Experiences

An All-Woman Climbing Team in the Andes

Posted by on Oct 12, 2016 in All Posts, Experiences, Featured Posts, Interviews, News, Sports, Uncategorized | 1 comment

An All-Woman Climbing Team in the Andes

Spread the News:ShareMujer Montaña—“Woman Mountain” in Spanish—participated in a recent project of the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA), in which women climbers from Latin America and Europe carried out ascents of peaks in two mountain ranges in the Bolivian Andes. They established mountaineering records, achieving first all-female ascents and opening new routes. They met another goal as well,  promoting exchanges between people of different cultures and worldviews. And, in their distinctive way, they built awareness of mountains in the context of climate change—a key goal of the UIAA’s Mountain Protection Award Platform, which supported the project. This project, supported by a number of government agencies and tourism firms in South America and Europe, brought together the members of Mujer Montaña, a Latin American group founded in 2013, with representatives of the Women’s High Mountain Group of the French Federation of Alpine Mountain Clubs (a UIAA member since 1932). In total, four women from South America and eight from Europe took part in the project. The group started out in the Quimsa Cruz range on 28 July, staying there through 7 August. Traveling from their base camp at 4,400m, they climbed a new route up Torrini (5800 m). The second stage in the Cordillera Real, from 10 to 19 August, included ascents of Chachacomani (6100m), Janq’o Uyu (5520m) and Jisk’a Pata (5510m). The final stage, in the city of La Paz, involved a meeting on 22 August with students at the Catholic University of Bolivia, discussing issues of mountain protection, climate change and glacier retreat. On the last day, 23 August, they participated in a program with teachers and schoolgirls which linked climbing and self-esteem, and addressed issues of female empowerment. Carolina Adler, the president of the UIAA Mountain Protection Program, took part in the Janq’o Uyu ascent, as well as the last two days in La Paz. The group is preparing a documentary film about their expedition, and preparing their next climbs, scheduled for November, which will take place in Ecuador. And they are waiting for the selection of the 2016 UIAA Mountain Protection Award winner. That will be announced October 14 in Brixen, Sudtirol, Italy during the 2016 UIAA General Assembly. GlacierHub interviewed Lixayda Vasquez, one of the participants in the project. Vasquez comes from Cusco, Peru. In addition to Spanish, she also speaks Quechua, a major indigenous language of the Andes. GH: What do you see as the significance of all-woman climbing expeditions? LV: I think that what is most important is to stop seeing mountains as a place where only strong men, the ones with “big muscles,” can go. In recent times, many women in my country have wanted to explore new experiences for themselves, experiences which take them outside their comfort zone. They leave this zone, filled with myths and a whole machismo complex. And they discover that when they go outdoors, they enter a wonderful world where they never feel alone, because they are connected with nature. It’s not necessary to go to the mountain in expeditions that are composed only of women, or only of men. The best way is for men and women to complement each other. We can remember that men and women are parts of the same world. And we can both bring our distinct contributions to make this world better.   GH: As a climber who speaks Quechua, have you ever used Quechua on an expedition? LV: Quechua once saved my life. I was with a group of friends from the climbing club in Cusco. We were trying to ascend Chicón, a snow peak in Cusco. It was already dark when we...

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At the Foot of a Zanskari Glacier

Posted by on Sep 27, 2016 in All Posts, Communities, Experiences, Featured Posts | 0 comments

At the Foot of a Zanskari Glacier

Spread the News:ShareA recent conversation in Zanskar, a region in the Himalayas of northern India,forcefully showed me how people can express their common concern for glaciers through  frameworks so different that they can be challenging to bring together. My first visit to Pensi-la My daughter and I entered Zanskar in June this year by the road from Kargil, the only thoroughfare that connects this subdistrict with the rest of India. On this road, I was welcomed by Pensi-la, a name that stands both for a pass at 4400 meters elevation and for the biggest doksa (summer milk camp) of the region, located just below the pass. The doksa is watched over by Drang Drung, an impressive glacier of the Greater Himalaya Range, which dominates the landscape as one moves towards Padum, the small capital city of Zanskar.  Its length of 23 kilometers makes  Drang Drung Glacier the largest glacier of Zanskar, and the second largest glacier in the entire region of Ladakh, a broad mountain region of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, known for its strong cultural, linguistic and religious affinities with Tibet. Zanskar comprises a population of about 14,000, whose subsistence is mainly ensured through agro-pastoralist activities. The pastures of Zanskar are fed by glacier meltwater, which is the lifeblood of this part of India, where rainfall is scant. At the foot of the Drang Drung glacier, women spend the summer with their dzomo, the female yak and cow hybrid. There, they milk their animals, churn their milk into butter, and prepare cheese and yogurt. At night, they sleep in their pullu, basic shelters made of stone. But nights are short in the doksa: women wake up every day at 2am to milk their large herds. Then, as soon as the sun rises, the dzomo make their way to the foot of the glacier, where they spend the day. Dairy products from Zanskar, known for their richness, are famous throughout Ladakh. In a recent speech, the Dalai Lama extolled their virtues, as they are the product of animals that feed on the medicinal plants that grow at the foot of Zanskar’s impressive glaciers. The spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhism encouraged Zanskarpas to commercialize their dairy products by emphasizing their very unique qualities. A return visit to Pensi-la My daughter and I returned later in the summer to the doksa in Pensi-la, with our friend Stanzin. I wanted to understand more fully the lives of the women in this area. We pitched our tent next to the pullu of Dolma, a woman in her sixties, who has spent her entire life in these high pastures. After a freezing night, DOlma invited us in for breakfast in her pullu. During our conversation, she reflected on the milk production of her animals. She can see that over the years, this vegetation has become sparse, creating difficulties for dairy herds. In her view, this decline in pastures can only be the result of the decreased winter snowfall, which has contributed to a reduction in the size of the glaciers. “This is the lack of luck of people today,” Dolma lamented, “in my younger days, the glaciers were immense. What does future hold, I wonder.”  Her perception coincides with the findings of  scientific research by Ulrich Kamp of the University of Montana and his associates, who have documented that Drang Drung Glacier has receded over 300 meters between 1975 and 2008. According to Dolma, these changing meteorological patterns do not happen on their own. Rather, they are the result of people’s increasing greediness. In the doksa, where pastoralist activities have decreased over the years, this is manifested...

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Roundup: Ice Filing, Seas Falling, Rivers Flooding

Posted by on Sep 12, 2016 in Experiences, Featured Posts, Roundup, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Roundup: Ice Filing, Seas Falling, Rivers Flooding

Spread the News:ShareThis Week’s Roundup: Glaciers are being collected in Antarctica, “quietly transforming the Earth’s surface” and causing floods A team of scientists, aware of the need to obtain ice cores from threatened glaciers, are working to create a glacier archive bank in Antarctica From CNRS News:  “By capturing various components of the atmosphere, ice constitutes an invaluable source of information with which to examine our past environment, to analyze climate change, and, above all, to understand our future. Today, the science of ice cores lets us study dozens of chemical components trapped in ice, such as gases, acids, heavy metals, radioactivity, and water isotopes, to name but a few…” “We plan to store the boxes in containers at a depth of 10 meters below the surface in order to maintain the glacier cores at an ambient temperature of – 54°C. The Antarctic is in fact an immense freezer with an ice sheet up to 4 kilometers thick, and is far removed from everything; in addition, it is not subject to any territorial disputes. The subterranean chamber will be large enough to house samples taken from between 15 and 20 glaciers.” Read on here.  Study finds that ancient melting glaciers are causing sea levels to drop in some places From Smithsonian Magazine: “But a new study out in the Journal of Geophysical Research shows that in places like Juneau, Alaska, the opposite is happening: sea levels are dropping about half an inch every year. How could this be? The answer lies in a phenomenon of melting glaciers and seesawing weight across the earth called ‘glacial isostatic adjustment.’ You may not know it, but the Last Ice Age is still quietly transforming the Earth’s surface and affecting everything from the length of our days to the topography of our countries.” For the full story, click here. Glacial flood emerges along Iceland’s Skaftá river From Iceland Magazine: “A small glacial flood is under way in Skaftá river in South Iceland. The Icelandic Met Office (IMO) warns travelers to stay away from the edge of the water as the flood water is carrying with it geothermal gases which can be dangerous….The discharge of Skaftá at Sveinstindur is presently 270 cubic metres per second. The flood is not expected to cause any downstream disruption.” Learn more about the flood by reading more here.         Spread the...

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Walking to the Mountain, Dancing at the Shrines: An Andean Pilgrimage

Posted by on Aug 9, 2016 in Art/Culture, Communities, Experiences, Featured Posts, Interviews, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Walking to the Mountain, Dancing at the Shrines: An Andean Pilgrimage

Spread the News:ShareZoila Mendoza, an anthropologist and the chair of the Department of Native American Studies at the University of California, Davis, is also the producer of a documentary recorded in the high Andes of Peru. “The Pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of the Lord of Qoyllur Rit’i: The Walk Experience,” first released in February 2015, has won five honors, including a 2016 International Gold Award for Documentary and Short International Movie Awards, held in Jakarta earlier this month. Mendoza’s film provides a detailed view of the largest pilgrimage in the Andes. Each spring, about 50,000 people, many of them indigenous Quechua, travel to the sanctuary of the Señor de Qoyllur Rit’i in the Cusco region of Peru, located at 4,800 meters above sea level at the foot of a glacier. At this site, they perform ritual dances and pay homage to the miraculous image of Christ on a rock and to the mountain itself, the glacier-covered Qollqepunku. Mendoza accompanied villagers from the community of Pomacanchi on three different annual pilgrimages, as they walked the 135 kilometers from their home village to the sanctuary. This journey takes three days and two nights, and leads them over four high passes. Her video shows the continuous music of flute and drums that accompanies the entire pilgrimage, as well as the dances in Pomacanchi, at points on the path to the shrine, and at the shrine itself. The film documents the integration of sounds, sight and movement that together compose the pilgrimage experience. With its close-up view of a group of pilgrims, showing the heavy loads they carry on the journey and the long hours of vigorous dancing, it conveys the depth of their devotion of the pilgrims to the saints and mountains. In an email interview, Mendoza discussed the production of her documentary with GlacierHub. GlacierHub: Though many people who have described the pilgrimage of Qoyllur Rit’i emphasize the importance of dance, you have subtitled your film “The walk experience.” Why do you place such importance on walking? What relations do you see between walking and dancing? Zoila Mendoza: This was a result of my experience with the people of Pomacanchi, for whom doing the walk itself was the most important aspect of the whole pilgrimage. Walking has been the way of travel for Andeans for millennia, the same word is used in Quechua for “walking” and “traveling”: puriy. Even today, with the available motorized vehicles, many Quechua-speaking people in the countryside still spend several hours a day walking to go to their fields, herding their animals, etc. As I argue at length in my articles, the walk to Qoyllur Rit’i is carried out with the incessant music of flute and drum so, even at moments of rest and of introspection, the music is always there. There is a tune for walking and one for worshiping and saluting. The walk has also a choreography since it has to be done in a single file with the icons and flags in front and the music in the back. The whole musical walk can be considered a “dance” to the sanctuary.   GH: Your film depicts other bodily movements in addition to walking and dancing. In particular, you show the importance of two other bodily gestures: carrying heavy items, such as rocks and pottery icons that represent chapels, and kneeling in front of sacred sites or along paths. What do these gestures represent? ZM: The participants use the same gestures to salute and pay homage to the sacred images and to the mountains. Carrying rocks uphill and unloading them is a way to kinesthetically level or flatten the ground (pampachay in...

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Photo Friday: Ice diving in the Alps – Glacial Lake Sassolo

Posted by on Jul 29, 2016 in All Posts, Experiences, Featured Posts, Images, Sports, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Photo Friday: Ice diving in the Alps – Glacial Lake Sassolo

Spread the News:ShareFranco Banfi is a professional underwater photographer, renowned for his spectacular images of marine wildlife, captured across every ocean on the planet. In 2010, Banfi, a Swiss national, dived into the Lago di Sassolo (Lake Sassolo) to reveal the hidden wonders of the ice mazes which form in the glacial lake at 6,560 feet (2,000 m) above sea level, in the European Alps. Ice diving is highly technical, and is complicated when undertaken at altitude. Banfi has been diving for 35 years, and has “around 100 dives under the ice,” experience gained through his pursuit of the perfect image of rarely seen species. In 2005, Banfi chased Greenland sharks (Somniosus microcephalus) in the Arctic Circle, and leopard seals (Hydrurga leptonyx) in the Antarctic Ocean. Banfi wound his way through the sub- and englacial pathways of the ice, in temperatures around 35.6-37.4°F (2-3°C). He remarked, “It can be dangerous if you don’t know the place and if you don’t have experience in an ice environment.” However, Banfi was raised in Cadro, Switzerland, and grew up diving Lago di Lugano (Lugano Lake). Reflecting on the dangers of his dive at Sassolo, Banfi said “It gets quite dark depending on how much ice there is above your head at the surface – so in some places with thicker ice it gets dangerously dark.” He added, “Ice like this can collapse anytime,” as the exhaled bubbles alter the buoyancy of the overlaying ice. According to the seasoned diver, his underwater model and dive partner Sabrina Belloni joined him on the journey through the icey labyrinth, but was hesitant, awaiting terrifying signs of an imminent failure of the thick ice. “You can usually hear the crack, but not always,” said Banfi. “If you hear this, it’s already too late.” Spread the...

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Survival is just the tip of the iceberg in Blair Braverman’s memoir on Arctic life

Posted by on Jul 28, 2016 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Experiences, Featured Posts | 0 comments

Survival is just the tip of the iceberg in Blair Braverman’s memoir on Arctic life

Spread the News:Share“On a bad day we called it the Goddamn Ice Cube. On a good day Summer Camp on the Moon.”   In her memoir published July 5, writer and musher Blair Braverman recounts her time living in the isolated wilderness of the Arctic, and her struggles to reconcile the many contradictions—both real and perceived—that accompanied her journey. Over the course of its 274 pages, Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North provides an honest and eloquent narrative of Braverman’s personal pursuit to create a home in the fjords of Norway and glaciers of Southeastern Alaska. While Braverman’s experiences in the north were not always positive, she persistently returns to the Arctic to overcome her fears and self-doubts–seeking safety in extreme environments and confronting her status as an outsider in a “man’s world.” Her Arctic roots trace back to a young age. Braverman spent a year in Oslo when she was 10-years-old and continuously returned, feeling connected to the country in a way that she never felt in her hometown of Davis, California. A year as a high school foreign exchange student in Norway helped her reestablish her connection. But a host father who made her feel unsafe also made her time there difficult. Braverman was insecure, but not defeated. As testament to her personal strength and character, she pushed herself to return to Norway and struggle through the extreme physical and mental challenges of survival training and dog sledding in the Arctic at the Norwegian Folk School 69°North. “I knew I would never be a tough girl,” she writes in the memoir. “And yet the phrase, with its implied contradiction, articulated everything that I wanted for myself: to be a girl, an inherently vulnerable position, and yet unafraid.” In the far reaches of the North, there were many things to fear—the biting cold, the seemingly unending darkness of winter, being buried alive under the snow. However, Braverman approached these physical challenges head-on throughout her time at 69°North and in the years to follow. “Of course I was scared. But at least I was scared of dangers of my own choosing. At least there was joy that came with it.” There were other equally pressing physical and emotional dangers that Braverman faced, one of which is not exclusive to the Arctic: the danger of men threatening her safety and encroaching on her body. In the eyes of the men Braverman encountered, the Arctic was seen as exclusively male territory. Despite the intimidation, harassment, and dismissal by men, Braverman was determined to have an equal right to also call the Arctic “home.” After completing her survival training at the folk school, Braverman left Norway to work at a summer tour company on a glacier in southeast Alaska. Living on a remote glacier with an aggressive boyfriend, the irony of her job cannot be lost—providing a comfortable experience for tourists to be “explorers” out in the wilderness, when the reality of living in such an environment is anything but comfortable. She writes in the book that she was also “discouraged from acknowledging climate change, even as the glacier melted away beneath us.” While the majority of people may prefer to sweep difficult truths under the rug, Braverman is admirable for her desire to seek it out, regardless of convenience. While Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube is, to a large degree, a story of emotional and physical struggle, it is also one of deep admiration for nature and the Arctic. Braverman’s love of the environment is contagious and brought to life through her vivid...

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