Letters

by M John Fayhee on November 2, 2010

Praising Mystery & Beer

Juan: Can you please pass along congrats to Jen Jackson for her piece in MG #169? (“In Praise of Mystery and Beer.”)

Just read it. Really good.

Best,

Cam Burns,
Basalt, CO

—–

Wildness and Coming Home

John: I took a trip across the country recently. I drove from my state of primordial origin (Colorado) to the states of my finding-myself-early-to-mid-twenties-reckless-years (Massachusetts and New York) and back. I got home yesterday. It was a long drive. I’m 25 at the moment and re-discovering how wildly important and ontologically vital this mountain-strewn state has been to the youngish person I always was here, to the now adult-ish, silliness-seeking, view-finding, often-lost “grown-up” I’ve become.

I made a choice to come back here because I missed the wilderness mostly. I missed knowing myself the way the snow and the breeze and the Arkansas River know me. The messy city crunch of Boston and New York City were important steps for me/myself/my becoming myself/etc, but when I went out to visit my college friends (now making names for themselves either in the film industry or the industry of Alcoholics Anonymous — or both), I found that I was, to put it bluntly, over it. I’d always felt a little off-kilter out there. Living without the mountains felt like what living without the ocean must feel like to my coastal-born buds: off-putting and vaguely, persistently, unreal.

It was like I’d been turning in little circles for five years, never quite sure which way west was. At any rate, I’m glad to be back, both from my ill-advised cross-country visit and my longer-term collegial stay.

All of this brings me to Molly Murfee and the fact that her three-column mini-epic wryly and joyously summed up exactly why I found myself called to this unbelievable state again and exactly why it is I feel so damned BLESSED and EXCITED to keep waking up as a human being 10 days out of 10 (“The Wild Within, MG #169). “We are wild as we thrash around in bed. Wild as we fight and love. Wild as we eat and drink … It is a question of whether the wild lives inherently in us, or is fostered by living within its parameters.”

Molly, you’re a wild one. Keep thrashing. I promise to do the same.

Stephanie Berry

—–

Not all gun-toters are crazy

To Whom It May Concern: I’m writing in regards to Laura Pritchett’s article “Death: Germ vs. Bear” (MG #169.). Though overall it was a good article, I take issue with the author painting people who carry guns as “off.” As someone who has guided and led trips in areas with large grizzly bear populations, I can tell you that I’d take a .45 over a can of bear spray any day of the week. Though statistically speaking, your chances of getting attacked by a bear are small, painting people as “crazy” because they are carrying guns for peace of mind not only stereotypes people, it gives all gun owners a bad name. In my case, I’ve known plenty of backcountry users that carry a firearm and 99.999% were cordial and just wanted to be left alone. Now maybe I wasn’t there. Maybe the people Pritchett wrote about actually were crazies just released from a big white building with padded walls. The fact they are carrying guns doesn’t make them crazy, just like the fact that a magazine based out of Boulder, CO doesn’t necessarily make it a liberal propaganda machine bent on taking away guns from law-abiding citizens and creating a socialist state … anyhow.

Another issue I have with the article is her contention that she’d rather die by bear then MRSA. If Laura wants to know how “fun” it is to be eaten by a bear, all she needs to do is go to her local DVD rental shop and rent “Grizzly Man.” That movie will give her first hand insight into how much fun playing with bears can be.

Jeremy Park

—–

20 Cool Things I Have Done

Hi, John: I saw some of the other reader’s lists (inspired by your Smoke Signals, “Listing Who We Are,” MG # 166) and got inspired to send in mine.

1. Climbed Mt. Copeland with one of my sons and Hagues Peak with the other one.

2. Biked 300 miles in 24 hours.

3. Carried water by hand to my borrowed Steamboat Springs cabin for three weeks after the truck with the water tank got stuck.

4. Climbed the Snazz with my wife.

5. Worked, ate, slept and drank at the Red Onion.

6. Climbed in the Calanque near Marseilles as a student in the late John Harlin’s climbing school.

7. Guided my blind friend in a 10-mile running race.

8. Flew around the Grand Teton in hopes of seeing Bill Briggs make the first ski descent. (Didn’t happen that day.)

9. Led the 3rd Flatiron so my brother could carry a cardboard submarine to the summit.

10. Saw Aspen’s first hot dog ski contest and wet T-shirt contest on the same day.

11. Got lost running in Venice.

12. I might be the worst skier to get down Corbett’s Couloir in one piece.

13. Rescued a lost hiker after he had bivouacked 200 feet below the summit of Mt. Owen.

14. Air dried at zero degrees after a hot sauna

15. Lost three teeth when a squirrel tried to run through my bike’s front wheel.

16. Snuck into Sky Top and climbed a route I’d pumped out on 30 years previously. We got lost on the descent despite being in the company of two local climbing guides.

17. Had pizza and beer brought to me on a descent in the dark.

18. Ran in the Madison-to-Chicago relay.

19. Celebrated the New Year in the Glenwood Springs pool.

20. Played sheep’s head with my wife and kids on the summit of Mt. Lady Washington.

Dave Erickson
Madison, WI

—–

10 Cool Things I Have Done

Hey John: We’ve never met, but here’s my list, in no particular ranking.

1. Slept under a tarp next to my bicycle for three straight nights waiting out a late New Mexico snowstorm.

2. Won the 13.1-mile “Run thru Hell” half-marathon in Hell, Michigan.

3. Watched my son be born.

4. Won the Green Mountain 200-mile relay foot race in Vermont with a group of high school runners from small towns in Colorado.

5. Crossed the finish line of the Detroit Free Press Marathon in 25th place and promptly threw up.

6. Sat in my one-man tent for 36 hours watching the rain in the middle of the Sand Hills of Nebraska.

7. Sat on the rim of the Grand Canyon from sun-up to sunset watching tourists unload and reload from the buses, among other things, like shadows moving across the canyon, a fox and a lot of ravens.

8. Sat on a dock on the coast of Maine for a complete tide cycle.

9. Cried during my wedding vows.

10. Gave a bum on the street 20 bucks.

Thanks for your great magazine!

—–

Mick Rule

Whither art thou, MG poetry?

Hi John: Love reading the MG. As an old lady of almost 60 and not having known the West till 1998 — well I’m still figuring it out … and a working person at that … sooooo … Missed the poetry in River Issue!!!!! Yes, it is the first thing I turn to and then to Smoke Signals (have not figured out Morse code… but thoroughly enjoy your mind) and feeling more connected to this amazing place. Drinking coffee from new independent coffee shop in Summit Cove, looking at Elbert. FYI: My son was one of the firemen at JT’s beautiful purple house! (“Up in Smoke,” Smoke Signals, MG #167.)

I am working on my list of amazing things. This winter, I went to the top of Chicago Ridge, but, better yet was the place about 100 feet below in a small grove of willows where the ptarmigans nest, where the brown branches turned blood red.

For now,

KT

—–

What not to do: Glissading without knowledge

M. John: This is in reference to your call for stories titled, “What Not To Do” (“Stories of Us,” Smoke Signals,” MG #169). I needed fresh air and that meant getting out of Greeley, so I decided on a climb of Mount Lady Washington (13,281 ft.), just east of Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. It was a very windy March day. Conditions were so bad, in fact, that every person I encountered as I started to pull the grade was retreating early and heading back to the trailhead. I witnessed several “snow devils” whirl across the east face as I worked my way to the top, scrambling the 3,880-foot gain in elevation.

On the summit, the full force of the westerly winds found me clambering like a spider to keep from getting blown off my feet. I looked for a summit register to sign and found it in inside a capped length of pipe along with a tip-less pencil. I sharpened the pencil on a rock, then took my glove off to offer my information. By the time I was done, I could barely move my hand. My eyelashes were freezing together, though I could still force them apart. A little voice inside said: “You need to get off this summit.”

As I left the dome of the mountain, the Diamond of Longs Peak was barely visible through the veil of blowing snow. Soon I encountered a snowfield, and the idea of a quick, fun way down the mountain was irresistible. I got on my butt and slid more than halfway, digging my heels in and enjoying the ride. What I wasn’t expecting was the bottom third of the snowy belt being solid ice! The boot heels didn’t do a thing to slow me and I took off like a luge racer. I didn’t have an ice axe. As I hurtled to the edge of the ice, I imagined breaking my legs and being stuck up there, helpless, with no one around. I hit the rocks amongst the patches of grass and tumbled forward wildly. I slowly got to my feet and I felt nothing … but the exhilaration of being alive! I stood and yelled out: Thank you, God!

I had no injuries whatsoever. The ass was torn out of my acrylic thrift-store sweats and my underwear was hanging out. No one was around to razz me about it, and my VW bug was the only car in the lot.

I guess if I’m going to go glissading down mountain snowfields, I’ll do a little investigating on the way up, so I know what I’m in for.

Kevin Bedard

Pine, CO

—–

Mountain Gazette welcomes letters. Please email your incendiary verbiage to: mjfayhee@ mountaingazette.com.

Share on TumblrSubmit to reddit

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave Brown November 8, 2010 at 7:38 pm

Shit I think about while I am grunting my bulk and skis up some slide riddled mountainside to keep my mind from the realization that I am getting old and probably shouldn’t be here alone!

What is the point? I have to ask myself that so often one would think that the answer would become automatic. It is not. I continually have to remind myself why things happen, why things don’t happen, why am I happy, why am I not happy. After many years of experience I remain un-schooled regarding the whys and wherefores of chaos. Chaos is the original dark void from which everything else appeared. Mathematically, chaos refers to a very specific kind of unpredictability: deterministic behavior that is very sensitive to its initial conditions. In other words, infinitesimal variations in initial conditions for a chaotic dynamic system lead to large variations in behavior. WTF! Where am I going with this? Actually, this is a simple analogy for the path that my life has taken from my birth to the fifty six years of “Experience” that I now posses. We flop out of the womb with a relatively blank slate, dark void if you will, and I add that dark need not mean evil dark merely containing a minimum number of points of reference, then as we grow from that point on we develop our own predictability. I personally believe that at that point of entry into the present we, or I did anyway, already had in our possession some recycled events that enhanced our experience at birth or even prenatally. So what chaos says is that when I opened my eyes to take my first look around the delivery room events that had occurred in my brief experience to date had already set the stage for what would eventually occur in the future! Theoretically the logarithmic occurrence of falling down the stairs for the first time was predetermined by an event that came before the tumble. The stair tumble set the stage for the busted pelvic bone in 2007. I can’t wait to see what determinism has in store resultant to that little joyous happening! At any rate all of the so-considered random events in our lives are “Determined” by precedent occurrences. So there is a cause and effect relationship set in place leading us from then to now and beyond.

How can I use my experience to determine events yet to occur in my living experience of the future? Well, honestly I cannot. I am not sure that anyone can, yet! However, what I can do at this point is this: Using the history accumulated over fifty six years of experience, I can determine what my possible outcomes are for as yet un-specified events that are yet to occur! Let me try that again. I don’t know what specific event will take place, or when, but utilizing historic responses to similar previous events I am able to effectively predict outcomes. How is this helpful to me? I know. I don’t know what is going to happen. I only am able to predict that it is. I don’t know when it will happen only that it will. I do know that similar things have happened in the past. I have a history of outcomes to those similar events, therefore from that legacy I am able to predict outcomes for un-specified events in the future. If nothing else this exercise provides a means to fill up the thought void that occurs while sitting in traffic.

As a semi-skilled, non-practicing biologist, I am remotely aware of chaos theory in biology. Biological Systematics, the study of the diversification of life on the planet Earth, both past and present, and the relationships among living things through time draws heavily from the understanding of chaos. I can’t wait to hear the arguments that arise from this postulate! Remember I am only semi-skilled, so being semi-skilled I am allowed to make the association between biological systematics and sociological determinism! And the association is: If you stop giving water to a plant that requires water for sustaining life, a pre-determined event will take place. Every time, always. If I fall down a set of stairs, a pre-determined event, possibly many, will take place. Every time, always. My semi-skilled biologist sociologist mind contains a cause and effect history that allows me to make accurate determinations of events that may occur in the future. The event has not occurred but I can assume possible outcomes. Is there a trap inherent in the act of assuming outcomes? I would make the semi-skilled assumption that, yes if I predict that every time I fall down a set of stairs I am going to fracture my pelvis I would indeed be falling into a trap. Chaos would tell us that many outcomes can come from a recurrent action. Chances are good that one of our semi-skilled predictions will come to fruition. The more events that we experience the higher the probability of a correct assumption of outcome.
Is any of this useful to me? I predict that yes it is. Things happen. We absorb and react, though we may not consciously recall a similar event occurring to us in the past we readily are able to at our “choosing” predict future outcomes from history provided by legacy events. So as my crumpled form lying at the bottom of a rock face searches history that will enable predictions of future outcomes I associate stairs, with falls, with rock face, with now, and I determine outcomes for my present situation.
So I am now facing some prickly situations that will draw heavily upon my ability to make predictions based upon historical outcomes that may re-occur as a result of present actions. I have very plausible evidence, with concrete legacy outcomes, that should allow me to calmly review and manage several probabilities. Reviewing the probabilities I can drill down from likely to most likely to provide myself with an almost assured set of outcomes. Given this knowledge why I am I so freaked out about what I am about to face? I am after all semi-skilled! I just wasted about fifteen minutes of your time and about two hours of mine explaining Biosystematics, and the rudiments of Chaos Theory for God sake, so how is it that I am still able to panic over actions and events that I can pretty handily predict? I am so happy to be at this point in my blather. I can finally end this treatise and tell the reader “What The Point Is.” The point is…Chaos and Systematics. Chaos defines my place in the universe. Panic is a tool. It is a tool provided to me via a system that has been defined by chaos, and my relationship to, or my place in the universe (you can replace universe with earth if the universe reference is to “New Age” for you.) Panic is a biological function that serves to enhance sensory perception of immediate events, and to provide rapid assessment of threat, with a resultant plan for action. So the point is use the tools, panic being one, that you have the experience to utilize, to review probabilities, make determinations, and plan for likely probable outcomes.
And…freaking out is just another tool.

Reply

greg betenson November 14, 2010 at 5:24 pm

actually there is an article in the August 13, 2009 Nature by Egholm but it is entitled : “Glacial Effect Limiting Mtn Heights…” I don’t think it has anything to do with the metnal health/out door excercise by Michael Brady

Reply

greg betenson November 14, 2010 at 6:38 pm

I also looked at Nature April 2010 Table of Contents on line, nothing.

Reply

Ryan November 15, 2010 at 7:06 am

Hey. What’s up with the nostalgic old format on the latest ish?
I always tack up the cover of different issues in our outhouse up in the woods. That last cover brought back some memories. The news paper fades so much more nicely. Hope you keep doing that at least once in a while. It is also a better t.p. substitute. Thanks.

ry

Reply

Ryan November 15, 2010 at 7:06 am

Hey. What’s up with the nostalgic old format on the latest ish?
I always tack up the cover of different issues in our outhouse up in the woods. That last cover brought back some memories. The news paper fades so much more nicely. Hope you keep doing that at least once in a while. It is also a better t.p. substitute. Thanks.

ry

Reply

Theresa September 25, 2011 at 8:08 am

Apparently this is what the esteemed Willis was tialkn’ ’bout.

Reply

Leave a Comment