The Weekly Stoke: Marathon tips, Utah BASE jumping deaths, interviewing Chris Davenport and why a Grand Canyon theme park is a bad idea

Zion National Park, Utah. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

Zion National Park, Utah. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

Man, it hit 81 degree here yesterday. So I guess winter really is over. Time to get out there! But first, a collection of links for the Weekly Stoke!

Got a spring marathon or half coming up? Here is a good list of common mistakes to avoid, as well as solutions.

Speaking of things to be careful about, this post has links from bloggers who describe some of their more notable errors they made in the outdoors, and what they learned from it.

There has been a spate of BASE jumping deaths in the desert towers of Utah.

The Adventure Journal posted this op-ed about plans to build a theme park at the Grand Canyon, and I have to agree.

And finally, there is this piece about a conversation with big mountain skier Chris Davenport.

The Weekly Stoke: Alex Honnold does Fitz Roy Traverse, the death of Chad Kellogg, common running mistakes and how to avoid an avalanche

Fitz Roy, Patagonia, Argentina. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

Fitz Roy, Patagonia, Argentina. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

It seems that maybe winter is beginning to lose its grip, at least in my part of the world. And that means more time outside. Not that you can’t have a good time in the snow. Anyway, here’s some more goodies in this edition of the Weekly Stoke!

It might seem like Alex Honnold gets a lot of attention in this space, but he keeps adding to an already amazing list of climbing and mountaineering accomplishments. His latest was a team effort with Tommy Caldwell to do one of the most radical traverses around, the Fitz Traverse in Patagonia.

Not all the news from Patagonia is good. Speed climber Chad Kellogg died from rockfall on Fitz Roy.

This post describes some common running mistakes — and how to avoid them.

This story is a fascinating account of what it’s like to suffer from a poisonous snakebite while in the bush of Myanmar.

And finally, there is this video on avoiding the dangers of an avalanche.

Disclosure: I’m not that rad, I’m just me

There is always a temptation to think more of yourself than you really are. But for me, the reality is that I'm just another dude. And that's OK.

There is always a temptation to think more of yourself than you really are. But for me, the reality is that I’m just another dude. And that’s OK.

A few years back, I bought a book at an airport news stand that, after I read it, I was sure would change my life.

The book became part of a reading list for U.S. forces in Afghanistan. It hit the New York Times bestsellers list, and stayed there for months. When I read it, I was inspired about what one person could do to help people in war-torn places of the world.

I’m talking about Greg Mortenson’s “Three Cups of Tea.” As wonderful as the book was, investigations by other journalists showed that Mortenson’s reported exploits in south Asia were at times exaggerated or unable to be confirmed. To be sure, some of the things he did in Afghanistan and Pakistan were true, but many other things claimed in the book – as well as certain facts about his life – are in dispute.

Mortenson’s accusers made him out to be a fraud. I think the final judgment is that his story was embellished to the point where he and his co-author made him out to be something that he was not.

To me, that is one of the scariest prospects any writer could ever face, particularly those of us who put ourselves out there with the things that we do. Nothing could be worse than representing myself as something I’m not; no greater breach of trust could be made.

So let’s do a little disclosure.

Conrad Anker

Conrad Anker

I am not Conrad Anker, Ed Viesturs or Simone Moro. No Himalayan summits here; no continent high points. In fact, no big mountain summits above a Class 3. Just 15 14,000-foot summits to my credit (including repeats) and four 13ers on top of that. I’ve done some Class 4 stuff closer to home, but I’m still cutting my teeth on this whole mountaineering thing; plenty of friends have done much, much more. It’s not to say I haven’t learned some things or gained some insight, but I am very much in the learning mode when it comes to the peaks.

Alex Honnold

Alex Honnold

I am not Alex Honnold. Not even close. I’m a 5.7 climber at best, and forget me setting any leads. You will never hear me dispense rock climbing or bouldering advice. I’m still a blank slate in this realm, but hoping to fix that over time. I’ll post links about climbing subjects, but that’s about it.

Scott Jurek

Scott Jurek

I am not Scott Jurek, Bart Yasso or Anton Krupicka. My longest trail race so far is 25k. My longest run ever is one marathon, and that was done just a few months ago. Oh, and I’m a 4:50 marathoner, not exactly fast. In other words, I survived it through the finish line. Yeah, I run a lot. I’m going to be in three good-sized races over the next few months and will look to improve my performance. But don’t mistake me for a long-distance coach or elite athlete. That ain’t me. I pass along what I know, but no more. Promise.

Ronnie Coleman

Ronnie Coleman

I’m not Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jay Cutler or Ronnie Coleman. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been a gym rat for a long, long time. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve even coached people in fitness over the years. But there ain’t anyone in the gym looking at what I lift and saying “Dayum!” Anything I pass along is going to be something that I’ve tried and found successful; will be sourced from reliable, accomplished trainers; or a combination of both. But I won’t tell you how to gain mega-muscle mass, or how to win a powerflifting meet, or what it takes to win a bodybuilding competition. There are far better sources for that kind of thing than me.

lonelyplanet_1

I am not a walking library of Lonely Planet books. I’m reasonably well traveled, but I’ve never been to Africa, Australia or South America. I’ve been to about half the states, but as much as I love the West, I still haven’t explored Utah, Oregon, Nevada or Arizona. My exposure to Idaho is really limited, too.

There are a few other things you won’t see me writing much about. Skiing, for one. I’m a low-skill skier with few opportunities to improve. And forget about anything concerning skydiving, bungee jumping or BASE jumping. Maybe a link on those subjects, or perhaps a video. But no pontificating.

So what does all this mean? It means I’m an everyday guy trying stuff. Learning stuff. And when I learn something worth sharing, I pass it along. I do gear reviews after thorough testing, and I’ll let you know if they were sent to me by a manufacturer or retailer. Every trip report is based on what I saw and did during a particular ascent. Fitness and running posts will only go as far as my experience takes me, and even then, I’ll back it up with sources from people who are experts in their field.

Not that rad. Just me, trying stuff.

Not that rad. Just me, trying stuff.

You get the idea. No BS. What you see is what you get, nothing more.

Bob Doucette

The Weekly Stoke: Sherpa evolution, protein for runners, avalanche season, a BASE jumping tragedy and Alex Honnold on video

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Some of us are starting to come out of the thaw. Unfortunately, many of you are not. Cabin fever is setting in. You need an escape. So let me give you a little reading material to help you get through it. Let’s do the Weekly Stoke!

Scientists say new research shows that the Sherpa people of Nepal have evolved over the years to become the stout high-altitude climbers and hikers that we’ve all come to know and appreciate.

Are you getting enough protein? Everyone knows people trying to gain muscle mass need to up their protein intake. But even leaner athletes like runners need to seriously increase how much protein they take in per day. I can vouch for that personally.

This link takes you to some photos and a video about a guy’s project to build a wooden camper top on his truck. Seriously cool overland travel stuff here.

It’s been a rough winter in terms of avalanche deaths, and several have happened in recent days.

Another tragic note: A couple did a BASE jump together, but the woman’s chute didn’t open properly, causing her to fall to her death.

And finally, this amazing video of Alex Honnold doing what he does: Scaling ridiculously big walls with highly technical lines, and doing it free solo.

The Weekly Stoke: Climbing Ben Nevis, a centenarian swimmer, running your first ultra and fighting off a shark with a knife

Ben Nevis, Scotland. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

Ben Nevis, Scotland. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

This edition of the Weekly Stoke is going to have a few themes. And good ones at that. Let’s not waste time!

Here’s an account of a winter climb of Scotland’s Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK. It has some spectacular photos, and the route they chose is pretty fascinating.

Like Ben Nevis? You might also like this impressive list of 22 amazing places you’d have a hard time imagining even existed.

Let’s hear it for the older set. Here’s a pretty cool write-up about a couple who have lived and climbed together for decades, and why they chose to settle in South Dakota.

And then there’s this guy. He’s 104 years old, swims, swims long, and swims pretty fast. 104, people!

Here’s a short account of one tough dude: Goes out to sea, is attacked by a shark, fights it off, then proceeds to shore for a beer.

And on to the world of running: If you’re thinking about doing your first ultramarathon, here’s a list of considerations to make before you start.

Finally, another good running list: 5 key speed workouts for new runners. They’re good ones, and nothing feels quite like getting faster.

Have a great weekend!

The Weekly Stoke: Alex Honnold’s latest feat, stuff runners know, a homicidal climber and extreme drought in the Sierras

Alex Honnold in the Sierras. (Alex Honnold Facebook page photo)

Alex Honnold in the Sierras. (Alex Honnold Facebook page photo)

How is everyone’s week going? Hopefully it’s been filled with adventure or just plain getting after it. Without further delay, here’s the latest Weekly Stoke!

Uber climber Alex Honnold is at it again, this time pulling off a multi-pitch, 1,500-foot free solo climb in Mexico. Mixed in this achievement were several 5.12 pitches. Did I mention he did this free solo?

Here’s a list of things only runners understand. Some are gender specific.

This post details some of the health issues that affect ultra marathoners.

This story is a weird one in which one climber allegedly killed another (who had been described as the suspect’s mentor) with a hammer.

A Crossfit coach and competitor suffered a devastating injury during a recent competition while attempting an Olympic lift.

And finally, while there are some parts of the country that are experiencing a cooler and wetter winter, that is definitely not the case n California, which is in the midst of a devastating drought.

That’s a whole lot of news. Now go make a story of your own. Have an excellent weekend!

The heartbreaker: Knowing when to stop short of the summit

If you were this close to the top, could you pull the plug on a summit bid?

If you were this close to the top, could you pull the plug on a summit bid?

I ran into a discussion on an online hiking and mountaineering forum where a question was asked: How many times have you been forced to turn back from a summit, and what caused you to make that decision?

I read through the entire thread, mostly because I like to learn about what prompts people to make the decisions they make. The answers varied, with most people citing bad weather, sketchy snow conditions or physical problems as the reasons they stopped short of a summit and turned around. One person said he was less than 200 feet from the top when he bailed, a true heartbreaker of a decision.

I’ve also seen some reports people wrote where they discussed what caused them to turn around.

In one report, writer Ross Gilmore talks about his attempted ascent of Mount Washington in New Hampshire. He was going for a winter summit of the highest peak in the northern Appalachians. Mount Washington is known to have some of the worst weather anywhere in earth, mostly due to its latitude and position vis-à-vis with common winter weather patterns that flow over that part of North America. Wind speeds of more than 200 mph and well-below sub-zero temps have been recorded here.

In this case, climbers faced high winds, whiteout conditions and frigid temperatures. Gilmore wrote this:

“It was becoming literally impossible to move. We just couldn’t stand up straight. We would make two steps and then be blown over. At times, no matter how hard you tried to stand up against the wind, it would blow you over. We struggled along, at times crawling until we got part way up Lion’s Head, just below the Alpine Garden. At that point one of the guys called it. I certainly shared his feeling that we couldn’t go on. Even if we found a way to keep moving, we were burning too much energy doing it. It would have been impossible to make it all the way up to Mt. Washington and then back down.”

His full report can be seen here.

Another post I saw was written by Heather Balogh. She wrote a piece about her attempt to climb Colorado’s Capitol Peak, one of the gnarliest and toughest climbs of all of that state’s 14,000-foot peaks. Capitol includes a highly exposed and committed portion along its summit ridge where you don’t want to be caught in bad conditions. It was here that she and her climbing partners faced a decision as weather conditions began to deteriorate:

“Luckily, Will and I both felt exhilarated on the ridge and loved every second of our crossing! However, we reached the end of the Knife Edge and realized that a massive storm was blowing in towards the summit of Capitol. It hadn’t gotten bad yet, but we could see the black sky developing and the wind gusts were increasing. Again, we chatted and both agreed that per usual, no mountain is ever worth the risk. There is no quick descent off the Knife Edge, so if you’re up there when a storm blows in, you’re fairly screwed. So, although we were only 45 minutes from the summit, we both agreed without hesitation that it was time to turn around.”

You can read her full report here.

As for me, I have a couple of stories: One where I decided to bail and one where I should have bailed but didn’t, and paid for it later.

In the first case, I was on a solo hike in Oklahoma’s Wichita Mountains with the goal of scrambling to the top of Sunset Peak. It’s not a big mountain, and it’s not an overly long hike. Gaining Sunset’s summit is not technically demanding. But it is in a wilderness area, and trouble there means a narrow window of opportunity for self-rescue. A huge storm with flooding rains and lots of lightning bore down on the range, and my decision was simple: Getting caught on a high, treeless granite dome in a storm like that was too risky. I did other things that day, but Sunset was a no-go. I went back months later on a bluebird day and had a great time hiking and scrambling to its summit.

In the second case, I should never have gone. I was overcoming a respiratory infection that I thought was on the wane when I attempted to gain the summit of Colorado’s Mount Yale, a 14,000-foot peak in the central part of that state. I began to drag physically around 12,000 feet, experienced some pain and cramping at 13,000 feet, but kept going. I ended up bagging the summit, but came down the mountain with a raging case of pneumonia and pleurisy that laid me out for a few weeks once I got home. Recovery from that illness took a couple of months, and there were aspects of it (fluid around my heart) that could have killed me. I eventually recovered, but that episode taught me that I need to make sure I’m in good health and proper before attempting anything at higher altitudes.

So what stories do you have? Have you been turned back? What guided your decision? And has there been a time when you should have turned back, but didn’t? What was the result? Share your stories in the comments.

Bob Doucette

The Weekly Stoke: Top mountaineering posts of 2013, skiing in North Korea, a frigid marathon and a Texan skier’s reaction to legalized pot

Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. (Wikipedia commons photo)

Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. (Wikipedia commons photo)

Hopefully everyone is out of the deep freeze and is avoiding the bug that’s been going around. I’m one-for-two on that count, but on the mend. Anyway, Here’s a good collection of links I think you’ll find interesting from the world of the outdoors. Let’s get on with the Weekly Stoke!

The good folks at In Ice Axe We Trust put together their top 10 (more like 13) mountaineering  trip reports for 2013, and there are some good ones in there. If you’re a regular reader of Proactiveoutside, you might recognize one of those posts…

North Korea’s construction of a ski resort is more than just an attempt to boost tourism, though I have to wonder how much demand there is for North Korean powder. It may be a middle finger directed toward European and other ski lift manufacturers who refused to help build the site, this post posits.

What’s the coldest marathon you’ve ever run? Probably not as cold as this guy’s. Hint: It was run in Russia.

The survivor of a plane crash in Hawaii managed to record the entire event, and part of that includes what is probably going to be the selfie of the year.

And finally, we go back to the slopes where a rich Texas ski tourist says he’ll take his business elsewhere is he sees or hears too much “pot” stuff at Colorado ski resorts. Note to rich Texan ski guy: I don’t think you’ll be missed.

Simply put, the mountains don’t care about you

Along with the beauty of the mountains comes their cold indifference. That's not something we should never forget.

Along with the beauty of the mountains comes their cold indifference. That’s not something we should ever forget.

There was one day not too long ago where I was standing on top of a high peak, gazing on the meadows and snowfields below me, all while under a bright, blue sky dotted with cottonball clouds. It had been a spectacular day thus far, with exciting scrambles, exposed ledges and airy ridgelines – all the things that make climbing mountains fun.

I’ve had a lot of days in the peaks like this, even if not all of the mountains were quite as demanding as this one. But there have been a few bad ones, too.

Years ago, while coming down another mountain on a decidedly drearier day, I recall stumbling around, exhausted and sick. Altitude and illnesses don’t mix well, often magnifying otherwise manageable annoyances into life-threatening dilemmas. Around that time, a mountain can seem impossibly big, dark and threatening. Get into trouble here, and it could be many hours – or even days, if the conditions are particularly bad – before help will arrive. An injury here, a storm there, a dangerous drop in temperatures when no shelter avails itself – all of these things lie within the realm of possibility with even some of the more benign peaks.

My personal alpine crises are not numerous, nor are they as serious as some of those faced by some of my friends. Two of them climbing a particularly gnarly mountain suffered injuries from rockfall, and that’s no joke. Rockfall also killed a group of hikers last summer who were treading a pretty popular, benign trail.

Yet another friend a few years back witnessed what was supposed to be a fun day on a nondescript mountain transform into a horrifying fall that led a desperate rescue effort of her climbing partner, who eventually succumbed to his injuries.

A lot of people wonder why folks tempt fate by exploring the mountains, but seriously, just look at them. Humans are drawn to high places. They are the places of mythology and wonder. They tower over our lowland homes and promise a whole new view of the world we see every day. Such are the things that beckon us upward.

That allure is also what can, at times, get us in trouble. In an effort to escape the sameness of our ordinary lives, we seek refuge in the peaks. That can work, at least sometimes. But there is a reality of the high country that some of the more naïve (that includes me) sometimes miss.

Jon Krakauer probably summed it up best when he wrote (and I paraphrase) that mountains make bad receptacles for people’s dreams. That’s a nice way of saying that the peaks don’t care.

Yes, the mountains look inviting. But don’t think for a second that when you go up their lofty heights that you’re actually invited.

I’d explain it this way: You may have a day in the mountains where everything is going right. The weather is perfect, a true bluebird day. Your body is in prime condition and you’re blasting up the route. New challenges are being tackled and mastered, and you even got the greatest summit selfie or group shot ever taken in the history of mankind. Heck, even your GoPro footage looks like it could be made into the next great entry into Banff or the Reel Rock Tour.

And when you’re done and everyone is at the pub noshing down that victory dinner with a beer or five, you may just think that you and those titanic piles of rock have something special going on.

Don’t fool yourself. The truth is, your next venture into alpine greatness might see that docile peak bear down on you like a lion, swallow you up and gnaw on your bones before ejecting you from its stony maw like a wad of unwanted spit, splayed out on its rocky apron and crying out to God or anyone within earshot for help.

It’s just what mountains do, and they do it at random with total indifference, the same lack of concern that they have when they let you have your epic day of high country fulfillment.

None of this is to say that there aren’t profound lessons to be learned in the high country, or that truly transformational moments can’t happen. They can and do, something I can attest to personally.

And I think that’s what makes the mountains so special to me. You go to work with expectations of getting paid. You go to church with the idea of learning something important. You go to concerts to get loud and to bars to blow off steam, and you go home to feel a sense of peace from the world that swirls around you.

But when I go to the mountains, I don’t go with any expectations because I truly do not know what will happen when I’m there. I don’t know if the weather will cooperate, if the peak will be too daunting, or even if I’ll make it back at all, and all of that is because the mountain will do what it’s going to do regardless of my presence. A rock that stayed in place for a million years might move when you’re there, but it might not budge for a million more.

All that you can be sure of is that it’s going to do what it does, predictably or not, and how you deal with it at the time will be a measure of who you are in terms of skill, wit and toughness. Perhaps that’s all we can know, that the mountains will test us, but they’ll do so with the nonchalance of something that has existed long before we were born, and will continue to stand tall long after we’re gone.

Bob Doucette

Year in review: I must say, 2013 pretty much rocked

bobd1

I guess it’s that time of year when those of us in the blogosphere look back on the previous year and share our thoughts. Far be it from me to buck the trend! But seriously, 2013 was a pretty great year overall, one marked by some great experiences. Here’s a quick recap:

Running

I’d say this is where I made the most progress. I’d been back into running for a couple of years by the time 2013 started, with a few races under my belt. I definitely had plenty of room for improvement, so early on I set some goals, then reset those goals as time passed on.

In February, I laid up a bit and raced in the Post Oak Challenge 10K trail race. A month later, I ran the Snake Run trail race in Tulsa, settling in on the three-hour event. In that one, I placed decently and threw down 15.1 miles. To that point, that was the longest distance I’d ever run.

Boston Strong at the OKC Memorial Marathon, where I did the half.

Boston Strong at the OKC Memorial Marathon, where I did the half.

When April rolled around, it was time for the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. I’d never run a half marathon, though I’d already exceeded that distance. This was by far the largest run I’d ever done, with somewhere around 25,000 runners taking part.

I ran it in 2:20, which isn’t all that fast. But some really cool things happened.

For starters, the race starts at the Oklahoma City National Memorial, one of the most beautiful and moving monuments in the nation. If you don’t believe me, then go there and see for yourself. I can remember the horror of the April 19, 1995, bombing (I covered it for a small newspaper back then), the construction of the memorial and now this race. Having it happen two weeks after the Boston Marathon bombing made this event even more significant to me, and doing it with such a huge crowd, well, it’s just something you have to experience. I’ll be back there again.

Secondly, I got to run the last five miles with a friend of mine who was also running her first half marathon. Carrie was battling some knee pain, but we kept each other motivated to finish, and finish we did. A lot of grit in that gal!

I steered clear of most races over the summer, taking a break in late spring before ramping up marathon training in July. What a process that turned out to be!

As the weekly mileage piled up, I got stronger. Lost some weight. Got faster. The first real test would come in October with the Tulsa Run 15K.

In 2012, I ran it in a plodding 1:44. At the time, I was just glad to have finished it. A year later I was a different athlete with much higher expectations. The 2013 race was the same course as 2012, and when it was over, I knocked it down in 1:28. I felt pretty good about that, then set my sights on the year’s big prize: the Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa.

I’d never run a marathon, and my longest run to that point was 21 miles. It was 25 degrees at gun time, and I was heading into uncharted territory for me.

I knocked off the first half in 2:10, but really slowed down the last six miles. I wrapped it up in 4:50, right in the middle of the pack, but at a better pace than all my long training runs. A great experience, and one in which I am pleased. But I’m looking forward to improving that time.

There were a few 5Ks and a 10K mixed in there. One of my goals for 2013 was to get a 5K done in 24 minutes. I missed that goal, running the Turkey Trot in 26 minutes. But that’s three minutes faster than my best 5K of 2012. So that’s progress.

For me, this was the prize for a year's worth of hard work.

For me, this was the prize for a year’s worth of hard work.

I’d say 2013 was pretty productive in terms of running, and it’s another layer of a foundation that I hope to build on going forward. Maybe a 4:30 marathon? Sub-24 5K? An ultra? We’ll see. I never started 2013 thinking I’d do a full marathon. So stay tuned.

In the mountains

Like previous years, I was limited to heading into the high country to the summer and fall months. But the times I got away provided some memorable trips.

In June, I joined a few friends for a trip into the San Juans near Ouray, Colo., to tackle the southwest ridge of Mount Sneffels.

Clockwise, from top left, are Chuck, David, me and Noel on Mount Sneffels' summit.

Clockwise, from top left, are Chuck, David, me and Noel on Mount Sneffels’ summit.

The route is a fun, extended Class 3 trip that bypasses the scree hell of this gorgeous peak’s standard route. I highly recommend it. The ridge going up was intriguing in terms of climbing, and incredibly scenic. We went down the standard route, which gave us a chance at practicing a snow climb descent. I’m always down for a little snow.

What I wasn’t down for was the dozen or so other climbers going up and down Sneffels’ snow-filled upper gully without proper gear. And then there was the guy (who we never saw) who left two scared, tired and inexperienced/ill-equipped partners in the gully while he tagged the summit. Not cool, but glad we could help them.

That was overshadowed by the ridiculously picturesque summit views looking down on the Dallas Divide and Yankee Boy Basin. And let’s not forget the company I had on this trip. Noel, Chuck and David are rock stars, and I hope to hike and climb with them again very soon.

Earlier that week, I had a chance to take another friend up his first 14er. Brent, aka, Animal, is a fitness coach, jiu jitsu brown belt, bouncer and online entrepreneur who has a love of mountains and recently moved to the Denver area. I figured a perfect starter peak was Mount Evans, close to Denver and a good place to cut your teeth on high country adventure.

Animal starts blasting his way up the lower slopes of Mount Spalding on our way to Mount Evans' summit.

Animal starts blasting his way up the lower slopes of Mount Spalding on our way to Mount Evans’ summit.

We chose the Mount Spalding to Mount Evans traverse, which I highly recommend. It’s a little less traveled than some of the other routes, and the views of nearby Mount Bierstadt and the Sawtooth Ridge are spectacular.

Animal killed it. He was way stronger on his 14er than I was on mine. We shot the breeze afterward at a sweet brewpub in Idaho Springs and pretty much tried to solve the world’s problems in one night over hot food and cold beers. Always a great way to end a day trip into the mountains.

In the fall, some of my other Colorado buddies invited me on a climb of Capitol Peak, a tough, exposed and beautiful mountain in the Elk Range. This would have been my toughest climb to date, and I looked forward to the challenge.

But the weather conspired against us. The trip was planned the same weekend that Colorado was pounded by 100-year flood events that devastated Boulder, Estes Park and other mountain towns in the northern Front Range and foothills. The Capitol Peak climb was washed out.

Since I was already in Colorado, I decided to salvage the trip. So I ended up going further south into the Sawatch Range and car camped at Missouri Gulch.

Others had expressed interest in joining me on a trip up Missouri Mountain, but one by one they all had to bail. So this turned into my first solo 14er ascent.

The trail disappears into the mist near the top of Missouri Mountain. Doing this solo was amazing.

The trail disappears into the mist near the top of Missouri Mountain. Doing this solo was amazing.

I wasn’t at my best that day, and the weather was dodgy throughout. But the rains held off. The ethereal and spooky atmospherics of the cloud cover, the near solitude going up the mountain and the wildlife made this one of the most spectacular days in the mountains I’ve ever had. I can see myself doing another solo ascent in the future.

So 2013 ended with three 14er summits, and a bonus 13er summit to boot. Not bad for this ole flatlander. For 2014, my hope is for more summits, with tougher routes. Class 4 peaks in the San Juans and the Elk range come to mind, and some time in the Sangres would be good as well.

The blog

When 2012 ended, Proactiveoutside had just over 20,000 page views and some growth. In 2013, interesting and at times explosive things happened.

Traffic steadily went up, but it was a post I wrote a day after the Boston Marathon bombing that blew my mind. Or, more accurately, the reader response to it.

The theme, in short, was that despite the tragedy and evil of the attack, good people doing great things would win the day. People read the piece, shared it, retweeted it, and linked to it. A day after it published, more than 30,000 people read it. It blew up on Facebook and, to a lesser extent, on Twitter. CNN quoted it online and linked to it. To date, about 42,000 people have clicked to read it. It hit a nerve, and I’m grateful for everyone’s comments, shares and the time they took to read. It’s humbling.

Another post made WordPress’ Freshly Pressed roster, which was also pretty cool. I got a lot of comments from fellow WordPress bloggers on that piece, in which I wrote about running trails just for the fun of it.

To date, Proactiveoutside had been viewed more than 101,000 times. More than 1,600 people follow the site, and over 1,300 comments on 361 posts have been made. Included in all of that are fitness tips, gear reviews, trip reports, outdoor news, essays and other stuff I hope people have enjoyed.

One nice subplot to all of this: Salomon was kind enough to send me a pair of Sense Mantra trail running shoes to test and review, and EnergyBits sent me a sample to try as well. I’m always grateful to companies who seek my opinions on their products, though most of the gear I review is purchased or otherwise obtained on my own.

I decided to branch out a little, creating a Facebook page and an Instagram account for Proactiveoutside. Check ‘em out!

This site is not a money-maker for me, though I wouldn’t mind it. I do it for fun.

Going forward

I hope 2014 can see as much progress, growth and fun that 2013 provided. I’m thankful for all your input and sharing these experiences with me, and I’m especially grateful to the folks who ran with me, hiked with me and climbed with me.

Here’s to another year of getting out there and getting it done.

Bob Doucette

Here's to a great 2014!

Here’s to a great 2014!