International Man of Mystery...

My photo
I grew up in the Boston area and lived there until my junior year in high school when I attended the Mountain School, a semester program run by Milton Academy in Vershire, VT. I then attended Colby College in Waterville, ME. During my time at Colby I studied anthropology, spent a semester in Northeast India, and became fluent in Nepali. Before I became a guide I earned my black belt in kenpo karate and taught karate for 6 years. I began guiding in college on the rocky coast of ME with Acadia Mountain Guides and on ice at the International Mountain Climbing School in NH. After graduating I took to the highway and drove from ME to WA for the big mountains and glaciers. I spend my winters in lovely Ouray, CO guiding in the famous ice park. I am currently working towards becoming a certified guide through the American Mountain Guides Association. I live, work and play in the hills and on the rocks. On the rocks both literally and, well, with ice.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Mixed Climbing at the Ouray Ice Festival

With the Ouray Ice Fest coming up and its Ice Fest Mixed Competition you may be asking yourself WTF? Ice gear is for ice climbing and rock gear is for rock climbing. Not so my friend. Mixed climbing is a natural offshoot of mountaineering. the idea that you just want to climb to the top regardless of the medium. Pioneers like Jeff Lowe applied the age old strategy of training on the crags for the big mountains to mixed climbing. Because ice only gets so steep it can only be so hard. Mixed climbing can get even the most accomplished athletes friggin' pumped!

Ouray has some great mixed crags to let beginners and experts hone their craft of pulling on the rock with ice tools. After a day of overhung mixed climbing plain ol' ice seems easy. the technique for mixed climbing is deceptively similar to ice, straight arms and good foot-work will get you to the top with minimal pump. Mixed climbing, whether bolted or on traditional gear is a skill set every climber should have in their bag of tricks!

Want to check out the pros? Competitors to keep your eye on in this year's Ouray Ice Fest Comp : Andres Marin, Dawn Glanc and Jason Nelson. Good luck you all!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Out of the Ouray Ice Park

If you have been following the Ouray Ice Park conditions you might be a bit depressed. What many people coming from afar don't realize is that there is plenty of ice outside the park and it is great! Yesterday fellow San Juan guide Mark M. and I took out the Schmidts for some single and multi pitch climbing. They came with a spectrum of experience Mark took the younger ones with less experience and started with the basics. I took the older boys who had climbed in Alaska and Canada and worked on steep ice technique and some mixed climbing. Mom and Dad watched, took photos and cheered until it was time for Mom to show the boys how mixed climbing is done. It was a fun family day of ice climbing in Ouray. At the end of the day everyone was smiling and exhausted, the ultimate compliment to a guide. Thanks for a great day!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Review: One Mountain Thousand Summits

This is a great book. I don't usually read mountain literature. I usually find the often repetitive bravado a major turn off. However, Freddie Wilkinson has achieved something different. In this book Wilkinson brings his own himalayan climbing experience and years within the climbing community to try to decipher what actually happened on K2 in August 2008. At the same time, this book is an analysis of the international climbing community. Wilkinson explores out the opportunities and drawbacks for climbers from all over the world from the Netherlands to Korea, Nepal, the US etc. resulting from the interconnectedness of the international climbing community through social media and the internet.

Wilkinson, drawing from ethnographic sources and in person interviews, presents Sherpa perspectives on 8,000-meter climbing and the K2 disaster that, despite Sherpa's presence on virtually every 8,000-meter expeditions is often ignored.

Climbing can be so complicated and technical, authors writing about climbing often struggle to make their work readable by climbers and non-climbers alike. Wilkinson masterfully renders the complex events of August 1-2, 2008 in a way anyone can follow. Unlike classics like Into Thin Air, The Climb, and other portrayals of disaster relying on pathos rather than analysis, One Mountain Thousand Summits combines personal experience, journalistic even-handedness, and a healthy dose of self awareness that is absent form most climbing literature. If you want to get a handle on not only the K2 disaster but also how the international climbing community functions or if you simply want a well written, gripping piece of mountain literature, this book is phenomenal.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

San Juan Powder

It snowed 8" the other day and there is 2-4 FEET on the way! Those 8 inches refreshed the snow pack and filled in some thin spots up on Red Mountain pass between Silverton and Ouray, CO. So Hannah and I grabbed our skis and headed for Commodore Basin. We skinned up the ridge and skied the first gully that looked good. We skied the powder gully into an open bowl which led to some fun rolling glades.

Fresh San Juan powder, mountain terrain, and glade shots. I would say it doesn't get better than that but with the current forecast, it just might!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Camp Bird Road Skylight

Ouray is famous for its ice park. Many people don't realize the abundance of natural ice climbing in the area as well. A couple miles up camp bird road from the ice park is the skylight area, home to numerous ice, mixed, and drytool routes. the routes range from WI3 to M10, which is to say from gentle ice rambles to steep rock climbs done with ice gear. One of the most classic of these routes is Skylight.

I think the photo helps explain the name as I make my way up the icy chimney tow
ards the skylight at the top. The ice you climb deep in the chimney is very featured. You often hook chandeliers and stem your feet to other worldly blobs. This climb is a great multi-pitch adventure of unique climbing.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

From Mining to Climbing in Colorado's San Juans

Hannah and I did a climb called Goldrush the other day. So called because of the incredible gold color of the rotten rock that forms the right side of the climb. Goldrush gets a lot of sun so it is exciting to get to do it.

The name Goldrush got me thinking about Colorado's mining history. There are mining relics old and new everywhere in the Colorado high country. Towns like Ouray and Silverton were settled by folks working in the mines. The incredible road system built into the mountains makes getting to some great ice climbs like Goldrush a breeze. It is common to pass mining ruins on ski tours too.

Mining is no longer in the boom time around here though some mines are still active. Occasionally, while climbing, you can even here them blasting. However, towns like Silverton and Ouray now revolve more around outdoor recreation than mining.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Ice Technique

I love to guide because I love to teach. I love to climb to but I find that guiding is as much about teaching and coaching as it is about climbing. Ice climbing is especially fun to teach because the technique is relatively specific. As a guide I strive to build a progression into each day. Over the course of the day I get to watch the technique develop. Climbers go from looking like vertical Bambi on ice to graceful solid climbers, often in one day!

Ice climbing involves negotiating between two concepts. One is the triangle position where the climber's highest tool is the apex of the triangle and the feet form a solid base. However, vertical ice is has features, subtle concavities where blobs, pillars, and candles fuse together. Swinging and kicking into these features makes for those wonderful one swing sticks, it also minimizes exploding ice by utilizing the structurally strongest parts of the ice. To see this in action check out the new Ouray Ice Climbing video to the left.

Negotiating between these two ideas can be tricky. The best tool placements might not line up with your triangle, the route might not go straight up. Usually the best way to reconcile these sometimes conflicting ideas is to dance your feet around a lot while you climb. If your next swing is out to the right, move your feet to the right so you maintain that triangle. Try to make it feel fluid, more like rock climbing. To practice try climbing someplace really beaten out, but steep, without kicking or swinging. This will force you to explore the movement of ice climbing a bit more rather than hacking your way up a climb.

Have fun and be safe!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Advice on Early Season Ice Climbing

The internet is buzzing with questions about ice conditions. Blogs, forums and other internet resources are great ways for people tocheck the ice conditions early season when they can be uncertain. I don't know about the rest of Colorado but the ice in the San Juans is definitely IN.

Call me an old traditionalist but my favorite way to check the conditions is to load my pack with ice and rock gear and go see what looks good for myself. One handy trick for this sort of early season climbing is not to sharpen your tools or crampons yet. Excited ice climbers often sharpen their gear to get ready for their first day out. unfortunately thin ice and little snow cover means you are likely to swing or kick your nice sharp point into a rock. You will do less damage and extend the life of your gear if you wait to sharpen it until the ice is fat.

I really enjoy early season ice. The thin candled ice is a bit more interesting to climb than the fat sheets of blue verticality. While the ice is thin, with a few stubby ice screws protection is ample. The ice is are getting fat though, and there is lots of snow in the mountains. as a matter of fact I saw the biggest avalanche of my life that showered us with dust at Ouray's Camp bird road. Needless to say, I have a new respect for the power of tons of sliding snow! I managed to get a photo of us in the dust cloud.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Early Ice!!!!

It seems like just yesterday I was rock climbing...Well I suppose it was a few days ago. Anyway, the important thing is that IT IS ON!!! Hannah and I celebrated the Coming ice climbing season by enjoying a pleasant romp up a frozen stream bed near Silverton. The route, the Direct North Face was my first climb last season too. It is a great early season choice because it gets literally no sun. Brrrrr. This made the transition from rock climbing in the sun a bit jarring. Last season I did the climb much later in the month. This time the ice was thinner and steeper which made for an exciting start to the season.

Hannah led her second pitch of ice ever. Congrats Hannah! To put this in perspective, this summer, Hannah and I climbed Rainier's Liberty Ridge and Baker's North Ridge, both alpine ice climbs, ropeless. Soon after our ascent of liberty she soloed Rainier's Ptarmigan Ridge one of the hardest routes on Rainier. That is to say Hannah is no stranger to bold climbing, it is just a change of pace for her to actually have to stop and place some gear. Way to go Hannah!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fall in the Creek

Hannah and I managed to get a couple days of rock climbing in pleasant temps before the weather got a bit cold for our tastes. the climbing was wonderful in Indian Creek as always but the real adventure was on the way back when we tried to take a forest service road home. New snow made the road way to muddy and after sliding sideways down a couple of hills and barely making it up some others, we turned around and drove back to the paved road. While I like to imagine my car is a truck, in fact, it is not.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Back in Ouray, CO

Its hard to say I'm home. Where 'home' is is very much up in the air. In Colorado I am from Washington. In Washington I am from Colorado. Either way Ispent yesterday getting settled in a lovely apartment about a mile from the Ouray Ice Park. From the six point buck that sleeps in the yard to the freshly snow capped peaks in every direction I am excited to call this home for now. All we need now is some ice and then hopefully i'll see you here too. Until then I look forward to checking out the forbidding Black Canyon near Gunnison and perhaps take a one last trip to rock climb in Indian Creek. First however, I have to get settled here, at home.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Joshua Tree

There is probably no better place on earth than Joshua Tree National Park to accomplish the 3 'R's: Rest, Relaxation, and Rock climbing. I managed a healthy dose of all of it except maybe the rest. The climbing in Joshua Tree is a bit like being in a Dr. Seuss story. Rounded and pocketed granite domes dot the landscape jutting up in between large expanses of twisted joshua trees.

The fall weather is a perfect balance of warm days that nev
er get too hot and crisp nights. The full moon one night lit up the light colored rock formations and seemed like daylight. The climbing in Joshua Tree is characterized by extremely good friction and parallel sided cracks splitting the awesome formations.

Joshua Tree is truly a world class rock climbing destination and I cannot wait to go back next year!

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Its been a while I know but life on the road doesn't make the internet too accessible. Anyway, It is the wonderful month of Rocktober. What makes Rocktober special? The weather is still good. not to cold but not too hot. It is the perfect time to climb almost anywhere in the northern hemisphere. I took my first trip to the climbing Mecca of Yosemite. Even though the place risks being loved to death the rock climbing is unbeatable. enough jibber jabber though,the pictures tell the story best.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The End

My last trip on Rainier this season was bitter sweet. Weather reports and communications with camp Muir made it seem as if we might not make it to Camp Muir. Passing climbers descending in goggles and full Gore-Tex was not particularly encouraging either. Our group was determined to get as high on Mount Rainier as the weather would allow.

Luckily the weather calmed enough to allow us to ascend and the next day we woke up to beautiful blue skies. That night we climbed under a 3/4 moon to the nose of the Disappointment Cleaver around 12,000ft where the icy slopes and fresh snow drifts made the climb unsuitable for beginner mountaineers. it was a tough decision to turn around but it was absolutely the correct one. It is decisions like that that keep us safe in the mountains.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


As a guide on Mount Rainier there are few things more satisfying than getting 8 out of 8 climbers to the summit. You guys were awesome! Yesterday all twelve of us, climbers and guides, caught a beautiful sunrise form the crater of Mount Rainier before we crossed the crater towards Columbia Crest, the highest point on the mountain.

The weather was so nice we all hung around shaking hands, taking photos, and congratulating one another on a successful summit. Many of us wondered if softshell pants were over rated.

With its distinct crater and volcanic steam vents, the summit of Mount Rainier is an incredible place. Like many summits we want to savor the moment as long as we can, to take in every detail of that strange and inspiring landscape. no matter how hard we try and how many pictures we take that moment on the summit feels too brief.

It was a pleasure climbing with you and I hope we can summit many mountains together in the future.

In a Cloud

Mount Rainier is often known for the beautiful lenticular cloud cap that often shrouds its summit. Lenticular clouds are those smooth, spaceship looking, clouds that often form on or next to the summits of big mountains. These clouds are characterized by high winds and low visibility and can become a very dangerous place to be very quickly.

Here in lies the benefit of climbing Rainier with a guide. With a great deal of experience on Rainier we can push a little further and a little harder than most of the public. And that is exactly what we did to get 7 climbers to the summit of Mount Rainier in a cloud.

While the view resembled the inside of a ping pong ball, the experience was unforgettable. thanks for a great climb!