Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Sponsorship in the Modern World

Here's a photo from a news site posted publicly on Facebook that pretty much sums it up:

Back in the days of mega-expeditions with hundreds of porters and horrendous environmental impact, climbing on the backs of a pyramid of logistical support, sponsorship meant the equivalent of millions of dollars and banners and flags and photo ops. Anyone remember the Nike ads from K2 1978?

Over time this evolved into mega-cool climbers using the gear or waving flags or whatever in return for funding the trip. That hasn't changed much over time as a general rule.

For a while, there was a wave of "everyman" climbers. Normal family guys and business people riding the edge of the coolness wave showing that it was possible to balance a normal family and employment life with climbing and mountaineering. Then the noose tightened and the wave switched to freakishness. You'd then find "first left-handed, right eye dominant, 5'9" red head to climb Everest in purple" and the like. These became so silly that the corporations sought to distance themselves from the lot.

But how do you define cool? According to an article in one of the major climbing magazines a couple years ago (old enough that without signing up I can't get to it from the websites), climbers started doing insanely stupid stunts to get funding. The bottom line of the slightly tongue in cheek article was that spending 100 hours scamming for a free pair of shoes that you could get by working at McD for 10 hours seemed like a bad use of time.

When I was at the Winter OR Show in SLC January 2014 I was slightly offended and appalled at the number of people there trying to get free gear and sponsorship from almost every single booth. It explained why some booths had rigid security systems in place to keep you from going in and seeing their goods unless you were a properly registered media or buyer with an appointment with the rep you already had relations with.

Carstensz - Logo Wear Festival at the Summit

In my "Carstensz, Stone Age to Iron Age" book HERE I explained how all of the "guides" abandoned us at the summit so they could take their slew of photos with sponsor jackets and banners and goodies and cards and plaques. It was with absolutely no level of exaggeration in the hundreds! They were loading new memory cards in between shots. They changed their jackets and t-shirts and hats to get all the photos in. Instead of rescue gear they carried backpacks full of sponsor logos. We were on our own for the entire descent aside from a guide we had to actually threaten to help us across the Tyrolean Traverse by helping to belay us on the transition from the overhanging rock to the cable harness.

And I still haven't even touched the surface of the charity climbers who live off their charities, another of the dirty little secrets stifled by the code of silence that seems to permeate the climbing world. For a brief introduction I can refer you to Krakauer's Three Cups of Deceit.

While lots of modern people make fun of the jolly old days of gentlemen climbers using up their savings, investments, and trust funds to support their life of adventure, before long, it will be back to these good old days and the paychecks will be scant in quantity and amount.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Crowded Trails with Nowhere to Go

I'm a member of the R2R2R group mentioned in this article on Trail Crowds in the Grand Canyon HERE in which it's apparent that runners are of course being blamed for dropping trash all over the trails. Oddly, I rarely see a runner carry more than a few goo packets and water bottles. And a few dozen runners here and there on crowded days means maybe 72 goo wrappers, assuming they all drop their trash along the trail.

Sorry NPS but I think that the thousands of daily gumbie hikers carrying their poptarts and pringles cans in one hand and their dasani in the other are more likely to be contributors. I also wonder about the tons of daily mule poop deposits.

Quandary in Winter - normally only a handful of others up there
I actually did a fast-pack trip from the rim to the ranch and back way back in the 70's. Before it was cool. Even then, there were a few hundred other people on the trail with various levels of consideration for Mom Nature. As well, you couldn't go 50' without stepping in stuff that came out of one of three ends of a mule.

If you've been following my exploits over the past few years you might have noticed that as of June 2014 I haven't been doing any of the 14ers like I did in the previous half dozen years in which I did one a month or more. For one thing, I've been in a strange sort of denial/funk/mourning after the death of a great guy I climbed with or near a few times in Ouray. It was due to a disaster on Liberty Ridge and it hit me hard.

For another I just can't find myself tolerating the crowds like I used to. I do like to run, and go fast, and enjoy the feeling of pushing my body into new areas of endurance pain. Contrary to the old school with their 40 pound packs for a day hike, it's not all about counting blades of grass and goat pics. Though I have still hit PR's while taking a few minutes out for my own goat pics.

Line to the Summit of Torreys. We took the Kelso Ridge and even that had a couple hundred hikers.
Contrary to the opinions of the non-hikers suddenly on the trails walking in 20' wide groups ambling, stopping suddenly to rest on the flats, dumping their packs in the middle of the trails and sorting through for a snack, etc. you should respect your fellow outdoor enthusiast and allow them the freedom to use the trail in spite of you.

It's gotten pretty dangerous to go fast on the 14ers around here. I've had a few run-ins with illegally unleashed dogs. all of whose owners insisted that their dog did not in fact jump under my feet causing me to fall. I suppose I have a vivid imagination or they are in cahoots. I've come around a corner to find groups of people laying in the middle of the trail whimpering and fighting and they get angry when I run around them.

Downhill is probably the least safe area to pass, but even uphill can be a challenge. Using Quandary as an example, normally when I start at the parking lot any "normal" hikers below the rocky point at 13,200' will be passed by me as I head to the summit. On a weekend that would be a few hundred. In the trees that's tough, but on the steep parts it's not too hard to pass on the scree and talus and still be off the fragile tundra.

And unlike them, I won't hang out trying to feed the goats or get a selfie with my arm around their necks. I've actually seen it happening. If it were the aforementioned classic hikers that I had to deal with, it's all well and good. In the big scheme of things we're all on the same page, enjoying the mountain in slightly different ways. They will respect their fellow hikers and step aside gracefully. But to be impeded by the usual circus act that the 14ers are quickly becoming, that's another thing entirely. And the weekdays are becoming almost as bad.

It's difficult to say though, since someone from these groups will fall in love, catch the bug, and come back time and again, and before long they'll have a 40 pound pack on with 10 pound boots enjoying the freedom of the hills, and it was all worthwhile.

So I haven't been up this summer. It hasn't felt worth the risk of injury to myself or others to enjoy these peaks in my own way. I've been running on mountain bike trails where it's actually a whole lot safer. Seriously. MTB riders seem to have a good sense of courtesy and we share the trails nicely. I've even passed a few.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Elbrus Weather at Barrels 6 July

Weather forecast for the Barrels huts on Elbrus as of 6 July 2014.

Elbrus Summit Weather 6 July

Summit weather as of 6 July 2014.