Monday, April 18, 2011

Corpse Wall

So named after someone who had jumped to their death from the top was found at the base by climbers. We started on the left side, first toproping the 10a, then leading the 5 on the arete and finally toproping the 7 (?) to the right of the gash. It was OK. Lots of lichen!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

reflections on a failed personal project

Avid readers of this blog (both of you) might be wondering why I haven't written anything in the last couple of months, save for quickly jotting down my tick-lists for the last couple of trips I've taken. The truth is, I've been busy with things a little more exciting and engaging than the recording of adventures already complete.

I like to do some kind of big, "personal development" type project every year. Since I got out of college I've been escalating the magnitude of things I undertake in my personal life. First it was learn to sail from scratch, then buy a boat, then sail from San Francisco to Santa Barbara, then do my first race internationally etc etc. Last year the opportunity presented itself to be involved with TEDxSB, and I loved how that particular project gave back to a real audience, while at the same time allowing for personal development. So this year I've been working on two personal projects (see what I mean about escalation?), one related to sailing and one to climbing. I know this is the climbing blog, but bear with me while I tell you how my sailing project turned out. (By the way, suffice it to say that the climbing project is another one with a low probability of success, again because it's tricky to fund. But it would be awesome, and so I don't give up!).

In very early spring I learned through twitter about vacancies in a maritime research expedition on board the S/V Sea Dragon over the summer. It is being run by the same folks who are responsible for the 5Gyres project, in which the Sea Dragon trawls the oceans collecting samples of plastic pollution. In this summer project they'll be collecting various forms of data in the South Pacific, and producing all kinds of multimedia to be shared with conservation organizations (more about the expedition here). I thought that sounded incredibly cool. My pipe dream is to be the captain of a research boat, so what better way to get a millimeter closer to that dream than join these folks on the 4th leg of their expedition. I could blog about everything leading up to the expedition, blog from the boat and give presentations when I can back to Santa Barbara. I could turn this into a grand learning experiment for myself and my audience.

These expeditions are funded partly through grants and partly through crew contributions, so the next trick was going to be to raise the funds necessary to participate. Over three months I contacted outdoor apparel companies (4 in total), some tech companies (3), a sustainable cosmetics company and two educational/conservation organizations, hoping to discuss the possibility of them helping in some way with my small budget. I heard back from exactly ONE of these potential sponsors, and that was because the person I contacted was a brilliant friend who has done projects like these herself, and who had a very cogent answer about the company's giving strategy and what may or may not work. Over these three months I went through periods of pumping disappointment, exuberant determination, plodding resolve and everything in-between. I searched email and phone directories, emailed these folks, even visited the ones with brick-and-mortar stores to talk to the managers. In the face-to-face situations, I was met with enthusiasm, but never by the decision-makers themselves. The follow-through was nil. I am not naive regarding corporate giving policies, nor am I indifferent to the plight of business in a down economy. I do, however, expect an answer when I pose a question. I expect some proportion of those answers to be NO, maybe even all of them, and I harbor no hard feelings over the nos, but I EXPECT an answer. It is the bare minimum of P.R. professionalism to respond to legitimate email and in-person inquiries.

So it seemed that corporate sponsorship was not going to work out. The next option seemed to be a kickstarter campaign, but kickstarter has recently made the decision to restrict use of their platform to creative projects only. (I happen to think that's a good idea, by the way, as they can focus their platform and tailor it to that community). What I was proposing to do was really a research-adventure project, and, while I could have tried to shoe-horn it into an art project of some kind, I thought the idea had merit in and of itself.

Finally, again through twitter, I became aware of the fact that Nick Jaffe, who I know from his Atlantic crossing and other adventures in a quasi-sistership of mine, was building an adventure funding platform called Nomaddica. He was lauching a pre-pre-alpha version to help Roz Savage, who is rowing across the Indian Ocean, with fundraising. I emailed Nick and he quickly agreed to help with my project, despite the fact that his code wasn't ready and that this was likely to be a huge headache for him. I was overjoyed.

Throughout this entire fundraising process, the expedition manager, Emily, had been a tremendous help, giving me ideas about companies to contact, how to possibly structure the fundraising, and chatting with me about the logistics of getting to the start of the trip, immunizations and the like.

In the end, logistics and burn out killed this project. There appears to be a weekly flight to the Kiritimati (Christmas Island) atoll from which leg 4 of the trip begins, and because of its timing it would require me to take fully 3 weeks off from work. Nomaddica can help with the fundraising, but there is no guarantee that we can cover my expenses and I am loathe to burden my social network with the responsibility for funding a trip that no corporate sponsor saw fit to be associated with. But is the inability to find a sponsor for this project a damning judgment or simply a reflection of the fact that people do not bother to send emails of rejection, preferring instead for them to be implied?

I, of course, am not globally giving up! I am merely throwing in the towel (and deleting the twitter account and blog) for this particular imagined research-education project. It was an enlightening, months-long exercise in fundraising, social media and concept development, and it separated the many mice I contacted from the few humans who chose to respond (whether to the affirmative or negative). Instead I choose to lend my support, and I urge you to, as well, to Roz's campaign. I look forward to the completion of Nick's fundraising platform. And I wish the S/V Sea Dragon all the best in this and future expeditions. As long as beaches are covered in plastic bottles, there is work to be done.

Of course, I will make it to the South Pacific some other time ;-)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Wheeler Gorge

Tick list:
Cobble Climb
South of the trout farm
Stu Boy