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RMI Expeditions Blog


Our Commitment to Change

            Black Lives Matter. This isn’t a belief or personal opinion; it is a fact. And here at RMI we feel it is time for us to speak up about it. The last few weeks have been incredibly painful and emotional, but for the Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) communities in our nation, the last few weeks are representative of daily life – this is just one of the times the rest of us decide to tune in. The murders of George Floyd, Brianna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others are not isolated events. They are the painful and violent windows into the systemic racism that underlies nearly every part of our lives. It is especially noticeable in the outdoors.

 

            We have always seen nature, and specifically the mountains, as the ultimate equalizers. The mountains do not care about your race, ethnicity, gender, economic background, sexuality, or disability. If the mountains do not want you to summit, no amount of wealth or privilege will get you to the top. But the mountains, and their equalizing power, come at the end of the approach, and what we often forget is that the approach is much longer for some of us than for others. So many of us take our privilege for granted, the privilege that allows us to simply put on our boots and start climbing. But for millions of Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color, there are countless barriers between them and the mountains. Economic restraints, white-washed media, a lack of outdoor education, subtle racism on trails and in parks, and a plethora of other issues conspire to keep BIPOC out of the outdoors. According to a 2014 national park study,  91% of all national park visitors in the Pacific Northwest are white. This needs to change.

 

            We have been asked, rightly so, why we have not released a statement clarifying our position sooner. We did not feel it was right to say something without first educating ourselves and understanding the barriers faced by BIPOC in the outdoors. The need for this education can be seen as an indictment of our own complacency over the years. A few weeks is not enough time to call ourselves fully educated on the topic, but we are trying. Here at RMI Expeditions, Whittaker Mountaineering, and Bight Gear we are now in the process of gaining that education with the goal of taking significant actions to reduce barriers and increase representation of BIPOC in the outdoors.

 

            We want to use our voice and our capital in a more meaningful way than a one-time donation or post, because this issue is endemic.  To design and implement the kind of long-term, high impact program we have in mind, we need time. We will be releasing an action plan in the coming weeks and look forward to your suggestions and ideas, as we still have a lot to learn about our privilege and the ways we can best help our BIPOC outdoor community. And once our action plan is released, we ask that you check in on us and hold us accountable, whether that is in two months, two years, or two decades.

 

            The mountains have the potential to provide adventure, fulfilment, growth, and wonder to people of all races, ethnicities, genders, and sexualities. It is high time we help BIPOC communities grasp that potential.

 

Sincerely,

Peter Whittaker

Owner of Bight Gear, RMI Expeditions, and Whittaker Mountaineering

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Mountaineering Training | Finding the Balance Between Training and Life

RMI Guide Adam Knoff originally wrote this for the training blog a few years ago. As we have all been more or less stuck in our homes, with life looming front and center for many, Adam's message again seemed apropos. 

Today I was surprisingly asked a question that, as far as I can tell, is as old as human curiosity, parental affection and plain ol’ sibling rivalry. This may seem strange because I only have one child, and my somewhat unhinged three wingnut dogs can’t speak and honestly don’t care about the answer as long as they are fed and played with. As you may have guessed, the question so abruptly put on me this morning was: “daddy, who’s your favorite?” Harder to guess was, who asked it? 

Things started normally enough; I made breakfast for my kiddo before packing him up and carting him off to preschool. I fed my dogs and chickens, cleaned the kitchen, and prepared for a day of light recreating before my afternoon duties began. It was when I entered the garage, home to my all important man cave and location of all my beloved fly fishing and climbing gear that things took a bizarre turn. Standing in front of me (I kid you not!) side by side, with puppy dog eyes looking up, stood my 12’6” Echo spey rod and my carbon fiber, oh so beautiful, Cobra ice tools. These sorts of things don’t just happen so I double checked my reality button. Dreaming? No I don’t think so. I have been up for three hours, had my coffee, and still felt the throb in my left big toe where I slammed it into the chest at the side of my bed. Ok, I’m awake. Drugged? No, I quit taking hallucinogens in high school and my wife, I think, genuinely cares about me. Then what? My two favorite activities in life, swinging flies for big trout with my spey rod and ice climbing, which is now doable in Bozeman, Montana, have come to a head. With a few free hours, my fishing rod and ice tools came alive and wanted me to pick favorites. Sheeesh! What’s a guy to do? 

As time stood still, I began to reflect on the week long steelhead fishing trip I took just two weeks prior to the Grand Rhond, Clearwater, and Snake rivers. Ohhh, the joy of that trip made me quiver. It made me want to reach out, grab my spey rod child and declare my love for him. 28 inch ocean run rainbows on the swing, the thrill of the next hook up, not wearing a heavy pack; the reasons almost overwhelmed me. Yes, yes, you will always be my favorite!!! Then I saw my ice tools. Hyalite Canyon is in! I can’t wait for the thrill of running it out on newly formed thin ice over a stubby ice screw, waking up before the sun, and realizing this day was bound to hold everything but the predictable. Ohh, ice tools, you are my favorite, “let’s go climb something!” I think you understand my dilemma. 

Parenting has taught me much in the five years that I’ve been at it. Love, patience and compassion are always at the forefront of dealing with children. Frustrations always arise. Liam spills my wine on the new rug, my spey rod whips bullets at the back of my head leaving welts the size of cheese curds on my scalp, ice tools rip out unexpectedly and send waves of sudden panic through me that make me want to puke. All part of the landscape I guess. So how did I answer the question, “who is your favorite”? Here I leaned on the invaluable lessons gleaned from seven years of blissful marriage. I compromised.

That day I took the ice tools out for their first climb of the season. I packed them up with the rest of my climbing gear all the while psyched I had just promised my fishing rod we would get out tomorrow. It’s a difficult web we weave, balancing work and play. I honestly felt troubled that I had to recreate two days in a row, climbing then fishing, but then again parenting is also about sacrifice. 

As readers of the RMI Blog, most of you are probably cracking a smile but are also curious how this story is relevant to the mission of mountain climbing, training, and/or preparing for an upcoming goal. Here is how I connect the dots: Fishing for me is the yin to my climbing yang. It is a glorious mental escape which allows me to shelve my daily stresses and exist purely in the moment. Everyone needs this periodic meditation to reset and clear the mind. For many, exercise accomplishes the same release but regular exercise does not necessarily constitute “training”. The expectations I put on myself when climbing on my own are very high and the specific training schedule I follow can at times be demanding, painful, and sometimes unpleasant. Here is where we tie in sacrifice. Everyone’s life is managed by time. Somewhere on that big round clock is time you can utilize for yourself. If you have a goal of climbing a mountain, running a marathon, or bench pressing a Ford truck, you need to prioritize and then commit! Finding enjoyment and purpose in life comes when these commitments are made. Being a husband and father keep me grounded. Being a passionate climber and guide keep me psyched and motivated, and the hunt for big fish calms me down. In the big picture I think I have found some balance. Remember it takes the black and the white, the yin and the yang, to complete the circle. The web you weave and balance you seek are your own, but seek it with conviction and purpose and you will be just fine.

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Comments? Questions? Share your thoughts here on the RMI Blog!

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Mountaineering Training | Body Weight Core Strength Circuits

These strange times have many of us off balance and out of rhythm, and our training routines have felt the toll as well. Stay at home policies across the country have closed fitness centers and kept us at home without our usual tools. Body weight core exercises are a great way to continue to improve your strength and functional mobility, and taking your strength workout outside is a great way to break your routine and inject some new energy to training. The Dartmouth cross-country ski team uses this type of workout (and it’s where many of the example exercises come from) as part of a base and strength building cycle each fall.
Choose a jogging loop that has areas that you will be comfortable getting down to the ground on (a park, forest loop, or city parkway).

  • Set out for a good warm-up, 10-15 min at a gentle pace that is still conversational.
  •  
  • Find a comfortable spot (grass or a forest floor are much nicer than concrete!) and complete a set each of two different core exercises (pushups and crunches for instance). This style of workout will build more endurance strength since they use just body weight, so try to pick a number of repetitions that you can do several sets of, but still push you hard in the individual set. 60 full crunches and 40 pushups is a great example.
  •  
  • Jog easily for 200 meters. The active recovery of jogging easily will still allow you to recover, but will train your body to recover while maintaining at least some level of effort.
  •  
  • A set each of two more exercises (dips on a park bench and side planks). 
  •  
  • 200 meter jogging recovery. 
  •  
  • Complete a third set of exercises. 6 exercises is a great number to start from for your total workout.
  •  
  • Continue until you have done 3 sets of each exercise (9 total strength stops). 
  •  
  • Cool down and head home!

 

As you progress, you can vary the workout in the number of repetitions you do during each set, or by varying the total number of sets. Try to mix up the exercises that you use, so that you get a complete core workout, without stressing one group of muscles unduly. This a great workout to do with partners at a safe social distance. You can spice it up by having different partners choose the exercises for a given set, which can add variety and show you some new exercises to add to your routine. If you don’t have a loop that is suitable, try a couple of laps of a small park. While it may take some imagination to get going, getting outside and breaking up your strength routine is a great way to keep the upward progress of your training going!
_____

These three resources have a number of good core exercises for inspiration:
http://www.brianmac.co.uk/exercise.htm#cte
https://experiencelife.com/article/core-circuit-workout/
http://www.sport-fitness-advisor.com/circuit-training-exercises.html

Comments? Questions? Share your thoughts here on the RMI blog!

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Mountaineering Training | An Introduction to Uphill Athlete

RMI Expeditions is excited to be partnering with Uphill Athlete to provide our clientele what we believe to be the best training information and coaching available. We invited Steve House to introduce Uphill Athlete to our blog readers, which is what follows. RMI does not receive any financial compensation from Uphill Athlete, nor vice versa. We simply believe wholeheartedly in the effectiveness of the coaching and information that Uphill Athlete provides. 

 

Mountaineering Training and Uphill Athlete

By Steve House

“Man discovers himself when he measures himself against an obstacle.” – Antoine de St. Exupery

Mountains are, metaphorically and physically, the obstacles by which we measure ourselves. When you get to the base of the mountain you want to be ready. You want to be safe. You also may want to emerge as a changed person. If you agree with these statements, you are the reason my long-time coach, Scott Johnston, and I write books and a blog dedicated to how to train for mountain climbing.

The gist of what we wanted people to know is this: There is no magic to endurance training. Instead, there are 100 years of history and a well understood intellectual framework behind the theory and application that applies to the full spectrum of endurance sport. 

In 2002 as a professional climber I began training under Scott Johnston. Scott is an accomplished endurance coach with an extensive background as both an alpinist and high-level endurance athlete, During the ensuing years I, alone and with partners, achieved many landmark ascents. The training process transformed me from being merely good, to becoming one of the best in the world.

In 2010 a serious climbing accident cut short my high-level climbing career. Soon thereafter Scott and I decided to undertake a project to educate the climbing public about training for mountain climbing. Three years of work culminated with the 2014 publication of our best-selling book Training for the New Alpinism followed by the 2015 publication of The New Alpinism Training Log, and the 2019 publication of Training for the Uphill Athlete, our book aimed at mountain runners and skiers. 

All training is exercise but not all exercise is training

One important thing to understand is the difference between training and random exercise. Every effective training plan must adhere to these cardinal principles:

  • It must be gradually progressive in loading the athlete.
  • It must be individualized to the athlete.
  • It must modulate the athlete’s training load.
  • It must be applied consistently to the athlete.

 

Training is the structured and systematic application of specific amounts, types, and durations of exercise aimed toward achieving a performance result. It does this by increasing your capacity for physical work in the several realms that make up your event, whatever that is for you. When the time is right you will be able to utilize your hard earned exercise-capacity to its fullest extent and achieve your big mountain goals.

There are a lot of people selling exercise programs as training programs. The hallmark of an exercise plan is random physical activity. There is nothing wrong with an exercise program but don’t be fooled into thinking you are training by using that approach. Which one you choose determines not only your path but also your destination.

Today, our books and our website are the continuation of our mission of openly sharing proven training knowledge for the outdoor sports we love.

If you are ready to have your training transform you and explore your own boundaries, myself, Scott and the coaches at Uphill Athlete will be honored to share our knowledge and help you do the most effective training to meet your big-mountain goals.

_____

You might also be interested in the following articles:

 

Comments? Questions? Share your thoughts here on the RMI Blog!

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Mountaineering Training | At Home Strength Workouts from Uphill Athlete

We at RMI hope that this email finds you well. As many across the country shelter at home due to COVID, it can be difficult to keep a regular training regime and maintain your fitness. While many of us are restricting our movements and trying to maintain distance socially, those necessary actions can be challenging both mentally and physically as the weeks go by.

We might be removed from the gyms, clubs, and training groups that we have come to rely on, but our friends at Uphill Athlete have put up a free set of Home Strength Routines on their webpage that can help to fill the void. There are three levels of difficulty, though the exercises are quite similar, so there is a logical progression that you can use to continue to build strength. The routines are very attainable, but plenty difficult to challenge yourself (or a group of your workout partners via web chat to push each other!). 

Check them out and best wishes from all of us at RMI. For those that are finding ways to get outside, please remember that first responder resources are already stretched thin. Stay close to home, take few risks, and enjoy the fresh air while maintaining social distancing guidelines.

Stay healthy, stay safe, and stay sane. We're looking forward to getting back to the mountains once it is safe and right to do so.

_____

Comments? Questions? Share your thoughts here on the RMI Blog!

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Mexico’s Volcanoes: Wittmier & Team Summit Orizaba

RMI Guide Dustin Wittmier and the Mexico Volcanoes team reached the summit of Pico de Orizaba, 18,491', early this morning.  The team will return to Tlachichuca to spend the night and celebrate their great week of climbing.

Congratulations to the team!

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Mexico’s Volcanoes: Wittmier & Team Enjoy Rest Day in Puebla, Ready for Orizaba Climb

Once again we find ourselves on the road in the hands of the most talented bus driver in Mexico, Augustín.  This time we are in route to Pico de Orizaba, the third highest peak in North America and our main climbing objective for the trip.

Our rest day in Puebla yesterday was moderately uneventful.  If anything wild happened, I certainly was not made aware.  We woke up to a peaceful protest just outside of the hotel for which a couple members of the team decided to take part.  Other rest day activities included: cathedral tours, a search for new gaiters, the Pyramid of Cholula, and rooftop bars.  For the final event of the day we had a group dinner at the famous El Mural de Los Poblanos.  Important topics were discussed and a variety of opinions were shared, however it is still unclear whether knocking on a watermelon can truly determine its quality.  Alas, there are just some things we cannot know.

Next on the agenda is our arrival in Tlachichuca.  A short pack and repack session will be followed by lunch in the Servimont hostel.  From there we board 4x4 trucks headed for the Piedra Grande hut at 14000' on Orizaba.  We will finish our preparation for climbing, eat a dinner that includes fellow RMI Guide Mike King's favorite chicken in the world and try to catch a few hours of sleep before our alpine start tonight!

RMI Guide Dustin Wittmier

On The Map

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Mexico Volcanoes: Wittmier & Team Summit Ixta!

Just before 6am today the Mexico Volcanoes expedition stood on top of Ixtaccihuatl.  Yes, that is an hour before sunrise.  You could say we left an hour too early or you can recognize that this group of climbers is strong and motivated.  We battled a cold breeze all morning, but people put their heads down and persevered.

This time of year Ixta is dry, which makes climbing more difficult.  The footing can be loose and we have all been thoroughly sandblasted.  Needless to say it was an exhausting day.  Within minutes of boarding the bus, more than half of the crew was asleep... a nap fueled by sandwiches y cervezas.

RMI Guide Dustin Wittmier

On The Map

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Congratulations on a successful summit! Some challenging looking terrain the team had to pass through but looks like it was well worth it.

Posted by: Dan on 3/5/2020 at 9:18 pm


Mexico Volcanoes: Wittmier & Team Move Up to Ixta’s High Camp

Following another fantastic Mexican culinary experience (breakfast tacos) we hit the trail from Altzomoni towards high camp on Ixta.  Everyone arrived in good spirits and are settled in at camp.  An early dinner tonight will set us up nicely to get some rest and have an alpine start tonight.

Conditions on the mountain are dry and the weather is breezy.  We are all feeling optimistic about tonight's climb.  Hopefully we will be calling from the summit early tomorrow morning!

RMI Guide Dustin Wittmier

On The Map

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Mexico Volcanoes: Wittmier & Team Head to Altzomoni Hut

Our attempt on La Malinche yesterday was turned just above treeline, but we still attained our goal of getting some mileage and elevation in.  The National Park Police were stopping all groups from continuing, citing recent weather trends (afternoon thundershowers).  My assessment of the weather differed from theirs, but their stern faces projected a certain air of authority.

The team is on the road again this morning, this time from the La Malinche resort to Altzomoni.  On previous trips with the same bus driver, Augustín, there was a Shania Twain album stuck in the CD player.  However, that problem has been rectified and this morning we are getting re-acquainted with 90's and early 2000's hip hop and R&B. 

We will make a quick pit stop in Amecameca for snacks and water before heading to the Paso de Cortes.  The anticipation is growing for our first big objective, Iztaccíhuatl (Ixta).  Given the weather we have observed for the past couple of days, it appears to be shaping up for a great climb!

RMI Guide Dustin Wittmier

On The Map

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