Saturday March 8, 2014
I visited with my long-time climbing friend Jim this afternoon, catching up on the past few years, trading tales about favorite climbs, and hashing over some of the disagreements we've had about climbing ethics. Jim and I have been at opposite sides of the spectrum of ethics or so it has seemed at times over the past four years. But after our long conversation this afternoon it actually turns out that we both want a lot of the same things for our beloved climbing areas.
Jim is passionate about climbing at the Garden of the Gods, a spectacular Colorado Springs' city park and one of the first established rock climbing areas in the United States. For Jim, as for myself, the Garden is a special and sacred place. The Garden of the Gods was the place where I really learned to become a climber when I was in high school in the late 1960s, a place to develop the skills to go out into the world to places like Yosemite Valley and climb big walls and do new routes. Jim, who moved to Colorado from his native Tucson, Arizona, quickly came to love the Garden and its adventurous climbs and spectacular red rock scenery.
Right now I'm working with a bunch of Colorado Springs climbers to create the Pikes Peak Climbers Alliance, an advocacy group to address the growing climbing issues on public lands in the Pikes Peak region. The time is right now for us local climbers to address the sustainability, accessibility, and safety of our climbing areas, particularly those in the four Colorado Springs' city parks including the Garden of the Gods, so that we can continue to enjoy our unique climbs now and in the future. Brady Robinson, the executive director of The Access Fund, is helping shepherd us through the process.
Today we had a meeting at the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center to discuss our mission statement and begin to figure out the direction and process we need to go forward with the PPCA. Afterwards, Brady went over to visit with Jim and I caught up with them later in the afternoon at the hospice unit at a local hospital.
Jim, a couple years younger than me, is dying of pancreatic cancer. He was diagnosed back on December 20 and given a few months to live. Jim, passionate as ever about climbing and the Garden of the Gods, wanted to do something to give back to the climbing community and ultimately decided to donate a substantial amount of money as a legacy gift to Garden of the Gods climbing. The funds are to be administered through The Access Fund and will provide the seed money for us to create the Pikes Peak Climbers Alliance, including registering it as a non-profit entity and other legal expenses.
Jim wanted to talk to me in private today about the climbing issues that he sees that need addressing, what he would like us to do with his gift, as well as about the disagreements he and I have had about retrobolting and adding new bolts to existing routes. After talking and laughing and remembering climbs for three hours, while a snowstorm raged outside the sixth-floor windows, Jim and I agreed that we are both kind of stubborn and we just haven't communicated enough about the issues, haven't sat down and talked and found common ground. We discovered today that it wasn't too late to find that we really aren't that far apart and that we both want the best for our favorite climbing area.
While Jim's disease and prognosis is an intensely private matter, I did want to write and acknowledge the generosity of my friend and to let the world know that we can each make a difference in both other people's lives as well as in the special places that we love, climb, and share with each other. I assured Jim this afternoon that I would do my best as a climber and Garden lover to make sure that his financial gift enhances this wonderful public space and parkland.
Thanks Jim. I appreciate your honesty and our frank discussion. We know it is always possible to be friends and not always agree all the time. I look forward to visiting with you again tomorrow and talking more about rock climbing and Colorado Fourteeners and the fragility and beauty of life...
Learn more about The Access Fund and become a member.
Photograph above: Jim climbing a limestone route on The Caveman Wall in Williams Canyon near Colorado Springs in 1997. Photograph © Stewart M. Green
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Mount Everest is not only the highest mountain in the world but is also the world's highest garbage dump. After 60 years and thousands of climbers attempting the iconic peak, there is garbage everywhere. Climbers have left as much as 50 tons of refuse scattered on the mountain, including oxygen bottles, tattered tents, torn sleeping bags, ice-encased ropes, batteries, plastic bottles, food containers, as well as human waste and the frozen corpses of human victims.
Now the Nepalese government is getting serious about cleaning up the sacred mountain and reducing the footprint of climbers on it. On Monday, March 2, the government instituted a new rule that requires each climber on Everest expeditions that venture above 17,388 feet (5,300 meters) to bring down 18 pounds (8 kilograms) of trash, including all of their own litter and human waste. After proving they have brought garbage down, they can then receive back a $4,000 deposit. Penalties besides fines include a possible ban on future climbing permits.
Madhusudan Burlakoti, the Tourism Joint Secretary of the Nepalese Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, says, "Our earlier efforts have not been very effective. This time, if climbers don't bring back garbage, we will take legal action and penalize them."
Thousands of climbers go to climb Mount Everest every year now and the numbers are increasing. Many expeditions are led by guides that are more concerned with money than environmental Leave No Trace ethics so anything extra is left on the mountain. The problem is that nothing degrades in the harsh, cold weather on Mount Everest so trash accumulates. Parts of the mountain, like the South Col, are literally litter dumps. A few expeditions, including one in 2010 and another in 2013, carried two tons and four tons of garbage down respectively, but that hardly makes a dent in the dump.
This new rule, with sharp teeth in it, is a long time coming and should make an impact on climbers as well as clean up Mount Everest's litter-strewn camps. Madhusudhan Burlakoti, joint secretary of Nepal's tourism ministry, says, "We will not compromise on it. Defaulters will face serious legal action."
Read more about Mount Everest:
4 Strange Mount Everest Stories
Facts About Mount Everest
How Climbers Die on Mount Everest
5 Greatest Mount Everest Climbers
Photograph above: Many climbers attempt Mount Everest, carrying loads of equipment up the mountain and leaving loads of trash behind. Photograph © Doug Allen/Getty Images
Friday February 28, 2014
If you're traveling to the high mountains like the Rockies, Denali in Alaska, the Andes in South America, or the Himalayas, the highest peaks in the world, then you need to make sure that you're properly acclimatized. If you're coming from a low elevation, it's important to take steps to combat altitude sickness, which afflicts about 25% of mountain recreationists.
Besides spending plenty of time at altitude and gradually letting your body adjust or acclimate to the decreased oxygen, you can also take ibuprofen to help alleviate and prevent symptoms of acute mountain sickness (AMS). Studies also show that you can take a herbal medication made from the leaves of the ginkgo biloba, an ancient tree with medicinal qualities.
Several studies, beginning with a French study in 1996, show that climbers benefit from taking the ginkgo extract, drastically reducing the symptoms of AMS, including nausea, headache, and if you're traveling to the high mountains like the Rockies, Denali in Alaska, the Andes in South America, or the Himalayas, the highest peaks in the world, then you need to make sure that you're properly acclimatized. If you're coming from a low elevation, it's important to take steps to combat altitude sickness, which afflicts about 25% of mountain recreationists.
Besides spending plenty of time at altitude and gradually letting your body adjust or acclimate to the decreased oxygen, you can also take ibuprofen to help alleviate and prevent symptoms of acute mountain sickness. Studies also show that you can take a herbal medication made from the leaves of the ginkgo biloba, an ancient tree with medicinal qualities.
Several studies, beginning with a French study in 1996, show that climbers benefit from taken the ginkgo extract, drastically reducing the symptoms of AMS, including nausea, headache, and fatigue so that you can sign into the coveted summit register atop your chosen mountain.
Read a new article about gingko and climbing: Ginkgo Biloba: Miracle Natural Drug for Altitude Sickness?
Photograph above: If you're climbing to 14,115 feet on Pikes Peak, a dose of gingko biloba extract might help avert altitude sickness. Photograph © Stewart M. Green
Thursday February 27, 2014
Jessie Benton Fremont (1824-1902), wife of explorer, Senator, and presidential candidate John C. Fremont, was passionate about Yosemite Valley and was instrumental in having President Abraham Lincoln establish the Yosemite Grant, officially called "An Act authorizing a Grant to the State of California of the `Yo-Semite Valley' and of the Land embracing the `Mariposa Big Tree Grove,'" in 1864. This action allowed for the preservation and protection of Yosemite Valley and the nearby Mariposa Grove and kept them from being overrun with settlers and privatization.
At her homes in San Francisco and Bear Valley, Jessie Fremont hosted numerous salons and gatherings to discuss the future of Yosemite Valley. These salons were attended by numerous political bigwigs as well as writers like Herman Melville, Horace Greeley, and Bret Harte, who were all affected by Mrs. Fremont's enthusiasm for the Valley.
On March 14, 2013, California Representative Tom McClintock introduced a bill to rename Mammoth Peak, not to be confused with Mammoth Mountain and its ski area, in Yosemite National Park to Mount Jessie Benton Fremont.
The bill stands a good chance of approval in the House of Representatives although the National Park Service, the management agency for Yosemite National Park, testified on Wednesday before the House natural resources subcommittee on public lands and environmental regulation that the naming was inappropriate.
Read more about the possible renaming of the peak and Representative McClintock's response to the NPS testimony, which included "absolutely laughable" and "rank partisanship," in the Los Angeles Times article Bill would rename Yosemite peak after 19th century preservationist.
We'll see what happens but I think it's a good thing to honor a woman who loved our beloved Yosemite and helped preserve it for future generations to enjoy its scenic beauty and recreational opportunities.
Read the complete text of H.R. 1192.
Art above: Lithograph of Jessie Benton Fremont in 1856. Art courtesy American Antiquarian Society