Obituary: Inside Outside Magazine

Cause of Death: Economic Malaise

And now the question is: What next, Four Corners writers, reporters and readers?

After nearly 12 years of exploring, expounding upon, defending and celebrating the Four Corners Country from its home in Durango, Colo., Inside Outside Southwest magazine has joined the ranks of publications that have gone under in its attempt to stay afloat in the new-media economy. The September 2010 issue was the publication’s last release.

Since 1998, Inside Outside has been a journal of entertainment, culture, environment and recreation bonding the regions bounded roughly by Salt Lake, Denver, Albuquerque and Flagstaff. Self-dubbed “A locals’ guide to what’s really up in the Four Corners,” that tagline was more than just a boast — it was accurate. For no other single publication — or any other form of mass media — covered the Four Corners area as the single and distinct place it is.

A single and distinct place, yes, united by hydrology, creative arts, history, geology, rural and tourism economies, outdoor lifestyles and the constant push-me/ pull-you of public commons freedom and rapacious private enterprise. But those four corners of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado are also a multitudinous and distinctive place. As connected as the Four Corners’ inhabitants are, it is also a region of great and grand diversity.

At its heart is the Colorado Plateau, book-ended by the staggering Fourteeners of the ragged San Juan Mountains and the black-granite guts of the Grand Canyon. In between lie the shrapnel and wounds of that landscape’s making: every possible form of peak, foothill, creek, draw, wash, river, canyon, badland, hoodoo, outcrop, sage flat and sheer redrock wall. Inhabiting that landscape are peoples comprising a population more culturally diverse than most continents, inhabiting a scattering of outposts, villages, hamlets, towns and mini-cities.

Inside Outside attempted to package these many varied facets of this place, and gave an outlet for the region’s writers, reporters, artists and photographers to seek sense and continuity in them. They did that for the people who live here, of course, but also to show those who didn’t why someone who does might do so. Because generally — unlike in nicer climes or more economically rewarding places — people who live here in the Four Corners do so deliberately, consciously, by choice, for some more compelling reasons. Because it ain’t easy to make it here.

And now Inside Outside passes that lesson on, too.

But it was a good run. In its dozen-year existence, Inside Outside published some of region’s brightest and best voices (many familiar to Mountain Gazette readers), including Art Goodtimes, David Petersen, Rob Schultheis, David Feela, Ed Quillen, Ed Marston, Jen Jackson, Michael Wolcott and Amy Maestas. The magazine even scored exclusives with some big-name authors, including John Nichols and Will Hobbs, who each premiered chapters of new novels in its pages. Even Edward Abbey himself rose from the grave to throw a scoop Inside Outside’s way, when a special issue of the magazine on the 10th anniversary of Abbey’s death featured a “lost” Abbey short story that no one, not even Abbey’s estate, had seen since the mid-1950s.

Surely, a region like this can’t be done talking, sharing, exploring? So … what next? That’s up to us…

Ken Wright is the author of “Why I’m Against It All” and “A Wilder Life.” He was Inside Outside’s first managing editor.

High at Low

Why the highest summits are at low latitudes

By M. Michael BradyAmerican and European mountaineers have long known that, if you want altitude, go south. After Alaska became a State in 1959, Americans could add “or north” to that rule, as the elevation of the summit of Denali (Mount McKinley) is more than a vertical mile above any peak in the traditional continental 48 States. But the old rule still holds, as the summit elevation of Anconcagua in Argentina is the highest outside Asia and nearly half a vertical mile higher than that of Denali. Likewise, French mountaineers proudly point out that the summit of Mount Blanc is the highest point in Europe. But far south from there, the summit of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is two-thirds of a vertical mile higher. Moreover, no summit elevations in the Americas, Europe or Africa can match those of the world’s hundred highest peaks in the Himalaya and Karakoram of southern Asia.

Scientists have long reasoned that the greater number of high mountains at low latitudes is more than just a coincidence. Save for volcanoes, three effects are known to effect mountain height: the extent of tectonic uplift, the strength of the Earth’s crust at that point and the nature of subsequent erosion. For years, schoolchildren have learned about the third of the three effects. Americans know that erosion wore the ancient Appalachians down to elevations lower than the newer Rockies, and Norwegians know that glaciation left their mountains lower than the Alps.

Yet the interplay between uplift and erosion is not straightforward, because feedback between the two may be involved and there may be a link to climate. Moreover, the strength of the Earth’s crust has effects not yet completely understood, although it’s thought to be decisive in limiting the elevations of large high plateaus, such as those in Tibet and in the central Andes. Many theories of the underlying mechanisms have been advanced, and earth scientists have been debating them for decades. But now research conducted by scientists at Aarhus University in Denmark has provided a unifying explanation.

David Egholm and colleagues at the University’s Department of Earth Sciences processed satellite images of all large mountain ranges at latitudes from 60° North to 60° South to extract accurate data on the land surfaces and elevations, as well as the average elevation of the snowline in each range. Glacial erosion was estimated by computer modeling. These data were then indexed to the latitude
of the range.

They found that the warmer climates of low latitudes drive snowlines up, which in turn leads to higher mountains. Erosion was found to be more significant above the snowline, where glaciation can limit summit height. The summit of a mountain is seldom more than five thousand feet above its snowline. So mountains with higher snowlines tend to have loftier summits.

Surprising as it may seem, this research came out of a small, pool-table-flat, low-level country. Denmark’s area is about a sixth that of the State of Colorado; much of it is near sea level, and its highest point is at an elevation of 551 feet. But in the sphere that counts in such matters, scientific competence, Denmark towers. Natural scientists cannot escape Oerseted of the 19th century in magnetics or Bohr of the 20th in quantum mechanics. And no philosopher can escape Kierkegaard. The University of Copenhagen celebrated its tenth anniversary before Columbus sailed to discover the New World. Academic rigor is the rule rather than the exception in Denmark.

Moreover, many of the notable contributions to mountaineering have been made by lowlanders. Edward Whymper, famed for his first ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865, was born and spent most of his life in London, at an elevation of 79 feet. Likewise, Edmund Hillary, famed for his first ascent of Mt. Everest in 1953, was born and spent most of his life in and near Auckland, New Zealand at elevations seldom more than 650 feet. Arguably, lowland location may be a prerequisite to understanding heights. But that connection has yet to be studied.

M. Michael Brady lives in a suburb of Oslo and takes his vacations in France. By education, he’s a natural scientist. His Dateline: Europe column appears monthly in the Gazette.