What you can learn from a vicious new breed of weekend warrior
Every self-respecting adventure-head has either lived or dreamt about living the #vanlife, that glorious way to be that affords you maximum time to climb, ski, ride or otherwise shred because you’ve found a way to make underemployment work.
That path works for some of us, but not for all of us. Not everyone can live in their van and drive around on extended adventures for eight months a year with minimal responsibilities or financial obligation. But there is a new breed of adventure-seeker who sends it just as big in their careers as they do in the mountains.
Mike Chambers waits for a train with other Boston commuters | Photo:Leila de Bruyne
With today’s weather-forecasting technology, the proliferation of climbing gyms and training facilities and the availability of last-minute flights, weekend warriors can tick off major accomplishments without even dipping into those precious PTO days. All it takes is the right attitude, some extra efficiency and a next-level obsession.
Here are five athletes who are redefining what’s possible to pull off next weekend—and what we can learn from their next-level exploits.
John Frieh, Portland, Oregon
John Frieh climbs Beowulf in the Ghost River Valley, Canadian Rockies | Photo: Tim Banfield
When Frieh (38) was a factory manager at Intel from 2003-2013, he had three weeks vacation. He wanted to climb big objectives in Alaska, but when he read Joe Puryear’s book, Alaska Climbing, most of the big trips were two-week expeditions, some longer. This bummed Frieh out, and the book sat on a shelf for month–until he started watching weather windows closely, waiting for them to lineup with his weekends.
In 2009, Frieh and a friend hopped on a last-minute flight to Anchorage and put up the first ascent of the west ridge of Mt. Burkett over July 4th weekend. He did not use a single vacation day to do it. Since then, he’s taken almost 20 trips up to Alaska, averaging three days per trip, and about half of them have been first ascents on alpine and mixed ice routes.
To strengthen his climbing abilities, Frieh began hitting the gym and became a Gym Jones certified functional fitness coach. He now works as a personal trainer for private clients, professional athletes and even royal families in the Middle East.
Frieh lives close to a major airport which allows him to jump on a last-minute flight when a viable weather window appears on his iPhone’s weather app. But first, he’ll check the National Weather Service, as well as local webcams to get a sense of whether or not he should start packing. He also has a good relationship with his favorite bush plane and helicopter pilots in Alaska. He can call them to check conditions and flight availability before leaving on a Friday after work, get to Anchorage and hit the 24-hour grocery store, and drive up to the Alaska Range in the middle of the night to be climbing by Saturday morning.
But physical preparation is key to be able to pull this off. “The gym is this amazing place where you can rewrite your self-image and gain new insights into who you are and what you’re capable of,” he says. “When you can apply that to your life and aspire to do things you aren’t able to do today, that’s where you see these amazing things happen.”
Morals: If you can, live near an airport; train hard to maximize your microadventures.
Stevie Kremer, Crested Butte, Colorado
Stevie Kremer chasing the sunrise on Crested Butte Mountain Resort | Photo: Chris Segal
Ever wonder what your second grade teacher did on the weekends? It most likely paled in comparison to what Kremer (34) is up to. Most recently, she was training to win a marathon on every continent. Yes, that’s right–not just complete, but win. A full-time teacher for nine years and now the executive director of a nonprofit, Kremer was the Long Distance Mountain World Champion in 2012, Skyrunner World Series champion in 2013 and 2014, and won three major mountain running races in 2016 while setting multiple course records.
Aside from a day of travel here and there, Kremer rarely skipped school to get to her races and loves coming home to her Crested Butte community. “If I do have a bad race,” she says (very hypothetically), “I come back to friends and a rewarding job instead of just the disappointment of a poor performance.” Kremer typically wakes up around 4:30 a.m., goes for a run,…