Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Accidents in NA Mountaineering – Online Version

05/11/2012

Accidents is online

The American Alpine Club’s Accidents in North American Mountaineering 2011 is available online as a free e-book. Although it doesn’t appear to be available as a download, you can view it at Rock and Ice’s webpage. It’s always good to learn from someone else’s mistakes, and this little publication provides the scenarios and analysis from both the climbing parties themselves, (if they survived to tell about it), and from rescue operations as well. If you’re not a climber you still might find the publication interesting.

Justifying My Existence

02/11/2012

A case for the hard working travelers & educators

Finally Realizing I Actually Did Make the Best Life Decisions
By R. Richards, Founder
Mountain Spirit Institute
Andrew McCarthy in his book  “The Longest Way Home – One Man’s Quest for the Courage to Settle Down “  writes, “Whenever I would tell people that I was going off on some trip or another, I was met with remarks like, “Oh, tough life,” or, “That’s rough.” Even good friends reacted with outright hostile envy-“Must be nice,” they often said. I used to try to explain and justify my travels.  It was pointless.  Travel, especially by people who rarely do it, is often dismissed as a luxury and an indulgence, not a practical or useful way to spend one’s time.
“People complain, “I wish I could afford to go away.” Even when I did the math and showed that I often spent less money while on the road than staying home, they looked at me with skepticism.  The reasons for not traveling are as varied and complex as the justification for any behavior.  Perhaps people feel this way about travel because of how it’s so often perceived and presented.
“They anticipate and expect escape, from jobs and worries, from routines and families, but mostly, I think, from themselves-the sunny beach with life’s burdens left behind.  For me, travel has rarely been about escape; it’s often not even about a particular destination. The motivation is to go, to meet life, and myself, head-on along the road. There’s something in the act of setting out that renews me, that fills me with a feeling of possibility. On the road, I’m forced to rely on instinct and intuition, on the kindness of strangers, in ways that illuminate who I am, ways that shed light on my motivations, my fears. “

The author as a child on Lake Sunapee

My wife, who had been reading McCarthy’s book this week, showed the above passage to me the other day.  Although I’ve done more than my fair share of “inner work”, in one instant, after hearing her read these words, I realized, I too have been carrying a chip on my shoulder about supposedly not working hard enough, about being a mountain guide and facilitator and director of a non-profit organziation. I’ve tried to defend what I do to  family, friends and the fellow community members in my home town. It has not been the work of my imagination – that some have thought I “was on permanent vacation”.

After graduation from University of Utah, I was on a fast track to represent an Austrian ski boot company in the U.S. by taking a Master Boot-maker program in Austria. However, the combination of two main life events,  meeting Erga and Luciano Cappella, (see my earlier post: Reconnecting with a Mentor)  and one day, simply realizing I was on the wrong side of the window in that little mountain workshop where I was learning how to make ski boots, made me have a paradigm shift. I needed to be “out there in the mountains”, in the Alps. Something in me snapped, and I realized at that moment, I was the closest I would ever get to corporate life, (aside from later conducting Outward Bound Professional corporate team-building workshops). I took a left-hand turn out of the corporate ski business, and never looked back.  With that decision, came a shift in perception, and future decisions  led me to international mountain guiding, a long stint with Outward Bound as a lead instructor and staff trainer, and lastly, founder of Mountain Spirit Institute.

Richards rappelling in his twenties, Newbury, NH

I’ve worked hard, as do most people in the outdoor education field. Anyone who has started a  non-profit organization from the ground up also knows program building and organizational management on a small scale takes a lot of energy, more so than punching a timeclock.  It has sometimes felt like pushing a boulder uphill.  That’s not even taking into account the fun, but hard and endless hours of making sure the participants get what they need on any given program.  I’m committed to what I do, and feel I’m  good at it. It has been my passion since I started teaching in the outdoors at age thirteen, and I feel it’s my life’s purpose.

But from the outside,  it looks like I’ve been galavanting around since my twenties. “When are you going to get a real job” is what if not said, is implied sometimes. Indeed, even my parents occasionally expressed concerns about my not “biting the bullet” , a nice term. Then, later in her life, my mom was just happy knowing that I was doing what filled me up.

With Dr. Theo Paredes, Peru

I didn’t know this article needed to be written until a few nights ago, but now realize it has been long overdue.  I quoted Eckhart Tolle in an earlier post
“Most people are only peripherally aware of the world that surrounds them,  Especially if their surroundings are familiar. The voice in the head absorbs a greater part of their attention. Some people feel more alive when they travel and visit unfamiliar places or foreign countries because at those times sense perception, experiencing takes up more of their consciousness than thinking. They become more present.”

I never looked back – Guiding in Alaska

It’s almost a cliché, but I think this is what other climbers, outdoor leaders and guides are up against when they encounter the world of the conventional. It’s almost like two worlds intersecting. Many articles and books have been written about this. Of course we’re all connected on one level. On another, there very different lives happening in my small hometown.  Said Oliver Wendall Holmes  “A mind that is stretched to a new idea never returns to its original dimensions.”

Fortunately my mind has been stretched. Now it is up to me, with this new perspective, (thanks to McCarthy), to compassionately nod to those who don’t understand my lifestyle and career choice, and to move on.
For more information on R. Richards’ career choices you can read his short bio at Mountain Spirit Institute’s About Page.
Re-edited on 11/3/12 16:46EST (My motto, post first, edit later)

Some responses from my personal Facebook Page, also see the comment posted below by Jay for additional insight.

  • Peter Canaday Hard to explain unless you come across others of the same mind, and then, no explanation is necessary….
  • Wendy Gilker Randy, I understand living a life different from the norm. Generally, people do question it. How many times have people asked me – “When do you get a life Wendy”. As Joseph Campbell said ” the Journey begins with a” call to adventure in which the He…See More
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  • Wendy Gilker Helen Keller – “Many people admire what I did with my life because I seemed to be at such a disadvantage. But, they’re mistaken. If anything , I was greatly blessed. The danger in my “zone unknown” was great, but so was the treasure since eternal pr…See More
  • Randy Richards Good comments Wendy, I like the quotes.
  • Irene Powell Thank you for sharing….I will be allowing this words to percolate inside and see where they take me in my inner voyage of discovery.
  • Kevin Sleeper Randy, I have to say that it is/was probably jealousy which produces those comments. Be comfortable that it is our loss and your gain. Being outside was always a passion of mine, mostly expressed through scouting. Check out my posting of the Sailors take warning sky last Sunday at 6:15 or so over Lake Sunapee. I am sure you will recognize the place?
  • Randy Richards Thanks Jay Leavitt for the comment and poem (posted on our blog). You bring up some good points I failed to include. Also, I’ve done some re-edits of the blog post – My motto: Post first, edit later.
  • Randy Richards Hey Kevin Thanks for that..Yeah I remember that about you.
  • Dale Morrow I agree with Kevin, Randy. Feel a little sympathy for us who look at you, and feel the need to needle you, because we covet your life. But don’t take it all to heart. They mean no harm. People have to learn to accept the choices they’ve made.
  • Kevin Sleeper Randy, I learned a long time ago if U R going to swim upstream U R going to need a thick skin.

Ed Webster’s “Everest the Hard Way”

04/08/2012

Ed, at a book signing

I happened by the Kittery Trading Post last month, and there was climber, Ed Webster doing a book signing.  I had never met him, but certainly knew of him. I was instantly drawn to his book-signing table, as he talked with a family of four who wanted to know more about getting started in the sport of rock climbing. He seemed engaged and affable. Ed authored a rock climbing guidebook to the the White Mountains area which I carried with me on my early climbs in New Hampshire. It sits on my bookshelf, beat up from use. He’s also got quite a reputation as a climber.

Ed was recently in the Dartmouth/Lake Sunapee region presenting his slide show, Everest the Hard Way.  His 1988 Everest Kangshung Face new route, (more…)

What Gives You Hope?

26/07/2012

Grafton Pond, NH

“The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends, ‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world. 
Alfred Lord Tennyson

I started Mountain Spirit Institute in 1998 when we led our first trip to Peru, with the basic mission “to facilitate a deeper connection to the natural environment, each other and ourselves.”  Since then it has become ever more apparent how we need “nature time” more than ever. It’s good to see people out on the trail, and in kayaks these days, but National Park use is down in the U.S, and technology competes for the breath of fresh air. We just offered a presentation last night in a small town in New Hampshire called “Get Outside While You Still Can.” The piece below echoes a lot of what we covered in our presentation, and why we started MSI.

 By Eric Utne,
Founder, The Utne Reader

As I’ve said in this column before, I’m afraid it may be too late to avoid the devastating effects of global climate change. (more…)

Edward Abbey on Backcountry Skills

12/07/2012

Getting out of the city
North Cascades, WA

Edward Abbey: Action outdoorsman and author of Desert Solitaire, *The Monkey
Wrench Gang and 17 other popular novels and essay collections, was one of America’s most powerful and relentless spokesmen for the environment and certainly its most uninhibited. Here, at Abbey’s curmudgeonly bat, is his introduction to The Backcountry Handbook, of which I thought I’d post  the first half. I doubt many fans of Edward Abbey would find this little gem, buried in an outdoor handbook.

There’s one thing that gripes me in my lurching about in America’s blessed but overcrowded backcountry, it’s those androids from the moronic inferno of contemporary techno culture who apparently

Learned outdoors etiquette from The Boy Scout Handbook of I928.I mean the cretins who build their campfires with green logs laboriously chewed from living trees with dull hatchets. And then erect a corral of rocks to enclose a fire about l0 times bigger than even a White Man needs. And then,
upon departure from the scene of their felonies, pile all their garbage upon the smoldering remains-including such non-combustibles  as tinfoil and wet tin cans, wet condoms and Pampers-let it smoke and black- en and stink for  while and conclude the infamy by heaping this mess with a pile of mud and stones.  Everywhere we go in what’s left of natural America, we find these miniature trash dumps. The intention, no doubt, was to prevent forest fires, as Smokey the Bore has been instructing us for 50 years. But fires are natural, inevitable and good for the forest;   Any Native American can tell you that, if you can find one. (The true terror of the modern forest is not the wildfire but the logger with his chain saw, the road builder with his bulldozer, the cowboy with his cow. These types wreak far more destruction upon our forests than any wildfire ever did or could. And wreak it at our expense, financed by our tax dollars.) Why do these Ralph Lauren he-man Campfire Girls build giant fire rings filled with half-baked rubbish? I don’t know. No one knows. They are the product not of thought but of ritual, spastic reflex, ancient ideologies conceived in sin and whelped by bureaucrats. One discovers such mementos even in the sand and rock of the desert, where the nearest tree may be a scrubby juniper four feet tall, l0 feet away. Mysteries of the Wild.  But irksome. There are many things that irk, actually, not only me but you, but this is not the place for a complete listing.

Editor’s Note: Did you know that The Monkey Wrench Gang was blacklisted from the east coast booksellers during its first printing? Maybe the east coast establishment didn’t want to disturb the goings-on, as this book surely tends to do. I have a well-read family member, that has an incredible breadth of education and reading behind him. What’s more he was a hut ranger in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. He had never heard of Edward Abbey. I’m not sure if he’s read him yet. I’ll have to loan him my tattered copy of The Gang.

Is your social network sabotaging your health?

10/04/2012

With whom do you hang out?

Choose your friends carefully, your health depends on it.
By: Deborah Kotz, Boston Globe, Daily Dose

MSI Editor’s Note: Eckhart Tolle mentions in the Power of Now that negative emotions can spread more easily than a cold. Holding one’s center, being the fire of peace, in an insane world, is part of the function of those who are truly interested in making the world a better place.   Krishnamurti said, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” What I get from that declaration is that most people one comes across will be still be acting out their lives relatively unconsciously. So don’t be surprised when you encounter unconscious behavior as you go about your day, and seek to be with people that support your being. R. Richards
———————-

Let’s say you want to adopt some healthier habits: start biking to work, give up the 300-calorie Starbucks Frappuccinos, quit smoking once and for all. All it takes is a little willpower, right?

Or perhaps you need to take a good hard look at your social network, the friends, family, and co-workers that influence how you eat, spend leisure time, and prioritize what’s important in life. Both good habits and bad can spread like the flu through that circle of your closest connections, and research suggests this network could be the single biggest predictor of your overall state of health.

The Social Network

“It definitely seems like there’s a contagion effect,” said Miriam Nelson, a Tufts University nutrition professor and author of The Social Network Diet. “Once you move in certain circles, it’s tough to change habits unless you make an effort to join a new network.”

Friends who make friends with others trying to lose weight have a higher likelihood of losing weight themselves — something Weight Watchers discovered back in the 1960’s.

Nelson, herself, relied on social networks to get her back to marathon running after having three babies in quick succession. “I hadn’t been active for almost 10 years until Tufts started a marathon team,” she said. She joined in 2003 and has been running with the group weekly. “It got me back on track and kept me there.”

After a landmark 2007 Harvard study found that Read the rest of this story…

THE HUNGER GAMES: Dystopian fiction

05/04/2012

 

Predictive Programming

THE HUNGER GAMES: Dystopian fiction & Predictive Programming
The following piece is by Richard Louv, Author of Last Child in the Woods. I’m glad he’s weighed in on the Hunger Games. One might also google Predictive Programming to learn more about why such movies are made. (ed.)
Stuck Inside Apocalypse with Dystopic Blues Again
By Richard Louv

“The Hunger Games,” the book, is a page-turner and the movie is gripping. Some of my colleagues, working hard to reconnect young people to nature, believe the popularity of the book and movie will, like the film “Avatar,” stimulate a deeper interest in the natural world. I hope they’re right, but after leaving the movie theater on Friday (having already read the book), I was, well, ambivalent.

In this story, there are two forests. The first forest is as natural as a forest can be with an electrified fence to keep the largest carnivores out of District 12, Katniss Everdeen’s starving Appalachian homeland.

At the beginning of the book, she describes sitting in a nook in the rocks with her hunting partner, Gale, looking out at a forest that sustains them: “From this place we are invisible but have a clear view of the valley, which is teeming with summer life, greens to gather, roots to dig, fish iridescent in the sunlight.” This forest keeps her family alive. (more…)

Lost Cities of the Amazon

30/03/2012

Downtown in The Lost Cities of the Amazon
by Andean Air Mail & PERUVIAN TIMES ·
By Nicholas Asheshov

A "Lost" people?

Some weeks ago two events, one of them startling, came together to pin-point the mysterious new conundrum of the Amazon.  The first was the appearance on a busy riverbank in the Madre de Dios of a few dozen members of a previously-isolated group of Indians.  They killed someone who had been trying to help them. The naked Indians, seen on TV screens around the world, were described by anthropologists as descendants of an unbroken line of hunting and gathering savages, living fossils of our neolithic past.

Area of Coverage

This is, according to new Amazon thinking, incorrect. These Indians are the sad, socially degenerated remnants of nations and tribes that were productive, sophisticated and stable  just a few centuries ago.The other event was an article in The New York Times that reported on the discovery in Acre, only a few hours travel from the Madre de Dios Indians, of extensive, deep straight, or sometimes circular, trenches, ridges and mounds dating back to pre-Columbian times, indicating a large, well-developed society. This was just the latest evidence that the Amazon, or at least parts of it, was heavily populated by well-organized societies in much the same way as the high Andes were remodelled by the Tiahuanuco, the Chavin, the Chachapoyas, the Huari, and the Incas.

Over the past couple of decades the pre-history of the Americas has been revolutionized, setting off poison-tipped academic and ecological vendettas. First of all, the Americas were populated much earlier, at least 33-35,000 years ago, double the time previously calculated.  That is back to Neanderthal epochs.

An Excellent Read

Second, there were many more people here when Columbus arrived than was earlier thought.  And, most important, the societies and nations of the Americas were much more sophisticated and structured than was previously understood.  They were agriculturalists, not the war-whoopers of the movies.  Their mode of life and agriculture had massive, long-term effects on the original pre-human forests.   Fire was a basic control mechanism.

Today the evidence of genetics, linguistics and archaeology is clear that the Amazon was not just an impenetrable green hell populated by primitive hunters and fishermen eking out an unchanging, culturally marginal existence. The same applies to North America.  Here most of the descriptions of primitive Indians come from 18th and 19th century travelers who were seeing only the sorry leftovers of great nations that had been obliterated by smallpox, viral hepatitis, influenza and other European and African diseases.  The Conquest set off the Dark Ages in the Americas. read the rest of this story

Ken Wylie Named to MSI Board

24/03/2012

Mountain Spirit Institute names Ken Wylie to Board of Directors

Ken Wylie

Ken Wylie, a veteran certified mountain guide from Cochrane Alberta, Canada with years as an experiential educator and program manager at Canadian universities as well as Outward Bound Canada and the Outward Bound USA, has recently been named to the board of directors at Mountain Spirit Institute based in the U.S. and New Zealand.  In addition to helping guide the U.S. organization, Wylie has plans to launch a  Mountain Spirit Institute Canada where he will create mountain programs based on the mission statement. Mr. Wylie and founder Randall Richards along with fellow board members are in discussions about also collaborating on mountain programs in the U.S,  New Zealand and possibly the Alps.

Says Wylie, “I am drawn to Mountain Spirit Institute because of the organization’s vision. MSI has the vision for the 21st century in my estimation, and is what I have been searching for in my career.” Adds Wylie, “The mountains are an experience that can change people’s lives, but are more often than not just another consumable, another peak to check off the list. What people need now more than ever,  is to connect and MSI helps them do that.” (more…)

The Man Who Quit Money

19/02/2012

What? Quit Using Fed Notes??

What Money Is & What Money Is Not – Living Without Money
A Walden for the 21st century, the true story of a man who has radically reinvented “the good life”.

In 2000, Daniel Suelo left his life savings-all thirty dollars of it-in a phone booth. He has lived without money-and with a new-found sense of freedom and security-ever since.

The Man Who Quit Money is an account of how one man learned to live, sanely and happily, without earning, receiving, or spending a single cent. Suelo doesn’t pay taxes, or accept food stamps or welfare. He lives in caves in the Utah canyonlands, forages wild foods and gourmet discards. He no longer even carries an I.D. Yet he manages to amply fulfill not only the basic human needs-for shelter, food, and warmth-but, to an enviable degree, the universal desires for companionship, purpose, and spiritual engagement. In retracing the surprising path and guiding philosophy that led Suelo into this way of life, Sundeen raises provocative and riveting questions about the decisions we all make, by default or by design, about how we live-and how we might live better.
Editor’s note: It sounds like we have another Outward Bound success story here. I read that Suelo has been an OB instructor. Good to see he’s living the dream, and it looks like some of the OB values rubbed off, but I’m sure he had influences from more than just Outward Bound.