The New Alpinists

Using cutting-edge techniques, three young mavericks set out to tackle one of the hardest routes in the Himalayas

 

"WE'LL AMPUTATE our feet before we go," explains Jared Ogden. "That way, we won't have to worry about doing it later." The wisecrack might be funny were it not so plausible. When Ogden, fellow American Mark Synnott, and British alpinist Kevin Thaw head to northeastern Nepal in October, they'll be putting it all on the line—toes, fingers, and noses included. Relying on only four ropes, 14 days' worth of food, and one skinny portaledge, the trio will attempt one of the largest faces in the Himalayas: an 8,000-foot frozen cliff on the north side of 25,289-foot Mount Jannuominously known as the Wall of Shadows. It will be one of the most iconoclastic climbs by Americans in Asia since Carlos Buhler and Michael Kennedy scribed a new route up Ama Dablam in December of 1985. If they make it, their achievement will not only go down in the annals of mountaineering, but signal the beginning of a paradigm shift in what young Americans climb and how.

The summit is by no means a sure bet. "They're going to have to give everything—emotionally and physically—and then find more," says Stephen Venables, the British alpinist and author of Himalaya Alpine Style, who describes the route straight up the center as "one of the hardest unclimbed lines that we know about." Upping the stakes even more, the team plans to do an "alpine-style" climb—meaning they will make one sustained push up the monolith with very little gear. Should a lingering monsoon blast the penumbral face, they could end up stuck in a hanging bivouac with dwindling fuel, a handful of beef bullion cubes, and no chance of a rescue. "Alpine-style is a big gamble," says 42-year-old Essex, Massachusetts–based Himalayan climber Mark Richey." All you need is a storm, a cut rope, someone hit by a rock, and you're lucky if you get off."

The trio's planned technique marks a departure from the American big-wall strategy, known as "siege-style," typically employed on such technical climbs. Inspired by early Himalayan expeditions and pioneered 43 years ago in Yosemite, where Synnott, 30, Odgen, 29, and Thaw, 33, all logged their big-wall time, siege involves fixing ropes to the bottom of a wall and then shuttling up and down to resupply each campsite. In the past, Synnott and Ogden (more so than Thaw) have sought out siege-style climbs on lower-altitude, pure-rock faces in Northern Canada, Pakistan, and Tierra del Fuego, Chile. (Indeed, a 1999 siege climb on Pakistan's Great Trango Tower cemented Synnott and Ogden's reputations as tenacious "suffer puppies.") Now, tired of yo-yoing up and down ropes with hundreds of pounds of equipment in tow, they've traded their "everything but the kitchen sink" haul bags for German mountaineer Alex Huber's fleet-footed philosophy. In the 1999 American Alpine Journal, Huber declared that he had seen the future of alpine climbing: "All-around mountaineering is just at the start of mixing the disciplines of sport climbing, mixed climbing, big walling, and high-altitude alpinism together."

But in attempting an alpine-style assault—ice-climbing frozen couloirs and speed-climbing granite with little more than the packs on their backs—on a route that has beaten back some of the world's best for nearly two decades, one wonders if they haven't left behind more than just gear. French climbing ace Pierre Béghin attempted a route up the center of the north face in 1982. "It was the most moving experience I had ever had in the Himalaya because of the harshness of the wall," he later wrote. "None of us had ever seen such a cold, steep face." Slovenian Tomo Cesen claimed to have climbed a direct route on the Wall of Shadows in 1989, but Reinhold Messner and other high-profile skeptics dismiss his account, citing inaccuracies in his story and his lack of photographic proof. This past spring, New Zealanders Andrew Lindblade and Athol Whimp attempted a siege-style assault on the wall, but were forced to turn back when a falling rock smashed through their portaledge. (It was empty at the time.)

Synnott, Ogden, and Thaw don't expect avalanches on their October climb; bitter temperatures will freeze chunks of ice and rock solidly in place. But there will be plenty of other dangers. After scaling a relatively easy 3,000-foot buttress and traversing a huge glacial plateau below the main face, the climbers will stash most of their gear. Then the fun begins. For the next four days, they'll hammer their toes into the face, scaling 55- to 60-degree ice before reaching a large serac at approximately 22,000 feet. Temperatures at this point will have plummeted to around minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit, so they'll have to don down suits, step off the side of the hanging glacier, and jag straight toward the top on both rock and ice, trying to climb 5.10 pitches in their cumbersome plastic boots. At about 24,000 feet, the lower edge of the high-altitude "death zone," it gets even trickier. Unable to metabolize solid food, their bodies will begin to consume their own muscles for energy. "We've been scheming ideas for a new IV," Ogden deadpans. "Morphine, caffeine, adrenaline, hydration crystals." In fact, they'll subsist on cheese, nuts, hot chocolate, and other high-calorie, if nutritionally insufficient, foods.

The trio will either continue straight up the final, overhanging headwall, or clamber a thousand feet up the unstable, steep, snowy northeast ridge. "That's always been the big question," says Venables. "Can someone climb that technically with a combination of virtually no air to breathe and very cold temperatures?" Once at the top, the team will decide whether conditions are stable enough to rappel for three days off loops of rope webbing and fingers of ice, or whether they should walk down the safer, but slower, west spur.

The whole scheme is so unfathomable it raises the question, What the hell are they thinking? "This is what climbing is about," insists Greg Child, well known for his climb of Gasherbrum IV in 1986, in which he pushed himself for two days, without water, to the summit. "It's not about the 5,000th ascent of Everest."

Ogden takes that question a little more personally. "Alpine climbing isn't a pastime in our country," he says. "Europeans are trained from childhood and they become national heroes. In America, psycho routes on huge mountains are considered a selfish endeavor." So, the trio sees its climb as a bit of a crusade—to advance alpinism in this country beyond Everest-mania, to encourage new techniques, to inspire others to follow, and yes, to take their place in that small clique of Americans—such as John Roskelly, Mark Twight, Carlos Buhler, and Jeff Lowe—who have put up top-notch climbs in the Himalayas.

As for the risks, Synnott, for one, is adamant that the Wall of Shadows is not a "death route." He argues that by spending less time on the mountain, they'll encounter fewer avalanches and more tolerable weather. And while this climb epitomizes the predicament of the professional climber—trying to push the limits of the sport, follow an intensely felt calling, and come back alive—none on the team sees it as a do-or-die mission. If things go awry, they'll retreat. Cutting-edge climb or not, they feel the old mountaineering adage holds true. When you go to the mountains you do three things: You come back alive, you come back friends, and you go to the top—in that order.

John Cutter, Designer

 

"Mountaineers are looking for new challenges, and the routes they are going for are so difficult, no one can climb them fast enough with the current technology on the market," says John Cutter, the 42-year-old gear designer who is stitching up the tents, bivy sack–inclusive packs, and haul bags that Jared Ogden, Mark Synnott, and Kevin Thaw will use for their October ascent of Mount Jannu. Cutter has patterned and constructed his own designs since high school, when he broke his mother's sewing machine making a bike pannier. Now under contract to The North Face, Cutter specializes in ultralight packs and tents, including this prototype for a new version of the company's discontinued Jetstream pack, which won't hit the market for at least a year. This and other designs—such as the Jannu team's portaledge—perform at their best in lofty places, but ultimately, Cutter feels most at home in his workshop. His take on the portaledge: "You couldn't pay me to spend the night in it."

Hand Over Foot

Armed with more gears than a Mack truck, a new generation of disabled athletes cranks onto snow and singletrack

FRUSTRATED WITH THE OFF-THE-SHELF mobility options available to them, a new generation of disabled athletes (they call each other "supercrips") are taking up torches, welding together chrome-moly tubing—and then bolting the newfangled frames to planetary transmissions, knobby tires, and tractor treads. Their goal: to pick up where the paved loop trail ends.

Take the One-Off all-terrain handcycle—a low-slung mountain bike built by Mike Augspurger, who's crafted custom bikes for the last decade. "It is a bike you wear," says Bob Vogel, 40, a paraplegic hang-glider pilot who has owned a One-Off for nearly two years. "It's opened up a whole new backcountry world." A mere 33 inches wide—and tricked out with Schlumpf Mountain Drive transmissions, plus a titanium handlebar and sternum support—the 35- to 50-pound, $4,500 trike is narrow enough to navigate many singletrack mountain bike trails.

This winter, altitude-inclined supercrips will doubtlessly covet the SnowPod—a miniature tank designed for mountaineering by Peter Rieke, 46, who was paralyzed from the waist down six years ago in a climbing accident on Washington's Index Town Wall. Last June, he cranked his way up 14,410-foot Mount Rainier while strapped into his cat-tracked, yellow-tubed SnowPod, signaling a new high in wilderness access for the disabled. Rieke invested $25,000 and nearly five years welding and bending steel to create the Pod, and his success on Rainier won him a $32,000 grant from the Arthur B. Schultz Foundation to build four more. Weighing in at 65 pounds, the 49-speed vehicle will handily climb a 45-degree slope. Touts the Web site for Rieke's Pod-building company, Mobility Engineering: "Looks cool, chicks dig it."

 

Data

Bridge Day, West Virginia
Hours it will be legal to BASE jump off Fayetteville, West Virginia's New River Gorge Bridge on October 21: 6
Total number of jumpers expected this year: 350
Total jumps last year, approximate: 1,000
Distance from deck to ground, in feet: 876
Time, in seconds, for a free-falling body to travel it: 8
Seconds most jumperswait before pulling ripcord: 4
Seconds seasoned jumpers wait: 4
Spectators on hand: 200,000
Ambulances standing by: 18
Total injuries last year: 6
Those classified as "minor": 5
Average number of canopies that are open at once: 4
Pizzas donated to jumpers by Bridge Day organizers: 75

Attack of the Killer Bees!

Africanized honeybees wing their way up the West Coast

LAS VEGAS resident Toha Bergerub was strolling down her street last spring when she swatted at a few circling bees. Bad move. Within seconds, a black cloud of 15,000 furious drones poured out of a nearby tree and smothered her face and upper body with over 500 stings. She survived—barely.

It was the third attack by Africanized honeybees—aka "killer bees"—in the gambling capital since October 1999, and just one of a rash of similar incidents across the West over the past year. On April 23, in Arizona's Saguaro National Park, a swarm of 10,000 chased four Dutch hikers, who managed to bolt to safety with only a few stings. Then on June 25, bees swarmed hikers in California's Joshua Tree National Park. The group endured 200 stings among them.

The bees, which were set loose in South America back in 1957 when a scientist unwittingly released some in Brazil, quickly worked their way through Central America, arriving in southern Texas about a decade ago. The insects advanced quickly through the Southwest in 1998, following a veritable interstate of flowers that El Niño rains paved through the states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California. But those yummy blooms withered and died this past year under a La Niña–fueled drought—forcing the bees into populated areas in search of water and food.

"This year it's just swarm after swarm," says Dr. David Kellum, an entomologist with the San Diego County Department of Agriculture. Eric Erickson, director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Tucson, predicts that within two years the bees will wing their way through central California's river valleys and into urban areas like San Francisco.

Still, don't stock your medicine cabinet with epinephrine just yet. The Department of Agriculture knows of only eight people—all elderly—who have died from killer bee attacks since the insects crossed the U.S. border."They're not out to hunt you down," says Erickson. "But any activity could set them off."

The Ultimate Survivor

Reality TV titan Mark Burnett intends to be the last man standing in the high-stakes game of adventure racing

"I WOULD LIKE to be Bill Gates, but I never will be," says Mark Burnett. "I am not smart enough."

Some would beg to differ. After coming under fire in the adventure-racing community for allegedly squashing a major competing event, the 40-year-old mastermind of the CBS hit Survivor and September's Eco-Challenge Sabah 2000 is nonetheless emerging as a Microsoftian force in the big business of high-risk cross-country spectacle.

"Mark has told me he wants to be the NBA of adventure racing," says Don Mann, producer of The Beast 2000, a grueling 12-day slog originally planned for August 2000 in the rugged Alaska Range. "He wants to have full control of the sport." Mann canceled The Beast this past July after too many teams dropped out to race instead in the latest Eco-Challenge—scheduled to start in Borneo a mere six days after Mann's race. "Mark told racers, 'If you do this Beast, you won't be allowed to do an Eco-Challenge,'" says Mann.

Burnett says he made no such threat, and guesses that teams may have misconstrued a ruling by his medical director that competitors must choose one race or another due to medical and liability concerns. (The decision was made easier for some when Burnett offered them free airfare.)

Tricia Middleton, Burnett's competitor relations manager, says "everyone desperately wanted to race in, specifically, the Eco-Challenge." Meanwhile, Burnett suggests that Mann couldn't assemble the needed cash to pull off a world-class race. "There is a shakeout going on," says Burnett. "Just like the dotcom business."

Whether or not Burnett intentionally slew The Beast, competition in the adventure racing scene—for TV coverage, sponsorships, and teams—is clearly heating up. To some, Burnett's free airfare pitch unfairly tipped the scales. "He leveraged his position, made the best offer in the market, and made it pretty much impossible for impoverished athletes to miss his race," says Ian Adamson of Team Salomon Eco-Internet.

And so, while Burnett works on plans to build his Eco-Challenge into an Olympics-style organization, Mann, who financed The Beast out of his own pocket, finds himself $100,000 in debt. "We are simply crushed," he says. Still, he vows to keep the sport open to the little guy. Next year, he hopes to take The Beast to Hawaii. That is, if he can find a sponsor.

Surf the Far North Shore

Want near-deserted sets of 20-footers? Take off, eh!

THE WINDSWEPT VILLAGE of Tofino, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, is no beach-blanket paradise. For much of the year, storms spin out of the Gulf of Alaska, dumping 128 inches of rain annually, and even the quickest of dips in the 45- to 60-degree waters demands the full neoprene deal: a thick wetsuit with booties, and often gloves and a hood.

In other words, it's the perfect spot for Canada's first permanent surf camp. "There's an energy I feel on this coast," says Dean Montgomery, 28. "Everything here exists on a grand scale—huge mountains, towering trees, and big surf." Along with his girlfriend, Jenn Smith, Montgomery scraped together $150,000 and bought five acres of untamed rainforest. Shrugging off the resident black bear, in April the pair built three spartan bunkhouses, a volleyball court, and a clutch of gravel tent pads. Presto: The Inner Rhythm Surf Camp was born, a new emblem of the nascent Canadian surf scene.

The digs may be rustic, but no one comes for the room service. Beginning in October, North Pacific monsoons slam 20-foot swells into Tofino's beaches.Then there's the solitude. "We've got 16 miles of beach break," says Montgomery. "Guys in Southern California would laugh if they saw what we consider crowded." While as many as 80 surfers jockey for position at decent Orange County breaks, you won't see more than a dozen at Tofino on a busy weekend.

Then again, news travels fast. Tofino outfitter Surf Sisters expects to sign up more than 500 gals for its female-only surf classes by year-end, and Summer Surf Jam, the nation's first pro surf competition, was held at Tofino's Cox Bay in July. Montgomery hopes to bring 600 clients out beyond the breaks in Inner Rhythm's first year (a four-hour course runs about $40; 250-726-2211; www.innerrhythm.net). But the locals are pretty sure the heavy weather will keep the mobs at bay. "When it's sleeting, you gotta be pretty keen to be out there," says Leverne Duckmanton, 51, who has been riding off Vancouver Island for 30 years. "We'll always have plenty of wave."

Banff Mountain Film Festival

Like the Sundance-Toronto-Berlin indie film circuit, mountain films have their own annual loop, with major festivals in Telluride; Trento, Italy; and Kendal, England. But one gathering is emerging as the Cannes of the genre: the Banff Mountain Film Festival, held in the Canadian Rockies this year from November 3 to 5. That said, if you go, don't expect to see Sir Edmund Hillary sporting a thong in the spa at Banff Springs (it's not that much like Cannes). No, the hard currency here is mountain adventure—sometimes with storylines as thin as weak Gatorade and production quality just a cut above America's Funniest Home Videos, so be warned. If you can't make the trek, the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour kicks off immediately after the fest, rolling a condensed roster of fine, if somewhat uneven, films into an art house near you. Here are four Banff-bound films to keep an eye out for.

FILM
Wheel Women

FILMMAKERS
Anne Walton, Selena Lawrie, and Laurie Long

THE PITCH
Sort of an "Oprah's Bike Club," where pro downhill racer Walton takes some home video of fresh-faced lasses who go mountain biking and then yak about it. Sample dialogue: "The more ya do it, the better ya get at it." Lots of woodsy North Shore riding.

WATCH WITH…
Double Starbucks skim-milk latte (no foam)

BODY COUNT
Some mild biffing and endos, but generally the Wheel Women show common sense by dressing—like Tera Meade, at left—in heavy armor.


FILM
Pain and Suffering on the Southern Traverse

FILMMAKER
James Heyward

THE PITCH
Arrogant Aussie doctor Andrew Peacock, at left, teams up with French and British adventure racers, who ditch him (for the first time) on Day Two. Confirms your worst fears about the perils of choosing your race partners via e-mail.

WATCH WITH…
GU. Choke back a packet every time Peacock throws a hissy fit at team members.

BODY COUNT
With New Zealand's Southern Traverse race barely underway, the utterly unprepared Malaysian team is expelled as its strongest member succumbs to hypothermia and extreme cramping while support-vehicle driver crashes the truck. American racer Deb Brown pushes on to the finish line despite being seriously ill.


FILM
Kranked III: Ride Against the Machine

FILMMAKERS
Christian Begin and Bjorn Enga

THE PITCH
Crazy-bastard mountain bikers ride on location in Peru, southern Turkey, and Vancouver. Outrageous stunts (that's Eric Paulson catching big air at left) are matched by furious sound track (e.g. Arthur Funkarelli), insane camera angles, and Quake-quality digital animation.

WATCH WITH…
Half-sack of Red Bull and a 30cc injection of testosterone

BODY COUNT

Segment on gap-jumping between Vancouver apartment-building rooftops could only be filmed in a country with nationalized health care.


FILM

Wild Climbs, Czech Republic

FILMMAKER

Richard Else

THE PITCH

British film crew tails rock-jock pretty-boy Leo Houlding and traditional climber Andy Cave as they redpoint sandstone towers in the northern Czech Republic, near the town of Ostrov-Tisa, as part of a climbing exchange between British and Czech climbing clubs.

WATCH WITH…

Liter-size stein of Pilsner Urquell

BODY COUNT
Houlding takes a couple of rippers, but the most painful sequence is watching our hero (seen here) puking from a moving car after a night of Prague pub-hopping.

Double Track

Banished from the nation's abandoned lines, a clutch of railbikers finds nirvana in a California canyon

 

THE ONLY ROUTE through the Carrizo Gorge, a 1,000-foot-deep rift in California's Anza-Borrego Desert, is an 11-mile stretch of abandoned track that ducks into 17 tunnels and crosses 13 bridges, including the 180-foot-high Goat Canyon Trestle. It's an ideal venue for railbikes (bikes tricked out to ride the rails with awning pipe, hose clamps, and skateboard and shopping cart wheels), mainly because it's just about the only venue. Almost all of the nation's thousands of miles of decommissioned track are still privately owned—and off limits to railbikers, who stay off active rail for lethally obvious reasons. Enter Carrizo Gorge Railway vice-president Gary Sweetwood. He sees opening the otherwise-inaccessible gorge to railbikes as a way to foster the growth of the sport and get outdoor enthusiasts interested in his company's struggle to restore the line. So, on one hot weekend in May, he invited 15 railbikers to spend three days pedaling their rigs on the rusting iron. "This is in the raw right here," says Sweetwood. "These people, they're the first of their breed."

The Middle Denver Peace Process

Do climbing bolts destroy wilderness? After a decade of war in the hills, environmentalists and rock rats draft a treaty.

SAM DAVIDSON and George Nickas are the best of adversaries. For years, Davidson, the outspoken senior policy analyst for The Access Fund, a climbing advocacy group, and Nickas, the quiet executive director of the monitoring group Wilderness Watch, have battled over whether or not climbers can legally place anchor bolts in federally designated wilderness areas. So when the pair sat next to each other at a late-June Forest Service negotiating session in Denver, Philip Harter, the mediator, suggested a solution to the problem. "Maybe," the Vermont Law School professor said, "we oughta just tie you two at the ankle and let you wrestle it out."

Davidson, a lanky 39-year-old Bay Area surfer and climber, and Nickas, a 42-year-old battle-hardened Montana conservationist, were two of the more passionate stakeholders at the first of a series of four two-day "reg negs"—fedspeak for regulation negotiations—that aimed to finally settle the battle over the use of fixed anchors, such as bolts, on wilderness rock faces. If all goes smoothly, new Forest Service rules for climbing in protected backcountry should be made public by October 1 and enforced during the 2001 climbing season.

Federal attempts to halt the spread of bolting in Arizona's Superstition Mountains in 1989, and later in Joshua Tree National Park and Idaho's Sawtooth National Forest, were met with fierce opposition by climbing groups. When members of Congress joined the fray in 1998, Department of Agriculture Under Secretary Jim Lyons, whose agency oversees the Forest Service, proposed a sort of treaty council to end the bolting war. Which is how 24 representatives from groups such as the Wilderness Society (generally anti-bolt) and the American Alpine Club (très pro-bolt) ended up haggling in a government-issue conference room on the outskirts of Denver this past summer.

Like many standoffs between recreationists and greens, at issue is the interpretation of the Wilderness Act, which bans "structures or installations" in wilderness areas. Nickas argues that a bolt—a three-inch stainless steel screw cranked into a hole drilled in the granite—constitutes an "installation." Forest Service lawyers have conceded that he may have a point. This scares the fleece off climbers. At risk are some of America's classic climbs, such as Weaver's Needle in Arizona's Superstition Wilderness and Prusik Peak in Washington State's Alpine Lakes Wilderness—both bolted routes. The Denver reg neg dealt only with Forest Service wilderness, but the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management may follow the spirit, if not the letter, of a Denver agreement. (Yosemite National Park, by the way, contains an estimated 12,000 to 15,000 bolts, and nearly all the valley's climbing routes, including El Cap, fall within wilderness areas.)

Things got off to a rocky start at the opening Denver reg neg. The meeting threatened to devolve into a death match until mediator Harter steered the combatants into a discussion of the various forms of fixed climbing anchors. It soon became clear that the wilderness advocates weren't out to ban bolts so much as prevent a precedent that would open the hills to mountain bikes, ATVs, and snowmobiles. "If we reinterpret the Wilderness Act, we open the floodgates," said Scott Silver, executive director of Wild Wilderness. "There are people looking for any loophole they can find."

Midway through the talks, the discussions produced, if not a solution, at least a way out of deadlock. Climbers and wilderness advocates both agreed that nuts, chocks, and cams would be considered "non-permanent" anchors, as opposed to the permanent bolts. "What about pitons?" someone asked. All eyes turned to George Nickas, who considered the question behind prayerful hands. "That," he decided, "is still a gray area." Sam Davidson nodded in agreement. By October 1, the gray should be rendered into black-and-white Forest Service rules as, after a decade of bickering, the opposing sides finally settle the issue. With luck, the tapping of hammers notwithstanding, peace will finally return to the steep hillsides.

Stage 14, Tour de France, July 2000

The mountainous 155-mile stage from Draguignan to Briançon may have been the toughest of the race. Here, after 60 miles, the leaders begin the day's first major climb. Velonews editorial director John Wilcockson unpacks the moment.

1. Lance Armstrong, who lives part-time in Nice, France, spent ten days in May pre-riding the difficult Tour stages, including this one that crosses three mountain passes in the French Alps (17,000 total vertical; 13 percent max grade). Armstrong studied road surfaces, turns, and grades, while coach Chris Carmichael helped him sustain power output by keeping a steady 150 bpm heart rate—Armstrong's optimum target for a long ride, but well below his aerobic threshold.

2. Support climbers on the Postal Service team set the early tempo—fast enough to prevent an attack, but not so brisk that they demolish themselves early in the race. Armstrong drafts behind his teammates, saving himself for the finale. Cédric Vasseur is on the far right (the bandaged knee is from a minor fall the day before), leading a helmetless George Hincapie, and Kevin Livingston, who will lead out Armstrong on the final climb.

3. As overall contenders, Festina team riders (in blue and yellow) Angel Casero, Joseba Beloki, and Christophe Moreau race near the front to keep an eye on other contenders and benefit from the Postal team's tempo. Beloki finished third overall, Moreau fourth, and Festina second in the team competition. Meanwhile, Postal placed 8th overall.

4. Jan Ullrich defended his eventual second-place overall finish by riding behind Armstrong, ready to follow his attacks, or to mount a counterattack should the American show a chink in his cycling armor. In this stage, Ullrich faltered on the final climb, but fought back to finish at the same time as Armstrong. "I didn't have the strength to suffer alongside him," Ulrich says. "I prefer to climb at my own pace—which is nothing compared with Armstrong's."

5. Armstrong used his 1999 Tour winning blueprint: a high pedal cadence on climbs ("I wasted four or five years on using the wrong [low cadence] style," he says); seven-hour training rides to build his endurance base; a strict diet to keep his five-foot-eleven frame at 156 pounds; a reduced race schedule; and (as seen here) a key position at the front of the peleton to avoid crashes and flat tires. Armstrong finished the Tour 6:02 ahead of Ullrich.

6. The billowing trees indicate a strong headwind, so the Postal men ride in a low-angle echelon, a staggered or stair-stepped single-file pattern, to keep Armstrong sheltered (they adjust the echelon's shape according to the exact angle of the breeze). A cyclist uses roughly 30 percent less energy when not riding directly into the wind.

Watts Your Step

One British startup plans to wire your shoes

THE HUMAN potential movement has a new ally in the Electric Shoe Company, a Leicester, England–based firm that expects, within two years, to perfect technology that will take the kinetic energy of walking and convert it into electricity—meaning the only batteries around will be in landfills. Or so the inventors say.

"It's one of those obvious 'It's got to be done'–type things," says company founder Trevor Baylis, inventor of the FreePlay windup radio. Piers Hubbard-Miles, Electric Shoe's managing director, goes so far as to suggest that ped power could energize almost any portable electronic device, from a GPS unit to an MP3 player. And, of course, athletic-shoe companies are gushing over the idea. "The opportunity is immense," says Mark Thompson, an engineer with the "Adidas innovation team."

But so are the hurdles. The juice must somehow flow from heel to gizmo, and fast-and-light trekkers, for example, will no doubt sneer at the notion of flapping leg wires. The answer here, says Hubbard-Miles, may emerge from recent "wearable computing" work at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, where researchers have sewn working circuits into washable clothing.

The hard part—generating current—has more or less been figured out, though. The most promising in-heel generator: piezoelectric material—a synthetic ceramic substance that, once compressed, generates a burst of juice that can be stored. The material already has a track record. Wearing piezoelectric prototypes that slowly charged his cell-phone battery, Baylis trekked across the Namibian desert in July. "I was knackered every night," says the 63-year-old. "But think of the potential."


Health
Café Mate
Step aside, Starbucks. Stand down, Red Bull. This South American tea is all the rage among athletes in search of a kick.

"IT'S LIKE PUTTING SUPER unleaded into my body," says Mo Hart, an Oakland, California–based sailboat racer. He's talking about yerba mate, a South American tea that looks like low-grade marijuana and tastes like a cup of hay. Brewed from the leaves of Ilex paraguariensis, a member of the holly family, and served in a hollowed-out bull horn, mate has fueled Paraguayans for centuries. Today's North American converts are no less zealous about its ability to stave off hunger and provide a jitter-free boost. Stan Quintana, a North Carolina–based triathlete, guzzles it after workouts, claiming it aids muscle recovery and doesn't upset his stomach or dehydrate him like coffee, and University of New Mexico lacrosse coach Eric Webb and some members of his team swear by it.

Nationwide, organic grocers report that sales have steadily increased over the last six months. And, to meet the demand of athletes, the Albuquerque-based firm Yerba Mate Revolution is developing a hydration pack for sipping on the go, as well as special tea bags for mountaineers.

Daniel Mowrey, president of herbal medicine firm American Phytotherapy Research, in Provo, Utah, claims the kick comes from xanthine, a chemical compound possessing "all the good effects of caffeine without the bad." Though mate's impact on athletic performance has not been formally studied, the Physicians Desk Reference says the tea contains theobromine (an alkaloid similar to caffeine) and plain old caffeine—a stimulant banned by the International Olympic Committee. No wonder, then, that James Dillard, a professor at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons, calls mate herbal speed. "Is there a difference between this and a couple thermonuclear cups of coffee?" Dillard cries. "No. It's just drugs—green drugs!" —Michelle Pentz


EAR TO THE GROUND
Ballard's search for Endurance

"I wish him luck, but I don't feel very confident he'll be crowned with success. I don't think it exists."

—Alexandria Shackleton, president of the London-based James Caird Society and granddaughter of legendary Arctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, on plans for an expedition by Titanic discoverer Robert Ballard to search for the wreckage of Endurance, Shackleton's ship. The recently announced trip to Antarctica's Weddell Sea is planned for early 2002. In a series of now famous images, expedition photographer Frank Hurley captured the sinking of Endurancein 1915 as pack ice crushed the hull to bits. Not everything went to the bottom, of course: Some artifacts will appear this October in a new exhibit organized by Alexandria's group at Dulwich College in London.

Chesapeake Bay

Where the water is calm, the camping great—and the sea kayaking takes you to a world of beautiful swimmers

IN THE MIDDLE of Chesapeake Bay, just 20 miles as the crow flies from the eastern seaboard megalopolis, sits a strand of marshy, nearly deserted islands where great blue herons, ospreys, and black ducks thrive, and where, in fall's cooler temperatures, you'd be crazy not to launch a kayak. In October, you'll miss the last Indian summer tourists and have the Bay almost all to yourself.

Set out from Tangier or Smith Islands, the only two inhabited landmasses in the Chesapeake's southern channels and you'll commingle with a smorgasbord of sea life: rockfish, herring, bay anchovies, oysters, and the legendary, though sadly depleted, blue crabs. Paddle north across Kedges Straits to the dozen or so uninhabited, privately owned stretches of land not much bigger than sandbars; they're great places to embrace a quintessential Chesapeake pastime, proggin'. From the verb "to progue,"proggin' is localese for combing the shores and shallows for arrowheads, antique bottles, and other treasures left over from the Algonquin Indians who fished here more than 400 years ago and the colonial fishermen who ruled these waters back in the 17th century. In spring, summer, and fall, you'll find shells left behind by molting blue crabs—a local delicacy you should resist for now, since this past summer saw a deep decline in the once-plentiful crustacean's numbers. Instead, look for littleneck and cherrystone clams, two small, succulent varieties found in the shallows of the southern Bay. Holes in the ocean bottom the size of a quarter give them away. Just pick 'em out of the mud, rinse, steam, and eat with melted butter. Heaven. Ready to go?

The Southern Bay Islands

The point of kayaking Smith and Tangier Islands isn't to paddle around them, but to paddle into them. Both islands are etched by canals (Big Gut Canal, for example, the "main street" of Tangier village, runs the length of the island's southern side). From Smith's northern shore you can kayak into the eight-square-mile Martin National Wildlife Refuge, where one of the largest groups of East Coast great blue herons nests. Another option: The seven-mile stretch between the two islands makes for a perfect day trip across Tangier Sound. Plan on at least six hours of paddling, and allow time to stop off on Goose Island along the way for an excellent round of progging. Be sure to choose your route based on the tides, which flow at up to three knots (check the weekly Crisfield Times for local tide schedules).

North of Kedges Straits

Paddle north of Smith across the deep, fast-flowing Kedges Straits, and you'll reach wide-open water, where the only traffic you'll see is the occasional oyster or crab boat. Since virtually all the islands in this area are privately owned and the trip is too long to paddle up and back in a single day, you'll have to hook up with an approved outfitter who has permission to camp (see Access & Resources, below). But the paddle alone is worth it: The islands in this part of Chesapeake Bay sit two or three miles apart, most of them just long, narrow strips of cordgrass and sand so small that they aren't mapped. Many are slowly eroding and may not even exist in 20 years. A few yards off the shore of one northern beauty, Holland Island—once home to a fishing village that was abandoned in 1920 and now a popular campsite for outfitted-kayaking groups—you can paddle over tombstones and the submerged brick foundation of the former houses.

The Virginia Islands

Along the southern Atlantic coast of the Delmarva Peninsula (a skinny finger of rural farmland that is part Delaware, part Maryland, and part Virginia) lie 13 barrier islands whose 45,000 acres make up The Nature Conservancy's Virginia Coast Reserve. You can visit all but three of the islands and paddle your heart out through preserved salt marsh on the eastern shores, where you might see ospreys, pelicans, egrets, or a bald eagle. Or paddle along the pristine Atlantic-side beaches and scout for dolphins.

 

MORE BAY DAYS

Sailing
Cape Charles, Virginia, on the Bay side of Delmarva's southern tip, is a port of call with quiet B&Bs, clam- and oyster-stocked restaurants, and lightly trafficked waters. For sailing instruction, Low Sea Company (757-710-1233) teaches all levels on 63-foot schooners.

Boardsailing
Twenty-mile-per-hour thermals blow across the shallow Assawoman Bay just to the west of Ocean City, Maryland, and Sinepuxent Bay, a few miles south. For epic air, head for OC's Atlantic beaches. Sailing Etc. (410-723-1144) rents sailboards for $20 per hour or $60 per day.

Surfing
Ocean City's coast is no exception to the East's infamous mushy breaks, but October brings offshore storms pumping head-high swells. K-Coast Surf Shop has surf reports and rentals ($25 per day; 410-723-3330).

Canoeing
Wild ponies roam Assateague Island National Seashore (410-641-3030). Launch a canoe from the island's South Ocean Beach, located at the end of Route 611 about 15 miles south of Ocean City, and paddle the marshes and coves to the south. Camp on the beach.

Access & Resources
Keeping the Shiny Side Down
THOUGH THE WATER IS OFTEN quite shallow—sometimes less than a foot deep miles from shore—paddling the Chesapeake isn't always a mellow trip, thanks to 50-mile-per-hour squalls that blow in without warning. Unless you're experienced in ocean navigation and rough-weather paddling, stick within a mile of Smith or Tangier, or go with a guide. Tangier Sound Outfitters offers two-day kayaking trips around the northern and southern islands ($150; 410-968-1803).

GETTING THERE: Delmarva is about an hour's drive east over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge from Washington, D.C., and five hours south of New York City. Or you can fly to Salisbury, Maryland, from Washington, D.C. (U.S. Airways, $150 round-trip; 800-428-4322).

GETTING AROUND: Captain Jason's Freight and Passenger Service will take you and your kayak from Crisfield, Maryland, to Smith Island ($10 per person, $5 per kayak; 410-425-4471). To get to Tangier, hop a ride on the daily local mail boat, also out of Crisfield ($10 per person, $10 per boat; 757-891-2240).

WHERE TO STAY: On Tangier Island, guests skip oyster shells from the porch of Shirley's Bay View Inn, built in 1904 (doubles, $75; 757-891-2396). The Inn of Silent Music in Tylerton, one of three villages on Smith Island, provides bicycles gratis (doubles, $75; 410-425-3541).

GETTING OUTFITTED: For the Bay islands, Survival Products in Salisbury (410-543-1244) rents kayaks for $40 a day. To kayak the Virginia islands, you can rent your vessel at SoutheastExpeditions (877-225-2925; www.sekayak.com) out of nearby Cape Charles for $45 a day.


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