The MountainWorld Blog by Jake Norton

The MountainWorld Blog by Jake Norton


I didn’t know him well. In fact,…

I didn’t know him well. In fact, I only met him once and spoke with him on the phone a few times. But those brief interactions – and the many Legends and stories I had heard years prior – showed me that Dick Pownall, who sadly passed away two weeks ago, was yet another true hero of the golden age of mountaineering. A gifted and strong climber, Dick made impressive ascents early on, including the Pownall-Gilkey on the Grand Teton in 1948 and, the following year, Pownall unlocked the Pendulum Pitch high on the North Face of the Grand Teton. It was undoubtedly ascents like these that earned Dick a spot on the 1963 American Mount Everest Expedition. With his strength and skill, Dick had a good chance of being on the first summit team, but in a tragic turn, Dick narrowly escaped death early on in the expedition when a massive collapse in the Khumbu Icefall – roughly where this photo was taken in 2009 – took the life of his good friend, Jake Breitenbach; Dick was buried waist deep for 30+ minutes. Dick continued to climb on the expedition and was a huge asset to the team, but did not reach the summit. Off the mountain, Dick was a soft-spoken man who, despite his accomplishments, didn’t boast or brag: he taught and mentored and gave back to his community in spades. Dick is one of many of a magical age of mountaineering who I admire hugely, knew a little, and wish I had spent more time with. He will be missed. #liveyouradventure #passingofalegend #RIP #AMEE1963

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On January 4, please tune into @nova_pbs…

On January 4, please tune into @nova_pbs to catch the latest film by @clarkliesl documenting the science, scientists, and climbers who have – over the past decade – unearthed stunning artifacts and human remains from some of the earliest settlers in the high Himalaya. I was lucky enough to help film on 2 of these expeditions, and can say with certainty the story, the science, the history, and the mystery is something you don’t want to miss. So tune in! A link is in my profile. | In this photo, Mark Aldenderfer picks through dust and debris in Rhi Rhi Cave near Chuksang, Upper Mustang, Nepal. #liveyouradventure

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The daily news bombards with stories that…

The daily news bombards with stories that assault the senses. Death and horror, climate change and extinctions, shootings and hackings and depravity of all sorts. Social media, once a welcome respite from the intensity and vitriol of life, replete instead with vapid food pics and cat videos, is now chock full of anger and fear as well. At times I must shrink away – not because I don’t want to talk, learn, and engage, but because I must retreat to recharge and reconnect with the humanity that exists in great quantity and number, but seldom makes the front page or the top of the screen. I turn to the mountains and the people who live amongst them who have – silently and vocally – taught me so much about this world. And, I turn to those who’ve inspired me from near and far, through words and actions and deeds and philosophies. It is words like this, by the Buddha, that give me hope, and make me hope more of the world will embrace them: “Radiate boundless love towards the entire world — above, below, and across — unhindered, without ill will, without enmity.” | In this photo, an elderly woman moves her mala, or prayer beads, as she chants Buddhist prayers outside Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal. #liveyouradventure

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In the shadow of Shivling and the…

In the shadow of Shivling and the Bhagirathi peaks, high on the Gangotri Glacier, lives a silent sadhu, Muni Baba. It’s a stunningly beautiful place, the source of the mighty Ganges River, and a place of reverence and respect for the power of the mountain environment and the bounty mountains bring to us all. Muni Baba lives here for this very reason: to act out his faith in Mother Ganges and the deities who brought her from the heavens to earth. But he, like so many, is concerned. He knows this landscape intimately, and knows it is changing. The Gangotri is receding fast, weather is changing and becoming increasingly frenetic and unpredictable, and dams and development are wreaking havoc on this sacred landscape and all within it. And, it’s not just happening in India; from the Rwenzori to Rolwaling, Everest to Ethiopia, the Appalachians to the Antarctic, mountains – and all they shelter and provide – are under increased threat from climate change, unchecked development and resource extraction, and more. Today, December 11, is International Mountain Day… Please join me in celebrating all the mountains give us, in recognizing the threats they, their people, and their environments face, and in urging our governments to protect them here and abroad. Read more at the link in my profile. #MountainPartnership #liveyouradventure #IMD #mountainsmatter

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There are so many great organizations to…

There are so many great organizations to support not only on #GivingTuesday, but everyday. My friends at @dzifoundation, @herfarmnepal and @thejuniperfund are changing lives in Nepal everyday. As mentioned, @big_city_mountaineers is transforming kids through the experience of wilderness, while @sgalpin74 does a similar thing with Afghan girls at @mtn2mtn. But, I wanted to mention a story I shared back in July of Buliyo Euta, the snow leopard we tried to save in Upper Mustang. He sadly did not make it, despite the hard work and courage of many. But, his memory need not be lost; Buliyo Euta can live on through your donation today to help preserve and protect snow leopards, their habitat, and the people who live amongst them. Please consider a donation today to the groups mentioned above, and to these who work to help beautiful cats like Buliyo Euta: @snowleopardtrust has a $60,000 match going on today only; @snowleopardconservancy who does great work in Nepal and elsewhere; and Brad Clement’s #pangjefoundation ( Whatever you do, please dig deep and give today – our world needs it more than ever. | This short video shows one of the last views I had of Buliyo Euta, showing he was very much alive when he left us at Chuksang, Upper Mustang, for Jomsom and – we hope – life saving treatment. He died the next morning and was cremated shortly thereafter. #liveyouradventure #snowleopard #buliyoeuta @clarkliesl @finn_clark @mreverest7x

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The mountains have been my wellspring of…

The mountains have been my wellspring of passion and energy since I was 12 years old and made my first real climbs, on Washington’s Mt. Rainier and – as seen here – on peaks in the French Alps. Those early experiences of success and struggle, joy and pain, informed my life in ways I could never have predicted. On a pragmatic level, my passion for climbing and the outdoors has enabled me to build a career in climbing, and to do what I love to do (and sometimes get paid for it). But, on a more profound level, the outdoors have given me perspective on life and the world I know I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. The mountains have taught me about my abilities and my inabilities, about the joy of struggling for that which seems unattainable, about how great it feels to reach a summit, and how much more important it often is to fail and come back to try again. The mountains have also opened the world to me and it’s stunning variety of colors and cultures, peoples and places. I firmly believe in the transformative power of the outdoors, and I know firsthand how life-changing outdoor experiences can be for kids. I want to see more kids – especially those for whom the outdoor experience is often out of reach – get those experiences, so I’m a proud supporter of @big_city_mountaineers. On this #GivingTuesday, I ask you to pay the outdoors forward, and make a generous donation to #BigCityMountaineers today! #liveyouradventure

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Sending big happy birthday wishes to @conrad_anker…

Sending big happy birthday wishes to @conrad_anker today. I’ve had the honor and pleasure to be on #Everest with Conrad 3 times (1999 on our first expedition, 2003 for the wacky Global Extremes reality TV series, and 2012 when we were both trying to climb the West Ridge), I’ve gazed up – with wonder and a bit of terror – at the route he pioneered up the Shark’s Fin on Meru with @jimmy_chin and @renan_ozturk, and watched with deep admiration as he’s leveraged his clout and notoriety to make our world a better place through @khumbuclimbingcenter and more. He’s an astonishing, visionary alpinist, a dedicated steward of our world, and a great guy. Happy Birthday, Conrad, and here’s to many more trips around the sun! | In this photo, Conrad waits for the first rays of sun to bring some warmth to the frigid world of 28,000 feet on the Northeast Ridge of Everest on May 17, 1999. #liveyouradventure #happybirthday

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They came from all over. The room…

They came from all over. The room was teeming with people, sharing a meal together even though they had just met, smiling and laughing and sharing the bounty of humanity that unites us all (whether we choose to embrace it or not). Wende and I sat at a table with a newly arrived refugee from Ethiopia and his 6 year old daughter. He fled persecution in his homeland 14 years ago, and lived in the destitute UNHCR camp of Dadaab until coming to America; the tent city in northern Kenya was the only home his daughter knew until 1 month ago. Joining us at the table was another woman, another refugee, hailing from Eritrea, a long time enemy of Ethiopia, each nation jointly responsible for the suffering of each other’s people. But, here these two met not as enemies, but as new fast friends with a shared history and an intertwined future.
Around the room, the horrors of war and persecution and the abject nastiness of humans was washed away by a tide of togetherness – fueled by compassion – that brought smiles to the faces of men, women, and children from Syria, the DRC, Rwanda, Iraq, Yemen, Palestine, and countless other places across the globe. Also there, sharing and loving and laughing as we were, were hundreds of Americans of all ilks – white and brown and black, Greek Orthodox and Catholic and Muslim, agnostic and atheist – welcoming the newest Americans to a great place and people and country.
Through the joy, however, invaded sad thoughts for me… thoughts of the profound injustices done by humans to humans worldwide. Thoughts of ignorant and spineless white nationalists giving Nazi salutes in our nation’s capital two days prior. Thoughts of the brutality and hypocrisy of the fighting against protesters at Standing Rock. Thoughts of our nation’s deep and sickening battle with internal forces of racism and hatred and selfish actions. Thoughts of Selma and Standing Rock, Khartoum and Kigali, the Killing Fields and the concentration camps and the internment camps… [more in comments] #thanksgiving #liveyouradventure

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My great uncle, Roe Duke Watson, served…

My great uncle, Roe Duke Watson, served on the front lines in World War II. He was gravely wounded in 1945 after shrapnel from a 170mm German howitzer shell shredded his abdomen on Mount della Torraccia while serving in the 87th Mountain Regiment (10th Mountain Division). He was a great man, a hero of mine in myriad ways. On this Veteran’s Day, I salute all the men and women who have served and do serve our country and our world, and I honor deeply the sacrifices they make to uphold the values and rights of us all, inside the USA and outside. Uncle Duke was one of many who put it all on the line to protect the lives of those who needed help, to defeat fascism and racism and hatred and uphold fundamental human rights and freedoms. To all the veterans, thank you for your service to our country and to our world, and to the humanity which unites us all. #liveyouradventure #veteransday #10thmountaindivision #hero

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What do we do now? WTF? This…

What do we do now? WTF?
This thought, and many more, have been ringing in my ears for the last couple days. I couldn’t think straight today, not because of Hillary losing, but because of him winning. Fear and anger have clouded my brain, racing thoughts of all the good that could be undone in 4 short years.
I’m sure I’m not alone.
But, optimism has slowly crept back in… optimism tempered with empathy, compassion, and resolve.
First off, empathy and compassion for those who have suffered so much in recent decades they’ve thrown their hat in Trump who’s spoon-fed them lies and preyed upon underlying resentments and fear. Empathy because while some are indeed seething racists and misanthropes I struggle to feel much of anything but anger for (I know, not very Christian or Buddhist of me, but I’m neither), there are many Trump supporters who truly have been left behind, abandoned by Democrats and Republicans alike, cast adrift by changing economics, shifting demographics, abysmal education, and a system and society which did little to help. They deserve our empathy, our compassion, for it is their very abandonment by our system which spawned the festering anger and contagious fear which in turn gave rise to Trump.
I have empathty and compassion equally – if not more so – for those who stand to suffer most under Trump. Blacks, Latinos, LGBTQ, immigrants, refugees, and women all stand to suffer greatly under Trump. If his policy threats are true, rights will be stolen in the name of the Constitution; many will suffer in the name of greatness; hatred, fear, and homogeneity will be the driving presumptions.
And, finally, I’m committed to have resolve. I’m not giving in to fear. I won’t let the power of anger and hate taint my perspective. I resolve to stay focused on that which I know is right and true. I resolve to defend the rights of all – black or white, straight or gay, rich or poor, human or animal – and believe first in the goodness of my fellow humans. I resolve to see the other side and the other perspective, and know it’s OK to agree to disagree… and then work toward a common solution. I resolve to defend the truth of [continued in comments]

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