Keep Climbing

“Live your life each day as you would climb a mountain….  Climb slowly, steadily, enjoying each passing moment; and the view from the summit will serve as a fitting climax for the journey.” -Harold V. Melchert

Mountain climbing isn’t easy.  It doesn’t matter what size they are.  Could be Everest, the tallest mountain on earth, Olympus Mons, the tallest mountain on Mars and in our solar system, or Steamboat Lookout Mountain, my personal favorite mountain.

OurLakeTrail looking up towards the summit of Steamboat Lookout Mountain.

One of the things l love about hiking is that the scenery along the trail is constantly changing.   Life is a lot like that as well.  We live in a goal oriented culture that focuses on reaching each milestone.  Don’t get me wrong, I think having goals to work towards are good.  But I also think that putting all the emphasis on those goals, makes one miss out on so much of the amazing things that surround you right now.

willowcreek2Third waterfall along Willow Creek Trail

One of my favorite hikes is along Willow Creek west of Augusta, Montana.  There are four separate, different waterfalls along this hike.  Each view of the different waterfalls is unique.  The higher you climb on this hike, the landscape changes.  Each turn around the bend, brings something new to see.  It’s not just the waterfalls.  However, if that was your focus, it would be easy to miss the breathtaking views of the prairie, the twisted trees, rock formations, tracks, scat, beavers, birds, deer, the sound of the water rushing in the creek bed, the way some stands of trees seem to breath in the wind….. the list is truly endless.

The big things, the life milestones, are meant to be the bonuses in a full life, not the purpose of a full life.  Every day, every moment has purpose.  Remember that while you are on your life’s path.  Every moment is important.  Keeping that in mind, when you reach your summit, you will have truly experienced the entire climb.

A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery while on a detour.” -unknown

All Systems Red

There is something about winter storms that allow one to catch up on their reading list.  And when one has a delightful book to read, it makes the snow and bitter cold feel very far away.  That being said, I should warn my dear readers that during this last plunge of the temperature into the negative numbers, I read four books.  Not sure if I am going to write reviews for all of them, but this one,  All Systems Red: The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells, was to good to not share.

“As a heartless killing machine, I was a complete failure.”  -Murderbot

All Systems Red is the first of four novels in the Murderbot Diaries Series written by Martha Wells.  Exploring the theme of what it means to be human, this book introduces us to Murderbot and the futuristic time that it lives in.

“In a corporate dominated space-faring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company.  Exploratory Teams are accompanied by Company supplied security androids, for their own safety.

But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company supplied ‘droid – a self aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as ‘Murderbot.’  Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.

But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.”  – All Systems Red book cover

The novel is narrated by Murderbot, who is made of half organic material and half machine.  Murderbot is also extremely uncomfortable with the humans it is tasked to protect.

“So, I’m awkward with actual humans.  It’s not paranoia about my hacked governor module, and it’s not them; it’s me.  I know that I am a horrifying murderbot, and they know it, and it makes us both nervous, which makes me even more nervous.”  -Murderbot

I found the premise of this book intriguing.  And because I am always looking for a good book to read, upon reading the description of All Systems Red, I had to have it and find out what it was all about.

All Systems Red is a fascinating story.  I literally read this book in one sitting.  It is an amazing introduction to the series.  What makes this book such a delightful read is Murderbot and the internal dialogue of the character.  The series of events that are happening to the characters can’t help but pull the reader in.  I highly recommend this book and I can’t wait to read the rest of the books in the Murderbot Diaries Series.

Dead Mountain – Non-Fiction Book Review

Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident by Donnie Eichar

Over a year ago while watching television late at night, I came across a B movie that was inspired by the Dyatlov Pass Incident.  Immediately, after the movie was finished, I did a little research on the incident to find out if it was true and what were the facts in regards to this incident.  There was a ton of stuff out there about what happened.  (Pod casts, web sites, movies, documentaries, blogs, books, etc.)  Some of it interesting and some of it conspiracy theorist fantasies.  Because of the mystery, experience of the hikers versus their behavior on the pass and the all around abundance of intriguing evidence, there are a lot of theories of what happened.  Just so you are aware, if you google images for the Dyatlov Pass Incident, be prepared for some disturbing photos.  After my initial foray into researching the incident, what I found was that something happened out there that was disturbing and caused people to die.

Dyatlov Pass is located in the Ural Mountains of Russia and named after Igor Dyatlov, the leader of the hiking group that perished there.  The briefest of description of the Dyatlov Pass Incident is that in February 1959 a group of nine experienced hikers died under mysterious circumstances while trying to summit Otorten Mountain.  Upon completion of an investigation, the official cause of death from the authorities being listed as an “unknown compelling force.”

skiers in snow

One of the last photographs taken by the Dyatlov Hiking Group.

Like Donnie Eichar, the author of Dead Mountain, I too wanted to know what happened.  I think when you truly enjoy being out in wild places, these kinds of mysteries stick in your mind.  If something mysterious could happen to these experienced hikers, could something like this happen to me in the back country?

What really happened to those hikers so long ago in the Ural Mountains?  Mr. Eichar became fascinated with that question.  I think in some ways because of his own experiences with surfing and his respect for nature, he couldn’t let this question go.  He had to know more.  That led Mr. Eichar to develop a theory based on his research and this is his book laying it out.

“In February 1959, a group of nine experienced hikers in the Russian Ural Mountains died mysteriously on an elevation known as Dead Mountain.  Eerie aspects of the incident – unexplained injuries, signs that the hikers cut open and fled their tent without proper clothing or shoes, a strange final photograph taken by one of them, and radiation readings on some of their clothes have led to decades of speculation over what really happened.

This gripping work of literary non-fiction delves into the mystery through unprecedented access to the hikers’ own journals and photographs (many translated and reproduced here), rarely seen government records, dozens of interviews, and author Donnie Eichar’s own retracing of the hikers’ fateful journey in the Russian winter.

A fascinating portrait of the young hikers in the Soviet era, and a skillful interweaving of their story, the investigators’ efforts, and Eichar’s contemporary examination, here for the first time is the real story of what happened that night on Dead Mountain.”  – Book cover of Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident

I really enjoy non-fiction books about hiking and adventure.  (There is a book about the early expeditions to Mount Everest that I have read at least a dozen times.)  This book, Dead Mountain, has everything – hiking, adventure, conspiracy and mystery.

I enjoyed the author’s writing style. The way Mr. Eichar wove together the hikers story, the investigation, and his experiences researching the event, was fluid and piqued ones interest.  Reading this book, I got the feeling that the author truly knew the material he was researching.  Having done just a little research myself by searching the internet and reading some blog posts on the area, I felt that Mr. Eichar’s familiarity of the subject matter and his own personal research, helped me to find his theory of what happened to the hikers to be credible and the most logical.  I was also very impressed with how respectful the author was to all he interviewed and in his writings regarding all of the different parties involved.

Monument to hikers

Monument in Yekaterinburg, Russia dedicated to the memory of the nine hikers: Yuri Doroshenko, Lyudmila (Lyuda) Dubinina, Igor Dyatlov (leader), Alexander (Sasha) Zolotaryov, Zinaida (Zina) Kolmogorova, Alexander Kolevatov, Yuri (Georgy) Krivonishchenko, Rustem (Rustik) Slobodin, and Nikolay (Kolya) Thibault-Brignoles.

I highly recommend this book.  Whether or not you are familiar with the Dyatlov Incident, you will be able to understand and enjoy the book.  It is well researched and written.  The book also provides a respectful accounting of the investigation, hikers route and experiences and a logical, natural explanation of a tragic event.