Thursday, March 27, 2008

Slovenia: Final Post

There are people you meet that change your perspective, show you the way, open your mind and heart. Few people have really been heroes of mine, few have been real guiding lights. It has been a problem for me from a young age, I should have understood that others can teach me more than me just learning from trial and error – usually the latter. Fortunately for me, I have been able to spend some time with a true hero of mine, someone that I think has perfected life, living it the way I think it should be lived. For such a legend, I was really surprised by his openness, his willingness to share beta, photos, stories, beer and schnapps! Really a super person. Obviously he will remain nameless, so I don’t come off as a name dropper, that comes in the next paragraph.

How does one get to that point, a level of success and emotional comfort? Not sure. It is refreshing to spend time with people that are living life to the fullest, really pushing their limits and also the limits of a community. My experience has always been that the best people in any given field are usually the nicest and most fun to hang out with as they having nothing to prove anymore; examples like Tackle, Babanov, Gadd (not that I have hung out with him, just always willing to answer emails), Jay Smith, and most recently Anderle and Humar.

It must be nice to have nothing to prove to anyone, to have reached a level of comfort and satisfaction that to the outside world you can do no wrong.

I depart Slovenia with great appreciation for the natural resources, the friendliness of the people and the home-made schnapps! Off to new adventures for me- guiding and climbing in Nepal for the early spring, climbing in the Alaska Range with 3 different friends for late spring/early summer and finally a great adventure at the end of the summer with a few close friends in Pakistan.

None of this would be possible without the support from a few people and companies that have been very generous financially and more importantly offering tremendous amounts of friendship, helping with the large and small aspects of me living this vagabond lifestyle. Thanks very much!

I found this equation on the internet the other day, on an ice climbing thread, Risk = probability of success x severity of outcome. The greater the dream, the greater the risk I imagine. Luckily life never fits an equation.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Peace Sign Turns 50!

This is copied from

It started life as the emblem of the British anti-nuclear movement but it has become an international sign for peace, and arguably the most widely used protest symbol in the world. It has also been adapted, attacked and commercialised.

CND logo
It had its first public outing 50 years ago on a chilly Good Friday as thousands of British anti-nuclear campaigners set off from London's Trafalgar Square on a 50-mile march to the weapons factory at Aldermaston.

The demonstration had been organised by the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War (DAC) and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) joined in.

I drew myself: the representative of an individual in despair, with hands palm outstretched outwards and downwards in the manner of Goya's peasant before the firing squad
Gerald Holtom
Gerald Holtom, a designer and former World War II conscientious objector from West London, persuaded DAC that their aims would have greater impact if they were conveyed in a visual image. The "Ban the Bomb" symbol was born.

He considered using a Christian cross motif but, instead, settled on using letters from the semaphore - or flag-signalling - alphabet, super-imposing N (uclear) on D (isarmament) and placing them within a circle symbolising Earth.

The sign was quickly adopted by CND.

Holtom later explained that the design was "to mean a human being in despair" with arms outstretched downwards.

US peace symbol

American pacifist Ken Kolsbun, who corresponded with Mr Holtom until his death in 1985, says the designer came to regret the connotation of despair and had wanted the sign inverted.

New York rally 1967
Anti-Vietnam protesters at a rally in New York
"He thought peace was something that should be celebrated," says Mr Kolsbun, who has spent decades documenting the use of the sign. "In fact, the semaphore sign for U in 'unilateral' depicts flags pointing upwards. Mr Holtom was all for unilateral disarmament."

In a book to commemorate the symbol's 50th birthday, Mr Kolsbun charts how it was transported across the Atlantic and took on additional meanings for the Civil Rights movement, the counter-culture of the 1960s and 70s including the anti-Vietnam protests, and the environmental, women's and gay rights movements.

He also argues that groups opposed to those tendencies tried to use the symbol against them by distorting its message.

How the sign migrated to the US is explained in various ways. Some say it was brought back from the Aldermaston protest by civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, a black pacifist who had studied Gandhi's techniques of non-violence.


In Peace: The biography of a symbol, Mr Kolsbun describes how in just over a decade, the sign had been carried by civil rights "freedom" marchers, painted on psychedelic Volkswagens in San Francisco, and on the helmets of US soldiers on the ground in Vietnam.

The peace sign was adopted by the counter-culture movement
"The sign really got going over here during the 1960s and 70s, when it became associated with anti-Vietnam protests," he told the BBC News website.

As the combat escalated, he says, so did the anti-war protests and the presence of the symbol.

"This, of course, led some people to condemn it as a communist sign," says Mr Kolsbun. "There has always been a lot of misconception and disinformation about it."

As the sign became a badge of the burgeoning hippie movement of the late 1960s, the hippies' critics scornfully compared it to a chicken footprint, and drew parallels with the runic letter indicating death.

In 1970, the conservative John Birch Society published pamphlets likening the sign to a Satanic symbol of an upside-down, "broken" cross.

While it remained a key symbol of the counter-culture movement throughout the 1970s, it returned to its origins in the 1980s, when it became the banner of the international grassroots anti-nuclear movement.


The real power of the sign, its supporters say, is the reaction that it provokes - both from fans and from detractors.

Student protestor
In the UK, the sign is still associated with the Ban the Bomb movement
The South African government, for one, tried to ban its use by opponents of apartheid in 1973.

And, in 2006, a couple in suburban Denver found themselves embroiled in a dispute over their use of a giant peace sign as a Christmas wreath. The homeowners' association threatened them with a daily fine if they didn't remove it.

The association eventually backed down because of public pressure, but a member told a local newspaper it was clearly an "anti-Christ sign" with "a lot of negativity associated with it.".


US soldier
A US soldier patrols a village outside Baghdad

CND has never registered the sign as a trademark, arguing that "a symbol of freedom, it is free for all". It has now appeared on millions of mugs, T-shirts, rings and nose-studs. Bizarrely, it has also made an appearance on packets of Lucky Strike cigarettes.

A decade ago, the sign was chosen during a public vote to appear on a US commemorative postage stamp saluting the 1960s.

The symbol that helped define a generation of baby boomers may not be as widely used today as in the past. It is in danger of becoming to many people a retro fashion item, although the Iraq war has seen it re-emerge with something like its original purpose.

"It is still the dominant peace sign," argues Lawrence Wittner, an expert on peace movements at the University at Albany in New York.

"Part of that is down to its simplicity. It can be used as a shorthand for many causes because it can be reproduced really quickly - on walls on floors, which is important, in say, repressive societies."

And can its success be measured? Fifty years on, wars have continued to be waged and the list of nuclear-armed states has steadily lengthened.

But the cup is half-full as well as half empty.

"There are many ways in which nuclear war has been prevented," says Mr Wittner. "The hawks say that the reason nuclear weapons have not been used is because of the deterrent. But I believe popular pressure has restrained powers from using them and helped curbed the arms race.

And the symbol of and inspiration for that popular pressure, says Mr Wittner, is Mr Holtom's graphic.

Peace: A biography of a symbol is published by National Geographic Books in April.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Iditarod - Jeff Deeter Finishes 59th Place!

Jeff was part of the Four Winds group from last October trekking around the Khumbu. His Aunt, Anne, sent me an email to say, "Jeff was 59th out of the starting 96. 80 finished. About smack in the middle of the rookies. That seemed ok to me and then somebody explained that the whole Norwegian contingent of professionals are considered rookies because it's their first Iditarod. So in that light, he did excellently! We're all very proud of him!! Check the site and run some of the you-tube videos. This is all the more impressive when you check out his age!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Kozeljeva Smer III+ 450m UIAA 6/A1 - Attempt

Kozeljeva Smer on Begunjska Vrtaca I hear is a not often tried route. It is really cool though, steep sections that connect snow slabs, for 450m - conditions are kinda crap right now, so this was the best option. However, after the second "fixed" pin pulled on me and the rotting fixed wood block - protecting the #6 Camalot placement - seemed to disintegrate infront of my eyes I figured it was enough. Fun enough to go aid climbing out a big , well 4m, roof that was awkward as anything. It was warm as anything as well and the snow sliding from above my head - missing me by less and less every meter higher I climbed - also put a quick end to the day. Still, better than being a desk jockey .

Friday, March 14, 2008

Dean Potter Baselining

No not free basing, just high lining with no tether, just a B.A.S.E jumping rig. I got an email from Sender Films with a link to The New York Times website, video section, and holy cow, this is amazing, so thought I should share.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Everest closure

Everest closure - Taken from BBC online

Radio Free Asia reported that a number of monks were arrested on Monday after a march marking the 49th anniversary of a Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule.

The radio station, which is funded by the US government, said hundreds of monks took to the streets the following day to demand the release of their fellow monks - and were dispersed by tear gas.

Tibet map

Campaigners based outside China say protesters in Lhasa are being spurred on by rallies in other Chinese provinces and in India.

Matt Whitticase from the UK-based Free Tibet Campaign said protesters in Lhasa had been "emboldened" by the support they were receiving from across the world.

"Tibetans inside Tibet are aware that Tibetans in India are marching towards the Tibet border," he said.

Tibetan exiles in India began a march to the border with China on Monday - one of several events protesting against the Beijing Olympics and campaigning for an independent Tibet.

But Indian police arrested more than 100 of the exiles, saying their march breached an agreement between Delhi and the Tibet's India-based government-in-exile, headed by the province's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

A surge in Tibetan activism could become a security headache for China in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics, correspondents say.

This week the Chinese leadership closed the north face of Mount Everest until after the Olympic Flame ascends in May, for fear that activists might use it to stage photogenic Tibet-related protests.

Brotherhood of the Mohawk

Andreas Spak, ( 31 years old, from Sweden originally, now living in Rjukan is one of the main proponents of the big ice in Norway and sometimes crazy world of underground ice in Sweden. On my recent trip to Norway I was lucky enough to spend time hanging out and being employed by Andreas’ company (co owned with Seth Hobby) Northern Alpine Guides (, discovering that we had similar tastes in music and attitudes towards the futility of climbing.

Andreas is a big believer, in an ego driven community, that nothing is special about a good climber, “it just means they practiced more”, and that paragliding – his new passion – is way more fun. Outspoken about, well, a lot of things climbing and steadfast about how climbers are not true athletes, forgoing serious training to just hang out and be seen as a part of a community, and that all semipro climbers should just get an office job. Andreas has climbed the hardest and longest ice climbs currently done in Norway, explored the very old and scary underground ice in Sweden and partnered some of the best known climbers anywhere. I asked Andreas a few questions, promising him fame as the first person to be interviewed in my new blog series: Climbers I wish I could Be: Upclose and Unpersonal. Sounds official huh? Let's hope he is joking about the last question! Photos of Andreas courtesy of and me with Uli Biaho behind taken June 2007 Karakoram.

1.You grew up in Sweden and moved to Norway because of the climbing, what was so special about climbing for you?

A) Good question, don't know actually. I started when I was 16 I think, but quickly found out that Sweden is not a suitable country for ice climbing (this was before I knew about the ice mines), so decided to move to a location where I could climb every day.

2.What have been the two best days of ice climbing for you?

A) Tough one. Hmm, I guess the two first days of our ice mine trip (though we didn't actually climb those days) because of the amazing scenery and excitement of being at an extremely cool place.

3. Why do you enjoy paragliding to ice climbing more right now?

A) I just recently started paragliding and every time I go out flying I learn a lot. When you do something for the first time, or when you're at a starting fase of something, you get a different (call it innocent, humble, better?) view of it, than the expert have. Being a beginner is cool, no matter what you do, and it's inspiring.

Ice climbing for me now is more about finding cool places to climb and hanging out with friends. I still have a few really really cool projects on ice here in Norway, wild stuff that is rarely in condition. Waiting for it...

4. You recently traveled to the Paragliding World Championships in Mexico, did you take part, was there a difference in the community, Climbers vs. paragliders?

A) It actually was a pre world cup and I didn't participate in the comps. Paragliding is a more complex activity then climbing I'd say. Not necessarily more difficult or more dangerous, just harder to figure things out, resulting in a less steep learning curve (if done safely that is). Being down there in Mexico, hanging out with some of the best pilots in the world, was extremely educational.

The most significant difference I noticed, between climbers and pilots, was fitness. Paragliding can be a very physical sport, but doesn't have to be...

5. Was ice climbing in a cave the weirdest thing you have done, in climbing?

A) It wasn't caves, but old iron mines. Without doubt the coolest thing I've done with ice tools. We could have gone to the west coast of Norway again, or put up some mixed route in Canada, but that would have been repeating what I've been doing for years. It would have been just another route, just another piece of vertical ice or steep rock. In the ice mines we found all the ice any climber in the world can wish for, in an extremely cool environment.

6. Who have been your best partners and why?

A) My wife, for obvious reasons, but she doesn't climb much anymore. I like climbing with friends of course, but on the other hand, I've met most of my friends (if not all of them) through climbing or related activities such as drinking beer.

7. Your Punk band, Misconduct, is it still going? What instrument do you play? Is there a website for people to check it out? What music are you listening to now?

A) I played in many different bands before I got obsessed by climbing (way back). My sister's boyfriend Fredrik AKA “Fred Riot” Olsson (Sweden) started one of the first Straight Edge Hardcore (call it punk if you wish) bands in Sweden, named Misconduct ( I've been touring with them for a few years, playing guitar, but because I live in a different country and my sport-related, healthy activities takes up most of my time now, I don't play very frequently anymore. I'm more of a guest artist these days.

I listen to a lot of stuff, most recent download was some albums by the jazz bass player Jaco Pastorius. Mostly I listen to old school punk and HC, like “Sick of it All”, “Minor Threat”, “Gorilla Biscuits”, “Youth of Today”, that stuff.

8. Does “Punk” and all of its “anarchistic youth energy” influence your climbing?

A) Punk is a way of life, and attitude. I don't think you have to be a Black Flag fan with shaved head to have that attitude, but it helps. To me, climbing is all about freedom. I want a world with less rules and regulations, less methods for how to do things.

9. What do you think is the future of ice climbing in Norway? Do you think the sport climbers that dominate the comp scene will have the balls to step up to the plate and climb the biggest and scariest stuff?

A) Personally I think ice climbing as a comp sport is dead boring. They have been giving the Ice World Cup a good try now for the last 5 years or so, trying to prove who's the best ice climber (yeah right), but to me it doesn't look like it's going to survive for much longer. I have never fully understood the urge that some people have to institutionalize climbing, having federations regulating it, all that bullshit. The climbers that will push harder in the future, in Norway and other places, will be the ones that have the strongest motivation, like it always has been.

10. Will you give me a job at Northern Alpine Guides next winter so I can get a chance to live and climb some cool ice in Norway?

A) We want the best guys, so you're welcome on the team Mr Zangrilli!

12. Any question you wished I asked?

A) Yes, as a matter of fact there is. “Mr. Spak, what is your contribution to the climbing community?”

A) Being a computer programmer, I have for long seen the need for a more sophisticated and structured way to get rid of stupid route names. The idea is to give every new route a 10 digit hexadecimal code as the name of the route. For example, 84993a9cce. It would also be convenient to add the climbers that did the first ascent to that code, so every climber should be registered at UIAA with a personal id, for example 1004300702. It should also include stuff like grade, pitches and location

An example:

84993a9cce (route name)

1004300702 (climber id)

5 (grade, skipped the WI because it's not a hex)

3 (# of pitches)

65949939302333 (location, N and W skipped in UTM format)

So, a future route name could be something like this:


Thursday, March 06, 2008

Norway Post #2: Hydnesfossen, The Mirror Project, Nobel & The Paper Clip

I did manage to see some impressive ice in Norway as the temps began to drop the last couple of days I was there, but conditions remained miserable. Hydnefossen in a WI5/6, depending on the line you take, when in good conditions and a WI horror show when not psyched to deal with bullet hard ice in -11C temps. Seth and I went up to it on Sunday with strong winds blowing snow over the cornice, then a bit of the cornice broke free. We tucked tails and ran away. The next day we returned and found a trio of Italians had rested the day before (smart) and had utilized our trail from the day before and were having a very frustrating time on the brittle ice. We suited up and Seth started up the first pitch, unlike the Italians we were not so desperate to climb ice, and after a half rope length Seth rapped off, our turn to be smart. The Italians might still be there is was such slow going, but hats off to them for the tenacity.
I enjoyed Norway so much, and am very grateful to a few people, first Seth Hobby, great to tour around with him, if you are looking for a North West(US), Nepal, Alaska or Norway guide look him up. Andreas Spak, Seth's Partner at Northern Alpine Guides ( based in Rjukan, thanks so much for the hospitality (Scotch) and the fun evenings out and at his and Tonia's flat. Martin and Amel and the kids, thanks so much for letting me stay!!! The Hemsedal house folks, thanks for the place to crash and the great party on Sat night, should have gone out with you guys instead of going to bed to go climbing the next morning! Oh well, live and learn. Also thanks to Maren (and your parents for a great dinner on Tuesday!) and Elizabeth for letting me crash on the couch in Oslo!
I hope that next winter Northern Alpine Guides will have me back as a guest guide so I can return and climb some fun stuff. Also a few other interesting things about Norway:
The Mirror Project - Martin's project to put some sunlight into Rjukan, check it out at, and a little bit of trivia, the paperclip, invented by Norwegian inventor Johan Vaaler in 1899.
About the photos: Hydnefossen at sunrise, Seth P1, the Italians, and the mirrow project.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Norway Post #1: Unbelievable!

The unthinkable happened, after 10 years of dreaming of a climbing trip to Norway, I arrived during the warmest winter in 100 years. Seth had emailed me 2 days before I arrived and asked if I was sure I still wanted to come. Thus began our "Audacity of hope tour". Grim is the only description of the next 10 days, warm temps - even hitting 9C - and continual rain. Upon arriving in Rjukan, the depression started to set in. There was very little ice and lots of climbers wondering how they could muscle in on 20 meter pitches of grade 3. Some mayhem ensued. Still we were of the "audacity" tour and took our tools for a walk, going to look at classics like Lipton - see post #2 for photos - and watched the water pour off the lip of where a curtain once hung.
Luckily we found something to do while it rained, guiding for Northern Alpine Guides. Super clients and a good way to ensure I didn't go mad in the rain. This past weekend we went to Hemsedal, which is a great ski town, stayed with some really fun people and brought back the hope as the temps dropped a bit - reaching -11C on Sunday morning, but wind and fresh snow prevented us from climbing Hynefossen, as spindrift and collapsing cornices kept us from anything too stupid. About the photos: the price of a bacon burger at the gas station - yes this is an expensive country, me two screwing a Rjukan WI 5(?), heading into the Upper gorge with clients, and lunch with utterly soaked and dyed hands. Too many emails to deal with now so will post more later.