Icelands Arctic Shores

Skogafoss one of Iceland's most iconic waterfalls. photo: cody tuttle

Imagine walking along a black sand beach covered in fragments of glacial ice yielded from a glacier covering an active volcano. Now imagine that you could fly along these sea shores, land at the local beachside café, and enjoy a nice cold one.  I would have never planned a flying trip to Iceland, but after spending a week in this magical country I would beg to differ.  After spending 2 weeks filming with X-Alps pilot Dave Turner and his adventure partner Malcolm Wood in Chamonix, I decided to make a week long stop in Iceland.  Coming from Europe where we were filming speed riding on Mt. Blanc and making not one but several flights of a lifetime I already had my paraglider and mini wing packed and ready to go.  Not knowing what to expect out of Iceland I was eager to get there and start exploring the flyable terrain on this seemingly mythical island.

When I first landed in Reykjavik, I had to make sure I was in the right country.  When you take a look at the placement of Iceland on a map, it leaves you feeling like you have traveled to outer space.  My lack of research only left me with visual impressions of lush green landscapes and raging waterfalls.  It has become the most hip place to travel to for the Instagram generation of photographers today.  However, I was confronted with a social contrast that left you feeling like you were in a cold war stricken town somewhere in Eastern Europe.  Waiting in the airport for my bags to arrive, I truly had no idea what I was getting myself into, and that’s how I typically travel; flying by the seat of my pants without an itinerary.  This often leads to the greatest adventures, but can leave you stranded in a strange country with no idea on where to go.  The focus of this trip was to tick off as many beautiful landscape photo opportunities as possible. As an adventure photographer, I was in dire need to bolster my portfolio with more than just extreme sports and expedition photos. I needed to harness my inner Ansel Adams and create landscape images that I could be proud of. A week layover in Iceland seemed like the perfect habitat for a novice landscape photographer to grow.  Or so I hoped.

I was joined on this trip by Canadian photographer Chris Harder. He had spent some time in Iceland before and was itching to get back to explore more of its landscapes.  We set off in our little rental car stuffed to the gills with all my bags from my previous shoot in Chamonix and started down the road. However, soon after driving out of town, we stopped to photograph a waterfall. Looking over to the sloping hill by the falls, I noticed that there was easy access to get above the waterfall, with wind blowing in perfectly up the hill. Duffel bags full of winter camping gear exploded in the back seat as I dug around to find my mini wing.  The topography and weather in Iceland is dramatic and quickly changing by the minute. If it’s not raining there is a good chance you will find a flyable summit or ridge within an hour’s drive.  I had only been in the country for 3 hours as I packed up my 4lb mini wing and started up what would be my first hike and fly on the island.  Barely able to keep my eyes open on the drive, I quickly found a new sense of energy as I hiked along the ridge passing waterfalls and sheep grazing on the tall green grass that covered the slope.  It felt like I was walking through a story book, Where The Wild Things Are.  After finding the perfect spot, I laid out my 17m Ozone LightSpeed and clipped into my harness.  It almost felt too easy as a 5mph wind blew straight up launch. With no cameras or agenda, I stepped off on my first flight in Iceland, a flight I will remember for a lifetime. 

With trimmers out I found myself skimming along the grassy slopes as dozens of sheep scurried the hillside.  This was a much different experience as this country was not accustomed to paragliding pilots visiting the area.  Tourist and locals alike stopped their vehicles and pointed looking at me as I seemed to float down from the top of the mountain. Seeing the expression on their faces I could remember the first time I took flight. It was like nothing else I had ever experienced before.  The sense of flying is enough to make anyone feel like a kid again. We as pilots have the opportunity to experience this feeling over and over again as we continually set sail to the sky with our magic backpacks constructed of thin chords and nylon sheets.  These aircrafts are truly magical.  When you try to explain how they work you sound like a mad scientist.

Upon landing I was greeted by an Icelandic couple who were traveling in the biggest 4x4 adventure wagon I have ever seen.  They were sitting next to the stream preparing lunch and quickly asked me if I would like to join them for some fresh salmon and cheese over bread.  Thinking to myself “this might be the best meal I eat in the next week” I quickly joined.  Less than 1 day into the trip I knew this would be more than just an opportunity to create stunning imagery, but also an opportunity to share my adventure as a photographer and pilot with those I came in contact with. Just as I was taken away by the stunning landscapes of this country, the locals seemed just as interested in the life I live as an adventure photographer and athlete.

I recently got off an expedition with fellow pilot and mentor, Nick Greece, who told me about a very small yet enthusiastic paragliding community in Vik, Iceland. After sending a few emails, I drove into the town, population of 400, where I met up with Gisli Johannesson tandem instructor and owner of True Adventure Paragliding. Once arriving in Vik, I slammed down a $20 cheese burger before heading to the small hostel overlooking town where Gisli ran his paragliding operation. A group of friends gathered around a flaming sculpture I would later discover to be a homemade pizza oven.  This later became the location for my second and last hot meal of the trip.  It seemed like this was where the local flying community met daily before heading to launch, to share stories after a day of flying, and to indulge in the fine art of Pizza. The owner of the hostel also owned the land where Gisli and crew had established both east and west facing launches allowing for endless coastal soaring along a 500ft tall peninsula jutting out to the north Atlantic Ocean.  It’s not often you stumble across such a beautiful and manicured private launch with aspects facing both prominent wind directions.  The steep cliffs and jagged rocks below made for a beautifully scenic place to fly.  Only minutes later I found myself driving up a grassy goat trail to launch where I made my first real flights in Iceland. Only being days after the summer solstice, I found myself soaring the ocean cliffs late into the night as the sun set for nearly 5 hours. As we soared to the tip of the peninsula, we crossed over 3 jagged spires that watched over the shores of town like watchmen in the night. The contrast between the lush, green meadows and the black sandy beaches created a sensational flying experience like no other.  I was trying to imagine the thoughts of the tourist flying tandem with Gisli.  I have had the opportunity to fly in some of the most beautiful locations in the world and this was by far an experience I would remember forever.  It was a way to see Iceland in a way that not many people ever have. 

In my meager 18 months of becoming a paragliding pilot, the sport has taken me to some of the most beautiful and surreal landscapes on the planet. The art of free flight has allowed me to explore the world in a new way and I’ve realized that you don’t have to be sending 150 mile lines in the Eastern Sierra’s where I learned how to fly, but rather it’s about the progression of how you allow this sport to guide you through a new way of life. It has allowed me to discover new places, meet many new beautiful people and through that establish some of the closest friends I have today. Flying with some giants of this sport, I have experienced so much and been able to apprentice under the wing of incredible mentors that have helped guide me along the way.

Transitioning from a technical, and at times difficult expedition on Mt Blanc, to the breathtaking shores of Iceland, I am always amazed at how versatile this sport has become to me. It is about the discovery and new experiences rather than the site of a goal. It has allowed me to be involved in a community amongst other pilots sharing a new form of sanctity in the mountains, and has inspired me to look at the world with a fresh set of eyes, seeking the next great adventure.

If you are looking for a unique adventure be sure to check out Iceland.  Don’t count on making it a flying trip, but rather a trip to experience a country that will burn memories into your mind forever.  And if you are lucky you might make a magical flight or two.

 

 

Embracing Chaos

Surrounded by giants as we travel over Larke Pass 5,200 meters en-route to Sama.

It felt like weeks had gone by as we finally found ourselves waiting in the Kathmandu Airport for our bags to arrive. The conveyor belts spun round and round with the occasional cardboard box and suitcase. It had been a short 3-hour flight from Kunming, China, but I already felt a world away. China had been 2 days of long, stressful layovers ending with the customs officer informing us that we had over stayed our visit in China by 24 hours and that we were gong to be fined and possibly deported back to the States. Close to missing our flight, we were finally given permission to leave due finding fault in the Chinese airline who booked our international flight itinerary.

These trips are always an adventure, but we were not prepared for what would happen next.

Finally arriving at our hotel, we were greeted with cold beer, homemade bread, and a beautiful room to relax and prepare for the next 7 weeks of this journey. It felt as though we had arrived in heaven. There is something about the chaos in this city that brings me to life, but I was tired and hadn’t eaten in nearly 12 hours. I was starting to get a bit grumpy and uncomfortable, so laying down in this bed was the most relaxed I had been in a long time.

Sadhu's gather outside of the Shree Pashupatinath temple in Katmandu.

Half asleep I started to feel the bed shake. It was a feeling that I had become accustomed to during the earthquakes that ripped though Nepal nearly 1 year ago. It was also a feeling that haunted me and the millions of Nepali’s who suffered its devastation. People started screaming. Cherise looked to me with panic in her eyes, It’s another earthquake! We quickly ran out of our room, located on the second floor of a 3 story cement building. We weren’t exactly in a great place to be during another earthquake. The 4.5 tremor lasted nearly 30 seconds. You could hear the fear in the voices of those around us. Less than a year ago their homes were destroyed and families broken up by a 7.8 earthquake. We were quickly reminded how much this country has been through in the past 12 months.

24 year old black smith plays the Tamburi before starting his day shaping farm tools. Mingma is also a major character in our film Untouchable.

The people of Barpak sort through the rubble of what once was their home after the April 25th earthquake devastated the area.

The monastery in Lho was destroyed after the quake and all the children evacuated to Kathmandu, before the children boarded the helicopter they were prepared one last meal by this woman. They seemed happy, even tough their lives had been turned upside down.

Young monks prepare to leave their monastery in the mountains of Lho Nepal where they will continue their studies in Kathmandu. 

Hopefully moving forward only days after the earthquake struck her home. Located in the epicenter she was forced to start over. 

One year ago Cherise and I arrived in Nepal for the first time. We were unaware of how much this place would change us. It has become our second home. Through the good and the bad times, we feel blessed to be hosted by such a magnificent country with such beautiful people. As we were reminded last night by the shaking of this city, the journey is far from over; we don’t know what is around the next corner. I believe that is why we keep coming back; why we feel such a deep connection to this place. We have experienced so much here, have given so much, and received so much more.

Be sure to visit www.wingatemotion.com for more updates on our upcoming projects!

Cherise and I trekking to Smamgoun, where we would shoot our documentary Untouchable. Photo: Brian Mosbaugh

 

 

Who Am I?

Nepali Sadhu at the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu, Nepal     Photo: Cody Tuttle

I often tear up with overwhelming emotions as I try to make sense of my experiences. What is locked up in my mind? The sights of destruction and severe poverty contrasted with the natural beauty of the mountains and the seemingly never ending love pouring out from new friends meet along the way. When you look into my eyes what will you see? Do you see the same man you knew before, or have I changed? I feel different; I’m just not sure how that feeling will translate into my daily life. I have felt a new kind of love that I never knew existed. Everyday is a new canvas ready to create a beautiful masterpiece, but what will it look like? The unknown is fuel for great adventure. I will pursue love and through love will come community and cultivate a new level of creativity ready for greatness. Where will we end up? No one really knows until we step out.  What I do know is that we will develop our minds to learn how to love better, pray stronger, and teach the future generations to push further. Life is the greatest journey so allow yourself to wander, follow your dreams, and love those you encounter along the way.

Filming Untouchable The Movie

Our upcoming film, Untouchable, is a modern day story of a low caste family struggling to survive and redefine their cultural identity in the isolated Himalayan village of Samagaun. Immersed in Tibetan culture and deeply rooted in Buddhist beliefs, they have been pushed to the outskirts of their community where they live in a captivatingly raw and unforgiving environment. Their story as poor Dalits (persons of the lowest caste) is eloquently told through the curious mind of a young protagonist, Nyima. 

The viewer will go on a cinematic journey through this ancient village examining the daily responsibilities and traditions of this timeless community. Untouchable offers breathtaking scenery with a cultural lens for understanding the greater social problems of the caste system in Nepal, while providing hope for a better future for Dalit families everywhere.

As a group of adventurous filmmakers, we hope to continue our exploration of Nepal’s social struggles as a result of the traditional caste system. By studying the different ethnic communities affected by this systematic oppression, we start to see a highly stratified and limited social paradigm which fails to treat all human life as equal. From the pristine mountains of the Himalayas to the busy street life of Kathmandu, the institutionalized discrimination is an obvious part of the country’s rigid social hierarchy.

While every Dalit person is born with limited choice or chance toward radical self improvement, there are some developing communities breaking free from the confines of their social oppression. Because of a younger generation working toward greater equality, change is growing on the cultural horizon. The implications of these progressive communities become the catalyst for a new Nepal moving toward a brighter future.

We met Nyima and her family during our extended earthquake relief efforts and were really floored by the story of her family. After flying her dying father, Pemba, to Kathmandu on an emergency helicopter in July, we started a powerful relationship with their family that has grown into this project. Returning to shoot with Nyima and her 5 siblings this past October, we're confident that we have some spectacular material and are ready to finish this 28 minute film. $20,000 is a loose goal, going towards a moderate post production and music budget, winter clothes and supplies for Nyima's family and to begin raising funds for our larger project: telling the story of the low caste people of Nepal. We anticipate this to be a 14 month process, with an additional 8 months of filming in country as well as post production time.

Please note that 50% of all film revenue of Untouchable will go towards a scholarship fund for Nyima and her 5 siblings so that they have the opportunity to attend high school and college.
Director / Camera: Cody Tuttle
CO-Director / Camera: Scott Rogers
Producer: Brian Mosbaugh
Audio / AC: David Porter
Production Manager: Cherise Tuttle

www.untouchablethemovie.com

How this girl will change the world!

At birth this beautiful child was told she is “untouchable”.  In hopes of a better future, her family migrated from India to Nepal, but they discovered that the caste system was deeply engrained in Nepal’s society as well.  Because of their last name, they are deemed unclean - hopeless of a better future.  But, with the younger generations we see a slow paradigm shift within society.  This little girl could be the change - the first in her family to break free from the restrictions of the caste system.  The youth of this country are beginning to stand up against the ways of the old tradition sparking a movement that will give equal opportunity to all men and women - no matter their caste. 

Follow Us as we produce the new documentary Untouchable: www.untouchablethemovie.com

Untouchable - The Movie

The upcoming film, Untouchables, will be a cultural comparison of how the long standing caste system exists and dominates the present day realities for many diverse ethnic groups throughout Nepal. It will focus on the different lifestyles facing three separate Dalit communities and how they have reacted to their place in society. Each group will show how the caste system is represented where cultural and religious institutions continue to perpetuate a hierarchy of social boundaries, where every person is born into an ascribed stratification without choice or chance of radical self improvement. It will discuss what it means to belong to the four most recognized caste divisions, and segregated untouchables, which define and dominate a traditionally rooted country facing gradual social change and mental shifts in the modern world. 

Return to the Mountains, NEPAL

This past spring I visited Nepal for the first time in my life.  It had been a dream of mine to climb in the Himalayas and finally I had my chance.  I was photographing an American expedition consisting of Don Bowie, Jess Roskelly, and Ben Erdman who were set off to climb the worlds 10th highest mountain, Annapurna I.  After spending only a short couple of weeks on the mountain Nepal was devastated by a violent 7.9 earthquake. Our world was turned upside down as we had limited communication to the outside world and we could only hear bits and pieces of the destruction that hit the mountainous regions of Gorkha. Our team quickly decided to retreat from our expedition and move our efforts to helping the Nepali people in any way we could. 

Annapurna I North Face 26,545 ft Nepal

After spending 4 months living and working with the Nepali people I began to develop a deep connection for their way of life and sense of community. From the outside Nepal seemed as though they figured out how to show love in a way I have never seen before. But the more time I spent in Nepal I began to see the subtleties of an ancient cast system what still very much alive. As a foreigner you may never see this first hand, but that is why I am going back to Nepal.

In a world where your fate is sealed from birth, your last name becomes a fixed identity and your socioeconomic situation is a privilege or a prison. Your wages, social ties and even physical acknowledgement is based on a caste system which has emerged over a long complicated history. Who are you and how can you change your circumstances?” 

- Team member Brian Mosbaugh

As I trekked through the Manaslu region of Nepal, I was inspired by the people I befriended.  Many were in great need due to the earthquakes, yet they welcomed us with open arms.  Making our way over high mountain passes to the remote villages cut off from landslides, my heart went out to these beautiful people.  There was one group in particular that captured my attention though, they are called the Dalit people (the Untouchables).

Pema's wife watches as her husband is carried off to seek medical attention in Kathmandu.  She is 8 months pregnant with her 6th child and doesn't know if or when she will see her husband again.

The day I planned to fly out of Samagoan, to come back to Kathmandu, two officials came up to us and quietly alerted us to a small people group below the village.  Discussing the situation further, we realized how the caste system was still alive and tangible in Nepal.  The Untouchables who lived below the village had received little to no aid even though the villages surrounding them had.  It’s not that there was a shortage in supplies but a shortage in grace within the social system.  It just wasn’t what was done.  They received 1 piece of sheet metal when every other household received 14.  Life was unfair for them, but that was the lot they have been borne into, at least that was what we were told.

Dalit shelter after the earthquake destroyed their traditional stone home.

When we became aware of this small community, our new friends pleaded that we not tell anyone that it was them who had highlighted this issue - they could lose their jobs.  We went down only a couple hours before the helicopter would arrive and found a beautiful group of people who expected nothing.  One father, Pema, of 5 children was paralyzed from the waist down from an injury that happened after the first earthquake. He was the breadwinner of the family, with his wife 8 months pregnant with his 6th child.  Their shelter and workplace consisted of a few tarps and ‘lean-to’s’.  Without immediate medical attention though, his unborn daughter would never get to meet her father.  Something had to be done.  As we carried Pema on a makeshift stretcher to the helicopter, I knew the way I looked at life would never be the same again.  These people needed a voice where they had been told to stay quiet for so many generations.  Through our cameras, we could do that - we could tell the world their story and in turn, work with them to improve their future and give them the hope of change.

Self Magazine: Why I Highline

Callee said it best "On the line, I don't focus on my destination; I'd miss everything that happens along the way. And that is the most beautiful part."

I love seeing the adventure community spark the attention of main stream media.  A few years back I met a young girl named Callee Hegarty from San Clemente, CA who wanted to come out to the Sierra's and get on some alpine style highlines. I had been documenting the sport of highlining only for a year or so at this point so I was equally as curious about the adventure that awaited us. Nearly 2 years later I was contacted by Self Magazine about this story they were going to run on Callee and her outlook on highlining. Its great to see amazing this sport and the people who make the community what it is get a bit of love in the mainstream media.  Thank you Conde' Nast for spreading the love.

Callee said it best "On the line, I don't focus on my destination; I'd miss everything that happens along the way. And that is the most beautiful part."

http://www.self.com/fitness/2015/03/why-i-highline/

National Geographic Adventure: Climbing the Bachar-Yerian, Yosemite National Park


Photograph by: Cody Tuttle

“I focus on staying calm and enjoy every move,” says climber Lonnie Kauk, seen here repeating the Bachar-Yerian route in California’s Yosemite National Park. “So many great climbers have done this route, so it's more like being a part of something so special.”

Kauk, who lives in the park, is the son of Yosemite climbing legend Ron Kauk. The younger Kauk was also mentored by the iconic John Bachar, whose commitment to pushing the free-solo style of climbing redefined what was possible without a rope (he eventually died in a free-solo fall in 2008).

“I love to honor the ones who came before and keep carrying on,” says Lonnie, who is repeating many of Bachar’s routes.

Getting the Shot

The window of opportunity for attempting the climb was considerably shortened due to unfavorably hot temperatures and smoke from a large forest fire nearby—the source of the haze over the lake in the background. Luckily, after a few days of waiting it out, conditions improved enough that the duo felt confident enough to go for it.

At the point where this photo was taken, the wall was at a full 90-degree angle, making it difficult for photographer Cody Tuttle to get the angle he wanted.

“If the wall had been overhanging, I would have been suspended in space, making it easier to show the perspective I was looking for of the valley," says Tuttle. "I used a big-wall swing and chest harness so I could lay down horizontally and kick off the wall to get the angle I wanted. Lonnie was staring down on his second chance to place protection, which makes this route so famous. It is incredibly run-out, and if he were to fall at this point, he was looking at an 80-plus-foot fall.”

One Sky Project Africa 2016

Wait so you want to go to Africa to go Paragliding?  This was my response to Scott Rogers when he first told me about the One Sky Project.  I had just started flying myself and totally fell in love with the sport.  Scott and I were sitting in my living room in Mammoth Lakes, CA packing up all of our camera gear and gearing up for what was to be a 6 week expedition in Nepal to document and climb the 10th highest peak in the world Annapurna  8,091 Meters.  My head was everywhere else except thinking about riding motorbikes across the continent of Africa and flying paragliders along some of the most beautiful coastlines in the world.  I quickly said yes.  I'm not quite sure if I was even invited but all I could think about was this great adventure and even greater opportunity to photograph such a new and beautiful sport in such an incredible landscape.  

One Sky team member Cody Tuttle soaring off the coast of Thailand.  Photo: Cherise Tuttle

This is why I am a photographer, to use my photographs and experiences to inspire others to go for the impossible and spread joy and love throughout the world.  Below you will find our vision for One Sky Project and hopefully be inspired by our journey to spread the joy of flight to kids all over Africa.

Our Vision

One Sky Project is a collaboration between five paragliding and hang gliding pilots. Our vision is simple; we plan on providing free tandem paragliding flight experiences throughout Southern Africa to those that could not afford the opportunity otherwise. Embarking on a cultural exchange, we’ll discover the most beautiful flying locations in the continent. We intend to go beyond simply flying in these places and using them for our own enjoyment, but rather immersing ourselves in the communities we visit, embarking on a cultural study involving the following: the source of happiness and inspiration in people’s lives, the compulsion for uninhibited playfulness, relationship with fear and death, and the beauty of flight.

One Sky Project Proposal 2016 Image: 123rf.com

Our short term goal is to provide the various people we encounter the opportunity to see their home from the sky. Long term we intend to develop tourism industry in the most promising flying locations, establishing infrastructure not only for qualified pilots to come fly, but to promote a locally owned and operated, safety-conscious, tandem paragliding operation. To do this, we will create relationship and community ties in rural villages and schools.  By sharing our experiences of flying, we hope to embark in a two-way cultural exchange both providing a wonderful opportunity for the people we interact with and opening our own eyes to valuable cultural traditions that can and should be preserved while simultaneously promoting a self-sustaining tourism industry.

One Sky team member Brian Morris sets off into the sunset. 

With motorbikes and a support truck, we will journey over 15,000 km over a three month period.  Our support truck will be loaded down with paragliding / hangliding gear and production equipment. Our crew consists of not only pilots but a skilled and experienced production team, thus enabling us to create visually compelling media not only documenting the trip, but portraying the main premise of our story: that once in the air, borders dissolve and the beauty of our planet surrounds us, no matter of privilege or circumstances.

Despite any sort of base cultural differences, it is rare that a person hasn’t dreamt of flying (particularly with the sharp and creative imagination of a child). This project will take us all back to a simpler way of life and will prove that even in the harshest socio-economic conditions, that beauty, community, and your wildest dreams are never out of reach; and in fact, with a stronger cultural emphasis in playfulness and general happiness, much is to be learned about how we develop and accomplish our own dreams with our western mindset.


The Journey

During this portion of One Sky Project we will travel over 15,000 km through nine countries: South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Mozambique, Lesotho, and Swaziland. 

One Sky Project Proposal 2016 Image: 123rf.com

Leg 1: Port Elizabeth, South Africa (SA) to Cape Town, SA. Here there are established flying sites and numerous schools and organizations which will help with a solid and positive start to this great journey. We will continue towards Xolweni (informal settlement) providing our first glimpse of the start contrast between the wealthy and underprivileged residents of South Africa.

Leg 2: Walvis Bay, Namibia. This will be the driest and most desolate part of the trip. The team travels alongside the skeleton coast and the sand dunes of Swakopmund and the Sosusvlei, while navigating difficult terrain. This will be a great opportunity to spend time with local, small, farming schools. Walvis Bay, known for being a major natural deepwater harbor, is the start of the leg through Northern Namibia. 

Leg 3: Past the game-filled Etosha Pan and through the Caprivi Strip we will journey towards the stormy Victoria Falls on the Border of Zimbabwe and Zambia. As we pass through the Caprivi Strip, we will be encountering bigger villages with a high prevalence of poverty. Schools have very few amenities but will be very welcoming to new faces who are willing to be a part of their day. 

Leg 4: Leaving Victoria Falls, Zambia, the team will head towards Lilongwe, Malawi. There we will meet up with Godfrey Masauli, a local pilot. Lake Malawi is known for its enormity, small fishing villages, and the Great Rift Valley. By collaborating with the Cloudbase Foundatio (a paragliding non-profit promoting the well-being of local communities near and in relation to flying sites around the world) we can work off of existing infrastructure to further develop the people and communities in this area. 

Leg 5: The journey then continues up into Tanzania towards Kenya. This area includes Kilimanjaro, Serengeti, Arusha, Tarangiri, among others. This is a great opportunity for the team to immerse themselves in the rich Massai culture. Imagine a Massai in the sky! This area will be the halfway point and a big milestone for the One Sky Project.

Leg 6: The next part of the journey takes us south, toward Maputo, Mozambique which consists of dunes, sandy roads, wild animals, and very difficult borders. The journey through this area will not be easy, but is guaranteed to be spectacular flying. We can take some great coastal soaring tandems and use the stable air to get some amazing shots. 

Leg 7: Swaziland and Lesotho. These are small countries that border South Africa. Lesotho is completely surrounded by South Africa and is the biggest water catchment for the region. The famous Sani-Pass is found in this region, as well as some of Southern Africa’s biggest mountains. Concluding our trip, we will drive through Drakensberg, SA and the Transkei, SA. Transkei is an extremely poor area. It is also the Birthplace of the late great Nelson Mandela. In his lifetime he was a large part of many school development projects in the area.  What better place to finish our incredible journey sharing the sky with those who would never have had the opportunity otherwise.

All Rights Reserved One Sky Project © 2015

 

Life of a Porter

A few weeks ago while filming a new documentary with French director Eric Valli, I met a kind soul named Tsewang Norje.  He was a 66 year old egg porter with no home. This is a short glimpse into his life.

Porters and supply trains are the lifeline for these secluded mountain regions, bringing in necessary goods villagers would not be able to receive any other way. At the age of 66, Tsewang Norje keeps no permanent address. As an egg porter, he carries a steel frame with 840 eggs weighing between 130-150 pounds. His trek covers 70-120 miles with 3500 meters of elevation gain over 2 weeks. If he’s careful, he’ll only break a couple eggs during his journey, and make roughly $90 (USD). Tsewang’s determination reflects that of many people in Nepal as they move forward from this difficult time and prove that they are a strong, hard working and resilient nation.

All of my plans have SHATTERED.

The greatest adventures in life are often when all of your plans completely fall apart.  I came to Nepal on April 3rd, 2015 to photograph a climbing expedition on Annapurna; the 10th highest mountain in the world and certainly the most dangerous. My mind was prepared for the emotional and physical suffering that came along with climbing one of these 8000 meter peaks; I was far from being prepared for what what was about to happen next.

Annapurna North Face seen from basecamp. Photo: Cody Tuttle

Every decision you make will affect those who surround you. Allow your plans to fall apart and experience the life that is waiting for you just around the corner.

We found ourselves in the middle of a country that had just suffered from one of the largest natural disasters in decades.  On April 25th a 7.9 earthquake hit Nepal devastating many of its remote villages as well as claiming thousands of lives in the country's capital, Kathmandu.  We felt hopeless sitting at base camp, cut off from everything happening down below. 

Nepali woman sorts through what once was her home in the village of Barpak, the villages was completely devastated by the Earthquake.

Our team made the decision to retreat from our expedition and do whatever we could to help.  I personally came down from the mountain with some apprehension about whether or not we would be effective in the relief efforts or if we would be in the way of other organized NGO’s who already had logistics and people in place.  I thought to myself, ‘we are just a group of climbers’.

Climbing up to camp 2 after the earthquake to retrieve our gear. Photo: Jess Roskelley

It’s been over two months since the earthquake ravaged Nepal and I am so thankful that our team made the decision that we did.  Expedition leader Don Bowie was able to keep our team focused on the task at hand, to do whatever we could to help this beautiful country.  I had a hard time seeing the vision at first.  I often felt that I wasn’t a valuable part of the machine, but now after a few months have passed, it is amazing to look back at what has been accomplished in direct results of our efforts.

Our rag tag team of type-A climbers, paragliders, trekkers, and all around bad asses have all come together to form a group of incredibly motivated people who will stop at nothing to help this country.  I feel blessed to have been given this opportunity and hope that through my experiences you will feel inspired to do what you can to help better the lives of those around you.

Every decision you make will affect those who surround you.  Allow your plans to fall apart and experience the life that is waiting for you just around the corner.

Tibetan woman relaxing with her cat in a monastery near Lho, Nepal. Photo: Cody Tuttle

Child Monks Evacuated from Nepal Monastery

Six months ago a new monastery in Lho was finally finished. The building process had taken 17 years, yet it only took one earthquake to completely destroy it. To watch the dedication of these monks is both beautiful and intense. They have not ceased learning and studying as they continue their classes in a wooden shack. As many are preparing to leave the serenity of the mountains, you can still see fear on their faces. However, they still hold their heads high and remain calm. In many ways this may be the most traumatic experience of their lives, but in the end it will only refine their souls and strengthen their spirits.

Nepal will change your life forever.

It has been six weeks since we arrived in Nepal, and now I am back in Kathmandu in the very hotel where we started our expedition.  Words cannot describe the effect this country has had on me.  Our plans to climb quickly shifted as the people who make this country the culturally rich sanctuary we have all grown to love, were suddenly in need.  If I can take one thing away from this entire trip, I hope to cultivate the love and resilience that the Nepali people shared with us.  I met this woman while hiking through the remote village of Barpak.  She had lost everything and was suffering from major injuries, but still insisted on giving us a tour of her town.  Barpak suffered from near total destruction from the earthquake.  We road into Barpak on motorbikes nearly two weeks after the original members of our team had hiked into the village.  I was happy to see the villagers coming together to help clean the major pathway through the village.  It was clear that they had one thing on their mind, and that was to clean up the village that they were so proud to call their home and start rebuilding.

Nepali woman outside the village of Barpak share her joy in the midst of total destruction.  Photo: Cody Tuttle 

Please send any donations to http://thecloudbasefoundation.org

#RebuildNepal

After spending a day back in Pokhara fighting food poisoning and strategizing with Karma Flights and Cloudbase Foundation to work more efficiently and effectively, pooling resources and strategizing, the team is ready to get back into the mountains. We have been able to utilize our skills as climbers and E.M.T’s to access some of the most remote areas effected by the earthquake. We hope that our reports and media content will give a better outlook on what is truly needed to help rebuild these mountain communities.

http://www.morethansport.org/partner/nepalrelief

#RebuildNepal

After 12 hours on the worst jeep road imaginable the entire team has reunited again in Pokhara.  Four days prior half of our team had set off into the mountains to assess the damage of villages that had currently been checked off as being ok.  Their findings were far different from the previous teams report.  Many of the villages had only received one small food drop to be rationed between thousands of former residents.  Our team has joined forces with some of the most inspirational and tenacious athletes here in Pokhara and will continue to hike into the remote villages to provide hard intel to the head of aid distribution.  I can only hope that we will look at this relief effort as a long term project.  Nepal will not be rebuilt overnight, but brick by brick, day by day this country will rise again.

http://www.morethansport.org/partner/nepalrelief

Nepal Relief

After hearing the destruction caused by the earthquake our team made the quick decision to abandon our immediate plans to climb Annapurna and return to the valleys below to see how we can help out. Our team is motivated, resilient, full of energy, and ready to use our skills and resources to assist wherever we can. In the past few days we have established partnerships via satellite phone with various organizations working under the direction of the UN and are taking specific directives daily making great progress. If you'd like to donate please visit ~ THANK YOU morethansport.org/partner/nepalrelief

RUNNING MY ASS OFF IN THE EASTERN SIERRA

I have recently found myself standing in the middle of the most beautiful church ever created.  In the midst of all the splendor I also have found myself out of water, my head pounding, and still a few hours away from the trail head.  The shear beauty of the Eastern Sierra will take your breath away every time and the stars will never run out of juice.  It is a constant reminder that we are just specks in the universe and the secrets of creation will never be fully revealed to us.

Samara Shugart's 5k loop around Convict Lake, CA Photo: Cody Tuttle ©2014

Don Bowie Adidas athlete runs to the summit of Mt. Whitney 14,500ft after cycling 130 miles from America's lowest point in Death Valley.  Photo: Cody Tuttle ©2014

Josh Dibble (right) and I enjoying some breakfast 9 pitches up on El Cap in Yosemite National Park, CA  

I am new to the sport of running.  Who would ever run for fun?  After spending the past 5 years of my life stuck on the enormous walls of El Cap and scary ass alpine climbs I wanted something that could exhaust me just as much as climbing a 32 pitch big wall route, yet save me from the mental exhaustion and heinous amounts of gear needed to get my weekend fix.  I started by soloing alpine routes in a car to car aka marathon fashion.  This was curing my need for physical exertion and adventure but I was still finding myself scared as shit climbing to the top of some loose mountain in the middle of the backcountry. 

 

Scott Sinner and I climbing Lurking Fear on El Cap in Yosemite National Park, CA 

I was ready for something different, something that would constantly push me to become a healthier person without really any risk.  Running looked to be the answer.  It was perfect, I could push myself to complete and total physical obliteration yet not have to worry about whether or not I was going to get seriously hurt or have to spend the night shivering in a bivy somewhere on an exposed granite ledge.  Therefore...I was going to run!

 

This quickly became a self mutilating sport as well.  I wasn't fast… I couldn't run long distances.  So why was this sport kicking my ass just as much as all the others?  Well running just became a solution to climbing those walls even faster.  I was now able to get to the base of a route in half the amount of time which then meant that I could climb two or even three of those routes in a single day.  It is a never ending cycle.  We will never satisfy ourselves and our constant need to push harder and farther.

 

However, I am trying to run for the pure enjoyment of it.  Again I'm not fast or have much endurance so there should be plenty to keep me busy in my training.  Last week I ran my first half marathon.  I was far from being ready to run in any type of race.  I had taken the past 10 months off of running and just started training again by trying to keep up with the athletes that I was photographing.  I had just ran / walked up the mountaineers route on Mt Whitney (14,500ft) while photographing Adidas athlete Don Bowie.  I felt like we moved pretty fast.  It took us 4 hours from the car to the summit, which included 7 miles of snow covered granite trail with a 6,400 ft elevation gain.  I'm not going to lie I felt like quite the bad ass!  Then I looked at my watch; 30 min miles.  In saying that, I can suffer, that is a fact, but I didn't know if I was going to put in any sort of honorable time during this half marathon.  Not to mention I happened to have quite a few brews when I committed to running this Half Marathon. 

 

Kenny and I after finishing our first Half Marathon in Moneray Bay, CA.

After sleeping off the altitude hang over from climbing Mt Whitney I realized that I had less than one week before my race.  Well if a half marathon is 13.1 miles and the longest distance that I have ever ran without stopping is 8.5 miles I better get outside and see if I can even make it that far.  After spending one day resting from Whitney I went out and ran a 12 mile loop.  It was the best day I had running.  Exploring new single track less than a mile from my house.  I ran the loop in 1:57:55, averaged 9:49 a mile and gained 1,467ft in elevation.  Not to mention this was at 9,000ft above sea level.  I thought to myself…I have this race in the bag.  And in a way I did.  I set a personal goal to run the course in 1:50:00.  I far surpassed that time by coming in at 1:42:39.  I felt like a champ to say the least.  We celebrated by drinking beer and hobbling to the porta-johns for the post race dumps and I mean multiple trips to that beautiful green shit house. We grabbed some hot soup and watched the local culture of Monterey as they danced around as well as Cave Man dude prancing around with his staff.  Times were released and Cave Man dude beat me by 20 minutes!  He was an easy 35 years older than me and ran in a loin cloth!  One guy also from Mammoth came in with a top 10 time under 1:10:00.  I knew he was from Mammoth when I saw him ripping by me with his beard that would make any grown man feel like a boy. 

I am always so inspired to see people push themselves to the point of “clearly being way too freaking strong”  We always have the opportunity to become stronger.  Is it always necessary?  Hell No!  But it is what keeps people like myself from going to the looney bin.  So thanks to all the freakishly strong, motivated, humble people that inspire us all to adventure more and seek the finer things in life!


SIERRA HIGH TRAILER - alpine highlining in California's Eastern Sierra

SIERRA HIGH TRAILER - alpine highlining in California's Eastern Sierra

This past summer (2014) a group of six ambitious highliners came together for two weeks to establish some of the most remote and beautiful alpine lines in the Sierra Nevada. With a focus on using natural anchors (i.e. never placing bolts) these slackening project showcase a challenging style of taking slacklining into the mountains. Long approach hikes, technical mountaineering, and trying backcountry logistics can all be found on this adventure. Enjoy this teaser and look for the full length film coming spring 2015.