Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Pendulums and Permaculture

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It’s the darkest week of the year. Here in Madison, that means it’s just getting light at 7 am and pitch black again by 5. I have been swinging back and forth on a pendulum of motivation because of it.

We admittedly don’t usually make our bed (a mattress in the loft of our little cabin) in the morning, but I am a huge stickler about going to bed at night with the sheets in proper order, which often means re-stretching the fitted one over at least one of the four mattress corners. But I’ve noticed that some nights recently I just go to bed without even bothering. And some mornings I turn over and sleep in for a while too, even knowing I am missing some of those precious few daylight minutes.  

Luckily, the pendulum usually swings back and I heed the alarm, wake up before dawn, stoke up a fire and cup of coffee and read my magazines (current choices are Rolling Stone and the New Yorker), the stories from which inspire me to go - either to my office to ravenously work on the dozen different projects, or to wander our property wrapping up the long list of fall/winter chores (that the weather gods are letting us get away with doing now since winter is just getting here in late December). Of course, the holidays most cultures around the world recognize this time of year force the pendulum to stay on that motivated, sometimes-stress-inducing end of things, so that we all get out of our bed, and, if you are not Freddie and me, maybe even make it.

Anyway. I was sheet mulching the other day around our apple and pear trees, thinking about permaculture. Ever since I first heard of it, I cringed at the name. It makes me think of the ‘perms’ my mom put in my hair in the 80’s, those chemical treatments that cause a curly frizzy mess for months to a head of hair even as straight and fine as mine. Of course the word permanent also comes to mind: And nothing is permanent.

The idea behind permaculture is to create stable food systems modeled from nature. Think fruit and nut trees providing shelter for edible greens and perennial vegetables like asparagus, which in turn provide nutrients and attract beneficial critters. All this while diminishing or eliminating the need to water, weed and fertilize.

Like doing yoga, I think permaculture gardening is a perfect complement for my climbing/traveling life. After a month on the road giving slideshows and visiting friends and family and rock climbing, it was simply heavenly to collect a car full of cardboard from the transfer station, lay it out around all the young trees as a weed barrier, and dump dozens of buckets full of compost and topsoil on them, creating rich new raised beds.

In the new beds, I planted garlic and Egyptian walking onions (one of few ‘perennial’ onions, though not truly perennial, they just grow new bulb sets at the top of their stalk, and when the stalk dries and falls over at the end of the season, they reseed themselves), which I’ve read will naturally help repel apple loving pests, plus little bits of comfrey root, the magical green compost, the taproots of which will dig deep down for nutrients and encourage the fruit tree roots to spread. That’s what I love about the permaculture ideology; everything is planned for multiple purposes, and to create self-perpetuating systems. 
 
Just like the climbing world, there is a thriving subculture in the ‘permie’ world. While our climbing community banters about retro-bolting and charging for rescues, the ‘permies’ of our region busy themselves debating carbon farming, requirements for permaculture design classes and how our gardening can encourage or fight climate change.

I am a quiet observer at this stage in the game, reading the books, surfing the Internet, scrolling dozens of emails from the regional Listserv and most importantly experimenting with methods on our property. I may jump in deeper at some point, say, to work on changing that stupid name, but am thoroughly enjoying being a beginner and an outsider in a field I am so newly passionate about for now. And of course I am also happy to have one more hobby to keep me swinging through the long winter pendulum season. Thank goodness nothing is permanent.


Some permaculture resources for other newbies:
Edible Forest Gardens - a great books series for DIY permaculture, focused on New England
Fedco - Northeast resource for local, organic trees, seeds, bulbs and more

(All photos shot and edited on my new fancy schmancy iphone)



Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Shoshin



Shoshin (初心) is a concept in Zen Buddhism meaning "beginner's mind". It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would. –Wikipedia
Emilie Drinkwater on a failed attempt of Peak 6135, Ladakh, India


My initial thesis for this blog entry was that attempting first ascents is the ultimate way to seek the unknown, and so failure is one of the most beautiful tragedies. Luckily it was my driving shift, somewhere between DC and Fayetteville, WV, so I had a few hours to think it through and conclude that I was completely wrong.
Our trip to India was framed by failure. Kirsten, Emilie and I were given a photo of a beautiful mountain halfway around the world and spent more than a year planning an expedition to try to climb it. We day-dreamed and night-dreamed about it. We emailed, conference called, wrote lists, bought gear, trained, raised money, gave up work, strained relationships at home and went into debt to get there. We trekked for days, built trails and kairns, stashed gear, slept poorly and endured headaches while acclimatizing, established a high camp and sat and watched the mountain for days.

Finally, we attempted it. Several times. The reasons why don’t matter for this story, but we failed. We turned and walked away, leaving a mystery behind for another party, another year. 
But by going to plan B for the remainder of our trip, I had one of most memorable and successful weeks of mountain climbing in terms of summits attained, lessons learned and fun had. Success because we failed.  
We went to the mountains thinking our goals were to do all-women first ascents and to go rock climbing. Plan B involved letting both of those things go. There was a literal period of mourning. But the outcome we were really after – pushing our physical and mental selves through remote exploration – was what mattered, as it turns out (duh!).
Each and every decision we make, every day, is an opportunity to assume a beginner’s mind and tread into the unknown...and I am pretty convinced that failure is the best path towards it. 
I’ve talked to middle-aged people who say they understand less now about life than they did ten or twenty years ago, and to divorcees who regret assuming they understood the nature of their partnerships or the recipes for a successful marriage. Beginners at poker tables around the world make the pros livid when they win the entire pot.
The intentional return to a beginner’s mind feels almost religious in practice. As the expedition drew to a close, I journaled obsessively about modeling my life after basecamp living. I thought creating days in my normal life that are like rest days in basecamp - defined by simplicity, rest and thoughtfulness - would encourage boldness and open-mindedness (I've been trying to not start my car or answer my phone or turn on my computer one day every week to get started on this). But it is not just the physical, structural space that makes the beginner’s mindset possible. 

In a beginner's mind, failure is not tragedy at all. Failure probably cannot even exist in such a mind. But I'll be damned if I don't find myself still daydreaming about what might have been if we'd kept going up instead of down that mountain that day...





Bivied at our high point on 6135



6135 - A mountain for another day, or day-dream 
Favorite gear from a summer in the Karakoram:
Mountain Hardwear W's Phantom 15 sleeping bag
Polartec test jacket
Sterling Fusion Nano Ropes - especially the PINK one!
Petzl Myo XP Headlamp
La Sportiva Ganda Guide shoes


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Indian Summer Reading







I read a lot on my summer vacation

I know, that is not the most exciting way to start my first blog post since ten weeks of climbing adventures in India and France.

Expeditions include lots of travel time, days of required rest while acclimatizing and of course some bad weather, so good books are key. I always find it interesting to learn what others read...so here is what I read, in the order I read them, each one reviewed in 20 words or less. I'd love to know what you've been reading, too! 

(To learn about our India trip, you can read stories from Emilie Drinkwater’s perspective or check out our trip reports for the Polartec Challenge Grant committee and one of our generous sponsors, Mountain Hardwear. I also was lucky enough to spend a few weeks in France on the way to India, which I wrote about here and here.)

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
By Laura Hillenbrand
Plane crash; lost at sea; shark attacks; torture; PTSD. Thoughts of my grandpa Fred. Brilliant blend of history and biography.

One Mountain Thousand Summits: A Story of Tragedy and True Heroism on K2
By Freddie Wilkinson
This book is written by my husband and dedicated to me. To me! You should buy 20 copies.

A Journey in Ladakh
By Andrew Harvey
The only book I could find about the region of India that we traveled to. Kind of a generic travelog.
It is good the river will not stop roaring and lunging through its dark gorges, whatever happens to the village, or the monastery. The things that ignore us save us in the end. Their presence awakens silences in us; they refresh our courage with the purity of their detachment.”

The Help
Kathryn Stockett
If you are one of the few who have not read this yet, you must. It is a runaway bestseller for good reason.

Passionate Nomad: The Life of Freya Stark
Jane Fletcher Geniesse
A lady’s high adventures in the early 20th century Middle East, full of politics, chauvinists, bed bugs and camels. Why had I never heard of her?
Three quotes from letters she wrote:
“The word ecstasy is always related to some discovery, a novelty to sense or spirit, and it is in search of this word that in love, religion, in art or in travel, the adventurous are ready to face the unknown.”
“There is a certain madness comes over one at the sight of good map.”
“Perseverance is often praised, but it is not so often realized that another quality must accompany it to make it of any value – and that is elasticity; perseverance in only one direction very often fails: but if one is ready to take whatever road is offered, and to change the chosen way, if circumstances, and yet to keep the end in view – then success is infinitely more probable.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Rebecca Skloot
A fascinating book blending modern science, American history and southern culture (all for better or worse) through one family’s unlikely story.

Geek Love
Katherine Dunn
The most out there, wacked out, weirdest book I read all summer. I loved it like a geek loves their chickens.

A World Made By Hand
James Howard Kunstler
A post-apocolyptic story told with a hopeful spin. Readable, thought provoking - and a downright fascinating topic. 

Call of the Wild
Jack London
Anthropomorphism at its very finest! Freddie gave me White Fang a while ago, so this was the natural next step.
“There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive.”
“There is a patience of the wild - dogged, tireless, persistent as life itself – that holds motionless the spider in its web, the snake in its coils, the panther in its ambuscade.”

Light at the Edge of the World
Wade Davis
Saw him speak at Telluride - he speaks as well as he writes. Unique anthropology/ethnobotany stories from around the world.

Anthropology of an American Girl
Hilary Thayer Hamann
Probably my least favorite of the trip. Still, it’s readable fiction and helped in passing time on the long journey home.
“There are those who risk to ascertain that they have nothing; that they need nothing. They are open to prospect and blind to hazard because they’ve been hurt, which is just another way of saying informed. They are bodies moving through space, inviolate and impermeable. They are full on the inside; nothing beyond can speak on their behalf. They require no validation; they are owners of themselves.”






And finally, some shameless self promotion:

Friday, July 1, 2011

Chamonix and Clint Eastwood


Mother Mary and me on the summit of the Dent du Geant, Alps

Hemlock and his coach Bowman on top of a training climb in the Eiger Sanction:

Ben Bowman: Wanna Beer?
Jonathan Hemlock: You gonna call room service?
Ben Bowman: We got beer.
Jonathan Hemlock: If you hauled beer up this rock you're insane!
Ben Bowman: I may be insane, but I'm not stupid. I didn't carry it, You did! It's in your pack.
Jonathan Hemlock: Christ, I outta throw you off this pillar! Besides, It's warm.
Ben Bowman: Sorry, just knew you'd draw the line at haulin' ice.

I have been thinking of the Eiger Sanction a lot these past few weeks. Partly because I finally saw it, after hearing the same quotes hundreds of times from my husband Freddie (I suddenly understand him much better!). But mainly it is because of the scenes where Hemlock (Clint Eastwood) goes to the desert to train for his climb of the Eiger. Those scenes made me realize I have never seriously trained for an expedition.

I seem to instead have a cycle where I have a balanced life of work and play, then once I commit to a trip, I work way too much leading up to it and leave feeling not at the top of my physical game, disorganized and tired, and then come home to start it all over again.

With a meeting and a wedding within a week of eachother in Chamonix, France, just before our expedition was to get underway in India in early July, I decided to be like Hemlock and spend a few weeks 'training' in the Alps. I was lucky enough to have my work load so light by the time I left that I didn't bring a computer, and didn't even post an autoreply away message for my email account. So it was with an uncluttered, open mind and 140 lbs of luggage (!!!) that I left the states a few weeks ago.

There really can't be a more perfect place to be a climber than Chamonix. The culture is so steeped in climbing that there are more climbing museums, guide services and climbing shops than there are banks, grocery stores or convenience stores. Everyone who lives here seems to be a climber or at least understands climbing beyond a superficial level. There are telepheriques, trains, lifts and huts crisscrossing through the deepest parts of the mountains, lending unprecendented access. I told my mom in a postcard that it feels glamorous and intimidating yet home-like here, like when we would go to the Kentucky Horse Park, the hub of the elite equestrian world, for horse shows when I was growing up.

My version of the beautiful silent woman who is assigned to Hemlock to whip him into shape in the movie is a mulletted, laughing Coloradan, Kelly Cordes. He was here for the Polartec meeting as well, and is also getting back in the saddle with climbing after injuries.


Mix master Kelly Cordes, back in action in the ALPine

I've had ample time on rock, snow, snowy rock, ice and glacier while getting to know my gear, learning how to use my new camera and refreshing my climbing systems. There has been enough good weather to match the bad weather ("Good weather, bad weather, anytime's good for climbing!") and since I am away from home and work, the rest days have been truly restful, reading books, cooking, eating and enjoying great views and conversations with friends.

Climbing around Chamonix, photos by Kelly Cordes

So as I wind down my time here in France I am feeling excited and, for once, prepared for the expedition to come. The only problem is that now that I took the time to get fit and feel relaxed, I seem to have no excuses for not stepping up to the plate when the time comes in India!


Thanks to friends and hosts in France including Ruthann and the Polartec crew, Zoe, Max, Caroline, Adam, Kelly, Henry, Eliza, Patrick, Brittany and JT. Fun times all around!


More favorite Eiger Sanction quotes:
Woman Journalist: Tell me, Mr. Bowman, in your opinion do these men climb to prove their manhood, or is it more a matter of compensating for inferiority feelings?
Ben Bowman: Lady, why don't you go get yourself screwed. It would do you a lot of good.

Anderl Meier: You're very good. I have really enjoyed climbing with you.
Dr. Jonathan Hemlock: We'll make it.
Anderl Meier: I don't think so. But we shall continue with style.

Jemima Brown: Is this hotel always so crowded?
Dr. Jonathan Hemlock: Only when there's a climb. Then the Eiger birds start flocking in.
Jemima Brown: Eiger birds?
Dr. Jonathan Hemlock: Yeah, jet setters, assorted zombies, come here to watch a climb. If they're lucky, they get to see a man die on the mountain.
Jemima Brown: That's grim.
Dr. Jonathan Hemlock: So's the Eiger.


Newlyweds Zoe and Max have a first dance on the train to the reception

Caroline George on the Contamine Route, S. Face of the Ag. Du Midi

More photos from France are here

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Horizontal Alpinism


French poppies
"The idea of a circuit was devised by Fred Bernick as a sort of horizontal alpinism, a substitute for a mountaineering route..." -Fontainebleau Climbs by Jo and Francoise Montchausse and Jacky Godoffe
Bouldering was my climbing childhood. My friends and I must have done the nine-hour round trip drive from the University of New Hampshire to the Shawangunks to go bouldering at least a half dozen times before I ever even thought of roping up there. I even traveled to Nepal's Khumbu Valley in 2004 to go bouldering, just bouldering, in the shadows of the Himalaya's greatest peaks. It was the most accessible (read: cheapest) way into climbing for me as a college student, plus, a childhood of gymnastics and horseback riding/stall cleaning developed my shoulders for the powerful movement it requires.

So I went to the bouldering mecca of Fontainebleau to fulfill a dream that seeded itself more than a decade ago. But the times have certainly changed since then. This trip, I stopped in Font on my way to Chamonix to climb mountains.


All I'd heard about the magical forest of Fontainbleau is true: it really does have more climbable boulders strewn in a 1,000 kilometer area than I have ever seen anywhere. There really are four generations of French families out climbing together on any given day of the week, and the oldest of them are wearing the shortest shorts and climbing the hardest, scariest problems.


'Cul De Chien' (Head of the Dog - can you see it?)

I was a good alpinista and spent the first two of the three days I had there climbing Fontainebleau's classic moderate bouldering circuits, training for a mountain climbing summer just as the area was originally developed for, and just as French alpinists have been doing for more than seventy years. (Another curious thing about Font is those circuits. The boulders are painted with colored numbers and arrows to create hundreds of circuits for climbing. There are circuits for children, circuits for beginners to experts, circuits for crimping or for crack climbing, and everything in between. It is such the norm that routes that are not in a circuit are literally called 'off circuit'!)

But my boulderer instincts got the best of me by day three. I could not take my eyes off of the incredible lines of the harder routes that were 'off of our circuit'. We were having fun on our easy climbs, but the real boulderers, who were pushing themselves at their absolute physical and technical limits, were having a different kind of fun that I remembered very well. So with a few hours left in the day I finally gave in, stacked my crash pad with many others under the classic 'La Joker', and sat down to change my climbing shoes from the oversized pair that I needed to break in for mountain climbing this summer into more appropriate 'racing slippers'. I threw myself at it until I'd lost any reserves of fingertip skin and arm and core strength I had left.

Changing those shoes was like changing personalities and it felt great to get a glimpse of that self that I came to climbing from. Indeed, I aim to reacquaint myself more fully with that side soon. But first, I have some mountains to climb.

The scene in Fontainebleau

Stay tuned for more from France! Huge thanks to Jack and Catherine and all of our new friends from The Forest.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Eight-Mile Loop

Drizzle splashed on my cheeks and eyelashes as I jogged along the far side of an eight-mile loop behind our cabin in Madison, New Hampshire. A quickly thickening canopy of deciduous forest grew over the Class VI dirt road. I smiled, realizing that I felt no pain. That, and because I’d caught a glimpse of a shiny wet leather couch off to the side. It belonged there, an erratic, as if a glacier had played a practical joke.

My run-ins with chronic pain began in 2004, with an ankle injury from bouldering that I avoided proper treatment for. Nearly two years after the accident I finally had surgery, followed by a long recovery, and then promptly re-injured the same ankle when a hold broke while sport climbing in 2008. As I finally regained health in 2010, I came down with severe elbow tendonitis for 13 months (read my post from the throes of it here and if you are suffering from it go here for the guaranteed cure).

Now, in May 2011, encouraged by the security (and thus freedom) of marriage and the luxury of intentional underemployment, I am feeling especially lucky to have, and be able to take advantage of, full body health.

I know my ankle will not always be this way. My orthopedic surgeon, as he customized a pair of orthotics to help preserve the newly grown bone and what little cartilage is left in my right ankle, warned that I should carefully choose my running miles and long walks with heavy backpacks. He said his fix could last 1 year or 10 years, depending on how I treated it, and that I should keep my fingers crossed for better full ankle replacement technology in the meantime. So every mile I get to run without pain is a blessing, and every approach or descent with a 50+ pound pack is intentionally chosen.

I was on the 8-mile loop to prepare my body for the coming ‘Indian Summer’. I’ll meet my friends Emilie Drinkwater and Kirsten Kremer in Delhi, India, on July 3 and we’ll head north to the Eastern Indian Karakoram. Our main objective is an unnamed unclimbed 6,000 meter rock peak in the Saser Muztagh. Our secondary objective is to be nuisances to our trip leader Mark Richey (who will attempt a nearby peak with Steve Swenson and my husband Freddie), who says he hasn’t shared an expedition with women in more than 20 years because they ‘are trouble’.

My windshirt, now soaked with rain, stuck to my arms as I turned up Glines Hill Road, our local version of Heartbreak Hill, with a mile straight of steep climbing. Don’t Stop Believing by Journey came up in the workout mix, as if on cue. I’d never wandered beyond a 5-mile loop in our neighborhood, and even on this cruelly steep homestretch, I felt light, energized and thankful for health’s simple gift of an allowance to push one’s limits.

We are thrilled and honored to have received a Polartec Challenge Grant for the upcoming summer of fun and adventure. Thanks also to Mountain Hardwear, Petzl, Sterling Rope Company and La Sportiva for helping to make this dream a reality.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Greg Mortenson Must Step Down

Greg Mortenson must step down.


It is hard to say, but since none of my colleagues in the nonprofit industry have said it yet, I must take a stand for nonprofit business best practice.


To start with, here is a quick primer on the key legal responsibilities of nonprofit boards of directors (Boardsource, Legal Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards):

Duty of Care, or, "care that an ordinarily prudent person would exercise in a like position and under similar circumstances." A board member must exercise reasonable care when he or she makes a decision as a steward of the organization.

Duty of Loyalty is shown when a board member gives undivided allegiance when making decisions affecting the organization. “This means that a board member can never use information obtained as a member for personal gain, but must act in the best interests of the organization.”

Duty of Obedience requires board members to be faithful to the organization's mission and central goals. “A basis for this rule lies in the public's trust that the organization will manage donated funds to fulfill the organization's mission.”

Three facts, which can be drawn from the Central Asia Institute (CAI) website alone, bring all three of the above duties into question:


1. Greg is one of only three members of the CAI Board of Directors. The legal minimum is often five and sometimes (apparently in Montana where CAI was formed) three. By comparison, the average size of a nonprofit board is 16 members, and organizations with budgets of $10 million or greater (CAI's income was at least that every year since 2008) have an average size of 18 members (2010 Governance Index Survey). Anyone who has worked with a nonprofit organization of any size knows that there are hundreds of questions to consider annually with the three above duties in mind - so a reasonably sized board ensures due diligence, simply by way of managing the workload.


2. Greg is a board member and the organization’s highest paid executive. This is extremely rare in the nonprofit industry for two reasons: The executive has a long list of responsibilities already as the organization’s operational manager without also adding on board member work, and, the separation of board and staff simplifies board decision making because of obvious and constant considerations around conflict of interest when a paid staff member is voting. For example, one major board responsibility is to select and evaluate the executive director. So in the case of CAI, only two other board members are able to evaluate Greg’s performance and make salary decisions (assuming he takes himself out of those votes because of a conflict of interest/duty of loyalty).


3. The Montana Nonprofit Association, where CAI was founded, published as part of its nonprofit principles and practices that “a nonprofit with annual total revenues in excess of $500,000 should subject its financial reports to an annual audit by a certified public accountant.” The more regularly accepted best practice is to undergo an annual external audit once the budget hits $1 million. CAI has had annual revenues in excess of $500,000 since 2003, with only one external audit, ever. This does not follow duty of obedience, and shows a clear lack of transparency and accountability to thousands of donors.


Greg, as chief executive AND board member, IS responsible for these issues. There is no one to pass the blame to. I don’t care how shy he is or how quickly the organization grew. By agreeing to be executive director and board member, he took on the very highest duty of care.


These concerns, coupled with the fact that the organization was so dysfunctional as to not have, at the very least, a PR professional instantly on the ground seeking out 60 Minutes the moment they learned of the investigation, make me very worried about the overall health of CAI.


As a donor to CAI, I got a form email from Greg on Sunday night in which he answered none of the questions raised by the 60 Minutes story or Jon Krakauer, or even simply about the above concerns over generally accepted nonprofit best practices. It is clear to me he is unfit to run the organization, no matter how well intended he is, not matter how much good he has done in the past.


What he has done right is create a strong, timely mission that CAN survive this huge bump in the road – IF he and the other two board members have the sense of duty to step down right now.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Ides of March



March 15: The days are longer and the sun is stronger. The big question this time of year on the sunny days is whether to go rock climbing or into the mountains. Yesterday, the snow slogging won. I skinned up to the Hermit Lake Shelters to pick up Sarah, who is cooking for a film crew this week, and we headed over to Huntington Ravine to climb Odell's gully. It was a bit hairy with some weird wind slab snow in places, but nonetheless a fun day, as they always seem to be with her.











Gear for a splitter spring day on Mt Washington:
Mountain Hardwear Chockstone Jacket
Polartec Test Jacket
La Sportiva Spantik Boot
Petzl Selena Harness
Sterling Marathon Half Rope

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

New Tricks


My friend Mark has been on a major climbing expedition for 18 of the past 20 summers.

He and his savvy wife Teresa also own a hugely successful and highly respected custom woodworking business in Massachusetts that they built from scratch. The high value they place on travel means that the business has always been able to run with or without them (One of their great adventures was pulling their teenage daughter out of school for a year to tour Teresa’s home country of Peru in a Range Rover). I dig their style; living ‘outside the box’, always accepting of risk, and having a ton of fun along the way, and I consider them among my strongest role models.

I will be lucky enough to share base camp with Mark this summer in India, and my husband Freddie will be one of his climbing partners, so we’ve all been training together when possible.

Freddie and Mark spent the night in Huntington Ravine on Mount Washington in January to test some gear, and Freddie suggested they use alpine touring skis for the approach and descent instead of hiking (an alpine touring set up has special bindings that allow one to wear mountaineering boots or ski boots, and can be set to hinge on the toe like a cross country ski for climbing).

“You really think it will be faster to ski?” Mark asked Freddie.

Freddie said he should have known that Mark hadn’t been skiing much when he asked that question. Their descent did take about as long as hiking would have, as Mark was slow and took several falls.

This past weekend the three of us went to Mount Washington again and decided to again use touring skis. Mark, who’d spent 20+ years religiously hiking the Tuckerman trail to approach winter climbs on Mount Washington to train for his expeditions, was fully converted. He’d only used skis since that day with Freddie.

We had a blast climbing Huntington Ravine and on to the summit in whiteout conditions, but when we got back down to our skis it was my turn to be nervous about skiing in mountaineering boots. I’d only recently switched to an alpine touring set up from telemark, and was still feeling claustrophobic about having my heels locked down. Picturing a torn ACL or worse, I told them I was content to leave my skins on and glide slowly down, or even carry my skis if necessary.

“You really should just try it,” urged Mark. “It is a great opportunity since you have a light pack and the snow is in good condition…and it will be fun!” he said over his shoulder as he slid off.

‘Great opportunity’, I grumbled to myself.

I realized there were two ways to think of it: 1) I’d had a great day and could leave it on a good note or 2) Why not allow the possibility for a great day to end even better, and learn something along the way?

I peeled the skins off, locked the heels down and went for it, and that day Mark passed the ‘most recent convert’ status on to me. He also proved, once again, how to be a role model.




Photos by Freddie Wilkinson

Gear for climbing Mount Washington:

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Newfoundland Adventure

It must be dark, cold January in New Hampshire, as I’ve found myself nostalgically recalling stories from a rock climbing trip to Newfoundland with Sarah Garlick and Kirsten Kremer in 2009.

The adventure started at friends Alycia and Timmy’s wedding on Cape Cod in late August. We picked up Kremer at Boston Logan airport the next morning, proceeded to New Hampshire to pack Sarah’s Previa minivan and continued on the 18 hour journey to ‘the island’. We had only a few weeks to play before Sarah’s wedding back in New Hampshire.


Once in Francois (pronounced France-way by locals, and only accessible by boat), we were essentially adopted by ‘the Georges’, George Durnford and George Fudge, and their families, who fed us food and information, gave us a ride to ‘Camp Paradise’ on the trusty Royal Oak, a beautiful cod fishing boat, and loaned us Rojito the red dingy and a few mismatched paddles to get around from our beach camp to various cliffs in Shaleur Bay.
The hospitality didn’t end there. They checked in on us regularly, offering a towline between climbs and camp on several occasions. George even gave us a lift across the bay one afternoon to drink sweet wine and munch freshly steamed mussels as the sun went down with a dozen other Francois-ans.



The day they came to pick us up to head home, there was a huge rack of antlers mounted on the front of Royal Oak. Moose hunting season had begun that day, so they’d spent the previous night camped out in the next bay over, succeeded in a kill at dawn, dragged it out, butchered it and loaded it up all before even picking us up that morning. We drank rum and cokes in celebration of our dual successes, and the Georges’ were received like heroes when they pulled into the Francois harbor with a boat full of women and meat.


The climbing? It was pretty good too. Check out the little video to see for yourself.

(Above photos by Kirsten, Sarah and me.)

Newfoundland: Wedding Sandwich Climbing Trip from janet bergman on Vimeo.

Some gear we used:

Mountain Hardwear Trango Tent

Mountain Hardwear Women’s Ultra Lamina Sleeping Bag

La Sportiva Women’s Katana

Sterling Marathon Ropes

Petzl Selena Harness

Sea to Summit dry bags and stuff sacks

Thanks to Joe Terrevechia and Karin Bates for photos and information that made the trip possible and to Jim Surette for being a patient husband-to-be while the girls went to play!