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    SWIP Trip: Speaking Art to Nothing

    Colossus of roads It wouldn't have been so bad if the dog didn't try to chew the photographer's face off. But that was just the start of it, and besides, how could he have known? All he knew is that there he was, huddled alone in the middle of a Nowhere most folks can't even imagine; a nowhere without many reminders of somewhere. A nowhere chock-full of things like space, shadows, light, and silence, and - at this particular moment - one hell of a springtime snowstorm.

    What this piece of nowhere had was a connection to somewhere and someone in the form of a seldom-used road. It was on this road that the Someone he knew was due to arrive with something he needed badly: food and water. With the full weight of the crushing storm bearing down on him, the snow and ice being driven like a fistful of pulverized glass by the storm's hurricane-force winds, he probably wasn't thinking about someone's dog, or the photographer's face - he was cold as hell and too hungry to think. An hour of expectation in a position of desperation is tough to handle - with one Warmth card left in his deck, Adam stood up, threw on his pack, and played it. He set out at a stiff stride toward the nearest piece of pavement - a solid day's walk away - determined to win back some warmth and get - god willing - close enough to civilization to pick up a signal. One bar was all he needed on his phone to ask, "Where are you?"

    If he'd have been able to make the call, he would have heard about the dog, about the mad scramble to hold the photographer's face together, the rush to the hospital, and maybe the location of his support vehicle. But this day on the SWIP route already felt different. The suspicion was confirmed when, against the odds, a vehicle materialized out of the storm. It had already had the makings of a day Adam would be telling stories about in years to come.

    And this was before he found himself strapped to a wheelchair, hurtling down a dirt road in a van full of drunken Indians.

    [An original Colossus of Roads, somewhere along a forgotten line. Goshute Valley, NV. Photo, Adam Bradley.]

    Continue reading "SWIP Trip: Speaking Art to Nothing" »

    Balancing Alternative Energy Development and Freedom to Roam in Our Backyard

    Badlands_sm Our Freedom to Roam campaign casts a wide net. It has to. The quest to preserve large tracts of habitat for migratory species creates the opportunity for some unexpected conversations and unlikely collaborations. Nevada Wilderness Project's (NWP) current effort to document - in collaboration with record-holding thru hiker, Adam Bradley - the proposed route of Nevada's "alternative energy backbone," is just such a project. The SWIP trip unites a new approach to energy development, protection for wildlife's migratory corridors, and on-the-ground reporting of habitat conditions to provide critical data for future conservation measures. As Adam makes his way down from Idaho to the Northern Nevada town of Wells, he's crossing land affected by these variables and more. Recent updates from the NWP blog help give a sense of the concerns that arise in just one corner of a state poised to take part in the green energy revolution.

    Last year, NWP started a Linking Landscapes for Wildlife Program to educate about the need for habitat connectivity, wildlife migration and smart planning for development of all kinds.

    One of the things we’ll be talking about on this SWIP Trip is the importance of what we call “cumulative effects.” This means that we have to start planning based on the full array of development (road building, powerlines, urban sprawl) as well as loss of habitat from natural phenomena like fire and drought. Too often we look at individual culprits for a loss of habitat . . .
    [A sampling of the terrain contained in the Badlands Wilderness Study area, just west of the proposed SWIP route. Photo courtesy Nevada Wilderness Project]

    ED NOTE: The previous post, SWIP It Good, can be found here, the next post, SWIP Trip: Speaking Art to Nothing, can be found here.

    Continue reading "Balancing Alternative Energy Development and Freedom to Roam in Our Backyard" »

    SWIP It Good - Tracing the Path of Green Energy Through Wild Nevada

    Gb_storm3 Between southern Idaho’s I-84 and the portion of I-15 transecting Nevada’s southern tip stretches a vast, empty land - over 500 miles of mountains, sagebrush, and wild bunchgrass. The area is home to some of the lower 48’s loneliest corners; even today, it's crossed by only two major east-west routes. It has remained a region of vast sagebrush oceans, naked playas, and peaks soaring to 12- and 13,000 feet, and is home to huge herds of pronghorn, remnant elk populations tucked away in forgotten mountain ranges, and healthy holdouts of predators like bobcats and mountain lions. In its more level places, large tracts of high-desert grassland look much like they have for thousands of years, while the high folds of the ancient peaks shelter trees that began growing over 4000 years ago and continue to raise their wizened green limbs to the sky.

    There are many reasons this region remains so sparsely inhabited, and the weather is a major one. Winds, unimpeded by obstacles, gain monstrous strength over the sweeping fetches between mountain ranges and whip the frequent snowstorms into vicious white-out fury. Springtime in the Great Basin and on the Snake River Plain is more a euphemism than a season. While warm, clear, sunny days aren’t uncommon during this time of year, it’s what happens between them that lends the vast region its character. Most of its valleys sit at near 6000 feet in elevation and the horizon is more often than not an unbroken line interrupted at random intervals by outcroppings of rock or the rare lone and struggling tree. The terrain here lies equally open to the warming spring sun and the hammering storms of a steely still-winter sky.

    It’s through this region that a large-scale green energy project will be developed, the Southwest Intertie Project, which will carry renewable energy from the Midpoint Substation in north Jerome County, Idaho south to the Harry Allen Substation, just north of Las Vegas in Clark County, Nevada—and beyond. And it’s also through this region, at this meteorologically fickle time of year, that Adam Bradley will be walking alone and unsupported along the entire length of that proposed power line.

    [A typical spring storm bears down on the eastern flank of the Schell Creek Range in the eastern Great Basin. Photo: localcrew]

    Continue reading "SWIP It Good - Tracing the Path of Green Energy Through Wild Nevada" »

    Yosemite Dispatches with Ron Kauk: Sacred Rok

    March 31 079 2 

    In today's audio dispatch, our friend and ambassador Ron Kauk introduces a new non-profit project he's been working on with Kenji Hakuta, professor of education at Stanford University.

    Audio_graphic_20px Listen to "Sacred Rok" (MP3 - right-click to download)

    Sacred Rok provides the chance for small groups of young people between the ages of 14 and 21 to get to know the natural beauty of Yosemite National Park. To find out more, visit Sacred Rok and check out their Activities page and FAQ. You can keep in touch with this new and evolving collaboration by subscribing to the Sacred Rok Newsletter.

    Music: "Slow Recovery" by Sus Corez. If you live in the Ventura area, catch Sus playing at Great Pacific Iron Works on April 17 for the Art Walk event with Patagonia's T-shirt artists.

    [El Cap on the morning of March 31, 2010 ... springtime in the Valley. Photo: Ron Kauk. Apologies to Ron for the long production time on this dispatch.]

    The Tin Shed Gets Tuned Up for Spring

    Tin Shed S10 We’re sliding open the doors to the Shed and sweeping it clean this spring. Tune into the season with a fresh batch of stories from our friends and ambassadors out in the wild – in videos, audio and written word. And don’t worry, just like our favorite winter sweaters, we’ve found a place to stash all the cool-weather stories – you’ll find all of them in the Tin Shed archives by clicking "View All Stories" in the top right corner of the Shed.

    Here's a taste of what you'll find this spring:

    Border Country
    Jeremy Collins and Mikey Schaefer had been planning a new route on Yosemite Valley’s Middle Cathedral when they learned of the deaths of their good friends and fellow climbers, Jonny Copp and Micah Dash. Collins said, “They showed us to never give up, to go light, to go bold, and always live with passion.” He and Schaefer sent the route in their honor.

    Mongo Metal Pirates

    In Mongo Fly ’08, Mikey Wier takes us to remote Mongolian rivers in search of the massive taimen. Check out the trailer for Metalheadz, a new video from AEG Media on steelhead fishing in the Pacific Northwest. And see an excerpt from the ESPN series Pirates of the Flats featuring Yvon Chouinard and Bill Klyn pursuing bonefish in the Bahamas.

    Freedom to Roam and Awakening the Skeena

    Freedom to Roam portrays a long-term initiative dedicated to establishing migration wildways in the Americas and elsewhere for animals now threatened by global warming. In Awakening the Skeena, a young woman swims the length of a cold northern river to inspire communities in its watershed to come to its defense.

    Jeff Denholm: Ocean Calling

    A twist of fate changed Jeff Denholm’s life in the mid-90s, but his competitive drive hasn’t diminished. Watch as he trains for, and competes in, his first Moloka’I Challenge – the 32-mile race that’s considered paddleboarding’s unofficial world championship.

    The Simplest Solution

    After seeing a wiry Nepali porter carry a 100 lb load with the aid of a tumpline, Yvon Chouinard followed suit and strapped one over his head to relieve the strain of his heavy pack on his injured neck. Following that discovery, Yvon said, “I learned to try to find a simple solution first, rather than a techno-fix.”

    Patagonia Surfers in Indonesia

    Gerry Lopez, Wayne Lynch, Liz Clark, and Dan, Keith and Chris Malloy set out with Fletcher Chouinard on the Makimba to test his new boards in Indonesia’s Mentawai Islands off the coast of Sumatra.

    Northern Alps Traverse

    In August 2009, Maxime Turgeon set off on his bike and pedaled up the high mountain passes of the northern Alps in search of classic climbs to solo. After three weeks, six peaks, 770 miles of cycling, and over 42,000 feet of elevation gain, he dove into the Mediterranean Sea at the end of this human-powered journey.

    24 Hours of Horseshoe Hell

    Team of two take on the steep, gritty sandstone near Jasper, Arkansas, during a 24-hour climbing competition. Patagonia ambassadors Brittany Griffith and Kate Rutherford team up to show the boys some sass. The self-proclaimed alpinistos gordos, Colin Haley and Mikey Schaefer, used the marathon competition to jump-start their training.

    Drop by the Shed to feed your roots with classic tales, check out fresh footage from the cutting edge, and maybe find yourself a sweet deal on your next Patagonia purchase. Thanks for tuning in!

    Hiking Down Memory Lane

    John ken tony It's been said that if you remember the 60s then you weren’t there. But if, like me, you grew up in the 60s and 70s and were into backpacking or climbing, there is actually a whole lot to remember. Like many of us, I got my start backpacking in the Boy Scouts. I remember our troop had a bunch of army surplus tents called "shelter halfs" which were heavy canvas tents that came in two pieces. They slept two people so each person would carry one half the tent and then you’d button them together in camp. Even though you only carried half the tent and it didn’t even have a floor, it still weighed in at 5lbs per half. My first ever backpacking trip combined this tent with a cotton sleeping bag and a old scout pack called (I think) the Trapper Pack, an L-shaped torture device/pack frame that lacked both padded shoulder straps and a hip belt. I think we went three miles, and to this day it remains the longest trip of my life.

    Although some of the younger folks I work with seem to think trips like that epitomize backpacking in the 60s & 70s, it was actually an era of huge advances in lightweight equipment. With the “back to nature” and “anti-establishment” sentiments of the 60s, backpacking became the ‘in’ sport, and suddenly trailheads were overwhelmed with hikers seeking out their very own wilderness experience. This popularity spawned a rush to create lighter and more durable backpacking gear. The people who started these companies were true pioneers and all of us who enjoy the great gear of today owe them a huge debt.

    Indeed, so much of what we take for granted today came about during this period of innovation.Old gear As writer and industry historian, Warren McClaren notes “The 70s seem to be when everything happened. MSR stoves, Therm-a-rest, Gore-tex, Geodesic domes, Friends, Fastex hardware, Pit zips, internal frame packs, etc.”  All these things came about within a few short . . .

    [Top - Jon, Tony & Ken, about halfway through the PCT, 1974. Photo: Ken La Russa. Above, right - A collection of some of Bruce Johnson's vintage gear. Photo: Bruce Johnson]

    Continue reading "Hiking Down Memory Lane" »

    Rios Libres: The Voice of the Ice

    Timm Neff walk Team Rios Libres is back with an update from the Neff Glacier, at the headwaters of the Río Baker. The team's first two reports can be found here (1, 2). With the Neff at their backs, the team followed the river to the sea, doing their best to document the diversity, beauty, and wildness of the region. Before completing their journey, the team will be checking in on a region of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field last believed to be last visited and documented by explorer Eric Shipton during 1960-61 expedition.

    Reports from the Rios Libres team are that their travels are proceeding smoothly, but the impacts of the quakes continue to be felt and much support is still needed (information about how to help is here).


    Childs-Neff1 The Voice of Ice (a report from Craig Childs)

    At night I lay in my tent listening to the thunder of collapsing seracs, multi-ton columns of ice breaking free and falling a thousand feet. Smack, crack, rumble, groan. In these deeply-cut canyons, echoes build and fade. The ice-bound head of the Rio Baker is not a stable or quiet place.

    [Top, Timmy O'Neill walks the line on the Neff Glacier. Above, left - Craig Childs watches as a huge chunk of ice falls 20 stories down the Neff Glacier. Photos: James Q Martin]

    Continue reading "Rios Libres: The Voice of the Ice" »

    Dirtbag Diaries: The Shorts - Trekker's Blues

    The_Shorts_NBB What better way to browse the Winterfest Sale than with the Dirtbag Diaries playing in the background? Here's host Fitz Cahall with today's listener-submitted Short:

    More people reach the top of Mount Everest than hike the entire length of the Pacific Crest Trail. It asks a lot of the human body. When writer Alissa Bohling and her longtime boyfriend Paul set out of the trail, they thought a trip of that significance would leave a mark on their relationship. They didn't foresee that it would leave Paul hobbling and struggling to get healthy years after they reached the Canadian border. In today's Short, Alissa puts pen to paper and imagines a pain-free life for Paul. If we write it down does it become true? I hope so.

    Listen to "The Shorts - Trekker's Blues"
    (MP3 - right-click to download - music info)

    For more Shorts and full-length episodes, visit The Dirtbag Diaries or Patagonia's Tin Shed. You can subscribe to the show via iTunes and RSS, or join the Dirtbag nation on Facebook and Twitter.

    Looking for something different? From the creators of The Dirtbag Diaries comes a new Web television project called The Season. Writer/narrator Fitz Cahall and filmmaker Bryan Smith follow five outdoor athletes through the course of a single season in the Pacific Northwest. Check out the first two episodes now at

    Waypoint Namibia Now Available on DVD

    WaypointDVDfront In September, we featured a post about a new film from Patagonia Climbing Ambassador Majka Burhardt and filmmaker Chris Alstrin, Waypoint Namibia. Burhardt and fellow Patagonia Ambassador Kate Rutherford rallied climber Peter Doucette, photographer Gabe Rogel, and Alstrin to round out the crew they would need for their month-long trip to Africa's second-least-populated country, where they encountered unexpected remoteness, crushing heat, great climbing, and - as they'd hoped - Namibia's Himba people. 

    The film is now available on DVD, and 5% of the proceeds from the sale go to help fund Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation Trust, an organization that strives to improve the lives of rural people by diversifying the socio-economy in Namibia’s communal areas to include wildlife and other valuable natural resources.

    To reach Namibia's incomparably remote climbing destinations, Burhardt, Rutherford, Doucette and their crew drove washboard roads for days on end in search of undiscovered climbing. Along the way, they met Namibia's Himba people, tested their mettle in extreme heat and worked their way (somewhat accidentally) up a new route on the Orabeskopf face of the Brandberg Massif, Namibia's highest peak. A slide show of the trip is available with caption in the Tin Shed.

    The DVD is available for purchase off of Majka's site. This short features highlights from the full-length video:

    Waypoint Namibia Short from Majka Burhardt on Vimeo.

    If seeing the video at home isn't enough, try to catch Majka and Waypoint Namibia as they make the rounds with the Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival. With over 50 showings coast-to-coast between now and May 1, you can find a date and venue near you. View the complete tour schedule for a list of showings.

    Dirtbag Diaries: Fueled by Strawberry Jam - The Year of Big Ideas 2010

    Big_ideas_2010 The Dirtbag Diaries kick off 2010, and your weekend, with their annual Year of Big Ideas episode (2008, 2009). Do you have aspirations for the new year? Becca Cahall takes the mic today for an episode that's full of great goals:

    Ski filmmaker Nick Waggoner knew what he wanted to do with his life. He wanted to be a skier of the diehard variety. There were two obvious hurdles. First, he lived in New York City. Second, he was 11 years old. He found a way to make it work and before he was legally behind the wheel of a car, he was squeezing adventure out of skiing. In the last decade, his passion for skiing evolved into a passion for making films about skiing, but his approach has remained the same. Today, we bring you another Year of Big Ideas -- a time to turn daydreams into concrete goals. Professional athletes, weekend warriors, and full time dreamers present their goals for 2010.

    Download "Fueled by Strawberry Jam - The Year of Big Ideas 2010"
    (mp3 - right-click to download)

    Head over to the Dirtbag Diaries for information on the music from today's podcast. You can also connect with the show via Twitter and Facebook. Fitz's new Web TV show, The Season, is due to begin at the end of the month.

    Fittingly, I just watched Nick Waggoner's latest film, Signatures, again the other night. I love how the lines Taro Tamai draws inspire me to both strap on my snowboard and paddle out for a surf. He calls his brand of riding "snowsurfing" and for good reason. The trailer for Signatures can be viewed in the Tin Shed; visit Sweetgrass Productions or to pick up your copy.

    One Percent for the Planet
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