hooked.

You wrote a book titled Ghost Trails. Did you always aspire to write a book or did it come about by accident.

I still have a paper I wrote when I was in first grade about “Where I will be in the Year 2000.” I wrote that I would be 21 years old and probably in college, where I was going to study writing because “I want to be a writer and write books.” As an adult, I swung that aspiration toward a career in journalism, but the desire to be an author has been there since I learned my ABC’s.

You have been blogging on Up in Alaska since 2005 – that’s a long time! How do you find inspiration and new topics to keep the blog updated?

With my blog, it isn’t hard because I just write about my life and I’m always out there living my life. I appreciate interest and input from readers, but I’m being honest when I say that I write my blog for my own benefit. I love looking back at old posts: the pictures, memories and insights into how I’ve changed. It is my
journal, only online and public. If it grabs people’s interest, great. The blog has put me in touch with some of the best people I’ve ever met.

Is there anything that blogging provides you that writing newspaper articles or authoring a book doesn’t?

Well, blogs are a stream-of-consciousness kind of forum, usually unedited, so they usually feature a much more raw and honest form of writing. Plus, there’s no limit on what you can write about. Newspaper articles and books aim to be more commercial, so they have to cater to the interests of larger audiences. On my blog, I could write about the kinds of mustard I have in my fridge if I wanted to. That doesn’t mean anyone is going to read it, but I could.

The pictures of Alaska on your blog are incredible – they alone probably keep a lot of your readers coming back for more. Is photography a hobby for you, or do you just point and shoot? What type of camera do you use?

I’m pretty sure my blog has a lot of “readers” that never actually read a word. I like to say that Alaska is like a supermodel – it’s hard to take a bad picture of it. Right now I just use a point-and-shoot, an Olympus Stylus Tough, to document my activities. But the act of just shooting pictures in order to preserve memories has generated more of an interest in photography itself, and I am looking to upgrade my camera.

What is the longest race/ride you’ve ever completed?

The Tour Divide, a 2,740-mile mountain bike race along the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, which spans the Continental Divide from Banff, Alberta, to Antelope Wells, New Mexico. The race took me 24 days, and until this year’s race begins on June 11, I still hold the women’s record (which will likely be broken this year.)

Have you ever been on a ride and been stuck in a terrible situation? Maybe you’ve been lost, come face to face with a grizzly bear, or almost fallen off a cliff? You did recently get pretty close to a porcupine!

Porcupines are a real hazard! They’re low-profile, and they saunter onto trails and don’t move all that quickly away. You really have to watch out for them if you don’t want to end up with a tire full of quills. That said, I’ve only been in bicycle situations that felt terrible at the time, but in hindsight were just scary or
uncomfortable: Completely bonking at 2 a.m. in an extremely remote canyon in Alaska when the temperature was 20 below (during the 2008 Iditarod Trail Invitational), or being exposed to a horrific electric storm on a high Colorado pass during the Tour Divide. But I’ve always gotten through unscathed.

What type of bike do you ride?

I ride a 2007 Surly Pugsley as a snow bike, a 2008 Surly Karate Monkey as a mountain bike, and a 2004 Ibex Corrida as a touring bike.

Something a little more fun – what’s your favorite movie, TV show, and book of all time?

I love “Office Space.” That is quite possibly my favorite movie of all time, although I haven’t given that subject a lot of thought. My favorite author is Thomas Wolfe. His books really form one long semi-fictional autobiography, and I love those.

If you could go on a cycling trip anywhere in the world – where would you go?

For years I have aspired to travel across Mongolia on my bicycle. Someday I am going to do it. I’d also love to ride in Antarctica, although that requires major bucks I’ll likely never have.

I want to thank Jill Homer for giving me this interview. She’s been on some amazing biking adventures all across the country. You can help Jill realize her dreams by picking up her book Ghost Trails – I promise it’s not about haunted houses – or by donating on her blog. Definitely looking forward to those pictures from Mongolia.

Interview With Kayaker Fred Norquist

Last week I sat down with kayaker and film maker extraordinaire Fred Norquist of the Soul Gypsys. Fred is a hell of a kayaker and lives a pretty cool lifestyle when semester is not in at college. Spend a few minutes on his Vimeo Channel and you will see just how hard he pushes it when on the river. He’s been kayaking around the world and done several drops over 70ft… but I’ll let you read more about that below.

My questions are in bold and his answers are just below it.

Your Vimeo profile says you’re a kayaker, a skier and a film maker. Do you rank them in that order based on your passion alone? Which did you learn first?

Well I would say that it goes kayaking, film making, then skiing in terms of how passionate I am. I learned to ski first, my first time on skis I was about a year old.

You went to Chile on a two month kayaking adventure. How did that trip come about and what did you get out of it?

My trip to Chile came about when I graduated high school, I didn’t want to go to school right away so I called my buddy Evan Garcia(we went to world class kayak academy together) he invited me to go to Chile with him. I learned so much that trip, I was with some of the best kayakers in the world and they helped push my kayaking skills as well as my safety and awareness on the river. It was the most intense learning experience of my life for sure.

You’ve run several waterfalls over 70 ft. That is insane! Is their any particular drop that just scared the scrap out of you or you regret running?

I’ve run 3 waterfalls in the 70ft range. Middle Palguin in Chile (~70ft) scared me the most. It has a crazy boiling entrance with a technical seal launch into the water. I don’t regret any of them.

Your bio pic on Soul Gypsies shows you fanning a wad of cash. Looks like a bunch of singles to me.

Im rollin in hella 1 dollar bills all the time. The convergence of the gypsy/gangster is the new wave, you aint heard?

Tell me about the Gypsy-Mobile (video). That thing is a hass and I would never imagine it runs on waste vegetable oil.

The gypsy mobile is my best friend Jake’s rig. Its a 1988 retired ambulance with a 7.2 liter diesel engine, such a badass rig that he converted to run on WVO. He is still sorting out the kinks to get it running smoothly. It has full living capabilities to spend many a gypsy days in the woods.

You are attending college somewhere in the vast Pacific Northwest. What’s your major and do you plan on using it when you graduate?

I am going to school at Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA. I am majoring in video production. It’s the only thing i really like to do that can make me some money. I am actually sitting in psychology 101 right now, it sucks. If I cant sustain my kayak adventures just kayaking then I might as well make some cool videos to help me continue to live the gypsy life.

What advice can you give to the young kids out there who want to live the soul gypsy lifestyle?

My advice to younger kids out there trying to live the gypsy life… I would say follow your passion at all costs. Whether it means being broke or homeless, do something cool, and try to travel the world.

You’ve made a lot of videos – which one are you most proud of?

I’m not sure I can say which one I’m most proud of… they are all part of a process to progress my video shooting, editing, and overall production skills. Anson Fogel’s kayaking films inspire me to come up with new ways to shoot the sport I love so much.

Everyone watches LOST… so do you think the Man in Black is good or evil?

Apparently I’m out of the loop; I don’t watch Lost haha. I like to watch family guy, south park, weeds, and the office.

Where to next?

Staying in the PNW this summer kayaking as much as I can, working, then off to Chile in the fall for 3 months this time. I cant wait.

In addition to Soul Gyspys, you can also find Fred blogging at Roaring Fork Kayakers. Check him out in action:

Interview With Kraig Becker of The Adventure Blog

Today we have a special post – hopefully the first step in a new feature we will be bringing you regularly here at the Adayak Blog. In an effort to help connect you to real life adventurers and outdoor enthusiasts across the world (remember, we also bring you Trail Talk every Friday) we are going to start bringing to you interviews with some exciting people.

First up is Kraig Becker from The Adventure Blog. His blog’s tagline is “News, commentary, and insights on adventures, and adventurers, from around the globe.” Kraig is very dedicated to his blog and giving readers unique content from far off places. There have been so many times where I’ve first heard about some expedition or new gear directly from Kraig’s blog. He also covers a lot of topics that are hard to find like polar expeditions.

My questions are in bold and his answers are just below it. Enjoy!

Let’s get right to it – you just got back from Nepal and a trek to Everest Base Camp. Tell me about how that trip came about and your experience there.

The Everest Base Camp trek has always been high on my “life list” of things to do, and I’ve been planning to make the hike for several years. I’ve put it off in favor or other trips for sometime, but this spring I decided it was finally time to make it a reality, and it was definitely worth the wait.

Trekking in Nepal is a fantastic experience. The scenery is breathtaking and the mountains are amazing. That said, I’d recommend anyone who goes on the trek be physically prepared. It is a demanding experience to say the least.

Will you go back to Nepal? Do you have plans to summit Everest?

I’d love to go back and make the Annapurna Circuit next time. It is widely considered to be amongst the most beautiful treks in the world, and it is a different experience from trekking to EBC. As much as I’d like to go back, I don’t have any plans to summit Everest any time in the near future. While making the climb sounds amazing, I don’t have the cash (upwards of $50,000) nor the time off work (2 months!) to really give the climb a go.

When did you realize your passion for adventure and the outdoors? Was it something you always had in you, or maybe a trip that inspired you when you were young?

I grew up in the outdoors. My father is an avid outdoorsman and loves to hunt. At a young age he was taking my brother and I out to the woods with him, and that was the start of my love for the outdoors as well. I also grew up reading tales of great adventures, such stories about Robert Falcon Scott and his tragic South Pole expedition or tales of George Mallory and his efforts on Everest. Those stories have influenced me to want to travel to remote places and have some adventures of my own.

You cover a wide range of topics on your Adventure Blog… from mountaineering to biking to sailing. What is your favorite topic to write about?

That’s a tough one! I really like to write about adventure in what ever form that I can find it. Obviously, there are topics that I cover pretty deeply, such as climbing Everest or polar expeditions, but I always enjoy finding out about some interesting new expedition that no one else has done before. I also enjoy when I get the opportunity to correspond directly with the adventurers heading off on these expeditions.

If you were heading on a trip tomorrow, would you be on your feet, in a boat, on skis or riding a bike?

Good question! The obvious answer for me is probably feet, as I love to hike and I’ve had the opportunity to do some cool treks. But having just returned from Everest, I think I’d like to do something different. I great trip by bike sounds like a great change of pace at the moment.

What’s the most challenging adventure you’ve had yet? Any specific climbs or long distance hikes that just beat the crap out of you?

As challenging and demanding as the Everest Base Camp trek was, I still think it isn’t as difficult as Kilimanjaro. For starters, Kili is taller, and the trek is shorter, which means you’re gaining altitude faster as well. I was shocked at how steep the trail was even on day one. There weren’t a lot of switchbacks along the way, just lots of up!

I’ve seen you post a few movie trailers on your blog. Are you in to IMAX movies? Do you have a favorite adventure film? And what’s your general all-time favorite movie.

I’m a huge movie fan in general, and always enjoy good cinema, no matter what the genre. When it comes to my favorite adventure film, there is only one answer. I’m a huge fan of the Indiana Jones movies, especially Raiders of the Lost Ark. Those films have been in inspiration to travel as too, believe it or not. As for my all time favorite film, well, lets just say I’m a huge Star Wars geek.

Ever run in a bear or something scary in the wild? Maybe bigfoot … ?

I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for Bigfoot for years, but I still haven’t spotted him. I even looked for the Yeti while in the Himalaya, but no luck there either. I remain hopeful nonetheless.

You’ve been blogging for over 4 years on The Adventure Blog… what’s the background on your site and how do you keep it going?

I started the site after having a conversation with a friend who insisted that there were no more great adventures to be had, and that everything had been done. I told him that there were plenty of amazing men and women still doing adventurous things if you looked hard enough. The blog is an extension of me looking hard enough and sharing those stories with others.

The Adventure Blog is definitely a labor of love, but I enjoy writing it. Through the blog I’ve had the good fortune of meeting some amazing people, visiting some amazing places, and witnessing some amazing things. I continue to have a passion for writing, travel, and adventure, and that inspires me to keep going.

Where to next?

Another good question. Since I’ve only been home about two weeks, and I’m still recovering from the Everest trip, I haven’t thought about it too much yet. But I’m leaning towards either going to Botswana or to Venezuela.

If I head to South America, it’ll be to trek Roriama, a remote table top mountain that served as the inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World.

But a part of me wants to return to Africa, and a safari on boat and by dugout canoe in Botswana seems like it would be a great adventure too.

Thank you for the interview.

You can find Kraig on Facebook and on Twitter at @KungFuJedi. And by looking at his Twitter username, you know he’s telling the truth about being a Star Wars geek 🙂