A mix of emotions swirl inside of me. It is strange to think of how I was out enjoying my day, while in the exact same context a tragedy was simultaneously unfolding.
by Joe Grant, Special to irunfar.com
A couple of days prior to the March Equinox, I set off from the Longs Peak trailhead around mid-morning, hoping to summit the mountain before the official end of winter. The weather is exceptionally mild for the season, and other than the calendar stating it as such, you would have a hard time believing it is still winter.
Jogging up through the woods, the snow is mushy, making it hard to find a good rhythm. Every so often I punch through the packed surface up to my knees, leaning heavily on my poles so as to not fall over. I roll up my tights, and am down to a t-shirt under my windbreaker, yet still sweating profusely.
Source: Give And Take
Access Fund, the national advocacy organization that protects America’s climbing, is honored to present its 2016 Sharp End Awards to an amazing group of volunteers and activists who stand out in their commitment to the American climbing community. Please join us in congratulating:
Menocal Lifetime Achievement Award
Access Fund is honored to present Greg Barnes with a Menocal Lifetime Achievement Award. Greg’s singular focus on fixed anchor education and replacement has made our climbing areas safer and more sustainable. Greg is the longtime director of the American Safe Climbing Association (ASCA), a national organization that has provided—at no cost—new bolts and hardware to hundreds of local climbing organizations and volunteers across the country. Greg developed some of the first and most enduring best practices for rebolting and fixed anchors and continues to be a leader in the field, presenting at Access Fund’s Future of Fixed Anchors conferences and serving on our Anchor Replacement Fund grant committee. Greg has personally replaced many thousands of bolts in California, Nevada, and beyond.
Bebie Leadership Award
Access Fund is proud to present Ian Caldwell with a Bebie Leadership Award for his incredible dedication to Smith Rock, one of America’s most iconic climbing areas. Ian has played a central role in the Smith Rock Group since 2003, coordinating the annual Spring Thing climbing stewardship event, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Ian also replaces bolts and anchors at Smith and volunteers for the Deschutes County rescue team. Decades ago, Ian was an Access Fund Regional Coordinator and served as president of the Madrone Wall Preservation Committee. Ian has also worked to protect climbing areas across the Northwest and played a lead role in the 2016 Northwest Sustainable Climbing Conference. Congratulations, Ian, and thank you for your outstanding leadership.
Sharp End Award
Access Fund is pleased to present Roger Briggs with a Sharp End Award for his work to protect Colorado’s Front Range climbing areas. Roger founded the Boulder Climbing Community organization in 2012 and spearheaded the Front Range Climbing Stewards, a locally based climbing access trail crew, in partnership with Access Fund. A Boulder original, Roger has dedicated his life to climbing in the Front Range, working tirelessly to promote stewardship and responsible use.
The Keithley Family
Sharp End Award
Access Fund is excited to present the Keithley family with a Sharp End Award for their outstanding commitment to climbing area stewardship. Jimmy, Melissa, Zoe, and Noah bring a level of enthusiasm and commitment to climbing area stewardship that is impossible to overlook. As parents, Jimmy and Melissa strive to instill a strong stewardship ethic in their children, combining fun family climbing trips with stewardship work at the climbing areas they visit. Zoe and Noah now provide a positive example to their peers of what it means to be a climbing steward. Jimmy is also a board member of the Salt Lake Climbers Alliance and chair of the Wasatch Anchor Replacement Committee. Thank you, Keithley family, for making climbing stewardship a family value!
Sharp End Award
Access Fund is honored to present Eve Tallman with a Sharp End Award for her decades of work with Western Colorado Climbers’ Coalition (WCCC) and her instrumental role in protecting Unaweep Canyon. In 2008, Eve helped secure Upper Mother’s Buttress, and in 2014, she expanded climbing access by securing the threatened Lower Mother’s Buttress and Television Wall. Without her behind-the-scenes organizing, grant applications, and on-the-ground stewardship, WCCC and Access Fund would not be able to celebrate a long legacy of conservation and climbing access in Unaweep Canyon. Thank you, Eve, for your contributions to Western Colorado and beyond.
Sharp End Award
Access Fund is honored to present Chris Irwin with a Sharp End Award for his deep commitment to stewarding and protecting Mid-Atlantic climbing areas. Longtime board member and current president of Mid-Atlantic Climbers (MAC), Chris has been instrumental to MAC’s stewardship projects at areas like Great Falls, Carderock, Shenendoah, Coopersrock, Northwest Branch, and many more. More recently, Chris worked with Access Fund and other MAC board directors to officially open Mount Catoctin to bouldering.
Sharp End Award
Access Fund is proud to present Ben Bruestle with a Sharp End Award for his leadership of Southern Colorado Climbing Resource and Advocacy Group (SoCo CRAG) and his work to preserve and protect climbing areas in Southern Colorado. Ben has been instrumental in orchestrating Adopt a Crag stewardship events and climbing days at multiple sites, making strong inroads with a host of local land managers. Ben also dedicates countless hours to replacing worn, aging anchors and bolts in the Wet Mountains.
Roger Van Damme
Sharp End Award
Access Fund is proud to present Roger Van Damme with a Sharp End Award for his outstanding leadership as Chairman of the Friends of Muir Valley. Roger has carried on Rick and Liz Weber’s vision for stewardship and conservation of the Muir Valley climbing area in the Red River Gorge of Kentucky. Roger grew and strengthened the Friends of Muir Valley organization so significantly that the Webers decided to transfer Muir Valley to the organization in March 2015. This was a milestone in Red River Gorge climbing conservation. Roger improved day-to-day management at Muir, hiring support staff and instituting a successful parking donation system. With sincerity, humor, and an incredible work ethic, Roger inspires hundreds of Muir Valley stewards and volunteers.
Sharp End Award
Access Fund is honored to present Gus Fontenot with a Sharp End Award for his decades of service to Southeastern Climbers Coalition (SCC). An Alabama attorney, Gus has provided hundreds of hours of legal service to support SCC’s work in Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. He has played a critical role in all of SCC’s climbing area acquisition projects, and he organized the SCC Land Trust. Climbers can enjoy areas like Boat Rock, Steele, King’s Bluff, Hospital Boulders, Castle Rock, Jamestown, Denny Cove, and more thanks to Gus’ generous contributions.
Sharp End Award
Access Fund is proud to present Jack Santo with a Sharp End Award for his leadership of Ohio Climbers Coalition (OCC). Jack founded OCC and immediately set in motion advocacy and stewardship campaigns for Ohio climbing areas like Cleveland Metro Parks and Cuyahoga. Over the past year, he has spearheaded a partnership with county parks to open Mad River Gorge, Ohio’s largest climbing area. Jack is planning a large-scale Adopt a Crag event this May in preparation for the Gorge’s grand opening. Jack recently relocated to the Pacific Northwest but is staying deeply involved with OCC.
Sharp End Award
We are proud to present Outdoor Research (OR) with a Sharp End Award for its long-standing support and dedication to the protection of America’s climbing areas. OR’s leadership in helping launch the Climbing Conservation Loan Program in 2009 was a pivotal moment in the history of climbing conservation, making possible the purchase of 24 climbing areas. Outdoor Research also collects pro-purchase donations to support the protection of America’s climbing resources and has recently stepped up to defend our public lands.
About Access Fund
Access Fund is the national advocacy organization that keeps climbing areas open and conserves the climbing environment. Founded in 1991, Access Fund supports and represents millions of climbers nationwide in all forms of climbing: rock climbing, ice climbing, mountaineering, and bouldering. Six core programs support the mission on national and local levels: climbing management policy, stewardship and conservation, local support and mobilization, land acquisition and protection, risk management and landowner support, and education. For more information, visit www.accessfund.org.
There have been hermits – also known as recluses, monks, misanthropes, ascetics, anchorites, swamis – at all times in recorded history, across all cultures. But there are really only three general reasons why people leave the world.
by Michael Finkel, for The Guardian
Christopher Knight was only 20 years old when he walked away from society, not to be seen again for more than a quarter of a century. He had been working for less than a year installing home and vehicle alarm systems near Boston, Massachusetts, when abruptly, without giving notice to his boss, he quit his job. He never even returned his tools. He cashed his final pay cheque and left town.
Knight did not tell anyone where he was going. “I had no one to tell,” he says. “I didn’t have any friends. I had no interest in my co-workers.” He drove down the east coast of America, eating fast food and staying in cheap motels – “the cheapest I could find”. He travelled for days, alone, until he found himself deep into Florida, sticking mostly to major roads, watching the world go by.
Eventually, he turned around and headed north. He listened to the radio. Ronald Reagan was president; the Chernobyl nuclear disaster had just occurred. Driving through Georgia and the Carolinas and Virginia, blessed with invincibility of youth, buzzed by “the pleasure of driving”, he sensed an idea growing into a realisation, then solidifying into resolve.
All his life, he had been comfortable being alone. Interacting with others was so often frustrating. Every meeting with another person seemed like a collision.
He drove north to Maine, where he had grown up. There aren’t many roads in the centre of the state, and he chose the one that went right by his family’s house. “I think it was just to have one last look around, to say goodbye,” he said. He didn’t stop. The last time he saw his family home was through the windscreen of his car.
He kept going, “up and up and up”. Soon he reached the shore of Moosehead Lake, the largest in Maine, and the point where the state begins to get truly remote. “I drove until I was nearly out of gas. I took a small road. Then a small road off that small road. Then a trail off that.” He went as far into the wilderness as his vehicle could take him.
Knight parked the car and tossed the keys on the centre console. He had a tent and a backpack but no compass, no map. Without knowing where he was going, with no particular place in mind, he stepped into the trees and walked away.
Why would a 20-year-old man abruptly abandon the world? The act had elements of a suicide, except he didn’t kill himself. “To the rest of the world, I ceased to exist,” said Knight. Following his disappearance, Knight’s family must have suffered; they had no idea what had happened to him, and couldn’t completely accept the idea that he might be dead.
His final gesture, leaving his keys in the car, was particularly strange. Knight was raised with a keen appreciation of the value of money, and the car was the most expensive item he had ever purchased. Why not hold on to the keys as a safety net? What if he didn’t like camping out?
“The car was of no use to me. It had just about zero gas and I was miles and miles from any gas station,” he said. As far as anyone knows, the car is still there, half-swallowed by the forest. Knight said that he didn’t really know why he left. He had given the question plenty of thought but had never arrived at a specific answer. “It’s a mystery,” he declared.
There have been hermits – also known as recluses, monks, misanthropes, ascetics, anchorites, swamis – at all times in recorded history, across all cultures. But there are really only three general reasons why people leave the world.
Most do so for religious purposes, to forge a closer bond with a higher power. Jesus, Muhammad and Buddha all spent significant time alone before introducing a new religion to the world. In Hindu philosophy, everyone ideally matures into a kind of hermit, and today at least four million people live as wandering holy men in India, surviving off the charity of strangers, having renounced all familial and material attachments.
Other hermits opt out of civilisation because of a hatred of what the world has become – too much war, or environmental destruction, or crime, or consumerism. The first great literary work about solitude, the Tao Te Ching, was written in China in the sixth century BC by a hermit named Laozi, who was protesting the corrupt state of society. The Tao Te Ching says that it is only through retreat rather than pursuit, through inaction rather than action, that we acquire wisdom.
Christopher Knight: inside the Maine hermit’s lair
The final category includes those who wish to be alone for reasons of artistic freedom, scientific insight or deeper self-understanding. Henry David Thoreau went to Walden Pond in Massachusetts to journey within, to explore “the private sea, the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean of one’s being”. English historian Edward Gibbon said that “solitude was the school for genius”.
Knight fit into none of these categories – he did not follow any formal religion; he was not protesting modern society; he produced no artwork or philosophical treatise. He never took a photograph or wrote a sentence; not a single person knew where he was. His back was fully turned to the world. There was no clear reason for what he chose to do. Something he couldn’t quite pinpoint had tugged him away from the world with the persistence of gravity. He was one of the longest‑enduring solitaries in history, and among the most fervent as well. Christopher Knight was a true hermit.
“I can’t explain my actions,” he said. “I had no plans when I left, I wasn’t thinking of anything. I just did it.”
Knight’s goal was to get lost. Not just lost to the rest of the world but actually lost in the woods by himself. He carried only rudimentary camping supplies, a few articles of clothing and a little food. “I had what I had,” he said, “and nothing more.”
It is not easy to get truly lost. Anyone with basic outdoor skills generally knows which way they are heading. The sun burns west across the sky, and from there it is natural to set the other directions. Knight knew that he was heading south. He said that he didn’t make a conscious decision to do so. Instead, he felt pulled in that direction, like a homing pigeon. “There was no depth or substance to the idea. It was at the instinctual level. It’s instinct among animals to return to home territory, and my home ground, where I was born and raised, was that way.”
Maine is partitioned into a series of long north-south valleys, the geologic clawmark left by glaciers surging and retreating. Separating the valleys are strings of mountains, now weather-worn and bald-topped like old men. The valley floors at the time of year when Knight arrived were a summer soup of ponds and wetlands and bogs.
A television found at Christopher Knight’s camp. Photograph: Portland Press Herald/Getty Images
“I kept largely to the ridges,” Knight said, “and sometimes crossed swamps going from one ridge to another.” He worked his way along crumbled slopes and muddy wetlands. “Soon I lost track of where I was. I didn’t care.” He would camp in one spot for a week or so, then head south yet again. “I kept going,” he said. “I was content in the choice I had made.”
Content except for one thing: food. Knight was hungry, and he really didn’t know how he would feed himself. His departure from the outside world was a confounding mix of incredible commitment and complete lack of forethought – not all that strange for a 20-year-old. It was as if he went camping for the weekend and then didn’t come home for a quarter of a century. He was an able hunter and angler, but he took neither a gun nor a rod with him. Still, he didn’t want to die, at least not then. Knight’s idea was to forage. The wilds of Maine are monumentally broad, though not generous. There are no fruit trees. Berries sometimes have a weekend-long season. Without hunting or trapping or fishing, a person is going to starve.
Knight worked his way south, eating very little, until paved roads appeared. He found a road-killed partridge, but did not possess a stove or a way to easily start a fire, so he ate it raw. Neither a tasty meal nor a hearty one, and a good way to get sick. He passed houses with gardens, but was raised with rigid morals and a great deal of pride. You make do on your own, always. No handouts or government assistance, ever. You know what’s right and what’s wrong, and the dividing line is usually clear.
But try not eating for 10 days – nearly everyone’s restraints will be eroded. Hunger is hard to ignore. “It took a while to overcome my scruples,” Knight said, but as soon as his principles began to fall away, he snapped off a few ears of corn from one garden, dug up some potatoes from another, and ate a couple of green vegetables.
Once, during his first weeks away, he spent the night in an unoccupied cabin. It was a miserable experience. “The stress of that, the sleepless worry about getting caught, programmed me not to do that again.” Knight never slept indoors after that, not once, no matter how cold or rainy the weather.
Christopher Knight’s camp. Photograph: Portland Press Herald/Getty Images
He continued moving south, picking through gardens, and eventually reached a region with a familiar distribution of trees, along with a diversity of birdcalls and a temperature range he felt accustomed to. It had been colder up north. Knight wasn’t sure precisely where he was, but he knew that it was home ground. It turned out that he was less than 30 miles, as the crow flies, from his childhood home.
In the early days, nearly everything Knight learned was through trial and error. He had been gifted with a good head for figuring out workable solutions to complicated problems. All his skills, from the rigging of the tarps that formed his shelter, to how to store drinking water, to walking through the forest without leaving tracks, went through multiple revisions and were never considered perfect. Tinkering with his systems was one of Knight’s hobbies.
Over the next few months, Knight tried living in several places in the area – including inside a dank hole in a riverbank – all without satisfaction. Finally, he stumbled upon a region of nasty, boulder-choked woods without so much as a game trail running through it; far too harsh for hikers. He liked it immediately. Then he discovered a cluster of boulders, one with a hidden opening that led to a tiny, wondrous clearing. “I knew at once it was ideal. So I settled in.”
Still, he remained hungry. Knight was beginning to realise that is almost impossible to live by yourself all the time. You need help. Hermits across history often ended up in deserts or mountains or woodlands – the sorts of places where it was extremely difficult to find or catch all your own food. To feed themselves, some of the Desert Fathers – third-century Christian Hermits from Egypt – wove reed baskets and sold them. In ancient China, hermits were shamans, herbalists and diviners. Later, a fad for hermits swept 18th-century England. It was believed that hermits radiated kindness and thoughtfulness, so advertisements were placed in newspapers for “ornamental hermits” who were lax in grooming and willing to sleep in caves on the country estates of the aristocracy. The job paid well and hundreds were hired, typically on seven-year contracts. Some of the hermits would even emerge at dinner parties and greet guests.
Knight, however, felt that anyone’s willing assistance tainted the whole enterprise. He wished to be unconditionally alone; an uncontacted tribe of one.
The cabins around the ponds in central Maine, Knight noted, had minimal security measures. Windows were often left open, even when the owners were away. The woods offered excellent cover, and with few permanent residents, the area would always be empty during the off-season. A summer camp with a big pantry was nearby. The easiest way to become a hunter-gatherer here was obvious.
And so Knight decided to steal.
To commit a thousand break-ins before getting caught, a world-class streak, requires precision and patience, daring and luck. It also demands a specific understanding of people. “I looked for patterns,” Knight said. “Everyone has patterns.”
He perched at the edge of the woods and meticulously observed the habits of the families with cabins along the ponds. He watched their quiet breakfasts and dinner parties, their visitors and vacancies, the cars moving up and down the road. Nothing Knight saw tempted him to return to his former life. His surveillance was clinical, informational, mathematical. He did not learn anyone’s name. All he sought was to understand migration patterns – when people went shopping, when a cabin was unoccupied. After that, he said, everything in his life became a matter of timing. The ideal time to steal was deep in the night, midweek, preferably when it was overcast, best in the rain. A heavy downpour was prime. People stayed out of the woods when it was wet.
Still, Knight did not walk on roads or trails, just in case, and he never launched a raid on a Friday or Saturday – days he knew had arrived from the obvious surge in lakeside noise.
For a while, he opted to go out when the moon was large, so he could use it as a light source. In later years, when he suspected the police had intensified their search for him, he switched to no moon at all. Knight liked to vary his methods. He didn’t want to develop any patterns of his own, though he did make it a habit to embark on a raid only when freshly shaved or with a neatly groomed beard, and wearing clean clothing, so as to reduce suspicion on the slight chance that he was spotted.
There were at least 100 cabins in Knight’s thieving repertoire. The ideal was a fully stocked place, with the family away until the weekend. He knew, in many cases, the precise number of steps required to reach a particular cabin, and once he selected a target, he bounded and weaved through the forest. Sometimes, if he was headed far or needed a load of propane or a replacement mattress it was easier to travel by canoe. Canoes are difficult to hide, and if you steal one, the owner will call the police. It was wiser to borrow, and there was a large selection around the lake, some up on sawhorses and seldom used.
Knight was capable of reaching homes anywhere along the largest pond near his hidden campsite. “I’d think nothing of paddling for hours, whatever needed to be done.” If the water was choppy, he would place a few rocks in the front of the boat to keep it stable. Typically, he stayed close to shore, cloaked against the trees, hiding in the silhouette of the land, though on a stormy night he would paddle across the middle, alone in the dark and lashed by the rain.
When he arrived at his chosen cabin, he would make sure there were no vehicles in the driveway, no sign of someone inside. Burglary is a dicey business, with a low margin for error. One mistake and the outside world would snatch him back. So he crouched in the dark and waited, sometimes for hours. “I enjoy being in the dark,” he said.
He never risked breaking into a home occupied year-round, and he always wore a watch so he could monitor the time.
Sometimes, cabins were left unlocked. Those were the easiest to enter, though soon other places became nearly as simple. Knight had keys to them, found during previous break-ins. He stashed each key on its respective property, typically under some nondescript rock. He created several dozen of these stashes and never forgot where one was.
He noticed when several cabins left out pens and paper, requesting a shopping list, and others offered him bags of supplies, hanging from a doorknob. But he was fearful of traps, or tricks, or initiating any sort of correspondence, even a grocery list. So he left everything untouched, and people stopped.
For the majority of his break-ins, Knight worked the lock on a window or door. He always carried his lock-breaking kit, a gym bag with a collection of screwdrivers and flat bars and files, all of which he had stolen, and could defeat all but the most fortified bolts with the perfect little jiggle of just the right tool. When he had finished stealing, he would often reseal the hasp on the window he had unlatched and exit through the front door, making sure the handle was set, if possible, to lock up behind himself. No need to leave the place vulnerable to thieves.
The bow of a canoe on Lang Pond in Maine’s Northern Forest. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo
As the local residents invested in security upgrades, Knight adapted. He knew about alarms from his one paying job, and he used this knowledge to continue stealing – sometimes disabling systems or removing memory cards from surveillance cameras. He evaded dozens of attempts to catch him, by both police officers and private citizens. The crime scenes he left behind were so clean that the authorities offered their begrudging respect. “The level of discipline he showed while he broke into houses,” said one police officer, “is beyond what any of us can remotely imagine – the legwork, the reconnaissance, the talent with locks, his ability to get in and out without being detected.”
A burglary report filed by another officer specifically noted the crime’s “unusual neatness”. The hermit, many officers felt, was a master thief. It was as if he were showing off, picking locks yet stealing little, playing a strange sort of game.
Knight said the moment he opened a lock and entered a home, he always felt a hot wave of shame. “Every time, I was very conscious that I was doing wrong. I took no pleasure in it, none at all.” Once inside a cabin, he moved purposefully, hitting the kitchen first before making a quick sweep of the house, looking for any useful items, or the batteries he always required. He never turned on a light. He used only a small torch attached to a metal chain he wore around his neck.
During a burglary, there wasn’t a moment’s ease. “My adrenaline was spiking, my heart rate was soaring. My blood pressure was high. I was always scared when stealing. Always. I wanted it over as quickly as possible.”
When Knight was finished with the inside of the cabin, he would habitually check the gas grill to see if the propane tank was full. If so, and there was an empty spare lying around, he would replace the full one with an empty, making the grill appear untouched.
Then he would load everything into a canoe, if he had borrowed one, and paddle to the shore closest to his camp to unload. He would return the canoe to the spot he had taken it from, sprinkle some pine needles on the boat to make it appear unused, then haul his loot up through the dense woods, between the rocks, to his home.
Each raid brought Knight enough supplies to last about two weeks, and as he settled once more into his room in the woods – “back in my safe place, success” – he experienced a deep sense of peace.
Knight said that he couldn’t accurately describe what it felt like to spend such an immense period of time alone. Silence does not translate into words. “It’s complicated,” he said. “Solitude bestows an increase in something valuable. I can’t dismiss that idea. Solitude increased my perception. But here’s the tricky thing: when I applied my increased perception to myself, I lost my identity. There was no audience, no one to perform for. There was no need to define myself. I became irrelevant.”
The dividing line between himself and the forest, Knight said, seemed to dissolve. His isolation felt more like a communion. “My desires dropped away. I didn’t long for anything. I didn’t even have a name. To put it romantically, I was completely free.”
Virtually everyone who has tried to describe deep solitude has said something similar. “I am nothing; I see all,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson. Lord Byron called it “the feeling infinite”. The American mystic Thomas Merton said that “the true solitary does not seek himself, but loses himself”.
For those who do not choose to be alone – like prisoners and hostages – a loss of one’s socially created identity can be terrifying, a plunge into madness. Psychologists call it “ontological insecurity”, losing your grip on who you are. Edward Abbey, in Desert Solitaire, a chronicle of two six‑month stints as a ranger in Utah’s Arches National Monument, said that being solitary for a long time “means risking everything human”. Knight, meanwhile, didn’t even keep a mirror in his camp. He was never once bored. He wasn’t sure, he said, that he even understood the concept of boredom. “I was never lonely,” Knight added. He was attuned to the completeness of his own presence rather than to the absence of others.
“If you like solitude,” he said, “you are never alone.”
Knight was finally arrested, after 27 years of complete isolation, while stealing food at a lakeside summer camp. He was charged with burglary and theft, and taken to the local jail. His arrest caused an enormous commotion – letters and visitors arrived at the jail, and approximately 500 journalists requested an interview. A documentary film team showed up. A woman proposed marriage.
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Knight is escorted into Kennebec County Superior Court to enter pleas for multiple burglaries and thefts. Photograph: Portland Press Herald/Press Herald via Getty Images
Everyone wanted to know what the hermit would say. What insights had he gained while he was alone? What advice did he have for the rest of us? People have been approaching hermits with similar requests for thousands of years, eager to consult with someone whose life has been so radically different to their own.
Profound truths, or at least those that make sense of the seeming randomness of life, are difficult to find. Thoreau wrote that he had reduced his existence to its basic elements so that he could “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life”.
Knight did, eventually permit one journalist to meet him, and over the course of nine one-hour visits in the jail, the hermit shared his life story – about how he was able to survive, and what it felt like to live alone for so long.
And once, when he was in an especially introspective mood, Knight seemed willing, despite his typical aversion to dispensing wisdom, to share more of what he gleaned while alone. Was there, the journalist asked him, some grand insight revealed to him in the wild?
Knight sat quietly but he eventually arrived at a reply.
“Get enough sleep,” he said.
He set his jaw in a way that conveyed he wouldn’t be saying any more. This was what he’d learned. It was, without question, the truth.
This is an adapted extract of The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel, published by Simon and Schuster
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK, Colo. (AP) — The body of a climber missing on Longs Peak has been found.
Rocky Mountain National Park spokeswoman Kyle Patterson says the body of the 39-year-old man from Thornton was discovered by searchers on Sunday and flown down by helicopter.
He was mountaineering with two acquaintances on Saturday when he reportedly decided to descend the challenging and popular mountain by himself. When they returned to the trailhead’s parking lot later in the day they saw the man’s car was still there.
At 14,259 feet, Longs Peak is the highest mountain in the park and the 15th highest in the state.
April 15-16 and 22-23: Weekends of National Park Week
August 25: National Park Service Birthday
September 30: National Public Lands Day
November 11-12: Veterans Day Weekend
Life is often lived in hindsight. In the moment of a big decision, it is often hard to fully understand all the factors that go into what you are thinking at the time. And it is nearly impossible to know what the impacts of any given decision will be until it plays out. You can research, plan, and try your best to predict all the possible outcomes. This is what one should do when taking risks. These risks are calculated, and not reckless. But with any big decision, there will be uncertainty and doubt.
I signed up for the Leadville 100 trail run. Yes, I did this! I was able to secure a spot in this race by signing up for one of the limited training packages, which also means I am working with a running coach for the first time in my life. For those who may be unfamiliar, the Leadville 100 trail race entails 100 miles of beautiful, extreme trails in the mountains of Colorado, from elevations of 9,200 to 12,600 feet and a total of more than 18,000 feet of climbing – all in a 30-hour time frame or less. It is one of the absolute classic races of ultra-running. It is hands-down one of the biggest challenges I will be taking on in my running life, if not my life in general, so far. Did I agonize over this decision for days on end before I did this? No, I did not. Did I fail to think this through before I did this? No, I did not. What I did do was make a conscious decision to approach risk, as opposed to deflect risk. So much of truly living, to me, is exactly that, approaching risk versus deflecting risk.
To me, approaching risk often looks like this: I get an idea. I get really excited about this idea (probably over-excited) and convince myself it is a good idea. I set a plan in action of how to implement or set on the road to making the idea actually happen.
Basically, when approaching risk, I decide to live my ideas.
Part of approaching risk is deflecting doubt. When the doubts are internal, I tend to try to talk to someone who can provide me with real-life experience on the matter. I often seek out someone I know who trusts my decisions and thinks positively. And someone who really knows me and supports my BIG ideas. When the doubts are external, I recognize that it might be easier for some to deflect risk. In most of the “unconventional” challenges I have taken on in my life, the majority of the responses have gone something like, “I would never do that ….How are you going to make that work?” In the case of the Leadville 100, typical reactions also include “You’re nuts” and “That sounds awful.”
These responses surprise me because challenges are exciting! And I can think of less responsible things than taking on challenges and following a passion through. In any event, anyone can do anything for a day or two! Remember, these risks are calculated, and not reckless. I clearly see the value in encouraging those taking calculated risks in our world…just the other day my friend said to me, “If anyone can conquer the unconquerable it is you!” The outcome will remain unknown until the race, but I certainly appreciate such encouragement over the alternative.
The one thing you can never predict when approaching risk is the reality of how you are going to feel. This risk, the unpredictability of how you are going to feel, is the true risk… yet the one that holds the most potential for growth and rewards. All of the other risks are just doubts that can be resolved one way or the other.
I am sure the road to the Leadville 100 will be a true range of experience, both positive and not so positive. The perfect opportunity to…
Approach risk. Deflect doubt. Live my ideas.
Ilene Bloom is an evolving ultra-runner, mother and lawyer who lives in Denver. In conjunction with training for the Leadville 100, she is raising money for the American Cancer Society at this link: https://www.crowdrise.com/leadville-trail-100-run-for-cancer/fundraiser/ilenebloom. If you have any questions or thoughts about this article, Ilene can be reached at email@example.com.
Chris Bertish set out from Morocco to become the first to make the crossing alone on a stand-up paddleboard. On Thursday, after 93 days, he paddled into the West Indies, with a whole ocean behind him.
by Colin Dwyer, NPR
In the span of 93 days, Chris Bertish crossed more than 4,050 nautical miles of Atlantic Ocean — and he conquered this lonely crossing standing up. When the South African surfer entered English Harbour on the island of Antigua on Thursday, he was riding the same massive stand-up paddleboard that bore him from Morocco’s Agadir Marina roughly three months ago.
Still, if Bertish’s equipment wasn’t much different from when he started, his place in the record books now certainly is: On Thursday, Bertish became the first person in history to make a solo trans-Atlantic journey on a stand-up paddleboard.
“Across the entire Atlantic Ocean and I am finally here,” Bertish wrote Thursday on Facebook. “I don’t need to be strong and keep it together any longer; it’s been 93 days and it’s done and I let it all go… I am home!”
By the time he made it to the West Indies, battling fittingly windy and rough conditions,” SUP Magazine reports he had already faced down “shark encounters, equipment failures, unfavorable trade winds, loneliness and huge swells.”
At one point, conditions were so rough — and rough for so long — that he and his navigational systems were “just really embattled to just make it through and survive,” Bertish told SUP Magazine in a phone call about halfway through his trans-Atlantic paddle.
“My craft was taking on water, I couldn’t open my hatches, I was underwater most of the time and I don’t think most people understand the severity of that kind of problem,” he continued. “I have a sea grass growing on my entire deck because it’s underwater the entire time.”
But it wasn’t all hardship. There were high marks, as well: Bertish says he smashed the records for longest distance paddled alone across open ocean, and for the longest distance paddled alone in a single 24-hour span — 71.96 nautical miles, nearly doubling the previous mark.
He says he paddled about 60 miles in his last full day on the water alone.
Now, as we noted in December, Bertish’s vessel isn’t exactly your granddad’s stand-up paddleboard. The 20-foot-long behemoth — which he calls ImpiFish — boasts satellite weather forecasting equipment, handheld radio and GPS, solar panels and a tiny cabin where he could sleep at night. And he’s been sure to relay updates to landlubbing supporters on Facebook.
A Surfer And His Paddleboard Embark On A Lonely Trans-Atlantic Voyage
Those same supporters helped Bertish in his quest to parlay his paddling into charity. He says that as of Thursday, his journey had managed to raise more than $490,000 for Signature of Hope Trust, The Lunchbox Fund and Operation Smile.
“Bertish aims to raise enough money to build at least five schools in South Africa, provide monthly dividends to feed and educate thousands of children and pay for surgeons to carry out life-changing cleft lip and palate operations,” CNN reports.
“I pretty much ate exactly the same thing every single day for 93 days,” he told a crowd assembled to greet him Thursday, as he was settling down to his first meal on land in quite a while. “A lot of the kids we’re doing this for don’t even have enough money to go to school.”
Bertish added: “Every time I’d look down at the same packet of food I was going to have to eat another day in a row, I tell myself: ‘Shut up, you’ve actually got food to eat.’ These kids have nothing.”
He reminded the gathered crowd just how lucky they were to have anything to eat at all … until, his reminder spoken, the crowd politely told him to shut up and just eat his burger — his first after an ocean’s worth of paddling.
by Ben Rumsby, Daily Telegraph
The FBI has been dragged into the drugs probe into Sir Mo Farah’s coach as anti-doping investigators step up their pursuit of Alberto Salazar.
Telegraph Sport can reveal that the United States Anti-Doping Agency has enlisted the assistance of America’s national intelligence and law-enforcement service in what is now a four-year inquiry into the man who transformed Farah into Great Britain’s greatest ever track-and-field athlete.
News that the FBI, which brought Fifa to its knees, is working with Usada chief executive Travis Tygart, who brought down Lance Armstrong, emerged less than two weeks after a leaked report from the agency accused Salazar of “unlawful” conduct.
It also came days after it was reported Usada was seeking to retest Farah’s blood samples for the banned substance EPO, or erythropoietin, as part of its investigation. The 33-year-old, who vehemently denies any wrongdoing, declined to comment last night over the involvement of the FBI in Usada’s inquiry, whether he had been spoken to by agents, or whether he would co-operate if asked to do so.
Britain’s four-time Olympic champion has previously agreed to be interviewed by Usada investigators and last week declared himself happy to have any of his stored samples retested “at any time”.
Salazar, who also denies any wrongdoing, did not respond to requests for comment, while Usada declined to comment on the reason for, or the nature of, FBI involvement in its investigation.
The FBI, meanwhile, told Telegraph Sport: “We cannot confirm our involvement or the existence of an investigation.”
The bureau’s last major foray into the world of sport came when it conducted a four-year probe into corruption at Fifa that culminated in dawn raids of the governing body’s luxury hotel and the arrest and prosecution of several of its most senior officials.
Its involvement in the Usada inquiry will crank up the pressure on Salazar over a series of alleged anti-doping breaches, details of which first surfaced almost two years ago.
The American found himself in the spotlight again at the end of last month after the emergence of Usada report, leaked by Russian hackers Fancy Bears, which claimed he had “almost certainly” broken anti-doping rules and failed to provide an “acceptable justification” for possessing testosterone.
Athlete support personnel are prohibited from being in possession of banned drugs without “valid justification”, and Salazar claims he carries it for his own personal use due to suffering from hypogonadism – a condition that causes low levels of the hormone.
The Usada report dismissed this explanation, saying the documents he provided them “do not establish Mr Salazar has suffered from hypogonadism… or that he requires testosterone replacement therapy”.
The report added: “Despite Usada’s request that he do so, Mr Salazar has still produced no laboratory testing records, blood test data, examination notes, chart notes or differential diagnosis substantiating that Mr Salazar suffers from hypogonadism.”
“It goes, boys”
Nineteen-year-old Margo Hayes has taken a huge leap in shrinking the climbing world’s gender gap.
by Andrew Bisharat, National Geographic
Throughout the 1980s and much of the 1990s, when rock climbing was very much a fringe activity, women were rarely spotted up on the rock. Even fewer were performing at a cutting-edge level.
The notable exception was Lynn Hill, who in 1993 became the first person (male or female) to free climb the 3,000-foot Nose of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Free climbers ascend without falling or using gear to rest or aid upward progress. Hill’s feat cemented her status as an action sports legend and proved in the biggest way possible that women could climb just as hard as, if not harder than, men.
“It goes, boys,” she boldly stated after her big achievement.
Before climbing the Nose, Hill became the first woman to climb a route with a difficulty grade of 5.14a, which was considered a world-class level at the time. In 1990, Jean-Baptiste Tribout, the leading French sport climber of the time, infamously stated that year that “no woman would ever climb [a 5.14a].” Hill proved Tribout wrong that same year by completing a 5.14a sport climb in France called Masse Critique.
Best of all, she completed the route in fewer tries than Tribout.
In a similar breakthrough, Margo Hayes, 19, of Boulder, Colorado, has achieved a new milestone in the sport. On February 26, 2017, she climbed La Rambla, a sport climb in Siurana, Spain, that is rated 5.15a. This achievement makes her the first woman to reach this level of difficulty, which is very close to the highest levels ever achieved by top-performing male climbers.
“Over the last few years the gender gap has really narrowed,” said Hayes in an online video interview last year. “There’s going to be a big change—there’s more women and more young girls coming up in rock climbing. Watch out, boys!”
La Rambla is a 150-foot tall yellow and blue limestone route. It overhangs by 30 degrees the whole way, making it an unrelenting challenge. It has been climbed by only a few of the best male climbers in the world and is considered solid for its difficulty rating.
The holds on La Rambla, particularly on the blue patina of limestone near the top of the route, can be razor sharp, making the climbing not just difficult but downright painful as the rock chews through fingertips like dog toys.
“Margo’s effort was unprecedented,” says Jon Cardwell, a top American sport climber and one of Hayes’s climbing partners during her historic trip. “She was bleeding from her fingers every day. That route is a bloodbath now! But never once was this an excuse. Extraordinary character in that girl.”
One sign of the changing times in rock climbing is Hayes’s presence at a world-class crag in Spain with perhaps the two strongest American climbers right now, Jon Cardwell and Matty Hong—all of them climbing as equals. The three live in Boulder, Colorado, where they climb and train together.
Hong, in fact, successfully completed La Rambla just two days before Hayes. Cardwell, who is also “projecting” the route, is expected to achieve his own success any day now.
“I am overwhelmed and humbled by the support I’ve received from the climbing community, and my family and friends near and far,” Hayes wrote on Instagram. “None of us achieves our dreams alone, we do so together, and build on those who have come before us.”
Indeed. The question of whether a woman would reach 5.15a was never one of “if” but of “when” and “who.” Over the last decade, the best female climbers in the world have been pushing right up to that 5.15a level.
Climbing grades are subject to a community-wide consensus of difficulty, so women have climbed routes that were first considered to be at a 5.15a difficulty level but were retroactively downgraded after consensus was reached.
With those shifts in mind, the climbing community has awaited a female ascent of 5.15a sport climb that is widely agreed to be a benchmark for the grade. Hayes’s ascent of La Rambla meets that criteria.
Here’s a timeline of top achievements in female sport climbing that have led up to this moment:
1990: Lynn Hill climbs Masse Critique (5.14a) in Cimai, France, a route that J.B. Tribout once said “no woman would ever climb.” The route takes Hill fewer tries than Tribout and her ascent makes her the first woman to climb a 5.14a.
2002: Josune Bereziartu, a Basque climber, becomes the first woman to climb a 5.14d when she ascends the Bain de Sang in St. Loup, Switzerland. At the time, the hardest route in the world was only one grade higher at 5.15a. She was also climbing two or three grades harder than any other woman.
2004: Bereziartu climbs another 5.14d: Logical Progression in Japan.
2005: Bereziartu achieves her hardest route yet: Bimbaluna in Switzerland. The route is given a “slash” rating of 5.14d/5.15a, meaning it might not be difficult enough to be considered a full-fledged 5.15a, but compared to all other routes with 5.14d ratings, it’s a tough one.
2011: French climber Charlotte Durif climbs PPP (5.14d) in Verdon, France. Some European climbing magazines dispute the veracity of her claim and refuse to publish the news.
2011: Sasha Digiulian, from Virginia, climbs Pure Imagination (5.14d at the time) in the Red River Gorge, Kentucky. Subsequent ascents of the route, however, land the consensus grade at 5.14c.
2012: Digiulian climbs Era Vella (5.14d), in Margalef, Spain. Again, subsequent ascents suggest the route might in fact be slightly easier.
2013: Murial Sarkany, from Brussels, Belgium, climbs Punt X (5.14d) in Gorges du Loup, France, at age 39. This makes her either the second, third, or fourth woman to reach the 5.14d grade after Bereziartu, depending on whether Durif and Digiulian’s ascents are considered valid.
2015: Mar Alvarez, a full-time firefighter, climbs Escalatamasters (5.14d) in her home country of Spain.
2015: At age 13, Ashima Shiraishi, the phenom climber from New York City, takes a spring break trip to Santa Linya, Spain, where she climbs a potential 5.15a called Open Your Mind Direct. However, other climbers agree to a consensus that the route is, in fact, only 5.14d. The community still awaits a female ascent of an undisputed 5.15a.
2016: Margo Hayes climbs Bad Girls Club (5.14d) in Rifle, Colorado.
2016: Laura Rogora, a 14-year-old climbing prodigy from Italy, climbs Grandi Gesti (5.14d), in Italy, making her the second youngest person to climb that grade.
2017: Rogora continues her tear and climbs another 5.14d: Joe Blau in Oliana, Spain.
2017: Margo Hayes climbs La Rambla (5.15a), becoming the first female climber to reach this level.