Mountain News: ESPN pares motor stunts at X Games 

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ESPN pares motor stunts at X Games

ASPEN, Colo. — While denying that it was the result of an accident in which snowmobile best-trick competitor Caleb Moore died at the January X Games in Aspen, ESPN announced it is discontinuing that event. It is dropping the motocross best-trick event in the Summer X Games.

"Moto X Best Trick and Snowmobile Best Trick were not dropped in response to what happened in Aspen," ESPN spokeswoman Danny Chi said in a prepared statement. "This decision was under consideration before Aspen. And, in fact, our review of Snowmobile Freestyle continues."

High-altitude doc to take time for yakking

TELLURIDE, Colo. — Peter Hackett is looking forward to having a Christmas away from the doctor's office. He's retiring at the age of 65 from his position as director of emergency medicine at the Telluride Medical Center to raise yaks and to pursue interest in his specialty, high-altitude physiology.

Hackett, 65, told the Telluride Daily Planet that working eight 24-hour shifts in emergency medicine each month left him little time for research in high-altitude medicine.

"I've been doing it for 38 years, and it's a young person's specialty, really," he said of the emergency room doctoring. "It's hard because of all the night shifts and weekends. I haven't had a Christmas off in about 20 years."

After graduating from medical school in Chicago and then training in San Francisco, Hackett got his first job as a helicopter-rescue doctor in Yosemite National Park, where he fought fires and rescued climbers, explains The Telluride Watch.

From there, he went to Nepal, where a three-month stint for a trekking company turned into a love affair with the Himalaya. That love affair culminated in an ascent of Mt. Everest in 1981, where he collected physiological data on the way up, the last 914 metres of the climb by himself.

On his descent, however, he nearly died after slipping on the Hillary Step, the icy and steep pitch just below the summit where a missed step can send you tumbling 2,100 metres down the mountain into China, on one side, or Nepal on the other.

Along the way, Hackett became one of the world's premier researchers into the human physiological response to visiting and living in the thin air found at higher elevations. He will maintain his work in the Institute for Altitude Medicine in Telluride, seeing patients with altitude-related illness and training other doctors in the field.

At 2,667 metres, he said, Telluride is the ideal place to study the influence of thin air on pre-existing medical conditions, like high blood pressure and migraine headaches. While locals have not had generations for their bodies to evolve, such as is the case with natives of the Himalaya or of the Andes, they have developed adaptations, including bigger lungs.

In his ongoing work, Hackett intends to continue research as to why people live longer at high altitudes.

But Hackett also has out-of-office plans, too. With his partner, also a doctor, he's planning to raise yaks, the wooly, cow-like animals he first encountered in Nepal, where he lived for six years.

Hackett thinks the animals are the next big thing for Colorado, since they graze less than cattle and are well adapted to high altitudes and cold temperatures.

grizzly bears defy death odds

BANFF, Alberta — What does Banff National Park have over, say Yosemite in California or the San Juan Mountains of Colorado?

It has an estimated 60 grizzly bears that, should they choose, could chew you up and spit you out like stale bubblegum. And that, says Steve Michel, a wildlife expert for Parks Canada, administrator of Banff, is ultimately a good thing.

It may leave your knees knocking, but it makes the outdoor experience richer, he told a group in Banff recently.

"These kinds of experiences can still happen here, right outside our back doors. You can hike in California or Colorado where (grizzly) bears no longer are, and yes, they are beautiful landscapes, but it can be quite a hollow experience without grizzly bears there," said Michel.

Banff still has 60 of the estimated 600 grizzlies in Alberta, but 13 have been killed by passing trains since the turn of the century, plus cars and trucks continue to kill more.

Parks Canada and the Canadian Pacific Railroad have pooled resources for a $2 million study to better figure out solutions to reduce the train deaths. To that end, they captured, drugged and then collared 11 grizzlies with GPS devices, allowing researchers to track their whereabouts.

No conclusions have been drawn as per the larger question, but they seem to be gaining fascinating insights into the movements of individual bears. One young griz, for example, travelled over the top of the Wapta Icefield, eventually summering in the Blaeberry Valley in British Columbia before returning to Banff for denning. The bear is said to travel in this world of ice quite well.


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