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Climbing

Oct 16, 2017

Himalayan Database Soon to be Available Online for Free

Miss Elizabeth Hawley started recording information about ascents in the Himalayas in 1963.

WRITTEN BY

Michael Levy

Today her records are the most complete history of Himalayan climbing that exist, and starting in November, they will be available online completely free for the first time.

Ever wonder how many Polish climbers have summited Everest? Or how many expeditions were on Manaslu in 1988? Or the youngest climber to reach the top of Cho Oyu? Or any other of the countless obscure factoids and possible ways to construe information about climbing in the high peaks of Nepal and Tibet?

Starting in November, for the first time, anyone so inclined to look up such information will be able to do so with just a few clicks. The Himalayan Database—the most complete record there is of climbing in the Himalayas, with information on over 69,000 climbers’ attempts on nearly 460 peaks—will soon be available online, completely free of charge.  

The Database’s current form dates back to 2004, but the archives out of which it grew were started by Miss Elizabeth Hawley, in 1963. Miss Hawley was on assignment for Reuters covering the first sanctioned American expedition to Everest, on which Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld made the first ascent of the West Ridge via the Hornbein Couloir.

Over the ensuing decades, Miss Hawley became the de facto authority on Himalayan ascents, collecting as much information as she could about the various expeditions that came to Nepal each year. Billi Bierling, Miss Hawley’s assistant, says that back in those early days Hawley would simply “trump to the airport, look at the mountaineering boots of one of the four international flights that came into Kathmandu each week, and ask what mountain they were going to climb.”

Miss Elizabeth Hawley (left) – the founder of the Himalayan Database – and Billi Berling (right), her assistant. Photo: Ralf Dujmovits.

In 2004, after a decade of feeding all the existing data into a computer (regarding how long it took, Bierling jokes, “Miss Hawley’s handwriting is appalling”), Hawley and Bierling released the Himalayan Database in CD-ROM form. They had 1,000 copies made, each available for $69.

Now that CDs are a bygone technology, they decided it was time to have the archives available online. And since they never made any money on the CD-ROMs anyway—“The money we made by selling the Database was the same amount we spent on producing it,”—why not have it available for free?

When the Database goes live online in the beginning of November, armchair mountaineers, motivated first or repeat ascentionists, and climbers looking to break arcane records alike will all have a much easier time finding the information they seek. Bierling proudly explains how exhaustive the database is: “Every expedition has to be debriefed by the Ministry of Tourism [in Nepal], so some people ask why we do it separately. But we’re much more precise. We get pictures of new routes, find out where camps were placed, how dangerous it was. What you can download is very detailed.”

To this day, the small team at the Himalayan Database follows Miss Hawley’s example from way back when and interview as many climbers as possible in Kathmandu before or after their expeditions. With the explosion of popularity in Himalayan climbing and its increasing accessibility to non-professional alpinists in recent years, the amount of work required to do those interviews has risen significantly. So Bierling wants to ensure that would-be climbers know about the Database and reach out: “I still want to do the interviews personally, but there are so many now that we also have online forms where people can register. It’s pretty cool. The more people who help us, the more complete our records will be.”

Want to see the mountains that people climb to get their names in the Himalayan Database? Visit The Outdoor Voyage today and join a trek to Annapurna Base Camp!

Feature Image: Ama Dablam (left-most peak). Photo: Faj2323 (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons.

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Events

Jul 10, 2018

The 2018 Whitewater Awards: Nouria Newman and Benny Marr take the spoils.

The Whitewater Awards is a gathering of the world’s best kayakers to show off the biggest and best things that have happened in the sport over the past year.

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WRITTEN BY

Brooke Hess

 To be considered for an award, athletes, photographers, and filmmakers submit media taken over the past year that they believe showcases the best progression in the sport.  

There are sixteen different categories for submission, including separate male and female categories within the “Best of” kayaking categories. Categories include Photographer of the Year, Film of the Year, Expedition of the Year, Best Trick, Best Line, River Stewardship, Grom of the Year, Rider of the Year, along with several others.  Awards are decided upon by a voting process done by the Association of Whitewater Professionals.

This year’s Whitewater Awards was held in the Egyptian Theater in downtown Boise, Idaho. It was hosted on June 14th, the same weekend as the North Fork Championships, which takes place on the North Fork of the Payette River just outside of Boise.  The North Fork Championship is regarded as one of the hardest kayaking races in the world.

The race takes place on Jacob’s Ladder rapid, which is a rapid so difficult and consequential that most kayakers feel accomplished simply by surviving the rapid, much less racing the rapid. Nouria Newman, a 3-time NFC racer and winner of this year’s Whitewater Awards Female Rider of the Year describes it well,

“The NFC is the hardest race in whitewater kayaking. [Jacob’s Ladder] is a scary, consequential rapid. Running it is challenging, and it only gets harder to race it and make the gates.”

In order to minimize the risk involved in the race, event organizers have developed a strict qualification process for racers. 30 racers will qualify to race Jacob’s Ladder. Ten of them are pre-qualified from placing top ten at the event the year before. Those ten then read numerous athlete applications and vote on the next ten racers who will join them.  The last ten racers are decided through a qualification race on S-Turn rapid, another one of the North Fork’s infamous class V rapids.

Every year on this same weekend in June, kayakers, photographers, and filmmakers from around the world flock to Idaho to celebrate quality whitewater, progression of the sport, and the community that surrounds it. Both the North Fork Championship and the Whitewater Awards had great turnouts of athletes and spectators this year.

John Webster

The finalists of each category in the Whitewater Awards were presented in film format at the Egyptian Theater for the entire audience to view, with the winner being announced live. Winners were presented with an award and expected to give a short speech at the event. The big winners of the night were Nouria Newman and Benny Marr, who were awarded with Line of the Year and Rider of the Year in the female and male categories. Nouria says that voting for the “best” in each category is a challenging process, “…voting is always tricky, (look at both French and U.S. presidents, not too sure if they are really the best available option). And it is also very hard to compare lines and rapids. What’s bigger? What’s harder? I got voted Best Line of the Year with a good line down Parque Jurassic, a long technical rapid, but Rata’s line down Graceland, which is a huge slide, was equally as good, if not better.”

No matter how tricky the voting process can be, Nouria agrees that the Whitewater Awards plays a large role in the progression of the sport, “I think it’s super cool to see what people can do in their kayak, how they push the limit of the sport and how they open new possibilities.”

For more information about the Whitewater Awards, you can visit whitewaterawards.com, you can also follow them on Facebook and on Instagram.

You can follow Nouria on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

You can follow Benny on Facebook and Instagram.

Cover photo courtesy of Ari Walker

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