Sunday, February 14, 2010

Introducing Colvin Harrison Serpico, our newest fur kid…

I’d like to welcome Colvin to our family, and introduce him to everyone.

He is a 5 month old Border Collie mix. As you may notice, in spite of being a fashion disaster with the white polka dot socks paired with his tuxedo styled coat, he is a handsome young man with a fierce look of determination. Sporting a well groomed brown beard and eyebrows, he is just a bow tie away from any formal occasion that he should be invited to.

I’ve been hit with some negative feedback on his name, so I thought I would also give a little info on his namesake and why it was chosen.

Some people choose typical pet names, others random people names, some objects or places. Other people have a continuous revolving door of oft castaway companions, therefore never spending any time coming up with a name worthy of a long term member of the family. We have a history of naming our animals after wild places, or gateways to those places. Caney after the Caney Creek Wilderness in Arkansas; Ande after the Andes Mountains in South America; and Jasper after Jasper, Arkansas, located in the Ozark National Forest, home of the Buffalo National River –America’s first national river!

Colvin is a mountain in the Adirondacks, but that mountain is named after a man.

(Mt Colvin is the peak left of the prominent V cleft in the above image)

Verplanck Colvin, native of Albany, New York, was an explorer, scholar, lawyer, woodsman, engineer, surveyor, topographer, inventor, writer, artist, wilderness conservationist, patriot, and skilled leader of men. In 1870 he made a sketch map of the mountains surrounding Gray’s Peak, Colorado in his spare time; it was the first such map of the area ever published, and by 1911 it still remained the most accurate map of the region. As a result of his surveying skills he was appointed the superintendent of both the Adirondack Land Survey and New York State Land Survey, and is in many ways responsible for the conservation movement in the United States.

"Unless the region be preserved essentially in its present wilderness condition, the ruthless burning and destruction of the forest will slowly, year after year, creep onward… and vast areas of naked rock, arid sand, and gravel will alone remain to receive the bounty of the clouds and be unable to retain it." –Verplanck Colvin

Colvin was president of the department of physical science at the Albany Institute, and held various presidencies including that of the New York State Mine and Engineers Association, and he was the first president of the Adirondack Guides' Association.

In spite of being a highly educated man, Colvin chose not to talk down to the woodsmen, rather he chose to elevate them to their rightful stature in his address to them:

“…Then you, who have learned to love, to venerate the gift of the mountains and forest and lakes, will retain the benefits of your labors and those of your ancestors. You will preserve the forest of New York state to a race loftier than that of the Scotish Highlands, more fortunate in your advantages in life and knowledge, with all the possibilities of the intellectual development of our race and the freedom which only belongs to Americans; that great heritage will be secured by constant battle.” –Verplanck Colvin

Verplanck Colvin’s greatest accomplishment is largely unknown to the visitors of the Adirondacks. Even to the thousands of hikers each year who summit the grand mountain that bears his name he remains an obscurity. You probably won’t find his name in a textbook, and he isn’t famous like other notable conservationist, because when he was a conservationist there was no such movement. In a sense, he was a pioneer of a movement that would not exist for many years. Fortunately for those hikers who are lucky enough to stand on that summit and look out into the wilderness, Colvin was the person who was largely responsible for the creation of New York State Forest Preserve, of which close to 4 million acres are publicly held wild lands to be kept “Forever Wild”; thus creating the largest intact wilderness east of the Rockies.

“The Lands of the state, now owned or hereafter acquired, constituting the forest preserve as now fixed by law, shall be forever kept as wild forest lands. They shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by a corporation, public or private, nor shall the timber thereon be sold, removed or destroyed.” -Article 14, New York State Constitution

The more widely known congressional Wilderness Act -of 1964- is very closely modeled after the “Forever Wild” clause of Article 14 of the New York State Constitution. Article 14, ratified in 1894, made the Adirondacks America’s first and most heavily protected wilderness. In fact, the best I can discern, the New York State Forest Preserve is the only constitutionally protected wilderness in the US. Since 1894 over 2,000 attempts have been made to alter Article 14, 28 of them have made it to voters and only 20 have been approved by the People. In comparison, adjustments to the Wilderness Act of 1964 are at the whims of congress and/or the president.

By ratifying Article 14 in 1894 and again in 1938, the people of the state of New York have shown they believe soundly enough in the movement Verplanck Colvin started in the 1860s.

Verplanck Colvin was chiefly responsible for the creation of the Forest Preserve, Article 14’s “Forever Wild”, and later “Adirondack Park” because of his 20 years of visionary dedication to the permanent protection of the Adirondacks. There is no doubt that without Colvin’s determination to complete the Adirondack Land Survey, his impassioned knowledge of the natural world, combined with his ability to eloquently explain it in his writing and art; the Adirondacks, New York, and America would be a vastly different place than we know today.

“..the Adirondack Preserve has been a good thing. It has been a model for the federal government and other states. It has given a tone to recreation, and esthetic and spiritual satisfaction to hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions. Whatever lies ahead, I shall be grateful to the Adirondack mountains, lakes and streams.” -Jim Marshall (brother of the famed mountaineer and conservationist Bob Marshall; son of Louis Marshall whom was instrumental in helping create the SUNY-ESF college for forestry)

And so will Colvin Harrison as we spend many years tramping together through those very same mountains and flowing down those very same streams, knowing the Adirondacks will be the one constant we have; ”Forever Wild”!

(two images above are taken 130 years apart on Hurricane Mountain from virtually the same location, not a lot has changed)

For more on Verplanck Colvin:

Nationally published articles and illustrations in Harpers Magazine (fee to view via Harpers)

Colvin’s renowned 7th report to the Legislature of the state of New York (free from Google)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Hanging Stove System, Why It Is Superior!

When I ask serious northeastern US winter backpackers and alpinist if they have ever used a hanging stove, I get the most puzzled looks. Some of these people have traveled all over the world to climb mountains ,yet they never used one.

Well, I'm letting the genie out of the bottle. I'm going to demystify the hanging system and give you a little insight as to why it makes winter camping so much easier.

What is the purpose of the hanging stove system? Basically it eliminates the elements from your biggest winter chores; creating drinkable water through the melting of snow and ice, hydrating, and eating.

Traditionally people would sit outside their tent and melt snow, this is a process that even with the most powerful portable stoves can take hours for a group of 2-3 people. So for 2 hours or so you must wear lots of extra clothing that you probably wouldn't otherwise need to carry. Then you must eat more to generate body heat. So you have to carry even more food. All the while you are probably pretty cold.

Other options to sitting outside include cooking/melting in the vestibule of your tent. However, this isn't completely weather proof in seriously bad storms. The stove is typically more exposed to the elements and so are you. I've been a prolific winter vestibule snow melter for years as a compromise to hanging the stove inside the tent, it cost nothing, and is deemed by some to be safer. If using a white gas stove, this is still the mode of choice that I prefer. The reason of course, is even those who are at Zen with their white gas stoves, tend to have an occasional flare up, and a flare up is not a good thing if it’s in the tent, or under the closed vestibule. However, you can get the stove going safely at the edge of the vestibule, then bring it into its permanent home, get in your sleeping bag and boil away.

You can build a hanging stove for white gas or canister stoves like the MSR XGK or Firefly for under $20. The Superfly is my stove of choice, and I use a hanging kit made by MSR that was difficult to find, but works well enough in a tent. This setup might not be the cats meow hanging from a big wall on a portaledge though since it is pretty light, and some might say a bit flimsy looking. I mainly like it because it is compact and light. I know Bibler makes a hanging system, as does Markhill and there are a few other brands, I also think JetBoil makes some sort of hanging adapter.Also, MSR recently came out with the "Reactor" which is a brand new hanging system that isn't cheap. Actually, unless making your own, be prepared to drop about $100 on the cheapest setup, and up to $200 on more expensive ones.

My MSR branded hanging kit is a folding cross shaped piece of titanium with some metal braided cable to support the stove from a central tie in point. There is a metal contraption that keeps the flames, heat, and pot contained, and another piece of metal that keeps the canister from getting too warm.

The whole setup weighs almost nothing (lets say 4-6oz tops), and in conjunction with a Superfly probably weights half of what a comparable white gas setup weighs. I'd venture to say, space and weight considered, this is the lightest and most compact hanging stove on the market, and efficient to boot!

In the above photo the use of a conduit is seen on the MSR Superfly Ascent system

photo: (C) Chipskiff @ flickr

Finally, I use a fairly small pot, so I don’t over work the stove. I also use a 2/3 cup measuring spoon to remove water from the pot, so the pot always remains on the stove. This makes siphoning water off to make tea, or fill water bottles simple. It also makes measuring for my dehydrated meals simple.

An alternative to this would be to use a titanium or aluminum mountaineering tea kettle. These are incredibly heat efficient, and contain the water for easy pouring.

There is one draw back to butane/propane canister stoves. Below about 40F the stoves get finicky. Butane doesn’t do well in cold, and the isobutane/propane additive makes it slightly better, however, it still requires a little TLC until the stove is warmed up.

I recommend shaking the canister gently and warming it initially in your hands or sleeping bag. Bring a few chemical hand warmers, and tape one to the bottom of the canister for initial warming. Once you have some water heated, you can take a very small amount and put it in a pot top, plate or bowl, then put it under the canister for a few seconds every now and then. This keeps the mixture flowing equally. The problem is the propane on a cold canister burns off first, and the butane is left over. A little warming solves this while really firing the stove up.

I’ve found that you need to resort to constant rewarming only if you let the propane burn off initially, as the tent warms up the stove does quite well.

Some people add a heating coil to the canister, which is essentially just a wire or conduit that goes from the flame to the canister. If you set this up well, it’s probably the ideal solution. The propane and butane burn off evenly with constant heat flow, but some people are uneasy with heating a canister directly.

Speaking of directly, you can also light a lighter under it if you get desperate. I really don’t recommend this, although it isn’t nearly as dangerous as it sounds. If you are warm, just put your hand on the canister and that should be fine. Or insulate the canister and drop the hand warmer in it.

I prefer the smaller 4oz canisters, because they put less weight on the stove, and take up less space. For a group of 2, I’d say 2 canisters per night. Playing it safe, 3 per day. This obviously is quite a bit more expensive than white gas which requires about the same amount of fuel (4oz/person/day) but at a lower cost per ounce. That said, the cost is really pretty low for an occasional overnight, or even a 2 night trip when split between 2 people. This wouldn’t be my preference for long distance trips, or frequent use though.

So let me concisely explain the benefits of the hanging stove.

1) Simply more efficient (for the following reasons)

2) Weighs less

3) Burns less fuel

4) Requires you to eat less to stay equally warm, or actually far warmer because you burn fewer calories, thus you require less food.

5) Protects you from the elements in really poor conditions that you might decide to no even bother breaking out the stove (this happened to me once in Utah, we ate poptarts, and sucked down the water we had left)

6) Reduces clothing required to stay warm at camp, which is the bulk of your clothing. Keep in mind, a four season tent, properly vented, will get to between 30-40F with a hanging stove no matter how cold it is outside.

7) Actually allows clothing to dry out in the Northeast (and other wet places like the Cascades), despite the steam from the water, the air actually gets warm and dry from the stove, and condensation is all but eliminated keeping the tent interior drier.

8) Allows you to hydrate in comfort. Remember unless you are using solar stills, or drinking from a spring, all your water in winter is generally from melting snow. You are more prone to consume adequate quantities of water if you are warm and dry. Your pee definitely should be almost clear before you head to bed.

9) Being hydrated means being warmer, means hiking faster, means sleeping better.

10) Cost slightly more, but is probably more efficient per oz of fuel.

Now there is a valid counter point, some people say, “but I backpack to be one with nature, not to sit in a tent.” And that is a fair point, actually it’s a darn good argument. However, before you decide to be “one with nature” consider the fact that I outlined the benefits to the hanging system, which include carrying less weight, and thus covering more ground per trip. Basically what is comes down to is, are you backpacking/climbing or camping? If you are camping, and perhaps even making a fire, by all means my system is for the birds. If you have a goal to cover ground, or carry technical climbing equipment, then it’s vastly superior.

I have heard many arguments that don’t hold water (no pun intended). Such as drinking too much at camp means you will have to get up and pee, and thus be colder. I’ll be honest, I never get up at night at home, but I rarely don’t while camping, and laying in your bag thinking about having to pee is not good for sleep. If you are that concerned with the issue, bring a pee bottle…or be one with nature, get up for 2 minutes, pee and get back in your warm sleeping bag, fully hydrated and ready to go. Not being hydrated so you don’t have to pee is simply a boneheaded argument.

Finally of course is safety, you do need to ventilate the tent. That means that no matter how appealing it will be to seal the tent up, and just let the stove run, it’s a really bad idea. You also need to be cognizant that flare ups CAN occur with any stove no matter how often you have used it, so make sure the stove is primed properly before it gets anywhere near tent fabric, and of course make sure it stays at least a foot from anything flammable.

By no means is my (and by my, I mean my preferred system) superior in all circumstances. But for those looking to bivy in hostile climates such as exposed ledges, summits, or during severe winter storms and extreme cold, this is definitely the ticket to being more comfortable and efficient.

And one last thing, for those who have never melted snow, make sure you have water (liquid) in the put before you start melting. While you probably are doubting this, snow does burn to the bottom of the pot, and it taste horrible. Start with any water you can find, and very slowly add snow.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Franconia Ridge Traverse Loop

(Oct 2009)

George and I left a little later than expected, but were on the road a little before 8am. We took the scenic route to Franconia Notch and it took almost 5 hours including several stops to eat, gas, and a few detours (dirt roads that dead ended, missed turns, etc). Since we were being drenched in torrential rains that were forecast to continue all day, there was no particular rush. Hiking Saturday was out of the question, and our main hike had always been planned for Sunday.

We arrived at Lafayette Place at around 1pm, checked the radar and waited for the first break in the rain to setup our tents. We just missed the best part of the rain free window but figured it wasn't going to get any better for hours when looking at the Doppler. After setting up in increasingly soaking rain, George and I took off for North Conway for some rain killing and last minute shopping.

The basic plan was to have a good meal Saturday night, and what better place than Moat Mountain smokehouse and brewery. So after a wet and harrowing drive over the Kancamagus Highway, which included rain, snow, ice and freezing temps at various elevations, we arrived in North Conway.

In the Northeast we have this thing called weather. It's not necessarily the worst weather by sheer numbers. For instance many places are colder, many are wetter, many receive more snow, many have stronger winds (although Mt Washington DOES hold the official record for highest recorded wind gust in the northern hemisphere), but what makes our weather so unique is the speed in which it deteriorates to the extremes.

After checking the latest higher summits weather report, which changed from temps in 40s and 25mph wind gust to highs in the 20s and 70mph wind gust, George was a bit worried that he might have been a little under prepared for the weather that had now been re-forecast. Fortunately, if you need gear then North Conway is the place to be. A quick lunch at Bangkok Café preceded scouring the anemic consignment shop at IME and Jim Jones clearance bin where George found some mittens, shell pants, and a neoprene face mask for less than $50.

Having killed plenty of rainy day time while shopping, we had worked up and appetite for the main course at Moat Mountain. Beer, steak, and a manly brisket chili all in honorary preparation for Sunday's Franconia Ridge traverse. As far as a chili brisket goes, can anything negative be said about a bowl of pulled beef in some liquid? Dinner was great, the beer was good, and we were back across the Kancamagus under continued downpours.

After a good nights sleep under continued rain, warming temps and increasing winds, we awoke Sunday morning to clearing skies and falling temps. A high pressure system with winds from the north was pushing in, clearing out the rain, and causing an inverted temperature profile.

Inverted temperatures are rare in the mountains, but the anomaly is such that instead of air getting colder as you increase in altitude (typically 3-4*F per 1000ft), it actually gets warmer as you go up. We saw this while driving back from North Conway across the Kancamagus Saturday night. The temperature actually went from the mid 40s in North Conway to over 50F at ~3000ft.

We started the Franconia Ridge traverse with temps in the mid 40s from Lafayette Place, crossing I-91 via the underpass, we started up the Bridle Path towards Greenleaf hut. George took the lead and set a nice pace. He hasn't hiked much and was out of shape, but including a breakfast break we made great time to 3000ft, and eventually to the Greenleaf hut at 4200ft.

Along the way to Greenleaf, starting at around 3000ft, there are some great views across to the Franconia Ridge, which the Bridle Path parallels for most of it's approach to the hut. It was fairly warm, and fairly windless at these rock outcroppings on the edge of the ravine. Looking across at the Franconia Range where the summits were under the clouds it was clear it was going to be an interesting day.

We spent way too much time messing around at Greenleaf, almost 40 minutes in total, we spent much time debating the actual temperature which was probably about 5 degrees above freezing. Finally back on the trail we lost some elevation and than began our ascent to the summit of Mount Lafayette. It was now getting progressively windier but still quite warm. We were in and out of cloud cover, as was the distant landscape. It was, as always, quite beautiful and surreal.

As we ascended above treeline the wind continued while the temperatures dropped. We met some hikers at around 4800ft descending with an injured member asking for some ibuprofen. While talking with them we inquired about the summit conditions, which they said were around 29F and windy. Another hiker had previously told us, “windy, but not knock you over windy, 40-50mph...not 70s or anything crazy...some rime ice but otherwise dry.”

As of that point the higher summits forecast was on the money, and it seemed like George was having some doubts. After all, assuming the forecast continued to pan out as promised, we had some rain/sleet followed by 70mph winds and continued falling temps on the way. We are talking wind chills approaching the single digits with hurricane force gust.

Finally, just below the summit, after filtering ice cold water in a spring/runoff, we met another hiker who had passed us while we were filtering. George asked him how the summit was, and he said he turned around just short of it; too windy, too cold. At this point George pretty much decided we were turning around at the summit, which of course I had no intention of doing. The winds were brutal, and it was cold, but neither of us was wearing all that much, and we were plenty warm. It was also dry, and the trail was mostly free of ice and snow. Basically as close to perfect as you find in these mountains, aside from the wind of course.

I convinced George that 1) we were up here to let nature beat the crap out of us 2) from the summit of Lafayette it was only about 1 mile (a fairly easy mile) less to just descend, while continuing across the ridge would be a lot more fun and marginally more difficult. 3) Even if the worst of the weather happened, we were fully prepared. He begrudgingly agreed to continue, but let me know he was sure we would not arrive at camp till midnight (and he was wrong), if we weren't killed on the ridge (obviously also wrong).

We geared up for the summit with thicker gloves and face protection. The winds were nasty, cold and blowing from the north at around a constant 50mph. There was freezing fog, and at times limited visibility. We took a few summit shots, and descended to the south with the wind at our back. Just as we dropped below the summit we saw two hikers sitting on the south side of Lafayette eating lunch in perfect calm. After a few words we walked 10m away and winds once again were pushing at our backs, but with much less force. Within a few minutes it was warm enough to remove my thicker gloves and my hat. The skies began to clear and conditions, while still variable, were greatly improving.

Other than the occasional bits of hail falling from the sky, the rest of the ridge was an enjoyable walk. The footing on the Franconia Ridge is easy, and the scenery makes the hiking a pure joy. We stopped for lunch just to the south of Lincolns summit. The winds had shifted by now, but were still mostly from the north. The skies were mostly sunny, and the views were virtually unlimited in all directions.

The rest of the ridge was uneventful other than seeing the barefoot hiker. I know people do hike barefoot, but I simply cannot imagine negotiating talus, and NH granite with my bare feet. Not to mention walking through mud and ice cold water.

The descent of the Falling Waters trail to complete our loop was as craptacular as expected. The Falling Waters trail is rooty, rutted, rugged and wet. The upper portion descends steeply, lacks views, and is dark and dank. The lower portion, while beautiful and scenic has several water crossings of Dry Brook. In low water this isn't an issue but with all the rain the lower trail was very wet, slick, and water crossings were high.

Just above the 150ft Cloudland Falls, we had to cross the brook. We were on a slick slab and George decided to throw himself down the slab while above me. In the process he took me out and we both almost slid off the slab and into the brook.

Having lost a lot of time dealing with the wetness, and slick nature of the trail, it was getting dark. We finished the 1/2 mile and 2 water crossings with headlamps.

We ran into a one last group, and they seemed a little confused, but I told them they only had 100 vertical feet till the trail head, and we were close. There was a spot the trail appeared to cross the brook, or continue on it's bank. I told George to wait while I checked it out, and then I called for him to come this way. I thought he heard me and started down the trail, turned out he didn't.

I arrived back at camp at 6:35, about 10h30m after we started, we climbed 4050 feet over 9.8 miles. At 6:45, after I'd changed my boots there was still no George at camp. 6:55 came and I knew there was no way he was that far behind. So I ran the half mile to the trail head where the couple that we passed were hiking out to. I asked them if they saw him, and they said he passed them and then started back up the Bridle Path. I was impressed; he was obviously feeling so good he decided to do it a second time. Then reality sank in, he was going in the wrong direction, which fortunately was mostly (entirely) up hill. I knew he would eventually figure it out, so I wasn't too worried. Still I ran up the trail calling out his name, and fortunately he'd figured out his mistake sooner than later.

And here lies a lesson for the kiddies: 1) never split up without clearly going over the plan 2) make sure everyone is carrying a map 3) make sure everyone is prepared to spend a night

I usually print out a map for everyone, but I forgot this time. Plus, I wasn't particularly worried since it was a simple loop hike. Because of the rushing water, George didn't hear me say “this is the right way, lets go.” However, he was fully prepared to spend a night out, and probably pretty comfortably at that.

Back at camp it was dinner time. My menu was Black bean soup with blue corn tortilla chips, reheated pad thai from lunch the previous day, Stove Top stuffing, and red wine. George had his trail comfort food of chicken and rice.

After dinner and a little down time relaxing under the stars till it was time to sack out.

I managed to get the last 2 innings of the Yankee game in my tent via my Palm Pre while roaming off Verizon. I found this ironic because George who has a Verizon phone couldn’t get service at all. Barely hanging on to the 12:01am clinching finale as the wind whipped, I was sound asleep by 12:02. I wouldn't wake up again till 8:30am, and after hitting the virtual snooze button for an 1 hour I was back to the land of the living at 9:30am.

After breakfast and drying our gear out we were off to hike a little peak south of the campground on our way back home. Mount Pemigewasset is a 2550ft peak with an open summit, and nearly 270* views of the surrounding mountainscape. The 3 mile round trip took us less about 1 hour 30 minutes, not including the 30 minute lunch at the top.

The trail up Pemigewasset is probably one of the worst trails in NH. Absolutely awful, it follows a creek bed, much of the way, and is extremely wet and hard to get a good rhythm going. On the descent I was tired of the abuse of my back and knees. The terrain was easier than the trail would suggest, so I cut cross country and mostly kept up with George who descends faster than me. Going off trail was drier, and softer, and I could get descent strides rather than tip toe between rocks.

Eventually I lost George and the trail, I then followed the creek contour down hill till the trail crossed it again close to the end of the trail. Hitting the trail wasn't a necessity but sort of important since it negated having to run across 4 lanes of highway to get back to the trailhead at the Flume Gorge visitors center. Including the bushwhack, I ended up finishing about a minute behind George.

Back on the road at 3pm we were home by 7pm, including 25+ minutes of stops.

All in all it was a good weekend, and physically my toughest weekend hiking in the mountains since early summer. Over 2 days we covered 12 miles and 12,000ft gained and lost over 12 hours of hiking. By no means record setting, or even noteworthy. Quite frankly the little hike on Monday was harder than the Franconia Loop which I rate as a beginner hike, with the caveat that it is so comparatively easy that you see vastly unprepared people hiking with nothing more than a single Poland Spring bottle. I know despite the great ridge top hiking, George was a little disappointed. I usually drag him up some semi technical scramble and this time we never had to use our hands.

Nevertheless, considering I've literally done nothing remotely exerting between July 2009 and early October 2009, while adding a solid point to my BMI, we covered a decent amount of ground, and had a good time. I hopefully gained a little more momentum towards regaining fitness so I can enjoy my time out there a lot more on future trips.

The hardest part of regaining your fitness is knowing that the first few weeks are going to suck big time. Your mind only remembers what you could do back then, your body only knows what you can do now. Retraining both isn't easy, but in a short time they meet somewhere in the middle, and eventually they trade places. Then you have to retrain your mind to realize it's not about what you can do now, but what you want to do.

I thought about Caney a lot up in NH, in part because I think the first hike he did in NH was the Falling Waters trail Memorial Day weekend 2000. While driving up Saturday on NH 25A we crossed a river access site, I thought about him and how he got in that cold water and lay down after we had a long, hot and hard weekend in the Northern Presidential's in June 2008. That weekend was just over a year ago, and he dominated the King Ravine trail (a trail the guidebook says is not recommended for dogs) on a 80F day with typically oppressive Northeastern humidity. A few months later I did it with humans without him because he was not 100%, although I wish he had come because he never really got to 100% again. That human partnered scramble took longer, there was more complaining, and they were undoubtedly less competent than my canine partner. While I've hiked with a lot of people elsewhere, I've logged more miles and had more crazy days in the White Mountains with Caney than anyone else.