The Weekly Stoke: Cheating on Everest, a really young climber, trail running tips and a new run streak record

Mount Everest. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

Mount Everest. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

Happy Friday everyone! National Trails Day is tomorrow, so I hope you all get out there and enjoy some outside time. Until then, here are some links to get you going.

It seems that beyond tales of heroism and tragedy, Mount Everest also cannot escape controversy. A Chinese climber who stayed behind after everyone left Everest’s south side is taking some heat after her successful summit, with allegations that she “cheated” to get to the top.

More from Everest: A 13-year-old girl from India became the youngest female to climb the mountain.

Thinking about making the switch from road to trail running? Here is a list of 21 tips for beginner trail runners.

And finally, here is a story about a California man who set a run streak record — he ran every day for 45 years. And change.

The Weekly Stoke: Deadly avalanche in the Himalayas, a new kind of trail running, pot growing consequences and flying off the top of Everest

Kanchenjunga. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

Kanchenjunga. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

Summer is just about here! May your plans for the coming months include a whole lot of outdoor adventure. Let’s get started on this edition of the Weekly Stoke…

Mountaineering in the Himalayas goes beyond Mount Everest, and the other peaks are as dangerous or more than the world’s highest peak. Such is the case when an avalanche killed three climbers on Kanchenjunga, the world’s third-highest mountain.

Trail and road races are great, but a new trend called “fastest known time” on solo trail runs is now a growing trend. Something that may appeal to the hardcore trail runners who prefer blazing a trail in solitude.

Illegal pot growing isn’t just creating crime issues. Illegal grows on public lands are also causing significant ecological problems.

And finally, check out this story about Nepali Sherpas who paraglided off the summit of Mount Everest in 2011.

Everest, ethics, and dying in the name of adventure tourism

Part of a line of hundreds of climbers make their way up Mount Everest. (Guardian photo)

Part of a line of hundreds of climbers make their way up Mount Everest. (Guardian photo)

I’ve intentionally laid off from writing about what happened on Mount Everest a couple of weeks ago, when 16 Sherpa guides were killed by a massive avalanche while hauling loads up the Khumbu Icefall.

To get a couple of preliminaries out of the way, the icefall is considered the most dangerous part of the mountain on the Nepalese side, and those going up the southern standard route are required to go through this treacherous place multiple times.

This is even moreso the case for Sherpa guides and Western outfitters — they’re the ones hauling loads, setting fixed lines and establishing camps higher up the mountain. In particular, the risk undertaken by Nepalese guides is the highest, as they go up and down the peak much more frequently than their Western partners and their high-paying clientele.

Certainly, there is a lot about the Everest scene that is different from what most of us know as “mountaineering.” Maybe it’s time to have an honest discussion about that.

If you look at the photograph below, I don’t think any of us would mistake what going on there as “mountaineering.”

A conga line of hikers going up the cables on Half Dome. (NPS photo)

A conga line of hikers going up the cables on Half Dome. (NPS photo)

That’s Half Dome, one of the iconic peaks of Yosemite National Park. Cables attached to bolted-in rails assist hikers up its steep, bare summit pitch, making it possible to ascend what would otherwise be a very difficult and dangerous climb. Thanks to the cables, any hiker with the mettle to hike to that spot and the nerve to finish the task here can stand atop Half Dome and enjoy some pretty amazing summit views.

So take a look at the next picture below.

The Everest conga line. (eightsummits.com photo)

The Everest conga line. (eightsummits.com photo)

What you’re looking at is just part of a line of hundreds of climbers — all attached to fixed line — heading up Mount Everest. To be sure, the air is thin, the pitch is steep and they are all carrying the gear needed to ascend (though most of these folks will go up and down the peak without ever having to use the ice axe affixed to their packs).

But is what they are doing really mountaineering? Are they using any of the required skills of mountain climbing? What percentage of them would know what their ice axe is for, and how/when to use it? Surely a lot of them would, but I’ll bet there are others who would not.

In any case, the overwhelming majority of the people who make a summit attempt on Everest are not the folks we’d normally associate with the term “mountaineer.” They may have mountaineering experience, but more likely they are people with a lot of money who pay others to do the bulk of the work to make a summit attempt successful. What’s left for the paying client is the task of 1) doing what you’re told by your guides; 2) getting dressed and geared up each morning; and 3) physically willing yourself to the top.

I want to stop here to note that for these climbers, a successful Everest summit is a real accomplishment. It takes a lot of heart, toughness and discipline to make that trek.

But I’d also say that if not for the huge levels of support they receive, almost none of them would ever sniff the summit. Instead, Everest would be left to the Ed Viesturses and Simone Moros of the mountaineering world — the people who could actually plan and execute a climb by way of their own skills and experience.

So that leads me back to where I started. What would you call the Everest climbing scene, if it is not really mountaineering?

In a word, tourism. Very expensive ($60,000 per person and up) and very dangerous tourism.

Paying clients risk their lives doing this. All of them could be injured or killed by avalanches, pulmonary edema, cerebral edema, hypothermia, a fall or any number of other pitfalls that come with scaling the world’s highest peaks. But they keep signing up, in bigger numbers, paying handsomely for the privilege.

Guide services in the U.S, Europe, Australia and Asia reap the rewards of this, and the guides they employ find work doing what they love as well as opportunities to advance their careers. Those guys also risk their lives, and as we saw in Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air,” sometimes they die.

But the biggest risks fall on the Nepalese and Tibetan guides. They haul more loads, fix more ropes and cross dangerous terrain more times than anyone else. They’re also paid the least, and unlike the paying clients, they don’t get to go home to lives of affluence. Sherpa guides earn far more money than their non-climbing countrymen, but their wages are significantly less than what you see in the developed world.

And now we have 16 dead Sherpas, buried by snow and ice as they were hauling loads and fixing ropes while traversing the nastiest part of the mountain last month.

These guys left behind families who, despite the insurance they may have had, are facing difficult times without the main wage earner around anymore. And lest we forget, economic opportunities for surviving family members in Nepal are far, far fewer than what we experience here.

The morality of this system looks a little questionable. Never mind the semi-imperialistic feel of it all — wealthy Westerners hiring locals to do the heavy lifting for small wages, all for the sake of earning a shot of personal glory before returning home. People are making their livelihoods — and risking their lives — all for the sake of what is really just tourism.

Read that again: Sixteen Sherpa guides died trying to satisfy the personal goals of tourists.

I don’t know what the answer is. Certainly, I’d like to see people continue to climb the world’s biggest peaks. I’d like to see folks who make those dreams happen get compensated fairly for what they do. But maybe the money involved in Himalayan adventure tourism is pushing people to take risks that are unfairly costing those who can least afford it.

A lot of high-paying clients on the south side of Everest went home disappointed this month when Nepalese guides shut down operations for the season. No doubt, many of them are wishing they had signed on to climb from the north side, where expeditions are still going on.

But at least they got to go home. Sixteen Nepalese men did not.

I’m going to keep climbing mountains, but it’s going to be with my friends, on much lower-profile peaks here in the U.S. Funds, time and limitations in my own experience/skills dictate that. If I had the ability and resources to try one of the Himalayan giants, I’d sure be tempted to go.

But I’m just not sure I’d feel right about going to Everest in light of what we know of that scene today.

Bob Doucette

The Weekly Stoke: Sherpas killed on Everest, Ueli Steck’s ascent questioned, marathon tips and the country’s least outdoorsy cities

Mount Everest. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

Mount Everest. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

So sorry for missing last week, but sometimes life happens and you have to step away. But we’re back with the Weekly Stoke, and trust me, there’s plenty to talk about! So let’s get to it.

First off, the biggest news in the outdoors world, and it’s not good. An avalanche killed at least 12 Sherpas near Camp 1 on Mount Everest, and the search is on for more guides who are still missing. The tragedy makes it the deadliest single day in the history of climbing that mountain.

Staying in the Himalayas, there is some controversy concerning Ueli Steck’s solo ascent of Annapurna.

Thinking about relocating to a new city? If you are into outdoorsy activities in your city, there are some places that don’t cut it, according to this list.

Here is a list of tips for people running their first marathon.

And speaking of that, this blogger has some tips on how to properly carb load pre-race.

Do you have a list of excuses keeping you from getting out there, or how well you “perform?” This writer wants to have a word with you.

And finally, here’s a Q&A from a guy who is walking across the country.

The Weekly Stoke: Exploring the Yukon, Mount Everest bypass, long run advice and getting paid for biking to work

bike

Greetings to spring breakers and parents of spring breakers! May your week be filled with either sun-kissed beaches or fresh powder. For the rest of us, well, all of that sounds good to me! So let’s get on with the Weekly Stoke…

A woman pulled the ultimate “disappearing act,” then joined the search party that was, well, looking for her. All of this occurred accidentally, of course.

Authorities in Nepal are marketing other high peaks to ease congestion on Mount Everest.

Need some advice on how to tackle your long training runs? This blogger has some good ideas.

This is some good storytelling on exploring the Yukon River.

First of two from Outside Magazine: Some advice on how to balance family life, ultra training and cross training in your life.

And lastly: In some European countries, you can get paid by the kilometer for the mileage you rack up on the daily commute — as long as your commuter vehicle is a bike.

The Weekly Stoke: BASE jumping Mt. Everest, trail running tips, reality TV in Alaska and living simply and in style

Mount Everest. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

Mount Everest. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

Winter won’t let go, but that’s OK. No reason not to get out there and get after it. With that in mind, here are a few stories to get you in the mood for tackling the next big challenge. Let’s do the Weekly Stoke!

Joby Ogwyn has an audacious plan. Part of it involves climbing Mount Everest. The other part: jumping off the summit and flying to base camp in a wingsuit.

A new trend that marries travel and fitness is emerging in cities across the globe: Sight running.

One of two from the Adventure Journal today: A writer looks at the impact reality television is having in Alaska.

Thinking about running your first trail half marathon? Be warned, it ain’t anything like a road race. Here are some tips on how to prepare.

This writer looks at the life of a friend who hasn’t lost perspective on the fact that life should be enjoyed.

And finally, there’s this second offer from AJ: An essay on living simply, being interesting, and doing it in style.

The Weekly Stoke: Adventure in Afghanistan, Grand Canyon goals, Chris McCandless photos and uncommon courage on Mount Everest

The Grand Canyon. (wikipedia commons photo)

The Grand Canyon. (wikipedia commons photo)

Thanksgiving and a big race got in my way a bit lately. But the Weekly Stoke is back! And at a great time. Yesterday was this blog’s second anniversary. I’ll get into more of that at another time, but for now, let’s celebrate Proactiveoutside’s second birthday with some great links for you to read on this cold, snowy day.

There’s “adventure,” and then there’s real adventure. These guys went looking for it in the mountains of Afghanistan. Yes, they climbed some peaks. But they got a whole lot more than that.

Let’s talk challenge. This blogger and outdoor enthusiast has set quite a goal for a rim-to-rim-to-rim hike of the Grand Canyon.

After two decades, the family of Chris McCandless (of “Into the Wild” fame) has released a series of never-before seen photos of this man’s vagabond life in the West and his ultimate end in the Alaskan bush. A book with these photos is forthcoming.

This writer has a good list of things she wants her daughter to know about working out.

Long-distance running star Alberto Salazar has a list of his own, 10 Golden Rules of Running.

And finally, here’s a story about how this woman helped a violent situation on Mount Everest stop short of being deadly.

Enjoy your weekend!

The Weekly Stoke: Tragedy on Everest, kids and nature, running form and the perils of living in a mountain town

Mount Everest's north face. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

Mount Everest’s north face. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

Snows are falling, and people are thinking about the slopes. Elsewhere, fall race season is in full swing. Hopefully you’re gearing up and getting out there. On that note, here’s the latest Weekly Stoke!

Sad news from Mount Everest, where four people were recently killed in a massive avalanche on the mountain’s north side.

A fascinating story with a few surprising findings out of the UK in terms of how much — or little — kids are connecting to nature these days. I’d like to see a study like this expanded here to the U.S.

Are you a heel striker? Mid-foot striker? This piece examines the pros and cons of both running forms.

More fun with science: This story goes a little deeper into how exercise affects the brain.

And finally: Have you ever fantasized about moving out of the ‘burbs and living the dream in a mountain town? Like Durango? Outdoor paradise? Yes. But apparently a housing and job market nightmare. There’s a major downside or two about life in those idyllic mountain towns.

To those of you racing this weekend, best wishes! For the rest of you, get out there and live large.

The Weekly Stoke: Obstacle course races, Mount Everest news, tragedy on Mount Hood, ice climbing and the future of U.S. groundwater

For the younger set, August is the time when you’re gearing for school. The rest of us have been working anyway. And in between that, well, hopefully you’ve been doing something awesome. Speaking of awesome, you need to check out what I’ve got here for you on this edition of the Weekly Stoke!

This diagram from Outside Online should help you pick which obstacle course race you should do:

Outside Online

Outside Online

Authorities in Nepal, hoping to get a handle on the circus that has become the Everest spring climbing season, intend to regulate the mountain more.

A snowboarder’s body was recovered on Mount Hood.

Here is part satire, part truth, in terms of nutrition product reviews.

This report does not bode well for the future of U.S. groundwater supplies.

And finally, a pretty sweet ice climbing video. Enjoy!

The Weekly Stoke: Don’t dump on Denali, violence at Nanga Parbat, surfing glacial waves and a time-lapse video on Everest

Alaska's Denali, North America's highest peak.

Alaska’s Denali, North America’s highest peak.

Well, I’m a slacker. No Weekly Stoke last week, as I was a little too busy being outside. My bad. But we’re back this week with some pretty interesting stories from the world of the outdoors and more. So, without further delay, here’s the latest:

John Krakauer is one of the most famous outdoors writers around (“Into the Wild,” “Into Thin Air”), and Conrad Anker is mountaineering royalty. But even these guys get in trouble when they decide to take a dump on Denali.

Could running 200 miles actually be easier than running 100 miles? This article makes that claim.

One surfer goes to extremes to find the perfect wave. As in the kinds of waves caused by glacial calving.

Gotta hand it to the Taliban. The same guys who have perfected the IED, tried to assassinate a school girl, throw acid on women’s faces and do everything in their power to use violence to lord over others have now lashed out at mountaineers and trekkers. Ten trekkers in Pakistan were murdered near Nanga Parbat, one of that country’s famed 8,000-meter peaks.

More adventure tourism woes: These tourists got stuck on an ice floe and were trapped on it after it broke free.

Here’s a list of six exercises where people often get hurt.

It seems there is some sort of stomach bug going around in Yellowstone.

Lastly, here’s a cool time-lapse video from Mount Everest. Enjoy your time outside!