This volcano just erupted after nearly a century of silence. Astronauts captured the breathtaking scene from 254 miles above. ~ The Washington Post

The Raikoke volcano erupts June 22. (NASA)

June 26 at 3:24 PM

Watching a volcano erupt would be cool. But having a front-row seat 254 miles above the volcano? That would be a view.

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station captured the breathtaking scene Saturday showing the vigorous eruption of the Raikoke volcano.

Raikoke is an uninhabited island along the Kuril chain, a necklace of narrow strip islands draped 500 miles from northern Japan to northeast Russia. Formerly owned by Japan, the volcanic island — which occupies an area less than two square miles — is under the control of Russia, and has been since World War II.

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Adventurer and Exum mountain guide, Michael Gardner ~ Wednesday, June, 26th @ 7 pm ~ Ouray County 4-H Event Center

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“The Hard Way Home”

Michael Gardner—a 2010 Ridgway High School graduate, mountain guide, and climber—will share stories about climbing in Alaska, and the importance of relationships and community, at the Ouray County 4-H Center. The event is a fundraiser for the George Gardner Scholarship Fund, whose mission is “Helping Ouray County Youth explore the outdoors to foster personal growth and a compassionate world view.”

The evening will include a silent auction with items from Arc’teryx and Voormi (sponsors of Michael’s), and local sponsors.

Doors open at 6:30 and the show starts at 7:00. Suggested donation: $15 adults; $10 students.

For Michael, “The Hard Way Home” is a way of encapsulating an important part of his climbing philosophy. He says, “It’s not so much to about reaching the summit but rather taking the hardest possible route to get home to your friends and family. ‘Climb high, climb hard, come home’ – the only one that really matters is the last one.”

Michael will share photos and stories of his most recent adventure – a unique climb up the Infinite Spur of 17,400’ Mt. Foraker in the central Alaska Range in Denali National Park. He refers to it as his “harebrained idea” – he climbed and skied over 20,000 vertical feet and 30 miles in 48 hours, from base camp to base camp.

The importance of relationships and community is a focal point of Michael’s climbing career. “I love the mountains, and the beauty, and the places that climbing takes me, but the most important part is the community I build through climbing. Community is all about connections with the people that you’re with and the community of the place. Moving through the landscape in a slow, human-powered and intimate way makes that connection.”

Michael grew up spending summers with his family in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, living in a cluster of cabins used by the National Park Service Climbing Rangers and the commercial Exum Mountain Guides. George Gardner, Michael’s father and an accomplished guide, was a beloved and respected member of the mountaineering community. George promoted the outdoor classroom and experiential learning with both his climbing clients and student groups as a way of promoting personal growth and a compassionate world view. Michael was only 16 in 2008 when his father tragically died in a climbing accident on the Grand.

His father’s legacy continues, however, through the George Gardner Scholarship Fund that supports Ouray County youth who wish to pursue outdoor or experiential learning opportunities. The George Fund believes that profound learning is often facilitated by time spent in the mountains, deserts, rivers, and waters of the world. For more about The George Fund, visit www.georgefund.org

 

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THEN I WENT CLIMBING… by Jeff Burke.

 Featuring Michael Gardner

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Exum guide Michael Gardner climbing an exposed pitch on the upper Exum Ridge.  Photograph by David Stubbs.

Organic Chemistry at Exum Mountain Guides

 

“The Snaz” on Cathedral Buttress in Grand Teton National Park is a classic Wyoming mountaineering route. Established by Yvon Chouinard and Mort Hempel in 1964, “The Snaz” is a free climb above Phelps Lake in the southerly part of the park. It slithers nine pitches up a dihedral composed of metamorphic swirls of granitic and intrusive formations—the essence of Teton geology. After 60 years of ascents from climbers and guides of every stripe, it’s become a classic trade route of the Teton Range.

In 1993, Brenton Reagan was 17 years old and on summer vacation, gearing up to follow the late, great Alex Lowe, a world-renowned alpinist and Exum mountain guide. An enviable pied piper, Lowe’s infectious passion for alpine adventure changed the lives of anyone with whom he crossed paths. Like most impressionable 17-year-olds, Reagan had no idea what he wanted to do with his life. “But then I went climbing with Alex,” he says, “and it was like, Oh yeah.”

Fast-forward to this spring. It’s a damp afternoon in Jackson, Wyoming, and I’m drinking coffee on my porch with Reagan. He’s just returned from Alaska, having taken his American Mountain Guides Association ski mountaineering exam, a two-week extended series of tests and competency requirements for working guides looking for international certification.

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Mentorship in climbing is as old as the sport of climbing itself. It goes hand in hand with learning history, and Reagan is part of a history—the history, long and storied, of Exum climbing guides. Exum was founded in 1929 by two wayward Idahoans—Glenn Exum and Paul Petzoldt—who went to the Tetons in search of some of North America’s greatest climbing challenges. Petzoldt first climbed The Grand at 16 years old in a pair of cowboy boots. The Grand is a serious climb at 13,775 feet requiring both endurance and technical skills. With an entrepreneurial spirit to match his climbing habit, Petzoldt soon figured out that visitors to Grand Teton National Park would pay money for a guide to lead them into the park’s mountains. Soon, he started one of the first guide services in North America. Petzoldt and Exum hooked up a few years later and began what has since become known as one of the premier mountaineering schools in the country.

Glenn Exum earned the respect of the climbing world when he was 18 years old and climbed a new route up The Grand Teton sans rope in a borrowed pair of leather-cleated football shoes that were two sizes too big. While climbing The Grand in shoes that don’t fit and, honestly, don’t belong on the terrain, is notable, the real zinger is that Exum made a first ascent that included a less-than-sane jump across a gap up a ridge that now bears his name.

Petzoldt—who went on to found National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) as a pioneer in the development of outdoor education—and Exum created a mountaineering school where experience, self-reliance, and good sense formed the core of their enterprise. They departed from the European school of mountaineering where the guides “did for” the clients (sometimes tying a rope around them and pulling them up difficult terrain) and instead created a culture where guides offered instruction and the chance to utilize newly learned skills. This approach to guiding set a distinct tone at Exum where mentors have long played a pivotal role. And mentors, according to Reagan, have played an important role in his ascent from climber to guide. “I wasn’t that good of a climber or skier [when I started], but I just knew that’s what I wanted to do.” Now, 26 years later, Reagan is 43, has a wife (herself a guide), two kids, and a thriving career as a full-time guide and marketing manager for Exum Mountain Guides. And while formal education is a good thing, we’re here to mine the intangible value of mentoring and the importance of passing on history.

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I Spy, Via Spy Satellite: Melting Himalayan Glaciers ~ NPR

The world’s glaciers are melting faster than before, but it still takes decades to see changes that are happening at a glacial pace.

To look back in time, researchers are turning to a once-secret source: spy satellite imagery from the 1970s and 1980s, now declassified. “The actual imagery is freely available for download on the USGS website, and people can use it,” says Josh Maurer, a doctoral student at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Maurer is the lead author of a study using satellite imagery to show that in the past 20 years, Himalayan glaciers melted twice as fast as they did in the 1980s and ’90s. The work was published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances.

The spy satellite images come from KH-9 Hexagon military satellites, launched during the Cold War to help the U.S. peer over the Iron Curtain, says Summer Rupper, a co-author of the study. Each satellite was about the size of a school bus and carried miles of film. Packaged in buckets equipped with parachutes, the film was later ejected into the upper atmosphere and plucked out of the air over the Pacific Ocean by Air Force pilots. Most Hexagon images were declassified in 2011 as a continuation of a 1995 executive order by President Bill Clinton to release spy satellite footage that was “scientifically or environmentally useful.”

Maurer’s study compares the spy satellite images, mostly from the mid-1970s, with more recent images taken by ASTER, an instrument attached to a NASA satellite that was developed jointly by the U.S. and Japan and launched in 1999.

There’s a history of researchers using declassified surveillance images. Some scientistshave used spy satellite data to study Arctic ice cover, Antarctic streams, meteor trajectories and smaller-scale glacier studies. Maurer says his team figured out an efficient way to turn satellite images into 3D elevation models over a large region.

“What we’re able to do using spy satellites is to cross the entire Himalayan range, [and measure] hundreds of glaciers of all different types and sizes, over a much longer period of time,” says Rupper, an associate professor of geography at the University of Utah.

The Himalayan mountain range, home to Mount Everest, holds tens of thousands of glaciers. The study authors looked at 650 of them, across a 1,240-mile swath. They found that, on average, the Himalayan glaciers lost 10 inches of ice per year from 1975 to 2000. As average global temperatures increased, the average loss rate doubled to a loss of 20 inches of ice per year from 2000 to 2016.

Glaciologist Etienne Berthier of the French national research agency CNRS, who was not affiliated with the research, said via email that the fact that the study used the same method of analysis across the Himalayas, “[made] their conclusion of doubling of mass loss rate very convincing.”

The Himalayas contain many different types of glaciers — such as those covered in debris or located near bodies of water — in many different environments. The researchers were surprised to find that the rate of melt was consistent across all the glaciers they studied. “In the east, the precipitation in the Himalayas occurs in the middle of the summertime [driven by monsoon winds], whereas in the west, most of the snow comes [in the winter] along a westerly storm track,” Rupper says. “So you actually have two very different settings for these glaciers. Yet, from east to west, we’re seeing a relatively uniform change in mass.”

That the Himalayan glaciers are melting faster signals unpredictability in coming years. Those glaciers supply fresh water to mountain communities and feed rivers that billions of people in South Asia rely on.

Sonam Futi Sherpa, a doctoral student at Arizona State University, co-authored a paper on how glaciers in the Everest region change with precipitation and storms. She says: “It’s important to have long-term monitoring, not just in Nepal,” where she’s from, “but in Bhutan, Tibet, other places” for two main reasons: figuring out future water availability and anticipating possibly catastrophic events such as floods and landslides.

Deborah Balk of the City University of New York, who formerly served on a National Research Council panel on Himalayan glaciers and climate change, said via email that “understanding glacial ice loss is very important, particularly in South Asia where the consequences of climate change are already unfolding” — consequences such as extreme heat in India, sea-level rise and salinization in Bangladesh, and regional flooding.

Over the next 80 years, according to a 2019 study of the Hindu Kush Himalaya region, up to two-thirds of the Himalayan glaciers are projected to melt because of climate change.

A view of Changri Nup, a typical debris-covered glacier in the Everest region, highlights the glacier’s complex surface characteristics, including patches of rock debris and exposed ice cliffs.

Josh Maurer

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Rising Temperatures Ravage the Himalayas, Rapidly Shrinking Its Glaciers ~ NYT

The Khumbu glacier sits between Mt. Everest and the Lhotse-Nuptse ridge. The glacier is receding and pools of water are now a common scene along the length of itCredit Heath Holden/Getty Images

Climate change is “eating” the glaciers of the Himalayas, posing a grave threat to hundreds of millions of people who live downstream, a study based on 40 years of satellite data has shown.

The study, published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances, concluded that the glaciers have lost a foot and a half of ice every year since 2000, melting at a far faster pace than in the previous 25-year period. In recent years, the glaciers have lost about eight billion tons of water a year. The study’s authors described it as equivalent to the amount of water held by 3.2 million Olympic-size swimming pools.

The study adds to a growing and grim body of work that points to the dangers of global warming for the Himalayas, which are considered the water towers of Asia and an insurance policy against drought.

In February, a report produced by the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development warned that the Himalayas could lose up to a third of their ice by the end of the century, even if the world can fulfill its most ambitious goal of keeping global average temperatures from rising only 1.5 degrees above preindustrial levels.

That goal, which scientists have identified as vital to avert catastrophic heat waves and other extreme weather events, is nowhere close to being met. Average global temperatures have risen by one degree already in the last 150 years. Greenhouse gas emissions continue to climb. And scientists estimate that we are on track to raise the average global temperature between 3 to 5 degrees Celsius by the end of this century.

Another study, published in May in Nature, found that Himalayan glaciers are melting faster in summer than they are being replenished by snow in winter. In the warm seasons, meltwater from the mountains feeds rivers that provide drinking water and irrigation for crops.

The retreat of glaciers is one of the most glaring consequences of rising global temperatures. Around the world, vanishing glaciers will mean less water for people, livestock and crops.

2 Giant Buddhas Survived 1,500 Years. Fragments, Graffiti and a Hologram Remain.

A 3D light projection last month in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, of how a destroyed Buddha, known as Solsol to locals, might have looked in its prime. Credit Jim Huylebroek for The New York Times

 

BAMIYAN, Afghanistan — Here is a reminder to someone with the initials A.B., who on March 8 climbed inside the cliff out of which Bamiyan’s two giant Buddhas were carved 1,500 years ago.

In a domed chamber — reached after a trek through a passageway that worms its way up the inside of the cliff face — A.B. inscribed initials and the date, as hundreds of others had in many scripts, then added a little heart.

It’s just one of the latest contributions to the destruction of the World Heritage Site of Bamiyan’s famous Buddhas.

The worst was the Taliban’s effort in March 2001, when the group blasted away at the two giant statues, one 181 feet and the other 125 feet tall, which at the time were thought to be the two biggest standing Buddhas on the planet.

It took the Taliban weeks, using artillery and explosive charges, to reduce the Buddhas to thousands of fragments piled in heaps at the foot of the cliffs, outraging the world.

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Since then, the degradation has continued, as Afghanistan and the international community have spent 18 years debating what to do to protect or restore the site, with still no final decision and often only one guard on duty.

One recent idea came from a wealthy Chinese couple, Janson Hu and Liyan Yu. They financed the creation of a Statue of Liberty-size 3D light projection of an artist’s view of what the larger Buddha, known as Solsol to locals, might have looked like in his prime.

The image was beamed into the niche one night in 2015; later the couple donated their $120,000 projector to the culture ministry.

The local authorities bring it out on special occasions, but rarely, as Bamiyan has no city power supply, other than fields of low-capacity solar panels. The 3D-image projector is power-hungry and needs its own diesel generator.

Most of the time, the remains of the monument are so poorly guarded that anyone can buy a ticket ($4 for foreigners, 60 cents for Afghans), walk in and do pretty much whatever he wants. And many do.

The Statue of Liberty would fit comfortably in the western niche where a Buddha once stood in Bamiyan, Afghanistan. Credit Jim Huylebroek for The New York Times

Souvenir-hunters pluck pieces of painted stucco decorations from the network of chambers or take away chunks of fallen sandstone. Graffiti signatures, slogans, even solicitations for sex abound.

Anyone can, as A.B. did, crawl through the passagewayssurrounding the towering niches in the cliff, through winding staircases tunneled into the sandstone and up steps with risers double the height of modern ones, as if built for giants.

At the end of this journey, you arrive above the eastern niche, which housed the smaller Buddha, and stand on a ledge just behind where the statue’s head once was, taking in the splendid Buddha’s eye view of snow-capped mountains and the lush green valley far below.

The soft sandstone of the staircases crumbles underfoot, so that the very act of climbing them is at least in part a guilty pleasure — though no longer very dangerous. Twisted iron banisters set in the stone make the steep inclines and windows over the precipices more safely navigable, if not as authentically first millennium.