Chamonix: Vallée Blanche

It’s been quiet around here except for Ethan and Peter handing you the keys to the Grand Traverse castle and a couple other random tips. Even though Taylor and I went to Japan for Christmas, I still haven’t even downloaded those photos. It’s been crazy time, but the crazy time ended when we finally got married on February 25th, and to celebrate, we headed to France to ski and drink wine.

Isn’t she pretty?

It was a long trip over with PDX -> Denver -> DC -> Paris and then a couple of trains to Chamonix. The wait was worth it. I’ve never seen such a place. It’s a verdant valley, somewhat quaint, with intimidating and tremendous mountains rising thousands of meters to both sides. Unlike other mountain towns in France, Chamonix retains some dirtbag character, and there’s a funny mix of tourists, townspeople, and outdoors folk milling around town. Every third person on the main street is an IFMGA guide, seems like.

Victim of the duration.

The size of the mountains is a bit intimidating for a couple humble Northwesterners, and we needed to gather some supplies and pack before heading out on the main event, the Haute Route (more to come on that). So, our first day in town we grabbed a reasonably good coffee and shelled out the big bucks to ride up the Aiguille du Midi, where a cable car takes you up 2800 meters in about 20 minutes; green valley floor to 12,000-foot alpine crags in the blink of an eye.

Step 1: Coffee. Sure, the place is run by an American, but real talk: the french suck at coffee.

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How to travel like you can’t afford it.

Taylor and I have managed to do a lot of traveling. Enough so that our friends are always asking us how we make it work. Even now, as I wrap up the fourth week of a rural psychiatry rotation in Southern Oregon, we’re planning the final details for flying to Japan next week.

I think travel is pretty awesome. It expands your world. It expands your comfort zone. It brings you in touch with people and cultures that expand your appreciation for the human race. In the interest of persuading you to travel like we do, if only once, I’ve compiled a list of tips, hacks, and philosophies that make it possible to put together amazing travel experiences with less money than you’d expect. It’s not definitive, but it works for us. Over and over again.


This adorable hut on the amazing Bomber traverse would never be here on this page if it weren’t for a half-cocked dream turned into reality by unbridled optimism and half-sane planning.

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Southern Oregon Backcountry: Siskiyou Skiing

southern oregon backcountry

Taylor on the skintrack, with untouched Southern Oregon backcountry gold behind her.

This weekend, Taylor and I headed South along I-5 to Southern Oregon aiming to sample the Southern Oregon backcountry and ski a smaller cascades volcano, Mt McLoughlin. Unfortunately, with a busy week last week, Tay forgot to move her shovel and probe from her race pack to her touring pack, so on Friday evening we discovered that we didn’t have the right kit to go ahead as planned. We cursed bad fortune and looked for alternate ideas.

southern oregon backcountry powder

I found a few good turns here and there in some of the lightest snow the PNW has to offer.

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Troll Hunting: Ski Touring in Iceland, Part 2

If you missed Part 1 of Ski Touring Iceland, you can find it here.


After almost a week in Iceland and several days of skiing touring on the North coast of the island, we thought that we’d learned the tactics needed to put together an amazing line. The right approach, timing, and snow conditions would let us choose and then tackle a king line. With just a few days remaining before our flights home, the countdown was on.

Dalvik Round 2

Each afternoon after skiing, we had grown habituated to collecting our thoughts at the Kaffihûs Bakkabrædra. While slamming down coffees and sampling the full depth of local pastry, we stared up at the mountains around us. To the East, towards Akureyri, was the head of the promising valley called Skíðadalur. At the head of the valley was an enormous slope visible from the café,  stretching thousands of feet at a perfect thirty-five degrees. It was no extreme descent, simply an extremely appealing line.

Tempting views from the coffee shop.

Tempting views from the coffee shop. There’s nothing quite like a verdant valley surrounded by perfect ski mountains.

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Troll Hunting: Ski Touring in Iceland, Part 1

Click here for Part II

It has finally started to turn cold here in the UpperLeft USA, and the Fall chill has everyone thinking about their favorite sport: CYCLOCROSS. Forget that. Fall is a season for ski stoke and impatient waiting. To fuel your stoke I hereby present the first half of a two-parter on ski mountaineering in Iceland. It was an amazing opportunity to travel internationally to ski, in the summer while somehow also in medical school, and I’m excited to share it with you.

I am grateful as always to the support of Icebreaker, who’s gear I used for this entire trip without washing, and which looked at the end of it all as if it had never been used. It feels good to smell good.

Iceland, panoramic.

Iceland. It won’t even fit in a panorama.

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Thru Hiking the High Sierra

Three weeks ago I was chasing a burnt orange sunset over Sonora Pass with my friend Andrew, trail name Sunshine. Sonora Pass marks the northern terminus of the High Sierra mountain range and mile 1017 on the Pacific Crest Trail. We had spent the evening anxiously looking up at thunderheads, and now we were looking up at the stars intermittently so as to not trip over rocks in the darkness. When we laid out our sleeping pads at 10:30 that night I had finished hiking over 400 miles since hopping on the PCT 27 days prior. Sunshine had hiked over 1050.


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Marin Headlands Run

On break in San Francisco, I was getting too fat and lazy, immersed as I was in the free-cookies-and-beer world of Air BnB headquarters. Ethan said that I would be remiss if I didn’t make it to the Marin Headlands for a run– that it was like “running through a Patagonia ad“.

The golden gate bridge, on my return trip.

The golden gate bridge, on my return trip.

Well, SF public transit really sucks, and there are only busses to the headlands on the weekends. This was frustrating. After hitting my head against a table for a few hours trying to figure out a ride (driving in SF also sucks), I decided to do what I usually do and turn a simple run into a big adventure by biking there and back.

Armed with a cruiser bike borrowed from my Air BnB host (thanks Ian!) I navigated the bike-unfriendly bike routes of San Francisco, up and over the tourist clogged golden gate bridge, and out to the quiet, foggy headlands. Read on →

Sprinting for the Starting Line


On an adventure blog, it can mean only two things. You see, it’s the quintessential paradox of the blogging adventurer that any minute spent blogging is one assuredly not spent adventuring. So, when the blog goes silent I am most likely just being lazy, but in this case, I’ve been out there, doing it.


Since May 1st, my trusty partner Taylor and I have been on the road through the West, occasionally climbing, possibly skiing, but predominantly tagging the best mountain bike trails that we can find.

We’re now almost a month and more than 200 miles of riding into the trip, and with sore behinds we’re parked in Crested Butte, CO, the only mountain town that has ever inspired me to blog by phone, let alone twice now. Hopefully the winter storm warning lined up for the next two days will yield some fresh snow, and a ski descent or two.


In a week, I’ll have a computer, and you’ll have more photos and stories from the road. Until then, I’ll be sleepin on the dirt, smelling like dusty sweat, and soaking up the high-mountain sun. Get out there and get yourself a piece of spring!


It’s eleven in the morning and I’m sitting in Seattle’s oldest espresso shop.  The americano in front of me is passably rich, though my chocolate croissant is a squishy and typically american treatment of pastry.  Dulling my perception of the energy spread out along University Avenue, the hangover I’ve earned by three days of recreating in Seattle’s night life is a softly pulsing reminder that change, especially personal change, is difficult.

When I closed the door behind me and climbed into my car three days ago, with all of my possessions crammed into boxes and duffels and fit by material tetris into my tailgate, the unreasonableness of my choices was thrilling.  There was plenty for me in Portland, and probably a better chance of finding productive employment, but staying didn’t seem right.  And moreover, it didn’t feel nearly as dangerous, as thrilling.  That morning rewarded me with five thousand feet of skiing in fresh snow on Mount Hood.  Flying through trees in deep snow, alone in the backcountry, the cold air tasted clean of the familiar flavors of Portland.  Three hours and three coffees later, I was in Seattle.

Goethe was right when he wrote,

“Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.  Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans.

“The moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.  All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.  A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.  Boldness has, genius, power and magic in it.  Begin it now.”

Fine, all of it, but Goethe forgot also to mention that the world, and self, are both things of great mass and momentum, and that to slow the direction of their current turning is the work of running constantly into the wind.  Danger lies in mistaking superficial change for boldness, and extremes of behavior for commitment.  e.g. If I feel bad about myself in Portland, and about the way that my life is going, then moving to Seattle (or Driggs, or Park City, or wherever) is likely just to transplant my dissatisfaction.  On the other hand, what I’ve found since arriving here is that my moving made all too plain what is standing still: change can be a catalyst and a new lens, but habit and worldview are a stubborn substrate for transformation.  I can keep running but the treadmill isn’t going to move until I step off of the belt.

The real illusion might be that greatness and achievement are easy, or at least that they come easily to some.  The world is slowly revealing that changing myself isn’t going as easy as I expected it would be, but more importantly, that the change will come from unexpected directions.  The world can’t help but be honest, and even as I do those things that I think will be most beneficial and transformative for me, the world repeatedly blindsides me with real lessons.  Maybe it’s just that you can’t set out to find the real lessons– they find you.

…Onwards to Utah, onwards up the mountains, and into my mind.  If the hills offer one thing, it’s fewer opportunities to fool myself.