Deschutes National Forest, Three Sisters Wilderness, South sister Oregon 8/26-27/18

Deschutes National Forest, Three Sisters Wilderness, South sister Oregon 8/26-27/18

The drive started off easily. On the phone with Madison, as she cooked dinner. It’s actuall our 7th anniversary together. Can’t believe it’s been this long. Can’t believe I’m engaged. Can’t believe we are two time zones apart. Can’t believe I’m sleeping my car alone. I guess that’s adulthood.

As I drove through the Rogue Valley the sight of the evergreens made my heart happy. I can remember how great I felt last winter when my depression was really bad and I drove to New Hampshire. It’s as if they are my antidepressant. Maybe moving to Oregon wasn’t a bad idea. I crossed a bridge and saw how vast the Rogue River really was. Surrounded by mountains soaring from its rivers banks.

I continued my drive through the National forests and I could see the smoke growing in the distance. As I got closer to the trailhead the floor was covered in smoke.  I thought it was fog, until I opened my window and instantly coughed. This smoke hasn’t been good. Just recently I went for a run, now being from the east coast elevation is not a thing so running at 7000 feet is a lot. I was breathing heavily and the smoke began to burn my throat. I couldn’t stop coughing and had to turn around.

At the trailhead I paid my fee, I should just get an annual pass, and found a parking spot. This Subaru is new to me. It’s huge. Enough space for me to lay in comfortably. I set up my bed and head to sleep. Thinking of my hike, thinking of how the smoke will be and the 4000 feet of elevation in the morning.

I woke up after my second alarm, around maybe 445/5 am. I got up and got changed in my car. It is incredible how big a Subaru Outback is. I got out of my car, packed my bag and made my lunch. I then started out on my walk.

I started to follow the trail and then came upon a road I was confused. I asked a man if this was the proper trail and he said yea. I then saw the wilderness permit box, filled mine out. The trail was pretty flat, the evergreens were tall and the rain would not stop. However, luckily there was no smoke. The incline began right away, probably a solid 1 mile of incline on flat very well maintained trail. I then came upon the Alpine zone, it’s much different then the Alpine zone back home in the North East. This zone had trees, alpine flowers. It was easily 2 miles long with the small rolling hills. I eventually ran into two ladies, Angie and Erin. This was Angie’s 5th time on the trail, I tagged along with them. It was actually a great idea because I had actually caught up to them, they had left an hour ahead of me. Their pace helped me with my adjustment to the altitude. Once we hit the scree field I felt like I was home. Step by step we made our way to the Red Mile. The Red Mile is the last stretch before the false summit. It’s verticals stretch of red dirt and rock. It starts at about 9k feet. Around this time I noticed that the altitude was affecting Angie. She was moving slow and even stating she was a bit confused. We would walk about ten steps and then stop, repeating that process for the whole Red Mile. Once we reached the false summit we were moving at a slow pace to the summit. Once we reached there I sat down and had my peanut butter bagel and drank a bunch of water. I looked over to Erin and Angie making sure they were drinking. Angie only had 40oz of water with her and Erin brought a plastic water bottle that’s it. We started to walk back, I had decided that I was going to just run ahead and get back.

I started to run down the Red Mile, pretty much all the last 1.5-2 miles. I then reached the rolling hills and realized I have nothing to get to for another four days so why not take my sweet time. I just started to walk and taking my time. It was a beautiful walk. It made me realize that nature and the exertion was worth it. 10318 feet was worth it. It made me want to go higher.

I got back to my car after 8.5 hours, 5 hrs up 3.5 down. 11.9 miles round trip. It was a beautiful day, filled with all types of weather. People excited and nervous for the summit. High fives as I came down and people went up. I loved it.




Heat Exhaustion and the Gunks

    Saturday the 28th of May was a hot one, hitting a high of 92 degrees. It was Memorial Day Weekend and at that temperature, most people were at the beach or at a pool,  but I decided to go to the Gunks. The Gunks are home to hundreds of world class climbs, ranging from a few feet tallto 300 feet up beautiful rock cliffs. Once you break a hundred feet you are above tree line, so that means full exposure to the elements. 

    Madison, Alex, Halina and I arrived at the Gunks parking lotaround 830 in the morning. We were packed and ready to go - it was going to be a great day. After hiking maybe a mile in, we arrived at the trail to the wall. We decided we would start the day by climbing Beginners Delight, an easy 5.4 3-pitch trad climb. We also decided that I would take lead. I wasn't nervous because placing gear isn't new to me, but I was nervous because I was never the leader of the group. I grabbed my harness and racked up. I was ready to go, but then I noticed I left my shoes in the car. That meant running back the mile we hiked in and then running back again to the wall. So I did just that, running two miles before attempting 300 feet of climbing. I arrived back at the base of the wall proud that I did the run in less than twenty minutes. Madison handed me some water and my harness. I drank the water, put my shoes on, chalked up, and started climbing. 

    At the first anchor point, I started to realize how how hot I was. My shoes were melting from being in direct sunlight, even though the rock was still cool to the touch. By the time I was set up to belay Madison up the first pitch, at least 15 minutes had passed and I started to get tired. When I yelled “Madison, climb on!”, my stomach dropped as if all of a sudden I need to use the bathroom urgently. I paid no mind to it. Madison arrived after another ten minutes in the exposed sun. Once she arrived, we set for me to start climbing the second pitch. I remember the urge to use the bathroom became stronger. I drank the extra water that Madison brought me. I then started to feel slightly nauseas, but once again, I ignored it. 

    I started up the second pitch and got about 50 feet when I suddenly didn't know where I was. I literally blanked out.. I did not know I was 150 feet up a mountain side, let alone where on the route I was. I realized I wasn't ok. I started going over my symptoms and trying to figure out what was happening. Heat Exhaustion was the best candidate, with the nausea, dizziness,  and confusion. I was weak and truthfully starting to get scared. I placed a cam into a crack above me, but did not trust it at all. I then placed a second cam and it came flying out, making my mind run more wild. It was starting to get hotter and hotter. I wanted to scream to Alex to get me down, but I knew I couldn't do that. My mind usually works well under pressure and stress, yet at this moment it was racing between figuring out how to safely get down and wanting me to cut my rope so that I could get into the shade faster. 

    Finally, I was able to place a nut into a crack under my cam and yelled to Madison to get me down. I was so terrified that I began to down climb the route while I was being lowered. I reached the first anchor point and began to chug water faster than it could be given to me. I remember yelling that Madison had to rappel down first. Alex just agreed and set up a single rope rappel for her I was next to rappel. I set my ATC up and Halina asked if I wanted a prusik. I said yes, but then my hands started to shake and I truthfully forgot how to set it up. Alex went ahead and attached it for me. 

    Once I was safely down, I ripped my harness off, grabbed a bottle of water, and threw myself in shade. I knew I wasn't getting any better andI really needed to get to a bathroom. I got up and headed down the trail to the main path, but once I got there, the world began to spin. I called to Madison to come and get me, I knew I couldn't be alone. Madison told me later that I kept saying “Make it, Steven. Just get to the bathroom. You can do it” out loud, even though I swore I was saying it in my head. 

The walk was long, and I don't remember much. Once we arrived at the bathroom, I ran in and sat down.  I had already thrown up twice, another horrible sign of Heat Exhaustion, and now there was another sign: diarrhea. I began to shake uncontrollably. I walked out to Madison and told her I wasn't ok. 

Another climber happened to be nearby and luckily she was a nurse. She saw something was very wrong and kept asking me questions. I guess she's noticed I was starting to enter Heat Stroke, which is a really, really bad situation. All Iwanted to do was sleep but I knew I had to stay awake. The nurse found another climber who had ice water and started to pour it on me. Madison ran off to get the park rangers while I kept trying to sit and stand in uncomfortable positions to not fall asleep. After ten minutes, the rangers and Madison arrived. I knew I was getting better but still weak and tired. The rangers began to take my vitals and one gave me watermelon. It was the best watermelon I ever had. 

I slowly started to get better as the day went on, but it wasn't until three days later that I recovered completely. While this situation was bad, it’s a good reminder that everyone should take a first aid class. If it wasn't for the fact that my entire group has some sort of medical knowledge, the whole situation could have gone much, much worse. I thank Alex, Halina, Madison, and the nurse for helping me. I also apologize for ruining our day trip - at least it was an adventure? 

New Hampshire and my 25th birthday

This year I turned 25 years old, and for my celebration I spent three days from the 13th to the 15th in New Hampshire ice climbing and learning different skills in mountaineering and alpine climbing, with my girlfriend Madison.  We hired Matt Shove from Ragged Mountain Guides, we had hire him in the past to teach us how to rig anchors for climbing, and he tagged along on this winter adventure. 

On the 12th Madison and I got into our car at 4pm and drove 8.5 hours to North Conway. We arrived at 1am and we had a 830am meet up time with Matt at the local bagel shop. 

Day one: We met up with Matt at the bagel shop and headed out to Frankenstein Crag. After a beautiful drive through the White Mountain National Forest, we arrive at a parking lot that was pretty empty. We step out to fresh snow, and thin ice and I realize that we are going to have a hard time walking. We started following Matt into a possible 30 - 50 minute hike through a unbroken trail of snow. There was a beautiful trestle with one railing on the left side that went over this beautiful snow and ice covered valley, it was a little sketchy walking over it. We arrived to a section of the trail with two large rock walls on both sides. After this section, it opened up to beautiful open air and a large drop to our rights, and to our left was ice, a lot of ice that reached up at a decent 60°-70° angle for a maximum of 100ft. Once we had our fill of 'warming up' ( it was at least 20 degrees outside) we moved down the path to what was called The Standard. We have to trek up maybe about 50 feet up some step snow to a large boulder, that to me seemed like a great place to hide in an avalanche. Matt lead the pitch of ice to a cave where there was a rappel set up. I climbed up a route and then quickly came down and instantly when up a different line. 

On day 2 we went to a location called Willey's Slide, a multi-pitch climb that involves a 300ft hike through a forest and snow to the base of the Slide. Willey's Slide is named that because it is a solid 700-1000 feet of a steady constant 60°angle, meaning, if you fell you were sliding far and fast. We started our climb up pitch one with no problem. Pitch two is what really tested Madison. We simal-climbed, meaning we climbed at the same time. Matt had lead pitch two and was top belaying Madison and I.  Pitch two was a minimum of maybe 200 feet of ice. Half way up the climb Madison started to cry and have a hard time. She later told us she was feeling the first steps of frostbite. It was a big deal for her because she had experienced the same feeling when she had reached the crater edge on top of Kilimanjaro. Matt had told us right at the beginning of day 1 about how it is important to make sure we are changing our gloves and keeping our hands warm.  Madison and I had very good gloves, -20 mittens and 10 degree liners, none of that matters when they get soaked in water. I watched as Madison screamed and cried up the wall of ice, I wanted to help but I knew I couldn't. Madison is a strong woman that will kick and scream to the end, and with me helping it would make it worse. We got to the top and I made the decision that we should turn around so we could be rested for day three and avoid injuries. We were only two pitches from the end. 

On day 3 we met at the local bagel shop for one last time. We had decided the day before that we would make an attempt to summit Mt Willard. The weather that morning was beautiful. Crisp, blue skies, and I had on all my layers because I knew it was going to be a cold day. The approach to the mountain was simple, drive to a parking lot, and walk along some train tracks. Then up a small gully of ice and keep trekking, pretty much alpine. Mt Willard was tough but oh so much fun. On pitch 2 I threw my axe into the ice and instantly a gush of water covered my hands. I stared at my gloves and my mind instantly went  'Start moving or you're going to lose your hand!".  On pitch 3 the beginning was a straight vertical for 10 feet then a flatter section followed by another 5 feet of vertical. Madison had a hard time, a sketch swing onto the ice and the risk of dropping your gear was not making it better for her. Madison swung her axe in the ice and slipped she was holding on only by one had and had to get back on to the wall, she screamed and cursed her way up the pitch. She did how ever drop her gloves. After 3 pitches of ice climbing and some alpine, we came to a beautiful climber trail through the forest. We came to the end of the trail, and to the summit of Mt Willard. We could see the beautiful snow covered valley for miles and all the surrounding mountains. The best part of the whole trip was, that in order to come down, we followed an established 1.5 mile hiking trail that was flatter then a pancake. 

New Hampshire was awesome. Matt Shove was awesome. Ill be back to conquer Mt Washington next winter. 



For more information on hiring Matt, check out his website:

A weekend Iphone portrait and Snapseed

Last weekend I gave my self the challenge of shooting a portrait with natural light and just my iPhone. I spent my weekend up in western Massachusetts at my girlfriend's (Madison) school. Her room is in the corner of her building, with two decent sized windows, where the morning and evening light come in just perfectly.

I took the above image at about 6-7 pm. I used my in phone camera app and a white piece of paper to fill some light in. As you can see the lens is pretty wide, her face distorts a bit. 

I imported the image in Google Snapseed, a free app available for your smartphone. There are two major editing apps out for your phone, VSCO and Snapseed. Both apps are fantastic, but personally I have always enjoyed Snapseed more. Its like using Lightroom and Photoshop, where VSCO=LR and PS=Snapseed.

Snapseed allows you to have a wide control of your images. Google has recently released an update to the app, i believe it made it even better.

Snapseed in my opinion is a strong app for camera phone photography. It has the ability to fix distortion and fill in the space, just like content aware in PS. The use of layers and being able to fine tune each layer and even the option to delete specific layers. They also give you the ability to play with your histogram. For the people that dont want to play with contrast, or brightness, or saturation etc etc, the app comes with preset filters, just like VSCO. 

I want to see what people can prodcue by shooting and editing just on their phones. Happy shooting.


I’ve been on this road for quite some time now and truthfully only have less than four days in this car. St. Louis is left, Climb So ILL. I left February 24th, it feels like it was just yesterday. 31 portraits, 31 interviews. Countless people I’ve met, countless stories I’ve heard. The beauty of the night sky in Yosemite to the mountains of Colorado or the Salt Flats of Utah, beauty is all around us.

I’ve been told I’ve changed, I’ve changed for the good. Is that true I kinda believe it, I also agree it takes time to show. I miss home, I miss my friends and my family. That being said I still rather be on the road or be able to leave easily. I never thought I’d see the west cost. I also believed swimming would’ve taken me there, but I was wrong. Climbing and photography got me there.

Leaving on this trip while being injured was a risky choice, but so far so good. The thought of training to get stronger, and the though have honing and perfecting my photography skills are all that fill my mind.