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    Beyond and Back: Protest the Dams

    by Jeff Johnson

    During such dire times as we are in now, I would like to pass on this story I wrote in 2008. It is an outtake from the book 180° South. It has never been published. During the making of the film I spent a few months down in Chile hanging out with fishermen and gauchos and land conservationists. I was honored to have heard their stories told around campfires, sitting beneath the stars with the sound of rivers flowing nearby. I saw with my own eyes where the dams are to be built and the land and livelihoods that are threatened. Along with this story I’ve attached photographs I’ve taken of people who are on the front lines and who have much at stake. Some of these photographs have been published and some haven’t. I want to thank them and all of you who have risen to the occasion. The fight is not over.

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    [Gaucho Eduardo Castro. Valle Chacabuco, Chile. All photos © Jeff Johnson]

    Valle Chacabuco

    It was early. The sun was still behind the mountains. I was stuffing my sleeping bag into my backpack when one of the gauchos approached me.

    “Café?” he suggested as he handed me a leather bota bag. “Es bueno.”

    “Sure,” I said as I offered one of the three Spanish words I know. “Gracias.”

    I lifted the bladder up high, tilted the nozzle over my mouth and squeezed. I coughed, spat and bent over, rolling the liquid around in my mouth. I wasn’t expecting red wine.

    “Café?” I asked, wiping my mouth off.

    “Si,” he said with a laugh, “Café rojo.”

    I took another mouthful. “Si,” I said, “Bueno.”

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    Beyond and Back: 180° South/Yvon Chouinard

    by Jeff Johnson

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    Its been over a year since the initial premiere of our film 180° South at the Santa Barbara Film Festival. After that we had a west-coast tour. Then, for the next four months, it played at selected theaters around the country. There were some international shows as well – Spain, Australia, Japan, Canada, to name a few. It was an honor to have the opportunity to present the film at some of these venues and host Q&A’s afterward. I wish I could have been at them all.

    Every once in a while Yvon Chouinard would make it to one of these shows. While shooting the film we had spent long days and weeks together in remote Patagonia, climbing around and surfing a bit. It was quite a contrast to meet up with him again in these cities, in theaters, speaking to large audiences. But he has this casual way about him where he seems right at home just about anywhere.

    [Above: Yvon Chouinard and Tom Frost. Photo: Tom Frost Collection]

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    American Alpine Journal Gems from 2010

    Kc - AAJ_2368 Climbing reports come in all forms. Some basic, simply giving the key details of a climb. Some tell a story, sometimes understated and sometimes overstated, sometimes hilarious and outrageous. And occasionally we stumble upon absolutely beautiful stories.

    I’m mostly talking about reports we receive for the American Alpine Journal, which is a yearly tome reporting the big new routes worldwide. It’s been published annually since 1929, and, for the last 10 years, I’ve been one of the editors. We strive for first-hand accounts from the climbers themselves, which generally makes for honest and authentic reporting.

    Again, it’s almost all big new routes – you won’t find reports from cragging or from tourists getting dragged up Everest. The reports range from major climbs that everyone knows about, to the less-technical but way remote and exploratory, to plenty of super badass climbs that went otherwise unreported (side note: in case you didn’t already know, there are a ton of low-key, under-the-radar, hard-men and -women out there).

    I’ve read thousands of reports in the last 10 years, and every year I make mental notes of my favorites. We on the editorial staff (all two-to-four of us, depending on the year…) call these “AAJ Gems.” They’re some of the best reports anywhere, I think, some of the best storytelling and best writing, often written by people you’ve never heard of.

    Jeff My vote for Gem of the year in the AAJ 2010 (which just came out and was recently mailed to AAC members and contributors) goes to someone many of us already know from the film 180 South: Jeff Johnson.

    [Top right: The 2010 AAJ. Photo: Kelly Cordes. Right: Jeff Johnson, courtesy Woodshed Films]

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    Beyond and Back: 180° South Tour

    by Jeff Johnson

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    Around the turn of the century Chris Malloy and I stumbled across a forgotten film called Mountain of Storms and it had a great impact on our lives.  After six years of dreaming and scheming up our own adventure, then four years of non-stop hard work, now a decade has passed and our dream has finally come to fruition: the film and coffee table book 180° South, an ode to our heroes and their old film, and the place that inspired it all: Patagonia.

    We had the grand premiere this winter at the Santa Barbara Film Festival to a sold-out crowd at the Arlington Theatre.  Since then there have been a few scattered screenings around the U.S.  I had the pleasure of presenting the film a few weeks ago at the 5 Points Film Festival in Carbondale, Colorado.  What an awesome event that was!  I can’t say enough good things about the founder Julie Kennedy and organizer Beda Calhoun.  They treated us like one big family and put on a stellar event.  I could sit for hours and watch those films, which I did, each one inspiring me in different ways.  If I were to give you an in-depth report on the eclectic people I met, and the awe-inspiring films I saw, I know I’d leave someone out.  So, I’ll just mention one person: Patrick Rizzo.  We totally hit it off.  Maybe its because I grew up skateboarding, or because I was raised near Berkeley (where he’s from) and I know that all skaters from Berkeley are beautifully out of their minds.  Hanging with Patrick was like returning home, then forgetting where I am.  He’s one of the main guys in a film called Second Nature.  On their longboards he and his buddies bomb hills in the Sierra’s, reaching speeds of 60 MPH, often filming each other and passing the camera around casually.  There’s trippy meditation scenes, underwater footage (for some reason) and animation that has no apparent meaning.  Love it.  Dig it.  But you probably won’t want to do it.

    [SB Film Festival.  On stage Q&A.  Rick Ridgeway, Yvon Chouinard and Danny Moder.  Photo: Jeff Johnson]

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    Beyond and Back: Indian Creek

    by Jeff Johnson

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    I’ve dreamt of Indian Creek for years but had never made the voyage. Now I had an excuse. The Patagonia Design Offsite was to be in Utah this month and I wanted to attend. This would be my first trip to Moab and Indian Creek. I picked up my friend Bill Beckwith in San Francisco. The drive to Indian Creek was supposed to be around 15 hours. For us it took 24. We’re idiots, I know. Lots of music, lots of talking, long stretches of silence. We got lost.

    Bill and I often climb like wussies. Instead of going for it, we’ll just yell, “Take!” and hang for a bit before moving on. But this time we made a deal. Every “take” costs you $5. This could get costly therefore forcing us to climb like real men.

    [The Bridger Jacks after the storm. Indian Creek. Photo: Jeff Johnson]

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    Beyond and Back: Rivers Cuomo

    by Jeff Johnson

    I said in my initial entry that I would occasionally talk about or mention product. This is only because I am very passionate about technical product. I love it when a piece of gear works exactly how it was intended when used in the conditions it was designed for. For instance: when I'm making an anchor on the last pitch of the day and the sun drops below the horizon, a stiff breeze whips up the face and I unclip my Houdini jacket from my harness, unravel it from its perfectly compact ball and throw it on. All cozy and warm with a big smile on my face I sit on the ledge and belay my partner up to me. Or out on the town during a cold winter night in San Francisco I'm wearing my Das Parka and my friends are making fun of me saying, "Look at the Michelin Man … what a kook!" Then it's three in the morning and we're wasted, we don't have a ride, we can't get a taxi, and we're lost in Golden Gate Park. I just lay down in the wet grass all cozy and warm, a big smile on my face. "Who's the kook now," I say as I curl up in my Das Parka. These are the precious moments you remember and they are the reasons why you buy quality products you can trust.   

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    Beyond and Back: SAVAGE

    by Jeff Johnson

    JJ_savage_1Phew … I’m back! Finally. Got back a couple months ago after being out of the country for half a year. Long story, too long. I’ll get to that later.

    You know how it is when you come back from traveling; an estrangement occurs. Re-entry is tough. You gotta take it slow. So I disappeared into Yosemite Valley for the spring.

    One morning while wandering through Camp 4 looking for a climbing partner, I came across Scott Parry. A friend had introduced us before but it had been brief. I’m always a little wary of climbing with strangers. You never really know what you’re getting into till it’s too late. And half of climbing is spending a lot of in-between time together: long approaches, re-racking on ledges between pitches, beers at the end of the day, etc. You better enjoy this person’s company or the experience might leave you bouldering most of the time, by yourself.

    [Scott Parry climbing "Steppin Out" 5.10d, Yosemite Valley. Photo: Jeff Johnson]

    At first impression Scott was intimidating to me: reddish hair pulled back into cornrows, braided pigtails, reading glasses and an intense, all-encompassing look in his eyes. His generic, industrialized work-wear was all but ripped to shreds, at the shoulders and at the knees. Gnarly. But maybe it was his nickname that rattled me: Savage as some call him, a result from his penchant for climbing off-widths, where he says, “You gotta dig deep to climb off-widths – get in there and go savage.”

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    Beyond and Back: Your Backyard

    by Jeff Johnson

    JJ_backyard_1Sometimes you forget about your own backyard.

    While passing through Ventura the other day I had heard about a building south swell. So I hooked up with Patagonia Surf ambassadors Mary Osborne and Chris Malloy and headed south. We ended up posting up all afternoon at a spot north of Malibu. The crowd was fairly thick but the waves were consistent and the conditions were absolutely beautiful.

    I've been all over the world chasing waves in remote settings, looking for those rare moments when it all comes together. And there I was at a well-known surf spot just minutes from one of the most densely populated sprawls on earth. I stood there in the sand looking at perfect, overhead rights, peeling off a barnacled rock through a field of colorful kelp -- glassy yet textured by a warm, off-shore breeze, the light getting better every minute as the sun dipped down over the dry headland to the west. I paddled out for a few waves then set up shop on the beach.

    [Mary Osborne enjoys perfection close to home. Photo: Jeff Johnson]

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    Beyond and Back: Camp 4 and Stuff

    by Jeff Johnson

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    The other day while wandering around Camp 4 in Yosemite I ran into Patagonia ambassador Timmy O’Neill. He was hanging around the SARS site with his brother Sean and some guy named Aron. Timmy asked me if I wanted to climb the Manure Pile with him and Aron. “Sure,” I said. Walking to the parking lot I saw that this guy Aron was missing his right arm. Hmm, I thought. You never know with Timmy. He’s always up to something interesting.

    Once at the Manure Pile Timmy started talking about his experiences working with the disabled. He has just started a non-profit organization for disabled athletes called Paradox Sports. Check it out at: paradoxsports.org It’s really cool. Recently he and a few buddies took his paraplegic brother, Sean, up the Salathé Wall on El Capitan – that would be Sean’s third ascent of the Captain. Timmy went on to say that most of the people he has worked with were born without the use of their appendages or whatnot. But Aron was different. He lost his arm around five years ago in a climbing accident. That’s when it occurred to me. This was Aron Ralston, the guy who got trapped by a rock in Colorado and had to cut his arm off to get free and survive. Now he’s way into climbing. He’s had a special prosthetic arm that has two hook-like tools on the end. He can hook onto little crimpers, wedge the cam hook-like device into tiny cracks, or simply jam the thing into wide cracks. It’s fairly new so he’s just getting used to it.

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    Beyond and Back: Artist, Emilie Lee

    by Jeff Johnson

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    The first time I met Emilie was a few years ago in Joshua Tree. She was living in a van with her boyfriend; painting, climbing, dumpster-diving, and working evenings at the Crossroads Café. There was this unique air about her. She seemed very calm and her movements were smooth, as if she were perpetually on run-out slabs. But I could see in her eyes that her mind was full of continuous thought. It wasn’t till a few months later, when I saw her beautiful journals published in Alpinist magazine, that I realized she was an artist. This explained what I saw in her eyes.

    Recently, I was shooting photos in Colorado. I ran into Emilie and her friends in Boulder. After a short day of climbing I asked if I could shoot photos of her in her studio. She said it was a mess because she was in the middle of moving to Utah. We went anyway.

    Situated on the flat outskirts of Boulder, Emilie’s studio was a small, non-descript room in a non-descript building. The surroundings were cold, faceless. Inside were piles of clothes, climbing gear, her dog, and hovering over the clutter like a bright sun rising from clouds, was her art. She handled her work like it was someone’s life -- if she dropped a piece the memory would be gone forever...

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