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.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Well folks, it is time to hit the road again. In a couple of days I will point Kimchee, The Korean Express (my Hyundai) toward the Pacific North West. Twenty hours plus a visit to my good friends in Corvallis later I will arrive at the foot of Mount Rainier.

I am looking forward to the drive. The United States is a very automotive country and I think traveling our highways is a wonderful way to see the country, its people,and really feel the grandeur of its geography.

In my travels to through Europe, and to Ecuador, India, Nepal, Israel, Costa Rica, Belize, Thailand, etc. I have noticed that nowhere seems to have the grand endless expanses of landscape and variety of terrain that we have in the US. As I drive across this country, politics and ideology aside I renew my love of this land.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


But the mountains are filled with incredible minutiae as well. The textures of the rocks and ice, the detail with which a flower or a lizard is decorated are equally incredible.

In climbing terms the minute textures of the rock and the ice tell us where to put our feet for the best friction and where to swing an ice tools for that one-swing-stick. It is interesting, teaching people to climb, how much of this texture they tend to gloss over, to not even see though it is right before their eyes.

I think this is one of those times when climbing holds a life lesson. Our goals and ambitions, our vast landscapes are important, but equally important are those tiny details, the speckles on the newly blooming Indian paintbrush. These details are beauty and inspiration unto themselves as well as important footholds on the way to realizing those more lofty ambitions.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Training Questions Answered Part IV

Altitude throws a monkey wrench into the whole fitness game, but you can set yourself up for success. If you are headed to Rainier, Denali,or some other high-up place, you are probably wondering about altitude. First of all, it is important to know what is 'altitude' and what is out-of-shape. Altitude is considered around 7,000-8,000 ft. Full acclimatization takes a couple weeks of climbing high and sleeping low. So what to do?

Set your self up for success: At altitude, your body is hypoxic. It has to work over time for normal functioning. Staying well hydrated and eating enough calories are a huge help. If your body has to fight dehydration and hypoglycemia in addition to hypoxia you are not setting yourself up for success. This is not easy since a symptom of altitude sickness is loss of appetite and fatigue. That is, you might not want to eat. Do it anyway. Find food you like. Most people do not want to eat energy gels and bars at 13,000ft. I often find myself sharing my gummy bears though! Also, though I enjoy snacking on pepperoni and beef jerky at low altitudes, on the summit of Rainier, gummy bears and M&Ms are all I want.

Drugs, Tricks, and Snake Venom Potion: There are a number of drugs on the market that are supposed to help reduce the effects of altitude. I am not a doctor but I do see the effects of these drugs. Do your own research. Doctors (medical experts not mountain experts) tend to prescribe them like they would antibiotics for an infection, that is automatically.

Suggestions: 1)Bring food you like such as candy rather than energy goop.
2)Ear plugs will help you get a good nights rest even if it is stormy
3)Eat,drink,rest and repeat
4)Excedrine seems to work best for altitude headaches.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Training Questions Answered Part III

Concrete goals are essential to a successful fitness program. Now is a transitional time. After ice climbing all winter, it is time to rock climb and the mountaineering guiding season is fast approaching. Ice climbing fitness and rock climbing fitness translate surprisingly poorly. While both require a strong upper body, the mountaineering guiding season requires a total shift to cardio and leg strength.

The point is identify your objective. Find something concrete. For example, "I am working on my cardio and leg strength for my upcoming trip to climb Denali" or "I am working my core and back so I can be comfortable carrying a heavy pack on Mount Rainier." Goals such as "I want to be more fit" are hard to follow through on, hard to measure, and not that fun to pursue.

Once you have identified your goals tailor your workouts to focus on those muscle groups. Don't neglect holistic training and your flexibility but that kind of focus can help you get your training underway. now reconcile that with the ideas of Fun, Variety, and Personality along with advice from a professional and you should be well on your way to realizing your goals.

Check out this article about fitness myths it is geared towards women but is mostly relevant to everyone:

Monday, April 5, 2010

Training Questions Answered Part II

Sometimes rest days are forced. I am sitting in a cafe near Las Vegas waiting for tomorrows forecasted 65 and sunny to go back to the incredible climbing in Red Rock Canyon, NV.

So you think you have a workout routine you can live with. Its got variety, its pretty fun and it suits your personality. Thats great!

Now, we need to make sure you are really making the most of your time. Are you at a high enough heart rate for long enough? Are you pushing yourself to lift a little more than is comfortable? Most importantly, are you doing the exercises properly so you don't hurt yourself and so you receive maximum benefit?

This stuff is REALLY important. Too often people wonder why they are having such a hard time climbing after all their training. Often though they spent many hours in the gym much of that time was wasted with inefficient or not-strenuous-enough exercise.

The best thing to do is to talk to a trainer. Tell them your goals, climbing or otherwise and try to find a workout routine that fits the criteria discussed in my last post and have your trainer show you how to do the exercises properly.

This may sound expensive but consider it the up front cost to avoid the time and money that you will waste in poor shape for you climbing trip or in physical therapy for your injury.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Training Questions Answered Part 1

photo of climbing rainierI often get questions about training for climbing. Unfortunately, these questions often come during a trip when it is too late. Hopefully, I can address some common questions about training for Rainier or other mountaineering trips or training for rock climbing or ice climbing. I will try to keep it simple and general. Please comment with any questions you might have so I can address them.

I'll start with some general training ideas that can help you create a program that is right for you.

Fun: Most importantly you must enjoy your training. Too many people think they have to endure suffering and boredom to get fit. The best workout, however, is the one you genuinely enjoy. If you resent your work out routine getting fit will be that much harder.

Variety: If you do that same workout all the time you will over develop some muscles and underdeveloped others this leads to injuries like tendonitis and shin splints. Also, lifting machines tend to focus on major muscle groups that make you look good when they are big while neglecting all the small stabilizer muscles that support your major muscles like your back and ankles when you are carrying a pack. If these stabilizer muscles are weak you exaust the major muscles much faster as they try to compensate.

Personality: I don't like to keep track too closely to weights, reps, times, or milage. I get a vague sense of how much I am doing or how far I am going. I run, lift and do pushups until I feel worked and then maybe do a little more. on the other hand I have a friend who makes excel spreadsheets of every weeks work out. if you are like me, team up with someone like that. the information is useful. if you are on your own make sure you have a good enough sense that you can track progress but don't stress over it. Like I said before, enjoy your work out!