Archive | July, 2013

New To-Do List

30 Jul

http://www.adventure-journal.com/2013/07/the-aj-list-the-highest-unclimbed-mountains-in-the-world/

The Highest Unclimbed Mountains In The World

GangkharPuensum3

In August 2011, Americans Steve Swenson, Freddie Wilkinson, and Mark Richey reached the summit of 7518-meter Saser Kangri II, then the second-highest unclimbed peak in the world. The Saser Kangri II climb left only three of the world’s highest 100 mountains left to await first ascents — but the big mountains of the world are far from climbed out. Plenty of big, scary summits remain, some named, some unnamed, some too close to neighboring summits to catch the attention of mountaineers.

Here are just the really tall ones — maybe illegal, maybe too dangerous, maybe never tried, and one that’s hardly even been seen:

1. Gangkhar Puensum, 7570 meters
Unless Bhutan changes its mind about mountaineering, Gangkhar Puensum, above, is likely to stay the world’s highest unclimbed mountain for a long time. Bhutan banned climbing on mountains higher than 6000 meters in 1994 respect to local spiritual beliefs, and then banned mountain climbing completely in 2003. A Japanese team climbing nearby in 1998 claimed that the summit of Gangkhar Puensem actually lies on the border of Tibet and Bhutan, which would be news to the Bhutan government.

2. Muchu Chhish, 7543 meters
The six summits of Batura in the Western Karakoram form a 35-kilometer ridge, all of which is above 6100 meters. One of the peaks, Muchu Chhish, has never been climbed, and has only been attempted once, by a Spanish team in 1999. A team won a Shipton-Tilman grant for an expedition in 2011, but it was canceled because of a health issue in the months leading up to the trip. The route to the summit likely involves a long, committing traverse above 7000 meters.

3. Kabru North Summit, 7394 meters
The Kabru Massif sits in the Himalaya on the India-Nepal border, south of Kangchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world. Kabru’s lower south summit was climbed 77 years ago, solo, by Conrad Cooke, but the higher northern summit is still unclimbed. Avalanches forced a 2004 Serbian expedition to retreat.

4. Labuche Kang III, 7250 meters
The main summit of this Tibetan peak, at 7367 meters, was climbed by a Japanese team in 1987 and it remains the only successful summit. American alpinist Joe Puryear was killed on an attempt on the peak in 2010. The east peak of the massif, Labuche Kang III, has never been climbed, or attempted.

5. Karjiang, 7221 meters
The most recent attempt to climb Karjian was in 2001, when a Dutch group aiming for the summit encountered bad weather and turned their sights to the 6820-meter Karjian III, which they summited. Terrain near Karjiang’s summit is extremely technical, and there is a high risk of avalanches. Joe Puryear and David Gottlieb were awarded a grant to attempt Karjiang in 2010, but failed to secure the permit, so they headed to Labuche Kang instead.

6. Tongshanjiabu, 7207 meters
Almost no information is known about this peak on the disputed border between Tibet and Bhutan. A Korean team climbed a nearby peak and mentioned Tongshanjiabu in their trip report in the 2003 Japanese Alpine News, and that mention and a single photo is all that’s publicly known about the mountain.

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Chasing Water – Source to sea on the Colorado River

27 Jul

I saw this via the Banff Mountain Film Festival last year and it’s stuck with me ever since… thought some might enjoy it. I definitely think it needs more exposure.

It’s not Russian dashcam footage or anything else of such high prestige, but it’s pretty decent.

  • Best Short Film – Banff Mountain Film Festival
  • Grand Prize – 5Point Film Festival
  • Activism Award – Adventure Film Festival
  • Best Documentary – ClearWater Festival
  • Best Environmental Film – Frozen Film Festival

Pete’s site is here: http://petemcbride.com/
“For 6 million years the Colorado River ran to the sea. Since 1998 it has not.”

Pete McBride grew up on a ranch in Western Colorado, a child of the Colorado River. After a life spent visiting other countries to tell stories as a National Geographic photojournalist, in 2008 Pete decided to follow the water from his family’s ranch to see where it ends up. This is the story of Pete’s journey, and a story about the lifeblood of the American West

Chasing Water to the End of The Colorado River

by david frey new west on May 3, 2011

From the rim of the Grand Canyon, the Colorado River below seemed both meek and mighty. It looked like a tiny band of water barely visible below millions of years of rock, but it was this river, blasting through fierce rapids with dirt and debris, that carved through a mile of rock like a diamond saw.

This is the Colorado River in its finest moments. River runners know it as a death-defying series of rapids, but even this whitewater is only a fraction of the hydraulics that once raged through the canyon, in the days before Lake Powell tamed it.

In its grim less spectacular moments the Colorado is not a river at all. It is an unremarkable trickle through concrete canals, and then, not even that. Just a dry riverbed that delivers not even a drop to the sea.

“It looks like the end of the line,” says photographer Pete McBride, as he and his companion, author Jonathan Waterman, find their canoes lodged in a foamy brown muck. “It looks like the garbage disposal at the end of the river.”

The two document the river from its source, high in the upper reaches of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, to the Sea of Cortez, where it’s supposed to end up, in the book The Colorado River: Flowing through Conflict. McBride also documents the river in a talk, and in the 18-minute documentary Chasing Water, which premiered recently at the 5Point Film Festival in Carbondale, Colorado., a fest that seeks to inspire adventure and instill environmental consciousness.

By kayak, airplane, and ultimately by foot, McBride explores the storied river from end to end. Growing up on a ranch in nearby Snowmass, Colorado, McBride says he used to wonder how long it would take for the water flowing through their irrigation ditch to reach the sea.

The answer: it doesn’t. Not since 1998 anyway. Tapped by farmers, ranchers, cities and towns, the Colorado River dies an early death.

“I started to see the river as an orphan stretched into the desert,” says McBride, narrating a journey in Chasing Water that carried him from the fields where he grew up to the streets of Las Vegas to California’s Imperial Valley.

McBride’s images, both in the book and in the film tell a powerful tale of the West’s greatest river. In Utah, they capture a wild river carving S-curves through the desert before it runs up against Glen Canyon Dam, where years of drought is causing Lake Powell to shrink. In Arizona, the shockingly straight lines of canals carry water to Los Angeles.

It’s hard to find a more gripping image, though, than the scene which begins the film: feet in flip-flops trundling over the cracked, dry earth where the Colorado River, “the American Nile,” as McBride calls it, is supposed to reach the sea.

Even in the Grand Canyon, the river ebbs and surges not with its natural rhythms, but with the output of Glen Canyon Dam set to match Phoenix’s need for air conditioning. The Colorado River, McBride comes to see, may be less an American Nile than it is a 1,500-mile piece of plumbing.

http://davidmfrey.com/2011/04/28/%E2%80%98chasing-water%E2%80%99-captures-colorado-river%E2%80%99s-tragic-tale/

Hike / scramble to Land’s End

27 Jul

At the southernmost point of the Baja Peninsula, where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez there’s a rock formation called “The Arch.” There’s no point in sitting still in the world so last week we decided to see how close we could get without having to take a boat.

Starting on the Pacific side headed to Land’s End. This is just beyond Grand Solmar .

I should probably make it known that there is no swimming to where we tried to get. These waves are a bitch. We watched some crash so hard the spray went at least 2/3 of the way up this formation

 

 

 

Up and over

 

 

 

 

 

 

And on to Divorce Beach. Still on the Pacific side and definitely no swimming here.

 

 

 

 

Here’s a friend giving some perspective on the size of the rocks

 

 

 

 

To get from Divorce Beach to Lover’s beach there’s a trek across open sand. (The footprints are from people who got there by boat)

 

 

 

 

Then you get to this point on Lover’s Beach which is on Bahia San Lucas

 

 

 

And if you look close there’s a way through…

 

 

 

 

And on the other side you’re all alone on a tiny beach

 

 

 

We almost made it. Through the cut on the right is Divorce Beach on the other side and Lover’s Beach on the near side. The hole in the rock is in that point left of center.

 

 

 

We made it all the way to the beach on the right, but couldn’t get around to the arch. Due to another climbing trip up near Boca de la Sierra we couldn’t time the tides right
I’ve never actually seen the water as low as it is in this pic… supposedly it only happens every 4-6 years

 

 

And after all that we had to reverse it

 

 

 

 

To get back to the Pacific

 

 

 

 

Death of the “Mammoth Tree” – Birth of Conservation

8 Jul

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2013/jun/27/giant-tree-death-conservation-movement
 

How a giant tree’s death sparked the conservation movement 160 years ago

160 years ago a giant sequoia in California was cut down, becoming the inspiration for the national park system

Leo blog on mammoth tree : in Calaveras County

Tourists inspecting the stump of the ‘Mammoth Tree’ in Calaveras County, California, c1860. The ‘Mother of the Forest’, without its bark, can be seen in the background. Image: LoC

Today marks the 160th anniversary of a seminal, but largely forgotten moment in the history of the conservation movement.

On Monday, 27 June, 1853, a giant sequoia – one of the natural world’s most awe-inspiring sights – was brought to the ground by a band of gold-rush speculators in Calaveras county, California. It had taken the men three weeks to cut through the base of the 300ft-tall, 1,244-year-old tree, but finally it fell to the forest floor.

A section of the bark from the “Mammoth Tree”, as newspapers soon described it, had already been removed and was sent to San Francisco to be put on display. The species had only been “discovered” (local Native American tribes such as the Miwok had known of the trees for centuries) that spring by a hunter who stumbled upon the pristine grove in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada whilst chasing an injured bear. Word of the discovery quickly spread.

In the age of PT Barnum‘s freak shows, the speculators, mostly gold miners, had sensed a commercial opportunity. The section of bark – re-erected using scaffold, with a piano inside to entertain paying visitors – would later be sent to Broadway in New York, as would the bark from a second tree felled a year later. The bark of the “Mother of the Forest” – as the second tree was named – would even go on to be displayed at London’s Crystal Palace causing great excitement and wonder in Victorian England before it was destroyed by fire on 30 December 1866. (The bark of the original mammoth tree was also lost to fire as it lay in storage in New York in 1855. A fitting end, perhaps, as fire plays such a crucial role in the life cycle of giant sequoias.)

The fame of the trees was such that a hotel was quickly built at the site to host the influx of tourists. To entertain the guests, tea dances were regularly held on the stump of the mammoth tree and a bowling alley was built on the now prone trunk. (This page has a wonderful range of images of the Mammoth Tree and the Mother of the Forest.)

The remarkable, engaging story of these two doomed trees is too detailed to be told here, but what is worth recalling on this anniversary is the reaction their destruction caused in the media at the time – and its subsequent effect on some progressive politicians a decade later when they cited their felling and exploitation as an inspiration to establish what later came to be known as the US national park system.

Leo blog on mammoth tree : Tourist walking by 'The Father of The Forest

Tourist walking by ‘The Father of The Forest” in Calaveras Grove, California c.1880s. Photograph: Alamy

Was the outrage expressed by some in the popular media of the day evidence of the first stirrings of an environmental consciousness in the US? It would be wrong to assess such statements without noting the historical context of that age – a time of the “manifest destiny” when nature was viewed as a God-given resource for Mankind to exploit – but it is also hard to ignore the clear outrage and bemusement among some commentators that such magnificent natural specimens had been brutalised in this way.

According to Gary D Lowe, a local historian, author and “Big Tree” aficionado, the first-known negative commentary came a month before the tree was felled. An article in the Sonora Herald, a local newspaper, reported that Captain Hanford, the man leading the enterprise, “is about stripping off the bark”. The report went on: “This will of course kill the tree, which is much to be deprecated.”

On 27 June, 1853 – the same day the tree finally fell – a report in San Francisco’s Placer Times and Transcript also noted an article, again in the Sonora Herald, expressing regret that Captain Hanford was preparing for a “portion of the mammoth tree” to be sent to New York.

“Amator” [Latin for “friend”] is dreadfully shocked at the vandalism and barbarity of flaying that giant of the woods, and depriving California of its greatest “growing” exponent.

However, the same report also goes on to say that the stripping of the tree’s bark is “characteristic of California enterprise” and that Hanford’s efforts to exhibit the bark in New York will allow “millions of the inhabitants of the earth to see it, has rendered his adopted state a lasting benefit, given to science a page, and the world a natural curiosity”. So any sadness at the tree’s demise was counteracted by the boost to local pride.

Leo blog on mammoth tree : people on trunk of a giant tree in Calaveras County, California

Two people standing on the stump of the ‘Mammoth Tree’ at Calaveras Big Trees State Park, California. Photograph: Jeff Compasso/Alamy

But these were reports in local newspapers with little influence outside the communities they served. A far more significant report came that autumn when Maturin M Ballou, the Boston-based editor of Gleason’s Pictorial Drawing Room Companion, one of the most widely read magazines of the day, printed an illustration of the “largest tree yet discovered in the world” on 1 October, 1853. The accompanying text said:

To our mind it seems a cruel idea, a perfect desecration, to cut down such a splendid tree…In Europe, such a natural production would have been cherished and protected, if necessary, by law; but in this money-making, go-ahead community, thirty or forty thousand dollars are paid for it, and the purchaser chops it down, and ships it off for a shilling show! We hope that no one will conceive the idea of purchasing the Niagara Falls with the same purpose!…But, seriously, what in the world could have possessed any mortal to embark in such speculation with this mountain of wood? In its natural condition, rearing its majestic head towards heaven, and waving in all its native vigour, strength and verdure, it was a sight worth a pilgrimage to see; but now, alas, It is only a monument of the cupidity of those who have destroyed all there was of interest connected with it.

Five months later, on 11 March, 1854, Ballou printed a further remark in his magazine:

A tree of such gigantic proportions as well might excite the wonder and curiosity of the world. Although the destruction of such a magnificent object was an act of vandalism not to be forgiven, yet the desecration has been committed, and it is useless now to reiterate our vain regrets.

However, the ripples of outrage took a further year – and the stripping of the Mother of the Forest – to really gain traction. Then came this editorial in the New York Herald, dated 17 December, 1855:

The finest, the most beautiful and symmetrical of these trees, (though not the largest) has been cut down…From this beginning, unless the Goths and Vandals are arrested in their work, the destruction of the incomparable forest will probably go on till the last vestige of it is destroyed. In this view, the point that we make is, that the State of California and the Congress of the Union should interpose to preserve these trees, as the living proofs that the boasted monarchs of the wood of the Old World are but stunted shrubbery compared with the forest giants of our own country. We say that Congress should interpose, upon the presumption that these trees are public property, are on the public lands of California, and because Congress has already interposed to protect the public live oak forests of Florida from the rapacity of unscrupulous speculators…We repeat, that it is the duty of the State of California, of Congress, and of all good citizens, to protect and to preserve these California monuments of the capabilities of our American soil. Let it be the law that this…Mammoth Grove shall stand.

The next notable article was printed in the March 1859 issue (pdf) of Hutchings’ California Magazine. It was also later reprinted the following year in the popular tourist guide, Scenes of Wonder and Curiosity in California:

In our estimation, it was a sacrilegious act; although it is possible, that the exhibition of the bark, among the unbelievers of the eastern part of our continent, and of Europe, may have convinced all the “Thomases” living, that we have great facts in California, that must be believed, sooner or later. This is the only palliating consideration with us for this act of desecration.

And then, in 1864, came the culminating moment when John Conness, the senator from California, rose in Congress to make a speech urging his colleagues to pass a bill that would see the now nationally famous Yosemite Valley and its neighbouring grove of sequoias in the mountains above Mariposa secured and protected “inalienable forever”. In making his case, he directly referenced the fate of the felled trees at Calaveras just over a decade earlier:

From the Calaveras grove some sections of a fallen tree were cut during and pending the great World’s Fair that was held in London some years since…The English who saw it declared it to be a Yankee invention, made from beginning to end; that it was an utter untruth that such trees grew in the country; that it could not be; and, although the section of the tree was transported there at an expense of several thousand dollars, we were not able to convince them that it was a specimen of American growth. They would not believe us. The purpose of this bill is to preserve one of these groves from devastation and injury. The necessity of taking early possession and care of these great wonders can easily be seen and understood.

The bill passed and the “Yosemite grant” paved the way for the first official national park being established at Yellowstone in 1872. Celebrated conservationists such as John Muir would all later visit the stump of the original “mammoth tree” to reflect on both its fate and influence. However, the grove of sequoias at Calaveras – where the story of the US conservation movement arguably began – did not become a state park until 1931 following a decades-long fight to see off the desires of lumber companies.

Today, the trees are now safe from the “Goths and Vandals”, but not, alas, some of the side-effects of modern civilization: urban ozone, climate change, uncontrolled frequent fires, to name but a few.

Leo blog on mammoth tree : Over 100 people stand atop of and around a logged giant sequoia tree

Over 100 people stand atop of and around a logged giant sequoia tree, Calaveras County, California, 1917. Photograph: A. R. Moore/National Geographic Society/Corbis

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