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Summer

Opening Minds to the Oquirrh Mountains

Veiled in mystery by the legalities and the eminence of the adjacent Wasatch mountains, the Oquirrh Range serves as the 10,000 feet dividing line between the Salt Lake and Tooele valleys. Equipped solely with the knowledge of a BLM public lands route provided by an outdated hiking guide, and a strong desire to summit a couple of the Oquirrh’s more prominent mountain tops, I took to the westernmost ridge of Kessler Peak.

It seems that the majority of Salt Lake residents simply lack the desire to trek into the Oquirrhs, given the close proximity of the sublime, and comparably larger Wasatch Range. Those who have opened their minds and weekends to the western green peaks have often suffered for it. They are met with the intimidating barrier of red tape and prohibitions deterring even the most intrepid outdoorsmen from entering for fear of hefty fines — or worse. Painfully evident by the violently dissolved mountain that is now the main Kennecott mining facility, the Oquirrh Range remains in a perpetual state of contractual inaccessibility since Rio Tinto’s colossal 1872 land grab that still holds control to this day.

With this corporate acquisition and grand expanses of private purchases, virtually the entire eastern face of the Oquirrhs is restricted to public use (with some exceptions to the far south). While some exploit the negligence of private landowners and trail-blaze in this region outside of the law, those who prefer risk-free, legal natural emersion are ultimately out of luck. Thankfully, the back westernmost face of the range offers a patchy network of BLM land allowing access to those extra-determined to explore Oquirrh terrain without paying heavily for it.

Following the guidance and antiquated advice of a 7-year-old online hiking guide, I made my way to that western back side with hopes of surmounting the ridgeline connecting Kessler and Farnsworth Peaks without deliberately breaking any laws. The guide I relied on did accurately get me to the approximate location of an access point, though it failed to compensate for the nascent housing developments along the base of these mountains.

The overlying drawback of hiking in a largely neglected public land is the total absence of trails, and the consequential abundance of wildlife and wilderness left to flourish independently of human obstruction. When I arrived, I was without the helpful understanding that the access point was at the perpendicular bend, and I began much farther back than I ought to have. I was thus left to bushwhack through dense, arid fields of overgrown dead grass, and the ubiquitous webs of hobo spider webs strung among them (yes, hobo spiders). Long pants and socks are highly recommended in this area in anticipation of the venomous arachnids that call it home — exercise caution.

Aside from the apparent danger of overgrown desert wilderness, the back face of the Oquirrh Range is beautiful. It serves as a tangible reminder of the desolate nature the remaining untamed American West provides.

While my lack of preparation and foresight forced my dejected party to turn back before completing the trek, an impetuous push up the ridge will eventually place you atop Kessler Peak. It is connected by an extended ridgeline to Farnsworth Peak, the more dominant of the two. Note: A section of this ridgeline is private land. Trespassing is not encouraged and would be done at your own risk.

Even if not for the explicit purpose of surmounting some of the more obscure peaks surrounding the Salt Lake Valley, exploration west of the Oquirrhs is sure to provide you with a palpable sense of connectivity with our forgotten 19th-century wild-western past. At the very least, you will come across the disheveled rusted railway spikes, and the scattered animal bones that are evocative of it. The radiant and largely untouched natural beauty is something worth seeing.

Immersion into this incredible yet inhospitable expanse requires only preparation and consciousness; all else is scenery.

d.rees@wasatchmag.com

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Peakbagger’s Double Traverse: Mount Raymond and Gobbler’s Knob

Resting along the jagged divide bordering the Millcreek and Big Cottonwood canyons, Mount Raymond and Gobbler’s Knob are two idiosyncratic peaks connected by a single mile-long ridge, both surmountable in a single day. While these peaks are closer to sea-level than some of the Wasatch’s more formidable, with Gobbler’s Knob at 10,246 ft. elevation, and Raymond a mere 5 ft. lower,  this hike is strenuous and not for the faint of heart… or lungs. Courageous mountaineers willing to brace the summer heat and an 8.3-mile trek, however, will be rewarded with access to sublime wildflower meadows and a unique perspective of the Cottonwood Divide, Salt Lake Valley, and beyond.

Gobblers Knob (Left) and Mount Raymond (Right) at a distance

Getting there

The ridgeline connecting these peaks is accessible from two routes: Alexander Basin from Big Cottonwood Canyon, and Bowman Fork from Millcreek Canyon. Which route is preferable/easier is a subjective question wrought with controversy; since I have only had the opportunity to undergo the latter, though, I’ll stick with that one.

To reach the Bowman Fork trailhead, follow Millcreek Canyon Road approximately 4.5 miles to the Terrace Picnic Area. It’s very easy to miss, so keep your eyes peeled for signs. A narrow, paved road will lead you up several curves to a small parking lot near the trailhead.

Not far from the trailhead, you will be presented with signs directing you towards either Elbow Fork or Bowman Pass — keep towards Bowman pass the entire duration of the hike. Like other trails in Millcreek, dogs are permissible (off-leash on odd-numbered days). If you intend to summit Gobbler’s Knob, bring your pup; Raymond is a bit too technical for paws.

The trail progresses along a winding stream and later converts to steep switchbacks, flourishing alpine forests, and meadows. Midway, a fork presents itself between Alexander Basin and Baker Pass. Continue towards Baker Pass. Note: particularly during this time of year, the trail is near overgrown with varied foliage. It is quite beautiful, though be prepared for mild bushwhacking — long pants are recommended.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The trail eventually lets off atop the smooth ridgeline between Gobbler’s Knob and Mount Raymond. At this point, you can progress either way. Continue left (North) for Gobbler’s Knob, and right (South) for Mount Raymond.

Mount Raymond 

Summiting Mt. Raymond requires an additional 1 to 2 hours and a good bit of scrambling. The trail carves along the ridgeline south, which grows progressively steeper until stabilizing before the final ridge. This section is not recommended for dogs.

 

Summit ridge at a distance. The beaten trail is barely discernable in the photo.

 

 

 

 

 

Wildflowers along Mount Raymond.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The traverse becomes a bit dicey as the slope transitions into a jagged knife-ridge. While daunting in appearance, this ridge is not entirely too difficult or exposed and requires only class-three scrambling. Be conscious of your step, and you shouldn’t have too much difficulty.

Initial push up the knife-ridge. Climb along its jagged spine.

Approaching the peak.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photographs fail to adequately capture the beautiful perspective atop the apex. The chain of jagged peaks ahead is the Cottonwood Divide (Broads Fork Twin Peaks far right).

Mount Raymond is the tail-end of the Wildcat Ridge separating Big Cottonwood Canyon and Millcreek. Expert mountaineers braver than me can traverse the entire ridgeline as far as Mount Olympus — this precarious traverse demands technical climbing skills over 11.5 miles of exposed ridgeline known for its significant rattlesnake population.

Climb down the way you came.

Gobbler’s Knob

Gobbler’s Knob is the most recognizable of the two due to its clear visibility from the Salt Lake Valley and distinctive saddleback shape. Powder-hounds are known to summit the mountain in winter months to carve through its untouched snowpack and steep incline; this activity is typically discouraged in consideration of the periodic avalanches occurring along its slope each year — and the skiers who have lost their lives to them. The Folklore circulated by the Wasatch’s earliest settlers warn of a supernatural presence in the knob’s forests after dark— more on that here. While steep and exhausting in and of itself, Gobbler’s Knob is the easiest of both peaks by far. Nothing technical, bring your pup.

 

The mountain’s saddleback apex — a great place for lunch before making your way down. To return to the car, you need only follow the trail back down in the same direction. Another trail from the connecting ridgeline carves into the Alexander Basin route — shuttle cars if you would like to do both (note: dogs are prohibited in Big Cottonwood Canyon, however, so any pup you bring to the other would need a stop-off point if you want to do both).

Transient sun rays captured from Gobbler’s Knob at dusk.

Aspen forest near the ridgeline.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be conscious of your body and exercise caution; food, water, and sun-protection are essential — best of luck.

d.rees@wasatchmag.com

 

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Zion: An Outdoor Paradise

Zion National Park. Photo taken by Esther Aboussou.

If you’re short on time this summer, yet still anxious to explore the best that the Beehive State has to offer, look no further than the beautiful backyard of Southern Utah. Just outside of Cedar City lies 229 square miles of red rock country, towering canyon walls, dense forests, and beautiful sandstone buttes. This landscape is encapsulated inside the boundaries of the famous Zion National Park.

Zion is a paradise for outdoorsy people of every kind. There are activities and hikes anyone can enjoy, and the scenic drive alone is enough reason to go. Because of the wild popularity of the park, it’s best to plan a trip just before the summer tourist season kicks in to full gear.

If you’d like to spend a few nights in Zion National Park, there are three campgrounds, and there are 176 campsites to choose from. These range from $20 to $30 for the week, depending on which site you choose. The more expensive ones include electricity. Reservations in advance are a must. These sites fill up quickly, and they tend to be full throughout the entire season. In areas surrounding the park, there are primitive campsites such as Lava Point Campground up in Kolob Canyon that are based on a first-come first-served basis.

The best part of Zion is the diverse landscape it offers. There is so much to do, and there is even more to explore. You can bike, hike, ride, or climb your way through Zion National Park and still find yourself yearning for more. Out of the 18 hikes to choose from, a few of the top attractions are Angels Landing, The Narrows, and The Subway hikes.

Zion National Park. Photo taken by Esther Aboussou.

There are amazing views to be had as you summit the 1400 feet of Angel’s Landing. Navigating the tight passageways and trudging through the knee-deep water of The Narrows is an unforgettable experience. The Subway is a workout, and it is certainly not for the faint of heart. A permit is required for this 9-mile banger, and you’ll need to be skilled in route-finding, swimming, and rappelling to make it through the intense slot canyon.

Don’t let this scare you away, however. Zion has quite a few easy to moderate trails that provide gorgeous views. The Upper Emerald Pool trail is a 1 mile hike that leads to a beautiful waterfall of refreshing water at the base of a cliff. The 3.5 mile Taylor Creek trail is a quiet trek that gives hikers amazing views of the majestic double arch alcove.

A visit to Zion National Park can provide awe-inspiring views and adventure, or solitude and relaxation. It all depends on which parts you choose to explore. What is certain is that this utopia of Utah wildlife and lush scenery is a treasure of the western United States, and it is an absolute joy to behold.

e.aboussou@wasatchmag.com

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The Most Underrated of the ‘Mighty Five’

Every summer there’s the magical little period of post-school, pre-work freedom. Ideally, this is a week or longer, allowing for some kind of big, planned trip to take place. This year I had a weekend. With much whim and little planning, we stuffed the trunk and backseat of my friend’s Subaru and headed off to Capitol Reef for a night. Little did I know I’d be stumbling into Utah’s most underrated national park.

Our expectations were low; nobody in our group really went to Capitol Reef. I had seen stunning pictures of the park on random Instagram posts before, but I was suspicious. Plenty of places in Utah caters to what I call the “tourist adventurer.” These are people who make it seem like they are incredibly remote when in reality they’re standing off the side of a highway. I did not want to be swarmed by the masses as we all crammed into a little parking lot and hiked a quarter mile to some awesome geologic formation. I wanted to actually be remote.

We decided to head to the visitor center where we knew we could get a map and ask the ranger’s advice on where to go. After a few PB&J’s and some deliberation, our decision had been made. We packed up lunch, hit a few of the touristy day hikes, and then headed off to our real adventure.

After an hour of getting lost, two hours of high clearance, dirt road navigation and good music we reached the imposing sandstone formations known as Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon — aka our campsite. Soon, our tents were pitched just outside the park on BLM land, but still within view of the Temples. We enjoyed dehydrated beef stew, red beans with rice, and beef stroganoff as the last of the sun’s light fell across the towers. A few more hours and their dark silhouettes provided the perfect juxtaposition to the star encumbered sky.

Our expectations were well exceeded. Capitol Reef can lead you into a trap of “tourist adventurers” if you stay on the surface. Venture deeper into the park, though, and you can visit sites like Cathedral Valley, where you’ll find something far different.

In this hidden gem, we were met with total solitude and expanse, even though it was Mother’s Day. The main road, which houses most of the park’s visitors during their time, was relatively uncrowded. The parking lots at the hikes would fill, but barely. Just hours farther south, Zion would be entertaining bus after bus of tourists, while in Capitol Reef we saw equal views and far fewer tourists.

After just 24 hours in the park, my perception of it shifted completely. Capitol Reef holds the stigma of being unimpressive or not worth visiting, but as I found out, this is utterly untrue.

The park is nearly twice the size of Zion meaning there are far more backcountry and off-the-path places to explore. As the least visited national park in Utah, it is not hard to find a landscape totally devoid of people. Even the nearby towns are small and relatively unobtrusive. BLM land surrounds almost every border of the park, offering free camping wherever you go. Everything about this place is wild, expansive; and entirely underrated.

n.halberg@wasatchmag.com

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Climbing Close to Home

As Utah finally decides to change its mind, and the weather begins to warm up, there begins a whole new season of rock climbing. This is the climbing Utah is known for: multiple pitch routes with unforgettable vantage points, boulder problems that will haunt you and also reward you, or class sport routes with a crux that include just about everything you can think of. Want to know the best part? The majority of these locations are within a half-hour driving distance. You can commonly find a group of climbers leaving after work at 5 p.m. who are still getting some laps in before sundown.

Little Cottonwood Canyon

One commonly sought out place to climb is up Little Cottonwood Canyon. The majority of these climbs are trad, or traditional, routes. If you are up for some world class crack climbing, this is the place for you. The difficulty of the routes will cater to the first timer, and it can also cater to the most advanced veteran dirt bagger. There are hundreds of routes to choose from up and down the canyon that will help fulfill your heart’s desire. The rock type is almost all white granite with a couple of areas that are limestone. My personal favorite area to climb is up Gate Buttress, which is about one mile and a half up the canyon. These climbs go from 5.6c at Schoolroom to 5.12c of Bloodline for the more classic routes in the area.

Getting there: Get off I-215 at 6200 South. Then, follow signs for the ski resorts. After that, follow Wasatch Boulevard for a few miles, and the road will directly lead up the canyon.

Climb difficulty: 5.6c to 5.12c

Big Cottonwood Canyon

Big Cottonwood Canyon contains another popular upward climb. Similar to its neighbor, Big Cottonwood also has hundreds of routes up and down the canyon catering to every skill level. This is the first place I ever went rock climbing outdoors. Ever since that first time, I’ve known there was no leaving this sport. The rock type is quartzite, which makes the rock more slippery and more difficult to climb, therefore it is mostly used for sport climbing. There are also a wide variety of trad routes as well. But don’t be fooled, this rock has many holes and holds in a wide variety of shapes and sizes which make this canyon an epic location to climb. My favorite locations are up near the slips or along Challenge Buttress. These areas are home to several multi-pitch trad routes or various sport climbs.

Getting there: Take I-215 to the 6200 South exit, then follow the ski resort signs for Big Cottonwood Canyon. You will reach the base of the canyon within a few minutes from exiting the freeway.

Climb difficulty: Varying

American Fork Canyon

The other main canyon to climb in northern Utah is through American Fork Canyon. American Fork is better known for its intermediate to advanced sport climbing. It is also home to some of the most difficult routes in the state with ratings of 5.14c. There are many 5.9c routes for those who are looking to explore the canyon for the first time. This canyon is also a great location during the hot summer months as most of the crags are shaded with plenty of trees, or they are hidden deep within the canyon. This will keep your belayer nice and cool while you conquer the crux of the project you have been working on for weeks. Keep this one on your list of classic climbs to scale this upcoming summer.

Getting there: I-15 to the Pleasant Grove exit. Then, follow along Highway 92 straight into the canyon.

Climb difficulty: 5.9c-5.14c

These are a few of the most popular areas to climb during the summer months in northern Utah. There are many other places to consider, too; but these three canyons should definitely be on your list. After all, there are enough routes within them all to keep you busy for a lifetime.

p.creveling@wasatchmag.com

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Dream jobs for the outdoor enthusiast

The dream job for most outdoor enthusiasts = spending a good amount of time outdoors and with like-minded people. Oh, and free gear.

Welcome to the lives of those working in the outdoor industry. Yes, it’s just as good as you’ve always imagined. How do you land a job like that? Workers at three outdoor retailers tell us:

Mark Cole, a business and sales executive at HippyTree Surf & Stone Apparel, graduated with a BA of social ecology from UC Irvine.

Jess Smith, vice president of Outside PR (which represents Cotopaxi), majored in communication at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia.

Robert Shirley-Smith (see image above), sales director at Tentsile, studied human geography and anthropology at Sussex University in England.

Do you feel that your education applies to your current work?

Cole: I want to say yes because I’m a big fan of higher education, but truthfully, probably not. This type of industry and these type of jobs require a lot of on-the-job-training.

Smith: Absolutely. 100 percent. It just sets you up in terms of who you are as a person, what you like to do, and how to utilize your skills and talents the best.

Shirley-Smith: No crossover whatsoever. When I graduated in 2010 during the economic slump, there were no jobs available so I retrained as a carpenter. The founder of Tentsile reached out to me originally because of my experience with treehouses; that was involved in his goal of creating a tent that would fit all trees.

Did you always know you wanted to work with an outdoor company?

 Cole: I kind of figured it out when I was about 17 or 18 when I saw people older than myself living a pretty sweet lifestyle and told myself, ‘If they can make money doing that, I don’t see why I can’t.’

Shirley-Smith: No—I didn’t even know this industry existed back in England! My real passion was for building. But I just rolled with the punches and ended up here.

What is your favorite aspect of your work?

 Cole: I like that this industry is fun and it can be pretty irreverent at times. There’s a whole lot of lines that get crossed on a pretty regular basis and I can’t say that it shares that with a lot of other industries. It’s unique in that way.

Shirley-Smith: I respect the business’s ethics; it supports reforestation and sustainability, which aligns with my own values.

What is your all-time favorite piece of equipment or gear?

 Smith: I’m really drawn to Cotopaxi’s Kusa line of products with llama fleece and poly-insulation products. It’s helping to assist a lot of Bolivian communities because they’re working with farmers and the agricultural production there. Nobody else is doing llama. And the items look great, too.

Shirley-Smith: The Connect Model Tensile. After I survived an 11-hour rainstorm in it, I bonded with it.

Do you have an outdoor tip to share with fellow enthusiasts?

 Cole: Don’t be afraid to push your limits, but always stay within your comfort zone and be prepared.

Smith: Layer up. Always have a Buff on hand. Buff is the most versatile piece of equipment you are going to have for any sport.

What is your favorite aspect of the outdoors?

 Cole: It’s kind of like church for me personally. You are able to connect with nature on a deeper level when you step outside your comfort zone and experience new things and kind of see the raw splendor of Mother Nature.

Shirley-Smith: I grew up in the city in London, where the outdoors are viewed more as an escape from an urban environment than in other areas. So that is initially how I learned to love the outdoors, as an escape. It also helped that my parents were hippies and roamed the country with me in a van.

c.simon@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Claire Simon

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Discover a Warm and Groovy Place for a Soak in Monroe

One thing to know about me: I hate being cold. I absolutely loathe it. If I could be wrapped in a heated blanket all through winter I wouldn’t object. Unfortunately, this is not an option, so instead of becoming a hermit all winter long I’ve found that visiting one of the many hot springs in Utah is a much better way to stay warm and have fun.

When I moved here from Pennsylvania five years ago I was determined to take advantage of as many hot springs as I could. One of my favorite springs in Utah, and one that I love returning to, is Mystic Hot Springs in Monroe.

The first thing that sets Mystic apart from other hot springs is its accommodations. Along with tent camping spots and cabins, the resort has some very funky, and very cool, vintage converted buses to spend the night in. Each bus is different; some are set up with bunks to be party buses, and others are cozy for two.

My boyfriend and I stayed in the Ripple bus and spent most of the day soaking, napping, and eating. Mystic is a well-kept secret. It’s never ridiculously crowded and there are so many different pools you never have to wait around to get a tub all to yourself.

The heart of this small town feels like a bubble of calm. There are no loud noises or lights to intrude on the tranquility of the campsite. There’s nothing better than getting into a hot pool at 12 a.m. after relaxing by the fire after dinner. Above, the stars shine brightly due to the lack of light pollution.

It’s not a typical resort with fresh towels and room service, but for what it lacks in modern amenities, it makes up for in atmosphere. The resort has been around for a long time, and when “Mystic Mike” Ginsburg purchased the place back in 1996, he was able to keep the 70’s charm of the resort despite new cabin builds and renovations.

Mystic Hot Springs attracts a diverse group of outdoorsmen and women. It’s a place that invites musicians, artists, story-tellers, hippies, and soul searchers to come and relax. The owners leave personal touches such as chocolate mints, incense, and handwritten welcome letters for each new guest. It’s little things like this that make visiting Mystic worth the drive every time.

 

e.aboussou@wasatchmag.com

Photos by Esther Aboussou

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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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How To: Purify Water

The most appealing aspect of backpacking is undoubtedly the remoteness. Few things are better than entertaining the fantasy that you are the first person to trot down that lonely dirt trail in a very long time. The last thing you want is for your range to be limited, and one of the most limiting factors is water.

The sticker about water is that it’s heavy, very heavy. Trying to pack around all your water for a week’s trip is absurd. You’ll find a broken back and dehydration before the remote peace and solitude you set out for. This means that gathering water as you go is your only option, and to do this safely you need to purify it. Fortunately, there are more than a few ways to do this.

The age-old tactic is boiling. Once water hits the magical 100° C (212° F) mark, it will begin to boil. It is at this temperature that all the nasty microbes that would result in a week in the outhouse are killed off, and the water becomes safe to drink. At higher elevations water boils at a lower temperature. There’s a whole bunch of technical, sciency stuff behind this, but the gist of it is that less atmospheric pressure means less energy to boil the water, and less energy means less heat. In order to ensure all those microbes are dead, you should boil water for longer at higher altitudes.

This tactic works very well in the winter. Grab some ice, or snow if no ice is available, and melt it down. You have a warm, safe drink ready to go. In the summer, this is the opposite of what you want. Why take that nice cool stream water and heat it up when it’s already baking hot outside? Boiling also requires some kind of stove. Although there are lightweight cook systems out there, they all are heavier than most of the other purifying techniques.

The next most common practice is using a pump purifier. This is a reliable, long-lasting method of combating dehydration. Essentially, a small tube extends into the water source and sucks water up into a big filter and then spits it out, all clean and pure, through another tube into your water bottle. You are safe to drink that water immediately and it will be as cold as the source you pulled it from. However, pumping enough water for several liters quickly becomes tedious and tiring and the pump itself still weighs a decent amount.

The last solution, and my personal favorite, is a chemical purifier. These come in the form of iodine drops or chlorine tablets. They are specially sold at outdoor retailers for purifying water and have explicit instructions on how to use them. Do not buy a bag of chlorine and start DIY purifying your water. You will be DIY poisoning yourself. These purifiers are lightweight, easy to use, and require very minimal effort. However, they do take time to work. You will not be able to drink your water immediately after adding it so some forward thinking is required.
Whatever your trip, don’t be limited by water. There is more than enough H2O spilling around the backcountry for you to take advantage of.   

n.halberg@wasatchmag.com

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Quit trashing our public lands

In 2016, there was an abundance of news stories about visitors defacing national parks by painting, spraying, and carving on monuments and structures. Many of the culprits have unwittingly called attention to themselves by posting their “art” on social media. In June of this year, Casey Nocket was banned from all National Parks and 524 million acres of public lands after she posted pictures of her graffiti on Instagram.

Actress Vanessa Hudgens carved her and her boyfriend’s name with a heart at a national forest in Arizona. After posting a picture on Instagram, she was caught by fans and faced a $1,000 fine. Public shaming of these individuals has hopefully dissuaded others from taking up the hobby of graffitiing public lands. However, while pointing fingers some may also be defacing the land in a different way. All too often, hikers and campers leave their trash behind, and these culprits are much harder to find.

As an avid camper, I don’t think I could count all of the campsites I’ve been to that included a pile of garbage. I’ve seen everything from beer bottles and snack packaging to used condoms and clothing. Utah has such a beautiful landscape, but stumbling upon used paper plates or an old, torn-up t-shirt ruins the aesthetics of the great outdoors.

It’s not just about looks; trash and debris also affect wildlife. Many animals are lured out of their homes  by the scent of campfire leftovers, putting them in harm’s way. Some food is not safe for animals to consume, and smaller rodents can get trapped inside containers or bottles left behind. Many animals confuse packaging for food and inadvertently poison themselves. Debris left near rivers and streams cause build-ups and leave residue that could be toxic to aquatic animals. In Utah, littering is currently considered a Class B misdemeanor and carries a $100 fine.

For as many state and national parks that Utah has, there is a comparable number of primitive campsites run by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that are free and accessible to the public.  The BLM manages over 245 million acres of public lands each year, and even with around 10,000 employees, it’s a lot of ground to cover.

Littering is a huge problem, but there are several ways to fight it. The first step is to take personal action. If you’re a hiker, carry a small plastic bag with you to pick-up litter. Campers should pack out their litter and take advantage of the trashcans that are available at most campsites. Use switchbacks and drive on designated roads. Call someone out (with respect, please) if you see them carving into a tree or dropping a stray candy wrapper on the ground. Every little bit helps.

The BLM and other organizations are always looking for volunteers to clean up the outdoors. The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics initiative is a nationwide organization takes volunteers to clean up hiking trails and campsites.

It’s important to remember that, even if we donate or pay entrance fees to access parks, when we travel deep into the great outdoors we are guests, and we should behave like the visitors we are.

e.aboussou@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Kiffer Creveling

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