Friday, December 28, 2012

A Unique Camera and a Unique Vision - Ian Ruhter

I came across this video about photographer Ian Ruhter's work on Chase Jarvis's Blog.  I find Ruhter's vision inspiring, not to mention the melding of working with one's hands, artistic vision, photography and stunning natural landscapes.

Link to Snow Fall: Avalanche at Tunnel Creek article from the New York Times

If you haven't already seen the Snow Fall article from the New York Times about an avalanche accident at Tunnel Creek in Washington, I encourage you to follow the link below.

There is a lot here to consider.  From a backcountry skier's perspective, it is a glimpse of snow science, the often inexplicable drive for fresh snow, the benefit and danger group mentality, and the void in leadership that can occur when a collection of people operate as individuals.  It is also a case study for any one who works with young people in the outdoors.  I think I am only scratching the surface here and intend to do some additional research and see how this can be implemented in some of the courses I teach.

From a journalist's perspective or an artistic perspective, I also think that it is a fine example of how multi-media can be integrated to serve to inform, inspire and to also simply tell a story.  The story is terrifying.  The way that the story is told is beautiful.  It is one that is truly worth telling.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Greens, Blues and Muddy Shoes

Rain is rare in Southern California.  It is nothing short of a blessing.  Perhaps owing to my agricultural roots, I feel a sense of release when we finally get a bit of precipitation.  This has certainly been the case over the past few weeks: nothing too heavy, but steady enough and prolonged so that is soaks into the soil.  I delight in the subtle changes to the native vegetation and wildlife.  It almost seems as life emerges from a drought "hibernation" and begins to extend and ramble after a period of contraction.  I am most surprised in the changes to the north sides of hills and boulders.  Where lichen has been brown for most of the year, it becomes vibrant green almost instantly. The dense chaparral charades as a temperate rain forest (artistic license here) and small pools accumulate in the depressions atop the boulders I love to climb.

The blues and greens remind me of Galen Rowell's work with Fuji Velvia.  I constantly marvel at the way he used graduated filters and slide film to represent tremendous tonal range in photographs of the California landscape.  I also learned an appreciation of running with a camera from his columns in Outdoor Photographer.  It seems contradictory to run and carry a camera, but in fact I feel that by running I am interacting with the landscape that I am also working to communicate and share. Today, I ran the trails, with a bit of slip-sliding, carrying a tripod and hip-pack to explore the blues and greens.  I returned home high on endorphins with a handful of images and some very muddy shoes.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Traverses: Rainy Day Diversions

I don't think I'll ever get used to climbing on painted over rocks, but the glue-up rock traverse under a local bridge is a little like performance art. It might be going a bit far, but sometimes I think that by climbing on the rocks glued to the concrete,  one is expressing a form of art as well as interacting with art, albeit in a very transitory way.

 When I first started gluing rocks up on the concrete below the bridge on McAndrew Road, there was a total absence of graffiti - just plain grey concrete. Now it is not unlike a back alley in an urban area. The funny thing is that this location is only 1/3 of a mile from the Los Padres National Forest (which stretches on and on and on . . .) yet it has a distinctly urban flavor: broken glass, various cast-offs accumulated in the stream gully, remnants of fires (from burning the cast-offs) and the artwork. It sounds pretty grim, but it is actually a beautiful spot. One side of the bridge frames a view of Nordhoff Peak through eucalyptus, while the other side looks upon the ridge above the east end of Ojai.

As far as traverses are concerned, glue-ups are a fun way to get in a lot of climbing when there isn't much rock available, or dry rock as in my case. I first became aware of the potential for glue-ups when I was a teenager and learned of the Ventura River traverses (now long gone) off of Main Street in Ventura.  When I moved to Ojai, I made an original traverse under the McAndrew Bridge, but it has undergone many variations as holds broke (the rocks are always weaker than the glue), new rocks were added and the whole thing gets painted over repeatedly. I really enjoy the training that long traverses offer and am always looking for new ones (some of my local favorites are at Stoney Point and in Malibu State Park, as well as Gunsmoke in Joshua Tree). One can tailor a training session for endurance, metabolic endurance, or incorporate it into a circuit of running, climbing, and strength training. My favorite traverses are always those that are in a natural location and on good rock, but when it rains and the only dry place outside is under a bridge, I'll happily run down to the McAndrew Grotto and do laps.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Giving Thanks . . . on the Rocks

Bouldering at Stoney Point in the San Fernando Valley with students and friends from The Thacher School on the day before Thanksgiving.  A perfect afternoon!  Thanks Alex, Danielle, Katie, Jackson and Corey!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

5-day Mountain Bike Endurance Fest in the Los Padres

On Wednesday I returned home from a 6-day 105 mile mountain bike trip through the Los Padres National Forest with 5 students and an alumnus of the Thacher School (it was part of our bi-annual week-long camping trips) in which we rode from Sisar Canyon in Ojai to Romero Canyon in Santa Barbara. The trip was of epic proportions, with over 33,000 ft of elevation gain through remarkably rugged, desolate, beautiful, awe inspiring and lung-busting terrain. It was one of the best adventures and most intimate experiences of our local backcountry that I have ever had. I am especially proud of the students on the trip, but want to thank Weston Richardson, Thacher alum, for his companionship and wonderful energy. In addition, my twin brother, Kevin, helped us out hugely by riding into the Santa Ynez with a spare wheel to replace a student's broken wheel -- which means he rode 35 backcountry miles in the early AM before returning to the office by the afternoon (his riding skill has made him legendary to Thacher mountain bikers). Major kudos to all.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

All Thacher students have ridden a horse over the ridge (the Nordhoff Ridge that is) and camped in the Sespe at some point during their Thacher career. This past weekend we did a variation of this excursion, also riding, but under full human power – on mountain bikes!

Adam Silberberg (CdeP ’15) joined my twin brother (Kevin Pidduck), Bruce Rogers (brother to Karleanne Rogers) and I for an 11 AM departure from the Sisar Canyon Trailhead in Upper Ojai. Together we climbed up and over the ridge and descended the Lion Trail (passing faculty member William Okin with several freshmen on their horseback ride back to Thacher after a night at Patton’s Cabin) to the Sespe River and our home away from home – Patton’s Cabin. The cabin is a remarkable refuge for trail weary travelers, whether on foot, hoof or by bike wheel. It is rustic yet comfortable, spartan yet remarkably functional. What a superb backcountry cabin!

The next morning we were met by Bo and Julie Manson, Bonnie LaForge and Bob St. George (faculty at Thacher) as well as sophomores Grant Ellman and Jamie Rush (CdeP '14). Bo, Julie and Bonnie graciously carried our gear back out to the trailhead for us while we mounted our chromoly and carbon fiber steeds for an ascent back up the ridge via Henry Canyon. After admiring the view of the Channel Islands from the ridge top, we zipped down Gridley Canyon and were back at Thacher by 1:30 PM. It was a fantastic tour of the backcountry and a wonderful opportunity to share in the delights of bikes and trails with students and faculty. All of us can’t wait until the next mountain bike adventure we can cook up. It is remarkable to consider the potential for mountain adventures immediately out our back door at Thacher.