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Friday, December 30, 2011

The Ginger Assassin

With the yurt project winding down, I have been fortunate to get out the last month and develop new routes. Of course, this is all possible because the weather has been amazing and temps are a little warmer on the lake bed. Within the genre of climbing (in my opinion) there is nothing more fulfilling than the process of developing new climbs. Searching the cliff for a new line, rapping down to scout potential, cleaning, climbing, more cleaning, working beta with friends, and sending. This process has been fueling my motivation during the last month. Below is a picture of a new route that is on climber's right of Long Point proper. I named it "The Ginger Assassin", and the name comes from getting sandbagged on a relatively easy climb out with a heavy pack. (The red X's are bolts)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Raise the Roof

Friends and Family,

The idea of building a yurt has finally come to fruition.

Lately, I've been busier than a three legged cat trying to cover shit on a marble floor. But after a hard push over the last two weeks, the deck pad is finally finished.

I've had some amazing help and guidance along the way. This certainly wouldn't have come together without help from my good friend Gene Kistler "Jack of all trades, Master of many," and Bill Fedukovich, who sped up the construction work with his dozer and mini-excavator. I look forward to employing the skillful trades of my local friends to make this a great living space.

So, without further ado...This Sunday, weather permitting (stars alligning) we will be having a Yurt raising! You are invited to come and hang out Sunday afternoon as we raise our yurt. Erin's Birthday is also on Monday (she's turning the big 30), so it will be a day for double celebration.

Directions: Route 16 to Wolf Creek Rd., drive 0.9 miles on Wolf Creek Rd then turn right on Chittum Hollow (steep driveway).

I'm happy to say, lets raise the roof. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Beckoning

For the last five weeks I have been psyched to visit an area that receives little attention.  South Nuttall doesn't get climbed much, but this section of cliff contains some of the most splitter routes in the New River Gorge.

The rare opportunity to be photographed led to a great sequence on "The Beckoning" at South Nuttall. Big thanks to Kevin Umbel for dropping a line and shooting photos. Below is the sequence of the "2nd" crux.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Yurtn' for Certain

Last week Erin and I committed on a down payment to get our yurt order started, and a small loan from the bank today sealed the deal on purchasing a 24 ft. yurt. Perhaps the hardest part of the whole process is behind us now, choosing and agreeing on a color scheme. We finally chose a tan roof, royal blue walls, and emerald green skirt. If you are interested in seeing what yurt could look like, play around with Blue Ridge Yurt's color selector. Blue Ridge Yurts is based out of Floyd, VA, and earlier this month we traveled to Floyd to check out yurts and even helped raise one. Sharon and Kathy (co-owners) gave us the full tour, and we even got to visit Sharon's 200 acre farm.  

Below are photos of a 24' yurt we helped raise in Floyd.

Framing for the windows and doors are installed

The lattice is installed next

A steel cable weaved between the lattice and window/door frames provides support for the roof rafters

Roof liner installed

roof insulation installed

finished roof

side-wall insulation installed

wall paneling installed and a yurt has been "raised"

locally harvested yellow pine and poplar used on all Blue Ridge Yurts

A beautiful 24' yurt we visited

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Green Machine

It has been a while since I posted any pictures of my greenhouse project, but I finally finished the greenhouse this spring. It has been amazing to watch everything grow so well in the greenhouse. I definitely have a love for growing my own food. I've slowly been adding new additions to the inside, and recently framed two more new beds and steps.

Finished the majority of the greenhouse project by late April (4/21)

Rain harvesting setup


Notice the earthen (center) steps cut

My new favorite greens - Bok Choy...mmm

New steps 

New center steps and two new framed beds behind basil plants

Saturday, June 25, 2011

State College, PA - Swilly's Revenge

State College, PA is home to Penn State University, some pretty good mountain biking and my friend and colleague Bill Burgos. Bill and I collaborate on an Acid Mine Drainage treatment project in Summerlee, WV, but every year Bill creates a great excuse to get a bunch of us together for a summer solstice bike weekend. Usual suspects include Kenny Parker, which at 47, epitomizes the definition of sandbagging. Bill and Kenny go way back to the college days at Virginia Tech, and have remained good friends every since. This year we tried to get some multi-sport days in which included sampling some of the nearby bouldering and mountain biking in the afternoon. The "cherry on top" by far was riding the bike trails at Allegrippis, Raystown Lake, PA. 30+ miles of premiere single track built by IMBA. If you are ever in PA, then you need to check this place out!

Oh yeah, PA has some boulders

Still sand bagging after all these years, Kenny Parker

Bill Burgos is still pulling down

Mountain Laurels were in full bloom!

Allegrippis Trail Map

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Last Mountain - Premiere Charleston, WV

It was the evening of June 10th and I was scrambling frantically to find a parking space in downtown Charleston, WV. That evening the premiere screening of the documentary Last Mountain was playing at the Capitol Center. I entered the theater and could feel the electric energy of a movement. I witnessed the core of this movement. Some people were gearing up for the March on Blair Mountain the next day, including advocates like Josh Fox (director of the documentary Gasland). Others were long time MTR activists, but we all shared a common vision.....we all want Mountaintop Removal to end.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

New River Rendezvous presentation with Maria Gunnoe

This year I had the opportunity to educate attendees about looming surface mining operations at the New River Rendezvous climbing festival. I was very fortunate and honored to present along with Maria Gunnoe, long time MTR activist and Goldman Prize winner. I briefly spoke about the surface mining operations encroaching closer to Fayetteville, showed aerial photography of the mining operations, and introduced an extended trailer of the film Last Mountain. Below are some of the photos taken on 5/7/11, the last two photos give some perspective on how close the mining operations are to the New River Gorge and surrounding communities.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Protecting the Plateau

What do you do when the place you love lies in the wake of devastation?

My environmental ethics have crossed paths with Mountaintop Removal, or stated more simply, this mining practice is encroaching on home soil.

Open Fork MTR site (Photos courtesy of Antrim Caskey and Southwings)

In recent months the coal company, Frasure Creek Mining, a subsidiary of Trinity Coal which is owned by India based Essar Group, has been expanding Mountaintop Removal operations into the central portion of Fayette County, WV (Home of the New River Gorge). Since 2004, four permits have been approved and five new surface mining permits are pending approval. The company has continued to prospect several coal seams into central Fayette County. I oppose this expansion. I have reviewed many different sources of information relating to MTR and feel that the preponderance of evidence suggests that the short term and long term costs associated with MTR outweigh the benefitsLearn more here.

Produced by Grist.org - This series of photographs from NASA's Landsat 5 satellite, taken over 26 years from 1984 to 2010, shows the toll mountaintop-removal mining takes on a landscape. The expansion of the Hobet mine is very similar to what is already happening with the Frasure Creek mining complex in central Fayette County.

Recent Studies:
Much has been written about the negative impacts of MTR on a wide range of ecosystems. In addition to burying miles of streams and associated habitat, aquatic life and wildlife, the impacts on downstream water users is also negative.
  1. On September 28th of 2010, the independent Science Advisory Board of the EPA released a review of the EPA’s research into the water quality impacts of valley fills associated with MTR. Their findings support the EPA’s research and agree with their conclusion that valley fills are associated with conditions in downstream waters that threaten stream life. Their draft stated “A growing body of scientific literature, including previous and new studies performed by EPA, show significant damage to local streams that are polluted with the mining runoff from mountaintop removal.” (U.S. EPA. A Field-Based Aquatic Life Benchmark for Conductivity in Central Appalachian Streams (External Review Draft). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, EPA/600/R-10/023A, 2010.) 
  2. An article in the January 8th 2010 edition of Science Magazine titled “Mountaintop Mining Consequences” summarized it this way: “Mining permits are being issued despite the preponderance of scientific evidence that impacts are pervasive and irreversible and that mitigation cannot compensate for the losses.” (M. A. Palmer, E. S. Bernhardt, W. H. Schlesinger, K. N. Eshleman, E. Foufoula-Georgiou, M. S. Hendryx, A. D. Lemly, G. E. Likens, O. L. Loucks, M. E. Power, P. S. White and P. R. Wilcock. 2010. Mountaintop Mining Consequences. Science Vol. 327 no. 5962 pp. 148-149.) 
  3. Not only is mountaintop removal irreversible, MTR operations directly affect residents living near and around the site. A recently published study by Hendryx and Hitt released in the 2010 October edition of EcoHealth, demonstrated that poor stream health (biological integrity) is more likely to occur in areas of high coal production and is inversely related to the risk of cancer in nearby residents. The equation is simple, the less abundant a stream is with life (biological integrity score), the higher the rates of breast, respiratory, digestive, and urinary cancers in that area. In addition, their study also found that cancer clusters correspond to areas of high coal mining intensity. (Hitt, Nathaniel and Hendryx, Michael. 2010. Ecological integrity of streams related to human cancer mortality rates. EcoHealth 7, 91-104, 2010.) Learn more here.

MTR operations looming in the background less than 4.5 miles from the Oak Hill HS (Photos courtesy of Antrim Caskey and Southwings)

Like clockwork, you can feel and hear the blast daily. Coal Companies, in West Virginia alone, detonate 3.5 million pounds of explosives per day. Combustion products from the ammonium nitrate and fuel oil explosives end up in the air and the water. The silicate-based rock is blasted into very fine shards of what-is-essentially glass. The glass-like dust binds with the aerosolized droplets of the ammonium nitrate and diesel fuel. The resulting particulate is of a size and density that municipal water supplies can’t filter, and when mixed with chlorine during the water treatment process creates chloramine gas. Chloramine gas is highly poisonous and has been identified as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization. Depending on prevailing winds and atmospheric conditions (temperature, air pressure, water vapor) blasting from surface mining operations can affect surface water supplies and residents on a regional or national scale. This is just the tip of the ice-burg.

So with 4 approved and 5 more permits coming down the pipeline, what will be the fate of the Plateau and the place I call home?

Learn even more about Moutaintop Removal at ILoveMountains.org

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Rincon Recap

Crashing waves, light breezes and mild temps....This is the setting of Rincon, Puerto Rico in February. A Christmas gift, in the form of a plane ticket, materialized in mid-February and was perfect timing. Erin's good friend, Hannah Byrne, has family ties to a house located in Rincon. Rincon is known by many surfers for its beautiful swells and year round surfing. Over the course of our 12 day stint, I had the opportunity to surf, snorkel, climb, drop in on a yoga retreat and explore the western side of the island. I'm back in the lower 48 and already I'm thinking about ways of how to return the same time next year, only for a longer duration!

 View from the top of Hannah's house


 Sunset view from Hannah's house

 Erin demonstrating more ways to have fun on a stand up paddle board

Tristan, Hannah & Erin walking the Spanish Wall
Climbing at Caliche near Ciales

Name this flower?

 Erin at the Acro Yoga Workshop

Workshop instructors Kadri Kurgun and Adi Carter

Erin 'Crow pose' - Steps Beach 

 Sunset Surfer