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Category Archives: January 2009

This past weekend I was at the 14th annual Ouray Ice Festival. The small town host an annual ice meet – check out last year’s post – to which I attend. The goal is to have fun and share the stoke with fellow crazies.

The Friday was a huge snow day. One inch was predicted and it snowed non stop until 10 pm. This didn’t stop the climbers. Just go climbing. Feel the pull of gravity.ouray

On Friday I hosted a clinic. Two of my students, JJ and Darrel, are deaf. Karen, a friend of theirs came along as a translator. They were excited about ice climbing. My limited sign language increased by a few words. I asked if they can “hear” the ice, something that climbers need to do when testing placements. The vibration of the pick swing was their indication of a good stick.  Our biggest challenge was getting the “heads up” warning regarding loose and flying ice. The safest was to have a wide berth at the base. Avoid standing in the drop zone.


Darrell & JJ at the fire station.   Cool guys.

Off to Keene this weekend.

Have fun, be good and do the right thing.   ~c


It’s January and it’s cold. January also happens to be the month of ice festivals. The first weekend I was in Ouray (pronounced “you’re Ray”), Colorado and the second weekend I was in Keene (pronounced with a silent e at the end), New York for the 13th annual Mountain Fest. Nestled in the high peaks region of the Adirondacks, Keene is a small town of 600 people. In this quaint New England town is one our nation’s premier specialty outdoor retailers, The Mountaineer. The successful shop sells a full line of gear, books, instruments and clothing for exploring the 3 million forested acres of the Adirondacks.

Most towns of 600 struggle to keep a coffee shop and a general store open. Few, and I mean very few, support a shop the quality of Vinnie’s. How do they do it? Location, location and location. The surrounding mountains are home to top-drawer granite cliffs, steep ski runs and picturesque rivers & lakes. The climbing is world class yet a bit of a secret. The summer crags are tucked in the forest, hidden gems awaiting climbers with a draw to explore. In the winter these same crags, particularly the seepy and wet ones, transform to an ice climber’s paradise.

Jenni, Sam & Isaac joined me, courtesy of the mileage program, for the weekend. Jenni and Alex had visited the Adirondacks ten and a half years before in summer with the three boys in summer. Alex raved about the quality of the winter climbing and Jenni wanted to revisit the region in winter. So here we were.

The temps dropped down to a finger numbing -20 on Friday. After a lap on the ultra classic Chouinard Route at Chapel Pond we drove up to Lake Placid, site of the 1980 winter Olympics. Our goal: ride the bobsled. Aside from a few sled runs on Pete’s Hill in Bozeman, none of us had ridden a bonafide high speed g force genratin’ sled run. The curves were vertically embanked and pretty amazing when it we finally got he momentum up. Being one with a pretty high adrenal threshold the tourist version was over far too quick. The one-mile track on a two person bob … that is my next goal.

Sam is 16, a junior in high school and well tuned into what is cool. Indy bands are the music of his choice. Indy being independent. When chilling with Freddie Wilkinson, a New Hampshire alpinist of the sub 30 set, Sam came back with some new appreciation for the sport of gravity.

Climbing is totally indy. You can’t watch it, it isn’t mainstream and climbers sit around talking with each other about hard moves, stopper sequences and the satisfaction of suffering. You live in the moment and have to experience it first hand.

My Intermediate / advanced class at the Positive Reinforcement ice climb in Keene, New York. The fellow on the far right is Gandalf.

January 6, 2009.  Just saying the date is interesting. When I was a little shaver the year 2000 seemed like an eternity away. Now that we are 9/10ths of the way through the first decade of the 21st century it seems a bit… scary. I’m getting older (and hopefully a bit wiser in the process)  and see how the world has changed. Jenni and I have three sons- all of who are maturing in to a vastly different world than we experienced. Typewriters are in museums, circular dial wheels for phones show up in retro movies and text was a noun yet to be morphed into a verb. It was in my second year at the University of Utah that we would queue up at he computer lab, 5 inch floppies in hand to use the word processing on the large computers to type our reports. The Internet? Not in  my imagination.

Our boys track their friends on Facebook, text back and forth and “check in” via their on-line communities. Yes things are different. Do I expect them to live with the technology I had in those days? Obviously not.  I embrace technology. It is a good thing. We can communicate with  greater  ease to a wider audience. We share our thoughts. As we are right now.

With change there are somethings that stay the same. Like getting outdoors. Over the two week Christmas holiday our family made a point of enjoying the wilds on Montana together. Just heading up Hyalite Canyon, with the dogs in the mini van and a Thermos of hot chocolate it soul warming. The phones don’t work, there are no computers and we get back in touch with the wildness that makes us human. And for this… I am most thankful.

My goals for 2009:  quality time with my family, learning more about the earth we live on and getting after “Free Rider”, a route on El Capitan. Three things. Make them happen.

And for you?  After you read this take your self out side, open your heart to the horizon before you, yell at the top of your lungs why you like in life.  Make a goal. One that is a challenge, one that will test you. One that includes hardship. Stick to it.

I find after these hard, lofty challenging goals I am  much happier. And if the pursuit of happiness is what our short existence is all about… go out & find it.


Looking north from the summit ridge of Mt Gardner, Antarctica. Photo: December 1998

Shared the summit with Dave Hahn.