The Outside Blog

Dispatches : Feb 2012

Lhotse: The Other Everest

Lhotse Mountain by Alan Arnette
Every Everest climber, actual or armchair, knows the “Lhotse Face” is a difficult section on the mountain that leads to the Death Zone at 8,000 meters. What some people often miss is that the Face is part of the fourth highest mountain on Earth. Lhotse stands 27,940 feet tall.

While I was sitting in the fake Starbucks in Lukla after my successful Everest summit last year, I overheard a middle-aged climber talking to a group of trekkers, "I just summited Lhotse, it is a lot harder than Everest." The group began to grill him on the details. He rewarded them with tales of “real” climbing, rock fall, and severe altitude—without all the crowds of Everest. “I would never climb Everest,” he sniffed.

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Outdoor Retailer Wrap Up Part 2: Survival Gear

Let's cut to the chase. Here are a few of the most eye-catching new survival tools we saw at the Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City.

RidgeWenger Hypex Jewelry: Having a multitool on hand at all times is ideal. But with airline restrictions and general paranoia about people carrying a knife, it’s not always practical. Plus a multitool can feel like a rock in your pocket, and look geeky on your belt. Now, you can always have your most used tools on hard with Wenger’s Hypex Jewelry. Wenger, bast know for its Swiss Army Knife, now makes practical pendants for mountain men that look like art. One is a screwdriver, anther a metric wrench, and yet another a corkscrew. (Wenger’s take on what tools you need in an emergency is broad).

“Rather than offering jewelry with a novelty use or survival gear that looked pretty, we bridged the two,” said Alex Reed, CEO of Axel Productions, official Licensee of Wenger.

When you turn your next hike into a summit date, bust out a picnic and open the wine with your necklace. She'll be somewhere between impressed and in love. Available June 2012, $50-$100,


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Interview: The Sweet Slacklife of Andy Lewis

In November, 2010, slackliner Andy Lewis rigged a 130-foot length of webbing between two sandstone cliffs outside of Moab, Utah, and walked it—out and back—with no safety harness or net. The line, dubbed Shakes McCoy, was the longest anyone had ever free-soloed. Lewis has soloed 44 highlines—swaying, bouncing lines of one-inch nylon webbing strung up hundreds of feet above the ground—this year alone. Closer to the ground, the 25 year old has also landed the first-ever backflip on a slackline and won the 2010 Slackline World Cup. A film about Lewis's exploits, "Sketchy Andy," will premiere at the Reel Rock Film Tour on September 15. I caught up with Lewis, who slacklines full time, to find out more about what it takes to walk the line.

Adam Roy

How different is one highline from another? Aren't you pretty much just walking the same line in a different place?
That's exactly it. A 50-foot highline could be a one-hour setup between trees in your backyard or a three-day hiking, three-day rigging mission that you set up between two unclimbed towers with 250 feet of vertical exposure. Both 50-foot highlines, but both entirely different. Every place has a unique setup, every highline has a different height, length, tension, and exposure level. To the average Joe, it's just walking a line in a different place; to a slacker it's the minute differences that make the challenge of slacklining.

How did you get started slacklining?
Slacklining started for me as a hobby. I bought some webbing and strung it up everywhere I could think of. I was learning to do tricks when I saw a YouTube video of Dean Potter free soloing Lost Arrow Spire [a classic highline in Yosemite]. All of a sudden, I had to start highlining. Free-solo highlining was more self-inspired—needing to be perfect, with death as the consequence.

Tell me about your first highline.
The first few highlines I walked were all really sketchy. I didn't know how to rig highlines, I didn't even have a backup rope. My first highline was in a park about 20 feet off the ground, and was about 45 feet long. When I finally got to walk it, it was amazing. By the end of the day, I got really comfortable and ended up free soloing it.

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New Sidecountry Packs For Off-Piste Exploring

At the Outdoor Retailer and SIA shows last month, one thing was clear: more and more people are venturing into the backcountry on skis and snowboards.

Whether you're dipping out of bounds at your local ski hill, or boot packing from the road to the summit, these done in a day packs will carry your skis and everything else you need to be safe and have fun.


Backcountry Access Float 22: ABS air bag avalanche packs save lives. In fact, one of Backcountry Access’s packs saved a snowboarder last week. The footage below was shot on January 25th, 2012 in the Snake River backcountry. Meesh Hytner, a pro snowboarder, deploys her Backcountry Access Float 30 when she is caught in a sizeable slide, and ends up walking away from what couldhave been a tragedy.



The main reason all skiers aren’t using air bag packs: the cost. Most systems run around $1200. Backcountry Access is striving to make air bag avy packs more mainstream by bringing the price down. Its new Float 22 is lighter than other packs (5.5 pounds not the standard eight pounds). And it costs around half for all the parts and pieces: the pack, the airbag, engine, and rechargeable cylinder. Available September 2012, $675,

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A Sad Day In Cycling: The Contador and Armstrong Decisions

Shutterstock_1516194The Dangers of Drugs via Shutterstock, Photographer Julien Tromeur

The cycling world is collectively sighing this morning, some in relief, others in disgust. If you're like me, no matter how you feel about the two big doping stories jamming the cycling airwaves today, the prevailing emotion is simple, overwhelming fatigue.

After literally years of waiting, in the past 72 hours the cycling world received decisions in not one, but two of the highest profile doping inquests running. Last Friday, the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California announced in a short statement that the nearly-two-year investigation into whether Lance Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs was closed and that no charges will be filed. Then this morning, the Court for Arbitration for Sport handed Alberto Contador a two-year ban for his positive test for Clenbuterol at the 2010 Tour de France. Contador's ban will be served retroactively, and the Spaniard will lose all results since the doping infraction, including the 2010 Tour de France title.

Though contrasting in many ways, the two decisions offer similar lessons.

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