Snowboarder Pearce is Seriously Injured

A serious head injury may have thwarted 22-year-old Kevin Pearce’s chances of participating in the upcoming 2010 Olympics. Pearce, of Norwich, Vermont, considered a medal contender in snowboarding in the upcoming Vancouver Olympics, received the injury during halfpipe training yesterday in Park City, Utah.

Pearce was attempting a double cork twisting double backflip when he slammed his head against the edge of the halfpipe and was knocked unconscious. He was flown to Salt Lake City’s University of Utah Hospital, where doctors drained fluid building up in his brain.

Snowboarding in Canada

US Olympic halfpipe coach Mike Jankowski stated that Pearce appeared to hit the pipe edge just above his eye during a double cork. Jankowski described the injuries as appearing “serious, critical.’’ Kevin’s parents immediately left Vermont for Utah upon being notified of the injury.

Oldest Mt. Everest Climber Gets Guinness Record

Min Bahadur Sherchan of Nepal climbed Everest (29028 feet) in 2008 at the age of 76. But who got the glory in the 2009 Guinness Book of World Records? 75-year-old Yuichiro Miura from Japan.

North Face of Mt. Everest

Mt. Everest North Face

So in 2009 Sherchan traveled to London and presented his evidence to Guinness: paperwork, photos, eyewitness verifications and media reports to confirm his successful ascent to the “Top of the World” in May 2008 at age 76 years and 340 days. His trip to London was successful, and Sherchan’s name will be listed in the 2010 Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest person to summit Mt. Everest.

Tatras Avalanche Kills Two in Southern Poland

Two people have died in an avalanche which swept down a mountain in the Tatras Range of  southern Poland.  Three others were injured, and it is feared others could be buried under the snow at Buli pod Rysami.  This area, known for being prone to avalanches, was the scene of a January 2003 tragedy in which eight students from Tychy were swept away in a massive fall of loose snow.

Tatar Mountains, Poland

Tatras Mountains, Poland

The avalanche fell at around 11:30 am CET this morning.  Tatra Voluntary Rescue Services is utilizing helicopters and sniffer dogs to locate any survivors or other bodies under the snow in this area.

Third Climber Pronounced Dead From Scotland Avalanches

A third climber has been pronounced dead after being airlifted to a hospital in Scotland following rescue from deep snow in one of three avalanches to strike the Scottish Highlands today.  The victim is a 54-year-old man who had been rescued from Liatach Ridge, Torridon.  Tragically this climber did not survive his injuries from the accident.

Rescuers found the bodies of the first two climbers in Number Three Gully on the north face of Ben Nevis following a large snow slide earlier yesterday, just hours after avalanche warnings had been issued.


Fortunately two climbers have been rescued from the third avalanche, which occured on Beinn an Dothaidh in Argyll.

Two Scottish Climbers Die in Ben Nevis Avalanche

Two climbers died December 30th in an avalanche on Scotland’s Ben Nevis, the highest peak in Great Britain(4409 ft.)  Both bodies were recovered from deep snow on the north face of Ben Nevis, in the Coire na Ciste area of the mountain.  Another climber observed the tragic accident as the two men were swept down about 1300 feet and buried in deep snow.

Ben Nevis, Scotland

Just hours prior to the accident the SAIS (Scotland Avalanche Information Service) had issued warnings about hazardous conditions in the Scottish Highlands.  The first man’s body was located by rescuers using probes at about 1 pm, and the second man’s body was located an hour and a half later a few hundred yards away.  Both were buried in deep snow and airlifted to a hospital in nearby Fort William. But the two could not be resuscitated, and both bodies are now at the mortuary in Inverness.  Their names are being withheld until notification of next of kin.

The SAIS issued its warning after there was a significant overnight thaw. That rise in temperatures  made the mountains more susceptible to avalanche.

Two Mt. Hood Climbers Presumed Dead

Rescuers have declared a rescue mission to now be a victim search as all hope of finding two climbers missing for four days on Mt. Hood are presumed dead. Conditions for search have been severe, with an avalanche danger very high. As a result, future searches have had to be cancelled.

There is little chance that  Anthony Vietti, 24, and Katie Nolan, 29, have survived a surprise winter storm. The body of climber Luke Gullberg, 26, was discovered on the mountain on December 12th. The climb was supposed to be completed in one day, on December 11th. Searchers say Gullberg survived a long fall, then died of hypothermia.

Fresh in the minds of Oregon residents is the 2006 tragedy of another team of Mt. Hood winter climbers.  The similarities are eerie. In both cases, three experienced climbers planned a short technical climb in December, bad weather ensued, one body was found and the search for the remaining two climbers could not be completed due to winter storm conditions.  In December 2006 search team members located the snow cave containing the body of Kelly James. His fellow climbers, Brian Hall and Jerry “Nikko” Cooke, were never found and were presumed perished.

Legislation to require winter climbers to carry beacons above timberline failed in 2007. There is talk of reviving the debate in light of this recent tragedy.

Mt. Hood, Oregon

Mt. Hood’s elevation is 11,249 ft. It is Oregon’s highest mountain, and is in the Cascade Range about fifty miles from Oregon’s largest city, Portland.

Submerged Volcanic Eruption Caught on Film

In an amazing stroke of good fortune, we were all able to witness a rare occurrence – an underseas volcanic eruption. The Pacific Ocean’s West Malta volcano is the deepest eruption to be filmed. A submarine was used to capture the event on December 17, 2009. The West Mata volcano was discovered below the Pacific Ocean in an area between Samoa, Fiji and Tonga. It is six miles long and four miles wide, rising one mile from the sea floor. The top of the volcano sits 4,000 feet below the surface of the water.

Tectonic Mountains

Tectonic Mountains are formed when geologic forces change the shape of the crust of the Earth.  There are four main types of tectonic mountains: fold-thrust, fault-block, dome, and erosion mountains. Each type of tectonic mountain is formed by a different geologic force.

Col de Lautaret Pass - French Alps

French Alps

Fold-Thrust Mountains are formed when geologic forces raise or fold the crust of the Earth. When two tectonic plates collide head-on, the edges of the plates fold. As a result, much of the rock layers move over top of each other. Some examples of fold-thrust mountains are the Alps, the Appalachian Mountains of the eastern United States and the Himalaya. Sedimentary rocks, such as shale and limestone, make up the majority of the substrate of fold-thrust mountains.

Have you ever pushed a tablecloth across a table and created numerous wrinkles? This is much like the process of the creation of fold-thrust mountains.  One tectonic plate slides beneath the other and any continents on these two plates collide. Rock layers and mountains accumulate and crumple together.  Fault-thrust mountains can have  gentle, wavelike patterns or sharp, complex folds and everything in between.

An example of gently folded fold-thrust mountains is the Appalachian range. The European Alps, in contrast, are sharply folded.  It is common in such sharply folded mountains that some of the rocks are pushed down and changed by the  extreme pressure and temperature. The heat and pressure can result in metamorphic rocks such as schist and gneiss. Also during this process veins of granite and other igneous rock may be formed as some rock melts and is forced to rise up into overlying rocks.

Harz Mountains - Germany

Harz Mountains – Germany

Fault-Block Mountains are formed when plates collide or pull apart. These types of mountains are formed through the process of the pulling apart of a tectonic plate. This process is known as rifting. Examples of fault-block mountains are the Sierra Nevada, the Teton Range in Wyoming, the Wasatch Range in Utah, and the Harz Mountains in Germany.

Normal faults occur whenever fractures are formed by the stretching of the Earth’s crust. In the process, large blocks of crust get tilted and are pushed upwards along the faults. The adjacent sections of crust go in the opposite direction, downward, and create basins. Most fault-block mountains are formed when a block of crust gets tilted up along one side a single, normal fault. In some cases, fault-block mountains are formed when blocks of crust get pushed upward between two normal faults.

The blocks of uplifted crust wear down quickly through erosion. The erosion debris is carried down the mountain to fill the basins below. When you see isolated mountains in close proximity in southwestern USA or northern Mexico, you are most likely looking at fault-block mountains that are separated by large plains of debris.

When blocks of crust are not lifted upward but slide past other blocks horizontally, earthquakes are often created. These faults are called strike-slip faults, and this is another location where fault-block mountains can form. And example of these mountains are the Peninsular Ranges in southern California and Baja California, Mexico.

Both fault-block and fold-thrust mountains can form along strike-slip faults. The Southern Alps of New Zealand are fold-thrust mountains which have been formed at strike-slip faults.

Black Hills - South Dakota USA

Black Hills – South Dakota

When the Earth’s crust is lifted the resulting mountains are referred to as Dome Mountains. Some examples of dome mountains are the Black Hills of South Dakota and the Adirondack Mountains of New York. Erosion plays a big part in the appearance of any dome mountain. Peaks and valleys are formed as the layers of sedimentary rock are eroded away to expose igneous and metamorphic layers. These harder layers erode irregularly.

Catskill Mountains - New York USA

Catskills Mountains, New York

Erosion Mountains are formed when the Earth’s crust is worn down by geologic forces. All erosion mountains are the remnants of plateaus which have been eroded away by the action of either rivers or glaciers. The plateaus are a thick, flat layer of sedimentary rock. The Catskill Mountains of New York, USA, are an example of mountains formed through the process of erosion.


Volcanic Mountains

When you think of volcanoes, which famous volcanoes come to mind first?  Mt. Fuji is one of the best known volcanoes in the world today.  Here is a list of ten of the most famous volcanoes around the world:Mount_Rainier

  • Krakatau, Indonesia – The entire island was obliterated by its 1883 eruption, and sunsets around the world changed color for the next two years.
  • Lassen Peak, California, USA – erupted in 1917, beginning a period of nearly 75 eruption-free years in the 48 contiguous states.
  • Llullaillaco, Argentina/Chile – At more than 22,000 ft, the world’s highest active volcano last erupted in 1877.
  • Mauna Loa, Hawaii, USA – This is the world’s largest active volcano. Its most recent eruption was in 1984.
  • Mt. Fuji, Japan – This famous symbol of Japan last erupted in 1707.
  • Mt. Mazama, Oregon, USA – Crater Lake formed 7,000 years ago when its side blew out and top collapsed.
  • Mt. Pelee, Martinique – In 1902 only two of the 30,000 inhabitants of the adjacent town survived its 1902 blast.
  • Mt. St. Helens, Washington, USA – It gave several days warning before erupting in 1980, yet 57 people ignored experts advice to relocate and lost their lives.
  • Mt. Tambora, Indonesia – The ashes from its 1815 eruption blocked the sun through most of 1816, creating a “year without summer.”
  • Mt. Vesuvius, Italy – The city of Pompeii was buried under its eruption in the year 79.

All volcanoes are formed in the same way, from the piling up of molten rock that has erupted from deep within our Earth.  When molten substrate cools and become solid, the type of rock formed is termed igneous.  Basalt and rhyolite are two examples of igneous rock. There are three major types of rocks on Earth, the other two being sedimentary and metamorphic rock, both found in tectonic mountains.

There are three distinct location types for volcanic formation on the planet. All volcanoes are formed at one of three places:  at mid-ocean ridges, at subduction zones, or at hot spots.

Atlantis Massif - Mid-Atlantic RidgeMid-Ocean Ridges: When two tectonic plates separate, molten rock wells up between the plates.  The molten rock then cools and the plates continue to separate.  Thus the solid material becomes ocean floor and the upbuilding  forms an underwater mountain range.  An example of this type of volcanic formation is the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the world’s longest mountain system at more than ten thousand miles in length.

Central Oregon Cascades

Central Oregon Cascades

Subduction Zones: A region where two plates collide is called a subduction zone when the edge of one plate is thrust underneath the edge of the other plate.  Melted rock pushes up through the overlying plate in volcanic eruptions.   Subduction Zone mountain ranges can be created along the edge of a continent when a continental crust is atop the overlying plate.  Some examples of this type of volcano are the Cascade Range in Washington/Oregon and the Andes Mountains.  If both colliding tectonic plates are oceanic, then subduction zone mountain formation can result in an island arc.  Alaska’s Aleutian Islands and the Mariana Islands in the Pacific are examples of island arcs.

Hawaii Volcanoes National ParkHot Spots: Hot spots deep in the mantle of the Earth contain molten rock that rises up through the mantle and the overlying tectonic plate, erupting as a volcano.  As tectonic plates move over hot spots, the hot spots actually migrate with the mantle, creating a trail of volcanic mountains.   The Pacific Plate and an underlying hot spot moved gradually to form the Hawaiian Islands.  Volcanic mountain creation over hot spots is a geologic  process that continues today.