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Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Force 7 Winds On An Atlantic Crossing

If you would know the age of the earth, look upon the sea in a storm. The grayness of the whole immense surface, the wind furrows upon the faces of the waves, the great masses of foam, tossed about and waving, like matted white locks, give to the sea in a gale an appearance of hoary age, lustreless, dull, without gleams, as though it had been created before light itself. Joseph Conrad "The Mirror of the Sea"

Watching Felix Baumgartner's jump from the edges of space had us answering the question "Why?" to more than a few acquaintances.  Apparently we must be a bit off balanced for those close to us to assume we would have an answer.  But it's a sound question.  Why?

Joe Kittinger's historic jump from space.

Why do some of us feel the need to do something extraordinary?  What brings a person to the sharp point of thinking "I have to do this thing, or else....".  Mallory's old term "because it's there" doesn't get to the root.  Whats behind that thought?  "It's there" could be applied to anything.  What happenings lead up to the point where the phrase marks a launching point of no return?

Crossing the Empty Quarter

Those that head out, far from the comforts of home, with hopes of sailing a new body of water, discovering a great range, or traversing a continent,  seem to do so for myriad reasons.  It's easy to say that those that light out into the territory are running away from something, looking to find something better.  There is some truth to this.  Many of the great mountaineering feats and discoveries of our time depended on some significant life event as precursor.  A catalyst to light the fuse...  Years ago Michael Kennedy (editor of Climbing magazine) wrote an article describing the number of great routes that had been put up by the depressed, the disenfranchised, the heartbroken.  Indeed, the death of one close, divorce, and a broken heart appear to be high on the list of reasons for action.  As if the things that go with an adventure; continuous movement, a single mindedness, a deep exhaustion displace the ruminations of heartache at least for a short time.  Still, depending on the severity, the exaltation found at altitude, or on blue water quickly subsides and the mind races back to the things that darken the soul.  Many then get trapped in the cycle of planning the next adventure or succumbing to the deepest of depressions. 
Alpinist's Cemetery Chamonix

Then there are those not haunted by Churchill's black dog of depression that simply move and explore for the sheer experience.  We often smirk and eyes are rolled  when we are told that so and so is off to "find himself".  I tend to defend these people with a vengeance.  I cant think of a better way to understand oneself than by seeing how a stranger views us.  Surrounded by new faces, in a new land there is no past to be judged by.  Everything must be taken at face value.  Your actions and words are all that matters.  Tabula Rasa.  I think that perhaps this is one of the greatest things about setting off.  Not merely the opportunity to reinvent oneself.  It's much more than that.  Its an opportunity to build on ones core.  To test oneself, and to ultimately better oneself. 

Home Base on the Rio Negro

We are all seekers of something.  Why do you travel?  What is your prime mover? Why do you feel the need to create something extraordinary?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Waiting Game

At this point we loathe one another.  We have shared our mouldering paperbacks, played cards until the outcome of every game is disputed, glugged gallons of Chilean wine, gorged ourselves on lamb stew, and suffered stomach maladies side by side.   He sneers at me.  I sneer back.  We are entombed in our fetid, nylon shelter.  Two hateful twins in an ungodly womb.  Outside the wind picks up, the rain spatters harder, sideways again.  I take an Ambien out of sheer boredom.  My Capilene stinks.  It is 2:00 on a Thursday.  We have been like this for the past ten days; waiting for a window of opportunity. For a weather system to change just briefly.  Waiting to take the leap....

If anything, time spent in the mountains has taught me the value of patience.  To become adept at the waiting game for the pay off at the end.  Like many that throw themselves into the maw of natures forces I have become a weather junky.  Constantly checking for the latest updates on shifts in the jet stream, of weather systems pushing change on the other side of the world, of micro climates around a particular mountain range.   In another life I'll probably be a meteorologist or a financial wizard.  Able to link a storm in the Bering Sea to a shortage of a particular orange thread in the Americas.  Connecting the dots to view the bigger picture.  Ive become an adept at the waiting game.

Still, all the weather websites in the world are useless when the wind comes roaring across the southern Patagonian ice cap. The Torres Del Paine tease us with sneaked glances through swirling clouds.  Cerro Torre looking especially ghastly and menacing in the filtered light.  Its walls plastered with rime ice.  The winds are unrelenting, forecasts virtually unusable,  one must wait and wait and wait some more.  All in hopes of a reprieve that allows you the tiniest of chances to do what you came to do.  To fulfill your dream.

Rolando tunneling up high under uncharacteristically blue skies

Sometimes life feels a series of connected, storm lashed bivys.  I feel as if we have been waiting forever to take orders for our next run of Imperial Black shirts. We have, but as usual we are trying to do things a bit differently.  Perhaps even get our act together.  We have a four week period where, unbelievably, everyone is around.  Its odd to have tea and coffee with the other gents. Bobbed off words over a crackling line or missing each other via email due to time differences is our norm.  I'm not sure what the opposite of "empty nesters" is but we are it.  Everyone back and not sure what to do with our nervous energy.  We have a million ideas that we are reigning into a few.  A small selection of good things that we will be proud to share with you and for you to treasure for many, many years.

Cerro Torre

Cerro Torre

I know one can press a button and a pair of running shoes shows up the next morning.  I'm still shocked when this happens far quicker than anticipated.  As if time itself has been cheated.  I hear this model brought up over and over when I fall into a discussion about our shirts with "industry gurus".  I'm not convinced good customer service relies solely on quick shipping and free returns.  I understand for many that's all that matters.  The convenience factor of having a mass produced product show up at your doorstep.  We aren't interested in a business run on convenience.  We are inconvenient and not entirely a business.

 Its hard to find a real, honest to goodness experience these days.  We want to give you that, if only in a shirt. We can't make you tent bound on a Patagonian glacier but we promise with time we will give you something well worth the wait.  Something that feels earned and with value.