Mountaineer Jason Addy on being vegan since 1992, and his self-propelled mountain treks
Karina Inkster: You're listening to The No-Bullshit Vegan podcast, episode 83. Vegan since 1992, mountaineer Jason Addy speaks with me today about self-propelled mountaineering. As in propelling yourself to the mountain, then scaling the mountain and then propelling yourself back home.
I'd like to start by giving a listener shout out to Kay Fife, who left an awesome review of this show on Apple podcasts recently. Here's the review: “Karina is a well-researched, enthusiastic walking-the-walk kind of gal. Whether she's interviewing knowledgeable guests or busting myths on her own, you will always come away with more fuel in your tank for your individual vegan journey.” Well, thank you so much. You're awesome, and I appreciate you leaving a review of this show. First of all, because it makes me feel pretty great, but also because it helps other people to find this show. If you haven't yet left a star rating and a quick review of this podcast on Apple podcasts, please take two minutes to do that at nobullshitvegan.com/applepodcasts.
Now I'm excited to introduce our guest for today's episode, Jason Addy. He's a Mountaineer living in Powell River BC, (which happens to be where I live as well), vegan since 1992, and he enjoys doing fully self-propelled mountaineering trips from home to home. That means home to the mountain usually on a bike, scaling said mountain, and then cycling back home. Jason is a lifelong cyclist and he's currently writing a guidebook to the mountains north of Powell River. His favorite vegan recipe is the crispy smashed potatoes from the Oh She Glows Everyday cookbook by Angela Liddon, which honestly sounds like something I need on regular meal rotation. Here's our discussion.
Hey Jason, thank you so much for speaking with me today.
Jason Addy: You're welcome. Glad to be here.
Karina Inkster: Well, I'm actually thankful to our mutual friend Martin, who runs the most awesome vegan grocery store in Powell River, whose genius idea it was to have you on the show. So thanks Martin. Jason, you have some real interesting stuff going on. You're a mountaineer; you have a book project in the works, which you just told me about roughly 30 seconds ago. I need to hear about that for sure, and of course you're vegan. Why don't we start with the vegan aspect? You know, this being a vegan, all things plant-based podcast, what is the deal? What's the backstory: what’s Jason's vegan origin story?
Jason Addy: Back in the late 1980s, my friends and I were all into punk rock music and somehow my veganism sprouted from that. I'm not exactly certain how, or who were the movers and the vegan movers and shakers in the punk rock community. There was a vegan cookbook that came out of Texas called “ Soy, Not Oi!” My friends and I would be cooking out of that book, and I had quite a few vegan friends, and I wasn't vegan yet. What turned me was I did a three-month bicycle tour across the States, with my one friend that was vegan, my friend Fred. Basically I was brainwashed slowly over three months, cycling across America, as my friend Fred was thriving on a vegan diet. We had lots and lots of time to chat with each other and I was pretty easily convinced after three months to become vegan. I came home for Christmas at the end of that trip in 1992, and told everybody I was vegan for Christmas dinner.
Karina Inkster: How did that go over back in the nineties way before veganism was cool?
Jason Addy: Everybody panicked. My mother was upset because she didn’t cook anything for a vegan. (I told her) not to worry about it, there was a lot available. There was tons of vegan food on the table. (I told her) Mum- you don’t need to worry about me at all. From her perspective, it was quite a shock because she didn't even know what it was really, on one level.
Karina Inkster: Interesting. I assume it didn't take long for your family to figure it out, come around to at least the concept?
Jason Addy: Basically I was not living at home then. I just happened to land right on the dinner when I was home for Christmas. My mother got into looking up vegan recipes if I was coming home for the holidays. She loves to cook. It was just an extra little bonus thing where she could find some cool recipe to cook for me. That was awesome.
Karina Inkster: That is awesome. That's a good route to take instead of, "Oh my God." And just freeze and not do anything. That's great. So, what about your partner or your family? Do you have other vegans now in your world?
Jason Addy: My wife is vegan. We met years later after that. She had already been vegan for years, and I had been vegan for years. Her brother and mother are vegan as well. But nobody in my family is vegan.
Karina Inkster: Not yet…do you have any hope?
Jason Addy: My brother and his wife actually announced to their kids that they were going to be vegan, and the kid said no. The kids have now mostly have left the house. They were quite afraid of not eating meat. There's still hope there.
Karina Inkster: There's definitely hope. They have no excuse if they have an empty nest at some point. That’s pretty cool. It's been a long time for you. I mean, I went vegan in (what was it?) 2003. I can never remember. It's been almost 18 years. That's not as long as you, but even then, the information out there on veganism, the resources: it was just nothing compared to what it is now.
Jason Addy: Seriously. It is a stark difference for sure.
Karina Inkster: What is your self-propelled adventure, your self-propelled group that you have? Tell me about the mountaineering, and the crazy adventure side of what you do.
Jason Addy: When I lived in Vancouver in the late nineties, I started doing self-propelled mountaineering, just for my own pleasure. You leave home by bicycle (you bike to where normally people drive to the Trailhead), then you do the trail, climb the mountain, come back, and do it all under your own power. 99% of it was bicycle access to all the mountaineering. I got super excited about it. It was really fun way to do it. It felt really good. It was fun to tell people that you did it, because people wouldn't believe it. It seems insane. Some people get excited about the trips, and then they'd want to come. It wasn't too long before I decided that we should just start a club and see if we can get a lot of people to do this, knowing it would be great if everybody were doing it.
We started The Self Propelled Outdoor Club, myself and a few of my friends, and started promoting trips, doing slideshows. Mountain Equipment Co-op let us have a day where we had a table set up, and just tried to get everybody stoked on doing these self-propelled trips. Over the years, we probably had 30 different people joining in these self-propelled mountaineering trips. We definitely convinced a few people to join, but not as many as I thought. I thought everybody would do a trip and just fall in love with it. It takes a little bit more time and it takes a lot more effort. I think a lot of people weighing that would just opt for driving a car, because it's easier. It saves time. You don't need as much energy to do it. There's a dividing line between the people that do it and fall in love with it, and a lot of other people who do it and it just doesn't make sense to them, even though they enjoy it once. They say, “ I’m not going to do that again. It was too much effort”.
Karina Inkster: When Martin introduced the idea of having you on the show, he's said "this dude self propels himself from his house to the peaks of mountains. At first I thought, okay, that's pretty freaking cool, but I didn't totally understand that you are propelling yourself to the mountain in the first place, without a car or transit, or anything other than your own power. Then you're climbing the mountain, which is crazy enough. Not exactly what is the advantage, but moreso what appeals to you about the self-propelled aspect?
Jason Addy: I guess the biggest thing for me was I had been a cyclist my whole life. It just organically happened for me. That's just the way I was doing it. Talking to other people and telling them what I was doing, and just seeing their excitement and awe: that's when it really became a thing for me, because I was realized this is something that people like to hear about. There’s a stoke that I get back from that, by telling people I traveled to the mountain under my own power, basically.
Karina Inkster: That's so cool. When you've done trips and when you were leading groups and such, you being vegan yourself, we've chatted about this before. (Actually, if our listeners don't know we're in the same town, so you're actually only the second interview that I've done on this show with people in my town, which is kind of crazy.) We've chatted about what you've done in the past, and veganism did come up, where the food that you're providing on these excursions just happens to be plant-based (even if the members or the people you're going with are not.) What's the connection there? Have you had people on trips that were not one hundred percent with the whole idea of being plant-based on these excursions?
Jason Addy: The Self Propelled Outdoor Club got us to participate in a fundraiser for the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition. They were doing commuter training for people who are interested in starting to commute by bicycle, but were afraid, or they didn't have the right gear, and they didn't know how to do it. They were doing these programs, and they decided to do a fundraiser and have a pool of money so that they could offer it to any women that were applying. Through the fundraiser, those women could do it for free, because they were trying to draw more women into cycle commuting. For some reason, I guess it was an area where they felt there could be a lot more women cycle-commuting as compared with men.
We agreed to do this fundraiser. We got eight people to bike from Vancouver to Mount Baker and climb Mount Baker with pledges. We ended up raising $7,500 for that program with eight people. Normally on a self-propelled trip, one or two other people would be coming with me. Just for simplicity of meal planning, they become vegan for that trip. That trip, four people decided they were going to be the non-vegan team, and then four people that were the vegan team. We had this fun little game we were playing. Obviously, the vegans have to beat the non-vegans, so we had to pedal faster, and that kind of thing.
That, for the trip was pretty fun, to have the two competing teams going. One a more common trip with two or three people, you're meal planning. You usually you go to the grocery store together. I'm vegan. I kind of have to push a little bit and say, "okay, we're bringing one pot, we're not going to bring two pots. It's too much extra weight to start dividing everything up." I kind of lure people into veganism. Some people are vegetarian or vegan already, but some people will say, “well, it sounds like you should just meal plan and I'll just eat whatever you're having. “ People are generally pretty accepting for a two-day trip. I always notice just before we get to the till, and someone will run back and get a brick of cheese and a Snickers bar or something. Just have a little last minute panic. I mean, obviously it's just the big meals, like a breakfast where you have the stove out and you're using a pot. At breakfast and dinner it's way harder to divide things up, but obviously snacks and lunches (are easier). I don't force everybody to be vegan for my trips.
Karina Inkster: Well that makes sense. For the people who were not vegan before trips, and then did their main meals as vegan, what was the overall feedback from that? Did they notice any difference? Did they not notice any difference? Were they surprised?
Jason Addy: You definitely get comments like, "Oh, this isn't that bad”. I'm not a great ambassador for veganism on those trips. I'm just trying to pack lightweight. I'm not bringing out all the guns for making amazing recipes, but can still meal plan and have a pretty good meal.
Karina Inkster: That's a good point. Actually, I didn't think of that. It's very utilitarian, right? You’re not going to have a five-course gourmet meal on the top of a mountain.
Jason Addy: I'd say people generally are a little bit surprised, because it doesn't taste as bad as they think it's going to taste. I don't think anybody is noticing a boost of energy from eating vegan for two days. I don't think it goes in that direction at all, but just a minor surprise that the food is pretty good.
Karina Inkster: I don't know, man, whenever I hear things like "I have so much energy now” and "I've changed this and this”, I'm always a little skeptical, especially when it's only been a couple of days. Of course, there are people who have health issues and they really do a 180, change their diet, become vegan and all these positive things happen. For 48 hours: are you realistically going to notice that much? Probably not.
Jason Addy: I guess, like you're saying, it just depends on what your diet was before. If you’re kind of a junk food addict, all your junk foods are not vegan, and you go vegan, your diet could probably change where over a week you would notice a difference. I never really noticed a difference in terms of short-term gains like that, but long-term gains for sure.
Karina Inkster: Presumably the type of person who would think, "I'm going to self propel myself to the bottom of a mountain and then climb said mountain", technically, probably, is at a certain level of physical shape or physical fitness. They're probably not sitting around eating Pop Tarts, Oreos, Skittles, and nothing else, I would assume. The pool of people, the sample, is probably a little biased in your case. Are people surprised when they hear about all of your exploits, and that you're fully plant-based?
Jason Addy: I've never really promoted both ideas at the same time. Some people realize that I'm vegan and that I'm doing this, but I've never really brought them up together, and I've never really had someone comment about the two things linked.
Karina Inkster: Interesting. Well, maybe this podcast is what’s linking it all together. You're the vegan mountaineer now, officially. What is this project that you're working on currently? I have been creeping on your Instagram photos, which are always amazing, and there are photos of your dog there who's going with you on trips. I hear that there's a book in the works. So what is the deal?
Jason Addy: I moved to Powell River 12 years ago, and basically had to start discovering what was in our backcountry, because there was very little written about it. I was pleasantly surprised. I couldn't believe how much amazing mountaineering there was, because when you're in town or near town, the foothills roll in such a way that they kind of block the view until you get way back there, or until you get up high on a mountain. Before you put that effort in, there's nothing to see really. When I started going back and then started seeing more and more mountains and then needed to find out what every one was. I was sort of asking around. I wanted to know who was going to write the guidebook for this area, because I needed to know all of this information.
Basically, nobody was going to write the guidebook. By the time I gave up on the fact, and realized that nobody was going to write the guidebook, I realized it was going to have to be me to write the guidebook. I was super excited because every weekend, there is an amazing new mountain that very few people have ever gone to. There's just such a low population pressure on these mountains, and it's so hard to get to them and there's no trails. It's pure wilderness, and amazing new discoveries for me every weekend. I got so excited about it. Writing the guidebook became something really fun that I'm working on.
Karina Inkster: That's amazing. Are you still self-propelling yourself to all of these backcountry mountains?
Jason Addy: I never solely self-propelled. It was always at special events. There were years when it was mostly self-propelled, and certainly I still am self-propelling. I think I've climbed about 30 of the mountains in Powell River, and I have self-propelled to maybe eight of them.
I'm a working man, so a two or three-day weekend is all I get. I’ve climbed the eight closest ones. If I decide to take some more time off, or hopefully I start to drift into semi retirement, then I can start doing five and 10-day trips. Then I can start taking on some more mountaineering challenges.
Karina Inkster: I'm already planning my retirement, which is decades away. I got a whole list of stuff that's going to be happening. Some of it's already happening. It's just going to be happening more. That's basically the deal. I realize there's no typical trip here, but what are we looking at as an example of two day trip: hiking distance, number of hours: what does a two day trip look like logistics wise?
Jason Addy: A two-day trip would start with a cycle about 60 K to the Trailhead. You want to get pretty high up into the mountains on that first day. Then, you set up a base camp and sleep overnight, and then day two would be on: leaving everything in camp, heading up to the summit of the mountain. Then coming back to camp, cleaning up camp, and making your way back. The hiking would be 15K all in, and maybe 1700 meters of elevation from where you ditched the bikes on the mountain.
Karina Inkster: Interesting. We've been living in Powell River for only two years, and you know how many mountains we've climbed? Zero. We should probably change that at some point. We've done a ton of hiking and paddle boarding. We've been to all the lakes, but the whole mountaineering thing is still a new concept to us.
Jason Addy: Have you been up to Emma Lake, or somewhere where you can get a peek-a-boo view of all the mountains?
Karina Inkster: We haven't been that high up.
Jason Addy: We’ve got work to do!
Karina Inkster: We do evidently! I know who I'm going to ask about this, although I'm probably not going to self propel myself to the bottom of said mountain, just FYI, that tires me out already, even with the amount of workouts that I do. 60k of biking…really?!
Jason Addy: You might be the kind of person that gets into it.
Karina Inkster: Well, never say never. Actually, my sister would be 100% all over these adventures. She lives in Vancouver, but she's here in Powell River quite often. She's actually coming tomorrow. I should talk to her about this. So…what is it about mountaineering in general? I know that you started a long time ago, but if you had to summarize your attraction to the activity and why you do it, what would you say?
Jason Addy: That's a hard question to answer, but I guess the wilderness aspect of it. It’s a completely different place that you're going to. It’s nothing like your day-to-day life. It’s a pretty sparse landscape. There are often no trees, or minimal small shrubs and flowers, but it's just quite a different place to be. It's very beautiful. It's just amazingly beautiful. There's a certain solitude that I seem to be attracted to.
Karina Inkster: I can understand that. I mean, that's part of the reason we moved to Powell River. Powell River's not exactly full solitude, but just not being in the city anymore.
Jason Addy: There's the challenge of it as well. That's definitely plays into it.
Karina Inkster: I would think that would be an important aspect, wouldn't it? Well, that's so cool. Is there somewhere that our listeners can go to find out more information about your projects, like Instagram for example, or The Self-propelled Group, anything you want to share with our listeners?
Jason Addy: I have an Instagram page that features all the local mountains here, and it's kind of a preemptive promotion of mountaineering, Powell River, and the book that will be coming up pretty soon next year. It's @Powell_River_Alpine. That's the Instagram page. The Self-Propelled Outdoor Club has a website and you can check out some of the trips that we did in the past, and some of the news reports and magazine articles that were written about us. I'm not exactly certain what the website is.)
Karina Inkster: That is okay. We're actually going to have show notes, so we'll add it to our show notes, so it's all good. Thanks, Jason. It was great speaking with you, and thanks so much for coming on the show.
Jason Addy: You're welcome. Thanks for interviewing me!
Karina Inkster: Jason, thanks again for sharing with us your vegan origin story, and your self propelled mountaineering adventures. I’m really looking forward to your book when it comes out, and also thank you to our friend Martin Williams, whose idea it was to have Jason on the show. If by chance you're in the Powell River area, Martin owns Townsite Fruit and Veg, which is a vegan neighborhood grocery store with not just produce, but pretty much every vegan product you can imagine. Access our show notes at nobullshitvegan.com/083 to connect with Jason, and make sure you check out his incredible mountaineering photos on Instagram. Thank you so much for tuning in.