Mountain Media #193

Buried in the sky

BOOKS: “Buried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of the Sherpa Climbers on K2’s Deadliest Day,” by Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan

During every Himalayan expedition, the behind-the-scenes work of hauling gear, setting up camps, scouting routes and fixing rope lines falls on the backs of high-altitude workers, or Sherpa climbers, as they’re commonly known. But who are the Sherpa people? What compels some to become high-altitude workers? And on K2, the world’s second-highest peak, does the mountain goddess Takar Dolsangma answer their prayers?

In their new book, “Buried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of the Sherpa Climbers on K2’s Deadliest Day,” Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan answer these questions while telling a gripping story of the August 2008 disaster. Instead of the usual glorified gush from surviving sponsored mountaineers, the story centers on the Sherpas, giving a cultural context to their perilous work amid their most sacred places.

The authors neatly lay out each of the characters’ backgrounds, personalities and philosophies as if laying out gear before an assault on the mountain. As they push for the summit, the story degenerates into a tangled mass of rope, ice, rock and dead or dying climbers. Despite multiple storylines, this book clearly communicates the imperceptible Death Zone logic and impossible language gaps that led to the deaths of eleven climbers, Sherpa or not. The story’s flow receives help from the book’s many maps, color photos and notes.

Shocked by the death of her friend Karim Meherban in the accident, fellow climber Amanda Padoan sought to uncover how such a tragedy could happen. With help from her cousin, Peter Zuckerman, the authors thoroughly researched the story, but also pioneered a new, exciting perspective that raises the bar for all mountaineering literature. Sure, it still implies the age-old question: why climb? But when asked in the context of Sherpa climbers, the answers reverberate deeper and reveal more than ever before. $26.95,

— Jeff Miesbauer

Utah Wasatch Cover

BOOKS: “Utah’s Wasatch Range: Four Season Refuge,” by Howie Garber

Abruptly rising thousands of feet above Salt Lake City, Utah’s Wasatch Range forms a stark boundary between the western edge of the Rocky Mountains and the eastern front of the Great Basin. And, with 85% of the state’s population living within 20 miles, the range’s constant battle between conservation and development is just as stark.

Photographer Howie Garber has been exploring and taking photos in and of the Wasatch for 40 years, but his first book, “Utah’s Wasatch Range: Four Season Refuge,” is much more than just a photographic retrospective of his career in these mountains. Garber’s expansive collection of landscape, wildlife and outdoor sports photos are paired with essays from conservationists, business leaders, scientists and government officials that detail the intricacies, beauty and fragility of this cherished range. The result is both a tribute to the home of the “Greatest Snow on Earth” and a cautionary message of the many threats faced by these craggy peaks.

The book’s essays, written by everyone from skier Andrew McLean to U.S. Congressman Jim Matheson, run the gamut of subjects from geological history to watershed stewardship to the contentious nature of the Wasatch’s unparalleled ski
terrain. For those looking for reason to believe in preserving the Wasatch’s endless recreation opportunities, pure water and accessible wilderness, Garber’s beautiful images of golden aspen stands, craggy quartzite summits, diverse wildlife and powdery ski descents make the perfect companion for the words of so many important local voices.

Collectively, the book’s photographs and words make for many things — a visual tribute, a case for conservation, and most of all, something that anyone who has ever spent time in the Wasatch will find a deep appreciation for. $39.95,

— Andy Anderson

The Old Breed

SHORT FILMS: “The Old Breed,” by Cowboy Bear Ninja

In 2011, climber and filmmaker Freddie Wilkinson received an invite to go and climb the second-highest unclimbed mountain in the world, Saser Kangri II, in Asia’s Karakoram Mountains. The invite came from Mark Richey and Steve Swenson — two men with careers, families and lengthy lists of successful climbing expeditions under their belts. Eager to pull out one more major first ascent before retiring from big-mountain expeditions, the pair recruited Wilkinson — 25 years younger than both men — as the third member of the team.

In “The Old Breed,” Wilkinson documents the trio’s climb while also exploring what compels a pair of men in their mid-50s to travel halfway around the world and risk their lives in pursuit of an unclimbed mountain. For Richey and Swenson, the trip to climb Saser Kangri II represents what might be one of the final chapters in a long and illustrious mountaineering career. For Wilkinson, it represents a chance to share in one of a dwindling number of major unclimbed summits with two climbers he had long admired.

Due to the complex nature of what Wilkinson refers to as oropolitics, many sections of the Karakoram have been closed due to tensions between the bordering nations of India, Pakistan and China. When these areas are finally opened, it presents a bounty of first ascent potential for alpinists. And it’s such a political sea change that allows these three climbers to venture in pursuit of Saser Kangri II’s unclaimed summit.

But when Swenson falls ill on the mountain with a dangerous lung infection, the film delves into the age-old mountaineering struggle between the magnetic pull of the summit and a climber’s capacity for self-preservation. The film dabbles with the oft-discussed reasons why we go to the mountains in the first place, but it’s ultimately about how even as we age, the raw, wild spaces and expansive summits of the world offer something we can’t get anywhere else.

— Andy Anderson

Mountain Media #192

Salt to Summit

Books: “Salt To Summit: A Vagabond Journey from Death Valley to Mount Whitney,” by Daniel Arnold

As the crow flies, 84.6 miles separate Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States, from the lowest in North America, Badwater Basin in Death Valley. One could choose to bridge the distance between the two points with roads and established trails in 146 miles, but you would miss the raw power of the landscape they circumvent. It is for precisely that reason that writer and vagabond extraordinaire, Daniel Arnold, decided to take the route less travelled, which he chronicles in his latest book, “Salt to Summit.”

Determined to link these natural wonders in his own way, Daniel escapes Los Angeles by bus and hitchhikes the last stretch of road into Death Valley to begin his adventure. After topping off his 85-pound pack, lovingly nicknamed “The Goblin,” with water, he sets off across the same salty flats that drove uninitiated pioneers to madness and death. Aimed at the summit of Mount Whitney, Daniel lets the need for water, the curves of unfamiliar canyons, the trails of daredevil sheep and the oppressive sun determine his path to the summit.

This is more than a tale of climbing Mount Whitney from the very bottom. It’s a tale of how the wilds have always found handholds in us and what is possible when we follow the pressure. Before Arnold, the Shoshone, the Paiute, John Muir, Mary Austin, mysterious hermits and legendary 49ers all chose to survive by the rules of this desolate country to reach one end or another.  Daniel uses these mostly forgotten histories to shade the story of his excursion with a depth that tugs at the reader’s sense of adventure and makes them wonder why they aren’t out exploring the same wild spaces before it’s too late.  $17.95,

— Cole Lehman 

souls and water

Short Film: “Of Souls + Water,” by Forge Motion Pictures

Forge Motion, a small film company founded in 2007, attracted the attention of many in the paddling community with its 2011 film “Wildwater.” Billed as a “journey into the mind and soul of whitewater,” the initial trailer for “Wildwater” featured stunning HD video footage of one of the most impressive feats in modern whitewater kayaking — a record-high June 2010 run of Idaho’s North Fork of the Payette. By combining off-the-charts production values and filming techniques, talented athletes and thoughtful interviews, Forge Motion produced a landmark achievement in paddling cinematography.

Now, a year later, Forge Motion is back with another project for the paddling community. Produced in association with NRS, “Of Souls + Water” is a series of five video shorts released monthly starting in April 2012. The films consist of gorgeous, slow-motion shots that at times feel more like photography than film, accompanied by a monologue delivered by the nameless subject. The jaw-dropping visuals go a long way toward anchoring the somewhat abstract philosophical musings that anyone who has spent time on the water can relate to, but ultimately hardcore boaters accustomed to watching tightly cut sequences of stout drops with a pulsing Dub Step soundtrack will likely be disappointed by the slow pace and lack of a narrative. Those looking for an artistic examination of how the waterways we love share the human experience, however, will find Forge’s newest work thought provoking, inspiring and deeply memorable. Free,

— Ben Peters

reveal the path

Film: “Reveal the Path,” by Mike Dion

In Mike Dion’s latest mountain-bike film, “Reveal the Path,” he and three compatriots (including Tour Divide record holder Matthew Lee) travel on a global bikepacking trip to ride new trails, meet new people and challenge themselves at every turn. While it’s missing the built-in narrative of Dion’s previous film, “Ride The Divide,” “Reveal The Path” does a wonderful job at inspiring a little wanderlust, which the film declares to be its objective in the opening scene. Mission accomplished, then, right? Mostly.

I was left wanting more stories at every stop, and specifically, more about the inter-destination travel. The four riders flew from the U.S. to Wales to Switzerland to Morocco to Nepal to Alaska. Anyone who’s flown more than a couple states away knows that the farther you travel, the greater the likelihood of lost baggage, missed planes, surly customs agents and interpersonal discord. How difficult was it to bring four mountain bikes and all the gear between countries?

That said, the time the riders spent in Nepal looked like just about the most fun you could have on two wheels — until they flew to Alaska and broke out fatbikes for some beach riding. The smiles in the Alaskan segment likely did as much as the rest of the film to inspire folks to go ride a bike and find their own path. $29.99,

— Brian Bernard

Mountain Gazette Timeline


Skiers’ Gazette is born.


Doug Tompkins and Kenneth  Klopp open The North Face, a small outdoor retail and mail order shop in San Francisco. They go on to make their own line of mountaineering apparel and equipment, which you now own some of.


Both the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and National Trails Act are signed into law.


Bob Gore develops expanded polytetraflouroethylene (ePTFE) and releases it under the trademark Gore-Tex.


The Environmental Protection Agency is formed, the Clean Air Act is signed into law and the first Earth Day is held.


The first production-model avalanche rescue transceiver, the Skadi, is released and quickly becomes standard equipment for ski patrollers and others at risk of avalanche burial. Before the Skadi, avalanche safety protocol involved trailing a piece of cord that would theoretically float to the top of the snow in the event of an avalanche.


Bill Briggs makes the first ski descent of the Grand Teton.


Telluride Ski Area officially opens in December with five lifts.


John Denver records “Rocky Mountain High.” It was released the following year and eventually moved to #9 on the Billboard charts.


An essay by Doug Robinson in the Chouinard Equipment catalog proposes the revolutionary idea of clean climbing, which eschews hammered-in pitons for removable, non-scarring climbing protection. The essay, along with the game-changing Stoppers and Hexentrics built by Chouinard, forever change the climbing world.


Therm-a-Rest releases the first self-inflating air mattress for climbers and campers.


Mike Moore, publisher of Skiers’ Gazette, meets with George Stranahan to discuss the future of the magazine. Moore and Stranahan agree to morph the Skiers’ Gazette into a more generalized magazine called the Mountain Gazette.


The I-70 Eisenhower Memorial Tunnel opens to highway traffic, literally paving the way to Summit County for untold numbers of Front Range skiers.


The Endangered Species Act is signed into law by President Richard Nixon.


The Colorado Avalanche Information Center, funded under the direction of the U.S. Forest Service, begins to issue statewide warnings of high avalanche danger. In 1983, the Center becomes part of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. Funds are secured from a consortium of public and private sponsors.


The “Climbing Smiths” — father George Smith and sons Flint, Quade, Cody and Tyl— set the first record Colorado Fourteener speed record by climbing the by-then-accepted 54 Fourteeners in 33 days. They then continued on to California and Washington and climbed the then-accepted 68 Fourteeners in the Lower 48 in 48 days, a record that still stands.


The first Telluride Bluegrass Festival is held in Telluride, CO with only three bands and around 1,000 people. This summer marked the festival’s 39th year and the fest’s 10,000 tickets were sold out in early February.


Edward Abbey publishes “The Monkey Wrench Gang,” a book so influential it creates a new verb, as well as inspires an entire generation to participate in civil disobedience in the name of the environment. The first chapter appeared in Mountain Gazette #29 the year before and was titled, “Where’s Tonto?”


To celebrate America’s Bicentennial, several skiers at Vail found the Colorado Ski Museum. A formal dedication is held in 1977 with the first Hall of Fame members inducted.


Skier visits at Vail soar over the one million mark — a first for a Colorado ski area.


After 48 issues, Moore resigns his editorship of MG and moves onto a position with Outside magazine. Gaylord Guenin takes over as MG editor.


Jake Burton, the “father of snowboarding,” moves to Stratton, Vermont, to pursue his dream of designing snowboards. He makes 350 boards at night after bartending during the day. Friends sneak up the mountain at night to test Burton’s radical products because snowboards were not allowed on the slopes. Those first boards sell for $88.


President Jimmy Carter signs a bill legalizing homebrewing in the United States.


Aspen Skiing Corporation is acquired by Twentieth Century Fox. The 1,080,000 outstanding shares of Corporation stock are purchased for $48.6 million or $45 per share, the largest transaction in the history of skiing.


Colorado’s first microbrewery, Boulder Brewing, begins operation in a goat shed.


The Skier Safety Act is passed by the Colorado General Assembly. The bill establishes reasonable safety standards for the operation of ski areas and defines the duties and rights of skiers using the areas.


After 77 issues, a lack of ad sales forces Mountain Gazette to close its doors.


Originally started as a telephone recording at Alta Ski Area in the late-’70s, the Utah Avalanche Center becomes a fully funded program of the U.S. Forest Service.


Crested Butte holds its first annual Fat Tire Bike Week, now the oldest mountain bike festival in the country.


Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) established 13 new national parks, 16 new national wildlife refuges and two new national forests, adding 56 million acres to the National Wilderness Preservation System, including the largest wilderness area in the system, Wrangell-St. Elias, which now includes 9,676,994 acres.


Specialized releases the Stumpjumper, the world’s first commercially produced mountain bike. It originally sold for $750, had touring-bike and modified-BMX components, no suspension and weighed just under 30 pounds. An original is now on display at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.


The first of Colorado’s 10th Mountain Division huts, the McNamara and Margy’s huts, are completed. The hut system now comprises 30 huts connected by 350 miles of suggested travel routes.


“Red Dawn,” starring Patrick Swayze, Lea Thompson and Charlie Sheen, in his feature film debut, is released. Considered by many to be the worst movie ever filmed in Colorado, “Red Dawn” was shot almost entirely in the Arapaho National Forest. The film was actually entered into The Guinness Book of Records for having the most acts of violence in any film up until that time.


Rim Cyclery in Moab, Utah, begins renting mountain bikes and guiding tours on an old motorcycle route called the Slickrock Trail. Over the next few years, the desert surrounding Moab slowly builds momentum as a world-class destination for the burgeoning sport.


Dick Bass, owner of Snowbird Ski Resort, summits Mount Everest, making him both the first person to complete the Seven Summits and the oldest person to summit Everest.


The coldest temperature in Utah history, minus-69, was recorded at Peters Sink on Feb. 1.


The coldest temperature in Colorado history, minus-61, was recorded at Maybell on Feb. 1.


The Moab Chamber of Commerce decides to hold a “World’s Most Scenic Garbage Dump” contest in an inventive attempt to lure tourists to town. It worked, and Moab shared top honors with Kodiak, Alaska. The two became sister cities thanks to their lovely landfills.


Bayern Brewing, Montana’s oldest operating craft brewery, opens for business in Missoula.


The Yellowstone National Park fires burn a total of 793,880 acres in Wyoming and Montana.


Frenchman J.B. Tribout establishes To Bolt or Not to Be, the first 5.14 rock climb in the U.S. at Smith Rock, OR.


Charlie and Ernie Otto open the Otto Brothers Brewery (now the Grand Teton Brewing Co.), Wyoming’s first, in Wilson, WY.


Greg Stump releases the seminal ski film, “Blizzard of Ahhhs.”


New Belgium Brewing begins production in Fort Collins, CO.


Looking for a new way to access the backcountry, Utah snowboarder Brett “Cowboy” Kobernik begins experimenting with the first splitboard prototypes by sawing snowboards in half in his basement. With the help of Voile owner Mark “Wally“ Wariakois, his design eventually becomes the world’s first production splitboard, the Voile Split Decision. Kobernik is now a forecaster with the Utah Avalanche Center.


Lynn Hill makes the first free ascent of The Nose on Yosemite’s El Capitan, a feat many thought to be impossible.


“Aspen Extreme” is released in theaters. Heralded as “Top Gun on the slopes,” the movie features big-mountain skier Doug Coombs as the skiing stunt double.


The first Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race is held in Leadville, CO. Featuring a grueling out-and-back course that includes a 3,000-foot hill climb, the race now draws 1,300 riders to Leadville every summer.


The South Canyon Fire, perhaps Colorado’s most infamous wildfire burns 1,856 acres on Storm King Mountain, near Glenwood Springs. The fire, which was caused by lightning, took the lives of 14 firefighters, most of whom were from Oregon.


66 gray wolves from Canada are released in Yellowstone and parts of central Idaho in an effort to repopulate the species in the Northern Rockies.


President Bill Clinton designates 1.9 million acres in southern Utah as Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, effectively killing a proposed coalmine for the area. The announcement was made at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Holding the event in Utah would have posed a safety risk for President Clinton, as the decision was unpopular among many rural residents at the time.


Colorado has its first winter free of avalanche deaths since 1968.


“Into Thin Air,” Jon Krakauer’s first-person account of the deadly 1996 season on Mt. Everest, where eight climbers were killed during a massive storm, is released. The book thrusts the mountain into the mainstream limelight and begins an ongoing media frenzy for the high-altitude shenanigans surrounding the peak.


“South Park” — created by Colorado natives Trey Parker and Matt Stone, debuts on Comedy Central.


ESPN holds the first Winter X-Games in Big Bear Lake, California. The event draws around 38,000 spectators and is broadcast in 198 countries.


Members of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) set off a series of firebombs within Vail Ski Resort that cause an estimated $12 million in damage, at the time the costliest act of eco-terrorism ever committed.


Mt. Baker Ski Area near Glacier, WA, sets the world record for most snowfall in a season with 1,140 inches, which equates to 95 feet.


For reasons unknown, snow BMX racing fails to catch on and is discontinued as an event at the Winter X-Games.


Rolando Garibotti sets the speed record for the famed Grand Traverse of Wyoming’s Tetons with an astonishing 6 hours and 49 minutes. The traverse enchains 10 of Grand Teton National Park’s major summits with climbing difficulties up to 5.8, and entails around 14 miles of travel and 12,000 feet of elevation gain.


Amendment 20 passes in Colorado, legalizing the production and consumption of marijuana for medicinal purposes.


After two-and-a-half years of meticulous planning, scouting and training, Ted E. Keizer, aka Cave Dog, set the current Colorado Fourteener speed record of 10 days, 20 hours, 26 minutes. Keizer experienced strong winds on 12 peaks, lightning on three, falling snow on four, snow on the ground on 12 and five summits coated with ice. He spent 29-percent of his time on the trail at night and spent 67-percent of those 10 days, 20 hours and 26 minutes actually hiking and climbing. Aided by a five-person support crew, he enjoyed a total of 138,558 of vertical gain on the trip.


A team consisting of George Stranahan, Curtis Robinson and M. John Fayhee resurrects the Mountain Gazette. Issue #78 comes out in November.


“Flyin” Brian Robinson becomes the first person to hike the Triple Crown (Appalachian, Continental Divide and Pacific Crest trails) in a calendar year. Robinson burned through seven pairs of shoes on the 7,400-mile, 22-state journey.


“Comeback Wolves: Western Writers Welcome the Wolf Home” is published. Included within its pages are essays from MG alumni Laura Paskus, Craig Childs, B. Frank, Mary Sojourner, George Sibley, Michele Murray, John Nichols, Gary Wockner, Hal Clifford and M. John Fayhee.


Mountain Gazette is sold to GSM Publishing.


In an effort to bypass the complicated planning process required by the Grand County government, the Winter Park Town Council annexed part of Winter Park Ski Area — up to 12,060 feet, making it the country’s highest-elevation municipality.


Colorado unseats California as the #1 beer-producing state by volume.


Chris Sharma completes the first ascent of Jumbo Love at Clark Mountain, California. The route, rated 5.15b, stands as the most difficult rock climb in the U.S. and one of the hardest in the world.


Salt Lake City activist Tim DeChristopher sneaks into a BLM oil-and-gas-leasing auction, where he makes false bids on 14 parcels of land in the Utah desert, some adjacent to Arches and Canyonlands national parks. The auction is postponed when he is discovered, and later only 29 of the auction’s 116 parcels are deemed legal. DeChristopher is sentenced to two years in federal prison in 2011.


GSM sells Mountain Gazette to Skram Media, which also owns Climbing and Urban Climber magazines.


Rock climber Steph Davis free solos the North Face route on Castleton Tower in the Utah desert, then BASE-jumps from the summit.


Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. signs legislation legalizing homebrewing in the Beehive State.


The first railcars depart the Moab Uranium Mill Tailings Superfund site, carrying away a fraction of the 16 million tons of uranium waste sitting on the banks of the Colorado River. The town’s toxic legacy is moving to a safer resting place at Crescent Junction at a cost of over $800 million.


Skier Shane McConkey, known as much for his extreme skiing as his zany antics, dies in a ski-BASE accident in Italy’s Dolomites. McConkey, widely revered as the father of modern powder-ski design, first tacked ski bindings onto water skis to ski big Alaskan peaks and later helped create the Volant Spatula, the first reverse-camber, reverse-sidecut ski.


Skram Media is sold to Active Interest Media, which also owns Backpacker magazine. Mountain Gazette is spun off and acquired by Summit Publishing of Charlottesville VA, which also owns Blue Ridge Outdoors, Elevation Outdoors and Breathe magazines.


Wolves are removed from the federal Endangered Species List in Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and Utah by a congressional measure. One of the West’s most enduring controversies returns to center stage.


Shaun White wins snowboard superpipe at the Winter X-Games for the fifth year in a row, with a first-ever perfect score of 100.

Check out the 60 best excerpts from Mountain Gazette over the last 40 years!




Mountain Media #190

BOOKS: “The Responsible Company,” by Yvon Chouinard and Vincent Stanley

The Responsible Company

By now you’ve likely heard the story — in the late-’60s, itinerant surfer and big-wall climber Yvon Chouinard began hand-forging climbing gear in a seaside shed under the name Chouinard Equipment. He eventually added a clothing line, which grew into outdoor apparel giant and environmental champion Patagonia, a company that now banks somewhere in the neighborhood of $500 million a year. Somewhere along the way, however, Chouinard became a poster child for socially and environmentally conscious business management, and his latest book, “The Responsible Company,” distills what he and co-author and Patagonia veteran Vincent Stanley have learned on the subject throughout the company’s 40-year history.

Early in the book, the authors reveal that Patagonia’s attention-getting practices have them keeping some odd bedfellows theses days, most notably price-slashing juggernaut Wal-Mart, which Patagonia has been consulting on environmental improvements over the last few years.

It seems Wal-Mart and countless other major companies are coming to the sobering realization and fairly common-sense ideal that Patagonia has operated on for years — “doing good creates better business.” In other words, the less resources and energy consumed by a company, the more profit they will make.

Despite some modest examples of Patagonia’s successful environmental initiatives, the book isn’t rife with the kind of horn-tooting one might expect from a book on business published by a for-profit company. On the contrary, Chouinard and Stanley level the playing field by stating that Patagonia is not the model for a responsible company, and there is no human economic activity that is yet worthy of the popular buzzword “sustainable.”

In addition to an interesting state-of-the-union address on business and the environment, the meat of the book is a sort of elemental style guide for responsible business practices, something useful for not only CEOs and corporate bigwigs, but anyone looking to create a more meaningful existence at work.

So perhaps responsible is the new sustainable — any company can boast about philanthropic work or financial donations, but it requires something more to take responsibility for the inherent environmental and social damage done by your company and make steps to alleviate it.


-Andy Anderson

MUSIC: “A Stone, A Leaf, An Unfound Door,” by The River Whyless

River Whyless

As if nodding to the muse of nature that inspired it, “A Stone, A Leaf, An Unfound Door” begins with the sound of footsteps next to a nearby stream. After a few folky, fiddle-filled movements, the music gains strength, as curiosity often does when looking under the right rocks. The wandering tune reaches a celebratory high point and then gracefully descends. Such an orchestrated outline follows the full arc of an album, but this is only the first song of ten.

The River Whyless, a four-piece folk band from Asheville, NC, has created a musical wonder with their first album. Though at times sounding similar to Fleet Foxes or The Head and The Heart, the dual-songwriting efforts of Ryan O’Keefe and Halli Anderson have laid the foundation for something thoughtfully original as well as genuinely Appalachian. Underneath it all, the crisp, flowing rhythms of Matt Rossino on bass and Alex McWalters on drums both anchor and elevate the artful song structures. Freshman effort or not, The River Whyless has created a unified, coming-of-age album that’s best ingested in its entirety. For a quick taste, check out “Cedar Dream Part II,” “Great Parades,’” “Pigeon Feathers” or “Stone” … or “Unfound Door” … or you might as well just listen to it all. Go to, where you can listen to the album and name your price (hello, free music!) for an instant download, as well as check for upcoming tour dates.

— Jeff Miesbauer

APPS: Columbia GPS PAL


While some branded smartphone apps seem to be little more than a thinly veiled marketing gimmick, the GPS PAL app from Columbia Sportswear stands out as a truly useful tool that just happens to be stamped with a brand name.

The GPS PAL, which stands for Personal Activity Log, provides GPS tracking with the ability to log photos, notes and videos as waypoints along the route. It tracks distance, time, pace and elevation automatically and provides a cool summary when your route is finished. The app also automatically syncs your routes and trip reports to an online journal, where they can be shared, compared and organized.

As a climber, I could see the app being extremely useful for approaches with difficult route-finding, but hikers, backpackers, runners and mountain bikers will find it an easy replacement for a GPS unit in most cases. It has already come in handy for measuring progress on training runs and relocating poop bags on after-work hikes with my dog.

Add to that the fact that it costs nothing, doesn’t require any map downloads (it maps through Google), tracks well without cell phone service and works better overall than some apps I’ve paid five bucks for, and the GPS PAL is a real keeper. The only real downside is that running the GPS for long periods of time (multi-hour hikes) seems to drain the phone’s battery quickly.


— AA

Mountain Media #189

Podcast: The Enormocast by Chris Kalous

Chris Kalous

Whether it’s around the campfire or in front of a computer, it’s a known fact that climbers love to talk about climbing. But with all the internet forum banter and three-minute video edits, it’s rare to hear an in-depth conversation on climbing issues and stories from an authentic, engaging and approachable perspective. Enter The Enormocast, which is the brainchild of writer and climber Chris Kalous. Kalous has been immersed in the climbing life for a long time and has climbed all over the world and throughout the Intermountain West, spending a lot of time in the Utah desert and Yosemite Valley.

The Enormocast is at its heart an informal discussion of climbing issues with the more interesting movers-and-shakers in the climbing community. The guest list has included some people who need no introduction to climbers, such as Kelly Cordes and Steph Davis, and other more undercover characters such as Sam Lightner Jr. and BJ Sbarra. Although he is certainly an opinionated host, Kalous’ gracious and genuinely funny nature keep the show light and the conversation engaging. Chris manages to navigate complex issues such as the cleaning of the Compressor Route on Cerro Torre or the evolving climate of land access in Southern Utah by both choosing guests who are intimately familiar with the issues (such as Hayden Kennedy and the above-referenced Sam Lightner Jr., respectively) and drawing upon his wealth of experiences as a perceptive and well-traveled climber. The fact that beers are usually being consumed by the host and interviewee goes a long way to bring a conversational tone to issues that could get a bogged down in policy and precedent. And at the end of the day, Chris manages to remember that no matter how much we love it, “It” is just rock climbing.

— Rob Duncan

Magazines: Ascent 2012

Ascent Cover

It might seem strange to review a magazine in another magazine, but Ascent 2012 is less of a magazine and more of a literary journal meets coffee table book — the kind of glossy, high-quality publication that, after you’ve read it through, ends up on your bookshelf and not in your recycling bin.

Originally published by the Sierra Club and edited by Allen Steck and Steve Roper (also authors of the legendary “50 Classic Climbs of North America”), Ascent debuted in 1967 as a visionary climbing journal intent on publishing the sport’s best stories and most vivid images. It accomplished its mission, going on to become the longest-running climbing publication ever, but after 14 issues published sporadically over 32 years, Ascent folded in 1999. After a trial comeback in 2011, Rock and Ice magazine acquired Ascent and has since revived it into an annual publication, rife with the stunning images and beautiful stories that its originators intended.

Ascent contains what most of us truly desire in a climbing publication — incredible, inspiring images and large blocks of eloquent, uninterrupted text. From Allen Steck’s detailed account of biking and climbing through post-WWII Europe to Renan Ozturk’s chronicle of recovering from a near-death ski accident to make the first ascent of Peru’s Sharks Fin, the magazine’s stories and photos encapsulate the beautiful diversity of the sport. Ascent’s pages span both generations and disciplines, but the sum is simply a keepsake collection of adventurous, inspiring and often hilarious tales from lives defined by climbing. $12.99,

— AA

Books: “Maple Canyon Rock Climbing,” by Darren Knezek and Christian Knight

Maple Canyon Guide

A climbing guidebook exists to serve two key functions — to provide essential information about a climbing area and its routes, and to get the reader PSYCHED. “Maple Canyon Rock Climbing,” a new full-color guide to one of Utah’s most-popular areas, fulfills both requirements and beyond.

Tucked into an inconspicuous mountainside in the middle of central Utah farm country, Maple Canyon has grown from an obscure, chossy backwater crag to one of the top summer sport climbing destinations in the West. The cliffs, comprised of thousands and thousands of rounded cobbles glued together with sedimentary rock, makes for some of the most unique climbing around. It’s often hard to tell what kind of hold a cobble will provide until you actually touch it, making the routes there notoriously pumpy and hard to read. The book also covers a host of routes in the surrounding areas outside of the canyon proper for those looking for some added variety. Written by local and active route developers, the book features loads of route information, awesome photos and pertinent area history.

After nearly 12 years without an up-to-date guidebook, this cobble-choked canyon’s popular documented crags have become crowded and overrun, while the numerous unpublished walls often see only a handful of climbers on a busy weekend. While a flashy new guidebook can tend to increase traffic to an area, perhaps this one will serve to redistribute climbers around the canyon’s hundreds of fun, challenging and previously unknown routes. $29.95,

— AA 

See the latest Mountain Media from issue #190!