Silas Rossi and the Magic of the Dolomites

What I enjoy most about traveling is the shift in perspective that comes from being in a new place. I begin to see and think about things differently the minute I leave home. As a climber and mountain guide, this shift has most often been connected with adventures in the mountains and is a major reason I keep returning to the hills.Silas Rossi Climbing the Dolomites

This August I spent three weeks guiding rock climbing in the Dolomites of northern Italy. Despite being a “Rossi” (the most common surname in Italy), I hadn’t been to Italy and was excited to make the trip happen. After talking with friends and pouring over guidebooks, I chose Cortina d’Ampezzo to serve as “base camp.” Cortina is a beautiful town nestled between the limestone mountains and hills of the Dolomites – just a two hour drive north of Venice. The fact that the 1956 Winter Olympics were hosted here, and that portions of Cliffhanger were shot here, hints at the beauty and ruggedness of the area. Not to mention that the rock climbing in the Dolomites is some of the finest limestone climbing in the world.

Climbing in the DolomitesMy time in Italy consisted of three good friends and clients scheduled for a week of climbing each. We climbed over twenty-five different rock routes in roughly 15 days of climbing. The most committing route of the trip was the fourteen-hundred-foot Primo Spigolo on Tofana di Rozas. First climbed in 1946 by Alvera and Pompanin, pitch after pitch of the route climbs directly up the exposed edge of the first pillar on Tofana di Rozas. The rock quality is excellent and clean – a five star route, for sure. With numerous fixed anchors at belays, we were able to spend just four hours on route, with the entire day totaling about eight hours car-to-car. Of course, we did stop in at Rifugio Giussani for an amazing lunch and espresso on the way down! When in Rome…

The Dolomites are truly a mountain playground. They have it all: long, moderate rock routes on big peaks, short, hard sport climbing crags, day-long climbs via ferrata’s, and fantastic hiking and biking. Not sure if you want to spend every day in the hills? Don’t worry. The food and wine in Cortina are reason enough to make the trip across the Atlantic. I swore that every single meal I ate in Cortina was the best I’d had. The gnocchi, pasta, pizza, and soups are utterly amazing. The local wines are very inexpensive and better than most you’ll find in the US. And for the coffee lovers, you’ll never go back to drip coffee after an Italian espresso. I promise.

Summiting in the DolomitesWhether climbing on your own or with a mountain guide, traveling and climbing is about having an amazing experience. Certainly time spent in the mountains is a big part of that experience, but you may want more than just good rock and vistas. Local foods, wines, and the rich culture of an area are just as important as the adventures. If you’re looking for a destination and experience that satisfies all these criteria, I highly recommend the Dolomites.

– Silas Rossi


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Do Energy Drinks Benefit Athletes?

Dr. Mel is my friend, colleague, an accomplished endurance athlete (road racer), and a respected researcher in sports nutrition. Recently, she has taken an interest in energy drinks and examining if they truly enhance sport performance in adventure athletes, as their marketing implies. Below is her latest research on this topic:

Energy Drinks

Photo: D.ST.

Energy Drinks have become popular in the culture of adventure athletes, both recreational and trained, due to their claimed energy enhancement. They are heavily marketed to 18-34 year-old males and these companies often sponsor many extreme athletes and related events. Now I don’t recommend biting the hand that feeds you, but I want you to be make an informed decision as to whether consuming an energy drink is right for you.

There are many research studies that have examined athletic performance and cognitive performance benefits with consumption of an energy drink prior to or during an activity. The types of activities that have been researched are quite varied and include: cycling time trials, simulated soccer, resistance training, simulated golf, simulated driving, and firefighting. Many studies found performance benefits while others did not.

The benefits included: increased time to exhaustion, increased aerobic and anaerobic performance, decreased perceived effort, and increased mental focus, alertness, and concentration. Some claimed increased metabolism for weight loss. There is some evidence that consuming low-calorie energy drinks may promote a small amount of additional fat loss when combined with a weight loss program. If one is trying to be aware of calorie intake, they shouldn’t forget how quickly liquid calories such as an energy drink may add up when consumed in larger quantities.

The largest and most widely known energy drink company is Red Bull®. They’ve supported much of the research on energy drinks both monetarily and by creating and providing sugar-free and placebo versions of their drinks for scientific testing.

There is a challenge when testing energy drinks due to the many different ingredients, although caffeine is the primary active ingredient. There may be interactions between ingredients, where one ingredient may enhance the effect of another or may cancel out the effect. Another challenge is the comparison of different energy drinks since they all have a slightly (or dramatically) different ingredient profile. It’s also difficult to determine exact dosages of various herbal ingredients (e.g. Proprietary Blend) for comparison. The FDA considers energy drinks a supplement; therefore companies are not required to list all ingredients, dosages or verify safety or purity of the ingredients.

Photo: Tambako the Jaguar

Ingredients vary from brand to brand, but they all have some form of glucose (with the exception of sugar-free varieties) and varying amounts of caffeine (guarana, green tea, yerbe mate) in the range of 50-505 mg/serving. They may also contain taurine, B-vitamins, ginseng, ginko biloba, L-carnitine, milk thistle, quercetin and/or individual amino acids. The primary ergogenic ingredients are caffeine and glucose; consumption of either or both has well-established benefits to physical and cognitive performance. The remaining ingredients require further research to determine their efficacy and safety.

Some potential issues that have been reported include disturbed sleep and gastrointestinal distress. There are case reports of seizures or heart problems, usually after consuming very large quantities resulting in caffeine intoxication.  Another issue is the mixing of alcohol with energy drinks. The risk of this combination is that the stimulating effects of the energy drink can reduce the sensation of alcohol intoxication. This may lead to reduced perception of impaired function and judgment relative to risky behavior and further alcohol consumption. This is not beneficial to physical or cognitive performance.

So, are energy drinks right for you? The short answer: there are some benefits with moderate doses (1-2 servings), but potential issues with large intakes. Suggestion: gain most of your “energy” from healthy food and enough sleep instead.

-Melissa W. Roti, PhD, FACSM

Play safe out there!
Dr. Kevin

PhD, Brooks-Range Mountaineering Product Ambassador,
Assistant Professor Westfield State University, AMGA member


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Charlie Barrett’s Working on a Dream: The Grand Illusion Route

Charlie Barrett Climbing the Grand IllusionMy obsession with the Grand Illusion started when I started climbing over 13 years ago. I remember seeing Greg Epperson’s picture of Hidetaka Suzuki clipping an oval biner on a friend high on the route. I remember thinking to myself, the route looked so beautiful, impossible and simply perfect. I didn’t care where on earth it was; I was going to make the trip to climb it.

The architecture of the rock seemed so unreal and it became the climb I needed to do. I was pleased to find it was only three hours from where I grew up but learning it was graded 5.13, accomplishing the route seemed impossible as I was then a 5.10 climber. Not to mention, it was considered the hardest climb in the world at the time.

Photographing Charlie Barrett Climbing the Grand IllusionYet, the dream did not fade; it continued despite the fact I never thought I would be capable of climbing the route. A few years later I started trying the climb while I was living in Truckee, California. My climbing had improved quite a bit and performed well on all routes on the star wall, up to 14 a/b.

Charlie Barrett Climbing the Grand IllusionAfter traveling around for a while and getting to climb some of the hardest cracks in the US, I realized I left behind a gem, my own personal history, my dream. I have now been working this climb till no end. I’m headed back up there in a few days to see what will happen. If the climb doesn’t happen this time around I will commit my fall season to climb this thing! If you see me around and I’m wearing the world’s biggest smile, you’ll know I made my dream come true.

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