sustainableplay ...
Long-form storytelling at the confluence of people, planet, and play.
  • 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 […]

    Michael P. Branch May 10, 2017
  • 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 […]

    Mark Twain August 26, 2016
  • 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. […]

    Jake Abrahamson July 13, 2016
  • 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, […]

    Brad Rassler June 9, 2016
  • The Natural

    IN THE PREDAWN hours of a recent midsummer day, Peter Mayfield walked through the skeletal remains of the Manzanar National Historic Site, 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: the Himalayan-scaled northeast ridge of Mt. Williamson, its […]

    Brad Rassler June 3, 2016
  • 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 […]

    John Long May 17, 2016
  • 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 […]

    Andy Selters April 25, 2016
  • 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 […]

    Dick Dorworth March 23, 2016
  • 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. […]

    Brad Rassler February 22, 2016
  • 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 […]

    John Dittli February 16, 2016
  • 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 […]

    Doug Robinson December 30, 2015
  • 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 […]

    Brad Rassler November 7, 2015
  • 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 […]

    Dennis Eagan October 19, 2015
  • 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?

    Brad Rassler September 29, 2015
  • 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 […]

    Jim Stimson September 10, 2015
  • The Alchemist

    IT HAPPENED ON A CRISP SAN FRANCISCO EVENING. February of 1968 at the Carousel Ballroom. Jerry Garcia and the Dead were deep into “Morning Dew” to “Dark Star.” The band was locked in tight, and the crowd was locked into the band. Doug Robinson, the 23-year-old wanderlust California climber, he of compact build and mellow mien and soft […]

    Brad Rassler May 19, 2015
  • Fall

    DR. JESSE LEAMAN, ASTROPHYSICIST, KNOWS THE COSMOS. It’s his turf, in a manner of speaking. So we don’t interrupt as he explains the outer reaches of the universe while wheeling through the University of Nevada, Reno’s Fleischmann Planetarium, where fellow journalist, Regina Revazova, and I have come to learn about the last 16 years of his life: […]

    Brad Rassler May 14, 2015
  • The Winter Of His Disbelief

    I’M NOT A SUPERSTITIOUS GUY, BUT REALLY, I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN. I’m no meteorologist either, but after 35 years of living in the high country, even I knew that depending on how it set up, the weak El Nino the long-range forecasters were predicting could mean dry as much as it could mean wet. Still, after […]

    John Dittli April 15, 2015