The MountainWorld Blog by Jake Norton

The MountainWorld Blog by Jake Norton


18 years ago today, my teammates and…

18 years ago today, my teammates and I scrambled about in the forlorn corners of the North Face of Mount Everest. I don’t think any of us harboured particularly high hopes that we’d find anything of great significance; we were there to find traces of a mystery from 75 years before. But as the twisted threads of luck and fate would have it, we found on that solemn morning the remains of George Mallory, one of the great and visionary climbers of his era, and of all time. Fast forward to today, and our community is mourning the loss of yet another visionary, Ueli Steck. I didn’t know Ueli well; we shared but a few cups of tea, lots of conversation, and laughter, on Everest in 2012. But I do now that his loss is much more then simply the loss of a climbing genius. Though their tools and techniques were far different – separated as they were by the passage of time and development of sport and ability – the underlying drive, motive, and passion was shared. When stripped of the pressures and perspectives of the press, and the statements and structures of sponsors, Ueli – like Mallory – I think was propelled by a true and profound love of the mountains, of the portal to self discovery and reflection they allow and, at times, force upon us. Their goals, while risky, dramatic, and tragic, we’re motivated by an underlying desire to push the boundaries of the possible to greater understand their – and our – role and place in this world. Like Mallory before him, Ueli’s abrupt and tragic passing will be looked upon by many as simply the logical outcome of a life on the edge. Perhaps so. But, I think there’s more to it than that. Most of the climbers I know, and choose to be with, do not embrace risk simply for the adrenaline, simply to tempt death. Underneath the seeming casualness, the at times cavalier approach to real consequence, is a deeper philosophy and process of thought which doesn’t make for good headlines and translates only seldom into the press and papers, but one of wanting to know where the edge of possibility lies, what this … MORE IN COMMENTS

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I’m honored to have photography featured in…

I’m honored to have photography featured in in Edwards Art Gallery at @holdernesstoday through May 28. I worked with my first photography teacher, Franz Nicolay, to curate an eclectic collection of 30 images from my varied travels, running the gamut from Mount #Everest to #Rwanda, snow leopards to elephants, monks to monuments, and more. It was at #Holderness School years ago that I first fell in love with photography as a tool to not simply capture a moment in time, but to also broaden horizons, tell stories, and delve deeper into a given experience, and it’s truly an honor to have my first real exhibit at the school. Hope to see some of you at the opening tomorrow night! | This photo, from my 2013 trip down the #Ganges with @pedromcbride and @davidcmorton, shows the peaks of the Garhwal Himalaya peeking from behind monsoon storm clouds that had just pummeled us with 3 feet of snow. #liveyouradventure

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Last night, I had the opportunity to…

Last night, I had the opportunity to share the story of the Ganges River with the amazing community here at @proctoracademy. It’s a tough story to tell, not so much because of its vast intricacy, detail, and complexity, but more because of its seeming hopelessness. As @pedromcbride, @davidcmorton, and I made our way source to sea in 2013, and later as Pete and I put the film together, we were constantly faced with the bleakness of the subject. As the Ganges weaves its way some 1,600 miles from the Gangotri to Ganga Sagar, it’s assaulted at every turn: she receives an estimated 1 billion liters of untreated, raw sewage per day…a drop in the bucket compared to the unknown quantities of heavy metals, toxic chemicals, and other industrial effluents discharged into the river daily. Ma Ganga is dammed and diverted, harnessed and harassed from her very start to the point where she kisses the sea at the Bay of Bengal, her banks tattered, unique species like the susu – or Ganges River Dolphin – and the golden mahseer are threatened with extinction, and receding glaciers and a rapidly changing climate are constant threats to the river’s very existence. But, despite all that, within the complex weft and warp of the Ganges story, there is hope. It lies in the passions of environmental crusaders like Sunita Narain, who work to figure out Indian-specific solutions to Indian water problems, rather than square-peg-round-holing foreign solutions to fit. Hope lies in the faithful dedication of religious leaders like @pujyaswamiji at @parmarthniketan who, through @gangaaction, are bringing the Hindu community to action on issues facing India’s rivers. And, it lies in heroic moves like that taken 3 weeks ago by the Indian state of Uttarakhand in granting human status to both the Yamuna and Ganges Rivers. But, mostly, my hope lies in the hearts of people like this man, Raj, a humble boat pilot who took us to the sacred confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna, and Saraswati Rivers at Allahabad (Prayag). Raj is not a pundit or politician; he’s but a simple man with a dependence on, and passion and reverence for, the Ganges. [continued below]

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Throughout the middle hills of Nepal, the…

Throughout the middle hills of Nepal, the Tamang are one of the dominant ethnic groups. They’re also one of the poorest and most vulnerable groups, as shown by the stats from the 2015 earthquake, when an estimated 1/3 of all deaths and 2/3 of all structure loss was Tamang, while they make up just 5.6% of the national population. Gre, a small village in Rasuwa, is representative of many Tamang villages, with nearly every structure in town crumbling in the earthquake, and almost none having been rebuilt. Yet the people there remain steadfastly optimistic, focused more on getting through today and welcoming tomorrow rather than lamenting the woes of yesterday. | Here, a traditionally-dressed Tamang woman poses for a quick photo in between plowing her potato fields. She wears a traditional Tamang hat and large, plate earrings. #liveyouradventure

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To the west of Langtang, across the…

To the west of Langtang, across the Trisuli River and in the shadow of the Ganesh Himalaya, lies one of the more beautiful villages I’ve visited in Nepal. Lying in a quiet valley flanked by towering pines and vivid rhododendrons, Gre is a tiny hamlet of a few hundred souls. It’s land bears the quintessential contours of centuries of terracing: the only real means of farming in a world of extreme vertical relief. While it’s rich in nature, it remains impoverished in many ways. The cataclysmic 2015 earthquake dealt a harrowing blow to the village, leveling nearly every house and raining landslides all around. Two years later, only a couple homes have been rebuilt; unlike the valley of Langtang or the near-but-far villages of Gatlang, Gre enjoys little tourist activity and the critical dollars and visibility they bring. We spent a few days there this week, visiting old friends and making new ones, and laying plans to bring change to the village and its people. | In this photo, the children of friends Kancha, Minjou, Dindou, and Nima Tamang sit on the floor of Kancha’s house as we share stories of 1992, laugh, and play. #liveyouradventure @wendebvalentine #pixel #googlepixel

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Sometimes a little comfort food from home,…

Sometimes a little comfort food from home, cooked over an open hearth, is just what the doctor ordered for a 7 and 9 year old who rallied through a long-but-beautiful day. Lila and Ryrie logged about 4,500 vertical feet today, through rhododendron forests blooming red, past skittish ghoral scampering up cliffs, and through Tamang and Sherpa villages clinging to impossibly steep hillsides. A little Annie’s was a welcome treat and reward upon reaching Sherpagaon, our home for the night. #liveyouradventure #tamangheritagetrail

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Another shot of an absolutely beautiful sunrise…

Another shot of an absolutely beautiful sunrise near the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro one week ago. While not the world’s most technically difficult climb, summit day on Kilimanjaro entails 4,000 vertical feet of climbing to the 19,340 foot summit… certainly nothing to be scoffed at. We had 100% success on the climb this year, and also raised a lot of money to support education in Tanzania. If you’d still like to make a contribution and help support @africaschoolassistanceproject, please see the link in my profile.#liveyouradventure @kristenrcavallo @cplating @_mattcavallo #bestmountainartists #everydayafrica #Tanzania

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A few days ago, as my team…

A few days ago, as my team prepared for the long summit day on Kilimanjaro, I shared with them a favorite quote from legendary climber and explorer Sir Francis Younghusband. Those who know me know that the summit is, for me, not a big motivator in any climb; it’s part and parcel of the whole, a goal to set the stage for the journey, but not an end in itself – just one point in time. That said, summits do have their draw, their allure, and – fittingly – their rewards. Fortunately, #Kilimanjaro tends to reward effort generously with radiant color across panoramic vistas, and she came through once again for my team this week, giving a “choice gift” for those who struggled mightily, fought hard, and reached the top: “To those who have struggled with them, the mountains reveal beauties that they will not disclose to those who make no effort. That is the reward the mountains give to effort. And it is because they have so much to give and give it so lavishly to those who will wrestle with them that men love the mountains and go back to them again and again. The mountains reserve their choice gifts for those who stand upon their summits.” @kristenrcavallo @cplating @_mattcavallo #liveyouradventure

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Our team enjoyed another great day today….

Our team enjoyed another great day today. Starting from Mawenzi Tarn, we trekked West across the “Lunar Plateau” and into the magical rock formations to School Hut which, at 15,400 feet, is our home for the next 8 hours. Here we’ll rest, hydrate, pretend to sleep (but mostly rest), and then, at about 12:30am, we’ll begin the long hike to the summit of #Kilimanjaro! It’s about 8 hours from here to the top, and watching this team for the past 5 days, I have no doubt we’ll all stand together on the Roof of Africa! I’ll send updates when possible to Facebook, Twitter, my inReach Mapshare, and here if possible. If you can, please help us reach our goal of $19,340 ($1/foot) for @africaschoolassistanceproject and their community-changing work in rural Tanzania; visit the link in my profile to make a donation today. #liveyouradventure @kristenrcavallo @cplating @_mattcavallo #pixel #shotbypixel #googlepixel

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Early morning sunrise over Mawenzi Tarn with…

Early morning sunrise over Mawenzi Tarn with Mount Mawenzi rising behind. Not a bad way to start the day! Our team is doing great, with an acclimatization day today at this camp, then to high camp tomorrow, and summit in Friday morning. All is great! #liveyouradventure @kristenrcavallo @cplating @_mattcavallo #pixel #shotbypixel

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