Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Suprise, Suprise

"No fruit tomorrow?" Harvest is a busy time at work, but the rare break between pressing grapes to make wine has me scheming other plans to fill the coming day. By 5:00 AM the next black morning my foot steps mark the muddy, then frosty approach to Sherpa Peak.

Sherpa Peak's NE Coulior

My friend Patrick and I squint at Sherpa's North Ridge, a cool looking feature on a mountain I have only summited once. This is the line we've come to do. Snow decorates the upper reaches of the route and though I have added extra cams and an aider to prepare for a snowy battle on rock, I realize our one day time limit (work!) will not allow us to get the route done. I toss my pack in the talus and search for other options. A coulior rises up the NE face, but I wonder if we can safely manage it with only one axe each, rock gear, and strap on crampons. We came prepared for a wintery ridge climb, but I see ice in the coulior. I really want to climb it. At least we have boots.

Patrick climbing out of the first schrund

I lead off, getting good sticks, well, good stick I guess you would say. Even though the coulior is moderate, late season schrunds break the shoot into short ice and mixed steps. One tool barley gets me through. Ice and snow of all sorts take us to a notch on the east ridge. A wind swept sunshine warms our bodies. I fire up the stove. The coffee tastes so good.

Looking down, high in the chute

The east ridge flows along an orange granite spine. Consolidated snow fills grooves, but leaves the cracks alone. The pro is good and the climbing magnificent. I turn over to the north side and the exposure rips down the face all the way to the basin below. Impressed with the drop I weave towards the summit and then find my path halted by a square block of stone. I stare at the flawless rock. "I don't think I can climb this in boots," I think. Smiling, I make a belay and bring Patrick across the ridge. I dig for my rock shoes and hang my boots and crampons on the belay. This is so cool.

Brilliant mixed climbing on perfect snow and rock defined the east ridge

After summiting, we rappel down to the notch at the top of the coulior. A south side sand slide drops us below the snow line. The crappy traverse over to Sherpa Pass seems to take forever. The slog back over to the north side of the range burns my legs. When we reach familiar ground I lose the trail. I know I am a tired idiot right now. The cairn that I keep circling back to affirms this. Finally Patrick steps on the trail. The tension fades into the crystal clear night. The forest silently takes us home.

Incredible climbing on the east ridge

Friday, October 21, 2011

How Does He Do It?


"How do you travel the world? I wish I could do that."
"Do it while you can. Life takes over sooner than you think."
"You must be made of money."

As a dedicated climber I hear the above comments so very often. What a lot of folks don't understand is that I am not made of money. In fact, I am the definition of a "dirt bag". I live in a one room shack full of climbing gear. I eat cheaply and work long hours to make my expeditions a reality. Many trips find me with only hundreds of dollars in my bank account, a tight figure when you're on the other end of the earth.

Most importantly, I don't let anything, money included, stand in the way of a dream. Yet I also balance that commitment with the terms of an idea presented to me in Morroco a few years ago: Inshallah. Inshallah means "If God wills" or "If God wishes". I scheme for the mountains of my inspiration, but also humbly know it is silly to force a plan. If it is meant to be, it will happen.

You can't walk through life alone and even though I fund most of my adventures, the support I recieve from my sponsors tips the scale in my favor. Without their help my life would be much different.

Pressing fruit with my friends Scott and Ashton during the 2010 harvest

In the past few weeks I have highlighted Mountain Equipment and Tendon as great proponents of my lifestyle. This time, I wanted to shed light on my biggest supporter and employer, Icicle Ridge Winery. I count the folks at IRW as some of my best friends. Their freindship and support of my dreams provides a solid foundation for my life. They encourage my climbing above all else and respect my passion. In turn, I work as hard for them as I can when I am at home. I can't imagine life without IRW. Thanks guys!

Hanging out with friends during the 2011 Blending Party

All photos by Lisa Adams

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Over the years I have struggled to keep sturdy ropes in my arsenal. Thinking back to some of the cordes I've climbed on makes me shudder. Hand me down ropes with unknown histories found their place on the mountains and climbs of my inspiration.

The Tendon 9.2 Master on Inspiration Peak in the Southern Pickets

Now days, I have a wonderful rope sponsor, Tendon. If you haven't heard of Tendon you soon will, as the product is starting to hang on the racks of America's climbing shops. I have gone through 7 Tendon ropes in the past year, but that is NOT due to low quality. Expeditions and life as a serious climber tackling different projects in different disciplines demands a lot of cordes. Even just one huge route can cook a brand new rope, unless, it's a...

Tendon 9.2 Master!!

I wanted to specifically out line the 9.2 Master as its durability and performance have rewired my thoughts about what a good rope is. My 9.2 Master has climbed almost 20 mountains in the two months I have been using it. Most of those peaks were climbed while attempting a full enchainment of the Southern and Northern Pickets in Washington's North Cascades. For 6 days we drug The Master over some of the sharpest ridge line I've ever seen. We pulled it across icy glaciers and retrieved its ends from dark moats. We stepped on it with crampons and pulled it down from stubborn rappel stations. Still, it hangs on my wall, in nearly perfect shape, ready for the next route.

As far as performance goes, the 9.2 Master is skinny and light. I barely notice it when it's on my waist or in my back pack. It stays untangled even when tossing it down a low angle rappel and has never once gotten stuck on me.

Tendon ropes, including the 9.2 Master, at a Stuart Range belay just days ago. This was the Master's 17th peak in the last two months. Its still got plenty of life.

So keep your eyes out for Tendon in the USA. Their ropes will follow wherever your adventures take you, time and time again.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

They Said

The three silly amigos, ready for some storm

They said the storm would soak us to the bone. And it did.
They claimed the closing season was overtaking the cracks with ice and snow. And it was.
They said we would stumble home tired from the tempest. And we did.

They said whipping snow flakes would flog the fun out the day. They were wrong.
They yelled at us on the wall as clouds enveloped our bodies and tried to bring us down. But they couldn't.
They told us the view would be obscured in angry clouds. And it was, but then again, we glimpsed so much.

The approach was dry!

We told ourselves we didn't care what anyone thought, we just wanted to be in the mountains, to linger in the moments, and to accept the terms of nature.

The route was....stormy!

These thoughts sprung from a recent training day in the Stuart Range. Even though weather lashed at Jessica Campbell, Max Hasson, and I, we enjoyed ourselves immensley. Some folks along the way tried to discourage our climb, but we knew what we wanted...and we got it!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


One of the most exciting aspects of the last year has been growing a relationship with Mountain Equipment, a core mountaineering brand out of the UK. ME has been making incredible gear for over 50 years. Some of the best alpinists of all time have worn ME to the world's highest and most difficult summits.

Already, a passion has grown for the brand. The quality of the line defies expectation and the functionality of the clothing shines in the alpine realm. Although I just started wearing ME this past spring, I have already sumitted more than 25 peaks in the pieces reviewed below. Not one of the items is showing the slightest bit of wear. For those who know me this must be really, really hard to believe. I assure you, it's true!

LS Crux Crew

The Crux Crew is my first layer on any summer alpine trip. It's wicking ability is incredible and even on a hot day I stay cool in this long sleeve get up. This piece is made from a fabric that uses recycled coconut shells. That's pretty cool!

Astron Hooded Jacket

In my world, the Astron is known as "The Piece". This highly usable softshell NEVER leaves the car without me. It cuts wind, keeps out rain, and still breathes well. I wear this piece more than any other and it still shows no wear.

Out for a training day in Liskamm Pant

The Liskamm Pant is very durable, providing reinforced knees. I really like this when I am kneeling on an ice field taking a break, or shoving my knee in a grainy off width crack. The Liskamm Pant also allows maximum flexibilty for hard mixed and rock climbing.

The pieces I have shown above are only a few of my summer season favorites. I am more than impressed at their performance and also that they will join me for another season in the moutains. Quality stuff!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Although fall reigns as THE primo season to crush projects on crisp granite awash in blustery sunshine, my "rocktober" is defined by liquid, not stone. As "cellar master" (that really is my official job title...can you believe it!) at Icicle Ridge Winery my next month will overflow with ten hour days and thousands of gallons of sticky grape juice slowly becoming wine.

My climb time may suffer during this period, but my focus does not. Long work days are sandwiched between rainy runs and bouldering sessions. Once a week I get out and beat myself up in the mountains. We all have to make a living and I am grateful for my job and the ability it gives me to follow my passions.

Out for a training day in the Stuart Range

The fall is also a time when I hone in on the year's upcoming trips. The money I make now fuels my adventures later. I am excited to say that a few awesome trips are lining up for the future year, the most iminent a journey to Argentine Patagonia, near the end of November, to search for ice runnels shining their way up towers of granite. I am estatic to be climbing with Joel Kauffman, a great friend and passionate mountain companion. Psyche is building and every step I make in my daily life points directly towards our goals down south.

Besides working a new and difficult rock project over the past week, I also enjoyed a training day in the Stuart Range. I left my car in misty darkness and followed my feet through a new basin and up a fresh route, the West Ridge of Argonaut Peak. After summiting, I traversed over Colchuck col and down to the base of the Serpentine Arete on Dragontail. Hard rain pelted away my desire for a solo lap up the Serpentine and instead I slipped down the moraine, splashed through the muddy woods, and rallied back to town in time for a gathering of friends.
It's a rocky road...On my way to Argonaut via Sherpa Pass

Can't solo rock in the rain...About to bail from under the Serpentine Arete

Life in Leavenworth, even during the heavy work season, is heaven on earth.