We hear a lot about young people climbing big mountains. However, we rarely hear about the steady-handed partners climbing alongside them and keeping an eye out for them.
In 2010, I covered 12 -year-old Matt Moniz as he set a High Pointer record by standing on the highest point of each of the 50 states in under 50 days. His dad Mike was with him on every climb, from Florida's 345-foot-high Britton Hill to the summit of Denali. Now, Mike is setting out on his own. This spring, he plans to climb Everest, Lhotse, and Cho Oyu—all in a single push.
Mike is not a guide: he is a regular father with a real job. So attempting three 8,000-meter peaks during the same expedition is ambitious, especially considering that his highest thus far is 6,962-meter Aconcagua. But Mike is a case study in preparation and training, and is approaching this summit with a meticulous attention to detail. Not be left out, Matt is going back to Everest Base Camp too.
How is Matt these days? Any recent climbs? Matt is doing really well – his latest climbing project was in the Bolivian Cordillera Real, attempting three 6000-meter peaks in 6 days, summit to summit. Always thinking ahead, he’s been looking for a possible “first ascent” or something ambitious. I’m not sure what he has in mind but he’s creative. This summer he’s planning a trip to Spain to connect with his climbing hero Chris Sharma for some rock climbing and Spanish lessons.
I recently discovered the website, Kids Who Rip. Not sure how I missed this one, but it's rad little video library of kids killing it on bikes, skis, kiteboards, surfboards, skateboards, balance beams, and pretty much every other conveyance and game known to childhood.
You can submit clips of your kid's first black diamond mogul run or gawk at other people's offspring hucking big air on their mountain bikes. In a bind, it'll double as a motivational tool ("that boy can ride across a log without whining"), and it's an excellent bribery/diversion tactic when your wild child is bouncing off the walls and you need some peace and quiet (like right this minute). What's more riveting than watching a grom catch and carve waves—especially when the surfer is six years old and not even four feet tall? Not a rhetorical question.
The world's top alpinists continue to push the boundaries of human suffering and exposure with climbs of ever more technical peaks. Gear companies like The North Face, Mountain Hardwear, and Marmot don't sell a lot of high-end, alpine gear, but they need to keep their athletes happy. Clients willing to pay guides to get them up Everest and other peaks reap the rewards. Is that you? Well then, lucky you. Here's a round-up of the latest and greatest gear for 8,000-meter vacations.Mountain Hardwear Absolute Zero Suit: It’s been years since a brand has undertaken a wholesale redesign of its 8,000-meter down suit. At the request of Ueli Steck, Mountain Hardwear took on the project. The fully welded and watertight suit is now lighter, compatible with modern Himalayan climbing equipment like air masks, and user friendly. Hood adjustments are easier to make, the 850-fill body is mapped for warmth with improvements to wick away sweat, and the rainbow seat is easier to unzip when you gotta go. Mountain Hardwear built waterbottle pockets on the inside, to reduce the chances you'll carry chunks of ice to the summit. Available August 2012, $1250, mountainhardwear.com.
Jonathan Siegrist is one of the few American sport climbers who has dedicated himself almost entirely to developing routes on his home ground. As Chris Sharma has settled in Spain and Ethan Pringle and Dave Graham have bounced between continents over the past two years, Siegrist has opened a half-dozen 5.14s around the States, including testpieces like Pure Imagination (5.14d) in Kentucky's Red River Gorge and Shadowboxing (5.14c/d) in Rifle, Colorado.
On February 21, Siegrist added one more tick to that list with the first ascent of Le Rêve (French for "The Dream") in Arrow Canyon, Nevada. With its proposed grade of 5.14d/15a, the line is Siegrist's hardest yet. "It's clear to me that this route defines a new category of difficulty for me," Siegrist wrote on his blog. "Le Rêve took twice the effort of any route I've done save maybe one of my first 5.14s."
With the profusion of marathon mountain bike events and the growing popularity of the expanding National Ultra Endurance (NUE) Race Series, I keep hearing talk that the days of 24-hour races are numbered. The argument goes like this: With bigger purses and less time commitment for training, marathons are skimming top-level racers and enthusiasts alike away from 24-hour events, where shrinking attendance means a downward spiral of higher registration fees, more reticent sponsors, and fewer races.
There's some truth to the argument. For example, the 17-year-old 24 Hours of Moab saw around 30 percent fewer teams in 2011 than in 2010, and there was talk that the event could be cancelled (though, happily, it looks like the show will go on). And at the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo two weeks ago, I heard lots of racers talking about the NUE. "I'm doing the NUE series this year," Trek Bicycle Store racer Jonathan Davis told me between laps at Old Pueblo, where he decided to skip the solo category to save himself. (Instead, he raced duo with his 10-year-old son, Tanner.) "It's too hard to be competitive in NUE and also show up ready for longer races. Solo 24 takes a lot out of you." Then again, Davis added that he's definitely going to September's 24-hour Solo Worlds in Canmore, which looks to be attracting a deep and star-studded field.
I raced 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo for the fifth time this year and was struck by the huge crowds and big sponsor presence (headliner Kona Bikes turned out a number of teams for the launch of their King Kahuna Carbon 29er, including Solo Male winner Corey Wallace). Blessed by the warm-weather riding it delivers to racers so early in the season, this Tucson, Arizona, event is part bike race, part Burning Man-style festival, with some 3,500 people descending on a cholla-and-prickly-pear-spiked swathe of open desert. "For the last four years, the event has reached the 1,800 rider capacity earlier in pre-registration than the year prior," says Todd Sadow, President of Epic Rides, which organizes Old Pueblo. Judging by the turnout and the carnival atmosphere, it's safe to say that this race, at least, is as healthy as ever.
The experience got me thinking about the viability of 24-hour racing in general. Having just witnessed so many people out riding and enjoying themselves at a 24-hour event, I can't see these things going away any time soon. With that in mind, I give you ten reasons to sign up for a 24-hour race now: