Upward

by Tara Flanagan on June 1, 2011

In American culture, up is regarded as better than down. You’ve got things like the stock market and martinis to bear that out. However, if you find yourself in a long, downward plunge — say a freefall from an airplane or very tall ledge, here is the latest Safety Suggestion from the MG staff: Try to influence your velocity by spreading yourself out — arms and legs out to the sides, hands up by your head. Observe the terrain below you as you fall (really?). And then, do what you can to land on your feet, knees bent. And most important, relax as you find the best landing spot.

1) Piles of awesomeness
Overheard on Boulder restaurant  patio: “Dude, how about, like, getting a sponsorship for climbing the top-10 biggest garbage heaps in the U.S.?” If these three brotastics succeed in getting someone to pay them (never mind that they’ll get arrested), they’ll begin their ascent at the esteemed Apex landfill, an hour north of Las Vegas. Billed as America’s biggest dump, it contains more than 50 million tons of rotting garbage, plenty to keep the boys amused. Elsewhere in the West, Denver’s Arapahoe Disposal Site comes in at a hefty sixth place, with 12,000 tons of new waste every day. El Sobrante in Corona, Calif. is seventh, the Frank Bowerman site in Irvine is ninth and Columbia Ridge in Arlington, Ore., is a respectable 10th place, taking in garbage from all over the Northwest.

2) Climb every … really?
While much of “The Sound of Music ”was filmed in and around Germany and Salzberg, Austria, a good share of the movie was made in — yawn — L.A., nonetheless causing a small spike in people who wanted to walk up the sides of mountains. Ever notice how everything looks so damned breezy in the big mountain scenes? The billowing frocks are from the film copter’s downdraft, which knocked Julie Andrews off her feet several times before she started to get pissed off. One more buzzkill: While the von Trapps climbed over the Alps to Switzerland in the movie, in reality, they took a train to Italy, then went to London and the U.S. Had they hiked over the mountains, they would have ended up in Germany, perilously close to Hitler’s vacation digs.

3) Having fun yet?
While Rainier is on most American mountaineers’ bucket lists, it is itself cause for much premature bucketing, as it were. More than 90 climbers have slipped or frozen trying to reach the 14,410-foot summit, and 294 deaths have happened elsewhere on the mountain. Seasoned climbers occasionally meet their maker after sliding into crevasses or getting disoriented in short-notice blizzards, but there’s also a lot of Amateur Hour, typified by flip-flops and a complete lack of basics like food, water, extra clothes, map, compass and brains. FYI — if you want to increase the odds of your demise, you can head up Nepal’s Annapurna. Since 1950, there have been 58 fatalities in 153 ascents, putting the death rate at 42.85 percent.

4) A tall order
Last January Johnny Collinson of Snowbird, UT, became the youngest person, at age 17, to scale the Seven Summits — the biggest peak on each continent. That includes Aconcagua in Argentina (22,841 feet), Everest (29,030 feet), Denali (20,320 feet), Russia’s Elbrus (18,510 feet), Kilimanjaro (19,340 feet), Carstenz Pyramid in New Guinea (16,023 feet) and the 16,067-foot Vinson Massif in Antarctica. But in a contest that is seeing increasingly young people on increasingly big mountains amid increasing how-young-is-too-young criticism, it looks like Jordan Romero of Big Bear, Calif., who set a record by climbing Everest last May at age 13, is seriously in line to grab the Seven Summits age record. Snowbird Ski Resort founder Dick Bass was the first of roughly 200 to make the required ascents.

5) Ascension, man
So it comes out that former Van Halen lead singer Sammy Hagar may have ascended higher than most of us. And he’s pretty damned serious. In his memoir, “Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock,” Hagar admits that he has been abducted by aliens, who either stole from or placed a bunch of stuff into his head. “It was real,” Hagar told a reporter. “[Aliens] were plugged into me. It was a download situation. This was long before computers or any kind of wireless. There weren’t even wireless telephones. Looking back now, it was like, ‘Fuck, they downloaded something into me!’ Or they uploaded something from my brain, like an experiment.”

6) Morons
If you’ve never paged through “Accidents in North American Mountaineering,” we highly suggest you get yourself a copy, which is updated each year to include gems such as the following: A group of morons hiking in Grand Canyon activated a help button on a SPOT unit because they’d run out of water. So … expensive rescue chopper arrives the next morning and previously thirsty morons decline a rescue because they had found a water source. So … later that evening, same morons hits “911” button again, and chopper arrives a second time (we’re not making this up), only for rescuers to learn that the group of morons was worried about “salty” water — but no emergency existed. Rescue crew declines the group’s request for a night evacuation. So … the next morning, another SPOT “help” call goes out. This time, group members are flown out but refuse medical assessment or treatment (something involving probes would have been appropriate). Leader of morons is asked what his group would have done without the SPOT device. His answer: “We would have never attempted this hike.” The group of morons’ leader was cited under federal regulations for creating a hazardous condition.


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