The Gear Junkie’s Top 10 Adventures of 2008
By STEPHEN REGENOLD
published December 26, 2008
From a mountaintop in Norway to a scuba dive in a spring near the Great Salt Lake, 2008 proved to be a year of high adventure for the Gear Junkie. The following 10 destinations are my top picks — bike, ski, foot and underwater adventures, from Molde, Norway, to northern Minnesota’s deep woods, from the wild to the weird.
1. Ski Touring: Romsdal Alps, Norway
A four-day ski-touring trip in the Romsdal Alps outside Molde, Norway, featured daily high points like Kirketaket (see photo below), a ski-jump-shape mountain that towers above a slate-blue fjord. My group made daily mountain climbs to ski faces and bowls for 3,000 or more vertical feet at a time, skinning uphill for hours with alpine-touring (AT) gear then spinning on summits like Kirketaket, Smorbottentin and Kvitfjellet to gaze into the remote Romsdal Alps before skiing hundreds of turns on virgin snow to the valley below. Link to story: http://thegearjunkie.com/norway-ski-trip-report-1
2. Backcountry Skiing: Mount Ogden, Utah
The Banana Chute on Mount Ogden slices a precipitous alpine face in a 45-degree squiggle of snow, creating a dramatic entrance to a skiable descent larger than any lift-accessible run in the country. Indeed, at nearly 5,000 vertical feet, the backcountry run — which I skied with four friends last January — includes the aforementioned chute and then nearly four more miles of skiing downhill, from the alpine air, over ridges and meadows of untracked snow, then into a creek bed that funnels the backcountry line to its unlikely terminus at the residential grid of a midsize American town. Link to story: http://thegearjunkie.com/trip-report-skiing-mt-ogdens-banana-chute
3. Mountaineering: Kings Peak, Utah
A two-day ascent in October of this 13,528-foot mountain, which is the highest in Utah, was blessed with high pressure and blazing sun. I hiked and climbed the peak with three friends, making the 28-mile roundtrip through the High Uintas Wilderness, camping out under the stars, then getting up on a Monday morning to climb a chute and an immense talus field — then onto the very top of a state. Link to story: http://thegearjunkie.com/utahs-kings-peak-trip-report
4. Rock Climbing: Devils Tower, Wyo.
Among my favorite rock-climbing areas on the planet, I have ascended the 1,000-foot-high monolith of Devils Tower nine times. This year, I climbed “El Cracko Diablo,” a 5.8 cruiser, with an old friend, Frank Sanders, who is a local guide. The Tower — a geologic wonder of vertical cracks and columnar basalt — continues to amaze every time I make the trip to the deserted high plains of northeastern Wyoming. Link to story: http://thegearjunkie.com/trip-report-devils-tower
5. Ecological Tour: Big Bog State Recreation Area, Minn.
This day-long adventure — one of the weirdest of the year — started with a two-hour air tour in a four-seat Cessna. We motored down the runway then took off to reveal a view of land so flat that it looks concave. This is the immense and ancient footprint of Lake Agassiz and the current site of the Red Lake Peatlands, a remote and hard-to-access wilderness that is among the largest bogs on the planet. Stretching more than 50 miles east to west, and 15 to 20 miles wide, the Big Bog is a wet and spongy no man’s land half the size of Rhode Island. We hiked into the interior later in the day, jumping and bouncing on land that felt like a waterbed. Link to story: http://thegearjunkie.com/trip-report-big-bog-minn
6. Boat Cruise: Romsdalfjorden, Norway
Skiing was the primary objective when I went to Norway last March. But a big part of the adventure was also found on the water, where my group traveled the fjords of central Norway via the Anne Margrethe, a restored sailing vessel built in 1880. The 70-foot “jakt” (yacht) was captained by Bjarne Krekvik, a 55-year-old sailor from a small village north of the town of Molde, our home base. We “sailed” (powered by a 250hp Volvo diesel) the Romsdalfjorden to ports like Andalsnes and Eresfjord over four days, and we slept onboard in the boat’s cabins. A cozy galley was the social center, and each night involved rich meals and long conversation at the big table below deck, where we’d study maps and plan the next day’s adventure. Link to story: http://thegearjunkie.com/norway-ski-trip-report-2
7. Diving: Bonneville Seabase, Utah
Seabase is an aquatic facility in the desert outside Grantsville, Utah, that’s been stocked with thousands of fish — from flitting minnows to a pair of nine-foot-long nurse sharks. Founded as an independent experiment in marine biology by two Salt Lake City scuba divers, the private tropical fish preserve is open to scuba divers. I jumped in during an October visit, sucking air through a scuba hose and swimming down through murky water to find a nurse shark unmoving on the bottom of the bay. Link to story: http://thegearjunkie.com/new-york-times-bonneville-seabase-story
8. Skiing: Crested Butte, Colo.
Deep powder snow — up to 18 inches one night — made an early-season ski trip to Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado’s Elk Mountains a worthy last adventure of the year. My fondest memory from this five-day trip: The dreamy medium of knee-deep fluff through drooping pine trees and my fat Black Diamond Kilowatt skis letting me float, bob and weave through it all. Link to story: http://thegearjunkie.com/ski-report-from-crested-butte-colo
9. Endurance Sports: Rogaine Race, Jay Cooke State Park, Minn.
Six hours of solid backwoods bushwhacking to find 22 hidden flags with map and compass was what it took to complete the MNOC 6th Annual Rogaine last August, an orienteering race that put teams of two on a trajectory to run up to 20 miles offtrail on foot. My partner and I waded through thorns, thrashed swaps, ran when the woods opened up to utter exhaustion through 7,000 acres of rugged terrain in Minnesota’s Jay Cooke State Park. Link to more info: http://mnoc.org/news/2008/rogaine/
10. Road Biking: Trempealeau County, Wis.
Trempealeau County on the Mississippi River in southwest Wisconsin is cited by some as the best road riding in the country. It indeed does have a unique combination of unlimited scenic views, unlimited blacktop and very little vehicle traffic: Trempealeau boasts 382 miles of paved roads, many which see only three cars per hour on a given day, creating what one local called “a private bike paradise.” Link to story: http://thegearjunkie.com/new-york-times-tour-de-trempealeau-story
Stephen Regenold writes a daily blog on outdoors gear at www.gearjunkie.com.