The Outside Blog

Dispatches

Outside Magazine, Aug 2014

Play to Win
They manage hedge funds. They run carpools. They work 70-hour weeks and endure 90-minute commutes. Yet somehow these elite desk jockeys stay as fit as the pros. Here's how they do it. By Gordy Megroz.

Veelcome to Tiksi, You Vill Find it Apalling Place.
Few Americans have heard the story of the ten brave explorers who were lost after ice crushed their ship in the Russian High Arctic in 1879. But as Hampton Sides discovers on his own gritty, mosquito-infested mission to Siberia, the Russians will never forget it.

Black Year
In April, just as the Everest climbing season was getting under way, a monster avalanche buried 16 Sherpas in a grave of ice. Grayson Schaffer has the inside story of the mountain's deadliest day and the aftershocks that will change climbing forever.

The White Stripes
The new neighbors have arrived—and they stink. All across the country, skunks are moving into our woodsheds, garages, and empty lots, and there's little we can do about it. Christopher Kemp noses into a new kind of urban blight.

DISPATCHES
First Look: A high-flying Google X startup aims to blow new life into the deflated wind-energy sector.
Biking: How traffic-choked Boston turned into a two-wheeler's dream.
Primer: Are new organic-food lines from Walmart and Target a godsend or the death of a movement?
Rising Star: Two years after a near fatal crash, triathlete Lukas Verzbicas is climbing the pro ranks.
Media: Biologist Wallace J. Nichols's prescription for a healthier and happier life? Salty H2O.
Feuds: Fur trapping is back—and it's snaring man's best friend.
Covet: Summer just isn't summer without portable tunes.

DESTINATIONS 
Northern Europe: The sun never sets on the land of mountains, fjords, and rustic gourmet food.
Weekend Plan: Ski mountains come alive in warm weather with zip lines, rope courses, and other downhill fun. 
Go List:
Yosemite's Merced River opens up to paddlers, credit cards for travelers, and a new way to avoid airport parking fees.
Base Camp: An Icelandic lodge set right on top of the action.

ESSENTIALS 
Photography: The sharpest smartphone lens we've ever seen.
Summer Toys: Gear that's happiest when wet.
Obstacle Course Racing: Tools to get you over, under, around, and through any barrier.
Watches: Tough timepieces.

Plus

Exposure
Parting Shot

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PETA Wants to Pay Your Water Bill

Water resources in America are so screwed right now that some people will pay you to use less even in places that aren't in a drought. 

As of July 22, 34 percent of the country was officially in a state of at least moderate drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, and it's only recently that things have gotten so bad. Temperatures naturally wane and wax over the centuries, but as is visible in this New York Times time-lapse, it's clear that what has put a good portion of the West and Southwest in severe drought isn't normal, and global warming is the leading culprit. You'd think this would make people less frivolous with their lawn watering, but as we recently reported, that's not always so.

To make matters worse, a recent report from NASA and the University of California, Irvine shows that it's the water resources we don't even know we depend on that are depleted most quickly. Although Westerners sucked Lake Mead dry, that loss didn't reflect their real water usage. Researchers discovered that during the past decade, three-quarters of Western water loss has been taken from underground groundwater caches.

"We don't know exactly how much groundwater we have left, so we don't know when we're going to run out," lead author Stephanie Castle wrote in a press release. "This is a lot of water to lose. We thought that the picture could be pretty bad, but this was shocking." Castle's NASA colleagues note that where surface water is highly regulated, it's easy to compensate for surface loss by sucking dry largely unregulated groundwater.  

It's not enough that drought-stricken areas can't manage their water use. In the Eastern United States, cities like Detroit—not even a state away from the largest freshwater resource in the North America—are having human rights issues because of their inability to keep taps running. Detroit Water and Sewage began cutting off water to thousands of city residents in March.

But Detroit has found an unlikely savior in animal welfare group in PETA, which is begging city residents to let it pay their water bills. The catch? The organization will pay 10 families' water bills if those families go vegan for one month, because foods in vegan diets require less water to produce.

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We Are Nature's Serial Killers

According to a study published this week in Science, humans are directly responsible for 322 animal extinctions over the past 500 years, with two-thirds of those occurring during the past two centuries. Amphibians and invertebrate species have been especially hard hit by mankind's destructive habits.

The problem is becoming more severe with our own exponential population growth, which, if left unchecked, will hit 27 billion by 2100, according to Rodolfo Dirzo, a co-author of the study and professor of environmental sciences at Stanford University.

One obvious issue is that humans are unlikely to prioritize saving animal populations over more immediate concerns. In the same issue of Science, Haldre Rogers and Josh Tewksbury argue, "Animals do matter to people, but on balance, they matter less than food, jobs, energy, money, and development. As long as we continue to view animals in ecosystems as irrelevant to these basic demands, animals will lose."

The key may be to argue that by saving animal populations, we are acting in our own best interest. The preservation of wildlife, for instance, is frequently what sustains tourism-based economies.

"Whale watching in Latin America alone generates over $275 million a year," Tewksbury says. Meanwhile in the United States, Tewksbury claims that shark watching results in $314 million per year and directly supports 10,000 jobs.

Impressive as these numbers are, they become insignificant when compared with places like Namibia, where 73 percent of outside visitors are nature-based tourists, whose money accounts for 14.3 percent of the country's gross domestic product.

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Sir Bradley Wiggins Relinquishes TdF Dreams

Four-time Olympic cycling champion Bradley Wiggins is calling it quits with his tumultuous relationship with road racing's Grand Tours. The Sir-titled cyclist won the Tour de France in 2012, but Team Sky left him off of the tour team prior to this year’s race. 

After taking silver at the Commonwealth Games Thursday with Team England, Wiggins announced that he would no longer pursue races such as the Tour de France, Tour of Spain, and Tour of Italy. And all seems well with Wiggins when it comes to not participating. “That will probably be it for the grand tours—I can’t imagine doing that now,” he told BBC Sport. “I’ve kind of done the road now. I’ve bled it dry. The road is quite cutthroat and as we’ve seen this year there’s no loyalties in cycling.”

Wiggins added that the track feels more like a family and is a close-knit group. With Thursday being his first turn on the track since 2008, Wiggins has set his sights on the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro for the team. “It takes four people to be on par and firing on all cylinders to succeed,” he told The Daily Mail. “We are all just on different levels. There’s a lot of positives to take from it.”

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Secret Skin-Care Tips from Rock Climbing Pros

Bone-dry palms that give way to stiff calluses. Ultra-short nails and shredded cuticles. Bandages locked down with superglue. A professional climber’s grip can’t just be strong, it has to be tough enough to withstand hold after hold while sustaining countless scrapes, gashes, cracks, and blisters along the way.

“Skin is so, so important,” says Sam Elias, a 32-year-old climber who has conquered M12+ and W16 winter routes and took second place at the 2010 Ouray Ice Climbing Competition. “When your skin is good, you don’t feel like you’re slipping as much. And more than anything, you can bear down on really small, sharp holds without pain taking your mind away and keeping you from trying as hard as you want to.”

For climbers, “good” means tough skin that’s dried out and sweat-free, with perfectly honed calluses. “Any moisture detracts from the friction against the rock, and soft skin has a tendency to rip or tear easily,” says Alex Johnson, 25, two-time World Cup gold medalist and the first woman to ascend a V12 in Colorado. “It’s pretty funny when you have a hot tub full of climbers, everyone sits with their hands sticking out of the water.”

It sounds simple, but there’s a fine line between skin that’s strong and skin that’s so thickened and parched it cracks and blisters. Whether you’re a climber or just plain hard on your hands, use these strategies and essentials from Elias and Johnson to start getting the most from your skin.

Keep It Clean

When dust and grit abound, cleanliness is crucial for preventing irritation and infection. “Some people will wash their hands multiple times throughout a climbing day to get the dirt, chalk, and aluminum from the gear off their hands and start fresh,” Elias says. “But wash them as quickly after climbing as possible.” 

And for the inevitable scrapes and gashes: “I’ll immediately apply Neosporin,” Johnson says. Since Band-Aids and tape are tricky to keep on, climbers often add superglue. “Put it down the sides of your finger and then wrap the tape around so it’s glued to your skin. Works pretty well!” Post-climb, swap out bandages frequently: they’re a breeding ground for germs.

Puffs Fresh Faces Nose and Face Wipes ($5)

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The alcohol-free formula uses antimicrobial saltwater and protective glycerin to leave skin clean—not tight and dry, not sticky and moisturized, just clean. Bonus: saline loosens mucous, so they’re perfect for excavating nasal passages.

Neosporin + Pain Relief Neo to Go ($7)

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The durable spray bottle is designed to use one-handed (no tiny cap to drop and lose forever) and the dose of pain-reducing analgesic makes it that much easier to get back in the game.

Orly Nail Rescue ($8)

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For epically broken nails, this hard-patch kit beats bandages by a mile. Just dab a little of the non-stinging glue on the damaged area, dip it into the pot of microfine acrylic (think powdered fake nails), then smooth down the edges. It’ll stay clean and protect against additional damage from bumps and snags for about a week.

Study Smart

If you keep tabs on whether your hands tend to be dry or sweaty, and whether they’re more prone to cracking or shredding, you can pick the right products to dial skin in the right direction. “When I started climbing,” Elias says, “I used a lot of lotion, which I really shouldn’t do because my skin is wet and soft already.” The best way to determine what your skin needs—or doesn’t need—is to compare notes. “The most illuminating thing was talking with other climbers at the gym,” Elias says. “That’s really how I learned what good skin looks like.”

That said, the fastest way to derail good skin is to take it fast and furious with hardcore products. Case in point: Antihydral, an extra-strength, over-the-counter antiperspirant from Europe. Elias currently uses it once or twice a week on his palms and fingertips to shut down sweat glands and thicken skin, but it’s a regimen he spent years developing. “With Antihydral, your skin can easily crack—deep, deep cracks that take a long time to heal,” he says. No matter how far your skin has to go, consider extra-strength products a last resort or you risk taking yourself out of the game for a month of recovery.

The smartest approach to any new product is to start with a small amount applied just where you need it, and give it a week or two before ramping it up. For sweatiness, if pure climbing chalk isn’t cutting it, try one that’s formulated with an extra drying agent. For crack-prone skin, use a lightweight cream packed with plant oils like jojoba and sunflower, which absorb into skin and nourish instead of sitting on top and trapping moisture.

Mammut Liquid Chalk ($13)

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Magnesium carbonate, the go-to chalk for climbers, is suspended in alcohol to dry out moist skin. Magnesium hydroxide, also known as milk of magnesia, works as an antiperspirant to hold off new sweat. Apply this liquid chalk sparingly on finger pads and palms to avoid over drying.

Yes to Carrots Intense Repair Hand Cream ($9)

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The fast-and-light solution for dryness. Shea butter and avocado oil help skin retain the moisture it needs, while vitamin A from carrots and primrose oil penetrate deep to help maintain elasticity.

Repair and Prevent

Armor only goes so far if you don’t take care of what’s underneath. Muscle-recovery TLC is also good for skin, calming inflammation and jump-starting the healing process so new layers of skin come out strong. “I’ll soak my hands in a bucket of ice water, and then cover my hands, fingers, and joints in arnica lotion from one of my sponsors, Joshua Tree Skin Care,” Johnson says.

But since skin is constantly growing, it’s important to know when to say goodbye to some of those tough layers to prevent cracks and blisters. “If calluses build up too much, or if they’re not even, the thicker skin will tear the thinner skin next to it. So it’s important to file them so your skin isn’t pulling on itself.” Elias’s tool of choice: “Sandpaper. It sounds weird, I know.” Try a fine-grade one (at least 200 grit) to avoid taking off too much at once.

Johnson likes to use sandpaper to prevent peeling bits of skin from tearing deeper. “Sanding down those loose pieces with a small sheet of sandpaper will prevent them from getting stuck on a rock and pulling off, resulting in a deep, bloody flapper.” Though when it comes to the more delicate cuticle skin, skip the grit—as well as nail clippers, paper scissors, and your teeth—and use a pair of purpose-made scissors. Nothing else cuts as close or as clean.

Joshua Tree After Sport Recovery Lotion ($20)

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Sore hands get a cool-down, thanks to the analgesic eucalyptus oil, antiseptic and antibacterial tea tree oil, and anti-inflammatory arnica in this lotion. Sunflower and coconut oils penetrate and nourish, while beeswax, cocoa butter, and shea butter seal and protect outer layers while they heal. 

Jack Black Industrial Strength Hand Healer ($15)

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Once cuts, scrapes, and gashes are on the mend, this rich formula is tops for finishing the job. Glycerin draws moisture to prevent healing tissue from drying out, while a slew of plant oils smooth chapped skin.

Tweezerman Stainless Steel Cuticle Scissors ($20)

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These snips are the ultimate in precision, eliminating peeling skin and hangnails at the source. One caution: they’re perfect for eliminating snaggy skin around the rim of the nail, but don’t get carried away or you’ll leave the nail bed vulnerable to infection. 

Climb On

With ever changing factors like sun, wind, temperature, and humidity at play, the most meticulous skin prep can’t guarantee performance. “You learn that you can only do so much,” Elias says. “You stack the cards in your favor with your skincare, like you do with everything else, and you do the best you can.”

“My cuticles tend to split and bleed,” Johnson adds, “usually when I’m gripping a hold so small that it bends my knuckles back. There’s not much I can do to prevent that from happening, because I’m not going to stop trying hard. If you’re putting your time, effort and soul into something, it becomes expected to bleed at least a little.”

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