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A blog written by the Gabe, the Alpin project founder.

Mount Whitney: Bike Tour and Climb 2018 (Part 1/3)

Alger Alpin

Part 1: Ideation and Planning

I’ve never been on a long-distance backpacking trip, frankly I’ve never even entertained the idea. Yet, I regularly plot and muse about bicycle touring and mountain climbing. The idea came to ride my bike from Truckee, CA to Mount Whitney area, meet Kaeleigh and Diana somewhere on the trail, and together summit the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States. Additionally, I wanted to design, build, and use my own gear for the trip.

For the past six months, my girlfriend, Kaeleigh, has been planning her John Muir Trail (JMT) hike. Starting in Yosemite and covering 200 miles with nearly 50,000’ in elevation gain, Kaeleigh and her best friend, Diana, will spend 20 nights on the trail before summiting Mount Whitney at the finish. Kaeleigh and Diana have traveled the world together and embarked on various long-distance backpacking trips, including the Camino de Santiago, yet the JMT has presented a remarkable and unparalleled amount of planning and logistics. Intrigued by the scope of their trip and inspired by their ambitiousness, I began dreaming up my own adventure to pursue in parallel to theirs.

The premise of taking a series of formless, shapeless thoughts and bringing them into being is fascinating and thrilling to me. I find that planning a trip is like building a product. In my design process, each product starts as an amorphous idea swirling around inside my head.  This idea gets transcribed onto paper as a two-dimensional drawing, transfigured into a three-dimensional paper model, and finally transferred onto fabric and built into a functional product that then exists in the world. Similarly, in planning a trip, the indeterminate, nebulous ideas iterate from thoughts to planning, planning to action, action to experience, and from experience to memory. However big or small the impact, this process yields the creation and curation of consciousness and is the imaginative motivator behind this trip.

“While dreams are the individual man's play with reality, the sculptor's art is – in a broader sense – the play with dreams.” - Friedrich Nietzsche

At the end of the bike touring portion, my buddy, Tommy, is going to meet me at the Shepherd’s Pass trailhead outside of Independence, CA. I work with Tommy in the wintertime and he is one of the most extraordinary people I’ve ever met. Tommy is a Marine Corps Sergeant who served three tours between Iraq and Afghanistan and spent a year at sea on a warship. He is a former sheriff who became a wilderness camp manager and ski school supervisor, who now spends his free time volunteering within his community, primarily involving the homeless in the Bay Area. Together we’ll hike 14 miles to connect with the JMT and meet Kaeleigh and Diana at the trail intersection. The four of us will spend the next few days hiking along the JMT before summiting Mount Whitney on the morning of September 15th, 2018.

I am thrilled by this undertaking and the creative elements involved. The people, the route, and the gear will form the vessel for this experience, and will carry us along as reality and consciousness unfold. For me, this trip is a reminder to always consider the power and importance of purpose and intent while navigating life.

Stay tuned for Part 2: Route and Logistics…


The Ski Pack and Local Craftsmanship

Alger Alpin

The Ski Pack consists of 130+ pieces individually traced, cut, and sewn by the same set of hands, from start to finish in Lake Tahoe, USA (excluding hardware). This manufacturing process is inefficient and time consuming, but the end product—a locally made piece of outdoor equipment—has special value.

There are ways to streamline the production process, namely the inclusion of machinery and the utilization of low-cost labor. However, machinery is expensive and takes time to acquire, and US labor laws and regulations means that the cost of labor for US producers will always exceed that of overseas competitors. For this reason, products manufactured in the US will remain more expensive than goods produced abroad. However, this does not mean that US manufactures cannot still exist—even thrive—in the marketplace.

Following WWII, the United States experienced a decades-long economic boom, know as the Golden Age of Capitalism, and was the world’s premier manufacturing superpower. The economic troubles of the 1970’s prompted the outsourcing of low-skilled American jobs and manufacturing to highly populated, low-cost labor markets, a business practice that continues today. There is really no way to reverse this process, yet legitimate concerns have surfaced regarding the benefit/cost relationship of this business model.

As indicated by the Brexit vote, the rise of Trump and the rejection of globalism/globalization, millions of people are looking inwards on their economies, hoping for a reversal of the outsourcing model and for a resurgence of domestic manufacturing. Economically speaking, it is not feasible or even helpful on a large scale, but niche markets within the domestic economy that feature domestic manufacturing are available and can healthfully exist in parallel.  

The project of Alpin is built on the hypothesis that certain consumers will pay more for American-made products that are as-good-as (if not better than) the products produced by the big-name brands. Given the economics, there is no way for small-scale American manufactures to compete with the big-name brands and deliver the same quality at the same price. However, if the same quality can be achieved by the hands of a local craftsman, I believe that some consumers will pay more for it given the circumstances described, if the option is available. 

The experiment of Alpin will be to test this hypothesis, specifically with the Ski Pack. Having grown up in Montana, skiing since the age of five, I began using a backcountry backpack, beacon, and shovel to access out-of-bounds terrain at age 11. After 25 years of skiing and with ten-years work experience in the ski industry, I can say from experience (and with impartiality) that the Alpin Ski Pack is the best ski pack that I’ve ever used. As Alpin grows, I will work to bring the costs down, though the prices will always be higher than the name-brands with overseas manufacturing. However, I believe that you will find the quality and intrinsic value of locally-crafted equipment to be well-worth the extra dollar.


- Gabe, Alpin Mtn. Co.


Alger Alpin

Launching a product line is a tremendous undertaking. From the physical--designing and building products--to the digital--web design, photography, and social media curation--crafting a brand is no easy feat. 

Like any art form, a product line is personal to the creator and is quite vulnerable. The product and the brand will be judged by consumers and critics, but this drives the creator to deliver quality, innovative work. 

Born and raised in the mountains, I've built this project from a passion for wild spaces, a desire for increased variety in the marketplace, and an enthusiasm for quality craftsmanship. 

I will always strive to build better and better products with the goal of encouraging people to get outside and play. 

I hope you enjoy!

-Gabe, Alpin Mtn. Co.