With all the buzz about the 50th anniversary of the first American ascent of Mt. Everest, we picked up a copy of Jim Wittaker’s A Life on the Edge (published in 1999). If you haven’t read Whittaker’s memoirs, it’s a must-read mountaineering tale. While it doesn’t have the gravity of Herzog’s Annapurna, or the mirth of Patey’s One Man’s Mountains, it stands out as a fascinating, insightful, and honest portrayal of the life of one of the U.S.’s most successful mountaineers, who was also successful in business and social life. In addition to being the first American on Everest in 1963, Whittaker was REI’s first employee and later, CEO. Due to his Everest exploits, he met President John F Kennedy, and after the President’s assassination, led Bobby Kennedy on the first ascent of what is now Canada’s Mt. Kennedy. An assignment to write about the expedition for Sports Illustrated led to a friendship between the two men and their families, which culminated with Whittaker heading up Senator Kenney’s presidential bid for Washington. After RFK’s assassination in 1968, Whittaker remained a confident of the Kennedy family, as well as one of America’s foremost alpine climbers. Whittaker’s book chronicles his childhood, with his twin brother, Lou, starting their climbing career in the Washington Cascades. In addition to fascinating stories about their early experiences on Mt. Ranier, and training for the Cold Weather Command during the Korean War, some of the most delightful tales involve Whittaker’s 1963 American Mt. Everest Expedition, and ensuing trip of Canada’s Mt. Kennedy with Bobby Kennedy in 1965. As climbers know, mountains help forge unbreakable bonds, and the book recounts Jim’s intimate interaction with the Kennedy family, including classic stories of skiing with the clan in Sun Valley. The book is a mixture of fascinating insight and great story telling.
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If there is one piece of gear that I have fallen in love with this winter it is The North Face Etip Gloves. I try not to let the cold stop me from being outside, so I needed something where I wouldn’t have to take off my gloves to type, read, or take pictures on my iPad mini. With cost in mind, I first tried a pair that were knit and had a tiny sensor ball in the index finger… it worked maybe 50% of the time and typing a message was nearly impossible. So after some extensive research, I bit the bullet and spent the money to get something that most claimed worked. The stretch knit gloves are comfortable, keep my hands warm, AND the X-Static finger caps work every time I want to flip a page on my Kindle app, type an email, or take a photo. I also really like the silicone pattern on the palm as it allows me to feel that I have a comfortable grip on my iPad. Trust me, these gloves are worth the price.
With my pediatric-sized earlobs, I’ve had more luck carrying a boom box on my shoulder than getting iPhone-issued ear buds to stay in my ears, most especially while running. And the quality of sound is a whole other beast. To find a pair of high-performance buds that cater to the small-eared lot was a God send, because a six-mile run just isn’t the same without a little classic rock. The Yurbuds Inspire Limited Edition Headphones do just that, they inspire. Inspire you to run harder, faster, longer—just like those who take on the Ironman, the company that Yurbuds joined forces with to release this product to the public. The headphones come with five different shapes and sizes of silicone ear fittings to ensure an adjust-free fit (you can also choose between ambient aware and noise isolating). The twist lock technology is simple—place the buds into your ear and then twist and lock into place—but it works. Allowing also for a hands-free run, the tangle-free, sweat-resistant cord features a iWhatever-friendly control that allows you to switch songs, answer calls, and change the volume without ever having to touch your music-playing device. Yurbuds is so confident in their design that they’ve issued the buds with a lifetime warranty, and the option to send in a photo of the buds in your ears for a custom pair to be made and sent to you free of charge. There’s no denying that there’s something inherently cool about a boom box, but there is little that compares to finishing mile ten to a soundtrack of Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle.”
If Conrad Anker were the CEO of some well-known social-networking site, this is the kind of hoodie that he’d be seen sporting. In short, it does the business when conditions are at their worst, including during several frigid nighttime rides and downpours this winter. The jacket employs Schoeller’s sophisticated Nanosphere technology to offer reliable water- and abrasion-resistance (a claim to which we can attest, with the caveat that water beads up and has habit of dripping off onto other more casual, non-water-resistant apparel like shoes and jeans!). Compared to other burlier winter coats, the Stealth Hoodie almost feels a little flimsy, but this is an illusion. Triple Aught’s “c_change” membrane provides wind- and waterproofing, while offering breathability when things get more aerobic than running from a little rain; the non-fussy nylon exterior protects against abrasion without making you look like Robocop. By itself, it’s not the warmest of pieces, but layer up and you’ll be snug. Overall, as Mark Zuckerberg might say, “Like!”.
Editor’s Note: We also reviewed an earlier model of the Slealth Hoddie LT; the new one boasts additional features (like the use of Nanosphere)…and a higher price.
Serious mountaineering and winter camping often calls for serious footwear like hard-plastic, crampon-friendly boots. But when you finally reach the end of the day, the feeling of freedom from those boots beats out even shedding a World Cup-tight ski boot. But unlike hanging by the fire in a warm lodge, après in the backcountry means colder temps as the evening fades into night. That’s where the Radler Trail Camp Boots excel. They zip together at the soles when not in use, which means they take a fraction of pack space that would otherwise be swallowed by another pair of kicks. When you’re ready, unzip ‘em and nestle your feet in more than 14 ounces of water-resistant, breathable Thermolite insulation. The outsoles are made of twin rubbers that give you the perfect degree of protection and traction, and the next day you can zip ‘em closed and stash them in your pack, where they’ll be waiting.
Bonus: we’re seeing clearance sales of up to 50 percent off these shoes!