Thursday, July 24, 2008

Take It Back!

Several themes and trends coming together today.  Bob Mitera has been doing some great work over at Tales from a Triathlon Lifestyle about improving the sport of triathlon.   Yesterday, paying an homage to the Tour de France's ongoing "Take Back the Tour" ad campaign, he makes the excellent suggestion that we - triathletes - "Take Back Triathlon" from drafters, dopers and rule-breakers.  Amen to that.

The last time I raced Steelhead (2006) I was amazed (and blown into the weeds) by all the peletons out there.  Not just a handful of racers drafting, but 10, 20 riders, sometimes more, all gaining an unfair advantage over those of us riding within the rules.  There were precious few drafting penalties handed out and, though I'm told there were course marshalls out there watching, you couldn't prove it by me.

And the first time at Steelhead (2005) I arrived in T1 to find my bike's chain off, both front and rear derailleurs.  Funny.  It was fine an hour earlier when I headed from Transition to the swim start.  I'm not absolutely claiming sabotage; Lord knows I've been able to accomplish some pretty dumb, low-probability things on my own.  But I've never before had a chain jump right off an unattended bike.

And now there's another sport apparently needing rescue from those claiming to love it: mountaineering.  At best, I'm an armchair trekker (and confirmed height-o-phobe.) The biggest things I've ever climbed are the LONG staircase leading to my backyard pool and the Lifetime Fitness climbing wall.  Yet I'm fascinated by climbing in general and Everest in particular. I've just finished a book called "High Crimes: The Fate Of Everest In An Age Of Greed." by journalist Michael Kodas.   It's eye-widening and a little scary as it rips open Everest's seamy underbelly.  What oozes out ain't pretty.  

From a Publishers Weekly review reprinted on 

"Kodas has written a disturbing account of stupidity and greed on the slopes of Mount Everest. On assignment for the Hartford Courant in 2004, Kodas joined an expedition led by a couple who had summited the mountain more than a dozen times between them. As he moved up Everest, Kodas watched his expedition disintegrate in a mess of recriminations, thefts, lies and violence. At the same time, a sociopathic guide was leading a 69-year-old doctor to his death on the unforgiving slopes. The twin disasters led Kodas to delve into the commercialization of Mount Everest, and to discover that such experiences were becoming a depressing norm. A thorough reporter, Kodas does an excellent job exposing the ways in which money and ego have corrupted the traditional cultures of both mountaineers and their Sherpa guides. He also brings a painful focus to the delusions, misunderstandings and indifference that allow climbers to literally step over the bodies of dying people on their way to the top."

Sounds like mountaineering ought to join cycling and triathlon on that list of sports needing to be "taken back" by those who love them.  Everest's summit, the Yellow Jersey, Kona.  Big hairy audacious goals, all.  And all needing to be rescued from those who would gain the prize while sacrificing their soul.  I hope that's possible.

iPod Shuffle: "Salt of the Earth" by the Rolling Stones, from "Beggars Banquet."  And "I'm Gonna Set My Foot Down" by Buddy Holly, from "Gold." And "Doing the Unstuck" by The Cure, from "Wish."  And "The Main Thing" by Roxy Music, from "Avalon."  And "Runnin' Out Of Fools" by Neko Case, from "Blacklisted."

1 comment:

nepalwriter said...

For a detailed account of the region and Sherpas who make everything possible, read Beyond the Summit by Linda LeBlanc.
Sherpas are the true heroes of Everest. Without their assistance, very few would reach the summit. To learn more about this amazing tribe, read Beyond the Summit by Linda LeBlanc. Details of Sherpa culture and religion are interwoven in a tale of romance and high adventure. The story has something for everyone: a love affair between an American journalist and Sherpa guide, conflict between generations as the modern world challenges centuries of tradition, an expedition from the porter’s point of view.

Below are selections from reviews. To read the complete ones and excerpts go to

Beyond the Summit, is the rare gem that shows us the triumphs and challenges of a major climb from the porter’s point of view. The love of two people from diverse cultures is the fiery centerpiece of a novel that leads its readers through harshly beautiful and highly dangerous territory to the roof of the world. Malcolm Campbell, book reviewer

Conflict and dialog keep this gripping story of destiny, romance and adventure moving from the first page to the last paragraph. LeBlanc has a genius for bonding her readers and her characters. I found I was empathizing in turn with each character as they faced their own personal crisis or trauma.
Richard Blake for Readers Views.

A gripping, gut-twisting expedition through the eyes of a porter reveals the heart and soul of Sherpas living in the shadows of Everest.

A hard-hitting blend of adventure and romance which deserves a spot in any serious fiction collection. Midwest Book Review

LeBlanc is equally adept at describing complex, elusive emotions and the beautiful, terrifying aspect of the Himalayan Mountains. Boulder Daily Camera

LeBlanc’s vivid description of the Himalayas and the climbing culture makes this a powerful read. Rocky Mt News Pick of the Week

A rich adventure into the heart of the Himalayan Kingdom. Fantastic story-telling from one who has been there.

This is the book to read before you embark on your pilgrimage to Nepal. The author knows and loves the people and the country, and makes you feel the cold thin air, the hard rocks of the mountains, the tough life of the Sherpa guides, and you learn to love them too. This is a higly literate, but also very readable book. Highly recommended.”
– John (college professor)

Memorable characters and harrowing encounters with the mountains keep the action moving with a vibrant balance of vivid description and dialog. Literary Cafe Host, Healdsburg, CA

This superbly-crafted novel will land you in a world of unimaginable beauty, adventure, and romance. The love story will keep you awake at night with its vibrant tension and deep rich longing. Wick Downing, author of nine novels

Such vividly depicted images of the Everest region and the Sherpa people are the perfect scenario for the romance and adventure feats narrated. It’s a page-turner, so engrossing you end up wanting to visit Nepal! Not just novel, but perfect for those seeking to get acquainted with the culture of this country.
By Claudia Fournier (América, Bs. As., Argentina)

Available through Barnes and Noble, Borders,,, and the web site