It’s climbing season again on Mount Everest, and like most years, it looks to be a busy time at high altitude. The peak period for reaching the summit is a few short weeks in late April and early May, and reports say at least 32 expeditions are planned from the Nepal side. That makes for quite a crowd trying to inchworm its way up the mountain. Tempers, no doubt, will flare.
Just a few days ago, in a widely reported story, things did get out of hand when a crowd of Sherpas fought with three foreign climbers in a dispute over fixing ropes on the route high up the mountain. In a story for National Geographic News, Brot Coburn provides good context for understanding the relationship between Sherpas and foreign climbers, one that has been and continues to be positive in almost all respects. Jon Krakauer’s bestselling book from 1997, Into Thin Air, illustrates how badly things can go wrong when the mountain gets crowded and the weather changes.
But most of us don’t need to worry about the crush of climbers on the route above base camp. Elite mountaineers climb, the rest of us hike — or trek, as they say in Nepal. Continue reading »
As we rolled through the holidays into 2013, I’ve been having daydreams of the Swiss Alps. A few years ago I took my family there in the summer and found the most extraordinary playground on the slopes of the Matterhorn. We spent a blissful day picnicking, hiking, and watching the kids enjoy the slides, swings, ropes, and other playground paraphernalia, all beneath a backdrop of that amazing mountain.
More recently I hiked with friends in the Jungfrau region, basing ourselves in Mürren on the flank of the Lauterbrunnen Valley, what has to be one of the most scenic settings on earth. At other times I’ve explored Geneva, Lausanne, Luzern, St. Moritz, Gindelwald, Appenzell, Chur, and other places, but I’ve never been there in winter. Continue reading »
For years I’ve been hearing about the dry snow in Utah, how the mountains around Salt Lake City have the best ski conditions in the West, how Park City and other nearby resorts produce the most memorable ski experiences.
But I live in San Francisco and can be on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe in less than four hours. Lake Tahoe, the place with more ski resorts and ski acreage than any region in the USA, plus the glorious spectacle of the lake from many peaks. Why run off to Utah, or Jackson Hole, Wyoming, or Big Sky, Montana, or Vail or Aspen or Whistler, BC when I live so close to such a winter wonderland?
One reason this winter was the pitiful snowfall in the Sierra. Another was a group of friends from college days who wanted to meet there for a reunion. So, with tickets booked far in advance, I had powder dreams reminiscent of Warren Miller films and couldn’t wait to get going. Continue reading »
Having dinner with close friends who had returned from a week at Whistler, we were regaled with tales of zip lining over the snow, tubing, dog-sledding, skating, skiing and boarding (of course) and a turn on the 2010 Vancouver Olympic bobsled run!
My friend doesn’t do anything unless it is full throttle, so it didn’t surprise me that he had a hankering for extreme speed. It did, however, surprise me when he said his whole body was sore after the less than 2 minute, nearly $150 (Canadian Dollar) ride down the Olympic track. Kitted out, he was placed in the back seat and braced himself to fly down the mountain. Continue reading »
As I once again dig through bins of snow gear to prepare for a trek to the Sierras, I think about growing up on the East Coast. My mom hails from Upstate New York. That fact, combined with the brutal winters and my family’s enthusiasm for all things ski, skate and sled related, has shaped my winter wanderlust.
We are headed to a house, inaccessible by road in winter. Set on 100 acres of land, the generosity of the owners allows us to live out my alpine fantasies. We snowshoe or ski one mile into the house, carrying backpacks and pulling a sled full of all our gear, food and an occasional small child. Continue reading »
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The Sundarbans, in Bangladesh is a natural wonder. The largest coastal mangrove in the world, it covers nearly 1500 square miles. Endangered Bengali tigers draw tourists during the dry winters. In the summer time, monsoon rains bring unpredictable flooding. This inhospitable environment is also home to the extremely rare and endangered Ganges river dolphins and Irrawaddy dolphins. Local fishermen do not target them, but they often unintentionally get caught up in their nets. Now, to help protect the beautiful beasts the Bangladesh government is declaring three areas in the southern Sundarbans mangrove forest as dolphin sanctuaries to protect the majestic and nearly extinct animals. Officials say waterways will be clearly marked. Accidental fishing is not the only danger to the dolphins; experts say climate change and pollution are contributing to their decline. There are hopes that the new measures will help protect one of the worlds most endangered graceful creatures.
We drove through Yosemite a few weekends ago. It was packed with summer travelers and waterfall gawkers. The major falls are glorious, and fuller than they have been in years. New, smaller falls have even appeared much to the delight of park goers.
As we drove through the park, out past Mono Lake, we were stunned by the high water levels and snowy peaks in early July. We laughed, thinking that we could even cross-country ski in some spots above 7000 feet.
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Recently I joined a mini reunion of college pals in Sun Valley, Idaho for a trifecta of outdoor activities: mountain biking, fly-fishing, and river kayaking.
Read all about it in the San Francisco Chronicle travel section: Sun Valley’s Summer Rush.
With all of the uncertainty shaking up the world right now (hasn’t it always been this way?) in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Japan, and recently in Egypt and Tunisia, you begin to wonder where you should travel these days and what places you should avoid. The renowned author of many novels and travel books, Paul Theroux, has an answer: go just about anywhere.
He wrote in a recent New York Times essay that if you’re willing to put up with some discomfort and able to be flexible with your movements, the rewards of travel in troubled places are enormous. Such travel can show you the utter stupidity of much human conflict and the inspiring ways people manage to live their lives.
And isn’t that ultimately why we travel? To understand life on our planet and see how others express their humanity?
Rough travel can be, well, rough, and sometimes the lessons learned come only in retrospect, but they are lessons worth learning, now and in the future.
I had coffee this morning with Nikki Rose, old friend and fellow San Francisco transplant who’s spent most of the last decade in Crete, her ancestors’ land. Her specialty? Cooking!
Since 1997 she’s worked to conserve Crete’s cultural and natural heritage through her own version of a slow food movement, engaging more than 40 small business and individuals in “Crete’s Culinary Sanctuaries” to offer visitors a taste of traditional Cretan cuisine. Ingredients come from local organic farms, and chefs put a modern twist on the old cuisine so there’s always a tasty surprise.
Her programs have received sustainable development awards from the likes of National Geographic, and she’s booking tours for the summer. Visit artisan food producers, organic farmers, rural communities that have been inhabited for 4,000 years, and take botanical hikes in the land of the Minoans. Explore ancient sites, too.
And of course, eat well.