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Special Burning Man Survival and Thrival Guide for First Timers

Burning Man provides an environment that is unlike anything I have found elsewhere on the planet. The ethos of the community combined with the ruggedness of the environment present equal parts challenge and opportunity for exploration.

As I prepare for my second Burning Man experience in just a few days, I put down some of my thoughts to help the first-timers in our camp. If it helps others too, great!

Every experience at Burning Man is unique. As you’ll see, the immensity of Black Rock City (BRC) is incomprehensible until you get there. Even if you were to attempt to chart a specific path, the environment with its sporadic dust storms, bouts of heat, fluid nature, and even rain will challenge any attempt at planning.

This is why one of the first things you learn at BM is to go with the flow.

Trying to meetup with people at other camps is usually a huge waste of time and typically very frustrating.

If you’re at BM, chances are you know other people there that are not in your camp. Trying to find them is a challenge and can easily eat up a full day with no promise for success. Cell phones typically don’t work and even when they do, most people correctly choose not to use them. Communication is tough and in a place as rugged and flowing as BM, depending on people being in a certain place at a certain time is a bad bet.

Same thing goes for activities. Upon arriving on the playa, you will receive a dense book filled with all the scheduled things going on around the playa throughout the week. It’s daunting. Peruse the book and pick one or two things to check out, if you’d like. Trying to schedule the whole time there is a mistake because inevitably you’ll get diverted leaving you with a sense of ‘missing out’. Know this: YOU WILL MISS OUT ON MANY THINGS! You can’t possibly be everywhere at all times so you may as well embrace it from the beginning.

The alternative, meandering through BM using only serendipity as your guide without expectation, virtually guarantees success. There is no other event in the modern world where leaving experience to chance is the preferred method, especially for first-timers.

The differences between the Default World(1) to BM are significant. It is hard to describe how rugged and inhospitable the playa is. Given that every single thing needs to be transported in and out for the event, the question of whether there is a less ideal place to hold a 60k person event comes to mind frequently. It’s hard to imagine as a newcomer because you only hear positive reviews of the experiences from devirginized burners but make no mistake, the playa is as extreme natural environment as it gets.

Surviving is the first step and thriving is the second. You can’t thrive if you can’t survive first.

Survival is about preparation and thriving is 100% attitude.

Mental Prepation

Read the damn Survival Guide. Yes, it’s long but it is also concise given all that you need to know. There are some very important things to understand prior to arriving on the playa in order to be mentally prepared. It’s important to know how big the event is, how well it is organised, where you will poop, how to arrive, how to exit, what’s frowned upon, what’s encouraged, where to turn if you or someone needs help, personal safety, etc.

Read the frickin Survival Guide! If you don’t recognize the importance of spending 20 mins required to read the guide before heading into one of the most unusual and challenging environments, you don’t deserve to survive. But you also shouldn’t come because then you are relying on the community to support you without doing your fair share.

Know what BM is not! This may even be more important than knowing what Burning Man is because the public perception of BM, while understandably perceived, doesn’t begin to capture what the experience is or what life is like on the playa. Burning Man is NOT a music festival. Burning Man is not a drug fueled sex fest. Burning Man is not about nudity or celebrities or fashion, even if some elements of those things exist on the playa. Burning Man is not about bartering for food and experiences. Burning Man has not become commercialized despite what people tell you.

Burning Man is a time and place for like-minded people to live among various forms of expression while eschewing certain elements of the Default World (transactions, social status, judgement, to name a few). Expression is in the form of creating art, experiencing art, and being among art. Art is huge at BM and in a way, BM is one huge participatory art piece.

Music is one form of artistic expression which means there is music at BM. But it is in no way central and if you don’t want to hear anything louder than personal music, a burner could easily do so.

Art cars and mutant vehicles are another form of artistic expression and are a core element of Burning Man. Art cars are cars/trucks/buses/boats that have been converted to rolling art pieces. Some shoot fire, most have lights and others are small, 2-person transports. Many of them form their own intimate party and can be hopped on and off as you choose. They don’t have a specific route but roam the playa through the night.

Nudity, female AND male, is common at BM but by no means is expected. People choose to be nude or partially nude in order to express some part of them but that’s all there is to it, a personal expression. Nudity is not consent. BM is meant to be a safe place for all expression and nudity is no different.

Physical preparation

You don’t need to go on a diet before BM, that’s not important. What is extremely important is bringing the right gear. The playa is unforgiving. Every year the weather is different and it cannot be predicted.

You MUST be prepared for any environment that include extreme heat, cold, sun, dust, and wind. You also MUST have good shelter and enough food and water for the time that you are there. There are no stores or places to run out to if you forget something. You will not be able to leave the playa outside of a true emergency. Read that last sentence again. You cannot simply run out to the store if you forget something or need something last-minute. Yes, other folks on the playa are ready and willing to help but you shouldn’t rely on them.

There are countless gear guides online so I won’t go into the depths of what you need. Experienced burners have their opinions but until you develop your own opinions AFTER attending, you should consider the following list of items mandatory:

  1. Dust mask
  2. Goggles
  3. CamelBak
  4. Travel mug
  5. Bike and lock
  6. Bike lights
  7. Headlamp
  8. Clothing for 40 deg weather
  9. Clothing for 90 deg weather
  10. Food and water for days on playa
  11. Shelter
  12. Sun shields (hat, sun screen, sunglasses)
  13. Shoes that you can stand and walk in for 5+ hours a day

Great outfits add some fun to the Burning Man experience but they aren’t critical to surviving. All the pictures from BM look like everyone is professionally styled but the reality is that it is very mixed. People there are mainly very comfortable with free flowing clothes that they can wear day after day and night after night. Then they have a couple of funky accessories for style but that’s about it.

As a first timer, you are probably going to buy and bring too much stuff. On the playa, you’ll probably only wear a couple different outfits. Or maybe even just one!

If you are going to bring some fun stuff, bring real clothes, not Halloween costumes. Note, everything you bring to the playa will be consumed by dust, sometimes irreparably. One good tip is to bring street clothes and put them in a Ziploc bag that you only open once you are off the playa. That way, you have at least one clean thing to wear on the flight back home.

Thriving

It’s all about attitude. Burning Man is an ideal place for personal exploration. Some people have transformative experiences but don’t put it on yourself that that’s what you need to make Burning Man worth it.

Just getting there is a success! To maximize your time, here is what I would suggest:

  1. Be conscious of the 10 principles while you are on the playa and do your best to uphold them. Prior to getting on the playa, they can be a bit abstract but each one will have context provided after spending some time on the playa. By upholding the principles, it is one way of giving back to the community. You will also experience the event as the organizers intended.
  2. Try to leave as much of the Default World in the Default World as possible. Specifically, don’t carry your cell phone around, don’t talk about your day job or ask other people about theirs, and try to stay away from current events. What you do also affects other people so even if you are okay talking about your life, others come to Burning Man precisely to have an alternative experience. If you don’t know how to start a conversation without pat questions like where are you from or what do you do, try asking how many burns a person has been to or offering that it is your first time and if they know of any must-dos.
  3. Default to yes. Do you want to ride this art car? Yes! Do you want to check out that nail painting camp? yes! Do you want to learn Bangra? yes! It’s very okay to have boundaries, it’s your experience and nobody elses. But, BM is a chance to try things that you probably wouldn’t have in the Default World.\
  4. Hug instead of shaking hands! Meet people and don’t hesitate going to say hello to strangers. BM is the best environment in the world to meet new people. Likewise, be open to strangers saying hello to you.

First timer FAQ

Q: What do I use the CamelBak for and why a travel mug?
A: It’s very hot during the day and since there are no water fountains, a CamelBak provides a convenient way to carry enough water on your person for the day. Or else you dehydrate and be miserable or worse. Not everybody has a CamelBak out there but most people do. The travel mug is to take advantage of the myriad of food and beverages offered by camps on the playa. They expect you to have your own mug/bowl because disposable stuff is bad for the environment and liable to become MOOP.

Q: What’s MOOP and do I need to care about it?
A: It’s Matter Out Of Place and is basically trash. Yes, you need to care about it or else people will be yelling MOOP at you and eventually you’ll be shamed into realizing that it is easier to just be conscious about your trash than getting yelled at all the time. Plus, it really is the right thing to do.

Q: How dusty does it really get out there?
A: It varies from year to year but the year I went (2015) was insanely dusty. Like, you can’t see 10 ft in front of you dusty. Dust gets EVERYWHERE. It’s hard to describe but as long as you get good goggles and dust mask, you’ll manage fine. Have them with you at all times!

Q: Why do I need lights on my bike?
A: Lights prevent you from being run over by an art car or other bikers. They are very important! It’s dark in the desert and if you aren’t lit, you won’t be seen. It’s also important to have distinct lights on your bike because you’ll park your bike at night and finding it can be very tricky. There are thousands of bikes all around the playa! Anything to differentiate your bike from the others helps.

Q: How should I go for my first time? With a camp or by myself?
A: I would highly suggest trying to find a camp to go with. There is a special section in BRC for single campers but the vast majority are with a camp. IMHO, everything is better with people who you can share it with. Having a camp also greatly improves the planning experience because you can rely on more experienced people for the majority of logistics while you can focus on just getting there and living.

Q: Who goes to BM?
A: All kinds of people. Most of them are interesting. The range of people on the playa is surprising. There are couples in their 60s and 70s that just hang out at their RV all day and on the other side of the spectrum, there are even kids. There aren’t many kids but you’ll definitely see some. There is everything in between!

Q: Where do you pee and poop? What about showers or bathing?
A: There are plenty of porta potty stations throughout BRC that are diligently maintained by organization staff. There are no public showers on the playa unless you bring one. Some camps have showers but also remember that all gray water (i.e. shower run-off) must be contained and disposed of properly. People without showers typically use wipes to clean themselves.

Q: If it’s not a music festival or a drug-fueled sex fest, how would you describe Burning Man succinctly?
A: It’s an organized week of camping in the desert with 60k people focused on art and personal exploration.

Q: What’s the deal with bartering?
A: There actually isn’t that much bartering going on. Because everyone is radically self-reliant, most things exchanged between people are just given away and are part of the gifting culture.

Q: Isn’t Burning Man commercialized now? I heard it is really different from it used to be.
A: Brands of all kinds are shunned on the playa. People go so far as to cover the U-haul logo on their trucks so as not to inadvertently advertise. I don’t know what BM used to be because I wasn’t there but I am sure it is different now than before. It has evolved and some things like infrastructure are certainly better now than before. There are also a lot more people which means more art and more things going on. Honestly, I think that burners perpetuate the commercialization myth to protect it from people who probably wouldn’t contribute to the experience.

Q: Is Burning Man safe?
A: It’s a lot safer than a typical 60k person city but that doesn’t mean it is danger-free. With that many people, it’s inevitable that crimes are committed. Just because it feels safe, doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t be conscious of their own personal safety. Be conscious and maintain a reasonable level of vigilance.

Q: Are there police or event staff around? What if there is an emergency?
A: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is the primary government agency that protects the land which BRC is built on. They setup a special outpost during BM and definitely have a continuous presence in BRC. They generally keep to themselves unless there is a reason to get involved. Supposedly there are undercover police around too so be mindful. They bust camps not IDing people and serving alcohol to minors. Their presence may be a myth to keep people in check but it might not be so may as well be aware. BM also has volunteer rangers and their own staff that roam around to provide support to burners. Help is usually never too far away. They all have radios and can get support to people quickly.

Footnotes:

  1. The easiest thing is for people new to BM to refer to the rest of their life by saying things like ‘when I get back to normal life’ or ‘in the real world, blah blah blah’. Burners hate the idea that the rest of the year should be called normal and instead challenge that notion that it is normal by referring to it as the Default World, i.e. the world we have settled to live in but is in no way ideal or more normal than the world as we experience it in BRC.

Haute Route Trip Report – April 2017

The trip on the Haute Route is 7 full days from Chamonix, France to Zermatt, Switzerland. It’s one of the most famous touring routes in the world and is on many mountaineer’s bucket list. I found myself on the trip after an old friend of mine mentioned that he was putting a trip together with his friend and a local guide. This was a discussion over drinks about 5 months prior to us leaving.

Initially, we were just talking about our former and future mountain pursuits; there was no talk of me joining the trip. After talking a bit more over the coming weeks, he (another Adam), asked me if I had any interest in coming along. Admittedly, I had actually never heard of the Haute Route, despite its fame, but if anyone describes a trip as one on their bucket list, it is worth further examination. I did a very brief Googling to find out what the trip generally entailed but it didn’t take long for me to agree. I didn’t want to to read too much for fear of scaring myself out of the trip. It’s a full 7 day backcountry skiing trip and I had never done a single day of skinning in my life!

The best part about joining the trip is that I didn’t have to run point. Adam knew the guide from a previous trip to Chamonix and he took care of the major logistics. I just had to gear up and physically prepare myself for the expedition.

I had some gear from my previous mountaineering trips but somehow I still found myself buying a lot of stuff. Of course, I did a lot of this last minute but the hidden benefit was that by the time I got around to buying gear, it was the end of the season and I found some great deals. I had to buy a new shell, backpack, merino base layers, AT boots, and a whole lot of other odds and ends. I ended up buying most of the gear from backcountry.com which was an overall great experience. They carry just about everything and a lot of stuff was on sale. Their service is also amazing. The AT boots I bought from a bootfitter while I was in Whistler a few weeks prior to leaving for Switzerland.

Buying gear for a long backcountry trip like this one is a constant optimization battle: weight vs. price vs. versatility. There are trade-offs with everything! Lorenzo, the other member of the group and the person with the most touring experience, was very keen about having the lightest gear he could get, within reason. I generally don’t care to that level but he kept emailing us with a new piece of gear that saved 3 ounces! In the end, I tried to be reasonable and buy some gear that saved weight (e.g. the Shaxe) but also didn’t re-buy anything that I already owned. I also knew I was probably going to have the heaviest load anyway given that I was adding at least 3lbs for a camera kit. My philosophy is that minimizing pack weight is great but everyone should be conditioned properly to carry significantly more. Things can happen on the mountain, someone in your group could get injured and you may need to carry parts of your friends pack or worse, you may need to carry your friend. I also always bring emergency gear including a blanket/bivy and a first aid kit. If carrying an extra pound or two is going to be the difference between finishing the trip or not, you shouldn’t be doing the trip.

Read my very detailed post about gear here: Haute Route Equipment Guide

The trip was to start on Monday April 3rd from Chamonix. The three of us flew into Geneva on the Friday and Saturday to give us some time to take care of details and settle in. The hotel we stayed in was called Hotel de L’arve and was a great little spot. It seems to be popular with many groups doing the Haute Route because we saw a few other folks coming and going from the Route while we were there.

Chamonix, if you haven’t been, is a really awesome town. You can just feel the vibes the moment you step foot within the city limits. There are gear stores everywhere and well-outfitted people coming and going from their latest adventures. It’s not even remotely strange to see folks wearing a harness or ski boots all around town. Aside from snow sports there are also other sports that are very popular like trail running, paragliding, and cycling. It’s a very active town. It’s also very beautiful. Look up and you can see glaciers climbing up the mountains and jagged peaks in all directions. It is definitely a special place.

On Saturday, our guide, Serge, came to the hotel to say hello and discuss the details for Monday. I actually missed this meeting because I was still on my way to Cham from the Geneva Airport. In what is now part of our trip lore, the only knowledge we gained about the itinerary for the trip was when Serge told us that ‘every day was up and down’.

Once I arrived in town later that night, I met up with the guys who had just sat down to dinner. We ate and drank well throughout the entire trip and it started with the first meal! The red wine was flowing.

Everybody was pumped up to get started. On Sunday, Lorenzo encouraged us to get a few runs in on Brevent to warm up the legs and feel out our gear a bit more. The conditions were poor to say the least but Lorenzo was very keen to try out his new tele boots. I only had a day in my new AT boots so I figured I could benefit the same.

Other than my boots, I rented my ski kit (skis, skins, ski crampons, poles) from a local ski shop, Ravanel, in Chamonix. If you have never been to Chamonix, gear shops are aplenty! A week prior, when I had decided that I wasn’t going to buy a full setup and that I would need to rent in Chamonix, I called around to the local ski shops to secure a pair of suitable AT skis. Ravanel said they would put a pair of lightweight skis aside for me but I would need to go through their website to reserve a pair online with a deposit paid on my credit card.

Picking up the gear was easy enough even though they hadn’t actually put any skis aside like they said they would. Ravanel! However, they had a pair of 175cm Scott Cascades which I had never heard of before but seemed suitable for the trip. They had a pair of Dynafit Radical ST 2 bindings mounted which were perfect. Included with the rental was matching skins, lightweight poles, and ski crampons. You know when you are in a serious place when touring gear automatically comes with ski crampons! I had never even heard of ski crampons before prepping for this trip.

On Sunday, we took the 5 minute bus ride from the hotel to Brevent. Skiing on Brevent was a good idea but the conditions were very poor and the visibility equally as bad. It was just enough to try out our new gear.

Monday morning! It was time to start the trip. The three of us met up with Serge at 8 am with all our gear at the bus stop about 5 mins walk from the hotel. Our destination was the Grands Montet ski area. All of our city clothes we left in storage at the hotel and would pick it up on the way back.

The start of the trip began with a rush to get in line for the cable car at Grands Montet. Apparently the line fills up quickly and can easily put the trip back an hour or two. But that ended up being the only real rush on the trip! Once we were at the top, the pace was normalized.

From the top, the first leg of our journey was skiing down to the Argentière glacier. Getting used to my new boots that were much more flexible and spacious than my old boots took some work. I had also forgot/not realized that wearing a heavy pack would make the boots feel even softer! The Scott skis I had rented were also full rocker which was not what I was used to either. Everything was new! It wasn’t too surprising that I ate it within about 200 yards of leaving on Monday morning. Not a good way to start the trip! As the trip went on, I figured out the new kit but I was not expecting the skiing to be more difficult to adjust to than the touring.

Our Haute Route

We ended up doing a slight variation of the ‘Verbier Route’. As it turns out, there are quite a few variations that can be done depending on preference, weather, hut availability, etc. (The route notes below are from Lorenzo with small tweaks from me).

Day 1:
– Up the Grands Montet gondola and cable car
– Ski down to Argentière Glacier
– Up the Col du Passon
– Through the Glacier du tour
– Night at the Albert Premier hut (2702m)

Day 2:
– Back to the Glacier du tour
– Col Supérieur du Tour
– Down to the town of Champex
– Drive through Orsiere
– Le Chable
– Gondola to Verbier. Short skin up to Mont-Fort.
– Night at the Cabane du Mont-Fort (2457m)

Day 3:
– Col de La Chaux
– Col du Momin (3005m)
– Summit the Rosablanche (3360m)
– Night at Cabane Prafleuri (2657m)

Day 4:
– Up the Col de Roux with ski crampons
– Across la Grande Dixence Dam
– Le Pas du Chat
– Lunch on rock facing Mont Blanc de Cheilon
– Night at Cabane Dix (2957m)

Day 5:
– Ski down to glacier
– Go through serpentine, the steeper part of hike
– Summit the Pigne d’Arolla with views of Matterhorn and Mont Blanc (3796m)
– Ski down to Vignettes Hut (3157m)

Day 6:
– Ski down from Vignettes to 3005m
– Col de l’Evêque (3,386M)
– Ski down through Haute Glacier d’Arolla (2,500m)
– Across the Plans de Bertol
– Skin up Col de Bertol
– Night at Bertol Hut (3,311m)

Day 7:
– Tete Blanche (3710m)
– Ski all the way down the Stockji Glacier to Zermatt
– Ski onto the resort and down for a beer!
– Minibus back to Chamonix

The Huts

Hut life in the Alps is a unique experience that is really special. You have 50 to 150 people from around the world co-lodging in the same small building, all on some kind of adventure. Not everybody is doing the same route but by the huts very nature, everyone that arrives there is an explorer.

The huts themselves are each unique with their own dormitory situation, refectory, and location. The word ‘hut’ is not even a good word for what they really are because these days the ‘huts’ are very well built lodges. They are real commercial buildings that happen to be perched on mountains in the middle of nowhere. As a result of their remoteness, all of them receive their supplies from regular helicopter drops.

The most enjoyable part of the huts is that the views are typically incredible and the food great. Importantly, they have copious supplies of wine and beer. They are fully staffed and have a kitchen that provide meals and snacks. At the end of each day, we would arrive at the hut and order a round of beers and some food, usually rosti. It was amazing!

Bathrooms were a bit hit or miss. All of the huts have bathrooms but they ranged in quality from outhouse style to proper toilets. The one common trait was that there was always a line for the loo in the morning because there weren’t enough stalls. But what about showers you ask?? A couple of the huts we stayed at had showers and I used one once during the trip. A shower costs a few euros and what it got you was 2 minutes of hot water and a towel. You have to take a military style shower where you turn on and off the water else you run out with soap in your hair. It actually worked quite well and the water was hot and had great pressure. I would have been fine with no shower at all. The icebreaker gear did its job! Plus, taking a shower and then getting back into dirty clothes is not so enjoyable to me. To each their own!

One thing that was interesting was the mix of personalities of all the people staying at the huts. Generally, I think the level of people’s conditioning determined if they were going to be amiable or not (and if they were having a good trip). In many cases, people that were poorly trained or completely untrained (insane!) were very surly in the huts (surprise!). More than once did we find ourselves walking on egg shells around some very haggard people. The four of us all managed to have a great time though. We talked to a few folks sitting around us for dinner or in the huts but otherwise we kept to ourselves. Everyone was on their own personal missions.

Typical Day Routine

Each hut would provide a simple breakfast in the morning, usually starting around 6:30am. We would wake up around 6:20 and saunter down to the refectory to eat. Breakfast usually consisted of cereal, milk, bread, jam, butter, coffee and or tea. We may have had eggs one of the days too, I can’t remember. In the dining room, we would also typically pick up our thermos of hot tea that we gave to the staff the night before. All of the huts will fill up your bottle or thermos with tea if you leave it with them overnight. This is a nice service because then you get hot tea on the mountain! The three of us shared one S’well bottle full of tea each day and Serge had his own tea.

After breakfast, we would go back to the rooms and get ready for the day. This meant putting our gear on, packing our backpacks, and making the bed. In our packs we’d be sure to have 1-1.5 liters of water for the day, snacks, and food for lunch. Snacks were usually a couple of Snickers bars or similar. Usually we’d be out the door and on the mountain by 7:30am. Serge would do a quick test to make sure all of our beacons were on and functioning and off we’d go!

After a full day of activity, we’d usually arrive to the hut somewhere between 2:30 and 4pm. At the hut, we’d park our skis outside and leave our skins and boots to sit in the sun to dry out. Ice axes and crampons must be left in the gear room. Also in the gear room were Crocs to wear around the hut.

Once checked in with the staff at the hut, we’d settle in for a round of beers and some food. Each hut has their own menu but rosti was a common attraction. It’s almost as if rosti was created specifically for a late day meal on the mountain!

We’d hang out for a bit and maybe take a light rest before dinner at 6:30. Dinner is a communal affair with everyone eating at group tables. I always thought dinner was excellent, especially given the remoteness of where we were eating. The general format was a soup starter, sometimes a salad course, main course with meat, vegetables and a starch, then a dessert. If you’re a picky eater, you should probably stop being that.

One thing I have learned from all my trips is that the guides always eat a lot, especially at dinner. And they usually aren’t huge people. Eating a lot has never been an issue for me but I make a point of it while on a trip. Being at altitude and working hard can sometimes seriously diminish appetite so it is very important to work through that. When in doubt, eat more! Especially since you don’t have to carry it up the mountain with you. Eating on the trail or before going out is a bit of a different issue because you don’t want to feel super full while doing hard work. Even so, it is important to monitor how much your eating and making sure you get enough calories each day.

After dinner, we’d hang out and chat, usually till 9ish. We’d also take care of our bill and purchase any snacks or water we needed for the next day. By 10pm, we were usually heading to bed and the hut was very quiet. It generally wasn’t the case that there were people hanging out very late. I liked to read at night but fairly quickly I would fall asleep and be ready to start all over again in the morning!

Physical Preparation

The Haute Route is a long trip with a lot of vertical each day. I don’t know exactly what we ended up doing but most trip guides say to be prepared for about 1000m (3-4k feet) of climbing per day. The length of the trip made me nervous and it didn’t help that I had zero experience ski touring. I always like a good challenge though.

The good thing is that I have been on some big mountains and am fairly comfortable with what it takes to climb at altitude. For my training, I borrowed some of my old techniques and augmented them with some new stuff too.

The biggest thing for me was to drop some lbs. I wanted to start my diet earlier but yeah, it didn’t happen until the second week of January. I had less than 3 months to get in shape! The first thing that I did was start on a ketosis diet. I had done this once before for 6 weeks and had been itching to try it again. If you aren’t familiar with ketosis, it is a state where your body transitions from primarily using glucose for energy to ketones. To get into ketosis, one must follow a strict diet that keeps carbohydrates below a certain threshold (20-30 grams per day) and makes up for those calories primarily with fat. It’s a really interesting diet that I’ll write more about in another post.

The diet got me from 191 to 178 lbs which was great at 5’11”ish. Dropping 13lbs is enough to really notice clothes fitting differently. In the last couple of weeks leading up to the trip, I introduced carbs back into my diet in a pseudo CKD style where I had them only on one day of the weekend and then both days. During the trip I was out of ketosis.

At the same time that I changed my diet, I also started training. IMHO, the best thing in the gym to prepare for going up mountains is the StairMaster (this is the one with the rolling stairs, i.e. mini escalator). To make it even more realistic, I wear 5lb ankle weights that represent the boots and skis I wear on the mountain. I have used the StairMaster effectively to train for previous trips and it’s the best. Try it! PLEASE, do not be one of those people that reverse grips the hand rails while locking their arms out to hold their body weight. It’s sad. It also does nothing for your training.

I would spend 20-40 minutes on the StairMaster at a medium pace. If on the short end of that scale, I would accompany it with treadmill intervals. At some point during my training I discovered that my gym has special treadmills called incline trainers that can go to insane pitches (30%!) so I would work those into my routine too. Note, I am in New York City so finding mountains to train on is not so easy. I had to take what I could get!

I also incorporated tricep exercises to help with poling on the slopes. My tris always get really sore after a big ski trip so I wanted to make sure they could keep up with 7 days on the Haute Route. The other thing I did was some focused leg strength exercises like leg extensions and lying leg curls.

I tried to get in the gym at least 3 days a week for 1-1.5 hours and do some kind of activity on the weekend too.

The results were that I felt surprisingly fit on the trip. If my exertion was measured on a scale of 1 to 10, I would say that I was typically cruising around on the Route at a 6. There were some short periods (10 – 20 mins) of higher exertion but I don’t think it was ever a 9 or 10. As a contrast, summit day on Elbrus was a steady 9 for the whole time with spurts at 10. My experience on Mont Blanc, due to much worse conditioning, terrible weather, and altitude sickness, was a steady 8 with extended periods of 10 which eventually did me in. Rainier, my first summit, was probably a 7.5 – 8 but I was well conditioned and we had great weather. So in contrast to my summiting experiences, the Haute Route was very pleasant. I also found that ski touring matches up well with my lazy walking style! Climbing up a mountain with boots and crampons on requires so much more effort, primarily from going up steeper terrain and spending a lot of energy on boot placement in the snow. With ski touring, I found it very consistent and smooth. I didn’t have to worry about foot placement like I do with hiking (note, I’ll be the first to admit that I am not the most surefooted person). I also took to the movement very well and found myself feeling very comfortable on the mountain, even when it was icy and steep.

One last little trick that I did to prepare for the trip, I went off caffeine. For 2 weeks prior to the trip, I completely detoxed from caffeine with the hopes that I would reset my tolerance to normal levels. That way when I had coffee on the trip, it would give me a little boost. We were only having a cup for breakfast anyway. Aside from the trip, I think it’s always a good idea to detox from caffeine every year.

Cost

The cost of a 7-day backcountry trip such as the Haute Route can be slightly intimidating. Yes, despite eating ‘normal’ food and sleeping in dorms, all the costs add up quite quickly. It should go without saying but the trip was well worth it!

In case any reader is thinking about trying to budget for a similar trip, I would budget about $2500 + gear + flights for everything. You could certainly spend more (staying in expensive hotels on either end) and could definitely spend a lot less (no drinks on the mountain). We always had at least a round of beers on the mountain each day and wine with dinner. How you want to spend your time is up to you but at least this is a good starting point.

  • Roundtrip flight from NYC to Geneva – $700 USD
  • Roundtrip Shuttle for Geneva airport to Chamonix – $80 USD
  • 7 days & 6 nights of huts, half board, drinks, snacks, water and guide fees – $1600 USD
  • 7 days Ski kit rental – $200 USD
  • Grands Montet Lift – $27.5 USD
  • Taxi to Verbier – $16 USD (my share)
  • Verbier Lift – $30 USD
  • Shuttle back from Zermatt to Chamonix – $53 USD (my share)
  • 4 nights hotel (2 nights on each side of trip) – $220 USD (my share)
  • Food, drinks, and snacks in town – $300 USD

Notes:

  1. Expenses were generally paid in Euro or in CHF. I converted all to USD based on the exchange rates at the time (approximately 1.1 USD to Euro and 1.06 USD to CHF). At the moment, the USD is very strong so if that changes, it could dramatically change the cost of the trip for other foreigners.
  2. Guides stay at most huts for free. We covered our guide’s food and drink on the trip which is included in the total cost above.
  3. The other two guys bought alpine club memberships which gave them half off the room fees in most of the huts. Given the cost of the memberships, I think they only broke even so I am not sure it was worth it. I wasn’t smarter, I just got into town too late to pick up a membership!

Overall Experience

Doing the Haute Route was amazing and without question, one of the best trips I have ever been on. We got super lucky with 6.5 of 7 days of perfect, beautiful weather. We had one snowy/hazy morning, boohoo. Our group was small, cohesive and we all had a great time with each other. The scenery on the trip was incredible from the first minute to the very last. It’s hard to truly describe the expanse of the glaciers and the feeling of being on them without any civilization around. I didn’t get sick of the view for one second. And the nice steady pace of touring without the rush to get to a summit made the trip very enjoyable. Capping off each day with beer, wine, and great food at the huts was magical.

Regarding how much skiing we actually did, it wasn’t much. I would categorize the time spent as 90% skinning, 5% skiing downhill, and 5% traversing. We also did some small stints walking in our boots with and without crampons. There were a couple of chances to do an extra lap to get some more skiing in but given the conditions, nobody in our group was keen enough.

The Haute Route is a long trip but a lot of the experience can be had by doing 2-3 day adventures in the area which are very accessible. Our group is already talking about going back next year for more! BRAVO.

 

Haute Route Equipment Guide

A few days ago I got back from a successful trip on the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt. We left Chamonix on the morning of Monday, April 3rd 2017 and arrived to Zermatt on the afternoon of Sunday, April 9th.

While preparing for the trip, I found some equipment guides but all of them were quite old. In this post, I will lay out exactly what I took on the trip and some commentary that may help future travelers.

The Haute Route is one of the most famous ski mountaineering traverses. For good reason! It was truly incredible.

Equipment

Backpack – Dakine Poacher 36L (3.1lbs) – This pack was perfect. It was comfortable, the right size, and had all of the features needed for ski touring. Some of the other equipment guides I had read recommended packs as small as 25L which I think is insane. I think I packed fairly well and I can’t imagine going to a pack much smaller than this. Even with a 36L, I still found it easier to strap some stuff on the outside during the trip instead of trying to get it all crammed into the pack on the mountain.

Reservoir – MSR DromLite Bag – I have an old DromLite reservoir that I put into the Poacher. I prefer to have reservoirs than bottles because it is easier to get small sips of water on the trail without waiting for water breaks. Even though the Poacher has an insulated sleeve, the hose and valve are still liable to freeze in cold weather. I forget about the blowback trick until about the third day of the trip! Even so, it doesn’t always work well and sometimes I had a frozen tube. Thankfully, we had a lot of sunshine and that usually took care of things. In general, we would each carry about 1 – 1.5liters of water for the day. The Dromedary was plenty big enough for my needs.

Thermos – S’well Bottle (0.7lbs) – I brought my swell bottle to use as a thermos and it was money. All the huts have some method to fill up a thermos with tea in the morning and the swell bottle kept it piping out through the cold morning/day. Adam (not me) ended up carrying the S’well bottle but we all shared the tea on the trail. I would highly recommend bringing a thermos to share tea among 3-4 people on the trip.

Puffy Jacket – Patagonia Down Sweater Hooded Jacket (15.1oz) – This is a really great jacket! It has 800 fill down and is very warm. Given our weather, I could have gotten away with a lighter weight synthetic jacket but I like to have a little extra warmth available in case of surprise bad weather conditions. I ended up wearing this jacket around the hut at night and in the morning. It was great to have a super warm jacket to throw on. I didn’t end up using it at all on the trail but that’s just because of our weather. Typically, I would throw on a puffy jacket when it is really cold and/or when we are stopped on the mountain.

Hard Shell – Black Diamond Liquid Point Shell Jacket (14.6oz) – We lucked out with 7 days of fantastic weather so this jacket actually didn’t see that much use. I think I put it on twice during the trip. That said, I am still very happy I had it. It worked great during those couple instances and in the more likely case that it rained, snowed or was very windy, this jacket would have come in very handy. The jacket runs a little small so I got a size up which was perfect (I am generally between a M and L for jackets).

Soft Shell – Arc’teryx Gamma MX Hoody (1.25lb) – This is a piece I had in the closet that was purchased 5-10 years ago. It’s pretty good and the new ones are probably even better. I actually don’t think my version is very warm or windproof but it’s what I got! For the majority of the time on the trip, I just wore this and a base layer on top. I wore the hood a lot, primarily as a sun protector.

Base Layer – Icebreaker Oasis LS Half Zip – I wore this every single day of the trip. Yup, seven days straight which included a whole lot of physical activity. Not once did I feel gross in it. I actually had never owned a piece of Icebreaker clothing prior to this trip but it came highly recommended so I went all-in. It was definitely the right decision. I would HIGHLY recommend this piece or a similar one from them to use as a base layer. I run in Patagonia Guide Shorts and those things stink after one use. Polyester is no bueno for this trip!

Base Layer, alternate – Icebreaker Tech Lite LS Crew – I brought a second base layer to use as a ‘hut shirt’ to be worn at night and could double as a backup top in case I wanted a change or the primary piece got dirty/wet. I ended up changing out of the Oasis half-zip and into this crew shirt a couple nights but then I got lazy and just stayed in the Oasis at night. I also bought a heavier base layer but ended up not bringing it on the trip.

Underwear – Icebreaker Anatomica Rib Boxers w/Fly– I brought 2 pairs on the trip but wore one throughout the entire trip. The second was a spare in case the first got dirty/wet or if I wanted to change mid-trip. Again, this merino stuff is incredible and I can’t recommend it enough.

Gaiter/Buff – Outdoor Research Catalyzer Ubertube (1.5oz) – This buff is a blend of merino wool and poly. It was great on the trip to provide a little warmth as well as to block the sun, depending on the situation. I didn’t start wearing it until the third or fourth day but then I couldn’t take it off!

Warm Hat – Uniqlo ‘wool’ Hat – I brought a warm hat but ended up not putting it on once. Instead I used a combination of a hat or helmet and buff and/or hood.

Sun Hat – Patagonia P-6 Trucker Cap – You can see this hat in virtually all of my pictures. It was on my head any time that I wasn’t wearing my helmet, which was virtually all the time. A trucker hat is probably not the best idea since the back has holes but it was just fine for me. Our guide had a bucket hat that he wore and others wore other types of sun hats. On some level, it is style preference. Bringing a hat of some kind is highly suggested.

Ski Helmet – Smith Holt – This was an item of big debate before the trip, to bring or not to bring! All of the gear guides that I could find on the internet did not mention bringing a helmet. Our guide said it was up to us if we wanted to bring one. He didn’t bring one. I ended up bringing my ski helmet but it was on my pack for about 90%+ of the time. I would estimate about 20% of the people we saw on the trail had a helmet.

Light Gloves – Mountain Hardwear Fleece Glove – I wore these 95% of the time on the trip. They served their purposes to shield from the sun and provide some warmth. I already had these so I brought them but I think there is probably a better option on the market now.

Warm Gloves – Marmot Randonnee Gloves – These are really great gloves that I bought for my first mountaineering trip on Rainier. I was glad I had them but didn’t use them a whole bunch except during a couple cold mornings.

Long Underwear Bottom – Uniqlo Heattech Long Underwear – I have some more high tech long underwear but these were clean when I was packing! They worked well and I wore them every day of the trip under my soft shell pants. Some guides say that long underwear bottoms are optional but I disagree. These were great to have on and during any other weather than what we had, I would 100% say long underwear bottoms are mandatory.

Hard Shell Pant – First Ascent – I brought my hard shell pants but never needed them so they stayed in my pack the entire trip.

Soft Shell Pant – Mountain Hardwear – These formed the outer layer of my bottom half for the entire trip. There were a couple of instances when the other guys went to a single layer on the bottom but I kept these on with my long underwear the whole way. It was a little warm at times but opening the zip vents helped and heat was more easily managed by changing layers on top than on bottom.

Socks – SmartWool PhD Ski Medium Sock – I wore these all 7 days on the trip and also brought a second sock of the same type but in the light weight. I opted to wear the medium sock primarily because of boot fit, not warmth. I also brought a pair of Uniqlo synthetic wool socks to wear in the hut. Bringing these ended up being a great idea because I could then hang up my sweaty ski socks to dry (or put them in the sun) without going completely sockless. It was also nice having a pair of warm, dry socks for the hut. I probably didn’t need to bring three pairs of socks but I think bringing at least two pairs was a good idea.

Skis – Scott Cascade 95mm (2.9lbs) – I rented skis, skins, poles, and ski crampons from Ravanel in Chamonix. They are a well-respected outfitter in the area and the rental process went very smoothly. They had a couple of skis to choose from but the rental agent suggested the Scott’s as the best mix of weight and flexibility. In the end, I think they were a great choice (even though Scott is not exactly the first name I think of in touring skis). There is a lot of talk about what is the ideal width for a multi-day ski tour such as the Haute Route on the internet. We also talked about it a lot on the trip. I think this 95mm was great but definitely at the wider end of the spectrum of what is needed. Anything wider is totally unnecessary and is just extra weight to carry up the mountain. Most of the guides I saw on the route were rocking 85mm to 95mm waist widths. Our trip was 90%+ uphill, 5% traverse, and 5% downhill. None of the downhills were in waist deep powder! We had some good snow on a couple sections but any ski above 85mm would have been great. Even if it was snowing like crazy the whole trip, I still don’t think anything above 95mm would have been worth it. The Scott skins that came with the package worked fine. I don’t have much experience with other setups so I can’t comment much on the details.

Bindings – Dynafit Radical 2 ST (1.3lbs)- These were part of the ski package that I rented so I didn’t exactly have many choices. When looking at purchasing bindings prior to the trip, these seemed to be one of the most popular. My experience is that they worked well and I never had any issues. It was easy to flip up or down the heel lift while on the go. On the trail, I saw all kinds of bindings including frame bindings and ultra-minimal tech bindings with no brakes. I wouldn’t suggest either of these if you can help it. Having a brake is worth the extra weight and frame bindings are just a drag.

Boots – Dynafit TLT7 Expedition CR (2.5lbs each) – I bought these boots a couple of weeks before the trip and had a grand total of one day in them before heading out to Chamonix. A bit risky, for sure. I was on the fence as to whether I wanted to buy a complete touring setup or rent. In the end, I decided to buy the boots and rent the rest. We spent A LOT of time in our boots and it was definitely worth it to get my own boots. I tried on at least 5 different pairs at the boot store and the TLT7’s felt the best. The standard insoles didn’t provide any support for my high-arched foot but I fixed that with a new footbed. There was also some pressure on the top of my foot but this was relieved on the mountain when my foot flattened out and the insole packed out a bit. I opted to buy 1 full size larger than my (very tight) alpine boots which provided the right amount of space for extended touring. At first, I felt super wobbly going downhill in the boots but I got used to it and also dialed in the buckle pressure as I skied in them on the trip. In general, I liked these boots a lot. They are very light and have some unique features. The walk mode is excellent and are quickly switched from walk to ski. I never had a problem of accidentally going from one mode to the other. The longevity of the cable system concerns me a little bit but everything worked as expected on the trip. The boots are definitely not super stiff but that’s to be expected from a touring boot on the light side of the spectrum. One thing that I forgot to take into account is how much having a 25lb+ backpack changes the pressure on the boots and skis. My first downhill section in full gear was a big wake-up call! I could put a lot more pressure on my boots and the lighter flex was much more apparent. Again, I got used to it but it is something to think about. Fun fact, our guide also had TLT7s and wore them throughout the trip! One important thing with these boots that I am very glad I caught is that they need an adapter to work with ‘automatic’ crampons. The crampons I own were of this style so I needed this adapter kit to make my new TLT7s work with them. I bought the kit ahead of time but putting them on was not super easy. The hardest part is removing the stiff front wire bail of the crampons which is, at best, a bit treacherous without the right tools and equipment. I would suggest getting the ski shop to do this on their bench or doing it in a workshop that has a vice and a large screwdriver or prying tool. I had neither so I was stuck doing it in the hotel room with a Leatherman.

Insoles – Sole Performance Thin Insoles – I bought these at REI the day I flew out to Geneva. The folks at Ravanel helped me get them cut and fit into my boot once I got to Chamonix. These insoles felt really really good from day 1. I didn’t have any major foot or leg problems on the trip and I didn’t get a single blister! The bottom of the insoles are cork and they both have cracks near the ball of the foot so I am a little worried about longevity but we’ll just have to see.

Crampons – Black Diamond Sabretooths (1lb 15oz per pair) – I had these from previous trips. As I previously mentioned, I had to modify them with the TLT7 Crampon adapter kit. Once installed, they worked fine with my TLT7 boots. We used the crampon’s sparingly on the Haute Route. They were probably on the boots for less than a couple hours total over the entire trip. Some guides say aluminum crampons are fine and others say steel are mandatory. Given how little we used the crampons, I think either would have been fine. I definitely wouldn’t buy special AL crampons just for this trip just to save grams.

Shovel/Ice Axe – BCA Shaxe Speed Shovel (1lb 11.2oz total) – This is a shovel and ice axe set that shares a common shaft to save some weight. I didn’t use the shove (thankfully!) and only used the axe a couple of times. If you really wanted to save some weight, you could probably skip the axe for the trip (assuming some other folks in your group have one) but obviously a shovel is mandatory. I think the Shaxe is a great option because most of the time you can keep it in axe mode and in an emergency, the shovel is there for you. It also packs up much more nicely than a separate axe and shovel set.

Probe – BCA Stealth 240 Carbon Probe (7.6oz) – I found a good deal on this lightweight carbon probe so I bought it.

Beacon – Ortovox 3+ Avalanche Transveiver – (7.4oz) – Our guide gave me this to borrow for the trip. It was on at all times that we were not on hut premises. This was also the one thing that the guide would check each morning to make sure it was on and working properly.

Harness – Black Diamond Harness – I borrowed a basic harness from our guide instead of using my own. I have a Petzl climbing harness but opted to not use it to save a couple of ounces. Any harness would be fine as long as it is in good condition. Note, we always wore a harness and had our beacons on any time we were outside of the hut.

Sleeping Bag Liner – Rab 100% Silk Sleeping Bag Liner (4.8oz) – I already had a cotton sleeping bag liner but I opted to get this 100% silk version in a moment of weakness to save some size/weight. It wasn’t cheap but it was worth it. The silk liner is very comfortable and compared to my cotton one, it is tiny and super light. I got the standard version that is just a rectangle because the mummy was sold out but if I had the option, I would get one with a hood/pillow. Getting a liner of some sort is mandatory for the huts.

Glacier Glasses – Julbo Micropore Glacier Glasses – I like the old school varieties of glacier glasses with the leather side-shields. These have worked out for me on a few trips but then when we got back to Chamonix I spotted some super cool Vuarnets. Those are coming on my next big trip, for sure!

Ski Goggles – Oakley Ski Goggles – I actually never used these once. The other guys busted out there goggles when it was snowing one morning but it was light enough that I didn’t mind using my glacier glasses. It was still a good idea to bring them though because if it was super windy or precipitating hard, ski goggles are a must.

Toothbrush and Toothpaste – I bought a cheap travel toothbrush and a small container of toothpaste for the trip. Alternatively, you could do what a lot of folks do which is to use a regular toothbrush and cut off the extra length of the handle.

Emergency Blanket/Bivy – SOL Emergency Bivy (3.8oz) – I always like to have some form of emergency blanket on me when travelling in the backcountry. This time, I bought an emergency bivy which is basically the same as a space blanket but you can actually get inside of it. It is very small and not too heavy. This can save you or your buddies life so I think it is well worth the extra ounces in the pack.

First-Aid Kit – My first aid kit started life as a off-the-shelf kit that I have added to and subtracted from over the years.

Diamox – This is a prescription drug that helps mitigate the effects of high altitude. After doing trips with and without Diamox, I don’t mess around with not taking it any more.

Cloth Tape – I used simple tape on my feet to prevent blisters. It’s not as good as moleskin or second skin but it is a lot better than nothing. This tape comes with me on all trips and is something I usually keep in my backpack. I also brought moleskin in case I did get a blister on the trip.

Sunscreen – Sawyer Stay-Put System 2 Sunscreen SPF 50 – This stuff was very impressive. I usually would apply sunscreen once in the morning and maybe some reapplication during the day. As I mentioned earlier, we had A LOT of sunshine with a nearly cloudless sky most of the time. It was a big test for this sunscreen and it held up very well. I didn’t get a single bit of sunburn during the trip. I also tried to use clothing to cover my skin, when possible.

Lip Protection – Carmex – I used a tube of Carmex on the trip but also put the Sawyer sunscreen on my lips each day. This was my first mountaineering trip without destroyed lips, despite 7 consecutive days of sunshine! Most of the credit goes to the Sawyer sunscreen, I think.

Camera – Sony A7R II full-frame mirrorless camera and Sony 16-35mm F4 lens – I have been shooting with Canon DSLRs for over 10 years now and over the last couple of years have been itching to get into the mirrorless game. With this trip coming up, I finally bit the bullet and picked up this class-leading Sony. I rented the lens just for the trip. The benefits of this combo is that it is about a pound lighter than my Canon setup and has a lot more tech. The 42.4 MP back-illuminated CMOS sensor is insane and was ideal for the huge landscapes on the trip. I was also very happy with my choices of lenses to bring. I thought about bringing a prime to cut down on some weight but the zoom offered a good amount of flexibility for the mountains. I also saved some weight by choosing the slower F4 version instead of a much bulkier F2.8 version. I never needed more stops on the trip so I don’t think I was at all limited by a lens that only went to F4. It could have been nice to have a portrait lens for the huts but oh well. One of the big complaints about the camera is that the battery life is terrible and it is slow to zoom review and save to the memory card. All of these things are true but that didn’t stop me from taking plenty of photos on the trip. I kept a second, fully charged, battery in my internal chest pocket to keep it warm and in case I needed it. I also was very diligent about not doing too much review on the mountain, in the cold, in order to limit the time that the camera was turned on. There are a lot of dumb UI/UX things about the camera but I wont go into them here. Maybe I will write a full review in a separate post. I also brought a 10,000 mAh external battery to use to charge in the case that I couldn’t get power in the huts. Even though most of the huts had power, I liked using the battery to charge because then I didn’t have to rely on the irregular power situations at the huts and I also didn’t have to leave my very expensive camera in the public eye next to the visible outlets. Instead, I could charge the camera in the security of my bag and if necessary, charge the boring external battery at the hut outlets.

Camera Bag – Mindshift Ultralight Camera Cover 10 – This was a new bag setup for me on the mountain. The camera and lens combo just barely fit in the case but I probably needed the next size up. The case is very simple and has almost no structure to it. It was okay on the mountain but not great. Frankly, I dont think there is a great solution out there and I am tempted to fix that by making something myself! The whole camera setup is a bit much to juggle with the cold, gloves, lens cap, etc. on the mountain but that is part of the fun. It is important that the camera is ready to go quickly and not sitting in the pack. I also attached a very light nylon cord to the camera and clipped it to my pack and harness. This way, it was impossible for me to drop the camera and lose it down the side of the mountain!

Memory Card – SanDisk Extreme 64GB SDXC U3 Card – Given all the commentary about how slow the Sony is to save files, I wanted to make sure I had a suitably fast memory card. From what I read, the U3 designation is very important. This SanDisk card worked very admirably and I think maxed out the bus of the camera.

Tripod – Pedco UltraPod II Lightweight Camera Tripod – One of my weaknesses as a photographer has always been my laziness when it comes to using a tripod. I bought this lightweight travel tripod in the hopes that I might use it on the trip. It came out once or twice and I was able to capture some long exposure night shots which I wouldn’t have been able to get without it. So I guess it was worth it. It also has the functionality to be strapped to a pole but I never tried that method.

Ear Plugs – Military-Style Flange Ear Plugs – Unless you don’t mind sleeping around a bunch of snorers, ear plugs are a must. In my dopp kit, I always carry a pair of military style silicone ear plugs with the flanges that work quite well.

Head Lamp – Petzl Tikka XP2 – Having a headlamp is very useful in the huts and going to the bathroom at night. We didn’t need them on the route but some groups were extra eager and were on the mountain before the sun was up. These days, a simple LED headlamp is very adequate for most mountain activities. The headlamp I have has a red LED which is a nice feature in the huts when you aren’t trying to blind everyone, including yourself, with night-vision killing white light.

Cell Phone – I brought my iPhone on the trip which served a few purposes. I didn’t use the camera since I brought the Sony but a lot of other folks use their cell phone as a camera. Obviously, I liked having a phone for an emergency. I also ended up using the Kindle app to read at the hut. There is quite a bit of downtime so I was very happy to have something to read. There are books in the huts but they were almost all in French, which wasn’t very useful to me.

Knife – I brought a small folding knife but I actually forgot that it was in my pack so I ended up borrowing the other guys’. Bring a knife, just about any knife will do.

Food – The great thing about the Haute Route is that you don’t need to carry a lot of food and water. Generally, you just need to carry some snacks for the day and a lunch. I brought a whole bunch of energy gels (Ginsting by Honey Stinger) but ended up not needing them. I tried one on the 6th day just to see how it was (it was great). Otherwise, I brought some Haribo candies and a couple of Snickers. I refilled my supply of Snickers/Twix at the huts.

Cash – Some huts take credit card and some don’t. You should bring enough cash (Euros for France and CHF for Switzerland) to buy room, board, drinks, and snacks each day. Every day when we got to the hut we would have a round of beers and some food (rosti!). We also always sprung for wine at dinner. When in Europe, right?! I would suggest bringing ~1000 Euro/CHF to cover the seven days. If you purchased a package with a guide company, they may take care of most of these fees but we settled up with the hut after dinner each night.

Things I didn’t Bring

Prusik set, Rope, Cordelettes, or extra Biners – This depends a bit on the guide you go with but we traveled pretty light. Among the four of us, our guide carried a rope and glacier rescue equipment. He also gave an extra ice screw to one of us. Some groups had similar setups and others had each member carry full glacier rescue sets.

Pack Towel – There were a couple of huts that had showers but a towel was included in the cost to use the shower. I didn’t see a need to bring my own towel

Sandals – All of the huts provide Crocs for people to wear in and around the huts. Boots are left in the gear room and liners are taken out to dry. After 7 days in Crocs, I have a new found respect for them!

Kindle – If I didn’t have my phone and Kindle app, I would have been annoyed if I didn’t have something to read.

Ski Strap – I probably should have brought one but I didn’t.

Watch or Altimeter – I liked not having a watch. It’s all part of the disconnecting experience. Having an altimeter is fun but unless I am actually navigating, I find it just makes me count down altitude which makes everything feel a lot more like work.

Skin wax

Notepad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great software

It’s painful to see how short this list is. The unfortunate reality is that most software is lacking in either usability, features, reliability, or performance. Thankfully, software is constantly evolving and I am very encouraged by the crossover that is occurring between web technologies and native apps. Below is a list of the software that I think is great and some that I frequently use

Excellent software

Everything Search Engine (Free) – If you use a PC, you should download this tiny utility immediately. It will change your life and make you wonder why every Windows open or save dialog box doesn’t work like this natively. I have it setup to open a new search with alt+space key combination.

HelpScout ($20/user/month) – We use Helpscout’s helpdesk and docs products at Astrohaus. The helpdesk product is their flagship and it is phenomenal. It does all the things that I would hope for in a helpdesk and a lot more. The design is well thought out and it is constantly improving. They throw in Docs for some plans and it provides a simple knowledge base. It perfectly fits our needs and is well integrated into the help desk product. If you run a business, I would highly recommend using Helpscout to manage your communal inboxes and your knowledge base. It’s a real bargain for what you get in return.

LastPass – Patrick suggested we start using this at Astrohaus as a secure way to manage passwords and now I use it for my personal password keeping as well. It is well designed and I am now using much stronger and unique passwords for everything. The mobile app on iOSworks great as well.

Word Flow Keyboard app by Microsoft – One thing that Android got right is that the native keyboard allows you to swipe. If you’re an iPhone user and don’t know what I am talking about, swiping allows you to use a single finger to input words by dragging across all the letters in a continuous motion. It is unquestionably faster than hunting and pecking with two thumbs (or one!) because the keyboard software also applies predictive text algorithms to guess the word as you swipe. For the longest time, iOS did not support third party keyboards but now they do! I struggled with the Swype app for a while before I finally replaced it with Word Flow. The basic idea is the same but there are a couple features with Word Flow that are critical yet lacking in Swype. These mainly have to do with errors in typing and in predicting. In both cases, Word Flow handles them very smartly whereas Swype causes a lot of frustration. The keyboard is also great because you can also type like normal with two thumbs and then swipe without changing modes or anything. It’s the best of both worlds.

Greenshot (Free) – This little utility for Windows does screenshots but with a lot more sophistication. It takes over the PrtSc keyboard shortcut and gives you a lot more options including capturing window, capturing region, and sending to a basic image editor. It’s something I use almost daily.

Dropbox – The cloud is powerful when there are smart people building software on top of it. Dropbox is without question best in class and a game changer. I have also used Onedrive, Sugarsync, Google Drive, and Amazon Cloud but none of them are remotely as good as Dropbox. It just works, instantly detecting changes, and reliably keeps everything in sync. A few years ago I put all my files in the cloud which means that I can access any file from anywhere I have an internet connection. It also means that I could toss my laptop or have my hard drive fail in my desktop without any worry.

F.lux – Flux is a small utility that sits in the system tray and changes the warmth of your LCD screen as day turns to night. The idea is that by blocking blue light, your sleep will improve and it is more comfortable on the eyes. There is lots of research out there but it is far easier to just try it out. I have been using F.lux for a very long time and it is fantastic. At first, it seems like everything went pink but then the color palette becomes completely normal.

Notable exclusions

Chrome (Free) – This is my daily driver browser but it is a hungry, fat pig. Yes, it is my fault for having tons of tabs open all the time but the memory management is still poor. As with most Google products, I feel it getting stale the more I use it.

Windows ($$) – It’s bloated and rife with legacy nonsense. The good thing is that it is quite stable and fast for me these days. But the most basic things (network sharing, file management, window management) are still far too difficult and cumbersome.

Skype (Free) – A nightmare. [2017/1/31 edit: I went to use Skype today and it had a new feature that worked! It is a Microsoft product so maybe there is hope given their new leadership.]

 

 

Brand and company watch list

Best brands – There is no true fundamental or technical analysis here, just a gut feeling from a combination of news about the companies corporate strategy (new products, divestment, new focus areas, capex, etc.) and personal product experience, if applicable. If there is a relatively constant stream of news that I think represents good management decisions, the brand is likely to make the list.

  • Patagonia – This is a mass market company ($600mm revenue) that makes market leading outdoor gear while also maintaining incredibly progressive values. Doing this at a small scale with success is commendable but doing it at a very large scale and for decades is extremely impressive. Every piece of Patagonia clothing is not just good but great. The price you pay is comparable to other brands yet they also are market leaders in sustainability and environmental protection. Go watch 180 Degrees South if you haven’t seen it.
  • McDonald’s – Bring up McDonald’s and I will start raving. Without question, everyone’s faces will start to contort into some form of horror and shock. Yes, I really like McDonald’s. So does MB Kanye. McDonald’s impresses the hell out of me and I study them as a company as much as I can. No, they don’t make the healthiest food, duh. But they have been the market leaders in fast food forever and there is a reason for that. They are consistent despite the chaos of managing 36000+ stores in every corner of the world. They are constantly innovating while their competitors can’t even figure out how to do breakfast. If you are wondering, these are the items that I occasionally get at McDonald’s and am never let down: coffee, vanilla sundae, egg and cheese on a biscuit, french fries.
  • Verizon – They have the best mobile network, that’s clear. What people don’t realize is that they also have a gigantic fiber network that is very important. Where their competitors always seem to be grasping at straws to maintain or grow their footing, Verizon makes it look like selling their premium product is easy. Their branding and products are a little stale but I still think they are one of the best brands out there.
  • Netflix – they have made a ton of tough decisions and it seems like all of them have worked out in a positive way. Their switch from a DVD lending company to a streaming focus was incredibly courageous and visionary. Their investment into original content was equally insane. Both of these big steps have kept Netflix well ahead of any competitor. With Reed Hastings at the helm, I think they will continue to crush it.
  • HBO – They make the best of the best video content, no question about it. Netflix makes very very good stuff but HBO makes the absolute best stuff (Sopranos, Band of Brothers, Game of Thrones). And they push culturally interesting content too, not just huge features.
  • Tesla – I am so bullish on Tesla it’s painful. Elon Musk is one of the best entrepreneurs and visionaries right now and I have full confidence that Tesla will become one of the world’s largest companies one day, if not THE largest. Transportation and energy are two of the most important problems the world has and they aren’t going anywhere.
  • Amazon – Everyone uses Amazon so it is hard to imagine that anyone doesn’t know how incredible they are. They also make a lot of aggressive strategy moves like their investment in hardware, AI (Alexa), and original content. However, I will never forgive them for co-branding their e-readers and tablets under the Kindle moniker. That was a huge mistake and will probably kill the e-reader, eventually.
  • Starbucks – I don’t come across a ton of news about Starbucks but their market dominance is unquestionable. Also, people tend to forget, or not know, their progressiveness as a company. They were one of the first large companies to offer health insurance to all of their employees, all at great corporate expense. That was in 1988! Then in 1991 they were the first private company to offer stock options for eligible part-time employees. Now they are offering funding for their employee’s college education! I also recently had a cup of Ethiopian sun-dried coffee brewed on a Clover at a Reserve location in NYC and it was one of the best cups of coffee I think I have ever had. It was $4.95 for the cup though.
  • Facebook – It’s got 1.8 billion people and it isn’t even allowed in China. I joined the ‘Book grudgingly on March 18, 2004 when my gf at the time signed me up. MIT was the one of the first schools allowed on the platform so there must have been only a couple thousand users by the time I joined. [I just looked it up and FB was launched on Feb 4, 2004]. Since then Facebook has changed a lot but the pace of their growth has never faltered. Facebook has literally transformed our world and I can’t imagine us going backwards. It also has some of the smartest people in the world working there.
  • Costco – they take care of their employees, have super cheap prices, an insane return policy, and a curated selection. If they have it at Costco, you can be sure that it went through a selection process. Because they only carry one or two of any one item, the buyers take a lot of care. The result is that you can buy something there and know it is good quality. If it happens to break on you, take it back! Costco’s CEO is a strong leader and has built the company to the megalith it is today. My only complaint is that they have Pepsi products in thecafé.
  • In-N-Out – They don’t make the news much but in their business its probably a good thing. The food is always delicious and fresh. The staff are all painfully nice. And the prices feel like they were set 30 years ago and nobody remembered to update them for inflation. I respect their very deliberate growth strategy as well even though they completely neglect us east coasters.
  • Dominos – When the current CEO, J. Patrick Doyle, took over in March 2010, Domino Pizza was just another shoddy pizza chain. It was actually terrible. Ever since he came in, there have been a large string of real improvements and a continuous stream of smart decisions that are well publicized. Here are a few: an incredible app, the pizza tracker, the one button app, the Domino’s car, the new pizza sauce recipe, upgrading the cheese, insane cheesy bread, a much larger menu that is not just pizza, dropping the ‘pizza’ from their name as a result, renovating all of their locations, upgrading the cleanliness, making a wedding registry, and more. They just don’t stop innovating and most importantly, the food is much better and walking into a location is not nearly as sad as it used to be.

Very bullish

  • Microsoft – Ever since Ballmer left and Satya Nadella took his place, the company has been making a ton of right moves. Even though Microsoft under Ballmer’s reign only made extremely mediocre products and flopped major opportunities (mobile, AI assistants, etc.), they maintained their market position and huge cash reserves. Now that there is a true visionary and product guy in charge, they have every opportunity to do some truly disruptive things. One of the most amazing things is that Windows and Office are auto updating now and they are actually adding useful features! I have always been a good computer maintainer and upgraded my software throughout the past 20 years of using a computer but NEVER has a Microsoft minor update added anything valuable. More likely it would break something. That changed! The irony is that the one thing that doesn’t work in Windows for me is actual windows management. Clicking on a background window or alt-tabbing to a window brings that window to focus only about 50% of the time. I still have problems with windows going outside of my monitor’s desktop area so I have to shift+right click and use the archaic move command to bring them back onto the desktop. It’s a joke that these things don’t work in 2017 but whatever. Microsoft is on the way up!
  • Xiaomi – most Americans don’t know this company yet but watch out. They are a Chinese electronics company that is crushing it. I bought a Xiaomi phone for my use in China for $200 unlocked and it was really really good. Surprisingly good. All of their new products are interesting and seem to be innovative at a very low price. I think these guys are going to be the Samsung of China and will soon be a household name worldwide.

Notable absences

  • Google – generally speaking I think Google’s products are stuck in the past. Aside from Android, the rest of their stuff is languishing and in desperate need of a redesign. I am alone on this but I think it is high time for someone to make a real run at their search business. The UI/UX hasn’t changed in a decade!
  • Apple – My whole life I was very anti-Apple. Mostly because their customers and marketing were obnoxious, not because their products were terrible. The first Apple product I ever owned was an iPhone 6s not so long ago. No, I never had an iPod. Prior to that I had Blackberry’s and Android phones. Now I have an iPhone 7 and it is great. However, I am worried about Apple’s long term innovation potential. The fear is that Tim Cook is the new Steve Ballmer. It’s probably not the case but there is reason for concern (Macbook Pro flop?). I do love my Airpods though so there is that. Hopefully they can continue creating new categories and focusing on product.

 

 

My favorite things

This is a list of my favorite things. I will try to keep it updated as time goes on. To qualify to be on the list, there is only one requirement: I must be reminded of how awesome the product is every time I use it. There is an internal voice that says ‘damn I love this thing’. I put the things into two categories, Super Favorites and Favorites.

Super Favorites – these are things that I would replace immediately if I lost or misplaced.

  • Kindle Paperwhite ($119) – I hard sell virtually everyone I meet on the amazingness of the Kindle. It is a life-changing device and no I am not kidding. It helps me sleep and also gives me the opportunity to read a lot more.
  • Desk hammock ($10) – I don’t remember where I first saw this thing but it’s great. Back when I was a banker, I modified my desk to give me more foot space and I put a box under it that allowed me to prop up my feet during the day. Now I have a foot hammock specifically designed for the same purpose! It’s cheap and gives me a good stretch while I am sitting. I wish I sat less during the day but until I can get a standing desk or get away more, the foot hammock offers some very healthy variety.
  • Sunrise Alarm Clock ($130) – Waking up to light instead of an audible alarm is a game changer. Back in high school, I went through an elaborate home automation process to enable a gradual crescendo of light to act as my alarm. It was awesome and ever since then I have used some form of a sunrise alarm clock to get me up. Now I am using a borrowed Biobrite unit but if I had to buy one, I would probably buy the Philips unit linked.
  • Logitech G600 Gaming Mouse ($45) – Productivity is my jam and this mouse is a key tool for me. It is meant to be used for gaming but I program it for general productivity purposes. It has 12 programmable thumb keys plus a ring button modifier to allow for 24 programmable keys. Plus, you can enable the mouse to have software profiles which will switch the hotkey definitions based on the program that is currently active. It is extremely customizable and it allows me to do a ton of shortcuts with just my mouse. Aside from the programmable keys, the mouse is extremely precise and is wired so I don’t have to worry about latency/batteries/glitches.
  • Lenovo Thinkpad Compact Keyboard with Trackpoint ($54) – This is my daily driver keyboard attached to my desktop. It is basically the keyboard from a Thinkpad but as a standalone unit. I loved the keyboard in my Thinkpad so much that I bought an external keyboard for my desktop. I am also one of those rare people that use the Trackpoint (the nub) mouse instead of a trackpad. I hate trackpads. Using a Trackpoint is incredibly fast since you don’t have to move your hand off the keyboard. It takes a little getting used to but now I have used one for 10+ years. It is worth learning! With this keyboard and the G600 mouse, I have a mouse on my keyboard and a keyboard on my mouse, effectively. It’s a powerful combination! For those wondering, the reason I still have an external mouse is that certain programs are very challenging to use with just the Trackpoint. A real mouse offers better control for graphics and CAD work that the trackpoint can’t achieve. For general usage, the Trackpoint works great. I seamlessly switch between them and don’t think about which one to use for which purpose. The other benefit for the Trackpoint is that it is much more ergonomic. Using a mouse with the right hand way out to the side creates a lot of shoulder problems. Most people have terrible neck, back, and shoulder pain because of the ergonomics of the computer setup.
  • 24″ Dell Ultrasharp Monitor – At least one big monitor is critical, and it needs to be elevated to eye level. I don’t understand how people work all day on a laptop! If I work on a laptop for more than a couple of hours, my body is toast. These days, a 24″ monitor is the minimum and it should be IPS with a resolution of at least 1920 x 1200. For me, color accuracy is important as well. Dell’s Ultrasharp line has always had extremely solid reviews and I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending them. My current workstation has a 27″ 4k Dell monitor in the center and a 24″  Dell Ultrasharp to the left in portrait. Occasionally I will move the portrait monitor to the other side to even things out. I don’t think the 4k monitor was worth the money but I got one and it’s alright.
  • Airpods ($159) – They are awesome, simple as that. The press and early reviews have been less than stellar but the more I use the Airpods, the more I question those people’s ability to review electronics. Truth is, these are a game changer. I think the audio fidelity is better than the wired earbuds and the microphones are even better. Hard to believe but that’s my experience. The fact that they don’t have a wire and sit in my ears effortlessly makes them so much more convenient when I work with my hands or are moving around. Bluetooth performance has been great. The battery life is fine and since you ALWAYS put them back in the case when not in use, they are constantly charging. I also don’t have to do the spaghetti dance like I do when pulling the wired earbuds out of my pocket. Note, I generally use these for phone calls and podcasts. Obviously, they aren’t going to compare for over-ear cans for music but they still sounds as good, if not better than the wired earpods.
  • Podcasts (free!) – Podcasts aren’t something you need to buy (yet!) but they are without a doubt one of my favorite things. There are some incredible podcast shows out there and they provide an extremely high level of quality for no cost. I find the podcasts that I listen to regularly just as interesting and stimulating as any other sort of media, and they are free and can be listened to while on the go. The podcasts I regularly listen to are The Tim Ferriss Show and Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin. Occasionally I will listen to episodes from a bunch of others that are very good including Radiolab, This American Life and Creator Lab. Even listening for ~10 hours a week, it is still hard to keep up with just a few shows!

Favorites – Items of such high quality or utility that they fulfill the requirement for being a favorite thing but aren’t as critical.

  • Kindle case ($15) – My first kindle didn’t have a case and after a lot of abuse, it eventually broke in my backpack :(. I replaced the Kindle and then bought a matching case to match. It’s a great product. The link goes to the actual case I have which is for the 7th gen kindle (not the latest). Just the tiny added convenience of the Kindle waking when the case is opened is such a delight. And it protects the Kindle attractively for a very small addition to size/weight. Love it!
  • iPhone wallet case ($13) – I was late to the party on the wallet case but now that I have one, I love it. This one is cheap and of good quality. It adds minimal size to the iPhone and looks great.
  • Bose QC25 Noise Cancelling Headphones ($299) – I bought these prior to taking a lot of trips back and forth to China. Business travelers swear by them so I figured I would give them a chance. At first I thought the noise cancelling experience was strange and uncomfortable but now I love them. They feel great, have great sound and the noise cancelling aspect makes the listening experience on a plane much better. They also help me sleep which is awesome. I haven’t tried any other noise cancelling headphones but I am sure the others in this price range are just as good or maybe better. I would consider buying the wireless ones if I were to repurchase.
  • Logitech H390 USB Headset with Noise-Canceling Microphone ($25) – Once I started working with a lot of contractors that required regular skype calls, it wasn’t long before I realized that the audio quality was terrible on every mobile phone headset we tried. I finally bought Patrick and I USB headsets. These Logitech headsets were a game changer for us and are simple and awesome. The call quality is fantastic and cross-talk minimal.
  • Dyson V8 stick vacuum – Who would have thought vacuuming would be so fun?! I have one of the basic V6 models that I got refurbished for less than $200 but if needed a new one and had the money, I would get the new V8. It’s perfect for an apartment or as a second vac for a house. It is light, super powerful and crazy maneuverable. The way the head moves with a turn of the wrist is very satisfying.

 

 

Not All Multivitamins Are Created Equal, Enough With The Nonsense Studies

Multivitamins are not created equal

It’s been a rough week for multivitamins. Two unrelated studies were released monday along with a scathing editorial in the Annals of Internal Medicine that demonstrated the lack of efficacy of multivitamins on cognitive function and cardiovascular health.  Studies:Long-Term Multivitamin Supplementation and Cognitive Function in Men: A Randomized Trial, High-Dose Multivitamins and Minerals After a Heart Attack

Should we chuck our multivitamins in the bin and move on? The related editorial seems to think so: Enough Is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements

If you can get past the misleading title of the editorial, it becomes clear that what they have done in the cited studies on multivitamins is essentially useless. Not just useless, but silly. I am not referring to their use of control groups or clinical methods to arrive at results, it’s the basic hypothesis that they are testing which is flawed. Making claims or discrediting claims of multivitamins is futile since the term multivitamin describes a product category with wide variation and no standardization.

The problem is that the word ‘multivitamin’ means nothing more than a mixture of multiple vitamins. So when you run a study using Centrum Silver as the cognitive function study above did, your results shouldn’t reflect all multivitamins, just the vitamins and dosages that Centrum Silver chose to include. For example, they chose to use 500IU of Vitamin D however many Doctors and Nutritionists are recommending 4-5x that amount to maintain adequate levels. If Centrum Silver doesn’t prove beneficial, it’s because of the ingredients they chose to include (or not include), not because of an inherent flaw in all vitamins.

The value and potential for healthy benefits from multivitamins completely depends on what is inside the formula. The reality is that there are a lot of formulas out there that do little more than provide a very basic suite of vitamins and minerals. But that doesn’t mean that multivitamins are useless.

Even one of the studies co-authors, John Michael Gaziano, doesn’t agree with the editorial, “It drives me crazy that they say ‘enough is enough,’ when there’s only been one large study of (standard) multivitamins and it’s ours.” Source

And what about non-standard multivitamins? Since there is no definition of what a standard multivitamin comprises, that’s going to be a tough question!

As the founder of a supplement company focused on reinventing the multivitamin, I have a vested interest in this conversation. Maybe it is wishful thinking that the scientific community will stop blanketing all multivitamins with their limited studies but at least now you can decide whether their results apply to you.

The Boy Scouts Need to Be More Like the Girl Scouts

The Boy Scouts of America needs to get it together.  No, I am not talking about their inability to make delicious cookies.

GLAAD-badgeofequality_1_1

The BSA has openly reaffirmed its policy against members of the LGBT community in their private organization.  They have removed gay leaders and scouts only to confirm that the organization’s leaders are backwards pieces of crap.

 

You can read all about the controversy on wiki’s page

As many of you know, or may not, I was an active scout all the way from Tigers to Eagle.  That’s right, I spent about 10 years in the boy scouts and worked very hard to reach the rank of Eagle, the highest ranking in the Boy Scouts.

Going through high school while trying to balance grades, social pressures and fun was not exactly easy with Boy Scouts as an extracurricular.   And as everyone knows, being a boy scout isn’t exactly the coolest thing to do around town.  Often it felt like I was leading a double life, trying to be the cool guy with my friends and then once a week and during outings, a scout.

As time filled in the gap between high school and my current position in life, I became more confident about my scouting history.  I had always been proud of my accomplishments and thought highly of my times in the Scouts.  And then I started to become aware of this little problem they have with the gay community.

What a bunch of idiots.  The Boy Scouts have so much to offer; so much that I, personally, have benefited from.  I would even like to have my kids someday experience scouting.  But their homophobia  is ruining everything not just for LGBT scouts but also for the rest of us that want to be proud of our affiliation.  Its almost funny that I used to not tell people that I was a boy scout because I didn’t want them to think I was uncool and now I still I don’t want to tell people but for an entirely different reason.

Then there was hope!

“The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members, or parents,” said a spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America, Deron Smith, in a statement. “This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/29/us/boy-scouts-consider-lifting-ban-on-gay-leaders.html

It’s not a full reversal from their previous stance but its certainly a big step in the right direction.  The board has since then punted their decision until at least May.  That’s not a great sign but we’ll just have to wait and see.

News came out today that a bill in California has been introduced to remove the tax exempt status for organizations that exclude gay members. Maybe that will push the organization in the right direction.

The sad truth is that this is not just a moral viewpoint to which the Boy Scouts are clinging. It all comes back to money and the fact is that by changing their policy, the BSA could, and probably will, lose millions of dollars from conservative donors. Almost 70% of Boy Scout units are chartered by faith based organizations.  The largest of which is the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with over 15% scouts represented. Most of these churches don’t exactly have an open door policy on gay members.

However the pendulum of popular opinion is starting to sway donors in the other direction, Merck, UPS and Intel have all pulled funding due to the BSA’s anti-gay policies.    We’ll just have to wait and see if the BSA can make the right decision in spite of the difficult short term funding problems it could have.

Read this to know why all future blog posts will be 70% incoherent and 30% squirrel

My resolution for 2013 is to write in this blog.  I have never really had a resolution before but I don’t think that I will treat this goal as any different, its just that this one came around the beginning of the year.  The point is, that I have made it a goal to write in this blog, no matter how painful it is for me, so that is what I will do.

Because, as you will quickly see if you haven’t already, I am a terrible writer.  It’s not that words come difficultly to me, or that I have a lack of things to say.  The problem lies in the fact that thoughts are supposed to be presented on the page in order.  A narrative should take shape so people can follow a story.  I suck at that.

It took me years and years of writing and then rewriting papers to realize that I don’t think in a way that is conducive to writing.  I constantly want to go on tangents and use parentheticals (within parentheticals)  to go into more detail about some random topic that I just referenced.  It is what I call horizontal thinking versus what most people do, vertical thinking.   It makes for good conversation but is terrible for a story line.  Good story tellers are able to include just the right amount of detail while moving forward without getting bogged down in minutiae.  Well, that’s my theory anyway.

Hopefully this blog will allow me to practice my writing, maybe even develop my own writing style, and in the absolute best case scenario, invoke some kind of interest in readers.

Aside from my writing problem, starting up this blog is very frightening.  What if nobody reads it and then I get discouraged and stop?  Or worse yet, what if people do read it?  Should I constantly remind myself that nothing on the internet can ever be truly deleted just in case I want to run for public office someday?? there is a lot to think about!

Next posts will have substance, I [tooltip_link title=”Sorry, I would pinky swear to show my sincerity but that seems awfully formal for a contract of this nature” to=”#”]promise[/tooltip_link].

Adam

 

 

First Blog Post

I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I AM DOING! Seriously, how do you write a blog without sounding like an idiot or an arrogant a-hole.  My resolution for 2013 is to really try and figure this out.  So this is my first post.

I heard blog posts are better with pictures so here is one I particularly like and for some reason relate to:

zach