CLIMATE CHANGE OPENS PATAGONIA CLIMBING
Between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day of 2012, 28 climbers reached the summit of Cerro Torre via the Ragni route. By contrast, when the first climbers finally sent Ragni in 1974 (attempts had been made since 1958), it was only after two months of attempts and down to their last stores of food. The difference that 40 years makes? Patagonia’s summers are now clear. Since climbers began trying ascents in Patagonia, the battle was always with constant storms and waiting (and waiting) for a window. Storms also brought snow and ice, where now Cerro Torre is seeing free solos, which would’ve been impossible in the past. It’s worth celebrating, but the context is also important to note. Via UKC Climbing.
FRESH ALASKA AIR IS FOULED BY WOOD SMOKE
Air-quality readings in November in Fairbanks were twice as bad as Beijing’s, all because too many residents use backyard wood furnaces. Add regular winter inversions and that smoke gets trapped at ground level, creating a constant fog (flashback: Outdoor Retailer, Salt Lake City, last month). You’d think some sort of regulation would be in order, but this is Sarah Palin’s Alaska, where the only good rule is a dead rule: Every attempt to regulate the offending stoves has been beaten back at the polls — a recent initiative prohibits Fairbanks from regulating any heating appliance using any fuel in any way. Residents have been known to burn car tires, animal carcasses, even feces. Los Angeles is no longer the archetype of polluters: Just this winter, Fairbanks logged 48 days above EPA’s dirty air threshold, while L.A. only had 13 days in all of 2011. Yes, the last frontier, where fighting the Man means lung disease. Via L.A. Times.
BACKCOUNTRY SKIING COMES EAST, TO WHERE IT STARTED
It’s hardly the Wasatch or Teton Pass, but backcountry skiing in the East has history at least as old as venerable western spots. In the 1930s Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps cut hundreds of trails, some of them for skiing, including the Thunderbolt, a slash down Massachusetts’s Mount Greylock that even today is steep and scary to ski. Trails like Thunderbolt are coming back into use thanks to the continent-wide backcountry revolution. You can legally skin up the back of Stowe, in Vermont, and of course Mt. Washington is famous for Tuckerman Ravine, but beyond Tucks there are lesser lights in the White Mountains that are just as rewarding. And so many of these lines are empty of boot-pack lines precisely because this isn’t the Tetons and most Eastern skiers don’t see the adventure (and the history) in their own backyards. Via New York Times.
SHANE MCCONKEY, PIONEER OF FLOWWhen we talk about paradigm shifts in adventure sports, author Steven Kotler would argue, we’re talking about people like Shane McConkey who live for the “flow state” — being completely in the moment, and doing something so abstract to the logical mind that it can only be unpacked in a single, perfect instant. We all seek the flow state, Kotler writes, but it’s been paradigm shifters like McConkey who couldn’t live without it. “A 150-foot cliff may not be skiable, but McConkey didn’t see the cliff,” Kotler writes. “He saw six tiny patches of snow — each about 25 feet below the last — and imagined a way to connect the dots…a ski technique now known as billy goating.’ ” Kotler’s amazing piece explains how skiers like McConkey, surfers like Ian Walsh, and paddlers like Tao Berman have transformed the impossible into the possible. It’s vision — or the lack of having blinders — that’s made it happen. And it’s been deadly, no doubt. But the story argues that for some that vision is just how they see the world, regardless of the risk. Via Steven Kotler.