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Thread: Road Trip

  1. #71
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Location
    Golden, Co. USA
    Posts
    4,155

    Default Re: Road Trip

    AVALANCHE!

    May, 1981. Colorado High Country.

    Paul Ramer and I are course-finding for the proposed Colorado Haut (High) Route for backcountry skiers along the Continental Divide; we are skiing a section west of Berthoud Pass.

    (Some readers will recall Ramer backcountry ski equipment. Paul was on the cutting edge of advancements in that arena, with the famous Ramer Avalanche Beacon, ski bindings, poles, avalanche shovels, climbing skins, etc., etc. The new thrust in backcountry skiing technique was called Alpine Touring. Essentially, the technique combined ski area-style locked-down bindings and wide skis with the free-heel capabilities of cross-country skiing—for moving on flat snow and uphill-- but with the ability to lock down the heel again for descents. The rigid boots and wide skis advantage of standard Alpine gear could be employed and still allow the skier access to the backcountry vs commercial ski areas only.

    Paul was unique…a real character. Stories about him circulated widely in the ski world. His standard Trade Show attire will serve to illustrate his uniqueness. Paul’s standard garb was his white lab coat. Everybody in the backcountry ski industry knew that he was a genius in advancing the art--but a lab coat? Paul used my gear, Pro Pack and especially the sleds (for transporting test gear and photo gear) and I used his--beacon, ski poles, shovel, etc. We would visit each other’s shops. Paul wore that damn lab coat even in the privacy of his shop! Which looked rather like…well, a laboratory. So I suppose the guy was at least consistent…the real deal.)

    We were a few miles west of the Pass, and were well above timberline—this was supposed to be the High Route after all. Paul was of course on his AT gear. As a dedicated Nordic Guide I was on cross-country equipment—skinny skis, free heel bindings (as we used to say “free the heel, free the mind”) and flexible leather boots. Telemarking was my forte. So Paul and I constituted a mixed twosome of explorers. The ancient Telemark style and the new Alpine Touring style. We had both skiing bases covered. Paul was carrying all his stuff in a standard day pack; I was using a large Fanny Pack. I liked to keep my shoulders free of any impediment when faced with rigorous Telemarking. He had one of his avalanche shovels on board…I did not—couldn’t get one in a fanny pack. One shovel would have to do for both of us. Yes, that was a bit chancy, but as veteran avalanche instructors we thought we had the snow conditions figured out. In retrospect that judgement proved to be downright arrogant.

    Suddenly the snow in the giant bowl we found ourselves in became a bit dicey. A spooky “sponginess” was felt beneath our skis. Not good. We held a conference. Go ahead or go back? Maybe it would get more stable, and we could return via a different route. We opted for proceeding. (This decision turned out to contain more of the same hubris.) We would follow standard protocol and advance by leapfrogging between “islands of safety”—rock outcroppings that looked solidly hooked to the mountain itself, not the snow cover. One man at a time, while the rear guy observed the front guy; in case of a slide the rear man—behind his island—could search for the other man if he were swept away. We both had Ramer avalanche beacons. The decision made, we advanced—island to island.

    We worked that plan…holding our breath and thinking light thoughts. We were making progress, and the slope was staying put. It was Paul’s turn as lead man. I watched from behind a short table-size outcrop as he skied toward a safe-looking tower of rock about fifty yards ahead. So far so good. About ten feet shy of that tower a pistol-like CRACK erupted, followed by a kind of sigh—and the whole world started MOVING! I saw Paul lunge for his rock—and make it!--just as I flopped behind my little stone table. I lay there scrunched for dear life against the downhill side of that little outcropping and watched as refrigerator-size blocks of snow hurtled over me mere inches above my noggin. Then the blocks of hard snow gave way to seemingly endless cascades of loose snow. The only sound was a spine-chilling “hiss”, not the “roar” of movie legend.

    Silence finally replaced the creepy hiss. I gazed over and saw Paul was still perched behind his barrier. We both were still alive. I thanked God for my little rock outcrop; it had saved my life! We gazed far down the slope and saw that we had survived a monster slab avalanche. A Climax slab in fact, meaning the snowpack had given way clear down to dirt. The slide had come to rest as a mass of blocks, many as big as Volkswagens. Had we been swept away there would have been no chance of survival; we would have been ground to burger. After dusting ourselves off we decided that today was not a good day for pioneering the Colorado High Route…at least not by us. We gingerly made our way down to timber and beelined for the truck. Thence to the first mountain saloon that crossed our path.


    In my personal debrief of this debacle a couple of things became clear. The first was never, ever become complacent about avalanches. And I never again did; if the conditions didn’t feel right I was outa there. I resolved that the best avalanche preventative was this: DON’T BE THERE. The next item of clarity was never, ever be without an avalanche shovel. This resolution led to the invention of what came to be the renowned Mountainsmith Lumbar Pack.

    Paul Ramer produced the best avalanche shovel of the times. But it was far too large for any fanny pack of that era. And I was adamant in my desire to ski with “free” shoulders…no weight up there to inhibit those graceful Telemark turns in the steep and deep, no sir, not for this boy. I resolved that I would create a “fanny pack” that would be big enough to contain a Ramer Avalanche Shovel plus support gear AND be rock-steady enough for bad-ass skiing. That turned out to be quite the quest.

    Fanny packs, waist packs, all shared the same center-of-mass waistbelt cinching method. That was just the way it was done. Nothing wrong with that, it was the obvious way to ensure a stable load-bearing outcome. But when I made prototypes tall enough to slide my shovel into, using the standard centered-in-the-middle belt, bad things revealed themselves. The load rocked. And it came way too far down onto my butt. Even with a wide band of “transition” fabric from the top to the bottom of the pack sides, thence connected to the webbing center-belt, the wobble and butt cheeks encroachment were all-too evident. Wearing the thing high enough to get it off my butt just resulted in the belt squishing my diaphragm…not good at all. Hmmm. There has to be a way to make this work.

    Idea One hit me: move the belt to the bottom of the pack. I did. Aha! No more butt cheek discomfort. BUT, now the pack rocks away from my back at the top…nothing there to hold it in. Okay, Idea Two was needed…let’s just cure that with straps running from the upper edges of the pack down to the waistbelt. And let’s make them adjustable—just like the waistbelt—so that variable loads can be controlled. I sewed one up, loaded my shovel into the prototype, put the thing on, tightened everything up and Eureka!!! It worked! Fit like a glove and was so stable one could turn cartwheels and the whole load wouldn’t budge.

    I called the invention the Lumbar Pack, because it rode on TOP of the hip shelf, in the lumbar area of one’s body. And I dubbed the suspension system that allowed it to work the Delta System after the triangle formed by the waistbelt, the sides of the pack and the adjustable stabilizing straps angling down from the top edges of the pack body to the waistbelt. And I patented it.

    The very first Lumbar Pack was built specifically for toting a Ramer Avalanche Shovel. I soon designed smaller, and even larger, sizes. The Delta Suspension System controlled the loads on all of them. The market was quite leery of the price I had to put on them (due to the complexity of getting them to perform as designed compared to a simple fanny pack). The phrase circulating around the industry was that these packs were “the world’s first and only sixty five dollar fanny packs”! Despite the price all one had to do was strap one on to see the light. Absolute stability AND no weight whatsoever on the shoulders. (I have been designing with the goal of weightless shoulder loading my entire career—Lumbar Packs were the first design to hit the mark.) The market rapidly discovered they weren’t just fanny packs, they were a whole new ball game in day packs. In fact, the Original—the one built around the Ramer Shovel--was named The Day Pack. Sales soared. And kept soaring. Throughout the 80’s and 90’s the things were ubiquitous everywhere--at concerts, on the trails (trail runners loved ‘em), among bicyclists, in offices (the Adventure Briefcase saw to that) and in every airport in the world. (Sarah and I personally saw them in airports from Johannesburg, South Africa to Athens, Greece; indeed, everywhere we traveled.) Larger Mointainsmith packs—the extremely popular Frostfire, the Bugaboo, and all the rest were solid in the market. But the Lumbar Packs could have supported a sizable company all by themselves. Word is they are still a mainstay for the latest owners of my original company. I suspect the Lumbar Pack is the longest lived continuously produced pack design ever created. Not bad for being born out of a near fatal incident. Makes that old avalanche even more memorable. Something very worthy came from nearly buying the farm. Pretty good outcome.

  2. #72
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    Colorado Springs
    Posts
    156

    Default Re: Road Trip

    Awesome story of new pack design, along with how the Delta System came about. Thanks for a great adventure and history class to boot. We will be waiting for more.
    Thanks Patrick.
    Rex

  3. #73
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Centennial, CO
    Posts
    1,740

    Default Re: Road Trip

    My Daypack has been with me at 60 mph on the downhill mtb course at Vail and when a friend kicked a slab loose below us in the Rock Garden at Berthoud Pass ~ 20 years after your epiphany.

    Now my Scout has taken over, and I've started sewing Scout patches on it. Cub Scouts seem to be as mystified as much by it as I was when I saw the Daypack for the first time...

    Sent from my HTCD200LVW using Tapatalk
    Forgive those who aren't sorry, accept apologies never received....

  4. #74
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Aloha Kakou from Tacoma, WA
    Posts
    972

    Default Re: Road Trip

    Great story Patrick - like Rex mentioned, its really cool to hear the origin of the delta straps. Since the smallest of your packs I've had till recently was a Spike Camp, I admit I did not appreciate the genius of the Delta Straps - but I recently acquired an x-ray and after feeling how the delta straps pulled the load into my "lumbar" and and pulled the top of the pack snug towards my back I smiled. I realized that my initial fear of "lack of shoulder lift" were completely trivial - those delta straps had me covered.

    Aside from being a great read, I hope your post is a pretense to a re-introduction of a lumbar pack to the Kifaru line?

    Best regards my friend,
    MojoSlim
    _____________
    ‘A‘ohe pau ka ‘ike i ka hālau ho‘okahi.
    (All knowledge is not learned in just one school.)
    - ‘Ōlelo No‘eau (Hawaiian Proverb)

  5. #75
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    eugene, oregon
    Posts
    4,630

    Default Re: Road Trip

    I am a huge fan of lumbar packs and the best of them all is the Scout. It has done everything I have ask of it from EDC (and I mean everyday full load) to 10 days across Yosemite and Ansel Adams wilderness. To date (14 "fanny" packs and counting), I have found nothing is more versatile, load carrying or any better. Patrick sorry that your life had to be on the line for this fine piece of equipment to come about but I am glad that you survived and invented this pack!

  6. #76
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Fountain, Colorado
    Posts
    922

    Default Re: Road Trip

    Allow me to poach a bit on Patrick's blog. Back in the 80's while the earth was still cooling and dinosaurs still roamed free, I was stationed near the Huachuca Mts. of southern AZ; a hunters paradise. Quail (3 kind), javalina, mule deer, dove (3 kind), coyotes, bunnies, and assorted fauna. The absolute best though, was the diminutive Couse whitetail that inhabited the mountain range just minutes from the house. The deer hunts were day hunts, overnighting was not an option on post, and I was using the old military large ALICE pack that I had used and hated for years. As an alternative to that pack was a small day pack that REI used to make with 2 external long pockets on the sides. The mil. ruck was too big and uncomfortable, though I was young and used to carrying heavy loads in it (and you could stuff a deer in there). The Day pack was about the right size, but still uncomfortable. Jump forward to the late 90's in OK. Not much big game hunting going on, for a verity of reasons, but I was still fighting ALICE. As I left the unit a parting gift was the Mountainsmith large lumber pack with my name and Flamingo 7 embroidered prominently. It was a game changer to say the least and has seen a ton of use, on foot, by bicycle and along side me in the truck. It still sits by the bed at night as a sort of abbreviated bug out bag, EDC. My gen 1 spike camp has rather supplanted the Mountainsmith, and the Long Hunter and Kifaru UL has replaced the ALICE, (though the damn thing is still in the house somewhere). The delta straps are a marvel as are all the other suspension features. While the ALICE certainly SUSPENDS things on the user, I hesitate to call it suspension. The same can be said for an earlier Kelty frame pack, that finally just gave out from exhaustion. Thanks Patrick and keep it up( Still waiting for an updated "Possibles Bag").

  7. #77
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Fountain, Colorado
    Posts
    922

    Default Re: Road Trip

    Still hoping for a discussion of the current load out of the "possibles" bag.

  8. #78
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Location
    Golden, Co. USA
    Posts
    4,155

    Default Re: Road Trip

    Our Road Trip has taken a turn into the past. It's a wandering road, revealing nuggets of events that inform the present. We've had a glimpse at the Roots of a life-long passion for wild places, a passion that became a career. We've observed some adventures, some dangerous encounters. One of those dangerous episodes opened a discussion of equipment designed by your humble correspondent--the Lumbar Pack. I've been thinking about those creations lately. They've earned my living for nigh-on four decades after all. They've earned a pile of patents. There must be hundreds of designs that have passed from my mind to reality. Of them all, which stand out as my personal favorites? Sounds like a worthy subject to mull over, eh? Well, I've done the mulling, and here are my all-time SIX FAVORITE DESIGNS:

    1) MAN CARRYABLE WOOD STOVE HEATED SHELTERS
    2) DUPLEX PACK SUSPENSION SYSTEM
    3) OMNI PACK SUSPENSION SYSTEM
    4) GUNBEARER SYSTEM
    5) DELTA SUSPENSION SYSTEM
    6) RHINO SKIN OUTERWEAR

    The gear I've created using these "platform" designs have served me, personally, the most consistently in all my ramblings.

    I'm writing this from Maui. Mine and Sarah's favorite island. She enjoys the beaches and I enjoy hiking all the remote niches. I'm trying to type via my iPhone via a cranky portable keyboard. And the heights of Mount Haleakala beckon. So let's make this post a Preview of coming posts. Posts that will outline the inventions cited above. Until I can get back to my mainland computer. Give me a bit a time; I head for British Columbia as soon as we get home--only a one day layover there to gear up and head out.

    Oh, and I'll be posting an Update on my current Possibles Pouch contents soon too. Thanks, guys, for reminding me of the need for that.

    Stay tuned....

  9. #79
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Maine
    Posts
    408

    Default Re: Road Trip

    Looking forward to a further updates from the road and especially your current Possibles Pouch contents! All the Best!

  10. #80
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Aloha Kakou from Tacoma, WA
    Posts
    972

    Default Re: Road Trip

    Patrick, I can't believe I didn't call you when I was on Maui. I was there at the same time as you, though I was insanely busy helping my good buddy get hitched. We still need to plan a Ali'i Ala Nui Ramble. Hope the island treated you well. Can you believe you have to get a pass just to watch the Sunrise at Haleakala? 'Aue!

    Aloha e!
    MojoSlim
    _____________
    ‘A‘ohe pau ka ‘ike i ka hālau ho‘okahi.
    (All knowledge is not learned in just one school.)
    - ‘Ōlelo No‘eau (Hawaiian Proverb)

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