Ethics of Ambition, 2010
Posted by sibylle in books, films, photography, women (Sunday October 31, 2010 at 8:41 am)

For the past seven years, I’ve  spoken in a class at the University of Colorado called the “Ethics of Ambition”, taught by Dr. Paul Strom. In the past I’ve written about my talks about ambition and ethics.

Below are various definitions of ambition.

Wikipedia’s came up first on Google:
Ambition is the desire for personal achievement. It provides the motivation and determination necessary to help give direction to life. Ambitious people seek to be the best at what they choose to do for attainment, power, or superiority.

and gives us:
an earnest desire for some type of achievement or distinction, as power, honor, fame, or wealth, and the willingness to strive for its attainment.
Ethical questions arise when we must decide what we are willing to do to accomplish those goals.
Time magazine discusses the science of ambition in their story,  Ambition: Why Some People Are Most Likely to Succeed . Scientists at Washington University used brain imaging to investigate persistence, the ability to focus on a task until complete, which may be critical for ambition. They found that students scoring  highest in persistence had the greatest activity in the brain’s limbic region. “The correlation was .8 [or 80%],” says professor of psychiatry Robert Cloninger, one of the investigators. “That’s as good as you can get.”
The authors conclude that  “Ambition is an expensive impulse, one that requires an enormous investment of emotional capital,” which in principal concurs with my estimate that for climbing, extreme ambition demands limitless egotism and selfishness.
In careers and politics, the ambitious pay the price of striving with their health, their family life, and their social life.  Mountaineers and alpine climbers (on snow and ice) risk a higher price: many who fail ultimately pay with their life.
Alison Hargreaves died on K2. She was described as “an outspoken mother who unlike her male colleagues was often criticized for leaving her children at home while she risked her life on big mountains.”
One student asked me: “Why, after my climbing partner died, did I continue climbing?”
I replied that I love to climb, and that climbing provides the greatest source of joy in my life. Now that I’m older, I can no longer be the best, or climb hard new routes, but I can still challenge myself. I continue to train, to work at improving my climbing, in the hopes of climbing routes that I personally have not climbed yet. My ambition has become more personal  -  I strive to achieve goals within my limits. I may not achieve “power, honor, fame, or wealth” with my climbs, but I attain happiness.
I left the students with some questions to ponder.
Should women with young children take less risks and be more careful than men with small children, especially when deciding whether  to go on Himalayan expeditions?
How far, and how long, should parents push their children to compete in sports?
On K2, Diemberger and his partner abandoned several climbers, at a high camp, to die in the storm.  When do we decide to leave behind our sick or injured climbing partners to die, and save ourselves?

An article in Time magazine discuses a gene for persistence, or ambition, and scientists claim to have found a “daredevil” gene, that encourages people to take risks.  If risk-taking is genetic, should that change our attitude towards people who take risks?

Sunset, Bridger Jack Mesa, Indian Creek
Posted by sibylle in utah (Wednesday October 27, 2010 at 8:52 pm)

BJ sunset 1.jpg

I love camping at Bridger Jack and watching the sunset — and the sunrise; the clouds, the storms, the rocks; and remembering climbing the towers jutting into the skyline.

The first tower on the left,  with a flat top and separated from its right hand near twin, is Thumbelina. Andrew from South Africa and I climbed this in spring, when we were originally trying to find the furthest climb away - the North ridge of Bridger Jack Mesa. We could not find that route, and instead hiked all along the base of the towers, to the southern-most end, to climb Thumbelina.

Sparkling Touch, just right, separated by a narrow chasm,  was my third tower with my son Tristan, and the first on which he led the hard pitches, while I led the easier ones.

The little short one in the center, Easter Island, was Tristan’s and my first tower at Bridger Jack, his second tower  ever, and the first tower on which he led a pitch. A few years earlier, we’d been eating breakfast at our campsite when the large (size of a few buses) chockstone between Easter Island and the tower to the left, fell down on Easter Sunday!

As the easiest tower here, and with a  short approach hike, this features as many climber’s first desert tower.

The next  tower to the right, Sunflower Tower, was Tristan’s and my third , and hardest, tower at Bridger Jack. We both struggled on the steep crack on pitch two, which seemed harder than the guidebook rating. Perhaps, it being spring, we were still out of shape!

To the right of Sunflower Tower is Hummingbird Spire,  the one tower that we started to climb and retreated partway up. It was very cold that day, and amazingly, Tristan decided that he was too cold to continue.

I haven’t  yet climbed the big towers to the right, the Towers of Paine, so as I admire the sunsets and sunirses, I can still dream of getting to the top of one more tower.

Ptarmigan Mountain, Summit county, Colorado
Posted by sibylle in Colorado, earthship (Friday October 15, 2010 at 9:30 pm)

Lake dillon, aspen, 1st snow on peaks.jpg

I walked part, and ran part, of the Ptarmigan Peak trail four days this week - Monday through Thursday.

Why this passion for the Ptarmigan trail — mainly, because it starts across the street fro my cabin.

The view above is from my house, looking toward Lake Dillon and the Tenmile Range.

Ptarmigan hike.jpg

From higher up, you can see Baldy and Guyot on the left, the Mosquito Range , and then the Tenmile Range (including Breckenridge) on the right.

aspen trees.jpg

The trail starts in sagebrush,  but soon heads into a grove of aspens, then into coniferous forest, and ends above treeline.

It’s 6 miles to the summit, but I generally do about half and then turn around and run down. I cheat some, and run downhill more than uphill (but I can rationalize that as being good for skiing).
sunset 1 Oct.jpg

Sunset over Lake Dillon

Landscape photography, by pro Mike Nakamura
Posted by sibylle in books, films, photography (Tuesday October 12, 2010 at 7:54 pm)


Painted Hills, in Central Oregon

Guest post by Mike Nakamura

Climbers often visit spectacular landscapes.   Ever wonder how to capture the feeling of being there?  As a professional photographer, I’ve been asked to share a few tips for taking landscape photos using a digital camera.
Do: place the horizon near the bottom or top third of the scene.
Tilt the camera up or down to achieve this.  Unless the sky is the subject (eg; amazing clouds), you’ll often place the horizon line in the upper third of the photo.  Even a lightweight tripod will improve your images.  You’ll spend more time thinking about the shot and less time worrying about blurry shots caused by camera movement. Pick a high vantage point if possible.  It opens up the scene as in this image of the Painted Hills  (Central Oregon).  If you’re visiting Smith Rock, this makes a nice rest-day diversion.
The single biggest mistake:  placing the horizon in the middle of the shot.
Check your exposure (ie; too light or too dark) by looking at the viewfinder.   Or, if your camera offers a histogram mode, use it to judge the exposure.  Not right?  Use the “exposure compensation” to adjust.  Experiment with the exposure.  After all, a few extra shots are free.
Know how to determine whether your camera is correctly focused.  For most landscapes the preferred focus point is at “infinity”  (ie; on the distant mountain, not on the wildflowers next to you).  Some point and shoots will show the active focus point in the viewfinder.  For others, you might need to take a shot and zoom in after the fact to see if distant objects are in focus.  On an SLR this will be simpler. 
Mike Nakamura

Squamish, angel’s Crest
Posted by sibylle in Canada and PNW (Monday October 11, 2010 at 8:52 pm)


Photo by Squamish Rock Guides

In my earlier post, I mentioned that Squamish Rock Guides has a great photo of Angel’s Crest, and they have kindly allowed me to use it here.

After the tree pitch, we got right to business -  a hand crack, traversing left into a steep finger crack, rated 10b and considered by some to the climb’s crux. I found this doable, since my small hands fit well into thin cracks, but struggles much more on the following pitch: a face section, protected with bolts. My climbing partner, Ian, at 6′3″, breezed up the face holds, while I floundered.

The technically harder pitches were also the most fun, as the easier pitches tended to wander through trees.the two exceptions are pitch 9, the acrophobe traverse, and pitch 11, the whaleback arete. I enjoyed the last pitch, a chimney with good protection on a small crack on one wall, but then, I like chimneys.

I’d waited three years to climb this route, since it rained almost constantly when we were here two years ago, and it was worth the wait. I enjoyed the unusual views of the Sheriff’s Badge wall, which I rarely see from other parts of the Chief.

Near the top, we had an excellent view of High Plains Drifter,  an infamous crack that a friend attempted to reach several times, unsuccessfully. Had I the energy, we could have traversed over to it from Angel’s Crest.

Top Extreme Sports: Climbing Blog

City of Rocks, Thin Slice
Posted by sibylle in Idaho (Saturday October 9, 2010 at 10:24 am)

Thin Slice.jpg

Thin Slice, 5.10a

One of my favorite climbs in the City, Thin Slice on Parking Lot Rock, looks like a crack climb, but climbs  like a face climb.

It’s the thin crack in the photo above,  between the two corners.
After an awkward start to mount a block, I climbed up a chimney-like feature below the thin crack - the most crack climbing on the route.  Upon reaching the thin crack, the large huecos to the side provide good face holds for both hands and feet. Looking to both sides makes the route much easier - if you think it’s a pure crack climb, and use only the crack, it’ll be much harder!

While climbing abundant face holds to the sides, the crack does provide good protection. At one point, the face holds become further apart, and I used a finger lock to bridge the gap from one set of holds to the next.

This climb gets morning sun and afternoon shade.  On the arete to the right you can see Cairo,  the sport climb  on the cover of the older City of Rocks guidebook.

Squamish, Angel’s Crest, Acrophobes
Posted by sibylle in Canada and PNW (Thursday October 7, 2010 at 10:10 am)


Acrophobe traverse

Photo by Andy Cairns

On Angel’s Crest, after traversing this arete, we rappelled down the far side,  and then climbed the cracks on  the upper headwall. I was getting  tired by this point - we’d already climbed about 10 pitches, about five of them 5.10 - and they were steep and strenuous.

We headed up to a steep headwall, and Ian led the last few pitches, including the penultimate pitch - big hands, well suited to him. At the top of this, we caught the climbers in front of us - two young guys! I was glad that despite feeling slow myself, we’d managed to catch up to them! We were both  completely out of water and scorched by  the afternoon sun.
Despite that,  I dug deep for my last reservoir of strength and managed to lead the last chimney pitch. One thing I learned  in Yosemite is how to climb chimneys!

Posted by sibylle in Uncategorized (Monday October 4, 2010 at 1:03 pm)

Top Extreme Sports: Climbing Blog

Castle Rocks, Idaho
Posted by sibylle in women, Idaho (Monday October 4, 2010 at 12:55 pm)

Big T MT 1.jpg

Marsha Trout leading “Big time”

On the drive south from Squamish, I stopped at City of Rocks, Idaho, and  climbed for a few days. My first day, wandering around, I encountered Marsha and Ken Trout, fellow Colorado climbers that I hadn’t seen in years.

Marsha prefers to lead easier climbs and follow the harder ones (like a lot of us!), and so she generously agreed to climb Big Time in Castle Rocks State Park .  I’d wanted to climb this delightful route for  a while, but could not find anyone else willing to climb it, either because if was too hot (it faces south), or because, at 5.7, it was too easy.

We climbed  four pitches on perfect rock with good dishes and face holds. The route
comprises four well-bolted 30-foot pitches, so we ran together several pitches. After three lower angle pitches of face climbing and friction, the last pitch provides enjoyable climbing on a steeper arete.

big time p4.jpg

Jeroune on pitch 4

Photo by Ken Trout
This route is a great place to take beginners and older climbers. I used to climb in City of rocks with my father, when he got older and wasn’t able to walk well, which required climbs with a short approach and an easy descent (such as rappeling).

We rappelled this route with one 60-meter rope; and then climbed another great route directly to the right.

Sports Blog Top Sites