The pals known as The Sharks

In the last post I mentioned the “Sharks,” three energetic senior citizens who reside in California and share a love of the outdoors.   Over five decades they’ve done a lot of mountain climbing together in the U.S. West, Alaska, and overseas.  It’s an impressive collection of accomplished guys who have maintained their friendships and I’d like to give them a little more “press.”

By way of background, in the 1970’s I met one of the Sharks, Hank Skade, through a childhood friend who also left our college town of Berea, Ohio for Princeton & San Francisco.  Then, through Hank, sometime ago I met the other Sharks…I am so fortunate to have connected with them, known them for more than a decade, and hiked with them on several Sierra Nevada mountains in addition to Mt. Morrison (Mt. Sill, Mt. Lyell, Mt. Conness) including a summit of Mt. Dana.

The Sharks met at the University of Oregon roughly 50 years ago and have been climbing together ever since.  They initially took the name “Eat Sharks and climb mountains,” a phrase they found in a summit log book way back when.  Over the years that handle was shortened to simply the “Sharks,” and that’s how they refer to themselves now, proudly.

For most of its history, the Sharks were a quartet and defined a “Shark summit”  as one in which at least 3 Sharks participated.  Using this definition, the Sharks  have summited 6 of the Seven Summits; only Everest is undone but there is some sense the window for them to get on top of it is closing.  Everyone is getting older, plus the commercialization of Everest base camp and summit attempts has served to lessen the Sharks’ interest.

The Sharks are: Les Dewitt, Hank Skade, and Bob Wyler.  (As mentioned in the prior entry, the 4th Shark, Ron Silviera, was taken by cancer last year.)

1985 - Mount Ritter, California. L-R: Bob, Les, Hank, Ron.

1985 – Mount Ritter, California. 13,150′.  L-R: Bob, Les, Hank, Ron.

Les Dewitt has been deeply involved with non-profit ventures for the past 25 years, especially those focused on education programs for underserved middle school students.  He has also become a committed advocate for policies that mitigate the proliferation of nuclear weapons, concentrating on connecting the corporate sector to that issue, and founding the Fund for Peace Initiatives.  Les is a  native of Kalamazoo, MI and a 51 year resident of Atherton, CA.  He has a B.A. in Political Science from UCLA and had a 30 year

1997 - Aconcagua. Hank, Bob, Les.

1997 – Aconcagua, Argentina.  22,841′. Hank, Bob, Les.

career in sales and investments prior to turning to non-profit work full time.  Les is an avid open water swimmer and a former member of the Dolphin Club and the Explorers Club.  He has served on many  local non-profit Boards and has spent over 15 years in youth athletic coaching.  He an his wife Lezlie have parented three young adults.   By the way, Les has scaled 5 of the Seven Summits and 13 of California’s 14 14,000′ summits.

Hank Skade is an entrepreneur in real estate, founder and owner of Tiburon Ventures, and co-founder and former CEO of Haiku Vineyards.  He has more than 30 years experience in real estate investment and development. Hank has entitled and developed land in the Coachella Valley of Southern California, the wine country of Northern California, and in the “Silicon Forest” corridor of Portland, Oregon.

In addition, Hank has a long history of involvement with environmental organizations

1990 - Hank, Ron & Bob on Kilimanjaro

1990 – Kilamanjaro, Tanzania.  19,341′.  Hank, Ron & Bob.

including San Francisco Bay Keeper (Board of Directors), the Denali Education Center in Alaska (Board of Trustees), the Headlands Institute in Golden Gate National Park, the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival, the American Alpine Club, and the Explorers Club.

Hank received his B.S. from the University of Oregon, where he also did graduate work in Environmental Studies.  He received his J.D. from Lewis & Clark Law School and served on its Board of Visitors for two decades.  (The Law School’s alumni magazine published another tribute to the Sharks with many interesting details here.)  In addition to mountain climbing, Hank’s interests include cycling, wines, photography, and helping his daughter, a high school senior, navigate the college selection process.

Bob Wyler, a resident of Southern California before and after his student days at Oregon is an authentic waterman and raconteur.  He’s surfed his entire life and continues that from his home just steps from the Pacific’s shore in  Manhattan Beach and over the winter in Baja California.  He open water swims of course and was a world champion paddle board racer.  Early in his career Bob was a ski “bum,” assiduously following his father’s advice to continue that profession as long as possible.  Since retiring from his roles as high school social studies teacher and career counsellor, he’s mostly given up hang gliding in favor of golfing, which takes at least 3 mornings a week.  Bob participates in or volunteers for several historic athletic contests in his hometown;  his commitment to equal opportunity has had a large impact on the Catalina Classic Paddleboard Race, a 32 mile race from Catalina Island to Manhattan Beach that is said to be the premier and most historical paddleboard race in the world.  Readers shouldn’t be surprised that a local paper reported that Bob is “an all-around fun connoisseur” who’d “rather have the time than the money.”  He’s also grandfather of 2!

1995 - Dinner at 17,200 feet on Denali. Les, Hank, Bob.

1995 – Denali, Alaska.  Dinner at 17,200 feet.  Les, Hank, Bob.

As mentioned I feel very fortunate to have crossed paths with the 4 Sharks, each a unique personality with his own interesting life path.  What is incrementally impressive is how, in planning or while on the mountain, they’re able to blend their different egos and problem solving approaches while holding the team’s welfare and mission paramount.  This is of course important while off-trail route-finding and, especially, when dangling on the side of a mountain.  Most impressively, despite the challenges of their activities and goals, they all appreciate, enjoy, and celebrate the journey.

2005 - Mount Dana. Ron, Bob, Krist, Les, Hank.

2005 – Mount Dana, Yosemite.  13,061′.   Ron, Bob, Krist, Les, Hank.  Mono Lake in background.

 

 

Posted in Outdoors, People of note, Terrestrial | 4 Comments

Mount Morrison

You may have heard of the passing last month of Dick Bass, who, in 1985, became the first person to summit the highest mountain on each of the seven continents.  That achievement is described in the well received book he co-authored, Seven Summits, published in 1988.

Dick Bass’s pioneering effort is said to be the inspiration for many others to strive for some or all of the seven summits*.  (Of course, most people don’t strive to or summit any of those mountains, and I’d guess that only a few summit more than one or two.)

Three good friends, who have named themselves the “Sharks,” have climbed many mountains together over 5 decades and were influenced by Dick Bass, at least a little – they’ve done 6 of the seven summits.  Last week I was fortunate to join up with that very unique and accomplished social network on a hike whose goal was the summit of Mount Morrison.

On the world stage, or even just California’s, at 12,241 feet, Mount Morrison isn’t a particularly high mountain – many of its neighbors in the Sierra Nevada are higher, including 10 over 14,000 feet.  In fact, at first glance, one might think Mt. Morrison’s top, classified a Class 2 summit and therefore achievable without the need for technical climbing, should be a snap.

The mountain is just south of the resort town of Mammoth Lakes and is accessed from Convict Lake, which itself is accessed by a 2 mile spur west from scenic US 395.  167 acre Convict Lake, which unsurprisingly has a colorful history, is the location of of the impressive Convict Lake Resort and the U.S. Forest Service campground at which we car-camped.

This was the 3rd visit to Mount Morrison by the Sharks, who had been rebuffed twice earlier by unsafe weather.  The morning of the current effort was cloudless and we left camp reasonably early, well before 8.  Our plan was to take some unmarked, unimproved roads by vehicle to gain about 500 feet, which we did.  Starting our hike at 8:25, for an hour or so we made good progress by simply  following a dry creek bed up.  After a break we continued up, leaving the creek bed for easy but up cross-country.  After another hour or so we stopped to consult our maps to try to figure out where the summit was and the easiest and preferred route to it.  We spotted a faint trail in what we thought was the right direction so we followed it as it got steeper.  Our pace slowed and it was courteous of the stronger hikers to accommodate the slowest one (me).  Around noon, at around 11,000 feet, we conveniently met two hikers coming down off the mountain.

Having left the creek bed, cross country up. Mt. Morrison is to the right but not in view, except a lower flank.

Having left the creek bed, cross country up. Mt. Morrison is to the right but not in view, except a lower flank.  Photo courtesy of Bob Wyler.

In a wide ranging conversation, they confirmed we were on the right path to the top, and helpfully pointed out the specifics of advancing all the way, another 1200 feet or so up even steeper terrain.  As I have some discomfort with heights and could easily envision the onset of that condition soon from a visual of both our route and the surrounding terrain, I informed the others that I’d gone far enough and would wait for them near the trail when I could find a relatively flat spot.  This was fine with everyone.

About 100 feet down I did find a flat spot the size of a twin bed near a saddle whose overlook provided a sufficient taste of  acrophobia .  Although I expected a 2 hour interlude, I’d hardly gotten comfortable when I was joined by another of our hiking group.  This hiker, the strongest that day, explained that everyone was turning back because of various minor afflictions such as shortness of breath and an occasional problem with balance.

Bob catches a breath near what may be our high point of 11,000 or so feet. Photo courtesy of Hank Skade.

Bob catches a breath near what may be our high point of 11,000 or so feet. Photo courtesy of Hank Skade.

We soon had a mini-reunion, a bonding moment, and walked down pretty much the way we’d come up.  (Except that it’s big country, it’s different going down, etc.)

Even though none of the group summited, it was a great time, nonetheless.   We had excellent weather and great scenery, companionship, and hiking.  I’d put the root causes of our turning back to the fact that none of us, all seniors, are getting any younger and for anyone of us who may have once been super attracted to bag another summit, that disposition is lessening with age.  I feel good about leaving sea level on Sunday and on Tuesday hiking from an elevation of 8000 feet up another 3000 feet.

By the time we got down to the 4Runner it was 3:30 or so, a nice time for a visit to Wild Willie’s Hot Spring just a few miles away!  The modestly improved hot spring, popular with other tourists too, was beautifully situated in the middle of a very large meadow with expansive views.  Most unusual, in fact surreal, was the herd of very black cows that was closely surrounding the spring’s gathering point.

Dick Bass’s seven summits:

  • Everest (29,035 feet) – Asia
  • Aconcagua (22,834 feet) – South America
  • McKinley (20,320 feet) – North America
  • Kilimanjaro (19,339 feet) – Africa
  • Elbrus (18,510 feet) – Europe
  • Vinson (16,067 feet) – Antarctica
  • Kosciuszko (7,310 feet)

Note:  There isn’t total consensus on the “seven summits.”  The Wikipedia entry provides details.

The morning after...Les, Hank, & Bob chewing the fat.

The morning after…the Sharks, Les, Hank, & Bob, chewing the fat.

Posted in Outdoors, People of note, Terrestrial | 2 Comments

Serving others

For those readers who may be interested in keeping up with a wonderful dog family member, the blog at MrWally.com has a recent entry on serving others.

It begins:

“One of my guardians recently visited Ohio for a high school reunion, to see family, and to participate in a tour of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, an auction item on which he was the winning bidder at a fundraiser  for one of his causes, The Education Foundation.

(The tour was given by paleoanthropologist Bruce Latimer, the museum’s former Executive Director, a professor at Case Western Reserve University, and an authority on the evolution of human locomotion.)

Bruce Latimer, renowned paleoanthropologist, and a portion of the world-class collection at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History

Bruce Latimer, renowned paleoanthropologist, and a portion of the world-class collection at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History

For more on Wally & serving others, please see MrWally.com.

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A Highly Recommended Hike

Last week, to celebrate my wife’s birthday, she, one of her best childhood friends, and I took a hike in Mount Tamalpais State Park, which is just a few miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge.  Not only do I recommend the trails we took, others do too.*

Mount Tamalpais State Park, as the name suggests, is on Mount Tamalpais (summit at 2571 feet), and encompasses 6300 acres.  The Park surrounds the more famous Muir Woods National Monument and its redwoods, and is bounded on the south by Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA).  On the north the Park is also bounded by GGNRA as well as the Marin Municipal Water District, many more thousands of acres of open space.

We’re indeed fortunate to have world-class parks such as these so easily accessible to urbanized San Francisco!

We three chose to do a loop trip from Pantoll, a crossroads of sort, which has a ranger station, campground, and parking lot.  After a picnic lunch at Pantoll, our hike started nearby on the Matt Davis Trail**, which winds through wooded areas, occasionally interrupted by open fields which, on a

On the Matt Davis Trail, with the fog in background hiding the Pacific.

On the Matt Davis Trail, with the fog in background hiding the Pacific.

clear day, offer spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and coast.  However, our day was cloudy & foggy, as the nearby photo attests.

 

 

 

This section of the Matt Davis is flat to downhill, so we more or less coasted down the 1499’ elevation loss to the beachfront town of Stinson Beach.

IMG_6375

Further down the Matt Davis we have an easy stroll through a scenic forest.

 

 

 

After refreshments at Stinson’s Sand Dollar Restaurant, we picked up the Dipsea Trail (namesake of the world famous Dipsea Race***) for a mile or so until it intersects with the spectacular Steep Ravine Trail at a bridge over Webb Creek. For Steep Ravine, stay left.

On the Dipsea Trail's The Moors section, looking back towards Stinson Beach.

On the Dipsea Trail’s The Moors section, looking back towards Stinson Beach.

According to Dipsea historian Barry Spitz, the Dipsea Trail was first documented on a county map in 1854 and was probably in use as a native American footpath many years earlier. The trail goes from the picturesque town of Mill Valley up and over Mt. Tam’s flanks to Stinson Beach, 7 miles.  From the Dipsea Race’s beginning in Mill Valley, the trail is up, down, up, and down to Steep Ravine; then  it goes up 100’ or so  steeply (“Insult Hill”) before its final, scenic descent through “The Moors” to Stinson Beach.

The Steep Ravine trail is all uphill but not particularly steep – the trail is just a fairly steady up through redwoods, firs, and ferns, all the while with Webb Creek a few feet away offering wonderful sights and sounds.  I do believe the “steep” refers to the ravine’s sides which in many places are very steep.  They’re also beautiful with the trees and foliage, all enhanced by the occasional and ever changing beams of sunlight that often come through.

Looking up in Steep Ravine.

Looking up in Steep Ravine.

The round trip hike is 7.3 miles – about 2 hours down and 2 hours up, plus any time to goof off in Stinson Beach (a fine swim beach is available, however surf and/or sharks may be present).

It was an affirming, most pleasant afternoon, one we’ll all easily remember fondly.

If you’d like to learn more about Mt. Tam, nearby parks, and related natural science and culture, there’s a good listing of aligned organizations at the Tamalpais Conservation Club’s website.
 

 

 

*Other reputable sites which recommend this hike include:

1. http://www.bahiker.com/northbayhikes/stinson.html has an excellent description of the hike we took and others.

2. http://www.redwoodhikes.com/Home.html.   3 of 5 stars, tied with several other trails in the SF Bay Area for the highest grade given to 35 trails rated in the Bay area.  “Each park and trail has been rated from one to five stars based on how enjoyable it is overall, with an emphasis on redwoods.”   This site is an excellent source for hikes in old growth redwood forests.

3. http://alltrails.com/trail/us/california/dipsea-steep-ravine-matt-davis-loop, a National Geographic property, gives this hike 4.5 stars of 5 possible.

**Who was Matt Davis?  Matt Davis lived in a small cabin on Mt. Tam and was paid to cut trails by the Tamalpais Conservation Club.  In the 1920’s he worked on what is now named the Matt Davis Trail.

***The Dipsea Race, which covers the length of the Dipsea Trail, was founded in 1905 and is the oldest organized trail race in America.  Some term it “grueling” and several sections of the race trail are named descriptively including “Suicide,” “Dynamite,” “The Rainforest,” “Cardiac Hill,” “Swoop,” and “Insult Hill.”  Click here for photos.

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Mono Lake – fearing for the birds

With the California drought on many peoples’ minds including mine, I’m trying to be aware of the not so obvious ramifications of the state’s precipitation shortage.  This got me to thinking about Mono Lake and the birds that visit it every year.  My guess is that, later this year, the lake level will drop to historic lows and it will be no fun at all for its visiting bird populations.

Late in a beautiful day at Mono Lake

Late in a beautiful day at Mono Lake

Years ago I wrote an article that touches on Mono Lake birdlife and begins “If taking a swim in an unusual and dramatic place amid thousands of birds, millions of shrimp and millions of, well, flies captures your imagination, then take a trip to Mono Lake, just beyond the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada near Yosemite.”  The complete article, which was published in the Spring, 2003 issue of the Dolphin Log, is here.

I’ll put on my to-do list taking some time to look into how Mono Lake and its denizens are faring this year and then writing a post on the subject.  But if you can’t wait to learn more, simply visit the Mono Lake Committee’s website, where you’ll find tons of information including this recent, relevant post on how low it can go.

Visitors admiring some of the Mono Lake tufa in August, 2014

Visitors admiring some of the Mono Lake tufa in August, 2014

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San Francisco Green Film Festival #5 – this week!

With Opening Night just two days away on May 28th and then continuing 2015_SFGFF_Poster_-_WEB_smallthrough June 3rd, the 5th annual San Francisco Green Film Festival promises to be the best and best attended in its short history.  And, as its attractive, informative, and highly functional website suggests, this Festival also appears destined to be the most polished and influential yet.

The Festival is the brainchild of Rachel Caplan, who I am fortunate to have collaborated with on the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival.  As Festival Director in 2008 and 2009, Rachel was excellent as both an executor and strategic thinker, and a pleasure to work with as well.   As she’s conveyed, Rachel was often approached by independent filmmakers striving to get their environmentally themed documentaries screened.  She realized that, from agriculture to rainforests, from mining to monkeys, there was a diverse mix of environmental stories all seeking to reach audiences in San Francisco.

The entrepreneur she is, Rachel spotted an opportunity to use the power and immediacy of these films, coupled with the local environmental expertise and enthusiasm, to inspire concern and, she anticipates, social change.  She planned and then in 2011 launched the first San Francisco Green Film Festival with new films from around the world and an emphasis on audience discussion and participation.

Astute film programming coupled with an emphasis on audience participation is a formula patterned on the very successful and admirable Environmental Film Festival, an annual two-week long, multi-venue production in Washington D.C..  Its 24th festival will take place next March and will, once again, feature numerous programs, many free of charge.

Gaining more traction with each festival, the SF Green Film Festival has quickly risen to the forefront in the environment-centric segment of the film festival market.  The Festival’s 2014 Annual Report presents in a visually attractive way the myriad of dimensions to a film festival and conveys how far SF Green has come after just 4 festivals.  That report’s metrics are impressive and they suggest SF Green’s performance has already surpassed that of several older festivals in its peer group.

Details on this year’s festival are here and this year’s program can be downloaded from this link.

My hat is off to Rachel for conceiving the Festival, bootstrapping it, and assembling and organizing the team and resources to implement her vision.

Over the next week the SF Green Film Festival will screen 60 films from 26 countries in 25+ programs.  If you’ll be in or near San Francisco during the Festival, I recommend you consider making time for it.

Posted in Books & Films, Entrepreneurs & Entrepreneurism, Non-profits, Outdoors, San Francisco | Leave a comment

Polar Bear Challenge, continued

The Dolphin Club Swim Commissioners recently posted the results sheet for the 2014-2015 Polar Bear Challenge.  It’s at http://www.dolphinclub.org/2015/polar-bear-challenge-results/.

Also, as promised in a previous entry, I’m providing a link to the most recent issue of the Dolphin Log here.  Beginning on page 16, it has a thoughtful article on the Polar Bear Challenge with attention to the mental effect of the mileage chart and its squares.  Following that article is one on this past February’s 24 hour relay, a fun and somewhat tortuous event.  Enjoy!

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