BC enduro _ greenville to calgary by Zach Suggs

I took the opportunity late this summer to accompany Cam on a 50+ hour road trip from Greenville, SC to Calgary. He and his brothers would be racing the Revelstoke 3-Day Enduro in British Columbia, and Cam had plans afterwards to continue journeying around the west once the race was over. So while the remaining party members would be flying into Calgary for the last leg on the road, Cam and I began our trip at 2am on August 24th.

Around 7pm later that day we finished the first (and longest) portion of driving, arriving in Lincoln, Nebraska where we were treated to margs, burritos, and warm beds courtesy of my girlfriend's parents. 🍻  Kirk and Cindy!

7am fuel stop before heading out of Lincoln...

Our next major stop was Jackson, Wyoming -- or at least somewhere close, and rather than following the quickest route we decided our legs needed a stretch at the midway point of the drive. I had lived in Fort Collins for a few months after college and knew there was a fun little concrete park in town, so we made that our detour.

Back on the road...

With the sun long set after 6 hours in the truck, we stopped just outside Bondurant, Wyoming to set up camp -- still an hour outside of Jackson.

That night was one of the most restful nights of sleep I had in a long time, which was fortunate because the plan for the weekend was to spend some time in the Jackson Hole area playing in the mountains.

After a solid breakfast in Jackson, we headed to The Hub bike shop to find out some info about the local trails. Lucky for us, there were free shuttles that day sponsored by Teton Freedom Riders to support public lands. (Support public lands!)

Later that day we headed to camp spot #2 near the entrance to the Grand Teton approach. Cam had plans the next day to get revenge on the Grand via Upper Exum after weather had cut a previous trip short, while I would just be happy to get to the Lower Saddle.

I have a tendency to let my thoughts get the better of me, and to say I wasn't mentally prepared for the scramble up to even the Lower Saddle would be an understatement. It was a grueling hike that began with an alpine start at 3am.

Cam and I stayed together until we got through the boulder field and into the Meadows. With the sun just beginning to reveal a bit of the canyon, and Cam now out of sight, I somehow managed to get on the wrong trail and found myself at one of the Exum Guide shelters at around 11,050 feet (perhaps appropriately in the shade of 'Disappointment Peak'). 

I ran into one of the guides near the shelter as he was cleaning out a cast iron pan from a recently cooked breakfast, and after a brief exchange he showed me the way back to the main trail, which involved a 300 foot descent on the backside of the ridge I had just hiked up. 

Now back on the main trail, I briefly considered making the final 900 foot ascent to the lower saddle but my little mistake had zapped any mental fortitude I had left.

I was kicking myself for the rest of the day for turning around, but Cam reminded me Grand Teton isn't going anywhere any time soon and next time I'll be more mentally prepared. Beyond that, my Garmin reminded me that 4,692 feet of elevation gain is a respectable accomplishment considering I've never done any sort of mountaineering.

My watch died on the way down.

Middle Teton:

The Meadows and a marmot:

A couple hours later, post Grand Teton summit, Cam met me back at the truck and we decided to drive a couple hours into the Gros Ventre to a ranch owned by one of his family's good friends, Etca.

But first, a pit stop in Lower Slide Lake to soothe the sore muscles:

Now at the ranch, a beer while watching the sun set over Grand Teton:

Smoke from the wildfires was really starting to settle in at this point.

The next morning -- Monday, August 28th -- we substituted one vehicle for another and Cam, Etca, and I took the Polaris out to explore the Gros Ventre Wilderness.

Etca's dogs followed us for as long as they could.

Searching for Native American stone tools:

After getting back to the ranch, it was time to start driving again. And truthfully the next 24 hours were a bit of a blur. I know we made it through Yellowstone that night because even in the darkness, I was completely in awe of the place. The only two things I remember thinking were:

1.) That it felt like we driving on an eggshell, in which the insides of the egg were boiling.

2.) That if this place goes up, we're going to die.

We camped somewhere between Yellowstone and Missoula (how's that for specificity) for night #3 in the truck, and made it to Missoula on August 29th around 2-3pm. After a beer at The Dram Shop, we ran into some locals sessioning a ledge near where we had parked.

Anthony:

Thankfully Cam knew some people in Missoula, and we had yet another comfortable home to stretch/relax/reorganize/reset. All the best to Rob and Kait! 🍻

We got to bed (reasonably) early knowing we'd have to leave at 2am to make my 11am flight out of Calgary. I drove the first leg out of Missoula and into Glacier, and much like the previous evening's drive, it was a bit of a blur. At this point, I knew my time on this trip was coming to a close and I just wanted to make sure we made it to Calgary on time. 

Still, that didn't prevent me from stopping several times on The Sun Road.

Mount Oberlin in the distance with the wildfire smoke really settling in:

I made my flight. 👍

...And as I was finishing this post up today, I talked to one of the other Dodds brothers; there are already plans in the works for a road trip to the Trans-BC Enduro next summer.

Can't. Wait.

arches np by Zach Suggs

Earlier this summer I took a break from the crazy at Outdoor Retailer and drove down to Moab for the night. The sleeping quarters for the evening included 1/2 of the back seat and 1/2 of the trunk of my rental Maxima parked on the bank of the Colorado River, and an $8 outdoor bench cushion bought in the 'as-is' section at Ikea. It was hot as hell that night (rainshowers prevented me from opening my windows), but a few cold beers brought at least some reprieve. 

After a restless couple hours I got up at 4am to head into the park, fingers crossed that I would have at least a moment of quiet time at Delicate Arch. 

best wishes by Zach Suggs

Best wishes to Cam and Bear as they make their way across the Atlantic today for the Trans-Provence and other French Alp adventures. Cheers friends! 🍻

float the boat 2017 by Zach Suggs

... a few selects from Float the Boat 2017, an annual bouldering competition held just outside Atlanta.

sam knob, nc by Zach Suggs

It had already begun to snow once Bear and I wrapped up filming in Dupont. While he headed back to Greenville, cutting short our post-shoot beer plans due Desert Storm's lack of four-wheel drive, I made my way up to my family's house in Western North Carolina, just outside Maggie Valley.

On the drive up I got a call from another friend, Cam, who had been discussing with some local Greenville climbers the possibility of ice climbing early the next morning somewhere off Highway 215. The end of the conversation came without a conclusion, which wasn't very confidence inspiring: "I dunno... we might try to camp at Beech Gap tonight... not sure... I'll let you know." That was about 4pm on Friday, but as last minute adventure plans go sometimes, I didn't hear back from him for the rest of the evening.

At 5:30 the next morning—still no word from Cam—I reluctantly banked on those 'plans' holding true. I pushed through heavy snow up 215 from Canton, conceding that a solo-exploration would still be well worth it. After an hour or so of slow-going, I made it to Beech Gap and found 40 mph gusts, 10 degree temps with significantly lower wind chills and, to my surprise, the three indecisive climbers wrestling the rainfly off their tent.

As I pulled into the parking lot, car horn trumpeting with excitement, all I could think was, "How the hell'd this work out so well?!"

Once the camping gear was put away and the windshields defrosted, the four of us headed down the mountain a couple miles to find some shelter from the wind and ingest some much-needed caffeine. With the atmosphere now calm, I was finally able to learn of the plan for the day: to climb the west face of Sam Knob. It had been well-below freezing the past several days so confidence was high the ice would be in.

Final gear check, and heading out:

The access to Sam Knob was only a couple hundred yards from where we were parked, so after a quick cruise down the road we plunged into the woods to begin the ascent.

The next hour was spent ducking rhododendron and bushwhacking through the undergrowth as we paralleled a small creek up the mountain. Every 10 minutes or so we’d stop to confirm we weren’t straying too far, and while the quiet trickle of water let us know we were heading in the right direction, it also began to implant some doubt that any climbing would be done on this day. Still, we carried on.

900 vertical feet later, we made it to what was supposed to be the first pitch. Unfortunately, our ever-growing suspicions were confirmed and the conditions weren't quite what they needed to be despite the seemingly ideal temperatures.

But in the face of this disappointing realization, spirits remained high; we were just stoked to be on the side of this mountain in a foot of fresh powder.

A quick reload on some lukewarm tea and bars, and the heroes begin their descent:

Halfway down the mountain we ran into some old and new friends who were hiking up with the same aspirations we'd had a few hours earlier. After filling them in on our lack of luck, the 10 of us made the final push back to the car. With the sun now out, we briefly contemplated giving another ice-climbing spot along the Parkway a shot, but ultimately decided it was too late.

Unlike the previous day's adventure with Bear, this one would not go unrewarded as the four of us closed the day in Asheville with beer and shenanigans at New Belgium.

welcome by Zach Suggs