Monday, March 11, 2013

ManTrip 2013

The "Death Rider ManTrip" is a particular combination of emotional, attitudinal, and behavioral responses to activities that force psychological tendency to be expressed.

One question that has been posited is why extroverts tend to be happier than introverts. Two types of explanations attempt to account for this difference: the instrumental theories and temperamental theories. The instrumental theory suggests that extroverts end up making choices that place them in more positive situations and they also react more strongly than introverts to positive situations {lets focus on this answer}. The temperamental theory suggests that extroverts have a disposition that generally leads them to experience a higher degree of positive affect but found no statistically significant support for the instrumental theory but did, however, find that extroverts generally experience a higher level of positive affect.

Being something you are not creates cognitive fatigue. Diminishes enjoyment as energy is drained by this foreign style of behavior and attitudes. About now you're probably wondering why I lead off with a psychological profile of personalities and how we should not be something we are not when all you want are dramatic images and a quick monolog thick with human drama.  Because the ManTrip is more about personalities and intrapersonal communication then skiing on a river or riding a bike.

Last point and I'll get into the human drama. When we were all young we didn't know others were watching and we found things we liked and played the way we wanted to. That was our real personality. After getting the answers wrong, being told 'you can't do that', we learned to fit in and be bland and befitting our foreign style of behavior and attitudes, we tend to be less happy

Four days of sun up to sun down adventure is best enjoyed by the truest of personalities. The fatigue of physical activities is enough to wear most of us down to lumps of meat without the taxing affect of artificial personalities. I say this because we are not always in positive situations and it's required that we react more strongly then maybe we would if it wasn't for the ManTrip. We are all strong willed extroverts but you can tell at times we all take on the extra work of an artificial disposition to get us over a particular rough patch. 

Everyone on the trip is excited to be there and they all possess the true beliefs that activities and adventure are  the best things in life but I find the mental struggle to stay positive the most entertaining. It means nothing to have a bike, snowshoes, and a full camp set or skis, crampons, harness, cook set and headlamp and be trekking up a weakly defined trail or more accurately a line of weakness. Turning one adventure to the other without forgetting gear or holding up the show means you have to stay focused, think fast and pack gear even faster. Nothing can be left to guesses but being left behind is a sure thing. Fall behind, get left behind.

To get the trip going we find a classic line of weakness through the rugged terrain of the greater Duluth area and attack it with snowshoes and unrealistically high spirits. An hour in and we are jumping off rocks and other snowy antics. We scramble around for close to 2 hours before we make it down to the big lake to take in the hard biting wind and high surf. Wind chill is about 200 below or so it feels.

It's so cold even the rocks are huddled together to stay warm.

A quick game of "how close to the waves can you get without getting wet".

Rivers have a way of making ice in ways you never see on lakes. Winds and currents make these Lilly Pads.

Passing natural structures can sometime be very risky but these man made tubes extend the line of weakness we've been following without requiring us to repel or other high angle scrambles. The ice is hollow but thick enough. The best we can tell, the water is shallow so even if it fails we should still keep dry feet.

The power of water normally gouges out caves. With the ice formation inside I presume the water freezes and pushed the rock out a little at a time so that after a few 100 winters the cave is now 15 feet deep.

This is the end of the line for this trip. We have to double back to the van, repack some gear and navigate to the next scene.

In the next adventure the challenge was to connect some geographical points to confirm that a route will 'go' for the next day. Josh and I, along with JJ head upstream with hardware for ice climbing and other siege tactics so we don't get turned back by one of the nature structures that do not contain a man made tunnel.

Why is Josh on the side of a hill with ice tools? The answer is me. <he he he> The drama started because we ran into a large pool of boiling river water below a falls. The snow bridges have been good up until this time but the one that crosses this pool is small, thin and if it fails, very wet. We all consider trying it but it's just so small we all back up looking at the fast moving water below it. I get a stick, no, I get a tree about 15 feet long to test the depth. We joke about the ridiculous size but I'm not going to cut it just to use 5 feet. I plunge it into the pool and it goes under! The pool is over 15 feet deep and running hard. It changes everyone's tone 

because if the bridge was to fail it's fatal.  We lament the end of the route and start looking for options. This is the time you need to lean into the disappointment with a positive attitude. We retreat about 100 feet to find a high angle ramp to the top of the gorge.  The idea is that if we get to the top, we can pass the falls and drop back in to connect the dots. The ramp starts out with hard snow and Josh and I (in crampons) kicking in steps while tooling our way to the top. About 30 feet up it goes vertical. Tooling gets harder as the snow breaks away leaving us desperate for solid placements. Footing is poor but we can stem out (think splits). We tool hard into the frozen ground, trees, roots anything that will give us the bite we need to climb. We turn the corner and follow the ramp up the treeline to mixed rock and deep hard snow. Tooling deeply into the snow provides a solid grip and it's not long before we summit to a deer trail, paced with wolf tracks.  Josh and I agree, tooling back down the roughly 120 feet is out of the question.

We use the deer trail as hoped and pass the worst of the water and get back on the river by a low angle ramp. Tomorrow we will use this knowledge to exit before the falls and rappel down the route we just
forged. Before the day is done we find the last of 3 rivers and ride it to just before sundown.
Back at camp it's time for second dinners. We have dinner in town but we are burning 4 to 5,000 calories a day so you can always eat. I stomp in my tent site and set up camp after having a very nice soup with udon noodles and then some bonfire.

The next day we hit the trail with skis, climbing harness and a few lunch items. Mark (left) looks like he lives out here. 
Crossing a snow bridge, water on both sides but it's stable and we all make it to the exit with dry feet.
Wolf tracks are all over the place. We are sure they saw us but disappointingly we did not see them. At times we'd see their tracks over ours so they had to be close.
Good eats on the trail. This little stop gave us the idea that we should plan and pack a robust lunch for the next day but time doesn't allow because we have a rappel coming up.
We have to repel twice to reduce rope issues with the trees as well as change direction. At times it's vertical to near vertical so a rope is required.

Back at the shuttle car we retool for a trip out to the big lake. Having connected the dots of the upper line we want to finish with a trip to the lake but we need to trade the skis for snowshoes, ice tools and fresh socks.

Passing the open water is becoming common place. Its a balance of risk times reward and the depth of the water verses the time to dry clothes. If the water is knee deep or less you can just move swiftly in the snowshoes and hope it holds.

We finish up one line of weakness and loop back again to show the others what we found Friday.

We camp out again but this time on ice. We follow a river until we get a large bowl that blocks the wind like a tenting harbor and we anchor in for the night. Last night was -14, tonight is negative something. I could not tell. I knew it got cold but inside my bag it was a warm and soft. At times I would sweep the ice off the front of the bag but only because it would drip on me at times and wake me up. I've had worse nights in my own bed.

See, we are all happy and having a good time come morning. I'm late to wake and catch a little crap from the guys for slowing things down.


I pack quick and get back to the van to have some breakfast. Josh and I use the roomy ride to cook in comfort. The hike out is easy and only takes 10 minutes.

With breakfast done we saddle up and ride the river we just camped only this time we climb much deeper and take a secondary trail back to the cars.

Up the river, Down the river and on to the next adventure. This time we are skiing and are packing enough food for feeding time at the zoo because by the 3rd day we are way down on calories and eating like animals.

Chow time. I dig in next to a dark rock cliff to catch the radiant heat and hide from the little bit of wind. We all eat well and by the time we are skiing, again the pace is way down. I chow on more udon noodles and Moroccan stew. Somebody brings Jiffy popcorn and we stoke a fire. 

With lunch complete we have a river to finish so we get back on the skis and before long we are at the last repel.

As we touched on earlier the ice on rivers can be extraordinary. This one is an ice agate. 

After the repel we regear ourselves yet again for a ride up a road, to a trail, to a path, to a nothing. Night befalls us, we get lost, walk in a large oval,  follow an Otter's trail (How fitting an Otter helped me) upstream to a point where we get our bearing. Then slog though deep snow to a very pleasant B and B. That's not Bed and Breakfast, this is the north woods, it means Bare Bones. We find a box with a tin can for heat and it's just short of amazing if we didn't find it last year.

Morning arrives and we have a few more things to do, like hike a long ways to our bikes and then ride like we are being hunted by wolves. I see 17 mph on the fat bike speedo. The race is on and I plan to compete. I grim up and enjoy the sprint. I know it's only a few miles and with this morning's zoo feeding I'm well fueled to chase. I don't have the leg meat to win, but when have I ever.

Back at the van it's the same story, regear for the next adventure but this time it's the last. We just need to go light and fast. Take in the last of the 4 day weekend and drive home. A few have to leave but the last 3 make a powerful run down a hard packed trail to a waterfall. We jump the banks to a foot trail and continue down to the highway. Surprised at our success we look around but have little to do so ride back to the van and call it the end.

We have lost control of the gear by this point. Everything is a mess. After days of packing and unpacking gear we give in and just drop gear in whatever tub we have at the time. 

The "Death Rider ManTrip" is a particular combination of emotional, attitudinal, and behavioral responses to activities that force psychological tendency to be expressed. At times we found challenges had to be overcome with man made tunnels and others, hard tooling and front pointing. Second dinners and well made sleeping bags cover the human elements. Toys like skis, bikes, snowshoes, crampons, helmets , harness, ice tools, backpacks, and cook sets will only make things so easy. The remaining tools are optimism and being extroverted. Like the instrumental theory suggested at the start; extroverts like us end up making choices that place us in more positive situations. We react more strongly than introverts to positive situations {lets focus on that}. And on that positive note, Good Night.

Read more over at Full On

Update: I have a video that is a collection of several clips that total about 6 minutes.


  1. Bummed I missed it again this year. Definitely looks like it was non-stop adventure. Nice pics and write up!

  2. Great write-up, I feel like I got a lesson in psychology. Way to capture the adventure