Category: Extraordinary Adventures

Where There’s a Will, There’s a (Long) Way

Many of us have extraordinary tales of travel. From right here in the United States to the far corners of the world, ordinary women are doing extraordinary things and we at Title Nine want to hear about it! Tell us your tall tales of adventure, the trials and tribulations of moving your own mountain, how you’re influencing others and inspiring us all to get up off the couch and get active either near or far. If your story is picked, we’ll shout it from the mountain top or really, we’ll publish it here on Timeout. So drop us a line at and tell us your extraordinary tale.

For our next Extraordinary Adventure, we’ll be getting medieval in northern Spain. The Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James in English) is a 1,200-year-old pilgrimage route that stretches 500 miles across mountains and other rugged terrain to end up in the town of Santiago de Compostela. Marcia Shaver, an artist from Redmond Washington, made the trek in 2008—all 1,299,851 steps of it—and is planning a second, longer, and more arduous trip in a few days.

“When I was 54 years old and my family was raised, I was at a crossroads in my life and wanted to have an epic adventure,” says Marcia. She and a friend decided to tackle the Camino, a route that few Americans have travelled. “Religion had virtually no part in my decision to go, but once immersed in the Camino, no one was more surprised than I was at how great a role spirituality and reflection played in our journey.”

But before her spirit can soar, Marcia has to make sure her body can handle it. “Training on the trail is a bad idea,” she notes, which is why she’s been heading to the gym at least three times a week in preparation for this trip. Her training routine includes 20 or 30 minutes on the elliptical or the climber, followed by a cocktail of weights, lunges, and step-ups. “The better shape you are in, the more fun you will have. You will be able to appreciate the wildflowers and the sunrises, and somewhere along the way you realize that you should have done this years ago because you feel so good.”

And that sort of inspiration feeds nicely into her artistic work and the many drawings she does during her hikes. “As an artist, the landscape is what really moves me. And when you’re out there walking in it day after day, you’re so immersed.” That sort of focus and serenity seems to carry a number of deeper lessons with it as well. “On the Camino, we learned that want and need are two vastly different things. We took joy in the simple things and felt immensely grateful for everything we received, however humble. It was one of the most compelling experiences of my life… and it enables me to view my life forever differently.”

We at Title Nine were pretty damn impressed by Marcia, and we expect another helping of intensity and insight from her upcoming adventure. So check back here often: Marcia will be tracking down whatever Internet cafes she can find in the towns she passes through so she can blog all about it. While you wait for her first post, you might want to check out the amazing book of texts and images that resulted from her last trip, The Artist’s Journey: The Perfumed Pilgrim Tackles the Camino de Santiago.


Next Stop — New Zealand

We are all back to McMurdo after a whirlwind successful season. The last of the science groups left at the end of January. A few carpenters and electricians came out from town to help our camp staff of 16 take down every stick of CTAM. We pulled all the bamboo flags, packed all the boxes and broke down town as the numbers shrank. We loaded and weighed Air Force pallets set by the runway to be taken back to town. By the end we were all exhausted and missing the shower house (one of the first places to go). Plane after plane came and hauled away the pieces of our fairytale summer of never-ending day.

Shots of CTAM

In all we supported about 18 science groups. There were geologists, paleontologists, ichnologists, soil analysts, magnotelaluric studies, glaciologists, meteorite gatherers, and environmental teams, weather station repair teams, and crevasse detection teams. As the summer plodded along these groups used our camp as a base from where they would take helicopter trips out to nearby landmarks. A few groups stayed out in smaller camps of their own and used our camp to get re-supplied and local aid. Many evenings the galley rang with stories of fossils found. Petrified wood, burned forests, dinosaur bones and teeth, footprints of large reptiles and small worms, ripple marks from ancient shores, leaf impressions and long gone root and stem systems.

Together these men and women were putting together a more accurate understanding of Antarctica’s roll in Gondwana (super continent), of ancient climate and ecology. Compiling accurate lists of plants and animals that lived here, and seeing where else they live on the world and what they have evolved into. They are proving more about plate tectonics, mapping what the earths crust looks like under the Transantarctics, and getting a better understanding of what we can expect from future climate change.

It was great to get to touch and see these long frozen pieces of the past. To sit and chat and learn from the professors and grad-students that knew so much was a treat for which I am thankful.

Back in McMurdo we checked in our gear and cleaned our tents, compiled end of season reports and applied for next year. In a few days I will fly back to New Zealand. I am looking forward to being a place with smells, nighttime, animals, plants and children. I’ll spend a few weeks in NZ learning about cheese making at a dairy then head home to my own farm for the summer. This whole adventure has been wonderful, and as adventures do, it has sparked the fire for what comes next.


January 14th, 2011

The weeks are flying by here at CTAM! The holidays were good though it seemed arbitrary to have them as there is no distinction between night and day or from November to December to January. Only the emails and letters from home reminded us it was that time of year. Our galley was dimmed and a feast awaited us on Christmas night. A few people played a violin, a mandolin and a guitar and we all sat around and ate until our gift exchange. T-shirts from science projects, extra female urinals, used books, massage certificates, extra lotions, hidden bags of real coffee, weather balloons filled with helium, candy and a backgammon board were among the random gifts. We had a two day weekend filled with skiing, hiking nearby on the hills, board games, snow volleyball and naps.

About five of the eighteen science groups are done and have returned to a world with nights, stars, internet, traffic and kitchens of their own.

Each day we meet in the galley for breakfast between 7-8 o’clock, followed by morning announcements, flight schedules, camp tasks assignments and stretching (usually turns into a mini yoga session). After this we drift into out daily tasks.

Some people prepare reports or grade papers they brought with them, or write essays for journals. Operators climb into machines and groom the runway and town, move gear and rocks toward outgoing flights or around camp. Mechanics fix snow machines, heaters, generators and rock saws broken in the field. Others monitor air traffic, fuel aircraft, or catalogue and build cargo pallets, clean common facilities, shovel snow and there is never ending cooking and baking. I spend much of my morning assisting helicopter operations on the camp side.
I assure that the next group of sciencetist going out is weighed, briefed and ready for loading. In the evening I meet them on return and load their gear into sleds pulled by a snow machine.

About twice a week we get an LC-130 from McMurdo, bearing fresh food, mail from town, new visitors/scientists/rotating staff. They haul away our recycling, waste, tons of rocks for analysis, and people at the end of their stay. Today weather is poor in McMurdo (though sunny and beautiful here) so a flight with 37 people from South Pole unable to land in McM is rerouting here. We are scrambling to make dinner, tent sites, chairs, outhouses and melted water meant for 62 people to accommodate 99. I have not seen so many people in two months.


All is great here at CTAM

All is great here at CTAM [Central Transantarctic Mountains, a single-season large camp focused on research]. My first week here we were scrambling to get ready for scientists to arrive. The first groups flew in and then we had a beautiful three day ground blizzard. Winds tore through our little camp, bringing snow from the south to collect in winding drifts around every tent/pallet/snow machine. This whole time the skies were perfectly blue and clear. It was a good reminder that I am in Antarctica, despite the galley full of various foods and new movies projected on pull down screens.

Glimpse of CTAM

The storm cleared and we are racing to make up for lost time. Our helicopters and Twin Otter are busy shuttling scientists to various sites nearby for day or two week long studies. A C-130 comes daily from McMurdo, bearing new guests, fresh food, mail and resupply cargo.

As a general assistant I spend time organizing cargo, reforming snow steps to buildings, unloading and loading aircraft, tracking who’s where in tent city, unfreezing drain pipes, shuttling cargo around on sleds, placing signs in camp, shoveling snow from the snow mine to the galley’s snow melter, and various tasks that come up. We generally work 11 hour days with Sundays off. On Sunday we head for the mountains closest to camp for hiking or skiing. The views are splendid and almost unreal. Towering mountains in all directions rising to blue sky. Snow and glaciers lap and swirl at their bases and the sun is always bright overhead. The silence is expansive and the crunch of your footsteps on the dry snow carries for a long way.


I am off…

CTAM (Central Trans Antarctic Mountains) - A camp on the Beardmore Glacier.

I am off to camp tomorrow……I hope. The last several weeks we’ve been told we would be leaving before the end of the week. I think it is real this time though. I have been keeping busy in town. Trying to find work since I don’t really have a job here. I’ve shipped ice off pipes for plumbers, tested gear for the field camp gear issue, updated Excel spreadsheets and population graphs for other field camps, and put in countless bamboo flags and road markers on the ice roads outside of town. With a light wind loose snow blows over the roads surface and makes it almost impossible to see where the road is. Heavy equipments drivers compact the roads regularly and there is a never ending job of picking up dirt from the surface that falls off in clumps from town vehicles. Small rocks and dirt melt out large potholes in the 24 hour sunlight and ruin the surface of the snow roads. It has been a fun department to work with and has allowed me to get out of town for the past week. Lunch on those days is at the NASA balloon launch site and conversations are great.

We celebrated Thanksgiving on Saturday and we all had two days off which has been great, a chance everyone needed to go out or to rest. The galley fed us in four shifts and the meal was truly wonderful. Fresh fruit from New Zealand and desserts covered every inch of tables that did not already host turkeys carved by volunteers from all over town, gravy pots, various stuffings, crab legs, beans, stuffed peppers, cheese and vegetable platters, rolls and so much more. The tables were spread with white tablecloths and we were allowed to bring drinks in. Wine and Scotch (very popular throughout history in Antarctica) drinkers laughed and shared stories and we all left full and happy. It felt very much like a holiday and games and bands played into the night.

C-130 in action.

Today I will ‘bag drag’, take all my gear up to cargo to be weighed in for my flight on a C-130 to camp in the morning. My list of last minute tasks is growing: laundry, one more hot shower, phone calls, emails, packing, sending gifts home for the holidays, saying good bye to friends in town, and who knows what else. Once I get to camp I will not have internet or phone until early February when we brake the camp down and return to McMurdo. I will have a text only email at one-third the speed of dial up. I will still blog when I can. Until then I wish everyone the best of holidays and fun filled winters.