I consider myself a citizen of the West. Currently residing in my hometown, Salt Lake City, Utah.
Between my career as a wildlife biologist and my many outdoor hobbies (mountaineering, skiing, backpacking, climbing, canyoneering, caving), I’ve seen just about every nook and cranny of the Wild, Weird West. I’ve had the honor of serving the National Park Service and US Forest Service across the Western US, including California, Oregon, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada. My work primarily supports research and management of bats and caves, but often branches into other areas.
As such, my summers are often spent in the company of bats, toads, hawks, owls, moose, bears, cougars, pikas, and rattlesnakes. On the weekends, I climb, backpack, and hike as much as I can. During the winter I get to stretch my legs and ski like a maniac wherever I happen to be settled at the time. When it works out right, there’s almost never a dull moment.
Conrad Recommends: Desert Canyoneering
Believe it or not, mountaineering and canyoneering have a lot in common. If you’re fond of sporty scrambling, skinny ropes, and unlimited solitude, consider going down instead of up sometime. The places you’ll find yourself in when canyoneering are stoically beautiful, desolate, and intimidating.
The vast labyrinth of slot canyons around Moab, Utah seems to go on forever. Navigating it will test your skills as an outdoorsman. Stemming, chimneying, and squeezing through it will push your physical boundaries in unique ways. Throw in some technical rope work, and you’ve got a serious adventure cut out for yourself.
The simple joy of canyoneering is the same as any other adventure. You’re using the means you have available to traverse something otherwise totally inaccessible. It’s a constant game of solving problems, climbing rocks, and having a back-and-forth with the landscape. Your mettle will be tested, and you will rise to the occasion.
Conrad’s Favorite Adventures
If you can’t tell already, I have a big soft spot for my home state of Utah. Whatever flavor of fun you like to have, we’ve got it. Here are some of the best shenanigans I’ve gotten up to, just around my backyard.
Backpacking the High Uintas - Swift Creek to Kings Peak
The Uinta Mountains are a very remote and wild place. Dotted with jagged peaks above 13k, glistening alpine lakes, and populated mostly by gigantic moose and elk, it’s a long-distance backpacker’s dream. Readily available water, no bears to deal with, and huge stretches of empty wilderness are the main reasons I love backpacking the Uintas.
One of my favorite trails in the Uintas is the south approach to Kings Peak, Utah’s highest at 13,528. It’s a more rugged route, following Swift Creek into the high country. Most parties finish in four to five days, which is an ideal amount of time in the wilderness for me. The final push involves some steep talus scrambling. Bonus points if you top out in Chacos. From the summit of Kings, you can easily tack on a couple more 13ers without adding much distance.
Ski Touring The Wasatch Mountains
Everybody knows Utah is a coveted destination for powder hounding. There is a ton of terrain that’s readily accessible and easy to get to just out of town. Huge objectives like Mt. Superior, Fantasy Ridge, the Wolverine Cirque, and Grizzly Gulch are all relatively easy approaches, but take some serious skill to get back down.
But I’m a big proponent of “type one” fun, where the smiles come almost effortlessly. Some of the best days I’ve ever had on skis were taking tree laps through waist-deep pow on some nameless slope in my home mountains. These are days when you ask yourself “does it even get this good?” Yes, in fact, it does.
Elephant Butte, Arches National Park
Is it canyoneering? Is it mountaineering? The answer is yes, but not in the traditional sense. Elephant Butte is the highest point in Arches National Park, and as such it’s one of the best views on the planet. From the summit, you can see the far reaches of Canyonlands, the Henry Mountains, Bears Ears National Monument, and of course the grand La Sal Mountains.
The route itself involves two mandatory rappels and some fairly tricky PG-13 scrambling. It requires you to do all the essential “desert moves,” from slabby smears to exposed fin climbing to chimneying. All the while you climb steadily up the butte, which appears totally sheer from below. Navigating through slotted side channels and across steep slabs has its own challenges, but the reward is completely singular.
Conrad's favourite brands
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