Overnighting in a Fire Lookout Tower

Historical landmarks and symbols of our complicated and ever-evolving relationship with wildland blazes, the fire lookout towers of America’s wildernesses and semi wildernesses also make one-of-a-kind backcountry accommodations. Scores of decommissioned towers are available for rent, offering charming and generally pretty unforgettable overnight lodgings with invariably awesome views.   A Snapshot History of America’s Fire Lookout Towers For decades, fire lookout towers (sometimes called firewatch or ranger towers) provided surveillance of wildfire activity in rough, rugged, often roadless country. As fire suppression became basically nationwide policy in the early 20th century, lookout towers proliferated—especially via Civilian Conservation Corps work during … Continue reading

Tips for Cooking at High Altitude

There’s nothing better than organizing your pack for a week-long excursion to somewhere beautiful! The sound of stuffing your sleeping bag into its stuff sack or dividing oatmeal portions is pure bliss for camping aficionados. Camping in the backcountry and camping at altitude are two entirely different games, however, each involving slightly different gear lists, skill sets, and knowledge. Whether it’s making food or starting a fire, these few tips for cooking at altitude are sure to help. Leave the Non-Torch Lighter at Home There’s nothing worse than getting up to camp at 10,000 feet only to find the lighter … Continue reading

Ice Climbing: What You Need to Know

Ice climbing is not for the faint of heart. Not only does it require physical finesse, but a clear headspace when swinging around ice axes and crampons. If you’ve never been ice climbing, but want to learn, below are a few quick tips, with links to climbing festivals at the end. The Grade System Ice climbs are measured by a “WI” or “Water Ice” grade. A WI1 is the easiest type of ice climbing where technically no tools are required. The slope angle is 60-degrees or less, and is fairly straightforward, solid ice. From there, the grades progress up to … Continue reading

Traveling Over Snow: Tips on Safe Snow Travel

Snow can be both boon and bane for outdoor travelers. When nice and firm, it can be a pleasure to scuff along, above all the terra firma messiness of brush, gravel, or deadfall. When soft and powdery, it invites long cross-country ski or snowshoe outings. But then there’s the flipside: the half-melted slush absolutely exhausting to traverse for long distances, the rock-hard, ice-glazed slopes, the deep, brittle-crusted drifts you maddeningly posthole your way through. Not to mention, of course, all the outright hazards of the snowscape: crevasses, cornices, avalanches, weakly frozen-over bodies of water, etc. Here we’ve rounded up a … Continue reading

Backcountry Skiing 101

If you’ve watched a ski movie recently (like Rogue Elements or Line of Descent), you’ve probably seen the epic shots that are the bread and butter of the ski film industry: pro athletes unloaded on an Alaskan massif to shred down spines and couloirs to the valley below. While most of us may never ski lines like that, it doesn’t mean we can’t enter into the world of backcountry skiing and go at our own pace. Here are some tips to get you started: Get Educated One of the most important aspects of being a backcountry user is being a … Continue reading