Friday, March 22, 2013

George Lowe dies at 89; climber was on Everest expedition with Hillary

Mountaineer George Lowe, last surviving member of 1953 Everest expedition, dies at 89
FILE - In this Aug. 8, 1953 file photo, Sir Edmund Hillary, left, and his fellow New Zealander George Lowe, are welcomed home to New Zealand following their arrival by air at Auckland. George Lowe, the last surviving climber from the team that made the first successful ascent of Mount Everest, died Wednesday, March 20, 2013. He was 89. (AP Photo, File)

George Lowe dies at 89; climber was on Everest expedition with Hillary

Lowe, a New Zealander like Sir Edmund Hillary, was the last surviving climber from the 1953 expedition.

After Sir Edmund Hillary's historic ascent of Mt. Everest, everyone knew Hillary's name. Far fewer knew about his indispensable partner, George Lowe.
Hillary and his friend Lowe were the only two New Zealanders on the 1953 expedition to the top of the world's highest peak. If they could have had their way, they would have trekked to the summit together, but a number of circumstances, including the politics of giving two non-Brits on a British-led team the prime roles, conspired to leave Lowe among the unsung.
Lowe, the last surviving climber from the team that made the first successful ascent of Mount Everest, died after an illness Wednesday in Ripley, England, his wife, Mary Lowe, told the Associated Press. He was 89.
Hillary and Lowe were almost cut off the team by expedition leader John Hunt. But Hunt reinstated them at the urging of the English climbers, who recognized that the New Zealanders' alpine skills were formidable.
Both Hillary and Lowe led the way through the icefall. But it was Lowe, who wielded an ice ax with legendary skill, who cut the route up the daunting glacial wall known as the Lhotse Face. And it was Lowe who helped cut the steps to the final camp 1,000 feet below the mountain's summit on May 28, 1953.
The next day, Hillary and Tenzing Norgay of Nepal reached the 29,035-foot peak.
When Hillary returned to camp, he met Lowe, walking toward him with soup and emergency oxygen. "Well, George," Hillary recalled saying, "we knocked the bastard off."
Lowe and Hillary "climbed together through life, really," said travel writer Jan Morris, who was part of the Everest expedition as a journalist.
"And when it came to the point near the summit, George had to play a subsidiary role. He climbed very high, he climbed to top camp and said goodbye to Hillary, then helped him come down. He played a very important role."
Hillary often referred to Lowe in his autobiographies as a pillar of strength. "Calm and competent, he rode through the storm like a great ocean liner," Hillary wrote. "With his strong hand on the rope, I knew I couldn't fall far."
Almost 4,000 people have now successfully climbed Everest, according to the Nepal Mountaineering Assn., but that 1953 expedition remains one of the iconic moments of 20th-century adventure.
Morris said she was now the only survivor of the 1953 group.
She said Lowe was "a gentleman in the old sense — very kind, very forceful, thoughtful and also a true adventurer, an unusual combination."
Hillary, who died in 2008, inevitably got much of the media attention — and a knighthood fromQueen Elizabeth II. Mary Lowe said her husband "didn't mind a bit."
"He had a wonderful life," she said. "He did a lot of things, but he was a very modest man.... He never sought the limelight. Ed Hillary didn't seek the limelight either — but he had it thrust upon him."
Born in Hastings, New Zealand, in 1924 and a teacher by training, Lowe began climbing in the country's Southern Alps and met Hillary, another ambitious young climber with whom he forged a lifelong bond.
In 1951, Lowe was part of a New Zealand expedition to the Himalayas, and in 1953 he and Hillary joined the British Everest expedition led by Hunt.
Kari Herbert of Polarworld, which is due to publish Lowe's book "Letters From Everest" later this year, said Lowe's efforts were crucial to the expedition's success.
"He was one of the lead climbers, forging the route up Everest's Lhotse Face without oxygen and later cutting steps for his partners up the summit ridge," she said.
Lowe directed a film of the expedition, "The Conquest of Everest," which received an Academy Award nomination in 1954 for best documentary feature.
He also made "Antarctic Crossing" after participating in the 1955-58 Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition, the first successful overland crossing of the continent. It, too, was Oscar-nominated.
Lowe later made expeditions to Greenland, Greece and Ethiopia, taught school in Britain and Chile, lectured on his expeditions and became Her Majesty's Inspector of Schools for England.
He was a founder of the Sir Edmund Hillary Himalayan Trust U.K., a charity set up to support the mountain residents of Nepal.
In addition to his wife, Mary, whom he married in 1980, Lowe is survived by three sons from his first marriage to John Hunt's daughter Susan: Gavin, Bruce and Matthew.
Lowe often said in interviews that he was happy to have played a supporting role in one of the greatest adventures of the 20th century.
"I'm absolutely delighted I didn't have the life that Ed's had," he told the New Zealand Herald in 2008. "Ed was the right one. I would have been a bugger. I wouldn't have had the diplomacy.",0,6335220.story

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Bezos expedition retrieves Apollo rocket engines from ocean floor

A heat exchanger from an Apollo F-1 engine is seen in this handout photo from Bezos Expeditions taken onboard a recovery ship off the coast of Florida March 19, 2013. REUTERS-Bezos Expeditions-Handout

The F-1 rocket engine is still a modern wonder — one and a half million pounds of thrust, 32 million horsepower, and burning 6,000 pounds of rocket grade kerosene and liquid oxygen every second. On July 16, 1969, the world watched as five particular F-1 engines fired in concert, beginning the historic Apollo 11 mission. Those five F-1s burned for just a few minutes, and then plunged back to Earth into the Atlantic Ocean, just as NASA planned. A few days later, Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon.

A recovery team funded by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has plucked two rocket engines from the floor of the Atlantic Ocean that were used to send astronauts to the moon more than 40 years ago, he wrote on the project's website on Wednesday.

Bezos, the chief executive of Amazon, last year announced plans to search the sea floor for rocket motors shed during Saturn 5 launches to the moon during the 1969-1972 Apollo program.

Bezos Expeditions found and retrieved two Saturn 5 first-stage engines from three miles beneath the Atlantic Ocean.

"We've seen an underwater wonderland - an incredible sculpture garden of twisted F-1 engines that tells the story of a fiery and violent end, one that serves testament to the Apollo program," Bezos wrote.

"Each piece we bring on deck conjures for me the thousands of engineers who worked together back then to do what for all time had been thought surely impossible," he added.

NASA sent seven missions to the moon, six of which successfully carried astronauts to the lunar surface. Bezos said because the serial numbers on the retrieved engines are missing or partially missing, identifying which mission they were used for will be difficult.

"We might see more during restoration. The objects themselves are gorgeous," he added.

"This is a historic find and I congratulate the team for its determination and perseverance in the recovery of these important artifacts of our first efforts to send humans beyond Earth orbit," NASA administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement.

The engines, which remain the property of the U.S. government, will be restored and put on public display.

The recovery ship, called Seabed Worker, is due to dock at Port Canaveral, Fla., on Thursday after three weeks at sea.

Bezos also is founder and chief executive of a small privately owned startup space company called Blue Origin, based in Kent, Wash., which is working on developing low-cost, reusable suborbital and orbital spaceships to carry people and experiments.
A thrust chamber and fuel manifold from an Apollo F-1 engine is seen in this handout photo from Bezos Expeditions taken onboard a recovery ship off the coast of Florida March 19, 2013. REUTERS-Bezos Expeditions-Handout
A turbine from an Apollo F-1 engine is seen in this handout photo from Bezos Expeditions taken onboard a recovery ship off the coast of Florida March 19, 2013. REUTERS-Bezos Expeditions-Handout
A thrust chamber from an Apollo F-1 engine is seen in this handout photo from Bezos Expeditions taken onboard a recovery ship off the coast of Florida March 19, 2013. REUTERS-Bezos Expeditions-Handout
A thrust chamber from an Apollo F-1 engine is seen in this undated handout photo from Bezos Expeditions taken off the coast of Florida and released March 20, 2013. REUTERS-Bezos Expeditions-Handout

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Travis’ Travels: Swallowed up in the rugged beauty of Smith Rock State Park

A view of Oregon from the Smith Rock State Park
Once I’d had my fill of the Oregon coast, it was time to head inland and visit the Smith Rock State Park, an otherworldly landscape near Bend sharpened by the indolent Crooked River, golden flatlands that stretch to the distance, and sheer crags that jut into a deep blue sky. The land is almost like something out of a J.R.R. Tolkien story, which is fitting, for as I write this post it is the great novelist’s birthday. The land also happens to be a mecca for climbers, and luckily, I was able to get a taste of the sport by tagging along with local climbers Jesper Hilts and Garrett Handke. The following is a gallery of what I found.
The entrance to Smith Rock at sunset
Hilts was cracking jokes all day, and here he is climbing one of the thousands of routes that climbers from all over the world come to enjoy
We headed down a trail along the river to find our next climbing spot. Hilts, in yellow, gave me, in brown, a tour of some of the lesser-known and more difficult climbs in the park.
Hilts climbs, left, with the Crooked River in the distance below; at right Hilts tackles a route called “Kill the Hate,” which is rated 5.13a (hint: it’s insanely difficult), and Handke is below him, belaying.
Behind the scenes of how I captured Hilts with the Crooked River in the background using a GoPro Hero3 on a pole.
As we were leaving the park, we looked back and saw someone highlining across two of the tallest towers in the park. I told Hilts I had to try to get up to the highliner to take some shots, so he told me how to get to the top and wished me luck.
When I got to the highliner, he was being buffeted by fiercely cold winds, which got up to 40 miles per hour. At that point, Robbie wisely called it a day.
Self-portrait of me gazing at a place I will not soon forget.
See you on the road!

Utah’s nature-made subway ride

Tickets for Zion Park's subway are hard to come by, but well worth it

While Zion National Park has no train, it does have a subway, and the lottery to visit this subway has just opened up for the year. This cylindrical slot canyon is so popular only 80 permits are issued per day, and a lottery reservation system is enacted between March and November to handle peak demand. Getting to this curvy canyon is no small task. The 9.5-mile round trip hike is strenuous and requires technical skill. But if popularity and beautiful images are anything to go by, the journey is well worth it. Take a ride on nature’s subway below.
While the subway itself is only a quarter of a mile long, getting there is a somewhat difficult 9.5-mile hike round trip. Image by Stephanie
Only 80 permits are issued per day and they can be difficult to get during peak times in spring and summer. Image by Terra Trekking
If you want to bring your friends you’ll have to be selective; groups of more than 12 are not allowed.
Image by Terra Trekking
Getting to the subway does require some route-finding and rappelling, so it’s not for the inexperienced. Image by Terra Trekking
Algae thrive in the low light deep in the subway tunnel, causing the vibrant greens seen in these pools. Image by Mike Henderson
The subway is located between two peaks named North and South Guardian Angels.
Image by CCharmon
As swimming is required in some areas, going in the warmer months is advised.
Image by WikiCommons
Heavy snow melts and spring runoff can flood and shut down the subway, so make sure you check the train schedule before heading out. Image by Jeremiah Roth

Kayaker completes 4,000-mile, nine-month journey

Daniel Alvarez paddles 20 miles per day from Minnesota to the Florida Keys

The plan was to kayak 4,000 miles from the northernmost tip of the lower 48 states in Minnesota to the southernmost point in Key West, Florida, a plan that Outside Magazine called bold, inspired, and slightly reckless.
kayak hat at 8Daniel Alvarez, 31, from Tallahassee, Florida, has proven himself worthy as a long-distance hiker, having completed the 2,174-mile Appalachian Trail, the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail, and the 3,000-mile Continental Divide Trail.
Now he has proven himself as a long-distance kayaker.
Alvarez completed the nine-month kayak journey on Saturday, paddling into Key West to a cheering crowd.
“When I got to the end [Saturday], there were a ton of people on the beach and they were all cheering me on,” Alvarez wrote in an email to the Duluth News Tribune. He had paddled through Duluth in September. “I felt pretty silly because they thought I’d done it alone, when really I would never have made it close without a hundred different people along the way who helped.”
Not only did he receive help from people along the way, Alvarez got financial help for his trip from Outside Magazine. He won Outside’s inaugural Adventure Grant and $10,000, finding this out a week into the journey.
Traveling in a donated, bright yellow, 17-foot Necky kayak—“I wanted to give the huge barges on the Mississippi the best chance of seeing me,” he told Outside—Alvarez paddled about 20 miles a day from Northwest Angle in Minnesota, through the Boundary Waters and Lake Superior, down the Mississippi, and across the Gulf of Mexico.
 kayak in action

Along the way, Alvarez blogged about his trip and posted photos at Predictably Lost. It should be noted that he made the trip in part to support the protection of the waterways along his route. His website details the organizations he supports.
Many people along the way told Alvarez they wished they could do what he was doing, to which he told them, “If you make it a priority, you can. If you don’t make it a priority, there are a thousand excuses not to do it. Eventually, you just have to get in the boat and start paddling.”
Now that the former corporate lawyer has stopped paddling, what is on the horizon?
“I just have no idea what I’m going to do next,” Alvarez told the Duluth News Tribune. “It’s a good thing and terrifying feeling, but I’m sure I will figure it out soon.”
Geobeats offers a nice YouTube video about Alvarez’s journey, but take note, that isn’t him paddling into Key West at the beginning:

Photos courtesy of Daniel Alvarez.