Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Rumble over a ski road

The standoff over Wolf Creek development continues

From the Associated Press:

Both sides in the contentious battle over the Wolf Creek development have appealed U.S. Forest Service approval of access roads to the remote site.

Developers of the Village at Wolf Creek said Wednesday the decision unfairly requires them to build a 750-foot road at cost of about $12 million, when a shorter extension of an existing road would be cheaper and have less environmental impact.

Two environmental groups and a citizens group said the Forest Service’s study of the proposal was flawed and said the agency was improperly influenced by the developer.

Texas billionaire Bill Joe “Red” McCombs wants to build shops and housing for up to 10,500 people at the Wolf Creek ski area.

Opponents fear the development will hurt the environment and overtax schools and other services. Supporters say it will bring much-needed jobs and tax revenue to an economically depressed part of the state.

Last month, the Forest Service released its long-awaited decision approving road construction for the development. The decision called for a new 750-foot road for primary access to the site from U.S. 160, and a 250-foot extension of an existing road to link the development to ski area parking lots.

When the ski area is open, access to the latter road would be limited to emergency and mass-transit vehicles.

Bob Honts, president of the Village at Wolf Creek, the company developing the project, objected to building the longer road.

“They’ve effectively denied our federal right to have meaningful access to our property,” Honts said. “Building that second road could affect the financial viability of the project.”

An appeal by Colorado Wild, the San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council and the San Juan Citizens Alliance said the Forest Service ignored environmental impacts and violated conservation laws and legally binding scenic easement.

Stay tuned...

We aren't really sure what this means....

But we're putting it out there.

Outdoor Life magazine has named the Stockman bar in Walden one of the Best Fishing Bars in America. The Walden bar got the nod for "best place to drink with rodeo clowns."

The list includes bars that are fisherman-friendly, with a place to park a boat, a bartender that doesn't mind the aroma of bait, and an open forum for tall fish tales.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

He was lost...but now he's found!

The AP just reported that the 8-year-old boy missing from his campsite since Saturday has been found, alive and well.
Evan Thompson was on his first camping trip when he wandered away from his group that was camping in the Shelf Road area between Canon City and Cripple Creek. Crews had looked for him since Saturday, and he was found about 3 miles from where he was last seen. The area is rugged and roadless, with steep cliffs.

Still, Evan made it. We can only hope he can tell us his story.

To paraphrase Mark Twain...

The rumors of an Everest climber's death were greatly exaggerated.

Last week, Australian climber Lincoln Hall was left for dead by members of his team at the 28,543-foot level of Everest. Later, the SummitClimb North Ridge Expedition team passed by and found the not-dead Hall sitting cross-legged in the snow. That team abandoned its summit push and successfully got Hall down the mountain. SummitClimb member Myles Osborne, writing on, tells about finding and rescuing Hall, and how he felt when he visited him in Advanced Base Camp the next day:

"The following day Lincoln had been brought back to ABC by a massive rescue effort involving several teams. We went over to visit this man of mystery we had found at 8600 metres, in his expedition's medical tent. We reintroduced ourselves and sat there talking about his family and wife. During the conversation, I could not help but wonder, 'How in ANY way is a summit more important than saving a life?' And the answer is that it isn't. But in this skewed world up here, sometimes you can be fooled into thinking that it might be. But I know that trying to sleep at night knowing that I summitted Everest and left a guy to die isn't something I ever want to do. The summit's always there after all."

(This picture of Lincoln Hall leaving ABC on a yak was taken by Jamie McGuinness,

Friday, May 26, 2006

Because we love a good fish story

Check this out from the Associated Press:

BOCA GRANDE, Fla. — Fishing Capt. Bucky Dennis has been trying to catch a record hammerhead shark for 10 years. He may have finally succeeded.

On Tuesday, he reeled in a monstrous 1,280-pounder that ate a 25-pound stingray for bait at Boca Grande Pass near Fort Myers. That would beat by nearly 300 pounds the current all-tackle world record for a hammerhead shark.

Dennis, who was using 130-pound test line, and three friends fought the 14½ foot shark for five hours and it dragged his boat about 12 miles offshore before they got it aboard. “It’s fun hooking them, but if you get too close, they will bite,” Dennis said. “And whatever they bite, they will bite off.”

The International Game Fish Association is reviewing the catch to determine if it qualifies as a record. The current all-tackle world record hammerhead is 991 pounds.

Seems like local was smart to turn back on Everest.

This from about two climbers in David Lien's expedition, 7 Summits Club:

The team (Lorenzo) is reporting that Thomas Weber (somewhat blind climber) has died on Everest. Thomas Weber was with his personal Dutch guide named Harry... Details are few if any at this time. They also report Australian Lincoln Hall is in trouble, apparently still above high camp, but again facts are few.

According to expedition leader Alexander Abramov, Thomas Weber and his personal guide Harry were a subteam in the 7 Summits club expedition where Harry also enlisted other climbers (for a fee) to join the expedition. The 7 Summits club expedition, which ran ads - "Everest for $10,000" - has now lost 3 climbers in the last 2 years on Everest.

Harry descended from the summit last year very, very late with help of a very experienced Sherpa who did not leave him...

Lien writes to say: "I'm saddened to report what appears to be the deaths of two more of the climbers from our expedition in their Everest summit bids. Both were good men."

Happy Trails: Hall Ranch Open Space

Hall Ranch is a favorite destination for Boulder-area mountain bikers, hikers and horseback-riders, and it can easily be part of a day trip that includes a stop at nearby Rocky Mountain National Park. The open space is managed by Boulder County, and lies one mile from Lyons.

To get there: From Denver, take U.S. Highway 36 to the small town of Lyons. Drive through town and turn left on Colorado Highway 7. Watch for trailhead parking on your right in a mile.

Details: Ten miles round-trip, about 1,500 feet in elevation gain; rated two boots (moderate).

The hike: You will start on Brittlebush Trail at the west end of the parking lot. The first mile, the trail winds gently through an open brushy area. When the trail's switchbacks tighten, you're in a rocky area. The trail eventually smooths out again, but continues to climb. When you reach Nelson Loop, about four miles in, you're still climbing. The loop is named for an old ranch house. The high point on this trail offers a great view of nearby Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Information: Open to hikers, bikes, horses. This area is great for hiking or riding, but doesn't offer much shade, so wear sunscreen and bring plenty of water. Dogs aren't allowed. 1-303-678-6200;

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Wolf pack dies

The alpha male of a wolf pack that had been killing cattle on the White Mountain Apache Reservation in Arizona has been shot and eight other wolves in the pack that were captured have died, including six pups killed by a surrogate parent wolf, according to a report by the Associated Press.

The alpha male of the 12-member Hon Dah pack was shot and killed Wednesday after efforts to capture it were unsuccessful. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials had ordered the capture or removal of the pack, at the request of the tribe.

Although the adult male had been used successfully as a surrogate before, he apparently killed to protect his own pups, officials said.

The alpha female died after capture Sunday.

“The loss of these wolves is a blow to the Mexican wolf recovery program and everyone who is working to recover wolves in the Southwest,” said Benjamin Tuggle, acting regional director for the agency’s Southwest region.

According to Fish and Wildlife estimates, there are 32 to 46 Mexican gray wolves in the wild, not including newborn pups, in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico.

New home for Pandas

Fans of Ski Cooper have something to look forward to. The little resort near Leadville has gotten approval from the U.S. Forest Service to build a ski school building for its Panda Patrol. The proposed one-story nursery/ski school will be about 1,450 square feet, just east of the existing day lodge.

To the beach

We always look forward to the annual list of America's best beaches, even though we know they'll all be far from home.

The list comes from "beach expert" Stephen Leatherman, known as "Dr. Beach." Leatherman, director of Florida International University's Laboratory for Coastal Research, rates beaches around the country each year. This year, he chose Fleming Beach Park, a mile-long crescent white sand beach on Maui's western shore, as the best of the best.

Leatherman chose the beach for its year-round sunny weather, scenic views, pristine waters and amenities such as showers, grills for barbecuing, snack bar, picnic facilities and ample parking, according to the AP. Fleming, in the resort town of Kapalua, was one of three Hawaii beaches to make the Top 10 list compiled by Leatherman.

Others, from top to bottom, are:
Caladesi Island State Park in Florida
Ocracoke Island in North Carolina
Coopers Beach in New York
Kauai’s Hanalei Beach
Main Beach in New York
Coast Guard Beach in Massachusetts
Coronado Beach in California
Maui’s Hamoa Beach
Barefoot Beach Park in Florida

How big is the robin?

We here at Out There love our animal stories; this one not only intrigues but may induce nightmares.

From the Associated Press:

The recent discovery of a giant Palouse earthworm has energized entomologists and soil scientists, who fear it may be near extinction.

How giant is the giant Palouse? A yard long and as big around as a man's pinkie finger.

It's also albino-pale, can burrow 15 feet deep and smells like a lily. Hmmmmm.

“It was very exciting. Just to find something we thought, perhaps, was gone is a great thing,” University of Idaho soils scientist Jodi Johnson-Maynard said.

The native giant earthworms have been found by scientists only four times since the 1970s. None had been seen since the 1980s until Idaho graduate student Yaniria Sanchez-de Leon dug one up while studying other earthworm species a year ago.

Little is known about the giant worms, but we do know that unlike the giant sand worms of “Dune" or the man-eating underground dwellers of 1990s movie “Tremors,” the giant Palouse worms appear to eat only vegetation and an occasional insect.

Is it the biggest worm around? Nope. A worm in Australia can reach 10 feet. (What doesn't grow to gargantuan proportions in Australia?)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Sir Edmund speaks up

He's the most famous man to have climbed Mount Everest, and he says he is appalled at the behavior of current climbers on the world's highest mountain. The AP reported today that Sir Edmund Hillary said he was shocked that dozens of climbers left a British mountaineer to die during their attempts at the summit of Everest.
Here's the entire story:

David Sharp, 34, died apparently of oxygen deficiency while descending from the summit during a solo climb last week. More than 40 climbers are thought to have seen him as he lay dying, and almost all continued to the summit without offering assistance.

“Human life is far more important than just getting to the top of a mountain,” Hillary was quoted as saying in an interview with New Zealand Press Association. New Zealander Mark Inglis, who became the first double amputee to reach the mountain’s summit on prosthetic legs, told Television New Zealand that his party stopped during its May 15 summit push and found Sharp close to death.

A member of the party tried to give Sharp oxygen, and sent out a radio distress call before continuing to the summit, he said. Several parties reported seeing Sharp in varying states of health and working on his oxygen equipment on the day of his death.

Inglis, who was due to arrive back in New Zealand on Thursday, said Sharp had no oxygen when he was found. He said there was virtually no hope that Sharp could have been carried to safety from his position about 1,000 feet short of the 29,035-foot summit, inside the low-oxygen “death zone” of the mountain straddling the Nepal-China border. His own party was able to render only limited assistance and had to put the safety of its own members first, Inglis said Wednesday.

“I walked past David but only because there were far more experienced and effective people than myself to help him,” Inglis said. “It was a phenomenally extreme environment; it was an incredibly cold day.” The temperature was minus 100 at 7 a.m. on the summit, he said.

Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay in 1953 became the first mountaineers to reach Everest’s summit. Hillary said in an interview published Wednesday in a New Zealand newspaper that some climbers today did not care about the welfare of others. “There have been a number of occasions when people have been neglected and left to die and I don’t regard this as a correct philosophy,” he told the Otago Daily Times. “I think the whole attitude toward climbing Mount Everest has become rather horrifying. The people just want to get to the top,” he told the newspaper.

Hillary told New Zealand Press Association he would have abandoned his own pioneering climb to save another’s life. “It was wrong if there was a man suffering altitude problems and was huddled under a rock, just to lift your hat, say 'good morning' and pass on by,” he said. He said that his expedition, “would never for a moment have left one of the members or a group of members just lie there and die while they plugged on towards the summit.”

Three climbers, from Brazil, Russia and France, died descending Everest in separate expeditions in the past week, a Chinese official said Tuesday. More than 1,500 climbers have reached the summit of Mount Everest in the last 53 years and some 190 have died trying.

Longs gets its due

We knew it! The AP reported this afternoon that the designer of the Colorado quarter admitted the image is based on Longs Peak. Artist Len Buckley told the Associated Press he based the design on a photo he took of Longs during a family vacation in the 1980s. He said he liked the mountain for its majesty and jagged features, which he felt represented Colorado's highest peaks. Sculptor Norman Nemeth then used Buckley's design to make the stamp used to mint the quarter. The quarter will be released June 14.

Culling elk

A 20-year plan to thin the elk herd in Rocky Mountain National Park could cost $18 million (to kill some animals and disperse others), according to a story distributed by the Associated Press.

An estimated 2,200 to 3,000 elk live in the park, overgrazing vegetation that is also important to other wildlife including songbirds, beavers and butterflies, biologists said. Elk numbers have escalated because the animals have few predators and no hunting is allowed in the park, according to the AP story. The park’s goal is a herd of 1,200 to 1,700 elk.

What costs such big bucks? Hiring staff or a contractor to shoot elk, building fences to protect vegetation, transporting carcasses, testing them for disease and processing the meat. Park officials want to kill the elk at night with silencer-equipped guns.

Officials know their plans upset some people. While most recognize that something needs to be done to manage the population, there are contentious disagreements over the best method, said park biologist Therese Johnson. (Congress would have to approve any plan to allow hunting in a national park.)

The park is accepting public comments until July 4. For details, visit the Web site and select Rocky Mountain National Park.

25 cents for your thoughts

If you know your Colorado mountains like we do, you probably agree: The peak featured on the Colorado quarter that was minted today is Longs in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Gov. Bill Owens has called the image on the coin a generic mountain range, and designers say it is a composite. But those who know Longs Peak are going to be hard to convince it is anything other than the hammer-topped mountain.

Compare the coin mountain with this image from Texas photographer Allen Matheson's image on his Web site, What do you think?

Your favorite way to climb Pikes Peak

photo courtesy
This June I'm putting together a package on ways to climb Pikes Peak. The Barr Trail is a classic, and God knows I love everything about it, but 24 miles round trip -- that's just too much. So I want to list other, shorter favorites and back ways.
Write and tell me your favorite way to climb the peak.
Y Couloir?
Oil Creek?
The Crags?
Or maybe something lesser known.
Leave a comment by clicking below.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Camping for procrastinators

The good news: The weather forecast for this weekend looks promising, with high temperatures around 90 degrees and abundant sunshine (on a weekend that in past years has featured snow, wind and sheets of rain). The better news: seven Colorado State Parks still have campsites available for reservation.

Parks with open sites: Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, Bonny Lake State Park, Eleven Mile State Park, James M. Robb-Colorado River State Park, Island Acres, Paonia State Park, State Forest State Park, and Yampa River State Park.

For reservations, go online at or call 1-800-678-2267.

Snow day

If it's May, it must mean snow on the peak. Pikes Peak got several inches of snow last night - just enough to make it photogenic again. It froze on the highway, so if you're planning a trip up the mountain today, wait a bit until it melts. Right now, the road is closed at Glen Cove.

Tears on Everest: the decision to turn back

Here's (maybe) the last dispatch from Colorado Springs climber David Lien on his aborted climb of Mt. Everest. He's done a bit of soul searching on what summits mean. Read on....

Hi All,

As I stated in one of my last updates, the run-up to my summit attempt actually started in Xegar, where a group of us went for a couple days of rest and relaxation, and where I was hoping to recover from my cold. Just about everyone on an Everest expedition likely gets a cold, sore throat, or sick from local food or other regional bugs during their time on the mountain. Some get sick early in the expedition, some late, but all of these ailments are magnified by altitude and the extremely dry and cold mountain air.

It was my turn, for a nasty cold, the week before we departed Base Camp for our summit attempt. Although it had just about run its course by the time we left BC for IBC, ABC, and Camps higher up on Everest, one night of particularly severe coughing caused what felt like a rib or two coming loose and resulted in some ongoing and severe pain whenever I coughed, laughed or slept in the wrong position, or tried to rely on the muscles on that side of my body to do anything.

At that point, I basically thought my Everest expedition was over, but decided to press on with the summit push and hope my coughing would subside and the pain in my ribs would not get any worse. Even though any coughing at this point generally had me close to doubled over, clutching my side in pain, I had come too far to let a cough, no matter how nasty, stop me from at least trying.

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny
matters compared to what lies within us."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

On the way from ABC (21,000 ft.) up the North Col. to Camp 4 (23,000 ft.) on 18 May, I moved a bit faster than my previous two North Col. climbs, but also felt more fatigued from the effort. The wear and tear of being on the mountain and sickness were beginning to affect me. That night at Camp 4 on the Col., we all tried out our oxygen systems and slept for several hours on a low oxygen flow, which made sleeping easier. The next morning we prepared to move up to Camp 5 (25,200 ft.).

The route from Camp 4 to Camp 5 is fairy straight forward and follows the snow-covered north ridge of Everest up to its rocky and wind-scoured upper slopes, but it's an exposed route. Strong winds whipped us the entire 5-6 hours we were on the ridge, making stops for drinking, eating, or going to the bathroom all but impossible. And although I started near the head of our group, by the time we arrived in Camp I was one of the last. I felt my strength ebbing, and was having problems with my oxygen system.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, I had covered some of the steepest sections of the days climb without oxygen due to my regulator somehow coming partway unscrewed. The previous night I had also found that the regulator's air flow adjustor was inaccurate, so I was having to experiment as I climbed to determine how much oxygen I was getting. Needless to say, I arrived at Camp 5 exhausted.

"What makes Everest so dangerous is not the steepness of its flanks, nor the sheer masses of rock and ice that can break off without warning; what is far worse is the reduced air pressure in its upper regions," Reinhold Messner wrote in Climbing magazine. "This saps your judgment and strength, even your ability to feel anything at all. That's what makes you so vulnerable and afraid up there."

As did everyone, I slept on oxygen part of the night at Camp 5, but felt good even without it, and spent most of my waking hours pondering my prospects for continuing up the mountain and possibly reaching the summit. It was clear that I didn't have the energy levels I had expected to at this point in the climb, and that my extended cold and aching side has sapped some of my strength, but I had come so far and was now only a 5-hour climb away from Camp 6 (27,200 ft.), then a 10-hour (one way, give or take) summit push from the top.

The year of planning, months of physical preparation, weeks of acclimatization hikes and climbs up and down the Rongbuk Glacier and Mt. Everest covering some 115 miles, all of it had brought me up to this high altitude, now seemingly only a stone's throw away from the summit. I knew I could continue higher, and maybe even reach the summit, but I also knew I wouldn't have the energy to make it down.

"Getting to the top is optional, but getting down is mandatory."
-Ed Viesturs

Many climbers face this test on Mt. Everest. Some are willing to take a chance, after coming so far they're willing to throw caution and common sense to the winds in an all-out effort to reach the top, but Everest preys mercilessly on those with this mentality. Indeed, there were already seven fresh corpses on her upper slopes (just on the north side) this year. I was on the fence, torn between my desire to carry-thru to the summit and common sense. In my opinion, mountaineering is 65% common sense, 25% experience, and 10% luck. If I didn't use common sense here, experience and luck likely wouldn't save me.

That morning I made my final decision: I was going down. After putting on my down suit, Millet mountaineering boots, crampons and climbing harness, then stepping outside and donning my oxygen mask, I walked over to my Nepalese guide, Pemba Sherpa, and told him my decision. He was bewildered, prepared for us to go up, not down. He pointed to Everest and said, "right there."

During 2002 I had been on the south side of Mt. Everest in Nepal climbing Island Peak (20,200 ft.) my first big, high altitude mountain climb and had reached the base of the summit ridge (about 19,400 ft.), also exhausted. I told my Sherpa guide I was going down. He said the same thing this guide had: "right there." Seven climbers this year had also thought the summit was "right there." Now they are dead. I have far more to live for than that.

My decision was final in both of these instances, and the guides did their jobs and followed me down, and I lived to climb another day. The other climbers in our group were standing outside of their tents, preparing to move up to Camp 6. Completely covered from head to toe in insulating gore-tex and down suits, faces covered by sunglasses, goggles, and masks, supported by oxygen tanks carried in backpacks, we looked like a motley crew of second class spacemen.

I started down the slope, and my friends started to move up. As I approached each of them, I said "I'm going down." There was no reason to explain, and none was expected. They all knew that a decision to go down at this point was far harder to make than a decision to continue. We shook hands, exchanged well wishes, and went our separate ways.

When I approached my roommate/tentmate for much of the expedition, Kirk, he (like the others) was surprised that I was turning around. However, the two simple words that he uttered, said in the most consoling manner possible, spoke volumes: "Tough decision." Tears came to my eyes and I was thankful to be hidden behind my oxygen mask, goggles, and glacier goggles, but Kirk and all the others would have understood, and felt the same way.

I was doing the right thing, the only thing I could reasonably do under the circumstances. Climbing Everest had never been a dream of mine anyway. I just sort of stumbled towards her over the years as I set my sights on higher and more challenging peaks after each successful climb. However, now that I was here, I had to remind myself that summits are just the icing on the cake, not the cake itself. They taste good, but don't fill you up like the journey.

It's the entire journey and the challenges you face along the way that mean the most. Without them, getting to the summit would be mostly meaningless, like taking an escalator to the top of Mt. Everest. Tom Koshiol: "Our experiences accumulate and make us who we are. We are constantly becoming the sum-total of all the events in our lives and, in my view, any time spent in the wilderness [and mountains] makes a nice addition to that total."

And so, it would now seem that I have nearly run the course of this adventure, but many more await. Although I will probably not return to Mt. Everest, the world is a big place with many natural wonders to see and explore. In the words of Mark Twain, twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. Now, I hope you will follow Mark's advice, if you aren't already, and create many incredible adventures of you own.

I am also glad and extremely honored that you have taken time out of your busy lives to follow me on this adventure, and want to thank all of you for the multitude of well wishes and encouraging words you have provided over the last couple months.
Please keep in touch.

Thank you all, take care, and best wishes,


Monday, May 22, 2006

The view from above

Local climber David Lien is resting now in Kathmandu after aborting his Everest climb. He found a moment to send us this photo of Advanced Base Camp at 20,992 (Camp 3) taken from Camp 5 (25,256 feet).

Arkansas River probably near peak

Check it out: The Ark is on its way up, and there's not much snow left. Predictions are the river's peak will come perhaps as early as this week, instead of sometime in June.

I ran Brown's Canyon near Salida this weekend, and it was sweet, if a bit cold. I highly recommend if you want to raft this year, you do it now!

Or, of course, you can head over to the Western Slope, where the Colorado should have huge water soon.

Of mouse and man

There's a big discussion going on about a very little creature. The Preble's meadow jumping mouse is the subject of the controversy. One study showed that the Preble's is genetically distinct and entitled to protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Now, Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal says "there is no such beast as a Preble's meadow jumping mouse," and the mouse in question is genetically indistinguishable from other mice. The governor cited a study that Wyoming commissioned in response to the earlier study that favored the mouse.
Why do we care? Habitat for the mouse is found on some prime real estate in Wyoming and along Colorado's Front Range, and if it is protected, that can impact development. U.S. Fish and Wildlife is expected to make a decision on the mouse by Aug. 6.

Fun facts: The mouse has a 6-inch tail and can leap 18 inches into the air.

David Lien Comes off Everest without summiting

The view from Advanced Base Camp

Colorado Springs resident David Lien who attempted to climb Mt. Everest this weekend turned back very high on the peak. Here are two e-mails from him. First one right before his final push, then one after his return to Base Camp:

Regarding Mt. Everest summit attempts, there are two lists that have been meticulously maintained by Everest enthusiasts over the years: those who have reached the summit and those who died trying. I will bring all my physical and mental powers and mountaineering experience to bear to try and have my name included on the first list, while staying off the second.

And although I will make an all-out effort to reach the summit, I will not knowingly or recklessly risk my life, limbs, or digits over a pile of rocks, no matter how high or famous. "Everest fever," continuing to climb when common sense says that you should turn around, will be something I will strive to avoid at all costs. That is my promise to you, my family, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances, as I embark on the final leg of this already
incredible and glorious adventure.

Now the one from when he returned, slightly abridged:

I opted to turn back with several others at Camp 5 (25,200 ft.) during our push to get positioned for a final summit attempt. Although I felt I likely had the energy to possibly reach the summit, the round-trip was by no means certain based on how I was feeling at the time. An extended, nasty high-altitude cold and all night coughing fits had left me a bit
drained of energy just before we left Base Camp to move up the mountain, just when I needed it most.

In addition, as of that day 7 others had already died on the mountain just on the north side. I opted not to put myself in a position to become number 8, and in doing so kept my promise to come back with all my digits, limbs, and life in tact. Although I did not reach the summit, I reached a new altitude high for me and had an incredible time. More to follow, including spectacular photos from Camp 5.

A tired, unshaven Lien after his summit bid

Friday, May 19, 2006

Put it in park

This snippet from the AP describes a new shuttle program for visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park.

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) — Hoping to ease traffic congestion, Rocky Mountain National Park and the town of Estes Park plan to launch a free shuttle service for hikers this summer.

The shuttle will run hourly during the park’s peak season, July 1 to Sept. 4. The first bus will leave the visitors center in Estes Park at 9 a.m. for a lot inside the park. The last bus to leave the for Estes Park will depart at 8 p.m.

“Visitors will be able to enjoy both the park and Estes Park while reducing their fuel consumption,” said Kyle Patterson, a spokeswoman for the park, which attracts about 3 million visitors a year.

Park officials plan to run the shuttle as an experiment for three years, after which it will be evaluated. It is based on systems used in Acadia National Park in Maine and Utah’s Zion National Park.

For more information:

Ten years after

Ten years ago this month, disaster struck on Mount Everest. In a massive snowstorm, eight people died, including expedition leaders. Outside Magazine still maintains the Web pages ( from that tragic month, and this month is following climbers currently on a quest for the summit.

Veteran guide and mountaineer Dave Hahn is on the mountain this year with the 2006 International Mountain Guides Everest Expedition, and he is sending regular dispatches on

In an e-mail on, Hahn wrote that the tragedy hasn't seemed to bother the current slate of climbers. "Prospective climbers here are so caught up in their own dramas and their own modern obsessions to reflect too heavily on the tragedies of ten years ago," Hahn wrote. "To me, the surprise in contemplating the anniversary is realizing that the rest of the world still considers the 1996 state of Everest climbing to be the up-to-the-minute snapshot on what goes on here, but of course that is not true, ten years have gone by."

Get a jump on the paddle season, it's going fast

It's heating up in the high country and the spring snow pack is disappearing fast, which means the highwater season on whitewater runs could be done by the first week in June, instead of the first week in July. Here's an AP story about it:

AP) DENVER With summerlike heat in the forecast, most of Colorado's mountain snows could melt and run off by mid-June, experts say.

"I'd say it's a few days to a couple of weeks early," said Chris Pacheco, assistant snow survey superintendent of the Natural Resources Conservation Service. "At this rate, the snow is going to be gone by early to mid-June."

The National Weather Service said high temperatures could reach near 90 degrees in Denver and in the 70s in mountain valleys in the next few days. The heatwave is expected to keep overnight readings above freezing in the high country, triggering around-the-clock melting, said Mike Baker, a forecaster with the National Weather Service. Computerized readings by the Natural Resources Conservation Service show the spring melt has been faster and earlier than usual, Pacheco said.

A look at next week's Out There. One word: ouch!

We were on the summit of Pikes Peak this week when world-class Aspen skier Chris Davenport showed up with friend Ted Mahon (no slouch on skis either) to ski the peak's classic Y couloir. This is a serious pitch, with sharp rocks lining the narrow chute and pitches steeper than 45 degrees. Top that off with a really patchy snow pack and you have tough skiing.

It is all part of Davenport's bid to ski all Colorado's fourteeners in one year. You can see some of his photos and read his stories from the 42 other peaks he's ripped down so far on his Web site. Look at that picture. Looks nasty, don't it. And Pikes Peak was one of the easier mountains. Yikes. We'll have a full write up Friday, May 26.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Be a man! Aron Ralson will tell you how with the help of Burt Reynolds

Photo courtesy

Aron Ralston first came into the national spotlight when he had his hand caught under a boulder in a Utah canyon and used a pocket knife to cut it off. Now he's part of a new Miller Lite ad campaign featuring a panel of manly men, including panel moderator Burt Reynolds, doling out advice for other men. (Is it appropriate to take home beer you brought to a party? How long must you wait to sleep with a buddy's X?)

But here's the thing. Ralston doesn't drink Miller Lite. Or any Lite. A true Colorado mountain dude, Ralston is a bit of a beer snob. The last time I met him we kicked back a few Fat Tire Amber Ales. At the time he was driving at high speed down a dirt track in the Utah desert.
"The irony here is that the last time I drank a Miller was 12 years ago," Ralston joked this week, according to the Rocky Mountain News. "I went against my self-identity, but if it involves Burt Reynolds, I'm there."

Conditions are beautiful on Mt. Everest now

No word yet from local climber David Lien on his bid to climb Mt. Everest, but climbers there are having success. Yesterday, a team of Polish climbers, including Polish Playboy Bunny Martyna Wojciechowska, made it to the top.

The weather is calm on the summit today, with an expected high of 31 degrees. There's snow on the way this weekend, so hopefully if David is climbing, he'll be done by then.

Not everything has gone well on the mountain this year.
In April, a British man froze to death. Another man fell off the ridge Tuesday and is feared dead, but hasn't been found. To follow the latest summit news, visit

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The ride of his life

Another fascinating "when animals attack" story, this one from Banff, Alberta, Canada. Last weekend, a black bear chased down, caught and mauled a bicycle rider on a mountain trail in Banff National Park. The biker had severe arm injuries.

The creepy part? The bear supposedly chased the cyclist for a long time before catching up with him.

Two friends of the injured man found him, with the bear still hovering nearby. The bear was killed by a law enforcement officer.

Riding on water

Leave it to Al Brody to figure out a way to ride his bike on the water.... sort of.

Brody is a trails and open space advocate who is also a bicycling fanatic. In 66 days, he'll be on the road at RAGBRAI, the hugely popular bike ride across Iowa that attracts thousands each year.

But now, he can be found at Prospect Lake on his newest toy, an Aqua Skipper. (Check out the video on this site... this isn't Al at left.)
Here's how it works: put your feet on the platform and your hands on the handles and hop up and down to propel yourself forward. The hydrofoils lift the Aqua Skipper above the water. Brody says he has been working with the Aqua Skipper, but so far it takes him about 40 feet before it stalls and he has to swim.

Heat applied to ski resort deal

Sen. Ken Salazar wants federal investigators to determine whether politics were behind approval of two roads needed for expansion at Wolf Creek Ski Area, the AP reports today.

Salazar said he asked the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate claims that high-ranking officials pressured U.S. Forest Service employees on behalf of the developer, Texas billionaire Billy Joe “Red” McCombs.

Inspector General Phyllis Fong’s office confirmed receiving Salazar’s letter, but had no immediate comment.

Salazar also asked Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, who oversees the Forest Service, to suspend any action on the project until an investigation is completed.

McCombs, co-founder of media giant Clear Channel Communications, wants to build 222,100 square feet of commercial space and enough housing for up to 10,500 people at the base of Wolf Creek.

Opponents, including the ski area’s operators, complain the Forest Service didn’t consider the entire project’s potential environmental impacts because of the developer’s political clout.

The Pitcher family, which has operated Wolf Creek for about three decades, is also suing to block the development.

Watch for developments here on the blog and in The Gazette. Leave questions or comments below or e-mail Deb Acord at

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

To the top

It's another first on Mount Everest. A New Zealand mountain guide who lost his legs from frostbite more than two decades ago reached the summit of Everest on Monday.

Mark Inglis, who spent 40 days on the mountain, got an early morning start from Camp Four, less than 1,500 feet below the 29,035-foot summit.

This wasn't the first big mountain for the 47-year-old climber is a Paralympic silver-medal cyclist, winemaker and father of three. In 2004, he climbed 26,906-foot Cho Oyu in Tibet. The expedition was expected to raise several hundred thousand dollars for a Cambodian center that rehabilitates land mine amputees, polio victims and others.

Step away from the field mouse

Don't pet the little critters. A campground at Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah has been closed because bubonic plague was detected among field mice and chipmunks there. Plague has also been found this spring in rodent populations at Mesa Verde National Park and Colorado National Monument.

The plague can be transmitted to people through flea bites and direct contact with infected animals. Human infection is unusual, but the most common transmission is from cats and dogs who can contract plague by catching and eating infected animals, or by being bitten by fleas that carry the plague.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Avalanche danger

Headed for the hills? Be prepared:

Avalanche monitors issued an unusual spring avalanche watch for Colorado today amid fast-rising spring temperatures.

"With this rapid warmup we have maybe a greater potential for wet-slab avalanches than we typically do this time of year,” Ethan Greene, director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, told the AP.

The avalanche watch applies to the mountains statewide above 11,000 feet through Thursday morning, Greene said. A watch means weather conditions could produce avalanches, he said.

Wet-slab avalanches occur when weak layers of snow become damp as temperatures rise. The avalanche center reported more than 24 avalanches last week, including one on Saturday that swept a climber about 1,000 vertical feet down Torreys Peak in Clear Creek County. The man was injured, but no details were immediately available.

Wild about wetlands

The Izaak Walton League sets aside May each year to celebrate wetlands. In honor of the celebration, take a moment to educate yourself on wetlands.
- Wetlands make up only 5 percent of land in the U.S. and support 190 amphibian species and one-third of all bird species.
- Almost 43 percent of the federally listed threatened and endangered animal species depend on wetlands for survival.
- Wetlands alongside a river are valued for their capacity to retain floodwater.
- Wetlands also act as buffers against wind and rain.
- Wetlands help purify drinking water by naturally filtering polluted runoff from city streets, buildings and agricultural lands.
- Seasonal wetlands provide a healthy habitat for amphibians such as frogs, toads and salamanders.
To experience this environment up close, check out the Tejon Street wetlands. Park at Dorchester Park off South Tejon Street and walk west on the river trail.

Plan for gated ski community near Vail

Plans were submitted last week for the Ginn Co., a Florida-based company known for building posh golf resorts, to build a private ski area and golf course community south of Minturn, near Vail.
According to the AP, the resort will include 4,300 acres and 1,700 housing units.

No word on how many skiable acres it will have, but anyone who wants to know what a members-only ski area is like can look at Montana's Yellowstone Club, 13,400-acre resort with the world's only private ski mountain and a golf course. According to AP, lots at the club sell for a minimum $1 million an acre and prospective members must prove they're worth at least $3 million.

So... I don't think I'll ever be skiing at the Yellowstone Club, or Battle Mountain, for that matter, if it gets built.

Friday, May 12, 2006

A dinosaur going extinct

photo credit:
The AP reported today that GM will stop selling the original Hummer:

DETROIT - The 2006 model year will be the last for the Hummer H1, the hulking, gas-guzzling status symbol that has attracted celebrities and off-road enthusiasts but has drawn the ire of environmentalists. General Motors Corp. announced plans Friday for the H1, which is the foundation for the automaker's Hummer brand. Based on the military's Humvee, the about 12,000 put on the road since 1992 defined the Hummer name
I don't know about the rest of you, but my ire is drawn much more by the H2. Not only is it unnecessarily big, but not knowing how to drive, or park, seems to be a pre-requisite of ownership. Maybe it, too, will drive off into history eventually.

David Lien's Mt. Everest bid

For those of you who haven't been following David Lien's quest to climb the north ridge of Mt. Everest, let me get you up to date.

Lien is a local bank inspector, and in almost every way, an average, normal guy. He's not a mountaineering bad ass. He's not a full-time climber. He's just a guy who started climbing 14ers and decided he wanted to look into something more. Fortunately, there are plenty of guides willing to take average folks up big mountains, so Lien has climbed the highest peaks in Africa, North America, South America, and Antarctica, all as a sort of extreme tourist being led by a more experienced mountaineer.

Not that this kind of tourism takes much away from the climbing feat. Anyway you do it, scaling big mountains is tough. The altitude doesn't care if you are being guided or not. Neither does the weather. Things can go very, very wrong.

The day Lien arrived in Nepal, most everyone in the country went on strike and riots were breaking out in opposition of the king. Maoist guerrillas were getting increasingly noisy in the countryside. Fortunately, the high country of Everest's base camp is pretty quiet and Lien and his Russian guides arrived there safely. They've been ferrying gear to higher camps for a few weeks. Now they are resting at a lower altitude before making their final push.

We'll see what happens.

In the mean time, check out some of Lien's posts below to see what life on the mountain is like.

Black-footed ferrets win in gas auction

Photo by Bob Gress
Yesterday, we blogged about how Colorado's black-footed ferret habitat was going on the gas and oil auction block. The already struggling population probably would have been further damaged by any drilling. The media started to pick up the story. After all, whether you give a wit about ferrets or not, you have to agree that it doesn't make much sense to spend years and thousands of dollars reintroducing the little guys, only to ruin their habitat.

The energy companies must have decided that the bad PR of being involved in such a snafu wasn't worth the gas under the ferrets' Wolf Creek reintroduction area, because, according to the BLM, no one bid on most of the ferret parcels.

Here's a release from the BLM; we'll see if we can find out more soon.

DENVERToday the BLM Colorado State Office sold 148 parcels (of 171 offered) at its quarterly oil and gas lease sale, or about 154,903 acres (out of the approximate 192,334 acres of land offered) earning $6,827,682 in proceeds.

Many of the parcels offered within the Wolf Creek Management Area where the black-footed ferret is being re-introduced through a partnership with the BLM, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Colorado Division of Wildlife did not receive bids.

Looking for Everest?

Follow the postings below to see recent notes by Springs resident David Lien as he prepares for a summit bid on the slopes of Mount Everest. There's also a report of a Steamboat Springs man who had to turn back following a health scare.

Look for May 10, May 8 and May 4

Thursday, May 11, 2006

What's it called - a prizzly?

Talk about your bears gone wild...

DNA tests confirm a bear shot by an American hunter in the Northwest Territories of Canada is the offspring of a polar bear mom and a grizzly dad. (Photo courtesy of AP)

"It’s something we’ve all known was theoretically possible because their habitats overlap a little bit and their breeding seasons overlap a little bit," said Ian Stirling, a polar bear biologist with the Canadian Wildlife Service in Edmonton. "It’s the first time it’s known to have happened in the wild."

Kuptana, an Inuit guide working for the hunter, was the first to notice something odd, according to The Associated Press. The bear’s eyes were ringed with black, its white fur was spotted brown, its face was slightly indented, and it had a mild hump to its back and long claws.

"It will be quite a trophy," Idaho hunter Jim Martell told the National Post. He told the newspaper he has dubbed his creature "polargrizz."

"He has a remarkable trophy from his perspective and from the perspective of this whole fraternity of people who like to go big-game hunting for trophies," said Stirling. When asked how he felt about the rare beast being killed, he would only say that Canada’s polar bear hunt — which runs from December through the end of May — is done on a sustainable basis.

Colin Adjun, a wildlife officer in Kugluktuk on the northern mainland in western Nunavut, said he’s heard stories before about an oddly colored bear cavorting with polars. "It was a light chocolate color along with a couple of polar bears."

The Eaglets have banded!

We've been making occasional visits to the Xcel Energy Eagle Cam, set up over a nest in northeast Colorado. And my goodness, those eaglets are getting big. They now have nearly full adult feathers, though bald eagles don't have white head feathers until they are a few years old. On May 3, they were banded by the Colorado Division of Wildlife. They'll fledge in mid-summer and be on their own by the fall.

Also worth checking out are the osprey cam, and the series of falcon cams the energy company maintains. You will never get a better look at these birds than from your desk.

Endangered ferret land on the oil auction block today

Photo courtesy National Park Service

An area of northwestern Colorado that is the only home of the endangered black-footed ferret in the state will have its gas and oil extraction rights auctioned off today.

The area of the BLM where hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent to reintroduce the small prairie predator will go to the highest bidder and may soon be a network of drill pads, slag pools and roads that may drive the already struggling local population to extinction. Many of these ferrets were raised at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

Here's an abridged presss release I just got from Center for Native Ecosystems:

CRAIG, CO – The land supporting Colorado's successful reintroduction of endangered black-footed ferrets will be leased to oil and gas drillers by the Bureau of Land Management on May 11, threatening the ongoing recovery effort on the very day Congress has designated as Endangered Species Day in the United States.
The 20 parcels in Rio Blanco County will be leased to the highest bidder Thursday, overriding concerns from state and federal wildlife biologists, local governments and conservation groups about the potential impact oil and gas development will have on North America's most endangered mammal.

"The Colorado BLM is gambling with the ferret's future,” said Erin Robertson, staff biologist for Center for Native Ecosystems. “Is this really how Colorado wants to celebrate Endangered Species Day?"

In addition, the BLM will also auction off land currently undergoing Resource Management Plan (RMP) revisions, including lands within the Little Snake Resource Area. RMPs serve as the management guidelines for use of public lands including outlining whether oil and gas drilling, if any, is allowed.

“BLM should not be offering massive lease sales, likely to lead to thousands of new gas wells, until the agency completes its plan.” said Pete Kolbenschlag of the Colorado Environmental Coalition. “By leasing land currently undergoing RMP revisions, BLM is on shaky ground in regards to legal obligations that govern how the RMP process should proceed. The cart is way before the horse on this.”

Colorado Environmental Coalition, Center for Native Ecosystems, Colorado Wilderness Network, The Wilderness Society, Colorado Mountain Club, and the San Juan Citizens Alliance have submitted a formal protest to BLM challenging the inclusion of a portion of sale parcels including black-foot ferret reintroduction habitat, acres undergoing RMP revisions, and wilderness-quality lands that have been proposed for wilderness protection.

“BLM has demonstrated that it can and will pull inappropriate parcels from a lease sale,’ stated Vera Smith of the Colorado Mountain Club. “There is still time for BLM to do the right thing and remove the remaining protested parcels that have important wildlife and recreation values.” This rush to drill draws additional concern due to the fact that Colorado has a surplus of lands already leased for oil and gas development that remain unused. “In Colorado alone 70 percent of the federal public lands leased for oil and gas development are not in production,” continued Smith, referencing a 2004 leasing report by The Wilderness Society. “Of the over 4.4 million acres already leased, only 1.3 million are in production. That is over a 3 million acre surplus.”

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Did you hear the one about the lost hikers?

A couple lost in the mountains above my hometown for three nights were found alive Tuesday. They survived by scavenging items from the backpack of a hiker who vanished a year ago. Talk about good luck-bad luck.

From press reports, it sounds like the two Dallas residents, both in their 20s, rode the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and set off on the warren of trails that branch out behind the restaurant/tram station. They weren't dressed for hiking, let alone spending the night in the shadow of Mount San Jacinto (10, 804 feet).

In addition to thanking their rescuers, the two paid tribute to John Donovan, 60, who disappeared while hiking in May 2005. His backpack provided the couple with matches, food and heavy clothing.

Donovan was last seen in the San Jacinto Wilderness on May 3, 2005, about two weeks after he retired. A friend believes Donovan got hurt and froze to death in a snowstorm that blew in. The two lost hikers are lucky they didn't get caught in a similar storm. Rescuers found them at about 4,500 feet near Tahquitz Canyon - about 2½ miles from the tram. Overall, they're fine.

I guess it still needs to said - we can't hear it enough! - always be prepared.

Thanks to Gary R. Burzell for use of the great photo. Brings back memories.

(posted by editor Dena)

Go west, young man

Gazette TV writer Andy Wineke and his kayaking pals may be headed to California, Oregon and Washington, where river runners predict a strong and long season, according to The Associated Press.

In Oregon, precipitation has been above average, and the snow pack in April was 36 percent above normal, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the United States Department of Agriculture. Snowpacks also are above or well above average in the southern Cascades of Washington, southern Idaho, a portion of southwest Montana and a portion of northern Colorado.. Streamflow forecasts are also above average in northern Utah, southern and western Wyoming, northern Nevada and the Sierras of California.

(posted by editor Dena; Deb's outta state and Dave's crazy busy.)

On Everest, it's time for a summit push

Hi All,
As of 9 May we have finished our training/acclimatization period here, having hiked and climbed about 100 miles (up and down) between 17,056 ft. (Base Camp/Camp 1) and 24,300 ft. (between Camp 4 and Camp 5). Now, we’ve returned to Base Camp (BC) and will head down to local towns lower down for some rest and relaxation, and the higher oxygen content, before returning to BC on 14 May and beginning to move up the mountain again for summit attempts.

Most of us remaining appear to be generally healthy, with the exception of just about everyone having some sort of cough (due to the dry air and high altitude) of varying intensities. There are also one or two climbers that physically aren’t going to have a shot in any way, shape or form at even getting close to the summit. One man, in particular, sticks out. He’s a good guy and from Colorado, but probably should have left the mountain a week or two ago, but can’t bring himself to admit that he’s done here. While the rest of us have been up to Camp 4 twice already, he hasn’t been able to make it beyond Advanced Base Camp/Camp 3 due to various physical issues.

Coming to try and climb Everest clearly has been a dream of his for a very long time, and he took a second job to earn the money to get here, but in his obsession to try and reach the summit, he’s missing out on the whole point of mountaineering (and life in general) and potentially putting his life in jeopardy by continuing to try and climb when he is not fit to do so. I don’t feel sorry for him, because he’s old enough to have learned (if he can) that it’s the journey, not necessarily the destination, that counts most while cruising down life’s highway. If you aim high, knowing that sometimes you’ll hit low, with your life’s dreams and aspirations, you will inevitably accomplish great things. Summits are great and spectacular achievements, but just a small part of the whole picture, of the journey. He clearly hasn’t learned this yet.

To borrow a quote from the John Candy movie "Cool Runnings," “If you’re not enough without it, you’ll never be enough with it.”

So far, although I’ve reached all my initial goals for this expedition, I could walk away tomorrow without having come one step closer to the summit and be completely satisfied. Not so for my friend from Colorado, and more than a few others here.

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure."
-- Gen. Colin Powell

However, so far I’m still healthy and in the game, but also realistic about my chances of reaching the summit. Of the 15 or so climbers still here hoping to reach the top, 3 or 4 might make it. Such is the difficulty of reaching Mt. Everest, the place on our planet where Heaven and Earth meet (quote borrowed from my friend Tish Stropes). If your only definition of success is the summit, than you’re bound to be disappointed. But what an incredible and glorious goal to strive for.

We’ll be starting back up the mountain from BC around May 15th to make summit attempts.
Stay tuned, David

You weren't the only one to get snow

Photo courtesy Aspen Times.
The top of Pikes Peak is as white as a wedding cake. The giraffe cam at the zoo shows the foothills also got a bit of snow, but it's melting fast.

And of course, there's snow in the mountains, where today, backcountry ski legend Lou Dawson is nearing the end of a retracing of the "Trooper Traverse," a backcountry ski route between Camp Hale and Aspen pioneered by the Army's 10th Mountain Division in 1944.

There's a good story about the endeavor in today's Aspen Times, detailing the four-day route, and how Dawson tracked down information from surviving members of the Division. Dawson is doing the ski with David Christie, the son of former 10th Mountain Division trooper Neil Christie, and a few others, but said their trip will be nothing like when the troopers did the 40-mile ski with 80-pound packs and huge, wooden skis.

The skinny on the Pueblo Kayak park

Gazette TV writer Andy Wineke paid his first visit of the season to the Pueblo Whitewater Park Sunday and reported back:

The flows were a little under 600 -- that makes most of the holes on the shallow side, but it's a friendly level for beginners. Or, in my case, for experienced paddlers dipping their blades for the first time of the year.

I'm sad to say there hasn't been anything in the way of amenities added over the winter -- it's still change in your car and pee at the McDonald's across the bridge. There are more trees planted, but it's going to be a long and slow process before Pueblo is anywhere near as inviting as, say, the Golden whitewater park.

As for the rapids -- Number one is still my favorite. It's a biggish breaking wave. Drop in and it's stupid easy to spin all day long. Low-angle cartwheels are possible, but it's a shallow spot. No. 2 is easy and shallow at this level. Strictly spins and low-angle cartwheels here. No. 3 is about the same, with a little better hole on river left. No. 4 has a sweet wave/hole in the middle, but it's very, very hard to paddle into from the eddy. I caught it on the fly and was too tired to get back. No. 5 is a lot like 3. No. 6 about the same.

No. 7 deserves special mention. When the park opened last year, 7 was extremely sticky at almost all water levels. Dangerously sticky at high water. One paddler reported seeing some girls in an inflatable raft taking the beating of their lives in 7 at high water last spring. Even at low water -- like 600 -- you had to paddle out or swim out. If you flipped over, the hole would recirculate you all day. You'd never flush out.

Naturally, that's a bit more excitement than the fine people of Pueblo had in mind when they built a whitewater park, so early this spring, No. 7 was mellowed out by raising No. 8 a foot or two (No. 8 isn't so much a playhole as a wave train that finishes off the course).

I'm happy to report that No. 7 is now a pretty straightforward wave/hole like Nos. 2, 3, 5 and 6. I think the danger is gone, although we'll have to see it at high water.

As for me, despite the long winter's rest, I can still cartwheel to my left, bungle it badly to my right, the handroll is still there and everything else still needs work. Fortunately, the season is just getting started.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Admire from a distance

The National Park Service officially banned climbing on named arches and natural bridges in Arches National Park today following a documented climb.

Dean Potter, 34, has photos and video of himself climbing up and rappelling from Delicate Arch - several times - on Sunday morning.

Arches Park Superintendent Laura Joss told The Associated Press she reported Potter’s climb to the Interior Department, and that rangers were investigating possible damage to the arch.

The new rules on climbing are posted on the park’s Web site. (Thanks to the National Park Service for the photo of Delicate Arch.)

“It’s one of the most beautiful things in the world to climb, and because it wasn’t illegal I decided to climb it,” Potter said. He studied the cracks and crevices on the arch for years, looking for a route he could take without climbing aids. He rated it a difficult climb, with some overhangs on the way up.

“I respected nature to the fullest. The most damage I did to the arch was to blow a little dust from the hand and footholds,” he told the AP.

A photographer was once charged with a misdemeanor for setting fires under Delicate Arch (the span displayed on Utah license plates).

(posted by editor Dena)

Monday, May 08, 2006

Climber turns back on Everest

While local resident David Lien is believed to still be acclimating for a summit bid on Everest, The Associated Press reports that a Steamboat Springs man has abandoned his attempt after experiencing chest pain at about 22,000 feet.

Matt Tredway turned back late last week and had returned to Katmandu, Nepal, by the weekend, according to his posting on the Web site of Team No Limits, his climbing group.

Tredway, a teacher at Steamboat Middle School, did not suffer a heart attack or any other heart damage, wife Dana Tredway told the AP.

On the Web site, Matt Tredway said turning back was a “bitter disappointment” but the right decision. Two Sherpa climbers helping Team No Limits were among three Sherpas killed April 21 when ice crashed down on them, the team reported on its Web site.

(posted by editor Dena)

Trip report: The Indian Peaks are still full of snow

I went for one of my first forays into the Indian Peaks west of Boulder this weekend for a little backcountry skiing. I think people from the Springs tend to ignore this range because it's right next to Denver - the trails can be a bit crowded - but let me tell you, with this year's healthy snows, my friends and I had a great ski, and the cool, glaciated peaks I saw already have me planning a return trip.

Some of the mountains there, while not especially high (Long's Peak is the only 14er) have classic alpine routes.
Just looking at Lone Eagle peak gives me the willies -- in a good way. And Mount Toll looked equally fetching.
As for crowded. On a full day ski, we only saw five other people. Not too bad for being an hour outside Denver.

Anyone else poke around the Indian Peaks? What are some favorite destinations?

Photo credit:

Friday, May 05, 2006

St. Helens "fin" growing

A fin-shaped slab of fresh volcanic rock in the crater at Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument is growing about 5 feet a day, The Associated Press reports. (Thanks to the USGS/Cascades Volcano Observatory for the cool photo, which is NOT of the fin, but the 1980 eruption.)

The 300-foot rock is one of seven lobes that have been pushing their way through the surface for about 18 months. You can see them from the Johnston Ridge Observatory, which is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through Oct. 20. Or, you can look at photos of the crater and the fin.

Scientists expect over time the volcano will rebuild its conical peak, which blasted apart May 18, 1980.

(posted by editor Dena)

Watch out for the fumes

You try to be a good hiker and take care of your boots, but the smell of that sealant you spray on them is enough to kill a cat.

Actually, it has killed more than one cat. This week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention detailed its investigation into people and pets suffering after using a waterproofing boot spray. Almost 200 people and more than two dozen pets have gotten sick since early last year, and three cats died after exposure.
Most of the cases were linked to two products: Jobsite Heavy Duty Bootmate and Rocky Mountain Boot Weather and Stain Protector. In more than half the cases, the boots were sprayed indoors, but those who sprayed their boots outdoors or in a garage got sick after they brought the boots back inside.

The sprays have been pulled from the shelves, but if you've got some on a shelf somewhere, I'd get rid of it.

Looking for sun, head up Pikes Peak

These are the days in Colorado Springs that are best for a good steep mountain hike. It's murky down here (and cold) but sunny up above. And for me, there is nothing cooler than starting in the murk and climbing up through to the sun. That last layer of cloud almost seems to glow just before you break through.

Right now, the cloud deck seems to be at about 10,000 feet, according to the Pikes Peak Summit cameras. So, any hike above that will get you into the sun. Some favorites: Mount Rosa, Mount Manitou, Barr Trail, or just drive up the Pikes Peak Highway. But bring a sweater. Just 'cause the sun's out, doesn't mean it's warm.
(I can't believe I ended the blog that way. I've now officially become my parents.)

Ditch the mist for snow!

Head to Loveland on Saturday to demo AT boards created by a company in Evergreen. It's free, but make sure you take your driver's license, a credit card and you have a lift ticket.

Storm the park Sunday for Loveland's closing day. There'll be live music and a rail jam at Love Park.

Headed to A-Basin, instead? The 3rd annual Huck, Rock and Roll kicks off at 10 a.m. Saturday (registration $10, includes goody bag - from 8 a.m.) in Mutha' Hucker terrain park. There'll be music on the hill and Underlining Einstein is set to play 1 to 4 p.m. in the base area.

Can't make it to the Basin Saturday? Don't worry, there'll the beach scene surely awaits if stop by Sunday. Just be prepared to share.

(posted by editor Dena)

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Are you sure you're done skiing?

Arapahoe Basin is still holding on, with a respectable 67-inch base. But check this out - Mammoth Mountain in California still has an 11- to 15-foot base. That's feet, folks. The resort plans to stay open until July. (Check out the picture - this deck is usually 20 feet off the ground.)

Victory for the little guy

The little guy can relax, at least for now. The National Park Service won't increase charges for wildlife photographers and other small independent filmmakers within the national parks. A new fee schedule that was supposed to begin this month would have charged filmmakers $150 a day, up from $200 a year. But a spokesman for the Department of the Interior said that rate was designed for big-time filmmakers. The newest policy says the little guys won't have to pay location fees.

Godsend or eyesore?

National Park Service officials are developing a plan to cover new wireless towers, antennas, Internet and radio services in Yellowstone National Park.

Some applaud it as a way to make a park visit easier. Others believe it is an unwanted intrusion. A cellular tower built in the Old Faithful region five years ago drew criticism from advocates of the environment and historic preservation. It was eventually shortened 20 feet from its original 100-foot height so it was less visible.

What do you think about cell phones and national parks? Do you feel unprotected when your phone doesn't work? Are you relieved to be in a place where no one is on the phone? Are you offended by the idea of the phones themselves, or the unattractive towers they require?

Keeping the Ute Mountain Trail Open

The mouth of the Ute Mountain Trail, which leaves from a small lane between the Cog Railway parking lots and a batch of rundown cabins in western Manitou Springs, may be closed when the cabin area is re-developed into condos. At least that's the concern of many Manitoids who love using this historic trail.

Jonathan, one of our readers, e-mailed to say there are public meetings about the development happening, starting today, for anyone who wants to add their two cents.

Here's a schedule from him:

The public comment is scheduled today from 5 to 7 at the property (top of Ruxton Avenue just east of the cog). The planning dept. meeting is May 10. The city council meeting is May 23, I believe.

I would like to encourage anyone who is concerned to stop by one or all of the meetings.
Contact Jonathan for more info: 719-473-8844

Barr Mountain Race almost full

Apparently some of the popularity of the Pikes Peak Ascent is spilling over to the Barr Mountain Race, which happens a month earlier and only goes halfway up the mountain.

At 10 a.m. the race was 65% full (140 spaces left). It may fill up by the end of the week, or even the end of the day, so if you're thinking of giving it a try, either as training for the ascent, or as a less burly alternative, you better move. The race costs $20. 100% of fees go to benefit local nonprofits (can't beat that).

To register, click here.

On Everest: getting the gods drunk and pushing to Camp 4

We have another update from local climber David Lien on Mt. Everest. All seems to be going well:

We’ve completed one of the first major hurdles of this expedition over the last five days by moving up beyond Advanced Base Camp/Camp 3 (20,992 ft.) to Camp 4 (22,960 ft.), high atop the North Col. As I stated in my last update, this is where the suffering would truly begin, and it surely did.

We left Base Camp/Camp 1 for Intermediate Base Camp/Camp 2 on 27 April, spent the night at IBC, then continued on up to Advanced Base Camp/Camp 3 on 28 April. After spending two nights in ABC, we started the most difficult hurdle of our expedition so far: climbing the North Col. up to Camp 4. This camp is located at a point higher than any place in the western hemisphere, where Aconcagua in Argentina tops the highpoint list (22,800 ft.).

Reaching the Col. was one of the major goals I set for myself in joining this expedition. From this point on, every foot of altitude gained will truly be icing on the cake. However, before departing ABC for the North Col., we had to complete our Puja (blessing) ceremony. This was conducted by a Lama from the Rongbuk Monestary, who passed on traditional blessings from the Dali Lama for a safe and successful expedition.

Part of the ceremony included the blessing of our climbing gear, along with lots of food and drink, alcohol included. The alcohol used in the ceremony is intended to get the bad gods drunk, distracting them so that they do not interfere with our expedition. Having gained some firsthand knowledge of beer over the years, I took exception to their use of Budweiser to entice and distract the bad gods. However, it should make them sick at a minimum, and hence less able to pay much attention to us clamoring up Mt. Everest.

The ceremony lasted about two hours, after which our personal Sherpa-guides were ready to lead us op the ominous looking North Col. Most of us have hired personal Sherpas to guide us every step of the way above Advanced Base Camp (ABC), and all of them have been to the summit. From now on, every time we venture above ABC, our Sherpa-guides will be with us, watching over us, carrying the heaviest of our combined climbing gear, and doing everything within their ability to get us to the summit and keep us alive. The strength and stamina of these local Himalayan climbers is truly astounding, as is their capacity for expressing general happiness and generosity while in the midst of very harsh and difficult conditions. We are truly privileged to have them with us.

Once we reached the base of the North Col. and clipped into the first of the many fixed lines leading us to the top, and providing a safety “net” should we slip and fall, we spent approximately three physically demanding hours working our way towards the top of the Col.

From ABC, the line of climbers ascending the Col. looks like slowly moving ants; up close, like slowly moving people. After topping out on the Col., we still had to cross a laddered crevasse and climb a bit higher to our tents. At Camp 4 we piled into a cramped mess tent for some liquids and food before retiring to three-person tents to get into sleeping bags and warm up. Above ABC, you do not use a personal sleeping bag, but bags that are placed at the camps by the expedition and used by whoever is in camp at the time. So, you never know who has been there before you or how sick they might have been, and what you might catch as a result. This is the way it’s done. The higher up you go, the less each climber can bring individually; the less you want to bring individually. Each step is a struggle, so less is more.

It was only about 7:30 p.m. when we retired to our tents, and we would be in the tents resting and “sleeping” for the next twelve hours. Given that we were now at another new high altitude for the expedition, all of us knew what the night would bring: altitude headaches, delusional-like dreams, and very little sleep. It was one of the longest twelve hours I have ever had to endure, but we will have more such nights ahead, each more intense and uncomfortable than the last as we reach new altitude highs.

After one night at Camp 4 on the Col., we returned to ABC and then all the way down to BC to rest and recover. Next, in a couple days, we will start back up to ABC, then to Camp 4 again (22,960 ft.), then on to Camp 5 (25,256 ft.) for another night of suffering (due to experiencing a new altitude high), then back down to Camp 4 for a night, then down to ABC and back on down to BC to rest and recover again. From BC, we will all choose towns even farther down below BC to visit for several days to get fully rested for summit pushes. Meanwhile, our Sherpas will establish Camp 6 (27,224 ft.). Sometime between May 15th or 20th we will all move back up to ABC and start looking for breaks in the weather. Those of us who are still healthy will attempt to move up to Camp 6 and make summit attempts.

After a night up at Camp 6 and a summit attempt we will have run out of strength and oxygen for a second attempt. So, everything has to work out perfectly. It’s a one shot deal, even after having endured so much just to get to that point. Even if our expedition consisted solely of the world's greatest and most capable mountaineers, it’s possible that not many of them would make the summit. Such is the temperament of Everest. You do not storm her flanks and conquer her summit, you sneak past her, timid and frail, hoping she decides to take pity on the weak and insignificant creatures crawling toward her top. It’s a game of chance, of calculated risks, but life is not without risks, you learn to take them or you stay at home and watch life on television.
Step by step, David

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Local on Everest, well, almost

Local climber (and bank auditor) David Lien is attempting Mt. Everest from the north side (China). He's sending e-mail updates when he can. Here is the latest:

Hi, All. We arrived in Camp 1/Base Camp (BC-17,056 ft.) on 18 April with dark grey skies above along with falling snow being whipped up by strong wind gusts, and without having yet seen Mount Everest. However, during the evening of our second day in BC the weather started to change. Although I had no knowledge of the local weather forecast, I climbed the snow-covered ridge above camp in hopes of sighting Everest if the system was on its way out. It was.

I watched in awe as the clouds cleared, revealing a monstrous and breathtaking scene: 29,035 ft. Mt. Everest covered with a fresh layer of snow and with a snow plume stretching out for possibly a mile whirling off its summit. The brawl of the wind and snow had given way to a breathless, exhausted peace. To quote Edward Abbey, the mountain glittered under the sun with that harsh perfection characteristic of God’s early work. That single moment has already made this expedition a complete success for me. All the rest will just be icing on the cake.

As described by Matt Dickinson in "The Other Side of Everest": “From the south, Everest is shy and elusive…Crowded as it is, by Nuptse and Lhotse, you have to climb right into the Western Cwm, above Base Camp, before the Southwest Face is truly revealed. Even from Kala Pattar, the famous Everest viewpoint for trekkers, only a frustrating potion of the mountain is visible.”

“From the north, Everest does not hide behind any veil, it reveals itself in all its glory with no preamble or guile. It just sits there alone, proud and magnificent, a pyramid of rock, sculpted by the most power forces on earth over millions of years. No other peak encroaches on it - none would dare. It effortlessly fills what seems to be half of the horizon. The view from where we stood left no room for any doubt at all: This was the ultimate mountain.”

Soon, a few others from camp joined me and we watched the changing panorama in the late afternoon light as though Everest was a physical addiction we couldn’t turn away from. After maybe 30 minutes, the sun dropped below the surrounding mountains, decreasing the temperature by 5-10 degrees almost instantly, and sending us scurrying back down to BC and into our tents. Due to the number of climbers in our expedition, we have divided up into two groups.

On 22 April, our group started the climb from BC/Camp 1 (17,056 ft.) up to Intermediate Base Camp (IBC)/Camp 2 (19,024 ft.) along the Rongbuk Glacier and East Rongbuk Glacier. After spending one night in IBC, we continued up to Advanced Base Camp (ABC)/Camp 3 (20,992 ft.), covering a distance of about 10 miles from BC to ABC. ABC is higher than North America’s highest mountain, Mt. McKinley, and the highest altitude most of us have ever “slept” at, if you can call what we experienced sleep. Sleep is increasingly difficult the higher up you go, for a number of reasons: altitude headaches, loss of appetite/upset stomachs, irregularity (diarrhea), and cold. In the worst cases, cerebral edema (brain swelling) or pulmonary edema (lungs fill with fluid) occur. Several of our expedition members had to be assisted down from either ABC or IBC with the early signs of these two potentially deadly reactions to altitude.

So far, I am doing well overall and have experienced only mild, short-term altitude headaches and overnight upset stomachs. However, the first night at ABC was a difficult one for all of us. At times like that, as you spend entire nights awake, feeling the uncomfortable impacts of the altitude and occasionally making late night dashes for the bathroom (if you can call it that) with bouts of diarrhea, you sometimes questions what you’re doing up so high, so far from home.

Although I climb mountains for many reasons, as JFK said about going to the moon, we do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard. And I have found that nothing truly good or pure in life comes easy. Aiming high and hard work are prerequisites for living a good and decent life, and for endeavoring to make a difference rather than just existing. As Teddy Roosevelt said, “I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life; I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

Having said all that, we obviously have some very difficult days and weeks ahead. One of our expedition’s climbers, who was also here last year, captured the essence of what lies ahead when he said above IBC/Camp 3, “it’s about the suffering.”

Tomorrow we will leave BC for IBC, then ABC, and after spending two nights there move up to Camp 4 (22,960 ft.). It’s above ABC/Camp 3 where the real “suffering” and danger begins here on the north side of Mt. Everest. After one night of what is certain to be a cold and uncomfortable night at Camp 4, we will descend back down to BC and rest before repeating the entire process again, but moving up through the lower camps faster and then above Camp 4.

My next update should come on Monday or Tuesday, after we return from Camp 4. Step by step, David Edward Abbey: “The high forest has its charms, but I think I love most the timberline regions. The taiga, the tundra, and the tarn. Here the trees are few and scattered, growing close to the earth. The world opens out and one begins to understand what we’re doing here.”

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Pay to shoot?

Wildlife photographers say it's the end of beautiful pictures of beautiful places. National park officials say it had to be done.

Under a law passed in 2000, the Department of the Interior has to charge location fees for filming on public land. The bill, say park officials, was designed as an impact fee. Photographers now pay $200 a year plus fees for park services or assistance they need. Interim fees to comply to the law would charge them $150 a day for filming in national parks. Filmmakers say the agency is lumping together small independent filmmakers and big commercial production companies, and it's not fair.

The permanent fee structure will be released to the public in a couple of months; the interim fee goes into effect May 15, with a 30-day comment period. For a photographer's take on this new law, check out