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Rock Climbing in Pinnacles National Park

April was a month of a completely new sport for me: rock climbing! And not even climbing in a gym, but climbing outdoors! I’ve had “Learn to rock climb” on my New Year’s Resolution list since 2017, and this year finally was the year! I honestly never thought I’d climb outdoors, especially only after climbing in a gym twice! I’ve got my job to thank for all of my rock climbing experiences so far. For giving me supportive friends to take me climbing and for sending me to gain more experience and training with climbing gear. And who knew that I’d go to Pinnacles National Park twice in the month of April for climbing?! If you told me at the beginning of the year that I’d be doing that, I wouldn’t have believed you.

My first trip was totally spur-of-the-moment: I quickly secured coverage for a work shift and head off to the park for my friend Laura’s rock climbing birthday. The first day in the park we set off from the Bear Gulch area to try to find some routes to climb. There were so many people climbing on Sunday afternoon, but we eventually found a spot near the Bear Gulch Reservoir after striking out at a couple of other places. I geared up with my rental shoes from REI and borrowed gear from Laura’s boyfriend and tried climbing! It went pretty poorly - I got maybe 4 ft off the ground, and I fell a couple of times. The route was rated at 5.8 (I think) so I wasn’t expecting much.

After watching everyone else be amazing and do the climb, we moved to an easier area for me, to Teaching Rock. Here is where I sent my first outdoor climb! I was pretty shaky the whole way up - my legs were dying. Teaching Right was the route, and it was rated at a 5.4. It was “easy” but it was my first climb and I thought it was challenging enough for me! I was so proud of myself for trying. There were so many times going up where I didn’t know what to do next, and I just had to try to trust my feet and the rock and get up. It felt so different from the gym. Naively, maybe, I feel pretty safe in the gym with the holds: there’s a colored route and the holds are secure, so it’s pretty easy to look around and see what you’re supposed to do next. Outside is a little scarier because there’s no set route and there’s always the risk of the rock breaking off! It’s also cool though, that there is no set route. You just do what you think looks best. It’s simultaneously easier and harder, I think, for beginners. On one hand, do whatever you want to get up! On the other hand, when you’re stuck, it’s harder to figure out what to do.

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After finishing up on Teaching Rock, we hiked back down to the car and drove back to camp, enjoying the night under the stars, and ringing in Laura’s birthday at midnight!

The next day, we went straight to Discovery Wall for us all to try Portent, a 5.6 climb. Laura gave us a few lessons on trad gear and placing protection, and I learned how to read a climbing guide book. I watched as my friends got up the first pitch and placed a top rope for me to try to get up to the top of the first pitch. It was sooo hard, and I was sore from the day before. And unfortunately, the very beginning of the climb was the crux, or hard part. I couldn’t get up. In fact, I barely made it 3 ft off the ground, and I fell a couple of times trying. There’s so much trust involved with climbing. Thankfully, I know my friends pretty well, and know how safety oriented they are, and I could trust them to belay me. Taking falls is all part of climbing, and I think its good to fall and learn to trust your partners and gear. After my failed attempts, I watched my friends take turns leading the rest of the climb, cheered them on, and photographed them being awesome.

I actually really enjoyed the time watching them. It was so cool to see them being up that high, and even though I was just hanging out, I had fun relaxing and chilling at the crag, enjoying this beautiful park.

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My second time at Pinnacles was at the end of the month, for a work training trip. REI sends employees to Experiential Training Experiences to learn more about product and how to educate members about it. In March, I got to go to the camping focused one, and this month I got to go to the climbing one. These trips are focused on learning about the newest gear from the leading companies in the climbing world, and getting the chance to have hands-on experience with the gear. I learned so much over these 2 days. The difference between different belay devices, different harnesses and climbing shoes and helmets, rope bags, ropes, carabiners, quick-draws, and more. I was thankful to have climbed outdoors before this event because it helped me understand terminology and gear a little bit more.

Over the course of the two days, I climbed on three different routes, including Teaching Right again, which I sent again! I tried four different shoes: La Sportiva Finale, and TC Pro, Black Diamond Aspect, and Scarpa Instinct V. I demoed 2 different harnesses: the Petzl Luna and Edelrid Jayne III. I got to belay with a Petzl Grigri and Grigri +, and the Petzl Reverso. I used the Petzl Boreo and Black Diamond Half Dome helmets. I tried on even more gear than what I ended up using. It was such a cool experience, and I already wish I had another day to try even more gear.

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I was so thankful for everyone in the REI family for being so supportive and safe and encouraging to newbies. So many people were new to climbing, including myself, and everyone was super friendly and didn’t come in with any superiority complexes about the sport and abilities. The outdoor school instructors were so amazing, setting up all of the top ropes for us, and offering tips while climbing, and the vendors also climbed with us and were so nice and helpful. Special shout-outs to Scott from Petzl and Chris from Edelrid who made the crag so much fun and helped out with the gear while using it.

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I was so thankful to have these opportunities to climb outside, and I already can’t wait to go again. I finally bought all of my own personal gear after this event - funnily enough, I didn’t demo anything that I ended up getting, but I did know what to look for when choosing the right gear for me. I felt so much more confident in my purchases after the training, and can’t wait to help customers make purchasing decisions too. If you’re curious, I ended up going with the La Sportiva Mythos for shoes, the Petzl Selena for a harness, and I picked up a super cute Kavu chalk bag. I didn’t buy a helmet yet, but will eventually pick one up after this current blow to my wallet softens a bit.

Gear talk aside, and on a more serious note: I am super proud of myself for going way outside of my comfort zone in climbing. Even though I’ve had “learn to climb” on my to-do list for a couple of years, I’ve been unnerved to try it at the same time. I don’t know if climbing will become a staple in my life, but I am looking forward to trying it out. I’m excited for the improvement potential with climbing, and I’m also looking forward to new challenges. I feel like there are very few sports that require the same kind of mental and physical stamina and precise technique that climbing requires. I’m also excited for the possibilities that climbing opens up: mountaineering and glacier travel, new landscapes, and more opportunities to get outside. If you’ve made it this far in my post, I hope this inspires you to get outside of your comfort zone and try something that scares you. Because I’m still terrified of climbing, but I’ve found that doing things that scare you and test your limits - whether mentally or physically - can be a really good thing.

Gossamer Gear Ambassador

A lot has been happening over here at backcountryemily.com! You may have noticed my new website layout, which is hopefully easier to navigate.

Another big development in my life is that I have been invited to the Gossamer Gear team as a brand ambassador! I am so excited to represent this brand because they are all about community and ultralight backpacking. Two of the best things! Already, I feel so welcomed into this awesome company and ambassador team, which is filled with some pretty cool people that I’ve looked up to for a few years now. I’m so excited for this new relationship.

I also want to disclose that product from this company that you see in reviews or in photos from this point forward has been received as a gift from Gossamer Gear, but I can assure you, I won’t use gear that I don’t stand behind, and you will always get an honest review from me. In any gear review that I may end up doing for Gossamer Gear, I will disclose my relationship with them and any affiliate links that are present.

In an age where you can buy almost anything from anywhere, I’m becoming more conscious about where I decide to do my business and spend my money, and small companies like Gossamer Gear, with a real team of humans, based in the USA (Austin, TX), is a company that made the list for me, even before I became an ambassador with them (you may recall me using their sun umbrella and waterproof pack liner on the PCT).

If you’d like to try out any of their gear, and help me receive a small commission in the process, you can use this link. I’m excited to be a part of this expanding family, and really excited to try some new gear that will push my limits as an ultralight backpacker!

As always, thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more!

 
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A New Year in the Outdoors

We’re now a full month into the new year, and I’ve been neglecting this blog a lot since I finished hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Partly because the holidays and work were a little crazy, and partly because I was feeling a little uninspired and removed from the outdoors since coming back home.

I’m hoping to grow this blog more in the coming year: more gear reviews, more trail journals, and more photography, possibly debuting a print shop by the end of the year. I have lots of goals for myself this year in numerous categories: personal health, photography, this website, work, trips, finance, and more. It is silly to think that I will accomplish all of these things, but I’m going to try, while remaining balanced.

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Why does this matter here? Well, this is my blog, so I get to write what I want, but also, it will impact the content that I am putting out. In addition to all of the goal categories I listed above, a big goal of mine for this year, in the effort of balance, is to do 1 “outdoorsy” thing per month. Coming off hiking every day for 5 months was weird, and I had a hard time transitioning into a more “weekend warrior” model. And with working retail, it feels impossible to actually use my Saturdays and Sundays to their fullest extent. So instead of putting pressure on myself to use all of my days off solely for the outdoors, just for the sake of getting out, I’m focusing on doing something I really want to do once per month. With that, I’m going to be showcasing those monthly adventures in a blog post, so you will definitely be seeing at least one blog post per month. I am going to be moving away from individual trip reports on hikes, just because I don’t find a lot of joy in it, and instead focus “trip reports” on “how-to’s” for certain, more popular, trips, and photo/ trip journals for trips that are not solely hiking. This is subject to change based on how I want to talk about a trip, and I may write some in a trip report format if I feel like that’s what it deserves.

In addition to the monthly activity update, I’m making it a goal of mine to post at least one gear review per month. So, let me know if you’re dying to hear a review from me about a piece of gear I use, and I’ll be sure to prioritize those items first.

I’m not ready to make a big announcement yet because of permit situations, and I haven’t officially talked to my managers at work about it, but I guarantee you, I will be doing another thru-hike this summer. It’s not going to be one of the big three, or anything international, but most likely the Colorado Trail, Tahoe Rim Trail, Wonderland Trail or High Sierra Trail. Or a combination of some of those. I do have the thru-hiking bug, so you can anticipate seeing a thru-hike every year from now on, with content related to planning, post-hike musings and lessons learned, and of course, a trail journal.

Finally, I do write this blog for myself, first and foremost, but I also write it for all of my readers (idk how many of you there are… but thanks for stopping by!). So, I do care about what you want to read from me. That being said, please contact me by e-mail, or comment here if there’s a certain type of content you want to see, or a certain advice piece, or anything really! And, if you are interested in seeing a print shop from me, definitely let me know, and let me know a photograph you’d like to see in it. A print shop can be a lot of work, and since I’m not pursuing photography full-time, I’m only going to put the effort into it if you all really want it!

Thanks again to everyone for following along on all of my adventures, commenting on Instagram pictures, and loving the outdoors with me!

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A Winter Weekend in Yosemite

One of my goals when I moved back home was to visit Yosemite. And my goal once I saw Yosemite in the spring, was to see Yosemite in the winter. Specifically, to see Yosemite Valley blanketed in snow. My favorite Yosemite hiking buddy (my mom) and I were looking at our calendar after our last Yosemite trip in February and realized that only one weekend would work for us to re-visit Yosemite before I left for the PCT. And it just so happened that the biggest storm of the season ended up blowing through the Sierra the weekend we planned to go back. Needless to say, we were so excited to finally see Yosemite Valley in snow.

Once we got to the valley floor, we couldn't withhold our excitement. Checking into our cabin at Half Dome Village just had to wait.

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Because we drove into Yosemite early Saturday morning, we were starving, and knowing that we wouldn't be back in Yosemite for quite some time, we knew we needed to splurge on the breakfast buffet at the Ahwahnee. It was glorious, as always (why is the fruit so fresh at the Ahwahnee?! Like, its always sooo good and juicy and ripe). After breakfast, we walked the grounds, enjoying the powdery snow.

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After breakfast, we decided to just walk around the valley and enjoy all of the snow! It was so special being in the valley - a normally crowded place - when it was so empty. My mom and I agreed that snow seems to quiet everything, and walking around the valley with snow lightly falling was just so serene, so peaceful, and so beautiful.

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We had so much fun frolicking in the snow and seeing all of our favorite places with a sheet of white covering them. But soon enough, the snow started coming down harder, and it was getting colder and darker, so we headed for the shuttle to take us back to Half Dome Village so we could get our favorite make-your-own pizza from the cafeteria (its sausage, pineapple, mushrooms, and banana peppers, if you were wondering. And yes, we get this combo every time. We're creatures of habit). We were so exhausted from our early wake-up time and walking all day that we passed out at 8:00 pm.

The next morning we were on a sunrise-chasing mission and it was fabulous. It was 20 degrees F out, but there was not a cloud in the sky and the day could not have started any better.

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We ended our lovely snow-filled weekend with a little hike around Mirror Lake, aka the most crowded spot in Yosemite when it snows. Despite the number of people, it was beautiful and peaceful.

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I am so lucky to have the best mamma in the world who loves Yosemite and hiking as much as I do! It was so nice to have this weekend with her in our favorite place before I leave for the PCT. Next time I see you, Yosemite, I'll have walked 930 miles to get to you!

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My 2018 Intentions

I want to start off with saying thank you to everyone who supported me in 2017 - family, friends, blog & Instagram followers. I appreciate the kindness and that you care to read about what I do & think about! 2018 is going to be a pretty big year for me. Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail is my big thing for the year, with good reason - it will take me 5-6 months to complete! Basically half of the year! In the spirit of not dwelling on the past, I won't rant about the last year, but it had it's ups and downs, and I didn't start the year with any goals/ resolutions/ intentions, which I think left me aimless. So I want to start 2018 off with more positivity and more of a game plan. Here's what I want to focus on - more or less in chronological order since my year is very structured.

1. Decluttering & Reorganizing

I always talk about having too much stuff and no where to put things. Too many clothes, too many trinkets, too many filled boxes in the basement. I already started selling some clothes & shoes on the website Poshmark in the fall to clear out my closet a little bit and make some cash at the same time! Now I just need to do the same for all of the other junk I have. I also want to reorganize my bedroom, which will come much easier after the decluttering. At least I got the camera gear all organized & nice enough looking (hey, its not all laying on the floor anymore - big win). I especially want to do a lot of this before I leave for the PCT, but I have a feeling more decluttering will happen after the trail too.

2. Being Healthier

This one will completely fly out the window once I step foot on the PCT (at least in the eating part), but up until then, I want to get back to eating healthier, exercising more frequently, drinking more water, and getting consistent sleep. I was doing really well in 2016, but 2017 was a bad year for healthy living. It was so easy to get stuck in that I'm tired from work - don't want to work out - meal prep is hard - eat bad food - be more tired and bloated and in a bad mood cycle. Now that I'm working less, I hope to be more motivated in meal prep and going to the gym. I know that eating better & working out make me feel better, but sometimes it can be so challenging! I'm also going to try to eat less meat. I love meat, especially red meat, but I know its not the best for you or the planet, and I'm actually more of a pescatarian 50% of the time anyways, so this one won't be that difficult. But once I get on the PCT I will literally eat anything & everything. Establishing a more consistent workout routine is also important to me leading up to the PCT. I loosely follow Kayla Itsines's BBG SWEAT program which is a combination of steady state cardio, HIIT, and plyometric and weight training for 6 days/week. To put a PCT spin on things, I am aiming to do at least one cardio session/ week as a hike ranging from 5-10 miles, and the other 2/ week will be a combination of treadmill, stair stepper, and vinyasa yoga.

3. Being Smart with Finances

This is literally always a goal of mine and I'm pretty bad at it. I have a hard time not buying myself things that I want ("I worked hard for this, I deserve it"), but being unemployed for half of last year helped me not go crazy with the shopping. And I go to Starbucks for coffee (& food) almost daily, and eat out way too much. Making some changes here will help me be healthier & save more money, and I need to save all the money I can for the PCT - to enjoy the trail, and to have some money at the end!

4. Hike the PCT

Obviously a big one for the year! I am attempting a northbound thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail (...if you couldn't already tell), and plan on completing the whole thing this year. Hopefully I have lots of good luck - no injuries, great weather, etc. that will allow me to complete all open miles of the trail this year. If you want to read more about my PCT prep, mosey on over to my PCT blog.

5. Learn How to Cross-Country Ski

A little out of the blue here, but I'd really like to learn XC skiing. I enjoy snowshoeing a lot, but I feel like XC skiing gives you more opportunity for exploration in the winter, so I'd really like to learn it! 

6. Think About the Future - Mindfully

Mindfulness & planning for the future are not two things you normally see in the same sentence. However, I am going to be taking a very long walk this year, and I know I will think about a lot of things when my mind starts to wander. The PCT is supposed to be fun, of course, but I do hope it also helps me take stock of my life & realize where my priorities lie - and in a non-judgmental way. This is literally the first year since I graduated from college where I've stopped telling people "I'm applying to grad school this year", so it will be nice to quit unintentionally lying to everyone. That being said, maybe I'll be able to think about applying to something in 2019? Not pushing anything though, which is nice for once.

7. Be a Better Communicator

I'm bad at communicating with people in a personal manner. Professional - no problem. Personal... could be better. It's funny that I'm attempting to improve on this the year I will be mostly in the woods... but I guess you have to start somewhere, am I right?

Do you have any resolutions you'd like to share - outdoors related or not? Let me know in the comments & have a Happy New Year!

Emily SchrickComment
“Pacific Pines” to “Backcountry Emily”

Welcome to my new website! I’ve made lots of changes since the creation of pacificpines back in 2015 (if you’re new, you’re not missing much).

The biggest (outward) change is the name of the website! pacificpines was an homage to the fact that I live on the West Coast and I like pine trees *super creative*. Backcountry Emily came about by wanting to make it apparent that there’s a person behind this blog (me, Emily!) that loves to adventure (especially in the backcountry) and loves to help people. The content will be mostly the same, but with more fun stuff, and organized so much better thanks to switching hosting sites. You’ll get to see my photography (maybe have a chance to purchase prints in the future) and read about different excursions via my point of view and also with more objective information: stats, costs, logistics, and how-tos. I’ll also be sharing my thoughts on gear, food, and backcountry “realisms”: I promise I won’t sugarcoat some things. 

For the next few weeks and months I’ll be cataloging some older trips that I never documented and adding new ones, as I have at least two backpacking trips before Thanksgiving. I hope to give some insight into my first pieces of gear as a newbie and how I’ve evolved my gear and packing lists as I’ve learned more. I’m also preparing for some bigger future things, and I’ll be posting about that in the months to come as well!

Thanks for checking out my site and reading this! Hope you stay tuned for more. If you want to ask me any questions, just scroll down and click the “contact” button and I’ll help you out! 

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