Adventure Backpacking Interviews: From Overpacked Backpacker to Ultralight Peak-Bagging Machine - Daniel
Back with another exciting interview with one of my good friends Daniel. Again, these interviews are a little different than my normal trail guides or my how-to/tips posts, but I think you guys are going to love this interview I. I hope to add in even more stories and adventure backpacking interviews to She Dreams of Alpine as the site grows, because I think it’s so inspiration to hear other peoples stories to envision what might also be possible for ourselves and our own futures.
Before we dig into the interview with my friend Daniel(which is a video by the way) let me first give you a brief introduction…
When I invited my friend Daniel to join me on a backpacking trip to attempt a summit of a California 14,000 foot peak called Split Mountain, he showed up to the trailhead sporting at 42 lb backpack.
“Oh boy... that kid is going to HATE his life soon,” were the thoughts I was thinking (and expressing) to him when he pulled out his heavy-duty pack. We were about to hike up a trail that was about 1,000 feet of elevation gain per mile... (Read: Suffer-fest). He soon understood why I was emphasizing the fact the a lighter pack would be MUCH MUCH better. It's something we both laugh about now, because now he's even MORE ultralight than I am!
Just like last week, I thought it would be fun to share the story of my good friend Daniel's transformation via the outdoors. When we met, he was stuck thinking small (well except for his pack, which was not small). It hadn't even occurred to him that he could probably be doing even bigger things in the mountains... Until Split Mountain.
Daniel transformed from a overpacked-newer backpacker to an all-out peak bagging, mountaineering, solo backpacking machine. In get this... LESS. THAN. ONE. YEAR.
And so can you my friend. :)
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adventure backpacking interview featuring Daniel
transcription of video
You can also find a transcription of the whole video conversation below. There may be a few mistakes in the transcription, so please keep this in mind! Cheers!
Daniel: [inaudible 00:00:02] not going anywhere.
Allison: Okay. All right. This is my good friend Daniel, let me introduce you to my friend Daniel.
Allison: This is actually round two of us filming this because we filmed this earlier outside in the beautiful weather, and then we clicked ... It was a great interview and we clicked Stop Record and then their file was corrupt. I didn't prepare and I didn't ... Now I'm doubly recording, so we shouldn't have this issue, but we're also in my gear room now; this little corner is my gear room. That's a long back story and an introduction.
Allison: This is my good friend Daniel, and he's patiently doing a second interview with me, so he's the best, and I really appreciate it. But Daniel and-
Daniel: How [inaudible 00:00:57]?
Allison: Yeah, [crosstalk 00:00:57], so there will ... I was like, "You definitely deserve ... let's get a beer for this next one," then I walked to the fridge and I have no beer even, so I was like, "I'm really failing in friendship right now," like, I'm wracking some major IOUs in this interview.
Allison: But anyways, Daniel is one of my good friends and we actually just met not even a year ago. I think the first time that we met was ... We had both signed up for this volunteer event through our works to go volunteer at Yosemite.
Allison: That was a really fun trip. What do you think?
Daniel: Saving Yosemite.
Allison: Yes, saving Yosemite. It was funny because during that trip we actually were supposed to cut down trees, and I remember when we got our instruction we were like, "I thought we'd be planting trees or something." But they were like, "Oh no, we need you to cut down trees," and it was because-
Daniel: The conifers were invasive or something.
Allison: Yeah. Like in this meadow area, apparently these conifer trees grow really, really tall and it prevents the oak trees from being able to grow tall because they don't ... The conifers grow too quickly and they shade the area so that the oak trees can't grow. I'm sure I'm messing that description up a little bit, but it was something like that.
Daniel: That's exactly how it was.
Allison: So we bonded over killing trees.
Allison: Just joking. It was a really, really, really neat, like I love ... Every time I go to Yosemite, I'm just like-
Daniel: Why can't I cut down these trees.
Allison: No. I'm like, "Why can't I be here all the time." But anyways, it's also like being in these environments, it's a great place to meet new friends, and that's where I met Daniel and got to know Daniel a little bit more. During that weekend, I learned that he really enjoyed backpacking as well, and we were talking about some of the trips that you had gone on. I think you'd just gotten recently back from a trip or two before we met, or something, with one of your roommates.
Allison: Then I was ... I had made ... I had gotten these permits to do this California 14ner called Split Mountain. It's a class two 14,000 foot peak and I had really been looking forward to doing it; I had never done it before, I never even attempted it before. I couldn't convince anybody to go with me and I ... Michael had actually just recently torn his meniscus and so he couldn't go, and so I was looking ... I was on the hunt for some friends to go backpacking with, you could say, and he was fresh blood, so he didn't know that I enjoyed doing things that are hard and suffer-festy. And so I was like, "Oh, you like backpacking." I was like, "You want to go backpacking with me? I have extra permits." I hyped it up for sure. I was like, "It's a California 14ner."
Daniel: There's an escalator here.
Allison: I was like, "It's going to be great. It's supposed to be amazing." I mean, that's all true, but I also left out why ... I did, I think I said it would be hard.
Daniel: Yeah, and I'd never done a 14ner before.
Allison: Yeah, but you told me some of the mileages you've gone on and so I was like, "Okay, I think we can definitely do this. We can make it."
Allison: And he was down, so I dragged him along. And also I was like, "This will be the most epic 14ner to do as your first 14ner."
Daniel: Oh my gosh, yeah.
Allison: Because he hadn't done a 14ner yet.
Daniel: I had no expectation that I would summit.
Allison: Yeah. So, what were you thinking when I first invited you to-
Daniel: I was like, "There's no way ..." I'd only done 11,000-something feet, so I was thinking there's no way I'm going to summit. But I'd give it a try.
Allison: He's always got that "I will at least try" spirit, which is one of the things I like about Daniel the most. So, we went out to Split, so this were a couple ... I think it was a few weeks later.
Daniel: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Allison: After this Yosemite trip. We went to Split Mountain and the first challenge that we encountered was the drive, which-
Daniel: Getting to the trailhead.
Allison: Getting to the trailhead was a whole adventure in itself because it requires four-wheel clearance, and we took my jeep. Bless Daniel's heart, he beared with me because I wanted to take photos of everything because I wanted to write about it later.
Daniel: Right. "Look at these rocks in front of my car."
Allison: I was like, "We must document this," because there was literally no ... Nobody wrote about this trail because it's kind of little ... It's more obscure and there's not good information out there, and everything that we found out there on it was pretty old, like 2012 or older it felt like.
Allison: Well, [crosstalk 00:05:47], I guess it's not that old, but pretty old in the sense ... or it just wasn't very good. So we were sort of kind of like going off of very minimal information. Anyways, so we were surprised we made it to the trailhead, to be honest, because we had read some horror stories about what [crosstalk 00:06:06].
Daniel: Yeah, everything's washed out.
Daniel: [crosstalk 00:06:08] rocks.
Allison: And I'm not a huge ... Michael usually does all the four-wheel driving when I do it, and he has a [Miata 00:06:15].
Daniel: It's perfect for this [crosstalk 00:06:17].
Allison: He's not four-wheel driving very frequently. But anyways, we bonded over that, we went over some boulders. You always bond when you have to four-wheel drive [inaudible 00:06:25] because there's a lot of like, "Should I go over this rock or this rock? Do you think I'm going to bottom out here or there?" So, there was definitely some bonding there. And then we camped at the trailhead that night. And then, yeah, I think the next day we got started. I remember your pulled out your backpack and I was just like, "Oh-
Daniel: You were impressed.
Allison: One of the things that I like to do, and all my friends learn, is I always bring a scale with me when I go backpacking. I do this mostly just for fun because I already know what my backpack's going to weigh, I've already weighed it ahead of time. But I like to see like, "Hey, what does your pack weigh?" I like to weigh their packs and poke fun at them if it's too heavy. But I wasn't expecting how heavy yours was going to be. How much did your pack weigh?
Daniel: 42 pounds maybe.
Allison: 42 pounds. And mine was like 29 pounds. I just remember being like, "What do you have in there, Daniel?"
Daniel: You wanted to know what my secret was.
Allison: Yeah, I was like, [crosstalk 00:07:23] like cast iron skillets, [crosstalk 00:07:26].
Daniel: Yeah, a gallon of water [crosstalk 00:07:28].
Allison: So, we argued a little bit on that, but he was ... He'd been backpacking for a while so he was pretty sure he needed everything in there. It's funny because he's way more of an ultralight backpacker than me now, but at the time, I remember you felt like you needed all the things that you had in that bag.
Allison: I remember having that discussion with you.
Daniel: I need trowel that weighs one and a half pounds [crosstalk 00:07:52].
Allison: You were like, "This trowel will never break on me." And I'm like, "Well, my trowel is really light."
Daniel: I can cut wood with this trowel.
Allison: I was like, "You don't need to cut wood with a trowel." But anyways, I digress. That trip was one of ... like a very good trip. That first day was really hard. It was a very, very steep trail to-
Daniel: A thousand feet per mile.
Allison: Yeah, like a thousand feet per mile up to our campsite. And then we had plans to wake up really early in the morning.
Daniel: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Allison: We were going to summit Split Mountain the second day, and we followed our ... We woke up on time and we were making okay pace, but we weren't quite going as fast as we wanted to. Also, the trail's a little tricky to follow.
Allison: It's just a bunch of boulders and stuff.
Daniel: Then there was the rain forecast.
Allison: Yeah, so we made it up ... I mean, you probably don't know about Split Mountain, but there's this really crumbly steep cliff side, and one way is class two, but everything else is class three, class four, so you have to be really ... You have to know where you're going up or else you could end up on the wrong path. It took us a little while because I think we started going up the wrong [inaudible 00:09:09] at first, and then we kind of crossed over to the right [inaudible 00:09:13], so that took time because we had to backtrack a little bit. We were making slow pace. So, we ended up on the ridge line and I think we were about 700 feet, maybe a mile left in the hike, which feels like not very long, but the ridge was a little bit more technical to the very end. I think it was your first class two ...
Allison: Climb. And then I also knew that the forecast was going to be bad, and the clouds started to get bigger and darker.
Daniel: They were growing.
Allison: They were growing. And so I told Daniel, I was like, "I think we should turn around."
Daniel: [inaudible 00:09:50].
Allison: He was like ... He was riding the high of, "Oh my gosh, we're almost there."
Daniel: We're going to make it.
Allison: Like, "We're going to make it. This is so exciting," his first 14ner. I just totally came crushing down on his world and I was just like, "No, I feel responsible. I don't want to kill my coworker I just met ...
Daniel: It looks bad or something, I don't know.
Allison: ... on their first time." I feel like that looks bad. And so I was like, it was like, "I really think we should turn around," because the last thing we want to do is be on the summit of Split and then be in a bad situation where we have to rush down, because you don't want to rush down this kind of terrain.
Allison: And so we turned around, to his dismay. But he eventually came around, like-
Daniel: A few months later.
Allison: Yeah. He eventually realized that there was some wisdom behind what I was doing.
Daniel: That was my first 14ner and the person leading the trip is hesitating from ... I don't have a platform I can stand on to say, "Yes, we should actually march into the thunder clouds."
Allison: Yeah. And I'm always like, especially as I get a little bit older, I'm always more erring on the side of caution, it seems like. But anyways. But after that trip, you went on to go do some other exciting hikes and stuff. What did you do after our Split Mountain hike?
Daniel: Well, so I went and did Williamson a few weeks later.
Allison: By himself.
Daniel: By myself.
Allison: Yes, which is another 14ner, just to clarify [crosstalk 00:11:22].
Daniel: Yes. It's the second tallest 14ner after Whitney, and I had ... We were talking about this book for training, exercise, Training for the New Alpinism.
Allison: Training for the New Alpinism.
Daniel: That proved just absolutely crucial because I had never worked on my abs before, my core, my upper body, it's like, "Why do I need to do that? I'm just marching on the ground." But with Williamson, on later summits, it became quite helpful.
Allison: Yeah, that book in particular, it's a great ... I wouldn't say if you're just brand new to hiking and you don't necessarily have the drive to really get an intense workout or complicate your workout yet, it's maybe a little overwhelming at that point because it's a really big book, right?
Daniel: Yeah, 400 pages or something.
Allison: It has a lot of information in it. But if you do have that stoke and you want to take your backpacking or your climbing or your hiking to the next level, it ... I mean, it's called Training for the New Alpinism and it has a lot of climbing aspects to it, but it's also really great for hiking and improving your backpacking as well, that I think. It's one of the best books I've ever read on training. That's Training for the New Alpinism. Just repeating it. But yeah, so you went on to do Williamson.
Daniel: Yes. Yes, so I show up. It's like 6,500 feet trailhead, driving on dirt road with my Miata, just enough ground clearance, just enough.
Allison: Poor Miata.
Allison: One day, he'd get an adventure mobile.
Daniel: Probably not.
Allison: You'll just always have the Miata, a lifted Miata.
Daniel: Yeah, exactly. And so 6,500 feet, I went to Shepherd Pass at 12,000 feet. Those last few hundred feet, you know, you walked 15 feet, take a stop and you breathe for a minute, and then you go another 15 feet.
Daniel: I camped at Shepherd Pass, and then the next day there was a six mile loop that you do to Williamson, and that was ... I took as long as you could possibly take, so 14 hours, whatever. I got back around sunset. I learned that more than just having base camp and leaving your tent, [inaudible 00:13:35] ... But also, you shouldn't necessarily bring all this extra gear up the mountain.
Allison: Like minimal ... You'd want a little bit of emergency stuff with you, but-
Daniel: Yeah, definitely some things.
Allison: Yeah, you don't need this much.
Daniel: There were people who were just bringing water and snacks, and I had 30 pounds, and I was carrying it up the side of Williamson. It was at that point I realized I need to bring less stuff. It's too much.
Allison: Yeah, since there, morphed into a ... he became ... started having the ultralight mentality from that point.
Daniel: Yeah. Your initial jabs at me at Split [inaudible 00:14:13].
Allison: I made fun of him a lot. I was like, "Your bag's too big." I think I made you pull out everything at camp. I was like, "Let's look at everything in your gear." I was like, "You don't need that. You don't need that." And then-
Daniel: Builds character.
Allison: And then you were like, "I do need that." But then eventually, like yeah, Williamson. Like you said, you kind of like ... You eventually kind of learn what you do and you don't need, or you don't use, you know.
Allison: You're like, "Okay, I bring this every single time. I literally don't use it."
Allison: It's not to say that you don't have gear that you need for emergencies that hopefully you don't use; there's some things that you hope you don't use.
Daniel: Right, absolutely.
Allison: But you will still bring anyways. And then, so you've summited Williamson.
Daniel: I sure did.
Allison: He went solo, which wouldn't have been my recommendation for his ... for that 14ner in particular because it was a little bit more technical.
Daniel: There was some class three at the top.
Allison: Class three. But you made some friends along the way, so you were able to do that part with other people, which is good.
Daniel: Yeah, the summit there, I had summit buddies the whole time.
Allison: It was interesting because you had went from being this very traditional backpacker to starting to get a taste for the alpine, which was really neat to see you get really into that.
Daniel: Well, yeah. After Split Mountain, when we turned back.
Allison: Yes, [crosstalk 00:15:33] regret.
Daniel: Yes, hah. I was thinking to myself, "I really want to conquer this. I really want to summit this." It just kind of lit this little fire inside. It wasn't just, "Yeah, I'm just going to go hiking and take some photos." It was, "I want to summit this."
Allison: I love that, it totally drives me too. It's more than just ... Well, I love being in a beautiful place.
Daniel: It's nice.
Allison: I will do a trail just for it to be beautiful and enjoyable, those are definitely trips that I enjoy doing, but I also love doing the ones that push you a little harder, and push you to try out new skills. You're not quite sure if you will make it or not, you know, like-
Daniel: Yeah, the uncertainty.
Allison: Not you'll make it out alive, but you just don't know if you'll ...
Allison: ... make it to the top or not. You're like, "I don't know, but I'm going to have to just trust that I can do my best and I'm going to give it a shot." Then I had ... We became friends, because it was like, "Well, Daniel can hang."
Allison: So, we were going to go to ... I invited him to go do another 14ner with me that I couldn't find anybody else to go do it with.
Daniel: Well, it was even harder.
Allison: It's very hard to find people who want to go suffer in the mountains with you, and Daniel was [inaudible 00:16:49]. So you hang on to the people that you do find that like it.
Allison: One second, because my battery is dying on my ... We're going to take a momentary pause in this recording to fix the battery on my computer.
Allison: All right, we're back.
Daniel: We're back.
Allison: Yeah. I am full of ... Just obviously, I don't do this very often. Our first interview was so good and I'm just ruining everything afterwards, so I'm sorry. We're back.
Allison: We were talking about Middle Palisade and how I have no friends. No, I'm just joking. How Daniel is one of my few friends that actually likes ... enjoy to suffer in the mountains with me. And so we decided to go do Middle Palisade because I had permits. We knew that Middle Palisade would be more of a challenge.
Daniel: Oh yes.
Allison: Because it's class three and the route finding is a little bit more difficult than other peaks that I had attempted.
Daniel: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Allison: I'm not used to leading trips, and also that's a new skill for me. Usually when I've gone, I've gone with ... When I've gone on more technical alpine climbing routes, like I've gone with Michael and I've gone with people who are good at or better than me. There's a point where you're like, you're hiking with people who are better than you so always kind of feel like you're relying on them. And then when you transition to relying on your own skill, you're like, you know you can do it, but it feels different because you feel more responsible for the people you're with. And then you feel just you're making all the decisions, so it feels a little bit more tough. So, we were also ... We were going up there, and then now you've had ... You have Williamson under your belt.
Allison: So you were like ... I was like, "Okay, we've got this." But for some reason, we decided, and this is something I never advocate, but we did this anyway, so didn't follow my own advice, but we drove up the day, the same day ... From sea level, we drove up to the trailhead and started our hike the same day. And really, what I recommend if you're coming from the sea level like we are, is just spend a day at 6,000-ish feet.
Daniel: It helps.
Allison: Camping helps a whole lot to adapting to altitude. But we didn't do that.
Daniel: No, we were pressed for time.
Allison: We were pressed for time. So we made our way to ... Well, when we started, I started having bad altitude sickness, and it was also really hot that day, if I remember correctly.
Daniel: Yeah, it was warm.
Allison: Those were just some of the initial issues. I was going really slow because I was altitude sick, but I was like ... I kind of know myself. I know when I can keep going, and I felt fine to keep going. I just knew I need to hike slower. But then we also took a wrong turn at one point.
Daniel: We did.
Allison: Because we ... like, Daniel is really easy to talk to, and so we were talking, talking, talking, and I always keep my GPS on in the tracking, but I wasn't paying attention to it. At one point, I made a left turn and he followed me. I guess it's my fault.
Daniel: I'm just following the leader.
Allison: It really is my fault. I made a left turn and we just talking, talking, talking, then we start bouldering. And then we start doing more intense rock climbing routes and I was like ... I was like, "Daniel, hold on." And I like-
Daniel: This trail is pretty intense.
Allison: I was like, "This is getting a little ... I don't think we're supposed to encounter class three yet on this hike."
Daniel: On a trail.
Allison: I was like, "Maybe the trail has changed? Maybe there was rock fall and something happened?" So we thought maybe that was it, but then I looked at my GPS, and I realized we had gone off route. We've gone up this gully and that's why everything was really bad, crappy. And so we had to turn around. And so, we were already really behind because I was slow, because of the altitude sickness and the heat, and then we made a wrong turn. We ended up having to change our plans. Yeah, and we camped at what?
Daniel: [Bernard 00:20:55] Lake.
Allison: Yeah, we camped at Bernard Lake, and our initial plan was to camp at Finger Lake, which is really close to the base of Middle Palisade, which would've been our ideal, because then you can just wake up in the morning and then you're tackling the mountain essentially.
Daniel: Yeah, yeah.
Allison: Instead we were ... I don't remember how many feet or miles, but it's like a mile-ish away ...
Daniel: Yeah, like 800 feet below.
Allison: 800 feet below. So it's like, had to wake up extra early the next day.
Daniel: Right. Full of energy.
Allison: Yeah. Long story short, I was kind of bummed that of all these things that had happened, we were having a good trip, it was really beautiful.
Daniel: It was gorgeous.
Allison: Yeah, really, and there was not that ... We were one of the only people out there.
Daniel: Yeah, we practically had it to ourselves.
Allison: Yeah, we practically had Bernard Lake to ourselves. I think we ran across maybe one or two other groups that were day hiking, but mostly there was nobody out there and then ... I don't know. The next morning we woke up early and we went to the base of Middle Palisade. I think we got to the Glacier. Again, I made the call. I was just like ... I had gotten my head so much about how the things hadn't gone the way I wanted them to, like my checklist of perfecting ... like, being a perfect leader on this trip wasn't panning out. I started doubting myself being able to lead somebody, and I ... so that's all ... Like, it's really all part of it, like you think ...
Daniel: It's really mental.
Allison: Yes, it's very mental. And sometimes you think you've gotten over certain obstacles in your climbing or hiking life, and then you add in a new wrench, like being the [inaudible 00:22:40].
Allison: And then you realize you haven't gotten over things. It's the same with going solo, I imagine. Like, you are faced with having to make all the decisions yourself too, right? Because you do a lot of solo stuff.
Daniel: Yes, but I guess I've never felt ... There's a difference in that I never feel responsible for anyone.
Allison: For somebody else.
Daniel: Yeah, I've only ... When I did Split Mountain later, and I had a summit buddy, and I was more experienced than him.
Allison: Oh yeah. Then you felt responsible.
Daniel: I did feel responsible, but it wasn't ... I wasn't as compassionate as you are.
Allison: Well, you didn't know him either.
Daniel: Right, I had no idea who this person was.
Allison: You met him on the trail.
Allison: I was like, "I work with this guy. If I hurt him, then people are going to be upset."
Allison: [crosstalk 00:23:28] be bad. But anyways, we turned around on Middle Palisade. This last year in the mountains, it humbled me a little bit, because I had to make some hard decisions and not summit the peaks when I wanted to. And yeah. But then it was really interesting because Daniel got the stoke, really hard for alpine climbing and summiting 14ners. The next thing I know, he just starts pounding off all these different 14ners and like ... What did you go do after that? Okay, so you did Split.
Allison: You went back and did Split.
Daniel: Yeah, [crosstalk 00:24:08].
Allison: [crosstalk 00:24:08] Middle Palisade, right?
Daniel: Yeah, I came back and I went ... After we left Middle Pal, we went to that Eastside Sports place?
Allison: Yes, exactly.
Daniel: And you were pointing out some great shoes?
Allison: Yeah. We had been talking on that trip, like it might've been better if he had some better shoes, so it might've ... It was good maybe that we didn't do Middle Palisade the day that you [crosstalk 00:24:25].
Daniel: I had the wrong shoes for that trip, absolutely.
Allison: It's more like it'd be better to have grippy shoes, so we went to that Eastside Sports right after we walked back down to the car. And you bought them on the spot.
Daniel: Boom, yeah.
Daniel: I went back to Middle Palisade a couple of weeks later and I had ... I was in better condition from ... I was really hitting the gym really hard, and now I had my perfect shoes. I was able to summit. The things didn't go exactly according to plan, but I did make it to the top and back.
Allison: It was amazing. Again, he did it solo, which I'm always hesitant on these more technical peaks. But he did it, he's alive, he's here.
Daniel: That's right.
Allison: But you learned some important lessons on Middle Palisade. Do you want to talk about that a little bit?
Daniel: Yes. Every time I've done a peak solo, or where I was leading it, I walked away with a life lesson, which is not something you can say about every experience that you have.
Allison: Yeah, the mountains are like that a lot.
Daniel: Yeah, so when ... I camped at Finger Lake and I picked up a summit buddy, and so on the day that we go ... We get to the red-rock route, which is the easy class three route, going up the easiest route. And we see the red rock and we're not ... and we think, "Okay, well, that's where we go up." We didn't even check our GPS to make sure that's actually it, because it's not actually it. You go up the route immediately to the right to it. But we went up the red rock, which was actually class four. So we're halfway up. My summit buddy goes, "Mmmm, yeah, no," and he turns around, like, "Well, I'm going to just go a little bit further."
Daniel: Check this out. So I go a little bit further, I pop out and I see the class three route, "Wow, that looks way easier." So I just kind of traversed over there and get into the class three route, spend the next three hours just using my whole body, my legs, and my arms, and my core especially, basically rock climbing up the side of this class three slope. Williamson has a hundred feet of class three at the very top. Middle Pal has a thousand feet pretty much from the bottom to the top, it's all class three.
Allison: It's a full on commitment.
Daniel: Yes, it was an enormous, enormous workout. So I get to the top, encountered day hikers, which was mind-blowing, and then I start my descent. And I can't find my way off the mountain because I went up the class four route and I can't down climb class ... I couldn't down climb class four. But I didn't know that. So I'm looking for the route, like, "Where is it? Where is it?" And my GPS is telling me that, "Oh, well, you're 80 feet from the edge of the mountain." I'm like, "How's that possible?" So I up climb to where I can look down and I confirm that yes, I'm at the edge of the mountain. How do I get off? So I had tracks on my GPS, so I'm basically following the steps, step for step, walk 10 feet check, walk 10 feet check. And I get to this chute and I'm like, "That can't be it." And I'm checking the GPS and like, "This is it. This is the class three chute," and it was so much easier. Class three is so much easier than class four.
Allison: So you went up the class four ...
Allison: Unknowingly. So he wasn't checking his GPS on the way up, but he checked it on the way down.
Daniel: Yes. Once I realized that I wasn't getting off the mountain, and now I learned on summit day, you don't have time to spare. You have to get off in a certain timeframe.
Allison: You don't want to be stuck. You don't want to be stuck on something like that.
Allison: And it'd get dark on you because there's ... Really, you're going to be stuck. You're going to have to hang out on the mountain until you can see.
Daniel: And it gets cold.
Allison: I mean, I guess you could try, if you headlamp and stuff, but it would be dangerous.
Daniel: Right. I wouldn't want to down climb class three in the dark.
Daniel: Even with headlamp.
Allison: That's why it's also ... It's really important to get to the summit before ... If you know there's going to be bad weather, like before the weather, so you can get off the summit before the weather. And same with the time. You have to be very aware of your time. That's why it's good to set hard deadlines of when you turn around, because you're like, "It's taken me this long to get up." Sometimes down can take you even longer.
Allison: I don't know, what, if it took you longer to get down?
Daniel: It took me two extra hours.
Allison: To get down?
Daniel: Because I basically got lost on the mountain. So I get down, the sun's setting, and I walked back, hiked back with the headlamp and my GPS. It was a very unique experience because in the day, you can just see where it cliffs out, so you don't walk over there naturally. But in the dark, you don't know that. So you just meander off your GPS a little bit and you cliff out, and you're like, "I need to go back," and get back on the trail again apparently.
Allison: While I'm not satisfied that he did that by himself, you learned a lot, and you're a better climber and hiker now because of that.
Allison: It taught you a lot of things. I remember you telling me everything, you're like, "I learned so many hard lessons from that trip."
Allison: I was like, "Yes, definitely do those things."
Daniel: Yeah, cool hard knocks.
Allison: I mean sometimes, I mean it is good to ... Daniel knows really well how to use his GPS, and that's a skill he's learned beforehand, so fortunately he's able to lean on that skill when he needed to. But there's some choices we could've made beforehand that maybe would've prevented the panic, I guess, at the top, right? Which you've learned now.
Allison: So you did Middle Palisade. Did you do any other 14ners [crosstalk 00:30:12]?
Daniel: After that, I went back and did Split, and then I did Tyndall. Those were all in three weekends backpacking.
Allison: So he got the bug hardcore. Before we move on into where you've gone to next, just tell us a little bit about how did you even get started? What did you even ... What drew you to backpacking and outdoor adventure in general?
Daniel: I came from Houston.
Allison: I came from Houston too.
Allison: This is why we're friends.
Daniel: In Houston, there is not any backpacking to do. Whereas California, there is a tremendous amount of backpacking, so it just seemed like this is something I should take advantage of while I'm here no matter ... just regardless of anything else. I already had some gear, and went out on a hike to [Threader 00:31:01] Peak, it's like 10,000 feet. It's basically a pile of rock on top of a hill, something special. And I go out there in Sequoia National Forest and I hike, and I'm hiking and I see the peak, and I'm walking by it, and I realize that I've not taken a turn or something, and I pull out my directions and there's some [inaudible 00:31:22] that I was supposed to have turned at. I didn't know what [inaudible 00:31:25] were.
Allison: What did you call it earlier?
Daniel: [inaudible 00:31:28].
Allison: [inaudible 00:31:28]?
Daniel: [inaudible 00:31:29].
Allison: [crosstalk 00:31:29]. In our first interview, he called them [crosstalk 00:31:32]. I was like, "Wait, [inaudible 00:31:34]?"
Daniel: Yeah, tomato, tomato.
Allison: [crosstalk 00:31:37]. So yeah, the [inaudible 00:31:40] thing.
Daniel: Yeah. And since it was my first hike, to me, it was like I was not going to get off the trail and just start hiking, because I had no confidence that I could get back to the trail.
Allison: Which is smart.
Daniel: Yeah, I thought so.
Allison: As a brand new hiker.
Daniel: Right. Like, "Yeah, let me just go off trail and hope I can make my way back." So I turned around, I went home. Bought a GPS.
Allison: Learned how to use a GPS.
Daniel: Learned how to use the GPS. Then [inaudible 00:32:08].
Daniel: And then I came back the next weekend and summited.
Allison: That's awesome.
Daniel: Yeah, it was good.
Allison: And then you were like, "I want to do more of this."
Allison: Or your roommate had ...
Daniel: Yeah, my roommate backpacks as well.
Allison: Okay. Did he have backpacking gear that he let you borrow it first, or did you ... just like you were all in? You were like, "I know I like this," and you just bought gear.
Daniel: I had gear for hiking.
Daniel: After that, after I did a few hikes, I started buying gear for backpacking, "Oh, I guess I need a sleeping pad," or something.
Allison: It's kind of like ... I feel like usually you just know. You're like, "I know I will like this," because I was kind of the same way. I mean, I had never backpacked before. My friend invited me backpacking and I was like, "Well, this is the time I buy backpacking gear because this is going to be my new life." I had just decided in mind. I was like, "I'm going to be an outdoorsy person. I would like that, I think." I don't know. So I bought all the gear immediately. I mean, not all the gear. I definitely had some pretty crappy ...
Daniel: Spaced out a little bit.
Allison: Yeah, like wearing whatever clothes I thought I could manage without upgrading, but you know how that goes. So, what has been one of your favorite memories from backpacking in these trips over ...
Daniel: I would say that summiting Middle Palisade was a tremendous experience because, at least compared to my other summit being Williamson, it was so different. All the mountains around it had such ... were so sharp, they had so much contrast, everything. It was the closest I'd ever come to crying tears of joy.
Allison: Tears of joy.
Daniel: Mind you.
Allison: See, I've cried many times on the summit. Not usually tears of joy. Tears of like, "Dear God, why am I here." No, I'm just kidding. But I have cried on the top summit, at least two or three times. Usually 14ners.
Daniel: It's emotionally cleansing, I imagine.
Allison: You're just exhausted. You're like [crosstalk 00:34:14]. That's great.
Daniel: With Middle Palisade just being so different from anything else I'd done before, it was ... and it was also one of those ones where it was a lot of type one fun, and there wasn't a whole lot of type two fun. Yes, it was a slog, but I was in really good condition for that, so it wasn't ... It wasn't like, "Oh my gosh, how am I going to get through this? When is this going to be over," sort of thing. It was like, "All right, I'm getting to use all this training that I've been doing for months and months."
Allison: There's a really gratifying feeling in that, like feeling like ... Or when you do train, and then you feel strong, and you go out to do the thing, like there's such a big difference in going out there and just knowing that you can do it and you slog through it because you're like, "I know I can do this." But when you train, you feel strong, and you're just like ... You're pounding it out and you just feel like nothing can stop you.
Allison: That's a great feeling.
Daniel: Yeah. Gaining 6,000 feet in a day and you're not even tired at the end of it. That's something.
Allison: Yeah, and then standing on the top of summit and seeing beautiful mountains in the distance. It doesn't hurt.
Daniel: It helps.
Allison: Well, what's been really awesome also is Daniel has sort of ... I guess it was funny because summer was coming to an end and he was talking to me about how he doesn't want to stop [crosstalk 00:35:39].
Allison: He's like, "I'm in such good shape. How do I keep in good shape so that I can do doing this next summer."
Daniel: Backpack in the winter.
Allison: And I was like, "Well, we climb in the winter," so we do a lot of climbing, but he really wanted to take his backpacking skills to the next level. And so you started learning mountaineering and ski touring, right?
Allison: Ski touring, is that the right word for it?
Allison: Ski touring and back country skiing and stuff like that, which actually ... I like mountaineering, so I have done a bit of mountaineering in my past. I don't do it as much recently.
Allison: Just because the climbing is so good in the winter in California that it's really hard to do all the things, so we've been climbing a lot more lately. But I do love mountaineering. But I've never done the ski ... back country skiing. How has that whole learning process been for you?
Daniel: It's all been very incremental. We were talking about it, it was, "Well, okay. First, I just want to keep backpacking throughout the season," so I bought all this warm weather gear, snow shoes, what have you. And then it was, "Okay, route planning is a bit difficult in the snow because of variable snow conditions, and snow shoes don't react very well in powdery conditions and things like that." With skis, it's like, "How do I make sure I get back to work on Monday." So the skis, that becomes much less of a problem because if it's icy, if it's powdery, it doesn't really matter generally. You can still do the same mileage regardless of the snow conditions. So that was why I wanted to do ski touring, because I'd done Big Pine North Fork, I'd done it three times now trying to get to the Palisade Glacier. And I'm going to try one more time, well, I'll make it there.
Allison: Before the season ends?
Daniel: Before the season ends, yeah.
Allison: And you've done ... So you did that. You've been building your skills basically this winter.
Allison: You've been doing the snowshoeing in the winter, camping, and you've been getting better lighter gear, and four season gear. And then you recently did Mount Whitney, the mountaineer's route on Mount Whitney, which is a great, great mountaineer's route, or great mountaineering route.
Allison: Then you do a ski touring trip.
Daniel: Next weekend [crosstalk 00:37:58].
Allison: The next weekend after that. He's been on a freaking roll, just crashing it in the mountains, and it hasn't like ... The thing that's been amazing is that it hasn't even been a full year. I just want to put that into perspective to somebody who thinks it's going to take a long time to learn these things. It's like, "No. You just have to have the stoke and the burning desire to keep learning and to keep pushing yourself," and you really can transform yourself from being like ... I mean, you said you started day hiking, it was maybe a year before we met, right?
Allison: So two years, and now you're doing crazy stuff that you probably never would've imagined.
Daniel: Right. It was after did our ... or attempted Split, that was when the rate of ... the trajectory kind of increased a little bit. Before I was like, "Yeah, I'll just go hiking," whatever, go backpacking. But now, it became how far can I take this.
Allison: Like you're just ... opens up ... Split kind of gave you the curiosity to be like, "What else can I do that I haven't thought of about doing."
Daniel: Yeah, like hmm hmm ...
Allison: Yeah, what else am I capable of? And that's really awesome. Let me see, I just have my notes here. So, what do you feel is driving you to keep doing bigger things in the mountains?
Daniel: I've known myself for a while, longer than most people, and I know that at some point, I'm going to fall off the wagon and not be doing this anymore, and so it's part in recognition of that, it's-
Allison: You know you're going to fall off the wagon?
Daniel: I know I'm going to fall off the wagon.
Allison: We're different in this way because I'm like, "I will never stop doing this."
Allison: No. I'm going to be one of those old people in the mountains with 10 dogs and llamas maybe, hiking in the mountains until I have no knees to do it. But I will write letters with photos to my friend Daniel who fell off the wagon.
Daniel: Right, exactly, like that looks so fun.
Allison: Basically you're saying that you want to take advantage of the now?
Daniel: Because I don't know how long I'll be in California. I don't know how long I'll have interest in it. For me, it's kind of that as long as I am constantly trying something different or basically improving, I know that I won't fall off the wagon, and that's ... So you just kind of push to your next level. It's when I plateau and I'm just doing the same thing ...
Allison: You get bored?
Daniel: I might get bored. There's more possibility for it.
Allison: We're different. But it's been awesome to see you have that drive you to ... because you've done some big things with it.
Daniel: It's been a fun experience.
Allison: Okay. We're getting to the 45 minute mark-ish, and so I want to ask you. If you were to give somebody who's new to outdoor adventure or new to backpacking, wants to get started, what would be your biggest piece of advice for them?
Daniel: I guess two things for me was having someone to show me like, "Hey, a 14ner isn't really that intimidating," because I wasn't ... My friend Joe was great.
Allison: Your friend Joe.
Daniel: I'm kidding, it was you.
Allison: I was like, "Wait, who's Joe?"
Daniel: Having someone who can show you that it's not as scary as you think it is, is invaluable. But then after that, when I was starting to do winter backpacking, I didn't have a mentor or someone to show me the way. It was just me.
Allison: I failed him. I was like, "I'm climbing."
Daniel: Right, yeah. Thanks Allison.
Allison: I was like ... He kept inviting me on these miserable sounding negative 10 degree camping trips and I was like, "Tempting, but the weather in Bishop is good right now."
Daniel: Type two fun.
Allison: "So I'm going to be climbing."
Daniel: You know you want it.
Allison: But yeah.
Daniel: So, it was building on my previous experience in backpacking, doing baby steps, incremental gains. That allowed me to venture off in a new area that [inaudible 00:42:17] want to show me exactly how to do it. But also, the consequence of getting it wrong isn't all that great in the sense that, "Okay, this trip, it's going to be 10 degrees colder than last time." If I was ready for what I experienced last time, I'm not really putting myself in a dangerous position, whereas if I'd only experienced 30 degree weather and I'm like, "Let me go try negative 10," you know, I mean, things might not go so well for me.
Allison: Yeah. So, when you're starting out, it's like some people use the excuse of not having anybody to show them [inaudible 00:42:51], there's a reason why they shouldn't keep pursuing what they want to learn. I feel like that's the biggest mistake. You have to start doing the thing you want to do, even if it's baby steps, like you said. Even if it's just ...
Daniel: [crosstalk 00:43:06].
Allison: ... taking it one extra step further than you've done before, you keep making progress, because the only way you're going to get to be the person that you want to be, which is a badass mountaineer person or whatever your dream is, I don't know.
Daniel: You [inaudible 00:43:23] on a T-shirt.
Allison: Badass mountaineer person.
Allison: Then you just have to keep learning your skills and with ... And he understood also as far as mountaineering goes, he needed to learn extra skills, maybe from somebody else, and he's took guided tours to learn those skills because it was very important to learn those skills correctly.
Allison: And you do want to make sure you're doing it right. But there's no reason you can't ever make forward progress, and your excuse that you don't have somebody to mentor you should never be an excuse. There's always a way to learn more and build your skills and get better.
Allison: I think that's a great lesson. We hope that this one actually records because we're not going to be recording a third video.
Daniel: Fingers crossed.
Allison: I want to thank Daniel for doing this twice with me and we actually ... This is a shorter ... We did a shorter interview this time than last time, so people you'll just ... Unfortunately, well, nobody will know the first interview. It was so good but-
Daniel: [crosstalk 00:44:22] how good it was.
Allison: Anyways. Thank you guys for tuning in, and thank you Daniel for ...
Daniel: Thank you for having me.
Allison: ... being on here on my video interview in my gear room.
Daniel: I look forward to the royalty checks.
Allison: Yes, [crosstalk 00:44:35]. I always [crosstalk 00:44:36] the royalty checks [inaudible 00:44:38]. Have a good night you guys.
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Allison - She Dreams of Alpine