Arlene's Blog

Saturday, December 10, 2005

My holiday newsletter

I just sent out a holiday newsletter and thought I’d post it on my blog in case you don’t receive it. Please let me know at if you’d like to be added to the list. I usually send messages four times a year or so, but have been sending them more frequently this fall.

For the Holiday Season: A Book, an Adventure, and a Good Deed

Dear Friends,
As a beautiful dawn breaks over the Ko Surin Islands off Thailand where Annalise and I are enjoying our first ever dive trip together, I wanted to share with you with an eclectic list of suggestions for the holiday season.
My first suggestion is a holiday present that will, I trust, entertain and inspire the recipient. This gift is my memoir Breaking Trail: A Climbing Life, my endeavor of the past decades, written to help the reader, and me too, understand: "How does an over-protected Orthodox Jewish girl from the Midwest who doesn't like to take risks end up leading expeditions to some of the world's highest and most dangerous mountains?"
For a more major gift, consider giving a loved one or yourself one of my Himalayan adventure treks. So far I have a rugged high altitude trek to Tibet planned for April, a gentle trip to Sikkim in November, and I do hope to return to Nepal soon.
And finally, I would like to share with you below a brilliant column from the New York Times telling how we can do a simple act that will help stop the genocide in Darfur, Sudan.
Consider taking a few minutes in the next days to write to your Congressman or Congresswoman suggesting that the US House pass the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act. This legislation, which would apply sanctions on Sudan and pressure their government, who is sensitive to world opinion, to stop the killing, passed the Senate unanimously but now faces an uphill battle in the House.
According to NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff "?if only 100 people in each Congressional district had demanded a stop to the Rwandan genocide, that effort would have generated a determination to stop it. But Americans didn't write such letters to their members of Congress then, and they're not writing them now."You can get more information for your letter and other suggestions for how to help at
Annalise plans to work on this. If you want to help her or know any one else (especially young people) who might want to work with her, please contact her at
We head for Myanmar where we will probably be out of email contact for much of the next couple weeks and then home Dec 23.
We wish you a joyful holiday season.


For a holiday present, consider an autographed copy of Breaking Trail, available on my website at , from, or at your local independent bookstore. If the store doesn't have it in stock, they can easily order it.

"Disarmingly honest...refreshing. Provides the requisite bits of grace, glory, strength and pain: the stuff of all worthy ascents."
-- New York Times Book Review, October 2, 2005
This is an engaging, well-written adventure should be required reading for young women of today who haven't experienced the closed doors and closed minds that Blum conquered as a women student, scientist, and climber.
Mountain climbing drama comes to life as mountaineer, biochemist, and author Arlene tells the story of how she got to be a climber, moving from an overprotected Chicago childhood to reach some of the highest mountains on Earth. Each chapter starts with a memory from her early life, which serves as a starting point to trace an element which contributed to her becoming a climber. A fascinating account.
-- Midwest Book Review
"Breaking Trail is a magnificent and compelling story. Blum leads the reader into beautiful, exciting, and terrifying world of mountain climbing. Her writing soars. She skillfully conveys the drama, mind set, and courage that it takes to go to places where few have ventured ."
-Lynne Cox, author of Swimming to Antarctica
"Arlene Blum's gripping and intensely personal narrative of her life among the enchantingly beautiful, but dangerous, high peaks is a profoundly encouraging story for all of us who battle to climb our own inner mountains.
--Royal Robbins, pioneering climber, businessman
Breaking Trail reinvents the climbing memoir. It is not simply the story of "one damn peak after another"; rather, it is the record of a woman's experience of the social upheavals of the 1960s and beyond as they were played out on the world's highest terrain.
--Maurice Isserman, Mountaineering Historian, Professor of History, Hamilton College.
"Why we climb is never an easy question. Arlene searches her soul for her own motivations and in doing so tells with insightful and inspirational prose a story that spans her childhood, career as a scientist, and brings her to the roof of the world."
--Conrad Anker, author of The Lost Explorer: Finding Mallory on Mount Everest
A more than worthy sequel to Arlene Blum's Annapurna, this is by far the best mountaineering book I've ever read -- and I've read hundreds of them--Janet Brown

In April 2006, I'm planning a three-week Tibet trip. It will including 14 days of trekking in the Minya Konka range of eastern Tibet (called "Kham" in Tibetan), and visits to Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and cultural sites. Co-leader Pamela Logan speaks Tibetan and Chinese, has extensive knowledge of this region, and founded the Kham Aid Foundation, which operates charitable programs for Tibetans. Part of the trek fee will support Kham Aid's charitable programs.This rugged high altitude trip starts in the western Chinese city of Chengdu, and features trekking in the high and spectacular terrain west of Mount Minya Konka, at 24,935 feet. The highest pass we will reach is Buchu La, at 16,000 feet. Horses will carry the baggage and be available for occasional riding. An optional week in Lhasa will follow.

Sikkim is an area which I have wanted to explore ever since walking across it during the Great Himalayan Traverse. This comfortable and moderately paced trekking trip includes views of Mount Khangchendzonga and Mount Everest, forested river valleys, high ridges, ethnic hamlets, diverse - Lepcha, Bhotia and Nepali people, terraced cultivation, Buddhist temples, and a lot more. Please let me know if you might be interested in joining us and would like more information.

My final suggestion is for a mitzvah or good deed that can help stop the genocide in Darfur. Annalise is planning to organize a campaign to write letters after her return to the US in January, so please do send her a message if you'd like to help, or know others who would like to at . Here's Nicholas Kristoff's complete column from

What's to Be Done About Darfur? Plenty

In 1915, Woodrow Wilson turned a blind eye to the Armenian genocide. In the1940's, Franklin Roosevelt refused to bomb the rail lines leading toAuschwitz. In 1994, Bill Clinton turned away from the slaughter in Rwanda.And in 2005, President Bush is acquiescing in the first genocide of the21st century, in Darfur.
Mr. Bush is paralyzed for the same reasons as his predecessors. There is nogreat public outcry, there are no neat solutions, we already have our handsfull, and it all seems rather distant and hopeless.
But Darfur is not hopeless. Here's what we should do.
First, we must pony up for the African Union security force. The singlemost disgraceful action the U.S. has taken was Congress's decision, withthe complicity of the Bush administration, to cut out all $50 million inthe current budget to help pay for the African peacekeepers in Darfur.Shame on Representative Jim Kolbe of Arizona - and the White House - forfacilitating genocide.Mr. Bush needs to find $50 million fast and get it to the peacekeepers.Second, the U.S. needs to push for an expanded security force in Darfur.
The African Union force is a good start, but it lacks sufficient troops andweaponry. The most practical solution is to "blue hat" the force, making ita U.N. peacekeeping force built around the African Union core. It needs more resources and a more robust mandate, plus contributions from NATO orat least from major countries like Canada, Germany and Japan.
Third, we should impose a no-fly zone. The U.S. should warn Sudan that ifit bombs civilians, then afterward we will destroy the airplanes involved.
Fourth, the House should pass the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act. Thislegislation, which would apply targeted sanctions and pressure Sudan tostop the killing, passed the Senate unanimously but now faces an uphillstruggle in the House.
Fifth, Mr. Bush should use the bully pulpit. He should talk about Darfur inhis speeches and invite survivors to the Oval Office. He should wear agreen "Save Darfur" bracelet - or how about getting a Darfur lawn sign forthe White House? (Both are available, along with ideas for action, He can call Hosni Mubarak and other Arab and Africanleaders and ask them to visit Darfur. He can call on China to stopunderwriting this genocide.Sixth, President Bush and Kofi Annan should jointly appoint a special envoyto negotiate with tribal sheiks. Colin Powell or James Baker III would beideal in working with the sheiks and other parties to hammer out a peacedeal. The envoy would choose a Sudanese chief of staff like Dr. MudawiIbrahim Adam, a leading Sudanese human rights activist who has been pushingjust such a plan with the help of Human Rights First.So far, peace negotiations have failed because they center on two groupsthat are partly composed of recalcitrant thugs: the government and theincreasingly splintered rebels. But Darfur has a traditional system ofconflict resolution based on tribal sheiks, and it's crucial to bring thosesheiks into the process.
Ordinary readers can push for all these moves. Before he died, Senator PaulSimon said that if only 100 people in each Congressional district haddemanded a stop to the Rwandan genocide, that effort would have generated adetermination to stop it. But Americans didn't write such letters to theirmembers of Congress then, and they're not writing them now.
Finding the right policy tools to confront genocide is an excruciatingchallenge, but it's not the biggest problem. The hardest thing to find isthe political will.
For all my criticisms of Mr. Bush, he has sent tons of humanitarian aid, and his deputy secretary of state, Robert Zoellick, has traveled to Darfurfour times this year. But far more needs to be done.As Simon Deng, a Sudanese activist living in the U.S., puts it: "Tell mewhy we have Milosevic and Saddam Hussein on trial for their crimes, but wedo nothing in Sudan. Why not just let all the war criminals go. ... When itcomes to black people being slaughtered, do we look the other way?"
Put aside for a moment the question of whether Mr. Bush misled the nationon W.M.D. in Iraq. It's just as important to ask whether he was truthfulwhen he declared in his second inaugural address, "All who live in tyrannyand hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore youroppression, or excuse your oppressors."
Mr. Bush, so far that has been a ringing falsehood - but, please, make it true.

Please contact us if you would like your name to be taken off this e-mail list or would like more information about Arlene Blum's lectures, leadership or intercultural classes.

To see photo essays from Breaking Trail: A Climbing Life, go to
To read about Arlene's book tour and Annalise's gap year, go to


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