By Gavin Back
The numbers are in from Patagonia’s Bike to Work Week and this was the Reno DC’s best year yet!
We had a total of 118 people riding for a total of 4,550 miles ridden. This means a total of $4,550 donated to an awesome local non-profit, the Kiwanis Club. Kiwanis seeks to promote cycling and bike safety, and distributes bikes to children in the Reno area. We would like to thank the members of Kiwanis who took time to visit the Reno DC prior to Bike to Work Week and helped Casey and Eric tune our bikes. All four of you did a great job keeping us safe on the road—thank you.
Despite bragging being somewhat gauche: Ventura, you guys need to step it up!
To put the efforts of the Reno riders into perspective, consider that there are roughly four times more Patagonia employees in Ventura than Reno yet we cycled a little over three times as many miles. And distance to work is no defense, Reno riders averaged twice as many miles as Ventura, with at least two people in Reno cycling over 30 miles per day. The daily Bike Bus, organized by Brenden, provided newer cyclists a fun environment to commute with more experienced cyclists, and be shown quick, safe and attractive routes to work.
Ventura, the Reno DC B2WW committee hereby formally challenges you all to “bring it on” next year. The more you ride, the more your environment benefits, the more money your local bike non-profit receives and the less embarrassing the Cleanest Line blog posts!
Below is a video summery of our week and photos of our prize winners. We had a lot of fun between breakfasts provided by different departments, swag for riders and the 2nd Annual Fix-a-Flat race hosted by Celia Johnson and won by Chad Swanson. One of the highlights of the week was Dan Malloy’s visit to the Reno DC and the presentation of his movie, Slow is Fast. If you haven’t seen it yet, everyone here highly recommends watching it.
The week was wrapped up with a big party and a Pirate Relay Race, and in true pirate fashion there was rum, chaos and blood! The winning teams were Ashley, Eric and Adam in first place; Sarah, Jenna and Ethel in second place; and Kamil, Ray and Jaimie in third place. We were entertained by the DC’s own bluegrass band, Goathead Revival—surely a reference to the devilish thorns that are the bane of Reno cyclists.
We had a huge array of raffle prizes, too many to list the individual winners, but we would like to extend a huge thank you to all our sponsors:
We had two grand prizes of bikes donated by Kiwanis and Velo Reno. To qualify, riders had to ride to work every day during bike to work week. The winner of the beautifully restored cruiser bike donated by Kiwanis was Chelsea Sauls in the repairs department, and the winner of the fantastic Giant Escape City commuter bike donated by Velo Reno was Erik Krahn in customer service. We had a fantastic turnout so competition for the bikes was high! We would like to extend a massive thank you to Kiwanis and Velo Reno for their generous help and support.
Please enjoy the video put together by Tyler...
If you want to check out more or Tyler’s images, check out his personal blog: tylerdkeck.blogspot.com.
We look forward to next year’s event, and as Chris Miles of Goathead Revival fame said: “If you can ride all week, you can ride all summer.”
By Cory Gould
Another Bike to Work Week for Patagonia has come and gone, but many of us who work in the retail stores continue to enjoy our human-powered modes of transportation long after this week of celebration ends. We bike, we walk, we run, we board or blade—some of us all year round—because we crave to be outside and love the lifestyle.
It has been another successful year as we pulled in a total of 8,218 miles for the retail stores. As part of our commitment to community engagement and environmental activism, all those miles spent pedaling our bikes through traffic, walking the streets or rolling down the beachfront, add up to $13,618 of grant money to local cycling groups.
With many of the cities we work in participating in their own bike month or bike to work days, it seems as though the momentum is making a shift towards more livable communities. We need to continue to support these cycling advocacy groups in order to keep this momentum going.
We are very grateful that we work for a company that supports the development of a cycling culture within its stores and promotes the use of human-powered transportation in various ways.
Lastly, a big thanks to the BTWW committee and all the point people who made this year great! Keep riding, keep cruising and enjoy every moment.
By Paul Hendricks
B2WW 2014 was another great one in Ventura. The bike racks were full and the parking lot had plenty of open spaces throughout the week. This year, the riders at the Ventura HQ biked 1,434 miles. Despite not beating our very collegial and gracious colleagues up in Reno, this was a 36% increase from last year, so we’ll take it.
We had a number of great events on campus that inspired more sustainable commuting and rewarded those who put some pedal power to their commute. Each day, local vendors (and the accounting department who always comes through) provided breakfast for the riders. Thanks to Patagonia Provisions, Citizen Juice, Justin’s Peanut Butter, Sambazon, and Kate’s Breads for providing great eats all week.
The B2WW Committee stepped it up a notch this year and planned great events throughout the week including beer and movies (The Road to Karakol and Fixation), a Bike Swap, a fiesta capped with taquitos and cerveza from Kona Brewing Company, a critical mass ride for fish tacos on the pier, and mimosas and baked goods (apparently we took the “B” in B2WW to mean both bike and beer). We also have to send a huge thanks to our friends at the local Trek shop who put in LONG hours tuning up all of our bikes for free.
It also wouldn’t be B2WW in Ventura without our child development center decorating campus and showing us all how fun it can be to ride your bike.
While riders were stoked out with free swag for riding in all week, the big winner was our local bike advocacy group, VCCOOL, who received $1 for each mile we rode throughout the work. Thanks to VCCOOL for all the great work you do making biking more accessible and safe in the area.
A big shout out goes to our B2WW Committee for knocking it out of the park this year:
And, a special shout out goes to our rock star rider, Bug, who rode 30 miles every day!
In my last essay, I talked about an updated vision of environmental changemaking, one that recognizes that many businesses are potential allies in the transformation to a responsible sustainable economy. Not all businesses, mind you, but a good number really do want clean energy, safe products, and decently paid workers. This time, we’ll talk about what we can all do to scale up these kinds of solutions, whether we work within a business or we use its products and services.
When I talk to all kinds of people working to make today’s companies more sustainable, often they’re focused on getting the public to change their shopping habits. If people refuse to buy toxic junk, the thinking goes, companies won’t make it anymore. The theory here is that consumers control the manufacturers and we can change business-as-usual just by shopping differently because companies are just making what people demand.Baloney. What mom is demanding her kids’ pajamas be pre-treated with neurotoxic flame retardants? Who’s asking for sunscreen with carcinogens? Before Apple spent billions advertising iPhones, who felt the need to buy a new phone every six months? Are any of these production decisions really driven by consumer demand? The real drivers behind toxic-containing or unsustainable production are out-of-date regulations and skewed economic rules that make it cheaper and more profitable—and thus more attractive in the short term—to make unhealthy and unsustainable stuff.
Of course, to truly ensure that businesses are a source of solutions rather than pollution, we need to engage not just businesses but government legislators and regulators too. They are the ones able to change today’s rules which support unsustainable products, level the playing field and open the floodgates for sustainable innovation in businesses. In my next set of essays, I’ll share some thoughts and action ideas to make our government step up and support a responsible, healthy and fair economy, but for now, let’s get back to building solutions in businesses.
Whether you work in a business, or just use its services and products, there are many ways to help advance solutions.
Making change from within a business:
Making change from outside a business:
What about the other side of the cash register? Customers can promote solutions in businesses with a carrot or a stick. Which is most effective depends largely on the businesses—some respond to carrots, others to sticks. Take the approach most likely to bring the most change.
Too many modern corporations see their responsibility as limited to returning the highest possible profits to their shareholders. And too many of their customers feel like there is nothing they can do to influence corporate behavior except change how we shop. Both views are short-sighted. What we need are corporate leaders who will use their resources to seek solutions to the problems plaguing the planet, and citizens who will come together to not only condemn bad-actor companies but also recognize the ones who are doing the right thing while working together to change the rules so that the most sustainable and fairer options become the new business-as-usual.
Annie Leonard is the founder of the The Story of Stuff Project and the new executive director of Greenpeace USA. She has dedicated nearly two decades of her life to investigating and reporting on environmental health and justice issues. Her podcast, The Good Stuff, features interviews with inspiring activists, entrepreneurs, scientists and others who’ve succeeded in making change.
Read the entire Solutions series:
Solutions Series, Part 1: Babies in the River
Solutions Series, Part 2: Solutions in Our Communities
Solutions Series, Part 3: Dive In
Solutions Series, Part 4: Solutions in Business
Solutions Series, Part 5: Taking Action
Solutions Series, Part 6: coming soon
“Climb it for me!” he yelled as I walked out of the hospital room.
I gladly would if I could, I thought to myself, but this one might just be too hard. I can’t make any promises.
A few days earlier, after a nice enjoyable day of climbing, we were heading back to my friend Sasha’s house to cook up some grub. He was on his motorbike, I was driving his van. Life was sweet. In a split second everything changed. An old man came out from a side road and didn’t see the motorbike coming.
We had some good adventures lined up for the week, but now Sasha was going to spend the next few months without the use of his arms and left leg. Despite this huge setback it was inspiring to see his conviction to fight his way back to good health—a true warrior.
While he sat in a hospital bed, I was going back for a Thai Boxing match in which I had been knocked out the day before.
Above: Ready? Fight! Sean goes toe-to-stone with Thai Boxing. All photos: Colette McInerneyThe notorious offwidth Thai Boxing in Buet, near Chamonix, looks easy enough from the ground. It’s such an obvious feature: a wide, slanting, slightly overhanging crack, too wide to jam a fist but not wide enough to get your hips in and climb it as a squeeze chimney. Offwidth climbing requires a specific arsenal of techniques and its own type of physical effort. Thai Boxing is considered to be one of the hardest offwidths in Europe.
The first time I tried it I couldn’t move my body upward no matter how hard I tried. I was slammed into the ropes, knocked to the canvas. I returned to the ground without even reaching the anchor, my ego crushed. I love these sorts of setbacks. They’re humbling; they put me right back to square one; they expand my reference point; they force me to open up, to be a beginner again. Even my climbing partner for the day and good friend, Mason Earl, who has a good bit more offwidth experience than I do—and from whom, in the past, I had already learned an awful lot about offwidth climbing—even he received a proper beating on his first go.
The route was first climbed by American offwidth specialist Craig Lueben, inventor of the Big Bro expanding chock cube for protecting wide cracks. He rated it 5.12c (French 7b+). Then it was repeated by strong British climber Stevie Haston who says he finds it harder than the bolted 8a on the same crag.
A few years later, some French locals, who thought it had never been climbed, bolted it, and a French grade up to 8b+ (5.14a) was mentioned. “I can only imagine the insane gastoning that must be going on,” Craig Lueben stated in an interview. It’s hard to speak Chinese when you don’t know any Chinese words.
In 2010, offwidth maestros Pete Whittaker and Tom Randall repeated the route on gear, and chopped the bolts bringing it back to its original grandeur. They say it might be harder than the reference route, Belly Full of Bad Berries (5.13a), in Indian Creek. Numbers are only numbers.
Eighteen-year-old French sport climber Enzo Oddo did an impressive ascent of the route in 2013, climbing it on his second go! Well, this is coming from a kid who climbed Biographie (9a+) when he was 15. But offwidth climbing is so different from sport climbing, this just shows how well rounded he is. On his first try, he quickly noticed that he wasn’t wearing the right shoes for this sort of jamming. So he lowered down, got straight back on with a different pair of shoes, and sent!
When I returned for my rematch, I was willing to learn but prepared to accept another beating. The first few attempts I didn’t feel much. I wasn’t making any progress and my whole body felt like jelly. Then I thought of my pal who was suffering in pain. He had a bad reaction to the medication and could no longer take any morphine.
What a total shit situation! In a split second it could happen to any of us. These sorts of misfortunes really make me realize how fortunate we are to be in good health, and the importance of enjoying every moment and to love life.
So I gave Thai Boxing one last try. Dodgy double fists, insecure chicken wings, and assertive knee scums slowly saw me moving upwards. There were a few moments I felt I was slipping out, but with encouragement from my good friend Mike who was belaying me, my mind stayed strong and did not let go. The impassable section of rock became a challenge to find solutions. I took my time, measuring my effort and keeping my mind open. It was a half-an-hour battle but I managed to get to the top! As I clipped the anchor I felt both nauseous and happy. What an awesome route!
I wish my friend strength, courage and a speedy and full recovery!
Sean Villanueva O’Driscoll believes he didn’t choose to climb, climbing chose him. His first expedition to Patagonia was a turning point in his life because he felt utterly connected with the forces of nature and the adventure of just being alive. Climbing teaches Sean to live life to the fullest and that he can do whatever he wants if he puts his mind to it.
For more, check out some of our previous posts featuring Sean: Jungle Jamming, Greenland Vertical Sailing, Baffin Island and Patagonia.
By Nellie Cohen & Elissa Loughman
Patagonia’s finished goods factories package each individual product we make in a polybag. Some of our direct customers (people who order from our catalog or Patagonia.com) have expressed disappointment in the amount of waste generated by polybags. This customer feedback inspired us to investigate ways to reduce the amount of plastic waste generated from Patagonia’s product packaging.
Editor’s note: The tone of today’s post is a bit formal due to its origins as an internal case study. It’s a good look into the workings of our company and the challenging decisions we’re faced with as we try to balance customer satisfaction with environmental impact.
In order to evaluate how Patagonia can reduce plastic in our supply chain we conducted several tests at our Distribution Center (DC) and surveyed our customers. Through this study, we determined that polybags are critical to insuring that garments stay clean from the finished goods factory through the DC. If we eliminated the use of polybags, garments would be damaged, resulting in both financial and environmental costs. Energy, water and resources are used to make each product and we want them to be worn. A damaged product that is unwearable has a far greater environmental cost than manufacturing a polybag.
We invite you to read on to see our progress in examining this area of our distribution process and how we’re working through potential ways to lessen our impact going forward, while making sure our products reach you undamaged.
Above: A look inside the Patagonia DC in Reno, Nevada. Products are picked in the warehouse, sent to packing stations and then to outbound mail via conveyor belts. This system allows us to ship packages with the greatest efficiency, especially during busy periods like sales and holidays. All photos: Nellie Cohen
Each Patagonia product we sell is packaged in a polybag at the finished goods factory and arrives at our DC in cartons. The boxes that arrive from the factories are often broken, torn, or open upon arrival. This exposes finished products to dirt, moisture and damage.
The polybag protects the product from becoming dirty or damaged at the factory, during transit to the DC and while the product is stored, processed and packed at the DC. Additionally, the polybags keep stored products clean in the wholesale and retail environments.
It is essential for the product to remain protected in each of these supply chain steps. Currently, Patagonia does not have specific requirements for the size and type of polybags used by our finished goods factories and the polybags in use do not contain recycled content. Despite the functionality of polybags, they are perceived as waste by many customers and employees.
Summary of Objectives & Results
Objective: Determine if it is possible to completely eliminate the use of polybags without incurring damage to products that would make them unsellable.
Result: Products were damaged when they were run through the shipping system in Reno without a polybag. In our experiments, about 30% of garments that went through the system without polybags were damaged beyond the point of being sellable. This indicated that it is not possible to process products in the Reno DC without polybags.
Test: We ran 40 unbagged, tied products through the Reno picking system in order to measure the damage incurred. All of the products were returns from the retail stores in pristine condition with hang tags attached. We folded and tied each of the 40 products with paper ribbon and placed the pick labels on both the product and the hang tag to determine where it was most effective.
We also found the placement of the pick label to be a challenge. We placed the pick labels on both the product and the hang tag to determine where it was most effective. The pick label did not stick to 12 of the 40 materials. In a real product order, the pick label cannot be placed on the hang tag because it will cover up the bar code for the product that must also be scanned in the outbound product packing process.
Objective: Determine if paper mailers are effective shipping containers in order to eliminate the use of plastic mailers.
Our current plastic mailers are made of 40% post-consumer waste (PCW) content and were down-gauged from 3.5 to 2.5 millimeters which reduced our plastic use by 30%. Our mailer bags are recyclable, but usually must be taken to specific receptacles for plastic film recycling, such as those located in grocery stores.
Result: Both brands of paper mailers we tried suffered considerable damage prior to leaving Reno. Damage included separated seams and tearing, and mailing labels peeled off several orders.
Both options were 100% paper, did not contain any plastic or fiberglass inner structure, were lightweight to minimize shipping costs and would be completely recyclable in common curbside recycling systems.
Objective: Determine if it is possible for the Reno DC to remove polybags before shipping customer orders without damaging products. This will enable Patagonia to retain and recycle more plastic bags.
Result: It is possible to remove polybags before shipping customer orders, but it takes time to remove each polybag. When we extrapolated this time across an entire calendar year we estimated that it will take an additional 5,555 hours of work per year in labor to unbag every product we send.
Objective: Survey our customers to determine if they prefer to receive products in polybags or if they prefer to receive products that aren’t packaged in polybags.
Result: Only 22% of our customers viewed our packaging as environmentally friendly, we did however, see a 14% increase in customer satisfaction when we used paper mailers and removed polybags. The general trends that emerged from both surveys were (1) our current packaging is very effective with 99% of garments arriving in perfect condition (2) people try to recycle or reuse our packaging (3) customers are unclear if the packaging is recyclable and (4) they want to recycle our packaging.
Objective: Quantify the amount of additional polybags that can be recycled if products are shipped to customers without polybags.
Result: An estimated 50,000 pounds of plastic can be retained in Reno each year. If we are able to decrease the size of our polybags (see next Objective), the quantity of plastic will decrease.
Objective: Investigate how Patagonia can reduce the amount of plastic it currently uses in packaging products.
Result: Folding products into smaller shapes would enable us to reduce the size of the polybag required for each product. Initial work shows that this can result in nearly a 50% reduction in plastic weight on a per product level.
As you can see, there are several ways we might reduce plastic waste within our system in the future. We're currently looking into the feasibility of implementing these recommendations, and we're always searching for new alternatives. We know some companies out there have found solutions that work for their unique distribution systems, all with varying sizes and complexities—prAna being a good example—and we’re also looking to learn from them. We’ll keep you posted on our progress.
1. Continue to use polybags at the factory level. We found that polybags are an effective barrier to damage that can occur during shipping and while going through the Reno picking system. A damaged product that is unwearable has a far greater environmental cost than manufacturing a polybag.
2. Reduce the size of polybags used. Many of our products are packaged in polybags that are far larger than the product. We recommend implementing packaging and folding guidelines at the finished goods factory level that require a reduction in the size of polybags.
3. Do not use paper mailers. We found that the two types of paper mailers we tested were barely strong enough to survive the journey through the DC. We expect that they will not consistently reach customers unharmed.
4. Continue to recycle all polybags collected in the DC. Baling the polybags that are collected in Reno is key to minimizing the waste we produce.
5. Educate our customers. The survey responses inspired an unexpected recommendation which is to provide our customers with more information about how to recycle their packaging.
6. Source recycled polybags. By using recycled polybags we can reduce the amount of virgin petroleum we use in our packaging. We have started investigating the potential to source recycled polybags.
7. Increase polybag recycling at wholesale dealers. We have a tremendous opportunity to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up as waste by working with our wholesale dealers to ensure that polybags are recycled.
Nice study, but how do I recycle the polybag that protected my Patagonia fleece?
Customers who don't have curbside options for recycling polybags are welcome to do the following.
1. Mail them back to us for recycling:
Patagonia Service Center
ATTN: Common Threads Recycling Program
8550 White Fir Street
Reno, NV 89523-8939
2. Drop them off at the Patagonia Retail Store nearest you—ideally, while you're running other errands, to reduce environmental impact.
Both of these options apply to Patagonia garment recycling as well.
3. Many grocery stores take back plastic bags and the bags we use can be recycled in a grocery store recycling stream. Follow this link and enter your zip code to find a plastic bag recycling location near you.
Nellie Cohen is Product Responsibility Analyst and Elissa Loughman is Manager of Product Responsibility for Patagonia. They work on special projects related to Corporate Responsibility and Environmental Assessment.
Travel in all its various guises is at the heart of surfing, so it was appropriate that there was a little of it involved for most of the people—Patagonia or otherwise—at this year’s Surfilm Festibal in San Sebastián, Spain.
They say that change is good and that exploring new places nourishes the soul, but Nora, my three-year-old daughter wasn’t letting on if it did. Changing time zones with a small child is a test of a parent’s reserves of patience. From her perspective, though, once we were in country and with day time operations revolving around Patagonia’s San Sebastián surf store—a casual glance away from the acres of white sand that make up La Playa de Zuriola—she’d died and gone to bucket and spade excavation heaven. Happy child, happy parents, happy days.
[The author chats with Otto Flores after a morning surf, just out the door from Patagonia San Sebastián. Later, customers were invited to make their own handplanes with the tools in the foreground. Photo: Mat. Turries / www.nordicsurfersmag.se]City beaches are amazing things and I’ve never really gotten used to them. San Sebastián has two, although from a surfer’s perspective, only one of them really counts. It also clearly counts for the ten thousand odd people that flocked to its softly sloping sands and cooling mid-morning sea breezes each day—Ipanema without the highrise, or the close-outs for that matter. A mere glimpse of the old familiar solitude was possible, even in this metropolis.
There was a small pulse in the interval during our stay and I levered myself out of the bed at 6 a.m. in the half-light and crept to the seawall. Not a soul in the water, just a single prospector leashing up on the sand and head-high lefts running fast and crisp into the rip at the east end of the beach. One was all I needed, which was lucky because each minute brought another head to the line-up. It is odd how both extreme solitude and the opposite, found here, can make you feel a little lost. Lost in space or lost in numbers—or maybe the opposite, depending on how your day is going.
Zuriola, looking east. Photo: Mat. Turries / www.nordicsurfersmag.se
Something to make you feel found, though, are familiar smiling faces and one of the real pleasures of making it down to the Basque Country was, for me, in the spreading of social wings. As a Patagonia ambassador living in Ireland I sometimes feel that I operate in some form of a vacuum. So it was a joy to meet some of the other faces that peer out from the website.
Léa Brassy appeared from the fog of bodies in the arrivals hall at Biarritz airport and packed us into her perfect little camper van. Casually getting to know each other as we buzzed south for the border, we realised we had unknowingly spent a summer surfing the same waves 13 years before in what is now my hometown. Somehow it didn’t feel that surprising!
Like us, Patch Wilson descended from the north, Kepa Acero from a couple of headlands along the coast. But the real miles were put in by Otto Flores whose Caribbean homeland lies well beyond the horizon. Other key players hopped down from the Alps and a handful crossed a continent and an ocean. A warm gathering of familiar names, if less than familiar faces, mixed and expertly blended by locals Arantxa, Gaizka and Sancho in a pool of old city streets, pinchos and Atlantic ‘olitas.’
Léa Brassy introduces her film Catch It. Photo: @simplevoyage
Kepa Acero. Photo: Mat. Turries / www.nordicsurfersmag.se
Alain Riou, Laurent Pujol and Patch Wilson during a training session for Patagonia's PSI Vest. Photo: ©Marc Gassó
With all that going on, it was sometimes easy to forget what the main event really was: surfing and the issues surrounding it, on film, in the delicious velvety cool of a gracefully aging auditorium. From soft focus, close cropped, slow motion grace, to high energy mountains of water. Arctic to Equator. Novice to expert. Indignant to indulgent. The full spectrum laid out for all comers—a veritable marathon of input, yet to be distilled.
Being no expert at or on this stream of documentary, I had to revert to instinct and braille my way through. And, amusingly, where worlds collide there is often the odd spark, not in a bad way, just gentle reminders that we were stepping from the sand to the pavement. A polite gesture from the manicured host to the salty visitor indicating that steps are for stepping on, not sitting on! And damn, these people look clean. I wish I’d remembered to get those new shoes before coming down here…
San Sebastián street view. Photo: Mat. Turries / www.nordicsurfersmag.se
Yulex wetsuit display inside the theater. Photo: ©Marc Gassó
Fesitval trailer video from Surfilmfestibal
Festival recap video from NORDICSURFERSMAG.SE
Kepa Acero's film My Best Surf Session Ever was shown at the festival.
Thundercloud from onepalmMEDIA was another film shown at the festival.
That’s it. That’s why it is fun to get away. To look, listen and maybe learn. Absorb by osmosis and come away with a little more than you left home with. To be inspired, even if it is by something as simple as the wet footprints left by a surfer padding home on the still warm flagstones of a city street well after sunset.
Big thanks to Gabe and Lauren Davies and the rest of the Patagonia boys and girls for making a great event a memorable one.
Tom Doidge-Harrison lives on the western shores of Ireland, where he shares a small cottage with his family, charges barrels and shapes custom sleds for County Clare’s magical string of coldwater slabs.
Head-high peaks stacked in perfect rows, warm clear water, and glassy surface conditions were not the reasons for the best surf session of my life. Sometimes it’s about more than that. If you were asked to describe your most memorable surf session, what would you say? Would you scroll through your memories of surf trips to the South Pacific, or an epic day at your home break with no one out except you and the dolphins? That’s what would have come to mind before my experience with the athletes from the High Fives Foundation.
While surfing with this crew of hilarious, inspiring, adventurous folks, I found new meaning to surfing and, more importantly, the contagious element of positivity. The High Fives Foundation is a non-profit group, based in Truckee, California, that supports the recovery of severely injured athletes and helps get them into adaptive sports. I was lucky enough to join the group on a surf trip to San Onofre, California. This is where the adventure began and my life changed. It’s a beautiful thing when something that you love and are passionate about opens your eyes a little wider and forces you to reevaluate your perspective.
[Above: Cheering on friends. All photos: Trevor Clark]Being in the ocean, feeling the cool saltwater on your skin, the waves tumbling over your board and body, the rush of water under you, propelling you forward as you glide down the face—there’s nothing like surfing. This is where we find our flow and something magical happens. Sharing the experience and connection with this amazing crew of guys (and girl, Taylor Fiddymont) filled my soul. Their eyes lit up with excitement and the connection between the athlete, the board and the water was immediate.
Almost all of the High Fives crew had experienced some sort of traumatic injury that left them paralyzed or with little lower body strength. Most had never surfed before, but all of them were incredibly psyched. Despite their injuries they caught more waves than most of the people in the water, had the best attitude, and had more fun than anyone else. Their positivity was contagious and my experience riding waves with them was unlike any surf session I’ve ever had.
Imagine sitting on a 10-foot wave ski with shorebreak pounding on the beach. Your board gets flipped at least once or twice, and you take a couple board headers before getting buckled into the seat and paddling furiously past the pounding inside waves. It’s your first time surfing. In fact, you’ve never even been in the ocean. Your athleticism and survival instincts are all you have as you paddle as fast as you can to make it over a set wave that looks like it might crash right on top of you.
Once you make it through the surf, you sit, looking at your buddies next to you with huge smiles on their faces. You see some peaks lining up in the distance and turn around to paddle your ass off. As the swell rolls underneath, the surge of energy takes you in one swift motion and you feel the power of the wave connect with the board as you glide down the face. “Wooohoooo!” The adrenaline pumps and your cheeks hurt from the huge smile that’s stretching from ear to ear smile. As the wave tails off you take a deep sigh, turn and paddle back out, your friends offering high fives as you paddle by.
What's a good surf story without some wipeouts? Video: Shreddy Times
I think back to all the frustrating surf sessions in my life where the waves were too crowded, or I missed a peeling left or fell on the perfect wave. I think about all the times I’ve heard people argue, slap the water with anger and paddle furiously around with an irritated look on their face. What excuses do we have to act so immature and irrationally? The High Fives crew got hammered by six-foot sets. They were thrown off their boards into the churning ocean. Rip currents pulled against them as they frantically paddled, yet the smiles never left their faces.
Best surf session ever.
Laurel Winterborne is a freelance writer and producer at Trevor Clark Photography, and a former Patagonia Pro Sales employee. "When I felt myself becoming too comfortable in my office chair, knowing exactly where my path would lead me in 30 years, I decided to shake it up, take a leap and see where I landed." You can read Laurel's previous posts on The Cleanest Line here.
“It’s like you’re scared to move forward—you just need something to give you a little nudge,” says Jonah Manning. “You can call it support, but, really it’s just like a little bit of a shove forward. And I’ll never forget it, because Widge was certainly that for me.”
Today we bring you the story of Widge, the ultimate adventure partner. Sometimes when that metaphorical door of adventure opens, you need someone to walk through by your side.
Visit dirtbagdiaries.com for links to past episodes, featured music and to pledge your support. You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, RSS, SoundCloud and Stitcher, or connect with the Dirtbag Diaries community on Facebook and Twitter. The Dirtbag Diaries is a Duct Tape Then Beer production.
[Graphic by Walker Cahall]
I've found my favorite yoga and bodywork prop. Not only is it made of wood, but it's perfectly portable, fits into the side of any backpack or duffel bag, and takes up next to no space in a van.
It works kind of like other massage canes would (but it's not plastic, is way cheaper, and you can make it yourself), and a bit like a foam roller (but it's not foam and I lie on it instead of roll on it). I use it to apply deep pressure to sticky, stuck and tight places in my body. It's also great for supporting the spine or joints in different yoga positions, like a mini yoga block. Once the hips are quite open, it also gives just enough height to become a support for sitting meditation—placed just behind the sitting bones.
[Above: Mid-back (rhomboid) release. All photos Lydia Zamorano Collection]It costs less than $10 to make. I just get wooden doweling, cut it to about three feet long, router the edges, sand it, and apply a good stain or clear coat if i want it to be smoother.
Dowel Workshop wtih Lydia
Do: Find your trigger points and stay for 90 seconds or more. Work up to three minutes.
Don't: Use too much pressure. It immobilizes the tissue and puts the body into protective mode.
Do: Wait till you feel softening, releasing and increased liquidity (gel to liquid).
Don't: Go to the place where your jaw, diaphragm or bum muscles tighten. Approximate pressure should be like sinking hands into clay. Put a blanket over the dowel if you need to.
Armpit freedom (pectoral release). Place dowel about one inch below your outer collarbone. You’ll find a tender spot that will form a depression when you lean your weight onto the dowel. Pull your elbow out to the side.
Lydia Zamorano is a dedicated and joyous yogi from Alberta, Canada. She has been sharing yoga for the past 12 years and has over 1,200 hours of advanced teacher training. After co-owning a studio for four years, she now puts her energy into organizing workshops and retreats. Lydia and her husband, Sonnie, recently welcomed their first child into the world. Photo: Sonnie Trotter
By Gavin Back, video by Tyler Keck
Every year, Patagonia employees actively celebrate our own version of Bike to Work Week a few weeks after the national event. The Reno distribution center has a dedicated core of riders who regularly choose to cycle to work instead of burning gas. To kick off the 2014 Bike to Work Week festivities, we have a prepared a short video to acknowledge some of those regular riders, learn a little about why we prefer to cycle and inspire more people to get out of their cars and onto their bikes. Join us.
“Chile’s Committee of Ministers – the country’s highest administrative authority – has cancelled the environmental permits for the five-dam hydropower project, HidroAysén, effectively stopping the scheme that threatened the Baker and Pascua Rivers in Patagonia.” –Emily Jovais, International Rivers
This is an issue we've been involved with since 2007 and we couldn't be more thrilled. Check out International Rivers' blog for more on today's announcement. Congratulations to everyone who has worked hard on this victory, especially the Chilean people. The Baker and Pascua Rivers are running free!
[Above: May 19, 2011, Patagonia Headquarters, Ventura, California. In Chile and other Spanish-speaking countries they call it a cacerolazo – a stew-pot protest. Watch the video. Photo: Tim Davis]
By Joe Curren
When I think of my dad, I think of roughing it in Baja and traveling up and down the peninsula in a rickety old VW Bug. For three straight years, between the ages of 13-15, my dad would pick me up in Santa Barbara and we’d make the 1,000-mile drive south to Cabo on Highway 1. We spent six weeks in summer and two weeks in winter mostly staying at my dad’s place on the East Cape, but we also camped, surfed, fished and dove along the way, and always with his handmade foam and fiberglass dory.
The trips are some of the best memories I have of my dad while growing up. Yes, we did rough it, but a bit of hardening was good for me. Traveling in Baja is a rite of passage for the Southern California surfer and getting dirty comes with the territory, especially once you venture south of Ensenada. Shipwrecks, Scorpion Bay, Seven Sisters; as a grom it was the waves that drew me in. Many hours, of course, were spent surfing. But my dad really made sure I experienced everything the land and water in Baja had to offer.
[Above: The first trip when I was 13. Many adventures lay ahead. Photo: Pat Curren]With our surfboards tied down under the boat and our camping gear stashed in between, our pack jobs were quite an undertaking. The interior was stuffed to the gills as well. My dad figured out a way to customize a wood passenger seat that converted into a bed and, even with all our stuff, he could stretch out and sleep.
My dad has always been good with his hands, known for his beautifully sculptured redwood and balsa gun made specifically for Waimea Bay in the ’50s. Along with shaping boards, he’s worked as a surveyor, draftsman, a commercial diver, a finish carpenter and he has made a number of boats, including the 13-foot dory skiff perpetually strapped to our rig.
My parents split when I was seven. My dad moved to Pavones, Costa Rica, and then to Cabo when I was 11. Between Costa Rica and Cabo, he spent about a year in Carpinteria, California, building cabinets and doors for Frank Louda and Tom Jackson of Chismahoo Construction. During this time he also did some work on the America’s Cup catamaran, Stars and Stripes. This, along with the desire to get back south, led him (and old friend Alan Nelson) to build lightweight skiffs for Baja. (Coincidentally, my dad made two foam dories at this time, one commissioned by Jackson’s friend Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia founder/owner).
Magdalena Bay, trolling for dinner. Photo: Joe Curren
The purpose of the dory was to catch fish. We’d troll with it, my dad always rowing, getting the boat up to a really nice glide. It wasn’t always easy—we caught a lot of fish, but lost a lot as well. I remember him saying one evening as we caught a fish right before dark in front of our camp, “Good, we can eat tonight.”
Diving, on the other hand, we’d always come away with something. In Cabo we dove every flat day. We only had Hawaiian slings, so spearing a yellowtail was a special occasion. It was mostly sierra and chino mero, and oysters—we shucked a lot of oysters. My dad even found a large teardrop-shaped pearl in one.
I got a glimpse of the lifestyle my dad experienced growing up in Southern California in the ’40s, and of his time living off the land and camping on the beach of the North Shore. He and the guys from his era weren’t just athletic surfers; they were all-around watermen. They were so confident in big surf from all the time spent diving. Living an ocean lifestyle—diving, fishing and boating—makes you more comfortable in the ocean and a more knowledgeable wave rider.
We had a lot of down time on these trips and I enjoyed listening to my dad tell stories about the old days. He tried to teach me practical things like how to tie a bowline—something he showed me numerous times—and then would laugh at me for always forgetting such a simple knot. I watched his morning ritual of hand-grinding coffee and using an old sock for a filter. On the days when not much was said, we read mountains of books. When my dad started reading, I had no choice but to bury my nose in anything available—sometimes it was a novella like Of Mice and Men, other times Don Quixote, unabridged. But it was another lifelong lesson gleaned from these trips—I learned to appreciate a good read.
We also had plenty of misadventures. Sleeping outside in northern Baja in sub-zero temps in a sub-par sleeping bag. A bad case of sunstroke in Scorpion Bay. White-knuckle driving with buses passing on blind corners, the hood of our car flying open as a semi-truck blew past, and a couple close calls on precipitous mountain roads.
The VW Bug with the custom passenger seat was otherwise stock—not a modified Baja Bug or anything like that. It was taken on some of the bumpiest washboard Baja could throw at it. At some point in the trip, the car made a loud noise and it wouldn’t go into gear. My dad didn’t know much about cars, but he could rebuild an old VW motor with ease, thanks to the indispensable How to Keep Your VW Alive: A Manual of Step-by-Step Procedures for the Compleat Idiot. Turns out, it was the linkage in the transmission box coming apart. He discovered that this only happened in first gear. If we started out in second there was no problem. This would work as long as we didn’t have to start on a hill. But numerous times he forgot and started out in first. This meant taking out all the gear, the seats and the floorboards and putting it on the side of the road while my dad tied the linkage back together with wire. On the way out of a camp spot in the Sea of Cortez, we had to be towed up a steep, dirt mountain road, since second gear wasn’t powerful enough. For a reason I don’t recall, I was at the wheel steering the Bug while staring down the side of a sheer cliff. At 13, it was my first time behind the wheel of a car and I was terrified.
Another close call was when I was 15 and my dad and I spent three weeks in Scorpion Bay. I surfed two to three times a day, almost every day. Our campsites were always bare bones. We had one small shade canopy, but never a tent. I always slept outside on my army-surplus cot. We got a lot of sun and I didn’t hydrate enough. I ended up with a bad case of sunstroke and dehydration and was laid up on my cot under the blazing sun. Two families from Carpinteria that I knew from surfing Rincon were camping next to us. I remember their campsite seemed so luxurious with snacks from home and AstroTurf to cut down on the dust. One time when I got sick, one of the wives gave me some Yoplait and I remembered it being one of the best things I’d ever eaten.
My fever wouldn’t break, so my dad thought it best I see a doctor. We headed out the west road for Loreto, the closest big town. At a fork in the road, we made the wrong choice and ended up on a road through the mountains that was made entirely of large boulders. It seemed like it hadn’t been driven on in decades, if ever. We made progress, albeit slowly. Once we got to the pass it was a struggle. We were in a newer edition Bug with bigger tires this time, but we couldn’t get up enough power to get over the top. Each time we failed to summit, we’d slide a little more backwards. My dad would rip the e-brake as we slid, but it seemed like we were getting closer and closer to the edge. I was seriously scared for my life this time. We were really far from help, it was scorching hot, and I was passing in and out of consciousness. After the fourth or fifth attempt, we finally summited, both of us letting out a big exhale. It was all down hill to Loreto from there. Once at the hotel, I chugged a gallon of cold water, took a shower and spent a night in the air-conditioned hotel room—all of which did me good.
I drove to Cabo one more time with a friend at 16, then at 17 I starting flying by myself to visit my dad. After that, life got busier and my visits became shorter and more sporadic. My dad, who until the ’90s, had only ridden single-fin longboards in small waves, was now riding a contemporary self-shaped thruster with a semi-gun plan shape. He said that he wished he’d started riding thrusters sooner, since, before trying them, he never preferred surfing over diving or fishing. But now he just wanted to surf. We were on the same page, and during those years the dory didn’t get much use.
About 10 years ago when my dad moved back to the States, he left the dory behind at a friend’s house. Around this time, my wife Teasha (who had also spent a lot of her youth in southern Baja) and I started going down there about once a year to stay with her parents, who lived in Baja part-time. At the end of 2012, I got an email from Patagonia product tester Walker Ferguson who met a guy surfing in Cabo who knew of a guy living in my dad’s old neighborhood that had gotten ahold of the dory and planned to fix it up. This was a surprise. I’d half forgotten about it and had kind of written it off. The last time I remembered seeing the dory was on the beach in front of my dad’s place. His place was simple—basic outdoor living—so there was no garage or anywhere else to keep the dory out of the elements. But even if it was kept inside, the boat had seen a lot of use since that first trip in the mid ’80s, and upkeep on anything in that environment is a challenge.
I was now living in Crescent City, a small town on California’s north coast, near my wife’s hometown. Inspired by my dad, I had been thinking for years about trying my hand at woodworking but always found an excuse not to—not enough time, space, tools, etc. But the move from Santa Barbara to Crescent City allowed me more space to work, and I eventually started a business making wood frames and also started shaping a few boards.
Besides the obvious sentimental value on hearing about the dory, I thought, well, if this guy thinks it’s salvageable, I would like to fix it up myself and use it at home on the nearby lagoons and estuaries. Maybe even take it rock fishing out on the ocean on a flat day. It also just seemed like a fun project.
With some legwork, I found the guy’s contact info. He responded to me right away saying that he hadn't started working on it yet, and if I wanted it, it was mine. In January 2013, on my next trip south, I picked up the dory in my father-in-law’s pickup truck, and then it was put on a friend’s empty boat trailer that was headed north. I picked it up at their place in Santa Cruz that spring.
I finally got a good look at the dory once I got it into my shop. I noticed things about it that I’d never seen before; details that I could now appreciate since I had started woodworking and shaping. The clean, sleek outline reminded me of one my dad’s guns and the perfect butterfly joint where the rails came together in the bow was beautiful. As for damage, there were a few large bubbles in the fiberglass and lots of smaller dings. The wood rails had dry rot and needed to be replaced. But overall, the boat was in pretty good shape, considering it had been in sitting in the salt air for so long, under the hottest sun of anywhere I’ve ever been. I thought it would be completely delaminated.
I told my dad I had the dory, how I had acquired it, that I planned to fix it up and I wanted to refurbish it to its original condition. He said, ”Good, I’m glad, especially if you plan on using it.” I asked him a few questions about its history. He said he got the plans from The Dory Book, by John Gardner, where I learned it was a 13’6” Chamberlain dory skiff. It was made with half-inch thick polyurethane foam with two layers of 6-oz cloth per side, vertical grain Douglas fir wood rails and brass oarlocks.
Prepping the rails for paint. Photo: Kanoa Zimmerman
I worked on the dory off and on over the summer and fall. Most of the labor was ding repair. I spent quite a few hours laminating and sanding. More enjoyable was replacing the wood rails. A friend in San Francisco who was working on a project demolishing an ice skating rink salvaged for me some 16-foot old-growth Douglas fir 1” x 6” boards. I did make one adaptation. The foam was weak in the transom handle so I sandwiched it with Doug fir to give it strength. Once all the repairs were made, I applied some marine-grade paint and the dory looked almost like new.
On a clear, late afternoon in October, I took the dory out for its first row on Stone Lagoon in Northern Humboldt. The first thing I noticed was that my six-foot oars were too short. Also, rowing against the wind was tricky. The dory was still pretty light (before all the ding repair I could get underneath and carry it on my shoulders like a turtle), and I was getting blown around. Adding more ballast, or another passenger would help (there were always two of us using it in Baja). But the real question was how did the boat feel once I got it up on a plane? Once I got it going, rowing downwind, it had the same glide I remembered from those years in Baja. Despite all the effort, getting the dory back on the water felt really good.
Looking back on those first Baja trips, I don’t think I appreciated the dory enough. Fishing and diving was fun, but surfing was all I thought about. I feel like my dad made the dory, not just as a way to catch dinner but also as a way for us to get a little more out there. He loved the feeling of the glide that we as surfers seek, and that’s a truly rewarding feeling on one of your own crafts. This, along with some of his other priorities, like spending time out of doors away from crowds and a DIY philosophy, has had a huge influence on me.
The trips with this little dory really taught me a lot. Slowing down, appreciating the simple things, and taking in everything that a special place like Baja has to offer, these are lessons I’ve carried with me throughout my own travels and in my everyday life.
Joe Curren resides in Crescent City where he runs an art framing business and makes handcrafted surfboards. Keep up with Joe, and his beautiful photography, on Instagram and Facebook. Photo: Teasha Curren.
A month ago, we headed south for our annual pilgrimage to the 5Point Film Festival and our live Dirtbag Diaries. Today, we share stories from two women, from two different generations who share a love for rivers. In 2013, Amber Valenti had the opportunity to paddle one of the last great free-flowing rivers in the world—The Amur River. Amber, along with three other women paddlers, documented the river from its remote headwaters in Mongolia to the wide-ribboned channels in Russia. Amber wrote and produced the film, Nobody's River, filled with hilarious antics and the soulful exploration of a new place and oneself.
Our next guest, Katie Lee (featured in DamNation), was a force to have on stage. Feisty, poignant and ready to tell you what she thinks—Katie is not your typical nonagenarian. Katie started her career as an actress in Hollywood, but soon left it behind after taking her first trip down the Grand Canyon. But it was Glen Canyon that she fell in love with. When it was flooded in 1963, Katie used her voice to write songs and books about the river and the west. And she's still using her voice as an activist for the environment.
Warning: This episode contains strong language.
Visit dirtbagdiaries.com for links to past episodes, featured music and to pledge your support. You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, RSS, SoundCloud and Stitcher, or connect with the Dirtbag Diaries community on Facebook and Twitter. The Dirtbag Diaries is a Duct Tape Then Beer production.
[Graphic by Walker Cahall]
Winner – SXSW Audience Choice Award
Winner – Documentary Award for Environmental Advocacy, DC Environmental Film Festival
Winner – Mountainfilm Audience Choice Award
Winner – Best of Festival, 5Point Film Festival
On Thursday, June 5, Patagonia will present the award-winning, feature length documentary DamNation, in 23 cities nationwide. Free screenings will be hosted at Patagonia Retail Stores and are open to the public. For a full list of nationwide, festival and community screenings, please visit damnationfilm.com.
The following day, June 6, DamNation will be available at Vimeo On Demand for digital viewing. DamNation will be available to rent ($5.99) or buy ($9.99) for viewing on almost any device. As part of our unique collaboration with Vimeo, we curated a number of ecologically minded titles, including DamNation, in the Patagonia Collection on Vimeo On Demand.
Words and photos by John Bryant Baker
As the sunlight makes its way to my face, I can see my breath as it leaves my mouth and slowly rises into the crisp cold air. From atop this sandstone dome, my 360 degree view is uninterrupted. Wilderness stretches out across the horizon in every direction. There are steep, narrow canyons and broad, sandy washes. Yucca, with their long, wind-battered stalks cling to small patches of dirt, while the sweet smell of desert sage accompanies the slight breeze.
Mountains rise in the distance, the Henrys to the west and the Abajos to the northeast. Directly south, the mystical and sacred Navajo Mountain stands alone. It is a rugged place, this canyon country, vast and expansive. While on a high point like this one, it could easily be mistaken for endless. The sun is cresting over the horizon to my left as the full moon slowly drops out of view to my right. In this first light of morning, I sit suspended between these two heavenly bodies. This is a magical place. It is a place that I, as others before me, have fallen in love with.
[Above: Fajada Butte, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.]The desert is not an easy place to love though. Upon first glance, many consider this expanse of red rock to be a wasteland, far too harsh to inhabit. The canyons are too steep, the soil is too dry, and the distances too great. Interestingly enough, these are some of the same character traits I have become so enthralled with. There is an untainted beauty that lies at the heart of such ruggedness. It is a deep beauty, the kind that is often felt before it can be seen. Unrecognizable to the passing glance, it will not be found through the windshield of a car. This is a beauty that takes time.
There is comfort found in the harshness here, a comfort that is birthed out of the uncomfortable. To know solace, one must first know distress. Here, I experience the blazing summer sun as well as the soothing shade of a tiny juniper. I feel the bombardment of sand-filled winds and the encompassing peace of a still, moonlit night. I know the taste of parched, chapped lips and the sound of a trickling, life-giving spring. Hidden seeps, where water slowly sweats its way out of rock walls, can be found throughout this land. There are flowing springs to be tasted if one knows how and where to find them. Potholes and tinajas, natural water jugs, lie waiting to be scooped with a cupped palm.
This is a dry land, no doubt, but it is not a barren one. There is not abundance, but there is enough. The desert is a mentor in the ways of simplicity, reminding me of the importance of having only what I need. These canyons are continually revealing to me the truth that differentiates essential from extra.
My wife and I have found ourselves once again following the floor of a winding canyon, exploring and discovering a new sliver of this land we long to learn. Towering red sandstone walls engulf us on either side. The leaves of the cottonwoods are a golden yellow, fluttering with the sporadic brush of the wind. Perfectly symmetrical splitter cracks run from canyon floor to rim, interrupting the otherwise blank vertical walls. A passionate climber could spend a lifetime scaling the fissures found here. At sharp bends are huge, amphitheater-like alcoves that have been slowly carved and shaped by the floods of time. Sound reverberates off the rounded walls with a sharpness and clarity not to be outdone by even the finest concert venues—more proof that man still has a lot to learn from the earth.
We find ourselves at an unnamed, unmapped spring. Crystal clear water is gushing out onto the canyon floor, spreading and forming smaller braided streams that weave in and out of each other as they glade over the dark sculpted sand. Kneeling down, I cup my hands, bringing the clear cold water to my sun-dried lips. We notice animal tracks spread throughout the surrounding wet sand. Mule deer, raccoons, coyotes, a mountain lion, this place provides life for many.
Looking around while listening to the gurgling water, we notice figures drawn high on a ledge. Staring more intently now, we begin to make out human representations with arms and legs. In other clusters, we see mixtures of handprints and spirals. On the high bench above, remnants of a dwelling are now visible. Simple stone and mortar walls, these are all the handiwork of a people long passed, the first desert lovers.
Ancestral Puebloeans, Anasazi, the Ancient Ones. Over time, I have been blessed enough to see much of what they left behind: cliff dwellings ranging in size from one room to fifty, kivas with wooden ladders leading down into the earth, and intricately decorated pottery. I have found arrowheads and spear tips and the chipping beds where they were formed, held 1,000-year-old sandals fashioned from yucca fibers.
We scramble up the loose talus for a more intimate view, flooded with feelings of wonder, excitement, and reverence. I study the pictographs and petroglyphs while trying to imagine the stories they long to tell. Pieces of pottery and corn cobs are strewn next to the fire pit where charred wood still remained, as if it had been sat around, casting shadows on the wall, the night before.
In the grass and mud mortar that holds together the stone walls, fingerprints are still evident from the day the mortar was pressed and shaped. Staring at a set of these timeless impressions, I notice a slight inconsistency in the wall. There is a small opening just big enough to fit a hand. Not able to make out what is in the shadows of this nook, I blindly reach in.
Looking down at what I now find resting in the palm of my hand, I am nearly overcome with emotion. The carvings on the handle are intricate and the tip chipped and formed of chert, the two pieces joined together with pine pitch. I’m holding a totally intact, perfectly useable knife. Suddenly, the gap of time that separates me from them seems to dissipate. I stood there, wondering who was the last person to grasp this tool?
Looking back down the canyon and off into the wild landscape stretched out before me, I felt as though I was taking in the same view as they had so many years before. It was as if we stood there together, this family of hunters and cultivators, artists and dreamers, perched high on the canyon wall. More than anyone, these people knew this place. Their understanding was intimate and their connection mystical. The spring below was a gift from the earth, the full moon part of the heavenly cycle, the vastness and beauty of the land characteristics of the Great Spirit. Are these things any less true today?
For this rugged, wild landscape I am grateful. There is no pavement here to disconnect me from the land upon which I tread and no skyscrapers to encumber the view across the vastness. In this desert country I am able to feel. The harshness and the solace I experience here are humbling. I am able to connect with what is and what was. I realize and remember the gifts of the Great Spirit and the sacred quality of creation.
Just as the sand seems to find its way into every nook and cranny, every crack and crevice, it has also made its way into my blood. It has found its way into my soul. This land has fascinated and captivated the hearts and minds of many before me, and now I find myself as they did, powerless to its draw . . . just another desert lover.
John Bryant Baker is a freelance writer and photographer as well as a river guide, both in the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River and in West Virginia on the New and Gauley Rivers. In the winter, he's a high school teacher and wilderness therapy instructor who works specifically with kids dealing with addiction and self-destructive behaviors. You can read more from John Bryant on his blog, Time Well Spent.
By Emily Jovais, International Rivers
No other energy project has galvanized Chileans to action like HidroAysén–a proposal to build five dams on the pristine Baker and Pascua rivers in the Patagonia region. It has already triggered numerous debates and changes within Chile, and the final decision on the project, which will be made in less than one month, will continue to have far-reaching consequences beyond the dams themselves.
While HidroAysén is already affecting change, the final ruling on the legality of the project’s approval could set in motion vastly different courses for Chile. One that allows for more megadams and mining in Patagonia or one that leads to considerable environmental reform.
Editor’s note: Readers who’ve seen 180° South will be familiar with this issue. Read on for an update on the dams, and then please consider taking take action at the end.
Status of HidroAysén
Leading up to the presidential election, frontrunner and former President Michelle Bachelet made strong statements against the viability of HidroAysén. Her comments were followed by the announcement on January 7 that Endesa Chile, the majority owner of HidroAysén, removed the massive hydroelectric project from the list of active projects it presented to investors at the end of 2013, citing legal challenges and uncertainty surrounding the dams’ transmission line as reasons for this exclusion. The company quickly released a statement saying that is has not abandoned the project. However, the initial news sent shock waves of hope to activists.
On March 19—just eight days after taking office—the new Committee of Ministers under President Bachelet announced its resolution to invalidate the decision made by the Piñera administration in late January (to request additional studies to evaluate the impact of the dams) citing “illegal defects.” The Minister of the Environment, Pablo Badenier, announced that the Committee will not request additional studies but rather make a definitive ruling on the project’s environmental permit as it stands within 60 working days. International Rivers, along with our partners in the Consejo de Defensa de Patagonia (CDP), are hopeful and confident that the administration will respect the 60-day deadline and cancel the project on or before June 10 (60 working days from the announcement).
If HidroAysén’s Approval Stands
If appeals to the project are rejected and its environmental approval is upheld, many more megadam projects in the pipeline will likely be given the green light along with HidroAysén’s 1,180-mile-long transmission line. Two megadam projects on the Río Cuervo and the Futaleufú anxiously await the decision by the Committee of Ministers that will influence how they move forward. Proposed dams on the Río Cuervo and Futaleufú would likely utilize HidroAysén’s proposed transmission line to deliver energy to the northern part of the country where it’s needed. While an EIA for the transmission line has yet to be submitted, it will surely follow if the dams’ approval stands.
Endesa, which owns the water rights to the Futaleufú River, has mentioned plans for three dams on the river to investors and in company documents, although no EIA has been submitted. Organizations on the ground including Futaleufú Riverkeeper are working to provide legal support and mobilize community members in case the project does move forward.
The Río Cuervo Dam received its environmental approval in May 2012 under President Piñera. However, opponents appealed the decision claiming that the environmental permit was not legal. On April 4 of this year, a Chilean appeals court gave the green light to the US$733 million project ruling that the EIA met all necessary requirements—but the fight isn’t over. Environmental groups have appealed to the Supreme Court and are hopeful they will be successful in opposing the project.
In sum, HidroAysén would open an electrical highway that could lead to the approval of other dams further north to expand the system. In addition, as the first industrial-scale project in the region, approval would open the region to further exploitation including mining.
If HidroAysén is Canceled
Alternatively, putting an end to HidroAysén would send a strong signal that these kinds of destructive projects will not be tolerated in Patagonia. Combined with water rights reforms already underway, there is an opportunity to legally protect Patagonia for the long term. One group, Ríos to Rivers, is working to establish parts of Patagonia as UNESCO World Heritage sites to promote their long-term protection. In addition, my colleagues in the Consejo de Defensa de la Patagonia (CDP) hope to establish a law that would protect all rivers and surrounding areas in Patagonia from dam and mining threats similar to the protections in the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in the US.
If the project is rejected, it is always possible that HidroAysén will redesign and submit a new EIA. However, the momentum against the project may be insurmountable.
I strongly believe that we are on the brink of victory, thanks to the efforts of thousands of people around the world who have been making their voices heard for many years. I am hopeful that changes on the horizon will prevent projects like HidroAysén from seeing the light of day and protect Patagonia for generations to come. Please add your voice and send a letter to President Bachelet asking her to cancel the project once and for all.
Emily Jovais is a Program Assistant for International Rivers. "With a passion for environmental and social justice, I hope to support grassroots efforts and ensure that communities have the power to decide their future."
Rios Libres is a team of adventurers, photographers, writers, filmmakers and scientists working to keep Patagonia wild. Since 2010, they’ve been developing empowering, inspirational films and media, documenting the stunning beauty of pristine Patagonia, and tipping the scales in favor of conservation.
By Mike Thompson
“Push the button.”
“No, you push the button.”
“What the hell, push it Ellen!”
I knew I was going to be profiled as a narcotraficante even though the contraband I was trying to sneak past the customs officer was anything but drugs. In fact, it was several thousand dollars worth of fishing goodies to be given away at the Palometa Club, a fly fishing destination in Punta Allen, Mexico.
The lodge, named for the permit fish, was playing host to a fundraising tournament to benefit Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, as well as the community school. Somehow—it is now lost to memory—I agreed to act as a mule to carry the merchandise for my friend and client, David. Since the weight of the Patagonia fishing shirts, polarized sun glasses, rods and fly boxes more than exceeded the allowed weight limit, I conscripted my friend and neighbor, Ellen, to haul some of the stuff for me. She naively agreed.
[Above: Dark skies and rain shells, a sign of things to come. Photo: Matt Jones]Custom officials do not want to search every bag that comes into the country, so a system of random checks is used. Each traveler who has sworn, verbally and in writing, that he or she is not carrying anything like cigarettes, dope, $10,000 in cash, or merchandise that can be resold in Mexico, has one last official to deal with. It’s about duties, man! You gotta pay taxes on imports.
I knew that with my luck I would get busted right away, so since Ellen and I had our luggage all on one cart—and it was considerable as you might imagine—I wanted her to push the button. She did, and it was green. We were in! The customs agent probably figured we were married because of all the bickering over who would push the button, but she did her sworn duty and asked, “Are you married?”
“No, we aren’t married,” Ellen quickly replied. Oh sh*t! The agent looked at me and said, ”Empuje el button!” I did and, of course, it was red.
First, there is bad luck. Sometimes, however, it precedes a period of good luck. This was one of those times. After confirming that we had no cigarettes in the mountain of bags in front of him, which contained our personal fly fishing gear as well as the contraband, the inspection agent let us slide in with relatively easy questioning and no digging deeper than necessary into the depths of our bags.
Now I could concentrate on the task at hand. Patagonia had agreed to cosponsor the second annual Palometa Club Permit Tourney and, along with Mark Harbaugh, I was on my way to compete in it. (See the Palometa Club blog for details on the first event held last year.) After eight seasons in operation, the lodge has boated over 1,000 of, arguably, the most challenging saltwater fish that can be taken on a fly.
Punta Allen, as a place, has called to me like a Siren for much of my adult life. Two years ago, I returned there for the fourth time, fished with the guides of the Palometa Club, and finally caught a permit on a fly. Fly fishing for any saltwater game fish is a challenge, but the permit has risen to the top of the chart for some of us. It is a quest that mostly leads nowhere.
Theoretically, catching a permit on a fly is like any other type of fly fishing. You have to select the fly that most closely resembles something a fish wants to eat. It has to be presented close to the eye/mouth of said fish. The fish has to eat the offering. The angler has to set the hook (derisively called a trout set if that is what you are fishing for). The fish is then played (or fought) and brought to hand or net. After a suitable amount of time is spent photographing the prize, before release or placement on a stringer, the angler then has a few minutes to gloat, smoke a cigarette, relieve himself or engage in a myriad of other post-angling OCD rituals.
Catching a permit on the fly, however, takes a bit more ... obsession. Besides the fact that each of the above-mentioned steps must be followed, there is an additional challenge. The angler might not even see a permit after searching all day, even with two or three other sets of eyes trying to find one for you. No pressure. If and when you do get a chance to cast to a permit, there has been such a build-up of anticipation and anxiety that the probability of actually getting the fly close to the fish is pretty minimal.
There were six teams and one lone angler entered in the fray. They were a mix of physicians, lawyers, developers, IT wizards and the like. In a word, Achievers. Some of them had already had considerable experience fly fishing in salt water. Some of them had even caught permit. Most could cast a fly without embarrassing themselves when conditions were good. We were to fish for six days and the winning team would be determined by an esoteric formula conjured up by the tournament director. I didn’t give two hoots about the contest. I just wanted a chance at catching a fish.
From day one we knew a weather system was going to come into play—north wind, 25 to 40 knots on the day of arrival. Of course, no weather change comes in unheralded. Winds blew from the start. I always figure the first day of any weeklong trip is a throw away. Rusty casting, twisted lines, backing that hadn’t seen the light of day in years, knots that needed examination by the guides, the list goes on. That is why you have the first day, but this one was a classic. Where did that double haul get off to? Dang! That wind had no mercy. Were the guides thinking that I was as bad as I looked? So much angst, but it had to be exorcised. Then everything would be just peachy. The first day produced no fish by any team.
Days two and three were almost carbon copies of the shakedown day. Permit were hooked up by a couple of other anglers, but no fish were landed. The jitters hung on. Fish were broken off from setting the hook too hard or they were never completely hooked in the first place. Strip strike set or trout set, fish lost while been played too hard, loops of line tangled around reels and fighting butts. You name it, we all did some of it.
Fortunately, however, Mark and I each got more than the ubiquitous rejection slip. Now, to be truthful, we each lost fish by one or more of the above mentioned maladies, but on the second day luck paid our boat a visit. I landed a very nice fish with enough heft to restore some of my damaged self-esteem. Mark did his part and also put a fish in the boat (only long enough for the requisite fish kissing photo of course.) We had no idea that it would be another two days before anyone else would land a permit.
The fourth day was when we expected to have the norther, and it didn’t disappoint. What began as the calmest day I had ever seen there, ended in an epic, hours-long boat ride back to port. I like to call this the day of fear and self-loathing in Punta Allen. We should have seen it coming. The classic “red sky at morning, sailor take warning” was there for all to see, if they were up that early. Brad and I were up. He was finishing his run (what an overachiever), and I was drinking my first cup of coffee. We both said “red sky…” at the same time. The sailors were warned.
We did have a few hours of nice weather before all hell broke loose. Mark cast to, hooked and lost a really large permit. Rain- and lightning-filled clouds finally engulfed us and we beat it to a rendezvous with the other pangas, huddled in the lee of a small mangrove island. For centuries, Mayans have been fishing and living in this part of Ascension Bay, so weather is no surprise. A more protected return route existed, and we took it. There were no injuries save some rattled nerves and backbones. We got back after curfew, but the bar was still open, thankfully.
The final two days of the competition brought temperatures in the upper 60s, pretty cool for the tropics in April. On the first day, the fish fled the flats and very few were seen, much less cast to or caught. With one day to go, Mark and I were leading the tournament. The last day was gorgeous, perfect conditions, although still on the cool side. We knew fish were going to be caught.
Okay, so I’m not here to win a freaking tournament, but we were ahead. I had to shake it from my mind and become Zen-like, stay focused on casting while maintaining a true heart. But the nasty standings kept creeping into my mind. Oh, to recall that mantra I was given by the Maharishi so long ago. Damn! I couldn’t remember it for the life of me.
The guides had their radios on; Brad had caught a large fish. We were going to lose. So what? But it did matter. I was feeling greed, remorse and loathing at my lack of skill in closing the deal. Just let my thoughts be pure. Focus on the process not the prize. That didn’t work either.
I had another nice fish follow the fly, eat it and swim toward me but I didn’t get the hook set. That was it, we were done. Mark and I looked at each other and, after some other missed chances, we both agreed that permit fishing was just too crazy, frustrating and disappointing. Maybe we should just grab our tenkara rods and go back to catching small trout on beautiful rivers in Idaho. Yeah, that would be the ticket.
Holy crap! Our two fish, caught way back on the second day, scored just enough points to win us the tournament. We put our small-trout thoughts back where they belonged. We were salty anglers once again with high hopes for the future. No need to sell our heavy-duty fly rods and high-capacity reels. We were going to come back a year from now to defend our title.
Time to practice my double haul and remember that mantra.
This story would not be complete without a call out to the incredibly talented guide teams at the Palometa Club. We thank you for your patience and your ability to look the other way when our mistakes called for it.
Carlos y Aaron (Avatar)
Alonso y Fabian
Koriano y Toni
Jorge y Jonathan
Charlie (la garto) y Julio (Niño)
Gerardo y Julio
Fili y Christian.
Last but not least, a big thanks to Kaye and Dick Cameron, our hosts.
And for sure, David Leake, the director of the travel department at Tailwaters Fly Fishing Company in Texas also deserves mention for helping to pull this event together. In addition to representing many of the world's greatest angling destinations, Tailwaters Travel handles the sales and marketing and USA offices for the Palometa Club. Contact David if you'd like to book a trip to Ascension Bay.
Mike Thompson is a wholesale sales rep at Patagonia. Currently in his 35th year with the company, Mike took Yvon Chouinard on his first bone fish trip in 1986 to mystery island. Photo: Ellen Hatridge
A note from Patagonia CEO, Rose Marcario:
In the past month and a half, I’ve been watching DamNation really take off. It’s really not surprising—as a result of this amazing film, people are discovering dam removal is an issue they care about and they’re taking real action to push for change. We've seen it gaining momentum in recent weeks—great audience reception, positive press coverage, more than 23,500 petition signatures—and last week, the publication of an op-ed by Yvon Chouinard in The New York Times.
Check out Yvon’s piece below if you haven’t read it already.
In order to continue this great run, we need your help as messengers for DamNation and the critical argument it makes for the health of our rivers. In order for it truly to make an impact, we need to make sure President Obama sees that his constituents care about removing deadbeat dams—and they want him to act.
[Above: A painted crack and message on Glines Canyon Dam foreshadowed its removal over two decades later. Elwha River, Olympic National Park, Washington in a scene from DamNation. Photo: Mikal Jakubal]Please take a moment out of your day to do two things:
DamNation is the perfect example of a project Patagonia has undertaken simply because we believe in creating this kind of change in our world and we’re willing to use our brand as a platform to make it happen. The petition signatures will be delivered to the White House in the future as part of the serious conversation this film has sparked. I’m proud of all the incredible effort that has gone into this film—especially by the filmmakers, Ben Knight, Travis Rummel and Matt Stoecker, who have been on the road almost constantly showing audiences why dam removal matters.
Thanks for all your help,
A barge-mounted excavator hammers away at Glines Canyon Dam, the same one pictured above and the largest dam removal in U.S. history. Elwha River, Olympic National Park, Washington in a scene from DamNation. Photo: Ben Knight
The following op-ed first appeared in the May 8, 2014 edition of The New York Times.
Tear Down ‘Deadbeat’ Dams
By Yvon Chouinard
VENTURA, Calif. — OF the more than 80,000 dams listed by the federal government, more than 26,000 pose high or significant safety hazards. Many no longer serve any real purpose. All have limited life spans. Only about 1,750 produce hydropower, according to the National Hydropower Association.
In many cases, the benefits that dams have historically provided — for water use, flood control and electricity — can now be met more effectively without continuing to choke entire watersheds.
Dams degrade water quality, block the movement of nutrients and sediment, destroy fish and wildlife habitats, damage coastal estuaries and in some cases rob surrounding forests of nitrogen. Reservoirs can also be significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions.
Put simply, many dams have high environmental costs that outweigh their value. Removing them is the only sensible answer. And taking them down can often make economic sense as well. The River Alliance of Wisconsin estimates that removing dams in that state is three to five times less expensive than repairing them.
The message has been slowly spreading around the country. More and more communities and states have reclaimed rivers lost to jackhammers and concrete. Last year, 51 dams in 18 states were taken down, restoring more than 500 miles of streams, according to the group American Rivers. Nearly 850 have been removed in the last 20 years, and nearly 1,150 since 1912.
But the work is far from done. I was disappointed to see the Energy Department release a report last week on the potential to develop new “sustainable” hydroelectric dams on rivers and streams across the country. The report follows President Obama’s signing of two laws last year to encourage small hydro projects and revive nonproducing dams.
New dams are a bad idea. We’ve glorified them for decades, but our pride in building these engineering marvels has often blinded us to the environmental damage they cause. The consequences run the length of the river and beyond. Our many complex attempts to work around these obstacles would make Rube Goldberg proud. Interventions like fish elevators and trap-and-haul programs that truck fish around impoundments don’t lead to true recovery for wild fish populations or reverse the other environmental problems caused by blocking a river’s flow.
But we do know that removing dams brings streams and rivers back to life and replenishes our degraded aquifers.
A case in point is the Elwha River on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, where two hydroelectric dams built early in the last century exacted huge environmental costs but were no longer important as power generators. Salmon runs that once reached about 400,000 fish a year dropped to fewer than 3,000. A year after the Elwha Dam was removed, Chinook salmon returned to the river in numbers not seen in decades, with three-quarters of them observed spawning upstream of the former dam site. Today, the river runs free from its headwaters in Olympic National Park to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and a terrible wrong imposed on the salmon-dependent Lower Elwha Klallam tribe has been righted.
President Obama should learn from that example. Most urgently, he should turn his attention to the Snake River in eastern Washington, where four dams along its lower reaches provide marginal (and replaceable) electricity generation that is outweighed by the opportunities for the revival of endangered salmon populations, plus the jobs and communities a healthy salmon fishery would support. Those deadbeat dams should be taken down and added to the list of dams in the process of being removed along the White Salmon River in Washington, the Penobscot in Maine and the Klamath in southern Oregon.
I’ve been working to take down dams for most of my life. The idea, once considered crazy, is gaining momentum. We should seize it and push for the removal of the many dams with high costs and low or zero value. The environmental impacts are too enormous.
Time and again, I’ve witnessed the celebration that comes with the removal of an unnecessary dam. After a river is restored and the fish have returned you never hear a single person say, “Gee, I wish we had our dam back.”
Haven't seen the film yet? DamNation is coming to a town near you. Check the DamNation Screenings page for locations and ticket information. You can also preorder a digital copy of the film through Vimeo On Demand (release date: June 6, 2014).
By Annie Leonard
"There is no business to be done on a dead planet." –David Brower
Back in in the day, an activist colleague of mine liked to wisecrack that whenever corporations talked about environmental solutions everyone could live with, what they meant were "solutions" only a politically acceptable number of people would die from.
That is so 1980s! Sure, some businesses haven't changed; they're still trashing the planet, wreaking havoc on the climate and endangering our health with toxic chemicals. But those tired old assumptions that pollution is the inevitable price of progress, or that we have to choose between good jobs and a healthy environment, are increasingly outdated.
The late Ray Andson, a true visionary. Read our remembrance.
Today's changemakers know that there are real allies in the corporate world – smart, talented people who know how to get things done and have access to resources – and that the scale of the challenge before us demands that we must seek and find solutions not only in ourselves and in government but also in business. Not many companies have gone so far as Patagonia in declaring that they are in business "to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis." But more and more forward-thinking companies realize they can be environmentally and socially responsible and still make money. They're staking their futures (and the planet's) on new technologies, new models for their relationships with workers and their communities, and new ways of defining success.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not about to cozy up to Exxon Mobil, Dow Chemical or Monsanto. As Bill McKibben says, they're clinging to business models that are fundamentally at odds with the continued survival of life on this planet. Strong and unrelenting pressure – campaigns, protests, boycotts and legislation – must still be directed against them until they change. (And as the success of corporate and marketplace campaigns by organizations such as Rainforest Action Network or Corporate Accountability International shows, those tactics still work). But the trend is clear: Visionary companies that plan to stay in business are investing in a sustainable future. They know that the only way not to be part of the problem is to be part of the solution. They aren’t 100% there yet, but a good number are on the journey. Stay tuned and in the next installment, we’ll share strategies and actions that each of us can do to further support real solutions among our businesses today.
Annie Leonard is the founder of the The Story of Stuff Project and the new executive director of Greenpeace USA. She has dedicated nearly two decades to investigating and organizing on environmental health and justice issues. Her monthly podcast series, The Good Stuff, features interviews with inspiring activists, entrepreneurs, scientists and others who’ve succeeded in making change.
Read the entire Solutions series:
Solutions Series, Part 1: Babies in the River
Solutions Series, Part 2: Solutions in Our Communities
Solutions Series, Part 3: Dive In
Solutions Series, Part 4: Solutions in Business
Solutions Series, Part 5: coming soon
Committed. It’s a word we use to describe people we know, our friends, even ourselves. Committed to a sport. A ski line. An ethic. A lifestyle. It can be relatively easy to commit to those daily or short-term goals. But carving out time to achieve a bigger dream, something that may take weeks or months, even years, it can feel really hard to take that first step – to even know what that first step is. And sometimes, the very goal we set for ourselves can define the duration of our commitment. Twelve years ago, Pablo Garcia left Argentina to pedal around the world. And he’s still pedaling.
Visit dirtbagdiaries.com for links to past episodes, featured music and to pledge your support. You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, RSS, SoundCloud and Stitcher, or connect with the Dirtbag Diaries community on Facebook and Twitter. The Dirtbag Diaries is a Duct Tape Then Beer production.
[Graphic by Walker Cahall]
By Colin Pile & Alison Kelman
Here in the northeast spring is finally here. Flowers are blossoming, the birds are back, and we can finally peel off our winter layers and soak up a little sun. Still, even a month after we’ve returned, a part of us is still in Patagonia. In February and March of this year, Alison and I spent three weeks volunteering with Conservacion Patagonica. We both work for Patagonia, Inc., an outdoor clothing company with a commitment to responsible business and creating solutions to the environment crisis. Though we’d never met in person before our trip, our work connection made us feel like old friends once we joined the rest of our volunteer group in the park.
Patagonia, the company, took its name from Patagonia, the place, born from the desire to make clothing and gear suitable for such wild terrain. Patagonia’s partnership with Conservacion Patagonica allowed us the opportunity to take that trip-of-a-lifetime. Each year, a select few employees have the chance to take some time away from their work and volunteer with a non-profit environmental organization (up to two months!), secure in the knowledge they have a job to return to after it’s all done.
[Above: The soon-to-be Patagonia National Park. Photo: Colin Pile]
In the middle of last decade the Estancia Valle Chacabuco, a 173,000 acre former sheep ranch that covered the bulk of the Chacabuco Valley in southern Chile’s Aysen region, was purchased by Conservacion Patagonica. The estancia sat between two protected areas, Tamango and Jeinimeini National Reserves, and itself had been identified as a key area for conservation. The land, though, suffered from decades of overgrazing, and fencing from former pasturelands – over 400 miles worth – disrupted the natural landscape. Conservacion Patagonica set about with a multi-pronged conservation approach: restoring habitat, protecting existing biodiversity, and engaging with the local community, all with the long-term goal of linking the three areas to create a Patagonia National Park that would be managed by the Chilean government with a higher level of protection for the entire area.
In 2005, seeing a need for help, Patagonia, Inc. sent its first group of employee volunteers to Chile to lend some manual labor. They pulled fences that blocked the natural movement of the valley’s wildlife, and removed non-native plants to restore the ecosystem. Nearly a decade later, Conservacion Patagonica’s volunteer program has expanded to five three-week sessions a year, with volunteers traveling from all over the world to contribute their time in the park. Patagonia, the company, still sponsors several employees a year who are willing and able to make the trip.
This year, Patagonia, Inc. volunteers included the two of us – Alison Kelman (Washington D.C.) and Colin Pile (New York, Meatpacking) – as well as Maureen Kent (Salt Lake City), Beth Sullivan (Dillon), Richard Thornton (Austin), Fredric White (New York, Meatpacking), Hannah Whitney (Salt Lake City), and Lisa Kinigadner (Munich).
We were the last group of volunteers to come through the program this year, which had its pros and cons. Pro: Projects at the estancia seemed to be winding down for the season, making for high morale and a lighter workload. Con: We had the last of the provisions allotted for the season, meaning luxuries like apples and granola were bartered like gold, and lentils were all too abundant.
The rest of our volunteer group consisted of group leader Nico, from Buenos Aires, a married couple taking a year off to travel South America, a certified yoga instructor who’d spent the last three months in Bali, and a student from Santiago on her first big outdoor adventure. We spent a couple days getting oriented and touring the park before heading out.
Our first campsite lay at the base of a moraine, which provided 180-degree views of the sun setting across the valley. Within walking distance, the mighty Chacabuco River (approximately 10-feet wide and not too deep this late in the summer) provided some much needed baths after a hot day of cutting Cicuta. The level grassland was also perfect for daily morning yoga sessions with our resident yogi/volunteer Erica Stanulis.
Our mission for the first half of our stay was to remove exotic plant species from one section of the park. Thistle, lamb’s ear, and Cicuta were our main targets. Their seeds tend to travel along the road, carried by livestock or vehicles. The purple thistle flowers and yellow lamb’s ear blooms were easy to spot, but it was the never-ending groves of tall, fibrous Cicuta that nearly broke us. You could spend an hour freeing a cluster of trees, only to round the corner to find another grove 20-feet wide. While the Cicuta felt like an uphill battle, a day and a half of cutting down small pine trees provided some sorely needed measurable progress. Unlike other invasives that traveled to the park on their own, the pines were planted by previous landowners with the intention of harvesting and selling them.
After a couple well-earned rest days at park headquarters (hot meals and dessert every night at the restaurant!), we headed to the other side of the valley to our next backcountry campsite. Our second mission was to remove three kilometers of barbed wire fence, set farther up the mountains on the north side of the park. Here, the winds blew stronger and the sun beat stronger, but we were determined to take down the entire length of fence within the week.
We worked through the end-of-summer heat, winding barbed wire and kicking down posts, while enjoying stunning views of the valley to the tune of an aviary of parakeets and the rotund and curious Wet Wet bird (“Wet! Wet!”). By day three, the infamous Patagonia winds picked up, breaking or blowing away three tents. Miraculously, we pushed through a day early, celebrating back at the estancia with some cold beer and a lamb asado.
As our small group disbanded after three weeks together in the wild – to head home, or back to school, or with more travels ahead – we had a shared sense of wonder and amazement at having spent this time together in such a unique part of the world. We each came for our own reasons, and left knowing the collective work we had done would last well past our short stay. In telling the story of our volunteer group, we hope to encourage and inspire the next round of park volunteers, visitors and supporters to see this amazing area firsthand for themselves, to find their own adventure, and contribute to its protection in their own way.
Heading to Patagonia? Want to help? The application deadline for 2014-2015 volunteers is right around the corner. Apply before June 1, 2014 at Conservacion Patagonica. Prospective visitors can also learn more about the park.
Colin Pile is the store manager at Patagonia’s retail store in New York City’s Meatpacking District. He also contributed to our 2012 Bike to Work Week wrap-up, Celebrating Bike to Work Week 2012 - Cheddar, Challenge, Cold & Cops.
Alison Kelman is the environmental programs and events coordinator at Patagonia’s Washington DC retail store. Check out Alison's previous post, From the Front Lines: 50,000 Join the Biggest Climate Rally in U.S. History.
This story first appeared on the Conservacion Patagonica blog.
Surf meets snow this Saturday at Mt. Bachelor with the 4th Annual Big Wave Challange. This one-of-a-kind contest – the brainchild of host Gerry Lopez – features a series of huge sweeping banked corners, quarter pipes and spines shaped into wave-like features for a flowing course that brings the surf to the mountain. And you can watch it all right here.
Live stream: Saturday, April 25, 2014, ~9:30am PT until it ends
Let Gerry tell you more about the event in the video above and then hit the jump to watch the live stream.
The average American spends a third of their income on housing. Almost as much as the next two greatest expenses — food and transportation — combined. So, theoretically, if you just stopped paying for housing, you could earn a living working three days a week. Or two thirds of the year.
Today, we bring you a story about the pursuit of snow, world domination and cheap rent. It’s imperfect. It comes with inconveniences. Trade-offs. But, at the end of the day, what would you rather trade in? Convenience? Or time spent chasing down dry rock or fluffy snow?
[Graphic by Walker Cahall]
Sailing around the world isn’t new. Historians recently learned that Chinese merchant ships in the latter 15th century, which were grander, faster, and better equipped than Spanish and Portuguese fleets (Magellan, Columbus, Gama, etc.), used trading routes that vary today only because of the Suez and Panama Canals. These canals eliminate the need to navigate the treacherous Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn, respectively.
Today, we call these routes the “milk run.” When you start at X and sail to Y, there is a very sensible time of year to do it and a very sensible course to take advantage of winds and currents. This is true for all vessels of every size and type. To get away from the milk run takes a lot more effort, skill, patience, fortitude and, yes, imagination – which is, of course, why it’s worth it. It may be true that the oceans of the world have been mapped, but that doesn’t mean they have been properly explored.
[Above: Finding a barrel at the bottom of the world.]Enter the Cabrinha Quest. On a 14-year mission to find remote wind and waves on a series of blue-water kitesurfing and surfing expeditions – during which we’ve sailed around the world twice – I have taken considerable pride in escaping the milk run as often as possible, including rounding both of those notorious capes (where pride manifests in pain!). Our latest expedition, in partnership with Cabrinha Kites, launched in September 2012 – a five-year seafaring quest to explore the most remote corners of the globe.
In four previous crossings of the Pacific, a kaleidoscopic wistful throng of islands has captivated my imagination but they have always been just too far out of reach. To get there would require a longer crossing than I have ever sailed, nearly all of it in open ocean below 40 degrees south – a band of latitudes known as the “Roaring 40s” and “Screaming 50s” for the unhindered westerly winds that rake unending around Antarctica. It’s a cold, lonely, impossibly large and wild place with no hope of support if something goes wrong.
So this year we went. 5,000 miles. 28 days at sea. Three days with visible sun. Water temps down to 6 degrees Celsius. Not a single sighting of another boat. Not a single fish caught. But at the end of it all stretched the ultimate prize: 1,000 miles of granite peaks encased in ice and snow, uncountable uninhabited untouched islands, glaciers that descend to a dark ocean bustling with strange fish and sea creatures, fjords that wander for miles and miles in a never-ending maze of lushness and plenty, waterfalls cascading from gray clouds into heavy mist, virgin forests with pancake-shaped leaves the size of large trucks dripping with eternal rain hanging over crystal clear lattices of geothermal pools. Patagonia. Where God possibly imbibed in some supernatural LSD and applied his watercolors by hand instead of brush.
The decision to come here has been in the works for years but the tipping point was reached only very recently. In our efforts to operate the Cabrinha Quest in a sustainable manner we teamed up with the uber-eco-conscious Patagonia clothing company. Yvon Chouinard named his company Patagonia after he fell in love with the region during a climbing trip with Doug Tompkins in the ‘60s. It seemed only fitting to bring some of the Patagonia crew to the place where it all started. In a small twist, we’d be going by sea instead of land.
Yvon’s son Fletcher, FCD’s board shaper and kite and surf addict; Jason McCaffrey, Patagonia’s surf brand manager; and Patagonia ambassadors Reo Stevens and Jason Slezak arrive on the docks in Puerto Montt right on time for a planned 10-day push deep into the fjords where we hope to surf waves that had never been ridden. Distances are vast, and we must carefully plan all movement around the tides. They range more than four meters on springs and neaps and create currents that turn narrow passes into raging whitewater rivers, which makes traveling heedless of their strength quite ill advised.
I am anxious to get started immediately.
But only one set of bags has arrived. An ice storm in Dallas has sent the bags to airline purgatory and we are told they might arrive “mañana,” or “mañana mañana,” or possibly “mañana mañana mañana.” ¿Pero quien sabes? Indeed. Who knows?
If we were in the tropics, not having bags would have very little impact. We have plenty of gear on board, surfboards and kites bulging out of every storage compartment on our 60-foot catamaran, Discovery. The fridge and freezer are stocked with every imaginable seafood delicacy compliments of the rich waters that surround Puerto Montt, the gateway port to Patagonia. But the water here hovers around 10 degrees Celsius. Without proper wetsuits, water activities will be considerably curtailed.
We study charts and Google Earth and come up with a plan B, and a Plan C, D, and E, depending on which mañana.
On an ebb tide we slide away from the docks at an absurd speed. With no wind and no sails we travel twice as fast as we should under power. The ocean is dark. I’m used to the translucent water of the tropics where reefs are as visible as billboards on the freeway. Here they lurk invisible in frigid water. At high tide they pass below our keels with plenty of room to spare. As the tide drops they rise above the surface like erupting volcanoes: dry, sharp, gnarled and twisted. They are a mirror of our surroundings.
We are near the winter solstice, which, this far south, means our days stretch impossibly long. Each morning we are enveloped in a dense still fog, but the sun eventually wins the battle for space and wet decks and chilly bodies are warmed generously. I can’t help but feel like this place is actually sucking in geological-sized breaths. Each day the forests and mountains take a huge inhalation, pulling in the fresh ocean air and sending a myriad of birds into the sky. Eventually, still waters and still air are whisked into strong laminar winds which we use to travel fast and far. As the sun sets, the mountains and streams and trees get their fill and they exhale, giving back to the ocean what they swept away so it can all begin again. The same pace sets in on board the boat. Why fight what Mother Nature has performed so perfectly?
We use the days without gear to wander up and down coastlines and bays, following the afternoon winds, seeking waves. The travels are stunning to be sure, but the odds are not in our favor. At one tide level we could sail right past a potential break that is totally flat, where no obvious wave exists, but in two hours, with a meter less water, it could be pumping. Persistence and considerable luck pay off when the bags arrive just in time for a solid WSW swell that comes to us from Antarctic waters and we are in position.
We settle into the same pace as our surroundings. Every living thing is taking in and using as much as it can. Light, water, food, air. We do the same but we add recreation. Yet even in this pursuit we are not alone. Boobie birds play and bathe in tidal pools; huge colonies of sea lions lounge in the sun without a care in the world and even surf some of the waves that we ride; terns soar cliff walls, using the sea breeze to stay aloft, clearly enjoying the freedom of flight just for the fun of it.
At first glance Patagonia seems to have escaped man’s incessant demands for resources. But look closer and the picture isn’t so rosy. Salmon aren’t native to Chile, but salmon farms are ubiquitous. The industry has been at the heart of fierce environmental opposition. They are ecologically filthy, pose a huge threat to native fish, and ultimately have been found to be a very unhealthy food source. Once-free-flowing, glacier-fed rivers that attracted paddlers from around the world have now been dammed to power mega-mines in the north.
When the swell dies we sail down Renihue Fjord to Parque Pumalin, in the heart of The Conservation Land Trust, created by Doug and Kristine Tompkins – now the largest in the world at over two million acres. The land has been set aside for conservation and their organization is teaching the locals that the economy in the long run will benefit more from leaving the land alone than exploiting it for short-term use. Beekeeping, ecological restoration, sustainable farming and fishing, and park creation are all part of the overarching goal: saving biodiversity.
No adjectives are descriptive enough to do this place justice. Powerful is the only one that comes close. Hungry? Grab a bucket and fill it in a minute with succulent mussels. Or grab a fly rod and land a fish from the sparkling river that runs through the property. An organic garden feeds all the staff. Chickens fertilize, bees pollinate, goats provide milk, and the cattle look like they’ve won the heifer lottery. Sustainability in action, all at the foot of one of the grandest and most picturesque places I’ve ever witnessed.
I’m traveling with people who, like me, are concerned about the state of the planet. This trip wasn’t necessary to change anyone’s mind. We are the choir, no preaching necessary. Call us liberal, or progressive, or tree-huggers or maybe something even less endearing, but regardless of where you stand and what you think of issues like global warming or our overburdened planet, you can’t come to a place like Patagonia and go home unchanged.
I notice this change in our final days. Everyone takes a little more time to himself or herself. Everyone is a little more contemplative. Everyone is taking a closer look around. Everyone’s eyes shine differently and are a little more alive than they were when they got on board. I can’t help but think that we, and by WE I mean all of humanity, are a reflection of our environment. In Patagonia, you start to really like what you see in the mirror. Time isn’t read on a watch, it’s logged by the passing of the sun and moon. Food isn’t processed and shipped, it’s caught or foraged and eaten fresh. Movement is dictated by the weather, not a schedule. Exercise dictates sleep instead of an alarm clock.
Is it a stretch to say that if we subject ourselves to traffic, pollution, unpronounceable food additives, poorly built homes, pesticides and the myriad of other “advancements” that have made our lives “better” that we are moving in the wrong direction? We don’t have this conversation on the boat, but this is what we’re all thinking about. And this is a stretch, but try if you can to imagine that our world, the world we all share, was once like Patagonia everywhere.
Gavin McClurg is the CEO of Offshore Odysseys and founder of The Best Odyssey and The Cabrinha Quest. He grew up on boats in the Pacific Northwest and commercially fished in the Bering Sea before getting into sailing in the mid ‘90s. You can keep up with Gavin and The Cabrinha Quest on Facebook and Instagram. Check out his previous post, “The Higher You Get, The Higher You Get – A Paragliding Journey in the Pioneer Mountains.”
Jody MacDonald is an award-winning adventure sport and documentary photographer. She says she's more comfortable snowboarding than wearing a dress and way happier surfing than going to the mall. You can follow her work and travels on Facebook, Instagram and JodyMacDonaldPhotography.com.
It’s been a month since DamNation made its world premiere at SXSW in Austin, Texas. First and foremost, we would like to thank all of the people who’ve come out to see our film. Your support is greatly appreciated. Moving forward, we have a bunch of news and some important action alerts to share, so let's get to it.
America’s Most Endangered Rivers 2014
When, as a young man, DamNation co-producer Matt Stoecker witnessed migrating steelhead jump at, and bounce off, Stanford University’s Searsville Dam on San Francisquito Creek, he recognized the destructive power a single dam can have on an entire watershed and beyond. Matt is now a fish biologist, who has since spearheaded the removal of more than a dozen such barriers to migration and is actively involved in efforts to dismantle several others. When he and Patagonia founder/owner Yvon Chouinard, a long-time “dam buster” who for years has supported groups working to tear down dams, decided to capture such efforts and their healing effects on film, and share them with the world, they teamed up with Felt Soul Media’s Ben Knight and Travis Rummel, and DamNation was born.
Today, American Rivers announced their annual list of America's 10 Most Endangered Rivers and we’re happy to see San Francisquito Creek and Searsville Dam coming in at number five. San Francisquito Creek is the only nominee with a problem dam to be recognized by American Rivers this year. Making the list of most endangered rivers certainly isn’t a cause for celebration, but it’s a big deal in the river community and should bring national and local attention to the efforts that are underway to remove Searsville Dam.
[Above: Searsville Dam on San Francisquito Creek, California. Stanford releases no flows downstream for fish and wildlife and the stagnant creek dries out and becomes lethal to the threatened steelhead that are blocked at the base of the concrete wall. Photo: Matt Stoecker]Unfortunately, it remains unclear whether Stanford University will remove their unneeded Searsville Dam and upgrade to a more reliable, sustainable and safer water system. The university is studying alternatives, including dam removal, and has promised to make a decision by the end of the year. Numerous examples throughout the country have proven that when a dam is removed, migratory fish quickly reestablish themselves above the barrier, often within weeks. Invasive species populations from the reservoirs are significantly reduced and water quality and habitat improve. Communities are made safer and the liability risk for dam owners is eliminated.
A pair of wild steelhead spawn below the impassable Searsville Dam in 2013. Multiple adult steelhead and their eggs died as upstream diversions and lack of access to perennial streams above the dam contributed to trapping these federally threatened fish in a dewatered creek. Watch a video of these two fish spawning. Photo: Doug Rundle
Streams merge in the headwaters of San Francisquito Creek where open space preserves have protected much of the watershed and provide ideal habitat conditions for steelhead and other native species to return to if only Stanford University would let them. Photo: Matt Stoecker
Running through downtown Palo Alto and Menlo Park, San Francisquito Creek harbors one of the last wild steelhead runs in the San Francisco Bay. However, Stanford's Searsville Dam blocks them from reaching critical year round streams, leaving the next generation to wonder who is responsible for the deaths of threatened steelhead in the creek. Photo: Mike Lanza
As a business member of the Beyond Searsvile Dam coalition, who is leading the charge, we urge Stanford to show leadership as environmental stewards and choose an alternative that will remove Searsville Dam, restoring this ecologically significant creek while protecting local residents from flooding and safety concerns.
Tour Schedule & Screenings Update
A redesigned version of DamNationFilm.com was launched recently, and with it comes a full list of upcoming screenings. Newport, Rhode Island; Missoula, Montana; Portland, Oregon and Carbondale, Colorado will round out our film festival screenings in April. Looking ahead, the film will have its theatrical release on May 9 in New York at the IFC Center, followed by a release on May 16 in Los Angeles at the Laemmle NoHo 7. The theatrical release is coupled with a nine-city tour of one-night film premieres in select markets in April and May, and a nationwide screening event at all U.S. Patagonia retail stores on June 5.
Vimeo On Demand
DamNation is proud to be partnering with Vimeo On Demand to bring our film to your computer, laptop, tablet and smartphone. Preorders are being accepted now for DamNation’s digital release on June 6, 2014. And if you like DamNation, you’ll want to check out the Patagonia Collection at Vimeo On Demand. Curated by Patagonia and Vimeo, this collection of online films showcases Earth’s elegance, strength and fragility.
Visit Vimeo on Demand to see the Patagonia Collection and preorder your digital copy of DamNation.
Two Film Festivals, Two Awards for DamNation
We’re thrilled to announce that DamNation won the SXSW Film 2014 Audience Award in the Documentary Spotlight category, and the Documentary Award for Environmental Advocacy (and a $10,000 cash prize), at the 2014 Environmental Film Festival in Washington, D.C. The filmmakers express their gratitude to festivalgoers for the positive reception, celebrating the news as a sign that the urgent issue of dam removal is resonating and will continue to build momentum as the film tours across the country.
“Premiering DamNation at SXSW was a dream come true for Travis and I, and a dream come true for the film,” said co-director Ben Knight. “I honestly can't even wrap my head around the fact that we won the audience award yet, it feels very surreal. I could feel an energy build during the film at our screenings in Austin; our audiences were just amazing.”
“After pouring ourselves into DamNation, it is incredible to see the film resonate so deeply with our audiences,” said co-director Travis Rummel. “We’re so appreciative to Patagonia for trusting us with the creative freedom needed to bring this critical story to life.”
“The health of our rivers impacts all of us, and we have too many degraded rivers with unnecessary and obsolete dams,” said co-producer Matt Stoecker. “It’s so encouraging to see audiences connect with our film and help us build momentum to free our rivers.”
Window detail and a peek inside Patagonia Austin. Photo: Jared Tennant
We had a packed house at the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital, productive meetings with top policymakers and government officials about our Crack Down on Deadbeat Dams petition, and we won the Environmental Advocacy Award. Washington D.C. was good to us. Photo: Ben Knight
Iceland is a land of extremes – stark beauty within a harsh, unforgiving landscape and an equally daunting climate. Volcanoes are still erupting, earthquakes are nearly constant, yet the geothermal water provides Iceland with most of its energy needs and natural hot springs ease the cold of winter. Eleven percent of the country is covered with glaciers. Sighting of the aurora borealis is common. The coast is dotted with steep cliffs, overhung by glaciers and blasted by wind off the ocean. Yet over 300 species of birds nest in these cliffs, eider ducks (think eiderdown) float in the ocean and the fishery is Iceland’s largest source of income.
In such a stark and dramatic landscape, it is easy to imagine events being controlled by the Norse gods. In fact, on our quest for virgin ice climbs, we too felt their power – one in particular: Loki the trickster, deceiver, god of chaos.
[Above: Sunrise over the fjord. Photo: Kitty Calhoun]Upon arrival in Reykjavik, we proceeded straight to our rental car company, SAD cars. I thought I had reserved a large 4x4 to carry the four of us – Jay Smith, John Catto, Beth Goralski and myself – plus our eight 50-pound duffel bags, four 20-pound day packs, and two weeks of groceries – into the hinterland. There must have been some miscommunication and a small SUV made for city streets awaited us – the large off-road vehicles were not available. After much consternation, we loaded up an old 4WD Nissan wagon, whose front doors had been hammered loose by the formidable Icelandic wind. To muffle the roar of wind prying through, we slammed the doors on our towels, which proceeded to batter the roof as we cruised down the narrow road leading north.
Obviously, if there was information available, we would not have headed to the North Central Peninsula. But this is a land of unknowns, a land of secrets. Not much of the ice has been discovered and our hunch was that the greatest concentration of hidden gems was in the heart of the steepest, most jagged mountains. Thus, after two days in the car, winding our way around every crease in the fjords, we arrived in Dalvík, the ski capital of Iceland. Armed with a half-dozen topo maps, we hoped that we might pry some secrets from local UIAGM mountain guide, JB. I closed my eyes and prayed as he called friends in each part of the country and, in Icelandic, asked for their permission to give us clues to where we might find the goods. We received their blessings but, to our chagrin, learned that ice climbs in this country do not form in the mountains, but rather on cliffs capped by a plateau. Deceived once again, we assumed positions in the SAD car and reset our sights on the Westfjords – the least visited region in all of Iceland.
It was precisely halfway along a snow-drifted section of road, in a white-out and three hours from the last town, that we found ourselves contemplating abandoning the SAD car in search of a more suitable bivouac.
“I’m sorry ya’ll, but there is no way we are going to make it,” I said in a defiant voice. Somebody had to speak up and as the most conservative, adamant member of our group, I volunteered.
I felt relieved when Jay, who had made a valiant attempt to ram through walls of snow, supported me. “Yeah, I’m sorry we have spent so many days in the car, but I don’t think we are going to make it either.” I felt bad because he was feeling responsible not only for getting photos, but also for ensuring a productive trip.
John, a veteran filmmaker for National Geographic, offered, “We might be able to get in that abandoned gas station we just left.”
“Yeah, if worse comes to worse, we can sleep in the car.” I looked over at Beth, a 5’8” lanky blonde who was always smiling. She had the least experience in the group but was up for anything.
“I’d rather not,” I said with a solemn face, which betrayed my satisfaction in feeling that I had made the right choice to invite Beth, even though I barely knew her.
I pulled out my cell phone and in a last ditch effort, called my friend Runar, on the other end of the Westfjords, for help. He explained that neither plows, nor planes, nor ferries operate on Saturdays. He was on his way to a party, to celebrate the Feast of Thor, featuring traditional Icelandic fare such as marinated shark and rams’ testes. After a few phone calls, he found a farmhouse a mile back, to which we could retreat. Holed up in this place of refuge, with a hot tub, I marveled at our circumstances. Ancient lore would have attributed them to Loki, who ensnared everyone in complicated problems, to which he always supplied a remedy – though his solution often engendered even greater troubles.
The following day, the storm relented and we ventured along the coast to Patreksfjörður, a small fishing town, where we met Valle, “gatekeeper” to the Westfjords ice climbs. Having been duly chastised by Runar for not warning us about the snowplow holiday, he more than made up for it by leading us over two more passes to the Land of Promise.
A single lane gravel road followed the shoreline. On one side of the road lay narrow, golden-sand beaches, lapped by long, smooth wave sets. Further out in the fjord, a research boat explored the sea, gathering data to determine its capacity for farmed salmon, most of which is sold to Whole Foods. On the other side of the road, a carpet of moss led to snow-covered slopes and small cirques or valleys lined with vertical black cliffs. Snowmelt on the plateau above generously provided so many frozen lines that we were awestruck.
For our first climbs, the four of us naively picked out two new routes that looked like good warm-ups – not too hard, maybe WI 4. I offered the first lead to Beth, as she was keen and I was feeling generous. However, I started wondering what the problem was as I observed increasing evidence of her getting pumped – hacking at the ice, long pauses when she rapidly alternated shaking out each arm, and she had placed every screw on the rack.
As I followed the pitch, I realized that we had been tricked again. This was far from being a warm-up. It was a difficult WI 5! I had forgotten that the warm winds sculpt and polish the ice until there is nothing left but hollowed out caves and overhanging faces, devoid of any sweet spots to place your tools, or grooves to stem. Jay and John experienced the same deception and we all went home that night feeling elated that we just climbed two new routes, but also reminded that all was not as it appeared.
The next morning, we set off to the same cirque to climb the next two hardest lines. At the base, Jay and John didn’t feel up for their route yet, so they decided to climb an easy pitch to get above and shoot me leading the hard route. As I waited on them to get into position, questions started to fill my head. Why am I doing this? Who even cares? Is it worth it? If I pump out before getting in a screw, the resulting fall could result in serious injury. How many years can a person keep redlining the stress meter before burning out? Will I ever be satisfied?
My thoughts were interrupted by Beth’s voice: “On belay.” John and Jay were ready to shoot. We were in an ice cave at the base of the steep ice. I looked around the column and up toward a large mushroom which blocked the entrance onto the smooth, slightly overhanging face above. Beth was apologizing for the big snarl we had just untangled from the double ropes. The thought, “Pride goeth before a fall,” entered my head.
I turned to Beth and said, “Don’t worry about it.” She smiled.
Then I took some deep breaths. Either my strength had to come from me – or else from God. I chose God. A calm confidence settled over me and that made all the difference. If it weren’t for this peace, I could have easily panicked when the ice continued to shatter as I tried to find a purchase for my tool over the mushroom. Panic tends to rapidly suck the remaining strength from throbbing forearms. The hand can no longer grip the tool enough to guide and accurate swing. As a last ditch effort, one starts to fumble for a screw, knowing there isn’t enough strength to place it. The mind races: What do I do? What do I do?
But the panic never came. Relaxing, trusting, and climbing precisely, I made it over the mushroom and up the gravity-defying face. Maybe climbing was an opportunity to test and to build trust. The ancient people believed that warriors trained in Valhalla for Ragnarok, the last great battle, the day of judgment.
After six days of climbing, we completed eight new routes and partially completed two others, most of which were two pitches long, WI4-5+. Of all my leads, the first one was the most difficult, the most complicated for me. That’s why I named it Loki.
By Patch Wilson
Growing up in Cornwall, in the UK, it’s easy to feel blessed when you’re young. I thought we had the best waves ever, and in some ways it’s true. When you’re a kid, the waves at home are all you really need. But quickly the realization sets in – as you get a bit bigger and aren’t so scared of what the ocean can throw at you – you want more.
I‘ve travelled to the other end of the planet to get my fix of heavier hollower waves. But over the last 10 years or so I have come to realize that what I’m really looking for is right on my doorstep.
Here are some photos from a trip I did earlier in the year around the UK and Ireland.
[Above: Scotland, in my opinion, has some of the best waves in Europe but it gets cold in the winter. Changing out of your wetsuit can literally be a race to get into your warm car as quickly as possible. All photos by Patch Wilson unless otherwise stated.]
This wave is 30 minutes away from where I grew up in Cornwall. On either side there are two other equally good waves on their day. It’s funny, when I’m traveling and I tell people where I am from their next question generally is, “Do you really get waves there?” To which I reply, “No, not really.”
Aileens last winter. We had a really good run of swell and offshore wind patterns late last winter which is pretty rare for the west coast of Ireland. We had some amazing late afternoon surfs with beautiful light. Photo: Al Mackinnon
Sunrise in Scotland. In winter, the sun only comes up for about eight hours max and it sits really low in the sky. This leads to some unbelievable sunrises – always a good way to start a freezing morning.
This is Crab Island on the west coast of Ireland. This wave is currently under threat from a pier development project that is definitely going to ruin the inside point at Doolin and could put backwash through the lineup at Crab Island. At the moment, things are really not looking good for this wave. You can keep track of what is happening at Save the Waves.
By Kira Hoffman
As I paddle out into the morning fog of Pruth Bay, I can’t imagine a better way to commute to work. Alongside me are my two research assistants, Julia and Owen, with big smiles on their faces. On days like this, work and fun are interchangeable, and we’re thankful for the one-hour kayak before a sweaty, bug-suited bushwhack up the side of a mountain to get to our office: The Bog.
The three of us are working in the Hakai Luxvbalis Conservancy, located on Calvert Island in the heart of British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest. (You may have seen the Great Bear in Groundswell – it’s one of the areas threatened by the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project.) Established as a reserve almost twenty years ago, the Great Bear is home to wolves, grizzly and spirit bears, an amazing array of marine life and one of the largest remaining tracts of temperate rainforest in the world. The reserve extends from the northern tip of Vancouver Island to the Alaska Panhandle, and we’re right in the center of it.
[Above: There's real beauty to be found in the bog. Sphagnum rubellum and Sphagnum papillosum. All photos courtesy of Kira Hoffman]The studies I do are based out of the Hakai Beach Institute, a privately run research station on Calvert Island owned by Eric Peterson and Christina Munck. Born and raised on the B.C. coast, Eric was originally a research scientist, then, for many years, a technology entrepreneur, most notably in the field of medical imaging. In 2001, Eric and Christina formed the self-funded, non-profit Tula Foundation. One of the Foundation’s ventures was to turn a failing sportfishing lodge into the Hakai Beach Institute, molding it into a center for research, teaching and community leadership. The many scientists who work here now survey everything from the seafloor to the mountaintops, attempting to understand what’s happened here in the last 15,000 years and what might happen in the future as our coast faces a rapidly changing climate.
The thick fog blankets the bay and we hug the shore, knowing there isn’t much stopping us from making a wrong turn and ending up in Japan. We pass several eagles perched in cedar trees, watching and waiting for the fish to jump. The fog is cool and we hope it burns off so we get to experience a few hours of sun, a rare thing on this wet coast.
We arrive at a place called Wolf Beach, come ashore and store our kayaks for the day. It takes the three of us some time to carry our kayaks above the high tide line – the tides in this region average about 15 feet and you don’t want to a) see your kayak floating out to sea or, b) have to drag your kayak a mile across the mud of a drained-out bay.
With the boats safely stowed, we spend the better part of an hour hiking – and sometimes crawling – through deep ravines and scrub forest before breaking into an open bog up high. The bogs in this region are a mosaic of rolling marshy topography intermingled with bonsai-like trees and large, mossy hummocks. They’re generally not considered glamorous places – quite often the beauty is lost to swarming blackflies, the smell of rotting plants, and the threat of waist-deep soakers.
Despite the cold weather, we’re drenched in sweat from hiking in gumboots, rain pants and bug suits. We’ve almost perfected navigating with thin black veils covering our faces, but someone usually falls victim to a misjudged step, which means either slipping back down the hill or getting stuck in quicksand-like mud until one of your friends hauls you out. Or, even worse, walking into a branch that tears your bug suit – something I imagine is comparable to a leak in your spacesuit. Bad news.
No we don’t ride horses in the bog. Although it appears we are dressed like equestrian riders, the outfit functions to protect us from the bugs and our sticks help us measure plants. This one goes out to one great field assistant (Julia, right) and all our fun 2013 adventures in the Great Bear Rainforest!
Once we’re on site, we settle down to work after going through the morning checks: weather station still running (survived the 80 mph winds the night before), experiments still intact (we’re in a constant battle with the wolves who love pulling out our temperature sensors), and everyone accounted for (nobody fell in the quicksand, got lost in the featureless landscape or got distracted by salmonberry patches along the way).
Bogs are common in our area, but they’re globally rare and at-risk ecosystems, and our work involves trying to learn more about them and how they’ll respond to future climate change scenarios. They filter water, store carbon and are important habitats for birds and animals, and they’re at risk of disappearing before we know much about them. My fieldwork is based on manipulating drought in the bog to understand if plants that have adapted to living year-round in water can survive without it. The three-year experiments involve cutting out pieces of the bog and raising them above the water table, where they are not saturated throughout the year, and then observing how soils and plants adapt to different precipitation regimes. We also painstakingly measure every plant in the twenty separate plots, and analyze the soil to see how nutrients are used.
As we break for lunch, we feel the wind pick up and the sun finally breaks through the fog. We all sigh a bit of relief as we’re able to take the bug suits off long enough for a drink of water and a few bites of food. Just before we settle back in to work, we hear the sound of two humpback whales feeding in the bay – it’s such a quiet place here that we can hear them blowing even though they’re half a mile away. A few hours later, after an afternoon of measuring plants, we retreat downhill to the kayaks. The tide is high, and we’re happy to find that we don’t have to hike the kayaks far. By this time our stomachs are rumbling, and we’ve already started wagers on what will be for dinner tonight.
I’ve only been working here for two years, and at first I was out of my element on the coast – I didn't know how to drive a boat, and couldn't ever seem to find the right gear for day after day of endless torrential rain. Nevertheless, I'm learning, and I feel more and more that I've found a home. After a long day of tramping through the bog, it's always nice to get time to reflect on the paddle home before I share my thoughts of the day at the big dinner table. Mostly I think about how grateful I am for each day I get to spend in this place – and for all the wild places that still exist and the people who work to protect them.
Kira Hoffman is a community ecologist studying bog ecosystems in British Columbia’s very wet hypermaritime zone on the central coast. She studies interactions between plants and soil microbial communities and how above- and below- ground processes are affected by climate change.
“Hueco Tanks is the best bouldering in the world,” someone boldly posted on the encyclopedic climbing resource MountainProject.com. The best? Pretty strong words. I’ve been to a lot of famous climbing areas in the world and it was going to take more than a hyperbolic online endorsement to change my reservations (not the kind you need to climb here, alas, but I’ll cover that later).
As a climber, I had obviously heard about Hueco. There’s no disputing that Hueco stands as an iconic place in American climbing significance. Like Yosemite is to big wall climbing, Smith Rock is to sport climbing, and Indian Creek is to splitter crack climbing, Hueco is to bouldering. And Patagonia’s presence at the 21st annual Hueco Rock Rodeo was the perfect excuse for me to finally make the pilgrimage to the famed bouldering mecca.I respect and enjoy all disciplines of climbing, but, if I had to choose, I’d say bouldering is my least favorite. It just seems silly to try so hard for such small terrain gains… but mostly because I suck at it.
Training for not sucking. I was so intimidated by the prospect of going to Hueco and not being able to climb anything that I trained in a cold garage for the entire month of January. Part of that training was dead hangs off a campus rung with weights attached to my waist. Photo: Steve Maisch Training archives
Way high in Hueco. Photo: Sam Davis
The Rock Rodeo follows a format similar to most of the grassroots climbing events I’ve attended (which is pretty much all of them): vendor tents, a climbing comp, slide shows, food, beer, DJ and dyno comp.
Key elements to a successful climbing event: Booth, bonfire and, of course, beer bowls. Patagonia donated over 300 reusable origami bowls which resourceful climbers used for pancakes, burritos and even beer. We also “traded” donations for T-shirts and raised $400 for The Climbers of Hueco Tanks Coalition. Photos: Justin Wood
The climbing comp was open to all ages and all levels. The fact that four different countries were represented in the top six male and female finishers in the open category of the bouldering comp illustrates the international status that Hueco holds.
The fact that many famous climbers attended the event is great, but what we should all be most proud of is the fact that this event helps to support and sustain climbing in Hueco for future generations.
“The Hueco Rock Rodeo proudly donates proceeds to Hueco Tanks State Park and Historic Site, The Climbers of Hueco Tanks Coalition and local El Paso Youth Outreach Programs. These organizations strive to preserve The Park, our privilege to climb at the Historic Site and help the climbing community give back to the local community.” –huecorodeo.com
One doesn’t hear about the virtues of the climbing in Hueco without hearing about the access issues. It’s a sometimes confusing and frustrating (not to mention costly) system that involves reservations, waiting, paying, waiting, rules and waiting. All things most climbers typically don’t gravitate toward.
Yet despite the restrictive policies of the Park (or maybe a phenomena as a result?), I curiously witnessed an uncharacteristic display of patience and a more harmonious coexistence with rules than I would have expected of climbers. Something I, as well as many other climbers, could stand to learn more.
Not everyone who hangs in Hueco is a dirtbag or on a climbing vacation. Sam Davis lives, trains, and studies electrical engineering with Hueco in his backyard. Sam and his wife, Ana, let me, a complete stranger, squat (in my Mercedes Sprinter van…) on their land for two weeks. Even though I’ve climbed around the world for the past 20 years, and been shown the upmost hospitality, I’m still impressed when people do this merely based on the fact that I’m a fellow climber.
Does Hueco have the best bouldering in the world? Is the system f***ed? I don’t know and I don’t really care to argue. But what I will defend is that there unquestionably exists what is most important to me as a climber: a community. A community of climbers that live and breath Hueco, that deal day after day to spend time in a place they love, and this is what ultimately makes Hueco world class.
Brittany Griffith is a Patagonia climbing ambassador and a regular contributor to this blog. She’s led 5.13 sport and traditional routes and vows someday to lead the gym’s 5.11c purple route. She obsesses over her garden and vacuuming and holds a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. As a former McDonald’s employee, Brittany served an estimated 12,308 Happy Meals.
Blast from the past: Here’s a video of Lynn Hill at Hueco Tanks in 2009, making it look way too easy.
We all know the feeling of remoteness. The stillness. The perspective. It's part of what keeps drawing us outside. But what does it feel like to be standing, literally, in the most remote place in a state? In the country? And what might those places reveal about the fate of our country's wild lands? In 2010, Ryan and Rebecca Means embarked upon Project Remote to find out.
[Graphic by Walker Cahall]
Some people call me an environmentalist. What in the hell is an environmentalist anyway? Growing up in my family, it was a dirty word to describe privileged and over-educated people who got their education out of a book instead of the woods. My upbringing taught me that hard work, hard damn work, was the way to make it in life. I was raised by a farming family in the Kispiox Valley and we made our way as loggers, guide outfitters, rodeo stock contractors and, from time to time, we worked in the mining or oil and gas industry running heavy equipment.
Editor’s note: It’s a pleasure to welcome Shannon McPhail back to The Cleanest Line. Shannon is the executive director of the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition, a group Patagonia proudly supported during their historic fight against proposed methane wells in Canada’s Sacred Headwaters. Now she's working to get her community fired up for another potential battle against liquified natural gas (LNG) development. Note: minor profanities ahead.
[Above: My great uncles packing into the Skeena Mountains. Photo: Wilfred Lee]But when we weren’t working the land for food or in the bush for money, we were on the rivers or in the mountains. My family vacations were spent on pack trips by horse going into the Skeena Mountains or the Atnas. But of course, we couldn’t take a vacation for a mere vacation, that would have been considered a complete waste of time. We had to get enough moose, caribou, grouse and maybe a black bear to bring home for winter’s meat. Black bear makes damn good ham and bratwurst, and you can render the fat for lard. We grew up growing or wild harvesting a lot of our own food because we couldn’t afford to buy it. Even though we raised cattle, we couldn’t eat much of it because that was money out of our pockets. So we hunted wild game to fill our pantries. The line between bankruptcy and paying the bills was incredibly thin but we certainly had an incredible life.
Living in the Skeena region has not been the easiest existence, especially in the winter. Communities are bonded by enduring the cold months together and it’s the time where we get out and get more social to chase away the long darkness. We dream of the warm summer sun, floats down the river, sitting with family and buddies around a picnic table and eating salmon so fresh that it curls when you cook it.
I love this place. It’s my home. It was my home long before I was born – more than 100 years with six generations in the Kispiox Valley. We are known as the cowboy farmers, some might say rednecks. Actually, everyone says rednecks. My dad was known for being one helluva boxer and regularly got into fist fights. I don’t know if he ever lost a fight but then again, I don’t know that he would ever tell me if he did. He taught me how to go fist-a-cuffs and I was pretty good at it. The fact that I grew into almost a 6-footer and spent the summer tossing hay bales around for hours and hours every day might have had something to do with it. Still, I avoided conflict like the plague. I despised conflict or disharmony. They made me cringe and still do to this day. I would always try to walk away, feeling sick in my stomach, wanting to run, but growing up in the bush you know that running away only encourages chase and the best way to deal with it, or at least the most instinctual way, was to face up and deal with things because they will only get worse if you don’t.
This is why I have trouble with the word environmentalist. It’s not really inclusive of people like me or my family. We aren’t fighting for the environment. We’re fighting for our homes and for our families because we need clean water and wild game. If we protect habitat for salmon and wild game, we can eat good clean food. I can’t believe I said habitat. Hell, I even catch myself talking about “ecosystems” these days.
My husband is a rig welder in the oil sands. He makes a damn good living over there but he’s gone 16 days then home for 12. When I first heard about Shell wanting to drill for coalbed methane in the Headwaters, I thought it was a great idea. Can you imagine how much money we could make? Shell is no small potato. With a big company like them comes big money and I wanted a piece of it. The history of my evolution into becoming an enemy to Shell’s proposal is a long one but the gist of it is that the more I learned about the development, the more my hackles went up. I couldn’t believe what they were proposing and moreover, I couldn’t believe they were trying to tell us that it would all be okay.
I did the only thing I knew how to do, I sat in people’s kitchens and drank coffee with them and asked them for help in figuring out how we deal with these guys who were coming into our watershed telling us that they were pushing forward with a development that we didn’t want and couldn’t stop. I wasn’t branded an environmentalist. I was Gene Allen’s daughter so there were no worries about being a NIMBY or a CAVE’r. Everyone around here knows that if anyone is going to get on the development bandwagon, it would be my family.
Working in the oil sands, SWCC logo on helmet.
I went to my peer group, the rod and gun clubs, fishermen, the old farmers, the guide outfitters, hunters and trappers. These were simply the people I was comfortable talking to because they were people I could relate to. It wasn’t long before some people told us about the Tahltan and that I should head up there to meet some of them because they had blockaded some of these big developments. The Tahltan had long been supporters of development with most of BC’s major mining projects being proposed on their territory, so I was curious as to why they had changed their tune.
The Tahltan were no strangers to my family. My dad had horse traded for decades with some of the Tahltan guide outfitters. He would take his champion stud named Simon (after Simon Gunanoot, the famous Gitxsan outlaw) to breed the mares in Tahltan country and in three years, he would take half the foals back as broncs while the other half became mountain horses. Simon bred amazing broncs, some of the best in the world. He also had the perfect genetics for mountain horses with big, wide feet, strong backs and a quiet demeanor about them for packing hunters and gear.
I remember making the trip to Telegraph Creek every spring with a horse trailer full of 10 horses. One was Simon and the other nine were Simon foals that just didn’t buck. That was the thing about Simon foals, all of them were quiet and loved to snuggle but some of them genetically loved to buck while the others wouldn’t buck, ever. The ones who wouldn’t buck became great horses for kids or working in the mountains. We’d get into Telegraph, give the horses a day’s rest and protein-rich grain before turning them out into the hills. Fletcher Day, a Tahltan Chief and guide-outfitter would send his Tahltan wranglers out to gather his horses and off they would go with some halters and a bucket of oats. One-to-three days later they would return with all the horses that had been turned out for the winter. I don’t know what those wranglers ate or where they slept while they were out there but they came back looking as fresh as when they left. They would gather in the round-pen and everyone from the community would come out to watch Tahltan cowboys get on the three-year-old foals to see which ones would make their living on the rodeo circuit and which ones in the mountains. All the while, Simon was having a great time with the mares.
I didn’t enter into the Sacred Headwaters campaign as an enviro or a campaigner. I came into it as a concerned citizen, a cowgirl, a hunting guide and just talked about plain old common sense. People described it as a David and Goliath story but that never resonated with me because our region is where the power lies, not industry. If anything, we would be the Goliath. When we unite, we’re unstoppable. We’ve seen it time and time again. Industry has to come in here and tried to convince us that their project is worth it, that they are good, corporate citizens. They have to spend millions to figure everything out, to “consult” and try to earn social license. Some companies have realized that you can’t buy social license in the north, you really do have to earn it. Those are the companies I want to work with.
We don’t have millions. We don’t have slick PR budgets and executive types to woo government. We simply have our truth, our stories and our relationships with each other and to the land – those are assets I’d much rather have than vast amounts money any day. These companies have to counter our truth with all that money and history has shown that it just isn’t enough. If they come to our watershed, our communities and they don’t tell the truth or genuinely have our best interests at heart, they will lose. We have a culture of uniting against bad ideas. Government knows it and they refer to us as the “Republic of the Skeena” with Kitimat included. That makes me feel pretty damn good and has given so many others hope too – hope that they can stand up to ill-advised development and the big corporations behind them.
“We simply have opposing world views,” was a comment made by one corporate executive. Well let me give you an education, sir. You don’t live here, you don’t depend on the return of the salmon each and every year and you don’t drink the water. When PR teams come to our communities I wonder if they recognize that the First Nations territory they’re proposing their development on is the only territory that nation has? If you’re Gitxsan and someone destroys your traditional territory, you don’t get to pull up stakes and move. You don’t get another traditional territory. You have only the territory that has been passed down to you from countless generations and that you are borrowing from the generations yet to come. We are left with the consequences of our own decisions and those of industry and government, whether they are positive or negative, and as such, we should be the decision makers.
The thing about being a northerner is (something us settler types learned from the First Nations), if the shopping sucks, or we don’t like our kid’s school, our jobs or the weather, we don’t move. We work our asses off to make our community better – we have to because no one else will. Opposing world views? This place is my whole world. It’s the centre of my universe. It’s my home. It’s where I was born, where my father was born and where my grandmother and great-grandparents were born and buried. It’s where I will be buried and my grandkids and their grandkids will continue on.
No amount of money can counter the truth. It can’t counter our commitment to our home and to our future generations. It can’t counter our real connections to this place and to our neighbours. We are the people who live here and as such, we have a say in what happens here. We have a big say!
The thing that lies between the bullshit future promised by liquefied natural gas (LNG) development and an economy and environment that actually works, is us. By “us” I mean the folks who make this watershed their home. We are the people we need to turn to. We tend to look around for someone to save us but we are it, and I thank the powers that be that it’s us. Who better? But that also means we gotta get our asses in gear. We’ve got a lot of work to do and if there’s anyone that can get it done it’s the citizens and First Nations of the Skeena watershed. I’m not trying to blow sunshine up anyone’s ass or give a false sense of hope. I simply know that we are winning.
Wild Skeena salmon contribute $110 million to our economy every year. Guide outfitting contributes another $28 million. For a watershed of 50,000 people, that’s an awful lot of money. Every seven years it’s $1 billion just for keeping our watershed healthy. And that doesn’t take into consideration the sustenance or cultural value of these things.
I get pretty grouchy when someone tries to say that we can’t be against everything because we are not. There is over $10 billion dollars of development happening in northwest BC right now, that doesn’t include the Northern Gateway pipeline or a single LNG project. People have been shipped in from the USA, South Africa, Alberta, etc. to work the jobs that are in our watershed. It’s happening right now. We are already overwhelmed with development, hundreds of mining referrals, railway expansions, power projects, etc. Then you add LNG and it becomes something out of a science fiction movie. We are a resource extraction region, it’s what we do and we’re good at it. Not one single “enviro” group or First Nation is saying we need to stop all of it, but they are ALL saying that we need to stop the ridiculous proposals that give us more to lose than gain, that trade our wild-salmon economy for bigger corporate profits in some bank account with a mailing address in another country. We are reasonable folks who want reasonable solutions and it’s up to us to help build those solutions.
That’s where my head is at these days. I want solutions. I want to help figure out economic developments that will help us more than hinder us, build infrastructure that gives us employment and energy and does so without messing with our clean air, wild salmon or water. The more we look into this, the more we discover that there are alternatives – good ones. Ones we can implement right now. Machines that convert plastic into oil from plastic we can mine from our own landfills. Wood to gas electricity systems using sawdust from lumber mills, wind power, solar heat and power, and the list goes on and on. The more we research, the more solutions we find. If we had a tiny fraction of the PR budget being spent promoting LNG, we could be completely self-sufficient and even export power as additional income. The solutions exist.
LNG is natural gas that has been frozen to -160 Celsius to turn it from a gas to a liquid. The name “natural gas” is another slick PR deal. Because it’s called “natural” gas, it invokes a vision of some kind of organic product naturally emitted from the Earth that we capture and use for clean, green energy. I call bullshit.
The Northern Gateway pipeline will never be built, of that I have no doubt. It doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of work yet to be done. It simply means that we have a big, bright light at the end of the tunnel. LNG is far worse than Northern Gateway in my opinion and we’ve got a government who has put the blinders on to try and bulldoze it all right through. Proposing terminals as big as oil sands infrastructure in our Skeena estuary where our wild salmon and steelhead go. Air quality assessments conclude these terminals will more than double the pollution in BC and result in acid rain. The gas supply will be obtained by drastically increasing fracking all over the Province when more and more countries are banning that practice daily. They’re changing our entire economic structure to be based on LNG and we don’t have a single buyer for our product. Even if we did, there are some pretty knowledgeable folks who say we don’t have the gas supply to keep the industry going long enough to pay back the investment. The problem I have with learning about LNG and educating people about LNG is that there is so much wrong with this industry that it makes it confusing. It’s so hard to keep track of all the government promises versus the contrasting reality.
The BC government is trying to get support by motivating people with fear, telling us how LNG will save us from the impending economic peril. They tell us that it will keep schools and hospitals open, that infrastructure will be maintained and the story goes on and on. Meanwhile, schools are being closed, hospitals are slammed and underfunded, ferry routes are being canceled and foreign workforces are still being shipped in.
Bottom line, it’s all bullshit and no matter how much perfume or potpourri you put on it, it’s still shit. Being a farmer, I’ve shoveled my fair share of bullshit and in the end, if we put it in its proper place, it can fertilize our gardens.
Time to get your shovel.
Shannon McPhail is a mother of two and the Executive Director of the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition, a non-profit group formed by friends, family and neighbors to fight proposed coalbed methane wells in the Sacred Headwaters of British Columbia where three of Canada's greatest wild salmon and steelhead rivers, the Skeena, Stikine and Nass, are born. On December 18, 2012, after a 10-year battle, the Sacred Headwaters received permanent protection. “My ultimate goal is to help people understand the true gift of living here and encourage active and informed citizenship.”
By Kelly Cordes
“Holy guacamole,” I mumbled to myself. “There are a lot of ties in this room.” Lots of exquisite dresses, too.
I was at the recent American Alpine Club Annual Benefit Dinner, which begs the question of place: What was my broke ass doing in a VIP seat, wearing a borrowed bow tie, at a fancy fundraiser?
It just so happens that I know people who know people who know people. Well, OK, the secret to my magic trick: Patagonia was the title sponsor, Yvon Chouinard the keynote speaker, and the dinner was in Denver – an hour and a half from my cabin in Estes Park.
I agonized over wardrobe. As a person, I’d planned on jeans and a T-shirt. After all, it shouldn’t matter how you look on the outside. Then again, we have cultural norms, and I didn’t want to disrespect anyone, no matter how silly the norm. Ahhh, the issues that burn.
Regardless, a guy like me doesn’t miss many free dinners, and I knew enough to never scratch my head during the live auction. Some observations from the American Alpine Club (AAC) dinner:
• Several years ago the AAC made the wise decision to separate the fancy dinner from other events spread throughout the weekend. Some events are more open and appeal to the younger audience, while the fancy dinner is for fundraising and connections between old friends. We all get old, and memories are all we really have.
• My friend Janet Wilkinson was inducted as a new member to the AAC’s Board of Directors. Which is great not only because she’s a real-deal climber, smart, and about half the age of the typical BOD member, but because it immediately worked to my benefit. Her husband, my friend Freddie (who received the AAC’s literary award), came along and happened to have an extra bow tie. Bingo.
• Side note: On occasion I’ve been asked by active young climbers if they should attend the AAC dinner. (For 12 years I was one of the editors of the American Alpine Journal, and twice I attended annual dinners for work.) No way. If you’re scraping to spend all your money climbing, keep doing it. Climb. When we’re old, if we’re fortunate enough to be able to give back to the thing we love, do it then. But first, create the memories.
• Best comment at the Saturday panel discussion, The Extra (X) Factor: Pioneering Women in Climbing, came from Melissa Arnot. As the distinction between “climber” and “female climber” becomes less relevant in discussions of accomplishment, potential and drive, tiresome questions remain. When asked about motherhood, Arnot astutely replied that the question would never be asked on a panel of men.
• Steve House, the finest American alpinist of his generation, and one of the best ever, received the Underhill Award for lifetime achievement. Little more needs said, as his incredible list of accomplishments speaks for itself. He does, by the way, have a new book out, with co-author Scott Johnston. It’ll surely become a bible for current alpinists: Training for the New Alpinism: A manual for the climber as athlete.
• Jim Balog received the Brower Conservation Award for his incredible work with the Extreme Ice Survey and Earth Vision Trust (his nonprofit). His work is not only the definitive documentation of the world’s rapidly receding glaciers, but he’s trying to do something about it by advancing policy and education (by now, I think all but cave-dwelling troglodytes have plenty of “awareness” of the problem – Kickstarter climbing expeditions to raise awareness for global warming take note…).
• When it came time to support the youngsters emerging from climbing gyms, the “old guard” raised a shitton of money for a new AAC program to educate those making the transition from climbing indoors to climbing outside. It’s another problem of which, as per the abundance of yearly accident reports, we’ve got plenty of awareness. Much to their credit, the AAC is doing something about it.
• For the main event, Yvon spoke and showed old photos from his early life and progression, including the golden age in Yosemite, and held the audience of 600 rapt with his classic style – the one-liners, his sincerity, honesty and a spirit that values the past – without getting stuck in it – while looking to the future. That’s what I love about Yvon and the best of the old guard: they embrace what’s worth keeping and ditch the rest.
A few more photos from the weekend:
Friday night event at Earth Treks gym in Golden, Colorado. Photo: Liz Cunningham
Celebrity climbing comp emcee, Timmy O'Neill, chats up Brittany Griffith and Lynn Hill. Photo: Lee Pruitt
Lynn Hill came in second in the women's division and stole the applause from the crowd. Photo: Jenna Johnson
Jeremy Collins, Jenna Johnson and that dude with the bow tie photobombing a perfectly nice moment. Photo: Jeremy Collins Collection
Steve House and Scott Johnston, co-authors of Training for the New Alpinism. Photo: Jimmy Hopper
When you think about it, as we age there is no greater honor than to watch the next generation go zooming past our previous highpoints. Everything builds on everything else. Maybe the unspoken goal of the AAC fundraiser dinner was to enable the zoom.
I still maintain that ties are stupid, but what we wore around our necks didn’t matter – a love of climbing really tied the room together.
More coverage of the event and Yvon's speech:
"When Climbing Was Dangerous and Sex Was Safe" by John Heilprin, AAC
"Sharma to Chouinard in a Weekend" by Alison Osius, Rock & Ice
Ready to join the American Alpine Club? Become a member
Nowadays there are a lot of people making wooden surfboards. Environmentally it makes a great deal of sense. Wood is a natural, non-toxic material that is infinitely less harmful to work with than polyester, epoxy, polyethylene or polystyrene, and that can be assimilated back into the environment once the life of the board has ended. Also, wooden boards are generally made to last longer, which reduces the environmental footprint at the manufacturing end and at the waste-management end. And if the raw material (i.e. trees from the forest or offcuts from other industries) is extracted at a rate that is slower than the rate of natural re-generation of that material, a wooden board can be close to being truly sustainable.
When one thinks of modern wooden surfboards, those that immediately spring to mind are longboards, retro-fishes and single-fins – boards where a little more weight and perhaps a little less speed are not too much of an impediment. Boards for riders whose top priority is having fun without necessarily being able to land an aerial 360.
[Above: Patrick Burnett (left) with his 11’0” hollow wood board and Jason Hayes (right) with his 11’4” agave board.]
Sunset Reef. Photo: Javi Muñoz Pacotwo
Tony Butt (TB): What were the waves like and how did the board feel out at Sunset that day?
Patrick: It wasn't maxing but there were some really defined and good quality peaks breaking off the back. The board paddled very well, had a liveliness entering the wave and the drive that I needed through the bowl section. I was stoked!
Jason: Surfing the board out at Sunset Reef, on a fairly onshore 12- to 15-foot day, was not the ideal conditions to be surfing in. The board has more weight than the conventional foam guns and ended up not riding the bumps all that well. However, the other day I took the board out on a clean, 10 foot day with no wind and the board was magnificent.
TB: How is the board constructed?
Patrick: It's constructed using a hollow wood frame and rib method. Glassed with epoxy.
Jason: The board is constructed from many machined Agave stems that are made into stringers, and then laminated together with cold waterproof glue in a chosen rocker profile. This gives you the blank, which you then shape in the same way as a foam blank. The board is then glassed with epoxy.
TB: Why did you choose that method over other wooden board building techniques?
Patrick: I've been making hollow wood surfboards for six years. This is the method I have chosen to experiment with/perfect and I've made fishes, single fins, eggs, mini-malibus, longboards, the lot. I make my living from making these boards and so it followed that I would use it in making this board.
Jason: One reason I chose the Agave wooden board over other timber designed boards is that right from the beginning the process brings you closer to Nature. You first have to go out into the bush, choose each plant by hand and imagine how it will form part of the board. Then, once you have laminated it all together to form a blank, you have to use your carpentry tools to shape it into a surfboard. As a master carpenter by trade, I like the idea that the process is as close to carpentry as you can get.
TB: What are the dimensions of the board and why did you choose those particular ones
Patrick: It is 11’0” x 20.5” x 3.5” thruster. I wanted it to surf Sunset Reef. Sunset is a wave where you need the length because it moves so much water and the waves move so fast. You need a big board to be able to catch waves.
Jason: The dimensions are 11’4” x 22” x 3”. At the time I had not heard of a big wave gun longer than 11’2” in Cape Town or in South Africa and I had never heard of an Agave gun that long anywhere in the world. The width ended up 22” because I battled to get out more than 3” on thickness and so compromised with more width. Note that Agave plant grows up to 15 or 18 feet long, but you need extra length in the plant in order to get the rocker in the board.
This is what the agave plant looks like in the wild. The trunks are about 15 to 20 feet high.
Agave trunks ready to be brought back to the shaping room.
Jason with the 11’4” agave board.
TB: How many hours did the board take you to make?
Patrick: It is hard to say. I made it over a 4-5 month period and was working on many other boards at the same time. But I took my time on this one. At a rough estimate, up to 80 hours of labour. I was as meticulous as I could be.
Jason: The board took many days to make. First I had to drive into the bush and look for Agave plants, choose the ones I wanted, cut them down, load them up and drive back again. That took about two days altogether. Then stripping them down and getting them into stringers that I could laminate together took another couple of days, and the laminating itself took about a day. I haven’t shaped many boards before, so the shaping probably took me a lot longer than normal – about four days. The board was glassed by a friend of mine, which took him two days. So there you have it, around eleven days altogether.
TB: How did the idea of building a wooden gun evolve?
Patrick: I've been surfing bigger waves for about eight years. Boards I surf in other conditions are hollow wood surfboards that I made myself and it has always been in my mind that I also wanted my big wave board to be a hollow wood surfboard. The first hollow wood gun that I made was a 9’6” single fin. I surfed it once in eight-to-ten foot waves and then started to tinker with it in the workshop. Eventually I put it aside, unfinished, and stored the lessons it had taught me in my memory bank. That was about four years ago. When I started making this latest board I felt like I was ready to make it.
Jason: The idea to make an Agave gun was inspired by my friend legendary Cape-Town big-wave surfer Simon Lowe. Originally my plan was to make a Pat Curren Gun, 10’6”, shaping it as close to the original lines of that board as possible. But then Simon inspired me to make a more modern board that would surf much bigger waves than Curren surfed in the 1960s. I had already cut the Agave stems, and 11’4” was the biggest I could get out of them.
TB: Apart from the environmental side of things, what are the principle advantages and disadvantages of wood compared with plastic for big-wave guns?
Patrick: I think it is an area that I'm still learning about. I haven't surfed it many times and so it is a bit early to say. But there are a few things that I'm thinking about and exploring. Firstly, the strength of the board is in the rails and although I have put some reinforcements in the central area of the board, the strength remains in the rails. But there is still flexibility through the board. I could actually feel this flex in the board on some waves - there seemed to be a real 'spring' in it coming off the bottom and setting a rail. Given that wood has good flexibility and flex retention properties this has interesting performance implications. One of the tricky questions, however, is how much flex can be built for without compromising strength. I don't know. It's an experiment.
Jason: The principle advantage over plastic I would say, for this type of construction method anyway, is strength. Even though they have not been put to any proper tests, I have no doubt in my mind that these boards are extremely strong. You are using natural growth curves to strengthen your boards and by the end of it you have natural fibres from nose to tail, side to side and top to bottom.
TB: Some people don’t like the fact that these boards are heavier than plastic ones, yet others think that weight can actually be an advantage in big waves. What are your feelings on that?
Patrick: I feel that weight does help, but there's a tipping point. You don't want too much weight. The theory is weight helps with momentum and makes the board better able to handle chop, bumps etc. I'll go with that. But I think the other aspect to wood that is related to weight is how wood with its organic, cellular structure absorbs/transmits energy and deals with or dampens bumps, ribs and all the other extreme wave conditions that big waves present, given that the board is glassed anyway and that this will therefore negate some of the natural properties of wood. I think the right kind of weight in the right areas of the board can definitely be an advantage, but must also be seen in conjunction with other design elements like rocker, fins, rails etc.
Jason: Whether a heavier board will give you an advantage or not in big waves on a particular day probably depends on one or two other factors. For example, your own strength to weight ratio – lighter, fitter surfers are generally better paddlers, giving them an advantage for catching waves under normal circumstances. But if there is a lot of wind and chop coming up the face, then heavier surfers would have an advantage and lighter surfers might need to compensate for that weight advantage with a heavier board. Ideally, you would perhaps want to have a few different weight boards of the same length for different spots under different conditions.
Precision cut-out for Patrick's big-wave board build. Photo: Burnett Wood Surfboards on Facebook
Hollow core in progress. Photo: Burnett Wood Surfboards on Facebook
Patrick with the 11’0” hollow wood board.
TB: What are the environmental advantages and disadvantages of your particular construction technique over other wooden board building methods?
Patrick: I can't answer this question – I haven't done or seen an analysis of hollow wood surfboards versus solid wood or chambered boards, for example. I have seen a study that compared polyurethane (PU) foam boards with hollow wood boards, and stated that wood surfboard production produced less than half the CO2 emissions and other noxious emissions of foam boards.
Jason: One advantage is that Agave is considered an alien species in South Africa, and it grows pretty fast. So, even though it would be best that they never appeared in the first place, cutting them down and making surfboards out of them is certainly not doing any more harm to the environment. The other advantage is that the core of the plant can also be used to make tequila.
TB: A friend of mine thinks that a surfboard to a big-wave surfer should be like a sword to a Samurai warrior: to be treasured and looked after during one’s entire life, and never replaced. Do you think we might ever get anywhere that concept, particularly with wooden boards, or does the constant evolution of design really mean we have to keep replacing them?
Patrick: With big wave boards I think the question gets taken out of your hands. A big wave will break anything if the board is put in the wrong position, no matter how you build for strength. For shorter wood boards where the power of the wave becomes less of an issue then, yes, it is realistic to have one board for a long period of time. The question also depends on the performance aspirations of the surfer in question – someone wanting to constantly push the boundaries of size and wave type is obviously going to have more of a motivation to experiment with design.
Jason: Your friend is correct in saying that these boards should be considered like Samurai swords. There is no reason why one should have to replace these boards if they are looked after properly. If you experiment a lot with boards, but then are lucky enough one day to find that ‘magic formula’ – a board that you would be quite happy to keep for the rest of your life – it makes total sense for that board to stay under your feet till the very end. And for that to happen, of course, the board must be strong enough.
TB: Is this just a one-off or do you envisage making more and perhaps selling these boards?
Patrick: It will be hard not to make more. They are such grand pieces and I get an enormous amount of satisfaction from the process and the final product. I always find surfing the boards I make is the greatest motivation to make more – it's in the interplay between surfer, board and wave that I make realisations about changes I'd like to experiment with.
Jason: This is definitely not a one-off. These boards inspire me tremendously. As a carpenter I can feel that making more of these boards will give me immense satisfaction. I would like to see more surfers riding these boards – worldwide. A dream of mine is to be able to make a board for someone, deliver the board personally and then join them for a session at their local break.
TB: Now after having tried the board out at Sunset, do you see any particular reason why it shouldn’t be ridden on much bigger waves?
Patrick: I see no reason why it shouldn’t be used on bigger waves. I plan to surf it regularly, to learn and discover what it is capable of.
Jason: After having tried the board at largish, lumpy Sunset Reef, I’m not sure if I’d personally want to charge bigger waves with it. Perhaps if conditions were super-clean and long-period with no wind, things might be different. I feel that, with the right conditions and the right surfer, 20-foot waves could be surfed with this board.
Dr. Tony Butt holds a BSc in Ocean Science and a PhD in Physical Oceanography. He lives most of the year in a forgotten corner of Northwest Spain, where he has pioneered a couple new big-wave spots and works with NGOs like Surfers Against Sewage and Save the Waves. He makes a meager living writing articles about waves and the coastal environment for Surfer’s Path and other publications. For more from Tony, check out his books Surf Science: an Introduction to Waves for Surfing (2004), The Surfers Guide to Waves, Coasts and Climates (2009), A Surfer's Guide to Sustainability (2011) and his previous articles here on The Cleanest Line.
By Travis, Matt, Ben and Beda
10, 9, 8… the DamNation premiere countdown has begun! After three years of planning, researching, shooting and editing, the film is finally complete. And we’re thrilled to announce the world premiere of DamNation will be at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas.
For those unfamiliar with the project:
This powerful film odyssey across America explores the sea change in our national attitude from pride in big dams as engineering wonders to the growing awareness that our own future is bound to the life and health of our rivers. Dam removal has moved beyond the fictional Monkey Wrench Gang to go mainstream. Where obsolete dams come down, rivers bound back to life, giving salmon and other wild fish the right of return to primeval spawning grounds, after decades without access. DamNation’s majestic cinematography and unexpected discoveries move us through rivers and landscapes altered by dams, but also through a metamorphosis in values, from conquest of the natural world to knowing ourselves as part of nature.
[Above: Official film poster for DamNation. Click for larger image.]
For Everyone in Austin and Those Attending SXSW
Come to the premiere! We would love to see you there. Details are on the SXSW Film page for DamNation (date and location coming soon). Follow us on Facebook or Twitter for updates on panels and after-parties.
For Everyone Else Who Would Like to See the Film
Premiering the film is just the first step. DamNation will be screening at film festivals nationally and internationally throughout 2014. Sign on to our e-mail list to receive updates at DamNationfilm.com.
Beyond film festivals, we are embarking on a nine-city U.S. tour this April-May, and we are partnering with non-profit groups across the country to host screenings of the film in a town near you. The U.S. tour will be coming to Seattle, Portland (OR), San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, Denver, Washington DC, New York City and Portland (ME). Please join us at one of the tour stops – the whole film crew and some of the starring characters will be there, along with local non-profit groups who are working on river restoration projects in your area.
An Elwha River chinook comes to rest below the now removed Elwha Dam on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula (fall 2011). Photo: Ben Knight
If you would like the film to come to your town, ask your local river restoration or recreation group, club, church or school to e-mail us. We are making it easy to show DamNation locally and will provide critical tools to help make your event a success. Non-profit and educational screenings begin May 1, 2014; our goal is to have over 500 screenings in 2014.
DamNation will be available to download through our website, iTunes, and other streaming video services by mid-summer 2014. As the distribution of DamNation evolves we will keep you posted. Stay tuned to DamNationFilm.com, Facebook and Twitter for the latest news, action alerts and updates.
We’re ready to blow this film up and we can’t wait for the premiere. As the explosives expert says before blasting an old dam, “Fire in the hole!”
[Video: DamNation - Official Film Trailer on Vimeo.]
Travis Rummel, Matt Stoecker, Ben Knight and Beda Calhoun are the filmmakers behind DamNation.
From my house, at 9,800 feet elevation in the Colorado Rockies, I have to run downhill first. Above is sealed under feet of unrunnable, soft, post-holing snow. So it’s downhill, passing beneath nine avalanche slidepaths on a snow-packed road, often in a howling, pushy wind that streams old snow around in phantoms. I wear neon colors so that drivers can see me emerging from those white squalls. Through my clothes, the blasts to my skin feel more like a burning than a chilling.
As I descend, the open valley drops between the ridges, and conditions improve. I can see the road underfoot now, though it’s dark because of my sunglasses, necessary only to protect my eyeballs from being pelted. While I can see, I step on the crinkled tracks from tire treads and chains, which provide traction, or I stay in the loose snow on the road edges where there is no ice. Still, a leg shoots out wildly and my heart jumps as I find a way to get it back under me and recover my balance.
[Above: Claridge descending between snow walls in the southern San Juan Mountains. Photo: Himay Palmer]
Rhonda Claridge teaches English at Colorado Mesa University. In her free time, she writes and runs long distances in the Southern Rockies. In 2013, she ran the length of Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas, 120 miles, to raise money for conserving reefs in marine parks. Read more of her work at www.highmountainbazaar.com. Photo: Heidi Attenberger.
By Fitz & Becca Cahall
Plastic bags. They clog drawers, landfills, coastlines and trailheads. Recycling them is confusing and inefficient. But what if there was a way to turn the trash into something of value? Enter Industrial Designer Will Wells. Today, we bring you our annual Year of Big Ideas. We talked to contributors and friends about their goals for the coming year. Here’s to going big, traveling to new places and trying something new. And here’s to making something that will inspire others, even if it’s small. Happy 2014.
[Listen to "Starting Small" by The Dirtbag Diaries on Soundcloud]
Visit dirtbagdiaries.com for links to past episodes, featured music and to pledge your support. You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, RSS, SoundCloud and Stitcher, or connect with the Dirtbag Diaries community on Facebook and Twitter. The Dirtbag Diaries is a Duct Tape Then Beer production.
[Graphic by Walker Cahall]
By Jess McGlothlin, Fire Girl Photography
My watch battery died within ten minutes of setting foot on the plane about to whisk me out of Great Falls, Montana.
I should have realized it for what it was: a sign things were about to change.
I had left behind an increasingly weird existence on the Missouri River front and hopped a plane to Salt Lake and then on to Jackson Hole. The job was to cover a Patagonia women’s fly fishing press event held near Ashton, Idaho. For my part, I hopped on that plane feeling sick, stressed and generally pretty damn tired.
Forty-eight hours later found me tenkara fishing and wading on an Idaho river with Yvon Chouinard, arguably the founding father of outdoor retail as we know it today, feeling better than I have all year. Yvon, or YC as the Patagonia team calls him, founded the company in 1972 as Chouinard Equipment. He’s an old-school gentleman; patient, soft-spoken, full of incredible knowledge and incredibly, undeniably quotable.
After spending the summer on the ‘Mo dealing with more than my share of hyped-up frat boy fishermen who are trying to grab my bum while bragging about how far they can “chuck that fly,” the simplicity immediately appealed. I held the two-and-a-half foot telescoping rod in my hand and grinned, already imagining how easy it would be to manage the rod and camera gear simultaneously.
I tested that theory multiple times over the two-day event, and can report that it makes a world of difference.
More about the art of tenkara will come in a series of magazine articles – more on that soon – but suffice to say it’s all about boiling it down to the basics. No reel. When not in use, we stored the line on paper clips Yvon had rubber banded to the rods. We were each given three flies, special soft hackles tied by the man himself.
And when, on the second day, I set a personal record – fourteen fish in under two hours, including my first ever double – I can safely say I was standing in the river grinning like an idiot.
Of the dozen or so women on the trip, only three of us had fly fished before. And every single lady had multiple fish landed by the end of the trip, a fact we celebrated with a riverside dinner and drinks on the last night.
Having the rare opportunity to talk one-on-one with Yvon about fishing, business and life in general has provided more inspiration than I have felt in long time. I am ready to move on, ready to pursue new projects, and overflowing with new ideas.
So here’s to new passions, new opportunities and new adventures. And the most incredible people we meet on the way.
Jessica McGlothlin is a passionate writer and photographer who's always had an affinity for the outdoors and travel. Growing up in various locations across the United States and playing in the wide-open spaces of the West, Jessica is most at home on the road in wild and rugged locales. You can see more of her work at Fire Girl Photography.
The new Patagonia Women's Fly Fishing line -- including the Women's Spring River Waders -- is now available at Patagonia.com and fly fishing retailers. You can read more about the products at Hatch Magazine, Style of Sport, Adventure Journal and Women's Movement. Stay tuned for more information on how you can get started Tenkara fishing.
Check out some more photos from this event by photographer Jeremy Koreski (@jeremykoreski).
By Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff Project
A few months ago, we started a conversation about solutions with the Patagonia community. We identified three areas where solutions are needed most: our communities, our businesses, and our governments. Last time we talked about solutions in our communities – the closest place to home. This time, we’ll offer some contacts for rolling up your sleeves and diving in.
The only bright side about our current system being so messed up is that there are any number of ways to dive in and make things better – so many options, in fact, it can be hard to decide where to begin. My advice? Follow your passion. If gardening excites you, form a group to reclaim vacant lots for community gardens. Is education your thing? Volunteer to help local schools green their operations and engage the kids in activities like stream cleanups. Love biking? Recruit some fellow cyclists and work for bike lanes in your town. It doesn’t matter so much where you plug in, as long as you’re sharing your skills and passion with others in your community.
The beauty of community-based solutions is that you can start today. Grab a friend and get going. There’s no need to be part of a national or international network to get started making change in your community. On the other hand, networks can be a great source of inspiration, advice, and lessons learned. Here are some of my favorite networks working on solutions at the community level.
By RC Cone
Here I am in the middle of the hair-pulling, eye-bulging screen time that is post production. Another 14-hour day and I need fresh air. I go for long walks under the stars and think about the night skies of the Bahamas, Iceland and Patagonia.
After my last film, Breathe, I really wanted to explore the wider implications of fly fishing. How does our sport fit into the world? What is this worldwide community like? What are the differences and similarities on a global scale? Instead of a personal journey, I wanted to explore the world’s waters and the cultures that inhabit them.
I thought about the places and fish that enticed me – and booked flights. I put 90% of my belongings in storage, cancelled my cell phone service and disconnected the battery from my truck, consumed goodbye beers.
[Above: Prescott Smith chases bonefish on the flats of Mastic point, Andros Island, The Bahamas. All photos courtesy of RC Cone]
Tributaries is a journey to uncover the commonality among different cultures, people and water. It explores the contrasting experiences of three diverse guides – a Bahamian flats-drifter, a Patagonian trout bum and a Viking-blooded Icelander. Three stories merging into one: a tribute to the world’s water. Tributaries is an official selection of the 2014 F3T and 2014 Rise film festivals. Full-length downloads are available at Tributariesfilm.com and begin at $4.
Watch the full film now.
RC Cone is a photographer and filmmaker currently living in Portland, Oregon (that’s where his bike is at least). When he was 18, RC moved from the flatlands to Big Sky Country and graduated from the University of Montana with a camera and a degree in Environmental Studies. He and his camera have travelled around four continents and dream everyday of new adventures. Get his latest updates on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
By Fitz & Becca Cahall
Powerful ideas often demand that we leave the comfort of a safety net. We quit a nine to five. We take out a second mortgage on our house. Along the way, we can expect to be called crazy one day and brilliant the next. In the late 1990s, Jeff Pensiero had an idea, to build a backcountry ski lodge that catered to snowboarders. It was outlandish – targeting a market that barely existed – and yet perfect. But, like any dream, it took years of sweat, worry, right-people-right-time connections, and damn good perseverance to make it all look seamless. From the shores of Lake Tahoe to the world renowned slopes of Baldface Lodge, we bring you one snowboarder’s journey to create his dream.
[Listen to "If You Built It" by The Dirtbag Diaries on Soundcloud]
Visit dirtbagdiaries.com for links to past episodes, featured music and to pledge your support. You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, RSS, SoundCloud and Stitcher, or connect with the Dirtbag Diaries community on Facebook and Twitter. The Dirtbag Diaries is a Duct Tape Then Beer production.
[Graphic by Walker Cahall]
By Luka Krajnc, photos by Marko Prezelj
After years of discussion, the Alpine Association of Slovenia (formerly Slovenian Alpine Club) established a program for young motivated alpinists in order to help them get the experience needed for achieving the goals they dream about. Mentoring seven different characters with various goals and ambitions (and our soaring egos), is not an easy task. We needed a leader.
Marko Prezelj is a strong character himself and someone who has plenty of experience. He proved to be perfect for the job. He helped combine us into an active group of friends who, over a series of trips around Europe, developed a strong bond. In September, we headed towards Tibet in a search of unforgettable moments and colorful experiences. Looking back now, I think we succeeded...
[Above: The town of Nyalam, two hour’s drive from the Nepalese/Tibetan border, proved to be a good starting point for our initial acclimatization climbs. Sadly, what was once a small, pristine Tibetan village is now a concrete-covered town full of soldiers and wealth-seeking traders. Photo: Marko Prezelj]
October, 2013: Yes! We (Evrard, Sean, Stéphane and I) have hit civilization and made it back from the Chinese mountains. Thank God, food tastes so good now. And what a treat it is to be able to take hot showers whenever. Sorry for the lack of news. Again, all sat phone credits had to be sacrificed for phone sex to release some tension in our team, obviously crucial for our climbing.
We spent the first week in the mountains just exploring all the valleys around us, looking for interesting climbing targets. We also tried to climb during that first week but everyday the beautiful weather turned into a snowstorm by the afternoon. We realized with the particularly cold temps and fresh snow, we could only consider rock climbing on the south faces hoping the sun would heat things up a bit. This criteria narrowed down our choices a lot but we finally found what we were looking for: A big wall with plenty of potential to keep ourselves busy for a while. It was, in fact, the 1400m South Pillar of Kyzyl Asker (5842m) that attracted us. It's long, steep and high with rock of great quality mixed in with lots of white “things” on the upper part of the wall. I was excited by the prospect that this experience would be something quite different from all the other big walls I had climbed before.
It took us another week to bring all our gear, food and musical instruments up the long glacier to the base of the wall. The last two days, we finally had perfect weather and started climbing with our load, and fixed the first 400m of the wall. Right away we were very impressed by the quality of the rock but also by its crazy hueco shapes which made for some unique climbing.
The following day the weather remained the same but, fresh from a full day of rest, we decided to tough it up and confront the bad weather. We moved our camp higher which we thought would save us some time. But as soon as we started hauling, we got ourselves caught in a whiteout with heavy snow precipitation. The atmosphere was magical. Everything was covered with 20cm of fresh snow, but we needed to maintain focus to have everything go right because in these conditions any error could be costly. This day it was Steph’s turn to not feel so good with a cold he most likely caught from me. At the end of the day when we managed to set our ledges, slinged around on each side of a horn, Steph was in a more passive mode leaving his feet and hands particularly cold. But fortunately, some hot soup later, heat came back to him.
The sun appears after 24 hours of snow in camp 1. Since the face was too plastered to rock climb, we decided to move our camp upward. But as soon as we folded our portaledges it started snowing again.
After a day of hauling in a snow storm, we finally set our camp 2.
Sunny morning after the snowstorm. Sean meditates on his climbing strategy at camp 2.
The next morning, the good weather was back and Sean and I started the day by cleaning the fresh snow out of the cracks of the two pitches we wanted to redpoint. I jugged up with my big boots and gloves but quickly felt the cold, especially with a light but freezing wind. All the snow didn’t even melt in the sun, and the water bottle hanging on my harness had frozen completely! I cleaned what I could but the pitch remained iced up. Sean’s pitch was cleaner, so he decided to give it an attempt but it was so freaking cold. Before he tried it, I set Steph’s watch in the shade to check if I was being a wimp or if the temperature was really that cold. A little later his watch showed -6° C and it was the warmest time of the day! My hands and feet were so cold that I could not imagine putting my climbing shoes on. But Sean felt OK climbing in these conditions and managed to give it a really good try, falling only at the end of the crux. By nighttime, I set the watch outside the fly and it showed -15° C!
That day, because the weather was perfect but I still couldn’t climb, it made me wonder: What am I doing here climbing in this cold? Where is the fun in this? I fell asleep mentally worn out. Fortunately, with the help of some tricks to keep my feet and hands warm, I climbed well the next day even though I was cold. It gave me back my confidence and enjoyment. Sean got closer to sending his pitch project and I redpointed my personal best pitch of the whole climb – a perfect splitter crack with beautiful exposure.
Sean big-wall cragging on a perfect overhanging splitter crack right above camp 2.
Between camp 2 and 3 there was series of amazing pitches, really nice cracks but also unique huecos. Here, Nico fires a perfect splitter crack above camp 2.
The next day, Sean gave another three tries and got painfully close to send his project pitch, but finally he decided to give up on it because it was our ninth day on the wall and we were still less than halfway up the mountain. He quickly completed an easier free variation so that we stayed in the game of freeing every bit of this mountain. Meanwhile Steph and I fixed the rest of our ropes to the base of the last headwall and finished the day in a snowstorm. The climbing conditions became icy here with lots of icicles hanging everywhere.
More and more, the summit felt just below our noses and we were quite tempted to cut loose from our static ropes to make an attempt to climb to the summit. But the poor weather conditions held us back and instead we moved our camp once more to the altitude of 5200m. Afterward, I was glad we made this move because the summit was still much further than expected. This time the camp move was not as epic. We managed to finish the day comfortably installed, enjoying an amazing view looking over many virgin peaks. After a few days in the same place, it was great to change camp and break our routine.
The next morning it was Sean’s turn to be hit by the flu so he stayed on the portaldge the whole day while Steph, Evrard and I explored the last headwall until all ropes were fixed. I was going to switch lead with Stéphane but when we arrived at the base of the climb, Steph realized he had forgotten to bring his climbing shoes. What a bummer! I was not disappointed by his mistake because the weather was perfect and the climbing was amazing!!! I climbed three full rope lengths of perfect quality splitter cracks running right on the pillar and here we were again at the end of the ropes we could fix. The atmosphere was quite spectacular with icicles hanging all over the place and the view started to dominate with mountains all around us. When we came back to our portaledge we were relieved to see Sean feeling better so we decided to plan a summit attempt and wake up at 5 a.m. the next day in order to reach the top of our fixed rope by light, around 8 a.m.
The rock was spectacular on the whole climb! Nico exploring the last rock pitches above camp 3.
At 5 a.m. the next day, we woke up and were so excited and confident that it took us about 45 minutes, and some porridge in our bellies, to look outside and see that the weather wasn’t all that good. We woke up again at 7 a.m. only to realize that the weather was getting worse. It ended up snowing all day and all night. Our gas was running low from melting water which started to worry us. Even with all the fresh snow, we chose not to miss our chance and decided to make an attempt the next day if the weather cleared up. But of course this meant we would be climbing a rock face that would be completely plastered with ice and snow. Before sleeping that night I was a bit anxious realizing how exposed we would be to the cold conditions and if the weather turned bad on us. We had absolutely no weather forecast, and we knew that often even a perfect morning here turned into a heavy snowstorm by the afternoon.
Fortunately, my excitement erased my anxiety and the next morning, the sky full of stars, gave me confidence that it would be the right day for it. Our start got a bit delayed by Steph who didn’t feel very well while jumaring in the morning. So Evrard and I passed him so that he could take it easy. Luckily, he felt better and better as the day went on. Sean started climbing late at about 11 a.m. and, to our surprise, the wind had already done a good part of the snow cleaning so it wasn’t as plastered as we thought. I switched lead with Sean and from that pitch onward there was ice and snow all over the place, so we kept our crampons and ice axes. It took us another seven pitches of steep and spectacular mixed climbing to reach the summit ridge. It felt very nice just to keep moving and not deal with the hassle of handling a long, static rope to fix.
This last section was a lot longer than what we had estimated. Darkness settled in just as we climbed the final pitch to the summit and the temperature dropped. I was very happy to be on the summit of Kyzyl Asker but the cold was biting me so hard I knew I had to get down quickly. It was difficult for me to really enjoy this moment except for the perspective that soon I would be comfortably looking back at the mountain and would feel complete. In the distance, a light from the Kyrgyz side flashed to us. It was a strange feeling to be seen from the top and have our first contact with civilization after 20 days of just us and the mountains.
Nico started this pitch with his climbing shoes but quickly realized it was not the best idea so he switched to mixed climbing. From there on, we didn't leave our ice axes and crampons until the summit. Here we are on our summit pitch, still early on.
Frozen and happy on the summit at 10pm.
The way down was long but went well, with no issues. My feet were cold so I forced myself to make them do some push-ups inside my boots, but it wasn’t enough to get them warm. On the last few raps it was not only my feet but my whole body that was fighting the cold.
At 3 a.m., I was glad to finally arrive back to our portaledge. It took me a couple of hours to get my body and feet warm with hot drinks. Steph did the same but as my feet were getting warmer, his were still hard like a block of ice. I knew it wasn’t good. The next day they were blue and blisters started appearing. Evrard’s feet were not looking very good either. We were so exhausted from our push to the summit we couldn’t do anything else but spend the whole next day just recovering on the portaledge. But it was obvious: We had to get down as soon as possible so that Steph’s feet could be better taken care of.
The next day we rapped down and managed to slide all our gear down the glacier using our haul bags like sleds. And two intense days later of load-carrying effort, we were back with all our gear to luxury in the city of Aksu. Our adventure was over! It was time to enjoy and value the simple things in life!
With Stephane's frostbite, we hurried down the mountain. We saved a lot of time by pulling all our haulbags at once on the glacier. Behind you see the south pillar of Kyzyl Asker. It's always a good feeling to be able to look back at a mountain after climbing it.
11am in basecamp, the driver finishes loading the camel and the mule. We are leaving this amazing place! Hopefully, Stephane's foot will soon be taken care of.
Stéphane is now in a hospital in Brussels in the hands of specialists. If everything goes well, Stéphane’s foot will be fully healed in a few months and he’ll be ready for the next adventure.
We would like to thank everyone who helped us live our dreams: Patagonia, Julbo, Five Ten, Black Diamond, The Belgian Alpine Club, Seeonee, Sterling Rope, Nikon, Belclimb.be, Petzl, Careplus, Boreal, Crux and Threshold Provision Salmon Jerky.
Also we would like to thank our translator Alli for his good vibes, our liaison officer Yue (who was very kind to us), the camel drivers (who were very friendly and helpful) and Guo from Guide to Adventures & Expeditions (GAE).
Details about the climb: South Pillar of Kyzyl Asker, Western Kokshal Tau Moutains, China, 1400m, 31 pitches 7b, M7, all free, no bolts, no pitons. About 10 pitches on the upper part of the wall are common with the Russian route.
Growing up in Brussels, Nico Favresse bonded to the outdoors through windsurfing, mountain biking and skiing. He started climbing at 15 and immediately found his passion. As an 18-year old exchange student in the United States, he visited Yosemite and discovered a new calling for big walls. Since then he’s climbed big walls in Patagonia, Pakistan, Greenland, Venezuela and Canada.
Evrard Wendenbaum's work as a photographer has led him to the most inaccessible corners of the planet over the last ten years. His first film, Amazonian Vertigo, shot during the ascent of Angel Falls in Venezuela, has won 11 film festival awards. Evrard also leads the Naturevolution environmental association and applies his skills to the preservation of biodiversity.
By Colin Haley
"See you down there, f***er!" writes Ole Lied – a gigantic, hard-drinking, Norwegian party animal. He dresses in dark Scandinavian leather, stuffs his mouth with snus (little tea-bags of chewing tobacco, quite popular in northern Europe), and every now and then works himself into a berserker rage, attacking big, steep mountains, and returning home with beautiful routes as his trophies (such as "Venas Azules" on Torre Egger). Every November, I convene with Ole, some other Norwegian alpinists, and all the other Patagoniacs in El Chalten, Argentina, for another dose of pretty much the most technical, most fantastic, most intense and most fun alpine climbing on the planet – Patagonia's Chalten Massif.
Editor's note: Colin wrote this piece just before leaving for El Chalten. He’s been down there three weeks now and already has a handful climbs under his belt. Visit patagonia.com/vidapatagonia to keep up with Colin, Mikey Schaefer, Kate Rutherford and more of our friends and ambassadors down in Patagonia. We’ll have live feeds to their Instagram accounts, tweets and blog posts throughout the season.
Why does Norway, a country with the population of Washington State, have such a big presence in Patagonian alpinism? Admittedly, the mountains of Patagonia are very difficult, the weather is often very foul, and they certainly have a large amount of dormant Viking badassness in their genes, but I think the real truth is where Ole and his countrymen are coming from.
[Above: The Torres with Aguja Desmochada in the foreground. All photos by Colin Haley]
Sunrise on Cerro Adela from the west face of Cerro Torre.
Jon Walsh on an attempt of "Venas Azules" on Torre Egger.
Jon Walsh descending to the Niponino bivouac at sunrise, after a long night rappelling the east face of Cerro Torre in a storm.
Leo, Max and Lucho sharing mate in a snowcave on the South Patagonian Icecap.
Dylan Johnson belaying the last pitch of the "Supercanaleta," as clouds roll off the South Patagonian Icecap.
Summer lasted a long time in the Pacific Northwest this year, but today the rainy season started. My natural instincts tell me to settle in and get cozy – start wearing a hat and waxing my skis – but I have a plane ticket to El Calafate. It's raining and it's dark at 6pm, but there is a tingling inside me because I know what is coming.
Over the past few weeks I have slowly been amassing a pile of gear that will come to Patagonia – ropes, slings, carabiners, crampons, stoppers, gloves. I have been seeking out steep, burly cracks – one final, desperate bit of procrastination training. And, of course, I've started looking at the weather forecast in El Chalten again. Fall is a relaxed time, and I'd better enjoy it while I can, because three-and-a-half months of non-stop excitement begins soon!
So, here we go... another Patagonia climbing season is about to begin. Time to take a deep breath and get ready for some incredible experiences, dragging our abused bodies up and down some of the world's most beautiful mountains.
Colin Haley grew up hiking, skiing and climbing in the rugged Cascade Mountains where he developed a love of mountain adventure and an indifference to foul weather. His climbing is focused on the mountains of Alaska and Patagonia, where he’s drawn to the steepest alpine faces. You can keep up with Colin on his new website, colinhaley.com.
Live coverage from Patagonia: See Instagram photos, tweets and blog posts from our friends and ambassadors at patagonia.com/vidapatagonia or with the #vidapatagonia tag.
October 15 was an idyllic autumn evening in the Northeast, cool and clear at the intersection of Bowery and Bleecker. As the sun set, amps and guitars and drum kits and crates of audio gear rolled through the front doors of the old CBGB gallery, awakening the musical spirits still lingering in the iconic venue.
Throwing shindigs to launch a new Patagonia store in New York City has almost become a ritual. Hell, I’ve been to three in the last two years – one for each Tin Shed location in fall 2011 and just across town at the Meatpacking district last February. The bash on Bowery, however, stood to be the wildest so far.
My partner shouted at the top of his lungs, causing me to jolt to attention and look down to him and our hanging camp. We were high on El Capitan’s Shield route, and I watched helplessly as a yellow dry bag containing our garbage from the past five days – including twenty-four crushed aluminum cans – grew smaller and smaller as it plummeted toward the ground. After a full twenty seconds of airtime, our bag exploded at the base of the monolith, firing shrapnel in all directions. The blast sent echoes to Half Dome and back.
The yellow bag had been clipped in poorly and detached once I began hauling our supplies to the next station. (In climbing terms: the dry bag buckle was mistakenly clipped into the taut docking line and thus came loose when my partner lowered out the bags.) It was March and, fortunately, we had the wall to ourselves, otherwise the error could have killed someone. Our team was relatively inexperienced and also greatly relieved that we did not drop something vital, like a sleeping bag. Dark clouds lurked and when we finally reached the top we were pounded by a violent storm. We fought our way down the slippery descent in the dark, and somehow found our way to the Ahwahnee Hotel, where we slept on the floor next to a crackling fireplace. In the morning, we exited quickly, forgetting about the yellow bag debacle, and drove back to school without cleaning up our mess.
I’ve returned almost every year since those days on The Shield to climb a different route up the monolith, and this fall I teamed up with three National Park Service (NPS) climbing rangers to do something unique.
We climbed the Tribal Rite route and afterwards, instead of rushing down to hot food and warm showers, met with climbing stewards Cheyne Lempe and Buck Yedor on the top. Then we removed 120 pounds of waste from the upper corners of The Nose route and summit.
The Nose is the most famous climbing route in the world, and the most popular path up the 3,000-foot face of El Capitan. Each year, hundreds of advanced climbers travel to Yosemite from all corners of the world to give it their best – and many fail. The average ascent time is four days, and teams are often mentally and physically spent by the time they navigate the route’s upper sections. Much like they do on Mt. Everest, a percentage of people compromise the purity of their journey by leaving garbage on the route.
NPS climbing rangers and volunteers have been doing the annual Nose Wipe since 2006 to address this issue. This was my second year volunteering. We rappel in from the top with large empty bags and use a twelve-foot retractable pole to remove waste. It’s clear that a lot of the debris was not intentionally abandoned. We found a Gore-Tex glove, sections of climbing rope, and last year pulled a $60 Black Diamond helmet from a deep slot 600 feet from the top.
Anyone who’s climbed The Nose will also confirm that there’s plenty of valuable climbing equipment residing just out of arm's reach within the wide cracks on the first third of the route. However, most often we remove empty plastic bottles and aluminum cans. Some of the stuff smells like piss so we wear rubber gloves and face masks. Since the Nose Wipe began, hundreds of pounds of garbage have been extracted from cracks on The Nose, and we estimate that somewhere between 300 and 500 pounds remain.
Ranger Ben Doyle spends a good portion of his work week doing operations in vertical environments. He patrols routes like The Nose regularly and heroically rescues injured climbers from difficult to reach places. In June, Ben climbed/patrolled both The Nose and the face of Half Dome in twenty-one hours. This required climbing more than a vertical mile of highly technical terrain, and is a feat beyond most people’s comprehension. This was Ben’s fifth consecutive year doing a Nose Wipe.
Ben refers to the Nose Wipe as a Sisyphean task, a reference to the Greek myth of a king condemned by Zeus for his misdeeds. According to the myth, the king is compelled to roll a giant boulder up a hill, only for it to roll back to the bottom once he reaches the top, thus requiring him to repeat the process for eternity. Every year, climbers leave behind garbage, and it’s hard to stay on top of the problem.
However, we are curious to see what will happen if we remove 100% of the garbage from The Nose in one go. The most problematic area is the slot behind the Camp 6 ledge, 600 feet from the top. It’s like an archeological dig up there because we’re uncovering garbage from different generations as we hit the different layers of compact waste. This season we removed several bleach bottles – apparently climbers used them for storing water during the ‘70s, before you could buy water and soda in two-liter plastic bottles. If we restore The Nose back to a pristine condition, maybe future climbers will be more inclined to give it the respect it deserves.
I find myself circling back to Yvon Chouinard’s quote. Although climbers are physically ascending something tangible, there’s also a metaphysical transformation taking place, leading toward spiritual growth. However, this process is compromised if we disregard our environment. Perhaps YC’s words show us the true Sisyphean task, because there isn’t much difference between perpetually rolling a rock up a hill and climbing a mountain if neither produces the desired result: to not come home the same asshole we were when we started.
Our sport is rapidly changing, with a huge new demographic of urban climbers emerging from gym to crag. We must continue to step it up as environmental stewards if we wish to maintain access to these majestic places. Otherwise, we may as well glue feathers to our backs and head towards the sun with Icarus.
Dave N. Campbell is a Pro Sales rep for Patagonia and teaches wilderness survival classes at Truckee Meadows Community College in the evenings. He holds a BA in Chinese and has spent extensive time in the mountain ranges of China. In 2011, Dave worked on a Panda restoration project in Sichuan with The Nature Conservancy and last summer he led a ski/snowboard mountaineering trip in the Tianshan Range of Xinjiang. Earlier this year Dave worked with Sean O'Neill on the first parapalegic lead climb.
We would like to invite you to be among the first to watch Worn Wear, a new film from Keith, Lauren, Chris, and Dan Malloy.
Worn Wear is an exploration of quality – in the things we own and the lives we live. This short film takes you to an off-the-grid surf camp in Baja, Mexico; a family's maple syrup harvest in Contoocook, Vermont; an organic farm in Ojai, California; and into the lives of a champion skier, a National Geographic photographer, and a legendary alpinist. It also features exclusive interviews with Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard.
Released as an antidote to the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping frenzy, Worn Wear is an invitation to celebrate the stuff you already own.
[Video: Worn Wear - a Film About the Stories We Wear]
Thumbing through my recently purchased copy of Dan Malloy’s Slow Is Fast paperback, I felt the same elation I had as a teenager buying new vinyl. Listening to Yes’s double album, Tales From Topographic Oceans, I would carefully examine Roger Dean’s ethereal cover art as Jon Anderson and Steve Howe’s highly energized rock transported this Jersey kid to another place. And that’s what creative types do. They grab a hold of you and take you with them. It’s what Dan Malloy does with Slow Is Fast. He creates a beautifully made visual tribute to his native California.
Back in the fall of 2012, Dan and his good friends, Kellen Keene and Kanoa Zimmerman rode touring bikes along 700 coastal miles, documenting their trip with plenty of photographs and interviews. Some pictures are humorous, like the road kill one, where a beanie doll is added to the mix to soften death’s morbidity. Details are everywhere. The book’s front cover has a tiny, red bike-trailer icon and there are pages torn from a calendar scribbled with notes that say four shakas, zero middle fingers and two angry honks – a record of the day’s interaction with motorists.
[“In the last month I have learned more about the people and places along the California coast than I had in 34 years and a thousand car trips.” -Dan Malloy. Photo: Kanoa Zimmerman]
The trip started 100 miles north of San Francisco with just the bare essentials. As they traveled down coast they stopped to surf, work with farmers, and spend time with artists and musicians. They also visited craftspeople and talked to them about their trade. There’s the Santa Cruz surfer kid who expertly makes prehistoric stone tools for the UC Berkeley archeological department, a bladesmith who considers his craft a spiritual practice and, my favorite, a hatchet throwing, jack-of-all trades surfer from Big Sur. These personal encounters make the book pulse with life.
There are photos that illustrate the difference between big and small agriculture. Long rows of tidy crops sprayed with unhealthy chemicals versus a field tended to with wind-chapped hands and a strong body. Growing up, I used to work on my grandparents' farm just outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They grew corn, tomatoes and whatever else they thought the neighbors might like. Granddad let me feed the chickens and pigeons, and pick ears of corn from a field next to the pigeon house. I remember walking between the tall rows, the warm, clumpy earth feeling good beneath my bare feet. At a smaller field I collected rhubarb and eggplant for grandmother’s homemade fritters and strawberry rhubarb pie. She made the dough from scratch.
Dan and the guys visit Brenton Kelly and Jan Smith, who run the Quail Springs Permaculture Site and Educational Center in Maricopa. Dan asks them what they like about their jobs and what’s important to them. Brenton says he loves teaching and the interaction he has with students. Jan mentions that soil and light are basic connections to life and that she considers herself a wild critter. She feels that feeding people is the highest form of activism a person can do. Their spirited and noble lifestyle is exemplified in a stanza from Dick Gibford’s poem, While An Eagle Soared Like A Desert Lord.
He was just glad to be
Way out here
Still somewhat free
From pressure to conform
To modern times.
South of Cuyama up in the Sierra Madre, Dan sat in a small cabin with a man, wearing a wide brimmed hat and brightly colored bandana. It was Dick Gibford. He lives in the mountains tending cattle with his horse. Dan listens to Dick talk about the Spanish vaquero and their importance to the ranch culture. The American cowboy learned everything from the vaqueros Dick tells Dan. The vaquero move cattle at a slow pace, treating them with tender care. It takes fortitude and patience to do this kind of work, but it’s what Dick loves to do.
The old cowboy poet and everyone else we meet in the book and DVD grabs a hold of us and takes us with them. It’s what creative types do. We are grateful that Dan, Kellen and Kanoa stopped along the way to meet these folks, taking time to listen to their stories and learn about their unique skills. Dan reminds us that when we slow down and listen, we live.
Slow is Fast is now available from Patagonia.com and Patagonia Retail Stores.
[Video: Book trailer for Slow is Fast]
By Gavin McClurg
I've been really fortunate in the last couple decades to explore many of the farthest corners of the globe – thirteen straight years of sailing, chasing wind and waves on a series of kitesurfing expeditions, which included nearly two full circumnavigations, and the last couple years, paragliding all over the Alps, South America, Central America, Africa and the Himalayas. Just like surfers chasing swell, pilots chase seasons and weather.
Reggie Crist, a former Olympic alpine skier and friend of mine who lives here in Sun Valley is even making a movie about how athletes are like migratory animals, hopping on planes or jumping in cars chasing what they “need” be it adrenaline, or escape, or just pure fun. Animals, of course, are seeking food and shelter, which is all we really need as well. But for some people this other “need” is as urgent as the next hit is for a junky. Without it we find life marginalized, gray and drab.
[Above: Gavin McClurg soars. Photo: Jody MacDonald]
I met Matt and two other local pilots, Donnie and Nate, at 3pm, right across the street from the historic Sun Valley Lodge. We were up at launch an hour later, legs and lungs burning but we were all smiles – the conditions looked perfect. In no time we were all off the hill and heading up the ridge towards Otto’s Peak, at the top of trail creek, various singing “beep beep beep” verifying glorious climbs. Cloudbase was nearly 15,000 feet and there was almost no wind. The thermals were gentle, the sky more clear and blue than I'd ever seen in the Wood River Valley, which stretches out to the great basin desert and winds up to Galena Pass, the gateway to Stanley and the stunning Sawtooth Mountains. After a horrific fire season and being evacuated from our home just a few weeks earlier, I couldn't believe everything looked so pristine. The flying was so good I found myself questioning what was happening, and looking over my shoulder for the surprise that never came. Days like this come around very, very rarely.
We made the jump from Otto’s, at the south end of the Boulder range over to the Pioneers and eventually all grouped up and flew right down the range. I discovered Matt had a GoPro with him and we spiraled down, deep into the range, tight into the terrain, something that would be suicidal in summer. We must have flown 40 kilometers out and back and then back out from one end to the other. Donnie and Nate decided to fly back to town after a flight that both would later describe as one of the best they'd ever had. Matt and I carried on until sunset, wondering if someone had snuck some acid into our lunch. This just wasn't possible.
[Video: The Higher You Get, The Higher You Get by Offshore Odysseys]
We landed about 50 feet away from the Pioneer Cabin at 9,500 feet. After laughing, and hugging, and laughing some more we watched the sun fade over the horizon, packed up and moved into the cabin. We enjoyed a hot cup of tea, dinner, star gazing, a lot more laughing and a lot of discussion about this shared addiction of flight – and the irony of how we spend so much time and money and effort chasing what we love around the world yet the best is right here in our own backyard.
I've traveled and moved more than I've stayed put in my 41 years on this very cool planet we call home, adding my own considerable carbon footprint to the abundance that we humans are producing daily. Maybe it's time to slow down and enjoy the horizon that is right here every day.
The next day we fired up the stove, had a coffee, walked no more than five minutes to a slope above the cabin and launched, hoping we could find a place to land in the canyon below us but couldn't see. The sun was already baking the east-facing slopes and as we pilots like to say, “It was ON.” We circled like birds up and up to 12,000 feet and pointed our wings home. A place I think I'll stay awhile.
Gavin McClurg is the CEO of Offshore Odysseys and founder of The Best Odyssey and The Cabrinha Quest. He grew up on boats in the Pacific Northwest and commercially fished in the Bering Sea before getting into sailing in the mid ‘90s. The Cabrinha Quest is a five-year seafaring expedition to seek out the world’s most remote and dynamic kitesurfing and surfing locations. Photo: Jody MacDonald
By Fitz & Becca Cahall
Is there something out there? It’s a question that lurks in the back of my mind. Probably in yours too. It’s one of the very reasons why I love the outdoors: the unpredictability.
Over the years, I’ve collected experiences. Moments, like bits of data, that collectively guide my intuition. And yet, we’ve all had that moment where hairs stand up on the back of our neck. Was it heightened perception? Or did the wind just blow the right way? And if you convince yourself it was the wind, does some lump of doubt sit in your stomach? Because sometimes you just won’t believe something is out there. Until it’s right there.
[Listen to "Tales of Terror Vol. 4" by The Dirtbag Diaries on Soundcloud]
Visit dirtbagdiaries.com for links to past episodes, featured music and to pledge your support. You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, RSS, SoundCloud and Stitcher, or connect with the Dirtbag Diaries community on Facebook and Twitter. The Dirtbag Diaries is a Duct Tape Then Beer production.
[Graphic by Walker Cahall]
Trying to tame the mighty Susitna seems foolish, particularly since the river is entombed in ice much of the year. That any “scientist” being paid to study the proposed dam would call this place a “biological desert,” as we’d heard, or any government proposing to destroy it in the name of “green energy,” seems too ridiculous to fathom. But this is what’s said and what’s planned.
The state of Alaska has authorized expenditures of $165 million to push the project through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s expedited permitting process. As farcical as it might sound, the project is very real.
“It’s like finding out that your best friend has been diagnosed with terminal cancer,” said Mike Wood, who lives on the bank of the river with his wife.
Check out this footage from one of the first whitewater descents of Devil’s Canyon:
A more modern day descent of Devil’s Canyon:
[Video: Jeff Shelton]
Get involved / Voice your opposition
Matt Stoecker is the owner of Stoecker Ecological, the director of Beyond Searsville Dam and a Producer/Underwater Photographer for DamNation.
Travis Rummel is the co-owner of Felt Soul Media and a Director/Producer for DamNation.
By Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff Project
In 1968, high jumper Dick Fosbury set an Olympics record by rejecting the standard "straddling" technique – one leg, then the other – in favor of flinging his whole body up and over the bar, head first and backwards. At first track and field officials tried to ban the awkward move dubbed the Fosbury Flop, but it was so effective that soon almost all high jumpers used it, as they still do today. The Flop was not a transactional solution aimed at tweaking the conventional way of doing things, but a transformational solution that changed how the game was played.
To make changes on the scale needed to address the severity of today’s environmental, economic and social crises, we have to change the rules of the game on three levels: in our governments, in our businesses and in our communities. Our communities are a good place to start: They're close to home; the solutions are usually easier to achieve than trying to make change at the international, national or even state levels; and the emotional and social rewards are more immediate.
Investing in the commons. Forget the sheep-grazing analogies you may have learned in Economics 101. The commons is simply what we all own together – libraries, parks, community gardens, municipal swimming pools, trout steams, mountains and hiking trails. The more a community invests in its commons, the less likely its individual members will feel the need to build things like huge walled-off back yards that need a lot of watering (and mowing).
Sharing. There's a sharing boom happening – everything from borrowing power drills from the local tool lending library to car-sharing programs and housing for travelers. Sharing is not only good for the environment, it's good for our wallets since we don't have to buy so much stuff, and good for building communities since we have to talk to each other to share.
Nurturing new social or cultural norms. Increasingly people are opting out of the Madison Avenue-perpetuated mantra that more and new is always better. Many invitations to kids' birthday parties now specify "used gifts only." The rapper Mackelmore (& Ryan Lewis) scored a hit by celebrating the secondhand aesthetic with "Thriftshop" (warning: explicit lyrics). Patagonia, of course, is promoting its ebay shop [and Worn Wear used-clothing sections in some of their stores] to encourage customers to buy and sell their used gear. These cultural game-changers are important, as studies have found that our shopping and buying habits are heavily influenced by what those around us do.
And changes at the community level can lead to bigger transformations. Dick Fosbury came up with the Flop on his own, shared it with his local community (his teammates at Oregon State University), took it to the Olympics and from there it took over the track and field world. The same scaling up can happen with community-based solutions. In response to their frustration over the failure of national and international leaders to address global warming, in 2006 two small British groups started the Transition Towns movement, supporting community-led responses to climate change while "building resilience and happiness." Today the Transitions Network includes over 1,100 groups in 43 countries.
As I've said many times, community-level solutions aren't enough. We can't retreat into our private, sustainable, organic, cruelty-free havens and let everyone else fend for themselves. But they're a great place to start. Making relatively small changes at the community level builds our change-making muscles for bigger challenges. Today a bike rack in front of the library, next year dedicated bike lanes all over town, then on to expanding public transit and halting freeway construction, eventually taking on fossil fuel subsidies.
Next time we'll talk about practical solutions for making change in our communities, with ideas on how to get started. Meanwhile, we'd love to hear about how you and others are changing the rules of the game where you live. How is your community creating solutions for a better future?
Annie Leonard is the founder of the The Story of Stuff Project. She has dedicated nearly two decades to investigating and organizing on environmental health and justice issues. Her monthly podcast series, The Good Stuff, features interviews with inspiring activists, entrepreneurs, scientists and others who’ve succeeded in making change.
By Fitz & Becca Cahall
"We had the discussion around the campfire one night of trying to define 'what is wilderness'," John Stoneman remembers. "We determined that if you get hurt or you have a problem and there's really no way out, you're in the wilderness." Despite the fact that 29,000 people raft down the Colorado River every year, the Grand Canyon is still unquestionably that -- wilderness. But what happens if you do need to get out? When the one place you need to be is a thousand miles away and you are off the grid? In 2010, John put in at Lees Ferry and embarked upon the trip of a lifetime -- but not in the way he imagined. Today, we bring you a story about a race against time and the lengths that perfect strangers will go to help others in need. Buckle up.
[Listen to "Rebirth of Belief" by The Dirtbag Diaries on Soundcloud]
Visit dirtbagdiaries.com for links to past episodes, featured music and to pledge your support. You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, RSS, SoundCloud and Stitcher, or connect with the Dirtbag Diaries community on Facebook and Twitter. The Dirtbag Diaries is a Duct Tape Then Beer production.
[Graphic by Walker Cahall]
Today's advertisement appearing in The New York Times:
It's Fashion Week, when the design world turns its attention to what's new. We'd like to point out something better: what lasts. While we're proud of the quality and performance of Patagonia clothes, every new thing we make – everything anyone makes – costs nature more than we now know how to repay.
Over the past two years, Patagonia’s major environmental campaign has been Our Common Waters (OCW). The campaign influenced Patagonia’s impact on water and brought awareness to one simple fact: the more water people use, the less there is for everything else.
We’re moving out of this campaign, and into our next one. The Responsible Economy will start in September.
Before we leave Our Common Waters, we want to highlight some successes in the campaign, and thank some of our key partners for their ongoing efforts.
Our Common Waters focused on water scarcity, broken rivers and pollution, as well as Patagonia’s use of water as a company. At the end of this post, you'll find the environmental groups we worked with on each of these issues.
[Above: Instructions for removal. Matilija Dam, Ventura County, California. Photo: Matt Stoecker]
Patagonia's Water Footprint
Pollution - Fracking
Pollution - Tar Sands, Canada
Thank you to all of our partners (including those not listed here) and every one of you who took action on behalf of Our Common Waters.
I may not be much of a climber, but I love it, and to have achieved that dream to climb El Cap left me in a state of contentment, almost. There was still one dream I wanted to realize in Yosemite, my dream to become an underwear model for Patagonia.
This dream, first suggested to me by my friend Amber Jeck, originally seemed just as improbable as climbing El Capitan. (For the full backstory, read "The Underwear Story".) I mean an underwear model is the king of all male models right?
My dream seemed like a joke for years, a conversation piece at parties, something I thought I’d talk about forever, but never get to actually do. That all changed last year when Patagonia published the story about my underwear dream on The Cleanest Line, which is an excerpt from my book, Climbing Out of Bed. Shortly after this my buddy Shaun Matusewicz started an online petition for me to fulfill my dream, which motivated me to write a formal request to Patagonia. To my delight, they were game to have a little fun and agreed that I could indeed model their undies!
The only catch was that I needed to visit the Patagonia headquarters in Ventura, California to do the shoot. I live in Durango, Colorado, a day’s drive away from Ventura, so the dream was still somewhat improbable. Dreams are always improbable, impossible, or difficult though, improvisation would be necessary. Then it hit me, we could do the shoot during my upcoming trip to Yosemite, in the most iconic of all places for a photo shoot, the El Cap Meadow. As it turned out, some Patagonia employees would be in Yosemite at the same time for the Facelift.
It happened our last morning before leaving Yosemite. Dave and I met up with Jenning Steger, a photo editor for Patagonia. I explained to her my dream, and she was more than happy to take some time before climbing to do the shoot. We talked climbing for a bit, and then I stripped down to a new pair of Patagonia underwear. I was jacked on coffee and the air had a brisk autumn coolness to it, but I managed to keep my swagger. I couldn’t help but think about that Seinfeld episode where Kramer takes pictures of George in his underwear (with Kramer’s voice in my head): “Give it to me, work it, you’re a man, you’re a loverboy.”
Then, lying down in the cool grass of the meadow, I did the pose I imagined underwear models do, with one hand on my hip, and the other on my head, elbow stretched to the sky. I felt so at home in front of the camera, in the El Cap Meadow, that I realized, maybe I really do have a future in modeling. We talked climbing and photography some more with Jenning, and then we were on our way back to Colorado.
My dream was finally achieved, I did an underwear modeling shoot with Patagonia! The whole drive home we laughed about it. Then the cosmic coincidences continued.
The first day back at my day job working at a Mexican restaurant, a customer grabbed my attention. I thought I’d done something wrong -- after all, I knew my mind was still in Yosemite. She started off, “Now, I’m not trying to be weird or anything, but I used to work in the fashion industry… have you ever considered doing any modeling?”
Too surprised to really answer the question I just stood there, jaw on the floor, wondering what else might be in store for me in my underwear.
Durango resident, Luke Mehall, is the publisher of The Climbing Zine and a contributor to the Durango Telegraph . He recently published his first book, Climbing Out of Bed, available in print and as an e-book on Kindle and Nook. Luke will kick off the first leg of his fall book tour starting on Thursday, August 29th at 7:00 p.m. with a presentation at Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder, Colorado.
The 10th annual Yosemite Facelift will start with an evening program at 6:30 p.m. on September 24, 2013 and will end at midnight September 29, 2013. Camping is free during the event so come out to the Valley lend a hand.
By Yvon Chouinard
“In wildness is the preservation of the world.” – Thoreau
This year, Patagonia will be 40 years old. There is much to celebrate on this anniversary, but what I am proudest of is the support we’ve given the people who do the real work to save wildness: grassroots activists.
I’m not an activist. I don’t really have the guts to be on the front lines. But I have supported activists ever since a young man gave a slide show in 1972 at a city council meeting in Ventura. What was proposed was an extension of utilities, roads and urban services across the Ventura River to support a planned freeway-related commercial development on the western floodplain near the river’s mouth. A lot of scientists got up to speak in support of the project. They said it wouldn’t hurt the river because it was already “dead.” Mark Capelli, who was a young graduate student and called himself “Friends of the Ventura River,” then gave a slide show showing all the life that was still in the river: eels, birds, raccoons. He pointed out there were still 50 steelhead showing up each year to migrate upstream. That brought the house down. The project was eventually stopped. He showed me what one person can do. He gave me hope. We gave him desk space.
[Above: After 40 years, we still follow an early vision to protect wilderness for the sake of wilderness. Lost Arrow Spire, Yosemite Valley, California. Photo: Glen Denny]
Dr. Tony Butt
holds a BSc in Ocean Science and a PhD in Physical Oceanography. He lives most of the year in a forgotten corner of Northwest Spain, where he has pioneered a couple new big-wave spots and works with NGOs like Surfers Against Sewage and Save the Waves. He makes a meager living writing articles about waves and the coastal environment for Surfer’s Path and other publications. For more from Tony, check out his books Surf Science: an Introduction to Waves for Surfing (2004), The Surfers Guide to Waves, Coasts and Climates (2009), A Surfer's Guide to Sustainability (2011) and his previous articles here on The Cleanest Line.
© Tony Butt 2013
I screamed at the granite wall. The sound bounced off Yosemite’s Fifi Buttress and drowned into the roar of Bridalveil Falls. I lowered to the belay, where Katie stood at a small stance. I was six inches from a free ascent. It felt like six miles. I’d cleaned the route. Pulled out old gear. Placed bolts. Climbed on the pitches a ton. I’d trained hard. I stopped sleeping. Would the work ever pan out?
Dan McDevitt established The Final Frontier, a Grade V 5.7 A3 route in 1999 with Sue McDevitt, Brittany Griffith and Sue’s sister Penny Black. He climbed the route again with Jim Karn, the first American to win a World Cup in climbing and America’s best sport climber in the '80s. While they were climbing, Jim Karn told Dan, “It’ll go free.”
[Above: Mikey Schaefer photo of me climbing the penultimate arch pitch.]
“This route was a savior and a gift for me,” Nik Berry said. In April, Nik and I started up the Dihedral Wall on El Capitan to scope a free ascent. After two pitches, I scanned my phone and realized the wall was closed for peregrines. We bailed. Remembering The Final Frontier, Nik and I hiked to Fifi Buttress. Gabe’s lines still hung off the 900-foot wall. We jumared the route and examined the free line. Nik had an immense amount of psyche from listening to Katy Perry all morning and a limited amount of time in Yosemite. “The next day, we started to put all our energy into this route with many hours of cleaning moss, weeds and sticks out of cracks and edges,” Nik wrote in his account of the ascent.
One of the first difficulties was connecting two thin crack systems. McDevitt had aided up a thin seam and then pendulumed across the face. Through the creative inspiration of Katy Perry's “California Girls” bouncing across the granite walls, we found a series of technical smears and spanned the gap between the crack features.
“Within a few days, James and I had figured out where the free climbing should go, how to do the moves, and where the bolts should go. A week of bad weather came in and we were forced to boulder and climb at Jailhouse, which is always a nice change from Yosemite. This worked out well anyway since we needed to wait for our bolts to be delivered,” Nik wrote.
After getting all the bolts in, Nik went for the redpoint, leading all the pitches. While he rested at the belays, I tightened the bolts he had placed the day before. Nik freed the first corner and sent the traverse pitch. On the upper corner, he climbed the thin crack but fell at the boulder problem near the top. He tried again but fell. The boulder problem involves tenuous smearing on polished granite. He rested and I top-roped up to the boulder problem. I grabbed a loose hold that broke off and put a serious gash in my arm. We headed down to tend to my wound and Nik’s wounded ego. A few days later, Nik managed to redpoint all the pitches and I top-roped behind him. Being on the summit was fun – Nik sent! The route went free! A nagging feeling persisted as we descended.
It was rad watching Nik send the route. He’s an exceptional climber and hard to keep up with. “After sending the final pitch, all the work and energy put into this route gave me an incredible feeling of accomplishment,” Nik said in his OR Blog. I knew what he meant but felt as though I was unfinished.
I returned to the route. I took down all of Gabe’s fixed lines and placed my own. I pulled all the heads and bad pins out. I added bolts where there had been bad fixed gear. I managed to send all the moves, then to send all the pitches. I climbed the route one day with Walker Emerson but I fell on the upper corner pitch.
I worked the upper corner pitch again with my ranger friend, Aaron Smith. I drove to Tuolumne to sleep at 9,000 feet, hoping that the increased altitude would boost my red blood cell count and make the climbing easier.
“You just have to let yourself do it,” Katie said as I rested at the belay below the corner. After a long bit of pouting, wondering if The Final Frontier would be another mega project left undone, I started climbing back up the finger tips corner. I reached the boulder problem and casually grabbed the crimp and threw to the jug hold.
The next pitch, which I had rehearsed well, went smoothly. On the second to last arch pitch, I floundered a bit trying to get off the belay. The moves felt hard. I felt tired. After a fall, I returned to the belay and then climbed to the top of the pitch. Katie followed solidly, climbing the entire route with no falls.
At the summit, I was psyched. I beamed as Katie climbed the top. I sent every pitch, leading the entire route in a day. It was the hardest climb I’d ever done. I’d had an amazing experience establishing the route with Nik and then climbing on it with other friends. It was really fun. I felt very proud of myself for investing so much into the route and I felt great about the successful ascent.
That night, the summit filled my dreams. I slept well.
By Jasmin Caton
I have known Rich Wheater (AKA the Beater) and Senja Palonen (AKA the Spoodle) since my very first summer of rock climbing in Squamish. We were introduced by a mutual friend one morning at Starbucks (back then everyone hung out there to find a climbing partner in the morning) and they invited me to join them on a mission to climb Sunblessed on the backside of the Chief. Sunblessed was reputed to have a five-star second pitch of 5.10a crack climbing. Rich and Senja were kind enough to let me, a climber of a mere few months, lead this amazing pitch using their rack, and it was one of the most memorable days of my first climbing season.
[Above: Our cosy camp below the Incredible Hulk. Photo: Senja Palonen]
It was an action packed week of adventure with Beater and Spoodle in California. I didn't work on my tan as much as I would have liked due to the windy conditions, but I certainly felt like I was in the mountains. Being welcomed along on this trip by Rich and Senja was yet another reminder that the community I have found through climbing is by far the greatest gift this crazy sport has tossed my way.
After a childhood of playing ukulele and attending Mathlete competitions, Patagonia ambassador Jasmin Caton caught the climbing bug at age 19, packed her Chevy Corsica and moved to Squamish. Nowadays, when she’s not on a climbing trip, she’s guiding climbers on impeccable Squamish granite or guiding backcounry skiing in blower powder at Valhalla Mountain Touring along with husband Evan and powder hound Benny.
This story first appeared on Jasmin's Adventure Journal.