May 28, 2013

Prayer flags near Everest     Photo: Daniel Prudek/Shutterstock

Everest Operators: Put Ladder on Hillary Step

UIAA President backs plan

A Nepali climbing trade group's plan to place a ladder on Everest's HIllary Step has won support from the president of a key international climbing organization, as well as from Sherpas concerned about congestion on the world's highest mountain.

The Step, a 40-foot rock wall, is usually climbed using fixed ropes, and is one of the route's most notorious bottlenecks, with mountaineers often waiting hours for their turn at almost 29,000 feet. Dawa Steven Sherpa, a member of the Expedition Operators Association, said that the ladder would be a "safety feature".

"Most of the traffic jams are at the Hillary Step because only one person can go up or down," he told the Guardian. "If you have people waiting two, three, or even four hours that means lots of exposure [to risk]."

Among the plan's supporters is Apa Sherpa, the Nepali climber who holds the record for most ascents of Everest with 21 summits. Frits Vrijlandt, the president of the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation, also backed the plan, but cautioned a conference in the Himalayan town of Khumjung that Nepali authorities also needed to more carefully vet prospective Everest climbers.

"I have witnessed people on the mountain with hardly any experience at all, people who only know ice by the ice cubes in their drink," Vrijlandt said.

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Nike Cuts Ties with Livestrong

Ends nine-year relationship

Nike announced Tuesday that it is cutting its ties with Lance Armstrong's Livestrong foundation, ending a nine-year relationship and its renewed commitment to back the charity last October.

Nike helped to create the charity's iconic bracelet, an international symbol for cancer survivors, and raise over $100 million toward cancer awareness.

Armstrong was pushed off the Livestrong board of directors in October. That same month, Nike dropped its personal sponsorship of Armstrong.

According to the Associated Press, the foundation has since cut its yearly budget by 11 percent following the investigation by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency into Armstrong's admitted doping.

You might be surprised to learn that Livestrong donates almost nothing to scientific research.

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    Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Santa Barbara Wildfire Out of Control

Fire dept. watching the winds

A wildfire continued to burn Tuesday morning in the mountains above Santa Barbara, threatening dozens of cabins and sending hikers fleeing for their lives. The fire, which erupted Monday afternoon, had drawn more than 550 firefighters and prompted the evacuation of more than 50 homes.

The fire has carved its way through 2.8 square miles of tinder-dry chaparral, oak, and pine, and burned two vehicles, as well as a U.S. Forest Service garage. As of Tuesday morning, the fire was moving sideways along the mountains. Though the weather has been calm, Santa Barbara fire authorities are concerned that a wayward gust could send the fire down into the town’s residential and commercial areas.

"It's an out-of-control wildfire so it is a threat. There's a lot of dry vegetation in its path," said Santa Barbara County fire Captain David Sadecki. "It's still spring — it's not even summer — and it's burning like it's August or September."

As of early Tuesday, the fire is only 10% contained.

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    Photo: Himalayan Ecological Trekking Pv

Three Die on Nepal's Dhaulagiri

Climbers and guide went missing Friday

A Spanish climber, a Japanese climber, and a Nepalese guide have died while attempting to climb Nepal's Dhaulagiri, the world’s seventh-highest mountain. 

Juanjo Garra, 50, broke his ankle on Thursday and was stuck for three days high up on the mountain, joined by Kheshav Sherpa, waiting to be rescued by helicopter. Simone Moro and Maurizio Folini attempted to transport three Sherpas with supplies to the climbers, but strong winds kept the rescue team from reaching them until yesterday. Garra was confirmed dead and Kheshav has been airlifted to Pokhara for treatment.

Chijuko Kono, 67, and Nepalese guide Dawa Sherpa went missing Friday from a group of 21 climbers. They died at an altitude of around 25,000 feet. The cause of death is still being investigated.

There have now been 13 confirmed deaths in the Himalayas this year, with another five feared dead on Kangchenjunga.

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    Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Couple Plans Dolphin-Assisted Birth

Have flown to Hawaii for training

A North Carolina couple has traveled to Hawaii to complete a dolphin assisted-birth of their baby, Bodhi, due in July. Despite the lack of science supporting the unusual birthing method, Adam and Heather Barrington hope that a series of prenatal and postnatal swims with dolphins will relax the birthing process.

“Having that connection with the pod of dolphins anytime – even if the birth doesn’t happen in the water – still brings peace, comfort and strength to the mother and baby during labor,” Heather told the Charlotte Observer.

The Barringtons are working with the Sirius Institute, a center “dedicated to the creation of human/dolphin co-creative habitats where dolphins and people can learn from each other through music, underwater birth, dolphin sound healing and restoration.”

Experts have cautioned that dolphins can become aggressive and are unpredictible animals."This has to be, hands down, one of the worst natural birthing ideas anyone has ever had," wrote a blogger for Discover. The author cites research that dolphins will "toss, beat, and kill small porpoises or baby sharks for no apparent reason other than they enjoy it, though some have suggested the poor porpoises serve as practice for killing the infants of rival males."

Scientists have tried communicating wtih dolphins for years. Now they're finally on the brink of a breakthrough.

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