How High Have You Climbed? Mt. Kilimanjaro

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Humans push their limits. It’s in our DNA. Maybe that’s what Adventure is?

If anyone is considering climbing a big mountain, consider Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania East Africa. It’s one of the 7 summits, maybe a good one to start on. If you’ve skied in Colorado, you’ve come close.

Getting there is simple- we chose Delta to Amsterdam, then a 9 hour flight to JRO Kilimanjaro Airport and a 40 minute drive into Moshi. Mt. Kilimanjaro (19,341ft) towers over Moshi (3,000ft). It’s powerful to be sitting in the heat of the Union Cafe in Moshi, while contemplating Kili’s ice so closeby.

Unlike a lot of other mountains which are peaks, or shoulders of other peaks, in a long ridge, Mt. Kilimanjaro juts up (almost) on its own out of the savanah. Elephants and zebras over there, glaciers right up there. Just south of the equator.

One problem: there is about half as much oxygen at 20,000ft as at sea level. Don’t get winded or start gasping for breath. Luckily you don’t have to be an Olympic athlete, you can just 1/ acclimatize and 2/ go very slowly. Diamox helps too.

Endurance athletes with onboard oxygen are running up Kili in under 9 hours. We took 8 days. It’s a very cool place to hang out. And the guides and porter are likewise good guys and gals. I’m sure there are problems, but we booked with African Scenic- owned by an Australian married to a Tanzanian. They understood managing customer expectations and logistics as well as anyone we’ve met in the tourism business. They have a good website and are very responsive. We recommend them highly.

There are various world class game parks within a half day drive of Moshi, including Serengeti and Tarangire. Big African animals are in abundance, excluding the rhino- they are around but hard to find. Day or multi day trips are easily arranged, either booked ahead or spontaneously while there. The guides get as excited as anybody when they spot new animals to view.

Zanzibar and Dar-es-Salaam are an hour flight away. They are much more urban, beach inspired versus the mountain and big game focus of Moshi. We didn’t go. It was fun to just hang in Moshi (and recover from walking down from 19,000′ to 5,000′ in 10 hours).

Like someone who has seen the movie you are lined up for, this is deliberately vague.

Is the mountain impressive? Yes, it’s huge but well worn. Kili is a gigantic stack of calderas one on top of the next. It must have been quite the volcanic show way back. But there is no climbing or scary stuff on most of the routed treks. The final push to the summit is still just a walk. Pole, pole!

Is there ice? Yes, lots of 40-60′ deep, glowing blue glacial remnants. But no sulphur or gas smell, the mountain is dormant.

Should you expect cold on top? Definitely. You’ll start off in the tropics, but for the summit push you’ll need good base layer, fleece, down sweater, rain shell with hood, winter gloves, rain or ski pants, a toque, a warm sleeping bag.

What other gear should you bring? The Diamox pills will make you pee so take it first thing in the am, and if you’re lucky you’ll only get up once at night. Headlamp is imperative, bring spare batteries. I felt safer with my Steripen. Check the various gear lists online. Sun block and lip balm for altitude. Hiking poles are useful going up, but necessary coming down.

We started our climb of Kilimanjaro on Christmas Day and summited on New Years Eve, 2015. We returned in good shape, with a bit of a sunburn and legs ready for skiing, and a much better understanding of the challenges facing our new friends in Tanzania. Thank you Ami, Doudi, Moses, Sam, Eman and Thomas! You are welcome in the Great White North any time.

Vikings

The Vikings were the greatest northern civilization the planet has ever seen.

The Vikings were our kind of folks. They adventured all over their world, from Newfoundland to central and southern Russia, the entire UK, from the Arctic to the Middle East. We have a soft spot for adventurous travelers, and the Vikings were inspirational!

While the Vikings, both men and women, were great horsemen, they were also amazing sailors. Sailing from Norway to Newfoundland well over 1000 years ago was an incredible accomplishment.

As we explore the Norse civilization, we are also fond of the Viking’s taste for fish and mead drinks, appreciation of fine music, crafts, and artisan metalwork- especially the axes and swords! We love their respect for unique Viking traditions and beliefs that carry on even today.

Valhalla Pure Outfitters was born next to the Valhalla Range in southern BC.  In the surrounding country, Norse peak names are frequent. The conditions in our inland rainforest alpine are lush and spectacular, but the weather can occasionally be punishing and cruel.

Like the Vikings, we appreciate good gear- top to bottom, inside and out. We seek and support brands that craft solutions from around the world and design innovative, ground breaking products we can offer forward with confidence. We push the leading edge of the outdoor gear arms race.

You will see “Welcome to the Valhalla Kingdom” signage in our stores and on the website. The Valhalla Kingdom is not a specific place or time- it’s an attitude that values Adventure for its own sake, a theme inspired by the ancient Vikings, and a state of mind honoring Nature’s profound elegance, reborn deep in the Selkirk Range of British Columbia.

David Harley

New Denver, BC

Taking the path less traveled makes all the difference

Valhalla Pure Outfitters is set up unlike any other outdoor retailers on the planet.

Each shop is locally owned. And each owner and staff organically respond to their local culture, and buy uniquely. Believe me- the cultural differences between towns in BC and AB are amazing.  Revelstoke and Red Deer, Victoria and Medicine Hat- way different. Which is really, really cool.

All VPO shops are likewise similar but different. After 10 years of morphing into each individual market, brands and categories may differ but there is a familiarity to VPO store policies, how our staff are somehow both chill and really well informed, the vibe is small town, and specialized to outdoors. Even our big VPO shops know their core customers by name, conversations get picked up from the last visit. It should be fun, right?

Having owners in the shops, directing the traffic and responding day to day makes a huge difference. Most chains are pyramidal- layers of “command and control” rise to the top of the pyramid, just like the military. But at VPO, our decision makers and folks with primary responsibility aren’t in a distant office- they’re in your town, down the street. Our org chart looks more like a bike wheel than a pyramid- Head Office at the center provides IT and Online coordination, but each spoke connects the real decision makers in the stores. Or maybe a donut?  Either way- but not “command and control”.

Our shared IT is critical- it’s the 21st century- innovating is key. Our home-baked (and amazing!) software is self designed for our weird organizational structure. Gift Cards, Adventure Bucks, product pricing, and Warranties are shared, but secured behind permission access. Online order fulfillment is a shared group effort between Head Office staff and each and every VPO store- sometimes parts of an order will be shipped to a customer from 4 different VPO shops. Because our IT is slick, our staff have time to write notes to put in boxes, and if you call in, you can chat up our staff.

Keeping track of 50,000 SKUs is tough- but comes with bragging rights. VPO.ca has the largest outdoor selection available in Canada. We match or beat the big guys every day, and our customers earn Adventure Bucks on every purchase, all the time- that’s like icing on the cake.

Even though we’re small, we’re way more agile and way more customer- centric. We believe our systems and our philosophies are the way you would want us to do business – not just great product at great prices- but because we’ll assist you make better choices in a chill relaxed manner. And we’re your neighbours. And we’re not putting the squeeze on to jack our stock options- we don’t have any!

The Valhalla Pure org chart may be how NOT to do it in some circles, but we’re proud of how well it seems to be keeping us focused on our customers and helping them out.  And that makes all the difference.

David Harley

New Denver, BC

Trust.

Trust.

synonyms: confidence, belief, faith, certainty, assurance, conviction, credence

Hmmm. Credence sounds interesting.

When we find something on the Internet, do we trust it to be true? Are we confident?

That’s a hot subject right now. Sometimes it seems more than half of what I view, within a couple months turns out to be either false, fake, deliberately biased and manipulative, or just irrelevant.

Today’s modern journalists are renown for not only failing to check their facts, but also deliberately using misleading titles in order to have their articles found by search- ranking higher on search is how the media gets paid- not by truth. Huffington Post, Rolling Stone and Fox News are very profitable, but can also be considered highly suspect sources of misinformatIon and downright fabrications- all to grab attention online.

The media problem is sooo pervasive, combined with 24/7 government surveillance of private email, cell phones, your GPS location and behavior patterns, surely the Internet is having its own authenticity undermined. For some people, who invest sooo much of their time online, they feel loss of privacy, vulnerability, isolation and loneliness. Once trust is lost, there goes confidence, belief, conviction.

Three big brands that have also recently destroyed their brand’s trust are VW, FIFA and the NFL.

Does anyone believe that professional soccer and football, and diesel engines from VW are not dishonest and corrupt? Maybe the diehards are hanging in there, but the mass majority has moved on to trust other things.  There are lots of additional examples:  politicians and their political parties, lobbyists, celebrity lawyers, Monsanto, Scientology…

There is easy money to be made on the Internet misleading and manipulating people because anywhere you click is worth money. In our personal lives, we can likewise attract a lot of attention online. But for a young teenager who makes some mistakes, negative consequences can last a lifetime.

My kids call some of today’s most visible online personalities “attention whores”. Sure, it attracts the clicks and therefore pays, but their end is often loneliness and loss of trust and respect by their friends, family and wider audience.

 

Trust doesn’t scale…

Bigger is often considered better in business, education, government, athletics- bigger means more management, more financial rewards, more talent retention, more financial critical mass.  But “Trust” doesn’t scale- the bigger an organization grows,  the less people trust it.

Here at Valhalla Pure, we find “trust, assurance, authenticity and credence” outdoors. It’s that easy. Go for a walk, a hike, a ski, or a stand up paddle. Be amazed at what you see, hear and feel. Watch your kids and friends relax and light up – the further from the road you go. I’m pretty sure we can trust Mother Nature and learn from her, she’s the real deal.

Valhalla Pure’s Founder Story

David Harley graduated from Simon Fraser University in 1976. After considering taking a corporate job, he instead hitched to California and chilled for a couple months. The SoCal beaches, combined with the jazz clubs in Hermosa and Redondo Beach were a great distraction before heading to Montreal for the summer to try to learn to speak French.

Eventually the summer faded to Fall, and like all dedicated skiers, plans for the winter needed to be made. Returning to BC [hitching across Canada once again] David stopped to work at the Banff School of Fine Arts- as a dish washer. Hiking every opportunity possible, David got into the best shape of his life. On the vertical walls of the Bow Valley, he encountered a revolutionary new product on the climbers he met from Colorado- Goretex fabrics.

Returning to his hometown of Vernon in the Okanagan Valley, including an epic hike from Sandon to Kaslo via Mt Carlyle, David set to designing and building the first Goretex clothing in Canada- using his new brand Far West Mountain Wear. First it was in the attic of his family’s fabric shop, then a series of increasingly sophisticated factories in Vernon and Vancouver. The explosion in performance outdoor textiles fed the business through the 1980s. David and Far West found themselves accidental architects of what would eventually become Canada’s outdoors industry.

In the early 1980s, David opened a small Far West retail shop in Vernon. Although insignificant at the time, it was the seed that soon grew to become Valhalla Pure Outfitters. Inspired by the healthy mountain lifestyle, Valhalla Pure became the go-to place for locals who loved the outdoors.

Each Valhalla Pure store is locally owned and built around the community it serves. Revelstoke, Vancouver, Nelson, Medicine Hat, and Canmore have very different local cultures. Valhalla Pure shop owners are notable outdoors people in their own right. From this diversity and expertise, grounded in BC and Alberta, our unifying theme has always been: offer authentic, cutting-edge outdoor gear and clothing in a knowledgeable and laid-back way that inspires trust.

After 40 years, David remains an active member of the team shaping the future of Valhalla Pure Outfitters. He is a backcountry skier, hiker, sailor and kite boarder, and lives with Kelley in the tiny village of New Denver- on Slocan Lake across from the Valhalla Park. He and his youngest daughter are hiking Kilimanjaro this winter. You can email him anytime president@vpo.ca

Guest Blooger – James Wells – Part 2

After 14 days of hiking over 100 miles, up to 10,000 ft in elevation, on 1000 cal per day, James lost 10 lbs and discovered a new appreciation for life’s simplicity and FOOD during his B.O.S.S. survival course in Boulder, Utah.

This was one of the greatest courses that I’ve taken… no joke. It presented challenges that really forced one to develop their backcountry skills, be focused during intense physical duress and allowed one to ‘hit the pause button’ in life to take time for inner reflection.  It taught me a new definition of ‘ultra light camping’ as we had no tent, no sleeping bag, no utensils and no technology. Our only protection against the elements was a wool blanket (which was also our backpack), a poncho and 1 pair of clothes.  I must say… this ‘facilitated survival experience’ and the course instructors did an outstanding job of educating us on survival skills such as shelter construction, fire construction with no lighter/matches, trap construction, navigation, large game processing, outdoor safety and foraging. However, the real takeaways were a bit more personal and reflective given the physical exertion (strenuous all day hikes at elevation on a restricted diet) and mindful awareness (alone with just yourself without distraction for many many hours…..)

The tone was set when registration on the first day began with hail, lightening and biting ants!  Almost every day was met with new weather challenges as we moved across different terrain and discovered Utah’s many faces of canyon-lands, slick rock, slot canyons and high alpine.

A few takeaways:

1) Gear.  The ever changing weather in Utah was a bit of a shock. The first few days we had hail, thunder, desert sun, rain and double rainbows…. by the end of the trip we were sleeping next to snow and in fog.
The Tilley hat from Tilley Vancouver was AMAZING (I got the Hemp TH5 that hung on in wind and protected me from the sun and rain). I wore it every day despite the weather and it was one of my favorite pieces of kit.
Kuhl trekking pants and a technical top provided by Valhalla Pure Outfitters worked wonders as it dried fast and protected me from wind.
Icebreaker gear wasn’t as wondrous as I had expected. Perhaps I had too high expectations for it – but I wore their Apex balaclava and thick long underwear at night and suffered some long and cold (on hard ground) nights… This resulted in becoming the middle spoon with 2 other male survivors for MANY nights of the trip!  Our system of synchronized spooning becoming legendary!  However, the socks and undies performed well as I got very few blisters and miraculously the undies performed without smelling.
Hudson Bay Blanket – I have a new respect for wool.  This thing was amazingly warm.  We actually didn’t have it for the first few nights – and when I wasn’t with my spooning compadres – this along with ‘duff’ made my nights actually enjoyable! (FYI – DUFF is fallen leaf litter that acts as insulation in your shelter and/or bed. I made a few DUFF castles once I figured out the wondrous nature of dead oak leaves and dried pine needles)
2) Appreciating food,  The first phase of the program was to go without a blanket or food for the first few days…. I won’t disclose how long we went in fear of ruining the experience for others… but it was the longest I had ever gone without food and the ‘fast of never-endingness’ was broken by a single banana. Now… Let us talk about this banana. This was no ordinary banana eating experience. I smelt the banana for what seemed a long time, I coddled it, and spoke to it before peeling it with deliberation and consumed it over what seemed an eternity (it was likely 10 minutes). It was glorious!  And after that… I was satisfied and full. Huh?  I was a little dumbfounded at how quickly the stomach can shrink and how quickly we humans can adapt….   The idea of a little food hardship to bring back the simple joy of eating was a very powerful lesson for me.  This ‘high sensory’ experience continued throughout the trip as we would experience a net calorie loss daily. Each morsel of peanuts or bread or lentils was cherished and consumed with a smile and/or groan of delight!  (Note: Since my return – I have become infatuated with cooking and food science)

3) Needlessness.  Roughly 10 days into the trip, when we had lost all concept of clock time and which day of the week it was, we got to spend 48 hours alone in the woods – which was one of my favorite phases of the course.  After building a fire from sagebrush sticks and sipping on pine needle/dandelion tea, I began starring at a full moon and realized that I was as content and as happy as other ‘happy moments’ in my life.  Yet to achieve this particular state required very little. I mean… honestly, there I was by a fire, wrapped in a wool blanket, sitting by a river surrounded by large Ponderosa pine, not knowing (i) what time it was (ii) wearing the same pair of underwear (Icebreaker underwear don’t actually smell after 10 days… amazing) (iii) not having showered (iv) not having internet or email (v) not having any contact with my loved ones (vi) not having a job (or the “security” that comes with it) and knowing that I was about to sleep in a pile of dirt with minimal protection from critters and the elements. Basically nothing from ‘regular life’ or anything of substantial worth was their to comfort me….  I knew that one actually needs very little to survive… but I was actually personally fulfilled! How was this possible…?

The idea of simple pleasures that are exemplified by prior hardships (no food, no blanket, etc.) became a powerful lesson – yes its a bit obvious – but until you do it, I really didn’t appreciate it.

4)  The Moment.  The facilitators did an excellent job of keeping us ‘out of the know’.  We didn’t know anything…. What was about to happen? How long were we going to hike? Where were we going? What was going to be there? In a sense, it took away the ability to plan…. AND the ability to worry.  As a task master 9000, I had to consciously jerk myself out of constantly projecting and worrying about our next meal, shelter and the weather… instead all that was real was how I was feeling and what I knew in the present moment.  Being “in the now” as Ekart Tolle describes it was the major tool used to combat the ‘unknown’ as it made no sense to fuss or to worry.  This was also a simple but powerful concept for me.  When the unknowns outweigh the knowns (FYI – this is true in life), one can worry continuously without actually being present and taking in the beautiful countryside. I spent most days just enjoying the hardships, and accepting the little difficult surprises of the day instead of constantly thinking ahead and planning.  This made me think about the many  CEOs of technology start-ups that I had worked with in my previous jobs and how true entrepreneurs simply don’t get caught up in the statistics of failure and focus on the here and now.

In the end…. “I didn’t miss many things such as clock time, phone, email, etc. because we were too busy living”.  Not sleeping in a bed for 14 days wasn’t all that bad because you were simply exhausted.” I’ve been back about a week and have gained all 10 lbs back (thank you Family) and am heading out on a 3 day tentless camping trip to practice the skills I learned.  This was a powerful experience that I’d recommend for non-campers and campers alike!

Guest Blogger – James Wells

James Wells recently quit his job and signed up for a 2 week survival course in Southern Utah. The course entails minimal gear (as in 1 pair of undies, no toilet paper and a wool blanket for a sleeping bag) and he will be learning how to make shelters, start fires without matches and deal with the mental stresses of traveling 10-15 miles per day on a ~1000 caloric diet.

So… after gathering all the required items, it has become quite apparent that quality gear required to sustain 14 days of existence is quite important. The historical temperature swings are below 2 deg. C at night and 23 deg C during the day… what kind of gear can support this??

In previous outings I would simply say “Beer Shield”, but that superpower can only last a few hours, let alone 14 days. Luckily the folks at Valhalla Pure Outfitters have supported me with some great outfitting of Icebreaker socks and undies (praise the sheep gods), sturdy pants and tops from Kuhl, an Arc’teryx top, and Pistil toque for the cold desert nights. I will only have 3 things to rely on out in the desert; My mind, my fitness and my gear. So Thanks for Valhalla Pure for covering one part of the stool – the other two are up to me.

A lot of people have asked the motivation behind such an endeavor… and there are quite a few: time between jobs (this is very rare and I’m grateful to have the opportunity), skills development for ultra-light backpacking (just how light can one go!!!) and lastly this is an exercise in mindfulness. This last one has become an important part of my daily ritual and has brought a tremendous amount of clarity and decisiveness in all aspects of my life. Mindfulness in part, is the practice of dwelling in the present moment and not fussing about the future or dwelling on the past. I can’t imagine an alternative situation such as a survival situation when one is forced into the present. More on this when I return!

People have also asked if I’m “fit enough”. For this I’m not sure, but just last week I ran the entire Baden Powell (48.5km from Horsehoe Bay to Deep Cove) in 10.5 hours and have been in the gym lifting. But I feel that this is the wrong question – as 90% of survival is mental, so perhaps the rights question is “are you mentally fit enough?”

And that folks… is precisely what I’m going to find out!

Check in later on this 2 part blog series post… James is 6’8 and 200lbs… meaning he doesn’t have a whole lot of meat to lose… find out what happens in a few weeks!

Valhalla Pure’s Love of Old Wood

This romance started in the mid 1980s in the Okanagan.  The original Vernon Fruit Union was being demolished.  The timber coming out was spectacular so I bought 2 flatdecks to be delivered to my house.  My kids earned $.02 per nail pulled, providing work for many years.

Inspired by the wood’s history (the Vernon Fruit Union was built in the Dirty 1930s as a make-work project) and our recycle-repurpose ethos, we soon started pulling down old barns in the Enderby area, one of which had a single hand-adzed 50′ cedar ridge beam from about 1898.

This proved to be hard work for no pay, but when we resawed the timbers, they were beautiful!  Cedar, hemlock, larch but mostly Douglas fir.

We crafted flooring, furniture, wall systems and bearing timbers for our new sewing factory and our expanding fleet of Valhalla Pure stores.  In 1989 we built the New Denver store, 60% was salvage wood and timbers.

As we expanded Valhalla Pure on Vancouver Island, we bought an old wooden Hiways bridge from up island.  This fed raw material into our store system for years!  Pristine Douglas fir hidden just beneath the weathered grey exterior.

The story gets better.  Timbers, furniture and character wood from our old Prince Rupert and original Kelowna stores were reused AGAIN in our Vancouver, Nelson, Millstream and New Denver store upgrades.

Here’s a short clip (summer 2014) of Bryn resawing some 10×10 hemlock timbers from the original island Hiways bridge salvaged in the mid 1990s.  They were used first in our Vancouver store on Broadway, then moved to New Denver where they will be reused yet again in Kelley’s ‘new’ New Denver VPO store build this winter.

Old wood just keeps on giving, and looks better and better with time.

David Harley

New Denver, BC

Adventure Bucks has launched

Valhalla Pure’s new Adventure Bucks… Earn Bucks and Save More whenever you shop at VPO.

We’ve wanted to have a points program for a long time.  Last year we started Adventure Pass- now Bucks has launched, and we’re still adding more premium services for our regulars.

Let me put on my salesman’s hat and blow our horn a bit:

Earn Adventure Bucks with every purchase- even ‘on sale’ items.  Use those Bucks in convenient and creative ways.  We’ve been matching MEC everyday low prices for nearly 25 years, now save even more with Adventure Bucks!

Login at ‘myVPO’ and view your purchase history and Adventure Bucks balance, with the option to gift them to friends and family.   Plus enjoy the convenience of not needing to save your sales receipts- a bonus feature- reprint your sales receipt at home if you need it.

WISHLISTS is an outstanding tool for making lists of items you may be interested in.  Add items instore on your phone or at home online.  By creating several lists, shared with others perhaps, you can organize gear for future adventures.  The stuff on the list for your surfing trip to SriLanka is very different from the stuff you are thinking about for ski touring this winter.  Add Graduation &  Wedding lists too.  Items on any of your lists are easily “moved” into your checkout when you are ready to buy.  Bottom line, WISHLISTS is a great organizing and planning tool that helps avoid the disappointment of both forgotten items and unnecessary impulse purchases.  Shop smart.

Our staff ‘special order’ unusual or out of stock items regularly, and if there’s no room in your luggage or on your motorcycle, let us ship your purchase home for you.  Just ask.

We try harder!  Great staff + the best gear + industry leading services + Adventure Bucks + myVPO features!   14 shops (and growing), all working together online at VPO.ca to serve you better.

Ok, that’s enough hard sell for a while-

Special thanks to our own Valhalla Kingdom IT coding team for rolling out so many great value-added features for Adventure Pass regulars.   Next up, launching our VPO Mobile app, and linking myVPO to our state-of-the-art Warranty module.

Enjoy this Fall weather- the perfect season for hiking, backpacking and paddling- cool mornings, incredible northern light skies,  golden larch trees, and best of all NO Bugs!

David Harley

New Denver, BC

July14, Escape & Explore.

Welcome to the Valhalla Kingdom.

If it’s your first time here, we are 14 independently owned and operated technical outdoor specialty shops mainly in smaller towns throughout British Columbia and Alberta.

Please drop by when you are in our neighbourhood, but if you can’t – VPO.ca shows you about 80% of all 14 shops stuff conveniently displayed online.

We’re passionate about having the right gear you need to escape the rat race.  Maybe it’s your upcoming trip to Sicily, Antarctica, or Vietnam, or to that little lake down the road that somehow still has a healthy fish population.  Maybe you’re taking the kids on their annual camping trip, or climbing Robson or Sir Donald.

The fundamental characteristics that determines the stuff we need to escape outside are quality, reliability, and efficiency.  The gear we sell fits this description.

To feel alive,  we need to tap into our latent hunger to explore – to do that, we need to step outside our 4 wall box, and take a break from staring at that little screen with the pretty pictures.  Escape the urban rat race, smell the dirt and the trees and the coming thunder storm.  Share the trail with elk and bobcats, and bump into other fascinating people who have also escaped.  Live life -outdoors!

David Harley

New Denver, BC