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Hiking journal March 2014

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Patagonia’s Alpine Houdini also has a webbing loop so you can clip it right to your harness. com Precipitation is the enemy of the rock climber, and few things are as disappointing as watching your project get drenched in a spring squall. Sport climbers and boulderers need an emergency shell for surprise storms, while ice and alpine climbers rely on these jackets to keep them dry and warm—a dire necessity—in their bad-weather battlefields. No matter your poison, you need a shell that lives in your pack—airy and compressible enough that you don’t notice it sitting there, but resilient enough to keep you dry.

A huge pile of polar bear feces mixed with bird feathers sat between me and the ocean. I had no rifle. I needed to have a little talk with myself about my next move. For the past eight years, I’d been dreaming of climbing a rock wall in Franz Josef 42 | march 2014 Land, a Russian archipelago 1,000 miles north of the Arctic Circle—farther north than Alaska, Bafn Island, and all but the northern tip of Greenland. If I succeeded, it would be the northernmost rock climb ever done. Now I had bailed less than one pitch up.

I recognized death before it found me. We sailed straight to the island I had visited before, spotting only two bears along the way. The sea was mostly calm as we dodged mazes of icebergs. The plan was the same as before: The Russians would return in a week unless I called earlier, sounding their horn twice if there were no bears and it was safe to head for the boat. Of course the promise of a rifle had not worked out. There was nothing that could be done. I had the option of going or not going.

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