FIELD REPORT: 001
One afternoon in August as I was warming up in my van after a Pacific Northwest surf session, I got a call from my friend Allen back in Pennsylvania.
“Hey man, remember that Alaska to Patagonia trip? We’re gonna leave the beginning of May, with or without you. You in or you out?..”
I grew up with my two friends, Allen and Jeremy, in rural Pennsylvania and have known them as long as I can remember. We’ve shared some wild memories from the hot doggin’ days of our adolescent youth. Everything from street racing to pepper spray- there’s definitely a couple stories that we’ll keep under the rug for a little while longer. For years, we’d been talking about ripping dual sports from the top of North America to the bottom of South America, but had always waited to pull the trigger until the stars aligned. Allen was finishing up his mechanical engineering degree, Jeremy was probably still in Africa, and I had moved to the West Coast.
It was the call I had been waiting for!
I had been living in my van for the past 3 years, surfing, climbing, and camping on the west coast from California to Canada. I was planning on spending the winter/spring season working at Mt Baker, living in a parking lot and shredding my brains out in fresh pow, but of course, my plans instantly changed. The three of us have been stoked on climbing, and more recently mountaineering, and decided to climb as much as we could along the way. I had been in Alaska two years prior, and while trekking around the Ruth Glacier Gorge I had sworn that I would return and climb the tallest mountain in North America, Mt Denali. No better time than now, I thought. After a team pow wow and a phone call with a good friend, Sterling Taylor, we decided to give it a go, thanks to Sterling’s willingness to act as our guide.
The Pan American Trail had just become official. First things first, we started hunting for our noble steeds, the mighty DR650. Seasoned craigslist pros, Allen and Jeremy found theirs before too long. I sold my current bike, a ’91 DR350, and found a ’96 DR650 in Southern California on eBay. I dropped the guy a down payment, caught a flight south, and mobbed 1,100 miles up the coast back to Oregon with a blown out shock and rain and snow on my tail.
To increase our chances of success on the mountain, we committed to and reserved our climbing permits for May 20th – June 10th, a window of weather that we presumed would be ideal. That didn’t give us much time to prepare, and with the beginning of the trip fast approaching, we kicked it into 5th and started wrenching on our bikes, attempting to prepare them for the long and brutal haul ahead. Stock as a bone and boasting 11k original miles, I bought my DR650 for $1600, and after arriving back in Oregon I immediately got to work on her.
However, due to time constraints we focused on the bare necessities as far as upgrades go. To help our suspension with the weight of our climbing and alpine gear, we upgraded front and rear springs thanks to Eibach Performance Springs. We rebuilt our shocks, each painted our bikes according to our personal preference, and worked on a custom leather pannier and tank bag design for our moto luggage.
While Jeremy and Allen were in Pennsylvania cranking out 60 hour work weeks and dialing in their bikes, I was dealt some curveballs in the form of roasted bottom ends. My ’76 VW van, which also functions as my home, toasted a motor in Tofino, Canada and led me on a wild goose chase for the next few months as I begrudgingly dumped resources into the bottomless aircooled pit. The very resources that I was intending to save for the upcoming motorcycle trip. Originally I had planned to drive my van to Alaska early with dual sport in tow, work on a fishing boat, and meet Jeremy and Allen somewhere around Anchorage. As I worked to rebuild my 40 year old motor, my luck continued to run out and the trip was fast approaching. Unable to fix the van in time, I ended up flying back to Pennsylvania to train for Denali with my team and organize the millions of details that reared their ugly heads.
While in Pennsylvania, the preparation for the trip felt like a whirlwind. In between working 60 hour weeks to save the cash, physical training for Denali (running and climbing), organizing the details of the trip, working on the bikes, and preparing the gear for the climb, each of us had our plates full.
In preparation for Denali, we did a winter traverse of the Presidential Mountain Range in New Hampshire. 18,000 feet of elevation change in 22 miles, 70mph winds and -30 temps was as close as we could get to experiencing the conditions that would face us on the mountain. A series of 8 summits, we finished in 3 chilly and strenuous days.
Due to the cold, my film became extremely brittle and ripped inside the camera, ruining most of the photographs. Here’s a couple light-leaked film shots and a few digital images from the traverse.
Coming next: Alaska