Clif Bar.com

Clif Adventures

With Gary Erickson

If I had to pick a word to describe Clif Bar's journey, it would be Adventure. Below are some of the adventures that have helped make Clif Bar what it is today. Enjoy the ride!
— Gary

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It's About The Journey

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Giving Back

'The Boy and The Bottle'


It was our second big bike trip through the Alps - Switzerland, Austria, Italy, France. Day eighteen. We'd just come over this pass called the Col de la Madeleine in the French Alps, and it was brutal. That's when the last of my buddies bailed on me. I wasn't real happy about it but what was I going to do, everyone was crushed. So there I was, alone for the last three days of our trip.

I suffered on day nineteen, maybe more than I ever had, just trying to deal with the challenge of being alone. On day twenty I got to a pass called Col de l'Iseran which heads over into Val d'Isère – a famous ski area. About half way up the pass, I BONK. I remember all of my major bonks, and this was one of my worst. I had nothing left in the tank and no support, but I had to keep going. I was hurting, climbing slowly - every pedal stroke was killing me. Also, I was totally out of water. I was holding out my water bottle to cars going by to see if they'd help me. Nothing. Then I remember this one car going by, and seeing this little boy in the rear window staring out at me – I still remember his face -- as the car disappeared down the road. And there I was holding out my empty bottle.

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Giving BackClose

It was our second big bike trip through the Alps - Switzerland, Austria, Italy, France. Day eighteen. We'd just come over this pass called the Col de la Madeleine in the French Alps, and it was brutal. That's when the last of my buddies bailed on me. I wasn't real happy about it but what was I going to do, everyone was crushed. So there I was, alone for the last three days of our trip.

I suffered on day nineteen, maybe more than I ever had, just trying to deal with the challenge of being alone. On day twenty I got to a pass called Col de l'Iseran which heads over into Val d'Isère – a famous ski area. About half way up the pass, I BONK. I remember all of my major bonks, and this was one of my worst. I had nothing left in the tank and no support, but I had to keep going. I was hurting, climbing slowly - every pedal stroke was killing me. Also, I was totally out of water. I was holding out my water bottle to cars going by to see if they'd help me. Nothing. Then I remember this one car going by, and seeing this little boy in the rear window staring out at me – I still remember his face -- as the car disappeared down the road. And there I was holding out my empty bottle.

Well, I come around a corner about a mile later and that same car is pulled over, the parents are out, the kid's on the side of the road, and he's holding a water bottle and some food. They waved me over and I was like, “Oh my god. This is amazing! That kid must have told his parents, “Mommy, Daddy…that man is really suffering on his bicycle.” It was the most amazing thing. They were so generous, and stayed with me for almost an hour. Talk about lifted spirits! Those are the kinds of things that just happen on these trips, over and over; acts of kindness from strangers you'll never see again. It's inspiring and powerful. And I feel like the same thing has also happened with Clif Bar through the years. People – suppliers, banks, manufacturers -- have pulled over, time and again, and given us a loaf of bread when we needed it most; to help a small, privately-held company that didn't have big companies behind it, or investor capital to bail them out. They saw how authentically we believed in what we were doing - trying to pave our own road – and they offered us that special, unexpected something to help us through a tough spot. And we appreciate that. Gestures like that have enabled us to continue to pay it forward; to share our own loaves of bread with those who need them. And that's what it's all about.

It's About The Journey

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Climbing Differently


On a beautiful fall morning in 1979, my friend Bruce Hendricks and I left camp to climb North Peak in Yosemite, an eight-hundred foot snow and ice chute wedged between two rock faces with a fifty-degree pitch.

Three hundred feet up the chute, the surface changed from snow to ice. It was my turn to lead and I climbed out onto the ice. The ice was so solid that my tools - ice axe and crampons - barely penetrated the surface. I hadn’t been able to place any protection for about 180 feet when I noticed that the crampon on one of my feet had come loose. Then, as I swung my ice axe for my next placement, the pick hit the hard surface, jumped back, flew out of my hand and landed two-hundred feet below me. Not good. But it was ok because I still had three points of contact on the ice. Not for long. One more move and the loose crampon came all the way off and dangled around my ankle. Now there was trouble.

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On a beautiful fall morning in 1979, my friend Bruce Hendricks and I left camp to climb North Peak in Yosemite, an eight-hundred foot snow and ice chute wedged between two rock faces with a fifty-degree pitch.

Three hundred feet up the chute, the surface changed from snow to ice. It was my turn to lead and I climbed out onto the ice. The ice was so solid that my tools - ice axe and crampons - barely penetrated the surface. I hadn’t been able to place any protection for about 180 feet when I noticed that the crampon on one of my feet had come loose. Then, as I swung my ice axe for my next placement, the pick hit the hard surface, jumped back, flew out of my hand and landed two-hundred feet below me. Not good. But it was ok because I still had three points of contact on the ice. Not for long. One more move and the loose crampon came all the way off and dangled around my ankle. Now there was trouble.

I carefully unhooked my crampon and threw it to a safe spot, where I could later retrieve it. Now I only had two points of contact; all of my weight on one arm and one leg. I realized I’d soon be fatigued and experiencing ‘sewing machine leg’, which is the twitching that occurs on climbs when isometric pressure mounts. I had to adapt and quickly develop a new climbing technique.

I dug my good foot in, balanced on one leg, and carefully removed my ice axe. This was incredibly scary, as any shift in weight would mean a fall and certain death. If I could just make it to the rock wall to my left I could place some protection. I slowly repeated my ‘new move’ several times, and I made it. From there, I continued to climb using a hybrid rock-ice technique, climbing the rock to my left and ice to my right. Ultimately I got to a point where I could safely belay Bruce up. Fortunately the rest of our climb was less eventful, and we returned to camp after retrieving my dropped gear.

This experience became one of many adventure-related lessons I’ve applied at Clif Bar. In this case, I learned the importance of remaining attentive, adaptive, and taking action to solve problems. If I were attentive, I’d have fastened my crampon correctly. And by remaining adaptive and taking action I survived the climb. Clif Bar has had its own versions of that climb through the years. We’ve had to learn to climb in new, scary, and innovative ways. But we believe in what we’re doing, and have great passion for it. So it’s worth it.

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To Be Continued...