The Mountain Series

Hiking Hut to Hut in the White Mountains

Don’t Underestimate the Whites

For thru-hikers of the AT, the White Mountains are a cruel joke, coming near the end of a months-long journey that begins in the gentle hills of Georgia. With nary a flat mile the trail follows the spine of the Presidential Range before exiting into Maine and the final miles to Katahdin. But while the Whites can be cruel, they are also kind. Among the rocky steeps is a series of huts where a weary hiker can find a soft bed, warm smiles and hot meals. I came to the White Mountains of New Hampshire with too much confidence and they kicked my ass. With the trail's highest point barely above tree line and only one thousand feet higher than the starting point of my June ascent of Mount Rainier, I figured hiking here would be easy. I was wrong.

Gear for the Granite State

Kit: Hiking Hut-to-Hut in the White Mountains

Even when you're sleeping in huts every night, hiking in the White Mountains requires considerable planning. With New Hampshire's notoriously unpredictable weather, it's wise to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. That means shells for rain, layers for warmth and good footwear for all that granite. Here's what we took on the final part of our Mountain Series, a three-day hut-to-hut excursion.

Read Free or Die

Roundup: 5 Books about the White Mountains

What New Hampshire lacks in acreage it makes up in personality: the Granite State was the first to break away from the British; it holds the first presidential primary; and the state motto is, audaciously, “Live Free or Die”. The state’s soul resides in the White Mountain National Forest, more than 750,000 acres of rugged trails and backcountry. It’s a fine place to hike, as we did in our story about the huts of the White Mountains. Want a more comprehensive education? Consider picking up one of these books.

Own Your Wilderness Overnight

Kit: Multi-Day Hiking

It doesn’t take much to pack for a day hike: throw on a coat, pull on your boots and tuck a beanie in your back pocket in case the weather turns chilly. But if you’re heading into the woods for more than a stroll, a little preparation goes a long way, whether it be technical fabrics to combat inclement weather, a portable stove to heat your three square, or dominos to entertain companions after the sun sets. We’ve got a selection of gear to get you started on your next multi-day hiking adventure.

Part II of III in The Mountain Series

At the Foot of the King: A Short Hike in the Swiss Alps

For alpinists everywhere, including those confined to armchairs, the name, “Eiger” conjures up excitement, fear and dread. Considered the most daunting climb in the Alps, the mountain’s north face, the “Nordwand”, is a 6,000-foot sheer wall of crumbling, often ice-coated, rock that is continually scoured by rockfalls and avalanches. First climbed in 1938, it has been the scene of countless adventures, tragedies and one Clint Eastwood movie. The name and the image of the Eiger were etched in my brain for years, and I read everything I could about the mountain. So to see it there, across the valley from the sundeck of the Berggasthaus First, seemed like a dream; I could hardly take my eyes off it.

Gear for the Top of World

Kit: Free Solo Climbing

Sometimes the mountains just call your name. Whether you've got a season to train for a summit bit up Mt. Rainier or just a Saturday afternoon to log some miles hiking up the local ski hill, the right gear can mean the difference between enjoying the majesty and struggling through misery (or worse). Here's the gear we used for our recent solo free climb of Mount Olympus in Utah -- but it's perfect for any ultralight mountain mission.

Part I of III in The Mountain Series

The Easy Way Up: Heli-Hiking in the Bugaboos

The rotor wash from a Bell 212 helicopter is startlingly strong. Though I was getting used to the pick up and drop off routine -- kneel, huddle together, cover your face -- every time the helicopter landed I was nearly blown off my feet. Peering out the side window as we lifted straight up from a postage-stamp-sized rock atop a peak called "Kickoff", I noticed that getting blown over here would have meant a very long fall. Note to self: don’t be the guy at the back of the huddle. Helicopter travel is addictive. Though it's loud and uncomfortable, it's the swiftest and most scenic way to get from Point A to Point B in the mountains. There’s also a certain Green Beret appeal to being whisked off a remote peak by a Huey. Purist hikers and climbers may call it cheating (I used to be one of them), but reserve judgment until you’ve hiked for five hours and 5,000 vertical feet in some of the wildest backcountry in the world and can get back to the lodge in ten minutes for a beer by a crackling fire. I came to this newfound appreciation after a week of up and down in the Bugaboo Mountains of British Columbia.

Ultra prepared

Kit: Vermont 50 Ultramarathon

There are basically two schools of thought when assembling a kit for an ultramarathon: comprehensive preparation and more weight, or as minimalist as possible. For first-time ultra-distance runners, the decision can be a little confounding. You want to be very prepared and very light. This setup for the Vermont 50 -- a trail run -- reflects a good balance of preparedness and weight, with a bias toward the former in the choice of a hydration pack.

Two marathons in the mountains

Photo Essay: Vermont 50 Ultramarathon

It was around around mile 23 of the Vermont 50 that I thought about the duck. I’d read in On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee that the common green-headed mallard stores as much as a third of its carcass weight in fat for fuel and insulation so it can fly continuously for hundreds of miles. As I sipped from the sports nutrition mix in my bottle, I thought of what could have been if only I had taken to heart the experience of migratory birds. I had eaten but one slice of apple pie after dinner the night before.

Celebrating Adventure Sports in Vail, CO

Photo Essay: GoPro Mountain Games

Somewhere between my third (or possibly fourth) spill off my paddle board into Gore Creek and my first lung-busting lap up the mountain bike course, it finally sunk in that the GoPro Mountain Games in Vail, CO was so much more than just the suffering I was subjecting myself to. Featuring adventure and mountain sports like freestyle kayaking, bouldering (think rock climbing 25-foot walls with no rope), mountain biking, a dock dogs competition, and slacklining, the Games has a competition for just about everyone. That's not to mention the carnival of fun one-offs: the gear expo, open air concerts, a mountain film festival and demos of new bikes and boards. See everything the Games had to offer in this photo essay.

Attacking the mountain in style

Kit: Ultimate Mountain Challenge

The Ultimate Mountain Challenge at the GoPro Summer Mountain Games is one of the most unique multi-sport events in the world. You'll navigate white water, race up and down the ski slopes of Vail Mountain Resort on your mountain bike and in your running shoes, and finish with a grueling road bike time trial up to 9,500 feet in Vail Pass. Of course, it's also the perfect excuse to update aging gear and even splurge on a great bike or even a paddle board. Here's a look at the gear that got us through the race.

Because they’re there

Domestic Ascents: Five American Peaks to Summit

Mountaineering can be an intimidating sport to get into: all that gear, the dizzying heights and tales of frostbite-blackened digits aren't necessarily warm and fuzzy things. But if you have the urge to sample the rarified air up high, there are still some peaks that are accessible to the novice alpinist right here in the U.S. Once you're actually prepared, check (at least) one of these beauties off your list.

The Gear for Rainier

Kit: Climbing Mount Rainier

To take on our recent ascent of Mount Rainier, we rounded up some of the latest and greatest mountaineering gear. And after two days, 9,000 vertical feet of climbing and weather that ranged from downright scorching to subzero wind chills, we’ve got a thing or two to say about each piece. So whether or not you plan to use any of this gear in your urban, or more rustic, adventures, you can be assured we’ve put it all through rigorous testing in a worse place. Just don’t take an ice axe on the subway.

Hit the dusty trail(s)

Single Track Mind: The Best American Mountain Bike Trails

Picking our 10 favorite mountain bike trails for our week of cycling is like asking a parent to pick their favorite kid: we love them each for different reasons. Still, armed with a Rolodex of memorable rides, we set out to catalog the best of the best. The IMBA (International Mountain Bike Association) and other groups have been creating mouthwatering single track all over the world as diverse as the styles of bikes in your local shop -- and they keep getting bigger, better and longer.