Friday, October 21, 2011

Mountain Town News


Hiker snoozes way over 14ers

EAGLE, Colo.—It's getting harder and harder to come up with a superlative achievement when it comes to Colorado's superlative peaks, those over 14,000 feet. They've all been climbed, of course, and often in multiple sets. One individual has climbed all of them at least 14 times over.

Lou Dawson, the mountaineer from Carbondale, some years ago became the first to ski from the summits of all of the 53 peaks. And then there are the speed hikers, constantly whittling down the amount of time it takes to climb all of them.

Now comes a new feat: the first person to sleep on top of them all. The Vail Daily reports that Jon Kedrowski, who grew up in the Eagle Valley, accomplished the feat in September.

Sleeping atop a mountain does have risks, given that lightning tends to strike the highest object in any given locale. Kedrowski had at least one close call. Sensing the imminent hit, Kedrowski had fled his tent.

"I could tell it was going to hit, so I jumped off the summit block to the side. I could feel the heat on my back when it struck," Kedrowski told the Daily. He said the tent poles were fried and even the fabric was vaporized.

Kedrowski, who teaches geography at Central Washington University, plans a photo book, which should be out next summer.

Vail starts planning for 50th anniversary

VAIL, Colo.—The first ski lifts at Vail started operating commercially in December 1962. In anticipation of the 50th anniversary, organizers are now trying to raise $3.7 million. The Vail Daily reports that they want $500,000 from the town government, which itself was formed in 1966. Town officials haven't said yes, but neither have they said no.

Aspen joins ban on plastic bags

ASPEN, Colo. -- Aspen has made it final. The town's two grocery stories in May will cease offering throw-away plastic bags to shoppers. Paper bags will cost 20 cents.

Aspen had set out some months ago to step in concert with two other towns in the Roaring Fork Valley, requiring that grocers levy a fee on both plastic and paper. That's the route now being taken by Basalt. Along the way, however, several Aspen council members decided that if curbing use of plastic bags was their intent, an outright ban would be more forward, explains The Aspen Times. Another local municipality, Carbondale, has yet to take formal action.

Bears may have killed to eat

JACKSON, Wyo.—John Wallace, 59, was killed by a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park in late August. What caused the grizzly to set upon him hasn't been determined, and may never be clear. What was evident, however, was that he had been partially eaten—and analysis of hair and scat left at the scene shows there were four bears there.

One of the four bears, which killed another hiker this summer, has since been killed. But that leaves three bears still at large that may have killed Wallace not because of a surprise encounter or to protect a food source, but simply to eat him.

In reporting this, the Jackson Hole News&Guide notes that grizzlies may have killed humans in order to eat them several times in recent years. One occurred just outside the park in 2010, when a sow with three cubs dragged a camper from a tent. The cubs were found to be malnourished. There were also cases in 2006, 2004 and 1983—altogether, just seven clear cases of predation since the park was created in 1872, spokesman Al Nash told the newspaper.

Enthusiasm thins for cloud seeding

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo.—Enthusiasm for cloud-seeding seems to be waning in the Gunnison Basin. The Crested Butte News reports that the ski area operator has cut its $10,000 funding, and other participating government jurisdictions are similarly considering dropping out.

The consortium has pooled money since the drought of 2002, under the general grounds of "I don't know if it works, but I'm afraid to gamble that it doesn't," as one rancher said several years ago. The Utah-based cloud-seeding operator estimates that seeding augments snowpacks by 10 to 20 percent, yielding water at a cost of between 83 cents and $1.25 per acre-foot—extremely cheap, by most reckonings.

Does cloud-seeding work? The best evidence that it does comes from experiments conducted in the Breckenridge-Vail area in the late 1960s, followed by experiments at Steamboat Springs in the 1970s. Now, courtesy of the Wyoming Legislature, a more definitive study is being conducted in the Snowy Range southwest of Laramie. No results have been announced yet.

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