(If you didn’t get to see the last post recapping our France excursion, scroll down for details)
The Mayor, aka my brother Todd, is back in TN for good. So first order of business was for us, upon my return from Europe and Todd settling into his new home on the lake was to reconnect with an area that has seen a good deal of trout slaying by the Quillen brothers. Here we stand at the infamous “double naught” campsite after a Saturday of full limit of rainbows.
It was a perfect day and the fish karma was even better.
Bloody machete man got the fire roaring.
Sunday found us enjoying another perfect weather setting that was prime for round two of the trout bagging. It only took a couple of hours to limit out and we were steaming back to Ktown to eat these delicious offerings.
Laurel was ready with all the fixins and we cedar planked these suckers and grilled them to perfection. It was the perfect ending to a perfect weekend.
Hemingway coined this phrase in the 1920s as he, along with other malcontents now regarded as the “lost generation” found their voices in the heart of the “city of lights”.
I took this photograph riding the RER train across the Seine. It is a dirty window on a cloudy day that gives this view of the “tour Eiffel” it’s dour appearance. I believe the impressionists would approve.
I’ve lost count of my visits to this place but each return just solidifies my love for what Paris represents. I get so tired of Americans who have never left the country denigrating the French because Fox news told them some BS. Yes, the French didn’t agree with the Iraq war and refused to follow Bush down that quaqmire. If anything, that gives them cred it my book. But even it todays toxic political climate at home, some of that misanthropy still exists. If the only place you get your information is Fox News, then you have more problems than can be addressed in a single therapy session. Every day, more and more, it is crystal clear that our President has colluded with an enemy of the US to subvert the political process and all Fox news can say is that the whole thing is just fabricated.
When the Iraq war hype was being fed to us via real “Fake News” I was lambasted for questioning Bush and the neocons. How dare you question our president in a time of war. Well, funny what a few years will bring, huh? It is now universally accepted that Bush and his whole team lied and now there is mounting evidence that they were more than a little involved in the events of 911 that got their oil hungry pals into the Middle East.
I am saying all this for one reason and some of you may not want to hear it, but I am going on record. Trump is an ignorant moron just like Bush. And ignorant morons are the most dangerous sort. Both Trump and Bush are owned by the millionaires who obviously pull their strings. So be very cognizant that Trump will likely follow the Bush playbook and start a false flag act of terrorism to deflect from his Russia scandal.
What does this mean? It means that Russia or some similar oligarghy will start something in a place like Syria, or pull a 911 type event that Bush so masterfully allowed to consolidate American support. It worked like a charm for the neocons on 911 and I am saying this to those who have sons and daughters that go die for these criminals. When the false flag event occurs, you better start questioning, reading other news sources outside of Fox and getting your affairs in order. Americans forget to wipe when they perceive some terrorist threat. We willingly abandoned all our freedoms for the Patriot Act and now, last week, the House signed a bill giving away all your internet privacy to the highest bidder.
I will end this lecture but take note, we are more vulnerable now in the US than at any point in my lifetime because we didn’t use our thinkers and fell for fascism. Americans falsely believed that a millionaire gave a flying crap about them. I can assure you he doesn’t care about anyone but himself and his other millionaire buddies. I know this because I deal with liars on a daily basis.
Now back to Paris,
Our first day, after settling into our apartment, we walked the streets from the Bastille to the Eiffel Tower. It was five miles. Laurel and I cruised along the Seine, passing familiar sights such as the Louvre and Notre Dame.
Then she made me climb that sucker for the millionth time.
Now that we had checked the box on tourist attractions, it was time to check off some other Paris sights. We secured reservations at some fancy dining establishements, one was in St. Germain de Pres and the fare did not disappoint. Our time on the Metro was extensive and Laurel can navigate that transit like a pro. I really enjoy the Paris metro, it is nothing more than an underground train and is very efficient. We rented an Airbnb and stayed in a traditional Parisian apartment in the 12 arrondisment in the old part of town. The metro was nearby as well as Gare Lyon, the train station. Benmoine was our host and her hospitality was appreciated. It was an old building with our flat being on etage 5, en Francais. My main objectives on this excursion were to make it to Versailles and go to Harry’s bar.
Harry’s New York bar was and remains a Paris institution from the time of Hemingway who hung out there. The bar invented the Bloody Mary drink, apparently. It is still quite popular with tourists. We metro rode to the Opera House in a rainy evening to enjoy that part of town. The metro pops us right up here. Are you starting to get a feel for the excitement of the city of lights?
Our time in Paris was three nights on the back end and the weather had been, well, French. Paris is always sort of windy and rainy so I delayed our pilgrimmage to Versailles until Saturday, which was a mistake. Although that was the perfect weather day, about 10 thousand others had the same idea. We boarded the RER train to Versailles and stood in a queu of no less than 4 thousand people.
It was a mistake, because our line was almost three hours long. Versailles had eluded me for approximately 12 trips to Paris. I can now allow it to elude me for 12 more.
This is just a thumbnail of our time in Paris. The nightmare returning and getting there is a story for another time. American Airlines has to be the most irresponsible carrier in the industry. I got what I paid for. A $510 ticket from Knox to Paris via Philly turned into an epic travel headache. But it still justified what turns out to be a 500$ minimum savings. This is how we felt after getting up at 4 am to get to the airport. Understand that while we were there, a terrorist opened fire at Orly airport and another similar act occurred in London. We had to return via both.
It’s enough to make you scream!
But overall a fantastic French experience, as usual.
Au revoir de la ville des lumières Jean!
Long ago, in another century, I made sojourns to this place of beauty in search of long, groomed runs and off piste bliss. Now with the dollar on par with the Euro and an amazing airfare of $500 to Paris, our return to France was secure.
That’s Laurel slooshing down a white Heaven on Le Tour. I have skied all over the world and can safely say that Chamonix is the ultimate skiers paradise. Compare it to the US and lift tickets are half priced, runs are at least four times as long, lodging is less and the food superb. Add to it the hospitality of the French and there is no reason not to go. I remember being told that the French were rude back when Fox news was pushing the runup to the Iraq war. They didn’t like the fact that the French didn’t agree with Bush’s scheme to get into Oil country. So Fox news took to denigrating the French. Well, looks like the French were correct on this account, huh Fox newsers? It’s fine by me. The same folks who thought we needed to invade Iraq are the same folks who never leave this country anyway. More for me.
We finally landed in Paris after a travel nightmare of epic proportion with American Airlines, the Walmart of the travel industry. This shot was taken by my cell phone while travling across the Seine via the RER. It turned out quite artistic, if I do say so myself.
We were supposed to go from Knoxville to Philly on the 15th then direct to Charles De Gaulle. However, the weather shut down flights and we missed two flights and endec up in Philly because American can’t organize a one car funeral. They ended up putting us through London which meant getting off , going through security and waiting three hours almost making us miss our dinner reservations at L’Aubergeade. We literally got in Paris about two hours before our much coveted reservation at this Michelin rated joint. It takes about that long to exit customs and ride the train into town, then catch a metro to our hotel.
But we made it and enjoyed one the finest meals of all time.
I highly recommend the veal and pate de fois gras.
We hadn’t much time, however, before our scheduled departure the following morning from Gare de Lyon to Chamonix. Our 7 hour train ride was a delightful journey to the Alps via the wine countries and rolling hills of middle France.
First class train travel is quite comfortable on the TGV which travels in excess of 120 mph. We switched trains twice and had little problem arriving in Chamonix by early afternoon.
I barely recognized the former ville in which I have spent so much ski time in the 90s. It is enjoying great success throughout Europe as “the” ski destination and for good reason. Laurel and I were met at the train station by Jean Pierre from whom we rented an airbnb with a view unrivaled. I saved soooo much money with the airbnb route, you wouldn’t believe it. I paid 57$ a night for this! And we were right in the center of everything in town.
We were dog tired from heavy travels and planned to ski the next day but rain moved in and we decided to use that time to rent equipment and explore Chamonix.
That, of course, involved Fondue, a local staple.
I’m not a big fan of putting two pounds of boiling cheese in my belly but when in Rome….
The next morning, we were ready for sunshine and spring powder and Le Tour did not disappoint on either account.
The bus system is excellent, no need for a “voiture”! (French for car)
French culture involves one of my great pleasures, the consumption of copious amounts of cafe’!
When we continue, I will expound upon the joys of Paris! As for now I must be off to work again so stay tuned in the next day for part two of our French vacation.
(This article contains bold clickable links)
When the KNS published a story about my friend Alan Arnette’s fall descending Twin Sisters peak several weeks ago (be sure to click the link, it actually shows him getting blown sideways) , it brought back memories not so fond. Alan took a serious screamer in a 100 mph gust that blew him almost clean off a Colorado spire. For perspective, I have been friends with Alan for several years via the web. Well before his fame as a tireless Alzheimer’s Champion and summiter of infamous K2. In fact, prior to my own, well documented K3 debacle in which my climbing partner, Brian Moran suffered similar injury, Alan advised me to use another ground logistics outfit. He had dealt with Field Touring Alpine in the past and I ignored his advice with predictable results. Brian’s injury and evacuation consumed but one week of some of the darkest days ever seen in Pakistan’s Karakoram Range.
When the account of Alan’s mishap crossed the Knoxville media, I was already reading an article in Rock and Ice Magazine about another friend from the mountains, Kyle Dempster. For those of you who may think he sounds familiar, I wrote about him in my last book, Father of Ice Mountains. Kyle and I happened to be seat mates on a flight from Seattle to Beijing in 2011 as Brian and I headed to the Tien Shan mountains for a summit of Muztagh Ata. Kyle was already famous by the time we had met and we killed a great deal of time swapping mountain tales in our flight to the Orient. Kyle’s frostbite injury figured prominently in the narrative about my own frostbitten digits. At one point, when I was able to get stateside, my physician prepared me for the eventual loss of a finger. I could only think of Kyle, who had lost the same end of his finger in nearly the same spot. That was my big personal brush with mountaineering injury.
Kyle was embarking upon an unassisted bike tour through the Karakoram and we said goodbye as he pedaled off into a dusty Beijing smog-scape. Kyle had already been granted a Piolet d’Or, climbing’s highest honor for his ascent of the North Face of Xuelin in China in 2010. Kyle’s climbing partner was Bruce Normand. In 2013, while sitting in a remote part of Pakistan called Skardu, I shared several afternoons in the beautiful riverside town being regaled by Bruce’s 209 ascent of K2 documented in the film, Shared Summits. I asked about Kyle and Bruce told me that he was planning to come join him on this trip. One week later, while Brian and I were hiking into Broad Peak basecamp, Taliban, disguised as police, stormed base camp of nearby Nanga Parbat and killed 11 aspirant mountaineers. Kyle assessed the situation and said “F%$# it!” via a well -documented open letter to the Pakistani government. Brian, Bruce and I had no such option. We were halfway into an 80 mile walk to one of the most remote places on earth. Taliban or not, we were heading to the highest peaks on our planet.
Fast forward to 2015. I’m in Talkeetna, Alaska with John Davis, Neil Murphy and Lee Whitten. We are making final preparations for a flight onto the Kahiltna glacier for an attempt on Kahiltna Dome. The weather was bad and we couldn’t fly into basecamp, even had an aborted attempt on the Otter wherein we had to circle around and return for another day. Two ladies were shadowing us, Chantal Astorga and Jewell Lund. We made jokes with them about our bad luck and when we finally landed together, had apparently stolen their crampons which set about another line of jokes. Our team was developing a reputation on the Kahiltna even before arrival. Apparently the weather had cleared late one afternoon and everyone was looking for us to re-board the ski planes. Problem was, we were sitting in a movie theater one hour away watching something on a big screen. By the time we landed on the glacier, Base Camp Annie greeted us on skis, saying, “How was the movie?” Now these two gals were convinced we were thieves. (Our gear had become intertwined, I promise!) Those Uber fit women would continue to make the first all- female ascent of the Denali Diamond while we flailed about unsuccessfully on Kahiltna Dome. I was proud to say we had been alongside history in the making. What I didn’t know about Jewell was uncovered in the Rock and Ice Magazine mentioned at the beginning of this missive.
News outlets generally don’t write about climbing unless something bad has happened. And although most of the time this isn’t the case, the article about Kyle is a posthumous dedication to a life lived on the edge. You see, last year Kyle and Scott Adamson repeated their attempt on the Ogre 2 in Pakistan with disastrous results. They were overdue for a week and a gofund me raised almost a quarter million dollars to no avail. They were likely avalanched off that mountain never to be seen again until a big melt. It was how Kyle would have wished it. It wasn’t until this week and the Rock and Ice piece was published that I discovered Lund was Kyle’s girlfriend. He got her into climbing in 2007 and she obviously took to it with felicity. She was slated to join him/us in Pakistan in 2013.
Strange are the paths that bring climbers into the big mountains. Sadly too are the ways in which they take people out. My partner, Brian Moran, still suffers from his 100 foot fall at 18000 feet on Broad Peak in 2013. There were three members of our team who did not return from Broad Peak. As an airline pilot, Brian was was forced to miss one year of work. There were times when it wasn’t certain whether or not he would keep the leg with infection an ever present nemesis. To this day, he still cannot run and climbing has been relegated to a thing of the past. Here is a clip that summarizes our experience there. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42um-dpYDyk&t=2s
It sounds like Alan Arnette will make a predictably strong recovery, he is a strong and seasoned climber, veteran of dozens of Himalayan expeditions. At one point, in 2007, while descending from the summit of Denali’s West Buttress route, my team almost suffered a similarly great tragedy as my rope mate, Dan Walters fell 30 feet into a bottomless crevasse. After this four hour rescue, all 11 of us bedded down without tents in a growing storm at 9500 feet. Unbeknownst to me, we were beside a tent that housed Alan Arnette who was making his second attempt of the “High One”. Alan’s luck on Denali mirrors that of mine on all 8 thousand meter peaks.
It was on this Alaskan expedition that I first made the acquaintance of Brian with whom I would go on to share many similar trips throughout the world. As we skied and snowshoed back to Kahiltna basecamp in the ever present midight sun in 2007, snowflakes covered our wearied bodies as my team limped into the landing strip for what would prove to be the last flight out for days. Brian was stuck at high camp, having made his summit bid just one day later than us. His team suffered greatly and they almost lost a guide to exposure in winds that created -20 temperatures. His summit shots look like true Alaskan epics while mine could have included an umbrella drink. Such is the variance within one day.
The Rock and Ice piece on Kyle emphasized the impact this young man had upon a burgeoning sport. He pushed himself to limits and affirmed the mountaineering adage, there are old climbers and there are bold climbers. But there are no old bold climbers. Jim Whittaker said, “If you’re not living on the edge, you are taking up too much room.” That’s easy for Whittaker since he is pushing towards 90. All of us have had close calls in the mountains, the key is to take those lessons and make sure they aren’t repeated. I wish Alan a speedy recovery. It is events like these that remind us who is really boss on high peaks and no matter what your preparation, experience or skill, there is still a great deal of luck that brings us back intact. For those preparing for Denali or the Himalaya this spring like my friend Andrea, I wish Godspeed and good luck.
There is plenty of unhiked terrain at Frozen Head and we are getting it in prior to the imposition of a tax to backpack there set to implement April 1. Recognize this guy? Yep, it is Licklog, aka Rev. Grady. He is back on the trail with the SouthernHighlanders. It was a perfect backpack.
This is the MoCo Mojo. Be prepared, it is infectious. We were exposed to it last Monday night following a presentation by the Morgan County Tourism alliance. They asked us to stay after the County Commission Tourism committee meeting. It is a nice little song.
Last time we approached the Mart’s Field campsite from Spicewood Trail. So this weekend we made the ascent of Chimney Tops, which is the most precipitous in the park. You can see from the elevation profile I mapped via Strava. If you haven’t used Strava, I highly suggest it. I was shown this app from a mountain biking friend and have been using it for the past year over at the Urban Wilderness. When you pass someone, for instance on the trail, Strava will tell you who it is, provided they are on Strava. It is a free app and calculates all manner of data. Now that I am seeing its value in the backpacking world, it will have even more utility. Probably not good GPS in the Smokies but Frozen Head is definitely in network. Here is where you can download. http://www.strava.com
They don’t call it Frozen Head for nothing. We climbed right out of the visitors center and it was steep.
The scenery was beautiful and we passed but a few hikers.
The views, however, were incredible. This is where they conduct the Barkley Marathon. I can see why.
That is the top of our climb. You probably noticed our ascent was 2575 feet in 5.1 miles. I made it in two hours, 14 minutes. There were steep sections.
I was glad to see the back side of our old campsite, Mart’s Field. Of course, Laurel and Longstreet had been there for 20 minutes.
Grady came strolling in a short time later. He was cursing me for picking the hardest trail in Frozen Head. He was reminded of why he hasn’t backpacked with me in a while, I’m sure.
We had the campsite to ourselves. I am convinced there is zero backpacking pressure in Frozen Head. Which is why we are battling them over their upcoming backpacking tax. The Morgan County Commission has supported our efforts to propose legislation to the TN State Delegation asking them to halt all backcountry fees in the State of TN for good. It is a long shot but we are trying to stop these egregious fees. You pay taxes for use of this land, help the Southern Forest Watch stop the backpacker taxes. www.southernforestwatch.org. How can you assist? For one, if you buy via amazon, please use this link. .5% of your purchase will go to support our efforts to hold public lands managers accountable.
The weather was completely perfect. No wind with which to contend this time.
There is plenty of dry wood at Mart’s Field. I discovered that the Mart’s family lived there until the 70s and we gathered water from the actual site of their home.
Sunsets are clearly magnificent at Mart’s Field.
If you are one of those twisted scholars of Highlander Lore, you are familiar with the Pink Fleece. The Pink Fleece was an adornment reserved for Highlanders who exhibited extreme cowardice or un-manly attributes. Over the years, several backpackers were required to wear the pink fleece. One backpacker threw it into the fire after being forced to wear it and it was retired. Now we resurrected that garment for Longstreet, the shivering dog. I used to hike with a lot of shivering dogs.
On Sunday morning, or as Kristofferson calls it, “Sunday morning coming down.” Here is what that looked like.
Sunday mornings stats were, 4.4 miles in one hour, 40 minutes. Not bad for a bunch of old men and young women.
Grady killed it off the couch. Another outstanding weekend.
Now for a bit of update on Spring events. Many have been asking about my next climb, as there usually is one. Well, believe it or not, there isn’t. In a week and a half, Laurel and I are flying to Paris, then heading down to the French Alps for a week of skiing in Chamonix. That will be my Spring climb. We got great deals on airfare, $550 r/t out of Knoxville. So we had to do it. However, my climbing mate from Cho Oyu last year and Mustagh Ata in 2011, Andrea Rigotti, is leaving for Everest in a week. He has been training for years to climb his dream mountain and I am experiencing it vicariously through him. I hope to post updates on his ascent here. Andrea is an Uber fit dude. He trains like an Olympian and will be more prepared to tackle Everest than anyone I know. He will be using the logistics of Arnold Coster, my expedition leader on Muztagh Ata. So stay tuned. I hope folks are getting to enjoy this weather.
Yes, we went back for two nights, Friday and Saturday. I finished the long part of that section along with Myers and Rob. Those were needed second lap miles for me and first lap for Rob.
We walked the 11.6 from camp out to Maddron. Then Laurel and Terry picked us up and shuttled us back around to the manway.
Rob has a new pack.
Myers did all these photos. Then he got a nasty stomach bug, and transferred it to Rob.
Below is a summary of our mtg with Morgan Co. The SFW is proud to fight fees in the state of TN.
Last night I was proud to stand with fellow SFW members, Myers Morton, Gregg Bostick, Laurel Dunn and Scott Noethen as we presented our concerns about the Frozen Head Backcountry Fee set to implement April 1 before the Morgan County Commission meeting. Morgan County citizens can be proud of their elected representatives as they made a strong statement condemning the fee by means of a resolution and resolved to approach the State delegation in hopes of getting it stopped permanently.
Apparently Frozen Head had tried to sneak these fees in before in the form of an entrance tax. So we had an audience primed. It was a great success for public lands users but the fight isn’t over. Frozen Head will buck them tooth and nail. Keep up your pressure on your state senators/legislators. I have asked my rep, Becky Massey to consider legislation to stop this trend of backcountry fees through the legislature.
Unless you are ready to see these fees in YOUR state park, I suggest you contact your representative as well. The iron is hot. Frozen Head was looking at 10 bucks per person. That’s $40 for a family of four FOR ONE NIGHT! Do you think that families will spend that to sleep on unimproved ground? Of course they won’t. Two nights is $80. They will simply go to Dollywood. Remember, YOUR taxes paid for this land. YOur taxes pay the salaries of these FEE drunks public lands managers. And YOUR taxes give them the power to do so. Take back public lands and help us keep them in public hands. Don’t know your legislator? Find it HERE “http://www.capitol.tn.gov/legislators/”>
It has probably been twenty years since I wandered into this place. I remember going in there with Wendi and we hiked a good loop and spent the night somewhere. When a break in this usual January dreariness happened, I wished to go outside the Smokies and this was the result.
Comes by the name honestly. It was cold but sunny. The wind was consistent as we embarked along what ended up being 1800 feet of climbing in about 3.5 miles.
I knew that I could conscript Laurel with a hound friendly area.
I was reminded of the regional beauty of Wartburg. Proximity to Knoxville is one hour from downtown and it was the opposite direction of Maryville. I drive to Maryville daily and any opportunity to go in another direction is appreciated.
It was a climb, though and my thighs remembered the joys of toting a true Highlander pack. Still we found solitude and a fantastic campsite high along a 4000 foot ridge.
By now the wind had increased and as Laurel set up the tent, I walked about in search of the two W’s, water and wood. The latter was no trouble, this spot had obviously seen no action in months. Water took some walking. But it was there as well.
You see strange things in the backcountry. I guess Indians were on our trail.
Good thing we had hound protection. It was a bit chilly for Longstreet so he took to running the hills till he figured supper time approached.
Not much on the wood gathering, this mutt, though.
Sunset was amazing and we braved the wind to soak in full effect.
So pervasive was the wind, our fire conferred little benefit. Longstreet chilled down some.
At about 7 pm, the hound decided it was time for everyone to bed down. Problem was, we were not ready. All I could see were his eyes glowing in the dark over by the tent, where he wished to escape the wind. The temperature was in the high twenties and you could certainly feel it.
Wasn’t that a bodacious sunset?
After a one dog night, wherein the hound crawled into a sleeping bag, (and not with me, I might emphatically interject) Sunday morning rolled in with snow flurries. We hurriedly packed in hopes of catching the buffet at Bombay, Knoxville’s best Indian Restaurant.
And with that, we concluded our ascent in Frozen Head with frozen hands and feet. However, there was one sad reminder of things. I can’t seem to escape it.
We are moving to get this fee stopped. Please email these Morgan County commissioners to express your concerns. firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
The following was posted on the facebook page of Jerry Grubb, who identifies himself as the ranger who euthanized the bears that were responsible for the only documented fatal mauling in the Smokies in 2000. I am publishing the entirety of his post. https://www.facebook.com/SFW.hh.13/posts/1245289758872023