Story by Greg Hill, Salomon Athlete.
One of the most important characteristics of an adventurer is his/her ability to persist against all odds; to have an optimistic view that things will get better if we just continue to dig deep and work hard. This trait is one that we need to apply to the global crisis we are in now. It can be really easy to succumb to the cynics and give up against the overwhelming climate destruction that is going on. Yet who better than the explorers, the adventurers of the world, to stand up, stay positive and search out alternatives to a better future. This is exactly what Chris Rubens and I did this May. After Chris went to Greenland for the filming of SalomonTV’s Guilt Trip, he was spinning in a vortex of guilt. We talked endlessly about different ways to adventure and looked at our jet-setting lives of intercontinental flights, snowmobiles, helicopters and the huge trucks we used to access our trailheads. Technology is finally moving in the right direction and we realized that there were ways to adventure differently.
So Chris and I decided to explore the realities of electric adventures. We rented a Nissan Leaf from Ecomoto in Vancouver. This car is an incredible commuter but only has a range of 160kms, so it is not designed for road trips. Which is precisely what we did with it. We started in Vancouver, B.C., and journeyed towards Mt. Baker. Not being a far drive from Vancouver, we charged up and had no issues getting to Mt. Baker. It was a super fun day and then our real road trip began. Topped up from plugging into the house, Chris and I drove south. An app called “plug and share” would guide us to all the level 3 chargers, which take around 40 minutes to fully charge the car. This trip was ideal since the I-5 highway that goes south down through Washinton, Oregon and into California was littered with these chargers.
Our first charging hurdle was getting up to Mt. Rainier because its trailhead is quite far inland and well away from any level 3 chargers. Luckily, our app showed us a level 2 charger that Phil had attached to his house for his tesla. We arrived at the park boundary and started charging at Phil’s personal plug. The percentage slowly moved upwards but we had to hastily leave with barely 70% since the park’s gates were closing. Committed, we drove upwards. As we climbed up to the 2000-meter trailhead our battery percentage dropped, and dropped. Forty percent, 35 percent, and then finally at 31 percent we made it to the trailhead. We parked and decided to deal with this lack of electricity when we returned. A great couple of days had us on the summit and then skiing down a heavily crevassed, super awesome run. Arriving back at the car we wondered if our first mistake was going to haunt us. Luckily the leaf has a “B” mode which allows the car to slow itself using the engine, which puts electricity back into the motor. So we drove down the 1500 meters and by the bottom our charge was back up to 50 percent. Yeehaw! Maybe this electric adventure was feasible.
Mt. Hood was our next objective and there were level 3 chargers right up to its trailhead. A great summit and silly ski had us driving south. Eventually the ease of charging had us pushing the battery percentage as low as we could go, extending each drive till the percentage disappeared and the kilometers remaining blinked out. We realized there was always extra battery left and we pushed it many times, never “fully” running out of juice. We made it as far south as Mt. Shasta in California, where there were no level 3 chargers, and ended up charging up at RV campgrounds. We were the oddball Canadians, camped amongst the behemoth RVs.
While we drove back north, hitting Mt. Adams on the way, we pondered our experiment. We ended up traveling almost 4000 kms, we climbed and skied six volcanos, we rock-climbed five times, had some amazing adventures and camped in great places. Essentially we lived our lives as we normally would. With one major difference, we used one liter of fuel during the whole trip—for our cookstove—instead of the 400 liters we would have normally used. Our ability to challenge the status quo, to go where no man has gone before, is very similar to looking at this present challenge and going about it differently. We can have an effect, we can persevere against this tide of unsustainable living. Like the mountains we climb, the challenges we set, we just need to maintain a positive attitude, work really hard and push through.
Chris and I learned a lot on this trip. Not being able to move quickly between objectives made us more relaxed. Forced stops every few hours had us rethinking our Type A personalities. To me, electric vehicles are the future. I have bought a Chevrolet Bolt which has more than twice the distance per charge that the Nissan leaf has. That makes everything a little more realistic. A drive to Vancouver will mean a stop for a stretch, a bike ride or a nice lunch. It will also mean zero emissions, and it will cost $10 for the drive instead of $90$. I plan on trying to access all my trailheads, all my mountain tops, by driving in my electric car. There will be lots of compromises and sacrifices, but the satisfaction of being part of the solution rather than the problem is intoxicating. Initially, my goal will be 100 different mountain tops, summiting via all forms of adventure. Running up some, biking others, climbing and skiing.
So follow along at electricadventures.ca