Basalt’s Pete McBride remains on grand mission for the Grand Canyon
IF YOU GO:
What: “The Colorado River: Lifeline of the West”
Who: A presentation featuring photographer and filmmaker Pete McBride and broadcast journalist Luke Runyon.
When: Dec. 18 at 6 p.m., doors at 5:30 p.m.
Where: Paepcke Auditorium, Aspen Meadows
Cost: $35 for APR members, $50 for non-members
Basalt photographer Pete McBride raked in another round of awards for his film and book about the Grand Canyon this month, but he isn’t gloating about the accolades.
His mission to educate people about the perils facing the national treasure isn’t accomplished. The Trump administration is considering stripping protections from uranium mining in the vicinity, he said, and four dams have been proposed on the Little Colorado River. The dams would affect the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.
“With conservation, you just need to lose once (and risk disaster). It’s a never-ending battle,” McBride said by telephone Tuesday while navigating Denver International Airport and trying to figure out how to get back to the Roaring Fork Valley in a snowstorm.
He got involved in the Grand Canyon project with buddy and writer Kevin Fedarko to raise awareness to the various man-made threats facing the spectacular setting. They hiked the length of the Grand Canyon in sections between September 2015 and November 2016. They covered between 750 and 800 miles during a cumulative 71 days and 70 nights.
The hiking was physically taxing and occasionally nerve-wracking even for the two experienced adventurers. They had to deal with extreme heat and cold. They had to pick their way through a maze of side canyons and sheer rock walls. They estimated 70% of the route was off established trails during the assignment for National Geographic magazine.
McBride was so moved by the experience that he documented it in the 2018 book “The Grand Canyon: Between River and Rim” and the 2019 film “Into the Canyon.”
The book won a “Best Mountain Image” award while the film won “Best Feature-Length Film” earlier this month at the prestigious Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival.
On Nov. 14, the book was won the design and artistic merit category in the National Outdoor Book Awards.
“It’s always nice to get recognized,”McBride said. “It’s like a cherry on top because it was such a long project.”
Banff officials told him their research indicated it was the first time someone has won both the film and book award in the same year.
McBride and Fedarko were named National Geographic’s “Adventurers of the Year” after their journey. They are just completing a 28-city speaking tour sponsored by National Geographic. The presentations have attracted between 1,000 and 1,500 people in places ranging from Los Angles to New York and Las Vegas to Kansas City.
McBride said they have an odd couple routine that keeps an audience entertained. He senses people appreciate learning about one of the last great American wildernesses, the threats facing it and the values at stake with our public lands.
He will be one of the speakers at an event presented in the Roaring Fork Valley on Dec. 18 by Aspen Public Radio, titled “The Colorado River: Lifeline of the West” (see fact box).
McBride said it was rewarding for him to see a proposal for a gondola to the Grand Canyon floor defeated, in large part due to opposition by 12 “Navajo grandmothers.”
But numerous threats still exist. And if environmental threats are allowed to infringe on Grand Canyon National Park, it can happen to places near and dear to the hearts of Roaring Fork Valley residents, like the Maroon Bells, he said.
“It’s such an iconic park,” McBride said of the Grand Canyon. “It sets the precedent for everywhere else.”
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Every summer there comes a particular hike on a particular day when you know you’re seeing the best wildflower display of the year. It is a magical, and bittersweet, day.