Friday, June 12, 2009

Shooting, Flying, nictone

It's finally warm again here in Canmore. Yesterday was a perfect day, one of those days with blue skies, little fluffy clouds, yeah! I ended up shooting video on a local peak yesterday morning for a reality TV show. A few of the west-coast rigging crew organized a really cool swing sort of stunt, and I was climbing camerman. This meant hanging on the side of a cliff until my legs went numb while wrestling a Z1 into submission (those who shoot in the vertical world with that camera will know what "wrestling" means all too well). Lots of fun though, I really like shooting and have done more and more of it over the last five years. I'm now to the point where I can actually keep the camera focused, exposed and on settings for most of the time while hanging in some silly place. A sort of 5.10 cameraman. I really enjoy shooting, it's mentally challenging to do well, there are always problems, it's just a big puzzle to solve especially in tough environments.

The shoot location was up high on a local peak (can't talk too much about the shoot as they have had problems with paparazzi, no kidding), and happily no one seemed to notice or care too much that my paraglider was in the tail of the machine on the way up. The shoot wrapped at 3:30 or so, and the sky was perfect to fly into. The only problem was finding a decent place to launch--lots of big rocks, big scree, not ideal. But right on top of a the ridge I found this perfect little patch of walnut-sized scree, and was in the air within five minutes. Pulled the glider up, YANK!!!, no need to turn to gain a couple of thousand feet in under a minute, flew all the way home and landed in my local school yard an hour later. Flying sure is fun, that was my first real flight of the year. I flew my older Rebel, which is a rock-solid DHV 2 machine, a lot easier to fly than my normal comp gliders. I had no vario, GPS or even watch on to tell me how high I got, but plenty high--swirlies of cloud forming around me, peaks WAY down there high. The snowy peaks were stretched out all around, with the lush green valleys below. I love flying in the spring!

The only problem I've got right now is my right elbow. Yep, blew it out somehow again... I want bionic parts, I really do! I'm so determined to fix this problem that I've done something really radical--quit nicotine. Those who know me well will be laughing, but I've got a serious habit. It started with Skoal years ago, then I quit that and chewed a oil tanker's worth of Nicorette over the years interspersed with Norwegian Snuss. But mainly nic gum--let's just say that I'm hip too all the Nicorette deals out there. Of course occasionally I'd run out of the nic fit gum and get back on huge quantities of Norwegian Snuss or the lip-buster. Anyhow, nicotine delays wound healing and doesn't seem to help inflammation either, so if I'm going to beat this elbow hassle it's no more nicotine. It's been almost three weeks now. The elbow isn't getting better, but I am staying off the dang nicotine gum. It was either that or take up smoking to get off the gum, only half-joking. Whoever thought up the idea of selling nicotine-loaded gum to get off nicotine was brilliant.

Have a great weekend, another nice one here, out the door...

Monday, June 08, 2009

Another one down.

Sometime in the last few weeks Johnny Copp died in an avalanche in China, likely along with Micah Dash and Wade Johnson. Johnny had spent some time in the basement Hilton at our house, and I'd known him for a bunch of years. I'd only met Micah a few times and didn't know Wade, but I'm sorry to hear that all three are permanently out of the great game of life. They added to it in a hugely positive way.

Every spring I involuntarily think of the springs of 2005 and 2006; during those two springs seven friends died in clusters only a few months apart. None of them died of old age. The older I get the less sure I am of the glib responses and justifications I've always used for living a risky life. I still believe that for me it's the only path I can ride, but the odds become more and more obvious as I age. I recently wrote about the odds of dying while climbing in Explore magazine (can't find a direct link to that story on-line, will look later). My conclusion was that climbing and most mountain sports are a lot riskier than we like to think they are. Sport climbing on good rock is probably the only form of climbing one can expect to do for a lifetime and actually die from something other than climbing in the end. And even in the controlled "sport" environment almost every long-term sport climber I know has hit the ground at least once, always in a "fluke" accident. As I read the on-line forums about accidents and death I keep hearing the words "Fluke" and "Tragedy." Both these words are nonsense when applied to accidents in mountain sports.

For me I'm never going to use the word "tragedy" in reference to a climbing or mountain sports accident again. A tragedy is when a whole family gets killed by a drunk driver. A tragedy is when a little kid gets abused. A tragedy is when a 30-year old mother of two young kids gets cancer and dies. Dying while climbing, kayaking, paragliding, BASE jumping or any other form of outdoor recreation isn't a fucking tragedy, it's a clearly predictable result of doing the activity. If I or anyone goes out while doing our sports with a clear understanding of the game we're playing then let's have a drink, cheer for the life lived, and move on as best we can. I know it's not that simple as death leaves huge craters in life, but I think that's the only sane response I can give to the continued and voluntary mountain carnage I keep seeing year in and year out. To celebrate the rewards without clearly understanding the risks is not only bad math but blatant self-deception.

So here's to all my friends who went out with their boots on. And to my two friends currently in the hospital, you're goddamn lucky, and I'm glad you were.