Hiking

Get a Job Outdoors This Summer

Birds are chirping, flowers blooming, and the stress of finals and unsolved summer plans grow with each passing day. Yes, spring is finally here. As students around campus scramble to bump their grades up just a few more points, the professional world is gearing up for the summer season. Entry-level jobs pop up faster than wildflowers, and the good ones are taken just as quickly. If you’ve ever considered working outdoors, get your resume. This list will convince you to snag that summer dream job.

Explore More

Melting snow and warmer weather unlock an entire realm of Utah activities. Peaks are begging to be climbed in the Wasatch, trails ridden in Moab, and canyons descended in Zion. While you can (and should) jump at these opportunities during your off-days, you will discover all the hidden nooks and crannies of these places, squeezing every drop of adventure from it. You get to spend way more time rafting down rivers or climbing rock faces and you’ll get paid to do it!

Add Some Spice to Your Resume

Eventually, college will come to an end and the years of work we put toward a degree will hopefully go to use in an actual career. On that day, we will be reduced to a paper of accolades stacked in with hundreds of others. Having an interesting summer job on there, like Kayak Guide or Vineyard Assistant, will set your sheet apart from the others. Plus, it will open the door for you to share a sweet story and connect with your employer.

Mold Your Job to Your Liking

Anna de St. Aubin landed a job on a local farm last summer. Her daily duties involved everything from feeding goats to selling vegetables. Each morning, “[she] woke up early, made coffee, and watched the sunrise,” and every evening she would time her chores, “so the sun would be setting just as I was finishing milking, so I could watch the bats come out.” This is a whole lot better than waking up to a screaming alarm and bussing tables until it’s too dark to see outside.

Live Outside

While there’s always an allure to showers and a soft bed, there’s hardly a better experience than weeks on weeks of camping. Backpackers pay no small amounts to go do it all around the world, but finding a job that lets you camp for the season means you’ll be the one filling their pockets rather than emptying them. If your goal is to dirtbag through life, make your mom proud and earn cash while doing it.

Pro Deals

Loving the outdoors means you probably love gear too. All of the greatest recreational opportunities require a boat load of expensive equipment, most of which marks well beyond the salary of a college student. As a guide, or affiliate of a guide company, companies will set you up with deals to get everything cheaper. They know that clients will see you use it and be more likely to purchase that brand over another. Score garage sale-like deals so you can adventure on.

n.halberg@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Chris Hammock

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Good to Go, Meals for the Trail

Spring break is quickly approaching, and so is the season of gradual snowmelt, wildflowers, and terrestrial rebirth. Whether you intend to flock to more temperate wilderness or strap on a pair of snowshoes and stay local for the coming break, you’re going to need to sustain yourself out there. We’ve ditched the extravagance, leaving you with quick, hearty, and easy recipes to fill your tummy and more importantly, give you time and energy to engage with nature to your heart’s content.

TRAIL MIXES

We’ll give you the ingredients, you decide the quantity. 4:1 chocolate to peanut ratio? Go for it. All ingredients can likely be found in the bulk section of your local grocery store.

Sacred Seeds: Almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne pepper.

Power Blend: Flax seeds, goji berries, pistachios, dried blueberries, and dark chocolate chips.

Nutty Nutrition: Almonds, walnuts, cashews, peanuts, pecans, and raisins.

GORP: Simply peanuts, raisins, and M&Ms.

Coastal: Macadamia nuts, white chocolate chips, dried pineapple, and coconut flakes.

THE REAL MEALS

Particularly on longer excursions, Clif bars and handfuls of trail mix may not cut it. Give your body what it needs with these quick-and-easy recipes. Essentials: water-boiling mechanism, sturdy bowl and utensils, and trash bag for waste.

Pseudo Eggs and Bacon: pre-cooked bacon bits, instant mashed potatoes, and powdered eggs. Despite its ultra-processed components, this meal provides you with high amounts of carbohydrates, protein, and sodium to keep you marching along. Prepare heated ingredients separately.

Oatmeal: Use either bulk steel-cut oats or instant oatmeal as a base, mix in granola or some of the tasty trail mix you threw together, and you have yourself some hearty morning sustenance.

Thai Curry: Insta-rice, canned tuna, coconut milk powder, and a bit of curry powder. Infuse coconut milk with curry powder/paste to create the base — add the base into cooked rice and tuna.

Jerky Ramen: This one is lightweight and easy-peasy. Prepare any flavor of top ramen and submerge preferred jerky variety into broth, allowing it to soak for a while. Soy sauce optional (and highly recommended).

Nutella Wrap: Not entirely nutritious, though a delicious reward for a long day of physical torment. Requires only a flour tortilla, Nutella, and dried banana chips (feel free to be adventurous with additional ingredients). Simply spread, sprinkle, and wrap — voila, dessert!

Between your newfound knowledge of trail mix combinations and fully-stocked utility belt of simplistic, hearty meals, you are ready to march forth into the wilderness with confidence! Remember: a savvy snacker is an environmentally conscious snacker — leave no waste, and leave no trace.

d.rees@wasatchmag.com

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Old School Navigation

Learning to survive in the wilderness is a skill many outdoorsmen and women brush under the rug. We think we’ll never get lost, our equipment will never fail, and if we   ever injure ourselves, it won’t be more than a scratch.

Navigation is essential in wilderness preparedness, especially since Google Maps doesn’t work when you are 15 miles away from the nearest trailhead in the middle of the San Raphael Swell. This spring break, learn how to find your way with these three tips.

FOLLOW THE STARS

If you are hiking with the stars in the northern hemisphere, the best tip for navigation is to look for the North Star, aka Polaris. Locate the Big Dipper, one of the more recognizable constellations. If you look at the opposite side of the handle on the Big Dipper and draw a straight line using those two stars, you’ll find the North Star. It is the brightest star on this line and is about three fist sizes away. Find south using Orion, following his belt straight down to the horizon when it’s vertical in the sky.

READ A COMPASS

While compasses all point North based off of the magnetic pole in the northern hemisphere, they can also be used to accurately point you in any direction. Using a combination of the compass needle, the compass housing, and the orienting arrow, any direction is possible. For a magnetic compass, this is done by rotating your compass housing until the direction you are looking for is lined up with the direction of travel arrow. Keeping these all fixed, rotate yourself until the compass needle lines up in the direction of north within the compass housing. With both of these aligned, you will have the correct direction of travel.

INTERPRET A TOPOGRAPHICAL MAP

Topos give you an accurate three-dimensional representation of the lay of the land in two dimensions, so keep these tips in mind when reading one. Every point on the same contour (wavy) line has the same elevation. One side of a contour line is uphill and the other is downhill, based on the distance between those lines. Contour lines close to form a circle or they run off of the map. The area inside the circle is almost always higher than the contour line. This helps gauge the elevation gain or loss on a mountain pass trail. It lets you know how much work it will be to go one mile in direction X compared to direction Y. Now that you can read contour lines, try to correlate them to physical features around you, such as peaks, valleys, or waterways.

Once you have these skills, you are set to navigate almost any terrain. The best part? No batteries or charging required.

p.creveling@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Peter Creveling

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Beyond the Wasatch: Arches National Park

Over President’s Day weekend, I packed up the car and left town early to escape the overcast grey skies of the Wasatch Front. As I drove southeast, each passing mile of the three-and-a-half-hour road trip down to Moab meant less snow-covered peaks and more red rocks sneaking into the terrain.

The promising forecast of 55 degree weather and the off-season crowds made it one of the best times to intimately explore Arches National Park. With over one million annual visitors, you are bound to see other people on the trails, but visiting this park before the peak season (April – September) is a great way to escape the crowds.

There are over 2,000 natural arches, making the grand landscape of Arches National Park home to the greatest concentration in the country. Beyond that, the beauty of the balanced red rocks, sloping sandstone hills, peaks, spires, and slick rock canyons of Arches make this park an ultimate destination for desert rats. Inside the park, there are 14 hiking trails to choose from, along with areas for rock climbing and canyoneering. Surrounding trails just outside of the park give you access to mountain biking and ATVing.

The entrance fee is $25, so shelling out $80 for an annual parks pass is worth it for the chance to visit this part of Moab again, or any of Utah’s other national parks. You can’t live in Utah without seeing the iconic Delicate Arch that appears on Utah license plates, but once you get away from the ant march of traffic on the trail, try some of the lesser-known hikes such as the Fiery Furnace. You’ll need to purchase a $6 permit in order to navigate the sandstone fins of the furnace, and if you need a helping hand, rangers are always available for guided tours. With 76,000 acres of Arches’ delicate desert ecosystem, you can have hours of fun exploring the park.

SPRING BREAK ITINERARY

MONDAY: Moab is a popular tourist destination, which means planning ahead is crucial so you don’t end up  driving around trying to find a campsite at the last minute. Inside of Arches, Devil’s Garden Campground is often full. Instead, take advantage of the many surrounding campsites outside of the park for cheaper rates. I’d recommend the Sand Flats Recreation Area, just eight miles south of Arches. There are 120 sites to choose from at $15 a night. Each campsite has a fire ring and picnic table, and all are within short walking distance of a vault toilet.

Once you set up camp, go for a scenic drive through Arches to take in the sights of Delicate Arch and the Windows section. Here you can see some of the largest and most iconic arches in the entire park. Check out the historic Wolfe Ranch, home of the first family of settlers to live in Arches.

TUESDAY: Start at Devils Garden campground and hike the 7.8-mile primitive trail loop. The farther along you get, the thinner the crowds become. You’ll see seven arches on this hike, starting with the 290-ft. span of Landscape Arch. Hiking the primitive trail is a great way to break away from the crowds while taking in the beautiful scenery of the park. Just make sure you’re prepared to do a bit of scrambling and sliding as you navigate over the terrain. As you traverse farther along the trail, enjoy the seclusion of the surrounding valley of desert life and geological formations.

WEDNESDAY: When your body is good and sore from the previous days’ hike, head over to Moab Main Street to visit the in-town attractions. Get your feet off the ground at Raven’s Rim Zip Line adventures and catch a birds-eye view of Moab for $129. If heights aren’t your thing, at the same location and for the same price, you can book a 2.5 hour 4WD adventure tour through the high desert. There are many shuttle services in the area to drop off and pick you up at the end of the day if you choose to try out river rafting or mountain biking.

THURSDAY: Finish your trip hiking some of the moderate trails. Trek a mile to check out historic rock art panels at Courthouse Wash (one mile), gaze in wonder at Balanced Rock (0.3 miles), or navigate sand dunes and slick rock as you make your way to Broken Arch Loop (two miles).

FRIDAY: If being surrounded by million-year-old rocks makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time, then it’s worth it to make a stop at the Moab Giants Dinosaur Park before you hit the road home.

The attraction is conveniently placed just nine miles north of Moab on Hwy 191 and boasts a large concentration of fossils. Tickets are $22 to enjoy all the indoor and outdoor activities of this mini Jurassic park. Roam along the dinosaur trail to discover over 100 life-sized dinosaur models, check out ancient sea creatures in the paleoaquarium, and browse the museum to learn all about the animals that lived in Moab centuries ago.

e.aboussou@wasatchmag.com

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How to: Keep Food Fresh

After backpacking for miles, any food can taste good. But what would you rather have: chilled, fresh string cheese or a warm stick of cheese? That’s what we thought. So, we’ve made a list of tips and our favorite coolers to keep your food cold and bacteria-free while camping.

-Start cold. Coolers retain temperatures, so dig it out of that hot storage shed and let it cool down for a day before you pack it. A few hours before packing, fill the cooler with a bag of ice to bring the temperature down. Discard this ice and start fresh before adding food.

-Use the layer system. Start with a layer of ice, then add raw meat and other perishable foods. Continue to layer ice and food as you pack. Keep items that don’t need much refrigeration (such as condiments and vegetables) near the top. Cover with a top layer of pellet ice.

– Keep your cooler sealed tightly and out of direct sunlight.  Pack drinks in a separate cooler to save on space and stop you from continually opening your cooler throughout the day.

-Prepare your food. It’ll stay cold longer if it starts out chilled or frozen. Pre-freeze water bottles and chill drinks. Prepare meats and marinades, then freeze and seal them in Ziploc bags. Freeze or chill as much of your food as you can before packing it into the cooler.

-Ditch the packaging. Seal your food in Ziploc bags so you can pack them tightly. Use space-saving Tupperware to pack fragile items or things that need to stay dry, such as eggs, cheese, and fruit. Prepping meals and cutting up produce beforehand keeps things from getting too bulky and cuts down on cook time.

BEST COOLERS

Hiking and Backpacking:

Norchill air series backpack cooler bag $39.99

This bag is cleverly designed to turn any backpack into a cooler bag. Its versatility makes it an easy over-the-shoulder bag or an addition to your pack. This lightweight cooler (one pound) has room to hold up to six beverages and the padding inside has double usage. It insulates and provides protection for your gear. The waterproof exterior shell and roll-down top ensure that at the end of your hike, you’ll have cold food and a dry pack.

 

Camping:

Coleman 54 quart steel belted cooler: $149.99

 

There’s nothing better than a classic. This stainless steel cooler from Coleman is a sturdy icebox. Coleman began producing this model in 1954 and it still stands up to hot summer temps and the dead of winter. In 90 degree weather, the cooler has a four-day ice retention rate. Forgot your camping chair? No problem, pull this guy up around the fire and use it as a stool. It can withstand 250 lbs of weight. It’s leak proof and large enough to hold upright 2 liter bottles, or 85 beverage cans if you’re having a party. With 54 quarts of space, you’ll have more than enough room for all your food and drinks.

 

Boating:

IceMule Pro Cooler:$99.95

 

This cooler bag from IceMule is perfect for a day out on the water. The backpack straps make carrying it easy, which comes in handy if you’re portaging your canoe. It holds 18 cans plus ice and the double-layered insulation design keeps it waterproof.  Plus, you’ll never lose your lunch because this bag floats. You can strap it to your tube and let it trail behind you as you float down the river, or take advantage of its flexibility and store it in your boat or canoe. The bag itself weighs three lbs. and rolls up into a neat package for storage.

 

Biking:

Local cooler saddlebag pannier: $79.99

This waterproof insulated pannier is a great addition to your bike accessories. Whether you’re heading home from the grocery store or biking across the state, this bag will keep your lunch nice and cool. The pannier is compatible with all standard bike racks, and there are interior mesh pockets inside if you need to bring along any extra utensils or small items. As if this bag isn’t cool enough, it also has a bottle opener mounted on the outside.

 

Fishing:

Yeti Tundra 45 quart cooler: $349.99

If you’re looking for a cooler that means business, look no further than the Yeti Tundra 45. This bear-proof ice box can keep your freshly caught camp dinners nice and cool with a cold retention of five to seven days. There is permafrost insulation, a roto-molded exterior, and anti-condensation features. You’re guaranteed to get through a fishing trip without worrying about the temperature of your food.  These coolers are highly recommended for their longevity, so chances are you’ll never have to use the lifetime warranty that Yeti offers.

e.aboussou@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Esther Aboussou

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Best Hikes for In-Between Seasons

The end of February and beginning of March aren’t necessarily seasons. It’s a little too sunny and mushy for winter, but not warm or rainy enough for spring. For avid trail users or even casual walkers, this makes trails difficult to navigate. High elevation hikes are especially at risk for avalanches while lower trails are mucky and trapped in the inversion. Here are four of our favorite hikes to hit during this weird in-between time.

Spiral Jetty in February. Photo by Carolyn Webber

Spiral Jetty

Spiral Jetty is one of the easiest and most unique off-season hikes in Utah. If the weather is nice and the road is in good condition, this is more of a roadside attraction than an actual hike. The parking lot is a five minute walk from the jetty unless the road is impassable, in which case it’s up to three miles long. Water levels are low enough to reveal this man-made spiral of rocks, but, depending on temperatures, there might be a light dusting of snow. Get your mileage in by hiking on the oolitic sand to touch the Great Salt Lake.

Antelope Island

Another lakeside destination, Antelope Island, offers a different sort of barren beauty. In the summer, there is little protection from the baking sun and in the winter, no refuge from the ever pervasive cold wind. This means post-winter, pre-spring time is the Goldilocks of seasons on the island. Roaming around the island are herds of buffalo, and Antelope Island is one of the few places in Utah to see these impressive mammals in the wild. There is a $10 per day use fee for the area and a variety of crisscrossing trails you can hop on and explore.

Hiking up to Donut Falls in Big Cottonwood Canyon in the winter. Photo by Kiffer Creveling

Donut Falls

One of the Cottonwood’s most famous hikes, Donut Falls is usually characterized by crowded trails and full parking lots. In the offseason, both disappear, making it the perfect time to visit. The falls themselves might be frozen, an interesting view alone, but temperatures could be warm enough to let some water sneak through.

Killyon Canyon

Killyon Canyon is the best destination when The Cottonwoods are closed or bumper to bumper from ski traffic. The hike is in Emigration Canyon, just a five-minute drive from campus. Unlike the Cottonwoods, dogs are allowed up Emigration, so bring your poop bags. This time of year, there’s almost definitely snow, possibly enough to snowshoe. The trail is about 5.5 miles round-trip and gains a little over 1,700 feet of elevation. As far as Wasatch hikes go, it’s mild, but still just as scenic.

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Winter Hike to Lake Blanche

On any given weekend, the road up Big Cottonwood Canyon is dominated by skiers and boarders headed to get their powder fix. More than a few cars will pull off to the side of the road on the first bend of the S turn, however. They are headed to a more secluded day in the Wasatch, and some are finding it at Lake Blanche.

Blanche is one of the most popular hikes in the canyon and strikingly beautiful, or so I’ve been told. Just a few weeks ago, I set out with my friend Claire to see how it holds up to the hype.

Our day was perfect- blue skies, warm (for February at least), and no fresh powder. Within fifteen minutes of closing our car door, we were approaching the split from the large, mildly graded main trail to the narrow, steep footpath leading up to the lake.

Since the heavily trafficked trail hadn’t seen much snow, the path was beaten solid for us and we ditched our snowshoes. The road was nearly full of cars, but we saw others only intermittently and never had to dance that awkward tango of maintaining the appropriate distance between parties.

The trail is more or less a straight shot back and up into the canyon. It maintains a medium grade for the majority of its three miles before steepening out near the top. We gained 2,700 feet of elevation along the way, but the serene atmosphere helped me forget the altitude. Birds were chirping, the sun was shining, and I fully expected to see Bambi run by us at any moment.

At least, until we hit the last quarter. To my great misfortune, I spied Sundial Peak, the mountain that borders the lake, poking just over the ridge in the background. I thought we were getting close, maybe five more minutes.

Forty minutes later we were still trekking. Up near the top, the sun crept over the far ridge and landed on the snow, softening it. Until this point, the hike had been in shadow, keeping the trail nice and firm. Now, every step was a roulette spin as to whether or not we’d end up crotch deep in snow. The hiking turned to trudging, but the view increased exponentially.

We persevered and soon were topping out and enjoying the flat ground. The lake is completely snowed over and could be hard to pick out if we didn’t already know where it was. Sundial stood proudly in the background, urging me to think of warmer weather and a time when I could return to climb it.

After the traditional end-of-hike Clif bar and pictures, we started the return trek to the car. On the way down, we saw the fresh tracks of the split boarders we had seen at the top, and we couldn’t help but be a little jealous. Still, by the time we were cozy back in the car, our consensus had become clear: Blanche was not an overrun, over-hyped trail. It was worth it.

n.halberg@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Nick Halberg

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Beyond the Wasatch: Goblin Valley

Last year, my fiancé and I made it a goal to travel at least once a month. We visited national parks and monuments, state parks, and hot springs, and we were able to round out 2016 with 13 camping trips under our belts. This year, we started out fresh with a January trip to Goblin Valley State Park.

Goblin Valley is basically an enormous playground. There’s something for everyone; campers, hikers, bikers, and climbers. The park’s main attraction is the collection of sandstone hoodoos sprinkled throughout the landscape. Down in the valley, these mushroom-shaped rocks and towers fill your view in every direction, and each one is unique. Inside the park, there are five designated hikes.

Little Wild Horse and the Ding and Dang Canyons are just a few miles away from the visitors center and these slot canyons offer a whole day of fun. Little Wild Horse especially is very popular because you don’t need to be experienced to navigate, climb, and scramble through it.

A day use pass to enter the park is $13. If you’re planning to stay the night, there are 25 sites in the campground and two yurts available. Campsites are $25 a night, and there are options for tents and RV hook-ups. Along with that, there are showers and flush toilets, and each site comes with a fire-pit, picnic table, and shade shelter. Yurts are $80 and are equipped with bunk beds, a seating area, table, heat, A/C, and a BBQ cooker.

For weekend warriors like me, here’s your perfect three-day itinerary:

FRIDAY:

Arrive at the park as early as you can. After setting up camp, explore the three valleys of goblins. They are in close proximity to each other and offer hours of fun if you decide to trek through all of them. Pack a lunch and a lot of water. After a break, take the 1.5 mile hike to the Goblin’s Lair and relax in the fresh cool air of this enormous cavern. If you’re prepared for it, permits for rappelling down into the canyon can be purchased at the visitors center or you can hire a guide for a canyoneering tour.

SATURDAY:

Visit Little Wild Horse slot canyon, just five miles west of the Goblin Valley Visitor Center. The full loop of Little Wild Horse Canyon and Bell Canyon is eight miles, or you can stick to Little Wild Horse, 3.3 miles one way. It’s easy to navigate for all skill-levels and ages. When you get back to camp, relax your sore muscles by the fire and gaze up at the many visible stars in this Dark Sky Certified Park.

SUNDAY:

On the last day of your trip, take the easy 250-yard trail down into the valley to get a closer look at the Three Sisters, one of the most iconic formations in the park, before packing up and heading home.

e.aboussou@wasatchmag.com

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Grandeur Peak: A Grand Adventure Year-Round

Winter in the Wasatch brings crisp mornings glinting from a fresh layer of frost. It’s dark and sunless until close to 8 a.m., making the brisk air sharp in your lungs without the tempering warmth of the sun. If you are anything like me, your summer is filled with hiking, biking, and climbing. Then, at sign of first snow you immediately retreat into hibernation mode. Mornings and weekends once filled with adventure are now spent indoors binge watching Netflix and eating an assortment of Holiday-themed comfort foods. However, winter hiking is a great way to get through the winter blues and has many perks that summer hiking doesn’t provide: no bugs, no crowds, and no smog. Grandeur Peak is the ideal snowshoe or hike if you like a challenging trail with spectacular views of the valley and neighboring mountain ranges, without the near death experience. While this trail isn’t the most difficult or treacherous, it’s still no walk in the park. With an elevation gain of roughly 2,600 feet and approximately five miles round trip, the hike finishes at 8,299 feet.

There are two ways to approach this hike: from the steeper west face, accessed from Wasatch Boulevard at about 2900 South on Cascade Way via Frontage Road, or from Mill Creek Canyon beginning at the Church Fork picnic area via 3800 South in East Mill Creek. There is a small toll fee of $3 if you are entering Mill Creek Canyon, so keep this in mind.

The west face hikes begin just out of the parking lot. Walk up the dirt road and take the first right fork. This trail is a little less marked than the Church Fork trail, but the rule of thumb is “just stay right”. The trail begins on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail and (depending on snow levels) is a bit icy and rocky for the first mile. Wear waterproof hiking boots and bring trekking poles. You’ll spot scrub oak, sage brush, snow, more snow and a deer or two. Grandeur Peak is a dog-friendly trail, so feel free to bring your four-legged friend with you. You’ll indefinitely meet a few other furry friends along the way.

About a mile in, the trail gets significantly steeper. If you are snowshoeing, wear rolling or mountain terrain snowshoes. These have larger decks and more traction, which makes them better suited for icy, steep terrain and deep powdery snow. About two miles in, the mountain becomes a true winter wonderland. Nothing but bright white, glistening snow for miles around. From the false summit, look down at a spectacular view of the Salt Lake Valley. It’s tempting to stop here, but don’t. The trail becomes very steep and one final quarter-mile push gets you to its peak. Here you can stop, pat yourself on the back and have lunch while taking in 360 degree views of surrounding peaks, such as the majestic Mount Olympus to the south. To descend, simply follow the trail back down the way you came. Remember to bring plenty of water and don’t forget your thermos.

a.winter@wasatchmag.com

Photos by Alaynia Winter

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The Mountaineering Opthamologist, Doctor Geoff Tabin

I pulled out my phone to investigate what was responsible for the buzzing in my pocket and saw a number I’d never seen before calling from Salt Lake. It was Dr. Geoffrey Tabin, returning my call for an interview. Within just a few minutes, I found myself deep into a conversation about one of my favorite climbing spots near my home in Chicago.

I could hardly believe it. Here was a man who was one of the early few to climb all seven summits (completed in June 1990), was part of the bravely harebrained group that invented bungee jumping, and has a seemingly biblical power to cure the blind — and he was talking to me about good ol’ Devil’s Lake in Baraboo, Wisconsin.

In an attempt to steer the conversation back on track I asked how it is that such a decorated alpinist/adventurer gets involved in cataract surgery. What followed is a conversation I am likely never to forget, one that I will do my best to immortalize here.

Tabin, known simply as Geoff in those days, graduated with an MA in Philosophy from Oxford University on a Marshall Scholarship. During his time there he took full advantage of “Indigenous trust funds,” which were remnants leftover from the days when Oxford encouraged their students too go out into the world and “civilize” it. To Tabin, these were his tickets atop some of the world’s most impressive mountains. Through these funds, Tabin traveled far and wide, climbing to his heart’s content.

One such trip was to New Guinea, where his friend David Kirke from the Oxford Dangerous Sport Club, a group of a few dozen extreme sport athletes who pioneered the most absurd challenges imaginable, encouraged him to try the native rite of passage known as vine jumping.

Although Kirke was wrong about vine jumping starting in New Guinea, it actually began in the nearby island of Vanuatu, the club was inspired. They decided to urbanize the native challenge. Using bungees from an aircraft carrier, Tabin and colleagues sent a lucky (or perhaps foolhardy) few over the edge of the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol, England.

The jump and subsequent bungee parts were a wild success, however, the heavy, slick cords made it impossible to hoist the rider back onto the bridge. There the rider dangled, long enough for a local paper to snap some pictures. Soon, stories of the absurd stunt traveled far and wide, all the way across the Atlantic to an American TV show called “That’s Incredible.” They requested the club come out to Colorado and recreate the stunt, but Tabin recalls his pals’ resistance. “They said there was no sport in it,”  Tabin recounts with a chuckle. “They had proven it could be done so to them the sport was gone.”

Regardless, the club set out to the United States and performed the first ever televised bungee jump off the Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado. After, they packed up their bungees and headed to the Bonneville Salt Flats. If there was no sport left in bungee jumping, they decided they better do something worthwhile in America. Catapulting themselves between two cars, they managed to get a wheelchair (and rider) up to over 60 miles an hour, a new world record.

Primarily a mountaineer, most of Tabin’s trips took place in the Himalayas. Perhaps his most historic trip was his ascent of the last unclimbed section of Everest, the Kangshung Face. It took three attempts before Tabin himself finally stood atop the infamous East Face in 1988. Although he wasn’t the first to do so, he was on the mountain supporting the 1983 crew that managed to ascend the face for the first time. It is considered to be one of the most difficult routes up the mountain and is rarely attempted.

80s Nepal, the foremost climbing country in the Himalayas, was not much better off than most third-world countries. It was here, in the disheartening villages, that Tabin realized his passion for, “the moral, philosophical underpinnings of healthcare.” He witnessed a cataract surgery on a woman during one of his Everest expeditions and was amazed at the power it had to transform her life.

Returning to the U.S. to attend medical school at Harvard University, Tabin realized he wanted to return to Nepal, only this time it wasn’t to climb. It was on this return trip that he met Dr. Sanduk Ruit, a leading cataract surgeon from Nepal working on a pioneering surgery.

With Ruit’s new method, surgeries became cheaper, faster, and simpler than ever. Using a small incision, Ruit was able to clean away the buildup causing the cataract and install a secondary lens to refocus the vision. Tabin was convinced this was his calling. With Ruit, Tabin started the Himalayan Cataract Project.

The project’s goal was to help combat blindness in Nepal alone — a goal soon surpassed. Under the two men’s guidance, a multitude of different training programs for adults or youth were implemented in Nepal. Within a few years the Project had treated  nearly 300,000 people in Nepal. Looking back, Tabin realized that naming his organization the Himalayan Cataract Project was a mistake.

“At the time, the need in Nepal was so great, some 255,000 people were backlogged for these surgeries. We saw this as a life endeavor” Tabin recalls. With serious dedication and effort, however, the project has spread far across Nepalese borders. The Himalayan Cataract Project now works not just in other Himalayan countries like Tibet, but all over Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa too.

Today, Tabin’s life is still packed with adventure, although of a different kind than in his college days. Instead of jumping off bridges or climbing big mountains, he is traveling a large part of the year doing the work he loves in the most disparaged countries. He doesn’t have much time for big expeditions anymore which is why he loves living in Utah. “You can skin up a mountain, ski down, and still be at work by 8 a.m.”

But he does manage to find a few days here and there for some larger trips. A few years ago in Africa he was able to sneak off for six days to casually climb Kilimanjaro with a paraplegic veteran, an expedition that sums up his character.

n.halberg@wasatchmag.com

Photos courtesy of Geoffrey Tabin

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