Wyoming climbing guide Kim Schmitz received a prestigious award from the American Alpine Club that recognized his ground-breaking ascents in Pakistan’s Karakoram Range. During his alpine career, he’s had two serious accidents, including one in the Tetons that nearly killed him. (Angus M. Thuermer Jr/WyoFile)
by Angus M. Thuermer Jr. | FEBRUARY 5, 2015
Kim Schmitz, one of the country’s top climbers, has ascended some of the steepest, most remote granite towers in the world, but his challenge today is learning how to walk again.
A Jackson Hole resident, Schmitz, 68, was on small teams that pioneered dizzying routes in Pakistan’s Karakoram Mountains in the late 1970s, setting new climbing standards along the way. His decades-long career in the hills, however, included far more than sunny summits.
He’s been flattened by an avalanche, nearly crippled in a devastating fall in the Tetons. He helplessly watched the life fade from a companion’s eyes. Rescuers and friends twice pulled Schmitz from death’s threshold. Lingering effects from injuries and more than 30 surgeries, plus the ravages of addiction, pneumonia and cancer have left him bent and slow. He can’t stand up straight, has to walk with a cane.
His etched face reflects the thousand glacial crevasses he’s crossed. His blue eyes appear to see beyond the horizon.
American climbers honored Schmitz for his pioneering Karakoram climbs on Saturday when they gave him the American Alpine Club’s Robert and Miriam Underhill Award created and designed by lisa Issenberg of Kiitellä, a recognition steeped in Wyoming outdoor history. For the coat-and-tie affair in New York City, Schmitz had no coat. Friends bought him one for the occasion and he accepted the award, proud to be wearing a clean pair of running shoes.
In a Manhattan banquet hall stuffed with the fittest athletes in the world, Schmitz arrived as a wan counterpoint, just days out of treatment. “It was a good experience,” he said of his recovery a few days before traveling to New York. “I hope it’s my last.”
Alpine club members recognized the many years Schmitz spent on top of the world. A Portland, Oregon, native, he grew up in an outdoor community surrounded by snow-capped volcanoes. As a kid he got a job washing pots on Sierra Club trips and, just entering high school, earned an invitation to climb Canada’s Mount Robson, an imposing ice-clad monarch. Handicapped by a pair of old-school 10-point crampons that had no purchase at the toes, he nevertheless clambered to its 12,972-foot summit.
“I remember getting to the top,” he said. “I had tears in my eyes.” Schmitz had found his calling.
Within a few years, Schmitz was on his own expeditions, a full member of a team that climbed remote Mount Waddington, British Columbia. It was the first entry on what would become an impressive resume. To flesh it out, Schmitz needed to venture beyond the northwest. An image of sun-baked cliffs in California inspired him.
“I saw a picture of Royal Robbins standing in front of this incredible exposure,” Schmitz said. Robbins, a venerable rock pioneer, was on the edge at one of America’s premiere national parks and Schmitz yearned to be there too.
“At that moment I decided I wanted to go to Yosemite,” he said. “I didn’t even think about it at all. It took me by storm.”
Andy Wilson (asleep) and Billy Roos rooting passively for their least disliked team. Gourmet food (sausage, cheese, baguette) catered by Cured of Boulder.
As you can see, collaboration with the troops and checking the terrain.
Hokkaido ~ Matt Wells
1.31.15 Tonight at the American Alpine Club‘s Annual Dinner in New York City, Kiitella‘s custom awards land in the (still healing) hands of some of the best climbers and mountaineers in history. Featured here: Tommy Caldwell & Kevin Jorgeson receiving Honorary Member awards. Also honored this evening for their outstanding achievements: Jeff Lowe, Kim Schmitz, Cody J Smith, Ken Yager, Fred Beckey and Sasha DiGiulian.
Monument 1” / 0.1”
RMP 3” / 0.35
Molas 4” / 0.45”
Coal Bank 5.5” / 0.65”
The storm for the next few days is an upper-level trough hovering along the California coast. A closed-low will form along the Mexico/Arizona border tomorrow night. It will then move down south along the Baja Peninsula before lifting and moving east into Texas.
Before the storm travels south it will draw good subtropical moisture into the southern part of Colorado, resulting in widespread rain and snow in the 4-Corners and into the San Juans ~ (6 to 10″ possible). Snowfall will favor our mountains with most of the precipitation happening Friday night through Saturday night. By Sunday the storm will be moving east and we’ll dry out under northwesterly flow.
It’s our great pleasure to announce the launch of a new enterprise- Adventure Partners Ecotours. AP has partnered with Ted Turner on his 1,000,000 acres of pristine wildlands throughout New Mexico. Stay tuned for more details. Pictured here, yesterday’s ribbon cutting ceremony at the Sierra Grande Lodge in Truth or Consequences, NM. AP Managing Partner, Mike Friedman on the far left, Ted Turner at the podium…
Snowstorm’s Forecast Was Mostly Right, Even if It Felt Wrong~~A good view of the perils of trying to forecast weather…JR
In the wake of the blizzard that wasn’t, New Yorkers on Tuesday were asking how the weather forecasters could have been so wrong.
The answer, the forecasters say — and they are backed up by atmospheric scientists who do not have any reason to be defensive — is that they were not so wrong. Computer models predicted that the storm would become extremely powerful, which it did, but the intensification occurred 50 to 100 miles east of where the preferred model predicted it would.
The models “were all on board with this idea that parts of the Northeast would get this wild storm,” said Todd Miner, a meteorologist with AccuWeather in State College, Pa. “But as always, the devil is in the details.”
“There was always a question of how far west blizzard conditions would extend,” he added. In this case, the model that was favored by most forecasters showed New York City falling within the western boundary, when actually it ended up outside it.
The nation’s forecaster in chief, Louis Uccellini, the director of the National Weather Service, acknowledged that there were problems with his agency’s forecast but said that was not unusual. “There were aspects of this forecast that were very good,” he said at an afternoon news conference. “There were aspects of this forecast that were not good. The point is, that’s true with any system.”
Since the 1980s, the amount of perennial ice in the Arctic has declined. This animation tracks the relative amount of ice of different ages from 1987 through early November 2014. The oldest ice is white; the youngest (seasonal) ice is dark blue. Key patterns are the export of ice from the Arctic through Fram Strait and the melting of old ice as it passes through the warm waters of the Beaufort Sea.
A blocking pattern where there is an upper level high located directly north of a closed low.
We are seeing the usual “January Thaw or Drought” because of the high-pressure dome that stretches from the left coast to Colorado. Storms are often split north and south or are just blocked from moving into the southern rockies. This Rex Block is currently the blocking pattern preventing storms from reaching our mountains.. but this pattern may break down by week’s end with a second Baja closed-low punching through the high parked in our backyard. Rōbert
Photo: Daniel Petty / The Denver Post
No wonder the FIS is a little
chagrined and wobbly about the
New Wave of winter sports !
Bernie Arndt commentary
Icebergs float in Iceland’s Jökulsárlón glacial lake, where the Vatnajökull glacier is retreating quickly due to global warming.
Since the Jan. 16 release of findings by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) indicating that 2014 has been the hottest year on record, naysayers have criticized the report as being exaggerated and distorted.
According to the NASA data collected from more than 3,000 weather stations around the globe, “The year 2014 ranks as Earth’s warmest since 1880.” NASA’s results were backed by analyses of data gathered from more than 6,000 weather stations belonging to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Japan Meteorological Agency.
So, what’s going on?
According to NASA scientists, since 1880 — the year such global temperature averages started to be analyzed — the global temperature has risen on average by 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (about 0.8 degrees Celsius), a trend that correlates directly to an increase in the release of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. This release is largely from the burning of fossil fuels that sustains the increased industrialization of the global economy. We know this from a very clear correlation between the global temperature increase and the amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as a function of time.
The problem is that the NASA news release didn’t include the error bars in the data. And, as we know, every scientific measurement is subject to a margin of error. For example, if you claim you weigh 170 lbs. on a scale with half a pound gradation, the measurement has an error of a quarter of a pound, half of the smallest gradation.
However, if one has the patience to look at the sources, in particular the paper by Prof. James Hansen from Columbia University and collaborators — responsible for the data analysis — one finds that there is no controversy at all. According to the authors, 2014 was the warmest year compared to the previous record held by 2010. The authors make clear, however, that the difference of only 0.02 degrees Celsius “is within the uncertainty of the measurement.” That is, the actual scientific study that NASA based its statement on does, of course, take care of error bars. Furthermore, the authors go on to claim, “The three warmest years in the GISS temperature analysis, 2014, 2010, and 2005 in that order, can be considered to be in a statistical tie because of several sources of uncertainty, the largest source being incomplete spatial coverage of the data.” [My italics.]
Clearly, the scientists in charge know what they are doing.
There are three points worth making here. First, NASA officials should be more careful with their public statements, in particular on a topic as politically and economically sensitive as global warming. Given the amount of controversy in the public sphere, this should be obvious by now. Second, if someone wants to criticize scientific results, he should read to the bottom of the research and not rely on superficial media statements. Third, and most important, the data ties 2005, 2010 and 2014 as the three hottest years on record. Even within the margin of error and the occasional yearly fluctuation, our planet is getting steadily warmer. Ignoring this fact is like stepping in front of a train and hoping that, if we close our eyes, the train won’t hit us.
Marcelo Gleiser, a world-renowned theoretical physicist and cosmologist, is a professor of natural philosophy, physics and astronomy at Dartmouth College. He has published over 100 peer-reviewed papers and is the author of dozens of essays and four books, including The Island of Knowledge: The Limits of Science and the Search for Meaning.
OWENS LAKE, Calif. — For 24 years, traveling across the stark and dusty moonscape of what once was a glimmering 110-square-mile lake framed by snow-covered mountains, Ted Schade was a general in the Owens Valley water wars with Los Angeles. This was where Los Angeles began taking water for its own use nearly a century ago, leaving behind a dry lake bed that choked the valley with dust, turning it into one of the most polluted parts of the nation.
The result was a bitter feud between two night-and-day regions of California, steeped in years of lawsuits, conspiracy theories, toxic distrust and noir lore — the stealing of the Owens Valley water was the inspiration for the movie “Chinatown.” But while the water theft remains a point of contention, the battle long ago turned into one about the clouds of dust that were the legacy of the lost lake, 200 miles north of downtown Los Angeles.
In what may be the most startling development yet, the end of one of the great water battles in the West appears at hand: Instead of flooding the lake bed with nearly 25 billion gallons of Los Angeles water every year to hold the dust in place — the expensive and drought-defying stopgap solution that had been in place — engineers have begun to methodically till about 50 square miles of the lake bed, which will serve as the primary weapon to control dust in the valley.
That will create three-foot-high furrows that, sprinkled with far less water, together should scrub the atmosphere of the thick haze that often makes it impossible to see from one side of the valley to the other, with widespread complaints of asthma.
“All we wanted is air pollution control,” Mr. Schade said. “We just wanted to make it so it’s not so dusty.”
Mr. Schade, 57, his pursuit of Los Angeles finally over, celebrated the moment by announcing he was retiring as the chief enforcement officer for the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District. In that role, he installed cameras and air pollution maintenance stations across the lake bed, haranguing the city to step in whenever air pollution standards were violated.
No less striking, Los Angeles, after years of filing lawsuits against the basin asserting that the damage was not the city’s fault, is showing remorse.
“The city has accepted its responsibility,” Mayor Eric M. Garcetti of Los Angeles said in a ceremony marking the agreement last month. “We took the water.”
Shunryu Suzuki “Life is like stepping into a boat that is about to set sail and sink”
rubber block carving by Rōbert
After a ski patroller’s death, a flurry of questions Forest Service permitting issues complicate a southwestern Colorado tragedy~~ by Jonathan Thompson
It’s mid-December, grey and cold outside, the snow that should be here conspicuously missing. But inside the windowless U.S. District Court building in a Durango, Colorado, business park, there is no season, just beige walls illuminated by overhead fluorescents. Doug Sutton and a handful of friends and relatives stand around in the hallway outside the courtroom. Sutton, dressed in a tweed blazer, scarf and tattered, stained jeans, looks out of time and out of place. He also seems despondent, despite the fact that he arguably just won, if there could be a winner in such a situation.
A few minutes earlier, U.S. Magistrate Judge David L. West ordered Randall Davey Pitcher, the 52-year-old CEO of Wolf Creek Ski Area in southwestern Colorado, to pay a fine and serve probation for conducting search and rescue training and avalanche research without a permit on Forest Service land outside of the ski area last winter. It’s a petty offense and almost certainly would have gone unpenalized — except for a tragic circumstance. During one of the unauthorized training missions, 38-year-old Wolf Creek senior ski patroller and avalanche technician Colin Sutton, Doug’s son, had been swept away and killed by a large avalanche.
Pitcher not only lost a friend in Colin, but the charges and the resulting proceedings have also brought attention of an unwelcome kind. Pitcher has long been a darling of the media for taking a maverick approach to running his family’s tiny, unconventional ski area and resisting corporate glitz, for refusing to bet on real estate and teaming with environmentalists to beat back a Texas billionaire’s plan to build a small city adjacent to the ski slopes. Despite a reputation for high safety standards, Pitcher is now being portrayed, by Sutton and some media reports at least, as a maverick of a different sort: One who plays fast and loose with the rules, possibly endangering his colleagues.