Listen on: iTunes | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher

Episodes

About this episode

Vasu Sojitra is one of the most accomplished adaptive athletes on Earth. He’s notched first independent adaptive ascents and descents on everything from the Grand Teton in Grand Teton National Park to Tuckerman's Ravine on Mount Washington in New Hampshire. This past winter, he summited Wyoming's formidable Mount Moran and skied its infamous Skillet Glacier. He’s done all of this with one leg. Reducing Vasu to his leg difference, though, doesn’t do him justice. Rather, Vasu has leveraged his disability to cultivate courage, resiliency, and compassion. In this episode of Out and Back, Vasu recounts going from feeling like an outsider as a kid growing up in Glastonbury, CT and Gujarat, India, to finding belonging on the ski slopes. Vasu’s accomplishments on the trails are extraordinary, but his story is really one of finding strength within yourself. He’s on a mission to make the outdoors accessible to all, so everyone can experience the liberation of moving their bodies through the landscape.


About this episode

The days are getting longer and warmer — hiking season is well on its way! But for many of us, nearby trails are still covered in ice and snow. And for many more, we are cooped up in the city or live in geographical regions as flat as a pancake. How can we gear up for summer adventures? Well...personal trainer Billy Gawron of Backcountry Fitness is here with answers. This week on Out and Back, Shanty and Abby chat with Billy about training for hiking, backpacking, and thru-hiking season. The trio talk about key fitness issues, including... -the number one thing we should all start working on right now -the key to balancing strength work with endurance training -pervasive myths about training -how to train your feet and ankles to withstand long days with a heavy pack -how to prevent pesky and debilitating knee pain -how to prepare for altitude while at sea level If you’re dreaming up some big plans for the summer, you won’t want to miss this show!


About this episode

Alpinist Adrian Ballinger has made a career of climbing the Himalaya’s 8,000-meter giants. Since 2008, he’s summited Mount Everest eight times, including once without supplemental oxygen. He has also climbed other lofty and daring peaks in the region like K2, Lhotse, Cho Oyu, and Manaslu. In this fun and lighthearted chat, Ballinger speaks openly with Shanty and Mary about overcoming family and societal pressure in order to live a life that's true to yourself, and he also talks about the challenges/realities of guiding clients up the world’s highest mountains. But it's not all just earthquakes, avalanches, mountain politics, and global warming. Ballinger also takes us to a fateful encounter on the side of Mount Everest, where he met the love of his life, professional climber Emily Harrington. The couple got engaged last year, and are looking at a December 2021 wedding. Ballinger gives us a peak of what “normal” life is like for these two climbing celebrities.


About this episode

Professional rock climber Matt Segal knew that climbing would never be enough for him. Plus, he was fed up with drinking bad coffee on climbing expeditions. As a result, Segal founded Alpine Start, an artisan instant coffee company, while continuing to raise the bar in climbing. In this episode of the Out and Back podcast, Abby and Shanty catch up with Segal to learn how he redefines what’s possible in climbing and how he juggles sports with running a business.


About this episode

After 10 years of marriage, Sonya and Necota Staples reached the brink of divorce. They had gotten so caught up in the business of living that they drifted apart. That’s when these city dwellers tried something new: camping. That one trip changed the trajectory of their lives. In this special Valentine’s Day episode of the Out and Back podcast, Abby and Shanty bring you the story of Sonya and Necota Staples. Tune in to learn how camping and overlanding rejuvenated the Staples’ marriage. The Staples share their story openly and honestly, with humor and insight along the way. They talk about what inspired them to start the YouTube channel and social media presence "StaplesInTents". And they get into why they swapped out their BMWs for a Land Cruiser and some of the fun adventures they've had off road.


About this episode

Shanty and Mary catch up with Luke Smithwick, one of the most prolific ski mountaineers and guides in the world. Smithwick is 200 lines deep into his Himalaya 500 skiing project — a mission to highlight 500 of the most unique and beautiful backcountry runs in the world’s tallest mountains. With more than 75 Himalayan mountain expeditions to his name, Smithwick unravels the mystery of skiing in places like Tibet, India, and Nepal. Smithwick tells us why the Himalayas could become the next, all-time backcountry ski destination. Tune in to find out what it takes to get on one of Smithwick’s guided Himalayan ski mountaineering trips, learn about his mission to ski 500 classic Himalayan descents, and get his take on the best zones in this colossal mountain range.


About this episode

If you’re wondering what kind of backcountry ski gear to buy this season, you’ll want to listen to this chat with big mountain skier Sophia Schwartz and Sean McCoy, editorial director of GearJunkie. Schwartz, a multiple top-ten World Cup finisher and the 2013 U.S. Freestyle champion, describes her journey from the mogul course to the backcountry glades and couloirs. She recalls her first backcountry ski trip. Her gear was...less than optimal... Schwartz teams up with McCoy, an avid skier himself, to chat about what’s good in the world of backcountry ski gear. Everything from avalanche airbags to skins, Schwartz and McCoy dive into their kits, discuss their favorite pieces of gear, and give tips for best uses along the way. Turns out that these two happen to be big fans of the same ski boot. Tune in to find out which boot they love to ski both at the resort and in the backcountry.


About this episode

If the transition to backcountry skiing seems daunting, then you won’t want to miss this Out and Back episode with Erik Lambert from Bluebird Backcountry. Bluebird Backcountry is a totally new concept — a ski area without lifts. That’s right, alpine touring only. Lambert says he started the Colorado resort as a way for skiers and splitboarders to feel comfortable in their transition from the resort to the backcountry. Tune in to learn more about what Bluebird offers — everything from top notch backcountry rental equipment, to avalanche courses, to guided backcountry skiing. Bluebird provides a prime spot to get started backcountry skiing and a fun adventure for experts, too.


About this episode

In 1978, Bruce Tremper nearly died in an avalanche. This incident changed the trajectory of Tremper’s life, leading him to become one of the preeminent avalanche experts in the world. This week on the Out and Back podcast, Tremper (after discussing snow science and avalanche safety on the previous episode) recounts that harrowing tale. He gives a blow-by-blow account of what it felt like to have the “rug pulled out” from under his skis and rocket down the hill in a landslide of snow. He then shares how after this event, he made unlocking the mysteries of avalanches his number one goal in life. Hold on tight as Tremper unpacks what should have been a life-ending experience. If you’re looking for more practical tips on avalanche safety, make sure to go back to our previous episode (#20) where Tremper lays down his best measures for staying safe in the backcountry this winter!


About this episode

This episode of Out and Back dives into the nitty gritty details of snow science and avalanche risk assessment, as Shanty and Mary talk with renowned avalanche expert Bruce Tremper. Author of "Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain" and "Avalanche Essentials", Tremper gives his hard-won and masterful tips for avalanche safety. Tremper draws on his 30-plus year career as an avalanche forecaster to give advice on everything from how to spot a weak layer in the snowpack to what to do if you’re caught in an avalanche. Tune in to find out what you can do to guard against the human factors that lead people to make mistakes in avalanche terrain. Tremper gets specific about the demographics for avalanche fatalities, his “low risk travel ritual,” and the latest protocols if you are caught in an avalanche. Tremper nerds out with persistent weak layers analysis and busts some longstanding avalanche myths. After this discussion, you might think twice before jumping into zones you once considered bombproof.


About this episode

We kick off the first episode of our backcountry ski series as Shanty and Mary sit down with Colorado’s Summit County Search and Rescue mission coordinator, Charles Pitman. Tune in as Pitman enlightens us on what backcountry enthusiasts can do to stay safer this winter, including how to recognize and avoid avalanche danger in backcountry travel, what to do if you need help, and what you should put in your backpack to be prepared in case something goes wrong. Backcountry skiers, winter hikers, climbers, and snowmobilers will not want to miss this behind-the-scenes look at the upcoming snow season and what rescue professionals are doing to prepare for the busy season ahead. Plus, hear a few of Pitman’s most harrowing rescue stories!


About this episode

What drives people to set seemingly impossible goals, and what fuels them to succeed? Shanty and professional ultra runner Abby Levene dig into these questions with the queen of ultra running, Courtney Dauwalter. Courtney is renowned in the ultra running community and beyond for her definitive wins at everything from the Moab 240-mile trail race, to the Western States 100 Endurance Run, to the 100-mile Ultra Trail de Mont Blanc. Courtney takes listeners through her Colorado Trail FKT attempt this summer, and her recent win at perhaps the strangest running event of all: Big’s Backyard Ultra. The ultimate test of the mind, athletes at this event run a 4.16-mile loop every hour on the hour until only one person remains. This year, it was Courtney — 68 hours and 283 miles later. Runners and non-runners alike won’t want to miss this episode to catch Courtney’s infectious optimism, learn what drives her to push barriers, and to pick up some tips on training your brain to endure when your body tells you to stop.


About this episode

Shanty and Mary review this year’s FKT round up with Buzz Burrell, co-founder of FastestKnownTime.com and co-host of the FKT Podcast. Buzz takes us through the rise of the FKT, what makes a solid FKT route, the allure of the solitary push to set a speed record, and why the FKT has become so popular in this year of pandemic lock downs, civil unrest, and wildfires. Widely known as the "Father of the FKT" and a champion of many FKT records of his own, Buzz delivers this year’s round up of robust FKT activity and his four tips for pushing on as the years pile up. Plus, you’ll never guess what indoor activity Buzz has mastered, proving that Buzz is so much more than a mountain athlete!


About this episode

Everyone loves a good bear story. This week, we bring you the tale of Grizzly Bear 399 — perhaps the most famous bear in the world. For more than a decade, Griz 399 has been living in the front country of Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park. Thousands of tourists, wildlife watchers, and photographers flock to the park’s Pilgrim Creek area to catch a glimpse of Griz 399 and her cubs feeding on elk carcasses, scrounging for berries, and taking naps in the sun, all before the public eye. Tune in to hear how Griz 399’s fame exploded this year when she crawled out of her winter den with four tiny cubs in tow. Guests on this documentary-style episode include... 1) Wildlife photographer and conservationist Thomas Mangelsen, who has been documenting Griz 399’s life for almost 15 years. 2) Montana-based journalist Todd Wilkinson, who has written extensively about Griz 399’s life, and has worked with Mangelsen to produce the absolutely ground-breaking work, "Grizzlies of Pilgrim Creek". 3) Wildlife watcher Maureen Matsen, who has been scouting wildlife in Grand Teton National Park for 40 years. 4) Dennis Van Denbos, who in 2007, was attacked by Grizz 399 and her cubs...and lived to tell the tale. Tune in to hear the incredible story of a mother bear and her cubs who have brought resilience and hope to so many!


About this episode

This week, Out and Back delves into the psychological side of backpacking. Special guest host and previous Out and Back guest "The Real Hiking Viking" joins Shanty to chat with one of Viking’s buddies: hiking legend Zach “Badger” Davis. Thru-hikers may know Badger as the founder of the popular backpacking resource, The Trek. Badger has also written Appalachian Trials and Pacific Crest Trials, psychological guides for tackling the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. Badger explains how his puzzlement over the “Virginia Blues” led him to start a blog to make sense of why so many thru-hikers quit the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. Blogging ultimately led him to write Appalachian Trials and found The Trek. On a lighter note, Badger and Viking dig into the unlikely start of their friendship, and they share wild stories from thru-hiking the PCT together, including how sleeping in an outhouse saved their lives. Seasoned and aspiring thru-hikers alike won’t want to miss this episode to learn how to find the light at the end of the dark, green tunnel.


About this episode

Shanty and Mary are joined by hiker, guidebook author, and licensed therapist Scott Turner. Turner has written guide books to five national parks and well as his home of San Diego County, CA. He shares insight on how to get the most out of a one-day visit to a national park, including insider tips for beating the crowds, secret ways to get off the beaten path, and the best times of year to go. In addition to his national park tips, Turner does the first "Out and Back" podcast pack shakedown, running through everything he brings in his pack, and talks about everything you should bring to have fun and stay safe on a day hike, including the “10 essentials” you need to survive an unplanned night outside and when to bring them.


About this episode

Shanty and Mary catch up with world adventurers Bethany “Fidgit” Hughes and Lauren “Neon” Reed for an update on their journey across the Americas. Hughes and Reed have spent the last five years hiking, biking, and paddling their way across South/Central America, Mexico, and the United States on their non-motorized tour of the American continents. The long-distance hikers are hunkered down in the States waiting for COVID to subside before finishing off their adventure in the northernmost part of North America. In this episode, Hughes and Reed discuss how they traveled through the wilderness in foreign countries, their incredible and heartwarming interactions with the locals they met along the way, and some tips for treading lightly through indigenous regions and cultures. We also hear about their safety plans and how their contrasting personalities serve their expedition mission in equal but different ways. Don’t miss this episode if you want to learn about getting off the tourist path in South and Central America.


About this episode

When Mary Cochenour became a wilderness ranger, she was forced to conquer her fear of solo backpacking. It took some time, but with a lot of practice, Mary eventually grew comfortable camping alone in the woods. That is until she realized she wasn’t alone after all. A man had been stalking Mary even in the farthest corners of the wilderness. Mary says of the night she met her stalker: ”It maybe was Sunday night and the weekend crowds were gone. And I felt really isolated there. And I was sprawled out on the granite slabs and I took off my shoes and I was watching the sun fade. And all of a sudden I could hear footsteps coming up behind me..." On Episode 12 of the Out and Back podcast, Mary reveals how this sketchy incident inspired her to keep backpacking solo and how she drew on this experience when working with victims as a violent crimes prosecutor in Montana. This story, although gripping at times, reminds us that sometimes you have to face your fears head on to finally overcome them.


About this episode

In 2017, registered dietitian Aaron Owens Mayhew quit her job to hike the PCT. The only catch: she hated — and hated paying for — freeze-dried meals. Meal planning for a five-month thru-hike felt impossible, as did carrying enough nutritious food. So Owens Mayhew put her culinary expertise to work. Her thru-hike didn’t go as planned, but Backcountry Foodie was born. In episode 11 of the Out and Back podcast, Owens Mayhew shares stories from her two decades of backpacking and the behind-the-scenes of how she created her popular backpacking food site and meal planning service. She also shares how you can cut down on food weight while eating healthier and more delicious meals on the trail.


About this episode

Right now, the longest hiking route in America is being designed, mapped, and tested. The American Perimeter Trail circles the contiguous United States to make a 12,000-mile loop of existing trails, roads, and off-trail travel. Long-distance hiker Rue McKenrick dreamed up the route after completing America’s thru-hiking Triple Crown and found himself craving another engaging long-distance hike in the US. So, he scoured the maps. When he couldn’t find another long trail to hike, he imagined a route that connected existing trails and a few offtrail routes in between. In summer of 2019, McKenrick left his home in Bend, Oregon to scout the best track for the American Perimeter Trail. He’s hiked some 8,000 miles since then. In this interview, Shanty catches up with McKenrick during a town stop in western Michigan. McKenrick explains what inspired the American Perimeter Trail project, his vision for the trail, and the unbelievable encounters he’s experienced the way. Hear about how he navigated his way around massive swaths of private property in Texas, endured police questioning for having a backpack and an “accent,” and what happened when shots were fired over his head. McKenrick gets real with Shanty, revealing the one item he takes with him on every journey — an open heart.


About this episode

On episode 9 of the Out and Back podcast, world adventurer and author Justin "Trauma" Lichter shares his wildest stories from across the globe. Lichter recounts how stampeding elephants and stalking lions stopped him in his tracks on his attempted thru-hike of eastern Africa and how he successfully completed a 2,000-mile high-altitude traverse of the Himalayas. In addition, he provides a behind-the-scenes scoop on his most headline-making trip: becoming the first person, along with Shawn “Pepper” Forry, to successfully complete the Pacific Crest Trail in winter. On top of all these stories, Lichter gives insight into the challenges and rewards of international adventures and the complications of winter travel on the PCT. He also digs into what motivates him to keep pushing the limits in the outdoors. Finally, Trauma also takes some time to talk with Shanty about avalanche safety, winter gear, and international resupply strategies.


About this episode

When Army veteran Will Robinson returned home from a combat tour in Iraq, he struggled with depression and PTSD. He spent more and more time at home, withdrawing from civilian life and turning to alcohol for self medication. One day, he flipped on the TV and saw Reese Witherspoon wrestling with an oversized backpack in the movie “Wild.” That movie scene took Robinson back to his deployment overseas when he read a book about hiking the 2,660-mile Pacific Crest Trail. Inspired, Robinson shut off the TV and got to work planning his hike. Just two weeks later, Robinson put two feet on the trail and began walking north. Robinson, dubbed “Akuna” on the trail, sits down with Shanty in episode 8 of the Out and Back podcast. He engages in a frank discussion about how hiking has helped him find purpose, community, and the space and time he needs to focus on himself. He recounts how the PCT hike allowed him to address his PTSD and Depression. Inspired by how the trail made him feel, Akuna continued on to hike the Appalachian Trail and the Continental Divide Trail — becoming the first Black man to complete the Triple Crown of long trails in America. Tune in as Robinson talks about being the first Black man to complete the Triple Crown, what that achievement has meant to him, and how all the hateful comments on social media mentally drained him. Akuna also touches on the recent flood of media requests in his inbox regarding speaking about the issues people of color face in the outdoors. He explains what he believes his fellow hikers can do on trail to make the outdoors a more welcoming place for people of color, and what it means for outdoor brands to become better allies. Laid back yet passionate about hiking, Akuna highlights the healing nature of trails everywhere, whether long, short, or in between.


About this episode

If you’ve ever wondered how much money it takes to set off on a long thru-hike like the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail, guess no more. In this episode of the Out and Back podcast, Shanty tackles thru-hiking’s financial costs with author, gear reviewer, and dedicated long-distance hiker Liz Thomas. Known as “Snorkel” in the trail community, Thomas gives an honest and realistic picture of a thru-hiker’s budget. Learn Snorkel’s philosophy on buying gear, ways to save money in trail towns, and hear about all the hidden expenses that most hikers never even consider. Snorkel also takes us out of the wilderness and to the city sidewalk with 14 urban trekking routes across American cities. From Los Angeles to Seattle, Snorkel created 100-mile hikes through metropolitan areas to make the joy of thru-hiking more accessible to people who enjoy the comforts of civilization. While not the most economical thru-hike, these trips provide a unique way to experience the hustle and bustle of the metropolis.


About this episode

Shanty has a deep conversation with "Adventure Alan" Dixon, who inspires all of us to simply put “two feet on the trail” and get out there. A trailblazer of ultralight backpacking and author of one of the most popular and comprehensive backpacking websites available (adventurealan.com), Dixon is widely known for his spec-heavy, detail-oriented backpacking gear reviews and expert advice on all things backcountry. But in this interview, Dixon leaves behind his engineering background and the gear spreadsheets to reveal his more vulnerable side. Dixon recounts one of the most harrowing mishaps of his outdoor career, bringing him and his climbing partner to hallucinations and the brink of death in the Tetons of Wyoming. He talks about the “controlled chaos” of his upbringing that trained him to love high adventure in the outdoors and why he prefers high routes to slaying miles on long-distance trails. Although an early adopter of the most extreme versions of ultralight backpacking, Dixon tells us that you should not wait until you have the perfect gear or are in better physical shape to get moving on the trail. His goal is to encourage everyone to get on the trail and start hiking today. Tune in to episode 6 to learn more about Adventure Alan and his backpacking philosophy, including the one thing you need to leave behind in order to lighten your backpack.


About this episode

Take a ride with Kevin and Sarah McCuiston of "Lifestyle Overland" in episode 5 of the Out and Back Podcast. Known for their full-time overlanding adventures, the McCuistons casually stepped into the sport when they were “looking for something to do” in rural New Mexico. Surrounded by public lands and sprawling open space, the couple quickly became obsessed with the freedom they felt on the backroads. They loved overlanding so much that they ditched the traditional 9-to-5 grind and took up residence on America’s lesser known trails, almost instantly becoming famous for their travels to wild places in their Toyota 4Runner “Silver.” On the show, Kevin and Sarah discuss their transition from conventional life to full-time overlanding (with their young daughter Caroline in tow), the nearly 800-mile Enchanted Rockies Trail they created in the beginning of their overlanding career, their northern trip through Canada, Alaska, and beyond the Arctic Circle, the details of their rig, tips for traveling long distance with a toddler, and their favorite meals out on the road. Finally, they explain how you can break into the sport of overlanding by seeking out trips on local trails and using the 4WD vehicle you already own.


About this episode

Episode 4 has Shanty sitting down with Blue Ridge Outdoors 2020 Hiker of the Year, Daniel White. Known as "The Blackalachian" in the outdoor community, White tackled his first thru-hike in 2017 when he turned to the Appalachian Trail to get away from a bad break up and burn out at his job. In this episode, White recounts the ups and downs of his AT completion, opening up about a racist encounter at his camp near the Mason-Dixon line on the AT. He also takes us through his "powerful" ride on the Underground Railroad Trail and his trips to Europe last year, where he hiked across Scotland and completed the Camino Del Norte in Spain. Fueled by both adversity and kindness from the people he met along the way, White’s drive for solo adventure shines through in this interview.


About this episode

Shanty catches up with backpacking and navigation expert Andrew Skurka. Skurka started his long distance hiking career in 2002 when he completed the 2,170-mile Appalachian Trail as a novice backpacker. From there, Skurka took his hiking status to the next level by laying down the first tracks on three enormous, untouched routes in America. Through those thousands of miles of solo hiking, Skurka has become a master at finding his way in the wilderness. Listen in as Skurka takes us through his unusual progression of long-distance hiking, from the well worn path of the AT to these high-risk, high-mileage adventures. In the process, Skurka also touches on the multiple high routes he’s created in recent years, what he carries in his backcountry navigation kit, and the one, simple concept that everyone can do to stay found in the backcountry.


About this episode

Shanty catches up with free-spirited and fun-focused Thomas Gathman, who picked up the trail name "The Real Hiking Viking" due to his Norse-like beard and his warrior status as a former Marine Scout Sniper. Viking served two combat tours in Iraq before coming home, selling all his possessions, and hiking more than 20,000 miles on America's longest trails. In this episode, Shanty goes beyond the iconic beard and unravels Viking's often-overlooked journey from sniper to pro hiker. Viking shines a light on how he was first introduced to thru-hiking culture and what inspired him to step on the trail and never look back.


About this episode

The Out and Back Podcast launches with Heather “Anish” Anderson, who spells out the complex set of factors that drove her to accomplish speed records on the Pacific Crest Trail, the Appalachian Trail, and the Arizona Trail, as well as become one of a handful of athletes to nab all three long trails, some 7,500+ miles of hiking, in a single calendar year. In this episode, Anderson explains how she faced her fear head-on to finally convince herself that she is indeed an athlete as well as what inspired her in her journey from her first overnight backpack trip in 2001 to thru-hiking some 30,000 miles over the last 19 years. Finally, she talks about the very real “post hike depression” that she and other thru-hikers experience after re-entering society following months on the trail, how journaling helped her process the grief that overcame her after claiming the fastest known time on the PCT, and how those journals ultimately formed the basis of her book "Thirst: 2600 Miles to Home" (Mountaineer Books).

About the Host

In 2019, host Andrew Baldwin completed a southbound thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. After five months on the trail, Baldwin returned home to pursue a career in voice acting. A friend of the company, Baldwin was a natural choice for hosting the Out and Back podcast.