Emily Harrington Becomes First Woman to Free Climb El Cap’s ‘Golden Gate’ in One Day

Climbing media outlets worldwide are reporting this week that Emily Harrington, the 34-year-old professional climber out of Tahoe City, CA, has free-climbed Golden Gate on El Capitan in fewer than 24 hours. Her ascent marks the fourth time a woman has free-climbed El Cap in a day, starting with Lynn Hill on the Nose in the mid-’90s, followed by Steph Davis and Mayan Smith-Gobat on Freerider. (Freerider is the route climbed by Alex Honnold in the film Free Solo.)

Golden Gate climbs the same line as Freerider for nearly half of its 3,000 feet before breaking right and eventually beelining across the wall via a section dubbed the “A5 Traverse.” This band, protected by a row of pitons left in situ, marks the end of the difficult climbing, where dangerous albeit easier terrain leads to the top. Harrington led the A5 Traverse at night—without a helmet—with blood running down the side of her eye from a fall she took earlier on the difficult Golden Desert pitch.

Emily Harrington Golden Gate El Capitan
Harrington, leading the harrowing A5 Traverse at night. Jon Glassberg / Louder Than 11

Though she wore a helmet when she previously worked on the route, Harrington did not wear one that day as she didn’t want it getting in the way.

“It got pretty real up there,” says videographer Jon Glassberg, who captured the ascent for an upcoming feature-length film on Harrington.

Five years ago, and after extensive preparation, Harrington spent six continuous days on the wall to free climb Golden Gate. Attempts to shave five days off her climb and do it in fewer than 24 hours followed, but there were setbacks, and once she fell nearly 50 feet and required rescue.

emily harrington

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“I wanted to do this because doing El Cap in a day is the epitome of big-wall free climbing,” Harrington says.




She completed her ascent on November 4 in 21 hours, 13 minutes. Alex Honnold supported her for the first half, simul-climbing with her so the two could cover 19 pitches (1,800 feet) in 4 hours. Harrington’s fiancée Adrian Ballinger took over from there and helped her to the top. He carried extra food and water, removed her gear, and belayed her through the route’s most difficult sections. She climbed light and fast, striking a balance between boldness and safety. But she admits that no matter how you slice it, free climbing El Cap is a dangerous game.

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Emily Harrington Golden Gate El Capitan
The team of Ballinger, at left, Harrington, and Honnold planning the epic, 21.25-hour Nov. 4 climb. Louder Than 11

To increase her safety margin and not repeat her accident from last year, “this year I put more gear in, but I think that climbing is inherently dangerous. It was about figuring out my risk tolerance.”

Emily Harrington Golden Gate El Capitan
Squint to see Harrington leading Pitch 19 (The Monster offwidth). Note Honnold in blue in the lower right. Louder Than 11

On the successful recent day earlier this week, she led all 41 pitches of the 5.13b route. She overcame rock as slick as glass, as well as fierce, wide climbing where you wedge your body into an endless crack, plus long moves, downclimbs, and tricky face climbing. She followed the ethic requiring that she would lower back to the belay when she fell and try again until successful.

Emily Harrington Golden Gate El Capitan
Harrington encountering crux moves high on the wall with 70-degree temperatures. Jon Glassberg / Louder Than 11

Because she took two falls in one section, that meant that she had to lead the crux Golden Desert (5.13a) pitch three times in a row. “On the first fall, I ripped the gear out,” she said. “On the second fall, I hit my head.”

I ask her, did you see stars?

“I did see stars, yup,” she says. “But I didn’t lose consciousness.”


Those back-to-back falls marked her closest moment to giving up the goal. “A part of me was starting to accept that today wasn’t my day.” After finishing the pitch and regaining her composure for 30 minutes, she set off into the A5 Traverse and got it on her first attempt. She reached the summit at 10:30 pm.

“This goal was far and above my perceived limit.”


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Watch: This Tahitian Surfer Getting Barreled on a Foil Board Is Insane

This article originally appeared on Surfer.com and was republished with permission.

For many surfers, just getting barreled is challenging enough. Foil surfing undoubtedly presents its own set of challenges. Getting barreled while riding a foil board? That’s a whole different level of difficulty and sketchiness.

Well, Tahitian Matahi Drollet attempted that exact feat and lived to tell the tale. No matter what you think about foil boards, this clip is nothing short of hair-raising. And that dismount? Just gotta watch for yourself.


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The Steelcase Leap is The Home Office Chair Your Back Needs

Like upgrading from your laptop’s tiny screen to a roomier external monitor, it doesn’t take long to realize a rigid desk chair isn’t cutting it in your home office. And that’s a detail worth nailing: The right office chair increases comfort while you’re putting in hours behind the desk. But, like a good mattress, that doesn’t come cheap. We’ve been using the Steelcase Leap for about two months now and our ass and back have noticed.

What It Is

Steelcase is one of the leaders in designing ergonomic office equipment, much of which also looks great in a home office. The Leap is a five-wheeled, reclining, fully customizable desk chair—from fabric colors to wheel style—that looks sharp and welcomes you to dial in the right fit for your body. The signature feature of the chair is the segmented back, which Steelcase calls LiveBack technology. It changes shape by conforming to your body’s natural spine shape, almost like an exoskeleton of supportive vertebrae.

Why We Like It

After a few weeks, we can say this chair is extremely comfortable. It works so well you almost forget about it. You’re aware of sitting down, obviously, but it never feels restricting and nothing aches. A trend in ergonomic office seating has been moving away from knobs and levers as the chairs become more responsive and automatically adjust to body movement without much fussing from you. If you’ve ever sat in older office chairs you understand—manning the levers can feel a bit like operating a tank. Can it be complex? Yes, but there is no better way to get a customized fit than getting in there with your hands.

So, Steelcase included a cheat sheet. Pivot both armrests in towards your body and each reveals easy to follow diagrams on manipulating the Leap’s six adjustments. The 66-pound chair arrives basically fully assembled, and in a pretty massive box. After wheeling it into our home office and without reading any manuals, we had the fit dialed in after a few minutes. And if you share your office space, that built-in guide means anyone can tweak the fit on the fly.

The seat and backrest each have their own adjustments. We like a deep seat that offers more support behind the knees and the Leap flexes to fit that. Each armrest moves up and down, forward and back, and towards or away from you—so you can find what works for you. When you need to get up, it’s easy to brush them aside if you have to. Reclining is easy and happens with both feet on the floor. There is a good amount of flex on the edges of the seatback to accommodate some mid-day twisting or if you’re reaching to get something behind you (or to pet the dog).

We tested a standard black chair, but you can pick from dozens of fabric, leather, and frame colors, each of which comes with their own price increases. While pricey, the chair comes with a 12-year warranty.


The seat back’s foam hugs your back nicely, but it can get a bit warm. The back’s adjustable lumbar support clicks into about 10 or so spots as it climbs up the spine. It feels comfortable but adjusting it requires coordinating two tabs simultaneously, which can be annoying to do properly.

[From: $900; store.steelcase.com]

Get it

Making the Most of the 2020 Tele-Tailgate

While you may not be able to enjoy game day with thousands of your closest friends, that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy tailgate-worthy fun at home with a smaller group of friends.

If You Are A Die-Hard Fan

The Pre-game musts: Make sure you have a good internet connection, agree on a platform and a meeting time and most importantly, make sure your cable or streaming service actually offers the channel the game is on.


If You Are In It For The Nachos

Serve up a Nacho Bar with all the fixings. Ground beef or turkey, you make the call, then double up on the toppings: salsa, guacamole, veggies and more.

100 Coconuts

If You Are In It For The Fun

The new fan favorite of the tailgate tribe is without a doubt 100 Coconuts + Tequila. Made with wholesome, quality ingredients that taste great, this perfection in a can is made of infused 100% agave tequila with 100% pure coconut water.

100 Coconuts

  • 100% agave tequila is one of the cleanest liquors out there, and when consumed in moderation, can improve your overall health.
  • Naturally hydrates through the 100% natural ingredients and electrolytes.
  • Zero added sugar, or cholesterol or fat, no preservatives.

Learn more about your new obsession at www.100coconuts.com

MTB Rider’s Mission to Build (And Shred) a Network of Trails in Rural B.C.

This article originally appeared on Bike.com and was republished with permission.

Not everyone has an extensive network of trails in their hometown. In fact, some people don’t have any trails at all. And while traveling to find trails is what most riders resort to, others decide to grab a shovel and get to work.

A prime of example is Corbin Selfe. Growing up in the small town of Sicamous, British Columbia––located about halfway between Calgary and Vancouver––Selfe soon realized that if he wanted to ride, he needed to build.

So that’s exactly what he did, building a network of trails and jumps over the course of several years. The result is a picturesque riding area that is primed for shredding, and as you can see, that’s exactly what Selfe does.


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Why Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Are on the Ballot This Year

How we protect and intend to use the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is on the ballot this election, as is the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Idaho’s South Fork Salmon River, Bristol Bay, Bears Ears National Monument, and countless other public lands.

Ely, Minnesota was once a thriving iron mining capital, whose modern identity is now synonymous with the largest wilderness area east of the Rocky Mountains: the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. That wilderness (the most heavily used in the U.S., attracting a quarter million visitors a year) now finds itself at odds with a foreign-owned copper/nickel mine—one that had been suspended, pending further research under the previous administration, and is now being fast-tracked by the current one.

northern Minnesota's boundary waters
Travis J. Camp / Shutterstock

The massive underground project, underway just a couple miles (or a long portage) away from the wilderness boundary, promises to bring jobs back to the economically depressed Iron Range, but simultaneously threatens to permanently taint this 1.1 million-acre network of intact boreal forest and pristine lakes, bogs, and streams for generations to come. The risk of toxic sulfide runoff from the tailings and waste rock entering the intricate and interconnected hydrology of this region is seen by many experts as inevitable; the heavy metal- and acid-laced consequences remaining in the water and land for centuries.

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canoeing the boundary waters

These two competing histories, resource extraction and wilderness conservation, have overlapped since the early 1900s and have reached a new level of tension. On one hand, this region sorely needs a boost in its economy to sustain communities like Ely, which one could argue will contribute to furthering its wilderness adventure industry. But on the other hand, a future Superfund site, where the Boundary Waters once was, is hardly the job generator anyone wants. The long-term environmental damage risks dashing all manner of future economic hopes against the copper-rich rocks below. And so, the fate of Ely and the Boundary Waters doesn’t need to be at the whim of a Chilean-Canadian multinational mining conglomerate; choice lies in the hands of American voters at local, state, and national levels.


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Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
Dan Thornberg / Shutterstock

These tough choices between economic gains and environmental stability are playing out in small rural towns all across the country.

And accordingly, conservation of our ever-shrinking wild and scenic lands tends to create polarizing stances: locals against visitors; industry against ecosystems; environmentalists against capitalists. But many Americans believe in the value of public lands and wild spaces. Most support sustaining these places for future generations. After all, the miners from the Iron Range hunt, fish, and paddle the same waterways as the lawyers from Minneapolis. Of course, we humans will continue to need to extract natural resources from the earth. How we balance these two needs is what’s actually up for debate (and on the ballot), which unfortunately, through blind partisanship, often muddies the waters of what’s actually at stake: rare public, wild lands.

We need to work together, listen to all stakeholders, and seek to truly understand the real consequences of our decisions that will affect our fellow citizens and our collectively owned landscapes for generations. Protecting wilderness for all people to use is one of the great American traditions. And while we may disagree on how to preserve, use, and live among these singular and limited wild places, let’s not pretend for a moment that the importance of these wild public places is up for debate.

Luckily, we have another great American tradition coming up on Tuesday: a free election where your VOTE counts!

Read up more on Twin Metals plan and its resulting environmental impact.

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This Animal Flow Workout Will Get You Stronger Without Any Weights

Don’t let the odd name deter you: Animal flow offers unique benefits you won’t get from traditional strength training. “It fundamentally brings you back to the basics,” says Nike Master Trainer Patrick Frost. “These are ground-based movements, where you create resistance by pushing and pulling your body around a fixed platform.” The trick to mastering this discipline is generating constant tension throughout your body. “There are some parts that require grace and some that require grit,” Frost says.

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“You could do this same workout multiple times and have a completely different experience depending on how you attack it.” While mimicking the movement patterns of a crab or an ape can seem a little goofy, animal flow workouts will challenge your strength, endurance, balance, and mobility all at once. Over time, you’ll develop better proprioception and move with greater intention, which will make your workouts more efficient and effective, and leave you feeling like an apex predator.

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The Workout

Warm up, then perform 3 rounds of each exercise, following the prescribed work and rest periods. These moves require a lot of wrist extension and endurance to sustain proper form, so take a break as needed when starting out. Add this workout to your program 1-2 times a week and slowly build up to 3-4 times. You can also use some of these sequences as warmups or even finishers to your program.

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Expert Tip: Tense Up

While these exercises should be fluid, create constant resistance by drilling palms into the ground and exaggerating movements, radiating tension through your limbs.

The Warmup

Dedicate 5 minutes to wrist mobilization: Get on all fours and flip your wrists around,
then lean or rock back and forth. After, work through these exercises for 40 seconds
each. They’ll prep your joints for the main animal flow. Perform 2 rounds.

Alternating crab reach
Alternating crab reach (A) James Woodley for Men's Journal

Warmup 1. Alternating Crab Reach

Start in crab position, feet hip-distance apart, hips hovering 1 inch off ground, and arms behind back, fingers pointing away from body. Bend right arm to midline so hand is 6 to 8 inches from face (A).

Transition phase of alternating crab reach
Transition phase of alternating crab reach (B) James Woodley for Men's Journal

Drive through heels and extend hips up into a three-point stance bridge (B).

Final stage of alternating crab reach
Final stage of alternating crab reach (C) James Woodley for Men's Journal

Reach your arm up and over toward opposite hand, keeping a soft bend in elbow, eyes gazing at static hand (C). Lower, switching sides with each rep.

Beginning phase of Beast Wave Unload
Beginning phase of Beast Wave Unload (A) James Woodley for Men's Journal

Warmup 2. Beast Wave Unload

Start in loaded beast position on all fours, pushing hips back toward heels as you reach arms forward (A).

Beast Wave Unload transition phase
Beast Wave Unload transition phase James Woodley for Men's Journal

Hike hips toward ceiling. Once knees are fully extended (B), tuck chin into chest and slowly roll your spine, emphasizing the curve in your back (C). When shoulders pass wrists, come into an upward-facing dog.

Beast Wave Unload transition phase
Beast Wave Unload transition phase (D) James Woodley for Men's Journal

Open your chest, pull chin to ceiling, and squeeze glutes (D). Reverse the wave and repeat.

Beginning of Alternating Scorpion Reach
Beginning phase of Alternating Scorpion Reach (A) James Woodley for Men's Journal

Warmup 3. Alternating Scorpion Reach

Start in loaded beast position (A).

Transition phase of Alternating Scorpion Reach (B)
Transition phase of Alternating Scorpion Reach (B) James Woodley for Men's Journal

Drive through balls of feet to bring left knee across body toward right wrist, keeping a slight bend in right knee (B).

Final phase of Alternating Scorpion Reach (C)
Final phase of Alternating Scorpion Reach (C) James Woodley for Men's Journal

Extend arms as you drive left leg back, bending the knee and opening your hip, pressing shin toward ceiling (C). Bring left knee across body again before returning to start position, then repeat on opposite side.

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Deep Ape position (A)
Deep Ape position (A) James Woodley for Men's Journal

Workout 1: Deep Ape to Side Kick Through

Start in a deep squat, with feet hip-width apart or wider for comfort, feet slightly turned out, and arms between knees, keeping a flat back and proud chest (A).

Deep Ape to Side Kick Through
Deep Ape to Side Kick Through transition (B) James Woodley for Men's Journal

Shift weight forward as you plant right hand to the ground (B) and kick right leg through, pointing toe and pulling left elbow back, palm facing away (C).

Side Kick Through (C)
Side Kick Through (C) James Woodley for Men's Journal

Return to deep ape position, then switch sides. Work 40 seconds on, 20 off.

Crab position (A)
Crab position (A) James Woodley for Men's Journal

Workout 2. Crab to Underswitch Taps

Start in crab position (A), then drive through your right toe and left hand to pivot your body (B) onto all fours.

Crab to Underswitch Taps
Crab to Underswitch Taps transition (B and C) James Woodley for Men's Journal

As soon as your limbs tap the ground (C), immediately redirect your momentum to the starting position (D).

Final position of Crab to Underswitch Taps transition (D)
Final position of Crab to Underswitch Taps (D) James Woodley for Men's Journal

Switch sides on each rep. Work 30 seconds on, 15 off.

Start position of Traveling Beast (A)
Start position of Traveling Beast (A) James Woodley for Men's Journal

Workout 3. Traveling Beast

Start in beast position, with hands directly below shoulders, and knees stacked over hips, hovering 1 inch off the ground. Engage your core, keep your trunk level and low, then take a small step forward, moving right hand and left foot, resisting rotation through your hips (A).

Traveling Beast (B)
Traveling Beast (B) James Woodley for Men's Journal

On the next rep, move left hand and right foot, making sure they pick up and land simultaneously (B). Work 30 seconds on, 15 off.

Loaded Beast
Loaded Beast start position (A) James Woodley for Men's Journal

Workout 4. Loaded Beast to Front Step Through

Start in loaded beast position (A), then explode through the balls of your feet
(B) and jump forward with control.

Loaded Beast to Front Step Through transition(B)
Loaded Beast to Front Step Through transition (B) James Woodley for Men's Journal

Forcefully drive your left leg into full extension, toes pointed, as your right arm assumes a “guard” position at your midline, elbow bent with hand in front of face (C).

Final position Loaded Beast to Front Step Through (C)
Final position Loaded Beast to Front Step Through (C) James Woodley for Men's Journal

Reverse the motion to return to start, switching sides with each rep. Work 20 seconds on, 10 off.

Finisher Flow

Beast to left-leg underswitch to right-arm crab reach to jumping left-leg underswitch to right-leg side kick through to right-leg full scorpion to left-leg underswitch to beast. Repeat opposite side. Work 60 seconds on, 30 off. Repeat 3 times.

Jaw-Dropping Surf Clips From This Week’s Massive Nazaré Swell

This article originally appeared on Surfer.com and was republished with permission.

The first time you watch the clip, it seems like your eyes deceive you. A white trail is streaking across a massive wall of water, but there’s no surfer to be seen. Watch it again, and again, and again––same result. The streak is Lucas Chumbo and the wave is one that Chumbo would later claim as the “bomb of my life.”

Yep, that XXL swell at Nazaré is living up to expectations. Hurricane Epsilon sent liquid skyscrapers barreling towards Portugal this week, and it’s being described as one of the biggest swells in years. In addition to Chumbo, this week’s XXL chasers included Kai Lenny, Nic von Rupp, Pedro Scooby, Justine Dupont, Andrew “Cotty” Cotton, Sebastian Steudtner and more.

To give you a sense of what’s going down in Portugal right now, we assembled a collection of the best clips from Instagram. Get ready for your jaw to hit the floor.







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Que dia! Adrenalina e disposição nas alturas, condições desafiadoras e ondas gigantes. Os big riders deram show nesta quarta, com muita gente matando as saudades do surfe na praia do Norte. Qual seria seu top-3 entre estas ondas? Comente! ⠀ 🇬🇧 What a day! The session was packed with adrenaline and thrill from the big riders, some of them who surfed here for the first time in the season. Nothing but a spectacular show! Rank your top 3 photos in the comments! ⠀ 1: @kai_lenny 2: @lucaschumbo 3: @nicvonrupp 4: @pedroscooby 5: @justinedupont33 6: @andrew_cotty ⠀ 📸: @helio_antonio ⠀ #gigantesdenazare #gigantesdenazaré #nazare #nazareportugal #portugal #surf #surfing #surfer #bigwaves #bigwavesurfing #bigrider #ondasgigantes #adrenalina #esporte #radical #aventura #viagem #queroviajar

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What Every Man Can Learn From the Navy SEALS About Grit

For generations, the U.S. Navy SEALS (Sea, Air, and Land) have set the standard for military special operations. Relied on for the toughest missions, these men are as notorious as their training, which begins at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado off the coast of California. Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, or BUD/S for short, is the crucible in which SEALs are made, but the 24-week course, the first that SEAL candidates must endure, is actually only a fifth of the nearly two and a half years it takes before a man goes on his first mission.

The first phase, BUD/S, assesses candidates’ endurance and conditioning, water competency, camaraderie, and grit, culminating in “Hell Week.” The challenge has captivated men for years, and for good reason: Of an average 170-person class, around 30 make it to Week Five. Such severe attrition of some of the fittest men in the world is notable in its own right, but their day-to-day ordeals are something that has to be seen to be believed.

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Darren McBurnett, age 50, a 24-year SEAL veteran, knows it better than almost anyone, having survived his own BUD/S, then returning to document the experience as a photographer and instructor prior to his retirement in 2017. He witnessed firsthand what it takes to survive arguably the most extreme military service in the world. “Everyone wants to be a Navy SEAL at the bars on Friday,” McBurnett says. “Once you get in there and realize how hard it is, all that goes away.”

McBurnett’s first book, Uncommon Grit, follows the first four weeks of Navy SEAL BUD/S training. Captured over 12 months and comprising more than 22,000 images, he was a man possessed—a camera in each hand, running behind, alongside, and in front of the most ambitious men in the military. Knocks came; he remembers being run over by boats, and at one point an expensive camera rig got swept from his hands and fell to the bottom of the sea. But he’s used to dealing with adversity, a story which he tells through images in Grit. He spoke with Men’s Journal to discuss what he learned along the way—and what you should know—about responding the the obstacles you’ll encounter in life.

Navy SEALS in training, as seen in book 'Uncommon Grit'
Darren McBurnett

1. Cut the Excuses

McBurnett saw a pattern while training and again while documenting candidates: “A lot made excuses,” he says. To leave the program, all candidates need to ring the bell and provide their reason for departure on their exit paperwork. “The biggest one, the most common is, ‘This job isn’t for me.’ ”

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“Yes, this job is for you,” McBurnett says, “but you never got far enough in to see if you liked it or not.” What they were saying no to was the physical discomfort it takes to become a SEAL—the early-morning training, the cold water, the blisters so severe “chunks of skin are falling off.” In order to do all the “cool” stuff, like firing advanced weaponry and jumping out of airplanes, you had to deal with the short-term discomfort—and most can’t. “Most quit immediately when things get hard. That’s the kind of people we don’t want.” Lean into the discomfort. That persistence will always lead to greater things.

Navy SEALS in training, as seen in book 'Uncommon Grit'
Darren McBurnett

2. Shatter Your Ceiling

When other candidates see men quit, there’s an inward-looking, self-pitying look that spreads like poison. Once that seed is planted, it’s easy to go down the same route. McBurnett and other instructors’ jobs were to motivate by adding further suffering. It may seem counterintuitive, but by instigating a downward spiral, it can shock someone back to the team mentality. Remedial training, like doing thousands of pushups is not punishment per se. “It’s to let them know, ‘You still had the energy to keep going.” Ideally, it’s to demonstrate firsthand there’s always more left in the tank—an additional few reps, a faster lap. That fires them up, to see how much they can take. It’s what separates the men who are having a bad day—and everyone has a bad day, which is not a fatal condition—from those who don’t have the mental fortitude required to be a SEAL.

Navy SEALS in training, as seen in book 'Uncommon Grit'
Darren McBurnett

3. Believe in Your Inner Grit

“Every once in a while, you’ll have one of those unicorns show up,” McBurnett says. They’re the men who seem to get illogically stronger as they go through BUD/S. But they’re rare. It’s the guys who look like extras in 300—the ones who clock the fastest obstacle course laps, lead the runs, and swim laps around their peers—who drop out almost immediately upon reaching Hell Week. Take away warmth, sleep, cleanliness, and even air, and, to paraphrase a Johnny Cash song: ‘What’s all them muscles gonna do?’ The reality is, when the going gets tough, the true measure—the uncommon grit—of a man comes out. “It’s the mental war between the ears,” he says, that’s the most important characteristic of any SEAL candidate.

Navy SEALS in training, as seen in book 'Uncommon Grit'
Darren McBurnett

4. Utilize Your Team

Just making it to Hell Week, a misnomer for the five and a half days in the fourth week of BUD/S training, is an accomplishment. But to make it to its peak takes more than just being a pullup stud or part fish. “You need that sense of teamwork,” McBurnett says, which motivates you to push through your own pain and sleep-deprived haze to care about the men to your left and right. “That’s when you start to develop,” he adds. “You succeed as a team and you fail as a team.” More than conditioning, more than the possession of some of the most cutting-edge gear, it’s this characteristic that has both defined SEALs for generations and continues to fuel their successes. True, he says, there’s a long road of training ahead after Hell Week, but if you can make it past, you’ve demonstrated that you possess this critical tool in your toolset—and that’s a start.

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How to Safely Camp and Recreate During Wildfire Season

Wildland fires are nothing new, but their current impact is dramatic. So far, in 2020, about 8.5 million acres have burned across the U.S. The financial toll is mind-boggling. In 2018, estimates of wildfire damage were about $18 billion. So far this year, nearly 33,000 people have been involved in fighting wildfires and 12 are dead—not including civilians. Most of these fires were preventable; approximately 87 percent of wildfires are caused by people. Responsible recreation during wildfire season can make a difference.

The vast majority of small fires are put out. But strong winds and critically dry fuels can turn a spark or neglected campfire into a “megafire,” which can have an extraordinary impact on local populations and the environment. Not only are forests and grasslands scorched, people lose homes, businesses and, tragically, their lives. Forest closures and hazardous air conditions devastate local economies. Fuels and forests have built up in the absence of natural wildfires over the past century, leading to a contagious tinderbox in many forestlands. Warmer, drier summers and increased human-caused ignitions have dramatically increased the length of the average fire season.

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Boulder CO wildland fire
A cyclist pauses to take a photograph as police officers direct motorists at a roadblock as nearby residents evacuate an Oct 17, 2020 wildland fire races through the mountains near Boulder, CO. David Zalubowski/AP/Shutterstock / Shutterstock

Susan Prichard, fire ecologist at University of Washington, says that the balance of human- versus lightning-started fires varies from place to place, year to year. But it’s important to understand that since most camping takes place at the height of fire season, fire irresponsibility coincides with wind and dry forests. “Even though it seems like the West is burning up (historically, there have always been wildfires), there are still many places under a fire deficit,” explains Prichard. “There will always be fire danger, and, while we’re very good at extinguishing them in this country (97 to 98 percent of fire starts are put out, it’s only 2-3 percent that get away), any fire, even a small one, has the potential to explode.”

Oddly enough, there’s evidence that the COVID-19 pandemic is fueling this season’s devastating blazes. Stacy Corless, Supervisor for Mono County, CA, reports that this summer, “our forests (like most others throughout the West, maybe the nation) saw big increases in visitation.” With many visitors new to camping and the outdoors, there was a likely gap in terms of understanding and following rules. “We saw some bad behavior—illegal campfires and camping, trash left behind, and lots of crowds,” Corless notes, “There seemed to be little awareness of wildfire danger, or the impact on the land.”

“Due to COVID, we’re seeing a lot of people on public lands this year that don’t typically camp or hike,” adds Tina Boehle, information officer for NIFC (National Interagency Fire Center). “It’s a great opportunity for education and we hope people fall in love with their public lands, use them responsibly and protect them for future generations. Before heading out, take the time to learn about outdoor and campfire safety and how to recreate responsibly.”

How can you be part of the solution? Most importantly, educate yourself on responsible recreation during wildfire season. Here are some expert tips:

Check fire restrictions before heading into the backcountry. Go to the land management website for your intended destination, whether it’s the U.S. Forest Service, BLM, National Park Service or state or regional park. Note whether open fires, or even propane stoves, are prohibited. Websites like inciweb.nwcg.gov alert you to active wildfires or wildfire closures.

If conditions allow a campfire, stick to established fire rings in established campsites. Don’t create your own fire ring as you might be impacting organic soil. Organic soil is essentially decomposed plant matter and can smolder for weeks. If it ignites an underground root system, it can pop up elsewhere, far from the original blaze.

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Camping in Holcomb Valley Big Bear campfire ring precaution
A forest protection officer demonstrates how to rake duff down to mineral soil to mitigate the propane campfire ring of dispersed campers in August 2020 north of Big Bear Lake, CA. Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times/Shutterstock / Shutterstock

If you do have a campfire, have a shovel and plenty of water on hand to ensure the ashes are cold to the touch anytime the fire is not attended. If you can’t put your hand into the ashes, the fire is not out. During fire season, consider stargazing rather than staring at flames.

Pack a collapsible bucket (we love the NRS Bail Pail). A packable pail won’t add much weight or bulk to your backcountry kit and simplifies dousing your campfire.

Be fire conscious. Ways that forest visitors unintentionally start fires include dragging trailer hitch chains (they spark when they hit pavement), parking on dry grass (the hot components of a vehicle can start a fire), shooting exploding targets, setting off fireworks, smoking cigarettes, or burning toilet paper. Carry a fire extinguisher and a saw in your vehicle as part of your backcountry essentials. Remember, fireworks are always prohibited on public lands.

When camping, be aware of alternative escape routes. Wildfires advance depending on fuel (vegetation), weather, and topography. A wind-driven fire can move very quickly, leaving little time between an evacuation order and the arrival of flames. Main roads or trails can be blocked. An evacuation plan can save precious minutes when it counts. Know where the closest body of water is located; you might need it in an emergency.

Don’t wait until the last minute to evacuate. Fires are unpredictable. A fire line can be breached by a single ember or falling tree. A spark can travel a mile in windy conditions to ignite dry fuel far from the original burn site.

Often wildfires burn slowly on flat ground, and then race uphill. Your escape route may be thwarted by fallen logs. Just because you can’t see flames doesn’t mean you’re not in danger.

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Glass Fire Napa California, Viader Vineyards & Winery, Deer Park, California, United States
Firefighting aircraft make drops over hotspots where firefighters work to contain the Sept. 2020 Glass Fire in Napa County, CA. Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/Shutterstock / Shutterstock

Never fly a drone near a wildfire. Not only is it against the law, it puts lives at risk and slows down the effort to save forests and property as they can be deadly if they interfere or, worst case, collide with firefighting aircraft. Drones are always prohibited in national parks.

Sign up for reverse-911 emergency alerts. Make sure your phone allows your provider to push out messages with emergency information.

Respect fire closures. They’re put in place early and left in place after the flames and smoke dissipate to keep you safe. Even a decade after a burn, hazards remain, especially in the form of dead trees. Before you set up a campsite in any historically burned area, look up, down and all round for trees that could fail and impact your safety.

Fire closures protect not only the public, but firefighters too. Cruising forest roads during an emerging incident slows response times and can lead to a motor vehicle accident with crews, engines and heavy equipment.

Beaver Meadows
Colorado’s Cameron Peak Fire looms on Oct 16, 2020 over the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, also known as Rocky Mountain National Park Administration Building near Estes Park. CDT

Recently burned areas are extremely dangerous places due to fire-weakened trees that can fall on people, cars, trails or roads. Newly scorched earth can hide undermined ground that can bury and burn anyone walking in the wrong place. Areas may remain closed because steep slopes that have burned are susceptible to rock and landslides.

Jaimie Olle, acting Public Affairs Specialist for Deschutes National Forest, Oregon, says that there are two great ways to help fires. Donating to the Red Cross is a direct way to assist people who have been evacuated or have lost their homes. To support firefighters, donate to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, an organization that directly supports wildland firefighters and their families. After a wildfire, there is plenty of restoration and repair work needed. Reach out to your local land management agencies to support efforts.

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Wildland Fire Resources:

Fire Adapted Communities
National Incident Information System 
National Interagency Fire Center
National Park Service Camping Guidelines
U.S. Forest Service Resources
Additional Fire Prevention Tips