Lungta Livyers #10 Road Trip

Today’s road was a marvel of human engineering and labour. Wow. We drove over two passes, through two gorges, and much of the time it felt like what I imagine driving through the Grand Canyon would feel like.

The scenery was spectacular and ever changing. The rocks diverse in both colour and erosion temperament.

The picture above captures much of the drive. Way off the deck with terrifyingly few guard rails. One wrong adjustment on the wheel, one unanticipated oncoming vehicle, one soft shoulder not noticed and the road trip would become a flight with not the best outcome.

The roads here are build by a group from the Indian Army called BRO. Border Road Organization. They post many inspirational driving messages such as “Married? Divorce speed” and “Better to be late than Mr. Late” and some even had rhymes. “Don’t be gamma in the land of lama” and “Drive with care, life has no spare.”

My favourite of the day had to be “Drive, don’t fly.” I hoped and prayed that flying wasn’t on our agenda today and it wasn’t as Stanzin, our driver, is very skilled.

We’ve got two days of driving done and one more long one to go to get to the start of our trek. Over much of the drive today, we saw workers digging the trench beside that road that will bring a fibre op line from Kargil to Leh, bringing with it much more reliable internet with it. I wanted to know more about the process of laying such a line-wondering when the fibre op will be out in the plastic channels we saw them bury and how do they put in 150 km of such a line? Over two mountain passes, through river gorges, and beside one of the most intense roads I’ve ever driven on. Anyone?

I’m looking forward to the trek and 9 days of walking through what promises to be stunning and difficult terrain. We will be crossing six or seven passes and have some distance to make.

You can’t use a sat phone in India as a civilian so you most likely won’t hear anything from until we return to Leh in 10 days…unless, of course, some internet surprisingly appears.

We visited three more monasteries today and we continue to enjoy the mindfulness that comes with such visits. Each one has a different character, vibe, and atmosphere. These visits are an important part of our Lungta Livyer journey and I’ll share more as words form that can describe the meaning(s).

Thanks for tuning in. There are lots of pics in my Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook feeds. I’ve only used a few here tonight to make sure I can squeeze the message out through the line. 🙂

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Lungta Livyers # 9 Dharma, Dharma Everywhere

Jule from Ladakh,

We arrived yesterday and spent much of the day breathing, sipping water, and walking very slowly as the flight to 3300 metres is a big jump for acclimatization. We are both doing okay with only wee headaches and tonight we had to remind each other to slow down as we walked back to our guesthouse. We had a full day exploring the Indus River valley southeast of Leh visiting four Buddhist monasteries.

Dharma is a Sanskrit word for the Buddha’s teachings. To become a Buddhist, one takes refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. The Sangha is the community of the Buddha’s followers. In the temples in most monasteries, you will see Dharma on shelves along the sides or on the monks’ or nuns’ tables. The Dharma, often in the form of mantras or sutras is printed on thin pieces of paper. These are then flipped over as they are read or chanted. There are stiffer top and bottom covers made of wood or thick paper that contain the stack and the entire stack is wrapped in cloth for storage.

Buddhism often uses oral transmission of the Dharma from teacher to student. There are four lineages to mark how the Buddha’s first teachings were passed along from generation to generation and from region to region.

Here in Ladakh there seems to be strong connections with Tibetan lineages as well as the Dalai Lama. In all of the temple rooms we visited today, there were photographs of the Dalai Lama as well as other venerated Lamas and teachers.

I thought often of my teacher, Moh, and of my Sangha and wished they could be sharing in the wonder of seeing artifacts and relics from the 10th century on. There is also a very powerful and peaceful feeling that you experience when you enter a space where meditation and prayer have been practiced for eons. It’s hard to describe but there is a relaxed spaciousness that invokes compassion and possibility in me whenever I visit such spaces.

Tomorrow we begin the three day drive to the start of our trek. I don’t know if we will have access to an internet so please don’t worry if you don’t hear from us. We’ll be back in Leh in 12 days or so. My hand seems to have turned a corner and I’ve been off the antibiotics for three days now without any flare so I’m hoping to be over the hump.

Hope all is well with you. Jule!

Jule is used in Ladakh as hello, good bye, thank you and more.

Good night and catch ya from wherever we next find internet. Thanks for sharing the journey with us.

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Lungta Livyers #8: Four for Four

Later today we will be in our fourth country in four days. That might be a record for us and we knew this week was filled with transitory travel. We tried out a new hotel in KTM called the Hotel Yala Peak and not only found new accommodations but perhaps a new climbing objective.

It was fabulous to visit with Nepali friends Raj, Kumar, Dendi, Ngima, and Norkey and get ready and psyched for our adventure in Ladakh. We learned that many Sherpa folks have gone to Ladakh to work during the monsoon season here.

Just a reminder that internet access is a bit sketchy in Ladakh so you won’t hear from us with the same frequency over the next 14 days. We may be able to use a cyber cafe in Leh but the sat phone and SPOT had to stay in Kathmandu.

We will be visiting about 20 monestaries and other Buddhist sites and then completing a nine day trek back to Leh. It will be nice to sleep in s tent again soon.

Kathmandu is always an exciting tapestry for the senses weaving colour, scents, and traffic into a thrilling journey no matter where you are headed.

Off to the outskirts of Delhi today and up to Leh early tomorrow morning. It will be N abrupt climb/flight to 3700 metres so I suspect tomorrow will be a humbling kinda day. Our only job will be to breathe, drink water, and move very slowly.

Catch you from there.

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Lungta Livyers #7: Get Off the Bus and Into Comfy Jammies

We’ve slept in three countries in three nights and being here in Kathmandu feels like putting on your favourite, most comfortable pyjamas. That comfort comes after many buses and planes that transported us between Ulaanbaatar and Kathmandu via Beijing and Guangzhou.

Raj, my long time KTM friend picked us up at the airport and welcomed us with garlands of marigolds as is tradition here. The drive from the airport seemed less eventful than usual, perhaps because we pre-acclimatized to traffic and wild driving in UB. It was lovely to get spit out of the travel bardo after 26 hours into the company of Raj and Kumar.

We got settled into our accommodations and headed off to Momo Taro’s to complete our transition to Kathmandu. It’s been one of my go to places for the past decade. Not being able to choose, we each ordered a bento box and of course, a fresh lemon soda. It’s a staple beverage for us here-refreshing and oh, so tasty.

We had a busy afternoon checking things off our list. Nepali SIM card. Hair cuts. Visit with Raj. Look at maps. That kind of stuff. Evening came too quickly and we headed off for dinner and of course, had another quintessential KTM beverage, an Everest Beer, by candlelight no less.

We are only here for two nights before heading off to Leh, Ladakh in Northern India on Tuesday. Internet will be scarce up there so be sure to soak up all of our pictures and posts before we go into what is likely a 2 week radio silence.

A few folks have asked about my hand and I realize that I hadn’t said much since we were released from UB on the Friday past. I finished the last of my oral course of antibiotics today after 18 days of various infection fighting superheroes. I’ll be looking to rebuild much of my microbiota over the next while with lots of fermented foods. I’m hoping and somewhat confident that the infection is gone but the next few days will tell that. The incision is closed but in that super sensitive new baby skin/feels like it was burnt stage so I’m still a bit tentative with it. I have almost a full range of motion and I continue to work with the scar tissue stretches in kinda a deja vu. It will be five weeks post surgery on Thursday and I hope to be past the super sensitive stage and onto the super squeezie cow workouts soon. I’m really hoping to make significant progress over the next few weeks so I can declare the summer of hands I’ve at the autumn equinox.

Of course, being here today reminds of the all the times I was here before and brings to mind 2016 and having to leave here suddenly due to illness on my last Everest expedition. I’m looking forward to creating some new memories to soften the edges that remain from that time.

It’s been a very wet monsoon season here with sever flooding in some parts of the country. I almost got arrested taking this picture of these clever stepping stones today because they happened to be next to one of the US embassy compounds. Whoops.

Rotating brown outs have stopped for KTM for now and so we are enjoying 24 hour power-for the past decade, there was only enough power for folks to have access to it for 4-6 hours per day but with some new electrical projects now on-line, it means we get to have a fan to cool the air a bit tonight while we sleep-much appreciated since it’s much warmer here than in Mongolia or home. There are some new stores and restaurants and some of my favourites are still going strong.

So I’m in my pyjamas looking forward to catching up on some sleep-we lost a little in the bardo-and feeling like I’ve sleeping into my comfy travel jammies by dropping in on an old friend city and on some old friends as well. Good night.

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Lungta Livyers #6: Stay on the Bus

We wanted to go for a hike. To some trees. So we did some research, found a few blog posts, and knew we needed to get near the Zaisan Memorial to get near the hike’s starting point. One blog post said catch the 7, 33 or 43. So, being the gallant adventurers we are, we packed our backpack with some water and a snack and walked to our neighbourhood bus stop. The first bus to arrive was the 7. We jumped on and were excited because it wasn’t too that crowded and Marian got a seat fairly fast.

“Oh oh,” Marian says, “The bus just turned off the road we need to be on.” We didn’t react fast enough and soon we were careening down Chinggis Khan Avenue. We could have gotten off on any stop, crossed the street, and caught the bus back but we decided to just stay on the bus to see where it went. The beauty of most bus routes is that they often come back the way they went so the only consequence of taking the wrong bus is some time sightseeing instead of getting to your destination. Turns out we had lots of sightseeing since the #7 goes all the way out to the airport-about a 17 km run. So two hours and 33 km later and after seeing some new parts of Ulaanbaatar, we returned to the hotel.

We had a pee, a coffee, and hit the blogs once more. We soon abandoned them and turn to the bus app. With Marian working Google Maps and me on the bus app, we did our best to learn to read the names of the various bus stops (the bus app use the Cyrillic alphabet so it took a bit to look through all the routes to find out which ones went to Zaisan and which ones stopped outside our hotel. Turns out the winners were routes 52 and 55.

Grabbing our bag once again, we got back on the horse and headed out to the bus stop. The 52 came shortly and we hopped on. No crowds and we easily got seats. 15 minutes later we were at the last stop on the route and trying to find our way through the urban sprawl to the hiking trail we’d read about. We started walking uphill through many concrete skeletons of developing buildings, asked a few folks (none of whom answered in English-though 2 fingered pantomimed walking worked well-and we found our way to some trees. And found a hill to climb until the thunder and lightning got too close so we retreated back down and gave thanks that the clouds decided not to burst on us. The trees were huge green, and Larch and it was great to be amongst them. We walked back to the main road and decided to visit the Golden Buddha we’d seen a few times driving by. It was a gift from the country of South Korea and a monument to peace. We’ve visited many peace memorials and monuments in our time here-and prayed for peace in our world each time.

So the lesson today, a corollary to one my Buddhist teacher taught me, is stay on the bus (or hold your seat). There is time to recover from a mistake and you might even enjoy the ride. And, just because an error was made doesn’t mean you won’t accomplish the task or goal, you might need a more creative problem-solving approach…or if all else fails, that’s what taxis are for 🙂

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Check-in/OK message from SPOT TA

Device Name: TA
Latitude: 47.78851
Longitude: 102.81813
GPS location Date/Time: 08/29/2017 20:59:34 NDT

Message: Lungta Livyers: TA & Marian are adventuring amid prayer flags. Check the map to see where they are hanging out

Click the link below to see where I am located.
http://fms.ws/mscos/47.78851N/102.81813E

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You have received this message because “TA” has attempted to contact you.

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Lungta Livyers #5: Camels, Monasteries, and Gers Oh My

We are having a fabulous adventure to central Mongolia. Today we started off riding camels in Elsen Tasarkhai Sand Dunes. Turns out that I like riding two humped a.k.a. Bactrian camels better than the single humped a.k.a. Dromedary. The second hump provides a lovely backrest and you are very secure between the humps.

Out in the sand dune, it was almost silent. The only sound was Marian’s camel breathing snortaly (I made that up) beside me. Birds of prey flew near by and I was enchanted.

We are sleeping in a ger, a traditional Mongolian tent used by country and nomadic folks. We visited such a family today and got to try airag, fermented horse mare milk. Both Marian and I had been afraid of what the taste might be like, but we both actually liked it.

We also visited the Erdene Zuu Monastery, the oldest one in Mongolia. Though severely damaged during the Great Purge, a time of great religious persecution, some parts were saved through by the Mongolian government. The door above is to the Temple honouring all of the Dalai Lamas.

The monastery is surrounded by a wall with 108 stupas. We finished the day with a hike to a peace monument above our ger camp. It seemed especially poignant to visit in these turbulent times.

And finally, here’s the view from the peace monument. Have a great day.

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Check-in/OK message from SPOT TA

Device Name: TA
Latitude: 47.18155
Longitude: 102.79173
GPS location Date/Time: 08/28/2017 09:41:55 NDT

Message: Lungta Livyers: TA & Marian are adventuring amid prayer flags. Check the map to see where they are hanging out

Click the link below to see where I am located.
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Audio Post

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Check-in/OK message from SPOT TA

Device Name: TA
Latitude: 47.32679
Longitude: 103.77480
GPS location Date/Time: 08/27/2017 07:48:59 NDT

Message: Lungta Livyers: TA & Marian are adventuring amid prayer flags. Check the map to see where they are hanging out

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Lungta Livyers #4: This or Something Better

This morning I remarked to Marian, that along with Lojong Slogans, other pithy sayings had been introduced to me and some stick and others don’t. I can’t remember who or where I was introduced to the saying, “This or something better,” but I’ve found it helpful sometimes when dealing with uncertainty or disappointment. Though I can’t exactly say (yet) that five extra days in Ulaanbaatar is/was better than climbing on a gorgeous glacier to a country high peak, I can say that it has provided a more gentle and relaxed entry into our travels as Lungta Livyers. The summer was quite frantic in finishing up my teaching responsibilities, growing our garden, packing up the house, and trying to get out on training hikes. It whirled by and I often lamented missing the present moment of the summer in preparation for the fall’s adventures. We made our initial plans over Christmas break and 8 months later, I’d wondered if they still made sense as I was craving some down time.

Another of those pithy sayings that comes to mind is “Be careful what you wish for.” I wasn’t wishing for this downtime in any shape or form but I can see the benefits as we’ve spent the past three days walking the streets of UB. We racked up nearly 50 km wondering from museum to monastery to lunch to park to dinner. We’ve gone where we’ve been lead by both the map and the game of Ingress. Taking it slow. Stopping often. Watching the world of UB unfold around us. We seen children driving electric cars wound Liberty Square. This morning we allowed the vibration of monks chanting settle our wild horse minds. We’ve eaten meals from eight different cultures and have been trying to understand the weave of history, culture, and spirituality that has formed this place into what it is today.

The forced pause in UB has delivered a much deeper and richer visit to this city. I’ve enjoyed that. Of course, I wish it wasn’t at a cost of the climb but I can see the value of slow travel. Being in a place longer with time to stop and watch families play together at the National Amusement Park. Being in place with time to walk. Through neighbourhoods and grocery stores. To actually read all the words on the displays in museums. To be in the place and not just consume it. This is the something better and our following adventures will be much richer for it too.

We’re headed off into central Mongolia tomorrow and I’m not sure how cell coverage/internet will be so don’t be alarmed if we get a bit quiet over the next four days. We’re back Wednesday evening with many more stories to tell.

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Lungta Livyers #3: He said “Yes”

The doctor took a quick look and said, “You’re all good.”

I in disbelief said, “Really? Please take a close look.”

He looked at both the wrist and incision and said it looks fine that likely only inflammation remains.

I said, “Are you sure? Canada was very worried about a deep space infection.”

He then showed me the CBC and CRP values and said, “You are fine.” The culture came back negative for aerobic bacteria so we are winning.

He said that since the upward movement of redness had been halted quickly that he was confident that the choice of antibiotic was ok and so I’m on the same one orally for the next ten days. He wants me to keep using antibiotic ointment on the incision-there is just a small gap left to close (it’s actually about 5 days ahead of the left one was in healing on the same day i.e day 21 post surgery).

I said, “Canada was worried I could lose my hand.”

He said, “It’s going to be OK.”

I said, “What signs should I worry about or when should make me return? Like if goes back up my arm again?”

He said, “It’s not going to go back up your arm. Go have a great visit to Mongolia and then came back and visit Mongolia another time.”

So…very unexpectedly, it was option 3) and we’re cleared to go out and see more than Ulaanbaatar. We’ll have one more day here and then we are headed out for a four day adventure in Central Mongolia and then plan to continue with our travels. I will, of course, be watching the remaining wrist redness border like a Mongolian eagle, watching for any sign of unwellness or fever, etc…and seek out additional care if needed but for now we’ve been freed from the bardo and I spent the day feeling much lighter and hopeful.

Today we visited a museum of puzzles and traditional Mongolian games and followed that up with a visit to the large park at the south of the city. It was fabulous to be outside and enjoying the sunshine (though with lots of sunscreen and a hat since the antibiotic I am on can make me more sensitive to the sun). We took a spin around the park on a double bike that could make a fine adventure mobile one day.

Thanks for all your well wishes and support-they mean a lot to us!

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Lungta Livyers #2: The Bardo of Kindergarten

One of the joys of travel is that it immediately returns you to kindergarten or toddlerhood. Stripped of the comfort cloak of shared language, everyday tasks take on enormous challenge and adventure, requiring intense observational skills, pointing, and willingness to be humbled constantly. Being In a new city with a new language to us, with a new alphabet to us, makes ordering lunch, catching the bus, and even crossing the street a new experience. It’s this stripping of confidence and competence that I so enjoy in travel. We celebrate each success, each new skill, each new meal. We see so much more than everyday in the first days of attending Mongolian kindergarten. Our eyes and hearts and souls are more open that often and we are invited to rethink everything we think we know.

Another joy of travel is the groundless bardo that often begins when we enter the aluminum tubes with wings that act as time machines and turn us back from adulthood with full vocabularies and ability to express ourselves to bumbling youngsters who grow leaps and bounds each day. The bardo that place between here and there, home and away, life and death, here and now. A place as well can invite reflection and anticipation and hopes and dreams or withdrawal and disappointment and nightmares.

Marian and I have been in the bardo for the past three days. We’ve been unable to plan or hope or know. Our only option has been to enjoy the now, the here, the micro adventures of Ulaanbataar. Instead of flying on Tuesday with our team to Western Mongolia to climb Mongolia’s highest peak, I was hooked up to an IV receiving antibiotics for a persistent hand/wrist infection. The long flight somehow unleashed some nasty bugs on Hand #2 interrupting what was otherwise, a stellar recovery. I immediately started oral antibiotics upon arrival and the initial response was excellent. By day four, I thought all was well and we were packed and ready to head west. The afternoon before we were headed out, I noticed some pain in my wrist and a small red spot. My crack home med team had warned me to watch for anything south of the initial infection and I was immediately filled with dread.

I wished it away. I tried to ignore it. But by the time we got back to the city late that afternoon, I knew something was on the go. I knew I couldn’t ethically continue onto such a remote climb without getting checked out by a doctor. We quickly rushed around and got seen at the ER at the newest hospital in UB. The doc confirmed my suspicions and suggested that I change antibiotics and see a surgeon in the morning for a second opinion. I was worried both about my health, but also about the impact on the team if I decided to go with them and the infection got worse and I had to be evacuated, it could ruin everyone’s experience.

Marian and I had a sleepless night considering our options since we’d had three very different opinions from three different sources: go, don’t go, maybe go. Like the classic ditch/highway Buddhist analogy we try to find the middle way. We opted for down the middle and hoped to get clearance to go with a last minute dash to the airport. It wasn’t to be. Initially the surgeon said I had to go home to Canada then he offered the IV antibiotic route as a way to salvage our trip. We thought about it and decided to give his plan a chance and so we’ve been in the bardo since then.

I had my third treatment of IV antibiotics this morning and we meet with the surgeon in the morning-there are three possible outcomes: 1) He sends me back to Canada for surgical drainage of the area :-(, 2) He suggests two more days of IV antibiotics and then a re-check or 3) He is pleased with the treatment and transitions me back to oral antibiotics and we try to get out of UB for a few days before meeting back up with the group in a week. We are, of course, hoping for option 3) but will settle for option 2). Option 1) will be crushing on so many levels. It was such a disappointment to have to make the adult (opposite of kindergarten) decision to stay back from the climb as we’d been planning for this climb since 2013 that I hope we don’t have to face scrapping all of our fall plans to return to St. John’s for a second surgery.

But as my Oma always said, “What comes, comes.” I can’t undo the decision to have Hand #2 fixed. I can’t undo a long flight from Toronto to Beijing. I can’t undo any of it. I can only try to find the small moments of joy and adventure in learning to take the bus, order hot pot soup, or recognize some pattens in Cyrillic letters that mean something. I can lean on my one of my favourite Lojong slogans, “whichever of the two occurs, be patient.” I can visit museums, eat dumplings, and try to sleep amid the fears of loss of health and loss of adventure. I can’t believe I’m sitting in yet another hotel room writing yet another “climb interrupted” missive. But I am. And that’s okay. Probably the greatest gift of all this is keeping it all in perspective, deepening my practice of compassion, and embracing the multiplicities of bardo kindergarten.

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Check-in/OK message from SPOT TA

Device Name: TA
Latitude: 47.70772
Longitude: 105.91526
GPS location Date/Time: 08/21/2017 02:32:36 NDT

Message: Lungta Livyers: TA & Marian are adventuring amid prayer flags. Check the map to see where they are hanging out

Click the link below to see where I am located.
http://fms.ws/mVgZ3/47.70772N/105.91526E

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Lungta Livyers #1

Howdy from Mongolia,

Our days have been very full here thus far so this is my first chance to drop you a line. We’ve been enjoying visiting many sights around Ulaanbaatar and getting a tiny sense of the place.

We have one more day here in “UB” and then we will spend much of Tuesday traveling out to Western Mongolia where we will be climbing.

I developed an infection in hand #2 that peaked just as we arrived here in UB after 2 days of travel. I’m pleased to report that the antibiotics are doing a great job and I’m once again on the mend.

We visited a mediation centre today near Turtle Rock and saw these very fancy prayer flags. Prayer flags are also called “Lungta” or Wind Horse. You can see a windhorse in the middle of the prayer flag above. The prayers on prayer flags are released when the winds blow the flags to and fro.

During the two months, Marian and I will be Lungta Livyers. We will be living (and adventuring) amid the high elevation, prayer flag adorned, nations of Mongolia, India, Nepal, and Bhutan and we hope you’ll come along to share what we see, feel, and learn.

I’ll post to the website as often as I can, do some SPOT posts, some audio updates, and will post lots of pictures to Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Time to hit the hay as part of my healing plan, I’ve been trying to get lots of sleep and to eat lots of protein (which is no trouble here in Mongolia as there is meat at every meal in piles almost as big as the 44 metre Chinggis Khan statue we saw today.

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Check-in/OK message from SPOT TA

Device Name: TA
Latitude: 47.92680
Longitude: 107.42848
GPS location Date/Time: 08/20/2017 01:22:32 NDT

Message: Lungta Livyers: TA & Marian are adventuring amid prayer flags. Check the map to see where they are hanging out

Click the link below to see where I am located.
http://fms.ws/mTLMd/47.92680N/107.42848E

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The Team Visits The Great Wall

We arrived safely in Beijing and are now visiting the Great Wall and the Forbidden City before flying to Mongolia tonight. We are thrilled to be here and seeing sights we’ve heard about all of our lives.

Thanks for joining us.

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Summer of Hand(s)

I usually mark each summer by the expedition or expeditions that happened that summer. Last summer was the “Polar Bear” expedition to northern Labrador. The summer before was the “Will the plane ever land?” expedition to the Kanairiktok River in Labrador. 2014 was sea kayaking in Bonavista Bay and trying to rescue a navigational buoy. This has been the summer of hand(s). Truthfully, it’s been a year of hands. A bit more than a year of hands. About eight years or so of hands. With intense focus on my left hand this summer thus far, and about to be right handed focus for the month of August…it truly has been and will continue to be a summer of hands.

When we climb a big mountain, we have to move supplies up the mountain in waves or carries. We can’t usually move it all in one shot because of the volume and weight and we need to acclimatize to high altitudes so we usually make moves up the mountain more than once. The first carry is hard because you don’t know what the route will be like or what the route will demand of you in terms of effort or risk management. It’s usually a tough go because you aren’t acclimatized yet and you have to focus on route-finding. You make the carry, drop the load, and then head back down to your previous camp. The second (and third sometimes) carry is always harder mentally because you know what’s coming and how hard it was to do the first time. I always dread the second carry. But most often, it turns out to not seem so hard even though you are more tired because there are markers along the way. You know the route. You know how much further. You know you can do it.

So here I am, almost back to two good hands, about to go back down to one hand and dreading the second carry. I never thought I would be doing my second hand surgery this summer but I realized fairly soon, that having one “good” hand doesn’t help me on long paddling expeditions. I had a pretty hard go last summer that it made me want to consider finally (after eight years) to have the surgery I needed to make life better. That I was losing the battle managing my hands without it…so I decided to go ahead with my left hand. That was ten weeks ago and it’s been a tough climb but a good climb and the views have been spectacular and goodness knows, I’ve spent a lot of time staring at my left hand. The view changes each day and I’m pleased to say that it’s healing well and I’ve got all my strength back and can too 95% of what I want to do including paddling and hockey 🙂

So, with a deep breath and a commitment to do it all over again, I plunge back into the healing process on Thursday with the long term goal of an intense paddling expedition next summer making this, the summer of hands, worth going through for all the other summer expeditions this one will foster in the future…and indeed, we’re quickly closing in on this summer’s expedition which doesn’t involve a boat, canoe, or kayak but does involve camels, yurts, and a five peaked massif…and hopefully a country high point…all fodder for attending to the massive to do list between now and Thursday with two hands and one handed after that for about 3 days and then once again, activity as tolerated, hand exercises several times, lots of scar massage, and lots of mental strength to do the carry all over again-hopefully with the same great results, good views, and interesting times staring at my right hand for the next ten weeks 🙂 Send some encouragement for the second climb my way and I promise to take you on a grand adventure to the lands where Lungta fly in a few weeks time. More on that soon…I have to get back to Squeezie Cow…my favourite squishy hand grip exerciser and pull off a few more reps!

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Boatbuilding as a Full Contact Sport

Using the linear planer is intense. I’ve adopted the role of board puller which means I’m face and eyes into the sawdust. I think I like it because it reminds me of skiing across Greenland or Sweden when we faced a blizzard. The sawdust from the planer whirls around just like snow. I also like taking all the sawdust for the team. It gets everywhere no matter how well I seal my clothing. I figure best to have only one of the team itching and plucking sawdust from every nook and cranny of their clothing. The linear planer enables us to make all the boards for a particular purpose the same thickness. Today we learned to use a jig in the planar to make two bevels on each board to create overlap ( a half-lap) on the planks on the sides of the dory.

You can see in the picture above, I’ve left a trail in the sawdust as I walked backwards from the planer. You can also see the bevel that the planer is cutting into the edge of the board. If you look closely, you can also see a finished yellow and green dory in the boat yard behind me. The boatbuilding shed just got a new concrete floor (note the lovely grey surface below my sawdust trail) and as a result, all the of the dories in progress had to spend the week outside. Next week, they’ll move back indoors for their finishing touches.

We also learned to cut the same bevel with a hand plane. Jerome, above, is demonstrating this for us. Once the long bevel was in place, we had to introduce another bevel right at the end of the plank bringing the leading edge to a tight feather. As you can see from many of the photos I’ve posted this week, boatbuilding requires full contact with the wood and with the boat that is taking shape from the wood. We wear the wood, shape the wood, cut the wood, smooth the wood, glue the wood, bend the wood, and fasten the wood into place. I’ve always loved working with wood-the smell, the feel, the lines so this week has been a thrilling learning experience.

Today progress was steady. We bevelled the first port garboard and then used it as a template for the starboard one. We installed both of them and then learned how to prepare the four planks that go over the garboards. We also scarfed two boards to enable them to be lengthened in order to be the top planks in our dory. They needed to set overnight so we will bevel and install them tomorrow. Our planing skills are getting better and better each day.

This is our dory at the close of building today. You can see the garboards and the first layer of planks installed. Taking the rectangular plank and wrapping it around the side of the boat was magical and a bit of a workout as we had to push hard to get it to attach at the counter and stem.

The lines and symmetry and mathematics of the dory are amazing to learn and see in action. The dory’s simplicity coupled with its functionality has made it a popular design in many parts of the world. We can’t believe that tomorrow is the last day of our workshop-the week has passed in the pass of a plane over a plank. Tomorrow we will finish as much as we can but there will be some leftover for Jerome and the two boatbuilding apprentices to complete as the summer goes on.

Happy Summer Solstice everyone!

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Finding Centre and Other Life Lessons from Boatbuilding

Day three of boatbuilding school at the Wooden Boat Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador has come to an end and we’ve learned many more skills, ideas, and vocabulary today. We’ve focused on finding centre from almost minute one of the course. While drawing the template on the boards that would form the bottom of our dory, the first thing we did was draw a centre line. When we made the frames, each was marked at the centre. Today as we moved the dory onto the rack where we would pull the rocker into the bottom, the first thing we checked was that the boat’s centre line was under the plumb bob. Finding the boat’s centre has been central to almost each task of boatbuilding. Extrapolating that out to life, finding our own centre is likely as integral and perhaps, as challenging sometimes. Our instructor, Jerome, has many ways of adjusting the boatbuilding process on the fly–making a change here, or a change over there, moving the line, taking a plane to an angle that’s not quite right.

Not too tight, not too loose. That’s what my Buddhist teacher often said about meditation practice and life. Today when I was screwing the garboard to the boat (the garboard is the first plank fastened to the side and bottom of the boat and set the lines for all remaining planks), Jerome reminded me to attach the screw, not too tight, not too loose. The miraculous space between not too tight and not too loose is both microscopic and infinite. It’s a moving target. A moment. An illumination. Enlightenment. It is also fleeting. We find it. We lose it. Our centre. Found and lost moment by moment. Lifetime by lifetime.

One of the things that the first Buddhist teachers noticed when they arrived in the West is that we tend, without training, to be very hard on ourselves. We speak to ourselves so harshly, hold ourselves to impossible standards, and fail to treat ourselves with the compassion we so readily offer others. Sometimes I find my students so afraid to try something for fear of making a mistake. I don’t they they fear what I might say, they fear what they will call themselves. One of the greatest lessons that Buddhism has taught me is self-compassion. To put down the stick. To only speak kindly to myself. I manage that most of the time but occasionally slip up and pick up the stick. Fortunately, with both practice and practices, I drop it as soon as I realize I am carrying it.

Jerome has been modelling this to us as we learn boatbuilding. He’s super patient, encourages us to try new skills even when we fear we might ruin something, reminds us that no one is to blame if something is askew and that anything in the boat can be mended, adjusted, fixed, re-cut, battoned, glued, spiled, planed, or knocked gently into place. Building a boat is about successive approximations, learning to use your eye as one basis for judgment, using templates another, and learning to use a variety of traditional and modern tools. Sounds like a fine way to move through life as well.

It’s been great sharing this week of boatbuilding with two of my dear friends. From past projects, we’ve brought a familiarity of how each other works, exists, and things we are good at in the world. Mike is awesome at scribing and understanding in 3-D. Marian brings an eye to detail and a Macgyver can-do spirit. Me-I bring the spirit of adventure and curiosity and weaving all kinds of things together. Together with Jerome and Nicholas (his summer boatbuilding apprentice), we’ve formed a wonderful and engaged boatbuilding team. We laugh. We cuss. We measure. We measure again. We cut. Sometimes badly. Sometimes right on. Today as we fastened the ribbands, Jerome and Marian held them in place, Nicholas pre-drilled, I drilled the counter-sink, and then Mike drove the screw. Like clockwork. 14 times. Boatbuilding has lots of repetition. Lots of opportunities for practice. Lots of ways to learn from one another. Lots of ways to mess up and then fix it. When I became a Buddhist, I took refuge in the Buddha, his teachings (the Dharma), and in the community of his followers called the Sangha. Learning new skills usually requires both individual practice and a community to learn in. I’m grateful for the great team I’m learning with this week.

The ribbands, the narrow band of wood at the top of the frames, allowed us to see the total shape of our dory for the first time. They will also give some strength to and help hold the frames in place while we attach the planks tomorrow that will enclose the boat. Seeing this support for the boat come into place, I was reminded of how important support is. We have our frame, our mission, our goals, and our dreams. We have our centre. But sometimes we lose it. Sometimes we need to be surrounded with love and care until we can get our planks on. Once our planks are on and our seams caulked, we can float. Hopefully. Upright. But not always. In the sea between not too tight and not too loose.

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From Stem to Stern

Marian, Michael, and I are spending this week at the Wooden Boat Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador in Winterton learning how to build a Grandy Dory (pictured above). I’ve been trying to get to a workshop here for a few years but this year, the pieces of my/out schedule came together. I’ve wanted to come attend a workshop with the idea of perhaps incorporating boat building (and then boat rowing) into an outdoor recreation course I would develop. It’s so great to finally be here and I’m enjoying being a student.

We are learning both hand and electric tool usage in boat boating. I’ve been so thankful to my dad as well as Mr. Walton, my junior high industrial arts teacher, this week as they gave me such a strong start with tool usage. Jerome Canning is our instructor and the workshop is elevating both our woodworking skills as well as introducing us to the many steps/aspects of building a dory from layout to cutting to fastening to finishing.

Today we learned to plane as we worked on both the stem and the counter (main beams at bow and stern). Our boatbuilding/nautical vocabulary is building each day as well. I’m pleased to report than my hand is recovered enough that I can do most tasks (and yes, I am listening to it and stopping if anything is tender. It’s taken longer than expected to get the incision to close but movement, stretching, and sensation are all going well).

I found myself quite taken by the shaving from the plane-enjoying the curls that fell to the floor as well as being able to see the tree rings so clearly in the shavings. It’s been a good mental workout as well as we’ve had to visualize the boat in 3-D while working on bevels and angles. Last night I spent some time researching Grand Canyon and McKenzie Dories. I’m thinking it could be very rewarding to build a downriver dory and take it on a big expedition.

Today we finished with the stem (long piece of wood at the front of the picture) and the counter (thing that looks like a bird tail) at the stern…it’s exciting to start to have the boat take shape. Tomorrow we will attach the frames we worked on today and will use a press to give the dory some rocker…stay tuned!

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I’m Always Climbing A Mountain or “How I climb anything is how I climb everything…”

If I said to you that I was following an exercise program with discipline, eating food of the highest nutritional quality, making sure that I’m getting lots of sleep, doing lots of body care, and seeing progress each day, what would you conclude? I suspect most followers of this blog would say that I was training for a mountain. I haven’t been getting ready for a mountain (but am just starting back to training for our climbing in Mongolia in August) I have been getting ready for, having, and now am recovering from hand surgery. Out for a walk today, I realized the process of getting ready and going through hand surgery has mirrored getting ready for a mountain, writing my book, making my high school soccer team, and finishing my Ph.D and so many other things in my life.

Eight years ago, I had a surgery date for my left hand for carpal tunnel syndrome. I elected to put it off, deciding at that moment, the risk/benefit analysis favoured trying to manage my condition with body work, posture, good hand position, and an occasion anti-inflammatory like Vitamin I. I had ups and downs with it but overall, managed pretty well. Last summer, in the lead-up to our Paddle2Peaks expedition, I managed to flare my carpal tunnel in both hands, get a trigger thumb in one hand, and De Quervain’s syndrome in the other. Those carpal tunnel flares and new hand challenges really took their toll and I was a hugely humbled by them in Labrador-especially when I had to sit out a day’s paddling to give them a break.

When I got back from the expedition, I sought out my hand team and we worked to get everything settled down-which with the help of a couple of steroid injections and some time, I got my hands back. During that same time, I had nerve conduction studies done again and found out that my left hand showed a decline from mild impairment to moderate. I was counselled to consider surgery before I hit severe nerve impairment and permanent damage.

I was offered a surgery date and I thought long and hard about whether to take it. The surgeon asked, (knowing my expeditionary lifestyle), “Is this a good time?”

I replied, “When will it ever be a good time for me?”

He said, “It’s not usually a question of if, but when.”

I remembered the agony of paddling last summer and having to stick my hands in the ocean every few paddle strokes to get relief. I said, “OK, Let’s do this-as I have a bit of a window and my next expedition is leg-based.” I’d already successfully paddled this spring and I wrestled with the decision of giving my “perfectly good hand” to the surgeon to cut into. I worried about a 1 in 100 complication rate, loss of hand strength, and recovery time on one side and the risk of permanent numbers/tingling and eventual strength loss on the other.

I got the letter with an early June surgery date. I gulped. I sighed.

I made the decision to climb the mountain. I had four weeks to get ready.

The first thing I did was totally re-arrange my course syllabi (as I teach with my hands) for my two intersession courses to ensure the classes I would miss would be covered.

The second thing I did was started doing push ups, grip strength , and other upper body exercises to build some strength so I could lose it again during recovery.

The third thing I did was learn what vitamins and other nutritional support a body needs to heal an incision and make nice scar tissue. I obtained those supplements and made a focused effort to eat really good, really nutrient dense food.

During the four weeks I had to stew about it, I just kept repeating, “permanent nerve damage” to myself and would go do more push-ups whenever I felt scared about the surgery. I cleared my schedule for the surgery date and the next three days afterward. I wanted to be able to sleep lots right after to help with healing. I also watched lots of videos about exercises I could do post surgery to help with mobility and strength-rebuilding.

The surgery went well. The surgeon and hospital staff were very kind. It took about 20 minutes and the decision was permanently made the moment that ligament was cut. Second guessing myself would no longer make any difference and I could focus 100 percent on recovery.

I’ve had no apparent complications and healing is progressing faster than anticipated. My incision is almost sealed up 100% and I can start scar massage as soon as it welds yet. I finished surgery at about 9 am on the day and by 9:30 am, I was already starting my rehab exercises 🙂 A little early in some people’s books but I remember the first time I had a knee scoped, the Orthopaedic Surgeon gave me some exercises to do and said, do them as soon as you wake up from surgery…so I’ve done taken his advice with every surgery I’ve had. Use it as soon as I can.

Of course, with this surgery they were “breaking” something, so there was not really any harm to be done 🙂 . My hand surgeon said that as long as I didn’t cause my incision to open (which he told me was pretty hard to do unless you fall on it) or get it wet, I could do anything I tolerated.

The first two days were a bit of a painkiller stupor but by day three my hand started to want to get back into life and I even helped out a bit in the garden that day. Since then, I’ve been gaining strength, mobility, and function with each day…and resting and propping my hand up when it needed that as well. Each day I see the incision get an increment better and the view of it changes. Just like the view changes with each step up a mountain.

This mountain has been both a long time coming and a rather short adventure. It’s going so well I’m considering having my other hand done as well this summer. I’m just waiting to see a) if that possible in the time I have before Mongolia and b) how the hand functions a little further out (from what I understand, it takes 14 days to heal the incision and about 42 days to totally heal all the internal structures.

So, it was interesting today when I was on a training walk with Marian and reflected on the past two weeks and realized it was a lot like climbing a mountain. I’ve appreciated my focus on all of my healing tasks (exercises, hand massage, good sleep, good eating, outdoor time, compassionate mind, etc.). After a year off from training, (both because of trying to get my hands to settle and because I needed to take a break after training last year for Everest), I was ready for a little “Discipline, Great Vision.”

One of my favourite quotes is, “How you do anything, is how you do everything.” So in reflecting on my experience of hand surgery, I might update that quote to “How I climb anything is how I climb everything.”

Thanks for all of your kind thoughts and support this past while. It’s been much appreciated.

(Building Lego this week is part of my hand therapy and I can see my ability to do it improve each day).

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Visual Soliloquy #1280 It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure…

It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.
–Joseph Campbell

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Visual Soliloquy #1279 If you propose to speak, always ask yourself, is it true, is it necessary, is it kind ?”

If you propose to speak, always ask yourself, is it true, is it necessary, is it kind?”

–Mary Ann Pietzker

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Visual Soliloquy #1278 Our wounds are often the openings into the best and most beautiful part of us…

Our wounds are often the openings into the best and most beautiful part of us.
David Richo

photo Credit: Megan Frost

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Visual Soliloquy #1277 “It’s like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always . All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story…

It’s like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.
― Patrick Rothfuss

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Visual Soliloquy #1276 I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity…

I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.
Delicious Ambiguity.
― Gilda Radner

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Visual Soliloquy #1275 The only real battle in life is between hanging on and letting go…

The only real battle in life is between hanging on and letting go.
Shannon L. Alder

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Visual Soliloquy # 1274 I grow plants for many reasons: to please my eye or to please my soul, to challenge the elements or to challenge my patience, for novelty or for nostalgia, but mostly for the joy in seeing them grow…

I grow plants for many reasons: to please my eye or to please my soul, to challenge the elements or to challenge my patience, for novelty or for nostalgia, but mostly for the joy in seeing them grow.

— David Hobson

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Fire and Ice 2017: Time Flies

Today we travelled from Vik to Reykjavik. Vik means bay so when you see Vik in a name it likely is on a bay on the coast.

This is the famous hole in the wall near Vik. We reached this vantage point via adventurous driving instead of adventurous climbing.

This lighthouse has the same view.

This rock pillar is see from the another height of land just down from the lighthouse.

This is columnar basalt next to the black beach. All in all, the environs around Vik are quite stunning. Vik is the most southern town in Iceland. Can you find it on the map above? How about Iceland’s many ice caps~can you see them? Can you find a volcano? Or three? How about Iceland’s highest peak?

Our time here ends tomorrow but I’m sure we’ll sneak in a few more adventures tomorrow before we fly.

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Fire and Ice 2107: More Ice than Fire

It was another full day exploring the sights between Vagnsstaðir and Vik. We spent much of the day marvelling at the ice in all of it’s forms. Glacier tongues, lagoons, and crevasses drew our attention over and over again. I know I will return to do a ski expedition here-crossing one or two of the ice caps. I’m being called deep into “Ice” land.

The interesting thing about fire and ice in Iceland is that the fire is not far below the surface. There are some volcanoes here that are covered in snow and ice. When they erupt, not only do they cause lava damage, they cause massive flooding because the eruption causes much snow and ice to melt in a big hurry.

Another full day and time to hit the hay once again. Our legs were a wee bit tired today after yesterday’s climb but not as much as we expected. Here’s a shot from yesterday climbing above the clouds.

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Fire and Ice 2017: You Gotta Know when to Fold ‘Em

Hey Hey, as they say in Sweden. This will be quick. We’re down safe, we’ll fed, and ready for bed after getting up at four followed by a 13 hour climb.

We reached out turnaround time without reaching the summit. We had a marvellous day out that I can’t wait to tell you about bus I will have to wait.

Catch ya from tomorrow.

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Fire and Ice 2017: Brief Update

A day filled with lots of ice! Glacier ice A busy day moving across southern Iceland to be in place for the big climb tomorrow. Up at four am so hitting the hay.

More tomorrow after a big big day of up over snow and ice!

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Fire and Ice 2017: Transitioning to Iceland

After a appetizer visit to Stockholm, we spent much of the day transitioning to Iceland. Keflavik Airport kept us longer that we wanted but once released, we headed for a point of land that allowed us to look west to home and Newfoundland. We found that spot in Gardur and was not one, but two lighthouses to see.

This was the view west over the Atlantic towards Newfoundland and Labrador. I always get such a kick looking west over the Atlantic.

Iceland has so many Lighthouses. They are often orange but today we found a yellow one!

We also drove through massive lava fields that looked (to me) like the moon. We learned from someone at the hostel tonight that US astronauts trained for the lunar landing near Husavik, Iceland so my impression of lava as moon rock had some validity.

If you look carefully at the photo above, you will see some steam. This was near a geothermal electrical plant and I think that is a steam release valve. It’s always so cool to see steam seeping from the ground.

We’re driving the south coast tomorrow towards Vatnajokull. Tonight we saw Eyjafjallajokull volcano across the water. It’s slopes were covered in snow, it has a classic volcano shape, and the top appeared to be missing/like a crater. Some will remember that in 2010, an eruption of this volcano shut down air travel over the Atlantic for nine days.

We’ll drive by it tomorrow. And until then, good night.

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Fire and Ice 2017: Trains, Trams, and Sunken Ships Oh My

As we returned to trees and rocks and pastures and forests this morning out the train window, Marian and I reflected on our Northern Sweden experience. We shared our highs, lows, and things we learned.

Life in Stockholm initially seemed too intense as we tried to find our way out of the train station and to our hotel. Trading the red crosses of the Kungsleden for Google Maps was an abrupt trade but we finally got our bearings. We stored our multitude of bags and then headed out to master the metro 24 hour pass in hand, we took the metro to the King’s Garden (seemed fitting given we’d just spent ten days with the King’s Route. There, we (and many many others) were enchanted by the cherry blossoms.

When we’ve chatted with Swedes, it’s been clear that prior to this trip, I knew the Swedish Chef from the Muppets, IKEA, and ABBA as contributions to the world.Now after this trip, I can add many more.

This list includes the Vasa…a Swedish war ship from the 1600’s that sank 20 minutes into its maiden voyage. Our guide in the Vasa Museum said she loved that this museum celebrated a great failure. I couldn’t agree more.

Check out the provision list…63 litres of ale per month! Not much fresh food-huge risk of scurvy. The Vasa spent over 300 years at the bottom of the ocean, now it is here in Stockholm for visitors to learn from and study.
With our fab public transit pass in hand, we walked, rode, and boarded trains, trams, and buses Learning our way around Stockholm’s many island studded waterfront. After being outside for much of the past 10 days, it’s ironic that we are now in a hotel room without s window. They gave us a mural though :-). It feels a bit like the midnight sun with an off switch and with that I’m off to rest and to Iceland tomorrow.

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Fire and Ice 2017: Transition from Mountains to Villages

Today is a transition day from the mountains through villages to the train that will take us far from snow and ice for a few days. We took the scooter from Kebnekaise to Nikkaluokta this morning. It took about an hour and was a wee bit of a cold ride.

We then had a few moments to claim our duffel bag and ski box from the aptly named “Buss gods” and get the skis into place. We had a few moments left to enjoy a display of Sammi art. The Sammi are indigenous peoples of Northern Sweden who have herded reindeer for millennia. The pieces above and below caught my eye.

I also spied this photo from 1905 of Kebnekaise from Tarfala. We skied there two days ago and we can tell that the glacier has retreated significantly. There is a very long running glacier research station at Tarfala that is making measurements every year to track the changes.

This is likely the last year that the south summit of Kebnekaise will be the highest. It has a small glacier on top and had dropped 30 centimetres in the last year. During the ski mountaineering championships, they took a banner to the south summit thanking it for being the highest. Next year, they will place a banner on the north summit welcoming it as the highest peak in Sweden (its summit is rock covered so is not dropping in height).

We took the bus from Nikkaluokta to Kiruna train station. Kiruna is a mining town and the entire town is being moved 5 kilometres away because the current town location is at risk of falling into the mine shafts drilled beneath the town. Some buildings are being moved and some will be abandoned to become a ghost town of Kiruna past.

Near to Kiruna is an ice hotel called ICE HOTEL 365. They recently figured out how to keep the hotel from melting in spring using solar energy so now folks will be able to visit year round.

We had a few hours before our train so we repacked our bags and now are poking around the train station (which is a temporary one while the new one is being built in the new town).

We’re excited for another trip on the night train and we will wake up in Stockholm tomorrow. Until then, Team Fire and Ice out.

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Fire & Ice 2017 Day 9: Kiruna to Stockholm

Today after our overnight train ride, we will explore Stockholm, the capital of Sweden.

Did You Know?

Volvo, a Swedish company invented the 3-point seat belt system, and instead of patenting it to make their own company a lot more more they decided to share the technology with the world so all people could have a safer mode of transportation.

There is no word in the Swedish language for “please”.

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Fire and Ice 2017: Up Close and Personal with Some Ice

Today was an ice day. We skied down the scooter track a ways and then cut right to ski up to an ice filled canyon. First, though, we had to find a snow bridge over an open stream. As we were looking for a crossing, we spotted two moose.

They appeared to be mother and calf and at first, I thought they were reindeer because their undersides were light. As we got a bit closer, we could see clearly they were moose and then they ran off.

We had to put skins on ours skis because the snow cover wasn’t deep enough to hide the rocks. We started climbing up and zigzagging until we reached our canyon. We traded our skis for crampons and climbed down into the canyon with our skis stuck behind our backs.

Soon we had a top rope set up and we got up close and personal with some ice. It felt great to be climbing ice again and I was pleased that my carpal tunnel/ De Qurvain’s let me climb ice once again. I can tell it’s time to build grip strength again.

After climbing, we noticed some earlier versions of crampons being used as wall directions. Crampons give climbers purchase on slippery Ice and snow.

As we got quiet while climbing, we could hear the stream running below the ice.

After ice came fire once again and we perfected our sauna technique. We are sad that our time in the Swedish mountains is coming to an end but we will cherish our memories for the rest of our lives.

Tomorrow we are riding the scooter out then catching a bus then catching a train. Thanks for coming along.

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Fire & Ice 2017 Day 8: Kebnekaise to Nikkolauda to Kiruna

Today we will head out from Kebnekaise Mountain Station to Nikkolauda. There, we will catch a bus that will take us to Kiruna. There, we will catch a train to Stockholm.

Did You Know?

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Fire and Ice 2017: Lots of Ice (and some fire)

Today we said good bye to our ski expedition teammates. They rode out to Nikkaluokta by scooter, scooter being the Swedish name for snowmobile. Many folks ride between Kebnekaise and Nikkaluokta by scooter taxi while others ski or hike the 19 km.

Marian and I got many views of ice and snow today, after the big good-byes. We skied 8 km into Tarfala. At Tarfala, we met Lars, the hut warden, who said Tarfala was the most beautiful hut in Sweden. Located below three different glaciers and beside a glacier fed lake, we had to agree.

Ski conditions were very icy today but we “earned our turns” on the way down after climbing the 500 metres up from Kebnekaise Mountain Station up to Tarfala. This weekend is the Keb Classic Ski Mountaineering Race so we saw many competitors climbing up and skiing down the glaciers here. A glacier is a river of ice that moves slowly downhill over many years though for many glaciers, that movement is picking u speed.

Some of the snow and ice near the mountain station had already melted so we had to “ski” over the crow berries on occasion. Here they call Partridge berries, Lingonberries. Bakeapples are known as Cloud Berries.

Tomorrow we will be getting some close up views of some frozen waterfalls so it will be another ice day.

Currently the fire comes in the form of sauna or bastu as it is called here. Part cleansing ritual, part social time, and part bathing, we’ve come to love taking a sauna after an adventurous day.

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