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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Fire & Ice 2017 Day 7: Kebnekaise Climb

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Today is the big day. We will try to make our way to the highest point in Sweden, the summit of Kebnekaise (2099 m.).

Did You Know?

Haparanda in Sweden, and Tornio in Finland, are so close in proximity that they share the same post office. There are even two phone lines in the office, one for calls to Sweden and one for Finland.

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Fire & Ice 2017: Safe in Kebnekaise

After following the red crosses of the Kungsleden for six days and nearly 100 km, we are enjoying celebrating at Kebnekaise Mountain Station.

We had some fantastic weather and some horrible weather. We had to push hard some days but then laughed hard enough to make our bellies hurt.

9 Swedes, 1 Aussie and two Canucks came together through hours of skiing, hut chores, and thought-provoking discussion. I’ll write more soon and share more pics when I am not finger typing on my phone.

We are so saddened by events in Stockholm today and will be visiting there in a few days but for now, we are transitioning out of mountain life and sting good bye to new friends.

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Fire & Ice 2017 Day 6: Kebnekaise Mountain Station

Today we say good-bye to our ski teammates and meet our climbing ones. We’ll do some preparation for our climb of Kebnekaise (2099 m.) as well as rest and make everything ready for the climb.

Did You Know?

Something that stands out in Sweden from everywhere else is that it is not uncommon the least bit to see a Swedish civilian wearing a hat with a propeller on the top.

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Fire & Ice 2017 Day 5: Salka-Kebnekaise

This will be an exciting day as we will see Kebnekaise (2099 m.), Sweden’s highest peak, for the first time. We will be trying to spot the route up that we will use when climbing the peak. Today we ski from Salka mountain hut to Kebnekaise Mountain Station.

Did You Know?

We might think of skiing as something we do for fun on weekends, many Swedes see it as another mode of locomotion. Some will ski to train stations or bus stops; public transit comes equipped with storage space for skis. If someone lives close enough, they might even ski directly to the office.

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Fire & Ice 2017 Day 4: Tjakta-Salka

Today the rhythms of our ski days should be set as we make way from Tjakta mountain hut to Salka mountain hut.

Did You Know?

In Sweden, the traditional Christmas visitor is the “nisse” or “gnome”, a short, good-humoured sprite with a long beard and a tasseled red cap. Swedes believe he is thousands of years old. On Christmas Eve, they leave him bowls of porridge on their doorsteps.

Forests cover over 50% of Sweden, there are also around 100,000 lakes and over 24,000 islands throughout the country. Sweden’s right to public access laws allows these areas to be fully accessible by the public.

Fire & Ice Active Activity:

KUBB is a Swedish game that compares to bowling. It uses blocks instead of pins and sticks instead of bowling balls. http://www.playingbythebook.net/2011/01/28/a-traditional-swedish-game-for-all-the-family/(Game It develops physical literacy in children i.e. throwing skills where the object is to knock over blocks by tossing sticks at them. It’s simple, yet, a Swedish childhood favourite.

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Fire & Ice 2017 Day 3: Alesjaure-Tjakta

Today we ski from Alesjaure mountain hut to Tjakta mountain hut. The huts were are using are maintained by the Swedish Tourism Association and help make the Swedish outdoors more accessible to everyone.

Did You Know?

“Lagom” is an important and often-used word in Sweden. Meaning good enough, or just right, it sums up Swedish cultural and social ideals of equality and fairness.

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Fire & Ice 2017 Day 2: Abiskojaure-Alesjaure

Today’s plan is to ski from Abisko.jaure-Alesjaure. We are learning all about the Letter “A”

Did You Know?

Between 300,000 and 400,000 moose (“Alces alces”) roam the Swedish woods. The moose is also considered the most dangerous animal in Sweden. Every year, they cause approximately 6,000 road accidents.

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Fire & Ice 2017 Day 1: Abisko Mountain Station-Abiskojaure

Today’s plan is to ski from Abisko Mountain Station to Abiskojaure mountain hut. It will be our first day out so we must take very good care of our feet since they will be adapting to the large volume of skiing.

Did You Know?

One of the most popular flavors of ice cream in Sweden is “salmiakki”, or salty licorice, which can also be coal black in color.

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Fire and Ice 2017: Headed Out

Marian and I skied a bit of the rout for tomorrow for today and we’re excited, nervous and now ready to go after a flurry of activity.

Our packs are heavy and the next few days will be tough but we’ll take it a step at a time.

Thanks for coming along and we’ll post audio updates only for the next week or so. No news just means no news (ie the sat phone is having trouble connecting) so don’t worry.

Here are some mammals from this area. Enjoy.

I’ll let you know if we see any of them or their tracks. In the meantime, you can practice your Swedish.

Good night.

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Fire and Ice 2017: Our Ski Route…

This map shows our entire ski route from Abisko to Kebnekaise and then finishing in Nikkaluokta.  We will be carrying some of our food supplies in our backpacks and acquiring some items along the way.  Out backpacks will weight between 15 and 20 kg.  Our ski distances will range from 10 to 20 km per day.  We are skiing a portion of the Kungsleden.  We can’t wait to share the adventure with you.

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Fire and Ice 2017: Arrival in Abisko, Sweden

Hello from 68 Degrees North!

After 45 hours of almost continuous travel, we arrived in Abisko midday. Going directly from the plane to a sleeper train reminded us how civilized train travel is. The extra space and ability to walk about was much appreciated for the last 15 hours! Not to mention the bright blue sky and increasing snow as we rolled northward.

We had a spectacular lunch
once we arrived with an even more spectacular view of the lake.

The lake, Torneträsk, is the 7th largest & 2nd deepest in Sweden. It is the largest mountain lake in all of Scandinavia and is 70 kilometres long. It provides a blanket of introduction to the mountains behind. Marian walked down to its shores and ventured out on the ice a bit. A hole cut into the ice to provide access to drinking water showed that the ice was about 9 inches or 22 cm thick. We learned that Torneträsk has ice from January to June most years. We saw people skiing, snowmobiling, and ice fishing.

This panorama was taken from the ice. We also hiked around and saw some of the sights around Abisko including a replica of a Sami camp, a river canyon, and Abisko National Park visitor centre. There we learned about the importance of reindeer to Sami culture.

Reindeer are domesticated caribou. Today we learned that he only species of caribou to be domesticated is the Mountain Caribou. Reindeer forms an important part of eating here as we’ve already had two dinners with reindeer meat in them.

We also learned that Abisko National Park is one of eight in Northern Sweden. We might have to come back to visit the others. Swedes have the right to travel across most lands in Sweden if they do so with great care. There were several posters educating visitors about how to do this well. I was impressed that they had the posters in seven different languages.

It’s been a rich and full day so I’m going to hit the hay. I’m going to miss the swaying of the train rocking me to sleep. More tomorrow.

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A Invitation to Fire & Ice 2017

Marian and I are off on another adventure and we’d like to invite you to come along. We are calling the expedition, “Fire and ice 2017” and we’re off to points north of here in Sweden and Iceland. The name is a mash-up play on the name of one of my favourite pizza restaurants in Kathmandu and the snow of Lappland and the geothermal excitement of Iceland.

We are skiing a portion of the Kungsleden (The King’s Route) from Abisko Mountain Station to Kebnekaise Mountain Station and then climbing Sweden’s highest peak, Kebnekaise (2099 m). We are exploring Stockholm for a day and then heading to Iceland for another go at Hvannadalshnúkur (2110 m). Some may remember our climb of Hvannadalshnúkur in 2011…we got shut down about 150 metres below the summit. You can read about that climb here. We loved our time in Iceland and have been looking for an excuse to return and a free stopover on Iceland Air provided the opportunity for the rematch.

We spent much of yesterday packing-finding the right balance between too much and too little, too heavy and too light. We are travelling by plane, train, ski, snowmobile, foot, and rental car so we had to give some thought to how to make it all work in terms of baggage allowance, portability, and coming home one week apart. We are travelling with ski gear so that brings a bit of complexity to it all as well.

A map is like an invitation to a party-so much excitement to attend! The map above is the portion of Northern Sweden that we will be skiing. We finish our trip and re-catch the train at Kiruna.

I found this map today from 1905. I’ve magnified the section of the map for Hvannadalshnúkur and you can see Vatnajökull Glacier represented by all the white on the map. There will be lots of snow and ice-but we’re hoping Öræfajökull Volcano stays quiet while we are there climbing. Interesting to note that Hvannadalshnúkur is 9 metres shorter than it used to be…It’s been remeasured…check out the story here.

If the St. John’s and Halifax weather cooperate, we fly out on Wednesday, arriving in Sweden on Thursday and Abisko on Friday! We hope you’ll join us and follow along on this adventure to explore fire and ice! Hopefully, the technology will all play nice and we’ll do audio updates from the ski portion and audio and photo updates after April 10. We hope you’ll join us and follow along on this adventure to explore fire and ice!

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Visual Soliloquy # 1273 The river has taught me to listen; you will learn from it, too. The river knows everything; one can learn everything from it. You have already learned from the river that it is good to strive downwards…

The river has taught me to listen; you will learn from it, too. The river knows everything; one can learn everything from it. You have already learned from the river that it is good to strive downwards, to sink, to seek the depths.
– Herman Hesse

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In Honour of Michael Beecher Smith 4/27/2007

With today being Bell’s Let’s Talk day, I’m thinking of Michael and his family. He is dearly missed by so many. I thought I would re-post this blog entry that I did from Everest basecamp on April 27, 2007.

Location: Mount Everest South Basecamp

Elevation: 5200 Meters

Elevation Gain: 100 Meters

Weather: Sunny and Windy

Michael Beecher Smith was a young man with a huge, huge heart. He passed away in January and the loss is huge. I taught Michael in two classes at Memorial University (MUN). He was a delight to teach and my mind is filled with fond memories of him.

He was also on the wrestling team at MUN and so spent lots of time in the weight room. We often overlapped there and he was a huge supporter of all of my climbs. As a wrestler and weightlifter, Michael knew how to “play through pain.” He had to make weight for wrestling and he was always trying to get me to take my greens and other supplements because I was training so hard.

Michael seemed just to know when to throw in an encouraging word or come over and tell me to push the bar a little further than I thought I could. I feel his spirit with me here on Everest. He was so excited for me. I have thought of him often when the going has been so hard.

I know if Michael were alive today, he would be following my climb daily. With permission of his family, I decided to create a memorial for Michael here recognizing his spirit, his heart, and his tenacity in a way that will help me climb both the literal and figurative mountain in front of me.

This morning I hiked out about an hour from basecamp towards Pumori and Gorak Shep. At a spot we call “The Ridge”, I climbed off the beaten path to a flat bench of land with a spectacular view. This special spot is on the shoulder of Pumori. Pumori means “Daughter of Everest.” I’m taking liberties and thinking of Pumori as inclusive of “Son of Everest” as well.

This ridgeline overlooks Everest basecamp, the Khumbu Icefall, and when there are no clouds, the summit of Mount Everest. At first, I thought I would build a memorial chorten as is tradition here, but since Michael did not die in Nepal, I came to a different vision.

Michael grew up in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The aboriginal people of Labrador use Inukshuks (stone people) to mark paths and guide people along the featureless tundra. Thinking that we all need guidance and direction, I decided to build an inukshuk for Michael’s spirit.

As I hauled each rock, I thought of each piece representing some part of Michael’s gifts and talents. It was tricky to get all the stones to balance on top of each other. During this time, I thought of Michael’s challenges and obstacles. When I put the crowning rock into place and hung Tibetan prayer flags from the inukshuk’s shoulders, I thought of Michael’s fondness and appreciation of me.

Michael understood that I am happiest when I can combine several passions into one moment. This morning, in Michael’s honour, I brought together mountains, teaching, spirituality, and stonework. I’m sure he would smile at the combination.

After the sculpture was finished, I sat in silence absorbing the same view at the inukshuk (the same one as in today’s picture). When the time was right, I stood, touched the inukshuk’s shoulder, wished Michael peace, and returned to the main trail with my eyes awash in salt water.

There is an award for student athletes at MUN in Michael’s memory. It is called the Michael Beecher Smith Heart Award. If by chance you would like to contribute to this award, please make out your check to Memorial University of Newfoundland and mail it to:

School of Human Kinetics and Recreation

Memorial University of Newfoundland

St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, A1C 5S7 CANADA

Attn: Michael Beecher Smith Award

I hope in the next hours, days, and weeks that I can draw on Michael’s heart, spirit, and determination to do “the thing I think I cannot do.” (Eleanor Roosevelt).

My thoughts and prayers are with Michael’s family as they make their way through this tremendous time of grief, loss, and sorrow.

With both an open and heavy heart,

TA

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Visual Soliloquy #1272 They who marvel at the beauty of the world in summer will find equal cause for wonder and admiration in winter…

They who marvel at the beauty of the world in summer will find equal cause for wonder and admiration in winter.
–John Burroughs

He who marvels at the beauty of the world in summer will find equal cause for wonder and admiration in winter. John Burroughs
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/winter.html

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Of Hands and Helicopters

That’s my left hand holding Climber Smurf as we are traveling to Hebron, Labrador last August to begin our Paddle2Peaks expedition. It’s been a rough year for my hands. I hadn’t realized how rough until just before Christmas when I received some medical treatment that eased the pain for the first time in six months. As Joni Mitchell so aptly said, “You don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone.” I hadn’t truly perceived the level of pain until it was absent. I’m working hard in physiotherapy to keep it that way and trying to be smart and sensible about activity choices. now that I’m pain free…to stay pain free in both the short and long term.

I’m going have a gnarly set of worn out hands when I’m 85 ‘cause I’m already well on my way there now. I consider my hands badges of a well-lived life. I love my hands. They are my connection to my paddle, my ice axe, my keyboard. It’s been tough to have such deep pain and doubt about that connection. Humbling too. It makes me wonder if someday that connection will be permananently broken or too painful to make. This doubt, in turn, makes the connection all the more precious and the activities I can do because of that connection, all the more precious.

The new year is often an occasion for looking back over the last one, for reflection, for seeing the high peaks and the low valleys. 2016, for me and so many others, had its fair share of both.

A friend recorded the series, Everest Air, that aired this fall and I recently watched the series. It was both tough and exhilarating to watch. Seeing the rescues, of course, reminded me of my own helicopter flight (read about it here) off of Everest and issued an invitation to continue processing that experience (and perhaps if I’m honest, triggered a wee bit of the PTSD I still carry from that sudden ending of my expedition). Just as I did in my own flight, I love the views of Everest and Nepal from the air, from above it all. The views of the Khumbu Icefall are breathtaking. Watching some of the episodes, Marian and I have seen remote regions we’ve trekked in and enjoyed the cascade of memories that comes with that reminder. I watched the rescue of one of my teammates during Episode Two. We stop and pause the video when views of my tent at base camp or other camps come into view. (Mine is the last blue one in the series of five blue ones :-))

During Episode Three, Everest Air flew to Makalu to pick up a sick climber. Because the Everest Air crew was picking up that climber, they were busy when the call went out for my pick-up so I was picked up by a different helicopter and crew that also happened to be filming a series about helicopter pilots and rescues in Nepal. That series starts airing tonight on Discovery and is called Everest Rescue. I don’t know which episode exactly my flight will be covered in-only that it comes later in the series.

As folks may remember, I often can’t watch my own media appearances. I often cover my ears and run screaming from the room when an interview comes on. I don’t often have interview remorse these days but it takes me awhile to be ready to watch or listen to myself. I have no doubt that this will be the same. The series crew captured footage in the helicopter, base camp, at Lukla, at the Kathmandu airport, at the hospital, and then in a long interview in Kathmandu the evening before I was heading home. All of that will likely be condensed into a short segment that’s mostly focused on Jason Laing, the pilot who flew me off. Of course, when you consent to being filmed/interviewed in any context, you have no idea how you will be quoted/portrayed/shown but I’m hopeful, given the way the crew treated me throughout, that they will tell the story well and with respect.

I’m sure, once I gather the courage to watch the episode my flight is featured in, I’ll once again be tossed back into those moments, that day, those days, those weeks, that expedition. I’ll have another opportunity to understand the experience, its lessons, and its effects. I’ll see new connections and continue to accept/heal/let go of old ones. I’ll re-live the hope and anticipation of the beginning of the expedition and the bitter disappointment of the unexpected ending, and all points in between. I’ll see how the footage captured the moments and how that looks and feels the same (and likely different) than my lived experience of it. I’ll work with it as I’m ready and able.

Those of you with access to Discovery and in the inclination to watch-enjoy! I ask that you watch it with compassion for all involved-know that I may be a few weeks or months behind in the watching-and that hands and helicopters can both be very intense life experiences understood in the looking back rather than in the moment.

May 2017 bring you adventures of your choosing, teammates to share them with, and Everest sized compassion for you and all!

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In 2017, what ‘mountain’ will you climb?

Reading this article, by Ashley Fitzpatrick of The Telegram, entitled In 2017, what ‘mountain’ will you climb? brought back many fine memories of my preparation for and climbing of Mount Kilimanjaro. I also enjoyed reflecting on the many folks I’ve coached and assisted to make the same climb including the four sisters mentioned in the article. I always say, “When you take on your Everest (or in this case, your Kilimanjaro), you inspire others around you to do the same. Our Everests and our Kilimanjaros are all different. What is an Everest to one is a Kilimanjaro to another. What is a molehill to me might be an Everest to you…what’s most important is that we keep our eye on “the view”–that goal or passion or avocation that keeps us moving, living, and dreaming-whatever it might be–while at the same time, taking some “footsteps”–actions that move us closer to our goal/dream/view. My Everests for the year are developing and I’ll be ready to share them soon and I hope you’ll follow along-you do know I love having you journey along side us. Stay tuned and wishing you all the best for 2017.

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Visual Soliloquy #1271 Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal…

Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.
–Henry Ford
Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal. Henry Ford
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/obstacles.html

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Visual Soliloquy #1270 Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light…

Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.–Helen Keller
Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light. Helen Keller
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/search_results.html?q=light

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A Book Birth Announcement: The Get-Outside Guide to Winter Activities

It’s a book birth announcement. It weighs 14.7 ounces & after 2 years gestation, it is wonderful to finally hold it! It just arrived from the publisher and it’s beautiful. The book, a collobaration with Andrew Foran and Kevin Redmond, is a fun, informative guide to leading folks outside in winter. We’ve packed it full of fabulous information, tried and true tricks for being warm and comfy outdoors in winter, and many, many activities for folks of all ages. Winter can be fun! The book is available in print and e-book version. You can purchase it directly from the publisher, Human Kinetics, or from your favourite book seller. It’s a great holiday gift 🙂

http://www.humankinetics.com/products/all-products/get-outside-guide-to-winter-activities-the

From the Publisher:

A recent surge in people’s reconnecting with nature has resulted in numerous reference books for outdoor program leaders, but—until now—there has been a dearth of books aimed at wintertime pursuits.

The Get-Outside Guide to Winter Activities unlocks the door to a wealth of fun and adventure in the snow. Activities have been compiled by keepers of the trail, experienced winter trekker leaders who know how to lead people in outdoor winter activities that are safe and fun and help people experience the joy of being active outdoors during the cold months of the year.

This guide offers activities and games that have the following features:

  • Appropriate for multiple age groups
  • Easily modifiable to adapt to varying skillsets
  • Designed for a variety of locales, such as schoolyards, community trails, urban and remote parks, and wilderness settings

The guide offers activities that are suitable for groups of varying skill levels and experience. Most activities are simple and quick and require little preparation and few props. Those interested in doing more can explore snowshoeing or Nordic skiing activities and even exploratory outings and winter day trips from a base camp to overnight or extended camping excursions. The book includes tactical snow games and activities and even has icebreakers for games.

In addition, solo winter trekkers can use the activities and lessons as a launching point to prepare them in leading groups in winter outings. Leaders are shown how to build in activities that call on typical age-level skills of participants. The essential-skills progression built into the activities helps leaders offer instructional strategies that allow all participants to take part within their ability, and leaders are provided with ideas to modify all approaches and activities to ensure inclusion for all in their group.

In addition to the game and activity modifications, the book offers winter facts that enhance participants’ knowledge about the science of snow and winter as well as charts and graphs that focus on safety in winter.

The Get-Outside Guide to Winter Activities offers a planning framework that balances winter fun with skills and safety and prepares leaders to guide others in enjoying activities in the snow. You will learn about activities that require little or no props, adaptive snow games, tips based on actual winter excursions, gear requirements, and leadership suggestions shared by winter experts:

  • How to stay warm and dry while winter camping
  • What and how to eat, drink, and cook in the winter
  • What gear you need for a snow expedition
  • What games and activities are great for campsites
  • How to teach basic snowshoeing and Nordic skiing skills
  • The keys to managing groups outside in winter

You’ll also learn how to make the most of winter opportunities through tried-and-true ideas, skill progressions and games, and activities that open up an entire season’s worth of enjoyment, learning, and adventure.

“People shy away from outdoor winter activities for three reasons,” says Andrew Foran, one of the book’s authors. “There’s an overemphasis on the skills that are thought to be required for participation. Granted, in some cases skills are essential, but it’s how you approach the teaching and practicing of those skills that makes the difference.

“Then there’s a belief that the wintertime outdoors is to be feared rather than embraced. And finally, people are lacking a bank of ideas, of things to do, to keep them engaged and having fun outdoors in the winter.”

The Get-Outside Guide to Winter Activities addresses all three misconceptions—and in the process shows you, as a leader, how to help your participants have fun in the snow, build skills, and create lasting memories that will keep them looking forward to the next big snowfall.

Contents

Preface
AcknowledgmentsPart I Preparing for Winter Fun and Adventure
Chapter 1: Getting Ready to GO
Setting
Five Gs
Planning and Preparation
Nutrition
Hydration
Managing Groups Outside in Winter
Chapter 2: Safety and Risk Management
Assessing Environmental Conditions
Wind Chill
Dehydration and Hypothermia
Risk Management
Phase 1: Before the Activity
Phase 2: During the Activity
Phase 3: Debriefing
Chapter 3: Winter Gear and Clothing
Basic Gear
Wintertime Essentials for the Leader Pack
Winter Travel Gear
SummaryPart II: Fun in the Snow: Games and Activities
Chapter 4: Icebreakers
Five Gs of Activity Planning
Activities
Chapter 5: Play-Based and First Nations Activities
Play-Based Activities
Native (Inuit) and Northern GamesPart III: Trekking
Chapter 6: Snowshoeing
Getting Started
Snowshoeing Equipment
Day Packs and Leader Packs
Snowshoeing Skills
Basic Snowshoeing Games and Activities
Skills for Hills
Advanced Snowshoeing Games and Activities
Running in Snowshoes
Chapter 7: Nordic Skiing
Evolution of Nordic Skiing Technique and Equipment
Dressing for Skiing
Day Packs and Leader Packs
Shelter
Getting Started
Nordic Skiing Skills
Nordic Skiing Games and ActivitiesPart IV: Extending the Trekking Experience
Chapter 8: Winter Camping
Staying Warm and Dry
Eating, Drinking, and Cooking Building a Shelter
Sleeping Warm and Dry
Summary
Chapter 9: Winter Trekking: The Snow Expedition
Winter Trekking Equipment
Group Gear
Leader Gear
Personal Gear
Packing a Toboggan
Thermoregulation: Dressing for Winter Hauling
Leader Tips
Setting Up Camp
Games and Activities to Do in Camp
The Next DayEpilogue
Index
About the Authors

Audiences

A reference for in-service teachers who teach physical education and outdoor education courses.

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Visual Soliloquy #1269 Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world straight in the eye…

Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world straight in the eye.
–Helen Keller

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