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    Stories from the Gulf - Patagonia Partners with Louisiana Bucket Brigade to Track Historic Spill

    Venice_Southernmost_point_in_Louisiana.sized When the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig sank in the Gulf of Mexico on April 22, 2010, it led to what is today the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced. The international oil company, BP, is held largely responsible, and by the company's own worst-case estimates, as many as 4.2 million gallons of oil a day flowed from that deepwater hole some 52 miles off the Louisiana coast.

    Many of us at Patagonia were devastated and disheartened by the Gulf spill. So much so, that our employees (including our ordinarily tight-fisted CFO) joined together to develop a program to dive in and help out. In mid-July, we started sending up to 10 employees per week to Louisiana to work with a long-time environmental partner, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade in areas affected by the spill (All expenses and salaries were paid by Patagonia). The Brigade is creating an Oil Spill Crisis Map, and our employees helped to gather information, stories and photographs in communities where oil has reached the shoreline and impacted wildlife. All of this information is being uploaded into the map - a living document that speaks to the environmental and health effects of the spill. It will serve as an open source of information that shows NGOs, governmental agencies, state and local wildlife agencies and the general public where help is needed most.

    Patagonia folks bunked down in trailers and local churches in Lafitte, Grand Isle and Plaquemines Parish and walked door to door to door to interview residents about their immediate needs, adverse health effects, environmental harm and cultural loss. We thought you might like to read a few stories from them, of birds falling dead from the sky, forsaken shrimp boats, of living on church lotteries and finding oil in the bathtub. Join us each day this week for a fresh report straight from our recent work in the Gulf.

        Hit the jump in the first in our week-long series of stories.

    [An old sign with new meanings. Patagonia employees recently helped members of the non-profit Louisiana Bucket Brigade in their effort to track the full impacts of the historic oil spill on Gulf Coast communities. Photo: Naomi Helbling]

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    Going Up

    Cordes-CoppMonk(LR) In the dank and smoky Fairview bar in Talkeetna, Alaska, 2003, I learned the simple secret to hard climbing. Jonny Copp and I had just come out of the Range, and we swilled beers with a couple of rowdy Brits. As usual, Jonny had been the driving force in our climbing. Everyone, it seemed, wavered about the weather, doing the infamous and somewhat maddening “Kahiltna Hang.” Yet Jonny saw touches of blue through cloudy skies.

    C’mon, we should go.

    He was like that. We had a great trip and pulled off a cool new route on a remote peak, complete with epic descent, managing it between, and partially through, big storms. Anyway, in the bar that night Paul Ramsden, a U.K. alpine badass with serious ascents around the globe, fully entertained us and joked about how Americans spend so much time getting gear dialed, fussing about weight, and training. Paul thought we were missing the point:

    “The bottom line for hard alpinism,” he said, “Is you have to want to go up more than you want to go down.”

    I remembered his words nearly every day for the following year, leading up to the best climb of my life, with Josh Wharton on Great Trango Tower in Pakistan. Paul’s right. The other things matter, too, like dialed systems and, certainly, training, skill and fitness. But without the desire to make it happen when it matters, those things mean nothing.

    [Jonny Copp going up on “Going Monk,” Alaska. Photo: Kelly Cordes]

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