In case you didn’t see it, here’s my editorial this month:
If you’ve read my editorials over the years you know that I tackle the toughest issues in outdoor recreation.
Controversy is my constant companion. This month is no exception. My topic; What do I want for Christmas? A lot of people have been asking me, “Jon, what do you want for Christmas?” Well, first off, I want at least one of every single item mentioned in our cover story on page 14.
But I want more than that. Much more.
I want enough vinyl records with outdoor recreation-related covers to fill a whole wall in my office. You may not know I am a big record collector. Until now I’ve been unable to find a way to share that fact with you.
All records can be sent care of our PO Box on page three. But don’t get me the records on the right because I already have them. (L to R: David Lee Roth’s Skyscraper, Camp Favorites by the Campers, and Many Voices.) Check my blog at www.outtheremonthly.com for more record pics.
Jon Snyder, Editor-in-chief
I promised more outdoor recreation record pics so here’s another one:
Sgt. Preston on 45rpm. Doesn’t it make ya wanna take the dogs out and go sledding? More to come.
Cool Stuff |
There’s just too much going in Spokane/CdA to cover it with just a monthly issue. That’s why our new blog will help fill in the gaps. If you have ideas you want us to cover please feel free to email us at:
Cool Stuff |
I ride all over town and see bad drivers and cyclists. Here are the things that drive me nuts.
The side walk rider. According to John Forrester, who has spent his life researching cycling and road design, riding a bicycle on the sidewalk, increases your odds of being hit by a car by at least 200%.
This may be surprising. But it makes sense if you stop to think about it. Most accidents that occur when cyclists are riding on sidewalks are the result of drivers turning into them at intersections or when the driver is exiting a driveway. Drivers briefly scan for pedestrians in their immediate field of vision. They are looking for pedestrians. Pedestrians typically walk at around 2-3 MPH. If no pedestrians are there, it’s safe to turn and will be for the next few seconds. Cyclists tooling down the sidewalk are more in the 5-8 MPH range. By the time the driver has scanned the sidewalks, looked for traffic, and is turning, a cyclist they didn’t see a second or two earlier in their immediate field of vision is now bouncing off the hood of their car.
Everyday I see cyclists riding on sidewalks. I’ve seen bike cops riding on sidewalks. I see kitted up commuters riding on sidewalks. Many of the commuters that I follow for the Bicycle Advisory Board commuter bike mapping project hop up on sidewalks. Sidewalks are a bail-out option only. You shouldn’t use them to save time or avoid bad intersections.
Cyclist riding against traffic. I’m surprised by how often I see this. Downtown, I see folks on bikes riding against traffic on one-way streets more than I can believe. I saw one cyclist riding west-bound (against traffic) on 1st Avenue towards Lincoln, where traffic was turning right into his lane. He swerved into the middle of the street, in between oncoming rows of traffic to avoid being hit. I wish this was an isolated event.
Cyclist blowing lights and stop signs. There’s the California Stop – where you cruise through a stop sign or light and turn right. Okay, I can live with that, and I do that, just as all drivers do that. But I’m talking about blowing red lights and stop signs where cyclists just go straight through the intersection without stopping. Most lights downtown are on timers. If you wait, the lights will turn. Not all lights everywhere are like that and Spokane does not have bike-sensitive sensors. If the light has a button for pedestrians and there are no cars stacking up behind you, then the light won’t turn. In this case, stop and treat it like a flashing light. Go when it’s safe.
The main reason this kind of behavior drives me nuts is because many drivers see this chicanery and assume that all cyclists are annoying renegades that don’t feel like they have to follow the rules. This affects me and my safety. There will always be a minority of aggressive, angry drivers that hate all other traffic no matter what. These angry folks seem to especially hate seeing cyclists in the road. So when already angry drivers are cut off by a cyclist or nearly hit one that comes blasting off a sidewalk or see us blowing through lights, these drivers can become dangerous.
I’ve been yelled at. I’ve had a bottle thrown at me. I’ve had drivers pass me way too close. These are jerks and I don’t blame bad cyclists for their behavior, but I can’t help but think when these jerks see bad cyclists it raises their blood pressure just a bit more and the next cyclist they see may be the one to pay the price.
If you are predicable, if you use hand signals, and if you follow the rules of the road, cycling in Spokane is a piece of cake and drivers are overwhelmingly courteous.
Cars that stop for cyclists when it’s not appropriate. This happens to me just about every time I ride by bike with my daughter. And any practical commuter type cyclists will cite this as one of the most annoying driver behaviors. The problem is when car drivers decide to make up their own rules and stop for a cyclist at an intersection where the cyclist does not have the right-of-way.
This happens to me all the time on Grand Boulevard. There are four lanes of traffic. I have a stop sign. I am waiting for a gap. Someone on Grand stops. The other three lanes keep going. The person that stops is waving me through, as if I’m going to just trot out into three lanes of oncoming traffic. Often, the driver behind the guy that suddenly stops nearly smashes into the stopper. This situation drives me nuts.
Drivers: you stop for pedestrians. Bikes are vehicles. I realize folks stop because they are being considerate, so the whole situation is crummy because they’re getting mad that you’re not going and you’re feeling like a shmuck as the other lanes come to a screeching halt as they realize what’s going on. But this kind of courteousness is dangerous.
The rules are simple. When you make up your own traffic rules bad things can happen. So the lesson for car drivers and cyclists alike is that by law, bikes are vehicles. You don’t have to like that, but you must accept it and recognize it. It’s actually a good system when you give it some thought and you ride a bit. So follow the rules.
John Speare grew up and lives in Spokane. He rides his bike everywhere. Check out his blog at http://cyclingspokane.blogspot.com.
Everyday Cyclist, Magazine Article |
If you’ve ever been to a cyclocross race, you’ve been impressed by the grit of the competitors. You’d be even more impressed if you knew that many of the riders, like local cyclocross racer Shawn Letson, race in the Master’s class for those 40 and older. You might even be surprised that a Master’s class exists for a race this intense. But for some, like Letson, a competitive mountain biker turned Master’s class cyclocross racer, the fast-paced race presents a new challenge.
Facing the end of mountain biking season, but not ready to store his bike for the winter, Letson decided to give in to peer pressure and join a few friends who had taken up cyclocross. “I like the challenge of the course, and the timing of the season. It’s a great time to be riding your bike,” Letson says. Plus, he says, “the atmosphere is excellent and it’s very spectator friendly.”
Recently, Letson took 18th at the StarCrossed Cyclocross event in Seattle, and 4th the next day at Rad Racing Grand Prix race in Tacoma. He plans to compete in the U.S. Grand Prix in Portland, racing at the biggest cyclocross level in the States.
“A lot of my gear switched over-it’s a really easy transition for anyone who wants to try something new.” As he committed more to the cyclocross genre, though, he updated his gear to reflect the shift. Here’s a rundown of the gear that keeps Letson in the race:
Bike: “I have an A bike and a B bike,” Letson says. “What’s nice about cross racing is you can have more than one bike in the race, because the weather will wreak havoc on your bike later in the season.” Both bikes are Redline Conquest Team Scandium aluminum frames. “They’re as identical as they can be.” Letson’s seat posts, stems and handlebars are from the Ritchie WCS series, as are the forks for each bike. However, the bikes do feature several different parts.
The A bike has Duralast components, carbon fiber Spooky-brakes, and Ksyrium SL tubular wheels with Tufo tires. The FSA Energy Crank system has a single chain ring setup-Letson has no ability to shift gears, but the chain is more secure against the unavoidable jostling of a cyclocross race.
The B bike has Shimano Ultegra components, TRP brakes, and Ritchie Protocol wheels with Hutchinson Bulldog tires.
Seat: Both bikes have Wilderness Trail Bikes Shadow V seats.
Shoes: Sidi. “They’re a really good quality shoe.”
Racing attire: “A skin suit by Voler,” provided by his team, Wenatchee Area Racers. As a mountain biker convert, Letson said he had a hard time adjusting to the spandex-dominated cyclocross race wear, but he has come to embrace it as a part of his sport.
Sunglasses: Oakley’s Flak Jacket model. Often, cyclocross races are at night, so interchangeable lenses are key.
Accessories: “My iPod is a definite for the warm up,” Letson says. A mix of punk and heavy metal gets him pumped up for the race.
You can catch Letson and some cyclocross action this fall through early December in the Inland Northwest Cyclocross series.
Magazine Article, What's Your Gear? |
The Alpine Club of Canada is looking for a few good skiers. Volunteers are needed to help baby-sit the one of North America’s best backcountry skiing destinations, the Bill Putnam (Fairy Meadows) Hut in Northern British Columbia.
What? You’ve never heard of the Bill Putnam Hut? It’s about 400 miles directly north of Spokane and sits on a peak in the Selkirks that would easily qualify as the middle of nowhere. This skiing locale has a formidable reputation among backcountry skiers. A 2004 profile of the Bill Putnam Hut in Outside Magazine called it “probably the most sought after backcountry ski cabin in all of Canada.”
Outside’s Sam Moulton went on to describe the Hut’s terrain as follows; “Right out the front door sit hundreds of square miles of crevassed glaciers, wide-open bowls, and cheek-puckering couloirs; there is virtually no intermediate skiing.”
Now the hut needs some help.
From November through May the Bill Putnam Hut hosts a group of 20 skiers each week. Groups are chosen by lottery and each member of a winning group pays an $800 dollar a week fee, notwithstanding food and guide costs. For the money they not only get great skiing, but also rustic-but not too rustic-hut accommodations that includes propane lights, wood-stoves for cooking and a wood-fired sauna. Who can blame visitors for being too distracted by the winter wonderland to bother with routine hut maintenance?
That’s where the new custodian program comes in. This year for the first time The Alpine Club of Canada is recruiting custodians to stay in the hut for one to two weeks at a time and assist with routine maintenance and snow shoveling. Custodians won’t be paid, and are responsible for bringing their own food and transporting themselves to the staging area near Golden, B.C. But in return they’ll get some powder paradise. “You are not working all the time so you have plenty of time to get out and ski,” says the Alpine Club’s Channin Liedtke.
“This is one of the most exciting volunteer positions we have, just because of the helicopter and the absolutely spectacular backcountry skiing opportunities available right out the front door,” says Liedtke.
Oh yeah. Did we forget to mention the helicopter ride? Another free perk of custodianship. Fairy Meadows and the Bill Putnam Hut can only be reached via helicopter.
According to Liedtke, helping care for the hut wasn’t the only reason the Alpine Club established the new custodian position this year. They wanted be able to reward loyal Club members and wanted to establish a situation where volunteers could gain experience towards becoming backcountry guides themselves. Some of the best backcountry ski guides around lead trips to Fairy Meadows giving custodians a great opportunity to learn from the best in the business.
Not just any backcountry skier will fit the bill. Here’s a short list of attributes the Alpine Club of Canada is looking for:
- Experience working around and loading
- A true commitment to guest service and enjoyment of helping people
- Ample backcountry skiing experience
- Avalanche training
- Wilderness first aid training
- The ability to perform light maintenance
- Experience skiing the area surrounding the hut
- Experience as an advanced winter trip leader for an Alpine Club of Canada regional section with special consideration given to successful winter North Face leadership course participants working towards becoming a ski guide or mountain guide
- Flexible availability for volunteering
That list will probably leave some folks shaking their heads and others dusting off their resume.
“We rely very heavily on volunteer custodians for all of our backcountry ski destinations,” says Liedtke. The Bill Putnam Hut is one of 23 ski destinations the club administers. Many require no previous experience. There are several in B.C. and Alberta. American citizens are welcome to apply. If you aren’t a member of the Alpine Club of Canada they can help you become one. Leidtke expects they will still be accepting applications in early November and the plan is to have custodians from now on. Applicants who don’t make it this year are welcome to try again next year.
And if being a custodian isn’t for you, you can always get together 20 of your closest friends and apply for a lottery spot. Leidtke says that they get over 350 individual applications each year for the 20-22 week long slots available.
Either way Liedtke says the Fairy meadows snowfall is spectacular. “You can ski a different peak for every week that you are there.”
So how will the snow be this year? Leidtke spoke to OTM in early October and had this to say; “I have a report coming out of the Selkirks that the snow is good right now if you can believe that.”
Time to tune up your gear.
For more information on The Bill Putnam (Fairy Meadows) Hut, or any of the Alpine Club of Canada’s facilities or program please visit: www.alpineclubofcanada.ca.
To apply for Bill Putnam Hut custodianship please send a cover letter and resume listing qualifications to: careers@AlpineClubofCanada.ca or fax to (403) 678-3224. Please state in the subject field of the e-mail or on the fax: “Fairy Meadow Hut Custodian Application.” Only those short-listed for interviews will be contacted. No telephone calls please.
Magazine Article |
Chances are, if you are drawn to the wild, you might, someday, have to survive in the wild. Whether you’re a hiker, biker, floater, fisher, hunter or gatherer, there is always the inherent possibility that, at any moment, mother nature is capable of reminding you and your iPhone just who is in charge. Any number of events can quickly put even the most experienced outdoor-types into a dangerously intimate relationship with nature-revealing both the majesty and terror of the wilderness.
Consider this scenario: You are plunked down in the woods alone, 100 miles from the nearest Starbucks, with nothing more than maybe a pocketknife, a little water and a couple granola bars. The daylight starts to fade and those darkening skies are no longer just threatening, they’re raining. What would you do? How long could you survive? Unfortunately, there are a lot of folks out there who find themselves in that very predicament. “There are between 600 to 700 search and rescue missions in Washington State each year,” says Chris Long, the state’s search and rescue coordinator. “Two thirds of which are wilderness searches.”
The 336th Training Group, U.S. Air Force Survival School at Fairchild AFB (located just off “Rambo Road”) teaches nearly 10,000 men and women in uniform every year how to survive in the wilderness. The 17-day class includes 40 hours of classroom work, followed by five days spent in the mountains of the Kaniksu and Colville National forests. “We take them out in the woods and teach them basic survival skills such as fire craft, building shelters, signaling, navigation and food procurement,” says Sgt. Patrick McGrath, a survival instructor.
Sgt. Mark Van Orman is the 30-year-old Flight Chief who’s responsible for overseeing the 26 instructors and 62 students that will be camping out and practicing different survival skills for the next five days. All of the instructors must complete a more intense, six-month program designed to teach future survival instructors how to instruct aircrew members to survive in any environment. Their training grounds read like a field guide to the Northwest’s natural wonders. Arctic training is taught in Colville National Forest; desert training in the arid sand dunes near George, Washington; tropic/rivers survival is taught in the Olympic National Park; and coastal survival is conducted on the Oregon Coast. Among other requirements, they must be able to run four miles in 45 minutes while carrying a 60-pound pack. They also complete a 600 question psychological test. “I think they’re looking for the narcissistic, type-A types,” jokes Van Orman.
He says the first day is “static day” where they stay in camp and practice making different types of shelters, building fires and learning procurement methods for food and water. The class is broken up into smaller groups of six students and two instructors who spread out and set up camps throughout the 500,000 acres of forest service land.
Van Orman drives around to the different camps, checking in on the training. As we walk up to one camp, a group is standing around an instructor as he demonstrates how to make a wire snare for trapping squirrels. “This,” he says pointing to the loop of wire, “is food.” He explains about positioning snares and their probability for success. “These snare’s have about a 15 to 1 ratio, “he explains. “For every fifteen snares you put out you can expect to catch one squirrel.”
Each student is provided just three MRE’s (meals ready to eat) for the six days. The only other food they are given is two live rabbits to share among the group. Any thing else they want to eat they’ll have to kill or forage themselves. Walking out of the camp, I notice the group’s two live rabbits under a tree. “That’s dinner and breakfast,” says Van Orman, pointing to the oblivious little critters.
“We teach them how to take care of their animal and how to keep it alive,” explained Sgt. McGrath, earlier by phone. “Then whenever they need to eat it. Take care of it that way.”
Driving to another camp with Sgt. Van Orman we come upon a group just as the instructor is demonstrating how to clean a rabbit. “Anyone here gutted a deer?” he asks. Several hands went up. He makes a few precise cuts on the animal and carefully pulls off the entire hide. “Just peel his shirt off,” he explains. “Just peel back the legs like you’re pulling a shirt off a little kid.” Once skinned, the rabbit is cleaned by cutting open the abdomen. “As a rule of thumb, anything that falls out, you don’t want to keep,” he instructs them.
Other than trapping, students learn how to make improvised weapons for hunting and fishing. One instructor used an improvised fish net made from a Y-shaped branch and mesh netting from a parachute. As he demonstrates the use of a throw stick, which is exactly what the name implies-a heavy stick thrown at small game-Van Orman says that sometimes the simplest weapon is the best. “We got four rabbits and six grouse in one day with a rock and a stick.”
Along with learning about edible plants, students also learn about edible insects, “six legs good, eight legs bad,” Van Orman says about which bugs to stay away from. He says students are put through drills to overcome certain food aversions. That is, they learn to eat bugs without losing their lunch. “We have them eat grasshoppers (take the legs off so they don’t stick in your throat), ants, worms and beetles.” Although bugs may not satisfy like a fried rabbit leg, they are easy to gather and have high nutritional values. Van Orman says some are better than others. The best tasting, he says, are ants, “they taste like sweet tarts.” The worst was a four-inch banana slug he ate while in the Olympic rain forest. “It tastes like a deflated balloon filled with slime on the inside and the outside, that gets stuck in your teeth for hours and that refuses to be swallowed.” He paused for a second, then adds, “I threw it up first, then threw it back in my mouth and chewed it down.” On the other hand, “grubs,” he says, “are awesome.” And what if a student refused to eat a crawly critter? “Then we have a problem.”
“Every student has a puss factor,” says Van Orman. “We don’t want them too comfortable. We want to make them cold and hungry so they can test their skills without putting them at risk.” Other than the occasional sprained ankle, very few injuries or medical issues occur. Just in case, there are two medics on duty full-time, who, on my visit, appeared as lonely as Maytag repairmen. “Our goal is to instill confidence in our war fighters so they know they can survive anywhere,” says Van Orman. “We give them information so they can adapt and improvise to the situation,” adding, “all survival is the ability to improvise.”
As society becomes more tech-driven and our lives are filled with more virtual experiences than actual ones, there are signs that we’re coming back from our mass amnesia of the natural world. T.V. shows like “Survivorman” and “Man vs. Wild” are turning millions of viewers into wilderness voyeurs. The new film, Into The Wild, tells the story of Christopher McCandless, a young honors grad from a well-to-do East Coast family who, inspired by his heroes Thoreau and Kerouac, burns his cash and credit cards and heads out to the Alaskan wilderness to live off the land. He identifies himself as an “aesthetic voyager,” determined to live a more a authentic life. In his backpack, he carries with him a little more than a ten-pound bag of rice, two sandwiches and a couple of his favorite paperbacks. In four months he is dead. His body weighed 77 pounds when searchers found it in the abandoned bus in which he’d been living.
“He didn’t respect the primary tenet of nature,” says David Cronenwett, who, as coordinator of the Wilderness Arts Institute, teaches wilderness survival skills. “He had no real humility about the landscape. You look at traditional peoples, they come with a tremendous bank of skill and knowledge, but they also go out there knowing they’re not the boss.”
There’s a survival reminder known as the “rule of threes,” which says that the average person can live for three minutes without oxygen, three days without water and three weeks without food. “Most people who die in a survival situation, die in less than 40 hours,” says Cronenwett. The biggest threat to your survival, he says, is your own psyche. “People die because they panic and freak out,” he continues. “We call it panic-induced hypothermia. They’re running around, wasting energy, lashing out at inanimate objects, blaming themselves and needlessly running around in the dark. Basically, the mind dies before the body”
Most people who are lost in the woods are rescued within 72 hours, says Cronenwett. “Search and rescue apparatus in the U.S. and Canada are so good, you’ll usually be found in three days or less. So, what you really have to do,” he says, “is keep yourself alive for 72 hours or even up to a week and they’ll find you.” Cronenwett says that your situation and environment will dictate and prioritize your needs, and that Darwin was right about adaptability being the key to survival. “What it takes to kill or keep alive a human body,” he says, “is pretty universal.”
If forced to survive in the wild, Cronenwett identifies four key areas. “Number one, you’ve got to keep yourself at 98.6 degrees. Whether it’s cooling your body in the heat or warming it in the cold. Number two is to stay hydrated. Number three is getting enough sleep. Sleep is very underrated,” he says. “You get totally delusional if you don’t sleep for two days. It’ll kill you before dehydration does.” The fourth key to survival, he says, is often the hardest for people. “Stay put and wait to be rescued.”
Jackie Bell agrees. As the chair of Spokane Mountaineers Search and Rescue team, she’s seen both the joyous reunions and tragic discoveries of people lost in the mountains. “The one common mistake people make is they keep going and going, thinking they can find a way out of it. The lost person can travel so far and it’s often in the wrong direction,” she says. “The false confidence of thinking they know the country gets them into trouble.” Bell often uses data based on behavioral characteristics of different categories of people who get lost in the woods to help predict their location. Hikers might behave different than fisherman and skiers respond differently than climbers. “Not to disparage hunters,” she says, “but it just seems they get lost more often.” The data suggests hunters tend to “concentrate on game, not navigation,” and “tend to overextend into dark and push beyond physical limitations.”
The most common group who get into trouble in the woods are those light travelers who thought they were just out for the day. “Eighty percent of the people who are the object of search and rescue missions are day trippers,” says Cronenwett. “That’s their first mistake, preparing just for the day.”
Back at the Fairchild field camp, Sgt. Van Orman checks in on another group and inspects a recently built pine bough shelter. “This is awful. This wouldn’t keep anything dry. I’d have them rebuild it.” Van Orman says he gets students who come from the city who have never been camping in their life and have never even seen the woods before. “We had a woman freak-out on her first day because all the trees made her claustrophobic,” he says. The motto of the school is “Return with honor.” And many graduates have had to use the very techniques they learned here to escape some extreme conditions in hostile territory. One of the school’s most prominent graduates was Capt. Scott O’Grady who used his training to survive and escape capture for six days after his F-16 fighter was shot down over Bosnia in 1995.
Although it’s not a tangible skill, the will to live is considered the difference between those who survive and those who don’t. “They give up,” Sgt. Van Orman says when asked to name the biggest mistake people make in a survival situation. “They no longer try to do what they need to survive.” David Cronenwett agrees.
Cronenwett believes it’s dangerous to rely too heavily on techie devices like cell phones or GPS systems in the woods. “They have their place in the world,” he says, “but if you’re staking your life on something that has a battery in it, then you shouldn’t be out there … It’s kind of a high tech/low skill approach. I kind of advocate the reverse: a high skill/low tech approach.” He says the more we rely on forces outside of ourselves, the more likely we are to panic when they don’t come through for us. “And, once you let panic get a hold of you, you’re going down the tubes.”
If it’s true, as the saying goes, that, “nature is indifferent to the survival of the human species,” then Cronenwett believes in the value of shifting our views of nature. “If you can build a kinship with nature,” he says, “and not see it as something to survive, then you don’t seem to panic as much.” He pauses for a moment as if he’s thinking of how to sum up his philosophy succinctly, “kinship with the land does a lot to assuage the freaking-out of being lost there.”
Survival Training and Education
Fairchild AFB Survival School:
Go to: http://public.fairchild.amc.af.mil Then click on “Units” and “336th Training Group.”
David Cronenwett of the Wilderness Arts Institute offers one and five day survival courses in Western Montana. More info: (406) 590-8070, or www.wilderness-arts.com
Simply Survival Wilderness adventure program offers survival skills training during 4-8 day backcountry excursions. More info at: (509) 427-4022, www.simplysurvival.com, or www.gregdavenport.com.
The Spokane Mountaineers hava a Search and Rescue Committee and an annual Mountain School. More info at:
Twin Eagles Wilderness School in Sandpoint, ID offers wilderness education programs for kids. For more info contact: email@example.com, or (208) 265-3685
Magazine Article |
“I love skiing up hills.”
That’s a direct quote from Derrick Knowles, my buddy, Outreach Coordinator for Conservation Northwest, and frequent contributor to Out There Monthly. I’m making him explain to me why he was pushing to revive the Kettle Range Ski Club.
“To bring together a community of backcountry skiers to share skills and ideas,” says Knowles. “It’s about building a community of skiers in our little corner of the state .”
The club was active as recently as ten years ago and is best known for creating the Snow Peak Shelter off Sherman Pass. Perhaps its most renowned member is Nils Larsen. Larsen, a globetrotting backcountry ski guru, who will be showing some of his ski films at Kettle Range Ski Club revival meeting this month.
Larsen is keeper of copies of the club’s old newsletters and likely a few good stories. The whole enterprise harkens back to the days when recreation groups stayed in touch through the U.S. mail and when local guidebooks were self-published, and the idea that remote wilderness would ever get developed seemed far-fetched.
Getting a bunch of backcountry skiers together in one room to talk about the possibilities of the new season and how they can pass their knowledge down to another generation sounds like a great thing to do. It’s also a great excuse to head up to Republic, which Knowles refers to as “a great little mountain town that hasn’t been discovered.”
I ask Derrick to explain, in terms anyone can understand, what it is about backcountry skiing he loves so much.
” Being in the wilderness. Having the best snow. Solitude. Excersize. And I love skiing up hills.”
Jon Snyder, Editor-in-chief
Kettle Range Ski Club Revival. When: Friday, November 9, 5:30 PM Where: Parish Hall, Republic WA. Festivities include an informal ski swap, happy hour, potluck BBQ (barbeque provided), local live music, and several films, including Nils Larsen’s Skiing in the Shadow of Genghis Khan – Timeless Skiers of the Altai and other classics, including Sinners and Scrapple. Join in bringing back the Club and celebrating the forthcoming winter season. Call (509) 435-1270 for details or just show up with a potluck dish to share.
Editorial, Magazine Article |
The Blakes (Light in the Attic)
Since signing to Light in the Attic in mid-May, Seattle’s heroes of garage rock, The Blakes, have amped up their previously-released self-titled and churned out a disc that’s even a sparklier diamond in the rough that you’d thought it. New track “Run” is a show of new direction and focus for the band, while the new intro on “Don’t Want That Now” is pretty much the best thing that could have ever happened to an already unbelievable song. Watch for the Blakes’ rise to fame in the coming months.
Sad Clown Bad Summer (Rhymesayers)
I confess: this is my first exposure to Atmosphere. The subtitle for this 5-song e.p. says “Accompanied by piano.” It’s true, it’s a rap cd with piano licks on each track. Three songs have low-slung deep funk groove that I love and two songs have a semi-disco beat that is less lovable. But the whole package is worth it just for the track “Sunshine,” which has immediately vaulted high into my list of all-time summer party songs. Excuse my pun but I’ve tasted the Atmosphere and I’m ready to breathe some more.
High on Fire
Death is this Communion (Relapse Records)
Well this is as close as you’re ever going to come to surviving a full-on anvil attack. And I’m not talking Wile E. Coyote bonking you on the head; I’m talking Dawn of the Dead snuffed-out head trauma. Not just once or twice in the course of the album, thousands and thousands of episodes of blunt force exploits. Now I like getting conked on the head as much as the next guy, but sometimes this exercise can leave me wanting a little bit. High on Fire excels as sleazy endurance, but after three previous full-length beatings it’s a bit difficult to muster up the strength for more Metal abuse.
The Throne of the Third… (Hardly Art)
When I heard about this band, signed to Seattle’s Hardly Art, from someone clear on the other side of the country, it seemed all signs pointed to a need to check it out. Hardly Art isn’t your average indie label-it’s kid sister to indie behemoth SubPop (and takes its name from a fabulous Thermals song, I’ll add) -still, it’s carving a niche by releasing some seriously good music. Arthur & Yu’s release over the summer is followed by this disc of ambient, perfect-dissonance-heavy pop tunes, which have me singing some heavy praises.
Hexes for Exes (Metropolis)
It’s often the case that the electro pop stars who prove most rousing on the stage fall flat on their recordings. The thing about Moving Units is, well, they don’t. They are one of few bands that you can see live time and time again (or for the very first time), find yourself dancing nonstop, only to come home, drop one of their discs into your stereo, and experience the same results. Moving Units is a FORCE on the stage, but can also be found equally captivating in the comfort of your own home. That’s not a show of mediocrity in either aspect, it’s proof positive that they are one of the best in their field.
THE PINE HILL HAINTS
Ghost Dance (K)
There is a reason that K Records makes an appearance in these reviews nearly every month (and it’s not just because they flood my mailbox with discs). Be it Pine Hill Haints, or C.O.C.O. or Adrian Orange before them, K is releasing ingeniously innovative music (now, but always too), and we’re all quite lucky to be in such close proximity to such greatness. Haints is a fireside hoe down that ebbs and flows with a desire to both reminisce and throw caution to the wind.
Hope For Men (Sub Pop)
Now that Henry Rollins has moved on to the boob tube, his throne is fair game. Who better to rattle their saber at the Rollins legacy than Pissed Jeans. In what amounts to a loud and screechy 41 minute affair, Pissed Jeans let you know who’s boss. Their exceptionally evocative name conjures up a heaping dose of coarse, vulgar, poorly groomed doom. The music conjures up gargantuan days of yesteryear filled with the Cows, U-Men, and a steaming clump of Tad. There’s really no need to shower if you’ve pissed your jeans.
Take the Precious Edge off this Treacherous Ledge (Tilton House)
There’s not much I despise more than a band that’s typical. You can copy that which came before you (uh, and everyone does of course), but at least work hard to really excel at it. Make it your own or even sound like a carbon copy, but be really, really good at it. If you’re not putting the effort into that, you’ll end up typical. The rad packaging on Smile Brigade’s new disc can’t hide what’s inside. I love the Northwest locals, but only when they can keep from being typical. Insert frowny face.
Retox (Cooking Vinyl USA)
I don’t know that I’ve ever “been down” with the concept of the joke band. Sure the Ruttles, Spinal Tap, Ray Stevens, and Weird Al all have their place in history, but what about a band theatroils in sarcasm, deviance, and sexual vagaries. Turbonegro’s got all that and its chiseled in a mountain of crunchy deathpunk. Their latest, Retox, doesn’t move too far from the oddities of previous efforts. Lyrical content like “…this painted boy’s gonna eat forever so…feed me, feed me, coz everybody loves a chubby dude” leave me amused and confused. Just who are these foul-mouthed undesirables playing a joke on? Me or themselves?
Two Gallants (Saddle Creek)
After their recent stop in Seattle (with support from Portland’s stars-on-the-rise Blitzen Trapper), Two Gallants proved themselves the current keepers of my musical heart. Their third full-length, self-titled, acquired shortly thereafter only cemented the position. Naysayers may call out the slicker feeeeel of this record, but still at its heart is that which we all love most about the San Fran duo-the down-on-yr-luck, blues and country-injected rock that grabs hold of our gut and won’t ease up. Adam Stephen’s gnarly growl details the Gallants’ characteristic storytelling, while Tyson Vogel backs him with his unmatched ferocity behind the kit. These two prove in every moment that they are two of the most powerful and memorable performers and musicians currently in music, not to be ignored.
Jubilee (Art Fag)
I’ve only heard two songs off of the Vultures’ debut album, but it’s enough to make this assessment: spazzhighkickholycrap! When I lost the Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower, I’ll admit, it felt that the world, well, it might just be ending. With that nearly a year behind me now, I’ve learned to move on, and so have the members of the seminal punk band. Brandon, he’s got the perfect Prayers (which recently added Chuck), and Chuck has his Vultures (and, ok, multiple other projects… these boys were never much for band monogamy). These two bands are both unbelievable, and if you’ve missed this opportunity to check either out, delay no more. Most recommended: The Vultures – “Vulture Land,” The Prayers – “Clandestino.” Holy moley, yeah?
Magazine Article, Music Reviews |
The Winter Camping Handbook
The Countryman Press, 2007, 224 pages.
The Winter Camping Handbook falls dead center in between Camping For Dummies and Freedom Of The Hills. On the one hand, an outdoorsman with a foggy recollection of Boy Scout preparedness could still siphon a good deal of knowledge from this book. On the other hand, a mountaineer with a few Cascade volcanoes notched in his ice axe won’t be reaching for this handbook often.
The book shines as a general summary on winter camping. Gorman quickly points out that this is a second edition, and primarily serves as a guide for wilderness travel in the cold weather months. He packed the book with more than a dozen overviews of critical winter camping logistics including trip planning, backcountry skiing and riding, camping with kids, cold weather injuries and even winter navigation. The detailed checklists and side notes are helpful and well done, while the pictures and artwork genuinely relate to each topic.
Sadly, the book only dedicates ten pages to avalanches, and five of those pages have large pictures. Even worse, there’s little mention and hardly any priority invested in the importance of the avalanche beacon. However, the fundamentals about every other piece of winter camping gear-from altimeters to toboggans-are sufficient.
Ultimately, it’s a great starting point for camping enthusiasts that might need some insightful directions on gearing up, planning a trip, or just an explanation about what to anticipate if you elect to spend a night out after a day of snowshoeing or backcountry skiing. Reading the book could easily prevent a dozen first-timer mistakes.
No doubt, winter camping has a special allure: the splendid quiet, the beauty of the crystal-white snow, the thrill of backcountry skiing or snowboarding, and all of it bug free. Living in the Northwest allows for spectacular access to hundreds of winter camping opportunities. Anyone interested in pursuing that special allure would do well to read The Winter Camping Handbook.
Backcountry Betty: Roughing It in Style
Mountaineers Books, 2007, 208 pages.
Backcountry Betty: Roughing It in Style by Jennifer Worick, sure is cute. Smaller than the average bear in paperback form, with rounded edges, the better to fit in your Prada knapsack. Snicker if you will, but I am serious about the pack-ability quotient of everything (except shoes of course). And therein lays Backcountry Betty’s downfall.
Brace yourselves girls, the author thanks her “Life Coach.” She also references the secret for staying positive about the whole messy endeavor. With four pages of how awful it is to have B.O., bad breath or gas-actual camping is the least of our troubles it would seem. Next she suggests you get a haircut and professional blowout the day before the trip, “…explaining to your stylist that you will probably be wearing a hat for a few days.”
The women I camp with are all Bettys because they like themselves and each other and the Great Outdoors. Camping is about getting out of one’s self, away from routine norms and habits. Under no circumstances is it okay to whip up hair and body masks out of food. Camping is not about embroidering adorable designs on your foul weather gear, checking with your local cheese expert for Fondue choices, or making a reservation at your favorite bistro for the day after your adventure to motivate you through it.
The author also suggests if possible, you bring an air mattress with “real bedding,” pillow sachets and festoon your lantern with stickers for that sexy glow. “Camptivate” his senses with vanilla on the camp stove, an iPod, and silky lingerie. One can also braid vines and create wind chimes with twine and bark to “beautify your campsite.” Don’t forget to feed your camp party guests mini grilled cheese and tuna melts. Serve Crystal Light cocktails, print the rules to card games, and make a big batch of Chex Mix before you leave home to share while playing Truth or Dare with your new best wilderness friends. And Ladies, when possible, walk with your hands over your heads to avoid “sausage fingers.”
You could avoid this book altogether and camp with sane women. But if you just gotta have it for your coffee table, then here is a free tip: rip out the useful last six pages of camping essentials, glossary of outdoor terms and wilderness resources guide. Use the rest to start a sexy fire.
On My Own Two Feet: The life of a Mountaineer
Canterbury University Press, 2006, 312 pages
On My Own Two Feet chronicles the life of a member of the first team to summit Mt. Kangchenjunga, Norman Hardie. Hardie’s autobiography not only illuminates a life writ large on its own account, but also serves as a backstory to many of the exploits of fellow New Zealander, Sir Edmund Hillary. Hardie and Hillary climbed together before Everest. Hardie helped engineer and climbed with the high altitude physiology “silver hut” research expedition to Ama Dablam, assisted Hillary in the Antarctic and served on the board of Hillary’s Himalayan Trust.
In addition to the Himalaya and Antarctic adventures, On My Own Two Feet, covers Hardie’s climbing and mountain rescue efforts in his native New Zealand in considerable detail. Through the stories of his adventures on the major summits of the Southern Alps, Hardie reveals the difficulty not only of the climbs but also of merely getting to the mountain to do the climb. His first ascents made during the early years of climbing in New Zealand required treks of dozens of miles over difficult terrain-as few roads existed.
More than a climbing book On My Own Two Feet, chronicles Hardie’s professional life as a civil engineer, a philanthropist and as a husband and father. Hardie’s chronicle delves more deeply into the trekking aspect of mountaineering than most other climbing books. He reveals details of his relationship with the local peoples and their cultures not often found elsewhere. Many of Hardie’s treks were conducted as surveying expeditions that yielded high quality maps. All this produces good reading for anyone interested in biography, travel or geography.
This is an enjoyable read and a valuable addition to the field of mountaineering literature. It fills many gaps in the story of the British Golden Age of climbing in the 1950s.
Book Reveiws, Magazine Article |