JOE SIMPSON’S BITTERSWEET LAST CLIMB
Joe Simpson, who wrote Touching the Void, isn’t dead. But in this slightly truncated essay on his last climb you can tell that he’s haunted by ghosts. Even in this story, nominally about a successful solo effort up the unclimbed southwest ridge of 21,246-foot Mera Peak, in Nepal in 2009, Simpson pays tribute to friends lost to climbing. And he credits the wisdom of a friend who bailed on the Mera trip, Ray Delaney, “who at the last minute had decided not to attempt the climb. He thought the ice cliffs threatening the ridge were too dangerous. He was probably right.” Simpson says that there was nothing better than seeing the summit of this mountain. But he also implies, albeit softly, that choosing to quit mountaineering rather than keep pushing himself to the brink has plenty of validity as well. Via The Telegraph.
SALLY JEWELL: AN INTERIOR SECRETARY LIKE US
If confirmed, Timothy Egan argues plainspoken and directly in the New York Times, Sally Jewell would be an unusual secretary of the interior. She’d be one of us. As Egan says, “For all the ranchers and wildcatters, the loggers and right-wing county commissioners who clamor for control of the nation’s public lands, the dominant user is an urbanite, who bikes, skis, rafts, climbs, hunts, fishes, watches birds, waits for sunsets with a camera or finds an antidote for ‘nature deficit disorder’ in a weekend on a high plateau.” Jewell, the former head of REI, is the antidote to secretaries past who know “the interior” but don’t live for it. He calls the tribe a “silent majority,” the true major stakeholders in America’s open spaces, spending more on experiencing the outdoors than Americans do each year on gasoline. If Jewell is confirmed, who knows if her personal outdoor-playing priorities will have any sway over policy. But Egan stresses that given where we’ve been with this office, they sure can’t hurt. Via New York Times.
MOVE OVER LINDSEY, U.S. SKI TEAM HAS A DEEP BENCH
Yep, Lindsey Vonn blew out her knee. Done for the season. But the U.S. Ski and Snowboarding Association is working hard on making the 2014 Sochi Olympics not about anyone named Lindsey or Bode, but about making certain that there’s a solid team in every single discipline. For a change, they’re also putting money into the equation, to the tune of $1 million a year in testing and programming alone, something the USOC has often lacked, in addition to strategy. Outside Park City they’re testing blood-oxygen uptake, stress testing athletes, and learning precisely how to train the team as a team. It’s paying off, too. Where Austrians and Norwegians once dominated the U.S., alpine skiers have landed on the podium 27 times this season, including 16 wins. And Americans are even making inroads in nordic skiing and ski jumping. It’s a compelling shift, one that argues heavily against the idea that the Swiss or the Austrians have a genetic “lock” on winter sports. Via WSJ.
BRAZIL TO COUNT THE TREES IN THE AMAZON
It’s a daunting task, trying to count the trees in 60 percent of the Amazon, which is the percent of the world’s largest rainforest that is Brazilian. But the nation, once one of the worst deforesters in the world, is now at long last one of the most committed to saving what’s left of the Amazon. To do that Brazil is undertaking a massive tree census scheduled to take place over the next four years. Teams sent across Brazil’s 3,288,000 square miles, encompassing about half of the world’s remaining tropical forest, will sample about 20,000 points at 20-kilometer intervals. Researchers will log the number, height, diameter, and species of trees, along with soil types, biomass carbon stocks, and even local people’s interactions with the forest at each site. It’s an ambitious plan, one you can only hope will spark a “conservation race” with other nations in the Amazon basin. Via Fast Company.