‘WA’, A MODEL OF HARMONY FROM JAPAN TO MEXICO ~ Pen

In the series サ和ロ (saWAro), photographer Taeko Nomiya connects her two cultures, driven by the same philosophy.

23.11.2021

Words Henri Robert

“カラオケ{karaoke}. Baja California Sur / Otakibashi Dori, Tokio”.

It’s a story of connections, movements and words. It’s a way of reflecting and illustrating an existence, fuelled by a dual culture, Japanese and Mexican. Born in Mexico in 1990 to Japanese parents, Taeko Nomiya grew up in a family setting that was faithful to Japanese culture, associated with a Mexican environment.

In the series サ和ロ (saWAro), the photographer combines the Spanish word saguaro, meaning giant cacti — which can reach a height of 13 metres and live for 150 years — and the Japanese term wa (和). The latter, which originated in 3rd-century China to designate Japan, was set out in the country’s first constitution, written in 604, and denotes an ’eminently respectable value based on one principle, to avoid any discord’.

Two countries coexisting in a single mindspace

‘When I was a child my parents would take me to Japan during the holidays and I would bring pictures of Mexico to show my Japanese cousins what life in Mexico was like. Then I would take pictures in Japan and bring them back to Mexico to show Japan to my Mexican friends. 3 years ago I was invited to participate in an exhibition in Tokyo and that was the first time I showed my pictures publicly, to strangers. The pictures started getting a lot of attention and then I got the idea of actually combining one shot from Japan and one shot from Mexico to show people the world where I actually live. A world where Japan and Mexico are not on the other end of the planet, but they actually coexist in a single mindspace‘, Taeko Nomiya explains to Pen.

Aiming to illustrate the proximity the artist perceives to exist between the two countries and cultures, the series サ和ロ (saWAro) is composed of photographic montages that bring together shots of the two environments. Thus, the cacti in Baja California Sur merge into the neon lights captured in the Otakibashi Dori district of Tokyo, while those of Guadalupe Tulcingo stand alongside the illuminated panels of a sign found in Shinjuku district.

‘More than trying to give a specific meaning to each picture or to send a message in one of them, I want to share postcards of this dual universe. Also, I like to retain a little bit of randomness, because I feel that is more true to the spirit of life. In everyday life we run into signs, but we are the ones who give them their meaning’, Taeko Nomiya continues.

A natural equilibrium that drives an ecosystem

The link that the artist imagines between these two countries lies in the equilibrium and harmony unique to social life in Japan, and that which enables the existence of cacti in the heart of the Mexican desert. ‘Life in the desert hangs on a very fine balance. Let’s say that a group of humans came to a specific desert and hunted down all the coyotes. Their absence could cause an increase in the population of rabbits, and then the greater number of rabbits would possibly eat out a certain type of cactus and drive it to extinction, and one by one, in a short time the whole desert would die. The scarcity of water makes that fine balance more evident. So more than actual solidarity (because that would imply a conscious, deliberate support), I think the elements in the desert support each other naturally by not breaking that balance’, the artist explains.

When considering whether this idea of a singular Japanese society, the functioning of which rests on harmony between its different players, is still relevant in a globalised society, the photographer believes that ‘it is very much a reality, especially when compared to how people live in the West (or even in other Asian countries). I must concede that a Japanese person who is 80 years old now would say that that is a thing of the past and that modern Japanese people are as individualistic as the rest of the world, but if you come from outside, I think it’s possible to see that it is still there’.

Taeko Nomiya’s work can be viewed on her website.

“思い返す Omoikaesu. Hyakunincho, Tokio / Guadalupe Tulcingo, Puebla”.

“山彦 Yamabiko. Decabarz, Tokio / San Ignacio, Baja California”.

“Mañana / noche. Guadalupe Tulcingo, Puebla / Shinjuku, Tokio”.

“教会 Kyokai-Iglesia. Baja California Sur / Shinjuku, Tokio”.

Former 3rd District Rep. Jolene Unsoeld dies at age 89 ~ The Columbian

“Jer, I just heard Jolene Unsoeld passed away. She was a remarkable person who made great contributions and every bit Willi’s equal.”

Mike Friedman

Jolene Unsoeld talks to a supporter at Clark College on the night before the general election, Nov. 8, 1988. (The Columbian files)

Former U.S. Rep. Jolene Bishoprick Unsoeld died Sunday at her home in Olympia at the age of 89, just a few days before her birthday.

She is survived by three of her four children, Regon, Krag and Terres, as well as many grandchildren and extended family members.

Unsoeld challenged people to get mad in the face of injustice and do something to make the world a better place, according to her family.

A Democrat, Unsoeld represented the 3rd District in Congress from 1989 to 1995, where she furthered environmental legislation. She was the third woman to represent Washington in Congress and was one of 30 women serving in the House of Representatives at the time. While in Congress, Unsoeld worked on three committees: merchant marine and fisheries, education and labor, and the select committee on aging.

While on the merchant marine and fisheries committee, Unsoeld strove toward supporting environmental legislation, as well as preserving fishing and logging industries in the district. Her dedication to her convictions won admiration from both her supporters and those who opposed her.

“My mother was such a dynamo,” Krag said. “Mom was really pushing frontiers and limits. We have better lives because of it.”

Unsoeld lost her seat to Republican Linda Smith after a tough reelection battle in 1994 but continued her public service and advocacy for environmental reform and government transparency. Specifically, she served on the Washington State Fish and Wildlife commission in 1995 for two years before retiring entirely.

Unsoeld also briefly taught at Harvard as a fellow of the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government in 1995 before returning to Washington.

She was born in Corvallis, Ore., on Dec. 3, 1931. Unsoeld and her family moved to Vancouver when she was a teenager, where she developed an interest in liberal politics — going against her parents’ Republican values.

Krag Onsoeld said his mom was head strong and firm in her beliefs at a young age. The Daughters of the American Revolution extended an award to Jolene Onsoeld when she was in high school, which she refused because the organization didn’t let Marian Anderson, a Black singer, perform at Constitution Hall in 1939.

She was co-valedictorian of her Vancouver High School senior class, and then moved back to her hometown to attend Oregon State University.

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A Tribute to Congresswoman Jolene Unsoeld, Dead at 89, and her ‘Life of Wild Adventure’

By Joel Connelly – November 30, 20215

Former U.S. Rep. Jolene Unsoeld, who died at home Monday at the age of 89, was an individual of boundless energy and enthusiasm. My visual image, from covering her, was of Unsoeld running down the halls in Congress, usually late for a meeting, with a big bag of working papers slung over her shoulder. A poster in the Unsoeld Olympia home summed up a life forever on the move: “A ship in a harbor is safe. But that’s not what ships are for.”

When young, Jolene was the first woman (with husband Willi) to scale the north face of the Grand Teton in Wyoming.  She would later, as a self-described citizen meddler, help pass the state’s pioneering Public Disclosure Act, still in use by AG Bob Ferguson as a weapon against money laundering by Tim Eyman and the Grocery Manufacturers Assn.

She endured tragedy, the death of daughter Devi high on slopes of Nanda Devi, the 25,643-foot Himalayan peak in northern India for which she was named, and later Willi’s death in an avalanche while leading Evergreen State College students on a climb of Mt. Rainier.

She would serve six years in Congress.  Unsoeld refused to be addressed by her title and insisted on being called Jolene.  She declined to be driven, saying being at the wheel gave her time to think. A common sight, in Southwest Washington’s 3rd District, was Unsoeld driving up to a meeting with her top aide Dan Evans (not the governor) uncomfortable in the passenger seat.

“She was quirky in kind of an appealing way,” said ex-aide Paul Elliott. “Just as we’ve long heard of authors who insisted on using a typewriter, Jolene insisted on using the DOS operating system, which I think was obsolete already when she was in Congress.  She used it to write her autobiography a few years ago.”

Nobody questioned her determination. “A progressive before we used the term, an icon to Democratic women . . .  Lucky to have her as a mentor and role model,” State Democratic Chair Tina Podlodowski Tweeted. “Rest in power, the incomparable Jolene Unsoeld.”

Unsoeld had just been elected to Congress in 1988, by a 618-vote margin, when she arrived in D.C., to set up her office and get committee assignments. I came calling as correspondent with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, having been asked to pick up a six-pack of beer at a nearby store. Recycling had come to Washington, but not Washington, D.C. I finished a brewski and went to chuck the can in a waste basket. ‘Felt a vise-like grip on my wrist. Rep.-elect Unsoeld confiscated the beer can and set it in a special basket for recycling.

She had her start in the 1970s as a League of Women Voters activist, helping draft the Public Disclosure Act. Using information submitted to the newly created Public Disclosure Commission, Unsoeld published a small book: “Who Gave? Who Got? How Much?” Numerous investigative stories on money in politics came from its pages.

The life of a meddler was disrupted by twin tragedies, laid out in Unsoeld’s autobiography: “Wild Adventures We Have Known: My Life with Willi Unsoeld.” Willi (Bill to Jolene) had come home to teach at Evergreen. He had made mountaineering history in 1963 with Tom Hornbein by climbing the West Ridge of Mt. Everest and traversing the world’s highest peak. He lost nine toes to frostbite after a bivouac at 27,900 feet.

Thirteen years later, at a 23,000-foot camp, Devi Unsoeld told her father: “I think I am going to die.” She was gone in five minutes, her body in Willi’s words “committed to the snows.” Jolene Unsoeld grieved in public as she organized a “Memorable Celebration for Devi” at Evergreen. Three years later, after an avalanche killed Willi and student Jane Diepenbrook – the other students made it down to Camp Muir in a white-out – it was time for another “Memorable Celebration” at Evergreen.

The ship would not stay in harbor: At Willi’s memorial, Jolene spoke to the P-I’s Mike Layton about someday running for office.  She did, was elected to the Legislature, where she championed a tax on hazardous waste that would fund a cleanup plan. She won a battle of dueling state ballot initiatives against a weaker industry-backed plan.

Unsoeld spent her Capitol Hill tenure in harm’s way.  She quickly signed on as sponsor of an LGBTQ civil rights bill. She defied the fishing industry and cut her teeth on the issue of banning driftnet fishing, in which nets as long as 30 miles killed millions of birds and fish.  Serving a timber-dependent district, she refused to demagogue the spotted owl ruling in which U.S. District Judge Bill Dwyer ordered a halt to liquidation of old-growth forests on federal lands.

“Timber workers in her district were mad as hell over set asides to protect the Northern Spotted Owl. Rush Limbaugh branded her a ‘feminazi.’ Gun control advocates called her a flip flopper. It was the spring of 1994 and Congresswoman Jolene Unsoeld of Olympia was girding for the political fight of her life,” Washington’s official historian John Hughes wrote of Unsoeld’s last campaign.

Unsoeld was one of 30 women of the 435-member House when she was elected. She was not a practitioner of identity politics, but fierce in her feminist convictions. She had a memorable set-to on the House floor with Rep. Dick Armey, R-Texas, who would become House Majority Leader. In an anti-abortion speech, he mocked women for “self-indulgent conduct” and being “damned careless with their bodies.”

Unsoeld shot back: “Reproductive health is at the very core of a woman’s existence. If you want to be brutally frank, what it compares with is if you had health care plans that did not cover any illness related to testicles.  I think the women of this country are being tolerant enough to allow you men to vote on this.”

Years later, in the autobiography, she shared an intimate story. Already parents of four, Jolene and Willi discovered she was pregnant.  Abortion was then illegal. She flew to Japan to end her pregnancy. In Tokyo on business, her conservative father drove her to the clinic “and was there for me unconditionally when I needed him.”

Jolene Unsoeld was a famous night owl, at her computer into the wee hours of the morning.   Unsoeld was visibly worn down by her service in Congress. The job involved innumerable early morning breakfasts. She had to fight to defend her seat. Once, a shipment of salmon for a fundraiser arrived late on a Friday, was left outside Unsoeld’s office where it stayed for a long weekend. The Longworth Building needed to be fumigated.

Unsoeld would be buffeted from right and left in the “Gingrich revolution” election of 1994, in which 54 Democrats lost their House seats. A gun control candidate drew off votes: Unsoeld was an unlikely 2nd Amendment defender. The victor was State Rep. Linda Smith, a dynamo of the Republican right and product of Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum.

Public service for Jolene Unsoeld did not end with the 1994 election. Back home, Gov. Mike Lowry named her to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, to which she was later reappointed by Gov. Gary Locke. She made enemies by calling for restrictions on fishing to restore depleted stocks. Ultimately, a coalition of the State Senate’s Republicans and old-boy Democrats refused to confirm her appointment.

The final act was an autobiography, of life growing up in a conservative Oregon family, meeting and marrying “Bill,” life with babies while he worked as a climbing guide in the Tetons, a sojourn in Nepal when Willi headed the Peace Corps there, and marital tensions surrounding his participation in the 1963 American expedition on Everest.

Unsoeld was unsparing about pains in her life but related an extraordinary moment when the pain went away: “It was several years before some sort of transition took place where that vision of beauty no longer overwhelmed me with grief. And then, one day, I was driving down I-5 and received a blast of beauty from a sunset. There was no more pain. I could feel Bill and Devi in the car with me. We were all together again.”

Each year, on the anniversary of the West Ridge climb, Unsoeld and Tom Hornbein would talk on the phone. Deep in her 80s, she would conclude her autobiography with the words, “I am ready for my next ‘Wild Adventure.’” She died a day short of her 90th birthday.

Hwy 550 corridor SWE for Nov/21

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i know it’s pathetic but at least you know where we are for lack of moisture.

Monument  7.5” with .65” SWE

Red Mountain Pass 8” with .8” SWE

Molas Pass 6” with .5” SWE

Coal Bank Pass 6” with .5” SWE

Bob Fulton, Pilot Notes

“I am almost inspired to do less and call it a contribution.” Bob Fulton

Pilots Notes Part I

Bob Fulton, friend of many, unfortunately passed on, but fondly remembered.

OPINION: LAUREN BOEBERT IS WHAT GEORGE W. BUSH CALLED THE ‘WORST OF HUMANKIND’ ~ The Washington Post

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Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in July. (Andrew Harnik/AP) 
Image without a caption

By Dana Milbank Columnist|

I’m old enough to remember when Republican leaders still had souls.

Twenty years ago, I was on the White House beat for The Post when President George W. Bush, six days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, set aside his war planning efforts long enough to visit the mosque at the Islamic Center of Washington to admonish Americans not to take out their anger on innocent Muslims. I went to the mosque, on Massachusetts Avenue overlooking Rock Creek Park, and reported on the presidential visit:Opinions to start the day, in your inbox. Sign up.“The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam,” said the president, escorted by Islamic clerics into the ornate mosque full of Turkish tile, Persian rugs and Egyptian paintings. “Islam is peace.”Quoting from the Koran’s prohibitions against evil, Bush said women who cover their heads should not fear leaving their homes. “That’s not the America I know,” he said. “That should not and that will not stand in America.”

Some conservatives objected at the time to Bush’s pro-Islam appeals, and pointed out, correctly, that he gained nothing politically from this message. But he gained much morally.

Contrast that with Republican officials’ latest actions over the holiday weekend, while the rest of the country paused to express gratitude for our many blessings. Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, a QAnon-admiring Republican, referred to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who is Muslim, as part of a “Jihad Squad” and told an audience a false story of a worried Capitol Police officer chasing down Omar. Boebert claimed she said: “Well, she doesn’t have a backpack. We should be fine.”

Boebert at first apologized “to anyone in the Muslim community I offended” with her Muslims-are-terrorists message. Nominal House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) issued a statement that avoided criticism of Boebert’s words. And Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), whose support McCarthy needs to remain GOP leader, criticized Boebert — for apologizing. “Never apologize to Islamic terrorist sympathizers,” she wrote, repeating the “Jihad Squad” phrase.

After rejecting Omar’s request for a public apology on Monday, Boebert released a video expanding the original slander. “I will continue to fearlessly put America first, never sympathizing with terrorists,” Boebert said. “Unfortunately, Ilhan can’t say the same thing.”

House Democrats are going through the now-routine deliberations about whether to censure Boebert, or remove her from committees. Why bother? It would give Boebert the martyrdom she desires, just as previous punishments did for Greene (who posted a threatening image of her holding an assault riflenext to Omar and other Democrats) and Rep. Paul Gosar (the Arizona Republican who posted an anime video of him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York).

Rather, Democrats ought to call the bluff of those Republicans who insist they be given the chance to police their own ranks. That’s the excuse Tom Cole (Okla.), ranking Republican on the Rules Committee, used when he opposed punishing Gosar. “The majority can and should leave the matter up to Leader McCarthy and the Republican Conference,” he said when letting Gosar off the hook. He similarly excused Greene, who before entering Congress also embraced antisemitic comments and a remark about assassinating House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Will Cole speak out against the latest bigoted, violent fantasy from a colleague? Or wait a few days for it to be eclipsed by the next outrage?

There have always been clowns like Greene, Gosar and Boebert. Over the past two decades, the Rev. Jerry Falwell referred to the prophet Mohammed as a “terrorist,” the Rev. Franklin Graham called Islam “evil,” Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson likened Muslims to Hitler, and conservative activist Paul Weyrich condemned Bush’s “constant promotion of Islam as a religion of peace and tolerance” because “it is neither.”

But Bush overruled the haters. Repeatedly during the months after the 9/11 attacks, he appealed to Americans:

“Muslim members of our armed forces and of my administration are serving their fellow Americans with distinction.”

“Millions of our fellow citizens are Muslim. We respect the faith. We honor its traditions. Our enemy does not.”

“This great nation of many religions understands our war is not against Islam. … Our war is a war against evil.”

“The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself.”

There’s plenty to fault in the Bush presidency and its wars, but his defense of Muslim Americans was the essence of moral leadership. “Those who feel like they can intimidate our fellow citizens to take out their anger,” he said at the Washington mosque that day in 2001, “represent the worst of humankind, and they should be ashamed of that kind of behavior.” America “is a great country,” he said, “because we share the same values of respect and dignity and human worth.”

Twenty years later, Boebert, Gosar, Greene and too many of their colleagues have abandoned those shared values. And Republican leaders, divesting themselves of shame, now tolerate the worst of humankind.

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Boebert Reaches Out to Omar After Incendiary Video, Escalating a Feud ~ NYT

Representative Lauren Boebert made an overture to Representative Ilhan Omar after suggesting that the Muslim lawmaker was a terrorism threat. The call did not go well.

Representative Lauren Boebert, Republican of Colorado, has proclaimed herself a victim of a hypersensitive political culture.
Representative Lauren Boebert, Republican of Colorado, has proclaimed herself a victim of a hypersensitive political culture.Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

By Jonathan Weisman

Nov. 29, 2021

WASHINGTON — Some gulfs are too wide to bridge, but it appeared at first as if Representative Lauren Boebert, the far-right Republican from Colorado, was trying to do so on Monday when she reached out to Representative Ilhan Omar, the progressive Democrat from Minnesota.

Ms. Boebert, a freshman who has built her brief political career on incendiary comments and right-wing provocations, angered Democrats over the Thanksgiving break when a video surfaced of her suggesting that Ms. Omar, a Muslim who wears a hijab, could be a suicide bomber, and bragging to constituents about confronting Ms. Omar on an elevator with an Islamophobic epithet.

On Monday, Ms. Boebert reached out to Ms. Omar, ostensibly to apologize. It did not go well.

Ms. Omar has said the elevator incident never happened, but the two lawmakers’ accounts of Monday’s phone call do not differ much, down to Ms. Omar abruptly hanging up on Ms. Boebert. Both came away doubly aggrieved — Ms. Omar calling the apology woefully inadequate and Ms. Boebert proclaiming herself a victim of a hypersensitive political culture.

“Instead of apologizing for her Islamophobic comments and fabricated lies, Representative Boebert refused to publicly acknowledge her hurtful and dangerous comments,” Ms. Omar said in a statement after the brief call. “She instead doubled down on her rhetoric, and I decided to end the unproductive call.”

Specifically, Ms. Boebert called to tell her adversary that she was a “strong Christian woman” and had erred when she attacked Ms. Omar on her Muslim faith instead of on the issues that divide them, said Ben Stout, Ms. Boebert’s press secretary. She said she should not have recounted to supporters how she brushed aside a Capitol Police officer’s apparent worry about her sharing an elevator with Ms. Omar after noticing that the Democratic congresswoman was not wearing a backpack, nor should she have called her a member of the “jihad squad.”

Ms. Omar then demanded a public apology, so, Ms. Boebert said in a video on Instagram, “I told Ilhan Omar that she should make a public apology to the American people for her anti-American, antisemitic, anti-police rhetoric. She continued to press, and I continued to press back.”

The two women have their fans and detractors, but they could not be more different. Ms. Omar, a Somali refugee and a leader of the House Progressive Caucus, represents a diverse and liberal district that includes most of Minneapolis and its near-in suburbs. Ms. Boebert, the owner of Shooters Grill in Rifle, Colo., which she reopened during the pandemic against state orders and where servers are encouraged to carry guns, unseated a five-term Republican in 2020 by running far to his right in a largely rural mountain district.Sign Up for On Politics  A guide to the political news cycle, cutting through the spin and delivering clarity from the chaos. Get it sent to your inbox.

Ms. Omar has had her run-ins with Jewish members of Congress, including Democrats, who saw her criticism of Israel as swerving into antisemitic tropes. Many Democrats have distanced themselves from the “defund the police” movement that Ms. Omar has embraced.

But Democrats are not about to allow Ms. Boebert to lecture them on probity, not after she embraced the lie that the 2020 election was rigged and tweeted information about Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s whereabouts during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Her vow to bring guns onto the House floor prompted Democratic leaders to install metal detectors at the entrances — a constant reminder of the ill will that separates the parties.

The entire House Democratic leadership released a joint statement on Friday calling out Ms. Boebert’s “racism” and the Republican leadership’s “repeated failure to condemn inflammatory and bigoted rhetoric from members of their conference.”

“Congresswoman Boebert’s repeated, ongoing and targeted Islamophobic comments and actions against another member of Congress, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, are both deeply offensive and concerning,” Democratic leaders wrote.

But after censuring Representative Paul Gosar, Republican of Arizona, and stripping him of his committee assignments for posting a doctored video depicting him slashing the neck of a Democratic House member, and kicking Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, off her committees for social media posts calling for violence against Democrats, House leaders were not rushing to punish Ms. Boebert.

And Ms. Boebert, sensing political opportunity, was not about to back down.

“Rejecting an apology and hanging up on someone is cancel culture 101 and a pillar of the Democrat Party,” she said in her video statement.

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“I think whenever, even in our own caucus, our own members, if they go the wrong direction, I mean, it has to be called out. It has to be dealt with, particularly whenever it is breaching the civility, whenever it is crossing the line in terms of violence or increasing the divide in our country,” Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.

And Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), one of the two Republicans who voted to rebuke Gosar this month, tweeted that Boebert is “TRASH.”

A CLIMBING AWARD THAT MAY BE A WINNER’S LAST ~ NYT

The Piolet d’Or, or Golden Ice Axe, is alpine climbing’s biggest award. But whether it honors or encourages risk is debated in the sport.

David Lama scouting Lunag Ri for his Piolet d’Or winning climb in 2018.
David Lama scouting Lunag Ri for his Piolet d’Or winning climb in 2018.Credit…Martin Hanslmayr/Red Bull Content Pool

By Michael Levy

Nov. 29, 2021

High on Lunag Ri in Nepal, the Austrian climber David Lama started worrying that he might lose his toes. The cold on the 22,621-foot mountain was as bad as anything he had ever experienced.

Lama, attempting to scale it alone in 2018, could have ended up dead if he became pinned down in a storm with severe frostbite or was injured in a fall. A rescue would be nearly impossible.

Lama’s digits never froze entirely, and he continued to the top of the mountain. The image of him silhouetted on the pulpit-like summit is the kind that climbers dream about. He said after the ascent that he had pushed near his risk-tolerance limit. For his climb, Lama won a Piolet d’Or — the Golden Ice Axe — Alpinism’s biggest prize.

But Lama wasn’t present to accept the award at the Piolets d’Or ceremony in Ladek-Zdroj, Poland, in September 2019.

He had died five months earlier in an avalanche, while attempting to climb a new route on the dangerous Howse Peak in the Canadian Rockies. His two partners, the American Jess Roskelley and the Austrian Hansjorg Auer, also died in the accident. Auer, too, was being honored with a Piolet d’Or in Poland, for a boundary-pushing solo climb of Pakistan’s Lupghar Sar West (23,481 feet).

The dissonance between their deaths and the celebration of their risky solo ascents raised an uncomfortable question about the Piolets d’Or: Is choosing winners — and therefore losers — in mountaineering a bad idea? Elite alpine climbing already feels perilous; its practitioners’ dying is a matter of course. But does handing out awards reinforce an unhealthy culture of risk in what is already a potentially deadly pursuit?

Lama in base camp of Lunag Ri in 2018.
Lama in base camp of Lunag Ri in 2018.Credit…Martin Hanslmayr/Red Bull Content Pool

Giving the awards to Lama and Auer was like “having a drinking party for somebody that died of liver disease,” said Rolando Garibotti, 50, an Argentine American alpine climber for over 30 years, during a phone call from Innsbruck, Austria. Garibotti is one of several significant climbers who wrestle with the implications of giving out prizes for climbs.

“There are plenty of alpine climbs where people walked away only barely with their skin,” Garibotti said. “And none of those people and climbs, in my mind, should qualify for the Piolet d’Or. If we want to create a culture in which not so many of the top guys end up dying, we need to make some changes.”

Garibotti’s comment about top alpinists’ dying is not hyperbole: Since 2008, at least seven Piolet d’Or winners, including the Swiss climber Ueli Steck, have gone on to die in the mountains.

The 2021 Piolets d’Or, the ceremony’s 30th anniversary, took place this weekend, in Briançon, a center of alpine climbing in France. The event featured glittering trophies, acceptance speeches and standing ovations. The honored ascents this year had greater margins of safety than Lama’s or Auer’s. But the specter remained.

Christian Trommsdorff, the organizer of the Piolets d’Or and himself an alpinist, said in a phone call from Greece, “Risk is not a factor in the selection process” of winners, meaning that climbs judged to have been too dangerous are not considered. “But it’s part of the game,” he said, referring to the intrinsic risks in alpinism. 

The Piolets d’Or were founded in 1992 in France as a collaboration between Montagnes magazine and the Group de Haute Montagne, or High Mountain Group, of which Trommsdorff is president. 

Risk aside, there has been debate over the years on how to judge climbs, which have a subjective quality as alpine climbers routinely debate “style,” or how one gets to the summit.

Things came to a head in 2007, when the Slovene alpinist Marko Prezelj refused to accept the Piolet d’Or. Later that year, he wrote an article in the annual American Alpine Journal, arguing that the awards foster an environment in which climbers are “encouraged to overstretch their capacity, to make use of performance-boosting substances, and to take inconsiderate risks.”

Uisdean Hawthorn, one of this year’s Piolet d’Or winners, with his partner, Ethan Berman, on his climb of Mount Robson.
Uisdean Hawthorn, one of this year’s Piolet d’Or winners, with his partner, Ethan Berman, on his climb of Mount Robson.Credit…Ethan Berman

So in 2009, the Piolets d’Or introduced a new format, honoring several climbs, all announced months before the ceremony. This satisfied many of the most vocal opponents in the “style” camp, but for others, like Garibotti, it failed to redress the fundamental problems surrounding risk.

Garibotti knows the danger firsthand. By his tally, more than 30 people he has roped up with have later died climbing. The Piolets d’Or twice tried to nominate Garibotti for the award, once in 2006, for a new route on Cerro Torre, in Patagonia, and once in 2009, for the first traverse of the entire Cerro Torre massif. Twice he refused.

Most shocking was whom the jury decided to honor in 1998: a Russian team that made the first ascent of the west face of the Himalayan peak Makalu in 1997. Two of the climbers on the expedition died in the process. The organizers introduced a new criterion after backlash that year, requiring, according to Trommsdorff, “that you have to come back in one piece.”

The problem, in Garibotti’s opinion, isn’t that the awards encourage climbers to take more risk, but that in awarding risky climbs, they validate risky behavior. “If you have representation of climbs that are reckless, there are going to be more reckless climbs,” he said. 

After winning a Piolet d’Or in 2019 with his Slovene teammates Ales Cesen and Luka Strazar, the British climber Tom Livingstone wrote in an essay on his website that the award “plays on my human ego” in worrisome ways.

“I already have a devil on my shoulder at the end of a run-out” — a section of sparsely protected climbing that can result in dangerous falls — “who whispers, ‘uh oh, you’re gonna take a big one!’” Livingstone wrote. “I don’t want another offering me a golden trophy.” He accepted the award only because his teammates wanted to.

Of course, for many climbers, danger is a big part of the sport’s appeal. 

“We have to recognize that in traditional mountaineering, death is a possibility,” said Reinhold Messner, 77, one of the most lauded alpinists of the last century. “If it’s not a possibility, it’s not mountaineering. The art of surviving is just that. It’s an art.”

Berman looking up the face of the mountain while camped at the base of the face.
Berman looking up the face of the mountain while camped at the base of the face.Credit…Uisdean Hawthorn

Though Messner accepted the lifetime achievement Piolet d’Or in 2010, an award created a year earlier, he too dismisses climbing prizes as reductive. In 1988, he declined an honorary Olympic medal for becoming the first person to summit the world’s 14 8,000-meter (26,247 feet) peaks.

“I was always against the idea that traditional climbing is a competition,” Messner said. “Generally I am not for medals at all. The lifetime award — it’s about respect.”

Despite the detractors, many leading climbers are in favor of the Piolets d’Or.

Symon Welfringer, a 27-year-old Frenchman and one of this year’s Piolets d’Or recipients for his first ascent of the south face of Pakistan’s Sani Pakkush (22,805.1 feet) with his countryman Pierrick Fine, said the award “was one of my main goals in starting to go on expeditions” to the Greater Ranges.

“In alpinism we don’t have that much recognition,” Welfringer explained. “Nowadays you have social media, but it can be quite hard to make people understand how difficult and committing it is to open a new line.”

Messner agrees that recognition helps nonclimbers understand the accomplishments of the best climbers and functions as a check on “charlatan climbers who only appear like great adventurers” in Instagram pictures.

Uisdean Hawthorn, a 28-year-old Scottish climber, is another recipient of a Piolet d’Or this year with his partner, Ethan Berman, for their new route on Mount Robson’s Emperor Face, in Canada. “I think it’s a good thing,” Hawthorn said. “This ceremony brings climbers together to have a discussion. So I think anything that kind of does that is positive.”

Hawthorn doubts most alpinists see the Piolet d’Or as a motivator, as Welfringer did in his climbing. He compared climbers to scientists doing years of research in an esoteric field: “They’re not like, ‘If I do this, I’ll get a Nobel Prize,’” Hawthorn said. “They’re just really into that weird niche thing, and they like it.”

Berman descending just below the summit.
Berman descending just below the summit.Credit…Uisdean Hawthorn

Trommsdorff agrees. “We’re not pushing people to take risks — you don’t need the Piolets d’Or to do that,” he said. And, Trommsdorff said, the Piolets d’Or specifically removed mention of winners and losers in its revamped charter in 2009.

Many, like Hawthorn, appreciate this reframing. “You could negatively look at it as still an excuse to award the best climb in alpinism, but I don’t really see it as that. It’s more of a celebration of alpinism. If it wasn’t a peer-judged thing, it would be completely different.”

HE SPENT ALMOST 50 YEARS ALONE AT 10,000 FEET. HIS HOBBY HELPED SHAPE CLIMATE RESEARCH IN THE ROCKIES ~ The Washington Post

I knew Billy in the old Crested Butte/Aspen days and when he fell into the JOB? he hit his stride.. He claimed to be socially challenged but a couple Scooners at Tony’s Tavern would loosen him up a bit. Billy’s a cool breeze.

rŌbert

An amateur scientist began logging snowfall to keep busy. Along the way, he became an unwitting chronicler of climate change in a region known as the water tower for the drying American West.

Billy Barr pauses on the walk to his home in the abandoned mining town of Gothic, Colo. (Chet Strange for The Washington Post) 

By Karin Brulliard

GOTHIC, Colo. — As world leaders gathered across the globe this month to discuss a climate crisis that is rapidly heating the Earth, Billy Barr, 71, paused outside his mountainside cabin to measure snow.

His tools were simple, the same he’d used since the 1970s. A wooden ruler plunged into white flakes accumulating on his snow board — an old freezer door affixed to legs of plastic piping and wood — showed two inches. A section of snow that he slid into a metal bucket and hung from a scale a few paces away told him it was about 10 percent water, which did not surprise him. For years, that number hovered around 6 percent, but snow here has gotten wetter.

“One year could easily be a fluke. I mean, weather is weather, it changes all the time. But all of a sudden, we’ve had five years in a row,” said Barr, dingy face mask dangling over his white beard. “So that’s starting to get significant.”

These measurements would be a few more data points in nearly five decades of records Barr has kept since leaving urban New Jersey to become the sole year-round resident of this abandoned silver mining town nearly 10,000 feet high in the Rockies. Back then, he wrote his observations — temperatures, snow, the sight of a gray jay or the tracks of a red fox — in small round script in steno notepads, to keep busy in a place he came to be alone.

“Cloudy all A.M.,” he wrote on Nov. 4, 1973. “7 3/4” snow. 5 3/8” presently on ground by night.”

Along the way, Barr became an unwitting chronicler of climate change, the amiable keeper of an analog data set that would eventually inform researchers’ papers on hummingbird migration and marmot hibernation. And he served as a winter pioneer in a mountaintop location whose snowpack, which feeds the Colorado River, is now the focus of urgent attention and scientific inquiry as the Western United States dries up.

An old cabin in the abandoned mining town of Gothic, Colo. (Chet Strange for The Washington Post) 
Weather monitoring equipment outside of Barr’s home. (Chet Strange for The Washington Post) 

It is no coincidence Barr logs his data up the hill from the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, a field station that comes alive each summer with researchers studying a rainbow of alpine wildflowers and animals, but which has long shut down when the snow comes. Barr, a part-time accountant at the lab, always stayed put, stocking his freezer, stacking firewood, readying his notebooks and waxing skis he put up to 800 miles on per winter.

But as he enters his 50th winter in Gothic, change has come, and not just in shorter snow seasons and higher temperatures. All that skiing has left Barr’s legs in severe pain, and though he is planning hip replacements, he worries this might be his last winter here. And for the first time, Gothic is hosting winter researchers — a skeleton staff for a two-year, multimillion dollar project using radar, weather balloons, lasers and other high-tech equipment to better predict how rain and snow ends up as water in the Colorado River Basin.

The company might have bothered Barr years ago, but he doesn’t relish the frozen solitude so much anymore. He is, though, determined to keep gathering his data. He says he feels an obligation — to the records themselves, and the precise way he has kept them since the early ’70s.

“The thing is, nowadays, there’s mountain weather stations all over the place,” said Barr, who last winter logged just 200 miles on his skis. “But there aren’t any from then.”

Barr updates weather reports for the day at his home in the abandoned mining town of Gothic. (Chet Strange for The Washington Post) 
The view from Barr’s home in Gothic. (Chet Strange for The Washington Post) 

Barr arrived in Gothic in 1972 as a Rutgers undergraduate helping on a water chemistry project. He stayed until the end of the year, then came permanently the following summer. He’d had terrible luck with girls back home and was miserable, he said. In the mountains, he felt relaxed — even though home was an uninsulated mining shack with a kerosene lamp and a sleeping bag.

“I was from an inner city. I’d never been on skis,” Barr said. “I had no idea what I was doing.”

But he figured it out. Then, winter residence at the base of the 12,631-foot Gothic Mountain meant occasionally skiing five miles to the paved road, where he’d hitch a ride to Crested Butte, a nearby town, for supplies. In the 1980s, he built himself a more comfortable cabin.

Barr did odd jobs at the lab: dishes, plumbing, helping in the library. He fought fires on a hotshot crew. Eventually, he became the lab’s accountant and business manager. He’d always liked numbers; as a kid, he counted gas stations on family trips.

That’s what inspired his records, not some grand scientific ambition. Over time, Barr found he liked comparing one year to others.

While Barr’s extended focus on winter in Gothic is unique, long-term research is one of the lab’s summer specialties. A marmot study has been running since 1962. David Inouye, a University of Maryland biologist, began his study of the timing and abundance of wildflower blooming in 1973. Yet although he knew Barr, it wasn’t until the 1990s that Inouye got wind of the accountant’s handwritten records.

“It turns out that what really sets the clock for all the phenology out there, in terms of flowering and animal activity, is when the snow melts. And Billy had this wonderful data set on not only when does it melt, but when does it start and how does it change from day to day,” Inouye said.

In 2000, Inouye listed Barr as a co-author on a paper about birds and marmots in the Colorado Rockies, which showed, Inouye said, “first, that the climate is changing, and second, that it’s having an effect on the plants and animals out there.” In 2012, Barr was a co-author on a paper by Inouye and others that predicted broad-tailed hummingbirds could by 2033 arrive after the flowering of a key nectar source, the glacier lily, which has bloomed earlier over time because of climate change.

After filling 10 notebooks with his records, Barr now organizes them in Excel and publishes them on his website. Researchers regularly ask him for data, he said, and he always obliges.

“I would say it’s because I care about others and want to help them,” Barr said. “But it’s mostly because I’ve never had a social life, so what else do I have to do?”

Barr at his home. (Chet Strange for The Washington Post)
Barr holds a photo of his younger self. (Chet Strange for The Washington Post)
A stack of weather notes on a table at Barr’s home. (Chet Strange for The Washington Post)

But Barr rolls his eyes at the idea that he is a hermit, and at the notion that he valiantly braves whiteout winters. He is gregarious and self-deprecating — a “70-year-old, 5-foot-8-inch, 125-pound superhero,” he jokes.

His cabin is basic and messy, but powered by a plethora of solar panels. Starting at 3:30 p.m. each day, Barr does chores, logs data on his computer and eats dinner — a premade packet of Indian food, salad he’s grown in his greenhouse and Newman-O’s cookies.

Evening is for uplifting films in his carpeted movie room — these days, streamed by one of seven services he subscribes to. Barr’s favorite movie is “The Princess Bride.” (He is often asked about “The Shining,” which he has no intention of seeing: “Never horror.”)

On a recent afternoon, as snow slid from the roof past his window, Barr sat at his computer, scrolling through decades of numbers. Next to him was his current notebook, used only for animal sightings, which he has never found the energy to enter into spreadsheets. Today, it showed, he had spotted a Steller’s jay and a crow.

In the numbers, he points out patterns. Nearly half the record low temperatures came in his first decade here, and more than half the record highs occurred in the last one. The years between 1974 and 2000 averaged 10 more days with snow on the ground than the years since. The number of consecutive days when temperatures stayed below freezing has plummeted.

“Back in the ’70s, there were winters where we had well over 100 days in a row where it didn’t get [above] freezing. Last winter, the most was nine,” Barr said. “It doesn’t take much to break that — it could have been 200 days with one in between. But still, there’s a trend there.”

In newspapers, Barr devours wedding stories and typically avoids the nastiness of politics. But he does pay attention to climate news, and he worries. “I really think we’re in a load of trouble,” he said. “And we don’t have much time for this.”

The East River, an important watershed for the Colorado River, snakes toward Crested Butte, Colo. (Chet Strange for The Washington Post). 

Down the hill from Barr’s cabin and outside the lab is a new recognition of that: Eight white trailers forming the core of the Surface Atmosphere Integrated Field Laboratory (SAIL), a massive federally funded effort that relies on dozens of instruments measuring precipitation, wind, aerosols, clouds, radiation and more. Much of the equipment arrived in September after deployment on a ship in the Arctic, where it was part of an expedition documenting climate change.

It is in Gothic now because climate change in this spot has enormous implications but is not fully understood. Snowmelt here eventually flows to the Colorado River — a key and declining water source for 40 million people in the West.

The campaign builds on an existing study of the East River watershed headed by Ken Williams, a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientist who is co-leading SAIL. He chose to work here in part, he said, because the area’s diversity — in vegetation, elevation, geology — is representative of mountain watersheds across the West. The lab’s wealth of long-term observations were also a draw — including Barr’s, he said.

“If you’re in the business of trying to understand how ecosystems function now and in the future, you have to have a long record of data against which to compare one year to the next,” Williams said.

But the new project is aimed at the future, gathering an unprecedented array of data that scientists hope will help them model how much water will flow out of here, into creeks and the bedrock below, and out of other Western watersheds.

A weather station at the Crested Butte ski resort, installed by the SAIL research program at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, will help accurately forecast winter precipitation. (Chet Strange for The Washington Post) 
Paul Ortega, with the SAIL research project, takes notes at the research site at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory. (Chet Strange for The Washington Post). 

Barr, whose office windows at the lab overlook the trailers, watches this with interest, marveling at the laser a researcher told him can measure the size of snowflakes. He is sure the conditions in Gothic will be less arduous than the Arctic. “It’ll be shoveling snow more than anything else,” said Barr, who has offered some wisdom to project staff.

“He actually freezes [eggs] … he scrambles them and puts them in ice trays,” said James McMahan, one site operator who will spend much of the winter in a Gothic cabin.

Over time, Barr has added more complex equipment to his cabin-side weather station that can take remote measurements if he’s not around.

If Barr can’t stay, “there’s good chance the lab will ask its caretakers to pick up some of the things that can’t be measured so easily,” said Inouye. “I think the lab appreciates how valuable Billy’s observations have been, and how important it will be to keep them going.”

For now, Barr intends to remain. He just put in a new wood stove. He is considering subscribing to Hulu so he can watch “Happiest Season,” a holiday movie starring Kristen Stewart and Daniel Levy. He is witnessing snow fall here for the 50th year straight.

“My stuff has basically become useless other than the fact that it goes back a good ways, and it’s got easy-to-measure information that we can continue,” Barr said. “I just want to keep it going. It is interesting — it is, I think. And it’s helpful.”

Barr clears snow off the several solar panels that power his home. (Chet Strange for The Washington Post)