First light fluttered from darkness, glowing on the horizon like baseline fires across the curve of the earth. We barely spoke. I racked the gear, checked my knot. Nearly a vertical mile of climbing towered overhead. Deep breath. It was my first trip to the storied Chaltén Massif of southern Patagonia, where spires jut into space like parallel rows of sharpened teeth. For decades, climbing legends have risen and fallen here with the ferocious winds. For sixty-five million years, these granite spires have reached toward the sky like temples of the gods. Our trip had started like so many others: long on ambition, short on action. Cloudbanks of fury obscured the mountains and the wind so scoured the earth that on some days even approaching the glacier was unthinkable. We’d retreat to the forest and pass time with our friends. Just before our flights home, the skies cleared. A perfect window. It’s funny how time passes. Two days can go slowly, without recollection. Passing normally, placidly, mundane days like any other. So often, I recall only fleeting moments. Sometimes, when standing in line at the bank or sipping coffee or driving to the store, the molecules in my brain that hold the memories of my mind flash before me, transporting me to a dreamlike world that I know is real. On Cerro Torre I remember my heartbeat pounding in my ears as we raced up thin ice that would disappear the very next day, melted by the fierce southern sun when we were higher on the route. I remember shivering away the night without sleeping bags in a snow cave three pitches below the top, drifting between sleep and hypothermia. Waking and climbing through rime-ice mushrooms, gargoyles, and house-sized sculptures jutting outward in gravity-defying forms like images pulled from a fantasyland. And, of course, tunnels. Tunnels? Yes, tunnels. Treasure-hunt tunnels carved by the wind, allowing passage through the impossible seeming mushrooms, until we sat on the summit under perfect skies, almost unbelievingly, knowing we’d been lucky. Exactly two days after we left, we staggered back to our tent as silhouettes of giants towered overhead. Before crawling inside and collapsing into a dreamless sleep, I remember staring once more at the stars while the wind calmed to a whisper, as if the gods themselves were pausing between breaths. – Kelly Cordes is author of The Tower: A Chronicle of Climbing and Controversy on Cerro Torre. For more on Kelly and his work, visit


We supplant the word with terms like doing work, the hustle, max effort, the grind, making moves, and so forth. However we dress it up, the essence boils down to momentum—mass and velocity. When we dream of undertakings that seem impossible and decide to overcome mountains, real or imagined, we give life to it. We make plans, prepare ourselves, and gather equipment as needed. In doing so, we give the dream mass. However, without the added component of motivation, our internal compass has no direction of travel. By focusing this accumulated mass, and applying a bit of motivation, we gain velocity to propel us forward. The 30th Marathon des Sables, a 156-mile footrace through the Saharan Desert region of Morocco, was an opportunity to be exposed to a multitude of intangible lessons learned in between the points of accomplishment: diligence to small tasks, persistence in the face of adversity, and the ability to learn and move beyond failures. In my childhood, competition used to relate to my personal performance with respect to others. It has grown far beyond that view to encompass others, myself, and the gifts of Mother Nature. Regardless of how we perform with respect to ourselves and each other, Mother Nature has always been the biggest facilitator of adversity in our paths. Through the struggle, we realize undiscovered weaknesses and levels of untapped strength in reserves. – Mosi D. Smith is a former Marine Captain who is also known as The Running Smith after finishing races such as the Boston Marathon, Virginia Triple Ironman, Western States 100, Badwater Ultramarathon and the Marathon des Sables. For more Mosi, check out

Of Nature and Self

My idea of a lucrative lifestyle is gathering as much outdoor experience and adventure as possible. I’ve never been one for the accumulation of “things”, and I don’t believe a person’s worth is measured by their materials. This world offers amazing playgrounds that charge you nothing more than your will and desire to explore. When you are in the wild, you are free to experience whatever your heart desires. You are able to think what you want, listen to what you want, see what you want. The exploration of nature is a gateway to the understanding and discovery of one’s self. Getting lost in the trees deep within the mountains is where I feel most vulnerable and most alive. I’m at the mercy of Mother Nature’s challenges, and it is here where I uncover my true mental and physical capabilities. With every mountain, desert and forest explored, learn something new. Leave the trailhead feeling satisfied and bathed in the richness of life (this will resemble mud and sweat). Blend back with the societal “rat race, “ but stand out in happiness and fulfillment. My hope is for more people to embrace the outdoors while learning about themselves and their potential. The value of recognizing your true self is priceless and the opportunities for exploration are endless. – Gina Lucrezi is a professional ultra-trail runner who recently completed her first 100-mile race at the 2015 Western States 100. Learn more about Gina at


Death. A bone jarring occurrence that can cause us to take stock in our lives, shake things up, and live for that day. Several of these came in close succession including some people our own age. The realization that you are starting to be susceptible to older age diseases was just another reason pushing us out the door while still physically fit enough to truly explore the landscapes of the world. To escape the beaten path. To climb, hike, run, and camp. Using the diversity of the lands to teach us about the diversity, but also the sameness of people around the world. Climbing sand dunes in the Namib desert, mountaineering and trekking across the Great Himalaya Trail through Nepal, trekking the coastline of Turkey or across the top of the island of Corsica, running around Mont Blanc through three countries, and camping amongst the Lesotho tribesman across the Drackensberg escarpment. These places taught us that despite the vastly different cultures of these places, some things were the same. That a smile, a laugh, and a thumbs up are cross cultural. That everyone hopes for a better life for their children. That people are overwhelmingly good. Not all, but most. Seeing sights and landmarks of the world, doing scattered veterinary relief work along the way, and being outdoors as much as possible. From death comes an incredible life. – Kathleen Egan and husband John Fiddler are true grass-roots adventurers who have recently returned home after 2.5 years abroad.


One of the strange things about climbing is the number of climbers who want to write about it. I too felt the urge. I didn’t want the experience to disappear, but how to describe it? If I stayed with the facts, the page was clear, but cold. If I said how it really felt, the page ran hot with embarrassing confessions. I couldn’t get it right. I combed the library shelves and read the mountaineering classics. In some of those books, I came across photographs that made me say to myself, “Yes, that’s it!” Towering, icy peaks, smooth walls with ant-like climbers on them, haggard faces after frosty bivouacs; those indelible images told the story as effectively as words could. I realized I could show what it was like, and not have to explain it. So a camera strap was added to the clutter of slings around my shoulders. I started talking less and seeing more, watching conversations, parties, and gear sort-outs through my viewfinder, waiting for the images to appear. I caught some, but many got away. Camp 4 was the launching pad for our adventures. Sometimes, it was a refuge from them. Here, plans were made, teams were formed, and the rest of life was lived. An odd kind of history was happening each day, and every night the quicksilver of our experience slipped through the cracks in the tabletops and disappeared into the grimy dust below. – Born and raised in California, climber, photographer, and author, Glen Denny, was part of the first group of climbers to use the now-famous Camp 4 as a base for exploring the granite walls of Yosemite Valley. This is an edited expert from his book, Yosemite in the Sixties. For more of Glen’s work, check out


There is a magic in our open spaces, the wild places where each step further feels like one closer to home. They exist as a refuge, a place for stories told in paddle strokes or miles walked. Across the breadth of a continent, from ragged mountain ranges to coastal lowlands, the number of places to explore is only rivaled by the number of ways that you can do it. Woven into our national identity, they are a touchstone of beauty and freedom, handed down from one generation to the next. In this country, we have just over a million square miles of public land, and that’s something that just thinking about, never fails to stir my imagination. With such a vast amount of acreage out there, it is easy to feel disconnected from what happens in a place you may never have seen or been to, but it is important to still realize that we all have a voice in how it is managed. I think the recent protests of Shell’s arctic oil exploration are a good example of that. Not very many people will ever visit that part of Alaska, but nevertheless, thousands have spoken up for what they would like to see done. Closer to home, the Rogue River watershed, where I work as a guide, has been threatened by the looming specter of industrial-scale nickel strip mining. Raising public awareness of that is what inspired me to begin a career as a photographer, and has been a tremendous opportunity to view the strength of a community’s voice in determining how our land is managed. The recently introduced Southwest Oregon Watershed and Salmon Protection Act is a direct result of the public outcry to the proposed development of an iconic watershed and has been an inspiration to continue working to introduce people to the wanderland they did not know they had. – Nate Wilson is a Northwest based river guide, photographer and writer primarily focused on projects in nature. For more of his work, check out

Becoming Edible

When I’m moving through mountains on foot, I sometimes imagine that I’m knocking with my feet on the soil below, knock-knock-knocking with every foot strike like knuckles rapping on a padlocked portal made of earth and rock and gravity. With every knock, I imagine asking the dirt underfoot, “Am I worthy of returning yet?” Now I’m not wishing to die; it’s more that I wish fiercely to live. Perhaps it’s because, with a regular practice of trail running, our soft animal bodies swing life and limb so intimately close to earth’s cadence. Perhaps it’s written calligraphically into respiration and lactic acid rise paired with a planet that roars past us and right through us, stinging our retinas as we dash along singletracks of the unasphalted, the unmodified, the untamed. So I ask, as deep ecologist and poet Gary Snyder once did: How edible am I? Am I giving back to the planet a body that’s been unused, atrophied from couches and cages, repressed with anger and narcissism and conformity? No, I wish that feast upon nobody. Instead, I aim to be as edible as possible, to be worthy of that inevitable return to earth. After all, gravity always wins. With every wilderness outing, I attempt to discover more humility, more insight into the ways this planet revolves and evolves, churns and composts itself anew. I try and honor those who lived here before me, and to fight for protecting the last honest places for posterity. Because when it finally comes time for that stuff beneath the mountains to let me back in again, I aspire to return to the soil at least, mildly, palatable. So I keep running. I keep knocking. I keep living. – Nick Triolo is a writer, filmmaker, activist, and sponsored ultrarunner living in Missoula, Montana. He’s run across the Baja peninsula in a day, finished sub-19 hours at Western States 100, and has won the Oregon Trail Series. Learn more about Nick’s projects at the Jasmine Dialogues Blog.

People of the Bike

The extended network of amazing humans that I have garnered and been exposed to by bike touring has become the most important thing that I have built in my life.  These people and their stories are ones I tell very often and to this day affect the way I live. To say they have changed my life would be an understatement.  So, I am here to encourage you to slow down, stop and talk to people, meet the locals, drink a beer, have a milkshake, take their photo, or don’t.  Listen to their story, and maybe tell yours as well. It just may change your life. – Spencer Harding is a Los Angeles, CA based photographer/artist who enjoys riding bikes. For more of his work, check out

The Art of Appreciation

In the early part of 2013, I led a 3-man team in an unsupported walk across the Arabian Desert. We pulled a cart weighing 900 pounds and walked for 40 days, filling up water at 3 wells on route, but carrying everything else with us. We operated under a self-imposed set of rules. That is, to walk unsupported and unassisted. This meant no one could offer any help in any form, and everything had to be carried from the start, with the proviso of water. Within a week, we were dehydrated and dreaming of water. Our daily ration of 10 pints each was simply not enough. But there was no other way. As the days went by, the ‘dreaming’ became obsessing. Not a moment went by without the thought of water in its myriad forms. I thought of cool mountain streams where I had learnt to rock climb, deep blue oceans, the fridge, a running tap, the sound of a toilet, an afternoon thunderstorm and playing football without a shirt, and the water smashing down on my skin on a hot day. I would look left and right, searching for an oasis. An old discarded water bottle cast out in the sand would grip my attention for minutes as we labored past, staring, hoping beyond hope that there just might be a drop. But it was all in vain. Some nights I would wake and find my tongue had slid out my mouth, like an old lizard in search of something wet. Dry and cracked, I would milk it back to life with my lips and slip back into the night. There was no respite. No afternoon storm to quell the growing thirst and deep concern that we might just be in trouble. Time and again I promised myself never, but never, to take water for granted. I made elaborate plans and schemes to stretch out and savor the drinking of a bottle of cool water. I tried to etch it in my memory so I would never forget. After 40 days we rolled into the Park Hyatt in Dubai and downed a burning Pepsi. More followed, then bottles of water, whisky, chocolate milkshake, then beer, all to celebrate. In the days and weeks that followed, I found, sadly, that water quickly lost its mythical appeal. I tried hard to think back and savor it as I sipped it in the comfort of my home. And then it struck. The obsessive passion; the zeal with which I thought about water existed only because of the absence of it. The two, ironically, were mutually exclusive. They could never co-exist in the same moment. I could never savor it now like I did when I did not have it. But not a moment goes by when I sip some water and I don’t think back to those dark, dry days in the desert. Our lives are simply too tame to really understand the privilege of having. You need to get out. Go do something. Go explore somewhere where you wont have, where you’ve never been. – South African-based Alex Harris has climbed the seven summits (the highest mountain on all seven continents), and became the first African to walk unsupported to the South Pole. Under his brand Xplore, Alex offers guided experiences, coaching and speaking engagements.

A Balanced Climb

When I was introduced to Rock Climbing over 25 years ago, I was instantly hooked.  From then on, climbing was incorporated into every area of my life – from scheduling classes around my climbing trips, to doing my homework between pull-up sessions on the Rock Rings that I hung from the rafters of my parent’s garage.

Becoming a “professional rock climber” just happened, it was never planned. This profession has taken me all over the world through a variety of climbing trips. I have spent a good deal of my time Exploring and training in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. I have alpine climbed in Patagonia, developed new bouldering areas in South Africa, and also competed in climbing competitions locally in the United States and in more exotic places like Italy, Korea, and Chile.

I have come to realize that for me, exploring does not just mean to go out to see and experience new places. Exploring the physical capabilities of my body through athleticism is just as important to me as exploring new places. I cannot substitute one for the other, but must keep the balance of both in my life in order to feel content and complete as a person.

Lisa Rands is a professional rock climber and climbing instructor who calls Chattanooga, TN home. For more on Lisa’s travels and climbing, check out