Usually stories of setting out on adventure unprepared are frustrating—it can be hard to feel sympathy for the adventurer who doesn’t understand what they’re getting into. Gordon Stainforth’s account Fiva: An Adventure That Went Wrong of his disastrous attempt on Store Trolltind doesn’t elicit this frustrated and judgmental response from me at all. Although Stainforth and his twin brother John drastically underestimated the time (and the food) their route would take and also overestimated their route finding capabilities on the mountain, I instead felt myself willing them up the wall as I read. In his preface, Stainforth explains that he’d tried to start the book several different ways before settling on writing the story in the first-person present tense as his nineteen year-old self. Sometimes I found the perspective a bit forced but I believe it was also what allowed me to cheer for Gordon and John in their misadventure rather than feel disapproving.
Gordon and John’s introduction to climbing and mountaineering had begun three years earlier when their father had taken them to Switzerland in the wake of their mother’s death. Although they were not allowed to climb the Matterhorn, they found themselves enthralled by the freedom of the mountains. Upon their return to the UK, their father enrolled them in a beginners’ rock climbing course in Wales, they obtained a little snow travel experience on subsequent trips to the Alps, and practiced their climbing anywhere they could (including on trees). They had no big wall climbing. On their trip to Norway in 1969, while waiting for their friends to join them, they decided to climb the Fiva route on Troll Wall. Armed with a barebones guidebook route description, a couple of cheese sandwiches, some chocolate, and a “Space Blanket” they headed up the wall. As can be expected, they faced hunger, cold, injury, and route uncertainty on the way.
Fiva is a page-turner. Like many adventure books, you know the ending but learning just how that ending happens becomes your singular focus. With each switch of the belay, I found myself even more deeply invested in just how Gordon and John were going to extricate themselves from their seemingly bleak situation. Despite looking more than forty years into the past, Gordon Stainforth has written a fast-paced engrossing story of a misadventure that takes the reader along on a harrowing series of events. John’s pictures from the assent along with his Afterward fill out the story. Fiva won the “Best Book—Mountain Literature” at the Banff Mountain Festival in 2012, an honor that seems quite deserved.
Fiva: An Adventure That Went Wrong was provided by Mountaineers Books to 3Up Adventures for review. All opinions are Beth’s.
“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”
A few weeks ago, I headed out to the post office with Sprocket and was surprised to find that there was a package waiting there for me.
Inside, I found a ton of Columbia winter gear to test out and a letter inviting me along for six days of adventure at a still undisclosed location as part of #omniten. #Omniten is a collection of ten outdoor social media folks that are picked by Columbia because they get out and Try Things. Since I’ve been following along with previous seasons of #omniten on Twitter and know that I’ve got awesome times ahead!
I’m honestly still a bit shocked that I’m one of the “chosen few”! And with these rumors of #omnigames rumors swirling I’m even more excited!!
Craig Childs’ The Way Out: A True Story of Ruin and Survival wants to be a deeply introspective book. Childs details the story of a trip through canyons of Northern Arizona (specific location unspecified) with his friend Dierk Vaughn. The two have traveled extensively though the deserts of Utah but this trip into unknown territory challenges them both physically and mentally.
Although Childs and Vaughn are traveling together, most of the true narrative takes place in Childs’ mind. Much of the book is devoted to recollections of his alcoholic late-father. One gets the sense that Childs has never really decided how to come to terms with his father’s legacy: was his alcoholism a tragic end to a good man? or was he a father who just did not know how to love? Besides Childs own recollections, he remembers stories that Vaughn has told him about his life as a policeman. To me, these recollections were as much about how Childs saw the world as they were about why Vaughn was who he was.
My introduction to Childs as a writer was his article Heart Shaped River (subscription required) in High Country News this September. That article was entirely more upbeat than The Way Out and I enjoyed it a lot more. In the more condensed article length, Childs was more lyrical and concise. I’m a huge fan of this genre and The Way Out by all indications should have been a huge favorite of mine: reflection, fantastic canyon setting, adventure. Somehow, instead of being a favorite it left me cold, I was always waiting to delve deeper into Childs’ psyche or experience to really understand but I never got the chance.
“After recent events, I’ve decided I’m going to grow up and be a firefighter like my Mommy. Oh, and Daddy too.”
“Do not stop thinking of life as an adventure. You have no security unless you can live bravely, excitingly, imaginatively; unless you can choose a challenge instead of competence.”
Sunday, Sprocket and I drove up Owl Creek Pass to go play in the snow. At the top of the pass headed up the West Fork Road. I’d never been up that way and really enjoyed the views of all the mountains surrounding the basin.
Sprocket was mostly just glad to be playing in snow again:
It’s been a long time since we had a motorcycle we could comfortably ride 2Up but we recently purchased a Honda ST1300. Last week, it was time to take the bike out for a little spin. First, we headed south through Dolores along Highway 145. Although the fall colors had mostly faded in Ridgway, out towards Telluride they were much more vibrant:
Before I knew it, it was like old times and I was taking pictures off the back of the bike.
We rode down to Chinle, Arizona through Four Corners and came back through the Chuska Mountains on the Arizona-New Mexico border. It was a really beautiful area!
I picked up David Moskowitz’s Wolves in the Land of Salmon at the library. As a little kid, wolves were my favorite animal and I couldn’t read or learn enough about them and their habits. I was ten in 1995 when wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone and was so excited about wolves being reintroduced to the American West. My passion for wolves as an essential part of the landscape hasn’t faded (I follow the controversy over wolf-human conflicts and cheer on OR-7 as he travels around Oregon) so I was excited to read the book.
First off, this book is beautiful. Moskowitz also took the photographs for the book and the beautiful shots are scattered liberally throughout the book. Maps are used judiciously throughout the book to illustrate just where wolves can be found today and where they were found in the past. The photos of wolves vary from absolutely sweet pups to the chilling stare of an adult. Photographs of the landscapes in which wolves can be found also add to the book.
Moskowitz put a ton of research into this book, as the twenty page bibliography shows, but does an excellent job of relaying the information to the lay reader. The book’s text is also aided by the amount of time that Moskowitz himself spends outdoors tracking wolves. Grouped into chapters about each of the Northwest regions where wolves can be found (North Cascades, Vancouver Island, Inland Northwest) and chapters about specific wolf qualities (social behavior, hunting & eating, wolf-human relationship) this is a very readable book.
My favorite part was the last chapter discussing how wolves might return to the Olympic Peninsula. The last confirmed wolf killed in Washington state happened on the west side of the Olympics in the 1920s with credible sightings through the 1930s. However, because of the Peninsula’s isolation it is unlikely that wolves will disperse to this area and will probably require human reintroduction to this high quality wolf habitat. What I didn’t know was that the Olympic Marmot, an endemic species, is struggling due to coyote predation and that some scientists think that reintroducing wolves might help reverse population loss.
If you like nature writing, check out Wolves in the Land of Salmon (this is one I would recommend not getting on your Kindle, the book is too pretty in old school form). It’s an excellent portrait of wolves in the Northwest. It is certainly skewed towards support for wolves but I’m skewed that way too so it didn’t bother me in the least. It is more than a regurgitation of facts already in the news and I learned a lot.
When we purchased our property on Log Hill, this house greeted visitors as you came up the driveway. Long lived in by only cats, mice, squirrels, and rats, “house” was not the word for the structure anymore. Since we’ve taken out many other barns, structures, and trash, taking out the house was the last major piece of the cleanup. Since fall has finally arrived and the fire danger has passed, it was finally time to tackle the project. We started with a propane torch near the back of the house and waited.
Sprocket was not so sure about this latest project:
Forrest decided that his fire in the back of the house wasn’t going fast enough so he moved on to the kitchen. That seemed to work quite nicely and within minutes, the whole house was ablaze.
The smoke plume was rather impressive.
About an hour later, the house was reduced to just the stone walls and chimney. It’s crazy how fast a house will burn!