Writers explore the outdoors | SteamboatToday.com

Writers explore the outdoors

Epilogue presents two nationally known authors for book series

Margaret Hair

— When she was young, outdoor author and professional climber Majka Burhardt’s family responded to a television commercial and adopted an Ethiopian child, sending regular checks to pay for food and medicine.

Burhardt said she pictured the country like most people do – wracked with drought, poverty and political tension.

“Then suddenly, 22 years later, I’m living there for three and a half months working as a journalist, and I realize there’s so much more than I had perceived there to be,” Burhardt said. “Parts of it are incredibly verdant and bucolic.”

Burhardt’s new book, “Vertical Ethiopia: Climbing Toward Possibility in the Horn of Africa,” explores that landscape through climbing and seeks to point out the difference between perceptions of Ethiopia and the country’s real potential. She’ll discuss the book as part of the Epilogue Outdoor Author Series, with a multimedia presentation March 12 at Steamboat Mountain Theater.

“Ethiopia is not known for people to go and climb : because the country was closed off for so long from the rest of the world because of the war and strife and the different political understanding of the country,” Burhardt said. “For me to go up there and interact with the landscape the way I know best, it was the perfect way for me to dig deeper into Ethiopia.”

Burhardt wrote the book in collaboration with an Ethiopian publishing company. She decided to focus on the nation’s potential in industries such as coffee and leather, instead of what might be wrong politically. She said the location of Northern Ethiopia’s sandstone climbing surfaces helped highlight that potential.

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“The towns and villages are always below you – you never are completely removed,” Burhardt said. “So the day-to-day reality of what their life is like is always surrounding you, which is a pretty powerful way to climb and is a powerful way to interact with the land and the people.”

The Outdoor Author Series has hosted adventurer Chris Davenport, author of “Ski the 14ers,” and Wayne Sheldrake, author of “Instant Karma: The Heart and Soul of a Ski Bum.”

On Saturday, March 8, Michael Kodas – whose book “High Crimes: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed” chronicles a 2004 climbing season that saw one Mount Everest adventurer left for dead – will do a book signing and slideshow for the series. Proceeds from both presentations will go to Everything Outdoors Steamboat, a Steamboat Springs Middle School program that exposes students to outdoor activities such as ice climbing and kayaking.

Event organizer Josh Karzen said the author series started at the 2007 Yampa River Festival with a talk by local author and lifelong rafting enthusiast Eugene Buchanan. Triple-digit crowds encouraged Karzen to go forward with the series, which he said satisfied his desire to create “a literary event that matched the outdoor lifestyle of the community.”

“It seemed like it was a niche that the community was looking to have filled,” Karzen said. “Being a lifelong outdoors enthusiast myself, I was looking to get that done.”

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