The Life Worth Living

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Outside magazine, August 2000

The Life Worth Living
I couldn’t put down Rob Buchanan’s haunting, thought-provoking article on Guy Waterman (“A Natural Death,” June). As the mother of nine, all grown, and a resident of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, I constantly face the conflict between trying to live an ideal life and being
a supportive parent. (I always chuckle thinking about Thoreau: I went out farther, stayed there longer, and I did it with kids!) Now, at 63, I can understand Waterman in his despair. Every day there are examples of unspeakable destruction, from the salmon to the redwoods—our lifeblood. Keep up the good work, Outside.

Alice Hammer
Port Angeles, Washington

On February 6, I was sledding with my sons when I vaguely heard an ambulance go by. A few minutes later, my wife appeared and said my dad had had a heart attack. At precisely that time, Guy Waterman was hiking up Mount Lafayette to fulfill his suicide plan; I didn’t catch the coincidence until the Outside article. My dad, 78, whose health was under attack on many fronts, still had plans and goals—he had two books going. Meanwhile, here was Waterman more than ten years younger and apparently much healthier, as far as I can tell, and he took his own life. They died within just a few hours
of each other. Waterman lived and died on his own terms. Perhaps in life he was heroic, perhaps he was honorable, perhaps he was a good or great man. But his death wasn’t heroic or honorable. He just killed himself. And that’s that.

Timothy McQuiston
Burlington, Vermont

Hidden Depths
Hey, Outside, shhh! I wish you wouldn’t write about caving (“A Conspiracy of Silence,” Dispatches, June), but if you do, at least remind people how dark, wet, and muddy it is. Don’t make it sound like an adventure your readers might enjoy! We cavers
love our secret underground world, and we’re fans of your caving-free issues.

Cynthia Adam
Galion, Ohio

True Grit
In your June books column, James Conaway used the word “manufactured” to characterize some of the travels described in my book The Adventurist. I assume he was referring to my participation in “organized” or group adventures as opposed to my normal
unstructured solo forays. However, the ambiguous use of this word has led a number of my readers to ask me which of my adventures I had “manufactured”—as in “invented.” So I want to make it absolutely clear that the reviewer meant “manufacture” as in definition number six in Webster’s, “the making or producing of something” and not number three, “to
fabricate, concoct.” Risking my life to find the truth is what I am about, and the people and places I write on are more important than myself. So I probably take greater than normal umbrage at even a mild misinterpretation of my life’s work.

Robert Young Pelton
Redondo Beach, California

Mark Jenkins brought up an important point in your Tough Trips package (“The Unguided Route,” June). Real adventure is not ordered-out from your cell phone between nonfat lattes while stewing in gridlock in your SUV on Interstate 5. Real adventure is earned by spending
many sleepless nights poring over topos till your eyes go red, and filling your living room with so much gear it looks like an REI warehouse exploded as you pack and repack. Ten years’ worth of self-planned and solo treks, climbs, and paddles have taught me it’s much better to go out there and meet adventure head-on than to take some kind of glorified bus
tour. Thanks for pointing out that real adventure can’t be ordered from a catalog; it costs blood, sweat, and commitment.

Paul Nickodem
Anchorage, Alaska

Andreas Hutter’s exposure photo of the wild Patagonian sky (May) is stunning. Hutter said he’d “never seen clouds like this before.” So just for everyone’s information: These clouds are formed by the flow of wind across the mountains when the air mass is stable. As the air crosses the mountains a condition known as “mountain wave” is formed. The higher
clouds are called altocumulus standing lenticular, and the ones below them are rotor cumulus. New Zealand is known by the Maori as the Land of the Long White Cloud because formations like these so often occur.

William G. Hill
Salt Lake City, Utah
Strict Definition
There is no doubt in my mind that Laird Hamilton and the guys in Project Neptune have paid their dues in big surf (“Big-Wave Surfing Hitches a Ride,” Dispatches, May). Sure, they’ve been in situations that would have left 99.9 percent of all surfers calling for mommy or a
helicopter or both. However, what they’re doing with the jet skis is not surfing. Tow-in can only be considered a hybrid of waterskiing, windsurfing, and jet skiing. Maybe we should call it watersurfskiing.

John Kurtz
Santa Monica, California
Poles Apart
The reading list accompanying the “Polar Exploration” segment of your Tough Trips package (“Go on, We Dare You,” June) contains an error. You say Admiral Richard E. Byrd was “stranded alone at the North Pole in 1934.” Sorry—wrong end. That was an Antarctic expedition
on the Ross Ice Barrier.

Susan Mastyl
East Norriton, Pennsylvania

Correction: In a June Dispatches story (“Rising Stars: Tiffany and Jason Campbell”), Tiffany Campbell criticized the American Sport Climbing Federation for using her and her husband’s names without pay. While Ms. Campbell was accurately quoted, Outside failed to present her remarks in a fair and
balanced fashion. According to the ASCF, climbers are compensated when their names are used for promotional purposes.

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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