Some ice climbing.

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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.

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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.


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…

I got interested in climbing the Blitzen Ridge in Rocky Mountain National Park this summer, after several acquaintances asked me if it was a good beginner alpine climbing objective. (Alpine climbing here defined as remote & technical rock climbs in the high mountains). On paper, rated 5.4, the climb seems quite approachable.

I free soloed the route in August 2020, finding it enjoyable, but in my opinion, far from a beginner route. This article will be a trip report with some specialized advice for beginner alpine climbers who might be considering the Blitzen Ridge.

A view of the Fource Aces on Blitzen Ridge — steep pyramids of rock with sharp drop offs.
A view of the Fource Aces on Blitzen Ridge — steep pyramids of rock with sharp drop offs.
The crux of the route: The “Four Aces”.

Blitzen Ridge Route Details

  • Grade: 5.4, II
  • Pitches: I find…

Zowie is a small tower in Rocky Mountain National Park. It offers fun alpine climbing with a short 4-mile hike and an approachable difficulty (only one crux pitch of 5.8+). Plus, it’s just fun to say. Try it out: Zowie. Zowie!!

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Zowie seen from the Andrews Glacier Trail.

The Quick Hit

Many people compare this tower to the nearby Petit Grepon, due to the similar shapes of both formations. You will certainly find fewer people on Zowie, as it is lesser-known. However, that means there is considerably more loose rock and vegetation on Zowie. Careful what you pull on.

In my opinion, the Petit is a bit better of a…

“The Last Dance” hit American Netflix this past week. I had heard quite a bit about this documentary series when it first aired on ESPN earlier this year, and so I decided to give it a spin, even though I am not really a basketball fan.

Here’s a quick breakdown if you’re wondering if it’s worth your time.

What Is The Last Dance?

‘The Last Dance’ is a 10-part documentary series about Michael Jordan, widely considered the best basketball player and one of the greatest athletes in American (and even world) history. …

“Dr. Tony Fauci would be so pissed if he could see us,” the climber to my left says. He imitates the USA’s top Coronavirus expert, a well known figure in recent days: “‘You’re all the way out there, on the side of a mountain, and you fuckers still can’t stay six feet apart!?’”

All three of us at the anchor laugh.

We’re in tight proximity, for sure. Me, my climbing partner, and a stranger are in what’s called a “hanging belay”: literally hanging off the side of the Diamond, a huge alpine wall in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. …

Daniel Kay

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

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