In this week's edition of Extreme Exposure—a weekly column featuring news and photography from the world of action and outdoor sports—North Korean leader Kim Jong-un looks to bolster adventure tourism and an Oregon wildlife refuge comes under siege.
Snowboarders in a Strange Land
In an effort to bolster his country’s tourism economy, much-maligned North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has invited three of snowboarding’s elite riders to the country. Terje Hakonsen, Dan Liedahl and Mike Ravelson will visit Masikryong ski resort this month. Jong-un has made serious efforts to put North Korea at the center of the sporting conversation, opening a new horse-riding facility, a roller-skating facility (must be a throwback thing), a surf center and a brand new soccer facility. Uri Tours, a Korean tourism company, was offering $2,400 tours to see the country and “get some tips” from the three talented riders. The tour is sold out.
Some North Korean experts see the snowboarding tour, specifically, as a way to cover the resort’s construction costs—approximately $30 million—as they expect it to drive interest in the resort that Nknews.org says officials boldly estimate will create a revenue stream of more than $62 million annually. “I think Masikryong is not an attractive ski resort because for Chinese visitors, skiing is not a familiar sport,” Shin Yong-seok, a researcher at the Korea Culture and Tourism Institute told The Guardian. “And for the Americans and Europeans, [though] they are more familiar with skiing, they have domestic resorts. So, it seems it has not paid for itself.”
Death on the Ice
December 30 was a sad day for the Carbondale, Colo. climbing community, an outdoor-minded berg north of Aspen. Ryan Jennings, 42, a hardcore climber whose accomplishments had mostly gone under the radar, was found dead near the Redstone Slabs on an ice climbing route in the Crystal River Valley. Jennings had done multiple first ascents in the area, and according to Rock and Ice, he was alone on a rarely-formed ice pillar—more prominent this year because of the heavy winter—and was self belaying, having set at least one screw. Circumstances are not entirely clear, but during his climb the column broke away. Apparently that same column of ice had broken away before on a pair of climbers in 1997 but neither was injured.
Jennings skillfully managed his career, fatherhood (he has a son and daughter) and climbing—and still managed to push the envelope. In 2014, with his climbing partner, Kevin Cooper, he completed an impressive first ascent on Mount Johnson in Alaska’s Ruth Gorge the team dubbed Stairway to Heaven. The line, on the mountain’s north face, was a route the duo had dreamed of for 20 years. “We are both getting on in age and both have children,” Jennings said at the time. “I personally have gotten to a point in climbing where I contemplate risk versus reward every time I head out.”
It was an intense week in southeastern Oregon as an armed militia took control of a building at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge near the small town of Burns. Ammon Bundy, is leading the small group that’s protesting the imprisonment of two local ranchers who were found guilty of arson committed in the early 2000’s. The militia is demanding that the Hammonds' sentences be nullified. They served brief prison terms—the son a year and the father three months—but federal officials ruled their sentences were too light and added an additional five years.
The region, including southern Idaho and northern Nevada, is a beautifully remote, high-desert destination and has long been a playground for outdoor enthusiasts like kayakers exploring the nearby Bruneau, Jarbidge and Owyhee drainages or backcountry skiers and snowboarders venturing into the Steen Mountains. Rome, Ore., an hour and half east of Burns, is a lonely whitewater outpost where raft trips put on the river to run the lower Owyhee and expert paddlers leave their shuttle rigs for the more difficult sections upstream. There have been no road closures that could affect adventurers thus far in the standoff that militia leaders have said could last for indefinitley unless their demands are met.