Archive for April, 2017

Back packing rules of the road. Rucking

April 24, 2017

Rucking” is the military term for hiking under load. As you can imagine, this is a huge issue for the military, as soldiers must wear body armor and carry weapons, ammo, water, communications equipment, and other gear as they conduct patrols and missions. Rucking performance and injury prevention are hugely important for military operations and personnel.

Movement over ground under load is also key for many mountain sports, from dayhiking to backpacking to big mountain alpinism. In reviewing the research the military has already done on this subject, we discovered five rules that are just as applicable to mountain sports as they are to combat operations. Read on to make sure you’re following these military rucking rules on your next backcountry adventure.

1. One pound on your feet equals five pounds on your back.

This old backpacking thumb rule holds true, according to a 1984 study from the U.S. Army Research Institute. They tested how much more energy was expended with different footwear (boots and shoes) and concluded that it take 4.7 to 6.4 times as much energy to move at a given pace when weight is carried on the shoe versus on the torso.

In practical terms, this means you could carry half a gallon more of water (a little over 4 pounds) if you buy boots that are a pound lighter, which isn’t hard to do; and that’s a lot of water. Now imagine the energy savings of backpacking in light trail running shoes rather than heavy, leather backpacking boots over the course of 7-day backpacking trip.

2. One pound on your feet equals 5% more energy expended.

Heavier footwear doesn’t just affect you because of its weight. Heavier boots are stiffer and less responsive as well. This reduces the efficiency of your body’s stretch reflex on hitting the ground.

Five percent doesn’t sound like much, though, so how does 5% translate to run times? Well, 5% would slow your mile pace time down by 30 seconds, depending on how long you’re running. But, the faster you attempt to run, the more that 5% will affect your performance.

3. Every 1% of your body weight in your pack makes you six seconds slower per mile.

Carrying weight in your pack isn’t free of cost, though. Each 1% of your body weight carried in your pack makes you 6 seconds slower per mile. So, if you weigh 150 pounds, each 1.5 pounds of weight in your pack slows you by 6 seconds per mile. For a 150-pound hiker, on an extended trip, cutting your pack weight down from 40 to 30 pounds saves you 40 seconds per mile.

4. A 10% grade incline cuts your speed in half.

Grade greatly affects speed. By “grade” we mean how much terrain incline or decline there is. At 10% grade, for example, for every 10 feet you travel forward, you’ll travel 1 foot up. In terms of angles, 10% equals 5.74 degrees. A 5.74 degree angle doesn’t seem like much until you’re humping up it mile after mile. You’ll know how hard it is because you’ll move twice as slowly over it than over flat ground with a given load.

That last little part—with a given load—is important. A 10% grade will cut your speed in half no matter if you’re carrying 45 lbs. or 80 lbs.

5. Going up slows you down twice as much as going down speeds you up.

Don’t believe you’ll make time up on the other side of the hill. You won’t. You’ll only make half the time up.

Why don’t you gain as much by running downhill as you lose running up? Braking forces. As you descend, you have to brake your speed with your quads to keep yourself under control. The steeper the downhill, the more braking. This added load on your muscles further affects your uphill performance if you have repeated bouts of up and down work.

Grand Canyon missing hikers

April 19, 2017

Bootmaker founder’s wife, teen, missing in Grand Canyon
Apr 19, 2017 12:29 AM
By ASTRID GALVAN
Associated Press
Relatively few visitors even try to hike a rugged, remote area at the bottom of the Grand Canyon where the wife of the founder of Merrell Boot Co. and a teenager went missing last weekend, according to the National Park Service.

Tapeats Creek, where Lou-Ann Merrell and Jackson Standefer, 14, lost their footing during a family trip, is not particularly difficult to hike for experienced backpackers, said Chris Forsyth, president of the Grand Canyon Hikers & Backpackers Association board. But heavy water rushing through the creek can make it challenging, he said.

Merrell is the wife of Randy Merrell, who helped found the Merrell Boot Co.

The Merrells, Standefer and the boy’s mother were on a path known as Tapeats Trail when the pair fell, authorities said. The Merrell family accessed the area by hiking down from the North Rim.

The area has a more distinct geology than most of the park and attracts a fair number of visitors but is not as popular with tourists are other spots, like Havasupai Falls. Forsyth, who says he has hiked that area five times, said a visit there calls for a multiple-day backpacking trip and at least some experience in hiking. He said his first trip through the canyon was at Tapeats Creek.

About 3,500 people got permits in 2015 to camp in the general area where the two hikers went missing, the latest readily available data, said National Park Service spokeswoman Robin Martin. About 41,000 total people that year got permits to backpack in the Grand Canyon in total.

Matthew Nelson, the executive director of the Arizona Trail Association and a former Grand Canyon backpacking guide, said accessing that area on foot takes days and requires an arduous hike. Nelson said the area offers stunning views but is also unforgivingly hot. He said the water in the creek comes from a cave and is always extremely cold.

“The rock that forms the canyon at Tapeats Creek is a particular layer that isn’t found everywhere in the Grand Canyon. It gives it a more unique sense of beauty,” Forsyth said.

An intense search for Merrell and 14-year-old Standefer resumed Tuesday, Martin said.

The search includes three ground teams consisting of about 20 people total, a National Park Service helicopter, a drone and an inflatable motor raft that was flown into the canyon. Search crews are looking within a mile and a mile and half of where the hikers were last seen, as well as where the creek meets the Colorado River.

“We’re really just looking in the water and areas where someone maybe would have been able to get out,” Martin said.

Mark McOmie, the boy’s uncle, said the Merrells are avid hikers and know the area well. He said Lou-Ann and Randy Merrell, who was also on the trip, live in Vernal, a city in eastern Utah. McOmie was not on the trip.

Lou-Ann Merrell is “a very experienced backpacker,” McOmie said. “If they can get to a spot where they cannot be in the water and stay warm, she’s got the skills needed to get them through it.”

The parent organization of the Merrell Boot Co., Wolverine Worldwide, issued a statement Tuesday.

“Our thoughts, prayers, and hearts are with the Merrell family. We are grateful to the people working around the clock and continue to be hopeful,” said Jim Zwiers, executive vice president.

The park service said it hasn’t determined what went wrong and that there was no rain or flash flooding reported in the area.

Creeks in the canyon often see higher water levels in the spring as snow melts. Forsyth said that he hasn’t visited Tapeats Creek this year but has been to other parts of the park, where he’s noticed more water than usual, he said.

The McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tennessee, said Jackson is an eighth-grade student at the all-boys school.

A call to Merrell Footlab for comment wasn’t immediately returned.