Weekly Photo Challenge: Edge

Edge
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Edge

After a rather cool, rainy summer we’ve been enjoying a week of sunshine. What better way to celebrate than by heading up and up and up? Here are Fabio’s feet hanging out at the belay up on Cascade Mountain on a bolted multi-pitch route called Valley View.

Ordinary Day at the Office

There are days when I just love my job. Writing the novel Deadpoint (which is a hi-interest, low-vocabulary novel for reluctant teen readers) has been fun from Day One. Day One was spent sitting at the bottom of a crag near Mount Yamnuska observing a class of climbers new to climbing outside. Fabio was one of the teachers and I took pages and pages of notes of what was going on. I was pretty new to the whole outdoor climbing world myself and it was a great chance to pay close attention to the kinds of challenges faced by people making the transition from gym climbing to real rock.

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When making observations on the spot you really never know what might wind up being useful. I love, love, love just scribbling away, recording every impression I possibly can – trying to use all my senses with a minimal amount of reflection. Eventually, a surprising number of these weird details, snippets of dialogue, etc. wind up making their way into the story. 

As I was sitting in the sun, scribbling away in my notebook, the three main characters started to emerge from wherever characters come from. Ayla is a keen gym climber who competes in climbing competitions, but struggles with a fear of falling (ok, that weird quirk – the fear of falling – was directly drawn from my own psyche). Lissy, her best friend, is a hard core outdoors enthusiast who was ‘conceived in a tent, born in a gully, and raised in a backpack.’ Lissy and her family can’t imagine a better place to hang out than somewhere deep in the wilderness. And then, there’s the boy – Carlos, a city kid who likes to free solo buildings for fun. Carlos is new in town and catches Lissy’s eye, which sets up the friendship tension in the story.

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Carlos was born at the base of a cliff on that very first day of note-taking. 

Long story short (you need to read the book if you want to see how it all turns out), the three teenagers find themselves in trouble on a multi-pitch climb in the mountains when the adult leader of the group is injured and incapacitated. I was pretty happy with the way things were going (more or less smoothly!) through the writing and editing process. It’s great when that happens – some stories come together a bit easier than others – this one was generally straightforward and involved lots of fun conversations and discussions with my in-house consultant, Fabio, about technical details of the climbing, the accident, the rescue, etc… In fact, we wound up working out plot problems while we were on our long climbing road trip down in the USA earlier this year. I wrote away while Fabio drove…

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This surprised me a bit, just how much climbers think and talk about falling. 

And then, after a couple of rounds of edits with two different editors at Orca, I was sent a cover mock-up. I don’t think I can post the photo that was originally suggested because of copyright issues, but basically it showed a teenager top-roping what is clearly a sport climb – she has been cleaning the route and has draws clipped to her harness. It’s almost a perfect image – the sense of being way up high is pretty good, the climbing isn’t terribly difficult, the model is age appropriate… But, if one is seconding on a trad route, a multi pitch, what she would have dangling from her gear loops would be cams and nuts and maybe a sling around her torso and, yes, some draws…

An interesting debate with the editor, publisher, and book designer followed about how important it was (or wasn’t) to get the technical details right in the cover image. The thought at the publishing house (where nobody climbs) was that the image they found made it look plenty scary and showed a climber way up high. When Fabio and I looked at the image we knew that a) it wasn’t accurate and b) really didn’t reflect what was going on in the story – which has a lot to do with the strange and very specific details of trad climbing. True, someone who knows nothing about climbing would not spot the differences, but anyone who read the book and was interested in climbing, or wanted to learn more, or who might actually have done some climbing would definitely be confused.

So, I suggested we could probably stage something that was equally interesting visually (appropriately aged female, seconding on a trad route, cams dangling from her gear loops, good exposure drop-off-wise, and – bonus – a lake in the distance, which is mentioned in the story as the place where the group sets up camp).

Both the editor and designer were skeptical that I could tick all the boxes and come up with something appropriate that was going to work better than the stock image. I suggested politely they let me try and sent a couple of generic shots I happened to have on hand from some climbs at Barrier Mountain.

All of this is quite unusual – in most cases, I am presented with a cover for a new book and we all know it’s basically a fait accompli. Writers don’t get to design covers, which is how it should be. I am not a designer. I tell stories. I am usually more than happy to let the experts deal with their areas of specialty.

So I was a bit surprised and rather delighted when I got the word back from the publisher that we could go ahead and see if we could come up with something.

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Our hard-working belayers up top, managing ropes and keeping us safe. Thanks, guys! (Fabio on the left, Greg on the right – we couldn’t have done it without you!)

Of course, this immediately threw me into a bit of a logistical tizzy. I needed someone who could climb, who could pass for 16/17, and who would be willing to be climb up and down and pose in different positions so we could get the right shot. We needed to have me in position parallel with her, and we needed her to be belayed from above. We needed a pair of patient and competent belayers who could lead the routes we had in mind. And, we needed some reasonable weather – the rain and clouds and thunderstorms of the first part of summer this year have not exactly made for perfect climbing weather. We needed some appropriate gear to dangle from the climber’s harness… And we needed that perfect location that would make sense within the story.

Which is how Anne and I wound up climbing side by side routes on the upper bit of Barrier Wall. Barrier Lake is off in the background and by shooting from The Flake (11a) towards In Us, Under Us (11b) we could get a sense of the exposure we were looking for. The climber needed to fill out the frame, so I didn’t want to be too far away.

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Anne on In Us, Under Us. Not a bad spot, hey? And, note that technically accurate assortment of gear hanging from her harness. There’s even a sling around her body and, if you look very closely, a nut tool. 

Fabio led In Us, Under Us and Greg McKee led The Flake and then the two very patient belayers set up belays above us. They stopped and started belaying as Anne and I climbed up side by side. We took dozens of photos along the way, with me clipping to bolts so I could push my feet against the wall and get both Anne and the backdrop framed reasonably well… Poor Anne had to climb and re-climb sections so I could climb a bit above her and then beside her to try to get something useable. And some of what she had to re-climb was not easy!

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Anne approaching the start of the climb, which begins on the ledge you see just above her. Getting started required climbing up the lower routes so we would appear to be high enough that a multi-pitch scenario would be plausible. 

We tried having her look up, look down, look away and pretend to be stressed, concentrating, scared, and neutral. We had her traverse off the route to try to get her to stand out better against the sky. We took some action shots, some pensive shots, and some just for fun of Anne looking happy. We lucked out with the weather (it was a glorious evening when we shot the series) and, in the end, one of the shots turned out well enough that – yes – it will be on the cover of the book!

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Anne was great about going up and moving back down and letting me get repositioned to try this angle and that…

 

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This shot was taken by Greg from above as we were working (note me being very bossy and pointing out where Anne should put her hand…). What’s weird about it is that it was taken right at the top of the climb but it doesn’t look like we are that far up. We were actually about 10 storeys up and right at the limit of what our ropes would allow us do in a single push from the ground… But right below us is a bit of a bulge in the rock so you can’t actually see the vast expanse of rock we’ve climbed up to get to where we are. The next photo below gives a better idea of the scale of the particular cliff we were working on. (Photo Credit: Greg McKee)

A couple of times as I was dangling and angling for a good shot I found myself marvelling at how absolutely cool it was to be climbing with such great people in such a stunning spot on a glorious day all in the name of work! Really, a day at the office simply does not get much better than this!

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At the very end of the day our reward was to climb the classic Beautiful Rainbow (11a). Look closely… I’m in there somewhere up toward the top. Remind me not to wear brown pants if I hope to be spotted on the rock! (Photo credit: Anne Rozek)

And, in the end, this is what the cover will look like!

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Something to ponder… keen observers who know the area will note that one, but not both, roads were removed from the image (ah, the joys of Photoshop!)… Stay tuned for a longer discussion in a future blog post about why, or why not, a designer might choose to modify an image… 

Kudos to Rachel at Orca Book Publishers for coming up with this cool-looking cover… Fingers crossed that the cover will catch the eye of some teen readers in search of a bit of vicarious adventure! Deadpoint is scheduled for release in January, 2017. If you happen to be a book blogger or a climbing blogger and you’d like to receive a review copy, get in touch and we may be able to send a one your way! Then you, too, can pick apart the cover and see whether or not we got it right!

 

 

 

The Raven and the Bear

Flash Foxy

Guest Author: Nikki Tate-Stratton

Nobody can accuse me of having a brilliant or early start to a stellar climbing career. I vaguely recall one afternoon of rock climbing when I was ten years old and a bit of gym climbing when I was in my early 30s. After that, there was a very busy gap that lasted more than twenty years. I raised a child, published a bunch of books, did some traveling, and started a small organic farm. There was no time for climbing. But after I handed the reins of my farm over to some much younger farmers at the beginning of 2015, I found myself at the local climbing gym, tentatively trying a few easy boulder problems. Not long after that, I took a top-rope class and joined a weekly women’s climbing group and was delighted to find that the core members were, like me, all comfortably over 50.

nikki first climb banff 6 Me at the age of 10. More…

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N is for Never too Late

I know I started the alphabet challenge waaaaaaay back in, what, April? May? And then I was spirited off to Hawaii and got swamped with work and blah blah blah – the next thing I know it’s the middle of summer and I still haven’t passed the letter ‘N’!

Return to Newcastle Island

I wrote about our first trip to Newcastle Island here. I had so much fun on that trip that I returned to Newcastle the following week to re-join Rosario and Denis aboard their Whitby 42, Counting Stars. 

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This is not Counting Stars. But it is a good example of how not to leave Nanaimo… These guys were all fine – they waited for the tide to return and then floated off… A tad embarrassing, though. This spot traps sailors in full view of Nanaimo Harbour, the cruise ship dock, and Newcastle Island. 

We sailed from Newcastle Island down to Clam Bay (between Kuper and Thetis Islands), where we anchored for the evening.

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A light breeze meant we were able to practice flying the spinnaker. 

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There’s nothing quite like the special calm that descends on a peaceful anchorage in the evening. This is Clam Bay in the Gulf Islands of BC. 

The Sylvester family lives nearby and Craig (Greg?) paddled out to the boat with a selection of carvings, including a hummingbird by his sister, Tamila (I’m not sure if I’ve spelled the names right and some googling is not turning up any further information… If you happen to know the Sylvesters and the location of a website, please let me know…).

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The next morning we continued down to Poets Cove on Pender Island to take part in the Bluewater Cruising Association Rendezvous. Just off Galliano Island we spotted three killer whales moseying along, too far away for photos with my phone, unfortunately.

The rendezvous itself was great fun, with quite a collection of boats showing up from all over the south coast (actually, from as far away as Mexico!) to gather for food, drink, and sea shanty singing.

Here’s our team practicing our sea shanty…

I had a flight booked back to the mountains, so had to leave part way through the weekend, which was a shame because I was having a LOT of fun singing, feasting, and meeting lots of sailors. Alas, much work awaited me…

New Books

Deadlines are deadlines and Dani and I were busy putting the finishing touches on two new books in the Orca Origins Series. Happy Birthday: Beyond Cake and Ice Cream should be out in the fall of this year. Christmas: From Solstice to Santa will be out in the Spring of 2018. Deadpoint, the climbing novel which will be part of the Orca Sports series should be out early in January of 2017. Perhaps the best part of writing these new books has been the research. From digging through family photos to interviewing various people to climbing mountains, reading some very cool books, and stumbling across some nifty corners of the internet, at every turn we learned lots and had fun while doing so.

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Forgive the terrible quality of this photo of a photo – this is my mother and her brothers and sister (and a cousin?) in Germany. Note those are real candles on the Christmas tree! No fire hazard there, I’m sure. 

Hard on the heels of those books are three more, currently in the research and writing stage. One is a biography for kids about Elizabeth May (more on that soon), a handbook for young activists (which will also feature profiles about some pretty amazing kids who are making real changes in the world), and a picture book about climbing. Oh, and then there’s another in the Orca Footprints series which, at its heart, is about love, community, and cooperation. It’s been interesting starting to research this one – my reading has taken me to distant places like the Congo where researchers are studying bonobos in order to learn more about what it means to be human. More, too, on this in a future post.

Also in the works (I may be done with text edits?) is a picture book that’s been picked up by Holiday House in New York. Subject matter? Bricklaying and baseball. And feminism. At the moment the search for an illustrator is on – I’m very curious to see who is selected and how he or she will tackle the artwork. Stay tuned…

I think that’s it for the children’s book projects. Whenever I can, I’m also working away on an adult memoir/popular science/medicine manuscript tentatively titled, The Dissolution of HW, which is about the nature of personality and my mother’s struggle with Pick’s Disease.

In the ‘waiting to see how it all turned out’ department, there’s Scylla and Charybdis, which may be out before the end of the year with Pearson. A retelling of part of The Odyssey, it was both challenging and fascinating to find a way to stay true to Homer’s story but still be accessible to a contemporary audience. Very much looking forward to seeing this when it comes out.

Never too Late

And, finally, in the ‘it’s never too late’ department, it’s never too late to set some crazy goals. I will mention ‘Navigate around the world’ again here just so you know I haven’t forgotten about this project.

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Approaching the crux on a pumpy 5.11a at Sunshine Slabs. Missed the clip right at the crux near the top and came flying off, but I will be back! (And by flying off, I mean, I fell as far as the previous clipped bolt… and, because this is a pretty steep, overhanging kind of climb, I didn’t really hit anything – just dangled for a bit until I gathered my thoughts and tried again. Never did make it all the way up on this particular afternoon, though I climbed it on toprope a few days later, which means I can get up there. So, leading this one is definitely within reach… And if I can lead a 5.11a, could 5.12 be far behind?)

And, I’m going to state publicly that before I die I am going to Nail a 5.12 climbing route. 5.12 is a grade of climb that’s decently challenging and which, though I sort of had this as a streeeeeeeeetch goal, I really doubted I could accomplish it until very recently. Two things changed my mind. First, I’ve been going to a physiotherapist and a personal trainer who are working together to develop a program for me to deal with my ongoing shoulder (torn labrum) and elbow (after effects of the dislocation/ligament shredding) issues. The results have been amazing and I’ve been seconding routes of various types in the 11s without suffering any terrible after effects. I’ve also made huge strides recently in the leading department and just last week successfully led my first 10d. Suddenly, it looks like I might get to 5.12 before old age and infirmity get to me. So there you go, I’ve gone and made a public declaration of my intentions! That’s the first step, right?

Getting Personal — Nikki Tate – Author, workshop leader, presenter

One of the things I love about the various Orca non-fiction series I’ve been working on is the way each author must insert themselves into the manuscript by including relevant personal anecdotes. As a result, we are writing about topics that a) interest us on a personal level and b) have some real connection to […]

via Getting Personal — Nikki Tate – Author, workshop leader, presenter

Gone Sailing

A pause in the climbing-themed blogging as I take a moment (well, a couple of weekends) for a sailing interlude… I will resume my climb through the alphabet soon, but at the moment, my world has taken a decidedly watery turn.

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The docks at Newcastle Island. Oh, we do live in paradise.

Not long ago I joined the Bluewater Cruising Association, a group of offshore sailors who have either been-there, done-that or who are planning to go-there, do-that. I am in the latter category, obviously – my open water crossings between the BVI and the Dutch West Indies hardly qualify me as a blue water sailor even though the crossing to Saba was decidedly awful (probably deserves a blog post all its own at some point).

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Storm clouds gather last year in the Caribbean…

Despite my recent land-based exploits, I have never stopped hankering after a long sailing expedition – and, by long, I mean a circumnavigation. I have no idea if I’ll ever actually get all the way around the globe, but I certainly would like to get on a boat and go somewhere far away….

With this in mind, I figured it would be a good idea to re-join the Power Squadron, take some navigation courses, and try to connect with some legitimate sailing types (as in, people who currently have boats). The Bluewater Cruising Association turns out to be a treasure trove of boats of all shapes and sizes (and their crews, who come in all shapes and sizes, too).

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On the dock at Newcastle Island watching as participants practiced mast-climbing…

Last weekend Fabio and I joined the group on Newcastle Island (in Nanaimo’s harbour) for a weekend of learning about on-board safety. We joined Denis and Rosario aboard their boat Counting Stars, a Whitby 42 ketch.

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Fabio following his speedy escape through a hatch after putting out a fire below (while blindfolded).  Oh, what fun and games we had at MIST (Mid-Island Sail Training).

We practiced fire drills (blindfolded, we took turns simulating putting out an engine fire and then exiting the vessel via a hatch), pumped out the bilge by hand, and prepared to abandon ship. Each drill underscored the need to have a plan, be prepared, and not panic. There was lots of laughter as we learned some pretty serious lessons about the importance of knowing how to get off the boat in a hurry but also realizing that in most cases staying aboard was actually the safest place to be.

After our dockside exploits, we set off on a blind navigation exercise in which we had to locate a buoy a few nautical miles away without using our electronic navigation systems. We’ve all become very dependent on iPads and chart plotters to find our way around, so it was pretty cool to see our ‘blind’ navigator, Rosario finding her way to the buoy even in a simulated thick fog without the benefit of radar or other hi-tech gadgetry.

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Chart plotting the analog way…

We had so much fun on that weekend (I wrote a bit more about it in an article over on the Bluewater Cruising website – I’ll add the link once that’s been posted) that I decided I really didn’t want to miss out on the following weekend’s fun at the group’s rendezvous to be held on Pender Island over the May long weekend.

Which is why I’m sitting aboard Counting Stars once again, typing this as I await our boat ride over to Nanaimo to pick up a few provisions for our trip down to Pender.

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Last weekend – Rosario, Denis and Fabio aboard Counting Stars. Can you blame me for wanting to come back for more?

Happy, happy, happy is how I’d describe my mood at the moment, despite the fact it’s chilly and the rain is pouring down outside. There’s something sort of cozy and reassuring about the sound of rain pattering down on the canvas dodger over the cockpit, the main companionway hatch open to let in the fresh morning air. Not that I’m happy about the rain, more like I’m so happy to be on a boat not even the rain can dampen my mood. This may change by the time we’ve spent the day sailing (or motoring, there’s no wind… of course), but for the moment I am thoroughly enjoying all the familiar smells of diesel and salt air, fresh coffee and seaweed.

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Can’t beat that view from my hatch!!

It’s also a lot of fun to be reminded of all those things about living on the boat that one forgets about until it’s time to find something in the very bottom of the fridge (fishing out the milk for this morning’s coffee caused an avalanche of smaller items that slithered into the hole left by the jug), flush the head (or walk up the hill to the on-shore facilities), or move piles of life jackets aside to find a place to sit.

And, there are all the wonderful aspects of life aboard, including good company and the extra good taste of coffee when accompanied by the background music of shorebirds greeting the day!

Deep Roots: How Trees Sustain Our Planet – Nikki Tate

What a lovely review of Deep Roots! Thank you!

Youth Services Book Review

3711532      Deep Roots: How Trees Sustain Our Planet – Nikki Tate, Orca Book Publishers, (9781459805828), 2016

Format:  Hardcover

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

What did you like about the book? This is a very personal and incredibly comprehensive guide to what trees should mean to everyone on earth. Lavishly illustrated the author shows us trees of the world and the roles they play in our lives. The format is more than friendly, it is compulsive reading. A detailed resource list and a glossary are included.

What didn’t you like about the book? Nothing to dislike here!

To whom would you recommend this book? I would recommend this book to everyone: not only is it extremely informative and interesting, it can open one’s eyes to the majestic magic of trees.

Who should buy this book? All public libraries and elementary and middle…

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