The Outside Blog

Adventure : Mar 2012

Soundscape Ecology: Listening for a Healthy Ecosystem

Soundscape_ecology_HarlequeenPhoto: Flickr/Harlequeen

I can't kick the print habit; I love diving into the fat stack of New York Times on Sunday mornings. But I've just been reminded of the joys and sometimes superiority of electronic media. I read with interest Kim Tingley's "Whisper of the Wild" in last weekend's NYT Magazine. You should, too. It's a really compelling introduction to soundscape ecology, the study of natural sounds and how human-generated sounds could be permanently altering natural soundscapes, to the detriment of the non-human animals that depend on them. But the story should be heard, not just read.

The online version includes a number of audio clips recorded in Denali National Park. What better place to capture the sounds of Sandhill Cranes, avalanches and a bear with her cubs? Indeed, the clips are awesome.

But here's why they make the story reverberate: When I listened to the clip of an avalanche, the first thing I thought of was how much it sounded like a car speeding by on a snowy highway. That says it all. I am so conditioned to human or human-caused sounds, I can't hear natural sounds without comparing them to unnatural ones.

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More Winter Cycling Wear

Yesterday was the first day of spring and, to my chagrin, Ski Santa Fe reported 10 inches of powder and it it was cold, windy, and flurrying in town. After the last few weeks of shorts and short sleeves thanks to unseasonably warm conditions, I simply couldn't bring myself to climb on the trainer. That meant bundling back up to get out for a ride. I'm a total pansy about the cold, so the fact that I was able to get out yesterday—and all winter, for that matter—is testament to just how good winter gear has become.

If it seems like a strange time to load up on warmies (with spring coming, and all), remember that many of these items are good transitional pieces and will serve you through spring and even on mountain rides in summer. And with shops clearing out their winter inventory, it's a perfect time to score some deals.

--Aaron Gulley


Castelli Espresso Due Jacket ($300) Though it functions great as a jacket in very cold conditions—I used it several times this winter over heavyweight jerseys on days when temperatures never got out of the teens—I've been layering this plush piece over just a baselayer and feeling comfortable up to the low 40s. It's very tailored, but the shoulder articulations allow for plenty of movement, even in the drops. I really appreciated the zippered chest vents, which I could open up to cool off on climbs, and the wrist zips kept sleeves trim and tucked into my glove cuffs—thus preventing cold from creeping in. The best part, though, is the flip-up collar, which was a quick way to warm up when the mercury drops.

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Youngest Iditarod Champ Tells All



Dallas Seavey [all photos courtesy of Loren Holmes;]

Last week, 25-year-old Dallas Seavey became the youngest musher ever to win the Iditarod. A third generation musher—his father and grandfather (one of the race’s founders) are past Iditarod champions—Seavey grew up dog sledding and completed his first race when he was five. When he crossed the finish line on March 13 in Nome, after nine days and 975 miles on the trail, he edged out Aliy Zirkle, 41, by one hour, one of the narrowest margins in race history.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Sullivan caught up with Seavey and Zirkle, while they were still in Nome, to find out how they got into the sport and how young mushers can, too.  


Seavey & co on the go [photo: Loren Holmes]

What was it like to run such a close race? Truly a nail-biter!
Aliy Zirkle: With 22 miles left to go, I realized winning wasn’t a possibility. We could see Dallas but not quite catch up with him.

I imagine that was pretty bitter sweet.
AZ: Bitter [pause] sweet, you could say that [laughs]. 

What was it like the first time you went out on a dog sled? 
AZ: This was about 20 years ago. I went out with a good friend on a four-mile loop out to the lake and back. I remember the lead dog’s name was Moses. I was hooked from the get-go. For me, it’s always been all about the dogs—the way they slide down the Yukon River and perk their ears up. They are gorgeous. 



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The Strongest Woman in Climbing is 10 Years Old


Ashima Shiraishi, the 10-year-old prodigy who has torn through some of Hueco Tanks' hardest problems over the past two years, notched another landmark ascent on Tuesday when she completed the V13 testpiece Crown of Aragorn. The climb, which took Shiraishi two days, means that she is now tied for the hardest ascent by a female boulderer of any age.

No woman had ever climbed a confirmed V13 before 2010, when Angie Payne made the first female ascent of Dave Graham's The Automator in Rocky Mountain National Park. Few women have repeated the feat—between three and five others, depending on whether you count problems on the extreme low end of the grade. To see a 10 year old join those ranks is nothing short of incredible. Shiraishi, though, is clearly no normal 10 year old: in the past two years, the New Yorker has climbed at least eight problems rated V10 and above. In early March, she won her age division at the ABS Nationals by flashing every problem. As her coach Obe Carrion said in "Obe and Ashima," the film about Shiraishi released last year, "She has 'it'."

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The Other Oils Sands Pipeline Project: Northern Gateway

BC_Coast_DogwoodThe B.C. Coast  Photo: Flickr/Dogwood Initiative

If the U.S. doesn't allow the northern half of the Keystone XL pipeline to be built, Canada is just going to sell its oil to power-hungry China. That's one of the common rebuttals to opposition of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would allow oil derived from oil sands (known colloquially as tar sands) from northern Alberta to flow to refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast. 

Whether or not the full Keystone XL gets built, Canadian pipeline builder Enbridge wants to connect Edmonton with the port of Kitimat in northern British Columbia, where oil would be loaded onto tankers and shipped through the Douglas Channel, headed to Asia and California. Called the Northern Gateway Project, the pipeline would run 730 miles, traversing the Rockies and Coast mountain ranges before its terminus in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest, one of the largest contiguous tracts of temperate rainforest left in the world.

Raincoast Conservation Foundation, a team of conservationists and scientists, opposes the project due to what it considers grave threats placed on the B.C. coast and its aboriginal people should an oil spill occur. Chris Darimont, the group's director of science and a B.C. coast surfer, attracted Patagonia's attention to the pipeline plans. Subsequently, Patagonia ambassadors and surfing filmmakers the Malloy brothers became involved. The result is Groundswell, a short film the brothers shot last year during a sailing and surfing expedition to the Great Bear Rainforest. The film, due out in October, will serve to advocate against the pipeline and for the rainforests and its inhabitants. (Click here for a Q&A with Chris Malloy and the trailer for Groundswell.)

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