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    Operation Algeria - Part Five


    Day 14 and our last here in southern Algeria. As is our tradition on international climbing trips we got a hotel room for our last night in-country as a way to smooth the transition back to the “real world” and finally take a shower. It was Brittany’s birthday yesterday and Zaoui, Aziz and Mustapha surprised her with a birthday cake, complete with candles that spelled out her name as “Britay”. Last year we spent her birthday in Venezuela, and this year it’s Algeria. Not too bad! When we got back into Tamanrasset yesterday we got word of the chaos happening in North Africa and the Middle East. Mustapha translated as best he could what we were watching on the Arabic news channels. Crazy! Definitely a time of massive change and drama in the Arab world. The whole town—and we assume the rest of the world—is buzzing with discussion of the developing events.

    [The southeast face of Aoukenet. All photos: Jonathan Thesenga and Brittany Griffith]

    Continue reading "Operation Algeria - Part Five" »

    Dirtbag Diaries: The Shorts - Sitting in Silence

    DDshorts A beautiful story for your weekend from Patagonia editor, Mike Colpo, as introduced by Dirtbag Diaries host, Fitz Cahall.

    Mike Colpo went to guide school in search of a different life. His rugged instructor, Cody, taught him the basics of guiding climbers, but also pushed Mike and the other students towards something bigger. After spending many years in the outdoors, Cody had a wisdom beyond guiding that he wanted to convey to the young climbers. He spoke of the wilderness within, and encouraged the young guides to explore this frontier. What did it mean? Some bits of wisdom we accept easily, and others take years to truly understand. Mike found himself facing a fear greater than physical risk.

    Audio_graphic_20pxListen to "Sitting in Silence"
    (mp3 - right-click to download)

    You can download the music from Sitting in Silence over at, including Abigail Washburn's beautiful song "Chains" from her album City of Refuge. Abigail has also generously donated a song to the newly formed Patagonia Music Collective (more on this next week).

    Mining the Grand Canyon - Speak out to protect our common waters

    Patagonia's new Our Common Waters campaign is seeking to shed light on freshwater issues across the U.S., including those affecting the Colorado River. We're urging citizens to Take Action today to stop uranium mining from areas surrounding the Grand Canyon and the Colarado River in Arizona by sending letters to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and the Arizona BLM. A draft-copy of a response letter is provided below. Find it next to the "Take Action" button, print out your customized version of the letter, and send it today to the address(es) provided. - thanks, Ed.

    In 1922 the Colorado River Compact allocated water for seven user states, but nothing for the river. In this action alone, engineers and policy makers sealed the fate of free-flowing water in the Southwest. Factor in explosive population growth and climate change and, eighty-nine years later, the entire river is at risk.   
    As nations rush to build reactors and bombs, we’ve developed a more urgent problem: uranium mines and new mining claims. Thousands of claims surround the river in Arizona. It will only take one blunder to contaminate the main stream, putting endangered fish and human communities that rely on the Colorado River at risk. We’re already on this course: uranium tailings have now leached into several drainages in the Grand Canyon—the National Park Service advises against “drinking and bathing” in several drainages containing excessive radionuclides. Unlike the overarching issues of water conservation that will take time to implement, this bombshell has to be stopped immediately.
    Secretary of the Interior Salazar has already proposed to withdraw all new uranium claims surrounding the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River in Arizona for 20 years (extending the two-year moratorium that runs out this July). Now we have to flood his office—and that of the BLM in Arizona—with emails, letters, and postcards supporting Alternative B. We have until April 4 to do it.
    Take_action_large Here’s how it works:
    From February 18- April 4, the Department of Interior is inviting comments on Secretary of the Interior Salazar's proposal to halt the opening or development of any new uranium mines in the area surrounding the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River corridor in Arizona; the administration is considering a variety of approaches - the one most favored by river and canyon advocates is "Alternative B."  

    You can also refer to the Grand Canyon Trust website for further information. 

    Comments must be in writing and either mailed to:

    Bureau of Land Management, Arizona Strip District
    345 East Riverside Drive
    St. George, UT 84790


    Secretary Ken Salazar
    Department of the Interior
    1849 C Street NW
    Washington DC 20240

    Comments can also be sent via email to:

    Here's a sample letter that can be copied or paraphrased for your own personalized message:

    February 25, 2011

    To Whom It May Concern,

    Please extend the Dept. of Interior’s current two-year moratorium that bans new mining claims and development of existing claims across the one million acres of watershed around the Grand Canyon. I support that protection for 20 years by withdrawing public lands through "Alternative B” as defined on the DOI February 17, 2011 press release.

    This action will prevent new uranium mines that would threaten the Grand Canyon and contaminate underground aquifers that drain directly into the Colorado River--an invaluable water source for 30 million people and 3 million acres of farms. Please place my comments in the official public record of the Environmental Impact Statement.


    [your name, address]

    By summer 2011, we can stop more uranium mining. It’s time to demand protection for our river, before it's too late.

    Jonathan Waterman is the author of Running Dry: A Journey from Source to Sea Down the Colorado River and The Colorado River: Flowing through Conflict (coauthored with Peter McBride).  He is now researching—read: paddling—15 other rivers in the drying southwest, in hopes of alerting the public and affecting public policy before these rivers are lost.  For more information go to

    Bigger than El Cap - A (totally unscientific) search for the lower 48's biggest rock faces

    Kc - meadowIMG_2816(LR) Introduction

    Little compares to Yosemite's El Capitan in majesty and sustained steepness. But contrary to popular lore, it’s not the Lower 48’s biggest rock face. It’s not even the biggest in the Valley – the south face of Mt. Watkins is bigger. Well, maybe. How do you measure? (OK, I feel the urge to crack wise about size vs. usage, but I am hereby officially restraining myself.) Several rock faces are bigger than both, but you can’t take peoples’ words for it. Climbers exaggerate worse than fishermen. I see it all the time in the reports I receive and edit for my job with the AAJ; I think some climbers measure cliff size starting from their driveway.
    We need an exact, unambiguous climber definition. Here goes: It can’t have too much 3rd-class terrain. Ummm, how much is “too much?” It has to be sustained (how do you define that?) technical climbing, bottom to top. I think that “technical climbing” is fairly defined as 5th-class climbing; hikers and peakbaggers consider climbing to be what we consider hiking and scrambling, and that’s fine, but this post is about legitimate rock climbing (are the stacked blocks in Glacier legit?). How much 3rd-class scrambling or how big of a treed-ledge disqualifies a face?
    Perhaps sub-categories are in order. But that makes my brain hurt.

    [El Capitan. Photo: Kelly Cordes]

    Continue reading "Bigger than El Cap - A (totally unscientific) search for the lower 48's biggest rock faces" »

    Prescott-area Film Festival to Benefit a Friend in Need

    BCFF-Tour-Poster-bean A close friend of Patagonia is currently facing a fight for his life. A Patagonia Climbing Ambassador, past NOLS instructor, and outdoor photographer, Bean Bowers grew a fast and large circle of friends through his combination of irrepresible energy and positive spirt. A backcountry skiing accident in December resulted in a broken femur, a serious injury that was quickly eclipsed by complications that arose during his recovery. It was then that a large brain tumor was discovered. The tumor has been removed, but Bean's fight has just begun. Bean has been diagnosed with renal cancer and friends are rallying to support him as he faces an incredibly difficult fight, and the staggering medical bills that go with it.

    His alma mater, Prescott College, in conjunction with some of Bean's friends and colleagues, is helping to host a fundraiser Gear Swap and Film Festival to provide support in his fight for life.
    March 8th, 2011 -  Afternoon and Evening in Crossroads Community Room
    GEAR SWAP - 4-6 PM
    Bean's Prescott friends and loved ones are urging anyone who can to please come and join the rally to help one of their extended family members. There will be a raffle or silent auction of donated goods. To participate in the Used Gear Sale, contact John Farmer or David Lovejoy. Sellers are asked to contribute 10-20% of their earnings to the cause. The suggested donation for Backcountry Film Festival attendess is $10/person - give more at the door if you can. All proceeds will go directly to Bean.

    Bean's climb to recovery is just beginning. As he said in a recent note to friends: "Just feed me the rope, I'll get it up there!"

    Operation Algeria - Part Four


    Day Nine here in Algeria and the adventure sweetness keeps rolling along. Today is a rest day and we spent it hiking off into some distant wadis to investigate some attractive-looking summits we saw from afar (which turned out to be choss). We followed old goat trails through the unending black rock, stumbling upon a herd of wild donkeys and spinning our heads at the wild, impossibly vacant landscape upon which we were questing. This is truly a wild place. We are currently camped below Aoukenet, a 700-foot wine-bottle shaped tower we plan on climbing tomorrow. Over the past two days we have been fortunate enough to grab two fantastic first ascents.

    [Brittany questing across the wildness of the Atakor. All photos: Jonathan Thesenga and Brittany Griffith]

    Editor's note: Even hotter off the sat-modem is Part Four of Operation Algeria from Jonathan Thesenga. For those who are curious about Brittany's take on the trip, here's an excerpt from her email: "Wahoooooo! What an awesome trip we are having. Super, super psyched on the trip so far!" Nice. Enjoy Part Four.

    From our campsite below the Tizouyags we scoped out a plum line of cracks that for some odd reason had not been climbed on the 500-foot west face of Clocher des Tizouyag (Aziz told us that the Tuareg name for the tower translated to "The Wives of Crows"). Clocher de Tizouyag is a classic-looking aiguille riddled with clean cracks and a singular, tiny summit.

    Continue reading "Operation Algeria - Part Four" »

    Operation Algeria - Part Three


    It’s the end of Day Six of our trip to Algeria and we are freezing. Seriously. All of our clothes on—including long underwear and down jackets! How is that possible? Aren’t we in the Sahara? Well, delete those pictures of sand dunes and palm-tree-fringed oasis from your mind—we are bivied up in the Atakor region of the Hoggar Mountain at 2800 meters and tonight is clear and cold, and yesterday was windy as hell. This zone is so gnarly—just an endless sun-cooked sea of rock-covered plains, except for the sweet basalt towers we are camped below.

    [The Tizouyag’s of the Atakor, southern Algeria. All photos: Jonathan Thesenga]

    Editor's note: Hot off the sat-modem, direct from Algeria, part three of Operation Algeria with Patagonia ambassadors Jonathan Thesenga and Brittany Griffith.

    But let’s go back a couple days—the first ascent on Adaouda… it went south. Brittany sent the techy 12a first pitch and I scratched out the 5.11 second pitch, but then the rock got worse and worse and worse. Brittany ended up having to A0 around a giant detached flake of doom and then sketch past this guano-filled corner and massive, prehistoric-looking bird nest. The next pitch was just as bad and I battled to get gear in behind mud-stacked blocks in a chimney/slot. Once I engaged a hollow flake the size of a door that threatened to slam into Brittany at her sun-baked belay, we knew it was time to bail. Less than a rope-length from the summit of Adaouda we rapped off, leaving our first ascent incomplete and thankful to get outta there with nothing more than frazzled nerves.

    Continue reading "Operation Algeria - Part Three" »

    Hiking Boots with a Lighter Footprint

    Patagonia-Zero-Impact-sketch-plan Building an environmentally conscious hiking boot that’s also a top performer is no easy task. Design and construction are complex; so is the supply chain.

    As Backpacker magazine put it: “Boots are the most complex gear in our kit, with numerous components – fabrics, leathers, soles, shanks, glues, padding, laces, hardware – plus myriad sewing processes, fit intricacies and the hurdle of translating sophisticated blueprints to assembly lines a world away.”

    This complexity is reflected by the fact that only five footwear companies responded to Backpacker’s 2010 Zero Impact Challenge, which invited 60 companies to build a hiking boot with the least environmental impact and the highest quality. Only three companies have actually gone to market with a commercial product.

    Patagonia Footwear is one of those companies. We used our experience building environmentally conscious, high-quality products, and the experience of our footwear partner Wolverine World Wide in manufacturing top-performing shoes, to build the P26 Mid, featured in the latest round of The Footprint Chronicles.

    [Our decision to use leather in the construction of our P26 - Backpacker's decision that leather gave the P26 a higher environmental impact - sparked an online debate about the use of leather. Backpacker said that synthetic uppers could deliver the same performance and durability as all-leather ones, while drastically reducing environmental impact. We disagreed, believing that leather’s performance and durability are unsurpassed – and that leather and synthetic shoes should be in different categories. Links to the online discussions at Backpacker magazine and can be found a few paragraphs after the jump.]

    Continue reading "Hiking Boots with a Lighter Footprint" »

    Kate Rutherford & Mikey Schaefer Establish Washington Route, a New One on Fitz Roy

    _MG_0014I sat in a cloud of dust; pants dirty, my hand planted in the sewing needles of some patagonian flora. I'd just landed there after my tired muscles failed to correct a small foot slip on the steep gravel. We were headed down from Fitz Roy on this 5th day. I stood and wiped the pinprick of blood from my throbbing finger. There must be poison in those stupid needles. I was listening to a song about a "threadbare Gypsy soul,” the singer had a "wild streak in his heart." He had a cowboy hat . . . I had those too; different hat.

    Later, on a bus, I'm still thinking about threads and whether my gypsy soul is threadbare. I'm that jittery kind of exhausted; excited and tired to the bone. But I relished it, the fatigue makes me know it is real; the only souvenir I had of our new route. It makes me smile how bare those threads feel. Cerro Fitz Roy was pink in dawn light as I climbed aboard this ride. Our new route was the left sky line, it looked so far away.

    - Ed note: We're pleased to share this update from Patagonia Climbing Ambassadors Kate Rutherford and Mikey Schaefer. The two just returned from Patagonia, where they established a new line on Fitz Roy that they're calling the Washington Route. This is fresh news - apologies for the lack of photo captions. Check Kate's personal website and Mikey's blog for more details, and hit the jump to hear the rest of the story and see more photos from the climb.

    Continue reading "Kate Rutherford & Mikey Schaefer Establish Washington Route, a New One on Fitz Roy" »

    It's Always Worth It

    Save This Wave

    Editor's note: The Surfer's Journal subscribers will recognize our ad from the new 20th anniversary issue (Volume 20, Number 1, February-March 2011). Today, Fletcher Chouinard shares a story about the trip he made from California to Chile to ride some of the biggest surf ever at El Buey. Photo: Rodrigo Farias

    Kohl: "Bru, it's going to be puuummmmpiing! Meet me in Chile!"

    Kohl: "Looking SICK! I'm in Houston. I'll be there tomorrow. Coooome down!"

    Continue reading "It's Always Worth It" »

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