The 9-year-old Albuquerque boy is on a mission to break a world record for being the youngest child to climb the 50 highest peaks in all 50 states. Turner Liotta is already well on his way to breaking the record, one mountain peak at a time.
“I get to hang out with my family and look at nature and I think it’s just fun to climb and I enjoy it,” he said.
The current world record was set by a 12-year-old with his dad six years ago, so Turner has a couple more years to reach his goal.
Turner — with the help of his dad, David — has already conquered nine of them. He will be at 13 by the end of this week, 20 by the end of the summer.
They’re not just climbing to beat a world record. They’re also doing it to raise money for cancer research.
“We are raising money to climb,” David said. “Climbing is logistically heavy and also very expensive to do so we do have a goal set so anything after that goal will go directly to leukemia and lymphoma society.”
It’s something near and dear to David’s heart.
“Eighteen months ago roughly, I was diagnosed with lymphoma cancer, and I had always been an alpine climber before but never the larger summits,” he said. “But this just gave me the opportunity to spend more time with my family.”
David beat cancer, so now he can focus on what really matters: spending time with his son and his family
Credit: Image courtesy of Wageningen University and Research Centre
Climate change increases the danger of falling rocks in the Alps and other mountain regions, adding to existing risks for mountain climbers. This is the conclusion of a study by Arnaud Temme of Wageningen University using climbing guides written by mountaineers in the past.
Global warming causes thawing of permafrost and retreat of glaciers and snowfields. More rocks get exposed to the air, reducing their stability and increasing the chance of rolling or falling. After permafrost degrades, freezing and thawing in cracks and crevices start to alternate. Every time water freezes, it expands and lets the cracks grow slowly until the rock breaks. Higher temperatures lead to more instable rocks, increasing the risk of falling.
Old climbing guides
In his research Arnaud Temme of Wageningen University gathered information on safety of climbing routes from so called climbing guides. These guides are written by very experienced mountaineers that describe the climbing routes in a certain area, in this case the Bernese Alps in Switzerland.
In addition to climbing routes, information about risks of falling rocks is mentioned in the guides. For all routes, the type and orientation of the rock and an indication of all risks along the route are noted.
Until know there was little information available on the risks of falling rocks: the available data was on large, rare rock avalanches or for small slopes. However, in the climbing guides, multiple generations of climbers noted the climbing dangers for whole mountain ranges.
The oldest guide out of the dozens of guides used in the research was written 146 years ago. This allowed Temme to record the changes for a longer period and link these with climate change.
Climate change does not enhance the risks in the mountains in an equal way, other factors play a role as well. Orientation of the slope is important to calculate the risks. East and west sides of a mountain appear to be more risky due to larger temperature swings. Risk also may be higher in places surrounded by rocks and on faces of granite and amphibolite.
This knowledge allows for forecasts: the properties of a specific area can give an indication of the risks involved. In the future, the collection of area properties can be processed into a map with high risk areas, even in mountain ranges where no research has been conducted. This way, historical knowledge contributes to forecasting of future risks in the mountains.
Arnaud J.A.M. Temme. Using Climber’s Guidebooks to Assess Rock Fall Patterns Over Large Spatial and Decadal Temporal Scales: An Example from the Swiss Alps. Geografiska Annaler: Series A, Physical Geography, 2015; 97 (4): 793 DOI: 10.1111/geoa.12116
New research by University of Montana forest landscape ecology Professor Solomon Dobrowski shows that organisms will face more hardships as they relocate when climate change makes their current homes uninhabitable.
Dobrowski and co-author Sean Parks—a scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service Aldo Leopold Research Institute and a UM alumnus—propose a new method to model how fast and where organisms will need to move to keep pace with climate change.
Mountains support roughly a quarter of the globe’s terrestrial biodiversity, contain about a third of its protected areas and house nearly half of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. One reason for this biodiversity is that complex topography within mountains creates diverse climates within close proximity to one another.
One way scientists measure how vulnerable a site is to climate change is to estimate how far organisms at that site need to move to maintain a consistent temperature as the Earth warms. The diversity of climates in mountain landscapes means that when temperatures rise, organisms might have to only move a short distance to get to a cooler home.
However, Dobrowksi and Parks show that measuring the0 distance from one area of suitable climate to the next doesn’t account for the resistance organisms will encounter as they traverse areas with very different climates, like a warm valley between two mountain peaks.
“It’s not enough to just measure how far an organism will have to move in order to keep up with climate change,” Dobrowski said. “We also need to look at how much organisms will be exposed to dissimilar climates along the way. Once we do that, we find that even short movements in mountainous areas expose organisms to large climate differences. This may prevent plants and animals from being able to maintain a suitable climate as the earth warms.”
Dobrowski and Parks suggest that areas within mountains are more climatically isolated and thus more vulnerable to climate change than previously reported.
More information: Solomon Z. Dobrowski et al, Climate change velocity underestimates climate change exposure in mountainous regions, Nature Communications (2016). DOI: 10.1038/ncomms12349
• Such action is being taken to reduce the number of queues like this one. Ralf Dujmovits, the mountaineer who took the photograph, said: “My deep hope was that the number of climbers on Everest would be reduced. But I fear that I’ve made Everest more popular with this picture.”
• And if you fancy yourself a pro, pay a reduced rate of £1,500 for an off-season pass.
• In 2013, there was a hundred person brawl at 23,000 feet during which three European mountaineers were told by a group of around 100 sherpas: “Now we kill you.” It is reported that the sherpas were disrespected by their wealthy clients.
In July 2016, I embarked on an incredibly memorable, yet challenging, 11-day trek to the base camp of K2 — the highest mountain in Pakistan — with three other Dutch hikers in tow.
Our trip started from Islamabad where we stayed for a day. The next morning, we took a short, but a very scenic, flight to Skardu. We acquired a great deal of interesting information about our destination from the plane’s captain, which naturally got us pumped for the journey ahead.
Following a brief stay in Skardu, we left for the town of Askole, which is only 115km away but the rocky roads, not to mention the landslides and floods that we encountered on our way stretched our journey an additional five hours.
The picturesque drive through hanging wooden bridges, however, made it worth it.
Arriving in Askole, we stopped for some garam parathas, and washed them down with wonderful milky tea before starting our first trek to the Jhula campsite.
We walked through a small lane in the town of Askole that widened as we exited the village. Then, we entered Shigar Valley, where I saw jagged mountain peaks and views that quite literally took my breath away.
Situated at a distance of 18kms from Askole, we reached Jhula just before sunset. We parked our camp next to the river, which afforded us an ethereal view of the Barkhudas mountain peak.
The next morning, we trekked from Jhula to Payu campsite, which is 22kms away, at 200 metres of elevation gain; the route that we took was close to the river bank with many uninhabited houses.
From Payu, we made our way to the Baltoro glacier, the focal point of our trek. The journey to our next campsite Khoburshe was 15km away, with 500 metres elevation gain.
The long distance and the formidable gain of elevation, coupled with our first, tentative steps on a glacier, was taxing but also proved rewarding as we got a glimpse of the spectacular Trango and Lobsang mountain spires as well as the starting point of the serene Baltoro River from here.
Near the Khoburshe campsite, a lake has sprung up due to a glacier melt, which required us to take a detour, adding about another two kilometres to the trek; we retired at the camp for the night.
The next morning, we trekked from Khoburshe to Urdukas, which is situated at a relatively short distance of 6km, with 200m of elevation gain.
The journey was, by far, the most wonderful part of the trek as we crossed two glaciers and glacial streams to reach Urdukas, surrounded by tall imposing mountains. It is a wonderful campsite that sits atop huge rocks.
As we set up our tents and settled into them, we heard the sound of music. Venturing outside, we saw porters from different teams who had gathered around a big boulder and were dancing and celebrating as it was Eid!
Close to Urdukas, there is a Pakistan Army checkpost and some military men also joined in the heartfelt celebrations.
Our next stop was the Goro II. It was another long trek of 15kms, with 270 metres of elevation gain. We were ecstatic when we saw our first views of the incredible Masherbrum (7821m) and Gasherbrum-4 (7925m) mountains.
Traversing along the route, we saw large protruding chunks of snow, known as snow capsules. These capsules vary in size and are sparsely found along the trek.
Our campsite at Goro II was the coldest on the trek. When I woke up in the middle of the night, my tent was covered in frost.
The morning that greeted me was equally cold, if not more. But the day was special. Crossing Gora II, we finally saw the magnificent K2 mountain, and other stunning peaks such as Muztagh Tower (7273 metres) and Mitre Peak (6010m).
Our next camp on Concordia glacier was next to Mitre Peak. With that as our reference, we walked about 12kms to reach Concordia.
Near Concordia, we had to negotiate many complicated crevasses. We also heard loud songs of the glacier cracking up.
After what seemed like an eternity, we arrived at our camp on Concordia. Situated at 4,600 metres of elevation, the high altitude made us easily breathless, even if the movement was something as small as getting up.
Most expeditions end on Concordia after which trekkers head back to Askole. One can also take an alternative route by hiking to Ali Camp and then crossing the Gondogoro Pass to enter Hushe Valley and return from there. It, however, requires expert technical climbing skills.
In our case, we decided to visit the K2 base camp, which is approximately 11kms away from Concordia, save for one team member who ended up going to the Gilkey Memorial.
The three of us, including myself, stayed back at the K2 base camp for about an hour, and had lunch with an international expedition team before returning to Concordia.
The return journey from Concordia to Askole was 90kms and took us three whole days to return to Askole from where we returned to Skardu the same evening; thus ending our intense, adrenaline-filled trek, one we are bound to remember for the rest of our lives.
Imad Brohi is an engineer by profession, who loves the outdoors.
The summer mountain climbing season is in full swing. Although it tends to be seen as safer than winter mountaineering, the number of people involved in accidents in the summer has been increasing, especially in the past few years.
It’s important to enjoy nature in the summer after preparing sufficient clothing and supplies in your backpack, as well as determining which mountain to climb based on your stamina and experience.
According to the National Police Agency, there were 647 mountain rescues in July and August 2015, the highest number since data was first collected in 1968. Compared to the summer of 2011, the number of rescues has increased by about 30 percent.
One reason is an increase in the number of climbers. In addition to the boom in mountaineering among middle-aged and senior climbers in the past decade, mountaineering has become an accessible leisure activity even for young people, including “yama girls,” literally meaning “mountain girls” and referring to young women climbers.
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“Getting stranded and suffering from injuries due to falls is common among middle-aged and senior climbers,” said Shizuoka University Prof. Shin Murakoshi, who specializes in cognitive psychology and is familiar with mountaineering and hiking crisis management.
“In contrast, there are few cases of falling among climbers in their 20s to 40s, who have been increasing in number in the past several years,” Murakoshi added. “However, many of them get lost because they don’t carry a map or compass, or don’t know the proper way to use them.”
Along with insufficient preparation, another major cause of mountaineering accidents is overestimating one’s ability. For example, some people carelessly try to take on 2,500-meter-high mountains, despite having insufficient experience in mountaineering, because they think it will be easy in summer.
“There are a lot of rocks on high mountains, making it difficult to walk, and such conditions can easily lead to serious injuries, like bone fractures, when falling,” Murakoshi said.
“Mountain grading,” which classifies mountains in terms of two standards — 10 levels of physical requirement and five levels of technical difficulty — helps people determine which mountains suit them.
Five prefectures — Yamanashi, Shizuoka, Nagano, Niigata, and Gifu — offer similar grading, and the information is carried on their prefectural websites and distributed in booklet form.
Of those prefectures, Yamanashi Prefecture recommends the 634-meter Mt. Iwadono and 1,731-meter Mt. Amari as most suitable for beginners. There is almost no worry of sliding down the mountain even if you fall.
A staff member of the prefectural Tourist Sites and Facilities Division recommends that you “select a reasonable mountain with consideration for your stamina and experience.”
You should thoroughly prepare appropriate clothing and supplies even when climbing a mountain for beginners.
The Okutama Visitor Center — which organizes events like nature walking tours in Tokyo’s Okutama area — emphasizes being particularly aware during summer mountaineering of sudden weather changes, like evening showers, as well as heatstroke. It also urges people to make sure to bring rain gear and water.
Bring batteries along with a mobile phone or smartphone in your backpack. Lately, mobile phone reception has been expanding even in the mountains. If your device is connected, you will be able to request a rescue in an emergency and share your location with a rescuer using the global positioning system.
Registering one’s entry to a mountain and a climbing plan can provide valuable help for search efforts if a climber gets stranded. Write down the estimated time you will pass major landmarks, your home telephone number and an emergency contact number, and drop it off in the mailbox at the trail head. Such documents can also be submitted to places like police boxes at the foot of a mountain.
Nonetheless, climbing down on your own is an absolutely basic skill of mountaineering. Murakoshi advises, “Carefully make plans by receiving advice from experienced climbers and safely enjoy hiking in the mountains.
Soon to be a film subject, Fred Beckey is a cult figure in North American mountaineering.
SEATTLE — He’s notched more first ascents than any other American mountaineer, wrote the definitive guidebooks to a major North American mountain range, and at age 93, Fred Beckey is still plotting routes – though more slowly and buoyed by a cadre of fiercely protective partners.
For years, stories have floated around about the man known as much for his eccentric personality as for his singular obsession with climbing, said Alex Bertulis, 77, a retired Seattle architect who climbed with Beckey for decades.
Fred Beckey, 93, has completed more first ascents than any other American mountaineer, and will be featured in “Dirtbag: The Legend of Fred Beckey,” a documentary feature film.
A poster for “Dirtbag: The Legend of Fred Beckey” is displayed in Seattle. AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
Some were true, some not. “But that’s OK. That’s how legends are built,” Bertulis said.
Now, a documentary feature film in the works, “Dirtbag: The Legend of Fred Beckey,” is putting the spotlight on a man who has shied from such attention during decades of exploits. It is expected out next year.
Beckey is such a cult figure in North American mountaineering that tickets were snatched up within hours for a slideshow he recently presented in Seattle to help promote the film.
His body slightly stooped, blue dress shirt hanging loose off his frame, the nonagenarian needed help settling into his chair. Once lights were dimmed, he clicked through numerous slides, recalling from memory details about rock cracks, overhangs and other features on mountains in the Sierra and Cascades.
Beckey was born in Germany and immigrated to the United States as a child. His family settled in Seattle, where he got his first taste of hiking and scrambling with the Boy Scouts and later The Mountaineers club.
In 1942, he and his younger brother Helmut wowed the climbing community with an impressive second ascent of Mount Waddington in British Columbia.
He went on to accomplish hundreds of first ascents on peaks throughout the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, Canada and Wyoming. In 1954, he established new routes on three of Alaska’s mountains: McKinley, Deborah and Hunter. He also climbed in the Himalayas and China.
Beckey once wrote that climbing gave him a unique sense of control over his destiny. “The exaltation one can get in the presence of mountains can be a memorable lesson in humility and an aid to self-realization,” he wrote.
There will never be another Beckey because there are no more unclimbed mountains left to that degree, Bertulis said.
“Fred got the golden age of climbing first ascents,” Bertulis said. “That will be his legacy.”
Beckey has authored more than a dozen books, including the three-volume “Cascade Alpine Guide” that details hundreds of peaks in the North Cascades. He also penned books about climbing Mount McKinley and Mount Rainier.
At the recent Beckey event, fans from young climbers to ex-girlfriends – even the adult daughter of an ex-girlfriend who flew in from California to put a face to her mother’s stories – lined up to shake his hand or snag a reluctant autograph.
“It’s such an honor and privilege to still be able to meet him,” gushed Leslie Otto, 29, who fired off names of routes she climbed that Becky pioneered.
Beckey still keeps a list of potential climbing partners. In the past, he scribbled their names on the back of business cards and as he wrapped up one climb or expedition, he would drum up partners for the next, Bertulis said.
“People joked around that he had a black book of names of mountains that had to be climbed and also the names of women that had to be seduced,” Bertulis said. “The little black book doesn’t exist. It falls into the category of made-up stories that are very entertaining.”
Vasiliki Dwyer, described by Beckey friends as his “one who got away,” got to know a different side of the climber.
“Fred has many aspects in his character. He read a lot. He knew about all kinds of esoteric things,” she said. He once gave her a copy of John Milton’s epic poem “Paradise Lost” and later named a North Cascades ridge after her. Last month, he gave her his card and told her to call.
To climbing partners, Beckey was known for being obstinate, abrasive, not always the easiest to get along with. He has climbed with numerous partners, falling out with a few or outlasting those for whom climbing wasn’t a nonstop, all-encompassing interest.
“He’s the most single-minded, focused person I’ve ever met,” said Eric Fox, 41, who has climbed all over the West with Beckey and dines with him weekly. “His passion is contagious. He loves the mountains, the exploration, finding new peaks and new routes. That’s really inspiring for me.”
The two climbed recently together in central Washington – Beckey needing help getting to the base but still able to climb.
“Once he starts climbing, it’s like muscle memory just kicks in, and he’s very graceful,” said Dave O’Leske, director of “Dirtbag.” “A lot of things have to click. The day has to be good, the back can’t hurt, but any chance he gets.”
Beckey is already mapping his next trip – to Suquamish, British Columbia.
“There’s a cult of Fred,” said Matt Perkins, who has climbed with Beckey for 20 years. He added: “I think his exit plan is to die in a sleeping bag on an expedition somewhere.”