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Archives for January 2011
Back in 2009, photographer Ryan Bonneau (Telluride Magazine summer cover, 2010) spent two months trying not to get eaten by bears. Bonneau was on a two-month-long solo kayaking expedition in the Prince William Sound, on the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, shooting photos and raising money to combat the long-lasting effects of the disaster. Bonneau kayaked 800 miles in the self-supported excursion, living off what he could carry in two bear-proof canisters and an occasional salmon. “Food was an issue because of the bears, but it was by far the coolest thing I’ve ever done,” says Bonneau. “It was interesting to see the effects of the spill twenty years after, and the environmental and cultural issues it created.”
This spring Bonneau will be dodging alligators instead of bears, as he kayaks the gulf coast, from Texas to Florida, a year after the BP oil spill erupted into those waters. Bonneau is raising money for his trip with a photo exhibit at the Steaming Bean, but the trip itself will be in support of conservation groups such as Waterkeeper Alliance. The logistics of bayou camping and alligator evading are going to be a bit tricky for Bonneau, but he’s up for the challenge. “It’s definitely a different area, and I’ve never been in that environment before,” says Bonneau. “But my main goal is to raise money for these groups to help with the cleanup.”
Bonneau’s landscape photography will be on display at the Steaming Bean throughout January, or you can browse and order one of his prints online.
Global warming be damned, they’re making ice in Ouray…and they’re going to climb it.
Ice climbing is one of the fun things to do in the San Juan Mountains when it gets cold, with classic routes like Bridal Veil Falls and the Ames Ice Hose, as well as the world-renowned Ouray Ice Park. This year, though, operators at the Ouray Ice Park were sweating (literally) when a bout of warm weather threatened to put off the 2011 Ice Festival. “This year has been tough on us,” says Erin Eddy, the executive director of the organization that runs the Ice Park. “In the last week of November we were close to opening the park early. Then we had 21 days of 40- and 50-degree temperatures and 6 solid 12-plus hour periods of heavy rain. Seventy-five percent of the ice in the park fell apart.”
The New Year, however, ushered in colder weather and according to Eddy, park workers and volunteers “made great strides in ice formation.” They were able to freeze enough water in the gorge to accommodate the 16th Annual Ouray Ice Festival, which kicked off yesterday and runs through the weekend.
The Ice Park is a unique amenity, a mile-long gorge filled with manmade ice climbing routes of all levels, 168-plus routes in a normal season. Climbers can access the climbs with just a short walk from the car (instead of a dangerous hike into avalanche terrain) and it’s easy to set up a top rope; it’s one of the safest environments imaginable for ice climbing.
That doesn’t mean the climbing is easy—the competition at the Festival attracts some of the world’s best ice climbers. One year I remember watching the winner use not one, but two “figure four” maneuvers to top out. A figure four is used when the ice or rock is too steep to hold the toe spikes of your crampons; the climber hurls one leg over his own arm, which is holding an ice axe on the face, then uses his own arm as a foothold so he/she can move his other ice axe up higher. The climber’s body is contorted into something resembling a figure four, and it is one of the most athletic feats I’ve ever witnessed. Sheer desire and brute strength in action.
If you want to check out this level of athleticism or try ice climbing yourself, this is the weekend to do it. Climbing companies let you demo gear for free at the Festival, and there are lots of instructors and easy routes on site to get you started.
Former Avalanche Forecaster Jerry Roberts Joins the Blogosphere
Most of us sat around scratching our heads when the last storm cycle failed to deliver Telluride the multiple feet of snow that landed elsewhere in the San Juan Mountains. Pineapple express? La Niña? An east-west valley instead of southwest-facing orientation?
Not Jerry Roberts. Roberts has been forecasting such vagaries for 40 years, as a weather and avalanche specialist here in the Telluride/Silverton area in the winter and in the Chilean Andes in the summer.
Roberts retired last year, and now, instead of getting up before dawn to study satellite images, predict storms, teach avalanche school and shoot the howitzer at slide paths on Red Mountain pass, Roberts is blogging. Of course, old habits die hard—his blog also features a regular weather forecast, probably the best one you can find anywhere on the Internet. That is, if you are looking for an accurate prediction along with some insider knowledge of the regional backcountry ski conditions and a bit of wittiness. The blog (The Rōbert Report, pronounced “Rō’bear Re’por” in a nod to Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert) is an eclectic collection of posts showcasing what makes the ineffable Roberts such a San Juan character: his penchant for haiku, a fierce love of music and art, a healthy dose of political commentary and humor, and for his subscriber list’s subset of local river rats and ski bums, Roberts’ own calculation of what the weather will bring.
Log on and read some great avalanche stories, anecdotes about snow scientists like the famed Ed LaChappelle and other miscellany, including haiku like this one by Roberts:
sleeping with radio
romantic forecast night
Missing the big storms that make living in avalanche country so exciting? Enjoy this video by former Ophir resident Judah Kuper, filmed a few years ago.