Archive for December, 2009

Plant Hope & Grow Happiness


By Amanda Richards

An Eco-fable about planting trees

I picked up an excellent book on the week-end – one that I hope you will read. It’s an oldie but a goodie. This book is a magical and inspiring tale about a man who planted trees. It is also known as  The Story of Elzéard Bouffier, The Most Extraordinary Character I Ever Met.

It was first published in 1953 and is a timeless eco-fable about what one person can do to restore the earth. The hero of the story, Elzéard Bouffier, spent his life planting one hundred acorns a day in a desolate, barren section of Provence in the south of France. The result was a total transformation of the landscape-from one devoid of life, with miserable, contentious inhabitants, to one filled with the scent of flowers, the songs of birds, and fresh, flowing water.

The Gift of Time Well Spent


Nice Job Mr. Manzer.

I found myself at a store called Eastern Mountain Sports the other day here on the east coast, of the U.S., and at the front door, the following letter was predominantly posted on a display board at the stores entrance for all customers to see. It was written by the chain’s president and shows that this corporation has the intention of not only making a profit but  also to remind its customers what’s really important in the end.

The Gift of Time Well Spent
The holiday  season always involves a tremendous amount of planning, coordination, and giving of one’s time and effort. With so much to do and so little time to do it, it’s easy to get stressed out.

My wish for you and your family is that after all the parties are over and all the presents are unwrapped, you take some time to unplug from the madness and enjoy each other’s company. Get outside, take in the new season, and appreciate the greatest gift of all – a healthy life:

Crash through a pile of dry leaves on your mountain bike.
Breath deeply on the first day below [-5 Celsius].
Feel the burn of a cold-weather trail run.
Watch the first ice form on the banks of a fast-moving stream.
Grab a handful of snow with your gloves off.
Watch the first winter sunrise from the top of a mountain.
Most important[ly], appreciate the outdoors and take good care of it.

From all of us at EMS – Happy Holidays!

Will Manzer,
President & CEO
Eastern Mountain Sports

Kudos goes to E.M.S.  I bought my first 60/40 mountaineering  jacket there for our Proctor Academy winter mountaineering course. It must have been in 1975.  For a while the store struggled but these days, not only is its president’s writing good letters like the one above, but the store seems to be on track environmentally as well as with its education and customer service focus.  Well done E.M.S. –  keep it up.
Editor’s note: This letter was given to me by one of the employees at EMS when I explained I’d like to reprint it on our blog. Edits are in brackets.

World’s Rubbish Dump


A Plastic Soup That Stretches from Hawaii to Japan
From: The Independent

Image: The Independent

By Kathy Marks, Asia-Pacific Correspondent, and Daniel Howden
A “plastic soup” of waste floating in the Pacific Ocean is growing at an alarming rate and now covers an area twice the size of the continental United States, scientists have said.

The vast expanse of debris – in effect the world’s largest rubbish dump – is held in place by swirling underwater currents. This drifting “soup” stretches from about 500 nautical miles off the Californian coast, across the northern Pacific, past Hawaii and almost as far as Japan.

Charles Moore, an American oceanographer who discovered the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” or “trash vortex”, believes that about 100 million tons of flotsam are circulating in the region. Read the rest of this story

Save Your Local Economy


Shop at Local Brick & Mortar Stores
By R. Richards
I was doing a little shopping at a local store called Artisan’s Workshop in my hometown today. It’s been a long-time fixture of our community and provider of good gifts for many years. Fellow co-founder of Friends of Mount Sunapee, Catherine Bushueff started the store and sold it some years ago. It’s much better than any large chain store could be. While checking paying for my purchase, I saw this flier on the countertop about shopping locally.

The facts about how one can really make a difference by shopping locally caught my eye, and thought I’d pass this along. You can find out more at

Trying to Find Aljazeera?


By Randall Richards

Control Room - The Movie

Trying to find Aljazzeera in the U.S.? Good luck. It’s not easy. Our media blackout is not total however. You can see an online version of their TV broadcast. It’s not what you’ve been told. We have found them to be very balanced and professional over the years.  As a side note, if you’ve not seen the DVD  The Control Room, about Aljazeera’s balanced coverage during the early stages of the Iraq invasion, and its the subsequent “mistaken” missile attack by U.S. forces on its Badgad Bureau, you ought to see it (Netflix).

When we lead programs in Peru, the cable TV provided in hotel rooms almost always has Aljazeera. It’s a fresh perspective. We encourage you to check it out online at .

Rooibos Tea Plant Under Threat


Rooibos Tea farmers on the Front Line of Cimate Change
By Amanda Richards

Rooibos - The Frontline of Climate Change

I was born in South Africa, and we all grew up with Rooibos or, red bush tea. I was saddened to see this recent article covering this important plant being threatened by environmental and man-made factors.

In this article in The Independent newspaper, Virginia Marsh explores how this valuable plant is threatened by climate change – and with it the independent farmers that depend upon it for their livelihoods.

By Virginia Marsh

"Red Bush" or Rooibos Tea

Unusually, the entire global supply of rooibos comes from a single production area in the west of South Africa that measures just 200 x 100 kilometres. Efforts to cultivate it outside of the Suid Bokkeveld have not been successful: it draws on the region’s unique soils and climate and needs to grow alongside other components of its ecosystem.
Read the rest of this article:

Online Avalanche Education


Interactive Avalanche Education Online
From Backcountry Magazine,
By Lance Riek

Fracture Zone- Avalanche

Whether you’re just beginning to learn about avalanches, or you want to clean out the summer cobwebs, the American Avalanche Association online tutorial is the place to start,” says Doug Abromeit, director of the National Avalanche Center.

The interactive avalanche awareness tutorial, developed by the Sawtooth Avalanche Center forecaster Chris Lundy, is now online at The click-through, online tutorial covers the basics of indentifying unstable snow and avy terrain, how to travel safely, and how to perform a rescue. There are guidelines for avalanche class organization and progression, and a list of course providers and locations.

Care to dig deeper?  The U.S. Forest Service website, provides information on analyzing stability, performing stability tests, and decision-making to stay safe in avalanche country.

Editor’s Note: Backcountry Magazine is a long-standing publication which we recommend because of its focus on human-powered skiing rather than lift-served, the latter which  is…way passé. I’ve been reading the magazine for years.

Mountain Spirit Institute Founder R. Richards is certified  Avalanche Level II training and a certified Level II backcountry ski guide with PSIA-I.  Some of his training was under the legendary Alan Bard, in Bishop California,  and Richards has taken the AMGA Ski Guides Course among other trainings. He’s a 20+ year “individual member” of the American Mountain Guides Association.
Image: From How Stuff Works, courtesy NOAA

“High Crimes” & Mt. Everest


Mt. Everest, Dramas and Ticklists..And, Another Way
By R. Richards

Drama in the Mountains

I probably would have had the opportunity when mountain guiding for Alpine Ascents International, to eventually guide on Mt. Everest.  Had I the interest to do so, or stayed with the company, that opportunity might have arisen. But I moved away from the classical “guiding life” to return back to my experiential education roots, and started Mountain Spirit Institute.

There seem to be a few **main types of characters in the mountains. The tribe with which I’m most comfortable is the Outward Bound experiential group of students and instructors, who are willing to step out of their comfort zones, “stretch” and allow the place and experience to change them.
Then there’s the N.O.L.S. (National Outdoor Leadership School) student or graduate who tends to be more pragmatic in wanting an experience in just the mountain skills with a touch of “expedition behavior” mixed in and important “leave no trace”.
Then there’s a third group, usually professionals, but not always, who want to tick off another peak, whether it’s one of the seven summits, or Mt. Rainier. They want to say they’ve done it. They’re more interested in the trophy than the experience. (more…)

Interview with Woman from Bhutan


Punyma Taha from Bhutan was a vendor recently at the 17th Vermont International Festival in Burlington, Vermont, USA.  She shares a bit about her life in the USA and how she came to live in Vermont. Her booth was next to  our Mountain Spirit Institute booth, and we had chatted a bit, so when we asked her if she would be willing to be interviewed for this blog, she gladly accepted the offer.

Why We Need Live Music #2


Kinobe’s Music Warms the Soul
By R Richards

Kinobe from Uganda

The main act for the Vermont International Festival a last week was the Kinobe from Uganda. I’ve had time to listen to their CD, and while I always prefer the live version of bands on stage compared to their CD, Kinobe’s CD  warms the soul. Below is a clip of them playing on stage at the festival. If you check out their website you’ll be able to find their next performance, which will be most likely be, down country in NYC or the Boston area.
Live music is vital for the soul. In the old days, before there were CD’s, mp3’s, even television, when only the rich could afford a radio, neigbors and family would sit around the living room and play instruments for enjoyment, and to pass the time.
Stay tuned for an upcoming video clip of Ray Chesna who wrote a song about just that.