Friday, February 22, 2008

Ethiopia: The Land of Climbing Opportunity

"We have come to Ethiopia to rock climb."
Climbers are a dedicated crew. We’ll brave freezing cold weather, scorching sun, and dangerous heights in the quest for the perfect climb. I count myself as a climber, but I’ll be honest: I’m not actually a fearless one. I prefer single-pitch routes, am not too fond of leading, and am often made fun of because I won’t boulder higher than 4 feet off the ground. In fact, I’m the antithesis of fearless.

Majka (pronounced MI-kah) Burhardt, meanwhile, truly appears to be a fearless climber. I was lucky enough to meet her today when she dropped off copies of her new book, Vertical Ethiopia. She looks like a climber: compact, tan, and full of energy. I’d been waiting to get my hands on a copy of her book since she first told me about it, and it was well worth the wait. Its tall, glossy pages showcase photography by Gabe Rogel and vignettes by Majka about life and climbing in Ethiopia.

The book covers the 2007 quest made by Majka and three other women to find out if Ethiopia just might be the next climbing mecca.
"My childhood image of Ethiopia was shaped by photographs of dry and desolate landscapes, fragile, bony arms and legs, and distended stomachs. Later, when I was older, I thought of Ethiopia as synonymous with terror and communism, a country of constant war and oppression. I never occurred to me when I first begin climbing, in 1992, that I would one day find beauty, challenge, and adventure in Ethiopia."
Majka was lucky enough to have photographer Gabe Rogel tag along for her trip. I say lucky because when you read Majka’s words and then look at Gabe’s photos, you know that a great partnership has been formed. Half of the pictures in the book are of Majka and her friends, in various stages of climbing. The other half are pictures of Ethiopia--glimpses into the places and lives of its people. One of my favorite photos in the book is similar to the picture at left. The hands belong to a priest’s wife who was in the process of dyeing straw for baskets.

Whether you’re a climber, a traveler, or just a booklover, I guarantee that you’ll find something to enjoy in Majka’s book. And if you’re in the Boulder area on Monday night (February 25th, 7:30pm), stop by Boulder Book Store to hear Majka talk about her journey and to celebrate the release of Vertical Ethiopia. I’ll be taking my copy home to read over the weekend. And maybe I’ll even get in a few climbs if the weather stays nice…
"There is rock everywhere. It catches the morning sun and vibrates orange, red, and yellow. It cleaves the sky in towers and ridges; it fills the entire western view. There are cracks, buttresses, corners, and escarpments. An entire mountain waits to be climbed."

Text in green excerpted from Vertical Ethiopia by Majka Burhardt. Photography by Gabe Rogel.
Post by Mandy King, Events Coordinator at Boulder Book Store.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Mount Everest Overcome With Thieves, Prostitutes, and Con Men

The growing popularity of eco-vacationing and adventure sports brings with it a commercializing of what used to be a niche industry relegated to professionals and die-hard fanatics. Now nearly anyone can try their hand at summiting the tallest peak in the world, as long as they have the cash.

This is a lesson award-winning journalist Michael Kodas learned first hand in 2004 when he joined local mountain climbers from home on an expedition to Mount Everest. He anticipated an exhilarating and arduous adventure among a group of like-minded idealists. But on the Himalayan mountain, he discovered thieves, prostitutes, con men, and blackmailers.

In his shocking expose, High Crimes: the Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed, Kodas reveals the mountain's dark underside: unscrupulous con men who sell faulty oxygen tanks, drugs and prostitution in Base Camp, and people all but murdered in the cutthroat race to get to the top.

Michael Kodas will speak and sign High Crimes (HarperCollins, $24.95) on Thursday, March 6 at 7:30pm at Boulder Book Store, 1107 Pearl Street, Boulder, CO.

Hear Michael Kodas speak of his encounters with Mt. Everest's dark underside, then join us at Unity of Boulder Church on May 29th at 7:30pm to hear Lincoln Hall's first hand account of how he was left for dead on the slopes of Everest in 2006. (Ticket information coming soon.)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Natalie Goldberg: A Revolution in Writing

Twenty years ago NATALIE GOLDBERG's classic, Writing Down the Bones (Random House, $12.95), broke new ground in its approach to writing as a practice. Now, Old Friend from Far Away (Sounds True, $24.95), her latest book to focus solely on writing, reaffirms Goldberg's status as a foremost teacher of writing, and completely transforms the practice of writing memoir.

At once a beautifully written celebration of the memoir form, an innovative course full of practical teachings, and a deeply affecting meditation on consciousness, love, life, and death, Old Friend From Far Away welcomes aspiring writers of all levels and encourages them to find their own unique voice. Natalie Goldberg recreates her trademark workshop style with its terse, demanding writing "sprints" that train the hand and mind to quicken their pace and give up conscious control.

Natalie Goldberg will speak and sign for Old Friend From Far Away on Thursday, February 28, 2008 at 7:30pm at Boulder Book Store, 1107 Pearl Street, Boulder, CO.

Renaissance Woman Takes on the Horn of Africa

MAJKA BURHARDT is a writer, climber, guide, and "nouveau renaissance woman" living in Boulder. Her experience as a guide and writer has enabled her to take on assignments not only in North America, but throughout the world. Her first book, Vertical Ethiopia (Shama Publishing, $37.99), documents a climbing expedition to unexplored sandstone spires in northern Ethiopia. Told through a series of vignettes that reveal what it means to climb, to travel, and to explore, Vertical Ethiopia reveals a country at the turning point in its embrace of its natural heritage. Using climbing as a magnifying glass, Majka Burhardt comes to understand a land brimming with striking geological and cultural beauty.

Majka Burhardt will speak and sign for Vertical Ethiopia: Climbing Toward Possibility in the Horn of Africa on Monday, February 25, 2008 at 7:30pm at Boulder Book Store, 1107 Pearl Street, Boulder, CO.

Award-Winning Environmental Journalist Takes on the Plight of a Dying Species

As a contributing editor at Outside magazine and an award-winning environmental writer BRUCE BARCOTT has profiled Himalayan climbers and Iditarod champions as well as grave robbers, bear poachers, and Appalachian fugitives. He's currently writing and studying as a Ted Scripps Fellow in environmental journalism at CU, Boulder. His new book, The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw (Random House, $26.00), was recently honored as a runner-up by the J. Anthony Lukas Work-In-Progress Award, which is given annually to a significant work of America nonfiction.

The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw tells the true story of one woman's quest to stop a multinational corporation from exterminating the last scarlet macaws in the Central American nation of Belize. This unforgettable narrative is suspenseful right up to the last moment, relating the dramatic saga of an eccentric American who was undaunted by the combined forces of a determined Canadian power company and the corrupt government officials of Belize.

Bruce Barcott will speak and sign for The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw on Wednesday, February 13, 2008 at 7:30pm at Boulder Book Store, 1107 Pearl Street, Boulder, CO.