Introducing The Accidental Extremist

The best kind of travel is the least-expected. Even if it means narrowly escaping disaster. Especially if it means narrowly escaping disaster. Ever think to yourself, “I shoulda stayed home”? Tell your story over on my new blog, The Accidental Extremist

Think of it as the online home for misadventure. Stories about the wheels coming off and what happened next. Cultural gaffes. Cautionary Tales. Submit them, especially if they’re funny. Make them compelling. (And yes, make them true, or risk the lash of karmic whips). This is the place for off-the-road tales of the outlandish, the ridiculous, and the embarrassing. Basically everything that daily life is not. Snapshots, videos, links, cartoons, postcards all welcome. We can use your name, or not. Your call. And Happy Trails! 

Showtime, Himalayan Style [Take Me To Your Leader]

Yesterday the New York-based Himalayan community — including many of the Sherpas I have written about in Outside Magazine and The New York Times — hosted His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama for a 2-hour teaching at Radio City Music Hall. For me, as the organizers’ volunteer media liaison, it was a thrilling day that started with greeting the Dalai Lama’s entourage at a secret airport location for a blaze into midtown via high-speed armored motorcade; for the Sherpas and their friends, it was the fulfillment of a long-nourished dream, a visit from their spiritual leader audaciously and ingeniously pulled off from a cab driver’s apartment in Queens. Here, a few outtakes from the day, shot behind the scenes. 

The Everest Archives [Toil and Trouble]

I’m humbled, honored, and more than a little surprised that Outside Magazine has included my story about Sherpas relocating to New York City from the Himalayas on a list of its best ever stories relating to Mount Everest. On the roster are several articles by writers I admire, including the massive feat of reporting that became Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer, and eleven other alternately harrowing and hilarious high-altitude yarns by Mark Bryant, Nick Heil, Eric Hagerman, Brad Wetzler, and Kevin Fedarko, among others. Be sure to check out the photo galleries, too, with film and video work by the likes of Martin Schoeller, Jimmy Chin, and writer/producer Jenny Dubin

After the jump, unedited, is Outside’slist

Continue reading “The Everest Archives [Toil and Trouble]”

Storms Over Everest, Past and Present

   Good reason to stay home tomorrow: “Storm Over Everest” on PBS’s FrontLine,  airing Tuesday night from 9-11PM on PBS. Here’s why: the film, created by veteran mountaineer and filmmaker David Breashears, and producer David Fanning, is riveting and timely. May marks Everest’s annual climbing period, and though it’s been 12 years since the deadly 1996 season (which claimed 15 lives, 8 on a single day), interest in the peak and its yearly life-and-death dramas never seems to wane, despite the increasing triviality and hype surrounding some expeditions and the fabled debauchery of Base Camp.  On the contrary: last year, 500 people attained the 29,035′ summit, an astonishing total given that only around 2,000 had previously managed the feat since 1953.

  This season has been drastically different. The Chinese government recently closed the Tibet side of the mountain to climbers for an Olympic Torch-touchdown mission to the summit, broadcasting the successful climb on TV. With ongoing protests worldwide over the Olympics, three significant new books on the ill-fated 2006 season (including HIGH CRIMES, by Michael Kodas, and DARK SUMMIT, by Nick Heil), and now the Breashears film (which not only departs from Jon Krakauer’s take in crucial ways but also recreates scenes from the disaster with certain survivors portraying themselves, and presents moving interviews with physician Beck Weathers, twice left for dead on the peak ), it’s a ripe moment to look at the peak’s enduring grip on the Western imagination–and in the media. 

 

Calling The Colossus

 Ed and Tenzing
The news that Sir Edmund Hillary had died of a heart attack at the age of 88 on Thursday in New Zealand didn’t particularly come as a shock to me—I’d been afraid of hearing the news since reading of his failing health over the past few years. But it did bring back a vivid memory. Reading the tributes (a few found here), I remembered a surreal afternoon about eight years ago when I sat up bolt-straight in a wooden chair, and, over a phone line, heard his voice crackle through the earpiece. “Ed Hillary,” he said. I nearly froze.

Continue reading “Calling The Colossus”

High Plains Drifter

Himalayas in QueensWho ever said New York doesn’t have everything? Now that Sherpas have moved en masse from the Himalayas to New York City, it only makes sense the Himalayas should follow suit. After all, the great range has around 100 peaks that soar above 7,000 meters; New York City has some 35 high-rise buildings that soar over 700′; ambition itself dwells here! (OK, so do giant rats, and toxic preschools). In the spirit of reaching higher, though, some very enterprising Hindu monks in Queens have been working on a remarkable basketball court-sized replica of the sacred range since 1994, nearly filling a former electronics warehouse in Woodside, scheduled to open sometime in 2008. Amid snowcapped peaks that rise to nearly 20′ are a dozen model train sets, model fire engines, and a few teal colored convertibles parked outside an ersatz American-style diner. There’s no sign of any yeti so far; supplemental oxygen won’t be necessary. Via Gothamist. Related: Sherpas on Prime Time.

Sherpas on Prime Time

SherpasA few weeks ago I got a surprising phone call from producers at ABC News who hoped to turn my recent piece on Sherpas in New York from Outside Magazine into a segment for World News Tonight. After two days of filming in SoHo and Queens, the result was broadcast last night, the closing segment of Sunday’s show. Miraculously the interview with me did not end up on the cutting room floor. Enjoy!

What It Is…

takeoffLast April I had the outrageous fortune of being invited to heliski the Tordrillo Range of Alaska, about 80 miles outside of Anchorage, with Chugach Powder Guides, on assignment for Outside Magazine. What miracles did I perform to deserve such an assignment? I’m still wondering. After 3 steady days of snowfall that kept our group very much indoors, we flew high into the hills for the first winter time descents in the 1500 square mile range. And, well, I’m not worthy: the terrain was absolutely incredible. There’s a brief writeup on that luckfest here, under the the Outside Magazine articles section (see “D is for Decadence”). And hey travelers, worried about SARS, Avian Flu? Fugheddabout it. OK, what about the measles? Think again. Also on my site, under the National Geographic Adventure slug, two doctors’ take on what is hype, and what is a hazard, when traveling the world, from this month’s issue of National Geographic Adventure.