In hon­or of Inter­na­tion­al Wom­en’s Day we’re hon­or­ing one of The Clym­b’s tour oper­a­tors, Crys­tal Robert­son, who with her hus­band Jeff, found­ed Le Grand Adven­ture Tours, an action sports trip provider that offers adven­ture trav­el expe­ri­ences all over the globe.

Over the course of the last decade Crys­tal has har­nessed her love for adven­ture into a full-time job, trav­el­ing from Japan to Croa­t­ia and more, in the pur­suit of adven­ture. Crys­tal grew up a trav­el and out­doors enthu­si­ast, scu­ba div­ing around the Caribbean, snow­board­ing around the West Coast, and raft­ing through­out Cal­i­for­nia. This pas­sion grew as she began explor­ing the world, always in search of  the best moun­tains to snow­board, the high­est cols to ped­al her bike up, and the most beau­ti­ful islands to surf.

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Tell us a bit about your back­ground in the outdoors.
My back­ground in the out­doors start­ed with my father who intro­duced me to the world of scu­ba div­ing. He is an instruc­tor who helped me get cer­ti­fied and helped me train to become a res­cue div­er. I trav­eled the world div­ing with my fam­i­ly in exot­ic des­ti­na­tions such as Cozumel, Hawaii, and the Bahamas. Over the last 17 years, I’ve tak­en strong­ly to snow­board­ing, which has become my favorite activ­i­ty and I’m now on the con­tin­u­ous hunt to ride all around the world. When I met my hus­band Jeff, we start­ed trav­el­ing togeth­er, in con­stant pur­suit of new places to find adven­ture. My pas­sions have also inspired me to take a wide range of cer­ti­fi­ca­tions in the dis­ci­plines of Yoga, SUP, SUP Yoga, Snow Safe­ty, First Aid and CPR, which I get to share with guests on our tours.

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What com­pelled you to start a guid­ing com­pa­ny with your husband?
Start­ing an adven­ture com­pa­ny was my dream busi­ness to start. In my ear­ly twen­ties I began research­ing the indus­try and vol­un­teered at an action sports trav­el com­pa­ny super­vis­ing trips. When I met my hus­band we had a dis­cus­sion about our first dream job to pur­sue. He said, “start an adven­ture tour com­pa­ny.” In that con­ver­sa­tion we laughed and could­n’t believe we both had the same dream. It was­n’t until years lat­er that we final­ly had a seri­ous talk and decid­ed to give it a go. You tru­ly don’t know the out­come of any­thing until you try. So we did, and we are hav­ing a blast every step of the way.

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What has been your expe­ri­ence as a woman in the out­door industry?
I love it! This is an indus­try flood­ed with men and it is empow­er­ing to know you are push­ing bound­aries and open­ing the doors for more and more women to fuel their own adven­ture. When you meet oth­er out­door women that are real­ly push­ing their boundaries–you feel as if you’ve found new best friends. We all share a sim­i­lar trait that ulti­mate­ly unites us. It’s a won­der­ful time to be involved in the outdoors…even if I’m the only girl out with a group of guys, I’m still stoked! So come on ladies, let’s get out there!

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What is Le Grand Wom­en’s Adven­tures and how is it dif­fer­ent from Le Grand Adventures?
When we start­ed Le Grand Wom­en’s we real­ly want­ed to pro­vide women a unique oppor­tu­ni­ty to explore new places. On our wom­en’s trips you can prac­tice new skills with pro­fes­sion­al guides/coaches and cre­ate bonds with oth­er like-mind­ed indi­vid­u­als that expand to friend­ships of a life­time. When you’re sur­round­ed by a tribe of sup­port­ive women that are crav­ing and seek­ing as much adven­ture as you are…you can feel the empow­er­ment from women that love to play hard and have fun. We feel that adven­ture trav­el should be offered to women in a man­ner that they see fit, after all every­one moves at a dif­fer­ent pace. It’s all about women set­ting the tone for the trip that they want to have, for in the end, this is your adven­ture to recharge, pow­er up, and feel stronger than ever. 

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What kind of advice do you have for women, or any­one, look­ing to get into an out­door sport they might not oth­er­wise try?
Any step in the direc­tion towards your dream is one step clos­er than you were yes­ter­day. Thoughts turn into con­ver­sa­tion, con­ver­sa­tion turns into actions, con­tin­u­ous actions cre­ates refine­ment.

I always sug­gest going out and find­ing a guide and/or an intro course to the sport that you want to try. I can’t even begin to tell you how impor­tant it is to learn the basics from an expert as those skills will stick with you for the rest of your life. Learn­ing how to do it prop­er­ly and safe is the most impor­tant aspect for suc­cess and fun. 

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Are there any orga­ni­za­tions out there that you see help­ing women get involved in the outdoors?
My favorite orga­ni­za­tions out there right now are She­Jumps–whose sole mis­sion is to increase the par­tic­i­pa­tion of women and girls in out­door activ­i­ties. SAFE AS Clin­ics are tai­lored to women, with begin­ner to expe­ri­enced avalanche aware­ness and safe­ty clin­ics. Then us! We offer so many sports for women to try and many des­ti­na­tions to explore!

You’ve obvi­ous­ly trav­elled all over the globe, is there any­where you haven’t been that you’re dying to see?
While there are many places I have yet to trav­el to, the one I’m most excit­ed for is a South Amer­i­can tour. Par­tic­u­lar­ly, because my moth­er and fam­i­ly are from Peru. I have always dreamed of trav­el­ing to the coun­try I was “almost born and raised in!” I now real­ize what a mec­ca Peru is for surf­ing and moun­tain bik­ing and I can hard­ly wait, it is going to be very special.


Check out Le Grand’s Swiss Moun­tain Bik­ing Adven­ture on The Clymb

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All pho­tos pro­vid­ed from Surfrid­er Foundation

Out­doors lovers care deeply about our coastal regions, as both nat­ur­al and recre­ation­al resources. And, groups like the Surfrid­er Foun­da­tion are work­ing to pro­tect our coast­lines and ensure pub­lic access. Nan­cy Eir­ing, Direc­tor of Mar­ket­ing & Engage­ment at the Surfrid­er Foun­da­tion, took the time to tell us a bit about recent endeav­ors in this realm.


The Clymb: It is clear that the coastal recre­ation com­mu­ni­ty, from surfers and body­board­ers to bird­ers and hik­ers, has served as the dri­ving force behind the Surfrid­er Foun­da­tion. How does the foun­da­tion orga­nize such a diverse group, includ­ing mem­bers not stereo­typ­i­cal­ly known for being proac­tive and polit­i­cal­ly minded?

Nan­cy Eir­ing: The ethos behind Surfrid­er is pro­tect­ing what you love. Peo­ple get involved with Surfrid­er because they have a strong con­nec­tion to coastal places that they use and enjoy. As a grass­roots orga­ni­za­tion, we pro­vide many dif­fer­ent ways for recre­ation­al users to engage. These include stew­ard­ship activ­i­ties such as beach cleanups and restora­tion events, as well as advo­ca­cy oppor­tu­ni­ties in a vari­ety of cam­paigns. Surfrid­er’s chap­ter net­work serves as a hub for coastal enthu­si­asts to con­nect with oth­er recre­ation­al users and make a dif­fer­ence on issues they care about.


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The Clymb: What are some of the major action items on your group’s agen­da at the moment, and what are the pri­ma­ry areas of the coast­line you are focus­ing on?

NE: Surfrid­er has 84 chap­ters across the U.S. work­ing on a vari­ety of cam­paigns and pro­grams. Here are a few priorities:

Pro­tect the Atlantic from Oil Drilling: Surfrid­er chap­ters are work­ing to pro­tect the Atlantic coast from new off­shore drilling. The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment has pro­posed open­ing up the Mid and South­ern Atlantic coast to new oil drilling and will make a final deci­sion by this fall.

Ocean Plan­ning: Surfrid­er is work­ing to pro­tect spe­cial coastal places from devel­op­ment in the Mid-Atlantic, North­east and Wash­ing­ton State, which are all devel­op­ing region­al ocean plans. Data from the recre­ation­al stud­ies is being used to demon­strate the social and eco­nom­ic impor­tance of pro­tect­ing such areas.

Defend the BEACH Act: Surfrid­er is work­ing to ensure fed­er­al fund­ing for states to con­duct water qual­i­ty test­ing at pop­u­lar recre­ation­al beach­es to ensure pubic health and pro­tect the enor­mous social and eco­nom­ic ben­e­fits asso­ci­at­ed with coastal recreation.


©istockphoto/RichinpitThe Clymb: What are the Foun­da­tion’s major obsta­cles in accom­plish­ing these goals?

NE: There is tremen­dous pres­sure to devel­op coastal and ocean areas from var­i­ous indus­tries, many of whom have sig­nif­i­cant polit­i­cal influ­ence. There is also a lack of pub­lic aware­ness about the extent of threats fac­ing our coastal and ocean ecosystems.

The Clymb: It looks like the Surfrid­er Foun­da­tion has con­duct­ed Mid-Atlantic, Ore­gon and Wash­ing­ton Coastal Recre­ation Stud­ies. Are there any others?

NE: Yes, Surfrid­er also recent­ly com­plet­ed a coastal recre­ation study in New Eng­land. In total, we now have sci­en­tif­ic data for 12 U.S. states that can be used to pro­tect pop­u­lar coastal areas from devel­op­ment or oth­er impacts.


 

The Clymb: What were the major find­ings of these studies?

NE: The recre­ation map­ping stud­ies demon­strate that coastal recre­ation is immense­ly pop­u­lar and gen­er­ates enor­mous eco­nom­ic ben­e­fits. Here are a few of the big take-aways.

Coastal recre­ation occurs every­where. This is not an exag­ger­a­tion. If there’s a patch of coast­line that’s even remote­ly acces­si­ble, some­one is using it for recre­ation. How­ev­er, the inten­si­ty of use along the coast is not uni­form. Cer­tain areas are exceed­ing­ly pop­u­lar, ren­der­ing them recre­ation hot spots that must be pro­tect­ed for present and future generations.

Recre­ation users are diverse and so are their activ­i­ties. Recre­ation users strad­dle all demo­graph­ics, includ­ing age, wealth, and eth­nic­i­ty. Fur­ther­more, these mil­lions of users par­tic­i­pate in a wide range of activ­i­ties, includ­ing beach going, surf­ing, kayak­ing, bird watch­ing, SCUBA div­ing, pad­dle board­ing, and many more.

Coastal recre­ation gen­er­ates bil­lions for local economies. Coastal recre­ation gen­er­ates major eco­nom­ic ben­e­fits through trip-relat­ed expen­di­tures such as hotel vis­its, din­ing, shop­ping and equip­ment rentals. For exam­ple, in Ore­gon alone, coastal vis­i­ta­tion account­ed for $2.4 bil­lion in expen­di­tures in 2010.


 

chapters_2The Clymb: How can these stud­ies be used to fur­ther your group’s causes?

NE: The stud­ies show that coastal recre­ation is the dom­i­nant ocean sec­tor, both in terms of pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion and the bil­lions of dol­lars gen­er­at­ed. In fact, these eco­nom­ic val­ues dwarf those of oil and gas, com­mer­cial fish­ing, and oth­er sec­tors by a wide mar­gin. This pro­vides the recre­ation com­mu­ni­ty with enor­mous lever­age to influ­ence deci­sions that affect the ocean and coast. For exam­ple, we are using the study results to advo­cate for improved water qual­i­ty and the preser­va­tion of coastal and ocean areas that are used for recre­ation (see Ore­gon example).

The stud­ies also pro­vid­ed the oppor­tu­ni­ty to orga­nize the coastal recre­ation indus­try as a polit­i­cal force. To sup­port data col­lec­tion, hun­dreds of busi­ness­es and groups helped con­duct out­reach to recre­ation­al users. Such broad par­tic­i­pa­tion from our com­mu­ni­ty is the key ingre­di­ent for us to grow as a pow­er­ful voice in coastal management.


All pho­tos pro­vid­ed by Surfrid­er Foundation.

To find out more about the Surfrid­er Foun­da­tion, check out their site here.

39_NPA_Image_12x18_300dpiFor more than three decades, Amer­i­can alpin­ist Con­rad Anker has achieved numer­ous first ascents across the world’s great ranges, from Alas­ka to Antarc­ti­ca. And yet, after so many years, his voice has nev­er lost the pas­sion and enthu­si­asm for his craft. Con­rad’s expe­di­tions are a tes­ta­ment to the great explor­ers of the past. In 1999, he found the body of George Mal­lo­ry, lost in the ill-fat­ed 1924 Ever­est expe­di­tion, and in 2000, he retraced Ernest Shack­le­ton’s trek across South Geor­gia Island with Rein­hold Mess­ner and Stephen Venables.

But his breath­tak­ing first ascents, from Rakekniv­en Peak in Antarc­ti­ca to the Shark’s Fin of Mt. Meru in India, have become his trade­mark. Away from the moun­tains, Con­rad is an author, ded­i­cat­ed envi­ron­men­tal­ist, hus­band, and father from his home in Boze­man, Mon­tana. He’ll next be seen in IMAX’s “Nation­al Parks Adven­ture” where he shares his love for Amer­i­ca’s Nation­al Parks. Catch­ing the always-on-the-move Con­rad was no easy task, but I was able to spend a few min­utes dis­cussing the suc­cess of Meru, his men­tor­ship with Mugs Stump, the impor­tance of Nepal in his life, and his recent Himalayan project with David Lama.


The Clymb: First of all, con­grat­u­la­tions on all the suc­cess of Meru.

CA: Thank you, I appre­ci­ate that, but I feel for Jim­my and Chai not get­ting the Acad­e­my nomination.


The Clymb: You cite your men­tor­ship under Mugs Stump as a cru­cial ele­ment of your devel­op­ment as a climber. Did you feel like you were step­ping into that role when you start­ed climb­ing with Jim­my and Renan?

CA: Yeah, there was a sim­i­lar men­tor­ship and encour­age­ment there. It’s inter­est­ing; I think Renan gained more from his men­tor­ship with Jim­my in terms of being a filmmaker.

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The Clymb: Near the sum­mit of Meru, you gave the reins to Jim­my to lead the last pitch. What brought you to this deci­sion to have Jim­my sum­mit first?

CA: I had led pitch­es that day, but part of it is what I had expe­ri­enced with Mugs, and he’d say ‘Hey, it’s your lead.’ So, it was unplanned. It wasn’t some­thing I had thought out, but it was more of a cour­tesy and the way that the pitch­es lined up so that it was his turn to get on there and have a go at it.


The Clymb: When you chose Renan to be a part of your Meru team, what qual­i­ties did he have that made you decide to have him join the expedition?

CA: Enthu­si­asm, opti­mism, charis­ma, challenge…those are the sort of things you want to look for in any­one, so he def­i­nite­ly had them.


The Clymb: In 2003 you climbed Meru with Doug Chabot and Bruce Miller in a fast and light alpine style. How did this expe­di­tion dif­fer from the big wall tac­tics that you used in 2008 and 2011?

CA: In 2008 and 2011, we had a por­taledge, which was a fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ence, and we had a big wall rack, so we had pitons and the type of equip­ment that you choose to go climb in Yosemite. Where­as in 2003 what we were try­ing to do was clas­sic alpine climb­ing, where we had a few cams, some ice screws and a few stop­pers so you’re not car­ry­ing much heavy equip­ment. It’s like the dif­fer­ence between climb­ing at Cha­monix and climb­ing in Yosemite, and it’s a Yosemite type climb, so you have to use big wall techniques.


The Clymb: When you men­tion that you had a por­taledge in 2008 and 2011, did you have any plan to bivy on the wall in 2003?

CA: Not on the wall; we tried to go through the low­er part and then skirt the wall and then go up onto the flut­ed snow ridges, but we got onto them and they were just uncon­sol­i­dat­ed, waist-deep snow. It was too dan­ger­ous and we real­ized that the risk of the snow blow­ing out, and an avalanche, was too great.

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The Clymb: On the sec­ond try with Jim­my and Renan in 2011, you were able to cov­er much of the low­er ground in about six days. What fac­tors affect­ed the speed that time?

CA: In 2011 we knew what we were up against, and then we had a lit­tle kid­dy-sled that we tied our haul bag onto so it slid up the moun­tain eas­i­ly. We tied the haul bag to the sled at a low­er angle, it was still 70 degrees of ice and steep, but it slid eas­i­er. Also in 2008 we got hit with that storm right off the bat that came down on us, which we had to deal with.


The Clymb: Your expe­di­tions have tak­en you from climb­ing Ever­est dressed in 1920’s climb­ing out­fits to fol­low­ing Ernest Shackleton’s foot­steps across South Geor­gia Island. What spurs your pas­sion and imag­i­na­tion for these explorato­ry types of missions?

CA: There’s no oth­er way to get into the mind­set of what it was like for those climbers. Nowa­days you have every­thing squared away; we have satel­lite com­mu­ni­ca­tions and food and there’s no chal­lenge that’s left to us. By going there and see­ing what it was like for them, you put into rel­a­tive terms how dif­fi­cult it was.

The South Geor­gia Island expe­di­tion was for an IMAX film that we shot in April of 2000, and our goal was to recre­ate the leg of the jour­ney that Shack­le­ton, Frank Wors­ley and Thomas Cre­ane took across South Geor­gia Island. What was real­ly amaz­ing, where they just slid down a slope, we had to rap­pel, down-climb and ice climb, and if we had slid down as they had in their sto­ry, it would have been cer­tain death. Then the Cre­an Glac­i­er, which was mea­sured in 1956, had melt­ed out and reced­ed quite a bit, so it was one of the first trips which real­ly saw the effects of cli­mate change. So being able to put it into his­tor­i­cal con­text, from the ear­ly explor­ers to where we are, cer­tain­ly was anoth­er part to it.


The Clymb: In late 2014, a film was released chron­i­cling your ascent of Win­ter Dance, a unique mixed-climb in cen­tral Mon­tana. What was the sig­nif­i­cance of this climb to you?

CA: Alex Lowe had done the first ascent, which was Win­ter Dance, and then there was anoth­er route that was in that same area but didn’t infringe upon his orig­i­nal route. You always want to respect someone’s first ascent and the style in which they climbed it. It was also a mod­ern climb, so it was steep­er and more difficult.

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The Clymb: When you say ‘mod­ern climb,’ do you mean by the stan­dards that he was climb­ing com­pared to the climb­ing of the mid to late ’90s?

CA: Yeah, right now dry tool­ing has evolved, peo­ple don’t use leash­es on the ice tools and the ice axes are curved, so the tech­nique and the pur­suit of mixed climb­ing as an end in itself has real­ly grown in this time.


The Clymb: You’re very con­nect­ed to Nepal, and it’s spir­i­tu­al cul­ture, espe­cial­ly with the devel­op­ment of the Khum­bu Climb­ing Cen­ter. What dif­fer­ences do you see in the rev­er­ence of the moun­tains in East­ern ver­sus West­ern culture?

CA: For peo­ple who live in the shad­ow of Ever­est, whether in Tibet or Nepal, they both share the same reli­gion; they’re Tibetan Bud­dhist by nature, so they share that com­mon­al­i­ty. For them Chomol­ung­ma is the name of the moun­tain, the god­dess of the snows and the god­dess of the Earth. The moun­tains are a deity and the place where the gods live, so there’s that spe­cial aspect.

In Nepal, the idea of climb­ing a moun­tain is a friv­o­lous pur­suit. It’s expen­sive, it’s hard work, you suf­fer, and why would you go do that? For a lot of these peo­ple who are strug­gling with food, with shel­ter and with cloth­ing, climb­ing seems like a sense­less pur­suit. So, there’s a mod­ern jux­ta­po­si­tion of where one’s soci­ety is and Maslow’s hier­ar­chy of needs. We have every­thing tak­en care of here in the West with shel­ter and cloth­ing, and we do these intel­lec­tu­al pur­suits that direct us towards self-actu­al­iza­tion. For a lot of these Nepali peo­ple, they say ‘You guys are crazy,’ and they go into the moun­tains because they’re paid to do it, but some of it is chang­ing, as the younger gen­er­a­tion is pur­su­ing climb­ing for it’s own sake.


The Clymb: In the wake of the 2014 avalanche, and the 2015 earth­quake, how has the mis­sion of the Khum­bu Climb­ing Cen­ter tak­en on greater depth?

CA: The class­es are tak­ing place right now, but it’s hard to say. The earth­quake affect­ed every­one in Nepal, espe­cial­ly some of the rur­al areas east of Kath­man­du, and the avalanche in 2014 cer­tain­ly had an adverse effect with the 16 Nepali peo­ple who were work­ing in the moun­tains that lost their lives.

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The Clymb: How has alpin­ism changed since you first start­ed climbing?

CA: Now, there’s less of a goal towards the real­ly large siege-style expe­di­tions. There are small­er, lighter-weight groups, which peo­ple are doing. Equip­ment is bet­ter and com­mu­ni­ca­tions are more read­i­ly avail­able. You used to walk off the map and now in many places there are cell tow­ers, which are solar pow­ered. Now if you have a satel­lite dish, you can bring the whole world to your fin­ger­tips in terms of the Inter­net. Acces­si­bil­i­ty of com­mu­ni­ca­tions is one thing, but teams are climb­ing with less equip­ment, and are small­er, faster, and lighter with­out the use of fixed ropes.


The Clymb: You recent­ly col­lab­o­rat­ed with David Lama in Zion and Nepal. Can you tell me about the project?

CA: We had met just com­mu­ni­cat­ing. He had want­ed some infor­ma­tion about a route I had climbed in Patag­o­nia, so I shared it with him and we planned to go to Alas­ka but we didn’t have enough time, so we went to Zion and fin­ished a route that I had start­ed. We met a friend of mine, James Mar­tin, who put up a video of it. Then this past Novem­ber, we tried Lunag Ri in Nepal, and we turned back, we didn’t make it to the top, but we had a good time nonethe­less. David’s dad is from Nepal and he’s half Nepali, so it was a neat home­com­ing for him. He just put up a film online about the trip.


The Clymb: Being young, do you feel David Lama rep­re­sents mod­ern alpin­ism con­sid­er­ing the attrib­ut­es of fast and light with small expeditions?

CA: Yeah, he cer­tain­ly embod­ies that and he’s a real­ly good climber; boul­der­ing and win­ning com­pe­ti­tion climb­ing when he was 18 or 19, and it was real­ly great to see that tran­si­tion into the mountains.

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The Clymb: You will next be seen in Nation­al Parks Adven­ture on IMAX. What attract­ed you to the film?

CA: The her­itage of our parks, my grow­ing up in the parks as a young guy, was some­thing that helped devel­op my character.


The Clymb: What do the nation­al parks mean to you personally?

CA: There was a real con­nec­tion to the parks. My fam­i­ly is from North­ern Cal­i­for­nia, just out­side of Yosemite, and it’s always where we went on vaca­tion. We nev­er went to amuse­ment parks and we nev­er had a motor­boat or any­thing like that. The back­coun­try was our vaca­tion. To be able to share my enthu­si­asm with future gen­er­a­tions is a big part of the moti­va­tion for that film.


The Clymb: What con­tin­ues to fuel your curios­i­ty and your passion?

CA: I think I wake up in the morn­ing and it’s like ‘I want to go climb­ing.’ I’ve already planned a climb this week and I’m get­ting all psy­ched over it. It’s just what I love to do. We’re such an over­sub­scribed, mech­a­nized, auto­mat­ed, dig­i­tal world, that it over­tax­es the sys­tem, and for me, going out­side is how I find bal­ance in life.

 

Fol­low Con­rad on Insta­gram and Face­book and see him in Nation­al Parks Adven­ture open­ing in IMAX on Feb. 12, 2016.

Paige Alms has no qualms about play­ing with the boys. In fact, she’s one of the few women in the world who reg­u­lar­ly braves big wave surf­ing. Con­sid­ered a female pio­neer of the sport, Alms is break­ing down bar­ri­ers in the tra­di­tion­al­ly male-dom­i­nat­ed sport.


The Clymb: Big wave rid­ing is still pret­ty much a male-dom­i­nat­ed sport. How does that affect the things you can do or your involve­ment in it?

Paige Alms: Being a woman has and nev­er will affect the things that I or oth­er women can do, in surf­ing or in any oth­er sport. Peo­ple have pre­con­ceived ideas of what is pos­si­ble, man or woman, but all of those opin­ions are con­stant­ly chang­ing. For exam­ple, did I think I’d ever pad­dle into a wave at Jaws and get bar­reled? Not in the begin­ning of the pad­dle move­ment out there. But a few weeks before I did it, I told my pho­tog­ra­ph­er friend Tra­cy Leboe that I was going to do it. She laughed and thought I was jok­ing, but a few weeks lat­er, we were talk­ing “I told you I was going to do it!!” The pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less, for men or women.


The Clymb: Is being a woman an advan­tage or dis­ad­van­tage in the sport?

PA: I think it can only be an advan­tage because we are prov­ing to the world that women can do what the men are doing on big waves!


The Clymb: How did you get start­ed in water sports? What’s your sports background?

PA: I always loved the ocean and felt as if I was drawn to it at a young age. My entire child­hood I played soc­cer, base­ball, track, cross coun­try, skate­board­ing, pret­ty much every­thing. I start­ed surf­ing when I was about 10 and every­thing kind of took sec­ond choice after that!

The Clymb: Why the jump to wave rid­ing rather than just stick­ing to “plain” surf­ing? What attract­ed you to it?

PA: I guess you mean “big wave rid­ing.” Well, big wave surf­ing was just a nat­ur­al pro­gres­sion for me, I always loved chal­leng­ing myself and push­ing myself to get bet­ter. Noth­ing is more chal­leng­ing and hum­bling than big wave surf­ing. It is the most exhil­a­rat­ing feel­ing I have ever experienced.


The Clymb: What would you con­sid­er your most impres­sive accom­plish­ment in the field so far?

PA: My bar­rel at Peahi in Jan­u­ary; by far my biggest accom­plish­ment of my life.


The Clymb: You were the first ever female surfer to get bar­reled at Jaws. For read­ers who are not famil­iar with this, can you explain exact­ly what that means?

PA: Just to clar­i­fy, I wasn’t the first. My dear friend Keala Ken­nel­ly got bar­reled there a few years pri­or, but it was a very short pock­et ride, she would even say that. So to explain what that means, basi­cal­ly I pad­dled into a 30 foot wave, got to the bot­tom of the wave, “bot­tom turned” up into the pock­et of the wave, and the lip “threw out” over me. We call it get­ting tubed, as you are rid­ing a tube of mov­ing water. It is the best feel­ing you can have on a wave and that feel­ing is even more accen­tu­at­ed on a huge wave like that. Only a few men in the world have been bar­reled at Jaws, so to be a woman on that list is a great feeling!


The Clymb: What made this chal­lenge so significant?

PA: That it was a first of many more to come!

The Clymb: How do you deal with fear when fac­ing a gigan­tic wave and the unpre­dictabil­i­ty of the ocean?

PA: It is all about accept­ing your fears and learn­ing how to push through that fear calm­ly. Being phys­i­cal­ly and men­tal­ly pre­pared to take on any­thing that moth­er nature throws at you is the most empow­er­ing feel­ing you can ever have. With that being said, I do a lot of train­ing in the gym, breath hold­ing and surf­ing as much as pos­si­ble, as the ocean teach­es you the most valu­able lessons of all. Con­quer­ing your fears, wow, how invigorating!


The Clymb: You have a doc­u­men­tary com­ing out lat­er this year. Can you tell us a bit more about it? What was it like to film it?

PA: Yes, it is called “The Wave I Ride” and it was made by Devyn Bis­son. We pre­miered it here on Maui in June at the Maui Film Fes­ti­val, under the stars in Wailea, with a turnout of more than 2,500 peo­ple. Being a part of this project was a huge learn­ing expe­ri­ence for me and I am so grate­ful to have been a part of it all. The movie should be on iTunes by the end of the year and a sched­ule of the film tour should be up on the site soon.


The Clymb: What else is com­ing up next? Any com­pe­ti­tions planned?

PA: No com­pe­ti­tions at the moment, although I am hop­ing there will be a women’s heat at the Peahi Chal­lenge this win­ter! As far as what’s com­ing next, I am get­ting shoul­der surgery next week for a spot of avas­cu­lar necro­sis I have on my humer­al head, which I got when I dis­lo­cat­ed and frac­tured my shoul­der two years ago. So lots of rehab and train­ing ahead to be ready for winter!

Margot Talbot and Michael O'Donnell
Mar­got Tal­bot and War­ren Mac­don­ald  at the Port­land Alpine Fest

Mar­go Tal­bot is a writer and climber who lives in the south­ern inte­ri­or of British Colum­bia. She has com­pet­ed in a num­ber of climb­ing com­pe­ti­tions, includ­ing the ESPN X‑Games and the Ouray Inter­na­tion­al Ice Fes­ti­val. A spon­sored ath­lete with Out­door Research, she also guides for Chicks with Picks and runs an adven­ture guid­ing com­pa­ny for women, The Glit­ter Girls. She recent­ly gave a pre­sen­ta­tion on how ice climb­ing empow­ered her to heal her­self from a life­time of drug addic­tion and sui­ci­dal depression.


The Clymb: As an accom­plished ice climb­ing instruc­tor and men­tor who strug­gled with depres­sion and addic­tion for years, you’re work­ing hard to use climb­ing to help peo­ple heal them­selves. How do you see ice climb­ing as a metaphor for liv­ing a healthy life?

Mar­go Tal­bot: For one, not all ice is cre­at­ed equal. When you try to swing your axe into a chunk of chan­de­lier ice, it’s real­ly hard to get a sol­id pur­chase you can trust. Nav­i­gat­ing life with the effects of child­hood trau­ma or sui­ci­dal depres­sion is sim­i­lar to nav­i­gat­ing chan­de­lier ice — you nev­er feel like you have a sol­id foun­da­tion beneath you. The best thing you can do is help your­self devel­op in ways you nev­er did as a child.

Also, ice climbers are noth­ing with­out the right tools. We bring the axes, cram­pons, rope and screws we need to pro­tect our­selves from a ground fall–the equiv­a­lent of rock bot­tom. The best thing peo­ple suf­fer­ing from men­tal health or depres­sion can do for them­selves is get them­selves the sup­port sys­tem they need to keep them­selves from tak­ing repeat­ed ‘ground­falls’. Rock bot­tom can be a per­fect turn­around point for some peo­ple but for oth­ers it’s a slip­pery slope into oblivion.

Last­ly, ice climb­ing brings you into the present moment. It’s an exer­cise in mind­ful­ness and a mov­ing medi­a­tion. Depres­sion is defined as being caught up in the pain of the past and anx­i­ety is fear of future events. The obvi­ous anti­dote to both of these is being in the pre­set moment. That’s hard to do with unre­solved trau­ma inside of your body, but the best thing to do is to try not to numb the pain, instead be present with the pain and move through to the oth­er side. To heal yourself.


The Clymb: What is the most impor­tant life les­son you’ve gained from ice climbing?

Mar­go Tal­bot: Climb­ing taught me to trust myself and trust life. With the right tools and tech­niques, you’ll find that you can progress your life upward one move at a time. You can’t know every part of a route, you just trust that you’ll have the skill and the tools to reach your desired goal.


The Clymb: Dur­ing your bat­tle with drugs and depres­sion you describe life as “… mono­chro­mat­ic, devoid of colour or bright­ness. There was no beau­ty in the world, only pain and suf­fer­ing. I felt this inside myself, and I saw it reflect­ed every­where in the word.” How did you even­tu­al­ly learn to heal yourself?

Mar­go Tal­bot: I saw the con­nec­tion between the pain that was stored inside of me and the thoughts and feel­ings I was har­bor­ing as a result of this. I decid­ed that at a cer­tain point I was the one who was per­pet­u­at­ing the pain, because the caus­es for it had been removed from the time I left home. This rever­sal in my think­ing, that rather than the pain com­ing from the out­side in was now being trans­mit­ted from the inside out, was a key step in mov­ing for­ward. I decid­ed that I need­ed to own my life up to that point, and every­thing in it, in order to begin the heal­ing process. As long as I saw myself a vic­tim of the cir­cum­stances of my life, I was going to feel pow­er­less to do any­thing about it. This shift in my think­ing would be cru­cial to mov­ing beyond my painful past, to go from stand­ing at the base of the climb to step­ping onto the ice and ven­tur­ing upward.

At the age of 37, I topped out of my climb out of depres­sion. It’s a mir­a­cle to me to wake up depres­sion and anx­i­ety free every­day. I would­n’t will depres­sion on my worst ene­my but I will say that I learned more from that state than I could with­out it and that’s because look­ing back over expe­ri­ences that are labeled a dis­ease by our cul­ture, all I see is the archi­tec­tur­al beau­ty of the blue­print of my own psy­che. Every­thing that hap­pened to me was tai­lor made for my own heal­ing jour­ney and I learned that we are all equipped with the tools to heal our emo­tion­al trau­ma if we can stop the distraction.


The Clymb: As a respect­ed author, speak­er and climb­ing advo­cate, you’re quick­ly gain­ing noto­ri­ety as a female role mod­el in a male dom­i­nat­ed sport. Did you have any women role mod­els when you were learn­ing to climb?

Mar­go Tal­bot: One month before I got bust­ed I was leaf­ing through a climb­ing mag­a­zine and I found this incred­i­ble image of a woman climber named Kit­ty Cal­houn. I looked up to her a lot as a climber and a woman. Dur­ing my first two years of ice climb­ing, I did­n’t run into many women ice climbers and I always won­dered if there was a way to lure more women into the sport. I heard about a gal in Col­orado named Kim Reynolds who ran Chicks with Picks. She heard about some of the work I was doing with all female clin­ics and called me to see if I would come teach some clin­ics for her. When I showed up I real­ized that I was teach­ing right along­side my idol, Kit­ty Cal­houn. That was twen­ty years ago and I am hap­py to say that some of the strongest rela­tion­ships I’ve formed to this day are with the women I met through Chicks with Picks.


The Clymb: Did you ever tell Kit­ty she was such an impor­tant role mod­el for you?

Mar­go Tal­bot: I always want­ed to go up to Kit­ty and tell her my sto­ry about her being my role mod­el before I was thrown in jail and the drugs and every­thing but I nev­er did because my past used to be a maze of care­ful­ly hid­den secrets. But then in the Fall of 2009 I began writ­ing my book, All that Glit­ters. Many peo­ple have asked me why I decid­ed to write the book when I could have kept my past a secret. I want­ed to give a voice to my depres­sion because it was some­thing I lived with so inti­mate­ly for so many decades that it actu­al­ly feels like a best friend. I want­ed to help remove the stig­mas we have in our cul­ture towards men­tal ill­ness, sui­ci­dal ten­den­cies and drug addic­tion. But most of all, I want­ed peo­ple to know that there is hope. That even in the depths of dark­ness, humans have come through seem­ing­ly impos­si­ble situations.

Joan Blaustein

Joan BlausteinThe mod­ern his­to­ry of the Grand Canyon is per­haps best embod­ied through the life’s work of pro­fes­sion­al pho­tog­ra­ph­er John Blaustein. Since his first trip down the Col­orado Riv­er aboard a decked-over dory in 1970, this anthro­pol­o­gy major from UC Berke­ley has built his career tak­ing pic­tures while indulging a per­son­al pas­sion for white­wa­ter adven­ture. First under the appren­tice­ship Joe Mon­roe, a free­lance pho­tog­ra­ph­er with cred­its in Life Mag­a­zine, Nation­al Geo­graph­ic, Time and For­tune, Blaustein learned the craft of pho­tog­ra­phy while build­ing his skills row­ing the mighty riv­er with vet­er­an guide Mar­tin Lit­ton. Com­bin­ing his exper­tise in both dis­ci­plines, he cre­at­ed the images for his sem­i­nal trea­tise called The Hid­den Canyon: A Riv­er Jour­ney in 1977. With text by the great essay­ist Edward Abbey, the book, though out of print, is still known as one of the best ever writ­ten on the Grand Canyon and set Blaustein’s long career now span­ning 40 years in motion.

 “I nev­er set out to do the book,” he told the Clymb “But it became the key­stone of my pho­tog­ra­phy. From there I kind of stum­bled from one thing to the next with­out a mas­ter plan.”

Blaustein’s work as pho­tog­ra­ph­er has appeared in pub­li­ca­tions that include Out­side, Sports Illus­trat­ed, Smith­son­ian and many oth­ers. With his book as a port­fo­lio of sorts, he was suc­cess­ful in secur­ing sev­er­al promi­nent cor­po­rate clients such as Apple Com­put­er, AT&T, New York Life and Unit­ed Air­lines. But tru­ly his great­est love has always been cap­tur­ing com­pelling images at water lev­el while on more than 85 trips through the Grand Canyon. It was dur­ing these ear­ly expe­ri­ences while row­ing the Col­orado Riv­er that Blaustein feels most for­tu­nate for hav­ing begun a pas­sion­ate obses­sion that inspires his life to this day.

“I had a lot of good luck. What I mean by that is stum­bling into the Grand Canyon when I did, meet­ing Mar­tin Lit­ton when I did, the fact that he would give me a chance,” Blaustein said. “If ever any­one was a fish out of water as boat­man in the Grand Canyon it was me.”

Now at the age of 66 Blaustein makes at least one plunge down the Col­orado every year. Thrilled by the prospects of dis­cov­er­ing more of its mys­ter­ies he pad­dles for­ward with his cam­era through the Canyon look­ing for that next excit­ing image around the bend.

The Clymb: What can you tell us about the inspi­ra­tion behind what can only described as icon­ic work tak­ing pho­tographs in one of the most spec­tac­u­lar nation­al parks in the country?

Blaustein: I was there. I was cap­ti­vat­ed by the dories, by the riv­er. I feel like I picked up my cam­era and I react­ed to it. I just think the place is mag­i­cal and the con­nec­tion that I devel­oped with the riv­er by being a guide, row­ing those won­der­ful lit­tle wood­en boats and just open­ing my eyes and react­ing to it is just what hap­pened. I am not one of these pho­tog­ra­phers  who writes a lot of flow­ery lan­guage about my pic­tures. A lot of peo­ple do. I don’t, maybe because I’m not artic­u­late enough. I was lucky to be there through the 70s. I’ve done about 85 trips, plus or minus, down the riv­er includ­ing recent ones, any­where between 15 and 21 days. You can do the math. I spent a lot of time at the bot­tom of the Grand Canyon. In the ear­ly days I was a dory guide, which I did from ’70 through ’77 or ’78. In recent years I’ve rowed a bag­gage boat. I do that because I don’t have guide’s license. I don’t have any of the first aid cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, which I would need to row pay­ing pas­sen­gers in a dory. It’s not worth it to me to get all that do one trip a year. So I’m thrilled to do a bag­gage boat, a raft so I can go along on a dory trip. Dur­ing those years in the ‘70s we were just down there learn­ing to run the rapids, tak­ing peo­ple down the riv­er, hav­ing a great time. And oh yeah, I had my cam­era. I was already inter­est­ed in pho­tog­ra­phy. I just had the time of my life shoot­ing what­ev­er I want­ed to on the river. 

The Clymb: You might have adopt­ed any riv­er in North Amer­i­ca. What was it about the Col­orado that was so appeal­ing to you?

Blaustein: I’ll give you a one-sen­tence answer. There’s only one Grand Canyon. As luck would have it, that’s where I end­ed up. I didn’t look at a map and say, “Let’s see, which nation­al park should I go to?” When I grad­u­at­ed from col­lage with lit­er­al­ly noth­ing to do for the rest of my life, I had no idea what I want­ed to do as a career. I was inter­est­ed in pho­tog­ra­phy. But I didn’t have a clue of how to pur­sue that or what to do with it. And this guy named Dave Bohn, with whom I stud­ied pho­tog­ra­phy at Berke­ley, intro­duced me to a guy 15 min­utes from Berke­ley, Joe Mon­roe who was free­lance pho­tog­ra­ph­er. He did Life Mag­a­zine, and he knew Mar­tin Lit­ton through the Sier­ra Club. Dave said to me I’m sure he wouldn’t mind talk­ing to you. It was through Joe Mon­roe that I met Mar­tin, and Mar­tin invit­ed me to go down the riv­er to wash pots and pans as a cook’s assis­tant in 1970.

Short­ly before we left Mar­tin called me up and asked me what I was going to do after our riv­er trip?  I said, “I have noth­ing to do for the rest of my life, why?” So he says he’s think­ing about doing a sec­ond trip down the riv­er and he need­ed a boat­man and asked me to come along. I said, “Mar­tin, you’re crazy, I’ve nev­er been in a row boat!” So to answer your ques­tion, I didn’t pick the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon picked me.

The Clymb: You’ve been down through the Grand Canyon dozens of times in your life, but it doesn’t seem like it’s get­ting old to you. So now at the age of 66 in your mind is there a pic­ture in the Grand Canyon that you haven’t tak­en yet?

Blaustein: Sure. It’s fun­ny the guides that do this over and over again get asked that ques­tion a lot. I think if I weren’t row­ing I would nev­er say it’s going to be bor­ing. I think what keeps me com­ing back is the chal­lenge of the rapids, the white­wa­ter, being at the oars, and the great rela­tion­ship I have with the oth­er guides. I don’t think any­one would ever fin­ish pho­tograph­ing the Grand Canyon. I won’t ever feel that I’ve been there, done that.

Every time you go down the riv­er at any giv­en place, the light is always dif­fer­ent. You’re there at a dif­fer­ent time of day, because the pace of each trip is always slight­ly dif­fer­ent. There’s always going to be cer­tain places where I’ve seen it in board day­light, at high noon with no clouds. I’ll nev­er say that I’m fin­ished shoot­ing the Grand Canyon. I would say that hav­ing spent as much time as I have there and hav­ing shot as much as I have there I can be much more selec­tive than I was at the beginning.

I have the advan­tage of all my years of expe­ri­ence where I can antic­i­pate cer­tain parts of the Canyon that will look maybe bet­ter at cer­tain times of the day and that’s when I’ll be pay­ing more atten­tion. But I think any pho­tog­ra­ph­er will tell you, it’s all about the light and that’s chang­ing all the time. There always the oppor­tu­ni­ty that an area of the Canyon you’ve pho­tographed 5 times before the next time the light could be all that more spectacular.

 The Clymb: After all this time you prob­a­bly have a pret­ty good read on what you need to do a trip through the Grand Canyon suc­cess­ful­ly. What are the crit­i­cal pieces of equip­ment that are must-have items in your kit?

Blaustein: I guess num­ber one would be a life jack­et. You need fast dry­ing swim trunks and a long-sleeved shirt to keep as much of your body cov­ered from the sun as you can. And you need a great pair of riv­er shoes. We start­ed out in the 70s wear­ing Con­verse high-top All-Stars, a bas­ket­ball shoe. They were a joke because you’d have to wear cot­ton socks or the can­vas would rub holes in your feet, which were wet all day. Of course now there are Tevas and KEENS to give your feet a chance to air out a lit­tle bit. You have to pro­tect your feet while you’re mak­ing your way through the rapids and with the new high-tech san­dals; one pair of shoes is all you need.

The Clymb: What can you tell us about one of your most mem­o­rable moments in your career? 

Blaustein: I cer­tain­ly remem­ber flip­ping a dory in Lava Falls, get­ting too far out in the mid­dle and lit­er­al­ly going over the falls and going under long enough that I thought what the F*** is going on! It’s not like my life flashed before my eyes and I thought I was drown­ing, but I was feel­ing the rocks on the bot­tom of the riv­er and I was not pop­ping up the way one hopes to. That was cer­tain­ly mem­o­rable. But I can tell you, stand­ing above some of the rapids, notably Hance, Crys­tal, Lava Falls, when the water lev­el is not, I should say, advan­ta­geous, because as you know the riv­er fluc­tu­ates, it’s impres­sive. You look at in it and you say “Man! Do I real­ly have to do this?” But that’s part of the chal­lenge. That’s part of the adren­a­line rush. You get to bot­tom and you say, “I fooled’em again!”

Check out some of John’s incred­i­ble Grand Canyon pho­tog­ra­phy in our two-part fea­ture, The Gold­en Age of Guid­ing: Part One  |  Part Two       

Kevin-Fedarko-Credit-Kurt-Markus-featured

 

In 1983 a record snow yield in the Rocky Moun­tains cre­at­ed the high­est vol­ume of melt­wa­ter ever to surge through the Col­orado Riv­er. The mas­sive buildup of hydraulic pres­sure threat­ened to over­come the 710-foot bar­ri­er of the Glen Canyon Dam and sent a dev­as­tat­ing cur­rent of destruc­tion at incred­i­bly high speeds through the mile-deep gorge that winds its way through the Ari­zona desert.  The Grand Canyon was inun­dat­ed with a cat­a­stroph­ic wall of the dead­liest white­wa­ter seen in a gen­er­a­tion. And as the Nation­al Park Ser­vice con­duct­ed the most exten­sive heli­copter res­cues of trapped and injured boaters in its his­to­ry, a trio of inspired fools launched them­selves down the rapids in an open wood­en dory called the Emer­ald Mile. By the seat of their pants the three-man crew braved a 277-mile jour­ney in the fastest decent of the Canyon ever recorded.

In his first book, for­mer Out­side mag­a­zine senior edi­tor and Grand Canyon riv­er guide Kevin Fedarko tells the amaz­ing sto­ry of Ken­ton Grua who lead the seem­ing­ly sui­ci­dal mis­sion to row a boat through these treach­er­ous­ly tur­bu­lent waters of the Col­orado Riv­er. Named for the leg­endary dory, The Emer­ald Mile is also an excit­ing tale that illus­trates the his­to­ry and explo­ration of one of the most mys­te­ri­ous but lit­tle-known nat­ur­al fea­tures in North America.

“The book was cer­tain­ly writ­ten to pro­vide more than just a tur­bo-charged adven­ture sto­ry,” Fedarko told The Clymb. “Indeed, the sto­ry of the speed run that’s at the heart of this book is hon­est­ly just a sub­ver­sive excuse to indulge in an extend­ed por­trait of and love let­ter to the dories, the riv­er, and the Canyon itself.”

We had a chance to talk with Kevin about his new book and what life is like for guides on the Colorado:

The Clymb: Your book The Emer­ald Mile details the sto­ry of the fastest descent of the Col­orado Riv­er through the Grand Canyon in an open dory in 1983. What inspired you to share this par­tic­u­lar tale of adventure?

Kevin Fedarko: I first heard about the sto­ry in 2003 when I start­ed work­ing as an appren­tice riv­er guide. This par­tic­u­lar sto­ry, both the speed run of the Emer­ald Mile and runoff of 1983 which made the speed run pos­si­ble, are part of the oral his­to­ry of the Grand Canyon. At night after din­ner has been pre­pared, what riv­er guides tend to do is sit around and tell sto­ries about their past trips. It’s pret­ty much impos­si­ble to get down the Canyon and not hear some­body tell a sto­ry of 1983 and the sto­ry of the Emer­ald Mile.

The rea­son why I was drawn to expand that into a ful­ly fledged book is that at a cer­tain point I came to the under­stand­ing that the sto­ry of the Emer­ald Mile, the sto­ry of the speed run, offered a com­mon thread upon which you could then hang the entire sto­ry of the  Canyon, the sto­ry of how it was dis­cov­ered, the peo­ple, the tra­di­tion of row­ing wood­en boats through the white­wa­ter, the very col­or­ful and inspir­ing sub­cul­ture of white­wa­ter guid­ing, which is a per­va­sive and secret world. And then of course there’s the sto­ry of the Glen Canyon Dam, which sits at the head of the Canyon, how it has effect­ed the envi­ron­ment and what hap­pens when two dif­fer­ent worlds that are fun­da­men­tal­ly opposed to one anoth­er, the world of engi­neer­ing and hydraulics and the world of white­wa­ter boat­ing, col­lid­ed at the crest of the largest flood that had descend­ed on the Canyon in a generation.

The Clymb: You are your­self a guide on the Col­orado Riv­er as well as a tal­ent­ed writer and jour­nal­ist. What moti­vates you to blend your appar­ent pas­sion for white­wa­ter pad­dling with a career writ­ing books?

Kevin Fedarko: I had no expe­ri­ence as a pad­dler. In fact it’s impos­si­ble to over­state the depth of my igno­rance about white­wa­ter in gen­er­al. It’s also impor­tant to note that I am not a licensed riv­er guide. I set out with the dream of work­ing my way through an appren­tice­ship that I had hoped at the time would cul­mi­nate in me being allowed to jump into the driver’s seat of a dory. But I proved to myself and to every­one else that I was so colos­sal­ly incom­pe­tent at oar­ing it became clear that the com­pa­ny I worked for had no inten­tion of ever let­ting get with­in spit­ting dis­tance of a dory. So I end­ed up spe­cial­iz­ing in the bag­gage boats, in par­tic­u­lar a boat called the Jack­ass, which is known as the “poo boat” that car­ried all the toi­lets and was also respon­si­ble for trans­port­ing all the raw sewage gen­er­at­ed through the course of a riv­er trip. And so I was the cap­tain of the Jackass!

The Clymb: Thanks for your can­dor, but from that posi­tion on the riv­er do you think you might have had a bet­ter per­spec­tive on how to tell this sto­ry as well as glean your appre­ci­a­tion for the work of being a pro­fes­sion­al riv­er guide that made this sto­ry possible?

Kevin Fedarko: Well I nev­er got to row a dory. But what I did get to do, by virtue of being at the helm of the Jack­ass, which was invari­ably the last boat in the run­ning order, was that I got to fol­low behind the dories. I spent hour and days and weeks and months of accu­mu­lat­ed time row­ing behind those gor­geous wood­en boats. I watched them and obsessed over them. I was seduced by them. I got to see them under every set of con­di­tions imag­in­able at all hours of the day and night from one end of the riv­er sea­son to the next. I also got to par­tic­i­pate in and be part of a dory riv­er crew. In some ways the fact that I was rel­e­gat­ed to the poo-boat, the bag­gage boat car­ry­ing toi­lets was in some ways total­ly appro­pri­ate because as a writer you’re nev­er real­ly part of the scene that forms and frames your sub­ject. My role in the back of the flotil­la, watch­ing and think­ing and mak­ing notes and observ­ing was I think a reflec­tion of the larg­er role I was play­ing as a writer.

The Clymb: You’ve ded­i­cat­ed much of your pro­fes­sion­al life to shar­ing sto­ries about adven­ture through one of the most excit­ing bod­ies of fast mov­ing water in the world. What do you do to train or pre­pare your­self to work and play in this very high ener­gy and (some­times) dan­ger­ous environment?

Kevin Fedarko: In the Grand Canyon, on the Col­orado you large­ly learn by doing. I start­ed out my first trip as a swamp rat. I was not at the oars. I was serv­ing as an assis­tant to a bag­gage boat­man. But by my sec­ond trip I had my own boat and I was respon­si­ble for rig­ging it and get­ting it down­stream intact and if pos­si­ble not flip­ping it upside down—every night de-rig­ging it and re-rig­ging it every morn­ing. There’s no instruc­tion man­u­al for the Grand Canyon. Your col­leagues become your friends and then your fam­i­ly metaphor­i­cal­ly. They teach you how not only to do your job but how to behave in the Canyon.

It’s a for­mi­da­ble thing to row a 400-pound wood­en dory with four pas­sen­gers safe­ly through the Canyon. It’s also a for­mi­da­ble thing to row a one-and-half-ton bag­gage boat filled with not just sim­ply the com­po­nents of an entire toi­let sys­tem but also a huge part of the gear and equip­ment, the infra­struc­ture that’s respon­si­ble for sup­port­ing 22 peo­ple for 21 days at the bot­tom of the Canyon. It’s not some­thing that you would ever want to flip upside down and if you do you bet­ter hope that you rigged it prop­er­ly. My boat by the way was the only boat that got heav­ier. That threw in it’s own set of com­pli­ca­tions as well.

The Clymb: When you ven­ture out into these chal­leng­ing white­wa­ter sit­u­a­tions what’s your most mis­sion-crit­i­cal piece of equip­ment? What is the must-have gear in your kit?

Kevin Fedarko: The absolute­ly essen­tial piece of gear that no guide would be with­out is a riv­er map. There are two, both pub­lished by dif­fer­ent authors but they pro­vide you with a blue­print of the bot­tom of the Canyon and the riv­er and the rapids you’ll encounter. What every­one does is fill their riv­er map like a flip chart. Much like a reporter’s note­book you fill it with notes, warn­ings, obser­va­tions, curs­es, admo­ni­tions, res­o­lu­tions not to ever, ever do that same mis­take you did at that par­tic­u­lar point again. You aug­ment the maps with a diary of your own expe­ri­ences and out of that comes a blue­print that resides inside your head, even­tu­al­ly to the point where the real­ly great guides rarely refer to their maps. They have every inch of the riv­er mem­o­rized along with every sin­gle run.

The Clymb: In writ­ing the book the Emer­ald Mile you made quite a few trips down the Col­orado Riv­er. What can you tell us about one of your most mem­o­rable moments?

Kevin Fedarko: It would have to be the night I dis­cov­ered that there are two rivers in the Canyon, not just one. There’s very lit­tle arti­fi­cial light on the either the north or south rim of the Grand Canyon , so when you are down at the bot­tom of a mile-deep gorge lying on the deck of your boat in your sleep­ing bag, drift­ing off to sleep and star­ing up, you’re star­ing up at a rib­bon of sky framed by the north and south rims of the Canyon whose con­tours per­fect­ly mir­ror the con­tours of the riv­er itself. That rib­bon of sky is pitch black but filled with stars. So there’s a riv­er of stars above the Col­orado Riv­er  that is a reflec­tion of the riv­er that carved the Canyon. When I first real­ized that it was a mag­i­cal moment.

emerald-mile-book-cover

 

Jeremy Collins

Climber, artist, activist — these are all words that describe Jere­my Collins. If he’s not on a rock face then chances are you will find him with a sketch pad or behind the cam­era. In the past year alone he received 6 Hon­ored Final­ist awards for his films, and he has been fea­tured on the cov­er of Nation­al Geo­graph­ic and Jones Flag­ship Snow­board. Con­tin­ue read­ing

What do I like best about work­ing at The Clymb? Sure, get­ting hooked up with great deals on rad gear is pret­ty cool (mem­bers get first dibs though, I swear!), and get­ting to test said gear is even cool­er. But what stokes me more than any­thing else is get­ting the chance to meet some tru­ly inspir­ing and influ­en­tial peo­ple. One of those peo­ple is Boone Speed. Now one of the plan­et’s most sought-after out­door pho­tog­ra­phers (Patag­o­nia and Nation­al Geo­graph­ic Adven­tures are amongst his clients), Boone is an icon in the sport of rock climb­ing as an ath­lete and inno­va­tor. It’s just my luck that he now lives in Port­land and hap­pens to be a mem­ber of The Clymb. We recent­ly had a chance to dia­logue on the sub­ject of climb­ing, pho­tog­ra­phy and rock ’n’ roll.

You’re an accom­plished pho­tog­ra­ph­er, but also con­sid­ered ‘The God­fa­ther of Mod­ern Boul­der­ing”, has pho­tog­ra­phy always been a part the climb­ing expe­ri­ence for you?

Ha! (laugh­ing) I’ve heard that moniker before. I guess the quick ver­sion of how I stood out is that in the ear­ly nineties I was part of a group that set off in pur­suit of the hard­est sin­gle gym­nas­tic moves done on rock. We trav­elled all over the world look­ing for new climb­ing venues where we did­n’t need ropes or a lot of gear. In short, we just went on a search for new boul­der­ing areas. And we were suc­cess­ful and had a good laugh along the way. I was always one of the strongest in the group and that cou­pled with my abil­i­ty to tell a good sto­ry through pho­tog­ra­phy, video and writ­ing made me a fig­ure­head as boul­der­ing grew into a sport all its own. So yes, pho­tog­ra­phy has been a big part of my climb­ing expe­ri­ence. By the late nineties boul­der­ing was the fastest grow­ing dis­ci­pline in climb­ing and spawned an indus­try with­in the out­door indus­try. At that time, a cou­ple of my friends and I start­ed a com­pa­ny called Push­er. Dur­ing Push­er’s short life it had a mas­sive effect on mod­ern­iz­ing the aes­thet­ic and the voice of climb­ing, which at the time had become stag­nant. I was in the right place at the right time and became Push­er’s pho­tog­ra­ph­er. And that pret­ty much marked the begin­ning of my move towards pro­fes­sion­al pho­tog­ra­phy. My work for Push­er still holds up today. I’m real­ly proud of what we did there.

You’ve made a career shoot­ing for high pro­file brands & pub­li­ca­tions, do you get much oppor­tu­ni­ty to shoot per­son­al work?

I would say that still ful­ly 80% of what I shoot is for me. I love the pho­to­graph­ic process, which is obvi­ous­ly dig­i­tal nowa­days, but dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy is based com­plete­ly on how the pho­to­graph­ic process works. It’s how light inter­acts with our sur­round­ings, and you can see exam­ples of it every­where, like in shad­ows or reflec­tions. It takes years to get a good grasp of let alone mas­ter. And it’s not like you can just pick up a cam­era and you’re a pho­tog­ra­ph­er. I love that every­one is get­ting into pho­tog­ra­phy now…everyone’s got cam­eras on their phones and whatnot…and no doubt a lot of great pic­tures will be made by a lot of dif­fer­ent peo­ple. But it will also make peo­ple appre­ci­ate how intri­cate the process actu­al­ly is. They’ll quick­ly real­ize that a lucky shot here and there does­n’t mean you’re a pho­tog­ra­ph­er. Look at it this way, it’s like every­one owns a pen­cil and paper but few peo­ple con­sid­er them­selves a writer, make sense?

As a climb­ing pho­tog­ra­ph­er you face the same envi­ron­ments and phys­i­cal demands as the ath­letes you’re shoot­ing, not to men­tion the addi­tion­al bur­den of pho­to gear — how do you pre­pare phys­i­cal­ly for a shoot?

Good obser­va­tion. The hon­est answer is that I don’t. I’m just out all the time, and I’m rou­tine­ly car­ry­ing a 40lb back­pack. So I just nat­u­ral­ly stay pret­ty fit. But when I go out with guys like Con­rad Anker into the moun­tains, he’s a guy that’s sum­mit­ed Ever­est a few times, I become very aware of how much more fit I could be. Espe­cial­ly when i have to car­ry my climb­ing gear plus my pho­to gear. I mean, some­times I feel like I’m on hid­den camera…it’s like, watch this…let’s give the weak­est guy the heav­i­est pack. Psyche!

You’re the house pho­tog­ra­ph­er for a well known rock (and roll) venue in Port­land. How does music fit into your day?

All day every day. And hav­ing all-access to Doug Fir is great because it’s relaxed. I’d rather see an obscure band in a small venue than any­one in a big venue. I can hon­est­ly say that I like all types of music. And the ran­dom set­tings on my ipod or pandora…just cast off…especially when I’m work­ing at home. The ran­dom­ness is great for my cre­ative thought process…ya know, it jars my thoughts when I don’t know what’s com­ing next.

What are your 5 favorite pieces of gear (could be a cam­era, a jack­et,  a har­ness, etc)?

I’d have to say my iphone is far and away #1. Then my Cameras…most notably my 5d‑2 and my 24mm 1.4 lens, ‑which is this mon­th’s favorite lens. Then my com­put­er, where it sits, because that’s my office. Then my Lowe­pro Com­pu Primus back­pack which allows me to car­ry 40 lbs eas­i­ly and con­ve­nient­ly but also can load up with near­ly 80 lbs when I need it to. And I don’t have a 5th. I don’t need much. (laughs)

What are your favorite and least favorite des­ti­na­tions for climb­ing and/or shooting?

Mal­lor­ca. Absolute­ly my favorite place for climbing…and good for shoot­ing too. And for the life man…it’s Spain for cryin out loud. The entire west coast of the island is rimmed with 60′ lime­stone cliffs above the mediter­ranean. We climb there with­out ropes, so if you fall you just go to the sea. It’s bril­liant. In fact, it’s kin­da spoiled me for oth­er kinds of climb­ing actu­al­ly. And I love mex­i­co for surf­ing. My plan is to retire there as soon as pos­si­ble. Which reminds me that I need to learn span­ish… And I don’t real­ly have any least favorite places. I like wher­ev­er I’m at. And if I ever find myself feel­ing down about a place I just remind myself how lucky I am to be able to do what I do.

We would like to thank Boone for his time and photography!

Our brand event this week is Moun­tain­smith which starts today at 9am PST and runs through Sat­ur­day morn­ing 9am PST, you can save up to 70% off Moun­tain­smith gear includ­ing packs, cas­es, rollers, and more. It is a mem­bers only event so you can ask a friend who has a mem­ber­ship or con­tact us on Twit­ter @theclymb, on Face­book, or via e‑mail kevin (@) theclymb.com.