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!