I graduated college in June, 1986. One month later I met a great climbing partner, Kevin Cox, at the AAC Climbers Ranch in Grand Teton National Park. Our first climb together was the North Face of the Grand Teton. This is me following the last pitch of the route: the Traverse into the “V”.
Kevin had a copy of a book that I had never seen before: 50 Classic Climbs in North America, by Steck and Roper. In the next two months, we would climb 15 of these classics together, including Mt Robson, Mt Edith Cavell, and S Howser Tower.
To date, I’ve climbed 37 of these classics. Nobody has climbed them all, but fellow Exum Guides Mark and Janelle Smiley are getting close.
Two months later, September 1986, we finished our climbing trip with an ascent of the Nose on El Capitan. Here I’m ascending the outside of Texas Flake at the end of day 2 (our tarp/camp is visible below), pitch 16 (of 34).
High camp on the West Ridge of Mt Hunter, Alaska Range. It doesn’t look it from here, but in a couple of hours we were engulfed in a storm that would last a week. Our 5 days of food stretched to 10, and when the fuel ran out, we endured a stormy retreat back to the Kahiltna glacier landing strip.
The story has a happy ending: after acclimatizing another 10 days on the West Buttress route of Denali, we summited via the Cassin Ridge 30 days after landing on the glacier.
Standing Rock, off the White Rim Trail in Canyonlands National Park, Utah. It took the three of us 8 hours to climb this tower. We could run around its base in 12 seconds.
Camp. Zodiac route, El Capitan.
OK, this isn’t a picture of me. It’s a picture I took in July, 2002 looking down the Golden Stair pitch of the Upper Exum Ridge. This is memorable to me because it’s the first time I guided the Grand Teton.
The first time I climbed Grand Teton was back in 1983. Being an avid reader of mountaineering literature, I felt the need to climb the Grand Teton just like Glenn Exum did, so I soloed the Upper Exum (well, I had better shoes, and a guidebook, and the accumulated knowledge from mankind's most recent half century of mountaineering…). But I didn’t have a rope. Going up went easily, but during the descent, I couldn’t find the Owen Chimney. On the advice of someone I shouldn’t have trusted, I was looking for something large and “chimney-esqe”, and found myself in what I now know to be the Great West Chimney: a ridiculously difficult elevator shaft. Realizing that down climbing didn’t appear to be an option, I noticed a single rope hanging down the standard rappel. There was nobody else around, so I pulled the rope up and checked it, and determining it to be in good condition, I hung it again, and then wrapped the rope around my body Dulfersitz style, and rappelled down without a harness. I know that in the old days, Dulfersitz rappels were the norm, but that was the first and last time I’ve done it. Back then I had wool pants, which probably protected me much more than modern synthetic clothing could. I’m hoping that I’ll never find out.
As I’m fond of saying: Good judgement comes from Experience, and Experience comes from bad judgement. I was 20 at the time.
The same year I joined Exum, I also started guiding for Alaska Rendezvous Heliski Guides, up near Valdez, Alaska. Simply put, all these years later, Alaska has the best skiing I’ve ever done.
If Alaska has the best skiing I’ve ever done, Chile is a very close second. Here I’m guiding for Powder South Heli Skiing, a company started by fellow Exum Guide Rodrigo Mujica.
Volcano skiing in Chile. We are descending after a successful ski of Volcan Sierra Nevada. In the background is Volcan Lonquimay, which we skied the day before.
In 2009, with fellow Exum guide Jim Williams, and my girlfriend Dede O’Mara, we climbed Baruntse, a 23,500’ peak nestled between Lhotse and Makalu in the Khumbu region of Nepal. This is the view looking down the summit ridge.
Dede and I on the summit of Baruntse, with Makalu, the fifth highest peak in the world, behind us. Click on the picture for a video from the summit.