I have learned many things from my friend Lee: How to place gear on trad routes, how to suffer with enthusiasm, how to talk to myself while on the sharp end of the rope. Other things are more simple. Like how to keep critters from eating the zippers off my climbing pack.
Here on the Front Range, we have some of the most accessible multi-pitch rock in the country — even from central Denver where I live, I can drive 35 minutes, get out of my car and walk 10-20 minutes and be at the base of a classic 3- to 8-pitch climb. But this also means we have a large population of opportunistic small animals who know how to get food.
They are like the squirrels of Yosemite or the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, but instead of scampering up to you and hoping you’ll hand-feed them some Cheetos, they hide and wait near classic climbing routes. At the base of the Left Book on Lumpy Ridge, or Sundance Buttress, or along the bottom of the Wind Tower in Eldorado Canyon, they lurk, until you take off with a rope and bring your partner up to the first belay ledge. After your partner begins to climb, leaving two backpacks at the base of the route, these little furry fuckers creep up, and sniff around until they locate the smell they’re looking for: the outside of a sealed granola bar, a bag of trail mix, any type of human food.
Then they enter your pack by any means necessary, including chewing through the zipper that holds shut the lid of your pack. They bite holes through plastic packaging, eat a few squirrel-size bites from everything inside, and then leave, ruining your food supply for the rest of the day.
If you’re lucky, they’ll also defecate in your pack, adding a little insult to injury. A few weeks ago, that’s exactly what they did to my buddy Mike’s pack while we were climbing a 2-pitch route in Eldorado Canyon. My pack had no food inside of it, but Mr. Squirrel decided just to take a dump on top of it anyway. Kind of like a graffiti dump, I guess.
Two weeks later, attempting a link-up of two routes on Lumpy Ridge, I was not going to let those little shits get to my food. I bought a package of these, guaranteed to keep the smell of my food from all our wilderness friends. Well, they may not have been able to smell my food, but they sure as hell jumped into my pack and chewed into everything except two granola bars. I was stoked to have another half-hour approach, five-pitch climb and one-hour descent to do on about 240 calories of granola.
Lee just cackled, and extolled the virtues of his expensive, state-of-the-art food security system: Two re-purposed 18.4-ounce Gatorade drink mix containers, full of unmolested trail mix, Clif Bars and even a full-sized adult sandwich tucked inside.
Then he shared his food with me like I was a foolish child. Which I was. But now, I have seen the light. I recently purchased a couple of these very containers for my own personal use, and am happy to report that the critters have left me alone. I simply leave my pack open so they can come and go as they please, but no food.
If you’re in the market — meaning you like to do things where you leave your pack somewhere for a few hours at a time — I highly recommend a pair of these. They function exactly like bear canisters, if you can imagine a bear canister for a really tiny, weak bear. They’re available for approximately $5-$8 apiece at your local grocer or wherever fine powdered drink mixes are sold. As a bonus, they come with 18.4 ounces of drink mix. You can dump that out in the trash before using your new tiny bear canisters, or mix it with water for a series of delicious beverages.
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