Published by GravityFed on 26 Nov 2008
Published by GravityFed on 25 Nov 2008
Coupon code from Backcountry.com valid until 12/1/2008 on clothing, shoes and accessories only. Enter Redemption code 3PU-1-R38LT during checkout to get the discount.
Published by GravityFed on 21 Nov 2008
…GravityDex does. A little background on the “Dex”. In early 2000, the GravityFed crew hand built a static links directory and named it GravityDex.com. The idea was to aggregate outdoor sports related web sites, and categorize them accordingly. At the time, it was quite the novel idea. There weren’t many niche directories on the web then. Hell, Yahoo! wasn’t even that much to write home about.
It wasn’t that long before we installed a links database to better manage the content, etc. It was going really well.
Fast forward two years. It was post 911 and the dot com world was turned on its head. Online ventures everywhere were closing their doors. But considering the GravityFed Network was built from the ground up, by two ski bums, with no money…well, we managed to survive. We just kept the sucker online.
It was probably three years solid and neither the Dex or the GravityFed site had a single manual update posted. The only thing we continued to do was validate link submissions now and then. They surprisingly kept coming, so we kept it growin’.
Today, GravityDex is thriving and stronger than ever. In fact, the database currently holds 13372 links in 1073 categories. Not too shaby. In addition to that, we also maintain an outdoor gear outlet & clearning house featuring more than 400,000 products from nearly 40 of the best outdoor stores on the web. So short story long: GO CHECK IT OUT and add your link! We’re proud of it.
Published by GravityFed on 05 Nov 2008
Winter is officially here! Not bad for the first week of November. Alta Ski Lifts is reporting 34″ on their web site today, with lake affect bands still in line. When it’s said and done we could have a 40 inch base! Looks like we’re on target to open on November 21st, as they announced!
UPDATE 11/10/08: Final tally on the storm was 49″, leaving Alta with a 37 inch base and it’s snowing right now again. Could be the makings for an early opening this year…
Published by GravityFed on 05 Nov 2008
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado — She appears to stand alone when observed from a distance. Like a lighthouse guiding a ship in the night, she has been my beacon in the Vail Valley from the first day I called Vail my home.
She is surrounded by a supporting cast of ridges and valleys with an entire ecosystem dependent on her presence. She is easily identified by her significant markings and height. She is powerful enough to create her own weather systems. Unmistakable from hundreds of miles away, her name is The Mountain of The Holy Cross. She has been the center of much intrigue throughout most of Colorado’s history. She has a story, a following and a spirit like no other mountain in the Rockies. Why do I refer to Holy Cross as a female? I’m not sure, other than because of her beauty and the draw she has for my attention.
At certain times of the year she looks taller than others. Then there are the days when she disappears among the clouds completely, only to reappear hours later, looking more beautiful than before. Her attraction, in addition to being one of Colorado’s l4ers, is the “Cross Couloir,” which makes up a significant portion of the mountain’s northeast face. The Cross Couloir splits her down the middle and calls to those who are spiritually driven as well as backcountry skiers and boarders who come and admire her.
I have felt her call every time I’ve been on top of Vail Mountain, looking over at her since I was a kid. Of course, dreaming and doing are two entirely different mailers when it comes to skiing such a descent. It wasn’t until I was older that I learned she had actually been skied by a handful of people of all ages. This amazed me. From the top of Vail Mountain she looks pretty intimidating, and I couldn’t imagine many people devoting the time and effort. But I live in Colorado, and we have some pretty amazing, unassuming and hard-core people here.
It was not exactly the descent I was questioning. Reaching Mount of the Holy Cross is almost more of a challenge than skiing it. The 14,005-foot mountain is protected by the Holy Cross Wilderness area. Open space that has been left free of human impact for most of its history. It is not one of the more conveniently placed mountains like other climbs around the state. There are a few options to approach the mountain as well as few routes to summit her. Most of them begin where the Holy Cross trailhead originates at the end Tigiwon road.
Tigiwon is a well-maintained dirt road just outside the town of Minturn. It is 9 miles long and starts at an elevation of 7,900 feet and meeting the Holy Cross trailhead a couple thousand feet higher. After June 20, one can easily navigate this road in a two-wheel-drive vehicle. However, prior to June 20 (the optimum time to ski the “Cross Couloir”), this road is closed to all motorized vehicles due to snow blockage and elk mitigation laws. This is where my story begins.
Easy way up
At the end of May, I finally had the opportunity to meet up with my beauty while she was still covered in snow. Chris Davenport, or “Day” – as part of his quest to ski the state’s fifty-four I4ers – was about to embark on a mission to ski the Holy Cross (Holy Cross was his 45th since January; for more details on his adventure visit www.skithel4ers.com).
As it was prior to June 20, we needed a way to travel Tigiwon Road without a motorized vehicle. Day decided we could accomplish this by attaching bike carriages to our mountain bikes and peddling ourselves and our gear up to the trailhead. While this seemed like a viable option, I took it upon myself to try and find an alternate means of transportation right up until the last possible minute: I was looking at everything from llamas to horses.
The expedition was going to be enough of an effort and adding a steep nine-mile mountain bike ride with an extra 100 pounds of gear did not seem appealing. This was magnified by the fact that I had not been on my bike since the previous fall and had just returned from a vacation in Mexico after a long winter of beating myself up at a variety of ski destinations. Yes, I was whining
I was hoping to find the easiest way to put in a minimal amount of effort. I was just plain tired from the long season. Quite frankly, this is a very stupid way to look at any mountain trek, whether an hour’s hike or a multi-day excursion.
I preach to my clients at camps that I host around the world that it is important to be prepared. I talk about being ready for the worse-case scenario and working backwards from there. Then you might be able to take on just about anything that comes your way.
Regardless of my preaching, I proceeded to break my own rules and did not take this trek as seriously as I should have. Truthfully, I had hopes that we might get weathered out, and I could go home and sleep a few more days … or a month. But the weather was perfect and, on May 30, I showed up at the base of Tigiwon Road as Chris Davenport, Eric Warble, as well as two-time veteran of this ski descent and Vail local Carl Cocchiarella, were preparing to head out with their bikes and carriages filly packed.
One stupid sandwich
I had three bottles of water, two 7-Eleven sandwiches, brand new AT boots from Salomon (tags still on them), a tent, a borrowed sleeping bag without a proper stuff sack, too-small a backpack and several pairs of skis thrown in my Jeep. (I had packed in about three seconds when I finally decided I was going to do this rested or not)
It was a complete junk show, but I threw everything into the carriage with one pair of skis sort of tied down and headed up the road, a good half-hour behind the group. I figured I would catch them at the trailhead, where we would camp for the night.
I had organized my gear with that plan in mind. I thought we would be camping near our carriages so I was packed like I was on a mini-car camping excursion – in other words, not very efficiently.
Halfway up the nine-mile climb, I started to get very hungry. Then it occurred to me that I had only two sandwiches and this was a two-day trek. I found an old Power Bar in one of my coat pockets and ate it, still thinking that we might be weathered out, and I would be able to return to base, head to the store, shop for more supplies, get some sleep and return better prepared at a later date. This was still in the back of my mind, as The Weather Channel had called for rain.
There I was, spinning my granny gear chasing after Davenport who was as well-conditioned as a world-class cyclist at this point in his mission, and I’m just off my non-aerobic winter routine. He was a lean, mean hiking machine!
I arrived at the Holy Cross trailhead after a couple hours. Rolled off my bike, crotch hurting, back sore and ready to kick back for the night. But Day had made an executive decision: we should pack up gear for the night and hike for another couple hours and try to get to Half Moon Pass before sundown. I realized I had dropped the ball again by only bringing a pack to carry my ski gear and camping gear. I mean, I was prepared for mini-car camping, remember?
Not the case, I proceeded to rig as much as I could on my small pack, carried a few things in my hands and starting hiking. I looked like a hobo combined with the rig from The Beverly Hillbillies. Halfway in, I realized that, in my haste, I had only brought one bottle of water and one sandwich. Stupid is as stupid does, I recited to myself.
We arrived at Half Moon Pass at sunset, approximately four hours since leaving the car. It was beautiful. We set up our camp on a ridge just above the tree line with a magnificent view of the Mount of the Holy Cross as she disappeared into the darkness.
The location, air, view and company made the evening surreal. There was no wind, the temperature was perfect, even though it was quickly dropping, and the sky was clear. In the distance, you could see the lights of Denver illuminating the night sky.
Over Colorado Springs, a lightning storm was under way. That is where the rain was. Above us, satellites crisscrossed the clear sky. Everything was perfect, except that I was starving with only a half bottle of water and one stupid sandwich to my name.
I laid awake all night in fear that I would not have enough food, tried not to drink all my water and played a video game on my phone until the sun finally poked its head from the horizon. I stuck my head out of the tent and it was a perfect Colorado bluebird day.
We put on our hard plastic AT boots that came complete with walk mode. They were originally designed for the rental market, but still a pain to walk in compared to trail shoes. I was cool with it and looked forward to really testing them out, but then I looked over and noticed that Erie Warble was sleeping in his hill-on alpine ski boots. I mean walking from the parking lot to the chair lift in ski boots kills most mortals. But Warble was going to walk the next several miles over scree fields, loose gravel, rock fall, descend cliffs, side-step ice and snow, deal with downed trees, scramble through bushes and over boulders in regular alpine ski boots with his skis on his back.
I had no one to complain to.
Our trek took us from the regular trail to what is known as the Halo Route. This is a renegade route that is not marked and, for most part, does not exist. The route circumnavigates the brim of the bowl on the west face of Notch Mountain and the east face of Holy Cross. We would have a perfect view of what we would be skiing while walking on the side of a mountain directly across from it.
The hike is one to be respected when accomplished in hiking boots or a good pair of trail shoes – and here we were in ski boots, and Warble in Alpine race boots but it would place us at the base of the Cross Couloir where we could put crampons on and hike straight up the east face of Holy Cross on snow.
A big boulder
Halfway through this hike along the Halo Route, I considered turning back. I had hit a wall after several hours with no water and lack of the correct food. I was seriously concerned I would not have enough energy to make it off the mountain and back to the car at the end of the day – still a solid 10 hours away.
I was weakening quickly and embarrassed to tell the rest of the team I did not come prepared. I mentioned it under my breath to Carl and he passed it onto Davenport without my knowledge. I was still trying to figure out a way to bow out gracefully and head back to camp. The tide quickly changed when we came across a spring and I was able to fill my water bottle.
Day gave me a pep talk, handed me a bag of Cliff Bar Shots and told me I was being a goof, and I would make it to the top of this mountain and back down. Within a half hour, I was replenished and moving quickly up the east face of Holy Cross itself with newfound energy.
The ascent begins from the “Bowl of Tears,” a glacier lake that sits about 2,000 feet beneath the summit. From there, we headed straight up on a snowfield just south of the Cross Couloir before we could actually drop into the couloir and ascend it.
Before stepping into couloir itself for the last 1,000-plus-feet of the ascent, the group reassembled on a spine separating the snowfield from the couloir. Day was the first one to step out into the Cross Couloir. He wanted to take a picture back at us sifting on the spine prepping our gear. My focus was aimed on buckling my boots when he made this move. Everything was silent. The group was in good spirits and life was perfect. Then Carl yelled, “Day! Watch Out!”
The shout caught Day’s attention as well as the rest of us. The moment I looked up, a boulder larger than a beach ball was rocketing by Day’s head, centimeters away from nailing him and knocking him off the mountain and eventually over a cliff at the bottom of the Cross Couloir. Camera in hand, Day made a slight move on the 40-degree pitch and the boulder missed, barely.
This changed everything for a moment Reality kicked back in and we started moving forward, this time more aware of what was above and not just around us. All of this excitement occurred at around 9 a.m. By 10 a.m., we had reached the summit, my neck sore from looking straight up the couloir to spot any more random rock fall.
The summit is 14,005 feet above sea level. The view from the summit is breathtaking in every direction. Because Holy Cross is centrally located in the state of Colorado, it is the optimum place to view most mountain ranges in the state when skies arc clear. On this day, we could see numerous l4ers in the 360-degree view from the summit. It was an incredible morning.
I ate the last of my sandwich, and took photos with the group. I made a phone call to my dad and put on my gear. When I pushed over to look down the Cross Couloir it finally hit me. I was finally here. Looking over at the top of Vail, I reflected on how many times I had looked the opposite direction and dreamed about this. Now here I was and the famous descent made the adrenaline kick in. Plus I was a bit nervous.
Aggressive but solid
The Cross Couloir is not as radical as it would appear from a distance. But it shouldn’t be taken lightly. The variable snow conditions and the runnels descending throughout the center of the couloir create a variety of obstacles that can take a skier or boarder right off their feet. A slide down the 35-degree slope would send one rolling off the cliff at the bottom of the couloir. Self-arresting is not an attempt; it is mandatory when skiing the couloir.
Skiing the Cross Couloir like you see guys ripping down an Alaskan peak in a ski movie is not a real option in these conditions. Skiing aggressively, but solidly, is the best rule for a successful descent. Should something go wrong, it would be a fairly large-scale rescue in an exposed environment. With all that said, skiing down the Cross Couloir was one of the most thrilling runs of my life. Interestingly enough, this was not because of the turns, but because of where I was and what I was surrounded by.
From here on out, when I’m standing atop Vail Mountain looking over at this incredible peak, I will know that, not only did I stand on top of her, but I left tracks behind. It was a sensation that will stay with me forever.
The trek out felt like it lasted forever. We did manage to get a few more turns off the north shoulder of Notch Mountain on our way back to the Half Moon Pass base camp.
We packed camp and descended to our bikes. Once again, I had the full junk show in motion. It was an easy descent back down Tigawon Road to our cars. By the time we made our way to the Minturn Saloon, it was dinnertime.
Strange thing was, I wasn’t hungry anymore.
Published by GravityFed on 25 Oct 2008
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Published by GravityFed on 24 Oct 2008
Once upon a time (March, 2000) one ski bum asked another ski bum how a few HTML tags worked. Two weeks later GravityDex (Outdoor Sports Directory) was functional and on the web. It’s always been a human-maintained outdoor links database, with custom descriptions and outdoor-relevant categories. It’s continued to grow through the years steadily (at time of this post, the links database included 13,348 links in 1,073 categories).
>> If you have an outdoor related site, Add Your Link <<
In the last few years, “The Dex” expanded to also include a comprehensive gear & apparel clearing house; including outdoor gear deals of all kinds, and product catalogs from the top outdoor retailers on the web (new stores added regularly). One of the coolest things about this site, is that it allows you to subscribe to RSS feeds for daily gear deals. By now you should know that there are tons of promotions out there, or coupons….so it pays to know where to find them all when you’re gearing up.
Check it out! Search GravityDex Links or Gear Database:
Published by GravityFed on 16 Oct 2008
Family photo. Fish Solo, Soni and Ethan Kai. Congrats you guys. We’re all thrilled!
Published by GravityFed on 13 Oct 2008
Published by GravityFed on 09 Oct 2008
Would you find a search engine specific to outdoor gear useful? I’ll bet you would, since like us, you’re probably a gear junkie. And you’re probably not into paying retail, like us. On this site I just did a search for North Face Denali (probably the single most popular fleece jacket in history, and definitely The North Face’s top selling product), and the site returned 285 results from about 20 online stores. At that point I sorted the price column and was able to get a look at the best deals on this product. All this took about 8 seconds.
So check out our friends at OutdoorGearEngine.com. According to their homepage (as of the date of this post), the database consists of 495,132 products from 70 outdoor stores. Damn skippy. That’s pretty sick. This site is also chalk full of RSS subscriptions for outdoor gear deals, and they also maintain a blog that features industry news, gear sales/coupons from participating stores and just random coolness. Have a look and gear up for the pow!