Showing posts with label Politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Politics. Show all posts

Himalaya Spring 2017: Sherpas Hold Protest in Everest BC to Demand Summit Certificates

While the mountaineering world continues to mourn the loss of Ueli Steck on Nuptse, life continues on the big mountains in the Himalaya. Over the past few days, teams have continued their acclimatization rotations on Everest, with most now returning to BC to rest up, most likely for one more rotation before summit bids begin sometime around the middle of May. Despite this calm before the storm however, it appears that things are not business as usual on Everest.

On Tuesday of this week, the Sherpas working on the mountain staged a protest demanding that they receive summit certificates for successfully reaching the top of the peaks they climb in the Himalaya, including Everest and the other 8000 meter mountains. According to The Himalayan Times, the lead Sherpas sent a five-page memorandum to the Secretary of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, as well as the Nepal Mountaineering Association and the Expedition Operators’ Association in Nepal, laying out their requirements and the reasons why this is important to them. Apparently, local climbers in Nepal have not been receiving those certificates since last year, and possibly even earlier.

For the Sherpas, the certificates are a badge of honor, and one that they feel that they have earned as part of a climbing expedition that they have taken part in. But, the Nepali government points to a rule in the 2002 regulations governing mountaineering that states that only paying members of an expedition team will receive such certificates.

For its part, the Department of Tourism has said that it will attempt to amend the 2002 resolution as quickly as possible so that certificates could be issued. The new regulations will reportedly recognize the Sherpas as part of an expedition – and rightly so – allowing them to collect their certificates along with the rest of their team. Last year, there were 256 Sherpas that topped out on Everest alone, none of which have received the documents as yet.

This protest isn't just about the certificates however. It is also a symbol of the growing unrest, resentment, and dissatisfaction that many of the Sherpa climbers are feeling these days. They continue to feel disrespected, both by their own government and many of the foreign climbers that come to Nepal. This could lead to further protests, strikes, and clashes in the future as the Sherpa operators continue to grow more prominent on Everest and elsewhere.

Fortunately, it seems that things have returned to normal, and the Sherpas continue to support their clients. Hopefully this won't interfere with summit bids in the days ahead, but I suspect we'll continue to see more of these types of actions in the future.

Outdoor Brands Respond to President Trump's Immigration Ban

I try not to get too political on this blog, choosing instead to focus on exploration and adventure, and all of the things that lure us into the great outdoors. But, there are times when having a platform like this one means having the opportunity to speak your mind and share your thoughts on current events as well. This is going to be one of those times. 

As most of you no doubt know, last week President Trump used an executive order to block immigration into the U.S. from seven different nations that he perceives to be states that support and develop terrorism around the globe. This policy has sparked numerous protests across the globe, even as American lawmakers scramble to decipher the ruling and determine if it is even legal. Meanwhile, the President's actions have left thousands of people stranded in foreign countries, created challenges to determine who is allowed into the U.S. and who isn't, and have caused leaders both within the country and from abroad to condemn the action in the harshest terms possible. Amongst those speaking out against this action are prominent members of the outdoor industry as well, who like the rest of us see this as discriminatory, counterproductive, and down-right un-American. 

Yesterday, REI Co-op CEO Jerry Stritzke sent a letter to each and everyone of that company's employees sharing his stand on the Trump executive order. In that letter, Stritzke let it be known in no uncertain terms that he fears for the future of the U.S., if not the world, based on what he has seen from the Trump administration so far. In that letter, the CEO writes:
"Over the course of the first week alone, we’ve witnessed actions that conflict with our co-op values on issues including climate, the environment, women’s rights and the singling out of individuals based on nationality and belief. These issues are core to the health of the outdoors and the ideals of our nation."
He goes on to add:
"We know our employee base and our membership span the political spectrum on any given issue. And we embrace respectful dialogue and debate. But it’s important for me to be incredibly clear about the following—we are an organization, and a country, built on inclusion. We believe we are better when we come together, when we are open and when we are welcoming."
In the rest of the later, which can be read in its entirety here, Stritzke goes on to reaffirm REI's commitment to being open and accepting of all people, regardless of race, color, creed, or sexual orientation. The company is focused on applying its considerable philanthropic funding on opening up the outdoors to more people, and protecting it for future generations to follow, something that Trump's dangerous views on climate change could threaten.

REI wasn't alone in speaking out either. Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle also sent a memo to his employees yesterday as well, and he didn't mince words either. Boyle told Columbia staff that "We are here because the United States was open and tolerant enough to let us in." Which is a reference to the fact that his parents fled Nazi Germany in 1937, ended up in Portland, and founded the company a year later. Now, it is one of the biggest outdoor brands in the entire world.

You can read his entire letter by clicking here, but the gist of it is that Boyle – and Columbia – do not accept or condone the current direction that Trump is taking the country, and see it as being completely against the policies that this country was founded upon. In the note, Boyle reiterates his personal commitment for being open, tolerant, and accepting of all people, noting that those qualities seem to be in short supply at the moment.

These are powerful words from two major forces in the outdoor industry. I salute both REI and Columbia for taking a stand, and agree with everything they have said. As someone who has traveled the globe extensively, I can tell you that I have seen the best and worst that mankind has to offer. But, for the most part, travel opens your eyes, makes you more open to new experiences, attitudes, and ways of life. I am troubled, aghast, and ashamed of where my country stands on accepting immigrants and refugees at the moment, and can only hope that someone within the Trump administration sees the light and changes direction soon. This is not the country that I have grew up in, which has always had a rich history of accepting anyone with open arms.

These are troubling times, but for the other Americans that are enduring this with me, know that we are not alone. Many have already taken to the streets and protested, and more will follow. To my friends from abroad, please keep in mind that not all of us support what the President is doing, and the majority of us did not vote for him. We hope to navigate through the challenges ahead and come out in once piece on the other side. But there are indeed dark days ahead before we see signs of improvement. Lets get through this together and get back to being a country that can lead by example, rather than one that is afraid, intolerant, and close minded to the point of being closed off from the international community.

I'll close this post with another quote, this one from Emma Lazarus. I'm sure most of you have heard it before, but it is worth repeating now, more than ever.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

Cold War Politics at the North Pole

If you read this blog regularly, you probably saw my coverage of the North Pole exploration season this past spring. While there were no full-distance expeditions to the North Pole from either the Canadian or Russian side of the ice as there has been in years past, there was still plenty of drama to be had. That's because Norway and Russian got into a bit of a showdown over who gets access to the Arctic. The pissing match between those two countries turned into a bit of a political and logistical nightmare that resulted in some polar explorers, adventurers, and researchers being left in the lurch while attempting to travel to and from the Arctic this spring. And the fallout from this exchange could have long-lasting repercussions for the future.

I reported several times on the fact that flights to the Barneo Ice Camp – the temporary base built at 89ºN each year – were delayed coming out of Longyearbyen, in Svalbard, Norway because of security issues. Those flights are for massive Russian supply planes, which are used to shuttle gear and personnel too and from the Arctic. The aircraft typically fly from Russia to Norway, where they pick up passengers and supplies before proceeding on to Barneo. But this year, this procedure caused a stir when the transport planes carried a team of Chechen soldier who were on their way to the Arctic to conduct training exercises. Norwegian officials say that the Russians didn't inform them that these commandos would passing through their country, and in retaliation they revoked all of the flight permits, and changed the procedure for how the Russian jets come and go.

All of this was further compounded by the fact that the Barneo station had one of its most challenging years ever. Each year, a team of Russian engineers parachutes out onto the ice to build a temporary base that includes a 4000-foot (1220 meter) runway. That camp is then used to facilitate travel throughout the Arctic for a month or so. But this year, the landing strip had all kinds of issues, having to be rebuilt on multiple occasions and even forcing the relocation of the base at one point.

As you can imagine, all of this led to a tumultuous season at the North Pole this year, and will dramatically impact operations moving forward. Just exactly what happened, and how it will change travel in the Arctic in the future, is detailed in this article from Outside magazine. The story goes to great lengths to lay out the facts of what happened and the dispute that it has created between the Russians and the Norwegians. If you followed the events as they unfolded this past spring, or know the logistics of Arctic travel, you'll find it to be a good read.

It will certainly be interesting to see how this plays out in the future. At the end of the Arctic season, the team that operates Barneo said that they would shift their logistical base back to Russia and travel through Franz Josef Land starting next year. That will work of course, but it means more hassle for the people coming and going from Barneo. Whether or not that has a real impact on travel at the top of the world remains to be seen.