Headlamps Start to Finish

After a week of the daily grind, the weekend has finally arrived.  You have spent forty hours (or more) with your nose to the grindstone, daydreaming about what your weekend had in store. So, why not squeeze every precious second out of these precious adventures? 

In this edition of Therm-a-Rest Beta, contributor Jenny Abegg gives us her tips on planning adventures from sunup to sundown.

Headlamps
Why would you want to be finished with your day when the sky looks like this?! Photo: Jon Toner

The alarm goes off at 4am, and we make our way through the house like zombies, thankful we already packed our gear and food for the day, even having the foresight to make a to-go breakfast for the drive. In the middle of the well-lit kitchen waiting for the water to boil, I strap on my headlamp, knowing full well that it won’t yet be dawn when we hit the trail. I am one part anxious for the day, two parts wanting to get back into bed, and thankfully, three parts excited for the adventure to come.

Headlamps
Off to an early start… Photo: Justin Costner

Yes, there is something about adventuring sunrise to sunset, packing every minute full of effort or rest, sweat or snacks, challenge or triumph, that makes me heart swell and shows me I’m living well. Come to think of it, all of my favorite days outside have been big ones. I love the satisfaction of knowing that my day started before the sun’s, that I used every ounce of light, and that I covered more ground than usual.

When you start a day wearing a headlamp and end with the illumination of that same light, when you know that you can let your brain settle into a groove of running, climbing, skiing, or biking the day away, the adventure is likely one for the memory books.

However, we can’t all live in an area where 30-pitch rock climbs loom out the backdoor, where hundreds of miles of bike trails await, or where ridge lines connect endlessly for a full-day alpine run. Areas that lend themselves to full day missions are a privilege. Or perhaps we do live close to wilderness this vast, yet these activities have become so commonplace for us that they no longer pose a challenge. Regardless, long days of adventure are always possible, and worth it. Here’s a few ideas to help plan your next big day:

Link-it up

When we first moved to Leavenworth, WA, my climbing partner Whitney and I we were amazed to find out that we could wake up at a reasonable hour, hike a 5+ mile approach, climb 12 pitches of alpine rock, and be back in town in time for the farmer’s market. Soon, we upped the ante to two routes in a day. Before long, we thought we’d try three, while hiking the entire 18-mile Enchantment loop: a link-up. Link-ups have become more and more popular it seems, and regardless of your surroundings, they are likely an option for you. Link up four of your favorite mountain biking trails, connecting the dots from trailhead to trailhead on your bike. Link up a series of ridge lines in your local mountain range, ski multiple couloirs  in a day, climb at each gym in your city in a day, while running between. Get creative: the more aesthetic and natural the link-up, the better.

Headlamps
Hannah Lily Hall rappeling into the sunset in Zion National Park. Photo: Jenny Abegg

Choose a Goal that Excites You

If you’re itching for a full day out, don’t just slap on a headlamp pre-dawn and hike in circles through the same terrain until the stars show up and call it a day. Rather, choose a goal that really excites you. Run a 30 mile loop that you once backpacked in three days, for instance, or visit that town 40 miles away, that one with the great restaurant you’ve always wanted to eat at—but do it on your bike. You’re new to an area and want to get a taste for the climbing? Try to climb as many moderates as you can in a day. Make sure you set a goal that will keep you going when the times get tough; with a day this long, they likely will.

Running 30 miles through the Blue Ridge Mountains. Photo: Jenny Abegg/Melina Coogan
Try making a day trip from town, on your bike. Photo: Jenny Abegg 

Try a Multi-Sport Day

A few summers ago, a man by the name of David Gonzales biked 21 miles from Jackson, WY to Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park. He then swam 1.3 miles across the lake, and proceeded to climb the 13,770 foot Grand Teton. He then descended, swam back across the lake, and biked back to his home in Jackson. It was a feat that has come to be known as the Picnic, and no matter where you are in the world, Picnic-like opportunities abound. Maybe it means biking the 30 miles to the trailhead for a run, or rollerblading the shuttle to your kayak put-in, or bringing inflatable tubes in with you to the crag to float out. Stay serious or get silly—your choice—but go big!

Joey Schusler certainly earning his turns. Photo: Brody Leven

Get Creative

There is no end to what you can do in a day, and regardless of whether you’re planning a link-up, a multi-sport day, a long day of ski touring, or choosing to bike instead of drive, creativity can be key to these adventures. Heck, you can have a link-up day in the middle of the city [or, link, link]. You could climb your age in pitches, or set out to boulder 100 V-points in a day. Your multi-sport day could include catching a ride from a friend even, or riding a red-eye train.  It might be your own mini-version of an adventure race. Play with numbers, variables, and people, and see just how creative you can get.

A full day of adventure could happen anywhere, even in the city. Photo: Forest Woodward

Most importantly, as you don your headlamp in the morning, make sure you commit to yourself to stick to your goal. Sometimes a link-up or multi-sport day might feel slightly contrived (e.g. I could stop climbing whenever I want to, or hitch a ride instead of running home, or not eat that last slice of pizza on my city-wide food run). However, the fun comes in the game, and in sticking to the rules you set out for yourself. So finish strong! And don’t forget to bring some extra batteries for that headlamp.

Finishing out the day strong. Photo: Forest Woodward

Author: Raised by mountain-loving parents on the flanks of the North Cascades, Jenny’s idea of a perfect day starts and ends wearing a headlamp, and includes a snowy approach, dry granite, and endless high fives with a favorite partner. Her passion for adventurous climbing has led her from the jungles of Rio to windy spires in Patagonia, from the unexplored faces of the Purcell Mountains to heady granite domes of North Carolina. Currently based out of Asheville, NC, Jenny is a climbing guide and a writer, exploring the topics of climbing, life, and the spaces between. 

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2 comments on “Headlamps Start to Finish

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