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Out and Back

Out and Back

Author: Gaia GPS

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In the Out and Back Podcast presented by Gaia GPS, thru-hiker Andrew “Shanty” Baldwin, professional guide/outdoorswoman Mary "Hiker Midnight" Cochenour, and professional athlete Abby Levene dive deep into conversation with long-distance hikers, record-breaking athletes, offroad travelers who sold everything to live full-time on the dusty backroads, and other awesome guests who have mastered their backcountry craft.

In every show, Shanty, Mary, and Abby tap into each backcountry expert’s superpower so you can take their experience and knowledge with you on your next adventure.
26 Episodes
27. Adrian Ballinger

27. Adrian Ballinger


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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
Shanty and Mary review this year’s FKT round up with Buzz Burrell, co-founder of 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!
16. Grizzly 399

16. Grizzly 399


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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
8. Will "Akuna" Robinson

8. Will "Akuna" Robinson


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.
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May 6th
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