Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The world’s highest reaches

Executive summary by darmansjah

When I follow the serried multitude of the stars in their circular course, my feet no longer touch the earth.” Ptolemy.

Executive summary by darmansjah

WHEN we raise our eyes from the ground and see the sky-or when we stand high above the world and look down upon the clouds-we feel ourselves lifted to another level of existence. We so clearly belong to the earth that to experience life at the heights is to become something else entirely, less human and more celestial. Even when the sky is frightening it is, quite truly, uplifting.

This may explain, at least in part, why we are awed by and attracted to high places, and also to those plants, animals, and natural features that make their homes in the sky. To see the world’s highest reaches means stepping out of our earthbound skins for a little while. The redwood tree is impressive not just for sheer size or age, but also because it overtops all other living things. The high plateau of Bolivia and the secluded reaches of Machu Picchu take us into a realm few people have known, one of keening winds and huge-winged, soaring birds. Mount Everest, lure and bane of so many a climber, gives humans a God’s-eye view, a perspective they know they were not born to experience. And perhaps the most breathtaking of all, the northern light, take our familiar night sky and make it dance. Suddenly we realize we are just tiny beings on a planet surrounded by crackling energies. Reaching into the heights means entering into a fantasy world where we shed our human forms and briefly know what it is to fly.

Sheer Immensity

A string of climbers makes its way across the sheer sides of the Krakoram Range’s K2 *28,251 feet/8,611 m), the second highest mountain in the world. Known as the Savage Mountain, it is one of the most dangerous destinations on Earth.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Telluride, Colorado

Best For: Big-lunged skiers and boarders with a taste for fine wine and the mountain high life

Executive summary by darmansjah

Remote and unrelentingly beautiful, Telluride may be the most picturesque ski town in North America, a Victorian-era silver-mining hamlet set deep in a box canyon in the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado. The steep runs of Telluride Ski Resort spill right into the edge of the town’s National Historic District, where a gondola whisks skiers back up into the area’s almost 4,000 vertical feet of absurdly scenic skiing. Only 12 blocks long and with no stoplights, neon signs, or billboards, this charming town of 2,325 people combines fine wine lists and funky bars with a spirited culture of diehard mountain lovers. The town sits at a gasping 8,793 feet above sea level, and lifts reach to over 12,500 feet, so come prepared to acclimatize.

For a mountain with a well-earned reputation for steeps and bumps, Telluride in fact offers excellent cruisers and beginner terrain—in the kind of high-alpine setting that makes even first-timers feel like heroes—on the slopes around its modern, luxurious Mountain Village. Experts will find bumps, bowls, and chutes in every corner of the resort, and those willing to hike can access some of the most extreme in-bounds terrain in the country in Black Iron Bowl and 13,251-foot Palmyra Peak. Heli-skiing can be hired in the Mountain Village, and the San Juan Hut System offers shelters and multiday routes for backcountry adventurers.

Ask a Local
Travel and adventure writer Rob Story has skied in 13 countries on six continents and at 75 North American resorts. When he left his longtime post as senior editor at Powder magazine in 1998, he knew exactly where he wanted to move—Telluride. He is the author of Telluride Storys. Here are his recommendations.

Best Digs
Budget: There’s not much to Mountainside Inn, but it’s ski-in, ski-out.
Swank: The Peaks Resort has a great après deck and spa.

Best Eats
Cheap: Oak, the barbeque place in town at the base of the gondola
Gourmet: La Marmotte is a great French restaurant in the town's old icehouse.

Best After-Ski Party Spot 
The Historic Bar at the Sheridan is the oldest in town.

Best Rest-Day Activity
Walk north up Aspen Street. When it turns to a dirt trailhead, keep going straight up to beautiful Cornet Falls, a 80-foot waterfall in a small red rock canyon.

Telluride’s Classic Ski Run
“Plunge, because on the steep parts you can look through your tips at our tidy, cute, historic town,” notes Story.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Te Araroa Trail, New Zealand

Executive summary by darmansjah

What puts the Te Araroa on the top of my dream list is the variety. New Zealand is famous for its diverse landscapes, and the Te Araroa links up close to 2,000 miles of coastal sand, alpine ridges, and jungle bushwhacks traversing through national parks, rural farmland, and past volcanoes. After bagging the Triple Crown of long trails in the U.S., the Te Araroa would be the obvious target for that next big thru-hike. —Dan Ransom

Distance: 1,894 miles

The Details: The Te Araroa, Maori for “The Long Pathway,” is aptly named. It traverses the entire country, from Cape Regina at the tip of the North Island to Bluff on the toe of the South Island.

Split into 160 tracks, the trail takes about 120 days to finish, if hikers stick to official recommendations (though ultrarunner Jez Bragg ticked it off in just 53 days in 2013) and requires a ferry ride to hop between the North and South Islands. Each of those sections is a wonder in itself. The bays of Queen Charlotte Track on the South Island can be a casual stroll in paradise. The river valleys of the North Island’s Whanganui National Park shelter centuries of Maori culture. The dark Takitimu Forest feels straight out of Middle Earth. The trail tromps over the slopes of the active Tongariro volcano and even runs through the metropolis of Auckland. Add to all that natural wonder a well-organized system of volunteers and caretakers spearheaded by the Te Araroa Trust, and you indeed have one of the best places for a long walk on the planet.

When to Go: October through April

About Ransom: Photographer and filmmaker Dan Ransom followed explorers Rich Rudow and Todd Martin down numerous technical first-descent slot canyons in the Grand Canyon to make the movie Last of the Great Unknown. During filming, he dropped to the ground, suffering from the effects of a brain tumor. Ransom recovered and the movie showed to rave reviews at the Banff Mountain Film Festival. He has returned to the Grand and other canyons, as well as enjoying long backpacking trips in Utah’s Uinta mountains. He’s currently a videographer and editor at Backcountry.com.

Friday, June 26, 2015


Executive summary by darmansjah

In Australia’s smallest state, remote rain forests, secluded beaches, and more than 200 vineyards are accessible by foot. Tasmania’s mild, maritime climate and compact size (comparable to West Virginia) make this heart-shaped island 150 miles (240 kilometers) off the Australian mainland a year-round destination for walkers and hikers of all ages, interests, and fitness levels.

Great Walks Tasmania features seven distinct, guided walking tours ranging from the moderate 14- to 18-mile (23- to 30-kilometer) Bay of Fires wilderness trek along the coastal rim of Mount William National Park to the gentler 12- to 28-mile (20- to 45-kilometer) gourmand’s ramble through Maria Island’s eucalyptus forest and pristine beaches. In 2011, Tasmania hosts the biennial Ten Days on the Island international arts celebration from March 25 to April 3, an event that features nearly 500 artists in 111 venues.