• Hells Canyon Revival And always, in this search, a person might find that she is already there, at the center of the world. It may be a broken world, but it is glorious nonetheless. – Linda K. Hogan Our task is to enter the dream of Nature and interpret the symbols. – E.L. Grant Watson THIS CANYON does […]
  • Winging it in the Russian Far East BEYOND THE WING of the Aeroflot twin-engine plane unfolds a tapestry of green tundra and mottled muskeg, the wetlands sliced into crescents by dark arcs of old river channels. Timbered strips of spruce and fir fringe these waterways. A village of perhaps a couple hundred ethnic Russian and native Udehe people looms in the crook […]
  • Time for a Tree House ACTUALLY, HANNAH AND CAROLINE never really asked me to build them a tree house. I came up with that idea myself, got them attached to it, and then pretended that my efforts were strictly for their benefit. But their spontaneous enthusiasm provided the necessary cover for me to do what every grown man secretly wants to […]
  • Into the Gloaming The very word ‘gloaming’ reverberates, echoes—the gloaming, the glimmer, the glisten, the glamour—carrying in its consonants the images of houses shuttering, gardens darkening, grasslined rivers slipping through the shadows.—Joan Didion, Blue Nights, 2011 ON A WINTER’S EVENING, at the crest of an icefall, I stop climbing and look north: beyond the narrow, wooded cleft of […]
  • The Ascent of the Riffelberg OUR GUIDES, HIRED ON THE GEMMI, were already at Zermatt when we reached there. So there was nothing to interfere with our getting up an adventure whenever we should choose the time and the object. I resolved to devote my first evening in Zermatt to studying up the subject of Alpine climbing, by way of […]
  • The Science of Awe This story originally appeared in the November/December 2014 edition of SIERRA, the national publication of the Sierra Club. A FEW YEARS AGO, I RAN Utah’s Green River with a group of 13-year-olds. Our first day was a grueling, 26-mile slog through mostly flat water, with a few Class I and II rapids as our prize. […]
  • Figures on a Landscape IN AN OBSCURE WASH in the high Mojave stand two domes, their north faces steeped in shadows. Four friends scrutinize the rune-like creases on the northeast face of the northernmost monolith, searching for a path up the steep wall. They are young, in that boggling interval between adolescence and manhood. Much later, they’ll remember the time as a golden age, […]
  • The Natural IN THE PREDAWN HOURS of a recent summer day, Peter Mayfield walked through the skeletal remains of Manzanar, the mothballed World War II Japanese internment camp located hard by Highway 395, in California’s Eastern Sierra. Seven miles distant, in serpentine repose, lay Mayfield’s objective for that day: the Himalayan-scaled northeast ridge of Mt. Williamson, with […]
  • It Started With a Pile of Stones THE JOB SOUNDED AGREEABLE: film the Cliff Diving World Championships in Lana’i, Hawaii, for a network sports show. I didn’t know Lana’i from Louisiana, but someone in the office had honeymooned there and called it heaven. Lana’i, just a stone’s throw across the Auʻau Channel from Maui, is so small that in 1779 Captain Cook […]
  • That House of Happiness IN 2012, I JOURNEYED with several climbing partners to an area of the Karakoram known only on satellite maps, arguably the last unexplored corner of the range. Our trek began at 11,000 feet from a lone village and ascended a canyon cut by a torrent of meltwater that told of glaciated mountains above. As we climbed higher, our eyes opened wider—to churning and sacred waterfalls, a mysterious […]
  • Climbing to Freedom IN THE SUMMER OF 1972, I was living the simple life of a normal dirtbag, disaffected, counter to the mainstream-culture, climber of the time. The mainstream of the time, exemplified by Vietnam, conspicuous consumption, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, ran counter to the values, dreams and humanity of many but certainly not all American climbers of […]
  • The Majesty Polarity IN THE LAST DECADE OF THE LAST CENTURY, the videographer, writer and bon vivant Michael Strassman spied a line on a certain Minaret in the High Sierra, a slab-to-knife-edge buttress so obvious in its stegosaurus-like sweep from snowfield to summit that he double-checked the usual sources to ensure that his efforts would result in a first ascent. […]
  • Life on the Divide “YOU AREN’T GONNA BUILD NO HOUSE OF STRAW IN MY COUNTY!” my wife Leslie and I were told by a small-town bureaucrat in our rural corner of California. After dogged persuasion, the county relented and granted us a permit for Mono County’s first bale home. We built it on a small divide above the brilliant green […]
  • Like Surfers Gone Alpine “WHAT is alpinism, anyway?” Terry Kearney was starting to rave as we burned through the last of our fuel. It was the morning after our second bivy. The sun played coy with our perch on the north face of Birch Mountain, in the outer orbit of the Palisades. “Is it all speed-aided 72-hour push up some […]
  • The Greening of Alex Honnold GO AHEAD: ASK ALEX HONNOLD about his unprecedented solo ascents, and watch how he reflexively flips the toggle switch to autopilot. He’ll rhapsodize about climbing – sure he will – he loves scaling walls — but he’s painfully aware of how these conversations swirl into dialogues about his putative dance with death. In a recent interview on the main stage of the […]
  • The Lost Coast THE CALL OF THE SEA is hard to resist. I became intrigued with the Aleut trade route in 1988, while reading George Dyson’s Baidarka. A year later, I moved to Alaska, became a kayak guide in Kenai Fjords National Park, and began to consider the idea of paddling the 1,000 miles of exposed coast that lay […]
  • The Adventure Gap and Narratives of Inclusion The reality is that if you have a constituency of voters who have no direct relationship with the natural world, why would they ever vote, allocate federal tax dollars to support it in perpetuity to the future the way it is now?
  • Swallowed Whole ON THE EVENING OF FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2015, a wildfire swept through the small communities of Paradise and Swall Meadows, located along the eastern escarpment of California’s Sierra Nevada. Fueled by extreme drought and 100-mile-per-hour winds, the fire raced through the tinder-dry brush and pinyon pine forests, burning 40 homes and 7,000 acres. The inferno would become […]