Mount Shasta from the Northwest (photo by Gene Leach)
~established in 1997~
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A Mountaineer is, simply one who seeks the freedom of the hills, full wilderness citizenship with all its privileges and rewards, but one who also accepts all its responsibilities and demands. ~Mountaineering, The Freedom Of The Hills, 3rd edition, 1971

Welcome!!! I hope you enjoy exploring the Backcountry_Resource_Center. My goal is to provide useful information for hikers, climbers, and backcountry skiers/snowboarders wishing to explore the mountains of California, the US, Canada and beyond. This is a nonprofit site and the small amount of royalties received from book sales is used to enhance the Backcountry Resource Center. This site has five major components: Backcountry Book and Camera Store, an Electronic Library, Outdoor Links, Photo Gallery, and a Site Map/Index. At the bottom of this page is information on copyright laws, a note about safety and risks, and a link to biographical information about the author of this site. Your feedback is appreciated. Suggest a favorite site, write an article, recommend a book, provide photos, report errors or defective links.

"Mountain climbing would be great if it weren't for all that damn climbing!" ~Warren Harding

What's New

Mount Whitney: The Complete Trailhead-to-Summit Guide has been completely revised, updated, and expanded with the release of the Second Edition (April 2008). Many new features have been added to this popular guidebook: three new hiking routes, a trip planner, numerous side trips, route variations/options to explore unique territory, plus a chapter on climbing Whitney in the winter.

Digital camera recommendations have been added to the bookstore. Both Canon point and shoot cameras, and Nikon SLR cameras, for the serious photographer, are included in the recommendations.

The Photo Gallery has been upgraded with many new photos of Cathedral Lake and Peak, Bear Lakes Basin in the fall snow and clearing storm, Seven Gables, Precipice Lake along the High Sierra Trail and much more.

Climb Mount Whitney with an athletic and eager 10-year old girl via an arduous cross-country route from Cottonwood Lakes, Army Pass, Sky-Blue Lake, Crabtee Pass and Lake, and Discovery Pinnacle. Check out a few of the photos from the ascent.

Freeze-dried veggies add flavor to meals. Menu planner with new delicious gourmet dinners.

A Wolf Sighting in the Sierra Nevada? On June 7, 2007, I saw a wolf or wolf-like animal near Mono Pass. Read my account and the accounts of others.

World War II Airman's bodies found in Mendel Glacier--After more than 60 years the bodies of two WW II airmen have been found in the Mendel Glacier. Their bodies have been encrusted in the glacier since November 18, 1942 when their AT-7 Navigator aircraft crashed into Mount Mendel.

Tele-Tips--a few tips on technique for free-heel skiers. This is not a comprehensive "how to learn" ski guide but includes 7 tips you will find useful.

Traverse of the Trinity Alps on skis and snowshoes.

California Classic Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Expeditions--For the past 20+ years, friends and I have taken many ski mountaineering trips into the remote backcountry of the Sierra Nevada, Cascade Range, and the Trinity Alps. Included are the itineraries and brief route descriptions of some of these exceptional trips from Mount Shasta to Mount Whitney. Check out the ski descent of Mount Cotter' east ridge, a unique east-west crossing of the Sierra Nevada from Piute Pass to Wishon Reservoir, and a traverse of the Trinity Alps.

Clyde Minaret--description of the route and climb of this spectacular spire.

Two wonderfully designed and beautifully constructed packs by Cold, Cold World.

An entertaining account of my encounter with a mother bear and 2 cubs in the Grand Canyon Tuolumne River.

Mount Whitney: Mountain of Solutide--my ascent and ski descent of the Mountaineers Couloir and circumnavigation of Whitney on skis published in the Sacramento Bee on 2/3/05.

Mountaineering is one of the finest sports imaginable but to practise it without technique is a form of more or less deliberate suicide. Technique encourages prudence; it also obviates fatigue and useless or dangerous halts and, far from excluding it, it permits meditation. It is not an end in itself but the means of promoting safety as much in the individual climb as on the rope. ~Gaston Rebuffat, from "On Snow and Rock", 1959.

Backcountry Book and Camera Store

The Backcountry Book and Camera Store has over 100 recommended titles on hiking, climbing, trekking, skiing, adventure narrative, travel. Also, recommended point and shoot cameras and SLR cameras have been added to the store Each listing contains a direct link to were the book or camera may be purchased at discounts of up to 30%. Or link directly to to find that special book or camera you are looking for.

New, just released, Second Edition

Mount Whitney: The Complete Trailhead-to-Summit Guide, Second Edition, by Paul Richins, Jr., Mountaineers Books, April 2008, 256 pages, 15 hiking routes and 40 photographs. While most Mount Whitney guidebooks focus on only one hiking trail, the Whitney Trail, this popular guidebook includes 15 hiking routes to the lofty summit of Whitney as well as several challenging cross-country hiking routes. The Second Edition has been completely revised and expanded including climbing Whitney in the winter. For the highlights and details click on Summary, Reviews, Forward by Steve Roper, Table of Contents, or purchase guidebook.


Trekking California, by Paul Richins, Jr., Mountaineers Books, October 2004, 288 pages. This superb all-color publication includes the crème de la crème of multi-day backpack treks in California ranging from the Oregon border to the lofty summit of Mount Whitney. Based on many years of backpacking experience, I have selected twenty of my favorite treks. Trekking California, with its abundance of valuable information and attention to detail, will soon become the standard by which other guides are judged. [View a summary of the guidebook, Book Review by the Reno Gazette-Journal, Preface, Table of Contents, and Photo Gallery or Purchase the book]

50 Classic Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Summits in California--Mount Shasta to Mount Whitney, by Paul Richins, Jr., Mountaineer Books, 1999, 240 pages, 60 maps, 70 photos. This popular guide is the definitive source of information for serious ski mountaineers and snowboarders (and snowshoers) throughout California.
[Summary, Reviews, and Table of Contents, or purchase guidebook]
Ski-Snowboard Descent of Mount Shasta (an excerpt)]
Three Terrific Tours and Two Splendid Summits] (an excerpt)
[List of Ski Mountaineer's Peaks] (an excerpt)

Best Short Hikes in California's Southern Sierra: A Guide to Day Hikes near Campgrounds, by Karen and Terry Whitehill, rewritten by Paul Richins, Jr., Second Edition, March 2003, 240 pages, Mountaineers Books.

This popular guidebook has a wonderful assortment of hikes (to more than 100 destinations) from 2 to 22 miles in length for all levels of abilities including a moonlight hike of Mount Whitney. View the book's Table of Contents and Preface, or purchase the guidebook.

The High Sierra: Peaks, Passes and Trails, R.J. Secor, The Mountaineers, Seattle, WA, 368 pages, 3rd Edition, 2009. The most complete guide of California’s Sierra Nevada. Useful for backpackers and climbers. Covers climbing routes to 570 peaks.

Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills, The Mountaineers, Seattle, WA, 2003, 7th Edition, hardcover. This classic is the best selling mountaineering book of all time. More than 500,000 copies sold. Must reading for all backcountry skiers and mountaineers.This is an essential reference for novices and experts and includes detailed discussions devoted to outdoors fundamentals; climbing techniques on rock, snow, and ice; safety procedures and emergency response; geology and weather; navigation: ropes and knots: protection; and much more.


The E-Library is filled with articles, historical accounts, information, tips, lists, and equipment suggestions.

Articles, News, and Information

Equipment guide, menu planner, snow cave-igloo construction tips, snow blindness, mountain medicine, ski-snowboard descent of Shasta, climbs of Mt. Whitney, Mt. Logan, Mt. Hunter, Lyngen Alps (Norway), Cho Oyu, Mount Everest, wind-chill table, WW II airmen bodies found in Mendel Glacier, bear encounters, two accounts how 4 climbers survived a fierce winter blizzard on Lassen Peak, tent and pack reviews, and much more.

A Perilous Winter Night on Lassen Peak

Two personal accounts of how four climbers survived a fierce winter blizzard on the summit of Lassen Peak. An igloo saved their lives after their tent was destroyed by gale-force winds. Includes tips for building an igloo and snow cave.


John Moynier discusses the basic principles of avalanche hazard evaluation.

California's 14,000-foot peaks

  • Climb California's 14,000ers. This article appeared in the Mountain Democrat newspaper and describes Sierra Richins' accomplishment of climbing all of the 14,000 foot peaks in California from ages 10-13.
  • List of California Fourteeners and route descriptions for each.
  • List of California 100, the 100 highest peaks in California.

Clyde Minaret

Article and route description of this Class 5 roped climb.

Equipment List

Complete equipment checklist of what to take into the backcountry--winter or summer.

First Aid Kit and
Mountain Medicine

Contents of a first aid kit and a discussion of hypothermia, altitude sickness, giardia, water purification, frostbite, snow blindness, dehydration, by Colin Fuller, MD.

Food/Menu Planner

Tasty, inexpensive alpine cuisine for the backcountry. Instructions for drying meats (fish, turkey, beef) and a simple recipe for making a refreshing Sierra Gatorade Slush have been added.

Giardia and water filtration

Is the Water in the Sierra Nevada Safe to Drink?

Giardia Lamblia and Giardiasis with Particular Attention to the Sierra Nevada, by Robert L. Rockwell, Ph.D., or "To Filter or Not to Filter, A Different Opinion". The below articles appeared in the Yosemite Association News Letter #4 on 3/18/02, and the official government source of the NPS, USFS, and BLM for backcountry trip planning in the Sierra Nevada--

Historical Accounts

Riveting accounts of early-California exploration by John Muir, John Fremont, Clarence King, Theodore Solomons, the Donner Party, Snow-shoe Thompson.

A Challenge to Federal Land Managers to Protect the Wilderness from the Impacts Caused by Pack Animals

In Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon NP, and some of California's pristine wilderness areas, pack stock are allowed to roam free trampling meadows, wildflowers, and sensitive habitat. They defecate in streams, meadows, and along the shores of alpine lakes. See the discussion of these issues and 4 simple rule changes to solve the problem.

Information Resources

Clubs, organizations, magazines, bookstores and maps.

Lists of Peaks

8,000 meters--the 14 peaks exceeding 26,246 feet
California 100--the highest 100 peaks in California
California's Fourteeners--with route descriptions for each
Colorado's Fourteeners--Colorado's 54 peaks
Ski Mountaineers Peaks--list of the 20 SMP in California
Snowboard Challenge--list of the 17 prime snowboard peaks
SPS Peaks List --the 247 peaks of the Sierra Peaks Section

Mount Shasta

Mount Whitney

Sierra Nevada "Hall of Fame" Ski-Expedition Itineraries and Route Descriptions

For the past 20+ years friends and I have taken multi-day ski mountaineering tours into the remote backcountry of the Sierra Nevada, Cascade Range, and the Trinity Alps. Included are the itineraries and brief route descriptions of some of these exceptional trips from Mount Shasta to Mount Whitney.

Trinity Alps

Tele-Tips for Free-heelers

A few tips for free-heel skiers. This is not a comprehensive "how to learn" ski guide but includes some tips you may find useful for improving your technique.

Women in the Mountains

Articles, organizations and guides promoting climbing, hiking, backpacking and skiing for women.

World War II Airman's bodies found in the Mendel Glacier

After more than 60 years the bodies of two WW II airmen have been found in the Mendel Glacier, Sierra Nevada. Their bodies had been encrusted in the glacier since November 18, 1942, when their AT-7 Navigator aircraft crashed into Mount Mendel during a snowstorm.

Outdoor Links

100's of superb links are listed below.

Add a link

Please suggest new sites or identify defective links.


Stores, mail order, manufactures and equipment supply.


Backcountry guides--Alaska, Canada, California, Colorado, Idaho, New Hampshire, Washington, Wyoming and International including Guides specializing in trips for women.

Huts and Lodges

Backcountry huts and lodges in Alaska, California, Canada and Colorado.

Selected summits
of the world

Info and permit requirements for climbing or skiing these giants. Mount McKinley, Mount Rainier, Mount Shasta, Mount Whitney, Cotopaxi and Mount Everest.

National Forest Service

Visit any National Forest Service Virtual Visitor's Center in California or the United States

National Park Service

Visit any National Park in the US

Ski areas

Selected Nordic and Alpine ski areas in California.

Weather, road and
avalanche center

Weather reports for anywhere in the US!!! Avalanche forecasts for the US and Canada. Road conditions for California.

Wilderness permits

On-line wilderness permits, USFS campground reservations and maps.

More Outdoor Links

Hiking, backpacking, climbing, skiing, national parks, Parks Canada, Himalayas, John Muir Exhibit, Galen Rowell Photos, National Geographic, conservation organizations, ski maps, natural history associations (Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Alaska, Sequoia and Yosemite), info on climbing Mount Shasta.

Photo Gallery

Enjoy the beauty of nature through photography in the gallery. Check out the beautiful photos of Cathedral Lake and Peak, Precipice Lake along the High Sierra Trail in Sequoia NP, fall colors and a snow storm in Bear Lakes Basin, and much more. Click on Trinity Alps in winter for unique photos of the winter time landscape. View photos from Trekking California, a beautiful guide filled with color photos as well as descriptions of California's best multi-day backpack trips. View photos of a 10-year olds ascent of Mount Whitney via a rugged cross-country route.

Site Map

The Site Map/Index is arranged by topic.


Web site materials are copyrighted with all rights reserved. No part of this web site may be reproduced in any form without written permission. Historical accounts over 75 years old are no longer protected. Permission is granted to copy the menu planner, equipment check list, and lists of summits provided the proper credit is noted. For all other material, written permission is required before it is reproduced in any form.

Note About Safety and Risks

Hiking, climbing, backpacking, ski/snowboard mountaineering are inherently dangerous activities, and trips and activities described herein carry the risk of serious injury or death. Many of the routes and trips will, at times, be unsafe due to potential snow avalanches, icy conditions, rock falls, changing weather, lightning, rain, snow, sleet, and high winds. It is presumed that you are skilled in the ability for safe passage, in the use of map and compass, route finding in whiteout conditions, and the use of ice axe and crampons. When you follow any of the trips or routes described in this website you do so at your own risk and assume all responsibility for your safety.

Paul Richins, Jr.

Biographical info about the author of this site.

Rise early. Fix a time-table to which you must try to keep. One seldom regrets having made an early start, but one always regrets having set off too late; first for reasons of safety—the adage ‘it is later than you think’ is very true in the mountains—but also because of the strange beauty of the moment: the day comes to replace the night, the peaks gradually lighten, it is the hour of mystery but also of hope. Setting off by lantern-light, witnessing the birth of a new day as one climbs to meet the sun, this is a wonderful experience. ~Gaston Rebuffat, from "On Snow and Rock," 1959.

Backcountry_Resource_Center--Paul Richins, Jr.

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