Archive for the ‘Climb/Ski/Mntneering’ Category

Slowdown Post #13: “Hayice” Climbing!

13/08/2020

20200513_120509 copyDuring lockdown Level 4, we eyed the farmer’s hay bales, the next field over, and received permission to take ice axes and crampons to them “as long as we didn’t tip any over on us”. It was remarkably realistic climbing except the occasional piece of straw in your boot and of course the warmth! Who knows, maybe it will catch on. It’s a great way to get a pump, and practice your skills. When growing up in New Hampshire, I took for granted the ice climbs that were 10-15 minutes’ walk from the car, Frankenstein Cliff’s in the White Mountains, come to mind, or smaller local climbs hidden in the woods near Sunapee. In New Zealand, you’ll need a full day’s approach by ski touring into Wye Creek, or Black Peak here in Wanaka to see any ice. No driving to the ice fall or belaying off the bumper here!

Lockdown/Slowdown Post #6: Prussiking up a Climbing Rope

02/08/2020

20200409_143358 copy

 Conner @mobutta_mobetta tries his hand at the next addition to our obstacle course, which we added every day to the course, the crevasse self-rescue. All that’s needed is a length of climbing rope, a climbing harness, a locking carabiner, a waist and double-foot prussik, and don’t forget a small retrieval line that serves to pull down the girth-hitched rope when its ready to be dismantled. Want more info..get in touch. I used to teach this to our clients on the flanks of Mt.Baker for Alpine Ascents I’l, before venturing out onto the glacier with them. It’s good fun and tests rope skills, and can be a good workout depending on how fast you try and get up the rope. Pitting two people against each other is also fun and ups the ante.

We’ve Lost a Good One.

24/05/2020

This post is dedicated to the late Maria Figueroa Norabuena, who I consider the heart of my Peruvian Family. The matriarch, she died recently of complications while in Lima getting medical treatment, and is survived by her husband Daniel, (pictured), a large family of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren mostly in Huaraz, and the surrounding villages, in Peru.  She lived in a small hamlet outside of Huaraz where she and her husband baked bread for many of the townspeople and restaurants in Huaraz. They also grew crops and had farm animals.  My condolences go out to Daniel and his family.

Daniel and Maria

Daniel, and his late wife Maria of Huaraz, Peru

I met Maria through my friend David Sanchez Figueroa, co-owner of the vegetarian Restaurant Salud y Vida, (Health and Life) when I was mountain guiding in Huaraz some years ago. I became godfather to her grandchild Joseph, and have always felt part of the family. It must be a past-life thing but we’ve all been very close over the years of visits.

With the coming of video calling, I was able to keep in close contact with the whole family, and especially with Maria while she was with her daughter in Lima undergoing treatment.  I had the opportunity to spend some screen-time with her before she died and am so grateful for that time. It reminds me, again that life is short.

I have a vivid image, (and a video), in my mind of my wife Amanda, and Maria, playing “Laugh Dancing” in the restaurant’s kitchen. Someone starts a sound track, and the object of the game is partner up with someone, and dance with a straight face. The first one to crack a smile, usually caused by the opponent’s antics, loses. Maria won, hands down. I don’t remember the exact maneuver she pulled, but it had us (all generations of the family) laughing hysterically.

When I first came to Peru as a mountain guide, Maria used to pinch my cheek with her fingers, saying “Que Pena” (“What a pity”) when she learned at my age of 40+, I still had no wife or child. (Since then I’ve been married since 2009 with an eight-year-old son, which made Maria much more happy with me) Every climbing season, when I’d come back into town, she’d give me the pinching, “Que Pena” again, when I was still in the same sorry state.

Becoming a Godfather to her grandchild, Joseph, and seeing what family can really be in Peru, changed me. I grew up as a bit of a narcissist, mountain guiding, single, and although an outdoor educator, still caught up in my seeking the perfect high. A light bulb when off in my heart when I observed what family really means in the indigenous an Latino sense. We had Peru on our short list of destinations of where we were considering having a family, precisely because of that observation.

Maria was a strong woman with a keen sense of self, sense of humour, a huge heart, and a fantastic matriarch who will be missed by her large family, and even… a gringo here in New Zealand.

Since this post, I’ve received this comment from Maria’s grandaughter, Jina (translated from Spanish):

Thank you very much Randall for this publication in tribute to my beloved Grandmother, she was just as you describe her, she left such an imprint on every corner she traveled, she was a woman very loved by all of us who now mourn her sudden departure. You are right, she was in a very delicate treatment that began in January, but on 15.05.2020 her body did not resist.  I still remember every joke she made to me, even one day before her death we joked, and she laughed out loud.  Always her take on life was all joy.
Perhaps you were motivated by her to form your own home, with her phrase, “what a shame”, because she wanted to see everyone with family, family as she had it with my grandfather, who showed that true love exists.
Their advice is recorded in my heart.

I’ll never forget my grandmother. She will always be in my memory and heart.

Huaraz Maria Obit

Near the hamlet in which Maria lived, with the Cordillera Blanca, Peru’s highest mountain range, in the near distance (copyright 2020 Dexter R Richards)

Over-Tourism – Now What Do We Do?

13/07/2019
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Dexter and Genelle Richards at Dexter’s Inn circa 1940  ©randallrichards

I grew up in tourism. My parents started a ski lodge, Dexter’s Inn,  in the 1940’s in Sunapee, New Hampshire. I’ve been in and out of tourism over the years, and in different shades of it, from ski instruction, to experiential education, high-altitude mountain guiding,  a guide on the Inka Trail to Machu Pichu, back in the days when you didn’t see a lot of people, and no permits required (referring to the Inka Trail only).

We now own Lake Wanaka Yacht Charters and Mountain Spirit NZ in the Southern Lakes District of New Zealand. So we’re officially back in the industry. However the industry seems uber-industrial.
Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  So when is enough, enough? And what do we do now?
Here are some rumblings about our, small, but very fast-growing communities, Wanaka and Queenstown, New Zealand.
First an article from CNN: in which Queenstown is listed, among other areas in the world, as a trouble spot, with over 3 million visitors per year…

Destination trouble: Can overtourism be stopped in its tracks?
(CNN) — We first hear about these places when we’re kids. Famous destinations full of wondrous architecture, spectacular scenery or ancient mysteries that fire our imaginations and fill us with yearning.
We dream, we grow, we save up all our money and one day we finally get to visit — only to discover, read more…

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Queenstown, New Zealand , image©Randall Richards

Next, our local Wanaka Stakeholder Group’s Protect Wanaka Facebook page, a firebrand in its own right (and I mean that as a compliment), weighs in: “Queenstown has been named in CNN Travel’s global list of locations that are currently plagued by ‘Overtourism’, read more…

The Wanaka Sun
The Disadvantages of Tourism
By Allison McLean (journalist@thewanakasun.co.nz)

“Tourism is noted as New Zealand’s top export earner and the cornerstone of its economy. It sustains and grows local communities and reportedly employs one in seven New Zealanders, according to Tourism New Zealand. Many locals consider this sword to be double edged, noting the accumulated waste, erosion of land and consumption of fossil fuels from tourism that put the country’s land and greatest asset at risk. read more…

 – – – –

Just as shifting our paradigm on how our family uses plastics during Plastic Free July, we’re in the process of shifting how we think of tourism, and how we contribute to the problem or clean up the mess. Whether as suppliers or tourists, we all need a re-think. A saying I heard the other day made me chuckle, and again was a paradigm shifter:
“I’m not stuck in traffic, I am traffic”
Responsible tourism is the future, not simply the bottom line. Here’s New Zealand’s webpage on the subject, as well as another great page on NZ Sustainable Tourism Tourism Industry Aotearoa, TIA’s page.  And acompany, Responsible Travel has had some new global initiatives.  Lake Wanaka Tourism has published a sustainable tourism page.

Unfortunately I see Wanaka and Queenstown going the way of Park City, Vail, or other towns in the Alps, that just got too big, and now deal with smog, traffic and overgrowth, but that’s another subject, I suppose.  Although we, too, are new here, one redeeming attribute is we’ve always tried to live a small footprint, including buying existing houses rather than building anew, living off the grid when possible etc. .

Tell me what you think. Respectful comments welcome.

The End of the Everest Myth

28/04/2014

By Katie Ives
From Alpinist Magazine
We all know the Myth. We’ve heard it told and retold hundreds of times, in “motivational” speeches exhorting audiences to “climb your personal Everest,” in press releases announcing the latest person to summit for the latest reason, in corporate metaphors hailing the qualities required to overcome whatever obstacles stand in the way of “success” on the world’s highest peak.

Everst Myth

Everest – Khumbu Icefall

As climbers and as readers of mountain literature, we’re also familiar with attempts to communicate the realities behind the Everest Myth. We’ve seen decades of accounts about the crowds of clients on the normal routes and about the extensive reliance on the ropes fixed, the camps placed, the oxygen bottles carried and the loads hauled by local workers. Some of us have argued in print and online that this form of “totally supported” ascent is not “climbing,” Read the rest of this story at Alpinist’s site…

IMAGE: Mark Rosen/Wikimedia Commons

Mindfulness in the Mountains Program Runs a Second Year

29/08/2013

Buddhist Refuge and Mountain Spirit Institute Collaborate again on Mindfulness Program
By R. Richards, Mountain Spirit Founder

Lama Willa Miller Collaborates with Mountain Spirit on Mindfulness in Mtns Program

Lama Willa Miller Collaborates with Mountain Spirit on Mindfulness in Mtns Program

Mindfulness in the Mountains, a 3-day adventure and meditation program, will be co-sponsored again for a second year in a row by Mountain Spirit Institute and the Natural Dharma Fellowship’s Wonderwell Refuge of Springfield NH, with a four day program of rock climbing, kayaking and hiking starting on Thursday, September 12th and lasting through the weekend.

Says Mountain Spirit Institute founder, Randall Richards, “A pair of instructors will lead each activity, one focusing on outdoor skills, the other on teaching various meditation techniques. Both instructors however,  will offer their knowledge and background in both meditation and outdoor skills.  There will be quite a bit crossover between the co-leaders. Each instructor team shares exercises in both meditation and outdoor skills.

Kayaks on last year's program

Kayaks on last year’s program

They expect participants, to come for hiking, rock climbing and kayaking from different parts of the eastern U.S. as well as farther afield. The program will be held in the Dartmouth/Lake Sunapee region.

Richards says of last year’s program, “I’ve been guiding and leading mountain programs for over 28 years, and this was, by far, one of the most fulfilling and meaningful experiences I’ve had.” He added, “To hike, climb or kayak, and focus, as a group, on the quiet of the place through which we traveled, was meaningful for both instructors and participants.” (more…)

Life & Death in the Mountains

16/08/2013

At What Cost?
By R. Richards

Vinton-Boot in Chamonix

Vinton-Boot in Chamonix

If you live in the Southern Alps of New Zealand, and have anything to do with climbing, the name Jamie Vinton-Boot pops up all the time. New hard routes, and lots of them. The other day, the news that he had been killed in an avalanche sent shock waves through the climbing community, right after the sad news that NZ climbers Marty Schmidt and his son Denali had been swept away by an avalanche at a high camp on K2 in the Himalaya. 

Vinton-Boot was a new father who leaves his new baby and wife behind. And the loss of Schmidt and his son are a one-two punch which seems hard to fathom. I was chatting with a checkout person in the grocery store about these losses, and part of her summation was, “At least he was doing something he loved to do.”  Being a new father myself, I’m trying to balance my adventure goals, (not that I’m a cutting edge climber by any means) with the risk involved. My risk, (subject hazards) seems worlds apart from the climbers’ mentioned here. Vinton-Boot had decided to do easier routes since becoming a dad, so states the article below.  Easy terrain for him might be my upper limit, so it all depends on what you’re comfortable with.  It’s the objective hazards that give you the chop, no matter how easy the terrain.  Whether it’s a ski descent or a mixed route, easy or hard, there are those hazards, and if it’s your time to go,  you get the chop.

As the list of friends, mentors, and famous climbers who’ve gotten the chop grows, the whole thing, for me, comes down to making damn sure I’m stacking the deck in favor of being around for my son. There’s simply no reason not to be. Sure, I could get hit by a car, (as the checkout girl added in her summation), but looking for trouble is a different matter. 

Vinton-Boot in Queenstown's Remarkables Range, NZ

Vinton-Boot in Queenstown’s Remarkables Range, NZ

When it comes right down to it, we have to really evaluate what roles and games we’re playing in the world of mountaineering. Are internal peaks and challenges of the family journey not enough? Or what about being very present in the mountains without having to be on the edge (See Mindfulness in the Mountains). What is the measure of a man, a climber, a father?  I’m just saying…it’s time for me to continue to re-evaluate my everyday decisions as if I were on the end of a lead rope. I have people I’m belaying in life: my wife, my son. And that’s a handful in itself, I don’t want to drop that belay, at any cost.  As my mentor and former boss, Willie Prittie said to me in Peru when we were guiding there, “It’s just as important to get down the mountain, (with all your limbs and digits intact), as it is to make the summit. On second thought, it’s more important.”

The following is from an op-ed ..More food for thought:
Climber not at fault: friend
By Paul Hersey, Climber and friend of Jamie Vinton-Boot
Otago Daily Times
Warrington mountaineer Paul Hersey has attended the funerals of many of his mountaineering mates but he will continue to climb.

Mr Hersey (45) said Christchurch climber Jamie Vinton-Boot (30) was a close friend and the pair had climbed together extensively in New Zealand. Mr Vinton-Boot was swept off his feet by snow on Monday when traversing and fell 500m to his death into a Remarkables ravine. Mr Hersey and Mr Vinton-Boot created the climbing documentary One Fine Day on a Mountain, which won a special jury award at the New Zealand Mountain Film Festival this year.

Mr Hersey said the risks to which Mr Vinton-Boot had exposed himself had been exaggerated and conditions at the Remarkables were reasonable for climbing. The avalanche risk was standard for winter mountaineering and not at high or extreme levels, and the ”snow release” was a ”small, isolated pocket”. ”It’s not an avalanche; more a snow sluff, a small release of snow. It can happen a lot when climbing.”

Mr Vinton-Boot was not anchored up because he was traversing to the route, he said. The more difficult a climb, the safer the climb usually was, because more safety gear was used. ”But on a more moderate climb, or approach, you can’t rope up for those situations because it would take forever and you wouldn’t actually get to the climb. In this case, it was walking across a snow slope.”

Mr Vinton-Boot was a safe climber and the wrong message had been attached to his death. ”He’s a really close mate, one of my best mates, and you stick up for your mates and in this instance, he was taking all the reasonable safety steps … Jamie wasn’t doing anything wrong. It just happened.” Mountaineers seek a challenge, not risk, he said. ”But that’s a consequence of the environment sometimes.”

Christchurch mountaineers Marty and Denali Schmidt, who were killed while climbing K2 in Pakistan last month, were also read the rest of this story..

Marty Schmidt & Son killed on K2

29/07/2013
Denali and Marty Schmidt, Mountain Guides Extraordinaire

Denali and Marty Schmidt, Mountain Guides Extraordinaire

A New Zealand father and son’s tent has been found wrecked and vital climbing tools left abandoned, confirming fears they have been swept away and killed in an avalanche on the world’s deadliest mountain. Marty Schmidt, 53, and Denali Schmidt, 25, were hoping to become the first father-and-son team to conquer K2 in Pakistan – but they hadn’t been heard from since Friday.

Others in their climbing party turned back the day before because of the threat of an avalanche and bad weather. A Sherpa went looking for the pair on Sunday and discovered their tent wrecked by an avalanche. Equipment they would have needed to keep moving was found intact nearby.

“The news from the findings of the Sherpa who went up to their camp has us grieving tonight. They’d need their crampons and axe to go either up or down on the mountain,” said Becky Rippel, co-owner of Canada-based mountain guide firm Peak Freaks, Marty Schmidt’s employer.

Late last night, Sequoia Di Angelo, daughter and sister of the climbers, emailed the Herald: “It is with great sorrow that I confirm the tragic deaths of my beloved brother and father, Denali and Marty Schmidt. May their spirits rest in peace and their smiles never be forgotten.”

British climber Adrian Hayes – one of those who turned back – said the Schmidts were well known, highly experienced and very strong mountaineers – Read the rest of this story at New Zealand Herald

Editor’s Note: Although I never met Marty in person, I was acquainted with him, and knew of his great reputation here in New Zealand. My heart goes out to his family in Christchurch, and extended family and friends elsewhere.

XC Ski Instructors Talk About Nordic Nirvana

31/01/2013
Deborah Sellars

Deborah Sellars

Deb Sellars and Molly Morgan, part of the ski instructor team (with Randy Richards) for the upcoming Nordic Nirvana program, talk about their background and the concept of blending XC Skiing and the Buddhist practice of mindfulness and presence while skiing in nature.

Molly Morgan

Molly Morgan

Mountain Spirit Institute is collaborating with Wonderwell Mountain Refuge in Springfield, NH to offer a special weekend, based at the refuge, of XC skiing (possibly snowshoeing depending upon conditions) on Feb. 8,9,10th. For more info see  Mountain Spirit Institute’s and Wonderwell Mountain Refuge’s webpages on the program.

Nordic Nirvana Interview w/ Lama Miller, Part 2

01/01/2013
"Letting the mountains meditate you"

“Letting the mountains meditate you”

Mountain Spirit Institute‘s director, R. Richards, continues his interview with Lama Willa Miller of the Wonderwell Mountain Refuge about their collaboration on the upcoming Nordic Nirvana Cross-Country Ski weekend retreat. This is the two organization’s second collaborative offering of mindfulness and outdoor pursuits. In Oct. 2012, MSI and Wonderwell offered Mindfulness in the Mountains.
This program promises to deliver a similar flavor of quietude but this time, with a balance of motion over snow on ski.