Review: Kinds of Winter

Bush pilot, guide, dog musher—Dave Olesen documents what it takes to survive the north in “Kinds of Winter.” A Review by Dick Dorworth

KINDS OF WINTER: Four solo journeys by dogteam in Canada’s Northwest Territories.
By Dave Olesen
Wilfrid Laurier University Press$19.99

olesenDave Olesen is a thoughtful, articulate adventurer who closely notes the details of an extraordinary existence in which the mundane chores of daily life entail severe consequences for inattention, keeps track of his experiences and observations in journals which he turns into books to share with fortunate readers. His latest book “Kinds of Winter” is, to sum up, beautiful. Olesen lives with his wife and two children, forty three huskies and a ninety year old Danish sailboat on a remote homestead by Great Slave Lake next to the Hoarfrost River in Canada’s Northwest Territories where average winter nighttime temperatures are below -20F and there are five hours of daylight in December.

Olesen works as a bush pilot and guide, and, for 15 years, he was a competitive dog musher, finishing the grueling Iditarod Trail Sled dog Race eight times. That’s a long way from the small Illinois town where he grew up, but in 1987, armed with B.A. degree in Humanities and Northern Studies, he fled to the north to pursue a life that inspired Gary Snyder to write of Olesen: “I salute this man and his passion, and his family for giving him space to explore it. An old Inupiaq Eskimo once said to me as I set out in a canoe on a September river, ‘Don’t have any adventures.’”

But the daily challenges of life at Olesen’s home are a backdrop and nutritious foundation for the kinds of winter he seeks and discovers when he and his teams of sled dogs really do go looking for adventure. He explains it thus: “Once a year for four consecutive winters I hooked up a team of dogs and set out on long trips away from our homeland, traveling toward one of the cardinal points of the compass: south in 2002, east in 2003, north in 2004, and finally west in 2005. Having gone out, I turned home again. It was as simple as that.” Yes, as simple as a man alone with his team of dogs going south for 155 miles, east 380 miles, north 210 miles and west 520 miles through the kinds of winter that keep the Northwest Territories sparsely populated.

The adventure alone makes “Kinds of Winter” worth the read, but Olesen is no chest-thumping conqueror of the extreme compiling a resume of achievement for the reader to admire. Olesen, like his literary/spiritual predecessors Muir, Thoreau, Leopold, Abbey and Snyder is reminding himself and the reader of Muir’s admonition: “Keep close to Nature’s heart…and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”

DSC_1891 - Version 2-colourEvery human being can, with a bit of intentional effort and spirit of adventure, break clear away, once in awhile, and wash the spirit clean. But there are very few who do so who also have the literary skills and discipline combined with the human and environmental insight to realize and write: “Time. It is all nice and fuzzy that: ‘Go out in the wilderness and just let Time flow’ or ‘let Time have no meaning’ stuff, but in traveling between supply caches, or climbing a mountain, or paddling a long river in a short summer, Time takes on fundamental importance—it cannot be ignored. It is the approach of dusk at day’s end, the looming onset of winter in mid-September, the final sack of feed rationed out to a hungry team. Like it or not, folks, the clock is ticking, even ‘way out here’ in la-la land, Today, though, sitting just 75 miles from home, I am long on time. I can rest, and walk, and watch the day go by. Muir and Thoreau would be happy for me.”

We should all be happy for Dave Olesen who has the skills, discipline and insight to make every reader happy he and she took the time from the ticking clock to read “Kinds of Winter.”         —Dick Dorworth

Bob Marshall: A Wilderness Original

A Wilderness Original: The Life of Bob Marshall, 2nd Edition (Mountaineers Press, 2014)

By James M. Glover

Reviewed by Cameron M. Burns

My wife and I lived in Montana in the early 1990s, and I always wondered why this guy named Bob Marshall was so heralded. Not many people get a million acres of wilderness (fifth largest in the U.S.) named after them. Heck, I’d like to name a few million acres after people who deserve the credit but will never see it.

Well, this 2014 reissue of a 1986 biography—A Wilderness Original: The Life of Bob Marshall—explains it. Bob Marshall was and remains arguably the biggest advocate for wilderness the United States has and will ever see.51MzbvhMWvL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

His feats in wilderness areas proved his obsession with the natural world. He explored the Brooks Range long before most, and studied the local population that lived there. He rambled in Montana’s mountains for three years while studying trees. And he had a massive thirst for hiking—up to 40 miles a day. When he was just a youngster, he and his brother George and Herb Clark were the first to summit all 46 peaks in the Adirondacks over 4,000 feet.

This book, first published nearly 30 years ago, tells the story of Marshall’s forebears’ move from Bavaria to New York in the mid-19th century and much about his father’s life, which ultimately influenced Bob’s (loving wilderness, community involvement, and no interest in the trappings of wealth, etc.)

When this writer’s family emigrated from Australia to the US in 1978, we landed in Syracuse. Some of my first climbing experiences were in Tasmania. Then, weirdly, starting in 1978, in the Adirondacks. My father and I did a 4-day tromp through the “Dacks,” and it was one of the best things I ever experienced.

This was Bob Marshall’s land. He loved (as we all do) and wanted to see it preserved as well as it could be preserved.

In 1935, Marshall formed the Wilderness Society with Benton McKaye to “battle uncompromisingly for wilderness protection all over the United States.” And the Society went on to do many great things in many great places.

This book is a fairly straightforward narrative—Marshall’s family history, his father’s devotion to wilderness and ethical concerns, and his academic and professional career—but what comes through and stands out in Glover’s tome is the unbridled love of wilderness that Bob Marshall had. As a youngster, he hated being outside after dark. But he pushed himself to go out and wander the forests near the family compound in the Dacks. If he’d only hiked 36 miles on a certain day, he’d often go out for an after-dinner walk to make it an even 40.

Although I call this book a “fairly straightforward narrative”—from a reader’s perspective—it has the three qualities that are a must to the art of biography and something that many biographies lack. One, the guy (Marshall) is a real character. Too many biographies are of the ilk that up-and-coming politicians write (“I’m here and this is what I believe” even though they haven’t done sh*t to deserve the public’s attention). Marshall’s definitely worthy of your eyes. Two, Glover’s writing is carefully crafted. I’ve read too many things in magazines and books where it’s quite apparent the author didn’t understand grammar, syntax, typography, and pretty much everything else (hell, I cringe when I read my own work from 30 years ago). And three, it’s an enjoyable story. In many bios the plot gets simply lost, as the expression goes, and a memorable character gets overrun by bad storytelling.

Glover, a writer’s writer, told me he hadn’t zeroed in one Marshall at first.

“When I was around 30 or so I was casting around for something substantive to write about,” he told me via email. “I was teaching college courses in outdoor recreation [at Southern Illinois] and was (and still am) an avid wilderness adventure enthusiast. Anyway, around 1978 or ’80 or so, I happened to read an article about Marshall in Backpacker magazine by Roderick Nash, and also read about Marshall in Nash’s famous book, Wilderness and the American Mind. So I began to dig around for more info on Marshall, with the vague idea of maybe writing a book about him. I didn’t realize, when I first began, quite what a compelling personality he had, and how important a historic figure his father had been, and how strongly committed Bob was to what we sometimes now call “social justice.”

Sure, Jim, his father was important, but mostly because he produced this great soul who was absolutely addicted to wilderness and willing to do everything in his power to preserve it.

It’s a remarkable tale about a remarkable man that, if you’re like me, has hovered in your hazy subconscious for years. This book brings him to light.

“I have to thank Marshall himself for making the book however interesting it is,” Glover told me. “He continues to seem to me one of the most compelling personalities in American history, even though he’s not well known outside environmental and wilderness adventure circles.”

No kidding.

Respect the writer, respect the subject, respect the words.

Read the book.

The God of Skiing: South America

Ed’s Note: Few ski bums have perfected the art of living the ski life better than Mountain Gazette’s editor-at-large, Peter Kray. The man has spent years seeing the sport from every angle—from the finish line of the Vancouver Olympics, to safety breaks in the Jackson Hole backcountry, to the halls of the SIA trade show in Vegas, to hiking A-Basin’s East Wall with his dad and brother, to racing as a kid at Eldora, to slumming it up in Austria, Portillo, Alaska, Santa Fe… His book, The God of Skiing, is due out this fall and he will be sharing excerpts from it here at the Gazette for the next few months. Enjoy.



By Peter Kray


The second time he disappeared everyone said he ran off to Argentina with Marc-Andre, that lanky grinning badger, the reckless French Canadian. The two of them talked about it like a dark green dream at the bottom of the world filled with fields of super skinny cigarette smoking licorice-haired girls who got plastic surgery for bigger lips and bigger butts but wanted tinier tits and had reductions. In Buenos Aires they met up with Marc- Andre’s friends who ran a tour DSC04605operation. They took a train through the Lake District and hired a car to the grasslands. They went to Las Lenas, above the treeline where everyone keeps their goggles on. To Chile, eating fried guinea pigs and washing them down with wooden cups of wine. They found work in the bars, or on the hill as avalanche control in La Parva or Portillo, the tiny private village where the World Cup racers come in August and September to train for the season.

But then they said that he fell in love with the little New England girl with short-black hair and sharp granite eyes who skied like a loping deer and spent her summers teaching skiing in Australia at Thredbo, or Hotham. So he had stopped in Australia then went to New Zealand. He dropped acid every day, living on beer and water, on trekking skis where the slopes echo tree-less as beaches, white and blue and beyond. He was in the saddle of some perfect ridge with just his sleeping bag, a pot for coffee and two bunks, and outside his hut was a crown of mountains.

“You follow the season.”

Other skiers were there though, and no one had seen him. So they said he left me the dog to drive south with Miller, through Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras, down broken roads with bad weather and bandits to the brown-white sands of Nicaragua where they would surf through August and come back in the Avocado, Miller’s old green Ford truck with the weather-beaten white camper and more than 100 pounds of marijuana to smoke and sell so they wouldn’t have to work all season. He was cutting trees in British Columbia. Guiding rivers in Alaska. And I was just borrowing the dog.

Someday, I would have to give Toby back to him.




The God of Skiing — Chapter 1

Ed’s Note: Few ski bums have perfected the art of living the ski life better than Mountain Gazette’s editor-at-large, Peter Kray. The man has spent years seeing the sport from every angle—from the finish line of the Vancouver Olympics, to safety breaks in the Jackson Hole backcountry, to the halls of the SIA trade show in Vegas, to hiking A-Basin’s East Wall with his dad and brother, to racing as a kid at Eldora, to slumming it up in Austria, Portillo, Alaska, Santa Fe… His book, The God of Skiing, is due out this fall and he will be sharing excerpts from it here at the Gazette for the next few months. Enjoy.


Chapter 1

By Peter Kray

The Sports Illustrated story was called, “In Search of Strau: What’s become of the daredevil king of collegiate skiing?” I was in high school when it ran. The photo on the page was the first time I ever saw him, standing on the stage at the NCAA Championships on the top podium.

DSC02530-1(1)He was golden and glowing like a statue in the sun. Like a movie star with his broad Swiss face, his white crooked smile and his wheat white hair blowing in the wind. His eyes were as blue as deep water and he stood out from the crowd like a sunflower he was so tall and tan.

He was the quarterback just come off the bench to win the game, except with something tattered and about to be broken. In the scar that cut from his right temple to his cheek. In the careless way he raised the silver trophy in his right hand. You wanted to be there to catch it for him. To tell him that his red speed suit was torn and his biceps showed through at the arm. To show him how his long black skis were both bent at the tips, and how the two other skiers on the stage, the posters, green, red and blue banners and people in the crowd were all falling out of focus in a swirl of color behind him.

The story counted up the long list of come-from-behind victories and heartbreaking wrecks in two columns right beside each other until they began to seem like the same thing: the stunning wins where he careened down the course and everybody forgot to breathe as he zipped by, or the quiet after the crash before the blood hits the snow and the skis are still sliding. From triumph to tragedy, one after another, they read like the made up rumors of some distant, crazy cousin.

His fluid, aggressive style in the downhill and Super G was described as ‘angry,’ ‘feral,’ and even ‘pathologically transcendent.’ It shocked collegiate racing. He skied so close to the gates that they would explode from their moorings. They were left flopping in his wake. Sometimes it seemed he skied right through them.

For two years at St. Lawrence University in upstate New York—where Bob Parker of the 10th Mountain Division had gone to college, and where I would go too—he built his own East Coast legend. He won races from way back in the field when the spectators were starting home and the courses were rutted and rotten. He ran from the top of the mountain all the way to the bottom on icy blue pavement like tilted frozen lakes through the trees where it’s only glory or ruin; where only because of their balls, their fear or their fuck-it-all skiers first see if they can survive, then win. And Tack won downhills by a whole second sometimes, which is good as a mile in skiing. Or he crashed so spectacularly that a hush ran up the hill.

“Is he dead?” “Will he ski again?”

They would rush back to the orange fencing when they heard his split-time come over the PA system. Those early East Coast drunks, leaving their beers on the bar as they ran outside for that glimpse of a shooting star—the vapor trail of snow as he was passing. Shouts erupted from the finish line as the adrenaline went through someone. Or there was a collective gasp as he sailed into the woods like a car off the road and everybody waited for the explosion; the blue and red fiberglass poles burst like fireworks, the horse breaking its stable and the raceworkers standing dumbstruck as it happened.

“Tack ‘Tornado’ Strau,” the announcer would say. “Let’s hope he’s not hurt too bad, ladies and gentlemen.”

But he never missed a race. No matter how badly hurt he was, he was always back the next weekend. He hid the bulk of tape around his fractured ribs with an extra turtleneck and told his coaches he was cold. His broken wrist with bigger gloves. He took off an eye patch on the lift and stayed off the drugs to pass the piss test, choosing alcohol over Percodan.

Between his ribs, his arms, his legs and hands he broke 17 bones. But it said you would have to look to see where it slowed him. It said, “He smiles like a joke he shouldn’t tell, with perfect white teeth and thick Swiss lips that are always burned and cracking. He laughs like coffee, like some party or fistfight about to happen.”

He drank after races with his growing legion of fans, the “Scarecrows,” who took to making phony casts, wrapping themselves like mummies in toilet paper and blacking their teeth with markers and charcoal to cheer him. At the NCAA championships in Lake Placid, he annihilated the field in both his disciplines. Then, almost as a joke, he entered and won the slalom. In the post-race interviews he revealed to a reporter that a week before he had torn the medial collateral ligament in his right knee during a training run. He said the doctor told him he needed surgery and at least four months off before he could ski again.

“Why risk it?”

“It’s like being pocket rich,” he said. “You spend it when you can.”

And then that immortal quote: “If it weren’t for gravity, I’d probably be in Nebraska building engines.”


Photo by Chris Denny

DEEP READ: The Storms of Denali

Seattle based author and writing teacher Nicholas O’Connell has been exploring the high country and writing about mountaineering for national magazines for decades. But his latest book The Storms of Denali is no wonky service column on how to bag the highest peaks in Washington. It’s a page-turner of a novel that draws on O’Connel’s climbing experience. That combination of big-mountain authenticity and literary wit has earned him a wide range of praise, including kudos from author David Guterson, guide book legend Fred Beckey and famed mountaineer Lou Whittaker. 

See Nick read from the book tonight April 10 at the American Alpine Club in Golden, Colorado, at 7 p.m. and tomorrow night April 11 at Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder at 8 p.m. Check for more readings and sign up to hone skills in travel, climbing and wine writing at O’Connell’s The Writer’s Workshop. Look for future readings across the West here.

Now read the start of The Storms of Denali here and buy the book through the link at the bottom of the page to continue and support Nick and independent book sellers.







The storm caught us in the open, halfway down the southeast ridge of Denali, the highest and coldest mountain in North America. The wind gusted furiously, sandblasting my face with ice pellets and knocking me to my knees. I hunched against the slope and watched our 9 mm red Perlon rope levitate off the snow as if it were obeying a conjurer’s trick. Then the gust subsided and the rope returned to the ground.

I stood up and stumbled forward, following Wyn as he staggered down the curving, heavily-corniced ramp of crusty, wind-scoured snow with patches of blue bulletproof ice. The descent presented no great technical difficulties other than dizzying exposure but it took an enormous act of will to keep walking. Last night’s bivouac at 19,000 feet had completely fried my brain.

Placing my feet carefully, I reminded myself that most mountaineering accidents happen on the descent. One slip, one screw up, and that would be it. I thought of my wife and son back in Seattle. I remembered them standing in the doorway of our home, Jill’s eyes dark and angry, Andy clutching his stuffed frog. I tried to fix this image in my mind, but their faces blurred, expanded and contracted like the figures in a fun house mirror. The rope tugged against my harness.

“Sorry!” I yelled and kept moving. It was about a mile to the end of the southeast ridge, but the snow was maddeningly unpredictable, sometimes offering a stable platform, other times collapsing beneath my plastic boots.

Wyn broke trail 150 feet ahead. Like a bird dog on a leash, he tugged constantly at the rope, urging me forward. Despite his impatience, it was a relief to have him leading. As on so many other climbs, I depended on his strength to pull us through. Nothing seemed to stop him.

As I watched his yellow parka bobbing hypnotically down the ridge, my right crampon caught on a chunk of ice. I tripped and tried to jam my ice axe into the slope, but my frostbitten hands couldn’t apply any pressure. Picking up speed, I rocketed headfirst down the slope.

The rope jerked tight against my waist. I flipped over, hit a patch of soft snow, and came to rest on my side. I lay there for a full minute, panting. Slowly, I got to my knees, looked around and brushed the snow off my face. Other than ripping the elbow out of my parka, I was okay. I sucked the thin, bitter air through my compressed lips and tried to regain my composure. Blood pounded in my temples. My heart hammered wildly. I waved up at Wyn. He was still in self-arrest position, his legs spread-eagled against the slope, the pick of his axe buried into the ice.

We exchanged a long look; neither one of us had to say anything. I owed him. Step by exhausting step, I regained the top of the ridge, expending energy I would desperately need later. Then I fell in behind him, riveting my attention on the snow in front of me. Every step brought us closer to base camp. We crouched against the slope when the wind threatened to knock us over. Stood up when it died down. I tried not to think about the danger, or the condition of our partners behind us. I simply put one foot in front of the other, over and over again. After what seemed an eternity, we reached the end of the ridge. Clouds soared up the south face, obscuring our descent route. The storm was building.

Scraps of mist sailed by, lowering the visibility to several hundred feet. I got compass bearings on the jagged white pyramids of Mount Hunter and Mount Huntington to the south. Clouds gathered behind them like an enormous anvil.

Clutching the map with my frostbitten hands, I used the edge of the compass to sight a line from each summit to the southeast ridge. The intersection of the lines was our present position, if my calculations were correct. By the time I glanced up to double-check the bearings, clouds had already covered their summits. I’d always prided myself on my route-finding ability. Now it would be put to the test.

I looked back up the slope to where Al and Lane descended behind us. Their progress was agonizingly slow. Al went first, walking pigeon-toed, taking a few steps and then stopping. Lane followed behind, keeping Al on a short leash.“C’mon!” Wyn shouted up at them. I looked at my altimeter watch: 8:35 a.m. Precious minutes were ticking by. I was frantic to keep moving, but we had to wait for Al and Lane. It was a cardinal rule of climbing: keep the group together. An invisible rope bound us to them.

I tried to unbuckle my pack, but my hands felt like blocks of wood. Using my knuckles, I managed to release the buckles, lowered the pack to the ground and collapsed on top of it. A toxic cocktail of chemicals churned in my gut. For the past few hours, I’d been fantasizing about eating my last square of chocolate. Now I took it out of my pack, turned it over in my black insulated mittens, and popped it into my mouth. It was as hard and brittle as shale, but it softened on my tongue. I ate it slowly, savoring every bit. It soothed my stomach, but now I had no food left. We had to get back to base camp soon.

Wyn sat down next to me. The last few weeks had taken a toll on him. His face was creased and sunburned, his lips scabbed, his breathing fast and shallow. His food was gone; he’d eaten his last lemon drop for breakfast. He took a swig from his water bottle and handed it to me. I drank deeply; we had to keep hydrated. Food was optional. Water was essential.

“Which way?” Wyn asked, pointing ahead.

I carefully unfolded the map, making sure that the wind didn’t rip it out of my hands. The blue topographic lines gathered in a knot, indicating the steepness of our descent route. I studied the dark patches of rock and the white patches of ice, looking for a way through it. Right or left or straight? A simple decision, but our lives hung in the balance.

“Straight,” I said finally, “keeping to the snow.”

He looked at the map. “Are you sure we’re here?” He pointed to the spot on the summit ridge where the lines met.

“Yes,” I said, nodding. “Got a compass bearing on Hunter and Huntington.”

“How could you triangulate?” he asked, looking toward the summits now obscured by clouds as gray and thick as wool.

“I took bearings before the clouds moved in.”

He nodded and handed the map back to me. “Look. They’re almost here.”

Turning around, I watched Al and Lane stagger toward us. When they arrived, Al bent over his ice axe and tried to catch his breath. His lips were blue and trembling, his breathing labored and erratic.

Wyn went over to help him.

“I got him,” Lane said, keeping a tight grip on the rope. His blond mustache was caked with ice, his skin red with cold, his large back stooped from the effort of short-roping. As a fire fighter and mountain rescue volunteer, he was used to dealing with emergencies, but he was acting increasingly irrational. Perhaps he had altitude sickness, too.

“Which way?” he asked.

“Straight,” I yelled.

He shook his head. “Right. We need to go right.”

I took out the map. “The map says straight.”

He seemed to have trouble focusing on it. “Need to get down fast. South Face.”

“No way,” Wyn shouted. “It’s way too steep.”

“Rescue operation.” Lane’s speech was becoming garbled, his judgment questionable.

“That’s crazy,” I said.

“Have to try,” Lane said. “Helicopter. Air-vac.”

“There’s no helicopter!” I shouted. “No air evacuation. Remember?” We’d radioed at the bivouac. Kim, the base camp manager, had made it very clear. No helicopters would fly in this weather. I beckoned him forward. “This way.”

Lane looked at Al and motioned to the right.

“Straight!” I shouted, but the wind snatched the words away.

Lane moved off to the right. Al followed behind him. They stumbled off into the mist, heading toward the sheer South Face of Denali.

To purchase a copy of The Storms of Denali, go to:( )





Mountain Media #193

Buried in the sky

BOOKS: “Buried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of the Sherpa Climbers on K2’s Deadliest Day,” by Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan

During every Himalayan expedition, the behind-the-scenes work of hauling gear, setting up camps, scouting routes and fixing rope lines falls on the backs of high-altitude workers, or Sherpa climbers, as they’re commonly known. But who are the Sherpa people? What compels some to become high-altitude workers? And on K2, the world’s second-highest peak, does the mountain goddess Takar Dolsangma answer their prayers?

In their new book, “Buried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of the Sherpa Climbers on K2’s Deadliest Day,” Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan answer these questions while telling a gripping story of the August 2008 disaster. Instead of the usual glorified gush from surviving sponsored mountaineers, the story centers on the Sherpas, giving a cultural context to their perilous work amid their most sacred places.

The authors neatly lay out each of the characters’ backgrounds, personalities and philosophies as if laying out gear before an assault on the mountain. As they push for the summit, the story degenerates into a tangled mass of rope, ice, rock and dead or dying climbers. Despite multiple storylines, this book clearly communicates the imperceptible Death Zone logic and impossible language gaps that led to the deaths of eleven climbers, Sherpa or not. The story’s flow receives help from the book’s many maps, color photos and notes.

Shocked by the death of her friend Karim Meherban in the accident, fellow climber Amanda Padoan sought to uncover how such a tragedy could happen. With help from her cousin, Peter Zuckerman, the authors thoroughly researched the story, but also pioneered a new, exciting perspective that raises the bar for all mountaineering literature. Sure, it still implies the age-old question: why climb? But when asked in the context of Sherpa climbers, the answers reverberate deeper and reveal more than ever before. $26.95,

— Jeff Miesbauer

Utah Wasatch Cover

BOOKS: “Utah’s Wasatch Range: Four Season Refuge,” by Howie Garber

Abruptly rising thousands of feet above Salt Lake City, Utah’s Wasatch Range forms a stark boundary between the western edge of the Rocky Mountains and the eastern front of the Great Basin. And, with 85% of the state’s population living within 20 miles, the range’s constant battle between conservation and development is just as stark.

Photographer Howie Garber has been exploring and taking photos in and of the Wasatch for 40 years, but his first book, “Utah’s Wasatch Range: Four Season Refuge,” is much more than just a photographic retrospective of his career in these mountains. Garber’s expansive collection of landscape, wildlife and outdoor sports photos are paired with essays from conservationists, business leaders, scientists and government officials that detail the intricacies, beauty and fragility of this cherished range. The result is both a tribute to the home of the “Greatest Snow on Earth” and a cautionary message of the many threats faced by these craggy peaks.

The book’s essays, written by everyone from skier Andrew McLean to U.S. Congressman Jim Matheson, run the gamut of subjects from geological history to watershed stewardship to the contentious nature of the Wasatch’s unparalleled ski
terrain. For those looking for reason to believe in preserving the Wasatch’s endless recreation opportunities, pure water and accessible wilderness, Garber’s beautiful images of golden aspen stands, craggy quartzite summits, diverse wildlife and powdery ski descents make the perfect companion for the words of so many important local voices.

Collectively, the book’s photographs and words make for many things — a visual tribute, a case for conservation, and most of all, something that anyone who has ever spent time in the Wasatch will find a deep appreciation for. $39.95,

— Andy Anderson

The Old Breed

SHORT FILMS: “The Old Breed,” by Cowboy Bear Ninja

In 2011, climber and filmmaker Freddie Wilkinson received an invite to go and climb the second-highest unclimbed mountain in the world, Saser Kangri II, in Asia’s Karakoram Mountains. The invite came from Mark Richey and Steve Swenson — two men with careers, families and lengthy lists of successful climbing expeditions under their belts. Eager to pull out one more major first ascent before retiring from big-mountain expeditions, the pair recruited Wilkinson — 25 years younger than both men — as the third member of the team.

In “The Old Breed,” Wilkinson documents the trio’s climb while also exploring what compels a pair of men in their mid-50s to travel halfway around the world and risk their lives in pursuit of an unclimbed mountain. For Richey and Swenson, the trip to climb Saser Kangri II represents what might be one of the final chapters in a long and illustrious mountaineering career. For Wilkinson, it represents a chance to share in one of a dwindling number of major unclimbed summits with two climbers he had long admired.

Due to the complex nature of what Wilkinson refers to as oropolitics, many sections of the Karakoram have been closed due to tensions between the bordering nations of India, Pakistan and China. When these areas are finally opened, it presents a bounty of first ascent potential for alpinists. And it’s such a political sea change that allows these three climbers to venture in pursuit of Saser Kangri II’s unclaimed summit.

But when Swenson falls ill on the mountain with a dangerous lung infection, the film delves into the age-old mountaineering struggle between the magnetic pull of the summit and a climber’s capacity for self-preservation. The film dabbles with the oft-discussed reasons why we go to the mountains in the first place, but it’s ultimately about how even as we age, the raw, wild spaces and expansive summits of the world offer something we can’t get anywhere else.

— Andy Anderson


Ephedra Cover

With summer hitting full stride in the Roaring Fork Valley, the Ideas Festival crowd turned into more of a Mountain Fair crowd, and instead of contemplating the economic value of a human life, I find I am contemplating the value of a poetic life. Partially spurring these thoughts have been two recent local poetry readings from the late-Karen Chamberlain’s posthumously published book, “Ephedra.” While I am not the first to say I miss Karen — who served for many years as Mountain Gazette’s poetry editor — I might possibly be the first to hope she really is just late, and maybe so wonderfully late, she will miraculously appear at a poetry reading, barn raising, horse dusting or goose-inspired fly-by.

Or perhaps, while collecting stinging nettles or yarrow, or plucking small wild strawberries, which are, at this very moment, very ripe, and very very tasty, I’ll look up and she’ll be there, smiling, the dusty desert and mountain babe of my dreams, second only to the salty surf and mountain babe of my reality. Until that time when Karen might appear, I’ve been reading and thumbing through the pages of “Ephedra” the same kind of way I might be reading and thumbing my way through the West. And what I have found in Karen’s collection, among poems dedicated to James Tate, Louis Simpson and Larry Levis (I have a bumpersticker on the back of my manly black Ford Ranger 4×4 that says “I heart Larry Levis”), are poems about real places and real people. OK, maybe not “Yerokastrinos,” which I wasn’t able to find in either Google or the Encyclopedia Britannica, though it captures both Greece and the feeling of longing in a particularly sweet, dark-red-pear kind of way. And who doesn’t love poems about real places and real people?

In “Medicine Women,” Karen takes us on a rooted, ridiculous and incredibly spiritual journey centered around sponge-capsule animals, of the variety you put in a glass of water and watch the gel capsule dissolve and the sponge saturate (along with mini-stories about the healing and strengthening of the three women). In “The Holy Fool of Bahia Kino,” Karen seeks a humane, human and spiritual connection with a boy who her friend describes as the village idiot, but who Karen listens to use the language of beauty to connect with both a dog and herself. Karen ends the poem by saying: “…Hapless boy,/ wronged by wonder…/ tomorrow I must leave the sea, drive/ the road of broken glass and dead tortoises,/ turn north toward the border. Then, even more,/ I’ll want for whatever’s wrong with you/ to be what’s wrong with me.”

So what’s the value of a poetic life? Everything. And then some. And then some more. As the old adage goes, you might even be one and not know it. A poetic life is like a bluegrass band wailing away on center stage with a sweaty audience dancing their hearts out. A bottomless dish of elephant ears, sno-cones and curried lentils. The righteous and valiant forward thinkingness of Carbondale’s Green Team, bio-degradable everything and coalitions that protect us against thoroughly fracking up the environment. But I digress. “Ephedra” captures, if ever so briefly, the life and lens of one of our very own poets. If we may claim her. And I think she would be generous enough to let us. One who graced many of us with her presence, and continues to grace us with this collection of poetry.

“Ephedra” is available through People’s Press,, and the Aspen Writers’ Foundation,

Cameron Scott is a freelance writer, teacher, and a fly-fishing guide out of Basalt, CO. If you have leftovers, he will eat them.

Mountain Media #190

BOOKS: “The Responsible Company,” by Yvon Chouinard and Vincent Stanley

The Responsible Company

By now you’ve likely heard the story — in the late-’60s, itinerant surfer and big-wall climber Yvon Chouinard began hand-forging climbing gear in a seaside shed under the name Chouinard Equipment. He eventually added a clothing line, which grew into outdoor apparel giant and environmental champion Patagonia, a company that now banks somewhere in the neighborhood of $500 million a year. Somewhere along the way, however, Chouinard became a poster child for socially and environmentally conscious business management, and his latest book, “The Responsible Company,” distills what he and co-author and Patagonia veteran Vincent Stanley have learned on the subject throughout the company’s 40-year history.

Early in the book, the authors reveal that Patagonia’s attention-getting practices have them keeping some odd bedfellows theses days, most notably price-slashing juggernaut Wal-Mart, which Patagonia has been consulting on environmental improvements over the last few years.

It seems Wal-Mart and countless other major companies are coming to the sobering realization and fairly common-sense ideal that Patagonia has operated on for years — “doing good creates better business.” In other words, the less resources and energy consumed by a company, the more profit they will make.

Despite some modest examples of Patagonia’s successful environmental initiatives, the book isn’t rife with the kind of horn-tooting one might expect from a book on business published by a for-profit company. On the contrary, Chouinard and Stanley level the playing field by stating that Patagonia is not the model for a responsible company, and there is no human economic activity that is yet worthy of the popular buzzword “sustainable.”

In addition to an interesting state-of-the-union address on business and the environment, the meat of the book is a sort of elemental style guide for responsible business practices, something useful for not only CEOs and corporate bigwigs, but anyone looking to create a more meaningful existence at work.

So perhaps responsible is the new sustainable — any company can boast about philanthropic work or financial donations, but it requires something more to take responsibility for the inherent environmental and social damage done by your company and make steps to alleviate it.


-Andy Anderson

MUSIC: “A Stone, A Leaf, An Unfound Door,” by The River Whyless

River Whyless

As if nodding to the muse of nature that inspired it, “A Stone, A Leaf, An Unfound Door” begins with the sound of footsteps next to a nearby stream. After a few folky, fiddle-filled movements, the music gains strength, as curiosity often does when looking under the right rocks. The wandering tune reaches a celebratory high point and then gracefully descends. Such an orchestrated outline follows the full arc of an album, but this is only the first song of ten.

The River Whyless, a four-piece folk band from Asheville, NC, has created a musical wonder with their first album. Though at times sounding similar to Fleet Foxes or The Head and The Heart, the dual-songwriting efforts of Ryan O’Keefe and Halli Anderson have laid the foundation for something thoughtfully original as well as genuinely Appalachian. Underneath it all, the crisp, flowing rhythms of Matt Rossino on bass and Alex McWalters on drums both anchor and elevate the artful song structures. Freshman effort or not, The River Whyless has created a unified, coming-of-age album that’s best ingested in its entirety. For a quick taste, check out “Cedar Dream Part II,” “Great Parades,’” “Pigeon Feathers” or “Stone” … or “Unfound Door” … or you might as well just listen to it all. Go to, where you can listen to the album and name your price (hello, free music!) for an instant download, as well as check for upcoming tour dates.

— Jeff Miesbauer

APPS: Columbia GPS PAL


While some branded smartphone apps seem to be little more than a thinly veiled marketing gimmick, the GPS PAL app from Columbia Sportswear stands out as a truly useful tool that just happens to be stamped with a brand name.

The GPS PAL, which stands for Personal Activity Log, provides GPS tracking with the ability to log photos, notes and videos as waypoints along the route. It tracks distance, time, pace and elevation automatically and provides a cool summary when your route is finished. The app also automatically syncs your routes and trip reports to an online journal, where they can be shared, compared and organized.

As a climber, I could see the app being extremely useful for approaches with difficult route-finding, but hikers, backpackers, runners and mountain bikers will find it an easy replacement for a GPS unit in most cases. It has already come in handy for measuring progress on training runs and relocating poop bags on after-work hikes with my dog.

Add to that the fact that it costs nothing, doesn’t require any map downloads (it maps through Google), tracks well without cell phone service and works better overall than some apps I’ve paid five bucks for, and the GPS PAL is a real keeper. The only real downside is that running the GPS for long periods of time (multi-hour hikes) seems to drain the phone’s battery quickly.


— AA

Mountain Media #189

Podcast: The Enormocast by Chris Kalous

Chris Kalous

Whether it’s around the campfire or in front of a computer, it’s a known fact that climbers love to talk about climbing. But with all the internet forum banter and three-minute video edits, it’s rare to hear an in-depth conversation on climbing issues and stories from an authentic, engaging and approachable perspective. Enter The Enormocast, which is the brainchild of writer and climber Chris Kalous. Kalous has been immersed in the climbing life for a long time and has climbed all over the world and throughout the Intermountain West, spending a lot of time in the Utah desert and Yosemite Valley.

The Enormocast is at its heart an informal discussion of climbing issues with the more interesting movers-and-shakers in the climbing community. The guest list has included some people who need no introduction to climbers, such as Kelly Cordes and Steph Davis, and other more undercover characters such as Sam Lightner Jr. and BJ Sbarra. Although he is certainly an opinionated host, Kalous’ gracious and genuinely funny nature keep the show light and the conversation engaging. Chris manages to navigate complex issues such as the cleaning of the Compressor Route on Cerro Torre or the evolving climate of land access in Southern Utah by both choosing guests who are intimately familiar with the issues (such as Hayden Kennedy and the above-referenced Sam Lightner Jr., respectively) and drawing upon his wealth of experiences as a perceptive and well-traveled climber. The fact that beers are usually being consumed by the host and interviewee goes a long way to bring a conversational tone to issues that could get a bogged down in policy and precedent. And at the end of the day, Chris manages to remember that no matter how much we love it, “It” is just rock climbing.

— Rob Duncan

Magazines: Ascent 2012

Ascent Cover

It might seem strange to review a magazine in another magazine, but Ascent 2012 is less of a magazine and more of a literary journal meets coffee table book — the kind of glossy, high-quality publication that, after you’ve read it through, ends up on your bookshelf and not in your recycling bin.

Originally published by the Sierra Club and edited by Allen Steck and Steve Roper (also authors of the legendary “50 Classic Climbs of North America”), Ascent debuted in 1967 as a visionary climbing journal intent on publishing the sport’s best stories and most vivid images. It accomplished its mission, going on to become the longest-running climbing publication ever, but after 14 issues published sporadically over 32 years, Ascent folded in 1999. After a trial comeback in 2011, Rock and Ice magazine acquired Ascent and has since revived it into an annual publication, rife with the stunning images and beautiful stories that its originators intended.

Ascent contains what most of us truly desire in a climbing publication — incredible, inspiring images and large blocks of eloquent, uninterrupted text. From Allen Steck’s detailed account of biking and climbing through post-WWII Europe to Renan Ozturk’s chronicle of recovering from a near-death ski accident to make the first ascent of Peru’s Sharks Fin, the magazine’s stories and photos encapsulate the beautiful diversity of the sport. Ascent’s pages span both generations and disciplines, but the sum is simply a keepsake collection of adventurous, inspiring and often hilarious tales from lives defined by climbing. $12.99,

— AA

Books: “Maple Canyon Rock Climbing,” by Darren Knezek and Christian Knight

Maple Canyon Guide

A climbing guidebook exists to serve two key functions — to provide essential information about a climbing area and its routes, and to get the reader PSYCHED. “Maple Canyon Rock Climbing,” a new full-color guide to one of Utah’s most-popular areas, fulfills both requirements and beyond.

Tucked into an inconspicuous mountainside in the middle of central Utah farm country, Maple Canyon has grown from an obscure, chossy backwater crag to one of the top summer sport climbing destinations in the West. The cliffs, comprised of thousands and thousands of rounded cobbles glued together with sedimentary rock, makes for some of the most unique climbing around. It’s often hard to tell what kind of hold a cobble will provide until you actually touch it, making the routes there notoriously pumpy and hard to read. The book also covers a host of routes in the surrounding areas outside of the canyon proper for those looking for some added variety. Written by local and active route developers, the book features loads of route information, awesome photos and pertinent area history.

After nearly 12 years without an up-to-date guidebook, this cobble-choked canyon’s popular documented crags have become crowded and overrun, while the numerous unpublished walls often see only a handful of climbers on a busy weekend. While a flashy new guidebook can tend to increase traffic to an area, perhaps this one will serve to redistribute climbers around the canyon’s hundreds of fun, challenging and previously unknown routes. $29.95,

— AA 

See the latest Mountain Media from issue #190!

Mountain Media #188

A Story for Tomorrow

Film: “A Story For Tomorrow,” by Gnarly Bay Productions

“A Story for Tomorrow” has 400,000 views on Vimeo because it taps into something: It captures the feeling of a trip that could be your trip. It is a 5½-minute video that is the perfect answer to the question “How was your trip?” And you wish instead of telling people, “Oh, we had a great time,” that you could make something like “A Story for Tomorrow” and show it to them instead. As soon as it stops at 5 minutes, 36 seconds, you find yourself starting to research plane tickets, maybe, but not necessarily to Chile, where Dana Saint shot the footage for the film (including Patagonia and the Atacama Desert). Narrated by Argentine actor Castulo Guerra, the film is more than vacation shots — the voice-over gives it a fairy-tale feel, and you can’t help be inspired to do something other than sit at your desk when he asks, “Did you enjoy your story?” 

Climbing Zine

Kindle: “The Climbing Zine,” by Luke Mehall

For Volume III of The Climbing Zine, writer, climber and all-around swell guy/dirtbag Luke Mehall decided to make the digital leap and bring his publication from its grassroots in southwest Colorado and make it available on’s Kindle Reader. Mehall, whose work has appeared in Climbing, the MG, Rock and Ice and Patagonia’s The Cleanest Line blog, has made the hard-copy ’zine available at locations in Durango, Crested Butte and Gunnison or by mail since its inception, a homegrown publication true to the DIY/tradition of ’zines. Luke’s homespun tales make up the majority of the content, and he’s been living the life long enough, and climbed so extensively, that you feel his well of stories might never run out — and could power the ’zine for decades. I don’t own a Kindle, but I love the Kindle iPhone app, and I love the idea of taking the The Climbing Zine with me on my phone in a tent, dentist office waiting room, airport security line and you know, public restroom. $4,, 

Mountain Heroes

Books: “Mountain Heroes: Portraits of Adventure,” by Huw Lewis-Jones

How awesome could a book of portraits of mountaineers and climbers be? Pretty awesome. “Mountain Heroes” is an encyclopedia of legendary figures spanning the 20th century: Sir Chris Bonington, Yvon Chouinard, Lynn Hill, George Lowe, Tom Hornbein, Reinhold Messner, Don Whillians, Steph Davis, Galen Rowell, Sir Edmund Hillary, Dean Potter, Apa Sherpa, Ines Papert, Maurice Herzog, Warren Harding, Royal Robbins, Tenzing Norgay, Steve House, Fred Beckey, George Mallory — to name just a few of the characters profiled. Each portrait is accompanied by the climber’s bio, making this a CliffsNotes of the who’s who in the history of mountain climbing. It’s paperback, but coffee table material — full-color photos, and easy to pick up and flip through for a couple minutes, and then an hour.

Web: Nature Valley Trail View

If you understand Google Street View, the technology that enabled Google to let you look at a 360-degree photo of any neighborhood on your computer screen, you will understand Nature Valley Trail View, which shows you 300 miles of trails in three national parks. Which is pretty rad. I’ll just go out on a limb and say that a 360-degree view from the Grandview Trail in the Grand Canyon is better than almost anything on Google Street View. A team used a backpack camera to capture footage of trails in the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Great Smoky Mountains national parks (a good bet since those three are the perennial top-three-visited national parks in America). The application, which launched in March, is free to view on the web at

Nature Valley Trail View