Ernest Shackleton made perhaps the most remarkable and famous open boat voyage in recorded history. And for that he is one of my heroes… someone whose tale I look to for inspiration when I am deep in the throes of life and exploration.

Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage

Shackleton had set out to make the first crossing of Antarctica. However, Shackleton and his crew of 27 men never reached the cold continent. Their ship, the Endurance, became locked in the pack ice.

For ten months the ship and the crew drifted with the pack ice, until the immense pressure of the shifting ice crushed the Endurance. With the Endurance lost, they camped on the pack ice for almost four months, until the ice became too unstable, living off seal and penguin meat.

But they had salvaged three lifeboats from the Endurance before it sank. The lifeboats had been retrofitted as sailboats and this allowed the men to take to the water and sail for Elephant Island, where they arrived after a tough two-week journey. And here is where one of the greatest feats of navigation commenced.

Shackleton, with a crew of five of his best, set sail in the James Caird, the strongest of the modified lifeboats, for South Georgia Island where there was a whaling station. They sailed across the southern Atlantic Ocean to South Georgia Island, a distance of 800 nautical miles. Eventually, every crew member would be rescued.

Alfred Lansing’s book, “Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage,” is a detailed and easy to read account of the failed expedition, the crew’s struggle for survival, and their successful rescue. Through this story, we see Shackleton as an exceptional leader who made hard and fast decisions that determined the fate of the entire crew.

The book gives readers a good feel for the psychological struggles that take place in any expedition. Lansing, writing at a time when many of the crew members were still alive, endeavored to gather as many viewpoints as possible from the crew. And this gives readers a deeper understanding of the struggles and their outcomes.

Whether you are an adventurer, a business person, or an armchair enthusiast, you need to know the story of Ernest Shackleton’s great feat of survival and navigation, and Alfred Lansing does a good job of telling it.

Gaston Rébuffat is one of my climbing heroes. I admire him for his list of ascents (including great north faces of the Alps), his style, his approach to the art of the climb, and his life in general. He comes off as a sincere person.

Starlight and Storm

Starlight and Storm

This edition of Starlight and Storm includes a wonderful and in-depth introduction from David Roberts. Jon Krakauer is the series editor, but he makes no real contribution to the book other than a boilerplate that the publisher cut and pasted into several other titles in the series. Yet for some reason Krakauer’s name is in a larger font size than Roberts. So, for those of you who are not fans of Krakauer, fear not, he has not ruined this great book!

While reading the introduction and the story of Rébuffat’s slow death to cancer, I was struck by the realization of one of the greatest tragedies that befalls climbers. The mountains we love go on, as do the routes we climbed, but we must die so soon, never to love them again. This is the tragedy that slowly unfolded for Rébuffat in his final years.

Rébuffat’s writing is lyrical, engaging, and invigorating. It stirs the climber’s spirit—encourages us to get out of the house and climb! But the writing is also deeply romantic. And as I have said before, climbing, as an activity, was founded in the ideals of romanticism. And those same ideals carry on in modern climbing.

The man who bivouacs becomes one with the mountain. On his bed of stone, leaning against the great wall, facing empty space which has become his friend, he watches the sun fade over the horizon on his left, while on his right the sky spreads its mantle of stars. At first he is wakeful, then, if he can, he sleeps; then at last he stays awake and watches. On his right the sun will return, having made its great voyage below this shield of scattered diamonds.

In Starlight and Storm, we see Gaston Rébuffat as someone who is not only concerned with moving over and through the mountains. He is someone who wants to be with the mountains. To feel the mountains. To understand the mountains as one seeks to understand a lover. And to delight in the hidden gems that are revealed with time.

I wanted to experience the sense of discovery. For in every climb there is more than just the act of climbing and the view: there is also the mystery.

Starlight and Storm is a must read for all climbers and for anyone seeking to understand why we climb.

Adventure Blog Roundup

The Adventure Blog Roundup is something I have been thinking about for a while now. In my internet and real-world wanderings I come across a lot of other folks doing cool stuff and really getting after it.

The Adventure Blog Roundup will be an ongoing series of posts to highlight the awesome things that these adventurers and explorers are doing.

And with that introduction out of the way, I will now introduce you to a couple of cool adventurers: a guy and a gal.

First, we have Dave Cornthwaite. He can be found at: www.davecornthwaite.com.

Dave is doing something he calls Expedition1000. Expedition1000 is “25 journeys of 1000 miles or more, each using a different form of non-motorised transport.” So far, he’s finished 10 expeditions. Along the way Cornthwaite is trying to raise £1,000,000 for charity. Pretty cool. Oh, and Dave seems to have a lot of fun along the way.

Second, we have Kate Harris. She can be found at: http://kateharris.ca.

Kate bills herself as a “writer and wannabe explorer with a grudge against borders and a knack for getting lost.” She just received the 2014 Scott Pearlman Field Award from The Explorers Club (a $10,000 value) for her upcoming Borderski journey, which will document the effect of fences on migratory animals and to encourage people to “think beyond borders.”

Enjoy!

I remember my first summer in the Sierra. It was a good one. Yosemite Valley: the East Buttress of Middle Cathedral with Henrich; cragging with Lori, Jean, Sean, and crew; naps by the Merced; shenanigans with Rich. Tuolumne: Cathedral Peak; Matthes Crest; more shenanigans. Bishop: wanderings on Mt. Williamson with Dan; and deer antlers.

My First Summer in the Sierra

My First Summer in the Sierra

I believe it is near impossible for anyone to have a bad first summer in the Sierra. There is no bias or first-hand experience to influence the first timer. Instead, there are only first impressions and the imagination. And the Sierra does not disappoint. Fantasize all day; look at photos; read books. But in the end, when you finally arrive after all of that dreaming, the real deal will take first place.

As you journey toward the Range of Light, read about Muir’s first summer in the Sierra, for only when you arrive and see it with your own eyes will you truly understand—and feel—his manic passion.

You can pick up an illustrated edition from my publishing company here.

When I’m lost in the mire of work and life, I like to escape from my desk and responsibilities for a walk amid the woods or down an empty country gravel lane. These walks help me to re-center my thoughts and priorities, for during the hustle of the day these often become focused on things that are of no importance. The walks also—and perhaps more importantly—force me to interact with the world as it really is: muddy, dusty, smelly, cold, sweaty, wild, and—often—absolutely perfect.

Walking: Annotated Edition

Walking: Annotated Edition

If you take away all of our societal obligations and duties, all we have left to do is walk around and be amazed with what we see. Get rid of the car. Get rid of the bicycle. Throw out the TV and the computer. Walk to Goodwill and give them those dusty board games that were played once and already are missing a piece. Downsize the city mansion for a well-worn, one-room cabin. Get rid of these things and we need less money to live, and thus we can work less and live more. Now what to do with all of this newfound free time? Walk! Strip us of all of our possessions and what are we? We are simple human beings equipped with legs and arms for walking and scrambling over the globe. And we have been blessed with eyes, ears, a nose, a tongue, and touch through which we can experience this wild world of ours.

And out of this wild world was born Thoreau—a wild man that civilization could not box. Pay a poll tax? He preferred imprisonment. The latest fashion? How about a decades old suit? A beard to attract the ladies? One word: neckbeard.

So what can we learn from this wildly independent person? We can learn to see the world as it is. We can learn to enjoy the world as it is. And we can learn to embrace the world as it is.

“Walking” is a book that should be reread each year and before any journey. I know that I benefit from this exercise.

The Annotated Edition is available from my publishing company here.

During high school and college, I spent a lot of time developing my wilderness skills. I made campfires in the rain. I built simple shelters for protection from bad weather. I searched for edible plants. And I tracked wildlife, day and night.

College was in the city and far from anything resembling wilderness. As a result, I was constantly in need of something to remind me of the woods. Oddly enough, in the dark, lonely corners of the library, tucked between dusty stacks of books, I found traces of the wildness that my mind and soul needed.

Woodcraft and Camping by George Washington SearsOne book opened my eyes to the private oasis that lay in the library basement. The book had the simple title of “Woodcraft.” Hmm, what’s this? The edition was printed in the early 1940s. The last time someone checked it out was in the 1970s. Promising. I flipped through the pages and found illustrations of custom hatchet handles and rough shelters. Then I read a few paragraphs. There were recipes for natural mosquito repellent and instructions for moving through unknown terrain. I was hooked. I learned that woodcraft, as a movement, is about more than mastery of rote skills. It is an applied philosophical approach and understanding of civilization, the natural world, and our place in them.

On weekend nights, I washed dishes at a wedding hall. Once, I told an older coworker that I was a woodsman and practiced woodcraft. A look of surprise came over his face. Dude, you’re in porn?! It goes without saying that my future efforts to educate him on woodcraft failed, miserably.

Nessmuk’s “Woodcraft and Camping” is a fantastic introduction to the skills and philosophy of woodcraft. I hope that the practice of woodcraft leads you to the wonderful sanctuaries to be found amidst civilization and nature.

You can pick up a copy from my publishing company here.

 

Open road, where will you take me?

Open road, where will you take me?

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Summer Lovin’

Sunset from Half Dome with wildfire smoke on the horizon.
Perfect bivy on Washington Column.

Perfect bivy on Washington Column.

Sunset from Half Dome with wildfire smoke on the horizon.

Sunset from Half Dome with wildfire smoke on the horizon.

Royal Arches, North Dome, and Washington Column from a ledge on Glacier Point Apron.

Royal Arches, North Dome, and Washington Column from a ledge on Glacier Point Apron.

Yosemite Photos

Sunset from the wall
The Alcove on El Capitan

The Alcove on El Capitan

A rainy day hike

A rainy day hike

Sunset from the wall

Sunset from the wall

Sunset in El Cap Meadow

Sunset in El Cap Meadow

Only those who …

Only those who have experienced bad weather at great heights can understand how impossible it is to proceed in the face of it. The strongest, the hardiest, the most resolute must yield.

~ Hudson Stuck in The Ascent of Denali

Mountain climbe…

Mountain climbers belong legitimately to the great unwashed.

~ Hudson Stuck in The Ascent of Denali

There is a thin…

There is a thin line, however, between mere wretchedness and thrilling, action-packed agony. In 1967, the first party to climb in Alaska’s Revelation Mountains, finding themselves stormed on for more than forty of their fifty-two days in the range, managed to stay on the right side of that line almost continuously.

~ Jon Krakauer in Eiger Dreams

Having an adven…

Having an adventure shows that someone is incompetent, that something has gone wrong. An adventure is interesting enough in retrospect, especially to the person who didn’t have it; at the time it happens it usually constitutes an exceedingly disagreeable experience.

~ Vilhjalmur Stefansson in My Life with the Eskimo

One cannot conc…

One cannot conceive grander burial than that which lofty mountains bend and crack and shatter to make, or a nobler tomb than the great upper basin of Denali; but life is sweet and all men are loath to leave it, and certainly never men who cling to life had more cause to be thankful.

~ Hudson Stuck in The Ascent of Denali

The French, whe…

The French, when it comes right down to it, look at risky sports—and sports in general—in a fundamentally different way than Americans do. We go in for team sports like baseball and football, and the athletic heroes we hold up for our kids to emulate tend to be cast in the squeaky-clean Orel Hershiser mold. The French, in marked contrast, are notorious individualists with a fondness for the sensational deed, the stylish twist, the dramatic solitary act; their athletic role models tend to chain-smoke Gitanes, drive irresponsibly fast, and excel at activities like long-distance windsurfing or soloing 5.12 rock climbs.

~ Jon Krakauer in Eiger Dreams

Remember: the s…

Remember: the simpler you make things, the richer the experience becomes.

~ Steve House in Beyond the Mountain

In that moment,…

In that moment, I understand that on the outer edge of infinity lies nothingness, that in the instant I achieve my objective, and discover my true self, both are lost.

~ Steve House in Beyond the Mountain

Action is the m…

Action is the message. Success is found in the process.

~ Steve House in Beyond the Mountain

That night on m…

That night on my island of sand I thought over the events of the last few days, the generosity of the river, and I wondered what I was giving in return. I had no suitable answer. Whatever it was, if anything at all, I couldn’t see it. And I took a long walk across the sand of my island and I questioned, Why me? The river and life itself had, upon careful examination, been rather good to me. Selfishly I could have been content with that, even while wanting still more. But I was nagged. Why me? What’s in store? Something or nothing? If something, will I be worthy or will I be a zero?
A Japanese potter once said that if his heart is not pure enough, if his thoughts are not pure enough nor his spirit, the clay can somehow tell. Perhaps the river and the people I met could see what I was too busy to look for, too preoccupied to notice, to tired to see.

~ Eddy Harris in Mississippi Solo

No experience o…

No experience or training had prepared me for the anxious torment of dying slowly and knowing it inevitable. I always thought it would come as quick as a bullet.

~ Mark Twight in Kiss or Kill

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