Rock climbing is going through some changes these days, with the explosive rise of indoor climbing gyms, joining the Olympics as a competition sport, and the popularity of bouldering. It’s easy to be confused when someone tells you they’re a ‘climber’ — this could entail any number of different activities.

At its most basic, climbing involves using gymnastic ability to reach places generally considered inaccessible by humans. And there is nothing that fits this definition better than a desert tower.

Castleton Tower set against a stormy sky at sunset

Sheer vertical on all sides, set atop a big hill and looking out over the expansive desert — the ONLY…


A spring walk up to the Chasm Lake Cirque, below Longs Peak in Colorado.

I had a few days off work at the end of last week, and decided to head up into Rocky Mountain National Park, my local mountain playground.

I misjudged the amount of snow present in the high country. I had planned to skip up the trail in my approach shoes before switching to technical climbing boots higher up — I made it about 100 yards up the trail before being forced to put on the heavy-duty boots 😂.

This made my day a bit slower than…


“There is properly no history, only biography” Quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, painted on the wall in the Museum of Broken Relationships, Zagreb. Photo by author.

The Museum of Broken Relationships is dedicated to objects. Objects as symbols of love lost, and hearts broken.

What reminds you of your former lovers?

I visited this museum in Zagreb, Croatia, four years ago. It was on the list of tourist activities at the hostel, and at the moment, I wasn’t too far removed from the dissolution of my own college relationship. And so, with such things on the mind, one dreary Zagreb December morning, my traveling companion and I set off to visit this strange little museum.

It turned out to be one of the most powerful experiences…


Story Spotlight

Photo: Lexi Anderson/Unsplash

Travel writing is a tough genre to master — without intention, even a story about the most fascinating and “exotic” destination can quickly become a rote recitation of a day’s activities. “We went here, we ate this, here’s a smiling selfie.” You get a sense that the writer had a good time; but often, no more than that.

But a master travel writer can do the opposite: turn what should be a boring anecdote or simple moment into a meaningful lesson, connecting their experience as a foreigner into a more universal truth about the land they are visiting, the world…


Some ice climbing.

The route. About 150–175 meters of ice. 3 pitches w/ 70m rope.

The Details

West Gully is a 3-pitch ice climb in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. It is located above Black Lake, roughly a 5.5-mile hike from the trailhead. It’s pretty far back there.

Still, worthy prey justifies the hunt!

West Gully RMNP

Where: Black Lake Ice. Start at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead.
Approach: Long.
De-proach: Way longer.
Grade: WI4, III
This report: 12/9/2020


Although I am about to write way too much about an expensive jacket, I should note, this is not a sponsored post. Sometimes things are just good and we form attachments to them. This is one such case.

Mountaineering in Rocky Mountain National Park.

I said goodbye to the orange jacket today.

Two months ago I packed my treasured companion into a USPS Flat-Rate box and mailed it off to the Arcteryx repair center, in Canada.

This four-year-old Arcteryx Alpha FL hardshell jacket had holes and stains and Tenacious Tape patches all over. The waterproof seams inside the sleeves were delaminating. It certainly wasn’t repairable.

A…


As an avid outdoorsman, I spend a lot of time thinking about gear: looking at gear, researching gear, buying gear, selling gear, etc. Most climbers, skiers, kayakers, whatever, are gear junkies. It’s part of the fun.

However, all this specialized gear is very expensive! An Arcteryx jacket can cost, for example, from $200 to $900. It’s not uncommon for technical backpacks to cost several hundred dollars. Even a humble pair of gloves can run you a bill or more.

And sure, there are cheaper alternatives from lesser-known brands. But (generally) speaking, the quality of an outdoor product will be reflected…


Tonight brought us our first presidential debate of 2020, and just like everything else this year… it… was… not exactly a good time.

Let’s take a look at a few of the more cringeworthy moments, from everyone involved.

Joe Biden saying “I am the Democratic Party!!”

Joe Biden “I am the Democratic Party” first debate 2020.

Not a great look when most Democrats are lukewarm on the nomination. Trump is right about this one — I’m sure members of the far-left wing of the Democratic Party weren’t too pleased with this remark.

Also, you should avoid saying dictator-like things when one of your primary attack points is calling…


What can you do during a quarantine?

If your nation is the USA and your understanding of the concept “quarantine” is less than rudimentary, you can go alpine climbing!

Some photos from the summer of 2020 in RMNP. Photos shot on iPhone 6S or 35mm film. All photos copyright mine.

Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP)

  • Closest National Park to Denver, Boulder, and Colorado’s other major cities.
  • Third most-visited National Park in the USA.
  • Characterized by high-alpine tundra, granite mountains, moraines and ridges. Numerous high-alpine lakes and tarns. Much of the park is above treeline.
  • Currently operating under a reservation system due to Covid-19. Enter before…

Daniel Kay

Always adventurous. Occasionally political. I write creative stories about life, love, climbing and travel. thisisyouth.org

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