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    Joy Trip Podcast: Shelton Johnson Speaks to the Conservation Alliance about "Diversity and Wilderness"

    Shelton-Johnson2James Mills, host of The Joy Trip Project, brings us a very special podcast today from the recently held, biannual meeting of the Conservation Alliance, of which Patagonia is a founding member. Here's James:

    For those of us who spend a great deal of time outdoors it’s hard to believe that there are many of those who don’t. Especially when it comes to our national parks there is an entire segment of the United States population, natural born citizens who seldom if ever visit. This is particularly true among people of color. African-Americans, Hispanics and other ethnic minorities spend far less time in nature than their white counterparts. And in a shifting demographic where minorities will soon become the majority there’s rising concern throughout the conservation movement that one day in the not so distant future most U.S. citizens will have no personal relationship with or affinity for the natural world.

    This concern is expressed most eloquently by National Park Ranger Shelton Johnson. The only permanent African-American ranger at Yosemite National Park, his mission is to share with audiences, black and white, lessons of stewardship that illustrate the bond with nature that is every U.S. citizen’s birth rite. An interpretive ranger that tells the story of the Buffalo Soldiers, African-American cavalrymen who projected Yosemite at the turn of last century, Johnson puts into context the importance of wilderness not merely as a point of national pride but an intrinsic value of what it means to be human.

    At the biannual meeting of the Conservation Alliance at the 2011 Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in Salt Lake City Utah, Shelton Johnson was the keynote speaker. Best known for his prominent role in the Ken Burns documentary “The National Parks, America’s Best Idea,” he was also instrumental in bringing Yosemite Valley to the attention of leading black talk show host Oprah Winfrey. In a nationally televised visit to the park in 2010 Winfrey used her media clout to invite millions of minorities across the country to explore the great outdoors.

    In this unabridged audio recording Johnson is welcomed to the podium by Conservation Alliance executive director John Sterling. For 40 minutes Ranger Johnson inspired a rapt crowd with a message to encourage all people, regardless of race, to embrace the wonders of nature and to claim their inheritance of our national treasures.

    Audio_graphic_20pxListen to "Shelton Johnson - Diversity and Wilderness"
    (39:40 - right-click to download MP3. Music: Hot Buttered Rum)

    Our thanks go out to James Mills for recording this talk and sharing it with The Cleanest Line. You can keep up with James at The Joy Trip Project website, Facebook page, iTunes channel and Twitter feed.

    For more from Shelton Johnson, pick up his book Gloryland.

    [Update 8/16: edited title]

    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" »

    Kite Dreams on the Dawn Wall

    CaldwellR.2010.11.1600 Out there and awesome. That’s what comes to mind when I think of Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson on the Dawn Wall. If you aren’t a climbing geek who’s been following, they’re trying to free climb the steepest, blankest part of El Capitan. It’ll be a fight, for sure – it already is. They left the ground on Saturday, and plan to stay on the wall, living in their portaledge, for as long as it takes, which is probably two or more weeks. They’re around pitch nine now, and earlier today Tommy told me, “It’s giving us hell, we are battling hard. Pretty freaking awesome experience so far.”

    And it’s a great one for today’s world. Whereas we all also love and respect remote adventures, adventure comes in different varieties. These guys are exploring the upper limits of bigwall free climbing, and, since it’s on El Cap, modern communication makes it easy to share (updates from Becca Caldwell here; from Kevin here). They’ve got phones and reception and people watching them. In a way, El Cap represents our world of contrasts – it’s mega, yet practically roadside; it’s storied with some of the greatest pioneering rock climbing in history, while tour busses and RVs pass underneath it by the minute.

    [Tommy leading pitch two. Photo: Becca Caldwell]

    Continue reading "Kite Dreams on the Dawn Wall" »

    Yosemite Dispatches with Ron Kauk: Sacred Rok Summer

    Sunrise_fire

    It’s been a nice summer.  Sacred Rok had four camping trips, two in Yosemite Valley in May and June and two at Tuolumne Meadows in July and August.

    Editor's note: Last December we started a new series, Yosemite Dispatches,with longtime Patagonia ambassador Ron Kauk. In his April dispatch, Ron described a new summer project called Sacred Rok. Today, Ron fills us in on how the summer went and how Sacred Rok affected the young people who visited Yosemite Valley, many for the first time. Stay tuned for more summer stories all this week on The Cleanest Line.

    On our last trip, we had seven teens from Merced County foster care. We camped at Tuolumne Meadows Campground. I got to share, with those from the group who got up early, my ritual of greeting the sun with my campfire. It was good to see Rafael smiling and enjoying the fire and the sunrise, something that he might not forget for a long time.

    [Ron Kauk watches the sun rise on another day in his Tuolumne Meadows camp. All photos courtesy of Sacred Rok]

    Continue reading "Yosemite Dispatches with Ron Kauk: Sacred Rok Summer" »

    Dislocated

    Kc - meadowIMG_2816(LR)

    After the fifth lower I called “off,” grimaced, untied with one hand and walked cautiously to a flat rock. Dammit, I’m getting sick of this. Across the valley El Capitan rose straight skyward and I sat down, surrounded by dirt, pine and granite. Clouds moved, darkening, signing an incoming storm.

    I held my left arm above my head, the only place comfortable or something like comfortable. I did what I could with one hand: removed my rock shoes and pulled on my sneakers. Mikey rapped to the ground, stripped gear from my harness and tied my shoes. The guy is dialed and got us down the DNB from five pitches up in no time flat, and with no added damage to my now damaged shoulder. I thanked him for everything. But I had to piss. With one hand. I gave Mikey a tender look and a wink.

    “What?” He shot back with justified suspicion.

    “Mikey,” I said. “I have to take a leak.”

    “No way, dude,” he said, shaking his head, “I’ll do a lot of things to help an injured partner, but you’re on your own there.”

    [Laying in El Cap meadow after the dislocation. Photo: Kelly Cordes]

    Continue reading "Dislocated" »

    Product Testing - Getting Soaked on El Cap

    We test our gear on a variety of levels. Our Athletes & Ambassadors are responsible for putting the latest designs and fabrics through the paces before we'll add a new product to our lineup. But just because something reaches our shelves doesn't mean testing is over. Once a new item shows up in our catalogs, our Customer Service staff gets busy ground-truthing the latest offerings. They know the questions our customers will be asking, and turn that attention to our gear.
    _________________________________________

    DCampbell_clouds_lowres Field Report: Climbing El Cap, Yosemite Valley, early October 2010
    Conditions: Kinda like rock climbing, kinda like paddling whitewater.
    Products Tested: Nano Storm, M10 Jacket, R1 Hoody, Rain Shadow Jacket
    Tested By: Dave Campbell, Patagonia Pro Sales

    There’s a saying in China: If you’re ‘one in a million’, then there are more than 1,300 people just like you here. Climbing El Capitan in the 21st century is a similar scenario; during peak season, handfuls of climbers top out on various routes each day. Things have changed greatly since 1965 when TM Herbert and Yvon Chouinard did El Cap’s first ever ground-up first-ascent via the Muir Wall.

    Nevertheless, El Capitan will always be there to offer super-surreal experiences to those who wish to paddle out onto its vast sea of granite. Earlier this month we were caught high on the wall in one of the worst storms I’ve seen roll through Yosemite Valley. Below is a report about how our Patagonia clothing - and spirits - handled the abuse.

    [Caleb enjoying the views from Salathé Wall. Photo:©Dave N. Campbell]

    Continue reading "Product Testing - Getting Soaked on El Cap" »

    Winters of My Life, Howard Weamer

    I first met Howard Weamer back in 1977 when a couple of friends and I decided to ski into the Ostrander Hut in Yosemite. Sporting rented wooden 210 cm skis, low-cut Alfa boots and Tonkin Cane ski poles, we waxed up the skis, loaded up our framed Kelty packs and off we went. I should mention that none of us could ski at all.

    At least 10 exhausting hours later we finally arrived at the hut, where we were greeted by John Muir. At least that’s what we thought in our breathless stupor; Howard, with his huge beard, certainly evokes the famous conservationist. Over the years I’ve become at least a bit more competent on skis and I’ve visited the hut a dozen times or more and have gotten to know Howard fairly well. We’ve spent many an evening discussing the merits of the latest and greatest telemark equipment and various ski routes all over the Sierra. Beneath his quiet demeanor lies a gearhead with an encyclopedic knowledge of the Sierra backcountry. 

    I’m convinced that Howard has done more backcountry skiing in the Sierra than anyone alive. Once, while passing through Ostrander on a trans-Sierra ski tour to Mammoth, we stopped in to say hello. Howard asked about our route and offered a few suggestions, upon learning we were headed up to Mt Lyell his eyes lit up and he explained that route could be a bit tricky but all we had to do was head for the sawtoothed ridge and aim for the gap where one tooth is missing. It was the perfect beta.

    Howard is also a highly acclaimed photographer who still shoots in film with a large format camera. To see some of his amazing images, visit his website.

    Filmmaker Jonathan Burhop has just completed a short video on Howard and his 35 years at Ostrander and we're honored to share it here. Enjoy!

    Winters of My Life from Jonathan Burhop on Vimeo.

    Of Marmots and Men

    Julyhike Every year, some friends and I converge on an really cool spot near Yosemite where we hike six miles carrying absurdly heavy packs and eat crazy amounts of really good food. Over the years, the only down side to this idyllic spot has been the parking. And by parking I don’t mean finding a space, this isn’t San Francisco; it’s the local fauna that’s been the problem. We've parked our cars all over the Sierra but for some reason this is the only place where we’ve had a consistent problem with marmots. Oh sure the California black bear gets quite a bit of publicity for its vandalism, but we’ve had more than our share of problems with Marmota flaviventer sierrae, the Southern Sierra Marmot. I, myself have been victimized twice.

    The first time, I was driving out on the lonely dirt road and I noticed that not only was my engine running unusually hot, there was steam pouring out from under the hood. It turns out a marmot had chewed a hole in a radiator hose. Luckily, this marmot was kind enough to chew through it near the end. Also lucky for me, MacGuyver used to be my favorite show, so using my Leatherman (I know, it should have been a Swiss Army Knife) I unscrewed the hose clamp, cut off the chewed-up end and reattached the hose. I then filled the radiator with creek water and off I went. Five years later and the hose is still intact. Another time, I started having electrical problems right after returning from the trip. I finally took it into my mechanic for his diagnosis. After a long look he asked me, in the gentlest way possible, just where exactly I lived. I guess he thought I must live in some rat-infested hovel. Unfortunately, this time the marmots had chosen to dine on my wiring harness. This is not an inexpensive repair.

    [Above: Walking away from the marmots. photo: Ken La Russa]

    Continue reading "Of Marmots and Men" »

    The Princess Cruise - Kate Rutherford and Madaleine Sorkin Free El Cap's Freerider

    20100625 FreeRider 2512

    I have approximately 30 bruises, I tried to count them but some blend together, and five gobbles (cuts or abrasions from the rock): one on the ankle, one on each shoulder, a small one on my hand, and a tiny one on my wrist. I feel like I fared pretty well on that huge physical endeavor called Free Rider.

    Editor's note: Patagonia ambassador Kate Rutherford and Madaleine Sorkin recently spent five days climbing The Freerider (VI 5.12+), a 3,000ft. route on the Southwest face of El Capitan. Kate shares her take on the climb here with photographs by haul bag maestro, Mikey Schaefer.

    Five years ago, I thought freeing El Cap was an impossible goal. The huge scale, logistics, and physicality of freeing a big wall seemed beyond me. Over the years climbing started feeling easier, I spent more time on big routes, and Madaleine and I built up our endurance together on long routes like Moonlight and the Northwest Face of Half Dome. Alpine climbing in Patagonia helped me understand huge objectives, and I learned to break down my intimidation by just focusing on one pitch at a time, just doing the task at hand.

    Continue reading "The Princess Cruise - Kate Rutherford and Madaleine Sorkin Free El Cap's Freerider" »

    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.]

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