Fan mail, feedback, ideas & opinions


Letters to the Editor

In response to “The Void” in ASJ #91:

ROPE UP DOUBLE! I just finished reading your amazing article “The Void”, and just had to make a comment. I was looking at your son’s handsome face and thinking to myself there is no greater pleasure in this world than to look into our wonderful children’s eyes and feel blessed that we have them in our lives. Nothing and no thrill is worth risking their wellbeing and I do mean no thrill! Please take very safe measures when you climb with them again, they are just kids and they are trusting their parents with their life. Thank you for sharing this unforgettable and soul stirring story!
—Roya Enayati, Beverly Hills

CHILLS Wow! That story gave me chills! What a harrowing journey you all made and I’m so so glad you’re all ok. Thank you for sharing. Smart safety can be simple to implement, right? But being aware and prepared is challenging and I hope you guys will share more good tips on this. Great topic!

NOT ROCKET SCIENCE A lesson learned there … so many of my friends have been killed when walking off climbs that I never hesitate to get the rope out when on any kind of exposed ground. I have always felt that hiball bouldering is just not worth the risk. I have seen reports of people falling six feet on a climb and been killed … so … it isn’t rocket science.
—Tom Evans

MAKING THE BEST CALL Thanks for sharing. I’m sorry for the close call with Lukas, but I am happy for the outcome. It is inspiring to know you take your kids climbing, as it is something I hope to do with my own someday.  I don’t know what it is like to question continuing to climb with them, but I feel sure you’ll make the best call. I don’t think there is anyone your son would have rather wanted helping him but you. I am glad you all are safe!  🙂
—Meggan Wenbourne, Santa Cruz

REMARKABLE LESSONS I was reading this letter with vivid memories of a frightening free-solo I did of that climb back in 2004. There were many scary moments, but one of them was that thin portion of that trail down where I encountered a rattlesnake that didn’t seem to want to move from my escape route down. I remember the exposed sections of that hike down and recall thinking people could easily get in trouble there.

I can’t help but attempt to relieve some of your guilt. While I agree, roping up is always a good idea no matter how technical the terrain (different people perceive danger in very different ways) I would like to remind you that for the small risk that an experience and safe climber/father puts their children in, there are remarkable lessons you are teaching your kids. Awareness of surroundings, awareness of themselves, technical problem solving and calm under pressure all get developed as a climber. These are lessons with life-long positive implications for young people.

In 2007 at the Moto GP race at Laguna Seca, I was watching the best motorcycle racers in the world navigate corners at high speeds, and race down straightaways inches from each other at 150+ miles per hour. During one of the races, a man near me suddenly fell backwards unconscious. Overweight and sitting on a cooler full of beer, the word from paramedics was a heart attack. He was rushed to the hospital without having regained consciousness. A few days later I was telling my Mom about the race I attended and after describing what the riders do, she said without hesitation “That is crazy! How could anyone do something so dangerous!” I thought back to the race and the poor guy who suffered the heart attack and thought “Who is actually at risk here?” If I had to put money on it, the unhealthy spectator was at far greater risk than the guy speeding over a rise at 100mph.

My point is, risky activities teach us about safety in the rest of our lives. They train us to be healthy and able, rather than the opposite. So long as the risks are controlled, the value far outweighs them. I learned a lot on that free-solo about risk, fear and personal control, but that is a much longer story. You strike me as an aware, competent and experienced climber. I would consider it a shame if you stopped exposing your kiddos to that side of you. Thank you for sharing!
—Jesse Smith, CSU Chico

In response to “Ear to the Ground” in ASJ #91

TROJAN HORSE It was disturbing to see the Human Powered Travel in Wilderness Act (S.3205) portrayed in a favorable light in the last issue. This misguided legislation is the result of an unholy alliance between the Sustainable Trails Coalition and Utah Senators Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch. No matter your take on bikes or chainsaws in designated wilderness areas, S.3205 is quite simply a Trojan Horse aimed at dividing the outdoor recreation community and weakening protections for the wild places we all cherish.

But don’t take my word for it – a Google search will swiftly reveal Lee and Hatch’s platforms on public lands. Both would much prefer that USFS, BLM, FWS and even some NPS lands be transferred to states and private interests, and they are not alone. Numerous western Senators, Congressmen and industry-funded groups like the American Lands Council are working overtime on public land-transfer schemes, often disguised as short-term gains for unlikely constituents. If we are to stop them, it’s more important than ever that hikers, climbers, mountain bikers, kayakers and the rest of the outdoor community join forces, close ranks and speak with a unified voice against cynical efforts to undermine our national heritage.

Thanks and happy trails,
—Mike Splain, Executive Director, Ventana Wilderness Alliance

>>WE LOVE TO HEAR FROM OUR READERS! Feel free to email editor Matt Niswonger or any of our contributors who help make ASJ such a valuable part of our outdoor community.


Aug/Sept Results To MORB or Not to MORB? How do you feel about electic bikes?

39% —  they’re great as long as they are kept on legal moto trails

26% ­— no way    19% — love ‘em  • 16% ­— the jury is still out 

Read on for comments and our next switchback question.

I own muscle bike – (Cannondale Rise 1) and an e-bike (Specialized Turbo Levo.) In the last ten days I’ve ridden the muscle bike five times and the e-bike twice. There’s a place for both. Before getting the e-bike I’d average between 30 and 50 miles a week year round. I hope to do a little more now that I also own an e-bike. I use the e-bike when I’m riding with my kids who are in their 20s and 30s and when I want to do a long, adventure ride on tough terrain (many times at altitude – 6,000′ to over 10,000′). My speed hasn’t increased but my ability to keep up and be social has. I hope to be mountain biking and adventuring with my family and friends well into my 80s. It’s really important to adjust the power output using the iPhone app. I generally ride the e-bike at 10% power on the flats and moderate climbs. I switch to 25% on long steep climbs and go to 40% on the steepest, rough climbs. I can do a 20- to 25-mile ride with elevation gains of 2,500′ and more and still have 70% battery left when I finish. It just lets me keep up with the kids and ride the long rides I love to ride.

—Jay Graham, Mill Valley

I did contract video work for US Electric Car in the 90s for its push to get ebikes spread in the US and China. I used to own an early model. I disagree with Kurt Gensheimer that those of us in Marin trying to protect many narrow sensitive trails from both horse and mountain bike travel are “eco-zealots” There are many trails unsuited to all but hikers and wildlife. Mountain bikers hurt their cause by trying to push beyond this. In the meantime, enjoy your ebike on legal trails.

—John P.

I ride with an aging group of riders, several of whom were there when mountain biking started in Marin and e-bikes have been a godsend. These are riders who helped to create the sport and have reached a point in their late 60s and 70s where absent electronic assist they would not be able to continue to participate in a sport that they love and get out with friends with whom they have shared the enjoyment of the sport for 25-30 years. As for speeds on the trails, the electric assist has not resulted in them going uphill any faster … it’s a waste of battery power (i.e. you can’t go as long) and it means being separated from those in the group not on electric assist. Nor has it result in going downhill any faster… frankly, you can go faster on a non-assist bike. For my part I am all for it and am disappointed and dismayed with those in the mountain biking community that view them as a threat. As a community, we as mountain bikers need to work out our issues and stick together.

—Fred Benz, San Francisco

Everybody doesn’t get to do everything everywhere forever. E-“bikes” are a serious threat to the access that many people have been fighting to increase/maintain for decades. Shame on Specialized for pushing them into the market before most land managers have even come out with a policy – although almost everyone that has a policy regarding them has banned them. Also, calling the Marin anti-bike folks “eco zealots” is putting it nicely! They’re completely out of touch with reality and out of touch with how multi-use trails work in the rest of the country.

—Doug Mann, San Jose

Personally I would never own one of these and I’m in my late 60s, so I qualify as one of the “older folks.” If the time comes when I can’t climb my usual trails, I’ll use lower gears or ride less steep climbs. If a person has health problems such as a heart condition, it would not be good to have their e-bike’s battery go dead and have to attempt to push their rig back up a long climb. I’ve seen four e-bikes on the trails all ridden by riders young enough to be my grandkid.

—Jim Denton, Scotts Valley

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