Chips on the Old Block

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Outside magazine, November 2000  

Chips on the Old Block

I recently spent eight days on Mount Shasta, and I guess I fit your definition of a techreationalist (“The Everest of Silicon Valley,” Dispatches, September): I sell statistical software, and my wife is an analytical chemist for a software company. And yes, most of my
equipment is brand-new and top-of-the-line. But that’s where the similarities end. I spent the first four days on the mountain alone getting used to the altitude and the last four days on a guided seminar/summit attempt. I woke every morning to the most beautiful view I could ever imagine and went to sleep every night amazed by the most wonderful sunsets. I
learned that you never really conquer a mountain; you are just blessed to spend time on one. I never reached the summit, but I am forever changed by the time that I spent on Shasta and will keep working on becoming a true mountaineer.

David J. McClelland
State College, Pennsylvania

ACTUALLY, I FEEL pretty good about those dorks on Shasta. They tend to have a herd mentality, which means they’ll all be somewhere I’m not. I suppose there is a use for all that battery-powered, disco-ball-looking crap they carry, but I tend to think it would all work much better as tent-stake hammers. It’s about the adventure and the fortune and glory
of discovery—not manufactured intense recreation.

Brent Farlie
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Ice Storm

YOU’RE TALKING OUT of both sides of your mouth. Your August issue leads the reader to an assessment of Gore vs. Bush on environmental issues. Good articles along a consistent theme with good information. Then, in the same issue, you promote extreme adventure in the world’s most fragile environment, Antarctica (“From the Bottom to the Top” and “The Cold Rush,” Dispatches). You mention it’s the only continent we haven’t yet wrecked and pump up the risks people take there in the name of “firsts” in “the last frontier.”
How long before it is wrecked? Then what will we have?

Julia E. Means
Chicago, Illinois

AS THE DIRECTOR of the conservation group the Antarctica Project, I thought your coverage was irresponsible and does a great disservice to the continent. Antarctica is not a destination to which you can just pack your bags, charter transportation, and go. The Antarctic Treaty System has a strict Protocol on Environmental Protection. You describe the new
“Cold Rush” of adventure tourism, yet hardly mention that all activities must be accompanied by environmental impact statements and that there are rules for waste disposal and respecting flora and fauna. Instead of highlighting potential dangers on the continent, such as the frequent whiteouts that can bring visibility down to zero, you glorify the risk.
Last, you correctly refer to the cooperation of nations in Antarctica, but I must point out that these same nations are primarily interested in science in Antarctica and hardly welcome the prospect of uncontrolled tourism.

Beth Clark
Washington, D.C.


In preparing our story on Antarctic expeditions and adventures, Outside was aware of the stringent environmental protocol that applies to all Antarctica visitors; the story makes reference to such rules, along with other environmental concerns. Nor did our article endorse “uncontrolled tourism” or irresponsible travel.
Indeed, we share these writers’ legitimate concerns about protecting Antarctica now and forever.

Go with the Flow

THANKS FOR “Endurance Predator” by Bernd Heinrich (September). Strange as it sounds, last month in New York City I saw firsthand what he meant. I watched the Bolshoi Ballet’s Giselle and got choked up as I witnessed the beauty and
power of the dancers’ movements. The next day, I made time for a run in Central Park. Heinrich is right, in my book: There is a natural athlete in all of us, if we listen for it. And it’s not discipline—you’re just following your inherent predator’s program.

Thomas Jirgensohn
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Innocents Abroad

FOR ROD ROTONDI and writer Patrick Symmes, the story of the resort in Dahab (“Sheikhs and Freaks,” September) is indeed one of real estate and greed. For the Bedouin, however, as the author was told, it is of broken promises and outsiders trying to control their
land. In 1972 some buddies and I lived on the Sinai coast north of Dahab in a lean-to on the beach, and we had the privacy to dive and survive in the serenity we sought. Our Arabic was halting, but we understood enough to appreciate the traditional culture whose “despoliation” Rotondi professes to “lament.” Dahab was not the perfect entrepreneurial
environment—it was the perfect escape. I am proud that we left the beach and reef as we found them and that the only change we wrought was a little more friendship between cultures.

Ben Zimmerman
Cold Creek, Nevada

PATRICK SYMMES doesn’t get the point of my story. I’ve been illegally and violently thrown out of my business with the complicity of the police, and nine months later my rights, while recognized by the Egyptian legal system, have not been safeguarded. In other words, I’ve been victimized by a local mafia. This is not a case of foreigners vs. indigenous
peoples; this is a commercial dispute that a single Bedouin family (not the tribe) has tried to settle with violence and by relying on a corrupt system. The real question is why the rights of an American investor in Egypt are not protected. I broke none of my promises and paid all of my bills, as the District Attorney stated in his decision. And by the way,
the money I invested was not from my family, but rather money I had earned risking my neck for the U.N. Development Programme, fighting for the rights of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Rod Rotondi
Marblehead, Massachusetts

My Generation

I’D LIKE TO PROVIDE some context for the “classic new school/old school rift” described in “Throwing Down a Killer Hole” (August). I’ve been called an old-school boater (among other things); I learned to kayak in a 13-foot fiberglass cigar. At first, just hitting the
rapids was enough. As we improved, my friends and I looked for new challenges—but difficult rivers weren’t always ready when we were. So we learned to make the most of the rivers that were running. We even had a name for it: play. Soon we found innovative ways to dance with the river. Once a critical mass of consumers
came along, manufacturers responded with a greater variety of kayaks. Without the pioneering efforts of folks like Eric Jackson, Corran Addison, Marc Lyle, and Shane Benedict, we might still be in mini-cigars like Perception Dancers. So what defines the “new school”? Long lines? Welcome to the new world. Maybe that “rift” is just a kind of generation

Jerry O’Connor
Canyon Lake, Texas

Correspondence may be sent by e-mail ( or addressed to the Letters Editor, Outside, 400 Market St., Santa Fe, NM 87501. Please include your full name and address.

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