Everest and the end of terrestrial exploration…

1963 Everest expedition

1963 Everest expedition

May 1 marked the 50th anniversary of the American summit of Mt. Everest by James W. Whittaker along with Sherpa Nawang Gombu in 1963. This summit success was ten years after Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay were the first ones to successfully summit the peak in May 1953. But Whittaker’s summit of Everest was important for America at the time and his success together with the subsequent success of Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld who reached the summit on May 22nd, 1963 helped kindle a fascination with mountaineering and outdoors pursuits in this country.

But 50 years later Everest is not the same place it was when Whittaker climbed, when one could not pay a guide tens of thousands of dollars to lead him or her to the summit. And no one could have virtually traversed the route up Everest via Google Earth or, even have imagined doing so.

National Geographic together with the American Alpine Club have posted a video just under six minutes listening to the views of Whittaker, other principals in that historic climb and other mountaineers and adventurers on what we gained that May 1963, what we have lost since then and what we still have.

Here is a short sample of the thoughts of mountaineer Conrad Anker who went to look for George Mallory’s remains on Everest in 1999:

“Terrestrial exploration in the way Livingston and Lewis and Clark and the great explorers of the past 200 years, thousands of years explored is no longer there. You can open your tablet or your smartphone and you can explore anywhere on the world. But what’s left is that internal exploration, that journey of exploration. That is worth celebrating.”

Straight ahead…




Walking and running are straight ahead activities. The path can twist and turn but the body  follows the eyes’ line of sight. Look ahead walk ahead. Look up the hill run up the hill.

Chaos is the antithesis. Run here than there. Turn. Stop. Spin around and go back. Left or right? No order.

And so chaos at the end of a marathon is the cruelest irony. A marathon is one of the signature straight-ahead events. 26.2 miles of straight ahead. A turn here or there for sure. The runner runs straight ahead to the finish line.

The collision of straight ahead and chaos which erupted in Boston this week will echo into the future. The collision of the stillness of the night and the quaking of the ground, fire, destruction and mayhem in West, Texas this week will echo well into the future.

But as a community and as individuals we will continue to walk and run.

Straight ahead.

Running – from or to…

The act of running is quite natural. Almost all biped and quadruped animals do it. In the quadruped world though, running is a necessity. Hunting. Think cheetah, running in a burst of speed to kill its prey. Hunted. Think Thompson’s Gazelle, running, leaping really, to stay alive.

Adam Campbell

Canadian Trail Runner Adam Campbell

When we see an animal running at top speed we might remark that it is “flying”. Running and flying do share something in common – no contact with the ground. In flying a bird has no contact for long periods of time. In running the flight is momentary, the fraction of time in which both feet are flying above the ground, contacting it again briefly and than soaring again. In walking at least one foot is in contact with the ground at any moment.

Humans do not have to run for survival. Yet some feel they could not survive without it. Are they running from? What are they running to?

Spend six minutes finding out in a film with out speaking but at times filled with noise about a runner who runs to save his soul: Silence


Walking Home – a short review

walking-homeWalking Home by British poet and writer Simon Armitage is gaining popularity with current reviews in the New York Times (positive) and the Wall Street Journal (trending negative). And now here too.

The author, a well known writer in England, walks the Pennine Way, a 270 mile north-south hike across the spine of England, following the valleys and (small) peaks of the land as it travels across moorlands and cuts in and out and around small towns. Mr. Armitage, married and 47 years old, sets out to walk alone after having arranged  nightly lodging from well wishers and a series of poetry readings along the way as well. He made these arrangements while publicizing his trip via the internet. And at each poetry reading he passed the hat, or in his case a sock to collect funds to help supplement his expenses.

Mr. Armitage writes directly about his experiences, injects some humor, describes his surroundings and the people he meets, stays with and walks together with as well. I found his writing style pleasant if not always engaging and some of his observations thought-provoking. In one paragraph he reflects on the experience of staying each night in someone else’s house, usually in a spare bedroom of a child long since grown yet still decorated with awards and books and other memorabilia from years ago. These rooms are memory chambers he writes, just not his.

For hikers and backpackers the thought of a thru-hike of the Pennine’s is enticing. Not too long. Food and lodging are nearby. Not too steep, with the tallest peaks less than the 3,000 foot high peaks of the Catskills. Yet with the fog and rain, one can get lost in the Pennines, making this walk not a ‘walk in the park’. Whether you are enamored with Armitage’s writing style or not, give him credit for introducing us to this 2-3 week walk, over hills and dales, across boggy moorland yet passing touchstones of Wordsworth and the Bronte sisters along the way.

Walking through the Rift Valley…

We walk for utility- to get from here to there. We walk for exercise, for fun, to explore our surroundings. Journalist Paul Salopek documents the poorest of Ethiopia’s

poor who set out to walk across a barren desert, leaving their country for neighboring poor countries in search of an existence minimally less bad than their current one. The following post by Salopek is part of his 21,000 mile continuous walk across the land masses of our planet: The Things They Leave Behind – Out Of Eden Walk.

The Iditarod 2013 is underway.

The true heroes of the Iditarod, a more than 1000 mile race across the frozen landscape of Alaska are the teams of 16 huskie dogs working together to pull their driver and sled.


The dogs wear special booties on their paws to protect them from the ice, snow and rough frozen terrain along the way. But let’s give the musher her due as well. As anyone who has a standing job knows standing all day and much of the night takes a toll on the feet. And when temperatures are below freezing even more so. Indeed, this race taxes every part of the body, physical and mental. Of course the greatest toll is on the dogs. The race lasts 11-12 days for the fastest teams with breaks as needed to rest the dogs.


The official Iditarod web site has terrific information about the race. The best daily video clips from each day of racing are saved for paid subscribers with funds going to help support this unique race. A short video about the history of the race can be seen here.


That’s using your feet!

Walking around the world I would say is the ultimate way to use one’s feet. Walk through desert. Walk over mountain ranges. Walk through war zones. Walk through history, geography, geopolitics, anthropology, sociology. Walk through humankind.


Paul Salopek, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist has begun his trek Out of Eden, the name of his project by walking from his starting part along the great rift valley in Ethiopa. He is headed across Africa, the Middle East, Asia, across the Bearing Strait into Alaska and down the west coast of the United States to his ultimate destination, the southern tip of Chile. But Mr. Salopek’s destination is not ultimately one of mileage. Rather it is one of understanding human history, as it was and as it is today.

Salopek is posting a ‘milestone’ on-line every 100 miles which consists of photos of the ground, sky and people and an audio recording of where he stands along with a blog post. His seven year journey will cover about 21,000 miles on this journey sponsored in part by National Geographic as well as news organizations including The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and the Nieman Foundation at Harvard.

The journalist adventurer can be followed by reading blog and twitter posts, receiving emails or visiting the Outofedenwalk.com web site. On a recent twitter post Mr. Salopek wrote: “On walking and concentration: We were not meant to sit still.”


Get Fit, America

logo-phit“PHIT America” is a new initiative to help Americans become more physically active and therefore more healthy. Spearheaded by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association and backed by companies including Sears, Dick’s Sporting Goods and the American College of Sports Medicine, PHIT America includes a call to be more physically fit and provides links on its web site to find outlets in local communities to a variety of activities from badminton to yoga and hiking, martial arts, rowing, softball, tai chi and many others in between.

PHIT is an acronym for Personal Health Investment Today act, a pending legislation which would allow Americans to use up to $2000 in a pre-tax medical account for physical fitness expenses which the founders say will promote “well care”, helping people remain healthy. In our current system, they say, healthcare dollars are really for ‘sick’ care.

The PHIT America web site offers three choices on its home page: Advocate, Donate, Participate, as the alliance is trying to create a national discussion on the need for physical activity to become a daily part of most people’s routine in addition to passing legislation. The site provides a lot of information about the obesity epidemic particularly as it effects our children. The site is worth visiting and getting fit, of course, is a most worthy goal.

Cold toes (and fingers)?

As the weather turns colder people may experience episodes of painful cold toes and/or fingers after being out doors. If the pain is more than you would expect from simply being under-dressed for the cold weather and you begin to experience pain that lasts for a few hours and see that some of your toes and fingers are turning whitish, bluish or very red you could be experiencing Raynaud’s.

Raynaud’s describes what happens when the blood vessles in the fingers and toes spasm after exposure to the cold. At its best, Raynaud’s is a painful condition. At its worst and most severe Raynaud’s could require hospitalization if the skin at the tips of the fingers or toes can not recover even after they are warmed again.

Raynaud’s is not frostbite, which is tissue death from severe cold exposure. Rather, Raynaud’s is an abnormal response by the blood vessels to cold exposure. It is more common in women than men and younger people than older. Raynaud’s occurs in otherwise healthy people. People with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or scleroderma, however, may be particularly prone to this condition.

Preventing cold exposure is the first defense. Dress your body’s core area (the torso) warmly in layers and dress your feet and hands in layers as well. Wool socks over a a synthetic sock is a good combination. And boots insulated with Thinsulate can help insulate the feet even more. Charcoal foot and glove warmers ( examples include Grabbers and Heatmaxx) are also useful to keep the extremities warm.

In addition, avoid smoking and drinking caffeine and certainly avoid these activities prior to and while exposed to the cold. Staying active outdoors can also help minimize an attack of Raynaud’s. Treatment for this condition would inlcude warming the toes and fingers ideally by going indoors. In  recurrent cases you may benefit from perscription medication to help dilate the small blood vessels in the fingers and toes.

To learn more about Raynaud’s visit the Mayoclinic page on Raynauds.