Archive for May, 2009

A rookie ventures into Utah slot canyons

Written by admin on May 19th, 2009. Posted in Buflife

Drying gear after Lower Eardley canyoneering adventure in Utah

Sporting my favorite Buff while drying gear after Lower Eardley canyoneering adventure in Utah.

This past weekend i had a chance to combine the ecotourism aspect of geotourism with field testing the uniquely versatile Buff headwear.

Lower Eardley Canyon may not be the tighest slot canyon in Utah but it certainly poses its own unique challenges, especially to a rookie canyoneer such as myself.

As long slogs up steep peaks are to bagging 14ers in Colorado, long slogs up hot, sandy dry washes are part of the game when it comes to canyoneering in Utah. The hike to the mouth of Lower Eardley Canyon isn’t that bad but the hike to the top is long and route-finding is challenging. Once in the canyon itself, the route is evident since there are no side canyons. After a few dry or barely wet but hoppable or wadeable pothole obstacles, comes the series of six rappels into six potholes that demand swimming. I read that sometimes, right after a flash flood when the water level in the potholes is higher, it’s possible to just jump rather than rappel into these potholes.

According to other, more experienced canyoneers, Eardley makes up in swimmer potholes what it lacks in the type of slithery tight slot passages of other popular slot canyons in Utah.

Verdicts: I look forward to my next canyoneering adventure. Trusty Buff seems a perfect choice for canyoneering headwear. Geotourism – at least that part of it that savors the natural environemnt –

is alive and well in the slot canyons of Utah.

Friends of Geotourism: Telluride Mountainfilm

Written by admin on May 7th, 2009. Posted in Geotourism

Mountainfilm in Telluride May 22 - 25. Photo by Gus GuscioraMy favorite time of year is coming up, Memorial Day weekend heralds the arrival of the newest installment of Mountainfilm in Telluride, May 22 – 25 this year.

This is one of my favorite festivals maybe anywhere in the world. I like to tell folks it’s a film festival with soul. Set against the magnificent backdrop of Telluride, CO, Mountainfilm attracts, film, filmmakers and adventurous spirits of all ilks and nationalities to share in the storytelling and story shaping of issues of import to the mountain lifestyle, mountain cultures and the indomitable spirit.

The first time I stumbled upon Mountainfilm was about 15 years ago, entirely by accident and a stroke of good fortune. It was a rainy Memorial Day weekend in Colorado, as that weekend tends to be, and I was tent camping in the cold rain/snow mix at Ridgway State Park. As luck would have it I found a flyer about Mountainfilm. Sounded interesting and, more than anything, the lure of being inside, dry and warm and watching movies had immense appeal.

I will never ever forget the lunchtime picnic discussion with some legendary mountaineering I had only read about until then: Paul Petzoldt, Charlie Houston, Brad and Barbara Washburn and Bob Bates. Throughout the picnic the panelists answered any random question from the crowd, fireside chat style. The mountaineering pioneers told of weeks spent just trying to determine the best approach route to climbs that have now become standard routes up some of the world’s most famous, daunting and highest peaks. Brad and Barbara talked of developing techniques for taking photos of Alaska out the open door of an airplane in decidedly un-OSHA approved style. The outward appearance of these senior versions of the legends of American mountaineering belied the incredible exploits and achievements of their youth. It was imminently clear that while their bodies might be withering, their spirits clearly were still as vibrant and undaunted as ever.

The details are a little foggy but I will always remember being so impressed about a story Petzoldt, visionary founder of the National Outdoor Leadership School, told that day. It was a story from his participation in the first American expedition to K2 in the Himalayas. While on this climb, Petzoldt set a record for the longest continuous time at an altitude of more than 20,000 feet without artificial oxygen. Later, he was asked to speak at a meeting of Air Force brass who wanted him to tell them about the effects of sustained exposure to thin air since the military was just entering the era of high altitude flight. At the time, commonly held belief was that you would die or go crazy without supplemental oxygen at such lofty heights. Although Petzoldt had clearly demonstrated to the military crowd that he had not died, at the end of his speech, out of the corner of his eye he spied an officer with a lot of medals on his chest making the cuckoo bird symbol with his forefinger making circles around his temple. Incensed, Paul said he took the microphone back and told the audience he had one last story to tell. He spoke of sitting at 20,000 feet being so overcome with raw emotion from the beauty dawn broke over the Himalaya  that he was inspired to write a poem. That day in Telluride, Paul recited the poem with a strong voice and no hint of faulty memory, just as I imagine he had for the military brass decades ago. I wish I had written down that poem. Something about that moment, that spirit, has stuck with me and is part of the enduring magic that keeps me coming back to Mountainfilm.

If you haven’t been to the festival yet and you love mountains, mountain people, flora and fauna and are open to joining in more than a few lively discussions and debates about issues affecting mountains and the earth and its oceans from which they rise, you’ll love Mountainfilm. Mountainfilm and its sensitive, exuberant and thoughtful presentation of films and filmmakers about mountains and the people who love them underscores the heart of geotourism: preserving and cherishing sense of place, unique cultures, and a deeper respect for all life on this pretty blue planet.