Sunday, March 17, 2013

Requiem to a Backpack

What's your oldest piece of gear? That one item that has carried you through countless adventures, ever trustworthy? Mine was a 2005 40-liter Gregory Tega backpack (now discontinued). The observant reader of this blog may have noticed that my backpacks change from February vacation part 2 to February vacation part 3 (well, maybe not. It's kind of hard to see in the pictures). When the second zipper broke on the top pocket of the Gregory, and the duck tap on the hole on the bottom fell off in the middle of February break, I decided it was time to replace my dear Gregory Tega.
The Gregory Tega was a wonderful backpack, and it lived a wonderful life. This is its requiem.
It arrived into my life under the 2005 Christmas tree. My family was planning a hiking trip around the Tour de Mont Blanc the next summer, and I needed a 'real' backpack. The week before we jetted off to Geneva for 11 days of hiking in the Alpes, I packed and repacked. I got to know all the pockets; I found the perfect space for each item of gear I was bringing.
Standing in the Geneva arrival terminal, I watched the baggage carousel snake endless rounds, delivering bag after bag. Mom's bag. Dad's bag. Zoë's bag. But my Gregory didn't show up. I was distraught. All of my carefully packed gear was lost - including my brand new backpack.
Fast forward two days. We are at a refuge in Les Contamines, one day's hike outside of Chamonix. It is 2 am, and we are all sound asleep in the bunk room when mom's phone rings, startling us all awake. It's the airport, they've arrived at our hotel in Chamonix with my backpack. Excellent timing - since we've already started the hike it was meant for! Tour de Mont Blanc was the trip the Gregory missed out on. I made sure it didn't miss out on any others. Below: the family poses above Mer de Glace in Chamonix.
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Everywhere I went in the mountains, winter and summer, that pack went with me. We enjoyed powder turns on Ljosåbelgen in Rondane...
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And on Alnestind on Trollstigen a few years later.
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For four years I worked every summer in full-service huts in the Norwegian mountains cleaning rooms and serving food, and hiking as much as I could in the time in between. The mountains of Trollheimen were my playground, and my pack and I climbed most of the mountains within a day's reach of the huts.
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 In 2010 it went to Africa for the first time, and accompanied me on my 8-day trek in Tanzania from the Lemosho rain forest….
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… to the roof of Africa itself, Mt. Kilimanjaro.
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The next year, I went to visit my family on sabbatical in California, and the pack got to enjoy some of the great American National Parks. We went to Zion Canyon, and had an incredible early-morning speed hike up Angel's Landing - to get there before all the tourists...
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… and later we pulled a 30-mile day through Buckskin Gulch and up the Paria river.
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Just last summer it dabbled in the world of alpinism, and climbed the third-highest mountain in Norway, Store Skagastølstind...
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… and in August the Gregory came full circle, and finally completed the Tour de Mont Blanc, as was its original purpose. This time on a bike.
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 So after hiking and biking with me this fall, then skiing with me for most of the season, the Gregory is finally retired. May it go to the heaven of backpacks and get… whatever a backpack could possibly want in the afterlife!
And its replacement? The Mammut Trea Guide. Let's hope it lives up to its formidable forbearer - and gets at least as much wear and tear. Below: The Mammut Trea on its first trip, skiing up Grand Colon in the Belledonnes.
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 - The Wild Bazilchuk

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