Wednesday, March 28, 2012

When cities die

Years ago, I was reading the ice climber Will Gadd's blog. Will had a post linking to photos of Detroit where nature was reclaiming parts of the city where people had basically left. I was so impressed by the photos I wrote a brief post myself linking to the same material. That was in 2007; since then I think the emptiness and devastation of parts of Detroit has become quite well known. I've even seen it used as a back story on some cop show where one of the "urban explorer" got bumped off for reasons I no longer recall. I remember hearing that some in Detroit are really quite annoyed now about the stream of journos and photographers who arrive from around the world to see the 'ruins' of a city where I suppose many hundreds of thousands do still live.

Anyway, today's Slate Culture Gabfest discussed a recent piece in the NYT Magazine called "Jungleland" on what's left of the 'Lower Ninth' in New Orleans. Slate hadn't got all their links up when I first checked out their show page, so I just went to Google Earth to get some idea of where the Lower Ninth is and looks like (I've never been to New Orleans). On the satellite imagery things look quite normal from some way above: lots of houses are visible, some parks etc. It just looks like many other spacious spread out American suburbs. But going to Google Maps and using Streetview, the desolation of the area is starkly apparent. Many of those roofs visible from above are on abandoned and derelict houses. Some people have rebuilt and are living there, but most of the houses were simply washed away, some of the inhabitants with them, and there's just scrub and rubbish left behind.
View Larger Map This is 2403 Flood Street, I've chosen it completely by random after clicking up and down various roads in the district. Spin around using streetview and you'll see the one little white house there, shiny and new with what looks like a wheelchair ramp outside, and then its surrounded by something that is going back towards wilderness, but as the Slate discussion revealed - its not even 'natural' wilderness, as the area is becoming dominated by mono-cultures of invasive species.

It is one of the saddest things I've ever seen.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Ice climbing links of interest and some housekeeping

A little housekeeping, and then some "links of interest" (obviously if you aren't interested in the same things that I'm interested in, they will be links of un-interest - so sorry in advance about that).  Firstly, I was told by a certain lightweight backpacking evangelist and all round tech dude, that I would look much cooler if I installed Disqus as my blog's commenting tool. Always wanting to burnish my hipster credentials, but otherwise non the wiser as to why it is a good idea, this I have now done. Disqus also claims that it is importing all previous comments into the new system but this will take some time. So far it hasn't and I am in state of nervous apprehension as to where all my comments have gone from the last six years. I haven't gone through the trauma of dozens of flame wars and being called a terrorist-lover, Islamophobe, anti-Semite, Zionist, shit climber and bore just to lose all the hard-earned abuse in technical glitch I hope! And that certain UL evangelist better realise that his toilet paper teepee (132.4 grams) and home-made clingfilm rain trousers (52.1 grams) will do nothing to protect him from the wrath of an infuriated mediocre ice climber/international politics blogger should Disqus lose all my comments! :-) Anyway, if you're bored, do leave a comment with some fresh abuse, or just to say hi, and lets see how this clever ole' disqus business works.

It's raining now outside but despite this, we plan to go climbing tomorrow. Yes this is probably a silly, or at least soggy plan, but we shall see. On an ice climbing front, I was dead chuffed to have an article published on Finnish ice climbing in Climb magazine in the UK. Ian and Dave at Climb made my article look great and I hope folk enjoy reading it.

Screen shot of my Climb article
I was very aware in the article that I didn't really discuss the best place for ice climbing in Finland, Korouoma, mainly because I have only been there once and it is a long, long way away. But having seen the following video of climbing there (thanks to Max on Facebook for highlighting the video), I really have to get back up there.


Congrats to all involved for making such a great little film of the place.

Finally, Nick and Jim, who we stayed with for a few days whilst ice climbing in Northern Norway this time last year, are back up there. This year Nick as well as Jim is blogging. It looks like they haven't had fantastic luck with the weather this year, but still have been doing some really impressive climbing. Neither Nick nor Jim are your sponsored super-hero types, they are just weekend warriors like the rest of us, but I have huge respect for them for just getting organised and turning up. Ice climbing somewhere like Arctic Norway need some faith, a sense of adventure, solid mountain sense and, to borrow a good Finnish word for this, sisu. It's people like Nick and Jim that make the climbing community great. It's easy to get cynical when you follow the commercial interests, competition for recognition, back-biting and petty tribalism that are also part of the climbing community, but all around the world there are people out there on cliffs and mountains just like Nick and Jim, just doing it for fun (even when it is anything but). So enjoy the rest of your holiday chaps! May the skies be blue, the ice solid and plastic, the winds still and snowpack stable. Take care and have fun.
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