Posts Tagged ‘Craig Cimmons’

MSI Adds Rock Climbing to Programs


Rock Climbing is not new to the founder and other staff at Mountain Spirit Institute, but it’s new to MSI. R. Richards was a rock camp instructor for Outward Bound’s Semester Course  in Joshua Tree, CA, a staff trainer, and guide for Alpine Ascents in Seattle. He has been an individual member of American Mountain Guides Association since 1984, (which doesn’t connote certification), and MSI staffer Craig Cimmons has taught rock climbing for years in Vermont, and ran the Outdoor Program at Green Mountain College.  Bob Stremba runs the Outdoor Pursuits program at Fort Lewis College, and has been a long-time rock climber and outdoor instructor.

From MSI's Webpage on Rock Climbing

“I always thought it would be cost prohibitive to include insurance for rock climbing as part of our Worldwide Outfitters and Guides Association coverage, but I was wrong,” says founder Randy Richards, adding, “We should have added it years ago, and feel like we really want to take advantage of what we have to offer.”  Cimmons,  Stremba,  and Richards all place a high importance on not only safety but a comfortable learning environment.  “With years of teaching rock climbing, and many students with whom we’ve shared our skills, we feel we want to continue to get out on the rock!” says Richards.

MSI includes rock climbing not simply as an outdoor adventure activity, but uses the climbing as a metaphor for life.  The facilitators set the tone for participants to take a look at how they problem solve on the rock, and see what correlations they might make in how they solve problems in their daily life. Trust and team-building are also important elements of rock climbing.

MSI Successful Board Retreat


Burning the midnight oil

At MSI’s recent residential retreat, the energy was contagious. The board members worked on actively bringing Mountain Spirit to a new level of commitment and confidence. MSI was started in 1998, when R. Richards,  after having just returned from high alpine guiding in Peru, led a trip under the MSI name to the Cusco region of Peru.  Since then the non-profit organization has had numerous and successful programs and workshops ranging from a Peruvian Shamanic Studies program which ran over the course of two years, a wilderness experience educational program, author lectures, and a film series, ongoing programs to Peru, the teen healing adventure and the Peru/USA Music Exchange held in the Northeastern US in the fall of 1998.

“Becoming more sustainable as an organization, and building capacity to deliver programs ” has been the board’s goal for the last two years.  At each board retreat we’ve identified how we can move forward, and at our last retreat, we dug in and wrote our first grant together. Laptops were all over the room, crunching numbers from every program we have on the calendar.

We had a ball, put in some long hours and have some great results. Importantly, we have set a time to develop our annual program schedule where we’ll slate new programs for the coming year during our Board of Directors summer retreat. Also, as  a result of the great work every did putting together some great programs and an top-notch organization-wide budget, we applied for our first grant to the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation’s Express Grant. We put in some serious hours, and suffered from a bit of what fellow board member Craig Cimmons calls “HBO”.  The acronym stands for “Haven’t Been Outdoors”.

Thanks to Cindy Heath, Craig Cimmons, Bob Stremba, and Amanda Richards for all the work and energy that they put into the board retreat! Adelante!

Image: MSI Board Members LtoR: The beagle Daphne (not a board member), Randy Richards, Amanda Richards, Bob Stremba, dinner guest and author *Henry  Homeyer, Cindy Heath and Craig Cimmons. (*Who you’ll be seeing more about on this blog)

Health Care or The Environment.

Which Comes First?
A look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
By: Craig Cimmons

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

As an environmentalist, I paid close attention to the candidate’s environmental stances and solutions during the Presidential election of 2009. However, the more I listened, the more apparent something became. American citizens are not going to devote their full attention to the needs of the environment until their own needs are met. With America’s health care system in need of desperate repair, the average citizen is worrying about problems closer to home then the large scale, hard to understand, global environmental problems.

Families that are losing everything they own to fight a disease, (or live in fear of this happening) do not have any resources (time, energy and money) to devote to anything outside of these problems.  A family that is watching cancer slowly consume their loved one (and their life savings) should never be expected to fight enormous problems like global warming, peak oil and the steady decrease of drinking water.


MSI-Outward Bound-Sunapee HS Scholarships


MSI continues to coordinate Scholarship Program for High School Students

Student rappels, N. Cascades, WA

Student rappels, N. Cascades, WA

Now in its fourth year, Mountain Spirit has been coordinating scholarships for Sunapee High School (NH, USA) students to attend Outward Bound. R. Richards had worked for Outward Bound as a recruiter in colleges and high schools, and included his hometown school in his recruiting efforts.  The program has sent a number of students on life-changing experiential wilderness programs designed to instill motivation, compassion, craftsmanship and a sense of community.

The Sunapee High School liaison Jeanne Circosta, has been coordinating the program at the student’s end, helping with applications and meetings and answering questions about Outward Bound.  Says Richards, “Jeanne has been a huge help in finding qualified and motivated students for Outward Bound.”

©2009 Outward Bound

©2009 Outward Bound

In the past students have gone sea kayaking in Maine, Rock climbing and backpacking in Colorado and Canoeing/Hiking in North Carolina. Two  16 year-old Junior students, Sean Reidy,  and Linnea Circosta, will be applying and there may be a third interested student.  Former Outward Bound and current Sunapee High School Student Brian Bailey has agreed to help with and fund raising efforts in Sunapee by speaking to such other organizations as the Sunapee Lyons Club or businesses that might be potential donors, allowing these students to go on this exciting program.

All funds received are dedicated to this particular program and are tax deductible as Mountain Spirit Institute is a 501-c-3 Non profit organization.

Brenda Dowst, MSI board member will also be helping in the fund raising effort by presenting the program highlights, selection criteria and goals to local organizations and businesses on an as needed basis.

Roped-Team Travel, N. Cascades

Roped-Team Travel, N. Cascades

Mountain Spirit is proud to be presenting this program which is gaining traction in the community, and with Outward Bound’s scholarship administration as well. Because of MSI’s consistency in sending students to Outward Bound, and our reputation for building local partnerships for funding the scholarship, Outward Bound has committed to longer term, for future years, funding of a significant portion student’s tuition. This commitment from Outward Bound depends on continued local business and organization participation.

Hanna Baade, the first participant on this program showed pictures of her trip when giving an interview to the local paper. It made a huge impact on her life. Ben Bailey who was leaving for his program just as Baade had returned, listened with quiet anticipation, but after having completed his Outward Bound experience, said it was a huge and fantastic experience.  He liked it so much his brother went the following year.

If you or your organization would like to donate to this worthwhile program, please contact R. Richards, Mountain Spirit’s Executive Director, at for complete details. He will send you documents on the program description, search and selection criteria,  and how you can help with a donation.

The Adventure, continued

Wet Socks in the Backcountry

Wet Socks in the Backcountry

The adventurers from Singapore, Shaun Lee and Karan Puri, (see earlier post) took me up on my offer in joining me in New Zealand’s backcountry. I don’t think the two would have ventured out in this territory on their own, in fact they mentioned the whole concept of “backcountry” didn’t exist in their country. Singapore is compact. Their eyes were wide when they first came up on the Rob Roy Glacier after a few miles up a steep trail, after a small swinging bridge. They then made the two hour trek to the Aspiring Hut with me. Their shoes were a bit wet after the hike, but after a warm meal they were feeling great. The following morning, they were on their way back to the trailhead, as they had reservations on the mountain shuttle.  They were a bit nervous, heading out in the rain, but I assured them they would make it. I assume they did! I’ve not heard from them.

‘Gross National Happiness’

3 cups of Tea

Three cups of Tea

A Mountain Spirit Board member, plus a few others, have been telling me I need to read “Three Cups of Tea”  by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. It’s a great story about persevering a dream of building a school for the children of Korphe, Pakistan. One passage, quoted below, reminds me of how gravitating back to sustainable cultures can make our lives saner. If you’ve not read Three Cups of Tea, I suggest you pick up a copy.
An excerpt from the book that caught my eye: 
“A book he’d read , Ancient Futures, by Helena Norberg-Hodge, was much on Mortenson’s mind. Norberg-Hodge has spend seventeen years living just south of these mountains in Ladakh, a region much like Baltistan, but cut off from Pakistan by the arbitrary borders colonial powers drew across the Himalaya. After almost two decades studying Ladakhi culture, Norberg Hodge has come to believe that preserving a traditional way of life in Ladakh-extended families living in harmony with the land- would bring about more happiness than “improving”  Ladakhis’ standard of living with unchecked development.

Ancient Futures

Ancient Futures

“I used to assume that the direction of ‘progress was somehow inevitable, not to be questioned,” she writes. “I passively accepted a new road through the middle of the park, a steel-and-glass bank where a 200-year-old church had stood…and the fact that life seemed to get harder and faster with each day. I do not anymore. In Ladakh I have learned that there is more than one path into the future and I have had the privilege to witness another, saner, way of life- a pattern of existence based on the co-evolution between human beings and the earth.”
Norberg-Hodge continues to argue not only that Western development workers should not blindly impose modern “improvements” on ancient cultures, but that industrialized countries had lessons to learn from people like Ladakhis about building sustainable societies. “I have seen,” she writes, “that community and close relationship with the land can enrich human life beyond all comparison with material wealth or technological sophistication. I have learned that another way is possible.”
Norberg-Hodge admiringly quotes the king of another Himalayan country, Bhutan, who say the true measure of a nations success is not gross national product, but  ‘gross national happiness.”

Danish Family: “World is our Classroom”

The Bagers in their "mountain classroom"

The Bagers in their "mountain classroom"

The Danish family of five had headlamps but had decided they didn’t need them.  The moonlight illuminated their way. They left the trailhead around dark and rode their mountain bikes on the single, sometimes double track up the valley, being sure to keep the Matuktuki River on their right. Dennis, the father, aside from briefly looking at the map, was going on memory. He had been in this place some 15 or twenty years prior, but that time he was high above this place, and almost slid off  Cascade Pass on snow covered wet grass, losing his fingernails while self arresting with hands and nose. This return trip had a different sense of adventure. He was returning with his wife Birgette and his three children Manus 10, Rasmus, and their little sister Frederikke, 7.  And this trip was part of a bigger adventure. He and Birgette were about a third of their way through a two year round-the-world educational odyssey with their kids.  They pedaled into Aspiring Hut around 11pm, tip toeing into the hut with their gear, careful not to disturb sleeping climbers and hikers.  I had heard they had just arrived , and what’s more that they had shipped their 1990 VW oversized camper complete with school books and bikes from Denmark through Asia, Australia, and were headed to South America after a good long stint in New Zealand I had to find out more.  The next morning I asked if I could interview them. Dennis jokingly said no but later agreed and even said I could get more info off their website.
MSI: Do you mind if I ask? How are you able to afford to take two years off with your whole family?

Dennis Bager: In Denmark there has been a law that allows either a man or a woman to take a family leave before their child is nine years old. This law has existed for two reasons. (more…)

Inspirational People

Karan Puri & Shawn Lee, Adventurers from Singapore

Karan Puri & Shaun Lee, Adventurers from Singapore

Karan Puri, 18 of Katong Province and Shaun Lee, 19 of Bedok province, Singapore, are not only really nice guys, they’re also inspiring. I’ve run into them here at the the Wanaka Hostel. Right now there  currently out biking around town somewhere. I found their motivation to travel New Zealand so inspiring I thought I’d share it with you.  I interviewed them last night over a beer, out here on the porch from where I write this piece.

Both Karan and Shawn have just finished high school and have about three months off, before they report for the mandatory 2-year military stint that all young men are required to do in Singapore.  When Karan first walked into the hostel I noticed he had a sense of inquiry and interest, not to mention compassion and friendliness. Later, upon meeting Shawn it I got the same sense of adventure and excitement.  They are now on day 6 of their adventure. So here’s some insight as to what brought them to Wanaka, New Zealand.

MSI: So what motivated you two to come to New Zealand?
Karan: To do something before the military. This is the first time on vacation without my parents, and I had been here in Wanaka when I was a child. Something about the place stuck with me. So I wanted to come back.
You see, one never really gets a break to travel if you’ve been brought up in Singapore. (more…)

Power of Place: Utah’s Canyonlands

Looking W on Island in the Sky, Utah

Looking W on Island in the Sky, Utah

Although I was graduated from the University of Utah, and spent as much time in Utah, as in any other state, I had never been to CanyonlandsNational Park. I recently had the opportunity to kill some time while in Salt Lake waiting for a car repair, and decided to spend a few days and nights in the desert near Moab. My first stop was the Island in Sky. I spent a day exploring the plateau, taking pics, and scrambling among the sandstone outcrops. I miss the Utah desert, although New Zealand is hard to beat.

Navajo Sandstone: Canyonlands, Utah

Navajo Sandstone: Canyonlands, Utah

As an aside, I was driving here in New Zealand from Christchurch to Wanaka, and passed through canyon that reminds me of American Fork Canyon in Utah.  Anyway, after a couple of days on the Island, I did some work in Moab on MSI’s portable office, (the laptop) then moved on to the Needles area in the southern portion of the park. Here one can day hike or spend the night in the backcountry, and even drive around the park, although the latter is not high on my list. Along those lines, read Edward Abbey’s The Monkeywrench Gang, or Desert Solitaire on brilliant views about America’s relationship to wilderness. Oddly, I’m not sure his books have made it here downunder. I’ll keep you posted. 

Island in the Sky, Image:Steve Mulligan/USPS

Island in the Sky, Image:Steve Mulligan/USPS

The Utah desert has a power all its own. So, if you’ve not been I suggest you get there before you die. Put it on your bucket list. For more information on the MSI’s Utah Solo and Wilderness programs, please contact us. The US Park Service has some great resources for Canyonlands

Global Climate Change

Glacier Calving, NZ

Glacier Calving, NZ

Largest iceberg ‘calved’ in 25 years from Tasman Glacier Terminal Face, Mt. Cook, New Zealand
A three meter tidal wave surging down Aoraki Mount Cook’s Terminal Lake was the first indicator of the largest single iceberg in 25 years calving directly from the Tasman Glacier terminal face yesterday (10 February). The giant slab of ice or ‘calf’, estimated to be 250m long by 250m wide by 80m high, plunged into the Terminal Lake in the early afternoon, the most significant single calving in the lake’s 25-year existence.  A second iceberg about quarter of the size calved from the face shortly afterwards.

Glacier Explorers Operations Manager Bede Ward, whose company takes visitors on boat trips to view the Tasman Glacier face from the water, said the calving happened between trips but made quite a splash.

Terminal face calving

Terminal face calving

Last week passengers onboard Glacier Explorers boat trips witnessed the calving of “The Bomb”, an eight meter wide and 30 meter chunk of turquoise ice.“We thought that took the cake but this new iceberg, is absolutely massive. It supersedes the last significant one named “Sir Edmund Hillary” which calved on January 11, 2008, the same day Sir Edmund Hillary passed away. “We’re getting more and more icebergs now so we’re naming them in order to track and communicate changes and locations.  “Since the Terminal Lake began forming in 1973, the Tasman Glacier’s retreat has noticeably quickened because the lake is expanding all the time and is causing a more rapid melt of the terminal face. I think we may be looking at major calving from the terminal face as an annual event now.”