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Squamish/Whistler, B.C, Canada
This Blogtography is not a shameless self promotion but a way to keep in touch with folks and share my experiences of what I see and do through the eye of the lens. I feel fortunate to play a part in stoking people to get out and explore and find their own experiences no matter what they are. It really inspires me to capture a moment in time and tell a visual story. Quote- "If I only scrape a living at least it's a living worth scraping for ! " ( Dark Side Of The Lens)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Mindshift
Rotation180º Professional in
BELLA COOLA, British Columbia
St Elias Range USA
Mt Logan, Canada
THE SKI MOUNTAINEER !


This spring and early summer I had some ski expeditions lined up on the coast of British Columbia and as far away as the Mt St Elias Range in the USA.
These places are remote and difficult to reach. My goals were to acquire images and video in an incredible place that would require keeping up with elite athletes in motion and not be a liability to the situation.
One of my primary concerns with shooting this project was having a method to deploy my gear, shoot and stow without slowing down the nature of movement in a dangerous location.

I attempted to modify some camera bags with little success. Eventually I recalled a review by Dan Carr on some MindShift products. I sourced out the review and the concept appeared to be a breakthrough in camera bag designs.
Many of the reviews I saw on line with the packs were very positive and detailed. I'm not going get into what can go in what pocket or different configurations of the accessories. Dan Carr did a fantastic job of a complete review and I will back up his findings.
My focus for this review will be on deployment in locations that are typically challenging and how the bag carries essentials for ski mountaineering or adventure sport in particular. My intention is to shed some light for the effectiveness of the Rotation Program outside of a studio review.
MindShift was founded by the creators of "ThinkTank" who are known for progressive camera bags and accessories. There are 2 flagship packs among other other accessories by Mindshift, the 22 litre R180 Panorama and it's big brother the 37.5 litre Rotation180º Professional
A week before my departure for Bella Coola I anxiously waited for the Rotation 180 Pro to arrive.
If it did not live up to my hopeful expectations I would have to resort to my other  system of taking a pack on and pack off, which is not super efficient with skis attached.
Soon enough I was unwrapping the pack with the Deluxe Configuration. This included extras's such as padded insert for extra lenses or camera body, top pocket, Tripod kit and extra attachment straps.
Immediately I was impressed by the build quality of the pack. Some have mentioned that it is a heavy bag but I believe there is a good balance of weight, comfort and durability in the design. 
Many of the accessories on the bag are removable so it's simple to trim the fat and pair it down to only those that you need for a particular shoot.
At 6'2 in height my 1st concern was the length was on the short side but when I loaded the bag it felt right at home with the weight properly anchored across my back and distributed on my hips and shoulder straps. 

The highlight of the rotation series is you never have to take the pack off to access the integrated camera waist pack. The magnetic quick release buckle allows the belt pack to slide out of it's stowed position for quick deployment of gear and accessories. Then the belt pack essentially becomes a great workstation for switching lenses and accessories.
danncarr.com
For all my shoots I travelled with the padded insert in place but when it was "Go Time" it was removed and the technical mountain gear went in.
This mountain safety equipment is equally important as the camera gear. If the avalanche shovel, probes, Crampons, climbing skins, 30 meter rope, Ice axes, 1st aid kit, fluids, food, thermos and Insulating layer did not fit in I was back to square one.
One by one I slowly layered all these items in the pack. I was a bit pessimistic as I have other bags with larger capacity claims where I struggle to get all these in place.
I'm not a fan of hydration bladders with so many sharp tools around. It would spell disaster if my hydration kit was punctured or leaked so I prefer a 1 litre bottle. The empty hydration pocket proved to be an ideal place to stowe my shovel handle and Avalanche probe.
Soon enough the bag was filled but not stuffed.
All of the items listed above were in place and the waist pack contained a Canon 5D Mark 3, with a 16-35 and a 24-105 with a Zacuto Eyepeice attached. In addition I had 3 spare batteries, some chamois for drying, filters, lens cloths. 
For Videographers I did occasionally use a Sony FS 700.  The waist pack fit the body nicely however don't expect to have a lens attached, not a big deal unless you are on a run and gun shoot.
Each of my trips I have used the pack it has been tested it in some of the most difficult conditions and environment you can find anywhere on the planet. I climbed numerous mountains with skis attached to the bag with tripod and was truly surprised by how well it performed from day 1. I was committed to the system in Bella Coola as I had no alternative and immediately I knew this would be my go to bag for most shooting circumstances. It was the 1st trip where I could shoot the action and keep pace with the athletes without asking them to wait for me while I dealt with my equipment.
In the St Elias Range we towed heavy T-boggans with enough gear for 3 weeks of mountain travel and the Rotation 180 pro was loaded on my back for the long traverse. During this time no deficiencies in the pack were found.
A minor plus that I really like about the bag is it stands up on it's own when placed on the ground. Small detail but less exposure to the environment.
Now a review would not be valid unless I could provide some constructive criticism in the pack design.
Despite how robust the material is I found it did have a tendency for some breakdown and minor tearing in the material where my skis were attached. The avalanche shovel in it's compartment provides a rigid interface for the skis to slowly wear holes down in the fabric and if I'm correct in how I attached my skis that area could use some reinforced material in this area or caution when attaching skis. Most users will not be in a position to have this issue but it's worth noting.




In summary I highly recommend this bag for many reasons. The180 degree rotation is the most unique feature that sets it in a league of it’s own. The other features are well thought out and the bag should be at the top of your list if you are in the market for a new camera bag.
Check out:

for Packs and accessories.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

!9th Annual Test Of Metal

19th Annual Squamish “Test of Metal”




Back in January the on-line registration opened for the 19th annual Test of Metal. The race caps out at 800 riders and sells out incredibly fast so you need to be on the ball to get an entry.
My finger hovered over the enter button for a period of time before 
committing to an event that was 6 months away.  

Squamish presents a unique dilemma… should I be a climber this summer, a biker or maybe try kiting..
Truly1st world issues.
Anyway,
In one click of a button a portion of the summer was decided.
I had some ski expeditions that would take me into Mid May so the idea of the 67 km loop in June was daunting.
The months leading up to race day quickly approached and I had one more expedition to Alaska before hanging up the skis for winter. Ski mountaineering does not do much for top end cardio but it does turn you into a diesel engine so I’d be relying on that base.
A few day’s before hopping on a plane for Whitehorse I sold my old mountain bike and put in an order for a new Ghost AMR Riot 7.
Stoke factor on a new ride might just give me a few extra watts, or so I hoped.
Mid-May I returned home and jumped on my road bike for a few rides to try and stack some form into my ski legs.
Then a few days before the Test Of Metal I received the good news, my bike was ready at MEC.
Anxious to get off the roads and back on the trails I quickly checked the Sorca website  ( Squamish Off Road  Cycling Association) to see a significant amount of new trails were either constructed or repaired.
The Association has been incredibly progressive in working with local government and landowners to build Squamish up into one of the best mountain bike locations on the planet.. I’ve traveled as far as Europe and South America with remarkable experiences in far off places yet I still enjoy returning to my backyard trails after road trips.
The drive home from MEC with the new bike felt unusually long, I was super jazzed to try out the new 650b wheels size and having not demoed it, was a bit nervous as I had committed to the idea regardless of knowing how it handled.
This would be the 1st year I’ve done the event without riding up the famous and cruel 9 mile climb. I did however pre-ride the Technical powerhouse plunge and the Riot 7 handled everything thrown at it.
The newly engineered linkage was predictable and forgiving.
 If I was off my line in the classic rock chunder of the Plunge, the bike seemed to carry me through with confidence. The 650b wheel size allowed a little more playfulness than my old 29er and handled the tight corners like a dream.

Race day quickly arrived and the day was cool and overcast. The previous day’s light rain had tightened up the trails so things were looking ideal.
Despite not having my usual fitness I was excited to treat the Test Of Metal as giant group ride and not set any expectations other than enjoying the day and build off the experience.
 The event allows riders to seed themselves based on anticipated finish times. 800 riders strong would see competitors from World Cup athletes to weekend riders dressed up in costumes. It’s an amazing feeling rolling out with that number of riders and hearing the buzz of the knobby tires.
Lisa Snow - Image©

The 1st 30 minutes of the race more or less put you in your place for the day. The race starts with a significant climb on pavement to thin out the riders before the single track. 
Lisa Snow- Image©




This section can either save your race or end it. There have been editions of the test where I have buried myself on the climb to stay near the leaders and this has resulted in an exit stage left and a DNF somewhere on course. If you redline for too long the chances of recovering are not great.
On the flip side, if you dawdle up the climb you can expect delay’s in some of the single track as the riders try to merge into single file. 
I arrived at the top of the climb feeling pretty good and settled into a group that was just on the tip of my fitness threshold.

This was an optimal place to be as there is a fair amount of fire road before the true single-track starts.
It’s never too early to start thinking about the biggest climb of the race so despite not being hungry or thirsty I found a few opportunities to fuel the body up for the sections where I knew it was difficult to eat or drink. I have a rule of thumb for hydrating and I’ve found it optimal to finish off one large bottle before the powerhouse feed zone, then I can usually make it through the day on one more.
Thankfully the mid day inflow winds were blowing steady up Nine Mile. I was feeling pretty good and holding my position the entire way, I wasn’t sure if it was the bike rolling efficiently or the tail winds, either way I was enjoying the climb.
Nine Mile hill can be broken down into 3 parts. The 1st section is the most difficult because your legs have to transition into climb mode. Perseverance and believing your legs will eventually rally are key points to remember. It’s also easy to fall into the trap of thinking you are the only one suffering.. Everybody is at that point so you are in good company.
2nd part is the plateau before a fast descent to the next part of the climb. I like to break that climb down into minutes because it is not really that long but the day’s efforts are starting to add up. 
3rd section is a grinder but the end is near so I suck it up till I roll over the top for the long descent down the Ring Creek Rip. This year all the racers were treated to new twisting single-track rather than the old straight shot skidder road down into the plunge.
Once again the Riot 7 skimmed through the technical sections and I was caught up behind a number of riders struggling for their lines. 

Rather than try to push my way through I settled in and decided to take the opportunity to rest my body before the punishing climb up through Crumpit Woods.
Cruising out of the Plunge we passed through the chaotic feed zone for the 2nd time. The large crowds help see you through the start of another climb. 
Lisa Snow- Image©

The temptation to stand on the pedals is high at this point but the hamstrings are screaming for mercy as you transition into climbing mode again.
I had a few leg spasms but kept them under control and slowly settled into the Far Side Trails.
The climb is relatively short and it delivers you into some super fun fast single track in a rain forest setting.
I was catching riders on my way to Plateau Crescent when I washed out on a corner. My rear tire had lost a significant amount of tire pressure when the seal on my tubeless broke off in a technical section. I fought it off for a little while but had too many close calls so eventually stopped and pumped my tire but up.
I counted 200 pumps before I was content with the tire pressure and took off looking for those that had passed by me.
With my head down and dropping through the gears I got a few places back but I was more interested in coming in under 3 hrs.
It was super fun Tokyo drifting the final corners, trying to maintain my speed because my timing was super close. The last corner into the finish area was loose and gravely and I barely kept the rubber down to make my personal goal of a few seconds under 3.

This might have been my 8 or 9th Test of Metal.
I competed in some of the original events in the early days and have been competitive with the leaders from time to time.  Although not competitive on this occasion, this is easily was one of my most memorable.
It was refreshing to race with the idea of having fun and racing on a course that was in the best condition I have seen it in.
Huge Kudo’s to all the volunteers and organization and trail builders.
See you at the Gear Jammer.



Chris
MEC Envoy.
Fuelled by Bean Brackendale :)









Tuesday, April 29, 2014



MT AWESOME

Trip planning is an adventure in itself !
The concept comes from someone dreaming up some crazy adventure and then selling it off to some mates as a grand idea.
Epic journey's need not be to some wild far off destination. Often the best ones are close to the backyard.   
Back in the fall our crew collaborated on a plan to head off the regular path in the Yukon in search of our personal idea of what MT Awesome would look like. 
Often when I travel I seek mountain culture to round out the mountain experience. The more I travelled in Canada the more I have come to realize  there are many who's normal way of life is being close to the mountains and making a living through what it provides.
The entire crew had been to the area at one time or another and the cast of characters found at the airstrip where we would be staged and surrounding Haines Junction have many incredible stories to tell of epic missions, legendary weather and endurance in a harsh environment. True mountain culture in a good old fashioned Canadian way is found in abundance here.

 Tobin and I experienced an enduring 15 day's of "slow roasting" at the airstrip waiting for the winds to calm down enough just to access the mountains let alone climb them. Character building as they say !
https://vimeo.com/42433397

( video of Tobin, Adam Smith, Laura Ogden and Brian Fletcher on a small ridge line just above the airstrip where we had been waiting to fly.)

Jon Johnston, Tobin Seagel, Trevor Hunt and myself all come from different backgrounds with similar interests namely skiing big remote lines in unlikely places.
The idea of finding our "Mt Awesome" slowly grew wings and we started to become reasonably organized with the plan coming to fruition May 2, 2014 as we depart for Whitehorse and then Haines Junction where we will fly by ski plane to an area rarely visited by alpine climbers much less ski mountaineers.

On this trip we will embark on a 16-day ski mountaineer expedition deep in the heart of one of the worlds most remote mountain ranges, the Wrangell St Elias Mountains, on the border between the Yukon and Alaska. Here our group of 4 is in search of 1st descents and each persons idea of  “Mt Awesome.
Google earth has been a remarkable tool in narrowing down our search to an area that is variable with long ridges, steep faces, complex descents and couliors that twist off of dramatic summits.
Of course we all work super hard to make trips such as this happen.  
and with the addition of a few partners such as the Mountain Equipment Co-Ops Expedition Grant, 
Tasc Performance
 and Epic TV
http://www.epictv.com/?header_b=1 
we hope to bring the adventure community some inspiring footage.
 We will be capturing images and a 4 episode Ski mountaineer video series due out in Fall 2014.
Others who make it possible, some for me personally !
http://gopro.com
http://www.mindshiftgear.com
http://www.dpsskis.com
http://billygoattech.com
http://www.dynafit.com/en
http://ryderseyewear.com

We will be updating our trip with "Delorme Inreach" Canada

 with posts on the MEC Facebook page
 and also our social network sites.
:)