Cold, very cold

On the summit, Cory Richards, 2011
On the summit, Cory Richards, 20111

On February 2, Cory Richards, Simone Moro and Denis Urubko summited Pakistan’s Gasherbrum II (8,035m). This was the first winter summit of any peak in the Karakorum and Cory became the first American to summit any eight-thousander in winter.

For more insanity, Cory brought along a Canon 5D and filmed the whole thing. The result is a 19-minute short film that is already racking up a variety of awards, including Best Film at the Squamish Mountain Festival. I’m sure it’s been submitted to the Banff Mountain Film Festival, so I suspect there’s a good chance it will end up on the world tour. Keep an eye out for it.

I learned about the film via The Creak of Boots, a great blog about life on the trail.

A Glorious Weekend

FlorenciaCooking breakfastTofinoHimalayan BlackberrySunset
A weekend in Tofino, 2011

Beautiful weather, clean waves and delicious food; the weekend couldn’t have been better. Now we get to clean out all the gear and plan a menu for our journey to the east coast of Vancouver Island this coming weekend. As I said before, our tent is becoming a second home for our kids.

The Collection

My collection of old photographs
My collection of old photographs

Over the weekend, while rummaging through our storage space, I found my shoe box of old photographs. Actually, it’s not a shoe box, it’s a Zamberlan boot box, so there’s actually quite a few photos. Expect them to make an appearance over the coming months.

Goodbye Kris

Kris and my son
Kris & my son, Ngunguru, 2009

I don’t even know how to begin writing this.

My wife introduced me to her friend Kris Kjeldsen shortly after her and I met. He was born in Chicago, but moved to California when he was young and in the 60s he was a lifeguard at Zuma Beach in Malibu. By the late sixties, he had sailed a trimaran to Hawaii before hatching a plan to move on to New Zealand. There, he headed up north to Pawarenga, swapped his car for a horse — appropriately named Freepass — and made his way into the bush to build a home, start a family and live the good life. Clearly, this is the stuff of legend.

Watching over the propertyApproaching ParadiseNo Kooks
Approaching paradise, Ngunguru, 2008, 2009

Eventually, his love of water and his location in the Pacific came together and he began designing and building Waka Ama — Polynesian outrigger canoes. It’s impossible to measure his impact on the world of outrigger canoeing, particularly in his adopted country, but it is likely what he will most be remembered for. His brand, Moana Nui, can be found all over the world.

Waka Ama in productionThe sawPaddles ready
The workshop, Ngunguru, 2008, 2009

I’ve been lucky enough to spend some time with Kris and have visited him at his new homestead in Ngunguru a few times. I’ve paddled one of his personal canoes, eaten fish he had caught and read books from his library. These are all fairly minor things, but Kris is a huge inspiration for me and these little things add up. His approach to life and understanding of the natural world is second to none and I am grateful that he would share any of it with me. My wife has spent much more time with Kris and has plenty more to be grateful for.

He was excited to hear about our plans for Gambier Island and we looked forward to sharing more with him.

Surfboards collecting dust
Remnants of earlier days, Ngunguru, 2008

Last night we found out that Kris passed away on June 30, 2011. He lived an amazing life and has left behind an incredible legacy, but I am saddened by all that I will miss.

His eldest daughter has moved north, into his home and she’ll be running the business with her family. I don’t imagine this was an easy decision, but I’m very happy the story continues. I look forward to visiting, but it will be hard knowing that Kris won’t be there.

My daughter will have been too young to remember him, but my son might. Either way, they will both hear the story of a man who rode into the bush, was welcomed into a culture and became a hero.

Rest in peace.


Snug in the Tent, Gambier Island, 2009
Snug in the Tent, Gambier Island, 2009

Brett Macfarlane, a friend and colleague, recently sent me some thoughtful words regarding the launch of this site, and in responding to him, I gave some further thought as to why I created it. I figured it would be good to share it.

Hey Brett,

Thanks for the kind words, I’m very happy you like it.

I grew up as a boy scout and spent plenty of time out in the woods as a kid, something most of my close friends didn’t do. By university, I had graduated from attending excursions to planning them with like-minded souls. However, after moving to Vancouver, something had changed. I imagine I was too busy meeting friends, changing careers and exploring a new city to pay too much attention.

Then, I had kids and quickly found myself having to explain the world to them. This rekindled a interest that had been a little too dormant for too long and Applied Observation is means for me to document my rediscovery. I have so much to learn about the west coast, but doing so will generate and intense bond with my family and the land we call home.

As you mentioned, as a society, we’re mostly moving further away from our connection to the land. It’s not bad, necessarily, but it is unfortunate – our relationship with the wilderness is such a compelling story, it seems silly not to celebrate it.


A Century of Craft

Poirier Duluth Pack Sack, A1; Wary Meyers, 2011
Poirier Duluth Pack Sack, A1; Wary Meyers, 2011

Today, Duluth Packs is celebrating 100 years at 1610 W Superior St. in Duluth, Minnesota, on the western tip of Lake Superior. The traditional Duluth Pack, originally known as the Poirier Pack, has been a long-time favourite among canoeists and backpackers and has even begun to make its way into the world of fashion. The waxed canvas version would be my weapon of choice.