Losing (Catholic) Guilt

How many of you have experienced this?

“Noooo its okay! I carried you for nine months then I raised you do be where you are today. If you don’t want to do that, that’s okaaaay!”

Sounds like a good ol’ serving of Catholic Guilt to me. And unfortunately, Catholics do not have a corner on that market. Guilt is used to universally.

After talking to a friend today, I recognized how much society is driven to good by making someone feel bad. Guilt is not a pick-me-up type emotion, yet it is manipulated for good. That to me seems broken. If the good is good, let it stand on it’s own.

What if our generation said no to guilt? Doing what is right for the sake of being right. Teaching our children to do what is good and just. Period. The generational chain could be broken and that would make the world a better place.

What’s In The Way of Your Feng Shui

high tension towerThere are thousands of things in your environment that have an impact on the way you work and live. Some of those things you can see such as furniture, walls, decorative objects, streets and rivers. Others you can not see such as electromagnetic fields, heat and cold, odors, the wind, chemicals and the like. These environmental situations  affect your ability to think, be healthy, and have good relationships. Your success in business and your quality of life can be improved with the enhanced opportunities Feng Shui provides.

Feng Shui takes what is found in the environment and uses it for your advantage. By creating appropriate landscapes and roads Feng Shui brings energy to your door. What is this energy? Every thing in our world is full of energy. Think of it as food. We all need food to survive. The higher the quality of the food the better our health. Since energy is all around us in many forms all we have to do is gather it for our benefit. The practiced Feng Shui consultant is trained to recognize and direct this energy for you.

lobster stew and veggies

When that energy arrives at your door then what? Let’s go back to the food analogy. If the food is on your plate but you never open your mouth to eat it then it does you no good. If your door is in the wrong….

To finish reading this article please go to Real Feng Shui Solutions

Let’s Demystify the WordPress Dashboard: A Workshop 2/28

(Inspired by the questions from the Tuesday Writer’s Support Group for the Reticent Blogger and offered by request)

Tags vs Categories?

Pages vs Posts?

How do I turn comments off?

I thought WordPress was supposed to be simple?

Does the WordPress Dashboard send you into overwhelm?

Are you not filling in SEO fields when you post? Want to learn how optimize SEO on your blog/website every time you post?

Need some basic training or a refresher on the WP Dashboard?

What do you wish you knew how to do quickly? We’ll tackle your questions sent in advance or left in the comments!

AND we will address the most common issues people have with the WP Dashboard that on first view can seem like an airplane control panel!

Join Deborah Drake of Authentic Writing Provokes, Self-Publishing and Writing Coach and Stephen Magladry, (http://itechieguy.com) Mac/Apple Products Specialist who loves WordPress and get a guided Tour of the WordPress Dashboard and learn best practices for simple SEO for every post and page.

Attendees can expect to…

…get a guided Tour of the WordPress Dashboard and learn best practices for simple SEO for every post and page.

…gain insights on what applies post after post

…see in real time how simple it can be to complete important fields

Top reasons you should attend…

Learn about the very best plugins every WP site needs.

Learn what other “bells and whistles” to consider and why.

Leave with a one sheet to short-cut your process in future.

The speakers will share…

SEO practices that are as basic as they are good and easy to remember.

Ideas for creating compelling headlines and meta descriptions.

Insights on how not to struggle with writing and posting and creating tags and categories

February 28, 2012
10:30am to Noon at Friends, Philosophy and Tea

$20 if pre-paid and $25 the day of (and if you attend Tuesdays, payment directly is good too and sign up before 2/28.)


Prefer a Webinar? Leave a comment with your preferred time of day!

My New Mentor

My Dad taught me fairness, discipline, compassion, independence, to love life, to appreciate the outdoors and history, and to be proud of our accomplishments. At the service celebrating his life of 99 years, I heard how lawyers viewed his life, both professionally and personally and realized they had experienced him differently.

He belonged to many organizations, associations, and ad hoc committees. No matter what he joined he invariably took on a leadership role. He built a very successful legal practice, successful enough financially to support his growing family well. He was devoted to his alma matter, the University of Oregon Law School and was always a strong supporter. He was a mentor to many, and like a father to one. He formed lasting and enduring friendships. His closest friend still living at 97, wrote a very eloquent eulogy. Many commented on his excellence as a lawyer, a skilled practitioner, who cared deeply for his clients. His sense of humor and skill as a speaker were legendary. In his later years when he no longer could see or hear well or remember much, they still came by and took him to lunch. He never lacked for company.

Real Estate, Boobs and Botox, Doctor and Lawyers, and Better Travel Rates.

Part 2 of a 3 part series: a review of this users experience at Startup Conference Seattle 2012

Real Estate, Boobs and Botox, Doctor and Lawyers, and Better Travel Rates.

Serial Entrepreneur and CEO Rich Barton has started a series of business with a common theme. He is driven to keep transparency for the everyday person to have access to information previously available to members in the inner circle only.  As he put it:

Empower the people with information so they can make good decision. ~Richard Barton, CEO of Zillow

He’s got quite the list of projects he is or has been part of!

http://expedia.com  (created while inside Microsoft and the first company to be “set free” and spun off)

http://zillow.com (it’s about making real estate data transparent for all)

http://glassdoor.com (what is going on inside companies re jobs/salaries?)

http://trover.com (up and coming this idea is a social, local, mobile travel resource)

http://realself.com (in short, the truth about boobs and botox services and fees)

http://avvo.com (start here to find a good lawyer/doctor/dentist)

On Being an Intrapreneur vs and Entrepreneur

I didn’t realize that Expedia began as a “travel version of Encarta,” backed by Bill Gates and Paul Allen and developed within Microsoft. It was inspired by a “functional but ugly” Prodigy product used primarily by travel agents that Barton became aware of.  Expedia would also be the first company to spin off of Microsoft. Apparently, creating the “separation agreements and contracts” was a first as well and was an interesting process in itself, shared Barton.

Barton’s suggestion based on his experience: You don’t need to leave the company you are with to build your own (at least not prematurely). If you are casting about for something to do (inside or outside a company) and come up with an idea you want to pursue, consider incubating it while still employed! (Now that makes great sense doesn’t it?)

Have an idea? Need a co-founder? Start with people you know. (Again, that people theme.)

How do you tell if it is a big idea or not? Be advised: What you think it will turn out to be is never the end result. Focus on the pond and the fisherman. How big is the pond? How many fishermen? How much dysfunction in the industry? The BIGGER the dysfunction, the BETTER the prospects for creating a winning SOLUTION that could attract INVESTORS.

It’s who you climb in the boat with and those you add as you grow that matters. It’s the people, people!

And where two co-founders are concerned says Barton: better 49/51 and never 50/50. Someone must have the deciding vote in tough calls (translation for me: check your ego at the start and make it about the bigger vision.) And from the start build in flexibility. Being flexible is key. (You’ll last longer and weather more storms that way.)

The Reality Check: “Most people don’t have what it takes to make it through all weather like the mail…rain, sleet, snow. The best way to make something happen is to be a sharer, a communicator, involve others to engage in giving you feedback.” (Yes. Yes. Yes)

For Rich Barton, his success as the Serial Entrepreneur and CEO is all about:

People. Transparency. Empowerment.

His Opening Keynote was a home run for this participant who couldn’t take notes fast enough.

And what came next was inspiring to me for a whole other set of reasons…

(My advice reader: If there is a Startup Conference coming to your city, run, don’t walk to register early)

Swimming in Avalanches

Click on any photo to ENLARGE it.

Lightning Storms are common in the Mountains. Photo from a free wallpaper/stock photo set.

Lightning struck the mountain as the heavens cracked with thunder. Snow and ice burst loose like boiling water, and I was swept down the couloir, a steep gulley plunging down the flank of the mountain. It was a hell of a way to spend a summer vacation.

It was mid-July 1986, and I was in the Wyoming Wind River Range toward the end of a 30-day Wind River Mountaineering Course with NOLS, the world-famous National Outdoor Leadership School. Headquartered on the edge of the range in the cowboy town of Lander, Wyoming, NOLS was the premier outdoor adventure school of my time.

Back then I was considering a career in outdoor adventure and sought concentrated training in hard skills such as alpine rock climbing and glacier travel and in soft skills such as teamwork and leadership under pressure. Along with those skills NOLS also taught natural history, science in the field, environmental responsibility, wilderness navigation, and backcountry first aid, all knowledge I desired.  I had one semester left in grad school, too, back east in Richmond, Virginia. And, to be sure, what I most wanted as an ol’ farmboy from Virginia was an immersion adventure in the Wild American West. And I got it.

A veteran NOLS instructor, Michael “Mike” Collins, a decorated ex-Marine with long blonde hair from New Hampshire who found his soul in the Wyoming wilderness, led our expedition. He told us of sitting in a wheelchair all grogged out from painkillers being awarded a medal by then-President Ronald Reagan for being wounded in the combat in the 1983 U.S. invasion of Grenada. Mike thought the little war was stupid, but he gave it a gung-ho go-go-go and got shot up for it. The mountains called him West after he got out of the Marines. It’s where he healed himself out among horses, rocks, stars, sun, snow, and climbers. Mike was never rattled and always seemed calm, collected, and solid even if somewhat fatalistic.

A veteran NOLS instructor, Michael “Mike” Collins, a decorated ex-Marine with long blonde hair from New Hampshire who found his soul in the Wyoming wilderness, led our expedition. He told us of sitting in a wheelchair all grogged out from painkillers being awarded a medal by then-President Ronald Reagan for being wounded in the combat in the 1983 U.S. invasion of Grenada. Mike thought the little war was stupid, but he gave it a gung-ho go-go-go and got shot up for it. The mountains called him West after he got out of the Marines. It’s where he healed himself out among horses, rocks, stars, sun, snow, and climbers. Mike was never rattled and always seemed calm, collected, and solid even if somewhat fatalistic.

John Toll of Iowa served as Mike’s assistant and second-in-command. He was full of grit and gumption, as short as an ear of corn, and most intense. John thrived under pressure and seemed determined to throw off the gravity of being from the cornfield realms of Iowa. In turn, Fergus McCormick, who carried a guitar in a blue case lashed to his backpack, assisted them as an apprentice trip leader. I don’t remember where Fergus was from, maybe New York, other than he went to Reed College in Oregon.

Some of my favorite memories were of Fergus grinning after lugging his big guitar up and down across big mountains, unzipping his blue case, pulling out his guitar, and start playing. He’ll strum and sing way out there on the side of the mountains amid rocks and trees and wind. Intoxicated with music, we would feel like a million miles in the middle of nowhere but in the heart of everywhere.  All three young men were remarkable in their own way. To all us students they were Superheroes. God-like, even.

Called the Wind Rivers or the Winds for short, these mountains paralleled the Tetons to the West as part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. After surviving a hellish blizzard on the Fourth of July in subzero temperatures, we continued our off-trail traverse of the Wind River Mountains from the northeast to southwest.

After another fierce storm cleared the skies we successfully summitted Gannett Peak on the 12thof July. At 13,804 ft Gannett is the highest mountain in Wyoming, even taller than its more famous neighbor the Grand Teton.

John Toll of Iowa, Assistant NOLS Instructor, atop Gannet Peak, WY, 13,804 ft., July 12, 1986. He named & led our Iowa Peak climb 4 days later. Jenn H. is in front. Photo by William Bass.

By July 14 we arrived at Bull Lake Glacier atop a wide plateau. This glacier was connected to the large Fremont Glacier complex. There on the edge of Bull Lake Glacier at around 12,120 feet our NOLS group set up camp. Across from us to the west was Indian Pass, which looked steep and slick with a cloak of heavier than usual late-season snow and ice. To our right the northern gate was guarded by the shoulder hump of Jackson Peak, at 13,517 feet the eighth highest mountain in Wyoming. We actually had to descend off Bull Lake Glacier to the base before climbing it.

South to our left an unnamed tower of rock pierced the sky. Although at about 12,836 feet it wasn’t as tall, the unnamed mountain looked steeper and more challenging than more massive Jackson Peak. As tired as we felt, a group of us wanted to bag it. I wanted to bag it. Back then I kept lists of all the mountains I climbed and all the rivers paddled, states I’ve visited, and all the national parks and wilderness areas I’ve entered.

Our course broke into rotating small groups over the next couple days. It was a pleasant change of pace from the relentless marching. Feeling bony but strong, we engaged in day climbs with ice axes and had science classes in the fields. One day the mini-group I was in climbed and summitted Jackson Peak. We actually had to descend off Bull Lake Glacier to the base before climbing it.

The ascent was primarily a wickedly steep snow slog. One step at a time with each plunge of the ice ax shaft. At one point we had to chop steps out of the ice, which was a bit nerve wracking. It wasn’t a severe climb by any means, but the exposure was deadly. And it was a cool climb except that visibility was bad with rapid changes in weather. Another climb of nearby Fremont Peak, third highest in Wyoming at 13,745 feet, was aborted when another storm hit us partway up.

The Author, age 27, atop Jackson Peak, 13,517 ft., July 15, 1986. Photo by team mate for William Bass.

July 16, 1986 found my small group following John Toll down off the glacier to climb the unnamed peak. There were three of us students: Ray, Laura, and me. They were characters, too. Ray was a jovial older guy built like a bear who declared himself an avowed Marxist from New England.

Laura was from somewhere in the Northeast, too. With a thick head of orange-red hair, she was quiet, studious, and totally game to have at these mountains. Younger than me, Laura became famous on our expedition for going snow blind. She refused to wear her glacier goggles one day on a glacier crossing because she didn’t like the way she looked with those big goggles on and went blind. It was our fault, too, because no one including our NOLS instructors caught it until it was too late. Her eyes healed from placing cooled tea bags upon them. Took a day and a half. Today, though, she could see so well as to behold the storms. And laugh at her self, too.

Although I waggled my head and chuckled, I understood. Whenever I wore huge, slipover sunglasses over my big spectacles people point and shout, “Hey, look! A man in rilly HUGE, li’l ol’ lady GRANMA sunglasses!” For a few years after the movie of the same name came out in 1987, people would look again, laugh, and shout, “Hey, look! Robocop!”

Iowa John led us over to the base of the mesa-like rock tower just south of Indian Pass. We had to have a name for this nameless – at least on the map – mountain. As John hailed from the rolling flats of Iowa, he flippantly called out “Iowa Peak!” And the rest us of embraced the oxymoron with laughs and shouts. “Yeah!” we cried out in agreement, “Iowa Peak!”

Morning of July 16, 1986. Left (S) to right (N): "Iowa" Peak, Indian Pass, flank of Jackson Peak. Photo by William Bass.

The three of us students arrived with John at the base of Iowa. We were clearly not the first climbers. In fact we were a little shocked at the quantity of human feces clumped among the rocks. With a wry grin, John launched into a brief lecture on minimum impact ethics.

“Well, whaddaya do out here?” one of us asked. “You can’t dig a cat hole in all these rocks.”

“Pull up a rock, shit in the hole, then cover it up,” John said. “If you absolutely have to shit on top the ground, then cover it up with rocks. Even better, smear your own shit around first. Preferably with flat rocks.”

We nodded in agreement. All of us have been out in the field too long to say “Eww.”

After a debate on the best configuration for rope teams for the four of us, we decided to do the unusual and put all four on us on a single rope. We had a mix of skill levels and abilities, and decided the whole group would move faster this way. Off we went, clawing our way up a multi-pitch rock climb with helmets and backpacks with ice axes strapped on.

July 16 had dawned blue and clear. We were all excited, even eager, for climbing this tower represented a true unknown. Yet all four of us remained relatively calm and matter-of-fact. Being out in the field for so long had matured us with a certain wisdom. And, to be honest, we were all tired. And we were focused and upbeat.

It’s been almost 23 years now as I write. I can’t remember if we took turns swinging leads, or for the sake of speed we all stayed clipped into the rope in the same order we began. I can’t remember if I was the lead climber or the second. I know Laura was usually in the middle and John the Instructor stayed tied in at the end.

At the end of each pitch we would regroup briefly on little ledges. The views across the mountains and valleys were spectacular. But it was too scary to dig out my camera. My camera was an old Canon AE-1 and was deemed a bit heavy for this trip, but I carried it anyway.

We grunted over big rocks and shimmed up little handholds. We tiptoed and shoved, pulled and laughed, scraped our helmets against rock, and laughed and farted. We handled our rope systems as seasoned experts, belaying, placing pro, removing pro, and slinging gear.

Halfway up Iowa the storm hit. Within moments we were enveloped in swirling wet clouds. Visibility dropped away. Snow fell, first as soft flakes, but faster and harder as frozen white pellets. We had the beginnings of a whiteout. And it was our first whiteout while climbing. We laughed at our pathetic attempts to celebrate and John just shook his head at our silliness.

Into the Whiteout! Laura on the 4th Pitch of Iowa Peak. Photo by William Bass.

Our team came to a halt on a ledge to consider the situation. The rocks were getting wet and our hands were cold and getting colder. Climbing in soggy wool mittens over slick wet stone did not appeal to us. Should we start downclimbing and rappelling off? Hold up and wait it out hoping it’s just a brief, passing storm? John called the decision quickly.

“The fastest way down is climb up to the top and glissade down that couloir we saw on the other side of the peak,” he said. “Let’s go.”

Quietly with renewed focus we pushed ahead, helping each other as needed. At this point we didn’t care about climbing in good style such as not cheating with our knees as much as we cared about getting safely back to base camp. The snow fell harder. Distant thunder rumbled.

With a grim satisfaction I hauled myself up onto the summit of the mountain and stood up into the sky. Ray and Laura were soon at my side. We relished standing atop this 12,836 foot-high pile of rock, ice, and snow. Then John Toll popped up, short and elf-like in the storm and radiating confidence. He seemed to relish the challenge. Ray and I nodded. We knew it would make a good story. Laura just grinned and took a drink.

“Iowa Peak!” we all shouted. “Woohoo! We made it!”

“Not yet,” our NOLS Instructor replied drolly. “Once we’ve all returned to base camp then you can say that.”

The storm seemed to clear briefly as clouds swirled open. Snow scattered in the breeze. It was cold. And yet I felt strangely jubilant and just a bit anxious. Something didn’t feel right. Couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I brushed it aside as simply fear of the unknown. We took a quick break to eat and drink, add layers, and coil the ropes. And take summit pictures, of course.

Atop the summit of Iowa Peak, Wind River Mountains, in a break in the storm. Left to right (clockwise): The Author, John Toll (in yellow), Ray H. (standing), Laura B. Group Self-Portrait by William Bass.

“Time to go,” said John.

We got out our ice axes, slung on our backpacks, and then slid the rope coils over our head. To speed things up I took two ropes, coiled like circles in the classic mountaineer style, and threw them criss-cross over my trunk. I looked like a guerrilla chieftain with two rolls of bandoliers. My goodness, they were heavy. But I was strong and in great shape. Together we marched over the summit, had to downclimb over wet rocks a bit, and soon found ourselves standing at the head of a long skinny couloir filled with snow. We could see all the way to the bottom where it ran out into Indian Pass. I shivered with a mix of fear and pleasure as I felt the call of adventure and the challenge of the moment.

“Dudley,” John called out, using my middle name, which was what I went by back in those years. “You’re the second most experienced one here. I want you to stay back and take sweep.”

Ray and Laura were fine with that. They’ve had very little outdoor experience before taking this NOLS Mountaineering Course. But they knew how to self-arrest with their ice axes should they glissade out of control.

“We’re going to glissade all the way down. Glissade in control,” John said. “I’m going first. Then you, Laura. Next, you, Ray. Spread out a little so you don’t get on top of one another too fast. It’s a long ways down but not too bad. Faster than setting up pro and rappelling down wet rocks, that’s for sure. After Ray, it’s you, Dudley.”

“OK, let’s go,” Ray said.

“Any questions?” asked John.

“No,” Laura shook her head.

I nodded the all-OK. The snow was falling much harder now and the wind was gusting through the Pass between Iowa and Jackson Peaks.

John stepped off the rocks onto the snow at the top of the chute, sat down while gripping his ice axe to steer by, then scooted off. He masterfully shot on down the mountain and soon was at the bottom. He stood up, shouted, and waved. Laura went next. She scooted and stopped, shuddered and scuttered, and then away she went, zipping down the snow with a yell. Soon she was standing up next to John and wiping snow off her pants.

Ray, a big guy, jumped on with macho gusto, turned around and gave me a grin. We nodded at each other, the tired equivalent of thumbs up, and off he went. Ray glissaded down the ravine toward Laura and John. Sometimes he went too slowly, then too fast, bouncing a bit toward the end, skittering to a halt in a spray of snow. My turn.

The couloir didn’t seem all that long, or steep, but once I sat down atop the snow it felt very long and steep. For a moment I felt fear. Then I took a deep breath. This was what I lived for. Adventure! Adventure in the wilderness! Doing things few people ever get to do! Yeah!

The couloir went straight down then bent right to left like a dog’s leg before straightening out again. A thin rim of rocks that dropped steeply over cliffs marked the edge of the dogleg. More snow fell and the clouds grew darker and stormier. It was time to push off, and I did.

Lightening struck the mountain at that moment. Thunder boomed as if a giant pounded heavy war drums. Snow exploded around me and before I knew exactly what was happening I was being swept down the mountain.


The snow seemed to boil up and liquefy. I was head up, feet down, and shooting straight toward the edge of the cliffs in the bend of the dogleg. I could see snow shooting up to spill over the cliffs. And I did not want to get blown over those rocks.

Quickly I turned over as I’ve been trained to do on a stable mountainside and self-arrested with my ice axe. Except this mountainside was moving. Bad idea. I just sank down into the snow. It continued to carry me down the mountain. After a second or third attempt I gave up in frustration and then had a brilliant insight.

An avalanche is essentially a river of snow washing down the mountain. I was also a whitewater kayaker. If a paddler ends up coming out of the boat, there was a specific way to swim whitewater rapids. You floated on your back, arms outstretched backpaddling to slow yourself down, head upstream to protect it from smashing into rocks, and your feet pointing downstream to avoid foot entrapment and to bounce off boulders. The lifejacket would protect your spine.

So I rolled over onto my back and began backpaddling with my arms, still gripping my ice axe in one hand. I rose back up and floated on top the moving snow as I got swept down the mountain.

All thought was crystal clear. No praying or screaming or looking back or second-guessing. Just instinct and intelligence working together in perfect pitch. Responding to what is.

Suddenly I came to a stop. The avalanche had carried me about 200 feet down the mountain. I did not go over the cliffs. Everything was quiet. Silent. I was buried up to my chest, but my feet were not far from the surface. Heavy boots weighed them down. For a moment I sat absolutely still, afraid to move, concerned that any movement would trigger another slide. Little trickles of snow began to roll and slide down the chute all around me.

“Get down here now!” John shouted up at me.

“Come on!” Ray shouted.

“Hurry!” Laura shouted.

“Now!” John ordered. “Quickly!”

Scared but with no time to be afraid, I wiggled loose and fought my way free. Fortunately, the snow was a mix of powder and clumps, so I got out quickly. In a blur of action I moved down and out of the main slide, a big pile of loose snow, and glissaded the rest of the way down. In no time at all I was at the bottom. I stood up, shaken but feeling a little bit like Superman with those two climbing ropes coiled across my chest.

“Are you alright?”

“Man, you don’t know how lucky you are?”

“Good thing lightening didn’t strike you!”

“Did you see that lightening bolt?”

“You realize you have a metal ice axe in your hand, right?”

The questions came fast and furious from Ray and Laura. Another rumble of thunder boomed through the Pass.

“Let’s get outa here!” John said.

We had to get out of the way of the couloir and back to camp. Halfway to camp the storm turned ugly. Thunder cracked every few minutes and the ground shook. Lightening struck all around us. I imagined rocks exploding. Flashes of light lit up the clouds.

Snow fell in wild, crazy flurries. Lightening flashed so much around us we could see the electricity crackling through the air. It reminded me of hot afternoon thunderstorms back in Virginia, but I felt as if we were in the midst of an artillery bombardment.

The storm raged after we got back to camp. Eventually it cleared, and we awoke to a beautiful, clear day. Our entire NOLS course was scheduled to cross over through Indian Pass to the other side of Titcomb Lakes this day. After we broke camp, packed up, and began a long trudge up to the top of Indian Pass, someone shouted out. Maybe it was John Toll.

“Hey, look over there,” I remember someone pointing out. “Over at the base of Iowa Peak.”

“What?” I asked as I squinted across the way, looking at where the avalanche occurred.

“You are so lucky. We are all so lucky. See, the entire couloir slid clean during the middle of the night.”

My eyes followed the pointed finger. Indeed, the couloir appeared swept half clean. A mound of snow stood piled up at the bottom against a ring of boulders. Apparently during the peak of the storm more thunder and lightening had triggered another and much bigger avalanche. Big enough to not only kill me but also bury my companions at the bottom. There would have been little hope in successfully digging people out under such remote and stormy conditions.

“My” avalanche was a relatively small and narrow one. Instead of an enormous shelf or slab cracking away from the flanks of some gargantuan mountain, it was basically a snow slide in a gully. Technically speaking in the vernacular of climbing I was in a “loose snow avalanche,” one that starts small at the top then grows bigger and wider as it descends the mountain like a growing waterfall. It was my first and only true avalanche.

I was lucky in a number of ways. For instance, the fact the snow was Rocky Mountain powder. Years later I got caught in a little snow slide on a winter climb on Red Mountain in the Washington Cascades. I was stuck up to my knees and hips in what local mountaineers dubbed “Cascade concrete,” wet, heavy snow that traps you and is difficult to escape from. According to my old Seattle Mountaineer climbing notes, most avalanches occur on 38 degree slopes, and 50% of all avalanche deaths are climbers (although they’re roughly the 5th cause of death among mountaineers, with simple falling being number one.).

All of us stared across the way at the avalanche chute on Iowa Peak as we slogged up Indian Pass. It was a solemn reminder that in the backcountry anything could happen. Anything. Such as later on that day I and two other guys unwittingly and unknowingly walked out onto a frozen lake covered in snow only to feel our weight drop with a muffled crack. That, however, is another story.

Iowa Peak by Indian Pass. July 16, 1986. Photo by William Bass.

Afterthoughts: All mountain peak elevation measurements listed above reflect the traditional measurements then in usage. Recent surveys since then have determined the entire Wind River Range to be on average five feet higher in elevation. During the time of our course we couldn’t discern the exact height of our unnamed peak from the tools at our disposal other than to know it was over 12,500 feet but shorter than the 13,000-footers.

Years later as I scanned newer maps, some listed the height as 12,836 feet, others at 12,838 feet. Perhaps the latter number stems from the reset of traditional measurements. We certainly weren’t the first to climb it, and we found out later we had unusual winter-like conditions that summer. I haven’t been able to find a designated name. To our group of climbers from that particular NOLS Course, however, it’ll always be Iowa Peak.

Global climate disruption is also affecting the Winds with more severe storms, less precipitation, and more droughts. As a result there has been increasingly rapid melting out of the glaciers. Many I experienced that unusually snowy summer of 1986 have shrunk drastically. Photos from the 1920s to the mid-1980s (when I was there) to the 2000s show the sad loss of all that snowy ice. With warming temperatures come unpredictable conditions, flash floods, and encroaching, invasive plants, animals, and especially insects from now-hotter climes.

This essay was composed from old, pencil-&-paper journal entries and photographs from my trips in the American West in the Summer of 1986. The camera system I used was a handheld Canon AE-1 with a 35 mm SLR lens and Kodak Kodacolor Print Film. Unfortunately, my old journals and photographs of that wonderful and pivotal Summer Adventure were destroyed in the house Fire of March 2010.

Life goes on, of course. And I will always remember my NOLS Wind River Mountaineering Course. It changed my life. I miss the Winds and wonder if I’ll ever return. I used to think I would, but so many other responsibilities and distractions exist. I miss my former coursemates, too. The magick of deep friendships forged between strangers in the wilderness got us through difficult moments and allowed us to appreciate the sacredness and the unique beauty of the Winds.


William Dudley Bass
May 15, 2009
Revised and Reposted February 17, 2012
(Almost 26 yrs after the climb)
Seattle, Washington

NOTE: This article was first published in my earlier autobiographical blog, Cultivate and Harvest, on May 15, 2009, at http://cultivateandharvest.blogspot.com/2009/05/swimming-in-avalanches_15.html with the photos published separately as “Photos for ‘Swimming in Avalanches’” at http://cultivateandharvest.blogspot.com/2009/05/swimming-in-avalanches.html. It was revised and re-published on my new website On Earth at the Brink  this February of 2012, and is also a modified chapter from a book in progress narrating epic outdoor adventures in wild and beautiful places. It is reposted here with my permission as the Author. Thank you.


Copyright © 2009, 2012 by William Dudley Bass.

“Call holding for the doctor” (in 200 words)

Medicare expects physicians to talk to patients’ family members on the phone if necessary. How many times have you heard that in a doctor’s office?

Here is the policy:

Services by means of a telephone call between a physician and a beneficiary, or between a physician and a member of a beneficiary’s family, are covered under Medicare, but carriers may not make separate payment for these services under the program. The physician work resulting from telephone calls is considered to be an integral part of the prework and postwork of other physician services, and the fee schedule amount for the latter services already includes payment for the telephone calls.

Source: “Medicare Benefit Policy Manual, Chapter 15 – Covered Medical and Other Health Services,” Revision 151.

The quote has a couple unfamiliar terms, but most readers probably “get the gist.” Translating the bureaucrat-ese into plain English would sound something like this:

for the money that doctors are allowed to bill Medicare, we expect them to talk on the phone to the beneficiary’s family, if needed!

But you never hear that in a doctor’s office.  If your only source of information is a medical office, the information is filtered through their preferences and convenience.


Derailed (The Fire, Part 3)

Click on any photo to ENLARGE it.

My Camera Post-Fire (the memory card with ~ 800 pics survived) at the Burn House. Photo by William Bass.


Fire changes things. Destroys. Creates. Transforms.

Think of metamorphic rocks, rocks such as gneiss, slate, quartzite, and marble. Think of transmutation of elements. Transmutation as illustrated by the old alchemical striving to turn lead, the base metal of Satan the Devil, into gold, the metal of Gods and kings, or modern nuclear reactions, explosions, and radioactive decay. One forgets among the unleashing of atomic demons the alchemists were more esoteric than literal as they sought to transform their very souls.

Sometimes those who spend lifetimes in search of such divine gifts never obtain their goals.

Sometimes those who don’t seek these Gifts of Fire end up in flames anyway.

Sometimes life spins out of control.

It feels that way at times. Certainly within our minds. Even if Life goes on until Dead.

Jeff Shushan, a brilliant and insightful psychotherapist Kristina and I worked with off and on through the latter part of 2010 into 2011, used the term “derailed.” An unexpected and traumatic event occurs. It is a life-changing event. Circumstances feel overwhelming and throw people off course. Yes, you can be alert, awake, aware, present, mindful, and choose to respond rather than react. Still, to full heal one must take time to grieve, to reassess, to determine what steps to take next and in what direction, with whom, and how.

To see lots more photos and continue reading, go to: http://williamdudleybass.com/MyBlog/derailed-the-fire-part-3/.

William Dudley Bass
February 2012
Seattle, Washington


Copyright (C) 2012 by William Dudley Bass.


Feeling like a “mark” (in 200 words)

You didn’t see me as a person, you saw me as a “mark.” You came and sat next to me on the bus, noticing I had asked for the next stop. You talked about the traffic, saying it was caused by President Obama’s visit. At our stop, I found myself maneuvering around you, unsuccessfully, as you complained about the President and money and social services, and people who have moved here from other countries. You deftly  maneuvered several times between me and my route. I’ll bet you are a good dancer. You were quick to show me medical tubing and claimed to be on on your way to the hospital for chemo. You were’t too sure when I said, “Oh, I know a lot of chemo people at that hospital, who is your doctor?” You told me that you have not eaten in three days. Told me that twice. With more energy than people I know who have not had food in a whole day.  We conversed. Ultimately I extricated myself.  You saw me as a mark. Or maybe I’m wrong. But that’s what it felt like today.

After the Fire (Part 2 of 3)

Click on Photos to EXPAND.

Keeping the Fire Down. Edmonds, WA. 3-20-2010. Photo by William Bass.

William & Kate goofin' around 7 days after the Fire; Woodinville, WA. Photo by Morgan Bass.

After the Fire

“Sometimes I can’t even feel the ground under my feet anymore,” my wife Kristina cries. “I can’t feel ANYTHING!!!”

Days and weeks wheel by in a blur after our house burned down in the Fire. Frenzied action is broken by spells of dazed inaction. There is too much to do so soon. We move through it all anyway. Sometimes we even laugh. Sometimes the Fire seems years ago, or feels it never happened at all, or worse, just yesterday. March 20, 2010, however, was only 30 days ago as I first write this blogpost for the bassfamilysupport.ning.com website friends set up to organize help.

To continue reading the rest of the article and see more photos, go to: http://williamdudleybass.com/MyBlog/fire-part-2-3/.

NOTE: This was first published on my website On Earth at the Brink. It’s reposted here with my permission as the Author. Thank you.

Copyright (C) 2012 by William Dudley Bass.

William Dudley Bass, Philosopher & Storyteller On Earth at the Brink @ http://williamdudleybass.com/.