Archive for the ‘Sustainable Travel’ Category

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.

The Wasatch Mountains, Under Pressure Again

04/03/2012

backcountry skiing Big Cottonwood's USA Canyon, behind The Canyons, site of the proposed "SkiLink"

Once again, the Wasatch mountains outside of Salt Lake City, Utah are being threatened by ski resort expansion under the guise of a transportation solution. I spent many years in the Wasatch, and during my absence, Dick Bass has managed to put not only a chairlift in Mineral Basin on the back side of Snowbird, (read “DogBird”, the name coined by mountain guide Dennis Turville) but a crazy tunnel (locals call it the Bass Hole) complete with magic carpet conveyer belt-type rig, under Hidden Peak to allow intermediate skiers access to the once pristine back bowl, Then there’s cat skiing somewhere near Ruth’s pass above Alta, and not to mention the insanity of helicopter skiing on national forest lands.

This proposed development would severely impact the backcountry ski experience and wilderness qualities of the beautiful Wasatch mountains. If you’re a Utah resident, or even a visitor to the Wasatch and you’ve had just about enough encroachment in one range, visit SaveOurCanyons’ website here to chime in and see what you can do to help give your two cents worth.

A sane backcountry skier points out where the proposed SkiLink would go, obliterating acres and acres of pristine backcountry ski terrain and wilderness area.

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.

A Restored Mountain Hut Getaway with Good Energy

11/01/2012

A New Zealand Farmer Does Good by Following His Passion

Tom O'Brien of High Country Walks

Tom O’Brien, owner of Blackmore Farm and founder of High Country Walks has followed his passion by offering up a little hut on the back side of his 5000 acre farm. Called the Chinaman’s Hut, it was restored some years ago, by local volunteers, Tom and his father. The hut is situated on the rolling mountains of the Slate Range,  just south of the Remarkables Mountains, on the border of Otago and Southland. Tom took the afternoon to show me his farm, the backcountry and the Chinaman’s Hut. below is a short piece on the hut, and a chat with Tom about his philosophy and passion of sharing this part of the world with others.We’re in hopes, here at Mountain Spirit Institute of collaborating with Tom by running some programs on the Slate Range and Blackmore Farm. We chatted about providing Solo’s and other types of programs.
Thanks for the time you took to show me around Tom!
Note: I’ve met one of the volunteers who helped restore the Chinaman’s Hut, a neighbor of ours here in Kingston named Dusty, who I’ll see if I can get on tape in the next few days. He has an interesting story to tell of not only this restoration project by many others.

How do You Move?

29/11/2011

Andrew Lees - Moves!

3 guys, 44 days, 11 countries, 18 flights, 38 thousand miles, an exploding volcano, 2 cameras and almost a terabyte of footage… all to turn 3 ambitious linear concepts based on movement, learning and food ….into 3 beautiful and hopefully compelling short films….. = a trip of a lifetime.

MOVE from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

Machu Picchu’s Capacity to Withstand Tourism

21/11/2011

Peruviians on a Balcony - In the '90's

I took my first clients to Peru, on our first program ever for Mountain Spirit Institute in 1998. Who would have thought there would be the numbers at Machu Picchu that there are now. Who would have imagined the wholesale tour companies, that have transformed sleepy little islands such as Amantani, could change things so much. Being there in ’98 was sure different that it is today. It was right after the Shining Path and been put down. Back then, one didn’t need guides to do the Inca Trail, and the prices were affordable. So what to do? Hmmm. I love Peru, but I think we’ll have to go more into the bush, back beyond the hordes, shy away from the beaten path, or “Gringo Hiway” as they call it. There is much to see in Peru and like any popular place, go an hour or two off the beaten path, and you’re in “no-man’s land”. Also, see my post on Amantani in this blog.
R. Richards, Editor

One Million Tourists Visit Machu Picchu in 2011
by Andean Air Mail & PERUVIAN TIMES
The ancient Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, uncovered from overgrowth and obscurity 100 years ago by U.S. explorer Hiram Bingham, will have received at least one million tourists by the end of this year, according to Percy Canales, president of the National Chamber of Tourism, Canatur.

The number of visitors represents a 30 percent hike over last year — when 660,000 people visited the site— and is undoubtedly due in part to the mass promotional campaign surrounding the centennial.  Of the total, 70 percent will have been foreign travelers and the remainder Peruvians, particularly school groups.  The larger number of foreigners were visitors from the United States, Spain and Japan.

Canales said that the number of tourists was expected to increase read the rest of this story..

Here’s an Idea: Shweeb

29/09/2011

The Shweeb: Where's the passing lane? Aside from that, sign us up!

Shweeb’s bike-powered 200 meter monorail, pitched as an adrenalin-fueled sky cycling adventure in Rotorua, New Zealand, may be headed for bigger tracks. Google, who found out about it a few years ago,  has been so enamored with the system, in which users are suspended form the track in transparent pods to cycle around the landscape a t speeds of up to 45 km per hour, they’ve invested 1.05 million in developing the technology. I t could be the future for alternative transportation, so Google claims.  What one would do about traffic jams is something to ponder, but that’s a minor speed-bump compared to running fossil fuels till we’re extinct.

Three Good Websites

14/08/2011

From Mountain Cams worldwide and Avalanche Forecasting to Sending Money, here are a few sites I’ve come across lately

While it’s a bit too focused on the frontcountry scene, the worldwide reports and  list of snowcams can’t be beat.  Check out MountainWatch.com for snow conditions, news and forecasts.

Avalanche.org

Avalanche.org is what your really want to get access to local avi conditions worldwide. With a click, you can jump from North America to New Zealand and zero in on your region before you head out.

Xoom.com

On a completely different note, I just stumbled upon what appears like a good site for transferring money. MoneyGram only works if you’re in the U.S and God bless Western Union for being around longer than Greyhound, but their online system has never worked for me, and by god, they’re expensive. So check out Xoom.com, it’s who I’ll be using the next time I need to send some funds across the ocean blue.

Limiting Machu Picchu Visits?

01/08/2011

Machu Picchu ©Mtnspirit.org

Peru Gov’t looks to increase visitor limit to Machu Picchu
From: Andean Air Mail & PERUVIAN TIMES
Peru’s Ministry of Tourism and Foreign Trade said Tuesday that a recent study supports more than doubling the number of visitors to Machu Picchu, the ancient Inca citadel perched on a mountain top in Cusco region.

Currently, the daily limit on tourists that can enter the Machu Picchu site is set at 2,200. According to state news agency Andina, the ministry’s study suggests the citadel can withstand 5,479 visitors a day. This would allow Machu Picchu, a World Heritage Site, to receive approximately 2 million tourists a year.

The study is in direct contrast to the opinion of UNESCO, read the rest of this story..

Don’t Buy It

17/06/2011

Selling Success Thru Consuming

A recent full page ad on the inside front cover of New Zealand Alpine Club‘s The Climber* Magazine shows a truly burly shot of climber Alex Honnold in Borneo, doing a dyno move on what looks like a long potential fall on a big wall. Granted the sequence is impressive, (let’s be clear, I can’t do that), but the ad states, “ALEX IS DRY, His Meru Goretex Paclite Jacket allows him to focus on the next move.”

OK, ok, stop the music. Does this make we want to rush right out and buy a Meru Paclite Jacket? Not. But if  the Meru Paclite jacket allows him to focus on that dyno, maybe it will allow ME to focus on my next move too, just like the ad in the picture.  My criticism is albeit a cliche, nevertheless, I don’t buy it.

Kiwis are known for being a self-depreciating, humble bunch. They seem to buy used whenever possible, plus it blends into the backcountry better. Have you ever heard the saying, “Don’t go climbing with someone who has new gear?”  This doesn’t mean to avoid climbing and teaching new to the sport, but more it means watching out for a poser.

The Kiwi quietude is making me, in my conditioned Americanism,  feel downright goofy. I feel I may be tooting my own horn without even knowing . Mind you, I consider myself on the humble side, but New Zealanders make me look like Donald Trump.   I wonder however, how many climbers reading that magazine are taken by the ad. I would suspect a few more of my fellow Yankees stateside might be taken in. What do you think? Comment below.

Don’t buy it – buy used. Even though I’m able to buy on pro-purchase programs, I just bought a pair of Karhu BC skis on Craigslist, and it feels good. Did I even need them in the first place, yes. Maybe a step further, and a pair from the Salvation Army here in Queenstown for $40 would have sufficed. We can always improve.

Buying this Book? Share it.

Nope, I wouldn’t buy a used rope, or even cams,  but buying  most other stuff used just helps the planet, and you look better in a used jacket anyway. It’s another dirtbag move for the planet. Madison Avenue and the big corps who now own The North Face, (and now Karhu) don’t like guys like us. We’re terrible consumers – Have you joined the crowd?

According to a new book by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers, What’s Mine is Yours, The rise of Collaborative Consumption, the trend is huge – to buy less, buy used and share. I’ll write more about this book after I finish it. So far it’s fascinating.

*This is no way meant to be a slam on The Climber advertising policies, in fact the author encourages readers to support the magazine by supporting its advertisers, appropriately. A tricky one, eh?

By the way, nice move Alex.