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Whoa. This is some seriously scary shite I’ve gotten myself into.

 

     PNH heli crevasses

 

I wasn’t as concerned about being faint of heart, letting a helicopter drop me off on the top of a near-vertical slope, strewn with seemingly bottomless crevasses, and patches of exposed diamond-hard, luminescent blue glacial ice.

 

Primarily, because I lack the primal mental acuity when to know better.

 

No, it was more being feint of physical ability and skiing agility, to handle the massive mountains of much sought-after deep blankets of fresh powder.

 

     frank going down

    That’s actually me almost looking like I know what I am doing. Thanks Photoshop.

 

To summarize, the conditions were steep and deep.

 

Unfortunately, I was proven to be weak and meek.

 

     guide guidance

 

My last post presented an overview, but there was more…much more.

 

While not necessarily the case in all things, when it comes to this heli-skiing stuff, getting up was much less an ordeal than going down.

 

Out in the play zone, getting up was quick and thrilling, while going down took ignoring the obvious and pretending that it felt good.

 

     heli base pickup

 

Points North Heli-Aventures makes it almost as easy as falling off a barstool, whisking us up from the lodge base in one of three, sleek, dark blue helicopters in a matter of minutes, up to almost unlimited possibilities of downhill runs.

 

     where next

 

The choices abound.

 

There are massive open slopes where skiers and boarders can make fresh tracks, day after day after day.

 

    skier on big slope

 

Or, for those with even less faintness of heart—or a total lack of primal survival instincts—there are narrow, steep paths, rimmed with razor-sharp rocks, known as couloirs, which is French for, “ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR EFFING MIND?!?”

 

     PS FB pic1

 

Apparently, going down only once was clearly not enough for somebody.

 

So, instead of looking down (which I now find, sometimes scares the shite out of me), looking ahead to our next AA meeting (A-wannabe A-heliskier), I will reveal the coping strategies of this support group in this vertical winter playground.

 

Hint – it involves ice.

 

     ice balls

Maybe I can blame Warren Miller.

 

Three things were certain. It would be in Alaska, it would involve helicopters, and there would be skiing.

 

Truth be told, I guess I knew it would be an adventure.

But, did there have to be quite so much of it?

 

     boys on top

 

What may have exemplified to the extreme the glacial crevasse (pun fully intended) between wanting to participate in a particular sports adventure, and having the capability to not have it become a de facto once-in-a-lifetime activity, I ventured up to Cordova, Alaska, and Points North Heli-Adventures.

 

The final leg of the flight up from Seattle was on an Alaskan Airlines 737-400 Combi aircraft, where the passenger’s comfort takes a back seat to no one.

Well, except for the massive amount of air cargo which occupies the  entire front half of the plane. You know, the good half where drinks start flowing before the unwashed masses even get their lesson on how to operate a seat belt.

 

     AK Air 737 Combo

 

Over the course of series of posts, I will regale you tall tales of the ups and downs (and again, pun obviously intended) of flying to towering mountain tops and then skiing long runs in virgin powder to the glacier floor, far below, in arguably some of the most spectacular winter scenery in the world.

 

But, of course, in order to actually participate in heli-skiing, it kind of requires that the helicopters are able to actually take to the sky, which, not entirely surprisingly, does not occur when the clouds which birth the much desired powder, won’t leave. That, and when the winds, which bring in and clear out the storm clouds, are blowing 50-mph. So, you wait.

 

     helis waiting

 

The down time gave me the chance to prepare certain necessary survival equipment.

Where it seems de rigueur to many a skier and boarder to mount video cameras on their helmets, I could think of more useful items to keep within reach.

Something that provides more readily available gratification.

 

       helmet flask - Copy

 

After a couple of days, the copters, flown by men of amazing skill and true grit, rocket us high, high (did I mention it was high) up above the glacier floor, and whoosh, leave us to our thoughts.

(Check out the little skiers on the big, big mountain in this PNH picture.)

 

     skiers on top

 

As we peered over the edge, down into the abyss, I found the younger set to become “stoked” (is that term still “hip"?”) and do a lot of hooping and hollering, while some of us older folks—and by some older folks, I do mean me—experience some level of bowel incontinence when we realize that, a) the helicopter is long gone, and b) down is the only way…well…to get down.

 

     down how

 

Somehow I got up here clinging to the feeble thought I was up to the task, which in short order had me clinging to our heli-guide, begging him not to leave me.

 

       dont leave me

 

But, alas, there were pits for Jason to dig (no, not that kind. And by then it was too late for that kind, anyway; I needed clean shorts, not a snow pit).

 

This led our little group to conduct a quick prayer session, asking for guidance and the path to enlightenment and epic blower pow (ask a skier or boarder).

 

     gone guide

 

We also discovered that certain electronic devices did not seem to fully function way up here, which, for all I know, was caused by magnetic disturbances so close to the north pole.

 

This lead to some real concern as to us finding our way to important waypoints.

 

     google maps

 

Don’t go far.

 

Thanks to those 50-mile-an-hour winds, there is much more around the cornice.

 

Yeah, I know…you can’t wait.

Where do I begin?

 

If I tell you that I am a proud member of a worldwide group called Gooners, would you immediately conjure up a vision of Goonies groupies of the 1985 Spielberg “adventure comedy,”, staring a very young Josh Brolin?

 

Sorry, Gooners are not Goonies groupies, although simply based on the names, I sure don’t know why not.

 

No, Gooners are groupies of a different strip. Gooners are Gunners groupies, which, contrary to what the name suggests, are not a National Rifle Association support group.

 

     Sac Gooners at Zebra Club

 

Gunners  happens to be the nickname for the Arsenal F.C., where F.C. stands for football club, but not of the variety NRA members likely follow.

 

No, Arsenal plays the type of ball game that we call soccer, but the rest of the entire world calls football.

 

So, we Gooners get up early, often on Saturday mornings, to watch Arsenal play soccer, except it is football eight time zones away, over London, England, way.

 

If I haven’t lost the point of this so far…actually, I have not yet made a point so far…being a loyal Gooner means going to a respectable local pub and having a great excuse for having multiple pints of Guinness stout, or a good imported whiskey, or, in the case of the wife-person if she cares to join me, a Magners hard apple cider.

 

     bar sign

 

Sometimes the live games are on so early California time, the respectable pub we frequent is not even open yet, but we have a local “dive bar” that opens for drinking at 6:00 a.m., which for an avid Gooner is damn respectable to us.

 

This was my first foray into a dive bar, other than occasionally watching the Food Network show, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

 

(Please, please don’t tell the guys I watch the Food Network.)

 

     Zebra Club

 

I had not heard about this place, so I went to the online review site, urbanspoon, and found this review:

 

Urban Spoon Zebra Bar review

 

I figured, if I drink enough alcohol I could sterilize my guts from infective assaults.

 

I also checked out reviews at foursquare, and found this one:

 

Four Square Zebra Bar review

 

Well, I am not sure the drinks were all that cheap, there were a few “girls,” but, thankfully no fights.

 

Well, except for the one we had with the drunk down the bar as to whether we were  watching a soccer or football game.

 

Oh, I should mention that many of the online reviews raved about the breakfasts, especially anything with their amazing gravy. I did order biscuits that were drenched with their heavy—probably not fat-free—gravy and it was great.

 

Especially, washed down with a “few” adult beverages.

 

God bless, America, indeed!

What a weird winter. The Sierras have seen a lot more sun than snow this season.

 

Even the  livestock are parched.

Remind me again, what ski wax won’t wane with global warming?

After interminable hours of doing my naked snow dance out on the bare Sierra slopes, which produced nothing more than a frozen Schwanzstück, I hit the highway headed eastbound for the Wasatch range of Utah, where I hoped I would find some of the storied Greatest Snow on Earth®.

Getting there was even faster than the Garmin calculated, given the recent rise in speed limit to 80. This, of course, now means everyone is driving at 90+ (except me, naturally…that would be illegal).

    

While even Utah would like to see more of that addictive white powder that skiers crave (boarders, I’m told, are more into herbaceous pursuits) , they are reporting up to 88% of normal snowpack on the western slopes of the Rockies, where California is probably closer to 8% (and melting as you read this).

Climate Strange on steroids, where abnormal is the new normal®.

After a drive up north to Snow Basin (speaking of winter Olympic sites), I spent a couple of days at the laid-back, and local favorite, Brighton ski resort, where a visit to Molly Green’s is de rigueur, with their satiating selection of comfort food and local beers.

You will have to look for this beloved pub and grill, as it is located up a couple of flights of old wooden stairs in a rustic A-frame cabin, off to the side of the main resort.

Utah, historically (as in my lifetime of ski visits) has not always been the easiest place to get a beer—even at the 3.2% maximum alcohol—as you had to be a “member” of the pub, even to order a beer. Thankfully, nowadays anyone 21 and with a “few bucks” can quaff a cold brew.

Being the semi-scared shitless super sensational skier that I am, the double black diamond runs down the near vertical slopes of razor-sharp rocky cliffs, that drop off the Milly Express high-speed quad, were not near enough of a challenge for me to poop my pants work up even the slightest beer quaffing sweat.

Thanks to one of my regular readers in Utah, who knew I was to be in the area…actually, my ONLY reader in Utah, which happens to be my sister (mom said she had to read my blog, because nobody else would) I heard about some extreme ski flying activity over at Park City.

So, it was off to find some serious ski action commensurate with my mostly imagined highly honed level of ability.

People have been jumping out of perfectly good airplanes for years under the guise of skydiving while getting a tattoo, doing their ironing, sitting on a mountain bike, sitting in a kayak, behind the wheel of an automobile, and yes, of course, while having sex. (If you don’t believe me, you can Google all of these yourself…not that I watched the entire 6:04 minute video of that last item.)

For a winter sport and something a little closer to earth—and marginally saner (I think)—there is speed flying, which is perfect for people who cannot make up their mind,

“Shall I go skiing or skydiving today?”

This sport, also called, among other things, speed riding or ski gliding, involves strapping on a pair of skis, or a snowboard, and sliding off a very steep ski run—and by a very steep ski run, I mean a cliff—while wearing a paragliding-speed wing-parachute thingie.

    

Is it dangerous?

Wikipedia claims,

“Because of the fast flight speed and close proximity to the slope and obstacles, injury and death are considerable risks in this sport.”

Why else would I never in my lifetime, not even while really drunk and for a million dollar bet be heading over to Park City to try it?

After the short drive from Salt Lake City, there I was, right in the middle of the action, flying above Mt. Superior in Little Cottonwood Canyon. The wind was brisk and the fresh snow flakes fell wet on my face, as my body rocked with the speedwing swinging me left and right, while the skis occasionally bounced over the snow-covered slopes.

It was not so much the death-defying scene that rolled out before my eyes, almost as if it was just a movie, that made me nervous.

Because, actually it was just a movie.

 

    

It was more the group of other museum visitors, including little kids and their parents, who waited for Kim to charge the whopping $5 credit card charge to ride this latest attraction at the Alf Engen Ski Museum.

There they were, all standing there to witness me “scream like a girl” as I squealed like the Geico pig,

“Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!”

(Yes, I know…I have two adventuresome, rough and tumble, outdoorsy daughters who never scream like a girl.)

A local television news story covered this new facility.

Sorry, no, they did not catch me on film there. And you won’t catch it on YouTube, either, after I chased that 10-year old kid for half-a-mile before I could bribe him to erase the video he took of me on his iPhone.

 

After such a harrowing experience there was only one thing to do: go find a nice campfire to gather around and let the smoke conceal my embarrassment of such an undignified display of pretend extreme ski flying.

 

Luckily, the nearby High West Distillery & Saloon offers a new line of whiskey that includes just the right amount of smoky Scotch whisky, and by the right amount, I mean it comes in a convenient 750 ml. bottle.

 

        

Cheers.

 

It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes a village idiot to fork out many thousands of dollars to go out on an arctic research cruise, get really stuck, and then expect the world to drop everything to rescue their sorry asses.

"Who knew it would be THAT cold? We just went for the open bar with promises of pure, virgin glaciated ice for our cocktails."

(Note: I might be paraphrasing the actual quote of the passenger.)

 

No doubt you have heard about the frigid fate of the 52 “tourists” on the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy, whose mission was to explore frozen worlds, to seek out climate change proof, to boldly go where no one in their right mind would go—and certainly not pay a minimum of $8,050, plus airfare, to get there. (With apologies to Star Trek aficionados.)

 

     ship campers stuck in ice

 

Apparently, the goal of the recent Australasian Antarctic Expedition was to prove the ice caps are melting, apparently, by getting inexorably stuck in thickening sea ice, which surrounded their ship in a frozen stranglehold.

 

As stated by Graham Lloyd, in the online news website The Australian,

“Climate scientist Chris Turney’s team of embedded global media and paying science-minded tourists has spent the festive season trapped in sea ice instead of exploring what melting ice caps mean for mankind. Turney is lamenting that he has become trapped in his own experiment. But the bottom line is, once again, nature has drifted from the script. Unfortunately for Turney the take-out of the mission for a legion of skeptical bloggers worldwide has been global warming scientists forced to admit defeat because of too much ice.”

 

Hence, the people who insist on characterizing climate change as “global warming,” are at continued risk of looking foolish, providing fodder for skeptics to ignore scientific evidence, and finding themselves the brunt of contrarians—otherwise known as Republican congressmen and Fox commentators.

 

And Donald Trump.

 

As Jon Stewart rails against the self-deceivers, it is not only the icecap’s receding that Trump chooses to ignore.

 

    Trump on Stewart

 

I raise the contentious subject of global warming to bring up the more personal matter of getting yourself stuck, and subsequently others—whether personal friends or foreign countries—really stuck along with you.

 

Take for example the ongoing plight of the Russian ship Shokalskiy, who sought assistance from others to free themselves from their frozen position.

 

The first ship to attempt an act of international cooperation towards warming relations with their neighbor, was the Chinese icebreaker Xue Long, which translates to Snow Dragon, or quite possibly, Ice Dragging.

 

Unfortunately, the 101-crew members of the Chinese ship were so busy attending to the demands for Aussie beer and a wifi connection to watch rugby back home, they, too, became mired in the frozen muck which now had captured their boat in ice up to 13-feet thick.

 

    two ships in ice

 

Speaking of the Aussies, next up in the line-up of ships in this frozen aquatic Kabuki theater, came the Australian icebreaker, Aurora Australis.

 

There was an initial scheme between the Russian and Chinese crews of somehow using a barge—possibly to be pulled by reindeer—to transfer the stuck tourists to the Australian, Australis, which to this point, had avoided capture by the icecap.

 

Unfortunately, someone realized that they were at the wrong end of the globe for that method of transport, and had to resort to a helicopter shuttle, but only after they went through the mandatory TSA pat-down to make sure they were not trying to smuggle any of that soon-to-be extinct sea ice to take back home for their cocktails.

 

In this ongoing tale of a trail of stuck ships, the yanks were asked to dispatch the 300-foot cutter, Polar Star, with their crew of 120, ostensibly, to join the party on the ice with the stuck Russian and Chinese crews, which, hopefully at this point, resembled one of those Coors Light commercials.

 

Whatever could go wrong with yet another boat carving their way into the supposedly disappearing Antarctic ice cap that already securely ensconced two large ships in solid ice? 

 

    three ships stuck in ice

 

While I can’t say I have been ever in the middle of a daisy chain¹, including one involving a growing number ice-bound ships attempting to get ahold of each other until someone gets released, I have seen similar outcomes—albeit at a much smaller scale—where a pickup truck get stuck in the mud or snow, which leads to one-after-another becoming immobile as they try to free the previous struck truck.

 

Fact is, if you are not the one who is really stuck, finding a good vantage point to view the performers can be quite amusing to watch the circus ensue.

 

    trucks in mud

 

Well, except for the time where we stuck two fire engines and a huge bulldozer in the muddy, melting snow, and found the fire chief to possess very little humor in it all.

 

Ironically, once the 52 tourists were safely ensconced on that one ship down there that was NOT stuck in the impenetrable ice, the group leader was quoted as saying,

 One of the aims of the expedition was to track how quickly the Antarctic’s sea ice was supposedly disappearing.”

 

But apparently, not disappearing quickly enough to convince the group to hang around to witness it for themselves.

 

Hey, it’s almost rugby season (and they really wanted to get back home before all those ice cubes in their luggage melted).

 

Late Breaking News: supposedly all the ships are now floating free of the frozen ice jamb, but stand by; the same folks who set up this whole scenario in the first place are still seeking funds to continue their Antarctic adventures.

 

If you don’t mind others getting themselves serially stuck, and wish to, at least virtually, participate in the next arctic research cruise, you can contribute to the crowd-sourcing effort in helping pay their way.

 

For a mere $25 the website promises contributors “a warm feeling.”

 

Wait…aren’t these the same people who are trying to reduce the warm feeling that is gripping the planet?

 

    human chain in ice

   ¹NO, not THAT kind. (Caution: if you don’t already know, don’t look it up).

When I look at the hackneyed image of the New Year’s Baby supplanting Father Time as another year ends, I no longer see the cute rosy-cheeked cherub crawling in to herald the fresh new year.

 

With over six decades of witnessing the inevitable march of time tromp over my body, my focus is more on the dwindling sand in the hourglass and the old guy’s scythe that has sliced my strength to scale the highest peaks, and ski the fall line back down.

 

    father time in space

 

Nowadays, my definition of adventure travel is whether I can make it to the next place to “relieve” myself.

 

As you age, your travel choices change by the necessities and realities of your body’s ability to follow where an overeager mind points it.

 

Scuba diving makes for a good adventure activity for old farts for a couple of reasons. First, having all that water around your body takes a lot of pressure off ailing joints, and, second, having all that water around your body allows you to take a lot of pressure off your bladder.

 

Travel is supposed to be about seeing new places and meeting new people. One advantage is, as you get older, everywhere you go is a new place and everyone you meet is someone new.

 

    old people on the bus

 

The old cliché of being one with yourself gets only more clarity as you see the far side of those six decades. Not a moment goes by that you are not fully aware of your personal condition.

 

Starting from the time you get out of bed (every other hour to go pee) and your knees creak and complain  from years of hiking, biking, jogging, skiing, etc., to your daily backaches begging for another Advil (or a “wee dram” of whisky), to nights getting walloped by the wife-person for snoring at a decibel level the FAA would take issue with.

 

If you are brave enough to peer into the mirror, you see the hair gone from where it should be, only to have relocated to places it ought not be.

 

And, your body shape has somehow shifted from the Adonis you used to imagine yourself as, to something resembling a hairy basketball with limp limbs.

 

Where past travel planning centered on hostels and hot clubs, you might now spend your time researching the distance from your cruise ship stateroom to the nearest hourly buffet.

 

“They say” the new year is a great time to reflect on where we have been (beats the hell out of me…I can’t remember shit), and where we are going (right now, I’m heading to the loo to take a leak).

 

I’ll be fine as long as I keep a sense of humor for what Father Time’s lovey bride, Mother Earth, has in store for me (that and a bottle of a good single malt).

 

Only yesterday, as I was bent over shirtless at the bathroom sink (yes, a scary sight, on a good day) the wife-person suggested that I just might be due a fitting for The Bro.

 

 

Ain’t life a bitch?

Today’s post-Thanksgiving online poll question:

 

What do you dread most?

 

[1] That bloated feeling that leads you to believe you surely must have consumed the entire turkey…whole…all by yourself.

(We had at least six desserts, alone—three of which were different renditions of the venerable pumpkin pie—that all had to be sampled, not to risk offending any of the guests.)

“Maybe I should try each one…again…just to make sure which one I like best.”

“Groan.”

[2] The kitchen disaster area, which is the culinary consequences of the cooking cacophony that is Thanksgiving. 

(Rule of Thumb: the number of dishes it takes to prepare and serve the feast is the logarithmic sum of the number of recipes, times the number of people, plus the number of glutton-free guests.)

 

[3] The insistence by the wife-person that you accompany her to various Black Friday shopping mayhems.

(Forget suggesting that the crowds will be greatly reduced in two weeks—as will the prices—just prior to Christmas.)

 

Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving

Maybe it’s time to eschew those costly Thanksgiving traditions and ostentatious exhibitions of gluttony reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell fantasy.

 

How about next year, you indulge yourself in poverty porn by pretending you’re poor?

 

As reported by Andra Marie on nb newsbreaker, you can trek to South Africa and stay in a faux shanty town hovel and experience a lifestyle that, in reality, is nothing at all like how someone, who earns in a month what it costs for one night’s lodging, lives.

 

The Emoya Luxury Hotel and Spa offers many amenities, including “donkey geysers, braai facilities, and outdoor long-drop toilets.”

 

In order, apparently those have something to do with heating, cooking, and eliminations.

 

   shanty town

 

No telling what kind of critter will be cooked, nor the purity of the cooking method.

 

       local game

 

Stephen Colbert, a self-professed member of the “upper-middle stinking rich,” picked up on the story, with his own, typical slant; the slant being me, sliding off my La-Z-Boy in laughter.

 

   Colbert Frigidaire Lodge

 

Finally, speaking of the bush, the same Andra Marie reveals that being in the bush is back, so to speak.

 

Don’t ask. Just thinking about it makes me want to scratch.

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