Recent Activities of Rocky Mountain Chapter Members
Mikki McComb-Kobza Inducted into Women Divers Hall of Fame
Explorer, conservationist and educator, Mikki, a resident of Longmont, Colorado, was honored by the group recognizing women divers who have made outstanding contributions to the exploration, understanding, safety and enjoyment of the underwater world. The WDHOF also promotes opportunities in diving through grants, scholarships, internships and mentoring, as well as a worldwide network of industry contacts: https://www.wdhof.org
Four Young Explorers the World Needs to Know About
On Nov. 8, 2023, we were honored to hear about the work and interests of four early career explorers:
Cayte Bosler – Women of the Explorers Club
Dr. Rebecca (Becky) Niemiec – Applying Social Science to Solve Conservation Challenges Around the World
Alex Geldzahler – Excavating a 1st- Century BCE Villa in Malta
Ryan A. Venturelli – Unveiling Subglacial Secrets: Adventures in Drilling Through the West Antarctic Ice Sheet
Watch the event and “like” it on social media here:
Our appreciation to Fjallraven Denver for hosting the event and providing gear advice and refreshments.
Ulyana Sets Sail For Antarctica
Chapter member Dr. Ulyana Horodyskyj Peña has been selected to lecture on Ponant’s Le Commandant Charcot in Antarctica early next year. The massive 492-footer, which is the world’s only Polar Class 2–rated cruise ship, will host Ulyana January 7 to February 5, on its Unexplored Antarctica between Two Continents cruise that will analyze the effects of climate change on the glaciers.
Rooted in discovery and education, the cruise will give those onboard a chance to learn about diverse ecosystems and environmental challenges in the lap of luxury. Ulyana, a renowned glaciologist and geologist from Broomfield, will run onboard discussions and hands-on snow sampling workshops to help travelers learn more about the shrinking glaciers and the steps that humans can take to slow climate change. She is a recipient of a Ponant Science Expedition Grant from Ponant and The Explorers Club.
Also hosting the cruise is Cassandra Brooks, Ph.D., a marine scientist from UC Boulder. Cassandra presented to the chapter last spring.
For more information: us.ponant.com/tec
Breaking Bread with Fred
Chapter members and guests welcomed former Club president Alfred McLaren and his wife Avery (back row, third and fourth from left) back to Boulder for a terrific lunch at the Hotel Boulderado on July 19. Fred, who recently celebrated his 91st birthday, regaled us with his tales of military service as a submarine captain. He had definite opinions about the Titan disaster and remains hopeful that new safety regulations will come from the investigation of the accident.
RMEC Mentioned in Titan Disaster Op-Ed
The recent Titan tragedy appeared in media worldwide and mesmerized the nation, perhaps because the Titan represented a collection of humankind’s greatest fears (drowning, claustrophobia, darkness, cold, a ticking countdown clock, etc.) all wrapped up in a carbon fiber cocoon. By one account, CNN alone had over 100 people interviewed on their network during the week, including Captain McLaren.
Coverage spawned unprecedented scrutiny on the use of extreme tourism to fund exploration, whether regulation stifles innovation, and at what cost. It encouraged me to pause and ponder the risks inherent in exploration.
This op-ed appeared in the June 28 Denver Post. That version is paywalled, but you can read pick-up here in the Greeley Tribune:
Rocky Mt. Chapter Hosts Space Telescopes: Small, Big, and Biggest
May 31, 2023
“Like a giant model rocket, it goes boom and it’s gone,” says University of Colorado, Boulder Professor Jim Green in explaining his early work with solid fuel missiles at the White Sands Missile Range, the United States Army military testing area and firing range in New Mexico.
Green has experienced a front-row seat on the assembly, deployment, and maintenance of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), and witnessed the deployment of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which has enough fuel for another 20 years, assuming it’s not overtaken by micrometeorites. Green was the Principal Investigator for the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph, which was the final instrument installed in the Hubble Space Telescope in May 2009.
In fact, thanks to 19 years of upgrades and repairs to the Hubble, and in spite of hundreds of potential failures during the deployment of the James Webb, both observatories are producing excellent science and are predicted to continue to operate for many more years, sharing astounding images of the universe.
Professor Green explained what we’ve learned so far from these technological advancements in space science, with a focus on the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph, an instrument on the Hubble Space Telescope that was designed and built in Boulder by the University of Colorado and Ball Aerospace.
Throughout his career, he preferred using a drafting board, not CAD, to design instruments before handing them over to mechanical engineers to prepare it for launch.
He says the Webb isn’t necessarily better than the Hubble, “it just sees different stuff…. One telescope can’t do it all.”
Green tipped members off to the planned Habitable Exoplanet Observatory (HabEx), a mission to directly image planetary systems around Sun-like stars, expected to launch in the early 2040s. It will directly image Earth-like exoplanets, and identify their atmospheric content.
Professor Green received his B.S. in Physics from Stanford University in 1982 and his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of California, Berkeley in 1989. He has spent his career designing and building instrumentation for space astronomy applications and analyzing data from such instruments.
View his May 31, 2023 talk here:
YouTube video link – https://www.youtube.com/
Cool Cars: Chapter Tours Clive Cussler Museum in Arvada
Members and guests of the Rocky Mountain chapter traveled to Arvada on June 3 for a tour of the Clive Cussler Car Museum. This extensive collection of 105 significant automobiles, ranging in years from 1906 to 1965, was started by the late best-selling author Clive Cussler (1931-2020), a beloved member of The Explorers Club.
The Cussler Museum is dedicated to the preservation of astounding rare and vintage automobiles from all over the world. All are in working order and periodically driven.
As an underwater explorer, Cussler discovered more than 60 shipwreck sites and wrote non-fiction books about his findings. He was also the founder of the National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA), a non-profit organization with the same name as the fictional government agency that employs his famed character Dirk Pitt.
Perhaps his most famous find was discovery of the “South’s secret weapon” – the Civil War submarine H.L. Hunley. It was located by Cussler’s NUMA team in 27 feet of water in 1995 off Charleston, S.C., and recovered in 2000. In his book The Sea Hunters, Cussler called his search for the Hunley, “The toughest find of all.”
Andes Rugby Team Crash Recalled 50 Years Later
The Andes crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 happened exactly 50 years ago on October 13, 1972. A rugby team heading to Chile crashed straight into an Andean peak at 14,200 feet. Sixteen of the 45 passengers survived 72 days trapped on a glacier, isolated from civilization and having to resort to eating the bodies of the dead to survive, drying human flesh on the fuselage in the high altitude sun.
In those 72 days, they endured extremely cold temperatures, avalanches, starvation and dehydration and ultimately two of them climbed out of the Andes to bring helicopters to rescue the other survivors, some of whom by then were afraid of flying.
The high altitude nightmare – an incredible and grisly story of survival against all odds – spawned books, movies and documentaries. It also changed the life of Broomfield, Colorado, musician and explorer Ricardo Pena.
On February 12, 2005, Pena discovered the jacket, passport and wallet of survivor Eduardo Strauch high in an unexplored gully above the glacier where the passengers, dressed minimally for warm spring weather, experienced their epic survival story.
“When I first saw the jacket, I thought I was in an Indiana Jones movie,” he said.
In December 2005, with a grant from National Geographic, Ricardo led the first expedition to cross the Andes by the historic escape route completed by survivors Roberto Canessa and Nando Parrado in 1972. This was done in the same month as the survivors’ trek to experience the challenge of similar snow conditions. This story was featured on the cover of the April 2006 National Geographic Adventure magazine.
Exactly 50 years to the date of the crash, Pena told members of The Explorers Club Rocky Mt. chapter in mid-October 2022 that due to climate change, more and more of the aircraft is being revealed. “It’s such a dramatic reminder visiting the site that people were really there,” he said during his presentation.
Today, he and Strauch remain fast friends. In fact the Andes survivor officiated at the wedding of Pena to Ulyana Horodyskyj, Ph.D., a scientist, part-time professor, mountaineer and explorer, and member of the RMEC advisory board.
Pena has been involved in many projects and documentaries regarding the Andes survivors since then and guides expeditions to the Mexican volcanoes, Aconcagua, Kilimanjaro, Nepal, the Andes Survivors site and many other peaks.
This December, Pena plans to return to the crash site, for the first time during the time of the year that coincides with the dates they were there: December 6 – 11, 2022.
To become part of Pena’s next expedition to the site, see:
Watch his October 2022 Fjallraven store presentation here:
photo by Jeff Blumenfeld: Ricardo Pena (right) shows an armrest from the ill-fated aircraft to author and mountaineer, Gerry Roach, an Everest summiteer in 1983 and the second person to climb the highest peak on each of the 7 continents.
Congratulations to chapter member Peter W. Van Arsdale on the publication of his book: Encounters: 50 Fascinating Strangers From My Life on the Road(Amity Bridge, 2022).
While neither memoir nor autobiography per se, this book nonetheless covers half a century of personal encounters – most of them unexpected – across the globe. In these 50 vignettes, Peter vividly depicts the amazing individuals he has met, and the wisdom gained from these meetings. Covering such strangers as a New Guinea warrior, a moonwalker, a witch, a sheik, a slave, a genocide survivor, a land mine survivor, a resistance fighter, and the original Rain Man, Encounters tells remarkable tales.
Peter has, over his 50-year career as an anthropologist and humanitarian, worked or traveled on all seven continents, as well as within several major island groups. He is the co-founder of The Denver Hospice, the Rocky Mountain Survivors Center, and the Humanitarian Assistance Program at the University of Denver.
Although retired from the University in 2020, he remains active there as a Global Fellow. Many of his current projects involve Rotary International, while also advising on several other initiatives in East Africa. Among other awards, Van Arsdale was a 2021 recipient of the Rotary WASH Legacy Award, for his work in the international WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) field. (Available on Amazon).
The multi-hyphenate Coloradan Alan Arnette, climber-coach-public speaker-blogger-author, provided an update on the state of climbing in the Everest region to the Rocky Mt. chapter, held appropriately enough, at a Boulder Nepali restaurant on April 29, 2022,
Arnette, who runs the alanarnette.com blog which covers the annual Everest season each spring, climbed the Seven Summits in one year to raise funds for Alzheimer’s research; became the oldest American to summit K2 on his 58th birthday (2014); attempted Denali three times; and summited all of Colorado’s 58 fourteeners, yet never previously climbed until he was 38 years-old.
Alan, a native of Memphis currently residing in Ft. Collins, Colorado, uses his mountaineering passion as part of his life’s purpose as an Alzheimer’s Advocate. As Alan saw his mom, Ida, go through the Alzheimer’s journey, he said it took her life and changed him forever. So after a 30-year career in management roles with Hewlett-Packard, he took early retirement in 2007 to oversee the care of Ida, and his life purpose became serving as an Alzheimer’s Advocate.
By his estimation, since 1953, Everest has been summited 10,656 times by about 5,350 individuals, versus just 400 summits of K2, a significantly tougher mountain to ascend.
During his talk he reported that as of April 2022, Nepal had issued 632 climbing permits, which infuses an estimated $3.8 million in cash into the Nepali community. The biggest issue, as he sees it is “inexperienced climbers hiring unqualified guides.” Rules have been instated by the Nepali government to regulate climbing, but are rarely enforced. On the plus side, there are more female climbers, “which is terrific for the sport.”
He told chapter members and guests, “You don’t pay for the right to climb Everest, instead you train to earn that right.”
Learn more about his work at alanarnette.com
The Boulder International Film Festival 2021
Boulder, CO (June 26 – 27, 2021) – Fellow Explorers Club member, Will Steger, appeared on Saturday and Sunday during the Boulder International Film Festival (BIFF). He is the subject of a new documentary, After Antarctica, containing never-before-seen footage of his historic 3,741 mile coast-to-coast crossing of Antarctica. As political tensions reached a critical tipping point in 1989, acclaimed polar explorer Will Steger led an international team of six scientists and explorers on the first coast-to-coast traverse of Antarctica. This treacherous seven-month journey spanned the continent through violent storms, unrelenting sub-freezing temperatures and over deadly hidden crevasses.
The ultimate mission of the expedition was to draw global attention to Antarctica’s changing climate and Steger could never have expected what we would soon discover: the most pressing issue of our time. Now, 30 years later, Steger heads out on the ice once again, this time to the polar opposite end of the Earth, and brings awareness to the imminent changes occurring in the polar regions of our planet. After Antarctica is about a legendary expedition unlike any other – not only were Steger and his team of renegade explorers the first to complete this historic feat – they were also the last.
The 2020 Exploration Awards
HUSAVIK, Iceland (August 18, 2020) – The sixth annual Leif Erikson Exploration Awards, sponsored by the Exploration Museum, this weekend recognized Canadian George Kourounis, and Americans Ulyana N. Horodyskyj and Jeff Blumenfeld. Also recognized was Scottish private space company Skyrora that launched their Skylark rocket from Langanes near Húsavík in northern Iceland on Aug. 16.
The Leif Erikson Awards, also known as the Exploration Awards, are awarded annually by the Exploration Museum for achievements in exploration and for work in the field of exploration history.
The awards ceremony was held Aug. 15 in Húsavík, the main and final event of the annual Húsavík Explorers Festival.
The Leif Erikson Exploration Award, recognizing an explorer for a recent or a lifetime achievement in the field of exploration, goes to George Kourounis, Toronto, Ontario, who explores and documents extreme natural events, working with scientists or local experts. He has also documented many forms of severe weather, including tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards, floods, hail, and lightning.
The Leif Erikson Young Explorer Award, awarded to an explorer under the age of 35 for great achievements in exploration, goes to Dr. Ulyana Horodyskyj, Broomfield, Colorado, recognized for her work as a science communicator. Horodyskyj is passionate about inspiring others to become involved in glaciology, geology and astronomy. She is the founder of Science in the Wild, bringing citizen-scientists into the field.
The Leif Erikson Exploration History Award, which recognizes a person or an organization that has worked to promote and preserve exploration history, was bestowed upon Jeff Blumenfeld, editor and publisher of Expedition News, who for 26 years has chronicled both worldwide expeditions and adventures. Blumenfeld, from Boulder, Colorado, has devoted his career to documenting exploration and helping new explorers gain funding. He is a longtime Fellow of The Explorers Club and served as the club’s communication director. His books include Get Sponsored: A Funding Guide for Explorers, Adventurers and Would-Be World Travelers, and Travel With Purpose: A Field Guide to Voluntourism.
Skyrora Ltd., a private space company from Scotland founded in 2017, received the Leif Erikson Lunar Prize for their work developing innovative high-grade fuel made from waste plastics designed to minimize the environmental impact of rocket launches.
Andrew McKenna Featured in Boulder Magazine
It is an honor for me to shine a light on the significant work of chapter members. Andrew, who has hosted the chapter to summer picnics at his home in Ward, has been working with The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) for the past 30 years on the coldest aviation case of them all: the disappearance of famed aviatrix Amelia Earhart. You can read the Boulder magazine story here:
– Jeff Blumenfeld
The Power of Adventure
The RMEC Learns About Exploring and Adventuring in the Name of Science
Wherever explorers and adventurers travel these days, there are scientists and researchers back home desperate for hard-to-obtain environmental data that would otherwise be unavailable for conservation.
That’s the premise behind the formation of Adventure Scientists (AS) in 2011, a nonprofit that equips partners with data collected from the outdoors that are crucial to addressing environmental and human health challenges. As such, it serves as an invaluable connection between the conservation and outdoor communities.
Founder Gregg Treinish of Bozeman, Montana, addressed the Rocky Mountain chapter of The Explorers Club in Boulder, Colorado, on Dec. 5, 2019, during a public presentation at the Fjallraven retail store. Fjallraven is a supporter of the Club and sponsors a “We Love Nature” field grant administered by the Club.
AS studies some of the world’s most pressing issues where the collection of field data is crucial. Data collection can be expensive, time consuming, and physically demanding, which limits the role that science currently plays in the conservation process.
Adventure Scientists tackles this problem by recruiting, training and managing individuals with strong outdoor skills – such as mountaineering, diving or whitewater kayaking – and empowering them to retrieve hard-to-obtain data from the far corners of the globe.
One researcher asked explorers and adventurers associated with AS to collect poop samples. Treinish explains, “We sent volunteers around the world to 110 countries seeking scat samples.”
As part of its timber tracking initiative, the group also collects samples of bigleaf maples to build a genetic reference library to help confirm that the wood, popular in guitar making, is harvested legally. The tonewood is highly prized for its complex beautiful grain, to the extent that poachers are illegally cutting down bigleaf maples in the Pacific Northwest.
The list of Adventure Scientists projects is extensive, all supported by hikers, bikers, skiers, and photographers from all walks of life who have chosen to make a difference by donating their time in the field.
Learn more at AdventureScientists.org
Cold as Ice
Rocky Mountain chapter members broke out their polar expedition gear on Nov. 1, 2019, to visit the National Science Foundation Ice Core Facility in Denver, the world’s largest such facility which stores, curates and studies ice cores recovered from the planet’s polar ice sheets. Over 21,000 meters (about 13 miles) of core samples are stored from Antarctica, Greenland and the high mountain glaciers of the world. The laboratory provides the opportunity for scientists to examine ice cores without having to travel to remote field sites.
The Denver Federal Center repository was dedicated in August 1993 and is one of only three such facilities in the world. Some of the cores being stored were extracted from as far down as 3,000 meters (9,842 ft.) and date back 2-1/2 million years. The frigid samples are used for scientific research related to climate change and other disciplines. Interestingly, once cores are extracted, they are protected for shipment in the kind of plastic wine bottle netting used by your local wine retailer.
The tour was conducted in both the “warm” exam room (minus 10 degrees F.), and the main storage room chilled down to minus 32 degrees F., which was for many visitors, including about 25 local schoolchildren, the coldest temperatures they’ve ever experienced.
By the time ice cores arrive for study, it’s estimated that each meter of ice is valued at approximately $25,000. Outdoor gear companies often test their cold weather apparel within the space.
“It takes a special kind of crazy to work in these temperatures,” admits assistant curator and tour guide Richard Nunn. “By studying ice cores, we can start piecing together what’s happening to our planet. It provides information on the rate of change which can help us better understand climate.”
Field Trip to Montrose Provides Insight on Petroglyphs, Black Canyon and Siege of Annapurna
The chapter traveled to Montrose on Oct. 11-13 to tour the Shavano Valley Petroglyph Park, learn the history of Black Canyon, and enjoy a fascinating talk by Kelvin Kent, a member of Chris Bonington’s British teams for Annapurna (1970) and Everest (1972), and gain some insight on expedition fundraising.
Kent considers the 1970 Annapurna climb, “the last of an era of logistical sieges,” and believes there are phenomenal climbers today who are almost like ballet dancers. In regards to the rigors of climbing above 8000 meters, Kent said, “After being at altitude for long periods of time, no one can tell me this isn’t doing damage to one’s brain cells.”
He currently serves on the board of the nonprofit Western Colorado Friends of the Himalayas:
New Stickers Available!
Thanks to Mike Seibert, Rocky Mountain Chapter stickers are now available. They are $2 each with proceeds benefiting the chapter.
Flower Power – Congratulations to Jim Pisarowicz and Mary Menz on publication of Common Wildflowers of the San Juan Mountains (2019). All the wildflowers in the book are found in the San Juan Mountains and specifically in Ouray, Hinsdale, San Juan and San Miguel counties – from the montane zone of 8,000 – 10,000 feet to the subalpine zone of 10,500 – 11,500 feet to the alpine zone of 11,500 – 14,400 feet.
It’s a pictorial guide to plants visible on hikes and off-road adventures, offering close-ups of the flowers to make wildflower identification easy. For more information: email@example.com
TEC national fellow Dr. Ulyana Horodyskyj traveled with Alpine Expeditions (Ricardo Peña) in January 2018 to the crash site of Uruguayan Air Force flight 571. The Fairchild 227 went down in the Andes on Friday, October 13, 1972 due to pilot error. 45 people were onboard the plane and only 16 survived. The survivors lived for 72 days on the Lagrimas glacier at nearly 12,000 ft., eating human flesh in order to survive. Rescue helicopters arrived on December 22, given a successful 10-day trek out of the crash site by survivors Nando Parrado and Roberto Canessa. Ulyana had the pleasure of meeting one of the survivors, Eduardo Strauch, on the expedition and spent time exploring the wreckage melting out of the glacier due to climate change.
Chapter Chair Jeff Blumenfeld, FN’89, was director of communications for the Dooley Intermed International – Operation Restore Vision Gift of Sight 2017 expedition to Nepal’s Upper Gorkha region, epicenter of the 2015 earthquakes. Read his daily trip reports here:
View the 11-minute trip documentary produced by SkyShip Films here: