Climb a Mountain, Take it Off: The MTN Babes Story

In July 2011, Maddie Crowell stood on the summit of Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park with her friend Lindsey Cannon. It was Crowell’s first big ascent since a climbing accident, and standing at 14,259′ she was relieved and excited to feel comfortable in the mountains again. Cannon and Crowell were the only hikers at the top, so they decided to free themselves from the boundaries of their sports bras and shorts and take a naked summit photo. That feeling, Crowell recounts, was one of the most liberating she’s ever felt — addictive, almost.

Image: Maddie Crowell

As Crowell and Cannon headed down the peak, the ideas started bubbling to the surface. The women are both Telluride, CO, natives each with a vibrant passion for  exploration, but outside of their outdoor-enthused hometown, they wanted to encourage more women to get up off of the couch and feel that wonderful moment of power standing on top of a mountain, naked.

This, officially, was the beginning of Mountain Babes (MTN Babes), a social media craze that, in the next five years, would have women from all over the country scrambling up mountains to take off their clothes and snap that iconic picture at the top.

Soon after that initial photo on Longs, Crowell began encouraging her friends to take similar shots, and with a gallery of almost 50 images, she built a simple website where she could share these experiences. The blog launched in November 2011, and would later become

Image: MTN Babes

Today, MTN Babes has over 25,500 followers on Instagram, growing by an average 100 followers a day. The hashtag #mtnbabes has over 9,000 posts and Crowell is buried in photo submissions, with over 170 sitting in her inbox waiting to be sorted. The images have expanded beyond just mountaintops, now showcasing women who bike, rock climb and backcountry ski, each baring it all and celebrating being outside.

Initially, Instagram and Facebook kept shutting MTN Babes down for infringement on community guidelines — the rules specify no nudity. Crowell began to publish images from the waist up, with only back showing, and with this change, she’s been able to keep the account for over a year.

As for the other sex, “We definitely get guy submissions, but we want to focus on women,” says Crowell, “We’ve seen a huge wave of female participation in the outdoors recently. And on social media especially, you see more and more female athletes.”

The success of MTN Babes coincides with a greater interest in female participation in the outdoors headed by influential athletes like Lynsey Dyer and her ski film “Pretty Faces” and a growing number of women centric outdoor clinics like Yeti Cycles’ Vida MTB Series and She Jumps’ “Get the Girls Out” programs.

But this forward momentum is counter-balanced by the underlying reality that women are often misrepresented (and under represented) in the outdoor industry. Outside Magazine published an article in April titled “No More Barbie Gear,” encouraging brands to take women seriously: “Drenching ads in My Little Pony colors isn’t the way to inspire today’s women. Instead, show us succeeding at our sport,”the article stated.

Maybe that’s where MTN Babes’ true appeal is found: There’s an authenticity to the movement and it lies in MTN Babes’ no-frills approach. Grab your girlfriends and head outside, because even if you’re not tackling the gnarliest summit, it’s still something to be celebrated. The Instagram comments are filled with women offering support and encouragement to each other; tagging their friends in hopes of  making it on the MTN Babes page, too.

Image: Maddie Crowell

Even with such a large following, it still surprises Crowell how many business inquiries she has received lately. Social media followers are a form of digital currency, and MTN Babes’  following of young, adventurous women, is  very appealing to brands trying to make an influence on an authentic community.

Crowell, who has a full-time job as a forester on Vancouver Island, hardly has time to develop the business side of things, but is intrigued by recent collaborations. Namely, a brand partnership with Skida: a Burlington, VT, based company that makes headwear and accessories in colorful patterns and appealing styles.

Image: Skida

“Skida has had stores across the country request the MTN Babes patterns,” says Crowell. “They’re the ones who are really pushing me to get the name Trademarked.”

Over the years, Crowell has seen other social media pages try and copy MTN Babes, and for the most part she, considers it flattery. When the name is blatantly copied, though, that broaches on frustrating, hence the desire for the Trademark.

“Making money with MTN Babes was never what I had in mind,” says Crowell. “But I would like to take advantage of these opportunities and start collaborating with businesses and people that align with our ideas.”

Of course, like any new business, this comes at a cost. All of the hours spent posting photos, and building the brand side of MTN Babes, is time Crowell has to spend away from the mountains — an irony that she can’t quite reconcile.

“It’s such a love hate relationship,” says Crowell.  ” We’re so addicted to having a way to connect and we have to use social media to spread the message, and yet it’s really powerful to go outside and be okay with not being connected.”

— Celine Wright






A Grand Canyon Indeed

By Casey Sheahan
IanShive2Late in the winter sometime around 1980 when I was about 25, two friends and I hiked across the Grand Canyon, from South Rim to North, with light cross-country racing skis strapped on our packs. The air was warm that first night as we pitched our tent under clear skies near Phantom Ranch, by the Colorado River.

Pounding rain swept through a few hours later, and by morning, Bright Angel Creek was swollen and turbid. We shouldered packs and headed up the trail towards the North Rim, moving through nearly two billion years of geologic history. Rain turned to snow as we gained altitude, passing into the Navajo Sandstone formation. A few hours later we were gliding on skis above the North Rim, through a hushed forest of old-growth ponderosa pine.

As we gain the perspective that time provides on intense, immersive experiences, we’re given to pondering the whys and wherefores. In the decades since that trip, I’ve realized that what made those special moments possible, more than anything else, was the fact that the landscape was accessible—intact and protected—to a trio of dreamy young adventurers, and anyone else seeking recreation and renewal.

I’ve been fortunate to make a career out of my love for the outdoors, working with companies like Patagonia and Keen, which share my belief that access to wild places is foundational nourishment for the human spirit—a belief fed and watered largely by experiences like that winter Grand Canyon adventure.

“Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is,” said President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903, a few years prior to declaring the Grand Canyon a national monument. “Do nothing to mar its grandeur, sublimity and loveliness. You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is to keep it for your children, your children’s children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.”

Roosevelt sought to protect the Grand Canyon against the threat of extractive mining and commercial development because he saw its value as a source of inspiration for all Americans. But despite being upgraded to national park status in 1919 and doubled in size in 1975, the Grand Canyon and its surroundings are still under siege, more than 100 years later. That’s why I’m asking President Obama to protect the Grand Canyon watershed with national monument status, using his powers under the Antiquities Act of 1906.


RightsFree3_That forest we skied into on the North Rim is the largest stand of old-growth Ponderosas left in the country, a vital link to adjacent ecosystems, and home to numerous dependent species of animals like mule deer and the rare Kaibab squirrel. But it’s still being aggressively logged thanks to a lack of sensible protections.

The Grand Canyon watershed contains numerous uranium deposits, hundreds of abandoned mines, and several proposed mining sites. Yet the closest thing it has to permanent protection is the 20-year moratorium on new mines declared by Obama in 2012. Uranium mining is a notoriously toxic and hard-to-contain enterprise. Even if the moratorium survives current court challenges from the mining industry, who knows what might happen after it expires in 2032? What I am certain of is that allowing commercial interests to despoil this landscape for short-term profits will ensure that everyone loses.

As we pitched our tent in the snow and started the stove at our North Rim campsite that winter evening, we marveled at the sheer diversity of climates and ecosystems we had experienced in just 24 hours—from the warmth of the desert Southwest to the cold powder of a sub-alpine forest. We sipped hot tea and gazed across the chasm from North Rim to South, utterly thrilled by the sight.

Join me in supporting the designation of Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument. For more about how you can get involved, visit





Casey Sheahan has been a leader in the outdoor industry for more than 30 years. The former CEO of Patagonia, he has also held executive roles at Nike, Merrell, American Recreation, and Powder Magazine. He now serves on the Keen Footwear board of directors and works as a senior advisor at Backbone Media.


Photo Credits: Ian Shive  / Tandem Still + Motion (TOP); Penn Newhard (MIDDLE); Casey Sheahan (BOTTOM)

New Partnerships

At Backbone we are constantly being challenged by a rapidly evolving media landscape. The industry’s ever-changing nature invites us to collaborate, take risks and bring on new talent in order to stay ahead of the game and bring fresh ideas to our clients. We are fortunate to work with and to find partners that push us to evolve, innovate and ideate on their behalf. With that, we are pleased to introduce these new, brand partnerships in public relations and media planning.






PK Grills
— Portable Kitchen (PK) Grills is an American-made company founded in 1952. The grills are combination smoker and charcoal BBQ and the aluminum cast is poured entirely in the US. These minimalist grills are built to last, and a recent grilling demo at our Carbondale headquarters solidified that a PK grill can cook an excellent steak. Check out their pouring process, here.


Voke Tab A Montana based start-up, these natural, energy tabs have gathered a cult following among top alpinists like Conrad Anker and Kit DesLauriers. Voke’s founder, Kalen Caughey, grew up ski racing, but found that bringing coffee on the chairlift for early morning practice was messy and inconvenient. He worked with his dad, a biochemist, to come up with a combination of natural ingredients (guarana berry, acerola cherry, and green tea leaf caffeine) that would deliver a smooth boost of energy in a portable way. At $7 a tin, Voke is a cost effective way to get an energy boost on-the-go. imgres-1 EnerPlex_December_5_2014_213


EnerPlex Only a few miles north of our Denver Backbone office, in Thorton, CO, EnerPlex has their HQ. EnerPlex makes portable, rugged, and solar-powered technology: from generators, to iPhone cases and portable batteries. In a category that is dominated by Goal Zero, EnerPlex has a real opportunity to steal some market share, with products that are lighter, more durable and less expensive than many GoalZero counterparts.


Breckenridge Tourism Office Formerly known as GoBreck, the Breckenridge Tourism Office has long been a leader in the DMO (destination marketing organization) space.We were up against some of the best agencies in the business, and we’re thrilled to have landed the account. The Breckenridge Tourism Office’s summer #BreckBecause campaign won the “Governor’s Award for Outstanding Marketing Program” at the 2013 Colorado Governor’s Tourism Conference. With Breckenridge we will focus on digital strategy and initiatives in order to push the envelope for one of Colorado’s most-visited ski towns.




CAT Phones, a branch of the larger CAT brand, CAT Phones are truly indestructible. Say goodbye to your cracked iPhone screen; CAT phones can endure pretty much anything.




I and Love and You an all-natural, grain free and raw pet food company whose products are sold at a wide range of grocery stores (not just health-food markets). As for the name, it might be an unconventional tongue-twister, and also the name of an Avett Brothers album, but the proof is in the heart-shaped kibble — our office dogs Hank and Sadie seem to be loving their new grub.

Decked While it’s hard to find a car in Colorado without a roof rack, these truck bed organizers from our new client, Decked, are the latest accessory you’ll covet. Decked car organizers are good for holding all of your work essentials AND all of your play essentials.

A Backbone “Charge” & New Faces

With half of 2015 already over (no way, right?) here are some updates on a whirlwind six months at Backbone Media.

We took a company “Charge” down the Numbers section of the Arkansas River and spent the day rafting and camping.

We brought 10 new employees on board — for comparisons sake, in 2014 we hired 13 new employees total.

The Charge

A sunny day in June. A raging river. And 20 cases of beer.


Topped off with camping in the Sawatch range, BBQ, an enthusiastic game of dice and a massive bonfire.



New Faces:

As a growing agency we hired two notable names in order to expand and develop new services. Sam Bass joins Backbone as Editor and Content Director and Charlie Lozner joins the team as Director of Integrated Services. Both will be based in our Carbondale headquarters.

517ab887-e18e-416e-aec6-48a6a2d6ff1e (1)


Charlie Lozner (left) was previously the Director of Marketing for Outdoor Research — the media team worked closely with Lozner as Outdoor Research is one of our clients. Lozner will help bridge our suite of services and offer clients the most integrated results possible across PR, media planning and content.



Sam Bass (right) joins Backbone after 12 years at Skiing Magazine where he was Editor-in-Chief. A longtime friend of Backbone, Bass will help Backbone develop content solutions for our existing clients.


On the public relations side two new hires will help drive the agency forward for some of our new clients.



Brittany Hodill (left) joins Backbone from New Zealand (and previous to that, San Francisco). Hodill brings with her knowledge of the technology and lifestyle space after working for clients like FitBit, Visa and Beats by Dre.





Eric “Hende” Henderson (right) joins Backbone as a Senior PR Account Manager —Hende was previously the communications manager at Salewa North America and before that he spent five years at Denny, Ink. Hende is also a culinary institute trained chef,  farm-to-table caterer, and hard-charging skier.

On the media side, an additional media planner, two media coordinators and a media intern bolster the growing team. Scott Warren joins Backbone as a media planner; Scott was previously at Travel Oregon as an insight and planning manager based out of Portland. Scott informed us that Carbondale actually has more bikes and breweries per capita than Portland, so he should feel right at home.



Two new media coordinators have joined Backbone, both of them recent Colorado College graduates (the Colorado College takeover is in full swing, as seven of our employees have graduated from the school). Nick Pinto (left) and Patrick Lynch (right) will provide support for the growing media team.


Interns. Backbone has three interns these days — providing support across both PR and media.


On the PR side, Philip Chambers (left) is a recent graduate of Columbia University— Chambers is an avid climber psyched to get out of NYC. Celine Wright,  another recent Colorado College grad originally from Telluride, CO, is bringing support and social media skills. Connor Jackson joins as a media intern — Jackson is a Roaring Fork Valley native.

And on that note, we’re also hiring! Backbone is in need of an Office Manager for our Carbondale office, and a PR account manager who is thoroughly involved in the hunt/fish space. Apply here.




It’s Time We Discuss that Little White Ghost

Unknown For those that don’t know, we’re talking about Snapchat: an app that allows you to share photos and videos with a select group of your friends. “Snaps” allow a user to share, in real time, an experience, a location or a reaction, with the catch being that the messages disappear within a matter of seconds — you better be paying attention.  The app allows a glimpse into your personal life unbridled by the noise of “likes” and comments which are commonplace on other social platforms like Instagram and Facebook.

While it once seemed like just a fad — good for taking selfies and not much else, and nearly resulted in a sale to Facebook —Snapchat’s exponentially growing user numbers, around 200 million a month, prove that it’s definitely here to stay. Snapchat’s key demographic is 13-25-year-olds, a unique group of Millennials who have grown up in this social-media-crazed age.

Because of the access to this previously unreachable age demographic, social media influencers and bloggers are now looking to have their network of followers join them on Snapchat, in addition to sites like Instagram and Facebook. On a recent press trip that Backbone organized for Eddie Bauer in Mexico, there was a mix of bloggers and fitness/style editors and this exact conversation came up a few times over the course of the four-day trip. Snapchat’s newfound importance became clear.


The media trip crew in Mexico

Bloggers see Snapchat as a way to not only allow fans greater access into their private lives, but as a channel through which they can authenticate themselves as experts in their field— be it fitness, beauty, fashion, food or healthy lifestyle. For example, the bloggers on this recent press trip were both style mavens and fitness enthusiasts, so having their fans see them surfing, hiking, and climbing a rock wall means they are living what they preach. Their experiences were captured on Snapchat unfiltered and in real time, as opposed to still photos you would see on Instagram, which have likely been altered.

But Snapchat is also capturing the interest of larger news organizations and brands. Snapchat launched the Discover feature in January, which allows brands and news outlets to continue with a traditional style of communication, reformatted for the digital age: “straight from the editorial team of a news organization into the hands of consumers, without a social media filter” says Tajha Chappellet-Lanier in an NPR article from January 2015.


Snapchat’s “Discover” feature

With the launch of Discover, it’s not just news sites that are taking notice, but brands are beginning to jump on board as well. From getting sneak peaks at new collections, behind the scenes glimpses of major fashion shows, NBA drafts or even product testing, there are limitless ways that Snapchat can be utilized.

We’ll be watching to see how Snapchat continues to grow and if more brands turn to Snapchat as a way to engage with  users — just as they do on Instagram.  Social media is an ever-evolving platform and Snapchat is the new heavy hitter.

— Alison Nestel-Patt & Celine Wright


Telluride Mountainfilm

Mountainfilm kicked off Telluride’s series of summer festivals last weekend with four, snowy days of  inspirational speakers, adventure films and coffee talks.  Several Backbone staffers attended the festival and rounded up a few of their favorite picks from the weekend.


Jimmy Chin’s highly-anticipated film, which premiered at Sundance and won the Audience Choice Award, lives up to the hype. The film covers Conrad Anker, Renan Ozturk and Chin’s attempts at climbing (and eventual first ascent of) the Shark’s Fin on Mount Meru in the Himalaya. “Meru’s” greatest strength, however, is the way the traditional climbing narrative is interwoven with scenes and struggles from the climber’s lives. From Anker’s challenge of balancing family with the dangers of alpine climbing, to Ozturk’s severe brain injury (sustained only 5 months before the team was set to depart for their second attempt), “Meru” captures more than just the difficulty of the climb itself.

The Important Places

Forest Woodward’s short film, which also played at 5point Film Festival, is hard to not watch over and over again. The film chronicles a father and son trip down the Grand Canyon, a trip Woodward’s father, who is now 70, had completed 45 years earlier. Between the sweet poem, written by Woodward’s father, that acts as the film’s intro, and the beautiful cinematography, “The Important Places” is a gentle reminder to treasure the quiet spaces that restore your sense of self. Watch the short below:



Almost 150 people were turned away from “Unbranded’s” first, packed-to-the-gills Mountainfilm showing — an easy indicator of what was in store. The film chronicles the journey of four recent college-grads who decide to ride wild mustangs (who they’ve trained, first) from Mexico to Canada through trails on public land. And while it is a (very) entertaining adventure movie, “Unbranded” also educates viewers about the nearly 50,000 wild horses kept in government holding facilities, waiting to be adopted. “Unbranded” subtly proves these mustangs’ worth as they endure a rigorous journey through cactus-ridden mesas, steep mountain passes and summer thunderstorms.


Ben Knight was inspired to make movies because of Mountainfilm, and now his films are the ones that no festival-goer  wants to miss. “Denali’s” greatest strength is Knight’s entertaining first-person narration of his friend Ben Moon’s dog, Denali. Moon, a photographer and filmmaker, was diagnosed with cancer in his twenties, and the film chronicles the friendship between Denali and Moon as they endure life’s struggles and embrace its adventures. “Denali” won the People’s Choice Award at 5Point Film Festival, and is surely a tear-jerker for all those pet owners out there.

images   — Celine Wright

Q&A: Ian Durkin — Video Curator, Vimeo

This is one in a series of short Q&A’s with people in the outdoor/active lifestyle industry who are doing cool, inspiring things. Want to nominate someone? Leave their name in the comments and we’ll see what they’re all about.  IanDurkin01 Name: Ian Durkin

Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

Age: 27

Instagram: @ianbdurkin

It’s hard to define a dream job, but we’d say Ian Durkin’s is up there. As a video curator for Vimeo – a popular video sharing platform for independent filmmakers— Durkin spends his days not only watching videos, but is an influencer behind the selections for Vimeo’s famed Staff Picks. A graduate of Middlebury College, where he was an American studies major, Durkin landed a 6-month internship shortly after graduation and the rest is history. Durkin was a panelist on our recent POV panel during the 5point Film Festival, which you can read about, here.  We tried to squeeze a bit more information from him about his super cool job (he’s also a filmmaker and photographer on the side) and what’s trending in the Vimeo world these days. Here’s the lowdown :



Photos by Ian Durkin

As a video curator, what does your job really entail? 

My job entails a few different things. Daily, I’m watching a bunch of videos and featuring the especially great videos on the Vimeo Staff Picks Channel, but i’m also talking with filmmakers about the stuff they’re making via email and at film festivals. Otherwise, I’m working on one-off projects; be it curating programs for festivals or putting together editorial content.
But you’re also a filmmaker. Is watching other people’s videos all day inspiring or frustrating?
If I didn’t do it as a job, I know I’d watch a lot of videos anyhow for fun or to get ideas. So yeah, it’s very inspiring to watch great content all day. It gets me motivated to try to make my own.
What would you love to make a video about but haven’t gotten the chance to yet (or are working on currently)? 
I’m currently working on a video from a surf trip I did down in Baja with some friends. My videos tend to be trip based, so I’d love to get back to New Zealand to make one.
Who is making a big impact on the Vimeo world lately and why are their films grabbing so much attention?
That’s a tough one. There are definitely a lot of people who, when you see they’ve uploaded something new, you know it’s going to be good. I’m a sucker for style, and these guys bring a unique offering to the table each time. From the trips themselves (trains for a skate trip and Iceland for a surf trip), to shooting solely on 16mm film, to pitch perfect cinematography/editing/music selection, not to mention great skating and surfing to boot. These videos  do more than simply document a trip, they bring in an extra element that gets me psyched to do something of my own, which is what it’s all about, right?
Check out Durkin’s picks below:


—Celine Wright



A Backbone Style Gear Test

The 5Point Film Festival brings in a slew of outdoor industry insiders and athletes to Backbone’s homebase in Carbondale, Colorado. Among the attendees this year were Damian Quigley, associate publisher of Freeskier magazine and Donny O’Neill, senior editor of Freeskier. On Thursday, before the 5Point festivities started,  we took them for an old-fashioned backcountry ski test on Carbondale’s famed Sopris Mountain.

The group skinning up Sopris.

A little backstory here: throughout the year Backbone attends and hosts ski tests to get the equipment of Black Diamond, La Sportiva and other brands on snow, and tested by publications in the ski industry. The only problem with these tests is you rarely get to use a backcountry skiing setup in its full capacity (i.e. the up and down). Donny was hoping to test the new Black Diamond skis in the backcountry all year, and due to adverse snow conditions, we had to wait until the end of April to make it happen.

Sopris was the objective, but testing gear, showing the Freeskier crew Backbone’s backyard and having fun were some of the perks along the way . The crew consisted of Jason Smith, Donny O’Neill and Damian Quigley from Freeskier, and Sam Coffey, Fielding Miller and John DiCuollo from Backbone.


Yup, still skinning. Earning those turns.

We started our trek at 6:30 a.m. on a clear, April morning. After a quick walk on the frozen mud, we were able to put our skis on and start skinning. 4,000 total feet of climbing later and we reached the summit at 12,966 feet —you could see hints of spring starting to peak through the valley below.


Backbone’s Sam Coffey (front) and John Dicuollo

To me, this trip was a perfect example of what sets Backbone apart. Yes, we’re  PR and media professionals, but each one of us embodies the lifestyle that is associated with these brands. We’re an enthusiastic group of skiers, runners, bikers and climbers who live for the moments we get to spend outside.

Furthermore, when you take someone on an adventure that the gear is created for, it creates a better understanding of the equipment and its capabilities. There are the details that can’t be gathered from reading the specs in a digital workbook. Similarly, there are aspects to relationships that cannot be made through email and phone calls alone. These in-person experiences help us share the products in a more authentic way.


Damian Quigley skiing the bowl

We skied the most-common Sopris line down the bowl of the eastern side of the peak. We enjoyed cold, Colorado snow on the top, harvested some corn in the middle, hit a funky, breakable crust in the basin, and ended with soft, spring slush: it was ideal to test the skis in a variety of conditions. All in all, a solid day of work.

If you want to read the Freeskier side of the story, check it out here:

—Sam Coffey



An Adventure with Backbone’s Newest Employee

Red Rock Canyon National Park, Las Vegas, Nevada – 3.9.15-3.12.15
Words and Photography: Corbin Clement


ginger buttress mt wilson_pic corbin clement

Entering the Park looking at the Ginger Buttress and Mt Wilson.

After finishing graduate school last Thanksgiving, I was fortunate enough to undertake a 6 week journey in Asia solely for pursuits of eating, climbing and surfing. For months after that, my time commitments were limited to three days a week at an SEO internship, working various events for Burton, and finding myself a job where I’d be happy enough to sit still.

Upon the realization my wondrously ample free time (and schedule flexible enough to break the back of your average Cirque Du Soleil contortionist) would be coming to an end, Holly Yeary, Thomas SeymourAbby Seymour and I decided to take a mid-week trip to one of the Canadian circus’ permanent residences, Las Vegas. For me, this was a last hurrah before accepting a dream offer to be a part of the Backbone Media PR team. (Psyched to be here!) These days, a vacation from your vacation is the only way to stay sane.

Thomas fear and loathing 8_pic corbin clement

Thomas cleans his route. This afternoon, we had a huge zone all to ourselves.

As fun as fist-pumping up in da club with Paris Hilton may be, we happily planned to remain far from the central attractions of the city. As this was the first time I’d ever done fly-in camping, I had no idea what to pack. So, due to $400,000 bag check fees, I ended up bringing barely enough clothing to keep my fellow return flight passengers from having to accompany a character of questionable appearance. 

After arriving to the campsite in Red Rock many hours after the night had, we slept immediately.  No sense dragging ass in the morning due to lack of sleep. That’s what coffee shops are for. Barred from bringing camping fuel by TSA, each morning we opted for the 5-minute commute from our campsite to Dunkin or the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.  This was the soft man’s camping trip.

Thomas fear and loathing 5_pic corbin clement

Thomas leading Fear and Loathing while Holly and Abby watch. Taking this shot was very entertaining. I had to perch precariously on some very steep and crumbly sandstone. Scrambling the opposing face here was a perfect vantage point. I was able to stay level with and close to Thomas almost the entire route.

The first climb began on the alleged “classic” multi-pitch sport route, Unimpeachable Groping. After a hurried approach, we rounded the corner to the belay zone and Thomas’ fears of congregation were relieved. We embarked on an awesome 7 pitches of mellow crimping.  Not one other group arrived to follow after us. The next two days were filled with hot laps in more popular zones, all of which provided unbelievable climbs. I was lucky enough to be pushed by my monkey friends, as they showed no capacity for fatigue.

corbin american sportsman 1 pic_Abby Seymour

Everyone cleared out a little bit before this, as it was looking like rain. The weather missed and I was able to get in this last route of the afternoon. The face shown here was amazing, sporting the most consistent crimps the entire way up. I pause on one of the few good rest zones. Photo: Abby Seymour

holly ginger buttress final pitch b_pic thomas seymour

Abby climbs to the pinnacle of the final pitch of Unimpeachable Groping. Aside from what’s shown here, the climb offered 6 stacked pitches of vertical awesomeness. Regretfully, my rope management skills were frequently sub-par. Photo: Thomas Seymour

holly fear and loathing 3_pic corbin clement

Holly topping out. The rock here is so red. Don’t be fooled by the grey light. It glows in sunlight. Maybe that’s why they call it Red Rock Canyon.

Our last night there, we booked a hotel room which was supposed to have a complimentary spa. Checking in after a long day of climbing, ready to indulge, we were informed everything in the hotel closed at 7:00pm (except the casino, of course). We made do.

spa day_pic Thomas Seymour

Photo: Tomas Seymour

Backbone Media POV 2015 — “How Does Media Impact Adventure?”

Climber Tommy Caldwell, along with photographer Taylor Rees, Vimeo’s video curator Ian Durkin and grassroots marketing manager for Outdoor Research, Christian Folk spent a rainy afternoon last Friday nestled inside Steve’s Guitars in downtown Carbondale discussing, “How does media impact adventure?” The panel, moderated by Backbone’s own Penn Newhard, ran alongside the 5point Film Festival, which provided a weekend full of inspirational films, speakers, and festivities.


From left to right: Penn Newhard, Tommy Caldwell, Taylor Rees, Ian Durkin and Christian Folk. Photo courtesy of Anders Norblom/5point Film Festival

Tommy Caldwell and his climbing partner Kevin Jorgeson hovered thousands of feet above the ground during their record-breaking, free climb of the Dawn Wall in the Yosemite Valley in January. They were all alone on that monumental face, and yet the touch of a screen could ignite conversation among hundreds of thousands of people.

While 30 years ago their journey could have only been witnessed from those on the ground looking through binoculars, today, that journey was captured in real-time and shared with onlookers all across the globe.

It has Caldwell thinking.

“Do we climb for our own growth, or do we need to share that inspiration?” he said during the panel.

Essentially, Caldwell summed up the moral dilemma facing the interwoven nature of media and adventure: at what point are you taking away from the adventure with constant documentation and sharing?

Caldwell seemed to answer his own question when he mentioned that he dropped his iPhone off of the Dawn Wall. He insists it was an accident with a sly grin, but seemed relieved at the sudden freedom from the digital world.

“I would still much rather go on a trip with no content,” Caldwell said. “But I’m lucky because no companies have come to me and been like, ‘this is what you need to post.’”


Rees brought a different opinion to the table — on a recent expedition, connecting with the digital world provided some much-needed comfort. She was in remote Myanmar where her team (Renan Ozturk, Hilaree O’Neill, Emily Harrington, Cory Richards and Mark Jenkins) struggled with the brutal climate, lack of food, and illness as they attempted to climb Hkakabo Razi.

Rees’ posts during that expedition captured followers with their honesty. As she writes in a November 2014 Instagram post, “Sometimes you have to be stronger than you believe yourself to be…I huddle with them [the cooks] no longer afraid of getting sick. Pure conviction that i’m healthy as can be is my best chance.”

The desire to share your own story is nothing new, but the digital medium —especially social media— provides a window into the adventures of mountain athletes and enthusiasts. Their stories, often full of struggle, challenging circumstances and maybe a summit selfie, or two, are available to follow in real time.

“I think people are just trying to be moved  and that’s really the heart of it,” Caldwell said.

—Celine Wright