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May/June 2000
In the magazine
Story Previews
Excerpts From the Print Edition

Among the Man-Eaters
The Resurrection of Paul Pritchard
Frontiers: Peru’s Cloud Forests
Guide: Colorado’s Rugged San Juans

 


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small arrowADVENTURE Photo Gallery: Man-Eaters of Tsavo
See previously unpublished images from the Tsavo assignment.

small arrowField Museum: The Man-Eaters of Tsavo
See the lions that made Tsavo famous for man-eating.

small arrowTiger Time
Stalk an Indian tiger and her cubs with a National Geographic photographer.

small arrowTop Secret Animal Attack Files
The CNN.com of unfortunate animal encounters.

small arrowTropical Ice
Access the Kenya-based safari company used by the author of “Among the Man-eaters.”

small arrowTsavo East National Park
The Kenya Wildlife Service offers this illustrated online guide to tiger country. related products


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Among the Man-Eaters
By Philip Caputo

Tsavo. Its name means “Place of Slaughter.” The lions that prowl its plains are known for their abnormally large size, their maneless males, and their unusual prey: humans. Philip Caputo investigates—on foot.

We didn’t know if the big male lion in front of us had ever tasted human flesh. He did inhabit a region of Kenya that had given birth to the two most infamous man-eating lions in history, and that still harbors lions with a proclivity to hunt man: Only two years ago, a cattle herder had been killed and devoured by a lion not far from where this male now lay looking at us with eyes that glowed like brass in firelight. He must have gone 400 pounds [182 kilograms], and he was ugly in the way certain prizefighters are ugly—not a photogenic, Oscar De La Hoya sort of lion, but a Jake LaMotta lion, with only a scruff of a mane, his face and hide scarred from the thorny country he lived in, or from battles with rival lions, or from the kicks of the zebra and buffalo he killed for food. He was only 25 feet [7.6 meters] away, but we were safe—provided we stayed in our Land Rover. Panting in the late afternoon heat, his gaze impassive, he rested in the shade of a tall bush beside the carcass of a young Cape buffalo killed the night before. Around him, well-fed and yawning, five lionesses lazed in the short yellow grass. Two cubs licked and nibbled the buffalo’s hindquarters, the ragged strips of meat in the hollowed-out cavity showing bright red under the black skin. Nothing else remained of the animal except the horned head, the front hooves, and a few scattered bones.

Photographer Rob Howard and I were taking pictures from the roof, using it to support our bulky 300-millimeter lenses. Inside, my wife, Leslie, observed through binoculars, while our guides, Iain Allan and Clive Ward, kept an eye on things.

I ran out of film and dropped through the roof hatch to fetch another roll from my camera bag. Rob stood up, trying for another angle. Immediately, the drowsy, indifferent expression went out of the male’s eyes; they focused on Rob with absolute concentration. Rob’s camera continued to whir and click, and I wondered if he noticed that he’d disturbed the lion. Now, with its stare still fixed on him, it grunted, first out of one side of its mouth, then the other, gathered its forepaws into itself, and raised its haunches. The long, black-tufted tail switched in the grass.

“Say, Rob, might be a good idea to sit down again,” Iain advised in an undertone. “Move slowly, though.”

He had barely finished this instruction when the lion made a noise like a man clearing his throat, only a good deal louder, and lunged across half the distance between us and him, swatting the air with one paw before he stopped. Rob tumbled through the roof hatch, almost landing on top of me in a clatter of camera equipment, a flailing of arms and legs.

Get the full story—only the latest chapter in the centuries-old saga of Tsavo’s human-hunters—in the May/June 2000 ADVENTURE.

(Subscribe today.)

ADVENTURE Forum
Tell us about your most surprising wild-animal encounter.

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The incorrigible Web magazine reviews Pritchard’s Deep Play.

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Photos from a 1990 ascent of the Tasmanian spire that nearly killed Paul Pritchard.

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If you'd like to tackle the Totem Pole, here’s the 411.

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The Resurrection of
Paul Pritchard

By David Roberts

In 1998 Britain’s Paul Pritchard was climbing the Totem Pole, a sea stack in Tasmania, when a plummeting rock crushed his skull. That it failed to kill him was a fluke. What it did was change his world forever.

It was February 1998—Friday the 13th—and for Paul Pritchard, life was sweet. Thirty years old, he had come into his own as one of Britain’s most talented rock climbers and mountaineers. During the last six years, he had put up audacious routes on granite fangs in Patagonia, the Karakoram, and on Baffin Island. For a decade, he had seamed the crags of northern Wales, where he lived, with bold new lines that would become test pieces for the next generation of climbers.

Just the previous year, Pritchard had assembled 18 of his journal articles and unpublished essays in a small book titled Deep Play. To his astonishment, the collection was short-listed for the Boardman Tasker Award, the most prestigious prize in mountaineering literature. Certain that he had no chance of winning (his book was up against Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air, among others), Pritchard recruited what he called “a team of the loudest girls you could imagine” to ride the train from Wales to London and cheer him on inside the stuffy precincts of the Alpine Club.

There, his raucous entourage heard Pritchard announced as the winner....

Three months after winning the Boardman Tasker, on that bright, windy Friday the 13th near the end of the austral summer, Pritchard and girlfriend Cecilia Bull approached a cliff on the southeast coast of Tasmania. Before them, impossibly slender, a spear of clean-edged dolerite thrust 200 feet [61 meters] skyward out of the ocean. The Totem Pole, which has been called the most beautiful sea stack in the world, had received only one free ascent. Pritchard and Bull hoped to make the second.

...the pair emerged on a headland even with the top of the Totem Pole. A film crew that had been at the sea stack a few days earlier had left a rope spanning the narrow void. After traversing the rope, the climbers soon stood on a ledge only 15 feet [5 meters] below the pinnacle’s summit. Pritchard set up a rappel with one of his three 60-meter (200-foot) ropes. The plan was for both climbers to rappel to a ledge just above the waterline, then pull down their ropes and climb the Totem Pole from base to top.

Halfway down, Pritchard alighted on the only other ledge on the tower, then rappelled the tower’s lower hundred feet [31 meters], swinging himself to the right so he could land on the base ledge.

Besides its extreme technical difficulty, another reason the Totem Pole had only once been free-climbed is that its lower reaches are accessible only when a low tide coincides with a small swell—not more than a few days out of each year. Pritchard quickly discovered that he had miscalculated the tides. Moments after landing on the bedrock, still on rappel, he was swept by a wave that soaked him to the waist. The first pitch, Pritchard realized, was too wet to climb. He and Bull would have to content themselves with tackling only the second pitch, from the halfway ledge to the summit.

Shouting over the wind and waves, he warned Bull, who was about to get on rappel: "Stop...at...the...ledge!" Then he got out his jumars—mechanical devices used to climb ropes—and started “jugging” up the line toward the halfway ledge. As soon as his weight came on the rope, he started to swing back to a position plumb beneath the ledge. Pritchard had performed such maneuvers countless times in his climbing career. But this time the rope caught on a chunk of dolerite about the size of a cinder block wedged just below the halfway ledge. As Pritchard’s momentum pulled it leftward, the rope flicked the block loose.

A falling rock normally tears through the air with a snarling whir. Over the waves and wind, Pritchard heard nothing. He did not look up. He was not wearing a helmet. The rock fell 90 feet [28 meters] without once touching the tower. It struck Pritchard directly on the top of his head. That it failed to kill him was a fluke. What it did was change Paul Pritchard’s world forever.

Learn Pritchard’s fate in the full article—only in the May/June 2000 ADVENTURE. (Subscribe today.)

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Frontiers
Discoveries Above the Clouds
By Robert Earle Howells

In the cloud-forest realm of Chachapoya, travelers can plumb Peru’s forgotten past.

The Gringo isn’t happy. He doesn’t like what he sees. Me, I’m delirious; the sight is stunning. After four hours of traipsing up sheer pitches of slick stone on which there is too little purchase, and slogging through knee-deep pits of mud in which there is too much, we’ve at last emerged from an oozy cloud-forest shroud into a sun-drenched mountain-top meadow. Suddenly we can see where we are: on a narrow, grassy ridge that drops off on either side into river valleys 6,000 feet [1,830 meters] deep. The view is all wild Cordillera Central, row upon row of parallel ranges thickly wrapped in cloud, as they nearly always are, even in Peru’s dry season: thus, “cloud forest.” Straight ahead, several miles north, is a shadowy rectangle outlined against a backdrop of cumulus formations. It’s 12,400-foot [3,780-meter] Mount Shubet, our destination, site of recently discovered ruins “of a mysterious religious nature.” Ours is to be only the second known ascent of the mountain in modern times.

* * *

But the Gringo—archaeologist Peter Lerche—scowls. It’s not easy being an expert on the Chachapoya of Peru. After two decades in the country, the expatriate German—who is married to a Peruvian, speaks perfect Spanish, and farms a high Andean valley—is still known by locals as the Gringo. The northern Peru department of Amazonas, where he lives, is an archaeological feast, but only for a scholar fit (and loony) enough to spend long days trudging cruelly rugged pre-Hispanic trails, scaling cliffside funeral sites, and machete-hacking through dense, mucky forests to uncover ancient cities of stone. Or to scale mountains deemed unclimbable by locals.

But such efforts bring little reward. In the ancient-peoples-of-Peru hierarchy, it is the Inca who are sexy. They built Machu Picchu. Tourists flock there. The Chachapoya sites 600 miles [965 kilometers] north have long languished in unprotected oblivion. A few years ago, this site, Talapé, was entirely cloaked in cloud forest. Now a huge swath of west-facing slope—and the pesky stone structures thereon—have been cleared to make way for a small farm. Soon, even more ruins will fall to agriculture.

So it’s not easy being Peter Lerche, archaeologist. Which is why on this trip, he’s Peter Lerche, tour guide. Each of the trips offers a rare opportunity in the mapped, tourist-tracked world: the chance for ordinary travelers to participate in genuine exploration. We’re here because we heard about those mysterious mountaintop ruins on Shubet’s summit. I have a private reason, too. Before we left, I faxed Lerche a question: What is the chance for further discovery on this trip? His answer: 100 percent.

Find 100 percent of Howells’s cloud-scraping adventure in the March/April 2000 issue.
(Subscribe today.)

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A source for rafting, jeeping, snowmobiling, and even sleigh riding in the San Juan Mountains.

small arrowSouthwest Adventures
Hike the San Juans with this Durango-based outfitter.


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Guide
Colorado’s Rugged
San Juans

By Alex Markels

The May/June issue includes our comprehensive “Summer in the Mountains” guide, featuring gateway towns and lodges and the best alpine adventure sports for each locale. Here, an excerpt spotlighting a Rocky Mountain high point.

“Look! There’s a bunch of them right there!” Brett shouted, scampering up the muddy trail toward the Chicago Basin, where the cloudy remnants of the squall that had just drenched us shrouded spiny, razor-thin ridges. My girlfriend raced to the banks of Needle Creek, where raspberries freshly washed by the rainstorm gleamed in the emerging sunlight. She popped the plumpest fruit into her mouth. “And look—strawberries!”

I made my own methodical search for more mushrooms like the banana yellow specimen I’d found along the trail a few minutes earlier. Mushroom patches brimming with boletus, leccinum, and choice trumpet-shaped gold chanterelles covered the warm, sopping ground.

* * *

We’d made a pilgrimage into this remote part of southern Colorado’s San Juan Mountains not to forage for wild edibles, but to bag at least one of the three 14,000-foot [4,270-meter] Needle Mountains that tower over the Chicago Basin. After hopping on an antique tourist train in Durango, we’d chugged north 33 miles [53 kilometers] along the rushing Animas River into the Weminuche Wilderness to the trailhead at Needle Creek. Just an eight-mile [13-kilometer] hike from the tracks, the bases of Mount Eolus, Windom Peak, and Sunlight Peak are so close together that some mountaineers have climbed all three in a single day. Yet nontechnical approaches require only moderate bouldering, which ensures that the trio are within reach of any fit backpacker.

Gloriously extreme, the San Juans thrust a surprising 13 peaks above 14,000 feet [4,270 meters]—nearly a quarter of Colorado’s renowned Fourteeners. Another 170 mountains rise more than 13,000 feet [3,965 meters]. These sheer-faced summits owe their severity to Quaternary glaciers that whittled extrusive volcanic rock into toothed ridges, steep headwalls, spires, canyons, and cirques that now cup sapphire tarns.

This forbidding terrain doesn’t deter well-prepared mountain lovers. In addition to the access afforded by the train, you can head into the wilds from almost anywhere along the eastern half of the San Juan Skyway, a spectacularly scenic two-laner that starts in Ridgway, ascends two 11,000-foot [3,355-meter] passes, winds through the 19th-century mining towns of Ouray and Silverton, then twists and turns south along the Animas toward Durango.

Surrounded by an extensive network of mountain-biking trails, the bustling college town of Durango is ground zero for pedalers—and for anyone else looking for a good meal, a bit of nightlife, and a comfortable bed. The century-old brick and wood Victorians that line the main drag are home to some of the region’s finest restaurants. Rooms in the historic Rochester Hotel are named after Hollywood Westerns shot in the vicinity, including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Viva Zapata, and Support Your Local Gunfighter.

Get a directory of San Juan Mountain travel resources—and guides to California’s central Sierra, North Carolina’s Smoky Mountains, Yellowstone National Park, Vermont’s Green Mountains, and Canada’s Jasper National Park—in the May/June 2000 ADVENTURE.
(Subscribe today.)

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May/June 2000:  Previews | Q&A | Photos | Ask the Expert | Wild Animal Forum | 6 Hikes
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