Fearless Female of the Month: Pro Skier Caroline Gleich

by Joslin Fritz
( October 30th, 2014 )

Caroline Gleich Fearless Female of the MonthSUP yoga and whitewater racer Natali Zollinger was highlighted last month as our Fearless Female of the Month, and I was amazed with the positive response I received from the post. Thank you!

Our Fearless Female of the Month for October is professional big mountain skier and model Caroline Gleich. Caroline is tearing it up in the sport of backcountry skiing. She is sponsored by the likes of PatagoniaZeal Optics and CLIF Bar, has a strong following, with almost 4,000 Facebook likes, 3,000 Twitter followers, and a whopping 46,000 instagram followers. Needless to say, folks love her. The CLIF Bar athlete and recently shared with me some insights into the world of ski mountaineering, what she’d like to see for females in the industry, the recent death of her friend and fellow skier, Liz Daley, and her #1 reason for heading to the mountains with the other women.

How long have you been skiing?

I started skiing when I was 18 months old. I never skied competitively, but I always loved it. I decided when I was 18 that I wanted to be a professional skier. When I was in college, I always would take off spring semester so I never had to miss a ski season! I still finished school though, graduating with a degree in anthropology from the University of Utah.

What are your upcoming skiing plans?

I’d like to explore the greater regions of the world, combining both tours that involve extensive fitness training and logistical planning. The Caucasus range in Russia, the Andes range in Peru and the Himalayas all are on my “to-ski” list. Ski mountaineering is such a cool way to travel the world. For the most part we’re self-supported and self-sufficient and people are so welcoming when we see them in their small mountain towns.

Liz Daley, another professional skier like yourself, recently passed away in a deadly avalanche in Chile. How has her death affected your skiing and your skiing goals?

Liz and I did about 6 or 7 trips together over the past 2 years. She was like my best friend, definitely a mentor and someone I looked up to. Her death made me step back and re-evaluate my goals, desires and motivation for ski mountaineering. In ski mountaineering there’s very little room for error, you need to have the clearest mind possible. Her death reminded me that when I’m skiing, I can’t let my sponsors, the photographer, or anyone else get in the way of me making the smartest, safest decision that I need to make for myself. (See here for Liz’s write-up of guiding on Denali, and also information on her untimely death this past September.)

What’s one of your recent favorite skiing moments?

This past spring I went to Chamonix, France, with a filmmaker who happens to be a close friend. Chamonix is the birthplace of steep, downhill skiing. On one of our last days there we ended up skiing off the summit of this peak via a traverse of it’s complicated ridge line after a grueling 7 hour traverse. I just remember finally navigating ourselves to the summit, standing above and overlooking these small spires, just before we dropped in. It was a clear, blue day, and I remember thinking how it was completely magical. That was a real special moment for me.

How do you train in the off-season?

Well, since I can’t ski year round, I train really hard by running, hiking, and climbing. This year I’ve been working on my alpine climbing. I’ve done some fun trips to the Sierras, to the Rockies, and some desert towers around Southern Utah. I’ve been posting my adventures up on my Instagram feed, and folks have really been loving them.

You have almost 4,000 Facebook likes, and 46,000 instagram followers. People love you! What do you attribute your strong following to?

I attribute it to finding my voice, I want to promote an active lifestyle, and I think my spirit of adventure resonates with my followers. I love what I do and get to visit so many beautiful places, and I think that passion comes through in my photos and posts.

Recently there was an article in Teton Gravity entitled 8 Reasons Why Women Need to Go to the Mountains with Other Women. It’s gone viral, people have really loved the post. What’s your #1 reason to go to the mountains with other women?

Well, I know Leslie, the author, and we actually chatted about that post! It’s great that so many folks have connected with it. I think for me, it’s about the conversation that happens. It’s an opportunity to catch up with my friends. As we’re traversing up a mountain, or going on a trail run, I can multi-task, get some fun outdoor recreation and connect with my friends. Also, I think we have a tendency to have shallow relationships in our culture. When you’re out in the wilderness with someone, be it in the backcountry on the mountain, or tied to the other end of the rope climbing, you’re much more vulnerable and dependent than we are in our day-to-day lives. You’re more able to express yourself, and perhaps open up in ways that you can’t in everyday situations.

What advice would you give for females who want to get involved in backcountry skiing?

Well, definitely I’d suggest taking an avalanche course to get your bearings. Second, seek out mentors. Having a mentor, or someone willing to show you the ropes, is such a great way to get practical knowledge.

What do you see the future of females in skiing to be? 

You know, it’s so competitive in the ski and snow industry as an athlete. There’s a token female for every ten male professional skiers. The recent film, Pretty Faces, the story of a skier girl, is a fantastic start to showcasing females in the sport. It’s a long time coming. I’d love to be part of an all female ski-mountaineering expedition, that I think is the next step for females in the skiing industry.

You can read more about Caroline on her website here. Have a suggestion for our next Fearless Female of the Month? Write in your suggestion in a comment below!

Adventure On, 

Joslin

Photo courtesy of Caroline Gleich.

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Gear Review: Big Agnes Mirror Lake Sleeping Bag

by Joslin Fritz
( October 24th, 2014 )

I camp. A lot. Granted that most of the camping I do happens during the warmer summer months, I still like to get out during the autumn, just before it gets too cold to put away my tent, sleeping pad and sleeping bag. (Yes, that’s right, I might try ice-climbing, but I do not do winter camping.)

Big Agnes Mirror Lake Sleeping BagThis fall weather has been perfect for testing out the Big Agnes Mirror Lake 22 Sleeping Bag. It can get into the 40’s (even 30s sometimes) at night here in New England, and I’ve stayed comfy and cozy in the Mirror Lake bag. Here’s a few of the key specs on the women’s specific bag:

 

Weight: 2 lbs 10 oz

Fill: 600 Fill Goose Down

Height: Regular: 5’10’’ (Petite: 5’6’‘)

Compressed Bag Size: 9’’ x 10’’

Temperature Range: 22 degrees Farenheit and up

Big Agnes Mirror Lake 22 Sleeping Bag womensThanks to the DownTek water repellent down technology, I didn’t worry about my down sleeping bag getting wet from the morning dew. It quickly dried and continued to keep me warm as I lay in my bag, listening to the leaves rustling in the wind. I had some extra length to get really snug into the bag, since I’m 5’7’’ and the bags’ height is 5’10’‘. This has been an issue for me with other women’s specific bags, the fact that they can be too short and small for me. I found the bag provided me with plenty of room to rustle and move about, yet still gave me the warmth that comes from a traditional mummy bag. The interior loops for a sleeping bag liner are a nice touch, those I prefer to not use the liners myself.

It can be easy to break the bank on a good quality down insulated sleeping bag, but the Mirror Lake gives excellent bag for its’ buck. At less than $200, the Mirror Lake bag is good for those thrifty consumers out there looking to make a smart purchase. Not to mention that if you have two Big Agnes sleeping bags with zippers on opposite sides (one with a left zipper and one with a right zipper), you can zip them together and create one big sleeping bag for two. Now that’s what I call camping. :)

What I loved:

  • Plenty of room to move around, yet still warm, traditional mummy shaped bag

  • Extra inches for height

  • Loved the colors

  • Drawstring cord and collar seals prevent cold air from sneaking in

  • Economical ($199.95) for a down filled sleeping bag

Not so much:

  • Can’t think of anything….

You can purchase the Women’s Mirror Lake 22 Sleeping Bag on the Big Agnes website here.

Adventure On,

Joslin

 

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Tragedy on the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal

by Joslin Fritz
( October 20th, 2014 )

Nepal has been on my mind. I’ve been reading the news reports about the 40 bodies now recovered from the deadly snowstorm that struck this country earlier this week. Nepal is in its’ prime trekking season on the Annapurna circuit, which receives over 100,000 hikers a year. It is one of the most popular treks in the country, and for that matter, the world. The hike, located in the northwest region of Nepal, takes up to three weeks to complete and crosses over a the famous 17,769 ft Thorung La Pass. This area surrounding the pass was the hardest hit of the snowstorm, receiving up to six feet of snow and creating white-out conditions.

Back in 2008 I hiked the Annapurna circuit. I hiked it alone, and met a number of friends along the way. It was one of the most spectacular hikes of my life. I was blown away by the beauty of the Annapurna range, and the experience paved the way for other multi-day hiking trips I’ve done around the world. Looking back on this hike that took me fifteen days, I honestly had no idea what I was getting into. I didn’t train. I didn’t worry about altitude sickness. Quite honestly, I decided on a whim to do the hike. I patched together gear and clothes for the trip, buying what I could in Kathmandu, and deciding quickly that I didn’t need what I couldn’t find.

I imagine many of those hiking there recently probably packed better than I did, but nothing could have prepared them for what happened. Even now, I have more wilderness and emergency experience than I did back then, but that’s because I’ve chosen a career as a expedition river guide and tour leader. On trips, it is me and my fellow guides that take care of people-we are the ones that are responsible. It’s a responsibility that I don’t take lightly, case in point because no one can predict when an accident will occur or when a river will hit flood stage. I struggle to think of what I would do in the shoes of those caught in the storm.

My pain this week is two-fold. For one, my heart goes out to those hikers that died. I remember that tea house before Throng La Pass, how small it was inside and how basic of a structure it really was. I remember the altitude, and huddling around the heater, waiting for it to be late enough so I could go to bed and get the heck out of there in the morning. I can only imagine crammed into that tea house, watching the snow pile up, and terrified at what the options lay before me. My thoughts are with their families and loved ones.

Secondly, I’m deeply troubled by how this natural, unpredictable weather occurrence will affect tourism in Nepal, the largest source of foreign revenue in the country.
There’s been substantial criticism of the Nepalese government and hiking agencies for their lack of warning as to how dangerous the Annapurna circuit is. Nepal suffered another disaster earlier this year where 20 people died as a result of an avalanche on Mount Everest.

I disagree with this criticism. No one can predict massive weather changes, or the smallest chance that the stars will align and terrifying x, y or z will happen. We as adventure travelers make decisions when we sign up for a trek, or a whitewater trip, or a biking tour. Just as we never know when we may get into a traffic accident or get hit by a bus, we may experience a freak storm, a rock fall, or another completely unpredictable occurrence. We choose to put ourselves in the situations. We need to take responsibility that though there is an extremely unlikely chance that something terrible will happen, we have taken that risk.

Granted, there are times where guides are ill-equipped and lack the knowledge of how to properly deal with a situation. This sounds like it happened near Thorung La Pass, where a guide made the incorrect choice to try for the pass, when he should’ve chosen to wait. Or perhaps he was pushed into going by the promise of cash by his clients. Who knows. We certainly aren’t in the place to judge right or wrong when not one of us was there to see for ourselves.

As with many accidents worldwide, I foresee the government taking strong action in building new certification standards for their hiking guides, and emergency weather protocol in teahouses. Well, I hope at least this will happen as a result of this incident.

Adventure On, 

Joslin

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