Archive for November, 2009

#JtreeTweetup – Gunsmoke Video Mix

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

I made a mix of video Luke, Lizzy and I took with my Flip MinoHD at Gunsmoke. The music was provided by Flip so sorry if it’s a little repetitious. It’s currently not in HD as the full file was over a gig in size and Vimeo (even the Pro version) wouldn’t take it. I’ll provide in two parts in HD in a little while but I like the narrative as a whole so here it is:

JTreeTweetup Gunsmoke Video Mix – Non HD version from rockgrrl on Vimeo.

Gunsmoke V3 boulder problem
Climbers: Marcel, Nina, Katie, Eileen, Rick, Jeremy, Chad, Luke, George, Lizzy

Camera operators: Eileen, Luke and Lizzy
Camera: Flip MinoHD from rockgrrl.com*
Made possible because of the #JTreeTweetup

*Unfortunately the HD version was over 1 Gig in size so I could not upload it here (even with Vimeo Pro). I’ll chop it up and upload it in HD parts.

#JTreeTweetup – My Still Photography

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

Being a climber/photographer is a balancing act on most trips, I found it even harder when “organizer” was thrown in the mix.

Still, I tried my best. I got one starry night shot with a Leonid meteor in it though I didn’t get a chance to use my shutter trigger. I didn’t do as much night photography in general as I thought I might. I also didn’t get a chance to do proper climbing photography rigging but I think I got a few interesting angles nonetheless. In the end I feel I got a lot more journalistic style shots than artistic ones but I’m including the full set here so that those attending might be able to see themselves and relive the memories.

You can click through to a bigger version of the picture at any point in the slideshow. I hope you enjoy it!

#JTreeTweetup – Joshua Tree Tweetup 2009

Thursday, November 19th, 2009
#jtreetweetup folks on Stitcher Quits and Double Dip

#jtreetweetup folks on Stitcher Quits and Double Dip

Oh boy. How am I gonna start this?

Well first I’ll say, “We pulled it off!” We got 20+ folks in Joshua Tree National Park, many who had never been to it before and we didn’t lose, injure or maim anyone. Some may have left with an indelible impression but that can’t be helped.

Setting up the event was interesting, at first what seemed like a small group that might consist of  perhaps 4 more climbers just joining in with my usual climber crowd, soon ballooned into an interstate affair and then an international one. I was obviously going to do a little bit more campsite wrangling than on my usual trips.

At some point during the Tweetup I also decided that I’d try to get some sponsors. If folks were going to spend hours on planes and in cars to go to an unknown campground and spend time with strangers, I thought every little convenience would help and that it would be a unique opportunity for companies to reach climbers from all over. In the end Clif Bar sent us a big box with a variety of their products, from Clif Shot Bloks and Luna goodies, to their newest product, Clif Shot Roks. Martha of Action Wipes was also generous, sending a bunch of individually packaged (and reuseable) wipes. Lastly, and out of the blue, Matthew Walker of Inner Passage contacted me to send along Joshua Tree Products (and also Mountain Khaki deal cards which I surprised everyone with at the big campfire).

As far as Twitter attendance goes it went nearly exactly as folks had RSVPd. We had folks from Southern, Central and Northern California; from the Seattle, Washington area; from Philadelphia, PA; and from Vancouver, Canada and Montreal, Canada. Most of us had never met before in person but we each had at least a small sense of the others in the group due to our interactions on Twitter and because of blog posts.

My JTreeTweetup FlyerStill, even though I “knew” each of the attendees (though not their Significant Others or friends they were bringing) I was still nervous. I wanted everyone to have a good time and to hopefully show Joshua Tree in a good light to the newcomers.

My reward in the end was seeing people’s reactions to Joshua Tree and the Tweetup itself… and still seeing them reeling from the experience. To me my first Joshua Tree trip was what cemented climbing as part of my life. I’m glad to have shared a little bit of it with new found friends.

Day Summaries

Wednesday, November 11th – 1st Full Day of Climbing. Showed the early birds “Sail Away” and “Wild Wind” and also took them to Thin Wall to get them used to Joshua Tree rock without having to do Old School grades.  Two of my regular climbing group friends also joined us at both of these spots. Afterwards I needed to update the JTreeTweetup Hotline I’d set up so we all went into town where we tried to go to Crossroads but learned that they close on Wednesdays. We ended up at Sam’s Pizza AND Indian food, much to the amusement of many. A grocery run happened shortly afterwards.

Thursday, November 12th – Day 2. After being woken up by a two coyote chorus alarm, I took the now bigger group to Headstone Rock since we were all camped at Ryan Campground. Then folks split into groups but, quite remarkably, I was still able to see each of our parties due to a unique vantage point. I could see folks on “The Bong”, people on “Hobbit Roof”, and also folks on “Super Roof” even though they were in Steve’s Canyon. We climbed into the darkness that night. Afterwards everyone went to Crossroads where we got the patio (and a heater) to ourselves.

Friday, November 13th – Day 3. Hemingway Wall with the group, some led or followed, others bouldered near enough to the wall that we all erupted in cheers when we saw someone send a problem. I took two car loads of folks to Chimney Rock and showed them how to get into the “Space Station” via a chimney climb and a short friction down climb.

#jtreetweetup climbers all over Hemingway

#jtreetweetup climbers all over Hemingway

Saturday, November 14th – Day 4. The group went to the Barker Dam area, some climbing near Echo and others elsewhere. “Stitcher Quits”, “Double Dip”, “Touch and Go”, “Pope’s Crack”, some unknown 10b, “Heart and Sole”, “Face of Tammy Faye” and more were climbed. Some took a short trip to Gunsmoke.  We had the big bonfire at night with much sharing of various treats. Since the Seattle and Vancouver crew had to leave for a very early flight Sunday morning, this was the last time we’d all be together as a group in JTree. I said a few words and thanked our sponsors (and this is when I passed out the discount cards) and then I brought out the s’more supplies [I got the “surprise s’mores” idea from Kim Reynolds at Chicks Rock, thanks Kim!]. I also tried to herd the cats once more for a group picture. Results were mixed 😉 (see video)

Group Photo Outtakes – JTreeTweetup from rockgrrl on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 15th – Day 5. Early group bouldering at Gunsmoke then on to Atlantis Wall for some and an unknown climb in Hidden Valley campground for others. While at Gunsmoke we ran into a climbing ranger who had posted on the JTreeTweetup wiki page. She and another ranger were impressed with our group and we weren’t even all at Gunsmoke right then. After climbing, everyone had various run-ins with each other at Crossroads as this was the default food stop before folks got on the road (and for the Philly crew who were staying one more night, this was their dinner spot). I even saw some friends of mine there who had invited me out to Indian Creek this week, they had done a few routes there but retreated to Joshua Tree after getting snowed on.

Wrap Up

I don’t feel right yet writing a true “wrap up”. I don’t feel like I’m quite “back” from the trip yet. In fact, on Tuesday I climbed with David, our Quebec, Canada representative. He was still in Southern California visiting his sister so we met up at Malibu Creek State Park and did a few routes there (it was much warmer than at Joshua Tree).

And so I look at my pictures and the videos I shot and/or edited and feel I haven’t quite digested it all yet. I am a veteran now of meeting folks I’ve only known through online interactions, but I still rejoice that it can be done. And this wasn’t just a lunch or a cozy hotel convention, but camping out in a place with no water or food. Not only did these “strangers” spend their own time and money to fly and/or drive many hours to meet but they put their trust in someone who didn’t have a group campsite for them at first [I checked months ago but all group sites were booked up, by the way]. I had a plan, but really, if you haven’t been to JTree before how can you know things will work out?

So again to all who attended, I say, “Thank you for coming!”. And to Nina, Katie, Liz, and Kelly I say thank you for all your help with the event and site management! And additional thanks to Katie and Melinda (@unredacted) for getting the conversation going in the first place and pulling me in. Thanks as well to Luke and Lizzy for the great climbing beta (and thanks Luke for printing out my flyer design when my printer ran out of ink). To those of you in the Twitter #climb community who didn’t make it this time, rest assured you were spoken of fondly and we all hope you can make the next one!

List of JTreeTweetup Attendees, Roughly in Order of Appearance

I’ll do a separate post with more photos and videos.

Climber’s Guide to Joshua Tree Camping – Part 3 – Detailed Packing List

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

climbercampingpacklist-2In Part 1 I shared my detailed & annotated Google Map, Part 2 I highlighted tips on what to bring. Now I bring you my promised, Climber’s Joshua Tree Camping Pack List. I created it using PackWhiz, a handy online app which lets you create, modify and share packing lists. My list began as a template PackWhiz’s creator, George Sudarkoff, made for his own JTreeTweetup needs [yep, he’ll be attending!].

If you want a quick and dirty list without modifying it for your own use, you can just go to the PDF version here.

This concludes my Climber’s Guide to Joshua Tree Camping (for now). I know I’ve left out a lot of information but if you have any questions feel free to ask them and I’ll answer in the comments or with another installment.

For those going to the JTreeTweetup, see you in a few days!

Climber’s Guide to Joshua Tree Camping – Part 2

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

A campsite and Chimney Rock in Joshua Tree National Park, CaliforniaIn Part 1 of my Climber’s Guide to Joshua Tree Camping I shared a map I created, I’ve since updated it with a free wifi access coffee shop,  a convenient gas station and a place to rent camping equipment so be sure to check it out again.

Now I’ll get to the Packing Question. What to bring?

I’ve been camping in Joshua Tree in Fall, Winter, Spring, and yes, even the Summer. What I brought depended a lot on the weather. “But it’s the desert,” a voice from the back cries, “That means it’s hot!”

Au contraire mon ami. Joshua Tree is in the High Desert. That means it can be hot in the daytime and cold at night (like most deserts) but also that it’s generally cooler than other desert areas relatively close by (like Palm Springs for example). That also means that in the Winter it can get darn cold, even cold enough to snow (rare, since snow needs not only cold but moisture as well, but it HAS happened).

So first off here’s a site I check for the weather: Weather Underground for Joshua Tree, California. When I look at the forecast I keep a few things in mind: 1. this is for the town of Joshua Tree, not the entire National Park, elevations within the park vary and so can the temperatures, generally it will be a tiny bit cooler than the town temperatures, maybe 2 or 3 degrees cooler but sometimes more. This will of course vary if you are in the shade or not 2. I look not only at the predicted highs and lows but also for any wind. The wind can get tent-tossing-fierce in Joshua Tree. I’ve experienced it more than once and had a tent blown away and have also had climbing plans change due to crazy winds.

Once I’ve got the weather checked I usually pack for either of two situations: one, it’s going to be mainly cold or two, it’s mainly going to be hot. The cold or not bit just determines how many short vs long pants I bring & if I bring my down jacket or not.

Otherwise Joshua Tree is both cold and hot, you can, on the same day, bake while doing a climb in the sun and get chilled by belaying in the shade. Breezes also almost always kick up in the afternoon. Think layers.

I’ll be making a comprehensive list you can check off and copy and modify as your own but I’ll highlight a few items in this post first.

Clothing

  1. A windproof jacket you can climb in – with my wardrobe that means I bring my favorite jacket, a stretch Windstopper jacket that even has zip vents. This type of jacket comes with me on every Jtree trip due to the hot in the sun but cold in the shade Jtree factor.
  2. A long sleeve shirt – If I’ve determined it’s a “mainly hot” trip then I’ll bring a shirt geared mainly for sun protection. If it’s a “mainly cold” trip then I’ll select one for warmth and I’ll bring more than one.
  3. A fleece hat – You’ll always use this on a trip. It might be just used at night or the in the morning but you’ll use it.
  4. Sunglasses & A hat with a brim – It’s a bright sunshiney day in Joshua Tree pretty much year round.

Toiletries

  1. Sunscreen – Hey, I’ve got genetics helping me but the first time in my entire life that I ever got sunburned was at Joshua Tree (sadly I’ve seen been sunburned a fair amount of times since then).
  2. Lip balm – I get chapped lips in any season in Jtree. It’s that dry air.

Food / Critters
Joshua Tree camping is basically “car camping” so you can bring whatever you’d usually pack in that situation. I’ll instead highlight a few do’s and don’ts:

  1. No need to bring a bear canister – there aren’t any bears here. The largest predators you might see are coyotes and though they might skirt close to a campsite or two, they’ve never bothered any hardcase cooler I’ve left in camp (latched closed of course).
  2. Soft sided coolers – There are small rodents and lagomorphs around so if you have a soft sided cooler you might want to stack it on the hard one to keep it out of nibbling animal reach. I’ve had a cooler nibbled right into and my oatmeal and trail mix completely eaten.
  3. Food storage – You CAN keep food in your car, however keep in mind that the inside of your car is bound to get very, very hot. Most campers try to stow coolers in the shade of a boulder instead.
  4. Trash – each campsite has trash and recycling dumpsters within walking distance of campsites so it’s pretty easy to just dump trash each night.
  5. Other critters – I’ve seen one rattlesnake in Jtree in all the years I’ve gone. It rattled & we warned off some tourists who were about to come across it (it was on a trail in Hidden Valley). Tarantulas – I’ve seen a few of them. They are not venomous, though their bite can hurt. First one I saw I just brushed to the side before laying down egg foam crate to sleep on the rock face it had been exploring. Scorpions – Haven’t seen ’em, and I don’t worry about them (though I habitually check my camp shoes before putting them on anyway).
  6. Water / Food – I already highlighted this in Part 1 but I just want to make sure you pay attention. You must bring in Water and Food into the Park. Bring lots of water. Remember it’s for drinking, cooking, and washing.

Climbing Gear

  1. Long webbing, cordelette or static rope – If you have any of these consider bringing them if you want to set up anchors for top rope. JTree rock is very sharp so you can save your climbing rope a lot of wear and tear by extending your anchor so it has less rock to rub on.
  2. A back up pair of climbing shoes – As I mentioned in Part 1, the rock  can chew up your shoes.
  3. Climbing Tape – Yes, I know there are some who decry tape usage under any circumstance but if you plan on spending a few days in JTree and want to climb for more than two of them, I suggest bringing tape and making tape gloves.
  4. Guide books – There are so many climbs in the park that it can fill three books worth and then some. Here’s a link to the Rockgrrl Book shop, California Guide Book section, I recommend you get the 1st and 3rd in the list or the 1st and 4th (and then the other two in that set when the updated versions come out). Having a guide book will help you narrow down where you want to climb, if you’re short on time you might want to seek out starred climbs rather than just any one you see. Guide books also come with handy area maps which will help you when hiking around.
  5. Nut tool – Jtree has many gear swallowing cracks. A nut tool can help you get them out [that reminds me, I wanted to make a post about how to use a nut tool effectively, someone nudge me about that sometime after the trip?].

More Climbing Tips in General

  1. Decents – The number one question I ask of a climb (even before it’s rating most times) is, “What’s the descent like?” I’ve had my share of “epic downclimbs” in this park let me tell you. Many wouldn’t have been so bad if I had known what to expect though.
  2. Beware of 5.7 and 5.9 ratings – Read my blog post entitled, “When is a 5.7 not a 5.7?” Basically think “Old School” or “sandbagged” or “They’re kidding, right!?!” and you’ll get the idea.
  3. Beware of R, X and Starred climbs – R and X are self explanatory. Starred climbs can be trusted to be memorable, though you can take that as you will.
  4. Bolted routes – Many old bolted routes are by today’s standards, very run out (even though they may not be marked that way). If you have a route that you think you might be able to place gear, go ahead and bring a few pieces in case you want to make it a mixed route.

Well this is a long post, looks like I’ll have to make a Part 3 of my guide. I’ll also make the promised detailed, checkable, modifiable packing list. Hang in there folks, soon you’ll be a happy camper / climber in Joshua Tree National Park!

Climber’s Guide to Joshua Tree Camping – Part 1

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

Now that the JTreeTweetup is just around the corner I’ve been getting a few questions about Joshua Tree and what camping there will be like.

I thought I’d do a series of posts on this.

While you can find a lot of information online about Joshua Tree National Park, my posts will highlight a few key things as well as be tailored specifically for climbers.

Top Most Important Things to Know About Joshua Tree in General:

  1. You must bring your own water.
  2. You must bring your own food.
  3. You must bring your own firewood/fuel.

Joshua Tree is a National Park, fuel gathering or collecting items to remove from the park is prohibited.

And though Joshua Tree is a National Park, it’s a bit of a newer one so there are no souvenir / food stores in the park itself and at the major campgrounds there aren’t even restrooms with running water. There are, however, pit toilets with toilet paper. These are much nicer than the PortaPotties that used to be there (trust me).

Now say you’re flying in to Joshua Tree (like a bunch are for the JTreeTweetup!) and you don’t want to pack a bunch of stuff. Don’t worry, just one or two towns over from West Gate (the recommended entrance into the park from most destinations) you can find restaurants, grocery and drugstores, and even camping and climbing equipment stores.

Top Things Climbers Should Know About Joshua Tree:

  1. Joshua Tree generally has Old School ratings.
  2. Joshua Tree has many more trad climbs than sport or top rope climbs (but there are thousands of climbs total so there are still a lot of all three types of climbs).
  3. Bouldering can be found all over the park.
  4. Quartzite Monzonite (the rock of JTree) is SHARP stuff. You will stick to it like crazy but it can chew up your skin and shoes.

Campgrounds

The majority of campground space within the park itself is First Come, First Serve.

For most all-climber groups the number one preferred campground is Hidden Valley Campground. This is in large part due to its proximity to classic climbs and boulder problems (many are within walking distance, a few end or start in campsites themselves, and many others are a short drive and approach hike away). Hidden Valley is also preferred for social reasons as well, you can find pick up partners or just chat with other climbers and there’s even the Climber’s Coffee sponsored by the Rangers and Friends of Joshua Tree which is held on weekend mornings during peak climbing season.

My Map

“Now hang on!” you say, “You’re throwing too much at me! Where is all this stuff?”

Well funny you should ask. I just spent a few hours making a highly detailed Google Map with my notes about road turn offs, campgrounds, stores, and even a rough cell phone signal marker.

Here it is for your enjoyment!

View Climber’s Guide to Joshua Tree Camping in a larger map

Click the link to the bigger version to get a better overview of the area, especially since I’ve included several spots outside of the Park itself. It’s best for most of the notes if you zoom as close as possible and use satellite view (for the main park this gets you closer than Terrain view does).

I’ll be adding more information to the map as I see fit so be sure to bookmark this post!

In Part 2 of my Guide I’ll include information about the weather, what to pack and critters to watch out for.

Gore Experience More Blogger Summit Part 2 – Testing, Competition & Play

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

Day 2

The Moisture Transfer Rate Equation

After breakfast in the hotel the next order of the day was a visit to the Gore facilities in Elkton, Maryland. This is an actual testing and production plant so occasionally we were not allowed to take photos, such as on the production floor where laminate was being made (the process of how the ePTFE is made into different laminates is one of the secrets that mades Gore-tex and Windstopper work as well as they do).

Casey and Chris High FiveWe started off in a conference room where we got to participate and observe a few tests that brought home the idea of comfort in relation to moisture. We also learned that the Moisture Vapor Transfer Rate is equal to the Driving Force divided by Resistance. This is also known as the Ret rating. A rating of 0-6 is noted as being “very good” and 6-13 is rated as “good” of more importance to the wearer of this stuff, items with those rating will feel “very good” to “good” as well in terms of discernable breathability.

One bit of trivia I hadn’t known before is that we lose a lot of moisture from our hands compared to the rest of our body. I’m not a huge chalk user so this bit of knowledge is probably more intuitive to climbing lovers of the white stuff. A Gore guy had us try an experiment, we each put on two oversized gloves, one made of a clear, thin, plastic, the other of the Gore-tex membrane. Then we opened and closed our hands rapidly. In just a few seconds you could see condensation building up in the plastic glove and then you could feel it. Meanwhile the Gore-Tex gloved hand felt dry. This was with large openings at the bottom of both gloves.

Steve is the guinea pigAs an extreme example of how Driving Force was a factor in any testing done for “Breathability” an ice water test was performed. Steve (Teton AT) was the guinea pig for this one. His hand was dunked in water and was then placed in a Gore-Tex glove, the covered hand then went into a bucket of ice water and the hand was exercised. After a few minutes the hand was dry and the glove had wrinkled around it. The warmer, moisture laden air had moved out into the ice water, leaving his hand dry.

Care

This portion of the day surprised me the most. I learned that not only am I supposed to machine wash my Windstopper jacket, but that I am supposed to machine dry it as well! And in fact, that by not drying it, I am making the water repellency less effective! The reason behind this was that the DWR (durable water repellant finish) treatment needed heat to be able to more effectively cover the fabric. While it wouldn’t last indefinitely (the windproofness will, by the way, last the lifetime of the garment) by not drying my Windstopper jacket I was not allowing the DWR finish to spread itself out again (heat facilitates this process) and for it to “stand” up to repel water.

All this time I thought I was lengthening the life of the fabric by not machine drying it.

Testing

We visited various testing areas in the Gore facilities, there were so many that it was clear that Gore wanted to make sure they could stand up to their “Repair, replace or refund Guarantee”. What I didn’t know at first was that Gore tested all finished products made with Gore materials and did not allow any seconds to be sold. So things either passed or they got recycled.

For hands on testing we got to experience the “Comfort Room” in which we donned Windstopper Burton zip hoodies (soft) and then enter a room with a fan that cooled us down with a stiff breeze to put us all at 15 degrees. My face got cold, so did my legs a little but the hoody did its job.

I'm geared up for the Rain RoomNext for hands on testing was the “Rain Room”. We donned Gore-tex jackets, pants and booties and went into the room with a dummy, a motorcycle, and many rain spouts — some coming from sideways directions. We came out nearly dry. I say nearly because we were told to look up so a Gore guy could take our picture (which of course had our faces get a little wet since that’s where water  spouts were). Aside from my face and hands, I was completely dry.

Working Lunch – Environmentalism, Competition

Say “Gore” and unless you’re talking politics, you don’t really think of environmentalism as much as you would for a company like Patagonia for instance. Does this mean Gore doesn’t care? Apparently not. At lunch they showed us all the steps they are doing and apparently have been doing for many years now. For example, they were the first to offer “end of life” recycling, in which they will recycle old Gore products. Their environmental stance is founded on 3 key elements: 1. They are committed to sound science (they only use something if it’s proven). 2. They use life cycle assessments as their benchmarks (from the point of excavating raw materials up to disposal). 3. They see the durability of their products as the cornerstone of their approach.

Other facts I took interest in includes that they invented a special Gore cover for composting that reduces the release of gases and that they have been using solvent free emissions since 1986.

So why haven’t they stepped up to the Green Bullhorn? They say being environmental is just an aspect of performance to them, it’s just doing “business as usual” and they don’t feel it needs to be the center of their communications.

Now on to the “Hot topic” of the trip, Gore’s competition in the world of waterproof choices.

During our trip we learned about different types of waterproof products.

I’ll break down how Gore folks explained all this.

1. Microporous coatings – Predominate the North American marketplace. Polyurethane coating is an example. Micropores allow material to breathe but also mean a weaker fabric. Durability is an issue. Some The North Face products and Marmot Precip use this.

2. Monolithic coatings – Solid layer. While this can offer more initial waterproofness, there is an issue in variations of thickness. This is found more in European countries, and is used for example in Mountain Hardwear’s Conduit products.

3. Bicomponent – Microporous material plus a coating. Trade off is breathability. Patagonia’s H2No is an example.

4. Other ePTFE’s – eVent is an example as well as a few other ins the US and around the world. eVent is a solid ePTFE, no coating. Durability is an issue because it’s how you put materials together that makes a big difference. For example, Gore has proprietary methods to coat their membranes for protection against sunblock, DEET and other substances.

Bloggers brought up that some folks seem to say that eVent breathes better. The problem is that there hasn’t been an apples to apples standard for tests and that many folks are just experiencing a placebo effect. The closest to an apples to apples test seemed to be those that different companies could run but would still vary under different conditions. As a quick example, we were shown, right in the conference room, an example of how close some products could be. Hot water was poured into two cups. Round fabric samples, one of Gore-Tex, one of eVent, were placed on top of the cups. Then a clear rectangle of plexiglass was put on top of both cups. It seemed to steam up at the same time from either cup. The glass was wiped and dropped several times. I thought I saw the tiniest of lags for the eVent (black) fabric but I wasn’t sure. Another blogger mentioned he saw that the black fabric was just a “skosh behind”. You can see a video from Jason Klass of Gear Talk (you can see part of my hand and see my name tag in the video 😛 ):

During the question and answer session, I specifically brought up cost, “Does Gore have any plans on making a cheaper alternative?” The answer was,  “You mean will Gore come up with a membrane that’s the Bargain version but doesnt work as well? Nope”. Gore-Tex does however stand behind its guarantee and the longevity of their products. So in the long run if you pay a little more, but your jacket lasts forever, who got the bargain?

We wrapped up the day with a look at gloves and footgear. Remember that Gore tests and guarantees the final product that is made with a Gore membrane. So on their own dime they test these completed products as well. I was amused by the forever marching shoes and boots sloshing about in water. We also got to see a new kind of glove in which the inner liner did not move around inside the glove as you were gripping a surface. It was a ski glove but I thought of climbing naturally. Perhaps it’d be of interest to ice climbers.

Soon we were off.

We piled into a bus and knew, according to the itinerary that we would be visiting a Gore Outdoors store. However, as we approached it, Cynthia from Gore told us we were going to play a game and that the time for the game had been shortened from 30 minutes to 10. The game was to go like this: we had 10 minutes to go into the store and grab our favorite jacket for under $300. She added that if we did not want to keep the jacket we could return it after testing it during our scavenger hunt during the evening. I talked to Rebecca (@calipidder of http://calipidder.com) and we started strategizing about what kind of jacket we’d get and on finding the women’s section right away. Turns out we didn’t have issues with that part, just deciding on what to get. I decided on a Gore-Tex Performance Shell, the Mountain Hardwear Lyra Jacket. since they had already given me a Windstopper jacket. She got a PacLite (my second choice). I was really surprised we were getting another jacket but I was really glad as I wanted to test out Gore-Tex for myself (I only owned Windstopper, not Gore-Tex before this trip). In the end, all the bloggers won this game.

Events weren’t over yet though. We went to Philadelphia and learned were going to do a City Hunt, a type of scavenger hunt which involved hunting things down, solving puzzles, taking pictures and interacting with strangers. We were divided into three teams. I ended up with Cynthia (Gore), Travis (@wude72), Jake (Mountain Techs), Justin (@justinrains), and Tim (@timliffel / Perceptive Travel) and we soon found ourselves going all around the City of Brotherly Love visiting such places as Benjamin Franklin’s grave and Betsy Ross’ house. Some clues and stunts were obviously geared towards Gore knowledge and some also played into the outdoor lifestyle. We had to have a picture of all of us doing a “dangerous climb” so I took one for the team and heel hooked my way on a brick wall (it was slicker than it looked, haha).

It was a fun event and later that night (another surprise) we found ourselves heading to a tall ship for dinner. After a slideshow of all the pictures the teams brought in, the City Hunt folks announced my team was the winner! We won coffee mugs and Cynthia got into the bragging rights aspect of it. She was a hoot and we all had a good time!

Day 3

Nothing was officially planned for this day but Rebecca and I had breakfast with Cynthia and then took off on a walking tour of the University of Delaware and thereabouts. I wanted to hunt down some fall color and indeed found it. After that it was a ride to the airport (Rebecca and I had the same flight out of Philadelphia though for her it was to her final destination and to me it was one leg of my trip).  Thankfully we had time to grab a Philly cheesesteak at the airport before we took off. It was a fitting send off.

After some hours on the plane, we flew over Tuolumne and Rebecca tapped my shoulder (she’d arranged to have the seat right behind me as we both liked window seats). I looked down and longingly thought of going down to test my jacket right then.

In the end, it’s not really about the products after all, it’s about what we can do in them.

Link to full set of photos from the trip.

Link to set of City Hunt photos & video!