Trip Report: Talley Kayser- Kyle Dempster Solo Adventure Award Winner

Two weeks into my month-long trek on the Sierra High Route, I was fed up.

Depending on my mood, I could blame the storms, the heavy snow year, the resupply delay, the yeast infection, and/or my own limitations––but none of the available excuses changed my situation. In the first fourteen days of my SHR attempt, I had spent only five days moving cross-country over the rugged, alpine terrain I most craved.

For most of its 195-mile length, the Sierra High Route stays above timberline––between 9,000 and 12,000 feet. Or is supposed to, anyway.

Those five days “on route,” mind you, were gorgeous. At the foot of Cirque Pass, for example, I drifted off to sleep underneath a swarm of stars, and woke to light: not sunlight, but a full moon. It flooded the high, wild mountainside so suddenly that it yanked me straight out of my dreams. The ascent to the top of the pass that followed wasn’t effortless, but it was absolutely blissful.

But for too much of my trek, I’d been stuck below 9,000 feet, often descending to the high-traffic John Muir Trail as I reconfigured, then reconfigured again, my shifting logistics. That I had successfully completed these stretches of the SHR in 2018 did little to soothe me: I wanted to be back above timberline, working my way over the high wild snow-bound passes that distinguish the Route from other Sierra objectives.

Alpenglow at Sapphire Lakes.

So it was a relief when, after flying through the third section of the High Route, I had created enough leeway to savor the meandering final sections of the route (from Devils Postpile to the terminus at Twin Lakes).

Though this stretch of the SHR isn’t particularly straightforward, it traverses some of the most classic territory in the Sierras. Passing the Minarets via Cecile and Iceberg Lakes was a highlight, even if the awkward climb down to Iceberg included a few harrowing moments.

Not pictured: the nigh-vertical slapdash jumbled mess of loose scree that comprises the descent to Iceberg Lake.

The talus-ridden passage from North Glacier Pass to Lake Catherine was also well worth the struggle, leading not only to an incredible back-door view of Banner and Ritter but also to a super-fun route-finding section that descends (but definitely doesn’t follow) Lake Catherine’s dramatic outlet. And what better way to end such an adventurous day than fording a waist-deep, snowbound lake? As if I didn’t have reason enough to be grateful for a hot meal.

The best was yet to come, though. In 2018, the final stretch of the Route––already a tricky bit of route-finding––had been occluded by heavy fire-smoke; moreover, I’d had a truly heinous thunderstorm experience that included (ahem) mild electrocution. It was strange and wonderful to cross this same terrain under clear skies and without storm pressure, seeing the views of Bench Canyon that Steve Roper, the architect of the High Route, calls “one of the most sublime valleys in the range.”

My new favorite canyon. No, I won’t tell you exactly where it is.

Descending to bustling Tuolumne Meadows after such remote, wide-flung views was certainly a change of pace, but before too long I was headed up again––this time toward Mt Conness and its environs.

View from the east ridge of Mt. Conness.

After moving down Conness’ spur, I readied myself for Sky Pilot Col, one of the burliest SHR obstacles. Perversely, Sky Pilot had been my favorite pass in 2018, and I looked forward to making the 1,300 foot descent in snow that could be glissadable. But gathering storm clouds warned me it was not the best day to travel high. When I heard an epic peal of thunder, I followed Roper’s alternate route, scootching west to beautiful (and much lower) McCabe Lake and thence to Virginia Canyon.

I could reach the terminus at Twin Lakes the next day, but I wasn’t yet ready to leave the Sierras. Despite my rough start, the High Route had unlocked into what I knew it to be: a challenging but ceaselessly rewarding trek from beauty to beauty to beauty. And thanks to my frustration-induced hustle, I had one extra day available to me.

So it was that, after a sketchier-than-it-could’ve-been descent from Stanton Pass, I spent a full afternoon––and a full night––and a slow morning––in Spiller Canyon, under the alternating shadows of Whorl Mountain and Virginia Peak. Huge clouds trailed huge patches of shade over the mountainsides. A sleek raptor dove from a tree branch and uprooted a rodent from the wildflowers. A Clark’s nutcracker chased its parent around, flaring its wings and begging.
Sunlight polished Spiller Creek to a blinding silver. I savored it all, feeling rapt and aimless and content as a kid.

Spiller Canyon under shifting clouds.

I left the High Route via Horse Creek Canyon, a familiar friend. The top apron of snow at Horse Creek Pass bore no footprints besides mine, but the descent quickly shifted from austere to lush––and from solo to heavily trafficked. Suddenly, I became very aware of my appearance. Dust coated my face, sweat stained my shirt, at least one large glob of sap clotted my braid, and my pants featured wide rips at one knee and both asscheeks. Still: I hailed everyone I passed, grinning broadly.

It was my birthday. It felt like it.
My new favorite pass . . . and the reason I invested in a DSLR immediately after returning. Ranges like this deserve better.

Fording the northernmost Twin Island Lake = Brrrr. I got into my sleeping bag fast.

Whether above or below treeline, I appreciated my evening fuel from Backpacker’s Pantry!

Whorl Mountain in the afternoon light.

Never take a good breakfast for granite. Or for quartz monzonite.

Walkin’ strong at Vogelsang Pass.

The route passes iconic Banner and Ritter on both east and west sides.

-Each year, the Kyle Dempster Solo Adventure Award will be given to an American solo adventurer embarking on a journey that embodies Kyle’s passionate spirit and love of exploration, with an emphasis on storytelling and Leave No Trace ethics.

Liberty Mountain partners with the family and close friends of the late Kyle Dempster, Outdoor Research, Higher Ground Coffee, Black Diamond, Keen Footwear, PROBAR, Hyperlite Mountain Gear, Alpinist Magazine, Duct Tape Then Beer, and Munir and Joy Merchant to provide this award in his honor.

Both Kyle Dempster and Scott Adamson were athletes for Liberty Mountain and had become good friends with many of our employees. They are certainly missed. We are glad to hear the stories of the winners, like Talley, that were able to go out and do something amazing because of the award that Kyle’s loved ones created as a tribute.


by Talley Kayser-
Talley V. Kayser has been an outdoor professional since 2007, and has logged over 40,000 hours of in-field experience as a guide. When she isn't exploring mountain ranges, she teaches college courses that combine literary study and wilderness exploration through the Adventure Literature Series at The Pennsylvania State University. Talley plans to return to the High Route (for a third time!) in the summer of 2020.


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Podcast: From Ionic to Iconic- The Story of Nalgene

Science with a Twist did a great podcast about the story of Nalgene bottles. If you're a fan of these iconic water bottles that have become a staple of the outdoor community then you should probably give this a listen!


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20 Uses for a Nalgene

Single-use water bottles are not only wasteful and bad for the environment, but they are also just that- single use. Recently, we asked our employees to come up with a list of uses they have for a reusable Nalgene bottle aside from just drinking out of it. We received a ton of answers and some of them were pretty out there (seriously, our employees have done some weird things with Nalgenes). Without further ado, here is our list of the 20 best uses we received.

1) First Aid Kit- Keep your medical supplies together and dry.
2) Tent Pee Bottle- When it's too cold or too much work to get out of your tent at night but you need to relieve yourself.
3) Food Container- Save a ziplock bag by storing food in your extra bottle.
4) Nails, Nuts, & Bolts Storage- We've all got those miscellaneous nuts and bolts that no longer have their original packaging but we refuse to throw them away because someday they might be exactly what is needed.
5) Message in a Bottle- Hopefully you're never stranded on a desert island and this use is just for fun with friends.
6) Fire Starter Kit- Keep various kindling dry and ready to start a fire in any conditions.
7) Rolling Pin- If your kitchen is too small to keep a big, wooden pin in it just for the occasional rolling of dough.
8) Cookie Cutter- If round cookies are all you crave then you are set.
9) Geocaching- Insert a logbook, pen, and some tchotchkes, bury it, and post the coordinates.
10) Hot Water Bottle Heater- Snuggle up with a bottle of hot water at night for radiant warmth.
11) Hammer Tent Stakes- There's not always a rock around when you're setting up camp.
12) Lantern- Wrap a headlamp so that the light points in to the bottom of your bottle.
13) Ice Pack- Fill it up with some ice and ease those injuries.
14) Muscle Roller- Roll out your muscles wherever you are.
15) Waterproof Container- It doesn't just keep water in, it also keeps it out.
16) Washing Clothes- Clean your socks and undies on the go with soapy water and some shaking.
17) Vase- Glass breaks. Give your flowers a safer home.
18) Toothbrush Holder- Keep those bristles clean.
19) Winter Car Kit- Keep some small essentials like an emergency blanket, mini flashlight, handwarmers, and more together in case of a roadside emergency.
20) Weight for Bear Bag- Tie a line to your bottle with some weight in it and chuck it over a branch for raising your food bag out of bears' reach.

What did we leave out? Let us know your alternative use for a Nalgene!


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Gear Guide: Choosing a SUP

If you live near flat or moving water then you've no doubt seen people out having a great time on standup paddleboards (or SUP as the cool kids are calling them). Whether you want to get some exercise, explore new areas, get your adrenaline pumping, fish previously unobtainable spots, put a new twist on your yoga practice, or just relax and cool off, owning a SUP can expand your options on a nice day.

I recommend you rent or borrow a SUP first to make sure it's the right activity for you and something you can see yourself doing at least semi-regularly. Package rentals that include everything you need to get out on the water can be picked up at many local outfitters for the cost of a decent dinner. The staff there should be able to fill you in on the basics you need to know so that you avoid some of the potential frustrations and embarrassments you might run into if you were to just buy a random board off the internet and head out.

So, you are hooked and have decided to pull the trigger on a board, but don't know where to begin because there are so many options? Most of the choosing can be narrowed down by answering a few questions based around how and when you plan on using the paddleboard, but the final choice may be based around actually getting out on the water with a few options to see which feels right for your wants and needs. Length, width, thickness, shape, hull style, volume, rocker, and construction materials are all factors to consider in your selection process. Some of that may look like a different language to you, but fear not because it will all be explained below.

CONSTRUCTION- A good starting point is the question of whether to get an inflatable (iSUP) or a rigid standup paddleboard. Each style has its pros and cons.

Rigid boards can be constructed of various materials such as bamboo, carbon fiber, or EPS foam wrapped with fiberglass and epoxy. There are also budget minded rigid boards constructed of plastic using a mold. These rotomolded boards have the benefit of being quite cheap and durable but at the cost of maneuverability, speed, and a considerably higher weight.

Higher quality inflatable boards are usually a PVC exterior with single or double layer dropstitch construction internally, creating an inner chamber(s) of air. If you want to learn more about the dropstitch technology you can find some videos online. Heat Bonded Technology is superior to single or double layer construction. This process eliminates any any opportunity for delamination and air leaking between layers or escaping through poor welds/gluing. It is perhaps the ultimate combination of strength, stiffness and a light weight. The quality of materials and the technologies used will play important factors in how high of an air pressure the board can be inflated to. Often times you would not need to inflate your board as high as the max pressure the vendor rates the board to, but this max psi is often a decent indicator of the baseline quality of the board.

One benefit of having a rigid board is that they are so stiff with no effort. It used to be that inflatable boards (even just a few years ago) could not reach high enough air pressures to keep them from sagging a bit in the middle under the weight of the rider. The sagging and flexing caused iSUPs (inflatable SUP) to get a tarnished name and to this day many people still swear you should only get a hard board because of the undependable rigidity of inflatables. With the latest technology we are seeing that high-end boards can be pumped to such high pressures that virtually all sagging and flex is eliminated. These days the gap in rigidity between the two board types has all but closed if you're buying a quality inflatable.

The amount of space you have to dedicate to the storage of your SUP and the means of transport you have for it are important factors in the decision between a rigid or inflatable paddleboard. Inflatables will roll up and can be stored in a closet or under a bed and they fit in the trunk of a sedan or even on some bike's racks. A rigid board, often around 11 or 12 feet long, is going to take up considerably more space in your home and will need to be kept safe and out of the way to protect your investment. With a rigid board, you will also need to have an external means of transport on your vehicle such as a dedicated SUP rack or a system of pads and straps on your roof. If space and transportation are not a problem, then the ability to go straight from your vehicle to the water and vice versa can be a huge plus over having to deal with inflation, deflation, drying, rolling, and packing away. The time and exertion of pumping an inflatable by hand are enough to cause many people to reconsider going out for a day on the water. Electric pumps can ease some of the pain by removing the physical aspect of inflation but the time factor for a board to reach the desired pressure is still something to consider. I've seen people stop at less than half the recommended pressure for their board and just go paddle on what looks like a banana once their weight is in the middle (and paddles about just as well) because they can't bring themselves to pump for any longer.

Inflatable SUPs are generally more durable than rigids since they bounce off most rocks and obstructions rather than cracking or obtaining holes that require intricate fiberglass repairs. Holes or leaks are certainly possible with inflatable boards, but usually these repairs can be made by the owner with a simple patch and adhesive repair kit. On open water is where a rigid board feels more at home, as opposed to in a river dodging obstacles that could inflict serious damage.

One more perk of having an inflatable board is the ability to take it out to adventurous locations more easily. Typically an inflatable SUP will come with a carrying backpack so you can throw it over your shoulders and hike it out to an alpine lake or carry it through the airport and stuff it in an overhead bin. The backpack that Jobe paddleboards come in is even a giant drybag, allowing you to throw all of your camping gear inside and strap it to your board for the ultimate island-hopping adventure.

SIZE- The length, width, and height of a SUP play huge factors in how the board handles and what uses it is best for.

Generally speaking, a longer board (12+ feet) is going to be faster and hold a straight line better. Boards that are 9-12 feet long are usually more family friendly and better for all-around versatility. Anything under 9 feet is going to be tailored either towards children or towards river and/or ocean surfing. This short length allows for maximum maneuverability.
A wider board is usually going to be more stable, while a narrow board is going to cut through the water faster. A larger person may like the extra width since it can help their body find balance. Someone who wants extra room for children, pets, or more gear might also like a wider board. A smaller person might want a bit more narrow of a board so that they can paddle to the side without having to lean over and put strain on their shoulder, instead of engaging their core. A wide board is also likely to be more heavy and someone with shorter arms may not be able to reach around the side of the board to the center handle for carrying it properly. Yoga on SUPs is becoming more popular, and a board that is 31+ inches wide provides a more stable platform for yoga poses. Yoga specific boards tend to have a large and comfortable pad so that more of the surface area can be used during your yoga practice.

The thickness of a SUP affects how high the user will ride up out of the water. You and your gear sitting higher up, along with the side of the board sticking up further out of the water, can mean that the wind may push you around some and make it harder to go fast or track straight in some conditions. A thicker board of the same length and width will have more volume than its thinner counterpart. A paddle board's volume (expressed in liters) gives an indication of the board’s ability to float with weight on it. The higher the volume, the more weight it can support. If the board doesn’t displace the correct amount of water for your weight, you won’t be supported well and the board may feel unstable or sluggish. Make sure you factor in the weight of your gear or passengers because if the weight exceeds the volume of the board it will sit low in the water and be more difficult to paddle.

SHAPE- The shape of a board will have a dramatic effect on the way it handles.

The shape of the board's nose can typically be generalized as either wide or narrow. The larger surface area of a wide nose makes it easier to catch waves, and its extra volume is also helpful for keeping the weight of riders and gear up out of the water. A narrow or pointed nose cuts through the water as opposed to riding over it. Race and cruise boards rely on the pointed nose, especially in rough water.
Tail shapes of standup paddleboards can be traced back to the design of surfboard tails. Rounded tails will give smooth turns while more angular ones will give sharper turns.

When discussing the shape of SUP board the term "rocker" often comes up. The amount of rocker a board has is basically the amount it curves up at the tip and tail. This curvature keeps the nose from dipping into the waves and allows the board to be more maneuverable across the water. This is especially useful in rough water, rapids, or waves. A board with less rocker (a flatter shape) is not going to be as maneuverable, which in turn means it will track better (hold a straight line more easily).

FINS- There are many configurations, lengths, and materials of fins on the market. Some are a permanent part of the board, and some can be removed and replaced to suit your needs.

One long fin with a wide base is used for tracking and flat water, while three fins, often staggered positions and lengths, are used for maneuverability in waves. These are the most common but some manufacturers make two, four, or some other combination of fins and lengths. Fiberglass fins will be stiffer, nylon ones will be more durable while still relatively stiff, and rubber fins will be the most durable yet least stiff. Shorter fins are good for avoiding rocks in shallow water.

CONCLUSION- Selecting a standup paddleboard to purchase may seem daunting at first, but hopefully with the information you've been given you can start to compare the options on the market and decide which best suits your needs. You might be best just going with an all-around board if you think you will do a mix of activities on it. Keep in mind though that a "Jack of all trades" is a master of none, so if there is one activity you think you will spend most of your time using the board for then you may want to go with the SUP that best fits that need. Traction pads, D-rings, bungees, handles, carry straps, fishing mounts, paddle holders and the other bells and whistles can all play a role in how enjoyable your time on the water is and should also be considered.

by Adam Kittell-
Adam has worked in the outdoor industry for a few years as a merchandise specialist, buyer, and most recently in marketing. Prior to that he was a guide at multiple wilderness therapy companies. He has spent weeks at a time living out of a backpack starting at a young age and later living out of a Honda Element. He has guided extended trips backpacking, rock climbing, mountain biking, and canyoneering all over the United States. Some say he has an obsession with gear, and he does not disagree with them.

All images were provided by Jobe Sports and are copywrited.

Liberty Mountain is the US Distributor of Jobe paddleboards and accessories in the outdoor industry. The content in this article was created by the author based on personal experiences and knowledge gained through his time as a watersports buyer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Jobe Sports or Liberty Mountain.

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Gear Review- Peregrine Radama Hub

I had a chance to take out the Peregrine Radama Hub 4-person tent last weekend and it was a pleasant surprise. It’s more on the heavy side for a tent, but it’s not designed to be the backpacking, lightweight variety. As primarily a car-camper, I need a tent that will last and standup to the more frequent abuse that comes with car camping. I was pleased to see that the poles on this are slightly thicker DAC poles. They were very easy to set up and incredibly sturdy once connected to the tent.
I’m no fabric expert, but I would guess the tub of the tent to be a 40 or 50D fabric. This is a rather durable thickness and middle-of-the-road industry wise, but I would still pair it with an optional footprint. The tub sides also come up a good 4 inches around the entire perimeter of the tent. Combined with the fly that extends past the top of the tub, and I wasn’t concerned at all about rain getting in. It rained both days I was out using it and the interior stayed perfectly dry. The tent fabric was much thinner and lighter, but I’m not concerned about its ability to last. My one concern would be the mesh sections, as it is with most tents. It was incredibly thin and light so you would want to keep any sharp objects like knives or tree branches far away if using without the fly. However, what I’m not concerned about is stepping on the tent door. Peregrine was genius here. Instead of the typical door that zips towards the floor, necessitating you to constantly step over or around the door to avoid damaging it, they designed the door to unzip towards the ceiling. They then integrated a pocket into the ceiling to stuff the door in. This is AMAZING! You can also unzip the entire door using one hand. Huge plus here.

The fly also has some very nice improvements to it. There are 2 ventilation areas at the top of the fly that allow all the moisture to escape while still covering the mesh ventilation at the top of the tent. No more waking up to condensation covering everything. Rain blowing sideways? Just close the ventilation openings with a Velcro clasp. The fly doors are also easy to manage with magnetic clasps where you roll the door back. Say goodbye to messing with those little toggles when setting up or when it starts to rain. Just give it a little tug and it pops off and is ready to be zip closed.

Let’s talk about the storage. This tent has tons! I counted 9 pockets including the door storage areas. There are 3 pockets that run the entire length of one side of the tent, 2 pockets in opposite corners, and 4 pockets on the ceiling. They have done away with the hanging gear loft and instead have built-in pockets. Like having a gear loft, you say? There are still 4 little loops that you can attach an optional gear loft to. There is also a hook right in the middle of the ceiling where you can hang a lantern, string lights, or finally put up that divider so your roommate doesn’t end up spooning you in the middle of the night. The fly also extends several feet past the door to give you (2) vestibules to put shoes, gear, or bags if you need a little extra floor space. They have also designed the walls of the tent together with the poles to give you more headspace. The walls are near vertical so no more dead space that is common with more angular tents.

I’ve been using a Marmot Limelight for years and the Radama Hub had all the same features plus more. When packed down, the 4p Radama was just barely bigger than my Limelight 3p. I will definitely be replacing the Marmot and using the Radama Hub as my primary car camping tent.

by Steve Wise-
Steve is what you would call a "Jack of all trades." Whether it’s scaling a rock face, dropping in a couloir, or chilling on the back nine, you will typically find him outside. Adrenaline activities such as downhill mountain biking and jumping off a 400 ft canyon are some of his favorites, with the addition of whitewater paddleboarding the past few seasons. He’s no stranger to the leisure life though, as he recently took 2nd place in a local pickleball tournament. He has a passion for sharing his love of the outdoors with others and has pursued opportunities in both sales and marketing for the outdoor industry. His most rewarding endeavor was teaching kids how to ski and snowboard for 3 years in Park City, UT. He recognizes that none of this would have been possible without excellent gear to make it happen and is on a constant hunt to find that next piece.

Photos by: Adam Kittell

Learn more about the Peregrine Radama Hub at www.PeregineEquipment.com
Also available for retailers through Liberty Mountain.

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Red Castle Lake Trip Report

Fourth of July weekend (or in this case, the weekend immediately following the fourth since the holiday was on a Thursday this year) is often spent at a lake, barbecuing, drinking, and watching fireworks. Some people like to do things a bit differently though and backpack up to an alpine lake!

One of our employees, Jake Hirschi, and his son, Isaac decided the latter was more their style. They set out on a 24 mile overnight trip in search of big trout, and their timing could not have been better.

Red Castle Lake, in Utah's Uinta Mountains, is still 95% frozen. But the 5% that is open water is full of hungry monster trout. It is the deepest lake up there and doesn’t winter-kill. These fish have been under ice for 9 months!! If you get there first, prepare for the best fishing day of your life.

They brought along a Peregrine Kestrel UL to sleep in since they expected mosquitoes, but Jake says, "There were plenty on the hike in, covering everything if we stopped, but zero above 10,500 feet.

Isaac found a cached 4 man raft, paddles, 2 life jackets and an air pump under a cave at 11,300 feet. Unfortunately, the marmots had done their work turning someones treasure into trash. Being Boy Scouts, they decided to leave no trace and carried it all out. Over 30 lbs of trash between them no doubt made the return trip a bit more of a workout than planned.

Liberty Mountain Distributes the following gear used on their journey-

Kestrel UL 2 Tent - 5 stars
Uinta Carbon Trekking Poles - 5 stars
Aerie UL Primaloft Sleeping Pad - 5 stars

Liberty Mountain does not distribute-

Raft and accessories - 0 stars

Photos and writeup by Jake Hirschi.

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Black Forest Trail Trip Report

Our Liberty Mountain Sales Team that works out of Pennsylvania recently took a backpacking trip on the Black Forest Trail in Slate Run, PA. According to the trail guide, the BFT is not a novice trail: with demanding ascents and descents, challenging stream crossings, and rocky rough sections that will “test the quality of your hiking boots.” As a fairly new team, they felt this was a great opportunity to grow closer together over their mutual love for the outdoors, and to test out some new gear!

They headed out Friday afternoon, with three Gregory packs and a Vaude pack, ranging in weight from 20 to 39 pounds. The plan was to start out easy, hiking counter-clockwise on the trail before setting up camp. "We quickly came upon a deer. It didn’t take long for our Australian Shepherd to notice and try to take off after it. Now we know that the buckle on the new dog lead holds up to some serious force! We ended up adding a couple more miles when we faced a crowded campsite, and the next one being underwater. The section we hiked consisted of several steep ascents, but many of worthwhile vistas!"

Saturday got off to a slow start, but with some impending thunderstorms headed in they knew they needed to keep moving. The trail was pretty washed out, and at times you were just hopping from one side of the stream to the other in an attempt to keep your feet dry. With a storm on the way, the group decided to camp a bit closer than originally planned and reap the benefit of a less back-country campsite, in the form of a picnic table! They arrived to this new camp pretty early, which luckily gave them time to get all set up before the storm hit. There was some thunder and lightning, but mostly just lots of rain.

Sunday morning they got up and made coffee in preparation for the hike back out. A slow, morning sprinkle quickly turned into a downpour. Everyone rushed to pack up camp, chugged the coffee, and headed out!

Liberty Mountain distributes the following gear used on their journey-




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