Women succeed on world’s highest peaks
The spring climbing season on Mount Everest yielded ascents by several ski-town residents, among them two women.
Melissa Arnot, a mountain guide from Ketchum, Idaho, summited the 29,029-foot peak – her fourth successful summit bid of Everest, a record for women.

Originally from Whitefish, Mont., she began mountain climbing in 2001. She earned her stripes as a guide on Mount Rainer, which she climbed 30 times a summer from 2004 - 09. “That’s where I got the skill set to be able to climb the Himalayas,” she told the Idaho Mountain Express.

As for her most recent trip, she says that the record is not what drove her to climb. “I enjoy just being there,” she said. In 2010, she had set out – unsuccessfully – to climb Everest without oxygen. There were a lot of people on the mountain, and with resulting stress, she found it necessary to use oxygen from 27,000 feet and higher.

This year, 10 climbers died on Everest and 240 summited.

Telluride resident Hilaree O’Neill also summited Everest this spring. But while she’s proud of that, the sublime experience in mountaineering was on the adjacent 8,000-meter peak, Lhotse. She and climbing partner Kris Erickson became the first women to summit two 8,000-meter peaks within a 24-hour period. They were accompanied by the legendary Conrad Anker.

O’Neill told The Telluride Watch that climbing Everest was stressful, partly because the jetstream was parked overhead, limiting the climbing window.
“The jetstream wouldn’t move off the summit,” she said. “There were winds of 100 miles an hour plus. It sounds like a fricking freight train over your tent; it’s one of the most disturbing sounds I’ve heard: that jetstream charging over your tent.”

Few windows for climbing were available as a result of this difficult weather, yielding large crowds of climbers on the steep slopes when the wind slowed.

Too, the winds had removed the snow, and climbing on rock with crampons is difficult for climbers who have no experience doing so, which applies to many attempting Everest. And that creates a slow crawl both up and down. She said that she waited for an hour at the Hillary Step, a difficult and steep section of the ridge – where a simple mistake can send a climber catapulting thousands of feet down into either Tibet or Nepal. The Hillary Step is located a few hundred feet below the summit.

“At the end of the hour, there were 60 people waiting to get down, one at a time,” O’Neill explained. People can literally freeze to death as they wait in lines.

Returning to Camp 4, she coughed up blood. But then the wind died and the weather warmed. And, after a rest, O’Neill and her two partners – Erickson and Anker – set out for Lhotse.

Including his ascent of Lhotse, Anker was without oxygen for 31 hours. O’Neill believes she has the lungs for climbing high without oxygen, too, and testing at Base Camp by Mayo Clinic researchers seemed to confirm that.

O’Neill  has two young children at home in Telluride. That bothers some people, but not O’Neill.

“There are a million fathers up there – a ton – but not so many moms. It doesn’t affect me when I’m climbing and it isn’t a big deal amongst my team.”

Romney passing hat in West’s ski towns
JACKSON, Wyo. – Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, is spending time in ski towns of the West, hustling donations.
In Park City, Romney huddled with 700 of his best friends, described by the Wall Street Journal as a diverse set of new supporters and veterans, and million-dollar bundlers. Also on hand were assorted Republican governors, strategist Karl Rove, and former Bush administration figure Condoleeza Rice.

Donors had to give a minimum $50,000 to be invited to the Utah event, the Journal said.

“You had extremely well-heeled, wealthy, elderly businessmen. You had younger entrepreneurs,” one donor told the newspaper.

In July, Romney will pass the hat in Jackson Hole, first at a cocktail party hosted by former Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynnette, who maintain their official residence in Jackson Hole. The “donation” for attendance at the party is $2,500, reports the Jackson Hole News&Guide. Cost of attending the subsequent dinner will probably be much higher, the newspaper adds.

Jackson Hole is a particularly fecund source for Republican candidates. In the 2011-12 cycle, residents of Teton County donated $3.5 million to candidates, according to The Center for Responsive Politics. Foster Friess was the single largest donor, ponying up $2.3 million for Rick Santorum, a Romney rival in the Republican primary.

Anecdotal evidence of those who know ski towns holds that the wealth in Jackson Hole is unrivaled except perhaps by Aspen. Other ski towns and resort valleys – Vail-Beaver Creek, Park City and Sun Valley – are all down the list.

Internal Revenue Service records studied by Jonathan Schechter, of the Charture Institute in Jackson Hole, say the same thing. Teton County routinely ranks No. 1 or No. 2 in terms of per capita wealth, often vying with the exurban counties of Connecticut that are home to Wall Street executives.

Good & bad of Colorado’s drought
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – As forest fires spring up, the hot, dry and windy weather continues in Colorado, with no end in sight.

In Steamboat Springs, where temperatures crept above 90 degrees, the flow of the Yampa River fell to 82 cubic feet per second, compared to the normal flow on that day of nearly 1,600 cfs.

The low flows ended the commercial tubing season of three commercial outfitters. “It really hurts,” outfitter John Kole told Steamboat Today.
Hoteliers tell the newspaper that bookings are up significantly, despite the drought. “We’re just making little shifts to reflect the changes in the environment this year,” said Tom Kern, chief executive of the local chamber. Instead of focusing on river activities, for example, the promotions now highlight rodeo, cycling and horseback riding.

Looking for a silver lining, Today’s columnist Tom Ross points out that mosquitoes are also in short supply. “I know they are present in the high country this week, but the continuing bouts of gusty wind have blow many of them to Nebraska, never to buzz round our heads again,” he writes.
“Even in the high country this year, I predict that the skeeters’ reign will be a brief one.”

Aiming for economic and environmental resiliency
OURAY – Despite the profusion of new hydrocarbons from the Bakken shale of North Dakota, the oil/tar sands of Alberta and deep-sea sites off the coast of Brazil, a great many people feel it’s time to begin transitioning to a post-carbon societies.

Spawning this core belief, 40 to 50 people from Ouray County met recently to launch a local affiliation of The Transition Movement.

The Telluride Watch explains that the movement was spawned in England in 2006 and has quickly spread. Rob Hopkins, the Scotsman who initiated the movement, was in Telluride awhile back, and he outlined the key goals: “significantly rebuild resilience (in response to peak oil),” and “drastically reduce carbon emissions (in response to climate change).”

These goals, he said, should be pursued with “joy” and with “neighborliness.”

In Ouray, according to The Telluride Watch, there’s plenty of enthusiasm for the base principles, but not a clear game plan just yet. But committees within the new Transition Movement affiliate have taken on the responsibility to start thinking about localizing energy, food and transportation.

– Allen Best