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 30, 2011

Dispatch from the Ouray Ice Park

The warm weather has made for "hero" ice conditions in the ice park. The softened, but not overly melting ice makes of endless one-swing-stick-bliss! If you were ever thinking of getting on a particularly hard ice climbing now is the time while the ice is as user friendly as ever.

I have had the pleasure of exploring ice technique with a number of wonderful folks from all over the country over the last few days. We have hung out in the Scottish Gullies, The School Room, and South Park going through the San Juan Mountain Guides' Ice Curriculum.

We start with no tools on low angle ice to learn to trust the crampons and to develop solid foot work and stability. Next we incorporate one tool. Here we learn to swing and where the tool goes relative to the rest of our body position. Last, we put all the pieces together with both tools and swing and kick our way with  perfect form up the ice until our forearms turn to jelly!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Kids Climbing College at The Ouray Ice Park

Future San Juan Mountain Guide?

Every year at San Juan Mountain Guides we run a number of free kids climbing clinics at the Ice Park. It is pretty remarkable to be able to offer young kids the chance to try out a sport once reserved only for adults. We are the only people in the world I know of who have a fleet of specially modified ice tools for kids to try ice climbing.

Guides helping future ice masters get roped up and ready to go!
The guides of SJMG, people with experience climbing ice all over the country and the world, coach kids up the ice, teaching them to balance on their crampons while they swing into the ice. It is fun watching kids problem solve their way to the tops of the climbs and gratifying to see their smiles when they notice the view from the top.

World famous mountaineers to be take their first steps.
Swingin' and kickin' to the top!
These future ice masters rocked the ice park yesterday. Kids clinics are for kids 8-17 and are totally free. All of the clinics are at the upper bridge at the Ouray Ice Park. Here are the 2012 dates:
Sat, Jan 7, 10a-3p
Sun, Jan 8, 10a-2p
Sun, Feb12, 12p-4p
Click here for details. See you there!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ouray Ice Park Time!

We all eagerly awaited like children in front of the case at the local chocolate shop Mouse's Chocolates as we watched the ice park grow faster and faster as the weather got cold. Our anticipation built with the ice in the park until finally... it opened.

I spent two days climbing in the Ouray Ice Park with Russell form CO. He had never tried ice climbing before but wanted to expand his outdoor recreation repertoire. During our time together we built Russell's foundation on low angle ice. He quickly grasped the technique and moved on to steeper climbing.

It was really fun getting to hang in the ice park with Russell and revisit some of my favorite climbs in the park. It was a treat to get to work on the finer points of kicking and swinging and balancing our way up  any one of over 200 freshly frozen ice climbs . Thanks for a great day Russell.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Silverton's Whorehouse Hoses

Come and get some!
 Yesterday Matt and I went to check out the local classic Whorehouse Hoses. So named because of its proximity to what was a brothel back in the mining days. While the red light district is gone, the ice remains and it is terrific.
The amazing first pitch

To be honest I have stayed away from Whorehouse since I climbed it two years ago. While it wasn't that hard, I made the mistake to climb it as spindrift poured down the climb. At times I could barely see in front of me as I made my way up the pitch.
Matt on the last pitch
This time was different. The beautiful clear and relatively warm weather made for an extra enjoyable outing. The classic first pitch is a 65 meter endurance test up moderate ice. This leads to a fun jaunt through a chimney system. The last pitch goes up a classic fat flow to the top. With bolted rappel stations the whole way down, getting back to the ground is a breeze. This is a great first big ice route for those who want to take a little bit of ice skills into the mountains.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

San Juan Powder Skiing!

Awesome! It is hard to believe it is only November. Fellow guides, Matt, Mark and I headed up into Commodore Basin on the hunt for early season powder skiing. What we found was snow that exceeded our expectations in both quality and quantity.

We cut several beautiful laps through the November fluff exclaiming to each other at the base of each run.   We skied a bit off the shoulder of the alpine bowl that is Commodore Basin but the skiing in the pleasant open glades was probably the best. Tons of warm sun,  cold powder, and phenomenal scenery made for a classic San Juan ski day.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Off the Beaten Path

I climb in Ouray a lot. Probably more than any other single destination in the country. I live her. I get into a routine and get stronger. Early season means South Mineral Creek. Then Eureka starts to form. Next I head up to Camp Bird Road for the ice climbs. They start thin and get fat and I get stronger. And I repeat the process all winter with forays to Telluride mixed in. I love it.

It is easy, however, to get tunnel vision. To see the same climbs over and over again and let your eye wander over little drips and smears of ice looking for "the ice climbs". But wait, look at those drips and smears again. Forget your ice screws. Think rock gear: thin pitons, small cams, tiny rps. Grab some extra short screws and play a wintery connect the dots. The result? a refreshing perspective on rarely climbed terrain.

I don't know the name of the route we climbed. I am pretty sure Vince Anderson put the route up and drilled bolts for the anchors. It is incredible what you can find once you take a fresh look at the same old scenery.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Can't Wait for More Colorado Ice Climbing

 I spent the last three days climbing early season ice with Stefan form New Brunswick Canada. Stefan, in town for a geology conference, gave me a new appreciation of the geology of the San Juans and its mining history. Together we explored the awesome back country ice climbs that grace the cliffs that once lured miners for silver and gold.
When it is frozen, water behaves like a mineral. With limited supply in the mountains and a significant demand building among ice climbers around Colorado, ice is the early season's valuable mineral commodity. With relatively little snow on the ground, the approaches to the ice climbs are as easy as you could ask for. It was a treat getting to sample the new season's icy treats especially knowing that a whole winter of skiing and ice climbing lies ahead! Thanks Stefan.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

New Routes on Camp Bird Road

 Andres and I went up Camp Bird Road, drill in hand to expand the dry tooling options up there. There are a number of routes that have gone up there in the past couple of years that are worth checking out if you like to pull on rock with ice tools or are looking for a safe way to get comfortable on real steep terrain.

Many people know about the M6 that makes use of the shackle next to skylight and the M7 that shares the anchors. There are many more that don't get as much attention and are as good. We bolted an M3 that is good for beginners and there are a couple of M4s and M5s that have gone up in the past few years. One of my favorites is the thin, pumpy seam near the mile 4 marker up by chockstone it goes at about M5. If you want to try out this dry-tooling business and are looking for some easier options come on down and give some of these newer routes a try.

I am headed out ice climbing tomorrow so check back soon to find out about local ice conditions.

Monday, November 7, 2011


It is nice to be home in Ouray Colorado where winter is in full swing. After Yosemite Zack and I went to explore the massive sandstone monoliths of Zion National Park. Zion, like Yosemite is an incredibly popular national park full of incredible climbing. Enjoy the photos!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Wow, what a month. Zack and I managed to knock off a few ultra classic climbs in Yosemite. I think for this one I'll let the photos do the talking:

Stay tuned for updates from the sandstone big walls of Zion!

Monday, October 3, 2011


Call it a rock climbing binge, mountain guide therapy, or vacation, the month of october is a rock climbing extravaganza. It started in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison near Crawford, CO. My partners and I climbed around 24 pitches in two days of adventurous rock climbing with incredible views up and down canyon.

This was my Rock Guide Aspirant Exam, so Jayson (owner of Crested Butte Mountain Guides) and I swapped guiding up challenging complicated terrain under the watchful eye of our Examiner (and incredible guide/climber/human being) Angela. We both passed and Jayson is on his way to Red Rocks, NV for the final exam. Good luck!

I on the other hand met up with my longtime friend Zack and we leave for a month long climbing binge in Yosemite!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

That's all (For the Disappointment Cleaver) Folks!

A couple days ago wrapped up my final trip on Mount Rainier for the season. The conditions on the Disappointment Cleaver were very exciting indeed! The usual climbers trail that forms up the Cleaver was blown over with snow and the rock trail was filled in as well. Our team fought gusts up to 45mph as we cramponed up the steep untrammeled slopes of the Cleaver. As we worked our way up we were concerned about the possibility of small avalanches on our descent of the Cleaver from pockets of snow collected by the rocks. We continued to the top of the Cleaver to continue to assess conditions on the upper mountain.

From the top of the Cleaver, the traverse out onto the Emmons Glacier was steep firm, and heavily loaded with snow. We feared as the day warmed up the avalanche conditions would become increasingly 'spicy' as well. The potential for avalanches, in addition to the steep, difficult climbing lead us to turn the climb around at the top of the cleaver.

I love to summit but the trail-less Cleaver presents some of my favorite guiding conditions. It requires good rope technique and constant reassessment of the snow, the climbers, and the route, all very exciting! On this particular trip I had the pleasure of climbing with some really fun folks. The team was comprised of two couples from Burlington, VT, three long time friends from Milwaukee, and a local. While we did not get to summit everyone was in great spirits having pushed beyond their comfort zones and having enjoyed one of the best sunrises I have seen all summer as we descended to the Ingraham Flats. Congratulations everyone on a safe and fun climb!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Love on Rainier and Dissapointment Cleaver Conditions

First of all, congratulations everyone on summiting Mount Rainier! Two climbs in a row with everyone to the top, not bad. This summit was truly a memorable one. When Brian and Millie reached the summit of Mount Rainier and Brian proposed to Millie who was exhausted but said yes. Congratulations you two! That is the first time I have ever seen someone propose on Mount Rainier.

On the way down fellow guide Dave and I peeled off from the group to search for a safer route across the Emmons glacier to the Emmons Shoulder. Dave and I fixed a line that bypasses a sketchy ladder crossing. We also marked a route from the Cleaver to the Emmons traverse so climbers no longer need to make an exposed traverse on a hanging snow fin. With the coming colder weather, the route should be in great shape through the end of the season.

Hopefully when Brian and Millie look to revisit where he proposed we will see them back at Alpine Ascents to head up to the summit once again.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Mount Rainier: Everyone to the Summit!

Early yesterday morning our team of 6 guests and 4 guides crested the summit Crater on Mount Rainier. After a break for food and water we made our way to Columbia Crest, the highest point in Washington to watch the sunrise. The climbers, some of whom previously had no idea what they were getting into, were all exhausted smiles on the summit.

It was an exciting climb. The Disappointment Cleaver route goes way out to the Emmons shoulder this time of year. There is always a tricky crevasse and ladder crossing there which, if we don't get any snow in the next few weeks will become a problem. There is another ladder over the bergschrund (the highest crevasse on a glacier) which leads to gentler terrain above.

Even though we have had so much snow (and so little melting) this year September glacier travel is still a full on crevasse filled experience. As our climbers will tell you it is no problem if you stay on the trail but less then a foot from the trail and there are some giant, people eating holes hundreds of feet deep. Nice job on your summit guys I can't wait to climb together again!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Disappointment Cleaver

Climbers yesterday were not disappointed standing on Mount Rainier's summit at 14,411' we enjoyed stunning 360 degree views of the surrounding ranges. The stuart range to the east, the Olympics to the west, and the Cascade volcanos Mounts Baker, Adams and St. Helens and Glacier peak.

It was in many ways a perfect summit day. Congratulations everyone on a terrific summit day!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mount Rainier: Disappointment Cleaver

It was great to back on Mount Rainier, my home turf, guiding with an all-star cast of Alpine Ascents guides. The team enjoyed great weather the whole trip. In anticipation of a storm front moving over the mountain we decided to climb the mountain in the after noon-evening rather than do the typical mid-night wake up and potentially miss our opportunity to get to the summit.

The team was excited to get to travel up the Disappointment Cleaver by daylight and enjoy the incredible views. On the other hand we could all see how deep the crevasses were as we walked over the ladders!

On the way down, the mountain cast its immense shadow across the landscape. In the fading light it was as if we could see forever, Seattle natives Tim and Tamara could appreciate how far away the wind farm in Cle Elum, the buildings in Yakima, and the peaks of the Cascades are despite how clearly we could see them on out descent.